Movies

Jurassic Park

Back in June I turned 35, one of the gifts I was given was a posters featuring 100 must see movies and each movie features a scratch off panel with some artwork behind. It’s not proclaiming to be a list of the 100 best movies of all time but its a pretty good list, although it cheats on two occasions: the Star Wars Trilogy (the Original Trilogy) is listed as one movie as is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are some films on there that I’d switch for others (an example that immediately springs to mind is Spirited Away, I love that movie but of Miyazaki’s movies it comes third to Princess Mononoke and My Neighbour Totoro). Now, I’ve already seen over 60 of the movies listed before already but my better half has decreed I cant scratch those off until I’ve rewatched each of them, and so with me seeing The Matrix at the cinema a couple of weeks back, I got to scratch off one panel, we’ve since re-watched Jurassic Park.

First things first, my eldest daughter and my other half/her Mother, both love the Jurassic Park movies, even Jurassic Park 3 and Jurassic World: Fall Kingdom, but to me the series has blown cold with each instalment, aside from that very first one.

From the off it still stands tall as an excellent bit of film making, the characters all feel grounded and, if not relatable, at least realistic and the decisions they make throughout aren’t outside of the realms of possibility.  The core three, Dr Ian Malcolm, Dr Ellie Sattler and Dr Alan Grant all shine throughout and even the kids have some really excellent moments and don’t ever get as annoying as kids in films often do, they’re squabbling feels like that of a brother and sister whilst it also feels like there’s genuine familial love between the two.

It’s funny, you can a film, dozens and dozens of times but sometimes you still spot things you don’t remember before, a case in point during this rewatch of Jurassic Park was during the sequence where Malcolm, Grant and Sattler are in the electric Explorer together prior to the energy going on out and Malcolm is teaching (and flirting with) Ellie about Chaos Theory, then Grant jumps out of the car and Malcolm says that Grants actions prove Chaos Theory as no one could have predicted he’d do that (or words to that effect). Sattler follows and Malcolm is left alone in the car and continues his speech about Chaos Theory, even showing how he himself has a part to play in it, but its that particular moment that had completely passed me by and shows alot of who Ian Malcolm is as a person, he loves to talk and loves to theorise and if somebody happens to be listening or remotely paying him attention, then thats just the icing on the cake.

This leads us into the films big centre piece, its most famous scene (well, apart from the bit following that with Jeff Goldblum’s shirt open), the Tyrannosaurus Rex attack. It’s utterly amazing that it still stands the test of time, the film is twenty six years old and yet that T-Rex looks and feels more real to the viewer than any of the offerings they’ve used since, even the latest two movies the T-Rex looked and felt CG, and while I know they blended the two with 1993’s Jurassic Park, doing so enabled the cast to really play out and act as terrified as they appear to be during that particular moment of the film.

It also feels like its of a time when family films were allowed to have genuine peril in, now big blockbusters that everyone watches, the heroes always get through and the danger never feels genuine (I’ll say now I’ve not seen End Game so I’m not going all in on defending that comment, as Infinity War was definetly a “Part One” movie). the moment when Timmy, Alan and Lex are climbing the electric fence, not knowing that Ellie and Robert Muldoon have worked their way through the jungle to get to the generators and bring power back to the park after Dennis Nedry had shut it all down, there’s an incredible amount tension for both groups, on the one hand you want Alan and the kids to get over the fence safely, but on the other the power needs to come back on, with Ellie and Robert having the major issue of the Velociraptors being loose, it ends up being a close call for Sattler but we/the park loses its Games Keeper.

The Raptors are an almost every present threat, from their introduction during the films opening moments when one of the workers is dragged into their pen, through to the scene in the kitchen with Lex and Timmy trying to sneak their way around and avoid them, a scene that has been aped elsewhere, such as in the last season of Game of Thrones. Even at the end of the movie, their the bigger threat to the group prior to them managing to escape the island, and its only through the actions of the T-Rex picking a fight with the raptors that they are all able to escape from the visitors centre.

