Thursday, March 14, 2002

My jinkins, wasn't that second episode of "24" just peachy-keen and redolent of Uncle Chris's "X-Files" at their paranoid best? Don't it make you want to hang around and watch every blessed episode of it - Particularly episodes 5 and 6, where the plot cranks into overdrive and all kinds of things kick off? It's just so good that it makes you wonder why our own broadcasters can't get it together long enough to dream up something equally compelling and dramatic. I can't imagine that budget is that much of a factor - Just look at how much the BBC have spent on making and then promoting a tiresome load of piffle like their new, dead-on-arrival, Highlands-set mountain rescue series, "Rockface".

I doubt that it's even in the tens of millions, but it looks remarkably slick and must surely have snared more than a few curious punters, duly suckered into watching fifty minutes of inane, half-witted, dull-as-day-old-ditchwater bickering and relationshipping amongst an ensemble of everydrones who shouldn't have gotten any further than the spec script stage.

Still, at least new "Buffy" and "Angel" are on tonight. That Spike - he's a one, isn't he? Talk about giving the fans what they want - It's as though those crazy kids at Mutant Enemy actually read "SFX" and those new-fangled Internet posting boards...(More Fred on "Angel"! Like, NOW! She's so darned cute that I may have to stop typing and lie down, the ghost of her southern accent soothing what passes for my troubled mind...).

Should I get into the new "Episode Two: Attack of the Clones" trailer, yet, or is that still too new to reflect upon? All I really want to say is that it looks to have perhaps addressed some of the reservations that most people had about the more underwhelming aspects of "Episode One".

For example, unlike the poor incumbant of "Ep 1", young Hayden Christensen actually appears to be quite a decent actor and has the chops necessary to portray Anakin's gradual slide towards the seductive charm of the Sith - We're only seeing seconds-long hints at a larger performance but there's an arrogance there and a darkness which appears to be surfacing with each ensuing movie.

The scale of this installment also looks to be far greater than that of the previous episode - Which was scarcely a slouch in the 'Galactic Travelogue' stakes - and has new vistas to excite any even half-interested fanboy or fangirl. That Geonosis looks like a rum locale, and no mistake.

And, for Jebus's sake, the climactic battle in the trailer and movie looks to smack the living shingles out of anything you've seen before - Hordes of clone troopers, huge ships, Jedi warriors and actual kitchen sinks duking it out in a CG fantasia which still boggles my scorched retinas some four days or so later.

George Lucas might just have expunged the bad smell left behind by 1999's love-it-or-loathe-it visit to a galaxy far far away and we'll get to see whether he has on May 16th. I'd clear your diary if I were you.

Check back in at the weekend for -Fingers crossed - reviews of "Spaced - Series 2" and the cult flick in the making, "Donnie Darko" (As yet unreleased in the UK, produced by Drew Barrymore, and telling an intriguing tale of time travel, psychosis and classical teen angst - Hop on over to www.dvdshrine.com for a great review and an interview with the director).

So, what do you think that Anya sees in Xander anyway....?


Sunday, March 10, 2002

Oh yeah - I almost forgot to remind any interested parties actually reading this to do their level-best to watch the second episode of the almost embarrassingly compulsive drama, "24", on BBC2 tonight, at 10:30pm.

You would be entirely remiss to avoid it, friends. Kiefer Sutherland, a paranoid plot to vex even the mind of Oliver Stone and lots of stuff happening every second, in real time and with so much split-screen action that you'll swear you've somehow gained "Being John Malkovich"-style access into Brian DePalma's mind, circa the mid-1970s.

It's almost too good for the likes of you, in fact.

(Now gone to where he should have been an hour ago)

Hi, all. Remember that I promised to update the site this week with a whole bunch of really exciting and worthwhile stuff? Yep, you guessed - I lied. Well, not really - events conspired to get in the way, as they always seem to do.

For one thing, I ended up renting, and then buying, the awesome new Collector's Edition of Disney's excellent animation "Atlantis - The Lost Empire". I should nail my colours to the mast and confess that I'm a huge fan of the House of Mouse and usually end up buying these fully-loaded, grown-up-orientated DVDs, because they do such an informative, fascinating job of depicting the amazingly-detailed and intensive job of crafting traditional animation. Which, in turn, leads to me spending hours on the couch watching the disc and finding out how the tech-heads at Mickeyville create dizzying, exhilarating widescreen adventures to rival the best of Lucas and Spielberg, and surpass the CG-created likes of "Jimmy Neutron - Boy Genius". Disney rules, friendlets, get over it...

