And you may go to YouTube and search on “Powerthirst” if that title makes no sense to you.
So, as the beginning to a particularly excellent Smashing Pumpkins album says, you know I’m not dead. Nor was I living in my head. Instead, I was having one of those idyllic vacations, filled with wine, women, and song, only with root beer in place of the wine, as I particularly dislike it. Perhaps more fir trees than palm trees, not so good on the island part of it, and the rain was, I assure you, not in the least tropical, but as vacations go, it’s been right up there. And as it still has a further 4 days remaining, it can only go up up up.
That aside, I feel compelled to talk a little bit about my own and my family’s media whoredom. Games aside, Christmas and post-Christmas purchases netted us on order of 77 DVDs, ranging from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies (a gag stocking stuffer), to Neon Genesis Evangelion (thanks Sarah!), and the collectors’ edition of Fight Club. Of the total, 49 of them belong to me. This dominance is pathetic compared to my crushing dominance of the bookshelves, but we shall discuss my continued obsession with Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series at a later time. What concerns us now is discussing a few of the DVDs I watched over the course of this break, along with the 2 movies I saw in theaters. Because I know you all care.
The Bourne Identity/Supremecy/Ultimatum:
Clearly, I have seen the first two Bourne movies several times in the past, but I want to mention them as a series because I have things to say about them.
Firstly, Ultimatum was, for the most part, an excellent movie, that delivered everything I wanted it to deliver, save for the “I didn’t read the Evil Overlord List” speech near the end. We also have sequel setup, which I approve of, as I’ve had more fun with Jason Bourne than any other action movie hero in ages.
Also, let me just note that the chase scenes are awesome, particularly the Tangiers one. Not that they ever aren’t awesome in this series, just that these were quite unique, which was nice.
That aside, I still maintain that the first movie is still the best of them, as the setup is still fresh, and the whole “I have no idea how I know to do this” thing is unique and interesting. The fill in the blanks aspect of the two later movies is still interesting, but not quite as much fun.
I also remembered being bored a lot more during Supremacy than was actually the case. I quite enjoyed it this time around, though I am unsure as to why, since I couldn’t detect any real failings on the movie’s part that would have led me to dislike it the first time. That having been said, trying to fit its ending shot into the third movie was giving me a headache until they actually did, and then it was cool.
Lastly, a discussion on Universal DVDs, as I was annoyed by several things about them:
1. Those side catch things are extremely dumb. I know this is a minor thing, but.
2. Also, there are methods of case design that allow for secure storage plus, you know, being able to get the DVD out without having to use a Sawzall. Just saying here.
3. While I understand that this whole Blu-Ray vs HD DVD fight is enormously important for you, and I can almost understand putting unskippable commercials on the start of my DVD for the HD format, I suggest that you would do much better if these commercials, showcasing as they do a newer, supposedly better-looking format, would use the whole of my TV screen without large black borders. While I would appreciate just not having the added wasted time, if you’re going to waste my time, do it in a technically pleasing manner, kthxbai.
4. On that same note, I actually enjoy previews before movies, and so I’m not really all THAT mad about unskippable previews before my movies, I would appreciate it if somebody with a modicum of common sense had gone over the previews for Bourne Ultimatum prior to adding them to the disc. It is my hypothesis that a PG-13 rated spy/action thriller is probably not the appropriate place to stick a preview about some animated kids’ movie (debatable), and a movie about a cheerleading competition of all things, which may appeal to 12 year old girls. In that Venn diagram of 12 year old female fans, the circle for the Bourne Ultimatum fans probably has a fairly low crossover rate with the circle for the cheerleading movie fans. Assuming we’re not taking the whole PG-13 thing seriously, which is another matter entirely.
5. Actual liner notes instead of more HD advertising would be sort of nice. Not really nice, mind you, just less of that We Are Evil Mercenary Corporations Who Want Only Your Money feeling. I realize who I’m talking about, here, but they COULD try.
Charlie Wilson’s War:
Sarah and I saw this at Valley River’s Regal Cinemas, which was actually a better theater experience than I had been led to believe, and at $5.50 a hit, if I still lived here, I would go to the movies a whole lot more. Alas.
Anyway. The story of how one booze-drinking, girl-chasing congressman from Texas won the Cold War is an hour and a half of pure good entertainment fun. It’s smart, it’s funny, and it’s an engaging look at Washington politics and the CIA, not to mention a few Afghans who we’ll meet 12 years in the future.
It is inconcievable to me that anyone would not enjoy Charlie Wilson’s War. Go see it, or at least pick it up on DVD.
The Good Shepherd:
Wildly interesting CIA rebuttals of the central facts of the movie aside, I rather liked this movie. While it purports to be historical, we all know this is false – the only movies to accurate portray history in any way at all are made by Ken Burns. While this is a particularly sad state of affairs that I should likely discuss at length later, being a history major as I am, the truth is that movies should be enjoyed as entertainment first, then you should go pick up a history book.
But I ignore the movie. If you’re a fan of spies and intrigue, doublecrosses and backstabbing, not to mention the Cold War, this movie is for you. Want a hero who’s a paranoid spymaster? Matt Damon does excellently in the role (and by the by he keeps surprising me by being a, you know, good actor). It’s a slow, intrigue-filled look at the (false) aftermath of the Bay of Pigs and subsequent events that I rather enjoyed.
