Iron Man 3

April 28, 2013 at 10:15 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Plot discussed

Iron Man 3 revolves around: Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man / Paul Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), and Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian – the baddie).

Killian’s organisation is hacking human DNA to upgrade people – faster, stronger, self-regeneration, and able to generate intense heat (normally under control). The only problem is that not all recipients of the treatment are able to control their upgrades and the effect ‘runs away’, generates too much heat, and they explode. This happens so often that they invent a terrorist movement, lead by the ‘Mandarin’ (Ben Kingsley), to cover up the explosions – as bombings! [This is one of the best conspiracies ever!]

Stark’s genius is the key to fixing the bugs in the ‘hack’. Pepper is to be the hostage/lever – she is given the upgrade.

The unacknowledged hero is Jarvis – Stark Industries’ AI (voice by Paul Bettany) – who controls the swarm of Iron Man suits in battle against the upgraded human soldiers of Killian’s organisation.

Of course it ends well – potentially setting up Iron Man 4 to take a very different direction. There is even a remote possibility that Pepper will get her own movie – Pepper’s role is currently too small, and this old Marvel universe restriction holds the franchise back from richer stories.

The film is a bit patchy: there is the Stark character development and being a bit of a metro-sexual with Pepper; then there is Stark, the zero emotional-inteligence geek; and bits of the original Marvel Comic universe 2-D leaking into the film. Still, the film tries to answer the age old question: “Is it the suit that makes the super hero? Or is it the man inside?”

There are some great fight scenes. The Iron Man suits have advanced somewhat from Iron Man I & II.
The CGI effects make this film possible, and so should be seen on the wide-screen.

Olympus Has Fallen

April 21, 2013 at 10:13 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Olympus has Fallen is strictly a boys’ movie.

Plot discussed – in some detail

Once Ashley Judd’s character dies in the opening minutes – never to be seen again – the film revolves around Gerard Butler (Mike Manning), Aaron Eckhart (The President), and Rick Yune (Kang). Kang – a North Korean – is the bad guy; The President is the ‘game token’ – held for long periods by Kang, but as in most games, it is who hold the token at the end who determines who wins; Manning is a Secret Service Agent – on a self-tasked with getting the token back.

The film is like a tribute to the early Die Hard movies. One man trapped in a building – the White House – with terrorists; will he have enough ammunition? will he have enough time, before his superiors negotiate away everything.

The film works through a scenario where enough ‘red’ forces overwhelm the White House Secret Service Detail and take it over and hold the President hostage. In reality, I hope that the White House has more internal defenses than shown, and that the Secret Service Detail have better tactical awareness – still it is a movie, and hopefully make believe. Once the terrorist hold the White House, they start torturing the nuclear fail-safe codes from the President, Vice-President and Secretary of Defense.

Manning is in the right place – inside the White House – to remove the terrorist one by one. In the end, all it needs is one man on the spot prepared to do whatever is needed – even if he has to wade through a stack of bodies and ditch his morals. There is a reason why this is an R16.

Morgan Freeman makes an appearance as the Speaker for the House, and second in the succession, so ends up negotiating with the terrorists. One in accuracy: he is never sworn in.

The film comes out at a time when tensions on the Korean Peninsula are rising, so that it is a bit more relevant.

I was disappointed that Ashley Judd got so little time on screen.

Oblivion

April 18, 2013 at 9:07 am | Posted in Film Review | 1 Comment
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I went to see Oblivion the other day, and was pleasantly entertained: part thriller and part action movie, with nice inverting plot twist. I did think the last two minutes detracted from the film’s overall impact.

Plot details revealed.

Tom Cruise is Jack – a post-war drone repair man. The film is set in a post human-alien war setting. It sounds a bit preposterous, but is what provides the plot device through which the film’s plot is explored. The drones are like the zeroids from Terrahawks on steroids! The drones are heavily armoured, fly, and have quadruple ‘auto-cannon’. They protect massive energy extraction plants that suck up seawater.

Andrea Riseborough plays Victoria – Jack’s partner in all ways; she is his com-tech, local controller, and life partner. I felt she had the most challenging role.

Olga Kurylenko plays Julia, an astronaut and someone from Jack’s past.

Morgan Freeman puts in an appearance as a resistance leader.

The film explores some big issues: orders over feeling; eternal love; karma. Jack wants to do what is right; Victoria wants to do her (apparent) duty. Why does Jack have memories of Julia? Is the war really over? as the film progresses, this last question keeps coming up.

The film has some breathtaking scenery – best seen in a movie theatre.

Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2013

April 1, 2013 at 7:08 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review, Sporting Event | 6 Comments
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Having gone to the final of the Genee 2012 late last year, I had to go to the Alana Haines Australasian Awards (AHAAs); so I attended the final night at the St. James in Wellington, New Zealand.

The AHAAs is probably the premier Australasian ballet competition – held every two years in memory of 11 year old Alana Haines, a promising young dancer who died in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 1989.

The format of the final was that the seniors would dance a piece chosen from a short list of classical works, then the juniors would do the same, then the seniors would do a piece of their own choice.

The knowledgeable audience gave full vent to its appreciation of some fine dancing.

The finalists were:

  • Juniors, 11 – 13 years:
    • Larissa Kiyotto-Ward
    • Sophie Smith, Queensland
    • Madison Ayton, Queensland
    • Lily Maskery
    • Talia Fidra, Queensland
    • Nae Kojima, Queensland
    • Damen Axtens
    • Bianca Scudamore, Queensland
    • Madeleine Skippen, Queensland
    • Harrison Lee
    • Narvin Turnball, Queensland
  • Seniors, 13 – 15 years:
    • Chloe Michelle Hollow, Queensland
    • Kayla-Maree Tarantolo, New South Wales
    • Bethany Cockburn, Queensland
    • Madison Whiteley, Brisbane
    • Alysha Martignago, Queensland
    • Shene Lazarus, Brisbane
  • Seniors, 16 – 21 years:
    • Emily Seymour, Sydney
    • Anyah Siddall, Sydney
    • Tirion Law Lok Huen
    • William Fitzgerald
    • Tynan Wood

The judges were:

  • Sarah Eliot-Cohen: Head of Development, Royal Ballet School (London)
  • Simon Dow: Senior Tutor, Australian Ballet School
  • Martin James: International Guest Tutor

NB: Ms Eliot-Cohen stepped in at the last moment when Gailene Stock-Norman (Director, Royal Ballet School) suffered a concussion and was ruled medically unable to fly. [Apologies if I have Sarah’s details incorrect – there being no errata to the programme.]

There was a very strong Australian contingent – 15 of the final 22 were not based in New Zealand.

Congratulations to the three winners:

  • Harrison Lee
  • Bethany Cockburn
  • Tynan Wood

I had seen Tynan Wood (and William Fitzgerald) dance before at the New Zealand School of Dance. Tynan was a worthy winner: his Siegfried – with its huge jumps and fine technical control – had the audience in raptures; and his Speaking in Tongues made the biggest connection with the audience. It should be noted that two of the top three places in the 16 – 21 year group went to New Zealand School of Dance students: Tynan, and William Fitzgeral. Anyah Siddal, who was the first runner-up is from Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching, NSW, Australia. [Full results at AHAAs]

The ‘boys’ did very well: Damen Axtens and William Fitzgerald came second in their respective sections.

Sir John Trimmer, was the host for the evening, and created a supportive and appreciative atmosphere to a tense few hours. He worked the audience like a music hall master of old.

There was a 25 minute interval to allow the judges to confer and make a final decision. This dragged out to 40-45 minutes; and this gave rise to some uncalled for rhythmic clapping and stamping at times (by the adults – it should be noted, not the competitors).

Just before the interval – to give the judges even more time and to showcase some young talent – students (Jarrah McArther and Tynan Wood) from the New Zealand School of Dance did a neo-classical pas de deux (Jeffrey Tan’s Facade) and Shayarne Matheson (Winner in 2011) did a neo-classical solo.

A most entertaining and educational night.

[Apologies to the participant for any errors – there being no errata to the programme – I am forced to rely on some notes scribbled in the dark.]

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