Monthly Archives: August 2014

Lego Batman The Movie : DC Super Heroes Unite

Batman. I really like Batman. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch the Lego Batman movie. Pinpointing the source of this trepidation is difficult. The Lego movie was brilliant, Batman is amazing, there doesn’t seem like much that can go wrong with the combination. The issue though was that the Lego movie relied heavily on its meta-this is controlled by human/creativity is good storyline, and this is essentially something which can only be done once. I was wondering just how they were going to play this. Well, the first thing to note is that the film works, its really good fun, the story bumbles along nicely and the film makers have really managed to carry on performing that special trick of making Lego characters engaging. This is what is confusing for the first half an hour though, the fact that it is Lego Batman, rather than just Batman, doesn’t seem to make the slightest bit of difference. No one does anything specifically ‘lego-ey’. It is all made far more confusing by the go to Batman reference point being the 89/97 Batman quadrilogy, its like the Nolan trilogy has not happened, until a hokey and overly self aware Joker fails to blow up a building on the first try, a la the brilliant hospital scene in The Dark Knight. Its like the fun mash up Lego-ness has morphed out of the bricks and into a confusing (but exciting) plethora of cultural references. Brilliant fun, but the question remains, why does this need to be Lego at all? Unfortunately it remains that these films are there to sell the games which may or may not be there to sell the actual, physical Lego, who knows which makes the company more money, and the tie in for DC comics is nothing short of marketing genius. As the film progresses the Lego element does become more pronounced, things get rebuilt and re-arranged, a pretty brilliant costume change involving whole legs and torsos occurs and the Green Lantern shows up, a character whose power seems to cohere so well with the concept of Lego that its a wonder the movie we saw in the cinema wasn’t based around him entirely. Its a good movie, fun, interesting and just self aware enough to have something for die hard Bat fans as well as, well, people who like Lego I guess, but no matter how good it is it will never escape the fact that it exists really to sell something else.

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Non Stop

In the middle of a Non Stop (see, thats the title right there) flight Bill, a lonesome alcoholic grumpus with a heart of gold, receives a message telling him that unless lots of money is transferred to a specific account, someone is going to die on the plane. He has twenty minutes to get to the bottom of it or transfer the money, or the whole cycle begins again. The thing is, Bill is Liam Neeson, and Liam Neeson has a very specific set of skills in every film he is in. Here his specific set of skills is plane based detective work, general fightin skills, and being awesome. In real life Liam Neeson has an OBE. Skills. Its a sort of air based whodunit, with added Neeson, there isn’t anything spectacularly original here, but its brilliantly made, ratchets up the tension well and is a lot of fun. The film relies heavily on something that everyone ambiguously refers to as “the network”, some kind of magical in flight wifi/phone system, so one assumes that in the Non Stop world the whole “can we use phones on planes” thing has been resolved. It also makes pretty heavy use of controversy surrounding air marshals (go figure), but doesn’t go out of its way to resolve anything. Anyway, its a solid watch, with Neeson doing what he does best , because really, who doesn’t want to see Neeson fighting four guys at once in a stewards cabin.

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Robocop (2014)

Robocop raised a lot of issues that could have just as easily been discussed in relation to Captain America : Winter soldier. Likewise, a lot of the issues surrounding the purpose and likability of the main character in that film apply here also (aka, go read that article too: http://wp.me/p2VTuq-9Q ) . In many respects the two films can be seen as very similar, they both feature a strong hero who has found themselves out of place, time, body – somehow, fighting against a larger, oppressive force that seeks to employ drones to control a population. That these two films deal so explicitly with this is indicative of increasing concerns around the use of drones both in combat situations and in everyday life. Or at least, this is what the studios would like you to think. That both of these films require that the drones they depict require no human intervention to decide, and act with lethal force upon their targets is equally indicative that there is a perception in Hollywood at least that this is a universally recognized line in the sand, to use the accepted political terminology. What is interesting though is the heroes. Both Captain America and Robocop are clearly products of very complicated technology. It is only because their ‘humanness’ is emphasized throughout that they are allowed to operate with lethal force. Both Captain America, and Robocop kill people. Within the logic of these films they are permitted to do so because they have the ability to determine the guilt of that person, an ability they possess because they are human, but one they can act upon because they are technologically advanced. In effect, whilst they are clearly attempting to stop the emergence of an authoritarian technocracy (in a literal sense) they are in fact instigating their own, micro, versions of that very same dystopia. Why is this a problem? It is only a silly Robocop action movie after all. Well, that is kind of the problem. When I sat down to watch Robocop I wanted to watch
robots/humans/cops/robohumans/hucops/romans/robocops fight in ridiculous action scenes, I didn’t ask for a social commentary that is so half thought through that it contradicts itself in a most spurious way. In fact, there are even action films which do this properly anyway (Judge Dredd, Blade Runner). What it all comes down to this, I want Robocop and Captain America to kick bad guys asses, and all the bad guys have to do to be bad guys is kill a few innocent bystanders, or maybe drop kick a baby to earn the wrath of our heroes, not bloody well build machines to kill every person on the planet in a sort of twisted version the first grand theft auto game. These films should be seen for what they are, attempts by the studio to engage with hot button issues in a vague (and vain) attempt to make their product seem more socially conscious and intelligent. We’ll see if the relative success of the no nonsense Expendables movies bears this out, but I don’t watch this type of film to think about the potential of our world to descend into technological warfare. If this means Arnie and Stallone have to be cryogenically frozen and wheeled out to make an old school action movie every five years, thats technology I am getting behind.

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Captain America : Winter Soldier

I am a big fan of the First Avenger, the first of the Captain America movies. Far from coming off like a jingoistic asshole as I feared he would, he was presented as a sort of down to earth, slightly conflicted, but quite relatable guy who you couldn’t help but like. This sense of the person remains intact in Winter Soldier, what has fallen apart though is the world the Cap inhabits. Whilst the first film depicted a charmingly silly WWII scenario, Winter Soldier has transplanted the poor old Cap to a cold, impersonal present day. The subtle, and fun satire of the Captains unwitting journey to propaganda icon, interspersed with some well shot action scenes has been replaced with ‘out of your time’ confusion, largely signaled by an inability to form heterosexual relationships, but also a list of ‘things to do’ in the future (the future being something like now). Heterosexual included there just because who says he even wants to go out with the nurse down the hall. The action scenes are still there, and they are pretty damn good, but really, aside from his ability to sling a shield at people, or even the fact that he has a shield at all, this could have been any old person. We could transplant Bond into his place without a second glance, all we have to do is take away the shield and replace the ‘not sleeping with the nurse’ storyline with a ‘sleeping with the nurse’ storyline. It is not a bad film but any stretch, it is exciting, its just lost all the originality that made the first one fun.

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American Pie : The Reunion

American Pie: The Reunion is a really enjoyable film, as enjoyable as the others, and a fine send off (one imagines…) for the characters, American Pie : Mid Life Crisis pending. What is also is though is one big ruse. The film goes well out of its way to convince us that these people, who we grew up with, who we related to, who we felt for, are now experiencing the same sort of issues that we are. It wants to convince us that we have all grown up together. One of the key aspects of the appeal of the American Pie movies was the absolute absurdity of the scrapes the characters find themselves in, but also that those same storylines contained just enough truth that it was easy to relate to them. So, as all the key characters reprise their roles in The Reunion those original problems, girls, boys, getting caught masturbating, problems in the bedroom have ostensibly transformed into the issues of a set of friends who have moved on with their lives. A good example of this is the issue which ties the film together, now, supposedly, the ‘we’re not having enough sex because we have a child’ issue. A grown up issue. Except, its not, really, the problem is actually just still ‘we’re not having sex’. I am not arguing that this is a problem which ruins the film, I’m willing to suspend disbelief in the name of fun, however it seems incongruous to go to such great lengths to establish the characters in such a way that they still retained a sense of being at least a little like you, then to have them accidently attend parties with eighteen year olds and generally behave in ways which mark them as more problematically immature than in the other films. Moreso in that the issues which people experience in college or high school are usually relatively benign and, in hindsight, quite silly. The issues the American Pie guys are facing though are less so, a potentially failing marriage, a loveless relationship, a deep seated unhappiness with where one has found oneself, the list goes on. To treat these issues with the same throw away silliness as the ones encountered in the other films is one thing, but to present, at the finale of the film, easily attained solutions to each of them is to denigrate them to the same level as being caught masturbating by an unwitting parent. One can only hope it is so simple in the real world.

