briarwood: (FGT Honey)
2017-10-08 05:54 pm

Movies this week

The Mountain Between Us

Kate Winslet and Iris Elba versus snow. How could I possibly resist? Two weeks ago I reviewed Wind River, another snow-bound thriller with stars I love, though with a very different tone to it. How will this one measure up?

Continued on my blog

Blade Runner 2049

It does a great job of replicating (forgive me, but it's the right word) both the look and tone of the original. This sequel is more polished, and has the budget to build a larger world, but it's very much the same world.

Continued on my blog
briarwood: Brokeback Mountain - Shirt (Brokeback Shirt)
2017-10-01 02:51 pm

Movies this week

Flatliners (2017)

Remakes and reboots are, I think, best seen without the original fresh in the mind. I don’t have any particular nostalgia for the 1990 Flatliners; though I was – and am – a fan of the original stars, the movie itself never resonated with me. So I’m not comparing. I went to see the remake/reboot/sequel with an open mind.

Continued on my blog...

Goodbye, Christopher Robin

Yes, I’m a cynic in real life. But movies are when I let go of all that…usually. That’s what I was expecting from Goodbye, Christopher Robin: a couple of hours of unashamed twee sweetness and sentimentality. And, that’s sort of what it is, but this film tries way too hard.

Continued on my blog...

Home Again

Here's the thing: it's just that type of movie. No one has real problems, there's no real threat, it's all terribly wholesome and sincere. And sometimes that is exactly what I need.

Continued on my blog...
briarwood: Henry Cavil Superman (Superman1)
2017-01-01 02:07 pm

Best and Worst films of 2016

I watch a lot of movies. When I started to compile this list, I started from 65 individual films I saw in 2016. That doesn't include re-watches so I have more than 65 cinema visits, and it's possible that there are a couple of films I missed off my master list. And it was hard to winnow the list down to 20 – my best and worst of the year. So I cheated a little in giving each list a joint 10th, but even then, there are films missing that would normally have made the cut. Neither of this year’s Marvel movies made my top 10, which says something about how much I love those I ranked above them. There are some stinkers that didn't make my bottom ten, but for somewhat different reasons, and there are a number of terrible movies this year that I didn't see. So there are worse films than those on my list - I just didn't see them, and there maybe better films than those I listed that I didn't get to see or maybe caught on DVD release or streaming instead of at the theatre.

These lists are restricted to films I actually sat in a cinema to watch.

My 10 Worst Films of 2016 )

But the nice thing about having a season ticket to the movies is I don't generally feel bad about seeing bad films. They are outweighed by the good ones and 2016 has been particularly good.

My 10 Best Movies of 2016 )

Happy New Year, everyone!

briarwood: Suicide Suad Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad Harley)
2016-08-15 10:43 am

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

I'm actually glad I didn't post this sooner, because after seeing it a second time, I've changed my mind about Suicide Squad. It's actually not bad. It's not as great as it needed to be to "save" the DCEU, but if you divorce it from the trainwreck, it's a decent movie that does well on its own terms. That's how I tried to see it.

Suicide Squad should have been to the DCEU what Guardians of the Galaxy was to Marvel. By that, I mean far enough away from their main "universe" that it should be free of all that baggage. If it succeeds - great. If it bombs, it can be written off as a failed experiment. I suspect that was the idea, at the start. But the critical failure of BvS has got everyone saying that this is their chance to redeem the DCEU. Hell, even I said that the best thing about BvS was the Suicide Squad trailer! On that level, I'm afraid, it fails. On the other hand Suicide Squad doesn't suck. I can name a string of comic book movies that are worse and most of them are on my DVD shelves.

So I won't compare Suicide Squad with BvS or Guardians or anything else DC or Marvel have put out recently. Actually, the comparison that comes most readily to my mind is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - does anyone remember that one? Sean Connery as Alan Quartermain, bizzarely teamed up with Dorian Grey, Jekyll and Hyde, the Invisible Man, Mina Harker (somehow a vampire/human hybrid) and IIRC, Captain Nemo. It had he same kind of team-of-oddballs-saving-the-world concept as Suicide Squad and it sort of worked, but the film wasn't exactly memorable. And Suicide Squad is pretty much in that league, but better.

The plot - spoilers! )


The Characters )


Overall, I did enjoy the film and having seen it twice I do think the critics are being a bit unfair to this one. It's not perfect by any means, but it's not the hot mess BvS was, either.

But I also feel there's an opportunity missed here. You have a roster of "bad guys". This means it can be something really different from the regular superhero fare. Suicide Squad could be knockabout comedy, it could be high-octane drama, tense spy thriller, body horror, gore-fest or farce. It could work as almost any genre imaginable, depending on which bad guys are on the roster and how much courage the director has.

