Archive for the movies Category

Harry Goes Splat

Posted in Harry Potter, movies, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2010 by jamesdrax

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 | Dir: David Yates | 2010 | 7/10

After the dastardly Harry Potter Meets Porky’s, we get Harry Potter Needs Prozac Part Infinity.

Being the first part of a two-movie arc based on one book, Warner Bros. dreamed of avarice by charging us full price for half a movie. You’d think Gringotts goblins were running the studio. Yet, it’s such a labour of love that was indeed better than the original novel, which wasn’t all that difficult to achieve since it was a mediocre book to begin with.

Our battered teenage heroes Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), all have to gear up once more to fight evil baddie Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his screechy minions who are all out to kill the bespectacled one, but like poor marksmen, they keep missing the target. All the while the three leads are looking at each other as if to say author J.K. Rowling must really hate them. If Emma Watson ever said she felt “trapped at Hogwarts”, she should have at least been grateful that instead they spend a great deal of time in a fifth-dimensional tent on loan from Doctor Who. She even deletes herself from photographs in her parents house like she’s Marty McFly. Whose movie is this again?

Unlike the cure of insomnia Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), this film actually raises the stakes and kills off several well-loved characters within minutes of each other. This new turn of urgency actually makes it feel like a suspensefully well-paced motion picture rather than obligatory filler like the previous film. Remarkably, director Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves actually take liberties that are likely to infuriate hardcore Potter aficionados into hissy fits of werewolf rage.

Stretching out over what felt like ten hours of miserably mournful gazes, Ron chucks a tantrum and storms out in a fit of jealousy over Harry and Hermione who shrug him off with a really heart melting dance scene, which is destined become the most controversial snippet of film in Potter history among nerdy factional canonbots and devoted shippers. If these two have been having almost eternal eye-sex over several films, then this scene must have been the metaphorical orgasm – a veiled expression by the filmmakers by saying “UP YOURS!” to Rowling and her one big happy Weasley family. It was a glimpse of what might have been for all those Harry/Hermione tragics out there like yours truly. Ginny who?

Ron gets to play hero for one scene by destroying the horcrux locket (which contains a piece of Voldemort’s fun-loving spirit) with the Sword of Gryffindor after two ghostly images of Harry and Hermione torment him and start making out like its Woodstock at Hogwarts in front of him. There, there, Ron. Was that necessary? At least Voldemort knew what the audience wanted and you crashed it, you pathetic little party-pooper!

The shiver-me-timbers You-Know-Who is up to his evil plan for world domination by seeking out the Elder Wand, a weapon so powerful, he’ll finally be able to distribute his Nazi Germany-style anti-Muggle propaganda to school children without that meddling Potter ruining everything over and over again. Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) looks a bit haggard and worse for wear; did his cellmate in Azkaban make his life a living hell?

Alexandre Desplat’s score is so depressing, it almost makes you want to make a sharp turn off a bridge. Who was the target audience, Christopher Nolan geeks? Nevertheless, the tone fits like a glove even though John Williams’ presence is still sorely missed.

We better be in for a grand ole’ finale come 2011, then finally we can all sing “Ding Dong, the Snake is Dead”.

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A View to a Kill – Was this Roger’s Bond’s Final Mission Before Retirement?

Posted in 007, film, movies on May 25, 2009 by jamesdrax

He fought, he loved, he triumphed, and he kept the British end up.

Roger Moore’s portrayal of James Bond fascinates me. He wasn’t a mean bastard like Sean Connery’s Bond, but he wasn’t quite the hair sprayed pretty boy that was Pierce Brosnan. He was rather a caricature of the suave English gentleman. He projected that image so well, his enemies underestimated him, and women couldn’t resist him.

He had a long haul of seven films starting with Live and Let Die (1973) until A View to a Kill (1985), and even though he was in relatively reasonable physical condition in his final Bond film at 57-years-old, Moore admits his age was showing its wrinkly head by then and it was time to call it quits. But what about his character? In most aspects, it was the end of an era for Bond films, not only was it the last Moore film, it was also Lois Maxwell’s last film as Miss Moneypenny; so did Moore’s Bond retire as well after the mission against Max Zorin’s (Christopher Walken) plan to flood Silicon Valley?

