31 May 2011

27 Dresses (2008)

Six and a half Monkeys
Due to my lack of IT savvy I have yet to have a Monkey image on here to represent my ratings, but in time it will come.

I also apologise for the slackness of the blogging. Due to day job rubbish  these days I stagger home reaching for the Pinot Noir and my remote. Needless to say it's a bit stressful serving you public near the end of the financial year.

I do have an obligation to my few (very few) readers. So I'll stop whining like a small girl who has lost her lolly and present you with this weeks review.

In anticipation of 27 Dresses I had only one preconception, and that was that it had Katherine Hegl in it.


But what else does it have for the potential viewer? Lets find out.

Here is the  synopsis:
Jane (Katherine Heigl) is obsessed with three things; weddings, wedding reviews in the local paper and her boss George (Edward Burns).  Jane loves nothing more than to be helping make the big day happen for her friends, relatives, work associates or randoms she may have met on a bus. When Jane is not organising a particular wedding she obsesses over the wedding column in the style pages of the local paper.  And when she is not obsessing over weddings or reviews of weddings she is swooning over her boss George, but typically George is oblivious to Jane's devotion.  Jane's complicated and dysfunctional world is turned upside down when her sister (Malin Ã…kerman),  a successful fashion model, sweeps George of his feet at a party.  Enter Kevin (James Marsden) a young writer who writes the same wedding column Jane reads each week. Kevin yearns for a real story to make his mark as a serious journalist, and when he meets Jane and discovers her obsession with weddings and also that she has been a bridesmaid 27 times, he thinks he has found that story that will seal his reputation. 
Cue the hijinx.

Now those who know me, know that I am willing to watch a female targeted romantic comedy (or chick flick as the kids of today say)if requested by a good friend or a significant other. But that my tastes for entertainment significantly lean elsewhere.  Generally anywhere else really.  In saying that there were a few moments where I laughed out loud despite the predictable formulaic  plot. Those clever little moments of surprise made 27 Dresses stand out from other romantic comedies for me.  Also I think Katherine Heigl is smoking, and it’s good to see Cyclops, er sorry James Marsden out exploring different cinematic roles.   I should note that this has four awards under its belt, including people’s choice for romantic comedy for 2008. 

27 Dresses is what it is, which I hope isn't too much of a cop out. But it is one of those movies that when you pick up at the DVD store and you can easily guess what you are in for, and you'll be right.  But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  One of the reasons for the success for movies like this, I suspect is a certain comforting element of predictability. 

So if you are a man who wants to earn some credit pick this one out if you need a movie for a night in with your partner.  6.5 from me

23 May 2011


 So here is the first movie owned by my partner in reviewing. Her blog is here
And it is a cool wee blog about her, photography art and other things.

When I was at university I studied film with a young woman that refused, utterly, to watch any movie that was based on real events. She never gave a satisfactory reason for this, and to this day I put it down to her being a bit queer. But there is nowt as queer as folk is there. 

I vaguely remember hearing about the events that this movie were inspired by, but curiously I have no memory of this being released. Which is odd as I really like Kevin Spacey.

Any way here is the synopsis: Ben (Jim Sturgess) a highly intelligent hard working MIT student needs $300,000 to get into Harvard medical college.  While struggling with having no money and no life to speak of outside his two exceptionally nerdy friends, his intellect is noted by one of his professors Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey). Micky runs a secret group of students that count cards in Vegas. In this group is the yummy Kate Bosworth who you may have seen before as Lois in the last Superman movie. Ben agrees to join (he must have liked the superman movie too), but only on the basis that once he gets enough money for Harvard he will quit.
Mean while in Vegas is a security firm that watches for cheats and card counters led by old school heavy Cole (Laurence Fishburne) who starts to investigate the students. And then there are plots and hijinks's.

The movie  was alright. Lawrence Fishburne was good, Kevin Spacey is a scene stealer, and Kate Bosworth is as previously mentioned, yummy. It was a fine movie but not a great movie. The twist at end was ok, and the minor ensemble cast worked well. Technically fine, but overall there was little to inspire me. I had little empathy for the Ben character, I know we were meant to feel for this brilliant young man whose medical dreams are being held back by his lack of wealth, but I didn’t. He just came across as a young self absorbed prat. I think I felt more for Lawrence Fishburnes character. 

