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Wanderlust

Wanderlust

You bunch of filthy hippies, who aren't really that filthy,
or hippies, for that matter

dir: David Wain

Goddamn hippies. You would think, from this flick and flicks like it, that hippies are worthy of more contempt and loathing than almost every other classification, subculture or type of human in this world. A village full of kiddie fiddlers and hedge fund managers doesn’t rival the awesome awfulness of a bunch of hippies, apparently.

At least to Americans, I guess. Whether they’re contemptible wretches worthy of that contempt or not (all of them, not just some of them or most of them, every single fucking one of them!) is not of tremendous relevance. It’s not as if this flick is going to change any opinions about anything along the way, or raise awareness or anything. That’s not its purpose. The flick isn’t even interested in characters, or characters coming to terms with things, or overcoming things, or anything like that. No flick about hippies that has Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in lead roles is interested in achieving anything so bold, any so radical.

As much as I like Paul Rudd, if there’s another actor who varies less between roles I haven’t had the honour of discovering him yet. And Aniston, well, if there’s an actress with even less range, science hasn’t discovered her yet.

So casting them here as a yuppie couple who fall upon hard times is the kind of decision a Microsoft program could have come up with unaided: “They’re Bland Enough and Up for Whatever!” the poster could scream.

Rating:

The Dictator

The Dictator

Even Castro would envy that full, luxuriant beard

dir: Larry Charles

Meh. It’s no Borat, but then again, it’s going for something else. Something very much else.

The film starts with a dedication in loving memory to recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, long may his crazy ass fry in hell, and it’s called The Dictator, so we’re expecting an Ali G – South Park level of subtlety and historical complexity right off the bat.

Or maybe we’re not.

Sometimes, as audiences, we get not what we’d like but what we deserve. Since, like an undisciplined child, Sacha Baron Cohen’s bad behaviour not only goes unpunished or ever corrected, but is instead rewarded with money, critical acclaim and redheaded wives, he ends up giving us exactly what we might not like, but should totally expect.

The fundamental difference here is that he’s acting with other actors, and not inflicting his persona onto unsuspecting members of the public. What this shares with the other flicks is that he behaves in a similarly vulgar and boorish manner, in order to make us laugh, but the other characters, in on the act, either ignore, feign shock towards or applaud his repellent behaviour.

When he does this stuff in Borat or Bruno, the bits that should or would otherwise horrify a decent human being are why it matters to us, and where the humour comes from. Otherwise it’s pretty weak sauce.

Rating:

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

They haven't aged a day, have they, like the immortals they deserve to be

dirs: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

File this under “should not have worked, but somehow did.” If such a file exists. Which it probably doesn’t.

In truth they could have just called this flick A Couple of Dicks Go Back to School and had exactly the same story without any of the Jump Street references or cameos, and it probably would have succeeded just as well, though it probably wouldn’t have made as much money.

I freely admit I was a fan of the show as a kid, and watched its first four years religiously, as in, always on the Sabbath. Loved the show, loved how moralising and try-hard it was, loved especially the various depictions of the teen experience forced through the filter of episodic police procedural television, with its “I learned something today” consistency. It was very of its time, dealing with the horrors of white kids using drugs, the rise of AIDS, the eternal tensions between parents, teachers and kids, and funky hairstyles. At least, at first, it was one of the only bright spots in that dark age known as the 1980s.

Nothing except eternity lasts forever, and even that the quantum physicists are always trying to fuck with, so Jump Street came and went, all the other actors went back to the obscurity they so richly deserved, and Johnny Depp went on to become the most powerful and highest paid actor in human history.

Rating:

A Few Best Men

A Few Best Men

Go back where you came from, you ten-pound Poms!

dir: Stephan Elliot

I am a simple man. Anyone who’s ever met me or read these here reviews will probably have figured that out for themselves by now. So if I watch a comedy whose sole purpose is to make me laugh, presumably, then I consider that comedy to be a success if I laugh.

In that light, to put it very simplistically, this movie made me laugh, it is a comedy, so therefore I give it my highest honour possible, being “eh, it wasn’t too bad.”

That’s not to say that it’s a good film, by any definition other than the one I just offered. It’s clumsy, it’s poorly acted, it’s erratically edited, it’s got actors in it who shouldn’t be in it, or in films in general and specifically, and it’s got a lot of crude, stupid humour.

Shit like that, though, literally and figuratively, makes me laugh sometimes, and I laughed a handful of times while watching this trenchant and probing examination of marriage in the current milieu.

Being a simple man doesn’t stop me from over-complicating things endlessly, though. The main reason for that is this: I’m a simple man who’s also intensely neurotic. So allow me to offer apologies and explanations for this here review and this here flick.

I thought this was an Australian flick made for domestic consumption, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It became pretty obvious after a while that there was a thoroughly misguided attempt to make this flick in Australia aimed at a British audience.

Rating:

Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids

You're all laughing and smiling, but none of you are funny in this

dir: Jennifer Westfeldt

Hey. Those of you who don’t have kids and who have friends with kids: I know that those of us with them can be pretty annoying, but you don’t have to try to punish us by making films about it. Honestly, most of us aren’t that horrible. Some of us are, but not most, I hope.

Some friends who have kids, sure, are worse than fifty Hitlers, and are completely self-obsessed and self-focussed, and are constantly telling you how little they’re sleeping and how hard they’re doing it, and what saints they goddamn are for doing something no-one forced them to do and that billions of other people seemed to have managed without turning it into such a goddamn saga, but that’s not the fault of the kids.

Let’s be honest, they were probably annoying fuckers to begin with. As a wise man once said: Look into your hearts. You know it to be true.

