Monday, May 30, 2005

Today, I've been spring cleaning...

...Yeah, I know I've left it late, what with it being summer in about two days. But as I did the long overdue tidy-up, I've been grooving to Ryan Adams and The Cardinals' COLD ROSES. Now, this is a double album in excelsis. Everything you've ever thought, pro or con, about double albums is true about this one.
Prefer the rockier second disc over the other, like with PHYSICAL GRAFFITI? Check.
Reckon it's pretty damn good as a double, but that it would have made an absolute classic single album, like THE WHITE ALBUM? Check.
Guitar sound lifted wholesale from LAYLA AND OTHER LOVE SONGS, another personal favourite (if utterly unfashionable) double album? Check.
Ends with a hidden, uncredited and thoroughly unrepresentative track a la LONDON CALLING? Check.

So there you go: Ryan Adams - he ain't consistent, but ya gotta love him anyway.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Two bad movies reviewed.

Last night, in lieu of a social life, I saw three movies on TV. Two bad, and one very good. PAYCHECK was one of those movies that presented all these little moments of opportunity, forks in the road, where it had to choose if it wanted to be a smart movie or a dumb movie, and resolutely always chose to stick to the dumb side of the street. A real shame, because I'm a big fan of Phillip K Dick's source material, John Woo and Uma Thurman (who is lumbered with all the cheesiest lines in the script). The great Paul Giamatti is totally wasted, and as likeable as Ben Affleck is, the guy's career seems to be utterly banjaxed after a real pissy streak of mediocre movies.

CHARLIE'S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE knew it was a spectacularly dumb movie and revelled in it. Though I'm sure everyone involved is now embarrassed by their participation in the project, I kind of admire the way the movie rejects all notions of linear storytelling in order to concentrate on being just a series of sketches aimed purely at male heterosexual fetishists. Bravo.


And finally, straight after the movie hereafter to be referred to as CA:FT, I turned it over and saw A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE (a.k.a. GIU LA TESTA, a.k.a. ONCE UPON A TIME... THE REVOLUTION, a.k.a. DUCK YOU SUCKER) a personal favourite of longstanding. I thought, Christ, there's a coincidence. I've just sat through a movie where the actor Justin Theroux essayed the worst ever Irish accent in the history of cinema. Now, I randomly flick through the channels and come across the former holder of that title, Jimmy Coburn's turn as John Mallory. The IRA man who sounded like an Australian. The difference being, DYNAMITE is a great film so you can easily overlook Coburn's dodgy accent. Theroux however, has just become an enemy of the state. Unlucky!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

WeeeeeOOooooooh, WeeeeeeeeeeeeOOoooooH, Der DEr Der, Der DeeOooooH! WeeeeOoooh!

So, an episode of the new DOCTOR WHO, where everyone lives, where everyone is saved, and all crises all painlessly averted with little of the collateral damage The Doctor has been wreaking of late. D'you know what this means? Everything is going to get very dark indeed next week. Bring it on.

Friday, May 27, 2005

An apology

I must apologise for the paucity of posts this week: basically, I've been working like a bastard. As much as I love my readers, I love overtime even more.

Show me the money!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

LIVERPOOL 3 - AC MILAN 3

Now, that was a kick-ass game of football.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

DOCTOR WHO blogging disrupted by football and booze

I think I should hold on to my opinions about the latest WHO story, a WWII-set horror piece with some cracking special effects, until I've seen the concluding part next week. My enjoyment was affected by a curious but not unpleasant bottle of Banrock Station White Shiraz. Certainly the only rosé wine I'll ever admit to liking.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

REVENGE OF THE SITH review

There's millions of these floating about the internet just now, and I sat on this for a while, trying to get my thoughts straight. Did I really enjoy it as much as I thought I did? Could I have? I certainly wasn't expecting to, I admit. Was my enthusiasm some form of residual, Pavlovian reaction of my childhood affection for this series, that would fade with time leaving more bitterness and disappointment? So far, no. I loved it.


The opening sequence: all the kineticism that was so painfully missing from the last two films was all present and correct, sir. I was sitting in exactly the same seat I'd seen RETURN OF THE KING in. Just a little bit too close to the screen. For the opening of Peter Jackson's movie, it felt like I was hiding in the hedgerows snooping on the secret origin of Gollum. For REVENGE OF THE SITH it felt like I'd been booted out of an airlock and was falling, dizzy and gasping for breath.


