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6 stars

Taken 2

Taken 2

He's trying to remember where he put his car keys

dir: Oliver Megaton

Taken 2: The Takening? Taken Too? Taken 2: Achin’ for the Taken?

It was begging for a title worthy of parody, but they stuck with the prosaically functional. That’s a shame. If they’d had a sense of humour about it, perhaps they could have winked at the audience and made something functional a bit more fun. It’d be the equivalent of a dentist cracking jokes as he or she cracks into your jaw with shiny metal.

As it stands, Taken 2 is just about exactly the thing you expect it to be; another go-round of Taken. There’s even a bit which Liam Neeson has to say into a phone, replicating the same scene with minor alteration from the first flick, “Your mother and I are going to be TAKEN!” just in case we forgot what the fucking title on the ticket clenched in our sweaty hands was. He should have found a way to say, instead, “Kimmie, I’m about to be taken, and your mother is going to be Taken Too!” The expression on Liam’s face as he intones the actual dialogue is something along the lines of “no amount of money justifies having to say shite like this”, when it’s meant to be a look of consternation.

Liam Neeson looks even older and crankier than he did the last time, and who can blame him. To quote Bruce Willis from Die Hard 2: Die Harder, “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?”

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Hotel Transylvania

Hotel Transylvania

Perfect for Deadbeat Dads to take their non-custodial progeny to on the weekend

dir: Genndy Tartakovsky

When the school holidays ended in Melbourne a week or so ago, so too did the simultaneously exciting and terrifying prospect of having to take a child or children to the cinema in the pursuit of an hour or two of entertainment for the munchkins. It’s exciting because I love taking my kid to the cinema. It’s terrifying because most kid’s films are eye-bleedingly awful and make you wish you’d never been born, let alone them.

I’ve been lucky in the last month or so in that the films I’ve taken her along to haven’t been bad enough to make me want to shoot myself inside a cinema filled to the brim with children (not that I would there or anywhere, no need to get the Crisis Assessment Team out to pay me a visit, thanks), even if they haven’t been especially strong. I can’t expect Hayao Miyazaki or Henry Selick or Pixar to make eight films a year just to cover the school holidays for my benefit. Hotel Transylvania is good enough. It’s not good, it’s good enough. There’s a difference, but not enough of one to really matter.

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2 Days in New York

2 Days in New York

They could be in two completely different films

dir: Julie Delpy

Yeah, there really aren’t enough flicks set in New York, you know. Seconds, sometimes minutes go by in cinemas across the world where people are occasionally looking at footage of cities other than New York. It’s a shocking statistic.

2 Days in New York tries to correct this terrible shortage, this famine of the soul, by gifting us with the antics of some not-very-likeable people in New York going to Central Park and the Statue of Liberty and every other cliché you can think of.

Julie Delpy, who also directs, edits, wrote the screenplay, the music, made the sandwiches and probably stood outside cinemas urging people to come inside and watch her movie, decided a sequel to her earlier flick 2 Days in Paris was mandatory, instead of optional. She stars as Marion, a French woman with a kid living in New York with her new partner Mingus (Chris Rock) and his kid.

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Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

What a lovely family portrait of a despicable bunch of people

dir: Tim Burton

And this is what home video was invented for. You know, watching stuff on VHS or even Betamax tapes in your lounge room. No, I don’t mean porno. Well, maybe on laser disc or DVD. Definitely not Blu-Ray.

This is an artefact not just from the 60s, but from a time when we expected nothing more than to be entertained by something no matter how ludicrous it might be. Tim Burton may just be the most successful B movie director in the history of American cinema. I can't think of the last time or the first time he made something genuine, heartfelt and 'real', whatever that might be. He's happier with completely melodramatic fantasy, and who can blame him?

Johnny Depp certainly can't, which is just one of the many reasons why he's not only on board as the lead here, but also as one of the producers. I have no idea why Tim Burton and Depp thought making this would be profitable, successful or desirable to anyone else but themselves. But that's only because I know absolutely nothing about the show this is based on, other than it was a supernatural soap opera in the 1960s. Called Dark Shadows. That was probably even sillier than this.

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Arbitrage

Arbitrage

(to the Beastie Boys' tune ) Tellin' all y'all it's Arbitrage!

dir: Nicholas Jarecki

With a title like that they're going to be turning away teenagers from cinemas in droves, whacking them with sticks and pepper spray-smeared tasers.

I mean, who doesn't get a little wet hearing the silky, seductive word 'arbitrage'? Say it to yourself with a sensuous lilt to your voice, like you're a phone sex worker or telemarketer. From Mumbai, south of the Melbourne where you are from, mister sir.

I like to think that this is the sequel to Pretty Woman, though they couldn't get Julia Roberts to reprise the least convincing role as a prostitute any woman has played in the history of women and movies. Thankfully, they got an actual actress to play the role this time, being Susan Sarandon. But Gere, Richard fucking Gere is the lead.

I have to admit to a certain bias here that colours my ability to appreciate such a film: I'm not much of a fan of Richard Gere, in fact, I find his squinty mole-like eyes and hammy performances gut-wrenchingly difficult to sit through. It's not fair to him, or you, dear reader, but it's more honest this way, more respectful of you. That way you can assess for yourself whether my opinion is based on what I thought of what might be a decent flick, or whether it's just that I can't stand a particular element of it, skewing my perceptions shamefully.

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Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Madagascar 3

Now, are there any questions, keeping in mind that I
already explained about the hair?

dirs: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon

You might be wondering why I'd be reviewing this latest instalment in the Madagascar franchise, since I've never reviewed any of the others. I don't know, do you ever wonder about stuff? Maybe you wonder why I review anything at all. Or maybe you're a particularly incurious person, or you came here accidentally looking for pictures of a naked Kate Middleton spanking Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively on their wedding night as in the background Henry Kissinger reads Ginsberg's Howl to Lady Gaga on a tricycle covered in Vegemite and ambergris. They're out there, somewhere. Keep looking.

If so, how disappointed are you? Instead you find yourself reading a review about a kaleidoscopically colourful 3D kid's film, with none of the edge or sleaze you're used to from every other corner of multitude of tubes on the internets.

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The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy

Maybe there should have been, only one, that is

dir: Tony Gilroy

The lazy joke going around when The Bourne Identity first came out was that it represented an attempt to make a James Bond-like spy film without James Bond. Now the even lazier joke could be that they're making Jason Bourne films without even having Jason Bourne in them.

The Bourne Legacy is a very transparent attempt to reboot the franchise with a new lead, but only whatever next flick they make in the series will tell if that works out, because this one is all set-up with no payoff. It doesn't even have the decency to come after the Matt Damon flicks. This is set almost concurrently, as in the events depicted here occur at the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy. Goddamn those were pretentious names for kick-arse action flicks. So our new hero isn't following in Bourne's fading footsteps, he's walking in parallel.

This one, perversely, doesn't have Our Hero, gruntingly played by Jeremy Renner, do anything particularly Jason Bourneish until after an hour of film has unspooled. I mean, he does a few action-man type things, like jumping from the top of a mountain to another quite casually, but what we really associate these flicks with is: shaky camerawork, bone-crunching fist and foot fights and car chases. Oh, and amnesia, I guess.

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Lola Versus

Lola Versus

My money's on Lola for the win, or at least a draw

dir: Daryl Wein

Now, this film isn't a million miles away from the Australian flick I reviewed the other day whose name I refuse to repeat right now. Suffice to say it involves characters in their late twenties questioning what the heck they're doing with their lives, in a manner that is meant to be entertaining and edifying for us shmos in the audience.

This one does a much better job, even though it's not immediately obvious as to why. It's just as pretentious and filled to the brim with annoying characters overflowing with affectations, and it has a murky path with a dubious destination in mind, and doesn't really have a lot of substance to it.

That hardly matters because, at the very least, the main character in this instance, called Lola, surprisingly enough, is actually quite likeable even if she is something of a fuck-up, and it's actually enjoyable to spend time with her, most of the time at least.

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The Hunter

The Hunter

Support your local Greens candidate, or Willem will come after you

dir: Daniel Nettheim

The Hunter is a sombre, icy film from last year that I didn’t get a chance to see in the cinemas at the time. It’s a pity on the one hand because I’m sure the sometimes harsh Tasmanian wilderness would have looked sublime up on the big screen.

Alternately, my perplexity at the ending and the point of it all would not have been lessened by the big screen experience.

A German biotech company called Red Leaf hires a man, a manly American man (Willem Dafoe) to go out into the Tasmanian wilderness in order to find the last remaining thylacine. As in, the Tasmanian Tiger which has been long thought extinct.

It’s all hush hush, and the company treats this as if they’re planning to whack the pope (which is not a masturbation euphemism, though maybe it is). Martin, as Dafoe’s character is called, travels to the backwaters of the backwater that is Tasmania, and is unimpressed with his surroundings. It doesn’t help that the place he happens to be staying seems to be infested with hippie children and the power is out.

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The Five-Year Engagement

Five Year Engagement

Just say no to marriage, people: gay or straight it's
always a mistake

dir: Nicholas Stoller

Is five years a really long time for an engagement? I've got friends who've been engaged for fourteen years. Where's their parade? Where's their movie?

And they definitely deserve one. These two people in this flick? Hmm, not so sure.

Emily Blunt, who is trying to be in everything that comes out at the moment, and Jason Segel play two people, Violet and Tom, who love each other enough to be in a relationship, but not enough to transcend the array of problems that surround them. Mostly, the flick seems to be about the sacrifices one partner has to make in order to keep the other partner happy. The 'sacrifice' isn't anal, or threesomes or cuckolding fetishes; in this day and age, it's employment. One member of the couple gets the chance for their ideal job, necessitating a move to a new town, for the job that will fulfill and empower them, and the other one is left with nothing.

It's not fair, is it? Of course, one must weigh up a lot of factors when deciding if this is the right way to go. How much do you love the person? How great (and how well recompensed) is the job they want, and the versa of the vice is, how attached are you to your town and your fulfillment through employment? How easy will it be for you to find work in the new place, or to develop new support networks and find fulfillment outside of your better or worse half's ambitions?

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