(POEM): Science-Fantasy-Fiction

terminatorinthecityemmanuelshiu

Terminator in the City
(concept art by Emmanuel Shiu)

 

Science-Fantasy-Fiction

 

When you’re toying between the improbable

and impossible somewhere

in the middle of the modern-

day grind

feeling like there’s not many more stories out

there left to believe

in

 

 

may I suggest exploring a 70s/80s/90s SCI-

Fi

flick: something that relates to real-

life, though exaggerated for full-

effect.

Throw in a few CYBORGS

ground-breaking special-

effects (/a hover board?)

 

 

solid b-actors like MICHAEL BIEHN/maybe even CARL WEATHERS

from PREDATOR

 

 

and at the very least it’ll be an entertaining

ride (if you can stomach it).

 

 

 

The fun is figuring out what’s really

real/when you think

you’re losing

it: reality and fiction

are often blurred/society exists

in many forms

 

 

 

and everything appears twisted like in THE MATRIX

as a cover-

up for being flat (like KEANU REEVES’

acting).

 

 

A score from BRAD FIEDEL helps drift

me off/darken

the mood; and authoritarian (ROBO-) cops come as standard

in these paranoid visions

of the future.

There’s always Dystopia

 

 

(ORWELL/K.DICK deserve credit for writing much of life’s screen-

play): the past

and present are forever linked

 

 

and the concept of time-

travel may be too hard-to-swallow

for some

but overblown, violent action set-

pieces come as a welcome distraction

–      planets getting blown up/species shot to shit by laser

cannons   

 

 

 

and you want ELLEN RIPLEY watching

your back with a flamethrower

just in case you make contact with an EXTRA-

TERRESTRIAL.

 

 

 

Now post- 2001, gone beyond the point of no

return

 

 

 

with the whole Galaxy left to explore, it’s easy to get suckered

into a black

hole

just trying to reach

out/connect to something; lacking any sort of direction

(like the new STAR

WARS  films);

 

 

 

James Cameron (aka GOD) preaching

to us through his DVD commentaries further

adds to the scepticism: we’re all

fucked/insignificant/soon-to-be-

extinct

 

 

common sense/theories forever getting LOST

IN SPACE or deep in THE ABYSS

 

 

 

but through desired escapism/chronic paranoia/living

in fear

we find the truth

is out there (somewhere).

 

 

D-FENS and the Sardonic Observations of FALLING DOWN

FALLINGDOWNCOKE

 

Back in 1993, Joel Schumacher directed this paranoid tale of “D-FENS” – a character whose primary concern is to make it back in time for his daughter’s birthday. Along the way, though, this white, shirt-and-tie-wearing everyman discovers his journey is rapidly developing into a personal nightmare: he’s angry (lost his job (engineering weapons for the state)) and everyone he encounters seems to piss him off even more.

 

Michael Douglas is cast as the man losing his moral balance and being at war with the everyday world. At first we see him sweating in traffic, swotting flies and losing his patience so much that he abandons his car on a busy road and declares “I’M GOING HOME” to the driver behind him.

 

Next, he heads for the nearest phone box to tell his ex-wife the news. A phone call is simple enough task, you might think; but D-FENS walks into the local deli looking for some change only to be told by the Korean shopkeeper that he must first make a purchase. What’s more, eighty-five cents for a soda doesn’t leave him enough loose coins for the phone call; he’s pissed, goes on some rant about foreigners/immigrants; then proceeds to grab a bat from under the counter and bash every overpriced item in the shop in a fit of rage (as a show of good faith, he pays a self-agreed price of fifty cents for the COKE; then walks off, seemingly unfazed).

 

As the story unfolds, we are forced to make a distinction between an ordinary man and this “deranged psychopath” he has become. Mid-way through things are taken to a new (hilarious) level when D-FENS pulls a gun on the pompous manager of WHAMMY BURGER (a fast food chain) after he refuses to serve him breakfast for being two minutes past the deadline.

 

Falling Down could quite easily be pigeon-holed as a black comedy with its often cartoonishly over-the-top scenes of violence. But it’s the balance of intriguing social commentary contrasted with scenes involving Prendergast (Robert Duvall) – a nice-guy desk-cop striving to bring D-FENS in on his last day before retirement – that elevate the film above the illusory mess of “office-dweeb-turned-bad” that it could so easily have been.

 

A scene involving a lone man protesting he’s “NOT ECONOMICALLY VIABLE” after been refused a bank loan is nihilistic in its tone and reflective of Schumacher/Falling Down’s envisioned doomed-society. There’s an eerie, memorable confrontation between D-FENS and a Hitler/Nazi-loving fanatic in the back of an Army Surplus store that ends in the best possibly way; and I particularly enjoy the Golf course scene every time, which sees Douglas’ character parading across the open green with a shotgun, in camo, with a mean look on his face.

