Saturday, February 25, 2017

OLD vs. NEW: Judge Dredd

Growing up I was a big fan of Sylvester Stallone. And this is the third year that I am dedicating February to Stallone movies. And why wouldn't I? They are awesome: even the silly ones have charm to them. So please enjoy the third installment of #StalloneMonth

This movie is based on a comic series by the same name. The first movie came out in 1995. In the story Judge Dredd was setup and arrested for killing someone. The evidence against him was based on DNA, but we find out that he was an experiment along with a Judge called Rico, and that makes them brothers. Dredd returns to stop Rico because the latter wishes to create more humans like them to do his bidding as judges. Dredd on the other hand believes that the law should be upheld and no one has the right to go against it, especially not for their own purposes. Their world is damaged enough and they should work to set it right.

I didn't know anything about this movie or the world it is set in. I do want to read Dredd comics now and I will get to them soon. The idea of a world that is no longer in control and only a few are willing to work for justice is scary. This post-apocalyptic world is also attractive for the way people decided to set up laws and rules in a very democratic way. In the end even Dredd was just trying to upkeep that law, even if that turned against him. There were two things in the movie that I did not enjoy very much and thus it is unlikely that I will rewatch it anytime soon... First, after Dredd got arrested he was being transported to jail and his transport was stopped by a group of cannibals. One of them is just unreasonably disgusting and I'm sure they are meant to be scary but they are just gross... maybe that was the intent but seriously I don't know what they wanted with them besides showing that Dredd can survive anything. The other problem was the villain... Rico, played by Armand Assante. And well, he played Armand Assante. I'll admit it I haven't seen many of his movies, yet I feel like I have seen this character more than once. It was ridiculous. Again, was that the intent? Was I supposed to be scared or be amused by him? I don't know. It was very hard to take it seriously and I think that was the biggest problem. There were a lot of emotional scenes and the action was entertaining but it was hard to get invested and to care when I am either disgusted by the side characters or laughing at the main villain...

In 2012 there was a sequel made with Karl Urban playing Dredd; and in he was just assigned a case in which he worked to take down a drug den. I'm fairly certain that it was closer to the comic, as I am sure that even if his origins and backgrounds were discussed, they are ultimately not what the comic books were about. If I had to compare the two, and I do, I would say that the first is a good base for the continuation and the sequel went with that. There was no need for a new origin story, who cares? Dredd kicks ass and people want to see him kick ass. In the first film he was merciless, in this one he thinks twice about his decisions. You can see that it isn't the same Dredd, but neither was the first one at the end of his own movie. You can either take this as a continuation, or not. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you expect Dredd to be in a certain way and he is.
Not to mention that the villain in this movie was outstanding. She was played by Lena Headey and she was the head of a drug ring that even payed the judges off. This world they live in is where money wins, even for the police, as the city is dying, going under that chaos and people are giving up. But not Dredd. He finishes the job and that's what the movie is about essentially. In it he is training a rookie, Anderson, played by Olivia Thirlby, who is able to see people's thoughts, and she is meant to become a Judge but her skills have to be improved and that is why she is assigned to Dredd. There is no romance and the girl decides that this isn't meant for her. This movie is about action and on that it delivers a lot better than the first one. Acting is brilliant, but the story is very different and because of that it is hard to compare the two. This movie is a continuation in a way but it stands alone perfectly and it is a great movie if you ask me.

Watch them? Yes, I recommend seeing the first one too because it is interesting. When it comes Sylvester Stallone movies I'm not gonna recommend it, but not because of him, but because it is silly. It has a good moral and several layers and it introduces you to a world that makes you think about the future. But it's simply dumb... The second one, on the other hand, is a great movie with great affects and an outstanding cast. If not both, watch the second one (but careful, it is a bit graphic...).

This is the end of #StalloneMonth 2017. I hope you enjoyed it and I'm already collecting movies for next year's installment! Make sure you stick around until then :) Thank you for reading!

Until the next item on my list!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

What's Next On My List? Creed

Growing up I was a big fan of Sylvester Stallone. And this is the third year that I am dedicating February to Stallone movies. And why wouldn't I? They are awesome: even the silly ones have charm to them. So please enjoy the third installment of #StalloneMonth

The son of Apollo Creed, Donnie, seeks the help of Rocky Balboa because he has a fighter in him that is still very rough around the edges. Apollo had died before he was born and Rocky has no one left, as his best friend and wife passed away and his son decided to move as he could not handle the weight of being a Balboa. Rocky decides to help Donnie and the two get closer and became a family as they try to make the champion out of Donnie that his dad, both his dads, were once.

