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Alien Quadrilogy December 30, 2011

Posted by oldboy in : DVD/Video/T.V., Science Fiction , 4 comments

 In space no one can hear you scream

The Alien Franchise is a pretty good example of how to make a successful film into a franchise and then destroy it.

Ridley Scott’s Alien. By Gods is this a good film. One of the Top Sci-fi Movies that rewote the genre. Described as a horror film with people trapped in the house of a crazed killer this puts a spin on the idea putting our characters into a space setting with people trapped on a ship with an Alien that is trying to kill them. It is also a “hard sci-fi” film with a large vision in story and production. It is tense and atmospheric and ultimately feels real because there is a lot of improvisation throughout the movie with acting as Ridley Scott pushed his cast to really go for it. They are genuinely surprised as they are splattered with blood as John Hurt’s chest bursts open because they didn’t know what was coming. We have another scene in which Sigourney Weaver is slapped hard across the face on Directors orders to get a “genuine” reaction and we have arguments between the cast in real heated moments that make the viewer all that more uncomfortable because there are real emotions and anger between cast members getting pissed off at each other. So you might call this “A bunch of angry people on a ship” because the story focus is quite rightly about them and how they deal with this thing that’s killing them off one by one. Of course ‘Alien’ is easier to sell.
The Alien is the storm that is ripping through the mining ship. It is disgusting and never seen quite fully till near the end and for me I find that a lot scarier because you always are afraid of the unknown, the unseen danger that can spring up and kill you anytime and when the Alien finally does appear the look of it is frightening enough to match that fear. The Alien was designed by H.R. Giger and is in a way very sexual as are a lot of his art works, but it’s highly suited to this film where the Alien facehugger impregnates people through the mouth. The Xenomorph Alien itself is oozing with slime as it’s mouth comes out of another mouth. Utterly disgusting but gives the idea that it’s going to screw you with it’s mouth.

The Alien is not the only sexual thing in the film though. At the very end of the film Ridley Scott completely captures the audience by having Sigourney Weaver slip down to her undies.  This might make people think they are getting their money shot/fan service moment but it’s a genius move as it complete distracts us, making us take our eye off the back ground which has the Xenomorph Alien hiding within it!

Favorite Quote: You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.” - Ash

Aliens is James Cameron’s take on the franchise 7 years later and comes at a time where he is still an unknown director as The Terminator hadn’t even been released when he took on Director duties. ‘Aliens’ this time is sci-fi action in space and while it retains a lot of the atmosphere of the first film it does make the character of Ripley an action female character of the likes that had not been seen before on film. Aliens was actually the first Alien movie I watched but I would still rank ‘Alien’ at the top for it’s realistic feel and drama about people just doing their job and getting screwed. Aliens makes it a bit easier for the action to take center stage by having our main characters be marines. It takes away from the drama but adds to the action.

Cameron knows how to make an action film and the action and level of threat that he makes the viewer feel is light years ahead of the likes of ‘Avatar’ with it’s clean CGI dancing Aliens. That’s where we’ve gone from. From the terrifying Xenomorphs to dancing blue aliens that look like cute kittens. Ok, the aliens in Avatar are the good guys but they spend too much time pissing around flying on big birds and making love with their tails.

Anyway. Alien and Aliens are films that give you that “wow” factor after having seen them. The design of the films are inspired as are the ideas beihind them.

Favorite Quote: ” You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage” - Ripley

Alien 3 was a troubled production from the start and we start to see how studio interference screwed these films over. One of the original ideas was to have Aliens on Earth. Now, to me that’s a good way to escalate the level of danger. The first movie is 1 Alien, the second has got lots of Aliens. The 3rd takes this threat to Earth, which makes sense because in the previous two movies the motivation behind Ripley’s actions was to stop the Alien threat from reaching earth because she knows that if they ever got loose on Earth it’s game over. That has been the character’s greatest challenge because she not only had to fight the Aliens but had to go against her own people who wanted to bring it to Earth and turn it into a weapon. One wiped out her crew, dozens a colony. What could they do to Earth and how could that be stopped? Unfortunately when this idea was presented to the studio that runs the Franchise 20th Century Fox they basically said “no, we’d rather just do it in space again” and so once again the idea of playing it safe kills the potential of a movie because nobody wants to see a rehash of a film do they?

The other Alien 3 concepts were to have it on a Wooden monastery   floating in space. Another on a prison. The Wooden planet monastery is an interesting concept visually but for story I don’t find it that interesting a setting. The final film was a blend between those ideas having Ripley’s escape pod crash land on a prison colony self governed by inmates who had found God. The concept goes back to basics as it’s once again, one alien that picks people off one by one and Ripley wants to stop the Company “Weyland-Yutani” from taking it to Earth. The same company that has wanted to do the same thing since the first film. James Cameron reportedly was disappointed to see the characters he had developed and saved in ‘Aliens’ being killed off in the first 5 minutes of Alien 3.

