Film Review: The Foreigner

The Foreigner coverGenre: Action Thriller 

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Based on: The Chinaman, 1992 novel by Stephen Leather 

Release Date: 30 Sept. 2017

Director: Martin CampbellProduction Company: Huayi Brothers

Synopsis

A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1615160/

I watched this on Netflix UK.

Jackie Chan, star of Martial Arts movies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985) and Armour of God I and II, stars as Quan Ngoc Minh; a Chinese single parent, living in England with his only daughter.  Pierce Brosnan, former James Bond, is Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member who is publicly open about his past but now in his later years, is keen to keep the peace accord in place. In the opening, Quan’s young teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bomb attack – the quiet man sets out on a vendetta to find his daughter’s killers.


I have been watching Jackie Chan movies since the early 80s, and am very familiar with his fast-paced action style, his well-publicised injuries during filming, his comedic roles and Buster Keatonesque scenarios. So this was a bit of a mental adjustment. Chan is now 63 years old and although he cannot do the ridiculous acrobatics he performed in his earlier films, he can still move with astonishing speed – when he needs to. I was totally impressed with his physical stamina; and this film does have some pretty harsh fight scenes. He is mostly pitted against men who are twenty to thirty years his junior and is tripped, thrown and felled to a degree you wonder how his ageing body can take it.

However, what affected me most was his very moving performance as a deeply distraught father who simply wants the names of his child’s murderers. He drifts like a ghost, stands in his daughters bedroom and stares, he shuffles like an old man. When his offer to pay the police for the names of the bombers is refused, he decides to take matters into his own hands. And here; along with the First Minister, we discover Quan’s history. It is both tragic and fearsome – the Minister and his men are tested repeatedly by this quiet foreigner who wants, not only justice, but revenge.

The film is interesting for its pitting two older men against one another; neither are completely innocent; both have violent pasts. There is a resilience one could call stubbornness in both men. Both have their own moral codes that one could say have become rigid. There are thrilling fight scenes, but not so many – this is mature martial arts – when Chan is knocked flat on his back on a rooftop my ageing bones empathised. This is also the first time I have ever seen Chan cry.

It’s an oddity too. The bad guys are Irish, or more precisely, the IRA. The IRA ceasefire was called about 20 years ago, so to someone who grew up in England during The Troubles, with Irish parents, it seems dated. Plus, there are moments in the film in which some characters refer to Chan’s character as ‘the Chinaman’ – I couldn’t decide if it was racist, a hint that Brits and Irish are racist, a nod to the original novel title, or lazy updating of terms. Some of Hennessy’s henchmen can come across as a little too predictable, too generic and the theme could said to be dated – but – I did enjoy it; if enjoy is the right word to use for such a dark, troubled and sad film.

I give The Foreigner – 

4 stars

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Blade Runner: 2049

Film Review Blade Runner 2049
K and Joi

I just got back from the cinema having watched, in awe, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 original.

It is 2 hours 43 minutes long, which is great for viewers like me who want to be immersed in another persons creation. And speaking of creations, what are these ‘new’ Blade Runners and Replicants like? What does it mean to be human? What is it that makes you human; a soul? Why is it important to know these things – or is it?

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Blade Runner: 2049, retains the Noir elements of the original

I cannot do the film justice. If you’re interested in reading a good review before you go to see it – and I do recommend you go and see it, especially if you were/are a fan of the original by Ridley Scott – read this review by Mark Kermode (my go-to guy for film critiques) –

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/08/blade-runner-2049-review-a-future-classic

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Muted colours, rain and massive advertising in Blade Runner: 2049, allowing the audience to ‘feel’ a connection to the original

I came away feeling nostalgic, melancholic, and delighted. A hard thing to do in today’s world of pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap movies. Blade Runner: 2049 is beautifully made, it’s visuals, auditory and story-line are in keeping with the original, and if Philip K Dick had been around to appreciate the first adaptation of his story, ‘Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?’, I am sure he would give this one his thumbs up too.

