My piece on top costume designer Caroline Harris (Fleming, 42) via BAFTA Guru:
One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is the sushi. They get it there. It’s pretty cheap, it’s plentiful and it’s varied. I ate it for lunch about three times a week.
So it was a bit of a shock coming back to London. Despite Billingsgate and the sea really not all that far away, I’ve always found British sushi to be overpriced. It’s seen as a luxury item, even in Pret A Manger. It’s frustrating. I suppose I could try and make my own, but one of the pleasures of sushi is its sense of history and skill. I may have the knife, but I’ll never have the technique to make it properly. And anyway, how am I going to afford sushi-grade tuna?
Sumosan maintains raw fish’s sense of extravagance, in a restaurant of clean lines currently underneath a bunch of scaffolding in Mayfair. I went with my friend at lunchtime and was wearing a hoodie. Initially, I panicked slightly, thinking I would be the only one casually-dressed amongst the suits, but the place packs a nice balance between business folk and laid-back sorts.
My guest is a fitness trainer who runs Barry’s Bootcamp, so was excited by the thought of a new platter they were serving, dubbed superfood sushi. It includes three salmon and asparagus rolls (without rice), three salmon, tuna and cucumber wraps, thinly sliced scallop and apple sashimi, Temptation rolls, avocado and salmon egg sushi and three marinated mackerel rolls. On the side are a scattering of Brazil nuts, edamame and blueberries.
There are a million ways why this is very good for you. Lots of omega-3 of course, antioxidants galore and a half-cup of edamame provide a whopping nine grams of fibre and 11 grams of protein, all for just 120 calories.
First the bad stuff – the food took almost an hour to arrive, much to the embarrassment of our lovely waitress who blamed a busy kitchen, begged forgiveness and then brought us a delicious seaweed salad with peanut sauce as an apology. I hadn’t seen my friend in a while, so was more than happy catching up.
I’ve never been a big fan of fish eggs, especially the large salmon ones and had to rather force that piece down. But that’s me that finds the popping eyeball-like texture unpleasant, it’s not the cooking.
Indeed the cooking was immaculate throughout. There was so much attention to detail, everything was precise on the plate. It looked beautiful, which makes tucking in even more appetizing. The Temptation rolls, with tiny chunks of tuna and Japanese mayo were out of this world, both of us struck dumb for a moment while we chewed.
“It’s so melty,” said my companion. “It’s like you sense the taste all the way around your mouth.”
The food wasn’t served with wasabi and while I love heat, I stayed away from it. I’m glad I did, because you needed to feel the freshness of the meat. It’s not a combination I would think of, but the apple worked perfectly with the paper thin scallop, whilst the mackerel felt substantial but not overwhelming.
Finishing our plates, we felt full but healthy, my friend ready to head back to her gym for another high-energy class.
Of course, we had to go and spoil all that with green tea cheesecake and a spectacular dark and white chocolate fondant. Piercing the latter’s cake through the (rather pointless) sugar cage, a torrent of magnolia ooze filled the plate. It was unbelievable. And made us kind of hate ourselves after we’d done so well.
Not necessarily the kind of place then you’d pop into three times a week. But for sushi fans, it’s hard to stay away.
Want to know who they are? Find out via my piece at Yahoo! Movies:
For no other reason other than I’m a cinematic masochist, I suggest to my friend Benno we should watch a brace of seemingly unnecessary sequels, to find out what makes them tick. Unsurprisingly, he agrees. But then he’s convinced we should put in a bid to get the rights to Hawk The Slayer and make a follow-up.
We start with Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. Starship Troopers was a big-budget blockbuster that did pretty well and has also spawned two sequels and a cartoon television series. The initial concept was very simple – a group of grunts fighting hordes of killer bugs in the near future, given a satirical twist thanks to a script by Robocop writer Ed Neumeier. The problem with big action films like this is they cost a lot of money and have a great many special effects. After all, the entire insect enemy was computer-generated. The first bug you see in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder looks like it has been drawn onto the screen by hand.
