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7 stars

Skyfall

Skyfall

Bloody typical, always lying down on the job

dir: Sam Mendes

It’s a decent enough film, it’s just that I’m not sure how much of a Bond film it is, and that’s something I’m ambivalent about.

The tone of the flick is also fairly grim, fairly dour. It even spends a fair amount of time on the northern highlands of Scotland, which is the grimmest, dourest place on the planet.

After fifty years of these movies, I guess they needed to do something substantially different, radically different despite the window dressing. Skyfall is steeped in Bond lore, and far more grounded than the usual Bond film. When I say ‘grounded’, I don’t mean realistic, or that it’s being punished for breaking curfew. What I mean is that excluding the high energy pre-credits introduction, the rest of the flick mostly avoids the elaborate stunts and absurd gadgetry-inspired last minute escapes that James Bond is renowned for. Mostly, it shows our ‘damaged’ protagonist plodding through the plot up until the strangest ending a Bond film has ever had.

It’s the first time I can think of where Bond doesn’t save the world, and doesn’t really win, in the end, if you consider what his objective is, which I won’t spoil unnecessarily, and I guess that’s refreshing too.

Rating:

Natural Selection

Natural Selection

You can pick your family, but you can't pick your genes

dir: Robbie Pickering

Every now and then you need a quiet, chilled-out flick as a bit of a palette cleanser. A bit of cooling pickled ginger after the burning momentary wasteland of wasabi. A nice, clean beer after a nasty shot of rotgut whisky served in a dirty glass. Most of the last twenty or so films I’ve watched have been pretty intense, so something light and breezy is surely desirable.

Natural Selection is one of those flicks I knew practically nothing about before watching it, other than it was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival some time or another. Something being a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival doesn’t usually make me want to watch something especially much, in fact it’s more likely to make me recoil in horror and contemplate watching another Michael Bay film instead.

But it was liked by a few people who I take seriously, and so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

It’s an odd bird of a flick, but nonetheless it’s an enjoyable one about a woman going on a very modest journey of reflection and self-discovery. Thankfully, this doesn’t involve Julia Roberts or Tuscany or getting a vibrator for the first time.

Rating:

Your Sister's Sister

Your Sister's Sister

Make a choice and stick with it next time, ya drunks

dir: Lynn Shelton

What is Mark Duplass bribing people with in order to keep turning up in all these films lately? Has he got some great weed? An abundance of serious green bankroll from all those indie megahits he’s co-directed or starred in? A fantastically long penis that not only hits all the right spots but sings a sweet, melancholy torch song afterwards?

However he’s doing it, here he is again, at least from the perspective of my week, in that I’ve accidentally seen him in two films in only a few days. What a harsh coincidence. What cruellest fate in the kindest month.

At the very least I can console myself with the fact that I enjoyed his performance, goofy performance at that, much more than I did in Safety Not Guaranteed. It helps that he’s not playing a mental case here. His character here, all the same, is somewhat depressed, and a bit obnoxious, so it’s not like he’s stretching himself out of all shape or comfort zones.

A group of friends, and the brother (Duplass) of a guy who died the previous year, get together to remember him and to have a drink in his honour. We don’t know who the guy was, but one of the attendees (stand up comedian Mike Birbiglia) gets up and says some nice words, making people, including Iris (Emily Blunt), an ex-girlfriend of the guy, get all misty-eyed and nostalgic.

Rating:

Killer Joe

Killer Joe

Y'all nasty people make me sick to my goddamn stomach

dir: William Friedkin

Ew, this film is sleazy and nuts.

I guessed Killer Joe would be a lurid, vile, messy trawl through white trash mania and I can’t say I was at all surprised by the end result. I mean, a title like that doesn’t conjure visions of doilies, parasols and cucumber sandwiches. Instead, surprising no-one but me, this flick ends up being a nasty, repugnant black comedy about how dumb people do dumb stuff.

The chap referred to in the title is played by Mathew McConaughey, and this caps off an incredible year for this very odd man. I’ve generally found him to be an actor I don’t have much time for, but this year he’s been great in a whole bunch of stuff. He played the incredulous prosecutor in Bernie perfectly. He played the awesome (and admittedly creepy) owner of the all-male strip club in Magic Mike. And now he’s playing the loopiest and nastiest character he’s played thus far.

Joe Cooper is a police detective who also, somehow, gets to moonlight as a contract killer. I guess if you’re potentially one of the guys who’d be investigating a murder in a one-horse shitty Texan city, then you’ve got a bit of a leg-up on the opposition.

Rating:

Savages

Savages

You'd think this was a serious drama from the poster. Sucked in!

dir: Oliver Stone

Savages is a quiet, restrained film about two estranged siblings played by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman coming to terms with the impending death of their abusive deadbeat father. Arguments are had, feelings are expressed, Broadway plays are written, everyone except the father is happy in the end. The End.

No, wait, that was The Savages, whereas this flick is just Savages, and it’s a completely different kettle of decapitated heads. First of all, it’s directed by an Oliver Stone we haven’t seen for a very long time, since U-Turn, I think. It’s the Oliver Stone who channels Brian De Palma, and who revels in lurid, trashy, violent excess rather than conspiracy theories and political bloviating.

And no-one wants any more of that shit, not even Oliver Stone. This flick is based on a genre novel by Don Winslow of the same name, which covers the adventures in the sun of three people in love: Chon (Taylor Kitsch), Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and O (Blake Lively). Two of these people are dope growers. One of them is the person the other two have sex with. The three of them apparently love each other equally. Puts a bit of a different spin on the love triangle trope, don’t you think?

Rating:

Dredd

Dredd

Fear me, for I Am the LAW! And I have a funky, funky helmet

dir: Pete Travis

Look, I know what you’re thinking: how could a Judge Dredd movie without Sylvester Stallone possibly work. It’s a hard sell, I know. But the miracle is that this film is about the most perfect movie version of the long-running British comic book character that we’re ever likely to see in our lifetimes.

No, I’m not saying it’s a great film, one that’s likely to ever have the kind of crossover appeal of The Avengers or the Batman epics (I mean crossing over to the ‘normal’ segment of the population, as opposed to the geeky or the ones who just watch any action movie as the half-eaten corn chips fall out of their gaping maws). This will probably disappear into the ether unwatched and unlamented by the discriminating masses.

That’s not much of a shame, because, honestly, who cares across this sad and beautiful world? A handful of comic book fans like me? It’s enough of a shame that they actually bothered to make a decent Judge Dredd, with a decent actor as Judge Dredd for once.

It’s a shame because every time they adapt a character faithfully from the paper medium into the one of 3D and ‘splosions, do it well, and it fails at the box office, the scumbags at the studios think “Well, we obviously didn’t change it from the source enough. Next time we’ll put in more puppies.”

Rating:

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

Enter the fussy world of Wes Anderson, again and again
and again

dir: Wes Anderson

Every couple of years we are graced with another Wes Anderson film, and those that hate him and all his works are gifted with the opportunity to rant again as to why they loathe him, and those who rave for him do the opposite. My relationship is somewhat more complex, in that I find myself liking some of his flicks and not others, but it never sits as simply as “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff.”

Moonrise Kingdom is his latest (well, duh), and I enjoyed it well enough. It’s of a piece. You know what to expect in every present and future Wes Anderson film if you’ve seen at least two of them, because they never vary in their meticulous look, in their affected acting and in their quirky awkwardness that we’re meant to find endearing.

That doesn’t mean they’re all equally good or equally bad. I guess if you like the underlying story and fussy aesthetics, it makes up for all the Andersonian fetish work you have to sit through in order to get to that ‘happy’ place.

Rating:

Magic Mike

Magic Mike

Manly, oily men doing manly, oily things

dir: Steven Soderbergh

If you'd told me I was destined to watch and enjoy a film about male strippers in this here year of our Lord 2012, I would have scoffed and called you a liar to your face, despite your obvious track record as a fortune-teller and clairvoyant. If it was some other year, maybe 1997, maybe it might have been possible. But not now. Not in this bright, shining time of technological pinnacles and economic doom.