It was always going to be difficult for any follow up films to be as good as Jurassic Park was, we’ve seen this problem before in other franchises, and unlike, say Alien/Aliens and The Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgement Day, taking a completely left field approach would have been a very difficult sell. I don’t mind The Lost World, but its not a patch on Jurassic Park, and the final third of Jurassic Park 3 had the most potential out of the entirety of that film, but as with the westernised versions of Godzilla, it would have been a little more problematic to make into a full film, especially when the western Godzilla movies (not including 2018’s King of Monsters, which I’ve also not seen yet) pretty much miss the entire message that Kaiju movies have tried to carry in their home land (though the first Pacific Rim did manage to hit those notes to some degree).

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Movies, Uncategorized

The Matrix, a 20th anniversary viewing

People who follow me on Instagram will know that on Monday 29th July I went to a late night showing of The Matrix to mark 20 years since its original release, now that was actually 6 weeks later than its actual anniversary, as it was released on 11 June 1999. I didnt see it until it came out on VHS and my Step-Uncle brought it round and showed us the first scene with Trinity, now he and my Step-Dad were gawping over Carrie Ann Moss in that outfit, I on the other hand, was transfixed by what Lana and Lilly Wachowski were doing with their cinema work.

I’ve watched it many times since, I even spent one summer shortly after the sequels were released diving down a rabbit hole of plot theory, figuring out what each and every scene was going on about, and maybe giving the Wachowski’s writing more credit than it possibly deserved. There’s no doubt they had high idea’s for their story but ultimately its hard to see exactly what they were trying to say. Besides, alot of that has now been consigned to long lost memories and I’d struggle to go further into its lore without spending many more hours digging through the internet, Neo style, trying to find answers.

So, we go back to the original movie, I’ve seen it on VHS, I’d seen it on DVD, I’d never seen it at the cinema before so was very excited to do so.

There were a few problems with the showing though. Vue’s website says it was 4k and whilst I’ve never seen anything in 4k before (that I’m aware of anyway. I don’t have the home set up for it and the last film I saw at the cinema was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at Milton Keynes, which I’ve no idea whether it was a 4k showing or not), there were times I was seriously unimpressed with the picture. The stand-out moment was during the scene where Smith and his cronies have Thomas Anderson in the interrogation room, when Smith mutters the line “what is the point of a phone call if you are unable to speak?” (or words to that effect) the picture of Keanu Reeves, his mouth sealed up, struggling to fight off the Agents, was really quite blurry. Likewise the scene with Trinity I mentioned early didn’t look as sharp and clean as it was in my mind.

These moments didnt detract from the overall experience though, the shift from Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” into Neo’s alarm is still a really cool scene switch that still leaves the viewer questioning whether Neo was dreaming about his meeting with Trinity, the visit to The Oracle is still as mind-bending and funny as it always was “Don’t worry about the Vase” etc, and everything from Cypher’s betrayal to Neo’s resurrection (and his position as a Christ-like figure within the world created by the Wachowski’s) is still seriously fucking awesome.

Obviously the technology on show has dated, the phones and computers we use now compared to what we see within the Matrix (both the machines program and the film itself) are ridiculously more advanced, whilst the technology used to create its visual impact has also aged and been used to death. The costumes have, again, been used to death to make someone stand out as being “cool”, which wasn’t the intention of the costume designer, instead her intention was to create a clear difference between ones appearance in The Matrix and in the real world.

And that aesthetic, and the films theme, still stands true today, maybe even more so as the internet has become a place that one can very easily create an entirely new persona for themselves, only showing the rest of the world, through their social media platforms, what they want the world to see. We live in a world of “influencers” and more than even in the 80’s what you wear and how you portray yourself is the be all and end all. One mis-judged social media post, be it something something untoward on Twitter, or wearing something on a new picture of Instagram that upsets enough people, and that image falls to pieces.

Okay, thats not the central theme of The Matrix, which is about humans becoming an energy source for the very things they created, but there’s not a huge difference.

So, 20 years after the Wachowski’s amazed the world with their visionary masterpiece, does The Matrix still stand up today? You better fucking believe it does.

Books

What “Solo” could have been

I quite liked last years “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. I genuinely thought it was a fun little story, however, and you’ll notice this is a bug bear of mine, I feel it bogs itself down in fan service too much. Do we need to know how he got his gun or see him winning the Falcon from Lando? And the Kessel Run being included was always going to be on the cards. I know it sounds like I’m complaining, again, about Star Wars and that I’m not a fan. I assure you I am, but I’ve just read Marvel’s “Han Solo” by Marjorie Liu and Mark Brooks and genuinely think it could have made for a great standalone movie for the character.

