The Happening

Huh? There was a time when I used to think the movies of M Night Shyamalan were brilliant. The atmosphere he created with an air of mystery and suspense was palpable, and the twists were fun and left me satisfied that I had enjoyed a good movie. None of this applies to The Happening.

The movie is nonsensical, just plain ridiculous. It is tiresome, with woeful dialogue and let me both confused and immensely dissatisfied. I have not seen "The Lady in the Water", but this was clearly for me his worst film ever. I found myself sitting through this movie, enduring the nonsense of it all, while saying to myself "the ending will redeem it all, it will wrap it all up and make it all seem worthwhile".

It did not. Two stars.

The Incredible Hulk

A big green guy who likes to smash stuff. Doesn’t sound too hard a concept to get right you’d think. Some how Ang Lee struggled. Thankfully Louis Letterier didn’t. This Hulk movie is simple in it’s execution, but oh so right. It’s not rocket science, it’s not even atomic science – the opening credits run you briefly through the creation of the Hulk and in many ways creates a point form look at how the first Hulk movie "should" have been. This film is made like a sequel, but not to the Ang Lee film, it is kind of like Letterier is making the sequel to a film he never got the chance to make because of Lee, and his point form opening sequence shows how he would’ve done it – and based on what he did in this film, I know he would’ve got it right.

This movie is good, it’s not going to win Academy Awards, and if you really want to, you can easily pick holes in it, but for the fanboy in me, it ticked all the boxes and was just good clean comic book action movie fun. One thing that has been made clear to me in light of both Iron Man and Incredible Hulk is that Marvel Studios know how to make movies about their characters and just do it right. Now I’d just like them get their hands back on Spider-Man and do it right. Four stars.

Also, for the fanboys, just like Iron Man alluded to the introduction of War Machine and setup The Avengers, look out for the introduction of The Leader (possibly the next movies villain?) and another Avengers reference – in fact if you pay attention there’s a Captain America reference. Add to that the Hulk actually shouts "Hulk Smash!" at one point in the film, as you can imagine I was in fanboy heaven.

Who needs cash?

One of the things that Kiwi’s have definitely got right, is their ubiquitous use of EFTPOS. Unlike Australia where it really seems like a big hassle, it is commonly used in New Zealand and for good reason. There is no minimum amount required for EFTPOS purchases, people frequently spend just a couple of bucks. The services for whatever reason is lightning fast, there were a few times when I’m sure it would’ve take the cashier longer to bag my items, take my money and count out change as opposed to simply hitting the EFTPOS button, and bagging my goods while I settle the payment in a flash.

I don’t know why, but for some reason in Australia it takes ages for the EFTPOS machines to initially connect to the bank servers, and then the payment processing seems to take a few minutes. I don’t understand why it’s done so much better in NZ, I can’t imagine they would have better internet connectivity to justify the speed increase, but for whatever the reason, NZ is so much closer to being cashless than Australia, and for that reason they get the thumbs up.

Initial Observations about New Zealand: National Identity

Well it’s now been a week since I’ve moved to the land of the long white cloud, and while I haven’t actively been seeked out "kiwiana", there are some things you can’t help but passively observe about the country, particularly where they contrast with the country you’ve lived in your entire life.

One of the most immediate differences I noted was how Kiwi’s see themselves and New Zealand, and how they see it in comparison to how Australians see themselves and their country. Now to clarify, I’m referring to how Auckland, New Zealand sees itself compared to how Sydney, Australia sees itself, because I’m sure there are nuanced and even significant differences wherever you go in both countries.

First up, Australia has this positive confident attitude that says, "Hey, we’re as good as any of the big countries in the world, in fact I think we’re the best on Earth!" It’s this kind of mix of confidence, arrogance, self assuredness and positive affirmation. New Zealand on the other hand has this more down to earth attitude that says, "Hey, we know we’re one of the little guys, but we’re doing pretty well considering, in fact I quite like it really, we’re not the best, but we do the best with what we got. At least we’re better than Australia, right?" It’s a kind of mix of self-acceptance, a little Aussie envy/loathing and good natured humility.

That fundamental shift in attitude is quite noticeable, ironically though, I have come during winter where the one exception applies: rugby. Whereas only hardcore fans in Australia care all that much about the Wallabies performance, and I suppose in general given the high standards Australia sets itself in it’s performance of anything they expect good results from their team; the Kiwi’s on the other hand, absolutely believe, without a shadow of a doubt that the All Blacks are THE BEST rugby team in the world, and absolutely nothing but absolute perfection will do. Even when they win, there are complaints that they didn’t win as convincingly as they should have, on so on.

I’ll be keeping my cheers to a minimum if I’m in a pub during a Bledisloe Cup match, that’s for sure.

21

It was a slow movie week in Auckland and the only thing that looked good that I hadn’t already seen was "21". It’s the story of some M.I.T math geeks who learn a system to count cards and win big in blackjack and go to Las Vegas to make lots of money, get greedy, lose it all and learn a lot about themselves in the process.

I found the movie dubious from an ethical point of view and the ending had me conflicted as to how I felt about the main character and whether I was really on his side or thought he was just a prick. While the world of card counting blackjack players sounds like something interesting, I suspect the nature of the whole card counting thing done by math uber geeks is a little beyond the reasonable comprehension of us mere mortals and the films attempts to dumb it down in such a way for us to appreciate what was going on left me feeling no more enlightened then when I started.

All in all, it was pleasant enough way to pass a couple of hours. Three stars.