rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

16-4-2004 (archived)

This week's third film review is “Monster”, a fictionalised biography of serial killer Aileen Wuornos (about whom other films have also been made).

This is a difficult and intense movie. Christina Ricci is good as the young gay girl who falls for a hooker; Charlize Theron more than deserves the Oscar she won for her astonishing, unrecognisable performance as Wuornos. This is some of the best acting you will see, in a thoroughly unsympathetic role. The films is far from pleasant, and I'm not even sure it's enjoyable; but it is brilliant.

19-4-2004 (archived)

We had another UKMG pissup, as they are known, here in Manchester yesterday, and particularly splendid it was too. This one was the “Not Trev Memorial” pissup, celebrating the fact that's he's still with us. Also in attendance were me, James, Paul, Paul, Ian, Liz, Pete, Mike, Vinny, and Adrian, Blues, Chappers, Icarusi and Mrs Fod. I invoke organiser's privilege to not write it up; there are reports (1, 2, 3, 4) a-plenty. I think it's generally agreed that this was the best for some time, though :).

Administrative note: I was supposed to have moved this place to its new server by now, but sadly it's not ready. The current host has been extremely pleasant and patient, but if this place vanishes suddenly don't worry; it will be back by the end of next weekend at worst. As you were.

21-4-2004 (archived)

This week's first film review is “The Passion of the Christ”, a deeply controversial film. The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre, as some have called it, is probably the most unflinchingly violent, bloody film I have ever seen. Almost all of the two-hour-plus running time is the camera watching, unflinching, as Jim Caviezel's Jesus is beaten, flailed, kicked, and crucified to his death.

Most of the controversy, though, is not from that front but rather over the supposed anti-semitism. I am no an expert on anti-semetism or on theology, though as a man with a good portion of Jewish blood who lived for four years in a Christian theological college, many of whose friends are in the ministry, I am not entirely without understanding of either, and I regard the case as unproven. While the likes of Joe Queenan are convincing, and while there can be no doubt that Gibson's father is from the pre-Vatican-II school of doctrine and is a holocaust denier to boot, I don't think that the film presents the common Jews as significantly worse or better than the Romans; all of the positive portrayals are of Jewish characters (not least Jesus himself).

Let me confess at once that, two days after seeing this film, I am still unsure how to react to it. It is undoubtedly powerful, disturbing, and moving; it is, after all, telling one of the most influential stories of all human history. It emphasises the theological value of Christ's suffering whilst almost completely ignoring everything that made him humanly remarkable; many people have been horrifyingly martyred for their gods before and since, and this one is little different unless you believe that it carries with it the key to redemption. It certainly brings an immediacy to the doctrine that this course was chosen, this hideous death undertaken, for us, and that we are all in debt therefore; without that it would be little other than a gory, rather pedestrian horror film with subtitles and poor acting (none of the actors are speaking a language with which they're properly familiar, after all). If you're not pretty familiar with the story as in the gospels much of it will make little sense, but then this isn't really aimed at people who aren't.

I cannot recommend this film, but neither can I recommend against it. I do not know, even now, whether it is any good; the religious and historical context makes it hard to see clearly. I do know that I am glad that I saw it.

23-4-2004 (archived)

Edit: Oops. I already did this first story three weeks ago. Bad blogger, no biscuit.

Genital piercings for women were banned by the Georgia House Wednesday as lawmakers considered a bill outlining punishments for female genital mutilation.

An amendment adopted without objection added "piercing" to the list of things that may not be done to female genitals. Even adult women would not be allowed to get the procedure. The bill eventually passed 160-0, with no debate.

Amendment sponsor Rep. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, was slack-jawed when told after the vote that some adults seek the piercings.

Now, I'm aware that I live in a particularly cosmopolitan city and keep mildly exotic company, but still, isn't that just a touch sheltered these days?

Elsewhere, it seems Japanese kids are using soundproofed karaoke places in much the same way as teenagers in coming-of-age fiction used to use the back seat of the car, and the owners aren't doing anything about it because they need the money. I love Japan.

26-4-2004 (archived)

This week's first-of-many film review is “The Butterfly Effect”, an ambitious time-modification film marred by limp direction and poor acting. There are good things: the script is ok, Ashton Kutcher is actually pretty good as well as pretty pretty, and Ethan Suplee is excellent value as Kutcher's vast goth friend. It has an interesting, shades-of-grey ending.

Sadly, the bad things stack up a lot higher. It's slow, repetitive, and long. It's deeply depressing, Kutcher's character trying to fix things in the past and steadily making things worse. That's even before you get into the major plot points, which span just about every bad thing you could think of that might happen to a kid. Worst of all, almost all of the acting is genuinely bad.

There's a good movie to be made from this idea, but this isn't it.

27-4-2004 (archived)

This week's second film review is “The Girl Next Door”, a teen vaguely-sex comedy which tanked at the US box office, seems to be tanking here, and has had horrible reviews. Damned if I know why.

