Monday, April 30, 2007

Hot Guy Monday: Ryan Gosling

Taking a break from the overriding theme of hotties who can't act, today I bring you a hottie who most certainly CAN. I have been a fan of Ryan Gosling since The Believer and since I saw him in two films this past week (Half Nelson, which was amazing and Fracture which was....not), he gets to be the hot guy for this week. As well as being one of the best actors of his generation (currently I would rate him higher even than Jake Gyllenhaal), he is VERY easy on the eye.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Movies on the PCB Radar: May 2007

And so the summer season begins.....

May 4th:

Is there anybody whose radar this film is not on? Anyone? Thought not. Annoyingly I read the first review of it today and it confirmed something I was fearing about it, namely with three baddies it feels a little overcrowded. Ah well.

A master stroke of counter programming if ever there was one. There could not be less of a demographic crossover for these two movies. Of course, finding somewhere actually showing it will be something of a challenge.

May 11th:

Only one film makes the cut this week and I only really want to see it because the trailer looks absolutely thrilling. I really didn't enjoy the first movie, despite being repeatedly told by critics and audiences that it was amazing. If this seemingly unnecessary sequel is even half as exciting as the trailer though, it'll be great.

May 18th:

As much as I hate Samuel L Jackson, he keeps turning up in films I want to see. This seems highly intriguing. To say the least.

I have been excited about this movie since it was announced. I love David Fincher (with the exception of The Game) and the trio of Robert Downey Jr, Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo makes me squee. This is before you get to the fact this looks like being an intensely brilliant movie about a fascinating subject. Bring it on.

All I know about this film is the ill advised publicity stunt with the nasty posters in LA that were allegedly put up in error or without permission or some other equally transparent lie. But any film that involves apparently burying Elisha Cuthbert alive is just fine with me.

May 25th:

And so May closes as it opens....

I don't really know why this is on MY radar. I was no big fan of the first one, my outright loathing of the second installment is well documented. And I just discovered the running time for part 3 is an entirely monstrous and wholly unnecessary 168 minutes. That a trilogy which should really be around 4 hours ended up being closer to 9 is just ridiculous.

So it's a shame that this movie is coming out in the same weekend as it will be lost in the crush. Based on the Raymond Carver short story that has already been seen as part of Short Cuts, this uses one incident on a personal level to examine the cultural and political problems faced by an entire nation. Plus, Laura Linney's in it. I'd see her in anything.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Big day for PCB

Yesterday marked a significant milestone for me. Some of you may recall that last year, almost to the day, I had a most spectacular financial meltdown. I went to see the bank and they helped me out but I had to borrow £5000 from them. I was paying it off and at the original agreed terms, I would be paying it off until August 2008.

Yesterday I paid off the full remaining balance of £3350. I was almost light headed with joy after I left the bank. I have had a bank loan of some kind now for eight years, since I took one out to pay my student loans. So this week marks the first time since 1999 that I haven't had approximately £50 of my paycheck taken out for a loan repayment EVERY WEEK. I now just have the credit card to pay off and I will actually be debt free for the first time in over a decade.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Beauty & Crime: Track by track

I thought I would do my first Grouchbutt style album review for the new album from Suzanne Vega. So I am going to go through it track by track. I'll be referring to the liner notes/press release for some of the tracks too. Ok:

1. "Zephyr & I". The album's "driving opener" that recounts a conversation with the titular and apparently legendary graffiti artist as they stroll down a New York Avenue, it is certainly a jaunty start to the album. The lyrics are a little darker than the music would suggest though, with talk of children being gone but their souls remaining.

2. "Ludlow Street". An outstanding track. Seemingly an ode to a lost love, it is about how returning to the places you used to go with them isn't the same without them. The chorus is gorgeous and makes you ache.

3. "New York Is A Woman". Something of an oddity. If you wanted to, you could call this mysognistic as well as a bit insulting to New York. Or you could unclench and call it playful and a tribute to the city. I'll go with the latter.

4. "Pornographer's Dream". It's songs like this by Ms Vega, that are musically uninvolving and average, that make you truly appreciate how she really is more of a poet than a songwriter. Her lyrics are always a joy to listen to and it's no different with this song.

5. "Frank & Ava". Again, depending on how you look at this song, it could be her way of saying love sucks but it could also be pointing out that as long as your relationship is built on MORE than love then it will work. Either view isn't particularly rosy, I'll admit. It's a punchy little number though and the first single from the album.

6. "Edith Wharton's Figurines". A gorgeous little song and the first of three that I remember her playing when I saw her in 2005. As well as actually being about said figurines, it's also a comment on what people will do to themselves with surgery because they consider "their own beauty not enough".

