Network

So this is the last of the film reaction posts I’ve been able to dig up from an old forum:

Just watched Network.

As scathing a film about tv as you can get. Odd watching it and how things have changed and how they haven’t – Beale’s rant about everything going to hell can be applied today, and so can the ‘global corporation’. Democracy being a fading force doesn’t work so well after recent wars.

Have to admit to enjoying the first half the most. Beale’s outbursts and the politics of tv work really well. Later Beale seemed to fade and we had plenty of William Holden and Faye Dunaway. I really like both actors and they had very good characters, but I just wasn’t bothered about them as a couple. I could see how it tied into the tv angle, and how it affects people, but too often they overdid it. Talking about their relationship like it was a script seemed melodramatic.

This is a preachy movie, and when it rants it works wonderfully, and when it lets out a big meaningful speech, I was less enthralled.

Peter Finch as Howard Beale is great, and Beale is a fantastic character to follow, from respectable newsman going bad, to ranter, to prophet.
However Ned Beatty stole this one for me. One big scene and BANG.

Basically this movie has two scenes which are now classics for me. One is Beale’s main rant – and one which I wish people would take up daily. The other is Beatty’s scene, which takes Michael Douglas’s Greed is Good speech and turns it up to 11.

In all a really good movie, although the fact Beale’s ratings fall due to preaching something dreary, and from the most unnerving character, fell a bit flat with me. Usually we get the hero fall due to telling the truth, and I like that. No one listening as he preached the corporate culture seemed, well, a good thing.

But this did make me think of the present. Seems to me so many people want to be a Howard Beale. Unfortunately most of them are just moronic tits.

But stirring stuff with a grim ending and a nasty swipe at all things television.

Me, Grimlock, Understand Genetics

“They’re fools, Swoop — Fools if they think war is over, think that just because we fight together against Unicron, four million years or so of bitterness and resentment just swept away!
“Civil war was never about who rule Cybertron, not even about stopping Decepticons stripping Earth’s resources!
“War about genetics!
“Creator, Primus, think he make race of perfect beings — heroic, noble, good. He wrong. He create two races that would eventually start calling themselves Autobot and Decepticon. One good, one evil.
“Good and evil, it just ways of things. For every Yin a Yang, for every light a dark…. Everything balancing.”

This is a quote from Grimlock in End of the Road. This is in the aftermath of the victory against Unicron and Grimlock, as new leader of the Autobots, is explaining why he knows the new and fragile alliance with the Decepticons won’t last. It is genetics. They’re bad, that’s it, so that’s that. No use trying to play nice or trusting them. They’ll turn on us soon enough. The clue is in the name.

With the movies out there, Transformers has become known for big, dumb action. Let’s face it, the cartoon series of the 80s which I grew up with was hardly high art. But the comics I do love. They were well written, often by Simon Furman, who did so well in the UK that he ended up going Stateside and running it all.

These two graphic novels I own – All Fall Down and End of the Road – chronicle the coming of Unicron, the forging of the alliance, the battle itself and the aftermath. Not only do we have Grimlock’s simple but insightful understanding of the situation, but we also have a deformed bonding of Megatron and Ratchett so that Optimus has to face the great test of whether to kill this monstrosity or try to aid it; we have Grimlock questioning what kind of life it is for his Dinobots to be in stasis and that gambling their lives to save them is better than leaving them like this; we have Scorponok, or rather his head, Lord Zarak, doubting himself and everyone around him, as he struggles to lead the Decepticons into this ultimate battle. His character arc is particularly fascinating and emotive as he makes a pact with Optimus Prime, comes to admire him, admits he is afraid of dying, helps him in battle and finally gives his life against Unicron.

Basically, when a new Transformers movie is out and I see people raging against it or cheering for it all over the place, it is nice to be reminded that once there was some genuinely strong story telling with engaging characters that set up my fanboyish nature towards the robots in disguise.

