I have found a truly mouth-watering feature of my precious iRiver iMP-350. By using the caption editor available on their website, mp3s can be programmed to display the song lyrics on the control stick in time with the music.
Now that's better living through technology, baby!!!
The only problem is that the caption editor program, when it plays the mp3 back, only plays the left channel, so songs with vocals that are panned hard-right (such as Beatles or Hendrix tracks) are sometimes difficult to synch. Otherwise, it is a simple process... download the lyrics, paste them into the text box and click on the "Insert Time Info" button to change the line.
I've added band personel as well, 'cause I'm like that.
This pretty generic actioner starring the rather amiable Rock has a few laughs, but the story is blah, the action is staged in a "I can be like Michael Bay, too" style and Christopher Walken is godawful. There are some fantastic Brazilian vistas, but the film doesn't make much of an impression.
Cold Creek Manor
I tend to like Mike Figgis, but this fairly pedestrian thriller starts slow and builds up to a well-made but familiar finale.
Elements of the story that could have yielded interesting drama - Sharon Stone's character is ready to commit adultery to further her career, Stone and Dennis Quaid buy Cold Creek Manor for a song because it was foreclosed upon - all uneasy moral territory that Figgis excells at depictiing - are all dealt with in a brisk "let's get on with it" manner that hurts the film. There are a couple of good shocks, the performances are decent, but the film is empty.
Honestly, just as if you hear a disembodied voice telling you to get out of the house you just bought you should, if the first person you meet in town when looking for a place to move is Juliette Lewis, well... don't move there. Really.
Cold Creek Manor is an example of a film that is part of a recent trend among formerly reliable filmmakers towards making movies, the enjoyment of which is a passive activity. Figgis' Liebestraum is one of the most stimulating films I've seen, but Cold Creek Manor is not meant to engage the audience, or even pose any sort of a challenge. This makes the film much less than I would have expected from Figgis.
This film basically consists of beautiful shots of birds migrating. If migrating sounds like it could cause migraines, well, it could. The beauty of the images and the incredible diversity of the bird kingdom keep one from getting bored, however, despite the fact that the movie is not very informative.
There is a minimal narration, and title cards to identify what the birds are that you are looking at, but what, exactly, these birds are doing remains a mystery. And there are some really weird birds out there that do some wacky stuff. An explanation here and there would have been nice.
The photography was, indeed, quite breathtaking (especially projected onto the Imax screen, as I saw it). Bruno Colais' score is interesting music, but seems out of place in the film.
The Life of David Gale
Alan Parker is trying so hard to make a Big Statement that he forgets that he should be making a Good Movie. To be frank, as good as the performances are, every aspect of the plot is seen coming from a mile away (anybody who hasn't guessed what is on the tape at the end of the film really needs to get out more).
The film is more about characters with nothing to lose than the death penalty itself - a major flaw is that the ending forces one to consider the veracity of events from earlier in the film... most specifically about the rape charge directed at Spacey's character. This is not a good thing, and it is something the filmmakers should have been aware of, given the other movie whose narrative is a story told by Kevin Spacey in flashback.
Parker's usual visual flair is absent here, except for the non-sequiter transitions.
Kate Winslet, I must say, is a great chameleon. Comparing her in this film to, say, Enigma, is a great lesson in how an performer can convey a different character, not just through make-up and an accent (hers is flawless), but also through her delivery how she carries herself.
Flight of the Innocent
Because Carlo Carlei was responsible for the underrated Fluke, a children's film that dealt intelligently with several philosophical issues, I figured that I'd check out this Italian feature he directed before he came to the States.
The title is completely accurate. The boy is so incredibly innocent that it's sickening. He brings peace and happiness to everyone he encounters (except those who die bloody deaths in slow-motion trying to protect him). He even quiets a wimpering child by tucking him in. Isn't he sweet?
His reticence to speak at first might imply the Zen-like nature the filmmakers are trying to ascribe to him, but it quickly becomes infuriating when it would be simple enough to explain himself.
There are far too many tricks and faux-artsy touches grafted onto a basic fugitive story, but there is no subtext, and no philosophy to support them, so they come across as pretentious at best, obnoxious at worst.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
I have started reading Patricia Highsmith's novel, but I have only started, so I can only comment on the film itself.
Anthony Minghella's adaptation is refreshingly Marxist and wonderfully amoral. Eschewing the languid pace and dull characterizations that turned The English Patient into such a pompous bore, Ripley is instead colorful and sprightly.
In a surprisingly excellent performance, Matt Damon plays (gay) con artist Tom Ripley who manages to find himself playing for bigger stakes than he could have imagined. His professional abilities for imitation, forgery and quick-thinking allow him to enter the upper echelon of economic society.
Once he gets a taste of being pampered - and develops a crush on his target, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) - Ripley doesn't want to give it up, and he will keep his newfound status any way he can.
Watching Ripley deal with difficult situations is entertaining, but it is also a real kick when he is backed into a corner and has to kill to get out.
Watching these boorish, arrogant, jet-setting trust fund shits get killed is a great thrill, and the exotic locations, a great supporting cast (including Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett, James Rebhorn and Phillip Baker Hall, who makes a great impression despite his brief screen time) and a haunting-yet-playful, evocative score by Gabriel Yared, are all part of the film's appeal.
I discovered yesterday that the Peter Gunn theme is great driving music.
I have a bet with my friend Raz that Henry Mancini was, in fact, the composer of this theme. He is under the apparent misimpression that the theme predates the Blake Edwards television series.
He's wrong, of course.
I wish it weren't a gentleman's bet.
When will people realize that I never bet unless I know I'm right? I'm not a gambler.
An article in this month's issue of Film Score Monthly has me quite eager to hear Patrick Doyle's new scoer for Secondhand Lions, even if the film itself looks rather iffy.
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed his music since his sabbatical while recovering from leukemia - this despite having seen, and been impressed with the music from, Robert Altman's Gosford Park.
I remember listening to his enchanting score from Great Expectations (an album we had at Tower, so I never bought it). Doyle is a great new voice from the old dramatic school, and I'm glad he's got two new scores coming out, with another Branagh collaboration apparently in the works.
In order to get myself to wake up, I positioned one of my alarm clocks across the room so I would have to get out of bed to turn it off. The system worked when I had two alarm clocks. One was by my bed and I could snooze it.
Well, the single alarm clock across the room is a pain, so I plan to get another alarm clock, one with a better design than the last one. That is, where the "snooze" button is the easiest to hit...
You see, the alarm clock closest to my bed was destroyed by myself in a rage. The "snooze" button was right next to the "sleep" button. I have no idea why alarm clocks have "sleep" buttons at all. I would try to snooze and turn the alarm off.
Now, alarm clock manufacturers must be aware that the nature of their products means that it will be used almost exclusively when the operators are nowhere near the height fo their facilities, so why put two buttons with opposite functions right next to each other?
The $105.00 Mr. Ripley
The DVD of the film that I rented initially began to skip and freeze on chapter 16. I checked out chapter 17, same thing. I brought it back to get a new one. In the one minute and twenty seconds it took to do the exchange, a meter man issued me a ticket for one hundred and five dollars. Yes, that's one hundred and five dollars. Yup. ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE DOLLARS.
Did I mention the ticket was for one hundred and five dollars?
Bloomberg needs to just step down and commit sepuku. It should be televised, too, for the entertainment of all New Yorkers.
One hundred and five frickin' dollars.