And yet stranger things have happened. It helps that it's directed by Soderbergh, who's been a consistently interesting director for decades (except when making those Ocean's 11-13 movies). And it also helps that they have a real life Chippendale in the lead role. Well, maybe not a Chippendale, but research shows that Channing Tatum was apparently the actual thing he portrays in this flick before he became an actor: a male stripper, stripping not to get through college but to get by until one of his actual dreams for financial security come true. He is surprisingly good in the role, and I say 'surprisingly' not because he's not a good match for the role but in spite of it.

Rating:

Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy

Ecstacy

They're trying to remind me of something... not sure what

dir: Rob Heydon

I approach anything to do with Irvine Welsh with a great deal of trepidation these days, but I was curious to see this, since I recall reading the book way before my fear and loathing for Welsh began.

And what I recall is that the book had three stories, one having to do with some hospital plagued by a necrophiliac and a romance writer, the other to do with some armless girl rendered armless in utero due to some Thalidomide-like chemical and the football hooligan she enlists for revenge, and a third story I don’t remember that well.

That third story alone serves as the basis for this flick, which follows the adventures of ecstasy gobbler Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) and the various addled people in his life. It’s a good thing, too. My main reason for losing interest in Welsh’s writing is that I just can’t handle the sexual horror stuff he dreams up and messily expels onto the page. Everyone has limits, and I reached mine a long time ago with him, even as I acknowledge Trainspotting to be a landmark book (and subsequent film).

Rating:

Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress

They're so ever so tiny and distressing

dir: Whit Stillman

It's been ever so long since Last Days of Disco. Barcelona was an age ago, and Metropolitan, your first flick came out so long ago they've already put out 20th anniversary editions of the film. And now you've gifted us with another film to add to your in no way unique but still much appreciated genre of wordy upper class twits fumbling through life and live.

With Damsels in Distress, you're reminded, if you liked his previous films, of why you liked his previous films. If you hated the other ones, and I've spoken to people who think Barcelona was the most fucking obscenely tedious flick in cinematic history, and these are people who'd sat through some of Bela Tarr's eight-hour epics or Tarkovky's Solaris in single sessions, then Damsels in Distress will also fill you with that deep abiding rage you'd forgotten all about.

For me, it was like catching up with an old friend. Such an occasion can be both a good and bad experience. You're reminded of what you liked about them back in the day. You're also reminded that, with no 'present' between you, all you share in common is a common appreciation of moments distant in time, and that's just nostalgia.

There's no future in that. There is a future, hopefully, for Stillman, it's just that I wish his films didn't fall apart like cheap underwear at the end.

Rating:

The Way

The Way

Move along, sir, there's no redemption for you here

dir: Emilio Estevez

Of all the people in the world available to direct films, you would think or hope that one of them wouldn't have to be Emilio Estevez, mega superstar of St Elmo's Fire and Young Guns fame. Estevez, one guesses, is somewhat forced to direct movies now because he's not inexplicably sought after like his drug addled brother Charlie Sheen, or as talented as his father Martin Sheen.

What better combination could there be than Estevez directing and Martin starring? Well, I guess they could have had Charlie playing a role too, maybe in the role as the lead female.

The Way is a movie about a father (Sheen) making a long pilgrimage to honour his son, who dies while on that same pilgrimage. It's not as complicated as it sounds. The father is a stodgy opthamologist who lives alone and plays golf solely to cover the fact that he has nothing else going on in his life. The only remaining family he has since his wife's death is his son Daniel (Estevez), the last contact with whom occurred when father was dropping son off at the airport. Son was all like "Dad, you should be totally out there living life and travelling and such" and the father is like "Buckle down, grow up, get a job you hate, work it for forty years, because that's what people do."

Rating:

Total Recall

Total Recall

With all their money you'd think they could afford to
give him a bloody shave for once

dir: Len Wiseman

Who dares say this remake is unnecessary? WHO DARES?

And they include the scene with a three-breasted prostitute, so what are you complaining about?

