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6 stars

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

A Few Best Men

A Few Best Men

Go back where you came from, you ten-pound Poms!

dir: Stephan Elliot

I am a simple man. Anyone who’s ever met me or read these here reviews will probably have figured that out for themselves by now. So if I watch a comedy whose sole purpose is to make me laugh, presumably, then I consider that comedy to be a success if I laugh.

In that light, to put it very simplistically, this movie made me laugh, it is a comedy, so therefore I give it my highest honour possible, being “eh, it wasn’t too bad.”

That’s not to say that it’s a good film, by any definition other than the one I just offered. It’s clumsy, it’s poorly acted, it’s erratically edited, it’s got actors in it who shouldn’t be in it, or in films in general and specifically, and it’s got a lot of crude, stupid humour.

Shit like that, though, literally and figuratively, makes me laugh sometimes, and I laughed a handful of times while watching this trenchant and probing examination of marriage in the current milieu.

Being a simple man doesn’t stop me from over-complicating things endlessly, though. The main reason for that is this: I’m a simple man who’s also intensely neurotic. So allow me to offer apologies and explanations for this here review and this here flick.

I thought this was an Australian flick made for domestic consumption, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It became pretty obvious after a while that there was a thoroughly misguided attempt to make this flick in Australia aimed at a British audience.

Rating:

A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method

Tell us all about your mother, Doctor Freud. We promise it will all be
kept in the strictest confidence.

dir: David Cronenberg

Famous and frightening Canadian director Cronenberg’s love affair with Viggo Mortensen continues, with every film he comes up with having Viggo in a crucial role. Who can blame him? Viggo is awesome. And even more than Viggo being thoroughly awesome, he was also great in those last two flicks of his, being A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Michael Fassbender’s no slouch in the awesomeness department either, so casting these chaps as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, the two titans of psychoanalysis in the early part of the 20th Century, would seem like a sure-fire box office blockbuster.

Maybe not. Both of these chaps bring solid acting chops to a story that isn’t that well known. Freud’s name is common currency, but Jung’s not as prevalent, since people don’t make Jungian slips that often, perhaps, or at least they don’t admit to it. The point of this story, however, is not a biopic about the lives of the two men instrumental into identifying and pathologising a lot of the craziness out of there. It’s about Jung’s relationship with a crazy woman, played very crazily by Keira Knightley foremost, and then it’s about the falling out between Freud and Jung.

Rating:

Moneyball

Moneyball

This awards season, Brad Pitt IS a Ball of Money!

dir: Bennett Miller

Why would I watch a flick about baseball? Why would anyone? That is, why would anyone watch a flick about a sport they know nothing about apart from its existence, and couldn’t care less about?

Well, there have been some decent baseball flicks, for which it doesn’t matter a tinker’s dam whether you’re a fan of the sport or not. Eight Man Out, Cobb, The Babe, The Natural, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams: they're all the ones I can think of right now. You can argue that it’s not even the sport itself which is relevant in terms of whether they’re good films or not: it’s the story that goes along with it, eliciting as it does awe, hope, joy, boredom, strange sexual feelings and probably other darker emotions that I'm not privy to.

Well, truth be told the only reason I saw Moneyball is because I’d seen a lot of good reviews, a lot of praise for it, and many if not all of those reviews said stuff like “you don’t have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy the flick”. And so I watched it.

The reality is, though, if you don’t know or care about baseball, or sport in general, this film could bore you so much that you eventually hate any mention of it, or have all affection eroded you may have had for the athletic arts.

Rating:

In Time

dir: Andrew Niccol
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Oh, World: Stop foisting Justin Timberlake onto us as a lead actor. I know he doesn’t want to record albums anymore, but really, when he’s talking and moving, he’s not really conveying whatever the hell it is that you think he’s conveying.

He’s certainly not an action hero in the making. Where do you think this is, Taiwan? Only in Taiwan, Seoul and possibly Hong Kong do people make a career as treacly pop singers before they make the jump to action superstardom.

