Monday, 31 December 2012

Blu-Ray's From My Collection: Ghost In The Shell, Directed By Mamoru Oshii (1996)

From allmovie by Rovi website: "Based on a manga by Masamune Shirow and directed by Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell marries the best aspects of both creators' styles. As in Appleseed, Shirow's tale is set in a near-future that should, by rights, be a utopia, yet still has a need for specialized police and military. Once again, Shirow uses his characters to pose questions about the nature of humanity -- how we regard each other, how societies form, and how we can expect to cope when technology pervades every aspect of life to the point where the line between man and machine blurs. Oshii, who has turned even the most popular of properties into personal, pensive films (Urusei Yatsura, Patlabor 2), runs with Shirow's world of high-tech thrills and armchair philosophy and makes it his own. He adds layers of luscious, CGI-enhanced visuals and a dark, moody soundtrack, and paces it all in a way that makes even the most pulse-pounding action scenes seem dreamlike."

Blu-Ray's From My Collection: Starship Troopers, Directed By Paul Verhoeven (1997)

From allmovie by Rovi website: "This highly ambitious adaptation of the sci-fi novel by Robert A. Heinlein exhibits director Paul Verhoeven's signature flashes of mordant wit, satire, and strong violence. The rare action picture that tries to operate on several levels at once, Troopers uses elements of fascism, Nazi imagery, and World War II propaganda to illustrate its central story: the takeover of futuristic civilization by deadly, ravaging insects. A singular piece of science fiction that achieves its goals -- especially in the notable casting of good-looking, bland performers to underline the army's Aryan-ness -- Verhoeven's film simultaneously parodies and satisfies the public's fascination with media and mass destruction. Troopers is very much a companion to the director's 1987 hit RoboCop, which dealt with similar issues in a comparably cheeky tone, without losing its ability to be a grand entertainment. Though it was a mid-level success, Troopers failed to achieve blockbuster status, considering its $100 million budget. Encouragingly, though, the film is widely recognized in cult circles as a telling critique of the absurdity of wartime values."

Blu-Ray's From My Collection: Sleepy Hollow, Directed by Tim Burton (1999)

From allmovie by Rovi website: "Often cited as an homage to the infamous films of Hammer Studios, upon deeper investigation into the influences of director Tim Burton, it becomes increasingly clear that, while the film does indeed have much in common with the British horror classics, the majority of visual influence is instead derived from the lush, gothic films of Mario Bava. Bearing a striking resemblance to 1960s Black Sunday in particular, Burton's muted color palate, vividly splashed with abundant amounts of blood so unnaturally red it seems to drip from the screen, represents a masterful command of color scheme rarely seen since Bava's color-era heyday. While Sleepy Hollow may not retain the masterful balance of a striking visuals and solid characterization as skillfully as Burton's early efforts, Sleepy Hollow remains a remarkably beautiful film which offers both dark humor and some breathtaking set pieces. Burton's cast does as much as humanly possible to bring scribe Andrew Kevin Walker's characters to life, though without the proper foundation, the means to define the characters much further beyond the occasional meaningful gesture or enduring quirk are unfortunately absent. Despite this minor flaw, those willing to judge Sleepy Hollow on its own terms and forego the stratospheric expectations with which Burton films are generally greeted will find themselves in for a sumptuously visual and giddily macabre interpretation of an enduring tale that has chilled the bones of children for generations."

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tahrir Sq-An Inspiration For Us All

Post image for In Tahrir, the beginning and end of a Pharaoh

Excellent article on the recent situation in Egypt from ROAR here: The movement for 'real democracy' centred on Tahrir Sq is an inspiration for all those struggling against corrupt power and neoliberalism, a genuine network 'counterpower' outside state structures as such, made up of the various organisations of the people (these organisations of course include liberal parties merely representing the interests of the Egyptian middle classes, calling for political change but ignoring the demands for economic justice, but they do not have a dominant role in the movement).

The latest news is that Morsi has backed away from his power grab; a victory for Tahrir Sq. The lesson here for us in depressingly passive austerity hit Britain with our own corrupt government of bankers, the rich, tax dodging corporations etc, is that all of us must somehow be part of creating our own 'counterpower' of the people. We can not rely on Labour and trade union leaders, certainly not the LIb-Dems to change anything. The pressure must come from below; resistance must be total. What was once seen as utopian has now become a necessity, giving a whole new meaning to the old May '68 slogan-Be Practical, Demand the Impossible!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Books: Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier and Century: 2009 by Alan Moore (Art: Kevin O'Neill)

Imagine elaborate alternate histories where characters and creatures from hundreds of years of fantasy literature and cinema co-exist with real historical figures and events. Kim Newman's 'Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron' is a continuation of his 'Anno Dracula', which imagines a universe where the infamous vampire wins at the conclusion of Bram Stoker's novel. Here WW1 is fought with the undead as the dominant force in Europe, although it's Germany and Austria-Hungary with Dracula as commander-in-chief of its armies and Manfred von Richthofen as a monsterious bat, that has embraced the true gothic vampire aesthetic. A mash up of ripping yarn, steampunk, pulp horror and 'All Quiet On The Western Front," this is a highley entertaining read.

Black Dossier and Century: 2009, part of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series of 'graphic novels' by Alan Moore, creates an even more complex mythos, where almost every imaginary character and land (lost worlds, imaginary kingdoms) from earth bound fantastic and pulp fiction co-habitate in an alternate timeline. Some of the authors drawn upon are Shakespeare, H.Rider Haggard, Verne, Wells, Stoker, Lovecraft, Orwell and countless others including even Gerry Anderson and J.K. Rowling! Behind the elaborate pulp fantasy is a celebration of the transformative power of the human imagination.

Read a review of The Bloody Red Baron from Kirkus Review here

Read Wiki entry for Black Dossier and a review from The Independent for Century: 2009 here and here