I’ve been dipping out of Nu Who recently, skipping randomly between Eccleston, Tennant and Smith. It’s quite interesting to pit them against one another and one thing that’s apparent is how much fonder I’ve grown of Matt Smith and Chris Eccleston’s depictions, at the expense of Tennant. In fact, the more I rewatch Nine, the more love I feel. Eccleston’s Doctor is endearing, but he’s got that intensity as an actor that’s missing from Tennant’s run. (Of course, John Barrowman complained that he was too intense, but, well, fuck you Barrowman. It’s an acting gig, not a social club.) When Tennant’s called on to be intense and angry, he does that whole “Oh nonononono,” head-shakey thing and then gets all SHOUTY, like a puffer fish. But when Nine goes that route I really believe he’s going to kick some bottom.
It’s not entirely Tennant’s performance though. Eccleston had some stronger material to work with, the first series of rebooted Who didn’t rely on SUPER-DOCTOR! so often, with the character pulling new abilities out of his bum every other week and he was paired with a likable version of Rose, as opposed to the rather smug and selfish character she later became.
But, yeah, Eccleston. He’s still not my favourite Doctor by some margin, but he’s definitely overtaken Tennant on rewatches, who’s slipping down into the Colin Baker and John Pertwee zone the more I rewatch his episodes. Nine, on the other hand, has been growing on me over time. He’s endearingly goofy a lot of the time - proving that Eccleston could do silly and fun, which is why he apparently took the role - but when he does get serious, he’s superb.
Also, I may never forgive Ten for what he did to Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North, Prime Minister and Former Prime Minister.
Just finished watching Winter's Bone, which I've been meaning to catch ever since I heard the glowing reviews coming out of last year's Sundance Film Festival. (Where it won the Grand Jury Prize for best Dramatic Film.)
The film was written and directed by Debra Granik, and stars Jennifer Lawrence as the 17 year old Ozark teenager responsible for raising her two younger siblings when their impoverished family is seemingly abandoned by their meth-dealing father when he skips out on bail. When she discovers that he put the family home up as his bail bond and if he doesn't return to face trail they'll lose the house, she determines to track him down. The story follows her as she perseveres to find out her father's fate, despite the obstacles put in her path by the local criminals, family and law alike.
Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding as Ree Dolly, the major protagonist of the film, who faces the hillybilly-gangster world unflinchingly, refusing to step aside despite the white-trash nightmare world she's entering. Everyone she encounters seems to be kin of some kind and each more determined than the last to place obstacles in her way to stop her from learning the truth. It's stark and unrelenting, but Ree Dolly's moral center, intelligence and her courage in the face of the violent world she's entering make her an understated feminist lead.
Likewise is essentially a crime thriller is played through the lens of downbeat Orzak scenery in place of the more familiar surroundings of urban sprawl, which makes the film that much more unique. The story itself is, perhaps, not fresh. But the presentation - all backwater grime in the Orzak woods, drained of life and color - presents the poverty, both moral and literal, of the world unflinchingly and without sentiment. It's Arkansas Noir.
Did finally watch this movie over the holidays. And while I wasn't as enamoured of it as the majority of critics seem to be (trending 98% on Rotten Tomatoes to Toy Story 3's 99%), I did find it an enjoyable ride and certainly a huge step above the standard Dreamwidth's animation studios have usually been attaining in general.
The story wasn't groundbreaking and certainly not on a par with Toy Story 3 for making you feel the whole gamut of human emotion (I still consider TS3 the best movie of last year and one of the best movies of all time, animated or not) but the movie was definitely entertaining and endearing. And the animation was also a step above Dreamwork's norm (although the backgrounds and landscapes were so lovingly rendered in exquisite realistic detail than the more stylized central characters occasionally looked at odds with them). It's just a little bit of a shame that the supporting characters weren't so defined and, as seems to be commonplace in Dreamworks flicks, I walked away not actually remembering the names of any of the characters outside of Astrid, Toothless and Hiccup, whereas even with minor characters like Slink or Rex in the Toy Story movies, their names are reiterated enough to stick in the mind. A little thing, I know, but the little things make the difference between a good movie and a great one.
Anyway, good fun and definitely a good choice as a Christmas present for my nephew who was hooked on the whole thing.
I finished (re)watching Elizabeth R last night. It's always a pleasure to watch older British TV adaptations and dramatizations. They genuinely don't make them like that any more. Will there ever be a better Claudius than Derek Jacobi? A better Miss Marple than Joan Hickson? A better Sherlock Holmes than Jeremy Brett? It's doubtful.
So, in my mind, Dame Glenda Jackson will always be the definitive Elizabeth. She's picked up a couple of Academy Awards in her time, been a forthright politician, and was such a good match for the role of Elizabeth I she played her on the small screen in Elizabeth R and also on the big screen in Mary, Queen of Scots. She is, in brief, utterly, seemingly effortlessly, spellbindingly magnificent.
Elizabeth R is, of course, the BBC dramatization of the life of Elizabeth I. Six feature length episodes depict significant events in her life. Her ascension to the throne; her love affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; her forays towards political marriage; the conspiracies and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots; the Spanish Armada; and her relationship with the Earl of Essex and death. Unlike the movies starring Cate Blanchett, (who was, admittedly, fantastic in the role too), Elizabeth R is rich in historical detail. The supporting cast equally bring other figures from Elizabeth's court to life - Robert Hardy's a playful, bullish Dudley, Ronald Hines and Stephen Murray impressive as Burghley and Walsingham.
It's Michael Williams as the Duc d'Alencon who I love the most, though. He's only in one episode, but he's such a lovable rogue, he perfectly depicts Elizabeth's happy "frog".
The production quality's a bit dated and it's notable that all the big battle scenes take place off-screen, but the costuming and sets still look rich and sumptuous and sometimes the relatively low budget's a strength rather than a weakness, meaning the characters are the focus, not the big events. There's a lovely moment, for example, where Elizabeth's rousing speech at Tilbury in preparation for invasion by the Armada ("I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too") is seen from the perspective of two of the common soldiery, with their commentary and asides.
If you've never seen it and are interested in the life and character of Elizabeth, I can't recommend it highly enough.
And it seems like the whole thing is up on Youtube. So, no excuses there.
Just wrapped up reading Volume 2 of Scott Pilgrim. More enjoyable than the first volume for me and it's nice seeing the characters start to develop and come into their own. Knives, Kim, Wallace and Stacey are still who I'm reading for, but I was pleased to find myself warming to Ramona after a rather underdeveloped role in the first volume. She's definitely growing on me and I even like her - something never clicked with the movie's take on the character. I guess she was meant to be deadpan, but it seemed more bland, whereas in this volume she's got a lot more personality to her and doesn't just exist in Scott's orbit.
Scott, however... Well, yeah, I get that he's not necessarily supposed to be a good person in the early volumes, but I spent most of my time reading his scenes and reactions and just shaking my head and thinking "what an asshole." I don't think he's a hipster or epitomizes jerk nerds, I just think he's a total jackass. And, much as I wish it didn't, it does dull my enjoyment of the book somewhat. While the supporting cast and quirkiness of the book, and the setting itself, are attractive, it just takes the edge off it when Scott's around. I'll actually give credit to Cera for making Scott whiny and self-absorbed but likable in the movie, whereas I spend most of the panel time with Scott in the comic gritting my teeth.
But it's a pleasurable read otherwise, with everything else about the book being attractive and I'm definitely hooked and looking forwards to seeing what happens to the characters next. Apparently they tried to deliver the next three volumes today, but as I'm currently snowbound, I doubt I'll be able to pick them up from the post office for a few days.
Started reading Scott Pilgrim last night, this time with a vengeance.
I've been sat on the first two volumes for some months now. I started reading them at the time and sorta drifted away half way through the first volume.
It took seeing the movie when it came out to make it click for me. Seeing the comics translated in that way has bridged the gap where I wasn't quite getting the books or their appeal. Reading the first volume initially I just didn't care for the central characters of their situations. I'd go as far as to say I actively disliked Scott. It was only when I saw the movie that it clicked that I wasn't necessarily supposed to like him or his "precious little life". And the first volume doesn’t really do much to develop Ramona beyond suggesting she was destined to fulfill the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype in the series, whereas she stands as a character in her own right in the movie (and presumably later volumes).
But, it's a stepping stone to what's to come and while I found the first volume a far easier read after having the background of the movie to set it against, I still can't say I liked/loved it, but I can see as the books and characters develop I will (which is a click I was missing before). The supporting cast still give the main pleasure while the more expanded universe of the book lacks the movie's frenetic energy. But it did draw me in better, to the point where I've just ordered the remaining volumes and intend to tackle Volume 2 this evening.
