Yes, I've seen a few movies in the last week or two, and here are my lightning quick reviews. Because, after all, who needs more in-depth film reviews when one or two sentences should let you know if you'll like it, right?
Plus, I don't have long...
Mayan civilization is rotten at it's core, and cannibalising itself for the sake of sacrifice and slavery. Our man in the country Jaguar Paw gets nabbed along with his buddies (after his village is destroyed), and taken to the city. He escapes. Cue jungle chase.
A lot of people say this film is nothing more than a pretty decent action movie, and that's certainly what it becomes. But Gibson does a good job of setting up the characters, particularly in giving time to the day in day out lives of the villagers. He even gives some lip-service depth to the main bastard, who probably could have cruised on pure nasty fucker charisma (or "fuckerisma" as I will now coin the term). So you do give a damn when things go to shit.
As for not really saying anything, Gibson is subtle like firecrackers in church; the first half does have more to say, and it's pretty blatant. Greed, class, consumerism, and, interestingly, organised religion are all getting the Mad Mel treatment, and it works fine. You, like Jaggy and his buddies, are disgusted at (historically inaccurate apparently - but how would I know really?) the corrupt heart of Mayan civilisation. And once his little soapbox is out of the way, we get one of the best jungle adventure matinee movies you ever saw, with quicksand, jaguar attack, spiky traps, snakebite, and waterfall action!
This is going on a little long. In short: not perfect, but very entertaining. Much better than the Jesus flick. And don't take the kiddies, because the gore is pretty strong. Bounce, bounce, bounce a head.
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
A compelling tale of the ruling days of Idi Amin. Told from the viewpoint of an overprivileged Scottish doctor who goes to Uganda in search of adventure, and becomes the right hand man to an increasingly crazy dictator. Handles the subtle shift in tone very well as Amin becomes more and more paranoid, and young Dr Garrigan gets further in over his head. Great performances (Whitaker will get and deserves an Oscar, for what it's worth), great direction, and yes, that is Agent Scully, continuing her smart reinvention as a quality British Actress
Oh, and Hugh Jackman impresses me more all the time.
Some people are saying that the ending kind of falls down when it is revealed who "Them" actually are. I say they need to put down the crack pipe of internet hype, and take up my competitively priced syringe of go with the flow.
Anyway, I thought Amores Perros was genius, so I was quite disappointed in 52 Grams, which on the whole left me rather cold. Very stylish, well acted and so on, but just a little too aloof and sterile for it's own good I thought. I was pleased, then, to find myself totally sucked into this world-spanning story of communication and lack thereof. Without exception, every performance is spot-on, and although the link from the Japanese end is a little tenuous, it all holds together very well. All the threads are involving, which is a nice change for this kind of multi-strand thing.
Okay! A bit scattershot, a bit rushed, but a bit like me really.
*Yes, that's right. I'm such a man of the world now, I can say "Them" in French!
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
So after pissing about with YouTube for a while and marvelling at how, in this day and age, we've so readily accepted and adopted such a shit quality of streaming media, I've been paying more attention to Google Video.
Not only do Google provide better quality video, but there's no annoying 10-minute time limit. * Therefore you can get full-length streaming video of all kindsa shit. Shit like this:
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Because if cute baby animals don't make you smile, your soul is shriveled and dying. And that's a fact, jack.
So here they come, some of our cute animal friends. They're gonna bang in your face!
And for all you cat lovers out there (I'm not one...):
How's that for a pleasant interlude?
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Saturday, January 20, 2007
So, notwithstanding the 6-year refinancing loan I just took out (goodbye overdraft and credit cards), the time is coming where I have to make some decisions about what to do once I leave the UK. The loan is a necessary evil, and if I can repay it early I will, but our ideal plan at the moment is this:
End of 2007 - Visit NZ, Australia & Thailand.
2008 - Visit South Africa.
End of 2009 - Leave UK.
