Movie Review: Die Hard 4.0 and Bullitt

Two All-American heroes in action movies of their own eras! (ok, that’s debatable for Bruce Willis) Let’s see how they turn out head to head.

Die Hard 4.0 (a.k.a. Live Free or Die Hard)

Die Hard has been updated for the Net generation, and, in the UK and Australia at least, it’s even pitched with a software-esque version number (for the record, I prefer the American name). The scenario is a “fire sale” – a comprehensive hack of all the systems we depend on in our modern life. John McClane gets dragged into it involuntarily while escorting a white-hat hacker to Homeland Security, and as soon as there’s bullets flying from helicopters it’s on.

The action only breaks for plot exposition to advance the action to the next location. As America collapses, McClane is the only one with a clue, apparently, and it’s up to him to save the day, again (only since this movie is rated PG, he can’t swear). Stuff gets blown up on a regular basis and quite spectacularly at that, often for little rhyme or reason. And out of it all, Bruce/McClane finally almost gets to utter his complete line, “Yipee kay yay, mother-“, but remember, it’s PG, so that’s all you get =)

I hope it’s not a spoiler to say good triumphs over evil and  you walk out of the theatre feeling like you could jump off a building and walk away with a scratch. Bullet to the foot? Tis but a flesh wound!

★★☆

Bullitt

When Bullitt came out in 1968, I’m sure it was a revelation – this is how you do a proper car chase, building the tension, speed and action up steadily throughout. As soon as the chase proper begins, the music shuts off, and the note of the cars is what holds up the soundtrack. It’s sweet music – the Ford Mustang and the Dodge Charger were proper muscle cars, and it shows in the low rumbling bass-line that pervades the chase.

Indeed, that’s a point to note about the movie as a whole – while the sound in modern movies is very crisp and focused, in a sense, the soundtrack in this movie is a whole lot more organic, with background sounds allowed to creep in, and just ordinary sounds to be heard. The pace of the movie as a whole reflects this – it doesn’t move anywhere near as fast as Die Hard above – characters take their time waking, or walking – scenes are properly established before action begins. Things just feel more paced and real.

The realism continues to the damage caused by guns. Being an American cop movie, it has certainly got gunfire – but unlike Die Hard, where it seems to take 20 shots to hit anything and 50 to actually do any damage, a single gunshot has a pretty severe effect. Almost refreshing to see after Die Hard, actually.

Overall, a good old-fashioned hard-boiled-cop movie with one of the best (and first) car chases around.

★★★☆

Movie Review: Ratatouille

Pixar have a history of telling stories which take the ordinary and recast it into something far more wondrous – who didn’t, after watching Toy Story, take a second look at their toys and imagine their lives when they were alone? It is perhaps a unique advantage of animation to be able to do these things in a believable way and be able to get away with it consistently.

Ratatouille continues in that tradition, perhaps only broken by The Incredibles, which was a movie that could have been done with ordinary techniques (though of course nowhere near as fun). It’s the story of a French rat, Remy, who would be chef, and if that doesn’t twig every sense of improbability then perhaps you’ve just watched Cars. Which was about a world of cars and cars alone (only in America would that concept be even raised, let alone considered bankable).

Naturally with the progress of technology, Pixar’s films look more and more gorgeous as they go, and this movie is no exception to the trend. However, things are still painted in an exaggerated palette, and the Paris of this movie is altogether a lot cleaner than the reality, even if populated with rats =) It’s not approaching the uncanny valley, but that may simply be a result of a conscious effort to ensure the movie retains its cartoon nature. I would like to see though how far Pixar could push it.

The plot on the other hand stretches credibility even for Pixar. Cars was a world where many little things were entirely papered over, and since it qualified as a kids film, no-one really thought about it twice. Ratatouille, continuing in this fine tradition, doesn’t bother to explain how a rat came to learn to read, or prepare meals of all sorts – he just can. The way Remy, the rat, helps out Alfredo, the clueless human hero of the story, is also entirely inexplicable. For the sake of the plot however, you’re willing to forgive – but then, the plot is so loaded with cliche and by-the-numbers “twists” that within 15 minutes you can pretty much predict right up to the movie’s end credits rolling.

