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Welcome back Quentin
5 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In the world of film a lot of things can happen in six years. To some directors six years is a mere blink of an eye, such as Stanley Kubrick. Others, like The Coen Brothers would have to fill that period with as much great work as possible. In both filmmakers cases you always knew you would be rewarded with a great piece of work. And also in both cases, the strength of their established material was so great that they were never afraid of disappearing from the public eye.

During the past six years my heart and mind has been caressed and challenged by such new talents as P.T. Anderson and Christopher Nolan with masterpieces like Magnolia and Memento. And, during that hiatus, my mind forgot about the fact that Reservoir Dogs focused my direction toward quality films, the amount of dialogue from Pulp Fiction that is now part of my daily vocabulary and the laid back chilled out approach Tarantino took with Jackie Brown. My mind tends to forget what is good for it. And so we come to Kill Bill.

Kill Bill opens with a bang and ends with a question. Both of them are unexpected and both of them hit you hard and leave you reeling. In-between those events Uma Thurman as The Woman With No Name (yet) starts out on her path of bloody retribution. That's all you need to know going into this film. That and the fact that there may be spoilers ahead.

I've heard a lot of people who've seen this film complaining about either the lack of plot, the lack of 'typical' Tarantino dialogue, or the levels of violence. Well to all you who complain of such matters, you don't deserve this film! Go bury your head in the sand and wait for something formulaic to appear. In terms of plot progression, no, nothing much actually happens in the first volume. The Bride wakes up four years after being shot into a coma on her wedding day, orders some Japanese steel and takes out two of the people on her death list number 5. But so what if that's all that happens? Is it essential for every great film to have a complex and detailed story? No, absolutely not. In The Straight Story all that happens is an old man travels across the country to visit his estranged brother. But it's the richness of the way the story is told which makes it so captivating. And in Kill Bill everything is told with style. With regard to the dialogue, I think I would have found it off-putting if the film had been populated with characters that talked and discussed everyday matters like they do in Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. While this film moves incredibly fast, the characters don't. They're contemplative and remorseful over their actions, both in the past and for what's to come. Besides which, what film law states that Tarantino has to fill every film he makes with what's become known as his trademark dialogue?! Ridiculous! And there are some great lines in Kill Bill; `If, on your journey you should encounter God, God will be cut' and `I want him to witness the extent of my mercy by witnessing your deformed body'. Great lines and great deliveries.

As for the violence, yeah, there's a lot of it. Deal with it! Either watch and enjoy or shield your eyes. There's brutal ugly violence and insane cartoon violence. And then there's blood soaked anime violence. And unseen but horribly implied coma violence. Limbs go a-leaping and bodies are bloodied. There's a lot of blood in here. Think of Mr Orange as a starting off point and take your imagination from there. I like the level of violence in this film, it's refreshing after so many directors are afraid to show the full extent of damage that could be caused to someone in order that their film will be more accessible to mass audiences. I like the fact that the samurai swords in this film don't just kill people, but they cleanly slice through flesh and bone. And I like the fact that every move, every slice, every punch and kick really hurts.

This film is set resolutely in the revenge/exploitation genre, as Quentin himself has stated many times and as such the carnage has to be bloodier and more savage than you would find in mainstream movies. Until now of course, as Kill Bill is most definitely mainstream, but with an even wider appeal, reaching out to those of us who can identify the genres and styles he has successfully blended. Much like the way Pixar's films appeal to both children and adults, Kill Bill will grab the Friday and Saturday night audience tempted by the thrill of action, but it will also ensnare the serious film head who will appreciate the film on the same, but also a deeper level from the wonderfully measured performances, the technical aspects that Quentin is more in command of as a director, such as the camera work and editing, the mixing of genres and film styles; live action to anime, colour to black and white to blue-backdrop shadow outlines back to colour and of course Tarantino's latest soundtrack compilation.

And it's here that he excels himself perhaps more than in any other aspect. Kill Bill contains my favourite Tarantino soundtrack so far and if anything, his musical choices actually seem to have improved in the past six years. Not that there was anything to ever complain about of course, but here it's just a little deeper, the songs and themes seem to resonate more with the action onscreen. Starting off with perhaps the most ridiculously apt song, Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), straight after Bill slugs a slug into The Bride's head, he then stirs in spaghetti Western themed music against O-Ren Ishii's animated origin chapter to excellent effect. There's a superb touch that happens three times where Tarantino takes a short burst of music from Ironside and plays it when The Bride comes into contact with someone she badly needs to fcuk up. And there's a beautiful Japanese voiced song that picks up after The Bride and O-Ren Ishii's fight in a striking snow covered Japanese garden. The effects and sound design to this film are excellent and a vast improvement over his previous work. Methinks Quentin got into home cinema in a big way during his writing holiday.

The fight scenes are expertly choreographed and captured. Although there are only really two to speak of, the initial melee with Copperhead in suburbia land and the Showdown At House Of Blue Leaves, which takes on about four different stages and lasts for something like 20 minutes. The domesticated fight is messy and fleeting, both women grabbing at whatever they can to gain the upper hand. It's loud and it hurts but it's also prematurely broken up before too much tissue damage stops the fun.

House Of Blue Leaves however is a thing of beauty. It begins with an arm being hacked off as the Bride strides toward O-Ren, her bloodied Hattori Hanzo samurai sword in hand. Standing in her way is the small matter of O-Ren's six initial subordinates, her personal guard Go Go Yubari, and of course, her Yakuza ARMY. The first six are dispatched with very simply, no fuss, just slice and dice. Go Go is more of a challenge, with her whirling ball of spiky death, and more of a challenge to film. For this fight the camera moves around more, as in the same way that The Bride has to ready and better herself for each stage. You can see this by the first fight being fairly grounded, both The Bride, the camera and the combatants. With Go Go the fight moves around the floor more and up onto table tops and we get overhead camera moves and more varied shot types with quicker editing cuts. By the time she faces O-Ren's army, everyone is all over the place, The Bride uses the whole space of the floor, under and above, through paper walls and up the stairs, onto balconies and traversing down bamboo shoots. The camera follows in the same fashion, and even more rapid cuts are required, and the film changes to black and white. Now this can either be Quentin's homage to the monochrome samurai films of the 50's or that he didn't feel US audiences would handle the vibrancy of geysers of blood as well as Eastern audiences, who are getting their own full colour version of the film. Personally, I'll be getting DVD versions tailored for each side of the world so it matters not to me.

The fight and film changes again as The Bride and the remaining 8 or so of the Crazy 88's head up into a small room where, after a lighting change by the owner of the restaurant, the principals are cloaked entirely in silhouette, framed by a gorgeous blue background. Once the last suit wearing sword holding member has been spanked, and The Bride addresses anyone left alive to hear, it's onto the final part of the climax. I don't know where Quentin's production designer has been or what he's been doing for six years but that Japanese snowy garden is one of the most beautiful looking sets I've ever seen on screen. And again the film changes design, this is a slower and more calculated fight. Arguably it's less climactic than the previous fight but only in strict action terms. The exchanges between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii, as minimal as they are, provide the whole crux of the film, the understated regret and remorse from the main characters of what they have done in their past and what they intend to do in the future, should they even get that far.

There's so much that I haven't touched on as well, the little Tarantino tricks like Mia's onscreen 'square' in Pulp Fiction and his wealth of film references. The whole 'Man From Okinawa' chapter and the greatness of Sonny Chiba, the character actor! The performances of Darryl Hannah and the unseen David Carradine as Bill.

Kill Bill is a masterpiece and the most exhilarating film I've seen in years. It's exactly how I would have expected Quentin Tarantino to bounce back onto the screen yet completely confound my expectations. And we're only halfway through the story!
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Toy Story 2 (1999)
Toy Story 2 is simply The Godfather Part Two of animation!
18 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Toy Story became one of my favourite films the moment I finished watching it, and made such a huge impact on me I was near terrified when I heard a sequel was being planned, especially since it was only ever meant to be a straight to video release. How foolish it was of me to worry, for In Pixar I Trust.

Toy Story 2 is not only one of the best films of 1999, nor simply one of the few sequels which can actually surpass a superb original, for me this is without question one of the best films ever made! I can't remember how many times I've seen it now but with each viewing I feel a stronger emotional response toward it, something which I would expect to be diminished through repetition, as is the case with other films I've watched repeatedly over time.