To begin this deep and thorough analysis (!), it is important to understand that Timothy Dalton’s Bond is not the same character as Moore’s, as I like to think of The Living Daylights (1987) as a “reboot” in the same sense that people view Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale (2006). The same can be said for GoldenEye (1995), since Brosnan’s initial outing bares little relation to any previous incarnation in terms of continuity. With that said, Moore’s Bond isn’t even the same as Connery’s. The Con finished his run in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), but picked it up again in the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983), the same year as Octopussy (although some like to ignore Never Say Never Again and to consider Connery, Lazenby and Moore as a single line of continuity). That just leaves George Lazenby’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). It’s constantly referred to in proceeding films (The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Licence to Kill (1989), The World Is Not Enough (1999), etc.) so its purpose down the track was to provide a link to the pain in Bond’s past. Sybock would have had a field day with him.

I know, if you want linear continuity, just read the novels.

However that brings us to the end of A View to a Kill, and Moore’s long stint at playing the character calls for the question to be answered, what happened to his character after the events of this film take place? I’ve been hard-pressed to find fan fiction that deals with any of this – the best you can find is the tired old theory that MI6 gives a new agent the designated “007” and “James Bond” codes, but this is so far-fetched and overdone, it’s not worth an ounce of exploration. All we can do is speculate and ask questions as to what happened to this aging agent.

The film ends with Q remote controlling his “Snooper” (think of a mini version of the robot from Rocky IV, what a decade) into the bathroom spying on Bond and his lovely blonde companion Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) taking a shower together. Q is an old perv. My friend Hitch told me it would have been better if Zorin made a surprise reappearance and slashed them with a knife for revenge, ala Psycho, complete with a John Barry reworking of Bernard Herrmann’s squeaky “The Murder” cue. Alas it wasn’t to be, and we’re stuck with the paradoxes of the Bond franchise. Even this alternate ending might have been preferable.

It’s probably safe to assume that afterward, Bond sent a memo to MI6 declaring his resignation from being a Double-0 agent, and why wouldn’t he? He got the hot blonde! He could have settled in San Francisco with Stacey, who would eventually become his trophy wife and live in that ridiculously nice house she had with no furniture and a small supply of rock salt and ingredients for a delicious quiche, although Bond would have had his own material possessions imported from England, a convenient coincidence!

However, maybe Stacey turned out like the other Bond girls, and he just discarded her like what happens to every other in existence (a feminazi couldn’t resist this). Another idea is that he returned to India and picked things up with Octopussy on that island populated exclusively by women. She was closer to his age, and they had something good going. Hey, they were “two of a kind”, right? He would have been in eternal paradise.

I can’t see him going back to Melina Havelock, Holly Goodhead, Anya Amasova or Mary Goodnight. They all came across as a bunch of career-minded opportunists, too stuck-up for Bond to put up with in the long haul, and Melina, well that chick had problems. Goodhead would have still been working for the CIA, so it’s possible he might have run into her again, but Anya was a Soviet, and would have become a relic of the Cold War, and far too devoted to Mother Russia – more trouble than it’s worth. It would have been funnier in A View to a Kill if Bond had run into Anya playing a cameo role instead of Pola Ivonova in the Soviet plot to thwart Zorin’s evil plans – it would have brought that part of the franchise full-circle to a certain extent. And Solitaire, eh, I doubt she made much of an impact on Bond’s memory banks besides the fact that he coerced her virginity away – you sly devil, you!

Perhaps he tossed them all aside and still lusted after young girls while on his retirement pension. His womanizing, while admirable from the perspective of the common man, was almost like a chronic mental disease, and no pills have been invented for this unique form of addiction. Come on, Jim. It was the 80’s, STDs were at the height of everyone’s fears, and you were on the frontline. Shape up or ship out, 007!

