Tag Archives: Movies

Interesting Movies To See – June 2015 Edition

Some quick ideas to spice up your movie viewing. These range from cult through to mainstream and represent some of my favourite films.

A Zed & Two Noughts

This 1985 film was the first art-house movie I saw. It had just come out and was on the big screen. I was hooked. From what I understand it’s about death, symmetry, decay, loss and the beautiful 17th century paintings of Vermeer. Plus throw in references to the forger of Vermeer;   van Meegeren.  No, I’m not kidding. If that’s not enough to absorb, we have the unforgettable music of Michael Nyman – all repetitions and  tonal stabs.  I’m not done yet;  David Attenborough ‘appears’ and there are visual puns and clues to Vermeer’s famous paintings (the Director – Peter Greenaway – is also an artist/painter).  It’s beautifully put together; each shot is like a professional photographer’s finest  work. The film may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’ll make you think. And hopefully entertain you.

IMDB information

Let the Right One In

This 2008 Swedish film is chilling and yet moving. It’s a tale of a young vampire; who may – or may not – be a girl. The vampire is befriended by a lonely, bullied boy. It’s not Twilight by any means; it’s deeper and more intelligent. Yes it was remade in the USA (Let Me In), which wasn’t half bad. But seriously ; on a cold winters night, turn all the lights off and just be carried away by this original.

Info at IMDB


2001: A Space Odyssey

My favourite film of all time. It took about 3 years to make this sci-fi masterpiece; from 1965 to 1968. When you watch it today just remember there were no computer special effects – everything was done with models and effectively by hand. It unfolds over 3 acts. My terms for these are The Dawn Of Man(kind), A Journey into Space and A Journey Beyond Space.  It’s deep and open to interpretation. The creators have never said exactly what “it’s about”. But don’t let that put you off.  Again when watching it don’t forget we hadn’t landed on the Moon yet and computers – in 1968 – were slow things we talked to using glorified typewriters.   IBM info

Chilling, intelligent movie #3 from Guillermo – The Orphanage

Watching the excellent Mexican/Spanish movie The Orphanage (El Orfanato) today, I realised it was the third emotionally-intense, chiller, supernatural film I’d really loved over the last few years. And all were produced or directed by Guillermo del Toro.

All had strong lead actors who were children and children were pivotal to the unfolding story. The other two films were The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo) and Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del fauno)

I saw all three at the cinema. It dawned on me today that besides their complex and emotional stories, it’s their sound that really immerses you. Maybe it’s because all three are in Spanish, with English subtitles. As in, we effectively switch off that part of our brain that is trying to recognise the spoken word and that gives us more focus on the rest of the film’s sound.

I don’t mean the music – which is relatively subtle – I mean the sound effects. They can be as simple as scurrying feet ‘behind’ you. And boy, is that effective in a darkened cinema with no music or other sounds. Tension-city.

A quick summary of The Orphanage. A family of 3 move into a large old orphanage near the sea. The young son starts playing with imaginary friends, who appear to be setting puzzles for him to solve. But are the puzzles clues to a darker past or are they portends of darker things to come? And off we go from there…

All three of the above movies are intelligent, well realised chiller/fantasy movies. And this bodes well; Guillermo del Toro is directing the long-awaited movie adaptation(s) of The Hobbit.

IMDB and RT pages for these movies. RT has lots of reviews and creates an average score; all 3 do very, very well. But beware, some pages at IMDB have spoilers, which are clearly marked:

The Horse and His Boy (by C.S. Lewis)

I’m gradually making my way through all of the Narnia books, trying to do so in ‘reading order’ and not the order they were published. After the most recent one – The Horse and His Boy – I’m not sure if I’m going to make it.

Talk about a struggle. Compared to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Magican’s Nephew, this just dragged. It really didn’t seem to go anywhere. I switch off from all the allegory stuff, so maybe I missed the point. But still even if you are going to have metaphors galore, at least wrap it around an interesting, engaging story. If they do make a film of it in a few years, it will probably be direct to BluRay.

The one saving grace is I hear the next book in reading order -The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – is better. Indeed I understand it’s the 3rd film to be made (hence skipping Nephew and Horse) and is in pre-production already. My reading is that it’s the only other book to have all 4 children in it and they are making hay whilst the sun shines on this one. Plus, of course, the actors are getting older.

Overall: nope.

Blade Runner loves Star Wars loves 2001 loves….

I am a big fan of the movie homage ; when one film pays a small tribute to another film. Indeed it doesn’t have to be film-to-film; current TV shows like The Office (US version), 30 Rock, My Name is Earl and even – wait for it – Australian Big Brother regularly have little in-jokes (asides, allusions) that movie fans give a quiet, appreciative nod to.

Big Brother recently said “love the suit”…thereby making me hungry for some fava beans and a nice chianti.

But back to the business at hand.

Blade Runner (1982) has a model of the Star Wars (1977) ship Millennium Falcon in it. It’s turned sideways and thus standing on it’s edge is transformed into a building. One of the many buildings in the LA of the future.

