Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Entertainment Review #1 (Part One)

The Departed
I have not seen all the adverts for it (though I do know they are doing some beast campaign, "Scorcese is going for box office figures, not Oscars this time") and I only remembered when Sarah and I were 'umming' over what to see and remembered that it was Martin Scorcese and a remake of Infernal Affairs. Bear in mind though, I personally have not seen Infernal Affairs. Anyway, I though the film was absolutely brilliant - possibly the best film Scorcese has done since Goodfellas. I was not too fond of The Aviator (Though I should really give it another chance) and I liked Gangs of New York alot too, but this is a modern Gangster movie that is just as good as - if not better than - any Tarantino movie. Tarantino does kind of home in on the movie-buff, twenty-something, action-before-thinking type of film watcher. Whereas Martin Scorcese always wants to get the balance so the action/violence is justified - and maybe gives you something to think about afterwards, alongside a film that has a wide spectrum of characters that seem personal to every audience member. The characters are not so-much cliches or cardboard cut-outs, as they al have different sides - as if at any point in the film, their attitude could change direction. The Good guy might actually become the bad guy, the girlfriend will not neccessarily stay with the person she loves. The actors give the characters justice, and Scorcese paints the picture so you have no idea what will happen next. You know characters will have their come-up-ance, but who is going to deliver the fatal blow? and why? I think it has, so far, been my favourite film of the year. 5/5 (Again, note, I have not seen Infernal Affairs...)

House of Flying Daggers
I bought this a while ago after watching it at the cinema, and this second viewing reaffirmed my faith in Zhang Yimou. Every shot could be framed, and maybe shots - one after the other - could be framed to make either a diptych, triptych or simply and huge array of images. I never really realised how the story takes away masculine pride from the film it self - the fact that the two soldiers are constantly so cocky about how they will use the girl and capture the Flying Daggers, and yet, ultimately they both end up being completely controlled by Mai herself. In fact, the only man who actually was 'in the loop' was also the freak who attempting to rape, and successfully kill the innocent 'girl-in-love'. You do not see whether the Flying Daggers are killed - we simply know that they are surpisingly confident and are, therefore, well prepared (Even though the leader has been 'training' at a Brothel for who knows how long), so again, the group that appears to consist solely of women in green dresses no doubt win the day, whereas the men - who begin the film sharpening their even-so-butch knives - kill themselves over love, and consequently, as a group, are unprepared and fall into the Flying Daggers 'trap'.
The visuals are stunning, and the plot itself is very intriuging and has enough sides so that you keep coming back to it. After a fair few watchs, still a 4/5

A History of Violence
I have been told I should watch this for the past year and have had it at the top of my 'rental' list for the last six months, and since being told to watch it, most of the people I know have bought it. This is an awesome film and has got to be watched, but once you have finished watching it, keep an open mind.
Remember it is a film that is more to be reflected upon, rather than a film to entertain you for an hour-and-a-half. I think, after the first watch, you cannot be 100% clear on how good the film is(which, in a way voids my entire praising of 'The Deaprted'), because your first impression will remain as it is until the second watch. The problem is that if you don't like the film, you won't watch it the second time - so it will stay really crap until some huge fan constantly tells you how great it is, leading up to eventually watching it again and realising what the 'fan' was saying. For example, the first time I watched The Matrix Reloaded, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I didn't completely get it and was confused because nothing came to mind that made me think it was crap. The second and third (I really wanted to like it) time I watched it, I still came off thinking 'I kinda like it... but i don't feel like I really get it' - and, if i'm not careful, I might actually think that because (the supreme intellect that I am) if I don't get it, I could argue that the film hasn't been explained very clearly and so it is bad screen writing and bad direction, but I try not to think that - I'd rather assume I am pretty stupid, and have to research it, to 'get' it. Hopefully that makes sense to you (if not, read it again, because you don't get it).
Anyway, after watching A History of Violence, as much as I liked it, I thought alot about the character and his 'arc', and whether he redeemed himself - so I was not sure what to think, but after a brief look on the internet (IMDB no less) I found out that it is about second chances, redemption, family and violence - is it right to be violent? was he right to do what he did? should his family - either one - forgive him? should he have told them the truth? etc. After I found this out, my whole view on the film shifted - and hopefully, when you think about those questions and apply them to yourself and your life, what do you think? Top mark s 5/5

Friends (Series 1 - Series 3)
Briefly, Sarah hasn't seen them so we are rewatching the series. She thought the whole Ross/Rachel relationship was awesome. Favourite episode so far, for Sarah, is when Ross and Rachel broke up - and I think if you don't like the way the programme does drama, than a huge chunk of the ten seasons will never be that good, because the programme makers try and balance the comedy and drama. I personally love the end of Series 6, and the whole Ross, crying when he is saying "those arms, these hands" and he is in tears - I find it all really good. Though I know some people (Jo...) who hate any drama whatsoever in 'Friends' and when any of the guys cry - its lame. Damn you Jo ... anyway, I will tell you how Sarah reacts at the future 'moments' which most normal people actually remember vividly when it was on channel four on a Friday night.

