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Previous entries

Circles

Just Do It

Ayr on a Shoestring

Oh Lonesome Me

Tipping Point

Movie Reviews

Putting Pen to Paper

A Year to Remember

A Year to Forget

10 Reasons I Cannot Go Home

China Girl

The State of Play

Veggies

Mind Your Language

New Horizons

Injustice

Honeymoon

Taxes and Death

Also-rans

Stinkhorns

Grey is the Colour

Beating Myself Up

Nothing More to Say

Better Late than Never

Staying Put

Musical Chairs

Wanderlust

A Dog's Life

A Sabbatical

A Welcome Diversion

A Guide to Business Ethics

Remembering the Austin Allegro

Our Lords and Masters

In Transit - Part 2

In Transit - Part 1

Nagging Doubts

While Bangkok Burns

An Evening to Remember

Thai Business Malpractice

The New and the Old

Christmas Lights

Groundhog Day

Singapura

Possessions

Adventure is Out There

Education

Grabbing it While You Can

A Few Ups and Many Downs

Limbo

Pack Up Your Old Kit Bag

Salmon

Bananas

Religion

Football

Grateful

Yummy

Ate Two Caesar

Swine Pie

The Thai Rollercoaster

Stuck in the Middle

There's no Regrets

Profit and Loss

Running on Empty

Getting it out Your System

National Mistrust

Bring in the Old, Out with the New

Humility

I am Reviewing, My Situation...

Wat Phrabhat Nam Poo

Today I will Mostly be Eating...

Mortality

The Thai Experience

Wat Khaowong

Reality Bites

Wat Simalais

Amazing Thailand

He Must have a Big Wand

Right Place, Wrong Time

Carousel

Tin

And it does go on

Mangos

Bring Him Home

Resurgence

Protege

Listening to my Reader.

 

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Diary Archive 10.

Diary Archive 9.

Diary Archive 8.

Diary Archive 7.

Diary Archive 6.

Diary Archive 5.

Diary Archive 4.

Diary Archive 3.

Diary Archive 2.

Diary Archive 1.

 

 

Movie Reviews

 

The Dark Knight Rises

I gave up before the end; Ploy had given up thirty minutes before that. We watched The Dark Knight Rises last night, mostly to see Heath Ledger's performance, which certainly was very good.
I don't understand why these films have to give some psychological insights into comic book characters. Batman is a reclusive billionaire who likes to dress like a bat and spend silly sums of money eradicating a few select criminals (just think - that money could have helped find a cure for some disease and saved millions of lives). But I guess this is about revenge, and if I had been bothered to watch the forty or some prequels to this film I would know all about his parents dying and such like (I haven't so I read a review of the film which gave a backstory).
And now we have a similarly damaged villain in the Joker who can't even seem to reliably remember why he is so damaged. But he did seem suitably maniacal and out to enjoy himself whereas Batman seems so far up his own arse he can tickle his own uvula.
And as Ploy remarked while looking for some semblance of reason to continue watching this misery fest, why do superheroes always pick ugly girlfriends. Batman here, Iron Man, Superman - dear oh dear.
So I've no idea what happened at the end of the movie. I thought it had ended but then it seemed to start again. I was fed up trying to understand what Batman was drawling (no subtitles unfortunately), peering into the gloom of the movie, and I couldn't give a damn for a single character in the movie. No wonder Ledger topped himself afterwards. I was that close myself.
1/5 stars.

Interstellar

Last night I watched the movie, Interstellar. Or more precisely I watched the second half of it. I was just over an hour through it the night before when Ploy came home, and as she isn't a fan of sci-fi, and I had no wish to try to explain relativity to her, we watched something else. In any case, a film of this length should have an intermission for me to buy a choc-ice from the nice lady with the tray around her neck.

I don't really know what to write about the movie. The characters have less depth than Basil Brush. McConaughey's drawl is annoying, and he obviously thought so too as he dropped it halfway through the movie. Nolan obviously thought as well because most of the dialogue is drowned out by other noise.

Hathaway again proved herself an actress the calibre of Madonna; she peaked early with the Princess Diaries. Some of the science explanations were frankly embarrassing - at the same level as explaining the birds and bees to an eight year old. The scene where McConaughey draws his plan on a whiteboard in the spacecraft is cringe inducing. I am sure the movie was meant to be profound. But if we are still wearing polyester suits thousands of years in the future it's better we are left to die on Earth.

'Is that his mother?' asked Ploy.
'No, it's his daughter.'
'Why is she older than him?'
'Time dilation.'
'That's stupid.'

My wife, as usual, cuts through to the crux of the matter.

But, and here is a big but, the music was really brilliant. By far the best part of the movie.I give it 3 stars for the music. If the movie had been just a few stills and the soundtrack I might have given it 4. But then I guess that wouldn't be a movie. 3/5 stars.

Jurassic Park 2

Last night I managed to watch all of Jurassic Park 2, The Lost World. Oh, if only it had remained lost. I would have given up, but at the moment I managed to raise myself from the sofa, Ploy came home from work and she was hungry and tired, so she sat down with something to eat and we just watched the rest of the movie (well, chatted about our day, fed the fish, showered, cut our nails) rather than find something new.

This movie is so appalling it is difficult to know where to start. Oh, I know, Vince Vaughn was probably the most convincing character - there, it was that bad. And what was with the ending of the movie, that suddenly started up again. 'Stop, we forget the scene in San Diego, tack it on the end.'

Steven Spielberg directed this trash. Really. Sorry Steven this easily wipes out Jaws, all the Raiders and Schindler's List. 0/5 stars.

Kill Bill: Volume 1

Kill Bill, Volume 1, which I watched with Ploy last night, is an odd movie for me to like. I don't like Pulp Fiction - indeed, I haven't yet been able to watch it all the way through - and I haven't liked any other Tarantino films. I am not a film buff, I like films to entertain first and only, and I have little time for 'films that make you think'. I don't want to think during films, that is for books; films are (or should be) ice-cream for the mind, to be enjoyed without us having to think hard about 'meanings' or 'allegory' or how accomplished the director or editor or actors are.

But, all that said, the current bunch of fantasy or superhero films also leaves me cold. I think that is because these films are more about 'my graphics engine is better than yours'. They don't entertain any more than watching someone play a video game. There is a difference between switching off your mind during a movie and a movie being mindless.

So, to Bill. Well, it does entertain. The fight scenes are like staged dances, as they are in the very best kung-fu movies, such as Hero. Our 'hero' has been left for dead and seeks vengeance for those who tried to kill her. That works for me. No need to go into too much detail. The flashbacks are good, giving hints as to why she is implausibly good at fighting as well giving us pause from the action (something the superhero films would be wise to copy). There is a humour that runs through all the carnage. Tarantino's tricks (split screen, black and white, anime) work to entertain rather than just serve to show how clever he is. Yes, he probably references lots of other films, and the film buffs can write about that all they like, but for me, this film serves as an hour-and-a-half of the very best vanilla bean ice-cream for the mind that I can imagine. 5/5 stars.

Lucy

Tonight I watched the movie 'Lucy'. I absolutely loved it. Absurd, yes, without doubt. But I thought Scarlett Johansson was superb in it, keeping it as rooted in reality as possible. I loved the interspersed clips. I loved the Taipei setting. I cannot fault it - I was riveted for two hours. 5/5stars.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire

I found a restored copy of 'The Day The Earth Caught Fire' on YouTube. What a great movie: incredible to think it was made in 1961, the special effects stand up today (although we tend to overlook any deficiencies because in this movie actors actually act and the story involves us instead of being a mechanism to move from one special effect to another). And it has the gorgeous Janet Munro. 4.5/5 stars.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Last night, as Ploy was home for once we had a tuna salad with some chips and watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was OK.

I like Harrison Ford and it is impossible to imagine any other actor in this role. He is, without doubt, the star of the movie. I like Sean Connery, but I was irritated by his character here, as I was with Denholm Elloitt, another actor I like. Unlike with Europa Report, this is a movie that requires some characters to act stupidly to move the plot along. I can't help it, it irritates me (not on the level of the crass stupidity that other movies indulge in) but I just wonder why it is so necessary.

