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Posts about movies (old posts, page 1)

28 days after resident evil

Saw Res­i­dent Evil last night on HBO... it ends ex­act­ly the same way 28 days lat­er be­gins :-)

Not to men­tion that both are can­ni­bal zom­bie movies. Amaz­ing co­in­ci­dence.

Of course Mil­la Jovovich <> that eng­lish bloke.

Late Movie Review: S.W.A.T.

To es­cape the heat of the af­ter­noon, I dived in­to a movie the­ater down­town, and the movie I had­n't seen was this.

I am a fan of Samuel L. Jack­son. I think his role in Pulp Fic­tion is in­cred­i­ble. I think his screen pres­ence (and a lit­tle act­ing) makes his char­ac­ters in­ter­est­ing and in­tense, and larg­er than life, which is a good thing in many movies.

But why, please, is he trapped in­side of a fas­cist fan­ta­sy movie?

In this movie, 4 po­lice­men and a pris­on­er (who is de­scribed as evil, sure) are in a car, and be­cause of some­thing he says, just a nod from one of the po­lice­men prompts the oth­er to hit the pris­on­er. Who is cuffed, BTW.

Ok, so that is a felony comit­ted by one of the "good guys", with ac­qui­escense from an­oth­er. It is al­so, of course, a cow­ard­ly ac­tion, and think about it: just a nod, and whack. That shows habit, so the sub­text is ap­par­ent­ly that these nice guys, mem­bers of "the most re­spect­ed po­lice force in the world", rou­tine­ly hit de­fense­less pris­on­er­s.

Yup, those are the heros in this movie.

But let's put aside the ob­vi­ous­ly rot­ten ide­ol­o­gy this movie rep­re­sents, where it's ok for a char­ac­ter, just be­cause he is la­beled as "good", to break the law with­out con­se­quences, and with­out even sug­gest­ing that such a thing may be, you know, not the best thing to do.

Let's talk about cin­e­ma. This is the kind of movie where two char­ac­ters of sim­i­lar height and build fight, in a dark rail­road set, back­lit.

For min­utes, they punch, and kick, and throw them­selves at each oth­er.

And it's phisi­cal­ly im­pos­si­ble to see who the hell is beat­ing the oth­er, be­cause you can't tell them apart.

That's lazy film­mak­ing, and it shows this moral­ly bank­rupt movie is not even well done garbage.

At least Leni Riefen­stahl's movies are al­leged­ly beau­ti­ful to look at. What's the ex­cuse for this one?

Time passes, things change.

I have been think­ing a lit­tle about be­ing rel­a­tive­ly old in IT/In­ter­net/­dog-year terms, and some things have changed. A lot.

When I was a kid (say, 8 years old?) there were on­ly two TV chan­nels where I lived. And I lived in a rather lar­gish city (350K peo­ple). In fac­t, it was more like 1.5 chan­nel­s, since one on­ly worked from 6PM to mid­night.

Now, I could have 300 chan­nel­s, if I had any time free to watch TV.

Of course, it was black and white TV, col­or TV was still 2 years in the fu­ture. Hel­l, our TV still had vac­u­um tubes. Now I can watch DVDs with Dol­by 5.1 sound. I on­ly saw my first _movie_ with Dol­by sound when I was 14.

At that time (although I had not heard of those things yet), the uni­ver­si­ty where I would lat­er study and work was buy­ing a com­put­er. That mod­ern mar­vel had 64KB of main mem­o­ry, and sup­port­ed up to three si­mul­ta­ne­ous users on tele­types (yes, tele­type­s), but at the time they on­ly had punch­card­s. My phone has more com­put­ing pow­er than that.

Even­tu­al­ly, I used that very same com­put­er to learn For­tran II­I+ us­ing a line ed­i­tor and a line print­er, al­though it on­ly had one tele­type, since it had been up­grad­ed to glass ttys (wyse60s, IIR­C). I still have some glass ttys at home (re­al wyse60s, nice toys).

Phone lines were so hard to get that a house with phone cost­ed rough­ly 50% ex­tra. To make a phone call to a town 60KM away, the pro­ce­dure in­clud­ed call­ing an op­er­a­tor, and wait­ing two or three hours for the op­er­a­tor to call back.

Now, peo­ple get mad at me be­cause I am not in MSN mes­sen­ger all the time, and I have lost 5 phones in two years, but it's on­ly a mi­nor an­noy­ance. In those days, the idea of los­ing a phone was about as bizarre as los­ing a doorstep.

Bills (pow­er, phone, wa­ter, etc.) had to be paid on spe­cif­ic banks, on spe­cif­ic dates, and usu­al­ly there were lines of a block or two on the last avail­able date. Now I have them au­to­mat­i­cal­ly paid from my bank ac­coun­t, and I get in­formed via email to au­tho­rize it.

Since I was 5 years old, I took a bus (not a school bus, a plain city bus) to school ev­ery morn­ing and noone found that too weird. Now I am the on­ly per­son I know who takes ran­dom cab­s, be­cause it's safer to call one by phone.

Ev­ery coun­try in ev­ery di­rec­tion, in­clud­ing my own, was un­der a re­pres­sive and crim­i­nal mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship, and half the world was com­mu­nist.

But... the last time a man had gone to the moon was with Apol­lo, the coolest-look­ing and fastest plane in the world was the SR-71, Ema Peel looked great in The Avenger­s, sum­mer was hot, girls on bathing suits made the heat bear­able, girls make any­thing bear­able, any­way, so _some_ things nev­er change.

I had just fin­ished read­ing The Count of Mon­te­cristo, and I thought it was a great book, and it still is, al­though I ap­pre­ci­ate all the sex and drug abuse of the book more now!

I was a chub­by kid, I am a chub­by adult. I was a skin­ny teenager, though, but that did­n't last ;-)

So, just be­cause I can now buy a re­al laser beam for the cost of a ham­burg­er (which was a nov­el­ty food when I was a kid), while it was be­fore the stuff Bond vil­lians with lots of mon­ey played with, are things re­al­ly dif­fer­en­t... well, yeah! ;-)

Late movie review: Matrix Revolutions

Al­though it opened here (Buenos Aires, Ar­genti­na) at the ex­act same time as al­most ev­ery­where else, here's a late re­view of the movie.

I liked it. I have read the crit­ic slam it, and you know what? I un­der­stand them. But I liked it any­way.

Now, why is that, and why don't I slam it as well? The prob­lem crit­ics had with Ma­trix: Rev­o­lu­tions is one of ex­pec­ta­tion­s.

They ex­pect­ed it to be a movie that lift­ed Ma­trix: Reload­ed in­to a mean­ing­ful and wor­thy se­quel of the orig­i­nal film. That is of course im­pos­si­ble for many rea­son­s.

The main one is that it's 2003, not 1998. In 2003 lame movies like Bad Boys II have spe­cial ef­fects that are about as good as The Ma­trix's were. We are jad­ed to them.

In fac­t, we are not on­ly jad­ed to spe­cial ef­fects that were spe­cial five years ago, we are jad­ed to sur­prise it­self, like if show­ing us some­thing new was an old thing it­self.

So, even when there is a se­quence that should awe us (like, say, the slow mo­tion punch in­to Smith's face, look how you can see the fist push­ing in­di­vid­u­al rain­drop­s, the face de­form­ing un­der the pres­sure, the de­tail of the im­pres­sion of the knuck­les... do you know how that was done? I don't!)... well, awe is old news.

So, I went to the the­ather ex­pect­ing a movie that would be a fine ac­tion movie, with im­pres­sive sight­s, lame act­ing (not a de­cent ac­tor in the bunch, ex­cept Lawrence Fish­burne, and he was ap­par­ent­ly di­rect­ed not to ac­t, but to look se­ri­ous and im­por­tan­t), some sopho­moric bab­ble, and some kung fu (I want­ed more ser­aph, though).

In that lev­el, it work­s. In mak­ing us all be five years younger, it did­n't.

