Monday, May 30, 2005
In which V. sees a good film which leaves her feeling kind of dirty.

I saw this film Birth on Saturday. I'd really been looking forward to that one. I've always admired Nicole Kidman. I think she's a talented actress and a beautiful woman (although she's looking rather alarmingly botoxed lately, that's for sure).

In Birth she plays Anna, a woman who is widowed. Ten years after the death of her husband, she is all set to remarry. Then she meets a ten year old boy who claims to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. He still loves her. He does not want her to remarry.

When I described the plot of this to M., he thought it sounded like a horror film. But it's not like that, really. I mean, yeah, the kid is disturbing and the whole situation is a bit creepy. But the kid doesn't make threats or act menacing or anything. He doesn't lapse into any sort of "Danny doesn't live here any more, Mrs. Torrence" fugue state or anything.

He just keeps showing up, insisting that he's the reincarnation of this dead guy. Turns out he knows things. Things that only the dead guy would know. Gradually Anna grows to believe in him. He becomes an obsession and she behaves dangerously, erratically.

Thing is, as much as the kid mysteriously does know, there are things he doesn't know, either. Including a pretty big thing that I can't reveal. This is one of those films with an ambiguous ending. Some people get pissed off about those. Personally I thought it ended well, and I appreciate being able to make my own decisions about what went on. Was the kid for real or not? I have my ideas. You'll have yours.

Also: Anne Heche is in this. She plays a crazy person, I am not sure whether that counts as "acting" or not.

Birth is a great film. It's also a disturbing film. I felt slightly violated at the end, mainly because grief is perhaps the most intimate of emotions, and Birth digs deeply into that. We see Anna fall apart, and that's uncomfortable. Watching it was sort of like when you see people arguing in public... you're being made privy to something private, something you oughtn't see. Definitely a film worth watching.
Suspect Zero
In which V. is kind of disappointed when the film fails to meet her expectations.

Yeah, yeah. I know there's some kind of marathon of cheesy sci-fi monster films on this weekend, but I've decided to spend my holiday watching a few films I've been keen to see for a while. Suspect Zero was the first of two films I saw on Saturday.

I remember seeing the trailers for this a while back and wanting to see it. It looked like a gritty Seven-esque thriller, and I like that sort of thing. While I did enjoy watching it, I kind of felt like they could have pushed the story a little further towards the edge. And some of their casting choices were a bit dodgy.

Okay, so. You've got Ben Kingsley, and he was part of some FBI project in the 70s. The FBI got all these psychic people and taught them how to do remote viewing. They'd do some kind of guided meditation and mentally target someone (like, for example, a serial killer). Once their mind was locked on the target, the guided meditation would encourage them to do automatic writing/drawing of suspects and crime scenes and the like. Ben Kingsley got really good at this, but the FBI apparently never taught him how to "turn it off". He complains about this rather a lot.

Present day: the remote viewing project is long over. Ben Kingsley can't "turn it off". So he becomes a serial killer who tracks down and kills other serial killers. Ooo, vigilante and stuff. He cuts off their eyelids (grisly!) and leaves mysterious drawings behind.

Meanwhile you have this FBI agent with a tarnished reputation. He's played by Aaron Eckhart, who reminds me of The Highlander and looks a bit cross-eyed. I do not like Aaron Eckhart, therefore I did not like this FBI agent. He was a real asshole. His old partner, Trinity From The Matrix, comes to help him out.

Ben Kingsley keeps sending Aaron Eckhart faxes of missing people with cryptic numbers written on them. Eckhart and Trinity manage to piece together what's happening. Eckhart can kind of sort of do remote viewing as well, I think, but it's never really explored much in the plot. He takes a load of aspirin all the time and Ben Kingsley sends him taunting faxes all about DO YOU KNOW WHY YOU GET HEADACHES? HAHAH LOLL!!!1.

Eventually Aaron Eckhart gets all obsessed with solving the puzzle and finding "suspect zero" (a tedious psychological theory that I don't have the patience to explain). Trinity fears for his sanity. Peril, chaos, etc. ensues. Fateful standoff ends the film.

The biggest problem I had with the plot was this: (and this isn't really a spoiler, because it's all revealed pretty much straight away) Ben Kingsley is basically doing this because the FBI screwed with his brain and taught him remote viewing and now he can't "turn it off". HOWEVER, in order to DO the remote viewing, Ben Kingsley has to sit quietly at his desk, and pick up his pencil and paper, AND THEN he turns on a cassette tape with the guided meditation recorded on it. So, um, why exactly can't he "turn it off"?? Damn, Ben Kingsley. Nobody's got a gun to your head, forcing you to play your Little Tape Of Psychosis. Just get rid of the tape. Burn it, or pull the tape apart or something. The film sets up remote viewing as something he has to TURN ON, something he can't do without props and a system. If he truly couldn't "turn it off" wouldn't he be spontaneously remote viewing 24/7 without even needing his tape? I don't get it, and it's a plot hole that really pissed me off.

But overall, yeah, I liked it. I didn't feel as if I'd wasted my time at all. But I did feel as if I'd seen a film that could have been much better if some more thought had been put into it. I'd recommend this if you're into thrillers like Seven or Silence of the Lambs, but don't expect a film of that quality here.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Codename V. is on hiatus
In which V. won't be around.

Just a heads up to my two or three readers... I'm going on vacation, so I won't be posting for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, please feel free to amuse yourselves with the following:

1. David Hasselhoff's brilliant masterpiece: the music video for Hooked On A Feeling. When I first saw this, I assumed it was one of those flash animation parody things. But no, it's an actual video. I can almost guarantee that you've never seen anything quite like it.

2. The Shining was a great film, but don't you ever just wish you could see it condensed into a 30 second timeframe, re-enacted by bunnies? Well, now you can.

3. Remember how in high school everyone was deeply concerned about looking good, and making the right impression? No matter how awful you looked, I promise that you never looked this bad. Unless that's you in the photograph, in which case... what were you thinking?

4. Whilst perusing the IMDb message boards one afternoon, I came across James01. He's either a complete moron, or a brilliant comedian. I'm going with the latter.

It's late and I'm tired, so I think you kids are just going to have to make these last. I'll be back towards the end of May.
Friday Baddie Blogging
This week's baddie is Cthulhu.

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Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! ^_^
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Dead Birds
In which there is only one dead bird, and it has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

Just finished Dead Birds. It wasn't horrible. But it wasn't great, either.

A bunch of rogue Confederate soldiers rob a bank, and hide out in an abandoned plantation house. Turns out some freaky bad voodoo shit went down in the house a while back, and it's chock full o' demons.

The demons are pretty awesome... great effects, and some nice creepy imagery.

Plotwise... eh. I fast-forwarded through a lot of rather lengthy scenes of people creeping slowly about whilst carrying lanterns and not speaking at all. Most of the intriguing plot stuff is condensed into a three or four minute Montage Of Voodoo Doom. If only they'd spread that out, I wouldn't have nearly dozed off.

Bonus: Henry Thomas was in this. He's a fair to decent actor, considering he rose to fame playing the dorky kid in E.T.

So, eh. Watch this if you want to. I won't try to stop you. However: I rented this mainly because the blurbs on the cover praisingly compared it to a film called Deathwatch. I can't say enough great things about Deathwatch, so... try to see that instead.
The week in review
In which V. has been incredibly slack about posting, and makes a feeble attempt to sum up lots of things.

1. I saw Finding Neverland this week. People, listen to me when I say that this film is amazing. Totally amazing. I wept buckets at the end, and it takes a hell of a lot to get me to cry over a film (See also: Schindler's List, The Plague Dogs, Grave of the Fireflies). Pity that it's largely untrue... I really hate when that happens. You see a film based on (or inspired by, etc) "actual events", and you get completely sucked into the world that the film creates for you... and then you find out later that most of it was made up to make the film more compelling.

