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7 stars

Cloverfield

dir: Matt Reeves
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Disaster movies seem kinda superfluous in this day and age. Even major cities suffering horrendous destruction hasn’t been a rare occurrence (obviously) in, let’s say, the last decade or so. And with war, arbitrary death and ‘splosions being common in the less white parts of the world, getting to enjoy a film where a nebulous horror visits destruction upon hapless urban sophisticates seems like a pointless indulgence.

Of course, by that logic, practically no films have any moral justification for their existence at any time. And then where would I be? Writing reviews of plays and the goddamn opera? I’d have even less people reading my reviews. How do you get less than zero again? Okay, negative numbers. I’d have negative numbers of readers reading my reviews, which, if I’ve got the temporal mechanics right, would mean that the reviews would be being unread by increasing numbers of non-existent anti-matter readers.

Then there’d be some kind of tear in the fabric of space-time, and I’d be responsible for damning the universe to non-existence as it turned itself catastrophically inside out.

Who are you to say that it isn’t feasible? Hey, according to string theory, any point of time and/or matter could be existing simultaneously in 26 different dimensions. So there. Anything’s possible.

Rating:

2007 Film Year in Review

dir: Me

2008

Another great year of movies. Another couple of hundred reviews read by a few bored people online and by harvesting bots trying to find email addresses to send crucial details regarding penis breasting and Nigerian viagra accounts to.

From a film-watching point of view, I was forced by dint of circumstance, in other words, by the entry of my daughter Dawn Matilda into this harsh and occasionally beautiful world, to watch a lot of flicks on DVD (legitimately) and a few via the illegal largesse of the download fairies. I’m not justifying it, I’m not excusing it, I just think that when I can barely make it to the cinema a dozen times due to looking after a baby girl, I am morally justified in watching stuff that I didn’t and you didn’t pay for.

There’s a logic there that I hope I won’t be explaining to any prosecutors any time soon. Hey, if they can find a babysitter for me, then I’ll be happy to watch Scary Movie 5 or the next Lindsay Lohan flick in the salubrious confines of a theatre the way the Gods of Cinema intended.

Still, I got to see a fair few films I liked this year, and less that made me want to unleash an apocalypse of jihad and tickle torture on the world.

Rating:

Darjeeling Limited, The

dir: Wes Anderson
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Quirkfest abounds. So much goddamn quirk that it’s fair dripping from the screen. But what would you expect from a Wes Anderson flick?

Every goddamn flick the guy’s made has been so quirky and idiosyncratic that, by now, you know if you can tolerate any of his new flicks based on whether you’ve tolerated any of his other flicks.

Of course, then there’s the fact that some of his flicks are less tolerable than others, even when you like them.

I have liked some of his flicks, and hated some of them, so: flip a coin, guess how I went with this one.

I was not a fan of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, despite the fact that every Anderson film is the same, and some, like The Life Aquatic, are more the same than others. So I approached The Darjeeling Limited with ample trepidation.

This flick, thankfully, is less bad and more enjoyable than Life Aquatic. The reason is that it’s not as aggressively annoying as the former film, and it doesn’t have a character as rampantly annoying as Bill Murray was in that film.

Rating:

Savages, The

dir: Tamara Jenkins
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Oh, parents. They are either the bane or the boon of our existence (or both), as children and even more so as adults, in their prime or their decline.

The Savages has Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney in the lead roles of this quirk-free, fairly downbeat story as siblings looking after a demented elder parent who never really liked them and who rendered them fuck-ups as adults. At least that’s the premise as it seems to me.

The film starts in a surreal fashion with shots of a mystical place called Sun City in Arizona, presumably where old people who aren’t Jewish go to live out their remaining years. The sight of a chorus line of old girls appearing as if from nowhere and starting a dance routine is a strange one that will stay with me for a while.

And not in a pleasant way. We are introduced to an irritable old arsehole called Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) who lives in this Arizonan elder community, just before he becomes single again for the last time. And after a spot of finger painting prior to hospitalisation.

Rating:

Orphanage, The (El Orfanato)

dir: Juan Antonio Bayona
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Orphanages. Orphanages, psych hospitals, prisons; places of suffering. Places where we can imagine people’s suffering has an almost physical manifestation, that it can impregnate the very walls of a building, rendering it supernatural in and of itself.

