Saturday, June 29, 2002

I've just accidentally read a spoiler synopsis of the "24" season finale.

And all that I can say is "Bloody Hell!".

Which is what you'll be saying when you watch it on BBC 2 in a few weeks time.

If I were Jack Bauer, I'd be booking myself a year-long Caribbean retreat, right about now.....

Following unprecendented public demand and questions in the Commons, your ever-lovin' buddy, and champion of free speech, the Evil Overlord Hiroprota, is happy to present his subjects with an opportunity to present their comments, queries and observations in our new, spanky-cool Comments facility.

As in, you don't have to post stuff in the Guestbook and hope that I get around to reading it sometime in the week. I'm all about the interaction with my public, after all. Of course, if your comments are in any way derogatory and generally bogus, you should be aware that I will promptly dispatch my crack squadron of Ninja Attack Cats to your address, where they will promptly gnaw on any exposed extremities and get busy with their specially manicured Kitty claws. You saw "Cats and Dogs", right?


Whilst this probably seems like quite an attractive option to some of you - And yes, Noah, I am looking at you when I type this - You need to know that my Ninja Attack Cats mean business, and won't hesitate to kick ass, take names and then kick some more of your ass, just for the merry hell of it. They're as Feline as Hell and they're not gonna take it anymore....

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Also? Go and rent "Serendipity" on video or DVD. It's ace. And bearably contrived (Yup, K, you were on the money about the ending).

John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale are in it, which is a good start, and it has the good taste to feature St. Germain's perfect, Nina Simone-sampling "Rose Rouge" on the soundtrack, which scores it extra points. Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon play the best friends of our respective leads and that's money in the bank, too.

Peter Chelsom directs the thing with verve and gusto, shining new light on some much-employed New York locations, and keeps the sweetness at an acceptable limit for the vast majority of the running time.

It's a film which wins over even a card-carrying Adam Sandler fan like me, so it must have something going for it besides an attractive cast - Hey, that's Jason Biggs' dad from the "American Pie" flicks! And could that be the bloke from "Northern Exposure"? Get in! - and the killer app that is a love story set in New York and San Francisco.

This is a film which earns its goodwill without going for special pleading, or tweaking your heartstrings too much. Or, to put it another way, the relationship between real-life amigos Cusack and Piven is funny enough and truthfully drawn and should surely entertain any blokes watching this film with their rental-choosing better halves. You won't have that same sinking feeling that you get whenever your girlfriend comes back from Blockbuster with a copy of (Whisper it quietly) the lurking horror which is "The Wedding Planner".

Rent it this Sunday afternoon - It'll be perfect if you just want to crash and enjoy a film not crammed full of exploding heads and 120mph car chases (Hey, even I need to kick back and allow the neighbours room to hear themselves think...).

HMV are having a sale today. I know this because negotiating the already slender aisles in their Scarborough store is a task akin to quieting and consoling a small child who has just been given the real skinny on the Easter Bunny, Jolly Old Saint Nick and that chick who pinches your baby teeth in daringly covert night-time raids.

It's double-tough, in other words.

Whilst perusing the vast rack space of Digital Versatile Discs offered at amusingly low prices, accompanied by my trusted scout and comrade-in-arms, the Lo-Fi Folk/Hip-Hop enigma known only as Lord Davey White, I was drawn to many bargains in their line-up.

How does a 2-Disc set of "Unbreakable" sound to you? Does it sound any more keen at just over a tenner? And how about "Die Hard - With A Vengeance", for a shade under ten squids? "Tim Burton's ' The Nightmare Before Christmas'", for an even £9.99 and Kathryn Bigelow's destined to be eternally underrated "Strange Days", for the unfeasible price of £7.99?

Ladies and gentlemen, I humbly submit to you that these people are both insane and proverbially giving their inventory away. And it's your patriotic duty to take advantage of this corporate giant's apparent lurch into temporary insanity by any means necessary.

