rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

21-6-2005 (archived)

Well, it's nice to know that Fearlessly-Eatsitall cares about tea, but surely this is an extraordinary amount of hassle to avoid using a teapot and warming a cup?

And then he goes and puts sugar in it. Weird.

22-6-2005 (archived)

We don't live here anymore” is distilled essence of American indie-movie. We have Laura Dern, Mark Ruffalo and Naomi Watts (plus Peter Krause, transferring effortlessly from indie-spirited Six Feet Under on TV). We have a plot about two professors, in literature and creative writing, at a small New England college, and their wives, one of whom is an artist (photography); the other dances with the excruciatingly self-conscious unselfconsciousness characteristic of the 70s art-hippy. Watts takes her clothes off. People talk about their feelings. They're all hard to like, even the charming Krause, and some (Dern) would be difficult even to tolerate.

Despite all that, it's really rather good. Yes, this portrait of adultery is hardly original in themes or setting, but despite the occasionally heavy-handed piling on of themes (need Watt's housekeeping, and daughter, have been so calm and perfect, Dern's so shoddy?) it is both watchable and unusual in its shades of moral grey. I can't call it enjoyable, as such, but I'm glad to have seen it.

25-6-2005 (archived)

The Co-op Bank have told Christian Voice, famous in whatever small way they may be so for campaigning against Jerry Springer: The Opera, to piss off. I wouldn't know about this at all if it hadn't hit the Today Programme just before 8am yesterday, giving me my healthy morning dose of vein-expanding rage at the fact that hideous self-righteous toerags like CV's Stephen Green are encouraged by being interviewed on this country's most important news programme. Of course, with statements like “It's a matter of whether our nation believes in a God who brought us victorious through two world wars” he did a pretty good job of making himself and his handful of nutters sound like exactly the shower they are, and the Co-op to their credit made it very clear that they just didn't want to provide services to bigoted idiots. Naughtie let him go ahead, with plenty of rope the better to hang himself, and clearly enjoyed every second of it, which is undoubtedly the best plan. Freedom of speech requires us to let even the biggest and most hateful speak, but what it doesn't require is for us to broadcast it. Still, suppression creates martyrs, whereas ridicule works.

28-6-2005 (archived)

JWZ brings news that Disney are making Lindsay Lohan's breasts smaller in the new Herbie film (as if her diet hadn't done enough). Who would have thought, in this brave new post-Lara-Croft age, we'd be seeing smaller computer-generated tits? Not I.

Still, it's one film to cross off the possible-viewing list.

(I'm quite likely to fall off my update schedule to some extent over the next few days, due to inconvenient pressure of Having A Life. Normal service will be resumed soon, in all respects.)

4-7-2005 (archived)

To make up for the layoff, two-for-one film review day starts with Kung Fu Hustle, which is patchy, stupid, and very entertaining indeed. The trailers manage to highlight at least as many of the bad bits as the good, but overall this is funny and surprisingly gripping, lovingly mocking the genre of which it is still decidedly a part. Rubbish, but good rubbish.

From the surprise hit to the big US blockbuster with the not-so-good word of mouth, War of the Worlds. There are a lot of things to dislike about this, certainly; Dakota Fanning as as annoying as ever, it drags badly for part of the first half, and there's just a little too much saccharine-enhancement in places, even for Spielberg. Worst of all is the stupidity of one of the totally unnecessary plot changes, having the tripods lying dormant under the ground for millenia. If they wanted the world and they were here when there was so much less resistance, they'd've taken it then. And, more to the point, Welles's (retained) ending would have come into play back then too (the original, novel, by the way, is now in the public domain, and you can get it here). Stupid, stupid, stupid. But then there are things to like too, not least the real ambiguity we feel about Cruise's character. He's not a particularly nice man (except in his driven dedication to the survival of his family), and the scene in which he blindfolds Fanning illustrates just how far beyond normal morality he will go without any hesitation. The effects are, of course, great, though few of the action scenes are really gripping, and the almost claustrophobic focus on a single family is effective. It's by no means great, but it's certainly watchable enough for a summer popcorn-bucket flick.

7-7-2005 (archived)

Last week a few of us went to see Steve Lukather in Wolverhampton, not really knowing what to expect. Other than the odd Hendrix song, they only played one song I knew - Hero with 1,000 Eyes, from Luke's own Candyman album - and the rest of it was, sort of, fusion. There was no real jazz influence to the playing, but they were trading choruses among the four musicians with Luke acting as bandleader and inter-song stand-up comic.

Of course we expected Luke to be magnificent, and he was even better than I've seen before - impossibly fluent, creative, exciting playing with the best guitar sound in the history of rock music. The surprise was how amazing his band were; great keyboard playing, with the near-atonal Paich licks down but plenty of more melodic range, stunning rock, slap and flamenco-rasgueado bass playing, and ridiculously great drumming; when the solos cycled round to the rhythm section, they carried their choruses as well as the tenor instruments had. I'm on record as hating jam bands, but not when they can really, really play. Genius.

9-7-2005 (archived)

The Batman movies have been enormously varied; even discounting the very early ones and the various tiny-budget pictures, and the manifold TV movies, the stylistic and qualitative gulf between the first two innovative and trend-setting Burton/Keaton films and the slightly later, worthless, Schumacher/Kilmer/Clooney crap is gigantic.

Batman Begins” is not just a return to Burton/Keaton form. Nolan's characteristically time-skipping style and beautiful visuals are even better, and certainly more real, than Burton's, and Christian Bale is brilliant. I don't understand quite how he dropped so much weight for The Machinist, and even less how he's put so much quality muscle back on for this, but it wouldn't matter a bit if he couldn't play the role. His Batman is saddened and troubled without ever being as brooding or strange as Keaton's, and is the better for it. The training and lifestyle laid out in the origins section give more plausibility to the way he beat the bad guys without actual superhero powers, and Morgan Freeman not only fills a “Q” slot but provides, along with Caine in a rare non-annoying role, excellent comic relief.

Bale has the slight stillness and melancholy that he brings to most of his work, and is convincingly split-personalitied in a way none of the others ever were; Keaton was Batman all the time, Clooney was Wayne, Kilmer was just bad. His playing has a humanity about it that the part needs; the essential difference between Batman and the other comic heroes is that this one is, in the end, just a man.

It's a long film, but it doesn't feel it; while some of it feels measured, it is never slow. The action scenes are exhilarating, the gadgets (especially the wings/cape and the new Batmobile) perfect, and Cillian Murphy is incredible, both beautiful and sinister. This is how you make a blockbuster. Almost perfect.

11-7-2005 (archived)

Every year has a few make-weight romcoms, and “A Lot Like Love” has no pretensions to be any more than that. A Harry Met Sally for the Dude, Where's My Car generation, it's actually quite a bit better than that would make it sound. Kutcher has his usual charm and Amanda Peet is, as ever, quietly devastating. Sadly, unlike Harry Met Sally, there's not really much of a script, but it bumbles along touchingly enough and there's enough charisma on screen to make it all work well. Vapid, forgettable, and enjoyable.

13-7-2005 (archived)

So, some people decided to bomb That London's transport last week, and I have to say I'm delighted by the way everyone seems to have reacted. It's probably best summed up by London Hurts, a LJ community started by earnest Americans and promptly hijacked by actual Londoners taking the piss. I haven't seen any frothing xenophobia (from British people), and we seem to be staying balanced. After all, we're used to being blown up, by terrorists, in wars, and indeed by public transport without any assistance at all.

This is probably still a good time to remember that, while people are doing terrible things to us (albeit not very skillfully) in the name of a cause, terrible things are still being done to others in our name. Neither can possibly justify the other. Making Light's “Things you've seen. Things you've, well - done” is a reminder of how bad we can be.

15-7-2005 (archived)

The Descent” has a lot going for it. Neil Marshall has followed up Dog Soldiers with another team-horror film, but this is in an entirely different league. It's an 18, so has a much better class of audience. It doesn't try for comedy or post-modern wit; not only does it owe nothing to Scream, it owes nothing even to Elm Street. There's no attempt at psychological metaphor - after the recent Japanization of the horror vocabulary, any film without spooky calm children and water as a metaphor for evil is a pleasant change. There are open, respectful references to classics, most obviously the iconic Alien/Ripley close-up shot. It uses quick, early character exposition to fuel the second half of the film, where it's too highly adrenalised for much in the way of dialogue, and there are shades of grey to the central figures. The overwhelming claustrophobia of the first part builds brilliantly into the the terror when the Crawlers come out to play, and there is never any release and resolution. There's plenty of gore, though.

I strongly advise you to see this in a cinema, and not in its late showing. You'll come out tense enough without it being dark and close to bedtime. The best true horror film for years.