Neophytes and Neon Lights (2001)
Hi there. Going to try something new today, so excuse the dust as I change things around. Instead of writing a traditional review, where I watch the movie a couple of times and then snuggle up with the keyboard for a few hours, this go-around I've decided to liveblog the movie, making comments as I watch it in real-time, just like all the cool kids are doing. Since everything's more fun in pairs, joining me at the keyboard today will be my intern Kelby. Say hello, Kelby.
Ok, here we go...
Nate: Alright, disc is in, timer's set, my thin-crust pizza is steaming and the Pepsi's chilling, we are good to go. Ok, first up is the opening credits. Nice music choice, a bit of garage-band feel to it.
Kelby: Wow, was that crew guy's name really "Pheng Sisopha"? Sounds like Jack hacking up a hairball.
Nate: Not nice, he's on his medicine.
Kelby: So you think.
Nate: Pay attention, Kelby, the clock's ticking here. Ah, so it's set in Sydney, Australia, I see that opera house thingie there through those windows.
Kelby: Is this Finding Nemo?
Kelby: That movie with the fish and that flying turtle, you know? It had that opera house in it, and I think it had some time-traveling elves in it, yeah, uh.
Nate: Are you drunk?
Nate: Yes you are, I cannot fucking believe you. It's 8:30 in the morning.
Kelby: Don't you judge me!
Nate: You know what, this isn't going to work. Kelby, go clock out and go home. Jack! Jack, come here, you're up now.
Jack: Sweet! Be right there, boss.
Nate: Ok, you two stop it. The movie's started, let's just watch it and write the review. People come to this site expecting high-quality reviews of obscure movies, so let's get it together, no reason to let them see behind the curtain.
Kelby: Can I borrow twenty dollars? I gotta pay this guy back today.
Hi, I'm Jack!
Nate: So here's the deal. It's the future-ish, though there's really nothing seen so far that would be described in any way as "futuristic". They do speak of "teleportation pads" but we never see one. Is this really going to work as a "science fiction" movie? I think that the litmus test is if you can remove the sci-fi elements and the movie clicks just the same, if not better, then it's a pretty weak sci-fi movie.
Jack: This has to be some sort of Australian festival film, right? Surely this didn't make it over here to America, we have standards.
Nate: Doubtful, though if Joe Dirt can get on screens, then anything's possible. Hanging out in the Sydney airport are a group of small-time hustlers, three guys and a girl. Their leader is FlockofSeagulls, who seems to be wearing a trash bag on his shoulders and has a Gaian Tree of Life tattooed on his neck, either that or he needs varicose vein surgery.
Nate: BlondeGuy is the new kid on the block, rocking his red t-shirt, MC Hammer pants, and his Handy Smurf charm necklace. He either has henna tattoos all over his face or he has some sort of alien flesh-eating disease, but either way he looks pretty damn stupid.
Jack: He's got an upside down question mark on his chin, must be an old school Joker's henchman.
Nate: Next is QueenAmidala in her awesome purple silk pajamas and horse collar. Her hair is all gelled-up like a Triceratops, it's very distracting. She's got the cutest Australian accent, though, too bad she only has about two minutes of dialogue the entire movie.
QueenAmidala, there with FlockofSeagulls.
Nate: And lastly there's DoctorHorrible'sStepson with his amber Smith skiing goggles and his white lab smock. He's the only actor you might possibly recognize, having been Mouse in The Matrix.
Jack: So in the "future" everyone will dress like they just got back from a New Radicals concert in 1986? Cuz that's pretty lame.
Nate: That's what they said about pastel knits and pleated khakis back in 1954, you know what I'm saying?
Jack: No, I don't know what you're saying. Who are you now, Coco Chanel?
Nate: These four are petty thieves, look, they just rolled that guy for his wallet. The security guards in their satin bowling jackets give them some grief, but they don't really do much to stop them. Hope they explain why at some point.
Jack: This isn't exactly shaping up to be the kind of movie where loose plot ends are tied up.
