From my heart and from my hand; why don’t people understand… ‘The Imitation Game’ review

The Imitation Game is a bad film.  Biopics are generally awful and this is a particularly bad example of it.  Will Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) succeed in making the computer that he’s famous for making?  Spoilers: yes.

There’s nothing particularly new in this paragraph.  Films shouldn’t justify smart people being jackholes.  We’re all sick of it.  Just because you’re brilliant doesn’t mean that you’re correct.  Just because you’re brilliant doesn’t excuse you from basic manners and common courtesies.  Yes, there’s a place in using that brilliance to critique (/play) with social conventions, but films shouldn’t present it as an expectation that clever people are exempt from good behaviour protocols.

Once again, we have a film where the State can’t understand the particular brilliance of the Individual who is, despite all the best evidence, wrong and absorbing cash for fantastically bad ideas.  Apparently, Benedict is such a brilliant and amazing genius that he can’t explain why he needs taxpayer-funded cashola.  Boohoohoo.  It’s so hard to be this clever.

In full Matrix-style pseudo-intellectualism, some astonishingly stupid ideas are presented in the most patronisingly terrible ways.  This gets us to Alan Turing’s most famously wrong idea:

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Don’t look at me. It’s way too soon to see… The films of 2013

I buried myself in films this year, mostly in the form of marathons but I also scraped along to the cinema a few times.  It seems to have been a year for sequels and reboots, but I don’t know to what extent that’s been true for a while now rather than something specific to 2013.

Here’s the list of films that I saw in the cinema and wrote up a review.  There were a bunch of film festivals I attended but didn’t get around to writing them up, mostly because the films I saw were bafflingly awful.

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From the road where the cars never stop… The Bachelor is immoral wank

Finding a life partner should not be like going to a buffet.

It will surprise nobody to know that I have crippling anxiety issues.  I’m awkward and get tired around people quickly.  I’m intensely private and often seem cold and out of place.  Nothing fills me with dread quite as much as the idea of hitting on somebody in public.

Fortunately, technology has come to our aid.  While one of the millions of hours of Star Trek is playing on channel 11, I can create a dating profile on some website.  I can list relevant details about me and upload this really awesome selfie of me wearing a fedora.

(That paragraph was a joke.  Mostly.  I do look awesome in a fedora.)

This process has caused some levels of concern.  E-mails filled with potential partners are sent and you’re encouraged to peruse as if you were catalogue shopping.  Will she like my taste in books?  Will she be able to tolerate my family?  Will she look good on my sofa?  People are literally marketing themselves, reducing themselves to what they perceive to be their appealing characteristics while disguising their less appealing aspects.  There’s a dehumanising aspect about the affair as people are objectified for the judgement of others.

The Bachelor — a reality show where some dopey halfwit judges has to ‘eliminate’ one girl a week until he finds a life partner — is this shallow, narcissistic view of dating beefed up to 11.  It’s what happens when you take the ‘Internet Dating’ approach to intimate interaction to its extreme.

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I know what to show and what to conceal… Reassessing James Bond #reviews

Oh yeah.  Let’s do this thing.

It’s no secret that the James Bond franchise has a problem with women.  It hardly takes my pseudo-intellectual style of reading way too much into things to notice that.  What is perhaps more interesting is that the conflict between Bond and the ladies is often a more immediate, personal, and human version of the conflict between the United Kingdom and its Soviet enemies.  In many ways, Bond hates women more than he ever hated any Russian, German, or media baron.

James Bond is a peculiar kind of power fantasy.  Unlike Batman or Bourne, Bond is a superhero whose loyalty is almost entirely with the State.  Even when his ‘licence to kill’ is revoked, or when Bond disregards orders, his loyalty to the Crown over personal interest is his defining characteristic.  The Bond franchise struggles with this identity over four decades, and flirts unfaithfully at times with the idea of being an American action film.  But it is difficult to imagine an American action series where the main character is devout — almost religiously devout — to the institutions of the United States government.  If anything, most American heroes define themselves in reaction to government authority.  ‘When the bureaucrats and politicians turn their back on what’s American, only one man has enough Americanity to get the job done.’  Bond, at his very best, is a rejection of that kind of hero and a celebration of an altogether different kind of patriotism, one where the organs of State are synonymous with the State itself.

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Take a couple if you wish. They’re on the dish… Reassessing Avatar: The Legends of Aang/Korra

Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 2)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 2) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My brothers ordinarily have terrible taste in things, but their repeated recommendations of Avatar: The Legend of Aang (The Last Airbender) were soon echoed by friends who have more sober tastes.  The show — and its sequel, Avatar: The Legend of Korra — is clever, beautiful, and fun.  It smashes the norm that children’s animations are incapable of complexity.

A lot of the complexity is introduced through the almost invisible, but all pervasive, religion of the world within Avatar.  This religious aspect is so thoroughly ingrained in society that characters who openly challenge it are not only misunderstood, but are incapable of being understood.

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I wish you could swim like the dolphins… #KickAss2 is immoral wank #reviews

Kick-Ass 2
Kick-Ass 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The original Kick Ass was hardly a literary masterpiece.  People read about superheroes all the time, thinks Dave, so why don’t people dress up in identity-obscuring clothes and beat up criminals in real life?  So Dave dresses up in a green onesie and calls himself ‘Kick Ass’.  When he is brutally beaten to a pulp, he is rescued by father and daughter team, Damon and Mindy Macready — a.k.a. ‘Big Daddy’ and ‘Hit Girl’.

