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6 stars

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

dir: Tsui Hark
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Some directors win their way back into our good graces by making a transformative leap in their filmmaking in order to deliver a great film after decades of slumming. Other directors delight or depress us by consistently putting out the same kind of film, year after year, Woody, decade after decade.

Other directors win us over again by going way back in style and intent, and delivering the kind of flick they delivered way back when they were still making good flicks.

Tsui Hark’s great claim to fame is, in my opinion, being part of that new wave of Hong Kong film in the late 80s – early 90s which reminded the rest of the world that Hong Kong was still making some awesome action flicks. Along with the John Woo flicks The Killer and Hard Boiled, Hark’s Once Upon a Time in China flicks were part of that vanguard reinvading the West with hyperactive action and a complete disregard for the safety of stuntpeople that blew the tender sensibilities of audiences away all over again.

Of course, with success comes money, hookers and moving to Hollywood to make horrible flicks with Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman, which will kill your career if there’s any justice in the universe.

Rating:

Reign of Assassins (Jianyu)

dir: Chao-Bin Su, John Woo
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It’s strange, and a little bit embarrassing that I am still as gullible as I am at the age that I am. I saw a clip for this flick during Potato-Head Pomeranz and Old Farmer Stratton’s Movie Show a few weeks ago, mentioned as getting a lot of people excited at some festival, possibly this year’s Venice festival.

A few seconds of people fighting, and a few excitable words from Margaret, and I was somehow convinced that this was the flick of the year, a continuation of the good work John Woo was currently doing (after the success of Red Cliff), and all around another in the exciting high-end line of wuxia (martial arts) flicks that started with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and resulted in other dazzling entries like Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

And so I bought into all this meaningless hype, as if I was some teenage girl buying Twilight merchandise, or some object Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga might have touched with some part of their anatomy as some point in time.

And what did I get for this emotional and financial investment, in getting excited about this flick and going out of my way to see it? What’s my recompense, my due, my pay back?

Rating:

Red

dir: Robert Schwentke
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Old people. What to do with them. This movie’s entire purpose seems to be just to remind the rest of us not to turn our backs on these wrinkly potential badasses.

Because, you know, just ‘cause they’re old, doesn’t mean they can’t kill you three ways from Wednesday.

I’m not entirely sure how Bruce Willis gets to swan around with decent older actors and pretend they’re contemporaries, but then, if that’s the least plausible part of this flick, it would be a doddle to accept. As it is, this is a total fucking cartoon that makes James Bond flicks look like documentaries.

This flick is such a cartoon that it makes computer generated owl and toy films look like actual reality instead of animation. In this flick called Red, or RED, or R.E.D, a bunch of people mostly in their late 50s and beyond, all the way up to Morgan Freeman’s tender 70s, show the young ‘uns that they can still kick arse like it’s 1989.

Rating:

Agora

dir: Alejandro Amenabar
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It’s about time there was a biopic about the life, loves and times of Hypatia. You know, the famous 4th century mathematician and philosopher? One of the most renowned and virtually unknown women of antiquity?

Okay, unless you were a desperate and insecure teenage boy who struck upon the brilliant strategy of reading up on feminist icons believing that it would somehow result in some girl with low standards throwing you a pity grope every now and then, you might not have heard of her. But I had, and so when I heard that the director of Open Your Eyes, The Others and the superb The Sea Inside was making a biopic about this Hottie from History, I thought, “meh…”

Still, it’s turned up in our cinemas this week, and in a choice between watching something enjoyable, and watching something edifying, I chose Agora over, let’s say Monsters, or The Town.

More fool me.

Agora is the rare case of a biopic that works despite being about a person who’s not that interesting, and with not one but two ‘wrong’ performances from two of the main characters, but which still gets enough of the feel right and the depiction of the setting looks impressive enough to make you feel like it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Rating:

Robin Hood

dir: Ridley Scott
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Give it a rest, Russell, honestly.

And you too, Ridley. Stop pretending you’re all prestigious men of quality deserving awards and kudos. You’re both hacks and you know it.

And now you’ve taken a much beloved myth about some woodsy guy sticking it to The Man, and you've turned it into a grim Braveheart clone. For shame, gentlemen.

A few years ago, I remember reading a headline somewhere scrawled onto the tubes of the internets saying that Russell Crowe would be playing Robin Hood. My first and only thought was, “That’s boring, stop being so boring.”

