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Since Bobby Robson took over at St. James' Park from that lame excuse for a football manager the decidedly unsexy Ruud Gullit, NUFC have enjoyed top six form. As any neutral could clearly observe, they also played Chelsea off the park in last seasons FA cup semi-final, and were desperately unlucky to lose 2-1 on the day. Auntie Alan Shearer managed a haul of thirty goals - his season's best in a black and white shirt, and is clearly relishing playing under Robson. Duncan 'Disorderly' Ferguson is the most effective partner Shearer has had since Sir Les Ferdinand - King of Headers, but unfortunately he's a physical wreck and cannot last more than a couple of months without injury. That said, he did manage a contender for goal of the season against the cheating Manchester United in Newcastle's glorious 3-0 defeat of the petulant reds at St. James. If Dalglish and Gullit hadn't sabotaged the club's financial standing during the wilderness years, Robson wouldn't have to offload players over the summer to raise cash for a new striker. As it is, both the classy Peruvian international Solano and the pacey wing back Domi may have played their last games for the club. Dabizas (aka Nick the Greek) has grown in stature since being resurrected by Bobby and was recently rewarded with a new four year contract. Similarly, Alessandro Pistone managed to recover from a broken leg in a superhuman, almost bionic time to play a couple of games before the end of term. If they can get a decent start next season, keep key players free from injury and perhaps iron out Kieron Dyer's inconsistancies, NUFC mlight finish with a Euro spot. We live in hope.
Danny Boyle's flawed adaptation of Alex Garland's cult bestseller was never going to bomb at the box office due to the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, but it's precisely this bumbs-on-seats guarantee that's at the heart of the film's problems. DiCaprio isn't actually too bad as Richard, the 19 year old protagonist looking for a hidden island utopia inhabited by a community of travellers, but the script obviously had to be modified to accomodate his superstar status. The early stages of the film are atmosphericly shot on the Ko San road in Bankok, where Richard meets the deranged Daffy, a suicidal Scotsman played by Robert Carlisle, who gives him a map to the secret destination. Richard soon teams up with a young French couple and the trio go off in search of the mythical beach. Apart from the fact that DiCaprio is American, the movie sticks faithfully to the plot of the novel, and puts the island location of Koh Pipi to excellent use. Upon arrival, however, things start to go seriously wrong, both in terms of the story and the movie as a whole. In the book, Richard's futile unrequited lust for Francoise the beautiful french girl is one of the main contributory factors in his eventual psychological breakdown. But this being Hollywood, and DiCaprio being the hottest romantic lead on the planet, he predictably gets the girl almost immediately, and so suddenly there's no real reason for him to go off the rails as he does. It's well-shot, looks great, but ultimately it's yet another case of style over substance as the story becomes increasingly irellevant. You simply stop caring what's going to happen to this group of assorted one-dimensional characters. There are some quite entertaining scenes about halfway through as he recounts his fight with a (smallish) shark, and some fairly horrific scenes following a seperate shark attack on some of the other members of the hippy commune, but ultimately the plot
is full of holes. For instance, the narrative never really explains Richard's twin obsessions of Vietnam movies and computer games in the same way the book does, and therefore some of the scenes where he's banished to the jungle consequently border on the absurd. The ending has no real weight, and I was really expecting something much darker and more thought-provoking. In a nutshell, if you want to look at cool shots of a really beautiful island, listen to a fairly hip soundtrack and watch a averagely entertaining movie, then this is for you. If, however, you're a fan of either the book or of Danny Boyle's earlier film Trainspotting, give this one a wide berth.
