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Shooter

dir: Antoine Fuqua
[img_assist|nid=787|title=Look at my shiny muscles. Go on, you know you want to.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
It feels a bit wrong reviewing a film called Shooter considering what just happened in the States a little while ago at Virginia Tech, where 32 people lost their lives at the hands of a crazed, but utterly calm gunman. However, in this courageous ‘reviewer’ caper, you have to occasionally suck it up, as they say, and get on with the job. Be a trooper, soldier on through, above and beyond the call of duty.

Because as awful as that mass slaying must be for all those people who lost loved ones, and for those who lost people they kind of didn’t mind, and for those people who had people who they couldn’t stand cruelly and violently taken from them: it’s just as hard on those of us who have to hear about it.

It’s at moments like these that entertainment becomes most crucial: It’s time to laugh again. So why shouldn’t people go and see a film where a cool, calm guy with a gun kills a shitload of people?

I can’t think of a single reason why not. This is a proudly American film about an American hero taking on the corrupt American system in the only way an American (at least on film, certainly not in reality) deals with conflict: by shooting lots of people. The Way of the Gun indeed.

Rating:

Ghost Rider

dir: Mark Steven Johnson
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I knew this flick would be a disaster. In concept, in implementation, and in the fact that they chose to film it in Melbourne. For a big budget comic book adaptation, this had stinker projecting outwards from it when they were making it two years ago in Melbourne’s side streets and cemeteries. Melbourne standing in for a generic Texan city: that’s hilarious.

But mostly I knew this would be craptacular because of the singular absence of the Alan Vega / Suicide version of the song Ghost Rider. They couldn’t even get the Rollins Band version of it. They couldn’t even get some crappy contemporary emo band like My Chemical Romance to cover the goddamn song. Now that would have been a treat.

From such an inauspicious beginning does the rest of the fiasco proceed. Then they cast Nicolas Cage in the lead role, who attacks it with the kind of hopped-up Elvis impersonation he only gives in his most awful performances. His excruciating performance rivals anything he recently did in the equally appalling Wicker Man remake. And that wig, my gods above, that wig on Cage’s head: it is the most unbelievable special effect in the entire movie. And when a movie contains demons, spirits and a flaming skeleton on the bike from hell, and it’s the wig that looks the most unbelievable, you know the problems are just starting.

Rating:

Snakes on a Plane

dir: David R. Ellis
[img_assist|nid=820|title=There's the plane. There's the snake. And there's Samuel L. Jackson. Happy now?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=390|height=293]
Of all the flicks that came out in 2006, this was by far the most pointless. That’s not the same as saying it was the worst. There were far worse films in that and every other year. It’s just that few of them managed to be this superfluous.

Do you ever think about how some films get made, or why, which is probably more relevant? In the main it’s easy to assume that the reason why any film gets made is for the money. Movie-making is a money-making enterprise; that goes without saying, which seems redundant since I just said it. But why the producers and studios decided to try to make money out of Snakes On a Plane is a mystery that only P.T. Barnum could explain to me.

I can’t figure out anything on that score past someone trying to profit from underestimating the stupidity of the movie-going public.

I mean, look at the title. Snakes on a Plane. What do you think the flick is about? Strawberry harvesters in the hilly regions of Provence just before WWII? A geisha’s coming of age during the Tokugawa Shogunate? Crop circles in Nebraska; the impact of divorce on a middle class Midwestern family; someone finding redemption by singing duets with benevolent green aliens found hiding in one’s underwear?

Rating:

Crank

dir: Mark Neveldine and Mark Taylor
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Crank is an aggressively adrenalin-fuelled odyssey in the day of one lunatic in LA. This bad day for professional killer Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is courtesy of being murdered by criminal rival Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo).

He’s pretty loud and violent for a dead guy. Verona has given him a Chinese poison called the Beijing Cocktail which attacks the heart of its victim. If Chelios’s body doesn’t produce enough adrenalin to keep his heart rate up, he dies. He’s like the bus in Speed that can’t slow down or it will blow up.

The next 80 or so minutes are essentially Chelios doing two things: staying alive via keeping his adrenalin as high as possible, and tracking down Verona to get revenge before dying.

Yes, it’s as incoherent and stupid as it sounds. Actually, I made it sound linear and sensible, thus I’ve failed to encompass the true stupidity of what is on offer.

To keep his adrenals pumping, he commits robberies, gets into fights with large groups of black guys, uses cocaine, drinks heaps of caffeine drinks, takes on the cops, performs some idiotic stunts on a motorcycle, and fucks his deeply stupid girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) in full view of a large crowd in Chinatown in broad daylight.

Rating:

Host, The (Gweomul)

dir: Bong Joon-ho
[img_assist|nid=834|title=The Host|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=444]
It’s been a while since there’s been a decent creature feature. When was the last semi-decent flick where a monster takes on a city and the city loses, at least for a while? Godzilla’s the granddaddy, Jaws was the red-headed stepson, but most monster flicks are just crappy clones and we all know it.

