Sunday, February 27
Saturday, February 26
Everyone's In On It Now
Unfortunately, blogging is no longer perceived as an odd quirky way for anti-social types to communicate...
The Oscars have a blog.
It's A Drought I Tell You
I've been having a bit of a dry spell. Due to lack of funds, I've been unable to see as many movies as I would have liked to. Due to working a couple of nights a week I'm always behind with my viewing. Thankfully, all is well in the bank department again, and I have already satisfied my cinema craving. I'll write about Constantine shortly. And, I'm organised now to have two days off a week so I can feed my TV habit (until I get disorganised again).
We're now four episodes into Lost and it's got me hooked. I think this last ep has settled into the rhythm we are likely to expect from now on. Scares, intrigues, misleads, and hints all still abound. More questions are being set up than have been answered so far, which is good really.
'Walkabout' was mostly about finding out more Orange Man (John Locke) was a great character to get more info on. They could have left him as a mystery for longer, I think, to make us perceive him as more of a threat. Terry O'Quinn performs this role so subtly I wanted the mystery to last longer, but the revelation at the end was worthy of a M. Night. Shyamalan film.
As soon as we Orange Man at work in a flashback, and be demeaned by his superior, I had the feeling that he was a little geeky. Playing strategy games during his lunch hour solidified my theory. The fact that in the jungle, hunting the boar, he was so intent on proving he could do it screamed of personal issues. And what an obstacle to overcome!
Locke is the only one who has seen the scary-tree-shaking-beasties. Will he die before he can share?
The Travel Agent had a horrible Australian accent. Expect more complaints if they have more Americans butchering our accent. The guy was on 'Passions'!
I'm wondering how long till a romance blossoms. There's not a TV show that I can think of that doesn't feature some sort of romance, and Jack and Kate seem to be the most obvious. Dominic Monaghan's (Charlie) pathetic attempts to flirt with Shannon were a great reality check for his character. I'm liking his character, and am waiting for the withdrawals form the drugs to start to kick in.
Who is the guy in the jungle?
I've changed the Lost link in my sidebar to the official site that's not from the network it airs on in the US. It's kinda fun to search the island for all the bits and pieces.
Wednesday, February 23
I have a memory like a sieve. I'm bad with names when I meet people, have issues remembering objects proper names (so I tend to make them up) and have a tendency to instantly forget anything not related to what I'm doing. So I write everything down. The point I'm getting to (eventually) is that there are too many films, TV shows, and games with 'battle' and 'galactic' in their titles.
Battlestar Galactica, the mini-series, was on two weekends ago, and the number of times I miss-named it Battlefield Earth (as we have just acquired Battle for Middle Earth) would probably horrify anyone involved in the show. Battlefield Earth was a scary movie that was so laden with religious undertones that no one could ignore them.
Battlestar Galactica, on the other hand, is a new look at an old series. I've not seen anything of the old show that I can recall, so I came to this with a fresh perspective. First impressions last with a series, and BG's first impression was very positive. Opening with a brief text history of the human/Cylon war, and the Cylon's subsequent disappearance, we are taken to the ship where the delegate has gone to meet the Cylon representative who has never shown since they disappeared.
For a TV mini-series, BG's effects are fantastic. They've gone for quality rather than quantity and what they have is brilliant. There aren't any fuzzy backgrounds nor any stand out CGI characters. The old style Clyon drones are impressive and rather intimidating.
The robots have become advanced enough to have human replica spies, which means they have a great new paranoia plot to run with and also means it's not just big clunky "bad robots" as the big bad.
The catastrophic destruction of all twelve human worlds was, as we would hope, very traumatising for the characters, and thankfully mini-series melodrama was nicely avoided. The nuclear bomb shower of Caprica was one particularly impressive sequence.
The subsequent hunting down of all human vessels by the Cylons was rather nasty, and the way the BG is involved in this is executed well. The ascension of the Minister for Education to President of the Colonies and the struggle for power is a thread which will surely be a regular feature in the series.
The great battle and escape that ends the mini-series was one of the best space battles I've seen. Intense and chaotic. A very subdued sound design meant that we were able to focus on the human aspect of it rather than the sounds of ships whizzing by. It was like they were aware of the fact that there isn't any air in space for noise to travel.
For anyone who has seen Joss Whedon's Firefly, you will be aware of the unique CGI 'hand-held' shots. Out-of-focus zooms and close-ups of over engines. BG used these to their advantage and it added another layer of craziness to the battles.
The mini-series really did seem like a very long pilot for a TV show. Not a bad thing, but it would have been very disappointing to spend that much time setting up these characters and their relationships, to have it end after 4 hours.
