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Fantasy

Fantasy

The Jungle Book

Jungle Book

Look at these lazy good-for-nothing layabouts just laying about in the jungle

dir: Jon Favreau

2016

It may be a remake, but the current incarnation of the Jungle Book playing in cinemas is far more enjoyable and successful than I ever would have thought it deserved to be.

Jon Favreau isn’t really that respected as a director, and is more mocked for his existence as a shorter, fatter version of Vince Vaughn; an actor I have come to truly loathe. I don’t loathe Jon Favreau, in fact I’ve liked most of his flicks except for Chef, which was a terribly self-indulgent mess, I thought. Saying “I thought” at the end of that sentence seems awfully self-indulgent, but, you know what, I’m just trying to keep things conversational, okay?

I think he does okay as a director of comedic – actiony kind of flicks. I wouldn’t want him to direct adaptations of Wuthering Heights or Anna Karenina or nuthin’, but he seems to be, at least to me, a dab hand at light action fare. Most people probably remember him as a director of the first two Iron Man movies, and perhaps laugh a bit uncomfortably when the topic of Cowboys and Aliens is brought up.

Rating:

Pan

Pan

This was terrible in ways Huge Ackman has rarely ever been, which
makes it something of an achievement

dir: Joe Wright

2015

Did I want to like this? Did I go into this determined not to like it, like I had an agenda?

I’m not sure. I think I was predisposed towards liking it, because I have a nostalgic love of the original story, or at least earlier versions of Peter Pan (that don’t include Spielberg’s Hook, which I still loathe with every fibre of my being to this day, like all good-hearted people). The thought of a ‘prequel’ didn’t particularly excite me, because it just seems lazy to me, or like a boring stealth way of trying to ‘reboot’ Pan without having to do too much work.

I’ve liked a lot of Joe Wright’s movies thus far, I think he’s a pretty impressive director. Atonement, Hannah, even his sweaty Pride and Prejudice would have been solid had there not been a Keira Knightley at the centre of things. And his Anna Karenina would have been a decent experiment (had there not been a Keira Knightley at the centre of things). Okay, well I loved at least two of his films outright, and tolerated the others. That’s better than most of the other directors you can think of.

Alas, now he’s made a flick I downright disliked. My problem is not the direction per se, since it’s probably as well directed as crap of this kind could be. I just feel like the script itself is a misbegotten and awful thing that should never have seen the light of day.

Rating:

Into the Woods

Into the Woods

You'd think with all the money and Oscars she's received, someone,
anyone could have shouted Meryl some conditioner

dir: Rob Marshall

2014

Musicals may be comparatively rare at the cinemas these days, but it does not mean the world needs more musicals.

On the contrary, if it spawns new ones, they need to be of the utmost quality to justify their existence, toiled over by the finest craftsmen and women that Hollywood can find for a few bucks and a sandwich.

Apparently, Stephen Sondheim is a great writer of songs and musicals. Apparently, Into the Woods is one of his most beloved musicals. Quite rightly, Rob Marshall is not one of the most beloved of directors of cinema versions of musicals. Chicago might have won a few Oscars, but when was the last time you or anyone you know voluntarily watched Chicago of your own free will?

Do you even remember it? He also did Memoirs of a Geisha, which was a shining and absolute true waste of everyone’s time and talent.

So if Sondheim is great, and Marshall is less than great, what could they possibly come up with?

Another forgotten recentish movie musical was Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which was also based on Sondheim’s stuff. Did you or anyone you know watch it, perhaps at gunpoint, or, more aptly, at the point of a straight razor?

Rating:

Annie

Annie

Hmm, maybe this isn't the 'gritty' Dark Knight-like reboot that I
thought it was going to be

dir: Will Gluck

2014

It must be hard to take on a classic in order to remake it. You’d think it was daunting, wouldn’t you? If you loved the musical of Annie, and the movie from 1982, then it would have to be daunting.

Of course, if you don’t give a good goddamn about the movie, and in fact it looks like it’s not as universally adored as I assumed it was (not up there with Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz, but more like with Starlight Express and The Wiz instead), then it’s just an opportunity.

