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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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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.

Rating:

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

Rating:

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.

Rating:

2005 Film Year In Review

dir: Me

Each year there are nincompoops who'll say it was the worst year in film ever, and each year they'll be wrong. The worst year in terms of cinema was the day Jim Carrey started acting, but other than that,
every year since and after has had plenty of decent stuff to watch, whether it's homegrown, from the States or from the more obscure heathen corners of the world. And for someone like me whose main hobby

Rating:

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.

Rating:

Colour Me Kubrick

dir: Brian W. Cook
[img_assist|nid=1211|title=Spitting image|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=425]
Don’t, whatever you do, mistake this flick for a biography of the great Colossus of the cinema that was Stanley ‘Grumpy Pants’ Kubrick.

No, John Malkovich plays the unbelievable role of a crazy conman who used to tell people he was Stanley Kubrick, despite the fact that he looked nothing like him, didn’t try to sound like him, and didn’t even know what films Kubrick directed.

He is so bad at impersonating him that it becomes more a reflection on the people who get sucked in rather than an example of his skills as a charlatan. It is both their gullibility and their simplemindedness in the face of potential celebrity that renders them ripe for the picking.

Of course, the other element that favoured Alan Conway’s deceptions was the fact that Kubrick himself was a bit of a recluse, and there weren’t many photos of him in common circulation. Looking at the extravagant lengths to which Conway virtually begs to be caught out makes you wonder just how gullible people are out there.

This little film is directed by someone who actually knew and had worked with Kubrick in the past, which means he is eminently unqualified to make a film about a flimflammer he never met. But at least he can ensure Malkovich looks and acts nothing like Kubrick to make the illusion complete.

Rating:

Wolf Creek

dir: Greg McLean
[img_assist|nid=1215|title=Hitchhiking is rough sometimes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=270]
When was the last decent Australian horror film released? When was there ever a decent Australian horror film?

Wolf Creek isn’t just the best Australian horror film, it’s one of the best horror films since the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It is Australia’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

It should have come out twenty years ago.

Walk the Line

dir: James Mangold
[img_assist|nid=1224|title=May you be reunited in death so you can use drugs together again, June and Johnny|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
Johnny Cash. The Man in Black. An icon and a music legend. Contemporary of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, and a stack of others, influenced by and influential to them all. Could a two and a half hour film do him and his life justice? Can Joaquin Phoenix and the toothsome Reese Witherspoon do the story of the Big Big Love between Cash and June Carter justice? Or even get close?

Someone as simultaneously recognisable and mysterious as Cash needs a twenty hour film about his life. With a squillion dollar budget, all the CGI in the world, and the best actors and production people alive or dead (resurrected) to work on it. It would need a director who combines the spirit and ability of Leni Reifenstahl, Sergei Eisenstein, Otto Preminger, Carl Dreyer, John Ford, John Huston, Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir to get it right. It would need the greatest actors culled from history, put into a blender until gooey, with their DNA spliced and respliced until the mixture was just right, re-coded up into the greatest actor possible, which would then be discarded anyway in favour of a resurrected, young, vital, dangerous Johnny Cash to play the lead.

Rating:

Tsotsi

dir: Gavin Hood
[img_assist|nid=1214|title=Go easy, son.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=329|height=300]
Every year, when Oscar time rolls around, the category at the Academy Awards that I find the most bewildering and amusing is the category for Best Foreign Picture.

It presupposes at least two ideas: that the majority of the films in consideration for the rest of the categories are predominantly going to be American films (which they are), and that in the Foreign category, every other film produced by every other director from every other country apart from the US competes for the Great Golden Dildo.

You are already muttering under your breath “Who the fuck cares, the results at the Oscars matter to me about as much as the results of your last blood test.” And I agree, sure they don’t matter. But it interests me all the same.

The Academy, in the depths of its wisdom, has the sheer fucking gall to assert each year that it has sampled the delights of every other film put out by every country capable of producing them, and can select one to stand above and beyond all the others.

Rating:

Thumbsucker

dir: Mike Mills
[img_assist|nid=1223|title=Guess what he's doing. Go on, guess|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=230]
Another coming of age story. Another coming of age story about an oddball teenager in high school. Another coming of age story about an oddball teenager in high school who tries to find a way to fit in for most of the film, and only realises at the end that the important thing is to be yourself.

Yes, being your fucking self is the solution to all of life’s problems. Because there aren’t enough arseholes being themselves out there fucking shit up for the rest of us. There aren’t enough of us who are ourselves, which is where all our problems come from in the first place.

