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2003

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

dir: Peter Weir
[img_assist|nid=1023|title=When I'm not abusing people or getting into fights with service industry types, I take time out of my busy day to act|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
It is no wonder that the film hasn't set the box office alight. It's not a conventional film, with a conventional story and a 5 part structure. There's no love interest, revenge motivation, excessive one-liners, hyperkinetic coke binges in the editing sweet and no saccharine Hollywood ending. There is also little for people who are not anal retentive history buffs or at least fans of movies set in the Age of Sail (being the Napoleonic Wars between France and England et al) to be kept entertained by ultimately in this film.

It is satisfying for me, but then I'm one of the few reviewers that has actually read every one of the 20 Aubrey - Maturin novels written by Patrick O' Brian. And even then the film is satisfying more on an intellectual level than on the visceral / emotional level. Which is a damn shame.

Rating:

Matrix: Reloaded

dir: The Wachowski Brothers
[img_assist|nid=1019|title=When millions of Hugo Weavings are barely enough|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=670]
It's all about the sunglasses...
Even after watching the film twice, I am left perplexed and utterly confused. Not at anything actually in the film. No, what has managed to confuse me tremendously (to be honest, it's not hard to do that, microwave ovens still confound me) is the sheer abundance of people who are vehemently hating this film. In public and in private, in the sanctity of their own bedrooms and on street corners.

See, I've got not the slightest issue with anyone not liking the film and saying that it's a monumental bore. I've seen identical twins hold two diametrically opposed views on the same piece of music, and I often diverge strenuously in opinion with my closest friends regarding certain films. So I don't really get on a high horse about these kinds of things.

What I can understand is the people who hated the first film hating this one too. What I don't get is those who liked the first one hating Reloaded. I flat out don't get it. After all, it's even more like the first one than the first one is!

Rating:

Matrix: Revolutions

dir: The Wachowski Brothers
[img_assist|nid=1022|title=Maybe one more punch will do the trick|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=306]
Wow. I mean, honestly, wow. This is a perfect picture. Actually, it's a picture perfect example of how even when people have a guaranteed hit on their hands, all the money in the world, complete creative control and the freedom to do whatever they want, people, in this being case the Wachowski Brothers, can still find a way to fuck things up seven ways from Sunday. And not in that
good way that your girlfriends like so much.

Rating:

Fog of War, The

dir: Errol Morris
[img_assist|nid=1011|title=Get off my lawn or I'll carpet bomb your village|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=336]
When you look upon the face of a man in his 80s, you tell yourself
that you can almost read his life in the lines and contours thereon.
At least that's the illusion I had watching this award-winning
documentary by Errol Morris about Robert McNamara. He's hardly a
household name around the world, but more than a few people should
remember the man who was the Secretary of Defense in the States during
one of the most turbulent times in the country's history. Although one
could argue the times were no less turbulent then than they are now.

One could almost say from watching this film that McNamara suffers
from a tremendous amount of guilt for his actions as the Secretary of
Defense. Surely he doesn't have deep regrets from his time as the head
of Ford, or his time as one of the highest paid executives in the
world. This fascinating glimpse into history almost seems to be an
extension of McNamara's search for redemption. In fact the method in
which he is filmed deliberately gives proceedings the appearance and
feel of a confessional.

Rating:

Ned Kelly

dir: Gregor Jordan
[img_assist|nid=1026|title=So now they've created a giant golem version of Ned Kelly to get revenge for the Irish|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=600]
Australia has a long and varied history of making movies its own citizens hate. Most countries obviously have their own film industries, none which match the economies of scale available to US production, or the rapid fire super cheap production levels of countries like India or Hong Kong. Australia makes comparatively less films than most industrialised countries, but is at least to my mind unique in that the main hurdle its films have to first traverse and generally stumble over is the idea of ‘cultural cringe’ and the antipathy of the local audience. Antipathy means more than just not giving a fat rat’s arsehole: it’s active dislike.

