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December 21, 2006

East Side Story

Writing about web page http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/rent/index.html

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Will I lose my dignity?
Will someone care?
Will I wake tomorrow,
from this nightmare?

It’s a shame and a blessing this song is so utterly depressing, as it means we’ll never do it in Rev.

RENT is anything but depressing. Unfortunately I’ve been too late with my career moves [1] to see the stage version, but with widescreen and surround sound and an amazing adaptation, the film takes away the need to spend a fortune to watch this live. Instead, after having seen it 3+ times in one week, I can honestly say it doesn’t lose any of its impact.

Apparently, I’ve been informed, the film gains its strength from the director’s approach. Chris Columbus – famous for directing and producing such great films as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Stepmom, and Home Alone – managed to attract some of the original Broadway cast, and as such kept some of the stage elements of the screenplay, hardly focussing on a single person, but showing the interactions between the characters. It seems to draw out the similarities between the characters, rather than their differences, which is a good thing when we’re talking about seasons of love.

I’m not too sure why I love it so much. Usually I try to find a reason to give less than 5 stars in a review, but I’m actively trying to have everyone I know to see this film. It’s got characters for everyone to enjoy – although most of them are artists (bohemians) to some extent, there is the geek, the introvert, the extrovert, the madwoman, the businesswoman – and it’s got diverse musical influences with 80s house, gospel and soul, 90s rock, though mostly in a musical flavour.

Earlier today, I told someone it’s about New York, love, bills, and AIDS. Rich (my other housemate) thought he’d elaborate and said he appreciated the juxtaposition [2] of the wealthy, moneymaking individuals, and the poor but loving and funmaking group of tenants. I appreciate that it isn’t a musical just about a romantic story, but that it shows so much about the society of the setting.

I was a bit worried after seeing the placid film adaption of Phantom of the Opera, which seemed to have combined the worst parts of stage and cinema. However, RENT is simply wonderful, so let me know when you want to see it! [3]

1 Most tragically, being born too late to actually be aware of this musical in theatres in a place I could easily get too at a later stage in my life.

2 He didn’t actually say juxtaposition I think, but Alice of Vicar of Dibley used it earlier today and it got stuck in my head.

3 But please wait until I’ve actually managed to leave the country despite the fog, and then wait till I have come back in the new year.


September 18, 2006

EIIR

Movie image
Title:
The Queen
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

It’s been two years since I’d gone out to see a hyped old people’s film. Something’s Gotta Give turned out to be strangely unsatisfying at the time, and this weekend I’d rather have gone to see Little Miss Sunshine but the nearest cinema showing that is in Birmingham apparently. So much for Coventry being 8th largest city in England. We picked The Queen over The Black Dahlia however, even though the latter features Josh Hartnett. It turned out to be one of the better decisions of the month.

The main surprise is that The Queen – the film and the character – is funny. Helen Mirren turns the monarch into a witty, quirky, quintessential Britain. The film picks up with the 1997 election of Blair, and soon arrives at its main event: the week of mourning from Diana’s untimely death to her burial. It tries to recount the events from the Queen’s perspective, and does so in a moving way. The Queen’s actions and reactions are portrayed as her perception of the British character – for who could be more British than the Queen herself?

The plot is helped a great deal by the royals’ communication with Tony Blair (Michael Sheen). In a way, he explains her story to his entourage, as if he tries to convince the audience, the British public, that the Queen does indeed have a heart.

There are only two problems with the film. One is the slightly odd casting of Prince Charles – although the actor does look like a cross between his fictitious parents Helen Mirren and James Cromwell, he looks too bright a character for the eversad prince. The second problem is that the film looks as if it could have been an excellent BBC docu-soap. Yet, it is the film’s great achievement that it can tell us the Queen’s character by the events of one week, all concentrated in less than 2 hours.


May 01, 2006

Natural Born Killers

Title:
Rating:
Not rated

Right.

I guess it's about love. And death. A lot of death. A lot of bloody death.

