Sunday, December 28, 2003

Films of the Year 2003

I have ranted many times about the lack of originality and vision in movies these days, so when I sat down to work out my top 5 movies of 2003 I found myself having to 'cheat' and look up the years releases as I couldn't actually think of that many that really inspired me!

Kill Bill
Despite the shadow of some New Zealand flicks about a ring being over every release for 2 years, there has been no film this year I have looked forward to more, than little Quentins fourth (now fourth and fifth) directorial outing. With Kill Bill Volume 1 Tarantino dropped a lot of his trademark dialogue and opted for action most spectacular. He clearly had fun making this film and his geekiness holds true as he pays homage to more movies than would ever be allowed by a lesser director. With a kickass soundtrack, great performances and the best set-piece (no shitty matrix CGI here) fight scenes since Crouching Tiger, this movie had the audacity to leapfrog the shoe-in final installment of Jacksons Lord of the Rings. Here's to you Quentin... you are the King.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
After two spectacular installments, we all knew that Peter Jackson was a safe bet. The sheer scale of Return of the King is breathtaking. After the brilliance of the Helms Deep battle we are treated to one of the finest siege battles in the history of cinema. Despite the CGI, the reality of battle is cruelly exposed as the heads of dead soldiers are catapulted into the city of Minas Tirith. The ease at which horses and men are slaughtered is chilling and for this alone Jackson deserves an Oscar. He said he wanted to add realism to this fantasy and he truly has. Away from the battles of Orcs and Men, the desperate Sam and Frodo reach the end of their quest, and it is here that Jackson again returns to his horror roots. If there was one disappointment it was with the ending. Tolkiens ending was far too long and brought a very dull and boring conclusion to the entire saga. This fact was always going to work against Jackson, and while I am pleased with the changes made in the film it still feels too long. It isn't really Jacksons fault as he had a lot of plot threads to tie up, but after 3 hours of sheer adrenaline the final 15 minutes of closure just feel a little too much.

Buffalo Soldiers
This movie was due for release in September 2001. The over-reactions of many a studio post-9/11 led to it's release being suspended. The last thing american's wanted was a black-comedy which showed the US military in a bad light. So we waited, and in the end it's release came at an even more thought provoking time. As two madmen decided to wage war, kill thousands, destroy a nation and deceive the voters Joaquin Pheonix brought a ray of happiness to a small few as the drug dealing soldier in cold war Germany. The fact that many of the scams and mysterious deaths are based on real events just fuels the enjoyment. Sadly, on its release in the US Buffalo Soldiers made it into only 5 cinemas. The land of the free continued its disgraceful act of censorship, but at least we still have the DVDs!

City of God
The story of two boys growing up in Rio de Janeiro captured the hearts and minds of so many around the world. The raw brutality of life on the streets for people so young was harsh to the eyes and gave people like myself a new look at Rio. Fernando Meirelles deserves the international acclaim and City of God fully deserves its place in the top 5.

Catch Me If You Can
Finally, a hollywood movie. I'm not sure what it was about Catch Me If You Can, but this true story caper was just pure enjoyment. The performances were excellent, particularly from DiCaprio, who clearly had no problem playing a 16 year old!

Best of the Rest
Gangs of New York
Finding Nemo
Spirited Away

Inherent laziness creeps in...

Okay... it's been ages since I last posted anything. Life, work and endless rants about the stupidity of the human race has left me far to tired to type.

Christmas is over, people spent too much again and the shops started their sales early again. Does anyone really care?

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

David Blunkett - Is there any point in him even existing?

Just when you think our tremendous government can't do anything worse, David Blunkett opens his mouth.

My local MP and Home Secretary has hit on the perfect idea for stopping asylum seekers from staying in the country. Not content with taking away their children he now thinks that removing their right to legal aid will finally drive the nail in.

So we bomb their countries. We leave them at the mercy of gang warlords. So when they flee to find refuge in our 'tolerant' nation what do they find? They are unable to argue their case for asylum because they have no legal aid. How is this humane? How is this tackling the issues of poverty in the world? Sure it will appeal to the right-wing Daily Express readers who are petrified that all these foreigners are gonna bring down the neighbourhood, but that doesn't make it right.

This nation has been a home to asylum seekers for thousands of years. We are a mongrel nation. The diversity in culture and history is what makes this country great. Let's keep it that way. Welcome those in need. We owe it to them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Lies, damn lies and the media

Blair says that 'Now is the time stand firm with the US'. An ICM poll illustrates that in the UK support for the Bush visit is in the majority and support for the war has increased. How is this possible?

I was being pretty gullible when I asked myself that question. The majority of people are heavily influenced by the media. If we look at the stance of newspapers in the UK there is probably a direct correlation between support for the war and the type of paper a person reads (or the news channel someone watches). Is it really the case that people choose to read papers that tackle issues they care about? Or is it more likely that the papers tell the people what issues they care about and what they should think about them?

I don't have the stats. I haven't done any research, but it doesn't take a genius to work out that the majority of people in the UK (and probably the world) are led by smaller groups of people. Many years ago entire nations were influenced solely by their religious leaders. This is still the case in some countries today. Although in many nations, religion has taken a back seat to elected government.

