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Drama

Drama

Carnage

Carnage

Parents are just the worst people, they really are, in and outside of plays

dir: Roman Polanski

Parents, as any teenager will tell you, are the worst. They’re just horrible people, perpetually using their children as surrogates, stand-ins and battlefields for all their fears, failures and furies. At least as far as movies are concerned

And they’re always convinced that they’re right, even when and especially when they’re wrong.

Four people get trapped in an apartment, unable to leave, held in place like insects in amber by societal niceties, the social contract, the fear of litigation, and eventually, the shittiness of their own marriages. What a recipe for success!

And it's all over an eleven-year-old hitting another eleven-year-old with a stick.

At least in the Australian context, it's hard not to think of The Slap, which uses the slap of the title to show the fault lines and flaws in the relationships of dozens of interlinked people. The realisation of this story, though, couldn't be more different. This flick is based on a play, and it shows. The 'action' doesn't move from the apartment, well, it only moves as far as the outside of the apartment, as two sets of parents try to wrest some kind of meaning from each other, to make up for the lack of it in other areas of their lives.

Rating:

Take Shelter

Take Shelter

What's most terrifying is the possibility that the craziest people have
been right all along.

dir: Jeff Nichols

Michael Shannon is the new Christopher Walken, only even more unsettling. And now they’re giving him lead roles in movies, which is going to scare even more children down the track.

Scooch closer, children, don’t make me tell you again about the scooching.

Take Shelter is a meditative, unsettling, measured story about a man overwhelmed by dread. Curtis (Michael Shannon) has dreams and visions of something awful that’s about to happen, and yet, because of his family history of mental illness, he allows for the possibility that it all might just be in his head.

This is a man who sees his dreams as omens, and takes actions in the ‘real’ world, which, obviously, look like the actions of an insane man, after a while. He knows they’re dreams, but, for him, it would be a crime not to prepare for what is coming. He loves his family too much to ignore the signs, and sees as absolute his obligation to do right by all of them.

His wife (Jessica Chastain, who I think was in every movie released in 2011), apart from being a redhead, is a rock, is a cornerstone, is a heroically supportive woman, but even she has her limits. Anyone would. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, though, she’s the embodiment of the concept of standing by your man to the bitter end.

Rating:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

It has a cumbersome, unwieldy title. I would have gone with
"Fuck I Really Hated This Movie".

dir: Stephen Daldry

This is the last of the nominees for Best Picture this year (well, at the 2012 Oscars scheduled for the 26th of Feb) that I have seen and reviewed, well, am reviewing right now. That’s the only reason I saw it, or at least endured its entire length without walking out, and the only reason I’m reviewing it is so I can at least have the tenuous justification for having an informed opinion about the worthiness of the flick that ends up winning.

And, at the very least, I can say that this flick should definitely not win.

At even very leaster, I can say that this flick should definitely not be watched by anyone, either.

I can’t say if it’s a faithful rendering of the book, because I’m never going to read the book that produced such an aggravating movie. An actively irritating, unsatisfying, unfulfilling, unenjoyable movie.

It’s safe to say that if it didn’t include a lot of footage of the World Trade Centre attacks, an abundance of footage and references and elegiac scenes of people falling, or the smoking towers, or the last (fabricated) words of someone about to die in one of the Towers, this flick would have never seen the light of day. I don’t think people can be casual or dismissive about September Eleven stuff yet, hence the nomination, but, goddamn is this flick unpleasant to spend time with.

Rating:

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo

Ugh, better title would be "We Are Trapped in a Terrible Movie, Please Send Help"

dir: Cameron Crowe

There’s this feeling that certain films and certain directors provoke that’s akin to having been in an embarrassing relationship with someone completely unsuitable in some dark alleyway of your past. Sure, at the time you thought they were wonderful and fun, but then you look back with the benefit of maturity and hindsight and think “what the fuck was I on?”

And it happens, mostly, when you see them in their current state, giving the world new examples of why they were always embarrassing, and why you should have known they were a disaster way back when. Sure, I really enjoyed Almost Famous, and sit through it whenever it pops up on one of the cable movie channels, but, really, I can’t believe I ever liked this man’s movies.

