Quote of the Day

"We're only here briefly, and while I'm here I want to allow myself joy. So fuck it."
- Amy, Her.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Occupy: My Mind

So all the commotion of Occupy Wall Street and, more recently, Occupy LA have got me a'thinking. After over 200 arrests made last night during the LAPD raid of the downtown protests, and plentiful more over in NYC, what are we actually learning from all this? Are the police just making things worst by making arrests and potentially sticking up for the "1%"? Or does this whole thing need to be put to bed now, because let's be honest, nothing's really happening.

That has got to win  the Best Sign of the Protest award.
  But then again that is an unfair statement in itself because things are happening. People are watching and hearing and understanding these people -- their motives, their drives, their mission. Every time the press get turned away from reporting, it just becomes more and more sickening. The mere fact that I'm writing a piece considering the issue proves that it's on my thoughts. The result may not be change (not immediately anyway), but instead mere thought; a message to the people. A single message, containing a single idea that just needs to be planted (Inception style) into the international population's head: We are not happy.

  And if it is how they say, that they are "The 99%" then shouldn't that include you and me as well. I'm not saying go pitch and tent and yell at bankers for weeks, but I'm saying you should at least spare it the thought. Surely no one appreciates the economic imbalance and corporate greed that plagues the western world's society. Because this isn't just an issue for a niche audience, like protesting for animal rights or for Firefly to come back on TV: this is money we're talking about. And without money, there is no structure, and with no structure there is no world.

Pictured: Misdirection
  So you begin to understand the importance of merely passing the subject across your mind. And then you begin to understand why it's kind of a big deal. And then you begin to wonder why it hasn't been given much coverage across the pond to our humble abode of the UK. While there has been a few unwashed folk camping out by St Paul's Cathedral in London, we're not getting half the response America has had. Our guys haven't even thought it through; you're campaigning against economic unfairness yet you choose a church to place your stakes? Nice going guys...

 But that is beside the point, because the real issue is that we are only being fed fragmented pieces of the story from our US buddies. Go ahead, go watch a news channel or read a UK news site. What do you find? The small print, identified as an unimportant story, even in international news. Some reading this may have no clue what I'm even talking about. The only way to get at it is through hunting the web space, which to some is too much effort and to others just plain unheard of. And it is this kind of, dare I say, censorship that is making us question the insecurity of  our news outlets and governments.

  It's fair enough for them to be a little paranoid after the looting and riots of this past Summer, but you can't help but beg the question of whether they are worried about what that level of peaceful protest could do to their institutions. After all, who knows the British public better than those who have to watch them everyday and who, more than anyone, needs to keep the equilibrium than those who have to serve it. This could very well be a pure example of the 1% in action...

So although we may not agree with everything that Occupy Wherever suggests, it should be at least rudimentary to process the ideals it is promoting to decide your stance on the argument. After all, odds are you're classed as the 99%...

Vote on the poll to the right to have your say on all things Occupy!

Enjoy learning about economic inequality? Then maybe check out the In Time Review!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

RE:View: In Time

Time is a valuable thing, no matter how you spin it. It could be spent watching movies, much like sci-fi/action flick, In Time, starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. Alternatively it could be spent reading reviews, much like this one. Or even, it could be spent protesting against corporate greed, much like the recent Occupy Wall Street campaign sweeping over the world. Because if In Time doesn't soar in some aspects, it certainly makes up for it in relevancy, giving us a tale that speaks volumes of social and economic inequality in a time that reeks of the stuff.

Taking place in an undisclosed point in the future, In Time has one very central idea; time is money. People are bio-engineered to stop ageing post-25, and instead must rely on how much time there is left on their forearm's ticker until they kick the bucket. But while some of the world live in poverty (whereby absolute poverty = sure death), the upper classes coast by with a potential of immortality. But one man defies that lifestyle, after being framed for murder. And he, along with gal-pal Sylvia, will stop at nothing to tear down the rotten system and give hope to the struggling people.

When everyone is 25, who can tell between mother, wife or daughter?
 That man is Will Salas, played by none other than pop-superstar Justin Timberlake. Still fresh from his sudden change of career paths, Timberlake gives a solid performance that (while not quite a match for his smart and smooth delivery in The Social Network) proves further his place in today's Hollywood scene. After a slight weak patch in the introductory slum scenes, Timberlake comes into his own with action, romance and emotion as we see Will's journey to truly "stick it to the man", taking him on risky poker games, car chases and lots and lots of running.

