Fri, Oct 19, 2012

: The Dogs of War

This was interesting timing: right after I saw Argo, I found that my DVR had recorded this film. I read the Frederick Forsyth book about a year ago but hadn’t seen the film which was made in 1980 (and stars the always-awesome Christopher Walken). To my surprise, I found many similarities between this film and Argo — in this film the main character’s plotting a political coup of a small African nation, but he has to get in and out of the country with forged papers and such, and there was a lot of the same political tension. Very interesting.

The film follows the book in many key ways, but there is more action, at least at the end during the battle. There was some new stuff (like new characters and a relationship) that was distracting and didn’t quite fit, though it wasn’t bad. (I’m sure those who never read the book wouldn’t notice.) Though I liked the book for the most part, it was a little dry, and I think the movie’s probably more interesting for most people. Fans of the book are probably peeved at the differences, and though I liked that much of the movie is about the same logistical aspects of buying weapons and hiring mercenaries, the movie’s less tedious. Though dated, it’s worth watching.

Topic: [/movie]


Thu, Oct 18, 2012

: Argo

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I’m not a big fan of political stuff so I hesitated going to see it, but I was living in Africa during the Iranian hostage crisis and even as a kid I remember how tense the situation was (we were advised by the U.S. Embassy to be prepared to leave the country on a moment’s notice if things got worse), so the historical aspect had me very curious.

I’m really glad I saw the film. It begins with a great summary of the political situation at the time (very helpful), and moves right into the riots in Iran that led to the U.S. Embassy being overtaken. I must say, that was very frightening. Not only did this film really captured the period, but I’ve been near such situations (riots) and the mob mentality is probably the scariest thing out there (there’s just no reasoning with a mob).

The rest of the film is very exciting, though in truth not that much happens. It’s all about what could happen (i.e. the six escapees of the embassy being discovered as they try to leave Iran while pretending to be Canadian filmmakers there scouting locations for their new movie). There’s a lot of fun historical stuff, glimpses of Hollywood and the 1970s CIA, but I was disappointed at the lack of actual movie-making in the escape plan. Other than one brief outing to a market, the supposed film group did nothing. I guess that didn’t hurt their escape chances, but it was an aspect of the story that interested me and there wasn’t much to it in the film.

Another minor gripe is that the ending feels over-done and drawn out. While yes, there’s tension as identification papers are checked, it goes on forever, and feels to Hollywood. (In reality, I suspect that other than a moment or two of pure terror and nervousness, it all went very smoothly and without incident, but of course that’s not dramatic enough for Hollywood.)

Still, the entire movie is well-acted, the casting is fantastic, and I loved the way the film credits have side-by-side pictures of both actors and scenes in the film with their real-life counterparts. It’s not a flawless movie, but it’s very good, and not at all boring or political as it might sound.

Topic: [/movie]


Sun, Oct 14, 2012

: Battle in Seattle

This is not the kind of film I usually like as I hate political films, but to my surprise I found the drama and multiple storyline approach intriguing and I ended up watching the whole thing. It’s about a huge political protest against the WTO (World Trade Organization) in 1999 that sparked riots and police brutality. I’d never even heard of the event (but I don’t pay much attention to such things).

I didn’t appreciate the film’s one-sidedness on the WTO (it clearly sides with the protesters with no voice on the other side), but I did like the way it tried to present multiple sides of the riots. We follow a cop with a pregnant wife, the mayor and the political pressure on him for the WTO summit to go well, several of the protestors, as well as people from third world countries involved with the WTO there to plead on their country’s behave for aid (and I liked that we were shown how the riots interfered with their agenda).

It was an interesting film, but other than a bit of brief background on a few of the protesters, we really don’t get much of an idea of what motivates them (and though presented sympathetically, they do seem a bit loony). There were a number of places I thought the drama could have been better handled, but the aspects of the rioting were well-handled and quite terrifying. (Having been near such rioting a couple of times in my life, I know what it feels like.) The all-start cast is excellent.

Ultimately the film is too preachy to move beyond its core audience of people who agree with the protestors, which is sad as it’s got some positive aspects. It’s not a great film but it’s worth seeing just for some of the key scenes, and I really liked that it got me thinking about the morality of responsibility. So much potential; I wish it had been handled more evenly as the message is important.

(An interesting aside: I watched this right after watching the season finale of Falling Skies, the summer TNT series about an alien invasion [yes, I’m way behind on my TV watching], and I found fascinating parallels. In that finale a key question was about responsibility: do we fight the aliens or sit back and hide and hope they’ll be merciful? The fight was compared to the American Revolution, where good men faced the same dilemma, and I found it intriguing that I was making comparisons to the protests in Seattle. If we don’t pay attention to what our government does or protest evil, perhaps we will lose the right to protest at all?)

Topic: [/movie]


Fri, Oct 12, 2012

: Middle Men

I was interested in this film because of the business aspect: it’s the story of how the Internet was commercialized via online credit card payment systems. Of course, the first industry to do that was the porn industry (just like it sparked the home video revolution), which gives the film a sleazy gimmick to promote.

Worse than that, it turns out the movie’s really about mobsters and gangsters, and while there are some clever plots twists (and I loved the neat ending), that was not the film I anticipated or the kind of film I like. (I fail to understand the fascination with the mob. It’s a world I don’t understand at all and it bores me to death.) The financial aspect, which intrigued me, is a mere two minutes of the movie, and it’s never really explained at all. (Imagine that the Facebook movie never explained what Facebook was and you get the idea.)

I did like how the main character is a family man who gets involved with this industry to help two idiots who stumbled upon this online billing gold mine, and then as he builds up the business he loses himself in the glamorous Vegas lifestyle and runs into moral dilemmas about what he should do. (Because the mob’s funding things behind the scenes, he finds he can’t get out.)

But the rest of the characters are all irredeemable and so stupid that I couldn’t stand them in every scene they are in (which means about 80% of the movie is tedious). Their stupidity makes his moral quandaries seem even more out of place.

It’s thus a frustrating movie: it’s not really about what it’s about, the convoluted mob plot stuff is fun but feels out of place and unrealistic, and far too much of the film is just unbearably stupid. Throw in some sleazy porn stuff, drug use, and gratuitous foul language and you’ve wasted a great cast and a good premise for a film. Sad.

Topic: [/movie]