January 02, 2007
September 14, 2006
Shannon and I were going to go to the cinema tonight. Here's what is on: Beerfest | CRANK | LITTLE MAN | PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2 | Pulse | Right At Your Door | Talladega Nights | THE SENTINEL | THE WICKER MAN | YOU ME AND DUPREE. I hadn't really heard of any of these movies. I quit following what was coming out when I moved back to the UK from the US, partially because of the delay in release dates here.
So i read a couple of the summaries of these movies. The first, Beerfest:
'American brothers Todd and Jan Woodhouse travel to Germany to scatter their grandfather’s ashes. Once there however, they stumble across ‘Beerfest’; the ultimate challenge in beer drinking. Their German cousins are less than impressed at their arrival and attempt to throw them out of the tournament. The brothers have other ideas however, and return with a group of drinkers to take part in the event.'
The second, Pulse:
'A computer hacker receives a strange and mysterious message from his computer, leading to a group of students having to fight for their lives as the alien signal slowly begins to tap into their email and mobile systems, with the intent of killing them. Unable to escape from the bug the students have to pull together to rid the world of the evil source of power.'
What utter rubbish. As for the rest.
Crank is about a guy that has to keep his adrenalin levels high or he will die. Little man is about dwarf who pretends to be a baby. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is..well. more Pirates of the Caribbean. Right at Your Door is about the spread of 'toxic ash' from a bomb in LA. It's utter, utter rot. That leaves me with Will Farrell being Will Farrell, Owen Wilson being Owen Wilson and the Sentinel, which may be the only hope but looks like it's been a disaster with reviewers.
Is it any wonder that ticket sales keep sliding at the cinema? If anyone from the movie industry is out there, I'd like this to be really clear to you: You are losing money not because of the 'digital revolution', but because you are releasing utter shite targeted at pre-adolescents. I have a brain. Please help me use it.
April 28, 2006
Those of you who are remotely into the more serious end of comics, titles like The Watchmen, Ghost World, From Hell etc. , will love this book. Amazon.co.uk: Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life is beautifully structured. Each chapter deals with a theme, going in depth on the relevant "classic" graphic novels, and then suggesting related ones. It's a great source for new matinal to read. Can't recommend it enough. . . if you're into that kind of thing.
March 21, 2006
Shannon and I watched Gattaca on DVD last night. We'd both seen it before, much closer to its 1997 release date, and enjoyed it enough to want to buy it and see it again. A second viewing, though, makes it seem a lot more prescient then it was back then. 9 years is a long time for a movie to stew. All the references to DNA profiling ring more true now that biometric passports, cloning and the testing of babies for gene defects are more of a reality. Very spooky, and it makes it an even better movie. 8/10
March 14, 2006
I'm playing ICO on the Playstation 2 at the moment. This game was originally released in 2001, but was an under-the-wire cult hit. Thanks to the popularity of Shadow of the Colossus, a recent hit by the same design team, Sony decided to re-release ICO and give it a second chance.
Glad they did. This game is beautiful and imaginitive and I highly recommend it. It takes place in a large stone prison, and your only goal is to escape, leading a girl called Yorda to safety too. The game is mostly made up of large 3D puzzles to solve, with very little violence, apart from the odd bashing of some cloud-like ghosts with a big stick. The interaction with Yorda is very elegantly executed, with you leading her by the hand, calling to her to follow you, persuading her to jump across chasms and so on. If you want a game that's beautiful, creative and different I'd really recommend you give it a go. 9/10.