Total Recall, the flick from the early, early Nineties, is not really the classic some are pretending it is. Sure, it’s an Arnie film from before he got too ripe, and it was directed by Paul Verhoeven, someone for whom the words "tasteless misogynist excess" are a badge of honour instead of the grave insult they're intended to be, and it was pretty freaky and entertaining at the time. But it's no 2001. It's definitely on the goofy, trashy side of the sci-fi cinematic spectrum.

It also, like this flick, didn't really have that much to do with the original Philip K. Dick short story it pretended to be lifted from. That story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, was a very short story indeed. It also included no more than a depressed guy who goes to a memory implantation place where he wants some fantasy implanted that he's the most Important Person in the Universe. Turns out, the staff of the place realise, he actually is.

And that was it. Nothing about Mars, or three-breasted prostitutes, freeing the slaves or violent divorces. Nothing about mutants or superspy triple agents and defective holographic headgear.

Rating:

Bernie

Bernie

Phwoar! I'd give him my power of attorney any day!

dir: Richard Linklater

Well, that was weird.

I am unsure how much of this flick is a flick and how much of it is documentary, since there is a lot of footage that doesn’t seem to be footage of actors acting.

Let me be blunt by pointing out something very secret, almost unheard of: American tv and cinema is a very discriminatory, very harsh environment. It is cruel and unforgiving. The tyranny of the slim and gorgeous is absolute in this form of media. As it should be.

I say this as a staunchly unattractive man myself, so don't go thinking that I think I'm some lithe, brutishly handsome mash-up of Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hardy. Far from it, sadly, far far from it, though it's an intriguing combination, as opposed to the rather actual combination I possess: sad old boot, wildebeest, wobbegong shark and afghan rug that genuinely comprises my DNA.

No, my point is essentially that American movies never usually have this many incredibly unattractive people in the one place at the one time unless there's a damn good reason. Plenty of other countries make movies with less than attractive people in them. British cinema seems entirely dedicated to bringing unattractive actors to the forefront so we can all gawk at them like we're looking at the freaks at a particularly anachronistic carnival.

Rating:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Shiny, unhappy British people holding hands and
cursing the natives

dir: John Madden

Movies for oldies. Why not? Many of them have oodles of disposable income, and they’re as keen about being pandered to at the cinema as much as anyone else is. Plus, cinemas like my local arthouse Cinema Nova needs something to play on Mondays to make the oldies queue up like they’re offering free flu shots.

This niche is a pleasant enough niche, smelling as it does of casseroles, Vicks Vaporub and unwashed dishes, and it often results in some very excellent films, not all of them being Merchant Ivory productions. Sure, they don’t want to startle the old folks with anything even mildly shocking, so these flicks tend to be fairly safe and pedestrian affairs, but that doesn’t mean they are lacking in beauty.

On some levels I was watching this thinking “I should hate this and everything it stands for”, but the actors involved are too good, and the episodic, sometimes haphazard nature of the narrative are woven together well enough to overcome the hokeyness of some of the material.

Rating:

Brave

Brave

Hey there, you Brave Hair Bear! Thanks for coming

dir: Brenda Chapman

Redheads, gods love ‘em. They definitely make the world a better place.

Cinema doesn’t like them, though, and with good reason. For some people, nothing brings as much visual pleasure as watching redheads doing whatever it is they’re doing. For others, they provoke pitchforks, torches, fear and jerkiness.

You know what else Pixar and Hollywood in general doesn’t like? Women, apparently. The female of the species, which is hardly deadlier than the male. Of course they (or their characters) can appear in films, but they’re not wanted as the protagonist. No one wants to depict them as having agency or self-determination. They’re usually the love interest, the prize, the acted-upon rather than the actor, which means they’re usually plot devices or props. Pretty pretty props.

Rating:

Snow White & the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman

Stop staring at me with your dead eyes

dir: Rupert Davies

So soon? Another new version within weeks of the last new version? Didn’t the pointless Mirror Mirror just breathe its first and last gasps in May, and now there’s Snow White and the Huntsman?

One studio hears that another studio is bringing out a new version of Snow White. They must think, “Damn, why didn’t we think of that first?” And then they think the idea, because it was had by someone else, will be a good and profitable idea, and so they need to do some spoilage work in order to dull the other’s profits.

Perhaps. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, like when two studios simultaneously have the same idea about a giant meteor threatening the earth (Armageddon and Deep Impact), or urban volcanos (Volcano and Dante’s Peak), magicians (The Illusionist and The Prestige) or animated insects partying hearty (Antz and A Bug’s Life), and the films come out at roughly the same time. It’s we, the audience, who benefits from this extravagant competition, surely, from this niggling desire not to let the other studio get away with anything, with the slip of an idea.

Rating:

Wanderlust

Wanderlust

You bunch of filthy hippies, who aren't really that filthy,
or hippies, for that matter

dir: David Wain

Goddamn hippies. You would think, from this flick and flicks like it, that hippies are worthy of more contempt and loathing than almost every other classification, subculture or type of human in this world. A village full of kiddie fiddlers and hedge fund managers doesn’t rival the awesome awfulness of a bunch of hippies, apparently.

At least to Americans, I guess. Whether they’re contemptible wretches worthy of that contempt or not (all of them, not just some of them or most of them, every single fucking one of them!) is not of tremendous relevance. It’s not as if this flick is going to change any opinions about anything along the way, or raise awareness or anything. That’s not its purpose. The flick isn’t even interested in characters, or characters coming to terms with things, or overcoming things, or anything like that. No flick about hippies that has Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in lead roles is interested in achieving anything so bold, any so radical.

As much as I like Paul Rudd, if there’s another actor who varies less between roles I haven’t had the honour of discovering him yet. And Aniston, well, if there’s an actress with even less range, science hasn’t discovered her yet.

So casting them here as a yuppie couple who fall upon hard times is the kind of decision a Microsoft program could have come up with unaided: “They’re Bland Enough and Up for Whatever!” the poster could scream.

Rating:

The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption

Burn it all down, then salt the earth afterwards

dir: Gareth Huw Evans

How bizarre. A Welsh director travels to Indonesia to make a brutal action flick that seems like it’s from Hong Kong in the 1980s.

For his next flick maybe he should make a movie where a one-legged ballerina swordfights with narwhals on Pluto as Gary Numan plays maracas in the background, set during the Victorian era.

Maybe it’s not that bizarre. I guess it’s just a straight-ahead very violent action flick coming from a place I wouldn’t expect to produce such things.

It’s enjoyable if you like brutal flicks where a guy, or a couple of guys, fight against a horde of enemies with the thin sliver of hope of ever surviving. Even though a lot of people get shot, that’s just the hors d’oeuvre. The reason people’s arses are in those theatre seats is, presumably, to watch fist and foot mercilessly meet with face and groin, many, many times.

Rating:

Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo

Crazy, I'm crazy for feeling so lonesome, crazy
for feeling so blue

dir: Adrian Grunberg

Mel Gibson still makes movies? After all that, you know, unpleasantness?

Apparently so. Some people you just can’t stop without silver bullets.

Like cockroaches, the thermonuclear detonation directly above their lives, self-triggered, doesn’t stop them from scuttling ever onwards. He’s completely out of the closet in terms of his hatred and paranoia towards the members of the tribes of Abraham, and has even more runs on the board as a violent misogynistic fuckhead who would beat up a woman holding his own baby.

Clearly nothing, no level of opprobrium or societal disinterest in what else he may have to say will ever stop him.

Ideally, Leni Riefenstahl would be directing this movie, and it would star Mel Gibson, Dominique Strauss-Khan and Charlie Sheen, who would spend their time alternately screaming at and beating up Jewish Russian models, who are just happy to get some attention. Screenwriter of Showgirls and Basic Instinct Joe Eszterhas and fascist poet Ezra Pound would finish the script, David Irving would do the production design, Albert Speer would build the sets, Idi Amin provides the catering, and Wagner would do the soundtrack. The perfect storm of cinematic awesomeness.

