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8 stars

Little Miss Sunshine

dir: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
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Even though it looks like just another American film about just another dysfunctional American family, Little Miss Sunshine has more going for it than that. At the very least, it manages to provoke a few more chuckles than the average film of this type usually does.

True, there’s no shortage of movies, both mainstream and art-house, that try to outdo and out-quirk each other with crazy families and their crazy adventures on the road to getting to their version of a happy ending. The lazy message always is, no matter how wacky and insane members of your family are, they’re still your family. So, you know, appreciate them for who they are.

Well, this film boasts a quirky collection of characters, and has the same predictable message regarding the thickness of blood versus water. But it ends up being a lot more fun that usual, even if it doesn’t have anything new to say about anything.

Olive (Abigail Breslin) is a cute little awkward girl who somehow makes it to the finals of a beauty pageant for cute little girls. For various unimportant reasons, her entire family has to accompany her on a cross-country trip in an old Volkswagen Kombi van as they try to get to Los Angeles for the competition.

Rating:

Children of Men

dir: Alphonso Cuaron
[img_assist|nid=875|title=It's pretty grim in this brave infertile world|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=210]
Imagine a world where a baby hasn’t been born in 18 years. Imagine a world where the entire human race is infertile. Imagine how people would act towards each other with humanity’s extinction being just around the corner.

Based on the novel by PD James, Children of Men is really a thriller. It sounds like a science fiction film with a weighty premise, and it is, but it is still essentially a film where the hero, played well by Clive Owen, spends a lot of time running away from all the dangers that exist in the world around him.

The film is masterfully put together. Even if there are a few elements I thought were wretched (especially in an idiotic scene where two characters play around with a CGI ping pong ball, or a wasted scene at the Ministry of Art), the film consistently sticks to its vision and does it in a remarkable fashion.

Rating:

Descent, The

dir: Neil Marshall
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Decent horror flicks are few and far between. The Descent is a decent descent into both the earth and the murky depths of the human soul, descending as it does from done-to-death horror staples, but remade in such a way as to make it more than an exercise in repetition.

When you hear a premise like ‘Six women go on a cave expedition that goes horribly wrong”, the first thing you expect, when you’ve seen as many trashy flicks as I have, is that it’ll mostly be about scantily clad women getting their tops wet and/or off, writhing around with each other in between pillow fights, pedicures and giving each other massages and drunken fistings.

Or, it’d be about women banding together to fight off predatory men, strengthen the bonds of sisterhood and to affirm that the Thelmas and Louises are doing it for themselves, or to themselves, or each other, in between teary arguments and lots of chocolate eating.

Neither, fortunately or unfortunately, apply here. This is played as a straight horror flick, with no knowing nods to the audience, and a grim and claustrophobic aesthetic that permeates throughout. It also doesn’t stint on the gore, for those that like their horror gruesome and bloody.

Rating:

A Scanner Darkly

dir: Richard Linklater
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It’s hard to make the case for why I enjoyed this flick so much, but I did. It wasn’t because of the quality of the animation, I can tell you that much. It wasn’t necessarily that I’m a fan of the source material, which I am, being a big fan of Philip K. Dick and all his Dickian works.

I think Linklater and the actors, and the animators managed to get the tone right. It even has Keanu Reeves in it, for Jeebus’s sake, and it still manages to work.

Not only Neo-Dude-Kanooie, but also former drug addict and occasional actor Robert Downey Jnr, occasional drug addict and occasional actor Woody Harrelson and rare addict and even rarer actress these days Winona Ryder.

From such humble materials comes a modest yet successfully shambolic story about a group of paranoid drug addicts and an undercover operative whose job is to monitor them, who becomes a drug addict himself.

Even thought the original novel was set in a somewhat futuristic time, the book mostly comprised an elaboration on PKD’s own experiences in the drug scene in the early 70s, and his subsequent mental illness. The story also elaborates on his ideas on the War on Drugs in its earlier form.

Rating:

V for Vendetta

Dir: James McTeigue
[img_assist|nid=900|title=Bloody revolutionaries, always thinking they know better than our benevolent totalitarian masters|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
You don’t get many films these days trumpeting the joys of anarchy. Especially not multi-million dollar movies produced by the Wachowski Brothers and based on an Alan Moore graphic novel.

