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5 stars

Zodiac

dir: David Fincher
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The director with one of the most variable records in Hollywood has returned to us mere plebs with a police procedural flick about the hunt for the Zodiac killer.

Fincher’s flicks have an almost odd-even quality, in that he has a good film follow a mediocre one with grim predictability. I don’t have to nuts and bolts it for you: suffice to say I really like half of his movies, and am indifferent to the other half, and they follow each other like night follows day, like hangover follows drinking binge.

I can’t really say if Zodiac breaks the cycle, because the formula would require that a good film follow his last mediocre one, being Panic Room. But I can’t say that it blew my socks off.

It’s just over two and a half hours long, which in itself is no crime. As long as it does something magical with that time, who would complain. It’s just that, for my money, it is two and a half hours of tedium with no pay off.

Rating:

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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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:

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