We Bought a Zoo actually has a story that I found interesting. A grieving widower called Benjamin (Matt Damon) decides to buy a zoo, to take his two kids out of the city and all that reminds him of his departed wife, to start afresh. Along the way he has to say a lot of things that would embarrass even those kinds of people you know who biologically seem not to have any capacity for shame. You know, politicians, pornstars, footballers: even they would be blushing with some of these execrable words given to them. Instead, you have Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson uttering this dolorous, dunderheaded dribble, which demeans us all individually and as a species.

Rating:

The Descendants

The Descendants

I wonder how high up on People magazine's Hottest 100 Bachelors list I am this year..

dir: Alexander Payne

I was so surprised when this didn’t turn out to be a biopic-documentary about the great punk band The Descendents, from whose ashes rose other punk superstars Black Flag and All, blessing the world with their fast, brutal pop-punk noise, inspiring a legion of teenage boys in Akron, Ohio and Ringwood, Melbourne, to pick up guitars in their bedrooms and then put them down again once they finished their chemistry and engineering degrees.

No. That would have been too real, too awesome. Instead, here’s George Clooney Clooning things up for the rest of us, based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Cummings.

We see, for the briefest instant, a woman riding on a jet ski, who seems very happy. That’s the happiest we’re going to see her, because Clooney’s sonorous voiceover ensures that we will know quick smart that these people aren’t or can’t be happy for very long.

It turns out that the woman we beheld in all her glory is now in a coma, and her husband, Matt King (Cloons) is looking after her, and dealing more so with the fact that he now has to reengage with his family, being two daughters, which he thinks he’s not ready to do. The youngest, Scottie (Amara Miller) is getting in trouble for acting out (by saying ever so rude and hurtful things to other girls), and his elder daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) has her own problems unsuccessfully hidden away at her elite boarding school.

Rating:

Moneyball

Moneyball

This awards season, Brad Pitt IS a Ball of Money!

dir: Bennett Miller

Why would I watch a flick about baseball? Why would anyone? That is, why would anyone watch a flick about a sport they know nothing about apart from its existence, and couldn’t care less about?

Well, there have been some decent baseball flicks, for which it doesn’t matter a tinker’s dam whether you’re a fan of the sport or not. Eight Man Out, Cobb, The Babe, The Natural, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams: they're all the ones I can think of right now. You can argue that it’s not even the sport itself which is relevant in terms of whether they’re good films or not: it’s the story that goes along with it, eliciting as it does awe, hope, joy, boredom, strange sexual feelings and probably other darker emotions that I'm not privy to.

Well, truth be told the only reason I saw Moneyball is because I’d seen a lot of good reviews, a lot of praise for it, and many if not all of those reviews said stuff like “you don’t have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy the flick”. And so I watched it.

The reality is, though, if you don’t know or care about baseball, or sport in general, this film could bore you so much that you eventually hate any mention of it, or have all affection eroded you may have had for the athletic arts.

Rating:

50/50

50/50

Now boys, getting cancer is no reason to become neo-nazi skinheads, okay?

dir: Jonathan Levine

Cancer is a hard sell. It’s okay for those four-hanky weepies they make for the abundance of chick channels on cable, but for a comedy drama with nice, liked actors in it, you have to think a lot of people apart from the creative ones involved would have been a bit leery or at least anxious.

“Who’s going to see this?” muttered one studio executive, tugging on his soul patch and massaging his shoulder where Consuela, his usual deep-tissue masseuse had failed to work out the knot that had been bugging him all week.

“I mean, it’s a bit of a bring-down, isn’t it? Can’t he have, like, a cold or something less depressing?”

“What about lupus?” said his female counterpart, fighting the urge to think about food denied to herself at least until daylight hours were over. “Lupus would play well to 27 to 39-year-old one legged lesbians who like blue blankets, at least that’s what our data shows. What about an earache? No, we don’t want to alienate the people with sore eyelids. How about AIDS? Everyone loves AIDS. That’ll get the, you knows, into the theatres.”

Rating:

Bellflower

Bellflower

I can't imagine it gets decent fuel mileage, but it sure looks cool,
doesn't it?

dir: Evan Glodell

I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. I’ve watched it twice, and I still don’t know.

