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8 stars

Snowtown

Snowtown

Not a place you should visit for more than 2 hours

dir: Justin Kurzel

Snowtown is a horrifying, crippling, debilitating trawl through a true blue Ozzie True Crime story, being the murders of 11 poor bastards in South Australia way back in the 1990s. Only one of the poor victims were killed in Snowtown, or had anything to do with Snowtown, but the name stuck so powerfully that even the people who live there wanted to change the town’s name at the peak of the public’s interest in this depressing story.

Unlike Animal Kingdom, which a flick like this will be inevitably compared to, this isn’t a stylised, fictionalised version of events. I mean, it’s still fiction, it’s not a documentary. What I mean is, it’s something almost along the lines of a feature length re-enactment, in all its banal, ugly detail, and with certainly no glory.

The eye for detail, though, isn’t focussed on replicating everything to give us all the factual minutiae. It’s more focussed on giving us an inkling as to what happened, how it may have felt to be involved, and just how awful it was.

In which case, it functions less as a True Crime kind of film. Its purpose isn’t delivering information on the empirical level. It’s about getting us to feel an overwhelming dread pervading everything.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise up, or end up as one of their pets, why don't you

dir: Rupert Wyatt

Never has humanity’s downfall been so enjoyable or well-deserved.

Really, could it be a spoiler? Does anyone whose interest perks up at the elaboration on the title not know that, at some point, there’s this Planet, and it’s going to be Of The Apes? That there was a book about it, and a film about it with Charlton “My Hands Are Cold and Dead Now” Heston, and a bunch of other films to lesser success, and then Mark Wahlberg appeared on the scene to fuck things up?

And he wasn’t even playing an ape? How inexplicable is that?

Otherwise, the title wouldn’t resonate, and presumably, the multitudes wouldn’t care. Nah, what we craved, without knowing it, is an explanation; a grounded, believable explanation as to how the Apes came to ‘own’ our Planet, and what ‘we’, being arrogant, hubristic humans, did to allow them to take over.

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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

I think there needs to be at least a thousand more versions of
this book before we can stop

dir: Cary Fukunaga

Jane Eyre, eh? Prestige costume drama Oscar bait, eh?

Just imagine all the doilies and lace trimmings and bustles akimbo all over the place.

This just screams of potential audiences climbing over each other’s corpses, desperately trying to get to the box office in order to get tickets to the latest Brontean Blockbuster.

Despite the fact that the book presumably is still all over those high school reading lists for English or English Lit or whatever classes haven’t been cancelled and replaced with Glee-like activities (proudly sponsored by some repellent lip gloss), I’ve never read it, and never seen the dozens and dozens of versions of it that have been expelled onto an unwilling public.

I’d always lumped it in with all that Regency-era frippery like all of Jane Austen’s pap, and always assumed it to be on a par. You know, attractive and spirited but somewhat impoverished young ladies desperate to get married to someone who seems to treat them mean initially, but turns out to be more rad than cad, and who welcomes their spiritedness instead of having them incarcerated in a sanatorium for being hysterical.

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Hanna

Awfully big gun for such a little girl

dir: Joe Wright

This is an odd film, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. Far from it. It’s actually much better than it has any right to be.

The oddest thing about it is that I was sure it must have been directed by Tom Tykwer, the German director responsible for the decent flick Run Lola Run, and the tremendous flick Perfume. But, no. It’s Joe Wright, responsible for the ordinary version of Pride and Prejudice with that bony hag Keira Knightley, and that great version of Atonement with all those other good actors including that bony hag Keira Knightley.

Hanna has him venturing into unknown, yet ultimately familiar territory. The real point of the flick doesn’t become obvious until the Brothers Grimm fairy tale allusions start piling up like a sink full of stinky dishes until you can’t ignore them anymore.

The Hanna of the title, Saoirse Ronan, is a very young, alien looking creature. She either looks like an Aryan superchild, or one of the more grown up children from the Village of the Damned. She hunts and survives in the icy wilds of some place. Out of goddamn nowhere, some bearded lunatic (Eric Bana) starts trying to kill her dead. She’s pretty well trained in lethal hand-to-hand combat, though, and she holds her own.

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Paul

Paul

Aliens walk among us. And they're very rude

dir: Greg Mottola

This flick is a perfect storm of nerd signposts and signifiers so nerdish in their nerdishness that it’s akin to watching a table full of Comic-Book Guys playing with their Magic the Gathering cards, drinking Pepsi Max straight from the bottle for an hour and a half.

However, before you suspect that I’m going to go for cheap and easy laughs mocking the indefensible, and an easy pop cultural target at that, let me just say that I am a fairly nerdy person myself (as are all people who obsessively watch movies and complain about them on the tubes of the internets, let’s be honest about it), so the question for me is whether Paul is a tolerable movie because of its nerdiness or in spite of it.

Well, the two are inseparable, really. Since its two lead characters are nerds playing nerds (quite deftly, I might add), and it’s a homage to the science fiction flicks of the 1980s (mostly, though Close Encounters was earlier), and one of its main characters is a CGI alien, you can’t really grade it on its Shakespearean qualities or its Byronic pathos.

