dir: Hayao Miyazaki
Miyazaki is a hallowed name to those of us who’ve seen and loved his animated movies. He is often referred to as the Japanese Walt Disney, but I think that short changes his talent and what he’s accomplished over the span of his career.
dir: Paul Greengrass
Finally, a film made by crack addicted monkeys with ADD for crack addicted monkeys with ADD! Be careful. You could go into this film without any recognisable neurological condition, and come out of it having contracted the epilepsy shared by the director and editor of this here film, The Bourne Supremacy. Kinda like the manner in which watching Disney films eventually leads to diabetes. And, let's face it, arse cancer.
It's true I tell you. The Bourne Supremacy is the apotheosis, the crowning pinnacle of the cinematic movement that now graces our screens with spastic creations that possess nothing but momentum. You
don't so much watch these movies, in my case, as endure them. The editing here would fill the people responsible for Moulin Rouge with jealousy and murderous rage. For the majority of the movie's running
time, few shots actually went for more than 3 to 8 seconds. There were a handful of scenes that may have gone for 15 seconds, but they were in the distinct minority.
dir: James Wan
The day before I had the honour of watching Blade: Trinity. Today I watched Saw. Tomorrow I should try to find something equally knife related to watch just to get a hat trick of some variety: Knife in the Water? The Night of Long Knives, Mack the Knife, er, something with 'spoon' in the title? Anything to maintain the metallic imagery.
Okay well maybe I won't be doing that. What I would also like to do (but won't, not yet) is watch this film again and see if it's as enjoyable the second time around. I have to say I was surprised, very surprised. Pleasantly surprised, not like after a night of heavy drinking, putting your hand in your pocket looking for your keys and finding that your fingers are missing. As are your pockets and keys.
Saw is one of those success stories where two young hopefuls put a script together and shop it around like all the other hopefuls. Except their script actually gets somewhere, they get funding (miniscule comparatively, a 1 million dollar budget), they get the press and the promotion and the film turns out to be a roaring success. Of course the flick itself is sick, twisted B movie horror trash, but it's decent B movie horror trash. But you have to admire the way in which these guys, James Wan and Leigh Whannell got this done.
Also, as I rarely find, you've got to admire a film that succeeds despite bad acting performances, continual continuity errors and plot holes you could drive the International Space Station through at a leisurely pace. What succeeds is the concept, the overall sick concept to make a pretty disturbing film on a micro budget and genuinely unsettle an audience. Not in the way that the thought of seeing Barbara Streisand in a film again is deeply disturbing, but a set up where there is genuine horror, and scenes where you peak through your
fingers, unsure if you really want to see what happens but unwilling to miss it.
dir: Mel Gibson
Oh. My. Gods. I’m, I’m stunned. I cannot believe what I just saw. A movie about a nice enough chap who says a few nice things to people, ends up getting beaten up severely, is then flayed and tenderised like a cheap cut of meat, has thorns wedged though his eyelids, and is then nailed to pieces of wood. They even stab him with a spear in the end just to make sure that he’s dead.
And that’s the film. The vast majority of it centres on and is entirely concerned with his torments. It’s pretty rough, and it kind of makes me feel sorry for anyone who’s undergoing torture right now. Anywhere in the world. You know, at anyone's hands. It's nasty stuff.
Gibson is famous for a lot of things. You would wish it would be for playing Mad Max / Road Warrior films, or for those steely blue eyes, or for making a few good films in a completely idiosyncratic way.
Alas, most recently, his infamy has been based on the now clear evidence that he really does hate the Jews, and that at least in part, his version of the Easter classic was intended to malign the Jews who killed Christ. In vino veritas, and all that.
Look, I can’t say for certain that Mel Gibson, deep in his crazy heart of hearts, hates Jewish people or is anti-Semitic to the core. His father is on the record as denying that the Holocaust occurred and that evil Jews run the world. But the sins of the father shouldn’t be used to condemn the son.
I’d hate to think that, years down the track, my daughter is condemned because of one or several of the idiotic things I’ve said and will inevitably say in time.
When this version of the Passion play was slated for production and release, certain Jewish interest groups made the point that the story itself, as is it usually depicted, is itself anti-Semitic, whatever the director’s intentions could be. And they feared that Gibson, a staunch Traditionalist Catholic, was using this as an opportunity to stoke the fires of hatred.