You know what I really want? I want R-rated Suicide Squad directed by Kathryn Bigelow. She has a unique way of showing horrible things in a way that simultaneously condemns them, and also makes the audience complicit in the atrocity. Her films are disturbing to watch but it is what this film needed. I want to be cheering on the bad guys one moment and horrified at myself for doing it the next. I want to see these characters truly being "the worst of the worst" and still be the heroes of their own stories. I believe it can be done...but this film missed that particular mark.

briarwood: (BTVS BuffyPain)
2016-03-29 06:32 pm

How I spent my Easter weekend

Thursday: I went to the midnight premiere of Batman v Superman. I didn't have high expectations and wouldn't have bothered with the midnight thing but for two things: this was the only way I could see it as a double-bill and I only saw Man of Steel once so wanted to refresh my memory. Second the next day was a holiday I could sleep late without having to use up my annual leave.

Turns out this movie was the final piece of evidence I needed to prove my personal highly (un)scientific rule of superhero movies: if it's Marvel it will be far better than I expect it to be. If it's DC, the inverse is true. If I think it's gonna be okay, it will suck harder than I ever thought possible.

I spent Easter weekend watching Nolan's Batman Trilogy in order to scrub BvS out of my brain.

I am quite certain my opinion counts for nothing with whomever has power over these movies but on the slim chance someone with influence will read this, please, I beg you do not ever let Zack Snyder direct another movie based on a comic book. Ever. The man is the M.Night Shyamalan of the comic book world: he did okay with one movie but whatever magic he once had has since turned EVIL.

And you know, I really wanted to love these films. I didn't hate Man of Steel. I didn't have an issue with Superman killing Zod which apparently was a huge problem for many fans. The way it was done, the guy needed killing and Superman didn't have another option. There was a lot to like in Man of Steel: Lois Lane, tough, smart, actually had some agency and didn't come across as galactically stupid for failing to see through a pair of glasses because their relationship didn't play out that way. I loved Diane Lane as Martha Kent (then again, I'd love Diane Lane reading the phone book), and I enjoyed the take on Krypton and Superman's origins. I liked Henry Cavil as Clarke Kent/Superman (Dean Cain will forever be "my" Superman, just like Tom Baker is my Doctor Who. But I can accept others in both roles). The overdone CGI world-destroying climax was the first film's main weakness, but that OTT final-act showdown is something all superhero movies do, and rarely do well. It seemed like an okay reboot.

Okay, I've tried to avoid huge spoilers, but the rest discusses the BvS movie, so here's the cut:

There be spoilers within )

In short, it's awful. And it shouldn't have been.
briarwood: (UTS LifeYouDontHave)
2016-01-04 09:01 am

Watching, reading, listening

What I watched, read and listened to last week:


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2nd viewing)

I never had the same love for SW that I did for SF on TV. Maybe that's why I don't get the universal adoration for TFA. I mean, it's not a bad film and all the good things people are saying are true. But After my second viewing I just came out with stuff bugging me. And I don't mean unresolved plot threads.

For instance: why are there so many droids in the SW universe? C3PO I understand: he's a translator programmed with 6 million languages - no human could match that. But the other droids don't seem to do anything that people couldn't (certainly nothing that requires sentience) and mostly they don't do it as well. The cynical answer is that they exist to sell toys (and I'd love to own a moving BB8 and don't dare as my dogs would kill it) but their presence should make narrative sense as well. In the original Star Wars, C3PO and R2D2 each had a function that a human (or alien life form) couldn't have fulfilled; in SFA this no longer seems to be the case.

Also, how did BB8 manage the stairs at Maz's cantina? We saw it following Rey down - with some difficulty - but gravity would prevent it rolling *up* the steps in the same way. Is it secretly a dalek?

The other thing that's bugging me is more philosophical. I don't understand the draw of the Dark Side for Ren. In the original trilogy Luke is tempted by vengeance when he believes Vader killed his father and by hatred as he sees more and more of the evil of the Empire. In the prequels, as clumsy as the narrative was, Anakin had a horrible childhood, he was driven by fear and drawn to power and control. I saw nothing in the film that makes sense for why Ren, being who he is, would turn dark. He doesn't even seem a particularly bad person - except for the one obvious evil deed at the end.

Branagh Theatre Live: The Winter's Tale

Shakespeare on the big screen is rarely average. Terrible or wonderful seems to be the way of it. The Winter's Tale has the plot of a Wagnerian opera and is most famous for its impossible stage direction "exit, pursued by a bear". In Branagh's production, the bear was the only disappointing part: impressive sound-effects but so overdone the sense of peril was entirely lost. Otherwise it was a really good production.

