Pitch battle

It’s often said, if you’re a would-be movie-maker, you need an elevator pitch ready for deployment, just in case, in the classic eponymous example, you happen to find yourself sharing an elevator with a big-time movie producer. The idea is, you should be able to pitch the concept of your movie to your captive audience before the elevator doors open.

It’s claimed the elevator pitch for Aardman Films’ Chicken Run was ‘The Great Escape with chickens’. Sold!

I suppose the elevator pitch for Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan would have been something along the lines of ‘A submarine movie in space’. And Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’s elevator pitch would have been something like ‘A submarine movie on sailing ships’. And Duel’s elevator pitch would have been ‘A submarine movie with a lorry and a car’. (It’s an established fact that there is no such thing as a bad submarine movie.)

Jen and I watched Thor Ragnarok last weekend. I’m not a fan of the previous Thor films, but this one was entertaining enough, and didn’t totally disappear up its own mythology.

Then I got to thinking, how would I have pitched Thor Ranarok to a big-time movie mogul? What’s the one thing that would make anyone want to go and see the film?

And then I realised the answer was a total no-brainier…

Cate Blanchett with antlers

Thor Ragnarok: ‘Cate Blanchett with antlers!’

What’s not to like?

The SATSASTSM button

I think we can all agree, home entertainment has improved dramatically in recent years. Not only do we no longer have to wait at least five bloody years to be able to buy our own personal copies of the latest films, but we can now watch them on high-definition, wide-screen tellies. Indeed, those of us with more than two ears can enjoy these films in multi-speaker surround-sound. And there's even microwaveable popcorn. What's not to like? (Apart from microwaveable popcorn, I mean.)

But I'm beginning to think we might be taking this ‘home cinema’ concept a bit too far. Nowadays, presumably to add to the authentic cinematic experience, we are expected to sit through half an hour of advertisements and trailers before the main feature begins.

Which is why I have just invented the SATSASTSM button. It looks like this:


The SATSASTSM button—or, to give it its full name, the Skip All The Shite And Show The Sodding Movie button—is a special button on your remote control that, as the name implies, skips all the shite and shows you the sodding movie straight away. How brilliantly simple is that? I'm frankly amazed nobody has thought of this before.

There aren't actually any remote controls featuring a SATSASTSM button at the moment, but, for the benefit of all movie buffs out there, I hereby waive all rights to my invention and make it freely available to any and all manufacturers wishing to avail themselves of such an essential killer feature.

You can thank me later.

Film review: Jack Reacher (2012)

Tom Cruise has never won an Oscar. Not once. Not for Eyes Wide Shut. Not for Knight and Day. Not even for Mission: Impossible 2.

He has come tantalisingly close a few times. Like when he played opposite Oscar-scooping Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. And when his first ex-wife, Nicole Kidman, won an Academy Award for donning a prosthetic nose to look utterly unlike Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Not to forget the time Cruise shouted ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY!’ over and over again, only to see Cuba Gooding Jr pick up an Oscar for shouting exactly the same catch-phrase in exactly the same film.

Close, but no Oscar.

Infuriatingly, Cruise even failed to pick up an Academy Award for portraying a man paralysed from the waist down in Born on the Fourth of July. Roles in which non-disabled actors play people with disabilities are usually an Oscar shoo-in. Think of the aforementioned Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, Colin Firth in The King's Speech, Jamie Foxx in Ray, and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. Yet still no ‘And the winner is…’ for poor old Tom Cruise. He must have been kicking himself. (Metaphorically, in real life, I mean; not literally, in the movie, obviously.)

In a stroke of potential genius, however, Cruise more recently attempted to turn Oscar-contention convention on its head in the 2012 action thriller Jack Reacher. In this film, based on Lee Child’s novel One Shot, Cruise, an actor five-foot-seven-inches in stature, portrays the eponymous Jack Reacher, a peripatetic private investigator whose most notable feature is that he is six-foot-five-inches tall. Not that being five-foot-seven counts as a physical disability, you understand. But portraying an extremely tall man clearly pushed Tom Cruise's acting ability to the limit—which is exactly what he needed to happen, if he hoped to be an Oscar-contender.