At first I nearly got sick coz of all the gore. And then I stopped caring, so that I could watch the film. I guess that's how serial killers are born.

Watch this film if you are a fan of Tarantino's work, or if you liked Kill Bill I & II (in my eyes not exactly a tautology). Or if you like road or prison movies and don't mind too much violence.

If you're no fan of either, then at least consider the excellent soundtrack.


February 15, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Movie image
Title:
Brokeback Mountain
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Thought I'd give it a go. I did moan about wanting to see this film for nearly a month after all. Also, I just wanted to raise the average rating for this film. Also, I just started getting Gustavo Santaolallo's music from iTunes.

So why not 5 stars then?

  1. It is too long. I didn't really mind as the music, the picture, and the acting is great. But I started worrying too much about Mike falling asleep and losing his wallet again. The slowness makes sense though. Most guys I meet don't talk freely about their feelings [not that I go around asking them for it, but then again I'm a guy meself] and if they do, the long silences in the film seem to depict the conversation excellently.
  2. I think if a neutral observer [i.e. a straight male, or a girl not interested in seeing Jake Gyllenhaal or Heath Ledger buck-naked] who generally enjoys movies, can't get anything out of it, the director must have missed something. Because of the perfectly reasonable, but long silences, and the accompanying perfectly understandable, but exhausting lack of emotion, it must be quite an ordeal to sit through this film [all credit to Mike!]
  3. I missed half of the script. Again, perfectly reasonable that the cowboys speak with a Midwest American accent [possibly with an Australian flavour] and that being so emotionally challenged, they mumble a lot, but especially when not a native speaker, it becomes hard to follow, and I felt really deprived not even hearing the last line, which seemed very epic.

So if it's really unworthy, why the 4 stars?

  1. The music, the picture, and the acting are fantastic. Regardless of the lack of emotion and dialogue, whatever communication does happen is extremely engaging and convincing.
  2. Despite the horribly long and boring stuff, the few idiots in the cinema who started off giggling and shouting bareback were silent for the rest of the film. Apparently it was obvious someone was trying to tell something new, or something old in a new way.
  3. The look on Michelle Williams' face [playing Alma, H.L.'s wife] when she's turned around by him while having sex is absolutely priceless! The women's subplots are even more tragic than the impossible love relation between the men. But maybe it just appeared as such as the women were allowed more emotion in this film [though still within limits of one tear per scene]

I'll probably buy the film on DVD. Even though it was long enough as it was, the beginning was very sketchy and some more scenes explaining the sudden attraction would be helpful, and the subplot of Jack and Lureen [Jake and Anne Hathaway] could use a little more attention. Also, I'm looking forward to reading the subtitles and see what was actually [barely] said!


February 05, 2006

What IS wrong with Thursdays?

Movie image
Title:
Rumour has it...
Rating:
1 out of 5 stars

The plan was to see Brokeback Mountain in Solihull, but as Ali & Rich couldn't make it, we thought we might as well go to Odeon. Arriving 7.45pm, nothing decent showed in the next hour [in a group of 4 Brits and a Dutchman, it's hard to find more than one person at a time willing to see a Bollywood flick], so we went to Leam instead.

We arrived half an hour too late to see our film of choice, and the only thing left was Rumour Has It..., seemingly a chick flick with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner. Instead, it was the most pointless movie ever made.

Jennifer Aniston is Sarah Huttinger, granddaughter of Katharine Richelieu [Shirley Maclaine], the "real" Mrs Robinson [see The Graduate]. Then very little happens and is told in a completely loose fashion, leaving you to guess if anything really matters in this film. It places jokes that belong in American Pie in a film that reminds more of Something's Gotta Give, and leaves every chance to explore an interesting subplot aside.

If you go to see films for anything else but actually watching the film, then sure this one won't disturb you. Five laughs in 96 mins is a poor score, and only an ok performance from Jennifer Aniston and the hope that they managed to get something out of the inspiring film kept me in my seat. Fortunately, most of us thought it was utter rubbish, and we should be watching Brokeback Mountain soon to wash away the bad taste!