TV bingeing:

The Big Bang Theory 1-3

Sis bought me seasons 1 through 7 for Christmas. She's been telling me for ages that I'd love this show so I suggested she buy it for me (I rarely watch scheduled TV because I loathe the ads). So she did, and I am watching.

So, basically it's "Friends", except every character is Ross. Except the girl, who is Joey. And with added nerd jokes. I don't have much sense for comedy but overall it doesn't seem that funny to me. There are exceptions - 3 or 4 episodes so far that I've found really funny, but that's a pretty poor ration.

On the other hand, I am very fond of Sheldon. "I'm not crazy: my mother had me tested" brings back memories of my mother doing the same thing (no, really, though it wasn't until much later I figured it out), and his room-mate agreement with its provisions for what to do if one of them should develop super powers or invent time travel seems a far better model contract for a life partner than wedding vows.

I'm still watching...


Tales of Max Carrados by Ernest Bramah (read by Stephen Fry)

This was a freebie, or I wouldn't have listened, but I'm glad I did. An interesting story that feels very unfinished. It's essentially Daredevil meets Sherlock in a Dickens story.

The Dead Won't Sleep by Anna Smith (read by Sarah Barron)

This is a thriller set in Glasgow, centred on an ambitious young journalist who stumbles across a police corruption story. The story plot is unremarkable but the focus on the forgotten of society gave it a level of realism that's unusual in this type of thriller. The prostitutes, runaways and addicts come across as real, rounded characters instead of plot devices and I have a sense that the author has at least some experience of what that world is like. It felt right, and in a way that makes poverty a villain more evil than the "bad guys" of the fiction. The narration was also very good: she does enough to bring the characters to life and draw me in to the tension without being over-dramatic.
briarwood: (ZenFen Moon)
2012-04-16 08:50 pm

Really bad movies

This is mostly for Mel, but heck, I know a few other friends who might appreciate it. I have a movie to add to the terrible-awful-movies list. It's Never Cry Werewolf, starring Nina Dobrev (of The Vampire Diaries and Kevin Sorbo aka Hercules.

That cast is the reason I bought the DVD; I wasn't really expecting much of the movie. The tragedy of it, is there's a blockbuster movie buried in there. Actually, a blockbuster I'm quite fond of: the plot is identical to Fright Night (I'm talking about the 1985 original; I never saw the remake so I don't know how close it is) with a werewolf next door instead of a vampire and lovable-geek Charlie Brewster replaced with teen sex kitten, Loren. Other than that, same plot exactly, which is why I'm sure this piece of crap probably started with a good, solid script. It's also got a darn good cast: both the actors I've already mentioned are very good and the rest of the cast are not bad, either.

Somewhere along the way, though, it turned into something truly awful. Let's start with how Loren knows the new neighbour is a werewolf because - get this - he has hairy palms. And just in case we didn't notice, we get a scene with him shaving them! Then there's his, uh, well, dog. It is a dog, ostensibly a pet...I guess it was meant as a familiar but it was never exactly explained. At first, its presence serves to illustrate how odd werewolf-guy is: he talks to his dog! And the dog does what he says! 'Cause that never happens, right? But the best/worst thing about the dog is what happens in the gun store. See, our heroine has gone looking for silver bullets and werewolf-guy followed her. For some reason, he sends the dog after her. Dog gets shot. Boo hoo. Then comes the good bit: the corpse of the dog gets up and turns into a, uh, pink zombie-dog. Pink. I kid you not. I think it was supposed to be red and bloody, like it was skinless, but it just turned out pink. (I suspect they ticked off the special effects guy and this was his revenge.) And the werewolf transformation stuff is just laugh out loud bad.

There are a couple of good moments. There's the scene when werewolf-guy confronts Loren and she tells him she knows how to hurt him. He thinks she's talking silver, but no - she knees him in the balls. Spunky gal! And there's the part where Kevin Sorbo's character has to explain to Loren that, actually, he's an actor and all the heroic stuff she's seen him doing on TV is staged. Though the film doesn't show anything of his TV show, so it's hard to judge whether it was reality-tv or she's just that dumb, but I just kept seeing him as Hercules, and thinking, yeah, you can see where she'd misunderstand some of that. Not the superpowers thing so much as the character. And watching him climb a tree to escape the werewolf was worth the price of the DVD.

And then they spoiled it again by making Loren, for some unfathomable reason, spend the final act running around in leather pants and a bra, like a pedophile fantasy of Lara Croft. terrible movies I was gonna say I've seen worse but I can't think of one just now.
briarwood: (MX Emma)
2012-01-15 11:04 am

The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour

It’s the apocalypse again! This time in Moscow.

