Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Tag: film (page 2 of 5)

Into The Sunset

It’s no secret that Before Sunrise and Before Sunset rank amongst my favourite films and, like many in that nebulous list, rewatching them is like spending time with old friends. Returning to Jesse and Céline some nine years later in Before Sunset was a rare treat, a sequel that hit a rather different but pitch-perfect note and we left them again tantalisingly close to embarking upon a relationship.

With the announcement that a third film is planned for next year, Francesca Steele of The Independent wonders if this is a good idea (warning: major spoilers) and, in particular, whether this romance can survive another outing. Though her suggested title “Before Death” is excessively negative (incidentally, my money is on “Before Sunday”*) she does have a point. Much as I love to think these characters did eventually get together, the reality of their relationship can never be quite as beautiful as the promise of romance. And if it has not yet crystallised some 18 years after they met, while a film about fading dreams may be though-provoking, our shared history together does risk losing some of its sheen.

Nevertheless, the collaborative writing process between Linklater and his actors, Hawke and Delpy, means these are two of the most rounded and real characters ever to grace the screen. So I suspect I am entirely incapable of turning down another opportunity to spend a few more hours in their company and, if the past is anything to go by, whatever insights they may have into their lives are sure to have a poignant resonance in my own.

Meanwhile, various bits I’ve linked to via Twitter lately, which is why you ought to keep an eye on the sidebar (or follow me, of course):

*if only because “Before Sundance” would be unforgivably meta.

The Birthday Barn

Lenka arranged a group “retreat” to a lovely converted barn in the Norfolk countryside to celebrate her, Kate and Viktoria’s birthdays. This sounded like it would be a relaxing, civilised affair. Of course I ought to have known better given: (a) the above average number of Saffers in the group; and (b) the barn in question, I swiftly realised upon recognising an all-too-familiar roadsign, was just down the road from where this transpired nearly three years ago. While there was certainly some drama, as with the trainee weekend away what happens in Norfolk remains firmly in Norfolk. The highlight was the Saturday night masquerade accompanied by a veritable feast put on by Lenka and her sous chefs. As I was handed the mantle of official photographer, a larger-than-usual Birthday Barn gallery is available for your perusal (those masquerade money shots are, naturally, at the end).

This year nearly passed by without a single film review. This is primarily a result of severely reduced cinema attendance, although it was coupled with a rise in home viewing so my actual film watching remained roughly even. However, I am hopeful this trend is reversible, not least since I am now in possession of  Picturehouse membership for the first time since leaving university. This partly due to the convenient proximity of both the Clapham Picturehouse and the Ritzy in Brixton, but also the fact a deal meant the membership sold for less than the value of the three free bundled tickets. My reviewing return begins with the excellent The Ides of March.

Meanwhile some changes at the site.  The Questions section has, once again, become woefully out of date. I have rolled through updating across the board to the current v2.0 beta and, as with all betas, that means I invite feedback: specifically, as always when this section receives updates, any questions? I just might answer them. The major change you may notice is that the site’s content now bears a Creative Commons licence which allows copying and derivative works for non-commercial purposes, so long as an attribution is included, which better suits my general opinion that most information on the Internet ought to be freely to be shared (in other words: it makes me less of a hypocrite). It does not apply to to the Gallery, not for commercial reasons but primarily because many of those photos feature friends or family who have not consented to — and may be uncomfortable with — such reuse. For photos I continue to direct people to the royalty free images shared via my morgueFile profile.

Trust Is (Not) For Fools

I’ve mentioned Bitter Ruin here several times: they’re an unsigned Brighton duo whom I’ve shot many times in the past. Their theatrical stage performance blends acoustic guitar with startling vocals and dark lyrics that are often structured as duel-like arguments. Most agree their best song to date is Trust, for which they finally released a great music video a few months ago.

Now these talented upstarts have decided they want to chart. Reaching the UK Top 40 is actually an alarmingly achievable goal, but the industry makes it considerably more difficult if you don’t have a big label promoting you. So the band are relying on word of mouth and social networking, aiming to prove these tools are sufficient for independent music to gain commercial success. The deal is simple: buy Trust this week and, if you feel like it, tell other people about it too. For 79p you’ll be helping to get some fantastic independent music into the UK charts, which I’d love to see, as well as supporting two incredibly friendly, talented individuals.

