Friday, 31 October 2008

WatchLookViewSee - London Film Festival Version

It's one of those things that you always mean to get around to. Every year, I see the blurb for it and think, "Oh yeah, I should go and see some of those" then promptly forget about it and go down the pub instead. Well, no more! I trawled through the lists, took a chance on some stuff that sounded odd and different and booked myself a selection of tickets for the London Film Festival. It's a risky business, booking for a festival, as everything I booked for was an unknown quantity, having never seen any of the filmmakers other work 9particularly if they were a first time filmmaker - always difficult to watch their previous work). So did the gamble pay off? Were they good, bad or indifferent? Read on, faithful reader, read on...

I'm Alive (Sono Viva) - In a nutshell:- Interesting premise but uninterestingly executed. First off the blocks was this Italian film. It tells the story of two men hired by a grieving father to sit vigil over his dead daughter until the next morning. However, one of the men disappears off to a party, leaving the other to deal with the selection of people who begin to turn up at the house... It's sounded intriguing and was billed as a black comedy but, to be perfectly, it just seemed a bit dull. It was very slow - for an 80-odd minute film, I looked at my watch an inordinate number of times - and wasn't particularly funny. I did feel a little sorry for the filmmakers as they were there to introduce it and it was obvious that not many people had particularly enjoyed by the polite handclap at the end and the fact that most people were pegging it out of the door as soon as the credits started (myself included). I don;t think that we misunderstood any potential comedy due to language barriers, though, as the next two films will attest...

Home - In a nutshell - Quirky, dark and charming, all at the same time. Next up was this French film about an odd family who live alone in a house on the side of an abandoned motorway. It's an idyllic life - until the reopening of the motorway, that is... I enjoyed this film a lot more. It's got a nicely defined set of characters, all ably played by the cast. The humour arises naturally out of the odd living situation and the characters reactions themselves. It takes a turn for the darker as the film progresses and my only criticism would be that it feels a little like it's running out of steam towards the end but it's still an enjoyable film. I recommend it.

Louise-Michel - In a nutshell - Sick, twisted and about as un-PC as it gets. Very funny, too. Over to the Belgians for this next effort and it's a corker. Louise-Michel tells the story of Louise, a factory worker made redundant, who clubs together the redundancy money from the other workers to hire a hitman, the inept and bumbling Michel, to kill their former boss. A combination of sill slapstick-y humour and surreal, dark and twisted stuff, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. If you get a chance to see it, do so - this is my top recommendation of the fest.

Hamlet 2 - In a nutshell:- Funny in places and mildly amusing throughout but just not quite funny enough. The only English language film I went to see, Hamlet 2 stars Steve Coogan as a has-been actor teaching drama at a high school whose last chance to save the drama dept is a self-penned sequel to Shakespeare's classic... This is definitely one that had the potential to be something extremely funny but is more miss than hit with its jokes, I'd say. Coogan puts in some good moments but a lot of the time, his schtick feels a bit tired and embarrassing - it's the same sort of performance he's been turning in for years. The show itself at the end of the film, featuring a time-travelling Hamlet and musical numbers such as "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus" and "Raped In The Face", offers the film's funniest moments. It's likeable enough and quite fun - one for DVD maybe, rather than the cinema.

So there you have it - my first selection of London Film Festival films. I think next year, I'd actually like to a couple of days to just do nothing but go to the cinema,. I feel that I only dipped my toe into the festival this year and definitely would like to dive in for the full swim next time.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

WatchLookViewSee - Big Screen Version Vol 1

Ah, films. Filmy filmy films. Films. Good, aren't they? Except for the ones that are bad. Well, I'm glad you agree and we've got that sorted. Care to know what I've been watching? Tough, I'm gonna tell you anyway.