December 17, 2005
Just got back from seeing Peter Jackson's King Kong. I'm a little disappointed, to be honest. It has some AMAZING sequences, watching CGI creatures fight, seeing the imaginary streets of New York tinged with snow and some genuinely emotional interaction between a 25 foot gorilla and its "love interest". Ultimately, though, I think Jackson got a little away with himself and was too generous (or selfish) with his editing. One of the side effects of being such an incredible director and having too much leeway with the final cut. 15 minutes of the boat scene and 15 minutes of the dinosaurs and other bits in the menagerie could have gone easily, I think. And maybe a few less chest beating sessions would have taken some of the pain out of my back from sitting too long. And the worst last line since Four Weddings and a Funeral left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
May 29, 2005
I've just started in on The Confusion, the second part of the Baroque Cycle. This follows Quicksilver, the first part of the trilogy, which sweeps through the UK and the rest of Europe in the time of Newton, weaving a great historical novel with lessons in the origin of science, finance and politics. I'm really loving the books, and the feeling that I'm enjoying myself and learning at once. Plus, I love any novel that gives me a new picture of London in another time.
One thing that's bothering me is how difficult it is to find these books. Neil Stephenson, who is based in Seattle, is well known for his science fiction, particularly the novel Snow Crash. But the Baroque Cycle is a historical novel, with not a whiff of Sci-fi. The cover of the books say they should be categorized in "Novel, science" and "Novel, hostoric". Despite that, these three books are ALWAYS in the Science Fiction section. This bothers me because it makes it less likely that readers who only browse the "real" fiction, and avoid the sci-fi and fantasy corners like the plague, will get any exposure to these great books.
I griped about this to Books Etc, an English book seller, and they explained that their customers didn't like to have one author in two different sections. Yeah. We're really dumb that way.
May 01, 2005
I've just been to the Vue cinema in Staines to watch the movie extravaganza remake of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
I'm a big fan of the book, the old BBC Radio 4 series, and the original BBC TV series and I came out of the cinema hugely dissappointed. I thought that although the movie was big budget (in a British way) it was lazy and missed a lot of Douglas Adams' dry, observational humor by a mile. Too much slapstick and not enough irony. Even Stephen Fry, as the voice of the Guide, seemed to avoid delivering anything remotely witty, instead delivering his lines like too much dry fact.
I went along with Shannon, who has never been exposed to this material before, and not suprisingly she came out totally unamused and bemused. The director really expected too much knowledge from the audience. This may be well loved material but it's not the Lord of the Rings, is it? For example the movie kept on making reference to the towels that Ford insists everyone carry with them at all times, but never goes on to show the part where the Guide explains why towels are so indespensible. Strange decision.
I think I need to get the DVDs of the BBC TV series to remind myself of what I enjoyed about this material so much.
April 27, 2005
Go rent (or buy) Shaun of the Dead. Set in the suburbs of London, it's a very amusing take on zombie movies. Subtle and stupid English humor coupled with the unsubtle use of a cricket bat helps keep the undead at bay.
January 31, 2005
We're trying to catch up with our Oscar watching before February's results are in. Million Dollar Baby is the 3rd of the 5 nominees that we've seen (along with the Aviator and Finding Neverland, both of which I'll try and get back to blogging later).
I have mixed feelings about this movie, although overall I think it's good. The performances were strong. Hilary Swank, particularly, is totally believable and the lank-hair-look suits her. Clint Eastwood starts out as...Clint, but really does soften up into something unexpected. Morgan Freeman is a little disappointing of only that he does what he does so solidly, bit repetitively. A little too "Shawshank" in this.
The story's slow but believable, and just when you think it might get too predictable at the end, it gets much more challenging to watch. 8/10
January 29, 2005
Blood Brothers is pretty universally lauded, but it felt like it was coming to the end of its life on our visit. The theatre was half empty and the show felt dated, musically. The performances felt tired, and generally lacked energy. Only saving grace was the role of Mrs Johnstone. Whoever was playing that role (Siobhan McCarthy?) really held the whole thing together with a tough set of songs and a part that really dominated. The rest was not great. 5/10
Mary Poppins was in a different league. Without a doubt the best musical I've ever seen. I can't really fault it. The set was amazing. A full sized, articulated dolls house that morphed into a park and rooftops for songs with Bert.
