Friday, February 14, 2003

If you check back at some point in the next couple of days, I hope to be able to post reviews of "Daredevil" (mostly because it will be playing, this weekend, on Sheffield UGC's awesomely huge ' Full Monty' screen), "Treasure Planet" (because Disney animations rule, of course) and the intriguing-sounding, hopefully-as-bizarre-it-looks "Punch-Drunk Love".

Expect the possibility of cheery praise for Mr. Affleck's superhero incarnation, a troubling lack of objectivity connected to anything released by the House of Mouse and much over-use of the word 'cool' in reference to those Anderson and Sandler fellows.

Seriously, I make Paul Ross look like the rightful inheritor of the Kael critical legacy...

Thursday, February 13, 2003

I ask anew - What is going on with MTV in the UK, of late? I thought that we had neatly dispensed with the notion that badly-spoken, resolutely thick, male and female examples of eye candy were necessary to introduce music videos, only to switch the channel on for the first time in a while the other day and discover that this nation's iteration of MTV is suddenly awash with cloned smart asses wearing a uniform of so so cool, cutting-edge denim and Diesel/Duffer-esque leisure clobber.

I freely admit - inadequately reasoned bewilderment and peturbation is besetting me.

Compared to what's going on globally with the warmongers at large and their inexplicable desire to send the planet to hell in a handcart, I realise that the contents of this post are very small beer indeed, but my general reaction to such horrors is to retreat into concerns about things which don't matter very much and have less of a tendancy to scare the bejesus out of me: You don't even wanna know how much the new, Michel Gondry-helmed, Levi's Type 1 jeans advert is freaking me out at the moment....

News update du jour: I've just returned from today's aptitude test-type caper and am pleased to report that my brain is only mildly frazzled as a result. The format of the test was as I expected it to be - The employers who might yet hire me were good enough to enclose a sample test booklet with my test invitation pack - and I think that I might have done enough to be summoned back to a proper interview. Having said that, there are probably ten other people who sat the test with me thinking just the same thing, so we shall have to wait and see.

You'll be happy to know that I managed to avoid the temptations of Ecclesall Road just long enough to get home safely, by the way -The insistant demons which delight in beckoning me into the "Funky Monkey" clothes emporium on Ecc Road were conspicous by their silence, this time around.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Vastly important lunchtime addendum: K. actually did enjoy "Vanilla Sky", after all. She merely entertained the thought that the trailers and advertising campaign were all over the place and completely misleading.

I'll go with that theory - Where, pray tell, in the finished movie or on the dvd, are the scenes with SWAT guys invading a building lobby and Tommy boy waving a shooter about? Over to y'all or check out this apparently not too recently updated site for relevant clues...

K. and I watched "Vanilla Sky" last night. For my most excellent spouse, it was the first time that she had grappled with Cameron Crowe's beguiling and bewildering romantic-SF-conspiracy-comic-psychedelic-pop mentalist opus and I'm not entirely sure that she was impressed.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Crowe fan, I found "Vanilla Sky" exciting, thought-provoking, intelligently contemporary and surprisingly lyrical in the way that it advanced Crowe's typical themes of fraught and unpredictable relationships, the vice-like grip which music can have on every aspect of the soul and how surprisingly free and easily Tom Cruise will play around with his successful on-screen persona.

It's also arguably the most intriguing example of Hollywood's happy-go-lucky tendancy to buy up the rights to popular world cinema hits and remake them for a more 'global' (i.e. American) audience, as it takes Alejandro Amenabar's Spanish language romantic thriller "Abre Los Ojos" ("Open Your Eyes") and boldy endeavours to take weird, interesting and very creative license with the source material. The good, contributory geeks of the Internet Movie Database seem to hate it and have completely missed the point of Crowe's directing the movie. I suggest you see this intriguing and perhaps flawed experiment - "Cinematic cover version", to quote the director - and decide for yourself.

Imagine "The Matrix" being remade for those intellectually impoverished wretches who don't get along with science fiction, expertly soundtracked by the kind of deliciously non-linear, genre-surfing playlist that Radio One might adopt if they abruptly dropped their apparently Gollum-esque, all-consuming desire to be the station of choice for clubbing casualties and sk8er boi's and starring the finest, most unpredictable cast this side of a P.T. Anderson flick and you have a hint of a glimmer of the joys presented by "Vanilla Sky". It's for grown-ups, in short. Which is probably why so very many people hated it and almost certainly why you might want to put it on your 'must-see' list, if you haven't run into it yet.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Those of you keeping the odd leisure second of yours free for the enjoyment and encouragement of truly hopeless causes, might also like to keep me in your thoughts on Thursday morning. For your friendly neighbourhood blogmaster will then be shifting uneasily in his seat and sitting through the first part of a hopefully sequellised interview process.

Pray that I get there in one place, refrain from having a panicky meltdown as I realise that I've been answering the wrong question for a full half-hour and manage to make it home without being stymied by the myriad shopping enticements tempting me along Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. I'll be your bessie mate if you do...

Musical recommendation for you, just to fill a few sentences: If you haven't gotten your mitts on a copy of Jimmy Eat World's collected singles compilation, I strongly suggest that you dig deep and purchase a copy forthwith for that emo-listening, online journal-keeping sweetie in your life. Valentine's Day is just around the corner, after all, and what says it better than the sound of some nice young men from Arizona, feverishly working out their issues with slashing indie guitars and bass tracks which sound as though they were recorded by an engineer who really hadn't got much sleep the day before the sessions? The phrase that we're grasping for her is, of course, "Earlier, low-fi excellence".

