You are here

2006

Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story

dir: Michael Winterbottom
[img_assist|nid=886|title=Wrestling during the Restoration era|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=440|height=313]
Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story, is not really an adaptation of the novel by Laurence Sterne. Like Adaptation, which is not an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, but a film about not being able to adapt The Orchid Thief, Tristam Shandy is more about people pretending to put on an adaptation of the novel rather than actually doing so. Whether budget constraints or the experimental desires of the director have resulted in this outcome, anyone wanting or expecting a faithful version will be sorely disappointed.

But it is a faithful adaptation of the spirit of the anarchic novel, which features the same kinds of digressions, blurrings of protagonist, author and story, and overall absurdly mundane madness.

Most of all, the flick is about Steven Coogan. And not about the ‘real’ Steve Coogan, but the character of Steve Coogan that he tends to play for shits and giggles, as the phrase goes. It’s a persona, it has to be. Coogan has gotten so much goddamn mileage from playing his smarmy character that if it’s really how he is, someone surely would have killed him by now.

Rating:

Renaissance

dir: Christian Volckman
[img_assist|nid=887|title=Black and white bang bang|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=196]
Whilst the French aren’t world renowned for their animation, at the very least they’re not seen as slouches in the cinematic department. France is one of the few countries whose homegrown films compete well with American product in French cinemas, and whose films export fairly well for the arthouse market across the world.

When The Triplets of Belleville came out in 2003, it reminded people not only that France could produce movies that weren’t solely dependent on lecherous older guys lusting after beautiful and super-slutty, irrational, younger women, but that animation wasn’t totally dependent on computer-wielding nerds, a la Pixar, Blue Sky or WETA Digital.

I’d heard a little about a new French animated flick that was about to come out, and for reasons that seem perplexing to me now, I was excited about it. What little I’d heard referred to the animated movie being a sci-fi detective story with Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell influences, rolled up in a high-tech black and white anime style.

So, when free tickets to a preview screening were offered, I snapped them up. After sitting through it, I wanted to demand my money back.

Rating:

Cars

dir: John Lasseter
[img_assist|nid=888|title=Cars. Lots of Cars.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=440|height=324]
The title doesn’t lie. It really is about cars. Imagine a world where the only organic matter is plant life, and everything else is cars. Even the flies are tiny cars.

But for all intents and purposes, the cars are people. Not Soylent Green. People. The windshield is their eyes, the radiator grill at the front is their mouth, and they talk, drive around and even fall in love.

They can also be arrogant, ignorant, dopey, loving and nostalgic about the past. Especially a past where people took the time to just slowly drive around, instead of racing everywhere at top speed. They also had small town values, and loved, I dunno, a shiny chassis, a good paint job every once in a while, and a nice tune by James Taylor or Randy Newman.

In short, these are cars that aren’t really imagined to be that different from the people sitting in the audience: smug, comfortable, middle-class consumers.

Rating:

Hills Have Eyes, The

dir: Alexandre Aja
[img_assist|nid=889|title=Boy and his dog, very touching|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Ah, the art of the pointless remake. Why not endlessly repeat the actions of others? Maybe I should invent the light bulb again, or write, direct and star in a film called Citizen Kane. Tell me you don’t get a tingle in a bad place over the idea.

Since everything else is being remade and redone, why not remake Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes from the 70s? Craven also produced this remake, meaning he couldn’t be bothered directing it himself (how many directors remake their own films anyway?), but is more than happy to collect the fat pay-check from this renovated cinema nasty.

They hired French horror director Alexandre Aja to helm this little slice of viciousness, whose previous work Haute Tension proved, if nothing else, that he can construct a very nasty death scene. Sure, so High Tension, as us non-Francophones would know it, had the laziest plot twist imaginable, and little going for it except extreme gore, but it certainly delivered as a macabre horror film should. It also looked a treat as well.

Rating:

Inside Man

dir: Spike Lee
[img_assist|nid=890|title=Look into my pretty, pretty eyes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=279]
This would have to be the most conventional film Lee has made in his career, and of his recent films, one of his most successful.

Lacking the elegiac tone of The 25th Hour, it’s still another love letter to New York in the shape of a crime thriller with more stars than it has work for. Really, it’s too many. I’m sure Jodie Foster doesn’t really need the extra money.

Lee’s not as prolific as Woody Allen, but fellow New York spruiker Spike Lee does pump the flicks out. He has a bigger cast than usual, and a script written by someone else for once, alongside a bigger budget probably than many of his other films combined.

It’s unlikely that the racial and class themes permeating his earlier work have been abandoned. Here, they’re mostly put on hold in order to deliver a mainstream heist flick with a high wattage cast that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and, though profoundly unlikely in its conclusion, doesn’t make me want to punch random strangers in the crotch.

