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Scoundrels and eroticism - Love hurts in this dark little erotic tale
I'm a huge fan of Chan-Wook Park's work. I've seen them all and been an avid follower for years, and this one doesn't disappoint.
It's a complicated layered story of con artists and deviants, but there are many aspects to it all. There's humour, scares, romance, eroticism and suspense. Lots of twists add up to make a film that really you don't know what to expect next with. It's excellent.
It's all shot brilliantly in Chan-Wook Park's philosophical style. Each shot is picturesque. It's wonderful to look at, the music is wonderful and the storyline is engrossing.
The motley crue of characters have some great depth to them that you are just intrigued. I've just watched the extended version, so I'm reviewing that here. It's very graphic sexually so be careful on taking a date to this film.
If you're liberally-minded, then you'll really enjoy this. It's erotic and sometimes crude, but never really offensive. It is actually also a criticism of certain forms of sexual abusive behaviour, and that's intriguing.
It's a wonderful film, and another in what is marking the director to be amongst the finest directors I've ever encountered. I can't recommend his work highly enough. Give it a try.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Is the 'Ghost' still here in this remake?
The original was a seminal film, and so hugely influential to many in the arts. I'm a major devotee of the original (and have watched it countless times), and this is the third incarnation of this film (I'm including the redux version), so it was always going to be hard to see this as a stand-alone. It was inevitable that this would be marked against its peers, and meant a hiding to nothing for the creators.
From the off, it's clear that they decided to not play it safe, but opted for a loose recreation of the original, preferring instead to make their own parallel storyline which little seems to mirror the originals. That is a major loss in this case, and what was most celebrated about the first movie was its existential arc (which was like an extension of what Blade Runner had been attempting). I don't even think the existentialism that is even in this film matches the original's attempts in any way.
This film instead relies on the action and special effects, and even though the action is enjoyable, it's the philosophical touches that made the original interesting. They even cut out the realpolitik and espionage stories which were intriguing in the first film. In reflection there were many strands in the first film that have not been carried over.
The action and special effects are good, but in this day and age of CGI it has been much copied since the original came out long back. You even just need to see the opening credits of the recent 'Westworld' TV series to see where it got its influences from this film.
The backdrops, the meandering flights through the cityscapes and the academic dialogues. All that seems to be lost (although the city views in this are still beautiful). Granted the makers of this version wanted a more accessible movie, but a bit of courage would have meant that they could still have kept those elements listed to introduce the universe to the viewers, and then expand on them in later films (this should have had the legs for further).
As for the choice of actors, the 'white-washing' furore has been covered in detail heavily already by many others, and I do sympathise with it. Regardless, even without that charge, I just don't feel that some of the actors fitted their roles well, and some of the newer characters were poor. The chief was nothing like he was in the original but more just Takeshi Kitano, and I'm not sure that Cutter was anything but a 'Robocop' style cut-out corporate executive villain.
I could say more, but best leave it there.
As a standalone it's not a bad movie, and has points to commend it for, BUT it's not a standalone movie. It has the uncomfortable act of following on from a well watched and respected anime classic. It very much misses the mark for me.
Many who are watching this without having first known or seen the original will likely accept this more than those who have watched the original. We'll just have to lump it, but if you did like this version then please take my advice and check out the original, you'll be blown away by it.
Choose a Lust for Life.... Choose a Life Affirming Movie... Choose Trainspotting
This film is a milestone in the lives of many people. For those of that 'Chemical Generation' as we were dubbed back then, this film had a huge impact in so many ways that current generations will find it hard to understand. This was before the internet boom, we went to stores to buy records and books.
This film was a shot in the arm for British culture building on a high with the indie Britpop cultural phenomenon, and this film just slotted in perfectly. It is a story of a group of young hedonistic heroin addicts plus a sociopath, centring around Ewan McGregor's character Renton. All are selfish in their own ways, but in their cul-de-sac, they are trapped in their personal hells, and heroin is their only escape as well as a trap.
Unlike the book, which I've read, this film is clearly anti-heroin, but it doesn't force it down your throat like some corny government advice advert. This film shows the grim reality of their world, but also shines the torch to show the humanity and humour too. As a viewer, despite any repulsion, you will actually begin to empathise with some of the characters regardless of whether they are truly loathsome or not to you.
The underlying themes are what gives it all gravitas. Do the 'friends' really trust each other, are they really their own enemies? Despite desires to escape the vicious heroin circles, do those attempting to do so actually want to? The film reflects on blue-collar life, perceived hopelessness, depression and fear, but also fantasy, love and hope.
These are all themes when you are young and still developing that really come to the fore. This film captures these emotions brilliantly, with an incredible soundtrack that has stayed with me for life. To the average Briton from the 1990's, the soundtrack to this film is as much a stamp on those times as Oasis and Blur.
I'm writing this having just watched the sequel, and rewatched the original. The whole film still stands up now, but as I'm older it has still a great power and hold, and different themes come out to me. I'm admittedly a major Trainspotting devotee, having read all the Trainspotting books to date, and just re-read the original after 20 years. It all still holds up brilliantly, and the film still works its magic.
For Scots this film has huge resonance, and it is only now after so many years that you can feel the impact that a certain rant in the film by the main character had on the country. It also brought Scottish culture to the fore, which at the time was going through a renaissance with some great writing, film work and music being generated. The influence culturally from this film has been great, and there are many parts of the film that Scots will recognise most keenly.
I would heartily recommend this film to anyone, especially teenagers and those in their early 20s. Read the books too, this film got youth back into reading again. Hugely influential.
You'll learn a lot, and you'll revisit this film. It will always be in the hearts first and foremost of the 'Chemical Generation' but I hope it will also touch the hearts and minds of following generations too.
Give it a go, it will give you a Lust for Life.
T2 Trainspotting (2017)
A Lust for Life remains for the old friends 20 years on
It's been a long wait for this, a sequel which few thought would be made. For those too young to have been around when the original came out, you can't really imagine the impact that the initial film had in many ways. On music, reading and films for the time, it was like a shot in the face, a wonderful time.
Irvine Welsh had penned a sequel and prequel book but this film is nothing like either so this new film takes its own route. We have Renton returning back to Edinburgh, and finds that everything but nothing has really changed. Only Spud/Murphy is still a junkie, but his old friend Sickboy is still up to scams, and as for Begbie, well he's as hellbent on getting Renton as ever.
This film isn't the same as before. The first film is really a commentary around the life of the gang stuck in a ruthole around heroin. This film though isn't centred around that. In some ways it's nothing like the original. The characters are the same but not the structure or struggles. Kind of feels a bit like "Lock Stock" style of writing.
The film also is very referential to the first, to the point it felt like as if all they wished to do at some points was just reshow the original.
Regardless, it's still a very fun movie, guess my expectations or hopes were too high. Couldn't have expected too much, but the characters bring back memories and they are as loathsome and lovable as always. The story is often predictable but you still go along with it.
Settings were pure old school blue-collar Scotland, and the scene in the loyalists pub will have people in Scotland and Ulster laughing their heads off as they will understand that better than anyone else. It was classic.
I enjoyed it. Doesn't dent the memory of the original, and builds on it but doesn't challenge it.
Worth a watch if you very much enjoyed the first film. A fair follow-up.
If they wish to do another one, and there is still is scope to do so, then I hope that this time they don't wait as long.
Westworld: The Bicameral Mind (2016)
Westworld Season 1: A rich synthetic world
HBO are in a tough world. They helped to create the new landscape that has produced a wide variety of quality television (albeit with a lot of poor challengers too). However, following the end of The Sopranos, the mixed reception to Boardwalk Empire and the recent failure of Vinyl, they need to find that next big show that will help them keep up with their past history once Game of Thrones dies off.
Into this space enters Westworld, and as much as it's not necessarily yet at the level of the best they have produced, it is still a stellar show. This highly stellar show thankfully doesn't' just repeat the lines of the original, and what we have is a wonderfully deep philosophical film examining many strands, most obviously existentialism. The acting is wonderful, and the settings amongst the best you'll see anywhere, but it's the story that will grab you. It takes time and it is frustrating by the amount you have to devote to fully grasp the nettle, but it's worth it.
I would thoroughly recommend this series to anyone who like a cerebral TV show, I feel that the failure of some series might have frightened off producers from attempting shows like this one, but thankfully HBO are always willing to take a gamble.
Seriously, give it a try. It truly is great. Long story arcs, but it's worth the investment.
God Bless Ozzy Osbourne (2011)
Ozzy Ozzy Ozzy!
I think this one needs only a short review. We have here a lifetime overview of the legendary musical icon that is Ozzy Osbourne. Granted all other major music icons are exceptional musicians, Ozzy was more just a great lead singer in the seminal and ground-breaking Black Sabbath, for Ozzy it was more his character. His fellow musicians in Black Sabbath were the genius of the band and Ozzy was the great lead singer who helped put the cherry on top.
This documentary shows Ozzy from the start as a wild man, after Black Sabbath, again as a wild man, and then as the self-destructing father.
It's a great insight without being too crude. It's entertaining as well as interesting. There is hope as well at the end. There's a lot of humour along the way, and Ozzy you will love a lot.
A good viewing.
The Big Short (2015)
The Big Short is one to definitely go Long for...
It's been a number of years since the big crash that began in 2007/08, and despite appearances to the contrary, we are all still paying for the costs from that time. Government mishandling, regulatory body incompetence, banking misadventures and mortgage sellers fraudulence combined to create one of mankind's greatest synthetic disasters.
The underlying themes are complex to why it all happened, but as an introduction and understanding there has been little better as a package than this film. Having read the book, I'm happy that the film makers took the material as reference, and filmed this in their own way. It does a fine job in taking us thru the multitude of characters who are responsible for the disaster, explaining in some wonderful scenes the products behind the problems.
