Terminator

This weekend we saw the fourth Terminator movie. I must admit I enjoyed the equilibrium where these appeared once every 10 years and were somewhat in real time but this new one couldn’t wait until 2018 when it was set. But we weren’t alone seeing it this weekend. The PM, Kevin Rudd, took one of his children to it but not before asking suggestions on Twitter as to what to see. I suggested Star Trek but he didn’t take my advice and so ended up with a movie that his child liked but was not his “cuppa tea.”

So that got me thinking, why didn’t the PM like the movie? Now it could be having to always claim such things about an essentially violent flick but it wasn’t too bad or gratuitous on that front. So what if it was the subject matter of the movie? Now I am giving nothing away by saying that the movie was about leadership, who to trust for information (in this case, does John Connor really know the future or not) and what do you do when you have to make a call on imperfect advice especially when it involves an issue of understanding human cost. (By the way, that in many respects was the same theme as Star Trek.) That wasn’t an attractive theme or situation to our nation’s leader at a time where he has to make clear calls on the economy in the face of imperfect and sometimes ideologically driven advice? Call me crazy but I would have thought, these days, that would have been the PM’s cuppa tea.

Star Trek is back

Star Trek is back. The new JJ Abrams version literally reboots the entire franchise and opens it up for much much more. The movie itself is more about characters than plot which is just fine because, for decades, no director has been able to make the characters work properly. This time they are all good, especially McCoy, who is both most faithful to the original and the most capable of bringing in nostalga.

All of the talk around this movie is how they threw away the constraints of being consistent with the rest of Star Trek but having seen it I have to say this: (i) Star Trek fans will enjoy it more than non-fans; and (ii) that is precisely because it is perhaps the most faithful movie ever to the rest of Star Trek and you have to know about that to see it all come together. If the person next to you isn’t laughing at some points that it because they are not a Star Trek fan.

And to top it off, for readers of this blog, there is a ‘shout out’ to economics that only an economist will surely see. So if you see the movie, listen very carefully to the child Spock’s lessons and you’ll see what I mean.

Who else should David Frost interview?

Well that is a silly question as he has interviewed everyone. I just saw Frost/Nixon — a compelling movie with some of the best direction I have ever seen in a movie — so what I meant is who else would we like David Frost to extract a confession from? In my mind it might go something like this:

“So you knew well before you launched that there were major problems?”

“Yes but …”

“And you knew that it could be catastrophic? Damaging the trust of your most loyal supporters?”

“We were under pressure. We had to be seen to be doing something. Our rivals were winning time after time again.”

“But it was wrong. Not just in hindsight but at the time?”

“Yes”

[long pause]

“Is there something you would like to say to the people?”

“I never wanted to hurt anyone. We were trying to do what is best. But what we did … it caused trouble. We and the people lacked support. And we let it go on. And we still haven’t resolved it. Leaving it to the next generation and the next leader to deal with.”

“And for yourself.”

“I let them down. I let the customers down. I let the hard working people at Microsoft down. Vista should not have been released. I could have done better.”

“Thank you Mr Gates.”

Cut Australia in Two

The movie that is. Last night I was dragged by happily accompanying my spouse to see Australia, the new epic tourism commercial motion picture. Thanks to a past association with Hugh Jackman we have to see all of his movies. That is fine for X-Men but I’d rather have some negotiating power for others.

That said, save for the length, it was actually an enjoyable movie. It is not just cliched but brilliantly cliched. The actors are all iconic Australians, the plot is a mixture of almost every Australian movie for the last fifty years and the dialogue — oh, the dialogue — is so cornily imagined that it will leave you in stitches. The notion that you can view this movie as anything other than an intended, mostly comedic, homage to Austrlaian film-making is ludicrous. That is precisely why it will play well in Australia, maybe England but nowhere else. You have had to have been subjected to too much of Australia’s popular culture and historic past to appreciate it.

But it is too long. Indeed, half way through you would be quite satisfied if it just ended; even before you got to sit back and see an Australian city bombed to smithereens for a change. It should have been a TV mini-series. You watch one night and return the next to see what happens next. Doing it back to back is too much.

So I recommend that you wait for the DVD and watch it over two separate nights. I’m sure it will be better appreciated that way.

Didn’t miss it by that much

When it comes down to it, only The Addams Family and The Brady Bunch have had movies that bettered their television series originals. But unlike some true disasters — e.g., The Beverly HillbilliesGet Smart is actually a reasonably funny movie. But to do so, it takes some notable changes in direction from the original and it is the sting of that that takes the gloss off.

