Films, Reviews

Cascades and Swells: thoughts on Cloud Atlas

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Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) and Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) in the 1936 segment of Cloud Atlas

Spoilers.

Short version: Cloud Atlas is a gentle and harmonic set of stories about how humanity is tied together, and proves that unadaptable novels are anything but.

Long version:

I read Cloud Atlas about twelve months ago, having heard about David Mitchell’s book upon release and finding a remaindered copy in a cheap shop. At the time, I was struck by its structure; the book is a series of nested tales that leap forward in time, each half told until the sixth, and the each finished in order ( like, story one, part A, story 2, part A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6, 5B, 4B and so on). It’s an interesting structure, and what the book tends to do is build to the climax in the central story (Zachry’s) and then cascade back to the ending of the first. This symmetrical structure works in book form, but how the hell do you do it in a film? Continue reading

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Films, Reviews

The ‘D’ is silent: thoughts on Django Unchained

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Short version: brutal, stylish, but meandering, Tarantino applies western tropes to slavery with bloody results.

SPOILERS AHOY

It’s difficult to comprehend, as a white Australian in 2013, the sheer scale and brutality that slavery achieved in America. The concept of owning and controlling an entire population birth to death seems like an alien concept. The fact that this was a reality in the US as recently as 150 years ago makes it even more shocking. Django Unchained shows slavery at its most violent height, and then plays out a revenge fantasy against slavers, slave owners and willing accomplices with six-shooters on top.

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Films, Reviews

2 hours for what you did, the rest because you tried to run: Thoughts on Les Miserables

This close. For 2 and a half hours

Spoilers for a 150 year old book and 32-year-old musical

I’m a fan of Les Miserables, at least the stage show. I’ve seen it live (a very good amateur production) and I listen to the soundtrack of the London Cast often. I’ve described it in the past as the manliest musical out there- it’s got a freaking revolution in the middle.

As for the film, it’s… OK. Some really very good performances and some OK ones are let down by some flat direction and an odd lack of scale, and the whole thing should have been cut by probably half an hour.

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Films, Reviews

Rebuilding Bond: Thoughts on Skyfall

ASTON FUCKING MARTIN
The best Bond car ever is back

HERE BE SPOILERS

I worked out earlier today that I’ve seen every Bond film since Die Another Day in the cinemas, and it’s been a mixed bunch. Die Another Day is, of course, pretty terrible, taking all of the excesses of the Bond series too far. I loved Casino Royale, but I though Quantum of Solace was too lean and slight to be really good. Going into Skyfall, then, the question I ask is: is the Bond series still worth my time, or is it too old and constrained by its 50 years of cruft to remain relevant?

OK, first, I’m going to hit the standard Bond stuff. Continue reading

Films, Reviews

Crazy Enough To Work: Thoughts on Argo

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Spoilers ahoy

Short version: yes, it’s good, go see it

Long version:

I’d say that my 20th century history isn’t great. I’m pretty good on Australian stuff and some select others, but I’m no historian. So I approached Argo without a great deal of foreknowledge: I know that shit hit the fan in 1979 and that that’s the source of a lot of the Iranian troubles America has today. So a film that tells a story central to the cultural revolution is very fresh to me.

The basic setup is this: when the American embassy is sacked by an Iranian mob, six staff members escape through a back door and hole up at the Canadian ambassador’s house. While the rest of the embassy staff is held hostage, the Canadians get more and more anxious and their position in the country more and more untenable until they tell the US to get their house guests out.

The CIA, after floating a number of terrible plans, come up with the best terrible plan they can- send in an exfiltration specialist (Ben Affleck, in an authentic 70s beard) as a film producer looking to shoot a film in the country, and bring the house guests out as his crew. (This is basically the trailer, so don’t worry too much yet)
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Films, Reviews

Liam Neeson beats up two countries: Thoughts on Taken 2

Short Version: Not fantastic, kinda paranoid

Spoilers for both 1 and 2

I’ll admit to quite liking the first Taken, for what it was: a lowish budget action film with a couple of stabs at bigger issues. A reasonably simple set-up: angry ex-CIA   Mills (Liam Neeson) tears Paris looking for his kidnapped daughter, who has been “taken” (see what they did there?) to be sold as a sex slave. I quite liked the brevity and brutality of the action scenes- no messing around, quick action rather than extended fight scenes, which I felt gave it a more realistic vibe than many other action films, where guys beat on each other for minutes and minutes. I also liked that it dealt (for an action movie definition of “dealt”) with an issue that doesn’t get much light, the trafficking of women for sexual slavery. This is quite a serious issue, with a quick google giving an estimate of 1.38 million women worldwide being sold each year for sexual slavery (there’s apparently some contention around the exact figure/method of measurement, but lets just say it’s too many). It made a nice change from the usual action movie plots of drug lords or heists or what-have-you.

I also liked in the first one seeing Liam Neeson play a slightly different role, being the hard-man action star. While they never explain why a CIA operative would have that accent, Neeson was a pretty convincing badass, with a pretty clear motivation.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Shakespeare, and it’s not Die Hard. For a film to catch on TV or DVD, however, it wasn’t bad

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