movies

It’s Aaaalive!

I’ve been away. I know. There was Nine Worlds (which was brilliant, by the way, and if you weren’t there, why weren’t you?) and then I went on holiday and then I Just. Needed. A. Break. Which is fine. Because – let’s face it – I do go on a fair bit.

So. Hello. Still alive.

And what is it, you might ask, that has roused me from my rubbishness? Is it some fantastic piece of news?

Well, no.

It’s this.

 

The trailer for I, Frankenstein.

Right.

I’m conflicted.

There’s no two ways about this. I just don’t know what to feel.

We’ll get the obvious bit out of the way. I adore Aaron Eckhart. I really, really do. I love him in basically everything (even The Core. Yes. Especially The Core. My love of terrible disaster movies knows no bounds, so hush now). He also happens to be in Possession, which is one of my very favourite films, and an adaptation of one of my very favourite books – so we’re going into this with a hell of a lot of Eckhart-shaped credit.

I do also love my monsters: be they Dracula, mummies or Frankenstein’s monster himself. So, again, lots of credit going in.

On top of that, there’s what look to be a few strong fight scenes going by this trailer (punch-up in a cathedral! Lots of fire! Eckhart carrying some really shiny looking weapons! Also: flying mid-air punch. I love a deeply impractical mid-air punch)  and it could be fun…

But.

I cannot possibly be the only person looking at this and thinking: “Oh. Van Helsing.” Because, boy, did we all get burned by that one.

I want to like it: I really do. But… are those angels? Not that I’m a hard sell on angels and fighting and stuff because *cough*, but… seriously?

I mean… seriously?

So there you go. Conflicted.

Still. Monsters. Plus Aaron Eckhart. How can that be a bad thing?

 

(Yes. This entire post was, basically, just an excuse to talk about Aaron Eckhart. My blog. My rules. Innit?)

As you were, chaps. As you were.

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Skyline

Warning: this is going to be super-spoilery. There’s just no way round it, so if you want to be… *surprised* by its eccentricities, then you might want to sit this one out. As blogs go, it’s also a bit long.

Make no bones about it, Skyline is not a good film. It’s not. I’m not even going to try and pretend it is… and yet, as I watched it, I found I rather liked it. I just don’t know why.

It’s hugely, hopelessly, massively flawed and there are several aspects of it which are just downright awful… and yet.

(If the trailer won’t load, by the way, you can watch it directly on Youtube here.)

We open with blue lights streaming down from the sky into Los Angeles. In a bedroom, a couple are asleep; disturbed by the lights, they wake up, she rushes to the bathroom to throw up (the first of the film’s subtle nods at character: have you guessed that she’s pregnant?) and off we go. There’s screaming from the next room as Charlie’s-Brother-From-Lost steps into the light, gets a bit sort of burned and then vanishes…

Our protagonist, Jarrod (who is genuinely the only character I can remember the name of, and that’s largely down to the fact I spent much of the film admiring variously his hair, his necklace or his tattoo, and that he’s Jesse from Buffy…) decides that yes, the clever thing is to step into the light too, at which point he also starts doing the weird burny-thing… and suddenly we cut to a tedious flashback of 15 hours ago.

The only purpose of this seems to be to establish that everyone in this film is pretty much a failure as a human being – with the exception of Jarrod, who’s really too bland to count as anything, and who has a habit of stroking his girlfriend’s nose to show his affection. (Remember that: we’ll be needing it later). Girlfriend is prone to bursting into tears and being a bit, well, beige.

Jarrod’s friend, who they’re in town to see, is supposedly a huge success (and lives in a penthouse which somehow later turns into an apartment on a floor of many…) but we never know quite what he does – however, it’s clearly enough to get him a Ferrari and an assistant with whom he’s cheating on his girlfriend. He’s also played by Turk-From-Scrubs. Assistant’s only purpose seems to be to give away the infidelity, and to scream a bit. Not-Turk’s Girlfriend is given a wasted kick-the-cat moment (“Get me a drink!” she snaps. And that’s it) and then sulks and pouts a bit. She smokes, too, which is clearly Hollywood modern-speak for A Bad Person.

Random helicopters fly overhead. “Homeland Security,” says Not-Turk. How the hell does he know? Why is no-one bothered by this? There’s a party. There’s a telescope hooked up to the television in the apartment, which is used to spy on the gay neighbours who are shocking because, y’know, gay, right? Charlie’s-Brother-From-Lost ponces about a bit; passes out. And then we need to meet the building manager-slash-concierge who comes to complain about the noise. The blinds covering the windows are electric. And everyone goes to bed. So. Got that? Awful people, tedious flashback, blah blah blah.

