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8 stars

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

Maybe, if she's Gone, you should, I dunno, be out looking
for her instead of standing about looking like a confused,
lazy arsehole?

dir: David Fincher
2014
It’s enough to make you afraid to get married, ever.

As if guys and girls weren’t scared enough of commitment as it was. Now we have a movie come along, based on the bestselling potboiler, that explodes the myth of the Happy American Marriage in this age of social media, infidelity and dubious motivations.

What it boils down to is this: how much can you ever really know about what’s going on in the mind of the person next to you, no matter how much you think you know them?
The answer is, if the person next to you is a meticulous psychopath, not a whole hell of a lot.
The next question is, which one of the main characters in this flick is which?

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck, perfectly suited to playing a big galoot who may harbour murderous tendencies) comes home to find that his wife is not where he expects her to be. As in, his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is the Girl who is Gone.

You’d naturally suspect the husband in a circumstance like this. A lot of the path much of this story follows is that of the Scott Peterson case, of a handsome young guy whose pregnant wife goes missing under dubious circumstances.

Rating:

Wild

Wild

Just keep walking, just keep walking, just keep walking,
walking, walking, and you'll walk yourself all the way to
another Oscar!

dir: Jean-Marc Vallee

2014

A person goes for a long walk. A really long walk. It’s not to throw a ring into a volcano. It’s not to get to the airport to stop someone from leaving. It’s not because a drug cartel is after them, or to honour the last wishes of someone who just died.

It’s so she can…?

I’m not entirely sure why, and I loved the film. I haven’t read the book this is based on, but I think I’d like to based on this movie.

Wild is not an easy movie to love. Mostly, as you might guess, we’re watching a person walking along the West Coast of the United States.

Interspersed between scenes of walking, we get Cheryl Strayed backstory. She is a real person, a real woman. We glimpse her in the movie, as one of the kind drivers who pick up Cheryl along the way.

Most of this story, as in Cheryl’s long, agonising march to victory, occurs in 1995, but much of it comes from earlier, being scenes from her childhood, adolescence, and early twenties. In those times we see Cheryl’s mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) as a beautiful, resilient woman that never ceases to irritate Cheryl until she loses her.

You get the impression that Cheryl’s mother was very important to her, not just as a mother, but as an inspiration towards her pursuit of a life in letters.

Rating:

The Imitation Game

Imitation Game

Once you get the eyebrows right, the rest of the acting just
falls into place

dir: Morten Tyldum

2014

What kind of name is Morten Tyldum anyway? Sounds completely made up, to me. It sounds like someone started with the name ‘Tyler Durden’ and randomly started changing the consonants around. What is it, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, random name generated by some program in Mongolia?

Whoever the delightful Morten Tyldum is, he she or it has directed a truly delightfully depressing flick about true genius Alan Turing and his great achievements during World War II. Chief of these achievements would be the creation of a machine that could crack the German’s Enigma code, used for all of its naval wartime communications, and considered unbreakable at the time by both sides.

I have known of Turing since I was a teenager solely due to the use of his name in science fiction novels whenever the issue of Artificial Intelligence came up, but I didn’t know that much about him at the time. Later on, when his status as one of the progenitors of modern computing received greater prominence, I came to understand not only that he was a great man, but a martyr to the cause of gay rights as well.

Rating:

Boyhood

Boyhood

Boy in the hood, but who or what will he grow up to be?

dir: Richard Linklater

2014

Twelve years a slave to Richard Linklater’s ambitions. What a terrible fate for any set of actors.

Boyhood is a fairly unique film in how it was put together, but not in its subject matter. Its subject could not be any more mundane if it tried.

The reason is, the subject is Life. And Life, itself, at least other people’s lives, can be pretty mundane. That’s not a criticism. Most films except biopics aren’t really about people’s (or character’s) lives, broad swathes of their lives. They’re usually only about a certain period of time in which really exciting stuff happens to them, and then when they return to normality, crushing mundane normality, the credits are usually rolling.

Boyhood transpires over twelve years in the lives of a bunch of characters and the actors who play them. That doesn’t mean it only covers a twelve year time period in terms of its scope. They were filmed for a few days at a time over the course of twelve actual years. Now that’s commitment to an idea. We literally watch the actors, especially the kids, grow right in front of our eyes. The film is nearly three hours long, so there’s a lot of growing up to do.

