Saturday, May 30, 2009

"what are you gonna do now, charlie?"

since i'm taking my last few days' worth of break before i dive into the next section of my thesis (i did try going straight from 1980 to 1899 but then my brain started to creak and i thought that was a bad sign), i've had time to watch a few movies.

so, for televisual entertainment last weekend, anna and i had between us the proposition and state & main. i got to see both; anna only got to watch the second one due to work schedules.

state & main was okay. from my point of view, it never stopped being a movie -- none of the characters made me forget they were characters and while some of them were quite fun -- philip seymour hoffman, william h. macy -- others were just caricatures -- whatever baldwin that was (alec, i think), sarah jessica parker. and i understand that being a caricature was the point of their existence, but it sort of left me a bit cold. i mean, why bother caring about caricatures? unless there's something behind it which the caricature act is working to cover, hide, or protect, why should i get invested? it was funny, but since the entire ending of the movie depends on a giant sleight of hand trick on the part of the story.... i'm less than thrilled by movies which have to resort to that kind of thing in order to get their point across. if nothing else, i'm rarely ever convinced that it would work for the characters.

on the other hand, for my money the proposition was great stuff. very simple, very quiet. guy pearce, ray winstone, danny huston -- convinced yet? emily watson, david wenham? there we go.  

that said, fair warning: it's kinda violent. but i described it to someone as being "completely in-character violence." it would actually be ridiculous for these men in this situation to behave in much of any other way. given that it's mid-nineteenth century australia (not on anyone's top ten of nice places throughout history), they're actually kind of restrained. with the warnings i'd gotten on the movie from my parents, i was prepared for something dripping blood, torture, and mutilation and, really, it isn't like that. the violence is actually quite startling when it happens because you almost start to hope that it won't -- which is part of the point. when ray winstone says at the beginning of the film, "i'm going to civilize this country," i took it with a hefty helping of cynicism but part of what the film very effectively questions is what civilization looks like -- and how it gets to look like that. 

there's also some lovely photography -- guy pearce's travelling out into the desert in search of his brother is beautifully put together. the music took a little getting used to; i was expecting some kind of either period or generic "classical" soundtrack and, instead, there are some very creepy vocal pieces as well as instrumentals. it's worth keeping an eye on the filters used, too; my father pointed out that, just as the underworld movies are married to the green/blue filters, the proposition is married to an amber/sepia filter.

and through the week i half-watched, half-read through the breed and the last winter. the latter was disappointing; ron perlman could have done so much better. it came across like someone threw the first resident evil movie,  john carpenter's the thing, the blob, the birds, an algernon blackwood short story called "the wendigo," and a couple of other things in a blender, hit "shred," and called it a day. the biggest disappointment about it is that it could have been really good but where it has a chance to step up and do something nifty, it fails. the breed was your average "there are crazy animals attacking the young pretty people" horror flick; crazy dogs, in this case. beautiful dogs, for the most part, and completely unbelievably crazy; they were wagging their tails far too much to be believably rabid. that said, it was kind of fun; at least it didn't take itself too seriously and michelle rodriguez is photogenic enough to keep my attention. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

clearing out the irritations of a long day... blogging. therapeutic, right? far better than plotting how to do damage to the town office of the miniscule town i went to high school in. demands for money should be both carefully timed and, ideally, not phrased as though the recipient is a blithering idiot and this one was neither of those things.

anyway, the amusing thing about this article, "in defense of distraction" by sam anderson is that i did have to follow the advice he gives in the first paragraph. i had, in fact, forgotten a brief but important email i had to send to a friend so i went and did it and then returned to read the rest of the article with, it has to be said, two interruptions to deal with other emails. which is fair, i think. i don't think the article covers anything particularly groundbreaking in terms of internet distraction -- or other kinds of distraction, for that matter -- but mr. anderson writes well and he makes some interesting points although i'm not sure if his conclusion is that great; it seems kind of like a cop-out to "the internet generation is just different. woooo." and it works as an interesting counterpoint to the bishop of paisley's outburst against twitter.

i sent jeremy clarkson's article about the honda insight to my mother because she and my father are talking about getting a new car. not that i seriously think they will buy a hybrid -- and if nothing else, the insight is far too low to work on our gravel road without getting the bottom torn out of it regularly -- but because clarkson writes excellent snark, describing the car as "Biblically terrible" at one point. this is quality snarking, guys.

i've watched the trailer for the road a couple of times now in the hopes that i will become more convinced. but it just isn't happening. the book is awesome; i read it in one sitting last summer after wandering across it in the bpl's immensely date-flexible "new fiction" section and thinking, "what the hell." great stuff -- really; but you should probably wait for a nice cheerful sunny day before you read it, make sure you have a kitten (or puppy, if your tastes swing that way) close to hand, and maybe some alcohol to go with it because it is not cheerful. not even a little bit. the closest thing to cheer that you can really find in it is that not quite everyone dies. although this is a pretty good thing, i have to say. anyway, just in case you haven't seen this video nineteen times already, i'm putting it here, too, just so i can consider it again later:

i was still tired enough before work this morning that, having arrived about half an hour early as usual (it's either that or be ten minutes late), when i wandered over to the guardian website to check out the uk headlines, the picture of john barrowman leading this article completely baffled me for a minute. now of course i'm linking the article because john barrowman is awesome and i'm marking time 'til torchwood season 3 but i also don't really dare check out much of the text of the article due to fear of spoilers. still, i don't doubt that any re-staging of la cage aux folles will be improved by his presence!

lastly, a dailyom post from a month or so back that i find helpful.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

the semester is over, so why am i still tired?

but here are some interesting links i found recently...

in case you were seriously worried that spike, jean-claude (or, worse, that pasty-pale twerp from twilight) might be crawling in your window some night, physicists have proved that vampires can't exist.

while i don't entirely appreciate the tone of this article since i think it shortchanges the smarter end of the small unit spectrum, i think it's a fun list of kid movies that adults like. i loved wallace and gromit from day one, myself; i think i saw "the wrong trousers" when mpbn ran it really randomly late one saturday night and my father happened to notice and taped it.

and a daniel finn article from the london review of books about ira splinter groups, asking the more or less perennial question of "why are you guys still doing this when it patently doesn't work?" good question. if he had actually managed to answer it, i'd be straight out of a thesis. he didn't, of course, but he did point out (unintentionally, i think) some of the commonalities that almost all republican nationalists suffer from.

who doesn't love a good misquoted movie line? bet you can guess what topped the list.

and because there has to be at least one link here and i thought this was really amusing -- an impassioned plea for reclaiming geek identity 'cause apparently it's under threat from...wil wheaton? i dunno -- maybe he's waving an eyeliner at it or something. the comments are also really worth reading on this; or at least the comments that were posted as of 8.45 this morning were; i don't know what's happened since then!

i now return to the black hole for time that is -- thesis rewriting.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"people are dead."

so i should probably preface this brief five-cent review of wolverine by saying that my total experience of x-men can be summed up as follows: x-men, x2, x3. i regret x3 -- i regret it deeply. i hope someday to meet bryan singer so i can hit him with a large fish and make him regret that idiotic superman thing he dumped x3 for.

but i digress.

needless to say, i was deeply unthrilled with x3 and probably the only thing that would've gotten me to go back to another x-men movie was hugh jackman. and look how things just happened to work out!

that said, i thought wolverine was an excellent way to spend two hours. (by the way, there are very minor spoilers below; if you are absolutely and totally allergic, go and see the movie then come back and read this.)

i have no idea how well or badly the movie fits into the graphic novel/comic canon -- i can't say i have the time right now to go and find out although i am somewhat curious. the two fanboys sitting next to me and anna who were debating the logic of film vs. print as the end credits rolled have something to do with this -- mostly, i would just like to know that they were as foolish as they sounded. 

the teasers/trailers did their usual job of being just misleading enough that i had to readjust my ideas of who was going to be a main character and who was cannon fodder quite quickly within, say, the first 20-30 minutes of the film. loved the opening montage, though; nice way to condense time and establish relationship at the same time. 

liev schreiber definitely stepped up to the plate as an action hero. i was kind of baffled about his casting when i first heard about it; i seem to remember thinking it was a joke for a bit. but he managed to come across as creepy, unstable, almost charming, and threatening all at once. the coat helped. the nails just looked painful.

gambit could've had more screen-time for my money; i realise that wolverine has about as much use for sidekicks as he does for fluffy bunnies, but still. his tricks were really spiffy to watch and he was quite cute; i think he might be the only one of the boys from the covenant who i've ever seen in anything else!

the end fight sequence was very impressive -- not spoilering it for the sake of friends who have yet to see it but very nice. i'm even willing to let them get away with the rip of phantom menace. ;) (and i know, i know -- george lucas ripped it off from about nine other people before him.)

there are the usual sort of gaps: the girlfriend was a less than inspirational. she was very pretty but i can't say i felt very invested in her. as always, it's interesting to see the steps that go into building the character you already know: here's where he picks up the jacket, there's that phrase, there's the dogtags, etc., etc. i have to say, it was deeply alarming to realise while walking towards coffee after the movie that the actor playing stryker had looked familiar because he was the lead vampire from 30 days of night. i kept looking at him and thinking, "but there's something wrong with his mouth..." 

and yes, there was -- it should have had fangs in it.