Sunday, 30 November 2008

slight connection problems plus reviews

Im currently navy sealing onto a library computer, such is the state of my current connection. But hopefully all will be back to normal by today and with it reviews of Changeling and what just happened. Hang tight.

Friday, 28 November 2008


finally finished it. look below.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A TV diversion: 20 seasons of modern TV to see

Pajiba did a feature on their site a while back entitled, ' 20 great seasons of TV from the last 20 years'. A little late in the game, I have decided to rip that concept off and do my own, slightly condensed version with less writing and more sloth. Because thats just my style. Honourable mentions go to The Office US, Season 2; Will and Grace, season 2; Firefly, Scrubs, season 3 and if I were a woman I'm sure Sex and the City would be on this list. Where's female contributor when you need one. SPOILER

1) The simpsons season 5

Its a shame that the Simpsons refused to die with dignity, because if it ended somewhere around season 12 it would have been pretty much untouchably the best TV show ever made. Everything you think is good about TV the Simpsons was doing it 10 years earlier. It was satirical without being elitist, referential without being smug and above all very, very funny. Season 5 was the peak, although it wins by a whisker over season 4. Season 5 was particurlarly prime for Mr Burns too, who for me is the best thing to come out of the Simpsons and quite possibly anything else.

Best episode: Cape Feare - Sideshow Bob + Rake = funniest thing you will ever see.

Best Character: Mr Burns - Because you know why.

2) 24, season 1

People forget, because of the force of self-parody that 24 became over the years, how pimped out the first season was. This is TV at its most electrifying. Ingeniously structured and with a gimmick that's pure genius, You'll be on the edge of your seat for every single one of the 18 plus hours it takes to watch this and this show invented the 'anything can happen to anyone' concept, which lesser shows thrive upon these days. But aside from the thrills, there's some proper quality here to. Of course there's Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, in a performance more intense then it is often given credit for. But Dennis Haysbert's President Palmer is just as good, and was unfairly overlooked in most awards. He brings dignity and sensitivity to an otherwise blockbusting show. Elisha Cuthbert looks hot and runs a lot, what else is there to say. The season has some quality villains too, Michael Massee' Ira Gaines will stay with you for a long time, ditto Zeljko Ivanek's more intelligent villainy. But most props go to Penny Johnson Jerald's Lady Macbeth type Sherry Palmer, who's all about the manipulation and back-stabbing and she works particularly well off Haysbert and their scenes are a treat.

Best episode: 11:00 P.M to 12:00 A.M - One devastating finale. It will own you.

Best character: Jack Bauer - But it's closer than y'all might think. Which is a compliment to the rest of the cast.

3) Arrested Development, season 2

Arrested Development was either ahead of its time or simply to good to be around for too long. Probably both. Hilarious in ways I couldn't begin to describe, this maybe the funniest live action show in existence, why more people don't rip it off I don't know. The second season is the best, for while the first year occassionally made attempts to appeal to a wider audience, season 2 just says fuck it and rolls with its own inaccessability, otherwise known as genius. In the straight man role, Jason Bateman manages to be as funny as the more colourful supporting cast, and no-one in the history of anything sells awesomely condescending sarcasm quite like Michael Bluth. He turned exasperated smart-assery into an art. But the spark is with the writing, always creative and innovative whilst being funny all the while. Watch this and it'll make any other show seem lazy in comparison. Bring on the movie!

Best episode: !Amigos! - For the Mexican chicken dance flashback. We'll never forget it.
Best Character: Michael Bluth - All he did was care too much...

4) Frasier, season 4

I could quite happily watch Frasier from beginning to end for the rest of my life, but that's my damage. This is how dialogue should be written, and no show has ever done upper-class literate comic-genius quite like this. Featuring two astonishingly consistent and deservedly legendary performances from Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce, its classy, high quality entertainment of the highest order. Season 4 featured too many all out classics to ignore, from Love bites Dog, which inspired the awesome 'like a guy' speech. To the equally quality 'three dates and a break-up'. But the best episode is undeniably the one you see below.

Best episode: Ham Radio - Old school comedy at its funniest, hipper kids can have all their 'cut to' jokes.
Best Character: Frasier Crane - The character is one of the most complex on TV, but because its in comedy, making you laugh lots its sufficient enough.

5) Battlestar Galactica, season 1

Yes, it has a stupid name. Lets all acknowlege that shall we. Right, now thats done with this is one of the most subtle, dark tinged dramas of recent years and it features a terrific ensemble cast, in which some may be better then others, but all are great to watch. Complex writing, plenty of allegory and class to burn, it even gives a great role to Xena the warrior the princess. For me, and I know opinion is split that many people prefer Starbuck or Tigh, the show is all about Gaius Baltar, the cowardly scientist who pretty much traded all of humanity to save his own ass. And from these ignoble beginnings he kind of secretly becomes the show's hero, villain and comic-relief at the same time. Its such a terrific characterization, that if it weren't in a sci-fi show, James Callis would have won an emmy by now.

