Friday, 31 August 2007
Who doesn't love Johnny Cash? Besides his father? And who wouldn't want to see a movie about him, as played by Commodus from Gladiator? He's terribly vexed, you know! And he has a decent voice -- okay, he can't pull off Cash's voice, which is a bit of a hindrance, since he had the most distinctive drawl this side of Vincent Price, but though the tone is higher, he has the same resonant quality. It's not an impersonation, but he gets the spirit of it.
We decided to finally watch Walk the Line because Walk Hard is coming out soon, and we wanted to get the most out of the jokes. It wasn't a painful task -- it's a pretty standard biopic, charting Cash's poverty (spills!), rise (thrills!), and fall (pills!), complete with screaming harridan wife (Ginnifer Goodwin, before Big Love), screaming ungrateful children (Thing 1 and Thing 2), and enough barbiturates to make Steve Coogan cry like a little girl. Along the way, Cash bumps into notable figures like Sam Phillips and Elvis -- a bored-looking actor named Tyler Hilton (obviously David Morrisey was the man for the job, not this chump [this will make more sense after AdmiralNeck posts his Reaping review]).
But what's most notable about the movie is Johnny's approach to seduction: an unusual flirtation that I believe is commonly known as "stalking." He meets June Carter (ably played by Reese Witherspoon, who, surprisingly, has a great voice) when he's still in his miserable marriage to the wife from every movie about a man who's so obsessed with his career that he doesn't bother to learn his alternately sad-eyed and shrill (insert where appropriate) children's names. (Every time Johnny saw his children bounding up to him with demands for new shiny objects, I half-expected him to lean over and slur, "And just who the fuck are you? Talk to my manager, asshole.") Anyway, this wife is predictably horrible, using most of her screentime to find new ways to say, "Fuck you, Johnny Cash, with your layabout ways. Now where is my gold card..." Of course, June Carter, with her Pepsodent grin and plucky stage banter, looks like an angel comparatively. She is polite to Johnny and talks to him a few times, which he takes to mean that she is his soulmate (even though she's married to a succession of losers -- spoiler alert?).
Then June makes the mistake of having sex with him, and after that, the stalking comes out in full force. A typical conversation:
Johnny: Marry me, June.
June: Leave me alone, I'm on the toilet!
Johnny: June, I gotta have you now.
June: Will you please get out of here? This is making me very uncomfortable.
Johnny: Just tell me you'll be my wife. I love you and you love me. I know it because you still talked to me after we had sex!
June: I don't love you. I'm married! Please stop licking my toothbrush and get out of the bathroom.
Johnny: You know you love me, June.
June: I really, really don't love you!
June: Wake up! You're high again! This is embarrassing!
Johnny: Bzzt. Dad? I didn't kill my brother with a rotating saw, I swear!
June: Johnny...please get out.
Johnny: ::getting angry:: Fine! But not before I rip this sink out of the wall for no reason! BLLYYEARGH!
June: I'm calling the police.
Johnny: Don't worry about the sink, it's just resting. We'll talk about our engagement after you've flushed. Watch out for those giant swirly toads in the bathtub, though. I don't like the look of 'em.
Et cetera. I was really surprised that their, um, courtship was portrayed like that in the movie -- I'm no expert on Cash's life, though, so I don't know how accurate it is (for once I hope it is inaccurate). And their on-stage engagement is just as creepy! Look!
Her obvious distress and desperate attempts to change the subject are making me swoon! Apparently Cash did propose to June onstage, but could it have been that gross? How romantic -- love through belligerence! I know a lot of romcoms are based on this idea, that persistent stalking is actually really romantic, but it doesn't make it any less creepy (see also: latent-serial-killer Danny stalking Jordan on Studio 60, until he wins her over so completely that she forgets that she was ever annoyed or humiliated by his attention and thinks she always loved him).
Anyway, none of this is as important as the real reason for this post. I give you: WALK HARD!
ETA: AdmiralNeck reminded me of one of the more risible scenes in the movie that I forgot to mention: the scene in which June comes up with some lyrics. Sitting in a car, wrestling with her feeling(s?) for Johnny, she moans, "It burns...it burns...it burns!" Then we get a shot of her thinking, essentially, "Heeeeey, waaaaiittt a minute...burns like some kind of...ovoid...wait, I'm thinking of it...square of lead? Octagon of hate? Rhombus of cheese? I'll get it any minute now..." Ugh, it's awful.
Oh, and I've also updated the proposal scene to a longer clip -- one in which we see the full force of Joaquin Phoenix's scary laser eyes. He needs to play a serial killer before he becomes one.
You got what you wanted, didn't you, Coogan. Became a big name in Hollywood. Big for someone who plays a useless old sports presenter on BBC2 with that stupid catchphrase, that is. Got to sleep with a big celebrity with a history of messed-up behaviour, lots of publicity for both of you. You didn't realise she was clean though, unlike you. You're still doing drugs, but she's stopped. She's got a kid growing up, and she doesn't want her to get messed up. But that wasn't enough. You had to take someone down. Cuz that's the way you think, that's what makes your mind tick. Like an evil clock ticking evilly.
So you work with Owen Wilson, and he falls into your trap. Cuz you're like a spider, a heartless spider sitting in a web of drugs and lies. You take drugs. He takes drugs. You lie and he believes you. His girlfriend leaves him, and things get bad. Real bad. And you don't care, do you. Because you feed off it. Like a vampire/spider hybrid sitting in a web of drugs, feeding on bad psychic energy, and ticking like an evil clock. With a stupid catchphrase.
It was you, wasn't it. It was you who pushed him to it, wasn't it you son-of-a-bitch! You got high, and he got high, and he paid the price, didn't he!!! DIDN'T HE, YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH!!!!!!
And now I'm stuck in your mindset, just like the time I took down that psycho Lecter. If I'm gonna get you out, I have to take you down. I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to phone a friend of Owen's, someone you worked with once, in that stupid movie no one watched. You know, the Jules Verne film that everyone hated and made no money. This friend, he's going to be mad. You already know, you don't want to get this guy mad. Because he's Jackie Goddamn Chan.
