Friday, 28 February 2014

Her: A review

Spike Jonze's new film, Her, is about a man (played by Joaquin Pheonix) who falls in love with an artificially intelligent operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). It's a beautiful film, genuinely romantic, and probably all the better for not getting too caught up in the sci-fi element of the story. This is a film about relationships and feelings, and the technology involved is just a step or two beyond our own, but much more the tool of the story rather than the point of it.

Pheonix's performance is brilliant. He has to carry so much of the film just with his facial expressions, bringing to life what Johansson is saying through his reactions. Her vocal performance is similarly great, she gives presence to a disembodied character and engages you in the story of her development.

I wish I could encapsulate the feeling of beauty, heartbreak and sheer wonder that Her manages to convey, because that would be the best way I could recommend it to you. As an attempt, I've written this haiku:

She has no body,
And so she is evolving
Beyond mere beauty.

There are no explosions, no car chases, and a complete lack of Lego figures (shame) but this film really touched my heart. Take hankies and allow time for a cup of tea or two after viewing.


Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Dangers of Modern Art

This is a cautionary tale for anyone considering going to the Richard Hamilton exhibition at the Tate Modern. In case you didn't know, Hamilton (1922-2011) was a highly influential British artist, and regarded as one of the founding fathers of Pop Art. One of his most famous works is an installation called Fun House (1956). There's a jukebox playing hits of the era, and an actual fun house that you can walk through.

And that's where the problem started.

Accompanied by my good friend, Jane, I entered the fun house. There were four or five wheels you can spin with spirals on straight out of the playbook of an evil hypnotist, and the ground is all squashy and bouncy beneath your feet. Doris Day was singing. There are collages featuring some of the great film actors of the day and a gigantic picture from The Forbidden Planet. I love art that you can interact with. It was immersive and fun.

Then we left the room.

Everything was fine until we stopped walking to read the entry in the accompanying guide book. Then we both realised how dizzy we were! The swirly spirals and the wobbly floor had completely disorientated us. No word of a lie, thinking it about it again is making me feel a little ill now. Basically everything went downhill from there. I didn't just want to sit down, I wanted to lay myself down on the floor and have a little nap.

None of this was helped by the rest of Hamilton's art. The Fun House was early on in the exhibition. The next room had a number of images that almost looked like they ought to be in 3D. We had to give up on reading anything, because it was too nauseating. Trouble was, this lead to slight hysteria when we entered a room where every picture featured a big poo and/or a roll of Andrex. And everyone around us was taking the whole thing far too seriously, which was just making us laugh all the more.

We got to the end feeling slightly ill and possibly on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I'd borrowed my parents' membership card, which was a relief, because if I'd paid good money to be made to feel that sick, I would not have been a happy girl.

We retired to the Members Room for a much needed pot of tea, some water, and fresh air, sitting on the balcony and looking out over the Thames. Then we went to see the Harry Callahan exhibition. He was an amazing photographer, who took a range of really interesting pictures of buildings, nature and his wife and was hugely influential in his native USA. It was small, it was free, and it restored my faith in modern art. Thank you, Mr Callahan.

That's Detroit (burlesque) 1951.

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Lego Movie: A Review

Tricky one this, because I don't really want to tell you too much about the movie, I just really, really want everyone to go and see it. I realised about five minutes into the film that the trailer hadn't given anything away, or shown all the best bits, and the fact that I didn't know the whole story already and could sit there and enjoy it developing made the film even more wonderful. It's one of those films where, just as you're thinking that it's amazing, something even cooler happens. Maybe I'll write something more in-depth when it comes out on DVD and I don't feel so much like I'd be spoiling anything.

I think you will like this movie if you...
a) love Lego.
b) love good movies.
c) are a human being with a heart and a mind.

So, really all I want to say is that I loved The Lego Movie. I loved it, and I really want you, yes you Beautiful Reader, to go and see it, because I think you very well might love it too.

Now, I'm off to rob a bank so I can buy all the Lego Movie Minifigures.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Sean Pertwee Update!

Yes, it's what you've all been waiting for... It's the update on my resolution to watch everything that Sean Pertwee's ever been in! Whoop!

Now, as with all self-respecting resolution makers, I basically watched nothing featuring the lovely Sean in the entire month of January. Then February struck and I thought, "Shit, I really ought to do something about that."

Obviously my first port of call was his IMDB page. I wanted to see how much of his stuff I'd already seen, and how much there was to go. I was about to brag about the per-centage of his films that I've watched, but I've just tallied them up and I seem to have only seen twelve films that he's in, leaving twenty-eight to go, and that's not including TV movies, TV series and shorts. He's also done lots of voice-overs for video games, how am I meant to see those? I'm just assuming that all the random episodes of TV shows he's been in will be floating about on the internet somewhere, but I clearly have a bit of a mountain to climb. But given that I've not set myself a deadline to achieve my goal, and all the activity it involves is watching things with Sean Pertwee in, I think I'll survive (this won't be the Paper Zombies all over again).

So, my next stop was Netflix, where I simply put his name in the search bar and saw what came up. It was a slightly disappointing selection (sort it out, Netflix), but I did end up watching The Prophecy: Uprising, one of many follow-ups and spin-offs from the Christopher Walken film. Now, I would never lie to you, Beautiful Readers, this is probably not the best film ever made. Setting it in Romania seems more than a little bit random, and the story may have made a bit more sense if I'd seen any of the previous films. However, it's not awful, the end is quite tense and there are some really creepy and enjoyable moments, especially when, after being confronted with a dark moment from his past, Pertwee's character has a major freak out at his, at best, morally ambivalent angel/devil companion. It's pure Pertwee gold.

At the end I had a feeling that I'd seen the film before. This happens to me quite a lot as I often watch random horror films at strange times of the night when I'm half dozing. Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to put the sequel on my Netflix list. It doesn't star Sean Pertwee, but Tony Todd's in it, and he's super awesome as well. I think the best way I can sum up The Prophecy: Uprising is a guilty pleasure, but one worth checking out if you're in to the whole angel/demon/struggle between the forces of Good and Evil malarky.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Bandwagon Jumping

Over the last few months I have jumped on a number of bandwagons way behind everyone else. I keep wanting to write massive, impassioned blog posts about these subjects, but stop myself as I realise that, frankly, I'm just too damn late:

1) Why did they cancel Dollhouse? It's the best thing Joss Wheedon has done since Buffy. It's dark, disturbing and funny all in one, and Enver Gjokaj ("Victor" in the series) is one of the best actors I've seen on TV for a long time. I'm glad they at least got to finish the story, but I'm outraged and aggrieved that I didn't get to see three or four more series.

2) I'm loving Game of Thrones! Not the series, I still put the popularity of that down to some kind of mass hallucination, but The Song of Ice and Fire books are amazing. I'm only up to Storm of Swords Part Two, but something so massive happened in it while I was reading last night that I sent a text to my brother, at about midnight, starting with the word "Argh!" Please, please, no spoilers. I'm trying to pace myself with the books because I know how slowly George R R Martin is writing them.

Slight side-note, if you've enjoyed the above, you should definitely read Martin's Fevre Dream. It's about vampires on the Mississippi in the 19th Century and is just brilliant.

3) How good is Homeland!? Very, very good. I've only watched the first series, but was in serious danger of dying during the final episode because I was too tense to breathe. I didn't watch it initially because I'd been too badly scarred by the horrible decline of 24, but this series is like the antidote to that. The way Claire Dane's character manages to be incredible irritating, vulnerable and lovable all at the same time shows just what a great actress she is. I need to watch the second series asap, and would love to see the original Israeli version. Also, respect to Damien Lewis for flying the flag for Ginger Pride.

4) I've heard a rumour that some crazy scientist types are saying that the world is round. Now, I know this sounds unlikely. I mean, if it's round, wouldn't it just fall off the back of the elephants? Still, the arguments are pretty convincing, so I'll look into it a bit more and get back to you.