He and plenty of other PR flacks assured everyone they could that the flick’s purpose was not to sow seeds of hate but to grow seeds of love, of loving lovingness all arising from showing just what Joshua Ben Joseph went through nearly two thousand years ago.
dir: Mike Nichols
It’s not about the masterpiece Joy Division album that Courtney Love and probably some of you, your uncles or your mums lost their virginities to. It’s not about the Nine Inch Nails song that made the phrase ‘I want to fuck you like an animal’ part of popular parlance. But it is about fucking. Specifically, it’s about the way that the need for sex brings people together and destroys them. It’s about the way in which honesty causes more heartbreak than the cruellest lies. And it’s about what sad creatures we humans truly are.
As a four-hander, with four fairly well-known actors, the film continually betrays its stage origins as a play. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t exactly kill my mother over the prospect of getting enough cash to buy tickets to get to the theatre on a Friday night, but I don’t necessarily dislike movies that come across as stagey. I love decent acting and good dialogue, so a movie which is all dialogue isn’t a problem for me. Those that hate talky gabfests now know they can avoid this film like the plague. And the rest of this review, presumably.
I didn’t necessarily like this film. This is a hard film to like, and that’s not because of the presence of Julia Roberts. It’s hard to like because it’s pretty depressing. Depressing isn’t bad when it’s Schindler’s List or Requiem for a Dream, but one doesn’t usually expect to feel like opening their wrist and neck veins when watching something that’s packaged as a cluey romantic melodrama. Then again plenty of people feel like opening a vein in lieu of watching Julia Roberts ever again.
In a sparsely-filled cinema, I could see several couples that had come along expecting something quite different from what they actually got. Two couples walked out. That’s not to imply that there was any Dario Argento-type action involving someone getting stabbed, eviscerated and strangled all in the same scene. I think they were bored, mostly. I didn’t find it boring per se, but by the same token I didn’t find it all riveting. The best bits are the nastiest, all the same, and any sweet bits are undercut by the knowledge that people are about to fuck things up in the worst way.
These kinds of films like to purport to being an honest look at male-female relationships, or any relationships for that matter, peeling back the layers of ego and self-interest to reveal naked, raw torment lurking under the skin of the most in control characters, but really, it’s a bit pretentious. Actually it’s very fucking pretentious sometimes. That doesn’t mean these films are without merit. The characters don’t have to be overly down-to-earth or mundane to be ‘real’. They seem real, and they speak and act realistically when in a similar situation to what you might recall or imagine yourself to be in; you start squirming because you know what they’re talking about. And I had several moments like that during this film. It probably says more about me than it does about the film, but at the very least I can say that some parts of the overall story resonated with me, which is fairly rare. Those of you that regularly inflict my reviews upon yourselves (you fucking masochists) know that most films have little if any impact upon me, whether I like them or not.
dir: Michel Gondry
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a rarity in this day and age: a film that has elements of romance, drama and comedy without being hampered or paralysed by any of those aspects. In truth this film is beyond a rarity: it's a gem that stars, inexplicably, Jim ‘Ham on Rye' Carrey and Kate 'Let Me Get The Twins Out' Winslet playing two oddball characters that don't pander, don't beg us to love how cute they are and therefore circumvent the natural expectations that an audience member might have of a scriptwriter having to create a story we could possibly care about. One that doesn't ploddingly, predictably, stagger from point A to point B to point Zzzzz.
Let's face it romantic comedies are about as popular as syphilis to those of us that don't think Maid in Manhattan, the Wedding Singer and Pretty Woman are the pinnacle of the cinematic experience. Sure, I understand, we're ungrateful, but some of us aspire to something more out of film and of life. With that in mind when something comes along that's clever and sweet it seems fuckstruckingly out of place. What? It's funny AND romantic? Are the seas boiling? Is that sky falling? Isn't this one of the signs of the forthcoming Apocalypse?
It's a bittersweet story inventively told and engagingly realised that succeeds despite Carrey's best attempts to fuck things up. It's Jim Carrey after all, a guy that probably has to be tranquilised for roles like this in order to keep him under control. Like many of the scripts that idiot / savant Charlie Kaufman has thus far been responsible for, the entire story seems to hinge on only one kooky idea: what if the technology existed to allow people to have their painful memories erased? Would people use it to stop being paralysed by the past, by their bad choices, their missteps and their mistakes? If people did go down this path, would their identity, their sense of self remain the same?
dir: Oliver Hirshbiegel
To a lot of people it might seem redundant making another film about World War II, because for those of us not born in the 80s, other than JFK's assassination, the Vietnam War and Abigail's breasts on Number 96, no event had as profound an impact upon the last century as WWII did, and there is no shortage of movies or tv stuff devoted to the occasion.
Even if people don't know the details regarding Uncle Adolf, his life and death or the frightening power he once held, they know at least that he is one of history's nastiest villains.
So who needs another movie about the downfall of the Third Reich? Maybe Holocaust deniers, anti-semites and warmongers need to have versions of these films made and have ye olde worlde VHS copies fisted into their various orifices. But the rest of us think we know all there is to know about it.
Even if Downfall isn't necessary, it's still damn compelling. A film that successfully captures and gets across the surreal atmosphere of Berlin towards the end of the war has to be vital viewing for those with the time, patience and inclination.
dir: Zhang Yimou
What a truly beautiful film, in all the senses that the word can encompass. And if you think about just how important beauty is to those of us with eyes and ears and hearts, you might know how it is that I can forgive the shortcomings of a film solely for its sheer visual splendour.
Film, being the most complex of the visual mediums (well duh), needs beauty like homeless drunks need booze: fiercely, deeply, utterly. For those of us that try to watch much of the new stuff that comes out at the cinema, it’s the knowledge or the conceit that seeing a film on the big screen is somehow ‘right’ or inherently ‘better’ than waiting to see it on your television screen that is a driving force. In truth most of the time it’s a complete delusion. My life and my experience of film is none the better for having watched Blade III, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing or Cabin Fever on the big screen, in fact I can say that in some ways it’s probably worse off. I’m sure that watching bad films on the silver screen causes brain cancer or genital warts or something.
dir: Joshua Marston
Ah, drugs. Drugs are great, drugs are good. They’re fun, they let you sometimes have a great time, and they make inanimate objects, surfaces and other people seem more interesting than they actually are.
I’ve heard that they have a downside as well, but frankly I can’t see it. Drugs are simply wonderful. In case you think I’m talking about the wonders of modern pharmaceutical drugs and medicines, think again! I’m talking exclusively about illegal Class A drugs. The ones that cost a fortune and make awful people very wealthy. They also garner you a dirty cell and a cellmate who calls himself “The Stallion” if you get caught selling or smuggling them, but that’s a small price to pay, surely compared to the bountiful and constant fun they can bring.
Maria Full of Grace is a movie about two main topics: a teenage girl called Maria (played well by Catalina Sandino Moreno), and the way that drugs sometimes gets smuggled inside human receptacles into the United States from Colombia. You wouldn’t have thought it, but it’s a harsh and dangerous process, and the people who control the trade are thoroughly vile individuals who are as likely to kill you as say “Good Morning Captain” to you if the mood takes them.
dir: Richard Linklater
I'm not a fan, even remotely, of romantic movies. Romantic movies generally have the same effect on me intellectually as Draino would have on a human's gastrointestinal system upon consumption. I doubt anyone's going to be surprised by that. Hey, I'm not some stoic, repressed, unemotional automaton. I don't work in an abattoir nailgunning creatures in the head day in day out for a living or for fun; I haven't 'shut down' emotionally because of my second tour of duty in 'Nam where I put my hand in a pile of goo that used to be my best friend's face. I am, in short, a product of the current age, not overly apathetic about stuff, but not too interested in getting sweaty over anything either.
All in all, I am clearly not the demographic intended for anything explicitly shelved under the Romance section of the local franchise video rental chain. You know where I mean, be it your local Burstblocker or LeproZYDVD, where they have over fifty copies of the latest Adam Sandler / Drew Barrymore flick, and no copies of any films by Federico Fellini. Yeah, I know, I'm a snob when it comes to movies, so sue me.
dir: Clint Eastwood
Old Man Clint. It’s hard not to love him, especially when he makes films as good as this. Many will see this purely as an exercise in Oscarbait, but I disagree. I think Clint’s made plenty of films (I think about 25), has received a shitload of praise and awards over the years, and doesn’t need the added hassle of having to tailor everything to that end. I think he just likes making movies, especially since he’s 75 and isn’t really on the celebrity carousel for the column inches in the supermarket mags.