Rating:

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

You should never trust anyone who wears black all the time

dir: James Watkins

Creepy, very creepy. Victorian England is so very creepy. England is creepy.

All those orphans. That fog. All those smokestacks. All those debtors prisons and cholera and rickets.

And they apparently cornered the market on vengeful ghosts way before the Japanese jumped on the bandwagon.

The Woman in Black isn’t a redo of Wilkie Collins’ alleged classic The Woman in White, just with an African American flavour to the proceedings. Plus, I overstated the creepiness of the era. And it’s not set in the Jack the Ripperesque Victorian era: it’s the Edwardian era, because someone’s got a shiny new newly invented car.

The old timey car is somewhat creepy, though, but nowhere near as creepy as everything else that goes on here. Reminiscent somewhat of poor Harker in the Bram Stoker Dracula novel, a young lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe, yes, Harry Potter himself) is sent out to an isolated mansion to settle the estate of a woman recently dead. He himself is grieving for the death of his wife several years earlier.

This is a ghostly horror story after all, and a sense of dread permeates almost every moment of screen time. It’s in everything: the hairstyles, the clothes, the fog, the architecture, everything. Even the eel pie and the candelabras all drip with dread.

Rating:

Safe

Safe

Don't point that thing at me, Curly

dir: Boaz Yakin

Jason Statham playing a character who kills lots of people? That’s a radical turn up for the books.

In the eternal pub argument of Caveman versus Astronaut, Ninja versus Pirate and Pussycat Doll versus Spice Girl, there’s the unfortunate real world competition of which is worse: Russian gangsters or Chinese triads? This film makes the same comparison, but posits it by asking: which is tougher? The answer is, of course, Jason Statham.

Or at least the thinly veiled stand-in character for himself, some guy called Luke Wright. You know, because he’s always Right! He gets on the bad side of the Russians, and they not only ruin his life by murdering his family, they intend to keep his life in a heightened state of ruination in an ongoing fashion. It’s a curious state, because I can’t imagine Russian gangsters having the follow-through long term to keep hassling someone like they do the main character here, and not just killing him as an example to all the other noble loners out there. They tell him, as he walks the earth in the time remaining to him, that any person with whom he shares even a single human moment with, they’ll be there to kill them.

It’s not going to do wonderful things for your state of mind, I imagine. Misery upon misery, he sees the only obvious way out, but demurs at the very last moment, because he sees a girl in trouble. Thank gods there was a girl in trouble, because otherwise: short film.

Rating:

Red Tails

Red Tails

The actors are more fake than the CGI

dir: Anthony Hemingway

It’s a story that’s been told a few times, but one that bears repeating, and that is clearly deserving of a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars range. Also, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen deserves all the attention George Lucas, his money, and his film technology can bring to the experience, surely.

After all, don’t African American actors deserve, at long last, to repeat all the corn, cheese and clichés of the Hollywood war movies of yesteryear they were so unfairly segregated from? Aren’t they due their dues by now, at long last, in this enlightened age?

Red Tails, in case you didn’t know and probably don’t care, is a story about African American pilots during World War II. It is a story George Lucas wanted to tell for decades, apparently, because of his deep connection to the subject matter(?) Look, I don’t know his real reasons, because who knows why he really does half of the stuff he does, as opposed to his publicly stated reasons. Does anyone on the planet really understand why it meant so much to him that Han Solo shooting Greedo first had to be expunged from the official record, despite the fact that we all saw it happen?

Rating:

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

They haven't aged a day, have they, like the immortals they deserve to be

dirs: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

File this under “should not have worked, but somehow did.” If such a file exists. Which it probably doesn’t.

In truth they could have just called this flick A Couple of Dicks Go Back to School and had exactly the same story without any of the Jump Street references or cameos, and it probably would have succeeded just as well, though it probably wouldn’t have made as much money.

I freely admit I was a fan of the show as a kid, and watched its first four years religiously, as in, always on the Sabbath. Loved the show, loved how moralising and try-hard it was, loved especially the various depictions of the teen experience forced through the filter of episodic police procedural television, with its “I learned something today” consistency. It was very of its time, dealing with the horrors of white kids using drugs, the rise of AIDS, the eternal tensions between parents, teachers and kids, and funky hairstyles. At least, at first, it was one of the only bright spots in that dark age known as the 1980s.

Nothing except eternity lasts forever, and even that the quantum physicists are always trying to fuck with, so Jump Street came and went, all the other actors went back to the obscurity they so richly deserved, and Johnny Depp went on to become the most powerful and highest paid actor in human history.

Rating:

The Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods

If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise

dir: Drew Goddard

Five teenagers go camping, or to a secluded cabin in a forest, or a house by a lake. They go there to get wasted and have sex, generally, to incur the wrath of some truly conservative and reactionary forces embodied in a killer who then goes to work.

Something always arises from somewhere, at least, in the horror flicks of the last thirty years, and kills all or most of them one by one, in the most grisly of fashions.

There will be naughtiness, but not too much. There will be harsh language. There will be alcohol and drug consumption. And there will be blood, lots of blood. And boobies, but mostly blood.

There are a thousand movies like this, I’m not going to list any of them. You know the ones. You either love them with a passion, in which case you’re a sick fuck and you should be avoided, or you love them ironically, with hipster detachment, which possibly makes you worse than fifty Hitlers, or you hate them and have absolutely no time for them, yet know intimately of their existence.

Rating:

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Something's missing. Needs more... fire, that's it

dir: Gary Ross

For readers of the book the only question is whether Jennifer Lawrence is a credible Katniss Everdeen. For people who haven’t read the books, it would surprise me if they care at all, and surprises me even more that they went in such droves to watch this film, which they have. It’s the biggest film of the year, thus far, which is pretty surprising in itself, and also gratifying.

In my mind at least, the success of The Hunger Games trilogy has always been a statement of quality against that other titan of the teen – young adult genre, being the Twilight series of abominations. Katniss is the anti-Bella Swan, in that she’s a decent and enjoyable female character to follow, who has agency and makes tough decisions concerning her fate and the fates of others. In contrast, Bella is a blank who has two hot supernatural boys fight over her.

There’s no need to fight over her, boys, she’s definitely not worth it.

But Katniss, Katniss Everdeen… It was like Suzanne Collins was saying ‘this kinda thing can be done right’. And so even if the story comes across as a melange of Battle Royale, Running Man, Predator, Nineteen-Eighty-Four and every reality television cliche of the last ten years, it's still the product of a worthy endeavour.

Rating:

The Lorax

The Lorax

With a moustache that big, they cannot fail to win... whatever it is

dir: Chris Renaud

I love Dr Seuss books. I didn’t know that until a couple of years ago, when I started reading them to my daughter. I don’t really remember them from my first go-round, as a kid, but this time, I delight in the rhyming nonsense and the stern moralising underpinning everything that Theodore Geisel thought up and brought out onto the page.

I don’t think they’re necessarily brilliant, or childhood defining, or fundamental to our understanding of society the way that a comprehensive understanding of Greek mythology or Jersey Shore is, but they’re all right as entertainment. Transmuting them in the crucible of Hollywood to animated movies is a relatively pointless endeavour except from the perspective of earning big cash pay offs.

And there's nothing wrong with earning heaps of big money in ethical and environmentally sustainable manners as far as I'm concerned, so hurray for more flicks based on Dr Seuss books! They can only, surely, make the world a better place.

The Lorax is possibly the least subtle and most colourful anti-rampant consumerism big budget animated movie you'll ever see that isn't WALL-E. Unlike WALL-E, however, which was never that subtle to begin with, this flick is aiming determinedly lower. This will never be confused with something put out by Pixar.

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Anonymous

Anonymous

Shakespeare, a fraud? Isn't it more likely that Roland
Emmerich = shameless hack?|

dir: Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich has previously been best known for making some of the most explode-y and truly stupid movies the cinema and your eyes have ever played host to. Independence Day, 2012, The Patriot, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC – there are more, and it’s a long, ignoble list of universal infamy.

