Hancock (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

Will Smith is the titular character in this most recent superhero movie – a superhero movie that, just for once, doesn’t come from those over-rated fucks at DC or Marvel.

We seem to have had super hero movies coming out of our ears lately.  I’m wondering if it has something to do with the War on Freedom Sanity Terror?  With the mouth-breathing public subconsciously wanting a magical super being to come and take the scary-boo-boo away.

Well I’ve got bad news for you, the scary-boo-boo isn’t a dude sitting in a cave somewhere, the scary-boo-boo is Corporate Interests who print money using your fear for ink – they have no reason to take away your fear, because your fear stinks of profit to these fuckers, whether it’s re-election, or selling advertisers your eyeballs, or big guns to large militaries (the kind of military that is completely unsuited to fighting a small highly mobile “enemy” that doesn’t even fucking exist except in the very rarest of instances).

Sorry, got a bit sidetracked there.  Awkward.

Ok, so Will Smith.  Superhero.  Movie.

Hancock isn’t like other heroes. Sure, he has some pretty familiar Incredible Powers, and is generally a good guy, but after years of being taken completely for granted – and reviled when he isn’t as… careful… as he could be – he’s now a terribly lonely alcoholic misanthrope, who only flies in to save the day when he’s shaken to consciousness from his alcoholic stupor on whatever park bench he fell asleep on most recently. (The thing about being utterly impervious to harm is that you probably don’t give a shit about the state of your diet or accommodation.  Or that the bad guys have guns.  Or that you shouldn’t fly through things in your way rather than around them.)

Regardless of the boozing, Hancock is a hero, he kicks arse and saves lives.  Unfortunately a lot of people aren’t able to look past the destroyed freeways and derailed freight trains.  Oops.

I can’t go much further here with verging into spoiler territory, as the film takes a turn in the middle – after which some critics say it turns into a stinker, but I say it really hits its stride, and gives you the bonus of, more-or-less two movies for the price of one.

Suffice to say that Hancock’s vulnerability (unbeknownst to him as it is) turns out to be far more heartbreaking than kryptonite could ever be.

This is one of the best superhero movies I’ve ever seen, right behind the likes of Iron Man and Batman Begins (better than Batman Begins in some ways, partly because Hancock doesn’t have Ra’s Al Ghul), and the film’s lack of popularity with the critics doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me.

If you haven’t already seen it, I urge you to get down to your local theatre and check it out before it’s too late.

Stargate: Continuum (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews, TV

The second of the made-for-DVD Stargate SG-1 movies, following on from Stargate: The Ark of Truth (2008).  Not bad given that the cult TV series was only cancelled just over a year ago.

(After 10 full seasons, making it the longest running American SF series – and hint it wouldn’t have run for 10 fucking seasons if it wasn’t really good, so why you don’t like it is beyond me.)

In Continuum, the team are overseeing the extraction of the Baal goa’uld symbiote from his host – undertaken offworld by the Tok’ra, with the SG-1 team attending as witnesses, accompanied by our Jack.  Of course Baal isn’t going to take extraction lying down (or, ahem, bolted to a wall), so of course we know that something is going to happen

*Spoiler* Time travel may or may not be involved, so pretty much everyone on the team may or may not be brutally murdered then may or may not be restored with the convenient ‘we may or may not have just temporarily visited an alternate timeline where lots of really awkward things happened before we finally prevailed and may or may not have now restored our own timeline‘ trick. *Spoiler*

As a made for DVD movie that you won’t see, I don’t see any point in saying much more than:

This is very good if you’re already a fan of Stargate, but if you’re not, you’ll be completely lost. (“Who’s that guy? What’d that guy say when I said who’s that guy? Why did that guy’s eyes just glow like that? Hur hur that chick must be a tranny ‘cos her voice is really deep.  Braaaaaaaaap.”)

Fans really should buy it – otherwise they won’t make any more, and that would suck ‘cos Atlantis is like… methodone to the SG-1 Heroin.  Non-fans didn’t even read this far, so I feel safe in saying they must be broken in the brainmeats to not love this awesome show (that may or may not have jumped the shark years ago, but it’s so good it doesn’t even matter).

I may or may not be labouring a really lame joke, and may or may not continue until everyone gets really angry with me.

War Games : The Dead Code (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

Sequel to classic hacker movie War Games (1983) – Matthew Broderick’s first big movie.  (If you haven’t seen The Road to Wellville (1994) you should, it’s probably his best movie.  I don’t know why IMDB hates it so much – but then I haven’t seen it for 10 years or more.)