We’re re-introduced to Han and Chewbacca after the events of Star Wars, Han is trying to pay off Jabba but turning down job after job (much to Chewie’s concern) because “they dont feel right). He’s ultimately coaxed into a job for the Rebellion, mostly as he doesn’t want someone else to use the Falcon, which involves retrieving some informants, using an inter-planetary race as a disguise. Its the perfect setup for an excellent adventure featuring Han and Chewbacca, and whilst Leia appears at points throughout (plus gives Han the job anyway), it doesn’t feel the need to name drop characters from the movies at all (Luke gets mentioned once, Jedi aren’t mentioned at all).

So, instead of having a story that feels the need to nudge and wink at its audience on a regular basis, as we got with Solo, what we have is a race across space in the Falcon, with occassional planetary visits that help move the mission along. Han meets some characters from his and Chewie’s own past along the way, and like with our introduction to Lando in Empire, we’re given just enough information to understand the relationships between these characters. The Empire play a large part in proceedings, indeed, they pursue Han (and the other members of the race he is taking part in) throughout the journey and its only down to Hans wile and (typically) alot of luck (all part of the plan!) that Han achieves his mission unscathed with the closing panels giving us a nice pathway into Han and Leia’s relationship, plus Han’s further involvement in the Rebellion, at the beginning of Empire.

So, as good as the comic book is, and as fun as Solo: A Star Wars Story is, I think the two would have better served the franchise as a whole of their creation was switched. A chase movie featuring Han questioning his own morals and beliefs, new characters that don’t shrink the Universe plus some familiar sights (Stormtroopers, Twi’leks, a Dug) that all help tie its involvement into the Star Wars Universe beyond it being a story featuring Han Solo, plus the growth of the Rebellion and how hard its key leaders have had to work in secret, for me, would have made an incredibly compelling movie. Instead, I urge you to pick up Han Solo from your local comic store, it contains a second story but that one spends alot of time with Luke and Leia too.

Movies

The Fans Awanken

 

By the time this is posted to Bar Harukiya it will have been over two weeks since the teaser trailer for the ninth main installment of the Star Wars franchise (titled The Rise of Skywalker) has been released. Here’s the trailer:

Here are my tweets immediately following seeing it:

 

Now you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m not excited, but I genuinely am. But I’m also disappointed. Why? Because it feels like the Fans who cried “Not my Star Wars”, the “Fans” who forced Kelly Marie Tran off her social media accounts, the Fans who originally forced George Lucas to sell the rights to Disney who then did a heel-turn and declared that he was the only one who could “save” Star Wars (despite Lucas only directing two good films in his career (that’ll be American Graffiti and Star Wars), those “Fans” have won. Disney have given in to a vocal group of people who decided that they knew better, that they should control the franchise as a whole and went on a campaign to destroy anything and everything related to The Last Jedi, those people were more important than actually telling a good story.

I love Star Wars, despite my above comments I actually do like the Prequels, despite all their faults, the biggest of which being Lucas himself, if he had written them and had someone else direct, as he did Empire and RotJ, I think we could have had 3 really good movies. But thats the past, this is now. I loved The Force Awakens, I adored its nostalgia trip and its high tempo, but I loved The Last Jedi too, I found its chase through space fascinating, that the Resistance being on its last legs, trying to escape and survive was an excellent arc to tell. It didn’t get everything right, but it never was going to and I felt despite all of the “Mystery Boxes” JJ opened up in The Force Awakens, Rhian Johnson did a commendable job of continuing the story. I liked that it continued right after the events of TFA, where we were left with hope, and that that hope was quashed as the might of the First Order showed that despite their grand plan Starkiller base being destroyed, they were a force to be reckoned with. It was a very good, in my opinion, middle to a three part story.

So I find it disappointing that, from the evidence shown so far, The Rise of Skywalker is more focused on remembering the past in the shape of Lando returning to the Falcon once again, that Rei now performs Darth Maul-esque acrobatics and that its confirmed that Palpatine will return in some form thanks to him laughing over the title of the film and Ian McDermind being in attendance at the reveal of the trailer.

Before I close though, I’ll repeat, despite my disappointment at the trailer and what I feel it represents, I’m still excited, because its Star Wars, and I love Star Wars.

