Posts tagged: Reviews

District 9: Humans Suck

The wife and I went to go see District 9 last night since we had sent Kira off to live with the gypsies a bit ago (she’s at Grandma Stinky’s, don’t you fret none).  I’m not sure exactly what I had expected but I know that the movie has been getting some strangely good reviews and some interesting hype.  I knew it wasn’t a typical alien invasion movie but that was about it.  Obviously I hadn’t read the description from the link above.

First off – and to sum up – the movie was great.  I see now what all the fuss is about.  But the movie really should have gotten a sub-title.  You know, a little extra title following a colon.  It’s all the rage.  And this movie would then have been titled District 9: Humans Suck.  That also sums it up well.

The movie starts strangely enough in an almost Discovery Channel style documentary but don’t let that fool you.  After some interestingly vague setup, the humans go about being assholes in general to the aliens.  Then some strange things happen and some violence and then the movie completely shifts gears.  I don’t want to give any details because I think the less you know going in to see this movie the better you are.  Just take along an open mind with your five gallon bucket of soda and wheelbarrow of popcorn.

I say that because you probably won’t like some of the things you see.  I’m not talking about the increased level of gore towards the end of the movie because the way it’s portrayed makes sense in the movie.  It is never out of place and only strengthens the real horror of what you are seeing.  That someone wrote a story that is probably the most honest depiction of how humans in general would react to aliens appearing on Earth.  Some of you may disagree and you are entitled to that opinion but I think those who do need to take a look at the news.

What the story is really about is racism at the heart of it all.  Sure there are awesome alien weapons and other things that had me saying “ohmygawddidyouseethatthatwasawesome!” like a five year old.  But, in my opinion, the take-away from this movie is that humans can’t stand minor differences in people of our own race.  How could those same people ever cope with dealing with another intelligent race that is thrust into our society?   Bigger picture themes such as corporate greed, corrupt government agencies and a complete disrespect for life in the search for power also shine through at the appropriate times and bring it all together.

If you are squeamish, you may not like all that you see.  That’s OK.  That’s nothing compared to how the movie  might make you feel about the ethnically different person sitting next to you.

Last King of Scotland – movie review

It’s actually been a few weeks since I watched The Last King of Scotland on DVD.  I wasn’t even going to write about it but it’s just been kind of nagging at me.  To say that I had no idea what it was about before Muse and I watched it is a huge understatement.

So for those of you, who like me have no idea what this movie is about, let me tell you what it isn’t.  It takes place in Africa, not Scotland.  [Umm.. OK.]  It’s about a tyrant who takes over a country in Africa but used to fight for the British and has some bizarre love of all things Scottish.  [What?]  There is a young Scottish guy in the movie who moves to this country but he is not a king.  He’s a doctor. [So confused.]  The tyrant considers himself to be the titular last king of Scotland because… well I have no idea why frankly. [Honest.]

It is a pretty good movie though.  I don’t think it was as great as it was made out to be.  The character of the young Scottish doctor is a complete moron and deserved far worse than what he got.  It was hard to sympathize with anyone in the movie because most people got what was coming to them.  But the story was decent and the acting was great.  There was quite a bit of nudity, sex and blood and gore as well which was unexpected.

So, fair warning, this movie is not about some bizarre story of a black king ruling Scotland.  I suppose that sounds more like a Martin Lawrence movie anyway.  But really I had no idea….

Atlas Shrugged – book review

Ever since my commute changed from being an hour long to an hour and a half to two hours long each way, I have been burning through some books.  This is definitely a silver lining to an otherwise sucky situation.  However, at 1,074 bible thin pages of tiny type, I thought that Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was going to kick my ass and it actually intimidated me a bit.  Not because of it’s subject matter but because of the sheer volume of words that a book like this contained.  It is, by far, the longest single book I have ever read.