Best episode: Six degrees of separation - In which Gaius gets enough screentime.

Best Character: Gaius Baltar - I've made it clear by now, right.

6) The Wire, season 1

The best reviewed show in town isn't quite Shakespeare, but its most definately something to see. We see both sides of the law struggling against and for an epic drugs case, and the good guys aren't always the ones with the badge. Or so it says on the DVD. But its fantastically complex and detailed portrayal of it all make it the TV equivalent of All the President's men or Zodiac. Witha plot 13 hours more dense. But it's all in the game. Season 1 feels the best to me because it was the tightest, you felt the organization and realism of the thing to your core. But it has a sense a fun also and will even make you laugh in places. Rarely though.
Best episode: Cleaning up - Shocking and Brutal. The world at its worst and the Wire at its best.
Best Character: Omar - A sociopathic, gay Robin hood type gangster with a double-barrel. Entertaining and the Wire's only indulgence.

7) Lost season 1

A popular show, to be sure but back in the day when one didn't need either a photographic memory or an almanac to follow what was going on, it was a great character show. It actually starts out quite shakily, as an impressive crash sequence aside, the pilot is actually quite cliched and dull. The moment you realise this is much better then you first thought is the 4th episode, Walkabout. It takes the show to a more interesting place with a more interesting character, John Locke. Who stands as the only non-archetype in cast that otherwise features the Doctor, the criminal, the southern hick, the repressed Korean woman, the junkie rockstar etc. Yet as time passes each character grows in depth and becomes more rewarding to watch. But aside from the contrivinces this is how large, broad mainstream entertainment is done. Very addictive too, so much so that you (I) end up watching episode like 15 times to search for clues. Or just for fun.
Best Episode: Walkabout - The moment this show stopped being a guilty pleasure.

Best Character: John Locke - Owns the first series, it's a shame they went to such great lengths to sabotage him later on.

8) South Park, season 10

You can say what you want about the nihilism, the distastefulness, the excessive toilet humor, the deliberate offensiveness etc. But you can't say that its not funny. Because its so fucking funny it hurts sometimes. Plus, its the show that says what it thiks no matter the impact and feedback and that alone makes it something to say. In the beginning it was a little bit more about offending you then making you laugh, but as time passed it matured and benefited greatly from it. Season 10 features more great shows then the average year, particularly Stanley Cup and and two parte Go God go, which sees Cartman travel to the future to avoid waiting for the Nintendo Wii, and Cartman, like the show, got better with age and became funnier each year and if he's not the funniest character currently on TV then I don't know what is.
Best Episode - Make love, Not Warcraft You've probably already seen it, but its 20 minutes of comedic perfection.
Best Character: Eric Cartman There isn't anyone quite like him. Either real or fictional.

9) Six Feet Under, season 2

This helped establish HBO as the place to go for adult orientated, quality driven drama. And quite right too. Features smart characterization, wit and enough edginess and intellectualism to make it the college professor's dream. But its more then future college fodder, it has a lot of heart and isn't afraid to take our basically decent characters down some dark paths. Nate, the lead, is particularly surrounded in tragedy and his arc in this terrific second season has as much pathos as you can expect to see on television. Or in most films for that matter. But it really works as an ensemble, without a single character becoming overly dominant or overly neglected. Until later years maybe, but in the 2nd year evrything clicked from the writing to the acting and it still stands as the most mature show you may ever see.

Best Episode: The last time - Six feet under had some terrific finales, but this was probably the best of them, everything comes together so perfectly.

Best Character: David Fisher - The repressed funeral director wins, but its very close, and really everyone is as good as each other.

10) Curb Your enthusiasm, Season 4

I'm not the biggest Seinfeld fan in the world, so it took me sometime to finally getting around to see Curb Your Enthusiasm, but it turns out the only person I was really burning was myself since this maybe the best meta-show yet seen on television, and boy are their a few. From 30 Rock and Studio 60 on the sunset strip to The Larry Sanders show and Extras, TV is an industry obsessed with itself, but none do it so crushingly and self-deprecatingly as Curb Yor Enthusiasm. The whole concept seems to be Larry David finding new and creative ways to humiliate himself and it is fantastic viewing. If not for how funny it all is then to make one feel better about one's own problems. Season 4 sees Larry land the role of Max Bialystock for the Broadway production of the Producers, and as you can imagine things do not go quite according to plan. The best season arc thus far.

Best Episode: Opening Night - when we finally get on stage, all the stuff we'd previously seen becomes child's play. Features one of the most painfully awkward moens of comedy ever.

Best Character: Larry David - A anti-hero for our politically correct times. Plus is funny.

11) The West Wing, Season 1

You either love Aaron Sorkin or you hate him, but his unique brand of self-superior liberal propaganda and wish-fulfilment is such that if it wasn't as good as it is, it would be the most unbearable show in the world. But luckily, the terrific dialogue rattles along as good as anything out there, the storylines manage to be educational whilst gripping - something that is most definately no mean feat - and the acting is good, which is vital, seeing as the high-speed of the writing would backfire painfully in lesser hands. Martin Sheen is a suitably stoic president and someone I would definately vote for, if I were the the right nationality that is. A classic example of a show that took something that no-one cou;d possibly conceive as interesting and made it so. The 1st season is perhaps the best, but it by no means decreases in quality as it goes on.

Best Episode: Celestial Navigation - Topical and to the point.

Best Character: Josh Lyman - A fast talking aide that has morals. Did i mention this was wish fulfilment.

12) Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 3

Ah, another victim of it has a silly name, thus it must be awful theorem. Ironically if you watch the first season its exactly what you thought it would be, kind of cheesy with OTT story lines and the stench of tween hanging all over it. But the second season came back a different show, stronger and a million times better and the third year continued in that rhythm. No show, past or present was more imaginative then BTVS, and has been ripped off to the extreme. It paved the way for supernatural shows to be taken seriously and without it, Lost and Heroes would not be where they are today. The third year featured it's best year long arc too, something that was quite often the thing that went awry on the show in favour of episode by episode storytelling. This is mostly thanks to the Mayor, the season-long villain, best described as Ned Flanders if he were a seriously twisted psycho. He is entertaining every second he's on screen and even lends a genuine menace to proceedings as the year progresses. He is the pinncale of the show's great knack for bad guys. But there are plenty of episodes to marvel at, from The Wish, to the terrific Dopplegangland. The acting may not be the strongest thing on show here, and at times the tween factor cannot be stopped, but this, put simply the most enjoyable show I have ever seen.

Best Episode - The Zeppo School's coming to end via hell, a bomb and a street-gang of jock zombies. And it's up to the comic relief to save every one. Plus someone gets decapitated by a mailbox. Fun in its purest form.

Best Character- The Mayor - The public official who's corrupt in nastier ways then the usual.

13) Dexter, Season 1

Dexter came so close to being a terrible show. It had a convoluted and borderline ridiculous premise that had no right to work, it was on a network nobody watched. It was about a serial killer with a moral code. But then they cast Michael C. Hall and all was fine. He makes every moment an absolute joy, from his sardonic voice-over to both the nicer and darker elements of his character. It is a classic case of an actor not rising above the material but taking it with him. This list is in great danger above becoming a Michael C Hall love-in, what with Six Feet Under only a few paragraphs above. But I can't help it. It's such a terrific performance. As far as the supporting cast goes, its mostly hit and miss with people varying from no mark to annoying. With the glaring exception of Christian Camargo as Rudy, in a performance that got swallowed up and neglected on account of Hall, but he lends it a real quality that future series lacked. Sadly, it seems that the show's got a bad case of the diminishing returns with each year being slightly worse then the previous. Bu we'll always have this 1st year.

Best episode - Born Free - In which tales of sickos are suprisingly moving, thanks to Hall and Camargo.
Best Character - Dexter Morgan - Meet your friendly neighbourhood serial killer.

14) Friends, season 3

This might well be the most popular show ever. Still showing in prime-time slots 5 years after cancellation, you've seen it so many times you can say the words along with the characters. Whether you intend to or not. Its no longer you're decision. But the good news is the popularity is not unfounded. Last couple of years notwithstanding, it was consistently funny and entertaining. Never getting lazy and simply taking the money, so to speak. The third year features enough great episodes for several shows from the one with the football, to the now infamous break-up episode the one with the morning after. This is classic feel-good TV featuring a suprisingly deft ensemble. All handle the pratfalls and lines with great aplomb.

Best Episode: The one where no-one's ready - In which Joey takes the essence of the chair.

Best Character: Chandler Bing - In later years it would be Joey, but in the early days Chandler's originality and sarcasm were repeatedly the shows highlight.

15) The Sopranos, season 1

I don't love this show as much as the rest of the world, but there is denying that it has to be on this list. A mafia show that for the most part takes away the boyish action fantasy that exists in the genre and replaces it with complex psychology and mommy issues. The killings and illegal happenings are almost an afterthought in comparison to the tense family issues and character drama. James Gandolfini is a terrific anchor for the show, his performance is in turns frightening ad sympathetic, and follows the show's lead in maintaining an enormous amount of complexity. Its slower then you think it will be going in, but once you adjust to the pace everything works just fine. A classic in terms of classiness, and it laid down the format seemingly for all cable dramas of the future.