Man, I loved those guys in that movie. The Singin' In The Rain fight scene, the eel-in-the-pants joke, the way Owen keeps being mean to Charlie Chaplin... I could watch that all day long.
[In background, voice heard asking if Graham is alright]
Yeah honey, everything's alright now. Everything's going to be just fine.
::Cue "Heartbeat" by Red 7::
The moral of this story is, don't mess with FBI Special Agent Will Graham. He always gets his man. Get well soon, Owen Wilson.
[Inspired by absurd and scurrilous gossip, Thomas Harris' Red Dragon, Michael Mann's Manhunter, and the ravings of Masticator and Canyon]
Thursday, 30 August 2007
The original Omen isn't that great a movie, but it is a lot of fun, and was directed with an entertaining OTT conviction by Richard Donner. The remake, on the other hand, is utterly flavourless and pointless. Other than the rubbernecking attraction of seeing Mia Farrow play a crazy nanny (she's very convincing), there is nothing to recommend. It doesn't help that it features the two most adenoidal actors on the big screen, Liev Schrieber and David Thewlis. Their scenes together sounded less like exposition-heavy blithering about Revelations and more like two adjacent hornet's nests exchanging hostilities.
I'm not a fan of either actor, finding them to be deeply unwatchable, what with their numerous acting tics, relentless nasality, and humourless approach to their craft (though Schreiber did a lot to erase that image with a brilliant appearance on Conan O'Brien taking the piss out of Studio 60. I'd link to it but Satan himself took it off YouTube). The film also erased any good will The Bourne Ultimatum had generated towards Julia Stiles. Perhaps that's a little harsh. After all, it can't be much fun playing that most unpleasantly misogynistic of bibli-horror staples; the mother whose womb and maternal instincts are used as a battleground and weapon in the war between God and the Devil. Still, like Schreiber and Thewlis, she looks like she's counting the money in her head for long periods.
However, it's all well and good seeing actors you don't give a crap about turning up in dreary biblical horror movies, but when it's someone who you think is an acting hero, i.e. Michael Gambon, it gets less funny. Thankfully he's only in one scene, as the memorably named Bugenhagen. The name is whispered dramatically throughout the movie, usually by deformed or insane priests, often during thunderstorms. The dramatic effect this should achieve is undermined by the fact that Bugenhagen sounds like the creator of a popular ice-cream brand. Gambon gives it his all, bellowing various expositionary ravings with a conviction the movie doesn't deserve.
It was also a shame to see Pete Postlethwaite turn up as a priest who tries to encourage Schreiber to kill his kid. Quick pointer; telling someone their adopted child is borne of a jackal is a quick way to alienate them. I mean, I assume so. It's not like I've ever done it. Second thing to remember; if the hounds of Hell and all of Satan's minions are trying to stop you from killing Damien the demon child and will use the weather, twisted probability, and various possessed animals to do it, get to the point. Starting conversations with such information-lite ravings as, "When the Jews return to Zion, and a comet fills the sky, and the holy Roman Empire rises, then you and I must die. From the eternal sea he rises, creating armies on either shore, turning man against his brother, until man exists no more," just obscures the important facts. A simple, "Kill your jackal child with a bunch of daggers owned by Fred Bugenhagen of Megiddo City or we're all screwed," should suffice.
The most frustrating thing about it is that, as has been commented upon by many, the film was rushed out to capitalise on the date 6.06.06. Knowing that, and sadly without the ability to verify this, I was unable to determine any difference between David Seltzer's script for the new movie and the original. Is it the same movie with contemporary references? It certainly seems like it, with only a couple of the death sequences altered, seemingly just to punch them up. Patrick Troughton got impaled by a church spire in the original, but Pete Postlethwaite gets impaled to the power of eleventy by a church spire and multiple shards of stained glass. A damaged sign swings down and clips off Thewlis' head in a shot that is probably less dramatic than David Warner's outrageous death by sheet-of-glass, but is maybe a touch more elegant, if you can call demonically-inspired decapitation powered by mystical contrivance elegant. Whatever. It was the only moment of the film that entertained me, and not just because it meant no more Thewlis, so it gets bonus points.
But I cruelly take those points away for the worst crime in modern cinema; misuse of London landmarks! It's a stupid thing to be pissed about, and I'm sure it happens in movies set in all the major cities, but having the US Embassy downriver from the London Eye is nonsense. Plus, where is the Saatchi Gallery? And the Aquarium? And the Royal Festival Hall? There is nothing. Just a landmark digitally patched into the background. Later, there are several scenes with Stiles and Schreiber driving miles out of London to get to their enormous estate, and yet over the tops of the trees you can still see the Eye. Perhaps it's possessed by Satan, and is following them around. In the final breathlessly boring chase sequence you can see Czech signs on shops in the city centre. I know the movie is a half-hearted, cynical exercise in cashing in on a frigging date, of all things, but surely someone somewhere could have made a bit of effort. I guess if effort's what you want, director John Moore is not your man.
So, in a Face/Off between this and The Reapening, surely the latter will triumph. Have I ruined the suspense by slating this movie so badly? Well, anyone who has seen Swank battle evil plagues with little more than science and not-science will know it's probably going to be a photo finish.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
But not so low that I could find anything good to say about Man-Thing, his adaptation of the Marvel comic. To clarify, Man-Thing is not a euphemism for penis. He's an ecological, mystical, gooey being living in the Florida Everglades which doubles as the Nexus of All Realities. His full history is available on Wikipedia, and is more interesting than any attempt of mine to recap it. I have so little interest in the character, even though it was often written by Steve Gerber, the writer behind the magnificent Howard the Duck. I've not read Swamp Thing either. Not even Alan Moore's legendary run. I guess I just don't like reading about non-communicative magical swamp dwelling half-men, even when it's well-written.
