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  • 10/24/10--16:59: Movie Review: Agora

  • Agora (2009)
    I've been looking forward to this for quite some time because it's the latest film from Alejandro Amenabar, one of my favourite directors. His most well-known movie is, to my mind, his least impressive: "The Others" starring Nicole Kidman. However, if you've seen any of the others in the follow list you will probably understand my excitement: Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), Tesis.

    The storyline of this movie is inspired by references to the philosopher Hypatia in Carl Sagan's Cosmos and as such the camera will often withdraw not only to show us the extent of Alexandria, but also to show us the entire globe from space. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Hypatia is often involved in considering what she believes to be the philosophical consequences of the formation of the sun and the planets. Alongside Hypatia's consideration of the matter we are able to see the Earth from a perspective she could only dream of. There's some space for interpretation about the significance of these shots, but for me it shows how inaccessible the truths of the universe were for Hypatia back then, so while the camera allows us to fly up and look for ourselves, Hypatia is left staring at the sky and wondering. The other reason for the shots in space is to show how small and petty the quarrels of human beings are when seen from a cosmic perspective. Carl Sagan would often like to imagine things from a cosmic perspective and Amenabar is trying to give a similar feel here.

    Some have seemed a bit mixed up on the inclusion of a library. The introduction points out that the Great Library of Alexandria was a religious centre for pagans as well as a place of learning. The movie then controversially places a smaller library within the pagan temple upon which the story centres. While the destruction of the pagan temple is definitely recorded, the destruction of the library connected to the temple is not. There is some question as to whether Amenabar has become rather overly taken with Sagan's view that the Christians who took over Alexandria connected learning with paganism. Actually Neoplatonism was adopted by Christians due to the influence of St. Augustine. That said, the relationship between Neoplatonism and Christianity wasn't always great and Emperor Justinius I is believed to have closed the Platonic Academy of Athens because he viewed it as having been corrupted by Gnosticism. Leaving that argument aside though, the pagan temple in question, known as the Serapeum, did have a library and it seems a little naive to imagine that when the temple was destroyed the library would somehow be left intact.

    Far from showing Christianity in a poor light we see one of Hypatia's slaves converting to the religion and we can see that he has noble reasons for doing so. The appeal that Christian ideology would have for the poor in Alexandria is made very clear. Also, the Christians are not shown as the only ones committing atrocities, but in the long run the support for Christianity in Constantinople means that they are able to get away with more when all groups are in conflict.

    When it comes to the brutal attacks, it is interesting to see that while men tend to be the exclusively the ones making the plans, there are always women amongst the victims. In some key scenes we see one of the attack shown in aerial view, making all the participants look like ants, and in another attack we hear the distant screams as the attack goes on as we watch the Earth from space. The Carl Sagan effect. See how well you think it works...

    There's a major scene where Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, formally offers a Bible to Orestes, the Roman governor. This scene is tied with Orestes friendship with Hypatia rather more than it would have been originally. This is clearly poetic license, since we have limited knowledge of the content of that event (and the movie is certainly accurate on those parts we do know). Personally I think the connection of these two somewhat related elements works very well and after this scene we have one of the most powerful moments in the film, bringing into sharp relief the central message of the dangers of extreme forms of religion.

    Sometimes it seems to be suggested that Hypatia is depicted as an atheist in "Agora". Actually that's not technically true. Hypatia, like Socrates, believes in Philosophy. Neither of them followed Christianity (though actually Socrates pre-dates it) and neither of them were followers of their city's particular pagan gods. Socrates was called an atheist for his failure to worship the pagan gods and Hypatia's critics would have been able to label her as such just as easily. However, clearly neither of these figures was an atheist in the sense that we would understand the term today.

    There are, however, two aspects of the film which I think detract from it. Firstly, while quite a long film, it is split into two bits. I watched it over two evenings and found myself getting ambushed on both occasions by large amounts of text introducing me to that particular half, just when I was wishing to start my dinner. (Sure, the first time was my own fault, but the second time just felt unfair.) Okay, so the inclusion of text isn't an issue, but I found that the way the movie was broken up didn't help with the pacing. This is a fairly minor complaint.

    The bigger issue is the weird racial choices for the actors. The students of Hypatia and the vast majority of the pagans seem to be white Europeans with Oxbridge accents, many of the Christians are depicted as middle eastern. While I can understand that the point is to show Christianity as a rising religion which is for the most part a foreign influence, this religion would have had a long time to grow and would already have many native adherents. Depicting the main proselytisers of Christianity as foreigners felt distinctly unnecessary. While I don't think that the film was proposing an anti-immigration sentiment, I still found this a little dodgy. (Some have suggested a comparison between the Christians of 4th Century Alexandria and Muslims in Europe today, but I find that link rather tenuous.) As much as I'd like to hand-wave this issue, in the end I think it is sufficiently offputting to warrant a slightly lower score.

    Agora is a beautiful movie with a very powerful message. It's a little long and the way it's split into two halves feels a bit clunky. However, the scenes of the Earth from space in a costume drama are an original and effective touch and the movie is very emotionally and visually engaging from beginning to end. Rachel Weisz is brilliant in the leading role (as one would expect) though I'm not sure that her very level-headed character gives her as much scope to showcase her acting talent as other roles have done in the past. In spite of a rather poorly-judged depiction of race for reasons I find hard to fathom, the movie still has a number of worthwhile points to bring to our attention and in spite of criticism of its historical accuracy, it seems to be rather more accurate than we would normally expect from costume dramas.

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    Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
    From the trailer you'd think this was an action movie about an ordinary man whose case is screwed up by the courts and who decides to take revenge on the system that failed him. If you've seen the movie, however, you will discover that this is actually about a cold-blooded psychopath who has a background in military strategy. The cold-blooded killer not only quickly murders the man responsible for killing his family in the most hideously gruesome fashion, but then proceeds to make plans for the deaths of pretty much anyone involved in the justice system, especially those involved in the trial of his family's murderers. As the movie goes on it's pretty hard to remember that this is all spanning from an initial murder case, partly because the revenge is so ridiculously disproportionate, but also because you find it hard to imagine how any murderers could have got past this bloodthirsty git to do the murder in the first place.

    All in all this movie is quite horrible, over the top, and not really much fun.

    Screamers (1995)
    Wow, this was actually really good. This is a sci-fi movie set in a sort of cold war future over resources on other planets. It's come to the point where the basic gist of the war is now simply to stay in bunkers and wait for the other side to be finished off by "screamers". Screamers are specially developed mini-chainsaws with artificial intelligence which comes out of the ground and slice people into little bits. The movie could actually have done with a different title. The screamers are an absolutely fascinating part of this future war scenario, but they are a tool used by our main protagonists against their enemies. The title makes it clear that something is going to go wrong with them because otherwise our protagonists are not going to find them much of a threat. (That said the combination of "artificial intelligence" and "science fiction movie" is probably enough to let us know something is going to go wrong.)

    Still, the characters, while often not given an awful lot of background, still feel quite real and the plot is quite fun. The plot doesn't feel cliched at all and we are brought into it especially well by the exceptional acting talents of Peter Weller (Robocop).

    Sadly the movie goes a bit dodgy about part way through. The relationship with the love interest is established a little too unrealistically all so that we can have a particular message at the end. There a particularly dreadful special effect shot right near the end for which someone really ought to be shot. And basically the final quarter of the movie turns what had been a pretty wonderful little movie into something rather naff and hackneyed. Still, it has to be said that it's difficult to fault the whole movie just because of its more cliched ending. Sometimes a poor ending can completely ruin a movie. In this case I think it just prevents it from being awesome.

    In the end this is a solid science fiction movie about killer robots. Well worth checking out. While it doesn't gel particularly well with the killer robot side of things, the movie also has a message to convey about the futility of war and the dangers where politics and limited resources form a dangerous mix. This could have been an excellent science fiction classic but, due to some poor decisions in the second half, this movie is just a bit of silly fun when all is said and done.

    Exam (2009)
    It sounds like the most boring plot imaginable. A group of applicants are about to sit an exam and you get to watch.

    So yeah, no surprise to hear that things don't turn out as expected. After a speech announcing that "the only rules are our rules", the countdown to complete the exam begins and the applicants turn over their exam papers to discover they are all blank. So begins a race to discover what the exam question is and to work out the purpose of the exercise.

    Over the course of the movie we get to find out a little more about the company which set up the exam and the situation in the world outside. It turns out that this is actually a science fiction movie, though the extent of actual science fiction elements is quite limited. As the exam time starts running out and the applicants start showing their true colours, we wonder more and more what possible reason there could be behind this form of testing. "Exam" feels feels quite similar in style to the science fiction classic "Cube".

    This is another of those movies where the ending let's you down. It's not the worst ending possible, but it's very much an anti-climax after the massive build-up and it doesn't wholly make sense in relation to what happened earlier. The final explanation for the exam makes it seem like the worst possible selection process imaginable. In short, the ending is a clear example of "fridge logic". After enjoying quite an exciting movie with a clever, original premise, you find yourself rather reluctant to be too critical of the final scenes. The ending makes just about enough sense for you to come away feeling pretty pleased with the movie, but with just a little bit of extra time to think it over it quickly becomes apparent that the ending really doesn't work.

    I'd suggest people look out for this director in the future, as he's clearly got talent. Hopefully he's destined for greater things, because this movie doesn't quite hit the mark.

    House Of Wax (1953)
    Vincent Price plays an artist with his own wax museum, but when he gets into an argument with his partner in the business things get ugly. I don't really want to say too much about this. The acting is great, the plot is engaging, the pacing is well timed and Vincent Price is as awesome a leading actor as you could hope for. I can see why this is a classic.

    Highlander: The Search For Vengeance (2007)
    Highlander was reviewed here before, so I figured this was probably worth including. This is an anime reboot of the Highlander series (which is good since sequels have sort of mucked it up). We begin in the distant future and get flashbacks to the distant past. The ideas behind the anime movie are pretty good and the action is exciting. However, the dialogue is rather less inspiring and the characters are wafer-thin.

    The elements important to Highlander are all here. The highlander is able to survive several fights with his main nemesis through history because he keeps ending up in holy ground where tradition prevents his opponent from finishing the job. His nemesis has been a military leader in Rome, a Nazi soldier and now he's a rich man living in a skyscraper in the middle of an apocalyptic wasteland. The suggestion seems to be that anyone can remove the head of an immortal to kill them, which annoys me since I always got the impression that another immortal had to do the job. Still, that's not quite in conflict with the first movie.

    His love interest in the future is a woman who looks exactly the same as his lost love from the past. Actually we're eventually told quite explicitly that they are the same person reincarnated, which feels a bit dodgy to me. All your love interests are the same woman? Really? That's a handy coincidence. :s

    By comparison to Highlander 2 (where it turns out the immortals are all aliens) or Highlander 3 (which ignores Highlander 2, but feels like a rather hollow reflection of the first movie), I guess we have to give this anime reboot credit. This feels like a Highlander film in its own right rather than simply a copy of the original movie, but it also avoids adding in ridiculous new elements. That said, if you compare it to anything asides from previous sequels then it doesn't fare so well and against the original it is naturally going to seem a little unoriginal. None of the new ideas really matches up to the awesomeness of the Kirgan's slot-together-sword, there's no music by Queen and the Quickening scenes aren't terribly spectacular.

    (Cross-posted to Halloween Candy)

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    Earlier this year, Rice, who was raised a Catholic, lost her faith and returned to it in middle age, posted a message on Facebook. "I quit," she wrote. "In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

    Given the unchanging nature of the Catholic church, the obvious question is, what took her so long? "Yes," she says, carefully. "I'm still stridently criticised by Catholics who say, you should've known, when you came back. But we all learn; isn't that part of life, that you learn? I joined with the best of intentions, thinking I knew this religion from childhood, thinking it's a fine religion, an honorable religion. Then I began to really study it and I found it was not an honorable religion, that it was not honest. Now, someone else, maybe, would draw totally different conclusions. But I think the argument that I didn't have a right to change my mind is absurd."

    Attending mass became stressful. She had a terrible row with a priest friend. "He said Obama was just as bad as Joseph Stalin because of his allowing abortion. And I said, 'Are you seriously saying that? Do you know who Joseph Stalin really was and what he did?' And he wouldn't back down and there was no more discussion."