I'll tell you right now that he should have won the Oscar for this part. Stallone not only brought back the character of Rocky that so many people fell in love with - bit slow but with a heart of gold -, but he managed to elevate it to another level. I am sorry but the main character did not have much... of a character. That is the best way to describe it. His performance was basically repeating "I want to fight", but with synonyms and different ways. That was it. Rocky on the other hand... the first scene where you start crying is when you see him go to the cemetery, where his wife and best friend are buried. He gets a chair he keeps in the tree, letting you know already that he goes there often. He then tells Donnie about his son who moved away. This is behind the scenes information, but in the other Rocky movies his son was played by his real son, Sage Stallone, who passed away at the age of 36. Rocky tells Donnie that his son is happy in Canada, and that makes you smile, the idea of him still being alive somewhere out there. Nonetheless, Rocky is still alone.
He is then diagnosed with cancer, because you were not crying enough already... and he refuses the treatment at first, saying that his wife tried that. Adrian, whom he even named his restaurant after, died of cancer. Donnie argues with him that he too needs to fight and that is when he gives him a speech about the fact that he has lost everything. That he has no reason to fight anymore, if he can get back Adrian maybe, but otherwise, what is the point? And Donnie is offended of course, as he thought of Rocky as family. The two start to fight together, Rocky battling the cancer and Donnie battling the ghost of his dad as well as he can.

Watch it? If you liked the original, yes, because it has the same pace, colors and feeling to it. The idea is very smart and the delivery on the part of Stallone is outstanding. I remember him saying that it has been so long since he's been to the Oscars, he no longer owns the appropriate tux! To me he was the clear winner and this movie will be a reminder of that always!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Adonis Johnson - Michael B. Jordan
Rocky Balboa - Sylvester Stallone
Bianca - Tessa Thompson
Mary Anne Creed - Phylicia Rashad
'Pretty' Ricky Conlan - Tony Bellew

Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Books You Should Read Because Why Not?

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
This is list is for the lonely hearts, the ones who tonight will 
seek the company of a book after a long day, and everyone else who
would like to read, read and read!

I keep seeing hundreds of lists of books that are a total 'must', and you should read them before school, or during, or after, or all the time!!! You should, in other words, feel really bad about not having read those books! Shame on you! And I always felt like... okay. I guess, that is true, but I do think that if I read The Lord Of The Rings after I am 30 years old, it would still make an impact. Same with Crime and Punishment or, the what is now a bestseller again in America, 1984 by Orwell. These books are timeless, they are still available for a reason and nobody - and I mean nobody - should make you feel bad about not having read them. Why? Because reading is fun! It is meant to be something you do out of pleasure, no wonder kids hate reading in schools... there is a sense of obligation that ruins it. Not to mention that many school, like the ones in Hungary, teach them chronologically and you might not be able to understand a book at 16 that you actually could love when you are 45! That is why I decided to compile a list of my 10 favorite books as a recommendation instead of claiming that they are super life changing books and you should have them on your shelf RIGHT NOW! If you are looking for something to read, maybe you'll find something here. Who knows? Happy reading!

10) Italo Calvino - Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore (If on a winter's night a traveler)

Strong start, this is a book by Italian writer Italo Calvino, published in 1979. In it you, the reader, goes on an adventure to retrieve a certain book, the one by Calvino, only to stumble onto newer and newer books that you never get to finish. Next to the tale of your adventures reader, you also get 10 different books, written in 10 different styles and belonging to 10 different literary categories. It really showcases the talent of this wonderful author. I am planning to write my BA thesis on this book, so I am invested in translations and literary criticism and I can say, it was praised for the right reasons. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to get to know more about Italian authors!

9) Charlotte Brontë - Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is the governess of Adele, a girl whom Mr Rochester is the guardian of. The latter becomes fond of Jane and the two fall in love, but she discovers that the house they live in holds a big secret... It was the summer of 2011, I saw the trailer for a new adaptation of this book and I decided that I was not gonna start my English studies without first having have read it. And I just could not put it down... During the family vacation I was told off for not enjoying family time but wanting to read and read... I adore this book so much. Years later I had an exam, oral one, and the teacher brought it up, I knew she hated it, she asked me "Why is this a feminist novel?" and I told her that I don't think it is, regarding today's standards. She was shocked, I can tell you that, and afterwards we had a great conversation about it and it was - up to today - the best exam I ever had. Jane is a complex character, she seems simple, but she isn't. Yes, when this came out it was unlikely for a governess to be the heroine, to be the one the master falls in love with, nonetheless, she does not function without her love and that is what does not make her a 21st century heroine. That having been said... the dialogues in this book are simply to die for! I have been rereading some chapters over and over again yearly! If you have not read it yet, please do!

8) William Shakespeare - Much Ado About Nothing

OK, you can argue with me, this isn't a book, however, plays are something to learn from! Don Pedro and his men reside in the house of Senior Leonato after the war, where two young men find a wife for themselves, amidst the evil jokes of Don John. This was my favorite play growing up, even today I have to get the original in my hands before writing a script! "Dear Beatrice, have you wept all this while?", each and every adaptation of this play is marvelous (except for the one by Joss Whedon... that movie was shit!). However, despite the adaptations it is wonderful to read Shakespeare in its original. Yes, the dramas and the tragedies are award winning of course, but because of that so many Shakespeare plays sometimes get forgotten... at my university, for example, the teachers keep focusing on three or four plays and I have friends who hate Shakespeare because of that and that always makes me sad... this brings up back to the 'must read' category that schools force you into. If you are gonna hate Shakespeare make sure you have seen more than one of the layers he can offer! Also read this play :)

7) Jay McInerney - Bright Lights, Big City

I actually saw the adaptation first, with Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland and Phoebe Cates. I found it by mistake among discounted DVDs and I have to say that I liked it a lot. It was different, very different from a lot of stories and the end, where the main character trades in his sunglasses for a loaf of bread to enjoy at the light of dawn... I saw myself there for a second. I got the book because I wanted to write about it for my American Literature class (you can read my essay here!), and I have to admit the book made me love the story even more. Admittedly, I was not left by my wife and tried very hard to replace her with drugs, but that is just the environment. The main character, more precisely, the city around him are what get you interested. How the night turns into days, in the city that never sleeps. Great book with a great adaptation as well. It is ultimately the story of how it gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better.

6) Margaret Atwood - The Penelopiad

I got this book as a gift from one of my best friends for my birthday. It was a great book. Think about all the books you had to read in school and hating them... just hate... continuously asking yourself why you have to read it and wonder if the characters in it enjoyed it at all? (OK, maybe that is just me connecting with the characters as I write a lot, but still, the question is there!) Well, here you go, the wife of Odysseus/Ulysses, Penelope, years after her death, having maintained her duties as a good wife decides to tell her version of the story. How she had to sit and wait for the husband who cheated to get her to marry him and then left her for ten years. It is a great twist on a classic that we were all forced to endure. I very much enjoyed this book, gives you a perspective into how skillful Margaret Atwood is and her knowledge of the classics. Fun reading from a great writer.

5) Pablo De Santis - El Enigma de Paris (The Paris Enigma)

An Argentine boy decides to take lessons from a great detective who sends him to the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1889). Many believe that he is a sidekick sent by the great detective to do reckon in his name, when he was infact trained to be a detective himself. Among the many stages at the expo there is one dedicated to the greatest detectives in the world, 12 of them, and the one from Paris becomes the victim of a killing. The main character investigates his death as the assistant of the Belgian detective, only to become the one who cracks the case. I've found this book by accident in a used English book store and has become one of my favorites. I love detective stories and this one was incredibly intricate, with several characters, but nobody was forgotten and nobody was left out of the story. Simply brilliant!

4) Susan Collins - The Hunger Games

In the dictatorship of Panem, children of the twelve districts are forced to fight for their lives in the Hunger Games. One year, however, a boy and a girl from district twelve decide to escape this hell together, but their victory only brings them more misery and the wrath of the dictator of Panem. A revolution begins at the end of the second book, and they become victorious in the end, but war has a lot of casualties. I read these three books in three days. I just could not put them down. I wanted to know what happens. I loved Katniss very much, I don't know why because she wined a lot and she was repetitive and that kind of behavior can get boring very fast. But I still cared for her. And the love triangle was built up much better than in many other books, and each character got from A to B, logical steps and for me personally a very satisfying ending. I have re-read them a couple of times, can't get enough of the dialogue in Catching Fire.

3) Kurt Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle

Our narrator, John, recounts how he met the sons of Felix Hoenikker, a Nobel laureate physicist who helped develop the atomic bomb. He is also responsible for a material called ice-nine which turns liquid into solid form. We find out in the end that the narrator is telling us this story from an island where he was stranded for life after an accident... I don't want to spoil it for you reader! I read this book in one sitting. It was assigned to us in an American Literature class and I will always be grateful for the teacher. I just couldn't stop until I finished. One of the most well written books in existence. Short, to the point, fantastic characters and a breath taking story... it gives you something to think about and that is what good books should do. That, and entertain you!

2) Stephen King - 11/22/63

Recommended to me because my thesis covered the Kennedy assassination, this became quickly one of my favorite books. Jake Epping travels back in time to try and stop the murder of President Kennedy, but in the meantime falls in love and almost risks everything, perhaps even the universe itself, to save her. The past keeps fighting back as Jake learns that the past does not want to be changed. This book made me fall in love with the writing of King and I learned a lot from him since then. I am not much into horror, there is a certain amount of thriller I am fine with, and this book was just that. I recommend it whole heartedly to anyone who likes time travel, historical fiction and is not a big fan of horror. (And the TV adaptation as well, as it is a wonderful mini-series! Read my review of it here!)

1) David Lodge - Small World

This was the book that got me into writing prose. Until then I mostly concentrated on dialogues, plays, scripts and this book made me want to write about the background of the characters. I reached a point where I wanted for the reader to see what I saw. I got lost in the details and it fascinated me, it still does! A good book does that to you, makes you want to grab pen and paper, even if you are not a writer, even if you just end up drawing something, still, you wish to create. And all of these books you just saw on my list do that to me, they make me want to create!
This book discusses the adventures of a young professor from Ireland who wishes to find a woman he met at a conference. During his travels to seek her out he meets people from all around the world, whom are all connected, either through their studies or area of research or simply by coincidence because the world is small! I read this book before starting my studies at the university and I enjoyed it immensely. It is the second book of Lodge's "Campus Trilogy", after Changing Places (1975) and before Nice Work (1988). I can still recall a lot or parts of it by heart and since then each year at a book festival here in Budapest I buy a book from David Lodge and I will do so until I collect them all! Lodge has to be my favorite author and I recommend his work to everyone!

This was my little list of books that changed my way of thinking, my inspiration towards writing and my wish to practice and practice until I can finally become just maybe 1/10 of the writer my favorites are. 

Let me know what you like to read, maybe recommend me something, just please, let it be shorter than 600 pages... I will have a lot to do this upcoming semester :)

Until the next item on my list!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What's Next On My List? First Blood

Growing up I was a big fan of Sylvester Stallone. And this is the third year that I am dedicating February to Stallone movies. And why wouldn't I? They are awesome: even the silly ones have charm to them. So please enjoy the third installment of #StalloneMonth

Johnny Rambo gets back from the Vietnam war and he tries to find an old friend of his, only to discover that he died of cancer. Feeling that nobody can escape death he just tries to get a meal in the nearby town, but war flashbacks distract him when the local sheriff tries to arrest him. He flees into the mountains and the police pursues him, but many are injured because Rambo works better in the field. The person who trained Rambo, Trautman, shows up to get him back as he knows that nobody will be able to stop him. In the end, Rambo tells him what caused the flashbacks and he is arrested for the damage he caused. 

This movie was so stupid. It was literally the dumbest thing I have ever seen. And I tell you why that makes me sad: it had a good message but the delivery was terrible. If it just had been a dumb action movie, then I could have enjoyed it as I would not have looked for a message, or a moral to the story. The idea behind it was that those protesting the Vietnam war also protested the soldiers who were drafted, who had no choice, and who solely went in belief of protecting their own country. Admittedly barely do movies concentrate on that. Veterans are, on paper, respected but that is not always the case. The movie tried to focus on that, but it did so only in the last 10 minutes where Rambo had a monologue about how he was received when he got back into the states:

"Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn't let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me, huh? Who are they? Unless they've been me and been there and know what the hell they're yelling about!"

This is all well and good and actually I can't think of many movies that tackled this problem. They might do today, but almost 99% of them focus on the post-traumatic stress disorder soldiers suffer from. And that was clearly what Rambo had, and when you think about it, it is great that we can now pinpoint and see that this isn't something that can be handled by being "tough". But here comes my problem with the movie... Sheriff Teasle stops him and says that he doesn't want fellows like him in his town. Like who? People who fought for their country? And then he says that his jacket might cause a problem. It has a flag and "U.S. Army" written on it.... I'm pretty sure that in the 70s people who fought in the Second World War respected young soldiers, actually, I know that for a fact. So what was his problem?! There is absolutely no explanation to this sheriff's beef. Did he not like his hair?
Rambo is then arrested and the old officers are total assholes with him. Why?! Why are police officers the bad guys? Why do they disrespect soldiers? And at the half of the movie they find out that he is a special operative and the man who trained him comes to get him and only then, ONLY then do some of them go "maybe this was a bad idea"... you think?! One of the young policemen keeps showing discomfort over hurting an ex soldier and that just raises so many questions in me... one, is this unusual or usual for this town? Two, if this does bother them why not report their bosses? Three, I know that the movie was supposed to end in that big monologue and although that was setup nicely, when you look at it, Rambo did not kill anyone, proving again that he is not the bad guy. Without a motivation, how can I not hate the police? Of course I want Rambo to win, because unless I zoned out there was absolutely no reason for the sheriff's behavior. This is why today bad guys have so many layers, because you have to understand why they do, what they do. Here? You didn't. You had a sheriff who seemed to care about his precious town and look what happened when he was an asshole to a total stranger! What is the lesson here?

I am sorry to be so down on this movie, but if it weren't for asshole sheriff there would be no movie. And the message of the movie is good. Veterans should not be treated like shit by people who know nothing about war. Unless you are a psychopath you can safely assume that nobody likes killing. So why hate veterans? I just don't get that. I don't get half of this movie, whatever the message. I can't wait to check out the sequels, maybe they will make more sense...

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ _

Teasle - Brian Dennehy
Trautman - Richard Cenna

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What's Next On My List? Daylight

Growing up I was a big fan of Sylvester Stallone. And this is the third year that I am dedicating February to Stallone movies. And why wouldn't I? They are awesome: even the silly ones have charm to them. So please enjoy the third installment of #StalloneMonth

Due to an accident there is a toxic waste explosion in the tunnel leading from New York to New Jersey in the morning rush hour. Outside of the tunnel an expert of the system of the tunnels, thanks to a simulation, Kit Latura volunteers to go inside and help those who are presumed to have survived the blast. Once inside the tunnel starts to collapse and the water above them starts to flood it. They slowly advance within the tunnel and find a way out, but many die in the process, and Kit himself falls behind from the group and is left to find a way out on his own.

I was not prepared for the impact that this movie had on me. Let me say, first off, that I am kind of bored of action movies that have one hero that comes in and kicks down doors and saves the day. Of course, they can be a lot of fun, and sometimes they are, but I do look for a human element sometimes, and I have found that here. You see, Stallone's character was... amazing. Talk about great acting! I just love this guy so much! He arrives, trying very hard to help and he is not a superhero! He is not a MacGyver type that can make a bomb out of a paper-clip. He comes in, not knowing what to expect and you can see him scared, worried, looking for a way to help the ones around him and himself. There is one scene where he tells one of the man who broke their neck that they have to leave him behind and it was so heart wrenching.
In another he found a place for them to hide and he sits there, wet, freezing to death, shaking and trying hard to stay warm. He is no longer jumping around, making sure everyone is OK, assuring them that everything will be fine! Because it might not be. He might die here with them, but he made a choice to do the best he can, unfortunately that does not mean that he himself won't get scared in the process. I was in awe watching this movie, it was so 90s, with the music already letting you know when shit is about to hit the fan, and you know already that the black guy is going to die, also the elderly are in danger... but the dog survived and that alone made me so happy that I cannot tell you.

Watch it? Yes. To be honest I have seen that on imdb realistic action movies get a terrible rating... I don't get that. I sure understand that action movies that have a more fantastic world and unreal physics can be a lot of fun, but many times these get comments like "that could never happen!", so why not like the one that does it right? It's just a typical situation of not being able to give people what they want... as they themselves don't know what they want! That said, it is a great movie and I do recommend it whole heartedly! Especially if you are looking for a good Stallone movie!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Kit Latura - Sylvester Stallone
Madelyne Thompson - Amy Brenneman
Grace Calloway - Vanessa Bell Calloway
George Tyrell - Stan Shaw
Norman Bassett - Barry Newman
Roy Nord - Viggo Mortensen