rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

16-9-2006 (archived)

Severance” is a sort of complement to Shaun of the Dead; that was a British comedy with horror overtones, whereas this is a British horror movie with comedy overtones - more akin, in its way, to something like Final Destination, where the gore is itself over-played for humour (though this is not cheesy, and is far far more verbal). And, whereas there was essentially no gore in Shaun, there is plenty here to go with the laughs; the much-trailed leg removal manages to supply both at once, and the wonderful (and completely straight-played) “It's a public company. Members of both our governments are on the board. They're not going to do anything immoral!” is a little piece of genius. As, actually, is the whole movie.

18-9-2006 (archived)

I went to see “You, me and Dupree” expecting a lazily executed rom-com crossed with a buddy movie handicapped by the fact that neither Kate Hudson nor Matt Dillon are funny but made watchable, barely, by the lazy charm of Owen Wilson. Expecting, in other words, an just adequate but profoundly undistinguished time-passer. I should be a prophet.

20-9-2006 (archived)

I highly recommend “Night Haunts”, or at least the prose part of it, even though it is completely London-centric. The piece about the sewers is particularly interesting, and it's all rather beautifully written.

23-9-2006 (archived)

Volver” is recognisably an Almodóvar movie, though more playful and less anguished (not that there is not anguish enough here). All of the performances are great, especially (and to me surprisingly) Cruz - prosthetic arse and all - and so is the writing. Perhaps making a film almost completely without men allowed him to be a little more relaxed; this is funny, warm, beautiful, and utterly moving.

25-9-2006 (archived)

Right At Your Door” is very much in the Open Water mould, in that it's very slow, waiting-driven film, in which a relationship (between married couples in those, and a group of friends in the similar Adrift) crumbles under intolerable and sustained pressure. Like those films, it's just a little too long and slow to hold the full attention.

The difference here is twofold; firstly, there is a political edge. The rescuers are at best ambiguously helpful and welcome, and the government are seen to be feeding outright lies to concerned citizens elsewhere in the country. More importantly, here the tension is driven far higher by one partner sealed up safely in the house while the other is outside, exposed. The question of why he didn't do straight away what he did later - seal up internal doors and let her in, so she could then have sealed herself against further contamination - is of course a good one, and the film leaves us wondering how a partner will cope with the knowledge, in the future, that their own stupidity under pressure killed their spouse.

The twist you may have heard about is, frankly, beneath contempt. The film would have been significantly better without it, especially since it contradicts detail built up carefully in the performances and as such is nearly impossible to believe. Anyway, anybody who's sat through this film with their brain engaged at all will not need this sort of moral “ah-hah! gotcha!” posturing. Neither, for that matter, will anyone else. While the performances are very good indeed, the basic unlikeability of Brad and the inevitable slowness of pace are two strikes, and the angeringly stupid ending is an emphatic third. That said, there are a couple of moments of real and sometimes shocking emotional power, particularly in the scenes featuring McCormack talking with her far-away family on the telephone. This is not a failure, but it is also not a success.

28-9-2006 (archived)

I don't normally review three films in a row, and it's rare these days when I have a backlog to write about that I discuss one just a day or two after seeing it, but “Children of Men” more than deserves to be bumped up the queue. Most of the truly stunning movies one sees are also visually stunning, and usually this means that they are beautiful, as Brokeback was beautiful. This is differently beautiful; the picture it paints of England in twenty years or so is exactly as you know, in your heart, it would be were this to happen, not just visually but politically and socially. It is dirty and hopeless and hideously, shockingly, suddenly violent. It is bleak and despairing. And, as we would like to think would always be true of the British, it has enough humour, through and in and at the horror, to make it all bearable.

I have not yet read James's source novel, though I soon shall, so I cannot comment on loyalty thereto. We certainly have dystopian SF enough for anyone, with humanity infertile and a Diana-like outpouring of senseless herd grief at the death by violence of the youngest known human, who himself was over eighteen. We have a picture of an isolationist, refugee-camp-brutalising government all too believable when we glimpse at today's cheap newspapers and the politicians who pander to them. We have suicide kits encouraged by the state, transit papers necessary to get near the coast from London, roads where attacks from bandit mobs are not a surprise. We have a tale of shocking, crushing betrayal. And of hope, and love, and humanity.

