Friday, June 21, 2002

Just so that this miserable excuse for a blog becomes even more of a haven for the limited-audience in-joke than it already is, I wish to make the following public pronouncements to interested parties:

1) Young Master Sarjantson? Katrina is a multi-media buddy of mine and she could very well kick your ass - We're talking a real-life Trinity and no mistake (Good enough, K? Or a smidgeon more menace and Slayer-esque wisecrackery?).

2) As much as I would love to go to the Indigo and smell the Leff, my wussy tendancies lead me to regretfully decline and head to my bed early, or at least after Letterman does his thing on ITV2...'Preciate the offer, though, Mr. Leighton. Good of you to notice your humblest trench dwellers.

3) Can we please all stop giving a toss about the current sporting unpleasantness in Japan and South Korea, now that we have little if any reason to obsess over the outcome of events therein? I request this moritorium only because the whole W**** C** is hogging an expanse of the Mass Media vastly out of proportion to it's importance or my ability to care about it.

That sense of numbed shock and disappoinment that all of you football mentalists are presently feeling - That sense of almost palpable loss and emptiness as your dreams come unstuck with rude haste and incongrous brusqueness? Now you know how I felt in 1999, after stumbling bleary-eyed into the mocking afternoon sunlight, following my first encounter with "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace"...

Of course, all of this stuff would make a hecka lot more sense if the unenlightened amongst you read the free-ranging exchange of views and bile which comprises my oft-bizarre guest book. Be warned - It gets strange in there...

Sunday, June 16, 2002

Just stop what you're doing, put the dog into the care of a responsible friend or relative and get your offspring to don attractive moustaches if they're under twelve - Because your entire family will thank you if you take them to see Sam Raimi's entertaining-beyond-words cinematic adaptation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's classic comic book hero, "Spider-Man" (12, Columbia Tri-Star).

Not only is this one of the best blockbusters to storm multiplexes in many a year, but it's pretty much a definitive, no messing, take-no-prisoners superhero flick to gladden the heart of any geek who ever haunted their newsagent for imported Marvel comics or thrilled to the lo-fi TV adaptations of the late 70's - This is a comic book movie made by a director who gets the balance exactly right between being faithful to the source material and putting his own, very distinctive cinematic stamp on the project, never forgetting that he's making a summer movie/rollercoaster ride.

Tobey Maguire's casting as Peter Parker, the high school nerd who becomes New York City's champion after an unfortunate meeting with a genetically-modified spider, was controversial amongst die-hard Spidey fans, but on seeing this movie there is no doubt at all that he's the guy for the role. I had personally sent the odd e-mail in support of "Buffy"'s Nicholas 'Xander' Brendon, but I have to say that Maguire gives a superb performance, which is resonant and winning in a way that performances in comic book flicks rarely are - He plays Parker's transformation from put-upon sad sack to athletic, crime-busting, morally-conflicted, web-slinging hero with absolute aplomb and the skill which comes from casting a great actor and letting him do some real acting. At no time in "Spider-Man" is Maguire forced merely to react to the huge set-pieces or bleeding edge CG FX being thrown at him, and we surely have Sam Raimi to thank for that.

Willem Dafoe is also rather useful as the villainous Norman Osborn, whose shift into the persona of the gleefully evil Green Goblin is realised with a skill not normally found in these heavy-on-the-explosions-light-on-the-characterisation action extravaganzas - He's insane enough to play the more over-the-top viciousness of the Goblin, but also quite empathetic and real as the Osborn side of the equation, a father who has lost his connection to his son (A noteworthy, calling-card turn from the almost ridiculously handsome, Jimmy Dean-esque James Franco), and who is being deposed as the head of his scientific research conglomerate.

Kirsten Dunst is adorable. You need more? She doesn't have a great deal to do in "Spider-Man", as Mary-Jane Watson, the love of Peter Parker's life, but the detail of MJ's abusive home life and relationships is neatly sketched-in and provides an interesting subtext for anyone who wants more from Raimi's film than two hours of ocular eyecandy and thrilling spectacle. In the scene where both sides of the Osborn family take turns in laying on the misogynistic insults, there's a subtle heartbreak and sense of betrayal in Dunst's work which reassures you that she's actually here because she's one of the more shining talents in her generation and not just because she's going to be a fanboy pin-up after the instantly-classic "Upside-Down Kiss" scene so key to the publicity campaign and omnipresent tv ads.

David Koepp's script is arguably the least effective element of the piece, choosing as it does to jettison Peter Parker's wry sense of gallows humour and way with a one-liner. In this initial entry in what will go on to be THE film franchise of the next few years, Parker is a more introspective fellow, and one who has a whole boatload of trouble to handle - Not least the unenviable problem of playing against the scene-stealing genius of the legendary and ineffably great Bruce Campbell, who more or less heists the flick in his one-scene cameo as a WWF-style announcer. You hope that Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, the writing duo behind TV's successful Superman revamp, "Smallville", give Spidey a much-needed injection of humour in his next outing.

Still, let's not get things out of perspective - This film is a thrilling ride away from the problems of the real world for a few hours and raises the bar for future movie translations of comic book heroes and heroines. That wait for next year's dynamic duo of Ang Lee's "Incredible Hulk" picture and Ben Affleck as "Daredevil" has never seemed as long as it does, after seeing Sam Raimi triumph in such spectacular style.

Now, who's up for a "Wild C.A.T.S" flick...?

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