Like the song says, don’t waste the opportunity.

I have a theory. I don’t think it’s true, necessarily, so you might wonder why I’d bother relating it. Well… I’m sure there’s a valid reason, but I just can’t find it right now, might have fallen behind the couch cushions or something.

Here goes: the only real reason this flick was made was because Jay Z wants to annihilate his past.

You may know who Jay Z is, you might not. To some people he’s the former drug dealer turned producer and eventual rap demigod. To others he’s that guy married to Beyoncé, the one-woman music industry.

Rating:

Maleficent

Maleficent

Jeez, be careful around those cheekbones, you could lose a
finger if you're not careful.

2014

dir: John Stromberg

We need new, 3D movie reinterpretations of classic fairy tales the way that we need a gigantic meteor to crash into the planet, extinguishing all life as we know it: we don’t, not that much.

When they bring out these new tellings of ‘classic’ tales, basically it’s little more than an excuse to have big battle scenes that look like the rare bits of Lord of the Rings battle scenes that editors were able to cut and Peter Jackson was able to let go of without crying. Of course that never happens, because he’s never cut anything ever, because anything and everything he’s ever filmed has been great and needs to be seen by everyone. But I truly do sometimes find it hilarious to see battle scenes under a darkened sky, where some big thing, like a tree-like thing, or a rocky tree-like thing, slaps around a whole bunch of dudes in armour, and it looks like twenty other movies I’ve seen in the last bunch of years.

You never knew it, but fairy tales as diverse as Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Noah, Jack and the Beanstalk, and now Sleeping bloody Beauty all had, way back when they were dreamed up by the opium users who thought of them, all of them were crying out for the time hundreds or thousands of years hence when computers could be used to really bring the stories to life by computer generating vast armies to die bloodlessly in pursuit of a glass slipper or a kiss from some aquatic desperado.

Rating:

Noah

Noah

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is planning on killing everyone

dir: Darren Aronofsky

2014

There is no more epic a fantasy than the Bible, really. And Noah, the latest flick by Darren Aronofsky sets out to show us just how absurd believing the literal version of the story is.

No, that's not fair. The religious types who took umbrage with this flick, who, let's face it, take umbrage with anything because it's their favourite hobby, and because they're deeply insecure, ignore the fact that the original story, as read, straight out of the Book of Genesis, is already pretty monstrous. And flat out bonkers. Nothing said, no blasphemous statement can really saying anything worse about the Hebrew / Abrahamic / Old Testament God than his own actions would indicate.

I mean come on. He was the original genocidal maniac. He tried to kill off our entire goddamn species, for crying out loud, not just the people he didn't like because they had the wrong coloured skin or because they talked funny, or their eyes weren't the right shape.

Every other mass slaughterer of humans has taken their lead, their inspiration, from up on high. From the classics. From the one who started it all.

Rating:

How to Train Your Dragon 2

By now surely they've learned all they're going to learn

By now surely everyone's learned what they're going to learn

dir: Dean DeBlois

It seems perhaps a tad inappropriate to keep calling these sequels How to Train Your Dragon etc, since, presumably, the dragons should be fully trained by now, yeah?

And if they’re not trained by now, they’re never going to be trained, face it. Some animals, and some people, just can’t be domesticated. Perhaps The Continuing Education of Flying Mythical Reptiles didn’t sit as well with the marketing executives at DreamWorks as a potential title.

But it has my vote for best alternative title. Well, maybe that or “Looky here! What’s that thing over there, proof that Creationists are right?” gets my vote.

I’m going to try to avoid hyperbolic language and such when talking about this flick or the original one, because it's tempting, and it's really easy. Thus I shouldn't give in. I will say that the first one was pretty amazing. This sequel is, for me, almost at least as good, if not an advancement in the story that belies its supposed sequel-dependent nature.

Rating:

Epic

Epic

Lots of colourful people, not a lot of
colourful thinking

dir: Chris Wedge

Epic is about the tiny goings on of a tiny bunch of people-like creatures. Hence, the irony of the title.

