Battle Royale

br

I am quite convinced that whoever the woman is who wrote The Hunger Games saw Battle Royale before being ‘struck’ by the idea of Katniss Everdeen. The similarities are surely not just coincidental. Children battle to the death on an isolated island (or arena for THG) with the weapons they are given/can find.

It’s not exactly the same but the basic story is definitely very familiar, however, in Battle Royale the government chooses a naughty class of children to be the sacrifices. It’s not random death selection like in THG. From there on it’s pretty much the same. Lots of kids you don’t feel much for get chopped to bits by other kids you don’t feel much for and the kids you do get to know try to avoid killing as much as possible but have to do it to save themselves now and then.

There’s a little romance thrown in to Battle Royale in between the insane violence – not sure why, there’s nothing nice going on here and you know everyone’s going to die, right? As if you’d be thinking about boys/girls at this time. Although it’s a while since I was a teenager so maybe kids these days are all into bloody destruction matched with romance?

Battle Royale is really violent although not in a very realistic way. It’s a mean film though. There isn’t any weak conquering the mighty to be seen and those you think might make it through the battle to the death are just as likely not to.

BR is pretty gross and pretty wrong but I think it’s got quite a bit to say about authority and the role of government in making laws that are good for some but bad for others (really bad in BR) and usually bad for the people who have the least power to do anything about it. Maybe I’m reading a bit more into it than the writers intended but if I saw it at all I’m pretty sure it’s there – I’m not the best at finding hidden meaning in anything. At the same time it seems just as much an excuse to get Japanese girls to beat the shit out of each other while wearing school uniforms and still managing to be manga cute while, of course, the blood sprays in every direction.

There’s no happy ending here and a lot of the death is really quite gruesome. If you can handle splatter splash heads off kind of gore you might just like Battle Royale. Don’t watch it if you don’t like blood or if you don’t like to see the blatant meanness underlying the entire story or watching a film while knowing it’s never getting any better or that general feeling of dread when you know it’s all going to hell in a handbasket but you’re sitting in your living room and you probably don’t need to keep watching.

Also this film is in Japanese with subtitles. Also this film does not have Cary Grant in it, which is disappointing but something I’ll probably have to get used to when it comes to movie watching…

Argo

argo

So I was completely spoiled on the story of Argo from the get-go as most viewers probably were. I read a reasonably detailed article about the true events Argo is based on at around the time Argo was released so I knew the outcome of this movie. Nonetheless this is an excellent action film that carries you on it’s stressful progression all the way.

Suspense is hard to achieve especially when a lot of your audience already knows the story. Somehow Ben Affleck (Director and actor in this one) pulls it off. I think it probably has a lot to do with having good writers on your side as well. One of whom is the person who actually pulled off this insanity for the CIA. Also, you can’t see Ben’s chin which is my favourite type of Ben.

It’s a treat to see a version of the CIA portrayed which is full of people who actually seem like they might exist (sorry Ethan Hunt and Mr Bourne (whatever his first name is… I’m going with Bruce, I know it’s not Matt anyway)). Bearded Ben plays a bloke who seems like someone you might know or work with, he’s smart and he’s good at playing it straight but it’s because it’s what he does for a living not because he’s the Batman (…I know…). His boss as played by Brian Cranston is even more realistic and flawed. He’s caught between the job and the politics.

Still, the action arises from their ‘everyday’ charms and their need to save a few people from a horrible fate. It is also the politics/doing-your-job dichotomy that a lot of the suspense arises from. It’s very cleverly done.

I remember some of the controversy in Iran from when I was a kid but I had absolutely know idea how dangerous and scary it got, especially for US citizens. I certainly remember those pictures of the Ayatollah staring down from the TV. Beardy Ben does a good job of overlaying true footage from the events and the new scenes for the movie. It is a true story and it doesn’t hide from it or glamorise events (as far as I can tell). They even cast actors who look like the people who became trapped.