I have mixed feelings about leaving. There are a number of things I'm tired of in London, and a number of lifestyle things I miss from home. Equally, however, I still love the diversity of activity London has to offer, and I've for all intents and purposes settled here and grown all the roots that might entail.
But other things are in the mix now. I'm in a steady long-term relationship with someone who is well and truly tired of London (having been here 11 years this year). The idea of kids looms on the horizon, and neither of us want to raise them here. And to be honest, somewhere with a nicer climate and more space really appeals.
So where the hell are we gonna go?
Not sure that I want to live there, but given it's Alex's home it does need consideration. And I should really give it a visit before ruling it out.
I'm not ready to go live there yet. But I am more open to the idea than I was even a year ago, so who knows where my mind will be in three years? There's certainly no place else in New Zealand I would rather live. But then I'm not sure if the weather would suit Alex.
Well, it's what we're currently talking about as a good compromise. A big city, but with a decent sense of character. At least that's what we're told. It's on the list for a visit during our trip.
I dunno, I'm still dithering a bit. The loan may mean that we just relocate in the UK for a few years first (perhaps Edinburgh, or Brighton, or maybe somewhere in Dorset or Cornwall). And then I still relish the idea of some time spent in Europe. Probably Spain, or maybe even Italy or South France.
Ahh, who knows. It's still a ways off anyhow, but it seems to be taking up an inordinate amount of my mental space at the moment.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Another Hammer classic crossed my screen last night. None other than Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter!
In case you've never been under it's beguiling spell, the synopsis is that ex-soldier Kronos and his hunchback henchman - the brains of the outfit - roam the English countryside hunting vampires. Kronos has an air of wounded mystique, the origins of which become apparent through the film (he went to war, he came back, his mother and sister had been turned into vampires, he killed them, he hunts vampires). This apparently makes him irresistible to the most attractive woman to grace the seventies (and my childhood - more on that later).
Anyway, a vampire is killing young women in the village of his old friend, Dr Somethingorother, by draining not their blood....but their YOUTH!
Anyway, the usual shenanigans ensue, with our anti-hero nonchalantly working his way to the heart - and the vampire - of the matter. And it's great fun, in the classic Hammer style (and not in the slightly shitty, cheap and nasty, barely better than soft core porn Hammer style).
Nonchalant, by the way, is my polite way of referring to the acting talents of Horst Janson, man of a thousand brow hairs. None of which move. Observe!
"Thank you, my faithful friend! You have fashioned a weapon with which to vanquish my enemy, while I have meditated with a cloth over my head in order to enhance my wounded mystique!"
"You truly are the most beautiful woman of the seventies. I am aroused."
"Now! In the heat of battle I use my secret weapon against you, my archenemy, in order to reflect your mesmeric gaze! My friend made this. While I did nothing."
"I kicked her ass!"
Cor blimey guv, it's only most beautiful woman of the seventies, and star of Andrew's adolescent fantasies*, CAROLINE MUNRO!
What she sees in that blonde fop I just don't know. Must be his wounded mystique.
Yes, yes, anyway, well worth tracking down and watching! Let the kid within you pretend it's Sunday night, 10pm, and that small montage that ends with the very image I have as my avatar lets you know that the Sunday Horrors are about to start.
(New Zealand reference there kiddies; there used to be a regular Sunday night horror movie slot where they played all kinds of classic stuff, including the Hammer flicks.)
* Her and Richelle McConkey (whose name I may have just misspelled). I say that without shame. Every guy had a crush on Richelle at some point or other.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Things You May Not Know About Andrew 2: Andrew loves old maps. Here's why:
I love the decorative nature of the old maps (generally done to please the patrons that early cartographers had to turn to for funding), and the insight they give to society's worldview at the time.
I see collecting old maps as my "wealthy middle aged man" hobby. I'll sip my brandy and smoke cigars in my study as I examine my print of Giacomo Gastaldi's 1546 "Universale".
So I watched the 60's Hammer remake of Quatermass & the Pit this afternoon, courtesy of Mr N Metcalfe.