But I can tell you that it connected with me, for reasons I cannot fathom as yet.

Let’s fathom those reasons out together, dear reader. Maybe over the course of the review, I’ll be able to figure it out for myself.

This could be a flick about two youngish alcoholics, Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who really wish they were living in post-apocalyptic times. They don’t seem to have jobs or money, but they have a close friendship, I guess defined by the frequency with which they bellow ‘dude’ and ‘so awesome’ to and at each other. They’re really close, even just for best friends.

I’m not implying anything, I’m just saying. They spend their days talking about some fairly strange stuff, and they do it in a fairly casual way. Mad Max – The Road Warrior seems to have had a fairly profound impact upon them. They don’t just dream of modified beasts of cars, or flamethrowers; they build flamethrowers and modify cars in practical but cumbersome ways.

And, for fun, they chain up a propane tank and shoot it with a shotgun, just to watch it burn under escaping explosive pressure. They are, or at least think they are, preparing for something that the rest of us would desperately hope would never come to pass.

Rating:

Margin Call

Margin Call

Why so serious, gentle fellows? Is there some sort of crisis looming?

dir: J.C. Chandor

This is a non-stop rollercoaster ride of Armageddon-like thrills and fucking spills. If you’ve seen Children of Men, the incredible action / dystopian sci fi flick about a planet where no children are being born, then imagine that level of cinematic amazement, only set in an office populated entirely by shmucks working in the finance industry.

Yes, the finance industry, or the financial sector, if you want to be pedantic, and who, splayed seductively across the tubes of the internets, doesn’t? It’s the place where the best, brightest and most amazing people in society work with the largest sums of money that anyone outside of the accountant for an oil-rich country’s brutal dictator gets to play with.

Margin Call is not about a specific firm (cough Lehman Brothers cough) or a specific time (hello Global Financial Crisis circa 2008), but it does seem to be trying to represent a certain kind of muted catastrophe that some of us might remember, seeing as its effects are still reverberating, and, if you believe certain doomsayers, hasn’t even peaked yet.

Rating:

The Help

The Help

Well kiss my grits and deep fry my chitlins

dir: Tate Taylor

Yeah, yeah. I know. It can’t be good, can it?

It’s so obvious in its pandering for Oscars. It’s so worthy. It reeks of Oprah, and it’s all so, so goddamn earnest.

What if I told you that it’s actually not that a bad film? I think you’d be unpleasantly surprised. And even if the spirit of Hattie McDaniel hovers over the movie, cursing and moaning in contempt, it’s not entirely without merit.

Naturally, I’m not the intended audience, though I’m the right ‘colour’. White, American middle-aged, middle-class women are clearly the key demographic that made this flick such a success. It has dominated the US box office for the last few weeks like it’s one of the Transformers movies. Of course, some of the characters are less animated than the robots, but other than that there is little they share in common.

Apart from being big, stonking successes, that is. Of course, one is slightly less annoying and self-righteous than the other. And the other doesn’t have robots.

It’s set in the early 60s, in Mississippi. Guess what and who it’s about. Go on, I dare you, I double dare you, I triple dare you.

Yes, it’s about the Poles who fled the Nazis and the Soviets, and who emigrated to the States, and how they were oppressed and persecuted by people who sought to make them the butt of every lazy joke.

Rating:

Win Win

Win Win

Giamatti, you handsome devil, when will your day come?

dir: Thomas McCarthy

When you watch a lot of movies, you get so used to the hysterical, overbearing, oversaturated general default setting of cinema, that when a relatively quiet flick comes out that treats (mostly) dramas between people in a sane manner, it seems strange.

Not bad strange, just not at the fever pitch of melodrama that people expect from their media, or I guess have expected for decades.

Thomas McCarthy specialises in films seemingly devoted to fairly ordinary people living lives of quiet desperation, alleviated only by their interactions with other more interesting people. The films meander along, some conflict seems to arise organically, forcing some kind of crescendo, and then people’s lives continue, hopefully in a slightly better way. Maybe it sounds like I’m being derisive, but it’s not intended.