And then I thought no more of it, until months later I read another buzzy story saying that the flick was going to be called Nottingham, and it would star Crowe in the main role, but that the clever hook would be that Crowe would be playing both the Sherriff of Nottingham, Robin’s classical antagonist, and Robin Hood as well. I don’t mean as twins or clones or anything, just that the role and script as envisaged had the Sherriff masquerading as his own fabricated enemy. Upon reading that I remember thinking, “That actually sounds a bit interesting, I wonder how they’ll pull it off.”

Rating:

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

dir: Edgar Wright
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Oh, Michael Cera. If you didn’t already exist, they would have had to construct you from the corpses of several painfully thin hipster douchebags, held together with wet papier mache from indie street newspapers, deliberately ironic hipster unwashed t-shirts and neurotic tics so pervasive even Woody Allen would give you a wide berth.

And they would have constructed you too, so that you could play Scott Pilgrim. There probably isn’t a person on the planet better suited to playing this supremely annoying character. You were handpicked by fate, by the universe, by all the random possibilities that lead to an almost supernaturally predetermined result.

For that I congratulate you. And, also, for becoming this generation’s white Urkell.

The weird thing is I actually like Michael Cera. He only ever plays one kind of character, and, as Scott Pilgrim, he’s the weakest and whiniest version of that Michael Cera character (except when he’s fighting). I like him even when I find him annoying, which is a remarkable trait to possess. As Scott Pilgrim, it’s ultimately irrelevant how he plays it, because it’s almost like Bryan Lee O’Malley wrote the comic book with him in mind, which he clearly could not have, having never met him.

Rating:

Splice

dir: Vincenzo Natali
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Ah, Canadians. They make different films from the rest of the world, don’t they? Even though almost every single Hollywood flick that gets made seems to get made in Canada, there is a world of difference in style and sensibility between the two rival North American empires.

Vincenzo Natali came to prominence when he made a flick called Cube oh so long ago now. Whatever its merits, a lot of people talked about the flick for long enough that it established a career for what I’m sure is a sweet, sweet man (for all I know he stabs puppies in his spare time).

He has a reputation for make relatively low-budget high concept science fiction flicks that are ultimately, in my humble opinion, thoroughly ridiculous. The ridiculousness doesn’t completely detract from the interesting elements of his flicks, because he knows how to put them together in a competent fashion. Yet something always happens to make you doubt your commitment to his singular lunacy at some stage of his flicks. Like night following day, like hangover following binge, his flicks always, always go wrong at some point. It’s a lovely kind of wrongness, however.

Rating:

Alice in Wonderland

dir: Tim Burton
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It’s not as shit as I thought it would be.

Wouldn’t it be grand if, by some cosmic fuckup that altered the nature of reality, that I somehow became a respected and admired film critic, even in this day and age where the most effective reviews are written by impassioned cretins in textspeak, and that, as a powerful reviewer whose opinion mattered to the world, marketers used my important words to promote their movies?

Imagine posters for big budget movies, with the so-called pull quote being mine, and plainly stating “It’s not as shit as you’d think.”

That’d pack in the multiplexes, no doubt, upon the strength of my judgement alone. And so people could give up the terrible burden of having to judge for themselves whether they should squander the little time they have left on this planet watching or not watching a flick I recommended or eviscerated.

Rating:

Repo Men

dir: Miguel Sapochnik
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And here I thought this was a sequel to the classic flick Repo Man. Repo Man: a classic for the ages, from a kinder, gentler, punkier time when Emilio Estevez was briefly cool, and when Harry Dean Stanton, well, he’s always been cool and always will be.

Now that I think about it, a sequel or remake of Repo Man would be terrible, terrible in ways that would make you hate puppies, babies and baby puppy Jesuses. So perhaps it’s not too bad a thing that Repo Men has nothing to do with Alex Cox’s 80s alleged masterpiece.

Repo Men conjectures a hopefully unlikely future where synthetic organs are the most valuable commodity on the planet. In a parallel with the health care debate in the States, and the concept of whether people should actually be able to live even if they can’t afford what the medical profession would like to charge for its services, this flick envisages a time when companies can kill people with impunity.

They’re not killing them for a laugh on a Friday night: they’re just reclaiming their property, so it’s all legal. People enter into contracts to repay the cost of surgery and the new organs, and, if they can’t keep up their payments, become dead men and women walking after 90 days of being in default.

Rating:

Whip It

dir: Drew Barrymore
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I never really thought I’d be writing a review of a film that has Drew Barrymore listed up top as the director. It’s not because she often acts, depending on the circumstance, so bubbly that you’d think she’d never be able to get it together long enough to call action, sitting not in a director’s chair, but in a bubble bath.

No, it’s because there’s a disconnect between her public persona (super girly and bubbly), her film personae (super girly and bubbly), and what she’s apparently like behind the scenes in the turbulent world of film production (a don’t-fuck-with-me-or-I’ll-destroy-you player).

More power to you, sister. She’s got money and sway, so surely nothing can stop Drew if that’s what she wants to do?

I guess making a flick about women’s roller derby manages to satisfy two of her main criteria for what she wants to project to the world about herself: being girly and tough at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I find it very endearing, the way people find virtually everything this woman does endearing, and have done so ever since she was an adorable little moppet who started abusing cocaine at age 12.

Rating:

Tokyo Gore Police (Tokyo zankoku keisatsu)

dir: Yoshihiro Nishimura
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This flick is like watching a squirrel twitch balls-deep in a bag of acorns for two hours.

Why?

Because it’s fucking nuts.

I guess I haven’t watched a lot of Japanese flicks for a while, because even I was surprised by the level of violence in this film. It’s beyond anything I’ve seen in a long time, probably ever. It’s probably the bloodiest thing I’ve ever seen, to date.

But it’s also probably the least affecting thing as well. I thought this was a horror flick, and, considering the level of gore, and what with penises and limbs being horrifically ripped off, or the chainsaws going into people’s mouths and staying there, with sprays of blood showering everything for hours at a time, it’d be a safe bet.

Rating:

Ghost Writer, The

dir: Roman Polanski
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Okay, okay, I’ll get this out of the way right from the start: yes, Roman Polanski is a scumbag, and, no, I’m not condoning anything he’s ever done or said, nor am I exonerating him by watching and reviewing one of his films. No, it’s not the moral equivalence argument. No, I’m not saying that his art justifies anything he’s ever done.

And yes, Hitler’s watercolour paintings were okay, not great, but not awful either.

So if I acknowledge that Roman Polanski is worse than a million Hitlers, will you let me just review the fucking film?

The Ghost Writer is so old school that it really does feel like a throwback. If it wasn’t for some of the technology involved, like mobile phones, GPS and memory sticks, the flick could have been indistinguishable from something set or made in the 70s. It’s a very 70s flick, regardless of some of the subject matter.

It’s 70s because it’s languid, paranoid and, despite some of the wintery open spaces, claustrophobic. I guess it makes sense that someone like Polanski could capture that feeling because a) the 70s were his heyday and b) he can probably relate to a main character feeling under siege from the media and the courts. Just a guess, there.

Rating:

Kick Ass

dir: Matthew Vaughn
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Can a movie about comic book-like heroes satirise comic book heroes and movies about comic book heroes at the same time?

No. It cannot. Because all it becomes is another movie about a comic book hero, with the satirical elements flying over the heads not only of the audience but also of the people making the damned thing.

Kick-Ass is based on a comic of the same name by Mark Millar, and, in the creator’s own words, it was really meant to be a scathing attack on a younger version of himself who dreamed of being a costumed crime fighter way back when he was reading Batman: Year One for the first time.

The problem with this premise is that the story doesn’t so much satirise the zero-to-hero wish fulfilment fantasy comic writers and illustrators have pandered to since the dawn of time, so much as fulfil it. A director making a porno satirising the bad acting, cheap production values and orifice-stretching of other pornos is still ultimately making a porno.

Kick-Ass is a different kind of porno, but it’s porn all the same. It’s unlikely to result in as much smelly wadded tissues, but it is the same as what it pretends to ridicule.

Rating:

Overheard (Qie ting feng yun)

dirs: Alan Mak and Felix Chong
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For most of this flick’s running length, I thought I was watching a pretty good movie. It had a certain momentum, and tension, and even if the characters were somewhat unbelievable, I didn’t mind that too much because I found their actions, and the repercussions arising from those actions, to be both believable and interesting.

Of course, then they had to fuck the ending up.

Oh, man, do they fuck the ending up. It’s an ending so bad it undoes almost all the good work of the preceding 90 minutes. It’s so trite, preposterous and contrived that it made me feel actively angry.