Since it’s called Boyhood, you can pretty much guess that it’s the story of a particular boy growing up in Texas. Richard Linklater is from Texas, and he was a boy at some point. Are there autobiographical aspects to the story?

Rating:

The Boxtrolls

The Boxtrolls

Sure, it's all about the bloody Boxtrolls. But where's
Archibald P. Snatcher's medal, where's his parade, hm?

dir: Graham Annabele and Anthony Stacchi

2014

The Boxtrolls is another of those somewhat anachronistic animated movies that uses a lot of actual, physical, stop-motion animation to tell a story. As such it possesses a physicality missing from most of the purely computer generated animation we see these days, and that’s its curse and part of its charm.

In and of itself, that doesn’t guarantee a blissful experience. This mob, calling themselves Laika, have put together a decent animated film before (Coraline) and an okay one (ParaNorman) as well, so it’s reasonable to believe that they know what they’re doing.

The Boxtrolls is better than ParaNorman , and perhaps almost on a par with Coraline, though not as thematically rich or inventive. Despite what some might call a grotesque and macabre aesthetic, this one, from a kids’ perspective, is not as personal and frightening as Coraline, or as horrific as ParaNorman (which had, as its Big Bad, the vengeful spirit of a murdered child, if you can believe that, and sadly you probably can).

Rating:

The Rover

The Rover

Come the Apocalypse, there will be no
razors no more for ever!

dir: David Michod

2014

Wow. I’ve seen some grim movies in my time, and even this week, but this out-grims them all.

Well, maybe not all of them. It’d have to go a long way to out-grim The Road, Stalingrad, or Tinkerbell and The Pirate Fairy, but it’s certainly up there.

The funniest thing for me, if there is indeed anything I can say is funny in a flick so grim, is that the setting is kind of a post-apocalyptic one. And while the behaviour of the people in this scenario is certainly post-apocalyptic behaviour, visually it is indistinguishable from what the more sparse parts of Australia look like all the time.

In other words, my fellow Australians, we’re living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and we didn’t even notice.

The opening title card informs us that what we are about to see / experience / endure is set in a time ten years after “The Collapse”. We never really find out what that was, but what it means is that people are very dirty, Australian currency is ill-favoured compared to American dollars, there are Chinese people everywhere, and civilisation has broken down.

How can we tell? Well, everyone has guns and everyone’s shooting everyone else with pretty much nil repercussions.

Rating:

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

What some guys will do for some ginger pussycat

dir: Coens

2013

I love Coen Brother films. They’ve made about 16 of them, and I can honestly say I love perhaps most of them. That fandom doesn’t always predispose me towards loving anything they do (the films of theirs that I don’t like I downright hate), but it does make me cautious.

That caution was probably at play when I avoided watching Inside Llewyn Davis for as long as I could manage. In the end my curiosity won out, and I’m the better for it, surely.

Even critics who like the flick referred to it back in the day as a ‘lesser Coen Brothers’ flick, as more of a curio than anything else. I’d like to dispute that retarded judgement right here, right now, right here, right now. It’s certainly not a crowdpleaser on the level of an O Brother Where Art Thou? or a viscerally brutal thriller like No Country for Old Men, but it’s certainly coming from the same place that they come from when they make their quieter, more philosophical efforts like A Serious Man and Barton Fink.

Rating:

The Two Faces of January

Two Faces of January

Her name is not January, and she only has one face.
Confusion ensues

dir: Hossein Amini

2014

Something being based on a Patricia Highsmith novel isn’t always a guarantee of quality, but it is often enough to pique my interest. And if you cast Viggo Mortensen in something, well, I’m halfway through the door.

Kristen Dunst? Eh, not so much, but Oscar Isaacs I really like. The Two Faces of January is essentially a three-hander, something of a period piece, probably set in the 1960s. It’s something of a low-key thriller, but not in the sense that it’s like a spy action film or anything. It’s about a con artist (Isaacs), who gets caught up with a couple of con artists (Dunst and Mortensen), where you start to wonder who is better at it, and who is going to get what they want, and how many people are going to be left alive at the end of it.

