Category Archives: Films & Television

Mad Men

My wife and I don’t watch television in the normal sense. What we do is we pick a season of a show after it has finished airing and watch an episode every night until we’re done with the season. If we like the show, we get the next season and so on. In the case of Mad Men, after we’d finished the first season, we went right out and got seasons two to four. It’s just that good.

Choosing to give the first season a try was a no-brainer given the plethora of awards this shown has won. But it wasn’t quite the show we expected it to be. The premise is an inside view of a middleweight advertising firm set in 1960s America. As such we expected to see all manner of creative ad campaigns and the wacky people who come up with them. This show does admittedly have that. But mostly what it does is act as a sort of time capsule of what living in this period was like. And in a “so similar and yet so different” sort of way, this makes it incredibly fascinating to watch.

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Favorite Films (No. 3)

Once again, more than two years have passed since I last time I wrote one of these posts. Check out the first of these from back in 2007 here and my update from 2009 here. All the usual caveats apply: favorite films are not best films and the date that this post is made has nothing to do with the release dates of the films featured herein. Always consider these lists to be an addendum to previous lists, not a replacement. And since everyone hates reading long prefaces, let’s get right down to it and just refer to the previous posts if you’re still confused.

Spoilers may follow so consider yourself warned.
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The Book of Eli

I was probably among the earliest to hear about this film if only because the story was written by Gary Whitta, a prominent QT3 member, and he posted about the project years before it made it onto the silver screen. It sounded like a standard Hollywood action movie, with some religious overtones that I usually dislike, so I didn’t make watching it a priority. So when I finally did watch it, I was pleasantly surprised by how much nuance it has and how intelligently it handles the religious theme.

For those who don’t know, Whitta was involved in founding the UK edition of PC Gamer magazine, so he has deep roots in videogaming way before he made it big in Hollywood. He’s also a big fan of Fallout 3 and as a gamer, I’m ticked by how it was an unmistakable source of inspiration for this film. There’s the obvious monochromatic look of the film for one thing and the concept of a heavily-armed lone wanderer walking across the post-apocalyptic landscape on a vital quest. At one point Eli is walking along an elevated highway and is nonplussed to see that it has shattered, a scene perfectly replicated from Fallout 3.

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Source Code

I heard that this was a mindbender film so I embargoed myself out of reading anything about it. That means no reviews, no forum posts talking about it, nothing. That’s probably why I enjoyed the film as much as I did, given that:

  1. It has a terrible title which tells you nothing whatsoever about the subject of the film and, more importantly, is a misnomer given that the term “source code” in computer programming does not mean anything even vaguely resembling what they refer to in the film.
  2. The science involved is claptrap of the lowest order. How do you explain how a dead man’s mind can contain all the information in the universe? It’s quantum mechanics. Parabolic calculus. Just brilliant.

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The Back to the Future Trilogy

Knowing that we’d have a lot of free time on our hands while we get settled back in West Malaysia, we’d arranged a couple of hard disks worth of stuff to watch. For the curious, this includes all three seasons of the highly acclaimed Deadwood series and the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a show that I’d missed out on watching as I was studying in France when it originally aired. Among the films we have are all three installments of the Back to the Future trilogy, a selection that was prompted by an off-hand comment from Deimos Tel`Arin of Flash Games Download. It took me a while to remember that I’ve never actually gotten around to watching the third film of the series.

Part I

Like every guy who grew up in the 1980s, the original Back to the Future film has a special place in my heart as part of a pantheon that also includes other cult classics like The Goonies, Stand by Me and Some Kind of Wonderful. Even watching it today, the scenes are so familiar that I can almost recite the dialogue word for word. I can still perfectly recall the frisson of excitement at the first sight of the DeLorean time machine, the envy-inducing stylish ease with which Michael J. Fox handles his skateboard, the madcap craziness of pretending to be a space alien to scare someone from the 1950s, the infectious power of the Johnny B. Goode performance and so on. There is zero doubt that the original film still holds up and deserves every single one of the many accolades it has received.

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The Social Network

Near the end of The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg is worried that the legal proceedings are making him look like the bad guy. So the young lawyer played by Rashida Dati (whom my wife and I have come to know from watching the US version of The Office) assures him that whenever emotional testimony is involved in a case, she automatically assumes that 85% of it is exaggerated and 15% of it is pure perjury. As strange as it seems, all clues point to the writer deliberately inserting this phrase to refer to the film itself.

I’d put off watching this for a very long time even after reading numerous favorable reviews of it. I kept thinking, “It’s a movie about a kid in college building a gigantic social networking website. How entertaining could it be?” I was wrong because this turned out to be one of the most riveting and entertaining films I’ve watched in recent memory. But a quick check on Wikipedia suffices to reveal that it achieves this by the simple expedient of taking tons of liberties with the facts. Even its writer Aaron Sorkin admits that he wanted to tell an interesting story first and foremost and this film isn’t meant to be a historically accurate documentary.

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The Founding of a Republic

My experience of writing a game diary for Hearts of Iron 3 prompted me to do some extensive reading on the Chinese Civil War and the early years of the People’s Republic of China. Naturally, this led to seeking out and watching The Founding of a Republic, the 2009 historical film made to mark 60th anniversary of the country. So who says that videogames aren’t educational?

There is no doubt of course that this is a propaganda film. It was explicitly commissioned by the China’s film regulator and made by a state-owned film company. It’s main claim to fame outside of China is that it features dozens of celebrities, albeit mostly in very minor roles, all of whom worked for free, no doubt out of a sense of patriotism, or maybe just out of fear of causing offense and missing out of paid gigs. Yet within China itself, it has established itself as the highest grossing domestically produced film, suggesting that despite being propaganda, it is not entirely without merit.

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