dir: J.C. Chandor
This is a non-stop rollercoaster ride of Armageddon-like thrills and fucking spills. If you’ve seen Children of Men, the incredible action / dystopian sci fi flick about a planet where no children are being born, then imagine that level of cinematic amazement, only set in an office populated entirely by shmucks working in the finance industry.
Yes, the finance industry, or the financial sector, if you want to be pedantic, and who, splayed seductively across the tubes of the internets, doesn’t? It’s the place where the best, brightest and most amazing people in society work with the largest sums of money that anyone outside of the accountant for an oil-rich country’s brutal dictator gets to play with.
Margin Call is not about a specific firm (cough Lehman Brothers cough) or a specific time (hello Global Financial Crisis circa 2008), but it does seem to be trying to represent a certain kind of muted catastrophe that some of us might remember, seeing as its effects are still reverberating, and, if you believe certain doomsayers, hasn’t even peaked yet.
It follows a day in the lives of a bunch of traders, analysts and executives at The Firm, which, from the view from the building’s top floors, is the crème de la crème of Wall Street. Though we’re meant to assume that they are a money factory, they’re still shedding workers at film’s beginning, either because they’re not dead inside yet, or because they’re not unethical enough.
dir: Mike Cahill
No, it's not a movie version of the soap opera that ran for a thousand years, the only rival for the daytime soap crown against Days of Our Lives. This is Another Earth.
The five people that will see this outside of the film festival circuit and at ‘special’ screenings might argue, if they found themselves at the same coffee shop or crack house, whether this is actually a science fiction flick at all. I’m not sure myself, and I’ve had a few days to think about it.
A teenage girl with the unfortunate name of Rhoda (Brit Marling) gets drunk at a party, and, whilst drink-driving her way home, hears a news story on the radio about the discovery/appearance of a celestial body in the sky that looks a hell of a lot like Earth. She tries to spy this phenomenon in the sky, losing track of the fact that she’s meant to be watching the road.
She plows into a car, killing most of the occupants. It’s a very bad thing she’s done, no-one’s saying any different, you know, so no need to get on your high horse. She is/was a bright girl, planning on becoming an astronomer, astrophysicist or astrologer to celebrities, but now that’s all gone. Once this moment of hideous negligence occurs, that bright future she envisaged disappears in that instant.
She’s released from jail several years later. Because she did not stop for Death, no, because we did not know her prior to the accident (which happened in the first few minutes of the film), we assume she’s changed by her experiences in jail, and with her deep, deep regrets over what happened. We don’t really know how much, though, because she’s something of a blank slate, and could certainly never, ever be accused of overacting.
dir: Todd Phillips
Second verse? Same as the first.
Anyone who paid good money to see this flick, and complained that it was exactly the same plot as the first obviously doesn’t understand what the purpose of a flick called The Hangover Part II was really meant to be.
I didn’t pay good money to see it, because all of my money is tainted with the blood of the innocent and the guilty alike, and I expected it to be exactly what it was, and thus I enjoyed more than the first flick. It’s not better than its predecessor, nor could it be, really. Honestly, these flicks are less movies than they are long, stretched sketch, with multiple gaglets along the way before a punchline that can’t live up to anything.
It doesn’t have to. The premise is so fucking simple, and so enjoyable, that nothing else matters. Characterisation, believable dialogue, people acting sanely is completely unnecessary and unwanted.
Why? Because it’s about that most awesome of things: getting fucked up and not being able to remember the reprehensible shit you got up to the night before.
There’s no Oscar in that. There’s no longing to peer into the depths of the human condition. There’s no need for some Ingmar Bergman-like exploration of man’s misery in the face of God’s silence. It’s about terrible people doing terrible stuff, not remembering either the fun or the awfulness, and trying to find one of their number who’s gone missing.
They’re not trying to make amends. They’re not seeking redemption. What evil they’ve perpetrated they won’t even get punished for, nor will they learn anything from their experience together. But as long as they find the missing chap, and get to the wedding on time, everything will be forgiven and the world will click back into place.
Of course this flick follows exactly the same template as the first flick. Why would it not? I would argue the very universe would collapse in on itself if they varied the formula one iota. It’s in the performance of exactly the same actions, the same framework that transcendence arises, like a Zen monk making the same perfect circles for decades with his rake in a sand garden, until he just can’t take it any more and shoots up the place with an AK.
dir: Craig Gillespie
I… I don’t know what to say. I’m almost ashamed of myself for saying this.
I enjoyed this remake of Fright Night.
I think it matters that about the only thing I really liked about the original was nothing. Well, almost nothing. I kinda liked Roddy McDowell’s performance, because he was always a camp delight to behold on any screen. But I found the flick way too silly to ever like it or be scared by it, even as a kid, watching it surreptitiously on video without parental consent or knowledge. Though, to be honest, I still get the heebie-jeebies from the poster.
No, it was just too silly. Chris Sarandon was just too odd and wacky to be scary, and I hated the guy who played Charley, and always did for ever more. Especially on Herman’s Head, which is a tv show and war crime the Hague should get around to prosecuting any day now.
This remake isn’t particularly great, groundbreaking or goddamn gothically grotesque either, but it’s definitely better than the original, and its even dumber sequel.
I’m not sure if Anton Yelchin is that great in the role either, but he’s a likeable chap. Even though he’s a total dweeb, or perhaps because of it, he plays the role in a relatable or even believable way.
Charley, in this version, has managed to caste-jump in high school, an almost impossible feat. As we all painfully know, and television continually keeps reminding us, whatever strata you were in at school was permanent and irrevocable, and completely dictated who you were and how people treated you. And it also basically dictated all that you would achieve for the rest of your life.
But Charley has achieved the unthinkable: he somehow jumped up two or maybe even three castes, so that he’s below the jocks, but above the intelligent and well-adjusted kids, which means attractive girls want to fuck him now. He even has an attractive girlfriend called Amy (the delightfully-named Imogen Poots), and life in the outskirts of Las Vegas could clearly not be better.
dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
Few films live up to the hype. No films really can. Hype is hype, by its nature an aggravating and ephemeral thing, which complicates how we appreciate films. It complicates the way we come to them, the angle we come at them from.
Drive is one of those deliriously (critically, not commercially) hyped flicks that, of course, can’t live up to the hype. The critical hype obscured, for me, what the flick was actually like, and about, to the point where I expected one thing, and got something completely different.
I thought this was going to be a somewhat more enjoyable or thoughtful action flick to do with some guy who can drive really fast. What it ended up being is more of a standard neo-noir crime flick. That’s not a knock against it or any of the people involved here, because my expectations and assumptions aren’t worth shit.
Really, it’s a very regular, very familiar kind of flick, with a very familiar set of characters, and a very predictable outcome. Along the way, though, it’s well acted, very well directed, and kind of arresting.
The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a taciturn, competent man, who always wears, even later on when it’s covered in blood, a white jacket with the image of a scorpion. Why? Well, maybe it looks cool to someone back in the 1980s. It’s the kind of thing you can imagine the default leader of an unpopular and weak gang wearing in The Warriors.
Perhaps, though, since this isn’t a particularly subtle film, it’s meant to remind us of the story of the frog and the scorpion, the ultimate message being the punchline of “it’s my nature”. Our driver, and protagonist, has a nature. We’re not entirely made privy to it, but it seems to be a cool, sociopathically violent nature overlayed with a placid, professional demeanour.
The flick opens with a tremendous scene of heart-pumping, compelling action. The driver drives two criminal morons to their break-in job, and does the getaway duties, co-ordinating a hell of a lot of details, and coolly dealing with every eventuality that comes up along the way.
dir: Joe Cornish
Did you ever wonder what all those British youthful scumbags were doing before they started rioting through the streets of London?
Apparently, they were saving us from the alien scum of the universe.
Someone had the idea recently of ‘what if aliens invaded the Wild, Wild West?’ That movie was made, and was known as Cowboys and Aliens. Someone else had the idea ‘what if aliens invaded people’s arses?’ And that masterpiece was made. It was called Dreamcatcher. And now some dickhead thought to himself or herself ‘what if aliens invaded a British public housing estate?’
And lo and behold, Attack the Block was made.
It’s impossible to set a flick in or around a council estate, or housing commission flats, or the projects, or the Parisian banlieu or any form of public housing, without much of the underlying story being about the social commentary opportunities the location throws up. Having said that, this flick uses it as an opportunity to comment more on the actions of the protagonists, who live in these places, rather than the supposed ethics of the people or the system that places them there.
What this really means for us, the viewers, is that our protagonists, unless we share extended sympathies with them out of experience or through, what’s that term again, oh yeah, liberal guilt, is that our protagonists are fucking brats we ourselves wish we could punch in the face, let along watch an alien rip their throat out. The film has to, you’d think, if it matters to you, manage and manage well the transition from hating them to actually caring if they survive or not.
dir: Thomas McCarthy
When you watch a lot of movies, you get so used to the hysterical, overbearing, oversaturated general default setting of cinema, that when a relatively quiet flick comes out that treats (mostly) dramas between people in a sane manner, it seems strange.
Not bad strange, just not at the fever pitch of melodrama that people expect from their media, or I guess have expected for decades.
Thomas McCarthy specialises in films seemingly devoted to fairly ordinary people living lives of quiet desperation, alleviated only by their interactions with other more interesting people. The films meander along, some conflict seems to arise organically, forcing some kind of crescendo, and then people’s lives continue, hopefully in a slightly better way. Maybe it sounds like I’m being derisive, but it’s not intended.
Though the protagonists of his previous flicks and the settings are all different (The Station Agent, The Visitor and this one), that approach seems to hold as a constant. You know, in case I haven’t made it clear enough, it’s a gentle, meandering, believable, human way to get a film and a premise across.
