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We have a music discussion thread but seem to lack a film (movie if you're from that bit of the world) discussion. The idea's pretty self-evident: what films have you seen recently, what did you think of them? Fairly similar to another thread really...

To start, I watched Gomorrah (2008) for the second time last night. It's a really good bit of Italian film-making and centres arouind the problems faced by Naples throught the stories of a few people whose paths cross with the organised crime there. It certainly doesn't pull punches in terms of the gritty reality from the first scene and a fairly grim ending.
Some of the settings are brilliant too, there are scenes shot in some buildings which look seriously run down in Naples which leads to a good degree of accuracy.

Overall I'd give it 8/10.

So what's anyone else watching?

In the last two weeks I've watched Green Zone and The Ghost Writer in theatres. Green Zone, of course, is the big action/drama starring Matt Damon and directed by Paul Greengrass. Damon, as usual, is quite good. Some critics have complained about the jumpy hand-held camera work (a Greengrass signature notably used in the 2nd and 3rd Bourne films) but it fits the subject matter perfectly--the subject being the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States. I'm not much for rating a film by the numbers, but I'll say that this one is certainly worth at least one peek on a big screen.

The Ghost Writer stars Ewan McGregor, with Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams playing pivotal roles. Roman Polanski directs. Brosnan is a disgraced former British Prime Minister; McGregor is ghost-writing the P.M.'s autobiography; Williams plays the P.M.'s wife. This is another film connected to the notorious "War on Terror". The acting is superb, the settings sufficiently wind-swept and menacing, the drama can sometimes seem over the top but is leavened with a sort of biting humor that makes it all work damn well. Terrific movie, though not the sort of thing I necessarily want to see over and over again.
I am in the middle of watching Red Cliff (Chi Bi), the International version, not the butchered American one. I finished part one yesterday and am working on part 2 today (and probably tomorrow, it is long). It is a very fun movie, set in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. You can really see that John Woo is going for an epic feel, which he captures very well. Besides the characteristically over the top action scenes, the characters are interesting and likeable, and he takes the time to develop them. The latter makes the move move kind of slowly in places, but I think it is well worth the payoff in how it enriches the story. What really struck me today was how absolutely perfectly he started part two. The opening credits are interspersed with the pivotal scenes from part 1. This tells you the entire story of part 1 in a few minutes, without it being a boring prologue. A good example of showing vs. telling. Oh, and the eye-candy is nice. China is a beautiful country. The cgi could be better in places, but I have seen far worse.
We have become rather addicted to Netflix- but are watching some older TV series that we missed the first time around. I will leave it up to Olen as the OP as to whether we should discuss television or just stick to movies/films.

The last movie I watched was Stardust, the adaptation of the Neil Gaiman book by the same name. The cimematic version was fairly faithful to the original story, although some material was (necessarily) dropped. Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer were both outstanding. There was plenty of humor and the CGI effects were nicely done.

Mrs. Treydog watched Seraphine, a biopic about an untrained French artist (Seraphine Louis). It was her kind of film, as the artist was troubled and likely psychotic. As a painter, Mrs. Treydog prefers suffering artist movies.... Seriously, she found it quite interesting and definitely worth viewing.
I'm currently following Stargate Universe, Stargate has always been one of my favourite shows. But Stargate Universe still has a lot to live up to if it ever wants to get better than Atlantis.
Watching Stargate SG1...again. My favorite season show of all time. 50 discs and I've already watched them all before but its been so long its like watching them over for the first time.
Pride and Prejudice - not my favorite version. My favorite one involves Colin Firth with his shirt open and a damp chest after an impomptu swim.

Valmont - another Colin Firth one, this time he has long hair drawn back in a pony tail.
haute ecole rider
It's been a while, but let's see, the last one I watched (and was quite surprised by how good it was) is When the Last Sword is Drawn, a samurai movie I found on Thought it sounded interesting, but the plot and story were so compelling, and the actors/actresses were outstanding, that I just sat there and drooled over the storytelling . . . If only I could write stories like that! And the cinematography was poetical, making the settings characters in their own rights. I watched it while I was working on combat scenes in my own fiction, and thought maybe I could learn a thing or two. Well, I certainly did, and not just swordfighting techniques, either! If any of you have ever watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this is as lyrical in its imagery, but I thought overall Last Sword was better quality in the story and character development.

I will admit that I cried at the end. blink.gif verysad.gif
I have put When the Last Sword is Drawn on my Netflix list. The synopsis sounds very neat.

While not movie theater movies, I have started watching the Sharpe's Rifles movies again. I fell in love with them several years ago, and now I cannot resist the urge to dust them off every year or so to see again. Sean Bean is at his finest playing Richard Sharpe, rough, uncultured, a proper honoured user, and perhaps because that more a gentleman than most of the other officers around him.

The supporting cast of the Rifles themselves strong, led by Daragh O'Malley as Sgt. Harper. The individual troopers have personality, making them feel like real people rather than simply stuffed uniforms. John Tams plays Hagman, and has one of the most incredible singing voices. He is the one singing Over the Hills and Far Away in the series (and other songs).