The film is less impressive all around. It does have some interesting story points and there is a nice homage to a scene from Alien in which Ripley mistakes pipe working for an Alien, a reversal of a scene in ‘Alien’ where the Xenomorph hides among the circuitry. Alien 3 was a troubled shoot and Director David Fincher has basically disowned this film due to the constant studio interference he had while making it. In addition the story is more formulaic and the addition of a CGI Alien for the first time takes away the tension and fear of the movie.

Favorite Quote: ” You’re all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fuckin’ knees… begging? I ain’t much for begging! Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say *fuck* that thing! Let’s fight it!” - Dillon

H.R. Giger described the humanoid Alien design that appears at the end of Alien Resurrection as looking like a “piece of sh*t”. I would go one step further and say that’s what the entire film looks like. It’s sad to see where this franchise started from and where it ended up with having everything watered down into a basic shootem up alien film. We no longer have real characters/people in this film. We have characters created to appeal to the “Ohs MYS GODS!!1 THATS EM COoL!!1″ crowd. Everything has been dehumanized.  The character of Ripley is not Ripley, a clone yes but this has nothing whatsoever in common with the Character we knew and liked. It’s played differently, all she has is some memories of the character we knew and in the film Ripley has some Alien super strengths and abilities one of which includes acid blood. The (un)coolness factor again. Every character is bordering on comical with one liners and  not so witty dialogue. They might aswell just wink at the bloody camera as they say it. Joss Whedon wrote this script and criticizes the execution of his dialogue which he says remains unchanged. He says everything else is wrong with the film except his script. No Joss, what’s also wrong is your script where you try to shove your idea of science fiction characters (basically a pre firefly type crew) into a film franchise that had it’s beginnings with a crew of normal working people who didn’t have expertise in guns, weren’t making ironical comments every 5 seconds and were actually just normal people facing a problem that was beyond them. What Whedon brought to this franchise was the “shootem up” Aliens in space which lacks anything original or creative. He just gave his characters strengths, tools and muscles with which to fight the Alien Monster.That kind of Dialogue doesn’t belong in this kind of movie. It works for a character like Iron Man in ‘Avengers’ who is already an “Iron-ical” character to begin with. The Xenomorphs too who were once hidden within shadow to make them scarier are on full display here completely desensitizing them. Alien Resurrection was almost the first Alien movie I watched in the cinema but thankfully I didn’t get to see it until I rented it on video and was so glad that I didn’t watch it on the big screen as it would have been an embarrassing collective experience to watch Ripley get sensual with the Humanoid alien that looks “like a piece of shit” at the end.

Least Favorite Quote: “You’re a beautiful, beautiful butterfly” - Suder from Star Trek Voyager

The Lord of The Rings December 21, 2011

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, DVD/Video/T.V., Fantasy, Book to Film , add a comment

The Fellowship of The Ring

It was a cold December morning in Dublin City exactly 10 years ago that I went to see The Lord of The Rings first showing. It was close to Christmas and I had woken up early to a gloomy grey sky and a bitterly cold day to see this film specially. At the time I was not a Lord of the Rings fan, I was going into it blind, not knowing the story, what it was about. What these films were to me though were film history, a trilogy. I knew the story was going to be epic, I knew that this was been bantered about as the Star Wars of today. I wanted to be part of that geekdom history that saw it first. It was either that or Harry Potter and at the time Harry Potter seemed to be a film geared towards kids. Looking at trailers for both, Harry Potter had a leading unknown cast of children, a very British secondary cast filled with famous TV personalities and comedians. Also it just didn’t look that epic, the Lord of the Rings had booming music, Wizards fighting wizards, giant fire breathing monsters and a quest (Being a “Knight-mare” fan I love quests.) The international cast of the Lord of the Rings was also familiar to me. Ian Mckellen I adore, as do I love Christopher Lee, Kate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Liv Tyler, Sean Bean etc
From the opening scenes I’m already sold that this is going to be ’something else’. A real genuine big fantasy movie. On every level it just doesn’t look like your typical movie. As Gandalf enters the film for the first time I could see two young women sitting in front of me giddy with excitement. They had obviously read the books and were eating this scene and it’s book references to pieces.

I was really impressed how the main villain of the movie, an eye, could be made to be so fearsome, from the first moment Frodo puts on the Ring the sound and atmosphere blasted my soul and the unblinking burning Eye filled the massive cinema screen. It’s a moment from the film that I will never forget and unfortunately it does lose some of it’s impact watching it on the small screen. Watching this film on the big screen was a life time experience to a movie fan.