And there’s a reason for that. Even in this day and age where the diversity of opinion and opportunities to voice one’s worthless opinions seem countless, it’s still essentially an illusion. Every side of politics, regardless of one’s upbringing or experiences at university, preaches change, justice or better ways, but all want their version of the status quo upheld.

Because people don’t want to lose their jobs, see their interest rates go up, or their petrol prices sky rocket. They want their television shows uninterrupted by news, they want to listen to the latest hollow songs produced by pale simulacra of humans whenever the tap of the radio is turned on, they want no disruptions to their broadband access, and they want their trains to run on time.

Rating:

War Within, The

dir: Joseph Castelo
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You have to wonder what the last thing is to go through the mind of a person who has decided not only to kill themselves, but to take a whole heap of other people with them. I’m not talking about the rapidly expanding shockwave, or shrapnel, or their belt buckle as it is propelled upwards and outwards.

I mean the justifications they have been given, or that they give themselves for their actions. A thief justifies their actions based on their selfish need, or the worthiness of the victim for being made so: i.e. the shop or house I’m robbing has insurance, they make shitloads of money anyway, they deserve it etc. A suicide bomber does what, exactly? Justifies their crime by blaming the victims? Blames the regime, the powers that be, the Jews, the universe at large for its unfairness, God, a God, the Gods, Allah, Buddha, the Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster?

There are as many reasons as there are arseholes that perpetrate these atrocities, but the significant difference between a person that kills a bunch of people with a bomb, and a person who blows themselves up as well is that as well as annihilating the targets, they annihilate themselves at the same time.

Rating:

2005 Film Year In Review

dir: Me

Each year there are nincompoops who'll say it was the worst year in film ever, and each year they'll be wrong. The worst year in terms of cinema was the day Jim Carrey started acting, but other than that,
every year since and after has had plenty of decent stuff to watch, whether it's homegrown, from the States or from the more obscure heathen corners of the world. And for someone like me whose main hobby

Rating:

Tsotsi

dir: Gavin Hood
[img_assist|nid=1214|title=Go easy, son.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=329|height=300]
Every year, when Oscar time rolls around, the category at the Academy Awards that I find the most bewildering and amusing is the category for Best Foreign Picture.

It presupposes at least two ideas: that the majority of the films in consideration for the rest of the categories are predominantly going to be American films (which they are), and that in the Foreign category, every other film produced by every other director from every other country apart from the US competes for the Great Golden Dildo.

You are already muttering under your breath “Who the fuck cares, the results at the Oscars matter to me about as much as the results of your last blood test.” And I agree, sure they don’t matter. But it interests me all the same.

The Academy, in the depths of its wisdom, has the sheer fucking gall to assert each year that it has sampled the delights of every other film put out by every country capable of producing them, and can select one to stand above and beyond all the others.

Rating:

New World, The

dir: Terrence Malick
[img_assist|nid=895|title=Who dares call Pocahontas jailbait?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=270|height=400]
Terrence Malick has a rightly earned reputation as a guy who doesn’t like to rush anything. His films, known for their beautiful scenery, leisurely pacing and lack of dialogue, are too few and far between for his isolated, sweaty fans.

The New World is his take on the first, tentative steps the Old World (European pilgrims) took towards its settlement and extermination of the people of the New World (Native Americans). Whilst much of it is historically based, it’s hard not to see everything as allegorical as well. Though she is never named, Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher) and her fate could just as easily represent the fate of the tribal nations that would come to be exterminated by disease, genocide and booze at the hands of Manifest Destiny.

Rating:

Matador, The

dir: Richard Shepard
[img_assist|nid=891|title=Its no Remington Steele, but still.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=442]
For a low-key comedy made up mostly of two and then three people chatting, this is a surprisingly enjoyable flick. Also, as part of the done-to-death genre of hitmen and the people that love them, this flick manages to rise above the common morass and actually represents an amusing and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

It surprised me, and I am rarely surprised, not counting the last time the cops knocked on my front door. No, Officer, I don’t know anything about anything. No, Officer, I don’t know anything about those death threats sent to Humphrey B. Bear, but if you ask me, the bitch had it coming.

