dir: Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
What a fantastic, fiery, raucous flick. Brazilian cinema has come into its own and is now its own exportable genre because of City of God. I’m sure they were making films for decades before this, but this flick blew a lot of people away and made them start noticing a great kind of cinema from a previously unheard region.
Since then, the Brazilian flicks that have been appearing at my local arthouse cinema and on the shelves of my local vid store are all united by common threads: they’re based on true stories, they centre around crime and poverty, and they’re about larger than life characters living in cities so extreme as to almost seem like science fiction. But they exist. They’re real. The slum called City of God, or Cidade de Deus in their native Portuguese tongue, is a real place. They didn’t have to build sets, hire extras and dress them in costumes, or make anything up.
Of course this isn’t a documentary, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a pretty real film about a real life lived by millions in the most prosperous country in Latin America.
dir: Aleksandr Sokurov
Usually when people are ambivalent about something they say "I'm in two minds about this". In the case of this film I am in fifteen minds about it.
Reading reviews of this film from the serious chin-stroking film reviewers over the last few months, I was lead to believe that this film is one of the single greatest contributions to cinema in the last 100 years. It only recently received cinematic release here in Australia, and I was eager to see it on the big screen instead of
waiting another month or so to see it on DVD.
Much has been made of both the achievement in cinema this film represents and the artistic conceptual realisation that the film maker strives for. Essentially the achievement is an entire film made without edits. It is one continuous shot, unedited and incredibly well choreographed behind the scenes, with hundreds of extras having to be doing the right thing at the right time. Apparently it took them three attempts to get it right, which must have been quite frustrating for all concerned.
The other big selling point is the fact that the entirety of the film occurs within the walls of the Hermitage Museum, in St Petersburg, a place notoriously hard to get access to, especially for something of
Our so-called protagonist is really the camera, who wakes up confused to find himself back in the 18th century, following people about in the Hermitage. He bumps into famous people, Tsar Nicholas the First,
Catherine the Great, but mostly seems to wander around aimlessly. He also finds a fellow time traveller, a strange person referred to as the Stranger (credited as Sergei Dreiden, but actually an actor called
Sergei Dontsov; don't ask me what the fuck it means I've got no fucking idea). This Stranger has all the charm and tact of a crazy incontinent homeless man on public transport. He engages the camera -
protagonist in conversation as they wander the halls of the Hermitage, occasionally stopping to see some of the masterpieces, offering fleeting glimpses at classic works. They have an antagonistic relationship and argue about various things as they go, and the Stranger, true to form hassles other people he finds in the museum as well. Some of them are from the 1800s, other are contemporary 21st century people. It's less confusing than it sounds.
(Mou gaan dou)
dir: Andrew Lau
Infernal Affairs is a slightly better than average movie interesting only in the novelty of its bare-bones premise. As directed by Andrew Lau, it is also a very loud, aggressively overdone movie. Compared with other Hong Kong cop dramas, it’s par for the course, maybe even better than most, yet I do have to admit to a certain amount of perplexity as to why cult audiences went bugfuckingly crazy over it and why they’re going to remake it in Hollywood starring people with remodelled teeth and $500 haircuts.
Why? It’s really not that clever. Or maybe it is and I just can’t see it. I’ve seen so many Hong Kong flicks over the years that it takes something extraordinary to jiggle my brain meats into ecstatic praise. I definitely can’t muster any excitement for this hack job of a movie, though it was mildly entertaining, I’ll give it that.
Most HK flicks are trashy, let’s be honest. As a fan of the cinema, I say that without any animus towards the region or the people that make or star in these films. If anything I have a bias in their favour, ignoring their shortcomings and excusing aspects that would make me scream bloody blue murder in a different context.
