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2006

Black Dahlia, The

dir: Brian De Palma
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There is a place for trash in this world, especially in the world of cinema. No-one has made more of a career making entertaining and trashy films than De Palma. He’s never been able to shake the Alfred Hitchcock-wannabe moniker long enough to establish himself as a decent, respectable director. The closest he’s come was with The Untouchables, and that was a long time ago.

No, De Palma is a trashy director whose movies work best when he lets his dirty side come to the fore. For all his attempts at respectability, it is films like Carrie, Scarface, Dressed to Kill, Body Double and the gargantuan bomb that was Bonfire of the Vanities that he will be remembered for. Not for this one.

Considering his love of sleaze and lurid subject matter, it is a double shame that The Black Dahlia fails as badly as it does. You would think the pairing of De Palma and the James Ellroy novel fictionalising the details of the real Black Dahlia case, overflowing with depravity, corruption, madness and death as it is would be a marriage made in heaven. But De Palma drops the ball so comprehensively in the second half of the film that you have to wonder whether this one was strictly for the money.

Rating:

Election 2

(Hak se wui yi wo wai kwai)
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dir: Johnny To

It’s been a good year for Johnny To. Exiled and Election 2 have been well received by critics, even if Election 2 was banned in China because of its implications of government collusion with triad gangs (a truly shocking and outlandish claim). Surely such a thing could never be true. To’s films don’t seem to connect with audiences in a big way, which is a shame.

Following on two years from the events of the first film, Lok (Simon Yam) has been a successful Chairman for the Wo Sing triad, but it is time for another election. Though he seemed almost reluctant to seize the reigns of power in the first film (at least initially), holding power has changed him. Where we would expect the film to focus on the new potential Chairmen (which it does), Lok decides to throw his own spanners into the Wo Sing’s processes.

Of the young turks itching to become leader, the brightest star is also the most reluctant. Lok’s godson Jimmy (Louis Koo), who is a big earner for the triad, only sees working for the Wo Sing as a means to an end: he yearns to go legit. A multi-million dollar development in China is his pie in the sky, his chance to get out of the underworld and to star in the business world.

Rating:

Tell No One (Ne le dis a personne)

dir: Guillaume Canet
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A French adaptation of an American mystery novel made with an eye towards an international audience? That sounds like the latest version of The Pink Panther, or Asterix and Obelix, doesn’t it? But no, Tell No One is loosely what I just described it to be, and it works out as a pretty decent thriller, with a compelling mystery behind it at that. The remakes of French flicks for American consumption usually suck, but the reverse of it has strangely worked to more than just my satisfaction.

A husband and wife, after hanging out with some other French people who all smoke through dinner, go for a midnight swim and for some naked, sweaty love by a lake. The woman disappears, the man is knocked out: it all seems like a very short film with a sad ending.

Rating:

Hoax, The

dir: Lasse Hallstrom
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I’m no fan of Lasse Hallstrom’s films (spits to the side) or of Richard Gere in any capacity (spits twice), but I was very interested to see this film. I find almost anything about crazy, dead American billionaire Howard Hughes fascinating, and the story of one of the most impressive literary hoaxes of recent vintage even more so.

Clifford Irving (Gere) is a hack, a plagiarist and a compulsive liar. He tries to palm off rip-offs of Philip Roth novels as his own in his desperate desire to be taken seriously as a writer and to make some of the sweet do-re-mi that he so craves. His Swiss wife Edith (Marcia Gay Harden) has forgiven much of his lying and infidelity in the past, but, as an artist herself (not of the bullshit variety), she has a high tolerance for even more of the same.

With the rejection of his rip-off of Portnoy’s Complaint (which he stupidly calls Rodrick’s Problem - subtle, that) by illustrious publishers McGraw Hill, Irving hits upon an idea fiendishly foolproof in its intricacies: a fabricated autobiography of reclusive billionaire eccentric Howard Hughes.