The single most devastating reason NOT to vote Tory or Lib Dem at the next election

Regardless of how you vote, this is a very important list of issues facing the NHS in the UK today.

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the Tories and the Lib Dems!)

The NHS has been severely damaged by the coalition government over the last 4 years.

But don’t just take my word for that.

Dr Mark Porter, the head of the BMA, thinks so too. That’s not just some lefty anti-government think-tank – that’s the British Medical Association, which represents 153,000 doctors, GPs and other medical specialists and staff across the country.

Dr Porter gave a devastating speech today to the BMA Annual Representatives Meeting in which he astonishingly said the coalition government must “face up to the damage that they have done” to the NHS.

In his dramatic speech, Dr Porter specifically listed the ways that the NHS has been damaged over the last 4 years by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats:

  • The coalition government have imposed policies that “force us to do the absolute opposite of what our patients need”.

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Why Boromir’s Death in the Film is Wrong

I suppose I should make it clear that I love the movies and that includes Boromir’s death. It is very well done. The movies have their flaws, they really do, but I always find myself captivated by them while watching. It is only afterward that I stop and think: hmmm, that doesn’t make sense. Peter Jackson did a great job of putting the spirit of the Lord of the Rings onto the big screen, even if not the exact same story. The movies are magnificent.

But something can be enjoyable or well done and still be wrong. For me, this is Boromir’s death.

To begin explaining why, I have to mention the Uruk-hai. At first, these are great. They’re big, strong, fast and ferocious. When I saw the small army sent after the Fellowship I was genuinely scared for them. The Uruk-hai looked ready to make mincemeat out of the Nine Walkers.

So what happens when these two sides meet up? Aragorn starts slaughtering them. Then Gimli and Legolas show up to join in the fun. Ultimately, the Uruk-hai can join stormtroopers and red shirts as comical cannonfodder.

Oh, and speaking of stormtroopers and redshirts, the latter usually lived and the former shot lots of people dead in the opening sequence of Star Wars alone, which remains one of the great beginnings of a movie.

Anyway, back to Middle Earth.

So the Uruk-hai should have been serious badasses. Instead, they seemed easy prey to the four main fighters of the Fellowship. By the time Boromir intervenes to save Merry and Pippin, his ability to fight and kill them isn’t remarkable.

But it should be and that’s the point. In the book, we don’t see Boromir fight and fall. Aragorn arrives too late and finds the champion of Gondor dying, full of arrows, surrounded by orcs. It is a true warrior way to go.

Which is the point. Boromir is a flawed hero and his weakness breaks the Fellowship. He betrays Frodo, for which he is ashamed. Of all the main characters, he is the only one who fails like this, and yet he is not a bad man. He is strong and brave, a warrior, who cares for his people. The Ring exploits his weaknesses and makes him try to take it, as it did for so long. That is why others cannot carry it. But Boromir fails the test.

So what we have is his ending becoming his redemption. After such weakness, such betrayal, we have Boromir give his life for Merry and Pippin. This is where we see the true decency of his act. Boromir isn’t saving Frodo and the Ring. He isn’t giving his life for the world or the Good or anything great. This is the big, strong warrior saving the two hobbits, who, at that point, have little importance. If the Uruk-hai take them, which they do, it doesn’t affect their mission. But Boromir fights for them. He won’t let them down. Not now. It is the strong defending the weak. The brave sacrificing for the helpless. It is noble and courageous.

At least it should have been. It should have been more than that too. You see, Boromir fights so well the Uruk-hai back off. Yeah, the big bad orcs are too scared to take him on anymore. Imagine it in the film. Merry and Pippin are about to be grabbed, then in jumps Boromir and he’s cutting them down left and right. Then he blows his horn, calling for aid. Aragorn and the others hear it. They’re running to help. Will they get there in time? We know Boromir can’t stand against them alone. But Borormir is still fighting, still killing. Then big leader comes for him. Boromir takes him head on and wins. The Uruk-hai step back. They look at each other, hesitant, fearful. We, the audience, feel our hearts soar as the good guys look set to win after all.

