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Thursday, 28 February, 2002 @ 11.42pm GMT
Posted by Bodie
Dir: Michael Mann
Cert: 15
Running time: 156mins

There's a great film to be made about boxing. Unluckily for Michael Mann, Raging Bull has been out for twenty years. There's a great film to be made about Muhammad Ali. Unluckily for Michael Mann, it might have already have been made. Leon Gast's 1996 documentary When We Were Kings tells the story of the 1974 Ali vs Foreman "Rumble In The Jungle", the fight which serves as the climax to the Mann version. If you've not seen When We Were Kings, then see Ali first, then the documentary. If you have seen it though, then save your popcorn money for another week, because there's little here that compares.

Ali covers the decade running up to the 1974 fight. We see Ali win the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time, as Cassius Clay. We see him become involved with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, and as a result become politicised, convert, and change his name. We see Ali refuse the Vietnam draft, and be stripped of his title and almost imprisoned as a consequence. We see his personal relationships suffer, before redemption and a regaining of his title in the Foreman fight.

Ali Will Smith has the unenviable task of playing Ali. Now, Will's a handsome, talented, personable guy, but does he have what it takes to move up from playing lightweight action heroes, like in Bad Boys and Enemy Of The State, to portraying one of the world's greatest, and most recognisable, athletes? Well, yes and no. Smith sounds a little like Ali, and some minor prosthetics make him look a little like Ali. Smith can handle the banter, the joking, the "float like a butterfly" stuff just fine, but there's no depth here. Looking like and sounding like doesn't translate into feeling like and being like Mohammed Ali.

This isn't necessarily Will Smith's fault. Ask yourself, if you were making this movie right here and now, who else would you cast? Chris Rock? Martin Lawrence? No. So Will Smith gets the gig. Like the song says, it's not right, but it's okay.

Ali Another problem with the movie is that it isn't content to tell the Ali story. Or any Ali story, because there are several. The period before 1964, Olympic gold medal and all, is not touched upon. The post 1974 boxing years, where an increasingly unfit Ali is coaxed out of retirement to fight, and occasionally beat, others, gets only a single caption at the end of the movie. His subsequent battle with Parkinson's Disease goes unmentioned. What the film does do, is spend time building Ali into a wider picture, that of the 1960s in America. Some of this works, but all too often it feels like Oliver Stone by numbers, as another 1960s icon gets pushed past a shoal of events and personalities. So we get Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, John Lennon, the Vietnam War, racial segregation in the South, campus riots against Vietnam, Idi Amin all thrown into the mix. This material, as worthy and as connected to the subject as it is, tears us away from the supposed centre of the film.

Crucial relationships suffer as a result. We learn more about Malcolm X and Ali, for example, than either of Ali's wives in this time period. The women in his life are little more than ciphers, going through a similar pattern; seduction, happiness, unhappiness, betrayal, divorce. Ali's family is glossed over, as is any relationship with his trainer and corner man Angelo Dundee. What we do get, though, is the enjoyable diversion of Ali bickering and swapping good-natured insults with TV commentator Howard Cosell.

Ali Director Mann seems to be aware of some of the limitations of his material and stars here, and covers himself well. He stocks the picture with a great selection of character actors; Mykelti Williamson (Don King), Giancarlo Esposito (Ali's father), Jamie Foxx (hanger-on 'Bundini' Brown), Jon Voight (unrecognisable under an accurate, if inflexible, Cosell prosthetic), Ron Silver (Angelo Dundee), Joe Morton (Ali's attorney), all of whom supply energy and verve to their characters. Mann handles the music well, in an almost Scorsese fashion, underpinning the action and locking it into the timeframe.

Mann indulges himself as he has before (most noticeably in the opening fifteen minutes, and in the scenes of Ali jogging in preparation for the 1974 fight) of combining overwhelming music and image to shift to a hypnotic, almost existential plane, which reminds us briefly of earlier movies like Thief and Manhunter, rather than more recent, worthy biopics like this and The Insider.

What we have though, is a hollow at the centre of the film. There's almost no story, just a succession of events being replayed in front of us. That may well be an accurate reflection of Ali's diary, but it doesn't make for involving viewing, and doesn't give a reason for the movie being made. Sure, Ali is a fascinating figure, but we learn almost nothing about him here, except that he's perhaps quick-witted, but over-trusting of his business partners, good at public relations, but bad at personal relationships. And we don't get a real sense of what made him a great boxer. There's no Ali shuffle here. And after two-and-a-half hours of screen time, that's not enough.

View the Ali trailer

Sunday, 24 February, 2002 @ 5.58pm GMT
Posted by Floorgasm
Ali G
Ali G

The self-styled Pimp Daddy of Staines on Madonna, dealin' and bonin' fine ladies...

You're releasing a single with Shaggy later this year - isn't he a twat?

No, Shaggy ain't a twat at all. He iz one of da coolest people I iz ever met. Him iz a world hexpert in ragga and reggae who owns every single record dat UB40 iz ever recorded - and him know all da wordz. Not only dat, he iz got a wikkid sense of humour and 'im still cracks me up by phonin' me and sayin' "Wasssup!" Also, him can say "Cruuuuccciaaaalllllll!" even better dan Lenny Henry ever could.

In a pulling competition between you and him, who would win?

Me fink it iz well out of order to treat women as onjects, and dat iz wot me said to Shaggy after he beat me 34-1 in dat pulling competition we had.

What's the best thing about being black?

Well dat is a well racist question. Da white mam at FHM should look beyond me colour. Too many times me has been discriminated against. Da honkies may say I iz too fick, too rubbish at acting, too shitty at singing, too crappy at bein' on da telly but me know dey iz using dem fings as hexcuses cos dey ain't comfortable wiv da colour of me skin. Me see meself mostly as a citizen of da world... and Staines... and Eton Wick, if da housing benefit office iz reading dis. Remember, black, white or brown, we all come from da same place - da punani.

If it came to blows between you and Mohammed Ali, who would come off best?

Let's be honest 'ere - if it come to blows between Ali and Charlotte Church at da moment, she would probably knock him out in two. He ain't 'alf da fighter he used to be since him caught dat disease off Parkinson - and dat iz why me won't do his chat show. Anyway, da question iz irrelevant, cos me wouldn't ever want to fight Ali. As a role model for kidz and an hexample of how boxin' can be a force for good, him has done more dan any over fighter in histry. Apart, obviously, from Mike Tyson.

If Guy Ritchie asked you to look after Madonna for the evening, would you make a move?

No - me wouldn't 'ave to. Da minute he woz out of da door, she would be all over me. Madonna has been lookin' to bone me ever since she eyed clap on me. After me starred in her Music video she has been bombardin' me wiv phone calls - and not all of dem askin' me to stop phonin' her. And check dis, when she done a concert in London last year, she sent me free tickets... to a Busta Rhymes gig in New York dat woz on da same night. You tell me, why would she do dat if she didn't want to bone me?

Would you be tempted by a threesome with Guy and Madge?

Me ain't into goin' to bed wiv any bloke, and hespecially not one whose name iz da French spellin' of "Gay". Plus me and Guy iz good mates and me wouldn't want to fall out wiz him over who got wot hole.

MTV faced fines after the awards show you presented in Frankfurt. Did you offer to pay them off with cash from your dealing?

Me ain't hactually admittin' to sellin' anyfin on dat night, but let's just say dere iz certain fings me provided in Frankfurt. Craig David, if someone iz readin' dis to to you, me know where you live and it iz just a matter of time before your mum goes out and you iz left on your own. I want my fifteen squid and one way or another, me will get if off you. Nuff said.

Any party favours going around the awards? Were you fluffed before going on stage?

Wot? Iz you mad? Da last fing I need iz anyone to make my dong look bigger - hespecially when Kylie iz in da same buildin' as me.

It was FHM who leaked the Posh and Becks interview to the press. Do you want to pop a cap in our ass?

Me already know it was you, and belive me, if I wanted you smoked, dat would have 'appened a long time ago. Me decided to hit you where it would really hurt - in your pocket. Dat's right, it was me who put a big dent in your souf of Hengland sales by goin' into newsagents and drawin' cocks and balls on da covers of FHM magazines. And by da way, if you disses me again, next time it won't just be shops in Staines dat me hits.

During that interview, it looked as if Posh's breast would pop out at any moment - did you get to see any nipple?

Not durin' da intraview, but afterwards me did manage a peak when me haccidentally looked thru da keyhole of her dressin' room and saw her breast feedin' David.

Cilla Black, Babs Windsor and Corrie's Janet Battersby. Who would you bone if you had to?

For me to bone Cilla, it would definitely 'ave to be a blind date - in which me was hactually blind (and deaf as well and probably hunconcious). As for Barbara Windsors, me don't fink I could bone her, even if me wanted to. Not cos she iz too old for me, but cos I iz probly too old for her. I ain't never heard of da other one. Could you send me some pics of her - with her swingaz out if possible - and me'll let you know.

You're launching your own clothes range. Will it just be underwear, or will you branch into bespoke men's suits?

No, me ain't got any plans to do suits, or stuff like dat - at da moment I iz just concentratin' on underwear and iz tryin' to get as many men into my pants as me can.

In this issue of FHM we have a feature on sexual abstinence - basically no intercourse or masturbation for a month. Could you survive this and what tips can you offer to help?

I iz got no idea if me could survive wivout bonin' for a monf - da longest I iz ever 'ad to last before iz five weeks (dat 'appened about 15 years ago when me was in 'ospital after bein' mowed down by a police shoppin' trolley durin' da Spelthorne Riots of 1992). As far as advice on how to cope wiv it - if you can't 'ave intracourse or masturbation, den you iz just got to 'ave a wank, innit?

How much money have you made from your books, videos and dealing?

Fanks to me Uncle Jamal, who iz also me manager, me has done very nicely out of me videos and book, fank you. For each one dat iz sold me hactually gets a whole fraction of a per cent of what it costs. Because of dis, I iz personally bought fousands of copies of all of dem - me can't go wrong - da more I buy, da richer I gets. As far as drugs goes, as I iz said before, me ain't hadmittin' nuffink in dis area. For more information on dis, call me on my mobile and me'll tell you hexactly wot I ain't sellin', how much it won't cost and at wot times me won't be able to deliver it.

What do you make of the likes of Richard Madeley and Richard Bacon impersonating you?

Me don't 'ave a problem wiv people himpersonatin' me - in fact wiv da number of contracts dere iz out on my head at da moment, I iz hactually quite glad about it. If only Madeley had been impersonating 2-Pac a few years ago, da world's bestest rapper might still be alive (not dat he iz hactually dead), and daytime telly would be a lot less shitty dan it iz now.

Do you still hang out with your old West Staines Massive?

Of course me do and me will always stay wiv me rootz and me homies. Even in a few years when I iz hopefully managed to earn literally founsandz of pounds, me will still be nicking from da same newsagents, playin' on da same swings and smashing up da same phone box - cos I will have bought all of dem and had dem moved into da grounds of me mansion in Souf Central LA.

Source: FHM



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