Saturday, March 29, 2003

In film review news, particularly for those of you floating in a state of some indecision at the local multiplex's ticket kiosk, I can exclusively reveal that Paramount's big release this weekend, "The Core" is "Kind of okay, if you like that kind of thing".

A full overview should be up tomorrow morning - which I guess would be the middle of the night if you're reading this in America - and it's mostly positive.

The thing to be aware of if you're a fan of the venerable character actor, Stanley Tucci, is that he single-handedly steals the picture and plays the most heroic anti-hero since Gary Oldman's character, Dr. Smith, in the "Lost In Space". Mr Tucci's wig and eyebrows work overtime and almost certainly deserve their own screen credit, so effective are they at focussing your attention when they are on screen. If you're going to see this flick tonight, I think it's safe to say that you'll probably enjoy it, just so long as you put any notion of scientific accuracy or plausibility out of your head: Just focus on Mr. Tucci's hypnotic eyebrows - it'll help, trust me.

More to follow.

Friday, March 28, 2003

It would be rude not to make mention of the rather splendid Darth Phil , whose blog is worthy of your time everyday, and today includes all of the vital info you'll need to avoid the endlessly tiresome Lenny Kravitz and his in-no-way-predictable new, anti-war song, "We Want Peace" (just because you can get Heather Graham in your videos, Mr Kravitz, it doesn't mean that I have to pay any attention to you...).

I think that it's patently clear that War Is a Bad Thing, and I don't need a born-again retro-trend vampire to lecture me with his dated, watered-down piffle.

Now, make that a Cave-In anti-war polemic, and we could be talking business...

You NEED this in your life...

A rare diversion from your humble blogsmith, who is normally blissfully oblivious to modified rides, 20 inch rims and other stuff which fills valuable minutes on MTV's "Cribs": Click HERE to check out Honda's new Element SUV thingy.

Most of the time, I am fairly indifferent to cars, trucks and emission-belching vehicles, being a die-hard, pavement-pounding, motorist-terrifying cyclist of some years standing, but this new Honda is just, well, pretty.

Am I missing the point again?

My best-laid plans have been rudely interrupted by the unwanted intrusion of illness, it pains me to say.

I had planned to spend today going into Sheffield to our local UGC plex to go and waste a few braincells by taking in the latest Jet Li/DMX ass-whupping fest on my own, "Cradle 2 the Grave", mainly so that my lovely and splendid wife, the redoubtable K. didn't have to sit in a cinema of caffeine-assisted, testosterone-fuelled blokes, and get a headache from the movie's migraine-inducing soundtrack of loud bangs and people getting kicked Seven Ways To Sunday.

My presently crappy health has meant that I've had to file that movie-going expedition away until early next week, and fill this enforced gap in my flick-viewing calendar by watching some similarly dumb stuff on DVD (I'm halfway through watching "Behind Enemy Lines", which boasts the unusual distinction of having a commentary track which is much more entertaining than the feature which it accompanies, and intend to watch "XXX" again this afternoon).

Never mind, though - there's always the "Armageddon"-lite heroics of Jon Amiel's "The Core" to anticipate on Tuesday (c'mon, the sound has to be half-decent, at least), and Big Shouting Al overacting a storm opposite that glinting-eyed rogue, Colin Farrell, in "The Recruit", so I do have stuff to look forward to which is bound to be silly, entertaining and noisy, which are three qualities that I often look for in a film...

Dear God. I really am a studio executive's dream audience member, after all.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Wanna read something Really Funny, Fellowship fans?

I haven't laughed so much since, ooh, Redman's "Cribs" segment.

Whilst skimming through my comments this morning, I noticed a post from Jeff Campbell, whose blog, The Film Cradle, is an excellent blend of personal journal and eminently readable movie discussion. Think "This blog, only much, much better". It's well worth checking out and has the added bonus of some great digital photography to catch your eye, too.

Another day, another blog far better than this one: Are you beginning to spot a theme? I know that I am.

How typical of Empire Online to ask the really big, important questions...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

For fans of ace Brit comics godhead and damn fine novelist Neil Gaiman who, like me haven't discovered his online journal yet, that link made fine reading this morning.

The things that you discover on the Inter-Super-Highway-Net-Web, huh?

If you click on the link to Mitch's 'Nothing Nice To Say' online comic strip, you will be greeted by a rather sobering post which certainly shook me when upon reading it.

It's at times like this that I realise how lucky I really am and I just hope that he, some day soon, feels a hell of a lot better, somehow or other.

Just added Carrington Vanston's oft-wonderful blog to the links portion of this blog, and I can highly recommend that you check out his very cool "Movie Punks" online comic strip a regular look-see.

It makes me laugh heartily, which is no mean feat, and is also fairly disturbing to witness (try to imagine a big, burly Brown bear guffawing madly, and you'll get the picture).

The new, surprisingly subdued "Matrix Reloaded" poster is up now at The Last Free City, and kind of resembles the supremely enigmatic, 'Matrix Code' teaser poster which we saw in 2002.

