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6 stars

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.

Rating:

RocknRolla

dir: Guy Ritchie
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I wish I could say that RocknRolla is a return to form, finally, for the guy who hasn’t made a decent flick since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. And, in fact, I can say it. It is a return to form. The problem is, the movie is still a total fucking mess. The difference is that compared to his other recent movies, it’s an entertaining mess.

Lock, Stock’s supreme virtue is that it was Ritchie’s first flick, so it was the first time we saw him do his shtick, and, on the most part, we liked it. Everything he’s done since then has either been a dull retread or a painful revelation of how little he brings to the directorial table. Don’t ever watch his stupid flick called Revolver. You’ll kill someone afterwards if you do. Possibly even a puppy.

Rating:

Death Race

dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
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There are two Paul Andersons who work as directors in contemporary cinema. There’s probably more but there’s two main ones I’m concerned with. Paul Thomas Anderson is the guy who made Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood. The other Paul Anderson, with the W.S. initials betwixt the Paul and the Anderson, is the British chap who made films such as Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Resident Evil, and Alien Versus Predator.

Guess which Paul Anderson made this flick.

Death Race is a remake of a flick that was called Death Race 2000, made in the seventies. I guess calling this version Death Race 2000 would have given people the impression it was a period piece, a Merchant Ivory bittersweet coming of age story with Model T Fords and horse drawn carriages fighting it out for the love of a good woman / boy / pony.

Death Race 3000 would have hurt people’s brains by being so clearly set in a far too distant future. Like Futurama.

Rating:

Day The Earth Stood Still, The

dir: Scott Derrickson
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The Earth Didn’t So Much Stand Still on This or Any Other Day, it More Kind of Farted, Rolled Over and Went Back to Sleep.

Perhaps a bit long for a title, but it’s certainly more accurate. Of course if they didn’t use the original title reminding people this is a remake of the Cold War era classic, then no-one would be any the wiser, and no-one would have bothered to go and see it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being pointless, and 10 being pointed, this remake of a beloved alleged sci fi classic sits somewhere between pointless and pointlessly enjoyable. Ascribing a numerical value to that itself is pointless, but that’s probably not going to stop me from assigning a numerical rating at the end of the review. The Day The Earth Stood Still is not as entertaining or scolding as its predecessor, but it certainly looks prettier.

Rating:

W.

dir: Oliver Stone
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On some level I have to suspect Oliver Stone wants to think of himself as one of the premiere chroniclers of the American nation . Kind of like a Ken Burns or Sir David Attenborough of presidents, wars and otherwise momentous times. True, he did the dirty with Alexander the Great, which is an abomination wrapped in a travesty wrapped in a fiasco, but his focus has generally been on the American soul and body politic in all its glory.

After JFK, after Nixon, he’s taken the curious step of eulogising or biographising a president still in office at the time of the film’s release, which seems odd. There hasn’t been time for history to either elevate or diminish a statesman’s legacy to any appreciable degree yet, to warrant such a going over, you could say. There hasn’t been the time for the dirt to come out, for the squealers to squeal, for the many damning versions of the truth to accrete, accumulate and overflow. You question the purpose, the intent, the objective. The point.

Oliver Stone is not a subtle man, nor a humble one. Making a film about a sitting president is as much about trumpeting the director’s view of that president to the world as it is about the president himself. You’d think the intention, thus, is critical or at least condemnatory.

Rating:

Eagle Eye

dir: D.J. Caruso
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See, there's precious little I can say about this flick, and about why it's so tedious, and why it's so unsatisfying but still adequate, without giving the whole game away. As in, there's a basic spoiler so spoilerish in its basic spoilerishness that to not say it means I've got nothing else to say about the film apart from mocking it in general and Shia LeBeouf specifically, and that the review itself will not be fulfilling its fundamental obligation to you, the dear reader: telling you what the film is about so you can decide whether to invest two hours of your precious life or not.

Or maybe I can manage it, who knows. Let's see, shall we?

