Thursday, 30 December 2010
There'll probably be a sequel with an even larger cast list. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's still sort of fun to see these people making something so honestly stupid. That fun doesn't last for the whole film. About a minute of thinking 'look it's Arnold Schwarzenegger' and wondering who Dolph Lundgren is. A good minute though.
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
The reason I write so much about Doctor Who, more than any other TV show anyway, is that every episode is a new story, a new little film. They can't be grouped together and summarised in a few sentences. Doctor Who can do anything it wants and, in the new season, it probably will.
Thursday, 23 December 2010
The universe is beige, apparently. A beige called cosmic latte. Another name for it is 'skyvory'. This doesn't actually have a lot to do with the short story, which is all over the place, but it's nice to know. The idea of a forest moving up and down on fast forward has been turned into something else since I wrote this. Something that reads less like the scrawls of a mad person. The structure of screenplays can be good. I'm less tempted to make everything explode.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
I was told that I shouldn't write about children, because my style is too obvious a fit for them. For some reason I'm not listening, and am writing two stories about children. They start in the same place but go off in wildly different directions. This one involves a bit less of the surreal. A bit.
'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' has been attributed to Aesop. So this is something clever my university lecturers would have called 'intertextuality'. Maybe. I could just be making it up as I go along. What other way is there? Like everything else, the story is summed up in The Simpsons, when Bart tells lies about a test, and is then chased around school by a wolf.
Is the idea of 'a minute a page' true? Doesn't seem accurate to me. Some pages can go by in half that. Some could be about three. I'll play along with that idea if it makes things easier, but I don't believe it. A script of a hundred and twenty pages would be two hours long? Okay then.
Sunday, 19 December 2010
This is something from a novel, working title 'I don't know what it's called'. As there's a high chance it'll take five years to write and then be thrown away for something else, I'll put a bit of it here to make it exist more. Other things are happening, like a screenplay, and shorter bits, but this'll do for now. It's about holes in the pavement - not the entire story, just this bit here.
I always struggle naming characters. Are they meant to mean something, sound like something? I don't know. So here there's James, a random name, and Boy, because he's a boy. This might change. Although it hasn't yet and I'm thousands of words in. Never mind. He can be Boy.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
A very good film. Maybe slightly irrelevantly, it's interesting to see actors from The Wire playing the opposites of their characters. Michael K. Williams looks strange in a policeman's uniform, and Amy Ryan plays the sort of drug runner her Baltimore character would have helped lock up. One day I'll stop relating everything to The Wire, but not right now. Watch Gone Baby Gone, if you haven't already.
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
The following year, in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, these horribly neglectful parents continue to abuse their son, this time sending him on a plane to New York by himself. They just want to get rid of him. Thankfully, New York has some kindly old people to look after the orphan. Kevin, still unphased, is given two turtle doves by the owner of a toy shop. I didn't know what turtle doves were. I still don't know what turtle doves are. But it's comforting to have two. And a scary pigeon lady turns out to be quite nice, letting Kevin come into her spacious loft space in a church. The criminals that Kevin failed to put away last Christmas are back, at which point the boy realises he is powerless without a house. He breaks into somebody else's and builds another impenetrable fortress. An extremely clever, resourceful boy. The filmmakers decided not to produce Home Alone 3: Kevin Needs Therapy, and rebooted the series with a new child. Probably for the best.
Monday, 13 December 2010
Now, I've written before that the show had spread itself too thin. Too many characters, too little time to make them interesting. And that's mostly true, but here I actually wanted them to survive. This is a big difference from two episodes ago, when zombies attacked the camp and I wanted them all to get eaten. I don't know their names, but after six hours I began supporting the living. And then it ended. Why did it take so long? What happened to Morgan from the first episode, and that man that cut his hand off? Never mind. Overall, it's gone from being good to barely acceptable and back again, finally resting somewhere in the middle. I was expecting a one-off series, instead I watched what felt like half a season. With a longer second season in production, I hope it comes back with more bite (yes, that's a good pithy remark to end on, I could also have said something about 'brains' or 'guts', but 'bite' is good).