In order to keep the population in line government has always used forms of spin and deception. A century ago is was about the good of the empire, and people flocked to support their homeland. But people didn't actually get to see all sides of the argument. A war would happen and the people would follow blindly because they trusted in the story they were being told by their elected peers.

Times change though. We now have access to media from around the world. If I want to I can find hundreds of different eye-witness accounts to an event. I no longer need to rely on my government or my nations media to give me the information I need.

But that isn't the case for everyone. Too many people choose to read the one newspaper or watch the one news channel and take the story as total truth. People need to understand that the media in every country is influenced by government and business. News organisations choose what stories to run with and what stories to drop. News organisations may present factual stories but they present them in a way that forms a particular opinion.

So why does the majority of the British public still support the war and the ongoing conflict in Iraq? Is it because they have come to a reasoned opinion based on the many available sources of information? No. It's because they have sat lazily in their armchairs and accepted the 'truths' told to them by government via the media they know and trust. They have flaunted the democracy our leaders speak so vehemently about.

If we as a nation want to be a leader in the world, then the people have to be in a position to question their government when things are not fair. But to do that on mass, the people have a duty to educate themselves.

When a nation is told what to think by the media and government what does that make it? When the people have their rights stripped away by dragonian anti-terror laws what does that make their nation? That isn't democracy, rather a totalitarian state.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

The rising cost of war

Another day, another couple of helicopters are taken down in Iraq killing more Coalition troops.

For Christs sake Bush (and Blair), look what you've done. With the costs spiralling, the losses increasing and Iraqis joining the resistance in droves the question has to be asked, is there a possibility of retreat?

This is a modern day Vietnam. It's not on the same scale yet, but everything that the anti-war groups said would happen has happened so far. Yet still the governments stand resolute. And of course they have to. What would happen to Bush of Blair if they pulled their troops out? They'd be politically dead. They would have to resign.

So they keep our troops there. And now we (in Britain) get a royal visit from the real threat to world peace. George W Bush arrives in the UK shortly. I'm sure we can look forward to more wonderful advice about how we have to forget about the war and face the challenges of rebuilding Iraq.

Screw that! We will never forget what you bastards have done. We will never forget how George Bush has pushed forward his campaign for a new world order at the expense of thousands of innocent lives. We will never forget how Tony Blair gave Bushs' war credibility by supporting it. We will never forget how Tony Blair ignored the people who put him in power as he followed Bush on his crusade.

We are the people. We will never forget.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

There is only one... Matrix film

After the disappointment of Reloaded, I could be forgiven for expecting Revolutions to be dire. Was I pleasantly surprised? No. It turned out to be a standard hollywood action flick cum sci-fi, with a cliched plot, embarrassing dialogue, misuse of acting talent and a total disregard for originality.

We start off with Neo, trapped in a train station in a place between the matrix and the real world. As Trinity and Morpheus battle to find him we get an explanation from the oracle as to what has happened to Neo. 2 minutes later, just in case you had fallen asleep Neo gets the same explanation from a little girl at the train station. Why the Wachowskis felt the need to explain a very simple premise twice in a matter of minutes for the dumbest people on earth is beyond me.

The stage is now set for lots of the wonderful plot filler that destroyed Reloaded. Trinity and Morpheus, led by Seraph (the oracles super-cool body-guard), have to see the Merovingian to bargain for Neo's life. Cue, a total remake of the signature fight scene from the original Matrix. Complete with pillars being shredded by bullets, slow-mo backflips and guns… lots of guns. It wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't the original set redressed it was such a blatant rip-off of itself. Fight over… cue gratuitous naked flesh scenes in the Merovingians club.

Why am I bothering with such detail? Ok… the long and the short of it, is that they get Neo back and it becomes blatantly obvious that the entire character of the Merovingian was one huge excuse of a plot story to get us from A to B and stretch one movie into two. And herein lies one of the major problems with the sequels. They could have been done it all in one movie. The entire merovingian story could have been consigned to the bin for all the good it does the story.

As with Reloaded, Revolutions takes a good 40 minutes to really get going. Only when the battle for Zion begins do we see something worth the bother. And while I am terribly unimpressed with the movie as a whole, the battle for Zions dock is a beautiful piece of CGI. The machine squidies swarming like locusts against every target is something that has to be seen at the cinema for the full effect.

Unfortunately, the entire battle plays out like a cliched american war movie. It is obvious who the heros are going to be. It is obvious who will die heroically. Why is it obvious? Because we've seen it all before in war movies many times. We had the cringe-worthy Independence Day style speech, the rip-off mech warriors, the strong wife who has to make shells and then fight because her husband is fighting, the sceptical general and the young rookie who needs to prove himself. I almost wanted to wrap myself in an american flag it was so patriotic. Then I noticed how the people of zion embraced cultural diversity and realised that maybe it wasn't entirely a futuristic america.

This is one of the nice things about the sequels. It isn't just a load of white men with a token black guy saving the world. It's all encompassing. I respect that very highly, but it doesn’t make up for atrocious story-telling.

