dir: Ang Lee
It’s strange that such a big deal is being made about this film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautifully shot, well-acted, with a touching, sad story to tell.
But it’s such a low-key story, regardless of all the controversy surrounding it. And let’s not skimp on the praise here, it’s utterly ridiculous that such subject matter can still get so many people’s girdles in a twist in this day and age.
Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) work as shepherds in the mountain region of Wyoming one summer in 1963. They talk like Texans, and dress like the Marlboro Man, so I guess they must be cowboys. They’re really not cowboys, though. So those, like me, who were expecting two hours of gay cowboys eating pudding, will be disappointed. Instead of proving the old South Park gag about all arthouse films, they subverted it, the bastards.
Their job on the mountain is to let the sheep graze, and to protect them at night from coyotes and other predators. And though it be 1963, the place is still a pristine wilderness. As such, depicted in relatively modern times, the place has an air of unreality to it, as if it is some fabled realm, of nature unspoiled, where man doesn’t really belong. So two men, up there, all alone on Brokeback Mountain; cold nights, flowing whisky, sleeping in a tent together, what else would you expect, eh?
dir: Garth Jennings
So I liked the “So long and thanks for all the fish” song used in the intro, in fact I found it thrilling, transporting and charming. Unfortunately it’s about the only thing I liked about the film.
It’s funny, or maybe not that funny that they (“they” being the people responsible for regurgitating this film forth, which includes Douglas Adams) could take a book beloved by so many legions of nerds for its humour and yet succeed in draining most of the humour out of it.
I’ll admit that I’m not really that much of a fan of the book in the first place. I would still like to think that they could have done a better job had a better director or producers had a bash at it. Imagine Charlie Kaufman having a go at the screenplay, and Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry directing it. If you don’t think that Americans or a French guy could do justice to it, then how about if they’d used an innovative bunch of people like Danny Boyle and his production crew, or Edgar White and Simon Pegg, the guys behind Shaun of the Dead.
Hell, maybe they should have gotten your mum to direct it. Or even my mum. Though she is busy sitting in a store window in Amsterdam’s red light district. That reminds me, need to send her those antibiotics for Mother’s Day.
Anyone it seems could have done a better job than Garth Jennings. The film, for the majority of its length, is just shy of mediocre. There are flashes of brilliance, but they last for mere seconds at a time. It’s not all bad, of course. We should be glad that there are still studios out there with more money than sense that aren’t so risk-averse as to knock a project like this on its head. It had been in development hell for decades, but based on this shemozzle maybe it should have stayed there.
dir: Alex Gibney
Based on the book The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, this documentary tracks the rise and fall of one of the most fraudulent and corrupt companies in corporate history. That we know of.
Enron’s existence and eventual demise is an incredibly powerful modern tale about the poisonous organisational culture that can exist under the gleaming PR-heavy corporate exterior, the laxity of corporate governance in contemporary business, the ‘embedded’ and tame nature of business journalism, shameless dishonesty and personal hubris.
But it’s also an ode to human stupidity. That so many could be sucked in by such an obvious, nonsensical scam is an indictment of contemporary society. And it makes modern civilisation look dumber as a consequence.
How did it happen? Perhaps people were so completely blinded by greed that they were happy to believe anything as long as the company’s share price kept going up.
The business reporters who would have ordinarily sniffed out and exposed such a fiasco were captive, collaborators in the system, which only seems to keep chugging along if journalists keep quiet about all the glaring illegalities they must surely know about or suspect.
The documentary painstakingly builds its case chronologically to expose the rotten core beneath the glitzy facade. Narrated with authority by actor Peter Coyote (who you may remember from such films as Roman Polanski’s romantic comedy Bitter Moon, and as the nice but still evil Government Scientist in ET: the Extraterrestrial) gets across the appropriate tone of conspiratorial gossiping and thinly-disguised outrage as he relates the tragic tale.
dir: George A. Romero
The “master” is back, as if he ever really went away.
Romero is revered as a god of horror films, and many see the zombie genre especially to be his baby. If anyone has the right to screw with the conventions of a genre, you’d think it’d be the guy who built it all up in his own image.
