Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"I will never even think about going up in a tall building again..."

While inexplicably enduring the uninspired and tedious action movies that I often subject myself to, thanks to their connection to a franchise I once enjoyed (thank you, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra) or a video-game I loved (looking at you, Max Payne), I usually find my mind wandering back to the film that remains my holy grail of the genre: Die Hard. As far as action movies go, it has remained my absolute favourite film for nearly 20 years. I watch it twice a year at the very least and seem to be incapable of enjoying it less with each subsequent viewing.

There are many reasons why Die Hard is a great film - using 'great' in a completely unironic fashion - but the one I've been thinking about today is the film's use of environments. This was brought on by my discovery (via Warren Ellis) of writer/essayist Geoff Manaugh's awesomely aca-fan-ish post on the film on BLDGBLOG, his blog about architecture and urban spaces. In the post, entitled 'Nakatomi Space', Manaugh talks about how Die Hard is 'one of the best architectural films of the last 25 years', an opinion that I have shared on some gut level, way back from when I first saw it as a eight year old who didn't know what the word 'architecture' meant. I never really had the conceptual language to communicate that instinct but Manaugh does - articulating wonderfully just what makes the movie so spatially fascinating and how that makes it that much more exciting. Go read.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sin Nombre

Cary Fukunaga's feature debut Sin Nombre is one of those films that dazzle you with its craft while you're watching it but then makes you wonder whether you've been cheated just a little bit, a few minutes after the Sundance-mandated high has dissipated somewhat.

Friday, January 01, 2010


Oh James Cameron, how far you have fallen. This simplistic Disney-esque cartoon (Pocahontas in the stars, essentially), roided up with technology and space marines is the latest low point in his downward spiral. It's hard to believe that this film was created by the man who gave us two of the most intelligent, hyper-efficient action films of all time in The Terminator and Aliens and even, initially, managed to temper his fetish for spectacle with solid story and character work in Terminator 2. Avatar represents a complete turn to the dark side where Cameron stands side by side with George Lucas in prioritizing technology over writing/plot/characters, creating a childish pretense at an epic sci-fi story.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How Does 'The Proposal' Bag More Nominations than 'Moon', You Ask?

One of my top 5 favourite films of 2009 was Duncan Jones' sci-fi feature Moon. A real science fiction film in an irradiated wasteland of pretenders, it includes a heartbreakingly layered performance by the (criminally underrated) Sam Rockwell who blows most 2009 awards contenders out of the water. Yet it barely shows up on any critics' lists or nomination ballots. Neil Miller from Film School Rejects talks about why. More about Duncan Jones' thoughts on the matter here.

These links via Neil Gaiman's Twitter feed. Whose word-count may soon eclipse that of the entire Sandman series.

Really though. Everyone who hasn't should go and watch Moon at the earliest convenience. It's left the theaters but there is always Netflix.

Friday, December 18, 2009


This Swedish vampire film is a solidly entertaining piece of work which, in its attempt to do something clever with the genre, brings together diverse influences ranging from Sam Raimi and old Hammer horror films to Frasier-style sitcom hi-jinks and Scream's postmodern (I know, I know) self reflexiveness. The basic concept is familiar to Steve Niles fans - a mother/daughter pair move to a Swedish town that experiences polar night (a month of darkness), the former looking to work with a genetics expert (naturally) at a local hospital. Naturally, mysterious deaths start occurring, small animals start disappearing and the geneticist turns out to be more than just a doctor, with all the goings-on possibly related to the pre-credits WWII sequence where a group of Nazi troops take shelter in a very dark cottage in the woods. After the initial killing (the guilty party's identity a little unclear), vampirism spreads rather quickly through the town's younger inhabitants.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Boy and his Dog

Before the blasted post-apocalyptic wasteland (or, at least its R-rated manifestation) became a widespread cinematic trope, there was this curious 1975 adaptation of Harlan Ellison's short story of the same name. Practically tailor-made for cult status, it follows a scraggly Don Johnson looking for sex and food (in that order) in an irradiated Southwestern USA with only his telepathically communicating dog who performs dual functions of company and walking detector of food/women.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"First, give him the Forest Whitaker eye..." the first step in the Troy Barnes system of self defense. One of many reasons to watch Community.