The Darkest Hour has poor reviews and it is unquestionably not an Oscar contender. But it doesn’t pretend to be.

The plot is straightforward. On a visit to Moscow, four unrealistically attractive twenty-somethings find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion. Somewhat sensibly, they hide in the basement of a restaurant and barricade the door. When the food runs out, they decide to make a break for the US embassy and find the city in ruins, streets patrolled by deadly aliens. Thus begins their journey across the city…

Aliens invade Moscow...and only the tourists survive )
briarwood: Supernatural: John Winchester (SPN John Waiting)
2011-04-04 04:19 pm
Entry tags:

Movie: Sucker Punch

Few people would accuse Zack Snyder of feminism, but it was his own claim in that direction that persuaded me to give his latest, Sucker Punch, a try. I just happened to catch his interview on BBC News, when he was promoting the film. One of the things he said was that the film was about female empowerment. This from the director of 300? I did not have much hope, but I had to check it out.

Unsusprisingly, Sucker Punch is essentially a sexist pig's vision of what "female empowerment" ought to be. In other words: females have power only through their sexuality, but females who assert that power in opposition to men must be punished for it. Yeah, really. It's not even subtle about it.

The movie may technically pass the Bechdel test (two women have a conversation that's not about men) but it fails the Mo Movie Measure (which adds to the Bechdel test that both women must have names). In fact, none of the females in the movie have names except perhaps the female psychiatrist (I don't recall if she's introduced in the beginning), because the names we're given for each of the female characters are not assigned in the "reality" segment of the movie.

SPOILERS - I am going to give away the ending here, because I have to in order to make my point. )

We need stories that truly are about female empowerment. For too long Hollywood has fed us this bullshit that a woman is nothing without a man, that our highest goal is motherhood and that we need men to support and rescue us. (And that it's not rape if she's been lobotomized first.)

If Sucker Punch is meant to be a story of female empowerment, we were better off with Disney Princesses. I sure hope Zack Snyder doesn't have daughters.

On the plus side: It's visually stunning as you'd expect from this director and the layers upon layers of reality are an interesting approach. It's begging for a comparion to Inception - you come out with the same sense of never knowing what's real - but unlike Inception, you don't come out really caring about any of the characters. And the film does seem at least minimally aware of the issues I've raised; at one point a character protests about the obviously sexual roles they are expected to play. I'll give a point for that.
briarwood: (ZenFen Crane)
2011-03-23 08:37 pm
Entry tags:

Movie: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Last night I was at a special screening of Cave of Forgotten Dreams. It's a film that's something between a work of art and a documentary: Werner Herzog was given access to film inside the Chauvet Cave in the south of France - an almost untouched treasure of paleolithic art.

The film is in 3D, and though I agree with Herzog that it's the best way to see the caves, that media has it's problems. The conditions they were filming in were very restricted: they had only six days, and couldn't be inside the cave for more than four hours each day. They couldn't carry loads of heavy equipment so it's all hand-held cameras. Particularly in the first half of the film, this makes it very difficult to watch. I got a hell of a headache, partly caused by the camera shake and partly because as always with 3D, I kept trying to focus on the wrong part of the images. After a while I just took the 3D glasses off and watched without them except when the camera was focussed on something I wanted to see clearly.

Honestly, it's not a particularly good film. The narration is good, and most of the interviews are informative and fascinating (although they don't explore the subject in much depth), but the rest of the soundtrack is really intrusive. There's this flute music and singing which I guess was meant to evoke the era but, well, basically it sucks. The film quality seems quite poor - I don't mean the stuff inside the cave, because there's a reason for that, but other things. And what Albino Mutant Crocodiles had to do with paleolithic art I have no idea.

But the cave is incredible and the cave paintings are magnificent; if you have any interest in the subject, it's totally worth the headache to see it in 3D. Years ago, I saw a documentary on medieval artworks, and I remember the documentary cited a particular icon as one of the earliest examples of perspective. Herzog's film totally disproves that. The artists who painted that cave, way back in the Stone Age, not only used perspective, they used animation. Those images move. And while some of them are fairly stylised, others are as realistic as anything painted by Rembrandt or Da Vinci.

More than that, it's an insight into a culture so very different from our own it's almost unbelievable. We think we understand those people; there's a lot written about goddess-worship and nature-worship and what we think they believed and thought and dreamed, but even inside that cave, immersed in what they believed and dreamed, we can't know. It feels like that old saw about quantum physics: if you think you understand it, you don't understand it. What this film gives us is a glimpse, no more than that, into a completely different way of being human. Watching, there were moments when I got it at a gut level, but never in a way I could ever put into words.

