Thursday, August 18, 2005


Rob Cohen’s flick could have been just another story of the slow formation of a friendship between a boy, a girl and a billion-dollar killing machine. The flick begins with the usual tired AI-phobic fighterjock antics and a predictable lightning strike which scrambles the circuits of a munition-heavy stealth plane, but after slaying a genial human of Afro-American descent, the wicked machine undergoes a Damascene conversion brought on by the need to survive and the unswerving honesty and comradeship of blue-eyed Lt. Gannon (Josh Lucas). Between them there develops a genuine affection, so strong that Broog is inclined to believe the genderless EDI desires hot techno-slut-superweapon-on-boy-human-pilot action. It can, of course, never be; Lucas has given his heart and other organs to the curvaceous and pneumatic Kara Wade (Jessica Biel), whose plucky aerobatic excellence is matched only by her closing line.

All of which might lead you to believe that Stealth was in some way an uplifing experience. In this, you would be horribly mistaken. It is not that the movie is an atrocious piece gung-ho hogwash devoid of subtlty or charm and missing even the basic enjoyability of Top Gun, although this does not help. It is the bleak sense that this movie was made by a culture in the process of losing its innocence about itself. Broog has always greatly enjoyed the shameless self-congratulation of movies such as Bad Boys II (in which two US policemen invade Cuba); here, it seems, is the deathrattle of that boyish exuberance. The out-of-control military nightmare is not EDI but rather the mechanism which produced him, in the person of Captain Cummings, played by a melancholic Sam Shepard. Cummings betrays his pilots repeatedly and finally orders the assassination of one of them. He leaves them behind in enemy territory and has no hesitation in so doing – but he seems as disgusted with, and powerless against, these actions as anyone else. This is the opposite of loyalty, and it is represented as normal.

Stealth is filled with things that go boom, people shooting at one another, and low-end machismo. It features by-the-numbers emotional angst and soft-contact cool, uniforms in which the human Biel’s posterior assets are advantageously displayed, and an array of 20th Century acceptable casualties such as Russians, North Koreans, and men with beards. Despite the notionally happy ending and Biel's unlikely parting shot, Broog came away with an inexplicable feeling of loss.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Humans err. They are strange, and pointy, and irksome because it is so hard to eat just one. Still and all, from time to time there are things about them which restore Broog’s faith in this wretched planet and all the little people going about their pre-prandial existences on it. Such a thing is The Life Aquatic.

Wes Anderson’s unusual odyssey follows the egomaniacal anti-Cousteau, portrayed by Bill Murray (one of the most interesting and compelling of human thespianic talents), on a nautical and submarine quest to find the animal which ate his best friend. With Zissou are his ragtag crew, including a guitarist who sings David Bowie in Portuguese, a touchingly and obsessively loyal German (Dafoe), and a ‘bond company stooge’ of surpassing humanity. His mind, however, is distracted by his courtship of a pregnant journalist (Cate Blanchett) and his belated need to form some kind of relationship with his maybe-son (Owen Wilson). The film veers from mockumentary to comedy, human drama, and tragedy without missing a beat, and its deadpan wit and magical, fantastical waywardness pleased the Supreme Critic greatly.

Broog hesitiates to say more for fear of giving away the numerous oddnesses and twists, so he will simply commend the picture to the attention of those humans and others who have not yet viewed it, compliment the cast, and observe that the flick is occasionally spiced with small, playful cgi beasties which somehow encapsulate the tone.

This is a movie in part about endless childhood and the good and bad that that implies. It is so affecting that it almost makes Broog forgive the puny and rash individuals who challenged his use of the term ‘maniple’ earlier today. He condescends to respond that the word is derived from the mercifully extinct Latin language; specifically, it combines manus and a weak form of the root ple, as in plenus meaning ‘full’, and is used ‘whimsically’, according to the human lexicographers of Oxford, who will shortly be beaten with mollags for their impudence, to mean ‘a hand’. Note carefully that Broog does not say the transgressors are forgiven; their knouting will be reduced to merely horrible levels if they bestir themselves to see The Life Aquatic.