Like all the best sequels, the film contains elements from the original without being merely a rehash of plot and situations, it builds on the development of established characters while creating new ones, but most importantly, it can survive as a film in it's own right away from the original. Just like The Godfather Part Two, Aliens, A Very Brady Sequel (yes, really!) and Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, Toy Story 2 gives us a completely new universe where the film is set but populated with the same characters that we love. And like the examples mentioned above, the filmmakers are intelligent enough to give us situations that seem similar enough to events in the original to provide us with a thematic link, but are then twisted enough to become something original in itself. An simple example occurs when the gang set off to find Woody. In the original Woody had to leave his friends behind to rescue Buzz after he mistakenly knocked him out of a window. This time it's Buzz who has to lead the rescue, but he has all his friends working alongside him, which leads to necessary (and comical) support from Slinky, Rex, Mr Potato Head and Hamm. Another example found later in the film is having effectively two different Buzz's, one of which is still stuck in Space Ranger mode, and our own, now wiser Buzz who just looks on with embarrassed detachment.

Going into spoiler territory now so, y'know the drill.

This time around they don't waste any screentime. After an utterly stunning opening sequence involving Buzz and Sector 9 of the Gamma Quadrant, Woody is soon stolen by a nasty little toy collector known as Al. Once Buzz and the rest of the troops discover where he is, they lead a search and rescue expedition to Al's Toy Barn. Meanwhile Woody is being primed to be sold as part of a collection to a toy museum in Japan, and it's here Woody realises that he has roots stretching far beyond his little wooden legs. As leader of the Round-Up Gang, Woody was one of THE original classic toys of yesteryear with enough merchandise to make Barbie blush. He even had his own TV show before Sputnik launched and space toys then found their way into the hands of children. Completing Woody's Gang are Jesse the cowgirl, Stinky Pete the prospector and Bullseye his horse. His cohorts are overjoyed to see their long missing centrepiece until they realise he actually likes the idea of being played with merely as a toy. They had their hearts set on becoming immortalised within a glass frame forever. When he tries to convince his new found friends of the importance of being a toy, he realises that things aren't always as clear cut as they once seemed and that someone in the Gang has their own separate plan for their collective prosperity…

Back on Buzz's adventure he discovers his arch nemesis Emperor Zurg, and a whole aisle worth of Buzz Lightyear's, one of which manages to escape and cause much consternation for our hero. I really love the symmetry that they play with in this film. The original had Buzz discovering his roots via a TV commercial and realising that although he wasn't as important as he thought, being simply a child's plaything and not an Intergalactic Space Ranger, his purpose was for a much greater good in being a companion for not only Andy, but also for Woody. This time around it's Woody who discovers his ‘real' past, also via television. But while he is already happy in the knowledge that Andy is his main occupation and that Buzz is his equal in the toybox, when he realises he's a hugely popular toy, he's forced to make a choice between his exciting new life in Japan, or to continue with his safe routine life back home.

This builds to one of my favourite moments in the film and a scene which I still find astonishing no matter how many times I see it. We have the character of a toy(!) making a serious philosophical decision as to whether it's better to be in contentment or to risk it all by venturing into the unknown. The unknown brilliantly depicted by a long empty elevator shaft. And I love the fact that he chooses the most unlikely option, but then decides he can have it all anyway. This is character development that is absent from most live-action films I've seen. And this is ‘merely' a comedy! This in turn sets up the superb climax at the airport where Woody and Buzz both have to rescue Jesse from a plane that's taxiing down the runway. The fact that it's handled with such aplomb and leaves many live-action ‘action' films floundering in it's wake is only half the trick. It's the way that Pixar manage to incorporate both of Woody's choices; his past (Bullseye) and his present (Buzz) in order for him to effectively save the day.

Rather than just concentrate on Woody and Buzz, some of the other characters have also been well fleshed out. Rex has his own sub-plot involving Zurg which is well paid off throughout the film. Mr Potato Head gets to adopt a family with Mrs Potato Head! Even Zurg gets his own mysterious past and a wholly unexpected family reunion. Jesse in particular gets to be the huge heart that this film proudly shows off at it's centre. Her past is a sad tale and one which imparts heavily on Woody's decision to stay or to go. She once had an ‘Andy' of her own, but then she grew up and forgot about her toys. This segues into the most moving part of the film, and the only real musical number. I was a bit worried about how they would incorporate a song given that the first film survived without any, bar the opening and end credits. (And I mean of typical Disney numbers where the film effectively ‘stops' until the song is over and the characters sing along). Again, foolish me, In Pixar I Trust. It's a wonderfully emotive song and one that I simply cannot imagine the film without. This is also a very brave decision by Pixar, to show kids that one day they will forget about their toys, and that they will turn into something as horrible and cynical as an adult. Even Woody and Buzz ruminate on what it will be like when Andy forgets about them and provides for me, what I think is the perfect end to the Toy Story saga. Buzz turns to Woody and asks if he's worried about what will happen when Andy grows up and Woody replies that he isn't worried as long as he has old Buzz Lightyear to keep him company, For Infinity And Beyond. In the context of where they are at that point, and what they've gone through, there couldn't have been a more perfect ending. And while I'd love to see more adventures of Woody and Buzz, their wistful little moment is my argument for not making a third Toy Story. We now know that whatever may come along for our heroes, everything will turn out fine. And besides which, how on earth could you top an ending which has Robert Goulet providing the voice for a penguin belting out a Vegas showtune version of You've Got A Friend In Me?!

