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"The Dirt" Review

/taps microphone

The Dirt is a better movie than Bohemian Rhapsody. FIGHT ME!

Based on the autobiography of Motley Crue of the same name, The Dirt dishes the, well, dirt on the notorious 1980s metal band known for hits like "Looks That Kill" and "Dr. Feelgood" when they weren't committing vehicular manslaughter (singer Vince Neill killed Hanoi Rocks member Razzle while drunk driving in 1984 and served a whopping couple of weeks in jail), dying of overdoses (bassist Nikki Sixx, twice), marrying Heather Locklear (that would be Tommy Lee), and countless other shenanigans.

Using a brisk pace and multi-POV structure which lets each member have the spotlight (though guitarist Mick Mars gets less time because he was more restrained in his antics), The Dirt manages to cover the band's formation, rise to superstardom and then the obligatory valleys of despair as drinking and drugging take their creative, interpersonal and health tolls.

Director Jeff Tremaine hasn't appeared to have done a serious narrative film before - his previous oeuvre is the Jackass features and Johnny Knoxville's actually sweet-tempered Bad Grandpa mockumentary - but his anarchic CV lends itself well to depicting the chaos of the band's party all the time lifestyle  (the sequence where Tommy Lee runs us through a typical day is a hoot) while managing to slow down for the dramatic parts like Sixx's $1000-a-day heroin habit and Neill's young daughter dying of cancer, something I'd never known about.

So why is The Dirt is a better movie than Bohemian Rhapsody? Because while it condenses a 430-page book down to a 110-minute movie - my Facebook feed was awash in book-to-movie comparisons by musician pals - and has to leave lots of stuff behind, it gets the important events correct in the right places in history. None of the baffling shuffling of the songs and events that Queen fans spotted in an instant (and too many excused) for no reason other than because reasons. Sure, it glosses over the past three decades and ignores that it's been 30 years since they had a memorable album - quick: how many albums did they release after Dr. Feelgood? (A: Four) - but how many bands really stayed artistically potent after much more than a decade? The accuracy slows the movie down as dying children and drug debilitation aren't peppy subjects, but it's non-fatal.

The performances are pretty solid especially Douglas Booth as Nikki Sixx and Colson Baker (a.k.a. rapper Machine Gun Kelly) as Tommy Lee. Tony Cavalero has a great cameo as Ozzy Osbourne, Rebekah Graf is a double-take worthy Locklear doppleganger, and I don't know who Katherine Neff is but her resemblance to ScarJo was unnerving. Nothing against his performance, but Game Of Thrones' Iwan Rheon (he was Ramsey Bolton, last seen getting his face eaten off by his dogs) distracted from his Mick Mars and Pete Davidson (label A&R weasel Tom Zutaut) just did Pete Davidson; he's not Jimmy Fallon in Almost Famous.

While book-readers may complain about this not being a miniseries with all the stories, for causal and more involved fans of Motley Crue, there's plenty enough dirt to be found in The Dirt. Want more? Go read the book, kids.

Score: 7.5/10. Watch it.

"Mortal Engines" Review

Despite splashing Peter Jackson's name all over the marketing to leverage his Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit fame though he wasn't the director (that would be Christian Rivers), Mortal Engines ended up one of 2018's biggest flops, grossing a meager $83M worldwide against a reported $100M budget plus whatever marketing costs were. Based on the first of a quartet of dystopian future YA novels, there won't be any sequels, that's for sure.

Set over 1000 years in the future (the way they disclose this detail is cute) after the 60-Minute War eradicated most of humanity, the remnants live on moving cities and villages eking a hardscrabble existence with a watch on the horizon for predator cities like the mountainous London which run down and scoop up smaller cities for their resources.

After one such ingestion, a masked girl, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar, me neither), sneaks a weapon through refugee intake and it just so happens London's de facto boss, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving, the only name actor in this movie), is there and she wants to kill him because backstory vendetta. She manages to stab him, but is stopped by a young man, Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan, also me neither and looks like Ian Somerhalder and Eddie Redmayne had a son) who attempts to apprehend her as she flees into the bowels of London. Before she drops down into a trash exhaust funnel, she explains to him that Valentine killed her mother and scarred her face, but when he tells Valentine what she said, he gets shoved down the chute himself.

Now on foot in the trenches torn up my London's massive treads, Tom learns from Hester all sorts of backstory and do you think perhaps these crazy kids may fall in love? Meanwhile, Valentine is building some superweapon up in St. Peter's Cathedral atop London with the intention of breaching the Shield Wall protecting what was China. (Gotta get that international box office bait these days.) Fighting from there is the Anti-Traction League including the wanted Anna Fang (Jihae Kim, who is so androgynous that I looked up whether she was transgender) who flies a wild airship.

While the story is adequate enough - it was adapted by Jackson and his LOTR co-writers - to make you care enough for the characters, what really held my attention throughout Mortal Engines was the eye-popping production and costume design and visual effects (check out the VFX breakdown reel below) which brought this somewhat ridiculous steampunk-cum-Hunger Games milleau to vibrant life. I'm genuinely surprised that none of these categories garnered Oscar nominations and I felt sorry for the armies of artists who poured their talents into environments that were barely glimpsed, but without the world would've been empty.

Visually exceptional, but merely OK otherwise, it's not a big surprise it didn't blow up the box office, but it's still worth watching in HD on a nice home theater.

Score: 7/10. Rent it on Blu-ray.

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