There’s a better and more expansive explanation out there for everything that cultural cringe entails. Essentially, it refers to the concept that representations of Australia and Australians are uniquely unpalatable to domestic audiences, and generally found to be embarrassing or, more obviously, cringeworthy. Some say it has to do with the explicit anti-intellectualism of mainstream Australian society, others point to the perception that, apart from being generally badly made, the way Australians are portrayed in our own films is hokey, parochial and distorted, rendering characters into nothing more than risible caricatures.

Rating:

Monster

dir: Patty Jenkins
[img_assist|nid=1025|title=She read a bad review|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=397]
This isn’t a story about the redemptive power of love. It isn’t a story where everything will work out all right in the end. It is, in essence, a sad love story all the same.

It would seem to contradict the advertising and many of the reviews already written about the film. Its two main selling points were the fact that Charlize Theron won the Academy award for Best Actress for 2003 in the role, oh, and she happens to play a serial killer. And seeing as it is based on the life and times of Aileen Wuornos, convicted and recently executed killer, you’d think the focus would be more on the killings than any other elements. At its heart, however, it’s about a horribly damaged woman and her desperate attempts at finding some happiness in a world that had guaranteed her thus far a life of ceaseless misery.

Rating:

Oldboy

dir: Chan-wook Park
[img_assist|nid=1024|title=Crazy man and a hammer. Winning combination|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=286]
What a wonderfully keen film this is that no-one will get to see. I mean honestly: who goes to see Korean films at the cinema? They’re hardly hot ticket items.

You don’t see people selling their own or someone else’s organs or offering oral favours for the honour of getting to see a Korean film, good or otherwise. Maven of the multiplexes that I am, doyen of the drive-in, still I can honestly count the amount of Korean films that I’ve seen on one hand.

People generally say that and it’s hyperbole, but I actually mean that I’ve only ever seen five Korean films in my life: Bichunmoo (which was fairly mediocre), Musa the Warrior, (which was beyond mediocre), Volcano High (which I love, despite its abject madness), The Isle (which has one of the nastiest scenes I’ve ever seen in any film or in real life) and Oldboy. Without a doubt Oldboy is the absolute greatest movie I’ve ever seen. From Korea, that is.

I don’t know enough about Korean culture to understand their cinema, which is to say that the way I generally get to ‘know’ about a culture is from their cinema, and if I haven’t seen enough of a culture’s films then I tend to know fuck-all about their people.

Rating:

Bukowski: Born into This

dir: John Dullaghan
[img_assist|nid=1018|title=What a beautiful man, eh? On the inside?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=236|height=341]
The likelihood of you seeing this film and enjoying it depends on whether a) you’ve heard of Charles Bukowski, b) you’ve read and liked the writing perpetrated by Bukowski, and c) you’re happy to watch a two hour documentary about a very damaged, eloquent bastard in a cinema.

You have to weigh this up against likely alternatives, such as instead of watching Bukowski: Born Into This, you could be watching a reality television program where one of the participants is called Hotdogs. How do you live with yourself?

On each of the three points, I am sold, so along I went to watch a flick about this deeply ugly man. Heroically ugly. Child-traumatisingly ugly. Anyone who has read the man’s work and did not know what he looked like might be both surprised and reassured. He looks pretty much exactly as he should. The real ugliness is on the inside though, and that is represented as well, because it cannot help but pour forth.

As a career alcoholic he clearly developed a way of speaking so that, whether drunk, really drunk, fall over drunk or sober, he always sounded the same. Speaking either conversationally or reading his poetry, you can never tell whether he’s drunk or sober. Just to clarify matters a tiny bit more, I doubt at any stage of the two hours that we ever see him completely sober.

Rating:

Ong Bak

dir: Prachya Pinkaew
[img_assist|nid=1021|title=Can't act. Can fight.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=259]
The main point that’s supposed to be in Ong Bak’s favour is that it’s a brawling action film which rejects the use of CGI and the wire-work that has become (apparently) sickening in its ubiquity. In other words, the fights are supposed to be more grounded and realistic; none of this airy-fairy floating on bamboo crap for our beef jerky munching friends.

