Monthly Archives: August 2008

Vale Mark Priestley

Mood: Very Sad

I am incredibly saddened by the tragic passing of one of the finest actors Australia has to offer, Mark Priestley.

I am an avid SMH Online reader – mainly because things at work are a bit slow at the moment and reading SMH at my desk at least makes me appear more professional than petting my cyber puppy on Facebook. On my first visit to the SMH website today, I was greeted with the horrible headline screaming “All Saints star found dead“. Mark Priestley’s photo accompanied the headline, which made me want to read the story more.

The initial article (with a time stamp of 9.30am) didn’t say much – Mark was found dead last night after reportedly taking his own life. So I went in search of more information on the net and found a few other articles that did go on to say that Mark was reportedly suffering from depression, which may be the cause of his suicide.

Mark is one of my favourite Australian actors. Since 2004, he has been playing the role of nurse Dan Goldman in one of my favourite TV shows, All Saints. I’ve been a fan of Mark’s since 2001, when he appeared in the TV mini-series Changi. So you can imagine my delight when he joined the All Saints cast and quickly became one of the show’s favourites.

I have been keeping a keen eye on the news all morning to find out more about the circumstances surrounding Mark’s death. Each article I read reported Mark was suffering from depression. And then, in the last hour or so, the news outlets started reporting that Mark’s body was found last night on an awning of a building in Market Street in Sydney CBD, and that police were not treating the death as suspicious (the SMH link above was updated at around 1pm today to include more information relating to the tragedy).

A Seven Network spokesperson has since confirmed Mark took his own life.

I can’t explain why I’m so upset, nor why I’ve been on the verge of tears all day. I have never met Mark Priestley, but I am an admirer of his work and in my opinion a great actor whose brilliant portrayal of a TV character was one of the reasons I remain a loyal fan of All Saints. My heart goes out to his colleagues who all must be wondering why and if they could have done anything to change the outcome.

Depression is such a complex condition. Outwardly, you can appear to be a normal person without a worry in the world. Mark Priestley appeared to have the world at his feet – a talented performer with good looks and a ready smile, a job as a permanent cast member on an acclaimed TV series, a young man of 32 who had just celebrated his birthday with his whole life ahead of him. As a fan noted on a tribute page on Facebook, Mark was recently seen in Newtown looking happy and enjoying a meal.

But appearances can be deceiving. After reading the many news articles today, I can only assume that Mark was gripped by depression so severe that he took his own life. I can only assume that Mark thought the only way he could escape the suffering and end the pain was to leave this world. I sincerely hope that he has found the peace he craved but could not find when he was alive.

My deepest condolences to his family. I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose someone to suicide. So many questions left unanswered; a sad gaping hole forever in the hearts of everyone he touched.

As written by Eric Clapton: “Beyond the door, there’s peace I’m sure. And I know there’ll be no more… tears in heaven.”

Rest In Peace, Mark Priestley. Thank you for your gifted contributions to the entertainment industry. The world is a much less entertaining place without you.

Mistaken Identity

Mood: In Hysterics

Classic … and they say all Asians look alike!!!

As reported by stuff.co.nz (as seen on SMH Online).

CHINESE MOB PHELPS LOOKALIKE
August 21, 2008 – 1:13PM

Former Olympic swimmer Steve Parry, a BBC TV commentator, has been mobbed by Chinese Olympic fans as he broadcast live from Tiananmen Square because they thought he was US super-fish Michael Phelps.

Ironically, Parry, who won a bronze medal for the 200m butterfly at the 2004 Games, was beaten in that race by Phelps.

“I am not Michael Phelps,” he kept shouting as fans tried to have their picture taken with him and asking for his autograph, “I am Steve Parry from England.”

Parry, the BBC reported, had been asked to take a cardboard cut-out of Phelps into Tiananmen Square to show how many people would want to have their picture taken with it.

But he was instantly mobbed by over 100 fans and it took several minutes to convince people he was not the winner of eight gold medals in the photo.

Parry told the BBC: “I can’t imagine what it is like to be Michael Phelps.

“If he actually did come down it would be absolute pandemonium.”

Movie Review: Wanted

Mood: Squee!

Is it just me, or are there a lot of superhero films around this year?