Man-Thing the movie is not well-written. It doesn't seem to be written at all. I certainly couldn't tell what was going on. There's a town called Bywater with a new sheriff who investigates a bunch of disappearances, and there's an evil oil baron who has built his rig in the middle of the Nexus, and Man-Thing is pissed, and a shaman is pissed too, and Man-Thing kills everyone except for the sheriff and his hott new eco-warrior girlfriend, even though he had the chance and I was wishing for it really a lot, and then Man-Thing disappears in a swamp-tornado thing. Oh, sorry. Spoiler alert!
I could fart a more imaginative and coherent plot. It was written by Hans Rodionoff, who also wrote an excellent horror comic for Vertigo called Mnemovore. It was original, and creepy, and intelligent. If it were adapted as a film, I'd be first in line. So why is Man-Thing such an abomination? Was it the budgetary constraints? Its genesis was amusing. Marvel announced an alliance with Lionsgate Films, supposedly for a series of low-budget adaptations of Marvel properties, and promised they would all get a cinema release. So far, we've had the disappointing but entertaining Punisher, with Tom "Homeless Dad" Jane and John "Hairpiece" Travolta, and Man-Thing, which ended up being a Sci-Fi Channel TV movie. Avi Arad's expensive pants are on fire right now.
Anyway, Marvel are getting flack for the recent drop in quality of their films. I loved the first two X-Men movies and liked the first two Spideys, but other than that their output is disappointing. I admit, with great reluctance, to a fondness for the Fantastic Four movies. They're awful, but they're light and fun. And, contrary to the beliefs of a few unhinged individuals on the internet, they are better than the astonishingly bad Olle Sassone / Roger Corman version, which featured a frantically gesticulating Doom...
...making up for the fact that you couldn't see his face by voguing in the middle of every line, and ended with Reed Richards' bendy arm...
...played by a rubber pole with a glove on it, waving out of the top of a limousine. Daredevil was okayish, Elektra was very bad, Ghost Rider was appalling (yet my love for lean slices of Nicolas Cage ham saved it. Just). However, compared to Man-Thing, they are all masterpieces. Well, not Ghost Rider, but you get my point.
First strike against it, filming it in Australia with a bunch of actors who can't be bothered to master a Louisiana accent (yes, not only is it set in the wrong state, it's filmed in the wrong country). Worst of all is the lead, "hunky" Matthew Le Nevez as the new sheriff who arrives to clean up this one-monster town, dagnabbit.
There's laconic (which is good), and there's lifeless (more of a problem). Le Nevez crushes each cliched line under a mortis-like monotone that would make Zooey Deschanel jealous, if she could be bothered to muster the energy. When he's not doing that he walks around like a Gerry Anderson puppet, arms and legs wobbling away. I really wish I could find his walk on YouTube. Trey Parker and Matt Stone could have saved a fortune if they'd hired him for Team America: World Police.
The rest of the cast are dreadful too, but for the opposite reason, as if attending an all-you-can-eat scenery buffet. The main villain, Frederick Schist, is played by character actor Jack Thompson, who is usually much better than this. I'll blame Brett Leonard for leading him astray. The love interest is played by Transformers "hottie" Rachael Taylor. I'm still pissed at her for taking screentime away from Buffy and Angel vet Tom Lenk in Transformers. He was cast as a nerdy IT tech who is significantly less hott than Taylor (though significantly more talented), and so is deemed surplus to requirements 15 minutes into the movie. Damn you Michael Bay!
The chemistry between Taylor and Le Nevez is blistering! Well, actually it's barely recognisable as such, mostly because both actors seem unaware of each other for most of the movie, until Leonard randomly screams out, "Mack on each other, craven acting dogs!" and they suddenly start kissing on each other's face parts for no apparent reason. It's as if two strangers on a bus started getting busy right in front of you, and equally as discombobulating.
Of course, all of this is mere window dressing. We watched the damn thing for some Man-Thing action, and we sure got a couple of minutes of it. Luckily for our titular non-hero, various characters like to enter the swamp for very little reason other than to get killed. Again, we could see no reason for this. For all we knew, Man-Thing was phoning Bywater for takeout, and the townsfolk were all moonlighting as delivery men because of the high turnover. After many hints as to what he looks like, we finally see that...er...
Oh great, an Ent with tentacles and red contacts. Worth every penny. Still, it's good news for Stephen Hopkins' The Reaping. Watching Man-Thing a couple of days earlier meant that The Reaping wasn't the worst film set in a Louisiana swamp that we've seen this week.
As of today, Jeff Jensen reports that Jeff Fahey is going to be landing soon. Or is he landing? From the photo included in the article, he could conceivably be everyone's favourite angry time-traveller / universe-jumper / ghost / imagination figment Jacob. Or maybe Jensen wants us to think that! [Cue traditional Lost-inspired mental moebius-loop of second-guessing and paranoia.] Logic suggests he is in charge of The Boat, so capitalised because one of the special powers of Lost Island is to make everything near it go all portentous.
Weird that I spent this weekend thinking about Old Man Fahey and The Lawnmower Man*, the closest he's ever come to a big mainstream hit. He's a good enough actor to not be stuck in the straight-to-DVD hell he's been in. Not that he's Sir Anthony Hopkins of Hammingtonshire, but he's not Kevin Sorbo either. It mystifies me.
* We were watching a Brett Leonard movie yesterday, one that I will hopefully come back to in the near future.
