dir: Martin Scorsese
History is replete with examples of grand folly. Times where people were inspired by big ideas that outstripped their ability, their budget or the laws of physics and failed spectacularly in ways so tragically overblown that they have become the stuff of legend, despite being remembered, perhaps incorrectly as time stumbles inexorably forward.
As an example, how about the plans of Arthur Paul Pedrick, who came up with a scheme to irrigate the Sahara by flinging giant snowballs from Antarctica using catapults? Or Howard Hughes’ ‘Spruce Goose’, the biggest, goofiest model aeroplane ever constructed, with its seventeen separate engines and its wingspan exceeding that of a football field by 20 metres, and possessing enough cabin space to carry two railroad carriages side by side? Perhaps someone should have told Hughes that railroad carriages already had a way of being moved around. It might have saved him some cash. And time. Lots and lots of time. And glue, probably.
dir: Brett Ratner
I would never have believed that Brett Ratner, director of such classy fair as some of Mariah Carey's film clips and Rush Hour 2 would be capable of making a decent film. I guess films like this go against the auteur theory of film making, either that or he deserves more credit than I am capable of giving him.
It's weird. The film works, amazingly enough. It's not Battleship Potemkin, don't get me wrong, but it is not the mess that I expected. What can be said with a comfortable level of certainty is that Ratner achieved something that Ridley Scott, for all his pretensions of being a first rank director, could not: he manages to make the whole serial killer thing work again, and somehow compelled Anthony Hopkins to actually act. Like he gets paid to.
My hatred of that farce masquerading as a film known as Hannibal is well known, If it isn't, it should be. I proudly aligned myself with the masses last year in declaring it one of the most truly stupid and mishandled films ever made. I can count at least fifteen levels upon which Hannibal failed, and with a somewhat slightly less passionate zeal I can comfortably assert that in my anything but humble opinion, Red Dragon gets it right.
Yeah, I've seen ManhunterM, which people are in a rush stumbling over each other and themselves in order to praise as the definitive version of Thomas Harris' book. Honestly, I saw it back in the late 80s, and it didn't really get my juices flowing. There were some interesting ideas, but the most frightening ideas in the book (as in exactly how much Will Graham ends up identifying with his prey) are left out entirely. As they are here, as well. But most importantly, having watched it (Manhunter) recently again as well, I don't actually feel that it stands the test of time. If anything it looks uncomfortably dated, and the only real aspect of it with any lingering significance is William Petersen's performance, which was tetchy, nervous and desperate.
I kind of wish they could have used the magic of modern technology not to make Hannibal Lecter look younger (which they entirely fail to do, not that I cared), but to be able to interpose William Petersen's performance from Manhunter into Red Dragon. That would have made this film sterling, truly champagne stuff. As it is we have to accept in the role that lucky bastard that gets to have sex with Salma Hayek on a nightly basis, Ed Norton. Sure she can't act, but like any sensible person would care. You think Norton walks down the memory lane of Salma's laughable 'acting' performances every time they have sex? Hell no.
dir: Steven Shainberg
What a fucking freaky film. It starts off being a film about one freak, who then finds an even bigger freak than herself. It just makes you hope they eventually get together and raise some freak babies.
There were certainly a bunch of people in the audience I saw this film with who didn't have a singular clue about this film. They were the ones that walked out not because of the sexual / sadomasochistic content, but because the psychosexual stuff wasn't sexy. They were actually expecting or hoping for some T & A and double entendres about taking dictation and doing a Lewinsky under the desk. Not a story about a demented self-mutilator and a sadistic obsessive-compulsive.
Let's be honest, at least in the realm of colloquial jokes and in porn the job of being a secretary has been sexualised entirely, which is quite ridiculous when you think about it. Anyone who works in pretty much any work environment knows that secretaries come in all shapes, genders, ages and flavours. Generally none of them are wearing tight skirts that barely cover their arse with tight jackets from within which you can see lacy bras peeking out from their barely contained cleavage. Then there's the whole peaking over those glasses thing and the hair done up in a bun which comes loose with a shake as she licks her full, red lips and says in a husky voice "No sir, I haven't heard about the changes in sexual harassment legislation" before earning herself a promotion by doing what she does best...
dir: Mark Romanek
Robin Williams was, to use the official psychiatric term, a complete loon. He was a complete loon for a long time. Anyone who's ever seen one of his coke fuelled stand-up performances from the 80s (such as Live at the Met from 1986), or seen anyone try to interview him on any type of show knows how much of a complete nutjob he was (and probably still is). The man used to have a chaotic level of energy when 'on' that it meant even he didn't know what was going to come out of his manic mouth next. You've never seen someone cram more free associations, impressions, parodies and downright crippling gags in such a short space of time. Of course by delivering twenty gags in the space of fifteen seconds even when ten leave you scratching your unmentionables the other five kept you giggling like a schoolgirl.