Horton Hears A Who - In a nutshell:- A fun little film just brimming with glee, from the top of its head to the cap of its knee*. Pixar have definitely been setting a level of expectation for CGI animation and this one does it's best to live up to that standard. It's good fun and feels very Seuss-like (Seuss-y? Seusssian?) while updating it for a modern audience and fleshing out the story to fill a feature length running time. There's a definite sense that the cast are enjoying their roles and that enjoyment feeds through into the animation. There are also some nice traditional 2D animation sequences thrown in for good measure - being an anime fan, I particularly enjoyed the anime pisstake sequence. All in all, well worth a watch.

Iron Man - In a nutshell:- Enjoyable superhero chicanery. There are a lot of similarities between Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Bruce Wayne (Batman). Orphaned? check. Billionaire? Check. Loner unable to connect with people? Check. So what separates them? Well, the main difference I would say is that Tony Stark enjoys being the billionaire playboy and that definitely comes across in this film. Robert Downey Jr seems to be having immense fun in the title role. It's not all fun and games - the main plot is driven by Middle East arms manufacturing and terrorist kidnapping and places Iron Man in a more real world setting. Obviously, as with all superhero films, this is your origin story so it's mainly about establishing the characters for the inevitable sequel. The main difference here being, with the inclusion of Samuel L Jackson in a post-titles scene and Robert Downey Jr cameoing as tony Stark in The Incredible Hulk, Marvel films are beginning to truly mirror Marvel comics - they're all starting to share one universe (which will pay off after the upcoming Thor and Captain America films when they all team up in The Avengers). See, you learn something geeky that you didn't need to know every day...

Kung Fu Panda - In a nutshell:- Great animation, great slapstick and great kung fu. This was great from start to finish. The animation was superb, the comedy was spot on and some of the set pieces was not just great animation but great kung fu action pieces (I've got a bit of a soft spot for martial arts films) - in particular the sequence involving Po and Shifu attempting to eat dumplings (trust me, it's a good bit). The storyline is nothing we haven't seen before - unlikely underachiever must become great warrior to save village - but it's carried off with style and conviction. A definite recommendation - go see it.

That's it for the minute but I've been watching plenty of other films courtesy of the London Film Festival. I shall tell you all about that next time...

* Yeah, OK, I'll leave the Dr Seuss-ing to the experts...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Delusions Of A Love Struck Fool - Part The Last

Part The Last

Ah, Evadne. How we wined, how we dined, how we danced, how we pranced, how we frolicked freely as a frisky Frenchman and gambolled gaily as a gregarious Guatamalan. The days passed in a blur and I was never happier. Naturally, I received the occasional moaning missive and dissenting dispatch from the still-lovelorn Wentbridge but all's fair, as the saying goes, even sticking a swift metaphorical boot to a chap's unmentionables when he's down.

I showered her with lavish trinkets and expensive fripperies and gewgaws, no treat being too small for this divine creature. True, in hindsight, she did suggest that I purchase many of these pocketbook-crippling items herself but, when a chap is in the hearty hold of pure passion, money is but a mere trifle.

But then, dear and faithful reader, came the fateful day. We had whisked ourselves from social soiree to social soiree the night before, before retiring to our own private party in my own private boudoir. Upon awakening the next morn, still somewhat in a state of contented exhaustion I must confess, there was no sign of Evadne. I searched my apartments but nowhere was she to be found. Puzzled, I readied myself for the day ahead and discovered my pocketbook to be somewhat on the empty side. I was of a reasonable certainty that it had not been so when we returned but I was willing to admit I could be mistaken. No matter, a small trip to the bank for a replenishment of funds and then I would hie myself to Evadne's to ascertain why she had departed so suddenly.

Upon the discovery that my account had been soundly cleaned out by a woman answering to Evadne's description with a promisory note signed in my own hand, I began to suspect that perhaps our whirlwind love affair was not quite the idyllic portrait of romantic love I had imagined it to be. Once I had returned home to discover that my hidden supply of currency located under the third floorboard to the left underneath the dresser was also absent, I grudgingly had to admit that I'd been played at my own game and had lost really rather soundly.

I could not in good conscience blame Evadne for I had done the same thing in her position many a time. There was only one thing for it - a swift note to Cousin Wentbridge and then a long session at the gentlemen's club for much mutual drowning of the sorrows (all paid for by my good cousin, naturally, what with my good self being somewhat bereft of currency at the present moment in time). As is the way with such things, said session then lead to an incident involving a wooden duck, blonde triplets, a false leg and the last secret of the missing continent of Atlantis but that is a tale for another time...

Here Endeth The Tale

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Delusions Of A Love Struck Fool - Part The Third

Editor's Note:- Apologies for the brief delay in service. This was due to prolonged upset of the stomach area. Now muchly improved. Over to the Squire...

Part The Third

I had impressed upon the boy Wentbridge some basic training for garnering the attentions of the fairer sex - always be commanding, keep a firmly waxed under-nose carpet, avoid topics that will overheat their small girlish brains, all fairly standard stuff. To say that the lad took to it like a duck to water would be entirely the wrong metaphor to use but, through some supernatural effort on my part, I managed to somehow suppress his basic soggy nature. Having paved the way to the best of my abilities (an artist can, after all, only work with his materials), I instructed him to arrange a meeting with his would-be paramour at the local fine dining emporium. I was to be situated but a few tables away, ready to offer assistance should his naturally squelchy nature inconveniently reassert itself.

It was a fine plan and may well have worked but for one unfortunate drawback (unfortunate for Wenters, that is) - as soon as his intended walked into the restaurant, I was smitten. I had to have her - she would be mine and hang anyone who got in my way. All of which means that Wentbrige, cast adrift in the sea of love and pining for his pretty mermaid, was soon to discover that the rescue dinghy on the horizon was, in fact, the first signs of an oncoming shark.

Some of you may be thinking that this is a rather cruel and callous way to treat one's own flesh and blood. You're right, naturally. But all is fair in love and war. The strong survive and the weaker perish. And whatever justification is needed for treating a poor lovelorn fop like the sap he is in pursuit of a beauteous creature like Evadne (for such was this vision's name), so be it.

I didn't have long to wait for my opening. True to form, the lad's own damp squibbishness began to reassert itself and, as his drowning eyes cast around desperately for the life preserver of his cousin's presence, I affected to find the wallpaper intensely fascinating. This, of course, only exacerbated the damp chap's flustering and a visible flush began to rise on his cheeks as a visible boredom and scorn began to take hold on the object of his affection own visage.

Being a master of the art, I waited the optimum amount of time before choosing my moment and swooping in to rescue the poor dear from this blubbering simpleton. I am not a monster and did not revel in the wounded look of betrayal upon the unfortunate wretch's as I plucked his flower's attention away and escorted her from the premises. If he had known then what I know now, that look would have contained a fair amount of gratitude...

To Be Prolonged...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Delusions Of a Love Struck Fool - Part The Second

Part The Second

First things must, of course, be considered primarily and, having stopped for some lubrication of the alcoholic variety (very charitably provided by Wentbridge for his beloved cousin, naturally), we set about the onerous task that lay before us - transforming the dank creature into a delight for the ladies.

The general soggy atmosphere which congregated around him, giving him much the air of an upright puddle was not helping. Ensuring that his pocketbook was well furnished, we sallied forth to a reputed clothier of my acquaintance. All of my sartorial skills were stretched to the limit in order to transform Wentbridge from a bedraggled and dewy pool of a man into a dashing and waxed-mustachioed Squire-esque figure of desire. I failed, naturally*, but his overall demeanour was at least improved by my efforts. Of course, as Wenters was having himself fully outfitted, it seemed much simpler to add a few gewgaws and doodads for myself on the same ticket - to avoid unnecessary confusion, naturally.**

Now, as we all are aware, clothes do maketh the man but finely trimmed tresses and suitably coiffed whiskers must not be overlooked. A Swift visit to Bruno, the official maintainer of the Squirely follicles, soon had Wentbridge looking substantially less like he had been dragged through a rain-soaked hedge backwards.Again, Bruno could only work with the materials with which he was supplied and, as such, my own magnificent set of luxuriant and much-tousled lip-warmers were in no danger of being surpassed.Still and all, while not a patch on his considerate cousin, the chap was beginning to display a rudimentary amount of promise, much like a lump of coal which may contain...well, not a diamond but at the very least some iron pyrites.

