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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Maria Elena


Late post, I know. But I guess I'll just jump straight into what I've seen these past few weeks. I did get up to a few things here and there but I'll save that for my next post (whenever that'll be). Is anyone still reading this? Also let it be known that I've been slowly writing these "reviews" and storing them here as drafts before being published so it's not like I haven't tried to write or anything.


After watching only six episodes and deeming .hack//SIGN as an anime series not fit for my time, I decided to renounce any memory of watching it and focused my energy on the first season of Homeland. If you don't know by now, Homeland has garnered the praise of critics and audiences alike with it's compelling story and morally obtuse characters. With the second season finale closing at the beginning of this week, I couldn't have timed my consumption of Homeland's first season any better. And boy is it a fantastic series.

The series begins with the rescue of an American POW in the Middle East. Upon his return to American soil, an agent with the CIA suspects that this soldier has betrayed his country and is planning an attack. I was surprised to find that Homeland was an adaptation of an Israeli mini-series called Prisoners of War as Homeland struck me as something almost wholly original. I think the most interesting thing about Homeland is the impending sense of paranoia that permeates the series. Does paranoia inspire patriotism or does patriotism inspire paranoia? There's an essay somewhere in there. It's certainly an interesting question though and I can think of no other country that evokes a stronger sense of patriotism than America, especially in a post-9/11 America. I feel that if I were to elaborate a bit more on that idea, it might enter spoiler territory though.

That said, it seems that 1962's The Manchurian Candidate may be strong influence on Homeland and I think that the series kinda owes itself to the film. Of course, it goes without saying that Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, the series' leading man and woman respectively, are excellent in the show with Danes perhaps getting the meatier role of the two.

But yes, Homeland is exceptional and innovative -  another fine addition to American cable television's growing stable of quality shows. With TV this good, who needs to visit the cinema?


Speaking of political thrillers, I also managed to settle down to 1976's, All The President's Men. It's a film that I've been really eager to watch for a while now due to it's procedural nature and it's depiction of news journalists as heroes. I've always thought that journalists can make outstanding detectives and this film certainly demonstrates that. I think that journalism students can learn a lot from this film, maybe even find some inspiration in it.

All The President's Men is based on the true story of two journalists working for The Washington Post who uncover the details about the Watergate scandal which ultimately leads to the resignation of President Nixon (the only American President to have ever resigned from his position). The Watergate scandal refers to the break in, and subsequent cover-up, of a burglary in the Democractic National Comittee's headquarters at the Watergate office in Washington D.C. that was committed by five men who were supposedly linked to former President Richard Nixon.

The film unfolds through the eyes of two journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, both of whom rigorously investigated the Watergate break-in and continually wrote about their findings even if it meant damning their publication. Upon watching this film, I could get a sense of just how much of an influence this film had on future filmmakers like David Fincher and Ben Affleck. It seemed apparent that films like Zodiac and Argo owed a lot to the existence of All The President's Men, which made my appreciation of the film all the more greater. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are particularly outstanding in the film.

Unfortunately, I can't quite say that I enjoyed it as much as I wanted it to. Perhaps it was because I had set the bar too high and had some expectation coming in. It's not a short film (runs over two hours long) and I feel that the length of the film as well as the occasionally tiresome pacing left me with the impression that there was a lot left to be desired in the film.

Banter is all well and good but I was often left in the dark and feeling confused with where things where going. This may also be attributed to my lack of understanding in past American politics but if the film is meant to be telling me how things happened, then I feel as if though it shouldn't be my understanding of history that's at fault and rather the narrative pace and storytelling that's the problem. I do think, however, that a second viewing needs to happen for me otherwise, I'd have to write it off as as something that's "just okay" when I feel like as though I'm missing something in the film.

Additionally, there was something about the way the film was shot that left me feeling a bit alienated. I have no idea what it was exactly, but there was something about the style of the film that I wasn't quite used to.

I really wanted to like All The President's Men but all I was left with was a bit of confusion and dissatisfaction. I don't think that I disliked the film but there were qualities about it that made me feel a bit apprehensive towards it.


The Boondock Saints is another film that has eluded me for some time now. In the years since its release, the film has built up something of a cult following which is understandable given its occasional quick wit and colourful cast of characters. 

Billed as something of a Tarantino-esque film, there wasn't much to The Boondock Saints that I found to be reminiscent to Tarantino. Other than the mix of violence and humour, there should be no other reason to label this as a Tarantino-inspired film although I guess that's the price of having made a film in the 90s. It's not a particularly good film, per se, but as far as being something to watch late at night with nothing else available, it's really not that bad. Juvenile, sure, but I think it fits in with the same kind of vigilantism idea that Kick-Ass kicked around.

Willem Dafoe is hilariously camp in this but its so fun to watch. Kinda like Gary Oldman in The Professional. And sorry Norman Reedus, I like you on The Walking Dead and all but but I think your Irish-Boston accent in The Boondock Saints needed some more work (I basically love the city of Boston and think that the Irish-Boston accent is out of this world).

I honestly don't have that much to say about The Boondock Saints other than it was enjoyable for what it was but I wouldn't really want to revisit it again. The soundtrack especially was pretty nasueating and just sounded so '90s (note: this movie is so damn '90s it hurts).


