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2003

Last Samurai, The

dir: Ed Zwick
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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Underworld

dir: Len Wiseman
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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.

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Mystic River

dir: Clint Eastwood
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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
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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
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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.

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Elephant

dir: Gus Van Sant
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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.

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