Though the protagonists of his previous flicks and the settings are all different (The Station Agent, The Visitor and this one), that approach seems to hold as a constant. You know, in case I haven’t made it clear enough, it’s a gentle, meandering, believable, human way to get a film and a premise across.

Perhaps you can guess what the laziest and most obvious criticism of these flicks could be. Something that mimics ‘real’ life in too realistic a manner runs the risk of being like actual life, in other words, tedious and painful. It can sap the will to live.

Rating:

The Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Everything... Everything... Everything... Everything... Everything

dir: Terrence Malick

It’s a beautiful film, trying to encompass in its scope, the entire world, the entire human experience, the entire universe. With such mighty ambitions, how can Malick not fall short? How could any of us not fall short?

The fact that the scope of his reach and the magnitude of his grasp are so close to each other means that when one exceeds the other, it doesn’t represent the failure that it would for other filmmakers. There are very few filmmakers (with money) like Malick, and his films are their own genre. As such they’re only really comparable to each other, not as much with other films.

You can only really know if you can enjoy a Malick film by having watched a few, and having immersed yourself in them, know what to expect. They are not conventional, they don’t follow a pattern, they don’t unfold in a conventional manner, and, mostly, they’re overflowing with beautiful cinematography, and the vast majority of the thoughts and intentions of the characters are delivered through internal monologues (voiceover).

Rating:

Small Town Murder Songs

Small Town Murder Songs

That's some serious policeman's mo you've got going there, Pete

dir: Ed Gass-Donnelly

No, it’s got nothing to do with Nick Cave, and it’s not an album. But it is a Canadian film, about a murder, in a small town, and there are some songs.

The songs are great. They’re Great. Genuinely bracing songs, mixing elements of church spirituals, violent percussion, very dark bluegrass (I guess?), and probably a bunch of other influences as well. Imagine the bastard love child of Steve Earle and Nick Cave, sitting in some muddy weeds, crying while toking on a meth pipe.

So the soundtrack, I think we’ve painfully established, is pretty amazing. The Canadian film itself? Perhaps not so much.

The setting is rural Ontario, and the small town is so very, very small. They never mention the population specifically, but it’s probably in the hundreds. It’s such a small town that the last murder was before the time of the current town police chief, being Walter (Peter Stormare).

It sounds, from my description, and that pesky title, that this is a crime movie, a police procedural about a murder, that someone has to solve. It would be a mistake to believe that. It’s a mistake I made. Sure, there are elements of that, but the flick is aiming for something very different.

Rating:

Love and Other Drugs

dir: Edward Zwick
[img_assist|nid=1432|title=Yes, we should keep our mouths shut|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=287]
It tries, oh it tries. Yes, I know it’s an old flick. I feel the obligation to review it all the same.

Why? Well, it’s not very clear to me either, but maybe I’ll stumble over a few reasons as we go along.

Love and Other Drugs sets itself firmly in the 1990s by opening to a montage set to the rocking tones of Two Princes, that fucking wretched song by no-hit-wonders The Spin Doctors. That song alone already put me in a bad mood as the flick began.

This is, somewhat perversely, based on someone’s actual life and experiences. Jaime Reidy, an actual human, apparently, worked in the pharmaceutical industry and experienced many of the experiences such an individual has to have in order to need a yuppie redemption story to be made about them.

Human history, for those either working in the drug industry, who suffer from erectile dysfunction or who are trying to have sex with someone with erectile dysfunction, is divided sharply into BV and AV: Before Viagra and After Viagra. This flick follows suit, because clearly nothing in human history has ever been as important as that single invention.

Rating:

Confessions (Kokuhaku)

dir: Tetsuya Nakashima
[img_assist|nid=1381|title=Remember the days of the old school yard? We used to bleed a lot|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
From revenge… to more revenge. This time, we’re doing it Japanese style.

Now, just to get all simplistic, reductive and borderline racist, if the old saying regarding revenge goes that it is a dish best served cold, like sushi, then what this particular director and cast do is take that revenge, like a platter full of sushi, dip it into a tank of liquid nitrogen, and shatter the freeze-burned remains with a HIV-covered sledgehammer.

Man, do they serve this revenge up cold. And, man, do the Japanese hate school kids.

