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District 9

dir: Neill Blomkamp
[img_assist|nid=715|title=Have gun, will travel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=595|height=325]
It seems like a brilliant idea on paper. It even seemed like a brilliant idea in the promos and trailers and such. Truth be told it was the first genuine-seeming actual science fiction movie to pique my interest in a long time.

As the film begins, the premise is set out for us very quickly and easily. Twenty years ago, a huge alien vessel appeared above the skies of Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens, for which we are never given a better title than prawns, are settled into a ghetto / township, all million plus of them.

The ghetto is cordoned off, and twenty years later, as an impetus to the current story we’re supposed to be watching, the organisation tasked with corralling the prawns decides it needs to move the prawns 200 kilometres away because of tensions with the locals. Mostly because South Africans, white or black, don’t want them there. They are seen, despite their hideous appearance, as really being nothing more annoying or dangerous than refugees.

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Knowing

dir: Alex Proyas
[img_assist|nid=716|title=They pay me millions to do this|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=570|height=300]
I’m not usually in two minds about any movie I’ve watched. And, truth be told, I’m not in two minds about this flick either. This is, in a lot of ways, a terrible film. The plot is terrible, the stupid things that happen are the opposite of good, and having a ham of Nicolas Cage’s magnitude in it doesn’t help either. For once, though, he is not to blame. At least, not the primary blame.

And it having been filmed in Melbourne doesn’t help either. I feel so biased and conflicted.

There is, still, something compelling not about why something big happens in this film, but what ultimately happens. I’m going to try to avoid saying what ultimately happens, because it’s a pretty big spoiler, as big as spoilers get, really.

Back in 1959, a little girl hears these mysterious whispers. They compel her to scrawl maniacally a sequence of numbers that don’t mean anything, and then the sheet of paper is coincidentally locked up inside a time capsule that is to be opened 50 years hence.

Now in 2009, a drunken astronomer (Cage) speaks to a class about whether determinism governs the universe, or whether it’s all random chaos that exemplifies what happens, down to the death of the drunken astronomer’s wife. The drunken astronomer has a depressed son (Chandler Canterbury) who hears whispering too.

Rating:

Matrix: Reloaded

dir: The Wachowski Brothers
[img_assist|nid=1019|title=When millions of Hugo Weavings are barely enough|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=670]
It's all about the sunglasses...
Even after watching the film twice, I am left perplexed and utterly confused. Not at anything actually in the film. No, what has managed to confuse me tremendously (to be honest, it's not hard to do that, microwave ovens still confound me) is the sheer abundance of people who are vehemently hating this film. In public and in private, in the sanctity of their own bedrooms and on street corners.

See, I've got not the slightest issue with anyone not liking the film and saying that it's a monumental bore. I've seen identical twins hold two diametrically opposed views on the same piece of music, and I often diverge strenuously in opinion with my closest friends regarding certain films. So I don't really get on a high horse about these kinds of things.

What I can understand is the people who hated the first film hating this one too. What I don't get is those who liked the first one hating Reloaded. I flat out don't get it. After all, it's even more like the first one than the first one is!

Rating:

Matrix: Revolutions

dir: The Wachowski Brothers
[img_assist|nid=1022|title=Maybe one more punch will do the trick|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=306]
Wow. I mean, honestly, wow. This is a perfect picture. Actually, it's a picture perfect example of how even when people have a guaranteed hit on their hands, all the money in the world, complete creative control and the freedom to do whatever they want, people, in this being case the Wachowski Brothers, can still find a way to fuck things up seven ways from Sunday. And not in that
good way that your girlfriends like so much.

Rating:

Solaris (2002)

dir: Steven Soderbergh
[img_assist|nid=1039|title=She's no Natalya Bonderchuk, but hey, you can't have everything|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=365|height=500]
It takes a fair-sized pair of brass balls to remake a sci-fi film “classic” considered a classic by people with beards who smoke pipes. Either that, or just plain hubris wrapped up in a blanket of arrogance with a side helping of laziness.

Sometimes it works out well, usually it’s just disastrous. The list of remakes gone wrong in ratio with the ones that succeed is tremendously large. It’s something akin to 100,000 to 7. Those remakes that worked out well were War of the Worlds, The Fly, The Thing and maybe Scarface with Pacino. And maybe one of the Deep Throat remakes. Almost every other remake has, to use the official cinema studies term, sucked dog’s balls.

It’s true. The Pope agrees. Remakes work out bad even when they’re okay, because the viewer still tells themselves “eh, even if it’s passable, why should I watch this instead of the original ever again?”

Often the remake is so wretched that it causes audiences to bay for the director’s blood. Gus Van Sant was roundly ridiculed for remaking Psycho, allegedly shot-for-shot (it’s nothing of the sort), and that recent Wicker Man has made the director, Neil LaButte, and not its invincible star Nicolas Cage, something of a laughingstock.

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Looper

Looper

They made one look uglier and one look prettier to make them look alike. Good job!

dir: Rian Johnson

An appreciation for time travel shenanigans is not a prerequisite for enjoying this odd but interesting film, but a lot of attention to what’s going on is mandatory for understanding it. Let your attention drift for a while, and you’ll be yelling “where did that purple elephant unicorn come from?” at the screen, much to the chagrin of the people around you.

Looper is set about 40 years in the future, in Kansas, of all places. We are told that at a time even more distant in the future, they’ve invented time travel. Not only that, but the best and only use for it they could think of was for crime lords sending back to the past people they want killed. So in 2070, they have time travel, but they can’t dispose of bodies because of the awesomeness of forensic technology. In 2044, they don’t have time travel, but they shoot these people who are sent into the past.