Lucky for us, he’s pretty good at it. He’s made a stack of duds as well, don’t get me wrong, but his great films more than make up for it. You can tote up Pink Cadillac, Absolute Power, Firefox, Heartbreak Ridge and those orang-utan movies as evidence of his crapness, but then my rejoinder has to be Unforgiven, White Hunter Black Heart, this here film and maybe Mystic River from the year before. If you take into consideration the great films where he just acted as well, it looks like an incredibly accomplished body of work for one man.
dir: Ousmane Sembene
Of all the films I’ve ever seen on the topic of female genital mutilation in Africa, this is the best of them. By a country mile of clichés.
Of course it’s the only film about genital mutilation in Africa I’ve ever seen, or am ever going to see. It’s the best by default.
And what kind of a person could find fault with such a film? Considering the subject material, you’d have to be heartless and genitaless not to sympathise with the women of the village of Djerisso in Burkina Faso, and the squillions of women this has been done to in the name of tradition.
dir: Stephen Chow
Who? What? What the fuck? Huh?
Easy. Calm down. Breathe. Relax.
So you may not have heard about the so-called follow up to Shaolin Soccer by Stephen Chow. Unless you’re in Melbourne I don’t know if you can even see it yet unless you wander down to the Chinatown cinemas in the middle of the city’s Golden Triangle (Russell, Bourke and Swanston Streets). And since according to my sources it’s the last Chinatown cinema still operating in Australia, until it starts playing in the arthouse cinemas in a few month’s time (since Sony snatched it up), it may seem a bit pointless reviewing it when those few people who might be interested in seeing it don’t really have the option. Unless they get a pirate copy from someone who looks dodgier than the guy behind the counter at a sex shop.
dir: Shane Carruth
For a contemporary sci-fi film, this is going to strike some people as downright false advertising.
There are no explosions, car chases, gigantic metropolises, shiny robots, Will Smiths or Spielbergs to be seen for miles around. So most regular muggles aren’t going to think it’s “real” sci-fi anyway.
For “real” sci-fi fans, that should be enough to pique their curiousity. Of course, when I mention time travel playing the central role in the story, they’re going to switch off and go back to masturbating over Japanese cartoon porn. God knows you’re not a real nerd ‘til you’ve done that.
Time travel has been used and abused by so many and for so long that it makes most of us role our eyes heavenward in disgust. Even nerds.
When it’s used well, as with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the details of the how and the why of the time travel are insignificant compared to what it adds to the story. Seeing Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, Sigmund Freud and Genghis Khan striding around the San Dimas mall and interacting with late 80s Californians is worth all the silliness and Keanu Reeveses involved.
Anyone who’s ever been a fan of any of the major science fictional televisual nerdfests that have clogged up airwaves over the last forty years knows genre shows use time travel to liven up otherwise boring plotlines as often as I use tomato sauce to disguise the taste of my own cooking. In other words, it’s all the bloody time.
dir: Kerry Conran
Kerry Conran had a vision, God love him. This is a man who had a genuine ambition. Ambition is not unknown in Hollywood, to be sure. But this isn’t a case of a guy whose ambition is only to make a film, or to get wealthy, or to fuck high class prostitutes. He had a bunch of ideas for making a very particular film, and he’s been striving for over ten years to get it done. Finally, in the form of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, he’s achieved his goal. There may have been pitfalls and compromises along the way, but in the end he brought his unique vision to the screen, goddamnit. And for that he deserves to be commended.
It’s not a particularly unique or original vision; in a way he’s doing little more than what George Lucas did decades ago when he used his memories of Saturday matinee serials and Amazing Stories-type books and comics to come up with the Indiana Jones and the Star Wars stuff, to the ecstasy of nerds the world over. And sure, more recently many of the same visual and thematic influences turned up, incredibly enough in the recent Pixar treasure The Incredibles.
It is, on the other hand, resolutely his own take on all those elements, which he uses to come up with something he can call his own, even if the origins aren’t that obscure or even remotely forgotten.
And you’ve got to respect that. Unfortunately, it breaks my heart to say it, it doesn’t stop the movie from being a failure. It’s a noble failure for what it tries to do, and the paths of least resistance that it avoids, but it still isn’t that great a film. At best it is mediocre, and that is being kind.
