12 08 2008

Tom Cruise as a Nazi might pique a bit of interest in Valkyrie, but seeing that it’s a Brian Singer film has got me fully on board, and the cast has officially elevated me to excited: Stephen Fry, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin McNally, Ian McNeice and more.

There’s also a bunch of German actors, including Christian Berkel from Black Book. Makes you think, if every actor over here gets a go on the Bill, does every German actor eke a living as Nazi soldiers? And which type are they? Square-jawed Prussian types who don’t really like Nazism, weaselly SS-types, or hearty fat chaps?


art of the title

23 07 2008

The Art of the Title Sequence – is a blog with Quicktime movies of interesting title sequences. Particularly interested is the Alien movies intros compared.


3 07 2008

Neil Marshall 2008

A British tale of Hadrian’s wall, mounted with automatic machine guns to massacre blood-puking plague zombies, crossed by a pneumatic one-eyed babecop to find a barking mad Malcolm Macdowell in a post-apocalyptic Scotland full of mutant punks. Sight and Sound must have loved it.

What surprised me was the sheer scale of thievery involved. Doomsday kicks off by nicking the frenzied mob of start of 28 Days Later, body swerves into the boat assault from The Usual Suspects, date-rapes the concept of Escape From New York (via The Thick of It: the George Romero version) before carving the nuts off the APC scenes from Aliens, hangs the torture scene from Lethal Weapon from a meathook, then devours the charred flesh of a kind of bovver-booted Cirque du Soleil. Then things get really weird, with crazy-eyed cheque-casher Malcolm MacDowell popping up as a kind of mad scientist Sheriff of Nottingham. Then it’s into pedal to the metal for a ludicrous jaunt down Mad Max 2‘s wreckage-strewn motorway before a final look at Alistair Campbell’s version of Downfall — followed by an ending nicked from The Dark Knight Returns.

Sounds fun, right? It kind of is, although it lacks the killer final punch of really gobsmacking moments or laugh-out-loud one-liners. Rhona Mitra’s copper carries the show as Lara Croft & Snake Plissken’s little girl taking on a series of mohicanned cannibal Frank Begbies to a soundtrack of ’80s bombast. A surprisingly committed cast, including Bob Hoskins and Alexander Siddig, seem to have convinced themselves they’re doing Chekov, which gives the unbridled bloodletting and profligate head-lopping a certain grand guignol crunchy grandeur. And yet, unbelievably, it could have done with being even more bonkers.


8 09 2007

I’ve just been doing some ego surfing, and discovered that a chap named Richard Trenholm was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross in Korea. Kind of puts things into perspective.

the departed

16 06 2007

Martin Scorsese 2006


ocean’s 13

16 06 2007

Steven Soderbergh 2007

The problem with these big cast franchises is the Star Trek problem of finding everybody something to do. The focus isn’t as firmly on Clooney this time as he isn’t the originator of the plan, so the others have a bit of breathing space. Matt Damon comes off best; a leading man elsewhere, he has so far been the junior member of Ocean’s crew, but 13 is his coming of age. With a big fake nose.

Carl Reiner essays a far more successful English accent than Don Cheadle’s weirdly-accented Basher, who spends most of his time fiddling with a large drill but is compensated with a flamboyant scene pretending to be a stunt motorcyclist. Bernie Mac, however, only gets one decent line for a film’s worth of hanging around. Shaobo Qin displays a bit more attitude and there’s plenty of life in the running gag that he doesn’t speak English. Eddie Jemison is saddled with being the least cool of the gang, although nothing is ever what it seems.

Scott Caan and Casey Affleck are the best served outside of the leading troika, with a whole subplot involving their infiltration of a dice factory and their involvement in industrial relations proving a comic highlight.

At the heart of it all is Elliott Gould’s Reuben, whose heart attack provides the catalyst for the job. He doesn’t do much but drift around in his pyjamas, but you feel for him anyway.

Reuben has been laid low after Al Pacino’s casino boss screwed him over in a business deal. Affronted, Ocean’s crew decide to take him for everything he’s got. For once, it’s not about winning everything, as making sure the other guy loses everything. What this adds up to is a series of complex cons to make sure that the casino’s grand opening breaks the bank.

This means several additions to the cast, including a criminally underused Eddie Izzard and a typical hard-luck turn from David Paymer.

The marquee names are poorly treated, however. Pacino’s Willy Bank is more clown fish than shark. Despite all the Godfather references, his meeting with Andy Garcia is disappointingly limp. We only know he’s tough because he’s Al Pacino, rather than from anything in the script.

Worse is Ellen Barkin, whose supposedly icy enforcer Sponder comes across like Cameron Diaz’s halfwit aunt. Olga Sosnovska’s Debbie is much more interesting. Her role should have been expanded to take over Sponder’s, giving a slinky frisson to the Ocean/Rusty/Linus troika and perhaps tempting Ocean and Rusty from the straight and narrow with their respective partners (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts, neither of whom show up here).

Julian Sands is also criminally limp in a role that David Thewlis, say, would have seized by the scruff of the neck (were all the decent British actors too busy with Potter…?)

More knockabout than previous entries, 13 virtually invites you to disengage your brain and just feel the comedy, as the dialogue and story is frequently impenetrable until the second viewing. Fortunately it is pretty funny, and pretty charming, but despite the complexity of the various scams the whole thing still tends to flabby – just like the leads.

power down II

10 06 2007

Islington Arts Factory

No power. No refrigeration. No lights. Candlelight and drums flickering… a piano in the dark.

Chris Lyons inhabits a spellbinding space somewhere between Regina Spector and the Exorcist, the church in which we stand dislocated in the ether to stand jagged and proud on a glittering moon. Hairs on the back of the neck coruscate as we spin in the night.

Ahuman bring out the shamanistic qualities of When Doves Cry. We strain for every word. They inhabit the space and time so completely it’s near impossible to imagine them in any other context. Post Postmodern Anxiety Blues is a bit Alabama 3. Bowling Shoes is a bit like Just The One by the Levellers while legging it down the Golden Mile.

Portico Quartet sound a bit like they’re soundtracking your day if you’re Michelle Pfeiffer in The Witches Of Eastwick. Or something. The intensity is gone, and so am I, staggering into the sleeting rain.