dir: Aram Rappaport
Syrup is an edgy, in-your-face satire of corporate madness and the dark side of the Force that is Marketing;
Syrup is a hilarious send-up of the American Dream and its malcontents: the people sucked in, chewed up and spat out by its machinations, which is pretty much everyone in the Western world;
Syrup is a limp approximation of what would happen if a bunch of uni students got stoned, drank a heap of energy drinks and then came up with a script based on their half-baked knee-jerk thoughts mocking Big Business and the Earth's mindless slovenly drones who do nothing but consume consume consume;
Syrup is the greatest film ever about anything.
The movie could be any of those, or none of those. What it would ultimately 'be', even if it was just, like, my opinion, man, is what I spun it to be. Apparently, the movie Syrup, based on the book Syrup, by Max Barry, is the first flick ever to posit the idea that creating desire in consumers, which is the pure purpose of marketers everywhere, is a bad thing.
Or at least it could be a bad thing, when done with evil intent. How the 'evil' intent can be distinguished from 'good' intent isn't defined by the motive, which presumably is always the profit motive. The marketing is 'evil' when it makes something bad happen to someone somewhere. It's not even that the product itself is harmful to consumers; it's that a 'brilliant' marketing idea could make consumers do horrible things in their pursuit of the product, and thus the marketing is 'wrong'.
I have to admit that I'm confused by many of the points the film seems to be making (on the other hand, I'd love to see how they market a film that pretends to be anti-marketing) even if by nature I think I agree with it(?)
dir: Kirk DeMicco & Chris Sanders
It's about time Nicolas Cage brought his particular brand of crazy to the 3D animated realm. He's so perfectly suited to playing a Neanderthal that I'm surprised it's never happened before.
He's not the main character here, I think, in The Croods, but it's pretty much him blathering on all the time. It's very possible the producers of this film shut Nicolas Cage in a room with a mound of coke and just recorded everything he said over a two day period. And they built a film around that. For the kids, of course.
The main character, I guess, is Eep, voiced by Emma Stone. She is the Neanderthal daughter of Cage's character, artfully named Grug. They have a whole family of Neanderthals around them, to provide the laughs and the jolly japery. And, even if you know nothing about this movie, you could probably guess that there is a grandma character, possibly voiced either by Betty White or Cloris Leachman. Cloris must have won the toss.
And there's a feral baby character, but it's not like it matters. The once-great distinction between Pixar, before their selling-out to Disney, and the rest of the animation studios was that Pixar seemed like it was telling stories because it wanted to tell particular stories, not because of the marketing opportunities or covering all the possible audience demographics.
This seems like it was put together by a boardroom of ad execs, each more cynical than the last, as they imagine the McDonald's Happy Meal opportunities and crow about the positive feedback from test screenings where clods see a few minutes at a time and comment on how awesome it was in miniature form.
What was developed and delivered is something that looks like a whole bunch of other films, is relentlessly familiar and hyperactive, overwhelmingly generic, and, above all, utterly American. It's not even American in the best sense of the word, like the novels of Cormac McCarthy, the music of The Pixies or the very existence of professional wrestling.
dir: Timur Bekmambetov
And yeah, no-one’s thoroughly sick of vampires yet, not one little bit...
Abraham Lincoln kills vampires. That’s all you need to know, because that’s the entirety of the premise as far as people were meant to care.
Pretty much all you need to read. You could stop here. Walk outside, if it’s nice out. Breath in deeply, enjoy the sunshine/night/hail/plague. Go on, get out of here.
Wait, WAIT! Come back, please, I was just kidding. I swear I’ll try to be more amusing / illuminating than this movie was.
The masses were meant to care all the way into the cinema. I can’t see how they could have cared, really, but maybe there’s a greater pool of history buffs out there that I didn’t know about.
The statesman of American history who kept the nation from tearing itself apart and freed the slaves also killed vampires in his spare time, and actually went into the Civil War with the intention of throwing off the shackles of the shadow aristocracy trying to rule from the shadows by taking away their food supply, being African-American slaves.
Sounds accurate so far. I hope one day someone with moderator status edits Abe Lincoln’s biography on Wikipedia, and replaces his actual biography with this more plausible one, and that way after the fall of civilisation, some record somewhere will be taken as gospel that he did indeed fight the pale horde and win. And that’s what future neo-humans will think actually happened, and pass down to further stupid generations.
This flick is based on one of those ludicrous but somehow profitable ideas that mashing something ‘classic’ with something ‘genre’ equals ‘money from nerds’. It started, at least the recent revival of this stuff did, with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which updated Austen’s classic tale about girls desperate to marry wealthy men with ninjas and zombies. I’m sure we can all agree that it desperately needed to be brought into the 21st century. I mean, the story of Darcy and Lizzie Bennett had been done so many times, so tediously, that it really needed a fresh, rotting take.
From there the floodgates opened, and every hack with a laptop and an e-reader copy of a classic novel started dreaming up really dull stuff to combine, sometimes quite artlessly. My mockery of this stuff doesn’t mean I’m not a consumer of it. Yes, I shamefully admit to having read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Android Karenina and Little Vampire Women, and now I’m utterly sick of the concept. So sick, in fact, that I happily paid to see this, much to my eventual regret.
dir: Bela Tarr
Sometimes you watch a film knowing you’re not going to enjoy it. It’s with the foreknowledge that the reason for watching the film is not the pursuit of entertainment or escapism; it’s with the expectation that the experience is going to be a difficult one with no promise of redemption or eventual meaning.