You may even find VHS bargains a-plenty to intrigue and delight you, but I found myself skipping around the tapes in an effort to find yet more DVD entertainment to salve my yearning soul. Go to your local HMV. Give them lots of your money. Return home overladen with stuff and positively sated. Repeat. You know you want to ....

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Anyone else who watches Rupert Murdoch's astonishingly mental news channel, "Fox News", on Sky Digital, and feels a gnawing fear build inexorably in the pit of their stomach about the rampant Conservatism on display therein, might want to check out the following blog. I mean, regular browsers of this site will swiftly realise that I'm scarcely the most political cat out there, but I know card-carrying, compassion-bypassed scariness when I read it...."Click here for the actual opinions of post- 9/11 America..."

Intriguing, huh? I understand that a great many Americans are still terrified by the fallout from the biggest terrorist atrocity ever to occur in their own country, but to suggest that extremist terror is synonymous with the Muslim faith is a little shy of boneheaded, in my humble opinion.

Still, I support anybody's democratic right to talk abjectly ill-informed bobbins, just so long as they're prepared to listen to some equally severe gubbins being directed back at them....(Do Americans get Mark & Lard's show? Does anyone outside of Manchester get Mark and Lard's show, for that matter...?)

If I were you, I'd listen to that crazy gal who added the latest entry in the First Season guestbook.

Not only does she know more about "Buffy" than Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon and Doug Petrie combined, she also knows a good movie when she sees one.

That would be "Amelie", in case you were wondering. As apparently essential on old-school, keeping it real-style VHS as it so obviously is on DVD, your homework for this week is to pester your local video emporium for a copy and watch it until you too are completely enamoured of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's whimsical, boldly uncynical valentine to Monmatre, Paris and the endless possibilities offered by hope's young dream.

Plus, there's this bit where pint-sized, bob-haircutted, dollsome elf-girl Audrey Tautou dresses up as Zorro and still looks harder than Antonio Banderas did in that Z movie of his....

Sunday, June 23, 2002

I'm all about teaser trailers at the moment, I've got to confess.

Thanks to my local cybercafe's judicious installation of a broadband connection, and an accompanying upgrade on the network to the latest, super future stick iteration of RealPlayer, I've spent a sizable chunk of the last 48 hours looking at a selection of the joys that you'll find over at the www.apple.com/trailers repository of future filmic goodness.

Because, of course, most trailers are eminently preferable to the actual end products when they arrive and inevitably prove to be cast-iron, point-free, budget-heavy debacles.

Take the "XXX" teaser trailer 2, for example. Is there any way on earth that the second collaboration between "The Fast And The Furious" alumni, director Rob Cohen and man mountain star, Vin Diesel, can be as preposterously entertaining as it's amped-up, full-bore, bull-in-a-china-shop behemoth of a Coming Attraction trailer? I very seriously doubt it, but you know that I'll be lining up to see this flick on it's far-off UK opening weekend (How the jiggins do Sony expect me to wait until October for this movie? Can they at least provide me with soothing caffeine to ease the absolute withdrawal symptoms that I feel when I can't see Vin sneering woodenly and stuntmen doing insane things in cars falling off bridges? I WANT THIS MOVIE, NOW, DAMMIT!!!)?

I guess that this is why I'm a little disatisfied with the way that the onset of DVD has negated the role of the video trailer - If you upgrade to the shiny disc which gladdens my heart so, you may initially be taken aback to find out that you don't have to wind through twenty minutes of unrelated pap, anti-piracy humbug and grainy distributor logos to check out the 4:3 aspect ratio flick that you've doled out £3.00 to rent. And then, I guess, you'l cheer, because you can get on with watching the movie and not winding past the beginning for the Nth time. Me, though? I kind of miss trailers on videos - The ones that you get on DVD are solely for the pic that you've just bought or for loosely-related back catalogue titles from the same distribution company.

And, hey, weren't trailers always one of the best reasons to go to the movies in the first place? Just take a look at the new "Matrix Reloaded" teaser and get hecka high on the promise of the Brothers Wachowski's forthcoming uber-sequel. Hugo Weaving, a bunch of insane car chase stunts and the new, fricking seamless iteration of bullet-time-assisted Wire-Fu - You know you want it...."Wake Up, Neo..."

Let there be little confusion, here - "John Carpenter's Ghosts Of Mars"(15, Columbia Tri-Star Home Video) is not a great work of cinematic art, and scarcely measures up to his previous SF/Horror classics like "The Thing", "Escape From New York" or the outrageous filmic joyride that is "Big Trouble In Little China".

But, despite many a sniffy review, it actually turns out to be a more than reasonable Saturday night video or, particularly, DVD rental if you're in the mood to see a talented genre auteur having a lot of fun cranking out a low-budget, defiantly unpretentious slice of blood-soaked, explosion-punctuated, head-banging action mayhem - Given the choice between this and watching "A.I." again, I think I know what I'd go for.

Carpenter's latest flick is, by jiminy, set on Mars in the near-future, at a time when a Matriachal government holds sway over an angry Red Planet which is nearing the completion of a terraforming project that will make the world a viable alternative to living on a materially-depleted homeworld. Things have to go wrong somewhere, of course, or this would be a short movie, so the badness duly arrives when a mining crew blunder across an ancient Martian tunnel and make the entirely sensible decision to try and get through the sealed entrance. Cue the arrival of some grisly gore effects, a shambling army of possessed zombie miners wearing the disembodied body parts of their fallen comrades and a head bad guy who looks like the unfortunate by-product of a genetic splicing of Marilyn Manson and a second-tier WWE wrestler. With a wardrobe by John Galliano. Like, peculiar, much?

Strike up a fantastic heavy metal soundtrack, composed as ever by the director and performed by members of Anthrax and twiddly guitar godhead, Steve Vai, and the unleashing of bad-assed, terrifically unhappy ancient Martian spirits who procede to kill everything in sight and prompt the arrival of a task force of heavily-armed, leather-clad future cops, led by drug-popping, Blonde supermodel bother gal, Natasha Henstridge and Jason Statham's shaven-headed, Cockney hardnut. It's your usual, "Mismatched cowboys face off against an unseen supernatural threat" stuff, and thus Carpenter's stock plot, but it's none the less annoying for any sense of over-familiarity that it has.

Henstridge is quite a surprise in a role which the DVD's commentary informs us she took up only ten days before the beginning of principal photography (Courtney Love, of all people, was the original female lead, but blew out her knee and had to bail at short notice), handling the high-kicking action with an aplomb that is all the more impressive when you consider that she was pregnant while shooting the movie - Kind of makes those complaining male action hunks look like a bunch of wussies, doesn't it? And she makes a hell of a double act with Ice Cube, who plays, in a defiant rebuke to Hollywood typecasting, a foul-mouthed, gun-toting, fist-fighting gangsta bad ass. I jest, of course, because nobody does this snarling, smart-alec, street tough guff quite as well as Cube does - He steals all of his scenes and makes you wonder just how much longer it is before someone figures out that he should be playing these larger-than-life anti-heroes in more high profile action vehicles. It's almost worth the price of the rental to see him lead the embattled cops and survivors of the Martian massacre out in an all-guns-blazing, gritted teeth, expletive-strewn last stand.

Yep, Ken Loach this most certainly isn't, but "...Ghosts Of Mars" is a fine accompaniment to any future pizza and lager-fuelled video marathons that you may want to stage, and doesn't faff about too much with showy confessional acting workshops or multi-layered narratives when it knows that you'd much rather it got on with the business of separating heads from bodies and cranking up the .1 subwoofer mayhem until the neighbours call those regrettable noise abatement killjoys: A fine night in, then?

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