The Ring itself is a character here. It’s like an addictive Drug to characters who seem to start suffering withdrawals by just being around it. Here it’s effects are none so apparent as they are to Boromir who is a man who wants to defend his home, a great man who sees the potential of this power as a weapon but it’s clearly more than that to him. It’s power and drugs often make people feel powerful for a time at least.

When the film came to an end I realized only then that the three movies dealt with ONE Ring and not 3 different Rings. An easy mistake for a complete newb to make since it did say the Lord of the RingS .But at that stage it didn’t matter. I was sold and wanted to watch the sequel which was only one year away.

 Favorite Quote:  “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” - Gandalf

The Two Towers

“The Two Towers” has an amazing opening, it ups the ante and sets the tone for the whole movie as a big action piece. That opening scene of Gandalf and the Balrog fighting makes every other fantasy movie eat it’s heart out.

I always thought of the Two Towers as the action piece in between. The Battle of Helms Deep is really well done. Having loved studying History at School and reading about situations such as a sieging of a Fort or Castle I thought Jackson did a fantastic job of fleshing out the siege and battle which is more prominent and to the front of the movie than it was in the book.

Gollum could have been a disaster of a CGI character. I think lots of people feared a Jar Jar Binks situation, but the amount of work Andy Serkis put into the character made him so real and I do think he deserved at the very least an Oscar nomination consider he had to not only stand in for his character on film but he had to film the scenes again by himself for the CGI movements. He is a more loveable character here and has a journey to go through himself.

Favorite Quote: “…there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.” - Sam

The Return of the King

It’s hard to eclipse the action of the Two Towers but Jackson really does it and does it differently rather than repeat the standard siege battle.It a far broader battle scene he does with action taking place in different areas giving each character a significant role to play.

Some scenes are built up a little too much. The encounter between Gandalf and the Witch King doesn’t really happen so we never get the sense of who the Witch king is whereas in the books he had pages to be dealt with and is far more chilling a foe on page.

Sam and Frodo’s Journey takes on a very dark tone, more so because Frodo keeps to the center stage and is pretty much manipulated by Gollum to mistrusting Sam. I don’t know how comfortably that sits. It makes the situation all the more deadly. But also the characters are more oblivious to Gollum. The scenes in the Volcano are perfect. It’s a dramtic ending and I don’t have much of a problem with the way it’s slightly changed from the books.

I have little problem with the multiple endings too. But further viewings do show a lot of fades to black, over manipulating the audience. But I can’t really criticize that as there was so so much to squeeze into the last movie.

One part of this movie that I liked that isn’t in the book but does bring a certain maturity to the characters and what they’ve been through is the scene in the pub near the end. The four hobbits sit together drinking and looking around at the alien place they find themselves in that used to be home. They have seen and been through some horrors that the people around them do not understand but they themselves do and the look in each of their eyes show a special understanding that only the fellowship could have. I believe this scene is meant to represent our Hobbits grown up as the scouring of the Shire wasn’t included in the movie.

Favorite Quote: “There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.” - Gandalf

The Lord of the Rings: Book

Posted by oldboy in : Books, Fantasy , 7 comments

It took a while to read but it was well worth it.

The Fellowship of The Ring

I thought The fellowship of the Ring follows pretty closely to what we saw in the movie version although events take much longer to unfold in the book than the movie with the passage of time being many years between the discovery of the power of Bilbo’s ring and Frodo’s journey. The opening pages go into some detail about Hobbit pipe weed, the history behind it which seems a little strange as an introduction to Hobbits and their culture but understandable since Tolkien was an avid pipe smoker.

The book later discusses in great detail the One Ring, it’s history, it’s power on man and others and why it can’t be just hidden or thrown into the deepest sea. It beefs up the importance of the quest. Gollum’s back story is discussed here too giving a fascinating insight into the character. Gollum’s History is sprinkled throughout the movie trilogy, but here, having already been introduced in the Hobbit the character’s back story is filled in by Gandalf to Frodo. There is a defining moment here where Frodo says it’s a pity that Bilbo didn’t kill Gollum, but Gandalf lightly scolds him on this, stating that who is he (Frodo) to decide who lives and who dies for life is not always just and it is through Biblo’s pity on Gollum in the Hobbit that he receives the Ring unlike Gollum who killed for it. This is a defining moment for later in “The Two Towers” does Frodo remember Gandalf’s words and spares Gollum himself which has an even greater impact on the story. The Birth of Gollum is seen to be not just through murder and the weight of the Ring but from himself becoming a trickster and listening in on peoples conversations which he should never hear in the first place, letting the private words of others poison his mind. There is certainly a lesson to be learned.

