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5 stars

Fracture

dir: Gregory Hoblit
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I went in expecting one thing; what I got was completely different.

I was expecting a movie that would be passably entertaining. What I got was a lazy court room / legal drama that was marginally less interesting than the average episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Ah, Angela Lansbury. They just poured her into that old biddy outfit.

Godsdamnit, that’s going to replace the ninjas in my nightmares. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Murder, She Wrote, or Diagnosis: Murder or Matlock, but they do serve a purpose: a light confection designed to present a puzzle and solve it just after the last ad break, with everything tied up in a neat little package.

Personally, I was always a bit more of a Columbo fan. Watching Peter Falk and his glass eye shuffle around and causing the murderer to go berserk with ever-escalating levels of frustration was a joy to behold. By the time they’d get to the end of the episode, you knew Columbo knew the bugger or buggette was guilty right from the start: he just needed enough time to figure it out for himself, or to wait for the guilty sod to trip him or herself up.

Rating:

Primeval

dir: Michael Katleman
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How do you solve a problem like Maria? On that same tack, how do you fuck up a cheap movie about a giant crocodile chomping on people and making their heads pop like grapes? Ask these shmucks.

It should be impossible to stuff something like that up. Just deliver what you say you’re going to deliver, and the audience should take care of itself, as it lolls about stuffing its gaping maw with candy and popcorn as if to mimic the CGI reptile on the screen.

For a reason I cannot work out, they refer to the crocodile, Gustav, as a serial killer. It’s just a crocodile, it’s not Hannibal Lecter. Although maybe this should have been the next Lecter film instead of Hannibal Rising: whilst on safari, Sir Anthony Hopkins takes some time out from eating some of the local cannibals to strike up a romance with a sexy, slinky lady croc. After a few wines, and to the sweet background sound of the buzzing of millions of tsetse flies, they consummate their relationship on the banks of the Mfulakwe river. A year later, a brilliant, sociopathic young crocodile starts targeting rude tourists and ripping out their organs whilst expounding on the virtues of 14th century Alexandrine poetry.

Rating:

Turistas

dir: John Stockwell
[img_assist|nid=798|title=Come to Brazil: You'll lose your heart. And probably your kidneys too.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=259]
Bunch of backpackers go to Brazil. Evil locals catch them and harvest some of their organs. The other tourists try to escape.

The end. Is there really a need for any further review? Unfortunately for you, I can’t help myself, so yes, there are acres and acres of more review to plough through.

I can’t really explain how this flick is different from, say, Wolf Creek or any other flick where a bunch of clueless white people are preyed upon by evil dark-skinned locals. I guess the Brazilian setting is different. The motivation of the villains is slightly different. Having Melissa George play an Australian is a bit of a stretch as well.

All up it’s still super generic in its genericness. It’s no better than the movies it copies, but it’s not significantly worse either. It’s reasonably well done for a flick of its type.

I didn’t hate it, and there was at least one sequence that was genuinely tense and scary, which is one more than most horror flicks seem to manage these days.

Who the actors are, and why their characters are in Brazil is irrelevant. You don’t care, the director doesn’t care: they’re there alternately to die, or run and then die, or if they’re lucky and attractive, survive.

Rating:

Day Watch (Dvevnoy Dozor)

dir: Timur Bekmambetov
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It’s rare than the sequel to an almost intolerable film can be watchable. I’m not talking about times where the sequel is better or still pretty good (Alien/Aliens, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, Rocky/8 Mile) than the original.

I hated, hated, hated the first flick in this series, being Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor), based on the popular novel by Sergei Lukyanenko. I thought it gave the world a barely coherent fantasy flick the likes of which the world didn’t really need. And a set of ridiculous characters with no believability even in a fantasy context and no recognisable motivations for any of the inane things they would do. It had a plot so lame in its qualities and so crappy in its realisation that the ghost of Sergei Eisentein can be seen at some points in the background shaking his head in disgust.

And the lead ‘star’! Anton (Konstantin Khobanksy) would either be or seem drunk throughout the entire goddamn flick without any explanation as to what the hell he was doing. He made less sense and seemed more sozzled than recently departed ‘statesman’ and former Premier Boris Yeltsin. Long may he remain fermented in Hell.

Rating:

Snakes on a Plane

dir: David R. Ellis
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Of all the flicks that came out in 2006, this was by far the most pointless. That’s not the same as saying it was the worst. There were far worse films in that and every other year. It’s just that few of them managed to be this superfluous.

Do you ever think about how some films get made, or why, which is probably more relevant? In the main it’s easy to assume that the reason why any film gets made is for the money. Movie-making is a money-making enterprise; that goes without saying, which seems redundant since I just said it. But why the producers and studios decided to try to make money out of Snakes On a Plane is a mystery that only P.T. Barnum could explain to me.

I can’t figure out anything on that score past someone trying to profit from underestimating the stupidity of the movie-going public.

I mean, look at the title. Snakes on a Plane. What do you think the flick is about? Strawberry harvesters in the hilly regions of Provence just before WWII? A geisha’s coming of age during the Tokugawa Shogunate? Crop circles in Nebraska; the impact of divorce on a middle class Midwestern family; someone finding redemption by singing duets with benevolent green aliens found hiding in one’s underwear?

Rating:

Marie Antoinette

dir: Sofia Coppola
[img_assist|nid=842|title=You're all class, Marie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=275]
It’s not often that a film gets more press and probably more viewers because it was booed at the most recent Cannes film festival. People who were eagerly awaiting the next Sofia Coppola film after the success of Lost in Translation were momentarily taken aback by the news of the audience reaction to a film that became notorious overnight as one of the biggest and most redolent cinematic turds of recent memory.

Having just watched Marie Antoinette, I have to wonder what flavour and quality of crack the audience members who acted like boorish slobs were smoking. The film isn’t brilliant, but it is hardly a cinematic atrocity that deserves people booing the flick when the director is sitting in the audience. That’s just rude, even if that same director was also one of the main reasons why people hate Godfather III to this day.

I saw a film with a novel premise: that Marie Antoinette was the Paris Hilton / celebutante of her days and age who lived a decadent life oblivious to the societal circumstances outside until it was way too late. And whilst watching it was a profoundly banal experience, akin to eating a kilo of fairy floss at a carnival, it doesn’t make me want to burn down theatres or effigies of the director.

Rating:

Miami Vice

dir: Michael Mann
[img_assist|nid=849|title=These guys were so much cooler|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=335|height=425]
The world was crying out for a film version of Miami Vice the way that the world was crying out for a remake of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Mind Your Language or Filthy, Rich and Catflap. Yet, here it is, and here we are again, staring down the barrel of yet another review for a film that really shouldn’t exist.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Michael Mann is a wonderful director, and the film is competently and professionally well made. But it just doesn’t matter. I’ve had more heated experiences chatting to tombstones at the Carlton cemetery in a drunken stupor. Me, not the tombstones, though they were probably stoned (insert canned laughter here).

Some reviewers have had the temerity to say the film has nothing to do with the original series. I can only guess that these reviewers never watched that pastel and neon suffused series, and don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Apart from the grainy cinematography, this could virtually be a two hour version of a Miami Vice episode. The script for the film is lifted from an early first season episode. The only major difference is that there is plenty more swearing, violence and fucking than they ever could have shown on the telly.

Sweet, tender fucking. Not actual fucking of course. But, you know, it’s something different.

Rating:

Babel

dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu
[img_assist|nid=855|title=Staring at this biblical picture is more edifying that watching this movie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=284|height=300]
The biblical tale about the Tower of Babel concerns the myth explaining why so many different languages are spoken around the globe. Back when the story is supposedly set, everyone spoke the same language, which was presumably Aramaic spoken with a Brooklyn accent.

All these people communicated with each other perfectly, and considering how wonderful such perfect communication helped them in their endeavours, they decided to embark upon a great project.

The plan was to build a building tall enough to get to Heaven, in order to hang out with God. So they started building upwards with the intention of getting to the Promised Land without having to go through all the trouble of living right and dying well.

God saw the way in which the project was proceeding, and grew irritated both with their plans to invade his crib, and with the effectiveness with which they worked together in this pre-email, pre-weekly meeting age.

So he confounded them by giving them all different languages, and from thence did the Lord scatter them upon the face of the Earth.

Rating:

Fast Food Nation

dir: Richard Linklater
[img_assist|nid=874|title=Eat death, Ronnie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=332|height=500]
It hurts to say it, but Fast Food Nation is not a good movie. At its best, it is depressing, and at its worst it is glib and superficial. Which is a real shame, because it is about a very important subject.

Eric Schlosser wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine back in the 90s. It was an expose on the American fast food industry, covering everything from the unhealthy quality of the food, to America’s obsession with the stuff, to the exploitation of migrant and teenage labour and the marketing of products to the most vulnerable consumers: children. It was expanded into a book, which exists as a scathing indictment of a system that allows consumers to be exposed to such crap, literally, because it’s economical, it’s everywhere and people are lazy.

You would wonder how or why someone would decide to make a movie out of the book, as opposed to a documentary, but the advantages are pretty obvious. More people are likely to see a movie at the cinema than they are going to be inspired to pay money to watch a documentary. It’s simple economics. Plus, using characters to represent the various issues tackled by the book personalises its themes, and makes it more identifiable for audiences. Watching something bad happening to a character is more confronting than having someone talk about something bad happening.

Rating:

Syriana

dir: Stephen Gaghan
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What do you look for in films? Is it diversion, or distraction; to forget for 90 to 120 minutes about the mundane obligations and constant petty outrages that modern life deals out to you on a daily basis? Is it to laugh, to cry, to get a tingle in your ‘naughty’ places from the on-screen antics of these surrogate selves cavorting on the silvery screen?

Is it to learn about the world, as seen through the eyes of the filmmakers, to be challenged and provoked, or to have your worldview confirmed and reinforced?

Regardless, whatever your reasons for darkening the cinema’s already darkened doorstep, I kind of doubt Syriana is going to provide any of that sweet, sweet satisfaction previously alluded to.

Syriana is one of those serious, serious films, like Traffic before it, which Gaghan also scripted, that believes it’s telling you something you don’t already know. It’s like the friend that points out stuff that’s already fairly self-evident to anyone in possession of at least four senses, saying stuff like “Gee, isn’t it hot today?” on a painfully scorching day. Or “Damn, having that limb amputated must have really sucked.”

Rating:

Kingdom of Heaven

dir: Ridley Scott
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Finally, Hollywood has caught up with mobile phone technology. Now we are privy to the birth of a new age. The typewriter is dead. The clunky desktop computer is for squares and losers. Give us movies like Kingdom of Heaven. We're ready, and we're gagging for it. Just look at the way we're dressed.

Now we can watch films whose entire dialogue was compiled between two or more people sending each other text messages on their mobiles. How else does one explain the fact that no-one says more than ten words in any given sentence in this film? It's surreal. Even people in the Australian outback have longer conversations than this, laconic as they're supposed to be.

Nothing better represents this new risk-aversion to too much dialogue than Orlando Bloom's heartening equivalent of the St Crispin's Day speech from Henry the V, where he ends up yelling at the defenders of Jerusalem to "Come On! Come On!" to get them fired up. Um, isn't that what tennis player and Mensa candidate Lleyton Hewitt does to fire himself up during matches? Shakespeare, Kenneth Brannagh and Helena Bonham Carter should be rolling in their graves.

Rating:

Constantine

dir: Francis Lawrence
[img_assist|nid=946|title=Great in any language except English|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=450]
There used to be a time, back in the distant reaches of the 90s when everyone knew that Keanu Reeves sucked as an actor but didn’t care. Girlies thought he was cute, and guys thought he was funny in Point Break and Speed, but no-one thought he was much of an actor. Then he starred in a little film called The Matrix, and some people started to take him seriously.

God knows why, since Kanooie’s success in that film was more a matter of him not being allowed to give the world his version of ‘acting’, standing in the right place with the right clothes on, and being an adequate support for the designer sunglasses that he was a prop for. Only for him does a wooden performance actually represent a step up in the acting stakes. In other words, by not always sucking completely in every single film he convinced us that maybe he didn’t suck.

So in coming to a new Kanooie film, you don’t ask ‘Was he good?’, you ask yourself instead ‘Did he not suck too badly?’

Rating:

9 Songs

dir: Michael Winterbottom
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The film is exactly 69 minutes long. It consists of a smattering of banal dialogue between two people, they also do some drugs, squabble a bit, and they go to some great gigs. They also fuck. They fuck a lot. The weird thing is, they really are having sex. We see it in all its messy glory.

This isn’t meant to be a porn film. And it’s not a porn film, really. Most porn films have better production values. But their soundtracks usually aren’t this enjoyable. And they don’t usually have scenes from actual gigs at Brixton Academy, the Forum, Hammersmith Odeon, or the Empire in between the sex scenes.

I’ve used this gag many times in my reviews and conversations with people about films, where I say stuff like, “By Lucifer’s beard, the plot of that film was so bad that even porn films have better and more coherent plots”. Now I’m going to officially retire that gag and never use it again. I realised that porn films haven’t had plots for years, and anyone that watches them thinks “What the fuck you talkin’ about, Willis?” whenever I say it in a review.

Rating:

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

dir: Kerry Conran
[img_assist|nid=981|title=There is no tomorrow for you guys|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=305|height=450]
Kerry Conran had a vision, God love him. This is a man who had a genuine ambition. Ambition is not unknown in Hollywood, to be sure. But this isn’t a case of a guy whose ambition is only to make a film, or to get wealthy, or to fuck high class prostitutes. He had a bunch of ideas for making a very particular film, and he’s been striving for over ten years to get it done. Finally, in the form of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, he’s achieved his goal. There may have been pitfalls and compromises along the way, but in the end he brought his unique vision to the screen, goddamnit. And for that he deserves to be commended.

It’s not a particularly unique or original vision; in a way he’s doing little more than what George Lucas did decades ago when he used his memories of Saturday matinee serials and Amazing Stories-type books and comics to come up with the Indiana Jones and the Star Wars stuff, to the ecstasy of nerds the world over. And sure, more recently many of the same visual and thematic influences turned up, incredibly enough in the recent Pixar treasure The Incredibles.

It is, on the other hand, resolutely his own take on all those elements, which he uses to come up with something he can call his own, even if the origins aren’t that obscure or even remotely forgotten.

Rating:

Troy

dir: Wolfgang Petersen
[img_assist|nid=956|title=Beefcake. BeefCAKE!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=358|height=395]
I could lie and say that I went into the cinema expecting this film to be a biography of Troy. Not the city, but the animated actor from The Simpsons. Troy McClure. You might remember him from such educational films as ‘Lead Paint: Delicious But Deadly’, ‘Firecrackers: the Silent Killer’ and ‘Man versus Nature: The Road to Victory’. Alas, I was to be disappointed…

I’m positive the day Gladiator made a tonne of money, someone greenlit this flick. Hack screenwriters who’d been pushing crappy sword and sandal scripts for years to the talentless hacks that control the purse strings in Hollywood finally thought ‘Our time has come.’ I’m surprised there haven’t been more of them already. Who doesn’t want to see big beefy men whacking each other with swords and the like? It’s legitimised wrestling without the chairs or the midgets. People don’t have to feel embarrassed about liking it. Well, most people, at least.

Rating:

Night Watch

dir: Timur Bekmambetov
[img_assist|nid=950|title=No wonder some people fall in love with their own reflections|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=212]
If this is Russia’s answer to The Matrix and the other fantasy / vampire type films Hollywood has pumped out in recent years, perhaps it would’ve been best had the question never been asked.