There are only three roles of note in the flick, with Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis assaying those roles. Each of them does decent work in a talky flick with characters that seem simple but really needed to be nuanced in order to be memorable and sympathetic, which at least two of them are.

Julian (Brosnan) is a middle-aged hitman at the end of his professional tether. Though he’s enjoyed a lifetime of professional success, he finds he is losing his ability to perform at the crucial moment. As you might expect, such a person doesn’t really have an overly stable personality, and tends to live somewhat outside the norms of standard contemporary human behaviour.

Rating:

Sin City

dir: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino and a bunch of circus monkeys on rollerskates
[img_assist|nid=892|title=All sorts of sins abound in Basin City|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=297]
Take the very essence of film noir, the constant smoking, the femme fatales, the violent goons, the black and white universe (especially). Distil it down to its purest elements, devoid of any pretensions apart from delivering the most violent, sleaziest explosion of trashy entertainment possible, and you have Sin City in all its vile glory.

And it is glorious. Glorious and unrepentant trash. It is the first movie adaptation of a comic book that looks exactly like the comic book (sorry, graphic novel). It is essentially a moving comic, animation with ‘real’ people in it. Of the recent crop of films where the only real thing in the scene is the people, Sin City is the most accomplished and best realised (on a slender budget), because it really achieves what it sets out to achieve. And at a fraction of the price.

Rating:

Water

dir: Deepa Mehta
[img_assist|nid=931|title=Praying not to be a woman or at least a widow in the next life|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=422|height=437]
A little girl at the age of eight becomes a widow during the latter part of the 1930s. Hindu holy texts dictate widows can never remarry, and must live in seclusion for the rest of their days, to be punished for the sin of having their husband’s die. Or, they can perish upon their husband’s funeral pyre. Or, even better, they can marry their husband’s younger brother. Talk about having an abundance of options in your life.

Chuyia (Sarala) is sent to an ashram filled to the brim with women whose husbands are long dead. An ancient widow, Auntie (Vidula Javalgekar), recalls the sweets served at her wedding when she was seven, with longing, despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that she’s toothless, and easily in her eighties, and has spent most of her life as a widow.

The widows, who wear white saris and have their hair cut very short to mark their status, are ruled by one of the eldest and fattest of their number, Madhumati (Manorama) who eats fried food forbidden to widows whilst the others starve, and doesn’t mind a bit of dope every now and then. The rest of them live miserable lives overflowing with bitterness and regret. The most they hope for is to die and be reincarnated as men.

Rating:

Mysterious Skin

dir: Gregg Araki
[img_assist|nid=924|title=Oh, the confidence of youth|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
My alternative Rating is 0 out of 10 - or no stars for this flick

They say that it takes courage to make certain films. Sometimes there’s more courage in enduring them.

Mysterious Skin is a deeply disturbing film. It is well made and well acted, with a beautiful soundtrack by Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins fame). None of that makes its subject matter any easier to deal with, or the movie overall any more enjoyable when you walk away from the cinema like someone emerging from a car wreck.

Based on the novel of the same name by Scott Heim the story focuses on the lives of two boys, Neil (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Brian (Brady Corbet), who are linked by something horrific that happened to them when they were eight years old. What is even more horrific is that one of them cannot remember what happened, and it has left him an empty shell grasping for meaning in the clueless dark. The other remembers it very well. Too well. It has defined his life in ways all-encompassing and wholly destructive.

Brian searches for answers to his blackouts and nosebleeds through finding out about alien abductions and vile experiments onboard UFOs. Neil finds fulfilment through getting paid for hot gay sex and listening to 80s goth music.

Rating:

Munich

dir: Steven Spielberg
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It pains me to say I enjoyed a Steven Spielberg film. It pains me even more to say that he managed to make a really, really good film here in the case of Munich.

I’ve long believed Spielberg was some mutated or evolved form of sea anemone that had somehow climbed out of the ocean, grabbed a movie camera and started making flicks about a species he didn’t really know or understand. I don’t mean sharks or aliens, I mean people. As in Soylent Green is people.

