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Samwel_X Blog

What? I'm level 40?

As the title would suggest, I have made the lofty heights of level 40. What now? Who knows?

Also for those of you wondering about my absence of sorts, obviously I will have periods where I am here a lot, and ones where I'm not. This is one of the latter.

Best of luck in the world of OT.

Videogames in Vogue - Plus That Little Update, and Another...

What was the point in me ever signing up to Gamespot when I openly don't really play videogames. There are very few new ideas in the videogame world, and there is this sequel culture. This is not a bad thing, just very few games I really deserve a sequel. However, every so often a game comes along that really needs a sequel. Why? Because it was just so damn good the first time around. But then what happens, you spend your life waiting for the videogame sequel to finally see a release. It gets pushed back so regularly you lose hope. Well, on the horizon I can see a couple of videogame sequels that I really want to get my filthy hands on.

The first is : Red Dead Redemption.

I played Red Dead Revolver to death. Rockstar captured the violent cowboy life far better than its contemporaries (as displayed in the God awful 'Gun'). So now, 5 years later, a sequel is almost ready to drop. To say I am excited is an understatement. I am already setting aside time to watch the classic spaghetti westerns before the games release. I hope it reaches the lofty heights of the original, and looking at trailers, I'd say it should have no problem doing so.

The second is : Dead Rising 2

While it has only been 3 years or so since I was dropped into the Dawn of the Dead-Esq world of Dead Rising, I am excited for the bloody sequel. While it was a good story driven survival horror game, it also had a real freedom to it, that I loved. Ontop of that it has genuine replay value, something that is lost of many modern games. So I am equally excited for that sequel. I just hope it ups the carnage and its sense of humour.

The third is : Mafia 2

There have been plenty of sucky rip offs of the first Mafia game, see both Godfather titles, but none have seemed so realistically placed in its era as Mafia. Also it retained all of the atmosphere of a good gangster film, mixed with a really good story that sucks you in. Which is lacking in so many videogames. Also, it had a great ending. So I am really looking forward to this one too, even if it doesn't come out for some time yet.

And finally : Max Payne 3

Again, another brilliantly story driven franchise. Mixed with its noir sensibilities and awesome gameplay, not the mention the first and best to utilise bullet time, it is going to be difficult for this not to live up to expectations. Even if Max is bald this time around. Hurray for horrifically disturbing nightmare sequences.

Now for that other update you are all waiting on, yes that videogames bit was partially for suspense purposes. As most of you already know, or at least, as it would appear from the comments in my last blog, most of you know that I am indeed engaged. When did this happen you ask? Well, way back at Easter, when I took that break from here. That was one of the reasons I did that, I had to sort out some things and that was the main reason I left for a bit. As of yet, there is still no date, and there probably won't be for a while, what with the recession and all. As well as that, I have chosen to take a major risk and leave my job, and do teacher training this year. I have decided to put my degree to some use, and while I swore to myself when I was about 18 that I would never, ever, ever, go into teaching, I sort of... have... so there you go.

Oh and another less joyous update. Swine flu. It would appear I have contracted it. Although nowhere near as bad now as it was on Friday and Saturday, I am still quite ill. I have always been one for exaggerations, but I felt awful on Friday night. I mean, terrible. It is nothing my immune system couldn't overcome, but it was just nasty. Of course, it isn't that different to regular flu, but still, not nice.

Anyhoo, that is that. Stay posted for more.

The future of this blog : A very quick update.

I have decided, that besides major releases that people are interested in, I will no longer be posting film reviews here. Of course, this is not the end for my reviews. Quite contrary, this is only the beginning, because not only is there a place on this very website, where you can see reviews for the latest released, but there is also a place where you can see my thoughts on older films.

Where is this place you ask? Well, right here. Be sure to check back every so often for some more reviews, and join the union if it takes your fancy. You can also give feedback and discuss my decisions much like we did on this blog.

So where now for Samwel_X's blog? Well, this will remain a place for my thoughts, feelings and most importantly, personal updates. There is a big one coming, but I'm pretty sure most of you know already. It doesn't take too much digging. I've wanted to have blogs like that for a while, but review writing and such sort of stood in the way in the past, so it is nice to have some sort of freedom with what I post.

Anyway, stay tuned folks.

Inglourious Basterds : The Samwel_X Perspective.

Quentin Tarantino has been off the ball for more than a decade now. His greatest success being the lesser hit, Jackie Brown. Since then the man has retreated into fanboy homage territory and produced some total dross. After seeing Death Proof with a friend we both agreed we would rather have slammed out hands in a car door for the films duration. In 2009, 12 years after the masterpiece Jackie Brown came out, comes Inglourious Basterds, QT's brainchild, QT's script that he was working on for 10 years. Was it any good, well, read on...


Inglourious Basterds follows a series of plot threads (split into 5 chapters), that of the "Basterds" noted in the title, some Jewish American soldiers on a quest for revenge, The "Jew Hunter" an SS officer, an actor and a cinema owner who is also a Jewish girl in hiding. All of these elements come together for the finale in which Operation Kino comes into play - a plot to blow up a cinema in which Hitler and the rest of the Nazi high command are watching Goebel's latest film.

Of course the first aspect anybody wants to know about with QT is his dialogue. QT's early work has good dialogue, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction both display this flair for writing naturalistic conversations... sort of... the problem with those films is that, be it man or woman, the people uttering the words are Tarantino. Tarantino's words are simply pouring from the actors mouth, and while it was, at the time, great to see that dialogue it was Jackie Brown that had the real quality with dialogue. The characters were well rounded, they had their own voices, rather than Tarantinos. This gave Jackie Brown a real maturity in its script, and showed light on Tarantino, a man who could prove to be a great filmmaker. In Jackie Brown Tarantino also managed to retain his own personal touches, and keep his talk revolving around pop culture in the way he had previously. Jackie Brown fails by a commercial standard, and he makes Kill Bill and Death Proof, regressing miles into banal constant pop culture dialogue. Well, Basterds breaks the loop... sort of... Since it is set in the 1940s we can't have constant pop culture running commentary, well, for the most part. This is a good aspect of the script. Of course there are moments when Tarantino bleeds through into the language, which is annoying in a way, but ultimately forgivable. The dialogue flows for the most part, and the film is very wordy, so the dialogue is utterly essential to any of the films successes. Furthermore, the choice to put the film in native languages is great. Rather than terribly put on German accents, or simply British actors playing Nazi's we have people speaking in their native tongue. Which is refreshing after other films dealing with similar themes and ideas have used appalling accents, which have ruined films (I'm calling you out Defiance!). The film also still drips with the Tarantino sense of humour, which works brilliantly in places, and is perhaps ill advised in others. Some jokes are hilarious, others are duds, but whatever, I guess it is just Tarantino bleeding through again.

The script has produced some memorable characters, and given a lot for some actors to work with. First and foremost Christopher Waltz as Col. Hans Landa, or by his other name the "Jew hunter". A brilliant performance, for which he won best actor at Canne. Thoroughly deserving, his character is also the best written and most fleshed out. He manages to be both funny, and incredibly sinister at the same time, producing a 3-Dimensional character, who is almost two people at once on the screen. A delight to watch. Also a mention for Melaine Laurent, who plays Shosanna, the Jewish girl who owns the cinema, who manages to give a heartfelt and believable performance. As well as play a strong female character who doesn't talk like Tarantino... With the added unintentional hilarity of her brushing off the annoying Daniel Bruhl as the actor Fredick Zoller, who does talk like Tarantino would. Chatting up women in a Tarantino $tyle is ill advised. Michael Fassbender deserves recognition for his small role as Archie Hicox, firstly because he is British and so deserves a shout out, and secondly for sending up the way British soldiers are so often misrepresented in American war films so very well. However, other actors, not to great. Brad Pitt is there, and produces nothing all that special as Aldo Raine, that isn't to say he is bad, but he doesn't stand out all that much. Diane Kruger, I thought wasn't giving it her all. And finally Eli Roth who... wait? Why the hell was he even cast? Which brings me to the films main issues, actually, I'll dedicate a paragraph to it a little later on...

Tarantino as a director is, hit and miss with his filmography. This film has hit and miss direction throughout. I went in expecting to see the same old QT stuff, but then the first chapter came along. "Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France" consists of one scene in a room in a house in France, an exchange between a French farmer, and Christoper Waltz. Their conversation regards the hiding of Jews, all the while the farmer is hiding Jews beneath his floor boards on which they are standing. The tension and suspense created is amazing. I mean, it just shows what a good director Tarantino can be. All the while you know that Waltz knows there are Jews below him, and all the while you know there is an inevitability to the conversation, but there is a possibility it could take an other turn. It is a great scene, certainly the films high point... well, aside from the finale of Operation Kino. There are other set pieces with suspenseful conversations, some work, others don't. The culmination in derivative violence often being a flaw in these scenes. Other directional choices include the seemingly random choice of on screen added elements. Some consistency to some of these would have been nice, maybe a back story in the same $tyle to more than just one of the Basterds, but perhaps time constrains were worrying Tarantino. While Inglourious Basterd's clocks a good 2 hours 30 minutes, it doesn't seem too long, which is a good thing, things were however clearly cut, but it is good to see Tarantino has some discipline for once.

So where does the main problem lie? Well, as with both Kill Bill and Death Proof, in Tarantinos company. Eli Roth's casting is a good example of this. Tarantino surrounds himself with people like him, people who are unabashed fanboys, and it can affect the quality of his work. I can imagine an exchange, do your best QT voice for affect "Hey Eli, since we saw that WW2 exploitation movie, and thought it was really cool, do you wanna be in mine, it be really cool" "Yeah Quentin, that'd be really cool" "cool". What QT needs is people who aren't like him to maybe slap some sense into him sometimes, keep some parameters to his work. Stop him making idiotic decisions when it comes to things. It would improve his work vastly. He also slips into the net of "homage" which basically is him saying - oh dear people have realised I like to steal ideas, so I'll call it something acceptable. Well, stealing ideas is fine if you do it right. Jackie Brown has all the elements of blaxpolitation, but also its flair of originality, same goes for Reservoir Dogs and to a lesser degree Pulp Fiction. Those films were considered Tarantino's best, what happened? His fanboyism, and idea of "really cool" kind of got in the way. That isn't to say Basterds is a terrible as Death Proof or Kill Bills, but it ain't no Jackie Brown.

The films score is perhaps another aspect of this "really cool" factor. While it is neat to see music from other films pop up, it is almost as if we are sitting with QT and he is saying "look at me, I know this, this and this about cinema, I can pay homage to this, it will be really cool". Bits and pieces worked, others didn't. He could have gone for an original score be his desire to show off his film knowledge (much like bits and pieces of the dialogue) stood in the way. It isn't a massive problem, but I guess it is just a little tiresome after a while. I mean, I know Tarantino has a vast knowledge of film, I don't need it thrust in my face so much. On a side note, there is a scene in which "Cat People" by David Bowie pops up. For me, this worked much better. It seemed odd in a WW2 film, but i liked it, it went with the whole exploitation, History books out the window way the film was working. I very much liked that touch.

As the film drew to a close I was hopeful more than anything else. Tarantino has certainly not retained his form from 97, but after a fall from such heights, who can expect that. He is however picking himself up with this one. After the dire Death Proof I'm glad something went in. If he works on his faults and goes for maturity, then he certainly can reproduce the quality he once had. Tarantino certainly isn't a great filmmaker, but little bits and pieces of his other work have shown that with the right focus, he could be. Maybe this is the beginning of him working his way towards a new era. Maybe not. I can say it certainly isn't what the last line of the film implies. Only time will tell what the future holds for Tarantino, but as far as Inglourios Basterds goes, it is perhaps the first step on an awful long road to repair.


I don't do half scores, but if I did it would be 6.5.

Samwel_X and The Adventure of The Unnecessary Suspension.

You read right. Mr.I follow the ToU was suspended for not one, not two, but seven days. Which turned out to be eight days, not sure why but I'd imagine an admin cock up is to blame.

Normally I'd accept a moderation, because obviously the forum has its rules, and I try to stay within them, but if I slip out of line it is my fault. Mod law and all. But this time I feel a whiny complaint is required. I'm not going to take it to ask the mods or anything because I accepted my punishment, and have nothing to gain other than a smug sense of satisfaction, which I couldn't care less about.

Basically I was moderated for something that required "moderator discretion, which means it was not obviously in breach of the ToU. The ToU is against "pornographic" content. Of course pornography is not subjective, it is something that is without artistic merit. Artwork is not pornographic as it has artist merit. This is obvious, or so I thought. Clearly one moderator didn't think so. The other thing that annoyed me was that I was moderated for this post two full days after it was posted. This would mean that the offending post was so far back that unless a user was trawling through about 10 pages of OT crap then it wouldn't have been seen. My post was the last post in said thread.

All in all the moderation is fine, I don't agree with it, but mods law I suppose, but a suspension of that length for something that was debatably against the ToU is ridiculous.

Now I know how Goya felt. (A joke of course)

Well I suppose that is all I can do now, look back in anger. I guess that it is now out of my system.

Expect a more interesting blog soon.

Unravelling 'Antichrist' : 2009's most controversial film reviewed.

Lars Von Trier has never been one to shy away from controversy. Some would (probably rightfully) call him a provocateur. Antichrist is no exception. As always with Von Trier there is no easy answer, and his latest film is certainly going to split audiences. The film has also received negative media (well in the UK) based around it's closing scenes amid claims of the films misogyny, this review will look at the film, and I'll attempt to answer those claims with what I made of the film.

So where to start. Well, first a little background. Von Trier claimed he wrote Antichrist and made it during a bout of depression. This is an important factor to consider when looking at the film as a whole so bear that in mind.

In terms of plot, the film is very simplistic. He and She (played by Willem DeFoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) are grieving following the death of their son. She fails to deal with the grief, and they embark on a journey into the woods (called Eden) where increasingly strange and disturbing things begin to happen. There is a little more to this, but I'll mark it as spoilers although I'd imagine you are aware of the films content.

The theme lying on the surface of the film is one of psychology. The way the couple deal with their grief specifically. She embraces it, and is strangled by it. He on the other hand looks at it from a psychologists point of view and distances himself from the situation at hand. Both are unhealthy ways of dealing with the loss of their son. These roles continue throughout the film. DeFoes constant psychoanalytical readings of his wife become infuriating after a while, and the most obvious way of looking at the film is perhaps Von Trier lashing out at psychiatrists like ones he saw to deal with his own depression. DeFoe's character is very heavy handed and arrogant in knowing what is best for his wife, and often forces her to confront her fears, whilst he too is seeing some very strange things occur in the woods too. As if Von Trier is saying psychiatrists have a way of looking at their problems, and distancing themselves, but they still have problems and you can't escape them forever, so helping others is absolute arrogance.

That is an obvious reading of the film that I think anyone could pick up on. Here is what I took from the film. I thought Antichrist was a meditation on grief, guilt and depression. Of course there were the ideas of grief on the surface, and the guilt that comes with it, all of which lead to depression. Gainsbourg's character is perhaps Von Trier. She goes through an exaggerated version of what he perhaps went through. All of the factors of depression are here, a desire to die (which I thought sparked off the final scenes), the destruction of relationships with others, the destruction of self, frustration, fear and anger. All of those aspects are in her character. Her acts often metaphors for those things. I can't really explain this angle without spoilers so our first tag is about to be used :


She's depression stems from her guilt. She effectivelly allows her son to die, and also begins to believe that as she is a woman she is evil, as all women are evil. Obviously she only believes this because of her own overwhelming guilt, she has to find a reason to hate herself, and she does. She follows this reasoning through. In the final scenes when she mutilates her own genitalia she is perhaps attempting to rid herself of her evil. This works as a metaphor for some of the reasons for self harm as a whole. Also the destruction of her relationship with her husband, on which she is dependent for most of the film shows a desire for independence. A want to distance herself from him. In the same way someone who was planning to kill themselves would perhaps distance themselves from others to lessen the impact, she says early on in the film that "She wants to die" hinting at this possible reading. This is effectively the beginning of the end for their relationship. You could even say (major spoiler begins) that she ruins that relationship so violently so that He will carry out the act that she cannot (major spoiler ends)


Of course with Von Trier it is easy to doubt his sincerity, and a reading of the film like that would make the film sincere. Honestly, I believe it is his most personal and sincere film. But his sincerity is masked by his insincerity. This is where the claims of misogny come into play. Von Trier has been accused of misogyny before, and I think this film clearly satirises that. The scenes in question include a character coming to believe that all women are evil by nature. This is so over the top it is clearly a joke to answer previous claims of mysogny. Von Trier is almost certainly laughing at the fools who have failed to understand that. This is the mask of insincerity. I personally think this was included to cover up the trully personal nature of the film, which whether or not was supposed to be so truthful, I couldn't say.

After that, I must congratulate Willem DeFoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg on performances that really do help carry the film. Willem DeFoe is cold and distant, as his character is. His voice is sometimes emotionless, although once his distance is denied in the final act he brings all his emotion into the performance. Immersing himself fully into the role. Charlotte Gainsbourg however gives a performance of such emotional intensity, it is incredible. The best performance by any actor or actress I've seen in some time. Even in the final chapter when she has gone insane she is fully believable, frightening, and at the same time, seems logical in committing the most illogical acts. That is a performance of incredible conviction, that nobody else could pull off. If any other person wins best actress at the Oscars they do not deserve it. A career defining role to be sure. She is also fearless in fully taking part in everything the story throws at her. And in a role that seems so alien, it also seems so human, and it connected with me and a strange level that I don't fully understand.

As for the direction. I think is, stylistically, Von Trier's best film. From the opening black and white super slow motion sequence of He and She having sex while their son falls from a window, with hardcore porn shot that seems of little relevance until


She sticks her finger in a hole in He's leg in order to show the reversal of power in their relationship


to the brilliant Eden sequences. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle is, put simply, a genius. He also did Slumdog Millionaire, but his eye for the forest is just perfect here. Really amazing. Nature appears twisted really adding to the feel of an evil nature. One perhaps not created by God, but by Satan. Also the colour drain throughout the film is a brilliant idea. With each chapter of the film (there are 4) the colour is drained, and the lighting becomes increasingly darker symbolising the way the plot is going, and the increasingly dark and claustrophobic state of mind that comes with depression. It is also important to note that as the chapters go on, Eden seems increasingly smaller. This is done through some very clever cutting that makes everything seem closer to the cabin around which eden lies. You may have heard the film has a talking fox. Yes it does, and it works brilliantly in the films context. Out of context it seems silly, but in the film it just works. As do the other disturbing natural images of a deer with it's miscarriage hanging from it, and a crow beaten with a stone. These also add to the films atmosphere tenfold. The atmosphere the film creates is also perfect. Very similar to Zulawski's Possession, in more ways than just atmosphere, but that is what the film feels closest to. Also Von Trier's constant switching between his Dogme $tyle and a very wide stylistic palette works incredibly well. The film is also laden with subtle satanic imagery, and I mean very subtle, also Exorcist like subliminals, also adding to the films atmosphere of doom. All culminating to make the film a visual treat.

The soundtrack is built up of loud, overbearing, cacophonous sounds. Which are in themselves frightening. Further adding to the films feel. Making it a scarily immersing experience.

Overall, I'm not going to recommend the film per say. Mainly because the film was designed to be polarising. It is difficult to watch, it is challenging, and I can almost guarantee will make different people have different reactions and thoughts regarding its content and intent. Personally I thought the film was brilliant, other people may not. The film spoke to me in a strange way, and seemed to be more than meets the eye. I'll certainly rewatch the film to take it all in fully, to properly understand what it is trying to say. What we have here is either something very special, or something very pretentious. Something either very sincere, or something very insincere. I can't put my finger on it. But I thought it was a film with a real staying power, built up of strong images and ideas. Lead by two incredible performances that deserve the highest recognition, and it is because of that I'm going to award the film a


I guess "Choas Regins".

Wave Goodbye 2009: The Nine Inch Nails Experiance.

So this is (probably it) for me. Assuming this is the last Nine Inch Nails tour ever (although Trent has said "never say never") this was my final show. And what a show it was.

As some of you probably know, I was a donor to the Eric De La Cruz cause (who sadly died a few weeks ago, but my donation will now go towards building the Eric De La Cruz foundation, which is a great thing to be a part of) so this Nine Inch Nails experience was out of the ordinary for me. Something memorable for the final time.

Anyway, the day went as follows, I arrived for soundcheck, and went through a painful period in which the inept arena staff attempted to seperate pre salers from donors and general admission people. Which needless to say, was a nightmare. Organising 2 lines and sending some people away may seem easy to the rest of us, but the MEN arena managed to do a great job of screwing it all up.

Then the (only) bad news of the day arrived. Soundcheck had been cancelled due to some **** up or other on behalf of arrival times. But ultimately, this was not a problem. Instead we got a tour around the floor and stage by the tour manager (with a Trent Reznor mug that was epic beyond belief). This gave us a chance to pose questions to the main sound guys and lights guy, and gave a fascinating insight into the workings of a Nine Inch Nails tour. Everyone was very happy to answer any question, and the tidbits of information I now hold is astounding (did you know on the Wave Goodbye tour Robin Finck uses 27 guitars).

After this, we had the signing and the Meet and Greet. I couldn't speak for the $300 dollar donors, since I wasn't in the room, but I heard they were only allowed one item signed, and had a group photo. They were a little more lax with signing in our group. So I got both my CD copy of The Fragile signed (didn't want to risk anything rarer just incase it got damaged) and my ticket. After this we had an individual photo op with the band courtsey of Brett Bachemin. The picture will be posted at the end of the blog, although I will keep my mysterious nature by covering my face crudely.

Anyway, when the signing was done we were allowed to go anywhere we wanted, so I went to the merch stand, and bought a fairly awesome bag, and then caught some of Mew, who were a band I hadn't heard before the evening. I liked them a lot although they didn't seem like an obvious fit for the concert, they worked quite nicely. Sadly I had to miss the end of their set for dinner backstage. The catering was fantastic. Very nice meal, and the pudding of White chocolate & Oreo cheesecake was just... wow. Then I watched Janes Addiction play. I'm more familiar with their material, and it was good seeing them play. I'm not really all that keen on Perry Farrell's voice, but Dave Navarro and Eric Avery more than made up for that. Plus Farrell was interesting to watch as he ran around the stage. Flamboyant and energetic are two words I'd use to describe him. "Mountain Song" was the highlight of their set, and really got the crowd ready for Trent and the guys.

Janes finished up, the donors went backstage. Here we were told that not only could we watch the show from the side of the stage, we could watch the whole show from the side of the stage so long as we followed a few rules. Words cannot describe watching the show from the side of the stage. You just become immersed in the show, the lighting is so bright, and and the music so loud it is like you are a part of it. The view was fantastic despite the smoke and the lights, we could see both the backstage workings of the show, and all the brilliance of the on stage performance. The sound quality was actually just as good as being out on the floor (mainly because the MEN arena isn't that good a venue and it distorts the sound anyway) which was a major surprise.

I'll now do a track by track run through of what was a near perfect set list with help for the order from ninwiki.

1. Somewhat Damaged
2. Terrible Lie
3. Heresy
4. March Of The Pigs
5. Piggy
6. Metal
7. The Becoming
8. I'm Afraid Of Americans
9. Burn
10. Gave Up
11. La Mer
12. The Fragile
13. Gone, Still
14. The Way Out Is Through
15. Wish
16. Survivalism
17. Suck
18. The Day The World Went Away
19. The Hand That Feeds
20. Head Like A Hole
21. Hurt

Somwhat Damaged was the perfect opener. Great to see songs like Terrible Lie and Gave Up appear. Songs like Gone, Still were simply beautiful. The Becoming I think was the highlight of my night with the flawless mix of sonic aggression and piano beauty being astonishing.

Great to see everyone crowd around the drum kit during The Day The World Went Away. And ending the long journey on Hurt was perfect. Since we were whisked back down to the floor for the encore I was part of the crowd again for that overflow of emotion during Hurt, in what was a more emotional performance than usual by Trent, not a dry eye was left in the house.

Amazing show. Justin Meldal Johnson is surely the nicest guy in the world, Robin is awesomely cool and was more than willing to make conversation, Ilan is not only an amazing drummer (and at 21 I don't think he has anywhere near peaked) he is a really nice laid back guy, and Trent is well, Trent. He is everything you expect of him and more. Happy to be a part of your experience, a brilliant showman and all out great guy. (At one point he was standing towards the back of the stage and noticed a donor was taking a photo only to turn and say "Are you taking a photos of my ass" which earned a giggle.)

As for asking questions during the meet and greet... well, let's just say I was more focused on thanking the guys for the opportunity and telling them how I've enjoyed every moment of the music and how it has helped me in so many ways.

Anyway, here are two photos, one that came out well from the show, and of course, the meet and greet with obsured face :D

We were literally about 20 feet from the band on stage.

Also, JMJ's daughter was sat at the side of the stage, it was very cute to watch her with workman's headphones on singing a long to March of the Pigs. Also Trent's fiancee was sitting a few feet to my left.

Anyway. A perfect end to a perfect ride. If you are in the US, and those final dates are near you... why aren't you getting tickets yet??? Do it.

Public Enemies : Samwel_X's little review.

Well, a new blog for a new film. For once, I am reviewing something before everyone on my friends list has seen it, so hopefully this will affect your decision on whether or not you intend to see it.

Public Enemies, was a film that for me, confused me as to my opinion of it. I walked out thinking one thing, drove home thinking another, went to bed thinking another, woke up thinking another and so on. So bits of this may seem a tad confused. We'll see I suppose.

So, the plot, for those who don't know, revolves around the infamous bank robber John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) and the attempts at arresting him led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Along with this we have a romantic sub plot between Depp and Marion Cotillard (which I apologise for the ever changing spelling of in this review) who plays Billie Frechette.

I guess it has been a pretty tough decade for Michael Mann. Since he left the 20th century on such a high (see The Insider if you haven't already) he has pretty much failed in every aspect. Ali wasn't nearly as impressive as it intended to be, Collateral was ultimately unfufilling, and finally Mann sank into a Mojito ridden pit of desperation with Miami Vice ("I know a great place for Mojitos... Mexico"). Public Enemies is certainly an attempt for a return to form by Mann, who almost certainly recognised his past mistakes. An attempt to retain past glories of The Insider, Heat and Manhunter.

So first thing is first. The narrative of the film is the most important aspect. Mann, who also wrote the screenplay, doesn't bother making changes to the (already pretty famous) story. He doesn't event attempt to show Dillinger in a particularly new light. The main reason I can see for this, is because Dillinger's tale is already a ripping yarn. The story is spectacular in itself, and in order to be entertaining it doesn't need much switching around.

The screenplay is not without its problems though. While I felt Dillinger and Purvis were both fully fleshed out characters, the film lacked almost any interaction between the two respective "gangs". For example, there was little focus on Dillinger's gang as a close knit unit, however it was implied they were, at the same time it was hard to feel much sympathy for the members of Dillinger's gang simply because they are not fleshed out... at all... the same goes for Purvis' team. That was certainly my main gripe with the screenplay.

On the upside, the screenplay, in terms of both dialogue, story telling and, to a certain degree, visual $tyle emulates the Gangster pictures of the era the film is set. This is a very nice touch on behalf of Mann. As is displayed as subtly as a brick, so that the summer audiences can get the references, Dillinger loved to watch films that portrayed escapades partially based on his crimes, and in the same way the film emulates those films. So in a sense, the Dillinger in Public Enemies is the product of the cinema of the era. That glamorised criminal life$tyle of 1930s Hollywood. And so much of the film rests on this idea. It is a homage to so many of those films, although mixed with the modern day muddy waters of morality (see : are the cops as bad as the robbers cliche) which all works very nicely. So I commend Mann in that way.

The acting is more of a mixed bag. Depp's performance is the one I can't quite put my finger on. At first I just thought, yeah whatever, Johnny Depp is Johnny Depp, he is just doing what he does. But I then considered it, and thought maybe there was a little more he was giving to the Dillinger character than I first perceived. On the outside he is the c1assic affluent, confident, suave Dillinger, and that is all good and well, but at the same time, he gave brief flashes of vulnerability, and fear. The good example of this comes when it is made clear that Dillinger is only thinking for the day he lives in. Of course he is, because perhaps he fears the consequences of his actions, he believes he is smarter than the police, but he knows he isn't. This is where I started to think that maybe Depp's portrayal was infact very good. Maybe not Oscar worthy (although you never know what the year will hold), but with enough layers to be memorable. Bale was good as Purvis, although the character was more two dimensional than Dillinger. But at least this was his first performance in a while where I wasn't just thinking of Patrick Bateman. Marion Cotillard was excellent as Depp's love interest. The final scene is, I think, a real reflection of her character, but I don't want to spoil the film, so you'll understand if you see it. Although her character has little screentime, when she is on screen is basically steals the show, and even if her accent waivers once or twice during the running time, it is okay, because her character is part French. It almost seems as though it was intentional... in fact thinking about it, it probably was.

The supporting cast is very important, and while some of the characters are not nearly fleshed out enough to be worth it, the performance of Brit Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson is excellent as a James Cagney possessed by Satan type. Again, another character clearly attempting to emulate the film of the era, hence you could argue his character is too over the top, but I see it as an emulation, and so it is perfect in that respect. Even with his quite frankly rubbish Italian American accent, he steals the scenes he is in. Billy Crudup, is also excellent as always as J.Edgar Hoover.

The film has had some visual criticism, which I in part do and don't agree with. While Mann's love of Digital HD cameras is evident, and has been since Collateral, and even though he never has used them quite as well as David Lynch in Inland Empire, and most likely never will use then as well as David Lynch, he does a good job with them in Public Enemies. Yes, the film often looks a tad grainy, and the quality isn't as good as it should be given the equipment they are using, but I felt the grainy look, and the poor quality of picture again echoed the films of the 1930s, or at least was an attempt of doing so (that maybe didn't work as well as intended). The overall atmosphere of the film, for the most part was improved by this. For example a degree of confusion was given to the gun fights, particularly an excellent sequence at a log cabin, in which it is difficult to tell who is who, giving a sense of urgency to everything and also putting the viewer in the place of Purvis, who was having extreme difficulty deciding who was Dillinger and who wasn't. In this respect it is used very well. In other respects, this technique is used at the wrong time. There are moments when really, regular film would have done the job better. A mixture between the two would almost certainly have benefited the film.

Visually again, the film can't help but have comparisons drawn with Heat. The first 30 minutes or so basically are Heat in 1933, which I suppose is an attempt to get summer audiences into the film. While it is fine, I found these opening sequences ultimately dull. The opening prison breakout was such a bog standard fair I had hope for the film dashed, and perhaps this was why my inital decision of the films quality was lower than how I feel about it now. Mann was clearly using Heat as a template for the early scenes, and some a bit later on, and I felt a tad ripped off by this, paying to see a film I saw 14 years ago with different costumes. But the film gets over this hump. Sure it is never as good as Heat, but it at least finds its own visual home later on, which is this confusion laden digital $tyle

Overall, the film left me in confusion as to whether or not I liked it. While I was left bombarded with these clever little references, good acting, and a fairly exciting story (although most already know how it ends, bits of it still had me on the edge of my seat) the film is let down in some places by some less good acting, poor characterisation and maybe Mann trying a little hard to show us how much he knows about cinema.

Of course, what we are left with is a summer film. And it is one of the best for a while. So regularly summer is the time for sequels and remakes, and at least we are getting something with a little more thought behind it than that, and I commend that. I can over look the problems with it, because it is just that, a ripping yarn. It isn't art cinema, it perhaps isn;t the epic it is trying to be. But it works, technically, in terms of acting and appearance it is very self assured. It oozes with homage, but isn't quite as tacky and in your face (and plagiarised) as a film by QT.

No, it isn't Manhunter. No, it isn't Heat. No, it isn't The Insider. But why should we expect it to be these things. Public Enemies is its own film. It can stand up on its own. While none of the performances are career defining, and the film isn't career defining for Mann, and I highly doubt it has a chance at the Oscars. It is still a good film, and if you go and see one film of this type over summer, make sure you spend your money on this one. Because while it may not be the super intelligent epic it could have been, it is firstly entertaining, secondly interesting and thirdly, has a little more to it than your standard summer blockbuster.


