Friday, August 31, 2012

Movies for Republicans

American Graffiti: Baby boomer Fifties-nostalgia piece about a group of teenagers driving around in cars the night before they go off to university, work, etc. To be honest I just found the lot of them annoying, and the sheer amount of petrol being consumed in the making of it probably sparked the fuel crisis. The diner is rather pretty though.

Million Dollar Baby: Simultaneously uplifting and depressing film about a female professional boxer, her coach (Clint Eastwood in his current angry-old-man persona) and Morgan Freeman (as the narrator).

The Hurt Locker: Film about a bomb squad in Iraq, and the personal conflict which develops between a by-the-book soldier who's counting the days until his term is up and his show-off NCO who's an eccentric with a death wish and a developing persecution complex, with the third member of the team, who appears to be about 17 and suffering from advanced PTSD, caught between them.

Restrepo: Feature-length documentary about the Afghan War, specifically about a unit of soldiers spending a year manning an outpost in an isolated valley. They don't know why they're here; the locals are understandably more inclined to trust their cousins and brothers in the Taliban over a group of strange interlopers who keep killing their livestock and arresting their village elders; the officer in charge appears to be hanging on to sanity by a very thin thread indeed. Sort of like a modern Full Metal Jacket, without actors.

Starship Troopers: Watching it the first time, I did get the twist that we have been watching a propaganda film for a fascist government of a future society. This time around, though, the film is scarier as the propaganda seems closer and closer to the sort of things one actually sees and hears in film and television, like the patriotic phrases desperately spouted by the dazed and traumatized soldiers in Restrepo. Nineties fashions are also starting to hit the 'naff' phase of the cycle (contemporary --> naff --> retro), with all these grey long-pointed, wasp-waisted suit jackets. Also slightly jarring to realise that the drill sergeant would go on to be Brother Justin in Carnivale.

Movie count for 2012: 54

Thursday, August 16, 2012

This year's airline-film roundup, plus badflicks

The Hunger Games: Surprisingly good updating of The Running Man and The Year of the Sex Olympics via Starship Troopers. In a future America, the one-percent keep the ninety-nine-percent suppressed through televised gladitorial combat which, as its President notes, gives them simultaneous fear and hope (and also, of course, the titillation of watching various attractive teenagers killing each other). And, in the tradition of the abovementioned films, the viewers themselves become implicated, as we are encouraged to buy into the romance narrative the protagonists construct as a means of attracting audience sympathy.

The Adventures of Tintin: Had one or two entertainingly postmodern moments (plus one very tedious inside joke right at the start), but mostly impressed by its ability to take The Secret of the Unicorn and make it boring. Snowy was pretty cute, but they left out his continued fourth-wall-breaking meta-commentary, which for me was one of the highlights of the comics. Not looking forward to sequel.

Fractured: Anthony Hopkins plays a man who murders his wife, makes no effort to conceal his crime, confesses to the cops... and then, when he reaches the courtroom, promptly pleads not guilty, to the bafflement of intrepid state prosecutor Ryan Gosling. Having spent all its intellectual energy coming up with that premise, the film then spends the next two hours fizzling and finally expires in a vague anticlimactic cough.

Nazis at the Centre of the Earth: It's got Nazi! Zombies! At the centre of the Earth! Plus UFOs! Abortions! And giant mechaHitler! Makes Dead Snow look like Schindler's List.

Movie count for 2012: 49

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Road Trips

The Road: Depressing, but not unrealistic, film about survival in a nuclear winter scenario, reminiscent of Oryx and Crake in terms of pointing out that, action movies to the contrary notwithstanding, this wouldn't be terribly exciting and would mostly involve fear of death by starvation, death by cannibal gang, or death by perfectly treatable infection. Nonetheless manages to suggest some hope for the survival of the species.

Magnum Force: The original Dirty Harry film was like a right-wing revenge fantasy: this one is similar, but making the point that Harry has his limits. Also entertaining for hitting every single Seventies trope you can think of (hijackers, Jimmy Hoffa, pimps, homosexuality, swinging...); if this weren't a contemporary film, you'd accuse it of exploiting cliches.

Total Recall: The general sense of Philip K Dick's exploration of reality versus fantasy is there-- however, since Dick's story was less than 30 pages long, this film expands it out with almost Peckinpahesque sequences of ultraviolence, which, given the "fantasy" theme, actually works surprisingly well. The other surprising thing was how retrofuturistic it all looks, which is a weird experience, because I consciously remember when it just looked futuristic.

Movie count for 2012: 45