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May 16, 2010

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood: Wasted Opportunity

Writing about web page http://www.robinhoodthemovie.com

Movie image
Title:
Robin Hood (2010)
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars
 


I'm a fan of Ridley Scott. He's both a great and a terrible director, as much in terms of his choices of what to direct as how to direct. He's got one of the most varied careers I've seen ranging from great and interesting sci-fi (Alien) to exciting action (Gladiator) to absolutely atrocious (G I Jane). He's also a clever director. Over the last few years he's tackled some important issues, events and mythologies. To his credit, he tries to expand beyond the usual Hollywood tripe-history and cram cultural, religious and social context into a mytho-historical framework. He never really succeeds in entirety but at least he tries. And even where his films aren't great, they're usually enjoyable. Black Hawk Down was not a great movie. It was clumsy, overtly pro-American and almost racist in its disregard of the killing of hundreds (or thousands) of Somalis, while focusing on the poignant deaths of the American few. But it was a good waste of time. Kingdom of Heaven improved the formula with some great performances (and some muddled and terrible, thank you Orlando Bloom) and an attempt to at least analyse beyond the usual black and white simple expositions.

Something prevalent throughout his career is the feeling that he's made his films under an immense production burden and that he often takes compromises. cf Kindom of Heaven with Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (or Blade Runner et al). It really is no different here. Robin Hood belongs to nearly everyone's repertoire of favourite myths and fairy tales. It revolves around the perfect and very nearly plausible protagonist of Robin Hood; an aristocrat who is utterly selfless, who loses his wealth and is reduced to a life of subsistence. It's not the perfect story of class-warfare but it is a wonderful dream. And it's been realised as some equally-wonderful movies. Who can forget Errol Flynn's performance in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Disney's even made a version with some lovable characters.

 

So Ridley Scott's made a version. And he tries ever so hard. And the result sees him stumbling over the elements as he pieces them together. The result is a horrible mish-mash. Russell Crowe is completely miscast and his attempts at effecting an English accent are annoyingly distracting. The first few minutes we hear him he's leaping from a Yorkshire accent to something of a bit more Geordie flavour. A BBC Radio 4 presenter suggested it might have sounded somewhat Irish, prompting a humourless walkout by Crowe (see video/embed) Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion is something we could have almost done without. OK, we get it. You like strong female leads. We like strong female leads. Weaver is wonderful in Alien and though G I Jane is an awful movie, we appreciate the sentiment. But Marion in this film almost destroys the historical cohesion. One minute she's ploughing a field with the peasants, the next she's saving their lives with her drawn sword and then she's riding into battle with a group of children. Is he saying something about the Children's Crusade? Is he nodding to Blanchett's ElizabethI don't know. It's just unlikely, distracting and needlessly lengthening what is already a lengthy story. It also continually attacks any hint of plausibility. 

Even the comic relief is somewhat off. Robin Hood's merry men (in this case  Scarlett, Little John and A'Dayle) hail from Wales, Scotland and Ireland! A United Kingdom? Of course not. Any Welshman out there care to tell me when the Welsh felt happy serving in an English army? Not sure it would have been in the 13th Century. Friar Tuck is out on the sidelines desperate for a little bit of filmtime but relegated to some minor light-hearted bee stings.

Don't get me started on the script. 'Every Englishman's home is his castle'. Really Ridley? Really? Punning on the word 'night'? A million History and English Literature students everywhere  facepalm in unison.

What about the context of the film? Like everything else it's a muddle. Saxon 'Robin Longstride' takes the role of Saxon-sympathising Robin of Loxley when he's killed returning King Richard the Beerheart's crown from France. Deep breath. He then falls in love with Maid Marion who swoons over him while 'Sir Godfrey' is busy rampaging throughout the country to turn the northern barons against the newly-crowned and duplicitous King John in preparation for a French invasion spearheaded at Dover. It's up to Robin to foment English patriotism to rally the people around not so much the King as the country in order to ensure that King John signs the Magna Carta which is more-or-less framed as being the equivalent of the constituion of the United States. It really wasn't, Ridley. I presume this is something thrown in to make sure Americans pay attention for the last half of the movie, but I could be wrong.

So why is it a wasted opportunity? Because it ticks a hell of a lot of boxes. Great cast? Check. Huge budget?  Check. Amazing locations? Check. Great plot/screenplay? Ooh er.

PS - major piece of transition missing just before the end of the film. See if you can spot it! 


I really wanted to like this film. I convinced my friends to come watch it with me, stupidly picking it over the acclaimed Four Lions as our weekend cinematic foray. I came out more disappointed than the other two. I can only hope that if another is made, it's with a much, much better script.  


March 26, 2008

10,000 reasons not to watch this movie

Movie image
Title:
10,000 B.C.
Rating:
1 out of 5 stars

While listing those 10,000 reasons would probably be more interesting than watching this film, I've already wasted enough time watching this expensive tripe.