That, I think, is the genius of the film; in spite of all its faults, it still generates those fleeting moments of insight. This is not a film I'd recommend unless you care about the subject. But if you do, you've got to see it in 3D.
briarwood: Terminator: Cameron as Cop (TSCC Cameron Gold)
2011-03-16 09:09 pm
Entry tags:

Not a movie review

What is it with alien invasion movies and their stunning lack of originality?

Last year we had Skyline: aliens invade Los Angeles. Stuff blows up. A ragged group of civilians attempt to flee the city. Everybody dies.

This year we have Battle: Los Angeles: aliens invade Los Angeles. Stuff blows up. A ragged group of marines attempt to flee the city. Nearly everybody dies.

As far as I can tell, the only difference between the two other than cast and budget, is that at least the script of Skyline was comprehensible. Battle: Los Angeles is so crammed with military jargon that to an old conchie like me it may as well be in Klingon. Except I might have a shot at understanding the Klingon.

briarwood: Supernatural: John Winchester (SPN John Waiting)
2011-03-14 04:32 pm
Entry tags:

Movie: The Resident

This weekend I saw The Resident, mostly because I couldn't resist the notion of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Christopher Lee in the same movie.

It's a horror movie made by the newly revived Hammer studio. Hammer always knew how to make a horror film; the Hammer House of Horror series remains one of the best ever. But this is a new Hammer; the old talent is long gone and the name doesn't guarantee that the new talent will live up to the name. They also made Let Me In, which was very good, if not quite up to the standard of its original, Let The Right One In.

So, The Resident. First things first: it's a 15 cert in the UK which means the horror isn't too gory, the sex isn't too graphic and the swearing is minimal. For many horror afficianados, that's automatically a disappointment. For me...well, sometimes. It depends on what replaces the sex and violence.

Second, like so many films of the genre, this one is badly let down by a trailer that gives far too much away.

The opening credits are brilliant, a montage of peculiar geometry which sets up a feeling that reminded me of the New York of The Bone Collector: sinister and threatening. By contrast the plot of The Resident is fairly cliche: Cut here for the spoiler-phobic )

Verdict: JDM is always worth watching, but wait for the DVD.
briarwood: Supernatural - Sam in 5.21 (SPN Sam 521)
2011-03-05 03:41 pm
Entry tags:

The Adjustment Bureau

One of the nice things about having a season ticket for the cinema, is I don't really mind wasting a few hours of my life on a terrible movie. If there's nothing showing I really want to see, I'll go see something I suspect I won't like on the theory that I might get a pleasant surprise. I also don't pay a lot of attention to who is in a movie, or who wrote or directed when I'm choosing what to see.

The Adjustment Bureau describes itself on the movie posters as "Bourne meets Inception". Which is a load of bollocks. It resembles the Bourne movies only in that it stars Matt Damon and he does a lot of running. It owes a little to Inception: that sense of reality not being quite real, but a far better comparison would be The Matrix movies. I guess they didn't risk saying that because they ripped of at least one scene directly from that movie :) Still, the movie poster description was in my mind as I watched.

But after about ten minutes, the comparison in my mind wasn't to any movie at all. It was to Supernatural. Specifically, to seasons four and five. Except without Sam or Dean or monsters. Or a cool car, or, you know, the things that make SPN good. This movie hit every single button that pissed me off in those seasons: all that crap about God's master plan and free will vs destiny. Very familiar. At one point one of the, um, not-angels makes a speech that, if it's not a clone of Michael's in The Song Remains The Same is so close it's got to be plagiarism. There was even a character who very much resembled Castiel. Well, not physically. Same dress sense, though and pretty much an identical character arc.

By the time the movie ended - and the ending, too, reminded me strongly of Supernatural's Swan Song (it even had that weird anticlimactic feel) - I was telling myself I obviously watch too much SPN. I'd started seeing it everywhere.

And then the credits rolled.

Guess what?

Associate Producer - Eric Kripke


Oddly, he's not credited at all on IMDB but I'm 99% sure I didn't hallucinate it. It certainly explains a lot.

Short version: it's a terrible plot, but much improved in the version starring Jared and Jensen.

On the subject of SPN, though: next week I get to see The Resident. JDM and Christopher Lee in the same movie! And it's made by Hammer! I am so there.
briarwood: (TSCC Cameron Blue)
2011-02-05 08:28 pm

Movie: Sanctum (3D)

I went to see Sanctum this morning - James Cameron's 3D disaster movie about trapped cave divers. The plot is very B-movie and I found it hard to care about most of the characters. cut for minor spoilers )

But it is one of the minority of 3D movies that really makes excellent use of the 3D. There are no gimmicky things poking the audience in the eye or flying out of the screen, although there's one scene where it must have been tempting. (If you see the film, you'll know the scene I mean when you see it.)