Rating:

After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet)

dir: Susanne Bier
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It’s a testament to the abilities of the actors involved, and the skill of director Susanne Bier that this story, which sounds like the most contrived melodrama you could ever imagine, works, and works well. Bier is one of only a handful of Danish directors I can think of (the others being notorious overwrought hack Lars Von Trier and the guy who made the scuzzily vile Pusher trilogy), but she shows here why she’s such a respected director both at home and internationally.

The key is effective drama. In this entire film, there is but one scene that doesn’t work acting-wise or dramatically. That’s one scene out of dozens. That’s a pretty good hit to miss ratio.

Jacob (played by Mads Mikkelson, who most people would know as the villain from the most recent Bond film) is a strange, nervy kind of guy who works at an Indian orphanage. He speaks fluent English, and a bit of the local language, but clearly he’s not from around here, though he’s spent twenty years in the country.

Rating:

Love & Honor (Bushi no ichibun)

dir: Yoji Yamada
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Topping off his trilogy of films about samurai on the lowest rung of the feudal order, Yoji Yamada’s most recent flick again looks at a few months in the life of a down-and-out but noble swordsman.

They’re not linked in any other way apart from being about poor samurai at the mercy of their more powerful masters, but the three films, Twilight Samurai, Hidden Blade and this one all carry through the same themes of devotion to family above duty, and the reluctant carrying-out of duty in order to safeguard one’s loved ones.

As

Love and Honor opens, samurai Shinnojo Mimura (Takuya Kimura) hates his job, and jokes with his wife about giving up his status and becoming a kendo instructor to the poor and wealthy alike.

Who doesn’t hate their fucking day job? I guess some people must like them, else the productive world would fall apart. Maybe guys working in a slaughterhouse love their jobs. Police? They love their jobs. Proctologists? Well, if they don’t love their job, you wonder what keeps them coming back.

Well, whatever it is that keeps Mimura coming back, it isn’t a love of being a food taster for the local lord. When he is accidentally poisoned, one of the side-effects is permanent blindness, which really puts a dent in his and everyone else’s day.

Rating:

Factory Girl

dir: George Hickenlooper
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With no intended slight against the girl herself, I can’t think of a figure less worthy of cinematic biographical treatment than Edie Sedgwick, solely based on this flick here.

The only reason I ever knew anything about her was because of a song by The Cult back in the late 80s that was presumably about her called Edie(Ciao Baby), which featured a video where long-haired hair bear lead singer Ian Astbury was smashing a pool cue on a table for no discernable reason. And then there’s all those Warhol films and Chelsea bloody Hotel references.

In other words, she was a person who was famous for being famous for knowing famous people. This flick goes no way towards disabusing viewers of such a notion, nor does it presume to give her even any basic semblance of humanity or interest.

Who’d have thought that being the alleged most notorious party girl of her day, and being a hanger-on to the likes of Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan could be so dull?

Rating:

Once

dir: John Carney
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How many times are you likely to watch this flick, if at all? Once. How many times will you listen to the CD? Once. How many times will you hear the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly that features in the film and is likely going to be used in every ad trying to sell everything from haemorrhoid creams to fighter jets and cheese-in-a-can? Probably dozens of times.

Once is a very simple, very unambitious flick that is nonetheless quite charming. It is billed as a romance, but really, it’s about two people who meet, sing and play some songs together, and that’s it. There’s really not much else to it.

The story, such as it is, looks at The Guy (Glen Hansard) who repairs vacuum cleaners in his dad’s shop. He also busks on the streets singing his own songs. In an amusing exchange to open proceedings, he spies a junkie who looks like he’s going to try to steal the change dropped on his guitar cover. When the junkie does what is expected of him, and The Guy has to chase him down, it seems like the junkie and the Guy know each other quite well.

Rating:

Road to Guantanamo, The

dir: Michael Winterbottom & Matt Whitecross
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This is an odd film, on a number of levels and for a number of reasons. In essence it is a dramatic recreation of events occurring in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US, specifically as they relate to three unfortunate British-Pakistani guys. It blends talking head documentary style footage with film footage in an attempt to display and explain what happened when they found themselves in the wrong place at the absolute worst time possible.