I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to a sci-fi classic and eagerly await the start of the weekly show on Wednesday.
Tuesday, February 22
One of the down sides of working in the theatre is total immersion and repetition. We get to know a show so well that the tunes are constantly circling in the back of our heads.
When setting the movements for a song, you can go over the same phrase up to 10 times. By the end of a three hour rehearsal it's possible to have heard the song 40 times.
No wonder we're all insane.
Saturday, February 19
And More Of The Same
This Wednesday is a big day for DVD releases.
Angel season 5 is going to be realeased. Herc writes about how much he loved the season and the new official DVD site is quite shiny, and features some new wallpapers.
Also out Wednesday:
The Dark Crystal – Collector’s Edition
Labyrinth - Collector's Edition
Cirque Du Soleil’s Alegria
Cirque Du Soleil’s Fire Within
On March 16 Hero and Pieces of April are to be released on DVD.
I wasn’t going to post anything this far into the future, but it’s worth getting excited over now. Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba is the best of any cirque show that I’ve not seen live, and would be the best if I ever get the chance to see it live. It is an amazing production in a massive theatre that dazzles and amazes. I’ve never been that speechless for that long.
In Firefly news...
Keep your eye out for Finding Serenity, a collection of essays about Joss’ short-lived Firefly.
There is also a book simply titled Serenity, which is due for release the same day the film has it’s US release.
Joss is slated to release a comic prequel to Serenity. Which has had it’s release date bumped back to September, and not confirmed here in Oz.
Seventh Heaven is the reason why we only have half of the first season of Buffy. Now it’s copying Buffy too. A Seventh Heaven musical episode? What on earth were they thinking!
The next Artemis Fowl is out on May 3 on Amazon. Called The Opal Deception, Artemis is still without memory of the Fairy Kingdom and when an old enemy escapes from prison, Holly Short has to try and save Artemis.
Friday, February 18
A Titleless Post
The film rights to the Terry Brooks series, Magic Kingdom For Sale, has been snapped up by Universal Pictures. This is the first Brooks series, that I know of, to be slated for adaptation. Stephen Sommers is set to direct the first book. Lets hope he manages not to avoid the disdain Van Helsing garnered.
I think it’s time. Time for Terminator to hang up his biceps. Nick Stahl and Clare Danes will not feature in T4. Nor will Arnie. It’s going to be set in the Future, with an older John Connor.
Ray Harryhausen’s: The Early Years Collection would be fantastic viewing. I hope it gets a release here soon.
I couldn’t believe that The Greatest American Hero was not just some childhood bad dream! The scariest part is that the theme song came screaming back into my head like an out of control freight train. Believe it or not, I’m walkin’ on air!
Enterprise flys no more. After never really hitting the mark, the prequel series is no-more. Nor will it be shopped out to other networks in hope of reviving it.
A Happy Ending?
Basing films on plays is not a new thing. Hollywood has been stealing from the theatre when it ran out of original ideas in the genres infancy. Adapting theatre isn’t as easy at it would seem. The text has to be thoroughly reworked for film or it can feel very heavy. The last thing a director wants to deal with is a fixed script that’s clunky (like Phantom).
Mike Nichols has proven that he can take a theatrical piece and create a memorable filmic experience. Angels in America is a mini-series that I am unlikely to forget. Dealing with life, love, disease, death, faith, sexuality, marriage, hatred, and a long list of other issues, Angels is six hours of gripping television that challenges one to look inward and evaluate.
I was not surprised that Nichols’ next project was another play text adaptation. I haven’t seen many of his previous films, and I haven’t seen Carnal Knowledge, which I believe is in a similar theme to Closer.
Closer is the story of four people living in London. It is by chance that they meet and that is where the film begins. Dan (Jude Law) is an Obiturist and leading a pointless existence; Anna (Julia Roberts) is a newly divorced photographer; Larry (Clive Owen) is a Dermatologist who likes to have online sex; Alice (Natalie Portman) is a drifter who strips.
Via two chance meetings Anna and Larry hook up and Dan and Alice hook up. Over time, Dan also sees Anna and eventually Larry goes looking for Alice. Complicated and twisted are the two words that spring to mind. Yet what about relationships isn’t complicated and who hasn’t been in a relationship that when viewed from the outside appears twisted.
Closer is an honest look at relationships and all of the grim details. The stuff that most Hollywood films gloss over or ignore is presented so openly that you can’t help but try and understand. Each of the characters is likeable and each of them is abhorrent, just as each of us are. If you aren’t honest enough with yourself to understand that everyone is capable of these nasty acts, you will likely hate this film.
Nasty, it does get. The mantra that these characters go by is honesty, but they use that honesty to inflict pain. The truth is normally painful to deal with, but when thrown in someone’s face it is nigh on unbearable.
This is the first film that I have seen Julia Roberts play a real human. Her performance is completely grounded. I think she must have had some huge emotional connection to really go the places Anna goes. She also looked the part; her make-up was natural, and her hair was never perfect and solid. She looked tired and downright plain and her performance was taken that step further with the pain she showed in her eyes.
Jude Law was the only cast member I took a moment to adjust too. He is normally the suave gentleman, not the awkward loner. He plays the early thirty year old guy looking for love, but in too many places, well. Dan is forgettable guy, and Law had to work hard to ensure that he was never forgotten. Dan’s most memorable line, for me, was when he was in a theatre’s bar and stated “I need to piss.”. As did I at that time.
Clive Owen is most recently known for playing the monosyllabic King Arthur. Larry is far more articulate. We first meet Larry while he’s online in his office: chatting and masturbating. At first it seems that he is the average guy who gets the short stick, but as the film progresses his true self is revealed and Owen revels in this change. We see the layers that were always just under the surface revealed and the truth outed.
Natalie Portman has officially grown up. If you’re still under that illusion that she’s that innocent girl from Star Wars, you’d better not see Closer. The 23 year old actor was playing someone her own age and took the challenges this character offered and overcame them with confidence. The strip club scene is likely to become infamous but it is filmed well and the dialogue is electric. Portman gives Alice an air of naïve innocence and yet the situations she becomes entangled in are far from it.
Patrick Marber adapted his script for the screen and, I believe, kept a similar tone and distance with the characters. There is no opportunity to really get to know the characters; they are all kept at a distance. What we are given is the now; the present state of that character and their relationships. The time jumps are an effective way of avoiding the ritual life of the character and focusing on the major events. I think it was Hitchcock who said that drama is life with the boring parts removed. Closer is an extreme of this.
The complex nature of each character keeps the audience in a constant state of flux between empathy, sympathy and antipathy. Never have my feelings about characters changed so much in one film.
I left the cinema with my mind in a whirl. I was thinking about this film for a few days after seeing it, and have only now (three weeks later) had a clear enough memory to be able to write about it.
The title of the film isn’t literal like so many nowadays. It is yet another theme that could be endlessly debated. Closer to what? To people, to partners, to the destruction of any successful relationship? I’m still not sure.
If you want to read an excellent review. I’d recommend this one.
See it. Discuss it.
Wednesday, February 16
House of Flying Daggers hasn't opened at my local cinema. I'm not surprised, but no less pissed about it.
For one to be able to type when one takes one's computer to work...
one must also take one's keyboard.
What's In A Name
I have finally seen more than one Oscar Best Film contender. Ray is the biopic film of the life of Ray Charles Robinson, or simply Ray Charles. It focuses on the first twenty years of his career from the early 1940s till the early 1960s. The story is interlaced with flashbacks to Ray's childhood exploring his humble upbringing and dealing with going blind and the death of his little brother.
Biographical films don't really appeal to me, and I didn't have high expectations for Ray. I was, however looking forward to hearing the music. If nothing else, I knew the music was going to keep me entertained. Featuring original and new recording by Ray Charles himself, there was no doubt about the quality. I was tapping and jiving along for most of the film.
I know little about most iconic entertainers personal history, and assume that to be as talented as they are, their life has to be riddled with painful events. So I was lead into the world of the mid-20th century music industry. I am glad that I wasn't a would-be musician back then.
Taking up the role of Ray must have been daunting for Jaime Foxx. Such a memorable physicality would be impossible to mimic without veering into slighty parody, but Foxx is completely convincing. The progression of the effects of the drugs on his performance was subtle and really added to the quality of his performance. I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two if shown two performances.
The only negative criticisms I have is that the whole illusion that Jaime Foxx was Ray Charles was totally destroyed when he appears in a flash-back as his adult self and opens his eyes. It was like pulling the emergency brake on a train. Everything came crashing forward to a hault. The other is that there was no aging of the cast. Twenty years is a long time, and there is no one who doesn't change physically over that much time. I was a little disappointed that the women in his life began to show signs of age, and he didn't.
I honestly don't think this is a Best Picture Oscar nomination worthy film. I was surprised how well Foxx did, and believe he deserves a nod for his work, but the overall film wasn't that impactive. It is a good tribute to Charles' life and career and is a must see for fans of his music, but for me it was a pleasant experience that I feel could have been better somehow.
