Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Case for Vamping the Day

First off, a big thanks to 3 News, who, by their unrelenting Justin Beiber coverage on their six o'clock bulletin and the non stop screaming that provided the ear-bleeding sound track, reminded me how little I am missing by not watching them every night. I feel more enlightened already.

Okay, so I new Daybreakers was going to be fairly naff. But the premise was interesting, in a very counter-Trublood kind of way: what if Vampires were the majority, humans were an endangered species, and there was no blood substitute to feed the undead masses?

It starts off quite atmospheric and intriguing in a very I Am Legend way, with Ethan Hawke starring as a reluctant vampire working to solve world hunger, and Sam Neill as his evil vampiric corporate overlord/boss (not sure if you can have a good vampiric corporate overlord/boss really, or part thereof, but that is a philosophical discussion I will not enter into here). Then Ethan runs into a group of free humans (literally), and a new solution presents itself.

And then the whole film hits the skids and it degenerates into complete nonsense. It was always going to head that way: the liberal amounts of gore exploding everywhere and the overwhelming and highly irritating soundtrack hinted that the film had a core of complete (if bloody) cheese, and that is exposed as soon as Willem Dafoe shows up, trying on the dentures of professional scenery chewer Michael Ironside but finding them a little big even for his mouth. It's like the writer of the first part of the film was staked through the heart, and was replaced by someone dedicated to highlighting Claudia Karvan's nipple-age and dismissing vampire society as completely moronic, unable to use either satellites or common sense to track down pesky (yet also fairly stupid) humans, and whose idea of home security is to have a computer pleasantly announce whenever an outside door is mysteriously opened rather than actually just locking the thing.

The whole film feels very Australian (unsurprisingly), with the scenery and a multitude of ex-Home and Away actors, who have varying degrees of success with their American accents, making it all feel very much like a supernatural R16 episode of The Lost Islands. Most of the actors do well considering the hokum that they are given (Jay Lagaia's fate is deserved, methinks), though the whole thing ends on a "so now what?" note, though hopefully this is not a question that will be answered by a sequel.

Verdict: With lots of cheap shocks and a few thousand litres of fake blood, Daybreakers sinks its teeth into the popular Vampire craze and comes up with a different spin on the theme between its teeth, then promptly spits that out and goes back for wild and stupid sloppy seconds. Enough with the tortured metaphor: 5.5 pints out of 10.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Case for World Union 2011

The hype is beginning. And my tolerance for the “tie ins” is already wearing thin.

I have the impression that almost no one will be able to afford the price of the tickets to actually see a game of Rugby as part of the World Cup next year, even though it is being held here in New Zealand. It matters little: I can join in the action by drinking Powerade and using Rexona anti persperant. And I am sure that soon I will be yearning a Ford and eating more Weetbix and Australian made Moros.

Rugby Union is a business, and it becomes more and more so with every passing year. As I have mentioned before, the sport is kind of falling by the way side as attractive players wear tighter clothing and push products they get paid to like and may never actually buy themselves if they didn’t get them for free.

This is not to say that the All Blacks are not a good Rugby Team, far from it – most of the previous World Cup performances notwithstanding. To be an All Black is to reach the pinnacle of New Zealand rugby excellence, to be one of the sporting elite. However, these days, that title and the admiration comes with are being exploited for cash – a lot of it.

I am as keen to have my lack of sporting prowess thrown in my face as the next man (though I can still drink their drinks and wear their scent so will be just like them in all they ways that don’t really matter). My hat goes off to the PE teacher who trains with the team and finds that they are very tough and fit and outstrip his own impressive athletic efforts. Should I see him one day, I would like to point out to him that the All Blacks are paid (very well) to do exercise full time, whereas he is a teacher who has to look after students and after that gets to work out, so if he had beat the players, then I think Mr Henry would have had something to say to them. I am sure he will not need any reassurance though: starring in an ad with the All Blacks (and doing very well next to them, I believe) and earning a nice amount for making the advertisement (and perhaps having a lifetime supply of Powerade provided as well?) would no doubt be one of the highlights of this man’s year, if not his lifetime.