Lucas et al returned the compliment with his Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace (1999). A Blade Runner ship, called a Spinner I think, is visible during a night scene on the planet Coruscant

Not the only reference in The Phantom Menace either. I believe George Lucas said something like “..before Star Wars there was, and always will be, 2001: A Space Odyssey.” And in Phantom Menace he placed a Pod from 2001, clearly shown in the junk yard scene, where young Anakin works.

And we’re not done yet. In the same movie, Lucas also has E.T. visible. Not just one but a few of them are quickly shown arguing and pointing in the Senate.

20 to 01: ‘Funny Films’

As shown on TV last night. Not sure how they decided, but here’s their list counting down to number one:

20. A Fish Called Wanda
19. Dumb & Dumber (1994)
18. Blazing Saddles (1974)
17. My Big Fat Greek Wedding

16. Kenny (2006)
15. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
14. American Pie #1 (1999)
13. Groundhog Day (1993)

12. The Blues Brothers (1980)
11. Borat
10. Four Weddings & A Funeral

9. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
8. Meet The Parents
7. Animal House

6. Caddyshack
5. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
4. The Party (1968)

3. Austin Powers #1: International Man of Mystery (1997)
2. Flying High! (Airplane) (1980)
1. The Life of Brian (1979)

Original list is on the Channel 9 web site.

This is a very subjective topic and I do have some comments:

  • I’d rate Flying High as #1 and move Spinal Tap higher up
  • Would add Dr Strangelove in to the list
  • I’d remove Groundhog Day (I have seen it)
  • Haven’t seen  Dumb & Dumber, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Party, so can’t comment.

I don’t like ‘slapstick’ or ‘physical comedy’ that much, so I did try and watch The Party but I gave up. I’m told it is very funny, so I should give it another shot.

My theory on the above list is that some of the surprise choices are in fact ones that Channel 9 has the rights for…and will probably be showing (again) real soon.

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Me and Movies

I realised today it’s been 10 years since I started writing Internet movie reviews. Back then :-) there were no Blogs, Podcasts or Wikis. So it was Usenet News; a non-web based News network that was – sort of – done via a bashed up email. The Newsgroup was – and still is – moderated. That meant a human checked your review before giving the go ahead to be “published.”

Anyway, IMDB and others, even back in 1996, harvested the Usenet posts and put them up on their web site. So here’s an IMDB listing of my reviews of Shine, Chopper etc.

Plus this here blog you are reading has some movie thoughts and related too.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore is one actor whose work I admire greatly. She has a wide and varied portfolio and is not afraid of challenging roles. Here’s just a few

The wholesome (?) adult movie star – and caring Mom – in Boogie Nights.
One of the three female leads in the complex and moving The Hours.
The “other woman” in the movie adoption of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair
The “second wife” in the excellent 3 hour ensemble piece Magnolia

Julianne is very good at the strong female leads. Yet her characters have an inner strength and usually don’t run around ranting, raving and throwing things – and people – around. It’s a tribute to her acting that we can sense the power and control without it being spelled out in big slabs. She’s subtle, refined and very talented.

Films I’ve walked out on

Recently a friend – and fellow movie buff – asked me to name my favourite film of all time. After giving my answer- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – I got to thinking about the polar opposite. Films I didn’t like – in fact films I’ve walked out of.

The list isn’t that big and there’s one I remember leaving, but can’t even recall it’s name. Must have left a good impression.

  • 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) – Spanish queen with an American accent?
  • Nixon (1995) – I fell asleep. It seemed to be recreating his career in real time.
  • Bad Lieutenant (1992) – think I walked out. This film had no redeeming features.

Update! Update! I remembered some key elements of the film whose title I’d even forgotten. A quick search at IMDB showed it to be The Rules of Attraction (2002)

Xvid, DivX and MPEG4

I’ve just got a book on Video compression. The DVD format (mpeg2 compression) has been around for about a decade (mpeg2 I mean, not DVD per se). It’s also mpeg2 used for digital TV around the world. Yet you would have thought that in nearly 10 years the Next Generation would have come out…and been twice as good etc. Moores law.

Turns out it did and was called mpeg4 (name mpeg3 skipped for historical reasons), BUT they – the creators – put such restrictive licensing terms that The Industry rejected it. Only recently – after ‘hacked’ versions appeared – did they relent and change the conditions.

Too late, it would initially seem. The mpeg4 format really only appears as pirate Internet movie files in the XviD and DivX flavours. A tiny handful of “DVD” players support them. Pity; a 90 min (mpeg2) DVD movie could be 2 or 3 GB. XviD can squash this down to 700 MB and look pretty much the same.

But all may not be lost. At least one of the new “DVD” follow ons (Blu-Ray) will support mpeg4. A current single-sided, single layer DVD is 4.7 GB. The equivalent Blu-Ray – or BD – will be 25 GB. But we’ll need it. Even at that size a 25 GB disk recording of Hi Definition digital TV will only be about 2 hours! Already Sony are talking up dual layer 50GB BDs.

Ending Star Wars episode III

Firstly, I am not a hard core Star Wars fan. I like the films, but am not one of those who can tell you how many teats a female Bantha has.

I’m on the record – along with others – as saying that Return of The King has really set a high water mark for quality. And that George Lucas will be measured against it.

To that end here’s how I would end Episode III aka Revenge of the Sith.
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