Ok, so the protagonist isn’t exactly a superhero, but he does have extraordinary skills, and ways and means to rapidly heal his battered and bloodied body, so I’m going to call him a superhero for the sake of a name.

And how could I say no to a film that has lots of explosions and car chases / crashes and lots of guns and shooting?

Based upon Mark Millar’s explosive graphic novel series and helmed by stunning visualist director Timur Bekmambetov—creator of the most successful Russian film franchise in history, the Night Watch series—Wanted tells the tale of one apathetic nobody’s transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice. In 2008, the world will be introduced to a hero for a new generation: Wesley Gibson.

25-year-old Wes (James McAvoy) was the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known. His boss chewed him out hourly, his girlfriend ignored him routinely and his life plodded on interminably. Everyone was certain this disengaged slacker would amount to nothing. There was little else for Wes to do but wile away the days and die in his slow, clock-punching rut.

Until he met a woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie).

After his estranged father is murdered, the deadly sexy Fox recruits Wes into the Fraternity, a secret society that trains Wes to avenge his dad’s death by unlocking his dormant powers. As she teaches him how to develop lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, Wes discovers this team lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: carry out the death orders given by fate itself.

With wickedly brilliant tutors — including the Fraternity’s enigmatic leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman) — Wes grows to enjoy all the strength he ever wanted. But, slowly, he begins to realize there is more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And as he wavers between newfound heroism and vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one could ever teach him: he alone controls his destiny.

Believe me when I tell you that this is an awesome movie. In my books, it rates right up there with Iron Man as almost the best movie I’ve seen this year.

To use someone else’s words, as Todd Mccarthy said in his movie review for Variety.com, "Like it or not, Wanted pretty much slams you to the back of your chair from the outset and scarcely lets up for the duration." That’s how chock full of action this movie was. So much so I had to keep reminding myself to breathe throughout the movie.

Look, let’s be honest, this movie is fluff. Pure, unadulterated, adrenaline rushing, heart pounding, CGI enhanced fluff. No one is going to win an Oscar for their acting, nor for their scriptwriting. But I did love seeing it on the big screen, and wished the volume had been louder. I definitely would have jumped more if the volume was louder!

James McAvoy would not have been my first choice as the hero, but after seeing his very buffed physique, who am I to say no?

And Angelina Jolie … well … let’s just say I would turn for her.

Morgan Freeman did the best he could with what he was given. I wasn’t completely convinced, but then, I have to remind myself that this movie is fluff. Terence Stamp’s appearance about two-thirds of the way into the movie added another big name presence on the screen, and he too did the best he could with what he was given. Support players Thomas Kretschmann as Cross and Common as The Gunsmith were also entertaining.

The special effects were great! Oh, and I nearly drew blood from J as I dug my fingernails in so hard at all the jumpy bits!

Rating:

The movie actually deserves a rating of 4¾ stars as well, for the same reasons as The Dark Knight. This movie will definitely become part of my DVD collection when it becomes available.

Continuing the Six Degrees game, from Fight Club to Wanted, there are 3 direct links:

1. Brad Pitt was in Se7en (1995) with Morgan Freeman. (Yep – back again!)
2. Brad Pitt was in Full Frontal (2002) with Terence Stamp.
3. Brad Pitt was in Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) with Angelina Jolie. (Duh!!!)

And Bacon numbers:

James McAvoy has a Bacon number of 2.
* James McAvoy was in The Last King of Scotland (2006) with Forest Whitaker.
* Forest Whitaker was in The Air I Breathe (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Angelina Jolie has a Bacon number of 2.
* Angelina Jolie was in Sledge: The Untold Story (2005) with Jim Cody Williams.
* Jim Cody Williams was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Morgan Freeman has a Bacon number of 2. (Already established in the review for The Dark Knight.)

Terence Stamp has a Bacon number of 2.
* Terence Stamp was in Bowfinger (1999) with John Cho.
* John Cho was in The Air I Breathe (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

We had a week’s rest last week – J was so sick he could barely get himself out of bed. So we resumed our viewing this week with the Jason Statham flick The Bank Job.

Movie Review: Fight Club

Mood: OMG!!!

I was one lucky duck in the week before last when I was treated to not one, not two, but three movies.

J and I received an invitation from Emily to "have a night in" with her and Penny on Saturday night, which would be a relaxing and no-fuss evening of good food (Emily cooked an amazing chilli chicken stir fry) and good company. Emily also spent up big on discounted DVDs on Saturday afternoon, so we were asked to help her kick off the viewings.

I had a quick squiz through the pile, and as the one who had viewed the least number of movies in the past few years, it was left to me to choose the movie for the night. So I chose Fight Club.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, look away at the end of this paragraph. And get your butt immediately into gear and see it – rent it, buy it, borrow it from a friend, steal it from the internet – I don’t care how you get your hands on a copy of this movie – just do it. You will thank me later. Trust me on this one.

For those of you who have, but for some odd reason need to be reminded what the movie was about, below is the synopsis.

FIGHT CLUB is narrated by a lonely, unfulfilled young man (Edward Norton) who finds his only comfort in feigning terminal illness and attending disease support groups. Hopping from group to group, he encounters another pretender, or “tourist”, the morose Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), who immediately gets under his skin. However, while returning from a business trip, he meets a more intriguing character–the subversive Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). They become fast friends, bonding over a mutual disgust for corporate consumer-culture hypocrisy. Eventually, the two start Fight Club, which convenes in a bar basement where angry men get to vent their frustrations in brutal, bare-knuckle bouts. Fight Club soon becomes the men’s only real priority; when the club starts a cross-country expansion, things start getting really crazy. Like Tyler Durden himself, director David Fincher’s FIGHT CLUB, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, is startlingly aggressive and gleefully mischievous as it skewers the superficiality of American pop culture. Outstanding performances by Norton and Pitt are supported by a razor-sharp script and an arsenal of stunning visual effects that include computer animation and sleight-of-hand editing. One of the most unique films of the late 20th century, FIGHT CLUB is a pitch-black comedy of striking intensity.

Yes, of course I know what the first rule of Fight Club is. I also know what the second rule of Fight Club is. But I have to. I just have to talk about it – even shout it from the mountain tops.

In a word: stunning. I completely agree with the Rotten Tomatoes general consensus statement: solid acting, amazing direction, and elaborate production design make Fight Club a wild ride.

I can’t believe it took me nearly 10 years to see this movie. Neither could Em, Penny or J. And the extra special bonus for everyone else on the night was my reaction to the movie – my facial expressions, audio reactions and physical expressions were second to none in entertaining the masses.

Edward Norton and Brad Pitt were terrific. They were equally good in this movie – I honestly could not pick one over the other as having given a better performance. Norton’s world weariness was perfectly balanced by Pitt’s maniacal frenzy. Their budding relationship was superbly played out – I almost felt sorry for Norton’s narrator as Pitt’s Tyler Durden rode in like a knight in shining armour and took control of everything that was once theirs in equal shares, but slowly emerging to be Tyler’s domain.

I am normally not a fan of Helena Bonham Carter – mainly because I have never developed a full appreciation of her unique style – but I have to say that she was terrific as Marla, adding yet another level of instability to the bigger picture.

The pace of the movie was great – I enjoyed every minute of the bumpy, unpredictable and exhilarating ride. And Em, Penny and J all got a great laugh at my reaction to the big twist of the movie.

Rating:

Yes. Yes I did. I gave it a 5-star rating.

So, to continue the Six Degrees game, from The Dark Knight to Fight Club, there are 3 direct links:

1. Gary Oldman was in True Romance (1993) with Brad Pitt.
2. Morgan Freeman was in Se7en (1995) with Brad Pitt.
3. Maggie Gyllenhaal was in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) with Brad Pitt.

And Bacon numbers:

Edward Norton (I) has a Bacon number of 2.
* Edward Norton (I) was in Primal Fear (1996) with Alfre Woodard.
* Alfre Woodard was in Beauty Shop (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Brad Pitt has a Bacon number of 1. (But of course!!!)
* Brad Pitt was in Sleepers (1996) with Kevin Bacon.

Helena Bonham Carter has a Bacon number of 1 . (As well!!!)
* Helena Bonham Carter was in Novocaine (2001) with Kevin Bacon.

Next up – Wanted. Squee!

2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

Mood: Olympic Fever!

It’s taken me a few days, and after scouring the internet, I have found, in my opinion, the best pictures of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony held on 8 August 2008.

I loved every minute of the artistic part of the ceremony.