This is yet another miss from Emmerich responsible for some decent stupid films (Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow) and some terrible movies (Godzilla and The Patriot). This film is in its own terrible category. Which is a shame, because it did have potential.

Like many of you, I love alternate theories about the origins of man. I don't buy into them, but they are interesting. And this movie has tried to combine a whole group of them.

Ancient Egyptians might be aliens (visitors from the sky)? Check.

Ancient Egyptians perhaps descended from survivors of an advanced sunken city (ie Atlantis)? Check. 

Human civilisation began (a little) earlier than expected? Check.

The pyramids and the Sphinx built by this advanced race using the help of slaves and hundreds of wooly mammoths and led by some giant sheet-covered white man? Erm....

I don't know how they managed to do it. I have no idea what the budget was (the internet is curiously silent on the matter) but it was clearly large and it seems to have gone entirely in to the CG.

The plot is complete rubbish despite being framed on pretty much the same basic plot points as Apocalypto aside from certain hints to interesting roots (ie the above listed theories). In fact it often borders on the racist with a white European 'chosen one' leading other black tribes to defeat the evil but advanced giant white man. 

The acting varies from atrocious to mediocre. The lead is uninspiring and clearly had trouble working with a desperately stupid accent. Everyone else looks embarrassed to be there (and so they should). A completely unnecessary 'wise woman' is both unnecessary and terrible.

If you want to go see some reasonable CG mammals, then you might be interested in watching snippets of this. Your best bet would be nipping off to the Natural History Museum for a few hours. If you desperately wanted to watch a bad film, then there are plenty that I can recommend that won't have you wanting to scratch your eyes out. Start with Big Trouble In Little China. 

Don't watch this film. 


February 12, 2008

Fun With Law II

Writing about web page http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/01/oakland-califor.html

Not a particularly funny case at its essence: Linux developer accused of murdering his wife. But the quirks come with the details.

 

The officer also testified the defendant flatulated in his face when the authorities were snapping nude photos of him Sept. 28, 2006. The officer said Reiser told him: "'You're about to experience chaos' and, for lack of a better term, he farted in my face."

"Did you make a report of that?" DuBois asked the officer.

"No. But it stays vividly in my head."

 

 


December 21, 2007

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

*It should be noted that this film is due for release in 2008. I was invited to a test screening and so so the film may yet be improved.

Simon Pegg is one of Britain's better film actors at the moment. Shaun of the Dead? Fantastic. Hot Fuzz? Brilliant. But these films also had decent, funny scripts and gave Pegg a lot to play around with. Along comes the big Nike advert that was Run, Fatboy, Run , and there was disappointment. OK, it was amusing. But it felt like originality and comedy were sacrificed on the altar of the American Movie Audience. I think How To Lose Friends And Alienate People (let's call it HTLF from now on shall we?) is yet another attempt to penetrate the American market. And, while funny, it is both flat and cliched.

Simon Pegg is average, Megan Fox is beautiful but rubbish, Jeff Bridges needs work  and, thankfully, Kirsten Dunst and Gillian Anderson are much better than expected.

The plot is basic: young(ish) hack working for the  English equivalent of the National Enquirer is noticed by a boss of the equivalent of Vogue Magazine and is offered a job. The crude and lewd Simon Young is about to enter the strict, corporate, dog-eat-dog world of the American Magazine. His lazy, misogynistic (and apparently stupid) character is paired up with his antithesis: Alison (Dunst) a clever woman writing a novel on the side while she makes her way in the business. 

Can Simon Young convince her that he's more than just a dirty idiot? Can his integrity survivive? Will he ever get it on with Bob the Transsexual?  

All the usual cliches are present. The only "originality" seems to be manifested in the heavy use of cocain and penises. Not a great film, but worth a watch if you're bored. I hope Pegg's next film is better. 


August 18, 2007

Rush Hour 3

Movie image
Title:
Rush Hour 3
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

2007 has been a great year for enjoyable movies and unexpected treats. Die Hard 4.0 was a lot better than expected as was The Simpsons Movie which proved to be far more than a desperate cash-in after years of bad scripting, lazy voice-acting and declining ratings. Michael Bay managed to avoid stumbling over his cliches with The Transformers and Spiderman 3 was a much better trilogy conclusion than X-Men 3. To top it all off, we can still look forward to The Bourne Ultimatum and Disturbia. Good times, good times.

But what of Rush Hour 3? Well the Rush Hour series was never brilliant but the first two movies were good comedy fun. They were the only decent English Jackie Chan films - Tuxedo anyone? How about Shanghai Noon? Bleh. - and, of course, they featured Chris Tucker. It's a great shame that he has decided not to do more movies, apparently preferring stand-up comedy to acting. Then again, from the plethora of outtakes we can see that he's not exactly one for getting lines spot-on first-time around. It must be painful repeating the same gag ad infinitum.

