rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

18-10-2004 (archived)

Resident Evil: Apocalypse” is a film that many of you will probably have no interest in whatsoever, and you probably know who you are, too. Move along, nothing to see here.

So, now the grown-ups have gone, you must be the people who think you just might like a silly, violent, zombie-monster-action flick with guns and evil science gone bad and hot chicks in gratuitously small clothes. That's exactly what this is, and it's perfect.

Jovovich does exactly what she always does: gamine violent odd girl. She's great at playing the not-quite-human she has to play here. Sienna Guillory is delectable, all the male action leads are fun, there are several good monsters, and Nemesis is just great. Sure, it's plot-light cheese, but this sort of thing can't be done any better. Style, pace, and energy.

20-10-2004 (archived)

Inside I'm Dancing” is about two severely disabled young men who decide to try and live independently, rather than in a residential home. It's funny, charming, and painful throughout, played without exaggeration (by able-bodied actors), and much more enjoyable than I seem to be making it sound. Highly recommended.

23-10-2004 (archived)

Saw” is a much-hyped low-budget horror film that's been a surprising mainstream hit. The plot works well, obvious debt to Se7en and occasional incoherencies not withstanding; the direction is occasionally but not fatally annoying and mostly pretty reasonable; all the jump moments, signposted as they were, made you jump as intended; in fact, it has all the makings of a film that deserved some of the very positive reviews it somehow got. It's let down by gimmicky strobe-cut scenes (notably in the car chase), and more badly by a lot of repetition - not only of exposition but actual footage. I know it's a low budget, but that's just lazy.

The big problem is the acting. Nobody was particularly good. Danny Glover was bad. Leigh Whannell (who, as a warning sign, co-wrote) was worse. Cary Elwes, in probably the most important role in the movie, was astoundingly bad, starting off wooden and unconvincing and becoming increasingly hammy. The climactic last few minutes should have been thrilling, horrifying and pitiful; instead we, and most of the rest of the audience, were in gales of laughter. You can see better, deeper, richer, more restrained acting at primary school nativity plays. This could have been a strong, exciting horror movie; instead it's a joke.

25-10-2004 (archived)

Not a moment too soon, half-term is upon us, and this seems like an appropriate moment to think about what my new and different involvement with academia means to my life. There are the obvious changes: early mornings and early finishes, suits and ties, strains on my voice from talking all day, and the existence of actual holidays. Then there are the important differences.

In what I used to do, I spent a clear majority of my working life apparently doing very little indeed. Early in my research career I sat around reading books, loitered in cafes nursing concentrated coffees, lay on my bed staring at the ceiling, and frittered away extraordinary amounts of time in and around restaurants. Later I augmented things with hours in the gym and many more at the computer, chatting on IRC, reading blogs and static sites, and hacking up odd bits of code. I spent many hundreds hours on mailing lists, newsgroups, and writing in this place.

I still do all of these things, and while I'll engage in them with something like my former dedication during holidays much of the time I don't and can't. That time wasn't wasted, though; much of a (or at least my) research career is about distracting your conscious mind so that the rest of your brain can get to work. Yes, you need to prime the pump with what is visibly as well as actually hard work, but much of the real mental exercise is under the water. For you, dear reader, the major difference is likely to be a drop in the quality of links I give you (since I'm not surfing all day) and, probably and regrettably, in the quality and depth of my writing.

Nowadays I don't do research, not significantly, and I don't have lots of idle time, but I do have spare brain; not only while I'm in front of (or behind) a class, marking, and generally working, but at home. This is a job where, if I'm reasonably organised and disciplined for my eight hours or so, I can switch off when I come home. I'm not nagged by the tremendous guilt I used to feel whenever I turned away from research; when I'm done, I'm done, and it feels good. As well as that enormous sense of freedom, I'm very aware that my subconscious isn't working the way it was; I think my creativity's gradually recovering now it's not being eaten up by mathematics, and I'm dreaming memorably (and sometimes even lucidly) again. All these are, in my view, devoutly to be wished. It may seem ridiculous in a time when teachers seem to do little but complain about the tremendous difficulties and strains of their job (almost all jobs are, of course, difficult in their own different ways), but I came to this in a search for not only security and stability, but a better balance between my work and the rest of my life. I want a job I care about, that I'm good at, but that will let me have a life away from it. That's what I have. Again I'm reassured that I chose right.

27-10-2004 (archived)

It seems that a disturbing number of my most deserving friends have not seen the Perkygoff Manifesto and FAQ. So now you have.

29-10-2004 (archived)

Alien vs Predator” is a movie with a long, long history in first-person-shooter games. I first saw a game by that name as a mod of either Quake or (more likely) Doom; I think it was in '96 or '97. Since then there have been lots of commercial games under the same name. And now there's this.

