Robert will blow your mind.

A few years ago, there was a Levi’s advertisement featuring a little, yellow, furry puppet named Flat Eric. The music in this ad became inexplicably popular (I’m more of a Country fan myself) and was released as a single, the video for which also starred Eric and was directed by the musician himself, and Eric’s creator: a fella called Mr Oizo, or Quentin Dupieux as his mother knows him. Quentin is bonkers, in that delightful way the French sometimes are (see: Luc Besson; Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and now Quentin has made a film.

That film is Rubber; the story of a tyre – named Robert – that goes on a voyage of self-discovery through the desert of California. But Robert is no ordinary tyre. Robert can blow things up with his mind. If that doesn’t make you immediately want to run and get this flick, then I don’t know what will.

Rubber opens with a straight-to-camera monologue from Stephen Spinella as Lieutenant Chad, where he explains that the film we are about to see is an homage to – and exercise in – “no reason”. Why? No reason. This sequence might be a bit on-the-nose for some, but I like it. Spinella’s delivery is wonderfully dry and nonchalant, and to be honest, most people who tried to decipher the purpose of this movie would likely end up with something much grander and pretentious, thereby missing the whole point. Everything in this flick happens for no reason. Nothing is explained, nothing is even queried. Embracing that fact makes this killer tyre movie possibly the most realistic film I have ever seen.

Of course there is more to it than just watching a tyre rolling through the sparse but beautiful country. Robert falls in love with a girl he sees out driving, and follows her to a dusty old motel where he kills some more folk and almost befriends the owner’s son. The audience themselves are represented in the film by a bunch of observers with binoculars (including B-movie legend Wings Hauser) who stand on a bluff discussing Robert’s journey and are tended to by the distinctly odd Jack Plotnick and his turkey. As well as setting up the movie, Lieutenant Chad leads the police squad on Robert’s trail. The scene where he’s trying to lure Robert using a mannequin with a speaker around its neck is comedy gold.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this is a great film, because it’s not. While hugely amusing and great fun, the trailer is somewhat misleading. This is not a non-stop parade of exploding heads. It is more art movie than B-movie; a philosophical exercise. Your enjoyment of Rubber will be determined by your ability to buy into the stated intent. If you can appreciate that sometimes things just happen for no reason then there really is a lot to love here, not the least of which is the utterly gorgeous camerawork. If, however, you are the type of person that needs an explanation for even the slightest little event, then it is probably for the best if you just jog on.

Or roll on.


Aliens suck. And eat brains

There are quite a few filmmaking brother teams around these days. The Coen brothers lead the field of course, with the Wachowski brothers (or Wachowski siblings now), the Hughes brothers, and now the Brothers Strause. I’ve heard opinions that putting their name at the end is a bit pretentious; a bit wanky. Well, maybe it is, but it’s also a statement of intent. In the tradition of the Brothers Grimm, these guys see themselves are storytellers.

Some people will never forgive the Brothers Strause for Alien vs Predator: Requiem. Let’s be fair here; that film was a bit crap. A big part of what went wrong with that flick was that it was these two inexperienced directors trying to impose their own sensibilities on not one but two established properties, each with a massive back-story and a fan base baying for blood. With Skyline, they’ve cut loose. They’re not beholden to anyone. It’s clean slate time and they have really taken advantage. Well, at least as much as the budget would allow.

Skyline is the first original feature production of Hydraulx, the brothers’ own effects house (specialists in digital imaging, they have worked on a lot of the biggest movies of the last few years including Avatar and last month’s Battle: Los Angeles). To my knowledge this is the first time an independent effects company has made a live-action feature completely in-house and that is something to be applauded even if you don’t appreciate the end result. This entire thing was made for reportedly less than $10 million and every cent is on display.

The story is not new, but where it differs is in the telling. A bunch of people wake up to find alien spaceships hovering overhead. Unlike the invaders of Independence Day however, these mofos aren’t here to blow shit up. They’re here for us. The first thing these ships do is literally suck up everyone they can find. That’s a much more unnerving prospect than being caught in a fireball, I’m sure you’ll agree.Of course, we are left with a bunch of stragglers otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a movie. It is with the casting where the lower budget works in favour of the storytelling. Our actors are all semi-recognisable depending on how much American TV you watch, but none of them are huge stars. This means that all of them are expendable. We’ve got Eric Balfour’s chin (24) and Donald Faison (Scrubs) as the old college friends catching up, with Scottie Thompson (NCIS) and Brittany Daniels (um, Sweet Valley High) as their respective significant others, and David Zayas (Dexter) chewing up scenery left and right as the manager of Faison’s apartment complex. There are some tonal differences in the performances but not so much as to be jarring. Zayas in particular seems to be in on the joke; he’s not winking at the audience or anything, but he’s clearly aware of the inherent daftness of the story. Had this flick been made 25 years ago, I guarantee he would have had a “when I was in ‘Nam” speech”. Balfour’s chin, on the other hand, is very stoic and sincere right to the climax.

And oh, what a glorious climax it is. No spoilers here, but the ending really polarised people when this was released. Some came out shaking their heads, some came out confused, and some – like me – came out laughing their asses off (is it just me, or this a very anatomical review?). As endings go, this is the most batshit crazy one I can recall in quite some time and I completely loved it. This ending would never have survived in a studio production and that is where indie movies really come to the fore for me: they have the freedom to be lunatics.

Skyline has recently been released on DVD and Blu Ray so get a few mates, get a few beers and enjoy. One more thing: if you see any blue lights outside in the morning, keep the fucking curtains closed.