You are here

2006

Apocalypto

dir: Mad Mel Gibson
[img_assist|nid=843|title=Would you like to buy a copy of the Big Issue?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=372|height=300]
Ah, Mad Mel is at it again. He had money before, to be sure, from his successful career as an actor, director and bus driver. He’s even received Oscars for his efforts. Actual Oscars, not just Logies or Golden Globes or Berlin Film Festival Golden Bears.

Then, led by his strong Catholic faith, he decided to make a film about a guy getting nailed to two planks of wood.

The Passion of the Christ made an absolute packet at the box office, ignited religious furore and debate across the world, and, more importantly, gave Mel an incredible war chest from which he would be able to fund and make whatever films he wants for the rest of his life. You can argue that such a circumstance doesn’t guarantee that anyone will distribute or see his films, but getting them made without having to kowtow to conga lines of producers or studio executives is more than half the battle.

Rating:

Happy Feet

dir: George Miller
[img_assist|nid=844|title=I tell you what, this movie didnt give me happy feet after watching it, more like angry liver|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=297]
Enough, already. The success of Pixar’s movies and the Shrek monstrosities has led to an incredible and totally fathomable explosion in the amount of computer animated movies stinking up the cinemas. A bunch of years ago there’d be one or two over the course of the year. In 2006, there were about twenty of them.

It was inevitable that computer animation would replace traditional hand drawn animation and that it would start garnering a greater share of studio and audience attention. And that’s not because it’s any cheaper or quicker to produce, because these flicks cost multi-millions to make and take many years to complete. But being able to point to the advances in animation techniques is the selling point itself. The stories certainly aren’t improving along with the programming. So much money is being invested in these things, so much money is at stake, so the stories are getting more and more bland and safe as their producers become even more risk-averse than previous.

Rating:

2006 Film Year in Review

dir: Andrew Moshos

It was the best of years, it was the blurst of years, to quote Mr Burns from The Simpsons reading something written by one of thousands of monkeys typing away at thousands of typewriters. There were a few really good films this year, a lot of crappy films, but there were a lot of mediocre films too. Mediocre movies are worse than outright shite movies.

Rating:

X-Men 3 - The Last Stand

dir: Brett Ratner
[img_assist|nid=846|title=So many dickheads with nothing worthwhile to do|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=284|height=425]
I didn’t want to believe that the stepping down of Bryan Singer as director for this flick, the wunderkind director of the first two X-Men instalments and the post modern crime masterpiece The Usual Suspects, was a bad sign. I didn’t want to believe that the stepping up of Brett Ratner, the director of Rush Hour 1 and 2, and a whole heap of Mariah Carey videos, was a bad sign.

There were, in truth, a multitude of signs I chose to ignore.

It’s like owing a shitload of money on your credit card, and trying to put the massive debt out of your mind by throwing away the constant stream of nagging bills unread. That works until the credit provider sends hired goons to your place, but at least you can bask in the illusion up until that fateful day where your patellas cease to be your property.

I did enjoy the first two other films, I really did.

Bubbles by their very nature are obligated to burst. It comes down to physics more than anything else, including the so-called law of diminishing returns, but in this instance, I have a lot of questions as to how and why they (the makers) went the way they did with this flick, and I suspect I’m never going to get the answers I want.

Rating:

United 93

dir: Paul Greengrass
[img_assist|nid=845|title=United 93|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
Apparently when trailers for this flick were playing in front of films last year, audience members, at least in the States, would sometimes yell out “Too soon”. Five years after the fact, it’s hard to say when the appropriate amount of time could pass for films about that day not to hurt.

The 9/11 attacks transformed American society, impacted on the world in general and changed the way the rest of us look at movies. Even films as disparate as Spielberg’s War of the Worlds remake and the more recent Inside Man are suffused with imagery or the pathos of those dark days. For those of us who are not American, they can still represent a great source of sadness and anger, and a film dealing with what happened can be just as resonant even if the personal element is lacking.

United 93 looks at the attacks on America by Islamic fundamentalists from the grunt’s eye point of view. Although much of the footage is of the terrorists on one of the flights, and the passengers, much of the screen time is taken up with various people working as flight controllers and at Air Force facilities watching the events unfold on their radar screens or on the news.

Rating:

Shortbus

dir: John Cameron Mitchell
[img_assist|nid=848|title=Crash this bus into something explosive, please|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=350]
I really wanted to like this movie. I went in with an open mind, and when I use that phrase, I don’t just mean it as a cliché palliative. Generally, I walk into a cinema with a mind so open wide that bits of brain matter fall out every time I open my mouth to shovel in popcorn.

It’s not a bad way to approach film watching. The more crap we see, the more preconceived ideas we have of what something is going to be like unwatched and how it is likely to turn out. It helps to preserve your sanity if you can try to switch off at least some of the voices in your head when you walk across the threshold, if you ever hope to get anything out of 90 per cent of flicks you end up enduring.

John Cameron Mitchell’s first film Hedwig and the Angry Inch was a complete surprise to me, in that I didn’t expect to like it and came out loving it. The thought of watching a post-pre op transsexual onscreen for an hour and a half didn’t appeal to me until I got to enjoy Hedwig’s sweet blend of humour, music and surprising poignancy.

