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6 stars

Ted

Ted

Making awkward conversation while they're at it

dir: Seth McFarlane

Seth McFarlane makes the jump to the silver screen, and the world is so much of a better place for that transition. I mean, before, if you wanted to avoid Family Guy, American Dad or The Cleveland Show, what you had to do was change the channel by expending the necessary energy to press a button on your remote. Exhausting work. In a cinema, however, there is no escape from such McFarlaneness.

A boy (who grows up to be played by Marky Mark Wahlberg with none of the Funky Bunch in sight) exhorts the heavens with a tremendous wish: that the cosmos grant him one friend to alleviate the loneliness that smothers his existence. And the cosmos, or Jesus, or Loki, for some reason, agrees to this pathetic request.

This avatar created by divine intervention takes on a strange but pleasing form, that of an ensouled teddy bear, voiced by McFarlane as well. Is this a problem for anyone? Well, there is a bit in the movie where Ted tells a bunch of people at a party that he doesn't think he really sounds that much like Peter Griffin from Family Guy.

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Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3

Men in Black: When will this shit end?

dir: Barry Sonnenfeld

And the world keeps on spinning, thanks to the Men in Black who keep us safe from the decent films in the multiplex. Sorry, I meant safe from the scum of the universe. It seems like I'm saying every few reviews that such-and-such movie is unnecessary, especially when it's a prequel - sequel - new installment in a fifteen part series, and MIB3 is unnecessary, but then let's not get too hoity-toity about this whole cinema business. None of them are really that necessary, let's face it. In this cruel, brutish world they're philosophically the equivalent of whipped cream out of a can or those tiny yapping dogs idiots are sometimes shown carrying around in their handbags.

And yet I love them. Movies that is. Films in all their glory.

Whilst I'd label MIB3 even more unnecessary than most movies, it was not an entirely wasted experience. Sure, it was a waste of money, in all senses of the word, and perhaps of the time spent watching it would have been better spent punching oneself in the urethra, but I did not hate this film completely. I could almost say that I enjoyed several bits of it.

Truly. Bits. Here or there. Overall it's a ludicrous absurdity whose sole purpose is to shovel more money to the Church of Scientology through Will Smith's paycheck, but I did not hate all of it.

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Prometheus

Prometheus

Gaze upon the face of your disappointed god and despair

dir: Ridley Scott

This film doesn’t need to exist. It didn’t need to be made. But I’m glad Ridley Scott made it, and I’m glad I watched it. I guess.

I even saw it in 3D, and not only did I pay for the experience by literally paying money, but also by incurring a headache from watching it that plagued me for hours afterwards. I don’t think, when our bodies were being Intelligently Designed by some kind of benevolent Creator, that our ocular physiology was ever designed to watch films in such a way. I think 3D is probably a form of blasphemy, and that it should be declared a mortal sin by the Vatican, or NASA, or the Stonecutters.

Even with the heavy toll I paid, I do have to admit that it looked utterly splendid, and that it used the 3D effectively to give both a sense of space and of the alienness of the two main locations in the film, being the ship called the Prometheus, and structures on the surface of an inhospitable planetoid.

The very first scenes of the film, before the title, show a somewhat luminous looking humanoid chap drinking something clearly not fit for human (or otherwise) consumption. The horripilating liquid, which looks like that foul Jagermeister stuff, comes in this totally manky cup, so we can safely assume it’s not very hygienic, whatever it is.

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The Dictator

The Dictator

Even Castro would envy that full, luxuriant beard

dir: Larry Charles

Meh. It’s no Borat, but then again, it’s going for something else. Something very much else.

The film starts with a dedication in loving memory to recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, long may his crazy ass fry in hell, and it’s called The Dictator, so we’re expecting an Ali G – South Park level of subtlety and historical complexity right off the bat.

Or maybe we’re not.

Sometimes, as audiences, we get not what we’d like but what we deserve. Since, like an undisciplined child, Sacha Baron Cohen’s bad behaviour not only goes unpunished or ever corrected, but is instead rewarded with money, critical acclaim and redheaded wives, he ends up giving us exactly what we might not like, but should totally expect.

The fundamental difference here is that he’s acting with other actors, and not inflicting his persona onto unsuspecting members of the public. What this shares with the other flicks is that he behaves in a similarly vulgar and boorish manner, in order to make us laugh, but the other characters, in on the act, either ignore, feign shock towards or applaud his repellent behaviour.

When he does this stuff in Borat or Bruno, the bits that should or would otherwise horrify a decent human being are why it matters to us, and where the humour comes from. Otherwise it’s pretty weak sauce.

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Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Terrorist, your game is through, 'cause now you'll l have to
answer to: America! Fuck Yeah!

dirs: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh

Act of Valor, presumably, refers to a specific act of conspicuous bravery above and beyond the usual, everyday bravery people exhibit. The heroes on display here, we would guess, commit these acts on a second-to-second basis. They live and breathe valour, as they are warriors of the highest calibre dealing out and embracing death for the protection of all good people everywhere. Well, at least of good Americans everywhere.

The only act of valour on our part is the potential willingness to hand money over for what is essentially a curious recruiting product meant to remind us of nothing else so much as USA! USA! USA!

People have shelled money out, though, a lot of money. This movie has more than made its money back already. And yet you’d not call most of what happens here a movie, per se.

