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Casino Royale

dir: Martin Campbell
[img_assist|nid=851|title=More brutish than hoity-toity, this time around|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=365]
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.

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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.

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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.

Superman Returns

dir: Bryan Singer
[img_assist|nid=885|title=Looking down on the rest of us... who does he think he is?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=666]
Superman Returns is a re-jigging of an ancient franchise with the express intention of making more money from something old in lieu of inventing anything exciting and new. And, just like an episode of the Love Boat, there is the need to preserve the familiar (Superman’s powers, origins, and squareness, Lois Lane, Metropolis, Lex Luthor, kryptonite) whilst including enough new stuff to not make the producers look like the lazy, intellectually bankrupt cretins that they are.

Perhaps I speak too harshly of people I’ve never met. Perhaps you believe I should give one of the producers, Jon Peters, the benefit of the doubt. He was, after all, Barbra Streisand’s hairdresser before he became a producer. Not only that, he is rumoured to be an illiterate and violent man too stupid to know how dumb his ideas are. As such, he was uniquely qualified to produce such masterpieces as the first re-jigged Batman, that awful infected haemorrhoid of a movie Wild Wild West, and Bonfire of the Vanities.

At least they had Bryan Singer, director of the first two X-Men films and The Usual Suspects at the helm of this flick, to try to redeem a project over a decade in the making and destined for mediocrity.

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Mission Impossible III

dir: J.J. Abrams
[img_assist|nid=901|title=Xenu is the real villain in Mission:Impossible III|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=348|height=332]
The world was crying out for another Mission: Impossible sequel the way children call out for a second helping of brussels sprouts, or for another trip to that creepy uncle who ends up putting them in therapy for the next 40 years. But who can say no to a man as charming and engaging as Tom Cruise?...

It is very tempting to veer off on rants about how bizarre the news has become over the last few years regarding this guy. The high point wasn’t the birth of the first heir to his Scientological throne just last week, but in the insane and inane stories about how he was going to chow down on the infant’s placenta and umbilical cord. But I don’t get paid to dissect the idiocies of Hollywood stars or the tabloid media, or the sorts of morons who devote their empty lives to endlessly talking about and reading about the entirely made up lives of celebrities.

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V for Vendetta

Dir: James McTeigue
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You don’t get many films these days trumpeting the joys of anarchy. Especially not multi-million dollar movies produced by the Wachowski Brothers and based on an Alan Moore graphic novel.

And there’s a reason for that. Even in this day and age where the diversity of opinion and opportunities to voice one’s worthless opinions seem countless, it’s still essentially an illusion. Every side of politics, regardless of one’s upbringing or experiences at university, preaches change, justice or better ways, but all want their version of the status quo upheld.

Because people don’t want to lose their jobs, see their interest rates go up, or their petrol prices sky rocket. They want their television shows uninterrupted by news, they want to listen to the latest hollow songs produced by pale simulacra of humans whenever the tap of the radio is turned on, they want no disruptions to their broadband access, and they want their trains to run on time.

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Sahara

Dir: Breck Eisner
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What the hell is a “Breck” anyway? It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a person, director or otherwise with a name like Breck. Whoever and whatever he is, even with a name like that, he wouldn’t be directing films if it wasn’t for his father, Michael Eisner. Michael Eisner is the kind of person who at his peak probably dined with Rupert “Ubermensch” Murdoch, got him to pick up the bill and then split a hooker or two together over snifters of brandy made from the tears of virgins. As the son of the former CEO of Disney I’m sure that Breck Eisner had a lot of hurdles to traverse and obstacles to mount and then surmount in order to follow his dream of becoming a Hollywood director. It gives hope to us all.

However he managed to get there, we should only really judge him on his merits, on the works that he produces. I mean, come on, it’s only fair. I can’t be judged based on what my father Idi Amin, or my mother Lindy Chamberlain did in their lifetimes, surely? It’s just wrong to judge me based on anything else than what I’ve achieved in this life. And I am sure as hell going to extend that same courtesy to my man Breck here.

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Assault on Precinct 13

dir: Jean Francois Richet
[img_assist|nid=948|title=Howdy pardner|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=234|height=308]
I wouldn’t have thought that a remake of a John Carpenter classic could have worked, but it has. Let’s face it, it’s a good thing that Carpenter himself wasn’t involved, because everything he’s touched in the last decade has turned to shit. Although, now that I think of it, he did already remake Assault on Precinct 13. Except he called it Ghosts of Mars, and we all know how well that turned out.

This is good stuff, though. It’s never going to have as many fans as the 70s classic, and I’m sure many people are going to avoid it like it’s a stinky nappy in a swimming pool just because it’s a remake. But they’d be missing out on a decent B movie if they did.

This isn’t a life-changing experience; it isn’t visual poetry or Dostoevsky debating the Dalai Lama and Deborah Harry whilst covered in baby oil and wrestling at the same time. It’s an action movie where a bunch of people are trying to kill another bunch of people, and the ones that are going to survive are the ones who want it the most. It doesn’t wuss out on the violence, and maintains a relentless, dark tone throughout.

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Resident Evil: Apocalypse

dir: Alexander Witt
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For a director with the surname Witt, there's a fundamental lack of it
in this movie, even by the meagre standards one might apply to the
zombie / horror / computer game adaptation genre. The presence of a
few vaguely entertaining action set pieces can't really elevate this
material from the cesspool from which most of this kind of crap oozes
out from. Of the recent plethora of zombie films this is both the most
recent and the least of them. Absolutely the least.

Bizarrely enough it even makes the original look good in comparison.
Those familiar with the work of the first one's director, Paul W.S.
Anderson, know what a criminal indictment such a claim must be. Anyone
who makes Anderson look good (apart from Milla Jovovich) must be in
league with powers darker than the ones at the beck and call of the
Republican Party.

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Spider-Man 2

dir: Sam Raimi
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This is what big budget film making is all about. This is what sequels
are all about. Out of what I would call humble origins comes a story
writ large across the silver screen which makes most other examples of
high concept big budget type films look like the abject crap that they
are. There is no need to check one's heart, brain, balls or ovaries at
the door. Sam Raimi has made the absolute best film of his career, and
that's no small achievement when you've got an oeuvre that runs the
gamut from Evil Dead to A Simple Plan.

Where other, crapper producers, directors and screenwriters would have
been timid and delivered something safe and mindless, these people
banded together to make something that goes against the grain of
Hollywood's usual risk averse mentality, and it manages to deliver in
spades. There are so many great scenes ranging from elaborate action
set pieces to touching dramatic moments that singling them out does a
disservice to the whole. Not that that's going to stop me, but all the
same it is truly an example of something being substantially more than
the sum of its parts.

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