What compelled me to watch this film, The Turin Horse, and review it, for you, the utterly nonplussed reader?
Curiousity, dear reader, nothing but curiosity.
I have heard of Hungarian director Bela Tarr, but never seen one of his films before. They are famous, or notorious, for being extremely long, consisting of very long, uncut scenes of people not doing very much. His most famous film, Satantango, is over seven hours long. He’s the quintessential director of the kinds of films people who never watch arthouse films think arthouse films are all like.
As such, The Turin Horse is practically the epitome of a parody of European arthouse films: it’s in black and white, the tone is overwhelming in its sombre dourness, there are peasants in peasanty clothing doing peasant things, the soundtrack is a repetitive, depressing four tone dirge, and what dialogue we hear (or read, since it’s subtitled, unless you’re Hungarian) is either trivial, makes no sense or is pretentious drivel and the point of it all is almost a complete mystery even to the most attentive and hopeful of viewers.
Within that, though, there’s possibly something powerful about the experience. You wouldn’t keep watching it if you were flicking through the channels and caught a few seconds of it on SBS or World Movies, because it’s the kind of flick you have to force yourself to watch. In the process of doing so, perhaps there’s something meaningful that comes out of it.
Note that I didn’t say that something meaningful definitely comes out of it because I have no idea whether it was a worthwhile way to spend two and a half hours or not. I love film, though, so it doesn’t seem like a waste to me. And this is the purest film experience for film wankers the world over that they could ever dream of.
dir: Simon West
Yeah, well, it’s not like I was expecting Gone With the Wind…
The first flick in what appears to be this ongoing series worked for me mostly as a palette cleanser, but also because I watched it on opening day with a good buddy also steeped in the lore of 80s action movies. Plus we were drunk, which helps anything and everything.
This I watched alone, and bemused, though not pre-emptively. I went into it hoping, like I always do, for something magical.
What I got was a tired old bunch of men who aren’t really that old trading on glories so faded I barely remember what I liked about them in the first place. Look, time and age makes fools of us all, but the main attraction is meant to be "washed up action movie stars kicking ass one last time" one more time. A Once More Unto the Breach, you ancient bastards, or we’ll fill up the wall with our retirees type of deal. And it’s not really that appealing.
Does anyone really want to look at Stallone anymore, in any capacity, for any reason? Age, surgery, obscene and illegal amounts of injected Human Growth Hormone have all conspired to make his face look like a melted wax work of himself. Gods know looks aren't everything, and I am certainly no work of art myself (unless I'm something drawn by Robert Crumb or the artists who work on Adventure Time), but at this point Stallone looks like his make-up artist is actually a mortician who hasn't been told Stallone is still technically alive. Those sounds emanating from his mouth? That's just post-mortem gas escaping. Lords know it doesn't sound like human speech.
The first flick had a lot of shit blowing up, and a lot of people being shot up so badly their bodies (CGI of course) exploded into bolognese all over the place. There were twenty or so 'good' guys, a bunch of faceless bad guys, cameos by Bruce Willis and Arnie, laborious one-liner quips delivered lazily, and a killcount in the hundreds.
It’s not that hard, it pretended to be nothing more, and it delivered. I don’t think Expendables 2 delivers even on that modest level of requirement.
The opening sees a bunch of Nepalese people in an awful town acting awful to each other. Our Heroes, led by Barney (Stallone) arrive in a whole bunch of vehicles, and do their darndest to kill all these bad guys, the main one of which is callously bludgeoning some guy strapped to a chair with a bag over his veiny, Austrian head.
dir: Marc Webb
It’s getting to be like we’re watching these comic-book superhero flicks out of a sense of duty, rather than desire. Once The Dark Knight Rises opens next week, I don’t want to see a superhero flick for at least a couple of years. Surely, by this stage of the American summer, and the winter of our dissing content, we’re superheroed out for the year?
The Amazing Spider-Man surely was an exciting prospect to someone, everyone, a couple of people. A reboot of a recent series that did pretty well at the box office, of a familiar and almost kid-friendly property that’s recognisable the world over? But of course! But they didn’t want Sam Raimi at the helm, Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, and they did want it in 3D, and perhaps that’s what we wanted too, deep in our heart of hearts and pants.
People at Marvel / Fox: sure, Spider-Man 3 wasn’t that great, but our problem with it wasn’t Sam Raimi, or Tobey, really. It was the overstuffed plot, the crappy nature and number of villains and, for some people, the bit where Peter Parker becomes a strutting domestic abuser. I still liked bits of it, and I had a few laughs.
We like Raimi. We want Raimi. We need Raimi. Marc Webb, you’re probably a lovely guy, but you sir, are no Sam Raimi. You’re not even Ted Raimi.
And, as the new lead, the new head of the franchise, I’m sorry, Andrew Garfield, you’re not really right for the part. I thought you were, because I’ve liked you so much in almost everything I’ve seen you in, from The Social Network to Never Let Me Go, but you’re not aces as Peter Parker or as Spider-Man. Not a good fit, or the direction was lacking, whichever.
And Emma Stone as the love interest Gwen Stacy? You’re wonderful in lots of other films, so at least you have that to console you on those cold winter nights. That and truckloads of money. Generally, you’re able to transcend a lot of the generic stuff they give you in movies, with your natural charm and girlish ways, but this time I don’t think transcendence was an option. The material smothered everything that had the potential to be interesting, or the direction did, whichever.