There is the eternal battle between the forces of life, and the forces of decay, and the conflict between fathers and their children, but, really, let's be honest, it's about fairies and goblins.

Sure, they call them Leafmen and Boggans (no, not bogans, though it’s hard to resist making the joke), but let's call a spade a dirt-shovelling device: goddamn fairies!

I don't mind fairies and forest spirits and such. They're in almost every book I read to my angelic/demonic offspring, they're in most of the kid's flicks we see together in eye- and wallet-gouging 3D, and they date back to the myths and legends of most cultures and nations.

Really, though, it's about fairies.

It's hard for me to drum up too much enthusiasm for fairy-related shenanigans, even when Tinkerbell isn't involved.

All this negativity makes it sound like I didn't like the film. The fact is I enjoy almost any film or movie I watch with my daughter if she enjoys it, because her enjoyment is as infectious as her colds and shingles are.

And she declared this film "Awesome!" at the end, and was entirely entranced throughout.

Rating:

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Lecherous and Deceptive

dir: Sam Raimi

They didn’t have the guts to do a remake of the original ‘classic’, so I guess we had to have a prequel. Having said that, I don’t doubt that a remake of Wizard of Oz is now probably just around the corner…

Yes, the first question any person might reasonably and rhetorically ask themselves is whether the world really needed a prequel to one of the most beloved films of all time, a timeless classic blah blah blah for all ages that blah blahs children everywhere. Of course the world didn’t need such a thing. If something is a timeless classic, it needs neither prequels nor sequels, and it rarely if ever benefits from them, other than benefitting someone financially.

So, no. I’ll cut the suspense for you now, if you haven’t seen this yet, and answer straight up at the beginning that the world would have kept on truckin’ without this film’s release. I know, I know, it’s not the best way to write anything, because then what’s written lacks the tension that a raised question can generate if you give it ages before you provide the solution.

Rating:

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Chillin' on the high seas, with your new best friend

dir: Ang Lee

A lot of what I’m going to say about this beautiful movie is going to sound churlish, ungrateful and unfair. So be it. Someone has to do it. So much of the rest of the world is tripping over itself saying what a wondrous movie this is, that I can’t help but be a little contrary.

But until that time when I let rip with both barrels, let me lull you into a false sense of security by praising this film’s many virtues.

No, Life of Pi is not about pies, or about the mathematical constant of π. The diameter or circumference of no circles was calculated during the making of this movie. It’s about a guy whose nickname is Pi (Irrfhan Khan) who survived a harrowing experience and lived to tell the story to a writer (Rafe Spall). Lucky for the writer, eh, because he would have been stuffed otherwise, and we would have been none the wiser or entertained.

No, don’t go thinking this flick has anything to do with a true story of any description. Almost every implausible movie that gets made, from Zero Dark Thirty to Titanic to Transformers, practically has an opening title assuring us that what we are about to watch is based on true events. That’s not what Life of Pi is aiming for. It aims to tell an amazing, unbelievable story in the most visually stunning manner possible.

Rating:

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The Odd Life of Timothy Green was even more painful
to watch than to write about

dir: Peter Hedges

I’m all for whimsy. No, scratch that, the word alone gives me a piercing headache. What I should have said is that I’m not completely averse to sweetness in movies, because, hell, life’s way too short to just watch movies where people’s heads get routinely blown off by so-called heroes, or where a demented surgeon captures some poor folk and sows them, one to the other, in an unholy form of intelligent yet malevolent design.

The sweetness I can tolerate, not wanting to get diabetes, has to be well delivered. Too much and it drowns the viewer in treacle and regret. Too little and there’s no flavour in an otherwise unpalatable affair.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green tries to be some modern kind of fable, generously brought to us by the Disney Corporation, offering us a little sweetness within a tortured tale about a couple who desperately yearn to be parents. What it ends up being is an argument as to why some people should never be allowed to become parents, and probably a healthy argument for abortion as well.

Rating:

Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans

I feel something, that's for sure, but it's certainly not wrath.
Mild perturbedness perhaps. They should have called it Mild
Perturbedness of the Titans. That would have saved it, yeah.

dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Clash of the Titans didn’t have any Titans in it. Wrath of the Titans has a Titan in it.

Lovers of simplistic arguments take heed: therefore, Wrath of the Titans must be a better film than the film that spawned it or at least more truthful in its advertising. It has a Titan being Wrathful, so needs must be true.

"Must" implies "has to". It's not an ambiguous word. There's certainty in it.

Shame it's a fucking lie.

This film is terrible. It's embarrassing to watch good actors like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, almost everyone else except Sam Worthington shame themselves like this for a paycheck. Only a paycheck could justify this. Why else, and who else was demanding this? Doesn't this seem like a completely bizarre alternate-universe object that somehow squeezed through some portal from some other place where people needed to a parody of how truly unnecessary a flick could be?

There are scenes where a very bearded and very bedraggled Liam Neeson is having... something leeched from him, but also, there's this white, sticky stuff all over him. It’s bizarre and unintentionally comical.

Rating:

Snow White & the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman

Stop staring at me with your dead eyes

dir: Rupert Davies

So soon? Another new version within weeks of the last new version? Didn’t the pointless Mirror Mirror just breathe its first and last gasps in May, and now there’s Snow White and the Huntsman?

One studio hears that another studio is bringing out a new version of Snow White. They must think, “Damn, why didn’t we think of that first?” And then they think the idea, because it was had by someone else, will be a good and profitable idea, and so they need to do some spoilage work in order to dull the other’s profits.

Perhaps. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, like when two studios simultaneously have the same idea about a giant meteor threatening the earth (Armageddon and Deep Impact), or urban volcanos (Volcano and Dante’s Peak), magicians (The Illusionist and The Prestige) or animated insects partying hearty (Antz and A Bug’s Life), and the films come out at roughly the same time. It’s we, the audience, who benefits from this extravagant competition, surely, from this niggling desire not to let the other studio get away with anything, with the slip of an idea.

Rating:

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

Get thee to a nunnery, then set fire to the nunnery, please

dir: Tarsem Singh

If The Dictator inspired profound feelings of ‘meh’ in me, this film left me with the profound feeling of ‘yeurgh’.

Sometimes you get exactly the crap you expect you’re going to get, as with eating at KFC, or the “Dirty Bird”, as a good friend of mine calls it, when you already have plenty of experience backing up your expectations. When you buy dirty bird, you expect dirty bird, and dirty bird is what you get.

That’s not entirely true, gentle reader. I’m telling one of those things I’m told humans call a “lie”. Yes, a little white lie. In truth, even when I have the dirty bird in my grubby little hands, the grease running down my fingers, eventually to be coursing through my veins, I still expect it to be great. No matter how many times I’ve been betrayed, I still think “Maybe this time, it’ll be different.”

I did have completely unrealistic expectations regarding this film, and, as per usual, I have no idea why. And again as per usual, it hardly matters to the film makers or the rest of the world, because what I want doesn’t knock the world’s axis out of joint or pull the sun from the sky.

Nothing from the advertising for it, or the reviews, or the presence of Julia Roberts should have made me think I was getting anything other than dirty bird.

But still, but still… the human capacity for self-delusional is almost infinite, and I’m one of its most skilled practitioners.

Rating:

Chronicle

Chronicle

Seattle never looked so sunny. A morally and visually murky place

dir: Josh Trank

With great power comes great responsibility, as well as a great opportunity to get back at everyone who ever did us wrong, right?

Chronicle is a pretty keen take on the superhero genre, told through the non-narrative construct of handheld camera / found footage telling us the story. For that to work, it means that the person filming, at least initially, has to have some reason other than what’s about to happen for filming themselves. At least in theory.

That person is Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a pale and isolated jerk in high school, as are all Andrews, really. Has he got a decent reason for being a loner jerk who films himself with a camera? Well, maybe. The first instance we see worthy of immortalisation, which opens the flick, is him filming himself and his bedroom door, because his violent drunken jerk of a father (Michael Kelly) is threatening him through that door.

We also find out that Andrew’s mother is dying, very slowly, so things aren’t going that well for any of them. And at school, naturally, the other teenage scum sense his vulnerability, and bully the heck out of him. He does have, at least, a cousin who’s on friendly terms with him, which makes him seem like the only person in the world who gives a damn. Matt (Alex Russell) seems like a kid too tall and popular to give a damn about a scrawny skeleton like Andrew, but care he does, all the same. Inexplicably.

Rating:

Hugo

Hugo

Here's Time Itself, making fools of us all, especially Hugo

dir: Martin Scorsese

With delight, I watched this, with great delight in my heart.

If you’re reading this review, you know that I watch a lot of films, and a lot of them I even review. Those reviews, you would know, are to my benefit and to your detriment as a reader. I’m sorry about that. Really, I am. I wish I were a better reviewer; someone who could encapsulate succinctly and with wit what is great and what is less great about certain movies in this artistic medium I prize the most, after literature, puppetry and the accordion, of course. And I wish I could say it all without having to resort to the boring bullshit a billion other (paid) bunglers routinely trot out to justify their verbosity.

No, honestly, I wish I were a better reviewer, so that I could credibly explain why I loved Hugo so much, so that you, too, could feel the joy that I felt, and get a glimpse of how it felt to watch it. Yes, even cynical old me feels joy whilst watching a film, very rarely, but it happens. Aiming that high dooms any enterprise to failure, no doubt, but it should be perfectly obvious that failing at something doesn’t stop me from doing it. Au contraire, to get into the vernacular of it, au contraire, mes amis.

Rating:

The Future

The Future

The future is no longer looking as bright as before

dir: Miranda July

Do you ever wonder if you’re really as intelligent as you think/hope you are?

I mean, no-one really thinks they’re as dumb as they actually are, hence the essence of dumbness, but, for me, watching a flick like this, called The Future, it makes me think I’m nowhere near as bright as I think I am.

Miranda July is a performance artist, writer, director and probably cobbler in her spare time as well. Film is just another installation / exhibition to her, perhaps. I watched her first film Me, You and Everyone We Know, and enjoyed it as much as these kinds of flicks can be enjoyed. And I read her collection of short stories called No-one Belongs Here More Than You.

None of this has given me a window into her thinking, apart from knowing she’s a very odd person. And that’s cool. I’ve been watching a lot of formulaic Hollywood pap lately, and it’s good to have a cleanse now and then. This flick The Future couldn’t be more different from formulaic pap.

By the same token, that doesn’t mean I entirely get it, or that I enjoyed it that much.

Rating:

Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

You wish he was thinking about you.
All he's really thinking about is being 55 million dollars richer

dir: Rob Marshall

When Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1,000,000 to star in Cleopatra back in ’64, it was considered both a record and a travesty. When man mountain Marlon Brando was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of profits for a few minutes of screen time in Superman, it was considered a fiasco and a symbol of how the days of Hollywood were numbered, seeing as it was starting to resemble the last days of Rome.

In the present day, Johnny Depp gets paid $55 million dollars to appear in another Pirates of the Caribbean flick, and it’s no big deal. Business as usual. Whatever.

And why? Well, surely it’s because these are the most beloved flicks of all time, and Depp, for playing the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, deserves every bloody well-earned penny? Surely?

Isn’t it a bit obscene, though? I don’t want to come across all ‘Workers Unite!’ and like some retrograde commie-pinko wanker, but is there really anything in this world that justifies getting paid that much? For that amount of money you’d think he was getting paid to sexually service, to the point of guaranteed happy ending, every person who steps into the theatre, anywhere in the world, any way they want.

Rating:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Deathly Hallows

Do you think, maybe, if they just kissed, then maybe things would be all right?

dir: David Yates

2010 & 2011

I’m going to review both of them together. I don’t think it really matters either way. They don’t work separately, and together they’re just a big old mess of convenient moments, slavish fan service and muggle muddling.

This will not be a good review. This will provide none of the fulfillment that you're looking for. The only thing worse than reading this review would be sitting down and watching both films back to back.

But they are, in their various parts and pieces, the culmination of a bunch of books and the films they were translated into, and an endpoint in a long-running series, and, at least the second part, is the third highest grossing film of all time, at least for another week or so.

And thus it deserves our special attention. It’s impossible to discuss anything that happens in these films without spoiling the events of the previous ones as well, so there’s virtually no point in issuing a spoiler warning. How else could you talk about the seventh (and eighth) instalments in a series?

Rating:

Red Riding Hood

dir: Catherine Hardwicke
[img_assist|nid=1402|title=Lots of red, virtually no riding, and barely any hood|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=307]
So, chicks dig this stuff, huh? Tame mixtures of the supernatural and the melodramatic, and the direct competition of two hunky lunkheads wanting to kill each other over you, and that’s the ticket for fiddly remembrances in the bath?

Surely women have higher standards than that? Surely it takes more to satisfy them than that?

I’m going to quote famous dead film critic Pauline Kael for a second, but not in a filmic capacity. She once expressed surprise and shock that Nixon won re-election, because she didn’t know a single person who voted for him. Of course, this quote has been used more to show how self-selecting her circle of acquaintances was, rather than the validity of her knowing what a likely political outcome would be.

In that spirit of same insular cluelessness, I don’t know a single girl or woman who likes this kind of supernatural – romantic bullshit, whether it’s explicitly Twilight or not, or ersatz Twilight like this movie. Not a one. Sure, most of the women I’ve ever known are too intelligent for this bullshit, but can I really use them as my sample size for judging the population of women?

Rating:

Season of the Witch

dir: Dominic Sena
[img_assist|nid=1394|title=Serious face means seriously important foolishness|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=304|height=450]
There used to be, in my arsenal of movie reviewing weapons, a basic metric for assessing generally the likely worth or shiteness of a flick Nicolas Cage was in. This basic metric came down to this: The shittier the hairpiece or wig, the shittier the performance and the crappier the overall film.

Of course, past a certain age, every flick Cage was in ‘required’ the usage of skilled hairpiece technicians, teams of them, working around the clock, and separating Cage’s crappier performances from his decent performances proved a mission impossible in its scope and objective.

As such, his every flick has a hairpiece now, and most, if not all, are terrible in new ways previously unimagined by the hackiest of Hollywood hacks.

And yet, and yet, he still occasionally puts in semi-decent (but still completely lunatic) performances in semi-decent (but ludicrous) flicks. I’m not thinking of Adaptation, the Kaufman / Spike Jonz flick, which was a class act all around, but of more recent fare like the very strange Bad Lieutenant remake.

Rating:

Enter the Void

dir: Gaspar Noè
[img_assist|nid=1330|title=Sure, enter the void if you want, but how the hell do you get out?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=450]
What a crazy, fucked-up film.

Preparing yourself for a Gaspar Noè film is not something that is genuinely possible. Having seen others of his flicks, none of which I will ever see again, I was determined to not see this flick ever as well. Since I’m reviewing it, well, that means something changed in my thinking, and I’m glad, to an extent, that it happened. Not too proud to admit when I’m wrong.

A friend of a friend who works in the film industry told me she saw the flick at a festival, and that it was quite an amazing experience. Though I knew nothing about her before that day, her thoughts, conveyed to me over a long and boozy conversation on a Saturday afternoon at a local pub, regarding flicks in general (that she’d worked on in New Zealand, being those flicks involving children wandering into a Witch-filled wardrobe and a Jesus-substitute lion called Aslan) and this flick itself intrigued me. They intrigued me to the point where my absolute determination to never again be violated by a Gaspar Noè flick wavered, and over time led to a confident ‘maybe?’

Rating:

Alice in Wonderland

dir: Tim Burton
[img_assist|nid=1296|title=Deathly pale protagonists are Burton's bread and butter|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=664]
It’s not as shit as I thought it would be.

