Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Mini Film Review: SuckerPunch

As I haven't done one of these in a while, I thought I'd start again with SuckerPunch.

I saw the film late Saturday night and wasn't sure what I was expecting, suffice to say that the film delivered.

Overall, I liked it — but then I have a penchant for films about women kicking ass.

SuckerPunch grabs you from the outset with some pretty gritty scenes. I don't believe it's a spoiler to say that the premise of the film is of an abused girl who is sent by her abusive step-father to a mental asylum. At the moment of her awful final treatment she retreats into a fantasy world as a dancer in an environment layered over the institution that she has been sent to.

As she plots her escape with new-found friends, each “dance” is represented by an increasingly fantastical battle scene. Think an amalgam of SteamPunk, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Kill Bill.

The plot mechanic of fantasy within fantasy as escape was interesting (think Inception), and at times some of the dialog got a little strained.

But overall, the film was a well worth the watch. At times sad and thoughtful, and at times thoroughly kick-ass.

Those expecting a simple “chicks with guns” film will get a little more than they bargained for…

Episode V

What an astoundingly great review of The Empire Strikes Back

Their dialogue fairly crackles, from the first exchange in the corridor of Hoth (“Afraid I was going to leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?” “I'd sooner kiss a Wookie!”) to the famous last lines before Han is put into carbonite: “I love you.” “I know.” Incidentally, never ever say that to a girl when she utters those words unless you are actually about to be frozen in carbonite.

Recommended for nostalgia reasons alone.

Tip'O'Hat to John Gruber for the link.

Watchmen

I was planning on waiting to go and see Watchmen with some friends, but I had a confession to make to them today - I had gone to see the movie at 9pm in Bellevue last night.

It rocked.

Hard.

The reviews have been pretty mixed. But me, a diehard Watchmen fan, enjoyed every minute. The time just flew by.

It was a perfect rendition of a masterpiece comic-book work - the characters (especially Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach) were just as I imagined them 21 years ago when I first read the book.

Roschach

Anyhow, just go and see it.

Here's a little taste:

Btw, the star of the film (well, according to most of the whispering and tittering that was going on in the theatre) seemed to be Dr. Manhattan's, err, appendage. It seemed like it appeared in almost every scene.

Netflix/Xbox Integration Is Excellent!

Last night I received the update to the Xbox Dashboard - the eagerly awaited New Xbox Experience.

For those of you that have been living in a cave, along with the update comes the ability to watch Netflix Watch Instantly content - it's streamed directly to the Xbox.

To say I've been looking forward to this would be an understatement! The amount of content available is astounding, and the best bit is that it doesn't cost me a single extra penny as I'm already a subscriber to Xbox Live and Netflix.

Anyhow, last night I couldn't get it activated due to some (widely reported) problem, but it worked flawlessly this evening. The first move we watched?

Wubbzy's Big Movie

Lord of War

The movie that ended my last post was Lord of War. It's no secret that I'm a bit of a Nick Cage fan and this film did not disappoint.

Classic Nick Cage that grips you from the beginning and, to pour on the cliches, does not let go until the end.

It is the story of a Ukrainian born arms dealer and follows him through almost every armed conflict you've heard about in the past two decades. There's some pretty gritty scenes that might not be for the squeamish, but it's all handled in a non-gratuitous fashion.

Highly recommended.

HD DVD Rocks

I got an HD DVD player for the Xbox 360 the other day and today I finally had a chance to set it up and sink into an evening's viewing of V For Vendetta.

Not only was the movie great, but so was the HD-DVD experience. The clunkyness of the DVD experience has finally gone…

Launch straight to the movie, unobtrusive menus while the movie plays, etc… All good.

Oh, and outstanding picture quality.

So if you have a 360, do yourself a favour and pick one up.

One Six Right - Aviation Nirvana

After reading reviews of One Six Right by Paul and Susan, I headed over to the movie's site and ordered the DVD on the spot. It arrived a couple of days ago and last night Julian and I sat down to watch it.

Wow.