    For years, she thought, if she studied the Bible hard enough she might work out the contradictions. "But then, as I increasingly saw what I thought was sophistry and lies, I thought: 'I can't abide this.' I can't remain with this. This is crazy. There is no basis in scripture for any anointed hierarchy, let alone a male hierarchy. It's just not there. And how in the world did this man-god die, preaching against the temple, and then we wind up with St Peter's in Rome? How did that happen? There were so many issues where I thought the church was flat-out immoral. I had to leave."

    I must say, I was one of the people saying "how could you not know?" However, I cannot help but feel like I understand the sentiment in the interview here. I really do see how the Church can seem quite attractive when you don't look too far into scriptural dictats, hierarchy or history. When I visited St. Peter's in the Vatican City I found the experience very powerful indeed (even if the expense of the building doesn't quite feel in keeping with the teachings of the religion - though naturally the expected response would be that the cost of the Church is dedicated to God and not the possession of a rich man). In the end though, you cannot remain in a religion for long without recognising its politics. I know some Catholics are hoping for big changes in Church politics, but those changes are looking pretty remote right now.

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    Okay, I've had a bad day of apologetics recommendations. (Well, just two actually, but anyway.) I don't seek this stuff out, but in two separate places it's been recommended to me and so I'm being actively encouraged to get pi***d off.

    The second (and far more annoying) of the two recommendations came from [info]talk_religion in this entry. The piece of apologetics they link to says "oooh btw the verse in the Bible doesn't say girls must marry their rapist" and then goes on to say "stupid atheist should have known better".

    (Please note: The two quotes above were paraphrased from the general gist of the article for the purpose of summarising and comic effect.) 

    The apologist give three reasons why they disagree.

    The first reason is that the word might be translated differently, which seems a little odd considering that the team of translators who wrote the NIV translation felt that it made sense to use the term rape. Not least since the passage in question paralllels the previous bit.

    In fact, to make things simpler for everyone here's the text in question:

    25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor, 27 for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

    28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
    The two passages are clearly meant to deal with similar issues, but the apologist claims that the first can be translated as rape but that the second shouldn't be. (He doesn't even say that it's an entirely unacceptable translation. He just says that his version makes more sense. *shrugs*)

    The writer goes on to give a list of several writers (originally cited by a guy called Bahnsen) who all apparently think the verse meant "seduction" not "rape". This doesn't really show much except that making excuses for Bible verses has a long tradition. I hardly think he's going to be able to excuse the verse demanding a punishment of stoning for adultery by showing all the religious people who oddly didn't want that punishment to be part of their nation's laws. That a verse was so horrible that people have been long making excuses for it, doesn't show that the horrible meaning wasn't the correct interpretation.

    That said, many of the quotations provided do not actually rule out rape at all. Take this one from John Calvin:
    John Calvin: “The remedy is, that he who has corrupted the girl should be compelled to marry her, and also to give her a dowry from his own property, lest, if he should afterwards cast her off, she should go away from her bed penniless” 
    A woman was still considered "corrupted" whether the sex was consensual or not. And either way, the woman would have a tough time afterwards encouraging anyone else to take her on. The structure of society meant that women relied on men for their wellbeing. (They were still expected to work, unless they were ultra-rich, but they were not able to own or inherit land and the expectation was that they would be under the authority of a man, one way or another.)

    The second reason he gives is because of parallels in another book of laws (Exodus). He helpfully tell us it's a parallel of Exodus 22:15 which states:
    But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.
    Yeah, he meant to write Exodus 22:16, but anyway...

    Actually the Bible is used to repeating bits and chopping and changing. There are two stories about Noah and the Ark, but one of them says Noah must get two of every animal, while the other requires him to get more of the kosher animals (after all, he needs something to feed his family). Similarly here both verses make the requirement of paying the father for his daughter's lost virginity. However, in Deuteronomy it demands that the man marry her too.

    I will note, however, that the whole idea that the translation should be seduction not rape is a huge misnomer anyway. Back then the understanding of things like rape was not the same. Women were considered property and the main focus was on the state of that property, not on the wellbeing of the woman. A girl's virginity belonged to her father and was given by him to a suitable husband. Upon the contract of marriage the girl went from being a virgin/maiden in her father's possession, to being a wife in the possession of her new husband. Like with a pet, her owner would have obligations towards her.

    The third reason is the only one I felt it necessary to comment on. And that was this:
    The third reason is that, to interpret the law in Deut 21:28-29 as a rape is to make God the commander of a morally heinous command.
    Oh I'm sorry. It's horrible, so we'll have to change it, eh? After all, that's obviously how you should read the Bible. You don't go into the Bible looking for moral truths. You go into the Bible interpreting it especially so it fits with your existing understanding of morality, don't you?

    For me, this was quite enough. No need to make a big long explanation (as I have done above). This alone was enough to show how daft this whole thing was. I gave the following response:
    So the reason it can't be translated as "rape" is because that would be horrible....

    Yeah, that's some pretty lame apologetics right there.
    Then I found myself following up with this:
    I do wonder what his explanation is for punishing a woman who loses her virginity outside of marriage with stoning....
    (Deut 23-24)
    And that's when I got the following response and the naivety managed to quite severely enrage me. (I kept my annoyance restrained obviously, but even so. Grrrr!):
    Well, ask. The website itself deals with a lot of biblical stuff and in interesting ways. He or she (there are two) might make it a blog post.
    The basic gist of this response being "hey, if there's still some stuff you aren't sure of, maybe they can explain!" The commenter didn't seem to understand from my nice and restrained response to the initial article quite how ludicrous I would find this. My stance is that the initial article (which they recommended) was rubbish and quite possibly intentionally disingenuous. As such, I have little reason to think any follow-up articles won't be similarly rubbish and disingenuous.

    The first line of my response to them was this:
    There are tons of apologetics websites out there. What's so special about this one?

    I'm not really terribly interested in apologetics, wherever it comes from. The fact is that there is tons of sexist stuff in the Bible and plenty of religious people who want to offer excuses for it.
    I then looked into the article further and found a number of issues, and I'll quote the rest of my response below. The main discovery however, was that they were actually responding to an article from Michael Martin (amongst other things, the editor of the "Cambridge Companion To Atheism"). The article he wrote is available online and the point of it was not to start whining about particular verses in the Bible, but to respond to the idea that atheists can't have objective morality. His argument was intended to demonstrate that looking to the Bible for morality doesn't work and if there's one thing that the apologetics article failed to demonstrate in response to that, it's that the Bible is a clear source of moral precepts. In fact, they've shown, at very least, that there are clear language barriers and cultural barriers to interpretation, if not actually unconscionable recommendations for the treatment of women.

    The rest of my response is quoted below. Including the bit where I get annoyed by yet another mistake in his references, this time for a passage from Aquinas. Grrr!:
    The NIV translators actually use the term "rape" and that would have been produced by a whole team of translators who would most likely have been Christians. That particular interpretation clearly isn't as silly as this writer makes it out to be. ("Oh if they'd only checked out a commentary they'd know they were wrong." - Um, yeah, whatever...)

    In fact, now I come to look into the references at the bottom, the piece this was responding to was by Michael Martin and contained not only the example which I mentioned, but also another example in the book of Numbers (where Moses advises his men to capture women as spoils of war).
    Michael Martin was observing a clear trend throughout the Bible of viewing women as property, not being picky about a single verse as the article you quote suggests.


    Annoyingly they've missed off a 4 in their reference to Aquinas. (It should be question 154, not 15.) They seem to have chosen this source in order to demonstrate that people of the time would have trouble distinguishing between seduction and rape (though it's not a great argument, since Aquinas seems to do quite well in distinguishing them). In any case, the argument that people in the past were not great at recognising rape is part and parcel of Martin's argument that women were considered more as property than as people.

    Aquinas' argument also doesn't serve to show that rape was taken seriously. His talk similarly revolves around the status of the marriage contract. He says that a rape should not undo an existing marriage contract, but still seems to consider the possibility that a man may be expected to marry a woman he has raped. Certainly he says it is up to the father, but Aquinas mentions that the virginity of the daughter has been stolen from the father, so it is still a matter of property disputes.

    It's also worth noting that Aquinas finishes with the claim that it is impossible for a husband to rape his wife because he has a contractual claim over her.

    All in all, I think this source serves to show quite clearly that religious texts are a poor source of morality, just as Michael Martin's article intended to demonstrate. It is quite clear from all this that the reader often needs to specifically interpret the text to fit with a decent moral framework if they don't want to come out with horrible demands. After all, who wants to bring back stoning for adultery? Any takers?

    x-posted to [info]apololgetics 

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    Individual images link to the appropriate imdb page.

    The first movie I saw by Christopher Smith was "Severance" (RT score: 65%). I'm not even sure how I came to pick it either. I went with my girlfriend who is not really a horror fan, especially not in a dark cinema. I guess we probably heard comparisons to Shaun Of The Dead and were expecting something rather less harsh as a result. The comparison to Shaun Of The Dead actually has good reason behind it. The movie is most certainly a horror-comedy in the absolute sense of the word. The horrific scenes are quite horrible and the comedic scenes are often hilarious. There's an over-the-top background to the movie too which allows both of these elements to go to extremes. It's also very British too (even including the random American star to ensure it does well internationally).

    Severance begins with a coach full of office workers who belong to an arms manufacturing company. The group are travelling abroad on one of those outward bound trips often used as bonding exercises for office staff. The idea of using an outward bound outing-gone-wrong as a subject for comedy is not new, but it is done here with particular flair. It should come as no surprise that the arms manufacturers are about to become victims of their own product. Perhaps the greatest achievement of Christopher Smith with this movie is getting a really good performance out of Danny Dyer.

    The horror in this movie does, admittedly, use the popcorn-flinging panic-attack device which I find so very horrible. There are plenty of occasions where the background music will convince us that something awful is going to happen and then a loud bang will send you jumping. Still the movie fully recognises that this is a horror movie convention and it plays with it enough for me to half forgive them for using it. There's plenty of points where it will tease you with the "i'm going to scare you noises" when there's actually nothing to watch out for, while on other occasions horrible stuff will happen with absolutely no scary noises building up tension at all (not even a loud noise).

    Of the comedic scenes, I'll just say that "the bit with the plane" is hilarious. That's reasonably cryptic so you won't see it coming. I had mixed feelings on this one, but I had no doubt afterwards that I had seen something pretty special even if not perfect.

    The next movie from Christopher Smith was "Triangle" (RT score: 81%).

    Triangle is very poorly named. It seems that the intention was originally to do a horror movie based around the Bermuda Triangle mythology, but in the end they clearly decided against that. The Bermuda Triangle plays no part in the movie and is not even mentioned. In fact, the only reference to triangles in the movie is that the yacht at the beginning of the movie is named "Triangle". Still, perhaps the main benefit of this ill-suited title is that it makes you less likely to see the actual themes of the movie coming.

    It will come as quite a surprise to anyone who has not seen this to hear that it's a sort of "time travel" movie. To start with I was a little worried that this was going to turn out to be a ghost story, but it soon becomes clear that, while the ship might be supernatural, all the events on the ship are very much the work of real people. It's quite a surprise to find myself this excited about what is, essentially, a slasher flick. However, this is quite an original take on the genre (to my knowledge). The ending is absolutely inspired.

    Finally the latest movie I've seen from Christopher Smith is "Black Death" (72%).

    I loved Black Death, but when I was first reviewing it I felt the need to give a bit less than my 5/5 scoring. The movie certainly unsettled me; there's no doubt about that. However, when the ending went in an unexpected direction, I wasn't sure if I liked it. It's a very interesting movie which, rather than having a specific message, prefers to blur the lines instead. It's got a similar feel to "Valhalla Rising" and while not as gritty and atmospheric, it's also not as navel-gazing, cryptic or slow-paced.

    In the middle of the Black Death a village has remained somehow untouched. A group of hired killers, led by Sean Bean, are under orders from the Bishop to investigate stories of demons and necromancy. A novice monk volunteers to help guide them, but his real motive for volunteering is actually a secret relationship with a peasant girl and not a belief in the cause of these brutal men who kill in the name of Christ.

    Black Death is an unusual movie set in Medieval England with a good pace and an unusual approach. It has echoes of The Wicker Man, but it's a very different beast.

    The one Christopher Smith movie I haven't seen yet is "Creep" (RT score: 46%), his debut feature. It hasn't got great reviews, but having seen his latest work I'm really interested to see it for completion's sake.