Maybe I would act that way if I was put in those situations, but that is not the point. I would not be put in those situations. Indiana Jones can do anything and everything with just a cut lip and a wry smile, so why can't Sean Connery. Find another way to get them into the scrapes and chase sequences without ruining the credibility of a character. This 'oh, wait! I have left my hat behind, I have to go back for my hat' nonsense has to stop.

But it was still a pleasant enough way to pass an evening. 3/5 stars.

Europa Report

A couple of nights ago I watched Europa Report. I was totally gripped by it.

At last, we can have an intelligent sci-fi thriller without having at least one stupid cast member. The film seems real with real scientists and engineers reacting as I would expect them to. This is not to say the film is geeky in anyway - it works as a thriller and keeps the tension high throughout.

I don't like the found footage style camera work, but here it is not used too excessively and it has enough clarity to not spoil the movie. 4/5 stars.

Scary Movie

When I first met Ploy she had an apartment in Sukhumvit Soi 71, in Bangkok. She had a collection of karaoke CDs and VCDs and together we watched all of them (not so much the music). One of those movies was the first Scary Movie.

So last night I thought I would watch it again.

It is an appalling movie. I have never seen the slasher movies that it spoofs so maybe I might have enjoyed it more if I had got more of its targets. I doubt it. I can't remember smiling once. Some of the characters are amongst the most annoying in the history of film, the others only slightly less so.

Can someone explain to me what's funny about having people shout 'Whass-up!' at each other for 30 minutes? Or what was even remotely funny about the opening scene featuring, I guess, some Playboy model.

OK, I remember, I smiled when the policeman showed Anna Faris his photo portfolio. See, a little bit of subtlety goes a long way. Maybe there were other bits I missed. This is one movie I didn't pause when I went to get some peanuts or another beer. 1/5 stars.

Kick Ass 2

Last night Ploy and I watched Kick Ass 2. I think I liked it more than the first movie, although obviously the first movie had more originality. I didn't like the projectile vomiting, that seemed more for American Pie style rubbish, but otherwise I thought the characters really developed and were far from just cardboard cutouts. It had a nice self-mocking tone too. And I'm going to say what every other man who has watched the movie is thinking. Chloe Moretz who plays Hit Girl is really cute. 3/5 stars.

The World's End

I watched the movie 'The World's End' tonight. I must admit, if wasn't a Simon Pegg movie I would have given up at the beginning, because I can't stand movies where the main character is such an arse (see John Candy or Zack Galiwhateverhisnameis). But once the other characters became more prominent I really warmed to it. I like the fact that when the aliens appear we don't get that usual nonsense that his friends don't believe him - they just get on with it. I wonder if cameos by old James Bond actors is becoming their Hitchcock thing (Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz and Pierce Brosnan here). I didn't like the end much and I certainly didn't like the epilogue - it seemed out of place somehow. 3/5 stars.

Best in Class

While eating dinner we watched 'Best in Class' It was a little slow to start, I thought, and Ploy gave up on it early, except to watch the dogs. But I was rewarded for my perseverance with some hysterical moments, mostly from the commentator Fred Willard, who gives one of the greatest comic turns of any movie, at any time. 4 stars for Fred, and 0.5 for the movie, which seems harsh but the slow start lost it that half mark. 4.5/5stars.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

On the way home I watched the movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service. I hope to watch it again with Ploy tonight (while eating the pate and bread she bought for us).
I loved the movie and found myself smiling throughout it. It is like a Roger Moore Bond movie but with Colin Firth (a good thing). I like movies where the actors (mostly accomplished) are clearly enjoying themselves without being indulgent. And there are no kids in the movie. And there is a scene where they slaughter a whole church congregation, which is on my bucket list. 4/5 stars.

The Imitation Game

Yesterday I watched The Imitation Game. I had a very slight problem with it, probably because the story is now so familiar: how much was fact and how much exaggerated or made up story. Was the Russian spy a real person? (Enigma also found it necessary to include a spy story background.) Was Turing quite as arrogant as portrayed in the movie? Was the policeman he confided in a real person or was he just a plot device. I found these questions disquieting. It is story, that for me, needs no embellishment. But all that said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. And it did answer the question why the government found it necessary to keep this secret for 50 years. 4/5 stars.

The Rock

Last night Ploy and I watched The Rock, a preposterous action thriller.

However, the action scenes looked real and were not overdone, the movie has no children in it, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves making it, and the three leads added a suitable gravitas.

Nicolas Cage showed what can happen when he chooses his movies with a little more care (but this was maybe before he was being chased by the IRS). Ed Harris is always good value as the baddie, although in this case he is sort of fighting for the good side. And Sean Connery plays Sean Connery - I assume he took the role so he could feel what it was like to have hair again.

There is a nice sense of humour throughout with a few laugh out loud moments and a little bit of a message (compensation to the families of secret operatives) which is only 'forced' with the presidents speech right at the end.

A nice evening's entertainment. 4/5 stars.

Noah

There was a flood and Noah saved all the animals - two by two. That's it. I have never read the Bible, never attended Sunday school or was exposed to any religious teaching. When I read, I preferred Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome. Or science books. So I came to watch the movie 'Noah' as a sort of virgin. (I guess you can't be a 'sort of' virgin, but you know what I mean, I know some of the details but haven't ever gone all the way.)

The reviews I'd read of the movie were not very kind. But there were lots of arguments about the 'accuracy' of the story, which considering its subject matter is obviously nonsense. Mind you, if I'd known Ray Winstone featured in Genesis, I might have paid more attention in religious instruction.

I enjoyed most of the movie. It was bizarre at times - all the time - and ridiculous, but how could it not be. The kids, as always, were annoying and made a wholly convincing case to do as Noah wanted, and eradicate mankind. I mean, why didn't he push those babies into the water and Emma Watson with it while he was at it. That would have solved everything. And as his middle son was obviously gay, he'd better throw him overboard too. (And as vegetarians, why would you name a son of yours after a rather delicious cured meat).

At no point did I want to give up on the movie though. Russell Crowe and Winstone growled their way through it relatively convincingly (lucky I had the subtitles on) and the special effects were not too dominant. Not sure about the fallen angels though, I might have to read up on them. The message I took from the film - The Creator is not very good at making universes. 3/5 stars.

 

Star Wars IV: A New Hope

Last night, having been coerced (blackmailed) by a friend, I watched Star Wars IV. He recommended that film as I have never seen a Star Wars film, and he told me this film introduced everyone so you know who's who.

And it did. The first 25 minutes of the film is like a book, but not one in a language I can read. The rebel forces are fighting the Empire and the rebel spies (are they the same side as the rebel forces?).. oh bugger it, let's see if it becomes clearer later on.

Then we meet the two robots - the tin man and the dustbin. Why does the tin man, the most irritating character in the movie who seems to have no desirable attribute at all and just blames everyone for everything, speak many languages, whereas the dustbin, who seems to be far more intelligent, just beep. I mean, if you have mastered space travel, couldn't you make a better robot.
OK, I'm eating my dinner now so I can't be bothered to get up and stop the movie.

We meet Luke, a petulant child that when his uncle and aunt are slaughtered, sighs and tells Alec Guinness that he'll go with him now. I mean, if Alec Guinness has these powers, why didn't he stop the brat's carers being killed? The Alec Guinness character, who has been living in recluse, suddenly decides to come out of retirement (after being implored to do so by the princess who no one knows) and fight the other side (the side with Peter Cushing and the one who looks like a big black dildo) because he now has the help of the boy and two crap robots. That'll make all the difference.

The script is just like they are reading the action directions rather than the words they are meant to say. "I am going to walk over there and kill that alien":

Carrie Fisher, well she is a princess but the robots, or indeed anyone, seems to have no idea who she is, even though the robots were on a spacecraft with her: I certainly didn't and she is only mentioned by name in the 25 minute exposition at the beginning, but not what her role is. Her whole planet is destroyed and she shrugs. "You have betrayed me" she tells Peter Cushing as bits of her planet fly by the spacecraft. She doesn't do tears.

The aliens are neither frightening or cute. They just are. Darth Vader is less frightening than that uncle that used to sit you on his knee when you were young. Huge slug like things just look, well slug like, but they can speak English, unlike the dustbin.

The special effects are at the level of Blakes Seven or a 1950s BBC childrens program. Except Bill and Ben had more gravitas.

It was at this point the movie streaming stopped. I didn't bother to reset it.
I don't know about A New Hope, the subtitle of the movie. I had long given up hope.
1/5 stars for Carrie Fisher's haircut.

Ex Machina

Last night I watched the movie, ex-Machina.
The movie very quickly built and maintained a good tension throughout but I did find the pseudo-intellectualism a little annoying. Whether discussing AI or Jackson Pollock, they spoke as if it was the first sentence of a Wiki page. I guess it wasn't appropriate to invent a language as the movie is set in the present day, but for me it jarred.
I thought Ava, as the 'machina' was very good, but the young software expert was just too much like the Dilbert stereotype and the creator - well I didn't understand his motivation. OK, he wants to have a a group of subservient robot women around him with appropriately sited pleasure receptors, I can get that, but why make them artificially intelligent - if he is so bright he must have known the inevitable outcome of that.
But, despite all that, I still enjoyed it, and I liked there was no cop-out at the end - obviously the machines can learn and adapt much faster than us so there can only be one winner.
3/5 stars, including one star for the relatively high nipple count.

Florence Foster Jenkins

On the way home from Taipei I watched the movie, Florence Foster Jenkins.

I laughed a lot (I have no idea how many takes it must have been for the first time we hear her sing), and I'll admit I had a tear in my eye on more than one occasion. I loved the appearance of people from my favourite era of opera such as Toscanini and Lily Pons. The cast are amazing, Streep as always, Grant as he can be with the right material, but the pianist (Simon Helberg) and the brash New York girl (shades of Clara Bow maybe, Nina Arianda) were also stand out performances.

The movie is a love story, first and foremost, love between two people, and love of music.Her singing, awful as it was, is somehow so close to being right, that you keep willing her on, hoping the next note will soar as she probably heard it do.

I think the Oscars should rename the award, Best Actress other than Meryl Streep. Outstanding movie. 5/5 stars.

Now You See Me 2

I watched 'Now You See Me 2' on the flight back to Bangkok. It was disappointing compared with the first movie, mostly because a lot of it is a retreading of the first movie, which I really enjoyed.

Mark Ruffalo's Daddy issues become a little trying: after all he's already put the person he thinks responsible for his father's death in jail. The re-run of the Michael Caine plot thread is just more of the same. Daniel Radcliffe is appalling as the billionaire who wants to get hold of everyones personal data (to do what with is unclear). With a cast with so much charisma he stands out as being more wooden than a picnic bench in a sawmill. And what is all this Eye thing anyway?

But it passed a couple of hours. 2/5 stars with 1 star for Woody Harrelson's twin's hair.

DeadPool

Last night I watched DeadPool, or to be more accurate, I watched until the WiFi dropped out and I had to reboot my computer at which point I found some Have I Got News for You to watch instead.

It starts well with the titles and then descends fairly quickly into the usual superhero nonsense. There is some attempt to add gravitas with his relationship with his girlfriend (the rather attractive Morena Baccarin) and his diagnosis of cancer, but by then I wasn't really watching - getting up to get a beer without pausing the download for example. The one-liners are a nice idea, if only they hadn't got a giggling thirteen year old to write them.

These Marvel superhero things seems to be made for the geeks that still read comics. Are there really so many of them to justify the constant stream of movies? Now, I'll admit, I used to love my Dandy and Beano comics and every Christmas I loved being given the latest Beryl the Peril annual. But surely, if the great Walter Matthau cannot make Dennis the Menace worth watching, then movie studios should have learned their lesson and given up on comic book movies there and then.

2/5 stars, and one of those stars is for Morena. And I stopped reading Beryl the Peril at about 15. Just saying.

Moon

A couple of nights ago I watched the movie, 'Moon', which thankfully is not about someone (probably Adam Sandler) sticking their bare arse out of a car window for 90 minutes. Instead it's about one man's lone vigil on a mining station on the 'dark side' of the moon.

The film certainly held my attention. To describe it would be to give away the surprise(s) so I won't do that, except to say that the denouement is polished and believable. It is so refereshing to watch a sci-fi movie that does not have a demented thirteen year old at the controls of the CGI. In fact, I don't think there was a part of the movie where I even thought about the CGI, although in hindsight it is obviously there, and very well done.

