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Friday, April 04, 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time for the feature that provides your overstretched blogsmith with maximum content for a minimum amount of work:

THE FRIDAY FIVE!!!

1. How many houses/apartments have you lived in throughout your life?

Including this one? Five. In about a week's time? Fingers crossed, I should be moving, with my wife, to our new house, which is about ten to fifteen minutes away, by car, from the home we are living in now . In seven days, if the deities align and a long, drawn-out mirthless process finally comes to pass, we should both be joining the mortgage race for the first time in our lives.

2. Which was your favorite and why?

Because of the gleaming new newness of the place, and the fact that it will be our own, and we can do things with decoration and design to stamp our identity on the house and make it our home, it would have to be the new place/

3. Do you find moving house more exciting or stressful? Why?

It's stressful, predominantly because it's difficult to make plans, allow for contingencies and be a hundred per cent ahead of the game when you're moving house. Getting everything done on time, in place and ready to roll is a task for people far more together and confident than I am. Having said all that, it's a finite process and one which does have a positive end result.

4. What's more important, location or price?

Location. Location. Location.

Price is something which can't exactly be controlled, at least in the UK (where house prices are determined by God knows what logic). The balance between what you can afford, and where you would actually like to live, is something that's inherant to every house purchase. It's the old problem of desire exceeding grasp. You go for what you can afford and attempt to reconcile that with what's actually available on the market at any one time. My wife and I would like to live near to where we live now in Sheffield, but house prices around here are somewhere south of absurd. Accordingly, we've gone with a house which is ideal for us as first-time buyers, and is in a reasonably nice neighbourhood, fairly close to our family & friends and the city centre.

5. What features does your dream house have (pool, spa bath, big yard, etc.)?

A nice couch and a kick-ass home theatre system. Preferably an install. Done by the great Theo Kalomirakis.

When I'm disgustingly wealthy, perhaps...



Sometimes? Words fail me...


ISABELLA'S TEDDY....HAS CHANGED...

Click HERE for the new newness!

There's a redesign, a change of name (shortly to be fully implemented) and - Sweet Muscular Jesus! - even a mission statement of sorts.

It makes me want to redesign this old web shack, quite frankly...


Thursday, April 03, 2003

A mildly bemused movie review of "Cradle 2 The Grave" (15) Warner Brothers.

Andrzej Bartkowiak is a brave (or perhaps foolish) man. Whereas most of his peers would resolutely seek to avoid being pidgeonholed as genre directors, and would at least try to take on a different, challenging career portfolio, opting to helm a wide variety of pictures dealing with a diverse selection of subject matters, Mr Bartkowiak seems blissfully content to plow one field and build a CV full of relentless, action-driven, thick-ear urban thrillers.

In the recent past, he's brought us, in partnership with legendary producer Joel Silver and his Silver Pictures imprint, the likes of "Romeo Must Die" and "Exit Wounds", pairing martial arts stars like Jet Li and the ever-risible Steven Seagal with hip-hop/R&B stars such as the late Aaliyah and DMX, and adding in comic relief co-stars like Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold to dissipate the cumulative impact of the head-crunching, limb-breaking, property-damaging mayhem depicted up on screen.

Speaking purely for my part, I don't have any problem with such predictable, "shake-and-bake" cinematic confections - for the most part, these Silver/Bartkowiak collaborations have been fairly unpretentious, modestly entertaining flicks which make no attempt to engage with viewer's intellects and don't skimp on wire-assisted action sequences, car chases and usually dig deep enough to snag a soundtrack loaded with pounding jeep beats and obligatory, devotional soul ballads which rather stick out like a sore thumb amidst the nerve-jangling sonic chaos which makes up the majority of the movie score.

"Cradle 2 The Grave" is no exception to this musical rule, the thunderous score kicking off with a new Eminem/DMX/Obie Trice collaboration, which sonically amounts to Em viciously reeling off unveiled death threats to persons unknown, as the stylish, linear credits sequence unfurls underneath on screen and various protagonists converge to undertake a deadly serious mission of some kind - anybody mistakenly having wandered into the theatre that I saw this movie at would be left in no doubt that they actually wanted to be next door for the "Maid In Manhattan" screening.

This film stars regular Silver player DMX as the morose anti-hero of the piece, Tony Fait, a single dad who spends the majority of the film's running time being concerned about his pre-teen daughter's welfare, going so far as to engage in regular prayer sessions with the wee tyke, even as he goes about his daily business in planning and successfully committing daring high-line jewellry heists. These heists are undertaken with the assistance of his loyal crew, which in true movie fashion comprises of a sexy cat burglar (Gabrielle Union), a callow apprentice (DMX's fellow hip-hoperator Drag-On) and a chunky comic relief getaway wheelman (Anthony Anderson). It's not an exaggeration to suggest that any security guard worth his natty uniform would be on the silent alarm to the cops as soon as he saw this gang of slickly-attired, gadget-toting, hi-tech hoods, but this is isn't the kind of movie where characters are aware of logic.

Fait's charmed, bling-bling life is cursed by fate's metaphorical spanner-in-the-works, when the spoils of his latest robbery turn out not to be rare black diamonds and are revealed, instead, to be component parts of a sophisiticated, next-level weapons platform, recently stolen from their Taiwanese governmental owners and intended to be en-route for an auction to some of the world's more morally-bankrupt and fiscally astute arms-dealers. Fait's abrupt intercession and subsequent loss of the jewels earns him a most-wanted tag from, variously, an incarcerated Don of L.A.'s gangster underworld (Chi McBride), a nascent arms broker with a hands-on approach to recovering his wares (Mark Dacascos), and most immediately, a Secret Service agent charged with the safe return of the stones (JET LI! JET LI! First Season's fave martial arts dude, JET-FRICKING-LI!).

The stage is thus set for mismatched partners DMX and Li to team up and destroy a good section of Los Angeles in an attempt to get the stones back, free X's kidnapped child and provide all concerned with a reason for the next ninety minutes of sound and fury to unfold.

This movie is, of course, as dumb as a box of hammers, but it's occasionally effective in using the resources at hand to create a memorable degree of mayhem - There's a chase sequence roughly half-way through the movie which does a mighty good job of waking you up after a fairly uninspired previous fifteen minutes, with X riding a Quad bike in a quite absurdly dangerous fashion through L.A., pursued by seemingly every cop in the district, the irate Moto Cross dudes he stole the vehicle from and a badly-scripted Greek Chorus TV news crew, all scored to a rabble-rousing DMX track.

It's a moment of almost heroic cinematic idiotic transcendence, badly needed by a previously faintly underwhelming movie, and it succeeds in immediately lifting proceedings and engaging the attention until the inevitable explosive climax, which arrives with the subtlety of a brick being dropped onto your toe, as a Tom Arnold-driven tank crashes through the scenery to save the day, the bad guy's helicopter is shot down, and every principal cast member is pressed into service and duly embroiled in a mass ruck as the plot's threads converge at a covert arms auction.

DMX does fair work as the permanently scowling hero of the piece, but his performance is so one-note that it's difficult to warm to either him or his whiny brat of a kid - this certainly isn't the kind of movie which requires any of it's principals to emote convincingly, but it might be nice in his next movie if DMX could summon up an alternate expression or two - perhaps one which doesn't eerily resemble profound constipation would be nice.

Jet Li is a little bit too restrained in this flick - he's given mostly to whupping everybody's ass with one hand in his pocket and providing nurturing support for X's overwrought dad. He gets a couple of chances to show a bit more of his mind-boggling speed and agility but this is not the charismatic and athletic guy you remember from the "Once Upon A Time In China" movies and it frankly induces more than a little incredulity that Li apparently turned down a role in the "Matrix" sequels to headline this scarcely heart-racing effort. He seems curiously adrift and indifferent during the majority of his time and screen and you can't help but share his ennui watching the end result.

I enjoyed moments of the movie - is Chi McBride's character a direct homage to the Noel Coward anti-hero of "The Italian Job" or is just me imagining things? - but felt curiously deflated after seeing it. Everything is in place to provide a reasonable evening's switch-off-your-brain entertainment, but the finished movie just doesn't manage to particularly inspire on any level. Paradigms are not shattered and recreated. A cinematic bar is not raised particularly highly. It's all a bit "Blah", to be honest.

Expect another batch of more or less the same thing, this time next year.


Click on the highlighted link for Weird "Matrix Reloaded" character spoilerage image malarkey.

It's a intriguing pic and no mistake(with thanks to the sterling people over at The Matrix Fans), which carries my usual proviso - If you don't want to know anything about the upcoming movies, then try and restrain yourself from clicking through.