One of the real treasures in this series are the guest stars though. Quite a few talented British actors (and a few non Brits) made their way through this series as it was done. Brian Cox is most notable as Hogan. Too bad he only did a few of the films. Daniel Craig is in the one I am currently watching - Sharpe's Eagle. He does not look a thing like the man I know from films like Layer Cake, Archangel, and of course the Bond films. But his voice is unmistakable. James Purefoy (of Rome fame) turns up in a later film, and is simply fantastic. Elizabeth Hurley makes an appearance. Alice Krige too. Even Alexis Denisof takes a turn.
I saw Up in the Air a little while ago. If you like George Clooney, you will like it, as it features him at his confident, suave, cool best. The story has some good character development throughout, albeit is a little predictable. My only problem was the ending, which seemed rather flat. We saw Clooney's character change though the movie, but at the end we are left to wonder what for? I do not want to spoil it so I will not go into details. Still, in spite of that it was a fun watch, if for nothing else the sheer pleasure of watching George Clooney strut his stuff in a role that was tailor made for him.
Destri Melarg
I finally saw Avatar for the first time tonight.

Number 1 grossing movie of all time!

Really? rolleyes.gif
Did you see it in 3d? I agree the script was distinctly so so and the plot was nothing special but they really nailed the graphics with 3d which actually worked and didn't make the background look stupid.

I went and saw Iron Man 2 yesterday, it did exactly what it said on the tin. It was about as intellectually challenging as and with depth of a pancake but nonetheless it was enjoyable enough for the two hours. Large machines smashing eachother to bits for two hours (and no appriciable reason) can only be a good thing. Robert Downey was excellent in it and fitted his character well. Overall entertaining in a light sort of way.

As a blast from the past I also saw Highlander again a few days ago, after the event I can never quite believe how bad that film is. It must be among the worse I've seen, what did they spend their $16M on?
haute ecole rider
QUOTE(Olen @ May 9 2010, 04:33 AM) *
As a blast from the past I also saw Highlander again a few days ago, after the event I can never quite believe how bad that film is. It must be among the worse I've seen, what did they spend their $16M on?

Highlander is not good by any stretch, but any movie that has Queen for their sound track is still cool in my book. biggrin.gif

Another movie that is not so good but still high in the cool factor is Nomads, with Pierce Brosnan and Lesley Anne Downs. Hey, the cool factor here is Adam Ant. What's not to like?

A bad movie that revels in being bad so much that it's actually funny is The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai. Peter Weller and Ellen Barkin were in that movie, and there are so many tongue in cheek gags and puns that I'm not resenting the sorry plot at all!

Huh, can you tell I'm an 80's girl? coolgrin.gif

I haven't watched any new ones recently. However, I will plug one I saw a few years ago, and still pull the DVD out to watch occasionally. It's Memento, an indie production, with Guy Pierce in the lead. Unusual storyline, and it takes a while to figure out just what is going on. My kind of movie - it kept me guessing almost to the end (instead of figuring out at the start who the bad guy is). This is a good one, in my book.
Destri Melarg
QUOTE(Olen @ May 9 2010, 02:33 AM) *

Did you see it in 3d? I agree the script was distinctly so so and the plot was nothing special but they really nailed the graphics with 3d which actually worked and didn't make the background look stupid.

I saw it in Blu-Ray. I agree that the effects were really well done, but I expect no less from Stan Winston Studios and Lightstorm. It was the script that I found lacking . . . Dancing With Smurfs, indeed.

QUOTE(haute ecole rider @ May 9 2010, 06:12 AM) *

I haven't watched any new ones recently. However, I will plug one I saw a few years ago, and still pull the DVD out to watch occasionally. It's Memento, an indie production, with Guy Pierce in the lead. Unusual storyline, and it takes a while to figure out just what is going on. My kind of movie - it kept me guessing almost to the end (instead of figuring out at the start who the bad guy is). This is a good one, in my book.

Allow me to second this recommendation, Memento is an excellent movie.
I still have no seen Avatar, even though it is now on disc. I will get around to it eventually, when I am in the mood for a mindless action movie with a hot blue chick.

I am currently in the middle of When the Last Sword Is Drawn. As haute said, it is good. I have found the way it jumps around confusing though, making it take a long time for me to warm up to.

I liked Highlander. Yes it was a bad movie, but still thought it was fun, and it really stood out in the very sparse field of sword and sorcery movies that were around at that time (if you think it is awful, try The Beastmaster!). Granted Christoper Lambert's acting was horrific, but Clancy Brown makes up for it with his sheer coolness ("I'm Candy. "Of course you are..."). I love that suit of armor he has in the flashbacks.

I actually like a lot of bad movies. Done right, a bad movie can be loads of fun. Look at most of the Lovecraft movies, like The Unnamable I and II. Or the Return of the Living Dead movies. Tons of fun!

I liked Nomads too. It is a different kind of movie. Not an overt supernatural horror type, but rather much more low-key in its creepiness. Plus is has Pierce Brosnan, whom I have been a fan of since Remington Steele.

Memento was another I enjoyed. Very odd movie. Not one I would want to see again, but very cool the first time around.

