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fatpie42 - LiveJournal.com

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    Yay! Now I can make lots of annoying lists of movies for you. :)

    There are many more movies from 2010 still to see, not least since many of them only really having been seen by people at film festivals so far. As such, my list of favourites from 2010 numbers only 8. Still I've bothered to give a little explanation for the inclusion of each one:
    Favourite movies of 2010!

    Much more extensive is my list of favourites from 2009. Currently there are still a few more movies that I really ought to look into before I finish this (such as A Town Called Panic, Four Lions, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, Amreeka, REC 2), but currently these are my sixteen favourite movies of 2009:
    Favourite movies of 2009!

    My list for 2008 currently includes 15 movies. These are my favourites from that year:
    Favourite movies of 2008!

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    I previously posted an article about Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, entitled "The Slow Whiny Death of British Christianity". I also included a video about how a Christian bigot's appeal that his discriminatory practices ought to be somehow defended by law were answered with the following claim by the judge:

    "Religion is entirely subjective, not objective. It's beliefs and practices are therefore completely irrational and have no basis whatever in fact... The protection of religious beliefs and practices are divisive, capricious and arbitrary."
    (The guy who made the video noted that these words will now act as a precedent in future civil suits.)

    Anyway, the bigot himself appeared on Radio Four recently and I was quite shocked to see him being sought out for an opinion, especially considering that there were no other interviewees to counter some of his ludicrous assertions (though admittedly the interviewer made a special effort to very diplomatically make up for this lack of balance).

    Interviewer: The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, publishes a leaflet today, it’s called “Not Ashamed”, encouraging Christians to defend their faith which, he says, is under attack in an increasingly secular society. Among those who support Lord Carey’s alarm, Gary McFarlane is a man who’s often used as an example of some contemporary attitudes. He was a counsellor working for Relate. You may remember the story. He objected to giving therapy to gay couples because it was in conflict with his own personal beliefs. He lost his job as a result and he failed to get the high court to back him. And he’s with us now. Good morning.

    Gary McFarlane: Good morning.


    I: When you see what Lord Carey is saying, he argues that some people have become a bit beaten down by this and that they should be more willing to admit that they’re Christians. Is that something that reflects your own feeling after what happened to you?

    GM: It is, very much. I wear my Christianity inside of me. It’s a part of me, very much, as part of being an Afro-Caribbean black man. My colour, my faith, is deeply trenched within me.

    I: This is one of the interesting things of course, because there are no doubt some people who will sympathise with what the former Archbishop is saying.and say, you know, “I don’t like people being got at because they have a particular set of beliefs”. Although your beliefs aren’t beliefs that would be shared by all sects of Christians, obviously. But nonetheless they wouldn’t like to see people being beaten down. On the other hand, there are some people who would say, “Well look, this is private, so I don’t want to go around wearing ostentatious symbols or having a Bible under my arm or whatever it happens to be.”

    GM: I don’t think one is talking about ostentatious symbols as such. One is just talking about the right, like any other, and for me personally it’s always just been about a level playing field. What I’m surprised at is the encroachment of an intimidatory society which is actually seeking to muzzle me, and I actually didn’t realise the ferocity of it until my case came to the fore in 2008 and I hear the judgements coming from the tribunal. I then read some of the text messages and emails which will come to me from a community that indicates we have become so very secular. And it’s as if all things Christian do not have the right as other faiths.

    I: Your own position though was a very particular one because you were refusing to do something which the organisation for which you worked thought was perfectly proper. Which made it, obviously, very difficult to the job. And, of course, a lot of the criticism I’ve no doubt that you got in emails and so on, no doubt some of them quite offensive to you wouldn’t be because of your Christianity but because of your view on the sexual matters which caused you to leave Relate. So that there are two different things going on there, aren’t there?

    GM: There are two different things, absolutely and we’re not necessarily going to seek to debate that so much….

    I: Of course.



    GM:
    …but essentially what we’re dealing with is my ability to live out my faith in the way that I would seek to do as other faiths are actually entitled, indeed encouraged, to do.

    I: Do you think that’s changed in the last few years?

    GM:
    Significantly so, in the sense that other faiths are given rights, are championed, if there is, for example, a festive occasion arising, then the systems, the NHS, will actually give those individuals rights. I have to look behind me, almost metaphorically speaking, to check “Where am I?” in case I’m going to have a conversation about the things of the Bible, Jesus Christ, in case it might offend somebody. I have to be cautious.



    I:
    So you’ll be buying Christmas cards that say “Happy Christmas” and not “Seasons Greetings”?

    GM: Um, I never buy Christmas cards which don’t portray something of the Christmas story: The little baby in the manger, Jesus Christ. I certainly don’t do reindeers and things like that. I really am seeking the right and not ashamed just to say “I am not ashamed to be a Christian” and want to stand up with other people.



    Asides from the introductory bit at the beginning, the section I have left visible (the rest is under the cut) shows McFarlane trying to claim that he is somehow disallowed from expressing his faith in the ways that others do. This is a rather sensible way of phrasing it disguises the fact that the principles of secularism (which he claims to be opposing) are actually intended to ensure that all people can express their beliefs equally regardless of religious affiliation (presuming that expression of those beliefs do not undermine important individual rights).

    The thing is that he gives no examples of how he has less rights than any other religion. Do other religions have to avoid offending people? Heck, hate-preaching Imams and Fred Phelps are both similarly barred from entering the country. Not Pope Benedict though, so I guess that gives Christianity the upper hand, wouldn't you say?

    As for special effort to celebrate religious festivals, this isn't America! Christmas lights are all over the town. There is Christmas stuff everywhere. We're not celebrating Hannukah right now (BTW Happy Hanukah!!!! all those who are celebrating that right now! :)) and I've long expressed my wish to include Diwali amongst our national festivals. (Experienced Diwali night in India and loved it, y'see.) Public celebration of Christian festivals is not an issue in the UK. This is just another example of an irrational believer in the bizarre "war on Christmas" myth. Give it a rest!

    (To those people who are actually Christian on my f-list, please note that I do realise that this moron is expressing a minority position amongst Christians, in the UK at least, however that's precisely why it annoyed me to see this bigot being given time to express his views on a popular national radio station.)



    X-Posted to [info]atheism 

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    Today Radio Four's Today programme interviewed Polly Toynbee, well-known Guardian writer and President of the BHA, along with Tom Burkard, who has experience of the UK education system (though notably he's got a strong American accent) and is part of an organisation called for Centre for Policy Studies.

    They were debating the recent decision to do away with the EMA (Educational Maintenance Allowance i.e. income support for children in their late teens from particularly low income families) as part of the Coalition government's brutal tax cuts. Polly Toynbee was picked because she's a well-known socialist who is obviously going to be wholly against scrapping the EMA. Meanwhile they seem to have picked Tom Burkard because he's the only person they could find with the right background who would be heartless enough to wholly insist on scrapping it.

    The interview becomes rather ridiculous towards the end when he's insisting that children from extremely low income families who want to go onto further education (i.e. A Levels, not university) will have no trouble getting part time jobs because his step-daughter found it easy. Still perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised when we see the website for the Centre for Policy Studies, whom he is representing. On that website they happily brag about their connection to the economic liberalism of the Thatcher era. (More recently they are insisting on the vital importance of marriage in society. *groan*)

    It feels like the old libertarian thing which allows poor people "the freedom to remain poor", unless they are lucky enough to get the opportunity to pull themselves out of it (which'll be pretty rare).

    This is the same Today programme on Radio Four which brought you the interview with Gary McFarlane.

    Interviewer: There are more student protests today in advance of tomorrow’s vote on tuition fees and it is tuition fees that have captured most of the headlines and attention in previous protests. The people who have reported on these marches have been impressed as well by the number of students whose main concern is the scrapping, in England, of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA). It gives cash up to 30 pounds a week directly to youngsters between the ages of 16 and 19 in low income homes if they continue with their studies after GCSEs and, they say, they need the money.

    “If the government should take away the EMA it’s going to really affect most of the students. Some students, they are coming to college because of the EMA. So that is really going to affect their attendance.”

    “My family income is really low; I think it’s about 18 pounds a week. So naturally, EMA, that’s over a third [laughing] of my family income so it makes a big difference”

    “I can see why they want to save some money for some students who don’t come in, but there are a lot of students who need that and rely on that to get to college and actually do their work.”


    Well, the Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee is amongst those who think the 500 million pounds a year cost is money well spent and Tom Burkard from the Centre of Policy Studies is less convinced. They are both on the line. Good morning to you both.

    Polly Toynbee and Tom Burkard: Good morning.

    Interviewer: Polly Toynbee make the case for EMAs.

    PT: Well there are about six hundred and sixty thousand teenagers from very low income families who draw the EMA. They go on to schools and colleges, a lot of them are in FE colleges, doing courses of all kinds. Some of them doing A levels, some all kinds of technical qualifications. A lot of them wouldn’t be able to manage it because in colleges, for instance, you get no free school meals. Some of these colleges, you know they have to travel a long way to it and in most places: no bus passes. And thirty pounds a week for families of this low income, will be a huge blow. At the same time a lot of those families are suffering big benefit cuts anyway. Even those who are in work. The IFS, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says the effect is quite substantial. At least 10 % would drop out and the others would certainly suffer a great deal. Another thing about EMAs is that if you don’t turn up on time every single day, for every single class, you don’t do your homework, you lose your EMA for a week. The result of that is colleges are reporting that those on EMA are actually getting better results than those who are not. So, what do we want? Sixty thousand more drop outs, or not?

    I: Tom Burkard, it’s targeted, it helps those who need help and it keeps them in education, which is a good thing for all of us.

    TB: I think we’re looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope here. What we should be asking is why England is one of the very few countries, perhaps the only country in the world, that actually has to bribe young people onto further education and college. Now I want to stress that there are a lot of excellent courses in the FE sector. There are also a lot of people working in the FE sector who are doing a heroic job in almost impossible circumstances. The long and the short of it, as Professor Alison Woolf has said, from the Institute of Education, a lot of them are getting more of what she calls “no value qualifications”. It seems to me that what we should be asking is why have to actually support the FE sector by offering students money to actually attend colleges. It strikes me as being bizarre.

    I: So what’s the alternative for them and for us? I mean, if they don’t attend college, what do you think will happen to them?

    TB: Well I think that what we should be asking is why these pupils who only- the pupils who have needs, who are not actually going to college are not going. And of course the problem is that with a lot of pupils- I’ve worked in special needs and probation service for a long time, and the one thing I can assure you is that when you have your young people who are coming up from Primary school three and four years behind in basic skills: reading, maths, spelling, by the time they get out of high school it’s amazing that they are even persuaded to go onto further education with a thirty pound a week bribe. If we’re really concerned about the welfare of our young people, we should be looking at the quality of the education that is on offer rather than just giving money to keep a corrupt system going.

    I: And another point, Polly Toynbee, that people who are against the continuance of the system use is that, I mean you mention a 10% figure, 10% might go. Basically, looking at it the other way around, 90% of recipients, and this the government says is backed up by their research, 90% of recipients would stay on anyway, even if they didn’t get this money.

    PT: They would, but they would really struggle. I was at a college the other day. There were twins in the same class. That’s sixty pounds for the family. Quite a lot of them had siblings a year above or below them. This is a huge blow for low income families. A lot of them would try and get part time jobs, a lot of them will drop out, and there aren’t any part time jobs available to them. Some of them have found jobs, mostly in family shops and things like that. It would be a real hardship for them and also you’re very excluded if you’ve got no money for your bus pass or your lunch and you’ve got no money for anything else, as a teenager, life is very hard indeed and hard for that family. The idea that somehow teenagers cost less than younger children just isn’t the case.

    I: Tom Burkard, it just seems, whatever case one might make for longer term reforms of the entire system or ways of looking at the culture of education that are different, if you stop this now, the point Polly Toynbee is making, if you stop this now you have real hardship for a group of people who are already, and nobody seems to question this seriously, who are already very deprived.

    TB: Okay, let me just point out that I actually am a very low income person. I make less money than a trainee schoolteacher would. My step-daughter, who has been through college and is now at her final year at Middlesex University, has had no support from her family. She has had to work and she has had to rely on loans and she now has six thousand pounds in the bank. That’s how much more she was able to make through part time work, which she has never had the slightest trouble finding. And through…

    I: Hold on hold on. It’s simply not realistic, is it, to suggest that people in the London borough of Tower Hamlets or some other place where a lot of people get EMA simply all go out and get part time jobs and that makes up the money. I mean, you’re not suggesting…

    TB: Well she’s working in London. I don’t see why anyone else should have a problem. I mean she’s facing the same problems that everyone in Tower Hamlets does….

    PT: Well, I think you live in a realm of unreality. I just think that, you know, you are talking about, well of course there are some kids from well-educated, middle class families, like your own, who don’t have very much money. You know, there are curates poor as a Church mice. That’s a very different situation from families living on the edge, where the kids are determined to try and better themselves, try and get more education, against huge odds. This thirty pounds can really tip things in favour of them not dropping out and do we want more drop outs?

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  • 12/08/10--10:19: LOL


  • Stolen from [info]webofevil  :) (Actually seriously check out webofevil's post, it's brilliant.)