Called the Tipton Three, four young lads travel from their local hood over to Pakistan, allegedly so that one of them, Asif (Afran Usman) can get married to a local girl. I say allegedly for reasons that will become clear later in the review, or at least clearer. The timing of their visit to this part of the world couldn’t be more fortuitous, because it’s just after 9/11.

For even more unclear reasons, they end up in Afghanistan, just after the retaliation has begun for the destruction of the World Trade Centre towers and of America’s illusion of invulnerability. The lads, losing one of their number, end up in the hands of the Northern Alliance, who effectively sell them to US forces.

Rating:

Bug

dir: William Friedkin
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Friedkin has had a many and varied career, probably best known for the classic horror flick The Exorcist. However many and varied his abilities might be, we should, at the very least, expect him to know how to depict all kinds of crazy on the silver screen. Oh, and he does.

Bug is based on a play, and it pretty much looks like a play, since most of it transpires in a single hotel room, with a few outside and aerial shots to make you forget how much like a play it really seems. There are more than two actors, as well, but mostly it’s a two-hander between Ashley Judd, yet again playing a white trash down-and-out with substance abuse problems and poor taste in men, and Michael Shannon, who regularly plays lunatics in movies.

And what this kind of story needs is people that are comfortable with playing absolute lunatics for the majority of a movie’s length.

Agnes (Judd) lives in a hotel room and waits tables in a nearby bar. She is clearly an alcoholic, loves her ganja and doesn’t mind the old crack/crystal meth pipe. In the flick’s opening minutes, we see that she’s probably been on the downward spiral for a while, and the silent, harassing phone calls from, she suspects, her recently paroled ex Jerry (Harry Connick Jr), are tipping her further over the edge.

Rating:

Infamous

dir: Douglas McGrath
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The makers of this flick must have been sooooo pissed off when Capote came out, with Philip Seymour Hoffman being lauded to the high heavens and beyond. It guaranteed that no matter how splendiferous Infamous turned out to be, it was always going to be seen as an also-ran, as a bandwagon-jumper, as opportunistic.

I’m talking about amongst critics. The general public wouldn’t care, because the general public never went and watched Capote in the first place. The general public couldn’t care less about Truman Capote, and probably think that if he isn’t the president who dropped the bomb on Japan, he’s the guy The Truman Show was based on.

Even if In Cold Blood is still a book that appears on the syllabus for many a high school student, an investigation into the life and times of its author hardly seems like a timely endeavour. The fact that two such films came out in such close proximity shouldn’t point to a resurgence in Capote-mania. It’s probably more a case of one studio hearing about another studio going for the prestige market, and deciding they’d get theirs out there too. Kind of like an Armageddon/Deep Impact, Dante’s Peak/Volcano, Triumph of the Will/It’s a Wonderful Life type situation.

Rating:

Bridge, The

dir: Eric Steel
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I know it’s called The Bridge. But don’t go thinking this documentary is actually about the bridge or a bridge. Very deceptive advertising, I guess. There you are at your local Blockburster, hoping to hire a DVD about the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and instead you get this macabre slice of time and life about suicide.

A lot of people have committed suicide from leaping from the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s iconic for those seeking to end the miserableness of their existences. They’ll travel from across America to get to the bridge in order to fling themselves off of it with certainty of outcome, thenceforth leading them towards the oblivion they so desperately crave.

In the year that most of this footage derives from, which was 2004, 24 people killed themselves by leaping from this bridge. That’s an average of about one a fortnight. This documentary contains footage of some of these people offing themselves, and interviews with their friends and families.

Rating:

Dead Girl, The

dir: Karen Moncrieff
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There are plenty of flicks about murder. A character probably gets murdered in the vast majority of any of the flicks you can think of. It’s no surprise when you’re talking about Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but it’s even in Bambi and Finding Nemo, for crying out loud.

Sure, more people in romantic comedies should get murdered to prevent the unholy hellspawn of Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock from coming to fruition even in a fictional setting, but my point is that it is commonplace. We’re so used to it. It seems weird when it doesn’t appear in a flick.