Much of the film is visually bleak, the weather, the landscapes, the city, but it is a very human film I feel, about the nature of love and being. I believe this will be a classic of the future.

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Ryan Gosling as K, following in the footsteps of Deckard

I will let you into a little secret – I almost cried…

Mother! A Point Of View

*There will be spoilers, stop at the red message if you don’t want to know more*

Last night, hubby and I went to see Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, Mother! I had ‘ummed’ and ‘aahd’ about going to see if for a while, based on feedback from people I know and their usual tastes in films, I was not convinced. The I read a review by WordPress blogger, Misfit Vinagaroon and that made my mind up.

I had not read any reviews of the film, I had seen a single, brief trailer and was led to believe that it is a ‘psychological horror’.

Briefly, and basically, Mother! Is about a husband and wife who live in a beautiful yet isolated house. Their existence is, if not happy, then it has equilibrium. This is upset with the arrival of a stranger then his wife, and from this point on the couple have their lives turned upside down by a succession of ‘visitors’. Javier Bardem and Jennifer Lawrence give wonderful performances; as do Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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Mother! Movie Poster

*****SPOILERS*****

So, what’s my take on this movie? Did I enjoy it? Would I recommend it?

*****SPOILERS*****

 

So what is it all about? (in my opinion). Stop reading now if you don’t want your point of view ruined…

*****SPOILERS FINAL ALERT*****

 

If you are a creative type, and know your Biblical references, you will get this film pretty quickly.

The film is from the perspective of “The Woman”, Lawrence, who is in the process of repairing their home, decorating, plastering, painting; everything.

Bardem and Lawrence remain without names throughout the film – as does everyone. Lawrence’s character is easier to fathom – she represents Mother Earth, nature, Gaia if you like; she is part of the house, she listens to the house; she even feels it’s pain. Bardem, “The Man” I think, represents creativity, he is a poet yet is having writers block at the time we first meet them. Bardem could also be all that mankind represents materially – or he could be an aspect of God – I said he was more complicated!

The opening scene is the placing of a glass-like, rock onto a stand and a destroyed house ‘repairing’, a woman wakes up in bed and calls for her husband.

The man and woman who arrive (Harris and Pfeiffer) are “Adam and Eve”; he is ill, perhaps dying, and the house begins to display signs of this illness; as felt by Lawrence’s character. Eve brings disharmony, chaos, irritation. When the sons arrived on the scene, this was when it clicked with me – “Cain and Abel” – Cain slays his brother in a fight in the living room; with “The Woman” watching on in helpless horror – what are they doing to her home? The World????

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Harris and Pfeiffer

“The Man” invited them into their home, he invited them to stay; he even allows them to bring others when they have a funeral for their dead son.

As the film progresses we see how impotent “The Woman” is, she can only look on and plead and beg for people to stop intruding on her private space. “The Man” will not turn anyone away, despite the friction and the damage caused between himself and his wife, and their property – he keeps saying, “But where else will they go?”of “They have nowhere to go.”

Then despite all expectation, “The Woman” falls pregnant, ( I was not and still am not sure about this part of their relationship, why couldn’t “The Man” have sex with his wife previously?) And suddenly, “The Man” can write again, joy for both of them; he writes the most beautiful poem that makes her cry. His publisher turns up, fans of his writing turn up – and never leave!

Throughout “The Woman’s” pregnancy, the film appears to race through time. The house becomes crowded with people coming to see the poet and adore him and his work. We see people taking advantage of “The Woman’s” home (and you do feel it is her home – even though she is repairing it for her husband), they enter her bedroom, they eat their food, they steal things and break things.

There are groups of people putting up pictures of the poet in his honour, there are people chanting in another room, there are religious cults popping up all over the house.

