Saturday, November 25, 2006

Astral bodies collide

Torchwood is a telly programme.
A Doctor Who spin-off aimed at the more 'adult' audience, it has swears, sexy and killings in it.
It is a strange creation, something of a Frankenstein's monster, part cringeworthy cliche and low-budget British naivete, part interesting little show with a bunch of slightly-less-than stereotypical characters.
Including the Lumpen Maws of Torchwood.

I don't mean any slight to the no doubt wonderful people that portray Gwen and Owen, but they do seem made for each other (as is the suggestion of the current storyline, did I forget to say spoiler? Pah) - literally when taking into consideration the matching, almost prehensile catfish-like oral cavities that they both sport.
Maybe it's some CGI thing.

It really is an odd show. I do have affection for it and enjoy watching it, but some of the ideas are fifth-hand sci-fi narratives or obvious horror staples such as last Fridays "crazy backwoods cannibals" which went so far as to use the 30-year old "heavy-breathing murderer POV". It did manage to cultivate a bit of tension out of it, but it was bit tragic to have a Scooby Doo reveal showing us that the Welsh Father Jack was behind it all, licking his lips in that way they must teach you during the part of the acting course entitled "How to play a deranged psychopath". Welcome to quotation country.


I have suddenly been distracted by the part of buffalo 66 I never got to before - lots of topless ladies in a strip club before a Taxi-Driveresque moment made remarkable only by the 'moving still' shots. I think I've (almost) watched the film at least three times, so it seems odd that I never made it this far. It's probably because Vincent Gallo near repulses me with his uncanny and incessant portrayal of the same twitchy, arrogant prick character.
buffalo 66 does feature a lot of nice shots, staging and direction doing a lot with the bland, small town America blah, but Vincent's Billy character is nothing but irritating, coming across like a neurotic Tarantino who never got his shot at the big time, and no amount of winky cameos (Mickey Rourke, Jan-Michel Vincent etc.) can redeem it. I can see where the critical acclaim has come from, but for me the film is empty and the character seems all too real.
That is Vincent Gallo.


And it was on Film Four that I came across buffalo 66 again. Now Film Four is 'free' I can watch it whenever I like. But whenever I can watch it, there's something I've already seen, or is arse. I remember back when it was first rolled out, it was a tantalising opportunity for world cinema and indy features, but now it's just Pulp Fiction over and over. Not really, but it's very disappointing. Maybe I can't complain because it's free. Oh but I can.
Dumbing down.
War Games? Happy Gilmore? Volcano? Trading Places? Regardless of the quality, the channel is packed with the kind of thing that wouldn't look out of place on an ITV Saturday line-up, yet they have the gall to have that guy doing the voice-over with his slightly 'edgy' voice, like John Simm used to do so often. Edgy like the Hallmark channel.

Wow, it's all grumbles tonight!


Sunday, November 19, 2006

I am the king of Kongolia!

I just have a scant missive to convey at this juncture.
Reviews are ready for your reading pleasure covering the wonderful Host and the less than such Ring Girls.
Click The Host
Click Ring Girls


For once there is a generous abundance of moving picture goodness available, I have yet to sample Prestige, Borat or Casino Royale and Jackass 2, Tenacious D and Pan's Labyrinth are all drawing near. So little time, so little time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nothing like spring

I've started contributing to, which is nice.
Their take on sci-fi is broad, so lots of genre pictures, and the site came about as a web home for the London Sci-fi Film Festival which always has screenings worth catching. Now it's a repository for news, reviews and interviews, if you read my review then check out the home page to find interviews with Christopher Nolan, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine gabbing about the Prestige.

Click to read my Puritan review.



Foley art (?) -– I believe that's the term for the creation of sound effects, is crazy in French Cinema.
Every little sound seems to be amplified as if the characters now have special werewolf hearing. Whilst the rustle of clothing or pad of bare feet bring important detail to a scene, in French films the mix seems to be ratcheted pretty high in favour of the effects.

Also -– French cinema seems more fixated on class than British. Everyone is either an underclass, hand-to-mouth type as in La Haine or Read My Lips, or they are so upper middle class that the day-to-day details of food and shelter are neither here nor there, leaving ample opportunity to analyse tortured souls and hearts.

