Archived entries for

Undie 500

Earlier this week, this came into my Otago mailbox, from the Students’ Association:

There are a lot of rumours flying around that there will be some form of
unofficial Undie 500 taking place this weekend. Our information suggests that
this is probably the case, but we have no way of knowing how many Canterbury
students will be coming to Dunedin.

[…] Last year’s Undie 500 had a terrible effect on Otago students. Only 1/3 of
those arrested were students at Otago University but, because it was in our
backyard, we still received the majority of the blame. The University received
unprecedented media coverage with the Undie story covered in countries around
the world. Otago has worked hard to develop an international reputation as a
top quality University, however thanks to the “riots” following the last two
Undie 500s we are quickly becoming famous for fires and rioting. We cannot
afford a repeat of last year’s events. Damage to Otago’s reputation is damage
to your degree.

OUSA encourages all our members to think carefully before joining any street
parties this year. More serious than damage to the institution’s reputation is
damage to your future. By all means have fun with our guests from Christchurch,
take them into town and show them some of the things which make being a student
at Dunedin so great, but remember that if anyone breaks the law they are likely
to be arrested and no one wants to see another batch of Otago students being
dragged through the courts. It’s such a shame to see people’s lives ruined
because of decisions made in the heat of the moment.

Enjoy yourself this weekend but be careful and stay safe.

What happened this weekend was apparently this-

The majority of people arrested at the weekend in connection with the unofficial Undie 500 car rally were from Otago University.

An extra 100 police officers were on duty over the weekend and Inspector Lane Todd says it got off to a quiet start with only five arrests on Friday, but Saturday night was a different matter. The Fire Service was called to the well-known student area of Castle St to put out a fire and the 300 people gathered pelted police with with bottles and rocks.

Thirty people were arrested for disorderly behaviour, breaching the liquor ban, breaching the peace and obstruction. They will face charges of assault, obstruction and resisting arrest and have been bailed to reappear in the Dunedin District Court on Thursday. Mr Lane says 13 of the accused were not students.

The rogue Undie 500 rally was staged after police and the Dunedin City Council refused to support an official event because rioting broke out last year. The event involves students driving from Christchurch to Dunedin, stopping at pubs along the way. They drive cars purchased for less than $500.

You can read more about this weekend’s event here.

I reckon police forces were just being hostile to students on that particular night and their presence was only bound to stir trouble. They were probably expecting something along the lines of last year’s event and I imagine they started rounding up everyone that was around the Gardies at the time. It’s a bit outrageous really, it’s not like it’s the first time couchburning’s been practised on Castle St! If anyone got arrested everytime they got drunk, then every single student in Dunedin would be behind bars, regardless of whether they’re a Canterbury or Otago student, and this kind of event would happen every single night. If the city council had let the Undie 500 take place, then people would have behaved, and of course there might have been a bit of mayhem in town -as there usually is; but not that kind of messy riot with people getting arrested and shit. It’s a bit of a shame. And as a former Castle St resident, well I did love the crazy and unique atmosphere of living there, and I would change it for nothing else in the world.

The Dark Knight

Well, that’s it. I’ve seen it. A new Chris Nolan film, a new chapter in the rebooted Batman franchise. And I’m thrilled. Thrilled and proud because this film is perfect. Chris Nolan not only owns this universe, but he takes it further than anything I could have expected (a bit of spoilers ahead, you’re warned). I know I was already sold but still…

There’s no need for me to say how eagerly I was awaiting this film. All the hype and superb critics and box-office records were almost too much for me to take in, so I was thinking to myself that maybe people were getting head over heels, that surely this film couldn’t be better than Batman Begins (a film my sister and I absolutely revere), that Chris Nolan was a genius but he couldn’t have made a film that good.

But he did and I find myself almost speechless –I’d use a cheesy formula such as, “this is the best superhero film ever made”, “go and see it for yourself because there’s no other way to describe it” (both are true in my opinion), but I would also like to expand those statements a little bit.

The Dark Knight starts pretty much where Begins left off –Batman is still fighting villains in Gotham City, and there’s a new criminal in town: the Joker. The premise seems rather simple and straightforward, but as always with the Nolans (brother Jonathan co-wrote the screenplay), it’s anything but.
While Begins was an origin story -and Bruce’s personal struggle to come to terms with his past- this film sees the canvas getting a little bit wider: questionable morals and motives, corrupted system and individuals thrown in together to make it work. It’s not just Batman’s story, but also the Joker’s, Harvey Dent’s and Lt. Gordon’s. Dealing with the complexity of that many characters, within the framework of plotlines that are believable (for such is the way Nolan chose to depict this universe), was just impossible to pull off, and yet, yet… It’s just incredible that the Nolans were able to provide so many thrills and tell a story that makes sense while navigating through their characters’ minds.
Rarely has a summer blockbuster been so rich with character and dialog, the latter being –shock!– given its proper place. It’s simple yet true: the dialog is just superbly written, and that’s what makes it work. They have truly made justice to the comic-book they were adapting, and more. It’s almost as if they took the literary concept of characters -heroes, villains, and those in between- and put them onscreen for the viewer to explore their depths. It’s utterly fascinating, especially when amidst them all, there is the Joker. He’s just phenomenal, a sociopath of the likes you haven’t seen before. No rules, no limits. And how do you play a game without rules? How do you deal with unprecented chaos?
Speaking of unprecedented, Heath Ledger’s performance is just impressive. Period. His passing away doesn’t change the fact that he is the core of this film, and that his performance is mind-blowing (it’s not even scene-stealing anymore, it’s something else entirely). And because the screenplay is so well-written, each character gets a fair treatment; and thus Harvey Den’t story isn’t negligcted or rushed, and neither are Bruce Wayne’s or Lt Gordon’s: it’s all following the natural course of the plot.
Now, Harvey Dent… Two-Face’s appearance is just horrendous. I was utterly repulsed by it and couldn’t even look at the screen. Props to the conceptual artists that came up with the look. That being said, his story is one of an epic downfall, from being the White Knight of Gotham City to being manipulated and twisted into madness (curtesy of the Joker). It’s a fascinating journey to watch as well (and this is now the second time I’ve used that word, but the film truly is fascinating!). It’s all the more interesting because he is closely related to our Caped Crusader -with Bruce through Rachel, with Batman through his willingness to do what’s right and rid Gotham of all its criminals.
The latter might have had the spotlight snatched away from him, but he’s still the beating heart of the franchise. Batman is as tortured as before, but he’s not conflicted -not anymore; especially when the threat of the Joker is looming all around Gotham. Chris Bale does an incredible job at making us believe in and empathise with Batman; once again, he proves how outstanding he is, no matter how reduced his role may have been. And then, there’s the loyal Lieutenant Gordon, the “outsider” I daresay, to all this story of epic grandeur -your average cop who’s trying to do the best with what he has (this is actually said in the film, and it’s just so appropriate). I love that this character is genuine and reliable, just as Alfred and Lucius Fox are. With such a dark-themed, heavily dramatic story, the comfortable presence of those characters is essential. So is a love interest; but Rachel this time around is a little bit more than that, as she also plays a pivotal role in Harvey Dent’s fate. Which is a welcomed improvement from the first film, and which also explains why she is played by a very good Maggie Gyllenhaal (as opposed to Katie Holmes).

I realise that I am now dragging this review to no end, but I’d like to add a few comments on the directing and technical achievements. The distinctive Nolan touch is still there -that atmosphere, the attention to details- but because (as I said earlier) the picture is bigger, so are the visuals, and there’s no time to slow down the pace. Not to say that Chris Nolan has lost his subtlety (of course not) but he has to comply with the storyline; and the story is no longer driven by a personal quest, as it was in Batman Begins, but by the utter destruction brought about by the Joker. Hence he is playing on a totally different ground, and on different terms. The work of his longtime collaborators is as excellent as it has always been: Wally Pfister (cinematography), Lee Smith (editing), Nathan Crowley (production design); once again enhancing Nolan’s vision to provide us with that special feel and look that they all established together in the first film. I do hope they will get some sort of award recognition this time, because they also are the ones bringing Gotham to life. Heavyweights Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard are back on scoring duties, and just as it did in Begins, their collaboration works well in the second one.