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    Got the opportunity to watch Resident Evil 4 recently. Goodness me, that's a whole hour and a half of my life that I'll never get back. 

    Resident Evil 4: Afterlife

    I think this is actually the worst movie in the entire series. A massive disappointment after the naff but fun movie preceding it.

    Sure, the movie starts up where we left off, with an army of Alices ready to kick ass. And kick ass they do. There's leaping and explosions and we finally get to meet Wesker and discover where he's been hiding (turns out it's Japan). And yet this first section, which is probably the most action-packed section of the entire film, is mind-numbingly dull.

    Y'see, action movies need more work than you might think. In order to enjoy an action sequence you need to reasonably invested in the character or characters who are fighting. You need someone to root for.

    Returning to the early fight scenes of "Afterlife", you might think that Alice was a pretty obvious heroine. We always rooted for her before and so we shouldn't even need an introduction. Well... actually it doesn't work like that.

    As I said before there are now "Alices" as in more than one. And not all of them are going to survive. And we haven't really been introduced to any of them. And I'm afraid making it unclear who the real Alice is doesn't help either. (In fact it's annoying when Wesker is able to spot the real one straight away without any good explanation.) What we could really have done with was some kind of scene which, however briefly, got us to know the various Alices and perhaps even gave them some distinctive character traits. Instead, the fight scene with these unthinking and emotionless killer clones felt rather empty and pointless.

    After this early section of the movie ends we are left following just the one Alice. She speaks, but not to people. Instead she gives dull monologues to a video camera. She continues to do so even after finding another human being later on because the person she finds seems unable to speak. This section of the movie takes far too long and was ridiculously navel-gazing.

    Later she meets a bunch of empty cliches with the most appalling dialogue imaginable. I can barely believe this script is written by the same guy who wrote the previous movie. I can only presume that it's a problem with W.S. Anderson's directing abilities. In "Extinction" I really felt like I cared for the characters and it made the whole movie a lot more engaging. This time around it barely seems to matter whether they live or die. Of course, that's the other thing requirement for an entertaining action movie. You have to care about the characters enough to worry about whether they live or die. As such, when the characters you are following keep getting picked off one by one with very little fanfare, it becomes very difficult to stay invested in what happens.

    Also, I'm sorry but having someone use a name from the game is not impressive. "I'm Chris." Oh really? Well since the movie plot ties up with the games about as well as the Ghostbusters movie tie up with Pokemon, I'm not sure your name really counts for much here. The Chris Redfield from the games was rookie cop in one game and a fully trained CIA operative in the other. This "Chris" guy is neither of those.

    Wesker appears to have been based on some very promising ideas. Unfortunately, while in "Extinction" we regularly followed the experiments performed by Dr. Isaacs (played by the decidedly awesome Iain Glen), Wesker is decidedly absent for the majority of the movie. His sudden introduction at the beginning of the movie is not really enough to get us terribly excited about his appearance towards the end. Even if his reappearance involves his lazing on a kind of throne and ordering around his pet monster-dogs. By this point in the movie we've actually spent enough time with the characters to care about what happens to them, but Wesker doesn't really feel as threatening as he ought to.

    Finally, at the point where it actually looks like the movie has something at stake, we see the stakes raised dramatically. This happens about five minutes before the end so that W.S. Anderson can try to persuade us that the next movie won't be a pile of rubbish. Am I the only one who reckons that the best chance of the next movie being any good is if it has someone else directing it? Either W.S. Anderson had some serious help when making "Event Horizon" or he's got some serious explaining to do. I haven't seen any of Uwe Boll's movies, but seriously, how can they be worse than what W.S. Anderson is now reduced to?

    0.5/5 (I should probably note that this is the same rating I gave to Highlander 3. It's a pretty apt comparison. - Actually, if anything, it's probably a bit unfair to Highlander 3.) P.S. Ooooh I missed out the one positive thing about this movie. Oh my goodness, how could I forget the soundtrack music? The music in the background is often pretty cool. Sadly that doesn't do much to make up for the horrendous content of the movie itself. Having such awesome music for this film is like having a massive orchestra and choir backing up one old guy who can't sing.

    Black Sheep (2006)
    They have a lot of sheep in New Zealand, so having an irrational fear of sheep is going to cause you some bother there.

    Or at least, it will cause some bother if you can't stay away from rural areas. Our protagonist returns home to confront the childhood trauma that led to his phobia and to leave his fears behind. However, some dodgy unethical agricultural science has been going on and soon he may find that his irrational fears aren't as irrational as they used to be.

    Tagline for the movie is "There are forty million sheep in New Zealand and they're pissed off!" I mean seriously, how can you resist a movie about evil sheep? To be quite honest, I'm surprised I haven't heard more about this before. The acting is done well, the characters are well-formed, you're never bored and the movie isn't too predictable either. The effects for the evil killer sheep are done really well and I must say that, though I was laughing out loud for much of the movie, I was genuinely freaked out by the monstrous creations we are introduced to during the movie.

    The movie owes a lot to the early work of Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson's "Braindead" is one of the greatest horror comedies ever made and its gruesome effects with gooey substances going everywhere are quite reminiscent of this quite blood and guts heavy movie about killer sheep.

    If I was to say one negative thing it would be that the gags surrounding the vegan, spiritualist hippy seem a little obvious and forced sometimes. Giving her the name "Experience" felt more annoying than funny. Still overall this wasn't too big an issue. Another issue would be the way the ethnic minority character is taken out of the running early on to make way for the two caucasian characters. Though anyone who's seen the movie will see that this issue isn't as bad as it might have been either.

    One of the most impressive elements in the movie is the way that the sheep are turned into absolutely terrifying monsters. Initially you find yourself laughing at the way that the sheep are being portrayed as creepy when they are so cute and fluffy. However, as the movie goes on you do actually find yourself genuinely creeped out by the hoardes of murderous sheep. The exercise in turning fluffy sheep into the stuff of nightmares is very successful indeed.

    The movie is a real roler coaster ride of laughs and gore and I loved every minute of it. A little embarrassing though is that I did find that keeping the subtitles on was rather helpful. While it's all in English and most of it is quite easy to understand, there were a few bits where I couldn't quite make things out. (An issue I don't remember having with Braindead *shrugs*)

    Watch it and love it - now!
    5/5

    Both reviews were originally posted on [info]candycorncomm 

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  • 12/21/10--10:32: REC 2 - Movie Review


  • Below you will find my review for REC 2, the sequel to the Spanish handheld camera zombie movie REC.

    I always try to avoid spoilers in all my reviews, however when it comes to sequels I think it's somewhat fair to presume that you've seen the original. As such, if you choose to "read more" you really ought to have seen REC already. If you haven't seen REC then beg, borrow or steal a copy and check it out. You really won't regret it and, as you might expect, the original is better than the sequel. To find out how much better though (for those who've seen the original already), you'll need to read on...


    REC 2 (2009)

    REC 2 follows directly on from the events in REC. So you'll remember that when we finished last time around we were in the dark, watching through night vision, while the female protagonist, Angela, gets dragged away by the original zombie. At the beginning of REC 2 we see that last bit again. So Angela is under the bed like so:



    Then she gets dragged away screaming and the title of the movie "REC 2" appears on the screen.

    In REC we had discovered that there was some connection with the Catholic Church just before the end. A couple of other things which may have struck you as odd are, firstly that the thing in the attic hadn't looked the same as the zombie wandering around swinging a hammer in the dark. (The latter looked something like the image below...)



    Secondly, there's a section of the movie where an infected child seems more sinister than simply ravenous like an animal. The scene where this happens:



    So we have had clues that the infection is something more than just a viral outbreak and we've had clues that the Church is involved. It should come as no surprise that this develops somewhat in the sequel and the direction shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.

    While the first movie was quite serious in its approach, the sequel is quite silly really. It's quite clear that the director has had a lot of fun in scenes where, say, snipers are destroying various parts of the set or where there is atmosphere-building interference with the camera. As always, the zombies look quite awesome and we spend more time up close to them this time around.

    Anyway, once Angela's fate at the end of REC is replayed at the beginning we are introduced to a special unit team who we will be following from now on. Each of them has a camera on their helmet. There's a bit more of a multi-camera aspect this time around, but anything we see has to come from a camera somewhere.

    Some people have oddly criticised this movie for introducing too much religious stuff, but what they seem to fail to appreciate is the negative judgement it appears to make on the Church. Let's not forget that at the end of the last movie we could tell that the Church was somehow responsible for the outbreak. That hasn't changed and the work done in that room on the top floor seems, if anything, dodgier. Sure in order for the Church to be somehow responsible for an zombie outbreak, it appears to require taking the truth of certain religious beliefs for granted. However, once we've taken for granted zombies, I don't think this is really so much of a leap. Meanwhile experimenting on children is hardly going to look terribly good and this side of things is somewhat explored.

    Has REC2 got the same kind of atmosphere? Well, to be honest, the first REC movie wasn't the scare-fest for me that everyone claimed it was. I absolutely adored it and consider it to be one of, if not the, best zombie movies I've ever seen. I loved the way it explored the characters, the menace of the zombies and the clever way it established the atmosphere. I'm not sure they are quite so good at keeping the use of the camera realistic this time around, particularly in the final scene. However, I'd say that they still do that better in this sequel than the movie "Cloverfield" did. REC 2 still has some good characters, but none of them are so well explored. The plot doesn't seem to build this time, but simply seems to shift from one event to another. That's not to say it is boring though. The movie still keeps your interest and it's great fun, but it's not as clever as its predecessor.

    There is one scene where things get quite silly and it pretty much seems that "magic" has been introduced. Blaming this on the inclusion of religion would be ridiculous. Religious and non-religious viewers alike will be saying "y'what?" at this late stage. However, within the logic of the movie itself it works fine, so long as you've recognised by that point that this movie isn't so serious as its predecessor. The expert who is brought in to lead our team of special unit police reveals a secret about himself early on which makes it very clear that this is all going to be a bit daft. The sad thing is that this section of exposition serves to distance the viewer from the action somewhat, since it thoroughly fails to pull us in. However, what happens instead is that it serves to set the tone. Things are going to get very creepy very quickly and there isn't going to be the same level of suspense we found in the previous movie.

    Since this follows from the last movie, we weren't really able to have the same "how much worse are things going to get?" feeling. Things had already got as bad as they were going to get. Everyone in the house is a zombie and the whole place is a death trap. Sending some people in there and just having them gradually get picked off by zombies was going to have limited scope. Instead, this movie surprises us by making us wonder what could possibly happen next. Going a little over the top in places was a price worth paying for a sequel which really takes us by surprise in a number of ways. No one could reasonably claim that this movie was too predictable.

    In the end this is a good solid sequel. Like all sequels, it was going to have a tough time living up to its predecessor. It's not one of the best films of 2009, but it is great fun, well worth watching and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. :)

    4/5

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  • 12/27/10--04:56: Oh blooming eck....
  • So I don't miss anyone out.

    Whether you celebrated it religiously or secularly or not at all....

    MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!


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    Okay, a loooong time ago (in fact the beginning of last year), [info]fabfunk  was providing his list of 2009 favourites and asking for people to provide their lists. This year I still need to see a few more 2009 movies, but I'm in a much better position to pick some favourites from that year. Meanwhile, I feel rather limited in my capacity to list the best 2010 movies, but I'll start with those nonetheless. (Some may remember me posting my imdb lists. The choices here are from those lists, but here I'm going to a bit more detail about the reasons behind my choices.)

    Best Of 2010

    9. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll


    With only a small number of movies in the list, it feels wrong not to give a mention to this rather awesome little gem. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is a loving tribute to the life of Ian Drury.

    In the lead role we have the wonderful Andy Serkis giving a fantastic performance as the legendary punk rocker. Meanwhile the excellent up and coming Bill Milner (Son Of Rambow) is typically brilliant as his troubled son. (Milner is soon to play Magneto as a child in the Matthew Vaughn's upcoming X-Men: First Class.)

    The movie feels almost like a concert in some ways and is perhaps a little unsure as to how it should end. However, there's little doubting that, like many other movies in this list, it's a fun ride.

    8. Black Death

    The latest from a new personal favourite director of mine, Christopher Smith. Quite a stunning re-imagining of medieval times. Features some rather awesome violence from a group of hired hands led by Sean Bean sent out to do "God's work". There are myths of a village untouched by the plague due to the work of necromancers and witches. Time to get medieval on their asses?

    7. Kick-Ass

    Ultra-violent adaptation of a graphic novel satirising the superhero genre. An ordinary boy trying to turn superhero gets the stuffing knocked out of him on a regular basis. The older superhero with access to military hardware is not a nice guy, especially when he's training his daughter to be a violent killer. Of course when the trend is to be a superhero, even a drug lord's son wants in on the action...

    I've recently come across Mark Millar's original comic of Wanted and (quite apart from having literally NOTHING to do with the movie version) it's quite nasty (and this is coming from a big Garth Ennis fan). While not having read the original comic of Kick-Ass, I cannot help but feel that Matthew Vaughn must have added some level of heart to this project. Matthew Vaughn decides to re-use Mark Strong, this time as a mafia boss.

