Following on the footsteps of Ingmar Bergman, Italian bundle of joy Michelangelo Antonioni, director of seminal 60s pieces Blow-Up (later remade by Brian DePalma as the far more entertaining Blow-Out) and Zabriskie Point (worth seeing for the gloriously gorgeous end scene – the most beautiful explosion ever filmed), two fiercely intellectual and political – if lethally dull – movies, passed on today. I’m not conversant with his work beyond those two movies, but I’m sure he’ll be missed too.

31.07.2007 • Permalink

Check mate.

So long to the world’s glummest – and Sweden’s finest – film director.

30.07.2007 • Permalink


Mel Gibson’s Mayan epic garnered quite the Oscar buzz, almost as much as Gibson himself, and looked to be something quite unique and spectacular. Sumptuous and utterly gorgeous in terms of visuals, Apocalypto (sounds like an early Vertigo title) loses the plot, what little there is, early on.

Now, with a tagline like “No-one can outrun their destiny”, I was expecting the toppling of Empires and maybe a UFO dropping off a calendar, but end up getting this: a standard, if incredibly violent, chase movie.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Jaguar Paws who must escape from his captors and rescue his wife Sugar Tits and their son. They’re stuck in a well, by the way.

He succeeds, and in the happiest of all endings, his enemies are all killed in horrible ways and then the conquistadors arrive on their shores and nothing bad happens in South America ever again.

  • Director: Mel Gibson
  • Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo, Mayra Sérbulo, Dalia Hernández
24.07.2007 • Permalink

The cinematographer responsible for more movies than you or I will ever see, including many seminal 60s classics like Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider, has passed away at 74. He’ll be missed.

In other news, Tammy Faye Bakker, God’s cheerful hobgoblin, also passed away. My knowledge of her really only extends to a couple of Bloom County strips and a bizarre interview, but there you go.

23.07.2007 • Permalink

Music and Lyrics

Another year, another romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, this time together. Seriously, how could they keep making these without these two?

The plot revolves around an 80’s has-been pop star named Alex Fletcher, one half of the erstwhile pop group POP! (see what they did there?), based loosely on Wham! and DuranDuran. While his songwriting partner took off on his own, becoming a solo superstar, Alex has been making his living from the “where are they now?” markets, but gigs have been drying up.

He gets the break of a lifetime when he’s contacted by the biggest current pop star (“bigger than Britney and Christina put together” says a breathless Brad Garrett in the role of Alex’ agent) who wants him to write a song for her.

Trouble is, he can only write music, not lyrics, but after an abortive session with a bipolar lyricist, he finds his partner in his plant girl, Drew Barrymore. He only has a few days, and finally manages to convince her to write with him. No prize for guessing what happens next…

Music and Lyrics is a sweet comedy, and while it is not one for the ages, I was incredibly entertained by it. While the love story itself is nothing special, there are things that really elevates it: First up is a score (no pun intended) of original songs written for the film. The central songs are written by Adam Schlesinger of the band Fountains of Wayne; the man is incapable of writing a bad tune, it seems, and his songs here are no exception, and the best part is that they all sound like genuine pop songs, even though infused with a hint of the piss-take. A bit like comparing the Rutles with the Beatles, really: affectionate takes on familiar tunes that work wonderfully on their own. The rest of the songs aren’t bad either, and for a pop music lover such as myself, the deal would already be closed.

The second thing, of course, is the cast. Hugh Grant is back in his slightly foppish persona (enough with the charming bastards for a while, one supposes) and Drew Barrymore is his perfect foil. They have an easy and natural chemistry, abetted by a sharp script that never draws attention to itself. Support from Brad Garrett and Kristin Johnston is also pitch-perfect, and Cora, the pop star about to resuscitate Alex’ career, is a suitably vapid sexpot droning on about sprituality in a fashion that cheerfully skewers Madonna, Britney and Xtina.

Like I said, this isn’t one for the ages, but for those of us utterly in love with the joys of pure pop music, it’s an irresistable treat.

  • Director: Marc Lawrence
  • Cast: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore
21.07.2007 • Permalink

In This World

In This World is the story of Jamal and Enayat, two young Afghan refugees who attempt to get to a better life in London by making his way there from a refugee camp in the Peshawar region of Pakistan.

The movie follows the two as they are smuggled through Iran, all the way to Italy. It’s shot digitally, with no professional actors and has a documentary feeling. Not inappropriately, either; Jamal plays himself. Despite there being no professionals in the film (from what I can gather, at least), they acquit themselves admirably, and the occasional roughness of the performances is entirely appropriate for the movie.

The dusty, hard desertscapes has none of the grandeur of Lawrence of Arabia; there are no heroes here, only people struggling to get by. It’s odd for a Westerner to see a movie set in this region to begin; we are accustomed to seeing only crusaders and adventurers. That the locals might be going about their normal lives is most often an afterthought.

Winterbottom is an accomplished and versatile filmmaker, and In This Life fits in with his other work perfectly. And while he is also a political filmmaker, he is not didactic; the move flows naturally and there are no points of view spoon-fed to the audience. Most anyone will readily agree that poverty is bad. It’s just that the move shows the everyday reality that renders the “well, why can’t they just stay where they are” argument impotent.

  • Director: Michael Winterbottom
  • Cast: Jamal Udin Torabi, Enayatullah, Imran Paracha, Hiddayatullah
21.07.2007 • Permalink

Opera Mini

Back to browsing: I’ve already written about my favorite browsers (Camino it is.), but yesterday I downloaded the beta version of Opera Mini 4 for my cell phone. I’ve been using Opera 3 for a while, and while I rarely surf from my phone, it can be handy.

Anyhoo, I heard that Opera Mini 4 was out in beta and decided to download it to my phone. Is it any good? Well, put it like this: my iPhone envy shrank considerably. OK, so I still don’t have touch screen or stuff like that, but DAMN, this thing is awesome.

I could be mistaken, but it seems to work faster than version 3. And it changes the interface considerably. Now, it basically loads in the entire webpage in thumbnail format. Then, with a deft click on the 5 key, you can zoom in and out. You can navigate with the 2, 4, 6 and 8 buttons as well, and of course the "joystick". It also comes with a more mouse-like feel for navigation. Of course, it can be a pain is the ass to navigate sites you’ve never been to before, but I haven’t yet done that and seriously doubt I will anytime soon. I have e-mail and RSS feeds on my phone either way

This is hands-down the best mobile browser I’ve tried yet and recommend it heartily.

01.07.2007 • Permalink