Andrew Lau (the director) and Andy Lau the actor are apparently two completely separate people. The directing Lau has been responsible for some of the best and worst recent Hong Kong films, everything from the Young and Dangerous series, to one of my personal favourites, The Storm Riders. He’s also made a lot of crap, in the same way that all Hong Kong directors make crap films with a ratio of 5 crap films to 1 good film. Quality control is virtually an unheard of concept in the former colonies.
dir: Zhang Yimou
Yes, yes, a beautiful film. You know that, I know that, but does that mean it’s a decent film as well? Surely a film needs more than stunning visuals to make it worthwhile? I mean there are a tonne of pornos that have stunning visuals and amazing views of that which one rarely sees in their own lifetime, but that doesn’t make them Oscar quality films to show the whole family over Christmas dinner, does it?
dir: Steven Soderbergh
It takes a fair-sized pair of brass balls to remake a sci-fi film “classic” considered a classic by people with beards who smoke pipes. Either that, or just plain hubris wrapped up in a blanket of arrogance with a side helping of laziness.
Sometimes it works out well, usually it’s just disastrous. The list of remakes gone wrong in ratio with the ones that succeed is tremendously large. It’s something akin to 100,000 to 7. Those remakes that worked out well were War of the Worlds, The Fly, The Thing and maybe Scarface with Pacino. And maybe one of the Deep Throat remakes. Almost every other remake has, to use the official cinema studies term, sucked dog’s balls.
It’s true. The Pope agrees. Remakes work out bad even when they’re okay, because the viewer still tells themselves “eh, even if it’s passable, why should I watch this instead of the original ever again?”
Often the remake is so wretched that it causes audiences to bay for the director’s blood. Gus Van Sant was roundly ridiculed for remaking Psycho, allegedly shot-for-shot (it’s nothing of the sort), and that recent Wicker Man has made the director, Neil LaButte, and not its invincible star Nicolas Cage, something of a laughingstock.
Rarely does the remake surpass the original. This instance, with Soderbergh’s ambitious remake of the original 1972 Russian film by Andrei Tarkovsky, I humbly submit is one of them.
Sure, the original Solaris is complex and highly intellectual, and has reams and reams of purple prose exegesis written about it. But for my money it fails at what films are primarily supposed to succeed at, which is to be watchable. It might be brilliant and ever so transcendent, but that’s all stuff you’re told away from the actual screen, afterwards, by people trying to convince you that it’s great and you’re just not smart enough to get it. As a film, as something you actually sit there and watch for three hours, it’s a fucking chore.
dir: Roman Polanski
"Breathtaking!" "Stunning!" "A Masterpiece!" "Grunties!"
These words are used to describe everything from the most recent Jerry Bruckheimer film to the latest hemorrhoid creams on the market. Superlatives are such an integral part of the marketing hyperbole industry that the words have lost all meaning. Certainly their use, by anyone, especially film critics should be taken not with a grain of salt, but with a quantity of salt not exceeding that available in your average ocean.
That being said, when people you respect (for whatever reason, whether it be their professional credibility or the way they keep handing you lollies until you get into the car with them) start using words like that about a film, you prick up your ears. In this context, some of those words have been applied to The Pianist, and perhaps not without merit. The film has even been honoured at this year's Academy circlejerk, which, whilst not usually an indicator of anything more important than the fact that Hollywood is more insular and inbred than a hillbilly family from the Appalachian mountains (you know, Deliverance country), has for once potentially gotten it right.
dir: Julie Taymor
This will not be the definitive account of Frida Kahlo’s life, I am sure. She’s too interesting a person and an artist to remain bound only by what is presented in this biopic as an account of her life. This film will probably do for now as a somewhat superficial precise of the life of this mercurial Mexican artist. And whilst not a terrible film, it suffers from a lacklustre and cliched script and a major confusion as to where to go halfway through the film.
The real star of this film isn’t Salma Hayek, as Kahlo. It’s not Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera, even though at times it seems as if Frida is merely co-starring in a biopic of his life. Which reminds me, how many people would have gone to see a film about notorious Mexican communist revolutionary artist Diego Rivera, simply called Diego? :) Imagine it, huge billboards above buildings, with a coy picture of chubby Alfred Molina pouting seductively into the camera, with one word writ large against the sky: “DIEGO!” Every man and his dog would be beating down the doors of the cinema, surely.