A guy called Jerry (Shia) who's a bit of a bum, a bit of a shmendrick at that, is caught up in some grand conspiracy where some virtually omniscient woman on the phone forces him to do her bidding. At first she's getting him to do stuff just to protect him from the FBI, who soon become involved when he's found to have tonnes of explosives in his apartment. If nothing else, watching those early 'exciting' bits of the movie, I was reminded of the fact that I haven't watched The Matrix in a while. You know, the bit where Morpheus is talking to Neo on the phone at his place of work before the Agents show up. It's somewhat similar.

Rating:

Quantum of Solace

dir: Marc Forster
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Casino Royale was one of the more surprising films for me last year, surprising in that I was expecting the same old shit in a new and shiny bucket. It proved to be better than my lowest expectations, and rekindled my interest in the Bond character, something which dwindled to nothing through most of the 90s.

Riding on that wave of successfulness, all Quantum of Solace had to do was not suck too much, and everyone would be mostly happy. Was that too much to ask?

Craig plays the character with the same level of intensity he brought to his first trip in Bondland, but the story is significantly different. I can dimly remember reading an Ian Fleming short story sharing the name of this film, but I doubt this flick follows the story closely if at all.

All I remember about the short story is that it only features Bond tangentially, and is more about two characters with a bad, bad marriage rather than anything to do with shooting people or beating the crap out of disposable henchmen.

But, see, we live in a different era these days. When Roger Moore played the guy, it was enough to be a suave motherfucker, have some occasional fisticuffs, and always bed the lasses within easy reach of a bottle of Dom Perignon. Despite being as gay as anything.

Rating:

21

dir: Robert Luketic
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Love films about gambling. Can’t get enough of Vegas films about high stakes gambling. Having an addictive personality myself, and having the tenuous self-control to be able to completely stay away from any forms of gambling simply because I know how all consuming they would be for me, I get to live vicariously through these kinds of flicks.

But 21 isn’t like Rounders, Lucky Me, The Hustler, Let it Ride, Owning Mahoney or the recent biopic High Roller about Stu “The Kid” Unger. It’s not about a person or people good at gambling risking everything to win a hefty pot o’ gold at the end of a compulsive / obsessive rainbow. 21, based on a book about these MIT math nerds who made good, is about some students who figured out a way to beat the house at its own game with both counting cards and a system to exploit it.

The risk, or the danger, here, is not losing everything through the vagaries of chance or being outplayed or through losing the battle with one’s own demons. It’s being crushed by the people Vegas casinos hire to ensure card counters, who aren’t doing anything illegal, don’t beat the house at its own game.

Rating:

Pathology

dir: Marc Schoelerman
[img_assist|nid=149|title=You're going to stick what in my mouth?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=267]
This is some pretty sick shit. Insane, too. I hesitate to call it a horror flick, because that makes it sound like it’s scary and that there’s a plot, albeit a generic one.

No, though some elements of this insane flick were guessable in advance, I can’t really say I predicted just how crazy and nasty this crazy flick was going to play out.

Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) is an allegedly brilliant doctor who is interning at an acclaimed pathology centre. The on-the-job training focuses on not only the techniques of pathology (autopsies and such), but on figuring out how people died and what killed them.

From the moment he starts working and studying there, a strange group of idiots led by someone whose name is coincidentally Gallo (Michael Weston) initially ridicule him but then bring him into their ranks with a deadly game they’re just itching to play with him.

In this world without police or pretty much any law enforcement, these crazy kids commit elaborate murders, with the intention being stumping the other interns in their little club with the sheer elusive brilliance with which it was carried out.

Rating:

Ruins, The

dir: Carter Smith
[img_assist|nid=25|title=Feed me young Americans, please|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Four hot young American kids on holiday in Mexico? Of course it’s a horror film. Why else do Americans in any movies go on any holidays, whether it’s Slovenia, Central or Southern America? To be killed, presumably, because every American knows that the rest of the world hates/fears/envies them.

Also, I guess it’s scarier for American audiences to think of themselves as the targets of the world’s attentions.

Our four chaps and chapettes here are just college age kids partying before heading back to their studies. Partying for them is like what partying for the rest of the non-American world is like: drinking and fucking. But they do possess a modicum of curiousity about tourist traps as well.

So when a German guy with an unconvincing German accent tells them of some secret archaeological dig site, they decide to go along for the ride, in order to do something ‘cultural’ before catching their plane back home.

Little do they know that they are mere fodder for some hellish example of history and evolution gone wild. Wild I say!

Rating:

Street Kings

dir: David Ayer
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For my money, any film based on a screenplay that James Ellroy worked on is necessary watching. Obligatory watching. It would be a crime not to.

Now that I think about this a bit more, I start to wonder why this should be the case. Sure, LA Confidential did all right, and I really liked Dark Blue. But Black Dahlia is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t really Ellroy’s fault: we can parcel out the blame to superhack Brian DePalma, Josh Hartnett’s beady little eyes and complete inability to act and a whole host of bad actors looking foolish and acting worse.

Then again, since it was a pretty ludicrous story, maybe it was Ellroy’s fault. For all the gritty crime writing he’s been responsible for, he also, like Stephen King, had a long period of time working fuelled by stimulants, whereby both have written lots of stuff neither remembers writing at all. And it shows, if you know the respective time periods involved.

He remains, though, someone I very much respect in the field of crime writing. I’m not sure how well his work meshes with the world of David Ayer, whose script for Training Day trod a very Ellroyesque path of very corrupt cops doing very corrupt things, but it would seem to be a natural fit.

Rating:

Jumper

dir: Doug Liman
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And I thought this was going to be a movie about someone’s woolly pullover.

No, a jumper is a person with the innate ability to teleport around. David Rice, our main character, teleports around. He discovers he can do this at around age 15, and abandons all semblance of a normal life.

Since he lives outside the bounds of regular society (he abandons his surly father, and their small hick town of Ann Arbour, Michigan), he also freezes at this point in his intellectual and emotional development.

Eight years pass, and now David is played by Hayden Christensen, arguably one of the greatest and hardest working actors of his generation.

No, wait, I meant to say he’s a terrible, woeful actor, so – so - terrible that he is almost a joy to watch. Almost.

The greatest, most awesome aspect is that Christensen isn’t even the worst actor in the movie. The love interest is so fucking awful that she actually makes Christensen look less terrible.

Goddamn is she godawful. If no-one stopped her, I can imagine she would have started and ended every sentence of dialogue with, “like… you know, dude” as if she was a hippie chick from a 1960s Roger Corman biker pic. Oh good gods was she terrible.

Rating:

Incredible Hulk, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
[img_assist|nid=107|title=The male id on the rag|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=256]
Hope. People hope for a lot of things. Some people hope they’ll have enough money to feed themselves and their families tomorrow, after of course they’ve bought their daily requirement of drugs. Others hope for the election of a leader with the audacity to claim that everything instantly will get better everywhere once he gets elected.

Others hope for a way to forget the Freudian nightmare that was Ang Lee’s Hulk. Well, Marvel and French action director Louis Leterrier, previously celebrated for making the entertaining but utterly brainless Transporter movies with Jason Statham, hope that you’ll be able to replace all memories of the previous instalment with the current one.

The Incredible Hulk jettisons absolutely everything from the earlier film: It’s like it never happened. All new actors, all new origin, and absolutely none of the psychomalogical Oedipal rage crap that dragged down audience enjoyment levels in the past. And it is far more of a generic comic-book adaptation than anyone could have ever dreamed or imagined.

Or maybe we’re supposed to pretend that other Hulk never existed. Don’t mention the war.

Rating:

Bank Job, The

dir: Roger Donaldson
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I loves me a good heist movie, I does. Big fan of heist movies. Probably one of my favourite genres, since my tolerance for vampire movies, zombie movies and Merchant Ivory productions has waned.