Having a rather short man play someone approaching gigantism also conveyed certain dramatic benefits on the movie, not least in the fight scenes. At one point in the film, Reacher is challenged to a fist-fight by four hired ne'er-do-wells. Scaled up, each of these ruffians must be approaching eight-foot tall, adding considerably to their menace. Indeed, the whole fight sequence is reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins taking on the three trolls in 2012's other action-packed blockbuster, The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey.

Reacher v troll

Reacher polishes off a troll with a well-aimed blow to the nuts.

All of which makes Tom Cruise's failure to secure even a nomination for best actor for Jack Reacher so utterly incomprehensible. It's almost as if the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have something against not particularly tall people.

Yet hope springs eternal. Undaunted by the gaping void in his awards cabinet, Cruise returned to the role he had already made his own in this summer's sequel, the ironically titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

It can only be a matter of time before Oscar recognition is finally conferred on Tom Cruise. Next February, surely…

Jack Reacher (2012): 7/10

Lynch mob

Guardian: Mulholland Drive leads the pack in list of 21st century's top films
BBC Culture poll of 177 film critics around the world puts David Lynch’s 2001 surrealist masterpiece in top spot.
Mulholland Drive

What planet do these so-called film critics live on?

Does Captain America: the Winter Soldier make their Top 100? Does it bollocks! How about Avengers Assemble? Take a wild guess. Any sign of the Jason Bourne films? Enjoy your egg whites.

Jen and I bought Mulholland Drive when it first came out on DVD. We bought it mainly because film critics kept describing it as a masterpiece. We watched it once, then filed it on the Crap shelf next to Moulin Rouge and Mission Impossible 2.

To be honest, I don't remember much about the film—apart from thinking it was incomprehensible crap. There was some woman who thought/pretended/wished she was some other woman. And I think she and the other woman then swapped identities (or something like that). And there was a scene in a diner, I think (or perhaps I'm thinking of Pulp Fiction). And there was (very, very briefly) a totally unconvincing monster. And there was a scene where two pretty ladies kissed each other in a restaurant for no readily apparent reason (see above). In fact, I distinctly remember that bit because: a) it was the only good bit in the film; and b) the photograph of the two pretty ladies kissing each other is the only still you ever see from Mulholland Drive.

OK, so, admittedly, every year or so, I tentatively suggest to Jen that maybe we should give Mulholland Drive a second chance. It's supposed to be a sodding masterpiece, so maybe the problem was with us. We then mull my suggestion over for a couple of seconds before agreeing naaaaah! and reaching for Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World (a genuine masterpiece, by the way).

I mean, if you want to watch an art-house movie with two pretty ladies kissing each other, watch Carol: that's a bloody wonderful film.

I haven't asked her, but I'm pretty sure Stense will disagree with me fundamentally on the subject of Mulholland Drive. She tends to understand and appreciate arty-farty films; I'm just a simple country boy living in Hebden Bridge.

So, what do you chaps reckon? Do you think I should give Mulholland Drive another go? Or would I be better off sticking with Skyfall?

Beam me up, Luke!

In preparation for Star Trek Beyond screening at Hebden Bridge Picture House tomorrow, Jen and I are re-watching the two previous films in the relaunched franchise. And great fun they are too. In amongst episodes of The West Wing, we also recently re-watched the original Star Wars trilogy.

The problem is, Jen keeps getting Star Trek and Star Wars mixed up in her head. “Is this the one with Benedict Cumberbatch as a baddie?” she asked at the start of The Empire Strikes Back. “Have they just gone to warp speed?” she enquired, as the Millennium Falcon finally shot off at light speed. And so on.

To be honest, I'm not entirely convinced Jen is really getting the two franchises mixed-up. I more than half-suspect she's trying to play Jedi mind-melds on me.