News I want to post about the anti-war protest. I want to be able to say something profound, like other webloggers bringing in all kinds of useful links and describing constructively why a war would be a bad thing. But so many other people are saying so many other more interesting and profound opinions out there that my critical mass would be wasted. So instead I’ll just repeat the mantra … ‘Say no to war’. [related, related, related, related]
Film Disney releases a sequel to 'The Jungle Book'. The reviews have been mixed ...
" At last it has produced a big-screen, animated sequel, "The Jungle Book 2," a work of such charm and imagination it should enchant, as the old circus phrase goes, "children of all ages." .... Mowgli's subsequent adventures are told with much wit and humor, and knockout musical numbers give the film a terrific lift ... Director Steve Trenbirth and a vast animation team have honored the classic Disney style of simply and attractively rendered human and animal characters with superbly illustrated backgrounds, in this instance a lush, leafy jungle replete with ancient ruins and a humble rural village nearby."
-- Kevin Thomas, LA Times

"The Jungle Book 2" is so thin and unsatisfying it seems like a made-for-DVD version, not a theatrical release ... There's none of the complexity here, in story or style, we expect in this new golden age of animation. It's a throwback in which cute animals of no depth or nuance play with the hero or threaten him in not very scary ways."
-- Roger Ebert, Syndicated.
You're wrong ... no you're wrong ...
TV The new breed of television. Bit late, but on Saturday, The Guardian ran this piece about the vanguard of television, the standard bearers. It isn't very well formatted on the web and doesn't include the starting photographs but there are some odments (Big Brother One's Melanie Hill!?!). Most interesting for me was that Stephen Poliakoff's best TV ever was the first series of "Doctor Who" (I suspect he means the William Hartnell stories) and that the controller of BBC3 lists his best ever as simply Doctor Who. It's coming back, I tell you, it's coming back ... just a matter of time ...
Sport After last night, Football365 offering an amusing rebuff ... 10 things we're still better at than the Aussies:
Britain: Sgt Pepper by The Beatles, Hamlet by William Shakespeare, The Haywain by John Constable.
Australia: Suddenly by Angry Anderson, Crocodile Dundee 3 by Paul Hogan, Do You Know What It Is Yet? Number 1009 by Rolf Harris.
Reading the match report some of Sven-Goran Eriksson tactics seemed like those of a bored ten year old trying things out on 'Football Manager'.
Lunchtime Just for a change I'm at Liverpool Central Library using their internet facilities. It's a packed little area full of students. It's quite and clean and the access is pretty fast (although annoyingly the right click on the mouse has been disabled so I can't open links in a new page as is my habit). Ironically this section used be filled racks containing magazines and journals from through out the world on a range of subjects. I'd sometimes come here to read about the kinds of things I wouldn't look at ordinarily. Then I went on-line and found myself able to do that from the comfort of my own tip, and it looks like the library has done the same.
Theatre Goodbye then to Guardian columnist Michael Simpkins who over the past year or so has entertained us with his stories of being out of workish actor. He's giving it up due to an extended stay in the stage musical 'Mamma Mia' ...
Music A passionate discussion broke out in my World Music class last night. It began when Simone, the tutor explained how she had got an archive recording from her collection and played it in comparison with a track from a new cd which was supposed to be identical and it sound ever so slightly, subtly different. There were a few shocked faces in the class. She advised that we had to be care when by World Music because we might not be getting the original music, but a version which has been altered to fit the musical tastes of the west.

I stepped up and brought forward an old argument I've had with a friend, Richard, who for while was a classical music nut. He was grousing about classical music compilations and how they ruined the intent of the original composer. My point of view about that and the World Music was that it doesn't matter if the music was changed to fit a market because it meant that a new audience is being gathered anyway and you're introducing a beginner to something new. That it was OK for someone to pick up a CD of Ladysmith Black Mambaso which has been released to coincide with some baked beans commercials and football tournement becuase there is the slightest chance they might go and seek out other African sounds. And even if they don't, from a business point of view it's feeding the record companies so that they can support the less accessable stuff.

I was shouted down. A lot. The concensous seemed to be that if you change the sound, you are eroding the intent and in the end ruining that thing which made the music unique in the first place.

As always, of course, I see it both ways ...
Blog! The Photobloggies shortlist is out. Go vote, and if you don't like some of the choices you can probably blame me ...
Film The Oscar nominations are out. What Vicki said. What John said. 'The Hours' will probably win everything and Peter Jackson was robbed again. And Soderbergh.
TV Tonight's 'The Second Coming' was pretty unreviewable, but Mark Lawson has a go:
"While evangelical Christians would doubtless be happier watching their Cliff Richard videos, Davies, though a professed atheist, never seems to be deliberately farting in church. The Second Coming is as distant from the territory of Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ and Serrano's Piss Christ as Manchester is from Jerusalem."
This is the sort of thing which ITV used be known for (and Channel 4 for that matter) and made a real change from the endless re-runs of 'A Touch of Frost'. I really loved it, although I would have liked a bit more scope. Surely the son of God would have left his native Manchester or would have been forced to. What I will say is that the sections after Baxter's death ... about were it left humanity encapsulated ow I feel about all of this. Why should we believe in something supernatural when we hardly ever believe in oursleves?
Blog! Metafilter is to Windows as Freefilter is to Linux ... maybe ... or Does Matt Haughey know about this?
Film I now have a theory about Martin Scorsese. I think making a filmic history of gangs and gangsters in New York, and one of these days he’s going to do a Lucas and try and tie them all together, with ‘Gangs of New York’ at one end and ‘Goodfellas’ as the other. I hope he does because it might solve a few issues for me. Regular readers of my reviews will know I’ve never been friends with most of Scorsese’s gangster pictures. I’m probably the only man in the western spiral arm of the galaxy who doesn’t think the aforementioned ‘Goodfellas’ is a masterpiece, preferring his quieter more meditative pieces like ‘Last Temptation of Christ’ and ‘Age of Innocence’. Although I loved ‘Casino’, but I’m a paradoxical soul.

I think I liked ‘Gangs of New York’, possibly because it’s a mixture of the two. The gangsterism is there, but it’s underpinned by a kind of humanity. It’s certainly as good as anything he’s done. But it still won’t win an oscar. It doesn’t all quite fit together, and at some point you might feel like you’ve nodded off and missed half an hour. The motivations of some of the characters stop adding up and you’re left to let the film flow over you for a while until something happens which shocks you awake. This film could have been, should have been and probably was a lot longer. The couple of years in editing are all too evident.

Even at the running time it has it speeds past and I would have been please to have given it another hour so that it could make complete sense. For example its obvious we would have seen Di Caprio’s early years in the orphanage. They wouldn’t have hired a decent actor like Tim Piggot-Smith otherwise. And this happens time and again throughout the film. Really good recognizable actor given very little screen time. The footage we have here is the tip of the iceberg people. Don’t buy the DVD of this film straight away. There is bound to be a much better directors cut on sale six months later.
Film There is a certain type of film which unlike ‘8 Mile’ isn’t trying to be something it isn’t. It knows at the core it’s a B-movie, an entertainment which people won’t go back to too often but offers thrill whiles it’s on screen. The kind Spielberg used to make before he decided he was a proper film maker (‘Duel’); or Joe Dante. ‘Ghost Ship’ is one of these. Produced by Joel Silver and Robert Zemekis it’s like a big screen episode of a Fifties anthology series, full of mystery, minor terror and mugging.

Initially you do wonder what Gabriel Burne is doing there, and did Julianna Margolies leave ‘e.r.’ for this? It’s distracting. But from initial, very shocking scene it’s very difficult not be looking at the screen. Characterisation is a minimal, and the tension is laid on thickly. You know it’s hackneyed, and that you’ve seen it before (you really have, it’s a remake and the plot of ‘Event Horizon’, but it’s a zippy little thing and for some reason deeply engrossing. And I have to say I didn’t see the twist coming (this from the guy who worked out ‘The Sixth Sense’ from the trailer).
Film Just before seeing ‘8 Mile’ I was listening to a radio review laud it for all the ‘gritty realism’. ‘Nil By Mouth’ had gritty realism. This is the Hollywood version. Yes, there are beatings, shootings and drub abuse, but director Curtis Hanson has brought a slick feel to them, dragging them into the mainstream, sanitizing them in a way for teenagers. This is supposed to be the semi-autobiographical story of Eminem’s early years.

Actually it’s ‘Krush Groove’ for the naughties. For anyone not aware of that opus beyond the reference in ‘Dogma’, this was an Eighties celebration of rap music which followed which followed a Run DMCian group on their path to fame via the corrupting influence of the record companies, featuring a host of genre stars including ‘The Fat Boys’ as comedy relief. Rewatching a bit of this movie puts everything ‘8 Mile’ is supposed to be in some kind of perspective.

Weirdly it also has the structure of a standard fighting arts film in the mould of ‘Rocky’ and actually clearly ‘The Karate Kid’. It begins with a fight (in this case rapping) which doesn’t go to well, and the sportsman (in this case Eminem’s character, Rabbit) has to train throughout the film until he is able to take on his most powerful of opponents in the final scene. In those films montage sequences feature shadow boxing, here we see Rabbit hunched over a desk memorizing rhymes. At some point in those films he will be betrayed by a close friend (check), romance some girl (check) and find himself beaten up (yup). Unfortunately this leaves you in little doubt as to who will win. Gritty realism is not this predictable. I was also reminded for some reason of ‘Coyote Ugly’ but let’s not go there.
FilmCatch Me If You Can’ fulfills my theory about Spielberg in recent times. Whenever he’s trying to make a point about something (‘Armistad’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘AI’) his films are great to look at but not fabulously entertaining. When he’s just trying to make everyone happy and make the audience leave the cinema smiling rather than thinking, he’s on the game and you know your in for a decent show. This is one of those films.

I’ve always had a few issues with Leonardo Di Caprio. He’s a highly overrated performer, but he has that all important onscreen charisma, something which is all important in the part of a trickster. You have to instantly believe that he would be seventeen year old able and capable of doing these things and he pulls it off for the most part. Once again, Tom Hanks essays the straight man, a part he seems mostly comfortable in.

But there is a skism in the storytelling which hurts things slightly. Its about half an hour too long. When the story reaches its natural end in story telling terms it continues and shows us a bunch of stuff we don’t need to see, which could have been conveyed in the final information cards. When you see it, you’ll know what I mean. It feels tacked on, Di Caprio doesn’t look at all comfortable in them. But perhaps I’m being to harsh, because I always like films to have a definite end …