Hit Girl is eleven years old but has been trained by Big Daddy to be a weapons expert and to be able to withstand various violent attacks.  They are seeking to punish a man who caused Big Daddy to be wrongfully imprisoned.  By ‘punish’, we mean ‘execute’.

Instead of following the story of Hit Girl and Big Daddy, the original Kick Ass followed Dave’s story as he goes through this strange fame kick.  His story is obnoxiously adolescent.  He wants an attractive girl to like him, but she likes his Kick Ass alter ego and thinks he’s gay.  The son of Hit Girl and Big Daddy’s target ingratiates himself with Kick Ass in order to set a trap.  Blah, blah, blah.

The idea of the film is to shock the viewer with stylised violence and an eleven-year old swearing rather than to explore the questions of justice.  So what if Big Daddy was framed?  Does the criminal deserve to die as a result?  What justifies the abandonment of the traditional justice framework in order to go and beat up bad guys?

Kick Ass 2 is very much a case of second verse being the same as the first, but this time there is a really horrifically awful sexuality to the piece.  The film is offensive to basic standards of taste and decency, with absolutely no mitigating factors to make it even remotely a fulfilling experience.

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Disregarding every myth we write… Reassessing the Iron Man trilogy #reviews

Iron Man (video game)
Iron Man (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Between Batman and Iron Man, a lot of cultural commentary focused on the presentation of wealthy people (invariably straight, white men) as independent arbiters of justice.  They use their fabulous wealth to obtain technological advantages over people they perceive to be the ‘enemy’ and then confront this enemy outside the legal framework.  Following this analysis, it is argued that audiences never get an insight into how the same social, cultural, and economic processes which has privileged the heroes (to the point where they can afford crime-bashing gadgets) simultaneously disadvantaged the people now getting bashed, beaten, and bruised by the heroes.

Watching the Iron Man trilogy as a group, it’s not entirely clear that this is true.  Although the reading is still insightful and thought-provoking, the Iron Man trilogy defies the analysis somewhat.  In the first film, the playboy billionaire at the centre of the film, Tony Stark, comes to realise that his industry is the reason why America’s enemies are getting more powerful.  He wants his company to shift from weapons manufacturing to energy production in order to address global economic issues.

What we see instead is the internalisation and individualisation of military technology.  It’s this theme — the trials and tribulations of the transhuman world — that stitches the trilogy together.

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Who are you to me? Who am I supposed to be?… A belated Four Lions #review

Four Lions
Four Lions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finding humour in uncomfortable topics has a long history. Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, for example, cracks the absurdity of the fascist mindset. Four Lions — a 2010 British film, written by Chris Morris and the two guys behind Peep Show — plays with the idea of terrorist cells.

Omar and Waj are Pakistani-Britons who — for reasons that are not entirely clear — have become radicalised. They’ve formed their own terrorist cell along with another Pakistani-Briton, Faisal, and a borderline insane white convert, Barry. Omar is desperate to be taken seriously. When they’re making little home movies about the evils of imperialism and consumerism, Omar finds that his friends aren’t quite as sharp as he is. Waj wants to look intimidating, so he hods a small toy gun while issuing threats to the West, for example. Barry gives advice on how to swallow SIM cards so the government can’t trace them.

Omar and Waj are invited to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, but things go badly when Omar tries to fire a rocket at a US drone but instead ends up firing it backwards into the jihadists. Omar and Waj flee back to the UK. Desperate to save face, Omar decides to take their terrorist cell to the next level: they will build a bomb and set it off somewhere in England.

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You swallow me whole with just a mumbled hello… The World’s End #review

Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Back in 1990, Gary King (Simon Pegg) was the coolest guy in high school.  He partied, he slept around, he had fun.  Upon graduating, he and four of his friends decided to undertake The Golden Mile: a pub crawl through their village with 12 pints in 12 pubs, finishing at The World’s End.  Alas, their quest was incomplete, only making it to 9 of the 12 pubs.

Following high school, King and his friends drifted apart.  Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) is a partner at a luxury car dealership.  Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) is a boutique real estate agent.  Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) owns a construction company.  And Andrew Knightly (Nick Frost) — formerly Gary’s closest and dearest friend — has become a corporate lawyer.  Where his friends have gone off to become successful, Gary’s life is not so grand.

So Gary comes up with a plan: reunite the old gang and conquer The Golden Mile.

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In our brave new world, you will be alright… Joss Whedon’s anachronistic ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ #review

Joss Whedon - Much Ado About Nothing - Europea...
Joss Whedon – Much Ado About Nothing – European Premiere (Photo credit: Caroline)

It’s been two years since Joss Whedon finished filming his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  It has thus been two years since I began looking forward to seeing it.

The play itself is a bit of a mess — more a play of subplots than a single actual story.   A prince, Don Pedro, has lead a successful battle and has returned to stay with Leonato, the Governor of Messina.  Don Pedro arrives with his entourage, which includes Claudio, Benedick, and his bastard half-brother, Don John.  Leonato has a daughter, Hero, and a niece, Beatrice.

The famous bit from the play is the prank everybody plays on Benedick and Beatrice.  Benedick is an arsehat philanderer who is very witty, very clever, but is scornful of marriage.  Beatrice, on the other hand, is clever, intelligent, witty, and insightful — thus her friends and family are determined to find her a suitable husband.  Thus — teehee! — these friends allow Benedick to overhear them (falsely) claim that Beatrice is madly in love with him but will never admit it.  Meanwhile — oh ho! — these friends also allow Beatrice to overhear them (falsely) claim that Benedick is madly in love with her but will never admit it.  Teehee and oh ho!

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