And so, on to the next phase. Time to let the donkey sniff the carrot, as it were. There was only one way to be sure that all this primping and perfumery had paid off - a meeting between the boy himself and his unrequited object of affection, with yours truly firmly ensconced in the vicinity, ready to assist at the drop of a handkerchief.

However, the best laid plans, as they say (those anonymous killjoys who are tediously twee yet typically true), often come a right cropper. And this plan was to be no exception...

To Be Expanded

* Your humble narrator is very much inimitable in that respect.

** Although I still maintain that he took an unrequited amount of umbrage at my jewel-encrusted, monogrammed tiepin.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Delusions Of A Love Struck Fool - Part The First

Editor's Note:- In my unofficial (and certainly unpaid) capacity as curator of the Greater Kirkian Archive, it is my duty not only to catalogue the various writings, scribblings, etchings, daubings, rantings and ravings of my infamous ancestor Squire Kirk The Elder (who cut a rude swathe through the scandalised cream of high society) but also to publish these slices of a life lived to it's very fullest for others to learn from. This selection from his copious memoirs deals with the thorny subject of love, Squire-style.

Part The First

Those amongst you who are acquainted with me (and even those amongst you who have yet to have the pleasure) will all know what the stories have said about me:- womaniser, philanderer, gadabout, ne'er-do-well, horticulturist, tobogganist* and dipsomaniac. It is with heavy heart that I am forced to report to you that there is indeed some degree of truth in almost all of those epithets**. I can only say in my defence that I am a man who is spurred on by his passions or, if passion is unavailable, at the very least a man who will not flinch from a furtive fumble with a fine filly. This is my Achilles heel which constantly places me in unfortunate situations. Well, all right, maybe the heel is not the offending body part but a gentleman does not speak of parts south of the pocket watch and north of the sock suspender. It was, however, on this occasion, to be my very undoing.

I had just extricated myself from a rather embarrassing incident involving a missing vase, murderous Siamese twins, a counterfeit shark and the princess of Florin and was looking forward to a relaxing day enjoying a small tipple or four at the Gentleman's Club. Alas and alack, this simple plan was thwarted in its infancy by Lady Fate who had other plans for my mock-shark-nibbled and princess-ravaged frame. My libation-bound perambulations were curtailed by the arrival of my damp-to-the-point-of-sopping-wet cousin, Wentbridge.

"Halloo, Wenters," cheerfulled I, eyeing up the sodden chap and once again marvelling that Mother Nature could produce such roundly different fruit from branches of the same tree.

"Ahoy hoy, cousin," squibbed he, moistly. Even when stranded in a parched and barren desert landscape, I have the feeling he would still be as wet as Whitechapel strumpet's undergarments.

"What ails thee, oh sharer of the family name?" My politeness was impeccable even though my interest was negligible.

"Oh, I am forlorn due to the scorned love I hold for a divine creature of the opposite sex," trickled he. I groaned inwardly. I had attempted to school the lad in my own particular brand of debauched charm on previous occasions but it had obviously failed to take root in his moisture sodden brain. There was only one option remaining - I would have to, to all intents and purposes, hold his hand at every step as courted fair and pitched woo, otherwise the poor fellow would never find himself 'neath this unfortunate wench's underskirts.

They do say, "Marry in haste, repent at leisure" (whoever "they" are with their inordinate fondness for inane sayings). I would like to add "Assist cousins courting, repent rather soon afterwards and really rather heavily" to their list of trite witterings. But I'm getting somewhat ahead of myself...

To Be Furthered

* Although the charges relating to that particular incident were later dismissed.

** Excepting, as I say, tobogganist - I stand by my original story and, in any case, neither the nun or any of the frogs were in any way harmed.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Early shift

Morning arrives. Not a glimmer of light outside. All is still dark. Not even 5 a.m. yet. People - normal people - slumber, snooze and snore on in a haze of early morning dreams and lingering night farts.

