Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Case for Cross Breeding

What do you get when you combine Napoleon Dynamite with Footrot Flats? Some might object to me comparing of Eagle v Shark to Napoleon Dynamite on the grounds that this New Zealand film is nothing like it. But, to be honest, I found that the comparison was valid: socially awkward people get together and, through a series of misadventures, eventually find happiness with each other.

However, the Kiwi angle is definitely a major point of difference. The whimsy, the accents and the kitschiness are all so familiar, and the humour seemed to resonate in the cinema with a lot of knowing laughs. And I was very impressed by the way the Kiwiness was not “overblown” by the use of Kiwi standard songs on the soundtrack and an unrealistic New Zealand patriotism. It felt quite a natural film, laid back, and fun in a way that emphasised its quirky Kiwiality, rather than being all self conscious about it.

It was also a fairly mean spirited film. True, laughs came from some of the more outrageous and un-politically correct moments, but there were other moments that I found painful in their execution, though I was apparently in the minority considering the gales of laughter these parts seemed to elicit. Napoleon Dynamite had much the same kind of “laughing at the geekiness of people” moments, but some of the moments in Eagle v Shark seemed to have a particularly nasty edge to them, though perhaps this was me just empathising with the put-upon characters a bit too much. All credit to Loren Horsley for her portrayal of Lily, the sweet yet hopeless lead – I was sucked in by Lily’s odd charms, big time.

Overall, it was a good film, entertaining in a “look at them and laugh” kind of way, though I was never altogether sure of the spirit in which to take some of the scenes. The animated apple parts were well done if seemingly pointless, and the performances were great, even if the characters were flawed. Not sure whether I would rate this better than Napoleon Dynamite, but it definitely got big brownie points for being a fair dinkum Kiwi effort…

Verdict: Passable Victory

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Case for Animal Nature

Every so often, 91ZM comes up (or digs up) a list that take my interest.

Here is one that uses the "as it is in nature" logic to explain some human behaviour. Odd, how people like to be able to explain away so many sexual behaviours by blaming them on our genetic makeup, considering the number of other "natural" behaviours (aggressive dominance, the conquest of less powerful groups by the more powerful) that would (and probably be should) never be excused by citing precedent in the animal kingdom.

Mankind is meant to be the species in which reason triumphed over base, animal nature, but in some things it seems, we really don't want the head to rule...


10 Politically-incorrect truths about human nature

Even though we pretend it's not true, human beings are REALLY shallow. We DON'T appreciate inner beauty. Especially for women. And for men, if you're ugly, you'd better have at least seven figures in the bank.

Today, we've got a list of ten politically-incorrect truths about human nature from two evolutionary psychologists, Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa:

It just makes sense through evolution. Youth, physical attractiveness and long, lustrous hair are all signs of health. So is blonde hair, since blonde hair gets darker as women get older.

Large breasts show strong reproductive hormones. And blue eyes show dilating pupils better than any other eye color. When someone's pupils dilate, it's an honest, unconscious sign of attraction. . . so a blue-eyed woman's eyes give you the most honest response.

Polygamy is good for unattractive women. A rich man can marry a ton of women, so he'll get some attractive ones and some unattractive ones, and provide for them.

But in monogamous societies, only attractive women benefit, because they get exclusive access to the richest men. Unattractive women end up with poorer, less genetically-fit men. Men also benefit from monogamy, because they spread around less of their wealth.

We know it's true because men are taller and larger than women. That only happens in species where men compete for as many mating opportunities as possible.

Islam is the only major religion that tolerates polygamy. That makes men more aggressive and violent in general, because there's so much competition with other men, even married ones, for women.

There's another reason, too: The belief that suicide bombers get 72 virgins in heaven. Even if it seems far-fetched to US. . . for guys who believe it, especially poor men who can't get women here on Earth, it's a huge incentive.

Geniuses. . . whether it's in art or science or business or music. . . peak young. PAUL MCCARTNEY, BILL GATES, ORSON WELLES and tons of others all did their best work when they were young.

The reason: Our brains allow us to take our biggest risks in our late-teens and early 20s. . . and when geniuses take those risks, they produce great things. As we get older, our risk taking levels off. . . and so does our creativity.

Biologically, a man's mating value is based on his wealth, status and power. . . and a woman's mating value is based on her youth and physical attractiveness.

So, parents have to make sure their son will inherit as much wealth, status and power as possible. . . and staying together and working together makes that happen.