Sunday, 12 December 2010
I might sound like I'm being too harsh, but only because I'm disappointed. It didn't live up to my expectations, which might have been too high in the first place. It's okay, but I wanted the inventive, satirical comedy that I was promised. This promise may have been something I just made up in my head. If this ever appears on television, watch the start and then do something else.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
There's a question of why this had to be romantic at all. Is it just the default mode for lighthearted comedy? It has ghosts. It could go anywhere. As it is, it's watchable, funny, and verging on interesting. Something to watch.
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
For all my sarcastic meanderings, this is obviously a good song. That's the technical term used by music critics: a good song. For more impressive sight and sound, watch this other video. To sum it up in noises, it'll make you go 'ooo'.
Monday, 29 November 2010
The backdrop to all this strife is the argument over the throne. With so many political deals and earls to slaughter it becomes difficult to follow. And nobody really cares anyway. Sometimes the throne will swap hands between episodes, and the battles just seem to amount to a bunch of people on horses riding around in the same field. Never mind then, all the entertainment is happening elsewhere - with the monks and the wool merchants and the fancy new rib vaulting on the cathedral. It's not as powerful as the book. Sometimes an adaption just can't hope for that. But it does a good job of making you forget.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
I look forward to seeing personalities shift and characters having another side. I don't look forward to a cycling succession of new survivors that come in to replace the chewed ones. Is it still annoying? Not really, it made it past that. But it's changed so much in a few episodes that I don't know which show it's going to turn out to be.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Apart from this, a lot of time is spent in military labs and secret island bases. We see how he gets his metal and I'm reminded how invincible he is. There's no need to worry about him getting hurt, but the scale of the action makes up for it. He can slash through tanks with his claws. He's an action prop, but an effective one. This may all be about to change with the Darren Aronofsky sequel. Will he descend into a drug-fuelled haze and reflect on his loneliness? Possibly. And so, to sum up this film in a mildly interested sort of way: it's alright.
Friday, 19 November 2010
I know that these characters aren't enjoying it, I'm just not feeling the same thing. One says that she's 'too scared to close her eyes and too scared to open them'. I believe her, I just need to be shown why. I'm usually a fan of this sort of horror, but finding scary things isn't the same as experiencing it. A bit more, that's all that's needed, just a little bit. So it may not have been the scary treat I was hoping for, but it's an interesting (and probably by now 'classic') part of the found-footage genre.
Monday, 15 November 2010
Maybe I'm being a bit mean. It's only one episode after all. But there was so much promise. Now I can't wait for this lot to meet the gruesome deaths they deserve. Poor Rick comes off mostly untarnished. I just wish he had something to look forward too. Now his wife and best friend are having sex in the forest there can't be much to smile about. Why did he marry this stroppy woman? It's a zombie apocalypse, don't have a pout. Kill them all Rick. Kill them and find another horse to ride. You used to be so much fun.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Rick makes the mistake of looking for the advertised shelter in the city. These shelters never live up to their promise. It all seems as deserted as the countryside until he turns a corner to find five hundred 'walkers' in one street. Then he's in trouble. Although, in a shocking twist, his wife and son aren't dead (yet). He should be reunited with them pretty soon. And then they will all die. That's not a spoiler, just a prediction. I imagine his son might get the zombie fever, and they'll have to frantically search for a cure. That sort of thing. It may be standard stuff, but it's confidently and powerfully done. A very promising start.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
In a big match finale, the nature of wrestling means that it's all rehearsed and decided beforehand. The uncertainty comes from the Ram's physical and emotional failures. The line between stage and reality is crossed. It doesn't sound like a lot of fun, but it's definitely worth a watch. There's enough metaphor in the script to make everybody's inner film student happy (he works at the meat counter, selling meat, because he's just a lump of meat), or you can just sit back and watch it unfold. You never know, there might be a happy ending.