Green Wing (a few episodes of Series 1)
Only watched one episode in full and half another episode and I think it is really good. A bit random, and at 40minutes per episode (one hour on TV with breaks) it does get a bit tedious. comedy has to remin in small, 30minutes bitesize chunks.
Nevertheless, it is really funny simply due to the fact that half of the non-regulars from 'The Office' are in it, alongside Olivia Coleman from 'Peep Show' and the odd girl from 'Smack the Pony'. I think it will just take a little getting used to - and all the slow-motiony bits could be cut down. Well - who knows. I'll make a more informed opinion when I've watched a little more, which I am only so happy to do.

Extras (Series 2)
Ricky Gervais is a God and this second Series is alot better than the first. I remember when I watched the first episode of the second series there was alot less laughs, but that was because there were less jokes, not because it was not so funny. But I think people who watch Extras are split into two categories - people who are laughing at the comedy Gervais has set up, while, at the same time, realising the interesting aspects of the media industry Gervais is trying to illustrat. Then there are others who simply laugh at every joke that the canned laughter (during 'when the whistle blows') laughs along to, while thinking that any 'serious issue' Gervais tackles just takes the comedy to a lower level.
The irony is that the canned laugher, if anything, is showing how shit 'When the Whistle Blows' is - the comedy I find in the show is the embarressing shiteness of the programme - not, say, 'Ching-Chong-Chinaman' as a joke, but the fact that the show steeps down to the lowest form of comedy to get a quick buck - namely, Racism. But, bear in mind that is 'When the Whistle Blows' - Extras, as a programme is still absolutely brilliant.

That Mitchell and Webb Look (a few episodes and excerpts of Series 1)
Okay, I won't lie, I think I had a bit of difficulty watching this first time round. My argument went a little like this: I think Mitchell and Webb don't want to have catchphrases and become a poor mans version of Little Britain, when I personally feel that, in some ways, catchphrases are important to sketch shows, as they keep the audience coming back. People want to see Andy and Lou doing something daft, "I want that one", etc - and people want to see the old man try, in vain to get to his love, until - again - "Bugger". Because Mitchell and Webb are so intent on not having too many catchphrases, they don't have you wanting to come back.
But, then again, I will have to admit there were some highlights - Numberwang, by far is one of the best (possibly because stating random numbers and then stating 'thats Numberwang' is becoming a catchphrase itself, so i could be completely off base with the whole 'catchphrase' argument), BMX Bandit and - God? - is it? (again with the 'I summon a horde of angels' becoming a catchpharse, my argument gets weaker as I type...), Sir Digby Chicken Ceasar and the guy in green with the flute. I also really liked the way they 'film' Mitchell and Webb after they have shot a scene. Really funny.
To be fair, I feel that the more I watch it, the more I will like it - as with many sketch shows.
"Here is a guy buying a house after selling his old one ..."

I think I will have to keep these things that little bit shorter. After a while it is a little too much to read (and write, I don't think anybody really cares about Sarah and I watching Friends...). And I really have to actually do some work ...

3 comments:

Pete said...

Nice roundup Simon. I heard that 'A history of violence’ was meant to be an allegory of the effect of violence in the media and while I thought that was really interesting, especially to do it in a film, I would have to watch it a second time before i could be sure I actually see this in it. Definitely, as you as, one to reflect on.

As for That Mitchell and Webb Look the episode i saw sold me on it completely its another 'Little Britain' if you will but i would probably say its more of a ;'big train' not because its more 'underground' or whatever but because its a sketch show with this new breed of humour that crops up occasionally with 'Spaced' and 'peep show' of course, which seems less ‘catchphrase’y because of its style and general tone. Personally I prefer this type of humour so it’s more interesting to me than little Britain, which while I can see it’s originality and how it was good, really wasn't my kind of thing.

Hope alls well. Good luck in school.

Rebecca said...

Hey Simon. I really enjoyed reading your reviews. I also liked the Ross/Rachel breakup episode. (Although I think ultimately Rachel should have ende dup with Joey...hee hee.) Pete and I watched 'A History of Violence' with his mom, which made the sex scenes really odd. it is one that definitely requires mulitple viewings. I don't think I got it all in one take. But it intrigued me.

Jo said...

Yes, I do hate the drama of Friends. And to be honest the comedy isn't that great. So why can't I stop watching the repeats?
Otherwise I am largely in agreement with you. Very much enjoyed The Departed despite its over reliance on the twists of Infernal Affairs. HOFD is beautiful in every which way, the violence and the scenery is quite spectacular. Better than Hero. Perhaps you are enjoying international films now Simon, I am most happy if this is the case. I recommend you check out Oldboy on Film4, it started promisingly when the announcer warned of "...scenes of violence, scenes of torture and a scene in which a man eats a live octopus..."
Mitchell & Webb annoy me, most of the situations and characters just ain't funny. Bring on Peep Show 4. I enjoyed some of the Star Stories which occasionally featured SuperHans most hilariously as Elton John and Guy Ritchie. Extras is great (although I missed the Ian McKellen episode), Scrubs is fantastic (although Zach Braff sucks in The Last Kiss) and Arrested Development is awesome.