For a daughter, there really isn't much they can do to keep her young or physically attractive. . . so, subconsciously, they realize that being together isn't as important.

Physical attractiveness is more important to a woman's reproductive success than a man's. Attractive parents have a much better chance at attractive kids. . . so their bodies know it's "ok" to have a girl.

A lot of men do something CRAZY when they hit middle age. . . but it's not BECAUSE they hit middle-age. It's because their WIVES hit middle age.

When menopause is coming for a man's wife, his biological instinct is to go out and attract younger women. So, when a 50-year-old man buys a Ferrari. . . it's because of his quest to attract a young woman.

Powerful men throughout history. . . Biblical history, European history, American history. . . have all risked everything to cheat on their wives.

There's a reason why a man is willing to throw away everything he's worked for to get a young woman: It's because the GOAL of all that work, subconsciously, was to attract those young women.

Men are more interested in casual sex than women. . . tons of studies have proven that.

So, when a man at work tells a woman she needs to have sex with him to get promoted. . . it's because he's using what he's got at his disposal to try to have casual sex. And what he's got is his power.

The other kind of sexual harassment is when there's an overly sexual work environment, sometimes one that's hostile. Women who experience that kind of sexual harassment are verbally abused, intimidated or degraded by their male coworkers.

But that actually happens because men AREN'T sexist. Abuse, intimidation and degradation are men's competitive tactics, ones that men use on each other to get ahead.

So, when men use those competitive tactics on women, it's because they're treating them just like they'd treat another man.

Verdict: You and me, baby, ain't nothin' but mammals

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Case for Change

I hope you like the new look, thanks to the NotKate. Let me know what you think.

As to other changes - well, Die Hard 4.0 was last night's movie, and while some things may change (an action film like Die Hard 4.0 had a rating of M whereas the romantic comedy Knocked Up was an R16), Die Hard 4.0 was just the same as its predecessors. It was big, it was brash, it was dumb. It was lots of fun.

The Eurotrash villains weren't quite as much fun as villains past (Alan Rickman still reigns supreme), and the superbaddy wasn't even European at all (and spoke with his jaw clenched and eyes flared for the entire movie). But the action was suitably thrilling yet preposterous (the legendary car v helicopter scene; the less well known truck v fighter scene [see Off-Black's site (21 Aug 07) for some "real life" comparison videos]), and of course logic went out the window (people drive at 100mph in the city but slow to 30mph when on the open road; all the computer knowledge of the modern age fits quite comfortably on a small laptop).

Despite its many, many leaps of illogic in plot and stunts, the performances are all great, with Bruce Willis the tough yet humble cop we know and love, Justin Long is at his stuttering, geeky best and Cliff Curtis shows up as well. A long film, but a fun one nonetheless. See it at the cinema if you can, as I am sure the small scene will make its stupidity all the more obvious - and a lot less fun.

Verdict: Live free or Die Hard, or see this film and have some dumb fun for 2.5 hours

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Case for Time

Nothing hugely profound in this post (am I ever, really?), but a few links I found of interest during the week:

1. Check out the Clock of Ages and be as boggled by the figures of the world as I was.

2. BigGeek showed me the way to the Films&More blog site with a much more cultured movie reviewing style than my own. I may have to link this on my side bar, even if their judgements may clash with mine. Funnily enough, they have also recently reviewed Black Snake Moan, though they seemed a bit more enamoured with it than myself. Plus, they give away some of the plot - which I try never to do, though I suppose it does put things in context. What a radical idea!

Verdict: variety is the spice of life. Quite like cinnamon too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Case for Weird Movie Titles

Black Snake Moan this week. Hmnnn. How to describe this movie? And how to prove it?

Cool: Samuel L Jackson plays a Southern man with a chip on his shoulder, a plethora of uses for the F word, and a healthy dose of religious ferver.

Fun: Christina Ricci shows up as a woman of lose morals and looser clothing.

Dirty: One of the raunchiest “jazz jamming” sessions I have ever scene. Also one of the sweatiest. But still, everyone behaves themselves like good Christians.

Sweet: Samuel L Jackson is a humble object of lust for many of the townsfolk, and there is even a lovely picnic in there…

Surprising: Justin Timberlake shows up. And is good. Well, acceptable.

Amusing: Christina Ricci. In chains. What looks degrading (and actually is, I have to admit) makes some sense in the movie. Kind of.

Baffling: An interesting story, but a bit all over the place. Not helped by a very slow beginning.