Back to the blue lights.

(more…)

Page One

One way or another, I knew I always wanted to work with words (with the minor – and notable – exception of that period when I was 6 when I decided my talents lay in designing fashion for guinea pigs… what?).

Because, obviously, Making Things Up was not a proper job as far as the younger version of me was concerned, I spent the greater part of my childhood believing I was going to be a journalist when I grew up. It was either that or go into advertising copy-writing (and here I refer you to my earlier point about “Making Things Up”).

I actually did my work experience at a newspaper: the Llanelli Star, if you must know. It’s one of those local tabloids that has had a slightly creaky little office which smells of photocopy toner and instant coffee, on a street somewhere near the station as long as anyone can remember. Most towns have them, usually called the Something Enquirer, or the Wherever Bugle. My hometown actually has one too – the Star was not it, but then I went to school in Llanelli, so that’s where I was sent.

Somewhere in those archives, there’s still a couple of stories with my by-line. You’d have to look incredibly hard to find them, but they’re there. One was, I think, something to do with Terry Griffiths (who I still remember to this day as the man who kept a stack of signed photographs in the boot of his car) and one was vaguely connected to a rest home of some description. I think. Maybe. As you can see, my knack for recalling detail and my razor-sharp insight would have made me a spectacular investigative journalist.

Anyway. I came out of university and ended up Not Becoming A Journalist at all, despite being offered an internship at a more-than-slightly disreputable periodical (and no, I’m not telling). The closest I came to it, in fact, was working in one of the larger buildings on Fleet Street. I hated the job, and I think it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the job hated me, and our office was a boxy little partitioned space, but I loved that building.

It was just across the road from St Brides – the journalists’ church – and close to the Reuters building, which wasn’t abandoned by them until 2005. It had a sweeping staircase which wound around the original lift: creaky security gate and brass push buttons and all. The office was only on the first floor, but sometimes I used to ride the lift up and down anyway. Built as the headquarters for Thomas Cook in the 19th Century, the building had since been home to the Guinness Book of Records and who knows what else – but, with the exception of working there and studying Pravda at school, that was the closest brush I ever had with grown-up journalism.

Not to say I ever lost interest in it – and that’s why I so wanted to see Page One, a documentary covering one year in the life of the New York Times, as the editorial team and their staff try to come to terms with the possible collapse of mainstream media, the digital revolution, paid-for content, bloggers, WikiLeaks, falling revenues, iPads, media corruption and the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq (and a war which, arguably, one of their reporters helped to create). I was particularly taken with the Media Desk Editor, Bruce Headlam, whose cries of “Did you send it?” and whose utter bemusement over the television coverage of Iraq (“How do you cover the end of a war that’s not ending?”) were only matched by his approach to wordcounts (“Yeah. That’s not happening.”) and his explanation for the giant “Citizen Kane” poster on his office wall.

More than anything, it’s a fascinating portrait of a newspaper which isn’t currently embroiled in the all-too-familiar scandals and political point-scoring of UK ones. Any political agenda it has is completely lost on me, not being American or as actively political as I could be. Instead, viewed as a complete outsider, it becomes an interesting look at not just how a newspaper functions in the perceived Age Of Free, but what drives the people who keep the wheels – and the presses – running.

The Dark Glass of Memory

This is one of my more rambling thinking-out-loud posts, I’m afraid, which was in part prompted by Twitter.

Last week, Adam Christopher (@ghostfinder) mentioned he’d  just seen Dark City for the first time. I love Dark City: it’s probably the only film I’ve seen twice at the cinema – and this was the big old theatre/cinema in the town where I grew up, where you could sit in the balcony a floor and a half up and lean over the rail to drop popcorn on other people’s heads. Not that I ever did that, of course, because that would be childish and irresponsible and… yeah. Where was I? Ah, yes.

And boy, but that trailer makes it look like one of David Lynch’s bad dreams, doesn’t it?

I remember this film getting deep under my skin when I first saw it – it was that central conceit of memory and its effect on identity which did it. I was reading a few psychology books around that time – I was a strange teenager, I really was – and had come up against the concept of false memories (go here for a slightly less dry explanation) and Dark City really tapped into that idea.

