Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

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The King’s Speech – review.

January 23, 2011

I went to see The King’s Speech with Toby last night, and thinking about the experience, the main sensation that I feel is guilt. Guilt that midway through the film’s second third, I surrendered to sleep; guilt that I could not concur with the film’s largely glowing reviews from critics and friends alike; guilt that despite the actors’ invariably fine performances, there was just something lacking. It didn’t take me long to put my finger on what the main missing ingredient was, but first, allow me to expand.

The King’s Speech is a smug, self-satisfied film that surrounds itself with a certain air that says to its audience, that proclaims  to those who see its advertisements, “You are watching this because you are intelligent, because you are interested in History. Feel congratulated, feel superior to the hoi polloi.” This air of self-importance is perhaps fitting with the film’s focus on early 20th century royalty, but is certainly at odds with the flat cinematography. In Lionel’s basement, this cheapness, this absence of depth between the background, the foreground and the actors can perhaps be forgiven as it is evocative of the speech therapist’s relative poverty – all the more pointing out with a wry smile that the future King of England has had to go there, to such a lowly place (after all, it is in a basement that can only be accessed through a cramped lift) in order to find his redemption. But when in more royal quarters, how can you really feel a sense of majesty when the decor, the scenery does not evoke this? The film’s rather small budget of $15 million reveals itself early on. And yet, Firth’s previous film, the sumptuous A Single Man, was made on half that budget and both looks and, more importantly, feels like a million dollars. Go figure.

Nevertheless, the actors all provide stellar showings – none more so than Colin Firth, whose stammer never feels affected or artificial; whose frustration, anger, silence, tenderness towards his family, fear of and eagerness for being the country’s king ring true at every turn. Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue with sincerity and humility, and while I much prefer Helena Bonham Carter as a sexy temptress à la Fight Club or a ridiculously pompous Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland, she more than does her part as Queen Elizabeth here. The King’s Speech is certainly not lacking in fine performances.

But unfortunately, the crux of the problem is this – characters cannot do anything without a story. The plot of The King’s Speech is as follows: the King has a stammer, so he gets some speech therapy to fix it so he can deliver speeches (thus the title’s double reference to the king’s ability to speak, and the film’s final speech – his ultimate test). That’s it. This plot is less than linear – it’s a dot. It goes nowhere, it does nothing unexpected or even notable. As mentioned earlier, I fell asleep for 20 minutes in the film’s second half, woke up and events were more or less where I had left them. And even worse, 99% of the film’s audience know the entirety of the plot before even entering the cinema! Even if you are not au fait with 20th century British history, the British monarchy nor the stories of wartime Britain, you will know how the film ends – for the pure fact that nobody under the age of 15 is going to see this film of their own accord, and the vast majority of those over 15 know that there has never been a king who died moments after being crowned during a World War, nor has there ever been a king whose stammer prevented him from delivering speeches. If either of these things had happened, they would be etched in our history in such a way that everyone would know about them, just as they know of the death of Princess Diana, of her wedding to Prince Charles, of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, of the Queen’s two birthdays. It would be another elementary fact. Thus, this means that it is inevitable that the King gets his stammer cured, or at least is able to manage it in order to perform his duties.

There is nothing approaching a subplot in the film to maintain interest. Edward abdicates in order to pursue love, and the audience is expected to just accept this because that’s how it happened in history – there is no attempt to probe beneath the façade of pompous dignity to question whether Edward is actually doing the right thing, the brave thing, pursuing truth over the pretences inherent in being a monarch (according to King George V himself). The film has only room for one triumphant victim, and that is Firth’s character – even when he is acting like a snobbish, spoilt moron, the viewer is not invited to feel repulsed or even more than mildly annoyed at his presumptuous pride, because he is the film’s Hero, the country’s King, and thus must not be questioned. If you are choosing to question him and other aspects of the film, then good for you – but you’re going above and beyond what the film requires you to do in order to get to the final triumph and achieve your gold star. Any attempts to psychologise the King’s speech impediment are completely reductionist – is it the absence of Daddy’s affections? The taunting of the mean big brother? Peer pressure? The King’s Speech expects its audience to overlook this simplicity because it is British, it is Royal, it is Historical – but if these explanations were transposed to an American rom-com or a Channel 5 drama, they would be seen and derided for the facile clichés they are.

Ultimately, The King’s Speech is a simple film that contains faultless performances, and whose stars should be amply rewarded for their acting. But nevertheless, it is a film that is a plotless puddle, all the while proclaiming itself a majestic ocean.

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Christmas list.

December 10, 2010

Since my birthday list was so popular and appreciated, here is a list for a few of the things that I would like for Christmas. Enjoy, and if you’re planning on spoiling me, thankyou in advance and I hope that you find this helpful!

Rihanna – Loud (Deluxe edition with DVD) – ***NANA GOT THIS FOR ME 😀 ***

Rihanna’s new album Loud was a disappointment to me, particularly compared to the excellent Good Girl Gone Bad and the stellar Rated R. However, although I haven’t bought it myself, I like enough of the songs to still want the CD, and I would appreciate it were someone to purchase it for me. The version with DVD would be particularly cool. 😉

Rihanna – Rated R Remixed

I would love this CD, as I can’t find it anywhere! The dance remixes all blend seamlessly, and every song is excellent and the dark lyrics and thematics of the songs work perfectly atop the crunchy hard beats. 🙂

Jay-Z – Greatest Hits (Deluxe edition)


P!nk – Greatest Hits (Deluxe edition with DVD)

P!nk is a fantastic artist who has amassed a scary amount of hit singles!  I want the deluxe package because although I have nearly all of the songs, it comes with a DVD which has all her videos on it, which would be particularly cool. 🙂

Snowball Microphone

Because of having to spend money on lovely but expensive new things (iPhone, new Macbook) to replace old possessions that broke, my aim to get a new microphone never happened, and so my recording of new material has had to wait! This would remedy the situation, and I could then get going on stuff for a new album! 😀

Lady Gaga Heartbeats headphones (red, to match my Ronaldo trainers 😉 ) – *** TOBY GOT THESE FOR ME 😀 ***

I think that Toby is buying me these – I wanted the red ones to match my trainers, and I thought it was about time I upgrade my audio experience, especially as these have recently been reduced to a semi-acceptable price. Plus, I have been feeling that I would like to add more splashes of red to my wardrobe, and these would be a perfect way to do that.

Stanley Kubrick Collection

I would love to possess Kubrick’s films, as his vision as a film-maker is profound and he tells stories so vividly and inimitably. Eyes Wide Shut is sexy, intriguing and eerie, while The Shining is chilling and an adept retelling of Stephen King’s novel, despite it veering away considerably from the book. A Clockwork Orange has a weird atmosphere that puts me on edge, Full Metal Jacket fascinated me in the 15 minutes that I saw, and I’ve always wanted to experience A Space Odyssey. I would see possessing this collection as furthering my cinematic education.

Shakira calendar

I only deal in official calendars, as the photography on unofficial ones is just shoddy and appalling. Despite the fact that this Shakira calendar boasts pictures that are a year old (from her She Wolf album photoshoot), she still looks smokin’ hot! And after two years, Ronaldo needs a rest. 😉 This is the best 2011 calendar that I have seen.

Shakira – Sale el Sol – ***NANA GOT THIS FOR ME 😀 ***

Talking of Shakira, her new Spanish album is stellar, but I haven’t gotten round to picking it up. So if someone wants to pick it up for me, they’d be more than welcome! 🙂

Trey Songz – Passion Pain and Pleasure


Disney DVDs

All the classic 2D animations!!! I have Bambi on DVD already (naturally!), but I would be thrilled to have Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Mulan… reliving my childhood and providing escapism whenever I need!

Dior Homme Deodorant Stick – *** I HAVE BOUGHT THIS NOW – couldn’t wait! ***

Dior Homme is probably my overall favourite fragrance. I have recently, finally decided to remove Lynx from my life, and so I have been using a deodorant stick of Jennifer Lopez Deseo for Men. This has finally nearly run out, and I can’t think of a better fragrance with which to mask my perspiration and start my day 🙂

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notorious. (a review of sorts)

September 8, 2009

Yes, I am very late but I only picked up the DVD to Notorious yesterday, because Tesco finally had it on sale and I had been interested to watch but never managed to catch it during its run at the cinema, and wasn’t about to pay £14-20 just to get the DVD straight when it came out.  So I bade my time and finally I watched it tonight.  I’m not going to give a very in-depth review, because we all know the story – Biggie gets into drugs, gets put in jail, comes out of jail, comes close to being put in jail again but his friend takes the rap (hah!) so that Christopher Wallace can fulfil his budding rap talent and become Notorious B.I.G. All goes well as Biggie takes Lil’ Kim along with him for the ride, then meets Faith Evans and wifes her up, all while keeping his first baby mama on the backburner the whole time.  A friendship with Tupac Shakur turns sour, misunderstandings occur and both rappers end up dead, 2pac 25, Biggie 24.  That’s the plot in a nutshell.

I’m not even going to attempt to address the 2pac vs. Biggie controversy.  I have both of B.I.G.’s albums on my iPod (I prefer Ready To Die, but only because I’m much more familiar with the songs – I need to study Life After Death more tbh), whereas I only have one of 2pac’s (All Eyez On Me), which again I have only listened to a couple of times.  Both were influential and towering talents, but I’m not about to compare one to another because I’m nowhere near informed enough to have a valid opinion, and I would need to research more of their material.  Again, I have no conspiracy theory about who shot either of them, nor what role Suge Knight may or may not have played in the whole business – I’m no detective, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to say something on the subject that hasn’t already been said.  The only perspective I have on 2pac and on Biggie is retrospective, because in 1997 I was only 11 years old and barely musically awakening (I received Mariah Carey’s Butterfly for my 12th birthday later that year, which is possibly when I really opened my eyes, ears and heart musically) so I didn’t really have any acquaintance with rap music past what I would hear on the radio and see on MTV and The Box.

I was pleasantly surprised with the film: as I said, I already knew the plot and yet I still found it an interesting watch.  The only character I found unbelievable was Sean “Puffy” Combs, because the guy playing him neither looked nor sounded like Puff Daddy, in my opinion.  I only caught passing glimpses of a resemblance between the two in terms of mannerisms and vocal tics, whereas most of the others nailed it at least a fair amount of the time.  Jamal Woolard did a great, great job playing Christopher Wallace himself; Naturi Naughton was a fiery if inaccurate Lil’ Kim (but more about that in a moment), but Naturi herself did a fine job and displayed a fearlessness in her acting; Angela Bassett was supreme as usual; Antonique Smith was an astonishing Faith Evans, looking the spitting image of her and displaying a similar blend of sophistication and grit.  Not knowing much about Voletta Wallace herself, other than that she played a large part in the creation, vision and focus of the whole film, I found it hard to believe that she was as naive about her son’s imperfections as she appeared to be (confusing crack with mashed potatoes?  Come on now… how long you been living in Brooklyn?). But then again the film was not as rose-tinted as I had heard it was: Biggie displayed extraordinary passion and talent, but he was also a serial womaniser and acted childishly at some points and plain idiotic at others.  So that was somewhat refreshing.

Faith Evans was portrayed as an almost angelic beauty who still kicked one of Biggie’s jump-off’s down when she found out that he’d cheated on her not long after their marriage (again, she really should have known better than to believe he would be faithful to her).  In contrast, Lil’ Kim was similarly painted as naively believing that her and B.I.G. would last forever (his marriage to Faith was quite a sore point in the film as in real life), but her part in Biggie’s life was massively downplayed; she appeared for a fraction of a second in the funeral montage whilst the photo of her weeping with Mary J. Blige outside the funeral service is one of the defining images of that era. Her talent, her look and her persona was portrayed as completely fabricated by Biggie in a post-coital brainstorm, and according to the film, Lil’ Kim was essentially nothing but a slut who fucked for tracks. Her enduring success and establishment as the premiere female MC surely contradicts this portrayal.  To quote the review from Pajiba (who put it much better than me, and in more entertaining language):

“The person who takes it up the ass the hardest is Lil Kim. Lil Kim’s always bukakked with the reputation of being the nastiest bitch, the stripper who’s empowered by her sexuality because she can use her snappin’ pussy to get all the diamonds and the rings and the bling and have any dick she chooses. (Under ten inches — ENNNT — sorry.) In Notorious, she bangs Biggie and asks if he’s got a girlfriend later. Then, her entire rap persona is supposedly imagineered by Biggie, who says men don’t want to hear about gangsta chicks but rather want girls who’ll fuck them with the lyrics. He turns her into a whore, his whore, who turns petty and jealous when he marries the sainted Faith, and basically spends the rest of the movie like a jealous psycho starting fights and trouble. Of course, when Biggie died, Lil’ Kim went into an almost two year depression. Faith Evans and Puffy remixed a Police song and essentially lived off the fatted calf of Biggie’s corpse for the same period. So you do the math. Or don’t. Both Lil’ Kim and Faith Evans have memoir/tell-alls due out sometime in the coming year.”

Being a Lil’ Kim fan, I have appreciated her at her highest peaks as well as in her tackier moments, throughout her up and down surgeries and provocative outfits, and even lamenting her stint on Dancing With The Stars whilst being glad that it was helping to rehabilitate her career.  I wrote a blog about her daring performance of “Time After Time / Lighters Up” with Cyndi Lauper recently. At the heart of it, she is a talented rapper with consistent flow, entertaining lyrics and song concepts, and buckets of sexuality, raw passion and hard-earned grit.  I’d be interested to see her movie and compare and contrast the two portrayals of Lil’ Kim… I guess we’ll have to wait and see if such a project ever materialises.

In short, I enjoyed Notorious more than I expected to.  I didn’t find anything out that I didn’t already know, and I am not educated enough in the music nor in the history of Biggie’s life to have any valuable opinion or counter-opinion.  But there was striking characterisation, solid acting and a couple of sticking points that held my interest and attention throughout.  And it’s got me listening to Ready To Die on my iPod once again.  I guess at the end of the day, even though we’ll never know everything about what happened to Biggie, if such a film gets us to re-appreciate and re-evaluate his music and legacy, and despite his moral and intellectual shortcomings, if we can admire his passion and talent, then that is definitely something valuable.

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the proposal.

August 17, 2009

In retrospect, this seems quite ironic considering that the last two days, I’ve been blogging about the wedding I attended on Saturday, but today I went to see The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.  I really enjoyed the film, despite it being a relatively straightforward romantic comedy (I tend to prefer horror, action or thought-provoking foreign films) – I am thinking of going to the cinema on my own, because I tend to enjoy it much more as I see the films I want to see when I want to see them, and I don’t really get distracted by anyone accompanying me, feeling that they are gauging my reaction to the film (Karina notices when I don’t laugh in a comedy, and the others monitor when I go on Twitter / fall asleep in the midst of a boring film).

Being alone with my thoughts is something, as an only child, that I’ve always appreciated, but lately I seem to be actively taking days for myself.  Since I seem to be practically incapable of spending a whole day at home, if I have no prior engagements during the day, I take a book (finished Glamorama, am midway through Let The Right One In and bought American Psycho today for when I finish that.), put myself in a café and spend an hour reading and caffeinating.  Although it costs money I could save at home, it is distraction-free, I can wrap myself up in my music and my book and just let the world pass me by.

However, the danger of being in my own space is that sometimes my thoughts can spiral into melancholy.  And watching The Proposal, combined with the romantic proceedings of the wedding weekend and the immense perfection of Ryan Reynolds’ physique / character in the movie, I got a bit down.  I don’t know if it is envy, because I keep saying that I am appreciating the single life and enjoying not forcing myself into a relationship which doesn’t fit (been there, done that this year), or if it is just longing for someone to touch me and then still want to see me afterwards, but after the film I couldn’t restrain myself from texting Brett.  He is improving and learning to text me back and we have much more regular dialogue than in the early days, but we have still only seen each other in person once and that does not bode well for a future dating/relationship thing.  Who knows what is going on.  But today, I just needed to talk to somebody who is a possible feeling-reciprocator and to whom I feel close, at least in some way of communication.  I have learned to understand more the reasons why he doesn’t always text back or why he doesn’t often venture out to meet (it’s private really, but he’s had a few medication ups and downs lately), and in a way it’s nice that everything is progressing at a slow rate because it doesn’t consume me and I can get on with my own life and I feel like I am learning to be less neurotic. So Brett is teaching me these things.

Nevertheless dreams and fantasy are a little bit irresistible and I can’t help but imagine how good it would be just to have somebody I could rely on, someone who drives me a little bit crazy in a good way, because they are actually dating me or romantically involved with me or whatever.  As much as I enjoy my own space and being alone and doing whatever I need to do everyday without people bearing down on me, at other times I get lonely and want to just chill with somebody and talk or have fun or whatever.  I know that nobody can have it all, but to want for somebody to want to understand me doesn’t seem so far-fetched, does it?  I can’t imagine that all the love I have to give would just go to waste?  Youth is time to have fun and I want to have fun, but not just by myself, I want to share it with my friends and family and that someone special too.  I guess we’ll just never know until it happens, but I can’t be patient all the time and when I watch the speed-time-frames of films like The Proposal and the beautiful people contained within, I just wish I would find a supermodel and it would all just hurry up and work out happily ever after.  Now how’s that for far-fetched?

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Transformers 2 and the city.

July 1, 2009

Went to the cinema with Davina, Deena, Frankie and Mel to see Transformers 2.  Against type, I a) did not fall asleep, and b) did not tweet once during the film!  So it was a reasonable success, despite the film being 2 and a half hours long and having far too many robot-on-robot fights.  It only really came alive for me during the human fights.  And the whole saying “I love you” business was a bit ridiculous. There was also a Martine McCutcheon moment when one of the male characters (I like to think it was Josh Duhamel, but correct me if I’m mistaken) said “This is my moment”.  I whisper-sang “This is my perfect moment” and we all CDFU!  Occasionally I am comedic, yes.

The highlight of the film for me, as a 99% gay male, was the sexuality exuded by Megan Fox.  Yes, Isabel Lucas positively burned the screen during her time, but her role had me solely whisper-yelling “Slut!” at the screen (which I guess was the purpose of it, so well done Michael Bay).  But Megan Fox, despite not really displaying her acting chops (I presume she does have some), was pure fire.  Look at this bish:

Megan Fox + car

Megan Fox + car

Yes.  Yes yes yes.  Jessica Alba, you have some competition.  Beyoncé, move to the back of the class.  Ciara… well, I still love you.  But Megan Fox was scorching!  The other 1% of my sexuality was very satisfied during this film.  I prefer her to Angelina Jolie, for realz.  So my review of Transformers 2 was a surprising thumbs up! Not the best film I’ve ever seen, but certainly exceeded my low expectations.

Looking at Megan Fox (and trying my hardest not to compare her with mismatch Shia LaBoeuf – seriously, on what universe?!) got me thinking on the nature of beauty.  But that is a whole other post, because I don’t want this to be a super-epic-thon like the last two.  But apart from being super-obsessed with my looks and my weight and my body and my clothes and my perfume, I wanted to know, what makes me feel beautiful / handsome?  Well… many things.  But what makes me feel attractive or sexy or handsome without requiring the validation of someone else?  Tonight, these things made me feel good:

  • Riding home in Davina’s car with the window all the way down and the wind blowing through my hair and on my skin.
  • Singing along to Toni Braxton – “Hit The Freeway” – it’s been a long time since I’ve heard that song without me being the one playing it!
  • The city lights shining in a twilight sky.
  • Spending a lovely evening with friends.

Sometimes, more really is more.  But at other times the cliché holds true, and it is the simple things that really make you (or at least me) sit up and appreciate the good things in life.  Because when there’s so much negativity in the world on a daily basis, we all have to take what we can get!  So I am taking as much as I can, and I hope that you do too. Goodnight folks 🙂