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4 stars

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts

Don't come around here no more, Newt Scamander, your kind ain't welcome

dir: David Yates

2016

Oh, pointlessness, thy name is an ersatz Harry Potter movie without Harry Potter or any of his cronies. Is Warner Brothers so desperate for money that they have to keep plundering a cupboard laid bare, such that anything with JK Rowling’s name on it can still make them drool Pavlov’s dog style?

Whilst I abhor endless franchises that never seem to end that aren’t called Star Wars or Star Trek or Marvel's or - wait a second I guess I don’t abhor them - one could say that the natural place to let the Harry Potter phenomenon die off was at the end of The Deathly Hallows Part II. A natural end. The perfect place to let it gently fade into the background of the pop cultural ether.

But money needs more money. It gets lonely. It needs new friends, always. It is a gold plated diamond encrusted guarantee that more will come, because Pottermania cannot be allowed to die.

As such I think that this will be the first in probably a new unkillable series, which will function as a prequel to the Potter movies / books, that will be overflowing with not so sly references and Easter eggs for the devoted masses. For me, honestly, I really don’t care. I’ve never read the books and my ten-year-old daughter refuses to even vaguely entertain the prospect of ever reading the books together or watching the flicks.

Rating:

Home

Home

Your movie is bad and you should feel bad

dir: Tim Johnson

2015

The wholesale destruction of the Earth never looked so cute.

If ever you wanted to watch a cutesy version of global genocide, Home is the animated kids movie for you.

Let’s be honest about this: sure, the whole flick fixates on an alien called Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons) and a human called Tip (voiced by pop star Rihanna), but in the background of this whole story, Earth has pretty much been destroyed through alien invasion. The remaining humans have all been forcibly relocated to a white picket suburban ghetto in outback Australia. One human remains on the outside, trying to rescue her mother. Hilarity doesn’t ensue.

The aliens don’t do any of this stuff maliciously, or sadistically. They very humanely abduct all humans without too much violence and deposit them in their concentration camp without harming a hair on their pretty heads. To this vaguely octopus-like species, we’re not seen as being any more advanced than dogs. With their superior technology and scientific advancement, it’s seen as less Manifest Destiny and more like an average day at work.

Rating:

Now You See Me

Now You See Me

Now You See Them, But I'm Telling You, Don't Bother
Looking At Them At All. You'll thank me later.

dir: Louis Letterier

It's pretty strange that I was excited to see this flick. How a man of my age gets to be excited by the prospect of watching a bunch of actors pretend to be magicians who pull off bank heists is a mystery even to me, dear reader.

Somehow the premise did its weird alchemy on my brain chemistry, and I was hungry for this flick despite knowing very little about it except for some positive reviews.

Yes, I was tremendously disappointed. Can you hear it in the tone of what's written thus far?

It would be unfair to call this flick terrible, perhaps. Calling it a worthless waste of my time would perhaps be closer to the mark.

The first fifteen minutes or so of flick introduces us to a number of magicians: sleight-of-hand guy, pickpocket, hypnotist and escapist. Someone is watching them as they do their thing. This someone wears a hood, and has his or her back to us, the audience, as they leave a tarot card for these various goons to find.

The sleight-of-hand guy is played by a guy so intensely arrogant that he could have been played by Mark Zuckerberg himself. Instead they get Jesse Eisenberg to play him. He turns down sex with a sweet young thing just because he sees this card appear in his boot.

There's no reason for the card to be so powerful; it's a mystery to us and to him for the whole film as to why he would have turned that girl down because of the card.

Rating:

The Hangover Part III

Hangover part III

Die Die Die you evil bastards

dir: Todd Phillips

The posters said that. The posters promised that. It’s the only thing the posters said other than that there was a film coming out called The Hangover Part III.

The Hangover Part III. The End.

It’s a weird angle to promote a movie with, I thought, before I watched this. Were they saying ‘come watch this movie because it’s the last one in the series, and it’s your last chance to see these rascals in action”, or were they saying “come and watch this flick, or else we’ll make more of them”?

The truth is something I’m never going to know. They might make more of these if this one makes enough money. The first one made more money than Gone with the Wind. The first one probably hit a nerve, a funny nerve, and amused a lot of people.

I’m not sure what this third one is meant to do. It seems inaccurate to call it a comedy, and there’s no hangover involved, no blackout as a tribute to overindulgence, no gingerly picking-up of pieces to solve a problem or save someone’s life/reputation/marriage/colon.

It wouldn’t need to conform to that formula to have been an entertaining film. The formula itself wasn’t really the draw, I don’t think. The real draw was the premise, of a couple of guys (and one complete lunatic), in over their heads, unable to remember what had happened to them, trying to resolve some seemingly impossible situation.

Rating:

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

All of these people: none of them know what's going
on either

dir: The Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer

There’s something so evocative for me about the sentence fragment ‘Cloud Atlas’. I’m serious, I’m not taking the piss. When I first heard it, and I can’t remember the context, whether it was in regards to the novel this movie is based on or not, I thought it was a poetic piece of brilliance. A juxtaposition of words so simple yet so meaningful/meaningless that I couldn’t help but love it.

Maybe it’s pretentious twaddle. I don’t know. All I know is that I love the name Cloud Atlas. Imagine such a thing; an atlas, whose purpose is to define and formalise exactly what is where in a landscape, yet of the clouds, of something ephemeral and ever-changing. Ironic juxtaposition of contradictory elements or what?

Everything I’ve said there is as much meaning as I ever derived, further on, once I actually read the book and then watched the film, at a much later stage.

The book? Eh. It had its moments.

The film? Well, that’s going to take me a bit longer to unravel.

Rating:

Lawless

Lawless

There's nothing on the ground. Stop looking at the ground!

dir: John Hillcoat

*dramatic sigh* This is the biggest cinematic disappointment of the year thus far, for me. No, withhold your sympathy, spare me your proffered hankies, tiniest violins and empty consolation, neither I nor Lawless deserve it.

It’s meant to be a can’t-miss proposition, from the dudes who brought us, uh, The Proposition. Nick Cave wrote the script, John Hillcoat directs, quality soundtrack and score with the usual collaboration betwixt Cave and Warren Ellis, but with a whole bunch of other credible musicians as well doing their homages to the hillbilly moonshine era. There’s Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, and quality actresses Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain, and there’s extreme violence and nudity and redheads and ‘based on a true story’ cred and and and it all fucking falls over flat, because, I’m sorry to say this, but Nick Cave’s screenplay is absolutely the weakest element of it all.

See, lazier viewers / reviewers would say seriously / joke that it fails because of Shia LaBeouf playing a key role. I don’t think he sinks the flick at all. He doesn’t particularly save it either, but he’s not the one bringing the flick down. No-one else on this planet is going to agree with me, but I actually think he puts in a better performance than Beefcake of the Moment Tom Hardy.

Rating:

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

Entertainment not guaranteed, either,
to be honest

dir: Colin Trevorrow

Sometimes I can’t see the plain things in front of me that other people can see. I don’t know whether it’s an eye problem, or some kind of neurological disorder, but, whatever it is, it means the virtues of this particular flick have completely eluded me.

The premise is that this vaguely has something to do with a classified ad that was put in a Seattle newspaper once upon a time, whereby someone pretended to be asking for someone in order to go time travelling together. Hence the Safety Not Guaranteed appellation, as in you couldn’t Guarantee someone’s Safety if they come with you into the Mesozoic era, but you still want someone to come with you, bringing their own weapons and expertise, and maybe a cut lunch. Sunscreen would be nice, and maybe a change of underwear.

That vaguest of premises has a basis in fact by only the loosest of definitions, in that someone once posted an ad like that. It was, however, a joke, as in a fake ad.

From this somehow they’ve spun a confection whose purpose, I guess, is to illuminate the gutting feeling many of us possess whereby we wish we could go back in time to correct something that happened or something horrible that we did. Yes, yes, we all have regrets. But this flick, not unusual in the cinematic landscape, makes literal this wish, in that we’re gradually meant to believe that the nutjob at the centre of the flick could actually do it.

Rating:

Iron Sky

Iron Sky

Go back to where you came from, space Nazis

dir: Timo Vuorensola

What the hell was all that about?