Toy Story 2 is a landmark in Western animation, not just for it's dazzling technical achievements but for the care and craftsmanship that's been invested in the story and characters.
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The Godfather (1972)
The ultimate drama?
12 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
`I believe in America' are the first words spoken in The Godfather. The fact that they resonate with such power to someone who has no personal or professional ties with the country speaks volumes.

My first viewing of this film was anticipated with equal amounts excitement and trepidation. How could a film of such enormous stature possibly live up to anyone's expectations, let alone mine? Over two and a half hours later I realised I would probably never see a finer film in my life. And about six or seven years on from that revelatory experience, that view grows ever stronger. With the exception of The Godfather Part Two that is. But that's a film for another day.

The Godfather is now so much a part of our culture that it becomes difficult to talk about it as a film by itself. Entire books have been written on how it has not only affected change in the way films are conceived by individuals and whole studios, but also the very nature of the film industry itself. At the time nobody could have predicted that a lengthy (and costly) film set in the 1940's with a relatively little know cast and a serious and weighty subject matter could have made such a huge profit at the box office. Much like in the film itself, ambition and bravado is rewarded with great success and power, and this was true for many of the cast and crew with their subsequent careers.

There may be spoilers ahead but the plot and events in this film are now so well documented I doubt anyone will be surprised.

The film opens with a wedding taking place between Don Vito Corleone's daughter, Connie and Carlo, a wannabe member of the Family. While the celebrations take place outside in glorious sunshine, in the darkened rooms of the main house Don Vito pays court to various people requesting help with whatever problems they need assistance with. This is where Bonasera, a local baker, opens the film with the aforementioned line and seeks revenge on two men who savagely beat his daughter after she refused their advances. The subsequent conversation sets the tone for the rest of the film. Respect is always demanded from those in power and who are willing to use that power to benefit you. But there may always be a favour required by The Don in return. Later in the film, this favour is repaid to The Don in a way that is both shocking and relieving to Bonasera. Every element in this first scene demands attention from the audience and rewards them by setting a very high standard thereon. The way the camera slowly pulls back from Bonasera to reveal The Don listening to the story as we are, the use of lighting to almost hide The Don's eyes in the darkness, and the expressions, the voice and even the movement of Marlon Brando as The Don immediately put us in the company of one of THE great acting performances. Also attendant at the wedding are The Don's sons, Sonny the firey tempered James Cann, the weak willed Fredo played by John Cazale and Michael, the youngest and most cool headed of the brothers, played as such by Al Pacino. As with Brando, you are assured career defining performances by all three men, and I don't think any of them reached these acting heights again. Equally impressive but not strictly a family member is Robert Duvall as The Don's Consilgerie, Tom Hagen.

In a nutshell (if such a thing were possible) the film follows the reluctant but necessary rise of Michael to the head of The Family and his dealings with his immediate family, his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), the ranked members that protect their Family (Tessio, Clemenza, etc), other Mafia Families and corrupt state officials. Throughout the film Michael's views on his involvement with his Family change from the events that happen to his father after The Don refuses to involve his Families resources in distributing drugs into the city. When The Don is gunned down and left for dead in the street, and Michael has his jaw broken by corrupt Police Captain McCluskey, whilst trying to protect his unguarded father in the hospital, he sets in motion the revenge killing of both McCluskey and Sollozzo, the man partly responsible for the attempt on Don Vito. The result of the ensuing incredible set piece makes it necessary for Michael to leave the country to Sicily until it is safe to return. There he experiences both happiness and tragedy, as he takes a new bride, Apollonia, and receives news that Sonny was killed for a hit he had ordered on a rival Families son in previous retribution for the hit on The Don. Sonny's death scene is itself one of the most memorable set pieces in all of cinema. When a failed attempt on Michael leaves Apollonia dead, he returns to America, cold and hardened by these terrible events. There he begins to pick up where he left his life with Kay and moves to become his fathers heir.