But, as much as I admire the team, the advertisements themselves make me deliberately NOT want to purchase these products. I don’t like to be manipulated into doing something, especially not on patriotic grounds, and unabashed link between New Zealand = All Black = Adidas/Rexona/Powerade really grates my cheese. The message I hear is this: to be like the All Blacks, to support the All Blacks, buy these products, because that is how to support New Zealand, and so if you don’t, then you’re a Commie.

But then I do have sensitive hearing. And I believe I am a great cynic when it comes to these marketing campaigns. For me, as much as I like seeing the boys in black (well, gray) running all around the place and being all energetic-like, the association of a product with these athletes diminishes the All Blacks somewhat. Results on the field are what counts, as important as rehydration and the neutralising of body odour may be.

Verdict: It will only get more intense from here. If only it were Right here, right now, but there is another year of this to go. 7 out of 15.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Case for Lightning Striking Twice

First off, let me just say that the book of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is infinitely better than the fairly horrendous movie I judged a wee while ago. Were the author dead, I would assume that he was rolling in his grave, but I believe he is still alive and so is probably just rolling around in his money and blocking his vision and stuffing his ears with it all instead.

I don't do a "Friday Linky" stuff like Moosetastic, but a few things came across my inbox that I thought I would share:

1) Whoever thinks that handguns are not compensating for something should really check out this site.

2) The Fisherman showed me that I was not the only one not particularly sympathetic to wealthy businessman Eric Watson's skiing accident. Funny how the fact he was responsible for dodgy financial dealings causing many people to lose their life savings can impact on how people view his jetsetting misadventures. Actually, the page may have been disconnected, as the link to the page did not appear to work when I retried it - not surprising considering that it was fairly b!tchy.

3) Oh, and my spelling in the last few posts has completely sucked - and sometimes caused a wee bit of unintended R-ratedness. I do apologise, but will still try and blame spellchecker.

Verdict: Well, Percy Jackson is a really good, but the fact we have "more power" hand guns and that failed businessmen can still take uber-expensive holidays kind of shows how the movie could be so rubbish.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Case for an Another Iraq War Movie

The Hurt Locker is another entry in the "movies about Americans in Iraq" category, and this one is an actual Oscar winner.

So first things first - is it better than Avatar? Well, yes. And it is good.

I have to admit, it does take a wee while to get used to. It is filmed almost entirely in patented and nausea-inducing shakey-vision. Only by focussing on the early appearance of the rare and wonderful Guy Pearce was I able to hold on to my slim understanding of the constructred reality and make it through to the second act.

The main action follows three soldiers in a bomb disposal squad, struggling not only with the disarming of various explosive devices but dealing with the hostility of the local populace who are either hell bent on them getting blown to bits or who seem completely unaware of what to do in a state run by the American military (ironic, I suppose, as I supposed the state under Saddam was fairly restricted as well). All of these actors are incredible, filling the roles of nervous newbie (Brian Geraghty as Eldridge), solid professional (Anthony Mackie as Sanborn) and talented yet unconventional hero (Jeremy Renner as James) admirably.

But to be honest, as good as they are, several of the scenes with them emoting and bonding are really a bit awkward to watch. But this is no fault of the actors, just of some fairly unconvincing lines of script, and the fact that the action scenes are just so damned good.

Well, they were to me. The slow, intense unfolding of the bomb diffusing scenes and of the stand offs with local paramilitary/insurgents were completely mesmerising. These scenes do stretch out for a while, but I really only felt the length of the 2 hour film during the talky scenes, as the near silence of the soldiers at work seemed a lot more realistic than some of the dialogue.

Of course, the film does have one major failing in logic: how any man would prefer to be in Iraq rather than with Evangeline Lilly just blows my mind (pardon the pun). But the rest of the film is slow, intense, and feels very realistic and disturbing. Until the characters open the mouths at least.

Verdict: The Hurt Locker is an amazingly atmospheric film that grips with its intensity, though when that intensity disintensifies, it can start to drag a bit. 8.5 triggers out of 10.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Case for Kicking Oneself

I went into Kick A$$ not quite sure what I was letting myself in for. When I had initially seen the posters and seen the shorts, I had pegged it as a knowing kids’ film. But then, I noted as I waited in line at Sky City, that this film had the strongest rating of anything playing, designated as an R18 (luckily there were no arguments that alcohol could be consumed in the 4.45pm screening, as the “family friendly” viewing hours up to 6.00pm should obviously not apply to films that juveniles can’t go to). Moosetastic seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, so I went in with expectations of being entertained – and then tried to quell those, just in case.

And I really did need to. For me, the film is broken into three parts: it starts off as a quasi-realistic awkward slacker dreamer film; slowly morphs into a fairly typical and humourous coolification of the “hero” (for some reason known only to the writer (SPOILER ALERT for the rest of this sentence), a week in hospital transforms a character into a “safe gay” girl prospect/foil… of course); and then the final third ends an uber violent goodies v baddies movie.

The fact the end is at complete odds with the beginning did not sit well with me, even as the final scenes played out. The first half suggested bumbling comedy, whereas the second half delivered implausible super heroics. The main “hero” himself (as an aside, Aaron Johnson looks disconcertingly like someone I once knew, though according to IMDB Johnson was born in 1990 (!!!!)) is fairly peripheral to the story by the end, his presence in the finale seeming more token than really necessary. But then the whole character of Kick A$$ loses centrality around half way through the film, as Nicholas Cage’s Big Daddy and his smart, sassy and lethal daughter Hit Girl take centre, bone crushing stage.

The people with whom I saw it were completely underwhelmed by the resulting mishmash: (MORE SPOILERS) the main baddy and son combination didn’t work, the Dad dismissed his offspring only once the offspring had actually been incredibly successful; a strange-yet-well-built “geek” and stunningly hot “chick” tanning session comes out of nowhere, and earlier humour about bodily functions is totally ignored in an experience that any hormonally charged male teenager would find “overwhelmingly stimulating”; and the sudden yet inevitable betrayal is then regretted and then that regret reversed for far too many clichéd reasons to really care.

I am being quite negative here, but this has proved a film that diminishes on return. I did find myself occupied for the entire film and my mind stayed with the action rather than contemplating the contrivances, but as the final credits rolled, I was left wondering if it had really been worth it. For Nicholas Cage, yes: he was obviously having a wonderful time; and Chloe Moretz, playing his daughter, got to live every little tomboy’s girl power dream. But for the audience… for me?

I feel sad to have to present the dour side to Moostetastic’s incredibly effervescent review, but then, we do agree on several key things. However, I must rule, and my judgement is, of course, right. Though it could be changed on appeal.

Verdict: Action, swearing and violence take the place of sense or tongues firmly in (facial) cheeks. Overall, its quite fun, but Kick A$$'s initial semi-serious pretentions are just a smokescreen for a burning fire of violence and boy-gets-girl cliché. 6 toned buttocks out of 10.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Case for Cruelty

I am almost speechless. But not quite.

My thanks to the Fisherman for showing me the wonder that is the Bloggess. Normally, this site is full of cynical wit and sarcastic humour. Lots of fun. But then...

Well, follow the link above and read, then follow this link to the Huffington Post and be astonished.

I am half hoping that this is one of those made up stories. But I kind of thing its not. Occasionally, I get sent those overly emotional and trite e-mails about how someone once did a good deed that made all the world seem bright and rosy. Well, I am more inclined to believe the events described in those links, where the stupidity and inhumanity of a group of people far outweighs individual good.

Let's hope there's a special room in hell set aside for these people - a very small one.

Verdict: Well, what can I say? If this is real, which I hope its not, then I should really throw the book at them. Null points. And several million negative.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Case for Dream Meetings

First off, a thought from Stephen Fry on the program QI:

"Friendship is like wetting your pants. Everyone can see it, but only you can
feel it's warmth"

Secondly, today's posting is inspired by a recent dream I had.

Question: if you won an evening out with one of the Top Gear crew (the UK
version, of course), which of them would you choose?

In my dream, for some obscure reason (I had not even watched that evening's
screening of the show), Richard Hammond showed up at a bricked family home in
the UK, where the parents had won the visitation put passed it on to their
highly excitable daughter, who ran around screaming like Mandy Moore in
American Dreamz (nod to Di for introducing me to that movie). The dream ended
shortly thereafter, as did my sleeping bliss as the working day dawned with the
sound of my alarm clock.