Nate: No, you're right, the script seems a bit scattershot. Oh, wait, they just did explain it, sorta. BlondeGuy just said something about how he and his mates are on the public dole, and if they got real jobs then they'd all be broke and have to start murdering people, so it's better for society as a whole that they just hang around this airport, collecting welfare checks and pickpocketing tourists.
Jack: That makes no sense.
Nate: Ok, slow start, but now things are picking up. An old man shows up, some random passenger in a trench coat and houndstooth hat. The thieves see the OldMan make a big stink about his suitcase and they begin to wonder what's in the suitcase that's so important.
Jack: It's like in Ronin.
Nate: Exactly. An...wait, when did you see Ronin?
Jack: I have a life outside this office, you know? Anyway, why is it that the thieves all dress like they're roadies at a Cure concert, but the tourists, like OldMan here, all look like, well, like normal Australians in the year 2001?
Nate: Not sure, don't know much about normal Australians, really. Don't know much about Australia itself, for that matter. What has Australia given to humanity as a whole?
Nate: I like that.
Jack: Kangaroo Jack?
Nate: I don't like that.
Jack: Great White Sharks off the Barrier Reef?
Nate: Fuck you.
Jack: Fosters beer?
Jack: Bloomin' onions?
Nate: Keep talking.
Jack: Nicole Kidman's genetically perfect ass cheeks?
Nate: I'm feeling all tingly now. I love Australia.
Nate: Hey, does the OldMan look familiar to you? Like some nearly-famous washed-up one-time C-list star or something? I'm getting that vibe off him.
Jack: Kinda looks like the PI from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
Nate: Nah, that's not him, but you're right, it does a little.
Nate: So FlockofSeagulls tells BlondeGuy to go steal the suitcase from OldMan, to prove his mettle, so to speak.
Jack: Why doesn't FlockofSeagulls just steal it himself?
Nate: Jack, sometimes people in a position of authority have to delegate menial tasks to lessers so as to empower them to take ownership of their jobs.
Jack: Oh, I see, like when you put out that interoffice memo last week saying we have to clean our own litterboxes from now on. Is that what you mean?
Nate: It builds character. Moving on, the rub is that the OldMan isn't going to give up his suitcase without a fight, which only gets the thieves all jonesing to pinch it even more.
Talking it out.
Nate: BlondeGuy has moxie, but he's green and he botches it, only managing to cut up OldMan's hand at bit. A security guard tosses BlondeGuy in a holding cell and says some mean things to him. FlockofSeagulls bails him out, costs him a hundred bucks and he's pretty steamed. BlondeGuy is all apologetic and grovels a lot, he's got this whole sycophant thing going with FlockofSeagulls.
Stuck in the hole.
Nate: Meanwhile, OldMan gets talked up by some homeless bum who smells of feces and mumbles a lot.
Jack: Ha, he looks like Kelby. Drunkass.
Nate: That's not nice, Kelby has been through a lot lately. As his friends, we should try and be more supportive.
Jack: "Friends"? You tried to take him to the pound last month.
Nate: That was a misunderstanding.
Jack: And they wouldn't take him.
Nate: ...yeah, that was kinda funny, wasn't it? Anyway, OldMan is now pretty freaked out about all this fuss over his suitcase. They've been doing a pretty good job so far of setting up the suspense and mystery of this suitcase, even I'm excited to see what's in there.
Jack: You know Kelby's been stealing office supplies again.
Nate: Oh, I know.
Nate: So BlondeGuy tries again, this time stupidly pulling out his knife in the open while the security guard is just ten feet away. Back in the cell for him.
Jack: So the airport's on an island, did they say that earlier? Is that why none of these people are leaving? Why is OldMan still here?
Nate: Right, it's an island and apparently the ferry driver dude is missing so no one can leave until they find him. Everyone is just sorta sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
Jack: But it's Sydney, right? It's a major metropolitan city, why can't they just pick up the phone and call someone and say, "Hey, why don't you send over another ferry driver, ours seems to be balls-up somewhere?".
