rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

19-10-2005 (archived)

It has long been clear that Joss Whedon can't do much wrong, and “Serenity” is more evidence. The first forty minutes or so are pretty much perfect, and it doesn't lose much after that. It's tight, emotionally engaging, funny, intense, inventive, and shit goes boom. Brilliant.

22-10-2005 (archived)

Night Watch” reminded me of quite a few vampire movies of the last few years, in that the atmospherics worked very well indeed, but it didn't quite earn out its promise. The first 100 minutes or so were just magnificent; dark, moody, gory visuals, nothing too ridiculously stylish but still very cool, superb, inventive subtitling, a little bit of innovation and new twists on all the old dark versus light stories - I was absolutely engrossed, on the edge of my seat, and then... I don't know, the last fifteen minutes just weren't quite there. Perhaps I just burned myself out on the not-quite-final climax of the curse and vortex storyline, but despite the incredibly cool spine-sword, I wasn't anything like as gripped by the last few minutes. So, on that viewing (and I shan't have another chance until DVD; we caught its last showing), this is merely an extraordinarily good vampire/Other movie, and not clearly the best one yet made. I'm not sure, even now, that I can think of one better.

24-10-2005 (archived)

It's a long time between claymation movies, and then I get two in the same weekend, both with over-long titles. “Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” is more of Nick Park's trademark whimsy. As usual with Park, there's nothing even remotely unsettling here, unless it's the sheer lunatic depth of detail in every frame. Again as usual, the detailing of the actual characters is deliberately crude, faces with fingerprints from moulding and so on, but the animation is beatiful and the script carries it all. Warm, funny, gentle, but not really all that memorable.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride” is at the other end of the claymation spectrum in terms of polish; there's nothing here that is not utterly beautiful, the score is great, the songs are often funny, and that “trademark vision” of Burton's that seems to have been coming in for a bit of a kicking recently is there in force. It does rather feel, strangely for such a long-awaited project, like something he spun off between real films; while everything's gorgeously done, the main action in each scene is all of the action there is. There's none of the detailing and backgrounding that makes Park's film what it is. Still, it's utterly beautiful, and not just (as Filthy pointed out) because all the female characters have ridiculously large, round breasts. Obviously that doesn't hurt, though.

Of course it's a perkygoff spectacular, and of course I loved every minute of it, but, like Wallace and Gromit, it left nothing with me. The difference is that here it seems to matter.

26-10-2005 (archived)

I saw Sardinas and Vai at the Apollo again on Monday night, in the process breaking Ian's Vai-cherry (his rather good writeup here). Sardinas was great the first time I saw him and has worsened on every subsequent outing. His playing seems much less crisp than I remember it, and he spends far too little time playing songs (he has some pretty good ones) and far too much playing the same licks over and over against the same chords.

By contrast, the Vai band were the best I've seen them since the glorious Keneally/Bynoe/Mangini days. Colson seems to me to fit better than Donati did on drums, and plays with enormous energy and verve as well as the necessary virtuosity, and Sheehan was less obviously badly matched to the more orchestrated songs (though there were a couple of appalling moments near the end of For The Love Of God). MacAlpine still can't mesh with Vai as well as Weiner does, or even nearly as seamlessly as Keneally did, but I think he's doing better now. He's just too precise and stiff, where Steve is utterly fluid. These are very very minor criticisms, though; nobody is better than this, and they're warm, witty and clearly enjoying themselves. Genius.

29-10-2005 (archived)

There are quite a few things working for “Lord of War”, not least a superb opening montage following a bullet from factory to brainpan. Then there are great performances, from Jared Leto and especially from Nicolas Cage. There's a script that's often witty and occasionally genuinely clever, and a director who clearly cares very much about the issue he's trying to talk about.

And that's exactly the problem; he cares too much for the good of this film. If I want a sermon, I'll go to church, and not even Cage's compelling presence can make this lecture into a movie.

31-10-2005 (archived)

There are many things I look for when I buy a new electrical device, but increasingly I think the one thing I should be looking for is an off switch. I don't mind if, like my freeview receiver, it has no off switch because it draws so little power in standby that nobody would ever bother using it. Like essentially everybody else in the country, I don't even bother turning the TV all the way off, and that's got a convenient switch right on the front panel. I don't mind the fridge not having a power switch - I'm not going to switch it off anyway.

The v-amp not having a switch, that's a bloody nuisance. I have to switch it off at the mains. But the deep-fryer... surely that's dangerous? Unplugging a plug attached to two litres of boiling oil can't be the lowest-risk activity ever.

And twice so far I've forgotten to turn it off, and then it smells like the back of a Rusholme street when I wake up the next morning. Grr.

2-11-2005 (archived)

It seems astonishing that it should have taken this long for Blunkett to go. This is a government that came to power partly on a wave of exasperation over “sleaze”, and promising to set and abide by clear and transparent rules, and a man who less than a year ago had to resign after apparently using his position for personal advantage. It should surely be clear to even the most uncynical observer that for a home secretary who had repeatedly pushed biometric technology in massively-expensive publicly-funded projects to go straight into a directorship of a biotech company with an interest in bidding for such projects was untenable, let alone to do so without actually following the rules on so doing. Even were that acceptable, it seems to me that a cabinet minister owning shares in a company wishing to bid for major government contracts is clearly unacceptable. Those, including the prime minister, who have essentially said “yes, he has broken the rules, but it doesn't matter” should be ashamed. As home secretary he promoted three strikes and out; three times he broke the rules, and for the second time he is. Let us hope he does not come back for a third strike in cabinet.

5-11-2005 (archived)

You know, guys, I understand the urge to blow shit up as well as the next man, and I'm not interested in spoiling people's fun, even though I'm not myself that interested in fireworks either. Even after Diwali, Ede and Guy Fawkes' in the same week, I'm fine (and so are our cats; living in Manchester, they're not remotely bothered by nearby explosions). But really, after four hundred years do we really still need to be burning the poor bastard in effigy? It just seems a little tasteless.

7-11-2005 (archived)

Murderball” is an astonishing documentary movie about quadriplegic rugby (in fact, it's closer to full-contact handball in armoured wheelchairs than any sort of rugby, but hey). Players are given points rankings according to the severity of their disability, and the limit is not on numbers of players on-court but rather on total points in play. The film follows Team USA, who have dominated the sport, and Joe Soares, the man who was, for them, possibly the greatest ever player and who went on to coach Canada immediately after being dropped. Everything about it is utterly gripping; the sport itself, the characters involved and their personalities, the bitter rivalry between Soares and the USA (particularly the undoubted star of the film, the astonishingly charismatic Mark Zupan).

There are really three threads. One is Soares; he is shown with teams, with his wife, with the bright, unathletic son who desperately wants to make his disciplinarian dad proud. A second follows a young man recently into a chair as he realises how his life is going to be; the love on his face when he tries out Zupan's rugby chair, crashing into things and revelling in the physicality, is an utterly touching moment. The third is Team USA and, increasingly, Zupan, who by the end of the film has become the team's official spokesman. We follow him back to his high-school reunion, and meet the one-time best friend who accidentally put him in the chair, as well as the gorgeous girlfriend and loving parents.

Perhaps the most touching thing about the whole thing is the way that both Soares and Zupan seem to start the film furious with the world and everything in it, and by the end seem to be in every way more balanced, happier people. Or perhaps it's the way that the enormously dangerous-looking quad rugby (Zupan, paraphrased: “we used to call it Murderball, but that made it hard to get corporate sponsorship”) has brought physicality and machismo back into the lives of these young men, and pride, and not a little simple happiness. It makes no call on you for pity. This is a superb film, and the fact that it's on general release gives me back a little faith.

9-11-2005 (archived)

Broken Flowers” is another wonderful, subtle performance from Bill Murray, full of gorgeous, intelligent visuals. In fact, wonderful and subtle pretty much describe the whole film. Quiet, economical, witty, and intense. See it.