They are my oldest and deadliest enemy. You cannot trust them.
If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give a favourable reference to the Devil.

Tuesday, December 29

Blog

42 Days Of Suggestions

[Stickied.  I forgot I could sticky things.]

As I mentioned, I'm planning to watch and review 42 films in the space of 42 days - the summer school holidays here in Sydney.

I can probably find 42 films to watch, but I'm certainly open to suggestions.  Just three requirements:
  1. I haven't seen it before.*
  2. It must have some redeeming quality.
  3. It must be available in some reasonable way.


List

3. Brave **½
5. The Prestige
6. Inside Out ***
7. Inception
8. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
9. Skyfall
10. Dark City
11. The Shawshank Redemption
12. The Martian
13. Mad Max
14. The Mouretsu Pirates Movie
15. Frozen **
16. Interstellar
17. 300
18. Crank ***
19. Metropolis
20. Watchmen
21. Sucker Punch
22. Pacific Rim
23. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
24. Only Yesterday
25. A Monster in Paris ****
26. Shoot 'Em Up
27. Minority Report
28. Secondhand Lions
29. To Kill a Mockingbird
30. Arrietty ***½
31. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
32. Army of Darkness
34. Desperado
35. Sin City
38. Double Indemnity
39. The K-On! Movie ***
40. The Adventures of Tintin **½
41. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya ***
42. Star Wars: The Force Awakens ***

(I may rearrange the order depending on what I feel like watching from day to day, but I plan to get to everything on the list.)

Scores

**** Everything it could have been and everything I could have wanted. It's rare for a film to do both; I'm not objective in my ratings and don't pretend to be.

*** Very good, well worth watching, and recommended.

** Adequate. Or perhaps it was well-made but didn't grab me, or it grabbed me but was badly flawed. Something you might watch on a rainy afternoon and not count your time wasted.

* Not very good at all. Not recommended unless you are feeling particularly perverse.

Ø A stinker with no net merit whatsoever. A black hole where talent and money went to die.


* Which you can't possibly know unless I've mentioned it here, so fire away.

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Monday, December 28

Art

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

42 Days of Summer #5

Directed by Irvin Kershner
Written by Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, James Earl Jones, Frank Oz
1980, 124 minutes

As I mentioned in my pre-review, while I'm very very late watching this film, I already knew almost everything about it.  I'd read the book, heard the score, seen images and clips and spoofs of the action, listened to entire podcasts about it...  I just hadn't seen it.

The good news is that the film holds up both to my expectations and to the 35 years since its release.  I watched the Somethingth Anniversary Digital Special Edition Release, which has toned down some of the earlier Lucasic fiddling, and which looks absolutely beautiful.

There's little about this film that doesn't work.  The stop-motion AT-ATs look a little odd compared to how polished and fluid the rest of the cinematography is.  And Yoda...  Okay, I can understand the attachment people have to the physical puppet over the CGI version in the prequels, but he's a puppet.

And the giant space worm is a goddam sock.  I'm a little surprised they left that in, but I'm glad they did.

Three and a half star wars out of four.  Having watched (or rewatched) the original trilogy, I give them all three and a half stars.  There are definitely things the latter two films do better than the first - cinematography, sets, costumes - but they both sag a little in the middle (the Dagobah and Endor parts).

You've probably already seen them, but if you haven't, highly recommended.

I also watched the first half hour of The Phantom Menace.  I'll say this: The first eleven minutes are not entirely terrible.

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Art

The Lego Movie

42 Days of Summer #6 (yes, we're out of timetable order, whatever)

Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Chris McKay
Written by Dan Hageman, Christopher Miller, Kevin Hageman, Roy Lee
Starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, and with a whole bunch of other people
2014, 101 minutes

What the hell happened here?  With three directors and four writers and being clearly nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy, this should have been a train wreck.  Maybe it would keep the kids quiet for ninety minutes so mommy could get some me time with a stiff gin and tonic, but you couldn't expect more than that.

The Lego Movie blows the doors off all expectations by delivering something that is smart, fun, and sincere, fast-paced, well-directed, and if it doesn't entirely make sense then for almost its entire 101 minutes it doesn't give you enough time to notice.

For a film about and composed of plastic bricks, it is endlessly inventive and visually stunning.  While the movie is almost entirely computer-animated, every scene is planned out as though it were to be built out of real Lego blocks.  I don't know if that restraint improves the movie itself or if it's just one sign of how much care went into the production, but it's clear that the production team failed a cynicism check and ended up caring deeply about what they were making.

The story almost doesn't matter in the whirlwind of inventiveness, but very quickly, Emmett Brickowski (Pratt), a Lego construction figure so everyman-ish that no-one actually remembers him, falls down a hole in a construction site and encounters the Piece of Resistance, a mysterious artifact that will allow a rag-tag group of freedom fighters to stop the plans of Lord Business (Ferrell) to destroy the world by unleashing the power of the Kraggle.

When the Lego Police show up to arrest him, led by Bad Cop (Neeson), Emmett  is rescued by action girl Wyldstyle (Banks) and...  Lego magic happens.

Almost everything about this film is awesome, including the score.

Three bricks out of four.  Recommended.

Oh, and one more thing: The Lego Movie is a better Batman film than Batman Begins.  Suck it Christopher Nolan.

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Art

Batman Begins

42 Days of Summer #7

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson
2005, 1719 minutes...  okay, 140 minutes, it just seems longer

The first forty-five minutes of Batman Begins are almost unwatchable, while the remaining hour and a half is merely tiresome and unoriginal.  The only good thing in the whole dreary mess is Michael Caine, who tries but ultimately fails to rescue the film.

Everything about the story is both fomulaic and overdone.  We need an origin story (or rather an Origin! Story!) so the first forty-five minutes are wasted (and I do mean wasted) on that.  If they'd cut that entirely, and another thirty minutes here and there (even the action sequences drag), then maybe...

No, forget it, there's no saving this wreck.  It doesn't even look pretty, because you can't see anything.  And the score just phones it in.  They may as well have held up a card reading dramatic orchestral piece for climactic fight sequence.

Honestly, Gotham deserves whatever happens to it.  By the looks of the place they've been electing Democrats since 1927; they did this to themselves.

One bat.

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Sunday, December 27

Art

Everything Is Awesome

Back on track with the watching, if not the reviewing yet.


That's a pretty good film there.  Three bricks out of four.

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Friday, December 25

Life

It's A Christmas Migrainicle!

Was going to continue on with Return of the Jedi, but since I bascially can't see, that will have to be postponed a little.

Update: Feeling better.  But this version didn't have the Yub Nub song.

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Art

Empire Strikes Back Pre-Review

Watched Star Wars for the fourth time today, and Empire for the first.

It's a bit of a strange experience, since I've read the books and seen bits here and there and in general been steeped in Star Wars culture for more than three decades, and I'd seen the first film at least three times before, but hadn't ever sat down to watch the later ones.  So I knew the characters and the actors and the story and the music and the cinematography and...

Anyway.

I'm watching the latest Digital Edition, which has most of the infamous changes, but not the most infamous changes.  The only one that really didn't work for me was the deleted scene from the original, where Jabba confronts Han before they leave Tattooine.  Because they used the original footage and stuck in a huge CGI Jabba, the composition is all wrong.

The Han vs. Greedo shootout in this version is something I'm basically fine with.  They fire more-or-less simultaneously, but Han is already dodging when Greedo shoots.  Which is more in line with Han's character as established later on...  But which gives him less character development.

The first film still holds up very well, though the second has noticeably better sets and cinematography.

Of all the things they could have changed, though, the three-dollar sock-puppet space worm was left in.  It looks like it escaped from a Jon Pertwee episode of Doctor Who - probably Carnival of Monsters.

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Thursday, December 24

Life

Adventures In Shopping

December 24:

Total Christmas shopping completed to date: Zero.

Doo-de-doo skip out early for a long lunch break.  (Working from home today.)  After tracking down an application failure to a flaky network card on one server in the front-end cluster.
Doo-de-doo buy all the presents.
Doo-de-doo go to bank to do a money transfer.
Doo-de-doo well, crap my phone wipes account details for the money transfer while I'm in line for the teller.
Doo-de-doo hit the supermarket for a few things while I'm there AND THERE'S NO LINE FOR THE CHECKOUT.
Doo-de-doo go home, put the groceries away, get the transfer details again.
Doo-de-doo back to the bank.
Doo-de-doo buy one last present and some wrapping paper.
Doo-de-doo hit the other supermarket for a few other things while I'm there AND AGAIN THERE'S NO LINE FOR THE CHECKOUT.


The mall was busier than an average Thursday, but the stores had enough staff on that everything was flowing more smoothly than average.  Except for the extended family groups with strollers and whatnot that would enter a store and stop dead right inside the doorway as though they'd just suffered a collective aneurysm.

Don't do that.  Don't be that extended family.

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Wednesday, December 23

Art

The Iron Giant

42 Days of Summer #4

Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Tim McCanlies and Brad Bird from a story by Ted Hughes
Voices of Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Christopher McDonald, and featuring Vin Diesel as a big inarticulate monster
1999, 86 minutes


In a small town in Maine in 1959, people are mysteriously dying of cancer.  Like, all of them.  A young boy points the blame US government nuclear "tests" and sets out to...  No, wait, that's Iron Giant II.

...

In a small town in Maine in 1958, a young boy gets the Christmas present he always wanted: A genuine Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Mk VII self-assembling killbot.  Things go awry when the usual Sirius Cybernetics QA problems arise and the killbot switches operational modes without password confirmation.

I know some people love this film, but I'm just not feeling it.  It's neither good enough for me to rave about it, nor bad enough to elicit an entertaining rant, nor is it a flawed work whose faults can elicit an interesting discussion.  It's just there.  Perfectly fine.

I do like the fact that when the adults see the giant killbot, they say, oh, right, giant killbot.  It's the late 50s, we have giant killbots now.  I'd like to compare that with the original story, because this film was made in the 90s, but the story was written in 1968, and a typical 50s or 60s film with similar subject matter would feature a great deal more running about and shrieking.

I don't like the laziness of the characterisation of the government official, whose actions would in reality have caused the agonising deaths of everyone in the film.  Happy ending my arse; this film has a MESSAGE, and the message is DUMB.

Oh, maybe I can rant about its flaws after all.

Two and a half autonomous repair systems out of four.

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Anime

Little Witch Academia Is On Netflix!

Parts 1 and 2.

...

Go watch it.  Shoo!

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