Sexy Back: a predictable couple, but gorgeous none-the-less.
So it's a good job his running mate, Amanda Seyfried, is also on par, giving us the naive rich girl, Sylvia Weis, as she comes to terms with the fact her lifestyle really might be superficial. The contrast of their characters gives the narrative a neat dynamic of opposites attracting and an obvious romantic element that works, despite the predictability, while they work together as a futuristic Bonnie and Clyde/Robin Hood. Then Cillian Murphy pulls off a great show with his head TimeKeeper role, (a cop) managing to really embody a 50 year old man in a 25 year old's body, through tone and movement with his deadpan way.

The setting and ideas involved are really unique, and will keep you interested despite the numerous plot holes and continuity errors that pop up. It's good to see an entirely fresh and independent story hit our screens for once, as opposed to the wave of adaptations, reboots and true-stories recently, so kudos to writer/director Andrew Niccol. Could you just imagine, a world where time is your money? Haunting, deep and somehow eerily believable despite its ridiculousness.

Released at any other time, In Time may not have been as poignant, being seen as merely some science fiction fun with a fast pace and neat scripting. However, as mentioned, in these times of economic imbalance the film stands for a lot more, even going to the extent of a near-social commentary of a film. Whether this was pure coincidence or an intention of Niccol's (who previously wrote The Truman Show) is unknown, but it sure gives it a relatable and intelligible edge that it may have lacked otherwise.

There still remains a plethitude of minor nuances to be found, such as a weak sub-plot, loose ends that never get fully established and an ending quite unfit to the rest of the tone. A couple things get dusted off in cheap ways, which seem like a harsh rushed way of finishing for certain parts and some directions don't quite justify themselves to full extent.

In Time is, above all things, a thought-provoking piece of cinema, blending a unique sci-fi plot with real world issues into a quick and punctual movie. It's got a real sense of independence, never borrowing from an identified source too long to be noticeable (although the nods to Logan's Run, Bonnie and Clyde etc are unavoidable) and when action picks up the pulse starts racing after some subtle subdued moments of tension. Slight niggles bring the overall quality down though and its running time of 109 minutes seems a little too generous.

Nevertheless, In Time is a film certainly worthy of your time, if just for the coolness of its plot and the significance of era-specific themes.
3.5/5 Stars

Monday, 21 November 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Snow White Showdown

You get 75 years of no Snow White and then TWO come at once!
Next year sees the arrival of not just one, but two Snow White films in our cinemas. And, as if begging for a back to back comparison, have both released trailers in the last few weeks. While one opts for action and maturity, the other goes for comedy and campness; but which is better? There's only one way to find out: FIGHT! Watch them one after the other and make your mind up, based upon your own views, preferences and analysis of the trailers! I go for option A, by the way.

Snow White and the Huntsman brings us a darker take on the classic tale, with Twilight's (ugh..) Kristen Stewart playing a hardened Snow, looking to bring battle to the Evil Queen (the glamorous Charlize Theron). Along the way she's teaming up with the Huntsman, (or Thor as most will know him with Chris Hemsworth) picking up the axe to kill stuff with the help of his Dwarf buddies (yeah, I think they're with him in this adaptation). Honestly, I like it. I think if I can get over the fact that it's Stewart playing it, I reckon we could have a really kick-ass Snow White on the cards. And the unique portrayal of the mirror looks awesome, while the Dwarves (just glimpsed) are going the LOTR route (not midgets, basically). Cool Stuff.

And now we have the complete opposite:

Mirror, Mirror enters the family/comedy territory with its charming new spin on the tale, splicing it in with elements from other fairy-tales (like Cinderella, Robin Hood). Relative unknown (unless you've seen Abduction, ugh...) Lily Collins takes on the role of Snow White here, with a more traditional characterisation. And who can miss Julia Roberts as the narcissistic Queen, who looks to be as Pantomime as they come, while Armie Hammer (The Social Network) lends his pretty boy looks to Prince Charming. I hear Sean Bean drops by at some point too, and a few recognisable Dwarves occupy their designated roles.
   Tarsem Singh (Immortals) directs, so at least we know it will look good. Hopefully that will make up for the flat falling jokes and cringe radiating from this trailer. "Snow way!"? Yikes. Julia... what are you doing?

Ah well. I guess we shall truly see which is The Fairest of Them All when they release next year:
Snow White and the Huntsman: June 1st
Mirror, Mirror: March 16th


Saturday, 19 November 2011

RE:View: Immortals

The hype based around Greek-mythology-action film Immortals was a tale of two halves. The first, with obvious reason, was whether this could be the natural successor to 2006's swords-and-sandals epic, 300, boasting a visual flair and some truly spectacular slow-mo fight sequences. The other buzz-inducing topic was its lead actor, Henry Cavill. The rising British born star (a relative unknown for most) will be donning the cape and tights for Zach Snyder's Man of Steel in 2013, and as such, Immortals was seen as a proving ground for the 28 year old, as to whether his performing prowess can lend itself to a believable and relatable Clark Kent. While they're both lofty asks, it's safe to say that Immortals does indeed deliver to a certain extent on either side.

   The story is straight forward enough, as it follows Greek hero Theseus (Cavill) on his journey to prevent the evil forces of Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, no less) from unleashing the God-forsaken (literally) Titans and bringing about war between the worlds of God and Man. Putting new spins on ancient legends along the way (such as the Minotaur), Theseus finds himself in love with a worshipped oracle (Freida Pinto), leading a mass army of men, and battling alongside the gods themselves.

The plot and story-telling, however, doesn't hold so strong against its epic prose. The script can be sloppy in places to the point where things get a little tedious, with the narrative feeling more like a scrapbook of bits and pieces, rather than a ravelling novel of grandeur. Sure, Theseus is out adventuring the lands, but there's a lot of to and fro between places, a back and forth cycle of sets and scenes.  And although they look great, thanks to the unique style of director Tarsem Singh, the golden back drops and luscious colour contrasts get tired because of these flaws, teasing the viewer with a fresh, even grander picture on the horizon, but never pulling through.

Visually Stunning
That's not to say that the art direction is sub-standard by any means. Singh has a definite vision throughout the film, which is evident in the richness of cinematography involved. Despite the repetitive discrepancies, we're given some bizarrely fantastic situations to look at that will resonate in the mind for a little while, be it a clash of golden-clad gods or the sight of blackened drenched heroes by the sea. Coupled with the mesmerising costume design, ranging from red, vibrant Indian gowns and gold, shining armours to the swathe of  the iron grey drab of Hyperion's menacingly masked army, and you've got a sure spectacle of a movie.

At its heart, of course, Immortals is an action film, taking no prisoners in its execution of blood, guts and gore, as warriors exchange blows and gods exchange mega-blows. Masterfully choreographed and beautifully shot, these battle sequences provide the movie's best moments - especially when gods get involved. Heads explode, flesh rips and screams fly; often in a show of awesome slow-mo. It may reverberate that of 300's unforgettable action scenes, but when it looks this spectacular and exciting, who can blame them?
May the best god win!
 But when we get outside of the action, the quality sags again. It's not that these parts aren't necessary, it's just they are staggeringly boring. Don't get me wrong, I hate pure action movies where the characters don't stop for a breather once in a while, but here it just doesn't flow so well. And its for one good reason; I don't particularly care about these people. The characters are never given enough chance to flesh themselves out, coming off with an alarming lack of depth. Theseus never questions "Why me?", we never really know why Hyperion is the evil bastard he is, and the attempts of humour by Theseus's newly befriended roguish thief fall flat because his personality is so one dimensional.

A small step...
  Regardless of the near transparency of his character, Cavill manages to pull off a decent performance, playing out emotions of anger, sorrow and determination confidently and fluently, especially in this selfless, leader-warrior role. His ability to perform well in action is an indication of his overall talent, proving himself worthy to be the next Son of Krypton as well as everyone's favourite Daily Planet reporter. Meanwhile Mickey Rourke gives us a frighteningly grim Hyperion, capable of the dirtiest of deeds thanks to his dedicated execution, and John Hurt drops by as the archetypical old man with his usual graceful ease.

If you just take Immortals as what it is - 110 minutes of action pumped, CGI prettiness - then you can't help but walk away from the cinema happy. Those hoping for a bit more depth and a journey into some deep mythology should look elsewhere, but at least stick around to check out Cavill's performance. 3D, once again, is a 'meh', but the look and feel of the thing is a rare breed entirely and one that can be admired for many a year.

It may not be winning awards any time soon, but at least it's not Clash of The Titans:
3/5 Stars

  Either way, I think Supes is in safe hands...



Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Trailer Tuesday: The Hunger Games

After that short teaser earlier this year, The Hunger Games has now launched an official trailer (like, 2 minutes long!) jam packed with everything... except the games, that is. Nope, this trailer is all about the pre-games build up - so the Reaping, the Make-Overs and the Training. Of course, for those unaware of the books, this means nothing to you, so feel free to read this before proceeding to the breakdown, while the in-the-knows should just ride on through:

"Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. Part twisted entertainment, part government intimidation tactic, the Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.
Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love." - Wikipedia

And the main event, the trailer itself:

Friday, 11 November 2011

RE:View: The Big Bang Theory: Season 4

Even before coming into its fourth season, The Big Bang Theory had really hit its stride, pulling in massive ratings and marvellous reviews consistently each week. However, this obviously wasn't enough for series creator and sitcom tycoon Chuck Lorre, as Season 4 changes up the formula with an altered equation and varied results.

