Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer world-ending comedies are "meh"!

 This Is The End

This Is The End offered the star studded comedy cast of Seth Pineapple Express Rogan, James  Spider-Man Franco, Jonah Superbad Hill, Jay Tropic Thunder Baruchel, Danny Land of the Lost McBride and Craig The Office Robinson playing "exaggerated" versions of themselves holed up in a 'superior' area of the Hollywood hills as the rapture takes all the worthy people off the planet leaving that lot to fight it out for the last bottle of sparking water before the devil and his giant penis destroy them.

I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting too much from this movie. They're not a group of comedians that I'd be too enthusiastic about seeing on screen at the best of times but I reckoned having that many on screen at once might have diluted their individual issues to a manageable level. To some extent I was right, they seemed to work together for the most part but the movie was too underdeveloped in the story department to make the most of what they all could have accomplished together.

The movie was to claustrophobic to be a comedy and being in the one set for almost it's entire runtime took it's toll on the story, it's not a family sitcom after all. I felt that if they had made more use of their impressive list of cameos like Micheal Cera, Paul Rudd, Rihanna and Channing Tatum at least as much as they did with Emma Watson it might have been something more.

Overall there's a few good laughs but as a whole, it's far from great.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***

The World's End

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright graduated from producing an excellent comedy series in Spaced to vow to make a comedy trilogy like the world had never seen, dubbed "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy". The first two parts of this met their mark - Shaun of the Dead [2004] and Hot Fuzz [2007] are undoubtedly two of the best comedy movies of the 21st century and everyone presumed that The World's End would be the crowning achievement in this fantastic series.

What the hell happened? The World's End is a hideously misjudged and mangled effort as a film that feels like it was made by amateurs and not the greatest British creative comedy team since the Pythons. The first 45 mins has very little by way of laughs, the ending is dragged out to an overlong anticlimax and only it's hilarious fight scenes that save it from being relegated to one-star land.

The cast supporting Pegg and Frost were at least competent.  Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman returned from previous series films as a quintet of old school chums [Eddie Marsan from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes makes up the fifth] who meet up and go on a 12-pub bender that they last attempted when they were 18, but failed. This time a race of aliens seem determined to spoil their night.

One of the main issues here is that unlike Tim Bisley [Spaced], Shaun Riley [Shaun of the Dead] or Nick Angel [Hot Fuzz], the audience can't hope to identify with Pegg's character Gary King. His previous series characters have had so many good qualities and were on a base level "everyman", but Gary is a dark and troubled waster who is pretty much one of the biggest pricks you could hope to meet. There seems to be a concentrated effort to make you feel sorry for him but I didn't because by the time I could have... it was just too late.

The spark of originally and quintessential humour that Spaced, Shaun and Fuzz had was non-existent here, The World's End is but a shadow of comedy greatness that will be pretty much forgotten. Be thankful you have Spaced, Shaun and Fuzz because after this utterly disappointing piece of lazy film making, that's all you have now.

Colonel Creedon Rating: **

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A prophecy unfulfilled, Williams returns for Star Wars VII, but is this good?

Following the release of the score to Star Wars, Episode II: Attack Of The Clones in 2002 a like-minded score enthusiast friend asked me what would happen if John Williams had to be replaced for Episode III due to his unfortunate death or ill health [after all Williams was 70 at the time] and who could do his job? Despite it being unfathomable to such a die-hard fan like myself who has even made Star Wars the basis for his spiritual beliefs for anyone else to score Star Wars, I always have had my eye on the future and without any hesitation at all I offered a single name in response to his question: Michael Giacchino.

My friend laughed at me. To be fair, his reaction was not unjustified; at the time Giacchino wasn't even a 'name' among the film score community. Much like Jeremy Soule, Inon Zur and Bill Brown he was only known to video-game score enthusiasts as he was responsible for most of the scores for the Medal Of Honor franchise as well as the first scores for Call Of Duty. As great as all that music was for video games, there must have been over 200 top names in a movie-producer's Rolodex between David Arnold and Hans Zimmer all of whom would be far more experienced to score a motion picture than any video-game music composer, therefore my choice was branded as "idiotic".

But a lot has happened since then and now in just over 10 years Giacchino was put just a single step away from actually scoring Star Wars VII, turning an formerly idiotic answer into what seems now like a prophecy of biblical proportions.

Micheal Giacchino has now actually become one of the most prolific composers in modern cinema. He used scores for animated comedies like Ratatouille as a stepping stone to score live action pictures like the abysmal Speed Racer. He is praised for his work on The Incredibles and critics agree that his score is the only redeemable element of the otherwise woeful Land of the Lost.

Giacchino won the coveted Academy Award for Best Original Score for Up in 2010 as well as numerous Grammys, Golden Globes and has received additional nominations for Grammy's and Emmy's. As impressive as all these credentials are, they alone are not enough to put him even close to Star Wars VII, for that we must look elsewhere.

First of all Giacchino has a long history with new Star Wars/Lucasfilm overlords Disney. Originally he worked at their publicity department in NYC, and then LA. From there, he went over to Disney Interactive as an assistant producer. Years after later working for Dreamworks he scored Disney's Sky High, The Muppet's Wizard of Oz and more recently the megaflop John Carter as well as several Pixar films. In 2005 Giacchino collaborated with Walt Disney Imagineering in creating two new soundtracks for the updated versions of Space Mountain at Disneyland, Space Mountain: Mission 2 at Disneyland Paris, and Space Mountain at Hong Kong Disneyland. His music can also be heard in Star Tours: The Adventure Continues during the "travel log videos" shown in the cue line for the attraction.

As strong as the bond between Disney and Giacchino is, it alone wasn't enough to warrant them granting him probably one of the most profound projects in cinematic history. Even the fact that Giacchino composted magnificent scores to two LucasArts published video-games, Secret Weapons Over Normandy and Mercenaries wouldn't come into play. The final piece of this puzzle is in fact the visionary director J.J. Abrams!

It's an easily researched fact that some directors and producers favour certain composers. They may be friends with them, or the composers may have a special understanding with the directors that almost breathes musical life into the director's creative vision and create perfection through collaboration. When Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich were partners, David Arnold always had a job. Since 1999 M. Night Shyamalan uses only James Newton Howard. When Martin Scorcese wants an original score he has turned only to Howard Shore since about 1999. And most remarkably only four out of all the movies ever directed by Steven Spielberg were not scored by John Williams.

In the same vein as this director/composer collaboration, Abrams has used Giacchino in almost everything he's produced on Television since their first collaboration on Alias in 2001. Giacchino's only Television work to date has been for Abrams and includes music and themes for long running series Lost and Fringe. Most notably, Giacchino has scored all of the movies Abrams has ever directed and almost all of what he has produced, providing a brand fresh new soundscape for the rebooted Star Trek franchise as well as redefining Mission: Impossible's score in his own musical idiom.

When Abrams bagged the Star Wars VII gig, it put Giacchino in a position where it became an 'educated presumption' that he would in fact score the new Star Wars trilogy and fulfill perhaps my greatest prophecy. The only fly in this ointment was the fact that Giacchino himself didn't want to do it. In an interview in May he said in response to hypothetically being offered Star Wars:

"I would say, 'I don't want to do it'... From day one, I have said I hope John [Williams] does it. Selfishly, I want to hear more 'Star Wars' music and I want to hear what he would do with it. He's been an incredible teacher over the years to me, he's a friend and he's one of the best composers on Earth. I want him to do it. That's the way it should go."

Giacchino will get his wish. At the weekend, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told a Star Wars convention in Germany that John Williams would return to score Star Wars: Episode VII. Williams said in an interview with that he was "happy to be continuing to be part of the whole fun" of the franchise. He hinted he would likely use some of the music from previous films. "I haven't seen the script, so the story is still unknown to me, but I can't image there will not be some references to the existing stories that would make appropriate use of some of the earlier themes," he said.

While I'm certainly not unhappy with the news, I am hoping that there has not been a missed opportunity to do something new. I don't like change but I'm not blind to the passage of time and so I'm somewhat apprehensive. Williams is now 81 years old and has sadly only produced turgid crap in the past decade [outside Revenge of the Sith obviously]. His music has become almost indistinguishable from one project to the next - Lincoln, War Horse, War of the Worlds, Munich are prime examples of a once great old man losing his touch. Even the score to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seemed jaded in comparison to previous installments.

To be honest, I'd understand and support Williams decision to rest on his impressive unequalled laurels and thank him for the the years of joy he brought us with his wonderful compositions for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Jaws and even fucking Harry Pothead! Instead he's probably signed a contract that will have him working for Disney until Star Wars IX in 2019 at which point the man will be... sweet Lucas he'll be 87!!! Perhaps my Giacchino prophecy is just "delayed" as opposed to "unfulfilled".

Monday, July 29, 2013

RIP Dennis Farina

Dennis Farina [69] was a Chicago-born actor of Sicilian-American descent. He had a prolific career on Television and in movies often typecast as a mobster or a police officer. He was a "tough-guy", known for his craggy face, steel-grey hair and ample moustache.

Farina served in the U.S. Army and later as Chicago Police Officer for 18 years. It was the latter profession which landed him a gig as a consultant to Micheal Mann for whom he worked on for Crime Story as Lt. Mike Torello and a recurring role on Miami Vice as Lombard.

He had many other roles on Television with appearances on Hardcastle and McCormick, Remington Steele and China Beach but will be remembered more recently for a two-year stint as Det. Joe Fontana on Law & Order.

Among his most memorable silver-screen roles were: Jimmy Serrano in Midnight Run [1988], Capt. Detillo in Striking Distance [1993], Ray "Bones" Barboni in Get Shorty [1995], Lt.Col. Anderson in Saving Private Ryan [1998] and Abraham "Avi" Denovitz in Snatch [2000].

Farina made news in 2008, for carrying a loaded .22 caliber pistol through LAX screening. He was booked by the LAPD on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon. He claimed he had simply forgotten the weapon was still in his briefcase and had never intended to take it on a plane. After police determined the weapon was unregistered, the charges were upgraded to a felony and Farina was sentenced to two years' probation.

Farina died on July 22, 2013, in a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona after suffering a pulmonary embolism. He is survived by his 3 adult children and grandchildren from his marriage to Patricia Farina whom he divorced in 1980.  He also has two granddaughters and four grandsons. Farina's rep said the actor is also survived by "the love of his life of 35 years, Marianne Cahill."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

George Lucas gets a medal **UPDATED**

Visionary director George Lucas has received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House.

The president praised his ability "`to open up minds and nourish souls" and to "help us understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be an American".

The president hailed 69-year-old filmmaker for "transforming" movies. "I remember when I first saw Star Wars," said Mr Obama, who was a teenager when the first film was released in 1977. "There's a whole generation that thinks special effects always looked like they do today. But it used to be you'd see the string on the little model spaceships."

22 individuals of significantly lesser importance were also honoured. "The work that we honour today, the lifetime achievement of these artists and these scholars, reminds us that the human imagination is still the most powerful tool that we have as a people," Mr Obama told the medallists.

UPDATED 17:57 - Video from The Washington Post:

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


The wheels of government may turn as slowly as a windmill on a breezeless day but eventually they sign their names to a seemingly insignificant document that will change someones life forever.

This is not even the final stage, but it's the last "executive hurdle".

Monday, July 08, 2013

UNETIDA: "UKSRN could doom us all!"

Scientists in Britain have founded the United Kingdom Seti Research Network (UKSRN) which held its first get-together at this week's National Astronomy Meeting and pledged to concerted effort to seek alien life in the cosmos. Under the patronage of The English Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, UKSRN is requesting funding agencies donate about £1m a year to support listening time on radio telescopes and for data analysis and any "new" ways of discovering Extra-Terrestrial life.

While most Seti work is done in the US and funded through private donation, UKSRN co-ordinator and University of St Andrews researcher Alan Penny said there was important expertise in Britain keen to play its part. "If we had one part in 200 - half a percent of the money that goes into astronomy at the moment - we could make an amazing difference. We would become comparable with the American effort."

British researchers and facilities have had occasional involvement in Seti projects before, most significantly in 1998 when they used Jodrell bank, and its Lovell radio telescope, in Project Phoenix. It was ultimately fruitless. Now Jodrell has been updated, linking it via fibre optics into a 217km-long array with six other telescopes across England. Known as eMerlin, this system would be a far more powerful tool to scan the skies for alien transmissions.

Jodrell's associate director Tim O'Brien said Seti work could be done quite easily without disturbing mainstream science on the array. "...if the telescopes were studying quasars, for example, we could piggy-back off that and analyse the data to look for a different type of signal ... something in the noise that one might imagine could be associated with aliens. There are billions of planets out there. It would be remiss of us not to at least have half an ear open to any signals that might be being sent to us."

Dr Penny argued Seti could make a strong case for funding, and that his group would try to get research council backing. "The human race wants to explore, wants to find things out, and if we stop trying we're on the road to decay," he said.

Conversely, the actions of the British Astronomers were universally condemned by UNETIDA who warned against encouraging belligerent Extra-Terrestrial species towards the Solar System. "The reckless behaviour of these buffoons living in a misguided world of awe and wonder of the universe without calculating the dangers is beyond belief," said UNETIDA/UNPASID Director of Intelligence, Colonel "Whopper" Creedon. "I would urge any sane-minded individual or body in a position to potentially fund this blatant disregard for the safety of the planet to reject any and all proposals from this UKSRN."

It is widely suspected by conspiracy theorists and amateur bloggers that SETI and similar efforts throughout the years have been deliberately sabotaged by UNETIDA counter-intelligence efforts.

Source: BBC News