14 October, 2013

Spider-Man


Peter Parker is your everyday, nerdy high-school senior but, during one seemingly uneventful field-trip to a genetics laboratory, he is bitten by a genetically engineered “super spider”. Shortly after suffering ill effects, he wakes to discover that his previously dreadful vision is better than 20/20 and his originally thin and wimpy body has metamorphosed into a more muscular and superior build.  He later discovers that his body is going through even more changes: superhuman speed and strength, the ability to stick to surfaces, quickened reflexes and a heightened ability to sense danger (later dubbed spider-sense) which enables him avoid injury during a confrontation with his high-school’s leading bully—but, annoyingly, the spider-sense is seldom used again. Tobey Maguire, though not whom I would have chosen to play Peter Parker if I had been in charge, pulls it off well.
J.K. Simmons plays J. Jonah Jameson, the constantly angry editor of The Daily Bugle who is persistently trying to make Spider-Man look as bad as possible, and is responsible for naming the Green Goblin and aggravating Spider-Man.Willem Dafoe does a magnificent job of portraying Norman Osborn, a scientist and owner of Oscorp, who attempts to preserve his company's important military contract. He willingly experiments on himself with a untested performance-enhancing chemical vapour which should drastically improve his speed, strength, and stamina; though it works, it induces moments of insanity as his humaner self is taken over by a psychotic mass-murderer to be known as the Green Goblin. 
Spider-Man is, for the most part, a typical comic-based superhero movie; but, like in Stan Lee’s “Spider-Man” comics, has a large focus on Peter, on his everyday life, and on his transition from a smart and nerdy high-school kid to a smart and nerdy but incredibly strong adult with a rather pure heart and strong sense of justice and responsibility.

7 out of 10

02 September, 2013

Hot Fuzz


Nicholas Angel, because of his dedication to the London police force and because he excels in his duties, makes his colleagues look bad, so his superiors transfer him to “crime-free” Sandford, a town in rural Gloucestershire, to save face. 
Angel’s attention to detail and his following the law to the letter makes him the target of criticism and mockery by his co-workers.  He meets Danny, a well-meaning but ingenuous PC who is in awe of his new partner and continues to pester Nicholas about his exploits as a member of the London Metropolitan Police Service.  Angel and Butterman eventually bond over drinks at the local pub and over action films such as “Point Break” and “Bad Boys II”.
Later, as the Village of the Year competition looms near, a series of gruesome deaths occur, and only Nicholas and his partner can figure out just what is going on in this seemingly peaceful little community.
“Hot Fuzz” is the second in the Cornetto trilogy* by Simon Pegg and Ed Wright, co-starring Nick Frost, and featuring several actors from previous television shows starring Pegg and Frost, including Jessica Stevenson and ‪Peter Serafinowicz‬ from “Spaced”.
“Hot Fuzz” is a classic buddy/cop film: Nicholas Angel is the new Sheriff in town, and the representation of what seven-year-olds the world over want to be; Danny Butterman is the naïve but loveable partner and best friend, and the untrusting co-workers who we all know will follow the hero at the end.  The reason such films are done time and again is because it works, and they make money; but, not only is “Hot Fuzz” a great cop movie which stands on its own, the way it mocks, satirises and salutes other buddy movies is done magnificently—even the cops’ paperwork is made to look exciting—, and exemplifies how parodies can be just as good as what they’re parodying—or even better.

9 out of 10

*Each film in the trilogy—“Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End”—is connected to a Cornetto ice cream.  “Hot Fuzz” features the original plain blue Cornetto, signifying the police.

05 August, 2013

Shaun of the Dead


Shaun is an underachieving salesman living in London with two flatmates, industrious Pete and freeloader Ed.  Shaun’s life outside of work consists mainly of spending each evening at the Winchester (Shaun and Ed’s favourite pub) with Ed and his girlfriend Liz, along with her flatmates David and Dianne.
After a miserable day at work, which contributes to his forgetting, as he had promised, to book a table at a restaurant for his and Liz’s anniversary, to make up for their rather boring usual practice of going to the pub. 
Shaun, having been dumped by Liz, drowns his sorrows with Ed at the Winchester; he resolves to sort his life out.
The next morning, zombies have overwhelmed the town, but Shaun is too hungover to notice; however, he and Ed soon become aware of what is happening after channel-surfing reports on TV about the outbreak of zombies and discovering one in their own yard.
“Shaun of the Dead” is the first in the Cornetto trilogy* by Simon Pegg and Ed Wright, co-starring Nick Frost, and featuring several actors from previous television shows starring Pegg and Frost, including Jessica Stevenson and ‪Peter Serafinowicz‬ from “Spaced”.
Blood, gore, zombies, Kate Ashfield, and lots of jokes—what more do you want (within reason) from this sort of movie?  Yes, zombies have been done before, but not like this; this is the first movie of its type and does it spectacularly.
“Shaun of the Dead” is an entertaining ninety minutes full of the black comedy (which you might expect if you have seen “Spaced”—if not, I recommend watching it), and it is still entertaining after repeated viewings.

