Thursday, 10 December 2015

Movie Review: In The Heart Of The Sea/Peter Pan XXX: An Axel Braun Parody (2015)



http://redribbonreviewers.wordpress.com
Moby-Dick, much like The Great Gatsby and Homer’s Odyssey, is in the great pantheon of books that you must read before anyone takes you seriously as an adult human… apparently. More importantly, it’s also one of the few literary works that helped turn Khan Noonien Singh into an obsessed psychopath; reason enough to avoid it, I reckon. All the same, it’s in that canon with good reason, since the term “white whale” has become ingrained in the human lexicon and Captain Ahab has been made synonymous with any fictional character in the grips of deep obsession. As such, a film about the purported real-life story that inspired that famous tale is going to be worth at least a gander. Then again, in terms of films about the stories behind the myth, the director this time round doesn’t have the best track record. So, before he resumes work on his next Dan Brown adaptation, let’s look into Ron Howard’s latest epic: This is In The Heart Of The Sea.

The plot: Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) wants inspiration for his next book, so he tracks down the last survivor of the whaling ship Essex: Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson). Over a night of whiskey and tears, Thomas retells the story of his time as a cabin boy (Tom Holland) aboard the ship, captained by George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker) and his first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth). While out at sea, they encounter a sperm whale the likes of which none of them have ever seen before, destroying their ship and leaving with little option in order to survive.

The acting is very strong throughout, even if the accents are a bit suspect at times. Hemsworth depicts both the early cockiness and the later obsessive determination with equal vigour, Walker is wonky but works well when coupled with Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy as the second mate Matthew Joy is a little one-note but a decent voice of reason when it’s needed, Holland shows a lot of promise, which considering this is the new Spider-Man is a very welcome thing to see, and while Whishaw has a pretty minor role, he delivers when paired up with Gleeson. Gleeson himself is easily the strongest part of the entire cast, channelling that sense of repressed memory and subdermal despair rather brilliantly, made only better when his wife (Michelle Fairley) joins in the conversation.

The writing is pretty damn shallow which, while unfortunately expected when it comes to Ron Howard, is at least of a higher grade than his usual pedigree. Chase is our main man from Nantucket, which is fitting because he starts out the film as a colossal prick. Between dangling crewmen over the edge of the ship by their ankles and constantly comparing dick sizes with the captain, the guy needs to be taken down a few pegs and how. I’m just thankful that this didn’t go the way of Vacation and actually have them comparing pipe, but it’s rather telling when he’s that overconfident that that is somehow a likely outcome. Beyond that, we have the stuffy businessmen that Chase and Pollard have to answer to, who are so stock that it isn’t even worth getting into, Pollard himself is so milquetoast that he only just wins out against Chase in terms of dickery, and Joy only has a trait of abstaining from alcohol as his personality, which sucks royal but at least it’s consistent. At about the halfway point, when the whale levels their ship, Chase’s cockiness gives way to that need for resolution, which ends up wiping out his on-screen presence and not replacing it with anything substantial. Then we get into the matter of the whaling itself and… I think they were going for an environmentalism message here but I’m not entirely sure. Really, it only comes up as a bit of a footnote alongside the themes of survival and loss of faith. Said themes are well done but then they’re smacked in the face with the final encounter between Chase and the whale, which is so cheesy that it could have made it into a Captain Planet cartoon.

Between Howard’s knack for visual scale and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s experience in more experimental indie fare, it’s not much of a shock that this comes out as beautiful as it does. It does seem that a fetish for mounted ship-side cameras got into the mix somewhere but, combined with the grandiose effects work, it is very effective. There is a neat balance between the vast wide shots and the more claustrophobic and suffocating close-ups, giving proportionate size to the events depicted. To say nothing of the underwater shots, which give a definite sense that these whales are forces to be reckoned with, the white whale in particular. However, as good as the CGI effects are and as well assembled as the live-action shots are, they aren’t integrated together well. When so much effort has clearly been made on both ends, it’s a bit disheartening when they look so disjointed when put side-by-side. There’s also a few moments of “tell, don’t show” that, while understandable considering they involve whale spelunking and cannibalism, definitely hurt the film’s intent of showing how perilous the journey was for the whalers. This might fall under a matter of personal preference, since I’m pretty sure going into any more detail on either of those might have given it a higher rating, but the effect is hindered nonetheless.

All in all, while definitely a grand spectacle with notions of faith and the human will to survive, the writing relies heavily on stereotypes, the depictions of their desperation feel like they’ve been mildly sanitized for a wider audience, and the effects work is only fruitful when it doesn’t feature live-action actors in the same scene. It’s a decent watch for its visuals but its innards aren’t developed enough to entirely recommend it on those terms. It’s better than Oddball, as the sense of scale makes for a more immersive viewing experience; whether that feeling is maintained on the home media release, only time will tell. However, there’s no real connection to any of the characters here, save for Nickerson after the fact. As such, even with how uneven it was overall, Love & Mercy ranks higher because of how well it portrayed Brian Wilson’s character.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Back when I reviewed Pan, I made a statement to the effect of how I’d seen porn do a better job at adapting Peter Pan than that movie did. Well, since I’m feeling a bit experimental today, let’s see if that is actually true. Yep, break out your eye-patches and ‘pixie dust’ because we’re taking a look at a porn parody. Porn parodies might be the most bemusing concept I’ve come across, and yet it’s also one of the most prevalent nowadays; I mean, why actively say that you’re trying to put effort into writing that no-one is watching your work for anyway? Kind of the same situation with proper action films, come to think of it. Of course, nowadays, people don’t even try to get clever with their titles, just going with (Thing We’re Basing Our Sex On): A XXX Parody or, God forbid, This Ain’t (Thing We’re Basing Our Sex On) XXX. Probably the big name when it comes to porn parodies is Lee Roy Myers, the guy responsible for Katy Pervy: The XXX Parody where Katy Perry fucks Elmo. Yes, this exists, and yes, it is incredibly awkward to sit through. Chances are you’ll never be able to see that red fuzzy thing again after hearing him say “Suck Elmo’s dick”. Oh, by the way, this review is also going to contain a lot heavier language than is usually seen here; it’s got XXX right in the title, so hopefully this isn’t that much of a surprise. Anyway, in a serious break from my usual area of pseudo-expertise, it’s time to delve into a completely different area of pseudo-expertise; as a child of the Internet, it’s almost my job to know about these things anyway. This is Peter Pan XXX: An Axel Braun Parody.

The plot: It’s porn. It doesn’t have one.

Okay, tell a lie, there is some semblance of a plot here. Basically, the film is about a grown-up Wendy (because, unlike Lost Girls, there’s no way that this could get away with her being underage) who returns to Neverland. It’s kind of like Hook, only if we actually spent time with grown-up Wendy instead of just seeing her in chronological pit stops. With that in mind, this already has at least some semblance of a decent idea behind it, meaning that we haven’t even gotten to the actual porn yet and already this is doing a better job than Pan. Beyond that, Peter (after giving her some “happy thoughts”) needs Wendy’s help to rescue Tinker Bell from Captain Hook. He’d ask the Lost Boys, but it seems that they have all gone the way of piracy. Once again, a decent idea. Of course, that’s all they end up being: Nice ideas. We’re still talking about a porno here, so it’s not as if they can be implemented all that well. However, there is one neat trick in the casting that is actually kind of clever: The actor playing Wendy’s husband Clive (Steven St. Croix) is the same actor playing Captain Hook. This is the last thing I expected to say about a porno flick, but there’s a little bit that can be read into that dual casting. Then again, this is far less of a ‘parody’ and more just a fanfic, which is kind of misleading but then again again this did make me laugh more than a few times.

Steven St. Croix is awesome in this thing. Seriously, he is actually having fun on set beyond just the genital IKEA instructions, as he is equally over-the-top goofy as both Clive and the Captain. That’s about it in terms of intentional laughs. Let’s get into the other things that elicit giggles in this thing. Okay, Peter (Ryan Ryder)’s hair has obviously been dyed a bright red, but I can’t tell if his dye is running down onto his face or if he is naturally that red in the face before the sex even starts. I’m willing to go for the latter because, unless he dyed all of his hair, then he is consistently red all over his body. Of all the characters in this story, Peter is the last person I was expecting to make me ask “What makes the red man red?” And speaking of ‘not-sure-if-intentional’ production values, whoever did the sound setup needed to focus a bit more. Even though they keep using a boom mic for their audio, which you can tell from how it occasionally drops down into frame, it keeps sounding like they’re using lapel mics because something keeps hitting the recording source. Not only that, said boom mic mustn’t be tuned too well because, in the opening half-hour scene, you can clearly see Wendy (Keira Nicole/Cosima Dunkin) talking usual dirty stuff but you can barely hear any of it. And no, this isn’t a case of me intentionally keeping the volume low in case someone overheard; the audio is perfectly fine in the very next scene. Alongside the audio is the blue screening, which varies from sub-standard TV quality work to having one random shot where they didn’t even Chroma-key anything; all you see is the blue screen setup and the actors in front of it, along with miscellaneous shit in the background where it wasn’t draped over. It’s that bizarre and jarring a moment that I can’t even tell if it was an accident that was left in, or some sort of joke about how hokey their own effects are. Oh well, either way, the effect is still the same: Instant hilarity.