I think I’ve covered it all then. I know it’s no good to write about the film when I’ve just come out of it, but I can’t help thinking that the Dark Knight is by far a very superior film to all the recent comicbook adaptations, even the Spider-Man ones (gasp! and yes I loved it better than Superman Returns which is as you all know a cult favourite of mine). It’s intense, intelligent and a little bit challenging -everything you can hope for, and more. Batman Begins was indeed the beginning; with the Dark Knight, Chris Nolan surpasses himself in every respect -and with the help of the Joker’s presence (but by no means entirely thanks to him), provides us with entertainment and smarts of the highest quality.

Edit: I’ve just watched Batman Begins again, and while I recognise how incredibly good the Dark Knight is, there’s no question that this first film is still excellent. Very different themes though. It’s almost as if Chris wanted to venture a little bit more on themes such as insanity and morality in the Dark Knight, and did so, because they’re not very present in Begins, which has more to do with Bruce Wayne’s backstory, his parents’ legacy etc. The Joker gave him the perfect opportunity to question Batman’s actions: Gordon speaks of “escalation” at the end of Batman Begins, foreshadowing the criminal mob’s reaction to Batman’s existence -and it’s only because of Batman that the Joker exists. And it also gave Nolan free reign on action sequences (since the Joker knows no limits), so that he could go further than he did in the first film. It’s absolutely brillant and appropriate to have introduced the Joker now in this second chapter. They are that good. It all makes perfect sense.

Oh my God, I can't believe this…

…I’ve never been this far away from home!
Noooo, actually, the reason I’m saying this is that the Kaiser Chiefs have announced a NEW album for the 13th of October!! Read the announcement here.

I’m so so so stoked! It’s produced by Mark Ronson and also features Lily Allen (for some reason). But this is such a pleasant surprise, because Yours Truly, Angry Mob only came out last year.

I’m seeing them at the end of August during the Rock en Seine festival! Squeeee!

Review of the month: July

I swear the only reason I came back from New Zealand was this. The movies.

* The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, directed by Andrew Adamson. Much has been said about this second insallment of the Narnia franchise, mostly about how it underperformed at the box-office, was not as effective as its predecessor the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in terms of fantasy etc.
Well, I’ll be the devil’s advocate -I liked it, mainly because it was very faithful to the book, which I know isn’t an achievement by itself, but something I appreciate a lot as a huge fan of the books. Now, let me say the obvious: whenever there is a screen adaptation of a literary work, then there are two audiences to be satisfied, those who have read the original work and those who haven’t. I understand that as an adventure film per se, Prince Caspian isn’t particularly original. But from where I stand, well, I can’t help feeling very proud of the fact that the entire film crew seem to be die-hard fans of Narnia and that they would pretty much do anything to stay true to C.S. Lewis’ words. Even if it involves putting kids in armour and making them kings and queens, having a talking mouse who’s a knight and all that seemingly ridiculous stuff.
This being said, the film is far from being flawless -there is not enough character development (which is, in all honesty, why the Lord of the Rings films are masterpieces and the Narnia films aren’t) and that’s the biggest catch of all. The film drags on a bit too, a rythym problem that wasn’t there in the first film.
Also, for the sake of dramatic tension, Peter’s personality is somewhat modified (he’s being a bit of an arse with both Caspian and Lucy, which doesn’t really happen in the book), but then they have to deal with the fact that he comes out as unpleasant and whiny, and who would ever care about such a character? Edmund and Lucy, on the other hand, fare much better -and their portrayal by Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley is spot-on. Newcomer Ben Barnes makes a likeable Caspian, and I’m glad the three of them get to be the main characters in the next adventure. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has always been my favourite of the franchise, and I predict that it’s going to make a brillant movie. There’s room for improvement then, and while this second film isn’t a total failure, it will please the fans more than anything else. I suspect the rest of the audience feels either aloof or sceptical, which all in all, isn’t a very good thing.
Also: I recognised the locations in the film, the ones in New Zealand I mean! They were totally shooting in Southern Otago at some point, whee!

