Monday, March 15, 2004

Film: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
Holy cow! I never thought I'd be able to watch a black and white film; I can never concentrate on them, I'm not sure why. But I sat through this, because I had a feeling it was something special (not to mention so many other people have said so). This must surely rate as one of the best "war" films out there, although it's barely a war film in the traditional sense. However it does carry an underlying of the futility/stupidity of war (and, in fact, politics), in particular nuclear war. Despite being the titular Doctor, Dr. Strangelove is not really the main character. In fact, there is no main character. Instead, the film follows several groups of people - we have officials in the pentagon, the staff at a US army base (actually it might be an airbase), and the crew of a US bomber. It takes awhile for the plot to come together - you may well wonder where it's going for at least the first half. But it's not distracting - the point is you can see it going in quite a few directions, but I doubt you'll see the right one unless you already know the plot. I won't spoil it, it is meant to be a bit of a surprise. The ending also has to rate as one of the strangest film endings i've encountered, without resorting to outright bizarreness. Last but not least, there're a number of classic scenes and quotes laced throughout the film, which have since been ripped off/lampooned/revered for their greatness. Such as the pilot riding the A-bomb to it's target.
A top-class film, everyone should see this. It proves you can tell a good story well, with humour, without the need for heaps of action or sex scenes or grossout comedy. If ever a film were worthy of getting 5/5, it's this'n.

coverDr Strangelove on DVD

coverDr Strangelove on video
Film: 8 Mile
I just got around to seeing this the other day. I was surprised to find it was a pretty good film, albeit more to the average bloke's tatse than the average bird's. Perhaps more surprising to find was that Eminem does a pretty good job. It helps that he's basically playing himself, but he portrays it well, the transition from reluctant, possibly slightly scared-looking rapper who's nerves let him down, to in-ya-face rapper with attitude and lyrics skills.
I must amit here that i'm not a huge fan of Eminem, and far less so rap in general, but I still think that Eminem has real musical talent. He may have problems too, but so does everyone else.
Anyway, even if you haven't seen this film, you've almost certainly heard about the rap battles. Oh yeah, the film really outdoes itself on those scenes. The finale is also what it should be - it slowly builds, then you think it can't get better. And just when you think it's finished (too soon), it isn't, it gets better. The interaction between Eminem and his friends (and enemies) is good, I can't say realistic, having never been in the same kind of environment, but it's believable at least.
I give it 3/5, cos i'm feeling mean today - and because the end of the film sort of leaves you thinking there should be a bit more to the story.

cover8 Mile on DVD

cover8 Mile on video

Monday, March 08, 2004

Film: Gladiator
So, an epic that's not actually epic. An epic for the masses. And a pretty good job it did too, at least I thought it did until the LOTR trilogy came along, but that's another story.
At first glance, there isn't alot to the plot of Gladiator - some popular guy is doing a little too well, then evil slightly strange guy comes along, kills good guy's family and threatens to destroy an entire civilization. Good guy manages to fight his way back, back to the top, and finally kill bad guy, before dying too. A nice revenge story with heaps of bloody death, a number of one-liners and lots of shouting and grimacing thrown in for good measure. But herein lies the problem with alot of moviegoers (me too, I can admit, although I try to combat it when I can) - they watch a movie with too many preconceptions and expectations, and so the movie they see gets a little warped (and sometimes alot). By simplifying Gladiator's plot too much you miss out the machinations of Commodus' sister Lucilla (with one of the senators), the tortured soul of Commodus (it was bad parenting, see? or was it...), the camp pomp of the slave owner (Oliver Reed's character), and the slaves themselves, to name a few. So, if you haven't seen it yet, you really should, and make sure you actually watch the film you are seeing, rather than the film you think you are seeing.

coverGladiator 2 Disc DVD set

coverGladiator video

Monday, March 01, 2004

Film: Fat Pizza (They're big, and they're cheesy)
Definitive proof that Aussies are more than capable of doing damn fine comedy. I've seen the film, and afterwards discovered that it's also a Tv series over there. They really should think about "exporting" it, because whilst many of the jokes (and the stereotypes that are poked fun at) are specific to Australia, they are recognisable and indeed still funny and relevant elsewhere. I'm English, have lived in England all my life, but i can identify with almost all of the stereotypes that pop up in this film (and the jokes linked with them). Undoubtedly, Fat Pizza (they're big, and they're cheesey) won't appeal to everyone - there's an abundance of jokes about drugs, toilet humour and sex-crazed blokes in their early twenties. But to someone like me, a (not quite sex-crazed) 20-year-old bloke, and typical in a number of ways, this film is genius. It manages to rise above the likes of American pie (except possibly the first of those films) by having more relevant gags mixed in with some pythonesque random strangeness. The topics that are made fun of are, in my opinion, more general than the more relevant-to-the-US-only jokes of the likes of American Pie (no badness on the Pie series for that, after all it was made in the US. My point is just that the Aussies in Fat Pizza have made a wider-appealing comedy)
The storyline is a good mixture of inspired-by-the-real-world and complete nonsense. We have the guys working for Fat Pizza, one of whom was mistaken for an illegal immigrant before, but managed to escape the detention camp by getting everyone to riot, then fooled the escapees to split into two directions, while he went a third. Fat Pizza itself is ran by a disgusting, violent bloke, who is so sex-starved that he's ordered a mail order bride, but he's so stingy that she's arriving on a tiny boat full of illegal immigrants (oh yeah, and he lives with his mother because he IS Italian). One of the pizza delivery bloke's mates shags lots of women, whilst he hides and tapes the whole thing, and the videos are put on the 'net. Then there's the random fights with midgets and Ronald McDonald wannabees, the trip to the grunge pub (and then casualty for one unlucky bloke), the comeuppance of the bloke who makes friends with fat chicks in order to shag their fit friends, and lots more laugh-worthy stuff.
And you know the worst thing? i only heard of this by chance, because my housemate saw it. It's a real crime it seems to have gone more or less unknown outside Australia
Book: The Last Hero (A Discworld Fable) by Terry Pratchett (illustrated by Paul Kidby)
Yes, another Discworld book. But this one's slightly different from the usual novels. It has about half as many pages as the shortest of the Discworld novels, and it has pictures. I hesitate to lump it in with the smaller series of Discworld Big Comics though, as that's just not the style of this book. It's subtitled "A Discworld Fable" and that probably sums up the book's style best - remember those books you used to read as a kid, which had numerous cool pictures in between chunks of text? I had a little book of fairytales like that. Well anyway, that's the style of the book, but don't be fooled into thinking it's a childish style.
Anyway, now for the contents of the book: the story is a typical "Pratchett's twist" (Prist? Pwist?) on a traditional, well-known story. I say well-known, I actually mean that nearly everyone will have heard of the original, some of you may know a bit about it, and a few of you might actually know the story from start to finish. The story begins, more or less, with Cohen and his horde heading to the home of the Disc's many Gods. You may know that Cohen had, not too lnog ago, become emperor of the Agatean Empire. Well, he and his fellow barbarians soon tired of their immense wealth and power, and finally came up with something to do - they're going to take fire back to the Gods. the story follows not only our barbarian heroes, but also a group of Ankh-Morpork's finest, who are intent on stopping the barbarian horde achieving their aim. Why? because it would be the end of the of the Disc if they achieve it. The pictures are very nice, those that are coloured have been done so very well, and there are some double-page pictures too. The story has the usual humour and the ending is a little unexpected. All in all a worthy addition to the Discworld series, and you should take a look even if you're not a fan.

coverThe Last Hero (hardback) at Amazon

coverThe Last Hero (paperback) at Amazon