Saturday, 25 August 2007
That’s a crappy-sounding version of the first single, “Our Life Is Not a Movie Or Maybe” – the sweeping sound references 80s pop songs with a discordant, desperate twist, though the genius of it is the racing heartbeat of the drum (though you can't hear it very well on that version) and the song’s frantic crescendo. The second track, “Unless It’s Kicks”, may be even better – a rollicking, uptempo kick in the gut. The lyrics again deal with the influence of pop culture on the characters’ lives – in this song, the narrator asserts, “What gives this mess some grace unless it’s kicks, man / unless it’s fiction / unless it’s sweat or it’s songs?” And later:
And on a seven-day high, that heavenly songOuch. But Sheff isn’t simply condemning the fact that we tend to view our lives as if they were movies or songs; he hits on the feeling of hearing a song you love and instantly feeling like the world has expanded into something joyful and glorious (even though it takes a song to [perhaps artificially] create that feeling, and it only lasts for four minutes). It’s incredibly odd to hear a song that talks about that feeling while actually giving you that feeling, and it makes my brain hurt, so I’m going to stop talking about it for the moment.
punches right through my mind
and just hums through my blood.
And I know it's a lie, but I'll still give it my love.
I suppose unsurprisingly, it turns out Sheff used to be a critic – this page has links to a bunch of his old articles. Looks like he’s got pretty good, if slightly pretentious, taste, though his attack on soft rock is a bit harsh – poor old Peter Cetera. Why pick on such an easy target? Does he have something against bouffants and soft-focus lenses? (And I’m sorry, but some of his songs are great, and I don’t mean that ironically – I get genuine pleasure from them, partly because they remind me of my childhood and how much I loved them then. “I am a knight who will fight for your honor”? How much of a curmudgeon do you have to be not to find that strangely wonderful? [And with that I realize I’ve now become a character in an Okkervil River song.])
I do find it a little disconcerting to read Sheff’s articles, though. When’s the last time you saw a critic rocking out on stage? It’s not right – they’re supposed to be detached and thoughtful, with their pipes and their monocles and their big books full of words, not hot-blooded and full of ketamine (with the exception of Michiko Kakutani, obviously). It’s a little embarrassing – like watching one of your teachers sing Grateful Dead songs on an acoustic guitar. I suppose I’ll have to get over it, though, because they’re playing in London in December and we’ve got tickets. I suppose to be really obnoxious, whenever they finish a song, I could shout out, “B plus! What it lacked in precision it made up for in enthusiasm! WOOOOOO!!”
*While trolling YouTube, I found a clip of Sheff talking about deciding to be a musician and saying that it was worth it even though he doesn’t have health insurance (!) and last year he didn’t have a place to live (!!!). Oh god, the guilt. I’m really tempted to go out and buy the album, though I will probably end up rationalizing the guilt away by convincing myself that buying the tickets gave them more money anyway (okay, 20 pounds, but, um, the exchange rate is really good). Usually, like any music fan, I’m happy for bands I like to stay obscure, but in this case I really hope they start getting more famous. They certainly deserve to.
And Now, A Rant
By now we all know that Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip was poo. Where Aaron Sorkin was once clever and inspiring, writing fiercely intelligent and funny characters, he became hackneyed and insipid, recycling plotlines from his better days (badly, I might add) and writing characters who were either thinly-veiled versions of his crazy-for-Jesus ex-girlfriend (Harriet Hayes), supposedly ridiculously smart while never actually demonstrating this beyond being able to rattle off obscure statistics (um, everyone), or versions of himself (Matt Albie – I would say “slimy, massively arrogant, ridiculously unlikeable versions of himself,” but it appears this would be redundant) or his partner in crime, Tommy Schlamme (the absolutely odious Danny Tripp – and I cannot mention this without giving a shout-out to Television Without Pity, who said they were disappointed he hadn’t named the character Danny Schlanny, which made me laugh for half an hour [btw, Joe R.’s recaps were often the only reason we even bothered to watch, besides horrified fascination]). But I’m going to stop criticizing it now, because if I don’t, I will run out of internet.
Unfortunately for denizens of the UK, it’s time for them to be endlessly patronized about commedia dell’arte and Bush’s bad behavior during 9/11 (yes, the show actually goes back in time to lecture us. Thank god it didn’t get a second season, in which Matt and Danny would time-travel to Nazi Germany learn how evil Hitler was). It just started showing here a few weeks ago, to massive, slavish adoration from the journalists here, who apparently have never gone on the internet, because they are completely perplexed about why such a stunning example of show from infallible genius Aaron Sorkin would get cancelled by those awful money-hungry studios! They just didn’t understand his brilliance! To which I say, You lazy, incompetent little shits – it would take you two seconds of googling to find out exactly why it was cancelled – because it was shit.
It made me angry to read those articles, with their willful ignorance and their slavish devotion to Sorkin (they didn’t even bother to get anyone’s opinion other than his about why it was cancelled – I wonder if maybe he would be, I don’t know, biased?). This leads off into a subject for another day – the UK media’s shoddy reporting on American shows and movies, their simultaneous disdain for American media and the fact that they have to admit that it’s often better than what’s created here (at least in terms of TV shows and movies – though it will usually be with the tag “it’s good…in an American way”), and their love of anything coming out of it perceived to be intelligent (like Sorkin, which is why he is so ridiculously overpraised – he’s not like most Americans, because his show is about how bad American TV is!).
Aaaaanyway, I came downstairs this morning to find that the Admiral had scrawled a furious note in the Guardian Guide – the weekly TV guide from the Guardian, arguably the best paper in England (though notably filled with snobbery about American culture). Andrew Mueller, one of the reviewers, has been reviewing Studio 60 since it began six weeks ago – he praised the pilot, but foolishly we laughed and said that it would be funny to see his assessments get more negative as the show went on. Three episodes in and they were not – instead he was rambling about how mobs with pitchforks should have been storming the studios demanding that the show not be cancelled. Okay, we thought, well, the third episode wasn’t that bad, though alarm bells were starting to go off (notably with Danny’s rant about how cocaine addicts don’t hurt people [he was a former cocaine addict himself – I know, eerie coincidence!! Another eerie coincidence? Aaron Sorkin was a cocaine addict! OMG, this is freaky!] – no, only drunk drivers do that, and of course cocaine addicts are sedentary because we all know cocaine is a depressant).