    (Cross-posted to [info]candycorncomm )

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  • 10/30/10--02:25: Article 13
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    Lucky McKee is the director of the previously reviewed Masters Of Horror episode "Sick Girl". Here I have reviews of his two full-length movies "May" and "The Woods"

    I am also including reviews of two old black and white things I found in the bargain bin. "The Bat" and "The Brain That Wouldn't Die".

    May (2002)
    Angela Bettis again. Last time I saw her was in Sick Girl and she was playing a sweet biologist who specialises in bugs being socially inept in a Willow-(from BtVS)-esque lesbian relationship. She was actually pretty mature and had a stable job, so it was strange seeing her in May seeming much more child-like (though oddly still having a stable job which required a certain level of maturity).

    Angela Bettis plays the eponymous character. May's issue is that she can't make friends very well. She's particularly socially awkward and she's got an odd relationship with a doll she was given when she was younger. The doll was given to her specifically because people wouldn't be friends with her on account of her lazy eye. However, she wasn't allowed to open the box in which the doll was kept, so she couldn't hold it and hug it. On we move to the present where May now has serious emotional issues. She's an adult but with a distinctly naive and child-like feel to her. She now has glasses which correct her lazy eye.

    Okay, so my personal take on this is that she could have had friends in spite of the lazy eye and her social awkwardness might be partly due to her parents giving her a doll to be friends with rather than encouraging her to make real friends. In any case, this is up for interpretation as we spend very little time on the childhood and spring straight into adulthood where things are already screwed up. As socially awkward as she is, May is able to make small steps towards friendship with a couple of people, played by Anna Faris (FAQ About Time Travel, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, Brokeback Mountain, Scary Movie 1,2,3, etc.) and Jeremy Sisto (Clueless).

    Okay, Jeremy Sisto is actually really good and I recognised him straight away as someone I'd seen before. He's got a great screen presence. Oddly though, I had absolutely no idea that I'd seen him in Clueless and became convinced that he was the drug dealer, not-really-love-interest and most important male character in Ginger Snaps. He isn't. That said, part of the reason for the mix-up is that he's got a similar sort of role. Something odd is going on behind the scenes, but he's not wholly clued in and not entirely sure how much he can help. In the end though, he just wants to help if he can. The movie as a whole feels very much like Ginger Snaps in style (and that's strong praise in my book).

    Right then, Anna Faris. I love Anna Faris. I have seen the first three Scary Movie movies and I absolutely hated the first two. The first one I watched with someone else who enjoyed it more than I did, the second one I chose to watch because it was on tv and it had James Woods in it, but the third I was actually interested in seeing. Now the issue with all these movie parodies with "Movie" in the title is that they come out ages after what they are parodying and the jokes just feel pointless. The trailer for Scary Movie 3 suggested that it might actually break the chain a bit by having quite a risky swipe at Michael Jackson in the middle of his child abuse trial and bringing in Leslie Nielsen (from Naked Gun) to do an "idiotic president" routine (while George W Bush was president). Sure the end result wasn't as good as hoped for (though this was not really a surprise), but there was one scene which made it worth it. There's one scene where Anna Faris (who'd been by far the best thing in the previous two movies) is just talking to a child and saying outrageous stuff. It's clear in that scene that the main thing making it work is her delivery. The material was no better than anywhere else in the movie, but Anna Faris was capable of making up for that. Okay, this has now been a very long paragraph and I still haven't mentioned that I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain (but it's the most highly acclaimed thing she's been in) and that I absolutely loved FAQ About Time Travel (though Anna Faris doesn't really shine in that so much). So anyway, let's get back to talking about May...

    Anna Faris plays a woman who works in the same building as May and has a crush on her. She's clearly not as bright as May, but she's a great deal more confident. Um... she plays the part really well? (Wow, after the last paragraph this one was a bit of an anti-climax wasn't it?)

    So anyway, you've got the background now. So what's the movie like? The acting is great. Angela Battis is fantastic and proves that she's really versatile. You actually find yourself feeling really sorry for her character even as things get more and more twisted and you find yourself wondering whether you really ought to get emotionally invested in her. The emotional pull her character has on you is what makes the movie so devastating (and here's where I stop talking about what all that means and let you find out for yourself).
    There are certain scenes where you will find yourself feeling squeamish if you are like me. Put it this way, in John Carpenter's "The Thing" I might be made to jump by the monster occasionally and I may have a general sense of unease for most of the movie, but the bit that really made me squirm was where they were cutting into their own thumb to get a blood sample. Nothing to be frightened about there. They are all doing it voluntarily and there's no reason to expect any problems. However, the sight of small amounts of damage to things like fingers or eyes is actually far more effective on me that seeing people get sliced into pieces. It just feels more real. If you are like me on this, there are plenty of points in the movie where you are going to feel uncomfortable. Fair warning to you there.

    The ending is really strange, but in quite an original way. The film feels like it's meandering a lot and I'm not sure what some of the scenes are supposed to mean. The way in which May is screwed up by her childhood don't always make sense to me and some of the more symbolic (presumably) scenes involving the doll feel quite bizarre. Still, I definitely finished the movie with the feeling that I'd watched something special. I won't say that the movie's perfect. I think it could do with being a bit tighter, a bit more focussed, but it's well worth checking out as it's really something quite special.

    The Woods (2006)
    Okay, well this features some really good cast members with Patricia Clarkson (Lars And The Real Girl, Six Feet Under) as the headmistress and Marcia Bennett (the horrible landlady from Sick Girl) plays one of the teachers. And Bruce Campbell is in it! Bruce has only a fairly limited role in the piece, but he's there enough to be important and he's just brilliant in every scene he's in. Um... yeah, so that needed to be said, anyway *ahem*... Well, perhaps the least impressive actress in it was Rachel Nichols, but to be fair to her her role was playing a cliched high school bully in a movie where the cast all look about 25. She's been in a lot of well-known Hollywood money-making blockbuster trash recently and oddly she was the one who played Gaila, Kirk's green-skinned one night stand in the new Star Trek movie.

    So, what's the movie about. Well, as has already been said, it's set in a high school. A boarding school to be more precise. To be even more precise it's a boarding school in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods. Heather feels abandoned there and when things get difficult (and increasingly weird) the woods seem to make it impossible to escape. Needless to say these are no ordinary woods. So the school contains strict rules and bullies. It's set in the sixties which seems to give free reign for cliches.

    The movie feels very ghost story-like and it basically is a ghost story. Admittedly it could be said to be more witchcraft-related than ghost-related. There are a lot of elements that are very reminiscent of The Craft (to the extent that I actually groaned when they started doing the whole standing-up-and-spinning pencil routine). I say that it's difficult to say whether it's a ghost story or a witchcraft story partly because for the majority of the movie you are very confused as to what is actually going on. There's weird nightmares which seem real, there's odd disappearances, the teachers act bizarrely sometimes and motivations are a bit hard to ascertain. In fact, one big problem I had was that I was never quite sure what the main character thought was going on. There were many points where I was convinced that she had a better idea of what was happening than I did and I had trouble working out what her motivation was.

    It does, admittedly, all come together quite well in the end. As such, I guess I have to give it credit, in spite of all my prejudices against ghost stories, for the mystery actually having some decent logic to it by the end. Nevertheless, I still felt that there was a little too much puzzling supernatural stuff and not quite enough explanation of what the main character thought about their situation. My opinion on this movie is pulled one way by the supernatural ghosty stuff that annoyed me and the other way by Bruce Campbell's performance which never failed to please me. I guess those two pretty much cancel each other out. So what does that leave us with?

    The Woods is quite a clever mystery and while the setting and the style is a little cliched, these elements come together to form something rather more unusual. This is clearly not a low budget feature, but I'm not sure they've always put the money to best effect. This isn't one that I'm probably going to want to see again, but it did stick with me. I suspect I'm being a little generous on this, but in the end I'll say this was a solidly good movie and give it

    P.S. Oh and for anyone who was wondering whether Lucky McKee has suddenly decided to leave out Angela Bettis for a change, actually she does the voices from the woods that Heather keeps hearing.

    The Bat (1959)
    Dead cheap horror movie DVD starring Vincent Price. Considering that this was being sold alongside the awesome "Little Shop Of Horrors" I thought it might be pretty good. It certainly had the highest rating out of the three movies I bought. (I still haven't got around to watching "The Wasp Woman".) It started off pretty promisingly too. There were some pretty well-formed female characters and worries about a killer on the loose known as "The Bat". Vincent Price is later talking to someone about some stolen money and apparently the scheme to get away with the money is going to require a murder or two. So how will this come together?

    Unfortunately it all ends up feeling a bit too much like an episode of "Murder She Wrote". In the mansion around which the plot revolves there's often a police guard which gets conveniently sidetracked from the simple job of checking if anyone goes in or out of a house. There's a lot of rather obvious red herrings and, asides from Vincent Price there's not much really to be said for the acting (it's alright).

    In the end, I'd have to say that this was ok, but rather dull. Definitely less than average.

    The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
    The score for this movie on imdb didn't leave me expecting much, but with a title like that how could I resist. I was in for a serious surprise.

    This movie is ridiculously brilliant. It feels like a pre-cursor to Re-Animator in many ways. The thing is though that back then transplanting was pretty new. The surgeon in the central role is told quite early on that his experiments into transplanting are unacceptable and that his dreams of being able to replace organs simply and easily is foolhardy. In this movie, transplanting organs is playing God.

    Of course, if you want to take transplanting to extremes then you can't get more extreme than a preserved and functioning (and somehow also talking in spite of a lack of lungs) head. We knew that was coming from the poster and in this case that leads to some wonderful flights of the imagination when the movie starts with a black screen and a woman saying: "Let me die. Please let me die!" After those gasped and frightened words, the title appears in large white letters "The Brain That Wouldn't Die". Simple and effective. What an intro!

    The acting isn't bad, though it's often very very hammy. The girl eventually chosen to provide the replacement body is probably the weakest link in the piece. In fact, the whole thing comes together, hamminess and all, to give quite a strong effect on the viewer. I was genuinely horrified by some parts in a way that I wasn't by the old black and white "Frankenstein", but there's also a comic element to it. The laughs are rather less intentional than they were in Re-Animator, but they are the same kind. I'm sure the movie makers must have realised how daft things were. (In fact, with transplanting having moved on so far, the premise isn't as extreme for us as it would have been for them.)

    There's a point in my copy where the movie goes black for a few minutes. I suspect that was supposed to be an intermission, but it doesn't say so. It could just be my copy, so I can't really fault it for that.

    Overall this was a very satisfying experience. The movie is old, hammy and silly, but I must say I don't think I just liked it because it was daft. I think I genuinely enjoyed this movie. As bizarre as it may seem, I may have to give this a high score and recommend it as a classic. Maybe it was just a matter of watching it while in the right mood at the right time, but in any case, full marks it is!

    I mentioned Scary Movie 3 earlier (which, by the way, I do not think is very good). Through the wonders of youtube, both of the best scenes in the movie are found in this one 10 minute segment. The best bit with Leslie Nielsen starts at about 4:25. The bit I mentioned which is mainly funny because of Anna Faris' delivery is at 8:15. Click here for the video clip from Scary Movie 3 if you want to wholly disagree with me on this. ;)

    Cross-posted to [info]candycorncomm 

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    At a Therion concert in London. YAY!

    And I decided to try out my camera occasionally. Even in spite of the darkness, my extreme unfamiliarity with the camera's controls and the odd lack of battery, I still managed to get a few decent pics. First of all (since they look better shrunk down a bit) here are some photos where I was zooming right into the action:

    Most of my best pics seem to be after the band came back for an encore. The two female singers changed into bizarrely colourful outfits for the final section of the concert:

    More pictures and info under the cut...

    From right to left: Katarina Lilja (rock singer, shown here in pink "drama queen" dress), Christofer Johnsson (rhythm guitarist, song writer and the heart and soul of Therion), Christian Vidal (the new lead guitarist inheriting the duty of providing awesome solos), Snowy Shaw (rock singer, deep metal voice guy, occasional screeching, always removes his top during gigs), Thomas Vikstrom (super awesome tenor, some great rock singing and now, it seems, the main frontman for the band, even occasionally doing some Snowy-esque screeching), Johan Koleberg (drummer), Lori Lewis (operatic singer, wow, shown here in bumblebee costume), Waldemar Sorychta (temporary bass guitarist).

    Fairly on in the set the band are under some creepy red lights. YAY!