 

Douglas’ performance here is as real as they come (probably the best thing he’s ever done): his character is a combination of desperation mixed with powerlessness; left alienated, he demands an explanation for his seemingly-unpreventable downfall (with Schumacher wanting us to think that there is a little bit of D-FENS in all of us). What’s interesting is the film’s decision to turn a seemingly ordinary man into an avenging lily-white from a series of counters that exist purely to push him over the edge (SPOILER: quite literally).

 

D-FENS’ browline glasses are particularly iconic; and meant to symbolic of a society in turmoil. The character sees what he sees close up from behind his big and bulky frames; and when one of the eye pieces becomes cracked at one point in the film, the glasses stay that way for the duration. The glasses are representative of D-FENS’ crossover from a more stable/disciplined period of his life (having a secure job) to being laid off as recession takes hold in the early 1990s.

 

From being hounded by Latino gangsters to having to listen to people make up stories to try and get money out of him (the sandwich-eating guy in the park), the central character feels real, if not particularly sympathetic. D-FENS’ self-concerned journey to get home becomes illusionary the more he gets caught up in society’s dysfunctionalism and confronted by people of the same struggle. The buildings in the background are mostly seen as crumbling/covered in graffiti and morality on the streets is greatly absent; and they go hand in hand with the character’s rapid decline.

 

Falling Down is a gripping portrayal of the mental instability that lurks behind every human being. The film focuses upon the individual struggle, tapping into the seedy parts of day-to-day life; whilst reminding us that not every “bad guy” is without motivations for their actions. At the very least, every driver on today’s roads should be able to relate to the moment Douglas’ character decides to blow up a load of road works cause he’s had enough of all the fucking delays…

 

 

D-FENS is seen as an anti-hero in a society that wasn’t made for him (“I did everything they told me.”) His existence has become obsolete; his rage is seen as justified; and Falling Down (even in today’s context) remains a relevant – and satisfying – depiction of the angry white male simply existing in a society already rotten at its core from unemployment, poverty/class division, territory disputes, commercialism and corporate greed.

 

PIER

“Take a walk around town. Now that’s sick.”

 

 

REVIEW: Dredd (2012)

DREDD2012

 

Whereas the Stallone version of the film was pretty damn awful (despite its much bigger budget), the reboot of the Judge Dredd franchise comes in the form of a stripped-down, gritty day-in-the-life tale of Mega-City One’s leading law enforcer; and, at the very least, seems very necessary.

 

I can’t confess to ever reading the comics, but Pete Travis’ take on the anti-hero character (played by Karl Urban) is gripping and exciting, set in a post-apocalyptic world where there is major confrontation between “good” and “evil” forces. Despite showing what seems like the entire movie in the trailer, Dredd sucks us in to a dark, mysterious and threatening environment, where people are desperate; often committing violent acts of rebellion under their oaths as gang members; and the judges seem to be the only hope the citizens have.

 

The leading gang, ‘The Ma-Ma Crew’, runs a two-hundred-story vertical slum in the centre of the city, and has a habit of skinning its victims to send out a message that they are not to be fucked with. Its members are despicable and deliberately unsympathetic (most of all, the head of the gang – played by The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ Lena Headey), which creates an obvious parallel between them and Dredd/THE LAW.

 

Interesting and likeable is Dredd’s rookie sidekick named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is under review in the field, and possesses powerful psychic abilities due to a genetic mutation. During her and Dredd’s ascent to the top of the building and quest to install order, Travis creates an atmosphere that is extremely edgy and claustrophobic.

 

Regarding the politics, Dredd could have easily been a story of zero tolerance policing/preachy authoritarianism, but (in similar vein to Robocop) the film satires much of Dredd’s world, making it seem somewhat liberal. In fact, considering that the action takes place under the confinement of one building, the politics aren’t that much of an issue here; quite simply, this is a story about the law tackling the threat of the criminals (who, incidentally, come in the form of corrupt cops, as well as the more obvious gang members).

 

The dirty, industrial score fits the setting perfectly, and Karl Urban’s character snarl and raspy voice are very well done (Dredd fans will be pleased to know the character does not remove his helmet in this one). The ending, though, comes a little too soon, despite the terrific build-up, and the lack of budget seems to permit the director exploring the wider civilisation of Mega-City (something that will probably happen in a sequel).

 

The slow-motion effects are pretty cool in emphasizing the effects of drug usage, and doesn’t seem visually out of place, despite contrasting the otherwise raw, dirty look of the film (credit Anthony Dod Mantle’s for this). Credit, also, director Pete Travis for pulling no punches on the violence, contributing to the overall dark nature of Dredd, displacing memories of that horrible Stallone film that we all want to forget.

 

COLORS (1988) w/ Sean Penn & Robert Duvall

Came across this recently and paid a couple of quid for it on DVD. An old gangster/hood/cop thriller from the late 80s, directed by Dennis Hopper (the mad bomber from SPEED).