The most unfortunate and cruelest cut for the director is to see a long term labour of love end up looking sub-standard compared to the stuff put out by other people at the same time. If it’d come out ten years ago it (might) have been hailed as a visionary masterpiece, and people would have tried to wrench the crown off of Lucas’ fat head and, after giving it a good wash, crowned Conran as the new king of fantastical science fiction. Today he looks like an also-ran. Like Peter Costello.
dir: Olivier Assayas
Clean is a strange but oddly satisfying film. It’s strange in that there’s no clear plot, but there is a lot going on in the life of the main character Emily Wang, fantastically played by Hong Kong legend Maggie Cheung. Enough at least to keep us entertained.
This is a film that defies the genre it seems to be about: addiction and its malcontents, and derails the predictable path to redemption by offering something low key but more complicated.
Emily is portrayed at first as equal parts Courtney Love, when she still had her hooks in Kurt Cobain, and Yoko Ono as the destroyer of both the Beatles and John Lennon, eventually. That’s not a pleasant character on paper or on the screen. She has managed to attach herself leech-like to an artist, Lee Hauser (James Johnston, formerly of the band Gallon Drunk and more recently of the Bad Seeds), and brought him down to her level by sharing the depths of her addiction with him.
Anyone that still cares about washed-up Lee hates Emily and what they see as the damage she has visited upon him, but it’s not like Lee’s going to be around for that long anyway.
After scoring for the night, and arguing, Emily leaves Lee alone with a sizable quantity of the hard stuff. The next day he’s being zipped up in one of those black bags, and she’s on the way to jail for the next six months of her life.
dir: Stephen Sommers
Not that anyone asked, or that anyone wants to know, but I can honestly say that I’ve never paid to have sex with a prostitute, a working girl, a ‘lady of the night’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a comment on the ladies, I know they do a hard job and they earn their money bringing to fruition the old business success mantra about the customer always coming first. I joke about hookers and cocaine all the time, but it’s just that: a joke. Who can afford that kind of crap when a bottle of decent single malt whisky costs between $60 and $80?
The reason I hold this particular credo, which has nothing to do with morality or personal ethics or anything of the sort, is that I can imagine after money changed hands and business was taken care of, the deed being done, I’d be filled with a profound emptiness inside. It would come from the fact that I had to pay money to get someone to have sex with me, a person who couldn’t possibly even remotely have any tender feelings towards me. Sure, live long enough and you end up having sex with a bunch of people that can’t stand you and whom you can’t stand, for a multitude of different reasons. But at the very least you shouldn’t have to pay cash for it.
dir: Lodge Kerrigan
This film is about a crazy guy. No, it’s not about Jim Carrey. This isn’t the fun kind of crazy, as in endlessly entertaining antics of eager eccentrics, or the transgressive kind of crazy you get from ‘enjoying’ the adventures of psychopathic serial killers like Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates or the Pope.
This is the real kind of crazy. As in, mental illness that isn’t entertaining for entertainment’s sake. That isn’t quirky, grandiose and cute. That is uncomfortable, unsettling and unexplainable.
dir: Terry George
Ah, the cinema of guilt. Worthy movies that seem to chide audiences and make you feel bad for a) not having been more concerned when something really bad happened in history, or b) feel even worse for not having seen the film sooner. All your bullshit excuses count as nought in the face of it. So you sheepishly file into the cinema one day, prepared to eat your greens and say it tastes like ice cream even if it doesn’t. Out of stinky, middle-class guilt.
If the film’s actually good then it’s a definite bonus. Because that way you don’t have to endure watching the film like it’s a trip to the proctologist just so you can convince other people that you are sooooo switched on and overflowing with compassion. Hotel Rwanda is just such a film.
It’s not Schindler’s List, but nor would you want to be. We don’t need another epic like that just yet. It’s still Oscarbait of the highest order, mostly because when a film is about such topics (the Rwandan massacres from the 90s), it feels like the height of insensitivity to raise any objections to even the slightest flaw, to mouth the tiniest of criticisms, you inhuman monster.
Really, it’s not like that. Any film, even one such as this in the genocide genre, still has to work the way that other films work for it to be considered a worthwhile use of my two hours or anyone else’s. It’s not a documentary, so it needs to have narrative, a plot, characters we believe in, a recognisable beginning and end, loud bits, quiet bits and in-between bits. And it’s no exaggeration to say that Hotel Rwanda has all those bits.
