Friday, May 27, 2005

Sleeping with the cup!!

How happy this week has made me!!


Stephen Gerrard slept with the cup............well, wouldn't you?!?!

Well done to the 'Pool!! Had you written off at half time, and was even considering never watching another Liverpool match - was cursing the team in and out of the ground, and almost crying in frustration. But just when I thought I was out, they pulled me right back in!!!!

L-I-V-E-R-P-O-O-L, Liverpool F.C.!!

And, it has to be said........

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and


Monday, May 23, 2005

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away we rejoiced at the announcement that George Lucas would complete his story, by adding three prequels explaining how Darth Vader had begun. Episode I was greeted with widespread derision, and Episode II (though slightly better) did little to alleviate concern that Lucas had lost the plot, in more ways than one. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, therefore, seemed doomed from the outset. Though sneak-peeks of Lord Vader rising in full black ensemble set hearts racing, as did the sound of the familiar heavy breathing, Hayden Christensen just did not seem capable of embodying the evil we all knew. Through clever security the story was not made available, giving no idea as to how the transformation from Jedi to Sith, man to part-machine, and good to evil was to happen.

As the introductory words appeared on the screen and the theme tune kicked in, I felt a familiar excitement and pleasure. Though I had warned myself not to expect too much, lest I suffer the disappointment of previous Episodes, the action engulfed me. From scene one of the movie, Lucas has the audience firmly back in his grip – this Episode is everything the previous two were not, and even surpasses A New Hope (dare I say it) for sheer unadulterated excitement. The political intrigue of the The Senate vs. The Jedi Council enthrals the older audience who may be fervent admirers of the originals, though could perhaps be a little above the younger fan. Anakin’s doomed love of Padmé (Natalie Portman) has a desperation and tragedy to its core that truly moves, and though we may think we know of the destiny these characters face, Lucas still manages to surprise us with the outcome. Ewan McGregor finally grasps the role of Obi-Wan and makes it his own, his anger and resentment at Anakin’s betrayal tempered by the sadness and disappointment of a man losing his best friend and brother.

The action moves faster than any previous instalments; fighter ships tousling in space, the familiar Empirical spacecraft making an appearance, droid armies, new creatures, Jedi battles and vengeful genocide, to name but a few highlights of this fast-paced pleaser. The real pleasure, however, lies in Anakin’s transformation. Without giving too much away, it has to said that Lucas has truly managed to piece this third Star Wars adventure perfectly to the fourth. Before seeing such storytelling and perfect action, I would not have thought it possible to adequately explain why Anakin Skywalker, the hope for the Jedi force, would turn so resolutely to the Dark Side. In parts One and Two, Christensen barely manages to look slightly miffed, never mind show strains of evil which would eventually overcome him – however, he performs to standard, if not sometimes above, in this, the most important of prequels.

The surprises in store for those who feel they know how the story must ‘end’ (since the closing chapters have already been told), are multiple, and the entire tale manages to feel fresh and new, however many preconceptions fans carry into the movie. A shiver is hard to avoid when Darth finally rises, as we know he must, and the famous voice of James Earl Jones groans from within the dark depths of the mask, heavily breathing the sound of doom for the Galaxy.

The undertaking of such a revered venture was massive, and some confidence was lost in Lucas with the first two instalments – certainly not helped by his returning to the original three and amending (or desecrating) classic scenes to suit his new audience. The feeling so far has been that Lucas should have left well enough alone, and this sentiment extended to his telling of Darth’s tale, once Episode I reared its childish head. However, despite some few shaky moments, Episode III finally lives up to the moniker of ‘Star Wars’, firing the imagination of the average fan with the passion of renewed enthusiasm for the series.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Everyman Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) discovers his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) is an alien, the day the earth is due to be destroyed by Vogons to make way for an interstellar bypass. They hitch a ride off the planet only to discover themselves in the company of Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), alien cousin of Ford and president of the Universe, Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), an earth-girl Arthur once tried to chat up at a party, and Marvin (Alan Rickman), a paranoid android. Zaphod has stolen a ship, the Heart of Gold, which runs on an improbability drive - turning missiles into a bowl of petunias or a sperm whale, to give but an example of its power. Arthur wants to prove how exciting he is to Trillian, whilst helping the motley crew discover the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. Not quite your average trip to the multi-plex!

Despite being based on cult-favourite books, the movie version of Douglas Adams’ opus attracted precious little pre-production angst from fanboys (Harry Knowles notably giving it the thumbs up). However, to be a voice of discord amongst a normally so hard-to-please audience, the end result did not manage to win me over.

As an avid fan of the novels (a trilogy in five parts, as Adams was fond of saying), I felt that the big screen version lacked some of the point and most of the wit of its literary beginnings. The books reflect such a quintessentially English base that it was very hard to reconcile some of the actors with their characters – far too many Americans took up pivotal roles, playing their parts too loudly or too flamboyantly. The narration of Stephen Fry, the quirkiness of Bill Bailey (Sperm Whale), the perfect casting of Bill Nighy (Slartibartfast), and the boredom of Alan Rickman somewhat make up for the brash southern screaming of the normally excellent Rockwell. However, the balance is negatively tipped by the blandness of Zooey Deschanel, and the uncharismatic efforts of Mos Def.

Arthur, the ‘eye of the storm’ in the novels, is relegated to amusing bumbler – Freeman very much relying on his incarnation as Tim from The Office for inspiration. However, since Tim tends to have Arthur-like tendencies, this really is not such a bad thing, and he actually fits the character perfectly. Arthur’s attempts to come to terms with the demolition of the earth, the appearance of a woman he has failed with, and the discovery that his best friend is an alien are reduced to insignificant reactions, rather than mind-blowing revelations. Trillian was originally the woman Arthur fails to interest at a party – partially because of the appearance of an exciting alien, Zaphod, but mostly due to Arthur’s ineptness at communicating with the opposite sex. She is now the main romantic interest of what has inexplicably become a love-story.

Arthur never willingly left earth, or trusted Ford, despite the imminent destruction of his world. This was part of Arthur’s charm…resisting change being such a quintessentially English foible. Hollywood Arthur, however, accepts quite a lot of what Ford tells him with minimum fuss – actually seeming to enjoy space travel (something the Arthur of the novels could never get used to). Emotions and plot-points of such central and seemingly immovable importance in the novel are given little time on screen. Even the introduction of ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ travel/survival book is merely an afterthought. Though it should be a pivotal object in the tale, it becomes another narrative aside, having the same bearing as the sudden appearance of a sperm whale – quirky and amusing, but ultimately unimportant.

Aficionados of the books will be disappointed; there is too much bluster and not enough substance…the opening scene, a musical number by dolphins, being a case in point. The constant barrage of ‘in jokes’ becomes wearying, with fans getting an occasional tit-bit to laugh knowingly at in order to feel somewhat fulfilled.

All in all, I was disappointed on most levels with the movie – acting, script, story and execution. However, occasional flashes of brilliance hold it together: the Vogons are almost perfect, and Magrathean’s factory floor, where planets are built, is as good as any imagination. As an adaptation of adventure-filled, intelligent and comedic ‘trilogy’, it fails – lacking much relationship with the original plot. As a movie in it’s own right, it mostly passes, but with a story too rushed to make sense, it is too overblown to really connect with the audience.

An English story sugar-coated and amended for the worldwide audience, it amounts to a disappointing end-result from such a fantastic franchise opportunity.