Assuming Manchester United don't turn their nose up at the opportunity to compete in the FA Cup, the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and possibly Liverpool will have a much better chance of keeping up with them next season. Once Man U had deliberately dumped themselves out of the Worthless Cup and screwed up their trip to Brazil for the World Club Championship, they had the advantage over the other big clubs as they could concentrate on the Premiership and the Champions League without added domestic distractions. Which is probably why they won by such a large margin last season. Arsenal are clearly contenders, and will always challenge due to the quality and depth of their squad. Chelsea don't appear to have the stomach for non-glamourous fixtures such as away to Bradford on a wet November afternoon, and that's where they always seem to capitulate and lose valuable points. Despite ending an encouraging season with a whimper rather than a bang, Gerard Houlier's increasingly confident Liverpool side are my bet for an outside chance, as long as Heskey can net more goals, and Houllier keeps important squad members like Redknapp and Fowler at Anfield. All that said, however, Manchester are getting annoyingly good at winning the Premiership, and it will take a brave man to bet against them doing it again.
After the limp 'White Squall' and the embarrassing debacle of 'GI Jane', Ridley Scott seems to be finally showing signs of a return to form with this well-considered take on the Roman epic. Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a victorious general who's entrusted with the future of the Empire by the dying Caesar (an excellent Richard Harris) only to be double-crossed and sentenced to death by the new Caesar, Comodus played by Joaquin Pheonix. Maximus survives the execution attempt due to the fact that he's incredibly hard, but unfortunately his wife and offspring aren't quite so lucky. So the scene is set for a classic tale of revenge as Maximus is first reduced to the status of a lowly slave only to work his way up through the ranks as a gladiator, dismembering and decapitating anyone foolish enough to get in his way. The fight scenes are exeptionally well-choreographed, very violent, and have a vaguely Private Ryan-esque juddery realism to them. Ollie Reed's final performance as the gladiatorial manager is also one of his finest, and other classy british thesps such as Derek Jacobi give this movie a real air of authority. The narrative moves along at a reasonable pace, and the set pieces, such as Comodus' return to Rome, are quite draw-dropping. In fact, this has to be some of the best use of CGI effects ever to grace the silver screen - the mapping is seemless and the recreation of the Coloseum is particularly realistic. George Lucas could indeed learn a lot about understated, subtle SFX use from this film. It is Joaquin Pheonix' performance as the cowardly Comodus, however, that really steals the show; he's clearly relishing the opportunity to play the villain and he does it with some aplomb. It's a triumph of his dramatic skills that he can be both fantastically evil yet really quite sympathetic as a leader who's well aware he's universally despised by his subjects, but still desperately craves
their unconditional love. His egomania even extends to some seriously creepy incestuous designs on his own sister, and with all these dispicable characteristics in place, there's ultimately only ever going to be one conclusion to the rivalry and mutual loathing between him and Maximus. The only criticisms that can be levelled at this movie are that it is slightly over-long, loses momentum somewhere in the second half and is riddled with historical inacuracies. All that is forgivable, however, as overall this is a highly enjoyable actioner that demands to be seen on the big screen.
Upon its release, the Matrix was billed as an antidote to The Phantom Manace's kiddiness - an adult sci-fi spectacular, employing state of the art special effects and an intelligent storyline that would keep audiences guessing. I was keenly anticipating something which could perhaps even turn out to be the definitive sci-fi/action movie of the 90s, but ultimately I felt cheated and dissapointed. This movie starts well - Keanu Reeves character, Anderson/Neo, is a computer hacker trapped in a lonely world of anxiety and alienation where nothing seems to be quite right. Thankfully Reeves appears to have dropped his Ted (or was it Bill ?) persona once and for all, instead producing a controlled, mature and intriguing performance of some merit. So far, so good. The movie soon loses it's way very quickly however. The big twist kicks in about a third of the way through, when it's revealed that Reeves is in fact part of a genetically engineered human crop, grown by monstrous AI machines 200 years in the future for the purpose of harvesting human life essence, and that the 1999 reality he believes himself to be inhabiting is no more than a virtual simulation called the Matrix to keep his imprisoned brain occupied. Now this isn't such a bad idea, and the point where a bald, naked Reeves awakes and breaks out of his fluid-filled pod to discover the awful truth about the state of mankind's heinous predicament is extremely well-executed, a moment of serious dramatic gravitas. And then it's pretty much all downhill from here on in. Cue contrived and predictable storyline involving a band of freedom-fighting rebels with names like Morpeus, Mouse and Tank and an ability to programme themselves with special virtual powers which they can use in the Matrix, cheapo master and pupil Jedi-ish scenarios between Larry Fishbourne and Reeves, and lots and lots of big guns. Spare me. The bad guys are Reservoir Dog/Men in Black blokes that wear suits and shades... how
devastatingly original ! I mean - which genius came up with that one ? Did I mention there were lots of big guns ? They shoot lots of bullets, fly around in what were allegedly ground- breaking SFX sequences, (but in fact only succeeded in reminding me of some duff martial arts fight scenes from crappy Honk Kong flicks) shoot some more stuff and get some bigger guns. Before you can say "cheese", the whole sorry mess ends up looking like an over-expensive pop promo. And that's about it, really. Oh, there is one more thing that's worth mentioning - that virtually all of the narrative themes and quite a lot of the aesthetic style of this movie are directly plagerised from the superior comic book The Invisibles. Instead of shelling out to see Matrix II, III, IV etc., check it out.....
