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5 stars

Pineapple Express

dir: David Gordon Green
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There’s this impulse in many of us, ‘us’ as in the kind of people who post and read opinion, commentary and other bullshit on the tubes of the internets. When anything appears, even if it is well liked from the start, there’s always this impulse to be the first to say the honeymoon is over, baby, and that thing, tv series, sequence of books or person has ‘jumped the shark’. Outlived their usefulness. Exceeded their use-by date. Outstayed their welcome.

I come not to praise Seth Rogen but to bury him. The funny, charming slightly shlubby guy has now reached the stage, at least with me, where I no longer find his shtick funny, and instead find him somewhat tiresome and obnoxious. I don’t know if it’s this film specifically, or the ‘character’ he plays, but he’s really starting to annoy me.

As an actor he has the range of a comedian, which means he has practically no range at all, and it doesn’t help that the ‘character’ he plays here is pretty much indistinguishable from anything else he’s ever done. He plays an unambitious low achiever who likes smoking dope.

Rating:

Happening, The

dir: M. Night Shyamalan
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The Happening, the happening… What happened again?

What happened was, M. Night Shyamalan made another film that was universally panned, and was actively laughed at by audiences, despite not being a comedy. I think it’s fairly obvious that Shyamalan is never going to be able to make another successful film. He should go back to working the drive through at some burger place.

Honestly, at least then people will buy what he’s selling. At the moment, no one gives him the benefit of the doubt when his unfortunate films debut in the cinemas. They’re pre-loaded for failure. People, whether critics or not, expect them to be bad with almost more certainty than the films of Uwe Boll or movies whose titles end in Movie.

Rating:

Wanted

dir: Timur Bekmambetov
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Trash. Not mindless trash, but trash all the same. And it’s trash you’ve already seen, as long as you’ve seen The Matrix. Even with a completely different setting and premise, it is so reminiscent of The Matrix that you keep expecting Agents to turn up and Kanooie to appear mouthing “Whoa!” in that supremely affectless way of his.

It’s not just the fact that the supposed hero of the piece, Wesley (James McAvoy), starts off as a depressed office drone who finds out that he’s actually a gifted superhero type, and thus goes from zero to hero in record time. The entire special effects package seems to be solely aimed at insulting the laws of gravity and making entities such as Sir Isaac Newton spin in their graves in a fashion wholly contrary to the physical universe as we know it.

Taking a gratuitous leaf out of The Matrix’s script, the intro begins the film’s descent into cinematic cliché and carnage by having a normal seeming guy do some completely impossible shit involving killing a bunch of guys at a great distance and jumping from one skyscraper to a distant other. Before he is almost mystically killed with a bullet that curves through space and possibly time.

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Onion Movie, The

dir: James Kleiner?
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There is a shroud of mystery, a deathly pall hanging over this movie, the movie called The Onion Movie. What’s its story? What’s going on? How is Rodney Dangerfield in it? Hasn’t he been dead a long while? Has he risen from the grave, searching for the respect that long eluded him? Will his undead zombie be calling for “Brains!” or “Boobies”?

Two digressions: I’ll try to keep them quick. The real antecedent/origin of this flick is an attempt to make something along the lines of Kentucky Fried Movie or the Airplane/Flying High! movies. That’s the style of comedy that comes closest to this both in format and content. Since the movie uses the Onion television channel as its framing device, and the soothing, credible crooning of newsreader Norm Archer (Len Cariou) to link the various stories, with ads and other programs thrown in, it’s almost like it’s made to order template-wise according to the KFC spec.

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10,000 BC

dir: Roland Emmerich
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The name Roland Emmerich, for most people, isn’t one that drips with infamy. It’s not used in the same sentence as “a horrible, big budget hack as bad as Stephen Sommers, Bret Rattner or Michael Bay”. It probably should, though.

Clearly, if the name means nothing to you, you don’t remember who directed noisy big budget shitfests like Independence Day, Godzilla, Day After Tomorrow or the loathsome The Patriot starring Mel “I love the Jews today, I really do” Gibson.

As such, it’s not clear whether Emmerich has made any films ever worth the celluloid expended in making and screening them. There are some terrible films on his resume. Awful, godawful movies that sapped the will to live of audiences worldwide.

It would be reasonable to expect that since almost every film he’s made has been dire, that any future films he makes will be dire too. It’s only fair.

Well, of all the films Roland Emmerich has been responsible, this one, 10,000 BC is the most recent. That’s probably the nicest thing you can say about it.

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National Treasure: Book of Secrets

dir: Jon Turteltaub
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National Treasure: Book of Secrets is, like the film it is the sequel to, and like everything by this purest of Disney directors, hackwork of the highest order.

