Popcorn

Last night I revisited my past. Somewhere I had not set foot since the Picturehouse opened 18 months ago. Of course the soulless industrial cylinder that calls itself a cinema wasn’t called the Odeon then, it was Filmworks, but in every other respect this place hasn’t changed one iota. It’s still a garish wind tunnel of a building designed by someone who knew they would never actually have to sit in it.

Everything I moaned about then is true now – the non-allocated, suspiciously-stained seats, the miserable ticket-buying area, the dismal waiting area, the worse free-for-all when gangs of spotty teenagers clutching tickets all descend at once on other spotty teenagers trying to tear tickets – you know the score – we’ve all been there. Outside, it’s even worse – dreary chain restaurants – though in a small triumph McDonalds closed recently – surely a first for the mighty empire.

Which is why, in theory, Popcorn, the latest film “set” in Greenwich (don’t get excited – it could be any multiplex in the Western World) should have worked. It was almost entirely filmed in Greenwich Filmworks (though a continuity mistake in the first few moments shows it as both Filmworks and the fictional “Moovieworld”)and actually starring sundry spotty teenage actors, one or two of whom I suspect I should have heard of.

Looking at the others sitting in Screen 4, I realised we were the only actual punters. I was clearly surrounded by the movie makers themselves. I began to whether the crew had managed to annoy the cinema staff when we had a spot of bother getting anyone to be the slightest bit interested in our screen and we didn’t get any adverts at all – a first for the Odeon, surely.

It’s a mediocre film – I would rather think so even for the target audience unless they were virtually illiterate. A rom-com about the people who work in a multiplex, the “comedy” relied almost entirely on saying rude words and showing various topless birds, and the action was slow. The acting was, on the whole, wooden, though I couldn’t work out whether this was due to the actors themselves or the bog-awful script which obviously thinks it is a lot cleverer than it is.

There is a knowingness about this film which leaves a bad taste in the mouth. A by-the-numbers romance playing on the concept of movie cliche, it seems to both wink at the viewer and sneer at them at the same time. There was no noticeable respect for the target audience – 14 year-old boys, I would say from the lesbians and scatological humour – the writers had clearly thought of them in stereotypical terms rather than as individuals who made up a group.

The casting is suspiciously young – like some Children’s Film Foundation project – and while it can just about get away with it – after all the staff at the Odeon are hardly out of nappies themselves – it needed the gravitas of age to fill roles such as that of the projectionist Zak, who did what he could with a duff part, but who was basically just too young. Some of the other acting was just plain bad.

The only person who really came out of this well was the ex-soap star, Jack Ryder. I vaguely remember him as some airhead who got himself photographed by the paparazzi coming out of Annabel’s with a dolly bird on each arm, so it was a revelation to see him play the awkward, gawky lead with such conviction and sympathy. I really believed this guy was rubbish with girls and warmed to him because he injected some of himself into his character – which can’t have been easy under the circumstances.

The film-within-a-film sequences were contrived and, as far as I can see, merely included to add some cheap gags, albeit on two levels – tits-&-ass for the teenagers, knowing winks to the film makers’ mates. I did like the graphic novel/photo-love story influences – but would have liked to have seen it followed through.

Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi on a budget of $7,000. He used almost entirely non-actors, toy guns and office chairs and wheelchairs instead of proper equipment. His film doesn’t always stay in focus, sync or even sometimes make sense. But that guy managed to put creativity on the screen instead of cash. He got performances out of his actors, made art out of adversity. He put his very soul up there. Here there is a gaping void in the soul department. I don’t know what the budget was, but it must have been more than $7,000 – if it wasn’t, I take it all back and the director is some kind of god.

After endless credits including the unfunniest outtakes ever – people forgettting lines does not humour make – the film ended (to much applause from the audience) and we stumbled out in the dark to no music or any help from the staff, the Forgotten Audience. I could only assume that either the Odeon staff is even worse than I remember – or that the crew had really pissed off the poor buggers who work there whilst filming.

We crept out virtually unnoticed by the film makers. I’ll be back in the Picturehouse tonight…

Note to later edition: If by some bizarre chance, you fancy actually seeing Popcorn you’ll have to travel It didn’t last the weekend…

Maybe Blockbuster in a month’s time?


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