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Crime/Heist

Bank Job, The

dir: Roger Donaldson
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I loves me a good heist movie, I does. Big fan of heist movies. Probably one of my favourite genres, since my tolerance for vampire movies, zombie movies and Merchant Ivory productions has waned.

Who am I kidding, I still love that lace doily, maiden aunt with scones Merchant Ivory shit.

The Bank Job, you might think, is something of a heist movie. But it has the added bonus of allegedly being based on a true story. As well!

As far as I’m concerned, this is based on a true story the way 10,000 BC, Pearl Harbor and Transformers were based on true stories. Sure there were woolly mammoths building the pyramids. Sure giant robots travelled to our planet searching for Rubik’s cubes. Sure, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale fought the Japanese and won with their dignity and 40s hairstyles intact in a love triangle story that echoes throughout the ages..

So, to reiterate, I believe the “true” elements in The Bank Job involve the fact that there is a place called London, and it is populated by people, some of whom are British. And there was a calendar year called 1971.

Other than that, I don’t even believe there was such a time and place as the so-called 70s, at least not as represented here. And a Princess Margaret? Who ever heard of such a being?

Rating:

American Gangster

dir: Ridley Scott
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There was a time when Ridley Scott’s name commanded respect. People took him seriously. No matter the film or the subject matter, people would say “Well, this is the guy who made Blade Runner and Alien, so let’s all gather round and listen to what he has to say.” Film wankers and aesthetes (such as myself) would reach even further back and say “Well, this is the guy who made The Duellists, so he’s capable of greatness, so let’s eagerly anticipate his next movie with, um, eager anticipation.”

Then he made Hannibal.

After that, Scott’s feet of clay kept growing to swallow up the rest of his body and brain, to the extent where he just seemed like every other British-born Hollywood hack, as capable of an okay film or a terrible shitfest as any other director.

With American Gangster, he’s gone all out to craft an American Prestige Epic worthy of Oscar nomination, critical column inches and applause from the sweatpants-wearing masses. Note the cast, the topic, and the length of the flick. No-one makes a flick this long (nearly three hours in the ‘unrated’ version) with this many A-listers with this subject matter unless they’re expecting, nay, demanding recognition in February / March.

Rating:

Gone Baby Gone

dir: Ben Affleck
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To me, and I suspect a lot of other audience members, the concept of a film directed by Ben Affleck starring Casey Affleck seems like one of those perfect storm conditions for a Shit Storm of the Century-type of outcomes.

And setting it in Boston amongst working class, criminal and trashy Southies? That’s like a tornado inside a hurricane inside a campaign of sustained aerial bombardment hitting your trailer park.

The suburb of Dorchester, which is both the setting for the film and where the book’s author Dennis Lehane was birthed and growed, looks like the trashiest, grungiest shithole in America. Whatever initial claim it might have had to being the Irish heart of old Boston is long gone. It looks like the kind of place that not only houses the highest levels per capita of Jerry Springer viewers, but also the greatest amount of participants in the show.

Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) is just another one of these Southie scumbags, who manages to be repellent and compelling at the same time. She’s one of those alcoholic drug addicts who would probably start a lot of sentences with the phrase “Now I’m never going to win a ‘Mother of the Year’ award, but…” and then proves it with her behaviour on a continual basis.

Rating:

No Country For Old Men

dir: The Brothers Coen
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I never thought the Coen Brothers would ever make another movie that completely and utterly achieved greatness. That’s the only superlative I’m going to use in the review, because belabouring the point that this is a pretty strong film and one of their best for over a decade will only prompt people brought in by the hype to say “Eh, it’s not so great.”

More important that saying “It’s Great, Mate!” is being able to articulate as to why I think it’s so good, and why I enjoyed it so much. It’s actually quite odd, because the elements that really made it stand out for me might not even seem that important to anyone else.

By far the part of the flick that struck me most profoundly was not the Southern Gothic tone, the (admittedly) strong performances, the dialogue, plot or the production values. What struck me the most was the use of sound, and the fact that there was barely any music used in the flick at all.

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Ocean's Thirteen

dir: Steven Soderbergh
[img_assist|nid=744|title=Oh fuck do we suck in this|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=321]
Lord Jesus, Satan, Buddha, Easter Bunny: save me from myself. If a punter ventures forth to the cinema or a rental place and buys a ticket or hires something they know nothing about, I guess they’ve got the right to be pissed off when it turns out to be woeful and blowful.

If you watch something knowing full well how much of a craptacular experience it’s going to be, then how much of a right do you have to complain?

Bugger-all, but rights don’t always dictate actions.

Ocean’s 13 or Thirteen is the unlucky third entry in this glib, shallow franchise centred around the fact that Brad Pitt and George Clooney occasionally want to get paid a shitload of money so that they can remain high in the public’s celebrity consciousness without having to actually act in a film. They’re being paid to play themselves, which I’m sure is wonderful for the women who routinely swoon whenever they watch them being ‘interviewed’ on Oprah, but it is of little interest to me.

Several times during this flick our two main protagonists are almost interrupted by the camera in the middle of an anecdote that sounds something like:

Rating:

Eastern Promises

dir: David Cronenberg
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Eastern Promises, being a David Cronenberg film, promises more than it should and delivers more than you’d expect. There’s no shortage of flicks out there about organised crime, but it takes a unique one to stand out from the morass.

A look at the Russian mafia isn’t exactly new either. But the screenplay by Stephen Knight and the whole bloody production, overseen by one of the masters of cinema (even if he is Canadian), creates a living, breathing, unnerving story about, amongst other things, how nasty old people can be.

A pregnant fourteen-year-old girl (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse) staggers into a chemist, bleeding all over the place. She gives birth to a tiny girl later in hospital, and promptly dies. The midwife, Anna (Naomi Watts) searches the poor girl’s belongings to find out where she comes from so see can give the little baby (who she’s named Christina, in honour of rapidly approaching Christmas) to her family.

The problem is, all she has to go on is a diary in Russian. Anna has a Russian background, but needs the diary to be translated. Propelling the plot forward, she also finds a card which directs her to a Russian restaurant called the Trans-Siberian in the heart of London.

Rating:

Zodiac

dir: David Fincher
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The director with one of the most variable records in Hollywood has returned to us mere plebs with a police procedural flick about the hunt for the Zodiac killer.

Fincher’s flicks have an almost odd-even quality, in that he has a good film follow a mediocre one with grim predictability. I don’t have to nuts and bolts it for you: suffice to say I really like half of his movies, and am indifferent to the other half, and they follow each other like night follows day, like hangover follows drinking binge.

I can’t really say if Zodiac breaks the cycle, because the formula would require that a good film follow his last mediocre one, being Panic Room. But I can’t say that it blew my socks off.

It’s just over two and a half hours long, which in itself is no crime. As long as it does something magical with that time, who would complain. It’s just that, for my money, it is two and a half hours of tedium with no pay off.

Rating:

Macbeth

dir: Geoffrey Wright
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With the last 20 or so murders that occurred in during the so-called Melbourne Underworld war, I guess it seemed like a good idea to combine the Shakespeare play about ruthless ambition and the crime pages of the daily newspapers. A natural alliance, like whisky and baby formula, or dope and speed.

They decide to play it fairly straight, despite the contemporary and Melbournian setting, and keep the language as the Bard would have liked it. So the dialogue hasn’t been made modern with people saying ‘like’ or ‘whatever’ all the time.

Macbeth (Sam Worthington) loyal to mobster king Duncan (Gary Sweet), oversees something like a drug deal gone wrong that results in lots of dead Asians. Victorious, Macbeth is commended by the king and seems like he’s on top of the world.

Whilst taking drugs, he sees three jailbait redhead witches, who tell him he will be king.

Rating:

Harsh Times

dir: David Ayer
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This was touted as a kind of follow-up to Training Day, since it had the same writer involved, now graduating to the big leagues by taking on directorial duties as well. Hoo-fucking-ray. And since we were told it would be a sequel to that horribly scripted film with incredible performances, we could look forward to more of the same.

Denzel got the Oscar for Training Day, but I don’t think Harsh Times is going to win any awards, despite having exactly the same quantity of overacting in it. Substitute Christian Bale in place of Denzel, and make him a returned Ranger veteran with post traumatic stress disorder instead of being a nasty, corrupt cop, and you have Harsh Times, set on the mean streets of San Andreas. I mean, Los Angeles.

Rating:

Running Scared

dir: Wayne Kramer
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Running Scared is two hours long, and over the course of those two hours it tries to ensure that at least some element will offend everyone. It is loud, extremely violent, profane, visually aggressive and completely over the top. It is thus, for me, a very entertaining film.

It also has an entertaining performance by Paul Walker, which I never thought were words I would ever write down in a review. As an actor I’ve generally considered him to be the acting equivalent of elevator music, though now that I’ve used that phrase, I’m trying to recall the last time I heard elevator music. I don’t think it’s been in the last fifteen years, so there could be an entire confused generation of people who’ve never heard of elevator music (or muzak, as it used to be known), and are now despondent and heartbroken. For that I am truly sorry.

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