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Thriller/Suspense

Thriller/Suspense

Green Room

Green Room

I'm with the band, I swear. No, wait, nah, I'm not with the band,
never heard of them, let me out of here, please?

dir: Jeremy Saulnier

2016

As usual, instead of talking about the film I’m meant to be reviewing, I’m going to squander much of the start of the review and much of your patience talking about a completely different film. And I have to do that, or at least I feel like I have to do that, in order to point out what attracted me to the film under review in the first place.

Yes, this review is about Green Room, but the reason why I so desperately sought out Green Room is because I loved this director’s previous flick Blue Ruin ever so much. I loved it down to its gritty, grimy bones. It’s one of the best flicks of its kind that I’ve seen for decades, mostly because I haven’t seen anything like it in decades.

And Green Room, despite having a completely different story, has plenty of what I loved so much about Blue Ruin. There is craft involved here, real craft on the director’s part, and I really, really appreciate it.

And more!

Rating:

The Two Faces of January

Two Faces of January

Her name is not January, and she only has one face.
Confusion ensues

dir: Hossein Amini

2014

Something being based on a Patricia Highsmith novel isn’t always a guarantee of quality, but it is often enough to pique my interest. And if you cast Viggo Mortensen in something, well, I’m halfway through the door.

Kristen Dunst? Eh, not so much, but Oscar Isaacs I really like. The Two Faces of January is essentially a three-hander, something of a period piece, probably set in the 1960s. It’s something of a low-key thriller, but not in the sense that it’s like a spy action film or anything. It’s about a con artist (Isaacs), who gets caught up with a couple of con artists (Dunst and Mortensen), where you start to wonder who is better at it, and who is going to get what they want, and how many people are going to be left alive at the end of it.

The setting is Greece, and it’s filmed in such a way that makes it look a thousand times nicer than it actually is. Also, being set in the last century, it helpfully avoids having to acknowledge the current dire economic circumstances, and saves on costumes (most of the old people in the flick are wearing their own ‘vintage’ clothing from the 1960s without having even to be asked). In fact many of those old Greek people probably don’t even know the war is over.

Rating:

Trance

Trance

This is not a glitch. It's really meant to look like this

dir: Danny Boyle

Trance. Trance. Trance. Trance isn’t the film you might think it is.

It's definitely nothing to do with trance music, in case you were worried.

It’s probably more accurate for me to say that it wasn’t the flick I thought it was.

I went into this expecting one thing, and I got a whole heap of others thrown at me, though I walked into it remembering one or two things about Danny Boyle.

He may have won Oscars, and directed the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics, but you have to remember that this is the same game who made Shallow Grave and Trainspotting.

Yes, you can argue about A Life Less Ordinary almost destroying the cinematic medium for all time, erasing the good films out there from the last century, but he remains a director who enjoys a good shock.

Trance is a fairly low-budget (looking) but stylish movie about something fairly high-concept: human memory, and how malleable it might be.

Rating:

Syrup

Syrup

He has a very punchable face, that's for sure,
and they both look very happy to be here

dir: Aram Rappaport

Syrup is an edgy, in-your-face satire of corporate madness and the dark side of the Force that is Marketing;

or

Syrup is a hilarious send-up of the American Dream and its malcontents: the people sucked in, chewed up and spat out by its machinations, which is pretty much everyone in the Western world;

or

Syrup is a limp approximation of what would happen if a bunch of uni students got stoned, drank a heap of energy drinks and then came up with a script based on their half-baked knee-jerk thoughts mocking Big Business and the Earth's mindless slovenly drones who do nothing but consume consume consume;

or

Syrup is the greatest film ever about anything.

The movie could be any of those, or none of those. What it would ultimately 'be', even if it was just, like, my opinion, man, is what I spun it to be. Apparently, the movie Syrup, based on the book Syrup, by Max Barry, is the first flick ever to posit the idea that creating desire in consumers, which is the pure purpose of marketers everywhere, is a bad thing.

