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Assault on Precinct 13

dir: Jean Francois Richet
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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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

District B-13 (Banlieue 13)

dir: Pierre Morel
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This flick has many names: Banlieue 13, Barrio 13, B-13, 13th District, Pocahontas 2: Electric Boogaloo. Whether French or English, all they stand for is this: Gallic arse-kicking of the highest order!

No, well, maybe not. This is a film of around 80 minutes length, 79 minutes of which are action scenes. The acting is mediocre, the script is leaden or generic, and there are no attractive people in the film. Also, they’re speaking French the whole time.

But the action is top notch! They used to call it parkour, and for all I know they still call it parkour, but it is also known as free running. It is considered to be a form of urban martial art, though it’s not really about kicking the crap out of people. Free running is about getting through, over, under or around elements of built up environments and streets in the fastest and most elegant manner possible. Much of this stuff was on display in the opening segment of Casino Royale, the most recent Bond film, dazzling audiences from Moe to Madagascar.

There’s substantially less money and star power on offer here, but it is no less impressive to watch primary exponents of the discipline like David Belle, perform some very impressive stunts for our benefit.

Rating:

Hulk

dir: Ang Lee
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Ang Lee's Hulk is an incredible achievement, but not so incredible
when you consider the films the man keeps making. Upon first hearing
that Ang was making a comic-book adaptation I thought, "Great, they're
trying to turn Lee into a John Woo. Soon he'll be making Mission:
Impossible
films alongside Tom Cruise's healthy ego". I need not have
worried. Here he has made the film least likely: it's dramatically
compelling, it's incredibly well put together, it looks incredible
(which is kind of crucial for the film medium, I believe), and it
achieves a level of depth that is nothing short of amazing in a film
you were expecting to be nothing but action.

Essential to the story is the emphasis on various parent - child
dynamics, but central even more so than that is the idea that parents
can sometimes severely damage their own children unintentionally. Thus
the story focuses on two people whose fathers have left indelible
scars upon their psyches, and in one case the damage goes even deeper
than that.

Rating:

Bulletproof Monk

dir: Paul Hunter
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People have different definitions of what a B movie is. People have different definitions of what a decent Friday night is as well, but that's another story. I've always known what a B movie is, but I had difficulty articulating it clearly. The IMDB defines the B Movie thusly:

"a low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theatre owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theatres while still able to draw revenue"

But the phrase 'B movie' has altogether different connotations for me as well. B movies can be cool, there's the odd B movie cult classic out there, but generally I like to think of generic B movies as being, as we used to say at the orphanage in between coughing up blood from consumption and fighting over rat meat, "shitehouse". As most films are mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst, you have to wonder how it's possible to have an entire other stratum of film which is worse than the vast majority of product that's out there simply by budget and definition.

Rating:

X-Men 2: X-Men United

dir: Bryan Singer
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Nerds. Does God love them? Or hate them? Are they the saviours of this world, or are they a plague upon the rest of humanity? Are they the result of unpopular childhoods, or a genetic mutation unto themselves, blessed with incredible memories for the most trivial of data and a pathological ability to hyperfocus on the most worrying of details?

At the very least, nerds and geeks in their pupal stage (where they are invisible and mostly benign) or adult stage (where they can be lethal: look at Micro$oft Overlord Darth Bill Gates, David Letterman and Henry Rollins) are friends to capitalism. Their pool of disposable income is vast and desirable, vast because we are talking about people that will spend their last hundred bucks on a DVD boxset of The Prisoner or a Boba Fett lunch box signed by Jeremy Bulloch instead of paying the rent. They have what is known in cognitive psychology circles as "low impulse control" and a yen for collecting. They want this geeky thing, they must have this geeky thing; no amount of arguing or sex can dissuade them.

Rating:

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

dir: Robert Rodriguez
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I am unsure as to whether Robert Rodriguez’s films are getting worse, or whether I just don’t like what he does as much as I used to. After watching this movie on DVD I spent an additional ten minutes watching a behind the scenes featurette called Fast, Cheap and In Control. I found this DVD extra more enjoyable than the movie itself. It showed various tricks and techniques used to perform and record the special effects and stunts during the film. It shows just how much an inventive and cost-effective crew can manage in a short period of time.

Ideally, such a circumstance would allow for more time to concentrate on pesky little details like a script or actual dialogue for its multitude of characters. There is precious little of that here. In fact, the movie seems to be a collection of disconnected money shots with little purpose beyond allowing Rodriguez to close off his El Mariachi trilogy, as if nations themselves were clamouring for it. Gagging for it, they were.

Rating:

S.W.A.T

dir: Clark Johnson
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S.W.A.T. is a pointless film rendered more pointless by being a big screen version of a television series no-one needed to see again. If they’re going to remake this crap, then they need to do a remake of The A Team (which they are doing, I believe), Who’s the Boss and Touched By an Angel as well. Why the hell not? Where’s that Cheers movie everyone’s been dying for? What about Shatner making a comeback in T.J. Hooker? How about another version of Dragnet? Or Hart to Hart, with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers? The Love Boat; now that’s begging to be remade on the big screen. The list is endless. As is the amount of talentless people willing to hitch their wagon onto an unoriginal idea since they lack the ability to think up anything for themselves.

Rating:

Transporter, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Again, I got suckered in by a goddamn tv commercial. I don't know how the marketing people keep doing it to me, but when it comes to sub-standard martial arts / gun-fu orientated films, they know just what to put in to get me interested, and there on opening day. I'm ashamed of myself.

This is a dumb film. Dumb as a box full of hammers. Dumber than a locker room full of football players. But is it big dumb fun?

The other thing that burns me about being suckered in by the trailer was the fact that there are scenes in the trailer that have been edited out of the film. And that there are obvious overdubs and cuts presumably to lower the MPAA rating as well, which is funny, though they never stooped so low as to do the "melonfarmer" substitute that I adore so much.

When the film works (which is for 30 minutes of its overall length), it's on fire. The fight scenes and various action scenes are well choreographed and Jason Statham looks suitably professionally hard when he is belting three shades of fuck out of the various bad guys. I need me some of the chewable steroids they've been feeding this guy, because he looks like a lean, corded, vicious machine. He also seems pretty good in the action sequences in terms of looking believable as a fighter.

Rating:

Die Another Day

dir: Lee Tamahori
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There. That feeling you had in your chest. Hadn't you noticed it before? Did you think it was just that you're getting really unfit and unhealthy? Or that maybe you had tuberculosis? No, that wasn't it.

That's it. Breath out. See, what happened was, you were waiting with bated breath for my next movie review.

And what will it be: a review of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, where I kept getting funny looks from the parents who'd brought their kids along, who were wondering what a 30 year old man was doing watching a kiddies film sans kiddies? Will it be a review from an advanced screening of The Two Towers, where 700 nerds were on the verge of premature ejaculation for nearly 3 hours?

No, it's a review of the 20th sequel to a very, very tired franchise which like its title suggests, will not die any time soon.

Rating:

One, The

dir: James Wong
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People, by and large, watch television. Whilst watching television, they will often see commercials, being as that is the nature of the medium. These aren't necessarily the World's Funniest or Sexiest commercials, either. Quite often, those commercials will be seriously truncated theatrical trailers shortened for the gnat-like attention spans of the tv viewing audience, promoting the imminent release of another work of art
to us, the presumed great unwashed masses.

Often, but not always, a viewer could be forgiven for thinking, "Who in their right mind, based on this appalling trailer, would want to go and see this pile of drek? Who sees these films?" If there's anyone out there that has seen the commercials for The One, or Highlander 5 as I prefer to think of it as, on telly, and
wondered the same thing, solace is at hand. I have the answer for you. When pondering who watches these Desert Vampire Mars Ghost C grade sci fi shlockfests, know now that it is me. I am the audience they're aiming for, apparently because I'm there on opening day.

Rating:

Predator

dir: John McTiernan
[img_assist|nid=1113|title=Natty dread|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=559]
1987

Maybe I’m misremembering the reality here, but was Predator an action classic back in the day when it came out? I was still a teenager in the heady last days of the 80s when this would have shown up on tv, heavily censored, of course. I seem to remember that it was big amongst teenager boys, big like acne and premature ejaculation. I mean, we didn’t have broadband internet access or iPods to keep ourselves occupied with back then, and the closest we came to god was watching Arnie chew his way through scenery and co-workers in his wonderful moofies.

This was back when the 11th Commandment was still “Thou Shalt Watch Every Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie”, and it held for at least a little while longer. Sure, he’s the goddamn Governor of California now, but back then he could be relied on to keep teenage boys in thrall.

Rating:

Mad Max

dir: George Miller
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1979

Some works of art are classics because they have a universal, timeless quality that transcends era, class, eyesight, and anything else you can think of, in order to be beloved by many throughout the ages. Others are classics only because people have been saying they’re classics for long enough to fool the world itself.

Mad Max is a classic because people have been calling it such for so long that no-one remembers just how amateurish and cheap it truly was. In the mouths and fingertips of many, Mad Max put Australian flicks on the international map and launched several careers in the movies, not least of which being Mel “the Jews are out to get me” Gibson. Sure, it did kickstart Gibson’s career, and the production juggernaut that was Byron Kennedy / George Miller.
But the flick is pretty crap. An enjoyable crappy flick on some levels, but a crappy flick nonetheless.

Rating:

Hard Boiled (Lat Sau San Taam)

dir: John Woo
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For my money, by my reckoning, there has never been a finer gun action film than Hard Boiled. Chow Yun Fat has never been cooler, and John Woo, after making the move to Hollywood, never came close to replicating the majesty, the carnage/artistry, the sheer awesomeness that is this film.

I know, my praise is over the top, completely over the top. Many might watch it and see nothing but a routine actioner, with some pretty dire dialogue. But the great thing about not having to justify any of my worthless opinions to anyone on this planet is that I don’t have to justify any of my worthless opinions to anyone on this or any other planet.

Although, if that was strictly the case, then the very act itself of writing a review of a film would be, by my definition, pointless. All I would arrogantly need to do is bellow “I hated it, and I don’t have to tell you why, Good Night and Good Luck, and in the immortal words of Edward R. Murrow, Go Fuck Yourselves!”

And no-one wants to read that. Except maybe masochists who like being abused by the written word. Kinda like those people who voluntarily read those Dan Brown books that are still pretty big at the moment.

Rating:

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