As if the world hasn’t had enough of these monstrosities lumbered onto it already. In the last few years I can think of a multitude of flicks with a similar premise (though substantially different execution). Enough already. Napoleon Darko Holden Caufield has left the building.

So. Thumbsucker is a minor, pleasant flick about a 17 year old called Justin (Lou Pucci) who still sucks his thumb. He doesn’t know why he does it, his parents are embarrassed by it, and for Justin it is the cherry on top of a seething mess of teenage neurotic confusions. Which is little different from the lives of most teenagers, minus the thumbsucking, I guess.

Rating:

Squid and the Whale, The

dir: Noah Baumbach
[img_assist|nid=908|title=No, not the prequel to Megashark Versus Giant Octopus|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=338]
Ah, the agony and the ecstasy of being part of a New York literary, dysfunctional family falling apart in slow motion in the 80s. Well, there’s no ecstasy, and the agony is keen yet comedic. It’s the best way to get revenge on your family that I’ve ever heard of, apart from converting to Islam, possibly.

From what I gather, The Squid and the Whale is almost entirely autobiographical. As such, I don’t know if director and writer Noah Baumbach is welcome at either of his parents’ places for Thanksgiving dinner. His portrayal of his parents, his brother and himself is scathing. Even though the film persistently goes for humourous pathos rather than miserable domestics, it is nonetheless ruthless in its treatment of its characters.

For all that, the characters are pretty well-rounded and believable, and uniformly well acted. I guess Noah knew exactly how he wanted these characters to look and sound, since he grew up with their templates.

Rating:

Ring II, The

dir: Hideo Nakata
[img_assist|nid=1213|title=Stay down the well until you learn how to comb your hair properly|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=289]
The onslaught of Japanese horror remakes marches inexorably on. Strictly speaking this is a sequel to a remake, but there’s a Japanese Ringu 2, and it was directed by the same guy that directed this, but it’s a different story (kinda) and, oh fuck it, it’s making my head hurt already. Look, it’s a sequel to the Hollywood Ring film, that’s all you need to know at this stage. It has nothing to do with the Lord of the Rings movies, The Ringmaster, Postman Always Rings Twice, Ring of Fire, Ring King, Ring Ring, or Ring-a-Ding Ding. So don’t be too disappointed.

Rating:

New World, The

dir: Terrence Malick
[img_assist|nid=895|title=Who dares call Pocahontas jailbait?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=270|height=400]
Terrence Malick has a rightly earned reputation as a guy who doesn’t like to rush anything. His films, known for their beautiful scenery, leisurely pacing and lack of dialogue, are too few and far between for his isolated, sweaty fans.

The New World is his take on the first, tentative steps the Old World (European pilgrims) took towards its settlement and extermination of the people of the New World (Native Americans). Whilst much of it is historically based, it’s hard not to see everything as allegorical as well. Though she is never named, Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher) and her fate could just as easily represent the fate of the tribal nations that would come to be exterminated by disease, genocide and booze at the hands of Manifest Destiny.

Rating:

Matador, The

dir: Richard Shepard
[img_assist|nid=891|title=Its no Remington Steele, but still.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=442]
For a low-key comedy made up mostly of two and then three people chatting, this is a surprisingly enjoyable flick. Also, as part of the done-to-death genre of hitmen and the people that love them, this flick manages to rise above the common morass and actually represents an amusing and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

It surprised me, and I am rarely surprised, not counting the last time the cops knocked on my front door. No, Officer, I don’t know anything about anything. No, Officer, I don’t know anything about those death threats sent to Humphrey B. Bear, but if you ask me, the bitch had it coming.

There are only three roles of note in the flick, with Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis assaying those roles. Each of them does decent work in a talky flick with characters that seem simple but really needed to be nuanced in order to be memorable and sympathetic, which at least two of them are.

Julian (Brosnan) is a middle-aged hitman at the end of his professional tether. Though he’s enjoyed a lifetime of professional success, he finds he is losing his ability to perform at the crucial moment. As you might expect, such a person doesn’t really have an overly stable personality, and tends to live somewhat outside the norms of standard contemporary human behaviour.

Rating:

Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The

dir: Andrew Adamson
[img_assist|nid=896|title=Just like Lord of the Rings, except blander|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=297]
I don’t usually get to watch G or PG rated flicks at the cinema. And it’s not due to the result of any court proceedings or angry parent’s groups with pitchforks and flaming torches. Rarely does a thusly rated movie justify my scant money and precious time. It’s not only smutty hellish violence and lewdness that inspires me to venture forth. Usually, if it doesn’t have at least ‘adult themes’, I’m not always interested in what one of these sappy movies has to say.

