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Hot for Dick

Posted October 4, 2018 into Movies by John Birmingham

Can't believe how much I'm looking forward to watching a movie about Dubya's Veep. But I am. The Big Short, by the same guy, was the just about the best explanation of the Great Recession I ever saw, read or heard. This looks even better.

2 Responses to ‘Hot for Dick’

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted October 5, 2018
Is that video SFW?

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Dave W puts forth...

Posted October 8, 2018
Looks great!

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Marvel at the Captain

Posted September 19, 2018 into Movies by John Birmingham

This looks great.

1 Responses to ‘Marvel at the Captain’

jl has opinions thus...

Posted September 19, 2018
Agreed, this looks amazing. Shame it's so far out.

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The Animal House Awkward Rewatch

Posted September 10, 2018 into Movies by John Birmingham

Animal House popped up on one of the streamers a few weeks ago—just checked, it was Netflix—and I started it rolling for no reason other than a quick nostalgia fix. I think I first watched that movie in Canberra when I was working for defence and sharing with a couple of other blokes, one of whom nowadays might not be a million miles removed from the office of the Secretary of the Department of Defence.
We were all newly stranded in Canberra, first year out of uni, and most Saturday nights we'd get a few beers on board and rent some video tapes.
That's how long ago this was.
No DVDs, just tapes.
I knew about Animal House of course. It'd been out for a years but was already a pop cultural touchstone. We watched it and probably watched it again before returning the tape. I rewatched it many times afterwards and retained fond if slightly hazy memories decades later.
It was kind of odd going back.
It was still funny in parts, but the humour felt more elegiac — funny because I recalled that it had been funny once upon a time. There was a sort of naive quality to it, which was only partly a function of setting the story in 1962 before the violent atomisation of the later Sixties. There was also something new. Real awkwardness. Not so much with the white monocultural cast. That was historically on point, although I doubt any film maker would get away with it now.

Rather, the sexual politics of Animal House feel... a little uncomfortable. There are no outright rape jokes, unlike a period 'classic' such as the original Ocean's Eleven, for instance.
But jeez, there's some problematic content, as the kids might say... If the kids are into policing the boundaries of acceptable discourse.
The racial inequities of the time, especially the clueless liberalism of the monied elites, are actually well neatly caught in the byplay between the Delta's and Otis Day and the Knights.
But in the #MeToo era its the film's gender biases that strike a loud, discordant note. Two moments in particular; chapter president Robert Hoover's winking joke at 'taking a few liberties with their dates', and Eric Stratton's gross seduction of the hottie from Emily Dickinson College. There are more, and the movie is doubtless a pale reflection of a much darker reality... but I was struck by how differently it played now than when I first watched it all the back in the 1980s.

5 Responses to ‘The Animal House Awkward Rewatch’

DNABeast reckons...

Posted September 10, 2018
I really like how functional the word 'problematic' is. It doesn't denote that anything need be done about it. It's not pushing down your throat that you need to be offended. But it also gives you permission to justifiably do so if you wish.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted September 10, 2018
I was pleased by the use of the elegiac.

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damian mutters...

Posted September 10, 2018
The other way to talk about problematic things is to point out they would be challenging to explain to certain audiences, or that they only work if you deny some category of people have a legitimate perspective.

But Revenge of the Nerds is worse - one of its “hero” moments depicts a sequence we would now consider rape, and probably should have back when it was new. Not sure I remember myself, I remember not thinking it was particularly good but that’s about it.

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Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted September 11, 2018
Most kids I know don't give two fucks about policing anything other than their appetites akin to what one might see in, well, Animal House.

Me thinks we worry too much about the ranks of the sniveling few.

Rob reckons...

Posted September 14, 2018
the endless tiring one upmanship of who can be more politically correct than everyone else, who can be more offended and outraged than everyone else. Or who can be more glib, cynical and sarcastic than everyone else. Those poor kids have removed all joy from their lives and replaced it with the politics of an outraged 15 year old.

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Posted July 10, 2018 into Movies by John Birmingham

I know it's late but I finally got to the movies to watch Solo last night. I've missed all of the big releases in the fist half of the year. Haven't caught a single Marvel episode. So it was nice to finally find the time to get out.

