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7 stars

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Tally-ho what, we love each other and we're
not going to hide it anymore

dir: Guy Ritchie

Mr Ritchie, is there something you’re trying to tell us? Your last three films have had, shall we say, a curious subtext considering the material (all violent action-y crime capers), and yet now, in the sequel to your inexplicably successful Sherlock Holmes flick, that subtext has now just become text. Congratulations? Are you making progress? Are you getting somewhere with your, um, feelings towards other men?

Long have people joked or slyly nudged nudged and winked winked over the potential for the fictional sleuthing characters of Holmes and Watson to have been, shall we say, better than the best of friends and companions. The last flick with Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law as the principles humorously alluded to it in a plethora of ways. In this one, it’s flat out right up there on the screen. Holmes is jealously needling Watson over whether he’d rather be spending time with him or his wife on their honeymoon, he’s dressing up in drag whenever he can, compelling Watson to lay down with him. And, just before the film’s climax, at some diplomatic ball at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they even dance a loving waltz together. And no-one bats an eyelid. Which is progress, of a sort.

At the conclusion of their dance, Holmes jealously says to Watson, “Who taught you to dance like that?”

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Watson whispers lovingly to him, “You did.”

Love, oh careless love.

Rating:

The Adventures of Tintin

Adventures of Tintin

Bloody Belgians are taking over, mark my words

dir: Steven Spielberg

Spielbergo’s first foray in the field of fully animated films is not going to set the world alight. The fact that it’s in 3D isn’t going to dazzle the masses much either. Whether it makes its money back, or results in dozens of sequels, or honours the Hergé source material matters not to me. But I am interested in being entertained.

There I was, then, stupid glasses perched upon my nose. Entertain us, I whispered to the screen.

And he did. It did. I had a ball watching Tintin. I remember reading the books as a kid, but they never made that much of an impression upon me, in that these aren’t to me like what the comic-book faithful often moan like sad cows over when their treasured properties are rendered unto the big screen. I feel no ownership of the character or the stories. To me they’re artefacts of the old world, like polio, diaphragms and vinyl records, when racism was cool and colonialism rocked. It’s also a kind of adventure tale which we miss, since today these stories seem to be bogged down by setup, thematic bullshit, meaning, significance and purpose.

Rating:

The Ides of March

Ides of March

I believe in Ryan Clooney, and so do you

dir: George Clooney

Cloons. Cloooooons. He’s not content having every woman over forty getting wet in the gusset or drooling over him, or buying coffee just because of his ads. No, he has to direct flicks too. He has to get shiny golden statues to make him feel loved too.

And he’s directed a doozy here. Sure, the point of the flick is that politicians are arseholes, a novel and radically new idea never captured on film before, but the solid performances and commitment to following through on its depressing premise carries the picture through. And mostly these prized hams don’t overact, so they’ve all done pretty well.

Clooney can’t resist being in the flick as well as everything else, including the catering, but he doesn’t give himself the plum role, nor could he. He is Governor Mike Morris, the genial, charismatic front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in some fantastical place where democracy actually works. But he’s not the main character. That role is taken by man of the moment Ryan Gosling.

He plays Stephen, a young campaign manager on the governor’s staff, whose brash and cynical enough for the role, but not so brash and cynical that he can’t be disappointed in the brashness and cynicism of others. Hey, he’s Ryan Gosling, he can do anything at this point and people will take it and say thank you no matter how good or terrible.

Rating:

Bellflower

Bellflower

I can't imagine it gets decent fuel mileage, but it sure looks cool,
doesn't it?

dir: Evan Glodell

I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. I’ve watched it twice, and I still don’t know.

But I can tell you that it connected with me, for reasons I cannot fathom as yet.

Let’s fathom those reasons out together, dear reader. Maybe over the course of the review, I’ll be able to figure it out for myself.

This could be a flick about two youngish alcoholics, Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who really wish they were living in post-apocalyptic times. They don’t seem to have jobs or money, but they have a close friendship, I guess defined by the frequency with which they bellow ‘dude’ and ‘so awesome’ to and at each other. They’re really close, even just for best friends.

I’m not implying anything, I’m just saying. They spend their days talking about some fairly strange stuff, and they do it in a fairly casual way. Mad Max – The Road Warrior seems to have had a fairly profound impact upon them. They don’t just dream of modified beasts of cars, or flamethrowers; they build flamethrowers and modify cars in practical but cumbersome ways.

And, for fun, they chain up a propane tank and shoot it with a shotgun, just to watch it burn under escaping explosive pressure. They are, or at least think they are, preparing for something that the rest of us would desperately hope would never come to pass.

Rating:

The Devil's Double

Devil's Double

This golden boy is going to go far: I can feel it in my bones, because there's a gun
pressed against them

dir: Lee Tamahori

Jesus Christ, or maybe by the grace of Allah, this Uday Hussein was a sick fuck!