Best Episode: I dream of Jeannie Cusamano -
Suitably fitting close to an excellent 1st season

Best Character: Tony Soprano -
He's just like you, only in the mafia. And cooler.

16) The Shield, Season 4

I was close to abandoning the shield after season 3, it was good but it was beginning to ramble and lack focus. Then season 4 came along, with two terrific additions; Glenn Close's Monica Rawling and Anthony Anderson's Antwon Mitchell. Both lend the show new life, but also seem to reinvigorate existing characters. Particularly Walton Goggins' Shane who as the series went on really began to out-Vic Vic, becoming a darker and more amoral version of our central corrupt cop figure. Vic himself, fantastically portrayed by Michael Chiklis as kind of an overtly masculine monster, is arguably at his most sympathetic this season with Shane and Antwon Mitchell up to much darker business. Anderson really knocks this out of he park, and as an actor I only previously knew from Kangeroo Jack, this was an awesome surprise. Close is as good as you'd expect she would be, lending a real fierceness to her role. Out of the ashes of a seemingly cooked show came one of the best season's I'd ever seen. Who knew.

Best Episode: Back in the Hole -
Mitchell's interrogation with enough on line, such as Shane's future outside a jail cell and the body of a little girl. Riveting television

Best Character: Vic Mackey - A bent cop we all want to get away with it.

17) House, season 2

Medical shows come every few minutes, and leave just as quickly. But there was something different about House, which incorparated the mystery of a cop show with the procedure of a medical one. And while the cases are usually interesting they're not why House is on this list. That would be Hugh Laurie, in a fantastically grandstanding turn as eternally ticked off Dr House, in which he mangages to have pathos, but also be much more funny then you'd expect and for a while before it became slightly more miserable it was one of the funniest shows you could see, which may say something about the state of comedy shows. The second season, lacking the occassional nervousness of the first year, really sets out its stall as we go from case to case, the supporting cast doing all the expository scenes whilst Laurie gets to repeatedly and unflinchingly steal every single episode. This may be a little harsh on Robert Sean Leonard, who as Dr Wilson is immensely under-rated. But hey, who's complaining if we get to see more of Laurie.

Best Episode: No Reason -
House gets shot! Doesn't die though. Now thats a spoiler.

Best Character: Gregory House - For all the reason mentioned above and many more.

18) Desperate Housewives, season 1

Finally, a female orientated show appears on this list. I wish there were more, I really do. Alas, I'm a man and I like manly things. Or female-aimed TV should top trying to rip-off Sex and the city and do something new, like this show did. Kind of like a trashy charity shop novel come to live, only with better writing, better acting and an interestingly wide sadistic streak. The lesser prepared may be irritated by Teri Hatcher, but Marcia Cross' bree is a characterization as good as any previously mentioned on this list and its a shame she keeps losing awards to the still good but slightly less so Felicity Huffman. Who here plays a working woman beaten down by her own fertility. Eva Longoria keeps up well on the acting stakes, delivering snide lines with glee and molding her character into a terrificly neurotic bitch. She also is in Lingerie a lot so take from that what you will. Overall a kind of Oestrogenised soap/film-noir but on TV.

Best Episode: Guilty - Where blowing your brains out is a preferable alternative to taking care of 4 kids. Dark stuff.

Best Character: Bree Van Der Kamp - Hilarious and slightly unnerving rendition of one woman's need to be perfect.

19) Carnivale, season 2

Criminally under-seen show, but is a more adult spin on the supernatural chosen-one theme we see so often in lesser works. First of all this thing looks amazing, making great use of the southern deserts and has cinematography to put many movies to shame. It also features some impressively twisted story-telling, most notably in its seperate narrative tale of Brother Justin Crowe, who is as far as I can tell a good man chosen to be evil. His nature as a villain doesn't entirely seem to be his choice, and his struggle with these dark supernatural forces is something to watch. Its very much an ensemble show, though. And we see this through the main narrative of the Carnivale itself and the many characters that make-up its staff. If you want a more adult alternative to Heroes then look no further then this.

Best Episode: The day that was the day -
twisted finale to a twisted season. A lot of night scenes .

Best Character: Brother Justin Crowe -
Your friendly neighbourhood evil preacher.

20) Breaking Bad, season 1

This is perhaps a curveball for this list, as its relatively new and seen by no-one. But we strive to be original in the blogging community, and thus I have chosen this which currently only has 7 episodes in existence. Its main sell is the terrific and now emmy-winning performance from Bryan Cranston, who some of you may know as the Dad from Malcolm in the middle. But let it be known that that award was no coincidence, as Cranston is terrific here which he had to be given what he had to sell, which is a college science professor who upon discovering he has cancer teams up with a scummy neighbourhood teenage drug-dealer to cook Meth. Hilarity ensues. Actually darkness ensues, with everything turning from bad to worse all the while held together by a central performance for the ages. Go see.