The true fake movie story was well portrayed and, as ever, Alan Arkin shone through the screen (as I struggled to remember his name!) as the producer who faked his way through all the Hollywood fakery to produce a fake film. Go CIA! Best worst plan ever!

I actually chose a very relevant time to watch Argo as there is a strong Star Wars influence throughout. The fake film is basically a rip off and with all the hype about Episode VII at the moment it jumped out at me even more. The influence of Star Wars on Hollywood hasn’t really faded much at all. (Okay, I love Star Wars, sorry not sorry.)

The main issue I have with Argo is that the fake movie was never made. It looked tragically awesome and a lot worse has been made in Hollywood since Star Wars started the craze for Sci-Fi Fantasy in action movies.

 

 

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

A movie that makes you want to read the book – just so you might have a chance of finding out what in the world is going on… Yep, that’s Cloud Atlas.

This is a long film, at 172 minutes it’s a pretty long slog and for about 160 minutes of that I basically had no idea what the film was about. Which inevitably is kind of annoying, no matter how beautiful the camera shots are and how well acted and interesting individual storylines are. I mean, I knew the tagline was “everything is connected” and it’s quite clear that the same actors are playing characters throughout all the stories but that didn’t really help the film make sense or have a point…apart from “everything is connected“.

I can see how all this would make a pretty good book as you explore characters and repeated events but it felt like this needed to be further developed into maybe an 8 hour TV series or a mini-series. I really think it was a mistake to try to contain this much story in a movie.

I adore the Wachowski’s movies in general. I even like Jupiter Ascending and I liked Cloud Atlas but it just never quite reached any highs or the high silliness of Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowski’s never do anything by halves though and Cloud Atlas is no different in that regard. I just wish I could have seen some sense a bit earlier instead of just feeling like I was watching disparate stories evolving in very small ways for such a long time.

Also I couldn’t really cope at all with the clearly “asianed” actors that populated the New Seoul storyline. I mean it’s the future, just havewhite folks or Koreans (radical!) with interesting future haircuts living in New Seoul. The actors just looked terrible. It was another mistake I think.

Adding to my list of mistakes was the use of the neo-English in the far future scenes. It was just impossible to understand – it needed subtitles. Using some neo-English would have sufficed but having far future Tom Hanks narrating in that language was really jarring and didn’t help at all with having a clue what might be going on.

Then there was the religious aspect that turned out was really the basis of everything. The reincarnation kind of religion based on love with the same “souls” (New Seoul – get it!?!) reoccurring in peoples lives. Interesting, no doubt, but it took too long to get there and by the time I worked it out I kind of didn’t care.

So, redeeming features were the action sequences and some pretty self-referential inside jokes as well as some really good acting (not so much Tom Hanks and Halle Berry unfortunately – but that’s probably because they were stuck trying to speak neo-English – not good). It was fun catching the actors made up in different genders and cultures but I suppose that was a bit weird too when you think about the current discussion of cultural appropriation and also how bad the white actors in New Seoul make-up looked. But I don’t really know how you could make it clear that souls were being attracted to the same souls over and over again in a movie anyway.

Time to read the book I think.

The Raid

The Raid

Oh. My. Golly Jeepers! Here it is – the action holy grail. The Raid – basically the perfect action film yet no Tom Cruise (weird right?). If you think of any Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan (pre Hollywood films anyway) then this is that chop sockky film on steroids, played seriously and absolutely not for laughs.
The Raid has just enough storyline to make sense, in fact, it was almost too complicated in parts (more action, less thinking!!). Really, asking for more action is ridiculous because where would it fit!?!
The main actor is obviously some sort of Indonesian superhero of martial arts as he completely destroys everything in his path much like Beatrix Kiddo and the Crazy 88. I hope he is in all the Indonesian films I see from now on (as long as there’s no kissing). The Raid is seriously the best Indonesian film I have ever seen.  (No, it’s not the only one I’ve seen. I’ve seen two, but the other one had kissing so while the kissing Indo film currently rates second in my Indonesian movie ranking I’m pretty sure it’s about to be usurped by The Raid 2…)
I have to admit it was a bit hard to keep up with reading the subtitles and catching all the action but I truly hate dubbed live action films so I couldn’t recommend trying that. I also don’t have a strong hold on Indonesian names so they all turned into “the guy with the …” and “Mr Superhero Martial Arts Guy who will never be forgotten”.
This is a seriously gruesome film with never ending blood bath fights that look fully sick (in both ways). I call this not suitable for children although I think Miss 15 could watch it just fine.
Just like the (for me) miss that was Dredd, The Raid is a reverse tower defense game where the good guys are locked in the grotty tower trying to take it from within. The bad guys know they are there and basically much casualty ensues. The Raid is done purely for action as well but somehow works so much better than Dredd.
I actually smiled all the way through The Raid. It took me back to all those awesome Hong Kong martial arts movies I watched as a teen. It was very early Jackie Chan in style but with absolutely no comedy or slapstick to be seen. This movie is not funny. But, yes, I was smiling through every sickening snap, every punch, every guy who got up and kept fighting after being beaten to a pulp, every gunshot, every bullet that missed, every bullet that found its mark, every explosion and absolutely every scene without kissing.
I look forward to The Raid 2…

Dredd

dredd

Oh dear, this film…

Do you like action for the sake of blowing things up and killing people? Do you like wooden acting by otherwise good actors? Do you like pretty explosions and scenes of drug taking? Do you like excellence in lower face acting? If you answered yes to all of these I suggest you see Dredd. Otherwise don’t.

I like action films it’s true so I didn’t hate Dredd but I would’ve liked a bit of character development or even a story line I couldn’t see coming a mile off. Dredd is disappointing. I’m not even sure this version outshines the Stallone version, except it has to just because the explosions are bigger and the action grittier.

Karl Urban makes it through the whole film not taking his half face helmet off thereby becoming the world’s best lower face acting actor. Not a good thing unfortunately. You can only see his mouth so no clues as to what’s going on in there. Basically Karl spends a lot of time pouting or keeping his mouth in a perfectly straight line. Not wooden at all, no sir. On the other hand his girl sidekick who’s name I’ve forgotten leaves her helmet with her motorbike so we get to see all the girly extremes of her experience. Pfft. Apparently she’s less psychic with her helmet on but personally I’d have it with me because everyone is trying to shoot judges so stupid girl really.

Dredd 3

dredd 2

Karl Urban's wide range of lower face acting skills exemplified.

Karl Urban’s wide range of lower face acting skills exemplified.

This is basically a fortress defense game on film except the ‘good guys’ are already in the fortress and are destroying it from the inside and the baddies are defending the fortress. Start at the bottom, work your way to the top, kill everyone you see and destroy everything you can – the bigger the hole in the walls the more points! At the same time the baddies are destroying everything while trying to kill the judges. So destruction really.

I like (in terms of the imagination not in terms of wanting to live in this future… I’ll stick with my now thank you) the dystopian future imagined in Dredd, a place where drugs are illegal but give the only form of escape from the horror of a poor existence, regular people are trapped by poverty and the most violent arise to rule the slums. This kind of future feels kind of real as the gap between the poorest people in the world and the richest grows and grows. It’s not hard to see slums developing where gangs are the law and the law just stays away. It is very bleak and very dark. This is a large scale version of places that I’m sure very much already exist.

Lena Headey is reasonably good but she’s basically playing Cersei Lannister with bad hair, a scar and no money. Her character is in charge though which makes for a different take on gangs I suppose but the character is poorly developed and could have been played by a man or a woman really.

Oh dear, this film…

Karl's emotional reaction to this blog entry.

Karl’s emotional reaction to this blog entry.

The Dark Knight Rises

DKR

What can I say about The Dark Knight Rises? I can say it is very full of action. Very nice. I can say it is very full of Christian Bale. Very nice indeed and I’m sorry to see him leave the role. I can say it has one of the oddest speaking baddies of all time. Bane – you are weird.