If there’s anything the Shrek films, produced by Dreamworks, show us, it is that animation can be both appealing to old and young and on many levels. Pixar however tend to go down a very predictable route, and it is to their ultimate detriment. While these are films more in line with Disney animation’s history, it could have been so much more – there’s potential here, it’s just not used.

As much as I enjoyed The Incredibles, and Ratatouille is miles ahead of Cars, this remains a bit of a disappointment. ★★★☆

More on Ties

The world of ties is a little curiouser than I imagined. Ever since that conversation, I’ve mentioned it a couple of times – in appropriate circumstances, of course – and I’ve got varied replies.

One was most interesting, pointing out that the length of the tie is also something indicative, as it can be made longer or shorter depending on where the first cross-over point is – a tie which ends below the belt buckle apparently indicates an available bachelor. This ties (ed: I’m sorry) right in with the previous conversation, and had the person who know the length as being an indicator suddenly realising why it meant what it meant. Presumably the shorter the tie the less attention that is being drawn to the man-bits? of course there’s a limit (i.e. when the thinner end pokes out from behind the wider end, but that could mean something else entirely!), but it’s interesting to think…

Ties (or more correctly Neck ties) are descended from the Cravat, according to Wikipedia. A cravat is a thin scarf type thing that European types wear to make themselves look fancy. Cravats serve much the same purpose as a scarf, and are themselves descended from something the Roman soldiers used to wear (ah, there we are – antiquity, where it was once purposeful, now turns into an unnecessary bit of fluff. Hooray modernity!).

And the other thing is that I’ve discovered there are 85 ways of tying the tie. Eighty-five! I’d only been taught one – apparently, one of the more complex, the full Windsor knot – and seeing as this comes in at number 31 of rising complexity, I’m pleased to find easier alternatives =) Of those eighty-five, nineteen are named (and not variances on the named version), and there’s one which is a modifier for pretty much all (the Onassis), resulting in 170 all up really! Oh the possibilities. Of course most can’t be told from another, but that’s just by-the-by. 85 ways people! Imagine how many you could impress with your tie mastery!

(Shall we call this a Research Thursday then? :D)

Conversation with a feminist

So this slightly militant-feminist girl points out to me that ties are… like a giant arrow.

“To where?” I ask, perplexed.

“Look.”

So I look down the line of the tie.  And now I don’t know if I’ll ever think of ties the same way again.

Suspicious much?

If you’re unloading or loading a truck at 1AM at night in a residential zone… something a little sus is going on, no?

You’re lucky however that people would far prefer you to hurry up so they can get to sleep, rather than actively trying to do anything about it. Just shut the hell up while you’re doing it, alright?

-_-;

Time flying like a banana

“Mate, it’s almost Christmas soon.”

Shit.

There goes another year. It’s October again, all of a sudden, and I’m just wondering what happened to the months Feb – Sep inclusive. 2007, which feels like I’ve only just gotten used to writing, is about to disappear – a couple of months to go yet, sure but in the context of the year it’s nearly over! What on earth did I get up to this year?

Oh, apart from the whole move-to-another-country thing. I mean, that practically fell into my lap. Sure, the process started in February… didn’t get over here til June… had a little side-trip to Singapore… Oh, the parents moved up early in the year, and my sister moved to Adelaide, but that’s not really me…

Every day ticks over so quickly, and almost sneakily there’s a pile of them marked “2007: expired” behind me. New Years Resolutions? pfft, I think I thought about them in May sometime.

Photographic evidence of the year doesn’t suggest much, either. All I can really tally up is that 2007 was – is – a big year for my liver. I’ve been so caught up in the day to day at work, I think I’ve forgotten entirely the longer-term picture.

Where did your 2007 go? What do you have to frantically cram in to the last couple of months to make it feel worthwhile?