The relationships between characters I'd previously found unconvincing, had suddenly gelled (which says a hell of a lot for the cast, 'cause the script was still erring on the leaden side). Skywalker and Kenobi, Skywalker and Amidala, and especially Skywalker and Palpatine. In his scenes, Sam Jackson was ten times better with something meaningful to do, than making those wasted cameos in THE PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES. I'd loved Mace Windu's showcases in the CLONE WARS cartoons, and was glad to see this original iteration of the character finally living up to the charm of it's 2D counterpart (plus it put an end to a question haunting me since the very start of this whole prequel malarkey: if Sam is cool as fuck, how come Mace was such a drag?).


Like many who've seen this film, I found myself hoping against all my higher reasoning, that things would turn out differently for these characters, that they could shrug off the weight of their destiny. Now, that speaks volumes about the degrees of success that George Lucas has achieved with this movie. That Obi Wan would just give Anakin a big hug and the kid would come round to his senses. That Mace would just lop off Palpatine's head while he had the chance. That Yoda would drop a podium on the wrinkly old bugger while he had the chance. That Padme would be the mother on Aldaraan that Leia remembers in RETURN OF THE JEDI. That if Obi Wan had been a real friend to Anakin at all, he'd have put him out of his misery after lopping off three of his limbs and leaving him in a backwash of lava. But oh no. The level of darkness present for a franchise movie, a pop culture staple, was brave, and strangely quite liberating. I'd love to see the X-MEN movies go this dark, for a Phoenix or DAYS OF FUTURE PAST storyline, but I doubt if they'd have the balls.


Of course, my inner STAR WARS geek had lots of little ecstatic rushes. Seeing Chewbacca was curiously emotional. The amazing visuals throughout. Artoo's scene stealing during the rescue mission. Threepio's genius double-take as he learns his fate aboard the Tantive IV right at the end. Hell, even seeing the interiors of the Tantive IV again was quite a thrill.

Okay, the script could have done with a polish by a real writer. Sure, forcing some actors to intone rather than act their dialogue meant that Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman in particular always seemed handcuffed somewhat. To me, the one major bummer was the closing up of the plot thread about how Ben and Yoda merrily march on in death throughout the original trilogy. If I'd been Lucas, I'd have locked Liam Neeson in for that scene, because without his actual presence, it was empty exposition. An actual, rather than promised, reunion between Ben and his mentor would have carried so much more emotional weight.


Now, let the backlash begin! I'll hate it by Christmas!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

All men are nerds

Here's a pet theory of mine, formed by years of intense people watching (okay, hanging around in bars): all men are nerds. It doesn't matter how cool you think they are, even the coolest guys on the planet have an inner geek just below the surface. No, really. Just get Keith Richards started on which were the best years for Fender Telecasters (and for god's sake don't mention fly-fishing or you'll never escape). Don't mention who makes the better golf balls, Titleist or Callaway in front of Iggy Pop, or he'll be chewing your ear off until the cows come home. See that scary lookin' bunch of bikers in the corner? Get them started on carb set ups and see how intimidating they really are. Think those grand prix racers are glamorous? Drop the subject of tyres into the conversation and retreat slowly. Are you one of those idiots that think footballers are the epitome of cool? Walk into the changing room of your local team, bring up the current state of the property market, and weep.

This realisation helped me deal with my ongoing geekery no end. I can happily be a comic geek, a film geek, a vintage guitar geek, whatever, without any self-loathing. But there is definitely a hierarchy of geekness, and I've recently realised comic nerds aren't at the bottom. There's someone we/they can look down upon.


Gamers.


Fuck, they're sad. I just bought the most recent issue of PC GAMER for the demo of LEGO STAR WARS, and realised that every fear I had in the back of my mind about adults who still read comics are actually truer and in spades about the computer games community. Exclusively male, barely socialised power fantasists, with all kinds of unresolved issues with women (who are even more marginalised within their ranks).
Christ, compared to that shower, we're well adjusted model citizens.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Just saw this over at MILLARWORLD...

Proof that Mark Millar really may be as daft as I've always feared he was. He's made a list of comics to recommend to non-comics fans, and he's left out WATCHMEN. Click here and tremble. Oh yeah, WATCHMEN is now really irrelevant. A book that uses superheroes as a metaphor for America's unchecked militarism is really irrelevant to the times we live in now. Oh dear. Think I'll buy the latest issue of SFX to check out the rest of his list, and report back later.

(Shuffles off to newsagent. Stops for a latte next door. And a bagel.)