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Grey Wolf : Hitler’s Escape to Argentina

‘Grey Wolf : Hitler’s Escape to Argentina’ is the least enigmatic title you’ll hear today. It is a docu-drama about, you guessed it, Hitler’s supposed escape to Argentina at the end of WWII. He didn’t die you see, in a move that marks him as significantly more cowardly than his (actual) course of action, he ran away. What a little shit. Needless to say, there are quite a lot of issues with this film. Starting with the obvious, that title. It leaves nothing to the imagination. Now, we live in a post Titanic world, whilst that film serves as a bastion of predictability in a volatile world, at least that wasn’t actually called “Titanic : It sinks”. To help out the film makers when they try to tell this film overseas I have come up with a few better potential titles. They are as follows: ‘HITLER : ALIVE’ – Short, to the point, and straight up scary, I’d watch this in an instant. ‘Return to Castle Grey Wolfenstein’ – To get the early 2000’s video game crowd interested, they are all grown up now and never met anyone to reproduce with (because: gamer stereotype) so have all the money. Finally, ‘Hitler’s Summer Kampf’ – which beside being in brilliantly bad taste is significantly better than ‘Grey Wolf’ which sounds like an action movie with an aging cast, plus the laboriously boring “Hitler’s Escape to Argentina”. If you are going to make an exploitative, ridiculous film like this at least name it
appropriately. One doesn’t need to watch the film because clearly its going to tell me that Hitler, fully the most hated man of WWII, didn’t in fact die in a bunker as his reich collapsed around him, but went and escaped to Argentina. He really, probably, almost certainly, probably, didn’t. There is an attempt to imply that the FBI were aware of all these nefarious goings on and let it go. One was not fully paying attention at this point (snoozing) but it is safe to say, the reasons given fall under the category of farm waste. The second issue with the film is perhaps a little more nuanced. It is based on a book, which apparently is far more detailed, as if more detail were needed in the telling of this annoying little story, which in turn relies in the eye witness testimonies of … eye witnesses. The film is structured in such a way that each of these eye witnesses basically voice overs their section of the story, so there is pretty much zero diagetic dialogue. This has two side effects. The first is that every time a new person starts speaking their name is written across the screen, even if we have heard them eight or nine times. The second, far more vexatious side effect is that, aside from the voice over, it is essentially a silent film, with exactly the sort of over zealous, flamboyant acting that silent films are famous for. Hitler’s friends in Argentina come off like a sort of collection of incongruous clowns, mugging and gesturing at each other as if emotion can only be conveyed via the medium of over zealous facial expressiveness. Finally though, what it comes down to is Hitler. No one is a fan of Hitler. I mean, say one was in the pub, slightly half cut, and woozily leans over to ones chum and stating “Hitler didn’t kill himself you know, he went to Argentina and lived there in a big old house then died… like, when he was old. He went all mad with the guilt and that as well”, thats interesting, thats a conversation starter, thats a way to awaken you and your drinking aide from an alcohol induced intellectual fug with a rousing “No bloody way, who says? there is no way that is true” before googling it to find out that only four ‘eye witnesses exist’. The point is, it doesn’t, shouldn’t, take 94 precious minutes to convey this idea. If it is true, so what? The asshole escaped justice by offing himself anyway, and the film implies that whilst he was shacked up in a pretty nice place in Argentina he hardly lived the life of riley even if he didn’t end it all in 1945, what with everyone in the world hating him, being betrayed by his own men, and generally losing his mind (one hopes from guilt). Telling this story isn’t going to make anyone feel any better about the man. Lets go back to that title attempt: “Grey Wolf: Hitler might have escaped to Argentina, where he died”. Now you don’t need to watch the film.