COLORS, Robert Duvall, Sean Penn, Grand Bush, Rudy Ramos, 1988, (c)Orion Pictures
Robert Duvall, Sean Penn, Grand Bush, Rudy Ramos (Orion Pictures, 1988)

Set in LA pre-1992, before the riots, COLORS (American spelling) taps into the escalating violence between cops/gangsters and their weekly battles over turf. Told in a day-to-day-life kinda way, the story tracks the lives of 2 cops (Duvall/Penn) and their run-ins with local crips/bloods; as well as themselves/other authority figures and people living in the community.

COLORS is interesting, particularly for the developing relationship between the two central (cop) characters. Their contrasting personalities provoke arguments over each other’s methods of doing things; which in time leads to tensions developing between themselves, as well as the people they’re doing “business” with.

The bad guys are mostly seen to be black, on PCP most of the time and not all that clever; and some of the acting is suspect. Duvall and Penn’s characters are more believable, with strong performances accompanying; and despite the sympathy swaying towards Duvall’s character, it’s clear that the main antagonist the filmmakers are keen to flesh out here is the LAPD as a whole (the biggest gang of them all).

COLORS is, generally, a pretty solid affair, delving into issues of class, racism and authority with a gritty/realistic approach in mind. Throwing in communal debates and the (occasional) chase scene, the film’s always interesting, never preachy; an early TRAINING DAY, sorta, that will most likely appeal to fans of BOYZ N THE HOOD and MENACE TO SOCIETY.

The soundtrack also features Ice-T on the title track; as well as Herbie Hancock.

 

Watched TYSON (the Movie) again…

mike-tyson-s-fastest-knockout_1327bfdf72151da0

Probably the most honest documentary I’ve seen.

James Toback restricts the camera to Tyson’s point of view (often spending a good 5-10 mins on various one-shot edits), giving him room to rant, break-down and reiterate the size of his ego.

I read Tyson’s autobiography a couple of years back, which goes hand-in-hand with the no-punches-pulled kinda style here.

At the surface, Tyson may appear simple and often disgusting (he describes a “fellatio” encounter in detail), but he speaks off the cuff for much of the interview parts; and his stories feel real.

Sure he had issues (who fucking doesn’t?), he was pissed-off at most people, bit some other fighter’s ear off (Holyfield should’ve quit head-butting), but he wasn’t a monster (and I don’t believe he ever raped Desiree Washington).

A lot of people hate him; others are still on the fence.

Whatever. This is a solid documentary that opts for realism over spectacle.

Tyson’s upbringing/relationship with Cus is the driving point; the storytelling is direct and gritty; and the old fight scenes bring back memories of a time when the fighters were true brawlers, the heavyweight division had its fair share of characters and boxing wasn’t so fucking boring to watch (like it mostly is today).

Anti-Soviet/Anti-Communist Propaganda Action Films: Rocky IV

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Yeah, I loved it as a kid. Most kids I knew did as well.

You get older, though, and it becomes glaringly obvious:

– COMMUNISM IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL

(so says, Rocky IV).

Die-hard Communists/anyone with the slightest bit of political knowledge/film critics/the not-so-easily-led will already be aware of this if they’ve seen Rocky IV, of course.

Take away the film’s simple revenge story, emphasis on music and montage, lectures about family values and the odd laugh from Uncle Paulie, and the film is nothing more than an overblown boast about the values of Capitalism and how one’s love for a nation will inspire just-rewards.

Some fan-boys have a tendency to rate Rocky IV as one of the greatest action spectacles of all time, overruling the ridiculousness of its politics.

That passes for entertainment, of course, but my fascination with Rocky IV now is not the same as it was back when I was young.

I’ll say it again: I loved this film as a kid (I think I was 6/7 when I first saw it). But there’s more here than Stallone’s ripped body and brightly-coloured shorts; and the more I see that housemaid robot in the Balboa mansion, the more I think his kid/family are all spoilt-rotten shits.

Rocky IV represents a time when Capitalist America was still trying to get one over on Soviet Russia during the Cold War-Reagan era.

Drago (Dolph Lundgren) – the antagonist – is portrayed as a state-aligned killing machine. He has big hair and doesn’t speak much out of fear of being called a traitor (grabbing his “owner” towards the end he screams, “I fight for me! For ME!!!”)

Rocky (Stallone) – the protagonist- of course, is a proud, grafting American. He relies on traditional methods, like chopping wood, lifting horse carts and running up big mountains for training (as opposed to the Russians who like to beef themselves up on steroids and take full advantage of their advanced machinery).

When the 2 fighters clash, Rocky is seen as the back-against-the-wall underdog (in stars n stripes); while Drago has the backing of a “warped” zombie-like Communist dictatorship (all the suits stand and salute in time to the Soviet anthems blaring out as the mountain-of-muscle makes his way to the ring to seal his fate).

By the time it’s all over, even Drago’s “people” are cheering for Rocky and America. Hoisted up in the middle of the ring with the red, white and blue draped over his shoulders, Rocky gives an inspiring speech of how we should all you unite and live in harmony.

Paulie’s comments at the press conference probably sum up the film best:

“Hey, least WE don’t keep our people behind a wall with machine guns!”

America: land of the free…

 

original

(conquering the world 1 film at a time).