I am unfortunately in that position where something receiving a lot of buzz and praise has left me muttering “eh” under my breath and in the length, width and girth of my review. I just don’t think that it’s really that good. I am perplexed as to the good press it has received. In a way it feels like people are praising the Russians for producing such a film in the way people praise a retarded child when he starts reading See Spot Run ten years after the other kids, because he’s really trying so hard, and doesn’t he make you want to hug a puppy? Awww…

For me, this film is only different from the recent Constantine film by not having Keanu Reeves in it. They both have fantasy plots based on a war between the forces of Good and Evil, they both had nil characterisation and pointless plots, and they both had resolutions more insulting than revelatory. Still, Constantine was dumb. I’m not sure what Night Watch’s problem is, but it’s not just dumbness.

Rating:

Underworld

dir: Len Wiseman
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Read here, my people, read and weep...

It is certainly not worth the wait. Released here in Ostraya about four months after its Stateside release, instead of maturing in the interim like wine it has festered like a dead possum in some particularly inaccessible part of your roof. And whilst it's not so bad that it made me want to punch other patrons for being as dumb as myself for buying a ticket, it didn't leave me with a feeling of deep joy in my underpants.

Speaking of which Kate Beckinsale is certainly cute, and isn't too a bad actress, and despite the other critiques that I've read she isn't the problem with this film. She sells most of the scenes where she's
supposed to look nasty (in a hot way) and when she's emoting and stuff. Of course she mostly looks ridiculous in the action scenes, having absolutely no range of mobility in those tight fetish outfits. When she's running in so-called 'action' scenes she's looks about as convincing a mover as Stephen Hawking with none of the acrobatics that he possesses in comparison. But she's okay.

Rating:

Mystic River

dir: Clint Eastwood
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Such a film growing up in the shadow of Mystic Pizza necessarily must
have a hard furrow to plow.

Even in paying for my ticket at the cinema I inadvertently asked for a
ticket to Mystic Pizza. It's a film and a title hard to eradicate from
one's mind. Who can forget the horse toothed caterpillar eye-browed
Julia Roberts playing the town slut? Lili Taylor playing the same
character she's played in practically every film she's ever been in?
Vincent D'Onofrio not playing a psychopath for once? There's a lot to
recommend it. You could only hope and pray that Mystic River, clearly
trying to capitalise on its successful forbearer with the similarity
of its title, can match its artistic and commercial success.

Yeah, okay, there is no connection between the two films. Old Clint
would probably have drawn either a Colt Peacemaker or a Magnum and
shot the television if he was caught watching something as girly as
Mystic Pizza. Instead he's made a film that somewhat parallels his
earlier masterpiece Unforgiven and exists as this year's In the
Bedroom.

Rating:

Irreversible

dir: Gaspar Noe
[img_assist|nid=1005|title=Please don't walk through there, please go back.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=268]
The film's tagline, one of the first lines of dialogue and the film's final epigram is 'Le temps détruit tout', or 'time destroys everything'. Well, even after watching the film in its entirety, I don't agree. In enduring this film, I think there is greater accuracy in saying that it is not 'everything' that gets destroyed, it is we the audience. And it is not 'time' per se that does the damage, it's this film and its sadistic director, Gaspar Noe.

Rating:

Intolerable Cruelty

dir: Joel Coen
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From a creative team as potent and as previously successful as it generally has been over the last fifteen or so years, it has to be said that this film ends up being something of a disappointment. Especially for fans of the Brothers Coen, who have been gifted with so many good to great films thus far that the opening of their every film is greeted with an almost sexual level of anticipation.

Trying to replicate the kinds of screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s that we never knew we missed that much, the Brothers again make a film about, amongst other things, Hollywood films. They’ve covered most of the cinematic genres, from Capraesque lunacy in The Hudsucker Proxy, Prohibition era gangster morality in Millers Crossing, Busby Berkeley musicals in The Big Lebowski (amongst plenty of other nutty ingredients), so now it’s time to lift some style and elements from the films of Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story). These comedies, some of which are classics, are pretty cheesy to modern eyes, not helped by the regular presence of Eddie Bracken, who was a poor man’s Mickey Rooney if I ever saw one, and Joel McCrae, who was a destitute man’s Gary Cooper. And lucky us, we now have the rich man’s Cary Grant headlining here.