Luckily, this book is so old that I had no real pre-conceptions of what this book would be like because I had no idea what it was about.  I vaguely remember the ‘pseudo-intellectuals’ of high school and college talking about the book (and dismissing them as I usually did) but I never knew what it was about and never bothered to find out.  Then I played BioShock on my XBox 360 and read the reviews for that game and noticed that this book kept coming up in the comments and comparisons.  I was mildly intrigued.

Then it just happened that Muse was asked to collect a stash of books from a family that was leaving Hong Kong and donating all their unwated books to the local used book store and its charities.  Of course I helped.  I noticed and battered and taped up copy of Atlas Shrugged in that stash and knew that no one would miss it and that it wasn’t worth anything in decent condition much less the state I found it in.  So I stuck in my pile of books to read.  And then proceeded to avoid it like the plague.

So when I ran out of easy reads I broke down and tried to fit this thousand page beast into my messenger bag.  It barely fit so I figured I was stuck with it.  From the first day I started reading I was enthralled.  I had no idea where the book was going for the first few hundred pages and no idea what was going to happen.  Considering when it was written, it has aged quite well and is not written in an arrogant quasi-intellectual way like I had always feared it would be.  I guess you could say it’s actually the most arrogantly written book ever written in a certain view but not in the ways I feared.

THIS is the book that I wish I would have read in high school or college and that it might have had some profound effect on my life.  However I say this now knowing full well that no matter how intelligent I was then, it wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to me then as it did now.  This book deals with life and it’s experiences and they way those experiences are managed and dealt with.  For all those high school kids who say they read and understood this book, I say “I doubt it.”  Maybe on some level, but I doubt they understood the gravity of what was presented.

Sometimes the dialogue can be a bit forced or cheesey like watching an old movie from the time period.  Sometimes the theories and morales can be a bit (read extremely) heavy-handed and repetitive.  However, even in it’s repetitiveness, the book seems to be reinforcing instead by introducing slightly new or vaguely different situations or moralities to really drive the point in.  I do have to say that the monologues are completely out of control though.  When I got to one part where a non-stop monologue was over four pages of tiny text, I thought “Wow. That was insane.”  Later in the book there was a 56 page monologue.  I shit you not.  No one could talk that long.

But this book didn’t deal with common people.  They are the backdrop to this story that takes place over many years.  This book is more like a story of supermen and the evil villians who oppose them.  All the “good guys” are described as gods or goddesses with perfect features and tall bodies and muscular frames and boundless passions.  All the “bad guys” are sniveling backstabbers and fat whiners and ugly losers.  Ayn Rand seemed to idealize more than the premise of the story.  But this alone with that sometimes cheesey dialogue just helps to reinforce the feeling of watching an old black & white movie from the Golden Age.  Back when celebrities were noble and graceful instead of the pitiful excuses we have today that can barely stay sober long enough to complete an interview.

This is a book that I will encourage my children to read; but only when they think that they are ready to tackle it.  This is not the sort of book that should be forced on someone.  If this would have been assigned to me as a reading assignment in school I would have probably burned the building down and taken my red stapler with me.  This is a book that is to be read in appreciation of a time long past that could be more prophetic than expected.  This age of everyone being too scared to be “politically incorrect” is kind of what this book warns against.  Among many other things.

Atlas Shrugged is not a difficult read as I thought it would be.  It’s just a very very long read.  It does not play to the lowest common denominator and it may not be understood by everyone.  I’m not trying to say that you have to be an elitist asshole to grasp this book.  Quite the opposite, really.  You just have to take it with an open mind and accept that this is not an action filled story in the modern sense.  The ‘action’ is in the mental dueling, the wit and deceit, the double-crosses and the acts of resolve in the face of evil.

If you have a chance to read this book – especially if you have never done so – take the time.  It’s worth it.  But make sure you’ve got some years of life experience under your belt first.  Or if you read it when you are young, try reading it again now and see if its changed at all for you.  If so, maybe you’ve changed as well.