I am unsure precisely what I expected from this movie, and having seen it, I’m not entirely sure what I want to think about it. It’s a good enough mystery/action thriller (though the action is all in the last half hour, but it’s a doozy), but if I was expecting a serious look into Saudi Arabia, this was not that movie. There were plenty of moments where one would suspect that maybe it might, you know, become one, but then I realized it was about a bunch of Americans versus terrorists with a couple of token Saudis, shrugged, and gave up.
There’s also probably a discussion in here somewhere about whether this sort of movie is a good idea or not, but I’m cynical enough to know that I lost that battle a long time ago.
I Am Legend:
Samson writes a better review of this than I can. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit, and so did my mother, who nevertheless spent large portions of the movie leaping from her seat, which raises a question: How did this movie avoid an R rating? Because seriously, if it creeped the hell out of me at 27, it definitely would’ve freaked me out at 13. I say this not as a complaint against the movie, which is excellent and will likely find its way to my DVD shelf, but against the rating system.
Though I’m not sure why I try. I never actually paid attention to it anyway, even when it did apply to me.
The Last Samurai:
Which I have obviously seen previously, and talked about previously in the entry fukoku kyohei, but watched again anyway, as Sarah had not seen it, and we’ve only been talking about making her see it for, what, 3 years now? So we did.
The verdict is thusly:
- The history is bad, which pretty much goes without saying;
- The CGI is actually really bad, which I sort of shrugged at in 2003, but here in 2008 we’re, you know, BETTER than that;
- But the fight coreography is awesome, except the part where people are taking multiple 50 caliber gunshot wounds and still going, which is really, really hard;
- Sarah also rather disliked most of the characters and thought the romance was pretty Hollywood, which I disagree with to some extent while pondering that fuedal Japan may just Not Be Her Thing, which makes my Shogun miniseries very very sad.
Live Free Or Die Hard:
You may have guessed, as essentially all of these movies belong to the family collection, that my mother is a fan of spy thrillers and big action movies. This is fine with me – it is a mark of parental coolness when your mother will sit and watch both Terminator movies with you, never mind Commando.
This is why Jason and I were the ones watching Live Free Or Die Hard, which has pretty much single-handedly restored any lost faith I may have had in big loud action movies. You know that whole trend where action movie heroes spout politics or philosophy or whatever? The sidekick tries this. John McClane tells him to, and I quote, “Shut the fuck up.” Not long after, a helicopter is blown up with a car. It’s a ridiculous sort of stunt, but it somehow works, and its, you know, fun. Here we have a movie with loud explosions, over the top stunts, awesome one-liners, and homegrown American terrorist ass kicking. It’s fantastic.
It may surprise some of you to know that I’ve never actually seen an entire episode of this in my entire life, except for part of the first one in 5th grade. This despite having read the book somewhere in the realm of 30 or 40 times (which is about equal with its co-read, Shogun). I love the story from the book, and so I’m bound to love the story from the miniseries, but let me just note something:
…TV acting in the 1970s sure did suck a lot, didn’t it? We’re not just talking “Man, he kind of phoned that in” type acting, we’re talking unashamedly awful, in a form that’s so bad, it’s actually funny. This is bad enough in normal, supposedly dramatic scenes, but it’s downright hilarious in the action scenes – people do summersaults when killed, complete with comedic sound effects, we get ridiculous poses and grimaces, and the evil slaver in the first episode keeps a ridiculous grin his entire stay on screen, including his final fight. It’s really, really, really bad, and the less we talk about the music, the happier we’ll all be. It makes the first season of Highlander look awesome by comparison, and that takes some doing.
And yet I kind of like it. I can see why people in the 1970s thought it was great. It’s just that we’re, you know, so much BETTER at this stuff now.
U2: Popmart Live In Mexico City:
The first of two U2 concerts I watched with Sarah, who, like me, has been known to listen to their music from time to time.
I missed out on the Popmart tour, though it played Eugene about the time I first got into U2, back when you couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing Discotheque, and Pop was one of the first CDs I owned. In reterospect, I’m kind of glad I missed it, because I’ve heard the bootleg of it, and it kind of sucked. This Mexico City concert, however, is about as perfect as you can get from U2, and they’re a band known for good live shows.
I won’t bore you with the track by track, but there’s not much if anything wrong with the individual songs. There’s some amazing music in there, and if my favorite versions of many songs aren’t included, this DVD comes close all too often.
Visually, it’s a mixed bag. Picture quality is quite stunning and clear, astonishing for as bad a camera environment as a concert must be. This is offset, however, by the sheer and utter ridiculousness of the stage and the band’s getup. Our cries of “Bono! No! What are you wearing!? Take it off!” were frequent, and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m a diehard fan, I may have just listened to it. Fortunately they’ve passed that phase of their lives, is all I can say.
But the music is great.
U2: ZooTV Live In Sidney:
I have a suspicion that those of us U2 fans who didn’t show up to a Zoo TV concert in 1992-1993 (I was too young) will forever be regretful of that fact, and there’s a reason for that – namely that, while in my opinion the latest Vertigo tour came close, Zoo TV was the best tour U2 ever did, and I’m extremely happy now that I’ve got a DVD I can use to experience it. The whole thing is so perfect in all ways that an actual review is superfluous. I can only say that the version of Mysterious Ways with the belly dancer is probably the most perfect thing U2′s ever put on screen, except for perhaps the parody of it with Bono’s daughter from the Slane DVD. If you are even the slightest bit a U2 fan, you should own this. Enough said.
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