But I shouldn’t let that completely obscure the goodwill I’d previously been experiencing while watching the flick. Sure, shitty endings can leave a poisonous aftertaste, but they don’t always justify ripping the absolute guts out of a flick.

Overheard is a taut, mostly fascinating crime story about a group of surveillance expert cops who are trying to figure out what white collar crimes are being committed at, by or to a Hang Seng stock exchange-listed company.

Most of the time, the vast majority of the time, it’s a crime movie about white collar crime. White collar crime generally sounds like a fucking boring time at the movies, but done properly, it’s as interesting as any other kind of espionage / heist flick.

Rating:

Invention of Lying, The

dirs: Ricky Gervais & Matthew Robinson
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I’d heard a lot of bad things about this flick, not just from the average tubes of the internets level of discourse being “it’s the shittest thing ever shat out of a studio or an orifice”, but also from trusted friends, allies and confidantes, who all said, with their superior level of expression and articulation “it’s fucking shithouse, don’t see it.”

With that in mind I had one of those experiences where lowered expectations took the sting out of something I otherwise might not have liked as much, and I even ended up enjoying it. And I even laughed, which is virtually unheard of with comedies, that most serious of genres.

Ricky Gervais is who he is, and he’s very good at being Ricky Gervais. He’s also managed to very successfully parlay this version of Ricky Gervais to the world (well, to America, at least). He’s done so well at it that they (they being Hollywood) have been dazzled enough by his British wit and blinding smile into letting him direct his own films. Where he gets to play Ricky Gervais all over again.

Rating:

Clash of the Titans

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Did Clash of the Titans need to be remade? In 3D no less?

Of course it did, you anti-capitalistic naysayers. Everything should be remade in 3D. Weekend at Bernie’s 3D. Driving Miss Daisy 3D. Deep Throat 3D.

That last one could have your eye out if you’re not careful.

It’s profitable, isn’t it? And, as the drug, prostitution and pornography industries have always taught us: If something’s profitable, of course you should be doing it.

Most reviewers keep referring to the original flick as being not very good in the first place, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. The story’s based on Greek mythology from three millennia ago, so blaming Harry Hamlin or Ray Harryhausen seems a bit much. For all the blather regarding Joseph Campbell, the heroic journey and the fundamentals of epic story telling, the tale of Perseus slaying the Gorgon Medusa and saving Andromeda from a monster while riding a winged horse is pretty cheesy crap regardless of how big the budget or whether you’ve got Sir Ian McKellen or Fabio in a lead role.

Rating:

Public Enemies

dir: Michael Mann
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John Dillinger is not really one of those names that lights up the night sky or the imagination, at least anywhere apart from the US. I’m sure he’s Robin Hood and Ayn Rand all rolled into one in the States, but to the rest of the world, if we know anything about him, it’s that he was alive at some point in the past, and is now dead.

And in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “If he’s so smart, why is he dead?”

Well, Johnny Depp, the dapper gent himself, and Michael Mann, the cop and crim obsessed-director, thought it was time to resurrect the tale of the Depression era populist ‘hero’, and his subsequent demise. Mann puts his particularly Mannish spin on things by emphasising the cool professionalism with which Dillinger and his crew conducted themselves. And, of course, the professionalism of Dillinger’s main opponents, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) and J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), also have to act as a parallel counterbalance.

Of course, all of this occurs independent of, and, in most cases, in direct contradiction to the established history of these events.

Rating:

Last House on the Left (2009)

dir: Dennis Illiades
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The original horror flick does have a nasty reputation, which is certainly well-earned. Since everything is getting remade, from the Friday the 13th flicks, to Halloween, to Gone with the Wind, so naturally, Last House on the Left has to, nay, must be, remade too. On the most part, I would contend that the flick doesn’t do too bad a job for what it is. The ending, though, shows just how worthless the whole setup really was, and how it’s ultimately a lazy entry in both the revenge and nice white middle class people under siege in their own homes genres of quality filmmaking.

The original is a nasty, exploitative, vile flick. It truly is. This certainly isn’t, and for most of its running time actually seems like a highly charged drama more than an out-and-out horror flick. Of course it relies way too often on “someone comes out of nowhere to either attack or save a person that looks like they’re about to die”, but it’s virtually impossible for hacks to make these films otherwise.

Rating:

Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (2009)

dir: Tony Scott
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Ridley Scott’s less talented brother keeps getting work, which is okay, I guess. I don’t know the personal circumstances of Tony Scott’s life, but I imagine he has people to support, children, wives and mistresses and such, or rentboys, blackmailers and dominatrixes. Who knows. The point is, even after the atrocity to the eyes and ears that was Domino, he still gets work.

Here, in a remake of a pretty good flick originally, Scott mostly tones down the irritating editing and filming techniques that have made his more recent flicks virtually unwatchable. Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw assayed the roles the first time round, and they did an okay job. Denzel’s up for the job of playing a craggy-faced blue-colour working man ‘hero’, but they really could have gotten someone better for the Robert Shaw role.

Why? Well, all that John Travolta brings to this particular role is the way his voice goes really high-pitched and whiny when he gets angry, and that he says “motherfucker” at virtually the end of every sentence. I don’t have a problem with language, in fact I love that kind of language. It makes my heart go all aflutter.

Rating:

Crank 2: High Voltage

dir: two shmucks called Neveldine & Taylor
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There really isn’t any point reviewing a film like this. Notice that I’m still writing. There’s no point because it’s like reviewing a headache, a baseball bat to the groin, an epileptic seizure, a finger amputation, and a bag of strychnine-laced crystal methamphetamine all jumbled together and shredded through an industrial sized rusty blender.

It exists less as an actual movie and more as a collage of violent imagery sped up mightily, completely uncaring as to whether an audience can even comprehend most of the shit it is viewing. Sure, we’re supposed to parse it through the obvious lens of a live action version of a computer game, so much so that sections play out like sequences from Grand Theft Auto and its myriad knockoffs.

But even beyond there it’s the making of something that makes no fucking sense at all, and doesn’t care, making up for the complete lack of coherence only by trying to keep the crazy momentum up and the visuals experimental and vivid.

Rating:

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

dir: Michael Bay
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Michael Bay may be the director most movie reviewers and commenters on the tubes of the internets ridicule and belabour with the hate, but he is extremely successful, and thus virtually untouchable. He is like a shiny metallic titan from one of his movies: towering like a Colossus, legs splayed over the entirety of Hollywood, all his withered critics mewling and mouldering in his gargantuan shadow. The worst reviews, the lowest opinions of thousands, if not millions of people, are nought but ants at the feet of Alexander the Great. We cannot mark, let alone harm him.

If you were to run an algorithm or some kind of search on a review aggregator to find out what words are used most commonly by the majority of film reviewers who tackle his monstrous products, the list would run something like this: “visually spastic” or “incoherent”, “all shiny surfaces with no substance”, “nonsensical plot”, “aggressively violent”, “assault on the senses”, “women looking like glossy pornstars”, “way too long”, “painful, stupid dialogue”, “overedited”, “two dimensional characters”, and “breasts bouncing around in slow motion”.

Rating:

Push

dir: Paul McGuigan
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I love Hong Kong, I really do. That doesn’t mean I’m going to like any film just because it’s set there. But I really do love the place, visually speaking at least. It’s not because I have any personal experience of the place, or because of my heritage, or because of any deep-seeded identification I have with the former British colony. I just like it, is all, and have watched around a thousand flicks set there.

This film Push has a lot of great cityscape footage of Hong Kong, truly it does. It mixes the high art cityscape stuff with postcard shots and, most importantly for me, the shots revealing the commonplace squalor of some areas, with the hustle and bustle of places like Mongkok, Wanchai, Kowloon Bay and all the rest, whether tourist destinations or not, whether ‘pretty’, grungy or not.

Beautiful, beautiful images of a real city that looks almost like what Ridley Scott was going for with Blade Runner, except that it’s real, and it’s a place even more thriving, alive, chintzy and garish than you can imagine, with the quicksilver of commerce, greed and violence running through the city’s veins, in the abstract perhaps more than in fact. All of this I could see and think about as I watched this amazing city depicted in this film.

Rating:

Infernal Affairs

(Mou gaan dou)
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dir: Andrew Lau

Infernal Affairs is a slightly better than average movie interesting only in the novelty of its bare-bones premise. As directed by Andrew Lau, it is also a very loud, aggressively overdone movie. Compared with other Hong Kong cop dramas, it’s par for the course, maybe even better than most, yet I do have to admit to a certain amount of perplexity as to why cult audiences went bugfuckingly crazy over it and why they’re going to remake it in Hollywood starring people with remodelled teeth and $500 haircuts.