Instead of relying on such cheap tricks, the director has used the 3D to give it real depth. At one point, as the characters make their first attempt to get out of the soon-to-be-flooded cave, the audience sees the action from behind a cascade of falling water. It would be a nice effect in 2D; in 3D I had an urge to put my umbrella up!

It also avoids the mistake Cameron made with Avatar: all that fast action-movie camera work (that, combined with the 3D, left me with a three-day migraine). Instead the camera work is used to draw the audience into the scenes: slow in the diving scenes, so you feel suspended in there with the divers. There are a couple of places where the camera angles are a bit self-consciously 3D - one where the audience's "eye" is right on the surface of the water as the characters surface, and another where you're looking down into a narrow shaft as the characters climb upward - but overall it's very well filmed. I didn't give a crap about the characters, but I had several moments when I really felt a part of what they were going through. That's the real potential of 3D, and the director deserves kudos for that.
briarwood: (BTVS Willow Sex)
2010-10-21 09:17 pm

First day of winter?

6.30 am It seems to be the first day of winter - last night as I travelled home from an evening out, the sky was almost completely clear of cloud; the moon so bright I'm sure I could have managed without the street lights. This morning there was frost on the cars I passed and the sky was still clear. To the east the sun wasn't yet visible but there was the early light turning the haze orange and the sky above was a shade of blue that was almost turquoise: an effect I only see at this time of the year, after the autumn equinox but before winter really sets in. To the west, the sky was darker, but still blue, not black, and the stars were still clearly visible. It was cold, my breath white in the air as I walked, but not yet the bone-deep cold that may come.

7.30 am We're so lucky where I live; our climate is mild, we get a lot of rain but snow and ice are rare, brief visitors. An hour later it's beginning to cloud over an the clouds are tinged with pink...traditional wisdom predicts poor weather later, but I think we may escape more rain.

12.00 I see a lot of cummulus clouds but there's still some blue sky visible. More than I expected, and as a result it's become quite warm, not "Indian Summer" warm, but a definite change from the wintry start to the day. This is the kind of weather I remember in early September when I was at school. Climate change has really messed with the seasons around here. I'm neutral on "global warming" - I'm not a sceptic but I don't understand the science enough to be sure of my position. On "climate change" though, I'm quite clear, because it's noticable in my lifetime. This is an example: less than 30 years ago, there was a distinctive pattern to the weather in the first few weeks of the school year. Mornings were blue skies and very cold but by the time I left school at the end of the day it was cloudy and warm. This no longer holds true in September but the same kind of weather instead shows up closer to winter. British weather is notoriously unpredictable but I'm convinced it has become more so during my life.


Last night I saw Despicable Me with Mel; a fantasically funny film. Though aimed at children, many of its jokes are ones kids wouldn't get - such as the visual gag on the "Bank of Evil" sign (small print saying "formerly Lehman Brothers"). I also found it amusing that I was sitting next to the only person in the theatre who understood the Spanish joke (not a joke about Spanish - the gag was in that language, and although the gist of it is clear it's never actually translated).

I love the story - aspiring supervillain Gru needs to steal a shrink-ray back from rival supervillain Vector (it's part of his master-plan to steal the moon), and adopts three children whom he's seen selling cookies in order to use them to gain access to his rival's fortress. It's a "having children makes you good" tale, which would normally be rather sick-making, but this is done so well and with such a fantastic sense of humour that it really works. I think it's because most of the humour comes from things that are incidental to the plot itself - the core plot is actually a very serious (if preposterous) story with its themes of child neglect, poverty and exploitation, but humour is injected everywhere it's possible - the sign on the bank, the minion who took the anti-gravity potion floating in every now and then, the elderly mad scientist who misheard 'cookie' as 'boogie', the werewolf who is mid-howl when the moon vanishes and abruptly
transforms back into a man.

I had one WTF moment toward the end which sort of ruined it for me a little - it has to do with how the stolen moon is returned to orbit and left me wondering whether the writers understand gravity at wouldn't have been so jarring except the context was one that rather depends on gravity working the way it's supposed to. But that's a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent movie.


There's a moment in that movie where Gru, having been refused the bank loan he needs to finance his moon-heist, has to explain to his minions (yellow pill-shaped creatures with arms, legs and goggles for eyes - they're really cute) that there is no money to pay for anything. I remember thinking, I'm going to be listening to that exact same speech at work tomorrow. I wasn't wrong. Yesterday, for those not following UK financial affairs, the government announced a particularly brutal round of spending cuts, across every department including the one I work for. Though things aren't too bad in my department - it sounds as if my job is safe, at least for a while, but the next few years are going to be unpleasant at best. The union are doing their usual pointless blustering; I wish they'd learn to pick battles worth fighting instead of wasting time on stuff that's either doomed or actively making the workplace worse. I totally support the principle of collective action but this lot are a really good argument for banning them altogether.


