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5 stars

Onion Movie, The

dir: James Kleiner?
[img_assist|nid=74|title=Onions, by their very nature, not especially funny|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=225|height=300]
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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

Lions for Lambs

dir: Robert Redford
[img_assist|nid=121|title=Vote for me or I'll punch your grandmother in the face|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
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.

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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.

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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.

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Disturbia

dir: D.J. Caruso
[img_assist|nid=766|title=Who's this Hitchcock guy?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
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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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.

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