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Truly terrible episode
I'm completely baffled by how people are liking this show.
The lighting is awful. You can barely see anything! And in this particular episode there's about 15 minutes where they obviously decided the few lights they had were too much, so it shifts into virtual pitch blackness whilst the crew get chased around by a CGI monster.
And our lead yet again defies orders. Why isn't this woman back in prison where she belongs? Oh yes, because the Discovery Captain is a moron. The most unlikable protagonist I've seen in a long time, and it doesn't help that she's so badly acted.
And space pollen that can make you fly through space? Jesus, WTF???
Oh, and the monster is immune to phasers. Because, um, atomic disintegration can be stopped by rough skin. Yikes.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. This show SUCKS.
Harrowing... but important
How we as a society treat the subject of death is almost entirely unquestioned and unexplored. We are, essentially, in denial about it - our attitude is that since we don't want to die, we should put it off as long as possible no matter the consequences.
In this documentary Terry Pratchett discusses his Alzheimer's and how it is slowly eroding away his life and his talent. He meets others with medical conditions which will inevitably lead to a prolonged, painful and above all undignified death and asks the question "is it better to end things early?" There are few answers here. Pratchett is on a genuine mission of inquiry, he's not preaching a position, nor does he end up with an opinion. Instead he takes a frank look at a subject most shy away from, and his only real conclusion is that we'd perhaps do well to think it through more than we do now.
Be warned, towards the end of the documentary he accompanies a man to a Swiss clinic where he chooses to end his own life. This is not depicted in any kind of voyeuristic way, but both Pratchett and the camera do sit right there in the room with him and watches him die in cold, unflinching detail.
Perhaps most shocking is the statistic that, of the 2200 or so lives this clinic has helped to end, 21% of them were people with no medical condition whatsoever beyond what they termed a "weariness for life". Make of that what you will.
The International (2009)
Plodding and largely pointless
I went into this knowing very little about it, and came out caring very little about it. What we have here, essentially, is a film that spends much of its time talking about international finance, interspersed with one or two action sequences. The former is incredibly dull, the latter is largely silly.
The basic plot is that a bank is trying to sell an advanced missile to the middle east. They are using a buyer who trades with Israel, and is happy to sell the missiles to his client's opponents because he's already sold the Israelis the countermeasures which render the missiles useless. The bank is backing the deal as a way to get into the international arms trade, with their ultimate goal being to flood the third world with cheap weapons so they can profit off of financing the ensuing wars.
Get that? It was boring to read, I'm sure, so imagine watching it for 90 minutes. Clive Owen's character is trying to bring the bank to justice. It's not clear exactly what justice he is trying to bring them to, because for the life of me I don't remember the movie ever once establishing that anything the bank is doing is illegal. Selling weapons is legal... selling obsolete ones is too... offering financing to third world countries is legal... so it's kind of confusing what Owen is actually investigating this bank for.
Still, investigate it he does, obsessively, and the bank responds by trying to kill everyone who talks to him about it. They are often rather bizarrely over the top about the way they do this. In the most absurd scene, the cops track an assassin to a famous art gallery in the middle of New York, only to have his employers try to off him... by sending something like half a dozen men with machine guns to shoot the place up. This results in a prolonged gun battle in which everybody shoots hundreds of rounds all over the place, dead bodies left and right, no sign of the police... and in the end Clive Owen walks out with the wounded assassin, both covered in blood, and they just walk away.
Long, long story short; Owen's character gives up on the law, tracks down the Bank president, and shoots him. Some other guy shows up and finishes him off. Then a bunch of headlines show that in the following months the new bank president went ahead and did everything the old one had planned to, nicely rendering the entire story wholly pointless.
Why 4 rather than 1? Well, the acting is okay, the action is well staged if rather incredible (think James Bond), the whole thing hangs together coherently enough. It's just rather dull, plodding, and pointless.
The Young Victoria (2009)
Better than I expected
I went into this expecting not to like it; I figured it would be terribly worthy and earnest, and rather plodding and dull.
It's actually far better than that, and I found myself really enjoying it. I don't know too much about Queen Victoria beyond what most know - married to Albert, who died young, and she mourned him ever after. Seeing the circumstances she grew up under was fascinating; in fact I found myself wishing I'd seen more of the story, and I imagine we may see a sequel at some point.
Visually the film is stunning. The sets and costumes are incredibly lavish without being too gaudy and over the top. The acting is top notch from everybody involved.
In a word, it was great!
Batman Begins (2005)
My my, they actually pulled it off!