The Uruk-hai bring out their bows and shoot Boromir down. They grab Merry and Pippin and run on. Aragorn then arrives and he and Boromir speak for the last time.

Boromir’s death is meant to be about him. It is meant to be his hero moment. His redemption. It is also meant to be one badass way to go. It should have been up there as one of the best deaths in cinema history. He fought the Uruk-hai. He almost won. He stood alone. He showed what a warrior he was by taking on these uber-orcs.

The Uruk-hai should have remained big and scary, especially for the later battles. That would have exemplified what a tremendous act it had been by Borormir to scare them too. That’s why I began by talking about them. This should have been about them versus him, and him winning by giving his absolute all. It was his time. Boromir may have been weak but he was one hell of a warrior.

Instead his limelight is shared with Aragorn. I get why they did this. Aragorn is made much more heroic and central in the movies. We need to keep the audience focused on him and how great he is, so he gets to kill lots of Uruk-hai too and even saves Boromir. Almost. He kills the chief baddie anyway.

As a fan of Boromir, I dislike that, but either way, his death is wrong. It was meant to be about him, his redemption, his fight. Not one big action piece. Again, I get it, it is a movie. One of the things Jackson did really well was add action and drama where there was none.

Still, I really wanted to see the final act of Boromir that we don’t get to see in the book. It would have been great. It would have been right. That whole sequence is meant to define and redeem his character while bringing drama and thrill as we fear for our heroes. It is meant to be Boromir’s noble end.

At least he didn’t die like that Ned Stark, eh, Sean Bean? 😉

Ask the BBC why it didn’t cover the anti-austerity demo – here’s what you can expect!

Had to reblog this one. This afternoon I checked on the BBC site and saw news stories about the US setting up a bee task force and about people marking the summer solstice, but nothing on a march in London. It is getting to the point where you just can’t ignore or defend what the BBC is doing.

Vox Political

This is what happened when a friend of Vox Political, going by the monicker Sick Britain, contacted the BBC to ask why there has been no coverage of today’s (June 21) anti-austerity demonstration in London, which was attended by more than 50,000 people.

The BBC has mentioned the demonstration – as a pretext for a discussion of government austerity policies on Any Questions and Any Answers (both on Radio 4) but the national public service broadcaster’s news bulletins were mysteriously silent about it throughout the day of the event itself.

This seems particularly odd when one considers the fact that the demo began outside Broadcasting House, and that I’m told extra security guards were on duty today, while the entrances were protected with metal fencing.

Some of you may wish to complain to the BBC about its lack of coverage. Here’s how you can do it:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/complain-online/

Phone: 03700 100…

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England, World Cups and Me

In 1998, England were knocked out of the World Cup in France by Argentina. On penalties. It was an intense game, one I can never forget. We went behind, got back into it, then lost Beckham but fought as hard as I’ve seen England fight. We went head-to-head with a brilliant Argentina side, had a goal disallowed and then lost on penalties.

My reaction to that result was to physically attack the settee. I punched the cushions repeatedly, yelling my frustration.

In 2002 we went out in the quarterfinals. To Brazil, this time, who went on to win the Cup itself. I took that one well because we barely made it to the tournament in the first place, were underprepared and the conditions did not suit us at all. We only just lost to them – a free kick that was either genius or an accident finding its way to the back of the net.

Still, I was pretty down about it.

Then we hit the dark times.

I have been an England fan since the 80s, but only have scant memories of the early tournaments and in 1994 we failed to even make it. By 1998 I was old enough to understand the big picture of the World Cup and fanatical enough to take it all far too seriously. The manager had to get everything right. Players were heroes or villains. Referees were all against us. I hated any player who did anything against us, from scoring to fouling to diving to doing his damn job. We needed to win a World Cup. We needed to do well. English football needed to take charge.

By 2006 we had great squad of world class players, or so it was proclaimed. I doubted that but I bought into the hype and felt we could really do something at this one. Germany was close enough for us to have strong support out there, the weather shouldn’t be too bad (it was pretty hot though) and our players should be chomping at the bit.

