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So it’s been kinda slow recently, at least movie wise, and a bit busy elsewhere. I skipped everything that came out on the 19th (not a horror fan, didn’t see Red, behind on all the animated films, and I’ll rent RIPD eventually), and instead took my cousin to see Pacific Rim, of which I’ll add some additional thoughts below.

For now though, I believe it’ll be a lot of art house stuff and the few remaining big summer films to see (The Wolverine is forth coming, for example). I’ll try and start getting caught up on other movies too from earlier this year. Also, I’m slowly getting through season two of Deep Space 9, which is becoming a chore because it’s terrible but it’s Star Trek so I have to do it (and because I want to write about it anyway). I’m roughly two-thirds through now, so expect that Looking Back feature at some point in August.

Anyway, enough about random stuff. Here’s Arnie quoting one liners.

Why the heck did I miss this when it came out? Ugh I’m the worst.

It’s a good, fun film. Yeah, it’s B-movie all over, but holy crap it’s good. I haven’t seem Kim Ji-woon previous films, though I should check them out (he did The Good, the Bad, and the Weird if I remember correctly), since his American debut is good.

In short, Arnie plays Ray Owens, an old sheriff, in Somerton, Arizona, when a few unfriendlies arrive in town. They’re there to help a major cartel boss, Cortez, cross the border to Mexico to escape US authorities. Arnie finds out, and sets up the town, along with a few deputies, to block that crossing until the FBI arrive.

It’s as straightforward as it gets, and it’s great fun along the way. The writing is good, with Arnie getting the bulk of the amusing one liners, though Knoxville, who I thought would be annoying, is pretty hilarious in it, playing a gun collector with some sweet weapons in his disposal. There are a couple other characters in it, but they’re all decent, and they all stand apart as their own.

There’s a lot of action pieces scattered throughout the film, from Cortez escape from the FBI through the Arizona desert, to the stand off in Somerton and the final beat down on the canyon crossing. The sequence in Somerton is the highlight of the film, as Arnie and the deputies face off against Cortez getaway crew. It’s done well, with the action being kept strictly on the town’s Main Street and a few businesses that are along that street. It’s probably one of the better sequences this year.

So all in all, a good, fun movie with some great Arnie moments. I’m sad I missed it when it came out, but I’m glad I got to see it now. It’s out on VOD and DVD now, so definitely check it out.

I saw Pacific Rim a second time, taking my 12-year-old cousin with me.  He loved the film, and the first thing he asked about was about the kaiju and if they were men in suits.  Pretty perceptive in noting the design of the kaiju.

We saw it in 2D this time (opening night was IMAX 3D so we could get those awesome posters), and the main difference was the color, being a bit more brighter.  Oh, and the sound quality wasn’t as loud (this is IMAX we’re taking about; the volume just hitting you in the face hard).  My thoughts on the film didn’t change much: the story is still simple and relies a little too much on the Mako Mori drift scenes.  That Hong Kong sequence is still fantastic though, and probably the best action sequence this year in any film.

What it probably succeeds in well too was that it’s a perfect film for a 12-year-old, or any child with an imagination.  Raleigh Beckett said it perfectly early on, when they’re in the Jaeger, they can fight anything, including a hurricane.  It’s being able to not feel small, and being able to take on something larger and stronger than you with something large and strong for yourself.  But it’s also taking this film and finding a spark, something that’ll allow a child or teen to say “I can make this” and then learn how to make this kind of thing.  Hell, I find the 12-year-old in me wanting to learn how to make movies, and to make them enjoyable, but also to have something to say too, something about humanity.

This is probably why I loved Pacific Rim as much as I did.  If there weren’t so many things to see right now, I’d check it out a third time.  There’s always DVD though, and I’ll come back again and again when it does show up.


I remember seeing this movie way back when it came out, three years ago this month, in the gloriously huge IMAX screen in King of Prussia.  I was stoked to be seeing it, and the $15 bucks was worth it.  I remembered leaving the film going “This movie was awesome!”

Three years.  Some of that awesome has indeed worn off.

It’s not to say that some of the movie is still in fact awesome.  The action sequences that begin roughly 40-50 minutes into the film are quite fun indeed, filled with overwhelming amounts of CGI bloodiness and Spartan kickassing their way through a Persian army thousands of times its size.  And the kick in the bloody hole in the ground, and every time Leonidas kicks the Persian messenger into the pit I scream “PUNT!”

This is an adolescent’s wet dream come to life in film.

Oh, but if I were an adolescent again, I would ignore everything that made this movie not awesome.

Well, before I get into that, I’m sure everyone knows the graphic novel that inspired the movie.  Written and drawn by Frank Miller (who had Sin City brought to the big screen by Robert Rodriguez, and who directed (quite badly) Will Eisner’s The Spirit), the story is a fictional retelling (fictional because I’m sure not everyone looked the way they did on the Persian side of things) of the Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans (plus a few thousand more Greeks who sadly didn’t get to fight at all) held off a Persian army numbered anywhere between 70,000 and a million (history can’t make up its mind on the exact number) for two full days before being defeated on the third day.  This inspired the Greeks to take on the Persians and helped win the resulting war.

That aside, the graphic novel captures the feel, in often exaggerated form, of that battle.  There are a few events that lead up to it, the battle itself, the betrayal of Ephialtes, and the last stand of the Spartans.  It was nicely drawn by Miller in a panoramic, wide-screen style that worked quite well for telling the story.  It read quickly too (around ninety pages can be read in roughly twenty-five miuntes).  It was short, sweet, and awesome, with very little in the way of waste (except, for maybe, that illogical hole in the ground).

The movie, faced with the problem of having a movie being far too short, added a subplot involving Queen Gorgo trying to influence the Spartan Senate into sending reinforcements for her husband (and had half the movie filmed in slow motion, but who’s keeping track of that?).  It really doesn’t work at all.  For starters, Leonidas started the war by punting the messenger into that giant hole of his (at least, in this depiction of events).  He climbs a mountain with no road or path to where various ugly looking and corrupt people interpret the Oracle’s message as “Don’t go to war or you’ll offend the gods” (done in English in the graphic novel, of course).  This scene itself, by and large, doesn’t work: how the hell does that evil Senate dude with his evil Persian friend (an especially fat one at that) make it to the top of the pathless mountain?  A secret elevator?  Stereotypical magic carpet (he is Persian after all)?

Speaking of evil Senate dude, he’s right.  He’s completely right in not sending troops to help Leonidas, since, you know, the king provoked a war without the Senate’s backing (see how democracy works kids?).  But, since he’s evil Senate dude, he’s corrupt.  He couldn’t care less about Leonidas, or Sparta for that matter.  He likes his Xerxes-faced gold pieces thank you very much.  This, of course, prevents us from seeing that he in fact is right.  But, oh well, he’s evil Senate dude, who cares?  He’s a bastard!

That really does take away from the movie, because by and large it still is quite impressive at times, mainly in the battle sequences.  Well, the first “single” shot sequence is mind boggling awful, but the second one (with the “I’M WITH YOU!  FOR SPARTA!  TILL THE DEATH!” guy and the Captain’s son) is much better.  And the decision to fight one on one with the Immortals once they collapse the Persian wall doesn’t make sense (especially when they form the phalanx at the end of the scene: couldn’t they have done that to begin with?  Would have saved you a lot more Spartans that way Leonidas (and it would have saved you from that slash in your eye too)).  And the gold encrusted rhino, and those gunpowder mystics… well, they were kinda cool, if they actually worked (um…).

Okay… maybe it’s not as awesome as it really once was.  But, hey, it looks pretty cool (really, it does), and the fight scenes, even if they don’t work in the narrative scheme of things, were still filmed pretty well.  Zak Snyder knows how to shoot a movie.  The decision to replicate the graphic novels visuals was a bold and worthwhile decision (shooting on the green screens before painting in the backgrounds).  Everyone looked to be having fun with the film too, before and after they were slaughtered in new and various ways.

But, well, is the film still any good?  Maybe if I were fifteen again, and had less of a mature brain (well, I was twenty-four, with a somewhat mature but still trying-to-figure-things-out brain).  Now, at twenty-seven, I’ve become overly analytical.  The above is the result of that.

But, hey, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing with these DVDs right?  I own them for a reason, especially ones that, in retrospect, aren’t as good as they first appeared.

That said, I won’t have any problems watching 300 again in the future (after I get through this project).  Maybe then I’ll shut off my brain and excuse the fact that there’s a giant frakking hole in the middle of Sparta.

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