Perhaps you can guess what the laziest and most obvious criticism of these flicks could be. Something that mimics ‘real’ life in too realistic a manner runs the risk of being like actual life, in other words, tedious and painful. It can sap the will to live.
But that’s not my take on these films, or on this film. I enjoyed it, as much as a flick like this can be enjoyed. The performances are strong and mostly not showy, and it’s always a delight to see Paul Giamatti play another in a long line of shmucks.
dir: Jon Favreau
It’s not even Cowboys VERSUS Aliens. It’s Cowboys AND Aliens, as if pitting them against each other in the title would be too aggressive and off-putting to audiences who just want to see them together on the screen at the same time, peacefully co-existing, standing nonchalantly side by side.
Well, they’ll still be disappointed, because the Aliens attack the Cowboys, so all hope of gentle understanding and interspecies acceptance fly right out the fucking window.
However, in the flick’s greatest conceit, rugged outlaws, cattle men, Mexicans and Apaches fight together to conquer the alien menace, which transcends the genre bounds of science fiction and enters into the realms of purest fantasy.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not an example of my natural contrariness when I say that I actually enjoyed this flick. Nor have I suffered a stroke, or a fruity outburst of dementia, nor was I on film-enhancing drugs whilst watching, or receiving passionate head for the duration.
More’s the pity. Still, I somewhat enjoyed this strange flick despite the lack of the aforementioned, or any tangible reason as to why.
It’s strange in that considering the jokey premise, a premise that’s a definite head-scratcher, along the lines of Pirate versus Ninja, or Samurai versus Penguin, or Man versus Hygiene, it’s not a jokey flick. It’s played straight down the line, with zero camp, and with a high degree of perhaps unnecessary seriousness. Every actor in it treats the story like it’s a credible, believable, relatable, worthy story.
What’s not strange is how it all plays out. Even though I can’t think of another flick I’ve seen with this premise and setup, there’s nothing here that’s overly new or shocking. The only real deal is that we would think or imagine that, for people of that time, predating as they would a time where the prevalence of sci-fi concepts that would make the existence of extraterrestrial species more comprehensible, they’d be even more bamboozled by these beasts than any other set of theoretical people.
I would have thought the idea and the appearance of these aliens would make these hardy frontier folk’s heads explode, showering their Stetsons, their spurs and their wholesome gingham bonnets and dresses with their own brains. But apparently they’re a bit more comfortable with mind shattering contradictions that we’d thought.
dir: David Yates
2010 & 2011
I’m going to review both of them together. I don’t think it really matters either way. They don’t work separately, and together they’re just a big old mess of convenient moments, slavish fan service and muggle muddling.
This will not be a good review. This will provide none of the fulfillment that you're looking for. The only thing worse than reading this review would be sitting down and watching both films back to back.
But they are, in their various parts and pieces, the culmination of a bunch of books and the films they were translated into, and an endpoint in a long-running series, and, at least the second part, is the third highest grossing film of all time, at least for another week or so.
And thus it deserves our special attention. It’s impossible to discuss anything that happens in these films without spoiling the events of the previous ones as well, so there’s virtually no point in issuing a spoiler warning. How else could you talk about the seventh (and eighth) instalments in a series?
There are a bunch of admissions I feel compelled to make before launching into all of this that would inform a reader as to where I’m coming from. I’ve never read the books, though I look forward to doing so when my daughter’s old enough, and we can do so together. I have no snobbish opposition towards the books, their fans, or their popularity. I don’t think their adaptation into film form has resulted in particularly great films (except for Order of the Phoenix), but, having seen all of them now, I’ve come to respect the universe J.K. Rowling created and that so many adore.
That being said, my biggest problem with all of the flicks has always been the terribly haphazard plotting, the incredible overuse of multiple deus ex machinas, and the exposition dumping that never felt organic or anything less than strained. In most cases I think the directors did their best (except with the first two, since Chris Columbus is a terribly mediocre director) adapting source material too copious in quantity and broad in scope to do justice in the time allotted. They did their best. And Yates probably did his best here, though there are a few moments that could have been stronger.
dir: Jake Kasdan
Look, I find it strange that people keep equating or comparing this flick with the Terry Zwigoff flick Bad Santa. As far as I can tell, having watched both, the only thing they have in common is the same adjective in the title. Other than that, there’s no connection.
I mean, does Cameron Diaz piss her pants at any stage? Does she sodomise a plus-size woman in the change rooms at a mall? Does she generally indulge in behaviour that would get most people arrested, let alone fired from their job as an educator of young minds?
Well, actually, on that last point…
Maybe they’re linked in spirit, but Bad Santa was such a singular act of misanthropy that it seems churlish to compare anything to it, even despite the ridiculous ‘happy’ ending the Weinsteins forced onto the end of the flick. Bad Teacher’s trading on something less radioactive, but probably more enjoyable.