But my, French cinema can be deliciously good.
The Page Turner is a good example. Ostensibly a film about pitiful middle class anxiety, it is full of strong, subtle performances and biting moments not without a little ambiguity.
A revenge film at heart, it works well at not succumbing to the cliches and has a pleasingly definite end point where many other directors would be tempted to meander on for another fruitless half hour or so.

If you can get past the initially stifling middle class milieu of featureless clothes and the ubiquitous country house then you'’ll find a true gem.

Lovely jubbly, as they say in Paris.


Death Note started life in a Japanese manga strip, became very popular and spawned two live action movies and a currently running anime series. Judging by the fuss surrounding it, it may well become the next crossover hit to come to the West, following in the footsteps of Naruto and Bleach.

In some other dimension, the Death Gods live. One of them is tired of their bored existence, and drops a Death Note to earth.
The Death Note allows the owner to kill anyone they like, provided they know thier face and name, and that they write their name in the book. After writing the name in the book, they have 40 seconds to write a cause of death, otherwise the victim will perish from a heart attack. Should they write a cause of death, they then have 6 minutes and 40 seconds to embellish the details of this demise.
These conditions are from memory, but in effect it results in an interesting little morality play.
The person to find the death note is a boy in high school, top of his class, who on finding that the book is genuine sets about a carefully planned campaign of killing of criminals.
In time, the police notice the connections of dozens of convicts and suspects keeling over and begin a manhunt for the one dubbed 'Kira' by the media. The advantages of the Death Note mean it's nigh on impossible for the police to even know where to start, and that's where a mysterious figure known only as 'L' steps in, a world reknowned master detective who works via a similarly anonymous middle man.
It's at this point that the series becomes a game of cat and mouse, as Kira and L both try and use their considerable cunning to reveal the other's identity.

Death Note is a decent show based on an interesting premise, so I hope the plotting stays tight rather than degenerating into the vagueness of 100+ shows like Bleach and Naruto.
Thankfully as it is based on thought more than action this is unlikely to happen.

Just remember that you heard it here first. Probably.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A smithering of lyme

A little self-promotion on the eve of Bonfire Night as my review of Kekexili has made the front page. Read it here.

Please check out the links to the right, nice things are there and the unexplained ones are blogs, We Can Rebuild Him is particularly new so be gentle.


Last week I took it upon myself to go see one the 50 surprise screening that took place due to the London Film Fest. Every year they put on a film that is a surprise until the curtains open on the night, and every year (as far as I've heard) it is a fairly high-profile English language release.
Seeing films in general appeals to me, so the prospect of a surprise new film lights a little flame in me, and this year I had a much better chance getting tickets as the thing usually sells out before the tickets go public.

So Sunday night I made my way to Hampstead, to the very poncey but comfy Everyman to get my surprise.
I knew it would be in English, and that it would be something due out within the next couple of months. The giddy anticipation!
Anthony Minghella, the writer and director of some stuff walked out to the front, made a little speech about the BFI and how it wanted to bring film to the people and suchandsuch, and told us that even he didn't know what the film was going to be.
Of he went, the lights dimmed, the curtains drew back and the projector whirred into life.

Starter for Ten.

Starter for Ten.

Starter for fucking Ten.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a shit film. It's not even bad. What it is, though, is the dictionary definition of predictable.
All the genre staples of a coming of age film are there, taking in student life, a bit of comedy, a bit of romance. You can see everything coming from such a long way off it's like star gazing.
The acting is solid for the most part, the dialogue is okay despite the fact that you already know the gist before delivery and the mid-80s period detail is spot on, although this is rubbed in a little too hard when you have a new pop song on the soundtrack every 16 seconds so they can presumably release two volumes of the soundtrack.
It ambles along quite genially and you never really wish it ill will, but I personally rolled my eyes throughout when it became clear that they'd not tried anything new. It's a textbook case of the successful British film, shuffling along a well-worn path with a zombie-like gait, offering up the cozy and expected and no doubt it will be showered with undeserving praise as it reaps the dollars from the Americans cooing at the quaint English people and their shambling bashfulness.
If it weren't for the likes of Shane Meadows, Pawel Pawlikowski and the Pegg/Wright team I might be more accepting of the turgid beigeness of a lot of Brit flicks, but I know that it doesn't have to be that way.

Such is life.