On Saturday the first of my school friends got married. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t weird, but then if anyone were to do it, Sam and Rosie are the obvious choice. Regulars here knew about this a year ago when they first got engaged, so I suppose I have had enough time to become comfortable with the idea.
The wedding was held in Nutfield at Sam’s grandparents’ house. Their massive garden allowed for a beautiful outdoor service as well as a large dining marquee which served as a disco tent later in the evening, once tables had been pushed back and the ties had been loosened. The weather was, if anything, a little too hot, though the happy couple had the best seats for the service under a shady parasol. Once the cold Pimms started to flow, however, even that small irritation was gone and it was really hard to fault a thing.
Well, okay, there’s one thing. Technically, by the time we had arrived, the couple were already married. Now admittedly it was “only” the legal ceremony, with the religious side to be witnessed by us all, but I’ll admit to feeling a little cheated by the sleight of hand — err, ring.
On arrival I actually didn’t know anyone there, but when stopped by the photographer one of Sam’s uni friends bounded over and offered to join me in the picture. It turned out her friends were all driving down and had been delayed (impressively managing to miss the wedding service itself) so we headed in together and I caught up with Mark (who hated his year in Japan), Guy (who is about to do a musical in Edinburgh) and Phil H (who is still Phil H). After the ceremony the festivities continued with good food, liberally flowing wine, a little dancing and much merriment for all.
Cars theatrical release
UK general release
dir: John Lasseter
starring: Bob Costas, Katherine Helmond, Bonnie Hunt
Angel-A theatrical release
UK general release
dir: Luc Besson
starring: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine
Pirates seem to be everywhere in my life at the moment. Having just battled the ghostly remains of a ship’s slaughtered crew in Oblivion and taken away a well-earned enchanted cutlass as a reward, I am off to see (finally) the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel with several Merrill Lynchers this evening. This round’s extraneous new “Dead Man’s Chest” subtitle is as needless as the last one; it is to everyone simply “Pirates Two”. I wonder how the experience will differ given that this time I expect to thoroughly enjoy myself whereas last time I fully wanted to hate it. To be fair, I expect this to be little more than a fun romp with Johnny Depp’s fantastic Captain Jack Sparrow, but when you love a character getting to spend a little time in their company is reward enough in itself.
French director Luc Besson, creator of now classic films like Léon and The Fifth Element, has been noticably absent for some time. Well, he’s still been active in a production capacity, being behind a host of B-movie action flicks, but he hasn’t directed anything since critics ripped to shreds The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, the biopic for which he insisted upon Milla Jovovich as the lead. Although she was perfect for the psychadelic ride of The Fifth Element, here the complexity of the role seemed to defeat her, compounded by poor script that fails to develop her character sufficiently.
In the last few weeks you may have seen stark posters for Angel-A. It marks the director’s long-awaited return and from the gorgeous cinematography he certainly seems to enjoy being behind the camera once more. The revealed plot, “a man and a woman meet in Paris…”, one can only imagine is deceptively simple. However, it allows for some thoughtful musing in its dialogue and a truly beautiful view of Paris, captured in black and white, which shows his genuine love for the city. Out on the 29th, I cannot wait to see this.
You may be aware that a film is being made based on a little-known 70’s cartoon called “Transformers”. It followed, I am told, the misadventures of a group of metamorphosing or “transforming” vehicles who could take on a humanoid appearance at will. You may also be aware that the film is, unfortunately, being directed by Michael Bay. I do not count myself amongst the franchise’s legion of fans but there are, I hear, rather a lot of them. With the recent leakage of a photo of Bay’s reinterpretation of Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots and the franchise’s most recognisable figure, a veritable call-to-arms was sounded. Creative license, after all, only goes so far.
Bay explained that it was a matter of physics and scale. He wanted 50-foot tall robots without parts magically disappearing in the transformation process. It would sound like a commendable goal if it weren’t for the fact that Bay’s films are regularly so riddled with holes and inconsistencies that they begin to resemble a machine gun victim rather than cinematic brilliance. He then proceeded to have the image torn down from every site displaying it (hence it is not featured here) because he felt the best experience for viewers would be to see the creations for the first time on the screen. It’s hard to fault him there — no actually bothers to see a crap film in the first place if they are forewarned.