Books, Movies

The Killing Joke

This week we were given a glimpse of what is in store for us in the new Joaquin Phoenix led “Joker”, an origin of the titular Batman villain. The film is set in 1981 and shows us failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck who through a variety of events becomes the Joker. Here’s the trailer in case you haven’t seen it already

 

And so it was, after watching the above, I decided to re-read The Killing Joke, the Alan Moore penned comic that gave us a glimpse of an origin story, among other things, for Batman’s most infamous villain.

Despite it being a slim book Moore gives us two tales, the meat of the book is taken up by the Joker trying to drive Commissioner Gordon insane by paralyzing his daughter Barbara Gordon and subjecting him to photographs of her naked body as a part of some horrific Ghost Train ride. It doesn’t really work as intended and leads Gordon to command Batman to “bring him in by the book” to “show him our way works”.

The other part of the book, is as mentioned, an origin story. the reader is introduced to unnamed former employee of a chemical plant who has decided to try his hand on the comedy circuit and is finding he’s not as funny as he or his pregnant wife, Jeannie, think. He is coaxed into helping two criminals attempt to rob his former employers, but on the night of the break in his wife is killed in an unfortunate accident. Still, his new employers demand he goes through with the job and disguise him as the Red Hood (a known criminal), but it all goes wrong, he falls into a vat of chemicals after Batman tries to intervene and he becomes the Joker.

Or thats what the Joker wants us to believe, he wants to push an agenda that all it takes to become as crazy as others perceive him to be is “one bad day”, although he say himself: “Something like that happened to me, you know. I… I’m not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, somestimes another…” “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha Ha Ha!”. Thats the Joker right there, there never will be a true origin story for him. There will be no mugging, no radioactive spider, no failed experiment. Because the Joker will always tell the tale that best suits his agenda at any given time, Heath Ledger’s “Why so serious?” speech encapsulated why the Joker is so fascinating, Batman, Gordon, Gotham, the reader, the movie-goer, the videogamer, everyone wants to know where he came from, it would make us understand his motives, but the Joker doesn’t really want that.

So we come full circle to Warner Bros’ new Joker movie, its another tale. It’s being sold as a stand-alone character piece, much like The Killing Joke was a standalone graphic novel, but its yet another addition to the mystery that is the Joker.

 

Movies

Triple Frontier

I’ll admit now that until reading a little bit about this movie just after watching it that I had no idea just how long they’ve been trying to make it, however I was a little worried when I saw it crop up on Netflix as with a cast of Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal and Garnett Hedlund it felt odd that it hadn’t received a much bigger release, and whilst I know Netflix has become a viable platform for movies with top catergory actors in them, I was worried that this would be almost like 2011’s Age of Heroes (although the cast in this is far, far better than the cast in that!)

Triple Frontier’s plot is fairly simple, our five guys are former US Special Forces who are all, in their own way, struggling to come to terms with their retirement from active duty. Oscar Isaac’s Santiago Garcia persuades them to help him recce a potential target that he has been “hired” to take out in a South American border area with a big payout at the end. The group ultimately decide to do the whole job themselves to get the large sums of money the target has stashed away. So far, so very “Hooah”. Hey, the opening moments even features cheesey, radio friendly soft rock from the likes of Credence Clearwater Revival and Fleetwood Mac (now I like The Chain as much as the next Formula 1 addict, but lets not pretend that certain moments of it aren’t used in rather cliche situations and Triple Frontier doesn’t buck that particular trend).

However, the heist and assassination is all done and dusted really early on in the film and what we’re left with is the groups attempt to get back home. This all goes predictably wrong with the team stumbling from one mistake to another. There’s lots of shouting, a few gunfights and one (unintentionally) funny moment featuring a mule and a mountain.

Now, Triple Frontier isn’t a bad movie, its just not an excellent one, its less than the sum of its parts as with that cast you’d expect more, factor in (which like I’ve already mentioned I found out afterwards) its production history and the people that have been involved with it at one time or another, and its difficult not to come away feeling a bit let down by it. This, for me, is because it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It plays everything out seriously, with everything played straight. However, despite the situations that they find themselves in, you never feel like they’re struggling to get through, everything is dealt with in a composed almost muted manner. The initial raid on the targets complex sets this tone, but its the only time it really works, as they move from room to room in the fashion that they would have been trained to do. But later when shit hits the fan theres no panic. They’re too good at what they’re doing, which makes each and every situation utterly baffling.

