Archive for the ‘film’ Category

I should be studying but my brain isn’t quite engaged, and I am spending the whole of tomorrow in the city so I’ll have plenty of time to catch-up and post to my seminars then. I’ll be specifically hunting out cafes without wifi because the internet is just to distracting for the weak willed. Today for instance I stumbled upon Amanda Palmer doing a live Q&A with Berklee students, and by stumble upon I mean I found it on Twitter (greatest time suck ever!). Anyway, tomorrow is going to be an arse of a day as I’ve a doctor’s appointment at 7:30am, lunch date at 1pm, and then a dinner out of the city in the evening. Not sure how I’ll make it through the day without my afternoon nap. Perhaps my ex-office will let me sneak in and have 40 winks in a conference room. On second thoughts maybe not…

In the last few weeks things got rather congested on the Netflix DVD front, whipping through the Instants, but I had Johnny Mnemonic and Robin Hood lingering on the coffee table for weeks. Then Thanksgiving came along and we got back on track (sort of).

Robin Hood (2010 – Dir. Ridley Scott)

The fact that I loved this film is something of a no brainer: Robin Hood myth plus Ridley Scott’s stunning visuals. Like all Brits I grew up with the Robin Hood myth as a bed time story, and over the years I’ve seen many films and TV shows based on it. Some good, and some shockingly awful. What I loved about this version is the way they reworked the story by separating out Robin Longstride and Sir Robert Loxely into two characters, and then weaving them back together. Cate Blanchett was a solid Marion, and the comic banter between her and Robin (Russell Crowe) had a light enough touch that it did not stray into Men In Tights (shockingly awful) territory. It was a stroke of genius to bring the politics of the Northern Barons into the mix, and given that Scott hails from the North-East I am sure he relished the opportunity to march on the South. The supporting cast are stellar, particularly Eileen Atkins as Queen Eleanor and Mark Strong as the francophile villain Godfrey.  There aren’t many films that I want to buy on DVD but this would be one of them, and I hope they make a sequel.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008 – Dir. Robert B. Weide)

HTLFAAP is based on the memoir, of the same name, of British journalist Toby Young who came to New York in the 90s armed only with his acerbic wit and poor social skills. I’ve watched this film twice. Initially I had no idea who Toby Young was, and found it to be a vaguely entertaining tale of a duck out-of-water crashing his way through the New York celebrity social scene. The second time, thanks to my obsession with Top Chef, I knew exactly who Toby Young was, and I enjoyed it much more as it is a spot on character study of Young. Simon Pegg nails Young’s mannerisms, and I can forgive everyone else (Jeff Bridges, Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox, et al) sleep walking through their roles. This film is a not-so private joke that is much more entertaining when you know who Young is. I have a feeling that the memoir was watered down for the film so I’ll have to hunt it out on the Kindle store.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010 – Dir. Edgar Wright)

SPVTW is kind of like HTLFAAP in that is you are familiar with video games (or the comic the flick is based on) then you will get a lot more out of it. Pilgrim is a 20-something slacker who wants to be a rock star, and date Ramona Flowers; only to be a rock star he and his band have to engage in a battle of the bands competition, and to date Ramona he’ll have to defeat her seven evil exes. It’s a cute hipster-nerd fest with an endless supply of graphic tees, and a snarky script. It left me nostalgic for the 90s when I had magenta hair, and hung out at arcades with Alex (Sega Rally FTW!).

Dorian Gray (2009 – Dir. Oliver Parker)

This is an awful, AWFUL adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s novella. Given the cast and that it is a costume drama I thought it was going to rock or at least be a sumptuous feast. WRONG. I was equally bored and appalled by it – which is quite a feat in itself. I honestly don’t understand how they got it so wrong given that it such a simple (yet spooky) story: man stays young because he has an aging portrait in the attic. Read the book, and avoid this at all costs unless you want to spend 112 minutes clawing your eyes out.

Johnny Mnemonic (1995 – Dir. Robert Longo)

After a month on the coffee table I sent this one back without watching it. Saw it when it first came out and it was a so-so adaptation of a William Gibson story. I think Gibson’s book veer into unfilmable territory, and I have a feeling if I watched I’d be screaming “NOOOOOOOOO!” at the TV.