The phrase that there is honour among thieves is nowhere more relevant than in The Godfather. Michael, Sonny, Fredo and Tom are bound together by the respect and loyalty they hold for their father (in Tom's case, unofficially adopted) and the Corleone name. Their Family will always come before anything else, as shown when Michael leaves for Sicily without much of a thought towards Kay (being both Jewish and a woman excludes her from the Family), or when Sonny rushes to his sister Connie's aid (and ultimately his demise) after she receives another vicious beating by Carlo.

Some of the most fondly remembered and famous scenes in cinema occur throughout The Godfather. The sequence with Khartum's severed head is an undisputed classic for both the shock value and for showing us early on how far and what type of methods the Family will employ. Sonny's murder is brutal and affecting, the attempted hit on The Don is wonderfully staged with the camera looking down on the event from above, the cumulative killings of the heads of the five Families at the end is a masterpiece of editing (note to George Lucas circa Phantom Menace. This is how you direct separate climactic events that reach toward the same goal!) , and these are only some of the major events that take place. There are so many great lines that it would be fruitless to list even some of them here, as many of them are now as much a part of the English language as any piece of classic text. What I will mention however, are the delivery on some of the lesser known phrases. When Tom has to tell The Don that `They shot Sonny on the causeway. He's dead', it's a heartbreaking moment both for himself, The Don and the audience and we can completely emphasise with their pain. The fact that we can emphasise at all with these criminals and killers is not only due to the acting, writing and directing of these characters, but that the Corleone Family is just that shade more moral and honourable than the other Families depicted in the film. When The Don calls a meeting with the heads of the five Families to clear the bad blood between them and prepare for Michael's return to America, his delivery of the line `..but I'm a superstitious man..' and subsequent warning is so powerful and commanding that nobody but Brando could have pulled it off with such weight and grandeur. When Michael asks the powerful Vegas hotel owner Moe Green that `You straightened out my brother?' the ‘threat' is so tangible that Moe is immediately sorry and Fredo tries to make light of the situation by assuring Mike that he and Moe are best of friends. Thus begins the tragic downfall of Fredo… At the beginning of the film when Michael is telling Kay about his family he assures her that `That's my family Kay, it's not me'. At the end of the film he tells her `Don't ask me about my business Kay'. Both times he is completely sincere and believable.

All throughout the film there are little moments where there may not be any dialogue or anything particularly important that happens to the plot, but they made such an impression on me that I have to mention some of them. The moment when Sonny bites down on his fist so (I assume) he wouldn't swear in front of Connie when he sees the bruise marks left on her face by Carlo, gave me goosebumps. The shot of the Statue of Liberty in the backdrop after Clemenza takes Paulie out to pick up some Cannelloni and has Rocco kill him and leave him bleeding in the car. The simple shrug of The Don's eyebrows when Tom returns from meeting Jack Woltz, and the previous shot was hearing Woltz's continued screams after finding the head of his beloved horse Khartum, in his bed when he awoke. The impeccable way Michael looks, dresses and carries himself when we first see him after returning from America as he steps out of a car toward Kay, and the way Brando's face literally crumbles as he is told of Sonny's death.

Every technical element in this film is of the highest level. The cinematography is beautifully composed and framed, the period designs of New York are utterly believable and we never assume we're in any other time. The music is simply stunning and perfectly highlights the mood of the characters throughout, with the main theme one of the most recognisable pieces of music in cinema. When watching this, the film simply FEELS rich. I take a great sense of importance and history from it, as though it's not merely a film but something much bigger. And there are plenty of arguments to support this, given the massive impact it has left not only on the film industry, but also on American businesses, commerce and crime. There are many stories of real life Mafiosi who base their lifestyle and way of conducting business on the Corleone way.

I think the best compliment I can pay to The Godfather is that once the door is closed on Kay's face and we've both been shut out, I feel like I've witnessed an event, rather than just watch a film.
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AKA South Park: Everything And The Kitchen Sink
12 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut when it was initially released in the cinema. I can't remember much of it except laughing helplessly for the duration. And for some reason I forgot about it. Never got it on DVD at the time as I thought a decent release would be made available in the future. A few years pass and I find I don't have the same television access I used to for new South Park episodes. A few years more and I catch the occasional episode and realise South Park is still as great as when it began. This prompted my frustrated searching for DVD's of episodes that weren't ridiculously expensive. The first thing I got hold of was the DVD of this incredible film. When I first watched it I was amazed at not only how good and hilarious it still was, but that it was still pretty inflammatory and shocking at times. Subsequent viewings gave me no choice but to hold it in the highest possible esteem as one of my favourite films. If you want a plot summary before we continue, you'll find it on the main page.

The film races along at a tremendous pace, with barely a second of screen time wasted. This is one of the most minimalist films I've seen, certainly in terms of dialogue. Matt and Trey don't seem to have heard of the term 'exposition', for which we can only be thankful. The minimum amount of information is conveyed between characters but to maximum effect for the audience, i.e. there's never a point in the film that doesn't feel relevant to what's going on. Every scene belongs in the film, which sounds strange but think about how many films you've seen which has moments you felt the film could have been stronger without. I don't think this applies to South Park, everything is in there for a reason.

I think Matt Stone and Trey Parker must be two of the most intelligent guys working in the business today. This is shown every week on the show with the quality and economy of the writing and the ease with which they take aim at targets just waiting and deserving to be satirised. In the film these targets take the form of the military, religion, censorship, education, musicals, death and many more that I can't recall off-hand. I can't remember ever seeing a film which managed to combine, and effectively hit, so many targets, and to do it as well as it has in this film. Perhaps the best example in this film of how good their level of satire is, is based in the wonderful mockeries of Disneyesque songs. Every song in this film is incredible, with Matt and Trey working alongside Mark Shaiman to produce some of the most memorable songs I've heard. The fact that I regularly play the CD soundtrack is testament to that. The songs are not only expertly composed and crafted, with wonderfully skewed and satirical lyrics, but they're also performed far better than I would imagine. Remember this is mainly just Matt and Trey singing on these tracks. And the singing's actually pretty damn good! I mean what else can these guys do?! On a wee side note, anyone who loves the songs on this film as I do should really pick up the soundtrack. Some on the songs have been reworked slightly to fit better away from visual accompaniments, and while they sound a bit strange at first because of that, repeated listens will reveal them to be even better. And again, as a note to how good these songs are, is the fact that they stand up well on their own away from the film.

For anyone who hasn't seen this film yet (and I hope age would be the only barrier there) there are some comments coming that could be construed as spoilers.

I was also quite shocked at how moral this film seems to be. 'Moral' and 'South Park' are two words that are generally placed at the opposite end of the spectrum, but I disagree. (I find it ludicrously hilarious that the Christian CAP movement denounced this as one of the most anti-moral films they'd ever 'reviewed'. But that's what can happen when you only take things at face value) There are quite a number of moments where this film teaches, what I will refer to as, 'life lessons'. And you can argue that this is just character moments, and yes they are, but look at the film and the context that they're in and tell me if you expected this. (Smart enough viewers who see this in the series every week can ignore this poser)

Example 1. The Satan and Saddam sub-plot. The behaviour and dialogue in all they're scenes immediately puts me in mind of a thousand bad relationships I've seen in real-life and onscreen. Saddam having the part of the uncaring and uncouth partner, Satan being the subservient significant other, always failing to please and not understanding the other. With the emphasis on Satan clearly being in the right, and trying to do the right thing, you have Satan teaching people how they should behave in a relationship if it is to survive. How subversive is that?!? Example 2. Kyle and his mother. All throughout the film there's is an action/reaction relationship. Kyle does something wrong and Sheila reacts to it. Usually badly. Well in this case she brought about the second coming of Satan and 1000 years of darkness, so. This relationship is similar to how the other kids and their mothers act, but Sheila is the voice for all and is clearly portrayed as the one of the 'reactionary people'. Those people who act before thinking. And no, that is definitely NOT a good thing. Even THIS is shown in the film. Little life lessons shown within the big life lessons. And by the end of the film, we have Kyle telling his mother that she needs to talk more to him if she wants to understand him. Again, in a film like this, where, although clearly marketed for adults, will be seen by masses of children, to have a character of a kid telling other kids who are watching to communicate better with their parents, I find simply astonishing. There are other moments like these dotted throughout the film but these were the two main examples that stuck with me.