The Ring itself is far too powerful for anyone. It’s the power more than the evil it possesses that is the danger. Having such great power, can a person control it or would they lose themselves into giving into their worldly desires. The abyss looking into the holder of the Ring so to speak.
The Tom Bombaldi chapter feels a little out of place in the Lord of the Rings and is pretty much a mystery, even to the characters themselves. A bit of a Deus Ex machina in a way. It’s a rather frustrating Chapter to read in the book and I found the character to be a little bit annoying.

As usual Gandalf is coming and going and as with the Hobbit he is off missing much of the time on errands, dealing with other things that need his attention. Gandalf is one of those characters that’s sometimes handy to have around in sticky situations and his absence is truly noticed when the characters no longer have him in their company, this certainly adds to the level of threat without him and I think Gandalf himself knows that the people of middle earth need to stand without his power at times. What he is really trying to do is level the playing field between the people of middle earth and Sauron. But he himself is not infallible. I liked the sense of foreboding he has with mines of Moria and what lies in wait for him. He tries to escape his own destiny but there are powers as great and greater as he. This didn’t come across so much in the movie but here it’s done very subtle.

Favorite Quote: “Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” - Gandalf

The Two Towers

This book is split between Frodo and Sam’s journey and Aragorn’s Journey. Both stories are equally exciting but I’d personally would have preferred interchanging chapters, switching back an forth between characters.
We get a lot more of Saruman, less in league with Sauron and more wanting to take power for himself. But he is utterly fooled by his own making and has fooled himself into thinking he actually ever had a chance against Sauron. The battle of helms deep is rather short compared with the movie and there is more emphasis on the parley with Saurman and his twisted ways.

In the second half of the novel the focus switches to Sam as Frodo becomes more and more distant, not just to Sam but to the readers also. We read less of his inner thoughts and we too start to fee what Sam feels, not knowing what’s going on. At this point things change. Sam becomes the real hero of the story. He perhaps became one of my favorite characters in LOTRs because of his devotion and love to his friend and master Frodo. He is even willing to forget all about the Ring, their quest, and let the world end just for the sake of his friend. To hell with the consequences, he aint leaving Mr. Frodo behind.

Mordor is a hellish place and there is a great sense of burden and doom as Sam and Frodo travel through these lands. It was at around this time as I read these bleak descriptions of the place that the March 11th earthquake in Japan had struck and there seemed to be a resemblance between the dark hopelessness described in these chapters as there was in the atmosphere of life and people that I saw as I lived in Japan in the weeks after the earthquake. Doom hanged in the air. Not only were there constant earth quakes but the threat of Radiation from Fukushima was becoming rapidly apparent. I couldn’t help but associate these things with the images and dread described in Mordor. The thought that this journey to destroy the Ring would really be a one way journey but also no matter how dark things got there was hope inside these characters, in Sam.  That’s the beautiful thing about books and the places you read them in. They hold some significance to that time and place you’re in and what you’re going through at that moment. The place and time you are in becomes part of that book.

Favorite Quote: He peered out at that high stony place where all his life had fallen in ruin. ‘If only i could have my wish, my one wish,’ he sighed, ‘to go back and find him!’ Then at last he turned to the road in front and took a few steps: the heaviest and most reluctant he had ever taken. - Sam

The Return of the King

As with the other books the scenes are so detailed and vivid in the mind. What sticks out is the battle of Pellennor fields. The end of the Witch King. Sam and Frodo’s journey flows smoothly on from the two towers andis quite compelling considering their predicament at the end of the Two Towers. It’s the story I looked forward to completing most however The first part with Aragorn, Gandalf and Merri and Pippin is equally exciting and from their perspective there is a bleaker end for them midway through the book until all the characters return to the same page.

The story wraps everything up very well and by the end the Hobbits that return are a few feet taller figuratively and literally speaking. They’re men, back from a war with the proof of it weighing on their shoulders. They finally come into their own as Gandalf and the Elves pass into the undying lands these Hobbits are the next race that grow up to defend themselves from the evils of the world. It’s rather touching and fitting to see Sam get the ending the movie didn’t have time to give him. But as noted already he is such an important character more so than the movies. He is a Ring bearer. He has carried it and he too has his own ending that brings a close to the world he came from.

The appendices at the end are a nice companion piece to the book and might have even deserved a book of their own.

For anyone who has only watched the movies the books go into such detail and explain the backgrounds on events that might have confused viewers. It certainly adds a richer experience to the films and you feel as you are part of something bigger after having read them.