So yeah, there was this whole big weepy tragic romance angle, and I was totally absorbed in it. And then afterwards I find out that... no. No actual romance happened in real life. It's kind of less compelling when you realize you've wept buckets over A BIG FAT LIE. But hey, it was still a great film. Johnny Depp is a beautiful man and a hell of an actor (possibly the best of his generation).

I keep seeing this TV advert for some shop called Chico's. It pisses me off. You see these people dressed in cheesy ultra-conservative linen capri pants in whimsical patterns, frolicking on a beach (note: by "frolicking" I of course mean prissing around on the sand as if they find the concept of wet feet distasteful). Meanwhile, a guy with a deep, lounge-lizard kind of voice says "It was a Chico's kind of day... all week long."

WTF? This is totally asinine. Exactly what IS "a Chico's kind of day"? If a Chico's kind of day involves attempting to walk on the beach without getting sand on your whimsical linen capris, I'll take a pass. A Chico's kind of day, my ass. I think it's the narrator's voice that is pissing me off the most. You can almost hear him making that combination-point-and-wink gesture when he talks. Hey baby, I'm Chico. Wanna come over to my pad and have a Chico kind of night?

I haven't the words to explain how horrifying it all is. And it seems to be everywhere. I've seen it on Court TV and Soap Net, so I can't watch my Forensic Files or 90210 without being subjected to whimsical linen capris. Fuck. Fuck, I say.

3. Don't you just love The Killers? I do.

4. CSI: New York is beginning to wear a bit thin. I really really obsessively love the original CSI. And even CSI: Miami is good fun, if you watch it with the understanding that it is top comedy and not meant to be taken at all seriously. But New York? Nah.

I've been making a real effort to get into it all season. About 50% of the time, it puts me to sleep. The rest of the time, I don't know what's going on. The characters are so two-dimensional, I don't even know their names. On the original CSI, I know who everyone is, I know their history, their relationships. Ditto Miami, more or less. On CSI: New York, I don't know a single character's name. There's Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump, there's some woman with a lot of hair who looks very very similar to the woman with a lot of hair on CSI Miami. There's a rather surly young woman, a dorky guy, and a cop who looks a little like Nick Cave. At least, I think he's a cop, I honestly don't know for sure.

It's kind of pathetic when you watch an entire season's worth of a show, and you don't know a single character's name (let alone what makes them tick). Eli told me Lieutenant Dan's character's name last night, but I have already forgotten it.

Also, at the risk of stirring up controversy and strife, I really wish Lieutenant Dan would just stop with the "I continue to be traumatized by the 9/11 attacks" thing. It's a cheap emotional card to play.

5. I don't think I have anything else to say. I'm gonna go watch this horror film, and if it's good I might write it up for y'all.
Monday, May 09, 2005
8. Trick out ham wagon
Okay, look. Everyone go here, this guy is completely taking the piss out of Ziggy. Totally fucking hilarious.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
I have seen this Russian film
In which V. has seen a hauntingly sad Russian film, which was impressive.

I rented this film called The Return. According to the synopsis on the back, it sounded like a grim and intriguing story. I was not disappointed.

Two brothers, Andrei and Ivan, live with their mother and grandmother. Ivan is bullied a lot by his peers and called a coward. His brother doesn't stick up for him much. One day they come home from playing with some other kids, and are told that their father has come home. He's been away for 12 years, since Ivan was only a baby.

Their father has a car, and offers to take them on a fishing trip. Andrei is excited, Ivan is skeptical. Andrei seems happy to have a father figure, and is eager to please his dad. Ivan harbors a lot of anger at having been abandoned. He is even doubtful that this is their father; he suspects that this man is a criminal or some otherwise shady person.

They embark on their trip. Father is stern, sometimes even abusive. He is hard on Ivan. Ivan is surly and belligerent, and most of their father's disciplinary measures are unconventional and really quite unreasonably brutal. It is implied that he has been in prison, or perhaps a war prisoner, despite their mother's insistence that he is a pilot.

Their journey goes off course when father suddenly has some mysterious "business" to take care of. The three of them end up on a remote and deserted island. A tragedy ensues.