It's got to be a hell of a lot better for your loved one than the usual tat which gets promoted at us during the run-up to February 14th, wouldn't you agree?

Monday, February 10, 2003

"Two Weeks Notice" is much funnier than you might think it will be. Certainly, it's escapist fare and has barely a nod at pretending to reflect anything like reality, save for a few mentions of the importance of community in an increasingly insular global society, economic downturns in the US and some subtle photography and discussion of the post 9/11 New York skyline. Where this dictionary definition of the relatively unambitious, major studio-produced, major star-driven romantic comedy winningly scores, is in having the fairly humble goal of providing some hearty chuckles and some pleasant eye-candy to divert you from the harsh realities outside the theatre for two hours and making good on it's promise to entertain.

It's like being wrapped up in a big snuggly, warming, cinematic comfort blanket, in fact.

As directed by "Miss Congeniality" writer Marc Lawrence, "Two Weeks Notice" is the oft-told tale of diametric opposites attracting, this time set against a background of corporate shuffling and business shenanigans in Manhattan. Sandra Bullock, who produces this flick under the auspices of her Fortis Films imprint, is Lucy Kelson, an idealistic lawyer just scraping by working for a legal aid firm and doing her best to please the impossibly high expectations of her politically active, totally right-on, campaigning parents.

Hugh Grant is, inevitably, essaying the complex role of a guy who's reminiscent of Hugh Grant, only herein disguised as playboy property developer George Wade, who hires Lucy on a whim as his firm's general legal counsel and finds that he can't live without her advice on everything under the sun. Cue 2:00am phone calls about patently unsuitable women, plucking her out of her best friend's wedding to advise him on suits and Lucy getting the sense that she's been hired to be a glorified nanny. Let the comic misunderstandings, slapstick pratfalls and majestic views of NYC commence.

This is absolutely predictable stuff, but it never really set out to be the film which reinvented romantic comedy for all time, so I'm frankly not apt to give Marc Lawrence's pleasant, well-made souffle of a movie an irate dressing-down and demand something more in keeping with life as we live it now. By now, you probably know the extent to which you can handle Grant's presence in a movie like this and whether you need to see Bullock as yet another young, professional singleton searching for career fulfillment and a half-decent other half. True, Hugh Grant's character in this film is, for the most part, a money-flashing, emotionally casual cad-about-town and not just a xerox of his breakout Charles role in "Four Weddings and a Funeral", which is in keeping with his more plausible, minor triumph in "About a Boy", but you might be able to guess, without even having to see the movie, just how he turns out in the end.

If you want a solid, mildly heart-warming, smile-inducing night at the movies, and have a serious crush on Norah Jones (who cameos briefly in a party scene), you could certainly do worse than to hand over your hard-earned pennies to see "Two Weeks Notice".

Our holiday/belated honeymoon was fine, dandy and quite idyllic, since you were kind enough to ask (K. sends her love, by the way).

Arran, which for the uninitiated, is an island lying off the west coast of Scotland, is an excellent place to spend time in - the scenery has an immeadiate visual impact which far outstrips my meagre ability to describe it or do it anything like justice, the local populace are amongst the most friendly and welcoming people that I've ever met and the local branch of Alldays has the presence of mind to sell absurdly hot tortilla dip, stock home cinema geek reading material and rent DVDs, for crying out loud.

In addition, the good shop keeps of the isle did their level best to part me from my few remaining shekels by placing cutesome, simian soft toy temptation in front of my callow, weakened eyes at every opportunity (As the One Ring is to that peaky-looking Gollum fellow, so stuffed monkeys, apes and the like are to me. It's a tragic revelation and I take no joy in making it in such a public forum. Let the elaborately sarcastic e-mithering commence).

From Arran, we brought back with us Boz (A very gruff, fairly short young ape with a curt way about him), Mitzie (Who is cuteness personified and has a chirpy, chimpish air) and Isobel (The stuffed-toy equivalent of, I think, Season One Willow in "Buffy The Vampire Slayer").

Yup, I'm a big old geek and I don't care who knows it.

In other Arran news? I was persuaded to go swimming for the first time since my school days and all-too-rapidly discovered that I have a) forgotten how to crest majestically through the chlorinated depths and b)discovered that my mortal fear of swimming pools has gone nowhere in the last fifteen or so years. It's slightly absurd to confess to it in such a public forum, but I really think that I need to take swimming lessons now that I'm back in Sheffield, if only so that I don't spend future holidays watching my wife splash away merrily down the length of the pool as I cower in the shallow end.

Also? Never try and sell stuff to a local shopkeep. We were shopping on Friday morning and overheard some hapless call centre employee try and flog unwanted advertising space to a guy who runs Arran Asia, which is a hippyish-clobber shop in Brodick, and to be frank, you've never heard some poor soul having their ass handed to them quite so politely or effectively: It was quietly awe-inspiring.

Other than a ferry crossing back to the mainland which defines the term "pitch-and-roll" and a funky run-in with a chocolate Labrador pup who had an insatiable appetite for K.'s woolen gloves, our time up in Scotland was genuinely pleasureable and gave me the kind of holiday that I've long wanted to enjoy. I think that I can even stoop to describing the last week as being "profoundly chilled-out" without wanting to smack myself in the fizzog for being such a hopelessly-cliched buffoon.

And that's quite a result in anyone's language.

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