The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode

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The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode

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Category: Entertainment
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Possibly not to all tastes, but a near-brilliant call to more art, less commerce, and a greater love of film.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-1847946034

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I've been there, and so, despite all number of free press screenings, has Mark Kermode. When a major cinema chain I probably shouldn't name, but will - Odeon - moved from their smelly inner-city fleapits to a major new development far from any convenient bus routes, they started their multiplex life with the best intentions, having an arthouse film every week, on a Wednesday, and an offer of free entry courtesy of the local newspaper. This was brilliant for me - or would have been, if they'd managed to keep up with my expectations. I lost track of the number of weeks they had the wrong film on the projector, and particularly how many times they started the right one without glimpsing that it was being shown on the wrong-sized screen, through the wrong lenses, not matching with the gate, or even upside down. The projectionist of course had eleven other screens to worry about, pressing a button for each and never needing (or wanting?) to watch a movie. Kermode is correct in that if we must still think of cinemas in the parlance of theatres, and film-showings as performances, the projectionist can ruin a show just as a bad actor can a stage play.

I've been there too, when Leicester still had an arthouse cinema worth its salt, that they had the wrong film on the plate, and before whatever it was we intended to see (probably something about death and despondency, Brazilian style) we had a Pixar short as well by mistake. I've been there in a multiplex buying a theatrical treat for a partner and kids, and spending twenty minutes because the mung at the counter not only has to convent Nectar points to tickets, and serve ice-creams. Is that the kind of commerce that the century of art that is film really came to be, instead?

Don't worry, Mark Kermode's opening essay here when he puts all of the above into one episode in the life of him and his daughter, trying to watch a Zac Efron film, is much better than mine. Kermode can write just as well as he can orally describe his reactions to films on Radio 5 Live, and with phrasing such as the drinks in multiplexes being ""tooth-napalm"" he's on top form. This is fact a major improvement on his first book, which, while personable, was just an extended rehash of anecdotes he'd regaled us with several times before.

Some people might find him a little too much a personality to be contained on page, and his bludgeoning style might not suit all. I had to break off midpoint to dig out an old newspaper review of this to remind myself why they disliked the book. Even if I hadn't chosen to seek that out there is a small sense of this book being one-sided, and forcefully putting Kermode's point across to the seclusion of all else, making you forget any counter-argument. However the newspaper was in error, saying his discussion of blockbuster money-making was flawed. It's not, it's spot on and anyone who thinks otherwise has swallowed the Hollywood hook, line and sinker. There IS no reason for a summer tentpole release to be so shoddy and dull, when it's physically impossible for them to lose money. Some even break even selling TV rights and videogame licencing before the script's finished.

His easy, haranguing, verging-on-ranting style might not be perfect. I think he's mostly correct about 3D cinema being a lazy, ill-judged cash-in for the studios (and with one more filter betwixt film source and screen, something else for the projectionist to cock up), but I've always thought the '3D glasses cause you headaches' maxim to be a media invention that's forced itself into the world of truth.

But there is no small world of truth here in the few, long essays we get. Film reviewers may be toothless in the way of the dross they're inflicting on themselves in the name of their job, and there's some great lines about the nature of British cinema and what is foreign to Hollywood (but welcome to us all). This then is a lively and forceful 'state of the cinema nation' report from a man who has to watch every weak rom-com, and every torture-porn splatterfest put in front of him, and would much prefer what we all should be asking for - art instead. If you can't agree with it all, you should at least agree with that (and the sentiment he closes with, before a slightly unnecessary epilogue, that is). And if you don't agree with it all, then I'm sure Kermode would have something else to say...

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

If you have something you think Kermode might be critiquing in future years, there is How to Write Great Screenplays: And Get Them into Production by Linda M James to get you on your way there.

Buy The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode at

Buy The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex by Mark Kermode at


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