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2005

Pusher III: I'm the Angel of Death

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
[img_assist|nid=1248|title=Would you buy drugs from this man?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=425|height=284]
Wow, the lives of drug dealers just seem so glamorous, don’t they? If I’ve learnt anything from watching this Pusher trilogy of film set in Copenhagen, it’s that: a) Copenhagen is situated somewhere in one of the uglier, more downmarket circles of hell, at least if you’re involved in the drug trade, which, considering the course of these three films, any sane Dane would be, and b) even those successful enough in the trade lead miserable lives.

These flicks were never meant to be after school specials frightening people away from drugs out of moralistic concern or tut-tutting for some sort of public service announcement. No, mostly they seem like they’re trying to say that really bad things happen to selfish, stupid and violent people, especially if they get involved in the drug trade.

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Batman Begins

dir: Christopher Nolan
[img_assist|nid=46|title=I know I look silly, but I'm ever so scary|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
I have to say, I’m starting to get sick of all this superhero shit. The names and stars change, the settings and villains, but it’s the same shit in a different bucket every time a new one comes out.

With fairly low expectations I ventured onward and upward to check this out, being mindful of the exuberant reviews that paint this as being the bestest superhero flick ever made. I have to say, I just can’t see what they’re seeing. To me Batman Begins is just another generic superhero film, only slightly lamer than the others that have been coming out lately.

Sure, it’s better than the other four movies directed by old spookykid Tim Burton and uberhack Joel Schumacher, but they were pretty crappy anyway. Batman & Robin was the acknowledged nadir of the franchise, but for my money it was just as lame and cringeworthy as any of the other flicks.

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Myth, The

dir: Stanley Tong
[img_assist|nid=1129|title=It's not as good as it looks. No, wait, it's exactly as good as it looks|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=336|height=480]
Jackie Chan films are, by and large, pretty silly. The Myth is even sillier than most, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely unentertaining. Is there such a word? That’s it, I’m copywriting it.

Who cares, either way. The Myth is a silly but not unentertaining film about two guys in two different time periods played by Jackie. Let’s fact it, even Jackie’s best films are pretty silly. And here, paired with the same director who made Rumble in the Bronx and the appalling First Strike, this flick happily resides somewhere in the middle.

I love Jackie Chan. It’s impossible not to love him. Anyone who doesn’t love him barely retain the tattered remnants of a soul that makes them human. He’s just so lovable, like puppies, like cute little babies, like panda cubs.

That’s not the same thing as saying that a) he’s a great actor, or b) most of his films are good. Most of his films are crap. Really, really crap. So crap that they make you want to gouge your eyes out and those of the people sitting next to you. And the longer his career has gone on, the more crap his films have generally become. Of course, he’s been in 97 movies, so it’s not surprising that most of them are shite.

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Sketches of Frank Gehry

dir: Sydney Pollock
[img_assist|nid=1127|title=Enjoy the afterlife, boys|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=372]
Friends making documentaries about friends sounds like mutual masturbation, but it can work, if you’re into that sort of thing. Your interest level in this movie is pretty much dictated by whether you can enjoy a doco about a famous architect who has designed some pretty kooky buildings. Or not. My guess is that a lot of eyes glaze over before you even finish saying the word architectu….zzzzz

Can you really imagine something as staggeringly dull as a doco about an architect? Unless it’s the architect of the Third Reich, Albert Speer, maybe, or the architect of some badly negligent buildings that fall down and kill people. Otherwise it’s a date with dullsville, you’d be forced to think. Well, force yourself to think a little more, ya deadbeat.

Frank Gehry has architected up some pretty freaky looking buildings. Even if his name doesn’t ring any of your bells, you’ve probably seen images of his crazy constructions all the same. I can’t pretend I knew anything about the guy beyond images of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, that I’d seen, and the kooky episode of The Simpsons where Gehry guest stars and designs a new building for Springfield that gets turned into a surrealist prison. Snitch 4 Life indeed.

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Devil and Daniel Johnston, The

dir: Jeff Feuerzeig
[img_assist|nid=1218|title=Oh, Daniel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=271|height=400]
Documentaries are great for finding the true stories behind people known for something they did or something they were. Documentaries are also great at illuminating the stories of people for whom obscurity and anonymity would have been a blessing.

Firmly, firmly within the tradition of doco subjects such as Robert Crumb and his insane brothers in Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, the eccentric mother and daughter of Albert Maysle’s Grey Gardens and the indulgent, excruciating self-laceration of Jonathan Caoutte’s Tarnation, The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals the life and times of an absolute nutter.

Daniel Johnston enjoyed a certain kind of notoriety in the late 80s-early 90s when too-cool hipsters and try-hards like Sonic Youth and the shmucks from Nirvana raised him to public consciousness. Of course he was oh-so-famous in his home town and around his family, but this virtually unknown singer-songwriter became famous mostly because he is crazy.

He started off with promise, of some kind that I can’t really figure out, but degenerated into the darkest pit of manic-impressive madness. He was obsessed entirely with music and becoming a famous musician, but never really seemed to achieve the goal of learning how to actually write or play music properly.

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War Within, The

dir: Joseph Castelo
[img_assist|nid=1217|title=Struggle and fight|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=353|height=504]
You have to wonder what the last thing is to go through the mind of a person who has decided not only to kill themselves, but to take a whole heap of other people with them. I’m not talking about the rapidly expanding shockwave, or shrapnel, or their belt buckle as it is propelled upwards and outwards.