Rating:

The Muppets

The Muppets

Welcome back, gentle muppets, now please fuck off again

dir: James Bobin

And now, from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. Having spent a fair few hours this summer in the cinemas with my angelic / demonic child, we’ve traversed the entire current cinematic experience as it exists for the children of this city. There have been ups, and downs, mostly downs, at least from my viewpoint, but there have been some hours spent in the illuminated gloom that were enjoyable for us both.

The most surprising, in that I can’t believe she enjoyed it considering how dated, self-referential, meta and ‘adult’ it is, is this flick, The Muppets.

What a deceptive title. I mean, there have been so many Muppets flicks, but I guess not for a while. Thing is, for her, being all of five, she’s never seen the Muppets tv show. She never saw perplexing cameos from Roger Moore, Twiggy, Vincent Price or Johnny Cash or Liberace, or wondered why these sometimes drunk people were chatting to these furry puppets like they were real people. She never saw the stack of flicks from the 80s, or heard the musical numbers, or owned any of the holy merchandise.

Nor did she know anything about the perverse love/hate insanely passionate relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Nor should she.

Rating:

30 Minutes or Less

30 minutes

Less would have been better, as in either zero or negative

dir: Ruben Fleischer

Getting Jesse Eisenberg and director Ruben Fleischer together again after Zombieland must have sounded like a good idea, since they did pretty well on their first time out. Inserting Aziz Ansari into the mix might have sounded good, because Aziz is pretty funny, whether as a stand-up or as a comedic actor.

But then someone somehow thought Danny McBride would improve things as well, and so we have 30 Minutes or Less: a mediocre flick so pointless and ineffable that the rage it could inspire doesn’t have time to coalesce before the film evaporates.

I’m telling you for free, Hollywood: Danny McBride improves nothing. Smearing shit on a Picasso doesn’t make it more valuable. Au contraire, fuckers.

Not that, oh no, don’t get me wrong, not that this flick would have been a Cubist masterpiece without McBride’s value-adds. No, it would still have been utterly pointless and forgettable. It just wouldn’t have been as annoying.

Rating:

Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother

One person's idiot is another person's presidential candidate

dir: Jesse Peretz

Ah, a finer adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot we’ll never get in our lifetimes. Even Akira Kurosawa’s version isn’t this good.

Yeah, I’m pulling your leg. I’m pulling the heck out of your leg. This isn’t a particularly good movie, but it’s not the worst flick ever made either.

Now that’s a ringing recommendation, isn’t it? The thing is, though, I really did enjoy this movie. I pretty much enjoyed it solely because of Paul Rudd’s performance as the likeable idiot of the title.

For much of the flick, the impression we’re meant to have is that whilst his family might see him as an idiot, he’s not an idiot. He might come across as naïve, or too trusting, but generally he’s just a happy-go-lucky guy surrounded by cynical, selfish, awful people.

And then he does some stuff that could only really be done by an idiot, or at least someone with strong idiotic tendencies. Sometimes, even when someone isn’t entirely something, they can sidle close enough up to it that they might as well ‘be’ the label they’d like to avoid.

Ned (Paul Rudd), who’s pretty much a hippy in the modern age, is so trusting that when a uniformed police officer asks him if he’s got some dope, considering what a difficult, stressful week the cop’s had, Ned believes him and gives him some dope.

Rating:

The Hangover Part II

Hangover 2

Why would you ever want to wake up next to these shmucks again?

dir: Todd Phillips

Second verse? Same as the first.

Anyone who paid good money to see this flick, and complained that it was exactly the same plot as the first obviously doesn’t understand what the purpose of a flick called The Hangover Part II was really meant to be.

I didn’t pay good money to see it, because all of my money is tainted with the blood of the innocent and the guilty alike, and I expected it to be exactly what it was, and thus I enjoyed more than the first flick. It’s not better than its predecessor, nor could it be, really. Honestly, these flicks are less movies than they are long, stretched sketch, with multiple gaglets along the way before a punchline that can’t live up to anything.

It doesn’t have to. The premise is so fucking simple, and so enjoyable, that nothing else matters. Characterisation, believable dialogue, people acting sanely is completely unnecessary and unwanted.

Why? Because it’s about that most awesome of things: getting fucked up and not being able to remember the reprehensible shit you got up to the night before.

There’s no Oscar in that. There’s no longing to peer into the depths of the human condition. There’s no need for some Ingmar Bergman-like exploration of man’s misery in the face of God’s silence. It’s about terrible people doing terrible stuff, not remembering either the fun or the awfulness, and trying to find one of their number who’s gone missing.

Rating:

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Not the sequel to One Night in Paris, unfortunately

dir: Woody Allen

Woody Allen… Woody Fucking Allen…

Eh, let’s not go there. Let’s just focus on the fact that there is a film out, and I watched it, and here’s a review of it.

Midnight in Paris doesn’t have Woody Allen in it, so that’s already a plus. The late era renaissance continues for Allen, who is still making films that star famous people, and still get reviewed by people, almost incredulously. It boggles the mind.

Regardless, any film without Allen still has an Allen surrogate in it, and this flick’s surrogate is played by Owen Wilson. He’s a nice enough chap, and nowhere near as neurotic or painful as the usual Allen surrogate.

His problem, and there’s always a problem, is that he’s more focussed on the past than the present. There are probably lots of good reasons for this. The main reason is that his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams) is an awful harridan of a human being, so awful that she’s, like, worse than fifty fucking Hitlers.

Independent of his awful relationship with this person, it seems like being in Paris kindles all sorts of misgivings, regrets, passions and longings within him. It is the City of Lights, after all, with an infamous history, but a lot of it, all the same. As Gil is a writer, naturally his thoughts tend towards both the self-involved and the literary titans of the past who frequented Paris during its many heydays.

And, whodda thunkit? He gets to meet them.

Rating:

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