I really enjoyed it. Solo is not a perfect film, but it's not deserving of the shit it's had heaped on it either. (Just this morning I saw somebody on the twitterz running it down as bland and pointless — but they were more concerned about the easy ride Alden Ehrenreich got compared to Kelly Marie Tran).

I like space opera. I like westerns. I like noir. And Solo was a mash up of all three. It was action-driven, but it's a space adventure, not a 12 hour character drama on Hulu or Netflix. I dont think Ehrenreich did nearly as good a job of capturing young Solo as, say, Chris Pine did with his varsity Jim Kirk.

But the rest of cast picked up the slack. Woody Harrelson was brilliant. Jane didn't dig on Emilia Cark's Qi'ra, but my problem with her was my own. I kept waiting for the Mother of Dragons to ride in on a wave of fire. It was only in the last part of the film when I relaised the sort of archetypal noir character she was playing that I began to understand Clarke's performance.

Only real quibble I had was the odd choice to wash out the colour palate. You can have a western with vibrant colours but this one seemed to be permanently soaked in sepia tones. It was distracting.

Still, I enjoyed the film and I'm glad I caught it on the big screen.

8 Responses to ‘Solo’

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted July 10, 2018
I enjoyed it much more than the pasting it got led me to expect I would. I did have a moment of doubt as the movie started, in which I wondered if I really needed to know Han Solo's back story (I'm looking at you prequel trilogy), but in the end I thought it was pretty good. All of the supporting roles absolutely smashed it out of the park, which I think contributed to Ehrenreich not quite achieving the Solo swagger, but overall it answered some questions I didn't know I had, and tied in nicely to a few things in the original trilogy that had me going "Ah! I see what you did there!" I thought Lando's suffragette droid co pilot was an absolute standout too.

I still feel Rogue One is the absolute benchmark on Star Wars spin offs, but Solo was a really enjoyable way to waste a couple of hours.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 10, 2018
Yeah. The droid was great.
Interesting thing about the Solo swagger; it's mostly on display in A New Hope. He's an old school Saturday matinee rogue there. In the later eps of the first trilogy, Han is a much more conventional hero. Ehrenreich's portrayal is faithful to the later Han.

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 10, 2018
That's a really good point! I always put the disappearance of Han the rogue in Empire and Jedi down to the growth of his character once he teamed up with Luke and Leia et al.

Maybe the swagger develops after the end credits of Solo, when he's got the Falcon and Chewie and is off to try his luck with the gangster on Tatooine? If it had been a huge hit I can see them shoe-horning in a sequel for some exposition that would lead directly into a New Hope.

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Bernie has opinions thus...

Posted July 10, 2018
I really enjoyed Solo, apart from the stupid space kraken, and my mate snoring right in the middle ( he claimed it was because his new GF had been shagging him silly, I recon it was just old man-itis), did I mention how stupid I thought the space kraken was?
It was pretty stupid.

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Bernie reckons...

Posted July 10, 2018
Post Script,
Did anyone else think that Qi'ra may be well on the path to the dark side - I'd love to see her in a sequel as a sith lord.

Matthew F. would have you know...

Posted July 11, 2018
Yep. For most of the last act I thought she was just on her way to stepping into the now-empty crime boss' shoes, but then you get that closeup where the red sabre is reflected in her eyes - reckon that was in there very much on purpose.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon mumbles...

Posted July 11, 2018
i keep forgetting to go see it. I might have to wait for a streaming service for this one. I also saw that tweet from what i usually consider a reasonably reliable source. Might have hit them on a bad day.

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Vovchara has opinions thus...

Posted July 20, 2018
I guess it all depends on how you like prequels. I don't. I have something around 2k books on my kindle in addition to innumerable kindle unlimited books I've read in the last 7 years. And around 20 of them are prequels. And I didn't like a single one of them. They all lack suspense, most of them break the continuity, and even if they don't like for example "Manticore Ascendant" by David Weber, they still present a world where we know how it all ends.
And Star Wars universe is the worse when it comes to continuity or making sense in general. There is just too much stuff created in all those movies and books with no one taking continuity or world building serious.
There is only one exception - and sadly it's a fanfic - which creates a cohesive narrative, pays attention to lore and worldbuilding and subverts expectations in a meaningful way.
For those who haven't read it, I can only recommend to try it out. by Charles Sonnenburg. Chuck uses canon and lore from both Star Trek and Star Wars in the way we all wish the original authors did. It's a true saga, with 6 books where everything we've ever seen from Star Wars and Star Trek used to it's best.
At least for me, after I've read it I couldn't watch atrocities Hollywood creates in those Universes anymore.

