Freedom is not Free

I’m sure you’ve heard by now of the Mumbai terror blasts and shootings yesterday – the situation still continues today, with a seige at the two hotels targeted still underway. Over 100 are dead, scores injured and the damage both physical and psychological as yet uncounted.

I’m usually one to argue in favour of civil liberties and ensuring fairness, but right now, the only feeling I’ve got is that these scum deserve to die.

The crime is simple: indescriminate murder of innocent civilians in their ordinary places of work and play. There is no defence for this crime, and the callous nature indicates that the perpetrators are dangerous to society and clearly mad – without any respect for human life.

Their shallow claim to a justification is that the anti-terror task force in India is unduly targeting Muslims – apparently oblivious to the irony of their very actions.

The freedom that these people have been allowed in India’s tolerant society and democracy has been abused and exploited. These people, their associates and all who sympathise with their actions deserve whatever they will get in vengence for their contempt for human life. Bastards.

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace? What kind of name is that for a Bond film? Thunderball, From Russia with Love, Goldeneye or even The World is Not Enough – these are the names that could grace cheesy airport novels, and Bond is only just a cut above the pulp thriller genre by virtue of a sense of dry humour and Bond’s ingenuity. Quantum of Solace as a name is but a cut above Die Another Day.

With such a disappointing first impression, Quantum can only surpass expectation, surely? Well, let’s say it depends what expectations you bring in to the cinema with you, and how much you’re committed to the expectations of the Bond genre.

My first expectation was that Bond movies don’t do sequels. Bond does his job, does the femme fatale, and he moves on. Quantum isn’t so much a sequel of Casino Royale as it is the part after an intermission. The best way to flow into this movie would be to have just finished Royale and with it fresh in your mind walk into the cinema.

My second expectation was that Bond is a suave bastard who can charm the pants (or perhaps more appropriately panties) off the gorgeous woman at a black-tie event, and later on kick some bad guy butt while foiling the plot of a madman. Quantum doesn’t do suave – Bond is a hard man who certainly doesn’t look out of place in a black-tie, but there’s no charm – there’s no dry humour. I think there was one laugh line in the whole movie for me. And while there is the obligatory Bond girl, the bedding is almost a fait accompli.

Bond movies have a plot – and at some point Bond is put in danger. Except in Quatum, where Bond is never ensnared by the bad guys, a polar opposite to Casino Royale where I genuinely wondered whether they were intending to close out the series and character. Quantum also shortcuts exposition in favour of action, to the detriment of really developing a plot line of any significance – no interest forms for the lesser characters. Again, this would fit right in were this a post-intermission of Casino Royale, but it doesn’t stand alone.

The influence of the Bourne movies is overt – there’s no gadgets, the action is visceral and personal, the editing choppy and the international locations exotic and plenty. The cinematography is certainly top notch and the design aestheic prevading the film superb, including unique and beautiful location titles, but the fact remains is that this is not a Bond movie as Connery, Moore or even Brosnan would portray.

Bond should not need to fall to Bourne’s action focus – Bourne is the American to Bond’s quintessential Englishman, and to see the series come to this is disappointing.

This is not to take away from the performances of the cast – or at least the “good guys”. Dench, Craig, Olga Kurylenko and Jeffrey Wright as a moody Felix Leiter are all excellent as usual, and Kurylenko as Camille particularly is a strong character and actor, far from your typical Bond girl. It does full credit to her to come out of this movie as a character that could fully support her own franchise.

All told, Quantum of Solace is a good film, but not a great one. Missing the key elements of what makes Bond movies authentically Bond movies, it is a strong follow-up to Casino Royale but does not stand on its own. Watch it for the action, but don’t expect a Bond movie.

★★★☆

Growing Up

“Yeah, I’m looking to buy a place.”

Holy shit, did I just say that?

I think I did. In fact, I think this is the beginning of the end – the end of pretending like I can get away with doing just the minimum.

There’s a couple of factors that have prompted me to start looking, not least of which is $17,000 on offer from the Federal and state governments for a first home buyer, plus stamp duty waiver for a place under $500,000. The likely bottoming-out of the market and sufficient savings means it’d be on the foolish side not to take advantage of this confluence of timing.

But that doesn’t stop me being scared out of my mind at the idea, or thinking it is pretty much the end of any idea that I’m still a kid.

Movie Review: Quickie Edition VIII

Rocknrolla: Superrrrrb. Guy Ritchie at his best since Snatch, which surprisingly was way back in 2000. Weaves a tale of property, money and gangsters in (where else but) London, and does a damned good job of it. While you might only recognise one or two of the faces in here, most of the cast do well to bring something different to the table. Dry humour prevades, and for once a foreshadowed sequel is not unwelcome. ★★★★

Chaos Theory: a romdramedy that takes the idea of “If a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil…” and attempts to apply it to a dramedy plot. While there’s a couple of laughs and a couple of moments of genuine drama, there’s a bit too much music montage, and these characters never really grabbed me in any memorable way, barring perhaps the clever little girl. Better than Definitely, Maybe if only because it’s marginally more plausible, in much the same way that saying aliens from Mars is more plausible than saying aliens from Jupiter, say. ★★☆

Fashion: A Bollywood film without a song-and-dance number? That stays on message throughout? With a tightly constructed storyline? And “risque” scenes that fit the plot? And (background) music I could actually feel in my gut? Wow. Priyanka Chopra is my new favourite crush. ★★★☆

Farenheit 9/11: Watched this right before the US election, partly because i thought it’d be the last chance to see it with Bush still nominally in charge (allowing righteous indignation), partly because W is coming soon. Michael Moore is a storyteller, not a pure documentarian – he’s got an agenda and a storyline, and he’ll cobble it together come hell or high water. Not as brilliant as Bowling for Columbine, to be taken with a pinch of salt now and again, but utterly believable and confident, albeit at times meandering. ★★★

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The Indy series is probably one of the very, very few where the sequels don’t come off too badly, and I’d even go so far as to say The Last Crusade was a better film than Raiders of the Lost Ark. But then, obviously, Lucas and Spielberg got greedy… and thus we have this as a result. Mostly involving a non-sensical macguffin to drive the story through action scenes innumerable, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feels tired. It’s Indy, but not quite as we know it – Indy never has to go from one clue to the next, never has to solve a puzzle that would confound the common man. It’s too easy.

Harrison Ford does his best to live up to the character he brought to life so many years ago, and Cate Blanchett does her best too to try to enliven a character so one-dimensional it’s easy to believe this is a George Lucas creation (can someone please keep him away from a set?). The action is fun, if implausible, but it never seems to come to life or make you sit on the edge of your seat. Disappointing for an Indy fan, but not a bad way to churn through a couple of hours. ★★★

Wall·E: If there’s one thing you have to give Pixar credit for, it’s that they’re always pushing the boundaries of CG animation – and this movie pushes that little bit further. And more so than any Pixar film before it, Wall·E has a message, and it’s targeted. It’s a superbly constructed and well-told message. However, I can see this message going over the heads of children, who are ostensibly the target audience, and that is to miss out on half the brilliance of this movie.

It also shies away from an ending which would be confronting, nihilistic even, but brilliant and poignant – that, however, is my own sense of artistic grandeur kicking in, and this is, after all, a Disney film, so my ending would probably not go down very well.

These two small nitpicks aside, this is a brilliant film. To me, it misses the mark as a kids’ film, but it’s an excellent film for older audiences. ★★★★☆