And to those who said the end­ing just drops the ball of the sto­ry thread­s, well, guys, this was a chris­tian para­ble, Neo died for the sins of the pro­gram­s, he was not the christ fig­ure of the hu­man­s, but of the ma­chines.

The ro­bots in the city are the ro­man­s, the or­a­cle and oth­er "good bot­s" are is­raelites, the ar­chi­tect is Herod, Smith is the ro­man le­gions op­press­ing the is­raelites, and Neo's mes­sian­ic "death" (he did­n't die, but he is shown in a cru­ci­fic­tion-­like pose, and does­n't move) is the sec­ond com­ing an­nounc­ing the rais­ing of the new tem­ple, by turn­ing the ro­mans against their own le­gions and ush­er­ing peace on earth.

And the hu­mans in Zion are ver­min in Jerusalem's sew­er sys­tem. Just ask the Merovin­gian (He, I have no idea who he is in the anal­o­gy, I just thought this as I was writ­ing, be hap­py if it holds for an­oth­er 30 sec­onds ;-) Ok, he is Mary Mag­dalene's pim­p.

See, that's the kind of thing the Ma­trix tril­o­gy does, it in­duces oth­er­wise rea­son­able peo­ple in­to try­ing to shoe­horn ran­dom da­ta in­to pat­terns it does­n't fit (at least I tried to make a slight­ly orig­i­nal one).

That not spe­cial­ly cool qual­i­ty is shared with oth­er up­per-me­diocre­-crust en­ter­tain­men­t, such as "Catch­er in the rye". While amus­ing, its pro­duce is, of course most­ly pedes­tri­an.

The trick here, I think, is one used by peo­ple like Berl­itz, writ­ing about the mag­ic pro­por­tions of the pyra­mid­s. If you have a large set of num­ber­s, and al­low your­self some free­dom to tweak, they will match some of the hun­dred of "im­por­tan­t" num­bers in na­ture.

My height * 1000000 ~ the dis­tance to the moon. I must be re­al­ly im­por­tan­t!

The Ma­trix movies have dozens or hun­dreds of nuggets of things we rec­og­nize from some­where else, usu­al­ly on­ly slight­ly veiled, so we can feel smart about un­veil­ing them, and smarter still about con­nect­ing them.

Well, like the size of the stones in the pyra­mid­s, you can plug those nuggets in­to al­most any struc­ture you wan­t, as long as you are will­ing to stand a few holes and forced fit­ting... and man, did that get old quick af­ter the first movie or not?

So, that's why it did­n't work on the philo­soph­i­cal lev­el: we are tired of it, we on­ly had gas for one of those movies.

Add that to the spe­cial-­ef­fect­s-are-not-spe­cial-any­more syn­drome, and you have a recipe for a movie that, while ok, can't work.

And that, friend­s, is why it did­n't.

Advogato post for 2000-07-18 19:53:02

Whoa, with all that brain activity about freedom, I forgot to write the diary entry I actually wanted to write.

To­day's top­ic is one that prob­a­bly has nev­er been cov­ered in ad­voga­to (and there are more of those ;-): Alexan­dre Du­mas (père).

Why? Be­cause I late­ly see him ev­ery­where. For one thing, a few weeks ago, I watched a movie. I think the eng­lish ti­tle is "the ninth gate". That movie, while ap­par­ent­ly a books and demons sort of thriller with Mr. Dep­p, is based in a book by a guy called Pérez-Re­verte.

Now, that book is way bet­ter than the movie. In fac­t, it's one of the bet­ter books I've read in the last year or so, and I read a lot.

The book is called... El Club Du­mas. Which in eng­lish means rough­ly the same thing as in span­ish.

Now, I can un­der­stand why Ro­man Polan­sky would throw away half of the book (The Du­mas half) and keep the oth­er half (the dev­il's half), and mak­ing a movie based on the book would prob­a­bly be im­pos­si­ble oth­er­wise, but hey, it still suck­s.

Why does it suck? Be­cause the Du­mas side of the book is way bet­ter. It's fun. It has a plot. Or two plot­s. It has char­ac­ter­s. It has great di­a­log. The dev­il's half is, well, about the dev­il, and about book­s. Old book­s.