Confessions is a flick where a whole bunch of people confess to each other or to us in the audience in order to tell the story. There are bits where people talk to each other, but mostly people are talking in monologues.

Our first speaker is a junior high school teacher who explains to her class that she’s quitting her job, and why. For the next half hour, mostly she stands in front of the class and talks earnestly but quietly to a bunch of savages who are barely in their teens. They carry on like they’re on the island from either Lord of the Flies or Battle Royale, just with lots of texting involved, but they listen and react whenever she says any crucial element of her story.

Rating:

The Kids Are All Right

dir: Lisa Cholodenko
[img_assist|nid=1375|title=Insufferable. Utterly insufferable.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=284]
And here is the last of my reviews of the ten flicks of 2010, nine destined to lose the award for Best Picture, and the one that will doubtless win at the upcoming Academy Awards. I've seen and reviewed all the rest (Toy Story 3, True Grit, Social Network, King’s Speech, Winter’s Bone, Inception, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Fighter), and felt, for some inexplicable reason, that I had to review the one remaining flick if I was ever going to pretend to have an informed and important opinion about the annual filmic circle jerk scheduled to occur on Monday.

Whoopee for me.

So here’s my review of The Kids Are All Right. Enjoy.

If you permit me to enter the American Culture Wars for a moment, and if you’ll grant me the license to pontificate about the aforementioned despite the clear fact that I have absolutely no stake in that polarising political / ideological bullshit by dint of nationality or geographical location, please just let me say the following: This flick reminds me of how utterly insufferable we are.

Rating:

The Fighter

dir: David O. Russell
[img_assist|nid=1362|title=Idiots on parade|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=284]
David O. Russell is a director not known for sports flicks. He’s known, if he’s known at all, for three things: directing Three Kings, which remains one of the only decent flicks set during the first Iraqi adventure; making a thoroughly stupid flick called I Heart Huckabees; and for a screaming match that occurred and was recorded between himself and Lily Tomlin on the set of that flick.

Mark Wahlberg is best known for having a brother who was in New Kids on the Block, who had a short career as rapper-performer-Renaissance man Marky Mark, and playing John Holmes stand-in Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. He is not well known for his acting ability.

Christian Bale is best known for screaming abuse at people on the set of some films he’s been on. And a wicked eating disorder. He’s also an actor, or so I’ve been told.

The three of them, oh, and a bunch of other people as well, collaborate here in order to make a fairly amazingly good film, one which, noting the participants, the location, and what they’re famous for, I couldn’t really have predicted.

Rating:

Black Swan

dir: Darren Aronofsky
[img_assist|nid=1352|title=I wonder if that crack represents her state of mind. Ya think?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=666]
Hmmmm.

Darren Aronofsky returns to the well that prompted him to make Pi way back in the day, with a different gender in the lead but the same ultimate problem: madness brought on by sexual frustration. In Pi a maths genius can’t get any, and goes mad (or madder) listening to his hot Indian neighbour have sex. In Black Swan, a sexually- repressed prima ballerina called Nina (Natalie Portman) has to go mad in order to access her dark side to become the most perfect ballerina in the history of Swan Lake performances.

With mixed results. In a way, though she’s won’t and shouldn’t get credit for it, Portman did a Christian Bale and starved herself down in order to play this character. She’s already tiny, but here she’s depleted enough here to have that horrible strained look on her sternum where flesh is supposed to be, and now there’s only bone and tendon.

It’s not for me to judge what actors do in the pursuit of money, critical respect and the adulation of the masses. If it’s okay for Bale to do it in every second flick he does, then why not a chick that probably already weighs about 40 kilos anyway?

Rating:

Greenberg

Greenberg

oh, this looks so much like a quirky indie comedy. It's not. It's so not.

dir: Noah Baumbach

Officially the most depressing flick of the year. Worse than a twenty-hour Holocaust documentary. Worse than a dramatic indie flick chronicling the breakdown of a marriage in excruciating detail. Worse than a live action film where the main character is a computer animated dog.