I also want to highlight a couple of trailers:

Premium Rush, about a bike messenger being pursued across the city by a dirty cop, wouldn’t normally pique my interest except that Joseph Gordon Levitt has had an incredible eye for good scripts. It’s not that I don’t like films about cyclists, it’s just that several years dodging blissfully unaware Cambridge cyclists tends to breed a healthy distaste for that species.

The Raid, set in the Jakarta slums, is the ideal adrenaline-fuelled action movie trailer that just doesn’t let up. I don’t watch a lot of pure action films these days, but this is the sort of trailer that makes me take notice.

Shorts

There will be some substantive posts soon, but in the meantime here are a few short films for your procrastinatory delectation. They’re not necessarily new, but I’ve only recently come across them via Gordon from Multiplex (a webcomic all cinema fans ought to enjoy).

Alma is a beautifully creepy slice of animation from Rodrigo Blaas, formerly of Pixar. Apparently a full-length feature is to be co-directed by Blaas and Guillermo del Toro, the latter suggesting that its eerie vibe should remain intact.

I Met The Walrus is an animated distillation of a much longer interview with John Lennon, conducted by 14-year-old Jerry Levitan in 1969 after managing to get into Lennon’s hotel suite. The short was nominated for an Oscar.

Synesthesia (a word gamers will be hearing a lot in relation to the newly released Child of Eden) is a condition whereby stimulation of one sense causes an involuntary experience in another sensory or cognitive pathway. This short doesn’t shoot for realism but the result is arresting.

Wolverine vs The Hand explains how the entirely unknown Gary Shore ended up on the shortlist to direct the next Wolverine film (The Wolverine, apparently). It’s basically a motion-comic fight sequence but the effect is really rather cool and would be a neat style to adapt for a comicbook film.

Salesman Pete is just surreal fun, in a sort of Invader Zim way. Also, how good was Invader Zim?*

*SPOILER: So good.

Short Post of No Consequence

Recent posts have been infrequent and, as a result, lengthier once I have both something about which to write and the time to do it. This means I have been reluctant to pad them out further with the usual assortment of links and asides that I’ve stumbled upon in my online travels. So here are the latest in a light-hearted Short Post of No Consequence.

  • The rotund plumber that still captures gamers’ imaginations, the original Super Mario has recently been reimagined both with modern sound effects and with a first person perspective.
  • Modern Times is a quietly pensive, attractively rendered, futuristic short.
  • Thwart facial detection with make-up (note: this trick doesn’t just prevent accurate face recognition; it prevents detection of a face at all).
  • The hilarious ninja-filled Nexus S unboxing video may the best one ever. After the video scroll down to grab the red ninja’s nunchaku…
  • Yes, it’s just a marketing video, but Corning’s A Day Made of Glass video is a gorgeous representation of technology that is, in many cases, virtually here. As soon as Microsoft finds a way to sell me that Surface table, anyway. While Corning naturally favours touch interfaces, I’ll admit apprehension at the loss of buttons in a car, since operation while moving will require taking one’s eyes of the road for far longer.
  • If you’re rocking one of the latest web browsers, using the HTML5 canvas to screw around with content on any site has become a recent trend in either Asteroids or Katamari flavours (the latter accompanied by the requisite ridiculously cheerful music too).
  • And finally, a Barbershop rendition of the Ewok celebration song. Because I can.

I take no responsibility for procrastination caused by the reading of this post.

Stargazing

My review of Tron: Legacy, the film to which I alluded last time, is now up. You will notice I enjoyed it, yet it also marks the first time I have been really frustrated by the need to offer a star rating at the end. Its critics will hate it for a range of reasons, all of which I agree with — it’s a film of unexplored concepts, ponderously paced, thinly plotted, and incredibly self-indulgent. Charlie at Ultra Culture, which I noted in my last point, absolutely hated it. And I agree with everything he said. But as a techie/film geek it does exactly what I want in a number of areas so that if accepted on its merits it’s both an impressive achievement and rather enjoyable. I could easily have given it anything from two to three and a half stars, which would completely alter the impression of the preceding text. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t partly influenced by the desire to promote great use of 3D over shoddy conversions like Clash of the Titans or gimmicks like Alice in Wonderland.