But it left me with the question: whom would I choose? Time to go through the
pros and cons, in ascending height order:

1) Richard Hammond: small and bubbly, I imagine he would be a jittering ball of
energy and playful fun. How irritating. I imagine he would probably be a great
laugh, full of amusing anecdotes and outlandish excuses about the XT mobile
network he so famously endorsed, but trying to keep up with him could be a bit
of a tall order, as it were. I think I would really have to see what hair style
he was sporting before making that decision.

2) James May: the deep thinking geek of the group, James seems like a
fascinating individual, with a wealth of interesting tidbits and experiences at
his disposal - though this treasure knowledge trove may not extend to the
sporting realm. By putting up with the others, he obviously has a sense of
humour (a self deprecating one too) and would probably provide the most relaxed
evening of the three. And he would be very knowledgable about wine to boot.

3) Jeremy Clarkson: there will be no option but to stand out in a crowd with the
lanky loud one. Opinionated and outspoken, an evening out with Jeremy would
have to be only for the self assured and possibly those with a black belt in
karate if Jeremy's attention turned to any Hells Angels or Pensioners within
earshot. Probably hilarious, if you can handle listening to someone rant about
everything for most of the evening, but it may take several hours to agree on a
restaurant or movie even if Jeremy was the one making the selection.

Verdict: Well, I think the choice therefore is fairly clear: Jeremy reigns
surpreme. Just kidding; I would have to go for the James option. And I would
trust him to drive too. 4 gears out of 5.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Case for a Boy About

Trying to find a suitable film for foreign eyes, I took my cousin to see Boy, the new Kiwi film from the talented Taika Waititi/Cohen, who takes a lot of credits for this film, including writing and directing, as well as featuring in a major role. But the star of this film is Boy himself, Alamein, and his adventures for the few weeks that his Dad comes back into his life.

The accents are thick and fast but (I was assured) comprehensible to those not well versed in the small town version of New Zealand English. But the deluge of references both New Zealand in space and 80s in time (such as the TV Kiwi and the Cat closedown song, 80s classic Poi E and even the back notes) were no doubt completely lost, though there were enough well-known international nods to set the scene for a non native viewer.

Looking back at the film, the story itself is fairly amoral and occasionally quite shocking: kids home alone have not been fashionable since the Culkin kid days, there is the odd bit of abuse that the so-called “anti smacking” bill would have had (will have had?) a field day with; and something tells me the kids’ curriculum predates Tomorrow’s Schools.

Not that it matters really. The film is not a serious attempt at social commentary, and the 80s background sets up an uncomplicated film from an era that seemed just that little bit more innocent and naïve. There are similar themes to movies like Whale Rider and (to a much less unbrutal extent) Once Were Warriors, but here there is no real redemption through traditional Maori custom, just people dealing with life as it comes. In that regard, it’s a bit more like Eagle versus Shark, another quirky and humorous Waititi/Cohen effort, than the aforementioned movies.

Trying to explain the plot and describe what goes on is to potentially rob people of the joys of the film and ruin the sense of familiarity that washes over people like me, raised in a small town in that era and so, to a degree, familiar with the rhythms of that way of life (ahhh, Popsicles). So I will suffice it to say that, while I did not belly laugh as hard as the rest of the easily entertained audience (well, it was the Lighthouse in Petone and the audience was of the older, probably loved Death at a Funeral variety), I smiled a lot and let out a guffaw or two at a few of the choicest lines (a brief cameo by an Outrageous Fortune regular as one of Alamein’s teachers was an hilarious verbal highlight) and was fully entertained – well, as much as anyone can be while anxiously yet subtley trying to ascertain whether my cousin was enjoying herself as well. *

Verdict: A great movie, very light and frothy, with no real layers to complicate the demands of the audience. I am not sure how well the 80s backdrop was actually maintained (I was fairly sure the TV2 logo displayed was not a mid 80s one, although I am getting older and so my memories of that time may be corrupted), but then one should not really engaged one’s critical faculties when viewing Boy as that is really not the point. 7.5 moonwalk steps out of 10.

* She loved it, BTW