Favorite Quote: There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. - Book VI, The Land of Shadow

White Vengeance

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Asian Cinema , add a comment

Written and Directed by Daniel Lee starring Leon Lai and Anthony Wong. ‘White Vengeance’ is based on the Historical events ‘The Feast at Hong Gate’ and ‘The Chu-Han Contention’ that took place between 206-202 BC.But not knowing the Historical events won’t spoil it. Perhaps it might be more disappointing for those that do know the history of it since the story isn’t an accurate depiction but not many movies are and with characters displaying unrealistic martial arts action it’s best to just enjoy the movie’s story instead.

The story depicts the Power struggle between two warring states, Western Chu and Han and of their military strategists whom advise the two main characters, Liu Bang (Leon Lai) and Zhang Liang (Hanyu Zhang). Their conflict is further deepened by their shared affections for Yu Ji (Yifei Liu).Yuji is a character I don’t really care for and seems to be thrown in there to get women into the cinema to see this movie. It’s very much a man’s film and the love triangle doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s never developed it’s just slapped on for the ‘pretty’ factor. If the character is going to be so under developed what is the point. 

The opening of the film is a bit confusing having flashbacks within flashbacks and it doesn’t seem to flash forward again after the second flash back or either it’s poor editing not to show that transition more clearly. Between all the machinations and plot twists instigated by each character you’ll need to keep attention till the very end. The action is mildly entertaining with fast paced fights and battles scenes. Some of the large scale army battles feature shaky cam movements making it hard to focus on the action properly. Probably making up for the budget. There is an overuse of the lens flare effect which has become the “in thing” with movies these days. This is even more distracting when it’s poorly used as an effect when a fake lens flare is placed into the middle of the screen in front of the characters face, I wondered “is this Dragon Ball with chi coming out of the guys face? or is is supposed to be a lens flare, in the middle of a guys face. The overly artistic filming style can be a bit off putting at times especially if it’s not in keeping with the style of the rest of the movie. The final scene of the movie is laughable showing two of the main characters meeting again in an overly romantic tone complete with falling cherry blossoms (wow how original!!!)  which is overly sentimental and adds nothing to the films story except to make it again look pretty. Why would I even care if it’s not central to the story or characters relationships. The most thrilling scenes in the film for me were not the large set action pieces but the game of Go which ramps up the tension and characterization and resonates as a symbolic theme of the movie until the very end. I’m sure there is deeper meaning to that overall game and I was missing something in cultural context and also due to translation of the movie with English subs.

While this movie isn’t as memorable as other big budget historical films it certainly is entertaining and worth watching, in no small part thanks to the acting of Leon Lai and Anthony (Awesome) Wong who give very touching performances that elevate this movie beyond the sub standard typical historical flick.

Happy Together: All about my Dog

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema , add a comment

It seems every year we get a few sentimental Dog movies from Japan involving a family’s relationship with their treasured loved one. The pet Dog. ‘Happy Together: All About My Dog’ is a series of six short movies depicting the love shared between master and pet. The opening stories of the movie are of a comedic nature and are a bit too silly to laugh at. Featuring fake news pieces called “Visits to Dog Lovers” on Dogs and their owners which boarders on the idiotic instead of comical.I was ready to walk out after the first 5-10 minutes but I thought I couldn’t fully criticize it if I did so and also I had paid for the ticket.  

The final two short stories are far better value for money. The second to last is called “A Dog’s Name”, a deeply touching story of a man suffering from the early on set of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the focus is meant to be the Dog this story shows the harsh reality of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and the loved ones who take care of them while having to watch the person they love disappear bit by bit. The subject matter is dealt with well here as seen through the eyes of the man’s wife. What it shows is that there are some things worth holding onto in life even if everything else starts to slip away and that the nature of a pet that loves indiscriminately shows us one way of dealing with the hardship in life such as this.

The final story “Vanilla Fragments” is about a girl whose previous pet Dog has died. People tell her to forget about her previous pet but each day she is still reminded of her dog by things around her. Anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet dear to them will relate to this especially.   

It’s unfortunate that this film starts off so weakly with the silly comedic stories but if you can sit through those you’ll be greatly rewarded by the final two stories which will very likely leave you with wet eyes. 

Unless you’re a cat lover…..

Favorite Quote: “A Dog is always waiting to see what it can do for you” - Masato


Posted by oldboy in : Cinema , add a comment

Drive is pretty much my kind of film. Slick, cool, stylish. From the hot pink opening titles to the retro music soundtrack it’s got a very 80s vibe mixed with 70s Car flicks and is reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s last film “Bronson” which also had an 80s ish style and soundtrack. He is really hitting his stride with these movies which has made me go back to his earlier work to discover such gems as the “Pusher” trilogy.  I think Nicolas Winding Refn is going to be a very big director if this film and “Bronson” are anything to go by.

