23 November 2008

Milk -Oscar trail for Penn again?

Just seen Gus Van Sant's new one, here is my review...

rel-16 Jan 2009
Dir. Gus Van Sant
Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch

Understandably, there is early Oscar talk surrounding Milk. Penn looks set to be on the awards trail again with this assured, entertaining yet undeniably 'worthy' biopic from the inconsistent Mr Van Sant. However, underneath the hyperbole emerges a remarkable film about a remarkable man.

Penn plays Harvey Milk, Gay Rights activist and San Francisco's first openly gay city official. HIs rise to power and influence and subsequent tragic demise are captured sensitively. It's no hagiography either. Milk was no saint or martyr and the filmmakers have made no attempt to disguise a formidable ego and a somewhat manipulative personality. He was however a tireless campaigner and fine speaker who worked with the best of intentions and ideals. Penn is absolutely believable as Milk and imbues the role with a level of charisma that is just great to watch. 

There is tremendous support too from Hirsch (Speed Racer, Alpha Dog) and Franco (Spiderman, Pineapple Express) as Milk's right hand man and lover respectively. However, it is Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men, W) as Milk's sometime colleague and nemesis Dan White who really impresses, particularly when on screen with Penn.  Brolin nails the tragic flaws in White's make-up, displaying true finesse in instilling real depth and inner turmoil in such an un-likeable character. 

Easily Van Sant's most complete movie to date, Milk is where the early promise of Drugstore Cowboy, To Die For and Good Will Hunting really falls into place. With debates over same sex marriage currently raging in California the film is hugely relevant. More importantly, it is a timeless story of a man unafraid to face the injustices and prejudices of society to create lasting change.   

22 November 2008

Hexstatic - Videos, Remixes & Rarities

Out on Ninja Tune 1 Dec

Hexstatic - Stuart Hill and Robin Brunson to their mums - have been plying their intoxicating brand of audio-visual wizardry for well over a decade now. This DVD/CD collection neatly compiles their best work and is essential for anyone with any sort of interest in A/V beat matching. 

From famed Colcut collaboration 'Timber' to 2007's 'When Robot's Go Bad' LP, the set is all about consistently innovative and entertaining distillations of full-on, switched on mentalness. With appearances from Sir Jimmy Saville ('Auto'), Rolf Harris ('Stylophonic'), old skool video games ('Bass Invader', 'Vector'), singing parrots and the best rap and visual mash-up EVER this DVD serves as perfect post-club viewing. And we all know what that means. Just buy it - your ears, eyes and head will want to hug you. Seriously, it's like acid without the paranoia, depression and regret. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

Check out hexstatic.tv to see more.

'Blindness' - Out Now - smack you with the blindingly obvious...

dir. Fernando Merielles
Julianne Moore, Mark Rufallo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Glover

Merielles' (The Constant Gardener, City of God) adaptation of Nobel Prize winning author Jose Saramango's apocalyptic tale is an ambitious, but flawed creation. As the unnamed residents of an unnamed city are struck blind one by one, Mark Ruffalo's (Zodiac) Doctor attempts to understand the contagious condition. However, when he too is infected and taken to quarantine, his unaffected wife (Julianne Moore) becomes the only person with vision (physically, and woo, like, spiritually). Moore's character soon has to contend with the increasing depravity of the holding hospital and becomes, by default, responsible for leading the randomly thrown together strangers (including Danny Glover and Alice Braga) and defending them from the nasty gang-rape fixated elements of the hospital/prison (Gael Garcia Bernal, Maury Chaykin).

Blindness suffers from a peculiar heavy-handedness in its completely unsubtle sub-text. The audience feels like it's being bludgeoned over the head with the blindingly (sorry) obvious. Something along the lines of 'humanity is blind to bad things and we aren't terribly nice to one another'. If this can somehow be put to one side (I couldn't really) it could maybe be possible to enjoy Blindness as a stylish, 'zombie-ish' thriller. (Misanthropic/apocalyptic 'Zombie' thrillers are absolutely everywhere these days. Where were they when I needed them, in the early 90's??) For most of us however, the film's simplistic (and worryingly exploitative) handling of the source material renders it a largely unlovable and unpleasant  experience.