Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Black Sheep; New Zealand can get it wrong and then some

Comedy Horror is one of those things which it's hard to do right and easy to do wrong. One of my favourite movies ever is a horror comedy; I think American Werewolf in London is the best thing Landis ever did and one of the best movies ever made. When comedy horror works, it works almost better than it has any right to. Sadly, when it tanks, it usually tanks with all the weaknesses of both genres and the extra weakness which comes from not making your mind up to do one thing properly. And so it goes with Black Sheep.

The best thing in Black Sheep is the special effects, from Peter Jackson's ILM, Weta Workshop. Here's a useful tip for when you're going to a movie. If the most famous thing about it is the special effects lab, don't go. They seriously put Weta into the trailer and the poster and the opening credits. Weta are good, but really you want to have writers and actors and a director (in that order) that you've heard of. That's what makes a movie worth watching, not whether someone's managed the admittedly tricky feat of making carnivorous sheep look vaguely plausible.

I couldn't actually tell you what happens towards the end of Black Sheep because I stopped caring enough to watch it round about the time it became apparent that the writers hadn't cared enough to do more than string a bunch of incidents together in familiar patterns and hope that the sheer zaniness of KILLER SHEEP would do the work for them. So for the last half an hour or so that the movie was running on my laptop, I was doing something else, and to give you an idea of how boring the movie was at that stage, I can't remember what I was doing that was more interesting than the movie was.

But it did leave just enough residue in my mind to kick a though into gear this morning as I was making myself presentable. For the first time I can recall, I finally put my finger on the difference between movies and books. If you lose interest in a book, you stop reading it and nothing more happens to the story. But if you lose interest in a movie, it will still run until you rouse yourself to switch it off, and you can let it run its course in the background without paying any real attention to it. You actually have to concentrate on a book; you have to decide that it's worth your full attention, because nothing less will do. And with this, I am resolved that I ought to try to spend more time with books than with movies and TV. If I'm going to waste my time in idle diversions, I ought to waste it on something that makes my brain do SOME work.

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