Monday, 29 August 2011

Cowboys & Aliens.

Cowboys & Aliens poster.

Everyone thinks the title is ridiculous and a totally ridiculous premise but how is it? What is different from any other sci-fi alien invasion film? The only difference is that it's a fictitious take on the past. That's why I don't understand how it's so "ridiculous" because it isn't. Another thing is that it seems a bit like an allegory. I may be looking to deep into, what is at heart, an action film but it sort of takes a District 9 route using the aliens as a race. It seems like the cowboys were fighting them invading their territory after they invaded the natives territory. They band together to show that humans will be cohesive in fighting invaders. It's like the Jason Manford joke (no, not a Skype/Twitter joke) about how the only way the human race will stand side-by-side is if aliens come and attack us.

Plot: A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way.

It starts with an amnesic and unconscious Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) who has nothing but dirty and ripped clothing, a brand new alien bracelet, a tear in his side, a picture of a woman and a hat that is oddly important to him. As he's held by gunpoint for being the strong silent type, he shows us what he's about. He may not remember his name yet, but he still remembers how to take out bad attitudes and greedy part-time bounty hunter cowboys.

When he stumbles into the town of Absolution seeking medical attention for his nasty gash, he teaches Woodrow Dollaryhyde's (Harrison Ford) unbelievably annoying son, Percy Dollarhyde (Paul Dano), some manners. After this, they attempt to apprehend our hero in a bar where he's finally apprehended by Olivia Wilde's Ella Swenson in Doc's (Sam Rockwell) saloon. As he's in the carriage with Percy, awaiting his visit to the feds, Woodrow shows up demanding his son back and Jake Lonergan who stole gold from him.

Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde. Directed by Jon Favreau.

This is our first sight of aliens which is OK but not tense enough. They come and they grapple the townsmen of Absolution and abduct them in their weirdly archaic - yes, archaic, I don't even know why - spaceships. After the carnage and the first glimpse of what this badass bracelet can do, we hear screams and get a silhouette of our alien invaders. It's bleeding and, now, the hunt is on.

What follows is a bit muddled. The plot isn't really coherent. First of all, they're chasing an injured alien and then they're attempting to recruit an army to save their captured ones and the changing point isn't very clear. As they bundle through the desert with a luscious real backdrop, it's hard to appreciate though because you never get a time to really. There's no real lingering shots of the scenery or slight tracking shots of them riding through. Then there's a obvious development of the grumpy and angry Woodrow Dollarhyde who snaps into a father to an idiotic young tag-along who can't act. It's like a snap in his personality after his son is lassoed by the aliens.

Director Jon Favreau was constantly harassed with demands to shoot/convert the film in 3-D, but he held his ground, claiming Westerns should only be shot on film.

Then there's the romance between Jake and Ella as Jake snaps from wanting to be alone to honouring her name. It just seems like everything snaps into place all at once. There's no development; just a massive personality change for the two alpha males. This where Cowboys & Aliens suffers. It's just totally meh. That is the best word to describe it because it's so very average. I enjoyed it and it's a good film to watch but it's not something that is memorable or remarkable. It will not climb the ranks of your favourite films but it might be something to put on in the background or to watch for nothing but easy entertainment.

★★★

Note: Being alone in a cinema screen is absolutely awesome.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Super 8.

Super 8 poster.

If you ask most film critics about their opinion on the best decades for blockbusters, they'd wage the pros-and-cons of the '70s and '80s. A time where set-design prevailed over CGI backgrounds and when special effects just weren't that special. It was a time where they focused more on the story and characters rather than just on the visual things or one-liners here and there. In a way, I agree but this year has been a great year for blockbusters, in my opinion. In fact, thanks to this film, it just got a lot better.

Plot: After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon.

Perfectly, then, this is set in 1979 which is the year Alien came out - one of the best blockbusters of all time and Ridley Scott's greatest creations. In the wake of a superhero summer, J.J. Abrams has come out with - what could easily be and was probably going to be - two different films but merged into one. It centres on a child named Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) who, four months later, is still reeling from the after-effects of losing his mother. His best friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths), is making a zombie film. This group of pre-teen kids (and one just-teen girl) are making a zombie film on a super 8 to enter into a youth film festival. They film at a sight with a new addition to the cast, Alice (Elle Fanning), who drives them there (illegally). When an air-force train is about to pass, Charles swipes at the opportunity to film while it flies past in its noisy wonderment for "production value".

While they film Alice and (S)Martin (Gabriel Basso) doing their scene, Joe hears something. He watches as a pick-up truck malevolently derails this train - the pyromaniac, Cary (Ryan Lee) is in heaven at this moment - causing the cast to run for their lives while something unknown, perhaps a little "Extra-Terrestrial", unhinges a door of the train and escapes. Strange things happen in this small town where car engines disappear out of showroom cars, mast wires disappear, rolling blackouts and local dogs being found but the calls "aren't local". These leave the deputy, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), baffled and searching for answers from a reluctant and irritated Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich). He occupies the town by cleaning up the train crash and insisting that there's no danger even though they're clearly searching for something.

Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Noah Emmerich and Kyle Chandler. Directed by J.J. Abrams.