Friday, 5 November 2010
For me, the most effective part of Night of the Living Dead is the threat of the very first zombie. If you didn't know the title of the film you might just assume he was a drunk gravedigger, but he's more energetic than the others. He almost starts running through the cemetery, something that zombies definitely aren't supposed to do. He's a menace. If only he'd stayed in the background and wandered past. Poor Barbra.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
More importantly though, it makes me sad that such a thing is necessary. If a different bunch of people remake a film and turn it into something else, then at least it's different. It's doing its own thing. To copy something exactly is pointless. Who are these people who won't watch a film with subtitles? Where are they? I hope that Let Me In is different. I hope that it's better. I hope that it's worse. Just don't make me watch a new film I've seen before. It's weird. We'll see how it goes.
Sunday, 31 October 2010
I'm not recommending this film. I'm not saying it's any good. Not really. But if you find yourself to be watching it, for whatever reason, you probably won't have many complaints.
Saturday, 30 October 2010
This season goes for the build up. Even the slightly dull Quinn and his slightly dull girlfriend turn out to be pieces of the bigger picture. And when Dexter is always there to protect the right people at the right time, Kyle Butler isn't. Kyle Butler procrastinates, he makes everyone a bit uneasy. He kills the wrong people. Trinity eventually tracks him to his office, walks in, reads his name badge and says 'Hello, Dexter Morgan'. Then it's time to protect his brightly coloured home from the dark threats of a thoroughly evil man. Dexter always gets the man in the end and dumps him into the sea in pieces. It's reassuring. But just when you think there might be a nice tidy, happy ending, along comes horrific unthinkable tragedy. Which is good, if you like that sort of thing.
Friday, 29 October 2010
And it isn't clear whether Leo's death was planned, or just made sadly necessary. John Spencer's death is announced before episode ten, 'Running Mates', with his last appearance being in episode thirteen, 'The Cold'. Leo dies from a heart attack in episode seventeen, 'Election Day Part II'. It would seem that this was a last minute change to accommodate for the loss of an actor, but where was Leo in episode one's flash forward? The season starts with a scene from three years in the future, where most of the characters are waiting for the new president to arrive. Leo isn't there, or even mentioned. It was aired several months before John Spencer's death, so there's no way they could have re-filmed it. So Leo must have had a reason for not being there. Maybe, as the Vice-President, he'd just be somewhere else, or they'd planned the character's death all along. Although, from a writing point of view, giving a character two heart attacks in two seasons doesn't make much sense. Either way, 'Requiem' has a sense of finality about it, a tragic end to one of the show's finest characters.
Statements from the producers contradict each other about a planned Vinick or Santos win. Whether John Spencer's death forced them to change their minds or not, the final script was written long before. Overall, The West Wing might not be entirely consistent in quality - a brilliant first four years followed by a scramble to find itself again. Sometimes things get lost in Mandyville, but there's no doubt it's one of the best television shows ever made.
Season 1 | Season 2 | Season 3 | Season 4 | Season 5 | Season 6
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Of course, it's not all creaking doors. As it ramps up, and each night becomes a bit worse, the ambient rumblings give way to more sinister things. It's true that the rhythm of the film is: Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Boo. Or occasionally: Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. Thud. Thud. Thud. Sometimes there's thuds and then a boo. And it is, admittedly, all very tense. One significant boo made me lurch forward quite quickly. But was I scared? I was worried for these characters, who seemed like nice people in a very unfortunate situation. I was scared for them. I enjoyed it. I slept fine.
Monday, 25 October 2010
I saw Howl's Moving Castle a while ago. That impressed me, but now I might be realising why everyone loves Ghibli. Even if I'm not sure how to say it. Gib-lee? Jib-lee? I don't know enough.
