Sunday, December 28, 2003

Belleville Rendez-Vous

There is one force which unites the Universe from its ultimate corners to its burning heart; a force which surrounds us, permeates us, and binds us together. It overcomes even the wrath of Broog when he has been forced to watch several hours of Scandanavian arthouse movies in which the main character is some form of root vegetable. This power has a name, and that name is ‘Grandmother’. Here, at last, is a movie which celebrates the power and fortitude of the Grandmother, in this case that most sturdy exemplar of the breed, the Determined French Peasant. Belleville Rendez-Vous (also “The Triplets of Belleville”) is the finest piece of animation bar none in a year which was gifted with both Finding Nemo and Spirited Away. The film has almost no dialogue, so the question of subtitling does not arise, but the magical story so swiftly and completely seduces the watcher that the absence of speech goes unnoticed. Musical, delightful, cheeky, and bizarre, Belleville Rendez-vous is a movie which on the one hand recalls the very best of early Disney and on the other is modern, sophisticated, and grown-up. The imagery is succulent and enticing, the animation smooth, wry, and artful. Broog was captivated from the first frames, and nearly ruptured a gas-sac laughing during the bit with the frogs. If your feuding, grumpy little planet had any grasp of what is truly important, this movie - which is above all about love and loyalty and the power they have to get things done - would be screened in schools.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


Straighten your vertebrae and open your hearing apertures to their most submissive dilation, for Broog, Alien Film Critic, now gives judgement. The slightest whisper of interruption, the merest quibbling, will see the impudent sussurator in such transports of agony that watching Britney Spears in a seven hour, Mel Gibson-directed stage adaptation of the Aramaic classic 'Battlefield: Earth' would be a merciful release. Broog thus shares with you his wisdom: Cuckoo (also ‘Kukushka’) is a heartbreaking yet wildly amusing journey in human affection and miscommunication amidst the surreal conflicts at the close of the Second World War. The film is directed with a light, confident flare, and the performances are never less than excellent. The dialogue is in three languages - Russian, Finnish, and Lapp - but the subtitling is unobtrusive and the narrative so compelling that the flow of soul is unabated as the characters chatter to one another in the blithe assurance that some kind of exchange of information is taking place. Beneath the surface, however, there is a rich vein of anguish: the exhausted Russian is fleeing the corrosive paranoia of Stalin’s USSR, and mistakenly believes the Finn to be a Nazi and a monster - while all his opposite number wants is an end to the war. Their entanglement with the Lapp woman forces a detente upon them, but the fear and rage are never entirely gone. Broog will not seek to interpret this film on your behalf, but he will come round to your feeble dwelling and sow your fields with salt, stampede your tiny offspring, and wear your housepets as slippers if you do not avail yourself of the opportunity to see the movie. Rarely would Broog say that a cinematic offering from your miserable world is fit for export to his home planet, but this picture is a noble exception.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The mighty cinematic edifice which is the human Jackson’s rendering of Tolkien’s classic novel grinds to its imperial conclusion in the third film, "Lord of the Rings: The Fat Jolly Hobbit Saves Middle Earth And Everyone Is Nice To His Whiny Friend". The movie follows the exploits of Sam as he hauls his limp and apparently pointless companion across the dark desolation of Mordor, struggling against hunger, despair, orcs, giant spiders, Gollum, and what must surely be an overpowering desire to slap Frodo until he resembles a hubcap.