Rating:

Sound of My Voice

Sound of My Voice

I know everything that's wrong with your life, and for only
$299.99, I will help you find out what it is

dir: Zal Batmanglij

Listen to the soothing sound of my sinuous voice, and I’ll release you from all your troubles, bring you to a new holy place of pure salvation, where bliss reigns supreme and all your mistakes are washed clean… all I need is for you to listen to my voice, obey my every command, and give me all your credit card numbers…

This film is a complete out-of-nowhere thing for me, a flick I knew nothing about prior to watching. It has a tiny budget, and consists mostly of footage shot in the confines of some LA basement.

It’s really well done, for what it is, and what it is, is a story about two people who infiltrate a cult, with the intention of exposing it to the world, or at least to the other freaks in LA. Peter (Christopher Denham) is the driving force behind this, wanting to go all the way to be a journalist, perpetrating some serious undercover journalism with these people. He’s even gone to all the trouble to learn their very jive-turkey secret handshake from the 70s, which takes about fifteen minutes to do properly.

Rating:

Argo

Argo

Whoever has the better beard should be the Supreme
Leader, I reckon

dir: Ben Affleck

3 for 3. How does Ben Affleck, Ben Affleck get to be such a good director after a lifetime of blockheaded roles and lacklustre performances? Ben Affleck from Armageddon? Ben Affleck from Gigli? Ben Affleck from Pearl Harbor? That Ben Affleck?

And yet Gone Baby Gone, The Town and now Argo are all superbly made films. How does that work?

Well, there’s a scene where Affleck’s character Tony Mendez is asking an old Hollywood special effects hack about whether it’s possible to teach someone how to fake being a director in one day. The weary hack states quite unambiguously that he could teach a rhesus monkey how to be a director in one day.

Affleck must have put this in as an in-joke, he must have, aimed at both the people who admire what he’s done as a director and those who can’t believe such a hammy actor has the temerity to direct films, and good ones at that.

The fact is he can direct, and he’s doing really well thus far. I’m sure my appreciation of him, which will be reported back to him by some perky squirrel of an unpaid intern, who trawls the tubes of the internets for nasty or nice comments about him, will warm the cockles of his heart and tickle the follicles of his under-beard.

Rating:

The Hunter

The Hunter

Support your local Greens candidate, or Willem will come after you

dir: Daniel Nettheim

The Hunter is a sombre, icy film from last year that I didn’t get a chance to see in the cinemas at the time. It’s a pity on the one hand because I’m sure the sometimes harsh Tasmanian wilderness would have looked sublime up on the big screen.

Alternately, my perplexity at the ending and the point of it all would not have been lessened by the big screen experience.

A German biotech company called Red Leaf hires a man, a manly American man (Willem Dafoe) to go out into the Tasmanian wilderness in order to find the last remaining thylacine. As in, the Tasmanian Tiger which has been long thought extinct.

It’s all hush hush, and the company treats this as if they’re planning to whack the pope (which is not a masturbation euphemism, though maybe it is). Martin, as Dafoe’s character is called, travels to the backwaters of the backwater that is Tasmania, and is unimpressed with his surroundings. It doesn’t help that the place he happens to be staying seems to be infested with hippie children and the power is out.

Rating:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Stinkers, blackmailers, bludgers, bad guys

dir: Tomas Alfredson

I generally reject the idea, outright, that a really good film could also be really boring, the way a lot of people said about Tree of Life. Not necessarily at the same time, or to the same person, but if a flick is strong, then how can it be boring?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not a boring flick at all. It’s a great adaptation, and a great looking film, meticulously filmed and acted. Alfredson has filmed this (or at least his cinematographer) as exquisitely as Let The Right One In, with a very different plot but a strong, sombre tone.

I can see, however, that this is probably not a flick that should be watched by people under forty. The visual look of the sixties and seventies depicted here, and the cool, stately scenes, edits and transitions, and the considered, intricate nature of the plot is going to anesthetise audiences hoping for the kind of movie they think of when they hear the words ‘spy thriller’.

This is certainly a thriller about spies, but this has to be at the absolute other end of the spectrum from action flicks like Ghost Protocol or The Bourne Legacy. In fact, a flick like this seems to be mocking them outright.

Rating:

The Debt

The Debt

How bloody deceptive is this poster? You'd think this was an exciting movie or something

dir: John Madden

Who would have thought a flick about three Mossad agents trying to hunt down a sadistic Nazi war criminal could be a depressing and unfulfilling trawl through the sewers of human weakness and failure?

Not me, proving how truly not bright I am, which is why I’m reviewing films instead of making them. But there’s nothing I can do about that now *sob*. So let’s just talk about the film then, shall we?

John Madden is, I’m sure he’ll be mortified to hear, not a director I’ve ever had much time for. The most famous thing he’s done is probably Shakespeare in Love, which has about as much to do with the actual Shakespeare as that recent hilarious flick Anonymous did, which argued that Shakespeare himself was too much of a bloody peasant to have ever written all those plays and sonnets, and so it had to have been the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere. But even if he had something to do with Gwyneth Paltrow shooting forth like the poisonous, leprous star that she is, and she may have even won a goddamn Academy award, if I’m not mistaken, for her weepy performance, he obviously wishes that he was directing stuff that was taken a bit more seriously.

So, instead of following Gwyneth’s lead and popping out strangely-named children, he persists in making movies, much to our collective disinterest.

Rating:

Contagion

Contagion

Lotsa people gonna die because of something Gwyneth Paltrow did

dir: Steven Soderbergh

As if germophobes and compulsive obsessives didn’t have it hard enough already.

Speaking as someone who has long been pathologically afraid of germs and contamination (the psych term used to be mysophobia, or, having too much time on one’s filthy, filthy hands), I don’t need flicks like this. I’m already freaked out enough by the prospect of infection that I am the person the scientists lament creating superbugs by using hand sanitiser and giving other neurotics a bad name.

I’m not at the mask or tinfoil hat stage just yet, but, you know, it’s only a matter of time.

Contagion does me no favours, does me no help. It’s almost as if it’s aimed specifically at people like me for whom the horrifying prospect of an epidemic like this, of evil germs finishing off many, many people, is almost too close to home to appreciate. It’s easy enough to handle zombie flicks, where the virus is transferred through biting. Hand washing and ethanol can’t do anything about that. But a bunker mentality and obsessive hygiene could, actually COULD help if this scenario came to pass. And that’s why it hits closer to home. It’s practically goading us with the propensities into indulging them further and falling even further down the rabbit hole.

Rating:

Hanna

Awfully big gun for such a little girl

dir: Joe Wright

This is an odd film, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. Far from it. It’s actually much better than it has any right to be.

The oddest thing about it is that I was sure it must have been directed by Tom Tykwer, the German director responsible for the decent flick Run Lola Run, and the tremendous flick Perfume. But, no. It’s Joe Wright, responsible for the ordinary version of Pride and Prejudice with that bony hag Keira Knightley, and that great version of Atonement with all those other good actors including that bony hag Keira Knightley.

Hanna has him venturing into unknown, yet ultimately familiar territory. The real point of the flick doesn’t become obvious until the Brothers Grimm fairy tale allusions start piling up like a sink full of stinky dishes until you can’t ignore them anymore.

The Hanna of the title, Saoirse Ronan, is a very young, alien looking creature. She either looks like an Aryan superchild, or one of the more grown up children from the Village of the Damned. She hunts and survives in the icy wilds of some place. Out of goddamn nowhere, some bearded lunatic (Eric Bana) starts trying to kill her dead. She’s pretty well trained in lethal hand-to-hand combat, though, and she holds her own.

Rating:

Source Code

dir: Duncan Jones
[img_assist|nid=1410|title=No, I don't have any spare change, sorry|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=299]
Singer and national treasure Paul Kelly had the violent alcoholic’s lament If I Could Start Today Day Again, reincarnation-believers base their whole religious-spiritual existence on the allowance of do-overs, and computer game players long have known the joy of getting another chance (depending on how many lives you have left) to make things right.

They all come from the same source, they all appeal to the same part of us that wishes the universe could allow for multiple chances to get things right. If we could just have one more shot, if we could only have replayed some moment from our lives, and done something right, then everything else would have worked out right. If only…

Well, our universe doesn’t work like that, but our art does, so when a science fiction flick comes along based around that very idea, then we’re supposed to be throwing our hands up in hallelujahs at the chance to bask in the warming glow of wish fulfilment with Jake goddamn Gyllenhaal as our stand-in.

Rating:

Limitless

dir: Neil Burger
[img_assist|nid=1404|title=I will bed all your girlfriends|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=299]
My memory still works fairly well, even at my tender age. It’s not eidetic (photographic), but it’s not porous or sieve-like either, especially since I scaled back on the drinking after becoming a dad. Somewhat. Relatively.

I recall seeing, in some magazine, some kind of ad for something. See how great my memory is? In the ad, which was black and white, there was an image of a brain at the top of the page, and the fairly famous trope expressed as Einstein saying something about how humans only use ten percent of their brains, and imagine what potential we could unlock if we could get the rest of it working? Narrowing down the likely publications, it was either a science magazine like Omni, a comic book or Playboy.

I have remembered the diabolical claim all my life, since I was but a callow child when I first read it. I heard the concept repeated continuously throughout the 1980s, mostly by types of people with certainty about how they had psychic powers or some other supernatural / spiritual bullshit. I even remember a science teacher in school repeating the claim as truth. Honestly, I really should have gone to a better school.

Rating:

Salt

dir: Philip Noyce
[img_assist|nid=1315|title=Who is Salt? Who is Pepper? Who is Vinegar? Who is Wasabi?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
And you thought it was about the mineral…

Were you disappointed to find out that Angelina Jolie wasn’t going to be playing this most ancient of food additives? I know I was. Imagine her, sitting on a table, in one of those grinders or in a shaker, just sitting there patiently, waiting for someone to pick her up and sprinkle her onto their food during dinner. The twist is, though, the middle-aged people at the dinner are all on a low sodium diet, due to doctor’s orders, and Angelina Jolie goes sadly unused, uneaten, untasted for the whole film.

It’s a story about longing, about unfulfilled potential, about loss of purpose.

Sure, it’s far more sedate than what’s actually on offer here, but there should be a place for films as deathly dull as the one I just described. Salt, this Salt, is possibly a lot of things, but it certainly can’t be accused of being dull.

Rating:

Shutter Island

dir: Martin Scorsese
[img_assist|nid=1241|title=Smoke and Mirrors|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=280]
Marty and Leo, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. He puts him in every one of his goddamn flicks these days. If there were a way Scorsese could have figured out to get Leo onstage for that last Strike a Light Rolling Stones concert flick, probably playing Keef Richards or a better version of Ron Wood, he would have done so. Unlucky for us that they didn’t.

It’s a remarkable line of high quality flicks that they’ve been pumping out together, which brings us to their latest collaboration. Shutter Island is a departure for both of them, since I can’t think of the last time either of them, apart or as a couple, made a psychological thriller / horror flick. But they’ve done it now, so let’s see what the fuss, if any, is all about.

Shutter Island is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, a writer whose other books, always situated in Boston in different eras, generally follow, like Scorsese usually does, a more down-to-earth, true crime feel to the proceedings. This is a departure for all concerned, except some of the characters get to use that awesome Southie – Dorchester - Masshole accent. Lucky for them, unlucky for us.

