Thursday, 21 June 2018

Arctic Monkeys to the Moon! via Rome

At first listen this is Arctic Monkeys going right off the “Now They Are Living in Hollywood” deep end


A sci-fi concept album ....  about a hotel on the moon ....that sounds like a lounge lizard’s homemade soundtrack to Moon Zero Two. I can tell you are skeptical, and yeah, I had the same reaction when I heard the new Arctic Monkeys album would be 'piano driven'

But I’m really addicted to it now, after 3 listens I’m at the stage where is all I want to listen to

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tranquility_Base_Hotel_%26_Casino

Lyrically Mr turner bounces around totally without fear and with a prematurely jaded perspective, somehow beginning to sound like middle era Elvis Costello

Along the way manages to appreciate Science Fiction in a way I've never heard before in a rock song

"I want to make a simple point about peace and love
But in a sexy way where it's not obvious
Highlight dangers and send out hidden messages
The way some science fiction does"
from Science fiction

Is American Sports talking about American Politics?

"I saw this aura over the battleground states
I lost the money, lost the keys
But I'm still handcuffed to the briefcase
And I never thought, not in a million years
That I'd meet so many lovers
Can I please have my money back?
My virtual reality mask is stuck on "Parliament Brawl"
Emergency battery pack just in time
For my weekly chat with God on video call
Breaking news, they take the truth and make it and fluid
The trainer's explanation was accepted by the steward
A montage of the latest ancient ruins
Soundtracked by a chorus of "you don't know what you're doing"

ditto Golden Trunks

"The leader of the free world
Reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks
He's got himself a theme tune

They play it for him as he makes his way to the ring"

First Arctic Monkeys album where I'm shocked to realise I (almost) perfer the music to the lyrics. I had to doublecheck Brian Eno wasn't on the credits. This album reeks of 70s soundtrack club cool, and off-smelling  lurid decadence like The Peddlers and ELO working together (particularly ELOs scifi concept album Time) .
There is obviously a ton of Bowie and mass of The Beatles, especially in this


But in it's deep 70s soundscaping it mostly reminds me of

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_(Danger_Mouse_and_Daniele_Luppi_album)

a strange one off tribute album to Italian movie soundtracks which was a fuxture in my car for about two years.



When you remember this an album by the band mostly known for down to earth content like like Cigarette Smoker Fiona you realise the level of shock the Arctic Monkey's fanbase must be going through right now. The last time they took a serious left turn, Humbug, got a bad reception (I loved it).

I wouldn't say it's their Sgt. Pepper..but it might be their Rubber Soul.


Monday, 21 May 2018

Definitive proof were are not living in a simulation - Belgium national football team

About the only thing I have in common with Elon Musk I also worry that our version of reality is actually a simulation


Well, thank god for Belgium's national football team.

According to this simulation of 100 world cups Belgium would have been winners nearly 1/4 of the time


Belgium have never won the World Cup (up to now). We can only assume that reality, in the form of inexplicable lack of form in tournaments, intervenes to stop this happening.


Could it be that England, who share a World Cup group with Belgium, are the only thing that stands between the revelation of mankind's physical non-existance in the universe?




Belgium are a great team for neutrals to support. And I love Soulwax



Monday, 2 April 2018

Patrick Stewart as Lenin is one of many surprises in FALL OF EAGLES (1974), the forgotten but definitive pre WW1 history drama

 It's talky, it's ancient. It contains literally no action or sex. FALL OF EAGLES (1974) is stagey, stodgy drawing room drama with fancy costumes.

But if you are invested in YouTube's The Great War, that era and historical drama in general, this is a lost gem. Over  13 episodes it shows the lead up to  and events of the Great War, the 1860s to 1918, not from the perspective of Britain or France but from the three doomed Imperial houses, the Hapsburgs, the Romanovs and the Hohenzollerns.

Fall of Eagles stands in contrast to most depictions of the world pre -1914, which tend to  show the Belle Epoque as a kind of Edwardian uotpia. With the amount of incompetence and unreality on show here you will be slightly surprised to find this world of deluded and ruthless kings and emperors lasted as long as it did.  For all my immersion lately in this era I'd never heard of the events of the Mayerling scandal  (featured in episode 4) and was genuinely shocked by it.

The writing is pretty good, and features such names of the time as Troy Kennedy Martin (The Italian Job, Edge of Darkness).

It's the casting though which will catch the eye, with many British acting stars appearing in surprising roles.

The presence of Patrick Stewart  (as Lenin) and Freddie Jones make this look like a re-skinned Dune saga and its easy to imagine Fall of Eagles was prescribed watching a decade later in pre-production for David Lynch's Dune (1984).



Brits will find lots of forgotten faces from BBC tv. Future sitcom stars Dianne Keen and Jan Francis look absolutely stunning and fully hold their won against the abundant acting talent around them.



Kurt Jurgen's makes Bismark an almost tragic figure














Micheal Aldridge (of Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy and later.. Last of The Summer Wine) makes for a surprisingly sympathetic Rasputin

But best of all, and how I found this show, is Barry Foster of Hitchcock's Frenzy and Van Der Valk. His depiction of Kaiser Wilhem II  is probably the definitive dramatic portrayal (so far) and he steals every scene he's in. His final moments, pleading that the world remember how many women and children were starved to death by the British blockade, are sad and poignant.



Apparently Fall of Eagles itself fell down the back of the sofa of television history because it was overshadowed by a similar project at the same time. I, Claudius is truly classic tv but shouldn't erase the memory of this saga, which has enough detail and primitive Game of Thrones family saga appeal to be well worth checking out.
But be warned, HBO it's not.
In fact, if you are reading this over there at Home Box Office, and wondering what to follow Game of Thrones with, remaking this show wouldn't be a terrible idea.





Wednesday, 28 March 2018

2018 - Brexit might soon be 'cat up a tree' news

This is what is keeping me awake at the moment

A timeline for 2018


May

Responding to 'provocation' Trump launches 'Bloody Nose' attack against North Korea

Within 48 hours Trump sacks Robert Mueller and shuts down the investigation into Russian collusion

North Korea responds with WMD attacks against South Korea and Japan, and (with Russian backing) cyber attacks against US Allies.

Mass loss of life seen throughout worlds media is later seen as a defining moment of the 21st century

UK is forced to veto UN security council vote condeming US and threatening sanctions


June

US forces invade North Korea

Chinese involvement prolongs fighting in North Korea

Japan threateans use of nuclear weapons

Brexit talks indefinitely suspended


July

Responding to 'provocation' Russia invades Baltic States, Georgia and Ukraine

With US demanding Allied involvement in North Korea NATO response is confused and ineffective

France and Germany pull out of NATO

Poland threateans use of nuclear weapons against Russian aggression

After cyber and threats of WMD attacks in US, Fox news calls on president Trump to declare a state of emergency and martial law


September

Largely blamed for the collapse of NATO and reaction to US actions UK government collapses, replaced by a Labour government or National Coalition depending on severity

United Nations is expelled from New York by Trump administration, UN relocates to Geneva but is now effectively defunct

Depending on the state of the polls, Trump declares Emergency Powers and suspends mid term elections in US. National Guard is deployed to quell widespread unrest.

China announces a Security/Peace conference and invites South China sea nations including Japan. Suggests expelling US forces from the area. Trump threatens use of .. whatever new weapons have been used by US so far, including nukes.


November

November mid term elections do not happen, Republican majority stays in place, Trump is not impeached.
​Trump​
and his family stay out of jail.


Pacific Rim Uprising exposes the No.1 problem with Star Wars Last Jedi (NO SPOILERS)

Pacific Rim 2 exposes the No.1 problem with Star Wars 8 - JOHN BOYEGA


First off, PACIFIC RIM UPRISING.
I have to review this as I went temporarily mad for the first movie. For large parts I thought it better than the first one.

It's faster. Steven S. DeKnight (of Netflix Daredevil) seems to have sacrificed realism for excitement in the action scenes, which lack the grandier but do move along at pace. it is great to see old time city destroying mahem withouth two hours of angst about the casualties

True, the cast is more boring and kiddified. At times it looks like a SPY KIDS sequel.. but personally I like SPY KIDS.

Hard not to be a Boyega fan, he oozes charisma and brio,  and he's still the kid from Attack The Block who reminds you of Steve McQueen debuting in The Blob. Instant star power. This is the kind of actor who doesn't even need to act to save a movie, though he does to great effect in Detroit.