Okay, I'm back. Bless the guy for the way he's constantly selling the medium in these columns, he really works it like a backstreet hooker. His list is actually all pretty good stuff, but only if you agree that comic books are synonymous with super heroes. Hell, the only non-superhero work present is PREACHER. Other than that, the list is pretty obviously a list of stuff that has influenced his own work - Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (actually a pretty hard read for anyone unfamiliar with the language of comic books and the wider Batman mythos) and BATMAN: YEAR ONE, Warren Ellis's THE AUTHORITY, KINGDOM COME (again, pretty hard work for anyone who doesn't already know the DC Universe inside out) and MARVELS by Alex Ross, V FOR VENDETTA (no argument there), ZENITH (out of print, unfortunately), MARSHALL LAW (ditto on the out of print front, I think, but between this and Ennis's influence, one can see where the magic mix of superheroes, sadism and cynicism made it into Millar's best writing), DOOM PATROL (I'm figuring he means Morrison's run, or else he's been smoking crack again), and SANDMAN (never really warmed to it too much, I'm afraid, but then I'm not part of its natural constituency of goths and girls, though I'd recommend the short story collection DREAM COUNTRY to anyone). He also plugs his own RED SON, but no arguments there. It's a cracker.

The list is for SFX readers, so I can forgive the absence of non-genre figures like Crumb, Clowes, Spiegelman and Los Bros Hernandez who really, genuinely, appeal to non-comics readers. That said, I'd have followed the path of Grant Morrison who, on the previous page, recommends the work of Paul Pope. HEAVY LIQUID and 100% are free-standing, accessible graphic novels that would ring all the right bells for your average SFX reader. Anyone who would list movies like BLADE RUNNER or 2046 as personal favourites would get a kick out of his exquisite human dramas with unexpected hard sci-fi tangents.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

career opportunity

So here I am posting from my hotel room in Cannes, looking forward to attending the STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH premiere in a couple of hours, and Wow!, thanks to everyone for the amazing response to Friday's blog entry, I'm really touched.

So, I've decided to offer a new service to those in need: as a ghost writer to those sorry buggers cursed with a really crap blog. Send in your entries, and a small cash donation, and I can make you appear much more interesting and attractive, using only my perspicacity and my special cursed magic keyboard!
See what I did there? That's just a hint at the fantastic imaginative power I'm putting at your disposal!
So call 0-800-MY BLOG IS SHITE right now!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

WHO-REVIEW-ATHON continues!

Yeah, tonight's WHO was pretty good, too. The same old complaint, though: yet again, The Doctor is trapped in one location (hmm, cost effective!) beseiged by monsters, with the final outcome being resolved by the actions of a mere human/guest star while the Time Lord is indisposed. That's every episode now - it has officially became formulaic. It's forgiveable as long as the standard of writing remains high, but here's hoping the creative team has became aware of the problem and are taking appropriate steps.


Next episode's trailer has a sort of Warren Ellis' THE AUTHORITY vibe to it, which is appropriate for a show with Bryan Hitch as its conceptual artist. This was compounded by Rose wearing a clearly Jenny Sparks inspired union jack top/cammo trousers ensemble throughout.

Friday, May 13, 2005

GOLDEN GRAHAMS versus CINNAMON GRAHAMS, to the death!

You know what I hate? When I'm perusing a message board, and I see a spiffy photoshopped banner for someone's blog. Wow, I say, that looks good, think I'll click on that. Says it's good. Looks like the guy's put a lot of work into it.

I click on it, and man, it's terrible. It's some whiner complaining about not being able to choose what cereal to have in the morning, that his girlfriend is out of town and he's missing her, blah blah, fucking blah. Jesus, if your diary is that boring, keep it in your bedside cabinet, don't publish it on the internet. Christ, at least try and spice it up a bit for the casual reader. "My girlfriend's out of town for the weekend, so I popped into a strip club with these two sleazy loners from work. I ended up sleeping with a transexual hooker, who mugged me, robbed me blind, and now I've got this unsightly rash and a black eye to explain away". Something like that. Tosser.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

more KIRBY eBay hi-jinks

Again, I've been buying up more Kirby Marvel's from his last few weeks before defecting to DC and coming up with his masterpiece, the four FOURTH WORLD titles. This time, it was ASTONISHING TALES #2 (October 1970), and it's a little cracker.


He might be a cheap TARZAN knock-off, but I always kinda liked KA-ZAR anyway

It has Kirby dishing up a classic mini-slice of signature action in the KA-ZAR short, tantalisingly featuring a Ditko character, Kraven The Hunter. But yet again, the evidence, if you're looking for it, of why Kirby had to leave Marvel, is there: in at least two panels, Ka-Zar's face has clearly been redrawn by lesser, but slicker hands (either John Buscema or Johnny Romita, I'd guess). Great inking, too, by the late Sam Grainger, who I must plead ignorance of. All I know is that this issue was as well inked as I've ever seen Kirby. A little bit Chic Stone-esque.