It always gets me when the people designing the posters for films do this, whereupon they put the name of the ‘star’ at the top linking it directly to the main character of the flick they’re obviously in. When they were making those Bourne Identity et al flicks, the posters, which featured a big muscly pic of Matt Damon, often came standard with the phrase “Matt Damon IS Jason Bourne!” as if there were any lingering doubts in the confused populace.

Of course the confusion arises because Matt Damon isn’t Jason Bourne, a fictional character, he’s the actor and soft drink salesman Matt Damon, surprisingly enough.

So when the posters for this dirge of a flick has the same type of phrase, as in “Ben Stiller IS Greenberg”, I don’t have the same pedantic reaction. What I actually think in this instance is that if Ben Stiller actually was this Greenberg person, someone should murder him in his sleep.

Rating:

Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

dir: Giorgos Lanthimos
[img_assist|nid=1340|title=The family that's depraved together stays together mostly because of the high wall around the property|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=298]
Oh, what a fucked up family, and, oh, what a fucked up film.

I haven’t had much cause or recourse to review Greek films thus far, in fact it’s never come up. In a decade or so of reviewing (and twenty years of chin-stroking viewing), there’s never been an instance where I’ve watched a Greek flick in a local arthouse cinema, because I can’t recall the last time one got to play. Sure, you can occasionally watch flicks about Mongolian yak herders, or Massai tribesmen, or Inuit fishermen fishing for fish through tiny ice holes, and every single French flick no matter how vacuous or silly, gets arthouse play, but practically nothing from Greece.

I have no idea if the European Union’s poor orphan cousin has that much of a film industry, to be honest. Can’t imagine there’s that much spare cash lying around. Still, arguably the most famous (internationally) director from Greece, called Costa Gavras, who’s a pretentious pill but an accomplished director if I’ve heard or seen one, doesn’t even direct flicks in Greek, preferring the international language of arrogance, being French.

Rating:

Crazy Heart

dir: Scott Cooper
[img_assist|nid=1294|title=Alcohol makes you more interesting, and smoking makes you cool|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=448]
I didn’t like this film. I don’t like Green Eggs and Ham, either, but the fact still remains that I really didn’t think Crazy Heart was a good flick at all. At all.

Even as I acknowledge that Jeff Bridges is a wonderful, wonderful man, and I’m happy to see him get an Academy Award for his services to the acting profession, it’s painfully obvious to me that he got it not for this performance, but because of his body of work.

You know, star turns in stuff like Star Man, Blown Away and How to Lose Friends and Alienate people.

Yes, he’s done great stuff in the past, but it’s hard seeing the character he plays here as being the pinnacle of his performances.

Bad Blake (Bridges) is a country singer / songwriter, who’s never hit the big time. He ekes out an existence playing shitty venues (most ironically, at film’s beginning, a bowling alley, considering The Big Lebowski) for booze money. We are given to understand that Bad could have been somebody, a contender even, if his alcoholism, boozing, drinking and pride hadn’t gotten in the way.

Because his songs, you know, are just awesome!

Rating:

A Single Man

dir: Tom Ford
[img_assist|nid=1285|title=Uh, hey, it's the end of the financial year, and I need help with my tax return. You up for it, Poindexter?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=604]
You may not know who Christopher Isherwood was, or care, or know who Tom Ford is, or care. If you’re a woman, then odds are you know who Colin Firth is, and, depending on your age, you’ve thought he was dreamy ever since he played Darcy in thirteen or fourteen different variations on the role from Pride and Prejudice.

After watching this flick I’d wonder if you care any more about anything anywhere, since it plays out like the longest, tamest, gayest cologne commercial you’ve ever seen. Every scene is set designed and framed to within an inch of its life, and the performances, especially by Colin Firth, and Matthew Goode, as the central couple, are note-perfect.

But I’m sorry to say I walked away from this with barely anything having registered.

The love that dare not speak its name, but these days proclaims itself from the rooftops would seem to be the central premise, since the flick is set in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but really, it’s just about love. It’s about loving someone, and losing them after 16 blissful years together, and not being sure how to or whether to carry on.

The love that not only heals and elevates us, but that also hollows us out with its loss.

