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2005

Aristocrats, The

dir: Paul Provenza
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Many (bad) comedies and films in general are often accused of being one joke movies stretched out painfully for an hour and a half more than they should be. Many of Jim Carrey’s movies fall into this category (the one joke being on the audience for paying to watch him twitch, flail and fulminate). The Passion of the Christ fits the bill. The Ahnuld – De Vito flick Twins falls into this category (They’re so different!) Anything arising from a television sketch show is emblematic of this plague upon all our houses when it defecates itself onto our silver screens.

Well, in The Aristocrats, we have instead a movie about one joke, and the myriad permutations and combinations thereof. And even though the flick is about this one joke, it is nothing like the aforementioned craptacular extravaganzas referred to earlier.

I guess you could call it a documentary, but that makes it sound like a studied, plotted course taken to reveal the origins and mysteries surrounding a legendary joke dating back to the vaudeville era. Which it approximates, but mostly it’s a bunch of talking heads either talking about the joke or telling their version of the joke.

Rating:

Election (Hak Se Wui)

dir: Johnny To
[img_assist|nid=915|title=Only slightly less corrupt than our own elections|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=588]
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.

Rating:

Hard Candy

dir: David Slade
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A 14-year-old girl and a 32-year-old man converse through the magic of the internet. Their flirtatious banter sounds harmless enough on one level and then completely disturbing on another. They then agree to meet in public for the first time. This does not bode well at all…

Aren’t there plenty of stories in the media, especially the American media, about children sneaking from their homes to meet significantly older perverts that they met online? The whole MySpace phenomena, which should die out within a few weeks and be replaced by some other new fad, like yo-yos, whittling or scrimshawing, has become notorious because of the occasions where oldies have gone there with
ill intentions to meet the young.

Also, these days, you can’t go into any chat room without soon discovering that whatever that alleged nubile jailbait is saying, it’s probably a fifty-year old, heavy-set FBI agent with a mortgage and an enlarged prostate pretending he’s a suggestible girl just waiting to bloom.

So it’s a pretty rich source of current material to be playing around with for this here flick by first-time director David Slade. Whatever it might sound like, the flick is not really about sex, aberrant or otherwise. But goddamn is it a rough ride, all the same.

Rating:

Hidden

dir: Michael Haneke
[img_assist|nid=909|title=Cache sounds so much more continental|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=283|height=400]
Austrian director Michael Haneke is a cruel man. His career has been devoted to torturing audiences with his diabolical flicks. I don’t mean in the same manner that Uwe Boll and Celine Dion torment audiences. As Haneke gets older, his techniques become more refined, his blunt instruments are replaced with scalpels, and the damage goes deeper.

Hidden focuses on a middle-class, middle-aged French couple who start receiving video tapes of themselves documenting their movements at their flat. As well, they receive harmless but unsettling child-like drawings depicting a person bleeding from the mouth, or a chicken getting its head cut off.

The feel of the film is quite unsettling. Haneke uses a static camera for all the shots, not just the surveillance videos, and generally only moves left or right, to make us unsure if we’re really watching the scene, or watching the surveillance depiction of the scene. The flick also has no musical score or soundtrack, which adds to the oppressive atmosphere.

It might sound like a clinical Dogma-like experiment, but it’s not. The performances from all involved, especially Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche, are good, as you would expect from two mainstays of modern French cinema.

Rating:

Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The

dir: Tommy Lee Jones
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Films that don’t immediately jump themselves into a recognisable pigeonhole already have a point or two in their favour, for my money. When films follow formula, I tend to start evaluating the film along the lines of its adherence to or variance from the formula. Whatever happens on screen filters through to me with that lens in use.

When I don’t get what the formula is, or the obvious destination point, I’m already more interested than usual. Because such a scenario makes me wonder what is going to happen next, as opposed to generally being able to predict it.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is not a great film. It has some great scenery, gorgeous cinematography, and some interesting characters. Its greatest advantage is that it has a script by Guillermo Arriaga.

Arriaga usually collaborates with director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, so you may be familiar with his work in the form of Amores Perros and 21 Grams, both films I have a lot of time for.

Rating:

Proposition, The

The Proposition

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.

Rating:

Exorcism of Emily Rose, The

dir: Scott Derrickson
[img_assist|nid=921|title=Some demon keeps stealing my underwear|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
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.

Rating:

Syriana

dir: Stephen Gaghan
[img_assist|nid=904|title=The beard and the extra weight means I should get an Oscar|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=297]
What do you look for in films? Is it diversion, or distraction; to forget for 90 to 120 minutes about the mundane obligations and constant petty outrages that modern life deals out to you on a daily basis? Is it to laugh, to cry, to get a tingle in your ‘naughty’ places from the on-screen antics of these surrogate selves cavorting on the silvery screen?

Is it to learn about the world, as seen through the eyes of the filmmakers, to be challenged and provoked, or to have your worldview confirmed and reinforced?

Regardless, whatever your reasons for darkening the cinema’s already darkened doorstep, I kind of doubt Syriana is going to provide any of that sweet, sweet satisfaction previously alluded to.

Syriana is one of those serious, serious films, like Traffic before it, which Gaghan also scripted, that believes it’s telling you something you don’t already know. It’s like the friend that points out stuff that’s already fairly self-evident to anyone in possession of at least four senses, saying stuff like “Gee, isn’t it hot today?” on a painfully scorching day. Or “Damn, having that limb amputated must have really sucked.”

Rating:

Paradise Now

dir: Hany Abu-Assad
[img_assist|nid=918|title=Blue skies, happy days|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=270|height=400]
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.

