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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: Origins Wolverine

Oh look!. It's the patron saint of the wifebeater singlet!

dir: Gavin Hood
I know that the X Men movies have been pretty popular, and I know that a major component of their success has been the efforts of Hugh Jackman as the most popular of the mutant comic book characters, being Wolverine. And I can see why making a film just about Wolverine would have seemed like a winner right from the start.

I mean, it just feels like a logical progression. If the X Men films were successful, and, the theory goes, Wolverine or Logan is the key ingredient, then if you take all the distractions and unnecessary components out, you’re left with something pure and wonderful.

I believe it’s the same process used in manufacturing crack cocaine.

Get rid of the sometimes interesting dialogue, the ethical questions, the underlying science fiction themes and debates that typify the conflict between a powerful mutant who wants to shepherd mutants, and protect humanity (Professor X), and a powerful mutant who wants to destroy or subjugate them (Magneto), and just have Hugh Jackman jump around tearing shit up with his adamantium claws. Do it for 90 minutes and you have yourself a blockbuster.

Indeed, it made enough money at the box office to guarantee that more X Men flicks are going to excrete themselves down the studio pipeline. But it’s not even a vaguely worthy 90 minutes. Your dollars could otherwise better be spent on the aforementioned crack cocaine.

Rating:

Death Race

dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[img_assist|nid=156|title=Statham: He looks like he's carved from granite, and acts like it too|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
There are two Paul Andersons who work as directors in contemporary cinema. There’s probably more but there’s two main ones I’m concerned with. Paul Thomas Anderson is the guy who made Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood. The other Paul Anderson, with the W.S. initials betwixt the Paul and the Anderson, is the British chap who made films such as Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Resident Evil, and Alien Versus Predator.

Guess which Paul Anderson made this flick.

Death Race is a remake of a flick that was called Death Race 2000, made in the seventies. I guess calling this version Death Race 2000 would have given people the impression it was a period piece, a Merchant Ivory bittersweet coming of age story with Model T Fords and horse drawn carriages fighting it out for the love of a good woman / boy / pony.

Death Race 3000 would have hurt people’s brains by being so clearly set in a far too distant future. Like Futurama.

Rating:

Taken

dir: Pierre Morel
[img_assist|nid=154|title=I don't think French food is that good, honestly|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=263]
Taken is a glorious throwback to the 70s and 80s where revenge wasn’t a dirty word. Sure, revenge flicks are a dime a dozen, and one is released every week (to the cinemas, with about five per week going straight to DVD), and they travel very well overseas. I guess it’s because everyone can relate to revenge.

That being said, revenge is a fundamental cinematic genre in and of itself, but that doesn’t mean that most of these flicks are good. They’re not. They’re easy to fuck up.

I guess it’s the fact that they should be so easy that lulls people into a false sense of security, or a real sense of insecurity. They don’t take the time to craft them well, or to make the main protagonist worth following in their journey to blissful, blood-spattered Old Testament style vengeance.

Taken probably isn’t at all believable, plausible or remotely likely. Neither are the Bond films or the Bourne films or the Sisterhood of the Travelling Underpants films, masterpieces though they are. None of it matters, because Liam Neeson does so well in a role few men do credibly.

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Max Payne

dir: John Moore
[img_assist|nid=3|title=All Gun, no Fun|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
In a lot of ways, Max Payne, which is overall a pretty mediocre action movie, is as good as you have any right to expect something to be that stars Marky Mark Wahlberg, and that is based on an extremely violent and thus extremely enjoyable computer game.

But if they can’t even use the musical theme from the game in the film, then it was never going to work, was it?

The usual dismissals and criticisms aimed at ‘based on’ fare don’t really apply, since both of the Max Payne games were a distillation of pure 80s Hollywood cop / vengeance crap filtered through a comic book / pseudo-noir sensibility, with liberal splashings of guttural voiceovers and over the top set pieces. Thus you’d think making a film of it would be easy, since there is no shortage of flicks based on a) killing mobsters, b) wanting to kill hundreds of people in retaliation for the murder of one’s family, and c) guns guns and more guns.

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Quantum of Solace

dir: Marc Forster
[img_assist|nid=37|title=He just needs some love|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=309]
Casino Royale was one of the more surprising films for me last year, surprising in that I was expecting the same old shit in a new and shiny bucket. It proved to be better than my lowest expectations, and rekindled my interest in the Bond character, something which dwindled to nothing through most of the 90s.

Riding on that wave of successfulness, all Quantum of Solace had to do was not suck too much, and everyone would be mostly happy. Was that too much to ask?

Craig plays the character with the same level of intensity he brought to his first trip in Bondland, but the story is significantly different. I can dimly remember reading an Ian Fleming short story sharing the name of this film, but I doubt this flick follows the story closely if at all.

All I remember about the short story is that it only features Bond tangentially, and is more about two characters with a bad, bad marriage rather than anything to do with shooting people or beating the crap out of disposable henchmen.

