Monthly Archives: August 2008

Where’s the Fucking Podcast?

We were going so well… I really do apologise, but 3 weeks ago we recorded a podcast that frankly i thought was quite shithouse, and i couldnt bring myself to publish. Based on that i thought i was time to take a week off and spend some time in the room of mirrors having a good hard look at myself. Last Sunday we recorded a much better show, but due to technical difficulties (ie – I’m a fucking moron) a large chunk o’ the audio is missing. So my question, dear listeners, is do i try to edit both crap shows into one decent one or look ahead to this Sunday and finally get it right?

Snow fell like ash from post-apocalyptic skies.

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Max Payne by Remedy Entertainment remains one of the jewels of video gaming on the PC, not just because as a shooter it was quite excellent. Max Payne’s real strength was the story line and voice acting, the graphic novel aesthetic, and the black noir theme that ran through the first and second games.

After Y2K, the end of the world had become a cliché. But who was I to talk, a brooding underdog avenger alone against an empire of evil out to right a grave injustice. Everything was subjective. There were only personal apocalypses. Nothing is a cliché when it’s happening to you.

Max Payne tells the story of an undercover detective whose family is brutally murdered by junkies, the shock and loss pushes Max into a spree of revenge killings, madness, and paranoia. There’s plenty of material here to make an excellent film with the drugs, sex, and violence that are integral to the plot, however Max Payne: The Movie (set for a mid-October release) looks like it may have missed the point entirely. The film is shot for a PG-13 rating, the essence of the game was so dark I’m highly doubtful it will translate into something palatable for children. When the game was first optioned there was so much potential – Shawn Ryan was hired to write the screenplay. And then it was given to Fox. And it died.Don’t see this film, go find Max Payne 1 and 2 on Arrrr Bay instead and enjoy the story as it should be told.

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Taken

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Taken uses a well-worn plot of a retired government agent forced back into action by events threatening his family. In a shocking twist it turns out that men in their late 50’s aren’t so great at jumping from high things onto moving objects, dodging bullets, and tend to get out of breath! No, just kidding – it’s more  of the same.Luc Besson co-wrote and co-produced Taken and it follows pretty similar lines to the other action films he’s involved with: supporting cast tend to exist just to give the protagonist something to attack or protect (the Transporter series, Danny the Dog, or Ong-bak), and we get to the action without too much difficulty. Before we get to the real reason for watching the movie we are subjected to some pretty schmaltzy father-daughter-ex wife-new husband  conflict, but thankfully it’s only there to set up Bryan (Neeson) as someone who puts duty first at the expense of blah blah blah. You know exactly what this is about so lets get to the meat.Taken is fun but not especially inspiring, the action sequences don’t blow believable too far out of the water and it looks like there were a lot of practical effects and stunt work, which I for one was really pleased about. Directed by the cinematographer Pierre Morel (again involved with War, the Transporter and Danny the Dog) the film looks great, the shots are tight and well framed, and the editing is nicely paced and proficient. Apart from a dodgy window replacement or two, the effect work was pretty seamless and well done by the French crew.When the dialogue switches to French or Albanian we’re not provided with subtitles, personally I didn’t mind so much as it doesn’t hinder your comprehension of the film, and when the main character doesn’t understand what’s being said around him I don’t think the audience needs to either. The story itself is pretty predictable and you never feel like Bryan or his daughter Lenore (Maggie Grace) are in real danger, but there’s also some gritty stuff to be chewed with some uncomfortable scenes of drug abuse and prostitution. Bryan is almost Batman-like in his ability to dodge bullets, and the Audi looks to have provided the cars as they’re heavily featured.All in all it’s not a bad film once you get past the first 30 minutes, but nothing especially memorable.2.5 stars.

Hellboy 2

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When someone says to you “let’s watch a film by Guillermo del Toro, it’s a sequel but he wrote and directed it!”, it would be understandable to get a little excited. When they go on to tell you he went crazy with the creature design, and the creature effects were done by Double Negative, then you’re likely to illicit a little squeal of excitement. If the next thing your told is that while its a monster film, its really a buddy flick / action romance / physical comedy, you’re likely to wonder how this related to the guy responsible for pans labyrinth, and what the fuck happened to a once-great director?Hellboy 2 doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be and so tries to be everything at once, thus makes a mess of it all. It’s taken the elements of the first film that worked and rather than refining or innovating, has decided that more is obviously better – that always works don’t you know. The story is predictable, the inter-species relationships theme kind of revolting, and the acting is cheesier than your high schools end-of-year production. On the plus side the character design is quite typical of del Toros films and well excecuted, although there are times when it feels you’re watching the Jabba scene from the revised edition of Return of the Jedi (you know – the one with the singing), there’s also a pseudo stop-motion scene at the start of the movie that was quite charming. Hellboys’ weapons look like props and the sets tend to look like … well, sets.Despite some nicely done sections, I really hated this film and what its done to my memory of the first movie. I hated the hideous young Hellboy at the start of the film, and I hated the stereotypical angry wife role that Selma Blairs’ character plays. I was insulted by “Ze Germans!” accent despite not being German, I hate that characters change personality mid-film, I hated the sing-song scene, and I hated that THE FISH MAN NOW BREATHES AIR AND CRIES, DESPITE NOT HAVING TEAR DUCTS! HE’S A FUCKING FISH! WHAT POSSIBLE USE WOULD HE HAVE FOR TEARS GIVEN THAT HE LIVES IN THE WATER?!I’m sorry but this is the film that turned del Toro from something of an icon into a filthy shark-jumping, fridge-nuking hack. There’s no love in this film, it’s a cynical cash-in movie that Indys the entire franchise (It’s now a verb, just go with it).1.5 stars, and that’s only be cause the effects houses did such a good job given their tiny budget.

‘Sploitation is the new black.

Exploitation and B films are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, there’s something thoroughly enjoyable about a film which eschews the conventional focus on plot or quality and instead puts its energy into an extreme experience for the audience. They’re like the memes of the movie world: high impact and highly replicated within certain groups, then then dispersed, diluted, and embedded as a broader cultural reference (pool’s closed rick-rollers!).To be honest I don’t know if it’s really possible to make a classic exploitation film anymore, the world has changed enough that what we’re likely to end up with nowdays is merely self-aware, intentionally bad, faux lowbrow parody. Yes I’m looking at you Zombie Strippers. With that caveat out of the way there is a faint glimmer of hope sparking in the frigid night air. A tiny flame that, if the wind and the tinder are just right, might grow into something roaring and special. It’s called Bitch Slap.

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Produced, directed, and co-written by Rick Jacobson, a veteran of B film and awful television, I have high hopes for this beauty. Take a basically unknown cast (unless you have a penchant for dubious episodic television), make a kick-arse trailer involving babes, guns, and car chases, mix them up and you’ve got something that goes straight onto my must-see list.Trailer is here.

Scotty

Sure, it’s got overacting and bad dialogue and silly costumes and embarrassing alien marriage ceremonies and Wesley Crusher, but at day’s end, I still dig me some Trek. I like the old kitschy one with Shatner’s unique brand of swagger. I like Next Gen with its weighty pretentious pondering and its weighty pretentious captain. I like Deep Space Nine with its overblown prophesying and mawkish romance. Hell, I even like the one with the holographic doctor and that insufferable Neelix guy.The movies, though, should always have been much better than they were. I mean, I’ll watch them, but more because I really like spaceships and rayguns than the quality of the flicks themselves. Wrath of Kahn is probably the only one that stands up on its own… although I confess to a soft spot for the comedy stylings of the Star Trek Christmas Special. Oh, and that zero-G japery in Check him out:

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P.S. Laura Linney has Deppth

Laura Linney has always been one of my most admired actresses.  She doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of the Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolies of the world but she provides “Deppth” as Justin and Pete would say. I watched P.S. the other day which reminds me of You Can Count On Me quite a bit.  Perhaps not in subject matter most definitely in tone and feel.With its small cast and limited locations, the whole film feels like a play.  And it’s one about relationships – relationships with your loved ones and friends and how they can hold you back and set you free.  There’s isn’t much to the plot which involves Linney’s character (a university admissions officer) meeting a young applicant to the university’s art program (Topher Grace), and embarking on May-September relationship mainly because he reminds her of a long dead boyfriend.  The conflicts of interest and abuse of power angles are glossed over, as those issues aren’t the main point.The subtleties in the film make it worth seeing.  I like the way it shows some of the realities involved in sex, stuff you often don’t see in movies, where usually it’s all sweeping items of tables and grand pretzel positions.  And Topher Grace holds his own playing someone who is both very young but also has his own wisdom.A gentle film that will take you on its journey.  Not for those looking for grand dramas.  3 stars.