It rushes through some awful scenes of protesters and police, it becomes a war-zone, people are herded behind barbed wire; incarcerated, executed. “The Woman”, by this point very heavily pregnant, seeks to leave her home with a little bag packed. She gets caught up in the ‘affairs of man’; we see a team of men digging away in her kitchen with pickaxes and shovels. And at each change, she feels the heart of the house shrivel, harden; die a little. Her birth pains start and at each wrack of agony, all about her shakes and blurs – (earthquakes)

“The Man” finally comes to her aid, ushering into a room where she gives birth to – you guessed it, a baby boy. For days she is trapped with him; she wants to leave, he wants to hold the baby; she won’t let him, and here we what I felt was the crux of the matter. He goes to take his child and when she refuses he says, “I am the Father.” and she retorts, “And I am the Mother!” (Hence the exclamation mark in the title.)

Finally, exhausted, she sleeps, then awakens to discover baby boy gone, door open, and “The Man” presenting his son to the people. The crowd are ecstatic, Mother is terrified and chases her baby through the tight crows as we see his little form passed overhead throughout the house – until the inevitable happens. Baby boy dead, Mother inconsolable, a new religion emerges – Christianity – and everyone eats little bits of the dead child.

“The Woman”, after being beaten and abused escapes and makes her way to the basement, opens the fuel tank of the burner and sets fire to it all. “The World”, “The Woman”, “The Man” and “Mankind” go up in smoke.

But then there is a twist.

The next scene has “The Man”; unharmed, carrying the burnt, barely alive “Woman”, he asks for her help,he wants one more chance, he thinks he can make it right this time, but she has nothing to offer him – but her ‘heart’, which he removes from her body in the form of a crystal we saw placed on a stand in the beginning – and the destroyed house ‘repairing’. A woman awakes in bed and calls for her husband…The End.

I really enjoyed this film, I love the symbolism, and if you go to see it expecting a horror film, then you will be disappointed. I have never before watched something where everyone, literally every cast member is a symbol for someone or something else. Mother is an allegorical piece, much like religious paintings from the Middle Ages I feel.

I would recommend it to people who enjoy heavy symbolism in their movies. To people who like to think about what they watched, rather than be spoon-fed. Creatives will recognise themselves – I did; the selfish, self-obsessive nature of creativity. I could actually go on for ever about what Aronofsky did or did not mean when making this film, what message is he trying to convey? I think we need to take care of the world, it’s our only home (for now), is one message for sure.

The camera work can be a bit dizzying, lots of tight close-ups, hand held and following Lawrence around made me feel motion sick at the beginning, so if you like your multi-cam, tripod mounted mid shots, this might be awkward for you visually.

But yes, go and see it, I’d love to know what others thought, and whether my take on it makes any sense to other viewers.

Thank you for reading.

“If I knew you were coming I’d have set fire to the place.”

Film Noir

I love Film Noir. As a child, I spent many a summer’s day ensconced in a darkened room watching old movies in the middle of the day – a time when very few watched TV in those days – and the ‘unpopular’ stuff was shown; old black and white films, public information films, or in some instances, a potters wheel! (Yes kids, British TV had a black and white film of a lump of clay, and we watched it!)

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Murder My Sweet

Film Noir is an extension of the Gangster film; Gangster films had been seen less on the screen and returned as this genre; re-categorised by critics. However, most of their appeal came after they were made, not the time they were made. The main influence came from France around pre- WWII. French critics coined the phrase ‘Film Noir’, Black Film; seen as crime, mystery’s, melodramas. Beginning with a small group of films such as : “The Killers”, 1946 and “Double Indemnity”, 1944.
As time progressed more films fell under the heading Film Noir; it is a flexible category.

From the late 1970s onwards saw a Neo Noir revival, with Noirish elements: “Body Heat”, 1981 and “Basic Instinct”, 1992 and the animated “Sin City”, 2005.

But for this essay, I’m focusing only on the older style.
In 1940s America everything was in short supply; film, batteries, even writers, so the film makers looked to pulp fiction for new ideas.
Many of the films were made by European émigrés; escaping from Nazi German oppression. In a time of darkness created by Hitler, film makers, technicians and writers on the run from Europe, brought their style with them. There wouldn’t have been Film Noir without WWII. There was an influx of immigrants to America and they brought ‘German Expressionism’ a style with skewed angles and dark style. The Nazi figures were transformed into gangsters in the films. In the 60s and 70s – people started to see them as Art films, not just popular money makers. “Big Heat”, 1953, by Fritz Lange is now regarded as an Artistic Film Noir.

What makes a Gangster film a Noir film?
There are strong psychological themes present, women of character, complicated plot lines. It is a world mostly devoid of children. Unhappy worlds, dark, urban more so than gangster films, the characters are trapped by their environment. Described by one critic as a “Dark American place with a fancy name”. Noir films were not the property of one studio, it had it’s own rules. Though the films are black and white, the characters are often groping around in a fog, things are not black and white in decision making, European music add to the tension; threat, danger. For an American audience in this period, this was all pretty dark stuff.

Who populates these films?
Everyone is bent, men women, and coppers: the heroine is a predator even when the victim, often a blonde, a femme fatale, desirable, sexy, untrustworthy, and slutty. The hero is her lunch and usually knows it. Women get their power through sexuality. Robert Mitchum in “Out of The Past”, 1947, is a typical Noir hero. The hero often has been to war, has some psychosis, they are hapless. Bogart’s characters often cannot connect, even when they are in love. Men and women in Noir never reach the daylight in their lives. Real men get to show their softer side with these women, without appearing weak. Men were manipulated, women were dodgy and manipulative. Many well known actors and actresses emerged in this period, Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, to name a few. Women emerge in their own right post war, reflecting the social changes. Men were damaged by wartime experiences; Post traumatic Stress Disorder; in the film “Blue Dahlia”, 1946, the ‘hero’ is a harmless guy, returned from war, everyone likes him, but he’s a serial killer. There is often a simmering tension between the hero and female, we watch a verbal tennis match going on between them, sometimes they might never even get that first kiss. The best example of this witty, sultry banter can be most often seen between Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart (who became a couple off screen too); full of euphemism and innuendo.

What does it look like?
Dark! Mostly urban. Cigarettes, rainy streets, shadows, lipstick, guns. There is little or no sunlight in these films; lighting carves up the scene and the faces with chiaroscuro. Shadows are tall and menacing to enhance the atmosphere. Many cinematographers had been filming in the war effort and brought back with them elements of that, in the mid 1950s they began to make the films more realistic.

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The Blue Dahlia

Why do we like them?
The audience appeal lies in that the films mostly take place in an ordinary environment; previous films such as Westerns took themselves off to deserts and canyons; not places the audience regularly inhabited so had less to relate to. But in Noir, the people have adventures; we see their unhappiness so we feel better; one could reflect that, at least my life isn’t that bad. Male viewers see quiet men, strong men who can take care of themselves, when required, who yet fall for the charms of the femme fatale. Female viewers were suddenly exposed to female characters who could often stand up for themselves; not the helpless little wifey this one. There was a kind of glamour portrayed in the dialogue, the male/female relationships and clothing.

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Little Caesar 1931

What should I watch if I have never seen Film Noir?
Out of the Past 1947/ Sweet Smell of Success 1957/ Double Indemnity 1944/ The Big Sleep 1946/The Maltese Falcon 1941/ Sunset Boulevard 1950/ Murder my Sweet 1944/Gun Crazy 1950/ T-Men 1948/ Touch of Evil 1958/ Stranger on the Third Floor 1940/ Sweet Smell of Success 1957/ Gilda 1946/ Kiss Me deadly 1955.

Famous Lines.
Noir is also famous for its dialogue and snappy lines. Much dialogue, especially in Philip Marlowe films (Raymond Chandler author) is really funny – but ain’t nobody laughing. Here’s a few you might like to use!

