“The Dictator” Offensively Coming to a Theatre Near You – 2012

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

 “the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.”

Can’t wait for the taglines/recommendations that are going to come out with this one…

 

 

Based on best-selling Iraqi novelist Saddam Hussein’s ‘Zabibah and the King’

From the man who brought you: The Invasion of Kuwait, Gulf War Pt. 1, and Gulf War Pt. 2

“I cried, I laughed, I learned, I Loved ‘The Dictator’” – Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf

“I give it two thumbs up!” – Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf

“100% of the population viewed this film” – Iraqi Bureau of Information

“I was really able to see myself in the main character” – Official Body Double #6

“It’s the greatest film of all time!” – Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf

“This film had Weapons of Mass Destruction…aimed right at my heart” – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

“I’m not sure if I know what I knew about this film, but I knew that I didn’t know it was a winner!” – Former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld

“In no way was this film disappointing” – Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf

“Mission Accomplished!” – President George W. Bush

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Quebec National Assembly Moves to ban Scissors, Sharp Pencils From Schools

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Only two days after banning four representatives of the Word Sikh Organization from the floor of the National Assembly because they refused to surrender their kirpans (a ceremonial dagger carried by men of the Sikh religion) to security; the Assembly has motion for the ban of scissors, pens and sharpened pencils from Quebec’s schools.

Head of the National Assembly security Pierre Duchesnes stands by the decision, noting that “if it can be used to stab, to me it’s a knife.” Explaining why he’s routinely cutting his steak with his car keys.

“It’s a safety measure that’s been long due” noted one Assembly member, a survivor of the great paper-cut outbreak of ’79 through his bubble-wrap facemask.  “Children, like adults, cannot be trusted with any sharp objects.”  the member conceded that the conversion to safety scissors and pre-used crayons (duller colours only) will likely cause a drop in the efficiency rating of Quebec schools; however, he expects a favourable decrease in pokings, proddings and pony-tail cuttings, as well as an increase in the colourful whimsy and overall waxy-ness of student essays.

Hearings will resume later this week.  Assembly security officials advise anyone with long finger-nails, brightly coloured eyes and/or an acuminous wit will be turned away at the door.

Julian Assange : Dangerous Vigilante or Symbol This World Needs?

December 2, 2010 1 comment

It’s the kind of story that Hollywood thrillers are made out of.  A man, with a slightly troubled but otherwise unremarkable past, sets out to inform the everyday person the horrors of a far away foreign war, to hold the military and the nation accountable of their words and actions, and turns his sights next on a financial industry that first robbed the people, and then duped the government into paying them for it.  He founds a website and shines a bright light on the murky international realm, grabbing the attention of the whole world in a matter of hours and goes underground as governments around the globe attempt to silence him – truly a real life Mikael Blomkvist.
 
Or maybe it’s a more appropriate back story for a Hollywood villain.  A man wanted for rape obtains stolen military and diplomatic documents, illegally publishes them and jeopardizes the safety soldiers, diplomats and special operatives abroad before announcing that he’s prepared to deal the killing blow to an already severely crippled financial sector – somewhat reminiscent of a Bond villain.

Artist's Rendition

It really doesn’t matter which way you look at it, I’m not sure which side I stand on myself, but it’s undeniable that the real story coming out of the latest WikiLeaks revelations is what to do about site-founder Julian Assange.
 
Very few of the leaked cables so far have contained sensitive information or anything that wasn’t already assumed, guessed or known by the general public let alone the government officials who made/make the decisions based on the material.  The Queen is more popular than Prince Charles? Canada has an inferiority complex when it comes to the USA?  Barrack Obama is wildly popular abroad?  The Arab states aren’t particularly fond of the Persian state?  Shocking, really.
 
It’s not to say that there isn’t information of note.  China considering the Korean peninsula under Seoul for instance or the confirmation Iran’s long range missile capabilities is interesting to those interested in international on-goings; but remember, governments already knew all this any way.
 
What’s really interesting is the reaction to the man behind the leaks.  All governments have come out with the party line condemning the act (though I’m sure there are a few who appreciate the confirmation of some long held suspicions).  But some have gone much further than others.  In the past week Sarah Palin has called for Assange to be hunted with similar resources to those being used to find Osama Bin Laden, Bill O’Riley called for his execution on the O’Riley Factor, U.S. congressman Pete King, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, has called for JA to be classified as a terrorist under the Espionage Act and WikiLeaks to be recognized as a terrorist organization, and prominent Canadian conservative pundit Tom Flannigan, one-time mentor to Stephen Harper, has gone as far as calling for his assassination. And all this is on top of renewed charges of rape against JA in Sweden that has landed him on Interpol’s most wanted list.  As he often does, Assange has gone into hiding, official whereabouts unknown.
 