Rating:

Accident (Yi ngoi)

dir: Pou Soi Cheang
[img_assist|nid=1231|title=Look both ways when crossing the street, and then kiss your ass goodbye|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=289|height=320]
There’s this thing about Hong Kong films: most of them aren’t good, and most of them are the same. The rare good ones, to people who don’t watch a lot of Hong Kong flicks, could be indistinguishable from the bad ones.

Actually, that’s probably not entirely true. The really bad ones usually have lots of annoying screaming, people eating snot and Stephen Chow pretending to laugh until food falls out of his mouth.

But good goddamn do they get it right when they get it right. The last of the contemporary HK directors that I considered worthy of following each and every project that came down the chute was Johnnie To, with his atmospheric and contemplative crime dramas. Now I have to look out for this chap, Soi Cheang, as well, because I haven’t seen something this good in a while.

The problem is that it won’t be easy to translate the ineffable ways in which this very slight, very moody, and virtually silent flick gets everything so right into a worthwhile film review. Of course, it’s never stopped me before, so it’s not going to stop me now, is it?

Rating:

Sherlock Holmes

dir: Guy Ritchie
[img_assist|nid=1170|title=You devil, you|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=688]
I should probably be ashamed of myself for having enjoyed this flick so much, but there it is. I’ve put it out there. I heartily enjoyed a Guy Ritchie movie, and, even worse, one based on the much beloved works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

When I heard Ritchie was making a version of Sherlock Holmes, and that it would be an action fest, I felt like I’d been punched in the nuts so hard that I was bleeding out of my mouth. Ritchie hasn’t made an enjoyable flick with a coherent plot or even vaguely coherent editing since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Since then there’s been this dire swirling of the same characters, the same over-stuffed plots based on Cockney slang, criminal doings and painful coincidence down a drain of creative bankruptcy, whereby the only decent moments for the viewer seem to occur almost by accident.

Well, someone must have forced Ritchie to calm the fuck down and produce something half-watchable, and I don’t think it was the vengeful ghost of Arthur Conan Doyle threatening to rip his nuts off. Even as tenuous and complicated as this story manages to be, with many a confusing scene that has to be explained in detail later on, it still manages to be far more coherent and easy to follow than anything else he’s ever had his name attached to.

Rating:

Last House on the Left (2009)

dir: Dennis Illiades
[img_assist|nid=1121|title=Is there anyone else we can torment?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
The original horror flick does have a nasty reputation, which is certainly well-earned. Since everything is getting remade, from the Friday the 13th flicks, to Halloween, to Gone with the Wind, so naturally, Last House on the Left has to, nay, must be, remade too. On the most part, I would contend that the flick doesn’t do too bad a job for what it is. The ending, though, shows just how worthless the whole setup really was, and how it’s ultimately a lazy entry in both the revenge and nice white middle class people under siege in their own homes genres of quality filmmaking.

The original is a nasty, exploitative, vile flick. It truly is. This certainly isn’t, and for most of its running time actually seems like a highly charged drama more than an out-and-out horror flick. Of course it relies way too often on “someone comes out of nowhere to either attack or save a person that looks like they’re about to die”, but it’s virtually impossible for hacks to make these films otherwise.

Rating:

Angels and Demons

dir: Ron Howard
[img_assist|nid=713|title=I still get paid, right?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=379]
They must be taking the piss, right?

It’s impossible to believe that intelligent people, which includes all the people involved in this production except for Dan Brown (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt but not him), could make this film and be treating it as a serious endeavour. It is one of the only films I can think of in recent memory that would benefit greatly from the inclusion of a rabid, nitrous oxide suffused laugh track. Taken on face value, that this wasn’t intended as some kind of parody or black comedy, is almost incomprehensible.

The two words that come most readily to mind about anything to do with Dan Brown in general and this film specifically are ‘absurd’ and ‘unconvincing’. I’m sure there are plenty of other words, but these are the cleanest and most accurate I can think of right now. I’m not going to ramble on about The DaVinci Code, because I reviewed it when that stinking, lumbering turd of a film first stank up the cinemas a few year’s ago.

They are however peas in a pod. Shitty peas in a stinky pod. The one singular virtue this latest film possesses over its predecessor is that it is nowhere near as long, thank Satan.

Rating:

I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boattda)

dir: Kim Ji-woon
[img_assist|nid=1379|title=Just pray that he doesn't look back|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=408|height=605]
Jeez, do I need a shot and a shower after that. Make that three shots and two showers to get the taste of death out of my mouth and the stench of this film off my skin.

This is a revenge flick, usually a genre known for being full of sweetness and light, made even uglier and darker by a director committed to making the audience feel as harried, exhausted and sick to the stomach as the main characters.

And good goddamn is it a long film. Even had this flick been 45 minutes shorter it still would have felt like the longest flick since Gone with the Wind crossed with Holocaust epic Shoah.

You wouldn’t know it, but South Korea seems to be, based on this flick, infested with serial killers. They’re everywhere. And, even better, they all know each other. I tell you what, this entire scenario is only even vaguely plausible if South Korea is actually located right next to Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico, because they’re getting away with murder on a daily basis in both locations.

Okay, so the Korean peninsula is nowhere near there, but all the same, these fuckers put Hannibal Lecter, Henry Lee Lucas and Colonel Gaddafi to shame.

Rating:

Unthinkable

dir: Gregor Jordan
[img_assist|nid=1252|title=Lots of screaming for the whole family|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=156]
I know, I know: you’ve never heard of it, and neither had I until yesterday.

You have to wonder how flicks with A-list casts like this can disappear so completely in an era where the biggest flick in the world at the moment only has Tom Hank’s voice in a major role, and the next in line hosts the anti-charismatic properties of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in lead roles: three people who if you added their personalities together, you’d still be coming up with a figure significantly less than 1.

I hear they share the one personality between them. Which is why, most of the time, you don’t see them all together in the same place. And the rest is computer generated imagery, just like their sparkly, bare-chested, sexless fame.

Perhaps it overstates it to claim that Unthinkable has an A-list cast. Michael Sheen did play Tony Blair, and a werewolf, and a vampire, David Frost and an even more horrific undead creature in the form of the coach of Leeds United. He’s got to be up there.

Rating:

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The (Man som hatar kvinnor)

dir: Niels Arden Oplev
[img_assist|nid=1206|title=Cuddly, snuggly, spiky|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=304|height=450]
I don’t know how many people are going to make this point, since I assume that people, like sheep, like doing stuff in concert with each other, that this is the rare instance where the movie resulting from an adaptation is better than the book it’s based on. There, I said it. In reality this is the best adaptation of a Dan Brown novel Dan Brown never wrote. But Sweden’s Dan Brown, called Stieg Larsson, sadly died before he could profit from his success, collect his royalty cheques, and watch this version of his book on the big screen. It’s a shame, because he could have gotten to see what his story looked like with most of the boring bits cut out.

When I read the three books in the Millennium trilogy, as you could say with most crime or detective mystery kind of novels, I remember thinking they seemed like they were always intended for the big screen. They all read like that, usually. I’m sure it wasn’t a fact lost on the shmuck’s publishers, or on the people who made this Swedish film version, or the American shysters who snapped up the rights and who are going to allow Fight Club director David Fincher to remake it.

Rating:

International, The

dir: Tom Tykwer
[img_assist|nid=1186|title=I could have been the next Bond, you know, I could have been somebody.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=299]
What the fuck happened to the guy who made Run Lola Run?

Here’s your answer: He’s making shitty, ludicrous flicks that sap the will to live of any audience anywhere.

The International is fucking unbelievable. It is a Bourne Identity – Supremacy flick without Jason Bourne or Matt Damon, but, perversely, with Clive Owen, who was in the first Bourne flick anyway. Recursive much?