Postgame: Wanted

Okay, so Wan Chin and I just caught Wanted, and… well. It was not what I expected! I would give you a review, but FixedR6 has already said everything I would like to, just with better words than them what I’ve gotTo add my own cent or two – because I can’t help myself – it was really surprising that the freewheeling, anything-goes absurdity of the action actually worked pretty well. It’s all very post-Matrix, except without the justification of being able to hack the rules of reality… in Wanted’s world, people can do physics-defying, bone-crunching ninja shit with impossible precision, it just takes a little practice. Seeing a character deliberately flipping a car over another one so they can shoot at some guy through the open-top usually makes you want to ask for a refund. In Wanted, you just kinda shrug and say “Ha! Far out. Now what?”And the “Now what?” was a genuine “What the hell is going to happen next?”. The fast-and-loose attitude towards plausibility meant that I really didn’t know, and that’s pretty rare in a popcorn flick. I mean, sure – the plot has some incredibly, painfully obvious ‘twists’ that you can see coming from the Val Morgan ads, and you never for a moment believe that our hero is in the slightest genuine danger, and there’s one particular scene that puts the most contrived and functional exposition into Angelina Jolie’s mouth since an evil genius said “Since you will soon be dead, I suppose I can tell you my whole plan…”But then, there’s also a loom that gives binary instructions to kill people. And there are three-inch suicide bombers. And you get to see Morgan Freeman say “motherfucker”, and even when Morgan Freeman plays a convicted murderer, Morgan Freeman doesn’t say “motherfucker”. Also, he’s an assassin. So, you know.Okay, Apologies in advance for this last point, but I really don’t hold with the whole ‘it’s just entertainment’ idea, so I’m gonna get a bit high-horse for a sec.Testosterone-fuelled regression is just why we all go to see action films, but Wanted regressed too far. Timur Bekmambetov’s accomplished direction (watch this guy – he’s going places) can’t save the story from being the narcissistic fantasy of a maladjusted fifteen-year-old boy whose understanding of virtue is the Punisher and whose understanding of women comes from Playboy.Just had to get that out there.

Neuromancer? I am jacks seething indignation.

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Remember that guy in high school with the hair that always heralded the next trend, who was good at sports, popular with his peers, and who’s vapid mocking grin filled you with impotent rage? Remember that one girl you liked, the perfect, interesting, devastating girl, who used to smile at you, and who’s face filled your frequent daydreams? Remember when she started dating him and your heart broke, sweetened saliva flooding your mouth as your body prepared to empty it’s stomach? Welcome to the Hollywood adaptation of Neuromancer, that wonderful, perfect story you cherished when younger who’s decided to get involved with everything you hate.”But he directs music videos!””Yeah he’s an artist. It’s cool you know?””Cool? He directed Torque! I ride motorbikes and that film deeply offended me on more levels than I care to think about.””I liked Torque, it was just a fun movie you know? You’re taking it too seriously.””Anyway, he made music videos for Britney Spears! Two of them! Why are you with him?””She’s famous and he worked with her, do you know how much money those videos made her label? What’s your problem?””He’s a fucking douche! His IMDB entry reads like his Mum wrote it! You’re one of the culturally and aesthetically defining works of my generation, and you’re sleeping with this fucktard! I fucking love you and you do this to me?!””Get the fuck away from me you freak! What the fuck is wrong win you – you fucking psycho! Don’t call me again or I’m ringing the police! You fucking stalking fuck!”**I imagine Tarantino dialogue looks a little like this, but with more gun shots and cigarettes.I’m livid, those utter, utter bastards. Who’s idea was it to give this property to Joseph Kahn? No I’m not reassured that Gibson is writing the screenplay, he also wrote the adaptation of Johnny Mnemonic, remember that little gem? Sure, Hayden Christensen has been removed from the billing but the point is he was there in the first place!