He hauls himself from the warm cocoon of duvet-ish softness and shambles through to the bathroom. The time of year has turned and a definite chill lurks in the air. Shower. Warmth. Can’t leave shower. Cold out there. Must leave shower. Wasteful to stay in shower all day. Wonders if shower door can be opened and towel applied without cold air seeping in. Hmm, apparently not.

Clothes. Maketh the man. T-shirt and jeans it is. Coat or jacket? It’s cold outside. But it’s freakishly early so it’s bound to be cold outside. Might be warmer later. It was warmer yesterday. But it was rainy. If he takes a jacket, will he end up carrying it on the way home? Is this too much of a thought process to be applying to a relatively simple choice? Fleece-y style top, then.

Food. No. Too early for food. Wait til later. Maybe a croissant. Probably a croissant. He’s a creature of habit (not a monk, though. Wait, it is a habit they wear, isn’t it? Yes, and they live in an abbey. Abbey habit. Old advertising slogan. Where does the brain store these things? Too early....)

Car’s here. Please don’t be a talker, please don’t be a talker, please don’t be a talker.... “Good morning”s only. Spot on.

Delay at Blackwall tunnel. Non-English speaking driver driving truck too tall for tunnel. Man in car next to him has to get out and use gestures to convey, “You’re truck’s too big. Go up that ramp there.” This has prompted a gambit to start a conversation within the car. The response he gets is a clixby as defined by Douglas Adams’ Meaning of Liff (politely rude; briskly vague; firmly uninformative), the only response guaranteed to stop a conversation.

Magic FM. Weirdly, a good radio choice for this time of day. 80s cheese – like the modern equivalent of easy listening. “Trying to catch your heart is like trying to catch a star”. That’ll be in his head for the majority of the morning.

The office. Dimmed lights on reception and a semi-conscious security guard. Fourth floor. Lights out. He walks slowly to activate all of the motion sensors. Still dark out.

Back to work. The week off is beginning to fade into the past. Next time, he's taking the early shift week off...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

If You Like-a Film Like I Like-a Film...

I have looked at things with my eyes and listened to things with my ears (don't try it the other way) to bring you the following conclusions from the grey lumpy bit that sits in-between them.

Hancock - In a nutshell - An oddly disjointed film that smacks of studio interference. A really odd film, this. It doesn't quite seem to know what sort of film it wants to be and veers off in a completely different direction at one point (I'm not going to spoil it by saying much more about it - surprisingly, it's one of the few films recently where the trailer doesn't quite tell what it's about. I think there's a pretty good independent film in there, struggling to get out after a few more re-writes but it's crow-barred into something else by studio interference as it has a "name" attached to it. An oddity - worth a look (and it's pretty short - barely feature length).

Persepolis - In a nutshell:- Personal, stylised and intriguing animation. From this list, it's beginning to look like I only watch films that are comic book adaptations (I do watch a lot of them but I like to think I'm more varied than that...). In this case, it's the autobiographical tale of a young girl growing up 70s/80s Iran, based on the author's own graphic novel. It's got a very distinctive visual style and is an enjoyable film but there's something indefinable lacking which stops it from being a great film. I can't quite put my finger on it.

The Squid And The Whale - In a nutshell:- Another autobiographical tale but a little to self-consciously quirky to like. I'm a fan of some of Wes Anderson's films - The Royal Tennenbaums and The Life Aquatic are firm favourites but I found the main character in Rushmore too unappealing and The Darjeeling Limited left me cold. This effort from Anderson collaborator Noah Baumbach (who wrote and directed it based on his own upbringing) fell into the latter camp for me - I found the characters too self-consciously quirky to really care about them and it teetered on the brink of out-and-out annoying for some time. It just didn't do it for me.