When you think about it, on its own it isn’t really that much of a selling point. Are there lots of people hearing about or seeing the ads to flicks that are coming out, who see the edited highlights of people perched atop a mountain top or balancing on top of a lake having-at one another with swords, icicles and passing school buses, see the films and then say ‘Wait one gosh-darned moment: this prancing Asian malarkey ain’t my cup of Bonox?’

Surely if there’s a bunch of people that hate that style of genre filmmaking there’s also at least two other groups of people: a) the ones that are the market for these fantastical delights who are grateful and appreciative and b) people who don’t really go in for these kinds of films, and choose as consumers to exercise their George W Bush-given right to NOT purchase a ticket. It’s basic economics, by my reckoning. Niche marketing, even.

Rating:

Bad Santa

dir: Terry Zwigoff
[img_assist|nid=1020|title=Do not let your child sit in this man's lap|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=290]
Take up all your misanthropy, your contempt and loathing for the world in general and people specifically, roll it up into a ball and squeeze it till it is diamond hard, and then release it upon the cinema screen in an explosion of orgiastic catharsis. You're still not going to be responsible for an expulsion this ugly, no matter how hard you try.

Willie, as played by Billy Bob Thornton, is possibly one of the vilest creatures ever put to screen. When I think of the most loathsome characters to ever grace a cinema or television screen, he is definitely up there, arm in arm with the Bad Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel), Frank from Blue Velvet (Dennis Hopper), Archibald Cunningham from Rob Roy (Tim Roth) and the right hand of Evil itself, Maria (Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music. In the hierarchy of evil, he is
one of the darkest fiends. We're talking a Republican level of vileness. We're talking about a level of vileness that makes your mother cry herself to sleep each night over after praying for hours that it not consume you too.

Rating:

Last Samurai, The

dir: Ed Zwick
[img_assist|nid=1009|title=Not. Fucking. Likely.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=566]
Well, well, well, a film with Tom Cruise in it is a joy to review, surely. The review practically writes itself: "Flashes teeth a few dozen times, flicks his hair around, acts all good an' noble, show's over, nothing to see here".

Well, not quite. You see, in this film, Tom Cruise has a beard.

That's got to be a whole other level of acting right there. I can't remember another film where he's sported a real beard (which is why Born on the Forth of July doesn't count, that beard was as fake as a
pornstar's breasts). You can see his commitment to such a role by his decision to grow some facial hair. In fact, this film is a delight for people interested in facial hair. Of course it's not about facial hair explicitly, but, you know, subtext and all that.

Rating:

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

dir: Takeshi Kitano
[img_assist|nid=1017|title=Oh Takeshi, is there nothing you can't do|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=299|height=406]
Do you remember the 80s? More importantly, before you get all
nostalgic tripping down memory lane remembering ra-ra skirts and dumb
haircuts that seem to be making a comeback, do you recall that classic
of the cinema called Blind Fury? It starred one of the undisputed
kings of the 80s; the multi-talented, extraordinary auteur Rutger
Hauer. He brilliantly played the part of a blind guy who could fuck
shit up old school with a sword. No-one could stand against him, but
then he would still confuse alligators with dogs due to his being
differently visually-abled. Blinded in 'Nam, if I'm not mistaken,
fighting for Truth, Justice and the Iraqi Way.

He didn't let his blindness mess up his life. He still got to be a
bad-ass, make stupid jokes and get laid. In fact he gets to lead a
better life than most of us schmucks. It's enough to make you want to
blind yourself in a rage just so that you too can sample the sublime
delights of what being blind must truly be like.

Rating:

Hulk

dir: Ang Lee
[img_assist|nid=1016|title=Someone needs a nice moisturiser. And maybe some conditioner. That must be why hes so angry all the time|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=324]
Ang Lee's Hulk is an incredible achievement, but not so incredible
when you consider the films the man keeps making. Upon first hearing
that Ang was making a comic-book adaptation I thought, "Great, they're
trying to turn Lee into a John Woo. Soon he'll be making Mission:
Impossible
films alongside Tom Cruise's healthy ego". I need not have
worried. Here he has made the film least likely: it's dramatically
compelling, it's incredibly well put together, it looks incredible
(which is kind of crucial for the film medium, I believe), and it
achieves a level of depth that is nothing short of amazing in a film
you were expecting to be nothing but action.

