Spice World: Millennial Post-Modern Masterpiece or Nonsensical Pop Propaganda?

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Let’s go back to a simpler time, the late 90s. The teen Rom-Com ruled the box office, every white, Hollywood starlet had an on-screen tryst with a bumbling Hugh Grant and tattoo chokers were fashionable for the first time. In 1997 the Spice Girls were the female One Direction with sold out international tours and young girls clambering over themselves for just a glimpse of true girl power (or possibly a solid platform shoe) instead of really pretty boys. Any millennial will remember watching whether by choice or by force. At first glance, Spice World is a hurricane of nonsense with a nineties pop soundtrack, however over time it begs the question: This must have been on purpose, right? Normally when a movie is so scatter-brained it has, like, nine writers (cc: Catwoman). I am convinced that there is a method to this madness of a quasi-kids movie.

Like a condemned house, the structure of Spice World is shaky at best. The plot is a mish-mash of ideas crumpled together, much like a manufactured girl band put together by record execs in the late nineties. Though what else could you expect considering that the script was in the masterful hands of Kim Fuller who six years later brought us S Club 7 movie, Seeing Double and the American Idol movie, From Justin to Kelly.

Spice World is a subversive popstar movie, somewhere in the zeitgeist between Never Say Never, in its pandering to children (kind of), its core audience, and Spinal Tap, as it often verges on parody such as the storyline with the Rupert Murdoch-esque villain.

In the same vein as A Hard Day’s Night, Spice World is light-hearted and the nonsense just serves as more evidence that the purpose of Spice World is purely spectacle. The main plot is the Spice getting ready for their first performance at Royal Albert Hall, a milestone in their career, and their random Asian friend, Nicola, is getting ready to have a baby without her off-screen boyfriend, which she can do alone because Girl Power.

The vignettes that are sporadically placed within the narrative, with seemingly no purpose or meaning, add a Russian doll complexity to the film. The F plot of that guy from cheers and his cohort trying to convince the Spice Girls to be in a movie, inside the movie, is at times confusing. However, Alan Cumming’s Q plot documentary is fascinating in its inability to accomplish anything. His character wants to “capture the magic” and “raw emotion” and achieves nothing, which could speak to a post-modern audience that spends too much time talking about what they want and ruining the metaphorical B-roll, or it was a terrible running gag, most likely the latter.

The Spice Girls don’t want to show you the real them, they use the stereotype forced on them for comedy’s sake and attempt to subvert them through character development such as Posh Spice wearing trousers in a few scenes instead of always “the little Gucci dress” and driving the Spice Bus. See! Subversion… The whole SPICE-y crew have story credit so they had a heavy hand in the development process and it shows in their portrayals and the flow of the story.

Spice World also does a great job of subverting our understanding of the media by exaggerating the villain, leaving no room for ambiguity. Bringing Enquirer articles to life with alien encounters, I’m sure Geri was never the same after being groped by a cape wearing alien. Yet is gives a hint of the cooped up nature of stardom, it shows the girls mostly working, even during jokes they are on the job.

Four years the predecessor to Zoolander, the movie works overtime on cameos squeezing as many favours from British talent, acting wise and other in between the multiple storylines that are occurring simultaneously on-screen. From Rocky Horror cult favourites Richard O’Brien and Meatloaf to the other charitable Irish rocker, Bob Geldof, the list of celebs popping their heads in for a quick laugh is endless. Also, I’m pretty sure that Nile Rodgers is in the background of ‘Spice up Your Life’ however I have no evidence to back this up.

While I feel more confident that cocaine was on the mind of the production team than post-modernism, this isn’t a straight forward popstar movie. It isn’t pandering to children, in fact it’s not quite clear who this movie is for. It is at heart an ode to a classic and yet is so frantic that you wouldn’t be able to catch the homage because there are 75 storylines. I think that Spice World lives in the millennial nineties ‘so bad its good’, as a recovering teenage girl growing up during the golden years of Top of the Pops and Smash Hits, this movie in all of its batshit craziness is a classic and it’s not the “get to know me” concert movie that we get now. Spice World is pure nonsensical fantasy and a fresh breathe of Indica.

Salomé plus Q+A Broadcast (15)

(Originally written for Latitude Lookout)

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Director: Al Pacino

21st September, 2014

Every piece of promotion, including the introduction at the beginning of the screening credited the movie as “based on the most controversial Oscar Wilde play.”

The film at the centre of Pacino’s 2011 docu-drama Wilde Salomé is now released as its own entity in the UK. As stated and executed during the documentary, Pacino’s vision was to stage a production of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé using the original text as written and make a cinematic.

The experimental style Pacino chose to present the play is well executed. By melding the intimate experience of going to the theatre and bringing it to the big screen is well done. By playing with the form, Pacino leaves no audience member behind allowing literary lovers and art film fanatics alike entertained.

Jessica Chastain’s performance is captivating, how she flits from innocence to arrogance and menacing, as the titular character, expertly is to be admired as this was her first film as a professional actor.

Although a small part of the film, Pacino’s accent work is nothing to write home about. When asked in the documentary where it comes from he answers, “I don’t know.”  It is jarring and took many audience members out of the engrossing rhythm of the dialogue. He is the weakest part of this production.

As for the Q+A, Stephen Fry felt like the wrong person to host this as he mostly dominated the conversation. Hi enthusiasm for the material was great, however his excitement overpowered the important aspect of Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain discusses this passion piece and thus made it not worth staying, nor the extra price on the ticket.

Overall, this movies is a dense and intense experience, the passion for the content is clear and makes a great ode to Oscar Wilde and is worth seeing for Wilde fans.

7/10

Catching Fire – Film Review

Gripping, intriguing and dazzling are words to describe the sequel to the 2012 blockbuster The Hunger Games. Catching, the middle child of a trilogy is a strong comeback from the slightly underwhelming first outgoing of the series.

‘The Girl on Fire’ Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is back and this time is breaking all of the cinematic conventions of a female lead all over again. Lawrence gives a powerful performance, leading a strong cast of veterans such as a subtle, calculating Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Plutarch Heavensbee, and a scene stealing, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman. Though, Jena Malone (Sucker Punch) and Sam Claflin (Snow White & the Huntsman) hold their own as the vicious Johanna Mason and the charming Finnick Odair.

Jennifer Lawrence once again proves why she is an Oscar winner as she immerses herself into the complex character that is Katniss. Opposite from her is Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth who also give great performances. One also cannot forget the great performance of the talented singer-turned-actor Lenny Kravitz who plays the gold eye-rimmed Cinna.

Kudos must be given to writers Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn who do a great job of staying close to the original narrative of the novel and bringing it to life, while also creating new moments unique to the film flawlessly.  Any fan of the book series’ dream. Francis Lawrence does a great job of bringing across the urgency of this thrill ride of a sequel. The cinematography is shockingly beautiful in contrast to the ruthlessness of the plot.

If you weren’t too impressed by the first movie, this sequel definitely brings you back into the phenomena that is The Hunger Games Trilogy. This movie is what happens when the passion for the craft of filmmaking is put ahead of money-making. Bring on Mockingjay!

4/5

I Saw ‘Kick Ass 2’ (Spoilers)

I want to preface this post with saying that I didn’t and still don’t agree with the timing of Jim Carrey’s statement detracting endorsement from Kick-Ass 2. I understand and respect his reasoning, but I think that he could have quietly stepped away from promotion.  He knew what he was getting into when he signed the contract for the role and cashed the pay check that they gave him.

I do feel that after hearing this, I went in a little more nervous about the amount of violence I would see.

However… he was partially right

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There was a lot, maybe too much graphic violence in this movie, but that wasn’t the biggest problem for me, an avid lover of violent movies.  The problem was that I felt that the story heavily relied in the use of violence to cover up the weakness of the script that wasn’t able to uphold or even come close to the expectations set by its predecessor.

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It could be argued that although Aaron Taylor-Johnson did great with what he was given, however, despite being the titular character the whole plot could have been cut out in favour of a Hit-Girl movie as Chloë Grace Moretz whose coming of age storyline stood out most. The only thing that lulled this was the lunch scene in which the writer went for sophomoric, cheap humour (vomit and diarrhoea) instead of the quippy and more crafted dialogue.

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I found the least compelling storyline to be the ‘super group’ of vigilantes including Donald Faison, who does a great supporting role as  a ‘Dr’ with a baseball bat and even Jim Carrey gives a stirring role as a Colonel Stars & Stripes which was ironically one of the stand out characters (maybe because I watched him a little more closely than others). However, I didn’t care for any of them, in the first movie they give us a reason to make attachments to the characters, whereas in this film there was a two minute scene where they gave ‘reasons’ that I guess we were suppose to cling to and a montage of them being friends. Not enough in my opinion and it made me indifferent to the death on a supposedly major character (the Colonel) where I should have felt sadness. Plus Justice Forever is not a great name for a group of vigilantes.

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 The evolution of Red Mist into The Mother Fucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) felt like a real (and a little expected) turn which provided laughs, cringes and yells from the man behind me. I believed the extent that Chris D’Amico went and instead of sulking in it, like Harry Osborne, he bathed in the violence happening around him in the true path of a psychopath. A great scene for Mintz-Plasse is when he sits across from his incarcerated uncle as he kills Javier, the Alfred to D’Amico’s demented Bruce Wayne and he says “Thank You” for cutting any ties he had to being a good person.

There is a scene in which Mother Russia, a very scary masculine looking woman who could probably throw me to Paris, massacres police officers in broad daylight using propane tanks, a lawnmower etc. I felt that this scene, placed after an attempted rape was overkill. But, Kudos to the great cinematography, jarring and chaotic, creating a cold suburban atmosphere. One  thing I can’t knock the movie for is its sense of realism.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t see this again as I felt that the story didn’t bring me in like the first one, and felt in many places too predictable. But if you like really violent movies such as Punisher: War Zone, this might be worth the money to go and see. ( Thank God for Orange Wednesdays)

6/10