Whilst all this is happening, we are following a handful of people who take advantage having seen the truth behind the sham. Our mixed cast is given mostly equal billing with Brad Pitt (mostly unrecognisable), Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling playing their roles perfectly. The story takes time, but you will be gripped, despite already knowing the inevitable outcome.
This is an excellent introduction to the whole period, even if it is an uncomfortable viewing for many. Maybe this film will be better appreciated in a generation by those who didn't sit through the times. If you want Wolf of Wall Street, best move along, this is thankfully not that movie. Recommended viewing.
Assassin's Creed (2016)
Another failed computer game inspired movie...
Maybe I'm not the best to review this film. I'm admittedly a very long lapsed computer game player, having never owned one of the major consoles for past 20 years or so. Therefore I'm well out of touch on that sphere. The only games I play are the Angry Birds games on the mobile phone. I think I'm missing out, but this film is definitely not a great advert for the genre.
We have some bizarre Back to the Future/Lawnmower Man/Wanted story of present man taken back to some distant past to save the world in some bizarre mission around a masonic type centuries old conspiracy.
Our lead is the wonderful Michael Fassbender, who really should have known better than to take this role. He plays it as well as he can as the lead Assassin who finds himself in the lead role. Even he can't keep it interesting, and he is supported by other good actors like Jeremy Irons. Good paycheck I guess.
The story is tough to follow, or maybe as said I'm just out of touch, and I got bored. The action scenes as you expect are very well done and computer game like, but I found it hard to get excited or interested. It just got boring.
I really don't have much more to say on this. This film is best left for free-to-air film channels in late night showings. A no-brainer movie that I'm feeling that even the fans of the original series of games may not even enjoy.
Rogue One (2016)
Long long time ago, a story worth retelling... Fine sci-fi war movie...
I watched this two days ago, and sadly by coincidence Carrie Fisher (aka Princess Leia) passed away the next day, so for those immersed in the Star Wars universe this is a very sad time. It will definitely have led many to drag out their old box sets and the fan boys to again ogle over the Jedi pics of her in that golden bikini.
Back to the latest film, it's strange to think now that we are onto our eighth film from the Star Wars universe (nor including Ewok movies) but this one is supposedly a one-off tale, which is as much a filler as it is a self-contained episode. Regardless, it stands up well on its own.
Based around the time just before Episode IV, we follow our leads out to infiltrate and steal the plans for the Death Star for the benefit of the Rebel Alliance. So really you kind of know how this will pan out from early on. Despite that, the motley crew out to save the day are an interesting bunch, and you really do feel involved with them.
The story runs at a fair pace, and the main lines are intersected by scenes with the Imperial forces, which gives an all round look. It was engrossing, and we even get some CGI generated returns of some recognisable characters, which just about works. Okay, CGI hasn't yet perfected human features so those CGI 'actors' do look a bit puppet like, but it's a major advance over Tron Legacy which tried similarly but it wasn't yet good enough.
The action is a slow build till it becomes a fabulous war movie effort in the final acts, and it's worth the wait. Really exceptional space battle scenes which will remind you of the fun of the original films.
The major issue is the characterisations. As it's a self-contained movie there is minimal scope for character development in the limited film time, and that generates a flat note. It's a shame as I liked our lead two characters, although our leading lady doesn't seem to have much to work with to provide a fully-rounded character. Shame.
Also I still don't see the point of a few of the characters. They may add colour, but maybe they would have been better cutting them out and giving that added airtime to the lead characters instead.
Beyond that the story is great, and will appeal to adults instead of a dumbed down experience as in some prior 'episodes'. Some corny dialogue and scenes at times, but come on this is a sci-fi fantasy movie.
It's a very good offshoot. I wish they had allowed it to be built over a trilogy, but it works as it is. Ignore those being sniffy about it all. Fine film and a fine experience.
Going through box-sets, you might find this interesting French cop drama
Now, being in the situation where I need to fill out some time, I found this curiously interesting French cop drama series. Apparently it is derivative to The Shield, but as I've not seen that show, this was all new to me.
Series centres round the a close-knit team of policemen/women who end up using any means to both nail the crooks but also cover their own backsides. It covers police camaraderie, corruption, criminal fraternising, internal police politicking and double standards.
It ain't The Wire but it's clear that the first season tried to be a French version. From there on in, it seemed to lose its way and somehow became like '24' which was quite a leap. There was a return to form in some later series, but really after the first season it lost what it could have been.
Yet you will still continue to watch it all the way through. Why? Simply as the close-knit group of four police, really are excellent to watch. Led by 'Eddie Caplan' who seemed to get into the worst bother with anyone, the motley crue is one you truly empathise with. The acting is great, and the integration is wonderful.
If they had been at least accompanied by a better set of scriptwriters, then I'd be talking more highly of this show, but I can't. It ends up a disappointment despite the early high-notes.
Disappointed but still enjoyed it. I'll be keeping any eye out for the actors in future, and if you have time to burn I'd say this is worth your time.