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January 11, 2005

I Heart Huckabees

Went to see this film today at the Warwick Arts Centre. I got in for free on the RaW gravy train.

It's written and directed by David O. Russell, the man behind Three Kings, that one about Gulf War I. This also has that man with the one facial expression, 'Marky' Mark Wahlberg, in. And Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman and Naomi Watts.

It's a comedy based around an environmental activist called Albert (Jason Schwartzman) who has a existential crisis so goes to an existential detective agency, run by Hoffman and his wife. It all gets a bit silly and Albert meets Marky, a fireman – sorry, firefighter – who is in a similar predicament and who rants about petroleum at every given opportunity.

You've also got Brad (Law) – who's a executive with Huckabees, a chain of supermarchés, and is also getting involved with Albert's environmental campaign. He takes over leadership of Albert's project so there's a big rivalry thing going on. Then there's his bird (Watts), who's a model with Huckabees. Very soon they all start questioning reality.

It's funny, in a quirky way. If you liked The Royal Tenenbaums, you'll like this. Probably more laugh-out-loud moments, actually.

As for the philosophical content, I was kinda let down. As a self-respecting intellectual, I'm fairly into my existentialism – have been since before The Matrix, have been since before I even knew what existentialism was. But this didn't really say much to make me think. You had rival existential detectives – Hoffman and his wife vs. this French bird. One reckoned that everything in the universe is connected; the other thought that nothing was. And that's about it. Didn't really like the special effects which came with the philosophising either.

So, on the whole: 7/10


December 14, 2004

The Ordinary Boys – Over the Counter Culture

“Originality is so passé”, sings Sam "Preston" Preston on The List Goes On – Track 2 on the Sussex-based band’s debut LP – giving him licence to liberally rip off such musical luminaries as The Jam and Morrissey throughout the rest of the album. Once we have the boy’s acknowledgment of his debt to the greats, the listener can enjoy his tunes at face value. And they’re cracking – the title track is storming, urgent guitars building up to a blistering mute trumpet solo. The rest of the songs can’t top it, brilliant as they are (mostly).

Then you listen to the lyrics and that’s where the problem with the Ordinary Boys begins. For one thing, Preston’s trying too hard to produce witty, oh so British lyrics, in the vein of Mozzer, Davies and Dammers that it just doesn’t really work. Each song takes issue with an aspect of contemporary British life, creating a strong theme to the work, which is quite commendable but just leads to the Boys’ output being really samey. They don’t seem to have much of a message except that “Modern Life Is Rubbish”, and we all knew that after Blur told us a decade ago. Week In, Week Out attacks consumerism; Seaside and Weekend Revolution scoff at the drudgery of the British workplace. A solution seems simple: why don’t we just become carefree individualists? Because if you’d paid attention at the start of the album, 007, it seems we can’t: “Now it’s in to be out”, he sings in what I perceive to be a rather derogatory tone. So what’s it to be, Preston? Are you just taking pot shots at any lifestyle choice going so you can build up your Angry Young Man image in the eyes of the NME? Or are you just being ironic? If so, the Mozfather does it better.

Listen to OTCC for the tunes but skip Track 5, a cover of The Specials’ Little Bitch which has no place on the album – by all means play it at Glastonbury with special guest fat man, Phill Jupitus, but it’s too rubbish for anything more.


December 08, 2004

The Mighty Boosh

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/tv/mightyboosh/

Finally saw this fine piece of programming this evening upon my return from Brum, where I made a right-royal pear-shaped pig's ear of my Diplomatic Service Fast Stream supervised e-tray assessment*. I had seen it before, twice: once when tired and once when I'd been smoking a certain decriminalised substance. The first time I wasn't impressed; the second time I was very impressed. You can probably guess what kind of show it is. This was back in the summer when the Mighty Boosh was on late evening BBC3 - it started on early evening BBC2 a few Wednesday ago, and doing Spanish/skiving Spanish to go drinking around that time, I always missed it.

Now I've seen an episode in relatively sound mind I feel I can pass judgement. Oh, you want some background? Well, the series, the Mighty Boosh, concerns two zookeepers called Howard Moon and Vince Noir and the crazy adventures they get up to in their 'Zoo-niverse' with its array of weird n wunnerful characters. The episode I saw today was the one with the Spirit Of Jazz. Jake WC got me 'into' the series originally and has been going on about this character for ages.

If you liked Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, you'll probably like this (and that's not just because they share actors). It takes a while to 'get' but once you do, you can't put it down, like you would a book. It, however, ain't as good as GM's DP, or Peep Show. It does have some laugh out loud moments, but even the Spirit Of Jazz was kinda disappointing – a poor man's Papa Lazarou mereckons.

The issue I took while watching it this time (I knew this post had a point!) was the time. It's on at 7pm on Wednesdays. Why? If I'm anything to go by, its core audience is at Spanish class then. I'd've thought its surreal brand of comedy suits it more to the 11.30 slot. The most conspicuous evidence for this view comes in the form of them bleeping out pretty much a word a sentence. I sat there, trying to enjoy the programme – which would have been enjoyable, trust me – and the BBC suits go all censorship-happy on Vince's "Fuck the animals" speech. It was so annoying. New time please, BBC2 Controller.

Sorry, for some reason I feel the urge to add this:
"Yeah, give me a second series, y'shit."

*For those of you yet to take the FSSETA: relax – it's fine. I merely made a couple of schoolboy errors. 'Course don't know the results yet so it might be fine. One thing's for sure, I ain't giving you the answers, seeing how you're kinda competing against me.


November 13, 2004

Dick and Dom in da Bungalow

The Guardian and I must have some kind of telepathic link. As soon as I discover/come up with something which I intend to blog about, the woolly liberal rag gets in there first. It happened a lot around the US election – see previous blogs – and today it happened again.

I first saw Dick and Dom in da Bungalow about a year ago, and thought it was a pile of wank, so I watched Ministry of Mayhem on the other side, which, despite being of much the same quality, at least had a comely female co-presenting. However, after spending a completely innocent night over at my ex's last Friday night, I was encouraged to give it another chance. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, rather than explain what is so good about it, I'll just refer you to the article in today's Guide section (it's the cover story – you can't miss it) of the Guardian because it basically sums up my argument. The piece's only shortcoming is that it fails to mention the brilliantly so-bad-it's-good Batfink double bill which they have at roughly 10.30, after the famous – and needless to say, utter genius – Bogeys game.

What can I say? Next Saturday, set your alarms and check it out.


November 06, 2004

Who are the Warriors?

It's funny you should ask, cos I was watching said fillum this afternoon. My brother Jake has been pestering me for the best part of a year to see it so I went and did. And it rocks.

The Warriors was made in 1979 and is set in New York, and follows a street gang called the Warriors, who have crazy hair and wear brown leather waistcoats. They get framed for the murder of a gang leader and find themselves wanted by all the other gangs in New York – or maybe just Brooklyn. Anyway, they ride the subway a lot to evade a random assortment of gangs: the rozzers, blacks, Latinos, orphans and face-painted baseball players. The evasion doesn't last too long and inevitably they get into massive brawls. Which are by turns surreal, amusing, lame and cool.

The film's pretty good – some cool lines and that (fucking hell, I'm not terribly articulate today, am I?). It's a bit futuristic and surreal, helped by the ace synthy-rocky score. It has no one you've ever heard of in, but there're guys who look like Sean Penn and Dennis Hopper.

Check it out: free to rent from the SRC - possibly the best thing about videos from there is that you get to see adverts from Way Back When (my, they were shit in 1995). And it'll be available to rent from 11am Monday.


October 16, 2004

Layer Cake

Follow-up to A Bad Day from Esprit de l'escalier

My housemates managed to convince me to make the journey to Birmingham so we went, and turned my bad day into an alright evening. I bought some clothes, we ate in McDonalds (sorry), and we went to see Layer Cake (or should that be L4y3r C4k3? Or something?). I'd heard mixed reviews of it and wasn't too eager to see it, but 'twas the only thing on, so why not.

Before I launch into my review, I'll sum up what the film's about, for those of you not in the know: it's a Brit Gangster flick. Nuff said, really. It's a bit knob, on the whole – though not as knob as Croupier, of which it reminded me a lot. It had the same trying-to-be-gritty intentions, pulled the same 'stylish' camera effects out of the film industry's box of cliches, and had similar lead characters: the rugged, posh, cool-when-he's-not-talking, wooden-when-he-is hard man. The plot may appear quite complicated but when you realise it is essentially a combination of the plots of Lock, Stock…, Snatch and the Long Good Friday, but with drugs taking the place of guns/boxing/micks, it makes perfect sense. It's not as funny as Lock, Stock… (I'm not sure how funny it was wanting to be) and has only a handful of genuinely cool lines/events. I wouldn't recommend this – the only reason to see it I can give is if you want to see an uncanny young Willem Defoe lookalike with a Cockney accent. There are few well-known actors in it: only Dexter Fletcher (he of Lock, Stock… and Press Gang (remember that, kids?!) fame) and Michael Gambon, sporting a rather unsettling David Dickinson-style tan.


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