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8 stars

Whale Rider

dir: Niki Caro
[img_assist|nid=1066|title=Whales. Maoris. Hilarity ensues.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=515]
Whale Rider is certainly a touching, sweet film, but people shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s a children’s movie. It is a story of far greater complexity and depth than what one comes to expect from films that seem to be aimed at the kiddie market.

It’s clear, at least to me that there is much more going on here. As well, dismissing it as a glib post-feminist treatise about how wonderful girl power is would be doing the film a disservice, and would denigrate the work all the people involved put into crafting this little gem of a film. It is not a masterpiece by any estimation. It is however a sweet film about a little girl finding her destiny and teaching an old man that the links between the past, present and future can be strongest in the places we are least able to see.

Rating:

24 Hour Party People

dir: Michael Winterbottom
[img_assist|nid=1047|title=I remember what it used to be like, going to gigs *sigh*|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
It's like this film was based on a book written by a Kurt Vonnegut born in the sixties who got to see the glorious birth of punk first hand. It's a fractured, glorious shambles of a film. It doesn't always work, and I had major issues with the second half of the film, but, Jesus, what a ride.

Steve Coogan had made a career out of playing a character that Tony Wilson was the template for way before this film was ever conceived of. Anyone who's ever seen any episodes of Knowing Me Knowing
You with Alan Partridge
would know the only real difference between Alan Partridge and Tony Wilson is the wig. It seems fittingly appropriate that he end up playing him for real. You have to ask yourself whether the film is about what it purports to be about: Manchester and the incredible importance it played in the growth of two major scenes in contemporary music.

Rating:

21 Grams

dir: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
[img_assist|nid=1037|title=Let's overact together, shall we?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=406]
Poetically, romantically, the human soul is said to weigh 21 grams. This is based on experiments inaccurately carried out long ago which claimed that upon death a person would instantly lose 21 grams of weight, thus the departure of the soul must be responsible for the change. Of course it has no basis in reality. But the central question still remains: whether the body loses 21 grams or not upon death, how much do we lose when those we love die? How much do they lose when we die? When we take a life, save a life, how much is gained? How much is lost? This film seems to indicate that at the very least it's something more than 21 grams.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu is two for two. After his most excellent debut with Amores Perros, along with writing partner Guillermo Arriaga he again delivers a compelling, emotional and thoughtful film which packs an emotional punch without resorting to cheap tricks or manipulation. Whilst most will focus on the disjointed chronology with which the story is portrayed through the complicated editing, at its core the film deals with powerful moments in these character's lives which rarely if ever overstep the bounds of genuine drama into kitchen-sink melodrama. The film achieves pathos without bathos, which is a glib way of saying that it's a damn fine film.

Rating:

Adaptation

Adaptation

Some days it's hard not to feel exactly like that

dir: Spike Jonze

2002

This is one of the best films from last year that practically no-one is going to bother seeing, I can just feel it. It probably has one of the least marketable premises of any film I can think of in recent memory, and doesn't exactly scream 'rollercoaster ride of thrills and spills' for your $13.50

It is still in my anything but humble opinion one of the best films of 2002, and Nicolas Cage manages to surprise me heartily by delivering two sterling performances, when I expected nothing from the man. Nothing at all. His last bunch of films have been dogs, so I had begun mourning the talent that Cage used to possess. And what does the fucker do? He delivers his best performance in over a decade.

Rating:

Quiet American. The

dir: Philip Noyce
[img_assist|nid=1044|title=I wonder how that war ended up going...|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=319|height=475]
Wait, there was a war in Vietnam? Why didn't anyone tell me about it? Was it a big war? And why has Hollywood ignored this potential goldmine? They should get that room with the thousand monkeys chained to their typewriters cracking right away.

I am sick to death of films relating to the Vietnam war. Thoroughly sick to fucking death. Sure, there's been plenty of wonderful and touching films about America's obsession with that little communist country (Full Metal Jacket, Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Hamburger Hill) and the apparent deep scar it has left on the national psyche, but I think it's been done more than enough. Give it a rest, people. Hell, I love a good war film as much as the next sociopath, but there's this point where a dead horse has been whipped so much that you haven't even got enough horse left to make gravy with.

In that case am I glad that this film, though it deals again with that country, is focused upon the lead up to
the 'war' as opposed to the war itself? Well, kinda.

Rating:

Ghost World

dir: Terry Zwigoff
[img_assist|nid=1032|title=She broke a million nerd hearts with this role|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Movies tend to celebrate the triumph of the individual. The underdog beats the less-likeable and usually wealthy favourite to win the adulation of the crowd. Villains get their comeuppance at movie's end, with the hero finally getting the girl and the acknowledgment that they deserve, usually with a large television audience watching in masturbatory glee.