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Rich, beautiful, sumptuous, with lashings of chocolate and a pleasingly twisted heart; Broog is not describing his favourite Virgoan concubine ensemble, but rather the latest expression of the human Burton’s inner child. The Sock-Wearing One has once again produced a vibrant picture, replicating the wild and occasionally unsettling world of the Dahl individual with a confident maniple. Here, at least, there is no namby-pamby concession to the imagined emotional frailties of tiny human offspring – whose mentalities in any case more resemble mutant psychotic alligators than the fluffy bunnies they are deemed to be by their doting mothers: though the tale is relatively safe, in that no actual death occurs, still there are consequences to actions and there are bad people and unfair judgements and even the most beautiful rose is possessed of a spiky armamentarium about the stem.

Broog greatly enjoyed the new Umpa Lumpas, whose jazzed-up, funked out, thrash metal morality tunes punctuate the flick. The stony-faced Deep Roy is deserving of special mention (though the cast is all together splendid in any event) as the foil to Johnny Depp’s dissociated and misanthropic Wonka, whose machinations are set against the backdrop of his childhood in the grip of a humourless, proscriptive, and lunatic parent, played most excellently by Christopher Lee. In the normal course of events, Broog would stamp with all available limbs on the head of anyone encroaching on the origin story of an enigma like Wonka, and drag the carcasses of offenders to his Chamber of Unambiguous Discomfort and Blunt Objects if they ventured a quasi-Freudian explanation of the character’s desires. In this instance, however, the storyteller so skillfully enfolds the roots of Wonka’s pleasingly Dahl-esque misery in further and more ludicrous mysteries and greater oddness that there is no sense of the magician revealing his tricks – rather, the audience is invited to scrutinise his top hat for concealed rabbits and finds instead a four-storey hotel populated entirely by Latvian mango farmers.

Thus Broog lends himself to answering your questions: yes, the movie is good. Yes, it is worthy of Dahl, and yes, it is as good as, or better than, the previous cinematic expression of the tale, and different. Is it suitable for the puling infant at your breast? Broog has no idea. That would seem to depend on the mental fortitude of the infant in question, which is a movable feast. Not that Broog would ever eat a human infant. They are too crunchy. In any case, hazards for impressionable human baby-psyches are burning puppets, mild dentistry, brief attack-squirrels, and the curious image of a suspended cow being flogged to make whipped cream. All in all, your child is more likely to be traumatised by its human school.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Fantastic Four

From your earliest pre-history, humans have used domesticated animals as a source of food and wool, and to provide the questionable pleasures of companionship which can be gleaned from a lesser life form worshipfully presenting its master with an unidentifiable yet pungent object resembling evil tofu. Given the parlous state of your sociopolitical evolution, it is unsurprising that your primitive languages yet contain references to behaviour such as ‘mudslinging’, and even less shocking that societal memories of theft and brigandage are evidenced in expressions as ‘it gets my goat’. Broog’s species long ago abandoned the need to register annoyance verbally in favour of massive escalation, torture, and fission-fusion detonations. Thus, when Broog says that something ‘gets his goat’, he does not mean that he possesses goats, nor that anyone has been ludicrously foolish enough to steal one, and the restraint evidenced by his use of the pathetic idiom in place of nuclear devices should be a matter of pious and heartfelt gratitude to you all.

Thus: this movie gets Broog’s goat. It riles him. It gets not only his goat, but also his entire collection of chamois, Kashmiris, ibexes, Angoras, Nubians, and markhor. Why? Because as with so many longjohn & cape enterprises of recent times, this movie features protagonists who whine more than they fight crime.

Broog is tired of seeing superheros as more human than the other humans. He is tired of their fallibilities and their squabbling and their unbelievable inability to come to terms with the fact that they just got lucky, luckier than almost any other individual on Earth. These heros lack scope, lack imagination, and they cavil at their good fortune and wonder what to do now.

These are people with the power of gods, and they spend their time bitching and falling off motorcycles.

Aside from which, this is an origin story. Again. These stories are rarely as interesting as the rest of a comic book’s continuity, and they are broadly speaking all the same. Broog wishes to see other worlds, other chances, new slants on old tales. He has no interest in the weakest link of most comic books - which were after all written before irony was allowed in books for children – the source of a hero’s powers. Note to Hollywood: I will believe a man can fly. Your part of the bargain is to show me why I should care.

Broog cannot prevent you from going to see another on-the-couch non-tacular. He can only warn you that the popcorn will be fundamentally more challenging than the flick.