*Sigh* And this was meant to be an upbeat post. I guess I'm tired and cranky. Time for some sleep...
briarwood: Jennifer's Body - Demon!Jennifer (JB Jennifer)
2010-07-26 10:33 am
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Movies I've seen recently...

Predators was better than I expected. I'm not a huge fan of the franchise: blood and guts with minimal plot isn't my thing. But this was a decent attempt at a reboot and there was enough plot to satisfy me. The basic idea is a bunch of people have been abducted by aliens, which sounds like an X-Files episode until I add that the aliens are psycho hunters and the abductees are, well, psychos of one form or another. I liked the slow reveal that they're not even on Earth, and the way the survivors almost managed to become a team. The "twist" ending was telegraphed a mile off, although I didn't call every detail of it. Nice shout-out to the original Arnie movie at the end.

I think my biggest problem with the Predator franchise is I think too much. I just look at those aliens and I can't imagine how they could possibly have evolved faces like that. That weird jaw structure just looks so come none of the humans consider shooting them in the face?

Inception I have now seen twice, and hopefully I can get a third viewing in before it leaves the cinemas. No movie as hyped as this one ever lives up to the buzz, but this is pretty damn good. It's not too long (unlike The Dark Knight) it doesn't flag in the middle, it is beautifully made and my gods it requires you to think! I really miss that: movies that expect the audience to do more than sit there like zombies are few and far between. Inception starts out by dumping you right into the action, then backs up and explains a bit about what's going on. After that, the movie expects you to pay attention and keep up - it supplies each piece of information only once and if you miss it, it's gone. I have a problem of dropping off to sleep in movie theatres - it's the sitting in a dark room that does it, no matter how loud the film - but Inception kept me awake because it engaged my brain.

I won't discuss the plot because there's analysis galore on the internets and I have little new to add; and it's best watched with minimal spoilers. But do go and see it in theatres if you can. Not only is it totally worth the price of admission, I want Hollywood to make more movies that treat the audience as intelligent. It's definitely on my to-buy list.

Splice could have been such a movie, but it isn't. It's cheaply made (Mel - you won't lose anything by waiting for the DVD) but has a decent script. I get the feeling that there was meant to be a moral message underlying it all but it's kinda lost. The sexual subtext is pretty revolting and I'll say no more about that. What interested me was the stuff about the science and genetic research and how it all works. I'm not remotely qualified to say how realistic the science was in the movie (if anyone is qualified and can tell me I'd love to know), but it felt realistic, partly because (like Inception) the movie didn't over-explain. It just assumes what was just said makes sense and you were paying attention, and then goes on with the story. Except one part near the end where spoilers ) Unfortunately, there's a point at which story and science just kinda disappear and it turns into a generic horror movie with lots of blood and screaming and nastiness. A real shame, because up to that point I enjoyed it.
briarwood: (HL Methos BeenThere)
2010-06-21 10:14 am
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Apologies and Wild Target

Last week was family drama week. Apparently.

It's a long story, and not one I especially want to tell, but everyone is okay now and other than a stress-headache I am unscathed. But I've been somewhat absent and I'm behind on a bunch of my commitments. Including Sentinel Big Bang because I failed to post last week's checkpoint. I will remedy that later today.

If I've missed anything I should have commented on or replied to, I'm really sorry. Please let me know and I'll catch up with you asap.

On Saturday I escaped to the movies and saw Wild Target. It's a British-made comedy starring Bill Nighy as a hit man and Emily Blunt as a girl he's paid to kill but ends up, through a peculiar twist of circumstances, saving instead. It also has the guy who plays Ron in the Harry Potter movies (sorry, I can't remember his name right now) as an innocent bystander who gets caught up in their lives and who Bill Nighy's character wants to train as his apprentice, and Rupert Everett as the bad guy.

Cut for movie spoilers )

9/10. I don't know how widely this one is being released, but it's well worth the price of a ticket.
briarwood: (ZenFen Moon)
2010-05-14 07:19 am
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Robin Hood

Robin Hood last night You know, if it wasn't called Robin Hood I'd probably be here saying what a great film it was. I like historical/costume dramas. This one has a good, solid plot, good actors, good characters. Russell Crowe is effectively reprising his role in Gladiator, but tortured hero is a role that suits him. Mark Strong chews the scenery effectively as his nemesis (though the relationship does lack the intensity of Maximus/Commodus). The cinematography is amazing. The battle scenes are brutal without being overly gory. I liked the way the movie handled the class differences between the characters: you got a real sense of the stratified feudal society but they could still interact as human beings. I had a WTF moment with Robin being able to read (in a time when mostly only Churchmen had that kind of education) but that was the only outstanding anachronism. Not saying there weren't others, just only that one really bothered me.