7. "Bound". Now, according to the liner notes, this is one of two her most personal songs to date. Fine. It's a love song to her husband. What? Did they listen to the song? It's a nugget of tar black perfection, but a love song? I don't think so. The verses aren't overly cheery and by the time the chorus kicks in and Ms Vega plaintively asks if "you might still want me", you're brushing away tears so it's easier to find the razor blades. I love it. In fact it's my favourite song on the album, narrowly beating "Ludlow Street".

8. "Unbound". Do you see what she did there? This is the second song I remember from 2005 and it's the most radically overhauled. Given that 2005 was an acoustic evening and this song now has beats up the yin yang, that's not a surprise.

9. "As You Are Now". The second of those personal songs, this one is to her daughter, who is now 13 years old. It's sort of like "How You've Grown" by 10,000 Maniacs only more specific. It's beautiful.

10. "Angel's Doorway". Sort of a companion piece to "Frank & Ava" from what I can make out in the lyrics. It's the least impression making song on the album but it's by no means a duff track.

11. "Anniversary". The last track on the album and the last track I remember her playing on the acoustic evening in 2005. It's about walking around Ground Zero on an anniversary of 9/11 and the memories it stirred up. I never forgot the line about "the wind whips round in circuitry" for some reason. It's an utterly beautiful song and the perfect way to close the album.

And there it is. A scant 34 minutes after it began, it's all over. And that would be my only complaint I think. While Suzanne Vega has never been one to put the long in Long Player (her longest is just under 46 minutes), I feel a little cheated by its brevity. Six years is a long time to wait for a new album, after all.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hot Guy Monday: Paul Walker

Continuing on with HGM's overriding theme so far of hot actors with questionable talent (but undeniable gifts) who make generally bad movies, today I give you all some Paul Walker.

He really is stunning, but his lead roles have pretty much all been in rubbish movies and I don't see him troubling the Oscar voters anytime soon. But when you're that hot, who cares?

Friday, April 20, 2007

And the hits just keep on coming

I am sure I have mentioned that my crazy roommate who loves to boil eggs in kettles and melt butter over a toaster is also a bona fide disabled person. She has fibromyalgia, which is really no fun. Its other name, Constant Pain Syndrome, makes that pretty clear. As if that wasn't enough, yesterday she was diagnosed with lupus. I have an aunt who was diagnosed with lupus in 1993, so it's something I have actually suspected of my roomie for a little while. However, all the tests for lupus came back inconclusive. Until yesterday. Obviously, it was a huge upset for her to learn that one day, her liver could start eating itself. That's just one of the many wide and varied crazy things lupus can do to you.

It's weird but ultimately I think this could be a good thing. She's been very ill off and on for almost two years now with what we thought was glandular fever and its after effects. But nobody could say for sure what exactly caused her original flu-like illness in the summer of 2005, nor could they say why it had wiped out her immune system to the point whereby if someone sneezed within 50 yards of her, she had a cold within minutes and it lasted weeks. Turns out it was all lupus all the time. Now that she knows this and has something concrete to work with, once the shock wears off, she can start taking her life back.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's the little things, the little things

Obviously I am not in the most upbeat and chipper frame of mind at the moment. You only need scroll down a few entries to see why. And no, it's not because I'm not dating Ryan Reynolds. Anyway, usually I do a pretty good job of papering over the cracks and I have totally gotten a handle on not letting it interfere with work and always being professional. BUT sometimes it's really fucking hard work and yesterday was a real test of my limits.

So it was really lovely to get home and find out a friend with connections had, completely out of the blue, sent me an advance copy of the new Suzanne Vega album, Beauty & Crime. It's on my iPod and will no doubt be on constant rotation for the next couple of weeks, until the posse gets here anyway. There are a couple of tracks on there I remember from seeing her live in 2005 too. It's not due for release until mid July so I'm really happy I received the advance copy. A full review will appear soon enough.

One of my most favourite books of the last few years has been The Time Traveller's Wife. The film version has been on the cards pretty much since it was published. I was happy to see that Eric Bana (who, despite what you can tell from Hulk, can actually act) and Rachel McAdams who I just love love love have been cast in the lead roles. I was also happy to see that Gus Van Sant is no longer directing. He has been off his game, to say the least, for a few years now. I wasn't overly thrilled that the director of Flightplan is now helming the project but eh, you can't have everything.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hot Guy Monday: Ryan Reynolds

I was a year or so late in discovering the charms of Ryan Reynolds because I have not and will never watch Van Wilder. However, by the time I saw a secret Alanis Morrisette gig for the launch of her So-Called Chaos album, I was very much aware of him. The gig was in a teeny tiny little concert hall and I was right at the front. A big bank of speakers blocked my line of vision to the right hand side of the stage. Alanis played "Bees Of My Knees", dedicating it to her new boyfriend, gesturing to the right hand side of the stage, my blind spot. You can imagine what I thought the next day when I found out who she was dating. I mean, look at him:

So very hot. Now, he just needs to make some better movies.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

PCB packs them in

Having only seen one film at the cinema in what felt like forever (Danny Boyle's Sunshine, which was 95 minutes of intense brilliance undone by a final 20 minutes of utter shit), I made it to the cinema 4 times over this weekend, 3 of the visits packed into yesterday, before going to work for a six hour overtime shift at 6pm.