Cuarón, one of the most exciting directors working at the moment, has done a magnificent job, and his superlative cast have all responded with performances at the top of their very considerable games. Clive Owen, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, all at full and extraordinary power, and in the service of material of this strength, make this one of the best films of this year. Or of any.

30-9-2006 (archived)

This being the post numbered by my system as 666 (which makes it the 667th, but hey, let's not sweat the details), let's talk about religion again. Let me reiterate for those who don't know me, or at least don't know this: many of my best friends are regular churchgoers. Some of them, and some of the others, are also believers. I spent four years in a training college for the ministry, and made many friends who mean a great deal to me.

There is no way around the fact that I'm advocating a certain kind of intolerance, but it is not political intolerance. I'm not saying that people should be jailed for their religious beliefs. I am saying, however, that certain beliefs are so lacking in merit that there should be no question of our "respecting" them. People who claim to be certain about things they cannot be certain about should meet resistance in our discourse. This happens quite naturally on every subject but religion. For instance, a person who believes that Elvis is still alive is very unlikely to get promoted to a position of great power and responsibility in our society. Neither will a person who believes that the holocaust was a hoax. But people who believe equally irrational things about God and the bible are now running our country. This is genuinely terrifying. We must find a way of criticizing and marginalizing bad ideas, even when they come under the cloak of religion.

The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.

Of course this is much more of a problem in America than it is here, but then right now as the sole superpower America's problems are our problems. And 80% of Americans expect to be called before God to answer for their sins on Judgement Day. 44% think Christ will return in the next half-century. 28% believe in evolution, and most of those believe it was divinely guided.

My link is to JWZ's post about this, since he paraphrases well and much of the comment thread is interesting. I'm not sure I agree completely with Harris's position, but he says much that needs saying and says it well. Enjoy.

3-10-2006 (archived)

Pulse” was Yet Another Japanese Horror Remake, and a frankly pretty mediocre one. There was a reasonable quota of spring-loaded cats, mildly spooky decaying people (though not nearly icky enough for true quality), and an ending that was actually sort of cool. Unfortunately, none of it was properly executed, and it really dragged in the middle. And the beginning, and the most of end. On the upside, at least there were none of the usual J-cliches: water everywhere, spooky-calm big-eyed kids, you know the score. The best thing about it, though, was Christina Milian's tits (covered), and while they're pretty they're not nearly enough.

Talladega Nights”, on the other hand, is pretty good crap. Now, I haven't seen Anchorman, which I gather is the bit of Will Ferrell's CV that gets him work, but I have seen him in a couple of things in which he's been uniformly utterly fucking awful, so I was kind of surprised that the trailers for this didn't revolt me. And he is, in fact, OK in this. It works well enough. There are funny lines, mostly not very - the humour is either physical or based on dumb people speaking surprisingly coherently at moments of great stress, such as being savaged by a cougar, which has its points but won't carry a comedy movie. What will, though, is a Baron Cohen film-stealing performance as a gay French racing driver. More than enough to salvage an ok popcorn movie.

4-10-2006 (archived)

DOA” is apparently a video game adaptation, and it seems to be another tournament martial arts game. Mortal Kombat comparisons are inevitable, then, but it's quite a lot better than that (while still being, in any artistic sense, complete crap. Naturally).

The cast appear to have been cast purely on the basis of hotness, which is fair enough, and the only quibble I'd make is that on that basis the two ninja island escapee roles should probably have been reversed. It's very shiny, and very stupid, and very funny, and has lots of bouncing bosoms and nice bottoms. Even Sarah Carter is hot, despite being very thin and having approximately four million teeth. And you have to like a film featuring Eric Roberts as an aging high-tech evil kung fu mastermind. A job well done, and one to buy on DVD to share brainless nights with the likes of the Resident Evil movies. Beautiful, stupid genius.

7-10-2006 (archived)

I don't think we have any law analogous to “contempt for the office of this head of state”; bad though things have become, we do not yet have police stopping us at stations to ask us what we think of the prime minister, and if when they did we quite understandably and indeed eloquently responded by farting loudly, as this Polish gentleman did, they would not then arrest us.

But then I'd've said the same about America, where apparently a man was recently arrested for daring to criticise Cheney to his face. Great.