There’s also the possibility that he just returned to England and took Miss Moneypenny for a night on the town like he’s always promised. Give the old girl a break, she’s wanted Bond for years and years; she cried for Bond at his wedding to Tracy, and she cried when she overheard M talking to General Gogol that Bond was missing in A View to a Kill. They played up this unrequited infatuation in Die Another Day (2002), which was very amusing.

Someone out there write a fanfic that chronicles Moore’s Bond after the Zorin mission, someone with talent, who can capture the escapism and tongue-in-cheek humour of that era in 007 movies. This two-dimensional character does offer a lot to the imagination, and one must delve deeply into its treasures.

Writing an Essay on Film Music

Posted in film, film music, movies, music, scores on May 24, 2009 by jamesdrax

Hundreds of CDs, a few dozen LPs and a couple of books on film music. Can this prepare me for a 4000 word essay on the development of film music in American cinema? You bet it can.

The topic of the essay for the unit of study American Film and Hollywood in my US Studies course will be about the development of film music over the last century, but in particular how it just isn’t as good as it used to be, and there are people to blame for this, which I’ll get to further below.

When you’re passionate about film music and you’ve been listening to the works of composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, James Horner, John Barry, and many others from the so-called Silver Age of American cinema, you develop a certain taste and an in-built aural detector forms in your brain, connected to your ears, that makes you automatically know what separates a good film score from a bad one. Hell, even some bad film scores can have a sense of fun about them, even if they draw attention to themselves because film score aficionados are tuned into their siren-like abilities that lure us in to take notice and enjoy it for what it is. It may have a certain charm about it that makes it unique. Then you take a look back at the Golden Age film scores of Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Roy Webb, Alex North, Dimitri Tiomkin, and you realize that these guys were true musical artists working with an antagonistic studio system, but they delivered so many winners from their technical expertise coupled with their talent of recognising where music should be and what it should sound like with the most intricate of details perfectly positioned.

However, in recent times, those of us who have been closely observing the quickly changing development of film scores of the first decade of the 21st Century have noticed a disturbing trend. We’re not buying new scores like we used to. The majority of scores these days have descended into a decrescendo of unadulterated mediocrity. I blame three parties for this, first I blame audiences for not caring, even if that may not seem fair but no-one ever says “we’d like the music to be more prominent and engaging!”, but the bulk of the blame can be thrown squarely at the studio executives who think they can get away with it, and last but not least, Hans Zimmer.

Usually film composers have an autonomous working style, where they score the film by writing the music themselves with little to no additional help other than at best, handing the music to the orchestrators for instrumental translation. But Hansy fancies himself as the new Alfred Newman, only Alf was actually a good composer. Zimmer credits himself as the main composer, and credits his additional composers appropriately, fair enough – but he has created a film scoring methodology where all his underling composers continue his own lax practices, and what results is some of the blandest, cheapest and coma-inducing drones and semibreves you’ve ever heard. I’m not kidding, Adorno would be laughing his cranky douchebag head off at the nonsense that’s heard in movies these days from the Zimmer factory. Zimmer probably never meant to do this, nevertheless he is indirectly responsible, that he has exacerbated a system that doesn’t award quality or innovation, rather it treats music as just another technical aspect of the production like a conveyor-belt product that has to beat the clock before the release date. I think composers in general have just gotten lazy too.

Where is film music in American cinema headed? Who the hell knows? Even Michael Giachinno, the annointed “Next John Williams” couldn’t even come up with something for the 2009 Star Trek that could be uttered in the same breath as Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture or James Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. If Giachinno is the best on offer for the next twenty years, Shaka’Re help us. As I said, we’re not buying film scores for new movies at such a frequent rate like we used to; instead we’ve been spending our money on older scores distributed as limited editions from labels such as Intrada, Varèse Sarabande and La La Land Records. I cannot thank these labels enough for providing quality music that has been previously unreleased.

No, this post is not the essay, but think of it as a footnote. A warm-up, if you will, for what I’m tackling in this monster of an essay.