Archive for November, 2008

From Hell

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Following on from the earlier ramble about the forthcoming Watchmen film (which may or may not happen) we rifled through our DVD collection and dragged out The Hughes Brothers 2001 adaptation of From Hell – another Alan Moore graphic novel adaptation, this one about Jack the Ripper.

Given that the book is nearly 600 pages long, it’s not surprising that the film adaptation loses several plot points, and is very liberal with the narrative; the film is more of a Victorian whodunnit, whereas Moore and artist Eddie Campbell practically reveal the identify of the Ripper within the first few pages.

Nevertheless, the film is an enjoyable romp, whether you’ve read the book or not. The violence is delivered with the same trademark Hughes Brothers style, and despite the claret (of which there is quite a lot) none of the nastiness ever feels obtuse or gratuitous – the Victorian London created in From Hell is a vision of putrescence, overflowing gutters, gin palaces and gas lamps around which the fleas and flies dance inbetween feasting on the bodies of murderees.

Killings are all too common in Whitechapel, and so it takes a particularly vicious and brutal slaying of a ‘bang-tail’, for its residents to sit up and take notice; “it was the way she was done,” which draws the attentions of Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp), a character based on the real police Inspector who followed up the Ripper murders in 1888.


Zhou Yu’s Train (Zhōu Yú de huǒchē)

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Propelled to fame playing regal beauties in grandiose historical dramas such as Raise the Red Lantern and Farewell my Concubine, Chinese actress Gong Li takes a professional U-turn in this bittersweet romance with hints of French cinema from director Zhou Sun, recasting herself as Zhou Yu, a thoroughly modern, independent woman whose sexuality is part of her personality. Torn between two lovers, the ethereal introvert and the easygoing charmer, Gong takes comfort in somnolent train journeys through the countryside of northwest China. Zhou Yu’s Train is adapted from the novel by Cun Bei.

The IT Crowd – out now on DVD

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The slapstick tech support based sitcom written by Father Ted creator Graham Linehan returns to Channel 4 tomorrow night. If you’ve not seen The IT Crowd, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with Moss, Jen and Roy, who make up the entire IT department of the London-based Reynholm Industries, a company which once turned over “eighteen hundred billion billion,” in profits.

Moss and Roy are, in the words of Denholm Reynholm (the CEO, played by Chris Morris), just a pair of “standard nerds” who are outcast by the rest of the firm despite their reliance on their technical expertise.

The glamorous and ambitious Jen is appointed their manager after blagging her way into the job, even though it’s clear she knows next to squat about computers.


Watchmen – coming soon

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

It’s ten minutes to midnight.

Released over twenty years ago between 1986 and 87, to say that Watchmen was an influential success would be a pretty epic understatement. It cemented Alan Moore’s reputation as a writer in the graphic novel medium and since then, more than a fair few of his graphic novels have (much to his chagrin) been adapted for the big screen, most notably V For Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Constantine, and Jack the Ripper conspiracy theory yarn From Hell. His treatment of the Joker in his celebrated Batman one-shot The Killing Joke, is widely cited as being a major influence on both Tim Burton’s 1989 movie, the subsequent Batman animated series, and recent outing The Dark Knight.

No Watchmen, no Heroes. Simple as.

The comic book is set in an alternative universe where superheroes exist – it is 1985, and the Cold War is on the verge of becoming a very, very hot one.

In this universe, the USA won the Vietnam War, and Watergate never happened – Nixon is still the President. The West is defended by a small elite corps of licensed superheroes, the most powerful of which, Dr. Manhattan, has given the States an edge over the Soviets. However, things take a turn for the worse – the story begins with the discovery that The Comedian, an ultra-patriotic American superhero is found dead, having been hurled several stories from his apartment.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Directed by celebrated painter Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tells the remarkable tale of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), the 43-year old Parisian fashion editor and playboy who, at the zenith of wealth and success was paralysed by a stroke and suffered from “locked in syndrome”, where he is alive and conscious but unable to communicate with the world.

Bauby wakes up in hostpital from a coma to find himself paralysed from head to toe and unable to speak. The only part of his body he can move is his left eyelid, which he uses to communicate. The pretty speech therapist (Marie-Josee Croze) recites the alphabet in the order of most frequently used letters, and Bauby chooses a letter by blinking. Thus, letter by letter, blink by blink, he ‘dictates’ his extraordinary memoir on which this film is based.