The sole actor is Sam Rockwell and he has no-one to 'play against' for the entire movie. It is quite some performance. The only other main 'person' in the movie is Kevin Spacey as the voice of the robot and Rockwell's companion. Spacey lends a certain ambiguity to the robot so it adds to the overall 'is it real' uneasiness of the movie.

A movie probably worth another look now I know the ending so I can look for the earlier clues, because the script of the movie ties everything up neatly, without some 'Poirot in the library' exposition - it relies on the intelligence of the viewer to piece it all together making the film almost unique these days.

3.5/5 stars.

The Challenger Disaster

Last night I watched The Challenger Disaster about the space shuttle explosion in 1986, or more accuractely, it follows Richard Feynman in the investigation into the cause of the explosion.

I do not know how dramatised the movie was, although it said at the beginning it was a 'true story' but added 'some scenes have been dramatised for effect'. I did find that one of the NASA managers has sued the Discovery channel for what he said were fictitous scenes that showed him in a bad light.

The movie is a bit like Columbo where you see the 'murder' first and then the investigation follows, and I enjoyed it on the whole. The movie did show the immense pressure NASA must have been under to keep its funding (and probably still is). NASA has, unfortunately, had to dumb down the huge compexity of space flight to keep the public interested and that is part of the problem. For me, I have a sense of awe in what these scientists and engineers achieve, and achieve with such a success rate. Samsung can't make a phone work without catching fire, and that is kept here on earth in someones pocket (or more likely clutched in the hand like some bionic extension). NASA have a rover wandering around Mars in extremes of temperature for over a year without a glitch.

NASA (and to a lesser extent, Space-X) are the only organisations that have aspiration. Strangely, I don't hang on every rumour to see what new colour Apple might put out as a 'feature' in their new phone when I can listen to Elon Musk talk about putting a a million people on Mars or follow the Pluto probe as it tracks down its next target. Just think for a minute and try to imagine how incredibly complex it must have been fly a rocket to a comet, orbit that comet for a year and land a little probe on that comet. I am an engineer and I wouldn't know where to start to calculate how to intercept that comet. I understand radio communication, but from as far out as Pluto!

Instead politicians and the public bicker about the tiny sums (in the scheme of things) that NASA costs (and indirectly Space X). It needs us to send school teachers into space to provide human interest in space flight. What is wrong with us?

3/5 stars for the movie, 5/5 for NASA.

The Iron Lady

Last night I watched The Iron Lady. I brought Ploy in (who wasn't interested in the movie) to watch the scenes of the miner's strike and the IRA bombings. 'There', I told her, 'is the the England I remember. Those wounds have never healed as the scabs keep being picked.' The movie is rather bland - an amazing achievement for such a controversial figure: it provides little or no insight at all to why she made the decisions she did.

However, it is almost impossible to take your eyes off of Thatcher, and that is because of Meryl Streep's performance. It is astonishing. It could be the greatest acting performance I have ever seen in a movie. It completely transcends the bland, documentary-like script.

4/5 stars for Streep.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Last night I watched Independence Day, Regurgitate.

It was a horrible film. Pointless CGI, bland characters and appalling, derivative dialogue. The original film was OK, despite the jingoism, and had enough of its tongue in its cheek to work. This film is the same story line, but everything is bigger, so the alien spacecraft is now 3000 miles across (you would think by now that Hollywood would change to kilometres, especially as it is supposed to be scientists talking). I have no idea who any of the younger 'actors' were, but they had the charisma of a magnolia painted piece of tofu, but with less vocabulary.

Usually with these films I tend to side with the aliens, hoping they will obliterate the planet, but here, I just didn't care at all; I just wanted it to end. 0.5/5 stars for Brent Spiner's hair.

Bad Santa

Last night Ploy and I watched the Bad Santa movie. Unfortunately some of the prose was missed by Ploy, so glorious is it in its obscenity. Although the story is rather sickly, somehow the actors (including, remarkably, the boy himself) and the fruity language, offset this and its attack on all things Christmassy is glorious. I loved the woman deaf-signing the boy band carollers in the department store.
3.5/5 stars.

 

 

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