No, this film’s star is certainly Julie Taymor, powerhouse director of this film, and Titus before it, being a bloodthirsty contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Her directorial vision and attention to set design and art direction are what make the film memorable or even noticeable. Other than that she must have decided that the constant pointless cameos from “big” Hollywood stars and the perfunctory script were obstacles that could be surmounted with enough creativity. And she’s almost right, in that this is almost an okay film.
But not quite, which is a shame. Although I generally consider her to be a terrible actress, Salma Hayek does a reasonable job in the lead role. Of course she doesn’t really look anything like Frida Kahlo, but that’s by the by. She gives it her all, which really isn’t that much, and she gets by okay. The problem isn’t how she plays the role, but what the film gives her to do. The story lurches along from historical signpost to “Key Moment” with little regard for narrative flow or exegesis as to what made her tick as an artist.
dir: Niki Caro
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.
You have to like a film where an old dog learns new tricks. Too often are we saddled with naïve, self-serving stories about old people whose wisdom and experience exist as a beacon, a lighthouse sanctuary for the young above the treacherous shoals of modern life. From that vantage point they can dish out little slices of pious non sequiturs to the thirsty ears of stupid young people and make audiences go “Awww” as if Forrest Gump’s in the house again. Personally I think it’s bullshit. I’ve known plenty of old people, and for each one that has experienced and tasted life, and actually is wise and able to transfer that wisdom to others, you have hundreds of the aged whose most profound thought is figuring out when to get their colostomy bag emptied. Anyone that’s worked in a hospital or in an old folk’s home knows exactly what I’m talking about.
But the old dog in this film, Koro (played superbly by Rawiri Paratene) is a genuinely wise and venerable elder. That wisdom and experience doesn’t prevent him from acting the stubborn old fool, however, until it’s almost too late to come back. Though gruff and sometimes nasty, at least for myself he never stopped being a sympathetic character. The reason is that his actions are motivated from a sense of the profound importance of his people’s heritage, the all-encompassing nature of the legends of his people, and the dissolution of that validity through two factors: a) the abandonment of the old ways in modern life and b), the lack of an heir to the heritage of their creator, Paikea, from whom the tribal leaders (mythically) descend from. And from whom our main characters descend as well.
dir: Steven Spielberg
Even with access to my hefty imagination I didn't think this would work. See, Spielbergo gypped me last year with AI, and it left me thinking that the man had traveled so far up his own anus that getting an intelligent and enjoyable film out of him was an exercise in wishful thinking.
Sometimes I am happy to be proved wrong. This film more than makes up for the lacklustre, uninspired kiddies' film AI. Even though he appears to be working in the same genre, this film, based on a Philip K Dick short story of the same name, towers over pretty much all of the recent sci-fi films that you've bothered to shell out your hard earned money for. Attack of the Clones looks like the work of a very technically minded retard in comparison.
dir: Yoji Yamada
The Twilight Samurai is a deceptively simple, measured Japanese film about a low-ranked samurai with no ambitions in life apart from looking after his children and senile mother in peace and quiet. If every character aspiring to a life of peace and quiet ever got their wish from the start, these flicks would never get made.
Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyada Sanada) is the derisively-named Twilight Samurai, so named by his workmates because when dusk comes around and their daily labours end, instead of boozing and whoring it up with his colleagues, he scurries home in the increasing dark to see his daughters and mother. Seems like a strange thing to insult a guy over.
Seibei’s wife has recently died of consumption, which used to be the pretty way of saying tuberculosis. As such, he is flat out working and taking care of his remaining family, and doesn’t have the money or time to look after himself or fix up his clothes. In that light, he is unwashed and unkempt, and his kimonos are dirty and torn.