Elsewhere in Middle Earth, the others of the Fellowship battle for their lives against the armies of evil, led by Gandalf and a female voice choir. Broog was delighted with the sheer quantity of violence, the flattened horses, and the huge battering ram shaped like Wile E. Coyote. He also applauds the tiny blonde actress Miranda Otto for thoroughly scourging an impudent male. While this last is most satisfying, however, it highlights the curious fact that the main characters achieve almost nothing in this film, while the supporting cast secure epic victories. The most impressive combat sequence belongs to Legolas, who demonstrates the ancient elvish art of elephant-surfing; the destruction of the Ring is largely owed to the stalwart Sam and the slimy Gollum; the Witch-King falls not to Gandalf or Aragorn, but to Eowyn and Merry. While this may be true to the book, it leaves the human Mortensen oddly bereft of stature, while Ian McKellan’s excellent Gandalf appears powerless in the face of evil. Also, the lugubrious pace of the movie is owed not to vast detail but to a sense of its own significance, and despite its prodigious running time of two hundred and one minutes, Broog did not feel sufficiently connected to the characters, or informed as to the meaning and motivation of their actions to care about the tasks which confront them - for example, the mortal showdown between horse and elephant cavalry should have excited admiration, horror, and pity, but Broog was frankly bewildered as to why the tiny horsemen did not simply attack from the side.

These movies are massive in scale, and there is no question that the third instalment delivers all that was promised by the first two. Having said that, however, Broog feels a lingering dissatisfaction at the sense of being on the outside looking in. To put it in terms of your cinematic history, it is like watching the attack on the Death Star without knowing about the destruction of Alderaan or the killing of Obiwan Kenobi. The effect was to leave Broog in the kind of mood where he devours people even though he is not actually hungry.

Monday, December 15, 2003


It has been some time since Broog, as a tiny tadpole still confined to his maternal parent’s eggpouch, first heard the many Words of Excoriation which are the lifeblood of the critical process anywhere in the Universe. Sadly, your language is so primitive that your words are merely sounds and symbols conveying an impression rather than an actual sensory experience expressed directly into the mind of the listener, and thus when Broog announces confidently that a movie is a stinker, a vasty foetid pit of par-boiled flesh-eating slugs, you cannot actually smell the environment to which your critic refers. This deplorable lack in your communication is now remedied in a movie of surpassing ghastliness called S.W.A.T.

The actual notion behind the story is at least permissible, and the movie features the redoubtable Mr. Samuel L. Jackson, the only Earth male for whom Broog has any respect owing to the human actor’s choice of a purple lightsaber in the Star Wars prequels. The youth Farrell puts in an adequate and half-naked performance, and Jeremy Renner is under-used as the nefarious Gamble. Sadly, these efforts avail them not, as the storyline drags like the hindquarters of a severely injured bison. The action is constant yet oddly turgid, and the main plot begins late in the day. Michelle Rodriguez looks for a moment as if she may turn the movie around, but like Renner, she has little to do except sneer - a reaction with which Broog can only sympathise, although he would in fact take the emotion further and bite the director savagely in a vulnerable area. The only other features of note are the strange preponderance of dogs in the first half of the film, and their inexplicable absence thereafter, and the attempt to portray the French as the root of all evil, rather than jolly fat people who are too interested in sex and cheese. It will perhaps convey the horror of S.W.A.T. if Broog tells you that, of all the things he saw on the screen that evening, the most exciting and pleasing was a trailer for Torque.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

The Matrix (Reloaded) (Revolutions)

The first Matrix was a weird phantasmagoria which combined snatches of pillaged Baudrillard with a mysterious plot following the central character from ignorance to enlightenment. It featured excellent performances from Hugo Weaving and Laurence Fishburne and a new and exciting form of stylised ass-kicking.

All the more mysterious, then, that Andy and Larry Wachowski should choose to follow this masterpiece of the science fiction trash oeuvre with two sequels bearing only a cursory resemblance to the original. Where the first movie was a rich feast of cod profundity and tight PVC, the second and third are light breakfasts fried up from the leftover kidneys of Tsui Hark’s “Once Upon a Time In China”. “Reloaded” and “Revolutions” sacrifice idea and content for capable but familiar combat sequences, and the sense of hidden worlds and secret truths which defined the first film is replaced by a blistering sandblasting of flying feet and indicated emotion. Broog was, after forty minutes of “Reloaded”, filled with the desire to charge through the glass partition behind him and eat the entire reel of film in order to save his fellow cinemagoers from the pain, an urge which is the more remarkable because Broog in ordinary circumstances would wholeheartedly approve of puny humans writhing in agony. By the same point in “Revolutions”, Broog was designing a new annex to the Chamber of Oiled Hedgehogs for the special use of Andy and Larry when Broog is able to get his grasping organs on them. Broog would rather sit through every single episode of “Little House on the Prairie” without anaesthesia.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Charlie's Angel's: Full Throttle