‘This is going to be terrible,’ says Benno. ‘I can feel it.’
Ten minutes later, he’s changed his tune. The film is genuinely innovative and well-written. There’re allegories to the Middle East conflict, effective metaphors for Guantanamo Prison and intolerance to U.S. citizen dissent, even a hilarious pro-war song sung by the leader of the goodies. It has a number of intellectual references to religion, suggesting the only true God is firepower and weaponry, suicide bombers and talking about murdering people who believe in “the wrong God”. It’s also impressively gory.
‘Are the bugs supposed to be Muslims?’ I ask.
‘I think so,’ says Benno. ‘And the freaky Sky Marshal guy is George Dubya – a religious fanatic talking about how war is crucial. This is amazing!’
‘I like the way they use shadows and infra-red imaging, rather than relying just on CGI,’ I say. ‘It’s not that bad, although there’s certainly more stuff shown via television screens than before.’
‘I like the comedy Army recruitment ads.’
‘Would you sign up to fight the bugs?’ I say. ‘Or would you be like the guy who is supposed to be Ron Kovic from Born On The Fourth Of July – ranting about peace in a wheelchair?’
‘I don’t know. What about you?’ replies Benno.
‘Well, I’ve got a bad back, so they probably wouldn’t let me in the army. I would have a desk job. Or work in the kitchen or something. I’d prefer that to being on the front line, especially when the baddies can suck out your brain.’
‘Yeah, I know what you mean. I’d probably apply to make the adverts. I mean, I’m a cameraman, they need someone to shoot it, right?’
‘So you wouldn’t be a war reporter?’
‘I’m not going to wander round an alien planets filled with killer insects holding only a camera!’ says Benno. ‘I wouldn’t mind if the camera was also a rocket launcher, or something. But I have a feeling the bugs don’t defer to a press pass.’
‘I expect you’re right,’ I reply.
We’re on something of a sequel-based high when we sit down the following night, thanks to Starship Troopers 3, which is a genuinely cracking film. Not shit film good – real film good, a flick far superior to most of the dour action pap puked onto cinema screens today.
Wild Things 3 feels like a late-night movie. We’re not proved wrong. Never before have there been so many slo-mo “getting out of the pool in a skimpy bikini” scenes in one film. The first Wild Things was a well-constructed twisty-turny thriller starring Denise Richards and Matt Dillon about three con artists who steal some money and then gradually kill each other thanks to greed and distrust. It has become something of an Internet phenomenon courtesy of a raunchy threesome scene between Richards, Dillon and Scream star Neve Campbell. This second sequel knows where its bread is buttered and features a whole bunch of lesbianic activity, as well as basically copying the original plot. Only with crapper dialogue and worse acting.
‘This is really boring,’ says Benno, as we watch yet another slo-mo shot of a girl’s jugs (aren’t the characters supposed to be 17?).
‘The leading bloke looks like a poor man’s Tom Berenger,’ I add.
‘I never thought I’d say this, but I’m bored of the lesbians.’
‘Me too. Why did they turn this into a franchise? Was it just because they think kids will rent it to see two girl kissing? You can get that on the Internet?’
‘Yeah, but this is classier, isn’t it?’ says Benno. ‘It’s not like downloading porn. You can pretend you are watching a proper film, even if you are just waiting for teenage girl-on-girl.’
‘You’re probably right,’ I say. ‘That’s the kind of thing I would have done when I was younger. Especially when we didn’t have the Web.’
‘The Hispanic girl is quite fit – shame about the “posh” one. And when did it become movie lore that high-diving is a rich girls’ sport? I would have gone for lacrosse.’
‘But the women in the Olympics don’t wear bikinis, they wear swimsuits.’
‘You’re over-thinking this.’
Turns out the mother planned the whole thing. There – now you don’t have to watch it.
I was scouring the Internet some time ago and found out they’d made a sequel to Road House. I’m not sure why. The original came out in 1989, starred Patrick Swayze playing a bouncer in a hick bar and has been routinely included on “enjoyably bad” film lists ever since. The new one stars Johnathon Schaech. He’s a po-faced hunk with ‘the charisma of a crocus’, I tell my friend Benno (a.k.a. Benito Robinsoni, whose horror short Neon Killer caused a murmur of approval amongst splatter afficionados some years back). Then I ask him to watch the film with me.
Road House 2 sees Johnathon playing the now-dead Swayze’s son, who has to go help his uncle at a bar being overrun by drug dealers. It’s got good potential. Normally the girls in these sequels are exponentially more unattractive than the previous film, because the budgets are less and Benno and I are convinced more often than not, the director just casts whichever babe he is currently sleeping with. But the heroine in this is hot. There’s also a random dwarf, which is always a good sign.
‘I bet this film was directed by someone on hiatus from Smallville,’ says Benno. ‘It looks like an episode of Nash Bridges.’
I can feel his blood beginning to boil and stifle a laugh.
‘We’ve only watched 25 minutes and it feels like I’ve lived a lifetime inside this movie,’ he says. ‘I want to ring Schaech and slag him off down the phone. Could you set that up?’
I probably could, but I can’t be bothered. He strikes me as someone who takes himself far too seriously. The kind of guy who gets genuinely angry when he doesn’t get Oscar-nominated for a Czech-set erotic thriller in which he plays an Israeli flower salesman-turned-assassin who desperately wants to dance the Bolero on stage before he dies of a terminal disease. Why didn’t Johnathon Schaech change his name when he got into acting? As we get more and more hateful towards the film, we start pronouncing it like we’re brewing up a huge gobful of mucus. Either that or like we’re reading out the register at a Hungarian school. Actually, in some of these straight-to-DVD pics, I think that’s who gets cast in them. Even the kids have beards.
‘He’s got a sanctimonious, smug face and I want to punch him,’ Benno continues. ‘This is the kind of film made by talentless rich kids doing too much coke who want to get into movies.’
But would Benno really want to make Road House 3?
‘You’re damn right I’d make it. Only I’d make it really violent, with proper kick-ass fight scenes. You can’t even tell for sure if Schnectatroid is actually doing any of the stunts? He does the whole training scene, but you can’t see his face when the real action comes around. I reckon it’s a body double.’
‘You could be his body double. He’s got the same kind of hairy chest as you.’
‘You want to get into a hairy chest contest with someone who spells his name Johnathon?”
‘A film like this needs to be gritty and realistic, not like a glossy TV episode,’ he says. ‘It worked in the Eighties, because you had the Swayz taking off his top and dancing around and it was all stylized. You could get away with that then. This isn’t heightened enough to be Crouching Tiger… elegant, or gritty enough to be like an indie. It’s just like The A-Team. Only the plan isn’t coming together and no-one’s loving anything.’
‘I’d like to have a go at a straight-to-DVD horror sequel,’ he continues. ‘I would hire Johnathon Schaech and then disembowel him in the most gruesome death scene in movie history. Anyone that’s seen his films would watch it, it would be a huge hit. I’d get a slew of thank you cards.’
The whole issue gets really confused when goodie Will Patton starts talking about Atch-aech as his next of kin. Patrick Swayze starred in a film called Next Of Kin in the same year as the original Road House. This is all getting far too meta. We finish the movie, I ask Benno’s opinion and he simply gets up and farts on the TV. Touche.
I wrote about them for Yahoo! Movies UK:
Something I wrote about Diana & Me, a lost film from 1997 starring Toni Collette and Dominic West. Via Yahoo! Movies UK:
Via Yahoo! Movies UK:
Originally appearing on the Doha Film Institute site:
Originally appearing on the Doha Film Institute site: