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5 stars

The Smurfs 2

The Smurfs 2

You will die a terrible, terrible death. Oh, I'm sorry, that was
the characters from the last film. You, on the other hand,
all of you, I hope will die a terrible, terrible death

dir: Raja Gosnell

You make sacrifices for the people you love. It’s what decent people do, whether human or smurf. So when you go see a movie called The Smurfs 2, because your daughter has asked you to, you console yourself with the fact that you’re taking one for the team.

Something like this... how do you review it? What purpose would such a review serve? Would it just be a collection of words, in sequences that make some kind of sense, that merely takes up space? Can the world do without it?

These are valid questions, but, let's be honest with each other: If the millions of people posting their thoughts, opinions, idiocies and brilliances to the tubes of the internets evaluated everything they were about to post to the net for importance or universal value, virtually none of us would be sharing ourselves in this fashion, and this internet thing would have died out a long time ago, to be retro replaced with smoke signals, snail-mailed messages etched in vinyl and tin cans, requisite lengths of twine, taking its place.

I know, I know, the world would spontaneously become a utopia anew. This current world, however, is the one we work with; the internet demands words the way Old Testament gods required sacrifices, and I have a compulsion that compels me to write even about the most banal movies you could possibly imagine.

Rating:

The Lone Ranger

Lone Ranger

The dead bird is the smartest one out of the three of them

dir: Gore Verbinski

I was told to expect a disaster. We were assured it would be the absolute bomb – total dog of the year.

I wasn’t told that it was episode 5 of Pirates of the Caribbean, because ultimately that’s what this flick comes across as. With Trains!

Johnny Depp simply plays a more boring yet still over-the-top character than he does in the Pirates franchise, and the strongest similarity is that just like most of the character's actions in those nautically and intellectually wet movies, his character's actions here don't make a hell of a lot of sense most of the time either, but they’re meant to be entertaining. Meant is the operative word.

This possibly was meant to be like an origin story for a new Lone Ranger franchise, which strikes me completely as the triumph of wishful thinking over intelligence, but the horrible pre-release press and the dismal box office performance should have staked this idea before it had a chance to flourish.

This isn't a complete disaster, though, as irritating as Depp's Tonto might be, and as ill-considered as the idea was, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with resurrecting the squarest American hero of all time. The Lone Ranger may be a complete unknown to people under thirty, but who’s to say it was the wrong time for a comeback?

Rating:

Syrup

Syrup

He has a very punchable face, that's for sure,
and they both look very happy to be here

dir: Aram Rappaport

Syrup is an edgy, in-your-face satire of corporate madness and the dark side of the Force that is Marketing;

or

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;

or

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;

or

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.

Rating:

The Croods

The Croods

It's a Cowardly, Smelly Old World

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.

Rating:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Four score and seven slayings ago, I kicked serious some
serious ass for the Lord

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.

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The Turin Horse (A Torinoi Lo)

The Turin Horse

Depression in cinematic form. Enjoy, you lucky so-and-sos!

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.

Rating:

The Expendables 2

Expendables 2

Expendables 2: Each actor being even more expendable
than the last

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.

Rating:

The Amazing Spider-Man

Amazing Spider-Man

He's not the webslinger, he's just a very annoying boy

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.

Rating:

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

Get thee to a nunnery, then set fire to the nunnery, please

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.

Rating:

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Martha Marcy May Marlene

I'm not sure you're allowed to be looking at us. It's against your cult
leader's rules

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.

Rating:

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