This time up, instead of JOSHUA (an AI) controlling 1983 America’s nuclear arsenal, we have RIPLEY (an AI) in control of 2008 America’s computer & utility networks (and some well armed unmanned aerial vehicles, for good measure).  RIPLEY is tasked with hunting down and killing terrorists, without the shackles of human interference.

What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, the way RIPLEY finds terrorists is by hosting an internet gaming site, it turns out that if you’re good at some crappy computer game, you’re probably a terrorist.  Do too well and the AI sends in the dogs.

What could possibly… Wait. What?

It turns out that ‘who is good at computer games’ is surprise, surprise, ‘some clean cut white American teenager (Matt Lanter, doing a pretty good job, all things considered), who loves his mum, and runs errands for his elderly neighbour, and has a hot girlfriend (the completely adorable Amanda Walsh), who also happens to be a hacker geek who makes cantennas and cellphone interceptors for a hobby’, that’s who.

I’m more annoyed when movies have potential, and completely fail to live up to it, and this movie does.  There are opportunities to give the Fear Industry a good kick in the ribs, and the movie does seem to hint at taking advantage of them, before devolving back into a completely ludicrous stinkfest where you DDOS the most powerful AI in the world by getting all of your friends to log into it and challenge it to computer games…

What could possibly… Ahhh, fuck it.  Fuck this fucking movie.

The actors are all just fine, the problems with this movie are everything else.

Whoever is responsible (Art Director?) for deciding that RIPLEY should look like a handful of exposed motherboards in a glass walled room, with dangly bits of ribbon cable, strobe lights and cold cathode tubes, should be shot in the reproductive organs.  With a gun.  A big one.

If you want to see how menacing an AI-gone-bad in a movie with a colon in the title should look, see 2001 : A Space Odyssey (1968).  Did HAL have dangly bits of ribbon and nightclub style strobe lights?  No, he had an unblinking one-eyed gaze, his face a simple rectangle adorned with little more than enigmatic inscrutability.  (I bring HAL up for a variety of reasons, one is that they referenced/ripped-off the lip reading scene in this movie.)

Don’t see The Dead Code, it suuuuuuuuuucks. (The movie, you see, is what went wrong.)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

I guess I first read Prince Caspian when I was about 9 or 10, and far too young to read the subtext.  But of course later on I realised, and the movie is swimming in the same brand of thick & syrupy propaganda.

You already know the story, a whiny little shit (the heir to the throne) is targeted for death by his evil prick uncle (next in line, and newly become a father), and makes his escape, quickly stumbling onto the fact that myths & legends are true, and the land they’re in is full of magical beasties.  The kids from TLTWATW are called back to Narnia, and things go from there.

The CG is really good – the trees are far more realistic than the Ent’s in Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, and the small animals all move incredibly well…  The smaller cats and dogs in particular are wonderfully executed.  Whoever did them should be brought onto the team for the Hulk sequels, because they’re waaaaay better at nailing realism than whatever cackhanded arsehole is currently doing it.

The boys are all fucking morons (actually, all of the humans are morons, either vicious nasty scum, or vacuous simpletons), the animals are all awesome.

It’s just too bad about the religious propaganda being forced into the story with all the subtlety of a Jarvis HBD-1 Bung Dropper, because it would do a great deal better without it – or with it, but included more sympathetically to the rest of the story.

Untraceable (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

Remember, way back in like 1995 or 1996 when the totality of mainstream media coverage of “The Internet” was pretty much that it was for bomb making recipes and pedos?  Well that really seems like forever ago now, particularly given that they’ve all embraced what we already knew was a great thing, so things are pretty much as they should be.

(The next battle is “them” trying, increasingly desperately, to take it over from us.  But they’ll fail in the end – because they’re stupid and greedy and closed minded, and we’re smart and greedy and free.  Their greed is for money, ours is for information – and information wants to be free on The Great Big Planetary Copying Machine that we all take such delight in plugging our brains into every day.)

So to have a movie like Untraceable come out, in two thousand and fucking eight, all about the dangers of the Evil Immoral Internet…  It just seems like some sort of bizarre, anachronistic joke.

Evil Genius sets up an untraceable video stream, plumps a victim down in front of the camera, and sets the pace of their death to the number of viewers of the stream – more people watching means faster murder.  So of course the stream goes crazy.  It’s grim as hell.  And utterly ridiculous.  But I tolerate these things for the sake of movies.

