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Veterans should be a thing of the past.

Movie Review: V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta most likely won’t set the box office world on fire, but it might make it OK to cheer for terrorists again.

September 11th made terrorism the exclusive domain of Islamist murderers, the sinister “other” that the American government had been searching for since the fall of the Soviet Union. After the Berlin Wall fell, the US was a ship adrift. As a nation we had become so used to defining ourselves as the opposition to the Soviets that when they collapsed, a part of our identity went with it. September 11th was a new touchstone, a chance to reframe the world into the binary black-and-white existence that we are most comfortable with.

Since terrorism was the domain of our new arch-nemeses, terrorists whom Americans had embraced in the past started to lose cachet. The IRA was forced out of business. Greenpeace got decidedly more pleasant to be around, although they still eschewed deodorant for the most part.

But four years have passed since September 11th, and Hollywood has decided that a film with a hero employing terrorism as his modus operandi is a reasonable risk. And I think I agree. The important hedge here is that the terrorism in the film is terrorism only in a very limited sense; terror attacks like September 11th, the London tube bombings, the murder of abortion clinic doctors, and the firebombing of Tokyo in World War II are aimed at and designed to create fear in the minds of civilians. The terrorism in V for Vendetta is designed to inspire civilians and to make the government afraid, an altogether different proposition.
All of that aside, V for Vendetta is a pretty good movie. It is far from superb, and I’m somewhat disappointed by that. It’s a long film that never becomes so gripping that you forget the running time. The main characters are compelling and well fleshed out, but the plot moves along so leisurely that the dramatic climax is neither dramatic nor a climax.
The setting of the film is a dystopian future Britain, ruled by a theocratic ruler (John Hurt) who videoconferences with his subordinates from a secure location. Islam, homosexuality and any art deemed “subversive” are forbidden. Curfews are in effect, all communications (and even private home conversations) are surveilled and the state controls the media. From this rises the verbose and not-altogether-sane V, a hero in a Guy Fawkes mask (played by Hugo Weaving, Mr. Smith of the Matrix films) who gleefully blows up government buildings and assassinates bureaucrats. Evey is a gopher at the television network (played capably enough by Natalie Portman) who becomes inextricably involved in V’s plots. Finch (Stephen Rea) is the melancholy chief police inspector whose flagging faith in the government complicates his task of uncovering V’s identity.

The script features some very enjoyable dialogue, although it does show its combined comic book and Wachowski brothers pedigree and sometimes goes over the top a bit. There are a couple of cringe-inducing appearances of cliched verbal sawhorses (“Why won’t you die?”), but there’s clever exchanges between V and Evey that make those worthwhile. Along with the aforementioned pacing issues, the film also suffers from a lack of focus. Much of the film’s time is devoted to Finch’s hunt for V, but the filmmakers spend much of that reiterating the same business and not giving the audience enough credit for intelligence. The time could have been better spent on emphasizing the moral ambiguity of the hero. V’s actions throughout the course of the movie are ethically dubious at best, but the relevant characters don’t really dwell on that. V also does quite a bit of vague moralizing about how bad the fascists are and how good freedom is, but the oppressive government is painted as so blantantly evil that this is all truism.

The single most salient quality of the film is that it is (intentionally or not) positioned perfectly to tweak the Bush administration and its authoritarian leanings. As a result, many liberals in the media and on the internet are sure to proclaim it as the best film of the year, and their counterparts on the right will decry it as garbage without seeing it. But V deserves neither extreme of hyperbole. It’s kind of fun, and V is the most compelling terrorist since Braveheart, but it’s not liable to start any revolutions.

Previously: S for Subversive

18 March, 2006 3:33 PM Posted by | Movie reviews | Leave a comment

A Completely Factual Review of “Brokeback Mountain”

Sorry this took so long. The idea, unfortunately, was first raised on New Year’s Eve. There is no worse time to have a good idea, in my experience. Booze and pot were involved, so needless to say, it has taken me a few days to get off of my dead ass and write the damn thing.

So, without further ado, here is my promised, One Hundred Percent Fiction-Free, Absolutley Truthful Review of Brokeback Mountain. 

I must admit, when I first heard of Bareback Mounting Brokeback Mountain, I had my normal, hetero doubts. “How could I possibly enjoy such a film,” I asked myself, “if I know from the beginning that it’s plot centers on fairy cowboys?” It is fair, here, to specify that when I say “fairy cowboys,” I do not mean those brave men of yesteryear who herded North America’s now-extinct herds of Wooly Fairies across the plains of our great land. Those were real men. I am referring, of course, to those damned Jesus-hating faggots. With boots and “ten-gallon” hats. Ten-gallon, indeed.

All of my fears seemed to be baseless. After having “seen” the movie, or rather, having made up my own fictional storyline, characters, and scenes, I have arbritrarily decided to give it Two Dildos Up(a cowboy’s ass).

 This is one very gay movie.

We are not talking here about softcore shit. There are no “love” scenes, there is no dialogue, in fact, there isn’t even any real “acting” involved, as it is rather obvious after about two seconds that these guys are enjoying this stuff.

For the sake of honesty, though, I have to admit that I liked the 15 minute blowjob scene. Heath Ledger has obviously done this a whole hell of a lot. Dirty Austrians.

Ok, so here’s the plot.

Heath Ledger and Jake Whatsisname play two gay cowboys. They do it. Everywhere they can possibly get a grip, including on horseback. That must have been worse than the back of a Volkswagen. Members of the audience either jerk off or walk out in protest. The End.

This movie is going to be a blockbuster.

I’m tired and am going to bed, sorry this is so lame. They can’t all be winners.


3 January, 2006 1:57 AM Posted by | Movie reviews | Leave a comment

Movie Review: King Kong

King Kong is going to bomb hard. It’s a well thought-out, well-acted, moderately paced drama that happens to end up being a totally plausible love story between a 25-foot-tall gorilla and the hot girl from The Ring. Thus, the biplane-smashing antics of the title character will manage to alienate the 40-year-old spinsters who would be attracted by a Depression-era love story and the (admittedly overlong) dramatic buildups will bore the 12-year-old boys and Comic Book Guy-esque 20-year-old males (i.e. us) upon whom Hollywood rests its financial chips when it puts out an action film. In short, King Kong is the new Ishtar.

But don’t think for a second that I didn’t love it.

I can go on forever about the things that just clicked for me: the lavish CG recreation of 1930s New York, the riveting action scenes that wallpaper the final two acts of the film, the multi-tiered character that Jack Black enthusiastically (and quite competently) portrays. There are a handful of action set pieces that are among the best I’ve ever seen in an action movie. And although the film makes liberal use of CG, its implementation is so deft that you’ll never notice.

There are some legitimate criticisms to make, foremost of them the fact that the first act lasts for nearly an hour. Peter Jackson sets the stage for his characters slowly and confidently. I personally thought that the high level of character development was refreshing for a movie of this genre, but I can understand that not everyone will agree. Even I would have cut twenty minutes out of it and brought Kong into the picture a little sooner.

There’s also a couple of secondary storylines that get very short thrift and no real resolution. One can imagine that (much in the style of his Lord of the Rings films) Jackson has shot a six-hour movie and has had to leave much of his film on the cutting room floor. We’ll know when the DVD comes out.

The other criticism is a nitpick to be sure: perhaps in order to parry what some have called the “inherent racism of King Kong‘s premise”, Jackson’s cast is absurdly diverse. The crew of the ship that carries the protagonists to Skull Island comes in every shape and color, including a Chinese man, a Maori (?!) and an African-American first mate. Keeping in mind that this is a period piece set in 1930, the ethnic diversity requires almost as much suspension of disbelief as the giant monsters who appear later.

All in all though, I can’t more highly recommend this film guys. Fernando seal of approval.

21 December, 2005 11:32 PM Posted by | Movie reviews, Reviews | Leave a comment