We decided that the show didn’t become truly awful until the sixth episode – which has plotlines where the cast learns about how awful the blacklist was (really awful!), where we learn that the only black character on the show had a childhood straight out of Boyz N the Hood (this is after he rails against stereotypical “black people versus white people” comedy), and we learn that another character’s Midwestern parents are so ignorant of culture that they don’t even know who Abbott and Costello were (since when has the Midwest not been hooked up to electricity?), but they do know that their son is wasting his life on frivolous comedy while his brother, the war hero, is – get ready for it – STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN! It’s so incomprehensibly awful I can’t even express it.
But guess what Andrew Mueller’s reaction is?
The more of this we [we?? I sincerely hope he’s using the royal we] see, the more it seems appropriate to disdain from summarising the spectacular virtues of Studio 60 in favour of suggesting imaginative punishments to be visited on its American proprietors, who canned it. This week: feed them to hippopotamuses. [My suggestion: feed Andrew Mueller to Hiphopopotamus from Flight of the Conchords.] Anyway, tonight’s episode, with an Eli Wallach cameo, is another eruption of auteur Aaron Sorkin’s singular genius. In between adroitly perpetuating the internal soap operas, this thrillingly tours Sorkin’s signature obsessions [i.e., the things he writes about in a TV series about a COMEDY SKETCH SHOW]: American political, cultural and military history, and the clash between the country’s liberal and conservative impulses.RAGE!!! And you thought I was exaggerating about the media’s circle-jerk of praise! I think the Admiral’s reaction sums it up best: he circled the review in pen and then wrote “FUCKING ANDREW MUELLER!!”
That’s about right.
2: Just when you think Jeremy Paxman can't get any cooler, he gets significantly cooler. He says a lot of smart things about trust in the broadcast media, dissipating audiences, cowardly commissioning within the BBC, the ineptitude of many producers and shortsightedness of executives willingly blinding themselves to the threats (and potential benefits) of new technology, but the bit that made me happiest came during a section on a typically self-pitying speech by Tony Blair about the relationship between the media and the government, where he took Blair and Campbell to task:
We do not need to take seriously complaints about the marginalising of parliament from a Prime Minister who could hardly be bothered to turn up there much of the time. Nor need we concern ourselves with complaints about trivialisation of cabinet government from a man whose cabinet meetings could last less time than an edition of Ready Steady Cook. We do not need lectures about cynicism from an administration which employed people who believed that September 11th was a good day to bury bad news. Most of all, we do not need homilies about destroying people’s reputations from an administration on whose watch Dr David Kelly was driven to suicide.
I <3 Paxman. So does Emily Bell.
3: Jesse Cameron and Jennifer Morrison have broken off their engagement, according to this TV Guide article. A planet mourns!
4: According to Michael Ausiello, Will Arnett is returning to 30 Rock this season. No word yet on the shortie robe.
5: Hawkman is smarter than me.
That, my friends, is science.
Friday, 24 August 2007
Gardner Fox introduced him in Flash Comics, and retooled him for the Silver Age in Brave and the Bold, in which his introduction of the futuristic world of Thanagar proves him to be a true visionary. Check out these Thanagarian inventions:
Is that QVC? Or is Shayera a big fan of Ugly Betty and its in-show promotions?
They have TiVo! Except boring Thanagarians use it to tape Fox News. Carter, if you want to know what O'Reilly's been saying for the last few months, here's a recap: "It's all the fault o' derr imigants." Now switch over and watch Lost or Friday Night Lights. They're good for your soul.
"As long as we have a favourable balance"? You mean Thanagar hasn't invented debt yet? Can I move there tomorrow? That said, there are still some Thanagarian doohickeys we've yet to invent, but if Fox's strike rate is anything to go by, it's only a matter of time before we get this wonderful idea:
Hmmmm, tube food. Pneumati-tube food, no less! Actually, to be honest, the thought of Thanaldar City being criss-crossed with gravy-smeared plastic tubes is pretty unappealing.
[All pictures from DC's Showcase Presents: Hawkman, which is highly recommended.]
Thursday, 23 August 2007
Synopsis: Have you heard of Santeria? (No, it's not a bowel disease or a fruity tropical drink. It's voodoo! Actually it's an Afro-Caribbean religion, but leave it to this show to reduce a complex religion into simplistic ridiculousness for its own purposes.) Can you pronounce it like Delko, with that slightly rolled "r" and singsong inflection that shows the viewer how authentically Cuban(/Russian) our inept frogman is? I bet you can't. Were you aware that, according to CSI: Miami, it involves putting spells on chintzy pieces of woodwork, selling drugs that cause temporary paralysis, and stowing the bloody, dismembered heads of goats in your closet? And yet it's apparently not affiliated with Scientology? Somewhere in L.A., John Travolta is taking notes.
Of course, this is all in a day's work for CSI: Miami – if it's not cannibalism and pirates (see season three's "Pirated"), it's voodoo curses and random explosions. Our intrepid team finds out that our corpse of the week was an aficionado of the religion, which Delko is immediately spooked by (as he professes that he is Catholic and therefore cannot come into contact with befouled objects – something he should have thought about before Sex Quest '05, perhaps). How do they find this out? They discover a goat's head, infested with maggots and dripping blood, in a coat closet. It's a minor shock that the inept crimefighters even bothered to look in a closet in the first place, but Horatio was probably searching for a small child to patronize (see episodes passim).
Since CSI: Miami writers like to cut out the burdensome step of the writing process called "coming up with ideas," something like this probably did happen in real life. What probably didn't happen in real life? This:
OMG the corpse isn't dead at all! When Ryan attempts to explain this to Alexx, she shows him the corpse and tells him that there's no way it could sit up, as it has a stomach wound. Ryan tells her that the corpse she's showing him is a different dead guy. Excuse me? Alexxx didn't notice this?? A corpse WALKS OUT OF HER MORGUE and Mr. Wolfe, of all people, has to tell her that it's missing. Alexxxx's response? "My staff isn't trained to watch the living." First of all, what staff? Alexxxxx is the only one who's ever in the morgue. Apparently she's begun talking not just to corpses but to imaginary employees as well. Secondly, what? Is your "staff" even trained to watch the dead? Shouldn't they have noticed that a body was missing? Imaginary morgue attendants just aren't what they used to be.
And then we come to the glorious, and gloriously ridiculous, denouement of the episode. It turns out Horatio discovers and has to defuse a car bomb – this is only glancingly related to the plot of the episode and comes out of nowhere, by the way, but no matter. The bomb has four minutes until it explodes. "Can you defuse it?" asks useless-as-usual Tripp. "Not in four minutes," purrs Horatio, the former bomb expert (you didn't know that? Oh, my friend, you have so much to learn).
The next shot we see? Horatio DRIVING OVER A BRIDGE WITH A BOMB IN THE CAR.
How did he even get out of the parking lot in four minutes? How did he know he wouldn't get stuck in traffic? What is his mode of transportation after the car explodes? Why is he driving over a freaking bridge? Is this even legal?? (I know what H. would say: "Justice knows no laws, my friend. It knows. No. Laws.") These are questions only the foolish would consider. For now we have this, the crowning glory of the season, the very reason this show exists (namely, to blow stuff up, and to promote the color orange):
Notice how H. removes his sunglasses as he languidly exits the car that surely should have exploded twenty minutes ago, then surveys the landscape majestically, as only a crusading albino lawman can, and then, for the final iconic shot, puts the sunglasses back on. Shades of Caruso, man. You can't beat that.
Curse of the Coffin Stats:
Horatio's Send-Off Into Credits (how awesome is Channel 5 for appropriating the YouTube clips?): a bit lackluster this time:
Alexx: [referring to a tiny cursed coffin] "Maybe it's a message. Someone trying to scare us off the case."
Horatio: "Maybe. But we don't scare that easy, do we, Alexx?"
Roger Daltrey: "YEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!"
Ripped-off Plot of the Week: The Serpent and the Rainbow
Horatio's Most Patronizing Line:
Random Perp: "Can I have my clothes back?"
Horatio: "I'd say that would be...unlikely."
Number of Caruso Two-Steps: 4
Snottiest Behavior From Ryan: mocking Delko for being scared of the Santeria objects (hilariously, he later becomes convinced that the curses are real)
Most Ineptitude From Delko: slamming an axe down on a glass table so hard that the table later shatters (we later see poor hapless Boa Vista, in the lab room when the table breaks, emerging from an inexplicable cloud of smoke, her hair mussed and covered in glass, as if the table had actually exploded)
Number of Perps Dispatched by Horatio: only one: a bomb-filled car
Number of Pointless Split-Screen Shots: countless
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
Horatio Caine - The Mighty Caruso.
To say there is no other character in modern TV like him is an understatement. He's not even a character. He's a mood. A state of mind. Justice personified. The yin to evil's yang. A one-man pose machine. An enigma. He is of course famous for wearing sunglasses, but does he wear the shades, or do they wear him? The way he stares at them, often from the rear of the frame while everyone else does the actual police work, it's as if he is in communion with them. Do they guide him? If he ever solved a case, we might have to give some credit to the sentient glasses, but as he never seems to actually do any crime-solving other than intimidating perps or blasting hostiles to pieces, it's immaterial.
Calleigh Duquesne - Emily Procter.
Procter's departure from The West Wing, where she was light and funny and likeable, was already saddening, before she decided to turn up here as a humourless, pinched caricature of herself. I always thought of her as a light comedic actress (in a good way), so imagine my dismay when she was cast as a ballistics expert who looks like she's trying her hardest not to break out in a inappropriate grin in every scene. ::sigh:: Whatever. She's getting a big payday, so it's not like it's the end of the world. Plus, every so often she gets to act opposite the excellent character actor John Heard, playing her feckless alcoholic father. Or Foghorn Leghorn in a big hat. It's hard to tell what effect he's aiming for.
Eric Delko - Adam Rodriguez.
Ah, the inept Delko, prone to losing evidence (in an episode that was obviously running 20 minutes short and filled that time with a panicky Delko trying to pretend nothing was wrong), getting caught buying dope for his dying sister, and having outdoor sex with strangers against walls in the middle of Miami. How he keeps his job is beyond me. Perhaps it's his command of Russian, always useful in Florida. Or perhaps it's his incredible knowledge of sports cars and swamp-diving. Whatever it is, it's a good thing he's around. By season 4 Horatio desperately needed someone to stalk, protect from the boogeyman, and/or love, and Delko's cancer-ridden sister fit the bill perfectly. Until the kingpin of a Brazilian drug cartel had her assassinated. Oh CSI: Miami, how I love thee!
Ryan Wolfe - Jonathan Togo.
Brought in to inflate the cast after the death of Tim Speedle (see below), the young man known to Horatio as Mr. Wolfe was promoted to CSI from traffic cop duty after finding a clue. That's a rigorous selection process right there. Perhaps Horatio thought he could mold the man into a copy of himself. It was not to be. Whereas everyone defers to Horatio and respects him (even though he never does any work), for at least a whole season everyone hated Wolfe. His arrogance, snottiness, and ineptitude certainly justified the treatment, not to mention the outrageously pompous way he dismisses Natalia Boa Vista (see below), though that might be a consequence of her not falling gratefully into his arms in season 4. His finest moment, though, has to be getting shot in the eye with a nail gun. I was torn between being sickened to my guts and wanting to write a thank you letter to the writers.
Alexx Woods - Khandi Alexander.
Another employee who really should be let go soon. Not that she's as inept as Delko, but seriously, hasn't someone thought it odd that the Miami Dade coroner has conversations with dead people, and not like in that scary episode of Buffy from season 7? Several corpses have been patronised by Alexx, who refers to the ones she likes as, "Sugah". Other than that, she does very little on the show. Notably, she is one of the few characters who seems able to tolerate Mr. Wolfe, and coincidentally she is the only character other than him to be regularly thanked by Horatio as he leaves the room/crime scene, even if there are other people there. Why be selective? Even hapless Delko deserves to be thanked from time to time, especially if he doesn't contaminate the crime scene, hump a random witness, or accidentally kick evidence into a swamp.
Tim Speedle - Rory Cochrane.
Yes, I know that's not a picture from the show. It's only fitting I choose his greatest onscreen moment to memorialise him now that he's gone to that swish, glass-walled laboratory in the sky. Speedle represented the slob nation on CSI: Miami for a couple of years, before getting into a shoot-out and biting the bullet. His death was caused by a build-up of what looked like Crunchy Nut Cornflakes in his gun, a character quirk that had been set up in a previous season when Calleigh told him off for not taking care of his firearm. Other than that, Cochrane's time on the show is memorable for seemingly being a very uncomfortable experience for him. He looked embarrassed every week, mumbling his dialogue and shiftily glancing off camera as if looking for Richard Linklater to come and save him. And he did! Cochrane then went on to appear in A Scanner Darkly, and in five nervy, rotoscoped minutes he completely erased the memory of his time in Miami Dade. Hooray! If only Aaron Sorkin would stop being crap so that he could save Emily Procter.
Frank Tripp - Rex Linn.
We watched an episode of CSI: Miami last night that was particularly absurd, featuring carbombs and zombies, but it was notable for featuring possibly the first instance of deductive work by Detective Tripp. He picked up a golf club and said it belonged to a man because it was large. It's not exactly Sherlock Holmes, but for the first time he wasn't just relaying obvious information to Horatio (information that Horatio already knows, usually). I was stunned. Poor Rex Linn. He's been a dependable movie tough guy for a few years now, livening up many dubious films, such as Cliffhanger and Cutthroat Island (time to stop taking Renny Harlin's calls, Rex), and now all he does is act as Horatio's secretary. His most bizarre moment on the show was when he suddenly, with absolutely no prior warning, became a racist NIMBY, ranting about floods of Cuban immigrants stealing American jobs, to the immense displeasure of Delko. After almost coming to blows, their differences were resolved in a memorable finale, with Tripp and Delko teaming up to help a Cuban shopkeeper fix up his mini-mart in super-meaningful slo-mo, with Horatio smiling beneficently from the touchlines. I cried!
Natalia Boa Vista - Eva La Rue.
The most recent addition to the team. Prior to that, Natalia was a hastily introduced lab tech who, in a shocking twist, had been planted on the team as a mole by the FBI. I know what you're thinking. Well, actually, you're either thinking you're hungry and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes would go down a treat, or you're thinking, "Why would anyone want to investigate our heroes?" If you're thinking the latter, the answer is that the CSI: Miami team are notoriously inept and corrupt, constantly bending the law while obnoxiously taking the moral high ground against every even vaguely criminal person they come across. Her totally believable transition into a CSI has been hindered by her rivalry with Mr. Wolfe at his most slimy, as well as the reappearance of her evil abusive ex-husband, hilariously released from jail and instantly hired as a crime-scene clean-up guy just so he can keep pestering her at work. The only other things to note about her are that she succumbed to Delko's lumpen sex-vibe, possibly due to temporary insanity brought on by the guilt of being a mole, and she has the biggest Bambi eyes on TV.
Maxine Valera - Boti Bliss.
Where to begin with Valera, played by the delightfully named Boti Bliss? Well, she's a lab tech. And... erm... Oh! There was that one time she accidentally contaminated a bunch of evidence, or something, and she took a leave of absence for a while. Of course, this had to happen during the aforementioned FBI investigation. The picture I've used is from a seemingly anti-glamorous Ultradent promotional gig attended by the cast, which probably accounts for the severely pissed off expression Miss Bliss is wearing. We're only part of the way through season 5, and I'm hoping she gets more to do soon. She's one of the more likeable actors on the show, and so far does little more than relay exposition.
Brendan Fehr - Dan Cooper.
I didn't even know his character's name until I just checked it out on IMDb. Dan is the lab tech responsible for pressing the notorious "Enhance" button when looking at videos (God bless the internet hero who came up with that concept; apologies for not attributing it properly). He can also isolate the sound of a flea farting in a recording of a Korn concert. I totally believe the technology exists to do this. Other than that, I think Wolfe threatened him once when he said something rude about Natalia. You'll have to forgive me for being vague. There has yet to be a point to Dan. I can only imagine he's there because the CSI: Miami producers were jealous of CSI: Original Flavour having Archie Kao as their tech guy. Either that or Adam Rodriguez was doing a solid for his Roswell buddy Fehr.
If you've never watched the show before, hopefully now you can jump in and enjoy the various thrilling shenanigans of our heroes. Truly there is nothing on TV like it. That may seem like an erroneous statement, what with it being a spin-off with its own spin-off, but the other shows are utterly different. It has plowed its own furrow, and as a result is the most watched show on the planet, a fact that never ceases to amaze me. Long may it reign.
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
He's got nerd credentials (Shaun of the Dead), can do dramatic (voicing Darth Maul counts, in my head), and the ladies seem to like him too. That said, I won't actually be doing anything to help the campaign along. I'll just think really hard about it. That's how it works, right? Anyone who's read The Secret probably knows more about this than me.
Monday, 20 August 2007
Anyway, we saw The Lake House last night, and as my title suggests, it was pretty crap. We watched it at the Admiral’s behest, I hasten to add, because of his fondness for Neo and his penchant for convoluted time-travel nonsense (here rendered even more ridiculously than usual because apparently 50-year-old post-menopausal women will buy any kind of time-related paradox as long as there’s a scene of Keanu Reeves crying). It’s quite dour, but there’s no discernable reason for it to be, especially because it ends happily (sorry, did I ruin it?). The Admiral admitted, quite endearingly, that if he’d watched it when he was 15, he would have sobbed the whole way through (I failed to admit that, when I watched the sappy remake of City of Angels as a 15-year-old, I did cry all the way through, and not just out of sheer joy when Meg Ryan gets run over by a bus). It wasn’t awful, certainly, but it was entirely humorless and it struggled to make its 90-minute running time – mostly by giving us lots of shots of people staring pensively into the distance. (Staring Through Time – now there’s a title.)