    6. Monsters

    Mostly showing us the aftermath of the monster attacks, we are involved in a road trip to get out of extraterrestrial-ravaged Mexico. The backdrops are beautiful, the characters are engaging and the "monster attack" scenario feels unusually realistic. The movie leaves a great deal of scope for interpretation.

    (Disclaimer: It has since been pointed out to me that many of the ravaged scenes are from real life natural disasters. It seems somewhat exploitative that such scenes are used and then attributed to Monsters From Outer Space (TM). That said, I cannot dismiss the emotional effect that the final product had upon me and I'm not sure that I can undermine the movie on the basis of the real life tragedy in the background. Especially considering that the Monsters represent all sorts of real life tragedies.)

    5. Inception

    Fantastic intelligent action movie in the same vein as The Matrix. Wonderful visual effects and a whole mythology built around the idea of entering dreams. It's essentially a science-fiction heist movie. From the guy who brought you The Prestige, Batman Begins and Memento, it's just as awesome as you'd expect.

    Nevertheless, with so many concepts to set up, there is an awful lot of explanation needed. Quite often the dialogue is more focussed on expanding the ideas of the movie than it is deepening the characters. Some found themselves left a bit emotionally cold by it. Nevertheless, I think that it's remarkable how well it ends up coming together. Some people, warned about how complicated it would be, found it remarkably clear-cut and, if you are prepared for it, it's actually not terribly hard to follow.

    4. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

    Underrated comedy from the director of Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. Quite similar in some respects to Edgar Wright's TV series "Spaced", this features flawed characters whose relationship dramas are depicted through the use of videogame-based set-pieces. Don't be fooled by the trailers. Scott Pilgrim is not a hero, so even while he wins each fight you're not always convinced that he deserves to. This is a lot more subtle than it is often given credit for.

    I think it's fair to say that this has already attained the status of "cult movie" with plenty of praise from people online and a pretty high level of critical praise, but yet bizarrely under-performing at the cinema. Yet bizarrely I think it was released on DVD on boxing day. Whose idea was that?

    3. Toy Story 3


    Remarkably satisfying third entry in the Toy Story trilogy. Some similar themes from Toy Story 2 are picked up again here and properly explored. There are also plenty of original ideas and it seems that the franchise is still quite full of life. Like other recent Pixar entries, this also manages to play with the heart strings quite intensely. - Bring tissues!

    2. The Infidel


    Omid Djalili stars in this awesome British comedy about a Muslim who discovers that he is ethnically Jewish. As events unfold he finds the need to understand his absent parents' tradition and gets some help from a very bitter and sarcastic American Jew living locally. Absolutely hilarious from start to finish. Don't miss it!

    Not everyone seems to have been terribly impressed by this comedy and I do wonder whether perhaps my interest in religion didn't give it a bit more life for me. It also helps to be familiar with Omid Djalili's stand up (I'd recommend "No Agenda").

    1. Winter's Bone

    Almost fairytale-like movie about a girl who needs to search for her missing father or lose her home. Living in a hostile male-dominated society and knowing full-well that her father has been in disreputable company, this turns out to be difficult and dangerous task. No, not the "Disney" kind of fairytale.... Watch out for the chainsaw!

    A strange mixture of consistent unease, understated yet deep characterisation and yet constantly engaging plot. This is quite a remarkable piece of work and my favourite - so far - of 2010. We'll see how much my list of favourites changes by the end of next year....


    In Part Two.... the long awaited verdict on movies from 2009

    In Part Three...the best of 2008



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    Finally, I reveal my favourites from 2009. Perhaps it makes sense to start by explaining some of the movies which are missing from the list.

    Movies Missing From my "Best Of 2009" List

    1. Daybreakers

    From my own perspective, perhaps the strangest gap is "Daybreakers". I really loved it, I thought it was visually very striking and I thought the metaphor of vampires was used in a much more clever way than one would normally expect. On the other hand, I recognise that it's not awards material but, more importantly, it's biggest failing is in characterisation. As fantastic as the world-building elements of the movie might be and the feel of the movie too, the characters in a movie are important. It's not like Underworld where it's all a load of old rubbish, nothing feels real and yet it keeps you watching anyway. Daybreakers is not just well-organised tat like Underworld. It is actually a very good movie. However, the characters feel limited depth-wise and that's what kept it out of the list.

    2. Inglourious Basterds

    Winner of the [info]breakattiffanys ' Oscar Simulation (which I very much hope they'll be running again this year). I think there are a number of other features on that list which need to be addressed. In any case, it should come as little surprise that I am, myself, a Tarantino fan. I didn't dislike Inglourious Basterds by any means. I gave the movie 4.5/5. Nevertheless, there's no doubting that the movie is a little disjointed, that the comedy is inconsistent (sometimes it feels like an over-the-top comedy in other points it seems deadly serious) and that Mike Myers should never have been allowed in any scene, never mind doing his Austin Powers voice.

    3. Star Trek


    A very fun Star Trek movie, but somewhat let down by a lack of any real story. It accomplishes the quite awkward task of recapturing the feel of the old Star Trek characters (albeit in an alternate universe), but this isn't up there with the old Star Trek classics like The Voyage Home, Wrath of Khan or even (and I'm probably in the minority in my praise of this one) Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (I think it's bizarre that the first Star Trek movie gets criticised for being boring while 2001 is praised for being a cinematic masterpiece. Surely these opinions are the wrong way around?) Star Trek is a VERY passable action flick which is great fun. It's got a solid narrative, endearing characters and a real soul to it. It's just not a terribly interesting story. Though oddly, and there can't be many times you find yourself saying this, I really hope they make a sequel! Having established the old Star Trek characters all over again, they are now in the position to rediscover the Star Trek universe in really interesting ways.

    4. Precious
    Or "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" if you want to joyously sing this movie's praises to a ridiculously fannish level. I don't.

    I'd been warned that Precious was miserable, so I was thankful when it didn't turn into "Fish Tank". Precious is put together very well and a lot of it is well written. It has the correct level of harshness for the subject matter and doesn't hide from the issues. That said, the one aspect on which I felt it lost me was the welfare officer and the "alternative school" teacher. I never really felt like I knew these characters at the level I seemed to be expected to. During quite a vital scene towards the end it seems to be suggested that Precious is now good friends with the welfare officer. In actual fact we'd hardly seen them together.

    In spite of this, it can't be said that characters aren't properly explored. Just that there are an awful lot of them to focus on and perhaps rather more than the movie can successfully keep track of. This is, of course, one of the issues with adapting a book. All in all I thought that Precious was a good movie, but it didn't get me on board. I haven't reviewed this so I guess it's time to give a numerical score. I'll give this one a 4/5. Solidly good, but not special. Sorry.

    5. A Single Man

    Oh my goodness, there was so much to like about this. It's emotionally engaging, fantastically shot, and in this case there are a small numbr of characters which are explored wonderfully. The way the screen becomes more colourful when Colin Firth's protagonist sees something which makes him happy is very clever. Howevever, in the end I felt this was greatly let down by its ending. Upon reaching the ending and having been very impressed by the whole style and execution of the movie I found myself entirely confused as to what the point of it all had been. Endings are VERY important. This could have been one of the best of the year, but sadly I think it's missing something. As per usual the score of 3.5/5 means that it's above average, but missing what's required to make it a good solid movie.

    Oh and....
    6. Avatar

    It was a sub-standard action movie that was boring at some of the most action-packed moments. I didn't care about any of the characters, least of all Sam Worthington. The 3D effects over a 2 hour period (plus trailers) gave me a headache and I'm afraid floaty jellyfish are not enough to convince me that 3D is any more than an expensive gimmick. So yeah, unlike the movies mentioned above, Avatar is missing from the list because it was utter rubbish.



    Best of 2009


    I've spent a whole year gradually working my way through the best movies of 2009. It's been a really good year for movies and here are the ones I consider to be the very best. I'm still missing A Town Called Panic, Four Lions, The Disappearance Of Alice Creed and Amreeka

    16. Where The Wild Things Are


    There's something very special about this exploration of a child's mind through his encounter with similarly child-like "wild things". The level of visual creativity in this movie is very impressive, but all in all this is very chracter-driven. However, my biggest concern with this movie is that it is not suitable for children. Not in terms of being scared by the monsters. I'm pretty sure they'd be fine with that. Rather the style of it. I'm rather worried that I might be underestimating children when I say this, but I think the movie was a bit too thoughtful rather than eventful. All in all I think young children would prefer a movie where the monsters spend rather less time crying.

    Meanwhile for young adults like myself, I think the movie does a great job of evoking the inner life of a young child. Perhaps children will feel the same? With "Karen O and the kids" providing some awesome yet stirring music (Karen O being the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), I found myself close to tears for most of the running time. I cannot deny that this movie hit me close to the bone and stirred me in a way which is hard to deny.

    15. Triangle

    This is the movie that first made me take notice of director Christopher Smith. I'd alredy seen Severance, but I wouldn't have said that it made me want to keep an eye on the director's work. What was special about Triangle was the time travel storyline which appears out of nowhere. Far from predictable and with a lot of clever little touches, this is essentially a very clever and creative slasher flick. Considering that I have a personal hatred for slasher flicks, I think this is quite a fantastic piece of work.

    14. Coraline

    Adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel by Henry Selick, director of "The Nightmare Before Christmas". (Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING to do with Tim f-ing Burton. Ok?) A really magical piece of animation, yet also rather creepy. Wonderfully creative and visually impressive.

    13. The Maid

    I wasn't sure what to expect from this and I went in with low expectations. I had no idea how much I was going to love this. It's certainly not an effects-filled extravaganza. However, there's something wonderful about the way it pulls you in. Everybody in the movie feels very real and has proper depth, even when they are only in the movie for a very short period of time. I must admit that I don't know what wider issues in Chile the movie is subtly indicating, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the movie at all.

    12. The Bad Lieutenant - Port Of Call: New Orleans

    Werner Herzog's movie about a drug-addicted detective who uses ridiculously unconventional methods serves as a fantastic black comedy. After a slow start I found myself laughing loud and often. Watch out for the igunanas. I LOVE the iguanas. :D

    11. Drag Me To Hell

    After a long period of doing those godawful Spider-Man movies (which bizarrely removed Spider-Man's most well-loved feature - his sense of humour), director Sam Raimi finally returns to what he does best. Drag Me To Hell is a horror comedy of the same calibre of his classic Evil Dead trilogy. A mixture of slapstick and frights produces something absolutely hilarious. Watch out for the anvil!

    10. Mother

    As I said at the time, I was a little worried that this was going to involve a bit of the weird sense of humour found in Park's recent movies ("Thirst" and "I'm A Cyborg") or even, to some extent, in Joon-Ho Bong's previous outing "the Host". Now that's not to say that this movie has no humour at all and it certainly has endearing characters just like Bong's previous movie, but this is a much darker and serious movie. I was a little unsure when the movie began with the mother doing an odd little dance for a few minutes, but this actually becomes very relevant later on in a way that is quite unexpected. Essentially it's part whodunnit and part black comedy (yes, another one). A fantastic little movie. Love it.

    9. Lourdes

    A movie about miracles which appeals to both Catholic believers and non-believers alike. A very interesting consideration of the prospect of miracles at Lourdes from the perspective of a handicapped woman who goes there hoping to be healed. While leisurely paced, not a minute is wasted.

    8. Sin Nombre

    It's strange how the poster for this movie features a bunch of people sitting on a train. You'd never guess that a major feature of this movie is a guy on the run from a violent gang. The amount of time on a train is actually pretty limited. Some people on the train are hoping to emigrate illegally to the US for a better life, while there's one guy who is actually fleeing from people who want him dead. Very exciting and pretty moving too. Excellent!

    7. An Education

    Quite simply a wonderful movie. You'll laugh, you'll cry, blah blah blah. It's about a girl who falls in love with a man while she's still in school. Quite a dull sounding premise, but it's actually a great all-rounder of a movie.

    6. Up

    Pixar does it again. Funny, moving, imaginative.

    5. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

    This is also funny, moving and imaginative. It's also quite quite mad. Plus Bruce Campbell voices the mayor. I wasn't sure which was better out of this or Up, but I think it wins by virtue of craziness (and Up certainly has its fair share). I mean seriously, this movie features a TV breaking into a TV shop and stealing a person...!

    4. In the Loop

    It might be surprising to see this so close to the top spot in the list. When I reviewed this I only gave it 4/5. The reason is quite simple. I found the humour a bit odd and the swearing a bit much. What I hadn't realised was how much this movie follows on from the TV series (The Thick Of It). Once you've worked your way through the first two series, swearing from Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is taken for granted. As well as Malcolm becoming rather easier to empatheise with once you've been introduced, there are also many other actors from the series in various positions within the movie. Admittedly they are most often playing different parts from their roles in the series, however their characters have very similar personalities and fans of the series will almost find themselves applauding as familiar faces crop up. Throw in a cameo from Steve Coogan and you've got one of the greatest comedy movies of recent years. So yeah, now that I've seen the tv series which accompanies this my score will have to be raised to the full 5/5. Just like with Serenity, the movie isn't so effective if you didn't see the tv series first.