The Kingdom – movie review

I have to admit that I can’t remember when The Kingdom came out in theaters or if I’d even heard of it at all before I read the back of the DVD box at the local rental shop.  I thought it sounded interesting so Muse picked it up yesterday for the weekly $10 Tuesday rental deal.  And then we watched it at dinner.

After the first ten minutes I had to pick my jaw up from off the floor.  Twice.

The kingdom starts and finishes strong and Jamie Foxx shows once again that he was meant to play dramatic roles in movies.  The movie is powerful, emotional, action-packed and very suspenseful.  And when I say action-packed I don’t mean like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie or the latest super-hero from Marvel Comics.  I mean devastating explosions, realistic gun fights, painful car crashes….  Everything you could want in a movie I think.

As I’ve never served in the Middle East I can’t vouch for it’s true realism but this movie shows things that no other movie touches and everything seems more real than I could imagine.  This shows both sides of terrorism and the challenges that our people face in dealing with the every day trauma from a personal, political and physical point of view.

I don’t think I can recommend this movie enough.  It’s not for people who can’t handle some blood and suspense but it should be watched for those people because they probably have the most to gain from watching scenes like this.  This movie doesn’t seek to shield us from life or glorify the trvial; it puts everything right up on screen and lets the horror of it all make a lasting impression on you.

Indiana Jones and the what?

Warning: contains some minor spoilers but seriously, have you seen the previews?

Muse and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull [omg could that title be any longer] at the theater in Tung Chung last Sunday.  We laughed our butts off, usually for the expected reasons, for the first half and then it kind of shifted gears somehow.  It was a great movie and I’ll buy it when it comes out on DVD but I think it was just too late to keep up appearances with the previous movies.

Harrison Ford is just as good in this version as he always has been although his character seemed to fluctuate quite a bit between an old man constantly thinking “I’m getting too old for this shit” and a hero that can do anything.  In the first three movies he was a lot more consistent.  The idea of him having a son was a cute idea even if the character was a little annoying.  Short-Round had more personality.  Him showing up looking like Marlon Brando was a bit odd and really set the tone for two hours of cliches and stereotypes.

We re-watched the first three movies prior to going to see this new one so we would be ready.  One thing I noticed for the first time was how over the top, campy and completely unbelievable they were.  I never got that from these movies before.  Sure they all three showed some form of mythological magic in action against evil Nazis or evil Indians but they always seemed different.  I guess now that I’m older (and wiser? nah) I had to suspend my belief in everything that happened so much more than in the past.

So when the new movie makes fun of itself or things in the previous movies it’s a nice hommage now and then but sometimes it was just too much.  It seemed to ride on the hopes that the cliches and stereotypes it showed would carry it through and in some ways it did since all four movies are basically made in the old pulp fiction style of the Golden Age.  I suppose the idea of aliens from another dimension are nothing new when thinking about the Azteks. And truthfully is that any harder to swallow than a box that melts faces, a man who can pull out a still beating heart from a human with his hand or a knight living forever drinking from a magic cup?

The special effects were very hit and miss.  The ending sequence was pretty cool.  However, as Abraxus pointed out in his post, the cemetary model that was used was really pathetic.  Like him, I assumed we were supposed to be looking at an intentional view of a model and not the “real cemetary” as we were supposed to think.  It was a total amateur presentation from one of the best special effects companies in the world which just made me shake my head in wonder as to what they were thinking.

I know it sounds like I’m bashing the new Indiana Jones movie and that’s really unfair.  I’m a huge fan of the original movies and against my better judgement I still had extremely high expectations for the new movie.  It was a fun, funny and entertaining movie.  I would watch it again.  It’s just that the Indiana Jones movies basically created the current Action/Comedy genre of movies that we have been evolving with since the early 1990’s and this movie just feels very retro and un-evolved.  Not that that is a bad thing – it’s just not what was expected.  I have no idea why.

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