dir: Hayao Miyazaki
The great difficulty in reviewing one of Miyazaki’s animated movies, compared to just watching them, is that the temptation to reel off superlative after superlative usually proves too great for the humble reviewer. Also, Miyazaki is revered to such a degree as the reincarnated Japanese alternate reality Walt Disney that everything he touches is tainted with greatness in the eyes of reviewers, humble or not.
The high praise makes latecomers come to his films with an insane level of expectation, which usually results in bewilderment when they see something like this, Princess Mononoke or My Neighbour Totoro which are different but simpler stories than what they could have expected.
Well, I’m neither a worshipper nor much of a reviewer, so it’s as easy for me to reel off expletives and superlatives as it is to watch one of his flicks and to sit there, thrilled out of my goddamn mind.
Spirited Away is a singularly beautiful experience, as similar as his other films (plucky female characters triumphing over adversity with hard work and intelligence), and as resolutely different from anything else in existence. The story mixes recognisable story dynamics with quintessentially Japanese story-telling (which doesn’t resemble at all the usual ‘hero’s journey’ Campbellian crap at all) and presents it all within the production of the
most beautifully simple and complex animation not reliant on thousands of computer geeks working in concert.
dir: Barry Luhrmann
Moulin Rouge, the fourth in the Three Colours series, is the first to depart from the tried and true formula of having silly French people overact at the drop of a croissant. Instead, in another of his long list of genre bursting endeavours, Barry Luhrmann decided to shift the focus of his vision to the future. In this science fiction / horror crossover, Luhrmann paints a bleak yet colourful canvas of his chilling view of a post apocalyptic alternate future where the fabric of society has been discarded like a drunken bridesmaid's undies and people speak in a post literate language called "ham", obscuring all meaningful communication and leading to sorrow, loneliness and death.
The film begins at a time referred to as "1899", but astute viewers will note that this has nothing to do with actual earth history. On some newly colonised planet, a city called "Paris" cradles both our protagonists and the venue that the film takes its name from, the Moulin Rouge, or "Red Snapper", cunningly referring to the legendary Led Zeppelin groupie anecdote of the same name.
Ewan MacGregor reprises his role of Obi Wan Kenobi without raising the ire of Lucasfilm's platoons of lawyers, and neglects to display his well-abused fleshy lightsabre, to the disappointed groans of audiences everywhere. Hired by an opium addicted Yoda (played by John Leguizamo, in the second most terrifying role of the film), he is asked to kill an evil cannibalistic cyborg played astoundingly well by Nicole Kidman, who doesn't break character once. Reluctantly, he agrees, against his better judgement, but cannot see that he is being set up for a fall.
Nicole Kidman is truly chilling as the cyborg cannibal, often seen wiping the blood of her victims from her mouth. In her cover role as the most famous and highly paid "courtesan" (ie. working girl) in all of the Paris moon colony, her credibility ranks second only to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman for portraying such a convincing, risky, edgy role. Utterly convincing as a mercenary prostitute that never actually has to "put out", so to speak, her acting talents are barely stretched, especially since her simultaneous portrayal of the cannibal cyborg and wily courtesan is flawless, in that it couldn't be more static or inanimate.
She truly is the most terrifying presence I've seen in a film since Divine in Pink Flamingoes.
dir: Stephen Sommers
Yes. You must think I am kidding. I am not. I sat through this piece of shite, and now it's your turn to suffer.
Some films are unintentionally stupid, because they're made by stupid people (Tomcats, Battlefield Earth, Armaggedon, Music from Another Room), other films are stupid because they're made by intelligent people who continue to try to underestimate the intelligence of the lowest common denominator, and never succeed (Godzilla, Independance Day, Look Who's Talking 15). Some films look dumb, but are actually very smart (Scream, Men in Black). Then there's those "tongue in cheek" films which are a bit dumb, which you're just supposed to laugh at and forgive them for because of the twinkle in their eye and their mischievous grin.
Why I watched this is still a mystery to me, since I thought the first film was a piece of shit as well. Perhaps there was some subliminal imagery in the advertising that planted the idea in my subconscious that I'd willingly suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the ride. However it may have happened, it did, and here are the fruits of my painful labours.
dir: Ang Lee
This ain't the greatest film of all time. This isn't even one of Ang Lee's best films. This is the best filmed chop socky film to date, but that's only because Ang was given a budget far in excess of what any Hong Kong director has ever been given to make a film of similar ilk look more gorgeous than it ever had any right to be. He isn't even the first "arthouse" (though it is debatable, Sense and Sensibility and the Ice Storm were mainstream fare, and I do consider Ice Storm a masterpiece) director to attempt to make an "intelligent" Hong Kong film, which is virtually what this is.