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The Piano

I felt a forceful dislike for The Piano grow within me as I watched it. An overwhelming, passionate hatred. Ostensibly a tale of repression, desire and ultimately love it is in reality an unsavory depiction of a love triangle populated at each corner by a person with, at least, severe mental problems, and more likely acute psychosis. One cannot honestly give a synopsis of the film, such is its downright preposterousness, needless to say it focusses on Ada, voluntarily mute, her violent husband through arranged marriage, and the illiterate man next door. In the center of this foolish trifecta is the piano. Set in a wet, muddy New Zealand wilderness the only aspect of the film which works is the juxtaposition of the ridiculous, inane, pompous, hateful whites with the native Maori, who, though showing signs of assimilation have retained a wisdom and honesty that marks them as the only truly likable characters in the film. We learn at the outset that even Ada herself doesn’t know why she is mute, aside from the fact that the film would ultimately not work if she chose to speak (or indeed, if George, the neighbor could read). Herein lies a problem which is indicative of the film as a whole, it relies fundamentally on its main characters simply deciding to not only do frankly reprehensible things, but also to carry them out in ways which would never occur to any normal person. One supposes this is the point, this, it seems is what love or sex, or lack of sex, or lack of love does to a person. But what are we if we are not perpetually not in love, or in love, or having sex, or not having sex. And yet somehow one makes it through entire days without doing unexpectedly deranged things to those around me and myself. One could argue that perhaps it is though that one is simply not passionate, or repressed enough, one however must then disregard the passion with which I dislike the Piano.

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Dead Mine

Dead Mine is genre horror at its most generic. This isn’t such a bad thing, the production values are high so it looks pretty good and its got some nice creepy moments. Just don’t expect the plot of the century or anything, and if heavily stereotyped and typical horror characters are a turn off then this isn’t for you. There is a hint at some sort of depth concerning the military mindset and the complexity, socially speaking, of the Japanese role in WWII, but you certainly shouldn’t expect to take anything profound away from the film. The eponymous Dead Mine has actually been militarized at some point during the war to make it a little more interesting, and although it comes off looking a little like one (or more) of the zones in the Crystal Maze, its plenty creepy enough in its own right. It almost certainly could have been improved if Richard O’Brien had shown up every now and then cracking wise. Anyway, O’Briens absence aside the film starts off with some pretty nice jump scares, which sort of dissipate later on in favor of a more stalk and slash sort of vibe. I won’t reveal how all this goes down because even though you should have it all worked out at about fifteen minutes in the film escalates in a couple of potentially unexpected ways. So Dead Mine, its a proficient horror with some good moments, but about as original as its name suggests.

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Expendables III : Singspendables

Sometimes (pretty often in fact) you go to the midnight showing of the new Expendables movie and then spend the rest of your fretful night wondering how many of the stars of your favourite, completely silly action franchise could be in a band together – for reasons that will only make sense if you see the movie, and even then motivation behind this silliness is rather tenuous. This lot can kill, but can they sing? Project : Singspendables.

Ex-Expendables (Ex-pendables?), new recruits etc. are included to give the best possible talent range …or something…

Sylvester Stallone:

If you have never seen classic 80s movie Rhinestone go watch it right now, or just watch this video, it’s probably the best part and sort of makes me wish Stallone sung in all his movies. Stay out of my bedroom Ok, just stay out.

Arnie:
Twins, an Arnie classic. This is actually how Arnie showers. Seriously.

Dolph Lundgren
This actually happened, you might be tempted to just watch half, but hang around, and it gets amazing after two minutes. To be honest most musical performances could be improved in this way…

Terry Crews
Terry proves that he has it even off the cuff … ish.

Wesley Snipes
Proving he is cool in any situation, the first Expendable on the list with tune you might play without irony.

Jet Li
This is the second passable tune on the list, I mean, clearly this is group effort and I have no idea what it is about, none the less I will be playing this often because it makes me want to do martial arts in my kitchen.

Randy Couture
That’s enough of the actually vaguely good singing for a moment. I am not sure Randys singing career is off to a great start, he looks like he is mildly confused.