* Waltz with Bashir, directed by Ari Folman. Acclaimed by the critics when it was screened in Cannes, Waltz with Bashir is an unusual animated feature dealing with an incredibly difficult subject, the 1982 civilian slaughter of Sabra and Shatila. Part-documentary, part-autobiography, it tells of Ari Folman’s journey to trace back his lost memories from the war, through a series of interviews with people that fought the war alongside him.
The fact that Folman used animation to tell his story is very interesting indeed, because it gives the story an ethereal quality which fits the painful process he is trying to describe. The film’s not only a display of graphic skills but also of genuine creativity; Folman chose a very dark, gold-hued tone which takes some time to adjust to but ends up working beautifully. And the subject matter he is dealing with is wonderfully ambiguous and morally important. I was emotionally crushed by the end of it. I’ve never seen an animation film quite like it and would highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in seeing a visionary, complex and somewhat politically related work of art.

* Kung-Fu Panda, directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson. Talking about serious animation… Ha. Kung-Fu Panda is… well, it’s Hollywood animation at its best and worse. What I mean by it, is that the finished product is visually stunning but also that it can’t help being a bit big and dumb in its humour. Although there’s no denial that the film is hilarious and adorable! That’s what Dreamworks Animation is all about, I guess. Cute and cuddly seems to work very well for them. And the targeted audience, whether it’s kids or grown-up, will be delighted and satisfied. I enjoyed myself tremendously while watching it, and “awwwww”-ed several times, but other than that, it’s everything you would expect from a mainstream animated film. Which is neither good or bad. Also, it’s voiced by cool superstars.

* Hallam Foe, directed by David Mackenzie. This film’s a real gem, and thanks to the incredible performance of its lead actor Jamie Bell, an endearing coming-of-age story which feels different (and inspiring to young, free-spirited people such as MYSELF. What a self-centered reviewer you have tonight, ladies and gentlemen). Set in misty Scotland, Hallam is a lonely teen who’s suffered a terrible loss and can’t quite cope with the grief. He also has a weird habit of looking at people without them knowing, which either makes him a stalker or a fine observer of all things human. Driven out of his country estate by his manipulative stepmother (a damn efficient Claire Forlani), he is forced to live on the streets of Edinburgh. But his encounter with the beautiful Kate (the gorgeous Sophia Myles) will turn things around. Now, I can’t stress enough all the qualities this film has: delicate and insightful directing, engaging and funny characters, all of whom are brillantly cast; a certain bleakness which is appropriate, since it grounds the film in reality and fits the surroundings, therefore avoiding the over-glamourised image that films tend to confer upon their locations (and which sometimes annoy me). Hallam Foe is first and foremost a character drama, so you have to appreciate that genre in the first place, but other than that, it’s a charming little film; not charming as in all flowery and happy (it’s actually the opposite), but it really grows on the viewer and sticks to him. Thumbs up to David Mackenzie then, for providing us with such a beautiful film.

* In Bruges, directed by Martin McDonagh. Now, here’s a very promising feature from another young Britsh director. If I had to describe it with two words, I’d say In Bruges is nuts and also funny in a very twisted way. The premise is simple: two hitmen are sent to Bruges (yes, in Belgium) for a job they don’t know anything about.
Both the dialogue and comic situations are priceless, if you like the second-degree, dark and dry sort of humour. It’s the stuff the Coen brothers are probably dreaming about, and that Tarantino could have easily written. The pace and tone are difficult to set, but McDonagh does a splendid job in keeping the audience interested. The final sequence is particularly thrilling. Most of all though, the three main characters are brillantly written. It’s also worth seeing for its actors: this may be Colin Farrell’s finest performance to date; and Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes make the best out of their supporting roles, as always. Highly recommended if you like insane and unconventional genre films.

* Wanted, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (this is a somewhat spoilerish review, so you’re warned). You have to admit that a Russian (Kazakh, actually) director at the head of such a Hollywood blockbuster is bound to make people a bit curious about this project. Visionary as he may be, Bekmambetov can’t escape the tradition of action films that have come before him -and yes, there is no denial that The Matrix is one of Wanted‘s heaviest influences. Packed with action almost to the point of bursting, the film tells the story of Wesley, a nobody who hates his job and everyday life. He’s never known his father, which tells us Something! Big! is going to happen to him someday. And indeed, a supersecret society of assassins is just waiting to recruit him and from then on, it’s all fun and games (and crazy car chases and dodging bullets and so on and so forth). Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with the film: characters are loveable enough (if not a bit cliché -your dorky hero, bad-ass sidekick, honourable but suspicious mentor etc), directing is energetic and appropriate; overall, the film’s really enjoyable. But then, isn’t that the problem? This is pure entertainment, nothing more. I reckon the film’s got potential but it restricts its audience to those who want brainless, extreme action. Which is fair enough, because the majority of viewers would want that. And if that’s what you’re looking for, then you are going to love it. But I like to get something else than just visuals and adrenaline out of a film, is all I’m saying. So Wanted was good, but all in all, feels a bit empty.

* Wall-E, directed by Andrew Stanton. Awww, Wall-E. There’s not much I can write about it except that it’s absolutely lovely and cute. But heeem, let’s be a bit more professional.
You have to admit it, there’s something absolutely weird about Pixar being so fucking good. No other way to put it. When Toy Story and its incredibly creative universe popped out of nowhere, I was blown away. Then again with Monsters, Inc. Then again with Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, and Cars, and Ratatouille. Every time, it’s the same amount of genius, beauty and poetry, all mixed up together. Visually, it’s always dazzling but the form is always matched by the content: the stories they tell are always captivating and really emotional. It’s no different for Wall-E.
There’s no use comparing it to the previous Pixar’s because this film is another whole new level of creativity. Stanton (already on directing duties for Nemo) knows how to speak to the viewer -even if Wall-E barely talks. The true achievement is not only in not having any dialogue for at least half of the feature film, but also in writing up characters we love and care about -effortlessly. That’s genuine understanding between a director and the viewers. I don’t think you can find this anywhere else than at Pixar Animation Studios.
I’m running out of adjectives to describe how wonderful the film is. The attention paid to details is astonishing; the quality of the animation of the highest standards, whether it’s Earth or the galaxy. The sci-fi setting proves to be to their advantage, as everything looks really beautiful -I just can’t praise it enough. Wall-E‘s also a film with a conscience, but I won’t discuss the core matter here since it might spoil you. Let’s just say that once again, the Pixar team is not only displaying its skills but also its smarts. And it’s the ultimate proof that animation is no longer for kids only. Stanton has a lot of heart, and so do his stories. Although set in the future, the story is very much relevant and universal. And what can I say about the main character? He’s the cutest, funniest little thing that was ever invented; he’s irresistible (and “voiced” by sound effects legend, Ben Burtt). Last but not least, Thomas Newman scored the film and it’s absolutely lovely and fitting to Wall-E’s universe. It’s perfect, just like the film itself.
I don’t know how Pixar will ever manage to carry on if they continue to set their standards so high. But so far, it’s completely faultless.

* The Incredible Hulk, directed by Louis Leterrier. The big green monster is back, this time with a French director and Edward Norton’s features, the latter being the only reason why I even bothered to see it. Well, frankly, the film is a mess. It’s trying hard to be interesting, but it isn’t. It’s been done before and a thousand times better. I thought that Ed Norton’s presence would be enough to make a difference, but he’s barely onscreen (ha! he’s still good in it, mind you). There’s also something wrong about trying to reboot this franchise. Sure, Ang Lee’s version focused on more ‘psychological’ aspects of Hulk’s story, which upset a lot of fans at the time. But in my opinion, this one just falls flat; it’s not even engaging or particularly well-done, or just plain fun. None of that here. It’s simply mediocre. Rhythm and Hues (the visual effects company in charge of this film) may have invested a lot of work in making Hulk believable, but it doesn’t matter since the screenplay is not interested in that. It’s a bit of a shame really, because I love comic-book adaptations but then with the likes of the Fantastic Four films and this one, well, it’s bringing the genre down. And I’m sure fanboys are very happy with this version but I’m not.

Well that’s it for this month folks, happy viewing in theaters and don’t forget to go and see the Dark Knight, out on the 13th of August. It’s so clooooose! Next post will probably be my thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece film.

Update: Can’t believe I forgot to post about this –behold the brand new Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince teaser trailer! It’s all kinds of creepy and dark. Bring it on, then! It will be released on the 26th of November in France and five days earlier in America.