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.
How the hell did Joel Edgerton end up in this? Jennifer Garner, she of the perpetually sucked-in cheeks, was probably genetically created in a lab for roles like this. Her “I just escaped from a concentration camp, and I feel Fabulous!” looks and her warped-through-unnecessary-surgery face is what Disney’s Labs have been working to perfect for close to a century, thanks very much Uncle Walt. But Joel? Australia’s Own Joel Edgerton? I guess he’ll take anything.
Who am I kidding, who wouldn’t? He probably made even for this mawkish piece of tripe what it would take me over a decade to earn. Although, soulless as my work is, at least I didn’t have to emote next to Garner or mumble through terrible All American clichés with a fairly dodgy American accent.
These two chumps play the central married couple, living in an American town torn forth from a Norman Rockwell painting, all autumn leaves and idyllic hues. This place, called Stanleyville, has one source of income, being a pencil factory. This pencil factory dominates everything, including the majority of the conversations had by people in the film.
A pencil factory? As a symbol of America’s decline in blue collar jobs through the offshoring of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and China, couldn’t they have found an example slightly more pathetic and anachronistic? Maybe a whalebone corset factory, or a maker of cassette Walkmans? What else would inspire as much feeling as a goddamn pencil factory? Pencil Factory? Are you fucking kidding me? It was almost as if the film had been made with money from an actual pencil factory, wanting to inspire and guilt people into casting aside their smartphones and Ipads in order to take up the trusty wooden and graphite tool of yesteryear.
You can make a horrible thing worse. It’s true. It’s very obviously possible. And here we have further evidence of this sad fact as the cinema births a new monstrosity aimed at our limpid eyes.
Who takes something horrible and makes it worse on purpose? An evil fairy godmother? A ticket inspector? Dentists? And why would you?
The first Ghost Rider movie, inexplicably shot in Melbourne, was terrible in ways even dedicated viewers of Nic Cage’s films were surprised by. This second flick in this godawful franchise is worse in some expected ways, and terrible in ways that are new but should in no way be confused with inspirational entertainment.
Considering the ‘talent’ on offer here, well, I guess it could have been even worse, but it doesn’t seem likely. They could have strapped cameras to a pack of rabid dogs. They could have told Cage ‘act even crazier, the kids will love it’. They could have made the character an alien who crash-landed on Earth wanting nothing more than to understand this emotion we humans call ‘love’.
Actually, no, it really couldn’t have been worse. The unholy directorial team of Neveldine/Taylor, responsible for such films as those Crank ones, and such shit films as pretty much everything else they’ve ever touched or been associated with, don’t even seem to give enough of a fuck to make a deliberately bad film. It just kinda happened anyway in their rush to finish this exciting new instalment in a stillborn series that should never have been bothered with in the first place.
dir: Gregor Jordan
Australia has a long and varied history of making movies its own citizens hate. Most countries obviously have their own film industries, none which match the economies of scale available to US production, or the rapid fire super cheap production levels of countries like India or Hong Kong. Australia makes comparatively less films than most industrialised countries, but is at least to my mind unique in that the main hurdle its films have to first traverse and generally stumble over is the idea of ‘cultural cringe’ and the antipathy of the local audience. Antipathy means more than just not giving a fat rat’s arsehole: it’s active dislike.
There’s a better and more expansive explanation out there for everything that cultural cringe entails. Essentially, it refers to the concept that representations of Australia and Australians are uniquely unpalatable to domestic audiences, and generally found to be embarrassing or, more obviously, cringeworthy. Some say it has to do with the explicit anti-intellectualism of mainstream Australian society, others point to the perception that, apart from being generally badly made, the way Australians are portrayed in our own films is hokey, parochial and distorted, rendering characters into nothing more than risible caricatures.
dir: Brian De Palma
There is a place for trash in this world, especially in the world of cinema. No-one has made more of a career making entertaining and trashy films than De Palma. He’s never been able to shake the Alfred Hitchcock-wannabe moniker long enough to establish himself as a decent, respectable director. The closest he’s come was with The Untouchables, and that was a long time ago.
No, De Palma is a trashy director whose movies work best when he lets his dirty side come to the fore. For all his attempts at respectability, it is films like Carrie, Scarface, Dressed to Kill, Body Double and the gargantuan bomb that was Bonfire of the Vanities that he will be remembered for. Not for this one.
Considering his love of sleaze and lurid subject matter, it is a double shame that The Black Dahlia fails as badly as it does. You would think the pairing of De Palma and the James Ellroy novel fictionalising the details of the real Black Dahlia case, overflowing with depravity, corruption, madness and death as it is would be a marriage made in heaven. But De Palma drops the ball so comprehensively in the second half of the film that you have to wonder whether this one was strictly for the money.
It doesn’t help the film to be compared to LA Confidential, which covers similar ground in a far more entertaining fashion. The stories are very similar, as are most of Ellroy’s novels sharing their similar dynamics: two violent cops of varying degrees of corruptness try to solve two concurrent crimes whilst in the grip of some obsession having to do with women. There are depraved rich people, there are the shenanigans of the early powerbrokers of Hollywood, and scenes of great viciousness and goriness. The difference is that only one of these films is worth the celluloid it is printed on.
To be fair, the first part of the film works and is interesting. The most substantial problems are that Josh Harnett, playing one of the main characters, has the emotional range of a turnip, and that the film is wrapped up in the crappiest way possible with scenes of exposition following scenes of more leaden exposition capping it all off.
dir: Stephen Sommers
Yes. You must think I am kidding. I am not. I sat through this piece of shite, and now it's your turn to suffer.
Some films are unintentionally stupid, because they're made by stupid people (Tomcats, Battlefield Earth, Armaggedon, Music from Another Room), other films are stupid because they're made by intelligent people who continue to try to underestimate the intelligence of the lowest common denominator, and never succeed (Godzilla, Independance Day, Look Who's Talking 15). Some films look dumb, but are actually very smart (Scream, Men in Black). Then there's those "tongue in cheek" films which are a bit dumb, which you're just supposed to laugh at and forgive them for because of the twinkle in their eye and their mischievous grin.
Why I watched this is still a mystery to me, since I thought the first film was a piece of shit as well. Perhaps there was some subliminal imagery in the advertising that planted the idea in my subconscious that I'd willingly suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the ride. However it may have happened, it did, and here are the fruits of my painful labours.
dir: Ridley Scott
I'm here to tell you that there is a new contender for shittest film of the new year all ready, if not the decade. Hannibal is simply the dumbest film I've seen since primary school. The horror flick Fright Night on Channel 10 last night had a more coherent, intelligent plot. Hell, I've seen pornos that had better character development, plot machinations and more credibility than this load of old cobblers.
Many people don't actually know this, but Hannibal is a special effects heavy film, like Ridley Scott's last film, Gladiator. Except in this film, instead of using CGI for images of the Colosseum, Rome at the peak of its glory, or nasty tigers on chains, the CGI is used to depict Anthony Hopkins, because that can't be the same actor I've seem in other great performances for the longest time. He looked and acted as fake as the mechanical shark in the Jaws films.
I can't comment on the source material, seeing as I couldn't give a fuck about the book and have no intention of ever reading it, but why they bothered making such a stupid, boring, utterly devoid of interest or tension film is a mystery of staggering proportions. I know that the film has made $60 million dollars in one week of release, but it would have done that if they'd based it on a copy of "See Spot Run!" or a Sesame Street Golden Book. I cannot fathom why they bothered writing such an inept, mishandled screenplay giving a bunch of actors nothing to do but look foolish. Hacks, they're all fucking hacks.
dir: Paul Hunter
People have different definitions of what a B movie is. People have different definitions of what a decent Friday night is as well, but that's another story. I've always known what a B movie is, but I had difficulty articulating it clearly. The IMDB defines the B Movie thusly:
"a low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theatre owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theatres while still able to draw revenue"
But the phrase 'B movie' has altogether different connotations for me as well. B movies can be cool, there's the odd B movie cult classic out there, but generally I like to think of generic B movies as being, as we used to say at the orphanage in between coughing up blood from consumption and fighting over rat meat, "shitehouse". As most films are mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst, you have to wonder how it's possible to have an entire other stratum of film which is worse than the vast majority of product that's out there simply by budget and definition.
Surely budget isn't the only decider. There must be some other dark arts at work. Personally, I think that there are certain actors and stories that can, regardless of and often in spite of the budget, be held up as the paragon, the quintessence, the nadir of B movies.
Bulletproof Monk is a stupid film with a laughable plot, bad acting, an overdose of cliche and a lack of innovation or original thought so profound that you'll think that you've been transported back in time
to the 80s. Remember the days of The Last Dragon, Double Dragon, anything with Dragon or Ninja in the title or with bad actors and worse fighting? This film remembers the love we have for those days, and brings it all back up in a manner reminiscent of watching a cat weakly throwing up its cookies all over your favourite rug. Which, in the words of The Dude from The Big Lebowski "Really tied the room together, man."
dir: Jim Jarmusch
By all that is unholy, I haven’t disliked a film this much in ages.
It’s kind of refreshing. To actively dislike the vast majority of a film directed by someone whose films I’ve previously loved. Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai is one of my favourite flicks. Down by Law, Stranger than Paradise and Dead Man aren’t too shabby either.
But what went wrong here? For me, Broken Flowers was a terrible experience. Outright terrible. Leaden pacing, coupled with flat, unpleasant characters, a vacuum of a central performance by Bill Murray, and a pointless plot that irritates and grates the longer it goes on.
dir: Len Wiseman
Evolution, if we are to believe in Darwin’s satanically inspired theory, occurs incrementally over a great amount of time, resulting in minute changes on the micro level, and new species on the macro level. But over a great expanse of time.
The only connection the term ‘evolution’ has with this vampire / werewolf action flick, Underworld: Evolution, is that as if by a miracle, this sequel is better than the original film. The improvement, however, is tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye, and, like changes in species, will require millions of years before it really matters.
No ‘evolution’ of any sort occurs in this film, as far as I can tell. Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride go to extraordinary lengths to embellish the backstory they created in the first one, with painstaking attempts at linking everything and avoiding obvious plotholes and continuity mistakes. Really, they spent a great deal of time on the script.
dir: John Cameron Mitchell
I really wanted to like this movie. I went in with an open mind, and when I use that phrase, I don’t just mean it as a cliché palliative. Generally, I walk into a cinema with a mind so open wide that bits of brain matter fall out every time I open my mouth to shovel in popcorn.
It’s not a bad way to approach film watching. The more crap we see, the more preconceived ideas we have of what something is going to be like unwatched and how it is likely to turn out. It helps to preserve your sanity if you can try to switch off at least some of the voices in your head when you walk across the threshold, if you ever hope to get anything out of 90 per cent of flicks you end up enduring.
John Cameron Mitchell’s first film Hedwig and the Angry Inch was a complete surprise to me, in that I didn’t expect to like it and came out loving it. The thought of watching a post-pre op transsexual onscreen for an hour and a half didn’t appeal to me until I got to enjoy Hedwig’s sweet blend of humour, music and surprising poignancy.
It was with that in mind that I went into this hoping Shortbus would be as enjoyable, despite my initial misgivings. I fought hard against my preliminary impressions that it was going to be a pretentious arthouse wankfest so that I could enjoy it on its merits instead of letting my preconceptions rule.
dir: Jonathan Liebesman
Oh, what a woeful, woeful film. Hopefully it’s an Ending instead of a Beginning. It’s bad enough that they did a remake of the original in the first place, but now, compounding their crime by following the redundant with the plain unnecessary, they’ve gone and prequelled a horror classic. In doing so they’ve so how managed to make it anything but horrific, and substantially less than a classic.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning is not so much an origin story about the origins of the murderous Hewitt clan so much as it is the endpoint of intellectual bankruptcy that serves the interests of greed without an ounce of creativity. The TCM remake made some money, so another flick scraping through the bottom of the barrel just had to be made, even though from watching this crap I can see clearly now that they had no idea what they were doing from start to finish.
dir: Mark Steven Johnson
I knew this flick would be a disaster. In concept, in implementation, and in the fact that they chose to film it in Melbourne. For a big budget comic book adaptation, this had stinker projecting outwards from it when they were making it two years ago in Melbourne’s side streets and cemeteries. Melbourne standing in for a generic Texan city: that’s hilarious.
But mostly I knew this would be craptacular because of the singular absence of the Alan Vega / Suicide version of the song Ghost Rider. They couldn’t even get the Rollins Band version of it. They couldn’t even get some crappy contemporary emo band like My Chemical Romance to cover the goddamn song. Now that would have been a treat.
dir: Joe Carnahan
Some films fill your soul and entire being with joy after you’ve watched them. Others fill you with adrenalin, disgust, dread or relief. Most leave you feeling as much or as little as you did when you walked into the theatre, but at least they distracted you for a while.
A select few movies make you feel so empty inside that you wonder why the fuck you bother anymore.
dir: Dave Myers
Is the message that you shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers? Or that you should pick up hitchhikers, lest they become murderous lunatics? Or is it that you shouldn’t pick up The Hitcher 2007, because it’s a dull remake of a superior horror flick from the 80s?
I like Sean Bean, I really do. He was good as Boromir in the Lord’s Ringpiece movies, good as the villain in the only tolerable Brosnan Bond flick Goldeneye, and good in a half dozen other flicks. He’s no Rutger Hauer though.
Rutger Hauer was, in some ways, the 80s. I have a deep love for the man, who could play shlocky heroes and shlockier villains in any flick they attached his meaty presence to. It doesn’t matter that most of them were utter shite. That’s the thing about 80s flicks as opposed to any bad flicks from any other era that I can think of: they’re watchable (now) despite being terrible simply because they’re 80s flicks. There’s so much to enjoy about them in spite of and often because of their relative terribleness.
dir: Steven Soderbergh
Lord Jesus, Satan, Buddha, Easter Bunny: save me from myself. If a punter ventures forth to the cinema or a rental place and buys a ticket or hires something they know nothing about, I guess they’ve got the right to be pissed off when it turns out to be woeful and blowful.
If you watch something knowing full well how much of a craptacular experience it’s going to be, then how much of a right do you have to complain?
Bugger-all, but rights don’t always dictate actions.
Ocean’s 13 or Thirteen is the unlucky third entry in this glib, shallow franchise centred around the fact that Brad Pitt and George Clooney occasionally want to get paid a shitload of money so that they can remain high in the public’s celebrity consciousness without having to actually act in a film. They’re being paid to play themselves, which I’m sure is wonderful for the women who routinely swoon whenever they watch them being ‘interviewed’ on Oprah, but it is of little interest to me.
dir: Shekhar Kapur
I’ve figured something out. It’s been something of a revelation. I finally understood what history represents to those who make movies.
History is a brand, a logo. Historical figures, real people who once lived and did great, mediocre or dastardly deeds, are nothing more than marketing properties.
Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, the monarch who presided over a great time for the Empire, is as real to the people who made this film as Robin Hood, Captain Jack Sparrow, or Darth Vader. They’re branded characters, recognisable from their trademark physical characteristics, a few character traits (stealing from the rich, choking people without touching them, being drunk and gay) and little else. Elizabeth is whatever they want her to be, and whatever Cate Blanchett’s ego wants her to be.
Because the selling point alone is that it’s Our Cate playing the Elizabeth property for the second time.
dir: Richard Kelly
Sure, Richard Kelly made Donnie Darko, but what has he done for us lately?
Well, pull up a pew and prepare to be dazzled: he made a really shit follow-up film called Southland Tales.
Southland Tales is, at the same time, an incoherent and over-explained mess that has almost no redeeming value except that the viewer shifts between boredom and incredulity on a second-to-second basis.
The issue that plagues me the most is that I can’t figure out why the actors and crew making this load of crap didn’t rebel and overthrow Kelly in a bloody coup. He should have, based on how painfully embarrassing scene after scene is, been strung up like Mussolini at the end of his reign of terror.
It’s pretty clear that whatever happened to make Donnie Darko a fan favourite was almost purely by accident. Not only does Kelly fail to achieve anything worthwhile in this flick, he proves consistently that he has no idea how to tell a story or how to make a film.
The multiplicity of characters and storylines doesn’t bug me one bit. The fatal flaw is that none of it matters and none of it really connects together to tell anything remotely close to a story worth hearing. And the acting and direction are just… amateurish. I felt embarrassed watching so many scenes, because I got the strong impression that Kelly had no idea what he was doing and even less idea as to how to do it.