He is loyal to his clan, but plays no part in their interactions and machinations with / against the local Lord. He is of the lowest ranks of samurai, as measured by his miniscule stipend of 50 koku. I don’t know what a koku is. But it doesn’t sound like much.
The story is set in the late 1800s, before the old ways and structures were swept away by the new order. A people in decline who don’t even know it continue doing what they do every day until they no longer can.
Around Seibei’s clan there is stuff going on, but he isn’t privy to it and isn’t likely to play any part. He lives his life in as noble and quiet a way as possible. But, like all protagonists, he gets dragged into situations he has no control over.
A childhood friend, Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), returns to her samurai brother’s home, and tries to rekindle her ‘friendship’ with Seibei by doing his laundry and helping out with his kids and mother. Nothing says love like cleaning and cooking, apparently, at least in feudal – Meiji era Japan. Personally I think nothing says love like someone giving you very enthusiastic head, but what do I know.
dir: Jonathan Demme
Whilst cinemas around the world have been awash in the stench of remakes for as long as I can remember, it appears that recent years have been even more prone to the epidemic than ever. Almost as bad as the pernicious outbreak of sequelitis that afflicts contemporary moviemaking, not just Hollywood, is the self-pleasuring / self-consuming process of remaking decent films into crap contemporary movies. I’m not sure that’s the actual business model used, but it seems eerily accurate in terms of results.
The producers of the DVD for this here waste of polycarbonate and chrome make a fatal error in the packaging of the release, at least the Region 4 version that I got to see. The two disk set contains, as well, in the spirit of giving you more bang for your buck, the original film that The Truth About Charlie is based on; Charade. In doing so they make the film they’re actually trying to sell look even worse. The Truth About Charlie is a bad film in its own right. In comparison to Charade, which they helpfully provide as the ideal comparison point, it is downright dire. In truth the film stinks in comparison to just about anything.
dir: Neil Jordan
Doing a remake of a classic by one of the renowned masters of the cinematic art form takes a lot of balls, or ovaries, as the case may be. Jean Pierre Melville is that master, and Bob le Flambeur is that classic. Of course from a commercial point of view few potential audience members are going to care, but the wizened ye olde film reviewers will stroke their beards and tut tut loudly if it doesn’t sufficiently honour or even surpass the original (which let’s face it never happens). I’m not one of those beard stroking pipe smoking crones, but it makes me sit up and take notice when someone has the gall to embark on this type of endeavour.
Audiences don’t care on the most part. Although if, as often gets bandied about like the Sword of Damocles, they decide to do an official remake of Casablanca starring some guy from a boy band as Rick and co-starring someone whose last name is Hilton as Elsa, you’re going to have ugly, angry mob riots on your hands. Theatres being burnt to the ground. Celebrities being hunted in the streets. Colourful language.
dir: Peter Sollett
Raising Victor Vargas is an oddity and an anachronism in this day and age: it is a sweet, enjoyable film about teenagers which looks at the daily concerns of their urban lives as well as but not confined to looking at the complications that arise due to their burgeoning sexuality. But it does it without descending into idiocy, and remains honest and ‘truthful’ throughout.
Uh oh. Red flags go up immediately. No, this is neither the kind of film Larry Clark (of Kids, Bully and Ken Park fame) makes to masturbate over, nor is it the banal Porky’s wannabe that the American Pie trio of movies aspired to be (when they didn’t devolve into mawkish sentimentality). It’s a naturalistic (as ‘naturalistic’ as any film can be, without being a documentary) look at some people’s lives on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The people the story focuses on are naturally welfare/working class Hispanic Americans, living in government housing.
dir: Ron Shelton
This film succeeds where Training Day dismally failed. Which is good, because it means that in peddling the same script twice David Ayer gets to double dip and earn twice the money that he deserves. But all the same, second time lucky, eh? This time they got it right. Or at least they got it more right than in the terribly overrated Denzel vehicle.
dir: Tim Story
With the recent release of its sequel I thought it was about time I caught up with a film I’d heard was pretty funny back in the dim distant reaches of the heady days of 2002. See, there aren’t many funny films out there, at least films I find funny. Sure there are stacks of comedies pumped out by the studios, but even the thought of most of them makes me want to tear my eyeballs out of their sockets using salad forks.