Now, if Assange did commit the crime he’s accused of, or if there’s really enough evidence around it to make him a person of interest, he should of course be brought in and questioned and if necessary tried to the fullest extent of the law.  But there is an underlying a problem here.  He’s now well known worldwide, particularly in Sweden where he’s based his operations for some time. How can a trail just be about the alleged crime and not about the leaks? Is it possible anymore for Assange to get a fair trial anywhere?  The charges has been brought and dropped over a year ago and only recently brought up again – could the accusation be brought on by JA’s sudden fame? One certainly hopes not, but it wouldn’t be the first time either.
 
It may be because global public has been Fox News-ed or CNN-ed to death; but does no one recognize real journalism anymore?  You hear people clamour for the banishment of the punditocracy, wanting just the hard news and the chance to make up their own minds (Sarah Palin said so a couple weeks ago, though I’m not sure she knows what “news” is…); well, here it is.  What Assange has done is no different than what Woodward and Bernstein did when they broke Watergate. Assange is not DeepThroat, he didn’t steal or leak the information.  He received it and published it for the world to see.  Yes, there have been one or two cables that come to close to identifying informants abroad, potentially endangering them and from a moral viewpoint I don’t believe those should have been published. But is there anything illegal about it?
 
I don’t know.  I’m not well versed in international law.  But if they were to find him and try him I’m not sure they could get him on anything to do with the leaks themselves, and really isn’t the more important issue here the lack of security in the U.S. electronic filing system?  Who missed 250, 000+ documents being copied or downloaded?  Why is there not an alert that red-flags when any document is copied or downloaded let alone 250,000?
 
Perhaps of greater concern, or interest depending on what side you’re on, are the leaks JA has promised next concerning the financial sector.  In a recent interview when he revealed he had the information, JA mused that he could take down one or two banks with the release.  With the recent troubles in the financial sector and the public emotion that’s come with it, it’s those leaks that will likely prove the most
damaging.

The European Financial Crisis Solved. You’re Welcome, Europe.

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Spain is around eleventy billion dollars in debt.  Which I’m pretty sure is the exact price they paid to get Christiano Ronaldo from Manchester United of England.  Thanks to David Cameron’s new “no give-backs” economic policy Spain is kind of stuck with a lemon here.  Or are they? Why not profit on the only sure thing Christiano Ronaldo’s got – Rock Hard Abs.  Fortunately for Spain, he has 8 of them…or maybe 10…12?  And I’m sure they could be sold off individually to interested parties; I’m sure countries like China or the UAE would love to add “Now with 50% of Christiano Ronaldo’s Abdominals!” to their national slogans.  Or, if you can’t pass him off entirely to another state, why not loan him out and let another nation take on his care? I know of at least one place that has a protected reserve for douchey guys with rock-hard abs and perma-gelled hair…
 
Italy? No problem.  The easiest way for Italy to get back on track is to turn back the clock to a more successful era.  Like 2000 years or so.  Really Italy, just have the Empire strike back and you’ll be up and running in no time.  Mixed Martial Arts is all the rage right now, so why not give the world a taste of where competitive fighting really hit its stride? Renovate the Coliseum into a 5-star open air entertainment complex and bring history and modernity together as you showcase live gladiatorial battles! You think UFC is intense? Wait ‘till you see a guy get a trident in the neck as he’s being eaten by a lion.
 
That Ireland needed to be bailed out is plain disappointing.  When your number one export is the world’s most delicious beer, and you’re shipping out 10, 000, 000 pints a day there’s no way you should be in economic trouble; drunk maybe, but not in economic trouble.  Fortunately there’s an easy solution to economic stability that marries Ireland’s two national pastimes – drinking and drinking.  St. Patrick’s Day is the biggest day of the year home and abroad for the Irish, and frankly it’s a shame it’s only once a year.  So why not extend it for a whole week!  Even a month!  It won’t just boost the economy domestically but will increase Irish product awareness abroad; and for a nation who’s second largest export (I assume) is plastic shamrocks, that can only be a good thing. As an added bonus, Ireland can help out the Australians by importing deadly snakes to give St. Patrick’s month that authentic medieval vibe.
 