It must have been out about the same time as The Matrix – another film which messes with reality and memory, and blows stuff up as it goes (full disclosure: I really, really, really don’t like The Matrix.) so there was obviously something in the water in Hollywood at the time.

As Adam quite rightly pointed out on Twitter, it’s a common concept in SF: after all, Blade Runner hurls itself into mind as a perfect example – and that’s without even stopping to think about others out there. But it’s one of my favourites: keep your spaceships and your FTL (leave me the big guns and plasma cannons though, please) because I like getting my head around whether we’re more than the sum of our memories and our experiences.

Plato’s cave; Russell’s “five minute” hypothesis (or “Last Thursdayism“)… they’re ideas which are simple to grasp, thanks to much cleverer people than me doing all the intellectual heavy lifting, but they blow my mind. It’s one of the things I love about Inception: beneath the heist film and the cities that fold up on themselves, there’s a discussion about the imperfection of memory going on. Maybe on the second level…

Do memories make us who we are – and if our memories turn out to be false, does that mean we’ve gone wrong somehow, followed a path that we shouldn’t have? Does a badly-recalled or deliberately falsified memory ripple out to change everything we are, or could have been?

And what happens if they’re turned against us?

Interestingly, I was watching Push again over the weekend – I saw it a couple of years ago and had largely forgotten it – but I realised it was another “doubting your memory” movie, at least in places. It’s maybe not the greatest film ever (although I loved the idea of it using Hong Kong as a modern-day Casablanca: the place where everyone washes up when they don’t want to be found) but I’m surprisingly OK with that. Amazing what I’ll let you get away with if you drop some mental shenanigans into the mix.

 

It’s funny, really, because while I was thinking about all this, I realised I’ve even got it in my own book – the idea of memory and what it means. Admittedly, it’s pretty buried under the angels and the M1911A1s*, but it’s there. Which just goes to show, I guess, that some things stick – whether you remember it or not…

So. To ramble to the point: truth v. memory. In film, and books, and anything else you care to mention. Like it? Does it interest you, or is it just too goshdarn fiddly? Where’ve you seen it done well… and where’ve you seen it done badly? This one’s open to the floor – so make the most of it.

Or I’ll start talking again.

 

*Anyone with an eye for trivia: you might want to remember that. And don’t say I never give you anything…

Drive

You know how sometimes I see a film and I get all ranty and shouty about it (first person to mention Red Riding Hood leaves the room via the virtual window)?

Yeah. This isn’t one of those posts.

I flat-out, completely, hopelessly love Drive.

I love the sparse use of dialogue. I love the spiralling pace: incredibly slow at first, but gradually increasing until–like the nameless Driver–you’re hopelessly sucked in.

I love the Michael Mann-ish shots of LA, and I love the way Ryan Gosling is busy channelling vintage Steve McQueen for all he’s worth.

I love the quiet horror of *that* scene in the garage, which left me sitting on the sofa thinking, “That’s just… mean!” because I couldn’t think of anything else that seemed an appropriate response. (And, while we’re on the subject: the lift! The hammer! Oh, god, the hammer…)

More than anything, though, I love the Driver. Not, I should point out, because I have a particular thing for Ryan Gosling (although the Ryan Gosling-as-literary-agent account on Twitter makes me smile and desperately, desperately wish that such a thing was real) but because the development of the Driver is just superb.

For the first third of the film, he barely says more than two words together–and the first time he really does come out with a solid batch of dialogue, it’s surprising and shocking; gloriously wrong-footing. The infamous Scorpion jacket is as elegant a comment on heroism – working in its own right as a superhero analogy – as I’ve seen, and while it shouldn’t work, it does.

It’s an amazing film.

And using this song is just inspired…

No Exit to Kansas

Settle down, everyone. Teacher’s back in the room. I hope there was no messing around while I was gone–I’ll be checking the cupboards later, you know.

I’ve been hamstrung time-wise by (a) two family birthdays, (b) yet another Random Virus, Probably Brought Home By Small Boy, And Which Required Tea, Stroking Of Hair and General Soothing Noises to see it off, and (c) finishing a book.

The latter has seen me spending the last few days getting up at somewhere between 5 and 6 in the morning to work–which thankfully, has paid off. After rattling round in my head on and off for just over a year, it’s done. Well. The first draft is, anyway. I’m not actually going to consider that for a few days.

So. While I was on hiatus, I finally managed to see Red Riding Hood.