Make no mistake, though he may hail from Taiwan, and has spent the majority of his life in the States, Lee wanted to make a Hong Kong period piece heroic "epic" which is what he has made, with varying degrees of success.
I mentioned the fact that other directors have tried making "intelligent" martial arts films. Anyone unfortunate enough to have watched Ashes of Time by Wong Kar Wai (he of Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together fame) would know what a dismal failure that is conceptually and in trying to realise it onscreen. It just doesn't work, mostly. It's like getting Arnie to play Iago in a new version of Othello, it's just fucking bonkers, it doesn't work, and audiences just laugh, but not in that "nice" way.
dir: Steven Spielberg's Mexican non-union equivalent
Oh beautiful people, what with the planes falling out of the skies and the burning of empires, and thousands of souls going to meet their makers, is it even appropriate to talk about something as unimportant as a film? A movie, in fact? Yes it is...
Let me create a hypothetical situation for you: You work as a job placement demon, as they all are at those particular agencies. You have two positions to fill. Job 1 requires a qualified person to take the reins at a child care centre. Job 2 requires a highly qualified and experienced person to take control of a whorehouse. Yes, a whorehouse. There's no other adequate PC term that can be used in its place. Brothel always sounds kinda dirty to me. Which is appropriate, me guesses.
You have only two people on your books in terms of wanting jobs. They are both hungry, hungry for the acclaim that comes only from working in a prestigious position. Unfortunately for your Key Performance Indicators, those two people are Steven Spielberg and a very dead and overrated / underappreciated Stanley Kubrick. Let's say that you're in the added unfortunate position whereby they get to decide which jobs they get to go for. Hilarity ensues.
Spielbergo should not be put in control of a whorehouse. But he still wants to,desperately wants to, and you can't say "no" or "know", because it's his decision. Kubrick can't really say anything because he's dead, really. He knows that his alleged protege is not up to the task of being the big pimp/madame on the block, but he can't stop him, seeing as he is currently pushing up daisies, maggots, and other flora/fauna. It's a hard decision, needless to say.
dir: James Wong
People, by and large, watch television. Whilst watching television, they will often see commercials, being as that is the nature of the medium. These aren't necessarily the World's Funniest or Sexiest commercials, either. Quite often, those commercials will be seriously truncated theatrical trailers shortened for the gnat-like attention spans of the tv viewing audience, promoting the imminent release of another work of art
to us, the presumed great unwashed masses.
Often, but not always, a viewer could be forgiven for thinking, "Who in their right mind, based on this appalling trailer, would want to go and see this pile of drek? Who sees these films?" If there's anyone out there that has seen the commercials for The One, or Highlander 5 as I prefer to think of it as, on telly, and
wondered the same thing, solace is at hand. I have the answer for you. When pondering who watches these Desert Vampire Mars Ghost C grade sci fi shlockfests, know now that it is me. I am the audience they're aiming for, apparently because I'm there on opening day.
Even reading a stack of bad reviews the quantity of which combined together would result in a mass exceeding that of Roger "Spiderbaby" Ebert wasn't enough to dissuade me from paying my hard earned cash in order to bask in the glory of Jet Li's exponential decline as he tranforms from martial arts God to the
next Van Damme. In fact, I am virtually certain this film would initially have been offered to the Musclehead from Brussels, it has that odour of cheap nastiness that you associate with the star of such masterpieces as The Quest, Wrong Bet, the very McBain-sounding Sudden Death, and of course Time Cop. Perhaps Van Damme was too busy beating up one of his girlfriends to make it. Instead the illustrious makers of this stinker, Glen Morgan and James Wong of previous X Files acclaim decided to hitch the film's success on the rapidly declining 'star' power of Li Lien Jie, better known as Jet Li.
dir: Tim Burton
Even though it's been out for only two weeks, already the topic of this film is straining to raise even the mildest level of interest anywhere. We get gangbanged by the hype regarding new films leading up to their release, they're released, then everyone collectively reaches over and hits the snooze button. Being ever timely in my responses, now that any interest has pretty much waned, I have seen fit to post a review of Tim Burton's latest coke fueled extravaganza.
Tim Burton's only real mistake was in remaking what is usually referred to as a "classic". He should have remade a different classic, that being Planet of the Gapes, originally directed by Tom Byron, starring himself, Allysin Chaines, Alisha Klass, Sabrina Johnson and a host of other starlets and studs. I have not the courage or the mortal fortitude to tell you readers what a "gape" is, suffice to say it is one of at least a hundred things I wish I'd never seen, and curse the internet each day for inflicting it upon me.
Regardless, the mere concept of doing a remake of Planet of the Apes is enough to raise people's hackles, and as appealing to long time fans as it would be to announce to Christians that you're planning on re-writing the Bible, replacing all references to "God" and "Jesus" with "My Cock". They'd love that.
dir: Ridley Scott
I'm here to tell you that there is a new contender for shittest film of the new year all ready, if not the decade. Hannibal is simply the dumbest film I've seen since primary school. The horror flick Fright Night on Channel 10 last night had a more coherent, intelligent plot. Hell, I've seen pornos that had better character development, plot machinations and more credibility than this load of old cobblers.
Many people don't actually know this, but Hannibal is a special effects heavy film, like Ridley Scott's last film, Gladiator. Except in this film, instead of using CGI for images of the Colosseum, Rome at the peak of its glory, or nasty tigers on chains, the CGI is used to depict Anthony Hopkins, because that can't be the same actor I've seem in other great performances for the longest time. He looked and acted as fake as the mechanical shark in the Jaws films.
I can't comment on the source material, seeing as I couldn't give a fuck about the book and have no intention of ever reading it, but why they bothered making such a stupid, boring, utterly devoid of interest or tension film is a mystery of staggering proportions. I know that the film has made $60 million dollars in one week of release, but it would have done that if they'd based it on a copy of "See Spot Run!" or a Sesame Street Golden Book. I cannot fathom why they bothered writing such an inept, mishandled screenplay giving a bunch of actors nothing to do but look foolish. Hacks, they're all fucking hacks.
dir: David Lynch
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.
One of the girls working behind the bar must have come towards me to ask what I wanted to drink, but I must not have heard her at first, because when I realised where I was, she was shaking me by the shoulder, concerned with the current location of my mind and presumably my wallet.
"Eh, are you okay?"
- "I'm not sure."
"What's happened to you, were you beaten up?"
I felt around my face and body "No."
"Were you in a car accident?"
Again, I answered in the negative. "Do I look that bad?"
"Well, you look like you just found out your mother just died. Ah, wait, I've worked it out now."
She walked away from me, poured a double shot of some stiff drink into a glass, and handed it to me.
"On the house."
- "Th-- Thankyou. Why?"
"You'll need it. You just watched the latest David Lynch film, didn't you?"
- "Yes, yes I did. How could you tell?"
"We get that a lot around here." She waved her hand in a broad arc, encompassing many of the other people sitting around the pub. Many of them had the same shellshocked, post traumatic stress disorder facial expression that I must have had plastered all over my face.
David Lynch makes films of a particularly unique variety, encompassing everything from the absurd to the grotesque, and certainly from the sublime to the patently ridiculous. Mulholland Drive is an extention of every film Lynch has made previously, only more so, if that makes any sense, which this film certainly does not.
Mulholland Drive won last years Palm D'Or at Cannes, which is a ringing recommendation if I ever heard one, and numerous critical plaudits from critics too frightened to admit they didn't understand a fucking thing that happened over the course of the film.
dir: J.S. Cardone
This film opened yesterday.
I watched the first session with about three other people in the audience. I'm amazed they stayed until the end. I'm amazed I stayed until the end.
The actual cinema (no. 4 Hoyts) I watched it in has a grand tradition, a legacy to live up to. Nearly ten years ago I had the good fortune to be horribly drunk on a Sunday night, and the female friend in my company was even more drunk than I. As she was an esteemed employee of the Hoyts Corporation, we were lucky enough to just be able to walk into any of the films showing, whenever we wanted to. This particular night we staggered into a "special" screening, an advance screening for an upcoming release that was expected to do big business.
The audience was packed, we tried to quietly make our may to the only available seats, but had as much luck as a sumo wrestler wearing nylon. It was about half way through the film, but considering our blood alcohol levels, it didn't matter.
We settled in our seats, dazzled by the bright lights and the big people on the screen, watched fifteen minutes, laughed uproariously at its high crappiness, loudly screamed "This is shit!" and staggered out again. That film was called Garbo, one of the worst Australian films (if that isn't a tautology) of all time. We found out later that the special screening included members of the cast and crew, and their families.
So, this particular theatre has a history of showing quality films. I was ready for anything. But this time I didn't have the luxury of being drunk to dull the pain.
This is easily one of the dumbest vampire films ever made. Trust me on this, I pride myself on my knowledge and my watching of as many vampire films as inhumanly possible. This is of the most worthless, certainly. This isn't one of those "it's so bad, it's good, in a campy sort of way" type of deals, it doesn't have at least a sufficiency of breasts, gore, fucking and fighting to make up for the lack of plot. It just sucked.
dir: Antoine Fuqua
Could have been. This flick could have been a contender. It is well acted (mostly), well directed, and with one monumental example to the contrary, mostly well scripted. It is deeply unfortunate that the monumental fuck-up that occurs in the script at about the 1 hour mark renders the rest of the film an exercise in pointlessness, but then again, if life has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t have everything, and even if you did, some bastard would probably break in and steal all your shit when you were at work.