Best episode: Pilot:
The first and best so far, sets up everything with true quality.

Best Character: Walter H.White
Your friendly neighourhood science professor turned meth dealer.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Twilight is the most successful film by a female director.

Yes, the adaptation of tween vampire novel Twilight is poised to become the most financially successful film by a female director ever. The fact that this is true shows how little opportunity women get to direct with a sizable budget, but despite the apparent awfulness of the film itself, maybe this will prove to those studio bosses that women can make vapid cash cows just as well as men. Michael Bay is shuddering in his boots. Still it got 4 stars in empire magazine so maybe I'm being a bit pre-emptive. But probably not.

The Dark Knight Oscar update

I still stand by my earlier predictions, but it will be a closer call than first expected. Its most definately building up steam in the Best Picture category, with several muted competators falling by the wayside, such as the Changeling which is been met with middling reviews and thus seems pretty much out of contention. Similarly it seems that TDK has K.O'd fellow summer blockbuster WALL-E, which has had Oscar buzz for well over a year now. It was going to finally break Pixar into the best picture category, but they hadn't counted on The Bat and seeing as Hell will freeze over before they nominate two summer movies, it seems to be goodbye to the robots. The inevitable buzz for Heath Ledger is keeping TDK in everyone's mind, and maybe now a Best picture nom is quite so unattainable. Still would bet against it though.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


The second adaptation from the literary works of Chuck Palahniuk had a lot to live up to, considering that the first was a Bona fide masterpiece. It doesn't come anywhere near Fight Club, but its good in its own low-key way and tells a more personal story.

Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) is a sex-addict who pays his bills by pretending to choke on food in restaurants. We enter his world of senile mothers (Angelica Huston), similarly afflicted best friends (Brad William Henke) and his personal sentence of living in a world of inescapable sleaze. Oh, and there's also a female doctor (Kelly MacDonald) who just might be Victor's way out. My favourite thing about this film was the infrequent voice-over which clearly was taken directly from Palahniuk's page and had the terrific cynical black wit that his novels possess. Its a shame there wasn't more of it. That apart, this is an acting showcase for Sam Rockwell and Angelica Huston, who both completely inhabit their roles that they almost disappear into them. Rockwell, has become in recent years pretty much the king of indie-cinema and rightly so because he's great in pretty much everything he's in (even galaxy quest) and no-one is more perfect for this role then him. Huston, back from taking bit parts in Wes Anderson movies and Orange cinema adverts, brings incredible sympathy to what could have been a highly unsymapthetic role. Special mention to Kelly MacDonald, who's final scene but one is the best in the movie, and on the back of No country for old men, she's becoming a nice little character actress. A lead role can't be too far ahead. The script is OK, but you get the sense it could have been much better and Director/writer Clark Gregg couldn't resist warming the whole thing up a little.

A nice little movie that did exceed my expectations, but not by much. Hopefully Rockwell will go on to greater things on the back of this.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Waltz with Bashir

From a visual perspective, this is one of the most beautiful films you will ever see. It looks the shit, and any fan of purely visual cinema should see it several times over. It takes the innocence of animation and blends it with the horror of war to mesmerising effect. It such a deep shame that the structure wasn't paid the same attention. C'est la vie.

It follows a semi-documentary format, in which many members of the Israeli Military play themselves, only animated. The style is similar to the one used in the under-rated A Scanner Darkly, but only refined to a greater quality. Anyway, each soldier recounts his time in Lebanon, questoned by a kind of fictional version of director/writer Ari Folman himself. It ultimately leads up to a massacre commited by Christian fundamentalists after their leader and Idol is assassinaed. It also makes room for some spell-bindingly hallucinatory images of war, the kind from memory rather then of fact. I simply can't praise the visuals enough, it provides a fresh take on covered material and makes such horrific events eerily beautiful. The use of the documentary format works for it and against it. The multiple perspectives a terrific, but the sub-Citizen Kane scenes set 20 years after the conflict weake the movie, as they are usually stilted, and while the animation works a treat for expressionist scenes of war, its somewhat less successful in simple dialogue scenes. A trauma induced amnesia trick is used in the narrative also, and whether it was a reality or not, it cheapens the movie somewhat. I don't mean to rag on it, but Folman understands Image better than he does structure and a picky person would point out the writing faults evident here. But only the pedantic amongst you will care.

This film will get slightly over-praised for the same reasons Sin City did back in the day, once you get over the look small cracks will appear. But whatever because such is the quality of what you're seeing you really won't give a shit.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: Body of lies

Iraq really isn't doing as well as Vietnam in the movie stakes and Body of Lies is most certainly not here to buck that trend. More concerned with espionage and the war on terror, then specifically Iraq itself. Its your standard self-important long winded pseudo-political borefest, and doesn't even have the usual high standard of thesping that goes with the territory.

The story sees Field CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo Di Caprio) and southern accented boss (Russell Crowe) hunting 'al saleem', an intensely unsubtle surrogate for Osama Bin Laden, the co-ordinator of several terrorist activities across the middle east with the help of a local Jordanese Intelligence official (Mark Strong). Hijinx ensue, featuring a iranian nurse/love interest and explosions and gunfights galore. To begin with Di Caprio is strong here, but it seems to be simply the role he played in Blood Diamond skew middle-east and minus South African accent. Is this becoming his autopilot, equivalent to say Al Pacino and his gruff but gifted cop. I sure hope not, because these type of films are rarely any good and he is most definately better then this. Crowe phones it in, literally; but it doesn't mean one can't occassionally enjoy his performance and he makes an underwritten role more memorable. Mark Strong struck a one note, for me. The role wasn't a varied one but he could have done better. But take away the names and this could happily be a Wesley Snipes straight to video vehicle and what Ridley Scott is doing directing this is beyond me. The script has some good dialogue here and there, but it has that over-confident piousness that every William Monahan screenplay does, from Kingdom of Heaven to the Departed. The plot is rambling and unsuccinct, which does not help matters either.

All in all, a blip on everyone's CV, not bad but not good an average film you forget very soon after, much like all films dealing with terrorist attacks so far produced. Avoid

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 22 November 2008

An Arrested Development movie is happening. Really.

So, Fox searchlight has supposedly picked it up and now it is apparently going to happen. I'd be lying if wasn't excited to see more of what may be the best tv show I've ever seen, and It will most certainly be funny. But is it perhaps better to remember it as it was then see it belatedly revived, i.e Sex and the City, which despite making a shit ton of money got generally negative reactions from both critics and many of its fans. Arrested Development is a different animal though, its audience is smaller and niche, who would rather a great but utterly inaccessible movie then for it to make any money. The show, to be fair stuck by its guns to the end and in the end was canceled because of its refusal to compromise to its audience. And if thats any indication then we can expect more of the same from the movie. Similarly it successfully rode that fine line between being Smart and being smug, something supposed successor 30 rock has never been able to do. It was genius on TV, but will that carry through, seeing as season 3 was not quite as good as the two that preceeded it. I hope so, and I'm sure I'll see it 4 or 5 times whether its crap or not, such is the fanboy in me.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

What the Lord of the rings cast did next

People called it the Star wars effect. In which lead players in mega successful franchises never break free of its nerd baggage and thus have next to no career once its done. Examining the careers of the LOTR collective, minus the ones who were famous already. i.e Ian Mckellen, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler and Christopher Lee.

1) Elijah Wood, Frodo

Didn't do to badly straight off with a couple of nice darker roles. An objectionable sleaze in Eternal Sunshine and a proper Psycho in Sin City. Wood is terrific in the latter, despite having no dialogue and precious little do but stare into the camera. Believe me he makes it work. But his choice of lead roles was poor, with the terrific exception of Everything is illuminated. Terrible hooligan drama Green Street was his worst show, and in the last couple of years the roles have slowed up a little, but isn't down and out yet.

Post Rings success: 6/10 - hasn't yet followed up on Early potential.

2) Sean Astin, Sam
Things went badly. After Lord of the rings' Astin's main success has come from a supporting role in Adam Sandler's 50 first dates and a stint on 24. He was good in the latter, even if his character was badly marginalised toward the end. But has essentially returned from whence he came. Its a shame because one of the better Rings performances.

Post Rings success: 4/10 - I think a good TV role is the best he can hope for

3) Viggo Mortensen, Aragorn

This is perhaps the career trajectory no-one expected, but if you go back and watch the films, Mortensen's is perhaps the best performance. Its fitting then that against all odds he broke free of the fanboy black hole to become a respected actor, in large part thanks to David Cronenberg. Thanks to a History of Violence, he prepared people to see Mortensen in a different light and followed it up with Eastern Promises in which Viggo was deservedly Oscar-nominated. Up ahead is the lead in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's the road and years of proper roles .

Post rings success: 10/10 Oscar nomination plus nuff actorly respect.

4) Orlando Bloom, Legolas

Considering the inconsequentiality of his role, the fact that Bloom scored the career he did was an amazing feat. All with no talent as well. But with a seperate but just as successul franchise in Pirates of the Carribean and lead roles in in Cameron Crowe and Ridley Scott movies. Bloom has become the male equivalent of someone like Jessica Alba. But it seems now that it may have simply been a flash in the pan.