But, see, we live in a different era these days. When Roger Moore played the guy, it was enough to be a suave motherfucker, have some occasional fisticuffs, and always bed the lasses within easy reach of a bottle of Dom Perignon. Despite being as gay as anything.

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Mutant Chronicles, The

dir: Simon Hunter
[img_assist|nid=77|title=Pretty Goddamn Stupid|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=175|height=250]
You really have to wonder how some movies get made. I don’t mean microbudget indie films about depressed people having soulless sex and squeezing their pimples in the mirror for two hours: all you need is a camera and a PC for editing to do that.

But some films sound so bad even as you’re watching them that you can’t help but wonder how drunk the people were who gave the go ahead, and how desperate for attention some of these actors were to agree to appear in something like this.

Ron Perlman, I’m sure, doesn’t turn down any film roles. He’s that prolific, and probably wants to pay off the mortgage or get a country house or whatever. At the very least he’s like an American Michael Caine, who appears in the majority of movies made in the last thirty years. Perlman’s appearance here isn’t that surprising, I guess. He plays what I thought was the main character, Brother Samuel.

Brother Samuel is but one of the many characters in this strange flick, but not the most inexplicable. What is John Malkovich doing here? Surely Malkovich has made enough money over the years to be able to turn down a role every now and then.

But no…

Rating:

Speed Racer

dir: Wachowskis
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I guess we can’t call them the Wachowski Brothers anymore, since technically they’re not both brothers anymore. Allow me to illuminate your confusion with an explanation, one of the few times where one of my more obscure references can actually be explained in a sane way that might make sense to another human being.

When they made Bound and the Matrix trilogy, two chaps sharing the name Wachowski were responsible as the directors. Now, as in as of a year or two ago, one of them is still a Brother Wachowski, and the other, thanks to the type of surgery that in Australia is still colloquially referred to as the “cruellest cut of all”, one of them has undergone gender reassignment surgery to become a Sister Wachowski.

Strange, I know, but don’t for a moment feel that I’m impugning the lifestyle choices of people who I believe have every right to do whatever the hell they want as long as they’re not hurting other people. He / She can do whatever the heck they want with their pink bits, surgery-wise or otherwise as long as it doesn’t involve my pink bits.

Rating:

Wanted

dir: Timur Bekmambetov
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Trash. Not mindless trash, but trash all the same. And it’s trash you’ve already seen, as long as you’ve seen The Matrix. Even with a completely different setting and premise, it is so reminiscent of The Matrix that you keep expecting Agents to turn up and Kanooie to appear mouthing “Whoa!” in that supremely affectless way of his.

It’s not just the fact that the supposed hero of the piece, Wesley (James McAvoy), starts off as a depressed office drone who finds out that he’s actually a gifted superhero type, and thus goes from zero to hero in record time. The entire special effects package seems to be solely aimed at insulting the laws of gravity and making entities such as Sir Isaac Newton spin in their graves in a fashion wholly contrary to the physical universe as we know it.

Taking a gratuitous leaf out of The Matrix’s script, the intro begins the film’s descent into cinematic cliché and carnage by having a normal seeming guy do some completely impossible shit involving killing a bunch of guys at a great distance and jumping from one skyscraper to a distant other. Before he is almost mystically killed with a bullet that curves through space and possibly time.

Rating:

Dark Knight, The

dir: Christopher Nolan
[img_assist|nid=94|title=The Joker in all his posthumous glory|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=633|height=310]
We don't really have 'event' movies anymore. No movie, because of the sheer quantity of flicks that come out, and the quantity of other potential things a person can do (and might prefer to do) instead of going to the theatre, can come out and dominate the landscape like it could in the past.

The days of something completely massive in its level of public interest, a flick that gets everyone to watch it and everyone to talk about it, are pretty much gone. The last such flick, one that almost everyone worldwide went to see at the cinema, everyone talked about whether they saw it or not, and everyone just knew of its very existence was Titanic.

It’s why Titanic is the all time box office champion, and will continue to be until something magically compels people to go back to the theatres instead of watching flicks on their home theatre set-ups, computer screens or handheld devices.

Rating:

Hancock

dir: Peter Berg
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There seem to be superhero flicks coming out every goddamn week, and mostly they’re the tried and tested superhero properties carefully branded and nurtured by DC and Marvel Comics over the last century. They are, at least the successful ones, considered to be powerful box office draws and dependable investments. Yes, I’m talking about Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Fantastic Fours and the X-Men flicks. You can now, due to its inexplicable success, add Iron Man to the list.

Then there’s the second tier of flicks based on lesser known superheroes which seem not to do as well simply because they’re not as well known, and aren’t considered serious draws, no matter how well they do (Spawn, The Crow, Blade, Daredevil, Electra, Hellboy, Constantine, Ghost Rider, The Phantom, The Shadow et bloody cetera.) The primary difference is that the top tier characters are so well known and so recognisable that everyone goes to see them at the cinema, and children the world over whine until their parents buy them the merchandise. With the second tier, only the fans and nerds go or care.

Rating:

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