Rating:

Jarhead

dir: Sam Mendes
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This is a film about war without an actual war in it. It’s akin to make a porno without having sex in it.

There are movies like that. On cable, Showtime (channel 3), on Friday nights, plays these flicks which I am guessing are American pornos. I don’t actually know for sure, because the films have most of the nudity and all of the sex cut out of them. It begs the question as to why anyone would then want to watch them, considering the main attraction is now absent. It’s not for the scripts and the acting, which are teeth-grindingly bad. You wouldn’t watch a football game on the jumping box, the pictocube, I mean the telly, if they cut all the actual football out of it. And the sex as well.

Jarhead’s point is to give us a window into the experiences of a young marine trained and amped up for war, alongside his equally hyper macho brothers in arms, prior to the first Gulf War. It starts with scenes those of us who routinely watch war films would be familiar with (boot camp, having superior officers hurl abuse at newbies, small acts of rebellion against authority), but doesn’t have the general payoff that you get from the other flicks (trial by fire in wartime conflict, personal cowardice and courage, blowing people’s heads off).

Rating:

Factotum

dir: Bent Hamer
[img_assist|nid=920|title=When will people learn: being a drunk doesn't make you Bukowski. Hating women and occasionally writing turns you into Bukowski|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=316|height=463]
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.

Rating:

Good Night and Good Luck

dir: George Clooney
[img_assist|nid=929|title=Edward R. Murrow, where are you when we need you? Oh, that's right. Dead.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=343]
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.

Rating:

Constant Gardener, The

dir: Fernando Meirelles
[img_assist|nid=932|title=Before the fall|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=416|height=300]
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.’

Rating:

Water

dir: Deepa Mehta
[img_assist|nid=931|title=Praying not to be a woman or at least a widow in the next life|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=422|height=437]
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.

Rating:

Mysterious Skin

dir: Gregg Araki
[img_assist|nid=924|title=Oh, the confidence of youth|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
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.

Rating:

Munich

dir: Steven Spielberg
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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.

Rating:

Memoirs of a Geisha

dir: Rob Marshall
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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.

Rating:

Match Point

dir: Woody Allen
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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.

Rating:

Look Both Ways

dir: Sarah Watt
[img_assist|nid=939|title=Good advice from a helpful sign|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=382|height=254]
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.

Rating:

Little Fish

dir: Rowan Woods
[img_assist|nid=938|title=Cate getting her Blanchett on|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=399]
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.

Rating:

Last Days

dir: Gus Van Sant
[img_assist|nid=937|title=What 90s musician does he remind me of? Hmm, I know. Hootie of Hootie and the Blowfish fame. You rocked, Hootie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=400]

Rating:

Land of the Dead

dir: George A. Romero
[img_assist|nid=940|title=They look like regular people to me|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=293]
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.

Rating:

Kingdom of Heaven

dir: Ridley Scott
[img_assist|nid=936|title=My, my Orlando, whoever accused you of being flat and wooden was certainly wrong. Plastic is more apt|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
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.

Rating:

King Kong

dir: Peter Jackson
[img_assist|nid=935|title=King Kong: Where too much ends up being, um, too much|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=358|height=531]
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.

Rating:

Joyeux Noel

dir: Christian Carion
[img_assist|nid=934|title=War bringing people together|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=306]
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…

Rating:

Hustle and Flow

dir: Craig Brewer
[img_assist|nid=933|title=I think I can hear someone laughing at my jheri curls|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=294]
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.

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Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

dir: Garth Jennings
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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.

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Enron - the Smartest Guys in the Room

dir: Alex Gibney
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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.

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Constantine

dir: Francis Lawrence
[img_assist|nid=946|title=Great in any language except English|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=450]
There used to be a time, back in the distant reaches of the 90s when everyone knew that Keanu Reeves sucked as an actor but didn’t care. Girlies thought he was cute, and guys thought he was funny in Point Break and Speed, but no-one thought he was much of an actor. Then he starred in a little film called The Matrix, and some people started to take him seriously.

God knows why, since Kanooie’s success in that film was more a matter of him not being allowed to give the world his version of ‘acting’, standing in the right place with the right clothes on, and being an adequate support for the designer sunglasses that he was a prop for. Only for him does a wooden performance actually represent a step up in the acting stakes. In other words, by not always sucking completely in every single film he convinced us that maybe he didn’t suck.

So in coming to a new Kanooie film, you don’t ask ‘Was he good?’, you ask yourself instead ‘Did he not suck too badly?’

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Charlie and the Chocalate Factory

dir: Tim Burton
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When I heard the film was going to be remade, I had a sick feeling in my gut. When I heard Tim Burton would be the one helming it, that sick feeling grew to full blown, explosive nausea.

Maybe it was the hangover, maybe it was the dodgy curry. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. But I can say that see the finished product was a decent cure.

It is a good film. It’s not great, but then having seen the original a few weeks ago as well, neither is that one. Johnny Depp is no Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, but then again clearly no-one wanted him to be.

Instead of going down the track of trying to replicate that experience, Burton has done to this what he mercilessly did to Planet of the Apes: he’s “re-imagined” the character of Willy Wonka. Instead of being a mysterious Wizard of Oz type, eccentric aristocratic figure such as in the book and (to a lesser extent) in the first film, here Wonka is just an out-and-out freak.

Much has been made in the press of the idea that Wonka as played by the deathless and ageless Depp is reminiscent of Michael Jackson and Peter Lorre (the bug-eyed German actor from such classics as M, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon). There’s none of the former and more of the latter, in my estimation.

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