“One Six Right” is an exhilarating documentary film that celebrates the unsung hero of aviation - the local airport - by tracing the life, history, and struggles of an airport icon: Southern California's Van Nuys Airport. Featuring thrilling aerial photography and a sweeping original score, the film dispels common misconceptions and opposes criticism of General Aviation airports. Through the love story of one airport, past to present, the film shares the timeless romance of flying with all ages.

If you have a love of aviation, or love stunning film making, you have got to pick this up.

“One Six Right captures the spirit, joy and beauty of flight. One of the finest aviation films ever made.” - Harrison Ford

The movie basically follows the history of California's Van Nuys airport from it's humble beginnings through to the present day with lots of great footage and interviews with pilots old and young. A recurrent theme is the continual loss of general aviation airfields all over the country and the fact that once they're gone, they're gone forever. The movie also calls out the unforgivable rape of Chicago's Meigs Field by Mayor Richard Daley.

Highly recommended.

(Short) Movie Review - Transporter 2

This completely rocked. If you're a fan of the first movie, you'll love the sequel.

Well, other than the fact that the lead character appears to have switched from BMW to Audi…

I said it would be short…

Bonus Trivia: Jason Stratham who plays the lead role (and is an incredibly useful actor) also has the lead role in “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” a movie based on the Microsoft published RPG “Dungeon Siege”. Read more

Movie Review: Layer Cake

Layer Cake is the directorial debut for Matthew Vaughn, who produced Lock Stock and Snatch. This movie is much better than both of them - and they were great movies too.

Excellent. Just incredible.

What with an exceptional cast of British acting talent (including Daniel Craig playing the nameless lead character, Michael Gambon and Colm Meaney), this movie is not to be missed. It's a slightly different take on the whole “British Gangster” genre, similar to the others but purposefully dumping the unneeded humour, and adding a ton of style.

Don't miss the Q&A feature on the DVD, especially the part where Vaughn explains how they got French Connection UK to allow the director to use their name on the labels of bottles of cocaine and other drugs during a particular scene.

Does it sound like I'm gushing over this movie? It's because I am.

The movie follows the nameless lead character as he attempts to retire from the high end of drug dealing, but gets dramatically pulled back in. It is violent, but the movie focuses more on the effects that the violence have on the perpetrator.

Go rent or buy this movie now.

Sexy Beast

Michael Geoghegan from the Reel Reviews podcast has just put up a review of one of the best films I've seen this year: Sexy Beast.

I haven't listened to the review yet, but am really looking forward to it - Michael's reviews are incredible.

This film was definitely a find (it had escaped me since it's realease in 2000) and I love the other British gangland flicks (Snatch, Two Smoking Barrels, etc...) So to find this movie whilst scanning the channels was a treat.

Anyhow, check out Michael's review and check out the film.

Movie Review (and more): Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy

This evening Nabila and I went to see Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy. To say this is a home coming for me is sort of an understatement in a "full-circle" kind of way. Before I get to the review, a bit of history is in order.

I grew up in the UK and was always a bit of a sci-fi fan, but also totally in love with the british "ironic" bent of humour. Think Monty Python, Yes Minister, etc...

The BBC TV production of HHGTTG was my first exposure to the saga, and I immediately went out and bought the books. At the time there was only HHGTTG and Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

I devoured them.

After reading the books, I was a bit disappointed that Restaurant was bascially given two episodes at the end of the BBC TV series (a mistake that the movie dosen't make by virtue of the fact that it doesn't include Restaurant at all), but I loved the TV adaptation anyhow. I then got to hear the original BBC radio series at school, in English class, because our English master was a cool guy who was into it also.

Fast forward a couple of years.

I'm in a physics class chatting to a friend of mine, Paul Marsden, and we get around to Hitch Hiker's. We're both massive fans. So we decide to put on a school play. Here's our plan: we'll each take on half of the original book and write the play. So that's what we do. It actually turns out quite good, but we then discover that an actual screenplay has been written and a movie is in pre-production (this is 1985 by the way).

So we write to the production team in that far off place called Hollywood, asking if they could send us a copy of the screenplay and whether they would mind if we used it to produce a school play. We didn't expect any response.

Lo and behold if we didn't get that response. Enclosed was the screenplay and permission to go ahead a do the play!

Wow.

So produce the play we did.

