March 24, 2006

V for Vendetta: Guys Movie Night

vendettaA dark and compelling dystopian thriller, light on the thrills and heavy on the dystopia. I have read the Orwellian graphic novel on which the movie is based. It would have been very easy to dial down the despair and oppression and crank up the fight sequences, perhaps even add a car chase or two? What's the difference, right? Well, first-time director James McTeigue (an assistant director of all three Matrix movies, and Star Wars Episode I: Attack of The Clones, too) takes the road less traveled. There are a few scenes where the antihero/protagonist V (Hugo Weaving) kicks ass, including an overly-bloody knife fight at the very end of the movie, but for long stretches of this 132 minute movie, V does nothing more than saunter around his underground lair (picture the Batcave redone as a Gothic pop culture museum) spouting anarchist propaganda.

In the not-too-distant-future, a fascist religious zealot (John Hurt, who played Winston Smith in 1984) has been elected PM and assumed the title Chancellor of Great Britain, all by eliciting the Terror Vote. In the name of national security, civil liberties have been revoked and the populace have been brainwashed by the government-controlled media. This wouldn't be so terrible, but all gays, blacks, Muslims, and insurgents have been interred in concentration camps. In one of these camps, in the course of unforgivable medical experiments, the government has created the crucible of their own destruction.

V wears a Guy Fawkes costume, not just to hide his horribly burned body (which we never see) but because, like Batman, he is not a man but an idea, and "ideas are bulletproof". V finds an unlikely ally in petite Evey (Natalie Portman), who grew up in a socialist household, who has lost everyone she ever loved to a concentration camp. Imagine her performance as Anne Frank, except Evey slips away from the jackbooted thugs and fights back.

V for Vendetta stirred up a healthy debate amongst the Guys of Guys Movie Night: What's the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? The movie made its points well, if occasionally rough around the edges for a first-time director. Natalie Portman was excellent in a very strong role- if only Queen Amidala showed some of this passion! Hugo Weaving spoke well through his mask and his body acting was evocative. Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and John Hurt were all excellent. (AMC Burlington)

March 23, 2006

108: Love Is Strong

The cover was inspired by the sexiest photo ever taken of actress Scarlett Johansson, from the cover of Interview magazine. The combination of a beautiful actress, and a horizontally striped sweater is irresistible. I was not satisfied with just admiring her beauty from afar; I wanted to incorporate her beauty into my cover design, even if she has ZERO to do with the contents of the CD.
I used the photo as a jumping-off point for the cover concept- I would mock up my own magazine cover, with headlines which include the titles of the songs. At the same time, I was beginning to experiment with attaching the text to non-straight paths, and what better template than the horizontal stripes of Ms. Johansson's sweater?
  1. "Fascination Street" > THE CURE
  2. "Cold Turkey" > JOHN LENNON (A great dance remix by IDC)
  3. "Love Is Strong" > The ROLLING STONES
  4. "She's Gone" > ERIC CLAPTON
  5. "Hypnotized" > FLEETWOOD MAC
  6. "Don't Fear The Reaper" > WILCO (a low fidelity live recording)
  7. "I'm On Fire" (live at Giants Stadium 8-19-85) > BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
  8. "Begin the Begin" (live 11-19-92) > R.E.M.
  9. "Use Me" > BILL WITHERS
  10. "Me Myself I" > DE LA SOUL
  11. "40 Days, 40 Fights" > BADLY DRAWN BOY
  12. "I Want Love" > ELTON JOHN (I picked this track off my wife's 2CD Greatest Hits collection, for two reasons: a) it was produced by Jeff Lynne (ELO, Traveling Wilburys), and b) Ringo Starr plays drums.
  13. "What Would It Take" > from JEFF LYNNE's little-known solo album Armchair Theater.
  14. "You Can't Get What You Want (Til You Know What You Want)" > JOE JACKSON
  15. "Stuck in the Middle vs. Nasty Girl" > (A silly mashup of Stealer's Wheel and Vanity 6.)
  16. "Big Time" > PETER GABRIEL
  17. "Lazy Sunday" > CHRIS PARNELL & ANDY SAMBERG
  18. "Cantaloupe Island" > YESKA (sampled by US3 for their song "Cantaloop", aka "dip trip, flip fantasia...")

March 17, 2006

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

threeburialsMelquiades Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo) is a Mexican cowboy in Texas. While tending his goats, Melquiades is shot and killed by Border Patrol officer Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) who mistakes Melquiades for a sniper. Legally, the shooting could be called justified (Melquiades was shooting towards Norton, but he was shooting at a coyote) but there were no witnesses and Norton is wound way too tight for the job. When Melquiades's friend and fellow cowboy Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) discovers that the local sheriff (Dwight Yoakam) is going to do nothing about the shooting, Pete brutally abducts Norton at gunpoint and forces him on a tortured trek on horseback to return Melquiades's body to his hometown in Mexico.

Pete literally drags Norton across the brutal landscape, handcuffed and barefoot. Norton is beaten, starved, sunburned, drowned, snakebit, starved, burned, and beaten some more. All we know for sure is that Pete wants to keep Norton alive long enough to make him bury Melquiades. This act will fulfill Pete's friendship to Melquiades, but will Pete decide that Norton has repaid his debt to Melquiades? It doesn't matter that the shooting wasn't murder per se. Before Pete abducts him, we see that Norton is torn apart with self-loathing for this shooting. The abduction and journey are a simple metaphor for what Norton's doing to himself on the inside. Only when Pete forces him to seek forgiveness (at gunpoint) does Norton unload his grief.

NOTE: Emily proposed this movie. I offered to go to the Capitol Theater and see Match Point while she saw Three Burials. When we got to the theater, the Match Point screening had been canceled due to a projector problem, so I joined Emily for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

March 14, 2006

Ultraviolet: Guys Movie Night

Marc, Jeff, and Ken joined me for this weak brew of Blade and Aeon Flux. In a futuristic Orwellian dystopia, a sexy assassin with special ass-kicking powers (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element) fights to save an adolescent boy (with some kind of secret lurking in his veins) from a plague of faceless, black-clad soldiers. Jovovich must have "killed" more stuntmen in this 88 minute video game than Viggo Mortensen did in 11 hours of Lord of The Rings! Ultraviolet feels like a fairly intriguing if cliched two-hour sci-fi shoot-em-up, where half an hour of interesting detail has been edited out: There are only five characters with more than one line of dialog, and I don't think there were any scenes where Violet talked to more than one person at a time. It's one insanely outnumbered confrontation after another, alternating between swordplay and gunplay, with a sad muddle of a plot strewn about like the bodies of the faceless dead. One car-motorcycle-helicopter chase sequence was rendered as well as a poor video game. Our theater held fourteen people, including the four of us. Three guys left about 20 minutes in, and another guy fell asleep, and was indeed fast asleep even after the credits were over. (AMC Fenway)

See Also on Stub Hubby \ The Dytopian Action Heroine Collection:

  • Aeon Flux [2005] "The secret history of the last city on Earth is a cool premise which offers limitless possibilities for a cerebral sci-fi examination of self and the human condition, but this potential is squandered on lots and lots of gunfire."
  • Lucy [2016] "A thinking-person's superhero origin story...without the heroics"
  • Ghost In The Shell [2017] "A workmanlike leveraging of a well-known property"