Finally there’s Greece. Let’s face it Greece, you haven’t been in peak form in over 2500 years (wow, that’s really depressing when you say it out loud).  But you do have one true, undying legacy: the toga.  You invented it.  Way to go, Greece.  For generation upon generation the toga has been a symbol or drunken frat boys and sorority girls everywhere, and now it’s time for the toga to come home.  Start handing out flyers Greece, your hosting the world’s most raging kegger since that one time at Delta Tau Chi.  Invite everyone, charge 10$ at the door and you’ll be back up and running in no time. Oh, also?  It’d help if your citizenry, you know, paid their taxes, even just a little.
 
You’re welcome, Europe.

The Walking Dead – The Monday Decap Episode 5: Wildfire

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment

 The Jist: In the wake of the camp ambush (where surprisingly few of them died…) the survivors decide to move on.  Jim got bit.  Grimes wants to go to the Centre for Disease Control in hopes of finding a cure.   Shane wants to go to an army fort in hopes of finding protection.  Lori sides with her husband.  To the CDC! I foresee conflict.
 
This week’s episode begins at dawn, hours after the campers were jumped by Zombies.  Grimes is on his radio, warning the Joneses to stay the heck out of Atlanta.  Meanwhile the campers are dealing with the aftermath of the ambush, burning the dead-undead (redead?) corpses and burying their own.

Are you there God? It's me, Rick

 
Jim’s been bit.  He says he’s fine.  Dwayne wants to kill him.  Grimes says no.  They talk it out and put Jim in the Winnebago, presumably so that when he goes full Zombie he has access to the kitchenette.
 
Andrea is still hovering over the dead body of her sister.  Amy sister wakes up. There’s a tear-felt apology for never really being there from Andrea.  Amy tries to bite her face off. Andrea blows her brains out.  Ah sisterly love.
 
Rick and Shane do the routine sweep of the perimeter and discuss what their next steps are. Rick is set on heading to the CDC.  Shane not so much.  Rick says that if it were Shane’s family he’d understand.  Seeing as it was Shane’s family for a while, though Rick still doesn’t know that, Shane is kind of pissed. They separate for a bit and Shane, with a pretty spot-on display of crazed murder-lust by Jon Bernthal, lines rick up in the sights of his shotgun, just barely deciding against taking Rick down. Dale sees. Dale sees all.  Looks like Shane is pretty damn close to his boiling point.
 
Back at camp the survivors make the decision to make a run for it.  Grimes wants to head for the CDC in hopes of finding a cure.  Shane wants to head for an army base on the other side of Atlanta.  Lori sides
with her husband.  Shane looks pissed-er, but eventually falls in line with Grimes.  So does everyone else.  Except for one family who decides to head for Birmingham instead, hurray for write-offs!

Grimes leaves behind a car and a map in case Jones finally makes it to camp and the campers head out for the CDC.  On the way there Jim’s condition gets worse.  He asks the campers to leave him behind.  They do.  I get the feeling we’ll be seeing Zombie Jim at some point in the series.

Weird Scene: A series of video messages from a CDC scientist.  He looks like Brett Favre, so for now we’ll call him Brett Favre (yes, that IS how you spell Favre).  He’s working on a cure, but having little success. We also get the distinct feeling he’s alone.  Yep.  He’s alone.  And not paying any attention.  And he contaminated his samples – they appeared to be working?  I’m not really sure…except that that’s not what it looks like under a microscope… Aparently the CDC has one explosive decontamination procedure as his lab gets blown up.  Now he’s even more depressed.  Note: his samples were called TS-19, which is also the name of the season finale.

Meanwhile, the campers reach the CDC.  Things don’t look so good.  I have beef with this scene.  There should have been way, way, way more bodies with the fortifications around the building.  But the amount of flies and reaction to the stench seemed about right.   It’s getting dark, Zombies are appearing and no one is answering the door.  People start freaking out.  Grimes yells at the security camera.  It moves.  Grimes yells some more.  Zombies are coming.  The door opens.  A flash of white light…

Best episode of the season, except for the first one.  I’m really, really hoping we get some answers next episode, and it’s looking promising.  As usual we’re left with one glaring question: Where the hell is Meryl?  I’m still convinced that he’s responsible for the attack on the camp, and I’m thinking he just might get to the map/car before Jones does…

“Uncharted” Casting Could use a Map…

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

It was announced early today that Mark Whalberg as signed on to play Nathan Drake in the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling video game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Now I’ve been waiting for this news for a long time – I loved this game.  I loved it’s even better follow up Uncharted: Among Thieves.  As far as I’m concerned these are the two best video games.  Ever.  It’s not even close.  What separates them from other games isn’t the game-play but the narrative, characters and voice-acting; Among Thieves was one of the first (if not the first) games to record the dialogue with all the actors in the same room at the same time.  The result was the first game that really played and watched like a movie.  Videogame voice stalwart Nolan North provides Nathan Drake’s voice in the games.  His Drake maintains the expected videogame protagonist heroism with cutting sarcasm and wit (have I mentioned how great the writing was in these games?) he makes light of everything while still managing to understand the gravity.  He’s a grown-up and a kid at the same time.  Think Indiana Jones crossed with Rick Castle.  The point is that the character Nathan Drake is, is something that Mark Whalberg is not.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Whalberg fan, I loved him in The Departed and The Italian Job and I’ve spent months in hypnotic therapy to forget that he ever had anything to do with The Happening.  But he’s not Nathan Drake.  Who should be?  I’m not really sure.  If Nathan Fillion were 10 years younger he’d have been perfect.  Jeffery Donovan from Burn Notice wouldn’t be the worst casting out there, and I’d consider White Collar’s Matthew Bomer too.  The problem of course is that they’re gunning for an A-list star which eliminates a lot of the better choices who may be lesser known or unproven box-office draws.
 
Maybe more alarming are Whalberg’s comments concerning some of the other potential castees – DeNiro and Pesci to play father or uncle?  There’s no father or uncle in the game and while I’m ok with taking artistic licence, director David O. Russell would do better to stick with the general cast from the game.

Not Mark Whalberg

 
Here’s a brief description of the other characters and a suggestion or two as to who should play them:
 
Victor “Sulley” Sullivan: Drake’s significantly older (late 50s-early 60s) mentor and treasure hunting partner.  Think Bruce Campbell, who’s also the best guy to play him. J.K. Simmons might do as well.
 
Elena Fisher: Reporter/Host of an adventure television show, she meets Drake at the beginning of the story filming his search for Sir Francis Drake’s Coffin in the Caribbean Sea. She’s the story’s main love interest, kind of an all-American girl.  If Kate Bosworth could act she wouldn’t be bad, but Kristen Bell is kind of a perfect fit.  I also wouldn’t complain if they went the Scarlet Johansson route.  Emily Rose, who voices her in the games, is also a candidate.
 
Gabriel Roman: Villian.  Also after the treasure, Roman is one of those cut-throat wealthy highly educated types whose a little on the heavy side – the kind of guy who wears a white suit with a gold pocket watch and wipes his head/face/neck with a handkerchief from his breast pocket in the middle of the jungle.  Terrence Stamp would be pretty good (though not as large he’s perfectly cut-throat) but I think Malcolm McDowell is ideal. DeNiro could fit here, but I think it’d be reaching.
 
Antoq Navarro: Roman’s right hand man.  Ambitious and a stone-cold killer with his own agenda. If Willem Defoe and Antonio Banderas had a child, he’d be perfect for this role.  I think Coby Bell of Burn Notice fame is the right kind of guy.  Huge and stern looking. Jon Bernthal from The Walking Dead would be pretty good too.
 
Eddie Raja:  Sort of a villain, Eddie is Roman/Navarro’s man on the ground – the guy with actual treasure hunting expertise as well as an unfriendly, competitive history with Drake.  Ernie Reyes from Rush Hour 2 seems to be the early favourite, and I’m ok with that.  I also like Brandon T-Jackson from Tropic Thunder for the part.

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

November 23, 2010 1 comment

The Jist: Harry, Ron and Hermione set off in search of the 7 Horcruxes in the hope of destroying them and finishing Lord Voldemort for good.  What’s a Horcrux? Have you been living under a rock or something?

4.5 Golden Snitches /5
 
Picking up where we left off in The Half-Blood Prince, Lord Voldemort and his loyal “Death-Eater” followers have succeeded in killing Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, the last true obstacle in Voldemort’s rise to power, leaving the wizarding world without its greatest defender and Harry without a mentor and guide in his quest to find and destroy the remaining five of seven Horcruxes – seven objects in which Lord Voldemort enshrined portions of his soul, making him nearly immortal.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows begins with a very sombre tone as we see our three heroes, Harry, Ron and Hermione, preparing for the journey ahead. Though each scene demonstrates the gravity of what’s to come, Hermione’s tear-filled use of a spell on her parents, wiping all of their memories of her is particularly effective, shown by her image slowly dissolving from all of their family photos, setting the general tone of the film.

