Archive for the 'Movies' Category

Bond Villain Business Plan Reviews: From Russia With Love

August 15th, 2015

Business Plan Summary: Create conflict between the United States and Soviet Union, allowing SPECTRE to take over the world.

Founder/Leader: No background information available.

Key Personnel: Rosa Klebb (Number 3): Chief Operations Officer. Ex-KGB, with a strong track record for delivering covert operations effectively.

Tov Kronsteen (Number 5): Chief Planning Officer. A chess grandmaster, and so has exceptional planning abilities, but also a weakness in terms of assuming that all the ‘pieces’ will move according to the rules.

Support Staff: Donald Grant. Assassin, a homicidal paranoiac with exceptional skills. But atrocious table manners. Red wine with fish, really? Also should seek some help about his monologuing habit – it’s the kind of thing that junior staff simply shouldn’t be doing.

Technology: None identified.

Review: The founder summarised the plan neatly: “Siamese fighting fish, fascinating creatures. Brave but of the whole stupid. Yes they’re stupid. Except for the occasional one such as we have here who lets the other two fight. While he waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself, and then like SPECTRE… he strikes!”

The problem with the plan becomes apparent when it is realised that Siamese fighting fish is a pretty poor analogy for nuclear armed superpowers. The business plan has a very good chance to succeed in generating the desired instability. But world domination is a less profitable goal when the world in question is a nuclear wasteland.

But the personnel involved are very strong, so while the current plan is poor it’s easy to see a future iteration being much stronger.

Recommendation: Invest.


Bond Villain Business Plan Reviews: Dr. No

August 8th, 2015

Business plan summary: ‘Topple’ rockets launched from Cape Canaveral. Early stage funding through bauxite mining.

Founder/Leader: Dr. Julius No has extensive experience with organised crime, acting as Chief Financial Officer for the Chinese Tongs. Since then he has worked on research into electromagnetic radiation. Currently a member of the SPECTRE syndicate, he has a strong level of personal animus towards both the United States and Soviet Union which can affect his judgment.

Key personnel: The company was able to identify only one key staff member beyond Dr. No, suggesting a worrying level of centralisation in a single person. The one person identified, the geologist Professor Dent, is well qualified in his professional capacities, but is placed in a role extending well beyond these.

Support staff: Generally strongly motivated (several said they were ‘willing to die for’ the company), staff across several areas were generally excellent. Assassination and security departments are particularly well staffed, although the surveillance department could stand to add some more experienced staff.

Technology: The missile toppling technology demonstrated is an impressive achievement, using radio waves to disrupt a missile while launched. But applications outside the initial implementation appear limited, and the need for geographic proximity to the launch would seem to limit even this application.

Review: While the technical capability demonstrated by Dr. No is excellent, the business plan overall is weak. There is little scope for monetisation demonstrated, and the potential for blackmail seems limited when dealing with a nation-state with the simple ability to wipe the single well-known base of operations out with a single bombing campaign. The path from being able to disrupt missile launches to world domination is tenuous at best.

Recommendation: Do Not Invest.


Comedy as myth

October 19th, 2009

Part of the recent hagiography that has grown up around George Lucas is the idea that he deliberately crafted Star Wars to reflect Joseph Campbells’ Hero with a Thousand Fces. My suggestion, in counter to this, is that Campbell’s work describes something that is so generic to story telling that you could find a comedy that fits the bill.

And so, we have Joseph Campbell’s monomyth as applied to Legally Blonde.

Departure

  • The Call to Adventure: Elle Woods is dumped by her boyfriend, and decides to go to Harvard Law School.

  • Supernatural Aid: She gets 179 on her LSATs, enough said.

  • Crossing of the First Threshold: Her arrival at Harvard, and finding that they don’t include the social calendar in the student orientation pack.

  • Refusal of the Call: After a bad first day, Elle nearly drops out of law school, before manicurist Paulette persuades her not to.

  • The Belly of the Whale: According to Campbell, “The devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis.” In this case, the scene where Elle buys her textbooks and laptop.