I can't give out any details, really. I think the purpose of this film is to make the viewer question his or her judgment. Andrei and Ivan's father seems like a criminal. He seems like an abusive, manipulative tyrant. But is he? Are we seeing this film through our own eyes? Objectively neutral eyes? Or are we seeing events unfold through the angry and resentful eyes of this little boy?

At the end, I was able to come to a conclusion. Things happen fast towards the end of The Return, and I felt that the father's role became suddenly and painfully clear. My heart ached for this family. The complete consuming sorrow of this film has stuck with me all day long. I definitely recommend this. Powerfully moving.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Five things I totally heart this week
1. A Tale Of Two Sisters
This Korean film is one of the creepiest I've seen in a long time. Two sisters return home from a hospital stay. Their father and stepmother are behaving weirdly. There's a heavy, oppressive atmosphere, and you get a strong sense of things not being right, almost from the very start of the film. It's a total mindfuck. Things are really not what they seem. Events kind of spiral out of control. It's genuinely chilling and a very effective film.

2. The Killers

3. The New Nick Cave Box Set
B-Sides & Rarities. Three discs, complete genius from start to finish. Some great acoustic versions, alternate versions, etc. Highlights include Cocks And Asses, Little Ghost Song, Sail Away. Inexplicably missing are There Is A Light and To Be By Your Side.

4. Free Pie
I got a takeaway lunch today, and they gave me several slices of free pie. Technically I'm not supposed to have sugar for another two and a half weeks, but who can resist the devilish lure of free pie?

5. Beverly Hills, 90210
They're showing re-runs of this on cable, every weeknight at 5. During its original run, I was a high school student, the same age that the characters were. I related well to it, embraced it, loved it. Looking back, it's cheesy as hell. Did I dress like that? Did I have that hair style? OMFG, I believe that I did. This must be how my parents feel when they see old Partridge Family episodes.

Anyway, watching it 10+ years after the fact, I can appreciate it on a different level. Yes, it's cheese, but it's nostalgic cheese. A couple of days ago I saw the episode where Dylan's dad is killed by a car bomb. Dylan clutches at that pompadour hairstyle and falls to his knees, screaming "Noooooo! Noooooo!" God bless Luke Perry. Really.
Friday Baddie Blogging
After a week of much apathy and discontent, my only conclusion is that...

This week's baddie is PEOPLE.

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People suck. Gah. Just look at 'em.
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Jesus Effing Christ
In which V. loses the last remaining shred of respect that she had for Tori Amos.

Tori Amos Picks The Songs Men Should Sing (Q Magazine or something).
6. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
Nick Cave singing, "Daddy dear, you know you're still number one / But girls they want to have fun." Dangerous and cute.

Jesus effing christ. I lack words.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
In which V. advises that some people might choose to wait for the DVD.

Went to see this today with my mom. My mom hasn't read the book, but doesn't get out to the cinema often, so she was pretty keen to see anything. My mom seemed rather amused by the bit with the dolphins at the very beginning, but then promptly fell asleep. I estimate that she was awake for about 60% of the film. She seemed to really enjoy the parts she was awake for. She particularly liked Marvin, who she seemed to feel real sympathy for.

My mother has a habit of forming attachments to fictional characters.

I have to say, I found it mostly enjoyable and entertaining. But it kind of fell a bit flat. That guy from The Office made a good Arthur Dent. The other main characters (Trillian, Ford, Zaphod) were marginal. Was Zaphod supposed to be that bloody irritating? Gah.

John Malkovich was pretty good, in his ten minutes of screen time.

Oh, and apparently a couple of guys from The League Of Gentlemen provided some voices. I like them. Brilliant show.

The film looked great, visually. They didn't skimp on the effects, nothing looked cheesy. The main problem, I think, is that three out of four of the main actors (as mentioned above) did remarkably poor jobs in really bringing their characters to life. Ford Prefect may as well have not even been there. Trillian came across as a colossal bitch. And Zaphod, I just kept waiting for him to shut up.

It's worth watching, but maybe not worth a $6 ticket. I dunno what your priorities are...