Nate: I...well, because then all the dramatic tension would just evaporate in an instant.
Jack: And why doesn't the OldMan just pick up that phone right there behind him and call the cops?
Nate: Got me. Australia was founded by criminals and cow rapists, you know, it's probably better not to openly criticize their creative styles.
OldMan can't get a break.
Nate: Ick. What is that? Is that mom making her kid drink his own urine? Are they saying that "urine therapy" makes you live longer? Is that straight urine, or is it filtered or spiced or something? Is there some legitimate research out there that drinking your own pee is good for you? Am I going to have to drink my pee in the future? It might be sci-fi, but it's still kinda gross. Pam just told me that it's apparently a very old practice, and its adherents believe that it has all sorts of benefits, one of which is prolonging your life. To each his own, I guess, but I'd rather check out at my 79.4.
Jack: I lick my own butt.
Nate: I know, you're doing it right now.
Nate: Meanwhile, this twitchy Mormon missionary shows up, his shirt blindingly white and his bible firmly in hand. He's pretty Crispin Glover-ish in Charlie's Angels here and seems to be tweaked out on something considerably more illicit than the Holy Spirit. TwitchyMormon gets into a religious debate with DoctorHorrible'sStepson, which goes nowhere, but it does give DoctorHorrible'sStepson some dialogue, he's been pretty underrepresented lately.
Jack: Yeah, I almost forgot he was in this movie. Hey, I gotta take this call, it's my accountant.
TwitchyMormon chats with BlondeGuy.
Jack: Ok, I'm back, what did I miss?
Nate: Well, BlondeGuy finally got the suitcase from OldMan, but then TwitchyMormon pulled a gun on him and took it away, but then the OldMan bonked him on the head and took and the suitcase back again, and BlondeGuy didn't stop him because he saved his life there and owed him one, and then FlockofSeagulls came in and was pissed at BlondeGuy for letting OldMan take the suitcase back and he took TwitchyMormon's gun away from BlondeGuy and said he'd kill him if he didn't get the suitcase now, so BlondeGuy is all scared now and goes around asking advice from everyone.
Jack: Fuck...seriously? I was only gone for, like, two minutes.
Nate: I know, this movie is like ground combat, hours and hours of unrelenting boredom, punctuated by brief seconds of abject terror and action.
TwitchyMormon also wants the suitcase for some reason that's never explained.
Nate: Hey, you know, where are all the neon lights? Isn't this called Neophytes and Neon Lights?
Jack: Have not seen a one. And are these stoner pickpockets supposed to be "neophytes"?
Nate: BlondeGuy could be a neophyte, I assume, he's the new guy here. So the movie's heating up now. OldMan takes a bullet to the head while sitting on the john, but it's not BlondeGuy who pulls the trigger, it's TwitchyMormon, who has apparently come up with another gun somewhere. Just then, however, BlondeGuy comes right up behind TwitchyMormon and shoots him dead and takes the suitcase.
Nate: Yeah, but you can tell BlondeGuy just feels terrible about how all this has spiraled out of control. He's a good kid at heart, just stuck in an increasingly bad situation.
Nate: So they open the case finally, and it's full of marbles. Marbles? The case was full of marbles?
Jack: This movie just done lost its marbles. While you've been watching this mess, I've been skimming the user comments on imdb. Some guy there compared this movie to A Clockwork Orange, that's insulting.
Nate: Agreed, my droog.
Nate: Finally, two Sydney policemen show up and take charge of the airport lobby. Wow, they look like the Keno twins from Antiques Roadshow, that's unsettling to my manhood.
Jack: Those are policemen? Their uniforms look like t-shirts and bicycle shorts? Is this a lost episode of Pacific Blue?
Nate: They don't have bicycles in Australia, something to do with wallabees, it's true, I read it on wikipedia. Anyway, the AmbiguouslyGayTwinCops suspect that there's a bomb somewhere in the airport and they're all stoked about finding it. All our thieves get tossed in the holding cell while the fuzz search around for this alleged bomb, which might or might not exist. In the cell, things start to break down and there's a lot of yelling and chest thumping as the camera lens moves in for shaky close-ups. The power dynamic has now officially shifted away from FlockofSeagulls as it has become apparent that he's a manipulative dick.