Chuck Norris
Lazy Chuck, lazy, this is pretty much just talking. I mean, better work than Randy, but still. Don’t tell Chuck I said that, we all know what he can do.

Liam Hemsworth
Look, here is Liam pretending he can’t sing. I have read the original script though and it called for “Rousing duet” – had to be altered mid shoot because of this…apparently.

Bruce Willis
Fans of the Willis will know he has a band and has released a couple of albums. What I like about this video is how it makes him look like an angry Mr Potato Head.

Kelsey Grammer
I am not sure if Grammer is technically an expendable, but he makes the list because this performance from his previous life, before he got into the shady world of mercenary supplies, is pretty fun.

Ronda Rousey
No real way to verify that this is really Ronda, but we’ll just assume. Bad song choice, but the performance gets a 8/10. Proving that even movie stars sing in the car.

Antonio Banderas
I did not see this coming when I started project Singspendables. What a hero.

Mel Gibson
You didn’t know this right?

Harrison Ford
EXACTLY how you expected Harrison Ford to sing. Mumblemumblemumblemumble.

I am afraid, there were a few Expendables who just don’t seem to be singers, at least in the world of youtube. These honourable mentions will never make it into the Singspendables band, but they have some other skills that might mean they can at least come on tour:

Mickey Rourke
Mickey is definitely in because he can play the organ whilst deflecting questions from an annoying blind women. Such great acting.

Jason Statham
A shame that Expendables stalwart Statham can’t be in the band, but he can do the spoken word track on the b side at least.

Victor Ortiz
Backing dancer. That is all.

Yu Nan
And the bouncer. I mean, singspendables gigs can get pretty out of hand.

Kellan Lutz
Hmmm, not sure what to make of this. Some kind of bad groupie decision I think. Letting the side down Lutz, singspendables will never tour with her.

Glen Powell
Glen looks different here…oh…

So there it is – the band line-up. Some better than expected, some lacklustre performances, and the musical direction of the band is going to be a bone of contention, I have a feeling Snipes and Lundgrens styles are incompatible. Either way, let’s hope that Expendables four features a rendition of Stay Out of my Bedroom.

Big thanks to all the original video uploaders/content owners.

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Men in Black III

Men in Black … Three. I watched this last night in the throes of an epic hangover – seeking something that would make it all feel alright, to enjoy along with as much greasy food and sugary drinks as possible. In that respect the film performs admirably. Big Willy reprises his role as whatever letter he has been assigned, as does Tommy Lee Jones, a different letter. Who knows what the MIB agency does when they run out of letters, or want to hire two agents whose names are the same letter. Anyway Jones who is slightly supplanted for most of the movie by Josh Brolin. The first act sees you on familiar ground, Big Willy and Jones doing some alien related stuff whilst Jones remains stoney faced, and Willy is aghast at how emotionally stunted he is. The thing here is that its made quite clear that the ten years between the last film and this one are supposed to have taken place in the film world as well, quite how these two have been partners for that long, and are still having this same conversation is almost as hard to believe as all the extra terrestrial mumbo jumbo. A note on that, I have written before about how Willy has access to the fountain of eternal youth, this film is a prime example, whilst Jones is barely up to actually playing himself in this film, Willy looks like he stepped right out of 2002. Weird right. The second and third acts get tied up in a time travel conundrum that means all sorts of good fun at the expense of how silly the end of the sixties were. I personally much prefer the exploding gross alien stuff to the crappy hippy jokes, though the for some reason the depiction of Warhol was quite entrancing. Yeah, Warhol is in this film, you can really tell there were script issues at points. Anyway, the climax of the film is brilliant until a frankly weird, dumb and clearly tacked on ending ruins it all by attempting to … well I am not sure what, appeal to people who give a crap about emotional stuff instead of big gross aliens I guess. Who knows. Its a bummer though, it was all going so well then this part just makes me want to throw my shoe through the tv. If you watch it keep this in mind: “Where the crap did he come from”. “Seriously…why. Why is he there”. It will make sense when you see it. Then you will throw your shoe too. Aside from the broken tv, this movie takes me right back to watching the first two, it feels the same, largely because it basically is, and thats what I want when I am so hung over I can hardly move.

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