Those days of coke binges and having sex with Christy Canyon (I'm not making that up) are long gone, but the mania certainly remains. Even now you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of a person with extreme bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression back in the old days.
Conversely, the most curious fact relating to his dubious 'talents' is that he has been far more compelling in dramatic roles than he ever has been in comedies. Don't believe me? Well, who remembers Jack fondly, or Father's Day, Flubber, Jumanji, Nine Months, Toys? Who pops Mrs Doubtfire in the DVD player any more? Without recourse to strong anti-psychotic medication?
dir: M. Night Shyamalan
It's an interesting film, I'll give it that much. And it's a credit to M. Night Shyamalan that he manages to get the best performance out of Mel Gibson that I've seen in nearly a decade. As for how successful the film is overall, well, that's hardly a question for the ages.
Box office-wise, Signs has managed to dispel the fear that arose of "one hit wonderness" after the lackluster receipts that the far more ambitious Unbreakable was responsible for. He's managing to incorporate the quite difficult aspects of credible film making and ticket sale success, and then some. He is undoubtedly a populist director, making stories that are on the surface fairly straight-forward that manage to tap in to either the collective unconscious or issues of pop cultural currency without being either pretentious or lowest common denominator shit-stupid.
His level of subtlety is not what I would call delicate, but this film at the very least stands as a testament to his willingness to tackle commonplace ideas with his own individual take, willing to not always give audiences what they want initially with the view of giving them something completely different at film's end. It's a conceited bait-and-switch, I know, but as someone who's seen literally thousands of films over the years, it's something I can appreciate.
I had long ago given up on Mel Gibson. In my mind he has become such a ham of an actor that expecting a decent performance from him would be classified by myself as an exercise in futility and by the psychiatric diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals throughout the Western world, the DSM-IV, as a "profoundly delusional state". Picture if you will without getting nauseous the alleged "characters" he's been portraying for the last decade and a half. Whether it be the repugnant all encompassing "father" figure in Ransom, who to me was even more loathsome than the villains in the film, or the even worse character he assayed in The Patriot, the wretched, ham-vomiting Benjamin Martin, in a film that paid the same level of honour to the heroes of the American Revolution that Jerry Bruckheimer did to the fallen in Pearl Harbor: you're not talking quality acting here. I get the feeling that he gave up on the concept of portraying a character in films so much as just giving us the viewers another "facet" of the wonderfulness that is Mel.
dir: Prachya Pinkaew
The main point that’s supposed to be in Ong Bak’s favour is that it’s a brawling action film which rejects the use of CGI and the wire-work that has become (apparently) sickening in its ubiquity. In other words, the fights are supposed to be more grounded and realistic; none of this airy-fairy floating on bamboo crap for our beef jerky munching friends.
When you think about it, on its own it isn’t really that much of a selling point. Are there lots of people hearing about or seeing the ads to flicks that are coming out, who see the edited highlights of people perched atop a mountain top or balancing on top of a lake having-at one another with swords, icicles and passing school buses, see the films and then say ‘Wait one gosh-darned moment: this prancing Asian malarkey ain’t my cup of Bonox?’
Surely if there’s a bunch of people that hate that style of genre filmmaking there’s also at least two other groups of people: a) the ones that are the market for these fantastical delights who are grateful and appreciative and b) people who don’t really go in for these kinds of films, and choose as consumers to exercise their George W Bush-given right to NOT purchase a ticket. It’s basic economics, by my reckoning. Niche marketing, even.