December 12, 2005

2006 is going to be a good an expensive year for movie fans

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

In line with all the boredom entries, I found another activity to keep myself busy for a while: watching trailers. Actually, I'm not that bored anymore. I spent the day arranging parts for a Rev song and just got back from Morrison's with Jamie Oliver recommended fancy foods [who says that you have to buy this stuff at Sainsbury's?] and will probably spend a fair amount of time preparing a pasta dish whereas I could easily prepare something equally healthy and tasty, but that's not the point.

Movies

Since I started my PhD, I've been missing out on all the sophisticated movies that have come out. Don't think it has anything to do with me doing a PhD, it's just an observation. Would have loved to see Sin City, Crash, or Cinderella Man [?], but ended up seeing Charlie..., Harry Potter..., ...Narnia..., and Batman Begins. Supposedly the last one is amazing, but I didn't see it do anything else but follow the general trend of gloominess and realism in fantasy films. It's all good fun though.

This year is going to be different. I hope. Having watched the trailer for nearly every film coming out the next 4 months, I'll set out what I'm going to spend my 4,90 plus 0,25 reservation fee on every week [if not more than once a week].

January

Brokeback Mountain (with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger and a girl from Dawson's Creek)
Why? A love story in the Rockies. Somehow I think it will be similar to Boys don't cry, but then less horrible [imagery-wise] and with more mood-catching scenery shots.

Jarhead (again Jake Gyllenhaal, now with Jamie Foxx)
From love we hop to war. Adaptation of a Desert Storm novel written by a former soldier. I find modern day war films more intriguing, if only because knowing that it was/is going on while I'm still alive makes me more part of the story. With Sam Mendes – director of American Beauty – we can expect more than just a barrage of gunfire and explosions.

Breakfast on Pluto (Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson [Aslan], and Brendan Gleeson [Moody])
Actually, I just saw the trailer and am not too sure about this one anymore. It sounded like a lovely gentle film, but looks more like a British [i.e. colder] version of Moulin Rouge. Probably won't be devastated if I have to watch this one at home.

The Matador (Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear)
Great actors, and the film sounds alright, but think I'd rather spend my money on the next one.

Shopgirl (Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman)
Okay, I know we can fill up the maths pond with DVDs of horrible Steve Martin movies, but this one sounds as exciting as Holland winning the World Cup. Personally, I think Claire Danes is great, and should be fine in this role as a shop assistant selling gloves, and getting herself into a pickle going out with 2 men, one of them considerably older.

Fun with Dick and Jane (Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni)
You never know with Jim Carrey, and the film doesn't sound too original [partly because it's a remake], but you never know. Won't say no to this one.

February

Walk the line (Joaquin Phoenix, poster on tracked back blog)
It worked for Ray Charles, and presumably Jonny Cash is just as interesting a musician – definitely more succesful an artist. Phoenix is reliable, so try it if you can get over your hate/fear of country music.

North Country (Charlize Theron)
The premise sounds like Erin Brokovich - a woman in a lawsuit [harassment] that will change some sort of business [mines, this time] and affect all of America. But then there is no Julia Roberts, so probably less forced drama and more story. Oh and any movie with Frances McDormand is worth watching!

Proof (Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and, oh yes, Jake Gyllenhaal)
Being in a movie with the rising star that's Gyllenhaal is bound to get Gwyneth back in business. Again, insanity is linked to maths, but this time without Ron Howard there is a chance we can stay this side of the fantasy fence. [Honestly, A Beautiful Mind for me is on the pile of, glad I've seen it, now let's move on. For your reference, Memento is on that pile too]

Good Night and Good Luck (George Clooney, David Strathairn)
If not the year of Donnie Darko, this could be the year of Doctor Ross. Every year needs a conspiracy thriller, and ones about journalists against the American government are usually interesting and thrilling enough. To seam with real footage of McCarthy [_the bad guy, read here ;_] the film is shot on a grayscale set. Right, that might not make it sound more appealing, but at least I didn't say it's a historic political drama…

Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Hurray! Another biography historic drama film! Truman Capote and this story of his investigations for In Cold Blood could definitely work, especially in combination with always sublime supporting actor PSH.