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Bogart and Bacall perfect power play.

 

Keep on riding me and they’re going to be picking iron out of your liver.” Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon.

“Okay Marlowe,” I said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been sapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like putting your pants on.” Philip Marlowe in Murder My Sweet.

You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling.” Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.

Johnny: “Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’re married?”
Gilda: “What I want to know is, does it bother you?” Johnny and Gilda in Gilda.

“With my brains and your looks, we could go places.” Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

“I wouldn’t give you the skin off a grape.” Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death.

Well, you’re about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs.” Debby Marsh in The Big Heat.

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up.” Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep

 

And now…. We have Nordic Noir – the name given to the new literature, TV and film we see more and more now with programmes like “The Killing”, from Denmark and Sweden.
You might also like “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, the Film Noir parody starring Steve Martin, which you could class as Comedy Noir, I suppose, if such a thing exists!

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Steve Martin is Rigby Reardon in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

“To say goodbye is to die a little.” ― Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
So I will say, adieu until next time.

*Title from The Killers.

*Books: “Public Enemy: Public Heroes” by Jonathan Mumby

Desert Island Flicks

Desert Island Discs is a British radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast in 1942. The concept is, that each week a guest; someone famous or is a person of note, called a ‘castaway’ during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices.

I decided to run my own ‘Desert Island’, but with movies.

As an avid film viewer, I have found this quite a challenge. I have seen plenty of movies that I really liked, but would I want to be stranded on a Desert Island to watch them over and over again? Which films bear repeated viewing? Which films have enough content, appeal or personal resonance that one could stand to watch over and over again?

I am sure that should I return to this in, say a year, I would alter my selection somewhat, but for today, these are my eight ‘recordings’:-

  1. The Good The Bad and The Ugly
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Hey Blondie!

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.

Director: Sergio Leone.

Genre: Spaghetti Western (so called because this genre of Westerns was produced by Italians).

Released: 1966.

Why watch it: Fantastic film shots of landscapes and close ups; especially in the final showdown. Terrific action and storyline – 3 gunslingers are after buried gold. Fortune swings back and forth between the characters, when one has the upper hand, he makes sure he gets the most out of the other one. The soundtrack is brilliant too, I always ‘sing’ along!!

Favourite line: “Who the hell is that? One bastard goes in, and another comes out.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09-GbpOd9T4

 

  1. Amelie (aka; The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain)
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Amelie’s discovery is a life-changing moment

Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz,

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Released: 2001

Why watch it: Romance without the ‘yuck!’ factor. Whimsical, delightful, extremely touching in parts. The way Amelie takes ‘revenge’ on unpleasant people. And the music; it still stirs my emotions. Keep an eye on the garden gnome!

Favourite line: “Narrator: Amélie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”[scenes of various orgasms taking place] Amélie: Fifteen.”

 

  1. The Fearless Vampire Killers (Dance of The Vampires)

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Stars: Roman Polanski, Jack MacGowran, Alfie Bass,

Director: Roman Polanski

Genre: Comedy Horror

Released: 1967

Why watch it: Definitely not your usual vampire film. A truly successful blend of horror and comedy, with beautifully shot scenes. Professor Abronsius and his young assistant, Alfred, are on the hunt for vampires, across snowy landscapes ‘deep in the heart of Transylvania’ to a remote castle. The physical moments with no dialogue are beautifully choreographed.

Favourite line: “…like a little birdy alighting on a branch…then, let an angel pass. Shall we allow an angel to pass?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=you86-CKNtI

 

  1. Radio Days
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Joe’s new teacher is a delight!

Stars: Danny Aiello, Mia Farrow, Seth Green

Director: Woody Allen

Genre: Comedy

Released: 1987

Why watch it: Jewish screen family life at its best; a view of the world through a young boys eyes and the medium of radio; stories within stories and the effects on the listeners. The scene with the two burglars is brilliant.

Favourite line: “No. Have it your way. The Pacific is greater.”

 

  1. Pirates
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Head or tail? Of the rat dinner…

Stars: Walter Matthau, Cris Campion

Director: Roman Polanski

Genre: Adventure Comedy

Released: 1986

Why watch it: Polanski actually had the ship built for the movie! Matthau, I think, is at his very best in this little known/shown film. Captain Reds lust for gold knows no bounds, and the whole film is a series of ploys to get particular pieces of gold – in particular, a Spanish throne. All the characters are wonderfully portrayed, pirates, naval officers, priests – the game of ‘Dead Man’s Nag’ is both hilarious and brutal.

Favourite line: “Well Padre. I once had a mind to eat the Frog.”

 

  1. Wild at Heart

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Stars: Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe

Director: David Lynch

Genre: Thriller/Romance/Indie

Released: 1990

Why watch it: For its bizarre mixture of raging violence, dream scenes, illusions to Elvis Presley and The Wizard of Oz – true Lynchian oddness wrapped in what initially appears a ‘regular’ thriller. There are some truly disturbing characters in this film – be warned!

Favourite line: “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf0rKQkvh2c

 

  1. Leon
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Just keep walking, don’t look back…

Stars: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman

Director: Luc Besson

Genre: Thriller

Released: 1994

Why watch it: For one of the most beautiful relationships shown on screen. The 12 year old Mathilda finds herself in the ‘care’ of Leon, a hitman; but who is the child? This is at times, an extremely touching film, how does a man who kills for a living take care of a child? Scenes with his little potted plant reveal that Leon is not heartless, or a cold-blooded killer, there is something else in this taciturn man. Portman is absolutely excellent as Mathilda, the orphaned girl who grows up fast.

Favourite line: “The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.”

 

  1. Spirited Away

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Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Genre: Anime fantasy

Released: 2001

Why watch it: Miyazakis’s first anime is arguably his finest. A feast for the eyes, with a beautiful plot reminiscent of a good old style fairy tale. Follow Chihiro into the magical town where spirits take baths and give gold to the greedy.

Favourite line: “There must be some mistake! None of these pigs are my parents!”

*

These are all films I own on DVD, I have watched many times and will watch again. I could have chosen pretty much any Allen or Polanski film; I have been a huge fan since early teens. Same with David Lynch although I don’t fancy being stuck for too long on a desert island with some of his characters or scenes in my head!

What would you take if you could only choose 8 movies? Have you seen any of the one’s on my list?

Who Wants To Save The World?

 

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NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to protect Earth from alien harm!!

Apparently, NASA is currently looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to defend planet Earth from the threat of invading alien life!! True.

This is actually real government job! But before you get all excited, here’s what it’s really about – NASA needs a scientist to help fight alien life —but it is microscopic! The Planetary Protection Officer will be in charge of keeping our space exploration equipment free of contamination; from  earth microbes and also microscopic organisms from outer space that may be attached to returning equipment.

Oh, so a ‘cleaner’ then?

It got me thinking about what use I would be in a world that REALLY needed a Planetary Protection Officer. I have been a fan of science fiction stories for as long as I can remember.

I had comics and annuals of The Fantastic Four when I was a little kid. I grew up on a diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who. I love films like Contact (Jodie Foster) and Netflix series like The Expanse. And I suppose like many of us do, I place myself in the role of one of the characters; not always the MC, main character, when watching – it’s what makes us root for them.

I never wanted to be Captain Kirk, or Lieutenant Spock, strangely, I most aligned myself with Khan Noonien Singh.  Khan was a genetically engineered human from the late 20th century. He only wanted a place of his own – he was a major player in the Eugenics Wars, tried to take over The Enterprise – but was left, stranded on a planet that was toxic, his true love died and Khan blamed Kirk for the rest of his life. I know, I know, not entirely a nice chap, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for him.

“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well…it is very cold in space!”

