Monday, 25 July 2016

NZIFF: Lo And Behold

It's the New Zealand International Film Festival, so there's some movies I'm seeing. First up, Lo and Behold!

This is a documentary about the internet. We start from the early days and it is largely presented as something of a joke of "oh, look at these old things". We get the current use of the internet, how it's used to attack people, making video games that consume people's lives and the radio waves physically hurts people. But it's all right because we see that in the future we will reach a point where the internet is everything, and we won't be able to cope without it.

So yes... a rather sober movie, if not depressing. The director Werner Herzog isn't a techophile himself, and so we get the internet through his lens, in which it isn't a great thing. Not a terrible thing, but something that's definitely had negative impact on people.

Not the most cheerful start to my festival, but a nice simple one.


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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Ster Trak Beyonder

I'm not sure why they decided to name their movie after the rather lame Marvel being.

James Kirk is dealing with career anxiety but is called in to help with a distress call in a nearby nebula. (Like, really nearby. A panning shot goes from the nebula to the nearby star base.) However, it goes to pot because this is a movie, and there's action. And dialogue. And these scenes happen to be in the same movie.

There feels like a huge tonal problem with this movie to me. We have a few scenes of Jim being depressed, and then we cut to the exciting shot of unveiling the new star base... but we the audience has just been in this depressing moment with Jim, and now we have to switch to going "yay!"? No, that's not happening.

Also I'm not sure what the actual story they were trying for was for this movie. It felt more like they had some action beats and some character beats, and decided to put them in this script without really connecting them. Certainly I had little idea what was going on in any particular action scene (because of how it was shot) and it didn't feel like they connected to the other scenes very well. And there were a few arcs that didn't seem to close?

Because this is Star Trek I kept flashing back to other movies were some of these beats were present before. So it did feel a little like it was repeating... on the other hand, the story was original for this? It's a mixed bag that doesn't quite work.


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Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Brides of Drakula

Ah, with no Dracula, they go for the female hanger-ons. Only they aren't really his brides?

A lady is travelling to a ladies school, but her journey is interrupted as she ends up at the Baron Meinster's castle, and helps him escape his trap. He turns up to be a vampire, and turns his mother, and also grabs some other young women to be his playthings. The lady, meanwhile, happens to run into Van Helsing, get to the school, become the Baron's finance, and nearly get burnt. A fun time for all. But eventually the Baron is defeated by a very convenient windmill.

The main part of the movie is quite good. Yvonne Monlaur and David Peel make for extremely attractive leads, and both have very charismatic presences. Again there are some great looking sets, and again the main feature is people running through them.

The ending... is quite disappointing. The windmill blades form a useful shape, with shorter cross beams to make the cross, and the Baron just wilts. Er, really? Presumably then vampires could be stopped by simply making a cross with your own crossed fingers, that would do. Earlier in the movie, he could still move around even in the presence of the cross, but now the Baron just sits down and done. Meh.

Good looking film, the story doesn't quite work.


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Friday, 22 July 2016

On Stranger Things (7-8)

That's it for the first season. At least, I presume there could be more, because why ever not have the potential to continue something and be forced to make something else new up?

It all comes together as the girl and the boys and the sheriff and the mother and the brother and the sister and all get together... and then split up. To be honest, the last episode kept reminding me of Silent Hill, and I'm not sure if that was an intentional influence or not. The sense that this is overpadded remains and a lot of time is taken up with not much happening. And certainly that ending is no surprise.

So, overall, it just doesn't feel that exciting. Various people have been giving the impression that this is a good series, but it's just not there for me. It could be how I watch as well (yes, at speed), but if it can't come across at that speed, I do have to question how well evocative it is (that's right, I'm never at fault).

As I've said, not terrible, but I'm not saying this is the latest best thing out of Netflix either.


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Thursday, 21 July 2016

On Stranger Things (4-6)

Another batch of episodes, so another consideration.

More develops, with a bit of backstory, but... actually, there isn't a lot that really happens. Ever get the feeling that the story could be told in an hour and a half movie. In some ways, I am reminded of Super 8, with it being about a bunch of kids that encounter something strange back in the more classic period of movies.

A lot is made of the fact that this has Winona Ryder it in. In that she is the first person named in the opening titles. It took me to look up the credits to recognise that it was actually her, but it definitely is. I also quite like David Harbour as the sheriff. The kids aren't terrible, and Millie Bobby Brown gets a lot to do as the girl, although it mainly involves her being upset.

Although there is some exposition, this is feeling like padding and could have been told a lot more efficiently. At least there are only two episodes left.


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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

On Stranger Things (1-3)

It's the new Netflix series, but it's only eight episodes, so let's batch them up.

It's back in 1983 and it's small town Indiana. A group of boys is playing DND, but eventually have to go home. One in particular gets home, but there's something else there... because the town is right next to Evil Government Science Building, so there's something bad around. But don't worry, because instead of the boy, we have a girl turn up. The town goes all out to find the boy, and the mother goes crazy, and in another story a young girl/woman is having her first experience.

This feels incredibly 80s, and the soundtrack is definitely helping that. Oh, the songs I remember. I kept having to pause watching to I could play the full song.

Anyway, it's a slow burn series so far. We get the odd hint of something strange, but mostly it's more character drama than sci-fi. And the Evil Government is clearly Evil because... of how the characters are shot by the camera. Okay, there are a few things they do in which they are evil, but mostly they haven't done much than show up and stand around creepily.

It's watchable enough, but I'm not blown away by it.


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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The Grandmaster

It's another movie about Ip Man, this time with other characters getting a focus. It's The Grandmaster.

Ip Man is brought out to show off the Southern style in front of a Northern style master. Of course, he wins, but the daughter isn't too happy about that, and then fights him. There's a certain attraction between them, but he's married and she is focused on kungfu. Oh, and the Japanese invade, so there's something else to deal with. Eventually Ip Man ends up in Hong Kong and is teaching, and the daughter takes on the other erstwhile Northern style champion. And they get together for a chat. And that's about that.

There are some amazing wire-fu sequences and well choreographed fights which a flashily shot with lots of graceful moves and speed arm movements. But there are less than you'd think in an Ip Man movie. Indeed, it settles down and gets quite more into the character detail and drama. And the ending... isn't what you'd expect.

Some nice scenes but can't say I'm entirely enthralled by it.


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