Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Man of Steel Film Review

It’s hard to describe what I thought of Man of Steel. I genuinely enjoyed some moments in the film and how they were arranged. Though, ultimately the troubling and more derivative diatribe takes precedence in place of any sophisticated character development, or any meaningful legacy imparted on the viewer. I liked the flashbacks and how they were used towards the beginning of the film, but they went a little too far with them about half way through which left awkward moments in the pacing. The villains with the exception of Zod were perhaps the stupidest I’ve ever seen in a film. The Avengers with the crappy one-dimensional Chitauri creatures had more worthy and effective villains. 

The last half of the movie is filled with enough explosions to make Michael Bay piss his pants. I just wanted to stop watching the film it was that terrible. From small hysterical chuckles at how inane the action was, the destruction of all Human life in Metropolis and Smallville became unbearably solemn and I thought to myself “Here’s Clark Kent, an alien whom had just discovered his ancestry and literally just put the suit on, now has no other development as a character other than create a carnage of absolute mayhem and destruction in some fight scene which is indescribable by any means. Why do I care for anyone in this film?” Actually, I felt great sympathy for Zod and his plans is more what I was thinking. 

The special effects by Weta Digital were great, but all for naught when they failed to grasp any meaning whatsoever and turned my mind to mush about how childishly they were used. The scene with the world engine with the phantom drive pulsating through the earth and affecting the gravity causing everyone In the vicinity of the singularity to be repeatedly lifted then smashed into the ground reminds me of what my brothers and I used to do with our toys when we younger – slam them on the ground!

At times I felt the need for Clark to keep his identity secret was unnecessary given the circumstances. Jonathan Kent lectures Clark about his choice to use his powers to save people on the bus as one of the parents became aware and concerned with. I didn’t think it was necessary in the sense that no one would have believed either party in the situation – from Clark’s side he is just a kid whom no one would believe could have saved a bus full of other children and from the other side a blatant religious nut who thinks it was some divine intervention. That parts up to you I’m afraid, and I’ll let you decide as to its necessity in the film.

Snyder and Nolan wanted a more gritty, more real Superman which doesn’t work and didn’t entirely work in this film. A character like Batman, a vigilante, not a superhero is more believable and more reasonable therefore the grittiness and essence of the Nolan films are befitting of the character and tone. But here you have a super powered omnipotent being who is outwardly patriotic in the character’s history and it is being forced and squashed to be something it isn’t. Superman is a jolly character who is there to save people not just Lois Lane. He smashes ENTIRE cities in this film and he’s congratulated for saving the earth? By the time we make it to the end of the film, Clark is introduced to the Daily Planet team and wearing disguise, glasses and all, and we are meant to feel as if some great adventure awaits us in the next film or that we should care anymore for the characters than the few minutes of screen time they get. With the older films, I enjoyed the fact that Lois didn’t know who Superman’s real identity was and this gave a reason for Clark to be situated working there for the benefit of the story arc to be fulfilled!

The portrayal of the military in the film is insulting to say the least, making them have no useful part to play in this movie other than to cause more visual mayhem to bombard the screen. The level of inaccuracy as far as I can tell to the response effort of the armed forces and purely stupid actions they undertake is disgraceful and without taste. You can have the military in films, but when you involve them, you make sure that they are handled appropriately and effectively -

 Not the mess in the film.

This film left me conflicted and hoping that if this trilogy evolves and continues on in the future that the stupidity and coldness evoked by the first film is discarded and we can truly have a Superman film, not the Dark Knight Trilogy repackaged.

Oh and Hans Zimmer’s score was blatant, in your face, and so repetitive that it became everything a film score shouldn’t be. The score should carry the emotional connection between the visual and the audience and underline it, not highlight it in the sickliest of fluorescent pink marker. The theme had its moments and it matured, but this was only in the first half-hour or so making it become overstated . It won’t be remembered like John Williams’ iconic theme will be, thank goodness.
I would recommend this film if you enjoyed Transformers: Dark of the Moon or films on that level of maturity as this film is devoid of any whatsoever.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Atheism: Caught in the Crossfire

I think it was an overcast day in late December of last year when I had really begun to question my Religiosity (which to be fairly honest, I never was Religious or really believed there is, was or is going to be another God). When I had finally let reason take the reins, the time when I had no longer needed to be suppressed by Religions “proposed reality”, I found myself able to feel more sensibly in tune with the Universe, not in a spiritualistic way mind you, but one where I could see things for true value, purpose and gain .

 What does he mean by “proposed reality” you may be asking… well in my often egocentric mind, I envision myself as a humble philosopher or indeed someone of a pseudo-scientific way of thinking – I know many things about and relating to science and enjoy learning new things to fascinate my mind, but I am no physicist, engineer or chemist. Anyway, back to what proposed reality is and why Religion is the best example of this:
 Religion claims certainty to a high degree, or at least its adherents in expensive garments and own mansions like to claim. It proposes (actually it doesn’t propose, it states it is already what is known to be true and correct without needing proposal or acceptance through evidence) that this life is sacred, but some vessel until you are whole again in some afterlife, and apparently God can control and dictate whatever he and his adherents claim he wants to whomever he and his adherents think should apply.

 The reason why I call it a proposed reality is because of the simple fact that it has completely no idea of how it can be true or right and that it has been benefitting off of the work of Science, and then saying science is the work of some devil because it disproves God and God’s work! It can’t fit or interlock with other ideologies or explanations, like science, and seldom claims to support some things science has to offer. A proposed reality is like an idea or thought process in which on a level of “experience” something is believed to be true and real and not some facsimile. This often means disregarding proposed realities which need not be proposed, only supported with evidence (like the world we live in now). To imagine what I mean or picture what my thoughts represent – it would be like putting some magical x-ray glasses on and perceiving the world as if it was created by some God. The only way this mindset can be achieved can be a result of the following:
1)      Indoctrination at an early age. Children are extremely susceptible to influence and indoctrination from beliefs of their parents and relatives and they discover rather quickly their mortality and are scared of it.

2)      Fear of Mortality and Death. The constant reminder of how our life is so fragile and quaint is something which we all think about. Although this might be a contributing factor to those who choose a religion or faith, it is also a factor which those of non-belief choose to hold as a reason to be active and live life to its maximum potential.

3)      The need for guidance if not already aware, or the lack of a father-figure or guardian from a young age. Many of our moral lessons come from human experience and are passed on from parent to child through small lessons. I have observed that those who adhere to religious beliefs often do so under some hope they will be helped or guided, even protected for believing in some God. Sigmund Freud relates to God as being “dad” – the father which watches over everyone…

4)      Poor Childhood development, poverty. I guess this could come under the last point, though I believe it should be mentioned properly here. When we are alone, we often have only a few friends to count on, family members and even family pets. We are both capable of projecting our emotions – love, sadness and hate upon others and receiving it. From a certain reclusive stance, the idea of God, the idea of an afterlife and seeing your dead friends and relatives is something which comforts and reasserts people of their lives. The projection, or the idea of love is something woven through religion from humans, but can be seen by the weak, the uneducated, as a beacon of light and warmth and knowledge. When religious people have nothing or near to nothing they will pray to their God for shelter, food and love which is why it is often, to the sceptic and the materialist, considered dangerous or laziness…

Some questions to the religious:

1)      Where does God reside, where is the location of heaven and how could you know where it is apart from a Holy text?

2)      How does one communicate with God? I would have thought God would have kept up with the development of humans and their technologies – they had holy texts, but why not have holy text messages? More and more we are coming to the conclusion or idea that it is something like the Force from George Lucas’s Star Wars: Yoda: “It surrounds us, binds us, it penetrates us…” If God wanted followers or worshipers, why be so mysterious and impossible to contact.

3)      If God makes contact, how do we know it is really God and not someone just speaking gibberish? Evidenced throughout history, Emperor’s, Popes, Kings and Queens seemingly have heard from God and have been told the following:
God: “You can control all of the people; you can also kill anyone you want, even babies. You can tell your subjects from me that they are to give you all their riches and sacrifices to you…”
Nowadays, this won’t work it seems, rational thinking has won out, and we do away with stupid sacrifices and gold thrones (crap, I forgot about the Pope, Herr Ratzinger…damn. Well we have fewer thrones!)


Now after my renouncement and denouncement of these foolish religions, I have been caught in the crossfire; I now feel alienated and despised by my religious acquaintances and this sometimes angers me, not just because they feel they are somehow morally superior because it says so in their Bibles and Quran’s, but because they become nasty and subjective and avoid my normal conversations on social media like Facebook.

I have a feeling only the future can tell what will become of Religion, for now I will settle for joining and discussing groups who fight against faiths and religions…

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Incredibles Cast and Crew OST

Scoured the net for this gem of a soundtrack which is from the Disney/Pixar film The Incredibles. The music is composed by Michael Giacchino, who I regard as the next John Williams. This CD was given to the cast and crew who worked on the film and features almost all of the music as heard in the film. The official release of the soundtrack only had a skimmed-down selection of cues. This is my "Holy Grail" of film scores so far, next would be a release of the entirety of music composed for the prequel Star Wars day, maybe. 

I am reluctant to upload the entire soundtrack openly, so as a small gift from me, I have here the third track on the album called 'Rush Hour'. This track, I think, contains 2 or 3 cues which I have titled:

1. Rush Hour
2. Suicide Rescue? and Bomb Voyage
3. Buddy's Jet Antics

These are not the real cue titles, and to be honest I don't think they are split into separate cues...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises – Thoughts on the Soundtrack

The Dark Knight Rises – Thoughts on the Soundtrack

The music of Hans Zimmer has become indelibly recognized by both casual movie-goers, and those who take joy in listening to music written for film. Though, of late, the phrase “As written for film” has become lessened and abused – and Composers of the Digital Age are no stranger to subjecting such abuse to film music.

Hans Zimmer’s style of music hasn’t shifted incredibly so from his last major outing with Christopher Nolan for the film Inception (2010). It would be dishonest of me to say I found the music for Inception terrible or unpleasant to listen to, so what I will say that in a Narrative perspective of film music, Inception didn’t follow to suit. It accompanied and complimented the dynamic ideas presented in the film, though without developing any of the themes.

Here in The Dark Knight Rises, Zimmer exercises his usual techniques and wares, though with some added flare on the sides. The banging and clanging which you may have heard in On Stranger Tides covers many aspects of this album – predominately for the character of Bane and to emphasise the action scenes. I would say that his approach to composing is sloppy once you consider the world of film scoring – where the music is made for the visuals. Unlike traditional film composing where the composer is required to add and accentuate the ebbs and flows of the narrative, Zimmer will compose something which he thinks sounds good and then, along with Nolan, they fit it to the film. So where you may have deep thought and suggestion of other motives in a typical track in, let’s say, John Williams’ Empire Strikes Back – where we have the tension and growing love between Han and Leia strained through the music, you will instead here something which just sounds pleasing without the thought put into it. With Zimmer there’s more style over substance, not a balance or indeed a reverse of substance over style. Casual movie goers will find this music pleasing, and probably more so than thought provoking music from Williams. (I love John Williams’ compositions. For more on this point see my post Passive Reaction to Film Scores and The Hidden Gem of Film Music
The added flare I had mentioned a while ago represents the experimental composition explored by Zimmer for TDKR. You’ll hear this in Mind If I Cut In where we are introduced to Catwoman’s theme. This is a fairly charming theme which was rather unexpected of Zimmer. (Mermaids in On Stranger Tides is another charming piece, I might also add) Here we have a reasonably competent theme which progresses in a steady fashion with some fluttering strings – strings which are also used by Zimmer to describe the interactions and bond of both Catwoman and Batman. I thought this was a nice decision on Zimmer’s part and is the first step towards a developmental score where we are witness to the themes developing along with the characters.

 The only other track which may be of some revelation to Zimmer detractors at how interesting it could be – is in On Thin Ice, here we have a sentimental, ethereal version of the main theme (those two notes usually blast and resonate in the brass section (not too dissimilar to his Inception theme). On Thin Ice represents a depressed side to Batman and Bruce Wayne’s theme, which diminishes into a third note – possibly inferring that there is more to the ideology of who Batman, and who Bruce is and wants to become.
I was lucky to be part of the score as Hans Zimmer had let the public record their voices for some choral chanting using a program called UJAM. The Dehshay Basarah chant is unusually addictive and means ‘He Rises’. The chanting is sparingly applied though throughout the soundtrack and becomes a tad bit messy when it transforms and mutates into Banes theme – which isn’t incredibly strong as a theme for a villain. But I guess it fits his character to some degree.
The other tracks are really rehashes of music from the previous films but has been pumped up for this final instalment. Overall, it is enjoyable as a soundtrack for casual listening – like something you’d listen to in the car; any thought provoking material is stripped away.

Film/Visual Cohesiveness: 8/10
Rhys’s Rating: 7/10

Track Listing
o    1. A Storm Is Coming (0:37)
o    2. On Thin Ice (2:55)*
o    3. Gotham's Reckoning (4:08)*
o    4. Mind If I Cut In? (3:27)*
o    5. Underground Army (3:12)
o    6. Born In Darkness (1:57)
o    7. The Fire Rises (5:33)
o    8. Nothing Out There (2:51)
o    9. Despair (3:14)
o    10. Fear Will Find You (3:08)*
o    11. Why Do We Fall? (2:03)
o    12. Death By Exile (0:23)
o    13. Imagine The Fire (7:25)
o    14. Necessary Evil (3:16)
o    15. Rise (7:11)

*=Tracks of Interest

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Some Secrets

My youngest brother, Tyler, was watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the 4,560th time and it got me thinking on a few points. I haven’t read the book for at least six years now and have since forgotten many things which transpired in the books compared to its film counterpart. Anyhow, here are some things I never really questioned all these years later since its release in 2002!

When Harry and Hermione enter Flourish and Blotts bookshop, after Harry’s escapades in Knockturn Alley, Mrs Weasley dotes “Goodness, we hoped you’d only gone one grate too far” it got me wondering: were they ever going to look for Harry, did they realize or think he might have been in China or somewhere dark and creepy? Did they think shopping was more important? Nevermind Harry’s disappearance, everyone quickly forgets (almost as if shrugging it off).
This little quibble that not one of the Weasley’s was at the very least searching for Harry is distracting, but nevertheless I shall move on to my next point and question:

- Later in the movie, and the plot we are now inside the Chamber of Secrets – a location which was previously unknown by everyone including Dumbledore. Harry says Dumbledore will never be gone from the school as long as there are those who remain loyal to him. Suddenly Fawkes the phoenix flies in from some unseen part of the chamber with the Sorting Hat.
If the location of the Chamber was unknown to EVERYONE (including Dumbledore who had sent Fawkes in the first place) how did Fawkes know where to find Harry?; Did Fawkes have to open the Chamber somehow? Can Fawkes talk Parseltongue? Unlikely; Did he just appear in the Chamber? Oh, but later we see them flying out of the chamber through a massive opening in the mountains on which the school is perched… When Mcgonagal says they conducted many searches throughout the years, did they just look in a few classrooms and go: Nope, not here!
Maybe Dumbledore wanted Harry to go through the hardship and life threatening battles with Voldemort and a giant Basilisk? Is Dumbledore a troll or Scumbag Steve?

I guess that’s all I’ve found contradictory so far with the film. Can anyone answer these?