Film: 8 Mile

I have no idea if this in any way reflects real life in downtown Detroit. I have no clue if rap culture is, in any way, well served by his film but it is a great movie which I thoroughly recommend.

I walked out of the Odeon loving Eminem’s 8 Mile. On reflection, I still think this is a great movie. Who cares if it’s Saturday Night Fever or Karate Kid for a new generation? Does Eminem’s apparent turn around about all things gay worry me? Not at all. This is an excellent film. I do, however, have one question, where are all the guns?

I have never visited Detroit nor any of its downtown neighbourhoods. Fortunately, I’ve never been in the middle of any kind of big gang culture. But in this movie, there were two guns (three if you count the paint-ball). One is pulled on Jimmy (Eminem) and one is waved around by Cheddar Bob, who promptly shoots himself while those involved in the gang fight around him look on like they’d never seen a gun. If I were to believe the news media, this place would have been crawling with weapons and Jimmy would have probably pulled several on his attackers. A movie for nice liberal sensibilities? It just struck me as odd. Perhaps it’s real, but it seemed wrong.

That is, however, but a small gripe. Like yesterday’s film, The Good Girl, we have a central character with an apparently dead-end life but dreams of something better. This time, the lead is surrounded by people who believe in him although he doesn’t believe in himself. The final battle, where Jimmy – or Rabbit – proves himself to be great, is a freestyle rap event that is so far removed from anything in my life or frame of reference that I have no idea if it’s believable, amusing or insulting. Having said that, it is a great conclusion to the movie and had me hooked.

Surprisingly, Eminem’s music doesn’t dominate the movie. I was slightly disappointed there wasn’t more. We first hear his musical talents when he sings a lullaby to his sister. A repositioning of man whose music has been the centre of controversy for years? So, if we don’t get to hear much of his music, how does he stand up as an actor? Pretty well, I would have said. His baseball-cap (and hood) mask much of him revealing only a cool, moody, brooding man writing rap lyrics on scraps of paper to music pumped into his head through headphones. As the movies is apparently based on some of his own life, I suspect this wasn’t a great leap for him to play. He does pull it off with conviction and you can take the journey into Jimmy’s world and lose sight of Eminem. I’d be interested to see if he acts again and with the huge box office takings predicted, most will bet he will.

I have no idea if this in any way reflects real life in downtown Detroit. I have no clue if rap culture is, in any way, well served by this film but it is a great movie which I thoroughly recommend even if you are asked to believe that, when life hits rock bottom, you’ll win on the bingo.

Film: The Good Girl

Good. But not good enough. While Aniston is good, she is not great. It seems much of the praise is due to the fact that she is playing against the Friends Rachel-type. She an actress for goodness sake, if she only has that one role she has no career. This role proves she can play against type and, I guess, that means she is an actress.

What has surprised me about Miguel Arteta’s The Good Girl, starring Jennifer Aniston, are the generally positive (if not glowing glowing) reviews for this film.

Admittedly this is not quite the Jennifer Aniston vehicle that you would expect from Hollywood right now. It’s no romantic comedy, rather a drama following Justine (Aniston), a woman in a dead-end job in a dead end town, who falls for Jake ‘Donnie Darko’ Gyllenhaal’s Holden Worther. Not much to it so far and certainly not enough reason for the praise.

So, to the plot. Problem one for our lead, Justine is married to a full time stoner (part time painter) played with conviction by John C. Reilly. Problem two, Holden seems to think he is Holden Caulfield, the central character in Catcher in The Rye. If I was to say he was “unhinged” I’d be playing it down. So, cue a crisis of conscience for her and a serious infatuation/breakdown for him.

While Aniston is good, she is not great. It seems much of the praise is due to the fact that she is playing against the Friends Rachel-type. She an actress for goodness sake, if she only has that one role she has no career. This role proves she can play against type and, I guess, that means she is an actress. Her narration is okay but somewhat draining to listen to. Gyllenhaal’s good but, given the characters are odd-balls not a million miles apart, he is not as engaging as he was in Donnie Darko.

I guess it hangs on the believability of the adulterous relationship and, for me, it was not that credible. Perhaps it hangs on the ability for Aniston and Reilly to be a couple at the end, but it’s not convincing. There were words unspoken which should have been spoken. Where are the sparks? Where was the fire and the passion between any of the characters?

Sadly, it lacked the ability to engage me for the one and three-quarter hours. Which meant I started to feel the cinema seat beneath me. At that point, I knew this wasn’t going to be added to my “greatest films” list. Which is a shame. Good. But not good enough.

The Grand Old Duke

I decided to go on the backstage tour at The Duke of York’s Theatre. It is a fascinating tour of the old London theatre that was built when the area was underdeveloped and helped transform that side of Charing Cross Road into the entertainment area it is today.

It is often said that those of us who call London home do not benefit from the great advantages that the capital city brings. People have been heard to suggest that Londoners do not use London. Well, glancing through a copy of this week’s Time Out I came across the backstage tour of The Duke of York’s Theatre on St. Martin’s Lane and decided to go. The tour wasn’t very expensive and lasted almost two hours and I reckon it must be one of the best value guided events around.

It is a fascinating tour of the old London theatre that was built when the area was underdeveloped and helped transform that side of Charing Cross Road into the entertainment area it is today. It’s the theatre that first staged Peter Pan, the theatre that first saw actors agree to the forming of UK Equity and it has seen many greats play its stage since.

I can now say that I have appeared on the West End Stage, and standing on the stage looking into the auditorium I was surprised at how close theatergoers would appear to the actors. I was also struck by how small the stage area really was and by how big the under stage area is. Also intriguing to know that Capital Radio once owned it.

A lesson leant, that’s for sure. I will be spending more time each week with the what’s on listings and try to take advantage of some of the things this city has to offer.