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4 stars

War (Rogue Assassin)

dir: Philip G. Atwell
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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?

Rating:

Kingdom, The

dir: Peter Berg
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No, not the Danish tv series by Lars Von Triers set in a monstrous hospital, no, not the US remake with a script by shitemeister Stephen King, which was marketed as Stephen King’s The Kingdom, which compounds the unnecessariness. This The Kingdom is an attempt to be current, to show Americans what America is dealing with overseas, to make themselves feel powerful in the pants about their efforts spreading freedom and democracy in other countries, and to act as a sterling appraisal of just what the origin of the problems are that the US faces against the Dar al-Islam, or the Islamic world.

Suffice to say that if that’s an accurate summation of where the flick tries to go, it fails miserably in its intentions and in its execution.

Execution is probably a tactless word to use in this instance. The plot of the thing is as follows: an American-hating, freedom-loathing group of Islamic terrorists in Saudi Arabia orchestrates a horrific terrorist attack upon the American expat residents of an enclave compound where they all thought they’d be safe from the predations of the outside world. Many hundreds of Americans die, and the House of Saud makes solicitous sounds to the Americans working in the oil industry, but doesn’t show any willingness to pursue the perpetrators.

Rating:

Hannibal Rising

dir: Peter Webber
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Hannibal Lecter: The Wonder Years, or Look Who’s Stalking could have been better titles for this new prequel chapter to the Hannibal Lecter legend. Did you wonder what Hannibal was like as a child? How was his toilet training conducted? At knifepoint? Did mummsy and daddsy punish him for wetting his bed by ripping out his liver and feeding it to him with a mediocre Chianti and some azuki beans as an accompaniment?

All Hannibal Rising is and ever will be, is another trip to the well for fun and profit. The makers, especially ancient Dino De Laurentis, have confused the popularity of Thomas Harris’s initial books (Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs), and the iconic status of Sir Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence, with an unquenchable thirst in the audience for anything with a hint of Lecter-related marketing attached to it.

I’d understand if Thomas Harris has written a book that resonated with the public, garnered major sales, and seen a resurgence in demand for a cinematic version. Since the book in question was released simultaneously with the film’s release earlier this year, we know that’s not the case, and that it’s just merchandising.

Rating:

Man of the Year

dir: Barry Levinson
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Man of the Year is a missed opportunity, more than anything else. It starts off with promise, but squanders its potential by idiotically getting fixated upon an element that should never have been more than a minor subplot. As such, it is a waste of time for all involved. Including and especially the viewer.

The premise is that Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams), a comedian tv show host who’s like a populist cross between Jay Leno and Jon Stewart of The Daily Show fame runs for President of the United States. Except, unlike Jay Leno, he can get through a monologue without stumbling repeatedly, and unlike Jon Stewart, he’s not that funny.

He runs on a populist platform of rejecting the bipartisan political theatre of the Republican – Democratic divide, and by appealing to the electorate with some straight talk and truthiness about the compromised nature of Congress due to the influence of lobbyists and corporations. He does this instead of repeating the endless mantras and tired tropes of family values and fearmongering.

Rating:

Harsh Times

dir: David Ayer
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This was touted as a kind of follow-up to Training Day, since it had the same writer involved, now graduating to the big leagues by taking on directorial duties as well. Hoo-fucking-ray. And since we were told it would be a sequel to that horribly scripted film with incredible performances, we could look forward to more of the same.

Denzel got the Oscar for Training Day, but I don’t think Harsh Times is going to win any awards, despite having exactly the same quantity of overacting in it. Substitute Christian Bale in place of Denzel, and make him a returned Ranger veteran with post traumatic stress disorder instead of being a nasty, corrupt cop, and you have Harsh Times, set on the mean streets of San Andreas. I mean, Los Angeles.

Rating:

2:37

dir: Murali K. Thalluri
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2:37 was the super-secret opening film at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival, launched to a super eager sold out crowd (in more ways than one), who would go on to create unwarranted buzz for a mediocre flick that gives after school specials a bad name. Controversy, which is always supposed to be able to sell tickets, and hysterical press releases from NGOs like the depression experts Beyond Blue, also made this flick seem more important than it really was. And now, what are we left with in the wash up, the aftermath, the hangover on the day after?

As a young director, a very young director at that, Thalluri manages not only to cobble together a Frankenstein-style script from other marginally better movies, but also manages to get crap performances from most of the actors playing ciphers instead of characters throughout the movie. Practically none of the characters, who are given a selection of clichés to work down to, seem to exist as anything apart from mannequins.

Rating:

X-Men 3 - The Last Stand

dir: Brett Ratner
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I didn’t want to believe that the stepping down of Bryan Singer as director for this flick, the wunderkind director of the first two X-Men instalments and the post modern crime masterpiece The Usual Suspects, was a bad sign. I didn’t want to believe that the stepping up of Brett Ratner, the director of Rush Hour 1 and 2, and a whole heap of Mariah Carey videos, was a bad sign.

There were, in truth, a multitude of signs I chose to ignore.

It’s like owing a shitload of money on your credit card, and trying to put the massive debt out of your mind by throwing away the constant stream of nagging bills unread. That works until the credit provider sends hired goons to your place, but at least you can bask in the illusion up until that fateful day where your patellas cease to be your property.

I did enjoy the first two other films, I really did.

Bubbles by their very nature are obligated to burst. It comes down to physics more than anything else, including the so-called law of diminishing returns, but in this instance, I have a lot of questions as to how and why they (the makers) went the way they did with this flick, and I suspect I’m never going to get the answers I want.

Rating:

Silent Hill

dir: Christophe Gans
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There really isn’t any logic to the way producers think making a film out of a computer game will work at the box office. Sure, it’ll get them extra money, but rarely does it result in anything worth watching in any state apart from being drunk. From Super Mario Brothers onwards, the vast majority of computer games transferred to the silver screen have stunk like a crate full of decaying skunks.

Look at the illustrious list of movies that have undergone this transformation from nerd property to mass entertainment: Doom, Resident Evil, House of the Dead, Bloodrayne, Alone in the Dark, Wing Commander, Mortal Kombat, Streetfighter, Tomb Raider 1 & 2. Were any of these films watchable in any state apart from being drunk? And would humanity be any worse off if these films were never made and the actors and directors responsible for them were banished to a lower level of hell?

Rating:

Nacho Libre

dir: Jared Hess
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No-one probably found the bizarre success of Napoleon Dynamite more surprising than the guy who made it. Jared Hess made a strange little film clearly set in the 80s, but updated with a bundle of modernisms to make it contemporary, and watched it become a cultish hit.

Seeing as Hess and his wife / writing partner are Mormons, if you ever wondered what a flick made by observant Mormons would look like, look no further than Napoleon Dynamite and this here current monstrosity stinking up our cinemas.

Now that I’ve used the word ‘Mormon’, I can’t get a scene from The Simpsons out of my head, where a lawyer at a Senate hearing yells at Homer ‘You, sir, are a moron,’ to which Homer, of course replies, ‘Mormon? But I’m from Earth!’

If you’re not looking for it, it could strike you as strange that Napoleon Dynamite, his first flick, contains no swearing, violence, sex or nudity, despite being set in a milieu that would seem to demand each and every one of those elements (the contemporary American high school genre).

Rating:

Renaissance

dir: Christian Volckman
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Whilst the French aren’t world renowned for their animation, at the very least they’re not seen as slouches in the cinematic department. France is one of the few countries whose homegrown films compete well with American product in French cinemas, and whose films export fairly well for the arthouse market across the world.

When The Triplets of Belleville came out in 2003, it reminded people not only that France could produce movies that weren’t solely dependent on lecherous older guys lusting after beautiful and super-slutty, irrational, younger women, but that animation wasn’t totally dependent on computer-wielding nerds, a la Pixar, Blue Sky or WETA Digital.

I’d heard a little about a new French animated flick that was about to come out, and for reasons that seem perplexing to me now, I was excited about it. What little I’d heard referred to the animated movie being a sci-fi detective story with Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell influences, rolled up in a high-tech black and white anime style.

So, when free tickets to a preview screening were offered, I snapped them up. After sitting through it, I wanted to demand my money back.

Rating:

Ring II, The

dir: Hideo Nakata
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The onslaught of Japanese horror remakes marches inexorably on. Strictly speaking this is a sequel to a remake, but there’s a Japanese Ringu 2, and it was directed by the same guy that directed this, but it’s a different story (kinda) and, oh fuck it, it’s making my head hurt already. Look, it’s a sequel to the Hollywood Ring film, that’s all you need to know at this stage. It has nothing to do with the Lord of the Rings movies, The Ringmaster, Postman Always Rings Twice, Ring of Fire, Ring King, Ring Ring, or Ring-a-Ding Ding. So don’t be too disappointed.

Rating:

Sahara

Dir: Breck Eisner
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What the hell is a “Breck” anyway? It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a person, director or otherwise with a name like Breck. Whoever and whatever he is, even with a name like that, he wouldn’t be directing films if it wasn’t for his father, Michael Eisner. Michael Eisner is the kind of person who at his peak probably dined with Rupert “Ubermensch” Murdoch, got him to pick up the bill and then split a hooker or two together over snifters of brandy made from the tears of virgins. As the son of the former CEO of Disney I’m sure that Breck Eisner had a lot of hurdles to traverse and obstacles to mount and then surmount in order to follow his dream of becoming a Hollywood director. It gives hope to us all.

However he managed to get there, we should only really judge him on his merits, on the works that he produces. I mean, come on, it’s only fair. I can’t be judged based on what my father Idi Amin, or my mother Lindy Chamberlain did in their lifetimes, surely? It’s just wrong to judge me based on anything else than what I’ve achieved in this life. And I am sure as hell going to extend that same courtesy to my man Breck here.

Rating:

Exorcism of Emily Rose, The

dir: Scott Derrickson
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The makers claim from the outset that the film is based on a true story. The “true” story involves a German woman called Annaleise Michel who died in the 70s, whom her family and a bunch of priests believe was possessed by a bunch of demons.

Not just any demons, but the demons that possessed Hitler, Nero, and also Lucifer, who might have just been along for the ride.

The medical types, being the killjoys that they are, believed her to be an epileptic with schizophrenia. When she died, after nearly a year of malnutrition and weekly exorcisms, the authorities stepped in and charged two priests and the girl’s parents with negligent homicide.

The story is transplanted to the US, her name is changed to Emily Rose, the charge is applied to just the priest, Father Moore (dependable Tom Wilkinson), and the “truth” of the girl’s story is laid out for us, the questioning audience, to work out for ourselves.

That is, at least, what they would have you believe. The story from the outset leaves you in no doubt as to what they want you to believe is the “truth” of the matter. And in case you don’t get it, the signposts put up at the end put it beyond rational doubt.

Rating:

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

dir: Garth Jennings
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So I liked the “So long and thanks for all the fish” song used in the intro, in fact I found it thrilling, transporting and charming. Unfortunately it’s about the only thing I liked about the film.

It’s funny, or maybe not that funny that they (“they” being the people responsible for regurgitating this film forth, which includes Douglas Adams) could take a book beloved by so many legions of nerds for its humour and yet succeed in draining most of the humour out of it.

I’ll admit that I’m not really that much of a fan of the book in the first place. I would still like to think that they could have done a better job had a better director or producers had a bash at it. Imagine Charlie Kaufman having a go at the screenplay, and Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry directing it. If you don’t think that Americans or a French guy could do justice to it, then how about if they’d used an innovative bunch of people like Danny Boyle and his production crew, or Edgar White and Simon Pegg, the guys behind Shaun of the Dead.

Hell, maybe they should have gotten your mum to direct it. Or even my mum. Though she is busy sitting in a store window in Amsterdam’s red light district. That reminds me, need to send her those antibiotics for Mother’s Day.

Rating:

Blade: Trinity

dir: David S. Goyer
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You have to wonder what the attraction is with this franchise. Wesley Snipes hasn't exactly done any memorable acting work in donkey's years. The Blade character is so two-dimensional that when Blade walks side-on from the camera I always expect the guy to be paper-thin. It hasn't really set the box office alight (none of the three films were big earners in that respect). Marvel, I'm sure, has plenty of other comic book franchises dying to be made (and I'm sure plenty of them are already in development).

As a vampire scenario it's not a particularly intelligent, original, amusing or otherwise worthwhile one. The main character's motivation is solely to kill vampires and try to gruffly protect humanity (which seems secondary). There's not a lot of room for character arcs, thematic development, social significance or transcendent insights into human or vampire nature amidst the averagely choreographed fight scenes and the most ordinary action set pieces.

Rating:

Steamboy (Suchimoboi)

dir: Katsuhiro Otomo
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This is a highly anticipated animated film for many people, and not just for dope smokers either. See, it’s been so long since Akira first came out that the stoners that predominantly constitute its fanbase have worn out their VHS copies and are in desperate need of something else to tickle the fancy of their THC-addled cells.

Taking over a decade to create another full length feature which is thus far the most expensive in anime history, you’d be entitled to think that Otomo would have had the requisite time and money to craft a story entirely to his liking, something else with the potential to infect pop culture consciousness and monopolise the television at parties like Akira did.

To the credit of the people involved, they’ve started with an insane bunch of ideas and produced an impressively incredible-looking animated feature. Unfortunately, the whole production is deeply flawed by having an absolutely terrible story.

Rating:

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

dir: Robert Rodriguez
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I am unsure as to whether Robert Rodriguez’s films are getting worse, or whether I just don’t like what he does as much as I used to. After watching this movie on DVD I spent an additional ten minutes watching a behind the scenes featurette called Fast, Cheap and In Control. I found this DVD extra more enjoyable than the movie itself. It showed various tricks and techniques used to perform and record the special effects and stunts during the film. It shows just how much an inventive and cost-effective crew can manage in a short period of time.

Ideally, such a circumstance would allow for more time to concentrate on pesky little details like a script or actual dialogue for its multitude of characters. There is precious little of that here. In fact, the movie seems to be a collection of disconnected money shots with little purpose beyond allowing Rodriguez to close off his El Mariachi trilogy, as if nations themselves were clamouring for it. Gagging for it, they were.

Rating:

Die Another Day

dir: Lee Tamahori
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There. That feeling you had in your chest. Hadn't you noticed it before? Did you think it was just that you're getting really unfit and unhealthy? Or that maybe you had tuberculosis? No, that wasn't it.

That's it. Breath out. See, what happened was, you were waiting with bated breath for my next movie review.

And what will it be: a review of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, where I kept getting funny looks from the parents who'd brought their kids along, who were wondering what a 30 year old man was doing watching a kiddies film sans kiddies? Will it be a review from an advanced screening of The Two Towers, where 700 nerds were on the verge of premature ejaculation for nearly 3 hours?

No, it's a review of the 20th sequel to a very, very tired franchise which like its title suggests, will not die any time soon.

Rating:

Star Trek: Nemesis

dir: Stuart Baird
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There is a law in economics referred to as the law of diminishing returns, or alternately known as the law of variable proportions. Essentially it states that if one factor of production is increased while the others remain constant, the overall returns will relatively decrease passed a certain point.

Accept for a moment that the number of Trek fans and other obese obsessives is relatively constant, if not decreasing over time. Establish that the amount of merchandising and truly quality television shows pumped out continues over time, with more and more money being poured into this formerly profitable venture. The law of diminishing returns states that past a certain point you cannot get back what you put in.

Rating:

Training Day

dir: Antoine Fuqua
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Could have been. This flick could have been a contender. It is well acted (mostly), well directed, and with one monumental example to the contrary, mostly well scripted. It is deeply unfortunate that the monumental fuck-up that occurs in the script at about the 1 hour mark renders the rest of the film an exercise in pointlessness, but then again, if life has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t have everything, and even if you did, some bastard would probably break in and steal all your shit when you were at work.

It’s the way of the world. None of this justifies the awful and insulting way that the film degenerates into a true Hollywood morass by its end, but hell, as I’ve mentioned a million times before, most films stuff up the ending because they never put as much work into the conclusion as they do with the pitch:
(pitch meeting between producers and studio execs)
“Um, Denzel as the bad guy?”
- “Sold!”

Rating:

Planet of the Apes

dir: Tim Burton
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Even though it's been out for only two weeks, already the topic of this film is straining to raise even the mildest level of interest anywhere. We get gangbanged by the hype regarding new films leading up to their release, they're released, then everyone collectively reaches over and hits the snooze button. Being ever timely in my responses, now that any interest has pretty much waned, I have seen fit to post a review of Tim Burton's latest coke fueled extravaganza.

Tim Burton's only real mistake was in remaking what is usually referred to as a "classic". He should have remade a different classic, that being Planet of the Gapes, originally directed by Tom Byron, starring himself, Allysin Chaines, Alisha Klass, Sabrina Johnson and a host of other starlets and studs. I have not the courage or the mortal fortitude to tell you readers what a "gape" is, suffice to say it is one of at least a hundred things I wish I'd never seen, and curse the internet each day for inflicting it upon me.

Regardless, the mere concept of doing a remake of Planet of the Apes is enough to raise people's hackles, and as appealing to long time fans as it would be to announce to Christians that you're planning on re-writing the Bible, replacing all references to "God" and "Jesus" with "My Cock". They'd love that.

Rating:

Branded to Kill (Koroshi no rakuin)

dir: Seijun Suzuki
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1967

I’ve watched this flick twice and I still haven’t got a fucking clue what happened. Forgive me for the language, since this is a family show. And as a father I really should be more circumspect in my choice of language. But honestly, for fuck’s sake, this flick is insane.

This and a bunch of other flicks are often referred to as a product of Japan’s New Wave era, supposedly inspired by the French Nouvelle Vague of flicks by guys like Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Resnais and all the other shmucks. A new, rebellious sensibility; inspired, radical, genre-breaking, overtaking and smashing the reactionary, stultified world of contemporary cinema.

I can’t say for sure whether that was really the case. All I know is, this flick here makes no sense, is edited all over the place, and has people doing all sorts of insane things without so much as a by your leave or a recognisable emotion or motivation. It’s just flat out nonsensical, with scenes edited together as if they’re from different films.

Rating:

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