On Friday I saw 300. I don't know how I managed to miss it for so long. My train of thought was pretty much this "Wow, there's not much of a plot is there? Oh, Gerard Butler is shouting. Oh look, slow motion bloodshed. Now he's shouting again. Dear Christ, Rodrigo Santoro looks RIDICULOUS. More fighting. More shouting. Oh, it's over." I guess I admired it stylistically, but it's not something I'll be clamouring to see again anytime soon.

Yesterday, I started with an early morning (10am!) showing of Meet The Robinsons. So as not to appear a total pedophile, I purchased the tickets for the other two films at the same time. As much as I hate Disney as a corporation, I do love their animated movies. While Meet The Robinsons hammers its cutesy family ethic home hard enough to give me serious blunt force trauma, there were enough inspired moments of laugh out loud silliness to make up for it. And the whole time travelling plot was pretty clever too. There was perhaps too much plot fighting for space but that's not always a bad thing.

Next up was something at the opposite end of the spectrum, Curse Of The Golden Flower. I was actually in two minds about this, as I was bored to tears by Hero, but did love House Of Flying Daggers. Ultimately though, my love of Gong Li was the deciding factor. The film is a visual feast, every frame is pretty much a work of art and the opulence drips off the screen. Same goes for the costumes. It's all so very very beautiful. The plot is pure hokum though to the point that I found myself wondering if Gong Li's ultimate aim was to take over Denver-Carrington. Her intensely brilliant performance is the glue that holds the film together, as she's more Lady Macbeth by way of Desdemona than Alexis Carrington-Colby. Ultimately, this ends up being yet another film that is much more exciting to look at than it is to actually watch.

The cinematic finalé was provided by The Lives Of Others. I mentioned when this film made my radar that it better be good as it beat out my film of the year for the Oscar. It's better than good, it's entirely engrossing. Never feeling less than 100% authentic, it boils down the horror of the Stasi regime to a small handful of characters all meticulously fleshed out and perfectly acted. That such an accomplished film is from a first time writer/director is all the more remarkable. While the tragedy that ultimately befalls the main character (the heavily surveilled artist, Dreyman) is horrific, it's not his story that makes the biggest impression. Conflicted Stasi operative Wiesler is the true focus and the final scene of the film involves him and with very few words manages to be uplifting and heartbreaking all at the same time.

And there you have it. I do partly think that it won the Oscar over Pan's Labyrinth for telling an equally important story in a more straightforward fashion, but it is by no means an undeserving victor. Unlike, say, Halle Berry.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My crazy roommate strikes again

I have blogged about my insane roommate and how she doesn't think things through before. So I thought I would share the email with you all she sent me yesterday. All you need to know for it to make proper sense is we have a toaster that has a bun warming rack over the top:

"If you want to soften butter fast for, say, a bagel you are going to toast.
DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, put the packet over the toaster.
This WILL indeed soften the butter, but will soften it to the point of dripping oiliness which will then do the following:
1) Set Fire to the toaster, necessitating the picking up the greasy, nearly scalding, pack of butter which will...
2) shoot out of your hands like a tiny greased piglet and fly across the kitchen covering YOU and Everything in hot melted butter (whilst flames are still coming from the toaster!) which will then....
3) nearly cause you to crack your head open by making the kitchen floor a greasy deathtrap as you run to soak a teatowel to throw over the toaster (which you just manged to switch off with your buttery fingers) which will....

Thank GOD! quench the flames and save the day! But believe me the whole thing WAS NOT FUN!"

You couldn't make this up. I read the email at work and sat at my desk laughing so hard I had tears pouring down my face. Then I regained my composure, read the email again and promptly collapsed into another fit of giggles.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hot Guy Monday: Eric Mabius

And now it's time to honour the original hot guy I had in mind when Britain's insanity caused me to choose Stefan Booth instead. Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Mabius. I get a little cross when people start talking about this new hot guy who is so cute on Ugly Betty. I have enjoyed his talents since Cruel Intentions in 1999 so all these Johnny Come Latelys need to back off, he's mine, MINE I tell you!

And now that's clear, here's the pictures :-).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

H-1, PCB 0. Again

That's right. Just like last year. I have kept all the toings and froings of this off my blog as I had planned a victorious "I've finally got my visa" entry when everything was done and dusted. And all my friends who knew what was going on all said they knew this time it would work out. Well, it didn't.