In crime stories the murder might be the initial occurrence that kicks off the rest of the plot, or it happens along the way as characters get closer to The Truth. Usually the point in such a case is the revelation of the killer’s identity or the eventual capture/killing/rewarding of the person responsible. In comedies it’s what allows the hilarity to ensue for the Bernie of Weekend at Bernie’s fame to get to live a life now dead of far more excitement than when he was alive.

Rating:

Black Book (Zwartboek)

dir: Paul Verhoeven
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Sure, Paul Verhoeven has directed a few decent flicks in his long career, but Starship Troopers, Total Recall and Robocop were a long time ago. And they were sci-fi films.

When you think of what directors you’d hire to direct a flick about the exploits of a Dutch Jewish woman fighting with the Resistance against the Nazis just before the end of World War II, you don’t think of Verhoeven.

This is, after all, the guy who gave us the gift of Sharon Stone’s vagina in Basic Instinct, the invisible rapist fantasy of Hollow Man, and the crime against acting and humanity that is Showgirls. Showgirls is, in terms of how it treats its female characters, and the English language, the stripper version of Battlefield: Earth. That great British director Michael Powell’s career virtually ended after he made the reviled but masterful Peeping Tom in the early 60s, and yet Verhoeven continued to be allowed to make films after Showgirls, is proof positive that there is no higher power or justice in the universe. Because no metaphysical system could allow for such evil to go unpunished.

Rating:

Venus

dir: Roger Michell
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It may be based on something written by Hanif Kureishi, but you have to wonder whether Peter O’Toole played a role in writing his own eventual eulogy before the fact (he’s still alive as of Sept 2007).

Much to most people’s surprise, especially considering his notorious womanising and boozing escapades many decades ago, O’Toole is still alive and acting. Despite looking like a Madame Tussaud’s wax sculpture of himself, despite looking like the Grim Reaper accidentally forgot to mark him off the reaping list, and will get around to him quite soon, he’s still kicking and screaming. And, if this flick is to be believed, aching for some pussy.

How crude, eh? It’s not the kind of language my loyal readers have come to expect and demand from me, eh? Sure, a bit of swearing is par for the course, but not gutter-talk like that. Right?

Well, if you’ve seen Venus, you’ll actually think what I wrote was accurate and appropriate. And positively tame in comparison.

Rating:

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

dir: Scott Glosserman
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You might have thought that Scream and its pale shadow sequels were going to be the last word on self-aware horror flicks deconstructing the horror genre even as they celebrate their dearest clichés. But no.

There’s more of that filthy, filthy lucre to mine by taking more trips to the well. In truth, these kinds of self-aware flicks will always be viable, and always be relevant as long as horror flicks keep being made.

The reason is that, as an audience member, you often sit there wondering why the characters in a horror film who are seemingly trapped in a building they can’t get out of and being stalked by an implacable killer don’t realise they are in a horror film. The willing suspension of disbelief necessarily has to extend to allowing for the protagonists, police chiefs, their neighbours and work colleagues to have never seen a horror flick in order to not know what the conventions are governing their survival or death, and therefore what is going to happen to them next.

Rating:

Turistas

dir: John Stockwell
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Bunch of backpackers go to Brazil. Evil locals catch them and harvest some of their organs. The other tourists try to escape.

The end. Is there really a need for any further review? Unfortunately for you, I can’t help myself, so yes, there are acres and acres of more review to plough through.

I can’t really explain how this flick is different from, say, Wolf Creek or any other flick where a bunch of clueless white people are preyed upon by evil dark-skinned locals. I guess the Brazilian setting is different. The motivation of the villains is slightly different. Having Melissa George play an Australian is a bit of a stretch as well.

All up it’s still super generic in its genericness. It’s no better than the movies it copies, but it’s not significantly worse either. It’s reasonably well done for a flick of its type.

I didn’t hate it, and there was at least one sequence that was genuinely tense and scary, which is one more than most horror flicks seem to manage these days.

Who the actors are, and why their characters are in Brazil is irrelevant. You don’t care, the director doesn’t care: they’re there alternately to die, or run and then die, or if they’re lucky and attractive, survive.

Rating:

Half Nelson

dir: Ryan Fleck
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Cracksmoking high school teacher. It’s a four word movie premise that sells itself. No wonder Ryan Gosling, who is definitely becoming an actor to watch out for, garnered a Best Actor nomination for this flick last year. It’s not on the strength of the performance, which is tremendous and irritating at the same time. It’s because the crack addict teacher angle is the purest of Oscar baits.

There’s not really a lot to the story past that. There’s a white teacher in a classroom with predominately African-American and Hispanic students. He tries to teach them history, but in a way that avoids the text books and engages them to look at history through its conflicts in the form of dialectic reasoning: arguments and counter-arguments.

When first we see him we sense that he has something of a rapport with the kids, and engages them in a way that is beyond the perfunctory. At first, we don’t sense that there’s anything particularly wrong with him or with anything else for that matter. We sense that teaching at the school must be difficult, and that he looks a bit rundown, but other than that, it wouldn’t be anything that a good night’s sleep and a shave wouldn’t fix.

Rating:

Man of the Year

dir: Barry Levinson
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Man of the Year is a missed opportunity, more than anything else. It starts off with promise, but squanders its potential by idiotically getting fixated upon an element that should never have been more than a minor subplot. As such, it is a waste of time for all involved. Including and especially the viewer.

The premise is that Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams), a comedian tv show host who’s like a populist cross between Jay Leno and Jon Stewart of The Daily Show fame runs for President of the United States. Except, unlike Jay Leno, he can get through a monologue without stumbling repeatedly, and unlike Jon Stewart, he’s not that funny.

He runs on a populist platform of rejecting the bipartisan political theatre of the Republican – Democratic divide, and by appealing to the electorate with some straight talk and truthiness about the compromised nature of Congress due to the influence of lobbyists and corporations. He does this instead of repeating the endless mantras and tired tropes of family values and fearmongering.

Rating:

All the King's Men

dir: Steve Zaillian
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Of all the flicks that came out last year, few garnered more scathing reviews and cat-calls than All the King’s Men. Not in Australia, necessarily, where pretty much no-one cared (though it still got bad reviews). In the States it was treated by reviewers and audiences alike as if it was a piece of shit covered in leprosy germs. Few films lost more money last year, and few were so hated. With that kind of rep, I was obliged to see it.

In the time-honoured tradition of spruiking for worthless crap, before the film even came out, and before it played on the film festival circuit and was screened for critics, the PR minions backing the film put out bullshit hype about how the flick would doubtless kill at the Oscars, with little golden dildos all around for all involved. Instead of generating positive buzz and interest, this had the effect of souring people on the whole experience before they even stepped into the theatre.

Rating:

Home of the Brave

dir: Irwin Winkler
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It’s hard to know why exactly they made this particular film. I don’t mean films about soldiers coming home from wars, or films about the current Adventure in the Middle East. I mean, I can’t fathom why they made this particularly crappy film.

If they wanted to honour the nobility and sacrifice of US service men and women, then they should have crafted a story where the characters weren’t just the embodiments of singular clichés. If they wanted to portray the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder, maybe they should have spent some time actually finding out what it was. If they wanted to make a statement about the war, as in whether it should be ongoing or not, and whether the ungrateful Iraqis should be more worshipful of their masters’ gentle attempts at nation building, then perhaps they could spent some time with them.

And could they have chosen someone else apart from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to be in it? Perhaps an actor, if it wasn’t too much trouble?

Rating:

Volver

dir: Pedro Almodóvar
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I have to admit that I generally don’t much care for the films of Pedro Almodóvar. To be honest, I find most of them pretty goddamn pointless and irritating. I’m not saying he’s not a great director, it’s just that, like the double negative I used in the preceding part of this sentence, maybe his stuff just doesn’t work for me.

In the 90s the thing that stuck out about his flicks the most was the truly trashy nature of the action, with even trashier characters acting in ways which might seem perfectly natural to Spanish people, but looked utterly idiotic to me. When it was amusing it was okay, but generally the actions and dialogue spoken seemed beyond ridiculous.