I finally got around to seeing Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween a little while ago. On one hand it was interesting seeing so much depth given to Michael Myers for a change. But that is also the biggest problem of the movie. The main character is not Laurie as it was in Carpenter's classic, it is Michael instead. Making a movie about how cool it is to be a serial killer does not really do much for me. Although granted I do know that is what most horror fans seem to want these days, given the successes of franchises like Saw. In the end it turns out to be pretty meh, quite missable.
Watched (re-watched, actually) The Big Lebowski on a large-ish screen in a fellow's backyard in Grand Junction, Colorado, last weekend. If you haven't seen it, you ought to--it's not a "great" film, but it is a highly amusing shaggy story set in 1980's Los Angeles, centered around the adventures of The Dude (Jeff Bridges). The Dude, for the uninitiated, is a middle-aged hippie bowling aficionado who ends up entangled in a convoluted crime caper featuring a wheel-chair bound millionaire, the millionaire's ex-porn star trophy wife, the millionaire's haughty arty daughter, a smut merchant, and German nihilists. Directed by the Coen brothers, this film is absurdly funny and sublimely profane.
Sense and Sensibility, The Green Mile - I don't watch TV often, just was in the mood to today.
A few days ago I watched Three Days of the Condor, one of my all time favorite spy films. The reason being that the protagonist is not an action hero. Rather he is a guy paid to read books. The only thing he has going for him is his brain, which he uses to good effect throughout the movie. The ending is not what you would expect (at least from a modern movie), which is rather nice.

Today I finished Ride With the Devil, an outstanding U.S. Civil War movie centered on a group of Bushwackers in Missouri. Some of them survive, most do not. Those who do live are forever changed. It is a strong, character-driven story, not too predictable, and doesn't flinch to show the ugliness on both sides of guerrilla war between Kansas and Missouri. As one character says at the end: "Its not right, and its not wrong, it just is."
haute ecole rider
Not exactly a movie, but not exactly a TV series, either. uploaded 62 episodes of the Korean drama The Great Queen Seondeok. I've been watching it for the past couple of weeks. It's a great story, full of intrigue, plot twists, and best of all, a cast full of three- (and even four-) dimensional characters. It's a standout due to the strong characters of the two main protagonists (both female), who lock horns with each other over the royal throne. The series takes place during the Three Kingdoms period of Korea's history, in the early seventh century. The acting is outstanding, and the writing is well-done. There are no cardboard characters here. I love the villains in this pieces as much as I love the heroes.

I'm off now to watch Episode 47!
QUOTE(SubRosa @ May 9 2010, 11:11 PM) *

I actually like a lot of bad movies. Done right, a bad movie can be loads of fun. Look at most of the Lovecraft movies, like The Unnamable I and II. Or the Return of the Living Dead movies. Tons of fun!

You need to see the movie "Bloodrayne", its one of the worst movies I've ever seen...also go watch "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale".

Got to be my top two terrible movies. In fact I recommend everyone see them just for a good laugh.
QUOTE(Kiln @ May 26 2010, 08:24 AM) *

QUOTE(SubRosa @ May 9 2010, 11:11 PM) *

I actually like a lot of bad movies. Done right, a bad movie can be loads of fun. Look at most of the Lovecraft movies, like The Unnamable I and II. Or the Return of the Living Dead movies. Tons of fun!

You need to see the movie "Bloodrayne", its one of the worst movies I've ever seen...also go watch "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale".

Got to be my top two terrible movies. In fact I recommend everyone see them just for a good laugh.

I tried to watch Dungeon Siege, but could not make it through the movie, in spite of Ron Perlman, who is one of my favorite actors (damn, that guy is cool!). Bloodrayne is one I cannot even bring myself to consider watching.

I have been watching Daria, all however-many seasons there were of it have been put onto dvd, and Netflix finally got their hands on it. Lots of fun. Daria is someone whom a bright, cynical, unpopular person like myself can so easily relate to. I love the other characters like Jane and Trent, even UpChuck (fiesty!), Kevin, and Britney. Oh, and especially Mr. D'Martino, with his stattaco style of speaking and razor-sharp sarcasm, he is an absolute riot!
I saw The Road a few days ago. An excellent post-apocalypse movie that focuses on a father trying to protect his son (born after the apocalypse). It does not go into details about what kind of apocalypse it was, although nuclear is heavily implied given the night where the sky was lit up like fire. It does not really matter though, because the focus of the story is not the event, but rather the two characters.

The director makes excellent use of color to reinforce the bleakness of the new world, or perhaps I should say the corpse of the old world. Everything set in the present is dull and muted. Lots of browns and greys. Fields are filled with detritus of crops, and most of it looks like November, cold, but without the pleasant white blanket of snow. The sky is a neverending sheet of grey clouds. There are often strange rumbles in the distance, of earthquakes perhaps, and great plumes of smoke. The occasional flashbacks to pre-apocalypse stand out in stark contrast, being filled with vibrant color. Showing us that this was a time when not only the world, but the characters, were more alive.

It is a pretty grim tale, with the father trying to hold onto his humanity in world with precious little of it left. Cannibals are a constant threat, and make for some very chilling encounters. Not a super-action movie, there are no heroic battles with evildoers, just a desperate race to escape and survive. Often this happens as others fall victim. The scene in the basement still stays with me. Just plain creepy.