    3. Moon

    A simple yet effective science fiction masterpiece. Kevin Spacey's HAL-like computer intelligence, Sam Rockwell... twice and asides from that there's not really anyone else. That doesn't stop this being a very engaging and effective story. It's not the bore-fest that you'd expect it to be, even in spite of comparisons to "2001:A Space Oddessey" and "Silent Running".

    2. Mary And Max

    I'd nearly given up on ever seeing this movie. It's quality is such that I heard about it a long while before I ever got the chance to see it myself. It's a very bittersweet comedy with quite dark elements (so yeah, another black comedy). There's one scene where Mary is standing on a chair with portraits from the wall rushing around her that is particularly harrowing. In spite of this the movie keeps you laughing quite consistently all the way though, yet also brings tears to your eyes. It's quite an amazing piece of work and it's difficult to explain quite how special this movie is. As Lawrence Fishburne said in The Matrix: "You have to see it for yourself."

    1. A Serious Man

    Yes my favourite movie of the year was a black comedy and no, my choice of favourite 2009 movie did not change. While there were quite a few changes to the list as a whole, A Serious Man had already thrown down the gauntlet. There was something about this movie which really struck me. It might have been something to do with being in hysterics for pretty much the whole running time. What can I say? I'm biased towards comedies that are really really funny. Can you blame me?



    Update: BTW don't get your embedded images from imdb. It looks like they work and then they don't. Hmmph.

    Check out Part One: Best of 2010 (seen so far)

    In Part Three... my favourites from 2008 (such as The Hurt Locker).

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    (Video link)

    Before you watch the video above, it may be necessary to check out the original song "Bodies" by Drowning Pool.

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    Okay, so I've been using the imdb years in order to work out what movies go in which lists. As such, a few movies which are on a lot of 2009 lists have to go on my 2008 list. This feels a bit fairer to me since I was always horribly annoyed to see The Wrestler wasn't on any 2009 lists in spite of that being the year it was properly released in the UK.

    So without further ado, here is my list of favourites from 2008....

    Best of 2008


    15. Bolt

    Disliked mainly by people who first saw it in 3D. I can't help thinking that 3D would put you in completely the wrong mood for this movie. When the film starts the first five or ten minutes give the impression that this is going to be some big over the top nonsense. The thing is that the 3D might well convince you that it's supposed to be over the top nonsense. Meanwhile, watching this section on DVD, I was enjoying bits of it, but nevertheless feeling like I must be the wrong audience for this sort of thing. It's at this point where there's a real game changer. There's something almost Matrix-y about the way the lead character is completely deluded about their surroundings. Oh, and I don't care who disagrees with me; Rhino the hamster was absolutely brilliant!





    14. Burn After Reading


    While No Country For Old Men got an awful lot of attention, Burn After Reading was seen as a bit of a cash in. What both movies had in common was a very strange ending. Burn After Reading had an ending where seemingly nothing was resolved (sort of), while No Country For Old Men had Tommy Lee Jones remembering some dream he'd had. My personal view was that Burn After Reading's ending was great deal cleverer and that the movie was a great deal more satisfying. Well that's just me. This is another case of the Coens' distinctive and bizarre comedies and I absolutely loved it.

    13. Hellboy II: The Golden Army

    It's not so unusual for sequels to be better than the original (The Bourne Supremacy, 28 Weeks Later) and also to be really good movies in their own right (Terminator 2, Aliens), but that didn't stop me being surprised. Apparently Guillermo Del Toro was told that he'd better make this good otherwise people might think Pan's Labyrinth was a fluke. I don't know if that's true, but I must admit that this story is very Del Toro and absolutely wonderful. The idea of putting Hellboy against an ancient race hiding under our own world could have gone very badly wrong, but visual creativity and fantastic execution make this a fantastic little fantasy movie. Oh yeah, and a superhero movie, I guess...

    12. Gran Torino

    Apparently this is, in essence, a sequel to the Dirty Harry movies, just like "Unforgiven" was, in essence, a sequel to the Fistful Of Dollars movies. I'm afraid I haven't seen Dirty Harry yet, but I can appreciate the comparison with "Unforgiven". "Unforgiven" in an urban setting? Yeah, sounds about right. Clint Eastwood plays an anti-hero whose values don't fit in his society. On the one hand he's hideously racist, but on the other hand he's got a strong sense of justice. Just generally brilliant.

    11. Frost/Nixon

    Michael Sheen is as fantastic a chameleon as ever playing the young Frost. Nixon, meanwhile, is played by Frank Langella (who I will forever know as Skeletor). Nixon's presidency is a bit before my time, but Langella really brings the part alive and shows us the strength of this figure as an orator. Sam Rockwell puts in a great performance again (and after so many good performances over the years, perhaps it's not surprising that he's now resorting to blatant oscar bait. Anyone else reminded of Movie Title?). Considering that it's a movie about a tv interview, the results are fantastic.

    10. Changeling

    A bizarre movie, especially when you consider that it actually happened. Angelina Jolie is finally able to show her acting talents in a serious role. It's ridiculous really that when asked "is Angelina Jolie actually any good as an actress?" your choices are pretty much either this or Tomb Raider *face palm*. Jolie has a pretty harrowing drama to carry. She plays a mother whose son has gone missing and the police try to fob her off with another boy and close the case. This is also a really good showcase for Clint Eastwood's talents as a director. He has an awesome cast and makes really good use of them.

    9. Cherry Blossoms

    A wonderful little German movie (with Japanese bits) which introduces a man who has some level of OCD, but whose outlook is broadened quite dramatically. It's quite a sweet little drama as well as very emotionally powerful.

    8. Wall-E

    After his success with Finding Nemo, Pixar director Andrew Stanton made a movie which (in the first half at least) really raised our expectations for animated movies. This, from a company which already had an exceptional reputation. It wasn't without some level of risk either. Many, myself included, were a little unsure when they heard that the first half of movie contained pretty much no dialogue whatsoever. Little did I realise that the quieter part at the beginning of the movie would be the part I enjoyed the most. Wall E is, to my mind, the best movie Pixar has made so far.

    7. Johnny Mad Dog

    At the end of one of Mark Kermode's radio shows he said "if you reckon you can handle it, there's Johnny Mad Dog". Not widely released and, in any case, I figured this was better off left until its DVD release. To start with, it didn't really surprise me (though still excellent nonetheless). We see the lives of child soldiers, the way they are recruited and the way they try to live up to the brutal expectations of them. We also see at least one rape. :S Nevertheless, later on the movie manages to insert a bit of comedy, whether it's one of the soldiers with his pig or it's the assertion that a particular gun might indicate that Chuck Norris is nearby. In the end this is a bit of a hidden gem which gives us a strong insight into the African child-soldiers situation, apparently due to contributions from actual ex-child-soldiers.

    6. The Hurt Locker

    Quite rightly winning the 2009 Oscars and appearing in a lot of "best of 2009" lists, it's quite amazing to consider that this took a while to be taken up and in the cinema it apparently barely made back its money. I was lucky enough to see it at the cinema. Yes, I know that anyone who is familiar with the military knows that it's completely preposterous and I know that it is often marketed as being about the real situation in Iraq and that's bad. Nevertheless, personally I reckon that most people see it the way it ought to be seen; as an action movie. Just as Die Hard doesn't accurately depict police work, neither does The Hurt Locker accurately depict the military. It's just good escapist fun. Watch out for Guy Pearce (Memento) and Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List, The Constant Gardener).

    5. The Wrestler

    The awesome Darren Aronofsky follows up his underrated "The Fountain" (which was a bit of a miracle considering the production nightmare there must have been after Brad Pitt walked out) with this more down to earth drama. Mickey Rourke stars as the wrestler who is constantly reliving his glory days because, asides from his wrestling, he's got very little going for him. While wrestling might be mainly a show rather than a viscious fight to the death, it seems that the suffering is often real nonetheless and, towards the end of a long career, Rourke's character really feels the brunt of it. We then get connections made between the sadistic exhibitionism of the Passion of the Christ and the plight of our protagonist in The Wrestler. A very clever and well constructed movie. Possibly Aronofsky's best (though I am still looking forward to Black Swan).

    4. I've Loved You So Long

    Kristin Scott Thomas plays a woman whose been away from her family for a long time and is now invited to live with her sister. We're not sure why she's been away, but it doesn't sound good. When the secret comes out (reasonably early on) it's very interesting to see how it's handled. The way the movie balances a range of different characters and gradually unfolds is just perfect.

    3. Let The Right One In

    The decision was made not to try to fit everything in when adapting this novel. As a result, a set of drinking mates are somewhat underdeveloped, but the attention is paid where it really matters: the central relationship. This movie is less about the vampirism and more about childhood bullying. Some have wondered about why there isn't a police enquiry, but in actual fact, within the book, there is a widespread media frenzy regarding the murders in the background of many of the scenes. Don't be put of my the first five or ten minutes. It takes a little time to get started, but once it does it is well worth it.

    2. Julia

    Okay, why am I not hearing more praise for this little gem? Tilda Swinton plays an amoral alcoholic (though the two are possibly somewhat related). She's realised that she isn't going to be able to get by on her looks forever and she wants some decent money. Then she sees her opportunity in a fellow alkie who wants to kidnap her own son back from his rich grandfather. There's a black comedy element (yet another one) in the way things get more and more outrageous as the movie goes on. Even though the movie is over 2 hours long, there's not a dull moment in the piece. Some have criticised the ambiguous ending, but it didn't seem like a problem to me.

    1. In Bruges

    Even better on second watch. Two criminals have gone to Bruges to await further instructions. If you'd told me at the beginning of 2008 that my favourite movie of the year would star Colin Farrell I would not have believed you, but it turns out that the guy has excellent comic timing. Meanwhile Brendon Gleeson is absolutely brilliant as always and Ralph Fiennes plays an important part too. A strange mixture of excellent black humour (yes, again, I know) and beautiful picturesque images from Bruges. The movie does a great job of depicting both the beauty of Bruges and dullness of it. If you've actually been there, you'll know what they mean. This movie is very special indeed.


    Also check out:
    Part One: The Best of 2010... so far.
    Part Two: The Best of 2009... finally!

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    What is the best movie of 2010?

    View 1519 Answers



    I'm sure I'm not the only person picking this, but yeah, as I already said:

      WINTER'S BONE

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     Best Reviewed Movies

    2010



    Winter's Bone (2010)


    Toy Story 3

    The Infidel

    Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010)

    Inception (2010)

    Kick-Ass (2010)

    Monsters (2010)

    Black Death (2010)
    (rating change)

    A Serious Man (2009)


    An Education (2009)

    Moon (2009)

    In The Loop (2009) (rating change)

    Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (2009)


    Sin Nombre (2009)

    The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call - New Orleans (2009)

    Mary And Max (2009)

    Lourdes (2009)

    Triangle (2009)

    Mother (2009)

    Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

    Julia (2008)

    Johnny Mad Dog (2008)

    Cherry Blossoms (2008)

    The Hurt Locker (2008)

    Changeling (2008)


    Eastern Promises (2007)

    A History Of Violence (2005)

    Grizzly Man (2005)

    The Fountain (2006)


    In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)


    They Live (1988)

    The Fly (1986)

    Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

    Re-Animator (1985)


    Videodrome (1983)

    The Thing (1982)

    Soldier Of Orange (1977)


    A Boy And His Dog (1975)

    Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)


    The Little Shop Of Horrors (1960)


    The Fly (1958)

    M (1931)



    Other 5/5 movies

    Children Of Men (2006)

    Rescue Dawn (2006)


    Le Gout Des Autres (2000)


    Fire (1996)


    The Mist (2007)

    Daybreakers (2009)


    Baader Meinhof Complex (2008)

    Dead Presidents (1995)

    Sleeper (1973)

    Ghosts (2006)


    The Cove (2009)

    Escape From LA (1996)

    Scanners (1981)


    House Of Wax (1953)

    The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)


    4.5/5

    Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2010)

    Pusher 3 (2005)


    Aguirre - Wrath Of God (1972)

    Fitzcarraldo (1982)

    Pusher II (2004)


    Anvil: The Story Of Anvil (2008)


    Me And Orson Welles (2008)


    The Informant! (2009)

    The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009)

    Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

    The City Of Lost Children (1995)


    Local Hero (1983)

    Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979)

    The Host (2006)


    Black Hawk Down (2001)

    Christine (1983)

    The Road (2009)

    Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)

    Escape From New York (1981)

    Vampires (1998)

    The Brood (1979)

    The Counterfeiters (2007)


    The Unloved (2010)

    Face (1997)

    Agora (2009)

    May (2002)

    Cold Souls (2009)


    Inglourious Basterds (2009)

    Eyes Wide Open (2009)

    4/5

    Monsters Vs Aliens (2009)


    Them! (1954)

    Trick 'r Treat (2008)

    The Company Of Wolves (1984)

    The White Ribbon (2009)


    Pusher (1996)

    Skin (2008)


    Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

    Five Minutes Of Heaven (2009)

    Star Trek (XI) (2009)

    FAQ About Time Travel (2009)

    The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus (2009)

    Halloween (1978)

    Public Enemies (2009)

    The Fog (1980)

    Rabid (1977)

    The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

    The Witches (1990)

    Ponyo (2008)

    Screamers (1995)

    The Woods (2006)

    The Blob (1988)