March

Syriana (George Clooney, Matt Damon)
The other Clooney vehicle, probably more successful, as it is extremely up-to-date suggesting what could be wrong with the oil industry. Only my hunger now blocks my excitement about this film.

The Weather Man (Nicholas Cage)
Honestly, I'm not sure about Cage in comedy roles either, but the trailer for this one is beyond hilarious. Also, he seems a natural as weather man.

Transamerica (Felicity Huffman)
Gosh, it seems this year will be the official launch of the 'gay' genre. A new take however, as this time it's a woman playing a transsexual man [that is, a man only one step away of becoming a woman] - one that is told he/she has a son. Anyone who has seen Desperate Housewives will know how talented Huffman is, and with her dry humour, I'm confident this will be a great laugh yet a powerful drama.

Freedomland (Samuel L Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edie Falco)
Three great actors in the final genre not yet discussed. Julianne Moore's being robbed of her car and her son who's left behind in the backseat. Not to sure what the story is about [seems to be an initial accusation of a black kid, creating racial tensions, but then a shift to the only place left to search, Freedomland, an old child leper colony].

April

Only gonna mention 2 for this month and then I'll stop. First, Rent follows Chicago and The Phantom... with the exception that it's mainly starring the [original?] Broadway cast. It's the year's obligatory musical, and I'm excited that I don't have to wait five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes to see it! The other is Ice Age II: The Meltdown – these seem to become pulp classics, and the squirrel trailers seem to be more exciting than the main features at the moment!

Right then I'll leave you alone. I just thought looking ahead would be better than looking back. Gotta cook my Jamie approved dinner now. Will hopefully trackback as soon as I've seen one of these films!


September 25, 2005

The World's Greatest

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Rubbish! I'm positive someone on the Warwick blogosphere had already written a great review of this film but I can't find it! Hmm… guess I'll have to spend a bit longer on this entry than planned.

I'm not a fan of boxing. Neither am I fond of glorifying films. However, this pic manages to depict what it's not meant to be depicting. The boxing sequences are a delight to watch – you crawl into Ali's mind and see all the punches fly at you whilst thinking out tactics [walk back] then switch to a long shot of just the footwork of the two fighters, without making you feel you're missing any of the action. And for glorification there is no space reserved – the part of Ali's (or Cassius') life that forms the storyline is not glorious at all. It almost ends up being a socio-political drama instead.

Actually, I lied. There is quite some glorifying. Although I'm not too informed on 1960s American history to know whether Ali was as big a political figure as Malcolm X. But that's what the film makes you believe. And the way this film has been produced, I'm quite happy to believe Ali was a great figure in that time. Someone should have taught him to speak clearly though.

Nearly everything in this film is perfect. The soundtrack on its own is worth 5 stars, and is seamlessly incorporated into each scene, often more thought provoking than the images themselves, but also given new meaning – or clarified in their relevance to the time [A Change Is Gonna Come after Malcolm X is shot dead – this shouldn't be a spoiler. Actually, I could tell the whole storyline and not spoil anything unless you know nothing about Ali's life] by whatever is on screen. And those images are wonderful in their own right. A lot of play with light and dark, and great interplay between Ali's life and current affairs.

Acting performances are great. Smith manages to make you believe he is a great boxer – maybe even Ali – as he dances inside and outside the ring. His scenes with sportscaster Howard Cosell [an amazing performance from Jon Voight – seriously, this actor sneaks into great films like a fox and you never know it's him till you see the credits. I truly believed this was a real-life sportscaster! Interviewing Will Smith…] are great amusement and the two must have had fun re-enacting those moments. Jamie Foxx is hardly recognizable as a balding (Jewish?) alcoholic who happens to be Ali's motivator, but puts down the most outstanding performance [apart from Jon Voight, but I thought that was a guy doing his actual job so let's just talk about obvious actors here] in this film, but unfortunately he doesn't spend too much time on screen here.