My only complaint is that like many movies seem to be these days, the dialogue is mixed very low, with Viggo Mortensen especially talking in raspy whispers most of the time. The rest of the sound is mixed higher, so it is very hard to hear what people say. Turning up the volume does not help because then the rest of the movie is too loud. I had to watch it with the subtitles on, otherwise I would have missed half the dialogue.

I also saw The Crazies yesterday. Another good movie starring Radha Mitchell (I love her, she always plays strong characters and does not have giant fake boobs and a zillion dollars of plastic surgery. She would make a good Teresa I think.) A remake of a Romero film, it is a fun horror movie about a government-created virus accidentally loosed upon a small town. As the local sheriff and his doctor wife try to figure out what is going on, the government moves in and throws a black bag over the entire area and everyone in it. It has shades of Half-Life there, as the infected people are not the only danger, but the soldiers quarantining the place as well.

One thing I liked about it was that while the virus made people homicidal, in its early stages there were no physical signs of it. So anyone could be infected, and you would not know it until they tried to kill you.
I watched Children of Men again last night. It's a brilliant film and probably one of my favourites for it's dark atmosphere, brilliant settings and long scenes, and for having a hero who is genuinely a normal guy.

It's a bit outdated now (the idea is that humanity has become infertile by 2009 and is set 18 years after) but from the news bulletin fragments (in the style of BBC news) it begins with to a great many little details like the tensions between the right wing government and the extreme left it paints a picture of a country falling apart through dispair. It's not a happy film though it's well worth watching.
haute ecole rider
Agreed, Children of Men is one of the better movies I've watched out there. Yes, it is very dark and depressing, but pretty realistic, too. To me, it has a George Orwellian feel to the story, and yet it is one of hope in the midst of despair.

I've been watching The Kingdom of the Wind, a South Korean drama from 2008. It's a historical drama set in the first decade of the Christian era, about the part of ancient Korea that is now mostly incorporated into North Korea (Goguryeo). The lead character is a prince born with a curse, and his father, the King, is unable to kill him, so instead he sends the boy out to be raised as a commoner, with no knowledge of his parentage or family. It has elements of a Greek tragedy (think Oedipus) as well as romance. It's pretty well acted, not over the top or too melodramatic, and the villains are truly, intelligent and understandable in their motives, while the heroes are flawed. Good stuff!
Destri Melarg
I liked Children of Men as well, and The Kingdom of the Wind sounds interesting (a Korean Oedipus? I have got to see that! tongue.gif ). Last week I watched The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance. For those of you with a Netflix account I canít recommend this four-part PBS documentary enough. It covers the history of the family over hundreds of years and several generations. It is a story filled with political intrigue, assassination, and religious fervor. Not to mention the Medici patronage of artists such as Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, which the documentary explores in admirable detail. For me this goes right alongside Ken Burnsí wonderful Mark Twain and the extraordinary The Cove as the best documentaries Iíve seen this decade.
Children of Men was so-so.
Ornamental Nonsense
A movie that I would highly recommend is 'Conspiracy' starring Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci. The former plays Reinhard Heydrich, and the latter plays Adolf Eichmann. The entire film takes place in one house, and mostly in one room at that, but showcases dialogue that is so riveting that it's impossible not to remain fixated. This dialogue is also incredibly disturbing in nature, as the film is a rendering of the infamous Wansee Conference of January 1942. High ranking bureaucrats, SS officers, and party members met to discuss the question of handling Jews, what to do with them, the fastest methods of extermination, and whether or not the law made provisions for such things. You can imagine how creepy that would be to begin with, but the fact that the characters go about discussing this in a very logical and methodical way is what really makes the content so troubling, and it's not a smooth discussion at all.

No, everyone has priorities, and internal conflicts between political and military groups become very apparent as the conversation progresses. For history buffs, there's a lot of unspoken subtext regarding power struggles that will delight, but even for people who know nothing about Nazi Germany, the characters are so fascinating that historical knowledge isn't necessary to appreciate this film. As Heydrich pulls the strings, threatening some, wooing others, and ultimately shaping the fate of millions of people as he makes decisions for everyone, you'll remain glued to the screen. Manipulation at its finest, and Eichmann as the pencil-pushing sidekick is equally interesting. Perhaps the greatest impact comes at the end of the film, when you discover what historically happened (or didn't happen) to all of the people involved in promoting murder.

Honestly, don't miss this jewel of a film. It's based on the only surviving transcript of the Wansee Conference, and you'll walk away from the film with a lot to think about. If anyone does check it out, please let me know what you thought of it.
I saw Conspiracy a long time ago, and have rewatched it several times since. I agree with everything ON said. It is a good movie. A little disturbing in the cold, methodical way that the group is discussing the extermination of millions, and also fascinating in the way it demonstrates the in-fighting between the Nazis.
I watched Despicable Me a week or so back.

It's a great movie with comedy that's actually GOOD and a kids movie that they put EFFORT into it. It features a Villain who's the main protagonist. After meeting a new villain who's much more competent with the whole "Evil" role, the protagonist, Gru, works to no end in trying to steal the moon. After the rival(Victor)steals a shrink ray to steal it, Gru uses three orphans and the ADVENTURE BEGINS!!