What ensues is a master class on how to make a monster film, courtesy of J. J. Abrams. He shows us that showing all your cards at once is nothing but a rookie mistake and that you should take time to build anticipation but not to infuriating levels. He times it just right - like Cloverfield - by giving us milliseconds of shimmers or glimpses of the monster. We see its damage directly and indirectly yet it takes us a very long time to actually see it. As the story goes on and on we see great shots of great scenery and levels of depth - the shot of Joe biking back from Charles's is just simple and so are the shots after the train crash and up on the hill with it in the background.

Since the kids were making a zombie movie, there are several references to director George A. Romero. For example, Romero Chemicals as the evil company, plus the poster for one of his movies in Joe's bedroom. You can see the film that they create, The Case, during the credits.

Now, lately, I've been not really been a fan of children or young teens but these children are brilliant. They're full of emotion, full of realism and yet still make things funny. I mean, their attempts at humour aren't attempts at all because they nail every line making it a nice comedic yet tense first half of the film and a genuine second half with their brilliant acting skills. These children could go far if they don't ruin it for themselves with drink, drugs or bad film choices from now on. They're onto a winner here.

The only problem was the CGI which seemed to lack in areas. For example, he builds the monster and it turns out to be a semi-original concept but a little harsh. It feels like it changes in sizes to suit the surroundings. The train crash was slightly poor too in comparison but after a $150m budget summer it's hard to expect less than borderline perfect.

It had all the recipes of a Spielberg picture with the storytelling, the character, the character development. It doesn't feel like a blockbuster with the effort that goes into creating traits of characters that aren't really made any more; they have noticeable personalities which are all similar yet different and they all have idiosyncrasies which are individual to each character. It's also got all the recipes of a J. J. Abrams creation (albeit a watered down one) with excessive lens flare but less of the mind-melting. He doesn't try to answer your questions (a bit like Lost, actually) about the creation if it, where it came from or anything like that; it just focuses on the now which is a part of its charm. A brilliant cast with a great storyline being told by one of the great writer-directors that has entered Hollywood. One of the best blockbusters of this summer.

★★★★★

Thursday, 4 August 2011

All Christians are terrorists.

Now that we know that the atrocity that was the Norway Attacks was done by a Christian, is it time to start being prejudiced against them? After all, that's what we did after 9/11 against Islam. And because of the population density differences, this attack was twice as devastating to Norway. Should we be irrational against a rich, "civilised" religion now? It seems only fair.

This massacre of seventy-seven people - eight in the Oslo bomb and sixty-nine in the Ut√łya shooting - was done by a Christian. The man who shot teenagers and slaughtered them, believed in God and Jesus Christ so how does that make atheism that bad? I haven't massacred anyone and I don't plan on it either. This far-right, self-proclaimed martyr said that it was "atrocious but necessary" and claims he's done nothing wrong. How can someone who believes in God see this as right? He was an Islamophobic blogger who posted on anti-Islam forums (can't believe they actually exist, that's disgusting) and supported groups like the EDL.

It's time to be prejudiced against Christians. Time to do "random" screen checks to anyone who is a white Christian and make them the victim of delays, cavity searches and mangled luggage from searches. Every time we see a Christian on a flight we'll get nervous and treat them has potential terrorists. They'll feel people staring at them with paranoid eyes. They'll be the victim of insults, mockery and abuse. People will walk past them and laugh at their religious attire then get angry that they say they have to wear it and propose rules for them or simply tell them to "go back where they came from" because no true, original Briton will do anything wrong. It's not like a lot of Britons do nothing all day but claim money, do drugs, commit crimes and be racist bigots because they own this place.

Now, when people make racist remarks starting with "I'm not racist but", the Christians will be the punchline, the source of abuse and not Islam. Christians won't be allowed to impose their views on our parliament. They'll try to impose their views with improper and disrespectful protests. The Sun will run headlines talking about a minority of Christians being offended by something and everyone will be infuriated. Everyone who wears a crucifix will be instantly identified as a terrorist because they fit the demographic. They'll be made unwelcome, Maybe some Jews will suffer the consequences because they might look Christian like just like Sikhs and Hindus did after 9/11 and still do now.

Of course that won't happen to Christians because we're a Christian country and so is America. The richest countries are Christian and we understand Christianity so we know that those aren't Christian ideals. We know that Christianity didn't teach him to do that tragedy. Then, something we don't understand comes along and they blame it. They tear it apart with ignorance and never try to understand it because they don't want to.

Our disgusting western civilisation - what irony there - managed to stereotype Islam which has 1.5bn believers. That's saying that one-sixth of the population are terrorists. Now, you think they'd blame religion again in this case, especially as as soon as it happened they were claiming al Qaeda or some Islam extremist group were behind it. Do you know what they're going to blame? Games.

On Anders Breivik's Facebook profile, they found that one his hobbies was to play video games and they found out that one of his favourite games was Call of Duty. That's right. They'll know spout how he learnt how to use a gun because of Call of Duty and that the violence in it made him the psychotic sociopath he is today. Fox News went straight for the jugular of this. Why can't they blame something real? Like a chemical imbalance or the propaganda that he was clearly spewed.

Instead, they'll probably still blame Islam. They'll say that what he did was extreme but it was a wake up call to some Islamophobic propaganda that they love to say. Just face it, you're racist. Stop blaming a certain demographic. I think I'll start the Christian prejudice and tell some nearby staff that I'm nervous because of the Norway Attacks. They'll just laugh and ignore it but if it was someone who fitted the Muslim demographic, they'd act upon it instantly...