It’s more like a very serious training video, one with a great deal of verisimilitude (I’m guessing, because I’ve never been a Navy SEAL myself as yet, though, you never know, there’s always time). It’s also very mindful of the aesthetics of first person shooters (computer games where the field of view is first person, and a weapon is ever present as you ‘walk’ through a three-dimensional environment), replicating the visual image continuously, to make the audience feel not like they’re there themselves, but that they’re playing the game they’re watching.

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Kill List

Kill List

What's the world coming to when even hardened killers aren't safe
in the English countryside?

dir: Ben Wheatley

Pretty nasty. Pretty goddamn nasty. Ugly and goddamn nasty would perhaps be most apt.

Trust the Brits to make a flick about work-a-day hitmen that’s probably closer to the reality of what such monsters must look like. None of this aestheticisation of murder crap for them, no.

Oh, fuck the ethical / moral arguments about it; they’re not worth having, they can’t be had because no-one’s arguing the contrary. What I’m saying is, considering the sheer abundance of films with characters who are hitmen, in reality, such professionals are probably more like the chaps here than, oh, let’s say George Clooney in The American.

I’m not just talking looks-wise here. Although I am. Bless the Brits for doing something to ensure unattractive people get to make a living. No, I mean it just feels more credible to have two chaps like the ones here, Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) doing what they’re doing, rather than two rarefied, classical-music-listening, Faberge-egg-collecting pretty-boy buff chaps, which would be the norm if you believed a lot of movies with the subject.

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Shame

Shame

Those sheets have nothing to be ashamed of, they look like they have
a really high thread count

dir: Steve McQueen

I understand shame. Believe me, I have a deep appreciation of shame, both the concept and the feeling, the horrible feeling, of shame.

I don’t think I really understood Shame.

The main reason is this: I don’t understand what it was trying to say. I think I understood what it said, in the way that if someone says to me “my cat’s breath smells like cat food”, I understand the individual words and the overall sentence. If the statement was made to me when I was standing at a shop counter asking for a pack of smokes, though, you can understand my lack of understanding from the context.

Michael Fassbender is a tremendous actor, and I’ll happily watch him in anything he does. All I did in this flick was watch him. He is this entire film, and he’s definitely a major presence, in or out of this flick, in or out of the nude. I still didn’t get what he was doing here, though, or why.

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John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars

Yeah, how and why did this movie fail again? It should have
been bigger than Titanic based on this image, which should
be spraypainted on the side of a panel van near you if there
is any justice in this universe, and we know there isn't.

dir: Andrew Stanton

‘Old-school science fiction’ is one of those phrases that seems like it’s too oxymoronic to be allowable to be used in common parlance and polite company. Even if it’s meaningless semantically, I’m still going to use it because I think it’s totally applicable. And what do I mean by such a phrase?

Tarzan in space.

Maybe Flash Gordon is a better example of where it’s coming from. At the very least, it’s not robots and star ships and ethical dilemmas about helping lichens on distant planetoids.

It’s just about a guy, called Herman Merman, no, sorry, he’s called John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), and he was on the losing side of the Civil War. The American one, not the one in England, or Liberia. In the pursuit of a cave full of gold, he mysteriously appears somewhere else. Somewhere very much else.

Without him knowing it, he’s turned up on Mars, which the locals call Barsoom. And on Barsoom, there are really tall green four-armed Martians, some other reddish looking ‘white’ human types, and some shapeshifting shitstirrers, who look like whoever they want. It’s too difficult to unpack the racial implications of much of this stuff, so it’s easier to just drop it on the ground, and back away quietly.

At the very least it’s not as obviously retrograde as that other paragon of science fiction, being Dances with Avatars.

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The Rum Diary

Rum Diary

So many innocent livers were harmed in the making of this movie

dir: Bruce Robinson

You didn’t know this, but The Rum Diary is a superhero movie, of a different stripe. More specifically, it’s a superhero origin story, and it stars Johnny Depp.

Yes, yes, we’re all tired of those. But the superhero in question is Hunter S. Thompson, and the origin is that of his relentless, drug-fuelled campaign against the ‘Bastards’, which only came to an end seven years ago in 2005 when he decided to blow his own brains out.

Now, lest you think he fought against people whose parents weren’t married when they were born (a terrible fate for anyone not born lately, apparently), the battle I refer to is that against the dark forces, the forces of greed, the bastards who would carve up paradise and sell it by the gram, laden with sugar and other life-leeching chemicals. The Rum Diary is about how he found his voice, and how he started writing for the public in order to take the Bastards down.

Or, to at least make life difficult for them in the court of public opinion.

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Coriolanus

Coriolanus

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a flick about soccer hooligans.
Come on you Reds!

dir: Ralph Fiennes

Speaking of Shakespeare, as I was in that recent review for Anonymous: damn, he really wrote, whoever it was, a lot of plays, thirty-eight in fact. I mean, that’s prolific. And, as with any prolific authors, they’ve got stuff no-one wants to know about, Kenneth Brannagh doesn’t want to direct, and Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t want to star in.

So it’s left up to Ralph Fiennes, still smarting from his goofy brother Joseph Fiennes getting to play the Bard in Shakespeare in Love, to direct and star in Coriolanus.

They used to think it was based on someone who really existed, and something that really happened, but it probably didn’t. That doesn’t stop a Fiennes, though, does it? And it hardly matters for the purposes of whether we’re entertained or not.

It’s set in somewhat ‘modern’ times, though the empire depicted is the Roman one, so all the references are old timey. I’ve also heard, though it’s not obvious from watching it, Fiennes’ intention was to make it look like the Balkans in the 90s, when European unity (and contemporary genocide) was at its finest.

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