Wouldn’t it be grand if, by some cosmic fuckup that altered the nature of reality, that I somehow became a respected and admired film critic, even in this day and age where the most effective reviews are written by impassioned cretins in textspeak, and that, as a powerful reviewer whose opinion mattered to the world, marketers used my important words to promote their movies?

Imagine posters for big budget movies, with the so-called pull quote being mine, and plainly stating “It’s not as shit as you’d think.”

That’d pack in the multiplexes, no doubt, upon the strength of my judgement alone. And so people could give up the terrible burden of having to judge for themselves whether they should squander the little time they have left on this planet watching or not watching a flick I recommended or eviscerated.

Rating:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

dir: Mike Newell
[img_assist|nid=1284|title=Beefcake heartthrob pulmonary thrombosis|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=382|height=322]
For me there’s an element of watching your kid performing onstage during the Christmas pageant or something similar, in terms of watching this flick. I mean it in the sense that I’m going to be more forgiving in my expectations, and that I’m actively going to like something that others will grind their teeth through.

My fandom for the whole Prince of Persia enterprise goes far back enough that I was but knee-high to a grasshopper; an ancient Persian grasshopper on some grass stalks in the ye old deserts of another time and age.

Yes, I’m talking about the computer games, the many games that have come out with a highly limber and acrobatic protagonist who leaps about defying gravity and fighting bad guys with his scimitar. I’ve played all of them, from the Apple IIe version, through to the Commodore 64 version, and the three million or so versions on PC. I even played the last one, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which proved, to me at least, that I’ll practically buy anything with those fated words scrawled across the cover in fancy script. If they bring out a desert topping and floor cleaner called Prince of Persia, I’ll probably end up buying that too.

Rating:

Valhalla Rising

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
[img_assist|nid=1276|title=Stop flirting with me, Pretty|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=428|height=605]
The dastardly Danish director of the Pusher trilogy and Bronson hits back at your tame and bourgeois sensibilities with the longest heavy metal film clip to a non-existent song that you’re never going to sit through. Ever.

Good goddamn is this a pointless, but nicely shot and atmospheric, film. And like a pointless and nicely shot film clip, when it only goes for three or four minutes, and has decent music, it can capture and maintain your interest. When it goes for 90 minutes, its impossible to feel like it wasn’t a colossal waste of your time.

One Eye (Mad Mikkelsen) is a one-eyed chap who kills anyone who gets close enough to him. Some bearded, dirty Viking types keep him captive, and occasionally let him out of a cage in order to have him fight and kill other guys in pointless contests out of which he always emerges bloody and victorious.

He eventually escapes by killing everyone except a boy who wasn’t too horrible to him. He hooks up with some Christians who want to go to the Holy Land.

They end up in the Americas. Almost everyone dies. The film ends.

Rating:

Legion

dir: Scott Stewart
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Legion is, and this probably is not going to surprise any of you, a deeply stupid goddamn flick. There’s never been a flick with angels in it that has ever worked worth a damn except for two profound exceptions: It’s a Wonderful Life, and Wings of Desire.

But those are dramas, albeit romantic ones, with a bit of darkness in them.

This angel-filled fiasco belongs to the sub-genre of fantasy films whereby angels, either enacting or contradicting the will of God, decide to either eliminate humanity or at least battle it out on our planet’s surface.

If you’re of a certain age, and inclination, like me you might remember such 90s movies as The Prophecy trilogy, which had Christopher Walken trying to kill us all while playing the Archangel Gabriel (I don’t think he knew the cameras were on). If you’re even older, you might be boring enough, like me, to have read Milton’s Paradise Lost, and have heard it badly quoted a million times by pretentious shmucks in movies for the last 100 years.

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Clash of the Titans

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Did Clash of the Titans need to be remade? In 3D no less?

Of course it did, you anti-capitalistic naysayers. Everything should be remade in 3D. Weekend at Bernie’s 3D. Driving Miss Daisy 3D. Deep Throat 3D.