I give it a...A-

It's a little slow at first but the psychological aspect of the movie is touching. My friend started crying when we were watching it. Then some bunghole in the back told her to shut up. XD
I just finished watching Digging to China, a wonderful little movie about a girl who befriends a severely retarded man. Evan Rachel Wood plays the girl, who is far too smart and imaginative for her own good (she once tried digging a hole to China, but found that a mysterious electrical barrier protected the core of the earth... Zot!). Kevin Bacon turns in a spectacular performance as the retarded man. It is hard to imagine he is the same actor from movies like Footloose. The relationship that develops between the two tugs at your heartstrings, and had me in tears more than once. Definitely a chick flick, so guys beware.

On a completely different note, I have also been slowly working my way through the old Showtime series Robin of Sherwood, starring Michael Praed as Robin, The Hooded Man. This is by far my favorite incarnation of Robin Hood. The series was shot on location, which brings a real sense of realness and grittiness to each episode. ut best of all is the kind of Robin it has. He is not some spoiled Baron's son out to get his title back. Rather he is a Saxon revolutionary fighting the Norman invaders who oppress the common people. With a healthy dose of magic and paganism, Robin is Herne's Son, and carries Albion, one of the Swords of Wayland, charged with the powers of light and darkness.

The supporting cast is strong, with Nicholas Grace truly shining as the Sheriff of Nottingham. A brilliant, bitterly acerbic, and utterly amoral man contemptuous of everything and everyone around him. He is a man you really love to hate, and truly deserves the title of master villain. My favorite character is Nasir though, a Saracen assassin who was enslaved by the devil-worshipping sorcerer Baron De Balleme and freed by Robin. A man of few words, he fights with two swords, and just generally looks cool at all times. He was the first Saracen character in a Robin Hood story, and was actually supposed to die in the pilot. But the writers liked the character so much they kept him instead.

The series suffers the same drawbacks as most t.v. shows, as the heros always find some reason not to kill Sir Guy and the Sheriff when they have the opportunity, and likewise always somehow wriggle free when the tables are turned. Michael Praed leaving the series at the end of the second season gave them the opportunity to break from that mold for a truly sad episode in which the Sheriff finally has his victory. Or does he? For the third season begins with Jason Connery as a new hero who takes up Robin's mantle as Herne's Son. Not as good as the first two seasons, it is still worth giving a watch at least once.
I finished watching R-Point, it's a Korean movie about the vietnam war.

A squad of soldiers disappears during the Vietnam war and only one survivor remains. He claims that all of the other soldiers are dead but the central command keeps getting weird messages from Donkey 3, the squad that went missing. A group of soldiers were sent to rescue them, but instead suffers from paranoia and strange events. In the last moments on R-Point, the soldiers turn on each other, claiming the other ones are a part of some conspiracy. Then the delusion of a ghost comes in, a blind soldier and the commander of the squad are the only ones alive. The commander orders the blind one to fire at the ghost in front of him, only to be killed in the process. Then, the only one left is the blind one, who starts to suffer from paranoia himself and starts going insane. The movie closes on the message that it started on, only difference being the squad that's calling is the one that went to rescue the first one...
I loved R-Point! It is one of my favorite movies in the new genre of War-Horror films. My favorite part was the Americans who came in on the helicopter to check their radio gear, and then the squad finds the helicopter...

I actually watched TV this week (I hate TV) ...Top Chef. Hate to admit it, but I liked it.
haute ecole rider

I've been wanting to watch this movie for soooo long! Ever since it first came out and I read the reviews. Through the years people kept referencing this movie.

Then uploads it!

I just finished watching Kurosawa's "Ran" - the remake/interpretation of "King Lear." Phenomenal movie! I know I didn't get all the layers - this is a movie that bears watching more than once. Half the story is told in the silences, which for me is powerful stuff, especially the way Kurosawa visualized it. Every second is as good as all the reviews, etc I had read of it.
Another Kurosawa you should see, and that is more accessible than some of his earlier work, is Kagemusha. I will not say much, beyond the fact that it is visually stunning and conveys a great deal without words.
Ran never did much for me. The main reason being that I disliked all the characters, especially the old king. Granted, I did get to see most of them get killed, they all certainly had it coming.

Kagemusha is in my Netflix queue, so I will probably be seeing it in the next few weeks.
I have been watching a lot of nature documentaries lately. Eye of the Leopard was an excellent one that followed a leopard for three years, starting from her birth. You really begin to feel a bond with Lagadema (the leopard), as she discovers her world, faces some very fearsome trials (such as nearly being killed by a pack of baboons), steps up to game to make an amazing kill of a baboon in the middle of their group, and even takes an infant baboon under her wing and tries to protect it. I highly recommend renting it.

Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure was another good one that followed Dolly, a Dolichorhynchops living in the late Cretaceous. It follows her life from start to finish, and is punctuated with a little bit of science from paleontologists. The main target is children, so it is not heavy on facts. Still, it is a delightful animal tale. If you look at it as a short film about an animal it is a lot of fun.

Super Croc is another. Just hearing Sam Neill's narration is worth the price of renting it. Even cooler is not only the palentology involved, but the studies of modern day crocodiles. Truly fantastic stuff. The bite force of these animals is just astounding. Seeing the final, reconstructed Super Croc is just awe-inspiring in its size.

Prehistoric Predators was so-so. It is a three part series that examines the Saber-Tooth Cat, the Dire Wolf, and the Short-Faced Bear. The Dire Wolf episode was my favorite. The facts that come out in the shows are very interesting, such as that the Short Faced Bear was built specifically for scavenging and it tremendous size was meant for intimidating other predators away from kills. The animation was a bit sub-par though, even for a nature show where you do not expect ILM quality work to begin with. Also it got repetitive at times, as scenes and information is recyled between episodes.

Now I am watching a pile of shark documentaries, starting with Shark Week 2009. The first episode in the series was just jaw dropping. It is a dramatization of the New Jersey shark attacks of 1916, and at two hours in length, it is a movie in its own right. It is shot as if a documentary of that period, with a reporter interviewing a scientist from the New York Museum of Natural History who was one of the closest things to a shark expert at that time, and breaking away from that to show the actual events. Very cool.

The rest of the first disc has been fascinating. There is one episode that details half-a-dozen shark attacks upon people. Thankfully in these all the people survived (it would not be much fun to watch if they had not), and often you wonder how they managed. You just cannot help but to feel empathy for those poor souls, who were happy campers one moment, then looked down to see a great white clamped onto their leg. In some of the cases, bystanders were truly heroic in swimming out to rescue the victims, risking death themselves, bringing them into shore before they could bleed to death.

I just finished watching one that tested a shark suit (mail armor) which is effective protection against most sharks. This test was against a great white however. The shark bit the mail right in half. In the past measurements of shark bite force were thought to be comparatively weak. Pound for pound, they were found to not be much stronger than dogs. However, the people making these studies overlooked the tremendous size of some of these sharks, which more than makes up for the relative weakness of their bites compared to their overall mass. A great white's bite force measures 4,000 pounds. So when those jaws clamp shut, it would take a crane to pull them apart.

Really astounding to watch are the great white's polaris breaches. They are the result of their style of attack. Cruising in deep water, then rocketing straight up at full speed (25mph) to hit the prey animal from underneath. They have video of sharks going completely out of the water while making these attacks. Seeing an animal that huge make those tremendous leaps is just breathtaking. Some amazing pics here and video here.

One thing I have noticed when watching all these great whites, is that all of them seem to be heavily scarred around their heads. My guess is that is from their favorite prey, seals. It sounds hard to believe, but they are supposed to be ferocious fighters. That explains the reason for the great white's tactics. Where other sharks tend to like to slowly close in to figure out if their prey might be a threat, the white makes one sudden attack from ambush, with the idea being to instantly immobilize the target.
We just finished the first season of Dollhouse. It is one of those shows that you think about long after it is over. I am in no way confident that I "got" everything Joss Whedon was trying to say about society and humanity, but it was certainly worth watching. Which is not to say it was not disturbing and ambiguous.

Otherwise, we are working our way through all seven seasons of Homicide: Life of on the Streets. It was the forerunner of The Wire, with a number of the same production people involved. It is gritty, depressing, and incredibly well-written and well-acted. The interesting thing is, except for perhaps Yaphet Kotto and Richard Belzer (who was known more for his stand-up comedy), none of the actors were especially prominent when the series began. One thing that is interesting to look at is how Homicide differed from most "cop shows" from the time (or earlier). There are some incredible moments, such as when Det. Pembleton (Andre Braugher) manipulates a suspect into a confession because of pressure from above to "close the case." He does it knowing that his Lieutenant is watching- and that he will not accept the confession because he knows it is bogus. And a lot of the show has that dynamic- of one-on-one or two-on-one confrontation- often with someone else observing. This is character-driven storytelling at its best.
haute ecole rider
I agree with trey - Homicide is one of the most underrated cop shows on TV ever. In many ways it was better than Hill Street Blues, and that was one of the first character-driven police shows I can remember. I loved Homicide because of relative unknowns, but also because each actor, from Yaphet Kotto as G and Richard Belzer (you can catch him on Law & Order: SVU - he plays the same character), to the unknowns like Andre Braugher, Stephen Baldwin, et. al. turned in incredibly powerful performances. Andre Braugher remains as one of my favorite actors because of what he did on that show.
QUOTE(haute ecole rider @ Aug 29 2010, 12:29 PM) *

I agree with trey - Homicide is one of the most underrated cop shows on TV ever. In many ways it was better than Hill Street Blues, and that was one of the first character-driven police shows I can remember. I loved Homicide because of relative unknowns, but also because each actor, from Yaphet Kotto as G and Richard Belzer (you can catch him on Law & Order: SVU - he plays the same character), to the unknowns like Andre Braugher, Stephen Baldwin, et. al. turned in incredibly powerful performances. Andre Braugher remains as one of my favorite actors because of what he did on that show.

