Blogathon Announcement – ‘Decades’

Decades Blogathon Banner

Tom from the second-to-none Digital Shortbread and I are jointly hosting a brand spanking new blogathon… but it can only be great if you join us!

We’re already halfway through the 2010s and we thought it would be a good time to run a blogathon focusing on movies that were released in the fifth year of the decade.

We’re calling it – originally enough – the ‘Decades’ blogathon.

Is there a film you’ve always wanted to review that was released in 1995, 1945, 1975 or the fifth year of any other decade? If so, then we’d love you to get involved. Hell, go back to 1905 if you like (I’ve already got dibs on 1985’s Back To The Future, though, sorry)!

Jaws

Jaws

These blogathons are only as good as the entries they receive, so we’re looking forward to receiving some fantastic contributions.

Night Of The Hunter

Night Of The Hunter

So what’ll it be? Michael Mann’s Heat from 1995? Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws? The unforgettable Night Of The Hunter from 1955? The choices are huge!

We’re hoping to run the blogathon from Monday, 18 May. We’re keeping the number of entries limited to about 15 or so to stop it getting too unwieldy, so please make sure to get in touch ASAP to avoid disappointment by either dropping me an email at threerowsback@gmail.com or emailing Tom at tomlittle2011@gmail.com letting us know which film you’d like to cover (just so we don’t get duplicate posts) or for more info.

We’re both really excited to receiving your posts for what we’re hoping will be a diverse and absorbing blogathon. Thanks for reading and we hope to hear from you soon! Most importantly, though, GET INVOLVED!

Review – Blackhat

The heat is strangely missing from Michael Mann’s fumbled first foray into the mysterious playground of computer hackers.

There is much to like about Blackhat, but too many mishandled moments means you'll be reaching for the proverbial control-alt-delete buttons come the end

There is much to like about Blackhat, but too many mishandled moments means you’ll be reaching for the proverbial control-alt-delete buttons come the end

On first glance, it’s obvious what drew Mann to such material; hacking demands a methodology and an obsessiveness as life-consuming as the cops and criminals who do battle on the mean streets of the writer-director’s numerous crime movies.

The film’s release just weeks after the hack on Sony Pictures and on the back of a growing list of other big name incidents also lends the film an up-to-the-minute relevance.

It’s odd, therefore, that Blackhat never quite catches fire in the same way as his other crime thrillers, in particular Manhunter (1986), Heat (1995) and Collateral (2004).

Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) goes on the run with Lien (Tang Wei) in Blackhat

Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) goes on the run with Lien (Tang Wei) in Blackhat

It doesn’t help that the film starts badly with an extended visually clichéd sequence of data infecting a Chinese nuclear power plant’s systems. The intention is clear – something so small can cause something so big – but it feels old hat and the film is further blighted by indulging in other computer movies chestnuts, most notably by having screens bleep when information is typed in (what computers actually make those sounds outside of the movies?!).

Baffled by who is responsible for the power plant incident and a subsequent hack on a US trade exchange, Chinese official Captain Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) convinces FBI Agent Carol Barrett (a typically solid Viola Davis) to temporarily release convicted coder Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth, doing his best) from prison to help with the investigation. As they edge ever nearer to the truth of what is actually going on, the threat grows, as does the attraction between Hathaway and Dawai’s sister Lien (Tang Wei).

Captain Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) is tasked with finding the hacker in Blackhat

Captain Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) is tasked with finding the hacker in Blackhat

Blackhat grinds to a halt for the techie bits, which usually involve one or more of the cast watching the beautifully coiffured Hemsworth bash away at the keys of a computer keyboard with a stern look on his face (the fact he’s a butch alpha male is explained in a throwaway moment early on when he starts doing press-ups against the wall of his cell).

Likewise, the chemistry between Hemsworth and Tang is pretty weak and the romance between the characters is as unnecessary as that between Colin Farrell and Gong Li in the otherwise underrated Miami Vice (2006).

Viola Davis plays FBI Agent Carol Barrett in Blackhat

Viola Davis plays FBI Agent Carol Barrett in Blackhat

However, the film comes alive when it takes to the streets, dispenses with much of the dialogue and has its camera tracking the characters like a bird of prey as they go to work. An early fight in a restaurant bodes well and the promise is delivered during two fantastic gun battles; one set in a shipping yard, with the noise of bullets thudding into the containers a particular highlight, and another, bloodier exchange on the streets of Jakarta.

This latter gunfight especially reminds you of just how much of a natural Mann is when it comes to knowing where to place the (now de rigueur DV) camera while letting the raw punch of gunfire do much of the work.

Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) has a view to a kill in Blackhat

Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) has a view to a kill in Blackhat

The director’s neo noir style comes to the fore during the numerous night scenes in Hong Kong, which allow the director to cross between beautifully lit narrow lanes and expansive streets bathed in colour and often flanked by banner advertisements of faces or eyes that underscore the film’s tone of being watched by forces of which we have little understanding.

In addition, the momentary flash of a binocular lens on a coffee pot in one scene also underscores the difference between the ultra-professionalism of Mann’s main characters and everyone else (while also bringing to mind the moment in Heat when a cop accidentally bumps against the side of a van during a surveillance operation).

There is much to like about Blackhat, but too many mishandled moments means you’ll be reaching for the proverbial control-alt-delete buttons come the end.