The villain here, too, is a pretty uninteresting one, being The Lizard, or Curt Connors, as played by Rhys Ifans. It looks fine for the CGI fights, I guess, but he’s a pretty dull foil for Spidey, who goes from wanting to repair the physical handicap of an amputated arm through Science!, to wanting to kill everyone or turn them into mutants for no discernible entertaining reason.
dir: Tarsem Singh
If The Dictator inspired profound feelings of ‘meh’ in me, this film left me with the profound feeling of ‘yeurgh’.
Sometimes you get exactly the crap you expect you’re going to get, as with eating at KFC, or the “Dirty Bird”, as a good friend of mine calls it, when you already have plenty of experience backing up your expectations. When you buy dirty bird, you expect dirty bird, and dirty bird is what you get.
That’s not entirely true, gentle reader. I’m telling one of those things I’m told humans call a “lie”. Yes, a little white lie. In truth, even when I have the dirty bird in my grubby little hands, the grease running down my fingers, eventually to be coursing through my veins, I still expect it to be great. No matter how many times I’ve been betrayed, I still think “Maybe this time, it’ll be different.”
I did have completely unrealistic expectations regarding this film, and, as per usual, I have no idea why. And again as per usual, it hardly matters to the film makers or the rest of the world, because what I want doesn’t knock the world’s axis out of joint or pull the sun from the sky.
Nothing from the advertising for it, or the reviews, or the presence of Julia Roberts should have made me think I was getting anything other than dirty bird.
But still, but still… the human capacity for self-delusional is almost infinite, and I’m one of its most skilled practitioners.
I thought (again, I don’t know why I had this impression) there was going to be something radically new in the retelling of the story of Snow White. I don’t have any particular fixation on these fairy tales, although I have been reading a lot of them over the last five years to my daughter, and as such they play an important role in teaching her about what people used to think the status of women used to be in society: as subhumans with little of value other than beauty and, more importantly, their virginity intact so they could be traded to other families for money, property or cows.
Pretty much exactly where we are these days, except with worse shoes.
It’s a story that’s been told so often, and to great effect, I guess, that it’s more than a widely-known fairy tale, it’s an iconic story. Obviously, having been exposed to it this often, and having seen so many goddamn versions of it, I’m interested in (or desperate for) alternatives, reinterpretations, distortions, eviscerations that tell the same stories in radically different ways.
dir: Sean Durkin
A strange film. A strange, awkward film about a strange, damaged girl called Martha (Elizabeth Olsen). Well, her name is usually Martha, and then someone else anoints her as a Marcy May, and then later on, when asked her name on the phone, she calls herself Marlene, just like all the woman in her cult when they’re on the phone.
There’s your explanation of the title, if that’s what was perplexing you. It’s also the only way to remember the title itself. For months people would refer to the film or ask me if I’d seen it, and we’d both be flustering or dribbling “you seen that Marley uh Macy Grey, uh Mandlebrot movie yet?” in the struggle for a title.
I’m not sure if it’s a character study, or if it’s just an uncomfortable look at a mildly insane woman, but what it ends up being is a tedious drag. I know it’s meant to be a great film, and that it garnered a lot of praise last year for the central performance and for the creepy and oppressive atmosphere it generates, but I really, in the wash up, don’t see what the fuss was about. I'm not trying to be oppositional just for the sake of it, nor am I disliking it just because critics wanked over it.
Olsen has a very expressive face, though, for my money, she’s more reminiscent of Maggie Gyllenhaal than her evil twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley. Her performance is strong at times, and weak at others. I wasn’t sure if it was the characterisation or the character that was the most inconsistent, but I found her compelling only rarely. Quite often, the character and the actress annoyed me, and not in a way that made me sympathetic to the portrayal or the film. If readers feel that I'm being unfair, I'm all ears (or eyes, as the case would be on the internets), and I am looking forward to someone putting forward the case that it's actually great, for this and this and this reason. Good luck, by the way.
dir: Jennifer Westfeldt
Look, those of you who don’t have kids and who have friends with kids: I know that those of us with them can be pretty annoying, but you don’t have to try to punish us by making films about it. Honestly, most of us aren’t that horrible. Some of us are, but not most, I hope.
Some friends who have kids, sure, are worse than fifty Hitlers, and are completely self-obsessed and self-focussed, and are constantly telling you how little they’re sleeping and how hard they’re doing it, and what saints they goddamn are for doing something no-one forced them to do and that billions of other people seemed to have managed without turning it into such a goddamn saga, but that’s not the fault of the kids.
Let’s be honest, they were probably annoying fuckers to begin with. As a wise man once said: Look into your hearts. You know it to be true.
This flick might have arisen from the simple observation of some people, being Jennifer Westfeldt, that some of her friends became arseholes when they became parents. Maybe it wasn’t a general observation, maybe it was a specific one, maybe Jennifer and her husband’s friends did all turn into horrible, sniping, perpetually angry arseholes. Maybe they’re exaggerating a little bit to justify making a movie about it. Perhaps some viewers will see some similarities between these gorgons and zombies onscreen and their own friends; perhaps it will resonate with millions of angry, dejected people who mourn the loss of their friendships with Friends who now have Kids.
At the very least I would hope that a fair number of viewers would see this flick, if they bother to, and think, “Goddamn, your friends, Jennifer, totally suck, because my friends, on the other hand, seem to do okay as parents, didn’t transform like werewolves once their kids dropped out of their fecund wombs, don’t pressure me/us horribly on a daily basis to breed as well, and still retain some of the qualities I enjoyed about them before they became ‘dreaded’ parents.”
I hope that holds true for some people, because if this flick is any accurate portrayal of what everyone everywhere is like (it isn’t), then we parents have a lot to answer for, possibly at the Hague in front of a war crimes tribunal.
People certainly can become a bit boring once they become parents, but that hardly justifies a whole romantic comedy about it. Romantic comedies, like the death penalty, should only be used in the most extreme and untenable of circumstances. Anything less than that, and you risk throwing the whole moral structure of human civilisation out of whack.
dir: Phyllida Lloyd
Damn, that Maggie, she was a bit of a saucy tyrant, eh? Sorry, that’s Baroness Thatcher to the likes of you and me, fellow bloody peasants.
It’s still a freaky occurrence that Maggie, or any woman for that matter, rose to power to lead the Tory party to successive victories at Britain’s polls, and was, for various reasons, one of the most powerful persons in the world, let alone powerful women. For various reasons, the leadership of Golda Meir, or Indira Ghandi or any other women who’ve risen to (elected) power is more explainable than Maggie’s seizure of the reins.
Those driving forces, personal and societal, will remain a sweet mystery for you, perhaps even becoming more mysterious for you, after having watched this flick, because it never comes close to giving us an inkling of how or why any of it happened.
That’s not entirely fair. Maggie, as portrayed here, is possessed of implacable ambition and an iron will. She’s also highly intelligent, and deeply committed to her father’s conservative views about the wonderfulness of hard-working middle-class people, and the worthlessness of the lower orders of society.
Scratch that, I just remembered that Thatcher once famously said that there was no such thing as society. So there’s no society to speak of. However, if such a thing actually existed, then Maggie would be against it, not for it.
Meryl Streep won the Academy Award for this role, and it’s hard to argue that it’s not a great performance. It is. It truly is. Her rendering, her recreation of the woman is nothing short of frightening. She imbues her with far more than just a competent impression would. She summons up this horrible / admirable creature from the abyss for all of us to behold, in all her ignominious glory.
Wait, what? Maggie’s not dead yet? I know that, I’m just saying that the Maggie Meryl summons for us is from a time when Maggie was still lucid, and fearsome. She is neither now, having long ago fallen down the dementia rabbit hole, possibly some time in the 1980s. I kid, I kid, she’s great, she’s all right.
dir: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
A fourth Underworld flick? Who clamoured for that? The first three didn’t bring enough shiteness into the world?
In writing this review, I'm probably going to reveal slightly more about myself than I should. Any long time reader would have to know already, considering the sheer quantity of reviews contained herein, that I'm both compulsive and not that bright. To see the Self-Prosecution’s Exhibit A of damning evidence of this, I present to you this shameful admission: I've watched all of the Underworld vampire/werewolf flicks in the cinema.
Why? Not as in, why am I admitting this, since I'm obviously doing so because I think it's got some mysterious relevance to the flick being reviewed right here. Why have I watched all of these flicks in the cinema, despite the fact that the first one was terrible and deeply leotarded to a degree previously unfathomed, and the others haven't been much better? Why, since I can't stand Kate Beckinsale, and think she's the acting equivalent of a tranquilizer smeared all over beige wallpaper? Why, when too many stupid vampire/werewolf movies and series have permanently poisoned the well, to the point where the whole genre should be off-limits for me?
I dunno. I just don't know. I'm just compulsive about some things, and I have no excuse. Maybe not watching them is impossible, conflicting as it does with my obvious obssessive/compulsive disorder. Or maybe I'm just a bigger fuckhead than I previously ever dreamed. Either way, it reflects poorly upon me, for which I wish I could blame Society. That's it, Society is to blame, not me. Or maybe drinking, who knows
I remember the first Underworld flick, which, apart from having a convoluted and interminable plot, cheap approximations of effects pioneered by The Matrix, and a central performance contributed by a mannequin with scoliosis called Kate Beckinsale, was not something I enjoyed. At all. On any level. It was too boring to be appreciated on a 'so-bad-it's-good' level, and too teeth-grindingly acted to be any kind of guilty pleasure.
dir: Shawn Levy
It’s Robot Rocky. Anyone telling you anything different is a liar, and you can call them a liar to their face. Tell ‘em I said it was okay.
This might have shiny robots in it, or at least CGI approximations thereof, but in all honesty this entire flick is constructed as if by robots in a factory, except instead of using metal alloys and circuits, they’re using clichés so old Sylvester Stallone is tempted to run up and rub human growth hormone all over them because they’re so aged and creaky.
Into this technological whorehouse of gimcrackery they insert the compelling and obnoxious presence of Hugh Jackman playing a former boxer who ekes out a living having his robot beat up cows at county fairs.
I’m not making this up. In the first few minutes of this illustrious flick, Charlie is rudely awakened by children, finishes off a beer, then comes off worse during an argument with them. It doesn’t bode well for his skills as a smooth operator.
A former opponent in the ring (Kevin Durand), with a pretty poor Texan yeehaw! accent, despite or because of being a Canadian from Thunder Bay, goads Charlie into a bet: Charlie’s robot Ambush versus the shitkicker’s two thousand pound bull.