There’s a reason why such buildings keep cropping up in horror flicks and computer games. It could just be that people have limited imaginations, and are intellectually lazy when they’re pumping out their formula hackwork. But there’s also a very believable sense that such places can take on some kind of frightful energy from human torment, infecting them long after they have been abandoned.

By the living.

Why anyone would want to return to the orphanage that they grew up in is a mystery to me, but the protagonist of this here ghostly flick, which keeps being sold as a film made by Guillermo Del Toro despite only having him involved in an exec producer capacity, does so. Laura (Belen Rueda) left the place when she was seven, and has lived a long and fulfilling life up until the moment where she and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) decide they want to open up a special school in the grounds of the orphanarium where she grew up for at least the first part of her childhood.

Rating:

American Gangster

dir: Ridley Scott
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There was a time when Ridley Scott’s name commanded respect. People took him seriously. No matter the film or the subject matter, people would say “Well, this is the guy who made Blade Runner and Alien, so let’s all gather round and listen to what he has to say.” Film wankers and aesthetes (such as myself) would reach even further back and say “Well, this is the guy who made The Duellists, so he’s capable of greatness, so let’s eagerly anticipate his next movie with, um, eager anticipation.”

Then he made Hannibal.

After that, Scott’s feet of clay kept growing to swallow up the rest of his body and brain, to the extent where he just seemed like every other British-born Hollywood hack, as capable of an okay film or a terrible shitfest as any other director.

With American Gangster, he’s gone all out to craft an American Prestige Epic worthy of Oscar nomination, critical column inches and applause from the sweatpants-wearing masses. Note the cast, the topic, and the length of the flick. No-one makes a flick this long (nearly three hours in the ‘unrated’ version) with this many A-listers with this subject matter unless they’re expecting, nay, demanding recognition in February / March.

Rating:

Lars and the Real Girl

dir: Craig Gillespie
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Part of me knows I should hate this film, hate it with a passion. Hate it with an unholy passion usually reserved for reality television, politicians and those times when you jump out of bed in the middle of the night and stub your toe whilst desperately trying to get to the crack pipe.

But for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, I didn’t hate it. Come with me as I try to unravel through the writing of this review what highly improbable series of unfortunate events has led us to this sorry conclusion.

The Lars of the title is played by Ryan Gosling, who is a fairly young guy getting a lot of press and attention despite the fact that he acts pretty much the same way in everything that he’s in. He’s been giving these identical, artificial, affected performances in flicks like Half Nelson, United States of Leland, Stay and Fracture, but people are still screaming and wetting themselves over him like they’re teenage girls and the Beatles are playing The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time.

Wow, how old did I just make myself sound? I swear, Ed Sullivan and his show were long gone way before I came along, with a suitcase and a song.

Rating:

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

dir: Sidney Lumet
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The title might be a bit confusing to people who haven’t heard the whole phrase before. It refers to having the temporary good fortune to get to heaven a half hour before the devil, who’s keen to get His due, knows you’re dead. In other words, getting a few minutes grace before the hammer, or, in this case, the pitchfork, comes down on you.

As you wandered into the cinema, wondering what the title was referring to, you’d sit there, munching on your highly unhealthy popcorn, chipping into your choc-top, which drips shards of chocolate onto your already dirty clothing that take a while to melt into the fabric real good. After enduring the trailers and idiotic commercials for mobile phones, 4WD trips to South Australia and switching your mobile phone off before the film starts, you’d be greeted with a sight that will push the question regarding the title out of your empty little head.

The first entire minute of this film concerns itself solely with Philip Seymour Hoffman drilling Marisa Tomei in the doggie style position and watching himself in a mirror as he does it. You can like or admire Hoffman’s acting abilities and performances, but I’ll bet your firstborn that you never really ever wanted to see him pretending to fuck anyone, let alone watch that chubby arse wobbling back and forth.

Rating:

Beowulf

dir: Robert Zemeckis
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This doesn’t happen very often, but between my two viewings of Beowulf, my opinion of the flick has undergone a complete 180 degree shift. I hated, hated, hated, hated this flick the first time I saw it. Now, I think it’s pretty good.

Surprisingly good. It’s like I watched two completely different flicks, and, in truth, they weren’t the same flick. One I watched in 3D on the big screen at an IMAX cinema. The other, many months later, was viewed sober sitting on a comfy couch in my lounge room, and was the better for it, I’ll admit.

They seemed like completely different films, or maybe I was two completely different people. I found 3D Beowulf ludicrous, painful, aggressively shallow and an irritating waste of 110 minutes of my life. I remember being disgusted with myself for having thought it would be remotely watchable, let alone worthwhile.

Plus I was horribly hungover when I watched it, which is a very rare occurrence for me.

It felt like I was watching one of the Shrek movies, only with less intelligence and meaning at play. The characters annoyed me, the voices of the actors playing these mannequins annoyed me, the stupid plot and crap jokes annoyed me, and the ending bugged me no end.

Rating:

We Own the Night

dir: James Gray
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That’s pretty arrogant isn’t it, saying that you own an event of such all encompassing magnitude? That’s like saying you own the words “yesterday”, “blowjob” or “craptacular”. Who did the NYPD think they were kidding when they took the phrase as their motto in the 1980s?

Yes, We Own the Night is what it looks like: a moody cop drama. And though it smells generic, looks generic and tastes generic, it’s not entirely generic. It doesn’t feel like a mass-produced slab of a movie product. It’s thoughtful and serious, where most flicks of its ilk concentrate more on squeezing through the formula like toothpaste out of a tube.

The drama focuses more here on the characters than the plot, which, less face it, is the plot of 30,000 other films: There’s cops, and there’s bad guys, cops chase bad guys, bad guys kill or hurt cops, cops kill bad guys. Et cetera, etc.

It’s a plot as old as cinema. But the story about the dynamics of the cop family in turmoil is the focus here.

Rating:

Michael Clayton

dir: Tony Gilroy
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No, it’s not the flick starring Liam Neeson about the Troubles in Ireland. And it’s not a light-hearted romp about the ethnic tensions between Greeks, Yugoslavs, Islanders and Vietnamese people living in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton.

It is, simultaneously, a film about the paths people take in order to do the unthinkable for money, and George Clooney’s shameless pandering need for another Oscar.

You already have one, pretty boy. Enough’s enough.

The title character, played by Clooney, is a fixer for a prestigious law firm. Though a lawyer himself, he never gets to step inside a courtroom anymore. All he does is try to fix situations that could damage the firm’s clients, or, for most of this film, the firm.

The film starts where it starts, with Clayton driving out to Westchester in order to calm and help out a wealthy sonofabitch who wants to avoid legal troubles for running someone over and leaving the scene of the accident. On the drive out there, the GPS display in his luxury car starts screwing up. In other words, Clayton has lost his moral roadmap. Subtle as a crowbar to the kidney. Then there’s an explosion, and the plot goes back four days in time in order to show all the events leading up to the explosion.

Rating:

Charlie Wilson's War

dir: Mike Nichols
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Who?
Charlie Wilson, you know, the guy who single-handedly defeated the Russians in Afghanistan. That Charlie Wilson?

Okay, so he’s not a household name. But if you’re not of the opinion that St Ronald Reagan, dressed as Rambo, beat the Soviet Empire to death with his bare fists, then you might be curious about this flick which purports to tell the ‘true’ story behind the Afghanistan War.

‘Good Time Charlie’ (Tom Hanks) is a drunken, womanising coke-fiend Democratic Congressman from Texas. In 1980, while drinking with strippers and hookers in a hot tub, he watches Dan Rather on 60 Minutes tell a sorry tale about the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. Now, Charlie’s only real achievement to date has been getting re-elected five times, and all he really cares about is drinking and hot women. So he’s already a hero in my book.

The transition for his character is going from a hedonistic deal-making backslapper of a politician with no ambition to a hedonistic deal-making backslapper who wants to defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Why? Well, I’m not too sure.

