Monday, 28 March 2011


For many cinemagoers, they’re the bane of seeing a film on the big screen. Noisy popcorn bags, twitchy-fingered teens texting and tweeting, screaming kids, over-priced food, and, particularly in recent months, THOSE terrible Orange ads.

Yes, visiting your local multiplex can be an experience that’s often more traumatic than cinematic. Whether it’s a case of a disruptive audience, unhelpful staff, or projection errors, the majority of my recent visits to the local multiplex have been riddled with unfortunate incidents.

Take, for instance, the time I saw Tarantino’s exceptional Inglourious Basterds at my local Showcase – during the first five minutes of the terrifically tense opening scene the projector was set to the wrong aspect ratio. Not only did every character look as stick-thin as Victoria Beckham, but the subtitles were cropped off at the bottom. When the staff finally realised, no apology was made and the film was not restarted. Since then, subsequent trips to that particular establishment have included dodgy sound and rattling air conditioning which rendered the screening an almost unbearable arctic fortress.

In trying to cut down costs, there often seems to be a bare minimum amount of staff on the premises, with no proper projectionists and no-one keeping an eye on screenings to make sure everything’s running smoothly. That said, in the current economic climate, it’s understandable to try and keep outgoing costs low, but is it really worth it at the expense of your customer’s satisfaction?

Worrying also is the increasing price of cinema ticket, which has risen to a standard cost of about £7 outside London. It’s all very well when you can get a £5 student ticket, but once that luxury’s gone, it’s going to be ridiculously expensive to go and see the latest releases, particularly if they’re only released in money-grabbing 3D.

Unsatisfactory multiplex experiences are not always the cinema’s fault however. More often than not, the worst part of visiting your big local chain is the rest of the audience. Sometimes it can be moderately amusing - case in point, my trip to see 127 Hours. As a large group of chavs settled on the row behind me, I immediately thought: these guys are going to be problematic. It was a few minutes before one of them turned to the others and asked “What is this film again?”

This, ladies and gentlemen, boggled my mind. Has the cinema really become just a place to hang out that happens to have moving colours and shapes projected onto a screen in the background? It increasingly feels that way. As the conversation continued, during which one of the group claimed that their dad’s best mate “literally has the word ‘dick’ tattooed on his forehead!”, another explained that they’d come to see “127 Hours! It’s about this dude who has to cut his arm off!” A bare-bones description, perhaps, but a somewhat humorously accurate one all the same.

Luckily, this encounter was during the fifteen minutes-plus of adverts that seems to precede every big release nowadays. What I really can’t stand is talking while the film is actually on. That, and getting your phone out, are the real big no-nos of cinema etiquette. Maybe if we all followed Mark Kermode’s Wittertainment Moviegoers Code of Conduct , the local multiplex would be a better place to be for us all.

For all that’s bad about multiplexes however, they’re a necessary evil. Don’t blame the local Empire for showing Big Momma’s House 3 instead of something actually, y’know, good – blame your peers for paying to see Big Momma’s House 1 and 2 in the first place. I’m sure many cinema chains wish they could show interesting, thought-provoking films as opposed to the same old recycled tat. And whilst independent and arthouse cinemas such as Newcastle’s wonderful Tynside Cinema offer generally a much better quality of service, where else are you going to be able to see The First Avenger: Captain America, or Cowboys and Aliens or the latest guilty-pleasure Jason Statham vehicle when the time comes than at your multiplex? They may not offer the most preferable cinema experience, but, let’s face it: the audience and the industry would be pretty stuffed without them.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Drive Angry 3D Review

The chance to watch Nicolas Cage donning yet another bizarrely terrible wig is one that cinemagoers shouldn’t pass up lightly. When you see that he’ll be co-starring with yet another toupee in a film called Drive Angry, presented in 3D? Well, to say no would be foolish.

First things first – Drive Angry 3D was obviously never going to be, and never aimed to be, an Oscar winner. But if there’s one thing in particular you can take from the film, it’s that it takes a trashy, silly, frankly ridiculous idea and takes it to every trashy, silly and frankly ridiculous conclusion you could wish for. The key to its moderate success is in this self-consciousness which acts as an ultimatum to the audience: go along for the ride, or stay well away.

Cage plays John Milton (yes, really), a dead man who has inexplicably escaped from Hell in order to avenge the death of his daughter and save the life of his baby granddaughter, who has been kidnapped for sacrificial purposes by a Satanist cult. In 3D. Along the way, Milton picks up a walking pair of gratuitously tiny hotpants (Amber Heard), and is pursued by the mysterious Accountant, a scene-stealing William Fichtner.

For what it is, Drive Angry is surprisingly good. Directed by Patrick Lussier, also behind fun horror My Bloody Valentine 3D, the film is a welcome blast of tongue-in-cheek excess after Oscar season. There’s everything you’d expect from a grindhouse project – little-to-no character development, copious nudity, gore and violence, as well as frequent knowing nods to the audience. Fichtner devours the scenery, while Heard is feisty and always watchable.

Cage’s performance is downright bizarre, which perhaps may just be the perfect thing for a film this mad. Whether he’s standing round mechanically, staring blankly at fires, drinking beer from a skull, or spewing out dialogue in monotone, it’s another chance to see how weird Cage can be at times. It’s also kind of entrancing – you literally have no idea what he’s going to do next.

If you enjoyed the likes of Machete and Planet Terror, there’s a decent chance that there’s at least something you’ll enjoy in Drive Angry 3D, with the eye-gouging nature of the 3D effects being particularly appropriate for the exploitative nature of the genre. If this is your sort of thing, it’ll be one of the most fun cinema experiences you’ve had in ages, otherwise avoid.

Drive Angry 3D is as crazy, unnatural and improbable as Cage’s wig, but it’s also loads of fun. There’s a scene featuring Cage having sex with a woman during a gunfight – cigar in mouth, gun in one hand, bottle of JD in the other. If that sounds like insane genius to you, see it.

Entertainment Value: 3.5/5
Genre Value: 4/5
Style: 2/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5