As well, as opposed to any flick by Terry Zwigoff, the main purpose of Bad Teacher is to be a funny, and a funny workplace comedy at that. And I found it pretty goddamn funny, truth be told.
dir: Matthew Vaughn
Saying this is one of the best X-Men flicks is sort of like claiming some guy is the richest corpse in the graveyard, or that a particular stripper is the biggest drug addict at her strip club. A better competition that First Class wins is being one of the better, if not the best, of the flicks based on comic book properties that have come out this year thus far.
To be honest, it’s been pretty slim pickings, so it doesn’t mean the flick is that great. Just that it’s okay.
American summers result in the biggest blockbusteriest shitpiles being shat out upon the world, which is why most of the ‘best’ bets, like comic book flicks, come out at this time. Are audiences at their most pliable, most docile, most leotarded? Whatever it is, here we are, and here it is, a gift to those of us who usually have to grit out teeth and endure these types of ‘events’.
It also serves as something of a history lesson for the less well informed. As an example, you thought that the Cuban Missile Crisis (if you thought of it at all, which is unlikely, considering how long ago it was) arose from the US and the USSR waving their dicks at each other, casting long shadows over the happy totalitarian nation of Cuba, and leading the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. What you didn’t realise is that it happened because of a bunch of goddamn mutants.
Yeah. Mutants. Especially an evil Nazi mutant called Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). His diabolical plan is to kill all the normal people in the world with radiation or the preceding explosions triggered by a contretemps between the superpowers, allowing the new mutant race to triumph over the boring, tired species known as Homo sapiens.
Oh, Shaw is thoroughly evil, clearly. We know he’s evil because even though he didn’t agree with the Nazi’s Solution Finale (it sounds slightly classier in French), he had no problem, obviously, with torturing and killing Jews for the purposes of Mutant Science.
When he views a young Polish Jew warp the metal concentration camp gates separating him from his beloved parents using some kind of power, he sees in this chap the chance for glory. It’s what every psychopathic mutant longs for. He takes - what would be for other people extreme steps - to motivate this young Erik Lehnsherr into using his power at will.
The problem is, it doesn’t work at will. It only works when he’s really, really upset, or enraged. So what the fuck does Shaw do? He kills Erik’s mother, right in front of him, to compel him to move a goddamn Nazi coin.
Is that all? That’s pretty small beer, isn’t it, Sebastian? And what is it about guys named Sebastian always being depraved, louche individuals, whether it’s Evelyn Waugh novels or X-Men comics? What's with this hatred of guys called Sebastian?
Surprisingly, none of this leaves Erik with any deep admiration for Shaw or for the Nazis. Their epic failure in relation to the war doesn’t cause Erik’s hatred for them to abate, so as an adult, so awesomely played by Michael Fassbender, he turns into a very motivated and very violent Simon Wiesenthal-like Nazihunter.
dir: J. J. Abrams
Homage to the 70s, homage to old cameras, homage to Steven Spielberg? Do any of these things really need to be honoured and celebrated? The 70s isn’t exactly the forgotten decade, the Super 8 camera is missed by no-one with a half decent mobile, and Steven Spielberg has made more money at the box office than Jesus and is plenty celebrated by Hollywood and all its legions of sycophants.
So what worthy thing is J.J. Abrams really bringing to the table? He’s made a summer blockbuster aping elements of Spielberg’s early blockbusters, except he has access to a whole bunch of CGI and a cast of people pretending to be characters from ET and That 70s Show. And in which gentle world worth living in is any of that necessary or ever desirable?
None. When younger directors honour the most well rewarded and celebrated directors of all time, it’s kind of like having a fund raising pass-the-hat around in honour of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett: like they’ve not had enough payola and praise already over the decades?
And surely if someone wants to see something like the Close Goonie Encounters of the ET Jaws kind, they could just watch Close Encounters, ET, Jaws etc in their own sweet time. It’s not like they’re rare films unavailable for decades in any format or media. Who needs J.J Abrams, the ‘creative genius’ behind Lost and Alias, to remix the greatest hits of the 1970s for our amusement and patronage? No-one.
And yet… and yet…
Yeah, it already sounds like I’m being snarky, or that I didn’t like it, so let me just admit upfront that I enjoyed the flick a lot. Oodles and heaps. Abrams may be a ham and an arch manipulator extraordinaire, but he apparently learned from the best hams and arch manipulators, a lá Spielbergo. Right upfront he delivers his mission statement: to thank and honour three of the biggest directors of that generation that came of cinematic age in the 1970s (Spielbergo, Coppola and Lucas) who inspired him to pick up a camera, and to deliver a flick the way he thinks Spielbergo might have back in the day. Sure, it’s a monster flick, but the monster barely figures into it, because most of our time and focus is on the protagonist kids. Won’t someone please ignore the children for once? No, children are the future, so… it’s all about the kids.
dir: Miguel Arteta
I have never been to Cedar Rapids. It’s very unlikely that I’m ever going to go to Cedar Rapids. It is in Iowa, in the States, after all. It’s not like anyone should ever go to Cedar Rapids, because it seems to be the city equivalent of the colour beige.