The first review in a while : Terminator Salvation - Worst film of 2009?

This is probably only the second franchise reboot I've bothered to see, the other being the dire Die Hard 4.0 (as it was called here in Europe) and well, I can say I won't be bothering with any more if I don't see decent reviews first.

The Terminator is a brilliant piece of 80s Science fiction, original in every sense and fantastically constructed, the second, while borrowing a lot from the first is equally excellent. The third... not so much. So why did I decide to give the new film a chance? Well, I suppose I saw it as a clean slate for the franchise. A chance to start again with something that had lost its way a bit, without the pressure of emulating, or more, being as good as the first two. But of course, (excuse my phrasing here) you can't polish a turd, and if that is sitting on top of the slate, it is near impossible to clean it.

So here we go. The film revolves around John Conner who is fighting in the war against the machine post judgement day. And there is this other guy played by Sam Worthing called Marcus Wright whose last memory is of being on death row pops up, and basically him and John Conner have to go to Skynet in order to destroy its base of operations and make a push for mankind in the war against the machines.

Of course, plot is a loose term here. The screen writers pulled out their book of cliche's and predictability and just went nuts. Hell, the Skynet part of the plot doesn't come in until the last 20 minutes. Until that point we have shooty bits, and really, that's it. Which needless to say becomes mind numbingly boring after 10 minutes. I wasn't sure if twists were supposed to be in this straight forward plot, because really, from about 3 minutes in, you could pretty much say how the film would unfold. The Michael Bay dialogue of "GET DOWN!!!" "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!!!" "OH MY GOD!!!" is in full effect, and it doesn't endear the film well at all, not to mention the hilarity of lines such as "They want us to fight like robots... we are not robots".

So, first problem, back script. Second problem. Acting. Christian Bale fans avert your ears. For the man has learned to take the money and run, will he become the John Voight of the iPod generation, it is possible if he keeps this up. Firstly he is hardly even in the films. Despite what the ad campaigns want you to believe Sam Worthing has all the screen time. Bale is in the first 10 minutes, 15 minutes in the middle, and the last 10 minutes. And every time he crops up, he genius gives the this two dimensional incarnation of John Conner two tones of voice. He has the gravelly murmur, and the shouty "I'M JOHN CONNER" voice. Sam Worthing's acting is as monotonous as his character. He has just the one tone, and that is the gravelly murmur, although not nearly as well carried out as Bale. The casting for Kyle Reese earned a chuckle. Instead of going for someone who could deliver their lines well, and actually had acting capability they went for some kid who has no talent, but looks vaguely like a young Michael Biehn. Nice. All other actors and characters were completely forgetable and under developed... which means they popped up for one scene, in that scene it was made out that they were of great relevance, but then they never popped up again.

The real irony came with the line mentioned earlier : "They want us to fight like robots... we are not robots" - well you are all acting like them.

Next problem, direction. Looking at McG's long list of c1assics including "Charlie's Angels" and "Charlie's Angels Full Throttle" it is hard to see where he went wrong with this... oh wait, no it isn't. Coming straight out of Michael Bay school, we have a man directing action that closely resembles porn. I know it seems like I've hit out on Michael Bay a lot here, but the new Terminator has clearly been influenced by Transformers, which is we all recall... I thought it was terrible. So basically we have the same "wow look at this, oh oh oh oh, explosion" way of making films. Awful is the only word to describe it. Also, let's make it clear that it is edited in the same way as Transformers so that you don't have time to even admire the special effects... which are might I add entirely CGI.

Which brings me onto the next problem, the same thing I moan about all the time and you must be sick of it by now, CGI. They have decided to build entire scenes out of bad CGI, which just ruins whole scenes. The CGI 20 year old Arnie is worse than probably anything in the film. CGI is everywhere and marrs almost every scene, and every set piece. There is no regard for the c1assic anamatronic T-800s, or even the tasteful CGI of T2. Just crap overused CGI.

If you recall the Christian Bale rant at the lighting fellow... well the lighting is the only decent thing in the film, that must have been a "What have I done, I'm in an absolutely shocking film" moment of realisation for Christian Bale rather than something of actual anger at the lighting guy.

Lastly, score... what happened, the one thing they could reuse, the original Terminator theme is iconic... it is great... so why on earth did they not reuse it. One thing that could be good. And it isn't there.

Overall, I'd say Terminator is franchise that should have stayed dead. Franchise is the word that sums it up. Franchise is now synonymous with cash it. And that is all the film is. It is poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed, poorly scored, poorly constructed, and just incredibly dull.

If I see a worse film this summer... I'll be very very sad.


Not as bad as Transformers, but very close.