Ryan Gosling, the man is unrecognizable as this character for it’s such a silent brooding type of role like that of a hitman or driver like in “Vanishing Point”. It’s a change from his other movies and I quite like him when he’s not talking.

The music in this compliments the movie rather than the other way round where the movie compliments the music as it was in the movie “Hanna” which felt more like an extended music video. Refn has that ability to blend picture with music and knows the importance of telling the story and giving depth to characters with these song choices.

The characters in the movie are like something out of the western. I might even suggest that if you replace the car with a Horse you’re pretty much there with Gosling as a drifter and him riding off into the distance like “Shane”.

 Favorite Quote: From now on, every word out of your mouth is the truth or I’m gonna hurt you. Do you understand?” Driver

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol December 16, 2011

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema , add a comment

It’s hard to believe that the first Mission Impossible movie came out in 1996. While they are all under the same name I have found each film to be very different. This been due to the Directors having vastly different ways of visualizing the story and action and each film having a different cast. MI:1 was very different to Woo’s MI:2 which was…very Woo….ish and there’s nothing wrong with that. Tom Cruise knows how to pick some hot directors for these movies. But the films feel so different that the only thing I find that each has in common is the name Ethan hunt. I don’t think the Ethan Hunt of MI:2 is the same as MI:1 or MI:3. In 2006 JJ Abrams took a stab at directing the third film. At the time I thought it had a somewhat TV feel and took some story points from “True Lies” and again changed the character of Ethan Hunt to a Husband. MI:3 has aged well with further viewings. This 4th film is Directed by Brad Bird who takes over from JJ Abrams which freed up Abrams schedule to Direct the next Star Trek movie for release in 2012. Unfortunately that’s what Abrams didn’t do and we have to wait till 2013!(excuse my geek rant).

This is Brad Bird’s first live action Directorial debut. His previous Directorial duties of note been “The Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles” which made me pretty excited about what he could bring to the live action Mission Impossible franchise. I’m happy to say it is the most balanced Mission Impossible Movie of them all. A perfect blend of action, comedy and drama. It really feels like a proper franchise as the differences between this film and the last aren’t as jarring. Ethan Hunt feels like the same character from the last movie, there are some characters carried over from the previous movie which gives it a greater sense of continuity. Simon Pegg has a larger role and is a very welcomed comedy element in the movie. I usually favor tonally darker Spy movies, but with Bourne and Bond been so serious these days I’m glad to have an action romp with comedy.

Tom Cruise seems very comfortable in the role and is clearly enjoying his time in the Mission Impossible franchise. Performing his own stunts and at times taking the piss out of himself in particular on his asent and desent on the world’s highest building in Dubai and the final action scene where he pushes a button. It’s great fun to see. I hope he stays longer in this franchise before passing it on to another actor because he is a great actor. I like all of his movies with the exception of “Knight and Day” which wasn’t as good and tried too hard to be comical for the sake of been comical. Cameron Diaz wasn’t suited to the movie either. But besides that I find Tom Cruise movies to be “event” movies. You always get your moneys worth and he has really cemented himself as a Top class action hero with these films.

I watched this film on an IMAX screen which was just perfect as a lot of the action is in IMAX and I think this should be the way forward for Cinemas instead of 3D. Watching IMAX movies I always feel the audience is more attuned to the film. The IMAX screen demands the audiences respect, it creates some kind of old cinema atmosphere where people were once impressed by the largeness and grandeur of the cinema screen. Combined with the scale and speed of the action in “Ghost Protocol” which had me wincing and laughing, it’s a perfect match.

Favorite Quote: “Mission accomplished!” - Ethan Hunt

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows December 14, 2011

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Sherlock Holmes , add a comment

I have just returned from the rather entertaining sequel to guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. This time round the film has a faster pace, more action and it’s funnier.

It’s a good time to be a Sherlock Holmes fan with this movie coming out in December and then next month BBC’s Sherlock series 2 will be shown and we get to watch a different and also entertaining take on Holmes, Watson and Moriarty!

We’ve all been thinking about Moriarty since the first film and wondered how he would be portrayed and by whom. There was a rumor going around when the first movie came out that Brad Pitt had been the voice for Moriarty and would play Moriarty in the sequel. That was not true however. Here he is played by an equally fine actor Jared Harris. I had thought Ritchie might have a younger actor like Pitt against Holmes in the sequel to match the Holmes he and Robert Downey Jr created for the first film which is Sherlock Holmes turned up to 11. A man of visual action. But the slightly more traditional route is taken with Harris and is a little more reserved than i expected him to be portrayed in this film. Of course the Moriarty in he novels was older and seemingly more frail. Jared Harris is quite impressive all the same and plays the character well against Downy’s larger than life Holmes. I like it.