Friday, 22 October 2010
If you haven't read the book, and fancy giving a chunk of your life to an historical epic, read it first. If you're not that bothered, just watch this. It's only just started on British telly. After watching the next eight hours I'll tell you if it was worth it.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
By this point I might just sound like some sort of crazed Sorkin fanatic, but when it's this good it can't be helped. There aren't enough superlatives to describe it - rapid, witty, exciting and - most importantly - never dull. It's just people talking in rooms but it never loses it's energy or sense of progression. One scene bounces into the next, flying between depositions, bars, coding, parties. It's funny, but by the time you've laughed it's already moved on. It's in the rhythm of the words and the inflections of the acting. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg like a fizzling robot, firing off the lines with dry emotionless aggression. Andrew Garfield plays the good guy left behind. Justin Timberlake is the sly but suave antagonist who gains the confidence of the king. Most of these characters are completely horrible but, somehow, completely watchable. There's so much going on it's difficult to remember a lot of it. I could have watched it again straight after leaving the cinema. It makes you realise how good a script can be, how a director can hand the reigns over to the actors and the words. Inspirational stuff.
It's like watching the best West Wing for the first time. Classic Sorkin, and classic everything else.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
- Martin Sheen plays the Chief of Staff. This is just wrong. This man is the President of the United States. Who does Michael Douglas think he is? Like Bartlet and Leo, these two are old friends. But they play pool instead of chess. And to be fair, Douglas does a good POTUS.
- Joshua Malina turns up. That's all, really.
- Anna Deveare Smith plays the Press Secretary. I had to look that name up, but she played National Security Advisor Nancy McNally. She was always around.
- Ellie, who had a whole episode named after her, has a minor role here. Not the character, the actress. Nina Siemmaszko.
- Michael J. Fox, who plays the 'Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy' (lets say Deputy Chief of Staff) is a lot like Josh Lyman. He gets worked up easily. He's completely obsessed with the job. And he has a similar moment to Josh's 'take your legislative agenda and shove it up your ass' rant. But with more swearing.
- The relationship between the President and his daughter has some similarities to Bartlet and Zoey. 'You're going to make me read this book cover to cover and then ask me a thousand questions about it at dinner'. Or something like that.
- 'What is the virtue of a proportional response?' That came up pretty early in Season One.
- The President says 'What's next?' The final words of the pilot and the line that was missing from the last episode.
- Finally, and probably most importantly, the writing feels similar. The rhythm of the dialogue, the walking and talking, the sheer amount of stuff happening in each sentence. And the big speech at the end could have been straight from Bartlet. If it wasn't about the President's new girlfriend.
Monday, 18 October 2010
And it comes with a useful reminder. It is almost always a bad idea to make a deal with the devil. If the deal is immortality in return for giving the devil your first-born daughter, the last thing you should do is have a daughter. Doctor Paranassus becomes forgetful in his old age. The devil always wins, especially if he's played by Tom Waits. He's the one who rightly advised us to 'keep the devil way down in the hole'.
Saturday, 2 October 2010
Greengrass uses the same loose and frantic style, though I'm not really sure what to call it. It's not 'documentary style', there's too much music for that. It might be 'cinema vérité', but I'm not about to start writing in French. It could be 'handheld', but that sounds too vague. You know what I mean though. Some people complain that it's just shaky and disorientating, but these people are almost definitely wrong. Greengrass would say it 'crackles with reality'. Yes, he's probably right.
Thursday, 30 September 2010
The real joy of The West Wing doesn't come from the events, but from the strength of the writing. In that respect this season makes back a lot of points. It remembers how to be funny, even if it's sometimes a bit inappropriate (why are CJ and Josh arguing about donuts when Leo's close to death?). It starts to reference season one when Leo gives another 'let Bartlet be Bartlet' speech. It remembers how to be a bit subversive. It remembers how to be energetic. The middle episode of Season Five was called 'Slow News Day', here it's called 'A Good Day'. This is more like it.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
That was all a long introduction to asking you what films I should watch. People are better than critics after all. If you recommend a film I'll put it on a list somewhere, watch it, then pour my thoughts out onto these beige pages (according to Wikipedia, beige is quite close to the 'average colour of the universe'). You can also recommend bad films if you like. That way I don't have to be so nice all the time.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
To be fair, there's a bit of mystery here. A bad man comes back from the dead and starts doing magical things. Disappointingly though, Holmes figures it all out after the big confrontation. He's not as clever as Cumberbatch. Nowhere near. Cumberbatch would have cleared the whole thing up in a day.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
The CIA seem to be no better at their jobs these days. They definitely didn't see all this coming. Nobody suspects the Russian sleeper agents. They're the ones that pretend to be your friend, then they kidnap your husband and steal the nuclear launch codes. I wonder what Natalya Simonova is doing these days. She was useless. I also wonder what the Russians are planning right now. They're clearly up to something.
Thursday, 16 September 2010
If this is all peeling back one layer of fiction, it goes even further by giving Van Damme a six-minute monologue, where he breaks down all sorts of fourth walls (what are the first three?) by talking straight to the camera. He talks about his life in a cryptic way, and seems to get all emotional about it. It's a film making all sorts of points about the relationship between fiction and reality, but I'm not going to go into that - I've finished my English Literature degree now. And it doesn't look like it's started an art-house career revival for Van Damme, so this may be all the crying we see from him.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Some people have called 3D a revolution in film. Others say it'll be reduced to novelty status by this time next year. I don't know. I've yet to see this extra dimension. 'Things jump off the screen and hang in front of your eyes'. Really? Ok, I'll take your word for it. I'm far behind the rest of Film Land with this. I don't even know what they're talking about. I'm willing to let it go. It's probably got one more chance to impress me. But the glasses: necessity or money-making scheme? Nintendo have made a new DS console that does 3D without glasses. Clever people could make cinema screens like this. If it's revolutionary it must be worth the money.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
It's a film that does conventional things. There's a damsel in a distress and an evil sorcerer in a castle. But it does these things powerfully and with complete conviction. This sort of thing can be done well without lasting three hours. One man on a quest to defeat evil and everything falls into place. I think it slipped through cinemas without anybody noticing, despite picking up good reviews. It's a film that deserves attention. It's an origin story, like the recent Robin Hood film, but doesn't outstay its welcome. Solomon Kane gets the job done.
Thursday, 9 September 2010
But is it required that you watch it? I definitely feel like I know a lot more about Baltimore now, so at the very least it's taught me things. David Simon also says that 'we've treated television as if it's not a mass medium, and we've been rewarded in kind'. I think this means that we now don't expect television to show us anything worthwhile, or teach us anything at all. So what shows hold up to this sort of thinking? That aren't just entertaining, but actually demand your attention. Everyone loves The West Wing, but does it change the way you look at American politics? I think it does, but I'm biased. Does The Sopranos count for anything? Does Doctor Who matter? I'm not saying everything has to be this significant. Entertainment is entertaining, there's no need for everything to be about the real world. But there has to be some. Maybe most of them just haven't been made. Outside of all the hyperbole, which pieces of television are actually that important? Like with most things, I don't know.
Monday, 6 September 2010
Even though the first season didn't really grab me, Dexter has been compelling television ever since. Under less skilled cast and crew, this would be a horrible and nasty examination of a serial killer. Instead it's equal parts funny and disturbing, ironic and a bit scary. It's holding all these elements as it walks a tightrope, always ready to fall off but never losing its footing. It's quite good. But like I said, you already know this.
Friday, 3 September 2010
In some ways it's flimsy. Every now and then Cameron Diaz's character is drugged or knocked out, making the screen go black and fade into a new exotic location. A series of set-pieces with no link, like levels in a game. A lot of action films travel rapidly travel around locations, but not usually so shamelessly. Doesn't really matter though, in much the same way as you ignore Diaz's habit of talking out loud when she's deducing things. It'll do.
Monday, 30 August 2010
Also, I think this was the first time I've ever seen rugby 'faked' for the camera. This sort of thing is done regularly for American Football films and, you know, golf, but this might actually hurt. In the middle of one of the most chaotic and brutal sports in the world, somebody wandered in with a very expensive camera and told them all to do it again. It looks real too. Good job.