Perseus statue, Florence

I am going to watch Clash of the Titans this evening, and I thought I’d better brush up on the mythology:

– Perseus was conceived when Zeus visited his mother, Danae, in the form of a shower of gold. (Probably worth pointing out that at the time his mother was being “rained” on she’d been locked in a room by her father (Acrisius) because there was the usual prophecy making the rounds that he would be killed by his future grandson.)

– Thankfully Perseus was not left to grow-up in the locked room (a la Flowers in the Attic) but instead his grandfather, upon discovering that he was a grandfather, set Perseus and his mother a drift at sea in a chest.  I am assuming he was trying to drown them without actually drowning them, rather like Oedipus being pinned to the hillside to die of exposure by his father who had had a similar prophecy, but his plan was foiled as they were rescued by a fisherman, Dictys, and Perseus grew up on he island of Seriphus

– Perseus’ mother is a MILTF, and catches the eye of the local king, Polydectes. Polydectes decides he needs to get, the now grown-up Perseus, out of the way and sends him off to his “certain death” by requesting that he get the head of Medusa. This is where Perseus’ adventures really kick off, and with the help of his step-siblings Athena and Hermes he is able to achieve his goal. On his way back home he rescues his future wife, Andromeda, from a sea monster and goes on to kick some ass in Seriphus before accidentally killing his grandfather

I know it’s got dodgy reviews but it just has to be better than Avatar…

Last night (after crepes) we went to see the 7:05pm showing of Creation at the Landmark Sunshine. We got there early because I imagined that it would be packed. It’s a film that struggled to get a US distributor because it is about Charles Darwin – surely that is a no brainer for a packed out art house cinema in the East Village. Apparently not, and I can only hope that word of mouth lifts the profile of this film. It is excellent. A thoughtful, layered drama about Charles Darwin’s struggle/journey to write On the Origin of the Species and deal with the death of his eldest child, Annie.

It quite brilliantly weaves in flashbacks of Darwin travels and observations as a natural philosopher as the story unfolds with his crisis of conscious over the lost of Annie and that his theory has discredited the teachings of the bible. This is not a heavy handed Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchins diatribe.  It’s a gentle yet brutal portrayal of Darwin as a man who has opened Pandora’s box. There is no return to a state of blind acceptance of Genesis when armed with evidence to the contrary. This is one of the best films that I have seen Paul Bettany in for a long time, and it worked well having Jennifer Connelly as his wife Emma (though she did remind me of Gina McKee who would have made a good Mrs Darwin as well).

Alex and I got quite indignant over Entertainment Weekly only giving it a C- and for it’s bitchy review.  I was actually relieved that this film didn’t focus on Darwin’s travels on the H.M.S. Beagle as I felt that was ground that has been adequately covered elsewhere, and it is naive to imagine that there was one  ‘ah-ha’ moment in Darwin’s studies and that it would be interesting enough for a film. Trust me I have a degree in geology and the scene with Darwin on the beach with his children learning about sedimentary rocks is about as rock ‘n’ roll as it gets (funnily enough geology is not like The Core or Volcano).  Also, to boil Darwin down to one single moment is to do a disservice to his lifetime of study. Darwin was a polymath, something that has sadly been lost (or perhaps discouraged) in our culture. It was his years of travels and observations that gave him the lens with which to view the natural world.  He didn’t wake up one morning with the idea fully formed. It took years and years (and many pigeon carcasses) to greenhouse it. Probably a good time to note that Sir Isaac Newton most likely had an inkling about gravity before the apple hit him on the head. If there ever was an apple, and it wasn’t just a dinner party anecdote.

This film is fascinating because it deals with the personal aftermath of Darwin’s theory. The toll it took on his health, his psyche and his family. The guilt that he had destroyed god (and perhaps with it civilisation) is a lot for one man to bear in the 19th century (look how Topher went loopy in the Dollhouse after his technology actually destroyed humanity).

Last night Alex and I settled down to watch The Abyss for the first time, and after seeing it Alex neatly summed up the experience as “2 hours and 40 mins we wouldn’t be getting back anytime soon”. Oh Cameron you suckered us in again! That’s almost 9hrs he’s swizzled out of us in the form of Titanic, Avatar and The Abyss.