Rating:

Hostel

dir: Eli Roth
[img_assist|nid=903|title=That doesn't seem like it would be very tasty or hygienic|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=511]
Hostel is about so much more than just the horror. It’s more like bumping into an unpleasant ex at a party who gives you a blow-by-blow explanation of just why every single little aspect of your relationship sucked. Without any blow-by-blow, but with plenty of bringing the pain.

Oodles of pain. There is viciousness here, but it’s really not as bad as you’ve heard. It veers off into cartoonish violence and gore which undercuts its overall effect, but it’s still pretty compelling in setting up its fucked-up premise. Director Eli Roth has done substantially better here than he did with his awful debut Cabin Fever, but he’s got far more money and obviously far more leeway as well to tell this diabolical tale.

The essential thing to remember is that this grindhouse, grindcore flick is not for any other audience other than an American one. Sure, they sent copies of the flick out here for our drooling masses to drool over, but it’s very much a product of a certain place and time, calculated to derive a certain feeling. And that feeling is the dread of what other people want to do to you because you’re American.

Rating:

Underworld Evolution

dir: Len Wiseman
[img_assist|nid=902|title=Excuse me, could you get me a can opener? I'm having trouble getting out of this outfit|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Evolution, if we are to believe in Darwin’s satanically inspired theory, occurs incrementally over a great amount of time, resulting in minute changes on the micro level, and new species on the macro level. But over a great expanse of time.

The only connection the term ‘evolution’ has with this vampire / werewolf action flick, Underworld: Evolution, is that as if by a miracle, this sequel is better than the original film. The improvement, however, is tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye, and, like changes in species, will require millions of years before it really matters.

No ‘evolution’ of any sort occurs in this film, as far as I can tell. Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride go to extraordinary lengths to embellish the backstory they created in the first one, with painstaking attempts at linking everything and avoiding obvious plotholes and continuity mistakes. Really, they spent a great deal of time on the script.

But so fucking what? It’s a stupid story anyway.

Rating:

Mission Impossible III

dir: J.J. Abrams
[img_assist|nid=901|title=Xenu is the real villain in Mission:Impossible III|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=348|height=332]
The world was crying out for another Mission: Impossible sequel the way children call out for a second helping of brussels sprouts, or for another trip to that creepy uncle who ends up putting them in therapy for the next 40 years. But who can say no to a man as charming and engaging as Tom Cruise?...

It is very tempting to veer off on rants about how bizarre the news has become over the last few years regarding this guy. The high point wasn’t the birth of the first heir to his Scientological throne just last week, but in the insane and inane stories about how he was going to chow down on the infant’s placenta and umbilical cord. But I don’t get paid to dissect the idiocies of Hollywood stars or the tabloid media, or the sorts of morons who devote their empty lives to endlessly talking about and reading about the entirely made up lives of celebrities.

Rating:

V for Vendetta

Dir: James McTeigue
[img_assist|nid=900|title=Bloody revolutionaries, always thinking they know better than our benevolent totalitarian masters|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
You don’t get many films these days trumpeting the joys of anarchy. Especially not multi-million dollar movies produced by the Wachowski Brothers and based on an Alan Moore graphic novel.

And there’s a reason for that. Even in this day and age where the diversity of opinion and opportunities to voice one’s worthless opinions seem countless, it’s still essentially an illusion. Every side of politics, regardless of one’s upbringing or experiences at university, preaches change, justice or better ways, but all want their version of the status quo upheld.

Because people don’t want to lose their jobs, see their interest rates go up, or their petrol prices sky rocket. They want their television shows uninterrupted by news, they want to listen to the latest hollow songs produced by pale simulacra of humans whenever the tap of the radio is turned on, they want no disruptions to their broadband access, and they want their trains to run on time.

Rating:

Da Vinci Code, The

dir: Ron Howard
[img_assist|nid=899|title=So pensive and serious. Therefore our film must be credible|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=292]
I’m not of the inclination or the right mood to criticise the at least forty million people that bought copies of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Riding on public transport requires reading material, so whether it’s the latest Harry Potter trotter, geisha memoirs or some highbrow crap by Martin Amis or Camille Paglia is irrelevant to me. It’s up to the individual to decide what’s going to distract them adequately from the knowledge that soon they’ll be at the unsatisfying job that daily brings them so much closer to suicide.

Anything else is just sneering snobbery. Which is, nonetheless, quite enjoyable as a hobby.

Brown’s books have sold like cocaine, so by default movie versions become mandatory. And, for such a popular novel, it dictates (according to some commentary I’ve read) that the film plot adhere strictly to the novel, because variation or divergence would be seen (ironically enough) as heresy.

As such, we get a two hour and 40 minute lumbering, ludicrous monstrosity of a flick that brings new depths to the use of the term ‘highly dubious’.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to 2006