I briefly mentioned at the start as to how I was still shocked in parts when watching this. Part of that was the moral aspect of the film, but mainly it was due to the content and what they managed to get away with. I actually think they missed some opportunities, for instance I only briefly glimpsed their Jesus character while he was marching with the troops, but given the involvement of Satan it seems strange that they didn't feature him more. Think of the 'Damien' episode and you'll see what I mean. But in terms of context at least, I'm not sure I've seen anything as shocking as an eight year girl wearing a 'c*ckmaster' t-shirt! To say nothing of the internet incident featuring Cartman's mum! And let us not forget the lyrical implications of 'Uncle F*cka'! But then they topped even those with the use of the words Ba*bara Stre*sland in Cartman's final expletive filled burst to defeat Saddam! What's also interesting is that the film manages to deftly mix contrasting styles of humour, the examples above no doubt fall into the crude category but there are also moments of smart comedy. For instance, the scene with the military commander outlining the plan for the white soldiers to 'get behind the darkies'. When Chef asks if the commander has ever heard of the 'emancipation proclamation', the commander replies that he doesn't listen to hip-hop. That scene also makes some rather pointed comments about race in the military without resorting to making a big statement about it. Or how about when Stan is using his parents PC and has to 're-route the encryption' in the space of about five seconds, neatly taking a swipe at films where computer programmes are hacked into all too easily.

But I think the one thing that will stay with me most is the laughs and the tears (of laughter). From George Clooney's voiceover doctor cheerfully whistling the opening song as he saunters away from Kenny's (literal) deathbed to Mr Garrison's exclamation that 'ALL the Baldwin's are dead?!?' to the location and position of Stan when finds the clitoris to Satan's scrunched eye falsetto during his big number 'Up There', it's a fun filled romp for all the family. Watch it with kids, grandparents and pets alike.
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Ringu (1998)
Ring, Ring, Why don't you give me a call?
22 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
And the search continues for a film so terrifying it makes me want to sleep with the light on.

I recently received Ring along with The Eye. The latter has already been reviewed here and I don't really want to compare the two despite both being recent Eastern contemporary horror films. However for me, I found The Eye to be a more thought provoking, better made, and ultimately scarier film. And that's what horror films are all about, right kids?


The story has been well documented so if you want a recap go look at the plot summary on the main page. Or rather, don't, and give yourself a chance to see a spoiler free film. I wanted this to be THE horror, the one that makes me shake uncontrollably when watching it and ends up affecting me for ages afterward. Sadly it wasn't, it just didn't scare me or put me on edge enough. The soundtrack was used rather nicely to build tension and suspense, but that tension and suspense kept ebbing away rather than continually building. There were very few big moments throughout, which isn't really a bad thing, but... For instance, at the climax where Sadako claims Ryuji, it was easily the scariest moment in the film, but I think it would've made more of an impact if we were given the chance to see Sadako or feel her presence more beforehand. It just seemed that for all the build up leading to it, more should have been done with it.

The acting was competent throughout, but no-one really stood out. There were no prizes for acting here. I have one complaint though. At the end where Asakawa discovers what the cure is for the curse and is driving off to save her son, she seems to be remembering in her mind the voice of a girl who is basically telling us the cure and what Asakawa is doing. However, the voice seems to be from the same girl she was interviewing about the tape at the start of the film, so if that was the case, she would've already knew what to do to lift the curse and save Ryuji in the process! Minor quibble I guess, but the voiceover shouldn't have been there, we should have discovered that information another way. But anyway.

It was a good film, a different kind of horror with a nice edge throughout but I was expecting more.
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Gin gwai (2002)
Mmm ... corneas!
19 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Like some of the other people who commented upon this film, I was initially drawn to it from seeing the (very poor) Tartan Video cover in a local store.

>From reading a few things here and there about it I decided to order it (along with Ring which will be commented upon soon!) and tonight it was viewed with fresh eyes.


You all know the story so I won't bore you with that, and if you don't know the story, all the better. Better you know as little as possible about it. Expect something kinda on the same lines of The Sixth Sense, and if you liked that film, as I did, then I'm pretty sure you'll love this.

I thought the film was excellent. It wasn't quite the scarefest I was expecting, though some scenes creeped me out quite a bit, but there was a growing sense of dread and unease that appeared after the first 20 minutes or so and didn't let up right until the end, that is, the REAL ending ;) (And I'll state here and now that when the US remake appears I guarantee that last five minute sequence will not be changed, or softened, it simply won't be there at all! Think about it, do you really think Hollywood will show that amount of indiscriminate devastation when the storyline seemed to have been resolved?) The scene with the first ghost at the hospital. Brrr, shivers. The scene with the young boy. Mmm, getting freaked out. The scene with the women in the class. Gaaaaahhhhh!!!! The scene in the lift. Ok, I AM freaked out now, just GET OUT OF THE LIFT!!! And then the final scene with Ling Ling. Full body goose pimples. But it wasn't just fear inducing, it was strangely moving too. And that in part is due to the incredible performance of the lead actress, something I didn't except but she was exceptional!

I'm going to recommend this to anyone who wants to find an intelligent horror film which also doubles as a really great story in it's own right. Not something you can say about too many horror films these days. It IS very similar to Sixth Sense, but personally I found it far better, in terms of storyline, the writing, individual ghost scenes, and sound design. The score is perfectly suited to this film and works incredibly well. And as many people have pointed out, the camera was utilised very well, wonderful framing on some shots.

And, the ending. I was very sceptical when I heard a previous commentator mention the 'apocalyptic' ending, as I've rarely found an ending in a horror film that was apocalyptic in the true sense of the word. But this film is the closest I've seen that realises it. It was a devastating ending, but one that the film simply wouldn't have been as strong without. Oh, and special mention to the special effects, they were INCREDIBLE! Not in the sense of giving Hollywood effects houses a run for their money, but simply the fact they were used so well and were fairly sparse and subtle in their design.

So go check out The Eye.
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RoboCop (1987)
Classic Sci-Fi
28 September 2002
Robocop is a great film. I had seen it many times when I was a kid, before I even fully understood and appreciated what films actually were. I believe Robocop has a bad reputation as a serious film because it was released at the time of so many other action and sci-fi films around at the time, and it seemed to be a contest as to who could outdo each other in the over the top stakes. The film has lasted so well for so long because it is a great story with a great concept. Just like in Blade Runner, the world that the film takes place in doesn't look so different as it is now, even though it is set sometime soon in the future. And it's certainly not impossible to imagine it couldn't turn out like Old Detroit.

The film has also had an infamous reputation because of the violence. The film IS incredibly violent, especially in the unrated version, and for my money is the most so I've seen in American cinema. Murphy's death scene is pretty savage and seems to last forever if it's the first time you've seen it. It's also nicely paralleled with Robocop being gunned down by Lieutenant Hedgecock later on outside the OCP building, Hedgecock and Boddicker both working for Dick Jones. And poor Kinney, who gets shot to tatters by ED-209.

The film also touches on other themes such as large multi-conglomerate corporations privatising public services and news broadcasts which relay constantly shocking news daily and perfectly delivered by their smiling anchor's, which seems more and more relevant each year. The score is surprisingly memorable and fits in very nicely whenever Robo is onscreen. For me this is Paul Verhoven's best film, and he never really got as close to something as good as this again, though he almost came close a few times.
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A magical experience
26 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This is the first time I've commented upon a film at IMDB, but after watching Field Of Dreams for the, ohh, dozenth or so time, I just wanted to share my ramblings and musings on this film.

I first saw this film almost a decade or so ago, I was watching it alone on video after idly looking through some tapes for something. I was caught by the amount of glowing recommendations on the cover, and although it seemed to involve lots of baseball, something that I have never been even remotely drawn to, I thought I'd give it a chance. An hour and 40 minutes later and I had dissolved into a steam of tears, that were only broken up by the smile stretched right across my face. To me, this is the closest film I've seen that I would consider being perfect. My favourite film is The Godfather, with Godfather Part Two right alongside, but no film gives me such an emotionally rewarding experience as Field Of Dreams. This truly is a film dipped in magic waters.

Why do I love this film so?

The acting right across the board is naturalistic and strong. We believe the characters when they say what they say and do what they do. The whole tone and design of the film let us believe in the choices the characters make, we want Ray to build the field and have Shoeless Joe appear, we want Terrance Mann to go Finway Park with Ray, we want Archie Graham to get to play his dream, and most of all, even though we don't expect it or see it coming (well I didn't), we want Ray to get to throw a catch with his dad.>

The design, again, is wonderful. The lighting, and cinematography make your eyes and your heart ache, the magic hour lighting, the little break in Ray's voice when he asks his dad if he wants to have a catch, the moment Doc steps over the field and into the present to save Karin, when Mark mouths "What the f..." upon first seeing Doc Graham, the score, the fact that they talk about smoking grass and trying acid in what is essentially a family film in content and marketing, when Archie Graham gets picked up on the way back home and says "Hi, I'm Archie Graham", the sheer MAGIC!!!

Anyone thinking they may even be slightly put off by thinking the film is a baseball film, don't be. It's not about baseball, the sport serves as the backdrop for a story about loss, reconciliation, parents and family, dreams and having the courage to go through them. It really is a universal and timeless film, which is a cliched saying, but this is really one of those cases where it more than justifies the comment. Simply beautiful.
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