Empire is probably the best UK film magazine partly because it's so well established and can therefore get all the big name movie stars for interviews and profiles, but also due to the fact that they manage to maintain a sense of humour about the decidedly humourless world of corporate Hollywood. Usually the interviewers seem totally unphased by the high calibre celebs who regularly feature, and they often get surprisingly down-to-earth resposes from tinseltown primadonnas. The reviews section is usually well-considered and up-to-date, and comprehensively provides a guide to new movies and movie-related products, including new video and DVD releases as well as soundtracks, games and books. One of the magazine's particular virtues is that it doesn't differentiate between maistream Hollywood blockbusters and smaller independent movies - they all get the same review treatment. One criticism I would have of this title is that sometimes there's an inexplicable disparity between the reviews for cinema and video releases - for instance Forrest Gump scored an 'unmissable-five stars' on it's theatrical release, which was then amended to a more realistic 'good-four stars' when hype dust had settled and it came out on video. Nonetheless, editorial standards are pretty high, the writing is accessable and entertaining and the design is glossy and fun. The overall quality of the magazine is rather dependent on the quality of the latest crop of film releases however, and they tend to feature the same cover stars month in month out. I mean how many headshots of Tom Cruise grinning cheesily does the world really need ?
Empire is one of the best film magazines in the Uk and has regular film reviews , interviews soundtrack reviews photo sessions, news pages plus much much more. it's great its fantastic I always buy it i'd recommend it thoroughly to any one with an interest in anything filmy of cinema related. I love the design, the photography, the writing style is excellent, plus it often features the opinions of kim newman, one of my favorite film reviewers and everything about it is utterly brilliant and its much better than premiere or total film.
It's the 88th minute, and En-ger-lund are down 2-1 in the World Cup semi-final. Sheallor to Oren, back to Scales, then out to Backham on the right wing. Sheallor anticipates Backham's perfectly weighted long ball over the heads of the confounded Argentinian defense, and times his run to perfection. Collecting the ball on the edge of the box he uses his upper body strength to power past the last straggling defender, but can't quite get the perfect shooting angle so unselfishly puts the floating cross in. People tend to forget what a great crosser of the ball Sheallor is, the Argie keeper included, and he comes out hopelessly flapping like a lame duck as the diminutive Oren leaps, connects and angles the ball downwards into the bottom left corner. The crowd goes wild. I leap up from the sofa and punch the air in triumphant defiance. "COME ON THEN !!" My flatmate looks at me as if I were totally insane. My flatmate knows nothing. The whistle goes and we're into extra time. Anything could happen in the next half hour. Elated, pumped full of adrenalin and sensing a glorious upset, I reposition myself on the very edge of the sofa, and prepare myself to dispense a spanking to those petulant South American upstarts. That spot in the final against Brazil has my/England's name written all over it, and nobody in a blue and white strip is going to stop me/us from my/our date with heroic sporting destiny...