There is the greatest debit of the film. Although the scenes follow each other perfectly, and the story is not too hard to follow, in the 3 hours it takes from A to B, there are too many sub plots and sidetracks to actually enable us to enjoy a single character. It starts of with the focus on Cassius Clay becoming a champion and being renamed Mohammed Ali, with in the background his friendship with Malcolm X. The second part shows us Ali's trouble with the draft, a pending imprisonment, and his lack of income due to lack of boxing license. And the third and final is all about the build up to the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali's fight with George Foreman in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). In 3 hours we get to see about 4 people around Ali helping in his boxing career – seems pretty important to me to get to know them, but only Foxx manages to leave some impression, but not enough to give us an idea what his character actually did for Ali. Then there are 3 wives (at different times) who just come and go. Yes, just like that. Somewhere in between there is the friendship with and murder of Malcolm X, and a row between Ali and his dad about discarding the family (slave) name of Clay. With about 20 important people in Ali's life, the only character I feel I really got to know is Cosell [Jon Voight's]. And I learned some more about the social and political ongoings in the 1960s.

As a story-telling film, that's where its shortcomings lay. No problems with Smith's performance – the emphasis was just too much on what we already know: Ali's a womanizer, a great boxer, and had some great punchlines as well. As a 'motion picture' it's great. What your eyes get to register is one of the best and most beautiful film sequences – especially when boxing is concerned. The film is entertaining and educational, with great acting and a wonderful soundtrack. It's just a shame Ali had so many important and people worthy-of-a-story around him.


March 13, 2005

Review Box

With a full term of hard non-academic related work and some academic related work behind me, I thought I deserved another weekend relaxing in front of the TV, eating a nice bacon and golden syrup sandwich. This is what I saw.

CSI: New York
Should have left the Big Apple to Law & Order. CSI needs flashy casino's and sunshine and loads of neon light. Not back alleys and rainy days. Add to that a cast that makes you think "it's that guy/girl!" every other second and you wish the 50 minutes were gone so that Law & Order: Criminal Intent would start. Features Lt. Dan and Tad Rachel's (Friends) boytoy. This is probably what a CSI movie would look like.

Dark City
If they would have had the technology of the 90s, this is what movies in the 20s would have looked like. Futurism of Delaunay meets H.G.Wells' Sci-Fi. On the other hand, it seems an odd cross-over between cult films ala Blade Runner (hated that movie and tried to sleep through it, so might be missing the point here), and Roger Rabbit (sic), and more modern existential (?) films like the Matrix or Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Too many comparisons, or can I go on? Ever played Grim Fandango , most beautiful game ever made? Anyway – so yes I liked the film. About a guy waking up in a room with a murdered woman being made to believe he's a serial killer etcetera. No really, it's one of the most original films ever made!

Blackburn Rovers - Leicester City
Leicester should have won.

Random shows about Australia
Featuring sea dragons and a fight between a crab and a seagull over a worms. Special. The wombat might become my new favorite animal though, thanks to the Beerwah Queensland Zoo show.

The O.C.
If people tell you it sucks, don't listen. If they tell you it's great, don't listen. All I can say is where Hollyoaks is like Earth spinning around the Sun nicely comfy in its orbit, every year the same, this show is like Hayley-Bobb shooting through space and trying like a true over—the—top Californian production to try out every single love—multiple—angle humankind can think of. What I think? It's worth every valuable minute of my Sunday afternoon.

Regular working hours resumed from tomorrow onwards. Might go and look for a temp job to get into a productive mood. Oh and to make some money. Tonight it's Black Hawk Dawn by the way - better story than a cast of Orlando Bloom and Josh Hartnett might make you believe. Enjoy!


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