That being said, a flick like Ong Bak, whilst a throw-back to an earlier era of trashy cinema, is somewhat refreshing. The story has clichés so, um cliché that you wonder how people can still use them and face themselves in the mirror each morning.
dir: Terry Zwigoff
Take up all your misanthropy, your contempt and loathing for the world in general and people specifically, roll it up into a ball and squeeze it till it is diamond hard, and then release it upon the cinema screen in an explosion of orgiastic catharsis. You're still not going to be responsible for an expulsion this ugly, no matter how hard you try.
Willie, as played by Billy Bob Thornton, is possibly one of the vilest creatures ever put to screen. When I think of the most loathsome characters to ever grace a cinema or television screen, he is definitely up there, arm in arm with the Bad Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel), Frank from Blue Velvet (Dennis Hopper), Archibald Cunningham from Rob Roy (Tim Roth) and the right hand of Evil itself, Maria (Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music. In the hierarchy of evil, he is
one of the darkest fiends. We're talking a Republican level of vileness. We're talking about a level of vileness that makes your mother cry herself to sleep each night over after praying for hours that it not consume you too.
dir: Ed Zwick
Well, well, well, a film with Tom Cruise in it is a joy to review, surely. The review practically writes itself: "Flashes teeth a few dozen times, flicks his hair around, acts all good an' noble, show's over, nothing to see here".
Well, not quite. You see, in this film, Tom Cruise has a beard.
That's got to be a whole other level of acting right there. I can't remember another film where he's sported a real beard (which is why Born on the Forth of July doesn't count, that beard was as fake as a
pornstar's breasts). You can see his commitment to such a role by his decision to grow some facial hair. In fact, this film is a delight for people interested in facial hair. Of course it's not about facial hair explicitly, but, you know, subtext and all that.
What this film does have is wonderful locations, a formulaic script, and great big dollops of man-love. Not the sweaty, hairy, prison-inspired, Queer as Folk kind, but the brotherly "I can cry because you're dying and no-one's going to think I'm gay" kind of love. It's the kind of man-love that makes men consistently call The Shawshank Redemption one of their favourite films of all time. Here in Australia, whenever footballers are interviewed and asked what their favourite film is, 9 times out of 10 it's the bloody Shawshank Redemption. Men. Big Manly Men. Having relationships with other men untainted by the presence or existence of women. Rousing stuff.
Cruise gives what is for him something of a subdued performance for most of the film's duration. There aren't many sequences where he screams at the top of his lungs. He does have one of those scenes where he makes his face go all red and makes the veins stick out in his forehead, he loves doing that. But all in all he does okay in the film by not doing too much. For a man tortured by his conscience, though we hear about it many times, at least we don't have to watch him overact about it ad infinitum.
dir: Peter Webber
The camera loves Scarlett Johansson’s face, there is no doubt of that. So much attention, so many shots amount to little more than the camera going into close-up to let her acting play out on the canvass of her face. Her lips and eyes get to do most of the acting. Having little opportunity to speak, true to her role as a poor 17th Century maid working for rich folks in the city of Delft, in the Netherlands, most of her work has to be purely from body language and the little dialogue she’s entitled to. Most of the time she is trying to speak, but because of who she is, where she is, that access to her own ‘voice’ is devastatingly rare. Her struggle to speak rarely countermands her ingrained idea of her ‘place’. More overtly she is specifically told by the lady of the house to only speak when spoken to.
As almost a mute she still holds centre stage and our attention, as the story focus is on her and her less than wicked ways. Thus the story, apart from being a purely fanciful extrapolation of the possible life of the subject of one of Johannes Vermeer’s paintings that the film shares as its title, is essentially feminist in its narrative. In a way the film belongs to the category of film I like to refer to as the ‘life sucks’ genre. To pare it down even further, recalling my use of the ‘f’ word, the film belongs to the sub-genre of ‘gee, didn’t life suck for poor girls back then?’
Our main character Griet works as a maid for the Vermeer family. Being poor and uneducated, and this being the 1670s or so, her options are really very limited. As a maid for a large house she is required to work virtually the length of the day and into the night. Her hands are perpetually red and scabbed from work and from being burned in the kitchen. In other words, as I said before, it sucked to be a poor woman in the 1700s.
dir: Vadim Perelman
Films with House in the title usually suck. Not only do they suck, but they generally suck very badly. I mentioned this recently in a review of House of 1000 Corpses, one of the dumbest movies to have the word in its title. If you think I’m lying, then allow me to retort: House Party, House on Haunted Hill (the remake), House, Houseguest, Life as a House, Cider House Rules, House of the Dead and who can forget (despite trying repeatedly) Big Momma’s House?
House of Sand and Fog is truly one of the better films with house in its title, but as I’ve shown that’s not saying much. This is an agonising emotional train-wreck of a movie that despite being in slow motion has none of its impact lessened, if anything it makes it even sadder. The characters feel like actual characters, and not caricatures, and are all flawed in their own ways. Perhaps it’s because of those flaws that they seem like real people. Far more attention is paid to issues of character than to plot, which makes for better drama but not necessarily ‘enjoyable’ viewing.
The acting is superlative across the board. Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly, Shohreh Aghdashloo and even Ron Eldard all do a decent job inhabiting their characters to the story’s benefit. And the coffee commercial cinematography and ubiquitous soundtrack all blend together to give this film that sheen of Oscarbait so conclusive that it’s a miracle it didn’t get a million of them on Oscar night.
Or perhaps not. It’s a pretty depressing film, where the American Dream of financial success and owning one’s own home leads to the destruction of so many lives. Before those of you mortgaged to the hilt and safe in the lap of aspirational luxury grab the pitchforks and light the torches, I’m not saying home ownership leads to madness and death. It is the essential characters of the people involved that leads them to their fates: who they are, what they are coping with or suffering from and how they choose to react to the circumstances that arise. It’s not my fault if the pressure of being bourgeois is too much for some people.
dir: Gary Ross
It’s a mediocre film masquerading as an Oscarbait ‘prestige’ contender. It’s flawed, obvious, cliché and hackneyed. The actors are mostly outacted by the horse. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t still find it sweet and enjoyable, damn my eyes.
Goddamn me it hurts to admit that. It makes me want to get liver-rupturingly drunk and binge on hard Class A drugs in order to regain my equilibrium after that admission. It wouldn’t change the fact that I genuinely enjoyed the film, despite its shallow nature and emotional manipulativeness. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a pic about horses, seeing as I have a weakness for the ponies. Not so much the gambling aspect, since the indentured servitude that passes for employment in my life doesn’t leave me a whole hell of a lot of money for wasting on beting. But there is just something that appeals to me about horse racing.
Perhaps it’s just the horses themselves, which are huge, beautiful creatures. Sure, I’m not a teenage girl who loves rubbing up and down on her saddle all day long and mistaking it for the joy that only her pony can bring, but I am in awe of the animals. And I love watching them run in races. I’m not ignorant of the cruelty arguments made by proponents of animal rights issues, and I am sympathetic to those arguments only up to the point where I’m supposed to care. All the whippings in the world and the shooting of horses that break their legs on the track aren’t going to change my love of horse racing.
dir: Jane Campion
In the Cut is a perfect example of a cinematic bait-and-switch. It pretends to be a conventional murder mystery / thriller, but is something somewhat more complex. It’s a pretty fucking bleak film, with oddles and oddles of subtext, overt text and enough tricks in the cinematography department for fifteen other films. It deliberately and with malice aforethought subverts the generally misogynist slasher genre, dulling it down, taking the scares and the suspense out of it, for the purpose of representing something darker and uglier than just shocking and gruesome death.
The attraction for this film was supposed to be the fact that a newly renovated Meg Ryan gets to take her kit off and display her dubious acting talents in the buff. I can’t think of a less-likely drawcard than that. Her new lips alone cause me to wonder what the hell she was thinking. Surely a film starring a nude Ryan is not marketable on that alone, though perhaps, despite the fact that they’re subverting the genre that includes such masterpieces as Basic Instinct and Body of Evidence, they were hoping for similar audiences. More fool them. I could understand audiences hating this film with an angry mob type passion, especially the ones that thought Basic Instinct made any sense apart from showing Sharon Stone’s talent for playing peekaboo, I see you, with her vagina.
dir: Mel Gibson
Oh. My. Gods. I’m, I’m stunned. I cannot believe what I just saw. A movie about a nice enough chap who says a few nice things to people, ends up getting beaten up severely, is then flayed and tenderised like a cheap cut of meat, has thorns wedged though his eyelids, and is then nailed to pieces of wood. They even stab him with a spear in the end just to make sure that he’s dead.
And that’s the film. The vast majority of it centres on and is entirely concerned with his torments. It’s pretty rough, and it kind of makes me feel sorry for anyone who’s undergoing torture right now. Anywhere in the world. You know, at anyone's hands. It's nasty stuff.
Gibson is famous for a lot of things. You would wish it would be for playing Mad Max / Road Warrior films, or for those steely blue eyes, or for making a few good films in a completely idiosyncratic way.
Alas, most recently, his infamy has been based on the now clear evidence that he really does hate the Jews, and that at least in part, his version of the Easter classic was intended to malign the Jews who killed Christ. In vino veritas, and all that.
Look, I can’t say for certain that Mel Gibson, deep in his crazy heart of hearts, hates Jewish people or is anti-Semitic to the core. His father is on the record as denying that the Holocaust occurred and that evil Jews run the world. But the sins of the father shouldn’t be used to condemn the son.
I’d hate to think that, years down the track, my daughter is condemned because of one or several of the idiotic things I’ve said and will inevitably say in time.
When this version of the Passion play was slated for production and release, certain Jewish interest groups made the point that the story itself, as is it usually depicted, is itself anti-Semitic, whatever the director’s intentions could be. And they feared that Gibson, a staunch Traditionalist Catholic, was using this as an opportunity to stoke the fires of hatred.
He and plenty of other PR flacks assured everyone they could that the flick’s purpose was not to sow seeds of hate but to grow seeds of love, of loving lovingness all arising from showing just what Joshua Ben Joseph went through nearly two thousand years ago.
dir: Joshua Marston
Ah, drugs. Drugs are great, drugs are good. They’re fun, they let you sometimes have a great time, and they make inanimate objects, surfaces and other people seem more interesting than they actually are.
I’ve heard that they have a downside as well, but frankly I can’t see it. Drugs are simply wonderful. In case you think I’m talking about the wonders of modern pharmaceutical drugs and medicines, think again! I’m talking exclusively about illegal Class A drugs. The ones that cost a fortune and make awful people very wealthy. They also garner you a dirty cell and a cellmate who calls himself “The Stallion” if you get caught selling or smuggling them, but that’s a small price to pay, surely compared to the bountiful and constant fun they can bring.
Maria Full of Grace is a movie about two main topics: a teenage girl called Maria (played well by Catalina Sandino Moreno), and the way that drugs sometimes gets smuggled inside human receptacles into the United States from Colombia. You wouldn’t have thought it, but it’s a harsh and dangerous process, and the people who control the trade are thoroughly vile individuals who are as likely to kill you as say “Good Morning Captain” to you if the mood takes them.
dir: Olivier Assayas
Clean is a strange but oddly satisfying film. It’s strange in that there’s no clear plot, but there is a lot going on in the life of the main character Emily Wang, fantastically played by Hong Kong legend Maggie Cheung. Enough at least to keep us entertained.
This is a film that defies the genre it seems to be about: addiction and its malcontents, and derails the predictable path to redemption by offering something low key but more complicated.
Emily is portrayed at first as equal parts Courtney Love, when she still had her hooks in Kurt Cobain, and Yoko Ono as the destroyer of both the Beatles and John Lennon, eventually. That’s not a pleasant character on paper or on the screen. She has managed to attach herself leech-like to an artist, Lee Hauser (James Johnston, formerly of the band Gallon Drunk and more recently of the Bad Seeds), and brought him down to her level by sharing the depths of her addiction with him.
Anyone that still cares about washed-up Lee hates Emily and what they see as the damage she has visited upon him, but it’s not like Lee’s going to be around for that long anyway.
After scoring for the night, and arguing, Emily leaves Lee alone with a sizable quantity of the hard stuff. The next day he’s being zipped up in one of those black bags, and she’s on the way to jail for the next six months of her life.
dir: Lodge Kerrigan
This film is about a crazy guy. No, it’s not about Jim Carrey. This isn’t the fun kind of crazy, as in endlessly entertaining antics of eager eccentrics, or the transgressive kind of crazy you get from ‘enjoying’ the adventures of psychopathic serial killers like Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates or the Pope.
This is the real kind of crazy. As in, mental illness that isn’t entertaining for entertainment’s sake. That isn’t quirky, grandiose and cute. That is uncomfortable, unsettling and unexplainable.
dir: Trey Parker
It's a new world, which looks remarkably like the 'old' world as
portrayed in movies circa the 1980s. The entire globe is defined (as
in European, Egyptian and Korean cities) in terms of distances and
directions from the US. The soundtrack is the power chord laden
empty-headed nonsense as typified in glorious fashion by the title
song 'America? Fuck Yeah!'; a song so good Van Halen are kicking
themselves that they never recorded it. And the jingoistic action is
over the top, constantly explosive and cheesy / ridiculous in the
extreme. In short, this is an 80s action film parody chock full of the
requisite cliches of the era, except with puppets.
Marionettes, to be exact, I guess. I bet the lunatics responsible for
the recent Thunderbirds debacle, a movie I'm sure many of you didn't
even realise had ever been released, are kicking themselves over the
fact that this puppet feature worked out better than their film did,
despite the fact that they had humans and all (though I might prefer
DNA evidence on Sir Ben Kingsley before I can confirm his humanity).
Basically, the pugnacious, malevolent, occasionally brilliant
arseholes responsible for South Park, Cannibal: The Musical, Orgazmo
and BASEketball for some inexplicable reason decided to cash in on the
current level of global unrest with a movie that ridicules the
political bent of pretty much anyone currently alive and several
people already dead.
dir: Cate Shortland
Somersault has garnered rave critical reviews, buzz at overseas film
festivals, and an unprecedented 15 nominations for the upcoming AFI
awards. A person could be forgiven for being under the impression that
this would clearly have to be one of the truly greatest Australian
films made of all time, yea verily. An audience member going in with
such expectations of excellence is surely going to start setting fires
or engaging in self-mutilation as a violent kind of protest when
they're inevitably let down.
dir: Wong Kar Wai
2046 is a lush, beautifully filmed movie with an aching coldness at its heart. It’s a complementary film to In the Mood for Love, but it’s so much of a mutated yet ‘faithful’ continuation that calling it a sequel feels inaccurate.
In the Mood for Love was about two people clearly in love with each other trapped by circumstances and their apartments into never being together. 2046 has the male character, Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) continue on his way whilst doing an autopsy on himself the whole time. It is essentially about how screwed up he is as a person now that he refuses to open his heart ever again after ‘losing’ Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung) from the first film.
So, even though he swans about with his cool pimp moustache and looks the dapper dandy, inside, his heart is dead. Women are in ready supply and close proximity, but he uses them solely for sex and keeps them a million miles away emotionally. The ones that want him repulse him, the ones that he thinks he might want, were he not an amputee from the result of dwelling permanently in the past, don’t want or care about him at all.
dir: Michael Moore
It's a testament to the era that we live in that the more complicated issues of human rights, international diplomacy and the role of the media becomes, the narrower the range and scope of response is becoming. We are either for the terrorists, or against them. We are either fascists who hate everything that is anything than a darker shade of albino, or we are decent folk who hug puppies and love cherub-cheeked children. You either want to destroy every last stinking bit of Mother Nature, or you love the earth and everything in it or on it.
Was the world always so polarised? Do we really believe that there are really only two points of view on pretty much every single topic in existence? That the universe or at least everything on this planet exists in some kind of binary state, so that every molecule of matter and every thought or idea exists in only one of two possible states? It seems like with the increasing number and complexity of the ideas and concepts that permeate civilisation it might be a natural consequence that our vision somehow narrows simultaneously. Confronted with a multitude of competing voices we focus on those sounds that most conform with what we've heard and liked before. Out of the cacophony we hear only the tune we want to whistle ourselves.
dir: Pierre Morel
This flick has many names: Banlieue 13, Barrio 13, B-13, 13th District, Pocahontas 2: Electric Boogaloo. Whether French or English, all they stand for is this: Gallic arse-kicking of the highest order!
No, well, maybe not. This is a film of around 80 minutes length, 79 minutes of which are action scenes. The acting is mediocre, the script is leaden or generic, and there are no attractive people in the film. Also, they’re speaking French the whole time.
But the action is top notch! They used to call it parkour, and for all I know they still call it parkour, but it is also known as free running. It is considered to be a form of urban martial art, though it’s not really about kicking the crap out of people. Free running is about getting through, over, under or around elements of built up environments and streets in the fastest and most elegant manner possible. Much of this stuff was on display in the opening segment of Casino Royale, the most recent Bond film, dazzling audiences from Moe to Madagascar.
There’s substantially less money and star power on offer here, but it is no less impressive to watch primary exponents of the discipline like David Belle, perform some very impressive stunts for our benefit.
dir: Alex Proyas
Well before I get immersed in the arthouse stink of the Melbourne Film Festival, I thought I'd immunise myself with a hearty dose of mainstream blockbustery cheese.
Saying that this film has anything to do with the collection of Asimov short stories collected in a book of the same title is like saying
Michael Jackson is based on the template for a human being: in both cases the end product has little if anything to do with the source
material. The title, and the use of the concept of Asimov's Laws of Robotics are all that come from the writing of Asimov as far as the
plot is concerned. It doesn't really matter to me that much, because it's not like Asimov's going to care (he died several years ago), and
it's not as if anyone actually ever turns in their graves. Or at least I certainly hope not.
I, Robot is used as the title with the thinking behind it being that is has greater cachet value than 'Crazy Robots Fucking Shit Up' and certainly preferable to the double entendre possibilities of Man in Black, Men in Blacks or, Man, He's Black. As such even for those not familiar with the source material, I, Robot conjures up ye olde timey connotations of 50s sci-fi, science fiction as it was: pretentious, portentous and hokey all at the same time.
dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
The second part of the Danish Pusher trilogy continues the slide down the human evolutionary scale by showing the mundane lives of Danish petty criminals as the shit-soaked nightmares that they might truly be.
Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) returns as the main character in this one, previously in a supporting role in the first flick. He’s fresh out of jail and dumb as always. A skinhead by preference, he has the word ‘respect’ tattooed across the back of his head, yet, amazingly enough, this inspires little respect in the people who see the tattoo.
dir: Jean Francois Richet
I wouldn’t have thought that a remake of a John Carpenter classic could have worked, but it has. Let’s face it, it’s a good thing that Carpenter himself wasn’t involved, because everything he’s touched in the last decade has turned to shit. Although, now that I think of it, he did already remake Assault on Precinct 13. Except he called it Ghosts of Mars, and we all know how well that turned out.
This is good stuff, though. It’s never going to have as many fans as the 70s classic, and I’m sure many people are going to avoid it like it’s a stinky nappy in a swimming pool just because it’s a remake. But they’d be missing out on a decent B movie if they did.
This isn’t a life-changing experience; it isn’t visual poetry or Dostoevsky debating the Dalai Lama and Deborah Harry whilst covered in baby oil and wrestling at the same time. It’s an action movie where a bunch of people are trying to kill another bunch of people, and the ones that are going to survive are the ones who want it the most. It doesn’t wuss out on the violence, and maintains a relentless, dark tone throughout.
dir: Tim Burton
When I heard the film was going to be remade, I had a sick feeling in my gut. When I heard Tim Burton would be the one helming it, that sick feeling grew to full blown, explosive nausea.
Maybe it was the hangover, maybe it was the dodgy curry. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. But I can say that see the finished product was a decent cure.
It is a good film. It’s not great, but then having seen the original a few weeks ago as well, neither is that one. Johnny Depp is no Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, but then again clearly no-one wanted him to be.
Instead of going down the track of trying to replicate that experience, Burton has done to this what he mercilessly did to Planet of the Apes: he’s “re-imagined” the character of Willy Wonka. Instead of being a mysterious Wizard of Oz type, eccentric aristocratic figure such as in the book and (to a lesser extent) in the first film, here Wonka is just an out-and-out freak.
Much has been made in the press of the idea that Wonka as played by the deathless and ageless Depp is reminiscent of Michael Jackson and Peter Lorre (the bug-eyed German actor from such classics as M, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon). There’s none of the former and more of the latter, in my estimation.
Depp does play Wonka as a freak, someone with no social skills, who hasn’t progressed beyond the oral stage of development, or puberty, for that matter, and who is a chocolate maker who hates his primary market: children. The kids in the film, naturally all loathsome except for Charlie (Freddie Highmore), all clearly hate Wonka as well. They are there out of greed and have nothing but sneers and contempt for Wonka.
And so they should. If you saw this guy offering your kid any candy, you’d beat him to death with the nearest Oompa Loompa. There is a significant story-based reason why such a difference has been made in the script.
It’s because he doesn’t have a loving family, you see. Orphans, hearken to Tim Burton’s word. He is here to heal the pain.