Archive: Film

Bodysong is going to be on Channel 4 at 01:25 on Sunday morning. You should check it out, even if it’s just for Jonny Greenwood’s incredible soundtrack.


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Protect your freedom!

I just found out that today is the Day Against
DRM
.

five (that’s Channel Five to you and me) is set to take its first tentative steps into the world of multichannel with the launch of two new channels: five us (Five U.S.) and five life (not to be confused with Five Live). They’re both going to be launched on Freeview, which is good news, isn’t it? Nah.

I used to get quite excited whenever a new channel was added to Freeview’s lineup. But I’ve come to realise that most of the channels are utter crap. Also, most of the new channels have been squeezed in by reducing the picture quality. These days most Freeview channels just look like a load of pixelated, blocky shit — a step above YouTube.

Luckily, Channel Five has found the space for their new channels by buying part of Top Up TV and nicking all of their space. (Top Up TV is repositioning itself as a PVR service. The PVR will cost £180, then £9.99 per month. Any takers? No?) So at least Five’s new channels won’t look as though you’re watching them through a sieve.

But they sound as though they are going to be full of a load of insipid trash.

Five US features a mix of American drama, films, documentaries, sport and comedy…

Just like the original Channel Five then.

…while highlights from Five Life include the highly-acclaimed drama series Love My Way and the award-winning The Ellen Degeneres Show.

“Highlights” like some programme that nobody’s ever heard of, and a chat show hosted by somebody that everybody thought was left behind by the 1990s.

Let’s face it: these channels are going to be filled with programmes that aren’t even good enough to be shown on Channel Five. And is there anybody who thinks that Channel Five has enough material to fill even one channel?

People said the same when ITV launched ITV3, which the last time I looked was the third-biggest multichannel channel (behind Sky One and ITV2). That doesn’t make its content any good though. ITV3 is filled with twenty year old dramas that look as though they were filmed in an actual theatre, and probably should have stayed in the theatre aswell.

Meanwhile, ITV2 has become the home of uninspired spin-offs called things like The X-Factor X-treme DX Reloaded Uber Edition the Third On ITV2 (I think that’s also the name of Gilette’s new razor). Either that or it’s showing some wet Holywood chick flick or teen movie.

ITV4 is the worst of them all, especially when you consider that ITV essentially removed Men & Motors to make space for it. Like Men & Motors, ITV4 is meant to be aimed at blokes. But whereas Men & Motors had the well-known brand, fanbase and reasonable programming, ITV4 doesn’t.

Can anybody actually think of any progammes that ITV4 shows? The only one I can think of is David Letterman, which already had a perfectly good home on ITV2. Indeed, since they moved Letterman to ITV4 you would think that they would show it at a decent slot, but it still occupies the same irregular post-midnight slot. You could only hope of catching it if you came back late from the pub and happened to be flicking past ITV4.

ITV isn’t the only company polluting Freeview. Channel 4 has also done a disappointing job. E4 is okay, but it promises a lot more than it ever delivers. It should be showing more experimental British programmes. But most of the time it shows cheap American imports that are superficially good looking but are ultimately as appealing as stapling your bumcheeks together. The one thing going for the channel is E4 Music, which actually shows a decent variety of music. It certainly does a much better job than The Hits or TMF.

The jury is out on Film4. I have watched a few films that I wouldn’t have seen anywhere else, but the number of repeats already is worrying. I don’t think it’s quite delivering.

Then there is More4, another channel that seemed promising but you never seem to watch it. Again, does anybody know what this channel shows? There is The Daily Show, if you can remember to watch it. But is there anything else? Whenever I flick past it, it seems to be showing repeats of Noel Edmonds’ Imaginary Telephone Conversations.

The channel launched in a blaze of publicity with A Very Social Secretary, but has produced nothing notable since then. More4 is obviously hungry for more of that kind of publicity — it’s only gone and shot George Bush. Please.

Then there is the BBC. In fairness, the BBC’s digital channels have produced much more quality programmes than its commercial rivals have. But still something seems to be lacking. BBC Three in particular seems to have completely lost its way.

In fairness, a lot of BBC Three’s troubles seem to stem from the ridiculous rules and quotas that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport imposed on the channel. It famously told the BBC that BBC Three must show news in order to distinguish itself from commercial rivals, then later criticised the news programme because nobody watched it!

A couple of years ago, on the crest of the Little Britain wave, BBC Three seemed like a quite a good channel actually. Don’t forget that BBC Three was also the home of The Mighty Boosh and Monkey Dust, two fine programmes.

But since then it has produced reams of steaming poo like Tittybangbang (officially the world’s least funny comedy) and Grownups (a flimsy script coupled with dreadfully wooden acting, this makes Two Pints look like a bloody masterpiece). Even Rob Brydon seemed to be shat up with the misfiring Anually Retentive.

Since ditching the 7 O’Clock News, BBC Three seems to have filled its current affairs quota with documentaries by complete dullards wittering on about their tiny penii. And people think bloggers are self-indulgent! And let’s not forget those awful programmes about parenting. If I want to see lots of toddlers with potty mouths I’ll go to the supermarket.

The whole tone of the channel is unbearable aswell. Why are those continuity announcers trying to be my mate? It is contrived, unfunny and annoying.

BBC Four is pretty good at what it does. And let’s face it, most of BBC Three’s best programmes would probably fit easily on BBC Four. Vaguely decent comedy shows like Screen Wipe or Don’t Watch That Watch This do fine on BBC Four, so why not? Sometimes it feels as if the Beeb uses the word ‘youth’ as a proxy for ‘shit’. So they should do with that shit what everybody else does with it. BBC Three should probably just be thrown in the toilet, and the BBC could concentrate on just the one digital channel.

Minor spoiler alert

I’m not much of a moviegoer. The last time I went to the cinema was to see Signs (it wasn’t my choice), starring that popular fellow Mel Gibson. In case you have forgotten this forgettable movie, it featured aliens that were scared by water. The entire length of the film was spent avoiding the question: If these aliens are so scared of water, why the hell did they land on Earth, a planet which is >70% water? That was four years ago.

The time before that was to see Austin Powers 2. There was a powercut in the middle of the film. That was in Kirkcaldy’s own scummy ABC cinema, when Kirkcaldy still had a cinema (we now have to make a bloody 40 minute round trek to Dunfermline for the nearest cinema). That was seven years ago. I can’t even remember the time before that. I was probably an actual child.

I don’t even watch films on the television all that much. It just doesn’t really float my boat. But there was no way I was going to miss Snakes on a Plane.

The problem was that it was difficult to know exactly how to approach the film. We know that the film was supposed to be a thriller / horror / disaster film. But all of the hype on the internet gave the film such an inherently comic twist.

When you hear of them shooting new scenes to include comedy lines like “I have had it with these motherfuckin’ snakes on the motherfuckin’ plane” and literally sex up the film because of all the internet hype, you half expect a comedy film, or at least a film that isn’t taking itself too seriously. This suspicion increases when you see that one of the actors is Keenan from Keenan & Kel.

Indeed, my friend was guffawing all the way through the film, mostly in bits that weren’t funny. He was, though, the only person in the entire cinema laughing, bar a few titters here and there. There was one part that I found quite funny though, when all of the lights in the plane go out and you hear somebody in the distance shout: “SNAKE!”

But most of the film is delivered with a straight face. A lot of it is actually pretty gory, and not in a slapstick blood-n-guts type way à la Troma. This would be just like any other horror / disaster movie were it not for all of the internet hype and the refreshingly unpretentious film title. They almost called this film ‘Pacific Air Flight 121′. That pretty much sums up why I don’t like watching films much.

Samuel L. Jackson has it spot on about the title, which he says is the only reason he took the job:

It’s not Gone with the Wind. It’s not On the Waterfront. It’s Snakes on a Plane!

Of course, were it not for that title — and the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is starring in the film with that title — there would have been no internet buzz. In one sense, I think the way New Line handled the buzz was pretty cool, when they decided to add lines that internet users came up with (mind you, these lines stuck out like a sore thumb. “That’s all we need — snakes on crack” was particularly bad).

In another sense I think — in typical MSM ivory tower style — they have misread the buzz. For instance, I don’t understand why it meant that they had to crowbar new sex and drug scenes in a deliberate attempt to get an R rating. And I’ve noticed that New Line have been disappointed by box office takings so far:

“I think people were more excited about the marketing than the actual movie,” said [Paul] Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations. “New Line did not set out to create this Internet buzz. That’s actually a marketer’s dream, but when marketing translates into awareness but does not inspire people to get out from behind their computers and into the theater, that’s a problem.”

Dergarabedian might think that the internet hype was a marketer’s dream — but it must be a filmmaker’s nightmare. In reality, anybody who saw the film because of the internet buzz saw the film because of the internet buzz, and not because they wanted to see the film. As soon as Samuel L. Jackson said, “I’ve had it with these motherfuckin’ snakes on a motherfuckin’ plane,” the film was essentially over.

The Snakes on a Plane internet buzz says much more about the internet than it says about Snakes on a Plane. The film itself is completely meaningless compared to the many virals and memes that have been out there on the internet. The event was not the film’s opening on Friday; the event has been happening on the internet for months.

That said, I was actually quite impressed with Snakes on a Plane as a film, so I would recommend this even if you’re reluctant about it.

I know that Dark Side of the Rainbow is pretty old news, but I’ve just watched it for the first time on Google Video. I have to say, it is indeed scarily synchronised at certain points. The beginning of ‘Time’ gave me the creeps!

I’ve just read three reviews in a row of Snakes on a Plane. I definitely must go and see this film.

This evening I had a look at Film4’s first free night. Enjoyed Lost in Translation. But oh dear. The first ad break — the entirity of which was bought by Renault — went out in silence. It looked like a lot of effort went into it aswell. I’m sure there was a new advert there, and also a showing of an old-ish one which hasn’t been on for a while. But it was all messed up! They must be furious.

Thom Yorke’s new solo album is getting a lot of attention, which probably shouldn’t be surprising. I don’t know how good the album is. I haven’t heard it yet, because I’m waiting for its release on Monday.

But I want to know, why has Jonny Greenwood’s solo material never even received a fraction of the attention? His film soundtrack, ‘Bodysong’, is much better than Radiohead’s last album, ‘Hail to the Thief’, which was worryingly mediocre.

A lot of critics of Radiohead’s post-OK Computer direction mistakenly laid the blame squarely at Thom Yorke’s door. But Greenwood was surely every bit as instrumental in determining Radiohead’s more mature new sound.

On ‘Bodysong’, Jonny Greenwood sounds more than comfortable in the many musical directions he takes. The album is eclectic, but it’s all very cleverly held together. You can still hear a good interview about the making of the album here (you have to scroll down a bit). I can’t imagine ‘The Eraser’ quite achieving the same thing.

Greenwood’s work as a pseudo-classical composer (he is Radio 3’s ‘composer in residence’) is also brilliant. ‘Smear’, a piece for the Ondes Martenot, is simply brilliant. ‘Piano for Children’ was a slow burner — it reveals real beauty over repeated listens. Download them via your favourite highly legal method.

Greedy Baby coverI’ll be honest here. I’ve gone right off Plaid over these past few years. ‘Double Figure’ is a brilliant album in my view, but everything after that seemed a bit half-hearted. All of their music started to sound the same, and I even remember reading an interview where Ed Handley and Andy Turner pretty much admitted so. I never bought ‘Spokes’ after it received some pretty mixed reviews.

But I have always been interested in their DVD project, ‘Greedy Baby’, so I snapped it up. It is an album-length collaboration with visual artist Bob Jaroc. They began working on Greedy Baby not long after ‘Double Figure’ came out. Which is a long time ago. In the end they spent four years making ‘Greedy Baby’. Alarm bells should start ringing. Reading between the lines in some interviews, they are just relieved for it to be finished.

Apparently the music to ‘Greedy Baby’ was leaked a few weeks ago. I try to avoid leaks because you can never been 100% sure that you are listening to the real deal. But the initial reaction was bad. I couldn’t decide whether or not to buy ‘Greedy Baby’. In the end I decided to go for it because it has the rather good video to ‘New Family’ included as an extra. I saw Plaid live way back in 2002 and Bob Jaroc’s visuals were memorable, so I thought buying ‘Greedy Baby’ wouldn’t be much of a risk.

It doesn’t start promisingly though. The first track is the absolutely ridiculous ‘War Dialer’. Nothing happens in the music apart from lots of dialling tones and people saying “Hello? Hello?” What a load of rubbish. The visuals are quite good-looking, but clocking in at four minutes long it just gets too boring too quickly. Maybe it sounds good in surround sound, but I wouldn’t know as I am a thwarted two speaker boy.

Luckily, the second track saves the day. ‘I Citizen The Loathsome’ starts off as quite a routine Plaid track, but it builds up into a complete masterpiece. For me, it is undoubtedly the highlight of the album, at least as far as the music goes.

Much of the rest of the DVD follows pretty predictable lines. Most of the videos are pleasent abstract screensaver-style pieces of beauty. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see as a backdrop to a live show, so it’s maybe not best suited for home viewing. You see a lot of these videos rather than watching them. My favourite of the ‘screensaver-style’ videos is ‘The Launching of Big Face’. The music is a fast but twinkling melody. It is accompanied by gentle visuals with a Rorschach-style symmetry. Very pleasent.

Leaving the more abstract videos to the side, we have ‘Zn Zero’. It is an electronic music video set in Japan. Where did they get that idea? Nevertheless, it does have some nice-looking moments, although the music isn’t too good on this track. That is followed by ‘The Return of Super Barrio’, which has a story! It’s like a cartoon. So you can’t just see it — you have to watch it.

Overall, ‘Greedy Baby’ okay, but not great. Some of the videos make for interesting viewing, but a lot of the videos are most suitable to zoning out to, especially when some of them last for up to ten minutes (I am talking about ‘E.M.R’ here). Some of the music is really good, but a lot of it is unspectacular and very much in the predictably Plaid mould. It sounds as though Plaid have decided that they need their music to sound dissonant for some reason. It’s a funny choice for a duo renowned for its melodic music. I don’t think they quite pull it off.

The DVD’s extras are in actual fact the most captivating moments. We have four tracks here, all versions of tracks from the ‘Spokes’ and ‘Double Figure’ albums. The video to ‘Crumax Rins’ is made up of timelapsed images from CNN’s coverage of the Iraq War. Probably trying to make some sort of point.

The best ones are the three from ‘Double Figure’ though. Maybe this is me just being nostalgic for the album and the videos which I recognised as backdrops from that Plaid gig four years ago. The ‘Assault on Precinct Zero’ video features Plaid’s robotic cameras which gave grainy close-up shots of lots of knob twiddling, thereby proving once and for all that they weren’t just checking their emails on those laptops.

‘Zala’ is a memorable video. I can’t explain it. It’s like a cross between 1970s sci-fi, Tellytubby Land and Communist propaganda. But the standout is the popular video to ‘New Family’, which you can view on the Greedy Baby website! Good stuff.

So overall I am left with mixed impressions. Some of the music seems unspectacular at first, but if it grows on me I could at last be tempted to fill in the gaps of my Plaid collection. The visuals I can’t complain about, although it doesn’t always make for captivating viewing. If you want an electronic music DVD, I would be more likely to recommend Meam’s ‘The L’, which is a bit of an overlooked masterpiece in my view.

Plaid & Bob Jaroc Super 8 film Finally, a big pat on the back should go to Warpmart for sending the coolest freebie I’ve ever received.

Warpmart have been given a limited number of small bags of short frames of super 8 film from an unnamed new collaboration by Plaid and Bob Jaroc shot recently in Japan. This film will be finished after the release of the album. This is your chance to own not only the dvd/album but also a genuine physical piece of Plaid and Bob’s creative process for free

Fantastic!

About a week ago I expressed relief that the new Freeview channel, smileTV, wasn’t yet another quiz channel. Unfortunately I was wrong.

That groovy Shortcutters programme was only there for the first night. Apparently now it’s been shunted to 4:15am, which even I am not prepared to stay up for. Instead, between 1am and 4:15am we now have ‘Quizworld’, and it reaches a new low for both Freeview and the entire ‘Participation TV’ genre. Impossible surely?!

smileTV’s Ofcom license is for a “general entertainment” channel. Well, it’s certainly entertaining, but perhaps not in the intended way.

It is honestly the cheapest thing I have ever seen on Freeview by a long way, and that’s saying something. It literally looks like it’s coming from somebody’s bedroom. They seem to just stick a couple of bimbos in front of a blue background and tell them to repeat the phone number over and over again.

Every time I’ve tuned in to the programme there seems to be some kind of horrendous technical problem. Last night they were even struggling to get a ‘Back Soon’ slide to stay on air for at least ninety minutes. One-by-one the graphics came on the screen until all they needed on screen were the presenters. And just when it looked like they were going to do it, it went all black again! Very strange. It’s all going wrong for Freeview. How has such an amateurish channel managed to get a slot on Freeview? They’re supposed to go for millions these days!

Worst of all, this Quizworld stuff actually seems to be even more scammy than the other quiz channels. It’s £1 per phone call and £1 + standard rate per text. You’re only allowed one free web entry per day. And once you’ve entered they can send you spam as well! Quizworld / smileTV is apparently from the same people who brought us Grab a Grand on satellite — from the looks of this thread on Digital Spy, it really is unbelieveable that they haven’t been shut down yet.