Ray Charles' death certainly made Ray a bittersweet tale, and no doubt helped it's promotion and eventual box office success. I just hope that it's not going to push it into the lead for the Oscars. We'll find out soon enough.
Tuesday, February 15
Saturday, February 12
Shiny & New
I have just finished downloading MSN Messenger 7.0 Beta. I tend to only download the updates when Messenger won't let me sign in without them. I got that notice today. Being daring, I downloaded this Beta test and I all can say is, "It's totally cool!".
Sure there are new functions that I have no intention of using, but the 'nudge' function will become the popping noise that Donkey does in Shrek 2. Endless joy for me!
I've also found a spellchecher for Firefox. I have missed my IESpell since changing over, and am very happy to have one now. It's called Spellbound and it's a rather convoluted process to install, but well worth the effort. If you don't use Firefox, you should. Get it here.
In other news, Rullsenberg Rules blogger Lisa has been profiled at Normblog. Guess who is listed as her favourite blog! I'm very humbled and may have to walk through doorways sideways for a while.
Friday, February 11
Good For You Health
If laughing is meant to be good for us, then I think this site is oddly healthy.
Got to www.asksnoop.com
Enter the URL to this site in the text box and read one of my posts.
Repeat for your own blog.
I didn't know it was possible for me to sound that cool!
Medium To Well Done
I caught a glimpse of this show on ET one afternoon and I liked what I saw. Even through the heavy ET editing and removal of context the show looked like it had potential. Only seven eps of Medium have aired in the US so far, so it is an excellent turn of events that we are getting it nearly hot off the press.
To start with I like the fact that it is simply called Medium. The lack of 'the' removes the stigma that is automatically assumed by these shows. It makes the audience think about the title. I know people who don't know what a medium is, and for the title to not be universally understood is a positive.
The pilot does an exceptional job of introducing Allison Dubois. It opens with Allison in an interview with a widower who found his wife dead in his house. She wakes up and it's just a dream. Except that her bed is surrounded by people.
I love the fact that everything appears to be totally natural. The majority of camera work is hand-held and it gives the show a reality and immediacy that separates it from other psychic shows. Allison is a mother, she lives with her husband and three daughters. The normalcy of her life is the grounding she and the show need to make the extraordinary more believable.
I won't go into details about how she ends up in Texas to explain why she knows so much about a confidential case, but that entire sequence just made me laugh and appreciate how insane she must feel when put into a situation like that. It was just bizarre. Ten police vehicles meeting you at the plane and escorting you around the countryside would certainly make an impression. As she's not a fake, she recognises what the Sheriff is trying to do and ends up helping the case.
Subtly is the key to the success of the pilot I feel. If you're not paying attention, you'll miss the details. The girl in the bedroom was just a girl, except that she mentioned a dated band and when the female cop looked in the room from up the hall, Allison appeared alone.
I can't explain it, but the feeling of the Dubois house hold and the camera work seem to remind me of the camera work in E.T.. I think it may be the husbands very outdated 70s haircut.
This is a psychic show like no other in, my experience, and I hope it gets better from here.
Thursday, February 10
If Australian TV networks have an original idea. It would be worth a national holiday.
Ten have decided to follow Seven in it's insanity and repeat Medium's pilot episode twice. Thursday at 10:30pm and Saturday at 10:25pm. Once, I can understand, but I stand by my earlier question of:
Don't they have other shows to air?
Sunday, February 6
The Lost Pilot Part 1 By 3
Anticipation for this series was high. I’ve heard positive reports, it’s doing excellent business in the US (not always a reassuring thing) and it’s coming back for a second season. For most TV shows that I commit to this is a good sign.
Endlessly promoted over the Summer, Lost appeared to be Seven’s flagship show. Lots of hoping that it will click with us as an audience (Seven has little real concept of what audiences want). It premiered the first half of the two hour pilot at 8:30pm on Thursday. I watched and recorded. Just in case we missed it, Seven repeated it at 11:30pm Friday night. Just in case we missed both of those, it was on at 8:30pm tonight as well.
This is insanity! I can understand repeating once. Trying to capture more audience for the next week. Three times is a little too far. Aren’t there enough episodes of show’s they haven’t finished screening to fill those gaps? Tru Calling for example. I wouldn’t be so disturbed about this if it was only Lost. Desperate Housewives also got the same treatment. Monday 8:30, Tuesday 9:30, Saturday 9:30. They claimed tonight that 2.2 million viewers tuned into Desperate Housewives. Was that for both times the pilot aired?
