The Gonzo Diplomat

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The Mathematics of Eurovision

In TV/Movies, Uncategorized on May 27, 2012 at 2:19 am

Part Two. The Contest is over, my predictions were not too far fetched, and this is not because I am a genius, but because it seems pretty easy to determine, because whilst it is a contest, it is evident that there are formulas for winning. The combination of cheesy+trashy+english tends to reap decent results, along with geopolitical standings, those that allowed Serbia’s drab song to reach a high ranking as well as the truly Godawful Albanian song.

However, the top three were not bad songs to be honest. Romania’s song was catchy and sexy, Russia’s was adorably cute, and Sweden had the sufficient help from her neighbours, and a catchy dance tune that had already reached number one in four different countries. Truth be told, the fact that more than ten songs for Eurovision had been composed by Swedish musicians, and that Sweden is economically capable of holding the event next year, I don’t think it was that bad a result. However, the UK’s and Denmark’s terrible results; Spain and France’s deserving of a higher place, and Albania’s farcical top five finish, shows that some countries are going to find it almost impossible to win Eurovision, whilst others can always get a helping hand from their neighbours.

Serbia’s help from Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, was an example of geopolitical companionship, even more so Albania’s help from their neighbours from left to right, Italy, San Marino, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Greece. The UK’s neighbours, France and Ireland only managed to give them four points (all from Ireland), and the unpopular French got no votes from their neighbours.

Nothing new here, at least Jedward didn’t win, though the dissapointment of Albania’s ranking is really frustrating, as can be seen in the video in my last post, it was painful to listen to.

So the formulas for Eurovision: Trashy+Cheesy+Good neighbours+English+Make sure you have made good PR of your song before hand (Germany’s Lena Meyer Landrut can also testify to that) is a winning formula. Congratulations to Sweden you are Europe’s cheesiest singing nation.

Now one last formula and Eurovision’s “finest”:

Colin Farrell + Ed Norton = Parfeny Lauter

   Ed Norton

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The Rum Diary arrives and leaves no spark.

In TV/Movies on November 14, 2011 at 1:37 am


It is a shame, it really is, particularly as I was waiting anxiously for the release of this film and even wrote a detailed entry about it in June 2010. It was a different kind of hype, let’s say, to the one I have regarding the latest Batman movie, set to be released next summer, because whilst I have faith in Christopher Nolan, I was somewhat sceptical as to how Bruce Robinson was going to adapt Hunter S. Thompson’s novel into an interesting, gonzo, high buzz movie. It was going to be hard, especially as I am an avid Hunter S. Thompson fan, and only Terry Gilliam has come close to reflecting the rock and roll craziness and humour Thompson evokes. Robinson had it easier, for the Rum Diary was written when Thompson was yet to be showing that incoherency and anarchy that his drug and alcohol abuse began to exhibit on him, and it even featured a love story, in an odd kind of way, which only adds to make production that tad bit easier.

In the tumultuous times we are currently living, a bit of gonzo rage would have done us some good, but the Rum Diary fails to woo us, and only results in being a weak, diluted and incoherent story that fails to deliver what it supposedly intended, a back story into how Doctor Thompson developed his gonzo style and the rage, fear and loathing that characterised him in the future. This story is nothing more than Diet Gonzo, that not even Hollywood’s Raoul Duke, Johnny Depp, can save.

The settings are beautiful, and the film depicts the heat and dampness of San Juan to a tee, as well as the ambiance of a changing Caribbean, where beachfront properties are hot targets for the wealthy and working class, and for everyone else, there is rum, lots of it.

It is 1960 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Paul Kemp (Depp) arrives unsure as to what he wants, but interested in the alcohol fuelled possibilities of getting a decent story at the San Juan Star and many drunken nights. On his way he will meet incompetent workers, military villains, rich and conceited schmucks, and a beautiful girl, Chenault (Amber Heard).  With this, he will find himself in breathtaking scenarios, panicking car chases, fights, booze fests and loathsome hangovers. That seems pretty gonzo if you ask me, but trust me, it isn’t. Depp tries to evoke the Thompson dialogues in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but it looks like a light gimmick of his old interpretation. This leaves me to ponder how much blame Depp has in this, or if it is exclusively Robinson’s fault. Either way, both of them seemed to be so dedicated in focusing on the young Hunter that they ignored other issues that needed consideration in the movie, such as character development, the sociological and political edge that characterised Dr. Gonzo, a decent ending (as the film just seems to end for no apparent reason, as if a buzzer rang and it was time up”) and a sense of coherency and links in the story.

The characters:

The stunning Amber Heard as Chenault


My fear of the absence of an intriguing character, Yeamon, actually was not the gravest loss in the movie. The characters play their role efficiently, Richard Jenkins is formidable as Lotterman, and Michael Rispoli fairs well as Bob Sala, as does Aaron Eckhart as the yobbish Sanderson, the rich class of people that Thompson wanted no way with and often referred to as a class of “bastards”.

Yet two performances I was very interested in were Giovanni Ribisi’s interpretation of Moburg and Amber Heard’s portrayal of Chenault. The first was a pleasant surprise, the latter a disappointment, but not merely because of Heard’s acting, but because of the director’s depiction of her character.

First of all, Ribisi’s performance is laudable, even though at first he may seem irritable, but there is still a feelimg that the characters, much like the actual plot itself, are underdeveloped, as there is too much focus on Kemp, and the story in itself appears to be a raffle of random incidents that even make the chaotic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas appear to be more threaded and coherent, regardless of the anarchy and the constant interior dialogues of Duke, than this piece.

With this, it just seems clear that Robinson doesn’t master the gonzo style, and the extremes that Dr Thompson so often alluded to are diluted to make no shocking effects and leaving a tame plot. It is hard to believe that, with all the special effects and props Hollywood can offer, the director was unable to make a realistic looking cockfight scene at the end of the movie, instead preferring to show brief shots of the birds, fully distanced from each other, in a scene that was supposed to be one of the final build-ups of the film. Furthermore, Chenault’s role as a sex-goddess, a human depiction of lust, is not depicted, without nudity and sexuality, something that Thompson made a great deal of detailing in his novel. In the end, it is just a forgetful movie, a light allusion to the gonzo genre and, for those who were actually waiting for the film, and not just choosing it randomly from the billboard outside a movie theatre, it was a great disappointment and a constant reminder that the book was so much better.

Meme-ories are made of this

In Rant, TV/Movies, Uncategorized on September 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Oh the wit.

So anyway, it is cloudy yet again, and whilst it is hot and humid, the clouds are spitting crappy droplets and ruining any chance of going outside and getting some decent sunshine. It is then, thus, that I turn to the Internet to waste my precious, after dinner siesta time. And what better way to do so than by playing mind numbing games on Miniclips.com, reading fake news on The Onion, listings on Cracked and searches on Gorillamask. Whilst doing this, it is very likely that you stumble across memes on these and many internet sites.

What are they?

If you are one of those people who have yet to have sold their soul to the World Wide Web and still haven’t seen or heard of memes, then here is a simple description:

A meme is a popular term in the so called blogosphere, and refers to conversations, images or trends that end up becoming viral and spreading to other blogs, in a way that the original blog receives many visits due to it being the creator of the original meme, and other blogs feed on that popularity by enhancing and modifying the memes to keep the trend going.

Whilst it can be applied to viral marketing and promotions, as bloggers seek bigger audiences, though it could also be applied to simple cultural, humorous or even educational works that are spread from one mind, book, or even a blog to another, suffering variances, mutations and selections.

Like what?

All well from here, it even makes memes sound somewhat serious, particularly if you consider that one of the first important memes online was the Million Dollar Homepage meme, where Alex Tew, a student from Wilshere, England, decided to fund his university studies by selling pixels in 10×10 blocks at the price of one dollar a pixel. His page, which had space for one million pixels became a giant digital billboard. In 2005, it was positioned 125 in the Alexa web traffic ranking, it has decreased substantially since then, and the last 1000 pixels were sold for $38,100, bringing the final gross income tally to $1,037,100.

It isn’t all about making business though, and like all modes and fashionable trends, the popularity eventually goes down, and what was cool soon goes old. One of the first memes to be done, just for the hell of it was the Ate my balls meme, in the late nineties, where hundreds of celebrity photographs where modified with MS Paint and hung up on Geocities (oh the days), with speech bubbles making references to testicles. Remember, internet was limited then, and it was harder to get thrills.

One more in the Internet Phenomena List.

The Internet, apart from being highly useful for finding information, copying essays, searching porn and networking, is also great for wasting time looking at pointless shit and seeing it spread. Some other Internet phenomena many people have heard of include:

At this date, September 2010, the Internet is packed with memes, some of them just for fun, absurd and highly contagious. Social networks like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Tumblr have allowed memes to spread quickly and programs such as Adobe Photoshop, but even MS Paint, can make modifications very easy. For now, here are some of the memes I see the most while wasting my time, let’s see how long they last, and how long it will be before they create a meme that can finally destroy and rid the world of Justin Bieber.

Top 12 September 2010: Because most of the stuff I put here will be old shit in about..two weeks time.

1.      Lolcats: Still lasting, whilst other memes like Rick Rolling, Leeroy Jenkins, unicorn adoration, the God awesome Philosoraptor and dramatic chipmunks are losing out in popularity, you just cannot avoid stumbling into cats making pricks of themselves.

Lolcats...Fail

2.      O Rly, another perpetual meme. Originated on the Something Awful Forums, it was used to sarcastically reply to something that was dull, unoriginal or just retarded.

3.      Prancing Cera meme: A picture taken of Michael Cera jumping between two platforms in Norway was uploaded in Flickr. It wasn’t long before he had a F*uck Yeah Tumblr page flooded with modified fan made images.

http://fuckyeahprancingcera.tumblr.com/

4. Sad Keanu: A paparazzi picture of Keanu Reeves eating on his own fuelled a massive array of pictures and even videos taking the pitiful piss out of the Canadian actor.

5. Rage guy (fffuuu): A popular comic which has served as inspiration for countless memesn including Forever Alone, F*ck yeah, Okay, Y U No? And Everything went better than expected. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/rageguy-fffuuuu

6.      Cool dog: Cool Dog is a nickname given to a leashed Shiba Inu dog with an elbow bent over what looks like a doghouse roof in a “cool” posture. Get it?

7.      Leo strut: Similar to the Disaster Girl, Leonardo Di Happrio is a photoshopped exploitable that uses an image taken of DiCaprio during the filming of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”. The original image is of DiCaprio walking happily down a street but it has been edited into several scenes that usually depict a catastrophe or terrible happening, and where Di Caprio strolls as if he could have stopped the incident or helped people nearby, but instead continues throughout the scene doing his jolly strut. Source: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/leo-strut

8.      Son I am disappoint: First seen in November 2008, the pictures simly show a son doing something that disappoints his father, who replies, “I am disappoint”.

9.      Inceptions: Memes made from inception quotes and scenes, often merged with other memes. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/inception

10.      Surprised Kitty. More popular among the less sarcastic, but it is a very adorable kitty looking surprised.

11.      Bear Grylls: Pictures of Bear Grylls with captions that mock his…assholeness

12.      They asked me I could be anything I wanted…so I became a God: Famous meme from 4chan, though I kinda feel sorry for the kid

Anyway, enough with the time wasting, I think it is time to do my second favourite thing to waste time, eat. And by the time I come back there will be another hundred memes to try and get the gist out of. This stuff moves too quickly for me.

More info for meme spotting.

Further links: http://fuckyeahfunnythings.tumblr.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_phenomena

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/

www.Urbandictionary.com

http://www.failblog.org

The maddening Vuvuzela and Jabulani: Few favours for Africa

In Sport, TV/Movies, Uncategorized on June 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm

 

I have only gone to watch an International football match on two occasions, one was in Elland Road, Leeds in 1996, where I watched Spain beat Romania 2-1 in the group stages of the European Championship, and the second time was in the Martinez Valero stadium in Elche in September 2003, to watch a Euro qualifier between Spain and Ukraine, which also ended 2-1.

The Spanish were not necessarily the best chanters, but they made up for this with occasional songs and a great beat of the drum, usually orchestrated by Manolo el del Bombo, a 61 year old fan who hasn’t missed a Spain game since 1982, regardless of where the team are playing and matter what the expense.

I'll booom the frickin vuvuzela

The Spanish, or at least the patriots, are nonetheless vivid when watching their national side, but they are not the only ones. The Tifossi are radical followers who usually mix their laudable singing with not so pleasant flares, along with  passionate singers like the Germans, the Argentineans, even the God-awful French, or the samba music of the Brazilians. 

It is because of this that there is something that is really starting to irritate me during this World Cup, and finally this week I have seen the issue being debated in the media.

What is actually is the point of the irksome vuvuzela?

I first noticed it while watching last summer’s Confederations Cup, and even though I found it annoying, I never thought that it would affect the actual World Cup, where fans from different continents would impose their flair to the games they went to see.

However, I have had to endure nine games where all you can hear is the incessant sounds of those horns, sounding more like a World Motorbike Rally or an invasion of hornets that a football game.

FIFA “reacts”

The website southafrica.info described the vuvuzelas as “a brightly coloured horn that imitates the sound of an elephant and symbolises the beautiful noise of South Africa”   However these little horns can reach up to 127 decibels, nearly as much as the sound a jet engine makes when taking off.

Whilst footballers, managers and journalists have all complained about the awful noise these so called instruments make, the World Cup organisers initially contemplated banning the vuvuzela, however, after a very brief debate, it has been decided that the only moment the horns will be silent will be during the national anthems.

haaaaaaaarrr in your face!

The official spokesperson of the World Cup committee, Rich Mikhondo asserted,

“They will not be banned. We never considered banning the vuvuzelas, and we ask that the whole world respects our culture. The vuvuzelas are here, and they will stay until the end of the World Cup.”

Whilst perhaps it is a question of respecting another culture, perhaps the South Africans should also realise that this may be damaging their image. Despite this, Mikhondo continued,

“The fans and those watching the games on TV need to accept our way of celebrating football. The vuvuzelas have been used in South African stadiums for the last ten years. Their origins come from the horns our ancestors used for reunions. They are an instrument of expression of our spectators, and other fans are using them too”.

The last point is true, the habit is catching on with other, and whilst many players are opting to not complain too loud, as to not get the local fans against them, it is the TV viewers whose angst is being fuelled.

On facebook to this date, 30,142 have joined the group in favour of vuvuzelas, whilst 500,000 are in the groups condoning the instrument.

Vuvuzelas and jabulanis.

The Jabulani: popular in Benidorm and Blackpool

It appears that this World Cup will be significant because it is the first time the tournament has been held in Africa, and the Soccer City Stadium is, no doubt about it, and extraordinary ground, yet there is also plenty of controversy, particularly regarding security and transport problems. However, when the problems also spill onto the pitch, then the image of probably the world’s biggest tournament is stained. The annoying vuvuzela, added to the Adidas’ Jubilani beach-ball, which has already left several players and goalkeepers blushing and cursing, added to the recent news of FIFA’s banning of 36 Dutch fans who were banned from entering a stadium for making an advertising campaign of a beer brand that was not an official World Cup sponsor, is only ruining the image of this tournament, and certainly not doing a favour to the African continent.

Up until the now, the football has been dull too, but let’s hope to see sparks soon, because it must be on the pitch that this World Cup is remembered because, unfortunately, at least for now, Africa has wasted a great opportunity to show it’s worth.

P.S. For now, the vuvuzelas will remain, and all we can do is test our patience and train, with online games like these: http://bartbonte.com/vuvuzela/  The How long Can You Stand The Vuvuzela? Game

Waiting (and dreading) for The Rum Diary

In TV/Movies, Uncategorized on June 4, 2010 at 6:43 pm

 

There is no need in hiding my admiration for Hunter S Thompson and after thoroughly enjoying David Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and smiling through, though not quite comprehending, Art Linson’s Where the Buffalo Roam, I am excited yet sceptically fearsome of the release of Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary.

 As with any film that is based on a novel, and more so when it is based on a novel you value, the standards are high, and any sign of relevant inaccuracies and daft cinematographic decisions are scowled upon.

The book:

The book itself may not be the greatest of novels, but it made a fantastic read. The story, written in 1959 but not released until 1998, tells the Caribbean booze indulged odyssey of a young Hunter S Thompson who finds himself in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early in its eventual colonisation by the United States of America.

 His protagonist, Paul Kemp, is a nostalgic journalist in his thirties, who fails to have grasped the passage of time and his wasted youth, who finds himself working in the offices of a botched up newspaper that is constantly on the verge of folding. All this, whilst sharing the companionship of his workmates and drinking beers in Al’s Bar, whilst witnessing what he recalls as “the pressure of hot air and passing time, an idle tension that builds up in places where men sweat twenty-four hours a day”.

 Even though it is clear that there Thompson was still a few years away from his best, and that the author at times tries to mimic his idols, Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, the real gem in the novel arises in the eccentricity of is characters and the style of narration, a raw example of what would soon be his trademark.

 With every adventurous and sometimes chaotic endeavours Paul Kemp encounters, there are also signs of rage, loathing, disappointment and regret, characterised in the almost paradisiacal surroundings delimited and contrasted by greed and a lack of fulfilment. At times, Kemp feels that his life is wasting away in the sweaty island.

 “Whenever I thought of time in Puerto Rico, I was reminded of those old magnetic clocks that hung on the walls of my classrooms in high school. Every now and then a hand would not move for several minutes- and if I watched it long enough, wondering if it had finally broken down, the sudden click of the hand jumping three or four notches would startle me when it came”.

The author also excels in his humour and expressing the awkwardness of certain situations, as well as the different characters, such as: the untrustworthy Segarra, the frenzied and inept Lotterman, the pessimistic and worn out Sala, the sleazy Moberg, who was a “degenerate…lewd and corrupt in every way. He hated the taste of rum, yet he would finish a bottle in ten minutes, then vomit and fall down…He spent all his money on whores, and when that got dull he would take on an occasional queer, just for the strangeness of it”.

 Yet the most captivating characters, apart from Kemp himself, are Yeamon and Chenault. Yeamon is a violent, impoverished fellow journalist, some kind of crazy man who has lost all regard for his safety, and all hope of staying in Puerto Rico.  All this whilst having a romance with a beautiful woman he treats like trash. A kind of danger Kemp must keep himself away from, but that he cannot help but feel drawn to. Eventually, mess after mess, Kemp finds himself involved in troublesome circumstances because of his friend.

 Chenault on the other hand, is a very influential character in the novel, and one you cannot help but hate and desire at the same. Thompson effectively captivates the sexiness and covetousness this character emits, and whilst at first you cannot help but fantasise over the blonde beauty, tanned and wearing a skimpy white bikini, as the plot unfolds you end up cursing her promiscuousness and irresponsibility. Regardless of this hatred, the love triangle that unfolds between Kemp, Chenault and the apathetic Yeamon remains perfectly understandable.

 The Rum Diary is well constructed and succeeds in capturing the insanity and alcohol induced absurdity of grown men let loose in a world with beautiful landscapes and ocean drives, contrasted with smoggy offices and beer induced rage, and how Kemp evolves and fights against the contrast of depression, beauty and Chenault.

 So…what will the film be like?

 This is where the big dilemma arises. It is not common for a film to surpass, or even live up to the standards of a novel, however, after seeing that Johnny Depp was to be involved in the film, playing the role of Paul Kemp, there was room for optimism.

 With regards to Bruce Robinson directing it, there is little to comment as he hasn’t been too active and his only “renowned” films are the absurd Withnail and I and How to get ahead in Advertising.

 With there being so little information about the actual film, the only way I could possibly remit to finding anything to quench my curiosity was to observe the cast list for the movie. It was then that I experienced mixed emotions.

 Characters:

 Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp,

 

This will probably be a good thing. Even though Johnny Depp is a laudable actor who has nonetheless been greatly overrated, his fantastic portrayal of Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, made him first choice to play another Hunter S Thompson character. We shouldn’t expect him to run around with a fly swatter crying out that “this is bat country” or getting seriously high on adrenochrome, or probably even speaking in the same eccentric way as Duke, but we can expect him to play his role formidably.

 Amber Heard as Chenault 

I was unsure as to who could play the role of Chenault, and was fearful that someone inept like Scarlett Johannson would get the role. Acresses like Charlize Theron were too superstar material, Mena Suvari and Sienna Miller didn’t quite fit in, but when I saw that stunning Amber Heard had been given the role I thought they were spot on.

 Chenault’s girl next door attributes, petite yet curvy figure and dazzling appearance is fully matched by Heard, and after seeing that she had been cast I believed they had made the right choice. Now all we can do is pray that her acting ability matches up to her looks. (And I’m not relating to her willingness to take her clothes off).

 Richard Jenkins as Lotterman

 

Few actors can articulate such pathetic expressiveness as Richard Jenkins. After convincingly portraying the pitiable Ted in Burn after Reading, Jenkins has been assigned with playing the zealous yet despised editor of the San Juan Star Newspaper and, knowing his credentials, I have little doubt that the former Six Feet Under performer will do it well.

 Michael Rispoli as Bob Sala

 

I am quite undecided over this decision. On one hand, Rispoli can fit into the physical description of Bob Sala, on the other hand though, his constant association with mafia and gangster films, not to mention his role in The Sopranos seems to make him appear a little inadequate for the role. However, it will be good to see him prove us wrong, after all, who would have thought that Benicio del Toro could have played Raoul Duke’s crazy lawyer, Dr Gonzo, or Oscar Zeta Acosta, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, so effectively?

 Giovanni Ribisi as Moberg

 When I was reading The Rum Diary and trying to imagine Moberg, I pictured a sweaty, blonde, dough eyed guy with receding hairlines. When Giovanni Ribisi was cast though, I felt that, yet again, they had made a good choice. I actually think Ribisi is a pretty decent actor. Ever since seeing him as Phoebe’s brother in Friends, or the crazy teenager who controlled lighting and appeared with Jack Black in an X Files episode, Ribisi became “that guy from friends”, until gradually making a name for himself in films like Saving Private Ryan, Cold Mountain, Avatar and appearances in My Name is Earl. He isn’t De Niro, but he won’t deceive.

 Amaury Nolasco as Segarra

 

Nolasco was good as the violent Jack Lupino in Max Payne, and was likeable as Sucre in Prison Break, before ruining things and taking part in another fugitive series, Chase.  However his role as Segarra is questionable. Nolasco looks good as a villain or as a good guy in its rawest form, but not as a cynical sleazebag like Segarra. However, even though I imagined Segarra with more hair and a thinner frame, with the right wardrobe, maybe Nolasco can pull it off.

 Bill Smitrovich as Zimburger

 

Having already played authoritative figures such as Detectives, Vice Presidents, DA’s, Judges, Police Chiefs and Generals, Smitrovich seems an adequate for the jackass, drunken and rich General Zimburger.

 Marshall Bell as Donovan

 

If there was a character that could have been left out in the plot, perhaps it was Donovan, yet for some reason the director has insisted that he has a role, and as such there is little relevance to Marshall Bell’s casting, as the character himself is not a key narrative figure.

 Aaron Eckhart as Sanderson

 

This is where the doubts start coming in. If Sanderson’s role in the novel is that of a big fish who, in contrast to Sagarra, takes a liking to Kemp an offers him interesting jobs as well as invitation to drink at his house, Eckhart could portray a role alike to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, only without being a DA and turning into a short-lived super-villain. 

 However, Sanderson’s role in the film will be quite different. In fact, the scriptwriters and director have said that there will be a love triangle between Chenault, Sanderson and Kemp.

 Therefore, there is no Yeamon. Taking this character out of the plot, and spreading his characteristics among other roles will only be confusing. Yeamon himself is a key figure in the narrative, fully capable of holding his own and creating an impact on the readers. The violent, funny, drunkard troublemaker who is sleeping with the beautiful girl whilst treating like dirt has been replaced by a rich, smug big fish who has the girl.

So…it will be crap then?

 The plot must have been seriously altered. Without Yeamon taking Kemp on his troublesome adventures, spearing chickens around his house or ferociously partying in St Thomas and Charlotte Amelie, it is unknown when and where the plot will unfold. What can be said is that the story of the beautiful young girl who is in a relationship with a rich and conceited man, and who later falls in love with the poor journalist is wishful but also unoriginal and bland. It appears that this has been an attempt to commercialise the film with a insipid love story to try an attract a wider audience than those who are mere Hunter S Thompson fans.

 I hope that I am being too pessimistic, and that the plot untwines itself in a Thompson like manner and not in a cheap Hollywood Production. One can only have faith in Depp and faith in those respectful to the King of Gonzo in order to make the Rum Diary another collector’s item for those who, like me, are eagerly awaiting the film, but not without caution.

 

Eurovision…nil points

In TV/Movies, Uncategorized on May 30, 2010 at 3:31 am

So yet again Eurovision is over and, as usual, there is a certain grimness and unhappiness  about Europe’s cheesiest music festival. However, there has been a pleasant surprise in that this year’s winner has not been a typical ex-Soviet satellite country, but the nation who has participated in the most Eurovision song contest, and who had previously only won once in nearly sixty years. That country was Germany, one of the Big Four nations in the Eurovision Song contest.

Lena Meyer Landrut: Eurovision Winner

 Whilst the term Big Four contributes to the nations who financially contribute the most to the contest, Germany proved that their participation could be more than just economical. However, I cannot help but believe that there was more behind their victory this year.

 The first time I heard nineteen year old Lena’s song “Satellite”, was over two months ago, whilst in Germany. She had been the chosen one for Eurovision after winning on a show called Unser Star für Oslo.  Since then, the song has been played almost continuously on German radios, as well as in some of their neighbouring counties, and several Facebook and Studivz pages have also spread the word that Lena was a serious contender.

 The song is mediocre, and her English accent is dire, and you can notice the exaggeration in her voice as she desperately tries to sound like some sort of Kate Nash or Adele. However, the second time you hear it, the song begins to stick in your head, and the third time, you may even get to like the melody.

After a week I kinda liked it too.

 Her performance last night was also average. Before she appeared I told the people around me to watch out for this song because it was a potential candidate. However, her usual cuteness and peculiarity was hidden behind a dull black dress and a languid expression. She barely moved as she sang, and in a stage where most people exaggerate and express too much eagerness, she strolled around the stage singing her song as if it was mere protocol. I found myself having to excuse myself, insisting that the song “was catchy if you heard it a few more times”.

 That is why I am almost convinced that a great deal of the people who voted for Lena’s song must have heard it at least more than once, for the mere image she gave on the night in Oslo was not convincing enough. I was certain Denmark’s typical Eurovision material corny song was going to triumph.

 However, at the end of the night Lena summed up 246 points and won the contest for Germany for the second time in their history, the last one being in 1982, and the contest will not be taking place next year in Romania, Azerbajan, Turkey or Armenia, but slap bang in the middle of Europe. In a way, that is good news as every year, the contest has been losing more and more credibility.

 Yet how Lena actually pulled a win tonight is incredible in itself.

 What must be frustrating for the other members of the Big Four, is that nothing else has changed. France’s song sounded more like a World Cup song than a Eurovision Song contest contender (there is a thin line between the two, but the line exists). There song Allez Olle Olé, finished in twelfth place. Spain’s song, Algo Chiquitito (Something tiny…what is that about?), by Daniel Diges, some kind of Spanish Art Garfunkel look-alike, was also lacklustre, and was only livened up when someone from the crowd jumped on stage to join in the waltz and ballet with the cringe-worthy dancers. It was the public who were punished though, as the song had to be re-sung as a result of this.

 As for the other member of the Big Four, the United Kingdom,  their tediously dull and unmemorable That Sounds Good to Me, by Josh, was excessively punished by the other nations. If Spain could complain that their arrogant French neighbours had not given them any points, they could at least be glad that Portugal did their part. The UK got no help, and even less, only managed to sum ten points. That is, 236 points less than the winning nation, and last place in the contest for the third time in eight years. It just makes you wonder how long it will be before the British Public beg to no longer attend the Eurovision Song contest, as it ultimately is a farce.

 Yet for now, the show will go on, the whining will have to be reserved for each nation, and one can only congratulate the winners, Germany, and each person can hope that next year their nation send the worst possible singer they can find to try and ruin that cheesy debacle that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

Top Five Moments:

  1. Spain’s intruder: For the first time, a song had to be re-sung as a member of the crowd jumped on stage and sabotaged Spain’s song, making it the only thing memorable about this boring piece.
  2. Armenia’s cleavage: You wouldn’t be able to hum Armenia’s tune, or even remember if it was a ballad or a dance song, but you sure as hell cannot forget the cleaveage Eva Rivas exposed in Oslo. Special mention must also go to Azerbajan and Georgia, for their beauties.
  3. United Kingdom…10 points. It was an awful display from the UK, even though the song itself wasn’t the worst of the lot (Portugal’s Disney-esque rip off should perhaps have gotten the worst marks), yet it proved to show that the Brits need to make more friends.
  4. Neighbourhood watch: Yet again it was good to see that Bosnia still love Serbia, Russia loves Armenia, Azerbajan and Albania, and in general, Finland loves Denmark, Germany has a lot of Turkish voters and France hate Spain. What is the point of this again? Is Italy the only country who realised how silly this is?
  5. Germany: The only thing that stopped this contest from imploding. The thought of yet another contest in the Eastern bloc or the Scandinavian states was getting nauseating, but Germany pulled a win to prove that the older European countries still have a chance, unless you are the UK…or Spain…or France…oh to hell with it.

Robin Begins…But Fails to Convince

In TV/Movies on May 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Upon hearing a few years ago that Ridley Scott was going to make a new “Robin Hood” movie that would differentiate itself from all its predecessors, my curiosity was awakened, but so too was my scepticism.

The proposed plot, however, seemed to attract me. The film was to be called Nottingham, and the script acquired by Universal Studios depicted a heroic Sheriff of Nottingham, and a thuggish and anarchic Robin Hood.

 The idea of the anti-hero, the change in the story, and the humanisation of a traditional villain seemed intriguing. Even more so, when Russell Crowe was reportedly given the role of the troubled Sheriff, tormented by inner conflicts and torn between his allegiance towards a corrupt king or an anarchic outlaw, who is coincidently courting the woman he too loves, I was thrilled.

 However, over time Ridley Scott got disillusioned with the script he delayed filming, and in 2008 a new script was presented, where the story  

 Scott’s dissatisfaction with the script led him to delay filming, and during 2008 it was rewritten into a story about Robin Hood becoming an outlaw, with the position of being Sheriff as part of the story. Scott dropped the latter notion and Nottingham was renamed to reflect the more traditional perspective of the hooded hero.

 That was the first mistake Scott made.

 The complexity of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s friendship with King Richard and torn motives once King John is given the throne, and is gradual despise and eventual confrontation with Robin Hood, after seeing the outlaw sweet talk the girl he desires contrasts with the flatness of some of the characters in the final version of the film.

 After watching the trailer, I couldn’t help but consider the film as Gladiator with a bow and an arrow; however that may be too harsh on the year 2000’s Academy Award winner. Regardless of the stale ratings the film was receiving from its critics, I decided to give Ridley Scott a chance, and enthusiastically went for a night in the movies.

 ***

The Accent:

Ridley Scott has always been a bit of a moody prat. It doesn’t mean that I do not regard him as a phenomenal actor, but he is somebody who you know you wouldn’t try to stop him in the street to have a picture taken with him if you ever wandered past him.

 His recent history of tantrums has certainly done little to favour his image. After brawling in 2002 with the director and producer of the BAFTAs, Malcom Gerrie, after his acceptance speech was cut whilst he read a poem in dedication to Richard Harris, who was terminally ill, (it is said that it may have been cut due to copyright infringement or lack of time), he then returned to the headlines in 2005 after he was arrested for second-degree assault, after throwing a telephone to a hotel employee in an anger spurt.

So you could imagine the look on Mark Lawson’s face as he gradually observed Crowe’s expression getting tenser as he tried to ignore the fact that he had just been mocked on air.

In the BBC Radio 4 interview, Mark Lawson cheekily states that Crowe sometimes sounded Irish during the film. An obviously annoyed Crowe replied by insisting that Lawson had “dead ears” if he thought he could hear an Irish accent, and that the comment in itself was a load of “bollocks”.  Humorously, after being asked what accent he was trying to impersonate, Crowe ironically replied, “I was going for an Italian…missed it? Fuck me”:

Despite attempts to  resume the interview, Crowe can’t seem to get his around the comment and opts to walk away from the studio, complaining that he couldn’t understand the comment on his accent.

To be respectful, Russell Crowe certainly tries to use a regional accent with some success. Since the film portrays that Robin was not actually from Nottingham, and legend says he may have come from anywhere between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, Crowe was taught an accent where he had to shorten the vowels and make them flat. Nonetheless, it is obvious that Crowe put a lot effort in trying to sound like a regional Englishman, unlike Kevin Costner; however, now and then he did have that Irish tinge that made him sound more like Father Ted than Robin Hood. I had this on my mind as I approached the cinema, and unfortunately, I couldn’t get that thought out of my head throughout the duration of the movie.

The Film:

As the lights went back on after two hours of twenty minutes, the faces around were somewhat perplexed. It wasn’t that the plot had been confusing; it was just that perhaps they had all expected something more.

However, I went to the cinema knowing that I wasn’t going to witness a great blockbuster, or a production that could have moved me half as much as Gladiator. Despite that though, I did expect Ridley Scott to woo us with a great narrative pulse, dazzling action scenes mixed with serious emotive refuges where we could see behind Robin Hood, into his troubles, his traumas and his deep persona. I did not expect the movie of the year, but I did hope to see something spectacular.

During the film, I could see small hints of what I had hoped for seeping through, but never enough to leave me satisfied. Robin’s few childhood flashbacks seemed stale and did not give too much into his persona, and even though many may believe that this was done to add more mystery into a character who, after all, is a legend, I was not enticed in any way by this Robin.

Perhaps people expected too much from this film and had too much faith in Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, but the film in several aspects. First of all, there was not enough emotion. Despite the fact that everyone knows the story of Robin Hood, a movie can do well regardless of that if they play with the spectator’s emotions. This film did not do that. There was scarce humour in the film, and the only characters capable of supplying it were Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes) and Little John (Kevin Durand). There was obviously no terror in the film, anticipation or sadness (only with the death of Sir Walter Locksley).

Terror: hunting f***ing leprechauns

Even though I do not usually consider love to be a key element in films, Robin Hood even failed in that aspect. The love story between Lady Marion and Robin is cold, with very little chemistry or development, and saving one scene where Robin cockily teases her, there is little emotion between them and hence little believability when Robin turns to her during the end of the film and, almost in a forced manner, tells her that he loves her.

It is hard to find who to blame for this lack of depth in their characters. Surely one cannot doubt in the talents of Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, and Scott has proved many times that he is a endowed director. However, I believe the blame may lie in the fact that the film must have been very poorly edited.

The movie itself seems rough and incoherent with abrupt transitions and little character depth. With the film already being more than two hours long, it looks like several scenes must have been cut out, and whilst I do not miss not having seen Lady Marion and Robin’s love unfold, I do wish I had been able to see more into Robin’s character.

 Characters:

 Talking about characters, there is too little time to get to make a real opinion on anyone in this film. Perhaps the most interesting personality is the two-timing Godfrey (Mark Strong) and a convincingly treacherous Prince John (Oscar Isaac).

Cate Blanchett is quite bland as Lady Marion. She does not portray too many emotions, and fails to convince the viewer that she actually has any feelings for Robin in the end. As has also happened in films like Lord of the Rings, it looks necessary to ensure that women also turn into warriors and soldiers and fight in order to get rid of that long term image of female fragility, yet again though, Cate Blanchett looks naff as a warrior too.

Some other characters act a reasonable role but are not given enough screen time, and other characters don’t seem to evolve or appear more interesting. Worthy actors such as Scott Grimes, who excelled in the HBO series Band of Brothers, or the chameleonic Kevin Durand, perhaps best known for his roles as Martin Keamy in Lost, the Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or Ashton Kutscher’s God fearing Chicano cellmate in The Butterfly Effect, get very little screentime, and Max Von Sydow, of The Exorcist or Flash Gordon fame often resembles Richard Harris’ portrayal of Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator.

 As for the Sheriff Nottingham, for whom the film was originally made for, Matthew MacFadyen does what he can, but the role is feeble as the Sheriff is depicted as a flimsy, cowardly, sleazy incompetent. Friar Tuck, played by Mark Addy, barely appears, yet considering that this is a supposed pre-introduction into Robin Hood’s tales, this could be excused, as it may be supposed that the Friar becomes an acquaintance at a further stage in time. Additionally, even though this production has not included added fictional characters, such as the charismatic Azeem, or the unbelievable witch of Nottingham that appeared in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the ones who are included fail to deliver.

 The Music:

Mark Streitenfeld proves that he has learnt well from his master Hans Zimmer and delivers a soundtrack that adapts well to the movie. However, like everything in this production, it is clearly second-best, and in no moment does he deliver a piece of music that can rival Zimmer’s work in Gladiator or recent productions.

Conclusion:

 If this could be considered a form of Robin Begins, in comparison to Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film, it certainly fails to deliver. In a story where everybody knows who the hero is, the lady and the villain, there should be some more depth invested into the characters to produce something new. Credit where it is due, this is a new look on how Robin Hood became who he was, even though the film obviously has as much fantasy as it does history. However, when watching the movie trailer one can mainly see action, gore and fights, and that is pretty much what this film is about. Perhaps it should have been longer, perhaps the whole plot in itself was rushed and not meticulous enough, or maybe, after seeing how well known characters like Batman and James Bond have become darker, more perturbed and have opened themselves psychologically and mentally, one almost hoped that Robin Hood would do the same.

Regardless of this, the film is entertaining, and the viewer certainly doesn’t feel like they have wasted their money, but equally, they do not leave the theatre fully satisfied and when they ask their company whether they enjoyed film, the answer, from what I have witnessed, is usually a shoulder shrug. A decent film to invest a few hours, but don’t expect yourself to watching Robin Hood on DVD when it is released.

More than a classic, this film can be considered one of those anticipated movies that entertain, but fail to enthral, (Troy comes to mind),and after Ridley Scott’s Roman masterpiece, it is apparent that he simply cannot surpass his creation, and like Kingdom of Heaven or Chicken McNuggets, the film almost satisfies, but certainly doesn’t fill you, and is just another Robin Hood movie, only without the laughter that the humorous Mel Brooks flick Robin Hood: Men in Tights provided, the charm of Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood; the magic of Disney’s version or the wit and absurdity of Kevin Reynolds’s Prince of Thieves. Instead, the charm has been replaced by supposed realism and gore and swords with too little character development and bow and arrows.

Rating: 6.5/10