    The Damned United (2009)

    REC 2 (2009)

    Precious (2009)

    3.5/5

    District 13: Ultimatum (2009)


    Bright Star (2009)

    Dark Star (1974)

    Adventureland (2009)


    Army Of Crime (2009)

    Timecrimes (2007)

    Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

    Green Zone (2010)

    Shivers (They Came From Within) (The Parasite Murders) (1975)

    Sherlock Holmes (2009)

    The Pit And The Pendulum (1961)


    Exam (2009)

    The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

    Defendor (2009)

    Good Hair (2009)

    A Single Man (2009)

    3/5

    Van Helsing (2009)

    The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (2008)

    Thirst (2009)

    The Howling (1981)

    Creation (2009)


    Fish Tank (2009)

    Sunshine Cleaning (2008)


    White Lightnin' (2009)


    JCVD (2008)

    Valhalla Rising (2009)


    Spider (2002)


    My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2009)

    Highlander: The Search For Vengeance (2007)

    Magicians (2007)


    2.5/5

    Near Dark (1987)

    The Prince Of Darkness (1987)

    Sophie Scholl - The Final Days (2005)

    eXistenZ (1999)

    Helen (2008)

    Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1992)

    Naked Lunch (1991)


    Legion (2010)

    The Haunting (or The Terror) (1963)

    The Bat (1959)

    Micmacs (2009)

    A Prophet (2009)


    2/5


    Ghosts Of Mars (2001)

    War Of The Worlds (1953)


    The Invisible Man (1933)

    Summer Hours (2008)

    Twilight (2008)


    Silent Running (1972)

    Avatar (2009)

    Zombieland (2009)


    Dead Snow (2009)


    Insomnia (1997)

    Crank 2: High Voltage (2009)


    Bedazzled (1967)


    La Jetee (1962)


    Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

    Glorious 39 (2009)


    The Hunt For Red October (1990)

    Dead Ringers (1988)

    The Dead Zone (1983)

    Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

    The Expendables (2010)


    1.5/5

    Fanboys (2008)

    Away We Go (2009)

    Sans Soleil (1983)

    Dracula (1992)


    Still Walking (2008)


    Dogtooth (2009)

    The Crazies (2010)


    1/5

    Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)

    Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)


    Synecdoche, New York (2008)

    Nosferatu (1922)


    Up In The Air (2009)


    Village Of The Damned (1995)

    I Am Love (2009)


    0.5/5

    Samson And Delilah (2009)


    Mutant Chronicles (2008)

    Highlander 3 (1994)

    Crash (1996)


    0/5

    Colin (2008)

    Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father (2008)

    5+ Something very special indeed
    5 - Excellent
    4 - Good
    3 - Bog-standard (very average, your mileage may vary)
    2 - Poor but still quite fun
    1 - Fundamentally flawed
    0 - I can barely call it a movie.

    Too Good To Be True Movies
    Seen it and loved it:
    A Serious Man
    The Men Who Stare At Goats
    Daybreakers
    Kick-Ass
    Agora
    Inglourious Basterds
    REC 2

    Seen it and liked it:
    B-13 Ultimatum
    District 9
    Seen it and was unimpressed:
    Blood: The Last Vampire
    Law Abiding Citizen
    Harry Brown

    Guilty Pleasure:
    Legion

    Still looking forward to it:

    Amreeka
    Black Dynamite
    The Revenant
    Black Lightning
    Machotaildrop
    Predators

    Not even interested anymore:
    Gamer
    The Box
    Surrogates
    Push
    Dorian Gray


    Other Links



    This is an index of all the movies reviewed, however some movies have not received actual reviews on my blog and still made it into my Best Of lists for 2010, 2009 and 2008. (Examples shown above.) I also have listed my favourite movie of each year.

    I have also named all the directors I like and considered an additional name too. There was also a special effort to view all the works of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter.

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    Hanna





    (Video link)

    I wasn't sure at the beginning of the Hanna trailer, but as it turned into the ultra-brutal action movie the idea grew on me. What's perhaps most intriguing is that the eponymous trained child killer is played by Saoirse Ronan. I didn't recognise the name to start with, but then I looked at the director and I recognised her straight away. She played the ultra-gifted brat Briony in Joe Wright's previous movie "Atonement" (some might also recognise her from "The Lovely Bones"). The idea of Joe Wright turning the same actress who played the young Briony into a ruthless killer child sounds amazing. The way I see it, this will either be absolutely fantastic or it'll be awful. I cannot imagine this falling anywhere imbetween.


    First pic is Briony from Atonement. Her cold heartless eyes make her perfect for the new role as "Hanna" (left hand side of second pic).



    The Mechanic





    (video link)

    Okay yes, I know, there's absolutely no chance in hell that this is going to be a really good movie. The trailer pretty much confirms that. However, what we have here is a Jason Statham flick with the bad guy from "The 6th Day" and the director of "Tomb Raider". I'm not expecting anything much better than Transporter 3, but it could still be an awesome bit of popcorn fodder....

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    So, here I have a blockbuster which received fairly lacklustre reviews (Salt), a thriller from a director who I'd rather was in prison (The Ghost), a recently released Russell Crowe movie about a guy who considers breaking his wife out of prison (The Next Three Days) and a little indie flick about inspectors who literally go into closets to find people's hidden secrets (Skeletons). Which ones do I like and which am I less keen on?


    The Ghost has a larger image because most google image matches use the stupid American title. Look, the movie is an adaptation of a novel called "The Ghost" by Robert Harris. Why change the title for the movie? Were people watching "Salt" surprised when it wasn't an arthouse movie about food seasonings?



    Salt  (2010)
    Okay, let's face it, no one looked at the trailer of this movie and went "that's going to win all the Oscars". It's written by Kurt Wimmer: he of "Equilibrium" and "Ultraviolet" fame. I really liked the beginning of Equilibrium and the second half is still great fun, but nevertheless the whole thing is utterly ridiculous from beginning to end. Ultraviolet is blooming awful, but yet I find it strangely captivating. Kurt Wimmer has a tendency to write ridiculously over-the-top action movies.

    The trailer seems particularly awful if you happen to understand Russian. [info]sabrina_il  was particularly pissed off, when watching the trailer, to hear a Russian spy fail to pronounce his own name. She is absolutely right about the movie being filled with a lot of "SOVIET SPIES OMG!" stuff, but she also worried about the movie having gender fail. This was because the role was originally intended for Tom Cruise and she was concerned that alterations would have been made because "zomg you can't portray women like that". As it is, they don't seem to have made that error. This really is pretty much exactly how the film would have been with a male character as the lead.

    The actual movie? Well it is, admittedly, very daft. Still, not to a level that wouldn't be tolerated in a Bond movie. Picking up the role of "the love interest" is German actor August Diehl who played a major part in "The Counterfeiters". He was also the SS officer in the bar scene in Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" (by far the best scene in the movie). Liev Schreiber plays a co-worker with Salt in the CIA and I'm surprised to find he hasn't really been in anything terribly good before. Nevertheless Liev has been particularly good in the things I have seen him in e.g. "The Manchurian Candidate" (remake) and "Origins: Wolverine" (where he played Sabretooth). The best thing I'd probably seen Liev in previously was "The Painted Veil", but that was a while back so I cannot remember specifically what I thought of his performance. Salt also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor whose highlights include "Dirty Pretty Things", "Serenity", "Children Of Men" and he was also the best thing in "Kinky Boots". It always seems weird to see Chiwetel with an American accent, but I guess that's just something I'm going to have to get used to.

    So with this range of talent involved, they do a really good job at making us buy into what appears to be an intentionally ridiculous premise. As the narrative twists and turns, inventive action sequences and quality performances keep us involved. I wonder whether people are reading this and going "but when I watched Salt I didn't feel that way at all". It seems that on the DVD there are three versions of the movie. There's the theatrical one, the director's cut and the extended cut. Bizarrely the director's cut is longer than the extended cut, so I went for that. Since watching, I have checked out the differences on wikipedia and some of the things they claim are missing from the theatrical version seem like very strange things to remove. They would seem to mean that certain events lose their emotional force, that at least one character turns up out of nowhere without a proper background and even cause unnecessary holes in the internal logic of the movie.

    At the end of the director's cut there's sound from a television broadcast which leaves the movie with a sense of fun and makes the ending feel very satisfying. Endings matter a lot and perhaps just this change could have made a huge difference to audience appreciation of the movie. I'd actually be really excited about a sequel to this. It'd actually be pretty awesome to have a successful movie franchise with a female action hero. (Funnily enough, it'd probably be best if Kurt Wimmer continued to imagine he was writing a male character and then rewrote it afterwards.)

    So yeah, if you watched this in the cinema and didn't like it, far be it for me to suggest you watch a different version all over again. However, if you do get the chance to watch the DVD, choose the director's cut and you're in for a treat!

    5/5


    The Next Three Days (2010)
    There was free preview screening of this movie, but I was a little apprehensive because [info]fabfunk  placed this on his worst movies of the year list. Then again, he also put Monsters on the same list, so I figured I could probably risk it.

    Anyway, there's a rather awesome cameo from Liam Neeson, playing an ex-convict who had successfully broken out of prison in the past (though he turned himself in again and finished his sentence). He explains precisely what hurdles are in the way once you escape from a prison. He also emphasises what kind of person you have to become in order to achieve this goal. It's on this point where I think the movie lets itself down in the second half.

    In the first half we see Liam Neeson's advice coming to fruition in every way. Not only is Russell Crowe's character working out a careful and somewhat plausible plan of how to bust someone out of jail, but he's having to become a pretty dodgy figure too. And that seemed to be an inevitable part of the plot, that this process would turn him into someone different. Apparently he's doing this for love, but will his imprisoned wife still recognised the man she married when she escaped?

    Sadly this question is not addressed. While the first half seemed to expect us to question whether Crowe is a hero or an anti-hero, the second half appears to try to gloss over these issues. It's worth noting that "Salt" (review above) is prepared to deal with moral ambiguity while this movie strangely shys away from it. Now, The Next Three Days is actually a remake of a French movie titled "Pour Elle" and it might well be that this is a saccherine Hollywood version of a much more gritty plot. I'll have to get back to you on that though.

    Still even with the lack of grit, I might still consider this a solid movie (worthy of 4/5), but there's another problem. At the end, there was one piece of moral ambiguity keeping me from being entirely p***ed off with it. However, that was one piece of moral ambiguity too many, so to finish we have an entirely superfluous and unnecessary scene to clear the ambiguity away. I don't want to say too much about what happens because I try to keep my reviews free of spoilers, but those perhaps those who've seen this movie can answer me this question: Are they awful parents, or is it just me?

    I'm not a big Russell Crowe fan. I hated Gladiator and I still hadn't quite forgiven him for State Of Play (remake of a fantastic BBC TV mini-series which, to be fair, it was never going to live up to). Still, I cannot fault him for his performance in this movie. His wife is played by Elizabeth Banks, who some may recognise from Scrubs. She was also in the movie Slither (a horror/comedy which was somewhat lacking on the comedy side). It's probably unfair of me to say this, but watching Elizabeth Banks in this, I couldn't help but think of her comedy roles and had trouble taking her seriously. That may be more to do with her successful performances in the past than because of a lack of suitability for drama. (Heck, no wonder actors get typecast.) I've already mentioned that Liam Neeson only has a cameo but is, nevertheless, f***ing awesome! One other person who stood out for me is someone who I'd seen before in a number of British tv parts (and he's also in "Snatch"): Lennie James plays the main police figure investigating and, once again, it feels really weird to hear him doing an American accent all of a sudden (but hopefully he'll get more parts after this, so I guess I'll have to get used to it).

    I can't help but feel that this movie had a great deal more potential. If it turns out that "Pour Elle" is already the gritty movie "The Next Three Days" failed to be, I think this score probably ought to be lowered. In any case my score indicates that this was above average, but missing elements required to be a solidly good movie.

    3.5/5


    The Ghost (2010)
    This is actually a bit awkward since I'm of the opinion that this movie should never really have been made. I've already been asserting that the whole failure to expedite Roman Polanski was an utter farce. (Also, at the beginning of this post I link to some Filmdrunk articles where he writes some amusing stuff on the issue. Oh and also this quote. And this from Chris Rock.)

    In my defence, I didn't pay to see it. I didn't see it at the cinema, I didn't buy a DVD and I didn't rent it. A relative received the movie on DVD for Christmas and it ended up being watched by everyone. Also, let's not forget that this isn't the sole work of the director. In this film we have Pierce Brosnan (James Bond!) and Olivia Williams (An Education, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Dollhouse), who essentially play Tony and Cherie Blair. Yeah sure, they play Mr. and Mrs. Lang, however Mr. Lang is an ex-prime minister under suspicion for complicity with illegal torture flights... Sound familiar? We also have Ewan McGregor (who sounds weird with an English accent, though less weird than his American accent and neither of those are quite as weird as his Alec Guiness impression) as the protagonist.

    So yeah, sometimes really good stuff is made with the help of utter bastards. And this really is quite good (not that I actually want you to pay money for it and give the criminal even more royalties). Probably not up to the level of "The Pianist" (which finally gave schools something to show instead of Schindler's List to illustrate the holocaust), but still very well put together. It's interesting that I should be reviewing this alongside Salt because the biggest criticisms are, admittedly, along the lines that it is too far-fetched. The very final ending does feel a bit Da Vinci Code, but it just about works.