I still don’t think he really knows or likes humans, but in Munich he’s managed to make a compelling, complex and entertaining espionage thriller with a surprising amount of depth. Which involves humans, so maybe something has changed.

Munich deals with the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics where Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and a few German police officers as well. The arseholes, calling themselves Black September, directly involved mostly bit the bullet after brutally dispatching the hostages, but the film deals with the other people who were believed to be involved in planning and organising the massacre.

Rating:

Look Both Ways

dir: Sarah Watt
[img_assist|nid=939|title=Good advice from a helpful sign|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=382|height=254]
Since this flick cleaned up the major awards at this year’s AFIs, in a strong year for Australian cinema, I thought I’d give it a look, despite the fact that it’s been out for a donkey’s age. I do so prefer to keep things fresh for you, my loyal and easily bemused readers.

What we have here is not a failure to communicate, but an Australian version of those terrible films coming out of Britain perpetrated by those Working Title people. You know the ones, often directed by Richard Curtis, with random swearing substituting for humour, and more treacle and saccharine than you’ll find at your local confectioners. If you’re not up with Richard Curtis’ ‘oeuvre’, then think Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the diabolical Love Actually.

You’re looking at a large cast of characters, connected tangentially to each other, affected by central plot devices and prone to musical montages. And weepy rainy moments where everyone, generally living in the same town or geographical location, is sad at the same moment, mirrored by the weather.

Rating:

Hustle and Flow

dir: Craig Brewer
[img_assist|nid=933|title=I think I can hear someone laughing at my jheri curls|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=294]
There is a whole sub-genre of movies that usually go straight to video. They usually star minor rappers and hip-hop artists who want to play gangsters on film in order to live out their fantasy of being hard men, especially when they grew up far from the mean streets of South Central, Bedford-Stuyvesant, or Caroline Springs.

Seriously, you should check out the shelves of your local video store. There’s reams of these flicks, starring people you’ve never heard of, playing out these sub-rap video clip quality fantasies / tributes to their own egos. But you should definitely not watch them. No sins you’ve committed in your life would justify the punishment. Many of them are written and directed by homeless mental patients. At least it seems that way.

This flick shouldn’t be mistaken for one of those. It does have a lot to do with music, but is about far more than romanticising criminality or making an extended promotional opportunity for shills to shill their shilling-worth wares to get more record sales.

Like the recent and unreviewable Get Rich or Die Tryin’, starring a man named after half a dollar. Half a fucking dollar! Even without inflation that’s practically worthless.

Rating:

Brokeback Mountain

dir: Ang Lee
[img_assist|nid=943|title=Beautiful boys|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=301]
It’s strange that such a big deal is being made about this film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautifully shot, well-acted, with a touching, sad story to tell.

But it’s such a low-key story, regardless of all the controversy surrounding it. And let’s not skimp on the praise here, it’s utterly ridiculous that such subject matter can still get so many people’s girdles in a twist in this day and age.

Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) work as shepherds in the mountain region of Wyoming one summer in 1963. They talk like Texans, and dress like the Marlboro Man, so I guess they must be cowboys. They’re really not cowboys, though. So those, like me, who were expecting two hours of gay cowboys eating pudding, will be disappointed. Instead of proving the old South Park gag about all arthouse films, they subverted it, the bastards.

Their job on the mountain is to let the sheep graze, and to protect them at night from coyotes and other predators. And though it be 1963, the place is still a pristine wilderness. As such, depicted in relatively modern times, the place has an air of unreality to it, as if it is some fabled realm, of nature unspoiled, where man doesn’t really belong. So two men, up there, all alone on Brokeback Mountain; cold nights, flowing whisky, sleeping in a tent together, what else would you expect, eh?

Rating:

A History of Violence

dir: David Cronenberg
[img_assist|nid=947|title=Under the gun|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=666]
Two men casually prepare to leave a fleabag motel in the morning. They are unhurried, a little drowsy, probably thinking about the long drive ahead. We don’t sense that there’s anything wrong until everything is so wrong that even I was surprised by their brutality.

