Sunday, 17 January 2016

Those two horrible departures

Most of my notes on this blog were not too serious, as I did not really intend to ponder on any matters of great gravity. But the way this year has begun - with two devastating losses - makes me feel obligated to do so this time. We have bid farewell to two astonishing, extremely talented artist.

David Bowie was, first and foremost, a musician - but he was not a typical rockstar. His bizarre act and personality - both on and out of stage - has tought us that being different does not necessarily have to mean being worse, that there is certain courage and beauty in standing out in the ordinary crowd. I'm afraid that his generation - which is unfortunately slowly passing away, one great (wo)men at a time - will turn out to be irreplacable. Can you name one modern artist who would have such a vision as he did?

Before we even had the time to reconcile after Bowie's death, we heard another tragic news - that Alan Rickman has passed away as well. According to those who had te great honot of working with him, he was a warm and caring person, and a truly inspiring artist. If David Bowie has tought us that there's nothing wrong with being different, I think what Rickman tough me - through his characters - is that it's ok to be torn apart, and to commit mistakes, that nobody is beyond redemption. More than anything, I will remember him as Severus Snape - a character insanely profound and complex, whose evolution through the Harry Potter series is incredibly moving. But he also brought us Harry form Love actually - a man as lost in his live and choices as could be - and voiced Marvin, the paranoid android from A hitchiker's guide to the galaxy.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

3 movies I'm looking forward to watch

While Poland has entered European Union and NATO years ago, there are still some differences between us and the West: one of them are certainly the movie release dates. Here are three movies I'm still waiting to see although my colleagues in France or England probably already did:

The Revenant
From the very first time I saw the trailer, this movie stroke me as different: while "a man tries to survive in the wilds" kind of movie usually seem boringly repelling to me, this one promises dramatism and excitement. Starring Leonardo Dicaprio - a great actor who should have got the Academy Award a long time ago - it's gritty and brutal, and will surely turn out to be a fascinating experience. Fun fact: a "revenant" is a word used to describe a person who has supposedly return from the grave!

The Hateful Eight
You either love Quentin Tarantino or hate him, and in the recent months he has been more controversial of a figure than ever before. Personally, I find his movies really captivating, and it seems like in the last years - with "Inglorious Basterds" and "Django" - he has found a new formula, after several not so good movies such as "Jackie Brown" or "Kill Bill". While some accuse him of shwing unnecessary and excesive violence on screen, to me, he is a great director, and his sense of humour and original characters more than make up for all his weaknesses.
The Lobster
A new movie of Giorgios Lanthimos, director of one of the most disturbing films I've watched, "The fang", is a dystopain Sci-Fi in which single people are closed in a hotel and forced to find a person to pair with within a certain period of time - or else, they are transformed into animals. This seems to be a great idea, and probably will give us some great characters with interesting relations with one another. I just hope it won't turn into a "lets break out of this prison" kind of movie - that would be just too simple and the director can do better than that.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The franchise has awakened

This note is as spoiler-free as it could be, and in general shouldn't really give you any new information if you have seen the trailers of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

It took me suprisingly long to write a note about a movie I care about so much. I have seen the new Star Wars movie twice and I am glad I did - one viewing is just not enough to appreciate how rich and beautiful it is. There are many people in the Internet pointing out, or even raging about it's shortcomings - but I think it is just what I hoped it would be.

As you can guess by the trailers, there are several new characters in the movie: Rey, a tough-as-nails junk scavenger hailing from a desert planet Jakku (it's interesting story is all but omitted in the movie, unfortunately), Finn, a soon-to-be-ex stormtrooper, and dashing rebel pilot Poe Dameron (my personal favourite). Of course, as every movie in the franchise, this one comes down to the archetypical battle between good and evil, the latter represented by Kylo Ren, who seems like your typical mask-wearing villain ... but is it really all that simple? Of course, we also see a return of some of the old friends.