There is more comedy in this movie and the moments are bigger and funnier than the last film. Robert Downey Jr accentuates Holmes eccentricities making the character true to form yet far funnier. It would be nice though if they gave more reflective dark moments for the character. Irene Adler’s Handkerchief and Holmes mentioning how his powers of Observation is his curse were nicely touched on but all too shortly. Fortunately we have many other iterations of the character to follow up on these darker sides. It seems for the moment the movie franchise will keep things fairly light hearted even if it’s visually darker.

Jude Law’s Watson has more to do here. It’s a difficult character to develop since he is the sidekick and in a 2 hour film with the name “Sherlock Holmes” in the title. The character won’t have much chance but here we do see more funny moments with the character and it’s a nice addition to see the wedding and more of Mrs. Watson. Their reactions to the Two Holmes gives us some very funny moments.

Guy Ritchie’s action is stupendous as usual. I don’t think of the action as overdone or over stylized for it’s so original and beautiful. It’s feast for the eyes and in particular I loved seeing the dissection of fights sequences once again in this sequel which he has worked nicely into a thrilling finale at the falls.

Sir Stephen Fry plays Holmes brother Mycroft. He plays it with the sophistication and REAL intellect that I imagine Mycroft to have and he plays it well for laughs too. Fry’s comedy background and genius is a perfect combination for this Mycroft. It’s interesting to note that Guy Ritchie may have nabbed the idea of Fry as Mycroft from “House” which Hugh Laurie had stated as wanting to do an episode where House couldn’t solve the case and would have to bring in his older, intelligent Brother (Fry). Fry had joked to Laurie that he would come in as a man with two limps!

Reichenbach Falls. Well it’s not actually the real Reichenbach but the movie went where I was hoping and fidgeting for it to go. When Holmes and Watson decide to go to Switzerland there was a large intake of breath by the audience. There was a mutual sense of excitement of what comes next. I was wondering how Holmes was going to get out of it since Watson actually sees him go over unlike the books. But suffice to say it’s cleverly done. And! we get to see it happen again in less than a month on BBC’s Sherlock. Joygasmic.

Favorite Quote: “That is my curse”- Sherlock Holmes

The Killer December 9, 2011

Posted by oldboy in : DVD/Video/T.V., Asian Cinema , add a comment

The Killer is one of those landmark movies in Hong Kong cinema and especially important for introducing John Woo and Chow Yun Fat to international audiences. It cemented the theme of Heroic Bloodshed and gave rise to a whole slew of action movies in the same vein.  The influences are far reaching to hundreds of Movies from “The Matrix” to Robert Rodriguez’s “Desperado”. Even today there are action movies been released that still pay homage to Woo’s vision of what action should be. John Woo made gun violence beautiful.

While “The Killer” isn’t my favorite John Woo movie (my favorite been “Bullet in the Head“) it is an important movie by the Director and highly enjoyable.
In Hong Kong Cinema in the late 70s to early 80s Chivalry swordplay movies were highly popular, even Woo had made the sword play movie “Last Hurrah for Chivalry” in 1979. The role of the highly romanticized hero who sacrifices himself is deeply routed in Chinese literature. John woo modernized the Chiverlous hero in his gun toting action films by replacing the hero’s swords with guns. But the influences for this film and Woo’s character’s go deeper than that. In fact I think this might be Woo’s personal magnum opus.

The biggest influences on this film come from two movies that are favorites of John Woo. They are “Le Samourai” and “Narazumono” (An Outlaw). I can’t review “The Killer” without mentioning these movies such is there influence on the Director and his work. “Le Samourai” is a film by Woo’s Hero, Jean Pierre Melville and stars Alain Delon as a Hitman who adheres to the code of The Bushido. You’ll also find that this film inspired Jim Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”. In “Le Samurai” the hitman develops a relationship with a piano player of a club he has made a hit in. The player can identify him for the killing but chooses not to. Already we can see the influence on The Killer with the story set up taking place in a Music club except in “The Killer” Chow Yun Fat’s character accidentally blinds the singer in a shootout and overcome with guilt tries to take care of her and get enough money together to send her to Taiwan for an operation that would restore her eyesight. Some people people have criticized this plot point, that a hitman who blows away villainous criminals and innocent bystanders could care for this girl he blinded, but I think it’s missing the point to say that. The character has injured a woman and in the process of a hit, he has caused her to suffer each day because of his direct actions. Sure, he may be cold hearted to other innocent victims in shootouts but he hasn’t developed any emotional/romantic connection with them and it’s the incident with the singer that is the turning point for this character. The singer is seen as a symbolic get out card to save his soul. If he saves her sight maybe he could cleanse his own life by this good deed. To give Chow the vibe of Alain Delon Woo decided to have Chow dress in more period clothing. This angel white suit would make a later appearance with a similar romanticized Hitman in “Bullet in the Head“.