Clive and Graeme (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) are two British nerds who’ve achieved the dream of a lifetime by travelling to the States and going to the Comic-Con event in San Diego. Some people aim high in their dreams, others aim low, but the important thing is to have a dream, I guess, no matter how achievable.

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The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau

I think the buildings are after them. And the hats.

dir: George Nolfi

Great, another film convincing paranoid schizophrenics that someone really IS out to get them…

This fairly good flick, which I liked a lot, is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the mentally ill science fiction writer who’s been dead a long while. Almost every science fiction movie, if not every movie is either based on or should be based on something Philip K. Dick came up with. And why not. His most famous adaptation is of course Blade Runner, but there are probably nearly a hundred other monstrosities based on his stuff out there as well.

The important element you need to grasp about Dick’s writing, if you know or care nothing about him or his writing, is that paranoia underlaid virtually everything he ever wrote. Almost every novel or short story of his that I can remember has a protagonist, who may or may not be crazy, who senses or gleans that someone is either after him or tinkering at the edges of his reality. And always always always, if someone thinks ‘they’ are out to get him, ‘they’ always are. None of his protagonists ever realise in the end that they were just being irrational and paranoid. Never ever ever. Now that’s some good support for the delusions of the mentally ill right there.

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Confessions (Kokuhaku)

dir: Tetsuya Nakashima
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From revenge… to more revenge. This time, we’re doing it Japanese style.

Now, just to get all simplistic, reductive and borderline racist, if the old saying regarding revenge goes that it is a dish best served cold, like sushi, then what this particular director and cast do is take that revenge, like a platter full of sushi, dip it into a tank of liquid nitrogen, and shatter the freeze-burned remains with a HIV-covered sledgehammer.

Man, do they serve this revenge up cold. And, man, do the Japanese hate school kids.

Confessions is a flick where a whole bunch of people confess to each other or to us in the audience in order to tell the story. There are bits where people talk to each other, but mostly people are talking in monologues.

Our first speaker is a junior high school teacher who explains to her class that she’s quitting her job, and why. For the next half hour, mostly she stands in front of the class and talks earnestly but quietly to a bunch of savages who are barely in their teens. They carry on like they’re on the island from either Lord of the Flies or Battle Royale, just with lots of texting involved, but they listen and react whenever she says any crucial element of her story.

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Let Me In

dir: Matt Reeves
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Remakes. The making thereof. Proof of creative bankruptcy, or just outright mercenary greed?

Let the Right One In was only made a few years ago, but it suffered from being made in the native language of its author, being Swedish. When certain Hollywoody types saw that film, they thought, “The film is so awesome that the only way we can improve upon it is by making it in American. That’ll earn us a packet, and show the Swedes how it’s really done.”

Of course, they remade it, it was little seen, and the point of the exercise, or the merits, remain solely on the artistic level.

I liked Let the Right One In plenty when I saw it at the cinema, and I read the book as well. In Swedish, initially, which was quite frustrating, since I can’t read Swedish. Then I tried in Swahili, then Farsi, and finally in an English translation. The book is solid, too. I have no particular axe to grind against an American remake in theory, so I went into this with my closest approximation of an open mind.

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127 Hours

dir: Danny Boyle
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Whatever problems I might have had with Danny Boyle’s films in the past, whatever misgivings I might have had dwindled to nothing fifteen minutes into this film. In the first few minutes I was worried that I was going to be watching something closer to The Beach or Life Less Ordinary end of Boyle’s oeuvre, rather than the actually watchable, decent end of the Boylian spectrum (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire).

But then something happened at exactly 15 minutes in, and the title flashed up on the screen, and I realised that Aron Ralston’s (played by James Franco) real story had just started.

And oh holy fuck what a story it is.

That it’s a true story, and a very narrowly defined story, based entirely on the relevant 127 Hours in question of Ralston’s life, would almost make you think that telling this story in movie form would be impossible. Telling it well, at least. Telling it poorly would seem to be piss-easy. Telling it so that it’s heroically bad would take real hack skills, some of which Boyle has hinted at in the past.

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The Fighter

dir: David O. Russell
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David O. Russell is a director not known for sports flicks. He’s known, if he’s known at all, for three things: directing Three Kings, which remains one of the only decent flicks set during the first Iraqi adventure; making a thoroughly stupid flick called I Heart Huckabees; and for a screaming match that occurred and was recorded between himself and Lily Tomlin on the set of that flick.

Mark Wahlberg is best known for having a brother who was in New Kids on the Block, who had a short career as rapper-performer-Renaissance man Marky Mark, and playing John Holmes stand-in Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. He is not well known for his acting ability.

Christian Bale is best known for screaming abuse at people on the set of some films he’s been on. And a wicked eating disorder. He’s also an actor, or so I’ve been told.

The three of them, oh, and a bunch of other people as well, collaborate here in order to make a fairly amazingly good film, one which, noting the participants, the location, and what they’re famous for, I couldn’t really have predicted.

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