What is with the way Bane speaks? He’s got his Darth Vader mask on so I get that it’s hard to speak and he’s quite breathy (time for Bane’s French lounge album release?) but why does he over articulate and over emphasise some words? I actually found it quite funny. I went about doing Bane impressions for a couple of days – “What do you want cat? Are you quite comfortable there? Can I pat your belly?” (You’ll have to add your own Britishy breathy Baneness if you really want to feel it.) Bane’s way of speaking is not sinister it’s silly. He is a tough and strong bad guy, stronger than Batman, and a real foe for the B-man but his voice is just ridiculous. Darth Vader works, Bane doesn’t.

I never quite understood why Bane is like that either but that was probably down to a small patch of sleepiness about halfway through DKR. I may have had a large meal and a couple of glasses of wine before sitting down to watch which, with the incredible length of this film, may not have been the best idea. Still I thought a Saturday night action film was the way to go. I’ll blame my couch, it is just too comfortable.

Also, we need to speak about Catwoman. What happened to Catwoman? I liked the deviousness and the willingness to do what needs to be done to get what she wants but there was no mystery and no strength of character. Just because we know what Catwoman is meant to be doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get a fully-fledged character revealed in the film itself. Anne Hathaway did a great job with limited room to move, not just because she was wearing the world’s most impractical leather jumpsuit, in terms of character development, but that is down to her skill as an actress. I liked the Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman she really was bad/good and very catty. Let us never speak of the Halle Berry Catwoman…

My nostalgic favourite Catwoman - Eartha Kitt!

My nostalgic favourite Catwoman – Eartha Kitt!

I really liked the last 20 minutes of this film where it all comes together and you get a little bit worried and things make sense. I didn’t really like the last minute or so where we are spoon fed a gazillion happy endings (yes, exactly a gazillion…). I would have liked to have SEEN less and worked out more but I don’t think leaving it to the audience was much of an option in this one. Not much brain power required to watch DKR.

Overall this is an action film and Christian Bale is in it so I liked it but the second one is the best.

Jack Reacher

Is it just me or does Tom seem a bit 'stretched' in this poster? Reaching for Jack Reacher height I think...

Is it just me or does Tom seem a bit ‘stretched’ in this poster? Reaching for Jack Reacher height I think…

So it turns out that Jack Reacher is a genuinely average action vehicle for Tom Cruise. Truth bombs hey! Woah, I would never have guessed.

I have only read one Jack Reacher novel and I liked it. It was action heavy and dialogue low, unlike Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher. There were bits where I actually felt embarrassed for Tom and whatever woman was standing near him (seriously she’s there but so not an important character when you really get down to it) when he had to say everything that Jack Reacher was thinking and that most people would never have to say out loud. The good thing about the book was that you know what JR is thinking. (No-one shot JR by the way – though that could have been interesting although as I’m sure this is about to become a franchise it seems unlikely.) In the film we have to hear everything he’s thinking – oh, so tedious.

I think that the screenplay writer probably could have left a lot out and we (the great movie watching public) probably could’ve worked out what was going on. (How stoopid do they think we are? Don’t answer that – I know!)

Still we did get some classic Tom action moments. A glorious car chase, a never ending shoot out (which did actually end but it felt like it went on for ever!) but because I had been so distracted by my embarrassment for Tom having to say all the words ever in the universe I just didn’t really enjoy the action. I hate that.

In the books JR is really tall and all the ladies like that but Tom is not really tall but all the ladies like him anyway so I suppose that is okay. At least he is the right age. Still, the pretty woman really wanted to go the kissing and that didn’t happen because JR is not supposed to be a floozy going from town to town hooking up with the pretty women, which really was quite a relief. An action film without a gratuitous and useless sex scene – yay! JR is supposed to be the coolest guy ever who goes around from town to town saving the day with his awesome Military Police skills and his height (or his Tom Cruiseness as appropriate).