Without spoiling anything, Imay only say that all those new characters are psychologically consistent and well motivated, and satisfyingly complex. Rey, for example, is a perfect of how a feminine characters should be presented in a movie: she's strong and smart (or at least street/desert-smart), and we can clearly see that she's so much more than a potential romantic interest for a male protagonist. 

I was also astonished by The Force Awakens humour: that's the area where, at least in my opinion, the new trilogy failed the hardest. Episode VII, in contrast, has numerous scenes and lines that are genuinely funny (the scene where Finn and BB-8 reach an agreement is absolutely brilliant. If you've seen the movie, you'll surely remember it).

It goes without question that the audiovisual effects are top shelf - it would really be disappointing if they weren't, right?

So, just go see the movie - even if you do not like it as I did, it's surely worth seeing, at least you'' be able to (dis)agree with all the people on the internet.


Saturday, 26 December 2015

'Tis the season ... to watch some christmas episodes!

We all know many Christmas movies, both classic and new, and love to watch them to feel the special magic of this holiday. But many series also decide to feature special episodes focusing on Christmas. Here's a bunch of them I'd like to recommend to you:

1. Orange is the New Black S01E13 "Can't Fix Crazy"

This refreshingly original serie, produced by Netflix, starts by telling a story of one Piper Chapman and keeps broadening it's perspectives to show a wide panorama of inmates from various backgrounds. This particular episodes has them trying to organise a nativity play, but between the personal and racial animosities and the prison staff's indifference and incompetence, it surely won't be easy. Rest assured that it's a rather comical take on the life in jail, so it won't spoil your Christmas joy.

2. Hey Arnold! S01E20 "Arnold's Christmas"

Many Christmas episodes are really touching and tell some heartbreaking stories: that's exactly the case of this story of the (American) football-headed boy we all earned to love in our childhood. After drawing Mr. Hyunh in the boarding house's Secret Santa lottery, Arnold decides to reunite him with his daughter (who had to stay back in Vietnam). It's no easy task: the Scroodge-like city archivists, Mr. Bailey, forces the protagonist to run his Christmas errands in exchange for information.

3. Futurama S02E04 "Xmas Story"

This animated science-fiction serie has been mocking many absurds and weaknesses of our society, and our consumerism-crazy vision of Christmas soon turned out to be a good material for criticism. It's Fry's first Xmas (as the holiday is called in the XXXI century) after being hibernated for a 1000 years, and it differs from what he used to know: palm trees are decorated in place of the now-extincted pine trees, to begin with. On top of all, Fry must hurry with his present shopping, as a murderous Santa Claus robot is terrorizing the city after sundown, his "naughty-or-nice" standards having been set way to high for anybody to survive it. Without spoiling it too much, let's just say that's one of the episodes in which the protagonists kindness overcomes all difficulties.

4. Mad Men S04E02 "Christmas Comes but Once a Year"

From the series which got literally everybody's attention and a huge critical acclaim despite all it's action consisted in drinking vodka, smoking lots of cigarettes and leaving the office angrily comes probably the most cynical episode in this list. Showing the first Christmas party at the newly opened advertising agency facing serious financial troubles and Don Draper's more and more frantic personal life, this episode is dangerously close to reality and far from the idealized vision of Christmas we'd like to be real.

5. Doctor Who "The Snowmen" (2012 Christmas special)

Each and every Christmas episode of Doctor Who is brilliant and crazy at once, being incredibly imaginative while also keeping the Cristmas spirit. This one's probably my favourite because of it's dickensian inspirations (hey, what else could it have been, it's set in XIX-century London. The Doctor, devastated by a personal loss which I shouldn't really disclose, decides to retire in that place and period. But he always seems to get in harm's way: this time it's huge killer snowmen and the malevolent doctor Symeon he'll have to save himself, and the world, from.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Battlefront is out, and it's great, but...

In one of my previous notes, the one about Star Wars, I've mentioned a new game related to this franchise which was going to be released. I've already had enough some time to test it, so I'd like to share my impressions.
First of all, the audiovisual aspects are stunning: you might have a hard time believing it's not a movie. The sounds of all the vehicles, blasters and explosions are really immersive!