Before Romero’s movies, zombies didn’t crave flesh and brains: they craved strangling people like the Mummy in ancient horror flicks. Post Romero they became the primal, ugly aspect of humanity let loose upon an effete, consumerism-obsessed society.
In 2005, zombies are the excuse for Romero making a film Marx and adherents of the dialectical materialist view of human history would be proud of. Damn proud. It’s enough to make you pull out your old Soviet flag, your copy of Das Kapital, and sing the Internationale, you goddamn pinko commie bastards!
Where the original Dawn was satire (of mindless consumerism, apparently), and last year’s remake was more straightforward action / horror, Land of the Dead is more of a straight allegory. There’s no great subtlety to this, or obscure subtext symbolism: it’s obvious and overt. It doesn’t detract from it, but it certainly is a departure from the other zombie flicks Romero has inflicted upon willing audiences.
dir: Rowan Woods
Each year they keep talking about the film that’s going to launch the renaissance of Australian cinema, and each year the call goes ignored and unlamented by Australian audiences.
It’s the unpopular kid at school who throws a big birthday on the Saturday afternoon, with the best party pies and those frankfurters on tooth picks, but no-one comes. The kid is left there crying, heart-broken, vowing to join the Liberal party at the soonest opportunity in order to exact revenge upon the world.
This is the latest flick to get touted as the be-all and end-all. And the call is still going to go unheeded. It’s a decent flick all the same.
It’s too downbeat. It’s too angular and deliberately unsatisfying, and incongruous. In fact, you’d wonder who thought this was really going to have any mass appeal. Sure, I saw it in a totally packed cinema, but that was on a Monday afternoon. Monday afternoons at the Nova mean you get to see any flick for 5 bucks. Every old person and their maiden aunt descends upon the Nova from every corner of the inner city, to the almost musical accompaniment of their creaking walking frames.
It will still get the lion’s share of the critical plaudits, at least, even if it doesn’t achieve box office magic. With the AFI awards becoming one-horse races, this will probably win everything next year from Best Film to Nicest Boots.
dir: Sarah Watt
Since this flick cleaned up the major awards at this year’s AFIs, in a strong year for Australian cinema, I thought I’d give it a look, despite the fact that it’s been out for a donkey’s age. I do so prefer to keep things fresh for you, my loyal and easily bemused readers.
What we have here is not a failure to communicate, but an Australian version of those terrible films coming out of Britain perpetrated by those Working Title people. You know the ones, often directed by Richard Curtis, with random swearing substituting for humour, and more treacle and saccharine than you’ll find at your local confectioners. If you’re not up with Richard Curtis’ ‘oeuvre’, then think Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the diabolical Love Actually.
You’re looking at a large cast of characters, connected tangentially to each other, affected by central plot devices and prone to musical montages. And weepy rainy moments where everyone, generally living in the same town or geographical location, is sad at the same moment, mirrored by the weather.
Watt doesn’t honestly use it as her template, and if she had you could say she’d stripped the formula of the false sentiment and the mawkishness it is prone to, and invested it with more humanity and meaning. The connective musical montages are still there, but everything else is far more concerned with telling a decent story, rather than making people feel all brain-dead and gooey inside. Also, it’s not a romantic comedy, so you might (rightly) be wondering why I brought the whole Love Actually thing up in the first place.
dir: Gus Van Sant
dir: Ridley Scott
Finally, Hollywood has caught up with mobile phone technology. Now we are privy to the birth of a new age. The typewriter is dead. The clunky desktop computer is for squares and losers. Give us movies like Kingdom of Heaven. We're ready, and we're gagging for it. Just look at the way we're dressed.
Now we can watch films whose entire dialogue was compiled between two or more people sending each other text messages on their mobiles. How else does one explain the fact that no-one says more than ten words in any given sentence in this film? It's surreal. Even people in the Australian outback have longer conversations than this, laconic as they're supposed to be.