We stunk the place up. We even cheated, one of our players pulling on another man’s hair to win a ball in the air and go on to score. How pathetic is that?

I was angry but sullen. More disappointed than anything. England had been frustrating to support. 1998 had been uplifting and the end was a rollercoaster game. This time, we were knocked out by a Portugal side that just played less awfully.

Then came 2010. South Africa. I had had high hopes for this tournament for some time. Players who had come in years back were going to hit their peak. Things had been changed. We had experienced players, were well organised, but had some exciting younger players to get involved.

We stunk again. Honestly, I was glad to see the back of us. I was fed up.

By now, I was becoming more angry at the hype that goes on with England than anything else. Yes, I had bought into it again, but it was just ridiculous. It has been for so long now. We think we can beat anyone, despite the obvious indicators to the contrary, and when we lose we either find someone to blame or just act as if the side we played are actually the best in the world. With each World Cup, the question gets passed around with more and more insistent obtuseness – will England win this one? Anyone who says No gets treated as if they are a traitor to the land. Unless they’re foreign, in which case who cases what they think anyway? What does a World Cup winner or a highly rated manager know about us anyway? We’re going to win anyway! Ergh.

I can’t enjoy England any more. I want to. I just want to support them. Enjoy watching them play, give it a go, try their best and come home with heads held high. But no. We have to proclaim England as potential winners, despite the fact we are clearly average. We have to talk about all the luck that can go our way. We have to constantly ask anyone and everyone about us.

I remember back in 1998 that Ronaldo had tipped England to win the World Cup. At least that was what we were told. Then it cut to Ronaldo being asked about possible winners and him rattling off a list. He was then prompted about England and he seemed to shrug and nod and say, “Yeah, they could.”

Even tonight, with Costa Rica beating Italy – which is a huge result in itself and was a thoroughly deserved victory – the instant reaction was all about us.

So what happened this year? We got knocked out. While not playing. We lost two games, Costa Rica won twice, leaving either Italy or Uruguay to go through depending on who beats who. We’re out. We’re done.

In 1998 I attached furniture. Today I can barely shake a fist in mock anger. I am angry, yes. But in a tired way. Frustrated by what we did wrong. Annoyed with the usual nonsense having been talked. Wondering how we could have done better.

But here’s the odd thing. I’m not disappointed. This was a better World Cup than the last two. We got out of the group stages in them but we never deserved to and were shown up by better sides. In South Africa, a vibrant German side tore us to shreds. That was supposed to be an average German side. If it was, that showed us at our level. It tore the invisible emperor’s clothes from us and then slapped our arse with a hearty laugh. We were a poor side and it was proven. Today we’re an average side. But we have promise and this was always going to be a tournament too soon for a good portion of our side. I have more hope for England’s future than in the past.

Not to win it though. That’s where I get fed up again. I can’t do this any more. Supporting England has become such a toil. Not because of the bad results. Because of the hype, the bollocks and the bullshit. I want to talk realistically about England and rate their progress, not scream and cry over each defeat and demand instant success. I also don’t want a bunch of non-football people who latch onto England at each World Cup whine about ‘we’re no good at nuffin’. English football is badly run. Everyone knows it. But we can get better and do well. The usual problem remains that we only get worked up about it when we’re knocked out of an international tournament. So I see no need to get worked up about it myself.

It’s a bit like watching Game of Thrones. I’m starting to wonder if I should care about anything that goes on or get worked up about betrayals or twisted acts, because often so far the emotional clashes end up peetering out and/or get left behind for something new.

There’s only so many times you can get so worked up about something that it makes you punch inanimate objects. After a while, even someone like me has to just find it a futile waste of energy.

That is me and England right now. I’m not going to waste time getting upset over it. You’re not worth it. Frankly, you did about as well as I suspected you would.