Is Rush Hour 3 as enjoyable as its two predecessors? No. It's not nearly as good a film as Rush Hour 2 nor is it as good as the first. The plot is terrible, as is the acting in parts. I can almost feel Jackie Chan's embarrassment at having to take at least some of the film seriously. There are quite a few tired gags squeezed for all they're worth and it's quite clear that much of the funnier stuff was toned down to get a money-making rating. Without Chris Tucker and a few well-scripted turns, it would just about make a passable straight-to-dvd release. If you can't spot the baddie in the first few minutes you'll have to reconsider whether a degree is the best thing for you.

Jackie Chan is clearly aging. You'll recognise all of the old chair-rolling, table-flipping kung fu comedy and feel that it's no longer as good as it once was and Jackie agrees. The schtick's certainly not as good as it was in his Hong Kong heydays. Chris Tucker's getting on a bit too. You can't call him fat, but he's definitely a lot rounder in the face. And, somehow, it makes him seem less funny.

If you're desperate to watch something in the cinema after all of the Summer's great films, then you might enjoy this if you were a fan of the other two. It's probably best to wait 'til it crops up on terrestrial TV and spend your money buying Rush Hour 2 on the internet instead.  

As much as I like Tucker & Chan, here's what they had to say in a promotional interview:


.Q: What made you finally decide to do "Rush Hour 3"?

CHRIS: The script had to really work, and I wanted it to be believable.

Q: Is it true you hate doing "Rush Hour" films?

JACKIE: Not hate.  I hate the American system.  I didn't understand how Americans do films or why they like films: dialogue five days, action one day.  But after the first one did so well, I decided to make "Rush Hour 2" for the money and "Rush Hour 3" was for the audience. 

And Another:

.Jackie Chan: I just do the basic, basic things with the things around me, table, chair, same thing actually. Nothing really special. I think the audience right now just sees, "Wow, Jackie still can do something, eh?" Not like the old days, "Wow, look at the amazing stunts. Amazing movements. So quick!" Now they say, "Wow, Jackie still can move." It’s a different thought.


April 20, 2007

Richard Gere's Kiss

Writing about web page http://www.postchronicle.com/news/entertainment/tittletattle/article_21275825.shtml

Some of you may have been keeping up with that whole Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty problem in India (from April 15th). I've been taking a look at some of the more right-wing webpages and they seem to be steering towards blaming Richard Gere. Fair enough, he went somewhat too far. But picture this sort of thing happening in Bahrain or Jordan or some Arabic/Muslim country. The American Right-Wing would be all over it, blaming Islam and Arabic culture for the response. Obsessing over misogyny and the like.

When it happens in India, it is, apparently, Richard Gere's fault for the uproar over an "immodest act". 


April 01, 2007

Bush and Blair, the hypocritical pair.

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6514567.stm

President George W Bush has condemned Iran's "inexcusable behaviour" after its capture of 15 Royal Navy personnel.

Mr Bush told reporters at Camp David: "The British hostages issue is a serious issue because the Iranians took these people out of Iraqi water.

"And it is inexcusable behaviour.

"And I support the prime minister when he made it clear there were no quid pro quos. The Iranians must give back the hostages."

(I have edited out irrelevent portions and all parts in bold are my emphasis)

I've been watching BBC news this morning and, without even a trace of amusement (or bemusement), the newsreaders skip from Bush announcing that Iran must free the "British Hostages" to a story of a British "Detainee" realeased from captivity in Guantanamo Bay after five years. This is all amid a deeply sickening fiasco where the US is explicitly refusing to extradite CIA Agents accused of kidnapping (part of the illegal "extraordinary rendition") EU nationals from Germany and Italy. The US is even threatening to withold intelligence from the nations if they persue the extradition requests. 

Disgusting. 


March 29, 2007

Who isn't proud of 'our boys'

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1agtAW3m54

I'm glad to see that our taxes are going into something useful.

*warning - video contains offensive language and an offensive situation NSFW*

It's thrilling to know that the troops are clever enough to film their escapades. Idiots. 


February 14, 2007

One reason not to get snipped…

Writing about web page http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=healthNews&storyID=2007-02-13T214650Z_01_N13184401_RTRUKOC_0_US-VASECTOMY-DEMENTIA.xml&WTmodLoc=NewsHome-C3-healthNews-3&rpc=92

Thinking of getting a vasectomy? Perhaps thinking of getting one when you're married? Well you might want to think again:

Reuters: Vasectomies lead to increased risk of Dementia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Men who have had a vasectomy may face an increased risk of developing a rare type of dementia marked by a steady loss of language skills, researchers said on Tuesday.