When telling such a story you want to avoid it sounding and looking like a lecture. So with a story so big you find at least one person and tell the story of how this massive event affected this person and the people around him, and what they did to survive it. They’ve achieved that here by centring the story around Paul Rusesabagina, a guy who did his darndest to save the people he could when hundreds of thousands of people were being butchered by some pretty nasty people. Don Cheadle does a superlative job in the role playing the guy like he’s just a guy caught up in an impossible situation, instead of some treacly hero. He is really good. I have to wonder why they couldn’t get an actual African actor to play the role but then I guess had they not had one of the stars of Ocean’s 11 and 12 the film might never have been made or at least gotten as much press as it did.
dir: David S. Goyer
You have to wonder what the attraction is with this franchise. Wesley Snipes hasn't exactly done any memorable acting work in donkey's years. The Blade character is so two-dimensional that when Blade walks side-on from the camera I always expect the guy to be paper-thin. It hasn't really set the box office alight (none of the three films were big earners in that respect). Marvel, I'm sure, has plenty of other comic book franchises dying to be made (and I'm sure plenty of them are already in development).
As a vampire scenario it's not a particularly intelligent, original, amusing or otherwise worthwhile one. The main character's motivation is solely to kill vampires and try to gruffly protect humanity (which seems secondary). There's not a lot of room for character arcs, thematic development, social significance or transcendent insights into human or vampire nature amidst the averagely choreographed fight scenes and the most ordinary action set pieces.
I am taking the piss, but a film doesn't have to be dumb just to be an action film. Then again there doesn't need to be any of those elements in a full on action film, but a little would be nice. After setting up the franchise credibly in the first Blade film, they squandered it in the second by turning it into a sloppy Aliens clone complete with WWE wrestling moves and completely lowered the bar for fight scene choreography, wasting the talents of numerous decent people (not least of which being Donnie Yen).
Rumours of director / 'star' conflict arose which did nothing to dispel the feeling of crappiness that pervaded everything. A third film didn't really need to be made, but got made anyway. Think of this as a quickie for a few extra bucks. At the very least they admit right from the start that the premise is empty, and they need two other legs to prop up this shaky three-legged coffee table upon.
Killing off Blade's mentor character and sidekick Whistler (Kris Kristofferson, who looks older than Gandalf) they introduce Whistler's daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel) and Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) to pick up the slack.
dir: Trey Parker
It's a new world, which looks remarkably like the 'old' world as
portrayed in movies circa the 1980s. The entire globe is defined (as
in European, Egyptian and Korean cities) in terms of distances and
directions from the US. The soundtrack is the power chord laden
empty-headed nonsense as typified in glorious fashion by the title
song 'America? Fuck Yeah!'; a song so good Van Halen are kicking
themselves that they never recorded it. And the jingoistic action is
over the top, constantly explosive and cheesy / ridiculous in the
extreme. In short, this is an 80s action film parody chock full of the
requisite cliches of the era, except with puppets.
Marionettes, to be exact, I guess. I bet the lunatics responsible for
the recent Thunderbirds debacle, a movie I'm sure many of you didn't
even realise had ever been released, are kicking themselves over the
fact that this puppet feature worked out better than their film did,
despite the fact that they had humans and all (though I might prefer
DNA evidence on Sir Ben Kingsley before I can confirm his humanity).
Basically, the pugnacious, malevolent, occasionally brilliant
arseholes responsible for South Park, Cannibal: The Musical, Orgazmo
and BASEketball for some inexplicable reason decided to cash in on the
current level of global unrest with a movie that ridicules the
political bent of pretty much anyone currently alive and several
people already dead.
dir: M. Night Shyamalan
Be careful what you wish for, because someone might just strap you to
a chair one day and jam it down your throat using a splintered chunk
of wood. In my last cinematic masterpiece of a review I made a big
issue about poorly directed hyper-efficient Hollywood movies where a
lack of vision results in editors constructing their projects as if
they're animation on a sequence of post-it notes that you have to
flick with your finger for it to make sense. Two second cuts and
jittery camera work abounding. At the complete opposite end of the
spectrum exist the films of M. Night Shyamalan, whose measured pacing,
and long, well-constructed shots you would presume exist as an
antidote to the current madness of strobe light cinema. But does that
necessarily mean they are better films? Or do you keep getting woken
up by your own snoring?