Rachel the Breton
I'm (re)watching the Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister series. It's a British show from the 80's...political satire. I'm pretty sure it would translate smoothly to most nations' politics, though. Sir Nigel Hawthorne is superb as the scheming Sir Humphrey, and easily steals the show; Paul Eddington, as the idealistic but utterly cowardly Jim Hacker, is fantastic, though, too. The show is beyond superb.
I'll second the above, Yes Minister is excellent. I most like the private secretary Bernard Wolly (I can't remember who played him). Some of his interactions with Sir Humphery are priceless. I'd certainly recommend it, though I didn't like Yes Prime Minister nearly so much.

As far as what I'm watching... not much really. The Edinburgh Festival is on so I've been to a couple of plays (I suppose they count as watching). One was a particularly good adaption of Sunset Song by a group from Aberdeenshire so they had the accents right which was nice to hear.
Black Hand
Just finished watching 'Flawless' on Netflix. Released in 2007, I had never actually heard of it.

It's a crime thriller starring Demi Moore and Micheal Caine set in 1960 at the London Diamond Corporation. In short Caine is this brilliant bloke who poses as a janitor at Lon Di, and enlists the help of the glass-ceiling victim Demi Moore to rob the vaults of the company. Making her think that he will only take a thermos full of uncut diamonds that would never be missed, the entire vault ends up missing two tons of diamonds.

The plot doesn't quite live up too the title, and theres a couple of quirks in the characters that I sort of snorted at that just weren't believable to me, but hey, I've done that in my own writings, so who am I too judge?

But there are twists and turns in the movie that were quite well thought out and displayed, and Caine steals the show with his superior acting as usual, Demi Moore came in at a great second, but this is hardly her Magnum Opus. Plus, who doesn't like seeing British stuffed shirts having the thumbscrews put to them for a change?

If your thinking the pairing and the setting reflects Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the awful movie 'Entrapment' (1997) you couldn't be further from the truth, there is little to no 'action' in this flick, relying on a perfect pace and overall well-written story and close-ups to convey plot points.

That was Black Hand's review and pick for movie of the week, I'll see you at the line outside the port-a-potty at the Nightwish concert featuring other Northern European metal bands.

I think I've seen 'Flawless' before, I'm not sure...

anyway, I recently watched 'Dog Soldiers'-a british horror film about a group of soldiers who get lost in a forest full of werewolves. they find a small farmhouse and hold of the relentless werewolf assault and gradually and gruesomely get picked off. Eventually a collie dog and a single soldier are let in the now destroyed house.

It's a low budget film with an all British cast and filmed entirely in Scotland. The plot is enjoyable and (considering that there are no special effects) the werewolves are well-done. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good horror.
Oooh, I'll jump in again to give a vote for Dog Soldiers. That film is a guilty pleasure, it's so much more enjoyable than it has any right to be. It certainly follows the way a lot of British films go these days - no budget so they can't afford well known actors or cgi but they generally make up for it in good casting and plotting. Certainly it puts more pressure on the director to get it right if he can't hide things with fireworks *cough starwars cough*. I might be biased becuase it plays to the home audience but I rate it very highly, particularly for the interactions within the squad which are brilliantly done.

I just finished re-watching Letters from Iwo Jima for about the fifth time. My first time on blu-ray though. Once more, I was just left in awe by this movie.

The cast is superb. A real treat after the stiff acting one always sees by Japanese actors in the old 70's movies like Midway and Tora! Tora! Tora!. I think the movie being in Japanese really makes a huge difference, as the cast does have to struggle to deliver lines in a foreign language. Being subtitled, I know most Americans cannot even bear to watch it. After all, you have to read. Nothing more terrible than that, except perhaps having to think as well.

Funny thing was when I was watching the extras, Eastwood was talking about making the movie, and he commented that directing was a more difficult for him than usual, because he did not know what the actors were saying! He had a translator repeating everything he said on the set, and vice-versa. It never occurred to me until then just how difficult that must have been to do!

Ken Watanabe stars, and I swear that man is awesome. I think I saw him first in Memoirs of a Geisha, and he blew me away there as well. As Eastwood says in the extras, Watanabe has a terrific face and a great presence. Looking at pictures of the real General Kuribayashi, it is amazing how similar the two men are in appearance as well.

One thing that always strikes me about this movie is the contrast it makes to Flags of our Fathers, especially concerning the cast. I always get confused watching Flags because except for the native american, I cannot tell the characters apart. I really mean that. With the same clothes, same haircut, same young, clean-shaven faces, they all literally look the same to me. I know Eastwood went with unknown actors because he wanted people to see the characters, rather than the people playing them (which inevitably happens with well-known stars), but I think it back-fired. The only characters in Flags I could tell apart were the minor characters, who were played by seasoned actors that I knew.

But I do not have that problem with Letters at all, even though Ken Watanabe was the only actor I knew. Each Japanese character is unique in appearance. Partly it was the different uniforms between officers and enlisted men. I think the facial hair that many had helps too. For example Baron Nishi has a very distinctive thin goatee (haute would like the Baron, he was an Olympic gold medalist in horse-jumping before the war, and a well-known ladies man wink.gif ). Kashiwara has this really straggly look. Saigo really stands out as clean-shaven, baby-faced and looking every inch of the sloppy civilian he really is, while Shimizu is always all prim and proper, etc...

