Thursday 17 May 2012

In-flight entertainment

I went to Canada last week, and that's often a good moment to catch up with my reading. In this case and thanks to a pretty crowded and loud flight, I ended up watching movies. I guess you could say I was catching up with movies that I either missed or simply didn't want to spend money on.

For the flight in, I chose three, which were totally meant to be brainless entertainment. So the first I saw was Captain America, which was one of the "only over my dead body" and "no popcorn is so good that I want to go see it" movies. My partner's eyes were large as saucers when I selected that, and I said "well, it does have Nazis" - which it did. I did like the look of that, and they actually managed to wring a decent movie out of the most boring of all the superheroes (actually, scratch that, Superman *is* more boring than Cap). It was certainly entertaining - only thing missing was the popcorn.

Then I saw War Horse, an overrated piece of sentimental tosh if I've ever seen one. Spielberg presses the emotional buttons with a gleeful "haha! It has animals! Soulful shots of men doomed to die! Landscape! Olde English pretties! I CAN TOTALLY GET YOU, suckers! Oscars, here I COME!" I'm not sure why this fell so flat to me - for the record, I've seen the stage play and loved it, so I was curious how they approached it. I think the structural weakness inherent in the book really opens into chasms on the big screen, whereas, maybe in the theatre, you're more willing to suspend disbelief. Also, the cast at the National Theatre did an autstanding job. There was a funny scene when both sides tried to attract the horse (one by tsking, the other by whistling), which summed up the whole bizarre war, but otherwise, a definite "meh" experience.

With an hour to spare at that point, I re-visited Kingdom of Heaven, which I'd seen before. I was getting so bedraggled that I ran for comfort, so pushed into Middle Ages and Crusades and Stuff Seen Before (I feel rarely that mentally vulnerable, but I did there). Many things I loved - the shots, the colours, the set-up (although many of the premises and ideas behind the movies break my historical heart, or what's left of it after Orlando "Elf Boy" Bloom's "acting" - I mean, really?), but when the flight's end cut that one short, it didn't really hurt. I was at that cringe-worthy moment where Orlando is being so honorable and knightly that he condemns everybody to die and suffer, from the people he's sworn to protect to the woman he loves. I might pick the movie up again just to revel in the images, but I might need vodka to stand the rest.

On the way back, I had much better luck with my choices. First, I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which wasn't a bad movie at all, and well-chosen for an overnight flight that will make your brain bleed with an additional 5 hours' time difference. It's pretty, it's fast-paced, and a decent enough action movie (also, wow, vertigo!). Loved Simon Pegg in it and can totally see all possible combinations of characters pairing off for a hot two-, three- and foursome. Also, the female team member was competent and less of a nuisance, though not particularly deep (though the reversal of the male-character-death-as-motivation in her background was a neat reversal).

Best movie, though? I only watched The Matador on the strength of the casting of Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan is interesting here because he's totally playing up his charisma, and they are not relying on a suave, smoothe or beefcake persona like in the Bond movies. The character he plays is at times gross, repugnant, charming, competent, ridiculous, sentimental and then plain vulnerable human (which actually takes acting chops to do, which Brosnan really really has). Him getting older (and wrinkled) has allowed him to play actual *characters*. Also, the relationship between the hitman and the businessman is basically a romantic comedy. I would totally not have blinked if the "secret" of that night in the past had been a hot love scene. There's also a long moment in the film where I found a threesome with the wife the natural outcome - and I'm pretty sure that's the very much intended subtext. Definitely worth watching for some fantastic character moments, good acting, and really tense moments. Not the most expensive or shiny production, but it held up well against the really big blockbusters thanks to its intelligence and the acting chops on display. Definitely one to re-watch.


  1. I really enjoyed this! I haven't seen any of these movies except Kingdom of Heaven which I watched purely because I was in an "Orlando Bloom Obsessive" stage. I remember it being pretty terrible but now I'm curious to watch it again for the visual effects. I did see War Horse on the stage and was curious about the movie. Perhaps I'll skip? I always wonder if we watch movies differently on planes, I often find that I'm less critical of movies I watch on an airplane, like I expect whatever I'm watching to be as mediocre and tasteless as the food...

  2. I tried to watch Captain America. Really, I did. However, once Richard Armitage's spy character bit the dust, so did I. I just couldn't manage to keep up any interest.

    Haven't seen any of the others you mention, aside from Kingdom of Heaven. (and that one I can't remember much of, either.)

    Those flights and the time difference are brutal-- you've just reminded me what it was like the last time I flew overseas (to Manchester in '05). :)

    Welcome back!