First and foremost, Get Smart was always known for its catch-phrases: “Missed it by that much,” “Would you believe a boy scout and an angry dog?”, “Starker this is Kaos who don’t blurrpht here,” “Oh Max” and “Sorry about that Chief.” Those were all there but it just wasn’t the same. And let’s face it Seigfried begs for a fake German accent rather than the accent of General Zod.

Second, the roles of Max and 99 have changed. Max was bumbling but always very lucky while 99 was competent but accepting of her role of never receiving recognition and playing second fiddle. In today’s world that didn’t work and so 99 became competent and defensive of it while Max was unsure of himself but seemed to actually have some measured and non-accidental success.  But some old favourites are still around. The Chief suffers, Laromie is cocky and 13 is despondent (for good reason).

Finally, there was a lack of absurdity. The shoe phone makes a sentimental appearance; something that in so many way emptomised the absurdity that was Get Smart. But there was no flashlight in a gun. And the cone of silence was there but unnecessary. The only throw-back was a Swiss Army Knife with lots of good and useful stuff but a knife. And the entire devious Kaos plan that was usually quite ludicrous and founded on absurd predictions of social commentary was pedestrian and straight out of 24.

Despite all that it was a funny movie. Moreover, it did retain one thing of the original and that was an undercurrent of political commentary that is subtle only because it is disguised with humour such as a high level government discussion with the phrase “Now boys, remember when we squabble the terrorists have won.”

Nonetheless part of me did miss the commentary of an earlier time:

Chief: “So who can walk into Kaos headquarters, retrieve the plans and walk right out again with out being noticed or recognised by anyone?”

Max: “The Vice President!”

Classic.

What’s Happening

should be the title of the new M. Night Shyamalan film. I saw it last night and that was pretty much my feeling throughout the whole movie. It was only replaced at the end by the feeling of “What Happened?” Frankly, I don’t really know. Or maybe I do know but don’t want to admit it. Or the answer is absolutely nothing. I have no idea.

What I can say that this is pretty much the same feeling I have had for the last few of his movies. This time M. Night started the movie based on the fears of the time; coordinated and novel terrorist attack. But pretty soon whatever is happening appears to be beyond what anyone thinks terrorists are capable of. Is it alien invasion? A coordinated attack by trees pissed off at global warming? Or some government experiment gone wrong? In any case, a few ordinary folks find themselves in a fight for survival based on trying to extrapolate between theories in a moderately scientific manner. It is gripping and at the same time you have to ask: why did I put myself through that? It is not like I had to face an invisible threat.

The true mystery of M. Night is how we are drawn to see his movies. No one wants to be caught out just in case he delivers another iconic twist and others have seen it and are talking about it before you do and you can never ever experience that majesty of that type of movie event. The horror of it! So we are drawn to him as close as possible to opening night. “Must see The Happening before it is too late.” And then we leave afterwards thinking, “maybe next time it will be the one.” Now that is what I call formula!

Movie bits

With all this plane travel, I got to watch a number of movies recently. Let me do a quick run through. Continue reading “Movie bits”

Little Miss Sunshine

[Movie Review(ette)] We saw Little Miss Sunshine last night. It was a terrific comedy (with a little tragedy thrown in). It reintroduced the ‘running joke’ to movies (almost literally) and it convinced me that, while parents have a right to pursue any non-harmful activities with their children, that beauty pageants for little ones are an abomination and should be striken from the Earth and maybe history.

There is not much I can write without giving it all away. It is not a ‘cult classic’ comedy (like Shawn of the Dead) nor is it a laugh till it hurts thing (like Season 1 of Extras). It is lighter, builds well, has a terrific and flawless script (and acting) and is simply a little miss perfect of a movie. Go see it sometime.

Your child’s future in the Courier Mail

The Courier Mail today contains an extension of my earlier blog entry on Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (click here for today’s article).

M. Night’s Different Movie

[Movie Review] I know I am going out on a limb here, but I enjoyed M Night Shayamalan’s new movie, The Lady in the Water. It is a little hard to say why. One thing I can say is that it was not because it had some terrific plot leading up to a completely unexpected twist; you know, like all of his other movies. If I had to put a word on it, it would be ‘charming.’

This movie is what it is, a charming story about a group of people whose lives touch the mythical. It is funny, quirky, mildly scary in places, and ultimately says that a person might find their role in the world in unexpected (to them at least) of ways. It is light-hearted, which appears to have stirred to critics’ ire. But Night also takes them out too by embedding a critical right in the movie. So if you are looking for something not too challenging or confronting, then I think you will enjoy this movie too.