These killers, who wait in a designated spot with a gun called a blunderbuss, are the loopers from which the flick gets its title. The looper we’re concerned with is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who shoots these hooded people who appear out of nowhere, collects the silver strapped to their bodies, and then disposes of the corpses.

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Never Let Me Go

dir: Mark Romanek
[img_assist|nid=1377|title=Letting go is never easy|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=406|height=600]
What a strange, sad film. Watching Never Let Me Go was a profoundly melancholy experience for me, despite the fact that not much overtly happens, and none of my tears flowed in programmed Pavlovian response to deftly deployed violins or postcard photography.

After all, I’m not some flouncy squats-to-piss girl’s blouse. Even if the ending of Toy Story 3 made me weep like a little girl with a skinned knee. No, no sooky la-la, I.

At its heart it’s a simple love story involving three people, but its setup is anything but simple. The flick, based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, posits an alternate history timeline where certain medical breakthroughs in our history changed the course of humanity.

And not for the better, as far as the protagonists are concerned. The flick’s timeline covers three distinct time periods, being the 1970s, the 80s and the 90s. Though the setting and the environs don’t really change with the passage of time, our protagonists grow up, and change, and realise just how awful their predicament is.

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Box, The

dir: Richard Kelly
[img_assist|nid=1300|title=Don't you dare touch my box|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
This is not a good movie. It’s not even mediocre. It’s just incompetent.

It’s not as utterly godawful at his last awful foray into moviemaking, which was the truly dire Southland Tales, but whilst it’s not as asinine, it’s not much better. It’s staggeringly not much better.

Richard Kelly came to prominence with Donnie Darko, and since then has been squandering whatever goodwill the flick engendered with a much too forgiving audience. Honestly, these other films he’s been making are so eye-rottingly rotten that it makes me think Donnie Darko was a fluke, a goddamn fluke.

Maybe the elements that he was able to put together coherently the first time have never been able to coalesce since then. I know this is a review of his latest shitfest The Box, but bear with me for a second: I think you can see the seeds of his failure even back in Donnie Darko, by comparing the theatrical cut with his director’s cut.

That’s what it comes down to: Kelly doesn’t know how to edit his own flicks. Of course, the companies hire editors to actually edit the films, but the directors (and often producers) can end up sitting in at every stage to ensure their singular ‘vision’ gets carried through.

Rating:

Stalker

dir: Andrei Tarkovsky
[img_assist|nid=1225|title=That bloody dog|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=288]
1979

As a self-appointed film wanker, one who’s studied some elements of film history and criticism of the art form, but who hasn’t earned any formal qualifications or work experience in the field or any real credible basis for one’s pretentions, it’s often hard for me to justify my own status. Sure, I think I’ve got something relevant/amusing to say about films, mostly only because I love ‘em, and when you love something, whether it’s individual films or films in general, you might, like I do, feel like that gives you licence to inflict your opinions upon the rest of the world.

The hardest thing for me to justify is not my lack of knowledge of the kinds of things that send professional film critic and theory types into paroxysmic orgasms, but the fact that quite often I just can’t muster any appreciation of them.

In other words, yeah, so I’ve seen Citizen Kane a few times, but, honestly, put that Rosebud shit to bed, it’s had its day already.

Long intro: short point. I’ll acknowledge that I know who the Russian directorial ‘master’ Andrei Tarkovsky is, and what his films are, and that he was a master of crafting what he and many other film wankers consider some of the finest films known to man. But for the fucking life of me it doesn’t translate into my being able to enjoy watching most of his flicks.

Rating:

The Road

The Road

It was grim I tell you, grim as being awake at 5am.

dir: John Hillcoat

Oh gods is this film depressing. It’s not as completely hideous and bleak as the Cormac McCarthy novel from which it takes its name, since it leaves out some of the most horrifying bits. Even without some of that stuff, good goddamn is it depressing.

John Hillcoat has made some grim flicks, like Ghosts… Of the Civil Dead and The Proposition, but this out-grims them all. And as with The Proposition, adding to the bleak landscape and sombre atmosphere is a score created by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Of the soundtracks they’ve done together, well, this is of a piece, and whilst it’s not as powerful as the one they managed for that Jesse James flick whose title was almost longer than its running time, it’s still pretty devastating.

This film mostly has three characters. Sure there are others, but three characters are the majority that we look at and care about. There’s The Man (Viggo Mortensen), there’s The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and then there’s the dead world they walk upon.

This is a post-apocalyptic story with a difference. The difference is that there’s nothing cool or romantic about this devastated place where we spend two hours of our lives and the last days of humanity. Plenty of flicks have been set in some nebulous future setting where nuclear war, robots, a virus, melting icecaps, zombies, evolved monkeys or Michael Bay have been responsible for wiping out human civilisation as we knew it. In almost all of those stories, though, the world left behind might be seriously fucked up and rubble strewn, but there’s still life, of a sort, and as they say, where there’s life, there’s fucking. I mean, where there’s life there’s hope.

The Road posits a world where there will be no redemption, no Hand of God coming down from the heavens to save / kill us, no rebuilding, no preservation of a copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz for future generations, no hope. The world is cold and getting colder, ashen, dead, really dead, and it’s just waiting for its last species to violently expire in order for the whole planet to become as quiet as a global grave can be.

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