At first I was disappointed because I thought it was going to be a biography about actress Ione Skye, the 80s / 90s It Girl, daughter of folk singer Donovan, former wife of Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, current wife of irritating Australian singer Ben Lee (!), star of such beloved classics as Say Anything and Gas Food Lodging, and mother to several hundred children. Surely that’s more important than Space Nazis?

But there is absolutely nothing about Ione Skye in Iron Sky. Iron Sky might have benefitted a little by including something about her, since it contained almost everything else in the known universe in its running time. Nothing about wavy-haired ingénues from another time, though, sad to say.

Instead it has a premise that’s pretty much the beginning and the end of the entire thinking behind the entire film that employed hundreds of people for several months: Nazis on the Moon. What else do you need when you’ve got such a ‘killer’ idea?

Rating:

30 Minutes or Less

30 minutes

Less would have been better, as in either zero or negative

dir: Ruben Fleischer

Getting Jesse Eisenberg and director Ruben Fleischer together again after Zombieland must have sounded like a good idea, since they did pretty well on their first time out. Inserting Aziz Ansari into the mix might have sounded good, because Aziz is pretty funny, whether as a stand-up or as a comedic actor.

But then someone somehow thought Danny McBride would improve things as well, and so we have 30 Minutes or Less: a mediocre flick so pointless and ineffable that the rage it could inspire doesn’t have time to coalesce before the film evaporates.

I’m telling you for free, Hollywood: Danny McBride improves nothing. Smearing shit on a Picasso doesn’t make it more valuable. Au contraire, fuckers.

Not that, oh no, don’t get me wrong, not that this flick would have been a Cubist masterpiece without McBride’s value-adds. No, it would still have been utterly pointless and forgettable. It just wouldn’t have been as annoying.

Rating:

Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

"Funny ladies doing mostly unfunny things" probably isn't that good
as an alternative title

dir: Paul Feig

If this is the ‘female’ response to what is commonly and erroneously referred to as the Summer of Judd Apatow – raunchy comedies, then what the fuck was the question? I’m sure there are plenty of mouthbreathers who were wondering: “Shoot, what would a flick like The Hangover be like if it was all chicks? Yeah, and how do they get I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to taste like butter so much?”

The answer to both is not worth speaking, or hearing, really.

This isn’t really a raunchy comedy showcasing female comedic talent. Kristen Wiig as the lead, and Maya Rudolph have both been funny in stuff, and in far funnier films than this. The problem here is that, for a comedy, it’s not really that funny.

It’s far more of a low-stakes drama than anything else, because all of the impetus of the plot is about how shitty the main character feels because her best friend has some other friend. In other words, this groundbreaking and radical comedy is all about how bitchy, shallow, insecure and jealous women are.

It’s almost as if we live in a universe where the Sex and the City series and movies don’t exist. What a sweet universe that would be…

Rating:

Scream 4

The only thing that should really die is this franchise

dir: Wes Craven

There doesn’t need to be a Scream 4. It doesn’t need to exist. Then again, you could argue that any number of things don’t need to exist, that do exist. Instant coffee. Pancake hotdogs. The Royal Family. Syphilitic chancres. Syphilitic Royals.

Scream 4 has as much right to exist as any other crappy flick trading on a franchise’s name to justify its own existence. Look, we live in a world where there are seven or eight Saw films, five Superman flicks. Hell, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants got a sequel. Alvin and the Chipmunks got a sequel, called The Squeakquel. People keep making them, people keep watching them, they keep making money, I keep reviewing them, and the Circle of Crapulence rolls on.

I watched Scream 4 with the same jaded eye that I watched any of the preceding flicks in the series. They’re all as good or as bad as each other (in that they’re all pretty crap, except perhaps for the first one, which was slightly less crap) and as such even a horror fan has difficulty differentiating them from any of the other flicks where people are killed in order of annoyingness over the course of 90 minutes, until one person survives, and the status of a sequel is left open in some way.

Rating:

Crazy Heart

dir: Scott Cooper
[img_assist|nid=1294|title=Alcohol makes you more interesting, and smoking makes you cool|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=448]
I didn’t like this film. I don’t like Green Eggs and Ham, either, but the fact still remains that I really didn’t think Crazy Heart was a good flick at all. At all.

Even as I acknowledge that Jeff Bridges is a wonderful, wonderful man, and I’m happy to see him get an Academy Award for his services to the acting profession, it’s painfully obvious to me that he got it not for this performance, but because of his body of work.

You know, star turns in stuff like Star Man, Blown Away and How to Lose Friends and Alienate people.

Yes, he’s done great stuff in the past, but it’s hard seeing the character he plays here as being the pinnacle of his performances.

Bad Blake (Bridges) is a country singer / songwriter, who’s never hit the big time. He ekes out an existence playing shitty venues (most ironically, at film’s beginning, a bowling alley, considering The Big Lebowski) for booze money. We are given to understand that Bad could have been somebody, a contender even, if his alcoholism, boozing, drinking and pride hadn’t gotten in the way.

Because his songs, you know, are just awesome!

Rating:

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:

Surrogates

dir: Jonathan Mostow
[img_assist|nid=1184|title=Some women will do anything to be models|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=375|height=509]
Huh? Is Bruce Willis so desperate for beer money that he’ll take practically any role in any piece de resistance of shit? He can’t possibly still owe Demi Moore alimony, can he?

The thing that’s weirdest about this flick is that I’m not entirely sure why it’s so weird. It’s weird in that it’s so brief, harmless and plastic. The plasticity of it all is part of the point, but it really does feel like half the film is missing somewhere, perhaps on either the editing suite’s floor or Bruce Willis’s bathroom, whichever.

It’s disturbing as well to see this strangely hilarious fantasy version of Bruce Willis, though I guess there’s some real reason for it.

This flick is a pointless and thinly-veiled allegory for the abdication of reality by pale, sweaty people who’ve ceased living real lives and who now live almost exclusively through the tubes of the internets. It’s utterly simplistic and, dare I say it, stupid, but even worse than that, there’s no real validity to the premise. It’s nonsense.

Rating:

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

dir: Stephen Sommers
[img_assist|nid=859|title=What, you expecting Shakespeare?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=652]
Watching Transformers 2 and this here G.I. Joe flick in close proximity to each other brought something to the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t just the strange knowledge that both movies arise from a product, being toys, being Hasbro toys at that. It was the sad reality that, at least for American audiences, film is what they now have to make up for a lack of a cultural mythology.

Sure, the US has a long and proud history, with all sorts of tall tales and Delaware Crossings, Fort Sumpters, Alamos, Granadas, Last Stands and Flags raised on Iwo Jima, but it’s not the same thing compared to the ancient myths and legends of other cultures, which, the more pretentious throughout history, whether writers or philosophers or people with real jobs, will tell you represent a deep cultural connection to the subconscious.

Instead what we now all have are films that basically explain or reinvent the origins of toys. The toys aren’t the adjunct, the alternative marketing stream, the subsidiary merchandising as such. They ARE the product, the emblem, the totem, and the films essentially pretend to market the toys themselves.

Rating:

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:

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:

Boat That Rocked, The

dir: Richard Curtis
[img_assist|nid=1150|title=We're all kooky and crazy and freaky despite all being middle aged. Groovy!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=400]
It’s getting to the stage where hearing that Richard Curtis, the genius behind such pop cultural fodder as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and the diabolical Love, Actually, which actually opens and closes with long montages of people hugging. Hugging, honest to fucking gods…

No, I haven’t forgotten what other stuff Richard Curtis was involved with back in the day, like actually funny stuff, like the various Blackadders and maybe even the Vicar of Dibley. But that was mostly as a writer, as a writer of gags. Humorous asides and witty banter. Funny, mildly amusing stuff.

Then he wisely, from the perspective of making more money, started directing the monstrosities he was writing the scripts for on numerous post-it notes while drunk out of his skull. And thus a directorial legend was born.

Now he inflicts these awful goddamn flicks on us which have too many characters, most of which are little different from each other, with sequences that connect little to the ones preceding and following, and which exude an overall stench of desperation that never hides the fact that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, but hopes the editing, popular songs and cheeky swearing can hide the fact.

Rating:

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: Origins Wolverine

Oh look!. It's the patron saint of the wifebeater singlet!

dir: Gavin Hood
I know that the X Men movies have been pretty popular, and I know that a major component of their success has been the efforts of Hugh Jackman as the most popular of the mutant comic book characters, being Wolverine. And I can see why making a film just about Wolverine would have seemed like a winner right from the start.

I mean, it just feels like a logical progression. If the X Men films were successful, and, the theory goes, Wolverine or Logan is the key ingredient, then if you take all the distractions and unnecessary components out, you’re left with something pure and wonderful.

I believe it’s the same process used in manufacturing crack cocaine.

Get rid of the sometimes interesting dialogue, the ethical questions, the underlying science fiction themes and debates that typify the conflict between a powerful mutant who wants to shepherd mutants, and protect humanity (Professor X), and a powerful mutant who wants to destroy or subjugate them (Magneto), and just have Hugh Jackman jump around tearing shit up with his adamantium claws. Do it for 90 minutes and you have yourself a blockbuster.

Indeed, it made enough money at the box office to guarantee that more X Men flicks are going to excrete themselves down the studio pipeline. But it’s not even a vaguely worthy 90 minutes. Your dollars could otherwise better be spent on the aforementioned crack cocaine.

Rating:

Choke

dir: Clark Gregg
[img_assist|nid=155|title=Would you have sex with this douchebag?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
I have respect, much respect, big respect for Chuck Palahniuk, but I’m starting to think that maybe he is the American literary equivalent of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Sure, Come on Eileen was a wonderful little pop ditty that still stinks up greatest hits radio decades after its use-by date, and it probably resulted in a lot of laundry for a lot of women called Eileen, but what else have the musical impresarios and master storytellers of Dexy’s Midnight Runners done for us lately? I’m not going to go so far as to say that Chuck is a one-hit wonder for Fight Club, which I still think is a great book and a great film (a great, great film in the hands of David Fincher). The problem is that I just don’t know what else he has to offer either the book or the film worlds anymore.

Choke is a premise without much of a meaningful plot and without a character worth following for 90 minutes. I’m not sure if it’s Sam Rockwell’s fault as the lacklustre main character, because he seems okay for the first half of the film. What I can’t tell is whether the problem is that the flick doesn’t know where to go, or whether Rockwell decided he no longer wanted to be in the flick.

Rating:

Frozen River

dir: Courtney Hunt
[img_assist|nid=157|title=Oh, the woe and suffering of the noble underclass!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
It’s funny when I tell you that this flick deals with illegal immigrants, white trash, Mohawks, people smuggling and desperation, and you immediately think it must be set somewhere on the US-Mexican border and star Tommy Lee Jones.

Funny in the sense that it’s odd, not funny as in hilarious.

It’s funny in the sense that of course this flick is instead set on the border with Canada, and instead of the main character being a noble immigrant sorrowfully leaving behind their dirt farming existence in order to come to the States to enjoy its bounty in the form of hamburgers and novelty toilet seats, it’s about one of the people smugglers.

In no sense does the story bother with the refugees as characters. Its focus is entirely on a white trash woman living in a trailer home with her two kids, who kind of falls into people smuggling as the only way to look after her kids after being abandoned again by her worthless Mohawk husband.

Rating:

Max Payne

dir: John Moore
[img_assist|nid=3|title=All Gun, no Fun|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
In a lot of ways, Max Payne, which is overall a pretty mediocre action movie, is as good as you have any right to expect something to be that stars Marky Mark Wahlberg, and that is based on an extremely violent and thus extremely enjoyable computer game.

But if they can’t even use the musical theme from the game in the film, then it was never going to work, was it?

The usual dismissals and criticisms aimed at ‘based on’ fare don’t really apply, since both of the Max Payne games were a distillation of pure 80s Hollywood cop / vengeance crap filtered through a comic book / pseudo-noir sensibility, with liberal splashings of guttural voiceovers and over the top set pieces. Thus you’d think making a film of it would be easy, since there is no shortage of flicks based on a) killing mobsters, b) wanting to kill hundreds of people in retaliation for the murder of one’s family, and c) guns guns and more guns.

Rating:

Burn After Reading

dir: Coens
[img_assist|nid=72|title=Oh, you quality actor, you|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
People give the Coen Brothers way too much credit. Sure they make good films on the odd occasion, but, after dazzling everyone with the exhausting and nihilistic No Country for Old Men, they belched out this Washington DC-based trifle, and still people acted like it was the second coming of Allah, Buddha and Abbott and Costello.

There are Coen Brothers comedies that I have enjoyed, especially Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, but this is certainly not one of them. In fact, I find it pretty much devoid of humour for something being marketed as a comedy.

I had similar issues with Fargo back in the day, which was lauded to the high heavens by all and sundry, but left me cold, colder than a Minnesotan winter. The humour was invisible to me, the purpose as well, though I have gotten to a better place emotionally where I don’t actively hate the film anymore.

Still don’t like it, though. And I definitely didn’t like Burn After Reading either, which has practically nothing to recommend it. Honestly, this is one of those times where I am oblivious as to what worth others see in something. Had the Coens not made it, had the cast not be the usual A-List shmucks like Clooney and Pitt, this flick would not have even gone straight to DVD.

Rating:

Speed Racer

dir: Wachowskis
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I guess we can’t call them the Wachowski Brothers anymore, since technically they’re not both brothers anymore. Allow me to illuminate your confusion with an explanation, one of the few times where one of my more obscure references can actually be explained in a sane way that might make sense to another human being.

When they made Bound and the Matrix trilogy, two chaps sharing the name Wachowski were responsible as the directors. Now, as in as of a year or two ago, one of them is still a Brother Wachowski, and the other, thanks to the type of surgery that in Australia is still colloquially referred to as the “cruellest cut of all”, one of them has undergone gender reassignment surgery to become a Sister Wachowski.

Strange, I know, but don’t for a moment feel that I’m impugning the lifestyle choices of people who I believe have every right to do whatever the hell they want as long as they’re not hurting other people. He / She can do whatever the heck they want with their pink bits, surgery-wise or otherwise as long as it doesn’t involve my pink bits.

Rating:

Doomsday

dir: Neil Marshall
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Doom, doom, doom…. Oh yes, someone is doomed. It’s you, dear watcher. It’s you if you sit through this.

Watching this movie gave me some hideous sexually transmitted disease. Not syphilis, but something not altogether nice all the same. Time for the blue lotion again, except this time I have to make sure I keep it away from open flames.

Doomsday as a title for this flick doesn’t even really make sense, but I guess they had to shorten it from its original title: Escape from 28 Days of Resident Mad Mars Aliens Later. Because this flick is little more than an attempt to do what the two prime dickheads in the recent Michel Gondry flick Be Kind Rewind do, which is to make cheesy versions of classic action flicks.

And poorly, I might add. It is so brazen in what it does, though, and I am qualifying this as much as inhumanly possible, that there are almost moments where I forgave it for how shitty and derivative it was.

It’s almost like walking through a crowd, sensing the hand of a pickpocket and grabbing it, and then feeling almost forgiving as you glimpse the little urchin’s cheeky smile beaming up at you. Before, of course, you bring the hammer down and crack his wrist.

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Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

dirs: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
[img_assist|nid=98|title=Harold and Kumar in Search of Humour|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=354]
Wow, even with two directors this flick is still pretty dumb and unfunny. Maybe it needed some more directors. Maybe five directors would have been the magic number.

It couldn’t have hurt. Such a sequel sounds, from its title, like it’s going to be a ribald, politically pointed satire on the contemporary American milieu and its terror at the prospect of terrorism. What this sequel actually does is limply deliver another film where two alleged stoner friends get into scrapes and shenanigans of a generally crude or sexual variety for 90 or so dull, punishing minutes.

Crude’s fine. I can handle crude. Dumb fun I can handle to, in the right mood. The thing is, even dumb and crude humour needs a bit of wit. Without wit, it’s all just shit.

There is precious little wit and plenty of shit on offer here. It doesn’t make it a supremely painful experience to sit through, kind of like a proctological exam, but it doesn’t make for much fun either.

Rating:

Stop Loss

dir: Kimberley Pierce
[img_assist|nid=143|title=We look like we're having fun, but inside, we're dying|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=318]
Stop Loss is the latest entry in the new genre of American war flicks examining just how terrible it is for young Americans fighting in Iraq. Thanks to a cruel administration and a cruel commander-in-chief, these noble, selfless men (and a fair few women) are suffering, suffering for their time spent in country nobly fightin’ them over there so they don’t have to fight ‘em over here. Or in Texas, as the case may be.

Even those soldiers who aren’t killed or horribly maimed; they suffer on the inside. They suffer even when they go home. Then their families and loved ones suffer. America, how much suffering can your poor nation endure?

And, to add insult to injury, the ruthless and cruel Army is sending them back to the meat grinder against the express conditions of their assumption that entering the Army enhances instead of comprises your free will.

What? How dare they? Don’t they have any consideration for my feelings? How dare they send me back to kill more Iraqi civilians? What gives them the right?

Oh, wait, is it because I enlisted voluntarily in the Army? Yeah, okay, that’s why.

Rating:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

dir: Steven Spielberg
[img_assist|nid=58|title=Let me die with some dignity, please|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
The wave, like any wave, builds slowly at first. The forces at work that generate a wave are staggering, truly, physics and hydrodynamics on the grandest scale. The effect of the moon’s gravitational pull, weather patterns, the Coriolis effect, currents, underwater structures like reefs and rock formations, tectonic plates and volcanic activity; all combine to generate the mightiest and meekest of waves that plague our oceans and seas.

Other forces include anticipation, nostalgia, relentless marketing campaigns and the blind willingness to believe that something that has to be shit could actually be all right against all the logic and sense available in the universe, let alone under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade.

The wave I’m referring to is the crashing wave of disappointment that is this motion picture in its entirety: this picture in motion of such staggering awfulness that it makes me weep for the lost childhood that Spielberg and Lucas have stolen from me retroactively.

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Rogue

dir: Greg Mclean
[img_assist|nid=38|title=How Scary!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=429]
It wasn’t guaranteed that Mclean’s follow-up to Wolf Creek would be a disappointment, but it was inevitable that people would pick it as such. Mclean is more of a victim of unfortunate timing that anything else, which rendered his monster movie little less than a blip on the radar.

Of course it doesn’t help that the film isn’t that good.

The two strikes that screwed up any chance of Rogue succeeding box-office-wise were that it was going to initially come out around the same time as another flick about a giant crocodile (Primeval), and that another flick with the same title was about to come out (Rogue, which became Rogue Assassin in some countries, and War in the States).

But the real problem is money. Money money money. You can’t always see it, but sometimes where the money for a flick comes from dictates just so much of the content of the flick that you really feel a bit ashamed of yourself.

Money, specifically from Dimension Films, being the genre-trashy arm of the Weinstein Brothers film empire, dictated a strange, strange set-up for what is essentially supposed to be an Aussie horror flick set in the hallowed reaches of the Northern Territory.

Rating:

War (Rogue Assassin)

dir: Philip G. Atwell
[img_assist|nid=71|title=No, I'm the worst actor out of the pair of us! Say it!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
Oh what a deliciously terrible movie. What a deliciously terrible 80s movie. How bizarre that they would bring out such a movie, as if constructed by random bits of other 80s movies, in the year 2008.

Actually, I’m going to have to apologise for using the word ‘deliciously’ to describe the abject terribleness of this flick. That makes it sound like the flick is worth seeing regardless. It probably isn’t. It probably, for other people, isn’t so bad that it’s good.

It is for me, because I found myself shaking my head and laughing appreciatively at just how moronic this script was, and how every scene in this flick has a nugget of pure shiteness casting its rosy glow over everything that happens.

As far as I can tell, the flick has undergone name changes and confused delays because of another flick that was going to come out at the same time (Greg Maclean’s Rogue, about a giant croc), and because of studio interference. Well, this flick is a giant crock, and the studio should have interfered more. Who greenlit this idiotic script? Who got these world class, master class terrible performances from everybody concerned? Which one of you executives deserves to have their balls cut off or their ovaries cut out?

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