Archive for July, 2011

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Cutting the Cap

July 15, 2011

Whilst at the cinema last week to watch Transformers: Dark of the Moon, my eyes were drawn to a large poster for the next summer blockbuster I’m looking forward to seeing, Captain America. I noticed something odd with hangul title though. Instead of “Captain America”, it read simply “First Avenger” (퍼스트어벤져). Apparently, this is old news for those that keep an eye on such things but, both Paramount and Marvel Studios gave international distributors the option to alter the full title of the film from Captain America: The First Avenger to just The First Avenger and, thus far, three countries have taken them up on the offer; Russia, Ukraine and South Korea.

First Avenger

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Strange Days Revisited

July 14, 2011

I decided to post this as a love letter to a film that has become quite unfairly overlooked and almost forgotten about. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and co-written by her one-time spouse, James Cameron, Strange Days is a science fiction flick released in 1995 which starred Ralph Fiennes in a wonderfully atypical role*. It flopped at the box-office despite a decent critical reception but it remains notable not only for being amongst the few decently realized cyberpunk films in existence, but also for the deft manner in which it fuses this sub-genre with contemporary socio-political controversy and its overall status as one of the last of the big-budget, dark, dystopian sci-fi films made for adults.

Strange Days is set in Los Angeles 1999. The film begins on December 30th and plays out over the final two days of the 20th century, a time where L.A. is a veritable police state with mass unrest, critical racial tension and an extreme atmosphere of pre-millennial tension. Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is a disgraced ex-cop turned street hustler specializing in the illegal trade of recordings from illicit surveillance technology known as ‘SQUID’ (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device). A high-tech rubbery skull-cap, easily concealed under wigs or hats, records events from the wearer’s cerebral cortex, not only what they see and hear but also what they feel. This data can be stored on discs which are then traded on the black market to be “played back” by other users later, the experience neatly encapsulated in the dazzling first-person view prologue shot through the eyes of a member of a criminal gang taking part in a violent armed robbery, later to be revealed as Nero playing the clip for himself and experiencing all the adrenaline and thrills therein. Nero is a sleazy loser, albeit one who reveals glimpses of a good heart. He has a lingering obsession with his ex-lover, Faith (Juliette Lewis) who has taken up with an even sleazier figure, music producer Philo (Michael Wincott), who in turn strings her along with promises of fame whilst she performs pretty decent covers of PJ Harvey songs in a mad industrial-goth club. Meanwhile, Faith and Lenny’s friend Iris is running for her life pursued by some desperate cops. She has a dark secret on a SQUID disc that she needs to get to Lenny but her time is fast running out. Soon Lenny finds himself caught up in a tangled web of rape and murder, being set-up and stalked by an unknown assailant as the city around him continues its increasingly volatile meltdown. He has only his ass-kicking friend Mace (Angela Bassett) and his equally sleazy buddy Max (Tom Sizemore) to help him as he tries to uncover the mystery of the killings and the SQUID disc before it’s too late. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon

July 12, 2011

This post will likely contain spoilers.

I wrote here two years ago that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen amounted to a painful, violating cinema experience. I stand by that opinion to this day, but I still willingly went into the most recent offering fully prepared for the ensuing Bayhem and willing to entertain the assurances I’d seen in pre-release marketing interviews whereby the cast and crew stated that they had “learned from their mistakes”. However, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, although an improvement on the second film, still repeats some of its predecessors worst mistakes and ultimately fails to repeat the satisfyingly packaged fun of the first (still best) film in the franchise. From what I understand, the broad critical reception has ranged from lukewarm tolerance to hostile disgust but this doesn’t really matter anyway since the movie is making a fuckton of money. It marked only the second time I’d watched a film in 3-D (the first being Avatar) and I was therefore still amenable to the novelty. I should also add that I retain a glimmer of nostalgic appreciation for the Transformers and I am currently preparing to out myself as a full-on Michael Bay apologist in due time, assuming I haven’t already done so with various remarks supportive of the man and his output over the years. In other words, take this as a disclaimer that I am probably about to be far more generous to Transformers: DotM than it truly, objectively, deserves.

This time around we learn in the prologue that the NASA moon landings were a covert mission to study and examine an alien (Transformers) spacecraft that had crashed there. The craft, known as The Ark, had been carrying an important Autobot technology that could have turned the tide of the Transformers civil war in their favour and also the only Transformer that knew how to use it, Sentinel Prime, the Autobots’ leader before Optimus Prime and (conveniently or inconveniently) their greatest scientist/engineer. Back on contemporary Earth, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is out of college and shacked up with an impossibly attractive girl who isn’t Megan Fox, but he can’t get a job and is frustrated at being overlooked for his role in saving the world twice from the evil Decepticons. He has several ludicrous encounters and exchanges with a preposterous bunch of characters and is eventually propelled toward the climactic battle. The Decepticons are up to their old tricks, yessir, and they’re up to their shiny balls in the Moon conspiracy and a nefarious plan involving a network of human collaborators. There’s another random MacGuffin plucked from the Transformers mythos (The Space Bridge) to drive the film down the highway of perpetually overblown, illogical cinematic madness and get us, the audience, to the mega-battle in downtown Chicago that you’ve all glimpsed in the trailers and, once there, the film kind of delivers on the big-robots-fighting front as best it can.

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Dem Boids!

July 8, 2011

My latest excuse for not blogging enough looks a little like this –

Seriously, I probably would have knocked out at least one or two posts this week if it wasn’t for this damn game. Still, the good news is that I have a handful of things I intend to throw up here, after a long and miserable dearth of ideas. I’ll get right  to it….as soon as I’ve thrashed just a couple more of those fucking pigs!

SQUAWK!