And don’t get me started on the situations in his films where rape is practically used as a comedic plot device.

Maybe that soured me on him just a tad. At the very least, upon seeing Talk to Her (Hable con Ella) a bunch of years ago, I thought maybe he could make films that I could like. But then Bad Education (La Mala Educacion) came along, and I was reminded of all the reasons I can’t stand his goddamn trashy movies.

With all that preamble out of the way, I’d just like to say that I very much enjoyed Volver, finding it one of the most enjoyable flicks, Spanish or otherwise, that I’ve watched in a long while.

Rating:

Lives of Others, The (Das Leben der Anderen)

dir: Florian Henckel Von Donnensmarck
[img_assist|nid=803|title=Check out my huge East German communist headphones!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, thrill-packed, Cold War-era action fest, then do I have a film for you.

This flick will, if excitement was what you were after, put you to sleep quicker than dipping your head in a bucket of chloroform.

It is a meticulously crafted, exquisitely paced and rendered story about the banality of the institutions of totalitarianism, and the impersonal, mechanical manner in which they crush the life out of people.

The deliberate mistake many commentators made last year when the flick rose to prominence, and especially after its Oscar win for Best Foreigner Film, was to pretend the flick was only one thing: a condemnation of communism. It takes a great degree of wilful blindness to go only so far in seeing what the flick’s themes are and the extent to which they are elaborated upon.

Rating:

Rocky Balboa

dir: Sylvester Stallone
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Why did this film have to be made? Was it because of you?

Did anyone want a sixth Rocky film? A film where a guy in his sixties steps into the ring once more at an age where what he should be fighting against is the onset of diabetes and osteoporosis? Whose greatest opponent should be his fragile hips?

I’ll tell you who demanded that this flick get made, who needed to see it through: Stallone himself. It is impossible to separate the motivations of the character from the actor/director. Rocky feels the need to once more step into the ring at a time and place so far passed its use-by date that the very idea is met with incredulity by all around him. Stallone resurrected and made this flick when no-one around him apart from accountants thought it should be made.

“Rocky/Sylvester, you’re too old, no-one thinks you can do it, you’ll embarrass yourself, get over your glory days and live in the present. Just let it go, old man, please, we’re begging you.”

But, like Don Quixote, like King Knut railing against the tide, like Rocky Balboa himself, Stallone refuses to admit his age and to admit his own irrelevancy in this modern day and age.

Rating:

Stranger Than Fiction

dir: Marc Foster
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There were few films stranger yet more accessible last year, and it’s been a while since Charlie Kaufman has had one of his bizarro-world scripts made into a movie. Stranger than Fiction is a case of truth in advertising. It really is stranger than most fictional films have any right to be, but is enjoyable nonetheless.

For the purposes of clarity, I’m not saying this flick has a Kaufman script attached: the writer of idiot/savant treasures like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had nothing to do with Stranger than Fiction. It does however possess a script that these days we’d call Kaufmanesque. The actual screenplay is thanks to Zach Helm, who seems to be sniffing from the same batch of glue as Kaufman at the very merry least.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an emotionally stunted dweeb who goes about his life and job as a tax auditor with mathematical, mechanical precision. He has no life outside of the calculation of how many toothbrush strokes he’s performed, steps walked to work or amount of strokes he takes to achieve orgasm. He has no family, no friends, no pets, and no real reason to keep breathing, as far as I can tell.

Rating:

Good German, The

dir: Steven Soderbergh
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Experiments are cool, aren’t they? I used to look forward to The Curiousity Show on the telly when I was a wee tacker, as the weird guy with the moustache and the other weird guy with the beard performed all those experiments you get to see as a kid: adding this to that to make it gush out all over the place, toothpicks in potatoes, constructing working nuclear devices out of papier mache, paper clips and mum’s pantyhose.

The interest lies, apart from the desire to watch shit blow up in beakers or on bunsen burners, and apart from the general intention to learn more about the physical world through observation, in the real sense what we want to accomplish is the viewed outcome of what happens in a controlled environment. In other words, if you put this and this in this kind of set-up, then this shit happens.