 I don’t think you will be disappointed if you watch this movie, but you won’t rave about it either.Want a good movie about casinos? watch Casino.
6 out of ten Monkeys

18 May 2011

Alphabetical dvd review project

The 13th Warrior (1999)

 Eight Monkeys

The 13th Warrior was released in 1999 and stars Antonio Banderas, Vladimir Kulich and Dennis Storhoi, with a nice cameo from Omar Sharif. This is the film adaptation of Michael Crichtons’ book The Eaters of the dead, where Michael Crichton adapted the old Beowulf story and included elements of historical records of the time of the Vikings.
Here is a brief non spoiler synopsis; Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) is a poet from Medieval Baghdad. After his wandering eye fell on the wrong married woman, he is granted the “honour” to be emissary in the barbarian lands to the west. In his travels he comes across a camp of Norsemen. While staying with him their king Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich) is asked for help to stop an ancient evil. Buliwyf (pronounced Bull-Vai) asks for a wise-woman to throw the bones to see what whether he should help or not. She says they will succeed if thirteen warriors go to fight this evil, but the 13th warrior can be no Norseman. Poor old Ahmed is of course the 13th warrior.
 Ahmed the poet then reluctantly travels north through Europe with the Norsemen to a village that is beset by said evil.  Then HYJINX ENSUE.
As a student of history, especially Scandinavian history here is a wee bit of trivia. The scene where Antonio Bandera’s character watches the funeral of a Viking chief is directly taken from the account of an Arabic trader who witnessed a Viking ship funeral. As an aspiring writer I find Mr Crichton's use of history in his fiction interesting.

I had mixed feelings about this movie when I first saw this back in 1999. As a student of history I can get a bit nigglely about glaring clashes of inaccuracy, I find it jarring. But The 13th warrior really is a fun movie that you can watch, and re-watch.  The movie is story is entertaining and the performances excellent. I really enjoy the portrayal of the Norsemen. There are sword fights, adventure, heroic last stands and battles! What more can a young man want.  It’s grand, and as I said it has that rare virtue of being re-watchable. 
One issue I have with the movie was that it could have been about ten to fifteen minutes longer. You have thirteen warriors all of whom are different and seem interesting, but there is little or no character development on half of them. A little time introducing the audience to these characters would help the audience identify and sympathise with them more. Even so the men portrayed in this film are certainly more heroic and epic than your average Hollywood action picture. Buliwyf would pick his teeth with any character played by Steven Segal or Nicholas Cage. 

 I rate this 8 monkeys with an obvious bias towards my Nordic ancestors! Watch it while eating meat and drinking a beer.



Sorry I was going to post a DVD review, but it is a historical one and I need to track it down.  My life has gotten quite mental at the moment as my day job which is normally quite stressful, has just become farcical. I have my ongoing "project" which is a bit of a secret for now. A short story for my friend, some writing work for my brother and this blog.

And this blog seems to have arrived at the bottom of the list.

I was tempted to throw in a short story I wrote recently for a European magazine competition, but frankly I am chickening out. I am reviewing it and drinking as much water as I can (the tiny temporary office I am sharing with ten other people is quite dehydrating.) but I need to re-energise before I can be satisfied that it is blog worthy.

Give me an hour and glass of Italian red.

Any thought I had better post some thing.  Look out for a further post later on.

11 May 2011


A friend of mine asked for my thoughts on whether you could combine Fantasy and noir. So here they are.

Film noir is a stylized form of film narrative. The central character is usually flawed and broken. Usually they are outsiders to society, possibly due to some personal tragedy.  The stories usually contain intricate plots full of deception, crime, murder and intrigue.  Central female characters are portrayed as strong, intelligent and sexually aggressive, temptresses there to lure the central character.

Film noir means Dark film, or Black film, both literally in themes and in lighting.  A lot of Hollywood film noir was influence by the writers Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett who wrote detective novels in the 1940’s.

Good examples of film noir would be; The Postman always rings twice, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Blue Dahlia, and more recently Brick, and Sin City.

Several essays have been written about what Film Noir is ranging from the idea of modernism in cinema through to existential philosophy. And I am not going to try and tackle it here.  To sum up they were usually detective stories where the protagonist might solve the mystery but at some cost to himself, whether it be a friend, his love interest or from society. They are, by their very nature pessimistic stories.

So can you combine fantasy and film noir?

Well I think you could definitely have a film noir story in a fantasy setting. While most noir is or was set in and around an urban crime setting, there is no reason why you could not substitute colt 45's and Tommy guns for rapiers and stilettos.
I think of the stories of Captain Alatriste, or a renaissance style fantasy; dark taverns and suspicious priests with sinister plots. The more I consider it, the more feasible it could be.  It would be pretty easy to recreate the noir look and style in a film where your principle light source was candles.

