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2005

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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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Junebug

dir: Phil Morrison
[img_assist|nid=912|title=See how the other half live|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=679]
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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Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

dir: George Lucas
[img_assist|nid=907|title=The main reason I turned evil? Cataracts.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=292]
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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How Much Do You Love Me?

dir: Bertrand Blier
[img_assist|nid=916|title=Sure, it's impossible not to like that, but the movie is still wretched|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=251]
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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