It’s a definite, unfortunate bias on my part. It means I miss out on seeing some admirable flicks on the big, unfocused screen. It means I miss out on being annoyed by legions of hyper-animated munchkins in the seats around my position in the cinema.

It means a lot of things. But I decided to breach the conditions of my self-imposed restraining order and make the long journey into a theatre to watch this here epic.

I have fond memories of reading the Narnia books as a child. I read them at around the time where I was in my Enid Blyton-reading prime. So the activities of well-scrubbed, full of pluck, British boys and girls around the time of the second War with the Germans engaging in acts of derring-do and crime solving are part of my upbringing.

Rating:

Sin City

dir: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino and a bunch of circus monkeys on rollerskates
[img_assist|nid=892|title=All sorts of sins abound in Basin City|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=297]
Take the very essence of film noir, the constant smoking, the femme fatales, the violent goons, the black and white universe (especially). Distil it down to its purest elements, devoid of any pretensions apart from delivering the most violent, sleaziest explosion of trashy entertainment possible, and you have Sin City in all its vile glory.

And it is glorious. Glorious and unrepentant trash. It is the first movie adaptation of a comic book that looks exactly like the comic book (sorry, graphic novel). It is essentially a moving comic, animation with ‘real’ people in it. Of the recent crop of films where the only real thing in the scene is the people, Sin City is the most accomplished and best realised (on a slender budget), because it really achieves what it sets out to achieve. And at a fraction of the price.

Rating:

40 Year Old Virgin, The

dir: Judd Apatow
[img_assist|nid=897|title=Some people choose a life of celibacy. Others have celibacy thrust upon them|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=318|height=400]
It’s rare that I venture forth to the cinema in order to catch a comedy. They’re rarely funny and usually so disposable that I forget I’m watching them whilst I’m watching them. It’s always scary when you have to check your ticket to remind yourself what you’re watching. Ah, senility, my friend, you make everything old new again.

It’s far easier to catch them on DVD or cable, with little loss to my time, brain cells or threadbare wallet. In this instance there was clearly something different going on. I went out of my way to see this instead of the myriad other stuff on display at any of Melbourne’s fine theatres. There was a different thought process involved.

Judd Apatow is the name that made me think this might be worth watching. Apatow is one of those hellishly talented people who makes some great stuff for television but keeps getting shafted by the networks. His show Freaks and Geeks was a fresh and highly enjoyable entry into the high school kids tv genre. It wasn’t Degrassi High, but it also wasn’t Rich White Teenagers With Problems, part of the legacy Beverly Hills 90210 has left in its murderous wake.

Rating:

Serenity

dir: Joss Whedon
[img_assist|nid=898|title=Boys and their guns. Touching co-dependence|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
There’s something immensely satisfying about being able to review this film. Not the fact that I got to watch it, I mean just the very fact that it got made.

Firefly was a series that deserved to live and breath for at least a few seasons. Many found the premise somewhat outlandish, and I admit watching those first few episodes on DVD I thought “Jeez, I can see why this got shitcanned”. But the show grew on me, the actors grew into their roles, and the writing stopped trying so damn hard and started to set up some interesting plot lines and character dynamics for future shows that were never to be.

A tv show set in space is nothing new, and a sci-fi film is hardly anything novel in itself. Firefly, and therefore Serenity, had as their novelty factor a premise set on a ship in the future which looks awfully like frontier times in the Wild West. People wear those hats and dusters, and shoot bullets from shiny guns, and speak a mishmash of old slang, new slang, Mandarin insults and that hyper-aware, pop culture speak that Whedon is either renowned or loathed for, dependent on your tastes.

I can’t really see people who hated the show or never watched it giving a good god damn about the film, or really getting it, or caring about this review.

Saw II

dir: Darren Lynn Bousman
[img_assist|nid=893|title=Two fingers, the classic gesture representing "Up yours, audience."|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=363|height=544]
The question was never “Will it be as good as Saw?” It was more along the lines of “Can they come up with a ending even dumber and more insulting that the first one?”

What Saw had going for it a macabre sense of humour, a diseased looking mise en scene and ‘scary’ dark cinematography, and a sense of menace and cruel irony. It had against it some truly terrible acting and an ending which did the equivalent of throwing up in the audience’s lap when the issue regarding the villain was revealed as having less to do with his identity, and more to do with his location.

Saw II has against it the fact that it is a sequel to a flick that really didn’t deserve to become such a hit in the first place, and one that wasn’t really crying out for a sequel anyway. When a flick is as cheap as Saw was, the overheads are so low that the company picking it up for distribution can afford to promote the hell out of it because they’ve only paid a piddling amount for it in the first place.