~ Khan to Captain Kirk


Later we had the redoubtable Captain Jean-Luc Picard and then Captain Kathryn Janeway. It took me a while to like Janeway, but when I did, I committed fully – but I never wanted to be her. I don’t think I am Captain material; even in my wildest fantasies. But was he, Khan, born bad or made that way?!

I think most of us fantasise the ‘if I could be…’ scenario when we watch films or read books. Super hero films being the most obvious. How many times have you had or overheard the ‘nerd’ conversation – “So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

I haven’t got a clue – or didn’t have until I watched Heroes. Remember that one?

It was about ordinary people around the world discovering that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as they work together to prevent a catastrophic future; who can forget ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’? All the characters had a single superpower – except the evil guy whose ability was stealing everyone else’s – Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, who late went on to be Spock! There was another character, Peter Petrelli who was a Paramedic, he was able to absorb other people’s abilities after touching them, albeit for a short while. So my chosen power is the ability to absorb powers from others (by Peter or Sylar’s methods! See! It’s Khan all over again!)

Among the Superhero canon, my all-time favourite was Batman. Who actually has no super powers, but was a billionaire highly trained physically and with ‘all the best toys’. Recently, my decades old devotion to the batty one has shifted – I still love him, still want to be him, but there’s a ‘new kid’ on the block for me – Deadpool. He is witty, tough, unpredictable, indestructible! Who wouldn’t want this? Oh, his face is a mess, like scary Halloween night in an abattoir mess, so he has to wear the mask. Would he ever work for NASA? I don’t think so. Would he ever fight to save the world from aliens, sure, if there was something in it for him I suppose. That something is his girlfriend, Deadpool after all, is a romantic; a scary, loopy, kick-ass romantic, but a romantic none the less. I think that’s what would drive him to save mankind.

But what about the ordinary folk, I hear you say, what about those who have no ‘special abilities’ and want to help save planet Earth from those pesky space invaders? I.E: YOU and ME? What sort of people will we need? Thinkers?  Muscle?  Builders? Carers? I know we need them all, but for the sake of my stupid argument, and in keeping with stories; there is only ever 1 hero, who will it be?

Some ideas for ‘ordinary’ people  – (other defenders of Earth are available)

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock

Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

James Bond – James Bond

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings

Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy

Rincewind the Wizaard [sic] – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

Evelyn  ‘Evie’ Carnahan – The Mummy

I am surprised to see not one but 2 librarians in there, plus a librarians assistant (Rincewind, he never mastered wizardry and so helps out The Librarian – an orangutan)

 

‘I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am… I am a librarian.’

~Evie Carnahan, The Mummy

 

Forget the words of Bonnie Tyler – “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night” or Tina Turner – “We don’t need another hero,”

Let the ‘little people’ be the hero’s (Good grief, I sound like something from Team America!)

Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a hero? How about the protector of mankind? If you had to choose a non superhero to be our Planetary Protection Officer  who or what would you be?! And why?

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No pressure!

 

Film Review: Baby Driver

Written, Directed and Produced by Edgar Wright

**Spoilers**

I like to think I’m fairly familiar with the work of Edgar Wright, I first watched his work in the TV series Spaced which he directed in 2001, and just fell for his quirky, cross-cutting style. The opening scene of Spaced is excellent; the two sets of dialogue between Tim and Daisy I think has yet to be beat.

EW Spaced 2001

Other films include, (as writer, director or producer), Attack the Block, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim versus The World and The Worlds End.

Anyway, to Baby Driver.

This is essentially a romance story – boy meets girl, boy tries to get out of debt with criminals, boy does one last job…

Does he get the girl? Watch the film!

There is good balance of action, dialogue and drama; often directors today get so excited by new toys/technology, that they fill the screen with eye-watering action top to bottom, left to right, continuously; to the detriment of any plot there may have been. Wright tells us a story, which is how it should be, after all, movies are just another form of storytelling, and he tells it well, through the driving, through the lines;

Buddy: Is she a good girl? You love her?

Baby: Yes, I do.

