Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Case for a Relaxing Weekend

Someone sent this to me after a busy week, and it gave me a wee bit of a titter.

Verdict: I must obey. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Case for More Expendability

I did not walk into Expendables 2 expecting a terribly thought provoking movie.  It was a film where I expected action, lots of it, machismo (and testiculi), also a lot of that.  And lots of jokes too, both really bad in jokes and plain awful normal ones.

Spoiler Alert time!


So it was completely necessary that Liam Hemsworth’s golden, handsome, awesome, soulful, youthful soldier with a girl in Paris and terrible taste in cardigans and whom Sly loves like a son (I presume) be slaughtered within the first 20 minutes.  His “depth of character” was completely distracting in a film where depth should only be measured in the thickness of a man’s biceps (Terry Crews gets to flex a bit to give the film a definite 80s feel) or the size of the wrinkles in a man’s face.  It was therefore completely satisfying when Jean Claude Van Damme kicked a knife into his prideful, youthful chest – and impressive too, considering the difference in stature between the two men.

Yes, JCVD is very much the sun glasses wearing bad guy in this film, though the glasses seem more to hide the dark bags under his eyes than to provide an air of coolness in the dark caverns of the mine which is his normal lair.

But then, all the classic stars are looking a bit haggard (besides Bruce Willis who just looks like himself).  Dolph Lundgren is back again, mocking his intelligence and doctorate and his Lurch-like looks with terrible come on lines and a wild look of barely contained insanity, and he almost wins the “most awesome character” stakes this time around.  Sylvester Stallone is Barney the Boss, looking amazingly vascular and hard as a rock, albeit a rock that has stood several centuries.  And Jason Stratham rounds out the “main” guys, outclassing almost everyone (besides Bruce) with his acting ability and managing to nab Charisma Carpenter somewhere along the way (lucky guy).

Despite the presence of Arnie (stuck to recycling dialogue from his previous movies, and the movies of others), and a brief flurry of martial arts awesomeness from Jet Li, the biggest cheers and the “most awesome character” award went to that block of ginger wood, otherwise known as Chuck Norris.  It’s incredible how little his face moves (and how tiny his eyes are) during any of the few scenes that he is in, and whether this is due to his particular brand of “acting” (known as “rather bad” I think) or to some botox injections, I cannot say.

There are explosions galore, and lots of blood, but the big disappointment for me was how many of the big set pieces were computer generated, and even worse, were very badly computer generated.  It should perhaps be made mandatory to give all of these things to Weta Digital to do, as the terrible ways that planes and helicopters and blood were incorporated into the live scenes were absolutely appalling.

But perhaps that shoddiness was meant to be in line with the cragginess of the leads (Hemsworth definitely could not be considered to be “craggy”), and with the pile of stinking toilet paper that was probably called the script.  Did the writers realise that plutonium does not automatically equal nuclear weapon, or am I just ignorant of how explosive it really is?  Really, the plot makes no sense whatsoever and is laden with as much testosterone-heavy dialogue (though not that much swearing, I noted) as a classic 1980s action flick.  

And of course, because of all that, it completely works.  Well, once Hemsworth is dead anyway.  Once he is gone, and the action gets under way again, there is no time for reflection and any emotion other than anger or rage – as it should be.  There are stops along the way as the guys “bond” over very manly foibles, trade insults, help the oppressed, and destroy large buildings with weapons of various sizes, and there is even a mild hint at a romance, but in general it is lots of guns and fights and blades and CGI blood (again) and everyone is happy. 

The audience was perhaps stereotypical for this film too.  Expendables 2 has been out for a few weeks, but the screening was about three quarters full, with lots of guys in their 20s with their girlfriends along as well, revelling of the macho of the movie and refusing the sit in their allocated seats (I decided it wasn’t worth the argument, though took them on and, on the examination of tickets, got them to move, the expressions on their faces pleading seat-hogging innocence though we all KNOW they took those seats deliberately.

Anyway, despite the lack of cinema etiquette of some of the crowd, the film pleased us all immensely.  It was great to see the old guard back on screen for a bit, showing they still had the spirit if not quite the athleticism they once had.  Except for Stratham, whose oeuvre I may need to investigate now…

Verdict:  It starts off strongly, dips a little, but then picks up again and runs with it right to the end.  Expendables 2 is a huge amount of fun for those who don’t want to be challenged by cinema but would rather just see mindless action and explosions, though it also helps if you don’t expect realism either.  The boys grunt and fight and are as manly as ever, and mock themselves the whole time.  Loads of fun, and it’ll be interesting to see if they all get in the movie ring for a third time.  750 bullets out of 1000.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Case for a Lunar Realm

Wes Anderson films are always a little off centre and so quite alternative for a mainstream theatre, but nonetheless, I have seen his last two films at Readings and they have played to fairly large, if not full, audiences.

His latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, has had lots of praise lavished upon it and, to cut to the chase, deservedly so.  The story revolved around two kids who run away from home just as a major storm hits the small island on which they live.  So far, so Disney.  But the island is populated with kooky characters played by a very impressive cast, including Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis and the always awesome (even in Garfield… well, perhaps) Bill Murray.  And adding to the “but”, the two kids are very quirky in themselves, falling into an awkward yet touching love story as they appreciate their mutual oddness.

Every performance is impressive, even if the kids are meant to act fairly sanguine throughout.  There are no hysterics (from the kids at least) even though every main character comes with a sense that something is missing from their lives.  But, despite the monotone of some of the characters and the sadness that they bring with them, the film is awash with colour, quirky visual gags and a strong sense of humour of the absurd kind. 

All of which had the audience I was with cackling away, and even had a few people talking for most of the duration.  Normally, I would cast my pale attempt of a death stare the way of anyone who dares raise their voice for a conversation in a cinema and contemplate all sorts of means of inflicting physical pain upon them, but for some reason, it didn’t annoy me (well, not too much; occasionally) and my companions didn’t notice the conversations at all.  The film is not so intense that such distractions prove detracting, though still common courteousy should have stopped them from continuing to natter quite as much as they did.

And, with an odd but involving soundtrack, we even stayed in the auditorium until the very last part of the credits had finished rolling, all of us with smiles on our faces and a little bit of a bounce in our step.  Uplifting, in a very odd and pleasurable way.

Verdict:  The style of Moonrise Kingdom will not be a surprise to anyone who has seen the Royal Tenenbaums, but this film is a bit more satisfying than the last few Anderson films I have seen, Darjeeling Limited and the Life Aquatic.  The performances are all outstanding, and the central love story completely engaging, and its all… well, pretty wonderful.  9 books on a beach out of 10.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Case for Old Technology 1

For some reason I thought about this ad from my childhood the other day.

And then, it struck me - cassette tapes?

Verdict: A classic in its time perhaps, but time waits for no ad.  Well, almost no ad.