The film The Brotherhood of the wolf is not noir, but there are certainly elements. The Venetian spy Sylvia is a classic example femme fatale character. When I saw the film Black Death, with Sean Bean, the lighting and cinematography opened itself up to the possibility of the film being a horror. It didn't which is a shame. But as I watched it, again I realized the potential for a little bit of genre blending.

I know I am referring to historical period stories here, but if it's so easy to conceive of a noir narrative in a historical period setting, then it is an easy step to conceive of noir in a fantasy setting.

Is the reverse true?  I'm not so sure. Classic film noir has a certain type of protagonist. You could not really interpret them as a hero figure. I am not ruling it out, but I think if you tried to use the mythic conventions of the classic hero in a noir setting it clashes. The noir convention is that the central character is highly flawed and isolated, and there is little or no redemption for him or society. I think you risk losing one concept or the other. Perhaps a classic tragedy could be retold in a noir style? But again I think it would probably cease to be a blend of the two and simply become an interpretation of a fantasy story retold in a noir style.

But it is possible.  If you concentrate on mythic conventions and ideals I do not think it can be done. But by including a magical or paranormal aspect to a modern or period noir, you can add a fantasy element and blend the two. The popular series of books The Dresden Files written by Jim Butcher has a detective who is a wizard is a good example. While I don’t enjoy the stories myself, the concepts that Mr. Butcher writes about are a clever blend of the classic detective story with myth and magic.

So yes I think you could easily blend the two styles.

8 May 2011

The Alphabetical DVD project

I watch a lot of movies. Not a crazy amount. But a fair bit. And there came a time when my flatmate/friend and I would go to the DVD store and there would be nothing that we could watch. Simply because we had exhausted our options.

So around April last my flatmate came up with an idea. Partly to save money, partly to explore new cinematic horizons, and partly to get me off my sad arse and writing.

So she created the Alphabetical movie project.

We would combine our two DVD libraries and watch them alphabetically. And we would write reviews of these movies. I had been emailing a small distribution list with mine, and my friend had posted them on her blog.
Now I am writing a blog I thought, well why not.

So my posts will probably double as I start posting my old reviews as well as my weekly comments.

The thing is about any review is that it is subjective. Am I more qualified than others to write a review?  Technically yes I am in a purely academic sense. That doesn't mean you have to agree with me.

When I recommend movies to people the first thing I do is ask them "What are some of your favorite movies?" That way I can try and recommend something that I think they will like.

Anyway I hope you enjoy them regardless.

5 May 2011

The problems with Google

A couple of years ago I was at work researching a topic and I found a link that seemed to contain all the material I wanted. But there was something about it that made me wary. After a few moments of indecision I decided as there were few other options available on that topic I would try it. It turned out to be porn.
I then sprinted into my Managers office and explain what happened lest I lose my job for the obvious reasons. They found it hilarious. So there is an example of the fallibility of using Google for getting information

Here is another.

Terry Jones a pastor from Florida threatened to burn the Koran. Due to the obvious unrest this would cause the United States President Obama  told him not to, as it would incite violence and put peoples lives at risk. Pastor Jones agreed not to.

Then on March 20, 2011 he orchestrated the burning of a copy of the Koran. There was an immediate back lash and in Afghanistan 11 people were killed in a UN compound according to one account.
But the purpose of this post is not to point out the obvious that Pastor Terry Jones is a twat.But the problem with google.

Here is an image courtesy of Time magazine of some protesters burning an effigy of Terry Jones


So a group of young angry men got a picture of Pastor Terry Jones and stuck it onto a dummy and burnt it

Here is a picture of Pastor Terry Jones

You can't really it make it out from the first picture but in the article I noticed something. The picture that was attached to the dummy did not resemble Pastor Jones at all. It was this picture.

 Oh yes. The angry and potentially dangerous young men were burning effigies of Terry Jones, author, historian, and ex Python Terry Jones. I tried it and yes when you google the pastor on images all the pictures I saw had "Pastor Terry Jones." but showed images of Terry Jones the actor.


Any way if you don't believe me check out the April edition of Time and see for your self.  I am going to be writing to Mr. Jones to advise him. I will post what happens.

