Is this how time normally passes? Really slowly, in the right order?

Tuesday, June 10

Art

Peripatetic

Word of the day is peripatetic. (Yes, and I assume it will be gone by tomorrow? — Ed.)

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Sunday, June 08

Art

Theatre of the Absurd

Tonight in Pixy Misa's Theatre of the Absurd we have a very special double feature: Big Trouble (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2002) and Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986).

Big Trouble takes its story from the book of the same name by Dave Barry. Tim Allen stars as Eliot Arnold, formerly a Pulitzer prize-winning humour columnist for the Miami Herald (I wonder where they got that idea from), now divorced and trying to make a living in advertising. He also narrates the film, a necessary conceit given the complex and curious nature of the story. Oh, and there's also an opening narration by Puggy (Jason Lee), who lives in a tree and wins the love of Nina the maid (Sofia Vergara), the lucky bastard.

By the end of the film, Eliot has saved the world, remarried, and won the respect of his teenage son (in order of increasing difficulty). In between, things happen. These things involve guns, goats, bufo marinus, and the worlds most valuable garbage disposal unit.

Basically, this film is a farce, a screwball comedy, with elements of action thrown in. And the one thing you can't do with either a farce or an action flick is slow down. Never ever slow down, never give your audience a chance to stop laughing or let the adrenalin go cold. Unfortunately, Big Trouble doesn't manage this; there are many fine scenes, some wonderful ones, even, but the pacing is inconsistent. Perhaps this is because they were trying to shove the whole book into an 85-minute movie (and it is a faithful translation; I don't recall anything significant that was missing or changed from the novel). Perhaps its just hard to translate this sort of insanity onto the screen; Striptease, the movie of Carl Hiaasen's marvellous book, certainly suffered when it was turned into cellulite. [That's celluloid. — Ed. Says you. Have you seen the film?]

Which is not to say that Big Trouble is a bad film. One reviewer on IMDB called it "the worst comedy of the year", apparently because he couldn't follow the story. What's so hard? There's this guy (Tim Allen), you see, and his son (Ben Foster) is trying to kill this girl (Zooey Deschanel) [What sort of a name is "Zooey"? — Ed.], only not like kill her, it's just this game they're playing, Killer, which if I recall correctly was released by Steve Jackson Games, and there's this toad (Rick Lazzarini) which has taken over the dog's (Martha Stewart. No, really, Martha Stewart.) food dish and these Russians and this annoying guy that makes Fishhook Beer and then the world gets saved.

Well, maybe it helps to read the book first. Or maybe not. I did read the book first, and the movie being the faithful adaptation that it is, I knew what was coming. This works fine with, say, The Princess Bride, where it doesn't matter if you read the book or watch the film first, because then you can go right ahead and watch the film or read the book, and it adds to the experience rather than taking away. So, I wasn't confused at all watching Big Trouble, but I wasn't surprised either. Except for the goat; I laughed out loud at the goat.

Which is just my way of saying, no, it's not a bad film, much less the worst comedy of the year. Didn't The Animal come out in 2002? No, apparently 2001. Anyway, Big Trouble is a fun film, enjoyable and amusing, a bit cheesy, perhaps, but well worth the hour-and-a-half. Pixy Misa gives it a 7.

Big Trouble in Little China most certainly does not have the pacing problems of Big Trouble. It starts off nice and easy, setting the scene, establishing the characters... And then it hits full throttle and never lets up. This is Hollywood's take on the Wuxia film, and it's a good one. If you're not familiar with this school of film, or the stories and legends it draws upon, then you can't expect it to make much sense, and you'll just have to hang on and enjoy the ride. If you are familiar with the genre, you should enjoy the Western reaction to the various mythic elements, which can be summed up as What is this shit?

Our guide to this exploration of Chinese legend is Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), a truck driver with friends in San Francisco's Chinatown. When Wang Chi's (Dennis Dun) newly arrived fiancee Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) is abducted from the airport by Chinese thugs, Jack and Wang go to rescue her. Their encounters move swiftly from rival gangs to flying men in bamboo hats (Thunder, Rain and Lightning, played by Carter Wong, Peter Kwong and James Pax) and a two-thousand year old Chinese sorceror who shoots beams of light from his eyes and mouth (Lo Pan, played by James Hong).

It's comic book stuff, but it's good comic book stuff. There are love interests for all our heroes (Kim Cattrall as Gracie Law, the aforementioned Miao Yin (Miao Miao), and Kate Burton as Margo the reporter), there are fights, monsters, dark sorcery, bright magic (Victor Wong as Egg Shen), temples, weddings, guns, knives, good men, bad men, ninja girls (can't go wrong with ninja girls)... It doesn't have a car chase, not really, but apart from that the movie is complete.

Will Jack win through despite the odds, defeat the evil sorceror and save the girl? Well, duh, of course he will. It's not so important how it ends, because you know that going in; what's important is that it's done with style, with humour, with panache. And indeed it is. Pixy Misa gives it an 8.

Meanwhile, Blogger is down again. I'm not stupid, not totally; I can learn from painful experience; I did the Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C, Post&Publish dance, and I didn't lose my article. It's still down, and I still can't post; what do you expect from Microsoft SQL Server? Pixy Misa gives Blogger a 4. Catch it on TV.

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Art

I'm in Big Trouble

Nina, the maid in Big Trouble, is played by Sofia Vergara. I think I'm in love.

And you know those security seals they put on DVDs? I hate those things! Particularly when they put them on all three sides. Not naming any particular companies (Viz Video).

Oh, and in case anyone was still planning to invade Australia, we have lots of cane toads. Lots and lots of cane toads

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Sunday, June 01

Art

Trashing With Style

James Lileks was not impressed with The Matrix Reloaded:
“Um - it’s all underground? The steel mill is entirely underground?”

“That’s right. Tall as a 50-story building, when completed. It will be the world’s biggest underground steel mill.”

“It’ll be the world’s only underground steel mill.”

Nor was Mark Steyn overly enthused with X-Men 2:
Nobody who genuinely loved superheroes would do that to them. The exception is Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, who plays the shape-shifter Mystique. I can’t say Miss Romijn-Stamos’ shape is in much need of shifting, particularly as she spends most of the movie dressed in a kind of skin-tight slime that makes it look as if she’s just emerged from the pit on Lesbian Mud-Wrestling Night at the local sports bar.
Are there any good movies on the horizon, now that Return of the King has been pushed back to 2004? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

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