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Death Wish

Posted January 29, 2018 into Movies by John Birmingham

I rewatched this Charlie Bronson classic on Netflix a week or so back. A couple of things struck me. First, it's really badly made – in the way that lots of classic 70s flicks are really badly made. Choppy editing. Shitty music. Some terrible, terrible acting.

But I watched it all the way through because I'd never seen it before, and it is a pop cultural touchstone. I aslo enjoyed it, the same way I enjoy beer and tacos, or greasy hamburgers. If they are true to themselves they can still be great.

A couple of observations.

The fight choreography is awful, but the violence is more realisitc because of it. The home invasion and rape which provide the 'inciting incident' are difficult to watch. They are intimate but not voyeuristic. It's like watching CCTV footage.

Jeff Goldblum is one of the baddies!

But you never see him again. Bronson's architect doent hunt down the men who attacked his wife and daughter. The city is so full of scum there is no chance of ever finding them.

In this way, Death Wish is a revenge movie, but one firmly rooted in realism. In the dozens, even hundreds of later movies and TV shows inspired by it, the grieving father always gets his man. Liam Neeson's Taken series even dispenses with the grief and cuts straight to the vengeance in response to the mere threat of violation. Bronson's character would be impressed.

The other thing that stands out? The lack of guns. This is actually a lietmotiv for the movie; the disarming and emasculation of the American male by an earlier and very different 'gun lobby'. The anti-gun lobby. I found it weird to spend time an America so denuded of guns that one man with a pistol could constitute a clear and present danger to the civilised order, as Bronson does.

In searching for an image to run with this, I discovered that Bruce Williss has a reboot of DW coming out this year. Tere is more cinematic artistry in the two and half minutes of the trailer than in the entire running time of Bronson's original. But the realism is gone. And I have no doubt Bruce will have his revenge.

5 Responses to ‘Death Wish’

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted January 31, 2018
DW was on TV last year sometime, and I'd never seen it either. I started watching but I can still say I've never seen (all of) it, mainly due to the crappy acting etc, but if you really want to see truly bad acting try Murder on the Cape (or something like that) on Netflix. Any movie where the lead "actress" is the wife of the writer/producer/director probably isn't going to be a masterpiece.

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted January 31, 2018

I've never seen this film, but I did read the original book it was based on some years ago. I'm pretty sure I still have my copy somewhere. And you're absolutely right. The lack of readily available guns stands out quite starkly.

The Bronson film I do quite like and rewatch reasonably often is Death Hunt - Bronson as the suspected 'mad trapper' with Lee Marvin and Carl Weathers as RCMP guys trying to catch up with him.

And he's pretty good in 'Once Upon a Time in the West' as well.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted January 31, 2018
Yeah, quite a few people have praised Death Hunt since I posted this.

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HAVOCK21 puts forth...

Posted January 31, 2018
never thought too much of it, but that bloke in the vid clip above sure does fkn look like me. FOR I AM A FKN GOD!....Dam good loking the pair of us!

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted February 1, 2018
To be fair, the acting never looks great in the cheesy genre style of the director, Michael Winner.

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NYT on bringing Peter Cushing back for Rogue 1

Posted December 29, 2016 into Movies by John Birmingham

SPOILER WARNING. Seriously. Stop now if you haven't seen the film yet.

I heard Cushing had been digitally reborn for R1 just before I saw the film. I wish I hadn't. I couldn't help but watch his scenes with a hypercritical eye, looking for the contours of the uncanny valley. I don't know that I'd have noticed much if I hadn't already known.

The New York Times has an interesting piece about the process of bringing Grand Moff Tarkon back to life. As the producers point out, it wasn't something they could avoid. “If he’s not in the movie, we’re going to have to explain why he’s not in the movie,” said Kiri Hart, a Lucasfilm story development executive and “Rogue One” co-producer. “This is kind of his thing.”

From NYT:

In striving for a balance between a digital figure who seemed real and one who looked precisely like Cushing, the “Rogue One” creators said seemingly minor tweaks could make significant differences — and these details were tinkered with constantly.
For example, the original “Star Wars” film (also known as “A New Hope”) was lit differently than “Rogue One,” raising questions of how to adjust the lighting on the character.
Hal Hickel, an Industrial Light & Magic animation supervisor, said that lighting him “the way he was in ‘A New Hope’ improved his likeness as Tarkin, but it worsened the sense of him being real because then he didn’t look like any of the actors in the scene.”

13 Responses to ‘NYT on bringing Peter Cushing back for Rogue 1’

insomniac reckons...

Posted December 29, 2016
I don't see what would have been wrong with digging up Cushing's corpse and draping it over some sort of robotic skeleton.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted December 29, 2016
I didn't know in advance and I thought it looked amazing. Sure, if you look close enough you can tell Cushing was CGI, but the uncanny valley has narrowed significantly.

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Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted December 29, 2016
What I noted, after playing both the original and CGI on YouTube after I saw Rogue One, was that they did pretty good with the face. However, Guy Henry's voice is just a notch off. Henry's voice has a bit of crackle in it, especially when he says he want to speak with Lord Vader.

Cushing's voice always rolls, and sounds as smooth as silk, even when he is menacing.

But that wasn't enough to wreck the moment, anymore than the CGI did. However, Princess Leia looked downright creepy. Her skin too flawless, too translucent and milky. Carrie Fisher does, if you look, have some texture to her even at 19.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted January 4, 2017
With you on that synopsis Murph. I was pretty impressed with the job they did on Cushing - not so on Leia. I had to google to see if they just got some look-a-like for her role and mashed the makeup on good and proper.

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MordWa would have you know...

Posted December 29, 2016
Peter Cushing was always sufficiently creepy - odd even, in the way Hammer Horror icons always seemed to be - that having him as CGI didn't bother me. I'm not sure it would work for anyone else; with the obvious exception that Yoda has of course been CGI for 20 years, and no one seemed to care...

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w from brisbane mutters...

Posted December 29, 2016
I haven't seen the movie yet, but regarding the Peter Cushing CGI and prejudicial judgements etc, I read an interview with the Australian actor Anthony LaPaglia. He moved to America and worked hard on the audition circuit but struggled to be cast. He presented as an Australian but was sure his American accent was spot on. The casting people would say, we like you but we don't think your American accent is quite right. To overcome this, he decided to tell them he was American and all problems with his accent disappeared. He ended up with seven years as the lead actor in the very successful TV show, 'Without a Trace'.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted December 30, 2016
That is the exact reason why I've stopped telling people that I can read their minds.

Oldy is gonna tell you...

Posted December 31, 2016
Well of course I knew you were going to say that

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted December 31, 2016
You are totally creeping me out, dude.

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McGuffin is gonna tell you...

Posted January 1, 2017
I suspect much of the uncanny valley effect has to do with fore-knowledge. My wife and a couple of other people I've talked to weren't especially aware of Peter Cushing, or the fact that he's dead, and didn't notice he was a digital creation.

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Don Bagert swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 2, 2017
It really was good to see the lengths they went to make this movie "Star Wars, Episode 3.9" (or is that III.IX lol) - they wanted to make it reasonable for future generations to watch "Rogue One" followed by "A New Hope" with as few differences as possible.

Now, it's good that Carrie Fisher has already filmed her scenes for Episode VIII - I hope that they can write around her death so they don't have to CGI Leia again for Episode IX :P

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Rob reckons...

Posted January 2, 2017
I think I'll wait till the dvd to see it. My star wars fandom has lost its shine (and you should see my toy collection) , plus my TV is great as is my new stereo. I'm pretty sure there is nothing that is going to spoil it for me.

I got bored with reading the Star wars novels because they essentially just rehashed the first 3 movies in each novel. Yet another Death Star/suncrusher/darksabre and not enough R2D2.

The young Han Solo novels were Ok and gave him some extra depth. What we really need is a return of Jaxxon the Rabbit, now that's a character!

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Aaron mumbles...

Posted January 3, 2017
I could tell there was some sort of effect but didn't really care, they are trying to tell a story and the original actor is gone. I would prefer they cast real actors with make up or something. They did a fantastic job I felt like I was watching a movie not a prequel.

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