The other thing I liked about Letters over Flags was that where Flags bounced around constantly, Letters was pretty solidly done in chronological order. Letters does have flashbacks which reveal more about the characters, but the way those are done it is very clear that it is a flashback, what character it is about, it offers real character development, and finally, they are brief, keeping us in the moment.

What is astounding is that this movie was basically made on a whim. Eastwood was preparing to shoot Flags when he came across a book of Kuribayashi's letters. They so inspired him that he wanted to do a companion film told from the Japanese side. He ran it by Spielberg (who produced along with Eastwood), who said "Yeah, sounds great!" and so they did it at the same time as Flags. Just like that, a fantastic movie was made.

All in all it is one of the best war movies I have ever seen. It is all about sacrifice. The last stand where there is no chance of victory, let alone survival, but they keep on fighting anyway. Of the 22,000 Japanese on the island, only two dozen were taken alive during the battle. Another 1,800 surrendered months, and even years, later. Some hiding out until 1951. The other 20,000 men all died.
haute ecole rider
I saw about two thirds of Letters (the latter part) and loved it. It was compelling, gritty, and very much my taste - asking questions about honor, loyalty and comradeship in the face of war (which tends to break down notions of civility).

I've not had a chance to locate it on DVD and watch the full movie. When I do, though, it probably will go next to The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape as one of my favorites.
I went and saw Burke and Hare last night. Generally I was impressed. There were some fairly glaring and odd issues with it, mainly historical inaccuricies which seemed completely unnessessary - ones which were required for the plot or humour I'm fine with but, without spoilers, there were some big ones which affected neither.

Still it was bizarrely funny in a dark sort of way and the casting was bang on, Simon Pegg does black comedy well and delivered some fantastic lines. Ronnie Corbit was in it too and it appears he's still quite able to act. I was also surprised how little accent butchering went on (there were mistakes but the writer did well to give the illusion of accent using occasional words while keeping it largely in English). They also caught some aspects of Edinburgh well in terms of the feel of bits of the city, and many scenes in places which were recognisable, even the occasional in joke.

The final scene... well it's true (and that's not all).

I'd recommend it.
"First you shall pull the holy pin. Then you shall count to THREE. THREE is the number you shall be counting. Two is not allowed and neither is four after you had counted to THREE. Five is WAY OUT!"

"One, two, five!"

"Three sir!"


Can you guess what I saw?
I bought the Man With No Name trilogy on blu-ray last week and watched the three films over that weekend. I learned some interesting things in the extras. Fist Full of Dollars was the first movie where Sergio Leone began using his trademark extreme closeups. The reason was that it was shot in the what at that time was the brand new process of technoscope, which allowed for it. So basically Leone was making the most of a brand new technology.

I have always liked the way he used those closeups of character's faces. All other directors before and since only use the closeup to show a character's reaction to dialogue or events. Leone uses them to build tension to a nearly unbearable level before an explosion of action. At the same time he also humanizes all the characters, as we look deeply into their eyes, study every line and crease on their faces, every droplet of sweat beading their skin. They cease to be cardboard villains just waiting for the hero to gun them down. Instead they become people, and when they die, there is a sense of weight in the event that is lost in modern action films.

Some other interesting things I learned. The reason Eastwood did the three films was that he was doing Rawhide at the time, and his contract forbid him from filming movies in the U.S. during the hiatus' between seasons. But he was free to film overseas, which of course the Leone movies were. Still, he brought his guns from Rawhide, plus a few other props. He keeps the guns throughout all three films in fact.

Another neat thing I learned was why the films seem to dubbed, and not dubbed, at the same time. The cast was made up of actors from all over Europe. Each actor spoke their own language when filming. Then afterward the sound was dubbed over for each each country it was released in, except the parts that were originally spoken in that language. That is why Eastwood's lines are all his, in English, and the other actor's are all dubbed into English. In the Spanish version all his lines were dubbed over, and all the Spanish-speaking actors left as they were, etc...

Also interesting is that Eastwood's character was never meant to be the same person in all three films. In fact, in the second film he even has a name: Manco. By the end of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly they sort of gave up on that however, and Eastwood picks up the characteristic poncho from a dead soldier before the final climax.

Another neat thing when you watch them in a row is you see that many actors make recurring appearances. Besides Eastwood of course, the other obvious one is Lee Van Cleef being in For A Few Dollars More and
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. But there are a lot of others too. The guy who played Ramon in Fist Full also plays El Indio in For A Few Dollars More. He even uses the same rifle in a few scenes. There is a big Spanish guy with a beard who shows up in all three as a henchman. The undertaker in the first is also in the second, etc...

All in all a fun time watching. I love the soundtracks, especially in the first and third movies. GBU did drag on for too long at 3 hours though, my only real gripe about the films.

Currently, I just started going through the Lord of the Rings special editions again. I wish they would release them on blu ray. The end credits for Fellowship are playing as I type this. I picked up Band of Brothers on blu-ray tonight, so that will be next in the pipeline.

Has anyone seen The Pacific? It is out in stores now, but I do not want to put down $70 for it until I have a better idea how good it is. I have it in my Netflix queue, but they do not have it available until the end of the month.
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