Rating:

AI: Artificial Intelligence

dir: Steven Spielberg's Mexican non-union equivalent
[img_assist|nid=1098|title=You can't play spot the robot, because all three aren't human|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=312]
Oh beautiful people, what with the planes falling out of the skies and the burning of empires, and thousands of souls going to meet their makers, is it even appropriate to talk about something as unimportant as a film? A movie, in fact? Yes it is...

Let me create a hypothetical situation for you: You work as a job placement demon, as they all are at those particular agencies. You have two positions to fill. Job 1 requires a qualified person to take the reins at a child care centre. Job 2 requires a highly qualified and experienced person to take control of a whorehouse. Yes, a whorehouse. There's no other adequate PC term that can be used in its place. Brothel always sounds kinda dirty to me. Which is appropriate, me guesses.

You have only two people on your books in terms of wanting jobs. They are both hungry, hungry for the acclaim that comes only from working in a prestigious position. Unfortunately for your Key Performance Indicators, those two people are Steven Spielberg and a very dead and overrated / underappreciated Stanley Kubrick. Let's say that you're in the added unfortunate position whereby they get to decide which jobs they get to go for. Hilarity ensues.

Rating:

Tokyo Drifter (Tokyo nagaremono)

dir: Seijun Suzuki
[img_assist|nid=1101|title=Huh?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=330|height=475]
1966

What the fuck was all that about?

Tokyo Drifter is cool. It’s cool in the sense that the hero is the hero because he’s cool. He looks cool, he dresses cool, and he has his own theme song, which is played a bunch of times and which he even sings through the course of the film. So what if the flick makes no sense? It’s cool, you squaresville-daddy-o.

The film looks pretty. There’s a very interesting use of colour and sets. The clothing is nice. Other than that, this flick is fucking insane. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone I hated.

Maybe it’s too quintessentially Japanese, but I doubt it. The movie, at the very least, is somewhat more comprehensible than the last one of Suzuki’s that I saw, but that’s not saying much. Made in an obviously cheap and nasty fashion, the flick eschews continuity and logic to construct a story that does not make sense on our planet.

Rating:

Solaris (1972)

dir: Andrei Tarkovsky
[img_assist|nid=1079|title=Solaris, the cryogenically frozen Russian version|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=348|height=490]
Solaris is supposedly a towering achievement in Soviet filmmaking, right up there as the Russian answer to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, from the Russian director most considered an auteur and visionary, er, just like Kubrick. Fans of Solaris say it’s an insult to compare the two. Detractors say it’s being too kind.

And by all the gods did they get that right. Both films, judiciously used, are a viable substitute for anaesthetic narcotics in modern surgery, and have, hopefully less side-effects when they knock viewers the fuck out. There are stretches of 2001 that knock me out every time, every single goddamn time I see them. Solaris is like that except it has this effect for most of its interminable length.

The stories are very different. People who saw Stephen Soderbergh’s recent remake with George Clooney in the lead role will know generally what it’s about, but others will be stunned, stunned I tell you with how out there the premise is.

Rating:

A Clockwork Orange

dir: The Great Almighty Stanley Kubrick
[img_assist|nid=1112|title=You think youre so cool. But youre not.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=293]
1971

Kubrick routinely is praised as probably the greatest director who ever deigned to pick up a camera and yell at people in order to get them to do what he wanted. Who am I to shit on the great man’s legacy?

Nobody, that’s who. Sure he’s made a stack of good films, and a few bad ones. I will say though, without fear or favour, that A Clockwork Orange is probably the crappiest of his holy, vaunted oeuvre.

That’s right, I’m saying it’s worse than Eyes Wide Shut.

A bad Kubrick flick is better than most other director’s best flicks, but it’s still a chore to sit through. And I say this as a fan of the man and his directorial vision. I love many of his films. Hell, I’ve even voluntarily sat through Barry Lyndon a few times and roundly enjoyed it. And I’ve probably seen 2001 more times than the average footy player / actor goes through rehab unsuccessfully.

Rating:

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