Who am I kidding, I still love that lace doily, maiden aunt with scones Merchant Ivory shit.

The Bank Job, you might think, is something of a heist movie. But it has the added bonus of allegedly being based on a true story. As well!

As far as I’m concerned, this is based on a true story the way 10,000 BC, Pearl Harbor and Transformers were based on true stories. Sure there were woolly mammoths building the pyramids. Sure giant robots travelled to our planet searching for Rubik’s cubes. Sure, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale fought the Japanese and won with their dignity and 40s hairstyles intact in a love triangle story that echoes throughout the ages..

So, to reiterate, I believe the “true” elements in The Bank Job involve the fact that there is a place called London, and it is populated by people, some of whom are British. And there was a calendar year called 1971.

Other than that, I don’t even believe there was such a time and place as the so-called 70s, at least not as represented here. And a Princess Margaret? Who ever heard of such a being?

Rating:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

dir: Nicholas Stoller
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This is being released under the “Judd Apatow” banner as if Judd’s name alone is now a seal of filthy comedy approval. Wondering if a comedy is funny? Well, Judd Apatow was involved, so it must be so funny you’ll laugh until you rupture something.

Okay, so 40-Year-Old Virgin was funny, and Knocked Up was funny. Apatow directed them. But now are we really meant to believe that Apatow doesn’t even have to make the movies for them to be funny? He just “produces” them under the Apatow Productions banner, other people direct them, and they’re still full of Apatow-y goodness.

I think not. Even with the commercial and critical success of some of his comedies, the law of diminishing returns kicked in around the time of Drillbit Taylor. Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t going to kill off the Apatow bandwagon, but it might throw a wrench or two into the spokes.

It’s not a horrible film, in fact it’s relatively funny at some stages. The main actors aren’t horrible, the costumes are nice, the lighting was okay, and the make-up work is top notch throughout. I don’t know what the catering was like, but it was probably okay. No-one looks like they got sick from bad food, so that’s my assumption as to the relative merits of the food service.

Rating:

Vantage Point

dir: Pete Travis
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What these kinds of flicks usually have going for them is momentum. It’s not brains, it’s not character, and it’s certainly not depth.

Vantage Point is essentially a Bourne-type film without the advantage or the anchor of a Jason Bourne-like character. To compensate for this they fracture the narrative, replay the central event what feels like fifty times, and then break out of the temporal loop by moving forward at break-neck speed to the big action climax.

Initially, we watch the occasion of an anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain, from the confines of a news van covering the event to the side of a jam-packed plaza. The US President (William Hurt) is here on this historic occasion where the leaders of many nations are banding together to assert that terrorism is bad, m’kay? He is guarded by Secret Service agents (Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid), one of whom recently took a bullet for him, or at least thinks he did. An American tourist (Forest Whitaker) watches the event through his video camera, uncomfortable with the idea of trusting his memory alone. Or is it because the camera has some plot significance later on?

Rating:

Run, Fatboy, Run

dir: David Schimmer
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Sure, the title of this flick is a phrase that has been yelled at me by people in passing cars, the police, girlfriends and my own mother, but I’m not bitter about it…

Well, not too bitter.

Simon Pegg is becoming a ubiquitous figure of British comedy, in that a few comedies come out of Britain each year, and he seems to be in at least one of them annually. Yes, that is my new definition of ubiquity.

He’s recognisable, and has a loyal following of fans who find his antics and constant mugging amusing. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are his two most well known roles, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this flick right here is anything like those other ones.

This should not, nay, MUST not be confused with the comedies Pegg’s been in with Nick Frost and directed by Ed Wright.

Because, in case you missed it, this flick was directed by the tool who used to play Ross on Friends. Yes, the loathsome, the terrible, the horripilating David Schimmer.

This is a fairly lame and lazy romantic comedy, and had it starred someone else I probably would never have bothered seeing it. It does however have some pretty funny people in it, making up for the abjectly pathetic script.