But what I don’t necessarily tolerate is dialog in my movies that is serving the interests of the corporate owners of the movie producer.  For instance there’s an interaction at one point, completely out of left field, about network neutrality, and how the killer is in favour of it – because obviously only insane killers want the free, open, level playing field that made the internet the incredible outlet of artistic & technical innovation (and kitten photos) that it is.

This is just dropped into a scene, for no obvious reason.

Not long before that, there’s a brief discussion of a file sharing site  – but if you download the free music, you’ll be infected with a backdoor that steals your bank records and passwords.  Oh, obviously.  That must be why no one downloads TV, movies, or music online – because they’re all instantly pwned by The Evil Blackhats.  Or, millions of people do in fact download exactly such things every single day with only the very occasional piss-weak little virus to be seen, and this is all just complete scaremongering bullshit.

Occams razor comes to our rescue once again.

All of which leads me to believe that the whole damn movie is a nasty stinking piece of vile PR oozed from the backroom of a smokey private club, produced as part of the marketing campaign for a cabal of Big Media Companies, probably written by people who usually provide spin and damage control for the RIAA and MPAA, when they sue solo mothers, crippled children, and laser printers.  (I’m not kidding about that last one, these fucking tools served notice on a laser printer for downloading music.)

Some of the performances are ok, but I just cannot tolerate this kind of bald-faced, anti-individual freedom, pro-Corporate… rhetoric.

(The pro-corporate stuff is only present “between the lines”, the other side of it isn’t nearly as subtle though – it’s a simple rhetorical device, find something that everyone can agree is bad, i.e. torturing a kitten to death, and then pretend that you need to take away everyone’s freedom to vote or fly in an aeroplane, or more kittens will be killed.)

Please, just let this movie, and any others that follow it, die.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a sequel to 2003’s Hulk movie, just a weird new movie in its own right.

I mean, the movie isn’t weird, it’s a Hulk movie, but it’s weird to have a reboot within 5 years of the movie being rebooted – I guess the other one didn’t line up right with Iron Man and whoever else is going to be included in an upcoming crossover movie.

And what’s the deal?  Well, pretty much what you expect I reckon.  Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is irradiated, turns into a super strong, very big, green… Hulk… And The Powers That Be decide they can’t be having him roaming around free and hunt him down, so he goes into hiding.

Conveniently for us, he goes into hiding in the Brazilian favelas – which are friggin’ awesome high density slums, incredibly photogenic in their filthiness, and provide for some life and vibrancy on screen for a while.  While in the favelas he trains himself in meditation, and gets some coaching from someone who looked suspiciously like a Gracie – in self control and BJJ – all in the hopes of getting sufficient control over himself that he can avoid doing the whole “don’t make me hungry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry” thing.  (You’ll get it when you watch the movie.)

The powers that be track him down when he has an accident (not of the HULK SMASH kind though), and send in the thugs.  Trouble is, you see, he’s the motherfucking Hulk.  So it doesn’t matter how bad arse you are, your puny bullets will bounce off his unconvincingly shiny skin, and P.S. stop being dressed up as an American soldier when you’re a British soldier, you giant tool.

The British guy (Tim Roth) gets some upgrades, and turns evil, and then there’s a great big fuck-off battle. The end, and they all live bittersweetly ever after.

It’s all good except the CG – and given that CG plays a pretty big part in modern superhero movies, this is probably a problem they should have spent a bit more time on.  Maybe you’ll be less sensitive to it than I was, but to me most of the Hulkmode stuff – while highly entertaining and action packed – also looked rather more like game cutscenes than I can tolerate in a movie, particularly given the year (it’s less convincing than “that dinosaur movie”, and that came out a loooong time ago).  I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m sure that the Hulk can be presented in his superhuman form, while still looking like something “real”.

Oh, and how hard is it to render a helicopter?  Seriously.

It’s good fun, very entertaining, and I reckon you should check it out – bonus is a Tony Stark cameo, thick with the syrup of foreshadowing for the upcoming crossover.  And if even that isn’t enough, how about a very sexually frustrated girlfriend for the Jolly Green Giant?  Poor girl.  (teehee.)

(Oh, and it’s really time to stop having Stan Lee cameos in every damn Marvel movie, please. Please!)

The Happening (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

M. Night Shyamalan’s 5th outing since 6th Sense, and still not meeting up to the mark set by that stellar example of the craft.  (My hair stood on end when you-know-what was revealed.)

This film, perhaps because people like to compare Shyamalan’s films, has suffered from an incredible assault from critics – amateur or professional alike.  If you’ve heard anything about it, what you’ve probably heard is that it’s awful.

The movie as a whole isn’t awful, but some moments definitely are – and shouldn’t have made it into the final cut. For instance there’s a scene where a man ends up in a zoo enclosure with a pride of lions, they attack him and rip his arms off – but the physics just don’t work at all, it’s a completely ludicrous scene, and not one that fits consistently with the internal logic of the movie – they pull his arms off, one then the other, while he remains standing.  It doesn’t make any sense, and is more what I’d expect to see in something like Gore Gore Girls.

The violence is visceral, with numerous gruesomely realistic (excepting the lion scene) deaths portrayed graphically on screen.

The extended sequence with the pistol was quite something.

Mark Wahlberg in probably his worst performance in years, not sure if it’s due to writing, directing, or decisions he made for himself, but he uses an odd tone of voice that doesn’t let up.

Oh and his wife/the love interest (Zoeey Deschanel) has a weird goddamn face, probably all due to her eyes – it’s like she’s on some sort of tranquilisers the whole time, or she’s just woken up from a coma, or who knows what.

If you like movies, go and see it for yourself, don’t just drink second-hand haterade – it’s better than a lot of people are giving it credit for.  (If you don’t like movies, why the hell are you reading this?)

How to Rob a Bank (2007)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

A cheapskate little gutter philosopher is having a hard time getting $20 out of an ATM, so he stumbles into a bank where he gets caught up in a heist.

Apart from the horrible writing, bad acting, and dreadful direction, this is an awful movie that should be avoided at all costs.

Oh I said “apart from”?  No, that’s really all there is to this one.

The Last Magic Show (2008)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

The first feature film from New Zealand writer/actor/director Andy Conlan.

We meet and follow sympathetic and tragically flawed Ronny Roman (Conlan) — a magician so badly hurt by the infidelity of his former partner and stage assistant, that he weaves a world of magical make-believe around himself – as long as he believes he’s a magician with eerie dark powers, he doesn’t have to face up to the pain of betrayal — while he tries to get his life back on track.

Unfortunately his scumbag manager (a convincingly slimy Michael Hurst) isn’t doing much to help, but his scumbagness does have the accidental benefit of tricking our Ronny into an unpaid gig in a hospice where we meet our delightfully quirky love interest, in the beguiling form of Nurse Sarah (newcomer Georgie Hill), a girl with serious germ issues – she boils bottled water, “just in case” – and a heart with a Ronny Roman shaped hole in it.

Of course while life and love happen around him, Ronny is so distracted by his efforts to make a come-back TV magic show appearance – and his own hidden pain – that he might miss his chance at happiness and love. And lots of games of night time mini golf, if you know what I mean. (I mean mini golf played at night.)

Featuring one of the most surreal umbrella fight scenes between a fry cook in a wifebeater and a dapper gentleman in a top hat ever to be caught on film.

There’s a lot of wonderful weirdness to be had here, which makes for some great laughs and an enjoyable film. Support our fledgling local independent film industry, go see it tonight – at Rialto cinemas nationwide.

Lions for Lambs (2007)

General, Movies, Reckons, Reviews

Robert Redford’s piercing blue eyes are piercing.  And blue.  (Damn but that’s a hot man right there.)

Tom Cruise plays the very special brand of crazy he’s so gosh darned good at.  (See his clever take-off of religious psychos in the form of the recently released $cientology parody video for another example –  what do you mean that wasn’t a parody?  — Fine, but he’s playing the same kind of crazy-eyed role here.  He really is a very good actor, braincrazy or not.)

Michael Peña, though, helped make this movie much more appealing to me.  He has such warmth about his screen presence.  I reckon he helped make Shooter as well.

The story is two angles of the same story (and two threads of one of those angles), with a political science prof (Redford) talking to a promising but underachieving young student, while two former students of his (Peña & the very good Derek Luke) are on a mission in Waronterroristan, and at the same time a Senator (Cruise) dishes about his new military strategy to a longserving journalist (Meryl Streep), the same military strategy that has dictated the mission the boys are on.

The movie felt short, like it wasn’t even really a movie at all.  Like it was a one shot TV special or something.  These hour and a half movies just don’t taste right to me.

And yet, it was still very good.  (Even if the ending left something to be desired.)