Wednesday, April 02, 2003

"ALIAS" SPOILER ZONE BEGINS!!!

In this week's episode, "The Indicator", of the Jennifer Garner-starring spy action-drama, "ALIAS", the ever-twisting and turning plot approached another, entirely welcome point of storytelling insanity, with the slightly jaw-dropping suggestion that Sydney's dogged pop had more to do with her career choice than he's been prepared to let on.

During the course of the episode, whilst on a relatively run-of-the-mill mission to half-inch this week's McGuffin for those uptight, bad-asses over at SD-6, our heroine stumbled upon what can only be described as a extra-curricular, after-school club for the future political regime destabilisers of Europe, where the young and promising are taught how to assemble weapons blindfolded, brought up to speed on utilising latent skill-sets handy for a later life in the spy game and generally given the opportunity to hone their murderising skills at an early age: Think "Hogwarts for Assassins", and you won't be too far off-beam.

So far, so scary, but the really jaw-dropping revelation in this week's episode was that Syd's Dad was more than a little complicit in signing up his offspring for her own indoctrination at the US equivalent of this pre-teen, wet-work primer course. In fact, he would appear to have set up his own beloved daughter up for a rewarding career path as a sleeper agent, given his central role in formulating the "Project Christmas" programme, to identify child prospects for later-life grooming into spies and government operatives.

Which is shocking mostly because we had little clue that Mr Bristow was responsible for playing the Stage Dad and sending his little girl off down the path of becoming the tortured, conflicted and stylishly-presented lethal instrument of vengeance that she is today. Up until now, Syd's super-espionage artist, double-dealing, stylishly-presented mother has been the primary, uber-Big Bad in this head-scratchingly complex series, manipulating and guiding the principles so as to dance to her own, dubious agenda: This latest reversal, pitching Jack as being actively complicit in his daughter's fate, just seeks to muddy the already dark waters just that little bit more and makes even a more casual "Alias"-phile like your blogsmith wonder if Lena Olin's arch-villainess is as bad as she's been painted up until now. Okay, so she murders with impunity, commits horrible atrocities all over the place and enjoys playing nasty mind games with her own daughter, but at least she didn't send her kid to the Spook equivalent of middle-school.

This week's episode ended on Syd discovering Jack's betrayal and really bad parenting skills, prompting the glam spy to walk away from her dad and into the welcoming arms of her hunksome, sensitive CIA handler, Vaughn (which means that Michael Vartan gets to do a bit more in the next few episodes than he has so far this season, I guess). Where things go from here is your guess, because even I'm going non-spoiler when it comes to this particular series.

"ALIAS" SPOILER ZONE ENDS!!!


I'm presently working on a review blitz, which should include mini-discursive epistles concerning Monday evening's ep of "Alias", the latest Big Shouting Al picture, "The Recruit" and the unfeasibly absurd and occasionally entertaining wire-fu urban action flick, "Cradle 2 The Grave".

Should be up sometime today, hopefully.

If my fingers are that crossed, however, I'm going to have a devil of a time typing things out...


Tuesday, April 01, 2003

It would appear that God himself finds the time to blog...


This would be today's obligatory, somewhat laboured "Matrix Reloaded" news kernel, courtesy of the hard-working souls at The Last Free City, and it is presented to you with an upfront warning that evil SPOILERS are sneakily concealed therein.

If you really don't want to know anything about the sequels, don't go clicking on that link and spoiling things for yourself. You'll only hate yourself in the morning.

Me? I'm a great big spoiler 'ho, and I don't care who knows it...


With a heads-up in the direction of the all-knowing, all-seeing Darth Phil for posting the link in the first place, I present a blog which reminds me that I was once this young, and confused about design, too.

If you've clicked through and regained the use of your eyesight, now you know why First Season is a predominantly text-based blog.

Which is not to say that I wish to diss the person who has put up that site, but that I am confused by the fact that so many kids can throw a site like that together in a comparitively short space of time and yet put much less thought into the presentation of their ideas, or the content of their writing.

And, just to humour me, do schools still teach their young charges how to spell? I know that I leave the occasional howler on the blog pages, but reading that linked site was something quite surreal and troubling.


