it was a pleasure to burn…

Fahrenheit 451Another of the old favorites of mine, from that great genre of political sci-fi classics. Fahrenheit 451 (from a great book by Ray Bradbury) is the story of Montag, a fireman. But in this place, where all houses are fireproof, a fireman’s job is starting fires. Fires of books specifically. Books are illegal here (In fact, writing seems quite rare and even the opening credits are all spoken, with no writing to be seen) and as one might expect the land is filled with malcontents who have concealed stashes of them in their homes. The fireman’s job is to find these books and burn them.

In this land, which comes across as being not so much in the future as in an alternate present, books are pursued with the determination of chasing commies during the cold war (or maybe more like Nazis’ weeding out subversive matter, even Mein Kampf has an appearence). The film, which I am always surprised to see is by Truffaut, is pretty blunt in its message and it can come across as a bit too obvious in its critical eye towards television, society and, of course, book censorship.

Fahrenheit 451



Our hero is one of the driest characters that you are bound to ever see in a movie. Montag is a man of few words or emotions. He comes across as thoughtlessly content as he goes to work everyday and then he comes home to a wife who seems to be immersed a strange land of television. Though he does seem to enjoy his successful career raiding peoples homes and burning their books… That is, until one day when he is approached by a neighbor on his way home. A young lady may have an ulterior movie to talking to him, something more than being neighborly. In fact, she might be one of those that thinks that books maybe aren’t such a bad idea afterall. As she befriends him and talks to him more and more, he begins to become curious about the dangerous land of books. A dangerous territory for one in his position.

Fahrenheit 451



As happens with things like this, this new influence threatens everything that he has. Even his boss at the station, when he begins to suspect the direction that Montag is heading, tries to save him rather than see him fall! I also did find it interesting to notice the books that we seen being burnt: Genet, Proust, Lolita, too many old Penguin paperbacks… (more about the books here).

Fahrenheit 451



All in all, even though it is slow and very dry, I always find this movie to be engrossing and completely watchable. The ending is also a bit hokey, but it gets its point across.



the days of yore

Of course, weeks ago we finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy by watching The Two Towers and The Return of the King. About these, I don’t feel the need to go into much depth. Though the first movie feels more complete, more movie-like, than the two following it, I rather prefer the later ones as they have a more epic scope and are more orientated towards battle… Something that I tend to prefer with Fantasy-type material. Also, of course, it is somewhat due to less of a focus on the hobbity trail to the mountain. Which is a good thing in more way than just one, as Frodo gets more and more irritating as the story progresses. Aside from that though… The Two Towers is pretty entertaining. Though it lacks the three things that make the first movie bearable (the shire, Moria and the first scenes of the Nazgûl) I found the Ents to be workably sympathetic and most especially I do like the Rowan story-line. In fact, I like the Rowan folks in general and, though moving into Helm’s Deep seemed to be a questionable maneuver, the Battle of Helm’s Deep is certainly about the high-light of the entire series.

And finally, The Return of the King. Well, this featured more kings than just one. Not only is it the story of the sappy ol’ King of Gondor, who has nothing going for him aside for the amazing fortress of Minas Tirith, this also features one of Sauron’s great commanders, the baddest Nazgûl of them all, the Witch King! I have always been fond of the Witch King as he was the topic of one of my favorite rpg modules from the days of yore: Angmar, Land of the Witch King (from I.C.E… Easily the best rpg’s ever made).

Angmar, Land of the Witch King



While the stuff surrounding the Witch King in this movie isn’t that inspiring, the man himself is pretty neat and one of the high-lights of the series. I could have used more of him than just what we get to see in the battle at Minas Tirith. Though that is a good battle otherwise, maybe not as good as the battle at Helm’s Deep, but fun nonetheless. In terms of the other storyline, though we do have to put up with more sappiness and whimperings courtesy of Frodo and Samwise (how Samwise puts up with that schmuck, I do not understand), our obnoxious traveling hobbity’s do get to have some dirty fun with a big spider, some orcs and visit Cirith Ungol (not the band). Of course, like the crew of the Enterprise, they persevere against great odds to prevail. One thing that re-watching these has done is make me feel inclined towards the books again. And regardless of what flaws I find in the movies, I have no issues with those glorious old books… I still recall the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books to be quite good, though I haven’t made a complete reading of them in probably 20 years. This week I picked up a copy of The Silmarillion, so we’ll see how that goes. As the wife said… Anything to get me a break from Lovecraft.