I remember the stories from back in the day, around the time of the first Iraqi Adventure, where the tales of Saddam’s sons being monsters were coming out, and I just thought, “Eh, they’re just being mean.”

And then the many and varied stories of what a demented sociopath he was, to the extent where he shamed his own tyrant of a father, slaughterer of innocents and torturer of people who disagreed with him, and there was little doubt.

Of the many controversies regarding the second Iraqi Adventure Part II in 2003, one of the only aspects that has never troubled me were the reports of the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein. See, in my limited knowledge and understanding of history, and especially history as it applies to people, the only monsters often worse than the despots and tyrants who seize power in bloody times and rule their people with an iron fist caked in shit, are their sons.

Rating:

Margin Call

Margin Call

Why so serious, gentle fellows? Is there some sort of crisis looming?

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.

Rating:

Another Earth

Another Earth

We need another earth... this one's nearly done

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.

Rating:

The Hangover Part II

Hangover 2

Why would you ever want to wake up next to these shmucks again?

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.

Rating:

Fright Night

Fright Night 2011

Those dreamy eyes... that overcompensating axe.. the perfect recipe

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.

Rating:

Attack the Block

Attack the Block

If children really are our future, then aren't we totally fucked?

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.

Rating:

Win Win

Win Win

Giamatti, you handsome devil, when will your day come?

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.

Rating:

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Go on, say I'm underacting one more time, I double dare you

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.

Rating:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Deathly Hallows

Do you think, maybe, if they just kissed, then maybe things would be all right?

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?

Rating:

Bad Teacher

She's so bad she should be punished. Repeatedly

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.

Rating:

X-Men: First Class

X Men First Class

They should have called it X-Men: This One Doesn't Suck
as Much as the Last One, Promise!

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.

Rating:

Super 8

Super 8

Yeah, based on this poster, I thought the flick was about haunted oil rigs

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?

Rating:

Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids

So many ways this is about Employees of the Weak

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.

Rating:

Thor

dir: Kenneth Branagh
[img_assist|nid=1427|title=You think you're Thor, I can hardly walk!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=457]
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.

Rating:

I Love You Phillip Morris

dir: Glenn Ficara and John Requa
[img_assist|nid=1412|title=A surly teenager who passed this poster and muttered, "Uh, that's so gay", would be accurate for once|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=566]
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?

Rating:

Drive Angry

Drive Angry

He looks confused or bemused more than angry. Maybe that can
be the sequel? I'd go see Drive Slightly Bemused. I would.

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.

Rating:

Battle Los Angeles

dir: Jonathan Liebesman
[img_assist|nid=1406|title=Who'd have thought all it would take is a bit of flung porridge and naughty words to bring it down?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=664]
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.

Rating:

Limitless

dir: Neil Burger
[img_assist|nid=1404|title=I will bed all your girlfriends|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=299]
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.

Rating:

Inside Job

dir: Charles Ferguson
[img_assist|nid=1396|title=Liars, fibbers and whoremongers, oh my|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=408|height=605]
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.

Rating:

Howl

dir: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
[img_assist|nid=1392|title=Nerds with powerful words|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
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.

Rating:

The Kids Are All Right

dir: Lisa Cholodenko
[img_assist|nid=1375|title=Insufferable. Utterly insufferable.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=284]
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.

Rating:

The Illusionist (L'Illusionniste)

dir: Sylvain Chomet
[img_assist|nid=1372|title=And stay out of my goddamn hat, you puffed up rodent!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=252]
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.

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Blue Valentine

dir: Derek Cianfrance
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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.

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True Grit

True Grit

That's some mighty fine squint-acting y'all doing there

dir: Coens

2010

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.

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World's Greatest Dad

dir: Bobcat Goldthwait
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The name Bobcat Goldthwait is not one that resonates in the hall of fame of respected comedy directors. The main reason is that there isn’t a hall, alcove or basement of fame of respected directors of comedies, since there are so few of them, so few in fact that they could all fit in a broom closet, bathroom or crawlspace with room to spare.

It’s a name that probably doesn’t come up in common public discourse, or in personal conversations between lovers in bed post-coitally “You really Bobcatted my Goldthwait good tonight, baby”, or a name used by the Pope in his annual chastising pronouncements, or by the Queen in her Christmas address.

In fact, anyone under thirty has probably never heard of him, and those over thirty wish they could forget him and his eardrum shredding voice.

Which is a shame, because his long career as a standup comedian, his brief career as a successful actor in Police Academy films, and the intervening years where he struggled for meaning and money meant that he made the shift over to directing films, with some success. And so here he directs Robin Williams in a flick that looks for all the world like a comedy, again, with some success.

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Black Swan

dir: Darren Aronofsky
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Hmmmm.

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?

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