Well, if you put Steven Soderbergh, black & white cinematography, A-list actors and a script set just after World War II in Germany, it’s an experiment in film noir, and certainly a lot of shit happens.

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Little Children

dir: Todd Fields
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Quiet little stories about middle class people in the middle class burbs aren’t exactly rare, so it takes a bit of skill to make such mundane-sounding materials come alive. Little Children does come alive, which surprised even an old curmudgeon like me.

Throw in themes of infidelity, being bored by one’s children, the nastiness of mother’s groups, the hysteria over sex offenders and the joys of vigilantism, and you have a movie that’s about more than what it appears to be about.

Sarah (Kate Winslet) isn’t entirely comfortable with the whole being a mother thing. The daily all-consuming nature of being a mum doesn’t fill up all the empty spaces in her day, and the moment she looks forward to the most is when her husband gets home from work and gives her an hour or two to herself. As the films opens, she, like her daughter Lucy, doesn’t really fit in with the other kids and mothers at a local playground.

The other women, looking and acting like a Desperate Housewives version of Witches of Eastwick, are your average bunch of soccer moms who gear their whole identity around the fact that they are mothers and the self-evident fact (to them) that being a mother means they have the god-given right to be incredibly mean-spirited judgemental bitches.

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Flyboys

dir: Tony Bill
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I guess it seemed like prime time for a World War I war movie right about now. War flicks about WWII are a bit played out, no-one wants to watch contemporary ones to be reminded of the hell the world is presently for many people. Why not go back in time to an era where American involvement in a war was considered a good thing? Who are YOU to say no?

So it’s The Great War. 1916. The fields of Verdun, France. The Germans are warming up for the real fight in a few decades time by sending a young Hitler, amongst millions of others, to die and rot in the trenches of Europe. The English and French are fighting the good fight as the US, in the form of Woodrow Wilson, the second coolest named President the US has had so far, dithers and looks on in growing horror. Mechanical flight, having been recently invented, is applied to the battlefield because of the obvious advantages of being able to survey and travel greater distances and to be able to rain death from above. And to look like Errol Flynn whilst doing it.

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Idiocracy

dir: Mike Judge
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You may think stupid people are making this a harder place to live on a daily basis, but can you imagine a planet of morons where intelligence has been bred out of our species entirely? Can you imagine using that as a premise for a comedy / sci fi flick?

Well, Mike Judge, creator of King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead and director of Office Space, uses it as his main contention here. In Idiocracy, we have a look at an American future where IQs are around 60 and people are so fucking stupid that the most popular television show in world history is Ow, My Balls!, a show where a guy gets whacked in the balls repeatedly, and the number one film at the box office is Ass, a 90 minute film of an arse farting.

Wait a second, that doesn’t sound too much different from the America of today, does it?

Rating:

Last King of Scotland, The

dir: Kevin McDonald

You might be under the mistaken impression that this is a biopic about the tyrant Idi Amin, or about a real guy. Especially since Forest Whitaker won the Academy award for his portrayal of the murderous dictator. He’s such a big, cuddly, googly-eyed teddy bear, isn’t he?

But this flick is pretty much a fictionalisation of events that went on during that time, Uganda in the 70s. There was no young idealistic doctor who was seduced with the best of intentions by a charismatic leader who ended up turning a blind eye to his own complicity in the atrocities that ensued. So Dr Nicholas Garrigan is a complete fabrication. He’s tenuously based on a guy called Bob Astles, but that guy was no vestal virgin in the first place, so such a story doesn’t fly.

[img_assist|nid=811|title=Hmm, I feel like some lunch. Where's my treasurer at?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=247]No, Astles was an ex-British Army wheeler and dealer who held positions of power in the Ugandan government way before Amin came to power.

The film is based on the book by Giles Fadden that creates this Faustian dynamic between an idealistic young Scotsman (played ably by James McAvoy) and a larger than life leader who was too large for many other people’s lives as well. It shouldn’t be mistaken for a history lesson with any degree of accuracy.

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