    The best thing about the movie is knowing that it's blatantly referring to Tony Blair. There are a large number of people now for whom the idea of Tony Blair getting his just desserts is a fairly exciting prospect, so getting to watch the ex-Prime Minister squirm under scrutiny is an oddly sadistic pleasure (not least since he does such a great job of sounding unmoved by it all when he talks to the media).

    So all in all this was a good fun movie, well performed, well written (it's adapted from a book by Robert Harris) and pretty satisfying. I'm just not sure anyone can justify paying money for it while Roman Polanski's still alive to collect the royalties. You can wait, right?

    5/5

    Skeletons (2010)
    It all started so well. This is a sweet little British indie flick with a neat little premise. A couple of guys with briefcases wander into someone's home offering their services. They then find a cupboard in the house and using special equipment they venture inside and discover all their hidden secrets. They then explain what they've found and then leave never to return.

    I'm not going to be very annoying and use "An Inspector Calls" as an analogy here. If you haven't seen it look it up (or read it, though watching a performance would be best). Imagine that the Inspector actually goes to all sorts of households to reveal their secrets and that, instead of looking at the reactions of the families, we instead looked at the life of the Inspector as he goes from place to place revealing secrets and then having no choice but to leave others to pick up the pieces. How would anyone handle that kind of life?

    Sadly that's the first quarter of an hour at most. After that, the rules behind the cupboard-searching mechanisms get rather hazy, the family they are looking into start to appear even more surreal than the secret-finding stuff, and while Jason Isaacs is great as their boss, I just couldn't suss out what the deal with his character was supposed to be. Oddly the ending is pretty sweet, but the middle is ridiculously mixed up and unsatisfying.

    Also there's some weird chanting music that gets used. It's okay the first few times, but after a while it just gets irritating and it ends up feeling like it's detracting from scenes rather than adding to them. Skeletons is a whole bunch of very good ideas, but the way they've been put together is a real mess. The really alienating thing isn't so much the surrealism (which really is quite dodgy), but more the failure on the world-building side. If the ranks above The Colonel (Jason Isaacs) are supposed to remain a mystery, why does criticism of their workings appear to be a major part of the plot? We are told fairly early on that the closet-searching stuff has nothing in common with new age stuff, so how come someone unrelated to this mysterious profession is able to muck stuff up for them (seemingly with new age stuff)? What are the stones supposed to be used for? In the end, the problem isn't that the movie is too surreal, but that the non-surreal stuff isn't consistent and that rules keep getting made up on the spot for how the fantasy stuff works.

    A fantastic premise which seemed pretty cleverly realised at the very start ended up thoroughly squandered. It's not too difficult to watch, not least because the actual characters have a fair amount of depth. Paul Dallison does a great job with his part as Marcus. Sadly, the world these characters inhabit is poorly formed and, since the details are woolly, the narrative as a whole ends up feeling rather shallow. In the end, the movie was rather twee and annoying, albeit pretty watchable thanks to a good cast.

    2.5/5

    ...

    So all in all, I've given 5 stars to the widely maligned action movie (albeit the director's cut). 5 stars to the movie I don't really think Roman Polanski should ever have been free to make. 3.5 stars to the Russell Crowe vehicle. And just 2.5 stars to the creative little indie movie. It's just all wrong, isn't it?

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    are condemned to repeat it....

    Some right-wing nutcase in the US has killed a Democrat and to be quite frank, the rhetoric from the right is sounding like a broken record.

    Pamela Geller, who I've mentioned before, instantly decided to insist that this nutcase isn't right wing because he has "The Communist Manifesto" and "Mein Kampf". It seems that all these months of calling Barack Obama both a "communist" AND "Hitler" have taken their toll if Geller can't see the blatant contradiction involved.

    Do we remember the nutcase who shot up a Church because he didn't agree with it's religious beliefs? Then do we remember the Mosque chemical attack (against children, no less) out of fears of home-grown terrorism? And then the knife attack? And then the arson? Do we remember the t-shirts saying "Islam Is Of The Devil"? Do we remember the murder of George Tiller (and the attempt to say that this was also two-way aggression)? Do we remember the connections between the Tea Party and British fascists? I mean seriously, what is the difference between Tea Party images and Stormfront posters?

    A lot of focus has been on Sarah Palin's big target practice image, partly because it has Gabrielle Giffords' name on it clearly marked out as a target, but also because Sarah Palin has been so defensive. "You have my condolences" isn't much of an apology. Meanwhile Palin is desperately deleting twitter posts that she's clearly ashamed of while asserting that she would never ever advocate violence, as if no one's noticed. It's like Lady Macbeth deperately washing her hands. Heck, I was pretty critical of Helen Thomas (telling Israeli Jews to go back to Germany), but one thing I couldn't fault her for was her apology afterwards.




    Lol at this random commenter who doesn't see the difference between using a crosshair symbol rather than an archery target:
    "And I don't see a real difference between metaphorically aiming an arrow or a gun at someone"
    I hear that there's been a rise in archery crime. It's a serious concern in the US... :P

    Meanwhile here in the UK I am pleased to say that we don't have freedom to harass and intentionally target vulnerable people. While there are issues with tabloid nonsense and the way it stirs people up, there aren't any really political authorities who are keen to support the EDL. I think people are now finally recognising that the Tea Party aren't just harmless idiots who can't spell. Still a video of them protesting healthcare reform showed very clearly that they were frighteningly unbalanced.

             __________________________________________________________________________

    Yes, this entire post has been almost entirely made up of links to or from previous posts on my blog, but there is a reason for that. I'm pointing out that none of this stuff is new. The ridiculous over-the-top extremist views from the right-wing in America are not news. They've been there all this time. By putting Glenn Beck on television and having politicians like Sarah Palin who encourage these people, it's allowing right-wing extremists to seem like reasonable voices for unstable people.

    Just as the idea of government-funded healthcare seemed to viewed as an ultra-liberal stance, I suspect that my proposal of how to deal with random shooters will be seen as, if anything, even more ultra-liberal. My solution is this: Make guns illegal. If you really want a gun license to have a proper purpose, give it to people who can justify needing a rifle. There is absolutely no justification for owning a handgun, never mind a semi-automatic weapon. They have no useful function.

    And I'm sorry, but your constitution is not a holy document. I don't care what interpretation you might have of "the right to bear arms". Carrying a dangerous weapon in public should be illegal. Perhaps if it was unusual to see someone carrying a gun around the place, it would be easier to arrest those who have malign intentions. If someone were carrying a gun, you could arrest them. If someone's fingerprints were on a gun that would be reason enough to hold them in police custody. In such a scenario, would you really have a serious problem with gun nuts? It would severely limit the extent of the damage such people could cause when they went off the rails.

    But yeah, what was I thinking eh? Americans need their guns in case the government tries to take away their freedom... *groan*

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  • 01/15/11--03:17: Various Horror Reviews
  • 30 Days Of Night: Dark Days (2010)


    After the first "30 Days of Night" movie that had excellently viscious vampires, but human characters who barely had one personality between them, this was a massive improvement. This is not least because the vampires, even in spite of a lower budget, are just as brutal and terrifying in the first movie. However, the main advantage lies on the character front. The characters are distinctive, have real motivations and you find your genuinely care about them.

    The movie follows the character of Stella previously played by Melissa George (Triangle), now played by Kiele Sanchez (???). We start in the aftermath of the massacre from the first movie. Stella has survived the massacre of a small isolated Alaskan village called Barrow. She is now trying to expose the vampires, but is having a tough time of it. During the opening credits we see a typewriter telling us various things about the vampires, most importantly that they are all over the world and not simply hiding in the snows of Alaska. The typewriting stuff is all signed "Dane", a mysteriously knowledgeable figure who will be introduced soon enough.

    The movie quickly becomes distinctly more intriguing that the original movie. The characters have their own personalities, which makes a change. Admittedly the movie does have the "expendable black guy" trope, but then again I've got a theory which might excuse it. Since I've admitted that this trope is involved, everyone will quickly realise that Harold Perrineau plays the character who cops it. However, I think he is picked because he is the most endearing character. He quickly wins the audience over. (I recognised him from his part in the Matrix sequels, but it turns out he has also had parts in "28 Weeks Later" and "Romeo and Juliet".) If you want the audience to care about the first fatality you need to pick off someone they care about and it just so happens that Perrineau was best suited to the instantly likeable character position. Perhaps it's unfair and a cliche to make the black guy the first fatality, but I don't think they are without excuses for this one.

    Some reviews of Dark Days on the internet claim that the pacing is slow. They seem to have forgotten how interminably boring the start of the first movie was. Dark Days is actually a great deal quicker to get started and has a much more interesting plot.  Still I think one cause for people disliking this is that it doesn't stick to the plot of the graphic novel. It may well be that the graphic novel was rather more imaginative and less of a "people with guns defeat the monsters" kind of plot. Then again, from what I've seen of the graphic novels, the style of this movie was much more true to the style of the graphic novel than the original movie was.

    The only thing that impressed me from the first movie was the vampires. They were refreshingly ruthless, with one particularly nasty scene where the vampires takes turns to slash their claws into a girl out of pure cruelty. I wasn't sure that this movie could live up to this and admittedly the budget does limit it. Here's a particularly unflattering example of the level of the effects in the movie (though actually this guy appears like this so fleetingly that it doesn't look anything like as naff as this screenshot might suggest):


    In any case, the movie can't rely on the look of the vampires, so instead the cruelty of the vampires is often implied. There's an awful lot of blood in this movie, but the blood isn't the real shocker. In fact the blood often doesn't look particularly realistic, especially when we are shown an upclose image of some of it in a glass, where it looks distinctly like Ribena. However, the real strength of the movie lies not in the amount of blood shown, but the way the blood is shed. I had to look away on several occasions during the movie, not because the events on screen were so horrid, but because bloodletting can make me squeamish. Of course bloodletting happens in all sorts of movies, but in Dark Days they really make you feel it.

    There was some rather poor acting from a rescued victim who seems rather more like Harmony from Buffy the Vampire Slayer complaining about how Spike is treating her than a survivor of extreme vampiric cruelty. Also, there is one scene where the exposition lines felt distinctly unnecessary (and too loud, since they are hiding from vampires at the time).

    Mia Kirshner puts in a rather awesome turn as a vampire leader, though I'd have liked it if there was an equivalent of Danny Huston's vampire-in-a-suit character too. Danny Huston has also been in Children of Men, The Constant Gardener and The Aviator. Meanwhile Mia Kirshner's major role was in the movie "Exotica" (a rather odd film about exotic dancers). Her role in Dark Days is quite understated but effective.

    Overall I found this sequel to have a better plot, better characters and to be generally more satisfying than its predecessor. The lower budget is used to good effect making this far from dull. Not only do I think this is an improvement from the previous movie, but I think it is a fantastic movie in and of itself. In fact, I would suggest that it makes more sense to skip the original movie and watch this sequel instead. There's not really much in the way of story elements in the original movie to catch up on and it's much more entertaining. This movie that I thought would be popcorn fodder at best, turns out to be blooming brilliant!

    5/5



    Predators (2010)


    Yeah, this wasn't that great, but nevertheless I'm going to say that it was distinctly more imaginative than the first movie. I've always thought that the original "Predator" movie was overrated, but it had two things going for it (asides from Arnold Schwarzenegger in the starring role): It introduced the concept of the Predator (which, in spite of the movie's very limited quality, has nevertheless served to capture the imagination for a long time since) and the method by which the Predator is defeated is very clever too. However, "Predator" was actually pretty dull and unimaginative for the majority of the runtime and it's not until all Schwarzenegger's companions have been killed off that it really gets exciting.

    In "Predators" we have a set of stock characters and some dodgy cliches, however I'd see that as a set up from the characterless figures in Predator. We are told that we have this variety of characters because they are the best of each of their styles of combat (to make them good sport for the Predators to hunt). However, in some cases they don't really seem to have the proper opportunity to show off their talents (e.g. Danny Trejo), while in other cases their opportunity feels a bit forced (Yakuza guy). On top of that we have one guy (and I won't name the actor because it's a great surprise to see him turn up) who talks to himself in the cliched Hollywood version of multiple personality disorder.

    Still, in this movie we have some rather cool alien species, two breeds of Predator, a swordfight between a Yakuza and a Predator and some interesting fighting techniques used against the Predators. I was really confused as to how Adrien Brody was going to come across as an action hero, but the thing is that his skills relate to strategy rather than strength, so it works pretty well.

    All in all, the movie is a series of set pieces which are hit and miss and the movie generally fails to go anywhere. Part of me feels like if Rodriguez had been directing, he could have made it work. Still a few of the cheesy lines would probably need to be removed, not least the ones where the characters state the obvious. In general the movie would need better pacing and a better sense of fun. Nevertheless, as it stands this movie is enjoyable enough to watch, even if it's a bit rubbish overall.

    2.5/5


    House Of The Devil (2009)

    I saw this a while back, but I never got around to reviewing it. It's an odd one really, but in a good way.