With all of that though, Triple Frontier wasn’t a bad way to spend a couple of hours sat on the sofa, the cast all perform their roles well even if they were still “Poe” “Ben Affleck” “Pena from Narcos” etc, it just needed a little something extra, which considering how things pan out, I’d suggest a sense of humour.

Movies

I, Tonya

A few weeks ago I made this post and this page with the intention of crossing off a bunch of movies that are regarded as “must see’s”. I was aiming for one film a week, but thus far havent watched anything on that list. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching any movies, some I’ve seen before (in the case of my kids current favourites, Trolls, Frozen, My Little Pony: The Movie, many, many times) but I have been trying to watch stuff I’ve not seen before, so far thats been Only The Brave, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, I, Tonya and The Greatest Showman. I may make posts on each of those, but for now I’m wanting to discuss I, Tonya.

For a start, I’m not entirely sure I would have chosen to watch this, but my other half wanted to watch it (she likes watching the Figure Skating whenever the Winter Olympics takes place) so thats what we watched earlier today. Now its not really family friendly, it depicts scenes of domestic violence and a good chunk of swearing in it, but our younger two were mostly distracted playing other things and only really gave the film any attention when any skating was actually happening (at which point they pretended to skate around the lounge, throwing in a few of their own dance moves, which was really sweet). But even though I probably wouldnt have chosen to watch it, I normally really enjoy films with a framework involving some kind of sport, even if its not a sport I follow (which to be honest at this point is only really football and Formula One) and this was no different.

Once it was explained to me what the film was about (the American figure skater Tonya Harding and ultimately her involvement, or lack of, in the assault of fellow competitor Nancy Carrigan) I knew what I needed to going into it having watched ESPN’s excellent 30 for 30: The Price of Gold (and to any documentary or sports fans I’d really reccomend watching any or all of these, I binged watch a whole load on Netflix a few years back) so knew the majority of the people involved so was able to enjoy the performances. However I did find it challenging watching Margot Robbie play Tonya Harding, not so much later on (even though I was convinced I was watching Jaime Pressly in My Name Is Earl at times) because Hollywood has this really weird habit of having actresses play characters that are either much younger than themselves (Robbie takes over the reigns of Harding when shes in her mid-teens, Robbie is 27) or older than themselves, forcing unfair appearance expectations on women both young and old. Even so, Robbies performance was indeed excellent, particularly in clips where shes talking directly to the camera in a documentary like manner or in scenes where shes with her (poisonous and abusive) on-screen Mother, played by Allison Janney (who, like her co-star, has been nominated for an Oscar).

Wether or not you know the background to the film, I definetly reccomend giving a watch.

Movies

Movies to See

I initially set this blog up just for Monster Hunter and whilst the very first post was indeed saying I’d started the game I didn’t really post much about it, in the roughly 24 hours since I made that post I’ve already decided I’m going to branch it out into more of a general blog.

A few years ago I used to work for Blockbuster, right up until they hit their final administration in the UK and whilst my film knowledge was pretty good prior to that, mostly for a variety of reasons but mostly because I just love to watch movies, the catalogue of films I watched grew at a rapid rate and I prided myself on being able to discuss a variety of films both old and new with customers and giving them reccomendations, I even had a few customers who would come to me specifically after they enjoyed whatever I’d reccomended to them. There was a point where I tried to push near on every customer to give Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” a go, some loved it as much as I did/do, others were indifferent or it just didnt hit the right notes for them. My manager and I tried to increase our stores back catalogue of cheap older rentals by converting anything we felt should always be available to our customers from whatever stock customers would trade-in, much to the annoyance of our final Regional Manager who was more about pushing the big new releases whereas our previous Regional Manager saw the idea for what it was, additional (cheap) revenue that attracted more footfall to our store. Even so, and with having spent around 3 years in a dark little store sandwhiched between a Domino’s and a charity shop in a small town theres still a hell of alot of films regarded as classics that I havent seen and now I’ve decided to take it upon myself to watch at least one film a week. I’ve gone through IMDB’s Top 250 list and made a Page dedicated to films I havent yet seen, I’ll be perusing other lists over time and adding to it, so if theres a film not on the list, it doesnt mean I’ve already seen it (although I may have done so) it just means I’ve not added it to the list yet.