So why’s he making a movie about the ‘real’ story behind William Shakespeare, when Shakespeare has about as much in common with Emmerich’s cinematic atrocities as Andrew Dice Clay, Pauly Shore or Rodney Rude do?

Who knows? I mean, I could look it up. I’m sure there’s dozens of interviews with him giving what he claims is the real motivation for doing so, but, considering the fact that most of that sort of PR guff is bullshit anyway, I choose not to inform myself in such a manner.

It’s far more tempting to just guess, based on scant or no evidence, as to his deep-seeded desire to tear down someone substantially greater than himself.

If someone like Kenneth Brannagh, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Judi Dench, a literature scholar or one of the Kardashians tried it, you’d think it arose because of their deep connection to and love for Shakespeare’s works, since they’d seemingly devoted much of their lives (or their bandwagons) to him. But because of that connection, there could be an assumption made that they’re not, like Iago from Othello, motivated by just motiveless malice.

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Carnage

Carnage

Parents are just the worst people, they really are, in and outside of plays

dir: Roman Polanski

Parents, as any teenager will tell you, are the worst. They’re just horrible people, perpetually using their children as surrogates, stand-ins and battlefields for all their fears, failures and furies. At least as far as movies are concerned

And they’re always convinced that they’re right, even when and especially when they’re wrong.

Four people get trapped in an apartment, unable to leave, held in place like insects in amber by societal niceties, the social contract, the fear of litigation, and eventually, the shittiness of their own marriages. What a recipe for success!

And it's all over an eleven-year-old hitting another eleven-year-old with a stick.

At least in the Australian context, it's hard not to think of The Slap, which uses the slap of the title to show the fault lines and flaws in the relationships of dozens of interlinked people. The realisation of this story, though, couldn't be more different. This flick is based on a play, and it shows. The 'action' doesn't move from the apartment, well, it only moves as far as the outside of the apartment, as two sets of parents try to wrest some kind of meaning from each other, to make up for the lack of it in other areas of their lives.

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The Artist

The Artist

Love us, just please love us. We turn to dust if you're not loving us

dir: Michel Hazanavicius

I know this last year was the year of celebrating the early days of the cinematic art form, but, you know, let’s just chill the fuck out, at least a little bit, okay?

The Artist is an entertaining enough flick, there’s no doubt, but it’s not the second coming of Buddha Jesus or the second coming of silent and black & white movies. At least I hope not.

And yes, I’ll even grant that Jean Dujardin does a nice job as the main character, being George Valentin, and that Berenice Bejo is lovely as Peppy Miller, but the manner in which this flick is being lauded to the high heavens is a bit confounding, and more than a tad bandwagonesque.

That this maudlin, melodramatic tale has been nominated for Best Picture is slightly surreal, if not absurd, in this day and age, and speaks more to the way that a whole bunch of critics and reviewers, once a flick gains critical mass, are pulled along almost involuntarily praising something exorbitantly that they know is just ‘pretty good’. It’s like they’re watching an event at the Special Olympics and are getting way ahead of themselves.

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The Muppets

The Muppets

Welcome back, gentle muppets, now please fuck off again

dir: James Bobin

And now, from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. Having spent a fair few hours this summer in the cinemas with my angelic / demonic child, we’ve traversed the entire current cinematic experience as it exists for the children of this city. There have been ups, and downs, mostly downs, at least from my viewpoint, but there have been some hours spent in the illuminated gloom that were enjoyable for us both.

The most surprising, in that I can’t believe she enjoyed it considering how dated, self-referential, meta and ‘adult’ it is, is this flick, The Muppets.

What a deceptive title. I mean, there have been so many Muppets flicks, but I guess not for a while. Thing is, for her, being all of five, she’s never seen the Muppets tv show. She never saw perplexing cameos from Roger Moore, Twiggy, Vincent Price or Johnny Cash or Liberace, or wondered why these sometimes drunk people were chatting to these furry puppets like they were real people. She never saw the stack of flicks from the 80s, or heard the musical numbers, or owned any of the holy merchandise.

Nor did she know anything about the perverse love/hate insanely passionate relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Nor should she.

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