Essential to the story is the emphasis on various parent - child
dynamics, but central even more so than that is the idea that parents
can sometimes severely damage their own children unintentionally. Thus
the story focuses on two people whose fathers have left indelible
scars upon their psyches, and in one case the damage goes even deeper
than that.

Rating:

Coffee and Cigarettes

dir: Jim Jarmusch
[img_assist|nid=1013|title=Go on, Tom and Iggy, drink yer coffee and smoke yer smokes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=325]
The amazing, contradictory nature of art is that much of the time it
is simultaneously crucial and pointless. Even at its best art is
ultimately superfluous. Blasphemy, you think. Hypocrisy, as well,
especially from someone who styles themselves an artist (by way of
being a writer). But hear me out: no-one having a heart attack ever
had their life saved by having the Mona Lisa applied to their chest
instead of those electrical things that they use yelling 'Clear!'
before they do so. I know they're called defibrillators, but I didn't
want to show off. No drowning child was ever pulled out of the water
using the Sistine Chapel. You can't put a fire out with Picasso's
Guernica. And no girlfriend ever chose not to leave you because you
had a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude in
your hand. Trust me it doesn't work. They just keep walking.

Rating:

House of 1000 Corpses

dir: Rob Zombie
[img_assist|nid=1015|title=It stinks it stinks it stinks it stinks it stinks|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
There was 1 retroactive laugh that I got out of this movie. At
its beginning, the onscreen credits read 'Written and Directed
by Rob Zombie'. That anyone claims credit for pretending to
write and direct this film is staggering, absolutely staggering.

Look, I knew going in that it wasn't going to be masterpiece
theatre. I mean it's called House of 1000 Corpses, for Christ's
sake. But people joke about how when something cinematic is so
crap that it's Z grade. This is one of the first pure examples
I think I've ever come across.

This is a work of such unremitting stupidity that I find it
amazing that it ever got released. What confuses me the most
is why they would release it in cinemas now in Australia. Not only that,
but they had 'special preview screenings', of which I was 'lucky'
enough to score a free ticket to. Although now I consider it
having been less of a prize and more of a punishment for some
sins best left forgotten.

Rating:

Underworld

dir: Len Wiseman
[img_assist|nid=1012|title=Sure she looks cool all in leather holding two guns. Even I would look cool all in leather holding two guns. And I ain't cool.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=308|height=450]
Read here, my people, read and weep...

It is certainly not worth the wait. Released here in Ostraya about four months after its Stateside release, instead of maturing in the interim like wine it has festered like a dead possum in some particularly inaccessible part of your roof. And whilst it's not so bad that it made me want to punch other patrons for being as dumb as myself for buying a ticket, it didn't leave me with a feeling of deep joy in my underpants.

Speaking of which Kate Beckinsale is certainly cute, and isn't too a bad actress, and despite the other critiques that I've read she isn't the problem with this film. She sells most of the scenes where she's
supposed to look nasty (in a hot way) and when she's emoting and stuff. Of course she mostly looks ridiculous in the action scenes, having absolutely no range of mobility in those tight fetish outfits. When she's running in so-called 'action' scenes she's looks about as convincing a mover as Stephen Hawking with none of the acrobatics that he possesses in comparison. But she's okay.

Rating:

Mystic River

dir: Clint Eastwood
[img_assist|nid=1014|title=Two guys, hanging out, contemplating murder|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=310]
Such a film growing up in the shadow of Mystic Pizza necessarily must
have a hard furrow to plow.

Even in paying for my ticket at the cinema I inadvertently asked for a
ticket to Mystic Pizza. It's a film and a title hard to eradicate from
one's mind. Who can forget the horse toothed caterpillar eye-browed
Julia Roberts playing the town slut? Lili Taylor playing the same
character she's played in practically every film she's ever been in?
Vincent D'Onofrio not playing a psychopath for once? There's a lot to
recommend it. You could only hope and pray that Mystic River, clearly
trying to capitalise on its successful forbearer with the similarity
of its title, can match its artistic and commercial success.