Monday, March 31, 2003

Who is Jack Canfield and why does his advert keep appearing atop my blog? Where, in the fine text that I crudely assemble everyday, have I quoted, suggested, or made any representation which would induce the aforementioned gentleman to be unwittingly promoted via my occasionally readable blog thingy?

I am perplexed, to say the least.

Oh, and in other news, my wife has ordered Michelle Trachtenberg's stunt double's album. Though it was only £6.99, courtesy of one of those helpful online stores, a nifty price is hardly an excuse for such inexplicable behaviour.


Click here if you're trying to make sense of the tangled web which is "Alias".


Just added a link or two to the relevant sections of the blog. You should find an "Alias" webring button somewhere atop the page, the HTML gods permitting, and a link to the rather excellent "No Rock N' Roll Fun" blog, which is today's recommended click.

A site which bitches and moans about the insubstantial crapulence of UK music mags is more or less in sync with this blog's feelings at the present time.


P.T. Anderson's extraordinary "Punch-Drunk Love" is coming to DVD on the 10th of June. If you click on the link, you'll find out more at this excellent and exhaustive site devoted to the Anderson cinematic universe.


I promised a somewhat more comprehensive review of Jon Amiel's disaster flick, "The Core" and here it is.

That "The Core" isn't anywhere near as bad as you feared it would be from viewing the film's trailer, is probably a source of some comfort to the good people at Paramount.

The studio have already scrapped one release date for the movie, funded it to the tune of $120,000,000 and watched in a presumed state of some discomfort as the horror of February's space shuttle disaster initially suggested that one of the film's early action sequences would be excised, for providing a shocked, psychologically-battered nation with an uncomfortable echo of a tragedy lingering too recently in the memory.

What won't be a source of any comfort to Paramount is this picture's singularly unimpressive opening weekend, which suggests that America isn't currently in any mood to catch a flick which punctuates it's main plotline with repeated sequences of global destruction and culminates in a sequence depicting the loss of one of America's great landmarks. I may be a entirely humble blogsmith and not know a great deal about the financial workings of the movie business, but I can't see anyone at Paramount crowing about opening in third place and earning just over $12, 000, 000.

The shame of the situation described above is that "The Core" is a mostly successful, unpretentious and oft-gripping yarn, which concentrates as much on character as spectacle and provides it's prospective audience with a smarter bunch of heroes than you might usually expect to encounter in a movie like this.

You might say that this is down to casting adult actors rather than teen heart-throbs in the lead roles - Instead of having Jennifer Love Hewitt pilot the space shuttle, we have Hilary Swank (who has an actual Oscar, saints be praised), and eschewing the temptation to cast Paul Walker as the brilliant, slightly rough-around-the-edges college professor, "The Core" gives Neal Labute veteran Aaron Eckhart a chance to star front and centre in a big studio blockbuster. The end result of this casting is that, with the right role in the right blockbuster, he's got the makings of a proper movie star, handling the physical action with aplomb and more than convincing with his character work. Far be it from me to make wild claims on my blog, but the search for the new Harrison Ford, the next thinking person's action hero, is pretty much over.

The film's central premise concerns an initially inexplicable natural phenomenon - that the very core of the earth has ceased spinning and that this abrupt cessation of momentum is causing all manner of disturbing natural disasters to occur (32 people with pacemakers in a major American city suddenly collapse and die; In London, Trafalgar Square's pidgeon population drops from the sky and cause traffic pile-ups; in the most potentially fraught episode, the space shuttle's navigational data is incorrect, prompting the crew to aim for a worst case scenario, last-ditch landing in downtown Los Angeles), with far worse, planet-ending horrors to come. The world has under a year left before total meltdown.

As is a staple of such films, a grandiose and essentially suicidal scheme to right the problem is put into play and a team of the best and the brightest is assembled to build and then pilot an unfortunately phallic-looking, hugely-experimental craft into the earth's core and restart it with a stock of big-assed nuclear bombs. (if any of this is sounding particularly scientifically implausible to you, I would almost certainly give "The Core" a miss, as it doesn't get any more realistic subsequently).

Basically, this is "Armageddon" redux, but it's none the worse for that. If you could switch off your brain for a couple of hours and just soak in the spectacle, Micheal Bay's box-office goliath frequently provided more than enough bang for your buck and had just enough frenzied technical invention to make the cheesy, written-by-committee screenplay, variable performances and overcaffeinated editing slightly bearable. "The Core", I think that I'm right in saying, is a much more serious enterprise at heart, with all concerned trying to do a little bit more than produce a two-hour, sound-and-fury, insubstantial Coke advert with explosions every five minutes.

Jon Amiel is not the kind of guy you expect to see helming a picture like this - he's previously best-known for directing the likes of "Sommersby", "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter", and the perhaps more directly-linked thrillers, "CopyCat" and "Entrapment". He's not especially thought of as an action director in the vein of a John McTiernan or Antoine Fuqua, so it's a pleasure to see him direct action with a more coherant hand than most of his peers - at no time do you feel lost in a scene, or not know where the characters are in the story from moment to moment. If you fancy seeing an adventure pic where you won't get a headache from the excess of cutting, and be battered around the head by the director's style, this is perhaps a title which you may wish to check out (it's certainly going to rock your home theater set-up if you have one).

The cast more than rise to the challenge, too. Aaron Eckhart is great as the blue-collar, down-to-earth hero of the piece - he's suggested in publicity for "The Core" that his performance was inspired by, and intended as a tribute to, the emergency service personnel who struggled so bravely to find survivors in the wake of the 9/11 disaster, and it's to his credit that his work is never less than totally convincing. Eckhart's character is a guy who solves problems with his grey matter rather than a gun, has an emotional centre and charm to spare. He's matched by Hilary Swank, whose pilot heroine is intelligent, focussed and resolutely not a damsel in need of rescue. There's attraction between the pair, but no forced, predictable romance - it's honestly quite refreshing to see a movie where the leads don't just arbitrarily pair-off just because they've been through a difficult and dangerous situation together.

The other principals are quite fine - It's always a joy to see Delroy Lindo in an ensemble, and his work here is funny, eccentric and entirely appropriate to the tone of the picture: he's a guy that you want on your side in an apocalyptic scenario like this one, and he manages to find every subtle grace note and nuance suggested by his character and in the writing. His final scene in the movie is quietly transcendent and haunting, moving in a way which these epic-scale disaster pieces aim for but never quite reach.

Tcheky Karyo gets to play a good guy for once, and does a beautiful job, playing a neat, unforced friendship with Eckhart's hero - it's just unfortunate that, to many audiences, his character will take on an unintentional villainous cast, merely because he's French and France's political stance on current global issues is somewhat unpopular to some political mindsets, at the present time. DJ Qualls, who you'll remember from expertly embodying geeky roles in "Road Trip", "The New Guy" and Britney's "Boys" video, turns up as the omnipotent hacker running interference for the mission and making sure that not a word of it makes it onto the net. Call me sad if you will, but I love to see computer geeks getting to play a major part in saving the world. Better still, a lot of the computer stuff in this movie is borderline accurate, or at least looks reasonably convincing.

Stanley Tucci steals the picture. That's really all that you need to know. From his entrance, chewing scenery, to his exit, still munching on any delicate morsel provided by the script, it's evident that he's having a ball and perhaps eyeing a lucrative sideline as a villain-for-hire in the Oldman/Rickman/Cox mode of respected actors slumming it slightly in movies that mass audiences actually see.
I loved his performance in this movie.

Evidently, this movie has not performed half-as-well as it's studio might have hoped, but it's an ultimately harmless piece of entertainment, which some very considerable incidental pleasures to soak up and a tone which is closer to "Deep Impact"
than, say, "Volcano". For some of you out there, this may be construed as all of the recommendation that you need.


Sunday, March 30, 2003

The first casualty of war is, apparently, good business sense.

With a plug to Wil Wheaton Dot Net and Wired magazine for the heads-up about this newest tangential wrinkle in an already remarkably surreal conflict.


Surprisingly, the newly-announced full track listing for "The Matrix Reloaded" soundtrack album features lots of noisy herberts with aggressive guitars and a selection of unpleasant-looking piercings.

And there I was, expecting to hear Norah Jones...


Australia
Australia -
Founded as a gigantic prison colony, Australia has
turned into a Mid-Level world power. Known for
its wildlife and culture.


Positives:

Reformed.

Culturally Admired.

Mid-Level Power.

Renouned Flora and Fauna.


Negatives:

Founded by Criminals.

Island Nation (Isolated).

Talk Funny.



Which Country of the World are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

With thanks to Bingo Bowden for the link.


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