And what a film to try to make him the next Jason Statham, eh? A science fiction flick where Timberlake’s character, who’s from the ghetto, don’t you know, tries to upend an unfair system which keeps most of humanity in virtual slavery to Father Time.

Yeah, I know, it’s just like every single other flick that comes out, with Timekeepers instead of cops, and people literally stealing the life left to people off of each other’s arms instead of having Matrix-y type fights, but these chaps have thrown in a completely new spin on the Bonnie and Clyde set-up, so it must be good.

Rating:

The Debt

The Debt

How bloody deceptive is this poster? You'd think this was an exciting movie or something

dir: John Madden

Who would have thought a flick about three Mossad agents trying to hunt down a sadistic Nazi war criminal could be a depressing and unfulfilling trawl through the sewers of human weakness and failure?

Not me, proving how truly not bright I am, which is why I’m reviewing films instead of making them. But there’s nothing I can do about that now *sob*. So let’s just talk about the film then, shall we?

John Madden is, I’m sure he’ll be mortified to hear, not a director I’ve ever had much time for. The most famous thing he’s done is probably Shakespeare in Love, which has about as much to do with the actual Shakespeare as that recent hilarious flick Anonymous did, which argued that Shakespeare himself was too much of a bloody peasant to have ever written all those plays and sonnets, and so it had to have been the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere. But even if he had something to do with Gwyneth Paltrow shooting forth like the poisonous, leprous star that she is, and she may have even won a goddamn Academy award, if I’m not mistaken, for her weepy performance, he obviously wishes that he was directing stuff that was taken a bit more seriously.

So, instead of following Gwyneth’s lead and popping out strangely-named children, he persists in making movies, much to our collective disinterest.

Rating:

Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother

One person's idiot is another person's presidential candidate

dir: Jesse Peretz

Ah, a finer adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot we’ll never get in our lifetimes. Even Akira Kurosawa’s version isn’t this good.

Yeah, I’m pulling your leg. I’m pulling the heck out of your leg. This isn’t a particularly good movie, but it’s not the worst flick ever made either.

Now that’s a ringing recommendation, isn’t it? The thing is, though, I really did enjoy this movie. I pretty much enjoyed it solely because of Paul Rudd’s performance as the likeable idiot of the title.

For much of the flick, the impression we’re meant to have is that whilst his family might see him as an idiot, he’s not an idiot. He might come across as naïve, or too trusting, but generally he’s just a happy-go-lucky guy surrounded by cynical, selfish, awful people.

And then he does some stuff that could only really be done by an idiot, or at least someone with strong idiotic tendencies. Sometimes, even when someone isn’t entirely something, they can sidle close enough up to it that they might as well ‘be’ the label they’d like to avoid.

Ned (Paul Rudd), who’s pretty much a hippy in the modern age, is so trusting that when a uniformed police officer asks him if he’s got some dope, considering what a difficult, stressful week the cop’s had, Ned believes him and gives him some dope.

Rating:

The 3 D Musketeers

The Three Musketeers 3D

But there are four of them! I'm so confused but I don't care

dir: Paul W. S. Anderson

You might ask yourself: why would you voluntarily see a movie that you know can’t be good? You might specifically ask me: Why would you, a person of moderate intelligence who thinks every movie made by Paul W.S Anderson is shite of the highest order, see another flick made by him, especially one that seems like the dumbest thing since someone passed a law allowing children to legally own guns?

It would be a good question. It’s not one I have a satisfactory answer for. I’ve hated this shmuck’s flicks for decades, and his flicks are definitely not improving.

But an opportunity presented itself, and so I watched it.

Historians and philosophers, centuries from now, if there are people still around then, and let’s hope they’re not, will wonder if this is the dumbest version of the Three Musketeers story, or if it’s the awesomest. Rivalries will angry up the blood. Factions will form. Lines will be crossed. Feelings will be hurt.

It’s a prelude to the war to come, you see. The two sides will eventually meet in a war to expunge the earth of those they perceive as their blood enemies, without all realising the deepest, most saddening and salient fact: it doesn’t matter, because both sides are right and both sides are wrong, simultaneously.

Rating:

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