After bitching about it so much and so often, I will admit that for me
it was like icy cold water after a trek through the desert. There were
a bunch of scenes where I was just marvelling 'Goddamn, this scene has
been going for more than a minute! They actually had to remember a
whole bunch of dialogue! How splendiferous.' Of course if you're
noticing stuff like that, it means you've been taken 'out' of the film
by your observations, which is not an ideal state of affairs. The
curse I face the more films I watch and the more I learn about
film-making from reading dry-as-fuck cinema studies texts and
listening to interviews with directors and cinematographers is that it
becomes harder and harder for me to be just be taken in and seduced by
a story. Instead much of the time I'm coping with drammaturgical
dyads, diagetic and non-diagetic sound, Freudian trajectories and all
sorts of other pretentious crap that sometimes gets in the way of just
dir: Cate Shortland
Somersault has garnered rave critical reviews, buzz at overseas film
festivals, and an unprecedented 15 nominations for the upcoming AFI
awards. A person could be forgiven for being under the impression that
this would clearly have to be one of the truly greatest Australian
films made of all time, yea verily. An audience member going in with
such expectations of excellence is surely going to start setting fires
or engaging in self-mutilation as a violent kind of protest when
they're inevitably let down.
dir: Zack Snyder
The sheer abundance of zombie related material put out in the last few
years points to either a large group of movie industry types thinking
that zombie stuff is a goldmine, or a large audience out there that is
hungry, hungry for brains. In the last two years alone I can think of
a whole bunch of films that had zombies as the scourge staggering
open-mouthed towards Our Heroes, in a fashion incompetent enough to
generally have their heads blown off only at the most crucial or
Though many will point to 28 Days Later as the resurgence point, they
would be wrong. At least one zombie film has been coming out a year
since time immemorial; it's just that most of them were going straight
to video. It really restarted with the release, I'm not kidding, of
Resident Evil, where as anyone with the DVD can attest, not only did
Milla Jovovich show far more than she and God probably intended, but
it also began the inexorable march of the zombie legions back into our
multiplexes as well.
This remake of the 1978 Romero original is neither the best nor the
worst of the recent zombie onslaught (with 28 Days Later at the top of
the heap for my money, other entries being Versus, Undead, Shaun of
the Dead, Resident Evil, House of the Dead, House of a Thousand
Corpses, Glitter), and makes a good enough fist of the original to
justify its re-imagining. I may consider the original to be a classic
zombie film, but that doesn't mean I consider it to be so sacrosanct a
movie that to remake it would be blasphemous. It really wasn't that
great a movie. Like the hallowed Texas Chainsaw Massacre that was
remade last year, the impact of the original had little to do with the
quality of the overall construction. The 'shock of the new' at the
time is what impacted upon people's cerebellums, even when the film
itself may have been pretty ordinary.
dir: Alexander Witt
For a director with the surname Witt, there's a fundamental lack of it
in this movie, even by the meagre standards one might apply to the
zombie / horror / computer game adaptation genre. The presence of a
few vaguely entertaining action set pieces can't really elevate this
material from the cesspool from which most of this kind of crap oozes
out from. Of the recent plethora of zombie films this is both the most
recent and the least of them. Absolutely the least.
Bizarrely enough it even makes the original look good in comparison.
Those familiar with the work of the first one's director, Paul W.S.
Anderson, know what a criminal indictment such a claim must be. Anyone
who makes Anderson look good (apart from Milla Jovovich) must be in
league with powers darker than the ones at the beck and call of the
But enough about evil in the real world. This crappy movie occurs in
an alternate reality world constructed from cheap straight-to-video
production values where a place called Raccoon City exists and evil
corporations kill people for fun and profit. You know, just like in
our world. None of the cardboard cut-outs that run around this city
can be called characters. It would be a criminal abuse of the word and
any thesaurus to use it in such a context. Grammar teachers the world
over will be twitching and seizuring like there's no tomorrow if you
were to do so.
Think about the skill, the qualities it takes in producers and
directors to actively make a movie dumber and worse than an ordinarily
dumb movie. Think about the optimism it requires to think that anyone
really wanted a sequel to such a movie, or that the unwashed masses
would attend in unwashed abundance a movie just because it stars Milla
Jovovich. To think that these people haven't heard of the practice of
looking up celebrity skin on the internet…