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6 stars

American Hustle

American Hustle

Look at them, begging for Oscars. You can see the abject neediness in
their eyes. Just say no, Academy, please.

dir: David O’Russell

American Hustle is one of those big, blousy American movies with American in the title, which virtually guaranteed that it was going to get lots of attention at the Oscars. And, unsurprisingly, it’s got a stack of nominations, most of which I hope it doesn’t get, even though I liked it well enough at the time by the end.

It’s not a flick that gets better the more you think about it, though. The more I’ve thought about it afterwards, the thinner and flimsier it seems, but the bits I found entertaining are still strong.

Problem is, those bits were few and far between.

Two con artists (Christian Bale, Amy Adams) who get busted by the FBI are dragooned into running a scam in order to catch other corrupt people. Some element of this might have actually happened, in this world’s history.

I have no confidence that the real story is anything like what’s depicted here, not that I care. It’s not an important history lesson dressed up in 70s nylon and polyester with the necessary narrative and thematic shortcuts you’d expect from an Important Hollywood Movie. It’s an actor’s showcase, but not in a good way.

Rating:

Riddick

Riddick

Dark, darker than the darkest dark chocolate

dir: David Twohy

You get these strange moments in the world of cinema where, because of your familiarity with its ins and outs, you get the stupid impression that nothing will ever surprise you again. It’s the height of foolishness.

The movie industry is always surprising me. How it continues to exist in this age, the sheer abundance of films it keeps pumping out to ever decreasing profits; it staggers me that it’s still going. Most of all, some of the movies they make thinking there’s an audience for them surprises the hell out of me.

That they, in their infinite wisdom, have made a third Riddick movie, imagining as they have, or at least hoping desperately that the multitudes are clamouring to see this character again, for me is on a par with a studio thinking the world wants to see a Jar Jar Binks movie. Or that the world needs, desperately craves a Turner & Hooch follow-up, or that Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger should make a sequel to Twins. Call it Triplets! Get Mel Gibson to play the middle one! Everyone from your maiden aunt to dribbling infants will kill to see that!

Rating:

Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World

I know it looks like another Star Wars films, but it isn't, not by much

dir: Alan Taylor

Yeah, you think you’re Thor: I can hardly walk, because I just watched The Dark World.

And here I thought it would be a screening of childhood favourite The Dark Crystal. Thor fights a giant Crystal and loses!

No I didn’t, I’m being a jerk. My beloved partner and I went to the flicks to celebrate the anniversary of the day of her birth. What better way to celebrate such a golden day than let her watch many scenes of Australia’s Own Chris Hemsworth showing off that incredibly chiselled physique? Those granite abs, that geography of musculature and those planes and angles of flesh she’s hopefully not going to be able to touch in real life with anything other than her eyeballs?

It was a golden day for all concerned. Maybe not Hemsworth, since he was probably busy all day long oiling up those quivering muscles, but I’m sure he’s doing all right.

This is his flick, yeah? The next instalment out of the Marvel Machine that is no longer content with just taking the hardly-earned money out of teenage losers’ pockets and middle-aged shut-ins’ bank accounts with comics has Thor! taking centre stage again after that grand occasion of The Avengers getting together last year.

Rating:

The Wolverine

The Wolverine

Why so surly all the time, Wolvie? Aren't you
happy with all the cute Japanese girls fawning
all over you?

dir: James Mangold

2013

Yes, yes, another superhero flick. Your eyes just glazed over thinking about it the way mine did as I was typing it.

The Wolverine, at least, is a more modestly ambitious superhero flick than the four thousand or so we've watched in the last year. In fact, you could argue it’s not even a superhero flick, in that it’s just about a guy with weird hair and the magical ability to heal instantly who kills a bunch of Japanese people. So it's an action flick, more than anything, with nary a mention of the X-Men or most of anything that happened in all of the other films, with the pointed exception being the fate of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) at the end of X-Men 3.

Now, when ranking X-Men flicks, it would seem to make sense to order them from best to worst, but, to my mind, worst to least mediocre is probably a better methodology. The cumbersomely-named X-Men Origins: Wolverine might seem to be the worst, but I have a special hatred for that third turd of a flick, being The Last Stand, which was anything but the last stand, since the tedium rolls on and on.

Let's just agree that both movies are pretty terrible in special, unique ways, and leave it at that. Fortunately, nothing about Origins plays a role here, and I'm assuming in the timeframe this plays out some years after Last Stand.

Rating:

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

Oi! Stay Away From Our Coathanger!, you giant
physical approximations of adolescent insecurity
and dysfunction!

dir: Guillermo Del Toro

2013

Now, I love me some Guillermo Del Toro. I love him in the way I love Abel Ferrara, Whit Stillman, Hal Hartley, Takashi Miike and other directors who make the either occasional or frequent shit movie: it's irrational, but heartfelt, and rests solely on the fact that they did one or two movies that I truly loved a long time ago.

The most curious thing about Del Toro movies is that I love the idea of them more than the movies themselves. With the exception of Pan's Labyrinth, and maybe Golden Army, I don't think most of his flicks work that well. I'm not sure if it's a cultural/language barrier thing (even though he speaks better, more articulate English than I do), or that he outgeeks me to an embarrassing level, or whether the visual level matters more to him than the storytelling aspect of his movies. Whatever it is, I don't totally get him even though I really, really like him. It's a strange relationship we have.

Rating:

The Heat

The Heat

I have no idea what's going on in this poster either

dir: Paul Feig

2013

Paul Feig made Bridesmaids. Bridesmaids made, perversely, something like a billion box office bucks.