In the next scene, a father comforts his daughter, who’s had nightmares about monsters in her closet. He keeps telling her repeatedly that monsters don’t exist, despite our recent evidence to the contrary. It is so overplayed that you know it’s not meant to just be foreshadowing. It’s meant to be Ironic.

There are monsters out there, but they’re not always the ones we expect them to be.

David Cronenberg, Canadian auteur and primary exponent of the ‘body horror’ genre, makes films too infrequently for my liking. All of his films, including the ones that don’t entirely work, are worth watching, His weakest films are better and more interesting than the best work most other directors are capable of.

Rating:

Downfall

dir: Oliver Hirshbiegel
[img_assist|nid=989|title=The man himself, who is now, and for all eternity, trapped in a Jewish deli where they never get around to serving him|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=310]
To a lot of people it might seem redundant making another film about World War II, because for those of us not born in the 80s, other than JFK's assassination, the Vietnam War and Abigail's breasts on Number 96, no event had as profound an impact upon the last century as WWII did, and there is no shortage of movies or tv stuff devoted to the occasion.

Even if people don't know the details regarding Uncle Adolf, his life and death or the frightening power he once held, they know at least that he is one of history's nastiest villains.

So who needs another movie about the downfall of the Third Reich? Maybe Holocaust deniers, anti-semites and warmongers need to have versions of these films made and have ye olde worlde VHS copies fisted into their various orifices. But the rest of us think we know all there is to know about it.

Even if Downfall isn't necessary, it's still damn compelling. A film that successfully captures and gets across the surreal atmosphere of Berlin towards the end of the war has to be vital viewing for those with the time, patience and inclination.

Rating:

House of Flying Daggers

dir: Zhang Yimou
[img_assist|nid=988|title=Dance, rummy|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=298]
What a truly beautiful film, in all the senses that the word can encompass. And if you think about just how important beauty is to those of us with eyes and ears and hearts, you might know how it is that I can forgive the shortcomings of a film solely for its sheer visual splendour.

Film, being the most complex of the visual mediums (well duh), needs beauty like homeless drunks need booze: fiercely, deeply, utterly. For those of us that try to watch much of the new stuff that comes out at the cinema, it’s the knowledge or the conceit that seeing a film on the big screen is somehow ‘right’ or inherently ‘better’ than waiting to see it on your television screen that is a driving force. In truth most of the time it’s a complete delusion. My life and my experience of film is none the better for having watched Blade III, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing or Cabin Fever on the big screen, in fact I can say that in some ways it’s probably worse off. I’m sure that watching bad films on the silver screen causes brain cancer or genital warts or something.

Rating:

Million Dollar Baby

dir: Clint Eastwood
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Old Man Clint. It’s hard not to love him, especially when he makes films as good as this. Many will see this purely as an exercise in Oscarbait, but I disagree. I think Clint’s made plenty of films (I think about 25), has received a shitload of praise and awards over the years, and doesn’t need the added hassle of having to tailor everything to that end. I think he just likes making movies, especially since he’s 75 and isn’t really on the celebrity carousel for the column inches in the supermarket mags.

Lucky for us, he’s pretty good at it. He’s made a stack of duds as well, don’t get me wrong, but his great films more than make up for it. You can tote up Pink Cadillac, Absolute Power, Firefox, Heartbreak Ridge and those orang-utan movies as evidence of his crapness, but then my rejoinder has to be Unforgiven, White Hunter Black Heart, this here film and maybe Mystic River from the year before. If you take into consideration the great films where he just acted as well, it looks like an incredibly accomplished body of work for one man.

Add to that the fact that he’s a crusty old coot that’s reminiscent of the father or grandfather you never visit but wouldn’t mind seeing every once in a while to bask in the glow of his geriatric wisdom, and it makes him even more lovable.

Rating:

Moolaade

dir: Ousmane Sembene
[img_assist|nid=984|title=Radio is dead, after all|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=313]
Of all the films I’ve ever seen on the topic of female genital mutilation in Africa, this is the best of them. By a country mile of clichés.

Of course it’s the only film about genital mutilation in Africa I’ve ever seen, or am ever going to see. It’s the best by default.

And what kind of a person could find fault with such a film? Considering the subject material, you’d have to be heartless and genitaless not to sympathise with the women of the village of Djerisso in Burkina Faso, and the squillions of women this has been done to in the name of tradition.

Let’s be a bit more honest here: the words “genital mutilation” are too vague, and the phrase “female circumcision” is offensive in its dishonesty. What they’re talking about, when they refer to the action of “purifying” a girl, is the excision of her clitoris and labia, and the sewing up of the vagina to allow only for the urethra to do what it’s supposed to.

There are different “classes” of it practiced around the world, but they all amount to the same thing: stupidity on a grand scale, and the taking away of the basic human right of sexual pleasure.

What kind of a useless world allows crap like this to still happen in this day and age? What kind of a world produces people who believe something like this could in anyway be a good thing?

Rating:

Before Sunset

dir: Richard Linklater
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I'm not a fan, even remotely, of romantic movies. Romantic movies generally have the same effect on me intellectually as Draino would have on a human's gastrointestinal system upon consumption. I doubt anyone's going to be surprised by that. Hey, I'm not some stoic, repressed, unemotional automaton. I don't work in an abattoir nailgunning creatures in the head day in day out for a living or for fun; I haven't 'shut down' emotionally because of my second tour of duty in 'Nam where I put my hand in a pile of goo that used to be my best friend's face. I am, in short, a product of the current age, not overly apathetic about stuff, but not too interested in getting sweaty over anything either.

All in all, I am clearly not the demographic intended for anything explicitly shelved under the Romance section of the local franchise video rental chain. You know where I mean, be it your local Burstblocker or LeproZYDVD, where they have over fifty copies of the latest Adam Sandler / Drew Barrymore flick, and no copies of any films by Federico Fellini. Yeah, I know, I'm a snob when it comes to movies, so sue me.

Rating:

Primer

dir: Shane Carruth
[img_assist|nid=982|title=Primer|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=400]
For a contemporary sci-fi film, this is going to strike some people as downright false advertising.

There are no explosions, car chases, gigantic metropolises, shiny robots, Will Smiths or Spielbergs to be seen for miles around. So most regular muggles aren’t going to think it’s “real” sci-fi anyway.

For “real” sci-fi fans, that should be enough to pique their curiousity. Of course, when I mention time travel playing the central role in the story, they’re going to switch off and go back to masturbating over Japanese cartoon porn. God knows you’re not a real nerd ‘til you’ve done that.

Time travel has been used and abused by so many and for so long that it makes most of us role our eyes heavenward in disgust. Even nerds.

When it’s used well, as with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the details of the how and the why of the time travel are insignificant compared to what it adds to the story. Seeing Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, Sigmund Freud and Genghis Khan striding around the San Dimas mall and interacting with late 80s Californians is worth all the silliness and Keanu Reeveses involved.

Rating:

Hotel Rwanda

dir: Terry George
[img_assist|nid=977|title=Don Cheedle with the guy he's playing in the film. Freaky.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=317]
Ah, the cinema of guilt. Worthy movies that seem to chide audiences and make you feel bad for a) not having been more concerned when something really bad happened in history, or b) feel even worse for not having seen the film sooner. All your bullshit excuses count as nought in the face of it. So you sheepishly file into the cinema one day, prepared to eat your greens and say it tastes like ice cream even if it doesn’t. Out of stinky, middle-class guilt.

If the film’s actually good then it’s a definite bonus. Because that way you don’t have to endure watching the film like it’s a trip to the proctologist just so you can convince other people that you are sooooo switched on and overflowing with compassion. Hotel Rwanda is just such a film.

It’s not Schindler’s List, but nor would you want to be. We don’t need another epic like that just yet. It’s still Oscarbait of the highest order, mostly because when a film is about such topics (the Rwandan massacres from the 90s), it feels like the height of insensitivity to raise any objections to even the slightest flaw, to mouth the tiniest of criticisms, you inhuman monster.

Rating:

Spider-Man 2

dir: Sam Raimi
[img_assist|nid=967|title=This is how hard it is to get a seat on the train these days|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=385|height=324]
This is what big budget film making is all about. This is what sequels
are all about. Out of what I would call humble origins comes a story
writ large across the silver screen which makes most other examples of
high concept big budget type films look like the abject crap that they
are. There is no need to check one's heart, brain, balls or ovaries at
the door. Sam Raimi has made the absolute best film of his career, and
that's no small achievement when you've got an oeuvre that runs the
gamut from Evil Dead to A Simple Plan.

Where other, crapper producers, directors and screenwriters would have
been timid and delivered something safe and mindless, these people
banded together to make something that goes against the grain of
Hollywood's usual risk averse mentality, and it manages to deliver in
spades. There are so many great scenes ranging from elaborate action
set pieces to touching dramatic moments that singling them out does a
disservice to the whole. Not that that's going to stop me, but all the
same it is truly an example of something being substantially more than
the sum of its parts.

Rating:

Collateral

dir: Michael Mann
[img_assist|nid=966|title=Stop mentioning Xenu!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=431|height=300]
Collateral is genuinely an excellent film. For what it is. And it may
just be an extended episode of Miami Vice. I might be projecting
substantially, but much of what I saw over the film's two hour length
kept taking me back to the era of people wearing loafers without socks
and suit jackets with pastel t-shirts. Ah, sweet, sweet memory, what
an affliction thou truly art.

If you ever catch any episodes of Miami Vice on cable you might notice
that they look incredibly dated now even more than they did then, and
that's not just because of the clothes and hairstyles. As television
it really wasn't that different from any of the other cop based dramas
that preceded it. It wasn't a million miles away from Starsky and
Hutch
or Hawaii Five O or any other cop show where two cops with very
different styles aggressively pursue criminals and maintain that thin
tissue of lies and self-interest we call the fabric of society.

Rating:

Machinist, The

dir: Brad Anderson
[img_assist|nid=962|title=If this acting thing doesn't work out, Christian Bale could always do catwalk|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
This is a film about a pretty strange guy. Trevor Reznik (Christian
Bale), no, not Trent Reznor, who is a strange guy anyway, is an
emaciated insomniac who works a blue collar job and seems to be losing
his marbles. He leaves himself messages which he doesn't understand,
his only meaningful relationship is with an understanding and
supportive prostitute called Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the
world itself seems to be working against him in exciting and new ways.

Bale's transformation into this sickly creature has to be seen to be
believed. I'd heard much about the fact that Bale had lost a lot of
weight for the role, but I could not imagine the lengths the guy would
go to in order to be remembered. It's staggering, it really is.
It's one of the most amazing examples of self-mutilation I've ever
seen for a job. Sure, womenfolk do it all the time and it's
considered par for the course in Hollywood, but he makes himself look
so emaciated that I imagine had they shown a picture of Bale as this
Reznik character to concentration camp victims in 1945 the poor
survivors would have shrieked in horror, and wept tears of pity and woe
in his honour.

Rating:

Incredibles, The

dir: Brad Bird
[img_assist|nid=965|title=Ayn Rand oversaw the whole production, no doubt. Objectively.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=686]
I don’t think Pixar know how to make a bad movie. Really, even if they’d wanted to, I don’t think they could manage it. They just wouldn’t know how to be mediocre. Perhaps they need to take notes from Disney. Now there’s a creatively and intellectually bankrupt company still churning out sub-standard product at a rapid rate. There’s your business model worthy of emulation.

Calling Brad Bird the director of something that would have required the supervision and input of countless bazillions of people seems somehow deceptive, but he must know what he’s doing and not just be Steve Job’s footstool. Whilst watching The Simpsons the other night (one of those rare times when I only get to watch one Simpsons episodes in a day as opposed to three) I noticed his name in the credits, and then again after watching King of the Hill last weekend. So he knows about conventional animation as well, not just this fancy-shmancy stuff.

Now that computer animated movies rule at the box office, every studio is trying to pump them out quicker than you can say ‘Bandwagonesque’. And of course as you’re saying it remember and cherish the Teenage Fanclub album from the early 90s that shares its name. Ah, the early 90s. When flannel and dewberry bodywash reigned supreme, but not usually on the same people.

Rating:

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