Rating:

Whip It

dir: Drew Barrymore
[img_assist|nid=1270|title=You go, Grrls|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=433|height=290]
I never really thought I’d be writing a review of a film that has Drew Barrymore listed up top as the director. It’s not because she often acts, depending on the circumstance, so bubbly that you’d think she’d never be able to get it together long enough to call action, sitting not in a director’s chair, but in a bubble bath.

No, it’s because there’s a disconnect between her public persona (super girly and bubbly), her film personae (super girly and bubbly), and what she’s apparently like behind the scenes in the turbulent world of film production (a don’t-fuck-with-me-or-I’ll-destroy-you player).

More power to you, sister. She’s got money and sway, so surely nothing can stop Drew if that’s what she wants to do?

I guess making a flick about women’s roller derby manages to satisfy two of her main criteria for what she wants to project to the world about herself: being girly and tough at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I find it very endearing, the way people find virtually everything this woman does endearing, and have done so ever since she was an adorable little moppet who started abusing cocaine at age 12.

Rating:

Up In the Air

dir: Jason Reitman
[img_assist|nid=1182|title=Grow up, Clooney, and stop grade-grubbing for Oscars|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=357|height=529]
This flick has garnered an incredible amount of positive reviews, awards, nominations, probably women kissing posters of George Clooney in public, dreamily smearing their cheap lipstick all over the glass failing to protect his poster within.

And for what? A guy flies around the States firing people. The end.

That’s it? That’s everything wrapped up in a neat little fucking package?

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Ryan Bingham (oh, you’re soooo dreamy, George Clooney) is a charming and empty man who spends almost all of his time in the air, flying from downsizing opportunity to downsizing opportunity, and he loves it that way. He hates having to go back to the company headquarters, because it means he’s not in perpetual motion. Like some form of even more soulless shark, he needs to keep moving or he gets frantic.

He has reduced the elements of travelling, like dealing with the customs people, the torments of rental car hire, hotel reservations and those little bottles of booze all to both a fine art and also the stuff of his own life.

Rating:

An Education

dir: Lone Scherfig
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If I was to tell you that this flick is the coming-of-age tale of a private schoolgirl seduced by an older, sophisticated man, then you’d tell me that this is clearly a porno or at the very least a remake of Rochelle, Rochelle, an young girl’s erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.

If I was then to tell you that it is nothing of the sort, and if I apologised profusely for having made a Seinfeld reference in one of my reviews, then you’d probably still not be interested in what is otherwise quite a charming little flick set in the early part of the 1960s.

Based on the memoirs of journalist Lynn Barber, with a screenplay written by Nick Hornby (of High Fidelity and About a Boy fame), An Education is set in 1961, and looks at what goes on in the life of an intelligent but unworldly girl called Jenny (Carey Mulligan), who comes across the path of a charming and sophisticated (from her limited perspective) older man called David (Peter Sarsgaard).

See, you could only get away with setting a flick like this in the 60s. Back in those halcyon days, the creepy setup looks a little less creepy. Back then you are meant to see it a little bit more as people being a product of their times, and acting accordingly. It's still creepy, but, y'know...

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We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

I really wish we didn't need to talk about Kevins, but we do, we so completely do

dir: Lynne Ramsay

We Need to Talk About Kevin is pretty brutal. Actually, it’s beyond brutal. It’s one of the most brutal depictions of the terror involved in becoming a parent that I’ve ever seen.

It’s terrifying enough becoming a parent, bringing a new person into the world, trying to shepherd them towards becoming a decent person (if you have the capability or inclination, that is, because I’m sure there’s plenty of terrible parents who don’t give a damn). Mix in with that those feelings of ambivalence, of momentary regret a parent might have, lamenting the loss of their freedom, of their self-determination sacrificed on the altar of being a ‘good’ parent, which can manifest in anger towards that child, and consider the range of emotions that conjures up.

And then wonder whether monsters are born or made, and whether that monster, which is your own, became so because of everything you did, some of the things you did, or nothing you did, and know that there can never be a definitive answer, and there you have the crux of this whole, harrowing story.

Such a complicated premise isn’t going to be told in a straight-forward fashion, so the story jumps around in time, creating parallels and juxtapositions through the different timelines that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Throughout all looms that titan of cinema known as Tilda.