Good things: light, laugh-out-loud funny in several places, unobtrusive performances, Timothy Olyphant's wonderfully charming, sleazy Kelly, Emile Hirsch in the starring role, and the delightful Elisha Cuthbert as the porn starlet who wants to turn her life around. Bad things: well, I suppose it's a bit conventional. It's a light romantic teen comedy, of course it is.

Even if everybody but Liz and I hated this, we're still right. It's great.

29-4-2004 (archived)

The last film review of the week (please, dear studio people, release the ones I want to see throughout the year rather than all in April, kthx) is “Taking Lives”, in which Angelina Jolie is not cast as a serial killer. That's a shame, she's made for the part, but in the tradition of the X Files FBI agents can be nuts too.

Jolie does “gorgeous and mad” better than anyone, though I don't believe she has any range beyond there; one rather suspects it comes naturally. Ethan Hawke is pretty good here, too. There is nudity. There the good things end; it's a little slow, very predictable, and while the jump-inducing moments are competent enough you always know they're coming. Dull.

2-5-2004 (archived)

Today was the first day of the North-West Guitar Show. This is the fourth year in a row I've been, and each year has been less good than the previous. I suspect this is partly because the venue is not ideal (UMIST patriot though I of course remain) and partly because the show seems to get absolutely no promotion whatsoever.

This is the second year in a row I've bought very little; my first two years I bought my two JEMs, and last year I bought nothing (though I did buy a guitar I'd seen at the show a week later, having talked the price down). The only real temptation for me this year was a 50W/side Marshall stereo tube poweramp, at a truly silly price, but I eventually decided that it's far too big and heavy for something that would improve the guitarist-cred and romance of my gear but need a second rack, while reducing reliability and convenience and not actually improving the sound. Tone shaping is for preamps.

There was an unofficial mini-PU to go with it, featuring Trev, James, Paul, Ian, Icarusi and (briefly) Liz. As expected, the company was massively better than the show.

4-5-2004 (archived)

Last night Trev, James, Ian and Michelle, Fod, and I went to The Limelight to see Jeff Scott Soto for the fourth time in a year. He was supported by Bob Catley, about whom I have nothing to say other than that his Leslie Ash impersonation is improving.

The Soto band were excellent as ever; my only slight criticism would be that in a couple of places I thought the tempo drifted just a little, which is no doubt down to the early days with a new drummer. My major criticism was the club's sound; for the first half-dozen songs or so, and early in the acoustic section, it was genuinely bad - particularly the vocals, which were harsh, indistinct, and drowned out by the other instruments. This is bad enough with any band; with this band, with three excellent singers and superb harmonies, it's disastrous. Apparently the only guy off the stage who wasn't aware of the problems was the FOH soundman. It was apparently his birthday, which may have saved his life.

Still, by midway through the sound was mostly OK, though when they first switched into twin-guitar mode Gary's guitar was inaudible; the first time I've seen Gary play his own great solo from “Eyes of Love” and I couldn't hear the damned thing. Special mention goes to Gary's camouflage outfit, complete with t-shirt reading “Ho! Now you can't see me”; sadly at that point I couldn't hear him either.

They played pretty much everything I could have asked for, including an excellent version of “Colour My XTC”, a rareish electric version of “Crazy”, “Mysterious”, and bits of “I'll be waiting” (transition from acoustic to electric with lots of crowd singing).

The moments I'll probably remember longest are both covers; the first, a regular Soto favourite, was Madonna's “Frozen” in the acoustic section, which was particularly strong this time. The second was in the follow-my-leader covers game, well-described here by Ian, when Gary went into Def Leppard's “Photograph”, to the apparent surprise of everyone. They ran with it with Jeff singing through the verse, and then played the chorus with just the crowd singing. In fact, just me singing, as far as I can tell. What I didn't realise is that I was well audible throughout most of the club; at least, the boys heard me from twenty feet away, behind and off to my left.

So I've sort of sung lead on a Def Leppard song with the Jeff Scott Soto band. I can die complete now.

5-5-2004 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Kill Bill Vol. 2”, about which it is hard to say much without spoilers, so much so that many reviews haven't even tried to avoid them or warn of them.

While the dialogue here is not up to the scintillating standard of Tarantino's early films, it's much more interesting than the first one. It's less action-heavy, but much better acted, with some good solid performances as well as some wonderfully over-the-top work (particularly from Gordon Liu as Pai Mei). There's still lots of good action, too, and some wonderfully icky moments, as well as some genuinely disturbing, claustrophobic scenes.

As a whole, the pair of films would be interesting (if enormously long) viewing, the adrenalin-soaked first half leading naturally into this much more contemplative finish. Separately, they would be triumphs for almost any other director; by Tarantino's standards, they are merely very, very enjoyable.