    Christian in his "I'm so cool" guitar pose while doing some neat twiddly bits on his guitar. Next to him Christofer is looking appropriately cool, while all the singers to his left appear to be enjoying themselves immensely.

    Showing off some of the neat lighting. Lori Lewis is walking away, presumably having just finished a rather awesome piece. Katarina looks like she's about to sing something. Snowy, who's partially obscured by the railing in this image, is presumably singing something at this point.

    The spotlight is on Katarina and Lori Lewis as they do a bit of harmonising. In the darker parts of the image you can see Snowy singing and Christian encouraging the crowd.

    Lori Lewis takes the spotlight in her bumblebee outfit.

    A couple of zoomed-in images of the end of the concert.

    In other news, the first of the two supporting bands, Loch Vostock, came onto the stage to the sound of Richard Dawkins reading the following from his book: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." They manage to prove that Dawkins is f***ing metal to an extent that I never thought an old Oxford professor could be. His words proved to be quite stunningly effective in setting up an awesome irreverent tone for a night of rocking to anti-Christian metal. (Christofer from Therion is a pagan following the "dragon rouge" magical order, along with the lyrics writer, Thomas Karlsson.)

    Anyway, it seems someone has put the entire concert on youtube, starting with this video here.
    Also, here's an embedded vid of the best version of their song "Siren Of The Woods" I've seen so far. (And I was there! YAY!):

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    Okay, this all started with an announcement by [info]fabfunk that he had a big long list of the best movies of 2009 and that he wanted to hear what we'd put on our own lists. Over the course of this year I've been trying to catch up on all the movies recommended for 2009 (expect a post on that soon-ish), but at the time I figured I'd simply try to work out what my favourite movies were from each year (or, if earlier than 1980, my favourite movies from each decade). As well as my recommendations from 2009, I've also seen some classics and I was interested to see whether this list changed at all. Well, a bit... Check it out! (The years are provided by imdb.)

    For each year or decade I've provided some alternative suggestions (including a few I haven't seen). If you think there's a movie that really ought to be vying for the spot, please suggest it. What would you put in each of these sections?

    1930s                                                 1940s
    M - Fritz Lang                                                                        It's A Wonderful Life - Frank Capra

    So, having discovered that I don't like silent movies, I still don't really have any "favourites" made earlier than 1930. A brilliant discovery however, was Fritz Lang's "M". This movie barely shows its age, by stark contrast to the previous entry for the 1930s, King Kong, with some quite horrendous dialogue (which is interestingly inserted into the movie-within-a-movie in Peter Jackson's remake). Meanwhile, no change to my 1940s choice. Sure, it may seem odd to favour this over Casablanca or Double Indemnity, but heck this list is based on my own enjoyment, not what seems most "worthy". It's A Wonderful Life completely took me by surprise and I'm sure it will continue to do so for many decades to come.

    Alternative suggestions for 1930s:
    King Kong (1933)
    Frankenstein (1931)

    Alternative suggestions for 1940s:
    Casablanca (1942)
    Double Indemnity (1944)
    The Third Man (1949)
    The Maltese Falcon (1941)?

    1950s                                                                                      1960s
    Invasion Of The Body Snatchers - Don Siegel       Lawrence Of Arabia - David Lean

    My previous entry for 1950s was "The Day The Earth Stood Still", a movie which was a fairly recent discovery for me at the time of making the old list. I've decided to change it to "Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers" because this movie had such an effect on me long before I was interested in checking out old black and white movies. I'm interested to discover that the director was also responsible for "Dirty Harry" (which I have as yet to see). "Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers" has influenced many sci-fi movies since, yet no other version of this premise has ever seemed to match up to the original black and white classic. Meanwhile naturally there's no change to the entry for the 1960s. It's difficult to imagine anything matching up to the awesomeness of "Lawrence Of Arabia": the ultimate epic movie.

    Alternative suggestions for 1950s:
    The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
    Seven Samurai (1954)
    North By Northwest (1959)
    Gojira (1954)
    High Noon (1952)?
    Throne Of Blood (1957)?

    Alternative suggestions for 1960s:
    The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
    Dr. Strangelove (1964)
    Village Of The Damned (1960)
    Psycho (1960)
    The Producers (1968)
    Jungle Book (1967)
    The Little Shop Of Horros (1960)
    Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
    To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)?

    The Day Of The Jackal - Fred Zinnemann

    My previous entry was the original "Taking Of Pelham One Two Three", which was admittedly awesome and knocked my socks off. However, while it provided more than you'd normally expect from a heist movie, it's genre still seems to limit it somewhat. I now replace it with the amazing "The Day Of The Jackal" which gives the most fantastic portrayal of a hitman. You get the impression that it's going to be rather slow paced to start with, but yet it constantly keeps you engaged and as the stakes are raised over the course of the movie you get really caught up in the action.

    I feel the need to give a special mention to one alternative I considered for this spot. The 1975 movie "A Boy And His Dog". This was just so strange and unlike anything I have seen anywhere else. It's amusing yet dark and has an odd sort of social commentary going on (possibly). The psychic dog is absolutely brilliant.  there's something special about the bizarreness of this apocalyptic scenario.

    Alternative suggestions for 1970s:
    A Boy And His Dog (1975)
    Annie Hall (1977)
    Soldier Of Orange (1977)
    Monty Python's Search For The Holy Grail (1975)
    Jaws (1975)
    Monty Python's Life Of Brian (1979)
    The Wicker Man (1973)
    Westworld (1973)
    Aguirre, Wrath Of God (1972)
    The Conformist (1970)?
    Stalker (1979)?

    1980                                                                                       1981
    The Empire Strikes Back - Irvin Kershner             Time Bandits - Terry Gilliam

    No change on these two years. To be honest, 1980 doesn't appear to have a lot of competition. Meanwhile Time Bandits is an absolute joy and is possibly my favourite of all Terry Gilliam's movies.

    Alternatives for 1980
    The Elephant Man?

    Alternatives for 1981
    An American Werewolf In London
    Das Boot
    Raiders Of The Lost Ark
    Mad Max 2
    Blow Out

    1982                                                                                 1983
    The Thing - John Carpenter                                        Videodrome - David Cronenberg

    My favourite from John Carpenter and my favourite horror movie from David Cronenberg. These weren't going to be replaced easily and so far there's no change.

    Alternatives for 1982
    Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan

    Alternatives for 1983
    Local Hero
    Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence?

    1984                                                                                         1985
    Gremlins - Joe Dante                                                            Return Of The Living Dead - Dan O'Bannon

    Gremlins is still my favourite from 1984 in spite of rivalry from "The Neverending Story" and "Ghostbusters". Still, Gremlins caught my imagination rather fiercely when I was young. Funnily enough Gremlins manages to contain spoilers for two of the black and white movies mentioned earlier in this list. Meanwhile Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" is overtaken by Dan O'Bannon's horror-comedy "Return Of The Living Dead". To be honest, while I enjoyed "Brazil" I wasn't really happy seeing it as my best for that year. Last time I was making that list I felt I was lacking alternatives. Now I've come to realise that 1985 was the year of the horror comedies. "Return Of The Living Dead" was competing against "Fright Night" and "Re-Animator", but in the end it's not a hard choice. I think ROTLD is probably the best horror comedy I have ever seen. Wonderfully silly and absolutely hilarious. Also inspiration for the name of the thrash metal band "Send More Paramedics".

    Alternatives for 1984
    The Neverending Story
    The Terminator
    This Is Spinal Tap
    Repo Man?
    A Nightmare On Elm Street?

    Alternatives for 1985
    Fright Night
    Back To The Future
    Pale Rider?
    The Quiet Earth?

    1986                                                                                         1987
    Flight Of The Navigator - Randal Kleiser                 Evil Dead 2 - Sam Raimi

    Why've I not replaced "Flight Of The Navigator" with David Cronenberg's "The Fly"? It must be said that I view "Flight Of The Navigator" as one of the most underrated movies of my childhood. The strange time travel mystery that makes up the first half of the movie is really quite special. Meanwhile, I must admit that, while I love Evil Dead 2, I don't really have an awful lot for it to compete against. It seems that 1987 was a pretty slow year for movies.

    Alternatives for 1986
    The Fly
    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
    The Hitcher
    Castle In The Sky
    Ferris Bueller's Day Off
    Blue Velvet?

    Alternatives for 1987
    Masters Of The Universe

    1988                                                                                         1989
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Robert Zemeckis   Shirley Valentine - Lewis Gilbert

    Nearly replaced "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" with John Carpenter's "They Live", but thought better of it. WFRR has managed to stand the test of time because its special effects relied on ideas and inventiveness rather than on simply dazzling the audience. And finally a replacement for the (admittedly brilliant) Weird Al Yankovich movie "UHF". "Shirley Valentine" is an awesome British classic and if you haven't seen it you need to correct this state of affairs right away!

    Alternatives for 1988
    They Live
    Adventures Of Baron Munchausen
    Die Hard
    The Naked Gun
    The Vanishing?

    Alternatives for 1989
    Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
    Do The Right Thing?
    Crimes And Misdemeanors?

    1990                                                                                         1991
    Total Recall - Paul Verhoeven                                         Terminator 2: Judgment Day - James Cameron

    No change for these years. 1990 and 1991 are still, for me, the golden years of Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. Of course he recently swaggered into a scene in "The Expendables" to appear genuinely cool alongside Bruce Willis before swaggering away as if to say "yeeeeah, I still got it". Neither he nor Bruce Willis are seen for the rest of that movie and somehow this random scene with these two action movie legends simply chatting manages to be the most engaging scene. Anyway, Total-"is it real or isn't it? I'd like to be spy from mars and hey look I am!"-Recall admittedly succeeds mainly in spite of Schwarzenegger, but he certainly doesn't ruin it and it remains an exciting action movie with a bit of Phillip K Dick inspiration giving it a slightly more intelligent side. Meanwhile "Terminator 2" is the main movie that James Cameron should feel proud of. Nothing else he has done has ever lived up to it, least of all his by-the-numbers "Avatar".

    Alternatives for 1990
    Gremlins 2: The New Batch
    Jacob's Ladder?

    Alternatives for 1991
    The Addams Family
    Silence Of The Lambs
    Thelma And Louise
    The Fisher King
    Barton Fink?

    1992                                                                                         1993
    Reservoir Dogs - Quentin Tarantino                             Schindler's List - Steven Spielberg

    Hmmm, Tarantino's fanastic debut movie and Spielberg's remarkably entertaining movie about the Nazi Holocaust. Yeah, no change here.

    Alternatives for 1992
    My Cousin Vinny
    Evil Dead 3: Army Of Darkness
    Wayne's World

    Alternatives for 1993
    Groundhog Day
    Killing Zoe
    Falling Down
    Carlito's Way
    In The Name Of The Father

    1994                                                                                           1995
    Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino                                        Trainspotting - Danny Boyle

    I very nearly found myself replacing changes-every-time-you-watch-it "Pulp Fiction" with Luc Besson's "Leon". Strange choice, you might say. The thing is that Leon was actually my favourite movie until I discovered "Amelie" and it's still just as awesome now as it was back then. Then I remembered that, as well as standing up to repeated viewings, every scene in "Pulp Fiction" is full of pure awesome; even the Travolta dancing scene which kinda weirds me out. Meanwhile, as much as I love Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys", the best movie of 1995 has to be the classic British movie "Trainspotting" which, quite rightly, got Danny Boyle recognised. Sadly it threw down a gauntlet that Boyle has yet to surpass.

    Alternatives for 1994
    In The Mouth Of Madness
    The Shawshank Redemption
    Four Weddings And A Funeral

    Alternatives for 1995

    Twelve Monkeys
    The City Of Lost Children
    Ghost In The Shell

    1996                                                                                            1997
    Tesis - Alejandro Amenabar                                                    Open Your Eyes - Alejandro Amenabar

    Replacing the Coen Brothers' "Fargo" with Alejandro Amenabar's debut movie "Tesis", thus putting two Alejandro Amenabar movies side by side? Yeah sure, why not? Tesis and Open Your Eyes are both absolutely fantastic pieces from one of my favourite directors. It must be said, however, that his best movies have always been the ones made in Spanish.

    Alternatives for 1996
    The Craft
    From Dusk Til Dawn
    Sling Blade

    Alternatives for 1997
    Princess Mononoke
    Jackie Brown
    Donnie Brascoe

    1998                                                                                         1999
    The Big Lebowski - Joel Coen                                      The Matrix - The Wachowski Brothers

    The Big Lebowski remains the definitive Coen Brothers comedy movie. Meanwhile The Matrix remains one of the best action movies of all time, so long as you pretend they never made any sequels.