Oh yeah, might as well actually talk about the main attraction in a film like this: The fucking. And since all this really is is a collection of couplings, I might as well break it down scene-by-scene. Hey, it’s a porno; it’s not as if there’s much else to talk about. At the start, after our awesome introduction to Clive, we have our dyed and very Scottish Peter Pan having sex with Wendy. A bit slobbery, and again the audio isn’t the best, but what hurts it most is how bloody long it goes on for… I need better phrasing, but fuck it… yep, definitely need better phrasing. Okay, regardless, it is easily the longest scene at about half an hour long; you know you’re in trouble when even I’m saying that it’s taking too long. It would’ve been nice if we got a mid-air flying sex scene like in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish, but whatever. It’s also kind of awkward how Peter crows after he finishes, but it’s not timed right for it to really work as a joke… if that was even what they were going for. It’s more a signal for the end of the scene than a jokey groan. Then we get Tinker Bell (Riley Steele) and Captain Hook, which is around the time that the infamous Blue Screen Of Hilarity happens. No, the scene itself isn’t some bizarre gainer fetish fulfillment; it just involves Hook being shrunk down and then screwing the fairy. St. Croix’s voice is a little too funny to really focus on the act itself, but then again Tinker Bell’s mysteriously bruised knee is distraction enough. Then, it’s mermaid time as Wendy and Peter reach Neverland and, as bizarrely interesting as it could have been, it doesn’t involve a scene with women who have giant fish heads and human legs. Instead, it’s just an oral scene with Peter and two regular mermaids (Aiden Ashley and Mia Malkova), kind of wasting an opportunity by not including Wendy into the deal, but regardless it’s just an oral scene; if that’s your thing, then this should be perfectly serviceable.

Then we meet Tiger Lily (Vicki Chase) and holy hell, she actually looks like she could pass for a Native American. Why is it here of all places that I end up finding the film that does that right? Anyway, she and Tinker Bell (now human size) meet the tribe’s leader: Bigodick. They both bang him in order to wake him out of a trance, and the whole time all I’m thinking is could they really not think of a better name for this guy? Like, even for an industry that built itself on silly names, that’s pretty fucking lame. Hell, it’s not even that accurate as both he and Hook fall pretty short against Peter; maybe that’s the point, I don’t know. Regardless, after a decent threesome scene, some nice acting from Chase (well, in terms of what a porn star is meant to convey, at least), and discovering the word “Tinkerbooty”, we get our final scene involving Wendy, Smee (Jay Crew/Jake Jacobs) and two of the Lost Boys-turned-Pirates (Dane Cross and Jake Taylor/Jake Jace). Wendy is dressed up as a pirate, and announced by a record scratch like this is the 90’s all over again, but more than piratical poon, the thing that keeps my attention is the actor playing Smee. Not only is he too camp to fit into this kind of porn, he also seems to be channelling Robin Williams as Peter Pan; surely, there’s a way of working this into a re-write of Hook where Peter became the new Smee. Even more fanfiction possibilities! Anyway, awkward threesome ensues because they don’t know what to do with Smee other than have him give hilarious encouragement during it (“Give her the salty balls”, etc.), but then again the guy is in his late fifties by this point; chances are he knows what he’s doing more than the others. Literal circle-jerking occurs and every pole is cycled through every hole, aside from the ass which hasn’t been used at all in this film, climax, hilarious encounter between Peter and Hook, weirdly ironic use of “it’s not the size” line, and amazingly cheap alligator does away with Hook. Happy endings all round.

All in all, this exists to fulfill a basic physical and primal need, so whatever stupid gaffes exist in the production aren’t important anyway. That said, since there are porn parodies out there that make a decent effort like The Breakfast Club XXX, it’s still fair to judge this as a weak parody if that is even the right term for it. It’s better than The Dressmaker, as whatever ‘enjoyment’ there is to be gotten out of this film is legitimate and Steven St. Croix is plenty of fun to watch as well. However, in comparison to another film containing fanfiction-style writing, hokey acting and bad special effects, Hitman: Agent 47 kept me constantly engaged through how bad it was. Honestly, it would be a better idea to hunt down the ‘Bigodick’ scene on its own, as the rest of it just doesn’t compare to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment