Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Two days ago I went and saw Thank You For Smoking. It was pretty good, but I wonder if anybody else noticed that not one person could be seen actually smoking a cigarette in the movie. Ha ha. That's amusing isn't it? A movie about cigarettes and no cigarettes in the movie? Eh? Eh? (Although you do get a scene where the main character is staring at his empty cigarette pack.)
William H. Macy was in the movie. (I have to see every movie he appears in... one of my life goals, you might say.) Robert Duvall was in the movie, and some trivia here for you: Did you know that the band Smoking Popes broke up when lead singer and songwriter Josh Caterer had a Born Again experience, but he later reformed the band as Duvall? Named after Robert Duvall's performance in the movie The Apostle.
Sam Elliott was also in the movie. I remember him mainly for his part as The Stranger in The Big Lebowski. Elliott plays the Marlboro Man who got cancer and was screwed over by the tobacco company.
The movie had some very funny moments, and got big laughs from many in the theatre. It seems that it was about time such a movie was made, especially for people like me who are sick of the anti-smoking lobby.
The movie will also appeal to enemies of the 'Nanny State'.
Thank You For Smoking is thus wholeheartedly recommended to my dear readers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Basil's Sendoff

A good night tonight. A rare sociable one. Basil got another job somewhere else and he had his sendoff down at the James Squire bar/restaurant thingo at Darling Harbour, and since I always liked ol' Basil and since I once got a case of James Squire Strong Ale and it was so damn good, I went along to it.
It was a good spot because we were all sitting out the front near the wharf, at a long table with benches on either side, outside in the open air so we smokers could smoke freely and not be forced to go into some stinky gambling room like at so many other places. The beer was excellent - I was hitting the India Pale and Highwayman's, quite a treat compared to the usual Victoria Bitter (but at $6.50 a schooner, man, that's like nightclub prices. Oh well, that's Darling Harbour for you).
Other people from work came and went, but I was mostly sitting with Basil, Ryan, Terry, Mitch and Andrew. When I got there the conversation was going on about teachers from schools who were busted for fiddling with kids. Somebody also mentioned a friend's mother who killed her husband. Not the usual conversation; it was pretty cool. The best conversations I had, one with Mitch - a 45-year-old dude with long wild rockstar hair and always wears blue jeans and leather jacket. I always see him outside smoking, and ever since I flipped him the Metal goat horns he always does the same back. He looks like the quintessential Metal Dude and I can't help but get a big dumb grin whenever I see him. He's one of the IT dudes. He was talking about his favourite bands (like Journey and Yngwie Malmsteen) and his 800-strong CD collection, and I told him about the Japanese prog dude Motoi Sakuraba and his soundtracks for JRPG games like Baten Kaitos and Star Ocean 3. He was rattling off album titles and talking about musicians, dropping names, and I would say, 'Who?', and he would say 'Oh, blah blah from Journey' and naturally I was fascinated and impressed. His forte is mid-eighties melodic metal, but later he was talking to Terry about Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin like he knew all that stuff back-to-front and my eyes popped out, like, 'How about that? He knows about all that stuff too!'
I also had a big conversation with Terry and he told me that music for him was 1977-1980, then nothing, or something like that. He got into the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys, and nothing since. I've heard that he and Louise have a house that looks like time stopped at 1958 or something. They are like those dudes in my Eccentrics book who have a house with nothing after 1900 in it... well sort of like that, very dedicated anyway, really into older things, like Robert Crumb with his old jazz and blues records, rejecting all modern stuff (which doesn't seem like such a bad idea sometimes, ha ha).
A few of the women from work were there, one who I have had a massive thing for, but she is married anyway, I think, so what the hell. She looked at me and I looked at her and we said 'Hello', and I felt like saying 'Did you know that I am enormously attracted to you?', and she would say, 'That's funny, because I have been obsessed with you ever since I came to this place. Let's go. Right now.'
Over time, almost everybody left and then there were just Terry, Mitch, Basil and me. Basil said he had to split and catch the train and demanded Mitch scull his beer. Mitch said something like, 'Sir, I do not scull my beer - I am an expeditionary drinker!', or something like that, but he finished up before Basil got frantic (he had to get back out to the Mountains and if he missed his train he'd have to wait another hour).
We left and walked up to behind Wynyard where the three of them went off to catch trains. I walked across the road and down a bit and spotted a Krispy Kreme, went in and bought a Lemon-filled and ate it as I walked up through Martin Place, up to Elizabeth Street and got a bus home, making it back just in time and pissed like racehorse.

Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call*

Got this game in the mail today - a very unconventional JRPG - and can't wait to check it out. Now gotta hurry up and finish Silent Hill 3.

Busy busy!

[* known as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne in the US]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Devil and Daniel Johnston

I managed, at last, to see The Devil and Daniel Johnston after work today. There was no nightclub-type party at the cinema, nor was there a mighty hailstorm/rainstorm to send water pouring through the roof. Everything was fine. The place was almost empty and dry. There were about a dozen of us in the theatre. A man and woman came in after me and sat in front of me and to the right. They looked to be interesting characters, with wild hay-like hair, and appeared to be in their fifties. The woman pointed at me and suggested they not sit right in front beacuse it might obstruct my view. I assured them they could by all means sit right in front since I could see the screen clearly, but they smiled and said they would be fine over to the right a little.
Anyway, to the feature presentation!
Daniel Johnston grew up in West Virginia (that must be in the Bible Belt because his mother often argued with him about his art, saying that he was serving the Devil since he drew cartoons of disembodied eyeballs). His best friend at that time, David Thornberry, admitted that he was persecuted by his mother during those teenage years but he often fueled the fire in that regard, so that he could tape record his mother's rants. He made thousands of audiotape recordings, as audio diaries. He also drew cartoons of such things as eyeballs and men with the tops of their heads sliced off. His main passion was music and he played the piano and sang and made tape recordings of his songs. Later he switched to acoustic guitar in emulation of his heroes. Problem was, he couldn't play guitar. Even in later times he appeared to play one chord with only minor variations, but his voice tone made up for it. Hearing Daniel Johnston sing, it was suddenly obvious to me where the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev got their vocal style.
The documentary examines Johnston's psychological problems and raises the fascinating connection between genius and madness, and the corresponding obsession that people have with such characters all the way through history. David Stratton on At The Movies a few weeks ago was saying that even after watching this documentary he had no evidence of Daniel Johnston's 'genius' or whatever you want to call it. It was certainly clear to me. Sure he can't play guitar very well, and sure you could say his voice isn't technically great - he's no Russell Watson that's for sure (ha ha) yet the evidence was plain to me (and obviously to many others, not least of which was the guy who made the documentary, Jeff Fuerzeig, who was inspired to make it after listening to a radio show where Johnston phoned in from the mental hospital where he was confined at the time to do an hour-long monologue, in different voices and characters.)
'The Devil' in the title refers to Johnston's obsession with fighting the Devil. It's unsurprising when you consider his childhood environment and battles with mental illness, which can easily feel like battles with demons or the Devil at times.
The Devil and Daniel Johnston was excellent and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Strangely enough, that couple I mentioned at the beginning got up and left halfway through, which really surprised me. Why the hell did they get up and walk out? I'll be wondering about that for a week!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jerk Thompson

Only recently have I heard about an American 'Witchhunter' of the videogame world - the guy's name is Jack Thompson. (What a shame that he shares the same name as one of Australia's best-loved actors).
Anyway, I just read an excellent post on Bill Harris's blog where he totally rips the shit out of Thompson's idiotic accusations. You can read it here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

You Must Be In A Mad Panic!

(...posted on GameCritics forum...)

Beat Baten Kaitos last night. 70+ hours, two game crashes, lots of terrible voice acting, too-long battles (really sucks that you can't attack all members of the enemy party, only one at a time), a million boss battles including one total bullshit WTF one where you beat the dude (Geldoblame I think) then there's some dialogue, then you have to fight the EXACT SAME BATTLE AGAIN! The card system also made me scream "CHEAT!" at the screen a hundred million times when you keep getting dealt cards you can't use and the enemy just keeps whacking you.
Wait a minute... why did I play this game to the end again? Well, it looked very nice, the music was excellent (Motoi Sakuraba and his wild prog style, love it) and the battles were fun when they were not annoying. Also, I grew to love the retarded battle taunts - "WATCH OUT! I'M NOT SO INNOCENT!" and, "YOU MUST BE IN A MAD PANIC!", etc.

I'll definitely get Baten Kaitos II: Origins when it comes out. ... It's a love/hate relationship!

P.S. One of the greatest things about this game - and something I wish all games had - is that once you have heard a theme, you can then go to the Options screen and listen to it. So by the end of the game you have the full soundtrack and can listen to any track, any time. Pretty damn cool.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hailstones Outside My Apartment Block

When I walked back from the movie house it looked like it had been snowing.

Movie Mission Aborted II

For the second Tuesday in a row I have been sabotaged from seeing The Devil and Daniel Johnston, the documentary about the crazy singer showing at the newly reopened Chauvel Cinema at the top of the hill. (If you like, you can read about last week's drama three posts down.) Here's what happened this time:
I walked out of my house and a hailstorm had started. That was OK, they were only small hailstones and they bounced off my umbrella. Half way up the hill the rain had become torrential. My pants were saturated up to the knees, and above the knees they were well on the way. What the hell, they would dry off in the theatre. I arrived at the cinema as great rivers swirled in the gutters around me. My shoes were saturated and the water had gone inside. Wet socks is not a nice feeling. I went into the Chauvel and up the stairs and around to the box office and bought a ticket. As I walked towards the theatre I took my jacket off because the left arm was completely goddam saturated. I heard the rain hammering on the roof. As soon as I walked into the theatre I heard a sound that made me feel like I had walked outside again. What the hell? Water was pouring down from the ceiling over near the wall. I walked over near the wall and looked up, it looked like one of those rain machines the movie studios use. Or it looked as though part of the roof was missing. It was really pouring in there. One of the cinema staff had pushed a large metal bin under it which had little effect - the water was pouring down along a ten-foot section of wall. I went and sat in a seat in a perfect position since I was the only audience member. It felt strange to be sitting there with the water coming in and more and more staff running around looking at the water. It was so loud I wondered if it would be possible to hear the sound from the documentary. The ads hadn't even started when supervising staff dude yelled, "Out!" What, me? Could he mean me? Then he shouted, "Out! Electrical danger!" or something like that. I looked around and there were two other audience members walking out the door. That was when I knew for sure that I'd been foiled again. What the hell was it with this movie? I walked back out to the box office and reluctantly got a refund. I walked home, back down the hill. The sun had come out and the rain had almost stopped completely.
Next Tuesday I will go back up there and have another go. Stay tuned for the final part in the trilogy!

Hailstorm Sabotaged Movie Viewing

Monday, August 14, 2006


Tonight I went and saw a movie called Jindabyne. It was an Aussie movie but for a while it was hard to tell because I saw Gabriel Byrne, I shouted, "What! An Irish movie! I thought this was an Aussie movie!" Audience members told me to pipe down. Then Laura Linney comes on so I yelled, "What! Is it Irish, Aussie, or American this movie?! What what what?!" Audience members threw their Jaffas at my head and it stung. But anyway, those are the only two foreigners, the rest are a solid true blue fair dinkum Aussie cast, mate.
In the movie, Gabriel Byrne and his three mates go on a fishing trip into a hard-to-reach river in the Snowy Mountains. Before they even really get down to business Gabriel comes across the almost-naked body of a girl in the water. After Gabriel freaks out and calls his mates, they have a meeting and decide to fish on, the logic being that the girl is dead, they can't do anything for her anyway. They hiked a long way from their jeep to go fishing, plus one of the mates twisted his ankle. So what they do is just tie her ankle to a log so she won't get carried away by the river then they have a fun two days fishing. But when their fishing trip is over and they at last call the police to report the body, the policeman tells them they oughtta be ashamed of themselves. To complicate matters, the girl was Aboriginal so that turns it into a race issue.
But what about the girl? How did she die? Who killed her? It's no mystery because that is shown right at the beginning, at least who killed her. But the focus of the movie is not who killed her but that these selfish fishermen didn't want to let a dead body ruin their fishing fun.
With a (semi) naked girl's body lying around the whole movie while people go about their lives, it reminded me of the 1986 movie River's Edge, but Jindabyne is actually based on a Raymond Carver short story So Much Water, So Close To Home.
Another problem is that when Gabriel gets home to his wife Laura he doesn't say anything straight away about the body, but wakes her up and seems hotter than usual for her, so when she later finds out about the body they found, and that it was a semi-naked girl, she accuses him of being turned on by it. Woah. Heavy, man. Yet one of the scenes where Gabriel pays a midnight visit to the girl in the river seems to lend weight to this theory. Well, you watch the movie and you decide.

[For some reason Blogger is not letting me upload a frigging picture to this review.]

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Movie Mission Aborted

For almost a week I have been planning to go up to the newly-reopened Chauvel Cinema to see The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Tonight was the night. Tuesday night is their discount night when tickets are seven bucks. Pretty good price, eh? Better than the big George Street cinema that has gone back up to nine bucks.
Anyway, I walked up the hill and there were a bunch of people outside on the footpath smoking. It struck me as a lot of people to be outside smoking. What the hell was going on up there? A party? Yes! That's exactly what was going on up there! I walked up the stairs and the sound got louder and louder. There were all these people up there with wine glasses. It was like a freaking nightclub! It wasn't a good sign, not good at all. What the hell was going on there anyway? They had remodelled the place and now the box office was on the other side - on the other side of all those cinema clubbers! No way was I gonna try to get through that crowd. No way. I really wanted to see this doco but that was too much, man. Maybe it was some post-preview party or something and they would be out of there soon, but I couldn't take that chance. All I could imagine was buying a ticket and them not leaving, but staying right there getting louder and happier, then following me into the theatre and sitting all around me, having a great time. No way could I enjoy the documentary in that situation, man.
I got out of there fast, shaking my head the whole way back down the hill. I'll have to go see it next week. It better still be playing!

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Libertine

After work today I went and saw The Libertine. You know that big cliche that you watch a particularly sordid or squalid movie and immediately afterwards feel like you must take a shower? Well, I could use that one here. It would be appropriate. The movie is about the Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot, an actual historical figure from the 17th Century. He's played by Johnny Depp. Depp has a lot of fun with this character, a cross between his Pirates of the Caribbean character Jack Sparrow, Oscar Wilde and Bob Crane. At the beginning he looks at the camera and tries to rev us up by saying, "You will not like me!" Why would we not like him? Because he's an alcoholic and can't keep his pecker in his pants when a woman is around? Who cares. Many people have those problems. And he's a witty guy, very funny at times, coming up with some cracking one-liners. There he reminded me of Oscar Wilde.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to use that shower cliche was that the movie is set in London, and that was back when there were open sewers, so the streets were awash with mud and shit. The people all looked pale and sick, red-rimmed eyes, greasy skin, so when one of the frequent porky scenes pop up you want to scream, "Don't touch that!". Then because the Earl goes out whoring so much, he gets syphilis. There was no treatment for that back then so he starts rotting, and at one point when he is forced to make a public appearance, he is wearing a metallic nose cover because his nose is either about to fall off, or it's simply so damn hideous and would make everybody throw up.
The plot of the movie is simple: the Earl disgraces himself in front of King Charles (by telling a porno story in front of some important visitors), he is subsequently banished to some big boring country house but then three months later gets called back to the exciting, sleazy, filthy city. He loves going to the theatre and one time sees a new actress who gets fruit thrown at her by the jeering crowd, however the Earl sees some talent in her and tells her he wants to train her to be the best actress in London. See? He's not a bad guy at all. Anyway, she says, "OK! That would be, like, totally cool!" He coaches her and she becomes the hottest thing in London.
Did I mention that King Charles is played by John Malkovich? Well he is, and he is very good. Some very nice, dry delivery of lines right there. King Charles commissions the Earl to write a play to entertain some visiting French aristocrats, but the cheeky Earl instead writes a porno show which embarasses the King so he sends him off to go and rot with his syphilis. But the Earl stumbles in and redeems himself in the end by standing up for a vote in parliament that was going to go against the King, so he gives an awesome and persuasive speech, and everybody cheers. So he did the right thing by the King in the end, after all. See! He's not such a bad guy. He just forgot to read the part about the Seven Deadly Sins.

Robot Blog

I found another robot blog. It's a robot adblog. The robots are learning, but a smart human will always beat them.
I think it's time for another Survey.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday Night Playlist

Dinosaur Jr - Little Fury Things
Dinosaur Jr - Kracked
Dinosaur Jr - Sludgefeast
Dinosaur Jr - The Lung
Dinosaur Jr - Raisans
Dinosaur Jr - Tarpit
Dinosaur Jr - In A Jar
Dinosaur Jr - Lose
Dinosaur Jr - Show Me The Way (Peter Frampton song)
Dinosaur Jr - Turnip Farm
Smoking Popes - Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground (Willy Nelson song)
Smoking Popes - Days Just Wave Goodbye
Smoking Popes - Double Fisted Love
Smoking Popes - Let's Hear It For Love
Smoking Popes - Stars
Smoking Popes - Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka song)
Smoking Popes - Let Them Die
Enslaved - Larger Than Time, Heavier Than Night

Video Game Dreams

Outside with a big group of people, I sat on the ground. We were there to watch a preview of something but the TV was facing the wrong way - it was facing towards Jonathan Archer (the Captain from Star Trek: Enterprise). I said to him, "Hey! Is this a special Captain's preview?" He didn't reply. We all had to move so we could see the screen. On the screen was a preview of the new Final Fantasy game (FFXII). Three characters came zooming up (actually flying) to a country ranch-type house then fired projectiles that stuck to various parts of the house. These projectiles then turned into lanterns. I recognised the characters and shouted, "Hey! It's the original characters from X-10!" (Of course, I meant FFX.) They were supposed to be Tidus, Yuna and Auron, but in fact they looked like Kalas, Xelha and Lyude from Baten Kaitos. No surprises there since I have been playing that game like crazy lately. No surprise Captain Archer turned up either since I've been watching a lot of Star Trek: Enterprise lately.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

16 Blocks

After work I went and saw 16 Blocks. Bruce Willis plays broken down alcoholic detective Jack Mosley who after pulling an all-night shift and just wants to go home and get drunk (or drunker) and pass out, his chief hands him some papers and tells him he's gotta go pick up a witness from another police station and drive him to testify at court sixteen blocks away. Sounds easy, but if it was easy we wouldn't be there watching it. Well, the dude he has to take to court is Eddie Bunker, played by Mos Def. Eddie is a motormouth - he won't stop talking, but he's likeable so that's OK. At least I found him likeable. Jack just wanted him to shut up because his head hurts.
They soon find out that the trip to the courthouse isn't going to be easy when people start trying to kill Eddie. He's off to testify in a case which will remove a bunch of dirty cops from the streets. These dirty cops intend to make sure he doesn't get there. The bad cops are headed by Frank Nugent (David Morse). On the way, Frank corners the pair in a bar and tries to get Jack to hand over Eddie and go home with his bottle, being all buddy-buddy (they are ex-partners). Jack does the right thing and says fuck you and they get out of there in the middle of a big Mexican standoff.
The movie is a redemption tale, where Jack has a chance to make amends for a failed personal and professional life, and Eddie has a chance to quit a life of petty crime and move to Seattle to start a bakery with his long-lost sister (he was a foster kid). This kind of stuff is often done in a heavy-handed, clumsy and sacharine way, but not here. We genuinely care what happens to these characters, and want them to get out of this mess alive so they can get on with a better life.
16 Blocks also has an 'old school' cop show feel about it, which I really appreciated. It's unsurprising considering that director Richard Donner worked on shows like The Streets of San Francisco and Kojak, not to mention the Lethal Weapon movies, so it's fun to follow the developing relationship between the white guy and black guy here.
Bruce Willis never looked so beat down and ragged as he does here. He's a wreck. A man staggering, red-eyed and hopeless at the edge of the pit. Great stuff.
Mos Def was excellent as the Flavor Flav-like motormouth. What a funny voice! I couldn't help wondering if that was how his natural voice sounded - could it be?
Well, I really enjoyed this movie, and so did the Asian kids sitting in the row behind me. I want to include what they yelled at the end: a cheering sentiment that gave me a big grin, but it would constitute a spoiler, so I had better not.

Note: If I'm not mistaken, this movie seems to follow 'real time', since at the beginning of the movie the time is around 8:30am and Jack has to get Eddie to the courthouse by 10:00am, and the movie is around an hour and a half long.

Postscript: I just checked IMDB for Mos Def and it says he is in another 2006 movie Journey To The End of the Night. What! Has a movie really been made of this excellent novel?!