Post Rings success: 8/10 Even if its over now, he was flavour of the month for a long while.

5) John Rhys Davies, Gimli

So unrecognisable was he as Gimli, that he has benefited little from his LOTR stint, but he certainly is no worse off then when he came in. Plus he's been a supporting player in two giant franchises: this and Indiana Jones.

Post Rings success: 4/10 Being hidden under all that make up may have somewhat hurt his chances.

6) Dominic Monaghan, Merry

Would have gone the way of co background Hobbit if he hadn't so instantly bagged a role on Lost, the mega hit TV show that no-one can be bothered to understand but me. Anyways, his instant finding of other successful material will gave him a decent chance at a longer career. But with the combined nerdvarna power of LOTR and Lost, i'll bet it will be in genre material.

Post rings success: 7/10, as best as could be expected, plus he may have television's best death ever.

7) Billy Boyd, Pippin

Wasn't quick enough to capitalize on his Rings success and thus has done a full vanishing act, barring a small role in Peter Weir's Master and Comander and According to imdb, a voice in Bride of Chucky.

Post rings success: 2/10 Should have been quicker out the gate.

8) Sean Bean, Boromir

Despite only appearing in one ring, did better from it then many others. Bagging roles in various hollywood productions, whilst not critically great were financially successful. Such as the Island or Flightplan. Also got the Rutger Hauer role in the remake of the Hitcher.

Post Rings success: 6/10 solid without being extra-ordinary.

9) David Wenham, Faramir

Actually got a bit burned in LOTR with his Faramir becoming more of a secondary character then he was on the page, but Wenham did the best with what he had in more ways then one. Has established a nice little career going from soldier/narrator in 300 and being particularly memorable in the Australian western The Proposition. Soon to be seen in Baz Luhrmann's Australia.

Post Rings success: 6/10 Again, solid keeps getting good roles.

10) Miranda Otto, Eowyn

Got a walk on part in Spielberg's War of the worlds, and since then has settled nicely into stints on american television. As good as she could have hoped for really, seeing that she pretty much came from nowhere.

Post rings success: 5/10 Got work, which is something good.

11) Karl Urban, Eomer

Considering the near walk-on part he had in the latter two films, he has done very well indeed. Bagged the lead in the blockbusting adap of Doom, and played a villain in the second Bourne movie. Soon to be seen as Bones in the new Star Trek film by JJ Abrams, he has quietly doe very well for himself

Post rings success: 6/10 certainly respectable, has become a solid second-tier actor.

12) Andy Serkis, Gollum

Played another CGI character in Jackson's King Kong, perhaps to less memorable effect. Has been seen there and about, featuring in quirky indie-horror The Cottage and the upcoming Brendan Fraser Action fantasy Inkheart.

Post Rings Success: 6/10 a great performance In Rings, but suffered because you couldn't recognize it as him

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

10 utterly iconic performances that don't need good acting.

The concept of the icon is tough to define, no-one really knows why the people who have it have it, they just do. Sometimes, from a cinematic perspective, a truly iconic performance serves better then a truly great one. The performances below are examples of when a character rises above a bad to mediocre performance to be an icon nontheless on the strength of the actor's star quality or the character's coolness. Or both. NO SPOILERS REALLY BUT PLAY IT SAFE.

1) Steve McQueen, The Great Escape
When described, people refer to Steve McQueen as 'cool' before anything else. That's because what he has is that elusive thing that so many better actors lack in spades. Sadly the trade-off is that h can't act all that, but in the Great Escape it doesn't matter because the both he and the role are all about the iconicism. Its like the 5th best performance in this movie, but its the one you remember.

2) Marylin Monroe, Some like it hot
Quite possibly the ultimate actress turned icon, as her fans roam far and wide and do the crazy. Despite many fangirl pleas to the otherwise, she is not a great actress and no-one can say she is without it being apologetics. Still, her persona is almost the ultimate in picture-postcard femininity and her remarkable beauty and movie star quality for the most part mask her acting shortcomings. For the best example of this see some like it hot, on seeing you'll understand why she is the icon that she is.

3) Orlando Bloom, Lord of the rings
Every now and again comes a nigh on pointless ancilliary character who kicks ass in such a maginificently to the point 2D way. We love these guys and Orlando Bloom's Legolas may be the most awesome of this category. To be clear, It's a horrible performance, and in act off between Orlando Bloom and a plank of wood the result would be too close to call. Just watch his delivery of the line ' unless my eyes are cheated by some spell' and cringe. Yet he's pretty enough for the girls and does enough impromptu shield-skateboarding and elephant destroying for the guys. The character you secretely can't wait to come back on screen

4) Bruce Willis, Die Hard

Die Hard is a great film. Its a masterpiece in comparison to most other films in its field and has terrific euro-villainy from Alan Rickman. His is a great performance that rises above the material. Whereas Bruce Willis' John McClane is perfectly suited to the material, the kind of every-man masculine asshole that so many viewers identified as themselves. Only with an added ability to kick terrorist ass.

5) Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator

Say what you want about the governor of California, but this is unforgettable character. Suited to his strengths, as in having to say little dialogue and scoring a body count somewhere in the low 70's, It just seems so much better that he was doing all this as the bad guy. Whilst there are smarter villian's out there, none bear such resemblance to a Tank as this one. You see why he got the title even though its not really his story don't you?

6) Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands

It amazes me who many people consider this a good performance, but it is as nervous as hell. Depp didn't come good until Ed Wood and here he plays a bland nice guy who happens to have crazy gothic hair and scissors for hands. Its memorable due the costume design more then anything else, as the content of the character is essentially a Frank Capra like saint without the passion. Its a great movie, and Depp later became a great actor, just not yet.

7) Clint Eastwood. The Good, the bad and the ugly

Ah, Steve McQueen's only real rival for the title of coolest actor ever. But what makes Clint Eastwood's 'Blondie' so great is that beneath the vacant stare and knowing demeanour, he's just as much of a petty, greedy shit as Eli Wallach's Tuco. Which in some twisted universe only makes the character all the cooler.

8) Everyone in Oceans' eleven

Please, this film was about movie stars collecting giant pay-cheques and socialising to their own success. No one can even remotely be arsed her, yet that's part of the appeal as seeing these A-listers chillax their way through this movie, cruising on their iconic and bankable movie-starness almost makes us feel like one of them.

9) Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's

The uptown Marylin Monroe, or the Clint Eastwood to her Steve McQueen if you will. One could say that she is all style and no substance, but seeing as that is essentially the point of her character it seems silly. Hepburn is actually good here, which is most definately a rarity seeing how terrible she is in most of her films. But the role is about the clothes, the attitude and the 60's and few characters embody all three quite like her Holly Golightly

10) Grace Kelly, Rear Window

Grace Kelly was the most celebrated of the Hitchcock women, mostly because she married the prince of Monaco or something like that, but she cuts a singularly demure screen presence and this is taken to the point of hilarity in Rear Window, in which she repeatedly arrives at James Stewart's crabby apartment in chic designer wear. They make a plot point of it but this action essentially is what Grace Kelly was about, who cares about the substance when the style is this good.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Australia not so good.

Rather then a semi-rascist rant about the merits of the people down under, this is infact a prediction regarding of Baz Luhrmann's upcoming romantic epic and creatively titled Australia, which shockingly considering this is the director of Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge, is the story of a sprawling, probably forbiden love affair. Will someone please teach this guy some cynicism, it hurts to be around this much simplistic manipulation. He makes the same film again and again just with a different gimmick and setting every time. Allow me to demonstrate.

Strictly Ballroom: two people's love is forbidden by opposing cultures and the ballroom dancing beurocracy. Gimmick: Ballroom Dancing

Romeo and Juliet: Two people's love is forbidden by their feuding families. Gimmick: Modernized Shakespeare

Moulin Rouge: Two people's love forbidden by social standing. Gimmick: Musical

Every film tells the same story and has the same sickly, love conquers all before all conquers love motif. He may be a visually gifted director, no-one's saying he isn't. But deal with some different subject matter please. As for Australia itself, well from the trailers it looks like its going to be another period set visually glamorous but painfully naive film that will get by on its own enthusiasm and sense of kitsch. His pre-war studio age attitude to cinema and love inevitably goes down well with the increasingly aged academy, but unless its really not what I expect it to be he''ll get no dice from me, something that I'm sure will keep him up at night.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

REVIEW: Max Payne

And so the quest for a great game to movie adaptation goes on. Currently no.1 is Silent Hill, and that was barely a 6/10 film. The largely silent, action orientated world of gaming simply must not be compatable. Max Payne hits the wrong notes at all times, has a painfully wooden performance from Mark Wahlberg and just barely makes sense.

On the plus side, it has moments of impressive visual imagery and for the most part the action is reasonably well handled, even if director John Moore does hit the ultra slo-mo button a bit too often. But it feels like a straight to video actioner with slightly more money and roughly the same standard of acting. Mila Kunis character does not gel well with the film and feels forced in, Beau Bridges tries to contain the mugging for the most part, but can't help himself on occasion and everyone else is purely fodder for the plot or Wahlberg's nigh on invincible protagonist. But the main problem is that it is such a cliched story. Charles Bronson did this cop with a vendetta thing many years ago and no-one like dit then. This film deserves no more of my time so there that is. Avoid.