The setting is Greece, and it’s filmed in such a way that makes it look a thousand times nicer than it actually is. Also, being set in the last century, it helpfully avoids having to acknowledge the current dire economic circumstances, and saves on costumes (most of the old people in the flick are wearing their own ‘vintage’ clothing from the 1960s without having even to be asked). In fact many of those old Greek people probably don’t even know the war is over.

Rating:

Godzilla 2014

Godzilla

Go, you great ginormous gorgeous thing, you.

dir: Gareth Edwards

Come in, close the door, have a seat. We didn’t know we missed you, Godzilla, because we thought we’d had enough of you over the last 60 years. But it turns out we really missed you.

Sure, we bumped into you in 1998, in that terrible film by the German Michael Bay known as Roland Emmerich, where Matthew Broderick was meant to save Manhattan from you, but that was an embarrassing run-in. It was the equivalent of going out and seeing an ex you still think fondly of, covered in vomit and staggering in the gutter. It’s best to forget about that time.

And honestly, the halcyon days between you and the audience was so long ago that we’ve all moved on. We’ve amused ourselves with cute kitten videos on the internets, and week after week of superhero flicks being poured out into the cinemas. The question becomes: do we ever really need to see each other again?

Gareth Edwards made a flick called Monsters back in the grim, distant days of 2010. In really obvious ways it was a test run for making a new Godzilla flick, except for a miniscule fraction of the cost. The budget for Monsters was in the tens of thousands. The budget for the hair care products alone used on performers in Godzilla would have been in the millions. It’s an easy transition for Edwards to make, apparently.

Rating:

The Fault in Our Stars

Fault in Our Stars

Get off my lawn, you crazy star-crossed cancer-riddled lovers

dir: Josh Boone

2014

I don’t go out of my way to read sappy or depressing books, but, for some reason, probably to do with the excellent reviews it received, I sought out The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, knowing that it was about kids with cancer.

Now that’s a topic that comes pre-loaded with an emotional reaction: It’s like showing a picture of a basket full of puppies and kittens chugging along a conveyor belt into the blade of an industrial saw. Even knowing how manipulative the subject matter would be, I trusted that the author would do right by his characters.

It turned out that my trust was rewarded with a sweet story about teenagers with cancer dealing with love and the fact that they know they’re going to die far sooner than most of us do. It’s one thing to accept the fact that all that live will one day die, no matter who, no matter how wonderful or how loathsome, it comes for us all. It’s another entirely, since most of us live long enough to indulge in the supreme illusion that helps our lives not be an unremittingly miserable trudge to oblivion, being the denial of death, dying when you’re a kid, a teen, or barely out of your teens.

Rating:

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

That's the look of an American actor who just found out how
little he's going to get paid to be in a South Korean film

dir: Bong Joon-ho

2013

On its surface, Snowpiercer sounds like a pretty dumb idea for a movie: it’s about a train that never stops upon which the last remnants of humanity reside, due to a man-made global ice age.

Thank you for being so dumb. And if I tell you it’s based, despite its Korean director Bong Joon-ho, on a French graphic novel, you’re going to think it’s the dumbest thing since flared pants. Oui oui? Incroyable!

But if I then tell you that it’s one of the weirdest and most enjoyable flicks I’ve seen this year, then you’ll really think I’ve gone stark raving bonkers barking mad plus 1.

Snowpiercer has a strange premise, but it has a plot anyone can appreciate. Aboard this gleaming train, the scum of humanity are relegated to the tail section, where everyone’s dirty and it’s horribly grim. Talk of mutiny, of revolution bubbles up from their darkened bunks. Whispers here and there indicate that something’s gonna happen, and happen soon.

If something didn’t happen, well, we’d just waste two hours watching a bunch of bored, dirty, unshaved people on a train, and I see that every day for free, being one of them.

Rating:

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Is this the expression of an inhuman, alien intelligence,
or is it the look of a person thinking "Did I remember to
turn the oven off before I left home?"

dir: Jonathan Glazer

This is a deeply unsettling film, or at least it was for me. The strongest evidence for this is the fact that the movie takes a whole bunch of Scarlett Johannson nudity and renders it unpleasant and deeply disturbing.