So imagine: someone wants to make a Bourne flick but can’t afford Matt Damon. Who’s next on the list, oh, we can’t afford them, how about, no, further down, okay, Clive Owen and Naomi Watts? Brilliant.

And of course you need some German people in it, so why not hire German hot stud superstar Armin Mueller-Stahl, who’s 80 if he’s a day over 16?

Sole direction given to Clive Owen in this: “Um, act the way you did in Children of Men, but don’t run around as much.”

Clive Owen roles can be divided successfully into two groups: the ones where he has stubble, and overacts wildly, and the once where he’s clean shaven, and doesn’t overact as much. This role is clearly one of the former rather than the latter.

Rating:

Body of Lies

dir: Ridley Scott
[img_assist|nid=1166|title=It's all blue and serious-looking, so it must be credible|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=428|height=603]
Ridley is, apparently, the decent Scott brother who directs sometimes quite decent films. Yes, he made Hannibal, and part of me will hate him forever for that one, but generally he makes okay flicks, or at least he did thirty years ago.

Tony Scott is the awful hack who makes painful films that sully the Scott name, generally. He makes occasionally less than horrific flicks, and then makes horrific flicks which are an insult to the eyes and the intellect, damning our entire species whenever a single person pays good money to watch any of his movies.

In case you miss my meaning: I’d rather watch a Michael Bay movie than a Tony Scott movie.

In genre and content Body of Lies would seem to almost be more of a Tony Scott flick than a Ridley one, since he has previously made spy – high tech thrillers, with varying degrees of success (or annoyance, as the case may be), but for whatever reason the Brothers Scott flipped a coin and it came up Ridley. Which is good, because that means the film is at least watchable, as in a human pair of eyes can be trained upon it for minutes without bursting in dual showers of vitreous humour.

Rating:

Eagle Eye

dir: D.J. Caruso
[img_assist|nid=148|title=Yes, I am interested in making savings on my long distance phonecalls|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
See, there's precious little I can say about this flick, and about why it's so tedious, and why it's so unsatisfying but still adequate, without giving the whole game away. As in, there's a basic spoiler so spoilerish in its basic spoilerishness that to not say it means I've got nothing else to say about the film apart from mocking it in general and Shia LeBeouf specifically, and that the review itself will not be fulfilling its fundamental obligation to you, the dear reader: telling you what the film is about so you can decide whether to invest two hours of your precious life or not.

Or maybe I can manage it, who knows. Let's see, shall we?

A guy called Jerry (Shia) who's a bit of a bum, a bit of a shmendrick at that, is caught up in some grand conspiracy where some virtually omniscient woman on the phone forces him to do her bidding. At first she's getting him to do stuff just to protect him from the FBI, who soon become involved when he's found to have tonnes of explosives in his apartment. If nothing else, watching those early 'exciting' bits of the movie, I was reminded of the fact that I haven't watched The Matrix in a while. You know, the bit where Morpheus is talking to Neo on the phone at his place of work before the Agents show up. It's somewhat similar.

Rating:

Untraceable

dir: Gregory Hoblit
[img_assist|nid=145|title=Who says there aren't any decent roles for women over 40 any more?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Oh, it’s SO unnecessary.

Director Greg Hoblit makes thrillers, mostly, and oh are they formulaic. So formulaic that watching them, in fact, is quite pointless. The only time he managed to have a twist worth arching an eyebrow over in one of his films, it was thanks to Ed Norton. Nothing else, no matter what actors he uses, ever transcends the level of ‘hackwork’ or general hackery on the scale of directorial ability.

Why so harsh, you might think? Did he fuck my girlfriend, knife my best mate in the nuts, or run over my dog? Knife my girlfriend, run over my best mate, fuck my dog? Knife my dog whilst fucking my girlfriend and running over my best friend? After all, aren't directors supposed to be multitaskers, or at least have enough of an entourage of assistants to be able to do everything simultaneously?

Nothing so terrible. All he represents is the quintessential manner in which Hollywood propagates itself pointlessly, almost unconsciously, through making films that don’t need to be made. It’s not as if there’s a shortage of movies coming out. In fact, considering how many movies clog up the multiplexes and rental shelves, do you reckon they could stop themselves even if they wanted to?

Vantage Point

dir: Pete Travis
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What these kinds of flicks usually have going for them is momentum. It’s not brains, it’s not character, and it’s certainly not depth.

Vantage Point is essentially a Bourne-type film without the advantage or the anchor of a Jason Bourne-like character. To compensate for this they fracture the narrative, replay the central event what feels like fifty times, and then break out of the temporal loop by moving forward at break-neck speed to the big action climax.

Initially, we watch the occasion of an anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain, from the confines of a news van covering the event to the side of a jam-packed plaza. The US President (William Hurt) is here on this historic occasion where the leaders of many nations are banding together to assert that terrorism is bad, m’kay? He is guarded by Secret Service agents (Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid), one of whom recently took a bullet for him, or at least thinks he did. An American tourist (Forest Whitaker) watches the event through his video camera, uncomfortable with the idea of trusting his memory alone. Or is it because the camera has some plot significance later on?

Rating:

Next

dir: Lee Tamahori
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Are you fucking kidding me?

This flick is terrible by any of the standards you care to think of to apply. Except maybe that someone didn’t leave the lens cap on the camera. Maybe that’s the only bit they got right.

Everything else is, not to exaggerate too much, so fucking awful that it renders the film a crime against humanity. I’m amazed the film prints didn’t fall apart on the subatomic level and cause black hole singularities from the weight of their crapulousness. Destroying projectors, creating gaping holes of nothingness in the fabric of space/time, drawing in and disintegrating countless foolish movie patrons.

And to add insult to injury, it’s awful even by the standards of most Nicolas Cage films. Now, don’t get me wrong, Cage has starred in some movies that haven’t sucked completely and utterly. But he has starred in many that have sucked more than the infinite gravity of the aforementioned theoretical black holes. Such monumental powers of sucking necessarily make me wary whenever his name and creepy hairpieces appear onscreen.

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Disturbia

dir: D.J. Caruso
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Rear Window was crap anyway, right?

I mean, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly: What are these names compared to DJ Caruso, Shia LaBeouf and David Morse? Nothing, I tells ya, nothing and nobodies.

So if someone tells you there’s a remake of Rear Window, what, are you going to check your eyesight or your glasses prescription before looking into the gift horse’s mouth?

No, you’re not. You’re going to watch it, marvel at the charming Shia LaBeouf, his retarded Asian sidekick and the nubile jailbait from next door, and forget all about that bloody Rear Window movie.

Well, actually, you’re not. If you’ve seen Rear Window, you’re going to sit there whilst watching Disturbia, and you’re going to be shaking your head from side to side, marvelling at what passes for a ‘remake’ these days.

Rear Window gets practically everything right as a thriller and as a compelling film. Disturbia muddles through as a deliberately pale imitation in comparison.

Rating:

Fracture

dir: Gregory Hoblit
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I went in expecting one thing; what I got was completely different.

I was expecting a movie that would be passably entertaining. What I got was a lazy court room / legal drama that was marginally less interesting than the average episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Ah, Angela Lansbury. They just poured her into that old biddy outfit.

Godsdamnit, that’s going to replace the ninjas in my nightmares. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Murder, She Wrote, or Diagnosis: Murder or Matlock, but they do serve a purpose: a light confection designed to present a puzzle and solve it just after the last ad break, with everything tied up in a neat little package.

Personally, I was always a bit more of a Columbo fan. Watching Peter Falk and his glass eye shuffle around and causing the murderer to go berserk with ever-escalating levels of frustration was a joy to behold. By the time they’d get to the end of the episode, you knew Columbo knew the bugger or buggette was guilty right from the start: he just needed enough time to figure it out for himself, or to wait for the guilty sod to trip him or herself up.

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