Monday, July 25, 2011

Rango, DVD 2011 (Spoilers)

I watched Gore Verbinski's Rango yesterday. What an odd film. I spent the first half of it hating it, and only began to make sense of it near the end, shortly after the bats with machine guns had chased our heroes  and their gasoline tanker I mean wagon carrying a water jug down the Death Star trench I mean desert canyon.

The animation is breathtaking. Every fur texture, the hair, the scales, the clothes, all are perfect. The facial expressions and gaits are wonderful, naturalistic when called for and properly exaggerated when needed – for instance when Bill Nighy's sinister Rattlesnake Jake decides to crush someone in his coils.  The landscapes are fine, and the lighting is so good that it genuinely looked as though someone had built and lit the sets for a master DP.  On the other hand, the movie featured so much sudden death, mutilation, injury, roadkill, impaling on cactus spines, being set on fire, guns being handled by children and loss-of-eye-due-to-arrow-through-socket that it made me actually uncomfortable.

(Many spoilers below.)

The main character (voiced by Johnny Depp, as brilliant as usual) is a chameleon (get it?) who has no name (get it?). He lives in bliss in a glass tank (get it?) putting on plays with his pet-toys. On the way from somewhere, in the middle of the desolate Mojave Desert, his tank falls from the family car and shatters (get it?).  Wandering in the desert, the humidity-loving lizard finds a cowboy town called Dirt (cf. 'Earth,' get it?). His blarney impresses everyone in the Star Wars Cantina local saloon and so he proceeds to remake himself, as chameleons do, naming himself Rango (get it?) and setting himself up as the hero by talking up a storm as a bandit-killer. Every town needs a hero and Rango becomes sheriff.

Earlier, on his way from his shattered tank on the asphalt to the desert itself, No-Name-As-Yet meets a roadkill armadillo, midriff squashed flat. The armadillo offers Rango sage advice.  This early disturbing scene rather set me up to hate the movie.  And – it seemed rather abrupt. When wannabe-mythical characters are called from their tanks or other comfortable dwellings to cross the river on their Hero's Journey, they usually wander around and say why me? a lot, and the ferryman who offers sage advice is usually less dead.  All became clear a lot later on.

The various animals who live in Dirt are running out of water due to a Chinatown-style conspiracy. There's a run on the water bank, a classic Western (water) bank robbery,  and all kinds of Western water-related shenanigans all lifted with a fairly heavy hand from other movies. 

Rango wins the heart of a girl called Beans. STB thought Beans was a lizard and that's possible. However her character flaw, or whatever it was, was freezing up and not being able to move for ten to fifteen seconds every now and again, so I thought she was a Fainting Goat. Well, whatever.  Adventures are had, and eventually Rango is exposed as a motormouth actor, not a real hero, and is forced to leave the town in disgrace.

So at the end of the second act, as usual, the hero has lost everything he ever had and there is no hope of return.  Then – suddenly – in a twist from the usual Scriptwriter's Handbook – he meets the armadillo again. This time he's whole and his sage advice makes sense. Rango is given a vision of the Spirit of the West (Clint Eastwood, natch) and then Crosses the Road. This crossing is much more harrowing, as he literally walks across the I-15 freeway, with cars and trucks driving over him and yet just missing him. (I suspect Gore Verbinski has seen The Trip.) 

This is the true crossing to the other side. The breaking of his tank and the task of becoming the hero to a town was actually still the chameleon being a chameleon, and the suspiciously dead ferry-armadillo was not his ultimate spiritual guide.  The hallucinogenic sequences of the spiritual journey in the desert led STB to remark, "Oliver Stone called, wants his movie back."  The initial scene of the talking roadkill finally made sense – the fever dreams of dead animals in the desert calling you on, Oliver Stone's dying Indian at the roadside.

On The Other Side of the Road, Rango learns that the town's water is being piped to Las Vegas (it isn't named but we see its iconic skyline). I couldn't work out if Las Vegas existed in the movie or if it was a metaphor. After all, characters all the way through the film whisper the rumor that "the water is being dumped in the desert".   "Las Vegas" and "water is dumped in the desert" are synonymous in one major respect, but not in many others. It made my brane hert, so I gave up.

Rango gets some magic plants-of-burden to work on reversing the pipeline, rushes back to Dirt, gets the girl, saves the day and inundates the town with water.  All's probably well with the world, except that previous scenes have shown that the town is in a dry lake bed, so they'll all have to build arks. Maybe that's being saved for Rango Part II: Waterworld.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Comic-Con day three or two or four

This is certainly an education. I get up out of bed and queue for a while and get into a room where Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson are discussing the new Tin Tin movie with the fans, and showing a couple of clips.  Then, time with Kate Beckinsale and others to discuss the new Underworld movie (it's in 3D!), and then a half hour with the folks behind Attack the Block.

Comic-Con doesn't actually give an individual fan access to a meteoric director (except for the fan this morning who wore a t shirt begging for a chance to shake Spielberg's hand, which was picked up by the cameras, so he did get the chance) but it does bring us all into actual contact with the people who make the creative decisions.  A director who normally gets his (it's always 'his') only clues from box office receipts now gets to hear a roar or a laugh or baffled silence from a live audience of 6,000. (No baffled silences today.) That's got to be a good thing.

As well as a thousand Steampunks, Stormtroopers and Alice in Wonderlands, today a guy is wandering around in a mouse mask, like Deadmau5. The mask is covered in LCDs, so when someone stops him to talk, his habitual blue grin reacts to their presence - commonly by swirling clockwise and then rocking until it goes back to a grin with a mouth at the bottom, but often by blazing into red and yellow sweeps of information like those a squid will spill over its body in its instances of communication.. At a SIGGRAPH the fellow would have his own installation. Here at Comic-Con, where about 5% of the 120,000 attendees like to dress up, he's just one person. He certainly caught my eye.

Comic Con visit

I'm spending the next few days at Comic Con in San Diego.

I've never been before - always been more of a Worldcon person, but the last time...Denver, I think...I felt I'd rather go to somewhere well-attended enough to draw big names and generally be splashy and oversized and colorful.

Comic con crowds by STB

Well, Comic Con is certainly all of those. It's easy to see the relationship between the dour and ernest fannish Worldcon and the much bigger media convention. The same types of people are there, but instead of six thousand at best, there's well over a hundred thousand. About the same proportion are dressed in costume, which means there's a LOT of people in costume, and the major difference is I've no clue who all of them are. Presumably anime characters I've never heard of. Highlights today included not getting into a Harry Potter fandom panel because the vast room was filled before the line even started moving where we were and then listening to Jon Favreau (with Guillermo del Toro) in a vast cinema hall talking about Cowboys and Aliens and showing a long clip of a very cowboy movie indeed. With, as advertised, aliens. And then we went to see Penn and Teller. Teller is not actually mute. Hmm. My world is turned upside down.

Oh, and lots of people on panels use lots more profanity than at SF conventions. Oh, and I got to teach STB the "Yo dawg, I heard you like [Y] so I put [X] in your [X] so you can [Y] while you [Y]" meme.

Good times.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jimmy Page Dot Com

Jimmy Page recently opened a website. A day late, you might think, but not a dollar short. The site features a "This day in history" section which - for 24 hours only - showcases something Page did on that day. Sometimes it's something I've seen before - recently the 1977 Seattle Superdome Noise Solo was featured. Truth be told, I already have that on Very Slightly Unofficial Video.  Today, it was a completely unheard before, 1961 Jimmy Page track, called "Jet Black" by Neil Christian and the Crusaders. (It's a take on Jet Black by the Shadows.)

Jimmy Page Dot Com says that none of these "this day in history" pages will be archived. They are up for that day and not available after that. Obviously, the clever and or motivated will be able to archive them, as I have with the rather-astonishing-for-1961-Jet Black. But to experience them in the first place, you have to go to Jimmy Page's website, and sign up.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Have I posted these before?

Jimmy Page (for it is he) playing with the Black Crowes last week:


[Edited for broken links]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes, 2011

Here is Jimmy Page playing with the Black Crowes last week.

And Jimmy's hotly anticipated new website came on line at the same time.

Is Jimmy about to do something? I mean two gigs in a month and now a new website?

Probably not. But I have all the music going back fifty years to listen to. I can't argue if I don't have something to listen to tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Kills - Baby Says

There's something about the Kills, and I don't know what it is, but they seem to be here for everything while having been here for all that happened beforehand. Baby Says sounds like today, but when I hear it, I hear everything from the past as as well. A hint that sounds as though it rings out from Chris Petit's Radio On. An echo that sounds like New Order. And over it all, of course, the Kills, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince.

Seasick Steve, Jack White and Alison Mosshart: Write Me A Few Lines

Here's Seasick Steve jamming with John Paul Jones (his collaborator), Alison Mosshart and Jack White on Write Me A Few Lines. It's from the iTunes festival.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Led Zeppelin 2007 soundboard rehearsal escapes

Big O Zine lays its hands on very coveted Shepperton rehearsal tracks for Led Zeppelin's 10th December 2007 gig at the 02. There are four tracks, Good Times, Bad Times, For Your Life, Since I've Been Loving You and Rock 'n' Roll.

This is a scoop!

(c) Ross Halfin

These are completely amazing - better than the actual show in terms of execution and sound balance (since the only show CDs and DVDs are bootlegs) - and SIBLY in particular is heartachingly good.

Big O has the tracks for download here, or if that goes down or fills up or whatever, drop me a line. (Edited)

...Now available on Demonoid.


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