Rating:

3:10 to Yuma

3:10 to Yuma

Men go bang bang with gun guns, everybody wins

dir: James Mangold

2007

Do you have a hankerin’ for some good ol’ western fun? Gunslingers shooting each other, shooting injuns and making way for the railroads by shooting the landscape? Do you want to watch two titans of contemporary cinema use hokey Southern accents and shoot at each other and their enemies for two hours? Do you know the quantity of wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Then this remake of a western from the 50s could appeal to you. It’s a very simple premise: honest rancher is forced by circumstance to escort an outlaw to a train in a town called Contention, being the 3:10pm train to the prison in Yuma, Arizona. Along the way he has to fight off the crim’s gang, the Apache, and the criminal’s charismatic manipulations and seductions. All this he does to earn respect in the eyes of his teenage son, who sees him as a pretty pathetic paternal figure, and to make some money in order for his family to keep their ranch.

Christian Bale plays the heroic Dan Evans rancher role, and Russell Crowe plays the charismatic outlaw Ben Wade. As in the original, the two earn each other’s respect with various actions and arguments about right and wrong. Unlike the original, we wish the criminal would just kill all the nice people and ride off into the sunset with an attractive senorita draped over his saddle.

Rating:

Shoot 'Em Up

dir: Michael Davis
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Imagine a film where the hero shoots hundreds if not thousands of people. Imagine that same film actually has an anti-gun agenda as its plot.

Collect the pieces of your head after it’s exploded all over the place, and then try not to think about it again. Or about how truly loopy this movie is.

If you’re a fan of utterly mad gunfest actions films, especially the kind of stuff John Woo used to be able to produce back before whatever talent he possessed was drained out of him by Hollywood, then this insane flick is for you.

As my Canadian friend said of the film, he stopped watching it when, in the film’s first few minutes, the hero kills a bad guy with a carrot.

A few minutes later, he’s cutting a newborn baby’s umbilical by shooting it. That’s the insane level this flick is operating on. And it either gets better or worse, dependent upon your sensibilities.

Smith (Clive Owen), who looks like little more than a carrot-chewing homeless person, steps in to a situation not of his making. A heavily pregnant woman is being chased by goons intent on killing her, and he reluctantly steps in to save her. This sets him on a path of conflict with some progressively nastier men.

Rating:

There Will Be Blood

dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
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Oh, there most definitely will be blood. But the blood will be pouring from the eyes and ears of the audience members at the horror perpetrated by the ending of this movie.

For the majority of the flick’s length, I was pretty sure it was a masterpiece, even if the persistently annoying score was getting on my nerves with how busy it was. But about fifteen minutes from the end it completely, gut-wrenchingly falls apart. It’s one of those endings that’s so awful that it makes you feel like having watched the preceding two and a half hours of film was a total waste of your goddamn time.

But still, I should give it credit for what it does achieve up until then.Very loosely adapted from the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair, There Will Be Blood starts off at the beginning of the 20th century and concerns itself with the origins of the oil industry in America. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a very determined, very driven man. We watch him prospecting for gold and doing it the hard way, the hardest way it can be. Even a broken leg can’t stop him from getting his few lumps of gold to the surveyor’s office.

Rating:

Lucky You

dir: Curtis Hanson
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I have, as a film geek obsessive, certain film obsessions that trump even all the others I posses (beyond samurai flicks, heist flicks, flicks with zombies, boobs or explosions, of course). For reasons not immediately apparent to me, flicks about gambling and gamblers appeal to me immensely.

I’ve never been a gambler myself, but only because I know I have an addictive personality (hence the film geekdom), and because I’ve barely got enough money to waste on food, booze, rent and childcare, let alone to lose at the poker tables. It is perhaps the high-stakes tension that appeals, or the self-destructive characters these stories inevitably conjure with. Whatever the elements, I dig them big time, and am a keen watcher of films about these chronic fuckups.

Rating:

La Vie en rose (La Mome)

dir: Olivier Dahan
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Outside of France this biopic about Edith Piaf was called La Vie en rose, one of her most famous songs. In France itself the flick was called La Môme, being her nickname, “the sparrow”. In Australia it should really have been called The Miserable Fucking Life of a Street Urchin who becomes Edith Piaf and Dies a Wreck in her Forties.

It has a certain ring to it, a certain je ne sais quoi, wouldn’t you say? It certainly would be both accurate and illuminating.

Despite knowing absolutely nothing about Edith Piaf and any other French singer of her era or magnitude, I have to say that the story as presented in La Vie en rose is ridiculously familiar. It’s not just because the story of the rise, fall and comeback of artists tends to have the same trajectory, it’s because the filmmakers, whether American, Hollywoodian or French, tend to create the same narrative and use the same plot devices to tell their story.

The personal, actual details of their lives are comfortably wedged into the pre-ordained format, so the whole story, whether it’s about the rags-to-riches tale of a Mongolian throat singer, or the rags-to-riches story of a member of New Kids on the Block, it’s all going to be pleasantly familiar.

Rating:

Stardust

dir: Matthew Vaughn
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It’s been a while since a fairy tale has dared to aim itself at anything apart from the audience of infants and drooling dateless wonders. Neil Gaiman wrote the book this modern fable is based on, and that’s almost enough to pique my interest.

Not that adaptations of his works have translated that well to the big screen. Mirrormask missed the mark somewhat, and Neverwhere should have stayed there. But he is still a remarkable writer whose spin on old ideas often yields surprising and amazing results. Adaptations of great stuff like American Gods and Sandman have long been threatened, and will eventually reveal his genius to wider audiences.

Until then…

Still, Stardust feels awfully generic and little of it is new. There’s a skill in that, insofar as people want the familiar sometimes, just so they can see how the familiar can be played out in a different fashion. That explains the popularity of sports, as far as I can work out, since it’s the same shit all over again, week in week out, season after pointless season.

Rating:

Superbad

dir: Greg Mottola
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I can’t really explain the 70s retro chic aesthetic that permeates this flick, from the music to the titles. It’s set contemporarily, the main characters Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are only supposed to be around 17-18. But, you know, whatever floats Judd Apatow’s boat.

Apatow, who previously struggled as a comedian, writer and creator of TV series that were good but were canned (a la Freaks and Geeks), who then became huge with the success of his comedies 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, has become this media juggernaut producing comedies that have his imprimatur upon them without having to bother directing them. He’s like Spielberg now, except without the cheese or the virgin blood drinking.

Rating:

I Think I Love My Wife

dir: Chris Rock
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Who does Chris Rock think he’s kidding?

Watching I Think I Love My Wife reminded me, more than anything else, of two things. One is the subject of marriage as it appears in much of Chris Rock’s stand-up material. The other is the extent to which Rock must be treading dangerous waters in order to desperately convince his wife that he’s not sleeping around. Really.

Back in the sixties, notorious womaniser and acclaimed director Federico Fellini, having been caught out one too many times by his long-suffering wife Giulietta Masina, decided to make a curious little film called Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli spiriti, 1965). In this curious flick, he cast Giulietta as the main character Juliet, the long-suffering wife of a notorious womaniser and director, who tires of her husband’s infidelities and their pretentious lifestyle. She initially flirts with the idea of adultery-as-revenge, but ultimately finds more fulfilment in simply achieving freedom away from her bastard husband.

Rating:

Namesake, The

dir: Mira Nair
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The Namesake focuses on the detail of a person’s life that must seem ridiculous from the point of view of people whose first and last names sound like two first names: the Paul Christophers, Robert Stanleys and Jane Allisons of this world. The unique pressures that arise from possessing a name that sounds strange to the ear and eye dependant upon the culture you reside within is only the most obvious issue that arises as part of the immigrant experience familiar to so many squllions of, uh, immigrants.

On top of that, though, the issue of name and identity gets even stickier for one of our protagonists here, because the name his parents bestowed upon him at birth is one that, transcending his background, he can never come to grips with.

Gogol (Kal Penn) is born to Bengali parents recently transplanted to the States. He grows up somewhat distanced from his family though not violently so. Mostly he seems to resent the fact that his dad called him Gogol.

Such a sweet sounding name. Although Gogol has inklings as to why his father chose the name, of course the flick has to take its time to tell him (and us) exactly how profoundly important the name is to his father.

He, however, resents it for most of his life.

Rating:

Blades of Glory

dir: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
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Will Ferrell as an ice figure skater? That’s the comedy cinematic equivalent of crack cocaine, isn’t it?

The people who made the film probably sold it to the company with a text message to an executive saying exactly that: “w/about Ferrell on ice?” with probably a few smiley faces and LOLs thrown in for good measure.

The entire movie is predicated on the impression that ice skating is both gay in the sense that ‘gay’ is sometimes used as a synonym for lame, and gay in the sense that it is a sport best enjoyed by and participated in by gay people. So of course Ferrell plays his character of Chazz Michael Michaels as a rampantly hetero alcoholic sex addict lothario who never actually gets laid. And of course there are lots of scenes where men have to uncomfortably hold another man’s genitals either in their hands or close to their faces in order to win something important. What’s funnier than another man’s gonads being waved in your face?

His opponent Jimmy McElroy (Jon Heder, he of Napoleon Dynamite fame), and eventual partner on the ice, is the literal golden-haired child who is taking the role that Owen Wilson surely must have turned down due to his current bout of drug abuse and suicidal tendencies.

Rating:

Hostel Part 2

dir: Eli Roth
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What Borat has done for Kazakhstan, Eli Roth and his Hostel horror movies have done for Slovakia.

You thought that Slovakia was just a former part of the Soviet Union that was recovering from no longer having the word Czech in front of its name. In Roth’s hands, Slovakia is a place as bleak and foreboding as Chechnya, as Srebrenica, as Caroline Springs where, in the post-Communist aftermath, life is simultaneously cheap and auctionable to the highest bidder.

In the first Hostel flick, two American backpackers and an Icelandic traveller find themselves on the pointy end of the Eastern European tourist industry when they are selected, hunted down, tortured and murdered by the clients of a company who pay to maim and kill people in the slaughterrooms of an old industrial complex.

It’s a horribly macabre idea, and Eli Roth and his many producers could not see any reason as to why they shouldn’t repeat the idea again, only with American girls this time.

Rating:

Sunshine

dir: Danny Boyle
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Decent, actual science fiction movies are few and far between, so when word started spreading that Danny Boyle, he of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later fame (and Life Less Ordinary and The Beach infamy) had made a serious sci fi flick, I was curious.

Most flicks use sci fi elements purely to propel a flick that’s mostly just an action/comedy/horror movie. It’s all fine and dandy to imagine what a society full of robots would be like in the future, but let’s not pretend the driving concept behind a flick where someone is fighting hundreds of robots makes it an existential exploration of the idea of artificial intelligence. Why would you bother with that when it’s far more fun to watch Will Smith get slapped around by a robot/alien/grandmother?

Sunshine has as its premise the inexplicable cooling of our solar system’s sun in about half a century’s time. In a desperate attempt to jump start the sun, and thus save all life on earth, an international team of scientists and astronauts sets off on a mission to the sun.

Rating:

Mr Brooks

dir: Bruce A. Adams
[img_assist|nid=771|title=These guys are smart. Serial killer smart|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=301]
How smart are you? I mean, obviously you’re reasonably smart, since you’re reading one of my reviews. But how smart are you, you super genius Poindexter?

Sure, you’re smart, but are you serial killer smart? Are you as brilliant as the serial killers Hollywood routinely serves up to us, the duped masses, on a regular basis? It’s unlikely, I would say, that any of us is that smart. It’s even more possible that no-one is that smart in reality that isn’t strapped into a chair, using a computer voice synthesiser to communicate with the rest of the world.

Stephen Hawking would be the ultimate serial killer, you’d have to think, based on flicks like the Hannibal Lecter franchise, and this here nasty, clever flick Mr Brooks. Hawking grasps the structure and infinite complexity of the universe like few others can, and, if he’d had better luck in the physical genetic stakes, would probably be stalking the globe with a bloody knife in his hand and a trail of bodies behind him.

Rating:

Simpsons Movie, The

dir: David Silverman
[img_assist|nid=780|title=The fire burned my bottom|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=253]
Well it’s about bloody time. The series has only been running for 18 years. So grateful should we be that they took the time to put together a cinematic version of the popular television animated series. Because, you know, there aren’t enough movies to watch as it is.

The Simpsons Movie arrives in a form that is unsurprising, with a running time of what three episodes would be like run back to back, with no profoundly earthshaking or universe-altering message. It has plenty of chuckles in it, doesn’t vary from the known Simpsons universe that much, and delivers exactly what long term fans would expect.

Long term fans aren’t the ones who have been saying since the fourth season of the series that it has jumped the shark or sold out a long time ago. I’m not necessarily talking about the Comic Book Guy-type fans who know everything about every episode and feel personally offended when an episode fails to live up to their expectations.

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Knocked Up

dir: Judd Apatow
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The advertising for this was brilliant. There were variations, of course, but their main theme was along the lines of just what a loser Seth Rogen looks like, and how unlucky any woman would be to fall pregnant because of his drunken thrustings.

The ads literally had pictures of Rogen’s goofy, almost apologetic face, with the phrase “what if this guy got you pregnant?’ or variations thereof plastered across them worldwide. Marketing genius; pure marketing genius.

Considering the fact that Rogen wrote most of the screenplay (or whatever you call the process that eventuated in this film), it’s something of an odd but extremely successful sell. In the real world, attractive women have sex with slobs all the time. And we thank you for it. But in the Hollywood film world, it’s seen as something of a gross anomaly, or at least enough of one to justify such a premise. Like some major disruption in the space time continuum, or a tear in the fabric of reality.

See, they don’t have this problem in French films. The uglier and older the French male protagonist, the hotter the French babe who adores him and has freaky French sex with him all over the place. Before she kills herself and probably him too by flick’s end.

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Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance

dir: Darren Ashton
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You could argue that making a mockumentary about stage mothers and their poor, put-upon children is a bit redundant, since you can’t satirise something that is already such a horrible reflection on humanity from the start. You can’t satirise a satire: it’d be like satirising Yes, Minister or parodying The Simpsons.

Or maybe you can, I’m not sure. Maybe anything is fair game.

Though I have no proof for this bollocksy assertion, I like to think that this flick’s origins were initiated by the last part of Little Miss Sunshine, which focused on a beauty pageant for 8-year-old girls. That was a hideous and insightful peak into the mentality of parents who make their children look like Las Vegas showgirls in order to live through and profit by them.

Razzle Dazzle makes the whole film about the sheer horribleness of these stage mothers, and the delusional maniacs who coach them. The difference is that the setting isn’t the exciting world of pre-teen beauty pageants, but instead resides in the magical land of dance.

The only characters who come through okay in this are the girls, who have their ups and downs, but at least they’re still recognisably human. For now.

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Hot Fuzz

dir: Edgar Wright
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Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and probably a whole bunch of other people, try to do to the buddy cop genre what they did to the zombie genre in Shaun of the Dead. If you saw and liked Shaun, then you know what to expect.

If you hated Shaun, then you probably haven’t got a hope in hell of getting anything out of this here flick.

Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is an extremely driven cop who is so good at his job with the metropolitan police that they transfer him out to the boondocks because he makes the rest of them look bad. When he gets to the sleepy, quiet town, he discovers that there’s more going on than meets the eye.

The locals are the expected group of quirky hicks you’d expect from a British flick of such a nature, populating the place with some characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a show like Ballykissangel, Monarch of the Glen or Doctor Martin, and some who you only find in the shows and flicks made by Edgar Wright. Once on the town beat, the police chief’s chubby, somewhat simple son Danny (Nick Frost) latches onto him and makes him the wind beneath his wings. What follows is one and a half hours of set up, and twenty minutes of utterly over the top gun action which would deafen John Woo himself.

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Shooter

dir: Antoine Fuqua
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It feels a bit wrong reviewing a film called Shooter considering what just happened in the States a little while ago at Virginia Tech, where 32 people lost their lives at the hands of a crazed, but utterly calm gunman. However, in this courageous ‘reviewer’ caper, you have to occasionally suck it up, as they say, and get on with the job. Be a trooper, soldier on through, above and beyond the call of duty.

Because as awful as that mass slaying must be for all those people who lost loved ones, and for those who lost people they kind of didn’t mind, and for those people who had people who they couldn’t stand cruelly and violently taken from them: it’s just as hard on those of us who have to hear about it.

It’s at moments like these that entertainment becomes most crucial: It’s time to laugh again. So why shouldn’t people go and see a film where a cool, calm guy with a gun kills a shitload of people?

I can’t think of a single reason why not. This is a proudly American film about an American hero taking on the corrupt American system in the only way an American (at least on film, certainly not in reality) deals with conflict: by shooting lots of people. The Way of the Gun indeed.

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