Shaka Zulu is a lush mini-series about Shaka, king of the Zulu nation from 1816 to 1828. Ten hours flies by as we follow Shaka’s on his path to ruling a seventh of the huge African continent.
The power of the film comes from the intensity of the charismatic central performance by Henry Cele. He radiates power and intelligence and we have no problem believing that he could out-manouver and out-think the European traders and government officals who consistently underestimate him due to their short-sighted racist preconceptions.
Shaka turns out to be an Emperor on the scale of Napolean, with a similar set of characteristics – he is a canny and ruthless military genius. Equally fascinating is the examination of his Achilles Heel, his superstition. Like Alexander, his mother raised him with the belief that he was a man of destiny and supernatural power. Also starring Edward Fox, Robert Powell and Trevor Howard.
Although ten hours is a lot of story, this film never lags.
You have a strong stomach. You think certain very dark thoughts are both disturbing and funny. Maybe its only the laughter of discomfort, but you’re laughing.
Written and directed by James Gunn, the writer who brought us the excellent “better than the original” remake of Dawn of the Dead. An alien parasite rides a meteor into a small Southern town. Grant Grant (Michael Rooker), a local car salesman, is out in the woods cheating on his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) when the parasite enters his body. It takes him over and absorbs his memories. He begins to transform into a human/parasite hybrid.
Pets begin to disappear and Starla starts to wonder what is wrong with her husband, who is acting really weird.
She talks with the local sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), who she was her high school boyfriend Grant puts a brood of alien offspring into Brenda – yes, its gross.
Most of the townspeople are slowly infected and they become agents of the central parasite while a band of survivors rally around the Sheriff and attempt to muster a defense.
Bad horror movies usually suffer from a familiar pair of maladies – bad acting and bad scripts which require characters to act stupidly in a stupid yet highly dangerous situation. Slither is the opposite. All the performances are excellent, especially Michael Rooker‘s parasite, who who is both hideous and oddly sympathetic. Everyone does the smart thing but are over-whelmed by the situation and the capabilities of alien parasite’s offensive capabilities.
Like the creature in Aliens, the parasite is really well-equipped for its familiar agenda. Like most organisms, it wants to become “all that is.” In most eco-systems, species are kept in check by checks and balances provided by predators, disease, and biological limitations. This parasite seems to be without constraints in our environment, unless its the Sheriff and his rag-tag team of scared townspeople.
Fast, shocking, gory, and full of alternating humor and pathos, Slither is a lot of fun.
Before writing and directing 2011′s Wuthering Heights, Andrea Arnold (2005 Oscar winner for the live action short film Wasp – see below) made this insightful coming-of-age story.
According to Time Out, the film was made in six weeks in chronological order. Actors were given the scripts in six parts, one piece each week before shooting, so they were unaware when filming what would happen to their characters.
Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, was seen by one of Arnold’s casting assistants at the train station featured in the film, arguing with her boyfriend.
The plot is elemental: Mia lives with her mother Joanne and her younger sister in a council estate flat. Joanne looks as if she had Mia as a teen and is emotionally immature, still wanting to live the party lifestyle. She resents her children and treats them with indifference.
Mia is a volatile girl living largely in her own world, drinking alone practicing hip hop moves or walking around her lower class urban world searching for something to do.
Arnold captures the weightless point between childhood and the adult world beautifully, especially in Mia’s relationship to her mother’s new boyfriend Connor, played with charisma by Michael Fassbender. This film was made just before Fassbinder’s breakout ole in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.Conner makes an effort to emotionally connect to Joanne’s daughters, which slowly dissolves Mia’s teen angst-driven bluster.
Both Fish Tank and Wasp provide an unblinking look into the lives of women who are struggling with painfully human issues of class and biology. They are sweet and vulnerable underneath and hard and brittle outside, defenses assumed against a harsh environment. Arnold manages to evoke this reality without turning it into a bummer by touching the heart of her characters with a raw honesty, filling us with hope that her girls can somehow overcome their circumstances.
Corky (Gina Gershon), fresh from prison, gets a job through her old associates remodeling an apartment. Next door, mob operative Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) lives with his femme fatale girlfriend Violet (Jennifer Tilly). Violet seduces Corky and then embroils her in a scheme to steal two million of the Mob’s money. Is Corky the fall-girl in Violet’s plan?
All three principal actors did some of their best work in this film. Joe Pantoliano stands out as a Mobster who goes off the rails when it looks like he has stolen millions of the Mob’s cash. This is Jennifer Tilly‘s second best movie, after Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway . And unfortunately, I don’t think Gina Gershon ever lucked into another role so perfect for her edgy hot-butch look.
The Century of the Self is British documentary on how psychology has been used by corporations and governments to study and control them as consumers and citizens.
“This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” —Adam Curtis
In the first episode, the documentary describes how Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, gained an early familiarity with his Uncle’s work on human psychology and applied it first to advertising and later to influencing the constituencies of businesses and governments.
We all sort-of know this kind of thing goes on but its more insidious than we thought – Curtis shows how the whole process was consciously constructed. It didn’t arise haphazardly. Government officials sought out ways to control and unduly influence their populations and used tax dollars to fund the research and implement the self-serving technologies.
Curtis’s arguments are clear and laid out in an entertaining (and infuriating) manner.
You can watch the whole thing right here.
Note: the series consists of four one hour segments:
The Engineering of Consent
There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed
Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering