Thursday, June 27, 2013

James Gandolfini 1961-2013

It was as much of a tremendous shock to me as it was to everyone to learn last week week of the untimely death of an extraordinary talent, James Gandolfini at only 51 years of age. The actor who was best known for his portrayal of Mafia boss Tony Soprano on HBO's The Sopranos, was eulogised by showrunner David Chase today during a funeral service in New York.

A native of New Jersey, Gandolfini was born to parents with strong Italian connections and it was through their influence that he developed strong ties to Italy and regularly visited the country. His most recent visit was sadly his last and he died in Rome on Wednesday last during a brief vacation before attending a film festival on Sicily.

Gandolfini may be Tony Soprano to most but he had an impressive movie and TV career outside his multi Emmy awarded role on HBO. In the 20 years that followed his role as the woman-beating henchman Virgil in True Romance [1993], he played a variety of different roles including Eddie, a hit man [The Juror, 1996], Winston Baldry, a gay hit man [The Mexican, 2001], a tired hit man [Killing Then Softly, 2012] - OK so the man was probably a little typecast as a hit man, mobster or someone of nefarious purpose but he was undeniably one of the best at it!

I first noticed him in the late Tony Scott's Crimson Tide as Lt. Bobby Dougherty in a way that made me know that he was a man to watch. I think my favourite role of his will be as Colonel Winter [pictured], warden of a US Military prison in Rod Lurie's thought provoking The Last Castle [2001], a lesson in a leader's capacity to inspire.

In addition to acting, Gandolfini was also an award nominated producer and produced two documentaries concerning war veterans mental health and went to Iraq in 2010 on a USO visit.

In his eulogy, Chase said that Gandolfini was "A sad boy, amazed and confused," he said. "You could see it in your eyes. That's why you were a great actor." A family friend Thomas Richardson requested that the mourners present hug each other just a small bit too tightly, something Gandolfini was known for. He is survived by his wife Deborah and children Michael and Liliana.

During Gandolfini's episode of Inside the Actor's Studio, James Lipton asked: "Finally Jim, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say at the pearly gates?" Gandolfini replied: "Take over for a while, I'll be right back."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

God ties knot

The great George Lucas married Melody Hobson on Saturday at a ceremony attended by Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Ron Howard. I wish him the best of luck on this, his latest adventure along the road of a life that has given so much to so many.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fast and Furious 6

No. I'm sorry. I can't write a review of this movie no more than I could any of the previous entries in the franchise. It defies analysis and beggars belief why it is so popular or why I enjoyed it so much as to give it...

 Cant wait for  Fast and Furious 7, July 2014.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Mars Rat campaign

UNETIDA has just completed a successful disinformation campaign which has convinced the worlds media that the recent discovery of a rodent-like extra-terrestrial space explorer was in fact just a rock.

"That goddamn rat has been the focus of all my work for almost two weeks" lamented Colonel  "Whopper" Creedon, Director of Intelligence for UNETIDA/UNPASID. The Colonel went on to describe that in December, amateur bloggers at UFO Sightings Daily had analysed photos taken on September 28th by NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars and had identified a rodent on the surface of the red planet.

"Naturally, they were correct - there was one there but for obvious reasons we couldn't have people thinking there was" explained Creedon. At that time however, the theories were limited to the amateur blog and did not pose a serious 'informational threat' to international security - that was until on May 29th, FOX News reported on the bloggers findings and despite FOX's own opinion that it was just a case of pareidolia - believing you see familiar things in a random object like a mountain, a cloud or in this case a rock - it went viral.

Bloggers, Twitters, Facebookers and even a few scientific websites propagated their own theories on the 'Mars Rat' but thankfully according to Creedon "we managed to influence the more reputable sources of information to comment" like Amina Khan of the LA Times and Corey Powell of Discover magazine to put the word out that this was really just pareidolia.

UNETIDA has already deployed scanning and communications equipment to 'Rocknest' on Mars in the hope that the Mars Rat dubbed "Nibbler Alpha 5" by the agency will make contact. "It's a 50:50 chance it's an evil alien scout for a battle fleet or a peaceful highly evolved ambassador of an advanced civilisation" said Creedon. "so our equipment also has a 250Mt nuclear device just to be safe."

Sources: Fox News / Discover / L.A. Times / UFO Sightings Daily

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams' first Star Trek movie may not have been an exercise in originality but it did what it set out to to do and gave a vital shot-in-the-arm that the franchise needed and laid down a new rebooted universe that will hopefully inpire a whole new generation of fans. Provided that us "old fogies" can appreciate that this was necessary and can just sit back and relax and enjoy what J.J. has brought us knowing that our "Prime Universe" Trek will always be ours, the world will turn all for the better.

2009's Star Trek rebooted the legend from day 1 and re-introduced us to Kirk, Spock, McCoy and friends as they grouped together for the first time. The movie established the changes in the universe as well as the fundamental changes in the characters themselves. With this foundation now set, Abrams could concentrate on delivering an actual story to proper Star Trek parameters with the sequel.

I'm please to say the result was exemplary. Star Trek Into Darkness is a triumph among so many failures of modern science-fiction movies, Prometheus, Oblivion, After Earth et al. Abrams managed to carve out something unique by cleverly using ideas and scenes from both the original Star Trek TV shows and the movies and melding them into a unique tale to thrill both fans and non-fans of Star Trek.

The entire cast of the first movie [sans. Nero and co.] return, now obviously more comfortable with their roles and are prepared to bring their own nuances to the characters made legendary by the original cast, especially Quinto, Pine and Saldana. The cast are joined by lovely Alice Men in Black III Eve, the incomparable Benedict Sherlock Cumberbatch and the legendary Peter RoboCop Weller as Admiral Marcus.

Into Darkness also corrects most of the issues I had with the original movie. First of all Simon Pegg jettisoned his absurd wackiness he brought on board the Enterprise in 2009 and made him a more mature Montgomery Scott, with a genius engineering intellect, high moral values but retained his comedic charm so all is well with that character now. Secondly, it's fair so say that the original movie was devoid of a cohesive plot and while there are more than a few issues with Into Darkness' plot, it's a phenomenal leap forward from Star Trek so that gets a thumbs up. The only real issue I can retain with Into Darkness, held over from Star Trek is Abrams' sometimes bizarre direction and some serious editing issues [I don't object to the visuals, but I do object to the lack of reasoning why Alice Eve appears in her skivvies for no apparent reason]. I just hope he get's his act together before he starts work on my religion.

Final Verdict: This reboot situation isn't everyone's cup of tea sure, but I think if you can leave that baggage at home and want to see an action-packed, visually stunning science fiction movie then you'll not go wrong with Star Trek Into Darkness.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****+