When I was over in NY in January, I stressed to the company hiring me how important it was we filed on the first day of applications being processed, which was April 2nd. I met with my lawyer and we worked out a timetable that would get all their paperwork to them at the earliest possible opportunity and the latest date she would require it back to her in order to send the application off by the end of March. And so with that in place, I thought surely nothing could go wrong this time. Ha! My lawyer dropped the ball and for some reason didn't send anything to them until two weeks AFTER the date we had initially agreed on. And so my application was not ready to be filed until this Friday just gone, April 6th. Which in previous years would not have been too much of a problem. But this year, the USCIS announced that they received the full quota by April 3rd and any applications received after that will not be processed.

A bill was introduced into Congress on March 23rd to increase the H-1 quota almost three times over to 180,000. If it is successful and the increase is with immediate effect, then I'll be on my way. If not, then I'll be stuck in the UK for yet another year.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

4 for 4/4: Patisserie PCB

I realise this flies in the face of last month's weight loss edition, but there you are. Anyway, I bake a fine cake, or so I am told. The company I work for have a tradition of if it's your birthday then you bring in goodies to share with your team members. A little bit backwards if you ask me but there you have it. Anyway, I baked a cake once for someone and it went down such a storm that it started becoming something of a tradition. The biggest irony is the cake I baked for my birthday was a disaster and went in the bin. Ha!

The top picture is my colleague Hiroko. It wasn't her birthday, she was celebrating (if that's the right word) ten years of being with the company. I had baked the Nigella Lawson Nutella Cake for her. It was phenomenal. The next picture is the cake she baked me for my birthday. It's a red velvet cake but she was wary of the red food dye so it's really just a velvet cake. To the right of it you can see the cookies I baked in place of my cake disaster that was thrown away. Next pic down is the cake I baked for a German colleague who loves kirsch and cherries. It's a rich chocolate cake, but instead of using plain chocolate for it, I used Green & Blacks luxury dark chocolate with dried cherries and the topped it off with some kirsch soaked chocolate covered cherries (they were from a posh organic chocolate shop so they weren't covered, they were enrobed. Whatever). The final pic is a close up of my birthday cake because it's my blog and it's all about me.

Sorry I've been a bit impersonal of late. There's something huge going down right now and until everything is settled I am not breathing a word of it on here. So keep your eyes peeled for a big update later in the week. Hopefully.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Hot Guy Monday: Mike Vogel

All images are from website Isn't he yummy? I only really started paying attention to him in the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre so I was a bit annoyed when he was the first one to die. At least he made it to the end of Poseidon. And he comes across fantastically in the making of documentary about Texas Chainsaw, that if you were indifferent to his charms beforehand, you would at least think he was cute after you watched it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Movies on the PCB Radar: April 2007

Bit of a slender month this time. Probably because next month sees the start of the summer onslaught. But anyway.

April 6th:

This is going to be, I would wager, utterly naff and not in the least bit frightening. But it stars Dylan McDermott and I love him.

A tricky prospect, this one. Much delayed after spending an entire year in post production, it could go either way. I don't rate Danny Boyle as a director at all (I absolutely LOATHE Trainspotting) and Alex Garland wrote The Beach, a book which bored me to tears. However, the premise is intriguing and the early word is that the film is relentlessly paced and more than a little terrifying. We'll see...

April 13th:

The film which I currently think unfairly stole the Oscar from Pan's Labyrinth. My opinion may well change after I see it of course.

From one extreme to the other. This looks like it's going to be deliciously, gloriously, fantastically bad. I can't wait.

Despite the fact far far far FAR too much is given away in the trailer for this, I still want to see it. Even though I'm sure I already know the ending thanks to the relentless previews. Seriously, it's a twisty turny conspiracy thriller, so why reveal the identity of the bad guy in the trailer? Why?

April 20th:

I love Ryan Gosling, I think he's an incredible actor. By all accounts his performance in this film is really something. I can't wait.

This will be rubbish, I'm fairly certain. It's also much delayed and is being rush released now to presumably cash in on the success of 300.

Clearly, April is the month for dumping the much delayed projects in which the studios have lost all hope. Check out the original release date on the poster. It looks like it will be rubbish and as it stars Hilary Swank April would also be the month that sees Oscar winning actors in ill advised movies.

April 27th:

Ah it looks like a Merchant Ivory film. Even if this film is boring to watch (and given its cast, I doubt it will be), it will be glorious to look at.

Nicolas Cage would seem to prove my point about April and Oscar winning actors. The story of a man who can see into the future by a few minutes and the nuclear disaster he can help to avert sounds, well, shit. But it might be good shit.