Thursday, May 24, 2007

28 Weeks Later (2007)

28 Weeks Later
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Imogen Poots, Mackintosh Muggleton
Grade: C+

While Danny Boyle had his hands full last year making the efervescent spiritual Sunshine, he was also an executive producer to the sequel of his 2002 horror flick, 28 Days Later, handily titled, 28 Weeks Later. While Days left us wanting more -- and certainly with room for more -- the virus at a relatively recent point of outbreak, this installment of the franchise carries the story from a much more developed point, the virus having been all but eradicated and Brits stranded overseas being returned to a zone in London deemed free of infection. These include the daughters of Don (Carlyle), who we see survive an onslaught of 'rage' victims in the opening sequence of the film.

The decision not to use the same characters as in the original may have been out of the control of many involved but nevertheless does seem strange, given that we associate every element of the virus plot with Harris, Murphy and Burns, the original battling survivors (depending on which ending you've seen, of course). Still, Fresdanillo and co. do a generally successful job in making the central characters in the film identifiable and empathetic, as do Muggleton and Poots, who are believable, if not up to the standards of the original trio. It is however, even creepier than the first, maintaining the sense of desperation within the characters, as well as their raw and intense thirst for survival so evident in Days, making for some incredibly tense sequences. However, the film seems so eager to shock that when the jump-enducing moments arrive they feel staged and eventually repetitive, descending Weeks into a kind of exercise in cheap-thrill armchair-clutching discomfort that feels all too imposed by Fresdanillo.

Indeed, the film often feels incoherent, taking what feels like contrived recesses from the plot to launch its indulgent airstrike of "Will they won't they?" frenzied editing before giving us sweeping political commentary on the US military and majestic towering overhead views of London. It almost feels like a half-hearted effort to veer from a primarily thrill-seeking picture, which if done well there is absoloutely nothing wrong with, but as it happens the commentary of Weeks ends up awkward and truthfully a little insincere. While Days gave us an insight into humanity, Weeks barely breaches the doldrums, but crucially it is always entertaining and admittedly often effective.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Featured Performance: Molly Ringwald In Pretty In Pink

In all my years of watching films, I have rarely registered with and admired a character as much as Andie Walsh. She is admittedly a character with very few flaws (if indeed any), and numerous strong traits that distinguish her from the rest of the film's major players. Seemingly carrying the weight of the world on her brawny shoulders -- trying not to hurt her unhealthily obsessive best friend, battling the critics of her non-conformist ideology, dealing with her mothers abandonment of herself and her father, and struggling with that familiar obstacle of love -- Andie is the essence of teenage angst.

Molly Ringwald, best known for her role in The Breakfast Club, a fantastic and similarly themed portrait of prejudice and assumption that shed light on the social pressures of the adolescent, is freshest here, her graceful, dignified, and thoroughly natural demeanor aptly tuned to Andie's cracks and layers. The honesty of Andie, and her acknowledgment of having to confront problems and issues wherever they may arise helps to build this statuesque individualist with painful delicacies and youthful identity.

It's wholly natural to root for the outsider in life's common 'battles', on whatever scale, but Ringwald's Andie is never really an outsider. She may dress differently and think differently, but her liberated attitude towards society in general and the constraints it puts upon people is itself representative of one of the most relevant questions within the zone of adolescence. Ringwald's monument of Andie is seamless, her patient measured dignity an iconic gesture to perhaps the most enlightened, if not the most enviable era in which to grow up.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Death of Feminity

So the Serbian lesbian and her band of stone cold foxes (literally) reigned supreme at the Eurovision Song Contest in Helsinki on Saturday. The contest just gets stranger and stranger every year. Many people attribute the Serbian win to Eastern block voting which kind of holds water (by the way my prediction of five of the top ten ending in "ia" fell just short, although Moldova were also in the top ten which strengthens the point I was trying to make) but to be honest, Serbia got a lot of points off Western European countries as well. I always say the winner of Eurovision is the most popular song, and I still think it this year. I just have no idea where people are coming from. =)

Here are my ratings for the songs (out of twelve):

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Finn Fun

For perhaps the first time in Eurovision history my patriotism has been called into question. Earlier this week I slapped £10 on Sweden's entry "The Worrying Kind" to win, partly because I love it, and partly because I can't believe that there's a song that's going to beat it (duh). My heart will of course be with the United Kingdom's absurd hyper-gay anthem, "Flying the Flag For You", but for tonight, I'm an honourary semi-Swede.

So onto the competition. Sweden is my big tip, but a lot of people are raving about Serbia's entry, which resembles some band of pagaent rejects, and since there are loads of states across that way in the competition this year, they could get a leg up. The usual political voting should be rabid as ever, but I'm hoping that the political distance of the UK from most of Europe has grown a little less apparent, otherwise we could be in big trouble again.

Most of the semi-final qualifiers were apparentely very questionable, and a lot of them were from baltic states. Turkey's entry comes from a guy with a big European fanbase. Having said that, in recent memory that isn't always a great sign (Anna Vissi, T.A.T.U). But the favourite this year is the Ukraine, who are led by a drag queen (like that's never happened before.. viva la divaaa). Well it has been nine years.

My Tip - Sweden (Alt: Turkey)
Wild Guess - Five of the top ten end in "ia"
Big Hope - The drag queen keeps it in his pants

Happy eurovision parties everyone!!!

The Verdict On Volta [Part One]

So the jury is still out on Bjork's much-anticipated new album Volta. Although reviews are favourable many say this album is a disappointment. Having bought it on Wednesday and had a couple of days to digest most of the songs, here's part one of my commentary:

Volta opens with the tribal marching of "Earth Intruders", a light-hearted yet stamping anthem that has the fitting effect of a musical starters gun, sending us into the remainder of the album like an army of troops, unbeknownst to the chaos that lies ahead. The song is remeniscent of Human Behaviour in its bold and wacky audacity, contrasting to the second song "Wanderlust", which seems to draw more on her Homogenic album than anything else. The song has a sense of reach and longing, but on a grand rather than personal scale. Kind of like a political pleading, which would co-incide with the loosely composed theme of the album.

The best song on the album is "The Dull Flame of Desire", which features the vocal talents of both Bjork and Antony, from 'Antony and the Johnsons'. The lyrics are from a poem, featured in Andrei Tarkovsky's film 'Stalker' (which I've yet to see), and they resonate so beautifully throughout the song, serving as an emotionally wrought ode to a lost love. The music has a sense of frontier and battlement that creates a doomed undertone to the song, marking it with a distant dullness that reflects the lyrical resignment. Gorgeously composed.

The transition between this song and the next, "Innocence" is abrupt and uncontrolling, perhaps mirroring the powerlessness and disorientation of war. The sound of "Innocence" is possibly the most appealing and instilling of Volta's many melodies. You can feel the sharpness of its beat, the punch of Bjork's tone. It's the song in the pack that you could most easily and happily dance to -- not without orchestral intricacy, but with a throwaway anecdotal quality (like "There's More to Life Than This") that's fun and free-spirited.

I must admit I'm not completely sure what Bjork is trying to do with "I See Who You Are", the fifth track on the album. It has a light rhythm and what sounds like a brass accompaniment in places. The lyrics include "Lets celebrate this flesh on our bones". In any case, the song feels out of place and it isn't magnetic enough. Maybe I just didn't get it.


1. Earth Intruders 8/10
2. Wanderlust 7.5/10
3. The Dull Flame of Desire 9.5/10
4. Innocence 9/10
5. I See Who You Are 6/10