Saying goodbye to a habit

As 2013 winds to a close I’m in the midst of a major movie binge on Netflix before heading out for a night of fun ‘n frolics. Right now Fast Times at Ridgemont High is on, still a classic movie if just for all the famous faces as they started out their careers. Then, as of midnight tonight, that’s it – subscription over. I’m going cold turkey on streamed movies. Yep, a new year’s resolution of sorts, who’d have thought.

The combination of an Apple TV and Netflix subscription has been a double edged sword this last year. I first signed up to get access to the new series of Arrested Development – the siren call of more Bluth family antics being too much to ignore – and though it wasn’t as funny as the original three series, it was well worth a watch. Since then the easy access for a few clicks to TV series and movies has been a complete time-suck, though an enjoyable one. I do like my films.

Through the complete series of Breaking, with the final episodes available just after they were on in the US, was a classic roller coaster of a show. To everyone I know who has not yet watched it please do, otherwise I’m bound to accidentally spoiler it for you at some point. Dexter, a replacement series once BB was over, was great for the first few series but the finale did not live up to the rest of it. Then there have been numerous random movies from Hollywood blockbusters to classic international movies, from Disney movies that I’d never seen (Lady and the Tramp – seriously, never watched) to old favourites since my DVD collection is in storage as I get ready to move. That’s a lot of time and bandwidth. Perhaps somewhere out there is a site that works out how much time that amounts to, not sure I want to find it though and somehow I doubt Netflix wants to make that figure too easy to see. Someone else had a go at working out the costs and it’s mildly depressing reading.

So, Netflix. Thanks for all the good times and have a great 2014 without me.. Now where did I put those cookery books and knitting needles?

Movie Review – Howl (3/5)

Early new years ‘resolution’ time.. I plan to be more rigorous, perhaps annoyingly so, in writing about all the minutiae of what I’m up to. One part of that will be writing brief reviews of everything I watch.

So, first on the block – Howl, another movie I picked up on a random night in Fopp. Howl presents a biopic of beat poet Allen Ginsberg, played wonderfully by James Franco, covering his early life, and the attempt to prevent publication of his book ‘Howl and Other Poems’ on the grounds of obscenity.

The style of the movie jumps around a lot, moving from scenes of Ginsberg giving an interview, or in his early life, then to the court room, where Ginsberg’s book is defended by Jon Hamm looking dashing as always, interspersed with a strange art school style of animation describing the story of Howl itself. All of this is mildly disorientating and I found myself not really getting a sense of any of the characters as a narrative, though Ginsberg comes across well. Perhaps this is in keeping with the chopped up beat poet style – but then we only see a few dashes of that along the way.

Overall worth seeing if you’re fans of Franco or Ginsberg. Or need to have everything Jon Hamm is in of course.

Movie Review – Brave (4/5)

Ah, Pixar. For so many years you could do no wrong.. Then Cars
came out, and we worried that you could be influenced by Disney into having a movie that seemed more about merchandising than anything else. So when the merger happened between Pixar/Disney I had a moment of worry that, although everyone was excited that Pixar would improve Disney, a ‘Disney-fication’ of Pixar might also happen..

So here we have Brave
, the story of a headstrong, young Scottish princess who rebels against her parents desires to marry her to one of the Princes of the highlands to maintain the shaky peace. Magic is invoked, consequences unintended happen, and the story unfolds with beautiful Pixar animated style and a range of Scots accents. By strange coincidence, I watched Aladdin the other day – a perennial favourite for Robin Williams’ wonderful turn as the genie (and some toe tapping tunes). The story of a Princess not wanting to be married off without love is there in both, though turning it round to have the Princess as the center of the story is a nice change, and Merida – the Scottish Princess – is believable as the rebellious, self-sustaining type. There are also other twists, but that would spoil the plot.

The story is not the real hero of this Pixar tale though. The richness of the story seems lacking, with some obvious steps taken and a distinct lack of the layers that keep taking you back to other Pixar movies. This time the magic is in the visuals, from Merida’s stunning auburn locks that almost have a life of their own, to the light changes playing across dramatic Scottish landscapes. The one exception is a common gripe from any 3D movie.. the rotating draw back shots from key locations. Ug. Filmmakers – these do not work out of 3D – the majority of your watchers – and immediately scream ‘movie made for 3D’. Story first, 3D spinning shots second thank you very much. Similarly there are some good characters, but they seem to lack the overall charm (and wit) of other Pixar creations – outside of the main players, who are all enjoyable and engaging and in the case of Merida’s three brothers, welcome comic relief (and cute as three identical buttons).

In summary: A beautiful and enjoyable movie, but not one of Pixar’s best. Och aye.

It Is Biutiful..

