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Drama

The Fighter

dir: David O. Russell
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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...

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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