Yeah, okay, there is no connection between the two films. Old Clint
would probably have drawn either a Colt Peacemaker or a Magnum and
shot the television if he was caught watching something as girly as
Mystic Pizza. Instead he's made a film that somewhat parallels his
earlier masterpiece Unforgiven and exists as this year's In the
Bedroom.

Rating:

Irreversible

dir: Gaspar Noe
[img_assist|nid=1005|title=Please don't walk through there, please go back.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=268]
The film's tagline, one of the first lines of dialogue and the film's final epigram is 'Le temps détruit tout', or 'time destroys everything'. Well, even after watching the film in its entirety, I don't agree. In enduring this film, I think there is greater accuracy in saying that it is not 'everything' that gets destroyed, it is we the audience. And it is not 'time' per se that does the damage, it's this film and its sadistic director, Gaspar Noe.

Rating:

Lost in Translation

dir: Sofia Coppolla
[img_assist|nid=1000|title=And yet I don't believe for a second that Bill and Scarlett even vaguely liked each other. Bill and Sofia, on the other hand...|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Considering how little press this film has received and the manner in which it has been criminally ignored, by critics, by audiences, by homeless people, I thought I'd do the greater community a service by bringing this film to the attention of the billions of people out there hunched over and trembling in the cold, shadowy vale of ignorance.

Yeah, right.

Rivalling only Mystic River in terms of overblown ejaculatory press over the last year, Lost in Translation has amazed many people by having achieved such incredible notoriety for what is essentially a low key, small scale film. I mean, it's a lovely little film, but the frenzy surrounding it leaves me utterly perplexed.

Rating:

Elephant

dir: Gus Van Sant
[img_assist|nid=1008|title=This world was never meant for one as awful as you|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=240]
Some people walk around. The camera follows them as they slowly amble about. They meet people, or they walk past other people who are doing stuff or doing nothing. If they get to a destination, they do something inherently banal there, and the camera captures every scintillating second of it. Every now and then, there is a time lapse shot of a sky slowly darkening, or an approaching storm.

More shots of people walking around. Banal conversations. All of this action is centered around a school. We are given people's names as the camera follows them about. Each person seems to be given a 'story',
but nothing they say or do expands our knowledge of either what's going on or what's going to happen. They're not characters, or caricatures. They're just people. Doing not much of anything. After a while, you get to see the same situations repeated from other people's point of view.

In such a context, you could say that Gus Van Sant has made a meditative film, in the sense that we are given a lot of time to think about what's going on. Nothing is really rushed, and except for the crucial element of what the central 'event' is, you eventually give up waiting for something to happen, and just wonder how much more the film can ramble.

Rating:

Bulletproof Monk

dir: Paul Hunter
[img_assist|nid=1007|title=Chow may be a god, but even he cannot save this heap of shit. Even when glowing blue.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=399|height=318]
People have different definitions of what a B movie is. People have different definitions of what a decent Friday night is as well, but that's another story. I've always known what a B movie is, but I had difficulty articulating it clearly. The IMDB defines the B Movie thusly:

"a low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theatre owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theatres while still able to draw revenue"

But the phrase 'B movie' has altogether different connotations for me as well. B movies can be cool, there's the odd B movie cult classic out there, but generally I like to think of generic B movies as being, as we used to say at the orphanage in between coughing up blood from consumption and fighting over rat meat, "shitehouse". As most films are mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst, you have to wonder how it's possible to have an entire other stratum of film which is worse than the vast majority of product that's out there simply by budget and definition.

Rating:

X-Men 2: X-Men United

dir: Bryan Singer
[img_assist|nid=1010|title=How is this supposed to help with my crippling back pain?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=270|height=270]
Nerds. Does God love them? Or hate them? Are they the saviours of this world, or are they a plague upon the rest of humanity? Are they the result of unpopular childhoods, or a genetic mutation unto themselves, blessed with incredible memories for the most trivial of data and a pathological ability to hyperfocus on the most worrying of details?

At the very least, nerds and geeks in their pupal stage (where they are invisible and mostly benign) or adult stage (where they can be lethal: look at Micro$oft Overlord Darth Bill Gates, David Letterman and Henry Rollins) are friends to capitalism. Their pool of disposable income is vast and desirable, vast because we are talking about people that will spend their last hundred bucks on a DVD boxset of The Prisoner or a Boba Fett lunch box signed by Jeremy Bulloch instead of paying the rent. They have what is known in cognitive psychology circles as "low impulse control" and a yen for collecting. They want this geeky thing, they must have this geeky thing; no amount of arguing or sex can dissuade them.

Rating:

Capturing the Friedmans

dir: Andrew Jarecki
[img_assist|nid=999|title=Playing happy families|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=544]
And I thought I came from a fucked up family…

What is true in life is rarely shown with such clarity in films: sometimes in the pursuit of ‘truth’, the more information we are given, the more sides we try to understand regarding a conflict, the more elusive that ‘truth’ becomes. No example is as representative of that essential conundrum as this film by Andrew Jarecki, who has managed to make a compelling and disturbing documentary on his maiden voyage.
I know, using the words “compelling and disturbing” about documentaries is about as usually appropriate as saying “intelligent and life affirming” about a film with Adam Sandler or Melanie Griffith in it, but at least in this case it is appropriate, or at least accurate as far as I’m concerned.

Rating:

Love Actually

dir: Richard Curtis
[img_assist|nid=997|title=Actually, I hate this fucking film with the burning passion of a thousand dying suns|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=444]
This is a singular work of staggering banality. Now, that’s an achievement and a half. From the makers of such romantic classics as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill to make a film that eclipses those in terms of superficiality and mawkish sentimentality takes a phenomenal amount of skill, money and enough ham to cover the Tower of London three times over in order to achieve their goals. And goddamn them, they get there in the end.

I hate to say it, but this 2 hour commercial for whatever the hell it is that director Richard Curtis is ineptly selling made me want to destroy Christmas forever. If anything, despite the clear intention set out in the movie’s title to be a concentrated explosion of goodwill and love towards all men and women, this film, I believe, has decreased the amount of love that was previously available in the world. If you are a person for whom there is no more love, for whatever you thought was the reason you could get no love in your life, this crappy flick is responsible.

Rating:

American Splendor

dir: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
[img_assist|nid=992|title=Hey big splendors|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=323]
A film about unremarkable people living lives of quietly desperate quiet desperation. It seems almost pointless by definition, doesn’t it? Films are about heroes, winners, the triumphant, usually. They’re not supposed to be about us mediocre types, are they? If these stories were going to genuinely be about people like us then they wouldn’t need to hire people with bleached teeth to play characters in every film and have wealthy screenwriters tell us how much better our simple lives are compared to the lives lived by the people that make these films.

American Splendor is not really based on the comic book of the same name, in that it’s not like Harvey Pekar is a superhero like Batman or She Hulk or Man Thing. But then again, since the comics were all based on Pekar’s life anyway, it kind of is. And maybe Pekar is a superhero in his own way.

The concept of so-called “outsider art” worries me. In an episode of The Simpsons where Homer accidentally becomes an artist when constructing a barbecue that goes horribly wrong, an art scene hag voiced by Isabella Rossellini explains that his work is outsider art. It is art that could have been created by hillbillies, mental patients or chimpanzees.

Rating:

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

dir: Robert Rodriguez
[img_assist|nid=1004|title=Damn you, cabron, I shall win this limbo competition!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=236]
I am unsure as to whether Robert Rodriguez’s films are getting worse, or whether I just don’t like what he does as much as I used to. After watching this movie on DVD I spent an additional ten minutes watching a behind the scenes featurette called Fast, Cheap and In Control. I found this DVD extra more enjoyable than the movie itself. It showed various tricks and techniques used to perform and record the special effects and stunts during the film. It shows just how much an inventive and cost-effective crew can manage in a short period of time.