We played to three packed houses, and made more money for the school than any other production before it (not that any other production had made any money, but we sure did). I have photos from that production - I need to scan them in and embarass everyone involved. Some friends of mine, including Richard Kibble (Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, Deep Thought), Cordelia Molloy (Trillian) and Nicky Hicks (Barmaid, Eddie Two, Benjy mouse, Loon) have gone on to do better and bigger things, so this should be interesting for them! As an aside and a future reminder for me, Richard and I took part in another school show where we performed a Monty Python sketch that was, ahem, not well received by the audience...

The Hollywood production died, and I don't know if it has any relation to the current film - the screenplay sure feels different.

Fast forward a few more years.

I'm working at Magnetic Scrolls on adventure games and the owner, Anita Sinclair, knew Douglas Adams quite well. If fact, rumour had it that the first draft of "So Long And Thanks For All The Fish" was printed off on our laser printer.

Fast forward some more.

Douglas Adams dies.

I'm in shock. A hero of my childhood has died. What do you do? Re-read all the books of course.

Fast forward to the present.

OK, time for the actual review. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I think I have the history to call myself an original Hitch Hiker's fan. So even though some people think it doesn't live up to the original books, I don't care. It lives up to the spirit, and to a case in point, yes, some of the original great lines were missed (e.g. in the airlock scene), but they get made up visually - in the airlock scene, you are expecting them to go out the door, but instead they drop through the floor...

The graphics were great, the acting was superb and the script was good enough. Martin Freeman was a great Arthur Dent (even though he's basically playing the same character as in The Office and Love Actually - he'd better watch out about getting typecast as the archetypcal young, English, everyday man), I didn't like the interpretation of Zaphod much (I'm sorry, but he really needs two heads side-by-side), and I loved Zooey Deschanel as Trillian - she played Trillian as the everyday woman who doesn't take any crap, much better than Sandra Dickinson in the original BBC TV series. I especially loved the Whale scene - it worked so well and was basically the same as the great original TV series version.

It was great to hear so many people laughing in the audience. I could hear the jokes that I knew so well being set up, and was waiting in anticipation for the audience reaction. I was not disappointed. Those one liners and clever misdirections work as well today as they did when DNA penned them.

The scenes on Magrathea were exceptional. It was great to see the film-makers pay homage to DNA (as well as the inclusion of the original BBC TV Marvin stuck in line in the Vogon's queue, as well as Simon Jones as the Magrathean answering machine).

I liked it. Go see it. I wanna see it again.

In fact, I want to see them do "Restaurant".

Movie Review: Sideways

Not much of a review this time, just an emphatic "watch this film"! The best film I've seen in a long time. Sideways has it all - great dialogue, superb writing, great characterizations, wine, golf and deeply screwed-up people.

For a great review of this film, listen to the Reel Reviews podcast review.

"Quaffable, but uh... far from transcendent."

Paul Giamatii is excellent in the lead role - his performance reminds me of Richard Schiff as Toby in The West Wing - you could imagine Toby as the character Miles in this film.

Each scene is to be savoured, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. From the deep, personal introspection of Miles as he describes his love of Pinot Noir, to the humourous retaliation on the golf course as another foursome attempt to hit-though the pair - this film had me jumping from emotion to emotion.

Anyhow, if you haven't seen it yet, buy or rent it now and set yourself up for a treat of a film experience.

Movie Review: King Arthur

We just watched the Director's cut of King Arthur. Well, I liked it - it had a lot going for it, especially as the story line is very different to any other Arthur film. It was definitely a Bruckheimer film - the final battle was great, but some of the squishy swordplay sound effects seemed like they were straight off of an over-produced sound effect library CD. That is not to say the movie as a whole is over the top, it's not. But it's not your usual Arthur fare.

I'm a big Clive Owen fan, and this role as an understated, confused Arthur suited him well. Kiera Knightley played the Guinevere role perfectly. Having her cast as an Amazon style character was a great change from the usual Guinevere role. The costume and make-up for the final battle were, ahem, different. No wardrobe malfuntions though.

Overall, King Arthur is definitely worth watching. It's a grittier, demystified version of a classic tale.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.