So John Boyega (and I'll get to Finn and Star Wars below) is excellent but I have to say Scott Eastwood, beginning to look a lot like his father, outshines him for presence in Pacific Rim Uprising. Both actors seems to be slumming a bit in this environment but they work together well and I hope they are cast together again in future.

While I'm bigging up John Boyega it's worth noting he (and newly Oscar winning director and series creator Guillermo del Toro) gets a producer credit on this movie. Pacific Rim Uprising not going to win any Oscars for production but I have to say it hangs together better than most of the DC and Star Wars movies I've seen in the last decade. It is mostly internally consistent with a satisfying plot that doesn't seem stitched up seemingly at random in post-production according to whims of a committee.

As with the first movie, the senior supporting  characters are a major highlight, Burn Gorman and Charlie Day in particular. One scene at home with Charlie Day is my favourite from either movie, very funny and simultaneously creepy and almost Cronenberg level disturbing. I wonder how younger audiences will react to that.

The fabulous world building continues, with devastated beach front properties being a nice backdrop for some of the action. Ten years after the end of the Kaiju War and the Battle of The Breach we don't see any nations being mentioned, only cities. The national stereotypes seem to have gone and the Jaeger corps seems to be a world wide effort.


Like Godzilla (2014) Pacific Rim 2 has caught some flak for lack of characterisation.
O-kay.
This is a giant monster movie. No-one waxes lyrical about the dramatic arc between Emi and Yumi Itō in Mothra (1961). Did these reviewers criticize Darkest Hour for it's lack of MechaGodzilla? Come to think of it Kaiju could only have improved Darkest Hour. I'm thinking Gorgo obviously, MechaGodzilla would be silly.

There is some moaning that the movie is pandering to China, to which you have to respond;
  • China is on the Pacific Rim
  • China has it's nose in everything the South China Sea, so I can completely believe they are all over the 2030 Pan Pacific Jaeger program
  • The Chinese characters (and the Russians) in the first movie were criminally underdeveloped and I'd watch a prequel just about them
  • Pacific Rim 2 wouldn't be appearing at all if not for Chinese Box office saving the first movie
Ramin Djawadi is a major loss on the soundtrack. I didn't appreciate cinematographer Guillermo Navarro's work on the first film until I saw the dull flat look of Uprising. Though we do get some Marko Mori, Herc Hansen and Hannibal Chau are nowhere to be seen.

I'm dissapointed by lack of Mako Mori though I understand the actress was having a child during filming of this which might explain her lack of involvement. I wish her and her family the best and really hope she returns in some capacity in future Pacific Rim sequels.

Apparently, after the fuss about Pacific Rim not passing the Bechdel Test, Mako Mori inspired a whole new measurement covering the representation of women of women n movies.

This proves to me two things - that the detail of representation of <whoever> issues are transitory and worth about as much attention as what way is the wind blowing (so long as the underlying issues are addressed). And that great hidden plot thread in Pacific Rim, of a platonic work place romance, is one that has been noticed and will endure.

I saw the first movie again a few days ago and it is both worse than I remember (it drags, it's corny) but also somehow better (wow the detail, the visuals). For all the talk of Wes Anderson being a niche filmmaker it is actually something like Pacific Rim that is more a true 'Cult Movie' - in that it has a fanatically loyal, but minority following.

Pacific Rim Uprising isn't a great movie, two of the four people I saw it with nodded off and everyone had some major issue with it, but again isn't that divisiveness the definition of a Cult movie? This franchise has now delivered two in a row, you think it would get more credit.

You feel this movie franchise will just get kicked around by the haters forever. The same reviewers kicking the first one now kicking the sequel for not being enough like the first one, and the same websites which kicked Pacific Rim for violating the female representation standards of 2013 are now kicking the sequel for not doing more of the same.




So
Yeah I'm someone else who has a big problem with Last Jedi. Though I've not heard it much expressed elsewhere.

When Rian Johnson apparently threw out the original the outline for Star Wars The Last Jedi
we are told it was because he was being daring with his story telling. Is that lazy-arsed plot really story telling?  The end of Snoke was shocking and would have been dramatic and interesting if we'd had any idea who this character is beforehand. Are we not supposed to care who Snoke is? I sure don't now.  Daring would have been something like telling it all from Captain Phasma's perspective. Of course Gwendoline Christie was binned, presumably because that plot thread would have given more screen time to the new comic relief, Finn.

Yeah, Finn. Finn is the problem.

If Poe Dameron was a character originally intended to be killed off in Force Awakens how is he now the male lead romantic attached to Rey? Why is Finn, who was once promoted as the male lead, relegated to pointless subplots with a minor female character ?

I like Rose, she fleshes out the world. And Oscar Isaac is much much better in Alex Garland movies (not seen Annihilation? It's better than any of the movies on this page. Why are you reading this? Get to Netflix now) But Finn's treatment in Star Wars Last Jedi looks alarmingly like token black sidekick storytelling.

It must be particularity galling to be the best young black movie star in the business, to find yourself relegated to Star War's comic relief  in the same year Black Panther is released. Star Wars, and I'm blaming Johnson, Abrams and Kennedy for this, have turned the actor who lit up Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit , into something like Richard Pryor in Superman III.

and the absolutely infuriating thing is most people who dare dislike Star Wars Last Jedi are written off as unreconstructed alt-right activists...

.
Boyega as originally introduced to the press as the new male lead for Star Wars - how 'Finn' is this?

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Darkest Hour (2017) vs Dunkirk (2017) & the Australian movie we need about the Abdication Crisis

Unlike Nolan’s Dunkirk, current Oscar bait Darkest Hour (2017) barely made a ripple in U.K. movie going conversation - I can see why. It's just embarrassing, and easily the worst film I’ve seen so far this year. This is awful Oscar bait by numbers, as many have said, and despite some good acting work makes Netflix's The Crown look like an edgy masterpiece of popular history.

Lets get the history out of the way first. I'm sure there is some detail in which this movie is very accurate. (I've read the book on which this screenplay appears to be based - Five Days in London, May 1940, by John Lukacs). Dates and timings appear to be spot on along with, some, of what was said.

Beyond that.. What will immediately annoy history buffs is the first scene in the House of Commons, which dumbs down and paraphrases one of the most dramatic and consequential debates in the entire 400 year history of the House of Commons; The Norway Debate.

An entire, brilliant movie could one day be made just covering this debate, as it results directly in the removal of Chamberlain, the final renunciation of appeasement and the installation of Churchill. But Darkest Hour really is only interested in Churchill, and as he is not present for this debate we a given a brief caricature of events. Clement Attlee would serve as the (first) Deputy Prime Minister throughout World War II and would defeat Churchill in the 1945 election. The film off-handledly admits in several places that Churchill is only considered at all for Prime Minister in 1940, against the ruling party, because of pressure from Attlee and the rest of the opposition. Attlee seen in the opening first few minutes of Darkest Hour and then barely mentioned later.

The Norwegians and the Norwegian Campaign which prompted this debate are barely featured, as it would confuse the Nazis-charging-through-the-collapsing-French narrative. Darkest Hour is not alone in disregarding the Norwegian Campaign and this is common to nearly every movie covering the period. Since a large portion of the German fleet ends up on the bottom of Norwegian fjords as a result of this campaign, making the subsequent sea invasion of Britain a virtual impossibility, you would think it would get more attention. The Norwegians have not forgotten it.

This paragraph below shows another another potentially brilliant scene dumbed down and pushed aside by this movie, in favour of a cut down paraphrased scene at an airport. Did they refuse permission to shoot in Paris? Christoper Nolan was allowed to use half the French Navy to shoot Dunkirk..

(From wiki)

Churchill flew to Paris on 16 May. He immediately recognised the gravity of the situation when he observed that the French government was already burning its archives and was preparing for an evacuation of the capital. In a sombre meeting with the French commanders, Churchill asked General Gamelin, "Où est la masse de manoeuvre?" ["Where is the strategic reserve?"] that had saved Paris in the First World War. 
"Aucune" ["There is none"] Gamelin replied. After the war, Gamelin claimed his response was "There is no longer any."
Churchill later described hearing this as the single most shocking moment in his life. Churchill asked Gamelin where and when the general proposed to launch a counterattack against the flanks of the German bulge. 
Gamelin simply replied "inferiority of numbers, inferiority of equipment, inferiority of methods".

There is vast tragedy in the nation which beat the Germans at Verdun succumbing to the Germans of 1940 but (as usual with this kind of movie) we only seem to get French resignation without any nuance beyond that. Similarly, the possibility of talks with Mussolini's Italian fascists looms large over the later stages of this movie, could it not drag itself out of Churchill's bunker for one scene showing an actual Italian?

My frustration here really comes down to missed potential. What a great conspiracy story could be made of this - instead we have an increasingly laughable human interest drama with a political dimension.

Again as usual for this kind of movie it makes no mention of Commonwealth and Empire forces  (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, British India - not inconsiderable) which declared war alongside the home country almost immediately without reservation.

I'm heavily into movie scores at the minute, still going back to Jerry Goldsmith's forgotten epic score to The Blue Max.  Dario Marianelli's score to Darkest Hour.. I wish I could say it's forgettable but it actually distractedly melodramatic; managing to overdramatise some of the most dramatic moments of the last century is really some feat. Try listening to this next to Hans Zimmer's incredible score for Nolan's Dunkirk. You'd struggle to believe they were written in the same century. Darkest Hour's soundtrack belongs in an Ealing Studios movie.

I am not by the way an unabashed worshiper of Dunkirk (2017), it has major major issues on a historical level as well but as just a movie event it makes Darkest Hour look quite laughable.

This is the first Joe Wright film I’ve seen and I’ll avoid the rest. Every flashy CGI camera moment and directorial flourish you can imagine and then some. Without wanting to be too harsh this is the nearest British equivalent I can think of  to Micheal Bay’s execrable Pearl Harbor. Darkest Hour  even has a similar CGI shot showing a bomb dropping off a plane and followed down to the target. Oh and for added fakeness, the glimpse of CGI Little Ships against the CGI White Cliffs of Dover  must have had Nolan's cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema absolutely rolling around with laughter.

Darkest Hour's now infamous Churchill on the tube scene is every bit as Disney-embarrassing-ridiculous as you’ve been led to expect. At a pivotal point in the movie the Grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough decides to take a tube train, alone, to get a Vox Pop of working class opinion. By far the most believable detail in this scene is the British Caribbean gent in the hat. That I can believe. Beyond him - Is that Dick Van Dyke's chimney sweep and Mary Poppins in the background?

There is no scene in Marvel’s Captain America : First Avenger less believable than Darkest Hour's tube scene, and for all the previous acting special effects the movie never recovers, simmering just above Comic Strip Presents : Operation Dynamo.   You certainly will get more of an idea of the real 1940s Britain watching Supersizers Go Wartime.

The positives :  The cast is obviously very good. I'm a massive fan of Gary Oldman, and just about everyone else  here, so writing this has not been easy. I’d rather watch a whole movie about Kristin Scott Thomas's Lady Churchill, or even Stephen Dillane's Halifax, than go into this subject matter again.
Ben Mendelsohn is fantastic again as George VI. With Guy Pearce's magnificent cameo as Edward VIII (and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue) in The King's Speech , can we hope the Australian film industry is just a step away from the movie about the pivotal Abdication Crisis that we deserve? They'll push Kate Blanchett or Naomi Watts as Wallace Simpson but give Margot Robbie a go - she deserves it. (I recently saw I, Tonya three times in the space of a week.)
Perhaps let Gary Oldman redeem himself as Stanley Baldwin.
For those not aware of the Abdication Crisis featured briefly in The King's Speech , Stanley Baldwin is the British Prime Minister who essentially sacks the Head of State when members of his family are found to be colluding with a hostile foreign power. I would say this is probably a more relevant story right now than yet another bloody movie about Winston Churchill.

As someone with an education, not living in an old people's home, I'm probably the wrong demographic for Darkest Hour. It's a cosy Xmas drawing room drama written for Hollywood grandparents and uncomplaining Baby Boomers,  and such it's an almost diametric opposite to Nolan's Dunkirk which for all its issues does at least put to put you on the beaches and challenges your conceptions of storytelling.

Nolan's movie is a trans-national, inspirational story about survival which notably includes the French and the Dutch and is so aware of war mongering nonsense since 1945 it only refers to the Germans as 'The Enemy'. By contrast Darkest Hour is a laughably told, inward looking hagiography of a great man (and forgotten internationalist) already unfairly idolised by some of the most ignorant, backward looking people on Earth.

I saw the incredible Russian anti-war film Come and See (1985) the same day I saw Darkest Hour, which seems to exist in a different universe. Come and See has some valuable lessons in how to dig up the past.