If you don't know, it starts with the accidental uncovering of peculiar fossils and what is perhaps an unexploded bomb, leads onto revelations about alien genetic modification, and finally builds to a threat involving murderous telekinesis and hive-like genetic memory.
It's written by the recently late and very great Nigel Kneale, who was a master of the grounded style of science fiction and horror the British used to be (and sometimes still are) great at. This one feels like the good Dr Who episodes you remember from when you were a kid. The ones which were sci fi, but still had you shitting yourself and hiding behind the sofa.
So, on the whole, very much a thing of it's time in terms of production values and some of the supporting performances, but still very good, with a creepy premise, smart writing and solid performances from the leads. The real thing of note, however, is that it features some of the finest face pulling committed to film.
But the last gurn goes to Julian Glover, whose performance deserves a two-frame treatment...
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
Like your brain in a blender!
Like your heart on roller skates!
Like your eyes in a cocktail shaker!
Like your life in some kind of pointless game of chance, tumbling through space on a ball of matter to the greater universe as to you are the motes of dust in your carpet!
So I've started watching the first season of HBO's The Wire. It's a crime drama set in Baltimore with a sprawling cast that covers both sides of the law.
SEE! The private lives of the hard assed cops who work narcotics and homicide!
GASP! At the dog-eat-dog world of dealing drugs in the projects!
TITTER! At the scenes set in the seedy strip bar!
Actually, it may sound like I'm taking the piss, but I'm one episode in and really enjoying it so far. The quality of the writing is pretty sterling, with many of the characters already developing quite distinctive voices, and the structure is a bit of a marvel to behold, bouncing about from one thread to the next.
It's "gripping", "astounding", "daring" and "brilliant", so how can you resist? Plus it's HBO, so there's lots of swearing! A sure sign of a quality modern tv show.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you oblivious to your own industry's history? Are you so blinded by your sales figures that you've lost sight of what kind of shit put you in bankruptcy protection? Or what it was that clawed you out? Do you remember the '90's, Marvel Comics? The era where it seemed that every character had to become mean, gritty and horrifically violent in order to prove that comics weren't just for kids? That comics could be "adult"? And do you remember how the subsequent drop in quality as all the fun got sucked out, combined with a shitty speculator market fuelled by variants, damn near put a bullet in you once people woke up? If so, then can you tell me why you have taken this character:
And turned him into this?
In case you're unaware, gentle readers, the character formerly known as Speedball has (through the mechanations of the increasingly rubbish Civil War crossover currently going on in the Marvel universe) been transformed into the very adult sounding Penance. He must be adult, because he's all spiky, and presumably will pop your eyeball or something when he stops you mugging people in alleyways. Oh, except he has energy powers, so they don't really serve any purpose.
Speaking as someone who has spent nearly 12 years in comics retail, including the 90's implosion, I can confidently say that stuff like this is Bad News. Speaking as someone who has been reading comics for damn near his whole life, or indeed as someone with even the slightest intimation of taste about him, I can confidently say this is Crap.
Now, let me just say that I'm not opposed to the idea of superhero comics being a bit adult. I like to have superhero stuff as fun escapism, but if done well, there's a lot of potential for mature storytelling there. Brubaker's Daredevil is a perfect example: essentially a crime-noir which happens to be about a a guy in red tights. Err....which is much better than it sounds.
But this is something different. This is like a teenage boy awkwardly telling you about sexual conquests in order to earn your respect. Just a bit embarrassing.
But I'll leave the last word to Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada over at Newsarama, which really says it all:
NRAMA: So just so we understand correctly, not only will Penance be putting himself through agony every time he suits up and uses his powers, but he’ll also be slowing killing himself in the process?
JQ: Well, I’m not going to reveal everything for right now, but yes, that suit he wears is basically an Iron Maiden, so it’s going to hurt a lot and fans will know when it’s hurting, trust me.Nice.