Right, I’m back in the UK, so should start updating this blog again soon. There’s jet lag, unpacking, a mountain of post and everything to contend with, so it may not be tomorrow, but I’ll try to get back to it before long.
If you’ve any interest in seeing what I did on my holiday, my lovely wife has blogged about our trip HERE.
Off on holiday to the US for three weeks from tomorrow so see the in-laws, so I doubt I’ll be posting much, if at all, until the middle of April.
No gaming, because I went to see Alice in Wonderland last night. It was “regional premiere”, which meant our names were checked on a clipboard before we were let in and before the film they showed live footage of everyone arriving at the actual premiere in London. Lots of shots of Johnny Depp spending about two hours signing things for every single person who’d turned up, ladies in fancy dresses getting very, very wet, people shaking Prince Charles’s hand. That sort of thing. The interviewer (Alex Zane? I dunno) did a decent job, but got utterly flummoxed every time one of the British comic actors was actually witty and didn’t give a normal, Hollywood answer. It was interesting at times, dull as all fuck at others, but definitely helped make it feel like more of an occasion than just another movie screening.
Anyway, after over an hour of that, it was time for…
DISNEY presents Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp… as Willy Wonka, if Willy Wonka hadn’t been Michael Jackson
Mia Somethingorother… as a winsome young lady Alice who discovers her inner fortitude
Crispin Glover… who doesn’t dance, the bastard
Helena Bonham-Carter… with a big head
Anne Hathaway… as Nigella Lawson
Matt Lucas… as two Matt Lucases
Stephen Fry… who does actual voice acting and doesn’t just read his lines
Paul Whitehouse… who against all my expectations, still does know how to be damn funny
Alan Rickman… who nearly steals the movie, just by doing what he does best
Christopher Lee… who actually steals the movie with just two lines
Babs Mitchell-Windsor… playing a character her actual, real size
I can see why the they’ve not really wanted to call the film a proper sequel. It is that, being the story of a nineteen year old Alice who returns to barely-remembered Wonderland, but it also lifts dialogue and scenes from the original books. The story is your standard journey, emotionally, but all set in a very Tim Burton Wonderland.
Which, of course, looks bloody astounding. Wonderland is an amazing place, often colourful, but equally often ravaged and desolate. It’s a treat for the eyes and the imagination and design shines through the technology. (It’s very, very good, but strange things happen if you look somewhere the 3D doesn’t want you to look and there’s the odd moment of strangely stiff animation, especially when human(-like) characters are completely CGI-ed up.)
Unexpectedly, it sometimes feels like one of the Narnia films (though makes those movies look like accountant-led spreadsheets that have been printed out on toilet paper and left out in the rain), but mainly it’s exactly what you’d expect from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s a great big treat of a movie, to be sure. Given that it’s Tim Burton working with Disney, it’s often gruesome and scary, but not too much. It makes you laugh at times, it pins you to the back of your seat at others, it gets you leaning forward trying to drink in every detail of the place, but it’s not ever actually surprising. You know what’s up, you know where things are going and you’re never shocked. (Maybe once, in a quiet, horrible scene that stands out, even amongst the rest.) Even if you’ve not seen a single still photo or second of footage, if you know Wonderland and you know Tim Burton, you can picture it yourself effortlessly.
So much of it is still in my head this morning, but it’s all visual. There’s no heartache or sense of triumph that lingers after a great story. Funny as it is, there’s only one line I’m ever likely to quote (a single word). I just have these amazing images left in my brain. In that sense, then, it’s appropriately dream-like.
I doubt I’ll go back and watch it again at the cinema, but I’m most definitely getting the Blu-Ray when it comes out next week, or whenever Disney decided they should bring it out.
If it feels like I’ve damned it with faint praise, I don’t intend to. It’s all pretty wonderful for the two hours it takes to speed past you, but I just want to make it clear – nothing that goes into your ears or your heart ever quite matches what goes into your eyes.
Yes, I’m moving to WordPress. Please bear with me for a few hours or days while I sort it out.
It’s the new sensation that’s sweeping the… Internet.
It has come to my attention that some people get free stuff from you in return for being nice about games. So if you want to send me any games or gaming-related tat then I promise not to be rude about them. If they’re rubbish, I’ll probably just pretend not to have seen them. Seriously, though, I’m a staunch defender of the PSP and found several nice things to say about that Tamagotchi board game on the Wii, so unless your product name includes the word “Sims” you’re pretty safe.
Looking at my stats for last month (October 2007) my atom.xml feed file was viewed 2,307 times and my blog’s main page was viewed 531 times. That’s, like, loads. (Although the atom.xml file was accessed about 70,000 times, but I guess the 2,307 is after search bots have stripped from the figures or something.) I bet IGN and Gamespot don’t have many more hits than that. And I post loads on Usenet and rllmuk. Sometimes I even post on NTSC-UK when I’m really, really bored.
Please email me at the address listed in my Blogger profile if you wish to take advantage of this very special offer.
Rev. Owen Allaway
P.S. I also accept cash, bourbon and Star Wars merchandise.
There’s a good movie here. It’s probably about seventy-five minutes long. Unfortunately, this cut is two hours long and moves a pace that would have a snail beeping its horn and trying to overtake in frustration.
Shots go on for centuries, scenes seem endless. It’s well-shot and it’s about an important subject, but it just goes on and on and on and…
There are good things – there’s a nice little wrinkle near the end and Alan Arkin’s good value – but everything just takes so long.
I’m not sure what the reason is for the languid pace. Maybe the filmamkers involved thought that slow equals atmospheric, which it really doesn’t. Maybe it’s meant to reflect the fact that this isn’t a one-off urgent special event, but a matter of daily routine. Maybe the studio just demanded a two hour film. Whatever the reason, it breaks the movie. It’s a real shame, because there’s a decent film about an important subject in there somewhere.
I’m glad I went to a free preview screening, though, because at least I can now use my knowledge wisely and warn as many people as possible off the film.
I don’t usually talk about movies here, but I’m really baffled by the reception to Rob Zombie’s Halloween and I feel the need to redress the balance somewhat. It’s been sneaked out in the UK with no notice (a week and a half before it was eventually released it still didn’t have a confirmed release date that I could find), minimal publicity and no reviews. It’s got an exceptionally poor rating of 25% on rottentomatoes.com and the IMDB score is a reasonably-okay-but-not-great 6.1.
The reason I’m baffled is that it’s clearly a nine out of ten movie. (And it’s not that I can see any reason to mark it down from a ten, a nine just feels better.) The only way I can see people not liking the movie is if they were never going to like the movie.
Okay, if you don’t like boobies and/or blood, then you won’t like the movie. But then your criticisms are of horror movies, not of this movie.
If you don’t think movies should ever be remade then, well, maybe this will change your mind. The remake of The Wicker Man wasn’t a bad movie because it was a remake of a classic movie, it was because it was a quite incredibly awful remake of a classic movie.
I’m sure I’ll be pulled over by the movie thought police for saying this, but the original Halloween isn’t without its problems. The main one being that it drags. Zombie’s version never does. He’s made the story from the original movie the second half of his version and filled the first half with more back story for lil’ Michael and family. It’s a decision that works well. Michael Myers was never a character whose mystique came from his history. We knew a lot about him in the original movie and now we know more. As well as being interesting in its own right, this allows the second half of the movie to move along at a cracking pace. It’s not all super-fast quick cuts, though. Rob Zombie is a talented director, who’s as adept at using stillness and easy listening as fast motion and loud rock.
It’s interesting, it’s tense, it’s scary and it walks the fine line between horror and comedy that Zombie seems to have chosen as his own particular path. A lot of people seem to have missed that in quite spectacular fashion. You may be able to get through without laughing out loud if you’re particuarly stone-faced, but I don’t see how you’d get through without craking a smile. It does, I’ll admit, settle down on the horror side of the divide for the majority of the second half, but until then it’s one funny film and isn’t without amusing moments even near the end.
In a sense, I feel that Zombie’s movies are for healthy people. They may sound odd to some, filled as they are with guts, screaming and death, but my theory is that you need to have a well-balanced mind to be able to appreciate all the dark shades he uses. The comedy in his movies is often very, very black, but it should be easily discernable if you’re open to it. Halloween is on another level to his earlier movies, though, I think. He seems to have toned down the scattershot approach of House of a Thousand Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. Enjoyable as they both were, they didn’t hang together nearly as well as this movie.
And to top everything off Halloween’s sprinkled with appearances by Zombie regulars, Brad Dourif and the mighty Malcolm McDowell in a big, crunchy role.
As I said earlier, if you don’t like modern horror then, no, you probably won’t like this, but Halloween is on another level other recent makes, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, and there’s more story and life to it than the likes of Saw and other gorno features.
It’s the masterpiece of the current wave of post-post-modern, seventies-influenced horror movies, it’s actually better than Carpenter’s original and it sure as hell deserves far better than it’s got.
So, this afternoon my lovely wife and I wheeled about a hundred and fifty old games or so up to Gamestation.
They wouldn’t take Just Cause or Tomb Raider: Legend because they were imports. I’d forgotten about that. Just Cause was actually a PAL copy, but had “Distribution outside the UK only” written on the back, so I they wouldn’t take it. They also couldn’t take Michigan: Report from Hell, which though an official UK release was obviously so badly distributed that no copies even made it as far as the Gamestation central computer.
When pulling the games out of the bag I decided I couldn’t part with Mario Golf, Hitman Contracts, Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution or Thief: Deadly Shadows, so they come home with us, too.
Anyway, after all that I was given a credit note for a massive £543, which means that on Friday we can get a Playstation 3 with two or three games. Hooray!
I’m now absolutely terrified of losing that credit note. I’m effectively going to be carrying around over half a grand in my wallet for the next week. Eek.
(If I left it at home I’d be terrified of a fire burning it up, or rats eating it, or gremlins stealing it, or a local time-space disturbance sucking it into an unholy vortex.)