Friday, 17 May 2013

Blu-Ray From My Collection: Dracula (1958), Directed by Terence Fisher

This is the new Blu-Ray restored edition of the Hammer Horror classic with all the extras. The picture quality is fantastic and the film although dated now is one of the greatest horror films of all time.

From allmovie by Rovi: "With so many mediocre vampire films, the few which are truly excellent often get lost in the static. Terence Fisher's 1958 Dracula is easily one of the best, and it proves just how important good writing, acting and directing can be in a time-tested genre. The performances are stellar: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee make their respective roles of Dr. Van Helsing and the Count uniquely their own. Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster's condenses Bram Stoker's novel, shifting most events to Dracula's castle and sharpening the material's dialogue and pacing. Appropriately atmospheric and dark, the film adds enough touches of humor and sexuality to update the tale's heretofore staid feel. Fisher's Dracula is a must-see not just for devotees of modern horror but also for fans of good storytelling in general."

Blu-Ray From My Collection: Oldboy (2003), Directed by Park Chan-Wook

From the allmovie by Rovi website: "A harrowing, labyrinthine revenge epic that will keep viewers guessing right up to its shocking denouement, director Park Chan-wook's masterful tale of lost time and dark secrets achieves the rare feat of eliciting sympathy from the viewer before dropping in a devastating twist that is as plausible as it is affecting. As we first meet the character of Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), the drunken husband and father is sitting in a police station awaiting the arrival of his best friend to bail him out. Despite Oh Dae-su's unruly behavior in the scene, the viewer senses an inherently flawed, but ultimately good-natured character, which makes his mysterious disappearance and subsequent imprisonment in the opening moments of the film so effectively disconcerting. It is key to the film's success that the viewer identify with him, and Choi -- appearing as something of a cross between Johnny Depp in Secret Window and a blank faced Takeshi Kitano -- is able to make both his character's mental deterioration and physical transformation compellingly watchable. Though Oh Dae-su does eventually make it back into the outside world, his increasing paranoia and unquenchable thirst for answers and revenge offer a frightening look at the depths to which the human soul can sink given the right (or wrong, as it may be) conditions. His transformation is made especially convincing thanks to the inclusion of several moments of well-placed humor that is as quirky as it is low-key, providing a fleeting glimpse of the formerly carefree family man. Aesthetically, comparisons to the works of such filmmakers as David Fincher and Christopher Nolan are inevitable; though Park and cinematographer Jeong Jeong-hun 's stylish lensing was no doubt influenced by the aforementioned filmmakers, the inventive South Korean duo (with a little help from co-screenwriters Lim Jun-hyeong and Hwang Jo-yun) eventually succeed in distinguishing themselves from their Western counterparts by constantly surprising the viewer with sharp storytelling skills and fresh visuals."

Blu-Ray From My Collection: Chungking Express, Directed By Wong Kar Wai (1994)

I've made the effort to watch Chungking Express three times now because I know amongst the more cerebral type of film buff this is rated highly-it's certainly stylish, influenced by the French New Wave, specifically Godard. The first story had me griped but mid-way it cuts to a different romantic story that to be bluntly honest and at the risk of making me look like one of those ignoramuses who write bad reviews on Amazon, was frankly boring. I think the film critic Roger Ebert makes a very valid point here:

 "If you are attentive to the style, if you think about what Wong is doing, Chungking Express works. If you're trying to follow the plot, you may feel frustrated...When Godard was hot, in the 1960s and early 1970s, there was an audience for this style, but in those days, there were still film societies and repertory theaters to build and nourish such audiences. Many of today's younger filmgoers, fed only by the narrow selections at video stores, are not as curious or knowledgeable and may simply be puzzled by Chungking Express instead of challenged. It needs to be said, in any event, that a film like this is largely a cerebral experience: You enjoy it because of what you know about film, not because of what it knows about life."

For more info see the Wiki entry here

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Books: The Accumulation Of Freedom: Writings On Anarchist Economics (Various Writers)

Many consider anarchism devoid of any specific economic analysis, an ideology built around a rigidly negative philosophy of knee-jerk anti-state and anti-authority reactions. This collection of essays tries to remedy a common misunderstanding and goes someway in putting forward anarchism as an alternative to both neo-liberalism and state regulated capitalism. All of the contributors subscribe to a broad anarchist-communist or socialist approach so the actual in-depth look at how present day capitalism works is not in anyway significantly different from the Marxists. To distinguish themselves from Marxism then the essays here mostly concentrate on anarchist strategy and tactics and how they relate to the economy, especially the crisis we are now undergoing. These strategies and tactics range from building alternative economies in the here and now, direct action involving squats, taking over public squares. land-seizures and occupied factories and workplaces as in Argentina, through to horizontal networks and federations as a way of organising on a national or international level.

For a more in-depth review read Jasmin Mujanovic in the Politics Respun website here