1 May 2011

Film and DVD review

So soon i will post reviews from our alphabetical film review project. 
But heres a nice segway from fantasy to films

Clash of the Titans 2010

This is a remake of the Clash of the Titans made in 1981 with Lawrence Oliver and Maggie Smith. The original movie was a departure from the classic Perseus myth, partly to throw in a few more special effects and to try and spice it up a little. Having read the various versions of the myth it doesn’t need all that much spicing, but Hollywood does meddle with stories if it feels it will make a better product.  But the result was a fun and very entertaining movie. It had grand actors and actresses along with young hopefuls competing, with stop motion animation monsters (which were pretty cool at the time) on an epic scale. Despite looking a bit dated, it remains for me a fun movie to watch on a rainy day.

In many ways the remake is true to the original. You have A list actors like Liam Neeson, Pete Postlethwaite and Ralph Fiennes, and young actors such as Gemma Arteton and Mads Mikkelsen also competing for your attention with CGI monsters.  Also like the original it is very loosely (any looser mind it would a date with Lindsey Lohan) based on the Greek myth of Perseus.  But the similarities between the films end around there.

While the original movie was an adventurous romp with a brave hero rescuing a princess from a monster, this version is the story of mankind’s fight to over throw the tyranny of the gods. The city of Argos decides to wage war against the gods, but in the conflict Perseus (Sam Worthington) loses his family to the evil god Hades (Ralph Fiennes) wrath. Now Perseus wants revenge.

Ok bear with me. You know there are gods; you may have seen these gods. When you pray to these gods stuff happens such as your crops grow or you have a healthy child. They are powerful, immortal and created mankind and the world. So why would you wage war on your gods? Because they are tyrants of course! Booooooooo tyrants.

But what did these tyrants do? You may be asking. Well that is never really explained so let’s move on.

As previous mentioned the city of Argos has declared war on Zeus (Liam Neeson) and the other gods by stopping their prayers to them. As a result the common people seem to be miserable and starving, and the majority of their army has been destroyed.

That will show those gods!

Then the queen of Argos states that they shouldn’t fear the gods and that her daughter is more beautiful than any goddess.  So then the gods turn up a bit miffed and say that unless the princess is sacrificed to a monster, the Kraken, the whole city will be destroyed.  Perseus is revealed as the son of Zeus and after some exposition reluctantly joins the remaining army of Argos (seven guys) to save the city and the princess, but only so he can get a shot at killing Hades.

Hijinx ensue.

Firstly the basic premise just didn’t make any sense to me. If everything was more or less fine why would mortals attack the gods? Although the writers threw in some rubbish back story about how this one god at band camp did this to Mary Sue and then she became Medusa, the film did not portray the Gods as villains. Zeus and Apollo were constantly mentioning how they loved mankind and they needed them.  If the movie was trying to portray the struggle of men overthrowing tyrants, it completely failed.  The people of Argos didn’t come across as oppressed so much as just stupid.

Secondly Sam Worthington’s portrayal of a man rejecting his demigod status to live as a normal man was just irritating (his Australian accent was also extremely irritating). I was reminded of Monty Python and the life of Brian at one point; I mean what have the gods ever done for us?  You mean besides creating us, giving us a magic sword, a flying horse and entry into the underworld, all so we can save every body? Why absolutely nothing. 
At one point the leader of the soldiers (Mads Mikkelsen the baddie in Casino Royale) lashes out at Perseus. His men are dying because Perseus is too arrogant to use the gifts left by Zeus to help Perseus on their quest. But Sam sticks to his guns and refuses to use the gifts “I choose to be a man” Sam says weakly.
Thus all the other characters die. Until Perseus is in real trouble and then he decides it might be a good idea to start using the magic sword, and the flying horse.  What a w@nker!

Except for a few choice lines from the supporting cast the dialogue is pretty dire. I mean the rampant butchery of Greek mythology aside; something that made me physically cringe in my seat I might add, I have heard better scripts at primary school plays.
The only characters that I had any sympathy for were the supporting cast.  And they had their work cut out for them supporting a lump of wood, and I am not talking about the character made of wood either. Perseus had no depth or interest to me.

Saying that the CGI was pretty cool, and the fight scenes were entertaining, but not great. The women beautiful and there were a couple of amusing moments. I also enjoyed going “Oooh it’s him” with the cast.

But not enough! Clash of the Titans was inconsistent, irritating, slightly depressing, and just made me angry. Louis Leterier has firmly entrenched himself to me as the Michael Bay of Europe.

If you like Greek mythology you will hate this.
If you liked the original movie you will hate this.
If you like a movie with good dialogue with a consistent and an entertaining story you will hate this.

If you love Michael Bay movies you will probably enjoy this.

Do as you wilt.