Here’s something I liked – they didn’t over play the fact that JR never washes his clothes and that he just buys new ones. It’s a quirk of the character (when you’re a town to town roaming non-floozy ex-Military Policy type hero you don’t want no baggage, y’hear?) and considering how much JR talked about everything else he was thinking all the time it was refreshing not to have to hear that explained.

I think I’ll just stick with the books if I need to get to know JR any better.

Attack the Block

AtB

It’s not often that you see a movie set in London’s estates that isn’t an intense downbeat heavy drama. Don’t get me wrong this movie is still downbeat about the life the kids are leading but this time they’re fighting aliens!! Yeah, take that Brit drama!

Attack the Block is set in the familiar high rise estates so often seen as part of London’s seedy underbelly on TV and film. Filled with criminals, destitutes, single mothers and neglected teens. I’m really hoping the reality is a bit nicer than the portrayal on the screen.

We start in the criminal underbelly/neglected teen section of the estate and pretty much stay there through the whole film. These kids are finding their meaning in drug deals, robberies and brit gang culture. The two younger boys who follow our main protagonists around show us where these young men came from, idolising their elder brothers, and the drug dealers show us where these youngsters are headed.

The tough guy act doesn’t last long when they realise they are dealing with really aggressive aliens not the usual easy to intimidate residents of their block. With the help of a nurse living in the block, that they earlier held up at knife point (which lends an interesting dynamic) they are forced to use their wits and strengths, rather than relying on smart arsery, to out run the marauding aliens.

The aliens are pretty cool too, well, not the first one it looks kind of gross (it looks like a large hairless dog), but the follow ups are big old wolf types that are so black they are like that new black that science just found which is really hard for humans to see (yes, science is one conglomerate where people do science), they are blind, and have glow in the dark teeth! Yeah, aliens FTW!

I wonder if glow in the dark teeth keep you awake at night?

So, redemption. You know it’s coming, you know you want it. You’ll get it but you’ll have to wade through quite a few torn up bodies and a sea of blood to get there. Also a room full of marijuana which is locked up like Fort Knox. The story turns out to be quite clever, there aren’t any major twists but the giveaway makes the movie a lot more enjoyable and some things that hadn’t made sense before make a lot more sense.

The action is pretty constant with a couple of scenes early on that take their time to build you up to the inevitable gore with such tension that it is almost mean. The chase is on from pretty early on and it only lets up for moments of relief.

I loved this film it was just the right mix of horror, suspense and sci-fi. It was like Alien but set in London and with way more action! So more like Aliens but with the underprepared crew of the Nostromo running around rather than the soldiers toting huge guns.

The Wolverine

Wolverine

Hey, have you noticed that Hugh Jackman is ridiculously buff? I think this is the 11th time he’s played Wolverine in an X-men movie. Which means he’s been working out for a long time! I can’t remember if we get a gratuitous shot of his bottom in The Wolverine and I’m a heterosexual female so you’d think I’d notice so there probably wasn’t one. We do, however, get a gratuitous abs shot which wasn’t all bad, no sir, not at all.

Now apart from the HJ factor for the ladies, I actually really enjoyed The Wolverine. There was enough action to keep me happy and enough story line to keep me thinking. Nice. The women were interesting characters with actual back stories and an arc that made sense. Woah, action film with female characters that aren’t just there for sexy times (although there was a bit of that but seeing as HJ was also getting the sexy time oily buff treatment I have no problem with such – equal treatment FTW!).

This film even passes the Bechdel test. The women talk about their concerns for someone other than Wolverine and I have to say if HJ were hanging out anywhere near me I would find that exceedingly difficult. (Oh dear, I’m one of those women – shut up, shut up, shut up, write about the film!)

I loved the Japanese location and the cultural influence on the movie. Wolverine was so far outside his comfort zone and his way of doing things (scratching people up y’know) just didn’t cut it (haha! pun bell!) in the society he was in. The Japanese just did everything better, cleaner, cooler and with less facial hair.