But I very much enjoyed watching this flick called Cedar Rapids.
Deceptive title. It’s not about Cedar Rapids. It’s about a somewhat strange but mostly harmless chap called Tim (Ed Helms), who’s led a very sheltered life thus far. He’s not a manchild like the majority of the manchild arrested development shitbirds who populate the majority of movies these days. But he is someone who has lived a fairly quiet life, who has never travelled and who has never wanted to.
In some ways he’s like the main character from The Truman Show except without thousands of conspiring people and millions of dollars worth of artifice keeping him ground down and in place for ratings and product placement opportunities.
He works as an insurance guy, which, in most flicks of this type, wouldn’t be an issue, but for Tim it defines most of his existence. All he has is his job, his unshakeable faith in Insurance as being a force for good in people’s lives, and his odd sexual relationship with a woman who used to be his teacher when he was a child (Sigourney Weaver). Circumstances at work force him to leave the comfortable rut he’s created for himself, in order to brave the Sodom and Gomorrah that is Cedar Rapids.
dir: Kenneth Branagh
More comic book movies. More Marvel comic book movies! See, the waddling Comic Book Guys of the world don’t have enough to entertain themselves with and bitch about across the vast expanse of the tubes of the internets already.
There weren’t enough goddamn Spider-Men, Supermen, X-Men, Iron Men, Batmen, Hulk Men, Man Men flicks out there stinking up the joint as it was?
Of course it’s never going to end because the golden age continues. They make billions of dollars, and they convince grown adults to buy merchandise for themselves to put on their desks at work, without the least amount of shame or reluctance. That’s a fucking money spinner, that is. Comic book franchises make money rain from the skies, so it makes sense that the Microsoft of the comics world, being Marvel, invested a shitload of money setting up their own studio to make these delightful and delicious flicks themselves with greater regularity and with more direct profits to themselves.
And thus, Marvel Studios brings us The Mighty Thor!
As tempted as I am to keep ripping the shit out of them and this flick just for the mere fact of their lazy existence, I’m not going to. Mostly, I’m not going to because I actually enjoyed Thor, ridiculous as that seems. Embarrassing as it might be.
dir: Glenn Ficara and John Requa
Gee, I wonder why this flick, which has somehow only now reached Australian cinemas (Cinema Nova in Melbourne), nearly three years after its production, never really got a decent release at the cinemas in the States.
Could it be because of the subject matter: a con artist in love who perpetrates stacks of scams in order to keep himself and the object of his affections in the comfort they have become accustomed to? Is it because it’s based on a true story? Hollywood hates that. Is it because of where much of the flick is set, being prison? Is it because Jim Carrey is the lead actor, and no-one’s heard of this young up-and-comer, or Ewan McGregor in a supporting role, and studios are reluctant to release flicks with such unknowns in the lead?
Or is it because it’s the gayest flick this side of one of those Sex In the City movies?
Brokeback Mountain didn’t really break down that many barriers or walls of prejudice in terms of changing the dynamic that dictates what flicks get out there into the intellectual marketplace or the cinematic marketplace. Sure, a casual stroll through one of those dinosaur DVD stores might grace you with the vision of a section devoted to movies considered to be representatives of the Gay and Lesbian genre (a ghetto that resides next to the world movies and ‘special’ interest documentaries and such.
Now, I’m not talking about those kinds of grotty places where people furtively seek out stroke material whilst glancing nervously about (do they even exist any more, what with cornucopia of plenty that is the magic of the tubes of the internets?). I mean the mainstream movie Blu-ray / DVD places where you can pick up your latest box set of Midsommer Murders, or, if you have no soul, season 4 of Two and a Half Men.
Films like Brokeback, Philadelphia, or ones where the gay character is in a supporting role, and is just there to be bitchy, fabulous and sexless, don’t really represent a new awakening or ‘acceptance’ as far as I’m concerned. They represent, at best, a kind of minstrel show of broad stereotyping and disco music to keep them as the Other whilst crafting comfortable narratives that won’t offend the old biddies AND which make them feel so, so tolerant for not throwing up in outrage.
How noble. The reason no-one wanted to touch this flick with a ten-foot bargepole is because, even though Jim Carrey is a painful ham to behold whether he’s playing a hetero lunatic or a gay lunatic, it’s pretty explicit in its approach to the fact that the main characters are gay. I mean, they’re not actually gay, are they, but they’re constantly simulating man-on-man action.
dir: Patrick Lussier
Drive Angry. Drive Angry 3D, no less. A film that, in any just universe, would have been the last 3D flick ever made, because it finally displayed in a definitive form just how wretched and pointless the format is.
This isn’t a just universe we live in, though, as you should well know by now. According to this flick, however, there is some kind of eternal balance sheet at work, with debits and credits just itching to be calculated.