I guess King Kong qualifies, but that bloated morass wore out its welcome with me a long time ago. Three bloody hours of monkey love is barely enough. That he released an extended director’s cut is the final insult. Was anyone craving another 45 minutes of that film? Do you remember anyone saying to you, “yeah, Kong was okay, but it really needed another hour or so to be really great”?

If they did, feel free to punch them in the throat for me. It’s okay. I’ll take the blame. I have ever so broad shoulders.

The Host is a decent enough monster flick, but people are really going berserker over it, I think, because it’s Korean. If this flick came out in the States, which it will, since it’s been snapped up for a remake already, it would go straight to video. Of course when Universal remakes it’ll be for 50 times the budget and will star Tom Cruise. Tom Bloody Cruise, you bastards.

Rating:

Apocalypto

dir: Mad Mel Gibson
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Ah, Mad Mel is at it again. He had money before, to be sure, from his successful career as an actor, director and bus driver. He’s even received Oscars for his efforts. Actual Oscars, not just Logies or Golden Globes or Berlin Film Festival Golden Bears.

Then, led by his strong Catholic faith, he decided to make a film about a guy getting nailed to two planks of wood.

The Passion of the Christ made an absolute packet at the box office, ignited religious furore and debate across the world, and, more importantly, gave Mel an incredible war chest from which he would be able to fund and make whatever films he wants for the rest of his life. You can argue that such a circumstance doesn’t guarantee that anyone will distribute or see his films, but getting them made without having to kowtow to conga lines of producers or studio executives is more than half the battle.

Rating:

X-Men 3 - The Last Stand

dir: Brett Ratner
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I didn’t want to believe that the stepping down of Bryan Singer as director for this flick, the wunderkind director of the first two X-Men instalments and the post modern crime masterpiece The Usual Suspects, was a bad sign. I didn’t want to believe that the stepping up of Brett Ratner, the director of Rush Hour 1 and 2, and a whole heap of Mariah Carey videos, was a bad sign.

There were, in truth, a multitude of signs I chose to ignore.

It’s like owing a shitload of money on your credit card, and trying to put the massive debt out of your mind by throwing away the constant stream of nagging bills unread. That works until the credit provider sends hired goons to your place, but at least you can bask in the illusion up until that fateful day where your patellas cease to be your property.

I did enjoy the first two other films, I really did.

Bubbles by their very nature are obligated to burst. It comes down to physics more than anything else, including the so-called law of diminishing returns, but in this instance, I have a lot of questions as to how and why they (the makers) went the way they did with this flick, and I suspect I’m never going to get the answers I want.

Rating:

Casino Royale

dir: Martin Campbell
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Around the time of the last Bond film Die Another Day, some horrified viewers were calling for the death of this tired, smelly franchise. The name had become so devalued by a long string of mediocre movies that it seemed kinder to just let it die. Or to put it out of its misery.

Of course there isn’t a studio on the planet that would rather go with a new idea over an old faithful cliche, so a new Bond film was an inevitability in the same way that night follows day, or when any celebrity videotapes themselves in a compromising position or two, the footage invariably ends up on the internet.

At the very least, if they’re going to make more of these Bond films, let them be as good as this.

Casino Royale is a rip-roaring old school adventure and a pleasure to watch from start to finish, even if it does drag a bit. That hasn’t been said honestly about a Bond film for decades. Daniel Craig plays the famous agent with the right mixture of cool professionalism and brutality. This Bond is less of a gentleman and more of a bastard than we’ve seen for a while, and the movie is the better for it.

Rating:

Exiled (Fong Juk)

dir: Johnny To
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Exiled is the latest flick from one of Hong Kong’s most prolific and stylish directors. Although it has a similar dynamic to To’s earlier action classic The Mission, it is in no way a sequel. Even with many of the same actors, playing similar roles, it’s still not a sequel. But it does have a lot of similarities, and that’s not a bad thing.

What you can expect in a Johnny To film is men, usually professional criminals or triads, doing manly things. The overarching and underlying theme is always friendship, brotherhood and the bonds of loyalty between men.

And, as with his more action-based films, as you would expect, there are guns. Lots of guns.

About the only thing that sticks out as being significantly different is the location. Instead of unfolding in Hong Kong, Exiled takes place in Macau, just prior to the handover of political control from the Portuguese to China in 1998.

Rating:

Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

dir: Justin Lin
[img_assist|nid=862|title=Look! Cars going fast|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, could actually be an enjoyable film. Honestly, it could be, stranger things have happened. However, I am uniquely incapable of being able to assess if that is actually the case.

I would need to consume some magical kind of potion that would strip me of over twenty years of my life and about fifty or so IQ points in order to be able to judge the film on its merits. To say the movie is aimed at fourteen-year-old boys, or people with the brains of fourteen-year-old boys is an insult to, you guessed it, fourteen-year-old boys. I’m sure there are teenagers that will watch this and think, “damn, that’s a condescending film.”

It panders to a mindlessly immature mentality in a way only a movie produced by older adults with contempt for teenagers can. It’s with this kind of marketing mentality that Tokyo Drift was prematurely ejaculated onto screens worldwide in another desperate to milk teenagers out of their crack money.

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