We as people want to associate ourselves with winners, with success, with victory. We can relate to the personal hardships that the film protagonists go through, as we all have mishaps, accidents and fuckups in our lives, just probably not on the same scale. And when they (usually) inevitably triumph over the odds to win the belt, the cup or kill the bad guy, we feel that associative rush as well, sharing in their triumph. We're winners as well. Our value systems, whilst certainly not uniform around the globe, tend to prize success, coolness, triumph in competition against others, the overcoming of obstacles, prejudices etc to achieve what we all ultimately want: acceptance and approval by society and those around us.

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Mulholland Drive

dir: David Lynch
[img_assist|nid=1075|title=Mulholland Drive|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
A few minutes after watching the film, I found myself at a pub which just happened to be conveniently located around the corner from the cinema. I wasn't sure how I'd gotten there, nor what I was planning on doing once I was there. I sat at the bar, confused and wondering.

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Unbreakable

Unbreakable

yeah nah everyone and anyone is pretty much breakable

dir: M. Night Shyamalan

2000

You don't need a ouija board, an on-line fortune teller or one of Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends at five dollars a minute on the phone to tell you that this film has ""stinker"" written all over it in twelve-foot dayglo letters. It's put out by Disney, the director is following up the commercial ""Working girl at a Liberal Party conference"" financial success of his first film, The Sixth Sense, and it has Bruce Willis in it yet again. And, not that it matters, but one acquainted with the net could not ignore the sheer abundance of middling to mediocre reviews this film has garnered. And the last factor not in its favour is the implication that the film had something to do with comic books. Nothing gives off that sphincter loosening aroma of failure like the words: "Based on the comic book/graphic novel", or "In The Tradition Of", or "I'm sorry, I must have had too much to drink."

With none of this in mind, I ventured forth into the Greater Union cinema, still seeing no indication of anything that Great or Unionised about the place. The audience was full of your usual cud-chewing, mobile-phone-ringing, talking during the quiet bits fuckknuckles that we've all come to know and love. After a stream
of increasingly meaningless and indecipherable trailers, I lay back and prepared myself either to be dazzled or for a restive, comfortable nap.

Let's look at the elements included herein:

Nothing turns up a film snob's nose up quicker than a film that achieves extraordinary box office success. The Sixth Sense was a money juggernaut last year, and many people were ejaculating all over the place about it, for better or worse. For many, expectation was very high for his (Shyamalan's) sophomore effort. I thought 6th Sense was a tremendous film, even watching it knowing what the twist was well before hand, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Willis was restrained, the kid was magnificent and spooky without being reclaimed as cutesy, and it was wonderfully filmed and put together. Colour me a fan of my man Shyamalan.

Bruce Willis is a film enigma. For every Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys and Die Hard he's been in, there's Armageddon, Colour of Night and Die Hard 4: My Colostomy Bag Has Ruptured. He has a capacity for being tremendous in film roles, he just needs to be reminded by the director every few minutes or so that he was married to Demi Moore for many years, thus bringing him back to earth and making him feel humble again.

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Way of the Gun, The

The Way of the Gun

The way of all things in the States is gun-related

dir: Christopher McQuarrie

2000

The Hollywood variation on the American Dream, which is the regular American Dream anyway, is that a screenwriter, actor or director previously subsisting on tips from being waiters and valets to the bourgeoisie can get the big break and become another star in the firmament. Glowing bright, suspended above the masses; all they need is that one big break.

The problem is, there are no guarantees in this or any other life. The big break can just as easily catapult you back into obscurity after you crash and burn.

Christopher McQuarrie’s claim to fame was that he scripted The Usual Suspects, which propelled director Bryan Singer into the stratosphere, got Kevin Spacey an Oscar for his role as Verbal Kint, and gave audiences one of their favourite overly convoluted crime movies of 1995. It also garnered an Oscar for McQuarrie as well. But then again, who really gives a good goddamn about Oscars in general and Oscars for Best Original Screenplay anyway. I bet you don’t, don’t pretend otherwise, I won’t believe you.

Someone must have thought McQuarrie deserved to get paid as well, so despite having no experience as a director, he was given the money and the freedom to try to repeat the magic of Suspects. Did it work?

Rating:

Rustlers' Rhapsody

Rustler's Rhapsody

He maybe the hero, but he's not going to be a jerk about it

dir: Hugh Wilson

Charming movie with Tom Berenger. An affectionate spoof on those black and white singing cowboy movies, seen through today’s eyes. Starts in black and white. Very well done; top movie and excellent cast including Fernando Ray who was in all of Bunuel’s movies, and Andy Griffiths as the Colonel. A young Sela Ward (Wife/doctor in The Day After Tomorrow) plays the Colonel’s daughter.

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