Initiation

  • The Road of Trials: The sequence of tasks to begin the transformation. In this movie, being able to answer questions in class.

  • The Meeting With the Goddess: Can’t make this one work. Although have a look at some of the gymnastics required to make Star Wars hit…

  • Apotheosis: Winning a place as an Intern for Callaghan’s firm.

  • Woman as Temptress: Here, the role of temptress is played by Callaghan in a fairly literal way, as he tries to seduce her.

  • Atonement with Father: Confrontation with Callaghan, and becoming lead counsel for Brooke.

  • The Ultimate Boon: Winning the case and defeating the forces of evil (i.e., Callaghan, Chutney and Warner).

Return

  • Refusal of the Return: This one doesn’t fit either. Although what lawyer would want to quit?

  • The Magic Flight: Again, taking over as lead counsel in the court case.

  • Rescue from Without: As Elle is without hope, Professor Stromwell helps her back onto the path.

  • The Crossing of the Return Threshold: Graduation from Law School.

There we are: Legally Blonde was inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell. Or maybe Joseph Campbell’s admirable work can apply to almost anything, and so this is just another case of George Lucas making it up as he goes along. Nothing wrong with that – but he should own up to it.

(Oh, and contrary to popular belief, there was no sequel to this movie. Why on earth would there be one – it would make no sense to have her go through the same sequence of events again).


The problem of hope

January 23rd, 2008

So, there’s a movie of Watchmen coming out. Probably the greatest graphic novel of all time.

Now, it’s a film based on Alan Moore comics, so it’s going to suck.

But…

Every time I see something from the director’s blog I start to get a little hope that it might be OK. Like these story boards showing a careful adaptation of the imagery of the comic book.

I need to deal with this excessive hope, or I’m just going to be disappointed. But I guess I’ll find out in about 14 months time.


Movie Review: Cloverfield

January 21st, 2008

This weekend I went to see the new movie from JJ Abrams, Cloverfield.

I went in with fairly low expectations – I enjoy monster movies, but don’t really enjoy Abrams’ work very much.

I’m happy to say that I was completely blown away. This is a superb film, which anyone who can stomach it should see.

(When I say ‘stomach it’ I mean two things – firstly, it’s a tough film, and reportedly very tough for people who were in New York on September 11. Secondly, there have been a lot of reports of motion sickness from the handheld camera work).

I’ll put the rest of this review on the post page, so I can include some spoilers from this point on.

Read the rest of this entry »


Movie Review: No Country For Old Men

January 4th, 2008

No Country For Old Men.

Directed by Ethan & Joel Coen. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin.

In West Texas, June 1980, a drug deal has just gone very badly wrong. A case containing two million dollars ends up in the hands of Llewlyn Moss (Brolin) when he comes across the aftermath. He soon finds himself being chased not only by the mexican drug dealers, but by shadowy psychopath Anton Chigurh (Bardem), who is not afraid to leave a trail of bodies behind while chasing the money. Following all this is Sheriff Bell (Jones), trying to save Moss from his one bad decision.

The Coen brothers have produced some marvelous films over the years: Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy. But No Country is without question their finest work to date, and already one of the classics of cinema. The film is intensely visual, relying on the sweeping panoramas of desolate West Texas to tell part of the story. The dialogue is generally sparse, and much of the plot is told through the screen rather than the soundtrack. The acting is superb, with Javier Bardem’s chilling psychopath and Tommy Lee Jones’ desperate laconicism the standout performances. But Woody Harrelson turns in a great cameo, and Kelly Macdonald (as Moss’s wife) has a great scene towards the very end of the film. Inevitably this film will attract comparison with Fargo, with its own case full of money, but this is a far deeper, more downbeat piece than Fargo. And ultimately a (slightly) better film than the Coen’s previous masterwork.


Move Review: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

January 3rd, 2008

National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Starring Nicolas Cage, Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren and Ed Harris.