While the battle for Zion goes on, Neo and Trinity head for a final showdown with the Source… and ultimately, agent smith. Here the continuous references to religion and mythology get so OTT that you just want to cry. We know that Neo was the messiah in the first film. We know it was a re-telling of a 2000 year old story. And that was all well and good, because it was a stylised re-telling which didn't treat the audience like it was stupid. Unfortunately, the target audience for Reloaded and Revolutions are clearly dumb-ass, uneducated fools who have never read any books, as the need to over-explain everything is embarrassingly tiresome.

Which brings us to the final showdown. I was truly surprised and excited by the fight scene. There was use of CGI for the fight but it took second place to a beautifally choreographed, brutal final match. It was reminiscent of the original fight between these two, with added speed! The ending to the fight when it came, was good and provided a fitting conclusion.

But not content with having a smart ending, we had to site through another 5 minutes of the now infamous hollywood sappy ending. The 'will there be a sequel' moment. It was shocking and terrible overplayed, which seems to be par for the course with the matrix sequels.

So, does it deserve such a critical panning. Yes. The first film, while unoriginal in concept, was originally executed and breathed fresh life into science fiction. So what went wrong… I don't know. Too much money? Poor writing? Poor direction? Poor performances? I think it's all of these things. The saddest part was that the characters of Morpheus and Trinity were truly remarkable in the first film. By Revolutions Morpheus is nothing more than a bystander and Trinity is just a pathetic little woman in love. It's a real shame and terrible misuse of their talents.

Anyway… I've harped on for long enough. In summary, if you completely re-edited the two sequels and cut them down to a single 2 hour movie by removing the merovingian rubbish and the atrocious Zion scenes from Reloaded, you would have a half decent action movie sequel which successfully tied up the matrix franchise. It would still contain some terrible acting, poor dialogue and cliched battles but at least it would have a short and concise plot.

Sadly the two films are what they are. A gross embarrassment to the original. I gave the Matrix Reloaded 4 out of 10 when I reviewed it in the summer and I thought that was generous. Revolutions deserves no more than a 5.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Leave Charles alone

So there are accusations flying around about bonnie Prince Charlie. Only no-one can publish them for fear of the Queen declaring open war on the newspapers.

Now let's just assume for a moment that Prince Charles had an affair with a Butler. The traditionalist bigots would cry... "Shame on him. This man cannot be King. How could he be?"

Well, I ask you... why can't he? Can this country not get passed it's homophobic attitudes?

If these allegations are true then it's quite possible it could be the end of Charles' hopes of being King... which is a shining example of how intolerant this nation is.

Of course the likelihood is that there's not a shred of truth and it's someone trying to cash in, but that's not the point.

Whether you are a Royalist or Republican, all should agree that no person deserves to be victimised over sexual preference.

Censorship in the land of the free

OK. I was wrong about there having been no truly genius movies this year until Kill Bill came along. A friend just reminded me about Buffalo Soldiers. What a superb film that was. What a shame the Americans chose to show it in about 5 cinemas because it was critical of the US military.

Freedom of speech, my arse!

Friday, October 31, 2003

Saved by a samurai sword

A good friend of mine asked me to list some movies from this year that would go into the classics list. No problem I replied... and then I thought about it.

And thought about it.

And searched the web.

And found...


We all got excited at the prospect of the return of Neo, Morpheus and Trinity in Matrix:Reloaded. Instead we were treated to an hour of 1-dimensional storytelling, a brief look at the (Star Wars-esque) political situation, and a heavily overplayed sex-scene between 2 people with no on-screen chemistry at all. The rest of the film was just a mish-mash of poor fight scenes strung together with a vague and unoriginal (Star Wars-esque again) storyline.

We had a whole raft of sequels to look forward to. Some fun (X-Men 2, Terminator 3, American Pie: The Wedding), some so embarrassing you wondered how the makers could sleep at night (Charlies Angels 2, Tomb Raider 2). We had an alarming number of comic book movies. And while X-Men 2 was a laugh it's not something people are gonna look back on in 10 years and put on their top 100 movies of all time list.

Of course, there's always Return of the King. True, and I know it will be magnificent. I have no reason to doubt the vision and genius of Peter Jackson after Fellowship and Two Towers. But to have to wait 12 months from one great movie to the next while there's money being thrown into the film industry for fun is ludicrous. And besides, what do we look forward to after December 17th?

And then the end scene rolls on the finest movie of 2003. The audience has just been thrown a masterpiece cliffhanger. The music kicks in. The screen fades to black. And up pops the credits...

"Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino"

My cinematic year of hell is over.

Enough reviews have been written about Kill Bill Vol. 1, by people far more eloquent than I (Guardian Review, Empire Review), so I won't bother.

I'll just leave you by saying that this is the finest film of the year and with Volume 2 out in February, there is actually a reason to go to the movies next year.

Cheers Quentin!

Friday, October 24, 2003


Why blog? Well everyone else was doing it so who am I to argue with the masses? In typical Goodwin fashion I have probably joined the fad too late, but hey!

It's after midnight and holly is still at work. But I've been in her pub all night with friends drinking, so it can't all be bad.