Now leave me alone and let me enjoy this very entertaining World Cup in peace. I just wish all the adverts and promotions linked to England and the World Cup could go out just as easily.

28 Weeks Later and Other Pointless Sequels

The following is a reaction to the film 28 Weeks Later that I posted on a forum years back:

I watched 28 Weeks Later last night.

I had reservations as it seemed an unnecessary sequel to me and likely to just be for the money. Hadn’t heard great things about it either.
However it was better than I expected. The opening is very good, and not just the immediate opening where a group of people hiding in a home are attacked and overrun, leading to something one character regrets deeply. It is a sharp and shocking start, and that chase scene must have been scary just to act out!
But the rest of the beginning of the movie was good too, with the UK being repopulated, or part of it anyway, and NATO forces keeping it safe.

We also have Robert Carlyle, who I think is one of the best British actors around, and I do mean one of THE best. I think he is brilliant; totally immerses himself in the character he plays each time, can be normal or spooky or mad or jovial. This man has been Hamish MacBeth, Colonel Ives, Begbie, a cold Russian killer, a Scouse murderer on a crusade, that affable Scouse bloke in 52nd State, a good hearted criminal in Face, and so on.
Anyway, he’s really good in this, in an unexpected way too, which I can’t talk about without giving too much away. But it really helps to have a movie based on a good, flawed character played by someone like him. The new life, his kids coming back, the American soldiers overseeing everything – the movie has promise.

Unfortunately I don’t think it fulfils that promise. The beginning is the best of it. It stays good, with matters moving on quickly and some vicious scenes taking place, but it does go into a kind of standard ‘zombie’ flick. People get killed off, including a whiney bloke who you know from the moment you see him that he’s going to die trying to save himself, and you don’t get a chance to have any further depth to the characters.
This movie becomes about the kids and, to be honest, I was never that bothered about them. Others come and go and I liked that in a way, it was different, but then you can’t get attached to any of them.

I did think this movie could have been different. More about the attempts to restart normality and protect from infection, how people and soldiers interact. I also thought the major plot point was never explained or analysed further. Something happens, no one knows why, and they never do. That can be good, life doesn’t come with answers for everything, but when you break your own rules that cleanly you should have something to patch over the wound.

It is a good movie. It tries to keep the more subdued tone that the first one had, and that music they bring in for the dramatic scenes still gets the pulse racing, but it could have been better. The situation they set up at first gets washed aside to become yet another group of survivors running from baddies.
When the end came I just went ‘oh, is that it?’ and that’s not good. Worth watching, kind of.

So back to the present, and I can’t help thinking about other movies I felt this way about. The Descent 2, for instance. Not that bad of a movie I guess, but nothing like the first and only serving to lessen it. It also followed on from the American ending, which had the main character leave the caves. The original and proper ending is much better. Honestly, I don’t even see why it was changed. I know enough Americans to know they can handle dark endings. Anyone who can’t shouldn’t be watching the Descent in the first place.

Anyway, I found the Descent 2 to be bland and annoying me for existing only.

Oh, which brings to mind Battle Royale 2. Oh my word. I honestly think that movie is the worst sequel ever made. It has to be up there for worst movie too, but the fact it follows such a good film is what bugs the hell out of me. BR2 has none of the social commentary of the first. None of the personality. It is just a rant about the USA. They never say the USA, only ‘that land’, but it is clear what it is about. I think even the most anti-American person in the world would get fed up with the way this movie carries on bleating as if everything wrong can be traced to one place, one people. If you have seen Battle Royale and loved it and not seen the second, and you’re thinking: hmmm, could be worth a watch – NO! Don’t watch it. Waste of time and it could affect your view of the first, simply by springing to mind when you think of it.

On the plus side, I would heartily recommend the book Battle Royale. It fleshed out certain characters more. The main bad boy is very different in it too.

So hooray for the Descent, 28 Days Later, Battle Royale and Robert Carlyle.
Boo to pointless sequels that are mere cash grabs without any creativity or intelligence behind them.