Happy Fun Super Hard Boiled Review Show…

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Hard Boiled is a Hong Kong action movie that to be honest, if I’d seen it in the shop, I probably would’ve passed over it. However, both my teacher (I tend to trust his tastes) and my friend recommended it to me, so when I saw the budget version I had to pick it up. It was only a pound, after all. Although I was aware of John Woo as a name in the directing world, and I was aware of the references to him and this movie in Hot Fuzz, somehow I missed watching the movie itself before this.

Wow. I was not prepared for it at all.

There is one shot that comes in early that tells you exactly what kind of movie this is. It’s also when you get an idea of how impossible some of this stuff must’ve been to think of, never mind shoot. The main shot that will have you screaming “WHAT.” at the screen is a shot of Chow Yun Fat (who, incidentally, has gotten a more oval head with age) sliding down a bannister while firing two guns at the same time in the first five minutes.

The movie is about a typical cowboy cop known as Tequila (I’m not sure why). His friend dies in a raid on a teahouse (where the aforementioned bannister-sliding takes place) so he decides to take his revenge on Johnny Wong, the crime boss. Who for some reason (apparently it was due to a subplot that got abandoned) has his base in a hospital, leading to the famous hospital shoot-out.

On the opposing side is an undercover cop named Tony (I think) who is obviously conflicted about what he does, and the fact that people who should be his colleagues want to kill him. There’s nice banter between the main characters as they get together, leading to a Buddy Love scenario (the friendship type, not the ‘Nutty Professor’ type).

The story doesn’t really matter that much though. You come for the standard story, and stay for the explosions and gunplay (or you come for the explosions and gunplay and stay for those elements; in that case I applaud you for knowing where your priorities lie), which at times looks like smoothly choreographed ballet – perhaps an inspiration for the “Gun Kata” of Equilibrium? The sequence leading up to the ending, where the place explodes, is nothing short of masterful.

Something that adds a hilarious layer to the film is the really obvious dub from Mandarin Chinese to English. Actors’ mouth’s flap long after they’re finished talking and I’m pretty sure the villain has a British accent at some point. My teacher told me not to watch the dubbed version (apparently there’s a subtitled version out there) but arguably the poor dubbing quality makes it better. It’s about as funny as my girlfriend’s copy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which for some reason couldn’t decide whether the characters were saying Peking or Beijing. (The subtitles said one thing while the characters said another.)

Much like Die Hard, this is definitely a guy movie; one to watch with your mates and occasionally riff on. This is a movie that makes aspirations at delivering life messages and being deep, but they knew exactly what the casual viewer wanted. And by God the filmmakers gave it to them with both barrels. This comes absolutely recommended; two guns up.

Why I Prefer Doing Film Or DVD Reviews…

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

The main reason that I prefer doing film and dvd reviews is a commitment of time involved. With a DVD or film, it’s fairly easy to watch and review quite quickly. It generally just requires a free day to watch the item in question then write a review about it. Whereas with books, you are asked to commit yourself to long periods of time to actually finish the thing (because I don’t want to be one of those reviewers who does the bare minimum in terms of research) and then have to write a review about it. Indeed, this is the main reason I used to not do them at all. There was a period of time when I had 2 book reviews on my blog and maybe 3 on Blogcritics. Then I started reviewing a lot more books, one of which I’ve just put into pending. I think I have about five coming my way at the moment, all in all. Doing reviews for publishers outside of the normal process is a good way to get in their good books so I oblige every so often and sometimes some genuinely good books come along (see my reviews of 33 Days, Riding The Alligator or Ultimate Regeneration).

I also vastly prefer the DVDs I get sent generally, as among other things that I’ve been able to review for Blogcritics, I’ve reviewed Doctor Who Series 5, The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air Season 6 and the rather excellent Buried.

The other reason that I don’t like doing book reviews as much is that the author is a lot more likely to read the feedback than a film-maker, because those are typically offered through representatives (one company, Noble PR, seem to exist solely to send me horror movies). However, self-published authors interact with me through email when they’re actually sending me the books. Obviously I don’t like hurting people’s feelings but I appreciate that sometimes it has to be done in the name of honesty. I think I’ll be the worst kind of reviewer when I stop caring about other people’s feelings. And I’ll be honest, quite a lot of the time I get sent crap, although that ratio is starting to even out as I get better at picking out the good ones.

(Incidentally, I almost never do music album reviews at all. I just appreciate the free promos.)

It Was His Sled…

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Just for my WordPress (and Facebook) readers to coincide (near enough) with its 70th anniversary, here is my exclusive review of Citizen Kane, a movie with one of the most famous spoiler endings in history. In fact, it’s so well known, it’s no longer a spoiler!