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Submarine

Submarine

Young idiots not the least bit in love, not in the slightest

dir: Richard Ayoade

Coming of age stories are a laugh, aren’t they? Whether it’s some spotty git fucking an apple pie, or four friends searching for a dead body, coming of age stories are almost always nostalgic and poignant, because they’re watched by people far removed from the actual age. Throw in some period detail, some tunes from an earlier, ‘better’ time, and it’s like crack to oldies of a certain oldness.

The problem or virtue of Submarine is that it’s set in the 80s, which no decent person should be nostalgic for, including and especially those of us who came of age in the 80s, and also it’s a flick in love with coming of age flicks. There’s plenty of references to other classic boyish coming-of-age flicks (400 Blows, Harold and Maude, The Graduate, bunches of others), but this has its own unique take on the Bildungsroman.

That doesn’t make it good, necessarily. The reason I went out of my way to see this flick is because of the almost surreally positive reviews it has garnered, even down to local Potato Head Pomeranz and Old Farmer Stratton giving it stratospheric approval. And it was lauded and praised to the heavens around the world long before it came to Australian shores to die a quiet death at the box office.

I don’t really see it. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m not as interested in coming of age stories any more. The appeal of Submarine pretty much escaped me.

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Social Network, The

dir: David Fincher
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It’s a fascinating story, and a terrific film, despite being about something so inherently banal. It’s not even really an origin story, along the lines of a biographical tale like the ones regarding the Manhattan Project, or the moon landing, or, you know, something important that was invented or achieved. It’s more concerned with (fictionally) illuminating the thinking of one of the main people involved in the creation of this online behemoth known as Facebook.

Written with an ear towards crackling dialogue, Aaron Sorkin, known for penning the scripts to such immediately familiar fare such as A Few Good Men and many an episode of The West Wing, has crafted a screenplay that tells us less about what was involved in programming up from scratch this most pervasive of online networks, and more about how someone with a genius level IQ, a resentment towards the privileged, no knowledge of how to treat people as people, and a complete inability to forgive perceived slights conjured up something adopted universally across the tubes of the internets that made him a billionaire, all before finishing college.

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Brideshead Revisited

dir: Julian Jarrold
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Plenty of people, pretty much only the people who’ve read the book and watched the BBC series, would think that a film version of Brideshead Revisited is either redundant or pointless or both. I have watched the series and read the book, and have now watched this latest adaptation. Hurray for me.

So maybe I am one of those who think a new version is pointless. Thing is, though, I still enjoyed the flick.

Of course a two-hour version seems pointless after the majesty and scope and patience of the series, but then when you’re making a film for contemporary audiences, you’re not catering to people with relaxed attention spans and time. You’re catering to hyper-caffeinated people with the patience, attention span and morals of feral ferrets.

So, boiling a complex novel down to its essentials is the order of the day, here. I don’t have a problem with that, mostly because I’m so familiar with the source material. Sure, it is period piece stuff arising from the success of Atonement (which is a very different kettle of gay fish compared to Brideshead) with a similar kind of look, but it’s not an especially complex story.

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Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road

Some things are stronger than love. Like hate,
for example

dir: Sam Mendes

Oh what a miserable fucking film. It starts off with one of those miserable and uncomfortable couple fights that makes you want to slink away without making eye contact, and progresses onwards with a gruesome autopsy of a relationship that should never have been between two people who should never have been together.

Based on an apparently classic 1950s novel of the same name by Richard Yates, it’s a film undoubtedly influenced at least in its stylistic elements by the rise of that Mad Men era-philia. In truth, though, this is an earlier era depicted, even if visually they’re indistinguishable. Sure the guys all wear smart suits and those hats, and smoke everywhere, and drink constantly and such.

But this is a time meant to be closer to the end of World War II rather than the cool cat airport lounge hipsterism of the early 1960s depicted in the aforementioned (and admittedly highly loveable) television series. Men and women were still working out what their post-war roles were meant to be, and for some people the answers were never going to be pretty.

The name of the flick makes it sound like it’s going to be a film explaining to kids why they should or shouldn’t have pictures of Che Guevara on their t-shirts, but all it refers to is the suburban road in Connecticut where the unhappily married Wheelers live.

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