Anyway, about Lost.
The show opens with my new favourite type of shot. Extreme close up of a closed eye that whips open so the iris spins in. Catchy. Moving back, the main character, Jack, is revealed and he starts running through a bamboo forest and out onto a beach. He moves around a shrub and the devastation is revealed. There is the carcass of an airliner strewn across the sand. Fire, debris, bodies and people fill the frame. A bit shocking.
The next few minutes involve Jack trying to save people, he’s a doctor see. There’s blood, yelling, an unstable engine blowing up when a guy gets sucked into it, a fuel loaded wing exploding and a pregnant woman with contractions. Nothing like getting my attention with explosions (not the pregnant woman, she doesn’t explode).
Then Jack wanders off so he can deal with his own bloody gash on his back. Next character: Kate. He convinces her to sew him up. I’m cringing in my seat. They head back to the beach, there’s some brief setups of minor characters, then it’s night. The palm trees in the forest start to crash about and there is other-worldly growling and howling coming from within the trees. Time for the first ad break.
The rest of the ep is spent searching for the front section of the plane in hopes of finding a transceiver to contact some form of assistance. There’s a walk to find it. Then the growly-unseen-somethings attack the outside of the cockpit, and pull the very alive co-pilot out and splash his blood across this windows. The three main characters, Jack, Kate and Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) all make a dash for it. A rather intense run through the torrential rain filled forest. It’s muddy and when Kate gets separated it’s effectively scary. When the three meet up again it’s under the mutilated body of the co-pilot which has been discarded high in a tree. Ick.
I have missed having TV that I can react to. I need action and suspense. When the pilot falls out of the cockpit door I needed a underwear change. There isn’t anything on at the moment that I can get my regular fix from. I’m trying to fill the holes that Buffy and Angel left, and I am hoping that Lost can fill a part of it.
The action sequences were handled quite well. They felt natural and not overly forced. As it is obviously going to be a major part of this show, it has to fit in, or I’ll just wait for the action and not care about characters.
On characters, there is a politically correct range of cultures. Even if they are all what is expected and few that aren’t in every ‘culturally’ diverse film group. The flight left Sydney and was heading for somewhere in the US. So far only one Australian has appeared to survive. Not good odds. Thankfully they employed an actual Australian to play the part.
Jack is... why did they call him Jack?... a typical tall dark and handsome. He’s a doctor, so he’s got instant wealth and appeal as a lead character. Whatever. He’s on a deserted (apparently not) island. It’s going to be eat or be eaten, and he’d better start to act like the leader or things are going to get Lord of the Flies. And there is a Piggy.
Kate is rather forgettable at the moment. I think the actor did a great job at being terrified during the growly-unseen-somethings chase. Being terrified isn’t easy to pull off successfully and I think she did a stellar job. Not enough has been revealed for me to decide whether she is going to be annoying yet. There were a few longing looks at Jack near the end.
There has been a lot set up in this first hour, and I really hope that it all gets paid off successfully. JJ Abrams, as I mentioned previously, is the creator of Alias, which started with promise then got lost (pardon the pun). With so much action to set up the situation there wasn’t much room for character expansion, but as we’ve only had the first half of the pilot, I’m sure there is more.
I did enjoy the hints of minor characters. Obviously the focus has to be on the main characters for most of the time, but the small introductions of supporting cast gave the biggest impressions. The Orange Man (whom I have dubbed so with such inspiration) smiling, then later sitting in the rain. Daniel Dae Kim’s instructions that the woman he’s with stick with him alone.
I will, on the other hand, be repelled by any Alias or Felicity regulars making an appearance. The ill-fated co-pilot was a regular in both of those shows, and I instantly knew he was going to die. Anyone else and I would have held out some hope.
I will be tuning in next week to watch the rest of the pilot. I am likely to blab about it again, and for just as long. The show has a lot of potential and just as many holes it can fall into and not recover from. Here’s hoping for a smooth ride.
These are my questions from the end of this ep:
- Where’s the dog come from?
- What’s the history of Jack’s Tattoos?
- What is Charlie’s obsession with the toilet near the cockpit? In the flashback he’s running toward it being chased by plane staff, and he disappears into it when the other two are in the cabin.
- I want more than an ominous shot of the broody smoking obviously bad guy. Info please?
- I want to know what the growly-unseen-somethings that like to make trees do the limbo. Did anyone else notice they only came out when it was raining?
- What actually happened to the plane to make it turn around and head for Fiji and ultimately crash?
- What is the deal with Orange Man?