Moreover, it feels like a genuine Star Wars experience, letting you relieve some of the scenes of the original trilogy, either as a mere rebel / imperial stormtrooper, or as one of the heroes or villains, such as Han Solo or Darth Vader.
Unfortunately, there are some things I did not like. The game seems to lack in content: it only has a few maps for each game mode, which might get repetitive after a while. It also falls noticeably short when it comes to weapons and gear selection in comparison to its competitors, namely Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Destiny. It's a part of a marketing strategy, as four expansions are to be released in 2016 for a hefty total price of 50$: it's not an unusual way to make business in this line of entertainment, but it doesn't really make you the most liked games developer. Many people also complain that it's not complex enough to keep you interested for a longer period of time.
All in all, it's a game you can fall in love with, but will probably get you bored of you decide to spend more time with it without investing more of your hard earned money.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Lots to watch today, so get started!

These days, most of music videos are really, really bad: trivial and overly sexualized, they only serve to prolong the agony of music televisions, relics of a bygone era. Even if you put them on willingly on Youtube, you probably only care about the music anyway. But there's this one guy who still them esthetically pleasing, smart and entertaining. Also, it really seems like he has so much fun making them!
This one's probably my favourite: William's a guardian angel, acompanying a young girl who either can't see him or does not pay any attention to him. He's getting hurt to protect her time and time again as she's walking and texting. Finally, he gets so enraged punching pidgeons that he catches on fire! Tha video's absurd, and so is part of the lyrics ("Father tricked the system by moving bricks to Brixton and learning how to fix them" is just a lovely alliteration). Also, it has Kaya Scodelario starring in it. Need I say more?

Let's go back in time to early 2000's, when Robbie Williams decided it would be great to play a race driver in the '60 who would be called Bob Williams (yeah, the man's little to no shame). Mixing racing scenes and newspaper frontpages and a really haunting chorus (come on, imagine what it must have been like to hear "This new century is bringing me down" in 2001).

The last one is an amazing result of a reunion between Robbie and his former Take That pal, Gary Barlow. From the very beginning you can see the inspiration with Brokeback Mountain: two tough guys wearing denim? Check. Allusive gazes and homosexual tension? Check. Even the bar were they perform their final vocal duo has a confederate flag, so without doubt they wanted you to think about southern USA, a place not so friendly towards two men in love with each other.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Postapocalypse now

In my last post, I've talked about Star Wars, a Sci-Fi franchise set in the distant past (suprised? Thay actually say in the beginning of each episode, that it takes place "a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...", making reference to the traditional introduction to tales). This time, I'll stick to science fiction, to talk about it's subgenre that's quite different: The postapocalypse (or, to abbreviate, the post-apo).
Post apocalyptic movies, games and books show a world destroyed by some kind of horrible disaster: usually atomic war, as these works of culture tend to be fruits of cold-war paranoia.One of them is the movie that jump-started Mel Gibson's career, Mad Max, telling a story of a cop who's trying to bring justice to a mob of homicidal bikers in a world where all the order is long forgotten:
While it might not seem too deep, it was really ahead of it's times and is probably the best known post-apocalyptic movie. Fun fact: the American distributor decided that Mel Gibson needs to be dubbed for the Americans to understand him.

While Post-Apo might originate from the cold-war era fear of nuclear holocaust, it does not end with the fall of the Soviet Union. One of the better known representatives of this genre from the later period is Water World, which shows our planet flooded entirely after the melting of the icecaps. It does a better job than Mad Max in showing a panorama of a broken society, and is surely more esthetically pleasing.
Obviously, cinema is not the only branch of entertainment making good use this esthetic. The most famous depction of a destroyed civilization in a video game is, without doubt, Fallout, which won the hearts of fans and critics alike. It has the player having to make many tough, moral choices, which are usually far from obvious, and creates a world full of interesting, well-developed characters. It is also inspired deeply in the 50s and 60s  design, so the nuclear wasteland is full of jukeboxes, characteristic cars and Mad Men - era ads.