It’s the way of the world. None of this justifies the awful and insulting way that the film degenerates into a true Hollywood morass by its end, but hell, as I’ve mentioned a million times before, most films stuff up the ending because they never put as much work into the conclusion as they do with the pitch:
(pitch meeting between producers and studio execs)
“Um, Denzel as the bad guy?”
The premise alone is supposed to be enough to justify our interest: Denzel overacting all through the film playing a badass cop. That they weave some strands regarding ethics and the morality of police work into it would seem to be an additional, intellectually enjoyable level upon which the film could have worked. That they piss it all away by insulting our intelligence with a plot conceit so shameless that it would make M. Night Shyamalan blush means the only reason the film will ever be remembered will be because of the sympathy Oscar Denzel Washington received for his overrated performance, and not for any particular virtue of the film.
dir: Peter Jackson
I don't think that there's been a film quite like it, to be honest, realised on such a scale, and so lovingly. Such attention to detail, such awe-inspiring design and creativity, I almost cannot believe that such a film was
allowed to be made in the current culture of big budget film making, where the shoddy special effect is king, and inspiration and inventiveness are as alien as the concept of personal hygiene is amongst users of public transport.
Having not read any of the works of JRR Tolkien, I could potentially be at a disadvantage in discussing the source material and its transition to the big screen. What I am qualified to mention is that it is patently obvious that Tolkien has been ripped off by nearly every fantasy writer and filmmaker for the last sixty years. And perhaps they can be accused of interfering with his desiccated remains in a truly unwholesome manner in the pursuit of financial gain or sex with strange women. The same accusation cannot, I feel, be leveled at Peter Jackson, who has approached the characters and the story with such an obvious love for the source material, and an exhausting amount of dedication and creativity that more than justifies the entire venture, despite the staggering amount of merchandising.
dir: Kevin Smith
The question burning on everyone's lips is not "Will I be selected for Big Brother II?" or "Just how does someone sow their lips together?", it is moreso, considering the grand opening of the aforementioned Kevin Smith film in Australian cinemas yesterday, that question remains "Is Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back better than Dogma?"
The answer, like any good cocktail, is mixed at best. Smith has taken the sacred duty of satisfying the dictates of his ego to ridiculous extremes, to the point where he now has made a film about his other films, a self-referential exercise in self groin rubbing that represents an increasingly tightening spiral of self-indulgence. Couple that with a breathtaking amount of pettiness on his part, and you are left with a bloated,
embarrassing film that occasionally works brilliantly, yet more often than not stinks like week-old entrails in the sun.
Not content with the screen time he and his good friend Jason Mewes have had in the past, he's decided to up the amount of time they appear to the point where they are practically in every scene, with hilarious results ensuing. An arguably simple formula can be applied to Kevin Smith films, that being the greater the
amount of time Silent Bob and Jay appear on screen, the worse the end result.
The main reason being, again arguably, that Jay's brand of constant profanity and excess is hilarious in small
doses, but when exposed to it on a constant basis for nigh on two hours, it becomes wearisome. The same goes for the taciturn Kevin Smith playing Silent Bob, whose shtick of only speaking for maximum impact works only when you haven't had to watch him ham constantly for the film's entire duration. Neither of them are particularly good actors, but Kevin Smith is easily the worst actor in the film, which would be okay if he wasn't in every single fucking scene.
That said, this film has a hit to miss ratio regarding its gags and film parodies of about 1 to 4, similar to the equally uninspired yet occasionally spleen burstingly funny Scary Movie. Smith has thrown in everything including the kitchen sink into this film, hoping that something sticks.
dir: Richard Lowenstein
He died with a review of He Died With a Felafel in His Hand in his hand…
I always intended to write a review that started thusly, and now I’ve finally achieved that lofty ambition. I am a simple man, after all, with simple tastes and simpler pleasures. It doesn’t take much to amuse me, but it takes much to maintain my interest for more than a few minutes at a time.
He Died With a Felafel in his Hand is one of those classic books, like Trainspotting, like the Bible, that’s more of a collection of stories than a story with a single protagonist and a clear narrative, which, in the hands of cinema geniuses, is transformed into a story with a protagonist and a clear narrative. The book, by John Birmingham, is a funny collection of the kinds of nightmare Australian sharehouse experiences which should (but probably won’t) close the book on writing about such stuff for future generations.