There is, of course, little or nothing in the way of plot. What there is in the way of backstory is the sort of aztec/inca/egyptian ur-civilisation pyramids and alien overlords nonsense that we've all been able to turn out in less time than it takes to say it since Chariots of the Gods popularised the “idea” back before I was born. So far, no surprises.

Of course, the effects are good. Of course, the Aliens are still viscerally unpleasant (though they've had no currency as creatures of genuine horror since Alien II; the first was a horror movie, the second was action with tinges, and it's all been much less interesting since then). The Predators are, at first, more efficient than scary, with none of the tension of the classic first movie. They're more characterful, and less worrying, for being mostly visible here, and there are some interesting touches, notably the contrast between the incompetence of some of the pyramid hunters and the confident, show-off swagger of the one who ends up playing the effective lead of this picture (and the others I won't talk about because they're spoilers, of course).

This is short, fun, competent, and never slows down enough to get boring. It doesn't take itself seriously, it's occasionally funny, and the action works pretty well. It's probably as good as this movie could have been, and we enjoyed it quite a bit.

30-10-2004 (archived)

Into the Mirror” is another Korean ghost story, and my favourite of the recent bunch. It's calmer and less confused than most of the Korean films we've seen recently, and very atmospheric. There is much interesting play on mirrors, which are always odd things (as Dorothy Sayers said, cats, bells and mirrors are queer, and it doesn't do to think too much about them). The acting is understated and excellent. The end is genuinely shocking. The whole exudes a strong scent of 80s American slasher movie - all the victims do something to demonstrate their unfitness to live just before they die, they wander into solitary places, etc - but it's tempered with modernity, restraint, and taste. Very good indeed.

1-11-2004 (archived)

Alfie” is yet another remake of a much-beloved British film, the second recent such of a Michael Caine film, and (just like the Italian Job) I liked it rather better than the original. Jude Law is, of course, offensively good-looking, and carries the film beautifully (in every sense). The supporting cast never put a foot wrong, and the moral tale is well updated for this very different era. Perhaps most impressive, there isn't a cowardly happy ending. If you loved the original, you'll probably hate this very different take (this is, of course, the third film version of the original stage play, each altering with its times). That's a shame. It may not pack the punch of the recent, similarly-themed Roger Dodger, but it's an elegant, careful comedy of manners with some real emotional weight.

3-11-2004 (archived)

Johnny Depp is the greatest screen presence at work today; he combines charisma, ability, taste and unpredictability in a way unique in the industry. Even his weakest films are tremendously watchable, and when the rest of the film works with him, the results can be stunning. “Finding Neverland” could have been an excellent movie without him. It's based on a successful play, a strong and touching story that ties back to one of the most remarkable and enduring children's stories ever written, and has a wonderful cast of mostly British comic and straight talent. With him, it is one of the most enjoyable and emotional films I have ever seen; this is my second attempt at reviewing it, because the first time I fell apart again. As we left, we realised that it wasn't just us: there was barely a dry eye in the house. I cannot think of a film I have liked more. See it.

6-11-2004 (archived)

Last night I braved the rush hour to see Jeff Scott Soto and Tyketto in Wolverhampton. This is the fifth time since The Gods less than eighteen months ago I've seen Jeff, and the third time since the same date I've seen Danny Vaughn (Tyketto's front-man); both were appearing with different projects there.

Tyketto were headlining; other than an single American warmup, this was the first date they've played together for twelve years. The material, of course, is first class; Danny was as great as usual; and guitarist Brooke St James was fantastic, laid-back and tasteful, wearing the sort of beautiful stage clothes I haven't seen in a decade or more and generally epitomising the gentleman rock star. They had a couple of moments of slipping off the groove, and could maybe have done with a few more days in rehearsal, but it was still a very good gig.

Sadly, they had to follow the Soto band, who are quite simply a force of nature at the moment. Their new drummer has settled in completely and adds a fourth layer to the already-ridiculous vocal harmonies, and Howie and Gary continue to be jawdropping and hilarious. Jeff himself was as awe-inspiring as we've come to expect, and the set was eclectic as usual. There was no acoustic interlude here, which I actually prefer; good as it is, they're at the best in full flight.

Finally, just before the closer everyone was waiting for, Jeff got up for an encore with Tyketto: Queen's “Now I'm Here”, complete with competitive crowd sing-along. Superb, not least for the (utterly friendly) three-way charisma competition between Soto, Vaughn and St James (Soto by a length from Vaughn, by a short head from St James, would be my verdict). This was melodic rock at its very best.

Fortunately they finished fairly early; apparently everything does in Wolverhampton, since all the car parks lock at 11:30. It was a great show, but it's good to be back in civilisation.