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7 stars

Total Recall

Total Recall

With all their money you'd think they could afford to
give him a bloody shave for once

dir: Len Wiseman

Who dares say this remake is unnecessary? WHO DARES?

And they include the scene with a three-breasted prostitute, so what are you complaining about?

Total Recall, the flick from the early, early Nineties, is not really the classic some are pretending it is. Sure, it’s an Arnie film from before he got too ripe, and it was directed by Paul Verhoeven, someone for whom the words "tasteless misogynist excess" are a badge of honour instead of the grave insult they're intended to be, and it was pretty freaky and entertaining at the time. But it's no 2001. It's definitely on the goofy, trashy side of the sci-fi cinematic spectrum.

It also, like this flick, didn't really have that much to do with the original Philip K. Dick short story it pretended to be lifted from. That story, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, was a very short story indeed. It also included no more than a depressed guy who goes to a memory implantation place where he wants some fantasy implanted that he's the most Important Person in the Universe. Turns out, the staff of the place realise, he actually is.

And that was it. Nothing about Mars, or three-breasted prostitutes, freeing the slaves or violent divorces. Nothing about mutants or superspy triple agents and defective holographic headgear.

Rating:

Bernie

Bernie

Phwoar! I'd give him my power of attorney any day!

dir: Richard Linklater

Well, that was weird.

I am unsure how much of this flick is a flick and how much of it is documentary, since there is a lot of footage that doesn’t seem to be footage of actors acting.

Let me be blunt by pointing out something very secret, almost unheard of: American tv and cinema is a very discriminatory, very harsh environment. It is cruel and unforgiving. The tyranny of the slim and gorgeous is absolute in this form of media. As it should be.

I say this as a staunchly unattractive man myself, so don't go thinking that I think I'm some lithe, brutishly handsome mash-up of Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hardy. Far from it, sadly, far far from it, though it's an intriguing combination, as opposed to the rather actual combination I possess: sad old boot, wildebeest, wobbegong shark and afghan rug that genuinely comprises my DNA.

No, my point is essentially that American movies never usually have this many incredibly unattractive people in the one place at the one time unless there's a damn good reason. Plenty of other countries make movies with less than attractive people in them. British cinema seems entirely dedicated to bringing unattractive actors to the forefront so we can all gawk at them like we're looking at the freaks at a particularly anachronistic carnival.

Rating:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Shiny, unhappy British people holding hands and
cursing the natives

dir: John Madden

Movies for oldies. Why not? Many of them have oodles of disposable income, and they’re as keen about being pandered to at the cinema as much as anyone else is. Plus, cinemas like my local arthouse Cinema Nova needs something to play on Mondays to make the oldies queue up like they’re offering free flu shots.

This niche is a pleasant enough niche, smelling as it does of casseroles, Vicks Vaporub and unwashed dishes, and it often results in some very excellent films, not all of them being Merchant Ivory productions. Sure, they don’t want to startle the old folks with anything even mildly shocking, so these flicks tend to be fairly safe and pedestrian affairs, but that doesn’t mean they are lacking in beauty.

On some levels I was watching this thinking “I should hate this and everything it stands for”, but the actors involved are too good, and the episodic, sometimes haphazard nature of the narrative are woven together well enough to overcome the hokeyness of some of the material.

Rating:

Brave

Brave

Hey there, you Brave Hair Bear! Thanks for coming

dir: Brenda Chapman

Redheads, gods love ‘em. They definitely make the world a better place.

Cinema doesn’t like them, though, and with good reason. For some people, nothing brings as much visual pleasure as watching redheads doing whatever it is they’re doing. For others, they provoke pitchforks, torches, fear and jerkiness.

You know what else Pixar and Hollywood in general doesn’t like? Women, apparently. The female of the species, which is hardly deadlier than the male. Of course they (or their characters) can appear in films, but they’re not wanted as the protagonist. No one wants to depict them as having agency or self-determination. They’re usually the love interest, the prize, the acted-upon rather than the actor, which means they’re usually plot devices or props. Pretty pretty props.

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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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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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