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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:

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