Michael Mann's Heat has been praised by many as a masterpiece in action filmmaking. I don't think I could go that far although I do appreciate what a film like Heat has done for future filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, who has said that scenes from The Dark Knight (and probably Inception, for that matter) are inspired by Mann's 1995 film. 

Heat is more than just a story about cops and robber and while I wouldn't necessarily say that its characters are morally ambiguous, there are qualities about them that seem unique enough to not veer off towards cliche. Acting powerhouses, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, play the cop and robber respectively and give dynamic performances with De Niro arguably getting more out of his role than Pacino. 

But can we just take a moment to appreciate the goddamn sound design in this film cause holy crap, the shootouts in this are phenomenal and exciting! Like, I don't think I've ever heard gunplay sound so damn good before and this just really made the shootouts both fun and frightening. So yeah, fantastic job in the sound department.

That said I was feeling pretty apathetic towards the film which I blame on the heat, no pun intended. It was a pretty hot day when I decided to watch this film and my room wasn't exactly well adjusted to it so it was hard for me to concentrate having uncomfortably adjusting myself every ten seconds on bed. I guess that's why cinemas are always so well conditioned. Ugh. Probably could've enjoyed it more than I was allowed to.



Quite a bit to get through. Let's start with the first look at the Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning film, Unforgiven. Love the look of the film and considering how much Westerns have influenced samurai films and vice versa, I'm hoping this is every bit as good as the original in which it's based on. Ken Watanabe, perhaps the most recognisable Japanese actor in the Western world, heads the film in the Clint Eastwood role. Catch the teaser below.


Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim is a project that's been on the watch for a while now and a trailer for the film was released this past week to much fanfare. While you would think that the idea of giant mecha robots battling against alien invaders would be enough to tantalise me (cough, Evangelion), I can't help but feel mighty underwhelmed by this trailer. In fact, that trailer did little to impress me but perhaps its just me. Still, the film, right now, doesn't look all that great to me.


Zack Snyder's reboot of the Superman series of films, Man of Steel, on the other hand looks mighty impressive and it looks like it'll be the director's most ambitious film to date. It's certainly providing us with an alternate portrayal of Superman as a more grounded character all the while giving audiences a side of superhero films we haven't quite seen before. Dialogue and shots suggest a more poetic tale of sorts, albiet one largely rooted in the seriousness established by Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. Don't take my word for it though, have a look at it yourself.


Fans of Korean cinema can have this teaser trailer for next year's spy thriller, The Berlin File. Korea's recent pedigree of action filmmaking is certainly something not to be scoffed at - the country's provided some of the best action films of the past decade and continue to produce quality films each and every year. The Berlin File was shot on location in Berlin, areas of Germany and Latvia. Also carries a very strong resemblance to films like The Bourne Identity.


Though word has been running around for a while now, Studio Ghibli officially announced two films releasing next year - one directed by Hayao Miyazaki and the other by Isao Takahata. Miyazaki's newest film, The Wind Rises, which tells the story of Horikoshi Jiro, designer of Japan's A6M Zero plane which was used predominately in World War 2. From the sounds of things, it may, or may not, be in similar vein to his son's latest film, From Up On Poppy Hill (which honestly wasn't a bad film but that third act is irredeemable)

The other by Isao Takahata (director of Grave of the Fireflies) is The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, an adaptation of a popular Japanese folk tale about a princess who is discovered in a special bamboo. This looks drastically different in terms of art style, which I suppose is to be expected given that this is also the same director who made Only Yesterday and My Neighbors The Yamadas.


And in less filmy news, an American television series based on Alfred Hitchcock's horror masterpiece, Psycho, is in the works and a trailer for it was released this past week. Bates Motel is a prequel television series headlined by Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga who respectively play a young Norman Bates and the mother that drives him insane. Forget American Horror Story, this actually looks like a much more promising horror series. I'm actually quite fascinated with how horror can work in an episodic format but anyways, I'm looking forward to this series and hope it doesn't disappoint - especially considering the act it's following up on.


So I guess that about does it for today. This blog post's title is brought to you by Los Indios Tabajaras, a guitar duo of two brothers from Brazil. This song, Maria Elena, was used in Wong Kar-wai's second film, Days of Being Wild - the film that brought him international acclaim. Lovely bit of music and it just popped up on a really hot day and I just thought that it felt appropriate given the awful heat. Listen. Love.

End post.


  1. I completely agree about Pacific Rim. That tailor actually made me less excited for the film. Despite an interesting art style, it made the film look just so... generic.

    Ghibli film news is exciting. I knew the two masters were back at work but I didn't think that we'd get films from each of them next year. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter has been in production for so long I was beginning to wonder if it was still going ahead. Good to see Takahata make a new film fourteen years after his last.

    1. Yes! Painfully generic! Like... Battleship generic! Ugh. It just looks severely bland.

      Two Ghibli releases in one year is more than satisfactory, especially if they're offered up by the masters of Japanese animation and storytelling. That said, the only Takahata film I've seen is Grave of the Fireflies but I've been really wanting to see Only Yesterday for a very long time now.

    2. Only Yesterday is alright. My Neighbors the Yamadas would be the one I'd recommend most after Grave of the Fireflies, though. It's very different to most films, and very funny too. Also, Pom Poko is worth watching just because it has Japanese raccoon dogs using expandable testicles for, well, all sorts of things, including weapons!