ONE year ago their erstwhile colleague Peekaboo similarly vanished (along with Jesus, who may or may not have been involved in the initial disappearance).
TODAY the freakish child-mannequin duo is back to review some Boxing Day cinematic fare.
You have your questions:
Where has this plucky plastic pair been for the past two years?
Is Peekaboo ok? (Probably not a question at the top of anyone's list).
Where is Born Dancin'?
To these questions we must resign ourselves to an uneasy ignorance for, as the wise man once said:
"Allez hop! un matin/Une louloute est venue chez-moi/Poupee de cellophane, cheveux chinois/un sparadrap, une gueule de bois/a bu ma biere dans un grand verre en caoutchouc/Oooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!/Comme un indien dans son igloo."
Which roughly translates as:
"Allez-oop! One morning a darling came to my home, a cellophane puppet with Chinese hair, a plaster, a hangover, drank my beer in a large rubber glass. Oooo-ooo-ooo-ooo! like an Indian in his igloo."
The wise man in question was the enigmatic - if clean-shaven - Plastic Bertrand, the 80s synth-punk one-hit wonder who would later go on to become a high-profile champion of the rights of many underacknowledged and oppressed victims of late industrial Western society - victims such as cellophane puppets, non-hermaphroditic cats, and corners.
Were he alive today, he would surely answer your various questions with an obtuse tip of his head and some gallic-accented non sequiters:
"Your Pat and Joel are not real, vous comprenez? And neither is your Peekaboo. Mssr Dancin', he is real in some ways, bien sur, but holiday fare, an epileptic chat and too leetle time render him unavailable."
All of this is true, except for the championing of corners, which tells us one thing: Plastic Bertrand is still not to be trusted, these many decades later.
The Missing Years of Pat and Joel will be revealed in good time. For now, we must content ourselves with their holiday film reviews.
Pat and Joel Save Christmas (by Reviewing Movies)
THE GOLDEN COMPASS
Is your phone off?
If you ask me that again I'll put your head through the mincer.
This film has been the subject of much controversy. Apparently the novel it’s sourced from is pretty heavy in its condemnation of Christianity and, specifically, Catholicism. Kind of like the anti-Narnia.
Then again, riling up Christians is a piece of piss. I’m often doing that without even trying. Simply because I’m a sentient vocal child mannequin who doesn’t play by anybody’s rules, I guess.
Shoosh, here we go.
So we’ve got some blunt exposition giving us the setting – some kind of alternate universe where everyone’s soul is separate from their body, existing in the form of an animal called a daemon. I guess that’s a bit wack if you’re a god-botherer.
And you’ve got a bunch of no-good kids tearing up hell in the cloisters of Cambridge, by the looks of it. All pretty Enid Blyton so far.
And here’s James Bond with some big cat as his daemon buddy.
And our little leading lady Lyra, some brat destined to save the world (not our world, the other godless alternate universe one).
I like that this film cast the new James Bond alongside his co-star in the last James Bond film. That’s nice, efficient casting.
And now Nicole Kidman is turning up as Lyra’s evil aunt or something. As a plastic-faced figure with no discernible expression, I can relate to her in this role. Even if I am slightly less evil.
Lyra has to get to the North Pole or some rubbish to save the kids who’ve been kidnapped by Nicole, right? And there are witches and extras from Pirates of the Caribbean giving her a hand. And some dudes trying to capture her?
I think that’s what we’ve got so far.
So where does this polar bear come in?
It’s an ice bear, you dolt. Polar bears are protected by copyright. Ice bears have no relation.
Ok. So this ice bear is Lyra’s friend now and he’ll probably chew someone’s face off soon, but since he’s voiced by Ian McKellen I’m frankly cool with that. He has a nice voice. Worldly and rich, but with the gentle undertones of a kind uncle. The kind of uncle who’d chew your face off, admittedly.
Great airship action here. And Nicole’s daemon is a pretty natty monkey, which is sweet.
Some good creepy bug action, some ice bear rampaging and a kid with no soul. This is keeping me interested.
And now – woah. That’s a bit much. I thought this was a family movie. I wouldn’t want my kids watching that ice bear smackdown. That’s some serious gore. I hope the rest of our viewing program isn’t so nasty.
And a nice neat wrap-up that seems a bit hasty and meaningless.
Like my continued existence. And yet, here I am.
This was a pretty pleasant experience overall. Not the best family film out there, given my expectations, but worth a look-see.
So what would you say the best family flick would be?
Let me think.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
This is the shooting movie.