    House Of The Devil has been made to look like it's an older classic horror movie, even to the point where it was given a limited release on videotape. I'd have said that the style looked like it came from the 70s, but it's more likely mimicking the style of movies during the 80s (which would fit with the whole "video nasty" scandal). At the beginning we are told about the satanism scare (also during the 80s) where people were convinced that children were being ritually abused by Satan worshippers. I think commenting further on why the satanism scare is mentioned might count as a spoiler, so I'm not going to elaborate any further on that aspect.

    The ways the movie makes itself appear old fashione include that same untinted look that all movies used to have before everything turned orange and teal. Perhaps it's just me, but in classic movies like Halloween there always seems to be an abundance of yellow from autumn leaves. House Of The Devil even features big yellow writing at the opening credits. Another feature is a protagonist happily and unashamedly sitting with a ciggerette in hand. Proper film students could probably list many more ways that this movie has been deliberately dated, but those are the ones that stood out for me.

    The movie builds up the protagonists very well, making them feel like real people who are genuinely worth caring about. One of them needs money and ends up taking a job as a babysitter, but when the job description changes rather bizarrely at the last minute, should she be suspicious?

    It'll actually be pretty obvious at the time that she ought to be very suspicious indeed. In fact, she's not stupid and fully realises that it's all very suspicious. That's thankful since otherwise we in the audience would be getting very annoyed indeed. Perhaps the most suspicious figure, putting in a spectacularly unnerving performance, is Tom Noonan. Rather fitting considering his prior work as the manhunter (or red dragon) in "Manhunter" back in the 80s. Noonan also played psychopathic drug dealer Cain (who essentially becomes Robocop 2) in the movie "Robocop 2" in 1990. Here he plays a suspicious yet seemingly well-meaning man with a walking stick.

    House Of The Devil is genuinely scary without any need for the "whistle and bang" tricks which are so overused in mainstream horror these days. The tension is built up quite subtly and expertly with a pretty minimal budget. The eventual ending is a little over the top, but it's satisfying all the same. House Of The Devil actually benefits from not going for the levels of gore one would normally expect in a movie of this kind. Instead it focusses on atmosphere and does a great job of it too.

    House Of The Devil is a great movie. A bit slow paced, with not quite the payoff one might hope for, but nevertheless with a great atmosphere, great acting and very well crafted overall. It's a solid movie with some elements that put it a cut above the rest.

    4.5/5


    Hellraiser (1987)


    This was one of the most ridiculous movies I have ever seen. Be in no doubt that it was bloody terrible, but nevertheless it gets good points for creativity. Straight afterwards I saw the shorted version with bunnies (click here, but beware of spoilers) and it just summed up how ridiculous the whole thing was. Everything about Hellraiser is so daft and stupid that you cannot help but cheer it on. I mainly found myself cheering on the bad guys. It gets to the point where you start feeling sorry for the bad guy who is having real trouble gathering enough blood to acheive his aims.

    Interestingly, it seems that in Hellraiser the other dimension thingy isn't technically hell. It's a place which offers the heights of both pleasure and pain. It's supposed to be a sado-masochism paradise. So yeah, if you enjoy haven't hooks stuck into various parts of your body and then pulling at you as hard as they can, then it seems it's wonderful. The monsters in the other dimension are brilliant, which may be one of the main reasons why this film is remembered after all this time. After all, who could forget this guy?



    This guy also looks pretty cool:


    The film has managed to spawn a string of sequels. Here are the titles with RT scores:
    63% - Hellraiser (1987)
    44% - Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
    22% - Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)
    30% - Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
      N/A - Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
      0% - Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)
    17% - Hellraiser: Deader (2005)
    20% - Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) (filmed back to back with Hellraiser: Deader)

    Looks to me that the sequels are fairly uniformly awful. They're also releasing a further sequel called "Hellraiser Revelations" later this year and there's a remake of the original movie in 2012. Oh joy. I mean as far as the remake is concerned I can't help but feel that it would be possible to make the movie better. Heck, doesn't it make more sense to take a flawed movie and improve it? But I can't help but feel that it's going to fail. Still, the things I would want improved are as follows:

    - The effects. Perhaps the one part where there might be some hope. As per usual, they'd need a mixture of CGI and modelling rather than solely CGI on its own, otherwise it's going to look just as fake as the original did, if not moreso. No surprise there. Most important thing to change? Bones do not bend dammit! Even if you are stuck using makeup rather than more expensive models, try to avoid disguising something as bone when it is inevitably going to have to contort in ways that a bone simply wouldn't!

    - If they keep the sinister Asian salesman who is in the movie for about two seconds, it's going to appear racist. After all, none of the beasties are Asian, just the salesman. Why are Asians often shown as sinister figures in posession of an unknown magic power? It's a dodgy cliche and that'll either have to be done better or it will have to go. I mean, "Gremlins" uses the same "Asian guy with mysterious stuff" cliche, but not only does it make the salesman endearing, it also introduces us to the salesman via his more western-influenced grandson. Not that I'm suggesting that they make the salesman a nice guy, but perhaps a little less exoticism might be nice?

    - Some explanation as to why Frank knows about the box, rather than just going "hey this guy is sitting in a circle of candles with a box". I'm sorry, but it just looked silly.

    - Lecherous builders whose leching is simply tolerated. What the hell?

    - The "oh by the way his wife used to have a twisted affair with Frank" flashbacks. Perhaps flashbacks will still work, but they need to be done a lot better. Rather than seeming like someone with conflicted emotions and a complicated history, the wife ended up coming across as weird. Perhaps that's inevitable considering what she's got to do later, but that's even more of a challenge for the new writers to try and make these characters make sense. All too often people in this movie feel like stock characters rather than people in their own right. Frustratingly, the actors occasionally manage to bring something to their characters in spite of the script in just a few scenes, but they've only got so much to go on.

    - The two nuns. I burst out laughing when the two nuns appeared randomly. What are they there for? Are they meant to represent guilt or something? Just do without the nuns - it's not worth it.

    - I still don't know what the point of the hobo was. Particularly his weird actions towards the end.

    But thinking about it, will it still be hellraiser without the weird hobo and his big finale, or without the random nuns, or without the laughably oh-so-very-evil wife, or without the cheesy effects? Perhaps that's the biggest problem with remaking Hellraiser. Any remake which solves these problems with simply be horrid without the endearing ridiculousness of the original.

    But no, this wasn't a good movie. It wasn't even an average movie. This was a bad movie, but with an odd sort of charm. I'm glad I saw it, if only so I could laugh at the experience.

    2.5/5

    All cross-posted to [info]candycorncomm 

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    Most popular posts of 2010
    Some other blogs seem to have a "most popular posts of the year" entry, so I thought I'd try it out. Certainly I thought it might reveal which stuff I write is the most popular. The most popular posts seem to be quite diverse in the kinds of content they involve, which is a good thing really.

    When choosing the most popular posts of 2010 I was sensible enough to discount comments I made myself.

    8 comments

    5th June 2010 - Pointless Waffle: Conor Cunningham Has A New Book

    25th November 2010 -
    Four Reviews of Movies from 2010

    8th September 2010 -
    Catching Up With Reviews

    27th December 2010 -
    Best Movies - Part 1 of 3 - The Best of 2010

    22nd June 2010 -
    Movie Reviews (Plus A Few TV)

    2nd January 2010 -
    TV Review: Doctor Who Finale - Good Riddance RTD

    9 comments

    22nd August 2010 - Carpenter/Cronenberg Part 1 of 3 - Countdown To Their Worst Movies

    3rd September 2010 -
    Stephen Hawking Makes An Interesting Announcement. Richard Dawkins Has A Boring Debate.

    3rd December 2010 -
    Not-So-Fantastic Mr. Fox

    10 comments

    23rd April 2010 -
    Movie Reviews - Lots! (+ General Opinion on 2009/2008 Movies)

    31st August 2010 -
    "Samus has more daddy issues than Montana Fishburne"

    6th February 2010 -
    Avatar in 3D - Review


    Top ten most popular posts for 2010

    7th = - 31st January 2010 - Twilight Review - Come on, you know you want to read it.... - 11 comments
    A nice long snarky review of a movie so many people love to hate. Hehe. (My 2/5 score tends to mean that the movie is so awful that it's no longer enjoyable anymore, however this movie was such a mix of horrendous awfulness and absolutely hilariously entertaining moments that this score is more of a balance between those two. The vampire baseball scene is actually pretty good and who can entirely hate a movie where a vampire faces off some hooligans - not with his sharp teeth or vampire powers - but with a Volvo!)

    7th = - 6th June 2010 - Israeli government office links to video mocking flotilla (OMG WTF is this?) - 11 comments
    Article regarding the hot topic of Israel. Of course the main issue raised is not really whether the boarding of the flotilla was acceptable or not, but rather the horrific level of insensitivity shown by a government office in Israel when they know full well that the media is taking a keen interest.

    7th = - 5th October - Fear And Horror - Movie Musings... - 11 comments
    I express my hatred for the whistle-and-bang effect in horror movies and wonder whether a horror movie should really be judged by how scary it is....

    7th = - 20th November 2010 - Movie Reviews! - 11 comments
    Most comments are on Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds". Oddly there's no sign of [info]fabfunk  while I'm bashing his movie of the year.

    4th = - 15th February 2010  - Feminism Fail on "WTF Sexism" - 12 comments
    Locked. I discuss the rather trollish mansplaining on the LJ sexism community.

    4th = - 7th March 2010  - Movie Reviews - A Lot Of Them - 12 comments
    It would be wrong to suggest that this meant I needed more posts with absolutely massive numbers of reviews. Most comments are on just two of the films: "Black Hawk Down" and "Silent Running".

    4th = - 24th August 2010 - If They Aren't Racists, Why Are They Shouting At A Random Black Bystander? - 12 comments
    Discussion of right wing nutcases. Always good. :)

    3rd - 15th May 2010 -  "Evil Liberal Media Is Attacking Christians" Says Atheist Author - 14 comments
    Including comments from Chris Rodda. I consider the possible explanations for S.E. Cupp's odd position from outright lying to self-deception to massive hypocrisy.

    2nd - 9th May 2010 - Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Book - FAIL! - 20 comments
    A few short sharp snarky comments on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book.

    1st - 8th February 2010 - Randomly Found This... - 98 comments
    By far the larget number of comments. I guess the secret to a high comment level is controversy. I found someone saying something rather interesting about the reasoning used to justify circumcision and unsurprisingly this was a bit of a touchy subject. (The topic which worried me the most, mind you, was the revelation that some parents pierce the ears of toddlers. I mean what the hell is that about, eh?)

    Most popular posts prior to 2010
    I did this list first and it was a while before I considered discounting comments I made myself. Whoops. Anyway, these appear to be the most popular entries on my blog prior to 2010. Check it out!

    30th September  - The whole Polanski thing.... - 6 comments
    Where most of the biggest names in Hollywood reveal themselves to be (or are bulled into being) apologists for rape. (Apart from Luc Besson it seems - though that link also claims that the movie "Taken" somehow "shed light on the the sex slave trade in Europe (and how it can impact us here)". Er yeah right whatever.)

    2nd October 2009 -
    Why worry about social justice when in heaven everything is fine? - 6 comments
    Ranty post where I over-analyse tripe by nutcase Glenn Beck.

    8th December 2009 - Muslims Discriminate Against Other Muslims - Protest The Building Of A Mosque For Ahmadis - 6 comments
    Long before the protests against the "Mosque" in New York I was already p***ed off with protests against actual mosques by British fundies (most notably Stephen "birdshit" Green - lol, I'd completely forgotten that he says "I feel a bit persecuted"). My annoyance was compounded by the news that British Muslims had decided to play a large part in protests against the building of a Mosque for the wrong kinds of Muslims. *facepalm* Admittedly nearly all comments are along the lines of "well what do you expect" and after that, there's not much else to say. Really sad piece of news that.

    26th September 2009 - "Crank 2" and "FAQ About Time Travel" + Random Stuff - 7 comments
    One of my earliest posts reviewing movies along with some links to favourite Filmdrunk posts. Disliking "Crank 2" seemed to cause more controversy than really enjoying "FAQ About Time Travel".

    22nd November 2009 - Criticism Of The BHA Leads To Colossal Fail - 7 comments
    Fundies try to criticise a BHA campaign and end up looking silly. No surprise there. The main source of amusement comes from The Times religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill. Unfortunately, due to The Times' decision to make their website require a subscription, I haven't been able to keep up with her fail since then.

    14th December 2009 - Writing Women Characters - 7 comments
    What with my blog only being a small little thing, this relatively largely posts come from just two visitors to the blog. The post was about the idea that writing characters which could just as easily be women or men was a good start when writing female characters (though admittedly not ideal) and it was inspired by some comments from Sigourney Weaver.

    15th September 2009 - Bruce Campbell Rocks! - 8 comments
    I express my adoration for the big chinned b-movie superstar, Bruce Campbell. I don't think that fourth Spider-Man is even happening now, is it? Presumably this means Sam Raimi will be working on something else (horror comedy? oh-please-oh-please-oh-please!)

    25th June 2007 - Problems With Humanism - 9 comments
    I first consider the problems with right wing bigots in the mostly liberal Humanism club. It's still a tough issue for me.

