Sunday, March 26, 2006

Orange belt!

I passed my second grading today, and got my orange belt. Although I did a lot more than my yellow belt grading it didn't seem as hard, perhaps because I had an idea of what was coming this time. I have another lesson tomorrow, but hopefully it'll be something unrelated to the syllabus as I'm sick of doing katas right now.

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post was that on Feb 26th I went to see the incomparable Daniel Kitson. This chap is possibly my all-time favourite comedian, and this is the only the second time I've ever seen him. The first was back at uni, in 2000. I'd never laughed so much in my entire life...until tonight, that is. His humour ranges from the crude (he says c**t more than anyone I've ever known), to the intellectually fulfilling (the guy has a vocabulary the size of Encyclopedia Britannica). Gems included a 10 minute hysterical rant on the dangers of smoking, and a deconstruction of reality TV shows that encourage cruelty, such as Pop Idol:

"What did you do today, daddy?"
"I shattered someone's dreams."

The show was about 2 and a half hours with a break, but I could have listened to him for twice that. Quite simply, Daniel Kitson is a genius and if you get chance to see him live, you need to go. Even if it means stabbing someone in the face with a blunt pencil to get a ticket. I hope I don't have to wait another 6 years to see him again.

A few films I've seen recently:

A History of Violence - excellent little thriller, where a smalltown diner owner (Viggo Mortensen, minus a sword) becomes a hero when he fends off two armed robbers who break in and threaten his staff. This sets off a chain of events that affect him and his family, right up to an interesting and original final scene. Whilst quite gory in places, the film asks questions such as "How much violence is too much?" and "Is it right for good guys to be violent, and bad guys not to be?". I've been deliberately vague about the plot, since even reading the smallest spoiler could ruin it for you. It's well worth watching though.

Rounders - No, sadly not a gratuitous, "no holds barred" look at the all-girl UK team who play the game of the same name; this film's about poker. Not so interested? Well, it'd be a shame to miss out as this one's a treat. Mike (Matt Damon) is a law school student paying his tuition by winning poker games; that is, until he loses everything on one game against a Russian mobster, Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). 9 months on and going straight, his friend and old poker partner Worm (Edward Norton) gets out of prison with debts to pay, and soon drags him back into the game. It's an effective, gripping little comedy-drama with great acting, but Malkovich steals every scene he's in. I've not seen a supporting actor put so much into hamming up a role since Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham. His accent is ridiculous: what is that? Ukraine? Uzi? Yet, it matters not, because the film is worth watching for him alone.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Gilly's choice (it has Robert Downey Jr. in it...), this was an entertaining and very funny film noir tribute, complete with narrative. The plot is far too complicated to explain and has more twists than I can remember, but even if you don't fully understand what's going on, you'll still enjoy it.

Timecode - There's not many films I've given up on. Creep was one of them, and that lasted about 45 minutes. With Timecode I managed 26. No, it's not a wacky time-travel film, nor is it about a bomb. If only. This is one of those pretentious "arthouse" movies that look interesting, until you realise that if you keep watching you may actually slip into a coma. The screen is split into 4, similar to the way 24 lays out its different stories. The main difference is that with 24 the scenes that are happening simultaneously are shown on screen together for a maximum of five or six seconds. With Timecode there are 4 different continuous shots of four different stroies going on all the way through the film, with the volume being raised in the section of the screen that the director wants you to pay attention to. When you consider that each of the sections was done in one continuous take with improvisation by the actors all the way through, it all starts to sound impressive. The main problem is that every one of those four stories is deathly dull. They all apparently converge near the end of the film but in order to get the viewer hooked, there needs to be something to grip them. There was nothing. It says something about the state of a film when Salma Hayak making out with another woman still doesn't keep my attention. So there you have it - 26 minutes. Maybe you'll like it and last longer than I did. Good luck to you.

I finished my first Philip K Dick book recently, Vulcan's Hammer. It was an interesting short story (only 150 pages or so), and so I decided to buy a compendium of five more of his best. Should be here in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I've got the last book of Phillip Pullman's series to read (thanks Gilly!) and then I think I may finally start Chainfire by Terry Goodkind. His new one - Phantom - is out in June.

Started playing a really freaky point-and-click adventure today: Sanitarium. When a game's installer gives me the creeps, I know I'm on to something a bit disturbing. 2 chapters in, and it's not bad. The voice acting's a bit dodgy but the general weirdness is refreshing and makes it a lot easier to play than Syberia 2 (which I'm still struggling through).

Right, that's about all for now. After a weekend practicing and then performing Bushido, I'm in need of some gaming time.

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