I was a fool to think Barbershop would be an outright comedy. It’s a treacly tv movie with something to say about tradition and community. I know this because every time any character started talking about the good ol’ days of Calvin’s barber shop and the importance of community, this drippy, cloying piano music would start up in the background. It’s very handy if you didn’t know how to feel about the scene. It’s a very convenient shortcut for those of us that couldn’t work out what our reaction was supposed to be. Thanks to the quality direction, we no longer have that worry.
The story, such as it is, covers a day in the life of some people orbiting around the central focal point that is Calvin’s Barbershop, on the south side of Chicago. Calvin, played by legendary rapper Ice Cube resents the shop that his daddy left to him and sees it as a burden. He continually searches for get rich quick schemes in order to be able to kiss the shop goodbye. Over the course of the day he will be taught to appreciate how great the shop is and the general wonderfulness of community. He will realise this at various points as he stares into the middle distance (with the drippy piano music playing in the background) whilst wiser people than he tell him how great the shop is and the general wonderfulness of community. Like we had any doubts.
dir: Louis Leterrier
Again, I got suckered in by a goddamn tv commercial. I don't know how the marketing people keep doing it to me, but when it comes to sub-standard martial arts / gun-fu orientated films, they know just what to put in to get me interested, and there on opening day. I'm ashamed of myself.
This is a dumb film. Dumb as a box full of hammers. Dumber than a locker room full of football players. But is it big dumb fun?
The other thing that burns me about being suckered in by the trailer was the fact that there are scenes in the trailer that have been edited out of the film. And that there are obvious overdubs and cuts presumably to lower the MPAA rating as well, which is funny, though they never stooped so low as to do the "melonfarmer" substitute that I adore so much.
When the film works (which is for 30 minutes of its overall length), it's on fire. The fight scenes and various action scenes are well choreographed and Jason Statham looks suitably professionally hard when he is belting three shades of fuck out of the various bad guys. I need me some of the chewable steroids they've been feeding this guy, because he looks like a lean, corded, vicious machine. He also seems pretty good in the action sequences in terms of looking believable as a fighter.
I was almost going to say that this film represents a departure for Jason Statham in that he doesn't really get or need to display any acting chops in this dumb film, but then I remembered that his last four films have been dunderheaded action vehicles. He is obviously hoping to become a bit of an action icon, which
is all right by me. We need a new generation of steroid heads to replace aging icons like the odious Van Damme and the Austrian lunkhead Arnold. If Jason Statham be the man, then I don't mind, because he is a decent actor as it is, and would be able to carry the dramatic elements of a role as long as they weren't
written by a crack addicted monkey. Which in this case they apparently were.
dir: George Lucas
See, I had misgivings when I heard the title last year. Scratch that, I had misgivings when I heard Lucas was going to direct prequels to his smash hit merchandising empire in the first place. You'd think the man could just stay home and throw some money around with the kids, set fire to massive Cuban cigars with $5000 bills, race homeless people on a deadly indoor obstacle course, purchase small third world countries where for his amusement he can watch or physically take part as people's arses are branded with the Lucasfilm logo, or make them build pyramids in his honour. In that case, surely it is Georgie Porgie's love of creating quality films to be remembered throughout the ages that keeps him coming back to the trough for more. Surely.
I've had the opportunity to watch the film twice over the last couple of weeks, and I have to say that the second viewing was significantly less enjoyable than the first. Such a detail certainly indicates to me at least that the film's quality is no where near as high as several relieved reviewers would have you believe.
If I'd written the review after the first viewing, I possibly might have had more positive things to say. As it is, the film's flaws were magnified with a subsequent viewing, for which the rest of you who loved it are now going to have to suffer.
In a way, I feel that many members of the audience for this film have, through a feeling of sheer relief, enjoyed this film far more than they had any right to. In a way, because they were desperately hoping that it was "better" that Phantom Menace they have heaped praise on this debacle because it superficially lacks
the structural and conceptual problems that many believe afflicted Ep I. Of course I don't expect anyone who loved the film to agree with me :)
Ultimately, a lack of Jar Jar a better film does not make. I shall say right now that in my opinion though on some scores the film is "better", it is in fact not that superior to Phantom Menace, not by a long shot, though it is possibly more enjoyable due to the greater number of action sequences.
dir: Peter Jackson
There's no disputing that this is a technically competent film. What is debatable is whether it stands as a decent film on its own, which is the litmus test for any and every film.
Why? Well, I just didn't enjoy the film that much. Admittedly I was wretchedly hungover at the time, but I've enjoyed plenty of other films in a similar if not worse state.
Maybe my expectations were too high. My expectations were high for the first one as well, but they were satisfied tenfold that time. This time, well, I wondered a bit why I should care, a feeling I certainly did not get from the book this is based on.
By any objective measure I can think of the film does not stand on its own. Viewers who haven't seen the first one and have never read the books wouldn't have a fucking clue what's going on. That's not necessarily a fatal flaw, in that we want filmmakers who ask their audiences to put a bit more work into their viewing experience and not have to spoonfeed the dullards. But in general I like to believe that even individual parts of a trilogy should be complete stories in and of themselves. This film goes on for three hours and then kind of just ends, leaving me in the audience thinking "And? So?"
The film is split into A, B and C stories. The same stories occur in books 3 and 4, but they do not happen simultaneously. I can't begrudge Jackson deciding to do it this way; it's his show. But the transitions between storylines felt pretty clumsy to me, and were somewhat annoying.
dir: Sam Mendes
I have been waiting a long time to watch this film, and it has to be said that I was not disappointed, but it was not the film I expected it to be.
It's a beautiful film, to be sure to be, to be sure, but I can't help but feel that the film kind of collapses under the weight of its own self-importance. Every scene is immaculately constructed, scored and acted, and it all has this pervading gravitas which is supposed to be reminding us constantly of how serious it all is, but it did make me wonder: does a story this simple justify such an extravaganza?
For it is an utterly simple story: good man gets done wrong, good man vows revenge and takes on the mob, good man kills pretty much anyone that ever pissed him off. This has been a staple for so long that you know everything that will come to pass before the opening credits have finished rolling.
Regardless of the fact that its based on a graphic novel, which in turn is ripped off from a Japanese serial called Wolf and Cub, about a noble but nasty ronin samurai who travels with his son, I can name at least a bunch of other media that have used this same story. Hell, excluding the kid factor even Max Payne, the
hyperviolent PC computer game has essentially the same plot. Wait, even Renegade on TV, the cheesy Stephen J Cannell show about the Outlaw hunting Outlaws has the initial story. A book I read recently, Spares, by Michael Marshall Smith had the same plot. Now that I think of it, every second action film has this
plot. Hell, didn't Gladiator have the same essential story?
dir: Spike Jonze
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.
Don't you just hate that, when you've written someone off and then they come back with an incredible performance? There is something to be said for actors who can get back to playing an actual character in a film as opposed to playing minor variations on the same fucker they play in every film. In that case I shall be waiting with malice aforethought for Kevin Spacey, Samuel L Jackson, De Niro and Pacino to do something
new. I think you know what I mean. Cage is so good that I can almost forgive him for Windtalkers and Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Actually, I can't. The film version of Captain Corelli's Mandolin still makes
me so angry that I want to find director John Madden on the street one day and then proceed to beat him senseless with a copy of Louis De Bernieres' original book, which I know he never bothered to read.
dir: Lee Tamahori
There. That feeling you had in your chest. Hadn't you noticed it before? Did you think it was just that you're getting really unfit and unhealthy? Or that maybe you had tuberculosis? No, that wasn't it.