If you want to know whether it’s possible for you to enjoy this flick, this is the litmus test for you: the premise of the flick is that a bad, bad man called John Milton (Nicolas Cage) breaks out of Hell in order to save his granddaughter from some loathsome cultists. They never explain how, but they just explained why.
If you’re the kind of person who then sits there in the cinema muttering under your breath “Well, how the fuck did he get out?”, perpetually dissatisfied and disgruntled because of that lack of crucial explanation, then nothing that comes after will seem at all tolerable. No manner of shootings or blood spattered breasts will satisfy that niggling voice in your head with such a mindset.
If you are, on the other left, Satanic hand, the kind of person who accepts that very trashy action flicks don’t exist because of a rigorous adherence to Earth logic and sensible thinking, then you might possibly glean that it doesn’t fucking matter as long as Nicolas Cage shoots a lot of motherfuckers and a lot of shit blows up real good.
Me, little old me, well, I’m a blend of the two positions. I can truly appreciate trashy-as-fuck flicks that deliberately set out to be 70s exploitation flicks, but I’m also the kind of nerdy shmuck who sits there stewing over details other saner people couldn’t give a fat rat’s fuckhole about.
How did Nicolas Cage burst forth from the gates of Hell? Well, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he did. And he’s out for revenge. Sorry, REVENGE!
dir: Jonathan Liebesman
Finally, Shakycam has come of age. It’s been a long, agonising adolescence, but this most painful of weapons in the director’s / cinematographer’s arsenal is now constituting the entire running length of goddamn movies. Even the opening titles get to squiggle and spaz around like a meth addict with no meth, money or people to blow for money.
Eh, it’s not so bad. Depending on the venue, I find that if I sit far enough back from the screen, instead of being actively aggravating, it’s just a mild irritant at worst and a confusing blur at best. Far enough in this context is right up the back against the goddamn wall.
World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles is the full title of the flick, apparently, which seems to imply that if it’s successful enough, an entire series of World Invasion flicks will ensue. World Invasion: Battle Morwell, World Invasion: Battle Ulan Bator and World Invasion: Battle Yackandandah are doubtless on the cards if the right return on investment is achieved. Considering the fact that much of the flick looks like it was filmed on someone’s mobile phone, and that the aliens themselves look like they were created on a Commodore 64 computer, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to break even.
Evil bloody aliens. I was expecting, considering the studio behind it, that there’d be sly implications or allusions to the aliens being stand-ins for people jumping the border and stealing all the landscaping and service industry jobs Americans no longer want to do for less than minimum wage, but apparently not. They’re just your average bipedal species with a head shaped like a muffin top hell bent on destroying all of the peoples of the world for their precious, precious water.
dir: Neil Burger
My memory still works fairly well, even at my tender age. It’s not eidetic (photographic), but it’s not porous or sieve-like either, especially since I scaled back on the drinking after becoming a dad. Somewhat. Relatively.
I recall seeing, in some magazine, some kind of ad for something. See how great my memory is? In the ad, which was black and white, there was an image of a brain at the top of the page, and the fairly famous trope expressed as Einstein saying something about how humans only use ten percent of their brains, and imagine what potential we could unlock if we could get the rest of it working? Narrowing down the likely publications, it was either a science magazine like Omni, a comic book or Playboy.
I have remembered the diabolical claim all my life, since I was but a callow child when I first read it. I heard the concept repeated continuously throughout the 1980s, mostly by types of people with certainty about how they had psychic powers or some other supernatural / spiritual bullshit. I even remember a science teacher in school repeating the claim as truth. Honestly, I really should have gone to a better school.
Upon surviving, improbably, to adulthood, this idea had even less traction with me than ever before, sounding even more like ignorant wishful thinking. And once I read and understood the merest amount of neuroscience stuff, I knew it was a profoundly misguided myth propagated and repeated by idiots who didn’t have the least amount of idea how the human brain functions.
In this ‘brilliant’ flick, they repeat the deeply retarded claim, except now, because of inflation, they say 20 per cent instead. In the context of “imagine if we could activate the other 80 per cent of our brains”, the film posits a maguffin in the form of a tablet which can transform the most insecure and self-sabotaging shlub into a supergenius.
dir: Charles Ferguson
With documentaries, sometime it’s the content, far more so than the quality of how it’s put together, that’s the defining element deciding whether it works or not. Sure, I am the first person in human history to point out that documentaries tend to veer between polemical and propagandistic, so it’s the most obvious thing to point out ever, but it’s far more true of this ‘genre’ than any of the others. There’s usually far less revelation, and far more letters-to-the-editor aggravation.
Inside Job seeks to illustrate for us what went on and wrong in the lead up to that recent minor economic kerfuffle you might have heard about or lost your job over, charmingly referred to as the Global Financial Crisis. The most important word in that phrase is not the first one, anti-globalisation crusaders, or the last one, catastrophists and doomsayers. It’s the middle one, because, as Matt Damon’s soothing and scolding voiceover articulates for our benefit, it was the goblins of high finance, abetted by cowardly governments that were the ones that did the dirty.
Lots of talking heads ensue, and these people fall into two distinct groups: people champing at the bit to say “Told you so” because they said it was going to happen before it happened, and a couple of people in the other camp denying that anything was wrong even as the sky was falling while they and their compatriots profited from the catastrophe. A long list of a third phantom group exists in the abstract, serious players on the financial sector and government sides, who declined to be interviewed for very good reasons. The brief snippets of these other people talking and lying through their fucking teeth in other interviews or before Congress is enough, is more than enough to engender outrage.
Yes, a driving force of documentaries is to get people to feel outraged. But I don’t want outrage. I crave understanding. I want to grasp how something complicated happened, especially if it’s something that has impacted adversely on millions of lives.
dir: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
Wow – can you imagine, even for a second, anything as totally fucking thrilling as a movie about a poem? You can’t, your petty little mind can’t encompass anything as utterly mind-blowing as that without having an aneurysm, for sure.
So be warned, those of jaded palates and timid dispositions – here comes Howl to blow away your petty lives and sclerotic brains.
Yeah, well, maybe the fuck not.
A poem is just a poem, after all, and Howl, the movie, doesn’t even conform to the basic parameters of ‘movieness’ enough to imply that this is a movie about the life and times of Allen Ginsberg, Poet Laureate of the Beat Generation, and his writing of the epic poem Howl. What it is, is something more, and far less at the same time.
It’s far less, because James Franco plays Ginsberg in the 1950s as a fairly young man, basically giving a monologue about ‘his’ life and times before, during and slightly after the writing and performance of Howl. In between footage of himself reading the poem aloud to some lousy beatniks at some hovel of a beatnik club, he sits there talking about himself, mostly in black and white, but sometimes in colour. The colour bits where he sits there in his flannel shirt with a fake beard pasted on have the unfortunate effect of making it look like he’s playing George Lucas, instead of Ginsberg. You could hardly think of a worse fate for a man.
The ‘young’, vital bits are in black and white, since as we all know, the world, back in 1955 was monochromatic, awaiting the dawning of colour. He reads a bit, the lousy beatnik crowd nod their heads (they yell out ‘yeah’ instead of clapping or clicking their fingers), then he talks to the interviewer a bit, then they show an animated rendering of imagery from Howl, which verily bursts from the screen in its vividness.
There’s a plethora of animated cocks, for those who like that sort of thing, and who doesn’t?
dir: Lisa Cholodenko
And here is the last of my reviews of the ten flicks of 2010, nine destined to lose the award for Best Picture, and the one that will doubtless win at the upcoming Academy Awards. I've seen and reviewed all the rest (Toy Story 3, True Grit, Social Network, King’s Speech, Winter’s Bone, Inception, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Fighter), and felt, for some inexplicable reason, that I had to review the one remaining flick if I was ever going to pretend to have an informed and important opinion about the annual filmic circle jerk scheduled to occur on Monday.
Whoopee for me.
So here’s my review of The Kids Are All Right. Enjoy.
If you permit me to enter the American Culture Wars for a moment, and if you’ll grant me the license to pontificate about the aforementioned despite the clear fact that I have absolutely no stake in that polarising political / ideological bullshit by dint of nationality or geographical location, please just let me say the following: This flick reminds me of how utterly insufferable we are.
Look, I say this as someone who either directly or passively accepts that on the Red State / Blue State, conservative / progressive, Monsanto is evil / McDonalds is Great divide, I completely associate and adhere with one side over the other. It’s just that the rudiments of it, the signifiers, the chai lattes, the smug self-righteousness, the precious preciousness of shopping at organic farmer’s markets, locavore, anti-sweatshop, sustainable / ethical clothing made of vintage hessian sacks stuff drives me up the fucking wall. I infinitely prefer it to the other side, which raises getting outraged, selfishness and a lack of giving a damn about the impact of one’s own actions and choices on other people to a high art form, but I still find us insufferable some times.
Thankfully, one of the characters here agrees with me, and goes on a drunken tirade yelling about how sick she is of composting and organic this and biodynamic that.
The only problem was, after that, I felt bad about having thought ‘my’ side insufferable in the first place, because the character going on about it is pretty obnoxious specifically at that moment, and in general, too.
dir: Sylvain Chomet
The Illusionist, not to be confused with the flick of the same name that came out a few year’s ago with Ed Norton as a weirdo with a beardo, is the fourth film we can believe that Jacques Tati wanted to make but never got the chance to.
Who’s Jacques Tati, I hear you ask, already overwhelmed with irritated yawns before finishing your own thought process? Well, he was a French guy who made some films that pretty much tried to outdo everything Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton did, except he did it about thirty years after they did it, when colour and sound existed in cinema as well.
Jour de Fete, Mon Oncle, Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, Traffic – these are famous flicks to film wankers, turtleneck wearers and chin strokers the world over, but they might not be common currency amongst most people. Sure, I’ve seen them, but I am a film wanker who strokes his chin ever so definitively, though turtlenecks are a bridge too far.
As it is, had I not known about Jacques Tati and his winning ways, I’m not sure L’Illusionniste would have meant anything to me apart from being a pretty little animated flick. And if I didn’t know anything about the story, based apparently on an unproduced script of Tati’s, or about Tati’s life, then the flick would have even less resonance. It still would have been amusing, though, and quite beautiful.
As it is, the chap who previously made The Triplets of Belleville, an animated flick I saw at the cinemas back in the day, has made another anachronistically quaint and clever little flick honouring this titan of the cinematic and miming arts.
Tatischeff is a stage magician in the 1950s, and apparently, the cartoon incarnation of Jacques Tati himself, or at least Monsieur Hulot. He plies his trade in gay Paris, but the kids no longer want to see old-school entertainers pulling angry rabbits out of their hats, or making stuff disappear: they want androgynous crooners and pop stars to wow them with their caterwauling.
dir: Derek Cianfrance
Jesus, what a fucking depressing film.
Maybe it’s not entirely depressing, just mostly depressing. At the very least, it’s wrenching, gutting and very uncomfortable. And sad.
And what’s it about? Well, it’s about two people not in love anymore.
I don’t think I could ever bring myself to watch this flick again. That’s not entirely true: it’s really well made, I guess. And the music is really nice and appropriate, and heartbreaking at certain points. And it’s well filmed and well acted.
But, jeez, does it hurt to think about it.
Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple who are clearly not happy. Their marriage is clearly headed towards dissolution. Dean is surly, drunk and hectoring, passive aggressive as well as just outright aggressive, fuelled by his sensing that Cindy is shutting him out.
Cindy clearly cannot stand Dean anymore, and their every remark to each other is brittle, jagged and fraught with peril. Don’t mistake this for some highfalutin Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf retread where sophisticates are tossing martini-enhanced barbs and cutting witticisms at each other. They, being the two leads, play it like real people unwilling to face the reality that they shouldn’t be together anymore.
It seems so simple, and obvious. But then think of how many films are actually about this anymore? Romantic flicks are all about longing, and suffering and ever so artful misunderstandings, all justified in the end by the idea that we are made complete and whole by the right person.
Remakes are usually pointless. They’re often just emblematic of the risk averse nature of Hollywood, which wants only to shiny up the tried and true for profit and plaudits. This isn’t even the first time the brothers Coen have remade something: they did it before with The Ladykillers, receiving global yawns for their troubles.
But they’ve also made a career out of making films about other films, or at least films that don’t usually exist as separate, independent entities, but which exist on that ironic meta level as if to comment on the genre they’re indulging in at that given time.
True Grit is fairly straight ahead, down the line, and doesn’t indulge as much in their genre commentary; as in, it’s not like it either deconstructs the earlier flick starring John Wayne, or the Western genre itself. The story comes from a book, and they’ve stayed true both to the book and the earlier film, without indulging Jeff Bridges the way John Wayne was indulged by the makers of the earlier flick.
The real main character of the film isn’t Rooster Cogburn, played as a fat, drunken, vicious idiot by Jeff Bridges, it’s Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a fourteen-year-old girl looking for justice. Or vengeance, whichever.
dir: Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky returns to the well that prompted him to make Pi way back in the day, with a different gender in the lead but the same ultimate problem: madness brought on by sexual frustration. In Pi a maths genius can’t get any, and goes mad (or madder) listening to his hot Indian neighbour have sex. In Black Swan, a sexually- repressed prima ballerina called Nina (Natalie Portman) has to go mad in order to access her dark side to become the most perfect ballerina in the history of Swan Lake performances.
With mixed results. In a way, though she’s won’t and shouldn’t get credit for it, Portman did a Christian Bale and starved herself down in order to play this character. She’s already tiny, but here she’s depleted enough here to have that horrible strained look on her sternum where flesh is supposed to be, and now there’s only bone and tendon.
It’s not for me to judge what actors do in the pursuit of money, critical respect and the adulation of the masses. If it’s okay for Bale to do it in every second flick he does, then why not a chick that probably already weighs about 40 kilos anyway?
Yes, yes, women’s issues with body image, yes, yes, negative media images contributing to pressures on actresses specifically and women in general.
Whatever. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that it’s pointless to single that out when a) she’s playing a ballerina, a group of waifs who take body modification to an extreme as a rule, what with the footbinding and the vomiting and such, and b) it’s not like it’s represented as a positive career choice.
I mean, these ballerinas are bitches, aren’t they? Backbiting, backstabbing, vain and hysterical trollops; who would want to spend any time with them or near them? They live and die in hope of prancing about in front of a bunch of people so wealthy they can throw their money away to watch people mince and carry-on in the most enervating manner possible. It’s Death that comes a few steps closer to you whenever you watch this pretentious twaddle, tempting you ever closer with the promise of oblivion and the promise of never having to watch this foofy frippery ever again.