If there was a comic-format of yesteryear I'd love to see return, it's the split-book. Marvel was coming down with them at one point. STRANGE TALES, TALES TO ASTONISH, TALES OF SUSPENSE, AMAZING ADVENTURES, et al. It'd be the perfect format for artists who struggle to produce 22 pages a month, but who are too damn good for the medium to just lose to storyboarding bad animation/movies. Hell, we can all name a couple we've lost that way, or are stuck in the rut of being cover artists, and it's always a shame.
And this is a perfect example of the greatness of the flip-book medium, because the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby KA-ZAR feature shares it's berth with a fantastic Roy Thomas/Wally Wood DOCTOR DOOM story. Some of Rascally Roy's best work: he captures Von Doom's narcissistic lunacy to perfection. Plus, Wood's (comic art's foremost tragic genius) art is unsurprisingly brilliant.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

critical memory lapse

Kept reading good reviews for Eels' newie, BLINKING LIGHTS AND OTHER REVELATIONS in the last week or two. Nearly every one has mentioned the term "return to form" at some point or another. Now, sure SOULJACKER was a bit of a stinker (the single SOULJACKER pt 1 not withstanding). But SHOOTENANNY was an absolute cracker.

Idiots.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Pulled myself up out of the gutter...

...just long enough to watch the latest DOCTOR WHO. I know what THE SUN's only decent writer Ally Ross means when he says the show is "rather pointlessly left wing". So presumably he'll blow his top at tonight's episode, a rather Nigel Kneale-ian piece about the media controlling our minds. In short, the pitch would have been "What If Rupert Murdoch was really Cthulu?".

Actually quite boring in stretches, plus yet another denouement where the Doctor doesn't actually do anything because he's trapped/tied up, leaving the real action to a guest star (even if it was a really hot guest star, Christine Adams). That said, there was also a sense that the two biggest guest stars in this episode, Simon Pegg and Tamsin Greig, were rather criminally under-used, too.

Now fuck it. I'm going back on my bender. Then I'm going to steal a car and do doughnuts in the Free Presbyterian church car-park. That'll learn 'em.

Friday, May 06, 2005

black dog

It's one motherfucking bad day to be an Ulsterman. Politically, the place is now divvied up between the fascists and the Jesus freaks. The thugs and the zealots. I haven't wanted out of this shithole so badly since that whole Drumcree clusterfuck.

Hoo-fucking-ray. This must be how what it felt like in Berlin in 1932, only substitute the name "Heinrich Bruening" for "David Trimble". Can't believe I'd end up feeling sorry for that eedjit (see also: Drumcree, even if the guy went on to redeem himself somewhat), but if I was him, I'd be on the phone to Tony Blair right now organising my knighthood, and saying "screw you guys, I'm going home" in my best Eric Cartman impersonation.

And still I go back to STAR WARS to help explain this away. In the immortal words of George Lucas: "This is how Democracy ends, with Thunderous Applause."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

dude, your movie kicks ass!

Just saw TORQUE, and found myself enjoying it. Yes, it was dumb as a box of frogs, but it knew it, and winked right back at ya. Plus, it was beautifully photographed, and if I was Matthew Vaughn, I'd see if I could hire its costume designer for X-MEN 3.

I'm getting quite high hopes for Vaughn's take on this movie after this quote: "I wanted the villains to be less, sort of, what's the word? At the moment I think there's a lot of mustache-twirling in the last films and I want to get rid of that and make the villains really scary and more realistic". Yup, that was my main problem with the first movie: Magneto would not create a giant death-ray to turn everyone into a mutant. That's what a Bond villain would do. Magneto would just build death camps and enslave everybody. That's the whole point of making the dude a holocaust survivor: it's meant to be tragic and ironic, how he just can't see that he's doomed to take part in the cycle of abuse.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

important message

Stevie: as soon as you get a STAR WARS:REVENGE OF THE SITH bootleg, call me!

(That should pump up the traffic on the site no end!)

Monday, May 02, 2005

oh hell yeah!

Felt underwhelmed by the previous trailers for BATMAN BEGINS? Cop a load of this 'un. You'll be needin' Quicktime, sahr.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

new Northern Irish comic

Well, it's new to me: looks like a right bunch of amateurish indie cobblers, but each to their own: here's the link.