The other influence comes from the excellent Narazumono starring Takakura Ken. John Woo has been quoted in interviews as loving this movie and that it gave him the spirit to make “The Killer”. In it Takakura Ken is a Hitman in Hong Kong who is tricked into killing an innocent man and at the same time becomes accidentally involved in a drug switch. Using that as leverage for information he decides to take revenge by tracking down the man who has deceived him and travels to Macau where he encounters a prostitute suffering from Consumption (Tuberculous). He offers to take her away from this life.

Again, as with The Killer the main character uses the fallen woman as a way of redeeming his own mistakes in life. This redmeption the main character seeks is found throughout the movie from the beginning as we find him in Church. Again the religious symbolism in Woo’s action is very blunt. A statue of the Mama Mary blowing up is seeming to represent the destruction of goodness and truth. The shootout in the church represents the final ending for these characters, the gateway between life and death and for their crimes they are all ultimately punished in the eyes of God and tricked by fate in the final scenes outside the church.

Favorite Quote:  The world has changed. Honor is now a dirty word.” - Joe

1Q84 Book 1

Posted by oldboy in : Books , add a comment

1Q84 spends the first few hundred pages going absolutely nowhere with our main characters displaying lack of humanity and Murakami writing gratuitous sex scenes. This might be a somewhat accurate portrayal of some Japanese women since the majority of Murakami’s work that I have read features a loose woman. It is nowhere more apparent than it is in 1Q84, where the main female protagonist and her friend Ayumi brag about their whorish encounters. Give.me.a.break. Reading chapter after chapter about a woman’s sexual exploits is not interesting in this regard because it lacks any feeling or empathy towards the act or the people involved. It’s soulless and I know many Murakami fans are going to give me a bollocking over this criticism. I love Murakami to bits but the sex scenes he writes in this book are dull and better placed in some erotica novel.

What’s good sex in fiction? Charles Bukowski. The man writes the reality of sex. The raw nature of it and the pleasant/unpleasantness of the act. His main Character Hank Chinaski is seen from the outside as an alcoholic womanizer but although the character shares many sexual exploits with women it is not self gratifying. There are points where he questions his own morality about what he is doing. There are points where he appreciates the simplest feature or aspect of the woman he is with, there is a beauty to the act in an unbeautiful setting.

Reading Aomames chapters is 1Q84 is like reading the diary of some self obsessed prig. It’s like something out of sex in the city. There are no redeeming virtues. Basically an arrogant character, someone who would probably spend most of their time on facebook talking about themselves if they could. This kind of character isn’t exciting. It’s like people who go to swinger parties or film themselves having sex. They are boring people who want to be interesting.

Tengo isn’t much better either. A man who sleeps with a married woman on weekends. Ass. These characters lack morals. but maybe it might be Murakami’s way of showing society not being liberated but desecrating itself and going down the shit hole. But when we have a number of chapters that deal with lesbian sex, women getting so drunk they don’t remember what they did and who they slept with I have to wonder what is Murakami actually trying to say? He certainly has a knack for social commentary but I personally feel he has lost his way here and is out of touch. He doesn’t get what is the visceral nature of these scenes at all. It’s all “hey do you like sex? me too! lets get sex!” instead of “When I make love I feel…..”. So it lacks anything profound. Near the end of book one there are two pages of discussion in which the characters try to justify why they sleep around but frankly a short 2 page discussion between two characters trying to explain themselves doesn’t cut it with me. While these characters might ultimately be redeemed in later books I just don’t care anymore. Too much time was wasted in book one on actually getting to the real story.

I’m not out to attack Murakami, but I love his writing enough to be this pissed off. It’s shallow and cheap. I’m afraid this book is over-hyped pop culture. In the year this book was released in Japan the number of reported aids and HIV cases was over 1,500 and infection rates are increasing in Japan while decreasing in other countries. Considering he sets his novel in the 1980s and has characters worried about whether or not they had protected sex, you would think the story might just for a second have more of a serious tone and address a topic like that to educate the drunken idiotic youth dribbling over it and instead of relating their sexual promiscuity to it that they might think for a second and actually see another side to that lifestyle.

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