Hackwork works, for lack of a better term. Hackwork is what gets bums in seats, sells tickets and gets people to buy merchandise. By which I mean regular members of the public, and not the Asperger’s sufferers who will collect merchandise on the most obscure shit. Oh, look, a 12-inch Angela Lansbury doll wearing that tweed outfit from the third season of Murder, She Wrote! I’ve got to get me some of that.

Hackwork is when you make a dumbed down version (try not to choke on the irony) of the Da Vinci Code for audiences who found that tedious bore too involved and complicated. With too many big words and references to an actual earth history unknown to them all the same, to the point where its fictionalisation could sit just as well as a form of documentary for their tastes.

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Lions for Lambs

dir: Robert Redford
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Is it edutainment, or entercation? Is its primary purpose to sell tickets, or as a delivery device for a payload of sweet, sweet knowledge? What if that unasked-for education is little more than the talking points of the two opposing sides of the American ideological spectrum ladled out to you, the bored audience member, with nary a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, in the most delightful way?

Films about weighty subjects, such as political apathy, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, or whether men should wear boxers or briefs, are supposed to make you think about the issues. You’re supposed to come away with more questions than answers, inspired to find out for yourself what the real state of play is. A documentary uses footage, facts and interviews to investigate and explore a situation, an issue or a set of issues. If it’s done right, then it answers some questions itself, and raises others of a more ambiguous nature if it’s balanced or about something too complex to be handled simplistically.

In a feature, dramatic film with a political agenda, you expect that an issue is raised and explored in a fictional but credible context, designed to explore ideas in a way that the currents affairs or doco formats cannot, or at least in not as compelling a fashion.

Rating:

Alien Versus Predator 2: Requiem

dir: The Brothers Strause
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I know, I know, whenever crossovers are attempted, it’s always faintly magnificent. Freddy Versus Jason, Superman versus Batman, Astronaut versus Caveman: It’s an idea so geeky that it sounds like it should stay where it originated from, being the comic book universe.

And what a rich and complicated universe it truly is. Who else gets to ask those questions of universal importance to the human species: who’d win in a fight between She-Hulk or Bat-Girl? What if Dr Octopus gained possession of Mighty Thor’s hammer, or what if Wolverine’s blades came out of his penis instead of his hands?

You know, the important questions. Well, a comic book by Dark Horse, and a computer game first posed the crucial question: how cool would it be to have the Predators from the Predator films, and the aliens from the Alien films, in the same room at the same time?

It would surely bring in fans of either or both franchises, and double the money, attractiveness and general powerfulness of all concerned with the production, yea verily. And no-one with any sense would doubt it.

Rating:

Hills Have Eyes 2, The

dir: Martin Weisz
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Wow. The sequel no-one except for mutants was crying out for has become a reality.

Did you have a hankering to watch ‘normal’ people be hunted down, raped and eaten by mutants in the New Mexico desert? Quiver in thy flesh no longer, depraved meatbags, the sequel is here to satisfy your cravings.

I like horror movies, lest anyone think I watch flicks like this against my will, with gun pointed headward or whilst stretched across a waterboard. But I don’t enjoy most of them: the main reason being that they’re crap and insulting to the intelligence. Most horror flick makers have unutterable, venomous contempt not for their actors and stunt people, but for their audiences. Also, just like most flicks ever made, formula and familiarity trump originality and thought almost every time.

So whilst The Hills Have Eyes 2, being a brilliant name for such a thing, isn’t the crappiest horror flick to come out this year (that honour probably resides with The Hitcher or Georgia Rules probably), it’s pretty unnecessary.

Rating:

Disturbia

dir: D.J. Caruso
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Rear Window was crap anyway, right?

I mean, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly: What are these names compared to DJ Caruso, Shia LaBeouf and David Morse? Nothing, I tells ya, nothing and nobodies.

So if someone tells you there’s a remake of Rear Window, what, are you going to check your eyesight or your glasses prescription before looking into the gift horse’s mouth?

No, you’re not. You’re going to watch it, marvel at the charming Shia LaBeouf, his retarded Asian sidekick and the nubile jailbait from next door, and forget all about that bloody Rear Window movie.

Well, actually, you’re not. If you’ve seen Rear Window, you’re going to sit there whilst watching Disturbia, and you’re going to be shaking your head from side to side, marvelling at what passes for a ‘remake’ these days.

Rear Window gets practically everything right as a thriller and as a compelling film. Disturbia muddles through as a deliberately pale imitation in comparison.

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