Meanwhile Valve have been busily working away on the next episode of Half-Life 2, which, they have just announced, will contain another little game called Team Fortress 2. The sequel has been in progress since the late 90’s and fans had all but given up on it ever seeing the light of day. The end result is unrecognisable, looking more like a Pixar creation with its cartoony characters and stylised cell shading. Particularly impressive in the trailer is to note that when the Heavy starts firing, even the muzzle flash is cell shaded. Even if you’re not into videogames it’s still worth taking a look just to see the creative possibilities that still exist in the industry. At the same time they have been showing off their new portal technology which at first seems remarkably reminiscent of Prey, until you realise that these are player-created. They apparently bought up another company working on this and offered the team a job reproducing it within the Source engine.
Finally, and perhaps somewhere in between these two stories, rumour has it that Tim Burton may be involved in a project to bring Grim Fandango to the big screen. Its combination of zany visuals and dark humour make it my favourite adventure game, and are exactly the reasons it is perfect material for Burton who will probably use it is as another vehicle for the stop-motion animation he loves (indeed it would make little sense to attempt it live-action). Though it’s still far off, I would love to see this become a reality.
For the most part I agree with Scott Kurtz’s “review”. You leave the cinema truly believing that it’s possible for a person to fly. Again. The first action piece as Superman rescues a plane hurtling to the ground remains the film’s highlight, despite the larger scale of the finale. A welcome return it certainly is, and the effort etched on his face makes it a very powerful cinematic moment. As this Multiplex comic shows, however, discussing the film’s faults becomes somewhat problematic without divulging major spoilers. As such, I shall refrain from detailed analysis. Suffice to say that they are setting up for a trilogy and, as is so often the case, the quality of the first film depends largely on the outcome of its successors. If the next film is great, this has done its job well.
Brandon Routh steps seamlessly into the Reeves’ large red boots. As Superman the continuation is perfect, a real credit to the young actor who must have spent many a night soaking up his predecessor’s performance. As Clark he takes a subtler approach, playing him as the slightly clumsy perennial nice guy but without the slapstick upon which Reeve’s performance bordered. Lois is essentially a new character, much better suited to the modern audience. Finally, Spacey’s hotly debated performance lies somewhere in between. He has morpher Lex Luthor from Gene Hackman’s eccentric villain to a darker, more bitter character. My dad wasn’t impressed by the trailer but loved the result. I am still undecided.
One’s approach to the film largely dictates one’s feelings. It is not the action extravaganza that many might reasonably have expected. Romantic subplots are par for the course when it comes to superhero movies as it offers the audience a way to relate to an otherwise inhuman character. However this is a rare occassion when the romance could be said to be the plot, with the action of lesser importance.
When I was a child there was only one cinematic superhero in the same way there was only one film that defined science fiction cool (that’s Star Wars in case you’re wondering). With both genres now flooded with a series of knock-offs and legitmately good products, no one’s return is more welcome than Superman. Sure, I later discovered and fell in love with Burton’s interpretation of the Batman universe, but it always felt niche compared to the powerful, raw, epic feel of the first two Superman films.
It is unsurprising, then, that fans are so fired up about the new film and yet the apprehension is, to continue the comparison, on par only with the arrival of the new Star Wars trilogy. Once such a long time has passed, to return to a cherished childhood world is a worrying prospect, lest it fail to live up to the dizzy heights of rose tinted adult expectation. Here, the franchise is fortunate for two reasons. Firstly, watchable as they may be, Superman 3 and 4 were rubbish. There is little argument here, they just failed to live up the earlier brilliance. Secondly, director Bryan Singer has already carved out his territory in the overcrowded comicbook market with his X-Men films, both of which impressed both critics and fans. What most people have forgotten, however, is that he has far more depth to his skills. I hope you recall, though you’d be forgiven for forgetting, this is the man who brought us The Usual Suspects.
In a few short hours I’ll know exactly which way the new film goes, but with so many reasons to be positive about it, the only real question is are you packing today?