But it wasn't Robin Hood. It's great that the movie avoided a lot of the Robin Hood cliches, but there's a core to the Robin Hood story that this movie missed completely. It's framed as an origin story and that's part of the problem: you don't get to see the famous outlaw of Sherwood Forest until literally the last 30 seconds of the movie. But that left me with a feeling that okay, now the story can get started... and having the credits roll right then was a cheat! An origin story works great if you're aiming for a franchise, like Batman. As a stand-alone, I'm not so sure.

Still, a good movie.

TVT was down this morning, so I am avoiding DW and LJ until I can grab the season finales. This seems to happen to TVT almost every year on SPN finale day and it's the only site where I can get a download fast enough to watch the ep before I leave for work.

Ah, well.
briarwood: Terminator: Cameron as Cop (TSCC Cameron Gold)
2010-05-10 09:48 am
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Movie Review: Nightmare on Elm Street

Michael Bay's company, Platinum Dunes, has pretty much cornered the market in horror movie remakes. Now, I haven't seen them all. But I've noticed a common factor in the ones I have seen, and it's this: brilliant opening which swiftly descends into plotless gore-fest.

The Nightmare on Elm Street remake avoids the "plotless" part by a whisker, but otherwise follows the same pattern. Now, I should begin by pointing out that I'm not a huge fan of the original. I have a thing about plots that have some internal logic and Nightmare always bugged me, with its inability to distinguish between the kind of sleep where you can dream and the kind where you don't. The remake fails on that score even more spectacularly. Cut for film spoilers )

But by going for gritty realism, the film lacks the surreal scenes that make Wes Craven's Nightmare so unique. For me that's a plus: this was the movie that put me off the horror genre for a long time, but it does have the effect of reducing this movie to just another slasher flick. Also, it lacks Johnny Depp.
briarwood: Brokeback Mountain - Shirt (Brokeback Shirt)
2010-04-04 07:13 am
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Movie Review: Remember Me

Newsflash - Robert Pattinson actually can act! No, really. Yesterday, I saw Remember Me a really good film starring RP, and boy did he turn in a fab performance. On the surface, his role as Tyler Hawkins, rebellious son of a New York business magnate, is pretty cliche, but this film has a lot of layers.

The plot is fairly simple: while out on the town one night Tyler attempts to break up a fight and gets arrested by a cop who is, well, none too gentle about it. His room-mate, arrested with him, sees the cop at college the next day, dropping off his daughter (Ally, played by Emilie de Ravin). Room-mate hatches a plan for revenge, but rather than having the balls to carry it out himself he tells Tyler to introduce himself to the girl, screw her and dump her. There's no real suggestion that Tyler ever intended to go along with that plan, but he does let himself be pushed into asking her out. He's a rebellious rich-boy; she's a cop's daughter from Queens, but they find they have a lot in common and (it's a movie, after all) they fall in love.

But there are a lot more layers to the story than that. Tyler is deeply affected by his older brother's suicide and Ally by her mother's murder. Both deaths are years in the past. That's the main theme of the movie - how death and loss affect families...which, come to think of it, is probably why I responded to it so much. Ally's mother was killed by a couple of muggers on the subway; it has made her father (understandably) over-protective and given her a determination to live in the now. Tyler's family is broken by the suicide: the implication is that the father (Pierce Brosnan) was to blame but since it's all history it's hard to tell whether that's an accurate impression. But the father is emotionally distant and a typical businessman character - neglecting people in favour of business affairs - although given the way Tyler treats him it's hard to blame him for that. Caroline, Tyler's little sister is a talented artist but has trouble relating to girls her own age, with tragic consequences.

All in all, this is a very character-driven drama, and the characters are complex and layered. Tyler is perhaps a bit too much the brooding angsty type, but Ally is smart and sassy without being irritating; the asshole room-mate shows glimmers of not-being-an-asshole occasionally; Ally's father is a bully but again, we can see him as human, too. Pierce Brosnan's New York accent is somewhat inconsistent and he's the least complex of the characters. Caroline - the little sister - is also sweet and sympathetic without being irritating.

The story is told mostly from Tyler's perspective so the female characters don't interact much with each other but they are just as layered as the men and I think the film makes a respectable attempt at the gender-balance thing. The mugging and murder which opens the film is shocking but not exploitative. There's also a brief scene of domestic violence but it's not over the top and not sexual. The ending sneaks up on you and SPOILERS )

8/10 for this one - the story drags in places and some of the cliches are on the saccharine side, but overall a good film and well worth the price of admission.