The Hidden Fortress


Viewed – 17 July 2020. Blu-ray

(Akira Kurosawa season: part one)

I’d heard many good things about legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa over the years, how he had influenced so many directors, his style having defined much of cinema as we know it, from the John Ford Westerns to Sci-Fi sagas like Star Wars. So I thought it high time I sat down to one of his movies, having recently picked up a box set of some of his most famed titles.

This movie from 1958 starts out with a duo of squabbling farmers who stumble upon the plight of a missing Princess and an invading army hellbent on killing her and claiming the kingdom for themselves. Initially hoping to turn their fortunes around by finding the Princess and claiming the bounty, the farmers soon find themselves befriending her and her bodyguard – a former General.

This was easy to get into, as I had had some trepidation concerning if I’d like this sort of movie. However the bumbling, squabbling farmers are good fun and the General, played by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune is a likeable yet imposing presence that I was quickly routing for. The actress playing the Princess was also appealing even if her dialogue is limited for the most part. Kurosawa’s direction is decent with a few stand-out sequences including a tense one on one fight, a large scale escape from a fortress involving a ton of extras, and an eye-catching ‘fire festival’ sequence. George Lucas has named this as an influence on Star Wars, yet apart from his similarity between the farmers and R2D2 and C3PO, that’s where I felt comparisons ended.

It’s a tad long at 138 minutes, and isn’t as eventful as it could have been, with much of the running time taken up by the (admittedly enjoyable) banter between the four main characters. It’s also unclear who the invading army are (the mongols?) and what the setting is. Yet for my first foray into the movies of Akira Kurosawa, I still got a lot out of this, enough to make me thirsty for more.

The Blu-Ray from the BFI box set I picked up has a very pleasing, clear B&W image that’s quite eye-catching at times. Subtitles are also well done and easy to follow. Sound is effective, with clear dialogue and a pounding score despite being in standard stereo. Extras are a let down though, with only an interview with George Lucas and a trailer. There’s also strangely no scene selection.

Verdict::

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Good

A-Z Challenge – update 3


Well, this is becoming quite the challenge for me personally. I’ve now reached letter S having ploughed through 7 more movies. Revisiting La La Land for L was surprising in how much I enjoyed it and appreciated the story second time around, and would now rate it higher than my existing review. For M, Mission Impossible Fallout was an easy pick as I’d brought it on Blu-ray awhile back and not got around to watching it. Yes just as good if not better on second viewing.

La La Land

Reaching N … I chose another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North By Northwest … an exciting man-in-the-wrong-place mystery thriller with Cary Grant that was a lot of fun. O was one my most disappointing movie of last year, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and although I enjoyed it a little bit more, it overall didn’t work for me and I stand by my initial review.

I recently reviewed Parasite, my letter P and was overall impressed with it, despite a somewhat far-fetched ending. Q was the mostly reviled Bond outing Quantum of Solace, a movie I still think is ok but the story is weak and unengaging even though Daniel Craig is still good and some of the action is great. Then we came to R and I chose the Spanish found-footage horror [REC] a movie I really like even if subsequent viewings do dilute the experience for me.

Now will I get the remaining 8 movies watched by June 30th? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Controlling the narrative


Since when on earth do we as game players, movie / TV watchers or music listeners get to dictate how our favourite form of entertainment turns out? Yes, we put faith in developers, writers, musicians and directors to tell a story, write a piece of music, develop a game to our satisfaction, but not for one second do we have a right to dictate how it turns out. Yes this is something I feel strongly about so thought I’d put my thoughts down in a post.

The recent Star Wars movies for example have not been to everyone’s taste (and neither do they have to be) but there has been an uprising in recent times of a certain, very vocal group of people who seem to want to alter how things turn out to their liking, and go about review-bombing, shouting their disdain on social media and in YouTube videos, as if they really believe their anger and (somewhat entitled) attitude will change how something is. Boo hoo they say, they ruined Star Wars for me! Wake up, they were not making it just for YOU. Real art is largely about the creator / designer / artist and if people like it that’s great but it’s not the point of a creative work. A creative work is to be creative!

Oh we didn’t like our favourite band’s new album? That was ‘their’ vision, not yours. You didn’t like it – move on, there are plenty of other albums out there you might like. In games, The Last of Us 2 is a prime example. It takes risks and introduces (dare I say it) bold twists and revelations to tell it’s story. It’s not just a carbon copy of its predecessor like many games before it. It’s borrowing narrative story telling from TV and movies to push the medium in a direction we don’t normally see. Yet some fans are butt-hurt because it’s not the game they expected – er, did it have to be? Were the game designers primarily focused on pleasing their fans, or did they actually want to be imaginative and creative? That’s how story telling is meant to work. We as fans don’t get to write the story. We are the audience and if we don’t like it we don’t have to play it. Jeez, write a review, post a comment but don’t believe that you can make something you don’t like change – isn’t that a little egotistical?? To such people I say: Quit your wining because Santa didn’t bring the exact present you wanted. It’s not all about you.

So yes, we don’t get to control the narrative of popular entertainment, The most tiresome entertainment is often that which panders to what is popular or expected. Thrilling entertainment surprises and takes risks. If it’s art we are here to experience it, love it or hate it but the point is we are reacting and that’s all that’s necessary. A creator should not compromise their own creation based on a reaction if it’s something they themselves are proud of. We don’t dictate it to our own agenda, that’s what personal taste is all about, we can choose to watch a different movie, we can play a different game. So enough with the hate. Quit the review-bombing in hopes of changing a meta-critic score. You’re not here to dictate, rather you’re here to respond and have your opinion but remember… it’s your opinion and like the entertainment itself … nobody has to agree.

Birds of Prey


Viewed – 18 February 2019

… and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Some of my favourite movies are pleasant surprises. I went into this with not very high expectations and you know what? I really enjoyed it. It’s a simple movie at heart; a diamond falls into the wrong hands, a pick pocket kid steals it causing bad guys to go hunting for her, whilst at the same time anti-hero Harley Quinn fresh off a break up with former boyfriend The Joker finds herself the target of cops and crooks.

The alternative Avengers?

Yeah I wasn’t here for the story either, but when you consider Margot Robbie’s Quinn was the only redeeming aspect of the mostly forgettable Suicide Squad, another crack of the whip with this off-kilter character I was certainly up for. She doesn’t disappoint, narrating and carrying the movie in a whirlwind showcase of the actress’s screen magnetism and comic timing. Add to this decent support from Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an avenging assassin and especially Ewan McGregor having a ball as villain Black Mask, and with several stand out fights and action scenes … I was thoroughly entertained. For a mostly female lead vehicle it didn’t shove some feminist agenda down one’s throat either.

It’s plot and structure are a little messy, but the movie wisely plays with this as a representation of how Harley Quinn thinks. Rosie Perez seems a bit out of place though, and characterisation other than the lead is fairly basic. Yet with enjoyable dialogue, a goofy sense of humour and a memorable villain, this was far from the disaster some critics (and that disappointing box office) would have you believe.

Verdict: Recommended

Bottom Ten Movies of 2019


It wasn’t all home runs for the movies I watched in 2019. Not all here are ‘bad’ movies they just either underwhelmed or disappointed me compared to other movies in 2019. Listed in order of disdain

10.

Aquaman

 

9.

Men in Black: International

 

8.

The Highwaymen

 

7.

Cold Pursuit

 

6.

3 From Hell

 

5.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

4.

Blackkklansman

 

3.

Climax

 

2.

The Equalizer 2

 

1.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood