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7 stars

Snow White & the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman

Stop staring at me with your dead eyes

dir: Rupert Davies

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

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

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

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Wanderlust

Wanderlust

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

dir: David Wain

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

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

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

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

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The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption

Burn it all down, then salt the earth afterwards

dir: Gareth Huw Evans

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

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

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

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

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Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo

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

dir: Adrian Grunberg

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

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

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

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

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

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The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

You should never trust anyone who wears black all the time

dir: James Watkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Safe

Safe

Don't point that thing at me, Curly

dir: Boaz Yakin

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

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

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

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

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Red Tails

Red Tails

The actors are more fake than the CGI

dir: Anthony Hemingway

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

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

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

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21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street

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

dirs: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

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

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

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

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

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The Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods

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

dir: Drew Goddard

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

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

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

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

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

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

dir: Gary Ross

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

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

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

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

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