Should I be here?
   This change comes in the shape of Amy Farrah Fowler, the female counterpart to Sheldon's braniacal quirk of a character. At first, the flow felt broken, like she didn't really fit properly within the gang and broke up the dynamic that the guys had going on. Her lines fell flat, sounding like remade mismatches of Sheldon quotes with a boring execution, as is the fatal trap that Jim Parsons manages to never slip in to (his multiple Emmy's acting as a testament to that).
Yes I should!

My preconceptions, however, were misjudged, with Amy's character slowly beginning to grow on me episode by episode, as she broke more and more away from the "Sheldon with a Vagina" mould, carrying some more substantial plot lines on her own and mixing with the girls' crowd (Penny and Bernadette). And it is with this "Girls Crowd" that the second major change for the series comes in. As before the show has focused primarily on the boys and their misadventures in geeksville, this season we see the spotlight being shifted slightly to share the laughs with the female side of things.

Penny's Leonard issues are pondered upon, acting as the slow burner of the season arch, Bernadette deals with trying to get serious with Mummy's Boy Howard, while Raj's sister Priya turns up in the latter half of the season to mix things up with Leonard's love life. Luckily, Priya's character is meant to be disliked, at least that's the way I felt, as her stuck up approach to controlling our boy Leonard sends Penny and the newly formed Gals into a tension fuelled hate party against her - with some hilarious outcomes.
The Raj vs Howard battle surely is a season highlight

Of course, the four guys, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj, are still the central theme of the show, and still go all out in the comedy field. The gang's Justice League team-up is unmissable, with a little help from Penny-Ex Zach (who really deserves more eps!), and their quest to retrieve Sheldon's stolen World of Warcraft account from a sleezeball hacker reminds us all of what the show is really about; honest, nerdy, laugh-filled fun. Plus, the Indiana Jones homage featuring Sheldon, Wil Wheaton and a heck load of angry fan boys is just pure hilarity-ensued awesome.

Raj on the Rise
Raj is fleshed out substantially this time around, and is quickly becoming possibly my favourite character, as he tackles his girl issues with surprisingly unexpected results (especially with that series finale!). He just seems more unique from the other guys, with a USP of romance novel/movie addiction and a tendency to call out hilariously geek-cum-"home boy" phrases during card games. His character has really developed into a cute, rootable underdog of the guys, that's just crying out for some more Raj-centric episodes.

Overall, the series starts to feel more cohesive and connected, with relationships playing a more vital role than ever before, and episodes linking into each other with a more structured season story arch. For the majority of the time, the show retains its smart and sassy humour that keeps the wit intelligible and the laughs worthwhile, such as it has been loved for thus far. For any misstep in this regard, my faith is restored by a magnitude of Sheldon quotes or Howard puns, Penny put-downs or ingeniously planted pop-cult references (everyone's favourite Gorn makes an appearance).

It may have changed, but it's still going strong.

4/5 Stars.



P.S. This:

Monday, 7 November 2011

RE:Commend: OneRepublic

OneRepublic is a band you most likely would have heard, even if not consciously aware of it, as their debut single 'Apologize' in 2006 broke radio history with 10,331 airplays in 1 single week. The 5 Man, Colorado based, Pop-Rock group have been on the rise ever since, having released two stellar albums, Dreaming Out Loud (featuring "Stop and Stare") and Waking Up (featuring "Secrets"), as well as touring and supporting acts like U2 and Maroon 5 all around the world.

   I recently reminded myself of them because of some school work and I find that their stuff is really easy to listen to, regardless of what you're doing. What's also cool is that they use some unconventional, classical instruments in their music too, like cello, violin, organ and even glockenspiel. Whether it's the tuneful melody of "Good Life" or "Everybody Loves Me", or the emotionally driven and choir-like powerhouse of choruses seen in "Stop and Stare", "All This Time" or "Mercy", everything is relevant; nothing is uninspiring.  Just some good, honest, universal music for anyone. Enjoy!

Have a listen for yourself, and check out more of their songs on free-to-listen site, Grooveshark.
Alternatively, you can purchase tracks and albums via iTunes.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Remembering Smallville

After a decade of bringing us the young Superman's adventures on the small screen, Smallville has finally drawn to a close, ending the 10 season run of DC's most iconic hero. While admittedly the quality sagged post-7th season, you can't deny the influence it has had in bringing The Man of Tomorrow into people's homes and hearts, regardless of their comic-book knowledge. I for one am eternally grateful for the show that brought me into the appreciation I hold for Clark Kent/Kal-El as a character, and always will do for the rest of my life. So, to commemorate the end, I thought I'd just muse over a handful of stand out episodes that really brought forth the best.

Care to join me?