    11th December 2008 - A very tiring birthday. - 9 comments
    Locked post. I wrote some personal stuff. People seemed interested.

    5th August 2009 - Ah, that explains everything! - (Nutcases link to my video on youtube.) - 9 comments
    Video here. In a post about Pat Condell (see below) I posted a video of Stephen Green, showing how Condell's fears of a Muslim takeover have more in common with Christian Fundamentalists. Using some of the options on youtube I discovered my video had been crossposted on some VERY dodgy right-wing Islamophobic websites. Meanwhile the video on youtube had just one vote rating it as worth just one out of five stars. No surprises there.

    3rd September 2009 - Blog and News Roundup! Part 2 - 9 comments
    Quite a few more comments than for part 1 though admittedly there's some good stuff there. The Harrison Ford video alone is a classic.

    24th September 2009 - SHOCK! Dollhouse problems were Joss' fault, not Fox's. - 9 comments
    This seems to contradict what everyone is saying elsewhere, but it's hard to re-interpret Whedon's words to mean anything else. Apparently Whedon was the one who overdid the sexy stuff and was pressured to stop doing that by Fox.

    4th October 2009 - Maybe I was wrong about Pat Condell.... - 9 comments
    Pat Condell resorts to paranoid delusions when dealing with Christianity rather than Islam for a change.

    The top ten most popular posts prior to 2010 (with a lot of posts in joint last place)


    10th = - 24th June 2007 - Radical Theology and Atheism (a long essay) - 10 comments
    My earliest post. An article based on my Theology Masters studies outlining my views on the thin line between doubt and faith. Oddly several comments came from someone who, amongst other things, expressed hope that the Republicans would be voted out at the coming election. He later went a bit nuts and decided that Obama was going to plunge the US into a communist nightmare. Bizarre....

    10th = - 30th June - Top 18 horror movies (from someone who doesn't like horror) - 10 comments
    Before rhoda_rants revealed her preference not to be seriously disturbed by horror movies, I just generally thought that you weren't a real horror fan unless you liked "whistle-and-bang" slasher movies. In this post though, I don't simply name horror movies I like. I also name movies that aren't really horror, but nevertheless make the audience uncomfortable.

    BTW I'm still waiting for a list of the best Hitchcock movies. If anyone wants to make some recommendations, that'd be really cool! :)

    10th = - 16th September 2009 - Interesting Religious Discussion (because you've been so patient) - 10 comments
    Two obscure religion stories, with responses from me. Abortion issues and religious diversity issues, so right up my alley.

    10th = - 11th October 2009 - Atheist Fail just LOVE me these days... - 10 comments
    I express confusion at the sudden change in opinion of me by Atheist Fail after I pointed out Pat Condell's Islamophobia. Most links to Atheist Fail posts will not work anymore since Vox Diabolica was discovered to be a sockpuppet troll.

    10th = - 7th December 2009 - School Inspector Supports Intelligent Design. *Groan!* - 10 comments
    Post about Intelligent Design, but made especially worthy of concern because the article I refer to was printed in The Guardian. I hold them to higher standards and it was annoying to see them pedalling this shite. Lots of other people concerned about this too, it seems.

    10th = - 10th December 2009 - John Milbank: "Feminism Undermines The Family. We Need A New Feminism Which Respects Men." *Groan* - 10 comments
    Having been told that Milbank was an important theologian and seeing him welcomed into Nottingham Uni, I found the ideas he expressed were a little puzzling. The guy was clearly well-read, but there was something distinctly off about his work. Since he's started writing for popular news outlets, he's needed to make his views rather clearer and more relevant to real life issues or politics. This was the first clear sign that John Milbank has undeniably dodgy views. His insistence that feminism discriminates against men is the same chauvinist BS anyone with any decent background on the topic should know to avoid.

    The first clear sign that I'd been right to think Radical Orthdoxy was dodgy (and not just too stupid to understand it) was this description of "transcendence" by Catherine Pickstock from Milbank's Radical Orthodoxy movement.

    9th - 5th December 2009 - Bill Donohue is not happy with PETA (NSFW - under cut) - 11 comments
    I had thought there were 12 comments on this one, but one of them turns out to have been spam. Ahhhh, nothing like a good post about bigoted "Catholicism-is-under-attack" nutcase Billy Donohue getting p***ed off. However, what made this especially funny was that while Ole' Donny is crying "blasphemy", he completely fails to mention the more obvious issue (common to PETA adverts) of objectifying women.

    6th = - 1st July 2009 - It's Official. Pat Condell is a racist. - 12 comments
    I'm quite proud to have called Condell out on this before his bigotry became common knowledge. While I wasn't keen on Condell's videos at the start, it became rather worrying when people started defending him. This was my first post criticising Condell. It wasn't until later when he became one of the first people to start foaming at the mouth about the new "mosque at ground zero" that dismissing Condell became more widespread amongst ordinary online atheists.

    6th = - 2nd August 2009 - Multiculturalism VS Pat Condell - 12 comments
    As much as I'm pround of noticing Condell's bigotry early, it seems that many people had written to him or about him. Cue a video where he whines about how unfair it is to be accurately characterised as a right-wing bigot when you think you are left-wing. One of the comments actually came from someone promoting Islamic schools. While I'm not against Islamic schools (any more than any other faith schools), they had a rather more segregated idea of society than I'd find comfortable.

    6th = - 11th September 2009 - One of those MEME things... - 12 comments
    This is sort of cheating since it relied on people taking guesses in the comments. A number of other people did this meme though and it was good fun.

    5th - 13th September 2009 - Let's get this straight - Tim Burton sucks! - 13 comments
    One of the posts attracting the highest number of posts was this entry where I vented my dissatisfaction with the movies of director Tim Burton, noting in particular his focus on style over substance and his over-use of cheesy sentimentally.

    4th - 4th April 2009 - 28th October 2009 - Animal Rights and Vermin - 14 comments
    Nothing quite like a post on animal rights to provoke a discussion.

    2nd = - 4th April 2009 - 18th November 2009 - How To Argue With Morons 101 - 15 comments
    Locked post. A friend provides some awesome wisdom and I decide to share it. :)

    2nd = - 4th April 2009 - 26th November 2009 - Movies I've Been Watching - 15 comments
    Some early reviews cause a large number of comments, giving me the confidence to make it a more regular occurrence.

    1st - 4th April 2009 - Apologetics for kids. I have mixed feelings. - 23 comments
    Locked, but one of my longer posts. This time I discussed child indoctrination.

    0 0
  • 01/21/11--07:59: Into The Wild - Movie Review
  • Into The Wild (2007)

    Okay, I cannot for the life of me work out why anyone recommended this. (I've just tried and failed to work out where I saw this being recommended, so perhaps that was my imagination.) Okay, so there's good news and bad news and we're starting with the good news. So, what was good about this movie? The acting was really good from pretty much everyone (asides from Kristen Stewart - more on that later). The cinematography by Eric Gautier was fantastic. Gautier also did cinematography for "The Motorcycle Diaries". So anyway, that's all the good features sorted. Let's move on...

    Okay that was a bit harsh, but this was a distressingly irritating movie and I shall explain why....


    Let's start with premise. An American boy has just finished College and is really obsessed with certain books. He has the grades and the opportunity to go to Harvard Law if he wants to. His parents even offer to give him the extra money he might need in order to do that. They also offer to buy him a new safer car to celebrate him graduating. However, he's got different ideas than his parents. He doesn't want a new car because he thinks his life is already overburdened with "things". He's decided that in order to experience truth in life he needs to try and give up all his material posessions and be truly free. So he decides to give up everything he has, burning his identity cards and money, and he prepares to venture into the wild in Alaska.

    The structure of the story was a little confusing, because pretty much the first thing we see is the protagonist entering Alaska. Then we get lots of flashbacks to his travels before going to Alaska. I started off by getting the impression that he made several visits to Alaska, but eventually realised that he doesn't start off by travelling to Alaska. Instead he takes a trip all around the country. And oddly, even though he's apparently supposed to wait until Spring before he goes to Alaska, his stay in Alaska appears to be the only point in the movie where he comes across cold weather. While we never get any scene where he says "oh damn I should have come up at the beginning of spring like that guy suggested", the movie rarely appears to give any suggestion that the protagonist might be wrong on anything.

    There's pretty much only one moment in the whole movie where anyone actually seems to seriously counter the idea that the protagonist should go into the wild. Vince Vaughn's character, who has kindly offered the protagonist a job, is discussing it with the protagonist who says its because he needs to get away from... and after a short pause he just says "society". Vince Vaughn's character seems amused and mimicks his shouts of "society", seemingly mocking the protagonists idea that you need to run off to Alaska to escape the evils and falseness of society. It's at this point, however, where Vince Vaugn's character decides he's going to start telling our protagonist about Roswell in the 50s (so presumably aliens-related government conspiracy crap). And that's the end of that scene. Then shortly afterwards we see Vince Vaugn get picked up by the police without any reason given. For all we know it's because the Roswell stuff is all true and he dared to stand up to the government.

    I got the impression that the movie was a libertarian's wet dream. Getting away from the government, living in the wild, surviving off your own back. However, what we don't seem to notice so much is that this protagonist is surviving because of the help he receives from people who pity him. At one point our protagonist is expressing how wonderful it is to eat an apple, but how did he get the apple? He's not in a rural area at the time, so presumably someone bought it for him. Or possibly he bought it with money (which he presumably found he was going to need after initially burning it).

    He keeps getting jobs, but he can't use any qualifications since he doesn't even have ID. Nor does he even an address since often seems to live in odd places like tents near the beach. So how does he get these jobs? Once again, he's relying on people who feel sorry for him. In the film, everyone who hears his story is inspired by that story and decide to help him out. He offers very little in return, it seems. Freedom from society seems to mean leeching off others already in it. And no doubt he would be relying on similar charity if he ever got ill, seeing as there isn't national healthcare in the US.

    At one point he even sneaks across the border into Mexico, yet strangely the fact that he has no ID seems to cause very little problem for him re-entering the country. Meanwhile he is appalled when he finds you need a permit to paddle down a dangerous river. The fact that, being inexperienced, it would have made most sense if he'd drowned at that stage seems to have little importance to him. Nor does he care that people are held responsible for the number of deaths from daft inexperienced rowers trying their luck on the rapids.

    Admittedly the movie does have an answer to my characterisation of the central character as intensely selfish. We keep hearing narration from his sister about why her brother decided to run off and how this was something he needed to work out for himself. The excuse she gives is that their homelife was, apparently, screwed up. Her brother discovered that their father was not married to their mother when they were born, but was actually married to another woman with a whole other family. Personally my sympathies lie with the other family who the father abandoned, not with the children of the new family who he spent the time to raise. But wait, there's more. Apparently there was domestic violence in their family. (We first get told about this about three quarters of the way through this two and a half hour movie.) Yet the only time the protagonist mentions this himself is when he's trying to smoke meat in the wild. He suggests that he'd be better able to smoke the meat if his dad had taken the time to teach him how to make a barbeque, but his father was apparently too busy shouting at their mother to do that. Um... what?

    The aspirations of the protagonist reminded me of those of Timothy Treadwell from the movie "Grizzly Man" except that Treadwell appeared to have left behind something worthwhile in his recordings of the natural beauty, while the protagonist of "Into The Wild" doesn't appear to have helped anyone by the end.

    Oh and Kristen Stewart. On the plus side I don't think she bit her lip this time. Nevertheless she and the protagonist have about zero chemistry and I'm still not convinced that she can act. I didn't think she was much good in "Adventureland" and strangely by far the strongest acting I've seen her do so far was in the few scenes where she interacts with Billy Burke in "Twilight" (which may have been more a sign of his talents than hers). Still, perhaps she just hasn't been given a decent enough script yet. Certainly the script when she turns up here was dreadful. The moment she turns up on stage singing a song, she seems to be set up as a love interest because, y'know, she's young, female and skinny so what else should we expect? Later on, another male character actually says to the protagonist that Kristen Stewart's character is "about to vault herself onto a fence post". Yeah... nice. He means she's obviously really attracted to him. It turns out that she's quite bit younger than him and the movie makes a big thing about how good he is to turn her down. So yeah, right in the middle of the movie we go from this girl being hopelessly head over heels to her being being lightly let down and then he sings with her on stage for a bit and then we never see her again. Was I the only person who found this whole section horribly uncomfortable?

    In the end saying the protagonist decides that he was wrong to seek isolation and decides that happiness is best shared. Yet in spite of him changing his mind, we still seem to be expected to view him as some kind of hero. While the visuals of the movie were great I was annoyed that the movie was constantly praising this selfish self-absorbed boy with stupid ideals for honouring kind-hearted individuals with his company. He turns down his parents' car because he doesn't want "things" cluttering his life, he says he needs to reach the "truth" by escaping from "society", he says that "jobs are a 20th century invention" (does he even know what life was like for a medieval peasant ffs?).

    This has about as much to teach us about our own lives as Braveheart. A generalised cry of "freedom" without any obvious way to apply it. If you want a more realistic understanding of the mindset that simply wasn't explored in "Into The Wild" you should instead check out Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man". "Into The Wild", by contrast, is disposable rubbish.

    2/5


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