So Paul Feig can basically do what he wants. When he makes another film with who might have been the main actor in Bridesmaids (barely anyone ever remembers that Kristen Wiig was even in it), and it's a buddy cop movie with female leads, well naturally it seems like Paul Feig is a great big feminist trying to right the imbalances of the past by pushing a particular agenda for female equality in the movies.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It's pure marketing. A lot of people find Melissa McCarthy funny. I find her funny. The last few films she's been in have scored big at the box office in such a way that it's impossible to argue that it's in spite of her presence, rather than because of it. Maybe people went to Bridesmaids without any idea of who she was, but no-one went to Identity Thief because of Jason Bateman. No-one came to this because of Sandra Bullock, Demian Bichir or Marlon Wayans.

It's all Melissa McCarthy. For some brief period of time, however long or short it may be, and I hope she gets to enjoy it, she is a box office queen.

But what does all this mean? Does this mean women are in the ascendant in Hollywood? That audiences are keener to see flicks with female leads, that McCarthy has broken through barriers and glass ceilings and such?

Rating:

Oblivion

Oblivion

Imagine a world without people. Now imagine a world
without Tom Cruise. You know which one is more
terrifying.

dir: Joseph Kosinski

The global obsession with obsessively destroying the globe continues…

This is film #437 to come out this year which either has the world about to be destroyed or a world already destroyed as its setting.

When will they just leave the world alone? What did it ever do to you? Why do you always have to be wrecking the place? Get your feet off the couch, and put that beer on a coaster, that coffee table is mahogany, arsehole!

A while back I would have said these flicks of a pre or post-apocalyptic nature reflected our anxiety about the place actually being destroyed, as in we feared nuclear war or pollution or some other catastrophic fuck up permanently. The wrecking of the world would probably be the highest stakes that a film could put up, and so you'd think we'd have to take it really seriously and really care.

Since we see a flick come out almost every week with a world on the brink or just flat out ruined already, I think it signifies that we just gave up being scared about it. We no longer fear that the world will be destroyed, or at least the people at the studios think it's no longer that shocking for us. It's commonplace, it's every day now to think about a world destroyed. And even though we're not going to be able to get internet connectivity or soy lattes in a ruined world, whether it's crawling with mutants or completely poisoned, we're resigned to it, and we're looking forward to what comes next.

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Fast and the Furious 6

Fast and Furious 6

This is the least absurd moment in the film, no kidding

dir: Justin Lin

You’re young, you’re in love, you’re wondering if you should see Fast & the Furious 6, as if the question as to whether you should be watching the sixth instalment in any movie franchise is a rational one AT ALL. Well, instead of making you sit through a whole review, why not just read the next paragraph and decide for yourself?

A man, a large muscly man, is driving a sports car very fast. The car is travelling hundreds of kilometres an hour, let’s say 200kmh or so. He deliberately causes some kind of crash which deliberately propels him out of the car. A woman on the outside of a tank coming from the opposite direction that is somehow travelling hundreds of kilometres an hour also, at point of impact, is thrown towards the other guy, also flying at a speed of hundreds of kilometres an hour. The man catches the woman, somehow turns around in mid-air, and crashes into a car windscreen, which, instead of killing everyone within a ten-metre radius with the force of the impact, actually somehow saves all the people I just mentioned, and probably doesn’t damage the car that much. It may have even cleaned it, and improved its value by tens of thousands of dollars.

Rating:

Epic

Epic

Lots of colourful people, not a lot of
colourful thinking

dir: Chris Wedge

Epic is about the tiny goings on of a tiny bunch of people-like creatures. Hence, the irony of the title.

There is the eternal battle between the forces of life, and the forces of decay, and the conflict between fathers and their children, but, really, let's be honest, it's about fairies and goblins.

Sure, they call them Leafmen and Boggans (no, not bogans, though it’s hard to resist making the joke), but let's call a spade a dirt-shovelling device: goddamn fairies!

I don't mind fairies and forest spirits and such. They're in almost every book I read to my angelic/demonic offspring, they're in most of the kid's flicks we see together in eye- and wallet-gouging 3D, and they date back to the myths and legends of most cultures and nations.

Really, though, it's about fairies.

It's hard for me to drum up too much enthusiasm for fairy-related shenanigans, even when Tinkerbell isn't involved.

All this negativity makes it sound like I didn't like the film. The fact is I enjoy almost any film or movie I watch with my daughter if she enjoys it, because her enjoyment is as infectious as her colds and shingles are.

And she declared this film "Awesome!" at the end, and was entirely entranced throughout.

Rating:

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the Lecherous and Deceptive

dir: Sam Raimi

They didn’t have the guts to do a remake of the original ‘classic’, so I guess we had to have a prequel. Having said that, I don’t doubt that a remake of Wizard of Oz is now probably just around the corner…

Yes, the first question any person might reasonably and rhetorically ask themselves is whether the world really needed a prequel to one of the most beloved films of all time, a timeless classic blah blah blah for all ages that blah blahs children everywhere. Of course the world didn’t need such a thing. If something is a timeless classic, it needs neither prequels nor sequels, and it rarely if ever benefits from them, other than benefitting someone financially.

So, no. I’ll cut the suspense for you now, if you haven’t seen this yet, and answer straight up at the beginning that the world would have kept on truckin’ without this film’s release. I know, I know, it’s not the best way to write anything, because then what’s written lacks the tension that a raised question can generate if you give it ages before you provide the solution.

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