    Alternatives for 1998
    The Truman Show
    Saving Private Ryan
    Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrells
    Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

    Alternatives for 1999
    Fight Club
    American Beauty
    Being John Malkovich
    Joan Of Arc - The Messenger
    Galaxy Quest

    2000                                                                                         2001
    Memento - Christopher Nolan                                           Amelie - Jean-Pierre Jeunet

    It has to be said that, in spite of all his success, Memento, a movie that seemed to be fairly underrated on first release, is still Christopher Nolan's greatest triumph. Original, well acted and superbly crafted. Meanwhile, in regards to 2001, Amelie has been a long time personal favourite of mine and Jeunet seems to be constantly trying to remember how he did it. Straight afterwards he did "A Very Long Engagement" which in many ways felt like a copy of Amelie, but it seemed to be missing the magic. More recently he's released Micmacs which, like Amelie, contains a number of different quirky characters, but without a sufficiently endearing lead. Each character in Micmacs is all too eager to showcase their personal idiosyncracies. Yet somehow when "Amelie" shows a lot of bizarre stuff or ordinary things portrayed in bizarre ways it doesn't feel like it's being weird for the sake of it, but instead it pulls you into this imaginative interpretation of the world we live in. If you want to feel good about life, Amelie is the go-to movie of choice.

    Alternatives for 2000
    American Psycho
    Ginger Snaps
    Requiem For A Dream
    Le Gout Des Autres
    Battle Royale

    Alternatives for 2001
    Das Experiment
    Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
    Donnie Darko
    Spirited Away
    The Others

    2002                                                                                         2003
    Road To Perdition - Sam Mendes                                Zatoichi - Takeshi Kitano

    I would say that Road To Perdition is possibly one of the greatest graphic novel adaptations, were it not for the fact that I've never read the original graphic novel. Personally I was very much put off by the sentimental trailers that told us that this was all about Tom Hanks trying to be a good dad to his son and the importance of family, but the actual movie is a far darker story about a father and son being pretty much hunted down. Featuring Sam Mendes' love of beautiful cinematography in some of the most shocking scenes, this is arguably the highlight of his career so far. Meanwhile, in the year that "Oldboy" was released, I'd say that Takeshi Kitano's "Zatoichi" narrowly trumps it. It's mixture of humour and violence with a great deal of inventiveness is really quite wonderful.

    Alternatives for 2002
    He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
    City Of God
    Minority Report
    The Pianist
    Dirty Pretty Things
    Bubba Ho-Tep

    Alternatives for 2003
    Infernal Affairs II
    Finding Nemo

    2004                                                                                       2005
    The Sea Inside - Alejandro Amenabar                         Grizzly Man - Werner Herzog

    "The Sea Inside" is Alejandro Amenabar's fantastic look into the story of Ramon Sampedro who fought for his right to die. Amenabar is able to get us inside the head of the protagonist and gives us a deeper look at this remarkable figure. For 2005 I'm replacing my entry of "Capote" with a documentary about Timothy Treadwell who decided to go and live with bears in Alaska. One true life story with another, I guess. Werner Herzog's documentary is (once you get over his accent) most definitely the most moving documentary I have ever seen. It is very beautiful on the one hand, yet provides compelling insight into the psychology of Treadwell on the other hand. I suppose that "Grizzly Man" might bypass the critcism made by [info]afraidofplaydoh of biopics that they 'certainly don’t want to pay to see someone’s version of this dude’s true life story.' "Grizzly Man" has the advantage of being actual footage of the man himself with the opportunity to judge for yourself. Still, "Capote" (no longer in the 2005 spot) was more about the process of writing the book 'In Cold Blood' rather than a story of Capote's life. Also, I feel that "Lawrence of Arabia" (see 1960s above) is more of an epic than a biopic. Still, I'm not sure what excuse to give for "The Sea Inside" other than that it is genuinely moving and explores the topic of Euthanasia fantastically well.

    Alternatives for 2004

    Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
    Goodbye Lenin
    Dead Man's Shoes
    Layer Cake
    The Motorcycle Diaries
    Shaun Of The Dead
    Million Dollar Baby?

    Alternatives for 2005

    Good Night And Good Luck
    The Constant Gardener
    A History Of Violence
    Pusher III
    Paradise Now
    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
    Thank You For Smoking
    Lord Of War
    Sin City
    Batman Begins

    2006                                                                                        2007
    Pan's Labyrinth - Guillermo Del Toro                             Eastern Promises - David Cronenberg

    "Pan's Labyrinth" still remains my favourite for 2006 and perhaps the only movie I really see as much of a challenger is "London To Brighton", a superb British gangster movie. It's a wonderful blend of real life and fairytale, but don't make the mistake of thinking it's a children's movie! (Apologies to traumatised infants everywhere who were taken into showings by their naive parents.) "Eastern Promises" is probably my favourite of all Cronenberg's movies and certainly my favourite of his more recent non-horror works. Viggo Mortensen gets a serious opportunity to show off his acting skills and Naomi Watts does a very accomplished English accent (though comisserations to Russians for Vincent Cassel's accent which, I am informed, is dire). The acting is great, there is powerful tension in the scenes and Cronenberg couldn't resist inserting some graphic violence in places (which is surely fitting in a movie about the Russian mafia?).

    Alternatives for 2006

    London To Brighton
    This Is England
    The Page Turner
    Black Book
    The Lives Of Others
    The Prestige
    Little Miss Sunshine
    The Queen

    Alternatives for 2007
    Hot Fuzz
    Lars And The Real Girl
    Son Of Rambow
    American Gangster
    Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
    Charlie Wilson's War
    Planet Terror

    2008                                                                                         2009
    In Bruges - Martin McDonagh                                                                   A Serious Man - The Coen Brothers

    Yes, I know "Let The Right One In" was a masterpiece and everything. I also feel the need to give a special mention to the movie "Julia". I was quite struck by Tilda Swinton's performance as an alcoholic whose money-making self-interested scheme gets out of hand to a remarkable degree. The two hour runtime simply flies by and though I've only watched this once, it had a serious impact. However, the final choice for 2008 is "In Bruges" a wonderful dark comedy about two gang members who, having pulled off a hit, have been told to hide out in Bruges. No one's quite sure why they've gone there and they are waiting to hear from higher ups about what their next move should be. Colin Farrell is particularly surprising since he not only gives a good performance, but turns out to have quite wonderful comic timing. Meanwhile Brendan Gleeson is absolutely fantastic alongside Farrell as his partner in crime. As well as being absolutely hilarious, the movie is also quite beautiful in some scenes and almost surreal in others. In 2009, on the hand, "A Serious Man" remains my favourite, but not without some serious competition. I'll be giving my verdict on the movies from 2009 later in the month.

    Alternatives for 2008
    Let The Right One In
    The Hurt Locker
    I've Loved You So Long
    Cherry Blossoms
    The Wrestler
    Johnny Mad Dog
    Gran Torino
    Burn After Reading
    The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

    Alternatives for 2009
    To be continued!

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  • 11/20/10--12:29: Movie Reviews!

  • Cold Souls (2009)
    I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work. After all, we all know what souls are right? They’re the bit of you that is all floaty and goes to heaven when you die. Well actually that’s not the case in this movie… and that actually makes things even more confusing.

    The idea is that if you have your soul removed you will feel a weight lifted from you. Souls provide you with the essence of who you are, but a soul can also be heavy burden to carry. (This is sounding a bit Buffy-esque, isn’t it?)

    So Paul Giamatti, who is finding himself getting rather over-emotional as he performs in a Russian play, becomes quite intrigued by a company which specialises in relieving him of his burden. The company treats the soul like an organ in the body. They extract it and put it in cold storage, with the option of transplanting it back in if things don’t work out.

    There are a lot of clever ideas and there’s a similar sort of feel to Being John Malkovich (even to the extent that Paul Giamatti plays himself). Like Being John Malkovich, Cold Souls is a dark comedy which is pretty miserable, but may occasionally extract some laughs from you anyway. The world you are being introduced to is bizarre, but it’s still manages to feel close to reality.

    So yeah, it’s someone “doing” the styles of Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze and it’s done pretty well. The acting is fantastic, the script is inventive and it generally pulls you in. The pacing is perhaps a little slow, but not so much that you lose interest my any means. There are some nice touches and it never runs out of steam, however there are a few moments where you suspect that the story is basically all finished with and the new twists and turns aren’t introduced quite as excitingly as they might be.

    Don’t watch this expecting to laugh a lot. You might laugh a bit, you’ll almost certainly chuckle a bit, but this has the same quality of Being John Malkovich where it will give you a general sense of unease. Don’t worry about it seeming derivative. The ideas are original and Paul Giamatti’s performance is very different from John Cusack’s (not least because, to my mind, Giamatti is a much better actor), but the style will have you thinking Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich all the same.


    The Blob (1988)
    Let me just start by saying that this is far better than the original. I don’t care if Steve McQueen was in the original, it was dull dull dull. This remake isn’t perfect, but it introduces characters who you care for, even if they aren’t always given the best performances.

    In fact it’s mostly the performances that let this movie down. The best actors generally seem to get killed off earlier and it all gets pretty campy, but on the other hand what movie is going to be suited to campiness than “The Blob”?

    While the effects are always brilliant, the dialogue is not. As such, the movie drags a bit at around the three quarter mark. This is well worth watching and great fun, but it's missing the special something it needs to be more than just a solid monster movie. Great entertainment and well worth watching, but don't expect it to be an all-time favourite.


    The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
    Oooh this hasn't dated well. What's remarkable, however, is that the thing that has dated the least badly is probably the monster itself. I mean sure, we can tell it's a man in a rubber suit. What's harder to tell is how they are able to swim so naturally when wearing a big suit which must surely weigh a tonne.

    Meanwhile the sexism is just hilarious. Whenever the "someone's gonna die" music starts up the camera lingers on the sole female in the group. This seems to be a combination of expecting us to presume she's the one in the most danger and the cameraman just enjoying the view. She also regularly screams whenever the monster turns up. Why is she there? Well, asides from being the love interest of one of the scientists, she's actually supposed to be a scientist too. She just never gets any opportunity to demonstrate her credentials. She does, however, get the opportunity to demonstrate possible insanity when she randomly decides to go for a swim in the amazon when a viscious sea monster is believed to be on the loose.

    The actual plot isn't half bad and I certainly wasn't bored. Still, in the end this is more a triumph of costume design than of storytelling.


    Inglourious Basterds (2009)
    When [info]breakattiffanys  revealed their faux Oscars voting system on [info]moviebuffs , I was quite disturbed to see this becoming the popular choice for best film. There are a number of reasons why I don't think it is the best movie of 2009 and think it is a step in the wrong direction for Quentin Tarantino. That being said, I do actually really like it. It's good silly fun and great entertainment. It feels a bit cut and pasted with scenes being shoved together rather haphazardly and plenty of sections just feeling glossed over. The mixture of very serious scenes, very daft scenes and scenes where Tarantino lectures us on the history of film don't always gel terribly well. However, there's no doubting the entertainment value, the sense of satisfaction when watching it and, of course, the incredible performance from Christoph Waltz.

    Ok, so, the downsides. Firstly and most importantly: Mike Myers. Seriously, what the f*** is he doing there? That scene is pointless and Mike Myers comes along to do his Austin Powers voice. Why? Is it because Tarantino wanted to punish his UK audience or perhaps he just doesn't think the UK audience are important (in spite of us playing quite a vital role in making Reservoir Dogs such a hit)? Perhaps you, my readers, think that I'm making too much a fuss over this. Well I'm sorry, but you are wrong. Any review which fails to make a fuss over this is ignoring the massive stinking elephant in the room. I actually think my opinion of this movie would raise dramatically if this one scene was cut. It would certainly have made me a lot more comfortable with the number of votes in the moviebuffs Oscars.

    Other issues. I said about the serious stuff and the comedy not always gelling well. There's a scene at the opening of the film-within-a-film where Brad Pitt's wholly conspicuous disguise makes it very hard to suspend disbelief. If you've accepted that the scene is intended as comedy then you can roll with it, but the tension has been built up so that it is very hard not to cringe. It just doesn't feel like the right time for comedy.