Ideally, such a circumstance would allow for more time to concentrate on pesky little details like a script or actual dialogue for its multitude of characters. There is precious little of that here. In fact, the movie seems to be a collection of disconnected money shots with little purpose beyond allowing Rodriguez to close off his El Mariachi trilogy, as if nations themselves were clamouring for it. Gagging for it, they were.

Rating:

S.W.A.T

dir: Clark Johnson
[img_assist|nid=1003|title=What utter rot|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=534]
S.W.A.T. is a pointless film rendered more pointless by being a big screen version of a television series no-one needed to see again. If they’re going to remake this crap, then they need to do a remake of The A Team (which they are doing, I believe), Who’s the Boss and Touched By an Angel as well. Why the hell not? Where’s that Cheers movie everyone’s been dying for? What about Shatner making a comeback in T.J. Hooker? How about another version of Dragnet? Or Hart to Hart, with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers? The Love Boat; now that’s begging to be remade on the big screen. The list is endless. As is the amount of talentless people willing to hitch their wagon onto an unoriginal idea since they lack the ability to think up anything for themselves.

Rating:

Intolerable Cruelty

dir: Joel Coen
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From a creative team as potent and as previously successful as it generally has been over the last fifteen or so years, it has to be said that this film ends up being something of a disappointment. Especially for fans of the Brothers Coen, who have been gifted with so many good to great films thus far that the opening of their every film is greeted with an almost sexual level of anticipation.

Trying to replicate the kinds of screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s that we never knew we missed that much, the Brothers again make a film about, amongst other things, Hollywood films. They’ve covered most of the cinematic genres, from Capraesque lunacy in The Hudsucker Proxy, Prohibition era gangster morality in Millers Crossing, Busby Berkeley musicals in The Big Lebowski (amongst plenty of other nutty ingredients), so now it’s time to lift some style and elements from the films of Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story). These comedies, some of which are classics, are pretty cheesy to modern eyes, not helped by the regular presence of Eddie Bracken, who was a poor man’s Mickey Rooney if I ever saw one, and Joel McCrae, who was a destitute man’s Gary Cooper. And lucky us, we now have the rich man’s Cary Grant headlining here.

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Girl With the Pearl Earring

dir: Peter Webber
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The camera loves Scarlett Johansson’s face, there is no doubt of that. So much attention, so many shots amount to little more than the camera going into close-up to let her acting play out on the canvass of her face. Her lips and eyes get to do most of the acting. Having little opportunity to speak, true to her role as a poor 17th Century maid working for rich folks in the city of Delft, in the Netherlands, most of her work has to be purely from body language and the little dialogue she’s entitled to. Most of the time she is trying to speak, but because of who she is, where she is, that access to her own ‘voice’ is devastatingly rare. Her struggle to speak rarely countermands her ingrained idea of her ‘place’. More overtly she is specifically told by the lady of the house to only speak when spoken to.

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Shattered Glass

dir: Billy Ray
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When you hear about the plot of a movie focussing solely on the exploits of a journalist, you immediately think that it would have to be a rip-roaring extravaganza to match the likes of All the President’s Men, or Michael Mann’s The Insider. How else could one justify devoting all that time, money and celluloid to a profession big on typing and drinking? It doesn’t immediately lend itself to the action formula until they leave the office and start getting involved in gun fights and car chases.

As well, anyone who knows even the least amount about the notorious Stephen Glass whose rise and fall is charted in this film knows that the idea of devoting a film to his exploits isn’t meant in a complimentary fashion. It’s not meant as praise, or to lionise him for his good works for the ages. In fact it’s the magnitude of his ‘crimes’ that seemingly justifies such a study of events as they came to pass.

And what is his crime, ultimately? Did he molest children, sell secrets to the Russians, murder his mum or punch an umpire in the face? Of course not, though with a sociopath like Glass anything’s possible. Instead, he committed the gravest sin a journalist can ever consider: he made stuff up in his articles and then lied about it.

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