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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

I don't think this will end well for anybody

dir: Christopher Nolan

The Dark Knight Rises is a very good film, let’s just get that out of the way right from the start. It was like nothing I expected, and exceeded what were insanely high expectations right from the beginning and especially at the end. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s the best Batman flick we’re ever going to have access to in this universe.

In that other parallel universe, they’ll keep making great Batman flicks, Heath Ledger’s still alive, and the law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply. We, on the other hand, are stuck here in this sucky one for the duration.

Eh, it’s not too bad. After all, we have two great Batman films, at least.

I didn’t like Batman Begins that much, and I had a couple of issues with the second one too (over-edited, visually incoherent at times), but this third one not only gets everything right, but it is entrenched within the story told by the first two movies. It doesn’t stand entirely alone, and is the better for it.

It’s interwoven with the other two, with actions and decisions made in the first two films coming back to haunt all the main characters. Within that is a lot of stuff, to put it mildly. It doesn’t feel overstuffed, but it does feel like they’re trying to encompass every single level of seriousness and complexity anyone ever aspired to have in a superhero movie but was too afraid to ask for.

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The Amazing Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man

He's not the webslinger, he's just a very annoying boy

dir: Marc Webb

It’s getting to be like we’re watching these comic-book superhero flicks out of a sense of duty, rather than desire. Once The Dark Knight Rises opens next week, I don’t want to see a superhero flick for at least a couple of years. Surely, by this stage of the American summer, and the winter of our dissing content, we’re superheroed out for the year?

The Amazing Spider-Man surely was an exciting prospect to someone, everyone, a couple of people. A reboot of a recent series that did pretty well at the box office, of a familiar and almost kid-friendly property that’s recognisable the world over? But of course! But they didn’t want Sam Raimi at the helm, Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, and they did want it in 3D, and perhaps that’s what we wanted too, deep in our heart of hearts and pants.

People at Marvel / Fox: sure, Spider-Man 3 wasn’t that great, but our problem with it wasn’t Sam Raimi, or Tobey, really. It was the overstuffed plot, the crappy nature and number of villains and, for some people, the bit where Peter Parker becomes a strutting domestic abuser. I still liked bits of it, and I had a few laughs.

We like Raimi. We want Raimi. We need Raimi. Marc Webb, you’re probably a lovely guy, but you sir, are no Sam Raimi. You’re not even Ted Raimi.

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The Avengers

The Avengers

So many egos in so little space

dir: Joss Whedon

You know what this needed? More superheroes.

Not enough superheroes. Also, more scenes of Scarlett Johansson’s character Black Widow elaborating upon her back story. Because the masses needed to know.

Also, it needed more shots of Samuel L. Jackson flipping the tails of his long leather coat outwards in an ever so attractive manner.

Other than that, it’s about as good as we could have hoped for.

Despite the idea that this is a discrete ‘let’s get the band together’ supergroup combination, it’s really the sixth instalment in a series that started with Iron Man. All of the flicks I’m talking about had different directors, but the link between them all is that comic book titans Marvel set up Marvel Studios specifically to make the movies for their own properties. No longer would they have to rely on other studios to bring their stable of heroes to the big screen.

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Safe

Safe

Don't point that thing at me, Curly

dir: Boaz Yakin

Jason Statham playing a character who kills lots of people? That’s a radical turn up for the books.

In the eternal pub argument of Caveman versus Astronaut, Ninja versus Pirate and Pussycat Doll versus Spice Girl, there’s the unfortunate real world competition of which is worse: Russian gangsters or Chinese triads? This film makes the same comparison, but posits it by asking: which is tougher? The answer is, of course, Jason Statham.

Or at least the thinly veiled stand-in character for himself, some guy called Luke Wright. You know, because he’s always Right! He gets on the bad side of the Russians, and they not only ruin his life by murdering his family, they intend to keep his life in a heightened state of ruination in an ongoing fashion. It’s a curious state, because I can’t imagine Russian gangsters having the follow-through long term to keep hassling someone like they do the main character here, and not just killing him as an example to all the other noble loners out there. They tell him, as he walks the earth in the time remaining to him, that any person with whom he shares even a single human moment with, they’ll be there to kill them.

It’s not going to do wonderful things for your state of mind, I imagine. Misery upon misery, he sees the only obvious way out, but demurs at the very last moment, because he sees a girl in trouble. Thank gods there was a girl in trouble, because otherwise: short film.

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

There will not be a worse movie filmed in
Romania released this year than this

dir: Neveldine/Taylor

You can make a horrible thing worse. It’s true. It’s very obviously possible. And here we have further evidence of this sad fact as the cinema births a new monstrosity aimed at our limpid eyes.

Who takes something horrible and makes it worse on purpose? An evil fairy godmother? A ticket inspector? Dentists? And why would you?

The first Ghost Rider movie, inexplicably shot in Melbourne, was terrible in ways even dedicated viewers of Nic Cage’s films were surprised by. This second flick in this godawful franchise is worse in some expected ways, and terrible in ways that are new but should in no way be confused with inspirational entertainment.

Considering the ‘talent’ on offer here, well, I guess it could have been even worse, but it doesn’t seem likely. They could have strapped cameras to a pack of rabid dogs. They could have told Cage ‘act even crazier, the kids will love it’. They could have made the character an alien who crash-landed on Earth wanting nothing more than to understand this emotion we humans call ‘love’.

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The Grey

The Grey

Gaze into those eyes and try to avoid the unavoidable truth:
that we are all worthless compared to Liam Neeson

dir: Joe Carnahan

Bleak, brutal, beautiful.

But enough about my previous relationship…

The Grey is one of the bleakest things I’ve seen since The Road, which was that horrifying post-apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy adaptation, which was the bleakest thing I’d read since Blood Meridian, which was the bleakest thing since my previous relationship. Plus, it’s got wolves, just like my previously relationship.

Yes, enough about ruthless predators that won't be satisfied until your bones are scattered, torn limb from limb, strewn across a desolate landscape…

But how could there ever be enough? The Grey is not really the film that it seems to be, at least, the film that they are marketing it as.

Yes, it seems similar to films like Alive (where a Uruguayan rugby team survive a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, get over their squeamishness and learn to love cannibalism), or Flight of the Phoenix (bunch of guys survive a plane crash in the desert, only to face death from the sun and guys on horses with guns). No, this is totally different.

In The Grey, a bunch of guys crash in Alaska, and face harsh conditions and wolves, and struggle to survive in a place where survival is unlikely.

Completely different.

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Safe House

Safe House

They're not safe from you, that's for sure, you smug bastard

dir: Daniel Espinosa

Who doesn’t want to watch Denzel being tortured?

Not me, for one, since he’s a National Treasure. And so dreamy.

But not all of his flicks are a safe bet, these days, ever since, oh, I don’t know, he won the Oscar for Training Day and lost all sense and reason and started believing he was the badass he was portraying onscreen, and that he could keep playing that same badass no matter how good or bad the flick he’s currently in.

In a few years, he might even be picking up the flicks Nicolas Cage considers are beneath him.

Safe House is not a great movie, it’s not even a particularly bad movie, but it’s okay. It’s okay for what it is. It doesn’t really exist or linger past the actual watching of it, and it has a thoroughly pointless ending that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I did not hate it as I was watching it. I could easily hate it now, but there’s not much percentage in that.

I actually remember enjoying whole parts of it. Denzel plays a rogue CIA agent called Tobin Frost, which is a name I don’t think any African American has had in the history of African-Americans. He’s been off the grid for nine years, and surfaces in South Africa. A young(ish) and cowardly CIA agent called Matt (Ryan Reynolds) ends up babysitting the guy, and then some stuff happens to them.

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Tally-ho what, we love each other and we're
not going to hide it anymore

dir: Guy Ritchie

Mr Ritchie, is there something you’re trying to tell us? Your last three films have had, shall we say, a curious subtext considering the material (all violent action-y crime capers), and yet now, in the sequel to your inexplicably successful Sherlock Holmes flick, that subtext has now just become text. Congratulations? Are you making progress? Are you getting somewhere with your, um, feelings towards other men?

Long have people joked or slyly nudged nudged and winked winked over the potential for the fictional sleuthing characters of Holmes and Watson to have been, shall we say, better than the best of friends and companions. The last flick with Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law as the principles humorously alluded to it in a plethora of ways. In this one, it’s flat out right up there on the screen. Holmes is jealously needling Watson over whether he’d rather be spending time with him or his wife on their honeymoon, he’s dressing up in drag whenever he can, compelling Watson to lay down with him. And, just before the film’s climax, at some diplomatic ball at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they even dance a loving waltz together. And no-one bats an eyelid. Which is progress, of a sort.

At the conclusion of their dance, Holmes jealously says to Watson, “Who taught you to dance like that?”

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Watson whispers lovingly to him, “You did.”

Love, oh careless love.

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Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Ghost Protocol

Look at poor Simon Pegg, way way back in the distance. He looks lonely

dir: Brad Bird

Sweet Zombie Jesus, if you’re going to make more of these monstrous Mission Impossible flicks, then continue getting Brad Bird to direct, because this one’s pretty amazing. From a pure action point of view, this is probably the best action flick I’ve seen in a long while, and I watch a lot of violent action flicks. Sure, a lot of them involve Chipmunks or are on the Nickelodeon channel, but my point still stands.

These lapdog American retreads of the James Bond espionage action genre have peaked right here, and it would probably be best if they just put it aside and backed away from the franchise. But they won’t, like we all know. Success breeds laziness, so Tom Cruise will probably be making these when he’s in his 80s and still puttering around looking like a 40-year-old thanks to foetal grindings and other secret Scientological super serums. I still find Cruise somewhat scary at the best and worst of times, but I can’t fault him for his work here. This flick exemplifies its own formula, excelling with the stuff that it’s known for, which is a bunch of incredibly orchestrated heists / break-ins, high-tech trickery, complicated impersonations, and saving the world at the very last second after travelling around it first.

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The 3 D Musketeers

The Three Musketeers 3D

But there are four of them! I'm so confused but I don't care

dir: Paul W. S. Anderson

You might ask yourself: why would you voluntarily see a movie that you know can’t be good? You might specifically ask me: Why would you, a person of moderate intelligence who thinks every movie made by Paul W.S Anderson is shite of the highest order, see another flick made by him, especially one that seems like the dumbest thing since someone passed a law allowing children to legally own guns?

It would be a good question. It’s not one I have a satisfactory answer for. I’ve hated this shmuck’s flicks for decades, and his flicks are definitely not improving.

But an opportunity presented itself, and so I watched it.

Historians and philosophers, centuries from now, if there are people still around then, and let’s hope they’re not, will wonder if this is the dumbest version of the Three Musketeers story, or if it’s the awesomest. Rivalries will angry up the blood. Factions will form. Lines will be crossed. Feelings will be hurt.

It’s a prelude to the war to come, you see. The two sides will eventually meet in a war to expunge the earth of those they perceive as their blood enemies, without all realising the deepest, most saddening and salient fact: it doesn’t matter, because both sides are right and both sides are wrong, simultaneously.

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