I really enjoyed this one. Although I loved Tim Burton's movie, it always felt a little overdone; Gotham didn't feel like a real city, not a place you could imagine people living, and the characters felt a bit too overwrought to be real people.
This movie feels much more grounded and realistic. Gotham feels like a real city - let's be honest, it feels like New York. And the characters both good and bad feel like real people.
I liked Bruce's development. We never really got an origin story for Batman before in the movies - we knew what happened to make him Batman, but mostly they told us about it and showed flashbacks, we never saw it in any real detail like we do here. Seeing the lasting impact of his parent's death gave you more connection with Bruce, and seeing him develop the Batman concept as a carefully calculated ploy designed to achieve a specific effect made it much more believable than the "I'm depressed, I saw a bat - hey, I'll dress as a bat and fight crime!" of previous movies.
More kudos for the development of the toys. Introducing them as prototype weapons which Bruce appropriated was an inspired touch, and showing him actually developing his gear over his first few times out was another touch that made it more grounded and believable. These scenes also introduced some much needed and well played humour from Morgan Freeman (and Michael Caine is also excellent in this regard.) Things started to go a bit over the top with the grand evil scheme to destroy Gotham. The whole plot to spread fear gas around made no sense whatsoever and is riddled with scientific nonsense : why pour the stuff into the water supply for weeks before? Water doesn't sit in pipes in a city for weeks on end, it gets constantly flushed through - most of their chemical would be flushed away! Indeed, since the poisoning of the water stopped a good day or two before the final stage than little if any of it would be left in the pipes at all. Additionally, the microwave "vapourise all the water" weapon made no sense - it boils all the water in the pipes over hundreds if not thousands of yards, but has no effect on people and machinery standing right next to it! I'd rather they had just focused on having Batman fighting a conventional crime boss, as this would have continued the whole "keeping it real" thing.
But while annoying, it doesn't come close to wrecking the movie. Batman Begins is by far the best of the Batman movies, and one of the better superhero movies ever made.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
Okay, so the plot is paper thin - there is virtually nothing in this movie that isn't covered by the basic "married couple who both find that the other is a hit man/woman" one line summary. Certainly if you watch the trailer, you will know pretty much the entire plot.
For a comedy, it's not all that funny. So much time is given over to action scenes that there isn't all that much time for jokes. But what comedy there is works well. Brad Pitt especially shows himself as a good comic actor, and Angelina is no slouch either.
There's bags and bags of people and things getting shot and blowing up, which is entertaining enough in an over the top kind of way.
What puts it over the top from just another comedy/action movie to a pretty good comedy/action movie is the presence of Angelina Jolie, who is absolutely the most beautiful woman alive.
Sin City (2005)
I initially didn't think I was going to like this. I knew it was a series of fairly unconnected stories, and the first two seemed to occupy about five minutes each. I thought the whole movie would carry on that way, and if so it would have been a disjointed mess. Fortunately it settles down quickly - and later on it returns to the little bits and develops them fully to boot.
Overall, I loved it. It's got a very weird visual style, over the top characters, gritty as all hell plots. Don't look for heroes in this movie - there are none. Sin City is a place where everybody gouges everybody else every chance they get, because it's the only way you get even a slim chance to stay alive. If there was a real city like this, no sane person would go within a hundred miles of it - but it's the kind of place that sucks people in and traps them there even as it breaks them down.
It all falls apart if you stop to think about it, but you don't stop to think about it so that's not a problem. Best film I've seen in ages.
Not too bad
I never read the comics, had never even heard of Elektra until I saw the Daredevil movie. So I went in without any expectations. I was somewhat disappointed, but not massively so.
The great shame about this movie is that there's a pretty decent flick under there somewhere struggling to get out. The Elektra character is quite interesting, and very well played for the most part, but it's also quite inconsistently written - she flips around from cold killer to standoffish guardian to ex-baddie trying to make good to giggly friend to cold and standoffish once again. I get that they wanted to evolve the character throughout the story, but why have her jumping around almost at random that way? It would have been way better if they had shown her gradually thawing out as she got involved with her companions.
Also, I really struggled with all the supernatural aspects. It would have been way better if it had stayed a little more grounded in reality. Have Elektra hack off some crime lord by offing his son or something, then have to deal with the waves and waves of baddies he sends after her. I dunno, I'm no writer, but something along those lines would have been much better. I presume that the supernatural aspect comes from the comics, and perhaps the fans would have been up in arms - more up in arms - if this had been ditched, but it would have made the movie far more accessible and believable.
Ladder 49 (2004)
Worthy but boring
I was bored to death by this movie.