Rating:

Across The Universe

dir: Julie Taymor
[img_assist|nid=6|title=Across a boring 60s-infused Universe|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=475|height=347]
Julie Taymor, being Julie Taymor, delivers high concept drama-free colour-soaked movies rich in immaculate artistic design and acting little higher up on the relative scale compared to dinner theatre.

In Across the Universe, she delivers a musical using much of the Beatles better known back catalogue, which is more of a homage to the gullibility of audiences seeking a romantic fix mixed with 60s Americana clichés rather than honouring the Liverpudlian larrikins and their music.

Is it entertaining? Eh, if you like polished, sickly sweet musicals and karaoke versions of classic pop songs, then maybe it is. Maybe it is.

But otherwise the clearest thought that came into my mind was that this flick seriously reminded me, as most things remind me, of an episode of The Simpsons where trusty news anchor Kent Brockman starts a news story about the 1960s saying something like “And here’s a 60s montage.” Random cliché scenes of hippies, the National Guard popping skulls at Kent State, civil rights marches and Vietnam protests flick past to the accompaniment of All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix. At the end of the montage, Brockman intones in disgust “What a shrill and pointless decade.”

Well, Kent, feel free to describe this film in a similar fashion.

Rating:

Golden Compass, The

dir: Chris Weitz
[img_assist|nid=93|title=It has angry polar bears in it|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=240]
The hardest obstacle faced by any new fantasy film that comes out now is that it has to distinguish itself from the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings movies to be taken seriously. That is, if the actual intention is to distinguish itself, instead of aping them and going out of the way to remind you of the similarities to cut down on the marketing budget.

Why craft a campaign around celebrating the best aspects of your brand new potential film trilogy when all you have to say is “It’s just like Harry Potter hanging out with Frodo in Narnia! We’ll even use some of the same actors just to remind you, you stupid muggles!”

If no distinction is entertained or sought, then you can dismiss these flicks to straight-to-DVD hell and brand them little more than a cheap Rings/Potter knock-offs, and go back to sleeping comfortably. Night-night baby.

The great difficulty faced by this film specifically is that the story stands in stark contrast to material like that of the Harry Potter franchise or, more aptly, the Narnia tales, but has been rendered into a form most calculated to remind people of, say, the Narnia and Potter franchises. Ah, familiarity and the contentment / contempt that it brings.

Rating:

30 Days of Night

dir: David Slade
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The vampire genre of flicks has truly been played out. There’s pretty much nowhere left to go, is there?

Every variation on the theme has been done to death already, hasn’t it? Vampires as romantic tortured souls, vampires as soulless vermin, vampires running the world in secret, vampires as aliens, vampirism as a metaphor for sex, AIDS, addiction, vampirism as a metaphor for capitalism, communism and every other –ism you can imagine.

So I guess it was time to bring it all back to basics and just have them as marauding monsters bent on killing everyone they can like the scum that they are.

Rating:

Hitman

dir: Xavier Gens
[img_assist|nid=732|title=Killing people is easy. Working your problems out without resorting to assassination is hard.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=428]
It’s called Hitman. Use your imagination as to what it’s about, go on. I dare you, I double dare you.

It’s about a guy called 47 (Timothy Olyphant), bald and with a barcode on the back of his head, who travels the world at the behest of The Organisation, killing people for money. He’s very good at his job, as one would expect, since centring an action movie and a game franchise around a hitman who’s actually quite lazy and sloppy would seem to be counter-productive.

Varying from the game, 47’s origins are such that he was picked up as an orphan and trained ruthlessly by some macabre monk types before being unleashed upon the world. Orphans just cop it the worst every time, don’t they?

He is hired to take out the current Russian president, and does so, only to find that he is now a target, and that the Russian president seems to be fine despite having had his head JFKed with a high-powered sniper round.

Rating:

I Am Legend

dir: Francis Lawrence
[img_assist|nid=742|title=I Am... The Fresh Prince of Legend|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
You know, Will, you’re really not.