9 out of 10

*Each film in the trilogy—“Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End”—is connected to a Cornetto ice cream.  “Shaun of the Dead” features Shaun buying a red, strawberry flavoured Cornetto, which symbolises the film’s blood and gore.

26 July, 2013

Mike and Psmith


The story takes place shortly after the conclusion of Mike at Wryken. Mike has become increasingly proficient at cricket but, because of his poor school results, his father decides the best thing for Mike is to send him off to Sedleigh, a far smaller school, with a far lower-ranked cricket team. After meeting his Housemaster he meets a well-dressed youth with a monocle, another new student, who introduces himself as Psmith (formerly an Etonian) and, he says, a socialist.
“I am with you, Comrade Jackson. You won’t mind my calling you Comrade, will you? I’ve just become a socialist.  It’s a great scheme.  You ought to be one.  You work for the equal distribution of property, and start by collaring all you can and sitting on it […].  [Chapter 3]
Mike and Pmith instantly become good friends and, even with their extensive cricketing experience, they decide to avoid playing cricket for the school and join the archaeological society.  Mike, however, misses playing cricket and soon plays for a local team.  The two participate in a number of  troublesome but exciting adventures.
In this novel, Wodehouse introduces one of my favorite fictional characters, and one of the very few of his creations to be based on an actual person, Rupert D’Oyly Carte, Wodehouse later described Psmith as “the only thing in my literary career which was handed to me on a silver plate with watercress around it”.  Psmith is one of Wodehouse’s finest characters.  Psmith explains that the P in his surname is silent, “as in pshrimp” and was added by himself, in order to distinguish him from other Smiths, the sheer idea of doing something so simple yet so unheard of is nothing less than genius and is just one of the many points which make Psmith such a great character, that and the nonchalant way he insults the teachers without insulting them:
If you ever have occasion to write to me, would you mind sticking a P at the beginning of my name? P-s-m-i-t-h.  See?  There are too many Smiths, and I don’t care for Smythe.  My father’s content to worry along in the old-fashioned way, but I’ve decided to strike out a fresh line.  I shall found a new dynasty.  The resolve came to me unexpectedly this morning.  I jotted it down on the back of an envelope.  In conversation you may address me as Rupert (though I hope you won’t), or simply Smith, the P not being sounded.  Compare the name Zbysco, in which the Z is given a similar miss-in-balk. See?”
Mike said he saw.  Psmith thanked him with a certain stately old world courtesy.
 [Chapter 2]
He staggered back with the basket, painfully conscious all the while that it was creasing his waistcoat, and dumped it down on the study floor. Mr. Downing stooped eagerly over it. Psmith leaned against the wall, and straightened out the damaged garment.  [Chapter 20]
“Sit down, Smith,” said the housemaster.  “I can manage without your help.”
Psmith sat down again, carefully tucking up the knees of his trousers, and watched him with silent interest through his eyeglass. The scrutiny irritated Mr. Downing.  “Put that thing away, Smith,” he said.
“That thing, sir?”
“Yes, that ridiculous glass.  Put it away.”
“Why, sir?”
“Why!  Because I tell you to do so.”
“I guessed that that was the reason, sir,” sighed Psmith, replacing the eyeglass in his waistcoat pocket.  He rested his elbows on his knees, and his chin on his hands, and resumed his contemplative inspection of the shoe expert, who, after fidgeting for a few moments, lodged another complaint.

“Don’t sit there staring at me, Smith.”

“I was interested in what you were doing, sir.”

“Never mind.  Don’t stare at me in that idiotic way.”
“May I read, sir?” asked Psmith, patiently.

“Yes, read if you like.”
“Thank you, sir.”  
[Chapter 21.]

“Be quick, Smith,” [Mr. Downing] said, as the latter stood looking at him without making any movement in the direction of the door.
“Quick, sir?” said Psmith meditatively, as if he had been asked a conundrum.
“Go and find Mr. Outwood at once.”  Psmith still made no move.  “Do you intend to disobey me, Smith?” Mr. Downing’s voice was steely.
“Yes, sir.”
“What!”
“Yes, sir.”  There was one of those you-could-have-heard-a-pin-drop silences.

Psmith was staring reflectively at the ceiling.  Mr. Downing was looking as if at any moment he might say, “Thwarted to me face, ha, ha!  And by a very stripling!” 
It was Psmith, however, who resumed the conversation.  His manner was almost too respectful; which made it all the more a pity that what he said did not keep up the standard of docility.

“I take my stand,” he said, “on a technical point.  I say to myself, ‘Mr. Downing is a man I admire as a human being and respect as a master.  In—”

This impertinence is doing you no good, Smith.”  Psmith waved a hand deprecatingly.  
[Chapter 22]
One of the things which make Wodehouse’s books so great is the amount of detail he puts into planning so his small characters are portrayed perfectly and, unlike so many authors—who come up with a good character then skimp on the rest of them with no character development, simply using a mere hollow husk of a creation with a generic name—Wodehouse properly plans his story so that even a seemingly insignificant line early in the story may be important later.
This is a great read for anyone who is or isn’t already a fan of Wodehouse and will continue to amuse you after constant and repeated readings.  I recommend reading Mike and Psmith at least twice to make sure not to miss an ingenious line from any one of the interesting characters.

9 out of 10

P.G. Wodehouse, Mike and Psmith (London, 2012)

Mike at Wrykyn first appeared in the magazine The Captain as a the first story in a two-part serial titled “Jackson Junior”, and published as a novel, Mike, in 1909; “Jackson Junior” was republished separately as Mike at Wrykyn in 1953. The second part of “Jackson Junior”, originally titled “The Lost Lambs” in The Captain, was released separately as Enter Psmith in 1935, and finally published as Mike and Psmith in 1953.

This is the End


Jay Baruchel (played by Jay Baruchel), after arriving in Los Angeles, meets Seth Rogen (played by Seth Rogen), his old friend and fellow actor.  After smoking a lot of pot and playing video games, Seth invites Jay to James Franco’s housewarming party.  At the party, a swarm of celebrities drink, do drugs, screw, and indulge in other sinful acts.  Jay is uncomfortable around so many people he doesn’t know or care to know (including Jonah HillMichael Cera and Craig Robinson as themselves) asks Seth to accompany him to the shop to buy cigarettes.
At the convenience store beams of blue light suddenly descend from the sky to carry away several customers and other random people.  The terrified Seth and Jay flee back to Franco’s, home avoiding explosions car crashes and just general mayhem, to find the celebrities undisturbed by the pandemonium, and then laugh at Jay’s tale of mass abductions, but soon rush outside following what they think was a powerful earthquake to see the Hollywood Hills burning.
The film is filled with lots of masturbatory jokes and just enough swearing to make every nun in Rome faint.
Though there are more than twelve plot points or scenes that could have been done better or just changed slightly to make a more seamless and likeable experience, this film was very enjoyable and watchable for anyone who likes this sort of stoner-movie.  I enjoyed it and still smile when I remember some of the jokes made and look forward to the DVD’s deleted scenes and blooper reel.

8 out of 10

It would be interesting to see what some of these actors and actresses are like in real life, to see how close their movie portrayal is to their personal life and if these had any impact on the other; e.g. Seth Rogen plays just about the same character in every movie, so it wouldn't be a stretch to assume he really is like that the whole time or at least very similar.  Likewise, it would be interesting to see what Danny McBride is really like because he nearly always plays a dick-head on screen.

Zombieland


Columbus is a nerdy, wimpy asthmatic college student with IBS, who so far has been able to prolong his existence in the united states of Zombieland by following his list of rules on how to survive the Plague of the 21st century.
Rule #2 Double tap.  “In those moments when you’re not sure the undead are really dead dead don’t get all stingy with your bullets…” 
Rule #3 Beware of bathrooms.  “Don’t let them catch you with your pants down.”
Rule #22 When in doubt, know your way out.
On his way to Columbus, Columbus meets Tallahassee, a man who “sets the standard for not to be fucked with”; he gives Columbus his nickname Columbus so as to not get too personally attached.  Along the way they encounter Wichita and her little sister Little Rock, heading to Pacific Playland, and decide to travel together for a while.  Columbus the “peppy little spit-fuck he is”, is a great character though a little inconsistent—e.g. at the beginning he informs us that he has Irritable Bowl Syndrome yet the effects of that condition are shown only twice early in the movie; granted, referring to it every ten minutes would be overkill, but the way this movie is shot it could have had a scene of him urgently requiring a toilet-break while everyone waits for him during the road-trip montage.  The character Tallahassee, being the ass-kicking, zombie-hating, Twinkie-loving badass, is all well and good and he is by far my favourite.  Little Rock I found annoying but likeable.  I found Wichita the most annoying: she was just a bitch; this may be to her character being incomplete compared to the others and, whereas the other actors played their parts well and really fit their characters, I felt that there could have been a better choice than Emma Stone who didn’t really suit the rôle.
The jokes are as what you would expect from this type of movie—nothing really new, and we all know how it will end—but that doesn’t spoil the movie: it is still an entertaining eighty minutes of gruesome but funny zombie-killing and that’s the real reason you will watch this movie over and over again, not for its immersive story or in-depth look at the world; no, it’s for the zombie-killing goodness that we all crave to see and get way too exited about when we hear a new one is coming out.
Zombieland is just about what you want from this type of movie.

7.5 out of 10

10 June, 2013

Mike at Wrykyn


Michael “Mike” Jackson is the youngest son of a renowned cricketing family.  Mike’s eldest brother Joe is a successful first-class player, while another brother, Bob, is at the top of his school’s team.  Mike has grown up to be a top-class player; not only does he have his brothers, with whom he can practise and train, but also his wealthy father hires a professional cricketer, Saunders, to coach him.  By his and his family’s eyes it is only natural that Mike attend Wrykyn—a leading public (i.e. private) school with a famous cricket team—the school wherein his father and brothers attended and helped bring success and fame for the cricket team.  When Mike finally arrives at Wrykyn his talent and love for the game brings him success and trouble in near equal quantity.
Mike at Wrykyn starts a fairly conventional school story which follows Mike and his adventures at school, but is ultimately a sporting story though it works well as either a good cricket story or a school adventure tale wherein the main character gets into various troubles and has to find a way out in time.  This book has superior English than most English texts published today.
As a novel, Mike at Wrykyn stands alone as a great book written extremely well; but it works even better as an appetizer for the main course, Mike and Psmith, the novel which introduces one of literature’s finest characters Psmith, and which marks the point when P.G. Wodehouse progressed from being a writer of excellent stories to being one of the best writers in English.

7.5 out of 10

P.G. Wodehouse, Mike at Wrykyn (London, 1953)

Mike at Wrykyn first appeared in the magazine The Captain as a the first story in a two-part serial titled “Jackson Junior”, and published as a novel, Mike, in 1909Jackson Junior” was republished separately as Mike at Wrykyn in 1953.  The second part of Jackson Junior”, originally titled “The Lost Lambs” in  The Captainwas released separately as Enter Psmith in 1935, and finally published as Mike and Psmith in 1953.

01 April, 2013

Fracknation


Fracknation is an independent feature documentary by Phelim McAleer, funded by the public through Kickstarter, which aims to correct the record about Gasland—an alleged documentary which has persuaded people, who haven’t taken the time to research the matter, to  believe that fracking—induced hydraulic fracturing—is so polluting that you can get sick from breathing the air as you drive through Pennsylvania and that the farmers are in dire need of help. Josh Fox, the director of Gaslandwas unwilling to talk about the historical facts that disprove one of the movie’s most memorable and influential scenes of a man setting his water of fire, and dismissed them as “not relevant”. Phelim McAleer then tried to post the video on different websites of Josh Fox stating the historical records of people being able to light their water on fire before fracking was irrelevant, but was silenced by HBO—supposedly because of copyright. This motivated McAleer to make his own movie based on what the affected farmers in Pennsylvania really had to say.
Phelim McAleer starts his investigation into the effects on farming that fracking had made by talking to the farmers themselves. He finds that a majority of the farmers and families involved with fracking were in favour of fracking and claimed that there were no ill effects, and that very few families opposed making much-needed money by leasing their land for drilling. Some opponents of fracking claim that their water was polluted because of fracking and that they got sick from drinking from their wells; one man even stated that because of fracking there is now weapons-grade uranium in his water along with a list of other dangerous and deadly chemicals. McAleer also found that there has always been methane and iron in those wells—and not from fracking—and that the families who say that their water is contaminated are unable to produce on film anything but clear water instead of the murky red or brown water shown in Gasland. McAleer and his crew then ask some real scientists about the affects of fracking on the environment.
McAleer asked several researchers (including journalists and engineers) about the effects of fracking and, each time, was told just how safe fracking is and how much Josh Fox misrepresented the process. Fox said that fracking was unsafe, destructive, polluting and could even lead to earthquakes. However, these claims prove to be false. James Delingpole, the journalist and author, said that shale gas is the miracle of the early twenty-first century; in terms of safety and environmental friendliness and economic efficiency, shale gas is about the best thing going in the world right now, he says.
Josh Fox used his film Gasland to try to scare decent people into believing that natural gas is bad and to convince us through lying and deception that the gas corporations are evil and are deceiving hard-working farmers into leasing their land to them, which those corporations would pollute beyond repair. Phelim McAleer, after investigating the matter himself, shows the public the truth about fracking.

As a compelling film that keeps you interested: 7 out of 10;

As a documentary that gives corrective arguments along with stories, interviews and visual confirmation of facts, presented in an interesting way: 7 out of 10.


DISCLOSURE:  Deadman helped fund FrackNation