Superman Returns theatrical release
UK general release
dir: Bryan Singer
starring: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth0
Last minute arrangements allowed me to see Toby in Croydon for a few hours today. He aided me in disposing of my old Xbox, trading it in with a stack of games for two shiny new ones, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. As videogame titles become inexplicably longer and illogically complicated, it seems that no game is truly “next gen” unless it is known by an acronym. “GRAW“, therefore, was practically a guaranteed success.
Opposite me on the train to meet Irina for dinner in London were a French couple. They were comprised of a man who looked like a young Jean Reno and a woman who looked like a slightly older Natalie Portman. It was sort of akin to seeing Léon, had it been a romantic comedy instead of a film about a ruthless assassin training a young girl under his protection. Well, okay, not that similar.
Kirsten and I saw The Lake House this evening. I hope to write a review as it would be my first for a pretty straightforward mainstream chick flick. The quirky time crossing premise is a good basis for bringing something fresh and new into the basic long-distance relationship mix — it doesn’t get much longer than living 2 years apart, after all. Yet in my eyes it suffered from two major flaws, one forgivable and one not. Firstly, no effort is made to explain the time-bending letterbox and to do so would be both unnecessary and unhelpful. However the results do not always make sense, particularly when an effort is made to change events. Such things are forgivable if ones considers the time aspect a non-central background element in the larger romance.
The fatal flaw was that through poor, or at least overconfident and self-congratulatory, direction the film’s pivotal revelatory “twist” was made painfully obvious to me about 15mins in. I should stress that Kirsten disagrees and did not discover it until much later into the film (when I believe the filmmakers actually intended it). Perhaps it was due to having seen the Spanish Lovers of the Arctic Circle, which does not share plot but merely vibe in its two lovers separated by forces beyon their control, with an eventual meeting that has a tragic result. Whatever the reason, forearmed with this knowledge as I was, many scenes lost their impact as their outcome was clearly rendered predetermined or irrelevant. This was unfortunate in a film that was almost involving enough to make me forget that Keanu Reeves was trying to act.
This week Kirsten seems to be receiving more mail at my house than I am. And I live here. It is true, of course, that having become rather too caught up in, and exhausted by, work I have been neglecting contact with friends. Striving to rectify that this week, I have been online a lot more despite the urge to spend every waking minute gathering rare mushrooms in Tamriel —testament to Oblivion’s level of immersion is not the fact you can do this, but rather the fact that you want to. My box-time has been limited by the fact my sister seems just as enthralled by it as I, so it seems only brotherly to share. Conversely Kirsten’s abandonment of Moto GP had more to do with the fact it wouldn’t let her win than a genuine dislike of the game.
With the eventual release of the all new Messenger Plus! Live last month, I have finally been able to upgrade permanently to Windows Live Messenger for general usage. Powerful additions like tabbed messaging made it essential for my day-to-day requirements. The new version ports all of the old functionality to Microsoft’s latest, rebranded release, along with several new features like HTML chat logging which makes old conversations highly readable when revisited. On the Live Messenger side, I notice many welcome changes from the beta such as a subtler colour scheme and the removal of the pointless rollover system that wasted a vast amount of space in the contacts list. The standard list might look less snazzy but is far more usable. Welcome tweaks include the ability to swiftly search for a contact, very useful for those with long address books. As always I recommend the Mess Patch for tweaking the client’s visual interface (and stripping away those unsightly ads).
With IE7 hitting its third beta release I decided the code was probably stable enough for me to test out without my preconceptions clouding judgment. I must admit I am impressed with the results. A sleek new interface maximises the viewing area, though the disappearance of the menu bar will likely be jarring at first. Disappointinly little progress has been made in CSS support, and it still miserably fails the Acid2 test. Speedwise it works fine and I have encountered no stability issues at all. However, despite its advances, I have found the Firefox’s customisability means I have come to rely on power features like mouse gestures and the ability to drag and drop links to the point where I find it difficult to browse without. So it is unlikely to draw back many Firefox users (despite better memory management) but by tightening speed and security will make it far more difficult to convince people to switch to alternative browsers in the first place. It also suggests that the next milestone release of Firefox may be more of a disappointment with Internet Explorer rapidly making up lost ground.