Arena man is a rare, if not endangered species, and although timid, can occasionally be found in his natural habitat of exclusive Hoxton bars and art galleries. His chief interests include fashion, design and other aesthetic issues, and despite a great deal of scrutiny, the details of his mating habits remain largely unknown. Arena positions itself in the hugely competitive men's magazine marketplace as the highbrow lifestyle title, which is evidently quite problematic as essentially it's trying to play the same game as Esquire and GQ without having the inclusive editorial style of either. Whereas its competitors have realised that in order to flog copies you need to adopt a degree of post-Loaded laddism, Arena seems concerned only with the promotion of a type of lifestyle only realistically attainable by extremely wealthy media types, and to make matters worse, it's all done in a rather flat and humourless style. The average magazine-buying twenty-something guy probably won't be interested or stimulated by the type of feature that appears in Arena, simply because there’s very little for him to identify with. To be fair, the articles are usually well written and the layouts are of a fairly high design quality, but that's all completely irrelevant if readers just flick through without ever really stopping to look. The interviews are sometimes quite good, but more often than not they're buried between endless pages of Italian fashion advertising. Simply put, it isn’t very entertaining or informative. Even the supposedly luxurious photo spreads tend to feature slightly anorexic looking models that the majority of men won’t have ever heard of, and probably don't even find attractive due to their heroin-chic 'dirty fingernails' look. The men's fashion is bordering on the absurd, and most readers will probably find the choice of androgonous 'ladyboy' models at best offputting, and at wors
t, downright disturbing. The general impression you're left with is that this magazine is designed with advertisers rather than readers in mind, which is a shame really, as what was once arguably the most intelligent men's title now more closely resembles a pseudo Wallpaper-wannabe.
Mary Harron's intelligent adaptation is much funnier than Brett Easton Ellis' controversial novel, and manages to capture the essential ambience of the book without relying on gross-out schlock horror tactics. The ultra-violence is completely toned down in favour of a more subtle approach, and the most effective scenes are frequently not the ones featuring Patrick Bateman's nocturnal chainsaw frenzies, but instead those concerned with the banal, superficial world of designer-obsessive, over competitive uber-execs working on Wall Street in the 1980s. In this respect it's something of a period piece, employing 80s trappings such as absurdly chunky mobile phones, decidedly suspect hairstyles and Hugo Boss power suits.The ability to secure a reservation at the latest exclusive restaurant is the benchmark by which these characters are judged. Essentially it's as much a satire on the materialistic ethos of the decade as it is a study of terminal psychological disintegration. Christian Bale, in what might be a career-defining role, carries the whole movie - but that's not to detract from the extremely witty script which recreates some of the book's seminal scenes to great effect. It's a tribute to his strong central performance that despite Bateman's glaring character flaws (vanity, self-obsession, a penchant for slaying innocent people with nail guns) he actually succeeds in making him quite sympathetic. He even attempts to warn people about his psychopathic tendancies, but these random pleas for help go totally unheard by the hip disaffected Manhattenites he's forced to hang out with. Trapped in a nightmarishly amoral world, and devoid of any recognisable human emotions other than anger and disgust, Bateman ultimately comes across as the biggest victim of them all. Even when he openly admits to his multiple crimes, his yuppie contemporaries refuse to accept the confession, because mass-murder just isn't the done thing. There
's even the hint of a conspiracy of silence, a suggestion that somebody might be covertly covering up the evidence of his deranged activities. There are also some great supporting roles, notably from Chloe Seveigny as his doting secretary and Willem Dafoe as the cop who is aware of Bateman's guilt but doesn't seem that concerned with stopping him. Like the book, the film has no satisfactory resolution, and the audience is left with the impression that Bateman is still out there, drilling holes in prostitutes heads, waiting in vain for someone to catch him. Considering the problematic pre-production period, this film has triumphantly emerged from development hell to give moviegoers a serious slice of the very blackest humour. And thankfully, no Leo Dicaprio to spoil the fun....