    There's an interesting twist involving Christoph Waltz's character towards the end. What happens to him feels reminiscent of the end of the original script for "Natural Born Killers" (an absolutely fantastic script which you should all read and then never EVER watch the horrendous Oliver Stone movie which defiled it). It made me rather upset that Tarantino hasn't bought back that script and made it properly. That would seem to be a better decision than trying to recapture the intended finale of that movie in other works. Certainly the ingenuity of the ending to Natural Born Killers was wholly lost in Oliver Stone's horrible attempt at filmmaking.

    All the stuff about German cinema. "I show German films at my cinema." "We need our operative to be an expert in German cinema." "I'm a famous German actress." Quentin, we don't f***ing care! Yeah I know Tarantino is big on the pop references, but normally he either makes them reasonably well-known or he keeps them far enough in the background that they aren't offputting. Here they were offputting.

    And finally, could we actually have a movie from Mr. Tarantino now that isn't a big all-action pop-reference fest? We had a double-bill of that in Kill Bill. Then in the UK we were denied Grindhouse and instead were given the full-length version of Death Proof (which was boring). Now we get even more of that only in an alternative history WWII movie. Oh yay.... Sorry, but I'd actually like a serious movie from Mr. Tarantino for a change. I loved both volumes of Kill Bill, but down-to-earth and reasonably serious Tarantino movie is long overdue now.

    Individual scenes in Inglourious Basterds are fantastic. The bar scene is absolutely brilliant. The point where the heroine is re-united with Christoph Waltz's "Jew Hunter" is absolutely brilliant. The fiery climactic scene towards the end, when it arrives, is actually very powerful in spite of the odd build-up which precedes it. If the whole thing was a little more polished, consistent and didn't contain a scene with Mike Myers and his Austin Powers voice, this could have been a real all-time classic. But, like I said before, it is a great piece of entertainment nonetheless.


    Magicians (2007)
    I had low expectations for this one because of the universally awful reviews. I think I enjoyed it a lot more as a result. It's not consistently funny, but there are some great moments. As a Mitchell and Webb fan I think it was more funny that it might have been otherwise. Also I kept recognising various members of the cast. In the end this feels like a set of Mitchell and Webb sketches which have been linked together, but where the need to make them form a singular plot has left them rather overly limited. Just like with their sketch show some sketches are better than others. The thing is that really what you want from a movie is a collection of their best stuff whereas this felt more like a selection of their more average work. I laughed plenty, but I can't say that I was particularly emotionally invested.

    Worth watching, but your mileage will definitely vary, especially if you aren't a Mitchell and Webb fan.


    Dogtooth (2009)

    What the hell was that? (And no, not in a good way.) A bizarre household where the children are encouraged to completely misunderstand the outside world. They are deliberately misled on the meaning of words for things outside their experience, they are told that the aeroplanes that pass overheard are actually toy aeroplanes which land in the garden, they are told that cats are dangerous and that they should pretend to be dogs to scare them away and so it goes on. All very bizarre and silly, but the pacing of the movie means that this all gets very boring indeed.

    The moviemakers seem to be trying to say "oooh, aren't we just NUTS?!!" You are actually far better off just watching the trailer because, to be quite frank, that'll give you most of the weirdest bits without the lengthy periods of boredom imbetween.

    At one point there's a discussion about how dogs need to be trained which gave me the impression that there might be more depth to the movie. After all, aren't the children being similarly "trained" in their bizarre existence? But yeah, that pretty much leads to a dead end. There's no real point to the movie that I could see and, not seeing any point to it, it was a very frustrating and unsatisfactory experience.


    Micmacs (2009)
    I really wanted to like this. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Amelie" is one of my favourite movies of all time and I also absolutely adore "The City Of Lost Children". Jean-Pierre Jeunet has the most fantastic imagination and it looked like he was going to be making good use of it in "Micmacs", a movie about a set of misfits who decide to take on international arms dealers with unusual methods (such as firing themselves out of a canon).

    The movie looks absolutely gorgeous with a great deal of attention to detail. Sadly not to so much attention is provided for the plot.

    There's a variety of quirky characters... who appear to be desperate to introduce themselves to the main protagonist saying "the quirky thing about me is..."

    The main character is perhaps the least interesting in the entire movie. By far the most interesting character in the movie is his contortionist love interest who really steals the show.

    The movie goes from a rather convoluted set-up to a far too neat conclusion. While there are plenty of clever little details along the way, the movie as a whole feels rather by-the-numbers. Even as I was oooh-ing and aaaah-ing at the gorgeous visuals, I couldn't help but notice that I wasn't really invested in the story, nor most of the characters.

    This was a real let-down.


    Defendor (2009)
    Woody Harrelson plays a real-life superhero. The thing is that, in the end, you'd have to be crazy to actually be a superhero - and so this one actually is. Comparisons with Kick Ass are inevitable and, in the end, it seems that Kick Ass is the main reason most people won't have heard of this. Woody Harrelson's character regularly gets beaten up in his pursuit after "Captain Industry". His best weapon appears to be marbles (though wasps in a jar work pretty well too). He's keen to note that he doesn't have a cape because cape's are used for flying - and he can't fly.

    As the plot advances, however, it becomes clear that he's not actually helping. The bad guy he is after is already under observation by the police. If anything, Defendor's vigilante efforts put a spanner into the police's existing operation. Yet even so the movie feels the need to shove in a section with all the public saying how much they support Defendor's struggle. There's no sense of irony in this. We seem to be genuinely expected to support Defendor's vigilante efforts even though we are shown quite clearly that they are directly responsible for the death of an undercover police officer.

    Little errors like that can go a long way. While Defendor starts off seeming like a more down-to-earth and realistic superhero depiction it seems to give that up somewhat in places in order to make the movie more upbeat and less challenging. This removes what would have been the major distinction between Defendor and Kick Ass and I'm afraid the latter is clearly the superior of the two.

    The was a good fun little movie, but with a few dodgy flaws in plot structure, internal logic and a clear unwillingness to bite the bullet on harsher issues really let it down.


    A Prophet (2009)
    On the one hand this was a good little story about a prisoner dealing with internal rivalries and trying to make the best of their difficult situation. On the other hand, the whole "prophet" thing seemed rather shoe-horned in. The protagonist keeps seeing visions of this man who initially requested a blow job in exchange for hash. Throughout the movie he appears as if he's supposed to somehow impart wisdom to the protagonist and apparently gives the main character prior knowledge of what will happen in the future. I believe the term is "magic realism" and, to be quite frank, it pissed me off.

    The "good little story" I mentioned actually drags quite a bit in places and worst of all, I didn't really get the impression that it ever actually satisfactorily ended. It would have been nice to know why I was following this character, as he seemed like a bit of a thug from beginning to end. I suppose it's quite original to see a crime movie which is all about the inside of prison rather than a bunch of people desperately avoiding prison. However, in the end this wasn't a great movie. It had pacing issues, it wasn't very accessible and the protagonist felt very unsympathetic.


    The Damned United (2009)
    It's probably pretty inevitable that I'm going to be harsh with this one. I'm not into football. On the other hand, I actually seem to be a far better audience for this movie than real fans because I didn't know what was going to happen. Michael Sheen puts on a great performance in the lead role and, as indifferent to the sport as I am, I really understood the passion of the characters involved. This movie is somewhat more successful than Invictus in getting us excited about the actual games through its clever method of not showing the games. We are only shown the bits that really matter and in one clever scene we see the game from Brian Clough's perspective where he is unable to watch the game himself but only hears the applause and cries of the audience from his office.

    All the acting is fantastic as the movie has a number of brilliant British talents, asides from Michael Sheen playing the main protagonist Brian Clough. The way the movie unfolds really does a good job of pulling you in. I was especially impressed when they showed some real footage of Muhammed Ali saying how he'd heard that Brian Clough was just as talkative as him!

    The thing is that at the beginning of the movie he signs on to be manager of Leeds. Football fans know what came of this. I didn't have a clue. Throughout the movie the decision to take that job looks worse and worse as we are shown the prior history in long flashbacks (where the real meat of the movie lies) and in the end I felt the ending that the movie led up to was a bit of an anti-climax. The movie had done a great job of explaining Brian Clough's career, but it hadn't set things up well enough to produce a satisfying ending. Perhaps football fans will be happy with this, but personally, after I'd enjoyed the majority of the movie so much, the ending just wasn't good enough.

    Good solid movie with great performances that really pulls you in, but a rather less impressive ending stops it from becoming a real classic.


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    Pope Benedict says that condoms can be used to stop the spread of HIV

    In a break with his traditional teaching, Pope Benedict XVI has said the use of condoms is acceptable "in certain cases", in an extended interview to be published this week.

    After holding firm during his papacy to the Vatican's blanket ban on the use of contraceptives, Benedict's surprise comments will shock conservatives in the Catholic church while finding favour with senior Vatican figures who are pushing for a new line on the issue as HIV ravages Africa.

    The Guardian seems to recognise that it's a brand new teaching and they mention his controversial comments in recent years:
    The pope's comments follow his controversial assertion in 2009 that the rising tide of HIV in Africa could be made worse, not better, by the distribution of condoms. He was speaking to journalists as he visited Africa, where the majority of HIV fatalities occur.At the time, Aids campaigners and European governments expressed outrage. Belgium's health minister said the pope's comments "could demolish years of prevention and education and endanger many human lives".

    However, towards the end of the article they seem to suggest that accepting the use of condoms has really been Benedict's postion all along:
    In 2006, the Pontifical Council for the Health Care Pastoral, led by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, was asked by Benedict to report on the use of condoms as a way of combating HIV.

    "The pope is saying that if you can prevent disease, the use of condoms could be permissible," said John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. "But this has been in the mix for a while," he argued. "I think Benedict has been thinking this way since 2006, which is why he asked for the commission to look into it.

    "The problem was not Benedict, it was others in the Vatican who argued that if you said using condoms was OK in certain situations, it would send out the message that they were approved. This was a PR problem."

    Saying the opposite of what you believe is not a PR problem. This has not "been in the mix for a while", it is a complete U-turn!

    Naturally some people are, quite rightly, saying that this is a step in the right direction:
    Christina Odone, another leading Catholic journalist and commentator in the UK, described the Pope's comments as a "hugely important moment" which Catholics had spent decades waiting for. "It allows Catholics, when we defend our church, to be able to say that this is a not a church that condemns people to Aids and that this is not a church that wilfully ignores the consequences of having unprotected sex," she said.

    Let's not rewrite history thankyouverymuch. I believe the phrase you are looking for is "this is not a church that condemns people to AIDS anymore." It's been quite happily condemning people to AIDS for decades prior to this statement.

    In fact, we have yet to see what this new position from the Pope means for the practical work of the Church in the long term. If Benedict can do one U-turn, he can just as easily do another one. The Pope could quite easily end up backpeddling on this.

    And let's face it, the Pope is still condemning:
    In the case of a male prostitute, says Benedict, using a condom to reduce the risk of HIV infection "can be a first step in the direction of moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants".
    Sorry, but since when is a male prostitute simply doing whatever they want? Don't most prostitutes do it mainly because they need the money?

    And, in other articles, we can see that he still hates condoms:
    He says that the "sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalisation of sexuality" where sexuality is no longer an expression of love, "but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves".
    Condoms are like drugs, eh? Whatever...

    x-posted to [info]atheism 

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  • 11/21/10--04:02: Kinect Has Issues

  • (Video link)

    In one of the games being released for Kinect, the game auto-steers so much that the car drives itself. I would not have believed this if I hadn't seen it.

    Lol@one of the youtube comments:
    "Holy f*** Kinect can read minds now?"

    (Via [info]the_gel )

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  • 11/21/10--04:46: *Shrugs*
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    The Nintendo Official Magazine finish their review with the following summary:

      Bad graphics and animation
      Terrible story, dialogue, acting
      Abysmal platforming, puzzles
      Reprehensible abuse of trust
      There are no good things
    Meanwhile N-Europe had the following to say:
    Doctor Who: Return to Earth is not fun to play at all. It’s incredibly basic and yet frustratingly difficult for all the wrong reasons. The entire crystal/orb system is incredibly out-of-place and removes any feeling that you’re interacting with the environment. If I had to describe Return to Earth in one word it would be “evil”. Parents will likely see this game and, due to the fact that Doctor Who is on the box, will buy this for their kids as a Christmas present. It certainly feels as though Asylum know this, and have churned out any old rubbish as working hard on it won’t be much more profitable. Just think of all the kids that will be over the moon when they open this on Christmas day, only to have their hearts completely destroyed when they start playing it.

    See that cold blank stare? Amy Pond's game persona will eat your soul !

    So yeah, just make sure parents are warned, okay?

    (Via Doctor Who TV)

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    The Guardian on Joss Whedon's latest comments on the new "Buffy movie" situation (with himself entirely excluded):

    Whedon reacted with fury. "This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths – just because they can't think of an original idea of their own," he said.
    So what did they miss...?
    This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can't think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.
    Methinks the people at The Guardian didn't get that bit, lol!

    (Disclaimer: Admittedly the Guardian Film Blog has the whole quote and most likely got the gag, but the article I refer to above was a more general article about the business side of things in the "world news" section.)

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  • 11/23/10--15:23: Thoughts On The CofE....
  • Well, Mr. Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, wishes to let us know that he thinks the Church is on its last legs. And yet we've still got Bishops with guaranteed seats in the House of Lords. This is no good!

    Anyway, the big issue is this stupid Covenant thing he wants to introduce. The issue is that it will force all the Churches to agree before they can accept any new stuff. Basically it means that the ultra-conservative and bigoted elements within African Churches will guarantee that there is no progression in the Church again. So yeah, nothankyouverymuch. (Yet strangely, opponents of the covenant have been compared to the BNP. Oh dear me.)

    Mr. Williams has this to say:

    "There is no Plan B. If this falls, the communion is in ruins."

    Well, as much as I hate to say it, that probably means this is the end. All your nice Church buildings will simply be tourist attractions from now on... (Well, I say "I hate to say it", but presumably this means the end of those guaranteed House of Lords seats, doesn't it?)

    Meanwhile, the Queen has a speech:

    In our more diverse and secular society, the place of religion has come to be a matter of lively discussion. It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue and that the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation depend on the contribution of individuals and groups of all faiths and of none.
    Oh yeah! Go Queen!
    Yet, as the recent visit of His Holiness The Pope reminded us, churches and the other great faith traditions retain the potential to inspire great enthusiasm, loyalty and a concern for the common good.
    Oh... hang on! No, really not sure about that one...

    I did worry when I heard quotes from the Queen about the importance of "communicating the gospel with joy and conviction". It sounded a bit too much like "let's not stop people going out and proselytising and generally pissing people off". Thankfully the whole quote, while vague, seems more about making sure you do the right thing rather than just taking the easy option. (And this Covenant malarky sounds a bit too easy to me.)
    Christian history suggests that times of growth and spiritual vigour have often coincided with periods of challenge and testing. What matters is holding firmly to the need to communicate the gospel with joy and conviction in our society. For at the heart of our faith stand not a preoccupation with our own welfare and comfort but the concepts of service and of sacrifice as shown in the life and teachings of the one who made himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant.
    Also: Picture above taken from the following site. It also provides a video from the fantastic Eddie Izzard (who annoyingly seems to have given up being a stand-up comic these days) of a particular sketch which seems to have become very popular amongst Anglican types.

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    Toy Story 3
    Would you believe, I wasn't sure what to think of this one when I saw it at the cinema? I guess the thing is that coming out of a cinema you are inevitably wowed by a movie. There's a certain extent with some movies that you just WANT them to be good, especially if you had to fork out extra money to see them on the big screen. Hitchhikers Guide had left me with a kind of odd feeling after watching it because there were so many bits that looked good (vogons actually looking like bureaucratic aliens rather than green blobs, the "so long and thanks for all the fish" show tune, improbability drive turning everything into knitted wool, hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional mice getting ready to chop up Arthur Dent's brain), but when I watched it again on DVD my reaction was "this is so rubbish, how was I ever impressed by this". I had this sneaking suspicion that I was going to look back at Toy Story 3 later in a similar and go "was that really the same movie I loved so much in the cinema?"

    While I did love it, you must realise that Toy Story 3 was inevitably under greater scrutiny. The previous movies (particularly the sequel, oddly enough) had been so good. And with other Pixar works like Wall-E and Up being so impressive, there was super-high pressure on this to live up to all that.

    So a few things that caused nagging doubts were the rehashing of old themes. Even the main theme of "toys get abandoned in the end" was pretty central in Toy Story 2. A voice in the back of my head was saying "we've seen this all before!" And of course, one of the characters isn't really so different from Stinky Pete. There's also the "Buzz is delusional that he's a galactic ranger" thing.

    However, all those things are given a new twist in this new movie. The motivations of the "Stinky Pete" type character are different. The "deluded Buzz" thing gets a new spin too. While Woody was considering the option of being forever preserved in Toy Story 2, the problems and proposed solutions to abandonment in Toy Story 3 are very different. Plus, there are some very good new aspects. Mrs Potato Head gets used very well and there's some interesting (to say the least) use made of Mr. Potato Head too. Mr. Potato Head had never seemed quite as cool in previous movies. Interestingly, in a movie where the toys are often complaining about not being played with enough, we often get some very good scenes showing what's so awesome about childlike imagination as they play with the toys.

    There were a few points where I wondered whether the movie was really meant for children as there are points which are a bit innendo-ey and there are other points which are quite dark. Then I remembered that these aren't really issues at all. Subtle innuendo has often been found in children's shows and there are plenty of examples of darkness in classic children's movies such as "The Neverending Story". No, the real out-of-place element was the subtitles. I can't explain why they were there as this would be quite spoilery, but I would nevertheless note that children can probably get the gist of what is going on in those scenes even if they aren't old enough to read and keep up with subtitles yet.

    On rewatching this movie on DVD, I found that none of the magic had gone. Also, this movie features one of the most frightening toys ever. (Picture at the end of all the reviews. Don't scroll too far past the review for "The Crazies" if you'd prefer to leave it a surprise.)


    The Expendables

    We all saw that massive list of actors in the poster. However, as the spoof on The Editing Room notes, the majority of those names play a pretty minor role. Perhaps the best scene in the movie (and this is partly because it really puts you and a good mood and gives you the impression that this is going to be a really kick ass experience) is one with Arnold Schwaarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone. Now, I was no idiot. I know Schwaarzenegger would be out of the door and out of the movie pretty quickly. Still, his banter actually got me pretty excited about where the film was headed next.

    Bruce Willis, briefing them on the potential job, is able to take the michael to a decent degree in this scene and I was looking forward to him possibly turning into a bad guy or double-crossing them or whatever he was supposed to be doing. Sadly Bruce Willis is also in a hurry to collect his payslip.

    So who is left to finish the movie? Well there's Dolph Lundgren, who admittedly isn't bad. Jet Li, who rarely seems to be pitted against anyone with any talent for martial arts choreography, so he comes off looking a bit pants. Jason Statham, who gets to look cool with knives, but sadly doesn't have the acting talents to brighten up a poor script. Sylvester Stallone has the same problem. On top of that there are two other action "stars" (to use the term exceptionally loosely) one of whom is there to be the token black guy and another whose only purpose is to say "look at me, I've got an actual cauliflower ear" as if that's impressive. In the end, the movie has to be carried by Stallone and Statham and neither is really up to the challenge.

    Giselle Itie and Charisma Carpenter both get the opportunity to play damsel in distress. Oh yay. Also, Mickey Rourke gets to go all emo on us, never actually do anything active, and he even gets to cry. Personally I preferred his role of wandering around with a little dog in "Once Upon A Time In Mexico".

    In fact, that's possibly the biggest issue with "The Expendables". Stallone (and since when is he called "Sly" ffs?!) doesn't seem to understand how to make action scenes pay off. There are an absolute ton of explosions, but in the end with no indication of what caused the explosions, where they are coming from and what is at stake, it's all rather boring. There's one point where they come out of a tunnel somewhere and we are told they are boxed in because they've wired all the area behind them to blow - yet the area they are supposed to be destroying is right in front of them! I really did not understand the tactics being employed and found myself with a strong sneaking suspicion that these "Expendables" were rather inept in planning military escapades. If this had been played for laughs, it might have worked. Sadly the movie appears to have very little in the way of humour outside of the Schwarzenegger/Willis scene and a few unfunny attempts at humour regarding Jet Li's small stature.

    In the end this is a bad Jason Statham movie, with Dolph Lundgren actually giving a pretty good performance, Jet Li not being given the opportunity to showcase his abilities properly and some short, good quality cameos which were never going to make up for the complete lack of plot or excitement in the rest of the movie. In short, overall this was rubbish.


    The Infidel

    I'd heard kind of lacklustre things about this movie. Basically most reviews seemed to give the impression that it wasn't very funny. Clearly these people have no sense of humour. Then again, being a big fan of Omid Djalili probably helps things along. Actually though, the movie was written by David Baddiel, however it makes fantastic use of Omid Djalli's talents in ethnic impressions and accents as well as his incredible knack for physical comedy. I also got the impression that a few parts were somewhat inspired by Djalili's stand up show. (I would strongly recommend "No Agenda") There was one point where Djalili's character is feeling hot outside and I half expected him to start doing his godzilla impression. (That'll make more sense if you watch his stand up, there's also this clip that is very good and this other one which is pure genius.)

    So anyway, The Infidel. While Omid Djalili is great from beginning to end, the real laughter doesn't start until Richard Schiff, from the West Wing, shows up. He's playing a Jewish American who is randomly working as a London cabbie. While Djalili is expressive and hyper, Schiff is able to be more calm and sarcastic and the two actors play off of one another beautifully.

    The basic premise of the movie (which is revealed pretty quickly and is clearly explained on the box, but nevertheless, you might still consider it a SPOILER so you're being warned here about a potential SPOILER in this paragraph, ok? Consider yourself warned...) is that Djalili's British Muslim character (in real life he's actually an ethically Iranian Ba'haist Brit) discovers that his parents adopted him and that his birth parents were actually Jewish. This means that he is technically Jewish. He's a little overwraught about this anyway, but other issues arise which make it even more complicated. So yeah END OF POTENTIAL SPOILER.

    The Infidel is full of excellent comic timing and absolutely hilarious moments, but it's also good a good heart. This is a really feelgood movie. Not only is this proper British humour which embraces Britain's multiculturalism, but it's also got a great plot which ties up nicely and never feels naff or preachy. I mean, oh my goodness, I could list all sorts of funny bits from this movie, but I really don't want to spoil the surprise.

    One last thing, we discover quite early on that Omid's character, Mahmud, is actually a big fan of an eighties pop star invented for the movie. While my gf thought that guy's music was rather cheesy, I actually found the song (with the chorus "why don't you close your eyes at midnight?") really really catchy.

    I'm guessing the lack of success of this movie is mainly a result of the 15 certificate, which is pretty much inevitable with the f-word used so often. Interestingly the movie has now been exported to a number of Arabic and Islamic countries (wikipedia lists United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Oman, Iran and Saudi Arabia), but apparently they didn't release it in Israel, even in spite of the writer (David Baddiel) being Jewish himself. *shrugs*

    Oh well, hopefully Israelis can still pick it up on DVD. :)

    The Crazies

    I really don't think they knew what they wanted to do with this movie. I'd heard before watching it that it was pretty much going to be a zombie movie without the zombies. However, it turns out that the "zombies" are actually infected people who act in a psychotic way which echoes the cruelty of ordinary uninfected human beings. The thing is, we already have some pretty decent movies which do that, in the 28 _____ Later movies. In fact, the way those movies made the "zombies" parallel real-life rage-blinded mob activity was just perfect. Meanwhile "The Crazies" just seemed to create individual psychos.

    So are these "zombies" able to run? Well, possibly. They tend to just walk around at a reasonable pace. Also, sometimes they just grunt and repeat phrases as if they are confused about their surroundings. Other times though they show actual reasoning processes and signs that they actively recognise the people they are harming. In fact, in one case a "zombie" has been stitching up people's eyes and mouths. To put it simply, the "zombies" just seem plain inconsistent.

    What they seemed to be trying to do here seemed rather similar to what Garth Ennis does in his recent graphic novel "Crossed". Those feature live infected people too, rather than undead people. Ennis' graphic novel is based somewhat on Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" (and here, in fact, lies one of the major missed opportunities in "The Crazies", as we shall see). The idea of Ennis' infected is that the infection unleashes in them all the potential for evil and cruelty in them. The idea is that, even with infected children, it unleashes the urge to commit horrific cruelty on others just for the fun of it. Essentially the disease turns huge swathes of the population into psychopaths, albeit with a clear indicator (provided you manage to get close enough to see it) in the form of a large mark of infection in the shape of a cross across their faces.