This is science fiction in the truest sense of the use of the term, in that it's not just an action flick with robots and aliens fighting it out over the skies of New York. It is, in some ways, more of a horror film. Right from the start the soundtrack and the sound design is structured to make us feel unsettled, and, in my case, really anxious.

You can probably find parallels between this flick and a few others, but it's fairly novel in its structure, and in the amount of information it withholds from us. There's barely any dialogue in it, and almost all of the story it has to tell is delivered visually.

As the flick starts, there are some stark and 'alien' (but really simple) looking visuals, and a screeching tone that causes goosebumps. I wasn't sure what we were watching, other than a skewed homage to 2001 in some form, but what I chose it to mean, as a muffled voice in the distance sounds like it's trying out words for the first time, is the creation of something. Something designed to look like a someone. Because the final of these introductory images is an unblinking eye.

Rating:

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Skate or Die is Walter's new motto, not this Choose Life bullshit!

dir: Ben Stiller

2013

Us lowly shmos. Workaday slobs and Joe Twelve-Packs, people whose dreams died so long ago that the only way we can keep living is through endless material consumption and the magic of cinema, temporarily at least energising us and convincing us that our existence is not entirely futile. One day we could break out of our routines and obligations, and live the lives we once fantasised about.

One day, but not today. Got too much on. Too old to change. Too many people relying on us for us to change and live the way we really want to live.

Who better to remind us great unwashed masses that we should really be living life to the fullest, travelling to far flung places and carpei deim-ing all over the place than a multi-millionaire comedian from Hollywood? Who knows more about pursuing and achieving your dreams than a very successful actor?

Rating:

12 Years a Slave

Run, through the Forest, run

Run, through the Forest, run!

dir: Steve McQueen

2013

How can you eat your pudding if you don't eat your greens?

The answer is, of course, you've got to eat your greens first before you have your pudding.

It was not a chore to sit through this flick, at all. It's an amazing, harrowing, sickening flick. But the hardest part for me was motivating myself to start watching it in the first place.

It's the very definition of 'homework', of eating your vegetables before getting your dessert, to see something Awardsworthy because everyone says it's the most Serious Important Film of the Year.

But I still knew I had to do it, chore or not, it had to be done. To do otherwise, as Ellen DeGeneres pointed out, would be to admit that I am deeply racist.

Yes, I'm being facetious. More so, I respect the work of Steve McQueen, who has the singular honour of being the only director who has ever, in the tens of thousands of films that have been made, made a film that could cause me to pass out in shock (being Hunger), who managed to make the pursuit of sex seem dull and horrible (Shame), and who now reminds us that Slavery was Bad, Okay?

No-one else, except for all the other directors who've done the same thing, has dared show just how much of an abomination slavery was, at least not recently. Well, not in the last couple of weeks.

Rating:

Philomena

Philomena

Where's me shoe? Ken ye see me shoe anywheres, Martin?
Martin, ken ye see me shoe?

dir: Stephen Frears

Look, I admit that a film about a woman in her 70s - 80s trying to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years ago doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs.

It sounds like a barrel of misery, in fact, filled up to the brim with bitterness and spite.

Philomena is based on a true story, however, and the fascinating aspects about it, and the parts of the flick that are the most enjoyable, don't really have to do with that singular act of Irish Catholic bastardry.

Philomena (Dame Judi Dench) is a lovely old woman who remembers, quite clearly, quite painfully, that when she was fairly young she committed the mortal sin of getting knocked up. For her crimes she was imprisoned by nuns for four years, and, to add brutal insult to agonising injury, the child fruit of her evil was whisked away by these penguins and sold to Americans for a hefty chunk of change.

They took the boy away and just gave him over, specifically without telling her.

They didn't and wouldn't tell her where he went, or give her any information, even decades later, as to where he ended up, with whom and where. Fifty years later the lies continue.

Rating:

Frozen

Frozen

She looks pretty villainous to me. She should have a catchphrase like "Ice
to see you!" or "Let's kick some ice!"

dirs: Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck

2013

When they’re this enjoyable, watching kids movies, or at least movies aimed at kids and their guardians, is a joy, and you thank the heavens above that you’re a parent and that you get to share these sublime experiences with your kids.

When they’re the usual terrible children’s fare, be it Smurf this or Shrek that, then it’s a purgatorial experience that makes you curse the universe for ever fooling you into breeding in the first place. You start making appointments to get your tubes tied before you even leave the cinema.