I mean the justifications they have been given, or that they give themselves for their actions. A thief justifies their actions based on their selfish need, or the worthiness of the victim for being made so: i.e. the shop or house I’m robbing has insurance, they make shitloads of money anyway, they deserve it etc. A suicide bomber does what, exactly? Justifies their crime by blaming the victims? Blames the regime, the powers that be, the Jews, the universe at large for its unfairness, God, a God, the Gods, Allah, Buddha, the Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster?

There are as many reasons as there are arseholes that perpetrate these atrocities, but the significant difference between a person that kills a bunch of people with a bomb, and a person who blows themselves up as well is that as well as annihilating the targets, they annihilate themselves at the same time.

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Ax, The (Le Couperet)

dir: Costa Gavras
[img_assist|nid=1219|title=Professional downsizer extraordinaire|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=230]
Veteran Greek agitator/director Costa-Gavras directs a Spanish guy playing a French family guy who’s just trying to get by in the corporate world by killing people all over Europe. How European Union of him.

The downside of the whole EU thing is that with cross border barriers to work having faded, people now compete with a whole new bunch of equally qualified shmos across that once great continent. The other downside being that downsizing naturally follows the increased globalisation of the European labour market. And thus multiple killings ensue.

You may think I’m speaking metaphorically or ironically, but you’d be mistaken. You’d be even more mistaken than I was when I voluntarily chose to watch this flick. The murderous climb up the corporate ladder constructed entirely of corpses is literal in this case.

You see, when our main character, played by Jose Garcia, was made redundant from his job a while ago, he thought nothing of it. A generous severance package and being highly qualified let him think the world was his oyster just aching to be taken. But a year and a half of job hunting has humiliated him to such an extent that he cannot countenance any other course of action apart from murder.

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Death Trance

dir: Yoji Shimomura
[img_assist|nid=1221|title=Death to the people who made this movie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=380|height=220]
Easily the dumbest and most worthless flick I’ve seen in a Japanese donkey’s age. Run, don’t walk to not hire a copy from your local Blockburster. Be excited, be be excited.

A review like this is more of a warning for people to not make the mistake of hiring something or soiling their eyeballs by watching if they’re unlucky enough to be caught on a couch when the remote’s broken and they’re forced to watch it on television. Just keep your eyes closed, even when they start bleeding. It’ll be easier that way.

The film used to brainwash and punish the guy in A Clockwork Orange should have been Death Trance. You know the famous scene; where Alex is strapped to a chair and clamps are used to force his eyes open as he screams and screams watching the onscreen madness. What the hell does Death Trance refer to anyway? It’s not mentioned in the flick. Perhaps it refers to the state the filmmakers expect the viewers to be left in when it’s over.

The plot, if I can insult the English language by using the word in this context, has to do with a magical coffin which, if it is dragged into a particular forest, can either make the Goddess of Destruction appear, or make their bum look smaller or something when they’re wearing that pair of pants that used to fit them so well a few years ago

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Everything is Illuminated

dir: Liev Schreiber
[img_assist|nid=1222|title=Not as quirky as it looks|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=500]
A film can be crafted with care, and attention. It can be visually arresting, thematically complex, and cover intense, powerful events. It can have decent acting performances, and a literate script with a non-conventional narrative and a story that is anything but formulaic. And it can still do nothing for me.

I’ve heard tell that Jonathan Safran Foer is a good writer, and I have no real reason to dispute that until I read at least a few of his books. There are already plenty of books on my to-be-read list, so it might be a while before I get to him. All I can say is that the screenplay, based on his book of the same name, is interesting.

The film, directed by Liev Schreiber, just doesn’t grab me. I’ve watched it twice now, and it just doesn’t grab me at all. I watch it at a cold remove, distanced from what happens even as I contemplate what is going on.

The protagonist, played by Elijah Wood, is a deliberately ambiguous character. He is a pretty repressed kind of guy, with one suit of clothing, slicked down hair and a pair of glasses whose lenses magnify his eyes to the point of enormity. He may be the protagonist, but he doesn’t do or say too much.

The narrator and the protagonist are not the same person. The narrator, ever-present with his little explanations and elaborations, comes into it down the track.

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Notorious Betty Page, The

dir: Mary Harron
[img_assist|nid=1220|title=Notorious for very good reasons|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=677]
It's a crime that it's taken this flick so long to get distribution in Australia, because this really contained probably the best performance by an actress in a film released in 2006. Sure, there's no way Gretchen Mol could have beat the murderous juggernaut that was Helen Mirren, but she deserved some recognition at least. It's only been released here yesterday (8/3/2007), and will probably have an ignominious two-week run before disappearing into DVD obscurity.

Which isn't the worst fate in the world. It's kind of appropriate, considering the subject matter. And what is the subject? Why, it's the notorious Bettie Page, of course!

Bettie Page, for her time, was probably the main lust object and idealised non-attainable masturbation aid for squillions of men, lonely and otherwise, across America. She has probably been responsible for more shameful, furtive, blind-making male orgasms than Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and the Virgin Mary combined.

But practically no-one could tell you anything about her apart from the fact that she was in millions of smutty, smutty pictures.

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