Just watched Biutiful – the story of a dying conman played by Javier Bardem. Set in a Barcelona that rarely graces our screens, dark and flawed, seering your emotions from high to low with wonderful intensity with Bardem at the centre, pulling you along through his dark life in a fractured city. Director Inarittu’s view of this Barcelona is more akin to the slums of South America than the picture perfect rose tint of Woody Allen who also took Bardem and Barcelona as his muse.

I don’t know when I’ll next be in Barcelona, a city that always felt like a home, but I’ll certainly look at it with fresh eyes when I do. Surely the mark of a great film.

Une bonne journée

Today has been a fun day, with a dash of gallic flavour. C’est bonne, ca.

Around midday we headed down to the Secret Cinema at Leake Street, the tunnels underneath Waterloo. As usual with Secret Cinema we had no idea what film was going to be shown, just general instructions on what to wear (50s/60s European with a white scarf) and where to turn up. I knew that Secret Cinema involved re-enactments of the film around seeing the film itself, but not much more than that. So, looking a lot smarter than usual for a Saturday afternoon, we rocked up to Leake Street to find a large queue of people entering, and lots of soldiers herding people along, all talking French. I was ‘lucky’ enough to be singled out by the soldiers, and made to stand with my hands against the wall as my identification documents were confiscated. Then after some minutes myself and the other detainees were taken to a dark room, followed by an indoctrination talk with spotlights in our eyes where we were asked to sign out name as belonging to a terrorist organisation. Even knowing that this was all an act it was pretty unnerving, especially when a planted audience member was taken to one side, beaten and thrown in a prison cell to be tortured. Magnifique!

Continue reading “Une bonne journée”

Film: There Will Be Blood

Finally got around to watching this brooding masterpiece of a film last night. For some reason I’ve always gotten There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men mixed up in my head, purely because they were on at the cinema at the same time. There is absolutely no relationship between the two movies, one being about a slightly psychopathic oil man in the earliest days of prospecting, and the other being about a man on the run from a psychopathic killer. Oh wait. Guess there are some similarities after all.. both are great movies but as dark as anything, ‘No Country’ is a Coen Brothers movie in the style of Fargo without the humour so don’t expect light watching with either.

There Will Be Blood is a real powerhouse of a movie. Daniel Day-Lewis takes the lead as an oil prospector, Daniel Plainview, who works his way up from the bottom through his own hard work and cunning, yet still acknowledging that only one in twenty prospectors ever strike big. Along the way he loses a lot of compatriots, and makes few friends, being unrelenting in his pursuit of oil success. After achieving some early finds, he is approached by a young man who tells him of oil on his farmstead in return for money. Plainview visits the farm and finds the boy’s twin brother, Eli Sunday, a fanatical Christian played with creepy genius by Paul Dano. Buying up the farm and the surrounding area, Plainview grows his empire – facing loss and gains along the way, within a circle of his own self-created loneliness.

There is no redemption in this movie for the principle players, just dark drilling into the human soul and psyche. The beauty here lies in the cinematic vistas of early oil fields, and the starkly wonderful soundtrack by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead fame. There Will Be Blood is a must see movie, but have a cheery follow up film as a follow up – for us it was The Triplets of Belleville, a quirky French animated movie about one Grandmother’s quest to cheer up her Grandson with surreal consequences. Very enjoyable.

Meeting my Idols #2: Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam in Q&A @ The Curzon Mayfair
Originally uploaded by ultrahi.

Last night we had the joy of seeing Terry Gilliam’s latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, followed by a Q&A with the great director himself. All very exciting stuff.

The film is awesome, a fantastical myth making tale along the lines of Baron Munchausen, with great performances from all the actors. The way in which Heath Ledger’s untimely departure from halfway through filming is handled extremely well and, if anything, adds to the film – as in some scenes Heath’s English accent veers a little antipodean or is smothered in excessive use of the word ‘mate’.

Lily Cole is visually stunning and hypnotising as Parnassus’ daughter, unaware of her imminent fate as the trade made in a bet between Parnassus and the Devil – played excellently by Christopher Plummer and Tom Wait respectively. Why are Gilliam’s casting choices always so spot on?

After the fun of the film we got to spend a while in Q&A with Terry Gilliam. He was at ease, happy to go into stories, and full of interesting anecdotes. The only annoyance was the apparent inability for some audience members to not ask questions regarding Heath’s death and family, all of which had been answered by Terry in many of his recent interviews or were just deeply inappropriate.

Post Q&A Terry was thronged by fans outside in the bar, some more greedy with his time than others, but thankfully he found a few seconds on the way out the day to sign my favourite Brazil DVD. Huzah! Fanboy #2 goal achieved (#1 being meeting Eddie Izzard back in ’98 of course).