Gosh. Now there’s a film that doesn’t know quite what it wants to say with its subtext… and ends up saying something rather icky as a result.

I also watched Labyrinth, for what must have been the hundredth time, because it is wonderful and funny – and if you look closely at the scene where they storm the goblin castle, you’ll see there are two pints of milk sitting on the doorstep. How can you not love a film which does this?

[SPOILERS]

[and seriously, if you need a spoiler warning for Labyrinth, you really do need to sort that out. Go and watch it.]

There’s something about the way these films end that bothers me. I’m not the only one, either: during a recent Twitter conversation, someone pointed out that were she in Sarah’s position at the end of Labyrinth, there’s no way she could go back to the normal, everyday world. A heated discussion ensued in which several of us debated the merits of staying in the Goblin Kingdom as Queen (and which inevitably wound up discussing David Bowie’s costume. As you do) but the sticking point was this: in the midst of Jareth’s little speech, he asks her to “Let me rule you,” – which he promptly follows up with “Fear me. Love me. Do as I say.” That’s Jareth all over for you, isn’t it?

The thing, though, is could you go back? Yes, I know it’s all about Sarah taking responsibility for her actions and discovering her power as a young woman rather than as a girl–but… yeah.

Kingdom. Magic castle. Floating bubbles with ballrooms in them. Would you go back to the real world, or would you stay put and arrange for Jareth to fall off a high tower sometime soon…?

Red Riding Hood has a similar issue, but is much more frustrating. While Labyrinth‘s Sarah is essentially finding her own identity, Red… isn’t. She decides to take on someone else’s, and hole up in her grandmother’s house in the woods.

The problem here is that the narrative is actively set up to discourage this. It literally makes no sense. Everything we have been told in the lead up to those final moments is suddenly chucked out the window, for the sake of… what, exactly? The least satisfying film I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not kidding when I say I actually sat up and shouted at the television at that point. Really shouted at it. I probably would’ve thrown something if I hadn’t known my husband would take a rather dim view me hurling objects at the household electronics…

Here’s the thing (and this is uber, mega, massively spoilery).

We already know that it’s the last night of the blood moon, and that someone bitten will become a werewolf instead of dying. We already know that Peter is the love of Valerie’s life, and they were going to run away together. We already know that Peter has been bitten. We already know that Valerie already has werewolf blood, and that this would make her stronger than previous generations of werewolves were she to be bitten…

So why, why, do we then watch her letting Peter go with the promise he’ll return someday? There’s virtually nothing left for her where she is, and we can’t even assume she’s staying for her mother, because she takes herself off to live outside the village.

Simply put, why doesn’t she go with Peter? We could have had some kind of happy lupine montage: a pair of wolves running through the forest or something. The film’s general attitude to who was a good guy or a bad guy was so cavalier that it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference to a man v. monster debate–they were all as bad as each other.

Aargh. Look at me: I’ve got all cross again just thinking about it.

So, I’m curious. Have you seen Red Riding Hood? If you have, what did you think of the way it ended: did it make sense, or like me, would you really rather have left it with her eating half the village (they bloody well deserve it, if you ask me.)? Why can’t the girl join the monsters?

And what about you: if you were the protagonist in either of these films, would you go home at the end…?

Wonders & Marvels

I spent New Year’s Eve with a superhero. No, really. And try not to make comments about Other Half–you’ll only encourage him.

No, I finally got round to seeing Captain America: The First Avenger. And it was good.

 

 

So good, in fact, that I think it’s just edged out Iron Man as my second-favourite of the Marvel superhero movies. (The latter lost the top spot to Thor pretty much as soon as I realised Thor is essentially Henry V with +1 added hero-muscles and less mud… Although now I think about it, there is actually some mud going on in there, isn’t there?)

 

 

Anyway. Yes. Captain America good.

The most interesting thing about all this is that of all the comic-book heroes, these were probably the three I’ve always been the least interested in. Thor’s appeal generally only went as far as the use of Viking mythology, and I really wasn’t fussed about Captain America at all. Dude with shield, right? Big whoop.

So consider me corrected. And here’s a question: which of the recent Marvel heroes has surprised you the most? Have there been any that you really weren’t too interested in, but came away loving? What about the way their stories were handled, and how do you think they’ll fit together once the Avengers movie rolls around?

And while you’re thinking about that, I’m going to let the boys go ahead and fight it out for the top spot.

Good boys.

I’ll fetch my popcorn…