Why? It’s really not that clever. Or maybe it is and I just can’t see it. I’ve seen so many Hong Kong flicks over the years that it takes something extraordinary to jiggle my brain meats into ecstatic praise. I definitely can’t muster any excitement for this hack job of a movie, though it was mildly entertaining, I’ll give it that.

Most HK flicks are trashy, let’s be honest. As a fan of the cinema, I say that without any animus towards the region or the people that make or star in these films. If anything I have a bias in their favour, ignoring their shortcomings and excusing aspects that would make me scream bloody blue murder in a different context.

Rating:

Oceans

dirs: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
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Oceans. They’re everywhere! And, did you know that they’re full of water?

Very watery waters, apparently. And mostly the water is blue. Sometimes green, sometimes grey, sometimes a mixture of greeny-bluey-grey, but always very watery.

We owe a lot to the oceans. They feed us, naturally, and they’re also where we dump all our sewerage and garbage, as the gods intended, and they also willingly have become the final resting place for murderous / saintly Osamas who’ve outlived their usefulness, but they’re also really pretty. And they’re also chock full of thoroughly beautiful creatures like dugongs, walruses, stonefish and moray eels.

Who could not love the Oceans? They’re practically the puppies/kittens of the solar system. Only a completely dead-inside monster, that’s who. Or the captain of the Titanic, I guess. Or anyone who’s lost a loved one to the Ocean’s watery embrace, I guess as well.

This astounding documentary which has taken its time to get here, and is playing at Cinema Nova (in Melbourne as at 22/5/2011) acts as if people don’t know what oceans are (as opposed to seas, which everyone knows are the oceans’ poor orphan cousins), or that there are fish in them. There’s actually a line of narration that says the following:

Rating:

I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boattda)

dir: Kim Ji-woon
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Jeez, do I need a shot and a shower after that. Make that three shots and two showers to get the taste of death out of my mouth and the stench of this film off my skin.

This is a revenge flick, usually a genre known for being full of sweetness and light, made even uglier and darker by a director committed to making the audience feel as harried, exhausted and sick to the stomach as the main characters.

And good goddamn is it a long film. Even had this flick been 45 minutes shorter it still would have felt like the longest flick since Gone with the Wind crossed with Holocaust epic Shoah.

You wouldn’t know it, but South Korea seems to be, based on this flick, infested with serial killers. They’re everywhere. And, even better, they all know each other. I tell you what, this entire scenario is only even vaguely plausible if South Korea is actually located right next to Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico, because they’re getting away with murder on a daily basis in both locations.

Okay, so the Korean peninsula is nowhere near there, but all the same, these fuckers put Hannibal Lecter, Henry Lee Lucas and Colonel Gaddafi to shame.

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Funny People

dir: Judd Apatow
[img_assist|nid=1178|title=Unfunny much?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=272]
See, the title is meant to be ironic. At least I think that’s the case, since most of the stuff that occurs in Funny People is not funny.

And the funny people who are rich aren’t funny and they aren’t happy. And the funny people who are poor aren’t happy but they are funny. But when rich meets poor, through exploitation and abuse, we get a steaming serving of “we’re all unhappy, rich or poor, unless we’re nice to each other” bullshit.

Isn’t it ironic that funny people are sad, hmm? Don’t you feel sorry for these neglected, forgotten people?

Do I fuck. This is a very odd flick in a lot of ways, odd because it’s increasingly becoming obvious that Apatow tries to wedge as much of his own life story into his films as a way of keeping those close to him happy and employed, but also as an act of revenge by proxy.

Judd Apatow has achieved a certain amount of success as a director and a producer of movies, but he struggled for a long time, especially way back in the day. He came up at a time when a lot of his more famous peers were starting out as well. He even used to share an apartment with some successful guy, what was his name, oh yeah, that’s right, Adam Sandler.

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Orphan

dir: Jaume Collet-Serra
[img_assist|nid=1176|title=Very wrong|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=410|height=610]
This is both a horrifying and silly flick. It would be easy to just say it’s a shit flick with the most ridiculous twist ending since the last time M. Night Shyamalan made one of his ridiculous movies. In fact it wouldn’t just be easy, it’d be downright accurate.

