Monday, August 29, 2011

21 (2008)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
21 tells the story of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student who counts cards to pay his way into Havard Medical School.

Despite an almost-perfect 44 on his MCAT score, Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), must try and find a source of money to pay the extortionate entry fee to Havard Medical School. Offered a chance to apply for the Robinson Scholarship - which would pay all of his fees - he finds himself out of favour for having no 'life experience', having dedicated his life to achievements.

His Professor at MIT, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), offers him a place on a card counting team where he can place his superior mathematical talent to gaining money from Vegas casinos. There, he tells the team that he is only saving enough money to pay for Med School before he is out.

Ben starts to learn though, that once you're winning big in Vegas, the little things begin to matter a lot less - and the more you win, the more attention you attract to yourself as he starts to be watched by security chief Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Empire (5-star 500) Strikes Back

That's right, folks! Empire's 5-star 500 is back err, off the road! After a complete month out exploring the other side of the world, I figured what better way to return than by explaining my poor lack of keeping up to date with the films from the list.

As avid followers will have learnt from my previous post, I have spent the last 4 weeks down under in Australia. While the main purpose of my trip was a bit of rest and relaxation in a last hurrah family holiday, movies and cinema have never been that far away.

My trip began with a 4-night stop-over at Singapore. Not known for its ability to make movies that translate well in the Western World, Singapore nevertheless is one of the most artistic countries in the globe which is evident from the vast array of architecture that sprouts amongst the varying shades of natural green, building grey and - as the national colour - red. Unfortunately I'm not here to natter about pretty statues and thus, it is only the in-flight movies in the 12-hour flight that concerns this paragraph. Unknown, featuring Liam Neeson, was the highlight of a selection of three movies watched during this part of the trip.

Sydney's IMAX is the largest in the world
Upon leaving Singapore I stopped over in a few Australian cities - with a further in-flight entertainment piece on offer - and the most movie significant one of the lot would be, perhaps uncoincidentally, the one with the unique opera house. Despite this jagged building, Sydney features a more significant home to movie lovers; hidden in Darling Harbour is the world's biggest IMAX theatre standing at a staggering eight storeys high. Unfortunately the only films that weren't short nature pieces were the final installment of Harry Potter and the latest Transformers, which, even if I hadn't seen them already, I was never going to be able to convince my family to see as my mother hasn't seen the previous seven Harry Potter episodes, and my father struggles to comprehend the attraction of a film that flits between shots at a rate of more than 20 per second (err, ish). I struggle to think what would happen if I told him that the Wild West isn't being led by John Wayne and instead power is in the hand of a giant robot that can turn into an 18 wheeler. The final nail in the coffin was when the ticket pricing was rather extortionate at around double what I'm used to back at home at my local multiplex.

Hong Kong's Avenue of Stars - Jackie Chan
After leaving the land of the bush, boomerang and barbies, my final stop was Hong Kong - the Western way into China. This remarkable city features the largest permanent outdoor light display which can be viewed at 8pm every night from Victoria Harbour - a worthy eye-opener for any budding lighting technician looking to work their way into film. Along the Northern shore, on mainland Kowloon the Avenue of Stars has been set up to celebrate all of the actors of note in Chinese and oriental movies. While many people fail to name one Chinese movie, the walkway is sure to stir the memories of anyone that has ever seen a martial arts movie as the ground features stars and/or hand prints for Chow Yun-fat, Jet Li and Jackie Chan amongst others.

The final movie-related piece of my holiday came from the bedtime reading. Inspired by Capote, I read In Cold Blood and was utterly astounded at how good the book was. If you've never read it, it is an absolutely masterpiece of Truman Capote and how he pieces together so many different non-fictional sources into a seamless novel is truly fascinating. Meanwhile, I also picked up a copy of Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity to see how the film compared to its counterpart. Now, I'm not one for usually comparing two different outlets of media, but the differences between the novel and the movie begs me to ask the question; how did Ludlum allow a film to be made that stole his characters and basic concept whilst changing around 70% of the actual storyline? If the character and place names were different I wouldn't have even thought that they were related in any way. As I move onto Supremacy I am already starting to feel this is heading in the same direction as the previous inconsistencies. Incidentally, having spent four days in Hong Kong the opening chapter of the Supremacy book feels like I am reliving it all over again.

Of course, this break now only means I have a lot of catching up to do with regards to those movie reviews and rest assured they will follow once I recover from the inevitable jet lag - at half past 4 in the afternoon in the UK, it was 23:30 for me 24 hours ago in Hong Kong. A lack of sleep on a turbulent flight hammers home the point that I won't be doing much more this afternoon.

Finally, I hope everyone has had a pleasant August - wherever you are in the world.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

All Quiet On The Blog Front

Wow. So, everything here is getting horrifically out of date and for that I can only apologise. I currently have 8 reviews in draft though so fear not, I have not descended into a hole! In those 8 drafts there are two more of the 500, bringing the total watched to an amusing 99.

The reason for my sudden silence is simply because I'm midway through a trip around the other side of the world and, while this does enforce my silence, it does provide some interesting opportunities to see different films thanks to Qantas' in-flight movies!

Anyway, don't expect great things for a couple of weeks and keep the comments coming, your opinions are greatly appreciated!