Starting off with the 2008 Fou drummers, who beat the LED-embedded drums to light up the digits in the countdown to the official commencement of the proceedings. These guys were just amazing – they were perfectly synchronised throughout their entire routine.

The dancers performing a contemporary routine while painting the scroll were awesome. The floor of the Beijing National Stadium (aka the Bird’s Nest) opened up to reveal the he set of movable type blocks, surrounded by the beautifully costumed Han Dynasty-era performers representing the 3000 Disciples of Confucius wearing feathered headgears and carrying bamboo slips.

The movable type blocks were made up of 897 characters in the Chinese alphabet, and these blocks moved up and down to form different words and pictures – amongst those were the character 和 (harmony) and the Great Wall of China. I was sure that the blocks were moving via a series of hydraulic lifts and other mechanics set to a program, and J was certain that human performers were inside the blocks. And even when flowers sprouted from the blocks, I was still adamant that machines were moving the blocks. Imagine my surprise and delight when J turned out to be right and 897 heads popped out of the top of the blocks and 1794 arms started waving madly at the audience!

The Chinese opera was gorgeously choreographed, with sensational costumes and a myriad of performers littering the stadium floor. Then there were the little men in green suits dotted with fairy lights who formed the human version of the Bird’s Nest as well as the peace dove that flew for a time along the floor. Then came the 2008 Tai Chi masters who performed mass Tai Chi.

The fireworks were spectacular – the Chinese showed the world that they not only invented the fireworks, but they are second to none in how to use them. No words can describe how good the fireworks were and I was all set to enjoy the spectacular, if only stupid Channel 7 would let me!

The idiot official Australian broadcaster kept cutting to ads throughout the ceremony! I didn’t need to be reminded that Coles and Red Rooster were broadcast sponsors, nor do I care! And don’t get me started on how poorly they have performed so far.

Anyway, back to happier thoughts. My favourite parts were definitely the drums and the movable type blocks. I was quite moved by the entrance of the Chinese team, led by basketballer Yao Ming and Lin Hao, the 9-year-old primary school student who had rescued two schoolmates during the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. And I watched in absolute utter amazement as Li Ning (gymnastics, China’s most decorated athlete at its first Olympics in 1984), suspended by wires, was lifted to the top of the stadium. Once in position, Li Ning then appeared to run horizontally along the walls of the stadium through to the Olympic cauldron, with images from the Olympic torch relay projected on to the walls. The cauldron was lit and a flurry of spectacular fireworks ensued.

Poor London – how can you top that???

Enjoy these wonderful pictures!

The Hits Just Keep On Coming!

Mood: Stunned

A big shout out to everyone who has been dropping by this little blog and reading my random musings.

I am completely stunned and amazed by the number of hits on the blog for this week – 138 views in approximately 42 hours. That’s what I called “high traffic”!

Thanks to everyone for paying a visit. Please feel free to drop by more often!

Updated as at 9.59PM

Page views today: 58. Page views this week: 148. Thanks and keep visiting, and hope you’re enjoying flicking through my random musings!

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

Mood: Excited

J has been talking about seeing The Dark Knight since we met, and after a long and exhaustive wait, the day of the night finally dawned last Friday.

The plan was to see the movie at the IMAX, but alas, no one would listen to me when I told them that bookings would be essential to secure seats at the IMAX on a Friday night. J and I had acquired a few IMAX discount vouchers along the way and were keen to use these for The Dark Knight, but alas, they will now be saved for another time.

The follow-up to the action hit “Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight” reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne.

In “The Dark Knight”, Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organisations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as the Joker.

Academy Award nominee Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”) stars as arch-villain the Joker, and Aaron Eckhart plays District Attorney Harvey Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast in the role of Rachel Dawes. Returning from “Batman Begins” are Gary Oldman as Lieutenant Jim Gordon; Oscar winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”) as Alfred; and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) as Lucius Fox.