Treasure hunter Ben Gates (Cage) sets off on a new hunt, this time looking for proof that his ancestor was not involved in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. With only a page of the diary of assassin John Wilkes Booth to go on he must follow a trail of clues planted in the 19th century. Together with his assistant (Bartha), his estranged girlfriend (Kruger), his father (Voight) and mother (Mirren) he must try and race the shadowy Mitch Wilkinson (Harris), who has an agenda beyond simply showing that the Gates’ are descended from traitors.

This film rolls neatly down the rails set down by the first National Treasure movie. While viewed from a distance the premise and plot is completely ridiculous, the film maintains such a momentum and seriousness about itself that you end up being caught up in the ride. As before, there are spectacular sequences in ancient catacombs. But there are also some good character moments, with Helen Mirren’s appearance adding something to the overall picture other than her own paycheck. If you liked the first, you’ll enjoy this too. And if you missed the first film, come and enjoy this one anyway.


Movie Review: Hitman

January 2nd, 2008

Hitman

Directed by Xavier Gans. Starring Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper and Ulrich Thomsen.

A mysterious, powerful organisation (known only as “The Organisation”) has created a series of genetically engineered super-assasins. Trained from birth, they are killing machines who complete the contracts the organisation takes from outside. The best agent, known only as 47 (Olyphant), is working on a contract to publicly kill the Russian president (Thomsen). But following the assassination attempt the president is still alive, a witness (Kurylenko) must be dealt with, Interpol (Scott) is trying to hunt him down, and his own organisation is now trying to silence him.

Hitman is based on a moderately successful series of computer games, which does not, from the history of such adaptations, bode particularly well for the movie. Fortunately the film is largely able to climb up above the somewhat ridiculous plots of the original game, but in trying for Bourne-style political intrigue the reach of first-time director Gans somewhat exceeds his grasp. The plot is pretty silly, with plot holes galore and plenty of suspension of disbelief required. But the actions scenes are frenetic and exciting, and the director shows a good (if somewhat unsteady) eye for a pretty scene. It just goes to show that the first rule of film adaptations still holds: good source, bad film; bad source, good film. And in this case: middling computer game translates into a middling film.


Films: October to November 2007

October 16th, 2007

Movies coming up in the next couple of months, and my thoughts (as according to IMDB).

  • A Mighty Heart: Interesting, has a few good reviews it seems. Does also look pretty depressing… Probably.

  • October 18: Saw IV. I have a fond hope to never, ever see any of the movies in the Saw series. Not if wild horses dragged me.

  • October 25: Waitress: I like the sound of this one, sounds like a nice little romantic comedy. Bit of a tragic back story for the director, though. Likely.

  • November 1: Death Proof: Quentin Tarantino’s very misunderstood ode to 50s B-movies. I’d prefer to see Grindhouse, but this’ll do… Very likely.

  • November 1: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: Interesting sounding western, Brad Pitt as Jesse James. Didn’t get great reviews, but I’m interested by the ideas. Likely.

  • November 15: Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Cate Blanchett returns to one of her greatest roles. The reviews have not been kind, but most of the complaints would apply equally to the first film as well, so I’m optimistic. Definitely.

  • November 15: Fred Claus. Cookie cutter seasonal rubbish with Vince Vaughn. Nope.

  • November 29: Beowulf. Script by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, check. Greatest medieval epic poem, check. Naked digital Angelina Jolie, check. How could this go wrong? Definitely.


Top 20 movies

August 2nd, 2007

The top 20 movies according to the IMDB, with the ones I’ve never seen in bold:

  • The Godfather

  • The Shawshank Redemption

  • The Godfather Part II

  • The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • Pulp Fiction

  • Schindler’s List

  • The Empire Strikes Back

  • Casablanca

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

  • The Return of the King

  • The Seven Samuari

  • Star Wars

  • Rear Window

  • 12 Angry Men

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark

  • The Fellowship of the Ring

  • Goodfellas

  • City of God

  • The Usual Suspects

  • Once Upon a Time in the West

Still six to go. I have seen the end of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly , but just not the whole thing.