The taking of the bet isn’t seen really as the problem. From the outset, we can see that Charlie, despite being played by Australia’s Own Hugh Jackman, a handsome and intelligent man at the best and worst of times, is deeply, deeply stupid. Perhaps even borderline retarded. Maybe he took one too many punches to the brain meats way back in the day. It happens. I watched a documentary the other day about The Thriller in Manila, being the legendary title fight between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali back in the 70s, and after seeing the damage Frazier doled out, we are told at doco’s end by one of Frazier’s family that Smoking Joe’s voicemail message to this day included a remark about how he was the one that gave Ali Parkinson’s Disease during that very match. Yeah, I know Joe's dead, but that message of eternal meanness will last forever. Yes, it’s charming, but watching the match, it’s hard to disagree with his boast. People aren’t meant to have other people punch them hard in the brain continuously. It doesn’t improve anything in the human organism at all, and you don't have to be someone with a million dollar MRI scanner to figure that out.
dir: Miranda July
Do you ever wonder if you’re really as intelligent as you think/hope you are?
I mean, no-one really thinks they’re as dumb as they actually are, hence the essence of dumbness, but, for me, watching a flick like this, called The Future, it makes me think I’m nowhere near as bright as I think I am.
Miranda July is a performance artist, writer, director and probably cobbler in her spare time as well. Film is just another installation / exhibition to her, perhaps. I watched her first film Me, You and Everyone We Know, and enjoyed it as much as these kinds of flicks can be enjoyed. And I read her collection of short stories called No-one Belongs Here More Than You.
None of this has given me a window into her thinking, apart from knowing she’s a very odd person. And that’s cool. I’ve been watching a lot of formulaic Hollywood pap lately, and it’s good to have a cleanse now and then. This flick The Future couldn’t be more different from formulaic pap.
By the same token, that doesn’t mean I entirely get it, or that I enjoyed it that much.
The Future doesn’t seem so much to be about the future itself, but about paralysis in the present in contemplation of the ineffable ‘future’. As in, our protagonists, Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), do some weird shit because of the ever-looming ‘future’. The future is embodied by a wounded cat they have picked up and taken to an animal shelter, with a damaged leg that needs a month to heal before they can bring him home. The cat patiently waits for them, and they re-examine their lives in respect to this oncoming responsibility.
Of course, since this involves Miranda July, the film plays out in ways which only David Lynch, or possibly schizophrenics could predict, or figure out. She is obsessed with recording videos of herself dancing, but whenever she’s supposed to start dancing, she gets distracted by whatever is in the room, or by her bangs, or by anything, really. She freezes. The looming prospect of The Future, in case it wasn’t obvious, causes her, at least momentarily, to be trapped within the ‘to be or not to be’ dilemma made famous by some Danish prince in a play a while back.
dir: Rob Marshall
When Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1,000,000 to star in Cleopatra back in ’64, it was considered both a record and a travesty. When man mountain Marlon Brando was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of profits for a few minutes of screen time in Superman, it was considered a fiasco and a symbol of how the days of Hollywood were numbered, seeing as it was starting to resemble the last days of Rome.
In the present day, Johnny Depp gets paid $55 million dollars to appear in another Pirates of the Caribbean flick, and it’s no big deal. Business as usual. Whatever.
And why? Well, surely it’s because these are the most beloved flicks of all time, and Depp, for playing the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, deserves every bloody well-earned penny? Surely?
Isn’t it a bit obscene, though? I don’t want to come across all ‘Workers Unite!’ and like some retrograde commie-pinko wanker, but is there really anything in this world that justifies getting paid that much? For that amount of money you’d think he was getting paid to sexually service, to the point of guaranteed happy ending, every person who steps into the theatre, anywhere in the world, any way they want.
The only calculation that justifies paying anyone that unholy amount of cash is the fairly basic economic one of ROI (Return on Investment). In the wash up, when it’s shown that it cost $55 million to keep Depp on board, $200 mil or so to make the goddamn flick, and it made over 1 billion dollars at the box office, you’ve achieved the pinnacle of capitalism at its finest. If they’d paid Depp some LeBron James – David Beckham style payday of $400 million for a few month’s work, Disney would still be way, way ahead in the scheme of things, and laughing all the way to the organ bank.
It’s fascinating. At least, these issues or questions are fascinating to me. Probably not to you, or to any other sane person with time to be apportioned and enjoyed in the most productive manner possible. At the very least, it’s more interesting thinking about these issues than it is thinking about this flick.
I have watched this flick, that’s true. Watching a flick usually means I feel entitled and qualified to review it thenceforth, having paid the due required. Again, that’s debateable. But I can’t really tell you much about it. There’s not much there there.
Oh, there’s certainly a lot of colour, movement, actors, special effects, rum drinking, music and ye olde ships and cannon-fire. Oh, and there’s lots of Captain Jack flouncing about. And there’s a plot, I guess.
dir: Scott Stewart
Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick…
Pity poor Paul Bettany. No, really. He’s a decent actor, he’s achieved the Mt Everest of personal achievements by having had sex several times with Jennifer Connolly, and even married her, and had kids with her. He’s handsome, he’s charming, but he can’t get a decent break as an actor.
The most successful films he’s been in are ones in which he doesn’t physically appear (he does some computer voice in the Iron Man films), and in The DaVinci Code he played a self-flagellating albino nun-raping assassin. Have fun telling your mum about that role.
Almost everything else he’s done has been shit. No, that not fair, he was a splendid Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but other than that, it’s all terrible crap.
To whit, he somehow was one of the few people who saw that terrible film Legion that came out a couple of years ago and thought “Wow, I should work with that terrible director again!”
And he did, because, on some level, Legion must not have been one of the dumbest and worst flicks he’s ever seen or been in. Sure as shit it’s one of the worst flicks from 2010 that I saw, so one of us is clearly wrong.
Then again, what the fuck do I know? He gets to bang Jennifer Connolly, and I get to bitch about his poor script choices splayed out over the tubes of the internets, where worthless opinions go to die.
It’s inexplicable to me that he chose this script. He must really like Scott Stewart, because working again with him again sounds like a form of punishment more than a chance to make some movie magic. The fact that Priest is marginally better than Legion is not much of a recommendation.
dir: Edward Zwick
It tries, oh it tries. Yes, I know it’s an old flick. I feel the obligation to review it all the same.
Why? Well, it’s not very clear to me either, but maybe I’ll stumble over a few reasons as we go along.
Love and Other Drugs sets itself firmly in the 1990s by opening to a montage set to the rocking tones of Two Princes, that fucking wretched song by no-hit-wonders The Spin Doctors. That song alone already put me in a bad mood as the flick began.
This is, somewhat perversely, based on someone’s actual life and experiences. Jaime Reidy, an actual human, apparently, worked in the pharmaceutical industry and experienced many of the experiences such an individual has to have in order to need a yuppie redemption story to be made about them.
Human history, for those either working in the drug industry, who suffer from erectile dysfunction or who are trying to have sex with someone with erectile dysfunction, is divided sharply into BV and AV: Before Viagra and After Viagra. This flick follows suit, because clearly nothing in human history has ever been as important as that single invention.
Yeah, Fuck You, Galileo, Edison, Einstein, Tesla, Newton, Curie, Franklin, Wilkins, Watson, Crick and Hawking! What have any of you achieved compared to the magnificence of a four-hour erection? Your collective discoveries amount to Nothing. Less than Nothing!
You’d think a flick focussed on the somewhat unethical practice of trying to bribe doctors into prescribing your company’s drugs even if their patients don’t really need them or want them, would be scathing in its ripping the shit out of them for doing so. But this flick isn’t trying to piss off drug giants like Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline or any of the other billion-dollar behemoths. It’s just, like, bringing it up, for, like, shits and giggles.
dir: Justin Lin
Wow, five movies in, this series must have some serious foundations to it. It must have deep and complex dramatic character trajectories, resonant symbolism and references extending back over the collective 10 hours or so of Fast and the Furious mythology that audiences have come to crave and demand. People don’t just want Fast Furious flicks, they’re threatening to overthrow the Empire if they don’t get their Fast Furious fix every few years.
Or maybe, just like any bad thing that keeps coming back like a brain craving zombie, they just keep coming back because they are tremendously, inexplicably liked by audiences and they want to eat our delicious brains.
I can’t really say whether this is a good Fast Furious flick, better than the others, or worse. I’ve seen them all but can recall very little about any of their plots or what the point of any of it was apart from having people race cars very fast and yell at each other loudly in moments where men in love with each other can’t express their emotions in positive ways, so they bump each other’s chests and threaten each other.
What I can say is that this is as thoroughly goofy as the other flicks (though perhaps not as completely retarded as the third one set in Tokyo for no discernible reason), does not use earth logic or earth physics, and really is so flat out unbelievable that it’s the very essence of a summer flick (America’s summer season, which has just started, hence all the big budget brain dead releases).
And yes, I should have been able to get on board and enjoy it for what it is, but it’s just too fucking stupid for words a lot of the time, and I don’t work like that. For me to accept something as silly as this it has to be fun as well, and there’s precious little fun in something that chugs along so mechanically.
dir: Jason Eisener
We see a lot of films that were filmed in Canada. It’s cheaper for nearly every single goddamn American tv series and movie to be filmed there. We don’t see that many Canadian films, though. They’re rare. Rare as teeth in Saskatoon.
What are even rarer are Canadian films from Halifax, Nova Scotia. When was the last time you heard of a flick filmed in Halifax or Dartmouth?
Never, that’s when. And from the looks of this film, there’s a very good reason for it.
At first I thought the setting of the flick was some post-apocalyptic wasteland. Then I realised that that’s what Halifax must look like all the time.
In the flick it’s called Hope Town, but, in a stunning example of irony, there’s barely any hope at all for the good citizens of Hope Town. Ruled as they are by a strange man who calls himself The Drake who seems not to do much apart from kill people randomly in the streets, their town has degenerated into an ugly cesspool. Or, alternatively, it is raising itself up to the status of an ugly cesspool.
He has two annoying sons called Slick and Ivan, actors so bad I refuse to look their names up, who yell every line of dialogue they have, and who also kill random people in the street. The police, for reasons never really explained, not only turn a blind eye to the excesses of these morons, they actively help them in their endeavours, because, I guess, they’re deranged morons as well.
One of the sons kills a busload of children with a flamethrower, which, somehow, is used as a pretext to inspire the citizens of Hope Town to rise up and kill the homeless in their fair city.
Does it sound far-fetched to you? It’s supposed to, since it’s called Hobo with a Shotgun, and stars Rutger Hauer as the Hobo with said shotgun.
He stumbles into town, bleary eyed on hobo wine, not wanting anything more than a lawnmower. It’s not a lot to ask, is it, even in Halifax? I mean, sure, there doesn’t seem to be a single blade of grass in the entire blasted landscape, but we’re meant to understand the Hobo’s yearning for a 1950s picket fence and normalcy, something he clearly has never had. Or had, and then lost when he hit the road.
dir: Dominic Sena
There used to be, in my arsenal of movie reviewing weapons, a basic metric for assessing generally the likely worth or shiteness of a flick Nicolas Cage was in. This basic metric came down to this: The shittier the hairpiece or wig, the shittier the performance and the crappier the overall film.
Of course, past a certain age, every flick Cage was in ‘required’ the usage of skilled hairpiece technicians, teams of them, working around the clock, and separating Cage’s crappier performances from his decent performances proved a mission impossible in its scope and objective.
As such, his every flick has a hairpiece now, and most, if not all, are terrible in new ways previously unimagined by the hackiest of Hollywood hacks.
And yet, and yet, he still occasionally puts in semi-decent (but still completely lunatic) performances in semi-decent (but ludicrous) flicks. I’m not thinking of Adaptation, the Kaufman / Spike Jonz flick, which was a class act all around, but of more recent fare like the very strange Bad Lieutenant remake.
Of course, for each Bad Lieutenant, considering how prolific the guy is, there’s dozens of Ghost Riders, National Treasures, Sorceror’s Apprentices and every other permutation and combination of wretchedness and villainy you can sorrowfully imagine.
Season of the Witch is a very strange film, only in that despite being set in ye olden times, and having, as its premise, Cage playing a world-weary Crusader tired of slaughtering innocents and infidels alike for Mother Church, and witches and demons and stuff, it’s a fairly mundane flick. It’s strange that Nicolas Cage is in it, I mean.
dir: Joseph Kosinski
Great looking film, seriously. It looks amazing. I loved every visual second of this phantasmagorical virtual shiny neon action science fiction apotheosis of computer programming.
It’s true. I play a lot of video games, I’ve watched a lot of movies, and this is a pinnacle of visual entertainment.
Oh, wait a second, I have to qualify something a bit further. I loved every single centimetre of visual real estate that didn’t involve humans or people talking.
Really, visually and aurally, thanks to an amazing soundtrack / score by Daft Punk, who have a curious cameo in full costume, so it could have been two Banksies instead for all I know, it’s amazing. But when the humans intruded, what with their annoying heads and flapping gums. The problem is when they start talking. And continue talking.
Even worse, when people say deeply stupid shit like “now that’s what I’m talking about” in a flick that probably cost a billion dollars to put together, it makes me wonder whether the studio is taking a diarrhoeic dump, wrapping it up in nanotechnological silk scarves and then singing “Happy Birthday” to me as it hands it over, expecting me to not only pay for it, but to be grateful about it as well.
The main character in this is truly terrible. I’ve never seen Garret Hedlund in anything before, and I’ll probably avoid him in future, but I really don’t have enough experience of him as a person or as an actor to know whether he’s genuinely terrible, or as bad as the material forced him to be. Because, truth be told, no actor, including The Dude, comes out of this with anything other than what should be profound embarrassment.
The Dude, being Jeff Bridges, has two roles in this flick. Seriously, he plays two characters. It makes some sense that Jeff Bridges is here, since he was in the original Tron, and he reprises the role of Kevin Flynn, the earlier movie’s human hero. The other role he plays is as the evil Clu, who, despite looking like he has a face full of putty and botox (digitally created), is more believable, better acted and has more believable motivations than the human character Jeff Bridges plays.
dir: Noah Baumbach
Officially the most depressing flick of the year. Worse than a twenty-hour Holocaust documentary. Worse than a dramatic indie flick chronicling the breakdown of a marriage in excruciating detail. Worse than a live action film where the main character is a computer animated dog.
It always gets me when the people designing the posters for films do this, whereupon they put the name of the ‘star’ at the top linking it directly to the main character of the flick they’re obviously in. When they were making those Bourne Identity et al flicks, the posters, which featured a big muscly pic of Matt Damon, often came standard with the phrase “Matt Damon IS Jason Bourne!” as if there were any lingering doubts in the confused populace.
Of course the confusion arises because Matt Damon isn’t Jason Bourne, a fictional character, he’s the actor and soft drink salesman Matt Damon, surprisingly enough.
So when the posters for this dirge of a flick has the same type of phrase, as in “Ben Stiller IS Greenberg”, I don’t have the same pedantic reaction. What I actually think in this instance is that if Ben Stiller actually was this Greenberg person, someone should murder him in his sleep.
Greenberg, as in the sort-of main character in this flick, is like the worst person I’ve ever seen in a movie. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter comes across as more pleasant and avuncular. The various versions of Hitler on film come across as less repellent and self-absorbed. Richard Milhous Nixon in the Oliver Stone flick screaming obscenities about Kennedy, blacks and Jews is nicer and cuddlier than this monster Greenberg.
dir: Mike Newell
For me there’s an element of watching your kid performing onstage during the Christmas pageant or something similar, in terms of watching this flick. I mean it in the sense that I’m going to be more forgiving in my expectations, and that I’m actively going to like something that others will grind their teeth through.
My fandom for the whole Prince of Persia enterprise goes far back enough that I was but knee-high to a grasshopper; an ancient Persian grasshopper on some grass stalks in the ye old deserts of another time and age.
Yes, I’m talking about the computer games, the many games that have come out with a highly limber and acrobatic protagonist who leaps about defying gravity and fighting bad guys with his scimitar. I’ve played all of them, from the Apple IIe version, through to the Commodore 64 version, and the three million or so versions on PC. I even played the last one, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which proved, to me at least, that I’ll practically buy anything with those fated words scrawled across the cover in fancy script. If they bring out a desert topping and floor cleaner called Prince of Persia, I’ll probably end up buying that too.
I wasn’t too ecstatic when I heard they were going to make a film version, because I thought the likelihood would be that it would suck. That’s not just because of the longstanding prejudice against game adaptations, which claims that they always suck. But, let’s face it, most flicks suck, so the likelihood would be high regardless of where it originated from.
So while I was happy for Jordan Mechner to get a hefty payday (the original creator of the ‘property’, as they call it), I didn’t think I’d have even moderate expectations going in. In reality, I love the setting and the character so much (regardless of its half dozen incarnations) that I was always going to be too eager.
Naturally, even if I try to apologise for it through gritted teeth, or try to convince you that my kids singing a terrible Christmas carol aren’t tone deaf, you’re going to see through it. So I’ll be honest about it: it’s not a good flick.
dir: Paul Greengrass
Mocking things is easy. Real easy.
It’s also lazy. The easiest and laziest goddamn thing any reviewer had to say about this flick was that, given the participation of the director, shaky-cam cinematographer and lead actor, it’s essentially a Bourne flick without the Jason Bourne character.
These reviews just write themselves, don’t they?
It’s not an insult that carried a lot of weight, because this was in truth more of a fictionalised rendering of actual events, being the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the lies, damned lies and statistics used as the casus belli, or justification for the war itself.
The problem is that a) what they’re referring to, with such seriousness, no-one really gives a fuck about any more, and b) it’s attached to a plot so implausible and uninteresting that I’m not sure if it really justifies its existence independent of the premise.
dir: Teddy Chen
Sometimes, movies, and indeed film reviews, ask a lot of you. They demand that you know a little bit about something in order for you to either give a fuck about what you’re watching / reading, or that you have some idea of what’s going on in order for it to make some sense.
What I’m talking about, in this instance, is not a knowledge of relevant history, contemporary or ancient. Nor is it a demand for understanding of the incredible history of one of the longest continuous civilisations on the planet, being the Chinese.
No, what is demanded in this context is a deep/superficial knowledge of just how much the Chinese, and Hong Kong, film industries, desperately need to pacify and placate their Communist / Totalitarian / Capitalist masters by popping out propagandistic swill occasionally.
You yourself might have heard about the real life person called Dr Sun Yat-Sen, who sought to unify China and cast off the shackles of their Manchu masters, but it’s even more relevant to know why a flick such as this depends on knowing that: Sun Yat-Sen was one of those initially ‘unpersonned’ persons, to use the Orwellian phrase, that the Communists initially reviled as a tool of foreign backsliding imperialism, but then reclaimed. It’s even more illuminating to realise that the fucker has fuck all to do with this flick, except for some crucial lines delivered by an eerily waxwork replica of the man.
Also, this quite average flick swept the awards this year at the Hong Kong Film Awards, which are, I guess, the equivalent not of their Oscars, but of both the Logies / Golden Globes and a critical reward for directors, actors and producers who, at all times, never piss off the ancient old monsters of the Party back on the Mainland.
Bodyguards and Assassins bears nearly no relation to anything that ever happened. Not only that, it’s a ludicrously overblown, and, it has to be said, quite stupid work-up of what might have happened over the course of three days in Hong Kong back in 1906. It bears little relation to anything remotely close to truthiness.
dir: James McTeigue
Wow. I haven’t seen a flick with as many meaty chunks flying around since the last time I took a trip to a slaughterhouse, or perhaps Easter Sunday lunch at my parent’s place. There’s substantially less mooing going on here, but all the same, the majority of the people who appear onscreen are here only to end up as chunks of meat on the floor for our entertainment.
That is what we are, after all. Maybe there’s something depressing about seeing visual (and entirely computer generated) representations of the essential meatiness of our bodies. Rendered down into our component parts, everything we were and ever will be, annihilated like that, well, it’s pretty confronting.
At least for a while. This decidedly substandard action movie opens with a bunch of yakuza thugs exploding into discrete piles o’chunks, at the hands, blades and shurikens of unseen, shadowy assassins. In other words, there must be murderous ninjas afoot!
The heyday of the ninja flick was definitely the 80s. At no other time has there been as much of a market for the endless permutations of the magically murderous character, which is why we had, for an all too brief, halcyon period, a stream of ninja related action flicks. For reasons I haven’t expended and won’t expend brain power on, the ninja sub-genre appealed to American audiences, leading to this procession of flicks starring obviously non-Japanese people as experts in ninjitsu, and the art of assassination and deception. Not for nothing did men like Franco Nero and Michael Dudikoff become household names.
What do you mean, they didn’t? Surely almost everyone in Christendom and Buddhisdom, for that matter, watched everything from Enter the Ninja to Silent Assassin to American Ninja 5: The Re-ninja-ing? They didn’t? Well, what were they busy doing, building treehouses, setting off bottle rockets or building crystal meth labs instead?