The Title: Not explained terrible well in the movie. Perhaps, like Snakes on a Plane, the reason why Samuel L Jackson decided to do the movie?

Verdict: An interesting movie, but I would only recommend it to a select group of people. More a sign than a moan; 5 decibels out of 10.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Case for Future Generations

I saw the attached review of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry in the paper yesterday. I have absolutely no desire to go see this film as the whole premise offends me (and the adults who provided their vox populi views confirmed the film's 1 star credentials), but I did find the opinions of the two children interviewed quite interesting.

I am under no delusions about this film and how it will play on stereotypes, but for Niquita to find the act of two men kissing offensive (I imagine there was no tongue involved) is a fairly US/English perspective on the act. A hongi gets two mens lips fairly close together and is an accepted greeting ritual; in many European cultures, a kiss is just a kiss just as a smile it still a smile; but it's obvious tha mainstream NZ culture still regards the kiss as an exclusively woman-on-man activity.

On the other hand, Latrell's review can be read as a liberal acceptance of differing lifestyles, but can also be read as an acknowlegdement and judgement on the fact that the lifestyle is atypical and, to an extent, abnormal.

I both laughed and sighed when I read these reviews. But my final judgement remains uncertain. Anyone care to comment on the hands in which we are placing the future?

Verdict: Hung Jury

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Case for Cities of the Future

Another one of the “catching up” posts – the final, for now.

At the same time of the Hobbiton trip, mentioned in posts past, the opportunity was taken to pop on into the city of the future, Hamiltron. Transit NZ has decided that this teeming metropolis can and should be bypassed by constructing State Highway 1B that stealthily sidesteps the Waikato’s capital by veering from the “regular” State Highway 1 at Cambridge to rejoin the main road to Auckland just south of Huntly. However, I was ignorant of this improvement to the roading system and thus had planned the trip up th
e country through that great city, with a particular pilgrimage in mind.

I am not sure if Hamiltron stands out in the minds of many for a variety of reasons. There is a nice river. There is a shopping mall complex. The road in and out of the city is slow and torturous as the shopping precincts and suburbs follow SH1 north of the city, adding to distance one has to take at sub-100 kph speeds (probably the reason for the bypass, reason tells me).

But there is one thing that one cannot drive past. Or rather, one can, but probably shouldn’t. And that is the monument to that monumental movie of momentous proportions: the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Standing proudly and darkly over looking a not-so-busy inner city Hamilton street, a statue of Riff-Raff glowers over pedestrians, nonchalantly aiming his tridential laser pistol at those who would dare take the name of Transylvania in vain.

A great statue – though someone should really tell Hamilton’s founding fathers that putting a bright white wall directly behind a dark statue really does not assist in the taking of fanboy photos. The bright background is in such stark contrast to the sombre statue that even my eyes had a hard time looking upon Riff-Raff’s features.

But gaze I did, if just for a little while. And then it was time to get outta there…

Verdict: I definitely felt I was in a timewarp, but I may wait awhile before doing that timewarp again…

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Case for the Simpsons' Movie

At the start of the Simpsons’ Movie, Homer declares “Why are we wasting our money paying for something we get to see at home?”. And, at the end of the day, it is a damned good question.

But I can answer: because, in reality, I would not sit down to watch a 90 minute episode of the Simpsons under normal circumstances. It’s rarely that I sit down to watch a normal episode of the show. Not that I dislike the show – in fact, I quite like it – but it has never been appointment viewing for me. And so, given the chance to watch the movie on the big screen, I grabbed it.

And what did I actually get a hold of? .It was an entertaining show, albeit one that could have fit quite nicely amongst the regular series. The animation was a bit smoother (they must have hired most of South Korea, and it looked like it too, as the ongoing credits indicated); the “camera angles” were often designed to make the most of wide screen; and there was the odd guest star of Gumpish proportions (he didn’t cry, thank heaven).

It was also a Simpsons-centric episode when, in my opinion, the Simpsons are actually some of the least interesting characters in the show. Homer continues to be both the life and the death of show, both providing a lot of his humour in his acts of stupidity, but also causing a lot of the tedium by that same ongoing and constant stupidity. The other Simpsons contributed… stuff, but their story arcs felt poorly developed and just tacked on to the Homer Show. Similarly, the other regular characters got wheeled out to utter a line keeping in character with their TV appearances, but then they were hustled back into the shadows to let the Simpson clan itself – in particular the Homerster – take centre stage.