I may not love this series as much as some of my other friends yet, but I'm certainly set to like it.
I was very late coming to Harry Potter and only read the books and saw the movies last year, after much resistance. Nonetheless, I enjoyed them well enough, although I've never clicked with them in the same way as pretty much everyone else I seem to come across. Perhaps because I didn't grow up with the books in the same way as younger readers did. But anyway, I did sneak out and watch the movie this afternoon. I did a mass watch of all the movies last year and reviewed them at the time, so I thought I'd better include this one in the list. Although, I admit, I was curious to see it anyway. The Harry Potter movies attract dream casts, if nothing else.
So, thoughts under the cut, including some spoilers.
Here's something I've never seen. The original ending of Little Shop of Horrors has been dug up from the rare Special Edition (withdrawn after producer David Geffen protested this material's inclusion) and made its way onto Youtube. Sadly, the colour prints of the original ending were destroyed in a studio fire, so the black and white work print is all that remains.
It's easy to see why it wasn't popular with test audiences and was changed. Yes, I know that it's closer, if not identical, to the stage version of the musical, but the ending is by far and away my least favorite part of that.
The last part does include Don't Feed The Plants, with a fantastic B-movie styled visuals, though, which I do think was a shame to lose, so it's nice to see it finally. Apparently the sequence cost $5m to produce using various miniatures and paying tribute to movies like King Kong and War of the Worlds, amongst others. But, as Frank Oz commented after it was cut: "In a stage play, you kill the leads and they come out for a bow — in a movie, they don't come out for a bow, they're dead. And the audience loved those people, and they hated us for it."
It's been a rather backwards-looking season at the movies and after a summer that's given us The Expendables, The A-Team and Predators, it's Bruce Willis' turn to step up to the plate and into his old shoes as the action hero of the day.
Okay, so Bruce did that a little while back with another Die Hard sequel, but RED is the action movie that's left to stand on its own two feet. Of course, it's not just Willis' show. He's the central character, but the plot, loosely based on the Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner comics and revolving around a group of retired CIA and secret service agents who suddenly find themselves on a hit list, gives a chance for other actors... of a certain age to join in the fun. The posters make much of Willis' co-stars being John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Dame Helen Mirren, but Richard Dreyfuss and Brian Cox are also along for the ride, the latter rather poorly served by the publicity as he's every bit as essential a character as Freeman, if not more so.
And what a joy to see Ernest Borgnine. In a supporting role, perhaps, as his screentime doesn't add up to much, but he's a genuine screen legend.
So, a world-beating cast, then, but how does the movie stand up against the other nostalgic flicks of the summer?
An Education did well at this years' Oscars and it's easy to see why. A coming-of-age story set in the early 60s, the movie benefits from the glamour of that era, strong, charismatic performances, a simplistic, but appealing story and a sparkling screenplay, adapting Lynn Barber's memoirs, by author Nick Hornby. The end result is a movie that's charmingly old-fashioned, harping back to the kitchen sink dramas of 1960s British cinema, and which effortlessly draws you in.
The story is rather straightforward. Carey Mulligan plays Jenny, a seemingly worldly-wise and undoubtedly intelligent 16 year old girl who is studying hard to pass the entry examinations for Oxford, pushed on by her ambitious father (Alfred Molina). Then she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), nearly twice her age, charmingly seductive, who introduces her into a more exciting and glamorous world.
If you're a fan of Mad Men, there's a huge amount to enjoy here too. The period detailing, from the attitudes to the outfits, is fantastic. There's a real glamour throughout as Jenny is introduced to a more exciting world of jazz clubs and fine dining, of glamorous clothes and glamorous people, by David and his two friends, played by Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike. It'd spoil the movie to say too much, but the juxtaposition between this world and the more dowdy world of academia, represented by Jenny's teachers, in the shape of Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams, is pivotal.
During a fairly dry patch for British film making, where every movie seems to want to be the Next Four Weddings or Full Monty, even after a decade or so of water treading, to has to be said that Made in Dagenham doesn't bring a whole lot new to the table.
What it does do, however, is take a nearly forgotten moment in British grass roots politics, which advanced equality for women globally, and dramatize it near impeccably with a startling good cast of polished British character actors (with the emphasis on actresses).
Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole brings together the cast, which tells of the 187 women machinists at the Ford plant in 1968 Dagenham who saw their pay scale reclassified to unskilled labour. They decided to make a stand, snowballing from the pay dispute to a much larger issue - legislation for equal pay for women nationwide, and, as the ripples of the strike action was felt in Whitehall and beyond, worldwide.
Sally Hawkins plays Rita O’Grady, the catalyst for the strike action, encouraged by sympathetic union representative Bob Hoskins and her fellow workers - at least the female ones, as sympathy drained when it became clear that the women's rights might come at the expense of male workers too. She's the impressive core of the movie, around which other established character actors revolve. There's not a duff performance to be seen from Geraldine James, Richard Schiff, Jamie Winstone, Daniel Mays, Roger Lloyd Pack, Rupert Graves, Andrea Riseborough, Rosamund Pike, Phil Cornwall and many others.
And, as the kitchen sink drama starts to spill onto a larger stage, Miranda Richardson is utterly magnificent as Barbara Castle, then Secretary of State for Employment, who was instrumental in forcing through the bill that made it illegal to have different pay rates for men and women. It's both a tribute to the firey politician and a masterful performance. And John Sessions pops up to give an uncanny and gently mocking impression of then Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
A special shout out, too, to Kenneth Cranham, who's brilliant as a self-serving and unsympathetic Union leader.
But it's Sally Hawkins' performance that's at the heart of the movie and she's fantastic as the shy factor worker who finds her voice, empowerment and courage to stand by her convictions to lead the crusade that became synonymous with equal rights.
While the movie doesn't exactly delve deeply into the politics of it all beyond the basics and plays a few archetypes instead of fully rounded characters, the decidedly feminist script still sparkles, the performances are outstanding, the period detailing and soundtrack marvelous and the direction tight. While not mold breaking, like the original striking workers were, the movie is funny and affecting but also exceptionally uplifting, if veering a little close to being too sanitized as the real figures at the heart of the action are replaced by glamorized versions (which the trailer rather shamelessly plays up to). That said, it's not anything genuinely new or unexpected, but equally as effecting and enjoyable as Calendar Girls, The Queen, Brassed Off, Billy Elliot or The Full Monty managed to be and that, in itself, is to be applauded.
I'm genuinely heartbroken to hear of the death of veteran comic Sir Norman Wisdom, star of film, Broadway, composer, singer, clown and a wonderfully silly, funny man. He was 95, but one of those people who, through sheer likeability and a seemingly endless, infectious energy for life you expected to live forever. He only announced his retirement from show business on his 90th birthday and, despite that, was performing right up until 2008, despite his the onset of dementia. He must have been well into his sixties when I saw him as a child and he was a bundle of energy then, still doing pratfalls and his own brand of physical comedy.
I think you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who'll say a bad word about him tonight - he appears to have been adored by everyone he worked with and friends he made, up to and including the royal family. Although he may not have made friends during his stint in the army during WWII when, after he was disciplined for calling Winston Churchill 'Winnie' on one of the occasions they met. He worked tirelessly for many charities throughout his life. The slapstick films he made in the 50s and 60s led to Charlie Chaplin calling him "my favourite clown".
He even wrote the lyrics to (There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover, which, by itself would be an incredible contribution to British culture.
And not just Britain. Wisdom was a god in Albania, where he was the only Western actor whose movies were allowed into the country during the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and took his cult status with typical good humour.
So, not just a national treasure, then, but an international one.
Rest in peace, Sir Norman. You truly were one of a kind.
Chris Morris' new comedy comes from a dark place. Four Lions tells the story of five unlikely British jihadists with abstract dreams of glory, bent on becoming suicide bombers and creating mayhem at the London Marathon. Not exactly the standard route for comedy you might think, and you'd be right.
Chris Morris is one of Britain's most savage satirists, if not the most savage. His expose and satire of the media's obsession with pedophiles in the Brass Eye pedophile special earned him notoriety – rightly so. His humor is both deeply funny and deeply, deeply uncomfortable.
So, when he turned his eye towards jihadists following the 7/7 London bombings, there was a definite discomfort. Chris Morris started to do meticulous research into modern jihadism. He apparently read the story of five jihadists planning to ram a US warship. They packed their launch with explosives and stepped in. It sank. This was apparently the real life inspiration behind Four Lions.