He may be the biggest box office star currently, he may be a good earner, he may be an occasionally decent actor, he may even be the Big Willy he claims to be in his music, but Will Smith is no Legend. At least not in this bloody movie.

I remember The Omega Man with a certain degree of affection, or at least as much affection as you can have for a film with Charlton Heston in it. Both this flick, that flick and another called The Last Man on Earth all stem from the same novel, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Just because this flick, directed by the guy who brought us the cinematic adaptation of Constantine, uses the name of the source material for the first time, don’t go thinking it chooses to cleave closely to the actual story.

Oh no. Why would you want to, when instead you can have Will Smith talking to himself and talking to his dog Sam for 80 minutes and then killing evil puffy looking vampires for the other ten minutes?

Rating:

Die Hard 4.0: Live Free or Die Hard

dir: Len Wiseman
[img_assist|nid=745|title=So old and sweaty|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Oh, Bruce. You are so old. But there’s no reason for you to stop acting. Still, please think about what it looks like when, in a flick where fighter jets blow up freeway overpasses in Baltimore or when a lunatic uses a police car to take out helicopter, the most unbelievable aspect of the film is the idea that you’re still capable of running around and beating people up.

Think of your fragile hips. I know I was for most of this movie’s duration. Not in an erotic way, oh no, but more in a “is he getting enough calcium in his diet?” kind of way.

Bruce Willis joins a list of other well-aged hams who are most recently, reluctantly coming to terms with their aging process. In a desperate attempt to remain relevant, in an even more desperate attempt to convince audiences that they’re still hard men, Willis joins Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Paul Hogan in reprising a character they played in some cases over twenty years ago in order to earn some beer money.

Rating:

Death Proof

dir: Quentin Tarantino
[img_assist|nid=752|title=Car go boom|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=263|height=400]
I don’t think there are insults left to fling at Quentin Tarantino. The cries of plagiarism, unoriginality, lack of individual inspiration, immature fixation on the films of his youth, awful personal hygiene; all these barbs have been passed around and thrown at him for over a decade since he came to our collective notice.

And they’ve all stuck, because they’re all true. Yet he keeps going on and on, continuing to do his thing without giving a damn…

Death Proof is the Tarantino half of what was one movie when it was initially released in the States: Grindhouse. Grindhouse itself, whilst a wonderful idea that delighted all those shlubs old enough to remember drive-ins and the sleazy c-grade double bills that used to play at them and at grungy old cinemas that were literally called grindhouses, it didn’t set the box office alight.

As such, the Weinstein Brothers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to split the two halves, the other half being the Robert Rodriguez flick Planet Terror, and released them individually outside of America. Thus, we have Death Proof now, and Planet Terror coming out in a month or so.

Rating:

Transformers

dir: Michael Bay
[img_assist|nid=758|title=Smart Robots. Dumb Humans|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=459]
It is easy to hate Michael Bay, and especially to hate his movies. They are the apotheosis of mindless action raised to the status of pure content-free escapist claptrap that steals souls whilst it damages minds with its spastic imagery and brutal soundtracks. And Michael Bay himself is the grinning face of Death, seducing us with worm-filled decaying excrement dressed up in shiny chrome and flash. He is the painted whore of Hollywood, he is the handmaiden of horrible men like Jerry Bruckheimer; he is Bruckheimer in director’s form, and the world becomes a substantially worse place every time he disgorges or defecates a movie out onto our planet.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by Transformers. It’s still an incoherent, character-less mess, but it’s a vaguely entertaining incoherent, character-less mess.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the film did not make me want to gouge my own eyes out and perforate my own eardrums in self-defence or in protest.

Rating:

Flash Point (Dao huo xian)

dir: Yip Wai Sun
[img_assist|nid=757|title=Great fighter. Crap actor|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
This is superficial and pointless even for a Hong Kong action flick, but damn are the fights good.

They’re too few and far between, but at the very least you can rely on Donnie Yen to deliver the goods fight-wise.