There has been so much hype surrounding this movie, most notably the tragic death of a young actor whose career would have skyrocketed into the stratosphere based on his brilliant portrayal of the Joker. Heath Ledger’s performance garnered him much critical acclaim, and by all accounts, the chances of Ledger winning an Oscar from this role are high. I found Ledger’s Joker gripping – he was maniacal and evil – a true Magnificent Bastard. By definition, the Magnificent Bastard is intelligent, charismatic, capable, supremely competent – almost implausibly so – and always in control. He’s a devious liar playing everyone for his own selfish ends, but he goes about it with such panache that you can’t help but be impressed. A Magnificent Bastard inspires (often grudging) admiration from friend, foe, and audience alike. He can get away with the most outrageous schemes because he’s just that damn awesome.

Christian Bale was good as Batman. I still haven’t seen Batman Begins (I really should have watched that first before venturing into the sequel), but from the little I’d seen of him in the shorts for Batman Begins, Christian Bale is the best Batman to date. In The Dark Knight, Bale’s Batman was dark, brooding and tormented, and he worked well with the rest of the cast with his understated and controlled performance.

Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart were both terrific. Oldman is always a pleasure to watch, and his portrayal of a good cop relentlessly working for the good of Gotham was very engaging. I felt myself rooting for him the whole way through the movie. Aaron Eckhart’s restrained turn as Harvey Dent brought a good balance to the movie, while his tortured Two-Faced made me want to hold him and tell him everything will be all right.

Maggie Gyllenhaal was just sparkling as Rachel Dawes. Maggie is quite an extraordinarily beautiful woman and lit up the screen whenever the camera was focused on her. I was glad to see Gyllenhaal’s Rachel was not merely a damsel in distress, but as an integral player in the storyline who didn’t have to resort to whining and crying to make herself heard.

As usual, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman were magnificent to watch on screen. I cannot think of two better actors to play the parts of Alfred and Lucius Fox.

Christopher Nolan deserves to be heaped with praise for his delivery of The Dark Knight. At 152 minutes, the movie was a bit long for my weary body to handle on a Friday night after a hard working week, but the movie was always engaging – I was completely drawn into the story and the action, and enjoyed every last "jumpy" and "scary" moment of the movie.

As an aside, J thinks it’s hilarious that I get so involved in movies that I jump and dig my fingernails into his arm/hand/leg and occasionally forget to breathe at crucial points of the movie.

Rating:

The movie actually deserves a rating of 4¾ stars, as I thought it was better than Juno and Charlie Wilson’s War, but not quite as good as Iron Man.

Continuing the Six Degrees game, there are 2 direct links between The Forbidden Kingdom and The Dark Knight:

1. Jet Li was in Danny the Dog (2005) with Morgan Freeman (I).
2. Michael Angarano was in Lords of Dogtown (2005) with Heath Ledger.

And Bacon numbers:

Christian Bale has a Bacon number of 2.
* Christian Bale was in Batman Begins (2005) with Sarah Wateridge.
* Sarah Wateridge was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Heath Ledger has a Bacon number of 2.
* Heath Ledger was in Patriot, The (2000) with Kanin J. Howell.
* Kanin J. Howell was in Death Sentence (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Aaron Eckhart has a Bacon number of 2.
* Aaron Eckhart was in Black Dahlia, The (2006) with Steve Eastin.
* Steve Eastin was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Maggie Gyllenhaal has a Bacon number of 2.
* Maggie Gyllenhaal was in Criminal (2004) with Laura Ceron.
* Laura Ceron was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Gary Oldman has a Bacon number of 1. (Surprised, but not really, since Gary Oldman has been in so many movies.)
* Gary Oldman was in Murder in the First (1995) with Kevin Bacon

Michael Caine (I) has a Bacon number of 2.
* Michael Caine (I) was in Curtain Call (1999) with Marcia Gay Harden.
* Marcia Gay Harden was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

Morgan Freeman (I) has a Bacon number of 2.
* Morgan Freeman (I) was in Lonely Maiden, The (2008) with Marcia Gay Harden.
* Marcia Gay Harden was in Rails & Ties (2007) with Kevin Bacon.

At the time of writing this review, I revisited my list from earlier this year to try and reconcile what movies I’d seen and which ones I’ve yet to see. After reviewing the list, I’ve decided to abandon it based on the revised release dates of most of the movies – quite a few of them have been and gone from the cinemas, and a lot of the ones I’ve seen this year aren’t even on the list.

So, as I’m abandoning the list, I’m going to deviate from reviewing movies only seen at the cinemas to reviewing one I watched on Saturday night with Emily, Penny and J – Fight Club.