Morris said: "I had a press card and watched the Bluewater trial and got to hear a lot of MI5 surveillance tapes of the suspects, and you start to realise these people are klutzing around in a very average way - like men at stag parties or five-a-side football. Everyone reporting on it knew it was like The Keystone Cops. The police thought it was funny and would sometimes surreptitiously play the funniest bits of their material to the journalists. There were loads of surveillance tapes that cruelly exposed very average conversation."
The end result of this research is a movie that has been described as the War on Terror's Dr. Strangelove. To describe it as uncomfortable viewing is understating it. But with fear considered the jihadists' greatest weapon, the movie strips that away and make them figures of fun and even sympathy, in an intelligent way. Ridicule has often been the best response to terror and that's partly what is presented here, as well as humanizing the people who, perhaps inexplicably to many, decide to strap explosives to themselves and end lives.
A lot has been said about Scott Pilgrim. At times over the past few weeks it's seemed like there are more opinions being tossed around than people who have actually seen the damn film, and that's probably not far from the truth. So I figured I'd go and decide for myself.
The truth is, it's not a movie I was particularly looking forward to seeing. The good word of mouth and the pedigree of the people behind the film persuaded me to give it a try, but the trailer suggested a horrible "Dude, Where's My Car?"-esque experience to come. Thankfully the trailer was deceptive, but I suspect it probably had plenty to do with turning off people who had no clue about the source material. If I hadn't had a bunch of friends raving about it, you wouldn't have caught me dead going to this one. A movie where a slacker dick has to fight a bunch of evil exes in a video game style to win the alternative princess? No thanks.
And I would have missed out. Scott Pilgrim's a fun, funny and engaging experience. Is it a nerd film? Well, certainly it's a video game nerd film. I wouldn't have classed it as a particularly geeky movie otherwise. Scott Pilgrim in the movie's a slacker, but not a geek. He plays in a grunge band, has a girlfriend who worships the ground he walks on. Of course, Edgar Wright, the movie's director, is a huge geek, as Spaced proved, but the movie seems more clearly focussed towards the video game nerd than the indiscriminate approach of that show, although other influences creep in.
Not having read the comic book series it's based on, (I have the first two volumes but have yet to pick them up), I'm not entirely sure what to make of the central characters. Presumably they're a little more fleshed out in the comics, but as the movie opened I found Scott (Michael Cera) to be a self-pitying, slacker jerk with a Asian schoolgirl fetish and a basic lack in interest and respect for others. That opinion didn't really change throughout the movie. (Although Cera was actually more appealing than I expected.) Likewise, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) never seemed to be a character at all, just a trophy for Scott to attain. Deadpan and mysterious translated as bland and uninteresting for me. So, if the two paper-thin, souless central characters and the chemistry-less core relationship of the movie held no interest for me, what did?
Really, the main reason to see the movie is the supporting performers. There's not really a weak character in the bunch and everyone seems to be having enormous fun at what they do. A lot of column time seems to be going to Kieran Culkin as Wallace, and deservedly so. He has some great lines, puts in a wonderfully arch performance and it's refreshing to see the "gay best friend" trope presented without dropping into offensive stereotype or cliche territory. But by no means does Culkin steal the movie. Each of the ex's brings something wonderful to the show. Satya Bhabha is hillarious as Matthew Patel. Chris Evans totally steals the movie... for the ten minutes he's in it as film star Lucas Lee, until Brandon Routh skips in to play the evil vegan with special vegan powers. Jason Schwartzman is gloriously hammy and funny as all hell in his role as the final ex. Likewise, Alison Pill, Anna Kendrick, Mark Webber and others all pop up as well defined supporting characters you'll probably end up wanting to see more of. And special mention to Ellen Wong, who's kind of a revelation - brilliant and funny and touching as Knives Cho (Aged 17).
The plot itself is pretty slight, mostly a hook for the great characters and amazing visuals to hang on. In terms of style and direction, the movie excels, capturing the frenetic video game visuals and comic book panelling with great aplomb. The movie totally commits to that energetic style, whirlwind visuals and the genius is in the detail. There's so much humor in the direction, editing and look of the movie, as well as the performances. It's probably the closest Hollywood cinema will come to the slapstick genius of Stephen Chow. And you quickly realize you just have to go with the flow of the bizarre plot and have fun with it. And you do.
I left the cinema with a smile on my face. At the end of the experience, whether Ramona and Scott are characters I cared about doesn't matter. Because it's the ride that's the fun part and the people you meet along the way, not who's in the carriage with you.
So, The Expendables. What to say about this movie? Most of it people will already know. Sylvester Stallone stars, writes and directs and obviously called in a few favors from friends to join the cast.
Wesley Snipes, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Danny Trejo sadly didn't make the party as was originally intended, but the cast still includes the bulgingest muscularist cast assembled, bursting with testosterone and machismo - Stallone himself, along with Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, David Zayas, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Eric Roberts and Gary Daniels. And, of course, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in cameo roles.
The screen's too small to contain all the bulging biceps, tattoos, gold teeth, cowboy hats, motorbikes, guns and fuck off, great big shiny knives. Yes, once the movie starts rolling, the only way they could convey sheer manliness any more is by Stallone waving his hairy bollocks in front of the camera.
Yeah, my experimentations with integrating Tumblr and Livejournal seamlessly together seem doomed to failure.
Mostly I've been trying to set up a dual system because I find I'm increasingly using Twitter and Tumblr for general updates. Since going Friends Only here, I've been internally re-designating this journal as more like my own personal space, where I talk about stuff that's been going on in my life, along with Twitter being for general commentary that I only want to share with specific people, rather than the whole world.
Tumblr's evolved into the space I use for other stuff - the non-personal stuff which is just link dumps, videos, pictures I like, etc etc, which I look to share with everyone. (Whether they want me to or not, probably.) But it'd be nice to integrate both personal and general bollocks under one roof.
I have discovered Posterous.com, which is a neat tool to crosspost blog entries across multiple platforms - so it will post content to Livejournal, Twitter, Tumblr, Wordpress, Facebook etc with one click, which is extremely useful. It's not seamless, however, and embedding video and pictures isn't as intuitive as Tumblr's own posting styles. I've been experimenting a little with the last few entries, as you may have noticed.
But, I think I'll most likely just scrap the idea of an integrated Tumblr and Livejournal. Instead, if you do wish to follow my Tumblr updates, they'll continue to appear as plain text links in my Twitter updates and also as full entries on a separate syndicated account that you can just add as a friend in the usual way here: angelophile_tum
Syndication appears to be a little spotty so far, with entries appearing out of order, but fingers crossed that'll clear up.
Of course, all this is probably something people have no interest in at all - I barely have any followers on Tumblr as it is. (But then, I don't follow that many people either - it's trier to keep up with than LJ, I find). But nonetheless, there's various ways of stalking following my activities, if you wish to do so.
Not sure if it's wanted or not, but I'm trying to set up, via a convoluted method and Feedburner, a way to get my Tumblr posting to Livejournal as well in a similar way to the Twitter feed. But I'm not sure whether it's going to work, or work how I want it to, so consider today a trial.
I've been increasingly using Tumblr over the past few weeks and I'm usually obsessed with getting everything all under one roof, so to speak, so Tumblr, Livejournal and Twitter are all integrated. Of course, the other way to do it would be to create a separate account for my Tumblr feed. Say, like this as angelophile_tum, which people could subscribe to. But my obsessive compulsiveness wishes that there were a way to automatically crosspost from Tumblr to my LJ (as there is vice versa) or feed RSS directly into my existing Livejournal instead of creating a new RSS feed for it.
Although, what would people prefer? The separate RSS feed that can be syndicated through a Friends list? Or an email digest feeding directly into this journal? I guess the former gives everyone the choice of whether to read Tumblr stuff rather than have it foisted upon you. Plus it shows (or should show) individual posts rather than the digest format.
ETA: Complete failure with the email experiment, so that means the syndicated journal is the way to go. SO! If you do want to read the content of my Tumblr here on Livejournal, that's the way to go. It should all be up and running now.
I've been going to the movies and watching recent DVDs more than normal lately, but I'm aware I've not kept up with writing full reviews for anything. So, I'm going to skip through three reviews in one post and try and keep them more to soundbites than the usual in depth ranting I usually do.
There seems to be a revival in Hollywood at the moment of the big, dumb action flick. We've got The Expendables out this week, Predators earlier in the summer and the A-Team, which slinked into UK cinemas a little later than the US. However, like Predators, it successfully recreates that bygone, cheesy age where an action movie meant lots of crap blowing up, while stereotypes ran around spouting corny dialogue. For me, personally, that's the best approach to an action movie, rather than the CGI heavy , shakey cam, Michael Bay school of movie making.