That's it. Breath out. See, what happened was, you were waiting with bated breath for my next movie review.
And what will it be: a review of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, where I kept getting funny looks from the parents who'd brought their kids along, who were wondering what a 30 year old man was doing watching a kiddies film sans kiddies? Will it be a review from an advanced screening of The Two Towers, where 700 nerds were on the verge of premature ejaculation for nearly 3 hours?
No, it's a review of the 20th sequel to a very, very tired franchise which like its title suggests, will not die any time soon.
It doesn't take a genius or an audience member from the Jerry Springer show to grasp the attraction behind the Bond phenomena: International jet setting British superspy gets to save the world on a regular basis, kills people that piss him off, fucks every woman that crosses his path within minutes of meeting them,
plays with the most supercool gadgets, and gets to cheat death every ten minutes always with an awful pun at his disposal to mark the occasion. Best of all he doesn't have to ever see again eiither of the two obligatory woman he shags per film, as one of them generally turns evil necessitating the added bonus of
getting to kill one of them. Talk about a fear of commitment.
dir: Roger Avary
I don't have an agenda in reviewing it favourably, and I am not that egotistical as to believe that my reviews affect people's viewing decisions. I can resolutely state that I probably got more enjoyment out of it than most people would, and probably forgive its amateurish errors more readily than I should.
dir: Michael Winterbottom
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.
Wilson himself: erudite, arrogant, Cambridge educated, slumming intellectual resorting to being a television reporter, the scenesters's scenester, hedonistic and passionate, and a consummate liar. My biggest laugh and a moment that summarises Wilson completely is when his wife catches him on the receiving end of a
professional blowjob and he says empathically "Lindsay, it's not what it looks like!" Now THAT is a bullshit
artist par excellence.
dir: Philip Noyce
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.
The film focuses on the mid-fifties, a time when the communist North under the divine leadership of Ho Chi Minh and Jane Fonda is trying to kick the French out of Vietnam, which everyone else keeps calling Indochina, even though it's obviously neither Indian or Chinese. The US government, at this stage, as an extension of the post-WWII Marshall Plan and the idea of 'containing' communism, is very concerned with the goings-on in Vietnam, and seeks to help out the wonderful people of that fair country with 'aid' and medical services helpfully provided by the compassionate guys and gals from the CIA.
Now that set up is pretty much based on most versions of what happened. Graham Greene, the author of the book this film is based on wrote the story in the 50's, so he didn't know just how much more dire the situation was going to get, especially for the Vietnamese but for the United States as well. Obviously, as in other books of his he was critical of US foreign policy. On the eve of another war in a seemingly
insignificant little country, I personally can't imagine why.
dir: Danny Boyle
An amazing film, on a number of levels. The most amazing fact is undeniably the redemption of Danny Boyle and his crew. It’s a touching tale of intellectual rags to riches to rags and then hopefully back to riches. It’s also the kind of story all too common with young ‘cool’ film makers who compete with each other to find new ways of fucking up as their careers progress from the ènfant terrible stage to the illustrious ‘sellout’ stage. Starting off with the low key Shallow Grave, he and his people established themselves as being capable of producing a decent, nasty film with believable characters acting believably nasty towards each other as situations moved from bad to worse.
With Trainspotting these bastards upped the ante substantially, making a film as compelling and, dare I say it, fun as it was repellent. With a soundtrack that became a mainstay on the radio station I listened to and on the stereo at every party, bar and club that I frequented at the time, it was a fiendishly inventive urban nightmare, speaking to the uglier corners of our natures and the natures of people we don’t want to bump into on a Saturday night: it has been continually imitated but seldom matched by a multitude of pretenders in the years that have followed.
Riding on this success Boyle and Co. decided that the word ‘crap’ needed to be redefined. Thus they made A Life Less Ordinary.