Donnie Yen is the current superstar of Hong Kong fight!-fight!-fight! fighting. He’s in the position for two reasons that I can think of that have nothing to do with acting: every other half-able fighter has moved over to Hollywood, and no-one really wants the mantle.

It’s not because of his thespian abilities, that’s for sure. And if you were wondering if Donnie is the best, have no doubt, he’ll tell you himself. The special features on DVDs of his flicks, a term devalued purely by many of the features film producers consider to be special, will often have interviews with Donnie Yen wearing sunglasses indoors and telling the camera that he is the greatest movie fighter around. Humility doth flow from this man’s every pore, yea verily.

Yes, so he’s a monumental wanker. Thing is, though, whenever I watch him fight, I forget for those few minutes all about the sheer magnitude of his wankerishness, and I marvel at just how amazing the guy is when he’s kicking the absolute shit out of some poor shmuck.

Rating:

Freedom Writers

dir: Richard LaGravenese
[img_assist|nid=759|title=Don't you dare call me horseface|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=200]
If you ever desperately prayed for a way in which to figure out just how cynical and jaded you’ve become in your stinky old age, you need to watch a flick like Freedom Writers as the true test. It’s a perfect gauge of where on the miserable old bastard scale you currently reside.

The thing is, though, it’s such a finely tuned, sensitive Geiger counter of a test that I’m not sure how many will come out smelling of roses. I think even Mother Theresa would come out of it looking bad.

The premise, which is prefaced with those dreaded words “Based on a true story”, is that in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots, a young idealistic teacher (Hillary Swank) tries to teach some underprivileged kids at an urban school whose life expectancies are akin to that of grams of drugs around AFL footballers: they’re not going to last very long at all.

Erin Gruwell starts off all sunshine and light, and remains all sunshine and light throughout. She cares about the kids right from the start, but her character arc is that she has to learn to speak to them about life in a way that doesn’t condescend and that appreciates the war-torn realm in which they live their lives. How will she achieve the seemingly impossible? By getting them to read The Diary of Ann Frank.

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Reign Over Me

dir: Mike Binder
[img_assist|nid=761|title=Check out my crazy hair|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=200]
Hmmm, Adam Sandler in a serious role again. Smells like Oscarbait to me.

Reign Over Me is a somewhat manipulative attempt by the filmmakers to both make Sandler look like an Oscar contender and to use the September 11th attacks to tug at the heartstrings of gooey audiences everywhere.

When I think of that terrible day, I don’t say to myself: “what I really need is a way to make the tragedy personal, to understand it in the scope of the impact it had on one person. And I want that person to be Adam Sandler looking like a very dishevelled Bob Dylan”.

I mean, after all, no tragedy is more hard-hitting or better explained except when it’s done by a comedian.

In a lot of ways, though Sandler isn’t as excruciating as you would expect, he plays the role the same way he plays every role, whether it’s a comedy or not. It’s still the same character - an aging poster child for arrested adolescence deals with, uh, stuff – that he plays in absolutely everything he’s ever played.

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28 Weeks Later

dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
[img_assist|nid=767|title=28 Million Dollars later|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=316]
Gee, I wonder what flick this is a follow-up to?

Danny Boyle doesn’t return to helm this sequel, but I’m sure he made some money out of it as an executive producer. As such I’m sure he’s not too disappointed with how it turned out, but I’m sure he would have done it quite differently.

Instead of Boyle and his usual crew, it gets a bunch of other writers, and the Spanish director of a superb flick from a bunch of years ago called Intacto. I loved Intacto (a strange flick about luck as a power, as a curse) so much that I expected 28 Weeks Later to be some kind of masterpiece as well.

As it stands, this flick is passable entertainment, I’d say. They keep the location, and the story (a rage virus spreads throughout Britain making most of the population go berserk and kill each other), but saddle it with a pretty simple (some might say almost stupid) plot in order to gain some kind of currency with world events.

World events like the present Iraq Adventure, I guess.

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