It deserves a place in your collection, to be sure, and even the standard edition is worth a punt if you don't wish to join the likes of me in geeky animation deconstruction heaven - The voice cast is pretty much perfect (Take a bow, Michael J. Fox, for your lead characterisation of the hero, Milo, has me yearning for those soon-to-be-released "Back To The Future" discs), the design of the Atlantean enviroments are glorious to behold and there's a choice between Gary Rydstrom's sound mix in Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1, which should shake your room's foundations and make your neighbours believe that you've somehow managed to acquire a fleet of flying ships and are engaging in life or death combat, just next door to them.

As well as doing the Disney thing this week, I indulged my entirely platonic and in no way troubling love of Jet Li by acquiring a copy of his most recent flick, the SF/Martial Arts mash-up that is "The One". Wonderfully arriving vastly ahead of the film's cinema release in the UK - It opens in mid-to-late April - "The One" is brought to you by Glen Morgan and James Wong, the genre veterans who've written, directed and produced for such tv shows as "Space: Above and Beyond", "The X-Files" and "Millenium". You might also recall their last flick, the superior teen horror, "Final Destination", which had a streak of wicked black humour to direct attention away from the multiple, gruesome deaths which are the stock-in-trade of such post-"Scream" efforts - One of my favourite moments being THAT semi-legendary 'Death-by-Bus' scene.

So, "The One" is very obviously an attempt to break Jet's career in the States and a flick which did modestly well at the box office - This is an action-adventure specifically crafted to earn a PG-13 rating, with Jet's fight scenes carefully edited to remove any hint of gore or the head-crunching violence which might have somewhat curtailed his previous, Luc Besson collaboration, "Kiss of the Dragon"'s cross-over to a wider audience. Stir in a rather surplus to requirments Nu-Metal soundtrack (Disturbed, Papa Roach, Drowning Pool) for the skatepunx, physics-mocking Wire-Fu and more slow-motion, black-clad, post-Wachowski SF posing than even Wesley Snipes managed in his underwhelming "The Art of War" and you have the ingredients for an enjoyable, if utterly derivative 80-some minutes of 2001 ass-whupping.

Jet's fine in multiple roles - This story takes place in at least several thousand parallel universes and makes about as much sense as an episode of "Andromeda" - playing both hero and bad guy as Bad Jet escapes from an antiseptic, well-ordered, Alternate Los Angeles to travel across time and space to kill a Good Jet living in 2002 LA, so that he can take his life-force and become the most powerful being in the Multiverse. Good Jet, of course, being the last of a long line of alternate Jet Li's who...oh it's all such codswallop and nonsense that I won't even attempt to insult you by regailing you with it.

Suffice is to say that this is the kind of SF plotting that "Futurama" takes the piss out of on a weekly basis.

But that doesn't matter, truthfully, because "The One" is devoted to assaulting your eyes and ears with amazing, Cory Yuen-choreographed fight scenes, room-shakingly loud sound and seamless, mind-befuddlingly impossible special effects - Watch the confrontation between Bad Jet and some unfortunate LAPD guys and marvel at the
possibilities for next year's "Terminator 3", now that CG can truly do just about anything that an overcaffeinated screenwriter's mind can fever dream of.

Jet is wonderful, but he's matched by the dependably fantastic Delroy Lindo, who plays a mature and seasoned time-travelling cop on the trail of Bad Jet and elevates the film to a different level, and the always lovely and usually underused Carla Gugino, playing Good Jet's missus and a splendidly vixenish bad girl who has a neat line in absurd explosive devices. If there is a weak link, it's Brit actor Jason Statham, who struggles with an American accent and isn't given a chance to display the bar-room wit and banter which he excelled at in Guy Ritchie's "Snatch".

"The One" should probably be viewed on a Saturday night, on the biggest and loudest screen in the cinema, with good mates to hand and as much popcorn as you can physically consume - You'll forget most of the film an hour after you watch it, but it's worth staying for Bad Jet's final line when fate deals him his ultimate hand - I haven't laughed as much at a movie sign-off since the awful Bond one-liner at the end of "The World Is Not Enough".

Looking at the time, as I am driven to do, I note that I'm all out of writing time and due elsewhere in but a matter of minutes. Whilst I cobble together some half-decent excuses for my excessive tardiness, I must love you, leave you and tease you with promises about a review of the new "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" disc and my home cinema adventures in deepest, darkest Hull on Friday morning - In and out, with a new centre speaker under arm, in just under 47 minutes. I've got that city wired, baby...

Patster Hiroprotovitch? He's Audi, and no mistake....

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