I think taking Wolverine out of the USA was a really good idea for this one. We really needed to be outside the goings on of the other X-men franchises and X-men Origins: Wolverine. I liked Origins but it was just so confusing and hard to place in the X-men timeline (I’ve never read the comics and I didn’t think about it for very long so I can’t comment on whether it makes sense for the pure of X-men folks). It was good not to have to think about the timing of events while watching – it just didn’t matter.

You know what’s weird about Wolverine? It’s when he has bone claws not adamantium. For some reason that really freaks me out. It actually makes my knuckles feel weird. Surely bone claws break like really long nails or something? I mean they’re quite thin. Also, why don’t they ever show the claws cutting through his skin? It must happen every time. And what about when he (SPOILER – although it’s an obvious plot hook) loses the ability to self heal? Surely he’d have permanent cuts on his knuckles? They totally should have shown that. And it probably hurt each time they got re-cut (am I over thinking this? I think so).

Back to the film… I liked it. It’s got action and it’s got a not entirely stoopid story line.

Two things I didn’t like:

1. superfluous ninja guy – he was just there to go heavy ninja all over the place and to make the big W a bit jealous – pointless and confusing

2. the big bad was too predictable, yet another evil guy being pretty obviously evil and just evilling about, c’mon people this is X-men the home of the ever conflicting Magneto (he’s bad but he’s good but he’s bad but I like him cos he’s good but he’s so bad but he’s good, you know?).

Also, Hugh Jackman looks good with his shirt off… (shut up, shut up, shut up)

Elysium

elysium

Action, sci-fi, future dystopia – is there anything I love that Elysium doesn’t have? Oh, a meaningful storyline or characters I care about? Yeh, that’s an issue.

Elysium had so much potential! I loved Neill Blomkamp’s first film District 9. It had action, sci-fi, future dystopia and it also had a meaningful storyline and characters. That film was so raw and unpolished and it worked.

Elysium was supposed to be unpolished (note the future dystopia). The Earth has been abandoned by the rich elite and the poor non-elite have been left to fend for themselves. We meet good ole Matt Damon struggling to survive and desperate to reach Elysium the floating retreat of the rich and lustrous and clean and neat and greenery loving people who used to live on Earth. They have health care you know – got an illness? Elysium can zap that. And that’s it. I just couldn’t care about it. Matt Damon was under utilised – we all know the guy can do action. Jodie Foster could have been awesome but her character just evilled about (you know walking evil, talking evil, being a bit over the top about it = evilling about).

The whole outcome of the film was telegraphed like a punch in WWE. You can see everything coming like you’re being told. Was the best friend actually wearing a red shirt a la Star Trek? – because he may as well have.

I would like to think of something positive about Elysium but I can’t think of much. I did read somewhere that Jodie Foster’s character was originally meant to be a male character so it was refreshing to have an evil woman as the person you would hate if you felt anything at all about this film.

Elysium is all about the blokes though, apparently in evil future dystopias women are either mothers or bad and can’t take care of themselves – they need Matt Damon or some South African guy to do their stuff. Come on Hollywood – get over it!!

Hey, need some feels? What about a little girl with terminal cancer who won’t live unless she gets to Elysium? Yeh, feel that audience. Except you don’t. I was so over it by the point that she was introduced that it was more an “of course” than an “oh no”. Another female for Matt Damon to save. Boring.

At least Elysium passes the Bechdel Test because the Mother and Daughter talk to each other about something other than Matt Damon. I can’t remember what they talked about because I didn’t care. (Yeh, take that Elysium…)

What a pity that Elysium was so drab. It’s a really interesting idea and there is so much current political tension around health care at the moment (I’m looking at you USA) that Elysium could have really made a statement that would make us think. But no, that didn’t happen, not at all.

Unfortunately potential and otherwise good actors doesn’t count for much when the story is so tedious and predictable.

Sad face. No. Bored face. Yes, that.