The choreography was imaginative and VERY well rehearsed. The lead rolls were really well cast and drew you effortlessly into their world. The kids, particularly, were great. The whole thing had an energy which probably reflects how recently it opened. A show that, unlike Blood Brothers, is at the beginning of its life. 9.5/10
January 25, 2005
Here are the nominees, in a convenient, printable form.
'fraid I just don't think the Aviator is a good enough film to lead the pack with 11 nominations. And the only other one I've seen in the Best Picture list, Finding Neverland, doesn't leave me that excited either. I mean, the Aviator is a fine film, but it all felt very fake to me, and I can't stop thinking that Leonardo looks like a boy, even when he's made up to look older. And I got a bit stuck on the cuteness of Finding Neverland, when the reality of the story is so tragic.
And no "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in either best actor or best movie. Damn the short memory of the academy! At least Kate Winslet got a nomination.
January 21, 2005
I thought this article that includes examples of why thecharacters in the movie the Polar Express look wrong and some examples of how to fix them, was great. The whole thing is a great discussion about how too-real can look fake.
January 11, 2005
It's heart-breaking to watch the series of events that bring the production to its knees. None of them are Gilliam's fault or under his control, but his obstinacy about not accepting US funding, as a matter of principal, does put the whole effort on a knife edge at its outset, both financially, and because of the language problems throughout the european crew.
Still, Gilliam doesn't come across as the out of control maveric that he's portrayed to be, and the few bits of real footage of the movie that you do see in the documentary really make you hope that he does eventually get the thing produced.
The footage is the highlight of the documentary, really. And the DVD extras, particularly the interview with Gilliam, are great. You have to admire him for letting a documentary team have unlimited access to him during such a fraught production (he agreed, for example, to have a mic on at all times).
January 05, 2005
January 04, 2005
December 08, 2004
November 19, 2004
November 02, 2004
November 01, 2004
September 27, 2004
The story itself is set during the Emporer Qin's rise to power (pronounced Chin). This is the same emporer that had the Terracotta Warriors made, and it was interesting having seen something of that era when Shannon and I were in Xi'An on our honeymoon.
Anyway, beautifully shot and choreographed, although with performances that perhaps weren't quite as engaging as in Tiger (maybe this is just because the feel is now more familiar).
September 25, 2004
September 22, 2004
I think we were both suprised both by the standard of the performance, and the fact that it was actually scary. The build up of tension, and the trick of people leaping out of the darkness suddenly, that works so well for movies like Halloween also works wonderfully well for this show set in the 20s (ish).
It didn't hurt that we had two rows of 15 year olds behind us, and the girls screamed at pretty much anything. Still, very much worth seeing, and with only 2 performers and the most basic of stage design it leaves a lot to the imagination (which is good).
August 24, 2004
August 04, 2004
May 26, 2004
April 20, 2003
Dinner and a movie. This time Bend It Like Beckham, which has been doing pretty well over in the UK.
I enjoyed it. It had shades of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but only the good shades. The family members felt a little more 3D, and fleshed out, although they still felt stereo-typical. The film managed to cram in every axis of diversity possible, including racial, gender and sexual, which was quite a feat for what is really a fun, family movie. The football action was good, although the Saving Private Ryan-style camera work (very choppy, with every other frame missing) made it hard to spot any skill.
Finally, after an easy-going Sunday, we met Rob and Agnieszka for a very fine dinner of Pow Wok Lamb, 7 Flavored beef and more at Wild Ginger.
April 10, 2003
I went to see Rivers and Tides, a film about Andy Goldsworthy. To generalize terribly, he basically walks out of the door to his home every day, with no idea what he's going to build, and goes through this high-patience, highly torturous process of interpreting the land around him with natural, found objects, in the process creating breathtakingly beautiful scultures. The film captures his process well, and shows the scales at which he is capable of working, and the depth of thought around even the simplest ideas. In fact, all the ideas look simple, but you come away knowing there's no way in a thousand years that you could create them.