    In "The Crazies" the infected similarly seem to be keen to inflict cruelty and death just out of curiosity (though perhaps the really creepy thing about the crossed is how much they enjoy it). The crazies also, quite often, have infection producing a red rash across their faces. Also, the crossed, like the crazies, seemed to have differing levels of reasoning ability. The thing is that while the crazies very rarely spend much time thinking about what they are doing at all. They generally just seem to be opportunistic. But perhaps worse than anything is the cliched nature of the survivors. The writers try to use one characters pregnancy as a way of getting us to empathise, but it seems they haven't got many more tricks up their sleeve than that.

    It's not surprising that the poster involves a guy dragging a pitchfork. That image represents the only part of the movie which scares you in a way that makes you actually care. The rest of the time I never really felt terribly engaged by what happened onscreen. Sure, I might find it horrible and I might have a genuine sense of danger, but there was rarely the right sort of build-up to make me actually properly engaged. It's often more a case of "oh here's another infected guy" rather than a real concern about what happens.

    In fact, the main thing missing in this movie was a decent story arc. It's not that the characters don't have some kind of depth to them. Actually they really do feel like real people. However, the storyline is just meandering and it's really hard to invest in it. After a while, you come to realise that the movie has absolutely nothing to say. At one point there's almost the suggestion that the army troops brought in to control the situation might themselves be run by crazies (after all, many of the crazies are indistinguishable from ordinary people), but this is never explored. Unlike the crossed who unleash the worst cruelties of humanity and the infected from 28___Later who reveal humanity when it's blinded by rage, the crazies are just random psychos. In the end, the crazies might as well just be zombies, which gives us what would be a rather poor entry in the Resident Evil series.

    Oh and the movie ends with a bang, in a similar way to "Aliens VS Predator: Requiem". The writers don't seem to understand how that kind of weaponry works, since no one seems concerned about the aforementioned pregnancy as we cut to credits at the end (nor their own health for that matter). As the movie ends we are treated to some fake news broadcasts which give the impression that the filmmakers thought they were making a much more exciting and fun movie than the one we just watched. To be honest, all the things this movie appeared to be trying to achieve, such as a sense of fear, dread and hoplessness as your society breaks down, are done much MUCH better in the movie of McCarthy's "The Road". Sure that wasn't perfect, but it's head, shoulders and torso ahead of this pile of rubbish.

    Supremely creepy toy from Toy Story 3....

    Picture below. Do you want to spoil the surprise?

    Also, Family Guy: Something Something Dark Side
    Watched about 15 minutes before giving up due to a distinct absence of humour. What the hell happened to that show?

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    Eyes Wide Open (2009)
    I must admit that this is quite slow paced, that I wasn't able to finish it in one sitting and that it will put the average viewer (or me at least) through a fair bit of culture shock. Still, by the end, I must admit that I found the movie paid off, even if it was inevitably miserable.

    I will add however that there is one scene which seemed to show someone repeatedly walking through the same space and it looked to me like a camera effect was being used to "rewind" that person, making them redo the same walk several times. I'm not sure what this effect was meant to achieve or, if it wasn't an effect, what that person's actions meant. It seemed very confusing indeed.

    Anyway, back to the review. Eyes Wide Open is the story of an illicit homosexual affair within an Orthodox community, but while it is not unnoticed, the rebuke upon the couple is odd. There's an unwillingness to acknowledge openly what has actually happened. Instead vague references are made to "sin" and "corrupting the righteous", rather than naming the sin. Meanwhile, much more explicit criticism is forthcoming in the case of a heterosexual couple whose match is not approved by traditional parental arrangements.

    With an unwillingness by the community to spell out what they are condemning, there's a great deal of subtlty in the movie. Perhaps the main reason for the slow pace of the movie is because it is often just as important what is left unsaid as what is said. In the end, this movie is very bleak, very slow and the music often seems a little undefined, which also doesn't help with engaging the audience. Nevertheless, the movie is quite an eye-opener (y'see what I did there?), wonderfully acted and really sticking with you at the end. When a movie comes together well at the end and sticks with you afterwards, it deserves some real credit for that.


    Lourdes (2009)
    I saw this a while back, but it seems I never reviewed it. I guess I wasn't quite sure what to say. This movie has received awards from both secular groups and Roman Catholic groups for the way it tackles faith. That's quite an acheivement.

    When I first heard about this, I thought it was a documentary. It certainly gives that feel. We follow a girl in a wheelchair in her experiences at Lourdes with a group of many other disabled or sick people hoping to be healed. Will there be a miracle, which ones will be healed and will they deserve it? Various views in the spectrum of beliefs are explored here, but they are always like real people rather than simply stereotypes. In fact, it's for this reason that it's often hard to remember that this is a film rather than documentary footage. There's something very natural about the performances.

    I remembered that I hadn't reviewed this yet after a phone call from my dad. It seems I'd lent him my DVD of the film a while back and he'd just got around to seeing it. He's not normally into subtitled movies, but he actually found this really interesting. While it might seem a little slow to begin with, the characters are quickly fleshed out. Whether it's the plight of the sick and disabled as they desperately hope for a miracle, whether it's the attitude of the nuns who are all too aware of how many people's unrealistically high hopes will be dashed, or whether it's the attitude of a priest trying to handle the inevitable awkward questions about God's intervention and human suffering; all these aspects are tackled in a very realistic and honest way.


    Good Hair (2009)

    I was expecting a lot from this documentary and I can't say it wasn't interesting. However, the movie feels a little unfocussed. Perhaps a little mixing and matching is reasonable, but some parts just seemed to come out of nowhere. There's a major hair stylist at one point insisting that everyone on their team needs to start fasting (on top of all the other work they are doing). One of the women on the team insists to him that she's not going along with this, but goodness knows what happens next because at this stage we are off to a new location.

    It turns out that in the trade of selling hair, some of the major sellers are asian, coming from places like China and Korea. At one stage, Chris Rock refers to them as "white people" which I thought seemed a little off.

    One part I thought was skipped through far too quickly was the stage where we discover where the hair is coming from. The hair is being sacrificed to Hindu gods. Hindus are voluntarily offering their hair to the temple in order to improve their karma with no idea that their hair is then being sold on for a massive profit. One Hindu tells us that their god loves their hair. I rather wish there had been some rather more searching questions asked about this blatant exploitation. Would their be such a preference for hair sacrifice in these communities if it weren't for the opportunity for huge profits? Certainly we are told that the money these temples make is second only to the Vatican....

    Perhaps the most random element in the movie, it seemed to me, was the way it ended. We end the movie with a kind of haircutting competition. The show in which hair stylists are competing seems quite irrelevant to the issues raised in the movie.

    Perhaps the most interesting part of the movie is where various celebrities are discussing their "weaves", which are a kind of extra-expensive wig which is attached to your real hair. They discuss the consequences of this for relationships, for personal self-esteem, for their careers, for those women who they consider role models and also for those who consider them role models. Oddly though, the only woman interviewed who seemed to disagree with weaves was bald. All the rest of the people in the movie who disagreed with weaves or strongly questioned their use, were men. If there was one aspect which wasn't touched on properly, it was the choice of sticking with (as Chris Rock calls it) "nappy hair" and being proud of it. In one interview with a group of girls, the one girl with a natural afro is told by another black girl that, while the way she's styled it is really nice, she won't be taken seriously if she goes for a job interview. This sort of attitude just seems to be taken for granted. In fact, some men are later asked about whether the issues regarding women wearing weaves made them more likely to date white women, while the idea that they might prefer black women who don't wear weaves isn't really considered.

    While we start the movie with Chris Rock asking why his daughter is going to be expected to pretend to have straight hair, we are not given any conclusions on this at the end. When we ought to be told how important it is not to expect black women to wear fake hair and how difficult (or not) such a principle might be, instead we are shown a ridiculous over-the-top hair styling competition.

    That being said, I will note that there is one point where Chris Rock puts his foot down on an issue. We are told about hair relaxer intended for very young children. We are also told by an expert that using relaxer (even the children's version) on young children will impair the growth of their hair. Rock insists that one piece of advice he must give his daughter when she grows up is not to use relaxer on her children when they are very young. Now admittedly, Rock has been talking to a lot of people with weaves who insist that there's nothing wrong with them and he doesn't want to openly state that he disrespects their decision. This case here is very different because it is impairing a child's growth and is thus particularly unhealthy. Still, I feel some kind of summary ought to have been forthcoming concerning what the trade in straight hair and wigs and weaves has for women who don't wish to make use of them.

    The movie raised a lot of issues, but the moviemakers aren't disciplined enough to tackle to issues in an organised and thorough way. Vital parts of the argument are missed out. And this is all a big pity, because the issues are really really important.

    Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father (2008)
    I could have sworn I'd already written a review of this. I was so angry when I first watched this because it had been so highly recommended. It's extremely amateurish and completely lacking any semblance of objectivity. First of all we are told about how wonderful the man whose died was. We are told all of this by close friends and relatives before we are given any explanation of why this person should be the focus of our attention. Then later we are told that he had a girlfriend who everyone, it seems, knew was odd from the start. We are told that she's evil and that she murdered the central figure we were told about before.

    The real controversy comes later when it turns out that she's pregnant. The family, who are the only people we have heard anything from in all the interviews, claim that they ought to have custody of the baby rather than the woman (the child's mother) who they are accusing of murder. Not only that, but this movie is apparently an explanation for the child, when he grows up, of who his father was and what happened.

    All this information is chucked at the audience and it all feels very one-sided. It would be nice if some of the information was provided by people who weren't family and friends of the deceased. It would also be nice if the movie could explain why the audience should care about all this when they've watched dilligently for half an hour. Tons of people die all the time, and their family and friends loved them a lot too, so why am I focussing on this guy? I need something a little more concrete than "because he was a talented guy who trained to be a doctor and his ex-girlfriend who murdered him was evil".

    I didn't watch this past the half way mark. I was so horribly bored. Just please please please, don't believe the hype and don't bother with this amateur preachy rubbish.


    A little more focus on the religious elements in [info]atheism .

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  • 12/03/10--14:10: Not-So-Fantastic Mr. Fox

  • Just got around to checking out Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr Fox" movie. A few people reckoned it was one of their favourite movies of 2009. I'm afraid to say it has more than realised all my worst fears.

    Just like the trailer suggested, it is a heist movie in the style of George Clooney's prior contribution "Ocean's Eleven". Meanwhile it is mainly unrelated to the novel on which it is meant to be based. Ok fair enough, think of it as a movie rather than as an adaptation. Not so hard, right? ... Well, as a big Roald Dahl fan that'll always be playing on my mind, but whatever.

    Here's the problem. It's borrrring. I know that seems a little lacking in details and, as such, a rather uncultured thing to say. Admittedly my first instinct in answering exactly why I think it is borrrring is to point everyone to the much more exciting and engaging book. I'm still midway through the movie. (Don't worry, it's on pause.) We've just been told that Mr. Fox has a plan. His plan is to take over a farm. What have the farmers done to him? Well nothing, they're just bad people.  There's now been a lot of talking, some of it related to the need for a "plan", but most of it just being self-indulgent BS.

    Y'know when I first knew this movie was going to be bad news? Well, actually it wasn't when Mr. Fox reacted badly to Mrs. Fox telling him she was pregnant. No, it was actually the first time that Mr. Fox decided to do this clicking noise followed by a whistle. Oh dear is it irritating. And he does it ALL THE TIME. They've given Mr. Fox this annoying noise to do to indicate, um, that he's... er... cool? They obviously think it's cute and it's REALLY NOT AT ALL! Gah!

    The worst thing is that I am well into the movie and very little that is remotely exciting is happening yet. The main reason why nothing is exciting or interesting or engaging or thought-provoking is because I couldn't care less about anyone. Actually, the Mr. Fox's son is making a good stab at making me care about him, but the stark indifference he gets from his father, the "fantastic"(?) protagonist, is perhaps the main cause for sympathy.

    Just watched a little. There was a rather boring heist scene where I really didn't care about anything that happened. Then there was a scene showing Mr. Fox's son getting bitter about his cousin who is much better than him at everything., which was reasonably engaging. I get the impression that Wes Anderson just wanted to make a different movie and, if anything, Roald Dahl's story was limiting him. Roald Dahl's name should not be on this movie and more set up should have been done on why we should care about Mr. Fox's heists.

    Must I really watch this all the way through? *groans*

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