It has a few things going for it. Most obviously, it glorifies Firefighters, and who can't agree with that? Firefighters are great people, heroic in a way that I doubt I could ever be - no argument there. On top of this it's well made, competently acted and competently written. The special effects are good to great - the fires are on a par with Backdraft.
Unfortunately... it was boring as hell. There is no real story to it. I kept waiting for the character set-up to end and the plot to kick in... and realised I was still waiting... and still waiting... and then the movie finished. The sum total of this movie's plot can be summed up as "guy becomes a firefighter, gets married, puts out some fires, then dies." It's the kind of movie that would probably have done amazingly well if it had been released say a few months after 9/11, because it's essentially just a couple of hours of "aren't firefighters just GREAT!" Well yeah, firefighters are great. But sadly this movie isn't.
White Noise (2005)
Oh my, this is bad.
Okay, I struggled to set aside the fact that in selling EVP as real the movie was basically lying to me from the get-go. I reasoned that hell, I don't believe in vampires but I still liked Dracula so I could live with this.
However, even with that accepted the movie is just not very good. It's competently made and acted, but it doesn't really capture you at all. There are several "jump" moments, and I just looked at them and thought "yeah, I didn't expect that" without actually jumping in the slightest.
Also the resolution doesn't make sense. If the force behind this is capable of doing the things it seems to be, then why the hell does it need to use a proxy? Plus, the end caption was absurd. They obviously put it there as part of the "give the movie credibility by claiming it's all real" thing, but for that to work it really needs to be at the start. But they can't put it at the start because then they give the plot away... sticking it in at the end just made it stick out like a sore thumb.
Without a Paddle (2004)
Silly but fun
Basically, this movie is a comedic version of Deliverance. It's about a bunch of city guys who decide to go hunting for a lost pile of money in the deep south of America as a bit of an adventure. They encounter various difficulties - river rapids, a bear, a couple of drug running locals, a pair of hippies living in a tree, etc. Most of the humour comes from the "fish out of water" aspect, pitting city folk against the great outdoors. There's also a certain degree of surrealness in the things they encounter - the women who live in a tree to protect it from loggers are a definite high point!
Overall it's not a very good movie - the plot is pretty thin, and the vast majority of the jokes are the sort that make you smile rather than the sort that make you laugh. But there are a few laughs in there, and overall there's just enough to elevate the movie to being an okay effort.
Silly but fun
There is virtually nothing about this movie that makes sense. We have an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, Eddie, with a cockpit complete with pilot's seat. This is so daft that they take time out to give a feeble excuse about "test flights", but the first time I saw it I knew it was there so the hero can fly it later on in the movie. And he does. Despite the very title of the movie being "stealth", not one of the aircraft on display acts anything like a stealth aircraft. They consistently attack targets from point blank distance, exposing themselves to anti-aircraft fire from everything down to AK-47s. Nobody ever has trouble finding or attacking them. Although set in "the near future", the Navy is still using F-18s and such - whilst simultaneously putting into use both a new generation of manned super-planes, AND the unmanned aeroplane that is going to render these obsolete before they enter service. We have an aircraft being refused permission to refuel, so it shoots the end off of the drogue line and then plugs into the tattered end of the hose it just shot up to get fuel! I could go on. And on.
BUT. While it is undoubtedly a very silly movie, it is saved from the pits of hell by being quite good mindless fun. Don't go in expecting Top Gun - Top Gun is a far deeper, more emotional movie than this one. Not that Top Gun was a deep, emotional movie. It's just a lot deeper and more emotional than Stealth.
There's one moment in this movie when I thought it was actually going to make a real, genuine point. On a mission one of the hero pilots disobeys orders to carry out an attack in a dangerous fashion so that he can minimise civilian casualties. Our robot plane observes this, and when it goes haywire it cites the earlier mission; he disobeyed orders, so why shouldn't it? You actually get the impression that the movie is going to condemn the hero for disobeying orders and acting on his own, that it's going to show that his individualism has negative consequences!
Of course, that would present the audience with an opportunity to actually THINK about something, and that's the very last thing a movie like Stealth expects you to do. In fact let's be honest here, a movie like Stealth doesn't expect the average viewer to be ABLE to think. So this idea is pretty much dropped flat. (Incidentally, after his disobedience the hero comes back to a "well, you got the mission accomplished so that's okay" attitude. Yeah, military organisations are well known for their forgiving attitude to stuff like that.)
But if you are the type of person who can completely disconnect your brain and go "huh, that looks cool!" a lot, then Stealth is a moderately pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.