Nothing better represents this new risk-aversion to too much dialogue than Orlando Bloom's heartening equivalent of the St Crispin's Day speech from Henry the V, where he ends up yelling at the defenders of Jerusalem to "Come On! Come On!" to get them fired up. Um, isn't that what tennis player and Mensa candidate Lleyton Hewitt does to fire himself up during matches? Shakespeare, Kenneth Brannagh and Helena Bonham Carter should be rolling in their graves.
dir: Peter Jackson
Some of you who’ve been reading my reviews over the centuries know that I have a bit of a problem. First time readers will know what the problem is by the end of this gargantuan review of a gargantuan film.
I’m bad at editing my own stuff. It’s hard for me to cut out the constant and endless stream of mirthful pithiness that doth roll forth from my fingers. In writing classes, one of the key phrases they first teach you is “murder your babies”. This is not a recommendation to go out and kill your children because a) they’re annoying, or b) they stop you from writing.
The phrase refers to a good writer’s need to be able cut out whole sections of their own stuff even if they think it’s the brilliantest and wittiest crap written since Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw traded catty insults in a rent boy-filled opium den. Even if it’s a great idea, even if it’s the single greatest idea you’ve ever had, if it doesn’t enhance what you were working on, or fit into the overall scheme of things, you need to be able to drown it without mercy.
Clearly, as you can well see, if the requirement is to ‘murder one’s babies’ in order to write something cohesive and coherent (and entertaining), I am the equivalent of a bloated single mother with an endless brood of hellspawn stinking up the trailer park.
But (from my point of view), that’s okay for the purposes of these reviews. It’s not like they take up prime real estate, or people are charged a dollar for every pretentious word or phrase of mine that they read. I am, after all, a hack who posts reviews on the internet. You know, the internet. They have it on computers now.
dir: Christian Carion
I would not have thought a war film set during the Great War could bring me to tears. I would not have thought a war film could possess such gentle humour, genuine humanism and have such an uplifting message.
And I was right. This flick hasn’t got ANY of that shit.
Just kidding, it has some of that and more in sheer coruscating abundance.
For all my enjoyment of the film, don’t get all confused and assume it’s the flick of the year. It’s pretty simplistic, sentimental and should have been in desperate search of a better ending. But for all its faults (and unbelievable aspects), it is still a strong film saying something many of us can understand: most soldiers from different countries don’t really like killing each other that much.
They don’t get a lot out of it, and it’s murder on your laundry.
But someone benefits from war, and it’s never the guys at the front. And someone must be ‘inspiring’ these people to go to war, for whatever noble or ignoble reasons.
This is most chillingly asserted at film’s beginning, where we watch three children, one after the other, recite propaganda poems from the era in their respective languages advocating the absolute extermination of their enemy down to the women and children. And why the hell not…
dir: Craig Brewer
There is a whole sub-genre of movies that usually go straight to video. They usually star minor rappers and hip-hop artists who want to play gangsters on film in order to live out their fantasy of being hard men, especially when they grew up far from the mean streets of South Central, Bedford-Stuyvesant, or Caroline Springs.
Seriously, you should check out the shelves of your local video store. There’s reams of these flicks, starring people you’ve never heard of, playing out these sub-rap video clip quality fantasies / tributes to their own egos. But you should definitely not watch them. No sins you’ve committed in your life would justify the punishment. Many of them are written and directed by homeless mental patients. At least it seems that way.
This flick shouldn’t be mistaken for one of those. It does have a lot to do with music, but is about far more than romanticising criminality or making an extended promotional opportunity for shills to shill their shilling-worth wares to get more record sales.
Like the recent and unreviewable Get Rich or Die Tryin’, starring a man named after half a dollar. Half a fucking dollar! Even without inflation that’s practically worthless.
Nor is this 8 Mile
dir: Fernando Meirelles
A diplomat’s wife is raped and murdered. The diplomat is given an explanation, which seems entirely plausible, considering his wife and where it happens. He doesn’t believe it, though, and neither do we.
No, this isn’t a film about White People in Trouble in Dark Places. This isn’t a culture clash about the first world versus the developing world. It is a film about a quiet and harmless bureaucrat who wants to find out who his wife was, and wants to understand how and why she died.
Of course then it does become the Little Guy versus The Man, but any story of this nature needs someone we care about (our Hero) versus someone who doesn’t like them very much (the Baddies). This is a simplistic but believable take on what a spy / government thriller could be like in the real world we live in beyond the cinema screen. This world, this hallowed world with its constant conflicts of interest and its negation of the worth of human life, especially amongst those whose standard of living doesn’t match our own. Also, they look different from us and are therefore kinda funny.
There is always the risk of something like this being preachy, or looking like a begging charity ad headed by some well-fed and well-groomed actors, using their Compassion face, telling us ‘Every three seconds, a child dies in Africa. You can make a difference.’
dir: Deepa Mehta
A little girl at the age of eight becomes a widow during the latter part of the 1930s. Hindu holy texts dictate widows can never remarry, and must live in seclusion for the rest of their days, to be punished for the sin of having their husband’s die. Or, they can perish upon their husband’s funeral pyre. Or, even better, they can marry their husband’s younger brother. Talk about having an abundance of options in your life.
Chuyia (Sarala) is sent to an ashram filled to the brim with women whose husbands are long dead. An ancient widow, Auntie (Vidula Javalgekar), recalls the sweets served at her wedding when she was seven, with longing, despite the fact (or maybe because of it) that she’s toothless, and easily in her eighties, and has spent most of her life as a widow.
The widows, who wear white saris and have their hair cut very short to mark their status, are ruled by one of the eldest and fattest of their number, Madhumati (Manorama) who eats fried food forbidden to widows whilst the others starve, and doesn’t mind a bit of dope every now and then. The rest of them live miserable lives overflowing with bitterness and regret. The most they hope for is to die and be reincarnated as men.
Kalyani (Lisa Ray), a young and beautiful widow, is the ashram’s top earner, being sent to work as a prostitute at the homes of the wealthy Brahmans across the river. She is the only one who gets to keep her hair long. As in all Indian stories, caste, the complex social / cultural class system, plays a key role. By virtue of being widows, the women are members of one of the lowest castes around. A priest tells one of the women down at the river, performing her morning ablutions, not to allow her shadow to touch a bride-to-be, because it would bring bad luck upon their marriage.
dir: Rob Marshall
I guess this was a highly anticipated adaptation of a bestselling book. To my eye, for the last five years, upon riding and enjoying the many virtues of public transport, if a fellow passenger wasn’t reading a Harry Potter book, or one of Dan Brown’s magnum opuses, they usually held a white book with a vivid set of red lips on the cover.
As something of a fan of Japanese history and culture (read: a pretentious dilettante), curiousity killed and skinned my cat about the whole production. So I endeavoured to read the book before seeing the film. Because it’s nice, occasionally, to have an informed opinion on something.
The book, to my surprise, was not, actually, the memoirs of a geisha. It was a purely fictional story written by an American guy, Arthur Golden, who researched a heap about the life and times of the geisha, and who probably doesn’t look that good in a kimono. So that was my first let down.
Then, as I read, I realised the story was essentially a Japanese version of Pretty Woman, that cinematic classic of the Golden Age of Hollywood. That was my second.
dir: George Clooney
The most important aspect that a period piece has to get right is to evoke a sense of place and time. Depending on the time it is set in, an essential part of that is representing just how different that time and place were compared to the present day equivalent. It’s also handy when you can illustrate what hasn’t changed at all, no matter how much time has elapsed between drinks.
Good Night, and Good Luck goes a long way towards setting itself properly just through the use of black and white film. It not only convinces us straight away that we are looking at a slice of the past, but it also ‘colours’ the content, so to speak. Since the film deals with the medium of television as a newborn child, the era itself is defined by its limitations and the remnants we have left of their broadcasts in shades of stark light and dark.
Seeing the images here approximating the broadcasts of the time reminds me of the idea, used in many a sci-fi show, of early tv broadcasts being beamed out into the cosmos, the transmissions crossing the vacuum of space and reaching other worlds, or eventually being bounced back to our earthly realm. It is as if the images from Good Night have crossed the abyss and returned to us, depicting an almost alien world of eloquence and principle in the realm of television journalism when a society was going slowly mad from fear. Where the perceived threat of enemies outside prompted a society to start attacking the people within.