The more I think about it, the more disappointing it was, so I will just leave it there and keep my original impression – one of satisfaction, though not outright joy – intact.

Verdict: It was an underachiever, and proud of it.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Case for Keri

Continuing on with my theme of "catching up", I found a movie flier the other day (whilst out watching the wonderful
Razzle Dazzle in fact) that demanded a passing of judgement.

Before said film I saw a preview for a romcom called Waitress which, much to my delight, starred the delightful Keri Russell (of
Felicity fame), the awesome Nathan Fillion (you may remember him from such TV classics as Firefly, Two Guys and a Girl and a brief stint on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and of course a wide variety of butter-laden pies. Intrigued and interested more by the cast (including the pies) than the genre, I picked up a flier on the way out to remind myself of what it was all about.

The front of the flier itself is attached. And I am not sure if it is as evident on a smaller scale, but I was instantly struck by the fact that Keri's head is too big for her body. She looks like a Thunderbirds puppet. Because, of course, that is not her body - it is her distinctive mug sticky taped on to the body of some nameless, probably unknown actress (or actor) somewhere in Hollywoodland.

The another thought struck me. I never really watched Felicity (who really did?). Perhaps what I failed to realise was that Keri really has a revolting figure. She must actually be physically deformed. The model they have chosen has barely any curves, so perhaps Keri has an unfeasibly large bust line, a wonderfully luscious arse, and strong, lean legs? Or perhaps she was pregnant at the time, and swelling with womanly curvaceousness? Whatever her physical form, it obviously did not meet the strict marketing standards imposed by Fox movies (Rupert Murdoch strikes again!).

To be honest, this kind of thing really annoys me. The whole thing stinks of deceit and causing issues with body image. Plus - it kind of creeps me out a bit.

Verdict: Keri, honey, you must have an ugly body. But Becki Newton is all that - and she has those fantastic eyebrows too...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Case for Catching Up

I have been a bit remiss with my blogging the last few weeks. There have been movies seen that I have not reviewed; insights gleaned that I have not shared; and judgements that I have not rendered.

The first step in rectifying this is the first that I shall rectify - on to the films!

The first of two (in chronological order) is Razzle Dazzle. Australian mockumentaries always make me want to sit up and take notice. Kath & Kim, The Games and Australian of the Year all spring to mind as excellent televisual examples of the Australian ability to poke fun at themselves in a way that New Zealander productions never really seems to be comfortable doing (though we are getting better). And Razzle Dazzle follows on in that fine tradition, tackling the pressing subject of child dance schools and the desire of them, and their parents, to win the competitions that always spring up around these kind of activities.

And the movie succeeds wonderfully. The adult characters are all stereotypes (the insanely driven mother; the ultra-PC activist choreographer squaring off against the traditional, take no prisoners dance teacher; the childless woman who fosters children for a number of weeks until she determines how proficient they are at dancing) and the children are all uniformly excellent. The laughs don't come from the belly all that often (though the grannies in my session had a whale of a time), but the smile barely leaves one's face as one recognises the reality and mild insanity in what is being portrayed. Definitely worth it if you are a fan of the genre.

The other film to review before I am up to date is Knocked Up, from the creators of 40 Year Old Virgin. Actually, a lot of the 40YOV cast show up in the film, though mainly the movie features as a reunion for a lot of the cast from that excellent (and cancelled) TV series Freaks & Geeks, though, to my bitter disappointment, Linda Cardellini does not attend. James Franco does, and unfortunately, his appearance in Knocked Up seems to have come at the price of shameless plugs for Spiderman 3. Urgh.

It's a long film though it never really feels it. Unlike 40YOV, this one is a fairly mainstream romantic comedy, so the laughs are there but smaller and tamer. I am a huge fan of the leading man Seth Rogan (the voice; his dry style), and he is wonderful in this film, but the standout in the film is Kirsten Wiig who (IMDB tells me) plays Jill, the unbelievably scary television executive off-sider to Alan Tudyk's Jack. Her slow burning, psychotic intensity had me yearning for more, and she completely dominated the few scenes she is in (in my opinion anyway).

Not much else to say about Knocked Up, except that I did enjoy it (I am not sure if I would give it 5 out of 5 as most critics seem to have, though) and will probably get the DVD to see all the extras - I am sure there will be a whole lot of them!

Verdict Part 1 (Razzle Dazzle): an 8 out of a possible 10

Verdict Part 2 (Knocked Up): a 70% chance