Jul 312011

Green Zone posterPaul Greengrass’ Green Zone could easily be mistaken for the fourth Jason Bourne-installment – after all it reunites the director with Matt Damon in yet another murky-moraled thriller.

The movie juxtaposes the award-winning Imperial Life in the Emerald City with a futile search for weapons of mass destruction. The former was covered well in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book, and the few ludicrous scenes in the film are but a shallow scratch on the surface. The other side of the coin is not as strong – the reality here is as strange as fiction and played out in the news – the invasion of Iraq on account of the missing weapons happened anyway.

Matt Damon plays the protagonist, Chief Warrant Officer Miller, to the hilt. He’s again utterly convincing as a man who leaves no stone unturned on account of dirt underneath. Greg Kinnear’s thinly disguised take on Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provincial Authority is spot on when it comes to pomposity and doubledealing. After all, the worst excesses in mismanaging the rudderless country occurred on his watch. Amy Ryan is (once again) faultless in the role of a WSJ reporter on location.

Green Zone takes a turbulent period of recent history and manages to provide a nicely streamlined presentation of the events without glossing over important details nor painting a too rosy picture what could have happened if the chips fell in different ways.

Jul 312011

Bought Dance with Dragons, but haven’t started it yet. There’s a good 1500+ intervening pages, as I still want to read through the second half of Storm of Swords and Feast for Crows to remember what’s going on in Westeros.

Dance with Dragons got heavy promotion in Akateeminen Kirjakauppa, it’s not often that english hardbacks are pushed so hard (only the latter Harry Potters and Dan Brown’s novels exceeded this).

There’s no word for the home-release of Game of Thrones yet, but considering the reception of the show, HBO’s certainly slavering over the potential revenue from the dvd/bluray-releases.

Noted that I’ve recently acquired quite a few interesting links to Song of Fire and Ice-related pages. Will start on posting them soonish. And also try to note whether they carry spoilers either for the books and/or television show (which will be broadcast by YLE in 2012).

Jul 312011

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World posterI had a lot of doubts about Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novel (in six parts). It seemed to ride an uncomfortable wave of popular geekery and be drawn in way too manga-esque style for comfort. Upon a couple of positive reviews from generally reliable sources, I gave in and bought the first volume as a tryout. And liked it a lot – instead of using the music/games/whatever as a thin lacquer for just another commonplace story, the plot actually reveled and wallowed in the depths of obscure pop culture-references while putting up a decent boy-meets-girl- story.

I had my doubts about the wisdom of trying to render the novel into a movie. It is a long (and repetitive) work and contains a lot of non-realistic elements that could be so easy to miscarry on-screen.

Shouldn’t have worried, Edgar Wright’s take on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is amongst the most successful and interesting movies I’ve seen in in 2011.

The plot retains its charm and characters even with the necessary streamlining to clock in just under two hours.

Michael Cera repeats his most common role – once again he is a slightly outcast and perplexed young man, exactly like the protagonist, so there’s little danger of his mannerisms overpowering the original intent. I liked Mary Elizabeth Winstead back in Die Hard 4.0, and in Scott Pilgrim she works perfectly as Ramona Flowers, the love interest with a long past. The rest of the cast fits in as well, with the exception of Jason Schwartzmann no-one rising above or falling below the acceptable (Jason does grate after a while, once again).

As with the original, the film is packed with references to video games, movies, music and other elements of popular culture (as it originates in Japan, for the most part). I managed to recognize a tiny slice of the show, but fortunately there’s a definitive list handily available.

Scott Pilgrim is definitely not for everybody, but for those whom green mushrooms instantly recognize as 1-up it’s an experience to savour.

Jul 302011

Prisoner silhouetteI’ve been an Olly Moss fanboy for a long time. A recent addition to his portfolio is a collection of papercuts of various characters. There’s plenty of figures I do not recognize, and quite a few I wouldn’t mind on the walls. The style is very much the traditional silhouette – black on white – with colour very sparingly used for special effect (like the jackets of the Reservoir Dogs crew).

Jul 292011

Nueve Reinas posterThere’s plenty of good movies that do not originate from Hollywood.

One such is Fabian Bielinsky’s Nueve Reinas, an argentinian movie that shows the ins and outs of life among the swindling class.

The film grabs hold from the very beginning and doesn’t let up until the very end. The plot twists and turns between several professional con artists and the viewer can never be sure whether he’s the ultimate mark in the game.

The US rights were optioned soon after the release of the film, and it’s already been remade in 2004.

Jul 252011

Babe posterThis week’s movie monday challenge is about big feelings evoked by movies – for me the most prominent one is sense of wonder that happens when a movie exceeds expectations or completely overruns them. Sadly, this is increasingly uncommon these days as preliminary information and outright spoilers are harder to avoid.

But back in 1995 internet didn’t prematurely give away the juice, and movies were able to surprise. The one on top is Babe, the Gallant Pig. I watched this without any real advance knowledge and the tale of the brave pig with a severe identity crisis took me completely unaware.

The feelgood-movie is packed with 24 carat characters played by animals. And considering that the plot manages to engage from the very beginning, and the pacing is appropriately quick for children of all ages, Babe never gets anywhere close to boring. The occasional oddities (the singing mice for starters) don’t exactly keep the audience on their toes, but a nice surreal touch nonetheless.

Props to James Cromwell and George Miller, both of whom definitely out of their comfort zones. Corrupt policemen and post-apocalyptic heroics, respectively.

No product placement, no intertextuality, no sappy songs, no sugarcoating – just the kind of childrens’ movie there should be more of.

Movie Monday #9: What a Feeling!