Oh right, I remember. From the trailers at least.
Yes, from the trailers it seems as though a lot of people get shot in this movie.
An awful lot.
I do hope there are some good wound-cleaning scenes though. People bemoan the amount of shooting in movies these days, but I think you can justify excessive gunplay if you include a hearty bullet extraction/wound cleaning scene, because that is educational if you do ever happen to get shot.
This is true.
Shut your trap, it’s starting.
Well, we’re right down to business aren’t we? That’s quite an impressive body count and I haven’t even unwrapped my choc top. I’m trying to do it silently so as to not bother other patrons with unnecessary rustling.
That Javier Bardem is pretty bad-ass. He’s a shoe-in for some awards here, apparently. Shoo-in? Shoe-in?
I don’t know. I figure his performance comes down to two things: his haircut and his weapon of choice. I spent my formative years with a floppy hairdo that screamed “I’ll never be taken seriously in anything I do” and I don’t seem the Academy gagging to toss gold statues at me.
This is a pretty decent setup now. Some hunter or tracker type fellow has happened upon a bunch of dead bodies and some drugs and also a few million dollars out on the prairies and has nicked off with the booty.
I don’t know if that’s technically a prairie.
But of course people are going to miss the money, so now he’s on the run. That would suck. He’s sending wifey to stay with her mother as is standard in these situations but how hard is it going to be to track her down? And even if he didn’t send her off to momma’s, the bad guys could pretty easily find mum and use her as bait. He has two million dollars. I’d like it if this guy worked out the math, and determined that two million would be enough to uproot all of his loved ones and move to some quiet island in the Carib or something. I reckon I could Fedex most of my friends and family to some sweet villa where we’d never be found for that kind of moulah.
It was more of a mesa than a prairie, isn’t it? Or maybe a gentle canyon.
I don’t think the topography matters. It’s the desert-like landscape of the human soul we’re surveying here.
Hang on, it’s a pass. Definitely a pass.
It doesn’t matter. Oh wait up, it does! We’re back in the landscape.
With a dog! Wow, this dog bit is really tense.
It sure is.
Really really tense.
A great performance from the dog here.
One of the best chases ever.
The Coens do good dog chases.
Some good buttes abutting a nice meander in a lowland river, that’s what I’m seeing and enjoying.
And the dog. Good dog.
Moving on, I’m hoping hunter/tracker man will get his shit together and take a quiet convoy to Rio with all of his nearest and dearest.
No, floppy hair Bardem is in on the game now. Looks like everyone wants that money back. Hunter/Tracker dude is really getting to know the hotel and motel scene around the Texas-Mexico area.
True. I’m not sure I can remember ever seeing so many hotels and motels in one film.
Another first for the Coens.
More shooty bits. The tracking device is nice.
Lots more shooty bits really. OK, this is a pretty violent movie. It’s pretty much like my Christmas lunch. But without Woody Harrelson. Oh wait, there he is.
Hey this whole sequence about the tracking device and a sort-of showdown is probably the tensest thing I’ve seen in years. It’s like this movie was calculated to bring on migraines and insomnia. It’s more like my Christmas lunch that way.
My dentist would be rubbing his hands in glee (if I had one).
How did you just bracket that oral comment?
I don’t know, I just did. Huh. Whaddya know?
Gee, I’m glad we managed to avoid discussing that very tense scene through a sweet bit of metanarrative.
Bardem is pretty memorable in all this, floppy hair and weapon of choice aside. Beside? Aside.
There are a few plot holes I think. This whole Woody area doesn’t really make a lot of sense, when you think about it.
I’m trying not to.
Ok, let’s move on.
YES! There’s our wound-cleaning and shrapnel-removing scene. Why is everyone in the cinema wincing more at this than at the various shelling out of said shrapnel via bullet-spitting devices of sundry sorts? This is surely the community-service part of the film. That’s some very informative and hygienic cleaning of bloody holes, there.
We’re coming towards the end, I can feel it in my plastic.
Tommy Lee Jones is really good here, did I mention that?
I don’t think we’ve even mentioned that he’s in the house. I do concur though, good work Tommy. I’m also impressed by the guy who plays “Man Who Hires Wells” and the guy in the minor but well-played part of “Strangled Deputy”.
So, in summing up, this is a damn fine piece of thriller that has your teeth curled back in a rictus for the most part and might cause a few sleepless nights. It’s pretty dang violent but, interestingly, if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve probably seen almost all of the blood-letting you need fear.
What an odd bit of phrasing.
Ah, I’ve heard about this one. This is the movie that honestly addresses that old doozy: “what if you were an animated fairytale princess transported to a contemporary fleshy New York featuring Patrick Dempsey?”
Goes right back to Aeschylus, doesn’t that?
Hush my sweet, it begins.
Hey this is just great. They’ve really recreated the Golden Age of Disney with the beautiful animation and the extreme baroque setting and the whole sly reworking of the classic Disney-adapted fairytales (with a heavy slant on Disney’s Snow White/Sleeping Beauty conflation).
Not to mention the presence of a chorus of woodland critters helping out our heroine in her quest for true love.
I’ve often thought that my own romantic escapades would have been immeasurably more successful if I’d had bunch of forest creatures playing wingmen. This would-be princess has all her bases covered.
And there’s her Prince Charming – appropriately chisel-jawed and sword-waving, good, good.
He’s doing a bit of a number on that menacing giant troll there. Is he vanquishing it?
I’m not sure. I don’t think so.
Princes Charming are pretty good at vanquishing.
I don’t think he’s vanquishing, he’s just tying it up and tripping it over and stuff. I think vanquishing requires more valiance and probably speechifying.
I see. So is anyone doing any vanquishing in Iraq?
Heavens no, vanquishing suggests a permanence and finality to one’s actions, surely. When you vanquish a foe, there’s no nasty loose ends to deal with.
I guess the whole vanquishing idea is pretty much restricted to fairy tales then.
I believe so. Wernher von Braun said that “nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation.”
This was the guy who developed the V-2 rocket for the SS then defected to the US and eventually became the godfather of NASA’s space program, right?
I did not mean to make any connections between this film and Walt’s own legacy of timeless and fantastical family movies. Of the sort frequently featuring Julie Andrews. Whose narratorial voice bookends Enchanted.
Just like von Braun’s voice whispered in the ear of Walt Disney throughout the 1950s, when the animator called on the engineer to provide technical know-how for three space-related television movies. Von Braun even appeared on camera-
Woooo! An evil stepmother just sent our would-be Princess flying down a bottomless well! That’s what I paid to see!
And now we’re in modern day New York! I can’t wait to see what hijinx ensue.
This Amy Adams is doing a great job as the real, fleshy princess. She’s barreling around NY in a fairytale dress knocking people over and acting like a Disney heroine given corporeal form.
She’s also pushing a pretty scary ideological agenda, though. She’s essentially saying that a long-term relationship built on mutual trust and understanding can’t really hold up to a baseless infatuation with the first good-looking stranger willing to give you the time of day. She also seems to be promoting the idea that beautiful would-be princesses are all about making dresses out of curtains and cleaning up Mr Princess’ house while he’s asleep.
The conservative romance angle isn’t really what’s getting me here. What’s more worrying is the way this film seems to be seriously pushing the myth of the artificially animated person attaining a “real” life. This is clearly close to my heart, since I’ve tried many times to become a “real” person and have been burnt time and time again.
I know someone who became a real person, actually.
Well, friend of a friend.
This musical number is an unqualified success. It should be called Central Park: The Musical! It’s great. I’m going to copyright that title and concept, by the way.
Hey, chipmunk crucifixion!
Holy Moses, that’s a bit much. Is this for real?
And now Princess is fondling the chest-hair of Patrick Dempsey.
Prompting an “ewwwww” from a young child somewhere in the theatre. I hear your pain, little one.
I’m feeling a bit woozy. I may swoon.
Totally uncalled-for consumerist shopping spree!
Hang in there. We’re getting to the climax.
Dancing, dragon, King Kong nod, chipmunk resurrection, voluntarily passive heroine rising to save the day and throwing swords in a very reckless manner. This is all ridiculously redeeming itself, I think.
Yes, it might be deeply suspect on an ideological level but I’m having tremendous fun here.
True. And maybe that’s all Walt really wants.
That was quite good.
Yes, very good.
Would it have been improved by the inclusion of aliens and/or Predator? Probably not.
Keira Knightley does an hilarious Predator impression. True fact.
Well, I’ll be darned.
Mind your language.
THE DARJEELING LTD
You know what was a rad film? I’ve worked it out - The Goonies. That number had it all.
This isn’t The Goonies, this is The Darajeeling Limited.
That doesn’t change the fact that The Goonies was great. Remember Chunk? Whatever happened to Chunk?
This is the new film from Wes Anderson. He’s carved a name for himself as a purveyor of stylistically distinctive, overly mannered “indie” films featuring a regular stable of quirky performers.
I heard Chunk became an entertainment lawyer. I don’t know how I feel about that.
Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic. He’s a “love him or hate him” kind of director.
Apparently director Hal Hartley told Born Dancin’ that old chestnut – that he started making films because nobody else was making the films he wanted to see. Watching Anderson’s films, I get the feeling that he started making the Hartley films that people actually did want to see. Same acting style, but with some kind of flair. And more Bill Murray.
Can’t fault him there.
So what’s going on? We’ve totally missed the opening short film featuring Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman in a prologue to the main attraction.
It was in fact one of the best bits of the thing. You should learn to moderate your prattle.
I think someone should make a film starring only similarly named actors. Portman, Schwartzman, Mortensen, Gary Oldman as the Old Man, Ernest Borgnine, filmed in Portland, Oregon. Set in Dortmund.
We’re following three brothers as they travel across India in the eponymous train, the Darjeeling Limited. They’re mixed nuts, on a quest for some kind of access to a world beyond their own limited experience, but it’s clear from the outset that what they really need to find is some connection with each other. This first half is full of quirky fun based around their own idiosyncracies.
Much like The Goonies, I have to confess.
Now there’s death and it’s not so funny.
And not so much like – hey, I’m starting to really get this, to be honest.
It’s a lot like The Life Aquatic – if you felt the central drama of that film, you’ll get the point of this one. Anderson’s flicks are all about family and the problems of familial ties, really. Underneath all the trappings.
But if you can’t really feel for the characters due to the excessively zany set and costume design of the dude’s films, you might be a bit pissed off here, too.
He’s not so much of a plotter as a setter. But I think his heart is in the right place. And there’s some great comic stuff. Also: I feel like some Indian food.
That wasn’t my feeling after seeing The Goonies, admittedly. Man, I hope they play that at the Rooftop Cinema next year. As they will.
ALIENS VS PREDATOR: REQUIEM
I can’t believe I’m watching this film. I have to start rethinking the choices I’ve made in my life which have led me to this.
I can’t believe someone thought the whole concept of Aliens fighting Predators warranted not one but two movies.
Doesn’t look like they’ve gone beyond that basic concept here, either. I never saw the first one but I’m guessing it concerned Aliens fighting Predators on earth. The tagline was “whoever wins, we lose.” That’s not a bad tagline.
This one should have the tagline “We made another one!” Because that’s all I’m getting here. It’s like they just found some random jottings on a napkin and used it as the basis for this movie.
Yeah. Ok, we have some Aliens coming to earth and crashing in some woods near a small hick town in the mountains called Crested Butte. Now the Aliens are doing their thing, just sticking to people’s faces and bursting out of their chests.
Hey, I am impressed that they do it to a cute little boy so early on in the film.
Yes, that is a surprisingly vicious touch.
And we seem to have some kind of alien who burst out of a Predator and is now like an Alien/Predator cocktail. I think. I can’t really get a good view of him.
And there’s a Predator getting a phone call or something on his home planet and revving up the ol’ Dodge to come clean up the aliens on earth. I don’t know why. But then, asking such questions is probably pretty fruitless when you’re watching a movie called Aliens vs Predator.
I still can’t get a good view of the Predatalien thing. It’s prowling around the sewers eating homeless people and seriously, there really does seem to be an inordinate number of homeless people living in this sewer, given that the town looks like it has about 500 people in it. It’s like they’re holding some kind of bum convention down there.
You know, you’re very right about the lack of visibility in this film. I have no idea what I’m looking at half the time. If your film focuses on the age-old conflict between Aliens and Predator, I want to be able to tell which one I’m looking at. It’s just a blur of darkness punctuated with other similar, but slightly different blurs of darkness. I get enough of that in my real life.
I reckon whoever directed this was drunk when they did it. That or it’s one of those movies created purely as a tax dodge by some shady sorts.
Notice how all of the Aliens and Predator scenes are punctuated with the introduction of about 40 main characters. We know that they’re main characters because they’re each given about two lines of dialogue which they manage to completely non-impress us with. It’s not that I don’t care about these people, it’s that I’m not even sure who they are, what they do, why they’re here or whether they just wandered into shot after Boozy McDirector accidentally hit the “record” button on the camera.
They’re actually spending valuable screen time showing the hot chick getting something from her car, just as a pretext to have some footage of her bending over in a tight skirt.
I think that counts as character development in this movie.
And her local pizza delivery boy has a thing for her, and he also has a brother just out of jail, which easily makes him this film’s complex emotional core. And hot chick’s boyfriend just wiped pizza boy’s ass all over the floor and threw his keys down into the sewer. Which was pretty mean.
But pizza boy did make a pretty funny crack about the boyfriend being the guy who ordered the “sausage lover’s pizza”. That’s straight out of Dorothy Parker’s big book of homophobic wit.
There’s pizza boy and his brother going down into the sewer to find the keys. I like that the ex-con is complaining that he’ll get shit all over him if he goes down there. Since when was the Big House conducive to excessive attention to cleanliness?
The keys are proving rather hard to locate. They’re likely mystified as to where Hobotown’s subterranean thousands have scampered off to, as well.
Pizza boy just spotted one of the little alien goobers that pop out of your chest! Pretty sure he just added to the amount of shit down in the sewer. OCD bro doesn’t believe him, of course.
Have we taken a wrong turn in assuming these are our main characters? We seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time checking in on other people. There’s the army woman and her husband and daughter (she even gives the little one some night-vision goggles as a loving gift). And there’s the Spanish-American cop. Here’s a diner waitress who seems important. Oh no, she just spilled hamburger meat all over herself, except it was the hamburger meat from inside of her body and it was an alien who spilled it.
And now there are heaps of aliens popping up all over town killing people randomly. And Predator is still wandering around doing window shopping and checking his messages and killing aliens and sometimes people. I’m still not sure of his motivations in this whole caper.
As you’d expect, everyone we’ve met so far – and this film is a veritable Magna Carta – are running around getting killed in blurry, darkened environments. I feel pretty bad when these folks are getting torn apart and I can’t actually work out who they were in the movie so far. I guess that’s a statement about modern warfare and the desensitising effect of on-screen violence. That or the director just had another round.
Great, the town’s electricity supply just got blown up and now we’re in even more darkness.
There go those crazy aliens taking over the hospital and making more of their evil breed.
And some government types are going to nuke the whole town, which is par for the course in these films.
All of our survivors are heading off to the hospital to fly away in a helicopter. Well, all of the ones who aren’t going to the town centre to get themselves killed.
Which they do in due course.
Which they do, yes.
And our last remaining non-characters are ambling through the hospital and getting killed themselves along the way. I’ll admit, this film has no problem dispensing with its leads despite their importance to the story. As we’re in the home stretch here, I’m excited that many of those still alive have thus far been peripheral characters. I’m pretty sure some still count as non-speaking parts.
And there we go, it’s all wrapping up, and we’re given a dramatic final shot of one of our survivors, a tough type who made it through the living hell that was Aliens vs Predator and somehow made it out alive. I don’t know if we ever knew her name or anything about her whatsoever, but I’m really too stunned to care.
And roll credits, thank the lord. Hey, whaddya know, it was directed by brothers.
It took two people to make this thing?
I can just imagine each day on set. Brother one turns up and says “hey bro, I’m gonna need you to do the directing today! I’ve just been on a bender and I’m still drunk!” And brother two laughs “You too?”
Either way, whoever directs: we lose.
NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
I hope this is as good as National Treasure’s European Vacation.
Nic Cage isn’t a patch on Chevy Chase, though.
This is confusing: why is this zany comedy prefacing itself with some scene about the assassination of Abe Lincoln and a centuries old conspiracy?
Go with it, we’ll be rolling in the aisles soon enough. I bet an older person will fall over.
And now we’re in the present day and some academics are arguing over a scrap from some dude’s notebook from hundreds of years ago.
This is a wonderfully unexciting film. It’s like porn for historians and prozac for everyone else. Cage and his dad Jon Voigt are trying to clear the name of an ancestor who was implicated in the Lincoln assassination. They’re going to do this by deciphering some codes, looking through some desks and hanging out in a library.
Wait up! This isn’t the Chevy Chase franchise, it’s the sequel to the first National Treasure!
If I remember correctly, that film was characterised by a wonderful lack of action scenes or violence. We seem to be treading similar ground here.
Now that was a fun flick.
Fans of scenes involving people pushing stone blocks will be well rewarded here.
Also people who like rickety wooden platforms, rope ladders and dark rocky crevices you have to put your hand into in order to pull some kind of hidden lever.
It’s like The Goonies for grown-ups. Underground caverns, absurd conspiracies and a few bugs. If this got more than a G-rating I’ll be surprised. But I really enjoyed it, which is more startling.
Me too. Especially all those bits where people push stone blocks.