Edward R. Murrow was one of the people, along with producer Fred Friendly and the other former radio journalists at CBS, who midwived, breastfed, coaxed, scolded and long-pantsed broadcast journalism into existence. Even over half a century ago, the commercial, corporate and political interests were in opposition to the journalistic integrity and investigative function Murrow saw as his personal obligation to the people of America. Even back then he had to compete and accede to game shows and celebrity interviews in order to be able to do what he most wanted: tell people what was going on in the world around them.
dir: Gregg Araki
My alternative Rating is 0 out of 10 - or no stars for this flick
They say that it takes courage to make certain films. Sometimes there’s more courage in enduring them.
Mysterious Skin is a deeply disturbing film. It is well made and well acted, with a beautiful soundtrack by Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie (of Cocteau Twins fame). None of that makes its subject matter any easier to deal with, or the movie overall any more enjoyable when you walk away from the cinema like someone emerging from a car wreck.
Based on the novel of the same name by Scott Heim the story focuses on the lives of two boys, Neil (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Brian (Brady Corbet), who are linked by something horrific that happened to them when they were eight years old. What is even more horrific is that one of them cannot remember what happened, and it has left him an empty shell grasping for meaning in the clueless dark. The other remembers it very well. Too well. It has defined his life in ways all-encompassing and wholly destructive.
Brian searches for answers to his blackouts and nosebleeds through finding out about alien abductions and vile experiments onboard UFOs. Neil finds fulfilment through getting paid for hot gay sex and listening to 80s goth music.
As an aside, it is one of the most sympathetic and least cringeworthy portrayals of goth teenagers I’ve seen in many a while. You can extrapolate as to what the film is saying about goths and their origins, but as 80s goth teenagers go, Wendy, Neil and their friend Eric (Jeff Licon) looked credible and felt like real people that I didn’t want to smack in the face.
Neil’s best friend Wendy (Michelle Trachtenberg, in a small but excellent role) knows enough about Neil to love him, but too much to be blind to the boy’s lost soul.
I’m not referring to an ability to dance or keep rhythm. Neil seems to be searching for either love or destruction at the hands of the men who pay to play with him, because though his many statements to the contrary imply the opposite, he is a deeply disturbed individual because of what happened to him ten years ago.
dir: Steven Spielberg
It pains me to say I enjoyed a Steven Spielberg film. It pains me even more to say that he managed to make a really, really good film here in the case of Munich.
I’ve long believed Spielberg was some mutated or evolved form of sea anemone that had somehow climbed out of the ocean, grabbed a movie camera and started making flicks about a species he didn’t really know or understand. I don’t mean sharks or aliens, I mean people. As in Soylent Green is people.
I still don’t think he really knows or likes humans, but in Munich he’s managed to make a compelling, complex and entertaining espionage thriller with a surprising amount of depth. Which involves humans, so maybe something has changed.
Munich deals with the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympics where Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes and a few German police officers as well. The arseholes, calling themselves Black September, directly involved mostly bit the bullet after brutally dispatching the hostages, but the film deals with the other people who were believed to be involved in planning and organising the massacre.
Avner (Eric Bana) is put in charge of an off-the-books squad intended to track down and execute 11 men believed to have played major roles in the terrorist action. Though he works for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, he is ‘fired’ so that he can’t be linked back to the government, though he retains a case manager, Ephraim, (Geoffrey Rush) to keep him on track.
The Israeli Prime Minister herself, Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen) explains to her subordinates, and therefore to us the great unwashed in the audience, that at times like this, a civilisation needs to make compromises with its own values in order to maintain its survival. In other words, such a terrible terrorist attack against Israel needs to be answered in a similarly violent and obvious way. In the words of a different character later in the film, the message of their actions is meant to spell out clearly to the world: “Don’t fuck with the Jews.”
dir: Woody Allen
He tried to stealth this one under our radars, he did. Outwardly, there’s practically no signifiers to indicate that this is a Woody Allen film. It’s a drama, and he hasn’t done a ‘serious’ drama since the days where he was directly ripping off Ingmar Bergman.
In the last few years he’s been content to peddle mostly bland, ineffectual comedies about the same topics he’s always been focussed on. They include the loving of Barely Legal women by men old enough to be their grandfathers, repeated infidelity, being chronically misunderstood, the full spectrum of neurotic behaviours, the unattainability of ‘true’ love that works for any period of time, or the lack of any real lasting happiness.
All hilarious stuff. He puts out a film a year on the cheap, with name actors who work for him practically for free, so it doesn’t really matter that they’re crap. He’s iconic, even if no-one watches his movies any more, and he’s as prolific as Bollywood, with about as much restraint and as little subtlety. Usually.
Match Point is Allen taking another swipe at Crimes and Misdemeanours, because, despite its critical success, maybe he doesn’t feel he got it right the first time. But in opposition to Crimes and Misdemeanours, the theme here is more so the role that luck plays in people’s lives. If you don’t like the word ‘luck’ because of its superstitious connotations, then maybe ‘blind chance’ or ‘random chaos’ suits you more, you pedants.
In essence, what moral outcomes arise from the idea that there is no justice, no grand plan to the universe, no divine system ensuring the good get the goodies and the evil get punished? Well, you can wonder all you want until Uncle Woody sets you straight.
dir: Scott Derrickson
The makers claim from the outset that the film is based on a true story. The “true” story involves a German woman called Annaleise Michel who died in the 70s, whom her family and a bunch of priests believe was possessed by a bunch of demons.
Not just any demons, but the demons that possessed Hitler, Nero, and also Lucifer, who might have just been along for the ride.
The medical types, being the killjoys that they are, believed her to be an epileptic with schizophrenia. When she died, after nearly a year of malnutrition and weekly exorcisms, the authorities stepped in and charged two priests and the girl’s parents with negligent homicide.
The story is transplanted to the US, her name is changed to Emily Rose, the charge is applied to just the priest, Father Moore (dependable Tom Wilkinson), and the “truth” of the girl’s story is laid out for us, the questioning audience, to work out for ourselves.
That is, at least, what they would have you believe. The story from the outset leaves you in no doubt as to what they want you to believe is the “truth” of the matter. And in case you don’t get it, the signposts put up at the end put it beyond rational doubt.
dir: Bent Hamer
Getting to watch a flick based on a Charles Bukowski novel appeals to a pretty narrow crowd of people. Anyone familiar with his work and his life knows that the story is going to follow a narrow path: it’ll deal with drinking, women and writing, and little else. Maybe a few fights. Bit of throwing up and examples of scuzzy living, some poetry, and that’s it.
But they’re already sold on the idea anyway. The difficulty is in selling it to anyone else.
This movie, produced by a Norwegian director and film crew, is an adaptation of the Bukowski novel Factotum. Factotum (the book) is about an alcoholic based on Bukowksi who drinks constantly, works shitty jobs, and writes. He also takes up with some women, lives like a bum, and writes some more.
Factotum (the movie) stars Matt Dillon as Hank Chinaski, who drinks constantly, works (and gets fired from) shitty jobs, writes, takes up with women, lives like an unrepentant bum, and writes some more. It is virtually plot-free, like an episode of a reality television show devoted to the Biggest Loser that has nothing to do with weight.
dir: John Hillcoat
I still have the soundtrack by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave ringing in my ears. For in truth that is probably the most successful part of the film.
This so-called Australian “Western” has little going for it except lovely postcard visuals, a melancholy tension, people with bad teeth giving good performances and a hell of a lot of brutality.
Let’s face it, the starting point of British colonialism in this country was anything but auspicious or pleasant for any of the people involved. The town of Banyon serves as the “hell” in the line uttered by one of the film’s many characters, “What fresh hell is this…”, though he is in fact talking about all of Australia.
Though the land has its empty natural beauty, it looks like what much of it is: hostile and inhospitable. Of course the film plays this up and makes it look like the first whities here must have been insane to stay. As well as being very dirty all of the time.
Many people star in this flick, many people were involved, and so it comes with many expectations. Maybe a stack of people are going to think it’s the bee’s knees. For me it was more like the flea’s disease.
It looks authentic, despite its clear lack of authenticity; it has a melancholy, tense feel to it throughout; the script and dialogue are rich in language, the performances are decent and the music adds to the story instead of being distracting. But there are still issues which make me less than happy about it.
dir: Hany Abu-Assad
How excited are you about reading a review of a film about two Palestinian suicide bombers? Thrilled, I imagine. As the eyes gloss over, and you open another browser window in order to check out the latest news on some celebrity’s sex scandal shocker, you’ll admit to yourself that sometimes it’s all right, but generally, worthy cinema about the world’s problems bores you to tears.
And who can blame you? The world is filled with such terrible occurrences on a second-to-second basis that it’s hard not to say “Fuck it, I can’t care anymore, I’m having another shot of whisky and another toke on the dutchy” which, as anyone who remembers the 80s knows, should always be passed on the left-hand side.
So maybe a story told from the point of view of two potential suicide bombers isn’t going to be your cup of tea. And if you do see it, it’ll be to impress some earnest and hot international student at your uni who you want to leave with the significant impression that you’re switched on about big worldly issues and therefore eminently fuckable.
For my money, this low budget but well put-together film was an interesting way to spend my Wednesday morning. Shot in Nablus and Nazareth, for a work of fiction it looks horribly real.
dir: Chris Wedge & Carlos Saldanha
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.
Pixar is the top of the heap, the peak, the bee’s knees and the best at what they do in this shitty part of the universe at least. None of the other companies, especially Disney proper, are still able to marry the animation technologies with decent stories. As Pixar has (had) its relationship with Disney, so too does Blue Sky with Fox, as does (I think) Pacific Data Images for Dreamworks. Blue Sky was previously responsible for Ice Age, which is easily the worst of the computer-animated movies that have come out to date. It was dull and had a boring, laboured story to tell. When you compare it to quality fare like the Toy Story flicks, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and even the Shrek films (neither of which I think are that good, but good goddamn did they make an embarrassing amount of money), they’ve come a distant third thus far.
Robots might represent a change in their fortunes, since it has (as any computer-animated flick seems to need to) incredibly advanced tech hardware and software at work. The imagery is incredible, the detail phenomenal and the action looks amazing. The robots themselves look fantastic, both in the way that most of them seem to be based on the design aesthetics of kitchen appliances from the 50s and 60s, but are also rendered in a solid, truly physical way. They can do incredible things with surfaces, with textures and shaders, light; all of it looks fantastic. It’s just a fucking shame that the story used as the basis for all of this is so goddamn mundane.
dir: Bertrand Blier
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.
dir: Johnny To
First off, this isn’t a review of the Alexander Payne flick of the same name from 1999. Reese Witherspoon does not star in this as an annoying overachiever who gets involved in a titanic struggle with Matthew Broderick.
This is not exactly a rare entry in Hong Kong cinema. More than half of the films made in Hong Kong since at least the 70s have been about the triads and their wicked ways. Election wants to go a little further than the usual, and tries to depict a story where the political machinations of the behind the scenes power struggles are more important than the machete fights and the slapping around of prostitutes. It also delves into the history and customs of the triads, making them seem as wholesome and long-standing as your local Rotary club or Masonic Hall.
Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai) and Lok (Simon Lam) are next in line for the leadership of their particular triad gang, the Wo Shing Society, the oldest of the established groups. The leader is voted for by the senior members, called Uncles, and reigns for two years. Some of the uncles favour Lok, because he is respectful towards them, level-headed and a solid leader. Some favour Big D because Big D makes a lot of money for them, and has bribed some of them to vote his way. Big D is loud and brash, and sadistic. Lok is quiet and seemingly thoughtful.
The dirty old Uncle vote doesn’t go down too well with one of the candidates, who unleashes a wave of violence to try to get things to go his way.