Buddy: That’s too bad.

 

Wright has excellent timing, not only with his trademark cuts of visuals and hyper sound effects, but just when you begin to wonder if the whole film will consist of Baby dancing down the street for his coffee, he, Wright, cuts to a new rhythm, and that’s what the film has running through it – rhythm. It is excellently choreographed from start to finish; people walking, dancing, talking, counting money, placing items down on tables, cars whizzing past trucks, every last element is perfect.

Ansel Elgort (The Divergent series) is the titular Baby; he appears at turns vulnerable, cool and collected, and incredibly sweet; especially in his scenes with Debora, played by Lily James (Downton Abbey)

EW baby and debora

Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) plays Doc, the brains and organiser behind each job.  Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) is Bats, and he is; he claims the monopoly on the one with ‘mental problems’.  Jon Hamm and Eiza González are deliciously deadly as Buddy and Darling, a couple with ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ tattoos on their necks, they stand side-by-side like Mexican anti-heroes in a Robert Rodriguez movie.

EW Baby Driver 2

Cranked up to the max; the car chases combined with the playlist that is always playing in Baby’s ear-buds, are as balletic as any performance of Swan Lake. I imagine Wright designed and planned the furiously fast and dizzying manoeuvres as ‘car-dance’ deliberately.

Baby’s playlist –

1. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—“Bellbottoms”
2. Bob & Earl—“Harlem Shuffle”
3. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers—“Egyptian Reggae”
4. Googie Rene—“Smokey Joe’s La La”
5. The Beach Boys—“Let’s Go Away For Awhile”
6. Carla Thomas—“B-A-B-Y”
7. Kashmere Stage Band—“Kashmere”
8. Dave Brubeck—“Unsquare Dance”
9. The Damned—“Neat Neat Neat”
10. The Commodores—“Easy (Single Version)“
11. T. Rex—“Debora”
12. Beck—“Debra”
13. Incredible Bongo Band—“Bongolia”
14. The Detroit Emeralds—“Baby Let Me Take You (in My Arms)“
15. Alexis Korner—“Early In The Morning”
16. David McCallum—“The Edge”
17. Martha and the Vandellas—“Nowhere To Run”
18. The Button Down Brass—“Tequila”
19. Sam & Dave—“When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”
20. Brenda Holloway—“Every Little Bit Hurts”
21. Blur—“Intermission”
22. Focus—“Hocus Pocus (Original Single Version)“
23. Golden Earring—“Radar Love (1973 Single Edit)“
24. Barry White—“Never, Never Gone Give Ya Up”
25. Young MC—“Know How”
26. Queen—“Brighton Rock”
27. Sky Ferreira—“Easy”
28. Simon & Garfunkel—“Baby Driver”
29. Kid Koala—“Was He Slow (Credit Roll Version)”
30. Danger Mouse (featuring Run The Jewels and Big Boi)—“Chase Me”

 

Baby even halts a job – mid getaway – until he’s found Golden Earring’s Radar Love, before flooring a ’86 purple Chevy Caprice. Baby remains cool at all times; given his age compared to his ‘colleagues’, it’s a pretty impressive performance he puts on for them; whilst his ‘crew’ shout and panic around him to get driving, Baby won’t be pushed till he finds the right tunes.

Is Baby scared? Hell yeah, he’s got his old foster dad, Joseph, back home (CJ Jones), from whom Baby has learnt sign-language and lip reading, and he wants to keep him safe. There is an incredibly touching moment near the end when Baby is taking Joseph to safety, I admit I nearly cried – Baby’s not a bad guy really, he just got in with the wrong crowd. And inevitably, his new love Debora becomes a target in the bid to squeeze more out of Baby, whether a job or simply pain.

I take my hat off to the stunt drivers; way too many to name, but what a fantastic job!!

NB: Don’t sit too close to the screen – like we did – it’ll make your head spin as fast as the cars – my eyes were seriously challenged.