Get Smart - In a nutshell:- Likeable but extremely forgettable. So a mate of mine had offered to take me to the cinema as a birthday present (as we all know I like films but I'm impossible to buy DVDs for - I've probably got it). We quite fancied going to see Tropic Thunder but were a week early and I'd seen everything else. So we settled for Get Smart. Steve Carrell's a good performer - I like him a lot. The material, however, was fairly weak and, to be honest, I've already forgotten a lot of it. On the plus side, I'm starting to see the appeal of Anne Hathaway in a strange sort of way.

Death Proof - In a nutshell:- Surprisingly boring. Now, it could be because it suffered from being split our from Grindhouse into a separate film but I just found this pretty dull. Not a lot happened for nearly two hours and the dialogue, which normally works in a Tranatino film, came across as trying really hard to be the cool dialogue you get in a Tarantino film. Of the two, Planet Terror was much more fun (even despite the extended cameo from Quentin "Can't Act But It Doesn't Stop Me" Tarantino).

That's most of the stuff I've watched recently. You seen anything good, bad or indifferent?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Fulla Film-y Goodness

Now that the story of Trickshot Films is done and dusted here are some brain-thinkings about other cinematic offerings what people with more money and dedicated time to make them have done.

The Dark Knight - In a nutshell:- The Batman fan's Batman film. I'm a long time Batman fan. I first started reading Batman comics around 16 years with a story called The Killing Joke (in which the Joker shoots and cripples Commissioner Gordon's daughter) and then with an ongoing title called Legends Of The Dark Knight - both of which cemented Batman's world for me as one of gritty crime drama and insane psychopaths (cheery stuff, eh, kids?). So when a Batman film comes along that's a gritty crime drama featuring insane psychopaths, you can imagine just how much this right up my alley. Obviously, there has been a ridiculous amount of hype due to this being Heath Ledger's last full role*. He does put in a great performance but I'd have to say it's been hyped a little out of control. For me, this is more Aaron Eckhart's film as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. After the shambles that was Tommy Lee Jones shouting a bit, it's good to see the character being made into something substantial. The film zipped along for me - I didn't notice it was a two and a half hour film. A couple of little niggles aside (I'm still not quite sure Gordon faking his death made much sense), it was brilliant. Go see it.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Arny - In a nutshell:- Fairies, fish-man love and Barry Manilow - what more could you ask for? I liked the first film a lot - mainly for Ron Perlman's performance as the titular character (a part he seemed to be born to play) but, as is the norm with comic book based movies in this day and age when the franchise is king, it was more of a set-up film than anything else. This time out, it feels like they're using the opportunity to play with the world they've created a little bit more, plus there are some nice touches of humour this time out (I defy you not to raise a smile at the sight of a drunk demon and fish man singing along to Barry Manilow - that's not a sentence you type every day either). My only real criticism would be that the ending somehow felt slightly anti-climactic given the apocalyptic build-up that the Golden Army but it's a minor niggle. Another enjoyable comic book film (these days, when they get comic book right, they really do get it right).

Beowulf - In a nutshell:- Surprisingly more enjoyable and grimmer than expected. I just expected this to be a fairly bland CGI-fest and was surprised at just how grim it is. I must admit, I'm not particularly au fait with the original legend - I think I remember reading an abridged version of it at school but that was along time ago. It is let down at times but some overly Cockney shouting on Ray Winstone's part and some of the CGI still fails to convince in places but, on the whole, I enjoyed it.

Wanted - In a nutshell:- Extremely stupid but in a fun way. Ah, the near non-stop rollercoaster of comic to film adaptations continues with this one. In the comic, the main character discovers he's the son of the world's most notorious supervillain and that villains have been running the world for many years now. The film alters that to a secret society of assassins and quite rightly too. It's an extremely over-the-top film but in such a knowing way that it pretty much gets away with it. On a personal note, it's disappointing to see Angelina Jolie looking so gaunt. I mean, I still wouldn't kick her out of bed if she farted but it wouldn't hurt for her to maybe tuck into an occasional pie or two every now and then.

Well, I think I'll leave it for now on a classy note like that. Tune in next time, same Bald-time, same Bald-channel...

* Not his last role completely as Terry Gilliam's next effort, completed using other actors, will be his last role.