And I pre­fer the Du­mas half, be­cause it has a ghost of the re­al thing. That re­al thing be­ing, of course, Du­mas' work.

I had read Du­mas when I was a kid, and I thought it was fun­ny, and that I had out­grown it, un­til one day, two years ago, I felt a ir­re­sistible urge to buy a 1300 page mam­moth called "The Count of Mon­te­cristo".

In the first 120 pages or so, it has, love, pol­i­tics (with Napoleon!), evil schem­ing, pris­on, drugs, es­capes from pris­on, sex, re­li­gion, loy­al­ty, be­tray­al, and, the most im­por­tant thing, it's so much fun you don't even care about the stranger part­s.

I re­mem­ber a ar­ti­cle in Sa­lon a while ago, like a de­fense of the plot in lit­er­a­ture, against style. And Du­mas is the great­est ex­am­ple of why that makes sense. The style is not bad, mind you, but it's func­tion­al to the plot. Char­ac­ters in a Du­mas book ex­ist to do things. They make de­ci­sion­s, they try to ad­vance to their goal­s, they push and kill and fuck each oth­er as if their lifes de­pend­ed on it, and well, as far as a char­ac­ter has a life, does­n't it de­pend on it?

And then I re­al­ized the bad luck Du­mas' books have had when turned in­to movies. And I can't un­der­stand why. Af­ter al­l, they have ev­ery­thing to make good, or at least fun, movies. They have gun­s, ex­plo­sion­s, sce­nar­ios, ac­tion, and sex! Ask Pe­ter Drag­on to make one!

But last night I saw The Man in the Iron Mask on TV. Oh, man.

Ok, I un­der­stand that noone could make a movie about the man in the iron mask with the orig­i­nal ti­tle (The Viz­coun­t(sp?) of Bragelon­ne), be­cause peo­ple would mis­take it for a Mer­chan­t-Ivory movie.

I un­der­stand that they had to make Leonar­do di­Caprio in­to Louis XIV. Hey, he's not so bad at it, even. He does look like a bland in­breed with an at­ti­tude prob­lem.

I ac­cept that they had to cast 3 ac­tors from UK and the US as mous­ke­teer­s, and that they had to fake french ac­cents (why? the au­di­ence would­n't no­tice it is set is France if they did­n't?)

I can ac­cept the way they to­tal­ly screwed the char­ac­ter of Athos' son, turn­ing him in­to a mo­ron.

What I can't ac­cept is the end­ing.

In the book, Athos dies of grief. Porthos dies sav­ing his friend­s. Aramis (who is NOT, for christ's sake, the se­cret gen­er­al of the je­suit­s) re­tires to a monastery, D'Artag­nan dies many years lat­er in the siege of Maas­tricht (to match the death of the re­al D'Artag­nan), and Louis XiV win­s.

It's a very sad end­ing. But it ac­tu­al­ly makes sense. You don't go and re­place the king of a coun­try, get caught and then get away with it, sad as it may be.

The movie? Oh, well, let's see, the man in the iron mask be­comes king, Athos, Porthos and Aramis be­come his coun­selors, Athos gets the (new) king as a (new) son, as if it was a new gold­fish to re­place the flushed one, and the on­ly one that dies is D'Artag­nan, but he dies sav­ing ev­ery­one else, so it does­n't mat­ter.

Oh, and D'Artag­nan is re­vealed to be the fa­ther (with An­na of Aus­tri­a) of Louis XIV (and the man in the iron mask). Why was that? Some­one saw "The em­pire strikes back" while draft­ing the scrip­t?

And it's not the first time. Mon­sieur Du­mas has (ok, no, he's dead) seen many movie ver­sion­s, and each one mas­sa­cred the books in sim­i­lar ways.

And here I am, hop­ing one day some­one will burn 120 mil­lion bucks in a 5 hour epic called "The viz­count of Bragelon­ne".

With peo­ple speak­ing with­out ac­cents. Or in french, or with a re­al french ac­cen­t. And where ev­ery­one dies in the end.


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