May 28, 2009

Future Movie Reviews: The Boat That Rocked (2009)

Today premiering a new segment, Future Movie Reviews, where we review movies that haven't come out yet. The problem with reviewing movies on this website, is I don't tend to see them until months after everyone else has. So to get the jump on the blogosphere, we now review movies months before they're released.


It's rare that a movie explodes off the screen with not only flames, but heart & heat. Of course, today, with the latest slickest 3D technology, anything is possible. And it is brave & commendable that director Richard Curtis chose, as the newest venture into 3D filmmaking, not a swashbuckling space-pirate CGI travesty or animated inside-jokathon, but a more intimate drama of lost ambition & repressed desire. There are no aliens or superheros, altho there is still plenty coming off of the screen into the IMAX hall & scaring the bejesus out of the most Jaws III-weathered 3D fans.

The Boat That Rocked, which will be the first movie about gays in Iowa since their supreme court ruling in favor of legalized same-sex marriage, this movie seems oddly timely. However, it has been years in the making, suffering rewrite after rewrite & finally landing on the desk of Hollywood outsider Richard Curtis. It marks a marked departure from his only other film, Love Actually (2003), which wound together many different love stories with wit & Christmas miraculousness. The characters in The Boat That Rocked have difficulty exposing their emotions at first, love as a concept seen on television & heard on classic rock stations, but never visiting the small Fire Station in Annis, Iowa.

Like Brokeback Mountain, this movie's predecessor in many ways, The Boat That Rocked scrapes away at the surface of the latent homosexuality in a classic American archetype: the patriotic firefighter drama. With 3D glasses at select IMAX cinemas, I can say it more than scrapes the surface. Having mastered & redefined difficult roles like Hamlet, Bened
ict & Harry Potter's Professor Gilderoy Lockhard, one would think Kenneth Branagh would put his career into cruise control & milk his successes. But his decision to keep taking controversial challenging roles like Fireman Dormandy in The Boat That Rocked shows he's still got it. Is there anything this veteran actor cannot do? Dormandy's repressed urges are written all across Branagh's chiseled firefighter face, the ways his eyes linger on the asses of his coworkers as they shower together at the Annis Fire Station. The authenticity of Branagh's weird little facial ticks & impeccable Iowan accent make us momentarily forget that this is a huge 3D fiction. Branagh is known as one of history's most intense method actors; he spent years walking around pretending to be Prince Hal & Hamlet. Due to this movie's delayed schedule & setbacks, many real small towns in Iowa have gotten to know too well Fireman Dormandy, actually rescuing cats from trees & casting homoerotic glances at policemen.

After a slow first hour, where we get to know the different bachelors in the Fire Station & their lovable dalmatian Santorum,-- (Philip Seymore Hoffman is notable as Fire Chief Count, adding imperceptible variation on the same roll he plays in every movie) -- the plot shifts into high gear when the Annis City Hall is struck by a freakish lightning storm. You might want to bring your Ray Bans to put over your 3D-glasses for the realistic & terrifying fire at City Hall. (It is rumored this scene alone went a million dollars over budget.) Fireman Dormandy & his partner Fireman Twatt (played by Jack Davenport, last seen as Norrington in the Pirates of the Carribean franchise) are trapped together in the mayor's office with the inferno raging at every exit. The smoke that would normally asphyxiate them now acts as a cloak of protection allowing them to utter what they never before could. But words are inadequate after decades of repression, & with death inevitable, what follows is the hugest flaming fuckfest ever seen in cinema. The last few minutes of Dormandy & Twatt's lives, in this movie, are blown out into the last thirty-five minutes of the film. The Greatful Dead's "Dark Star" fills our auricular sensations. Branagh & Davenport's bodies become each other & then become the fire in a 3D light show which makes the end of 2001: A Space Oddysey look like Alf: Season Two.
"Sit down, you're rocking the boat!" yells Fireman Dormandy at the titular moment. "Sit down... on me!"

The Boat That Rocked is Rated R for obscenities, adult content, & one of the longest hottest gay sex scenes ever imaginable. Opens August 28th, 2009, in theaters everywhere.

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