By the time the final credits rolled on this picture, neither of Broog’s speaking orifices were capable of emitting noise of any kind, though he was able to produce a low howl by rubbing his knees together and inhaling through his chest-spicules. “Full Throttle” is an intense visual experience. It features the excellent Earth Thespians Liu, Diaz, and Barrymore performing further ass-kickings and engaging in the wearing of outfits which convey a brash and athletic sexual competence. However, where the first movie paid lip service to the notions of story and character, thereby inviting the audience to enter the remarkable world of the Angels, this one seeks instead to overwhelm the watcher and bludgeon his sense of reality into a state of total subservience. Normally, Broog approves of subservience in others. Unfortunately, this attempt is marked by a total rejection of physical laws, the negative consequence of which is that the Angels are beyond defeat, and the remarkable conflicts become simply signposts on the road to triumph. Added to this, the strange traducing of the male Glover’s excellent Creepy Thin Man, and the bizarre domestic violence sub-plot do not meet with Broog’s approval.

Finding Nemo

This movie is clearly a metaphor for the Earth cinematic experience. The tiny protagonist wanders lost through a vast and dangerous ocean populated by monsters and drugfiends in search of the single thing which can render his wretched existence bearable. For him, this is a tiny fish-child; for us, a satisfying entertainment in which no one asks us to accept that the Earth female Charlize Theron in a dumpy outfit could be considered ‘dowdy’, or that Keanu Reeves is a nuclear physicist whose mind holds the secret to Universal Truth. In this case, our desperate seekings are rewarded with a hugely amusing and moving tale of family, love, and friendship. Broog was delighted, though not surprised, to discover that this movie was more real than anything to come out of Hollywood for some time. The woman DeGeneres is surpassingly amusing, and when Brogg accedes to ownership of the Earth, he will give her some suitable present, such as flowers, or possibly Texas.

LA Confidential

This film was well-made according to your Earth theories of aesthetics, and there was much to be said for the human Spacey. On the other hand, the book is a complex mire of conflicting relationship and blemished moralities, and not enough of this was transposed to your primitive celluloid by those in control of the project! The Earth Female Basinger was well-cast and powerful, though Broog was dissatisfied with her performance in two crucial respects - first, that she was not as good as the Female Sharon Stone in 'Casino', and second that she did not at any time devour her young or scourge her males for their impudence.

Broog is also less than convinced by the unity of the narrative, feeling that a close acquaintance with the period gives a great additional understanding of the finished artistic work, which on Broog's world would never be allowed, lest the writer be dragged backwards through the Chamber of Oiled Hedgehogs. All this said, Broog finds the film rewarding after your puny fashion, though not all your Earth critics would crack it up to be.


Broog finds this movie notable for the performance of some very attractive and vivacious Barbed Wire. While the human actors stumble through a blasted landscape of smoke and mud, growing gradually more desperate as they are killed for reasons which remain obscure, the Wire retains a calm and sensuous approach to the enterprise, locating the dramatic centre of the story without difficulty. Though the human director woefully ignores every opportunity to examine the inner emotional turmoil experienced by the Wire on the battlefield and its dreadful loneliness upon discovering that it cannot embrace the fragile humans without cutting them into smaller and less aesthetically appealing fragments, nonetheless the spiky thespian conveys a depth of trauma and sensibility lacking in the other protagonists. The cast are fortunate in that the script contains no females, as the actress humans would undoubtedly be forced to devour their weaker colleagues in the name of artistic mercy.