Commonly hailed as one of the best movies of all time, it’s not really surprising that the newcomer might be a bit intimidated. However, I think I am hardly alone in saying that this movie is not the best of all time (although reviews are subjective). Good, certainly, and very well made, but not the best of all time (in my mind, that honour belongs to The Man From Earth or Star Wars Episode IV). The film is hard to describe in one sentence, but if I had to, I’d say it’s “a film about a reporter trying to find out the secret of a newspaper mogul’s last word (“Rosebud”) through flashbacks”. Actually, I think I did admirably. An appreciation of classic film is needed, as it might not hold the attention of viewers used to explosions, gunfights and the comedy of Jack Black.

Interesting fact about Rosebud as a name. The film took inspiration from William Randolph Hearst (whose daughter held up a bank in an example of Stockholm Syndrome), whose nickname for his mistress’ clitoris was, you guessed it, Rosebud.

There are good performances all round, and I have to say that my personal highlight was seeing Old Jed in the nursing home, when he keeps asking for cigars on the sly. Not forgetting the performance of Welles himself, of course. (Incidentally, I’ve heard a radio talk that he was in with H.G. Wells in 1942 or so. One was a potential Darth Vader, and the other sounded very much like Droopy from the Tex Avery cartoons.)

However, where this film excels is the use of filmic techniques. The first shot of the film is a fade into the house of Xanadu, with the light from one of the same windows always in the same place in the frame, no matter the angle, which is an impressive achievement. He also mimicked one of the old-style newsreels and made it look authentic. What films don’t do enough of nowadays is the one-shot, a continuous shot throughout the scene. Cuts are preferred instead and are easier to do as you can cut between them in the edit suite.

This movie is best appreciated as a study on cinematic techniques, what came afterwards and how people improved on the ideas developed here. It also helps that it is an interesting story and that Orson Welles has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. Seriously, the man could have been paid to read the phone book. It’s not like he was shy about taking voice-over work in his later years. If you’re ever on a film studies course, this film is a must. As it’s a classic, it shouldn’t be too hard to find (I believe it’s on iPlayer for the next day or so). Comes recommended from your friendly neighbourhood reviewer.

Upon The Oddities Of Action Figures…

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Now, as my friends know, I am a bit of a nerd about books and action figures (a name given to them to avoid the connotations of the word ‘doll’ on a toy marketed at young boys), but even I would draw the line at this. For those of you who don’t want to click the link unless you know what it is (I generally have the same attitude), this is a figure of Dr Constantine (sold by Forbidden Planet), a character from Series 1 of the new Doctor Who, who gets briefly claimed by the alien menace of the week.

Call me weird, but I cannot for the life of me work out what child would see him meet his fate and then rush to the store to buy his likeness in 6″ form. I can understand buying action figures of the Doctor (I have some on my shelf, along with a disused money box TARDIS), or the Daleks and the companions at a stretch, but what child would go out and buy an action figure based on a (at the time) 69-year-old actor with an extremely posh diction and manner of speaking, who then gets zombified?!

To my mind, one of the main points of action figures (apart from being collectible, which only works if they’re long out of production and sought-after) is that children can play with them. What kind of boring child (other than possibly me) would bring out Dr Constantine for the conversation with the Doctor, rather than the Daleks and the Cybermen? Reminds me of the Prune Face sketch from Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III, which ends with titles saying “PRUNE FACE GOT AN ACTION FIGURE ANYWAY!”

Then again, maybe I’m coming at this from the wrong angle. According to one Robert Litton, the only one to review it, “This [is] a great character and the likeness is amazing. Also has a head with gas mask. Great addition to my 9th Dr. figures.” Guess we know who’s buying them then. Some guy in his basement with an internet connection, since I doubt a 9-year-old wrote that review.

Syndication…

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

As some of you may be aware, I was celebrating the fact that my first piece was syndicated on the Blogcritics section of the online newspaper the Seattle Post Intelligencer. However, a google search of my writer name, combined with ‘seattle post intelligencer’ revealed that quite a few more articles have been syndicated there. About ten more, in fact, dating back to August 2010. So here they all are.

My review of Ultimate Regeneration, a review to which the author himself replied on this very blog.

This is a review of a collection of three short stories from one of the founding fathers of time travel fiction, H.G. Wells.

This is my review of Curt Stager’s Deep Future, a work which is accurate but quite boring to read.

The Emperor’s Tomb, a book by a man who looks so American it hurts.

A pretty damn good book, considering it’s self published.

Pretty damn good book as well, but can get a bit up its own arse at times.

Feisengrad is a pretty interesting book, in a funnier style than 1984.

BUY ROBERT RANKIN’S BOOKS.

I examine Twilight. And am okay with it, on some levels.

TAP TAP TAP TAP.

This one drew quite a lot of criticism, but that was more at the feature rather than my piece. I hope.

One of my first attempts at describing music.

Hardly A Level Complaint To Aim At The Game…

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

So I despise the last level of Mario Galaxy 2, Grandmaster Galaxy. Filled with enemies, electric barriers and long drops, it has gained a reputation as one of the most difficult levels of the game, and for good reason. But say you pass it. Say you dodge, duck, dip, dive and…dodge your way through the obstacle course to defeat the last three enemies you need to get the star. You’ve done it, right? You’ve mastered Galaxy 2!

Alas, t’was not to be. The very last star (the 242nd!) needs you to do the same thing, except this time without getting hit! You get hit once and you have to start again at the very beginning of the level. This is especially annoying as there are six sections to the level, and four of them are quite easy to get past (dying on the first or second section is like, to borrow a simile from Retsupurae, you showing up to compete in the Special Olympics and them saying “no, you have to leave”). The fourth section is the most annoying, as at least with the last one you felt that you got somewhere, but the fact is that most of the time you won’t ever see it.

There are some handy shortcuts that you can use to get by (I also recommend popping by the casino first) but overall the star itself is very frustrating. I suspect I should stop playing it, lest this become my white whale, but you know the old story. Just one more star…

Almost 100 Reviews done so far…

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

I love the fact that I do reviews of stuff, because while I have a relatively good memory when it comes to stuff I’ve watched or read (I can remember most of the comedy stuff I’ve seen, down to sequences and gags – Simpsons is a big one for me here), sometimes I will inevitably forget stuff I’ve seen. Case in point, I found out about the existence of the movie Closer, then found out I’d already seen it. It has Natalie Portman as a stripper, you’d think I’d remember it.

The reason I bring this up is that I’ve recently bought And Another Thing for £3 and realised that while I’d read it before, I’d forgotten most of what happened in it, as well as what I thought of it. So I decided to read what I thought in my old review of it. This is why I’m also glad I’ve put my blog into categories.

I thought it was good, by the way.

Hooray for Criticism!

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The thing I love about getting review copies of stuff is not that it’s free entertainment (although that helps too) that I write about (which admittedly I love doing), it’s that it makes me feel like a legitimate critic, not just some guy who has a blog and reviews stuff on it.

That’s why I’m immensely happy that I made the move to Blogcritics, where I get stuff. They also crack down on parentheses within an article (sometimes).

For the most part, unless I’ve gone after something because I know I’ll like it (see Doctor Who), the stuff that I get doesn’t really impress me that much (such as a book about Coldplay and one about AC/DC, as well as crappy horror films and stuff). There have been the occasional diamonds in the rough, but to be honest, most of what I get for free, I probably won’t recommend to others (or if I do, there will be some caveats to it).

I’ll see if I can get some sort of theme change so my blog is easier to navigate, etc.

It has allowed me to improve my writing skills and put my reviews of stuff somewhere else, so that it doesn’t clog up my blog. Before I came across Blogcritics, I was getting peeved at myself only posting reviews up there. They were fun to write and all, it’s just that people should read my blog for my opinions about other subject matters. Leave the serious stuff for the serious site.

Back To The Recap…

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

This recap wasn’t suitable for Blogcritics.org (where I write, plug plug) as a recap, so I reworked it into a movie review. If you want to read that also, then it’s here. I may also have linked to it in a previous post. Most of this article is created from memory so it won’t be as good as before. Having said that, enjoy!

Back To The Future was re-released at cinemas for a brief period at the beginning of October, so I got my ass down there at 88 MPH to see it on the big screen (a new experience for me). Even though I’ve seen it more times than I can remember at home, it definitely gained something on the big screen, at least for a newbie.

Many of the better moments were enhanced on the big screen with surround sound, and the sound of the Delorean itself was one of the most wonderful sounds of the movie. And of course, the blatant product placement for Pepsi works well when you’re already drinking some. If they re-release number 2, they should do special Pepsi bottles at the cinema to tie in with it.

However, the absolute best thing about seeing it in glorious cinema-sized action is that you get to see the love that Back To The Future has gained in our culture. I can’t say that it was a packed screen when we went, but at the end of the film the two guys in front stood up and applauded the film. And everybody joined in. If you can do this in any way, I urge you to go and see this movie on the big screen, where it truly excels.

Happy New Year all!

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Okay, this is the first time I’ve updated this thing in about two-three months. Since last we spoke, I’ve published several articles with Blogcritics.org, which I’m not going to bother to reproduce here. Instead, here’s a link to my author page, which you can archive binge to your heart’s content!

Since last I blogged, I’ve passed my one year Blogiversary and had a temporary seasonal job at Legoland, which was pretty interesting. I learned a bit about retail and other such shortcuts. Feeling like a worker was one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had, although I had a pretty bad last day. Meh, all shall hopefully be repeated soon, depends if I want to resume working for them.

Oh, got a couple of milestones to write about today. 1) I am now 20! Woot! Etc! 2) This is my 100th Blog Post here, which is something to celebrate. I would celebrate my 20th, but I don’t feel very much different. Birthdays are overrated (except the actual celebration part). And also, as the title says, Happy New Year! It should be an interesting year, and if the Mayans were right (which they’re not and anyway it’s a misconception) we’re one year closer to the world ending. Hooray…

Anyway, I’ve missed you all (my cabal of loyal readers, and hopefully this will mark my return to regular blogging. My next planned blog is a recap of my experience re-watching Back To The Future. See you all soon!