RWRResearchers at Northwestern University in Illinois, writing in the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, linked this male sterilization surgery to a neurological condition called primary progressive aphasia, or PPA.

....

It causes people's language capabilities to decline steadily, with symptoms such as faulty recollection of names of people and things, difficulties in speech, reading and writing, and poor comprehension.


February 05, 2007

Jokers

Writing about web page http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,250281,00.html

I can't tell if this is Fox playing a joke, or if the Iranians are actually doing it, but whatever the cause, it's one of those how-can-it-be-true kind of moments.

Report: Iran Set to Unveil Herbal AIDS Cure

ahamdinejad.jpgIran was set to make fantastic claims on the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, including finding an herbal cure for AIDS, an Israeli news agency reported Sunday.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was set to speak of his nation's "great achievements" on Feb. 11, Ynetnews.com reported Sunday, citing the Iranian news agency Fars as its source.

"The Iranian nation will celebrate stabilization and establishment of its nuclear rights during the Ten-Day Dawn [the anniversary of the revolution]," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

That's got to be Fox taking the piss.


January 30, 2007

He–Man, She–Ra and Sexual Harrasment

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0YPHeRrmIA

Saw this video linked on a forum and it made me chuckle a fair bit.

Remember at the end of those '70s/'80s toons, there'd generally be a moral message at the end that was somehow linked to the plot? So if, for example, Skeletor had stolen He-Man's sword, we'd have He-man warning against thievery at the end of the episode, or we'd have Captain Planet and his friends talk to use about the wonders of recycling...

Well I have no idea in what context this moral-of-the-story could have come up:

Crikey.

Do cartoons do this kind of thing anymore? What do kids watch these days? 


January 29, 2007

Can someone who sings this poorly ever be US President?

Writing about web page http://youtube.com/watch?v=bfZ_gXCHaMw

I came across this video on the Youtube front page a little while earlier today and I cringed when she eventually began singing. I can imagine this video popping up in ad campaigns (either Democrat Adversaries or anti-Clinton Republicans) lampooning Clinton. Crikey.

Obama seems to be overcoming the early (and disgusting) smear campaigns (oh he went to a radical madrassa, don't ya know?) with appropriate vim and gusto but Hilary just doesn't have any of his charm or his "I-paid-a-million-dollars-for-these-teeth-and-it-shows" winning smile. I'm not an American and I want to vote for Obama! 


January 27, 2007

101 Dumbest Moments in Business

Writing about web page http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/biz2/0701/gallery.101dumbest_2007/index.html

Some of the best include:

#17

A jury in Fresno, Calif., awards $1.7 million in damages to Janet Orlando, who quit her job with home security company Alarm One after team-building exercises during which she and her colleagues were forced to eat baby food, wear diapers, or submit to being spanked on the butt with a rival company's yard signs.

#22

In June, BusinessWeek publishes a cover with the headline "Bill Gates Gets Schooled" showing the Microsoft chairman in front of a blackboard.

The magazine itself gets schooled when observers point out that Seattle Weekly used the same line and a similar image a year earlier.

#27

In August, RadioShack fires 400 staffers via e-mail. Affected employees receive a message that reads, "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."

Very surreal: such a Dilbert moment.

#50

Mick Woods purchases a package of cooked ham made by British food processor H.R. Hargreaves & Son. After reviewing the complete list of ingredients, which includes "dog s**t," he loses his appetite.

Hargreaves fires the employee responsible for the prank and begins a recall of the mislabeled packages.

#67

Sony runs a billboard campaign in the Netherlands depicting a Caucasian model rudely gripping the jaw of a woman of African descent to promote its PlayStation Portable in "ceramic white."

Sony initially defends the campaign, saying it was meant to "highlight the whiteness of the new model," but later apologizes.

sonyracism

This is one of the more recent problem's Sony's encountered. We've had exploding batteries, racist ads and, perhaps most annoying of all, one of the Sony CEOs had the balls to say "We decide when the next generation [of gaming/tech] begins. Arrogance. 


Web 2.0: A chance for Tech Show presenters to bombard us with buzzwords

Just watching "CNN Connects: Our Networked World". It's basically a round table discussion on the "new" explosion of internet usage in the form of Youtube and the like. 

It's a relatively interesting discussion. There's a co-founder of Flickr, the founder of Facebook, the CEO of Orange etc. Clueless CNN Presenter

But, as usual, the presenter is absolutely clueless concerning the current world of the internet and just reeks of condescension and stupidity. In between lame jokes about Second Life and The Matrix and rampant hand-waving, she comes up with gems like this: 

"If Web 2.0 is more than just a marketing gimmick, then there will be a Web 3.0, won't there?"

Yuck.

HamidohI don't understand why the big broadcasting networks don't hire people who are genuinely into the field. It's like they called up the weather team and asked them to pick a weather girl at random to present a tech show. Makes me want to throw the TV out of the window.



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