That last one could have your eye out if you’re not careful.

It’s profitable, isn’t it? And, as the drug, prostitution and pornography industries have always taught us: If something’s profitable, of course you should be doing it.

Most reviewers keep referring to the original flick as being not very good in the first place, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. The story’s based on Greek mythology from three millennia ago, so blaming Harry Hamlin or Ray Harryhausen seems a bit much. For all the blather regarding Joseph Campbell, the heroic journey and the fundamentals of epic story telling, the tale of Perseus slaying the Gorgon Medusa and saving Andromeda from a monster while riding a winged horse is pretty cheesy crap regardless of how big the budget or whether you’ve got Sir Ian McKellen or Fabio in a lead role.

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Where The Wild Things Are

Wild Things

There is much wildness in all of us, no matter how we might wish otherwise

dir: Spike Jonze

Where the Wild Things Are is a beautiful film. It’s touching and sweet, scary but deeply felt, but I don’t really think it’s for children. I don’t even think most kids under the age of ten would really get that the Maurice Sendak book, of twenty or so pages, really connects with this film apart from the similarity in the merchandising. Sure, the imagery is the same, but the story has been greatly transformed by Spike Jonze, David Eggers and the forests and beaches of Victoria.

I have happily read the book to my daughter a stack of times, and so I know how profoundly expanded the story is in the movie. As to whether it’s true in spirit and intent to the book, you’d have to ask noted and thoroughly aged curmudgeon Maurice Sendak, who’s still alive, who wrote and drew the book nearly fifty years ago, and who I’m sure is happy to collect cheques for the film rights. I suspect deep down Sendak would hate this film if he ever sat through it, that’s just my gut instinct.

My instincts are often wrong, I have to admit. What I don’t think I’m wrong about is that this really couldn’t connect with kids for fairly serious and pervasive reasons, self-same reasons that would make it appeal perhaps to their elders.

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Push

dir: Paul McGuigan
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I love Hong Kong, I really do. That doesn’t mean I’m going to like any film just because it’s set there. But I really do love the place, visually speaking at least. It’s not because I have any personal experience of the place, or because of my heritage, or because of any deep-seeded identification I have with the former British colony. I just like it, is all, and have watched around a thousand flicks set there.

This film Push has a lot of great cityscape footage of Hong Kong, truly it does. It mixes the high art cityscape stuff with postcard shots and, most importantly for me, the shots revealing the commonplace squalor of some areas, with the hustle and bustle of places like Mongkok, Wanchai, Kowloon Bay and all the rest, whether tourist destinations or not, whether ‘pretty’, grungy or not.

Beautiful, beautiful images of a real city that looks almost like what Ridley Scott was going for with Blade Runner, except that it’s real, and it’s a place even more thriving, alive, chintzy and garish than you can imagine, with the quicksilver of commerce, greed and violence running through the city’s veins, in the abstract perhaps more than in fact. All of this I could see and think about as I watched this amazing city depicted in this film.

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Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The

dir: David Fincher
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David Fincher almost gets a lifetime pass from me for Fight Club. It’s a film so goddamn good that it elevates him into the lofty heights of directors whom I’ll defend even if they make twenty shitty films compared to their one or two masterpieces. Brad Pitt has no such pass from me, lifetime or otherwise. I have such a deep antipathy for his brand of actoring that he is usually the weakest link (for me) even in the strongest of films.

This flick, right off the bat, I enjoyed, very much so, despite the fact that there is less going on here than meets the eye. The premise sounds like it’s high concept enough, but it’s used more for its ironic sense than anything else. A F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is the origin of the film’s screenplay, but it has been fleshed out and elaborated upon in order to make it a serious, prestige Oscarbait contender, instead of the Twilight Zone half-hour that it probably warranted instead.

In the early part of the 20th Century, a clockmaker grieves over the death of his son in the Great War. He constructs a clock for a train station that runs backwards instead of forwards, with the (poetic, not literal) hope that such a clock going backwards would reverse time and resurrect the many sons who died needlessly, bringing them home to their devastated families.

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