The A-Team doesn't try to attain any height higher than completely stupid and is all the better for it. Liam Neeson looks uncomfortable throughout (somewhat surprisingly, because as a movie it should cause less embarrassment than The Phantom Menace), but the rest of the cast genuinely appear to be enjoying themselves. Quinton Jackson's no actor, but fills Mr. T's large shoes admirably regardless and Bradley Cooper is obviously having a ball as Face. It's District 9's Sharlto Copley who really steals the show, however, making Howling Mad Murdock even more entertainingly unhinged than the original show.
Aside from the performances, the plotting's straightforward and just gives an excuse for action sequences - each more gloriously overblown than the last - to be strung together. It tips a little too far into ridiculousness for the finale - no mean feat considering an earlier sequence involving a flying tank - but there's still plenty to enjoy. It's loud, dumb, brash, utterly over the top and vulgar and it's not the kind of movie you'd take home to meet the parents, but for a fun night out where you wake up the next day wondering where in the heck you got that traffic cone, it's perfect.
Toy Story 3
Currently ranked at 99% at Rotten Tomatoes, it's not hard to see why. Toy Story 3 has everything going it and is a hair's width from being the perfect family movie. I'm trying desperately to think of some flaw which would make it seem like I'm not simply bowing down before the false idol of Pixar, but I'm coming up blank. It's one of those very rare sequels which surpasses the original and may well be the most rounded and entertaining of all the Pixar movies, which is no mean feat.
Pixar are pretty much the textbook example of family filmmakers - they don't talk down to kids or adults - and there's no doubt that Toy Story 3 is an emotional rollercoaster. If you have any sympathy or fondness for the characters, be prepared to have your heartstrings not just tugged, but yanked firmly. Make no mistake, there's some real depths of emotion here - a kid in the cinema behind be was sobbing their guts during a couple of scenes and obviously deeply affected - and even my lower lip was wobbling plenty. But there's utter joy as well and the movie contains some of the funniest scenes of any movie in recent years. Inventive, mature, hilarious, thrilling, witty, scary, deeply moving... Pixar have done it again.
Pixar's greatest achievement is where the action is supposed to make you laugh and break your heart at the same time. The fact that they accomplish that near impossible feat deserves love and applause.
Too many brilliant moments to mention and the cast is, as always, pitch perfect, but special credit to Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton (who actually comes close to stealing the show as Ken), Javier Fernández-Peña (who does steal the show), Timothy Dalton, Jodi Benson, Kristen Schaal and others for effortlessly slipping into the Toy Story world.
Plus, you’ve got to love any film that uses the phrase ‘death by monkeys’.
To paraphrase Lord Melchett "this movie twists and turns like a twisty turny thing." The 50s period movie very much plays on the surprise twists and shocking plot turns and more red herrings than an Agatha Christie novel as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are sent to an island which houses an insane asylum to investigate the escape of one of its inmates. What follows is a story (loosely) that reminds me very much of The Wicker Man - very much all atmosphere and the central character's search for the truth of the disappearance hindered by the enigmatic inhabitants of the island.
In that, it does the gothic horror conventions proud - rich in atmosphere, all communication with the mainland disrupted by a hurricane hitting the island, sinister doctors and inmates alike. The high profile and hard hitting supporting cast (Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Ted Levine, Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Haley) add to the gravitas. It's a fascinating exercise in film making art from Scorsese - beautifully shot, rich in atmosphere, claustrophobic, tense, tightly performed, intelligently scripted - but when the final reel rolls, that's what you remember, over being entertained. I think the best description I can come up with is "engaging, but not necessarily entertaining". As another review put it, "It would be more enjoyable if you could take out your brain and experience it only with eyes and ears."
That said, the story draws you in from the first and, while it would have benefitted from losing at least 20 minutes off the running time and one subplot, it's never boring and does an effective job drawing you in. Although the soundtrack was atmospheric, but a little intrusive. After the third or fourth time the soundtrack has built to an overpowering, ominous crescendo only for nothing to happen, you start to feel a little bit like it's the soundtrack that cried wolf. Equally intrusive are the occasional exposition dumps as supporting actors wander in to deliver a chunk of exposition, then wander off again, which means the stop-start feel of the movie is enhanced.
But even then, it's still an interesting exercise in mashing as many clichés of the gothic thriller and police procedural genres into one movie as possible. You do sense that Scorsese enjoyed the challenge and playing on convention, but it may well split the audience as to whether that enjoyment rubs off on them.