In short, I’m glad we waited for it to come on Sky Movies. Oh, and Christopher Plummer is entirely wasted as Keanu’s Bad Dad (who has, as Keanu explains, the grin of an architect. How this is different from, say, the leer of a sous-chef or the rictus smile of an ophthalmologist is left entirely unexplained).
The Lake House Stats:
Most Nonsensical Attempted Joke: “Oh, we have a comedian! What, did you eat clown for breakfast?” (??? As opposed to what? Eggs?)
Most Forced, Unconvincing Architect-Speak From Keanu: “Containment and control. This house is about ownership, not connection. I mean, it's beautiful. Seductive, even. But it's incomplete.”
Most Searing Indictment of Bad Dad: “He could build a house. But he couldn’t build a home.”
Scariest Line Spoken by Shohreh Aghdashloo (i.e., Emphysema Breath): “Your father had a heart attack. He is now stable.”
Number of Nose-Wrinkles and Daffy Asides from “Sandy”: Four. Quite restrained, on the whole.
Update: My mom writes in with a helpful fact-check: "Meg was actually downed by a truck hauling logs, not a bus! And I think she actually paper-dolled herself on the truck; he was just making a slow left turn into her exuberant joy of life. But then, of course, it gave Nicolas the opportunity to do his look of sad-eyed horsey-faced silent pain."
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Anyway, at some point during the interview James Lipton revealed that he wanted a tattoo, but had been blocked by his wife. What would it have been? Canyon reckons it would be Will Ferrell, which has a nice circularity to it.
I reckon it would have to be Bernard Pivot.
And he'd have it on his chest.
Friday, 17 August 2007
Not much else to say at the moment, given that the entire reason for this post was my headline. Join me in my extremely unpopular dislike of these movies! God knows the Admiral won't.
This week the UK finally got a chance to see the final installment of the Bourne trilogy, and Orc hordes couldn't keep me from seeing it at the first available opportunity. If you're thinking of seeing it, and have access to the first two movies, I advise you make a big deal of it and watch those first, as Paul Greengrass and Tony Gilroy (along with Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi) have added several visual and narrative cues to make it all feel like a very intense 6 hour movie. That is, scenes from the first two movies that acted as payoffs now in fact seem like set ups for payoffs in this movie. Certainly the cleverly expanded role for Julia Stiles makes the viewer reappraise her character (and her ability as an actress. She does a lot here by doing what seems like very little).
Apologies for any spoilers, but it's hard to gush about the movie without giving something away. The final few moments of the film are immensely satisfying, with Bourne's story coming full circle at last with the revelation of the terrible act he committed in order to end his previous life as David Webb, and the passive act he makes to end "Bourne"'s life. His final mini-speech on the roof to his would-be killer is somewhat heartbreaking and moving; now that he has found a way to move on, perhaps now he has the chance to help others do the same. He's like the Spy Messiah, cleansing the souls of those who followed in his footsteps. That the movie ends the same way the first starts is not just clever storytelling, it's also a way to include that hoary old visual metaphor of immersion in water as rebirth and baptism in a way that makes it fresh. And, at the risk of sounding confrontational, I defy you not to feel the urge to cheer as Bourne springs back to life, with that Moby track bleeping away in the background. I know I did a pathetic little air-punch. What? WHAT?
At some point I'm sure I'll whitter on about how glad I am that storytelling trends are favouring the longform (TV as visual novel, film franchises that require the viewer to have knowledge of the previous installments instead of being able to drop in and out a la old skool Bond), but for now I will say that Bourne Ultimatum represents the best example I can remember of using the resources of the previous installments to create an emotional resonance. As has been noted elsewhere, Julia Stiles' scene in the bathroom, dying her hair in a deliberate echo of the scenes with Franka Potente in The Bourne Identity, worked beautifully.
Also pleasing was the final car chase that seemed about to reverse the outcome of the chase at the end of Supremacy, with Bourne trapped at the business end of an imminently crashing car in the same way as Karl Urban, only to prevail through his quick wits. Not only that, but it proves he is learning not to kill. His involvement in the chase is a consequence of him trying to get away, which may have also been the situation in Supremacy, but in that case he aggressively destroys Karl Urban's SUV and kills him. Here, he allows the chase to end in a crash (or is forced to; I couldn't tell as I was chewing my knuckles with terror), and then spares the life of his pursuer. By this point, he's no longer the assassin he was turned into, but a victim, albeit a victim who will break your bones if you mess with him.
The movie has been well received by the UK critics, but their bias against any kind of genre movies has come through. James Christopher of the Times, Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian, and Anthony Quinn of the Independent all seemed to love it but only gave four stars. I can imagine the use of the Guardian as a plot-point would irritate the other papers, but Bradshaw had no excuse. Funnily enough, he has fun pretending that all Guardian journalists are as tough and glamourous as Paddy Considine's character, which is in direct conflict with what I saw. Greengrass is obviously making fun of his own journalistic background, as well as the reputation of the Guardian. Considine is useless, ignoring Bourne's advice, continually getting himself into trouble, and seeing danger where there is none. Compared to all of the CIA agents, even the less capable ones, he looks like a hapless idiot. Plus, how does Considine elude capture? By hiding in an off-licence. Very nicely played, Mr. Greengrass.
I will also occasionally give praise to David Caruso, enigmatic leading man and inventor of the Caruso Two-Step, the most dynamic and dramatic method of leaving the frame yet devised. If you've avoided CSI: Miami thanks to its reputation as an ineptly written, over-directed, straight-faced semi-parody of the procedural genre, and haven't seen this powerful acting move, then shame on you, for you have not fully lived.