I always avoided The Abyss because it came out when I was at my most fearful of all things aquatic but after seeing Avatar I thought it would be cool to watch some vintage Cameron to balance out the banality of the blue CGI Na’vi.  I remember all the hoopla from when The Abyss was release in 1989, and over the years I’ve apparently made a whole bunch of assumptions about the plot. But, I was not alone because Alex had made the same assumptions. We both thought the story was centered on the water aliens and the explorers who were sent to investigate them (okay so there may have been some Sphere leakage).  But there was barely any alien action and I felt like I was trapped in a fraught counseling session of a bickering couple about to go supernova. Oh and what was up with the Seals and Michael Biehn’s mustache and melodramatic facial expressions? I thought you weren’t meant to wear a diving mask if you had facial hair – or is that an urban (or oceanic) myth?

So I was really disappointed with The Abyss (sorry it just didn’t ring my bell, and it didn’t help that it was another film of the 80s where a couple were divorcing because the wife had ambition) but I was really impressed with the whole shooting underwater. It must have been one arduous shoot, and acting in a wet suit must have been problematic but they did a good job of relaying emotion (baring Biehn’s crazy eyes). It made me think of Greek theatre and actors trying to act with big masks on.

It is Monday night and Alex is off playing tennis; I can’t watch Prison Break because he is not here and I don’t have enough spare time to view it twice (but it did cross my mind). So after I finished myrequisite hours of study I settle down with Derailed which is conveniently being shown on cable. I say conveniently because I am trying to catch up on the all the films I missed last year when I wasn’t able to catch every single picture because I was too busy trying to better myself. In the end I read the book which I think removed much of the enjoyment from this evenings viewing. I’ll be honest I fast forwarded through sections and please could the powers that be stop making Clive Owen do American accents. He is crap at them and always slips back into his distinctive drawl. He is an excellent actor but this is no Gosford Park or Closer or Chidlren of Men (which I haven’t seen but am v excited about).

In the book the character’s actions and subsequent consquences are more brutal, particularly Charles’ fall from grace from his company and his family. I felt that they did Charles’ family a disservice by not allowing them to react and by thr truncation of Charles’ investigation into his blackmailers (I missed Lucinda’s back story). He is also a more manipulative character, and the crux of the book is not only the Lucinda twist but the huge transition that Charles and his family undergo in the name of revenge. The book is more cat and mouse, whilst the film is more guinepig and goldfish. Still it was an enjoyable mid-range thriller and kept me up whilst waiting for Alex.

My Granny Moth taught me that these should be the first words uttered on the first of the month; to welcome it and bring good luck. Ideally it is best to say them in front of kin, for the simple reason that they are familar with the tradition and wont look at me strangley (or even stranger than usual). I should have chanted “rabbits” a zillion times as my courses start on Monday and I need the luck. Though it is the seminar schedule that I am most interested in as it will dictate my craziness levels and when Alex will have a wife or a just a housekeeper.

I spent my final free weekend catching up with movies and mooching about the flat. Saturday night I actually ended up watching Celluar which is one very silly film. Kim Bassenger is all confused and breathless as a 10th grade science teacher who is kidnapped. But because she is teacher she can rebuild a smashed phone, stab one of the HUGE kidnappers in an arterary so he bleeds to death and then strangle another with her handcuffs. But the most unbelievable thing is that Jason Stratham, with London accent, was an LA cop – yeah right! Today I took myself off to see Little Miss Sunshine which is one fantastic film. A dysfunctional family on the brink of falling apart go on a road trip so the daughter can take part in the Little Miss Sunshine pagant. From the get go it is obvious that the daughter is not pagant material (and when you see the other girls you realise that that is no bad thing). It is a wonderful ensemble cast and you end up falling for the family’s dynamic. I loved the the teenage son and his uncle, the former had taken a vow of silence and the latter was the foremost Proust scholar who had just attempted sucide. There are many lovely touches like the Grandfather snorting drugs and requesting porn at a petrol stop because he is spending his final years in a hedanistic haze. And finally this evening I got around to Proof, which I have been wanting to see for a while and it really is one of Gwynnie’s best outings.

A regular dose of nonsense is important so take a peek at Snakes on a Plane. Go in open minded, just wanting some mindless entertainment and you’ll leave happy. It’s a B-movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is full of cliches and stereotypes, but seriously how can you not fail to enjoy snake action at 30,000 feet. There is Samuel L Jackson as the FBI agent, the all American surfer who is witness to a crime, the flight attendant on her last shift before starting life over as a lawyer, the prima donnas in first class, the honeymooning couple, etc, etc.