Thankfully, nothing needed to be ligatured or sterilised as a result of watching this film with my glorious child in tow. We both enjoyed the hell out of it, and that is exactly as it should be. It may not be as almost completely perfect as Tangled was, since while I liked some of the songs here, I loved the songs in Tangled, and that matters when it comes to a musical comedy animated movie thingie etc.

So some of the songs aren't that great, though the central one, sung by one of the sisters when she turns evil, is pretty strong. They're that musical theatre kind of songs, that's fine if you can handle that sort of thing, but purgatorial if you can't.

Rating:

The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf of Wall Street

Would you buy a movie ticket from this man?

dir: Martin Scorsese

The Eighties Onslaught Continues!

I don't want to see any more films set in the 80s any more, at least for a while. That toxic decade is being over-represented at the moment, and I'm sick of it.

I mean, sure, it was a great time that a lot of awesome people lived during, way better people than those born in the 90s, but enough is enough.

"Enough is enough" is not a phrase that people like Jordan Belfort must have heard often enough, or accepted, ever. I don't think it's a phrase Peter Jackson understands either. And I don't think anyone says it often enough to Martin Scorsese, because here he has a 3 hour film celebrating the excesses and sheer horribleness of Jordan Belfort and almost every single person around him.

Yes, it's way too much film. It felt like, after the 2 hour mark, that I was watching the Director's Cut version you watch years down the track way after the cinematic release of a successful film. A two-hour version comes out, 2 and a half if it's Oscar-bait, which this most definitely is, and then years later a Director's Cut DVD comes out adding all the stuff the studios forced the director to cut out in order to not test the tolerance level of audiences too much.

Rating:

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

What a cute couple.

dir: Jean Marc Vallée

Another flick set in the 1980s. Something has happened, some perfect amount of time has elapsed which means the 80s are now what the 60s used to be as far as movies are concerned. Maybe there's sufficient distance for perspective, maybe it's an excuse for 'period' pictures that are mostly dependent on clichés and lazy visuals and themes. Maybe it's just an excuse to look ever backwards, to ignore how little we've progressed.

Dallas Buyers Club, of all the films up for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards, is probably the least Oscarbait-y, despite its subject matter. It's the one that panders the least, again, despite the fact that it's about AIDS during the peak of the AIDS epidemic, or at least about a bunch of people struggling with AIDS during the Ronald "let's collectively stick out fingers in our ears and ignore their pleas for help because they're degenerates" Reagan era.

Matthew McConaughey of course has been nominated, because whenever any actor loses a dangerous amount of weight it's considered the pinnacle of acting. I don't know about that (it strikes me as the height of idiocy), but I guess I can assert at least that it indicates a level of commitment to a role. It shows that they're willing to sacrifice their health and their long term survivability just for the applause of their peers.

Rating:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching Fire

Girls with bows and arrows, skills and a lot of motivation to
use them must be obeyed at all times

dir: Francis Lawrence

I don’t think anyone is surprised that Catching Fire is a better flick than the first one. Almost every single reviewer mentions it in the first few sentences of their reviews. It’s almost like there’s a groupthink – overmind controlling us all. Of course I’m totally immune to it, but, you know, watch out for it. Or, at least that’s what I’m being told to type.

The thing is, though, as much as I enjoyed it while I was watching it, I had the nagging impression that someone who hadn’t read the books would be hard pressed figuring out what was going on and why, and also why they should care.

Perhaps I’m underestimating people, and underestimating the power of Jennifer Lawrence’s acting abilities as the central character Katniss Everdeen. I’m not going to be surprising anyone by praising her as an actor and a human being: she’s great! She might have received an Academy Award for her role in Silver Linings Playbook, which is still a pretty ordinary film, but she deserves it for her work in these somewhat pulpy and grandiloquent films. Her acting is superb, no matter how absurd the situation or the moment.

Rating:

Gravity

Gravity

The title of the flick could have been "We Really Don't Belong
Out Here, People."

dir: Alfonso Cuaron

2013

People have being saying this is one of the films of the year for a year before its release, and they’re still saying it now months after it’s been out.

Just give the Best Actress thingie to Sandra Bullock, already. No-one else is going to come close.

And just give the Best Director gong to Alfonso Cuaron, too. Nothing else anyone has released this year thus far is going to come close either. Even if Spielberg releases a flick with Meryl Streep playing Abraham Lincoln riding the whale Free Willy through a tornado that kills Nazis with lightning bolts coming out of its eyes, and it’s based on a true story, it’s not going to beat Cuaron. Take that to the bank, or the bookies, and bet your house on it. Or at least somebody else’s house.

I’m not saying it’s the best film of the year so far, I’m just saying anyone who’s seen this the proper way, on the biggest screen possible, in 3D, generally is blown away by it, and I’m no different from the masses myself. I’m as susceptible as the next slob to this stuff, sitting there in an ever-expanding war zone of wrappers and spilled popcorn, that I may or may not pick up and consume from the feculent floor as the whim might take me.

Rating:

The World's End

The World's End

If the fate of the world rested upon the noble shoulders
of these wonderful chaps, I'd be drinking heavily too

dir: Edgar Wright

Now that’s how the World Ends in The World’s End, not with a bang, but with a pub crawl.

Yes, I know I’ve been lamenting the absolute locust plague of films and movies ending the world, despoiling the world, rebuilding it and then ruining it all over again, that have been coming out with metronomic regularity. And the last one I saw of this ilk was the despicable This Is The End, whereby my full throated lament of this apocalyptically overabundant genre made it sound like I never wanted to see any of them ever again. At the very least, Wright shows that a film about immature adults (and the potential end of the world) doesn’t itself have to be embarrassingly immature.

Mostly, I hated how the execrable This Is The End spoiled the chances of this ever being a hit. Would it have been a hit for Edgar Wright if there wasn’t title confusion in the minds of non-existent audiences everywhere, thinking that they had possibly already seen the film they hadn’t already seen just because the titles were similar?

Possibly not. Perhaps. It’s unlikely, as theories go. Perhaps it’s more likely that people weren’t as keen to go see another world ending extravaganza only a few weeks after the last one. Maybe they need a few months between apocalypses.

Rating:

Stoker

Stoker

Mothers and their daughters, mirrors into each other's
dysfunction

dir: Park Chan-wook

There are families, there are dysfunctional families, and then there is the Stoker family. I went into this knowing next to nothing about it other than it was the English-language debut of the great Korean director Park Chan-wook, perhaps best known for Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, two outstanding and grim examples of the best South Korean cinema has to offer.

But, he’s also the director of films I’ve liked a lot less, mostly because I was expecting something significantly different from what he intended to show us, the fools in the audience, and that can affect how you appreciate something.

This is a very dark and macabre film. Beautiful, no doubt, beautifully constructed and composed, as are all his films, but it's cold, detached, at a remove, like some of its main characters, uninterested in having its audience care about whatever happens to most of the characters in the film.

India Stoker (Australia's Own Mia Wasikowska) is an odd girl, something of a goth, obsessed with death and clearly not quite right in the head. She dresses like a creepy girl of an earlier era, in fact she dresses like Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family. The poor girl, apart from clearly being somewhat disturbed even before the film starts, loses her beloved father on her 18th birthday, upon which she discovers a great many things about her family that she never knew about.

Rating:

Monsters University

Monsters University

Knowledge Brings Fear, and a whole
multicoloured menagerie of characters
designed by marketers

dir: Dan Scanlon

I know, I know. I start practically every other review pointing out that the film I’m about to review shouldn’t really exist, but I am nothing if not a creature of habit.

Monsters University is the prequel we didn’t really need to have, but it’s still very, very welcome to me. I watched it with my daughter, and she thought it was great. This is, after all, school holiday time, and not taking your daughter to the cinema, even for a deadbeat dad like me, would be tantamount to monstrous negligence.

She specifically wanted me to quote her in the review, and she even told me how I should depict that quote. She told me to put her name at the start of a sentence, with the two dots on top of each other after the name. You know, a colon, as thusly:

Dawn: "Monsters University is a good film because most films are about normal days with a character that wants to be different but Monsters University was about a few characters who wanted an achievement but when they got that achievement it ended up different but they still enjoyed the gift that the achievement had given them plus Monsters University is great."