We also watched Star Trek: The Voyage Home. One of my favorites in the old days and, though it seems a bit much corny now, I still have fond feelings for it, especially as it is filled with many of my favorite quotes: “No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space”, “Hello computer” and “Rich beyond the dreams of avarice”. This silly sci-fi comedy was directed by Leonard Nimoy and is the is the story of our crew taking their Klingon Bird of Prey on a time-travel adventure to 1980’s San Francisico in pursuit of some Humpbacked whales. See, on their way home after the end of The Search For Spock, when they get Earth-side they realize that some huge object is causing great trauma to the Earth while sending it strange signals. Of course, the signals are the songs of Humpbacked whales and when they realize this they (rather easily) devise a method of travelling back in time to before the whales died off (cue many environmental themes here…) to bring some home so that they could talk to the object and save the Earth. Fhew! So we are greeted with many humorous moments as these fancy future spacemen attempt to find their way around San Francisco. It’s all in good fun though, and filled with lot’s of silly commentary on 1980’s society and the way that the environment is treated.



2 bucks is 2 bucks

The PlayerAh yes, The Player. One of those brilliant classics from Tim Robbin’s golden years of the early 90’s (the others being, of course, Jacob’s Ladder, Bob Roberts and The Hudsucker Proxy) that I really can’t tire of watching. And also one of the the best movies to watch about movies. Tim Robbins is Griffin Mill, the titular Player… An arrogant Hollywood producer who is completely wound up in his power and ego, and holds great pride in that. But once he starts receiving anonymous death threats (in the mail, via fax…) from someone who claims to be a spurned writer, we start to see just how short his hold on both his power and ego really are. The persistence and mystery behind these messages starts chipping away at his unshakable and shark like image, at the worst time for him as there is a newcomer on the studio scene who he fears is threatening to take his career. As he starts trying to discover who is threatening his life, he is falling apart mired in nerves and fear which only get worse once the police (in the form of Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett, both of whom are pretty great here) begin investigating him for a rather serious crime… As he fears for his life, sanity and career, the studio (as well portrayed by Fred Ward and Brion James) begins to fear for its reputation. Mill has little capacity for having so little control and he starts to make a lot of bad decisions, including falling for someone who is a very awkward someone to fall for…

The movie is good all around: A great cast, a great script and an entertaining an engaging story on its own. But all of this is really just a coating under which to make a scathing satire on the ludicrous state of the American movie industry. The film executives are portrayed as either shallow morons who can only understand films in terms comparing them to films that they’ve already seen:

It’s like The Gods Must Be Crazy except the coke bottle is an actress.

Right. It’s Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman.

or

So it’s a psychic, political, thriller comedy with a heart.

With a heart, not unlike Ghost meets Manchurian Candidate.

Or else as just plain greedy and irresponsible…

The story has lots of twists and few “good guys” (except for Mill’s girlfriend… A very decent character who gets the crappy end of all the sticks), but it is all brought together in a warped version of the “Hollywood ending”. A great movie to pair with Robbin’s following picture, Bob Roberts, for a clever and fun night of social satire.

Riding The BulletIt’s not like we don’t already have enough DVD’s of Stephen King related movies (currently about 12, I believe), but the wife brought home a $2 DVD of one that we hadn’t heard of (I hadn’t even heard of the story), Riding the Bullet. Of course King movies tend to be a mixed bag, and this was no exception. Feeling at times like a good indie film, and at other times like a corny TV movie, it as actually more entertaining than most of them. This was the first film that I’ve seen by Mick Garris, which scared me a little as his career seems to be all about B-movie/TV horror, and it maybe exceeded my expectations of him a little.

The story of a college student who, after a failed lovelorn suicide attempt, sets off on a 100-mile hitchhiking trip to visit his mother who has suffered a stroke (Barbara Hershey, who looks more like she is suffering from failed attempts to not look 60 years old). Of course, in this day and age, hitchhiking is an awkward proposition but even more so in King’s world. Encountering dark rural roads, hostile rural folk, creepy old men who talk too much, himself (as his conscience) and too many, too odd encounters with a tough in an old muscle car (David Arquette). Throughout this journey, he spends a lot of time reliving his past (especially moments with his mother) and having strange visions that lead one to think that maybe things are not as they seem. Well, maybe not as you are supposed to think that they seem. The movie is pretty predictable and the twist doesn’t come as much of a surprise. But it is certainly watchable enough… Just don’t take the blurbs on the case too seriously: “Scary, Haunting and Surprisingly Emotional” (Tobe Hooper?).



 

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