Still, I can’t dismiss it entirely. Approached as a genre piece, it’s unsettling and disturbing, as in, it achieves its ambition of creeping out the viewer, the viewer being me, in this case. This strangely-put together flick fits into that horror-thriller sub-genre about competent sociopaths, this time in the form of a nine-year-old child adopted by a nice family, who do what they do, infuriating the viewer because no-one except the main character can see what’s going on until it’s way too late.

Esther is an odd child adopted from an orphanage because a mother (Vera Farmiga) can’t get over the recent death of the baby she was carrying. This is conveyed to us, the viewers, right at the beginning in a horrific birth scene which is rendered as some kind of demented nightmare. Whilst the details aren’t considered literal, the loss of the child is, and we learn more details about spiralling depression, alcohol abuse and infidelity. All this occurs despite the fact that the two parentals have two other kids, an annoying teenage boy called Daniel, and the sweet, deaf Max.

Rating:

Thirst (Bakjwi)

dir: Chan-wook Park
[img_assist|nid=1168|title=I, too, am thirsty, but not for Korean blood|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=347|height=500]
It’s an odd film. It’s interesting at times, boring at others, mostly enjoyable but also emotionally and stylistically flat some times. I’m sure it was deliberate. Chan-wook Park is an accomplished director, but don’t go expecting this to be too much in line with either Old Boy or Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.

It’s clear to me that he really intended on telling a very different vampire story from the ones popular with the girls and their wine cooler soaked mothers at the multiplex. He also intended on supplying the audience with a fairly leisurely, some might say lazy, broad satire of Catholicism. It seems odd to me that a Korean director would give a damn about Christianity, but then again I have no idea how widespread the Christbotherers are in South Korea, or even if the sky is blue and grass is green over there.

All I know about the peninsula is that the North Koreans have some fiercely choreographed high goose-stepping soldiers, millions of them, all starving for attention, freedom and a handful of rice.

Rating:

Role Models

Role Models

Jerks jerks jerks jerks jerks jerks there's not a person
in this flick who isn't a jerk. They're not Role Models,
they're... they're Jerk Muddles!

dir: David Wain

I really do wonder how some flicks get made. This isn’t a bad flick, but when I think about the performances, the plot and its success, I wonder who thought it was a good idea in the first place.

For a flick without a single likable character in it, it does manage to generate several laughs, at least several more laughs than another recent comedy that inflicted itself upon our eyeballs called Observe and Report. The difference is that this flick is nowhere near as vile, and does have some pretty funny moments. Not many, but enough.

This one, unfortunately, has Seann William Scott in a lead role, and that never helps anybody. As I’ve said in other reviews, I think it’s great that retarded people not be excluded from working in Hollywood, and that Scott continuing to get work gives hope to all the other Downs Syndrome sufferers out there. But good God is he dumb. Even knowing that he’s supposed to be dumb doesn’t change the fact that he consistently gives the impression that he’s only a few seconds away from crapping his own pants.

Paul Rudd is a bit better, but he’s really only playing a minor variation on most of the characters he ever plays. Actually, scratch that, he remains unchanged from movie to movie. The difference is that I actually find him likable even if his characters are obnoxious.

Rating:

Sky Crawlers (Sukai kurora)

The Sky Crawlers

Huh? Wuh? Buh? Zuh? Kuh? Muh?

dir: Mamuro Oshii

Now, I’ve watched some weird and slow things in my time, but this, this here Japanese animated movie is by far the most recent.

I can’t pretend that I am in any way even remotely an expert on the Japanese art form known as anime. I’ve watched some of it, I know there’s plenty more of it out there, but I can’t even pretend that I’m an authority. Very far from it. And though I’ve also watched a lot (and by a lot I mean hundreds at least) of Japanese films, again, I can’t pretend to be some sort of smartypants pontificating scholar on the Japanese visual arts.

The main reason isn’t because of any special, new-found caution on my part, or a reluctance to sound like an arrogant jerk. If you’ve read any of my reviews thus far then you know I have no qualms and zero problems with that. The truth is I simply don’t get, most of the time, the Japanese.

This is not going to be some anti-Japanese tirade, so those of you who might have come here through some ill-advised linkages on some Blood & Honour or Stormfront White Power pages will most likely be deeply disappointed, you dumb fucking racist crackers. Remember, White Power is pronounced “Waaah-eeet Paaaarrr”. And stop fucking your sisters as well. It does no good for your gene pool.

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