Call me a old-fashioned dude if you will, but I'd kind of like to see Keanu and Carrie-Anne's faces on a one-sheet, if it's all the same with the Wachowski's and Warner Brothers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

One oversight that I did make in my Oscar post was to completely forget to mention the richly-deserved win of Japanese animation master, Hayao Miyazaki, whose much-lauded "Spirited Away" won the Best Animated Feature category, pitched somewhat boldly against the usual animation heavyweights of DreamWorks and Disney, and is eagerly awaited by this particular, part-time, quality anime geek.

Hopefully, Miyazaki-San's success will mean that Disney/Buena Vista will take this opportunity to spread the word on this comparitively unsung artistic genius and release his glorious back catalogue on video and DVD in Europe (a selection of Miyazaki films are scheduled for release in the US during the next few months), giving him the mainstream audience that his singular filmmaking certainly deserves.

Another example of a better-looking Blog than this one?

Given my lovely wife's interest in things gourmand-ish, I thought that I would include the neatly-designed and readable "Eat, Drink, and be Married", if only for her perusal and because I'm prepared to be that moderately cliquey.

As a carrot to potential clickers, why not check out the vast expanse of yummy-looking recipes included therein?

The Oscars were interesting, were they not?

Hollywood's attempt to make with the dignity and grown-up composure in the wake of far more significant global pressures was, to my mind, a mostly successful and pointedly more entertaining ceremony than usual, with unpredictable events at regular turns and some out-of-left-field choices eventually scooping up the major gongs (Did anybody honestly see "The Pianist" grabbing the big awards for Best Actor and Best Director? I know that I didn't.)

Catherine Zeta-Jones' off-screen personality may be as interesting as a discarded, soggy cardboard box but her Best Supporting Actress win for "Chicago" was arguably well-deserved, as her live-wire, combustive performance is the very making of that particular middle-brow musical blockbuster. Devoid of her kinetic, hypnotic on-screen charisma, "Chicago" is a well-made, occasionally entertaining slice of pastiche, retro-chic with little to persuade it to stick in the memory.

It's the kind of movie which gets damningly faint-praised as "Classy", by people who should can't really come up with anything better to say. It's fun, and often enjoyably vulgar, but is it Best Picture great? I have my doubts, a few months after seeing it. In terms of cinematic achievement, that gong should have been headed in Scorsese's way, even if "Gangs of New York" is an ultimately flawed piece, it's most certainly a good-to-fantastic piece of film-making.

Sure, we might ultimately have wanted to see Julianne Moore at least win something, but as I haven't yet been able to steel myself towards the task of taking in the relentlessly tasteful and apparently craftsmanlike, meta-filmmaking that is Stephen Daldry's "The Hours", I can't report on whether Julianne's nomination in that category was more or less deserving of recognition than her sterling work in Todd Hayne's "Far From Heaven", which clearly deserved to win every major acting award going.

But, as I have yet to see Mr. Daldry's Woolf-inspired opus (I didn't feel a need to see "Billy Eliot" either, so make of that what you will), it would be ill-advised to comment upon Nicole Kidman's win as Best Actress, until I finally break down and submit to a couple of hours of Artful Angst when "The Hours" hits DVD sometime in the summer - there's a provisional US release date of June 24th listed over at the always useful and informative DVD File site.

Roman Polanski as Best Director for his autobiographical holocaust drama, "The Pianist"? I don't think that anybody but an optimist would have put money on the mercurial, long self-exiled helmsman picking up this much-prized accolade, evidently due to his extended tenure as persona non grata in the US (Cue Oscar host Steve Martin's harsh-but-doubtless accurate "Roman Polanski is here tonight - Grab him!" zinger). It will be intriguing to see what effect this award has on his career and whether the approbation of Oscar prompts him to finally confront his legal demons once and for all by setting foot on American soil, and attempting to put his past misdeeds behind him. Hollywood loves a story with a redemptive third act, after all.

The upshot of Polanski's win for me is twofold:
1) What the bejesus does Scorsese have to do to win an Oscar?
2) On a related note, are the Academy planning to just stiff Peter Jackson and co. with a second-tier, "Overall achievement" award, when the total cinematic arc of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is ultimately realised?

Best Actor winner Adrien Brody is yet more evidence that the Actor's division of the Academy loves it when one of their own suffers for their craft and does a big, DeNiro-esque, Method transformation to play a role - For his role as a Jewish musician attempting to evade the horrors of the Polish ghettos during the Second World War, Brody shed a good deal of not exactly extraneous weight (he's a wiry so-and-so to begin with), learned to play Chopin piano pieces and so immersed himself in his internalised, isolated character that his long-term relationship crumbled. Resoundinly not a case of phoning it in, then.

My congratulations go to Chris Cooper, whose subtle and complicated role in "Adaptation" was a major part of the success of that movie - here's hoping that this perenially hard-working and gifted character actor gets a better shot at playing more leading roles in the future.

It's just a shame that the Academy didn't even see fit to honour Andy Serkis' astonishing collaborative performance in "The Two Towers" with a nomination, apparently being a bunch of cloth-eared, closed-eye dimwits who couldn't see past the CG aspect of the Gollum character. Such is life.

If you think that I've overlooked anything concerning this year's ceremony, feel free to berate me via the Comment facility underneath this post.

Monday, March 24, 2003

I did promise a review of George Clooney's directorial debut, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" last week, and as usual, I was sidelined by far more pressing matters.

With my attention now very much back on the matters at hand, I'm happy to impart that Mr Clooney has a real future in this directing lark if he manages to do a better job of concealing his influences.

Given that he's spent a considerable chunk of the last few years working successfully in partnership with Steven Soderbergh, you might reasonably expect that some of his friend's distinctive visual style had rubbed off and, sure enough, it has - There's a flashback scene at the outset of the movie which is pure "Traffic", noticeably copping the overexposed, sun-parched look of that film's Mexican sequences.

It's to Clooney's credit that he hasn't taken the easy road in making his first movie as a director, choosing to take on a typically complex and ambitious Charlie Kaufman script, which adapts "Gong Show" and "Blind Date" creator, Chuck Barris' loopy psuedo-autobiography, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", which casts "Charlie's Angels" bad guy Sam Rockwell as the anti-heroic, almost certainly delusional, self-promoting tv producer with a decade-spanning sideline in CIA assassination and central participation in many moments of the last half-century's espionage flashpoints.

Beginning in the 1950s and ending in the early 80s, the movie manages the not inconsiderable task of carrying the audience along even as the purpotedly true story becomes ever wilder and more implausible (my personal highlight being during Barris' tenure as producer of "The Dating Game", the US predecessor of "Blind Date", as he acted as chaperone to winners on European excursions whilst managing to fit in regular murders and acts of anti-communist aggression for Uncle Sam. You can just picture some of our Saturday night TV hosts doing the same thing, can't you?), which is surely testiment to the notion that Clooney isn't afraid of taking on challenging material and doing something interesting and personal with it.

He deserves props for assembling a great cast - Drew Barrymore plays Barris' ever suffering, long-time love, Penny, Clooney pops up as Barris' CIA handler, perennial direct-to-video megastar Rutger Hauer is Chuck's European colleague and some lass called Julia Roberts pops up as a well-drawn, hilariously creepy femme fatale. There are a couple of other, cool cameos, but I'll leave you to find them for yourself...

This is a movie which requires almost superhuman suspension of disbelief, that's for sure, but it's a genuinely entertaining caper of a movie, which has the courage to make a climactic turn into darkness when Barris' rather shaky double-life begins to falter as the Cold War begins to thaw and when Kaufman's script requires it. This is a smart movie, surprisingly funny and successfully dramatic by turns, and one which makes me eager to see just where Clooney's directorial career heads next.

File this link under "Things that make you go "hmm..."

I'm sure that the checked-shirted brainiacs over at Skywalker Ranch would be very interested to see such items on sale. The things you find when you click on a link at the top of your blog, huh?

To the best of my knowledge, the "Star Wars" original trilogy dvd box set advertised when you click through to that link is taken from the old NTSC laserdisc release, and is thus a long, long way off from adhering to Lucasfilm's oft-exacting THX technical specifications. I mean, if you really can't wait for the movies to be released, you might want to take a punt at these discs, but I'm not sure of what kind of presentation you would end up with if you did so.

Caveat emptor, and all that...

In other, equally exciting news, the very excellent Last Free City "Matrix" fansite reports that the soundtrack for "...Reloaded" will include the first recorded work by Deftones frontman, Chino Moreno's side project, the ambient noise merchants known tantalisingly as Team Sleep, as well as a new 'Tones track, ahead of their eagerly anticipated new record.

Well, eagerly anticipated by me, anyway.

The "...Reloaded" soundtrack is out, via Madonna's Maverick imprint, on May 6th, whilst the new Deftones album is also on Maverick and scheduled for May 20th.

Potential, minor "Matrix Reloaded" spoilers ahead!

Click for new and updated Samsung/Matrix phone piccies!

More here, too...

Damn, is that thing ugly.

Damn, does it look cumbersome.

Damn, I still want one.

You may well be wondering why your humble blogsmith has been uncharacteristically silent in the days since his last post.

There is, I am happy to confirm, an entirely good reason for this.

I've had a stinking head cold, which has steadily migrated towards my chest and made me feel somewhat crapulent, especially given that I suffer badly with chronic asthma and react none too well towards illnesses which adversely affect my breathing.

It's been a weekend of snuffling, wheezing and generally having a jarring pain in my chest if I so much as make to get out of bed or sit upright. As the computer at our house is downstairs, you can perhaps appreciate that the simple act of blogging was not particularly close to the top of my "To Do" list.

Plus, I'm a guy and I get really wussy and complain whenever I get ill, and can only be consoled by unearned sympathy from those around me, which is another reason that I haven't blogged.

I'm now going back to bed for the morning (It's 8:45am as I write this in the UK), and may yet return with more insubstantial updates to this blog later in the day, bone-rattling cough notwithstanding.

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