Interestingly, the same is true of the second film from the day, Mike Haggis’ The Next Three Days, starring Russell Crowe as an everyman teacher who ends up breaking his wife out of prison. I enjoyed it and would comfortably rate it a three-star film, but its structure — its opening two thirds a slow burn character drama followed by an explosive final act — will alienate much of its audience. Thriller fans will find much of the film too slow to sit through, while those who enjoy the drama will find the actual break and escape sequence utterly implausible. For me that same slow burn opening meant I was far more invested in the characters by the payoff, heightening its intensity.

Obviously the star rating is as much an opinion as the text of any review, but in this case it seems rendered useless. I’m curious to know what people would think of alternative approaches, which other media have also begun using. One option is simply to ditch the rating and rely on the text, but I think it remains important to have some form of summary position at the end of a review to highlight the strength of any recommendation (recommendation is, I feel, a crucial part of the critic’s role). Breakdown ratings that cover different aspects of the film are no better. Perhaps my favourite option would be a short list of pros and cons, and perhaps a “see this film if you like…” targeted recommendation. Since you are the people who read them, I’d love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments or directly.

In unrelated news, while I haven’t engaged with Wikileaks directly here, Glenn Greenwald’s levelheaded debunking of various pieces of critical media coverage is well worth reading.

Coming Soon

I spent the whole day at a new review event arranged by SeeFilmFirst which, in a rather progressive move, specifically targeted online writers. Better yet, they hosted it at my favourite screen in London (Empire Screen 1). There were advance screenings of two films but there’s an embargo on writing about them until tomorrow evening. That information may be enough for the curious to deduce the big film in question. At any rate, expect a review to land around 10pm.

In addition to the films there were dozens of trailers and a couple of panel talks, one on building an online audience and one on tackling film piracy. The former had a varied panel from larger and smaller sites, introducing me to the delightfully irreverent Ultra Culture, which certainly offers a fresher voice than much of the UK offering. It also highlighted the common mistake (particularly by companies) in identifying “the online audience” as a single entity rather than a range of varied groups and communities with differing views and interests, as well as the way in which “the online film audience” is often unrepresentative of audiences as a whole. The latter served more as a reminder that the film industry remains slightly out of touch with its core audience. A director essentially described as empirically wrong the increasingly held view that a good home theatre setup now offers a higher fidelity experience than dealing with cinema crowds talking and using mobiles throughout. One panellist noted that the film industry tends to be a step behind music industry which, let’s remember, had to have its arm severely twisted before consenting to sale via DRM-free mp3 downloads. And suddenly they discovered that internet users weren’t all the cheapskate leeches they had imagined and were actually quite happy to pay money. The film industry, by comparison, has only just switched to thanking paying customers rather than threatening them before every film they watch. Restriction-free downloads clearly remain some way off.

After a brief pit stop at the flat, I headed to Rav’s for a Leslie Nielsen memorial night. Order of service: Naked Gun followed by Airplane. The former inspired my all-time favourite Family Guy opening (season four’s PTV), and Shirley everyone enjoys the latter. There are those who may argue four films in one day might be considered excessive. Well, in a single day I’ve [REDACTED], followed Police Squad, flown on a plane and [REDACTED]. Not necessarily in that order.

64oz Later

64oz of steakPhil decided that the best way to celebrate his birthday last weekend was attempting to consume 64oz of steak in under an hour. Naturally I couldn’t turn down entertainment like that, so headed over to Spur Steak & Grill at The O2. The photos tell the story (apparently they don’t have a problem with dSLRs in the restaurants) better than I can, but suffice to say it was a valiant attempt. Despite a strong opening 20 minutes, the pace gradually slowed and by the final third it was a real uphill struggle. Although dejected, it was nothing ice cream couldn’t cheer. And while he suggests his mass eating form may be on the decline, Phil still seems keen to have another go. His girlfriend Helena is not. To be honest I can’t really recommend Spur (I assume it’s short for spurious quality steak), but it was a fun night.

Nuit Blanche is a classy little black & white short flick with heavily layered digital effects. It earned Arev Manoukian Hollywood attention, and he recently discussed its creation (including a video showcasing the digital effects) with Wired. While it may be the slow motion shattering glass that draws the eye, Nuit Blanche perfectly captures the power of a fleeting connection with a stranger, when in that single gaze the rest of the world becomes momentarily irrelevant.

Digital Wash Up

Will the Secretary of State look back in history and see what happens to legislation that gets pushed through the House quickly, without consultation? It looks as though we could push some measure through – perhaps there will be a little stitch-up between the three Front-Bench teams – but out there, ordinary people, many of whom have only begun to realise the repercussions of the Bill, will feel totally let down by Parliament, just before a general election.

-Kate Hoey MP, House of Commons debate on the Digital Economy Bill

She is, of course, absolutely right. But she also puts me in a difficult position in that I have no desire to see the current Labour Government re-elected but, locally, she is exactly the sort of rebel MP — willing routinely to vote against her party when appropriate — that I wholeheartedly support. The party political system irritates me more each year.

You already know I support good 3D cinema and deplore poor, “cash in” 3D. The latest culprit is Clash of the Titans in which the post-production 3D was shoehorned in even less time than Alice in Wonderland. Critics have universally slated the 3D elements as greatly detracting from an otherwise — well — average film. What effect this will have on consumer tastes is uncertain since Titans certainly made a lot of money.

This all made me rather curious about the discovery that the fourth Resident Evil film (it’s become quite the franchise), Afterlife, is in 3D. Which sounds awful. Except that it’s been done properly from scratch, utilising the Fusion camera system pioneered by James Cameron. The quality of the film itself is still up in the air: I consider the first one fun videogame fluff, the second awful, and the third a surprisingly impressive atmospheric post-apocalyptic ride. I’m happy to let curiosity get the better of me when this one breaks out.

I don’t often embed videos here, but this is a rather pretty “trailer” for the forthcoming Charles Vess illustrated book of Neil Gaiman’s poem Instructions from his Fragile Things collection. It’s actually Neil reading the entire poem with an animated version of Vess’ artwork.

Kicking Ass and Calling Names

Although this is only his third film, it still surprises me that Matthew Vaughn’s name is not better known, given that his previous two offerings were the superb Layer Cake and Stardust. Each revitalised a genre, but his intent to throw his hat into the comicbook superhero ring with a largely unknown title still made me slightly apprehensive.

The real problem will be how to promote Kick-Ass, which straddles the line between parody and homage, in equal parts hilarious and violent. The initial trailers were interesting but hardly gripping, nor did they seem to match the incredible hype from last year’s ComicCon. You must ensure you see the restricted red band Hit-Girl trailer to fully appreciate the craziness that awaits. And then you must see the film.

My full Kick-Ass review is up, following a review screening I attended on Monday. The short description is that it’s quite simply the most fun I’ve had a cinema since Inglourious Basterds last year. Faaez accompanied me and, aided by a raging post-stag hangover, appeared to have any remaining synapses blown away by the end, confirming it definitely wasn’t what he expected from the advertising he had seen. I was asked to give a two-word review afterwards and whatever I said was almost certainly wrong. The correct answer is demented brilliance.

Fans may also wish to know that Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Avenue has a stack of the graphic novel, signed by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. Through a strange misunderstanding of retail theory, they are “cashing in” by reducing the price by a couple of pounds. Such inexplicable practices deserve to be rewarded.

Last week I also got round to seeing Crazy Heart, and have a review up for that too. Suffice to say Jeff Bridge’s Oscar win was more than deserved. You’ll notice some minor format changes in these two reviews and I’m hoping this will be the start of a steady stream for this year. I’d really like to get back into writing full reviews as well as the general film discussion in posts here, though obviously they take a significantly longer time investment.

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"Luck is the residue of design."

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