Some of the early scenes, particularly a chase scene where Harry and Hagrid flee Death Eaters on a flying motorcycle, seem tailor-made for 3D, with shots from camera angles that don’t make much sense in regular filming.  But honestly, it didn’t need it.  3D wouldn’t have added anything to overall experience of the general movie-goer or Potter fan; actually if anything it’d have detracted from the film’s emotional depth, which was its surprising strength.  One can only hope that Warner Bros. will come to their senses and keep part II off of 3D screens as well.

There's nothing conspicuous about a flying motorcycle!

David Yates (Who picked up the franchise at The Order of the Phoenix) does an excellent job towing the fine line between telling the story that readers will remember from the books, while using enough artistic licence to keep the story fresh.  Particularly effective is the use of the main character’s voices while other actors appear on screen, mouthing the lines, when “polyjuice potion” (a potion that gives you the appearance of another person) is in effect.  While a bit monochrome for my own tastes,  Yates also effectively uses of the natural almost perpetual grey of the British sky along with soft colour to keep the feel of the film reflective of the seriousness of the narrative.

The best part of the film, especially as someone who’s read the books, is the take on the “Tale of the Three Brothers” a children’s story that describes how the Deathly Hallows – The Elder Wand, The Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility – came to be.  The story is told by Hermione, however her telling is used as voice-over while the audience is treated to a Guillermo Del Toro-esque cartoon of the events described.  It was an exceptionally creative and original way of conveying the story and one that will hopefully be similarly used in other films in the place of flashbacks or words on screen.

Ever-present in the books and films, the comic relief in The Deathly Hallows is true to form with the oddball Lovegoods, Doby the house-elf and of course the Weasley twins Fred and George.  However, Yates uses the comedy more effectively in the 7th Potter instalment, relieving the audience, but never taking away from the serious gravity of the circumstances engulfing the wizarding world.  The scenes and jokes are funny, but there’s not a lot of time to dwell on them before you’re brought right back into the seriousness of the story.  The result is a much more natural comedic flow – the punch lines more believable than contrived.
 
The films three stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all deliver their best performances in the franchise, each showing solid range and familiarity of the characters they’ve grown up with.  Daniel Radcliffe delivers another solid performance as Harry Potter.  It’s almost hard to see the 12 year old boy that began the franchise in The Philosopher’s Stone; the growth in Radcliff’s acting over the seven films is undeniable.  He demonstrates Harry’s quiet confidence and fierce bravery exactly the way it’s read in the novels.  At the risk of further type-casting, which after this performance I’m convinced he can shed, in every way Radcliff has grown into the on-screen representation of Harry Potter that readers had been imagining from the books.  Ruppert Grint, normally performing as lovable comic relief, portrays an as of yet unseen side of Ron Weasley.  Amplified by the Horcrux in the form of a pendant worn around his neck, Ron develops dark jealousy of Hermione’s relationship with Harry that peaks when he takes the light from where Harry and Hermione are sitting and darkly mutters “Yeah, I’m still here” with perfect lack of emotion.  A scene like that makes me think that Grint just may have an acting career post-Potter after all.  Emma Watson, whose star is easily the brightest coming out of the Potter franchise, nearly stole the show with a strong, and yet perfectly understated performance, making the story as much about Hermione as it was about Harry without challenging for screen-time.  Really, she was brilliant.  She plays every scene, every line, and every facial expression exactly how Hermione Granger is written to perfection.  I’ve little doubt that Watson will become an A-list star, and odds are there’s more than a little bit of gold in her future.

Also deserving of praise is Ray Finnes’ Voldemort – the man could be my villain any day.  His Voldemort is perfection, particularly his airy voice that relates Voldemort’s fragmented soul.
 
The music, originally composed by John Williams, has often taken centre stage the in Harry Potter films; however, the only time I actually noticed music at all was a violin solo near the end of the film. Even when I saw the film for the second time in 16 hours (yeah, I know) and was looking for the music I couldn’t find it.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing; most of Williams’ score was very bright and The Deathly Hallows was undeniably dark. However, it’s another factor that labels the seventh instalment as markedly different from the first six.
 
Final Verdict:  The best film of the franchise, The Deathly Hallows Part I is very enjoyable for those well-versed in the books as well as the casual movie goer.  However it won’t make much sense if you haven’t seen the previous films/read the books or aren’t somewhat familiar with the story to this point.  Is somewhat unsatisfying, but that’s expected given it’s part I of II.