Rating:

Sahara

Dir: Breck Eisner
[img_assist|nid=894|title=Quick, let's get out of here! The audience wants their money back.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=293]
What the hell is a “Breck” anyway? It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a person, director or otherwise with a name like Breck. Whoever and whatever he is, even with a name like that, he wouldn’t be directing films if it wasn’t for his father, Michael Eisner. Michael Eisner is the kind of person who at his peak probably dined with Rupert “Ubermensch” Murdoch, got him to pick up the bill and then split a hooker or two together over snifters of brandy made from the tears of virgins. As the son of the former CEO of Disney I’m sure that Breck Eisner had a lot of hurdles to traverse and obstacles to mount and then surmount in order to follow his dream of becoming a Hollywood director. It gives hope to us all.

However he managed to get there, we should only really judge him on his merits, on the works that he produces. I mean, come on, it’s only fair. I can’t be judged based on what my father Idi Amin, or my mother Lindy Chamberlain did in their lifetimes, surely? It’s just wrong to judge me based on anything else than what I’ve achieved in this life. And I am sure as hell going to extend that same courtesy to my man Breck here.

Rating:

Robots

dir: Chris Wedge & Carlos Saldanha
[img_assist|nid=917|title=Wow, so life-like, so real|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=345]
For every great idea, person, creation, there is not just its probable opposite, but also its poor cousin. The lame pretender to the throne, the wannabe, the also-ran. It incorporates enough elements of the quality version to be recognisable, but leaves out the essentials that make the great one great.

For every Kubrik there is a Spielberg. For every Tilda Swinton there is a Cate Blanchett. Each Russell Crowe spawns multiple Colin Farrells. And, in the animated feature stakes, Pixar has its pretenders in the form of the companies that make their magic for the likes of Fox and Dreamworks SKG.

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Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

dir: George Lucas
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It's finally over. The waiting, that is. I don't believe for a second that this is going to be the last Star Wars film. It's just way too lucrative. Capitalism demands that more films get made. Nerds demand that more films get made. Normal people and unborn generations insist as well. I don't care what Lucas himself says, this isn't the end.

The wait has been worth it. Revenge of the Sith isn't only the best of the three prequels, it's a pretty good film in and of itself. Lucas, being Lucas, makes the kind of elementary errors a first year film school student would know to avoid. But he gets a lot of stuff right as well.

He still can't write dialogue, or direct humans, but he makes do with amazing special effects, lots of lightsaber battles and a cracking story. Although, you know, I think there could have been a few more. I don't think sixteen lightsaber fights were enough.

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Junebug

dir: Phil Morrison
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Junebug is a strange slice-of-life about a bunch of people that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see in a movie. Of course they’re actors acting in the roles they’re given, but the roles themselves are of simple people living simple lives.

Into their simple lives, which meander along in a town in North Carolina, comes the number one son of the family George (Alessandro Nivola) and his new wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz). Though they’ve been together for six months, Madeleine clearly has no idea about the kind of family that George comes from. She herself is an art dealer with practically no clues about the South. The real reason they’re so way below the Mason-Dixon line is that Madeleine, who deals in ‘outsider’ art, is trying to get the works of a true Southern lunatic called David Wark (Frank Hoyt Taylor).

George is clearly the golden boy of his family, but we never really figure out why. He gets a surprisingly small amount of dialogue in a film that you’d think either himself or Madeleine would be the main characters of. In truth it is enough of an ensemble piece that no one character seems to dominate proceedings.

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How Much Do You Love Me?

dir: Bertrand Blier
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This film is terrible even by the standards of French cinema. I’m no Gallophobe, disliking the French or their cinema by any stretch of the imagination, but this flick is appalling according to any criteria that I can think to apply.

Look, it’s not the acting. The actors are, I’m sure, doing the best they can with the material. And many a French film possesses a certain arch or pretentious sensibility that would be ridiculed in flicks from any other culture. But here, the scripting, the plotting and the editing combine to produce an absolutely shithouse result that knows no borders.

It’s not unpleasant to watch for most of the time, with the sound and subtitles turned off. Any film that has Monica Bellucci in it has at least two good reasons to watch it, whether lingerie clad or not. And the great advantage that this film has over, say, Irreversible, is that the audience isn’t subjected to watching her being subjected to the most horrendous assault imaginable over a prolonged period of time.

But this film is still appalling. Even with Bellucci, and Gerard Depardieu, that giant of French cinema in more ways than one, in this flick, it’s still unwatchably stupid.

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