I can’t argue with that. That's a verbatim quote. I mean I can, but I’m probably outgunned, and who wants to lose to a six-year-old in an argument? The crying, the screaming, and then there’s no telling what she’d do in response.

Rating:

Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2

What wouldn't you be able to achieve with this
legion of idiots at your beck and call?

dir: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud

I know, I know. There are far more 'important' recent flicks to review. Far more worthy. The list of stuff I've seen recently keeps growing, and my unease and terror at letting them get too old before putting them out there in review form keeps me up at night. So are you finally going to get to read my trenchant thoughts on The Great Gatsby? No. World War Z, or Hangover III, or Fast Furious 6, or worthier arthouse fare like The Place Beyond the Pines, or Mira Nair's latest The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

No, alas and alack, I'm sorry to say - no. In short, having watched Despicable Me 2 in the last few days, I am forced by my own psyche at virtual gunpoint to review this blessed film.

As sick as I am of the ubiquitous Steve Carrell, there's just something about these flicks that I really, really enjoy. The main premise of a monstrously egomaniacal super-villain becoming a nice person through the love of three little adoptive waifs is nothing new in the realms of fiction even if the setting and CGI and 3D make it seem flashy and shiny and new. Horrible misanthropes have been redeemed (incredibly, as in 'not credibly', much of the time in my humble opinion) in books and movies for the last century to the tune of one a week, probably. It's the premise of every Clint Eastwood film where he's not shooting people for looking at him funny or for not answering politely when he asks them to make his day. It's the premise of almost every film ever made - well, at least the one's where it's not about killing some guy for REVENGE.

Rating:

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness: Proudly Brought to you by the NRA

dir: J.J. Abrams

It says they’re going Into Darkness, but I’m not sure what that has to do with the film. Sure, there were some shadows, some underlit places, but I hardly think that justifies such a title.

Wait, you mean it’s metaphorical, not literal? That it’s thematic, not aesthetic? Well, I haven’t been this confused since Michael Bay made a movie about something hidden on the dark side of the moon and just referred to it as Dark of the Moon. The Dark ‘what’ of the moon, Michael? Its dark chocolate centre, which I’ve heard is 80% cacao? Its dark and tortured past as a roadie for the other planets when they used to go on tour throughout the Milky Way? Its dark future as a holiday destination for bored mega-wealthy sadomasochists?

The moon plays a small part in this flick, but mostly it continues to exist and complicates the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise, which is a space ship capable of flying around really fast and shooting stuff.

That this is the new face of the Star Trek empire has to be accepted if anyone’s going to have any remote chance of enjoying it. Anyone who’s hated Trek all their lives and all its existence aren’t likely to hop on board the bandwagon now. With all the modern sprucing up they’ve done, the flick firmly and heroically panders to the Trek nerds like nothing ever has before.

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Iron Man III

Iron Man III

The ageless Robert Downey Jr

dir: Shane Black

Third-parters are almost never good. They never work out well, whether in comparison to the first two instalments, or compared to any other decent films in general. Aliens III? Matrix: Revolutions? Superman III? Can you think of a third parter at least as good as what came before it? The only one I can think of is Return of the King, which many callous people think of as being The Kiwi Flick with Three Hours of Endings. But I don't, since if one happy ending is a good thing, then lots of happy endings has got to be even more super amazing.

You could argue that the difference is when the third part of a film trilogy is an organic part of the story, rather than a second sequel, whose purpose is just to capitalise on diminishing returns. Where Dark Knight Rises fits into this I couldn't tell you. Where some would argue 'necessity', others would argue 'doesn't say anything it hasn't already said twice before'. So whether it's Shrek the Third or Jaws III or Robocop III, or Spider-Man III, we're generally programmed to expect much more of 'more of the same' -ness to predominate, as well as a certain tiredness to the premise and mistakes particular to thirds that just have to be made.

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The Imposter

The Imposter

Gaze into the eyes of a psychopath, and despair

dir: Bart Layton

At their worst, documentaries cover something that happened in the most turgid, lifeless manner possible, sending the facts even further out of reach and serving the self-interests of people trying to impose their horrible view of humanity all over the rest of us.

At their best, they illuminate the confusion that confronts all of us in the face of not what happened at particular points in time, but why. It’s not the sole purpose of documentaries to answer questions, or to say “This, then this, then this”. Sometimes they succeed best when they still leave us wondering “what the hell were these people thinking?”

The Imposter is a documentary about something that really happened, in which most of the facts are not in dispute. Let’s say 99% of the facts are not disputed. With the family involved, and the imposter of the title, none of them are denying that any of this happened. What none of them can genuinely answer is the “why” of it all, and that doesn’t detract from the experience in the slightest.

A boy goes missing in Texas, in the 1990s. A ‘boy’ in Spain is found by police, who claims, eventually, to be the missing Texan boy, Nicholas Barclay.

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Samsara

Samsara

I wouldn't get into a fight with her if I were you

dir: Ron Fricke

How do you even review something like this? It ends up saying more about the reviewer than the movie reviewed.

Samsara isn't a sequel to Baraka, the amazing, awe-inspiring 'documentary' from the 1990s that I've watched a billion times and whose soundtrack I've listened to even more. It's a continuation of Baraka, same director, same incredible 70mm film footage, same globe-trotting footage and same blissful lack of narration.

While I've seen Baraka so many times that it's become like the wallpaper of my skull, it exists in a pre-review time, before I was ever presumptuous enough to start thinking critically about films, about film as a medium, and, even worse, before I had the gall to start writing about them.

Samsara supplies me with a curious opportunity: How do you write about something that has no (obvious) narrative or story, which isn't really documenting anything other than how awesome-looking some bits of the world are, and which it's almost impossible to describe beyond saying stuff like "And then there's a shot of the Pope's arse, and then there's a narwhal, then there's a glacier, then there's a guy picking his nose at Roppongi Station, then there's a massive sand dune and then" which I could do for thousands of words and still get no closer to capturing its point or essence?

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Robot and Frank

Robot and Frank

On bended knee, I ask that you marry me, Dear Robot

dir: Jake Schreier

Films about old guys battling dementia don’t sound like a lot of fun. If you saw that flick, at least I thought it was an actual movie, of Clint Eastwood getting into an argument with a chair last year and losing, then you know how sad it can be.

Really sad. But where there’s inspiration, there’s hope. Someone fairly clever came up with a sci-fi premise that does what the best kinds of science-fiction stories do: they use some kind of presently non-existent technology to tell us a story relatable to the people of today.

Frank (Frank Langella) is a grumpy old bastard, as if there’s any other kind of old guy in movies. The first thing we see him doing is burglarising a house. He’s pretty rough at it, but he knows what he’s doing. As he’s extracting everything of worth through lockpicking and brute force, he spies a picture in a frame, and wonders how a picture of himself as a younger man with his kids has found it into his target’s house.

It takes a while, but he figures out, too late, that he’s been knocking off his own house in the middle of the night.

So, yeah, we get to see two things: he’s a thief by nature, and he’s got some kind of neurological/cognitive issues, especially as they relate to memory.

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Frankenweenie

Frankenweenie

See a 3D movie, in Black and White! Also, it's a silent movie!
And you get war ration stamps and polio from watching it!

dir: Tim Burton

I admitted, in my recent review of ParaNorman, that I often make mistakes when it comes to allowing my darling daughter to watch stuff that’s perhaps inappropriate for her age, which was, at the time, five. What I neglected to mention is that I’m really not the kind of person you look to for the actual, mature process of ‘learning from one’s mistakes.”

That’s not something apparently that I do. So when my daughter, primed by having seen ads for it, insisted we go see Frankenweenie, I said “why the hell not?”

In the end, it turned out to be far less terrifying than I feared, and better than I expected.

It is, after all, a story about a boy and his dog.

Well, actually, it’s about remaking the ‘original’ James Whale Frankenstein in the most kid friendly manner possible, while also finding time to coat the whole story in the visuals and tropes Burton has been trading on for decades, as well as doing some stuff with the old Japanese monster movies.

And by ‘tropes” I mean the aesthetics and imagery he’s ripped off from people like Charles Addams and Edward Gorey from day dot.

This isn’t a brilliant movie by any estimation, but I loved the hell out of it. It didn’t tell a particularly original story (how could it), but it tells it aesthetically in the best manner possible for what the story requires, which is all we can hope for.

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