Nate: Should probably mention that FlockofSeagulls' girlfriend is also a hustler in the airport. She's a superfine hot chick who looks a bit like a Buffy-era Alyson Hannigan but with blue eyeshadow...of the future! She's been floating around in various subplots all movie long, chatting with our main characters and offering tidbits of exposition, as well as teasing me with those sexy thigh-high stockings. The actress was clearly uncomfortable with the short, slitted skirt they put her in, however, and she's constantly pulling down the hem and fidgeting with it in every scene.
Nate: You know, I've been watching this movie for an hour now and still no Crocodile Dundee. Where is he? I've always heard that there was some international treaty that said he has to be in every Australian movie ever made, am I wrong on that?
Jack: Hold on. Ok, here you go...
Nate: Nice work, Jack. Anyway, HotChick seems to be cheating on FlockofSeagulls with one of the airport security guards, some big spikey-haired Brendan Fraser-looking dude who actually has a job and a steady paycheck. From inside their cell, HotChick works her eyelash-fluttering pheromone-shooting girl-mojo on the SecurityGuard to get him to help them escape. Using the same old trick that has gotten innumerable men in hot water for a thousand years, she appeals to his longing desire to get out of his boring life and become an escaped criminal with them. He buys it, of course, because all us men of a certain age are looking for one last shot at adventure.
Jack: Humans are pathetic and weak.
Nate: Maybe so, but you can't open cabinets on your own so you're stuck with us.
Nate: Well, shit, BlondeGuy just got shot by the TwitchyMormon. That kinda blows, I was just beginning to like BlondeGuy and his slow emergence from FlockofSeagulls' shadow. I hate filmmakers who try and show us how edgy and Joss Whedon-esque they are by killing off their most likeable characters for no reason, it's a cheap and annoying way to manufacture an emotional response.
Jack: I thought TwitchyMormon was dead. Didn't we see BlondeGuy shoot him at close range through the heart with a high-powered handgun?
Nate: It's Australia, people are tougher down there. It's the water, the military puts extra chemicals and stuff in it, read it on the Drudge Report.
Jack: Eek, that's a lot of blood spray for a cheap independent film, don't you think?
Nate: Yeah, I guess, but Tarantino mainstreamed that sort of excessive violence and gore. Man probably walks around his house with blood squib packs in his pants.
Nate: So, wait, that was it, then? That's the end? Four of them escape the island through some sort of emergency tunnel, and then they show us OldMan's bloody hand as they haul his body away? Really?
Jack: Well, clearly the filmmaker wanted to convey the helpless reality of the disenfranchisement of the Aborigine population, make a powerful, if obtuse, statement about the inequality in distribution of parliamentary seats in districts that are overwhelmingly native, but governed by whites from the Southern Coast.
Nate: You don't even know what that means.
Jack: Not really, but it sounded good.
Nate: You know, overall I didn't hate this movie. Oh, I hate a lot of things. Like sharks. And things that look like sharks. And MTV's Jersey Shore. And cooked spinach, despise that. And, of course, Ann Curry's lawyers. Really hate them. I really tried to dislike this movie, really. It just wasn't that bad.
Jack: I've seen better. But, you're right, I've also seen worse. Much worse, in fact. You know, I still don't understand what you see in Ann Curry, she's ki--
Nate: YOU SHUT THE HELL UP!!! SHE'S A GODDESS, YOU DON'T KNOW HER!!! YOU DON'T KNOW HER!!!
Jack: Ok, ok, ok. Man, I'm glad I'm neutered.
Nate: Sorry. Ok, so that's the end of Neophytes and Neon Lights, thanks for sticking it out with us, we hope you enjoyed the show.
Jack: I can has cheezburgr now?
Oh, Matt Lauer, I see you touching my Ann with your filthy, filthy hand.
Written in January 2010 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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