Rating:

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

dir: Ivan Reitman
[img_assist|nid=847|title=So terrible it made me want to cry tears of blood|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=333|height=493]
It is indicative of how much of an optimist (read: lunatic) I really am that I thought this flick could be any good. What the hell was I thinking?

My Super Ex-Girlfriend is crap even compared to other mindless romantic comedies, ignoring the fact that it’s supposed to be a rom-com with the added spice of a superhero storyline. Absolutely woeful. Terrible script, awful performances and an idiotic plot that made me crave one day being deaf and blind so that I never have to see anything like this again.

Just terrible. And goddamn is it tremendously dumb. It could have been marginally entertaining had it just been less aggressively crap, or had any of the lines worked, or had it actually been funny. Some of these actors have done reasonable work in the past, but lumped in together here they bring out the mediocrity in each other so that the film sinks into a fetid swamp of crapulousness.

Rating:

Miami Vice

dir: Michael Mann
[img_assist|nid=849|title=These guys were so much cooler|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=335|height=425]
The world was crying out for a film version of Miami Vice the way that the world was crying out for a remake of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Mind Your Language or Filthy, Rich and Catflap. Yet, here it is, and here we are again, staring down the barrel of yet another review for a film that really shouldn’t exist.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Michael Mann is a wonderful director, and the film is competently and professionally well made. But it just doesn’t matter. I’ve had more heated experiences chatting to tombstones at the Carlton cemetery in a drunken stupor. Me, not the tombstones, though they were probably stoned (insert canned laughter here).

Some reviewers have had the temerity to say the film has nothing to do with the original series. I can only guess that these reviewers never watched that pastel and neon suffused series, and don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Apart from the grainy cinematography, this could virtually be a two hour version of a Miami Vice episode. The script for the film is lifted from an early first season episode. The only major difference is that there is plenty more swearing, violence and fucking than they ever could have shown on the telly.

Sweet, tender fucking. Not actual fucking of course. But, you know, it’s something different.

Rating:

Fearless (Huo Yuanjia)

dir: Ronny Yu
[img_assist|nid=850|title=Fearless|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=424]
They’re selling this as Jet Li’s last action film. We can only hope and pray…

Jet Li, god love him, has had a very variable career. It started off all right, performing gymnastics in front of Richard Nixon as a child prodigy, but mostly it’s been downhill from there. Sure, he was in a bunch of cool martial arts flicks, but who really cares? As the philosopher Janet Jackson once rightly pointed out: What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Okay, so he was in Hero, which was good, and gets better with every viewing, but does that make up for all the awful American crap with his grimy fingerprints all over them? The One, Cradle 2 the Grave, Kiss of the Dragon, Romeo Must Die: the list drags ever on.

There’s just not that much to the guy. He’s too well known for his past exploits to be considered much of anything other than a fighter, and he’s considered too wooden to be considered much of an actor. Saying Fearless is his last action role is akin to announcing his retirement. I can’t exactly see him taking the lead in the next Robert Altman film or taking the stage to play Uncle Vanya or Richard the Third.

Rating:

Exiled (Fong Juk)

dir: Johnny To
[img_assist|nid=852|title=Just guys, standing around, looking over their shoulders|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=441]
Exiled is the latest flick from one of Hong Kong’s most prolific and stylish directors. Although it has a similar dynamic to To’s earlier action classic The Mission, it is in no way a sequel. Even with many of the same actors, playing similar roles, it’s still not a sequel. But it does have a lot of similarities, and that’s not a bad thing.

What you can expect in a Johnny To film is men, usually professional criminals or triads, doing manly things. The overarching and underlying theme is always friendship, brotherhood and the bonds of loyalty between men.

And, as with his more action-based films, as you would expect, there are guns. Lots of guns.

About the only thing that sticks out as being significantly different is the location. Instead of unfolding in Hong Kong, Exiled takes place in Macau, just prior to the handover of political control from the Portuguese to China in 1998.

Rating:

Casino Royale

dir: Martin Campbell
[img_assist|nid=851|title=More brutish than hoity-toity, this time around|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=365]
Around the time of the last Bond film Die Another Day, some horrified viewers were calling for the death of this tired, smelly franchise. The name had become so devalued by a long string of mediocre movies that it seemed kinder to just let it die. Or to put it out of its misery.

Of course there isn’t a studio on the planet that would rather go with a new idea over an old faithful cliche, so a new Bond film was an inevitability in the same way that night follows day, or when any celebrity videotapes themselves in a compromising position or two, the footage invariably ends up on the internet.

At the very least, if they’re going to make more of these Bond films, let them be as good as this.

Casino Royale is a rip-roaring old school adventure and a pleasure to watch from start to finish, even if it does drag a bit. That hasn’t been said honestly about a Bond film for decades. Daniel Craig plays the famous agent with the right mixture of cool professionalism and brutality. This Bond is less of a gentleman and more of a bastard than we’ve seen for a while, and the movie is the better for it.

Rating:

Brick

dir: Rian Johnson
[img_assist|nid=854|title=Brick - neo noir for the tween set|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=338]
Brick has a central conceit who presence balances the movie on a knife’s edge of being tolerable or intolerable: if you can stomach teenagers (or actors pretending to be teenagers) chewing over the hard-boiled dialogue of 40s noir in a contemporary setting, then you might enjoy Brick. If not, Brick will be one of the more pointless experiences you will endure this or any other year.

Brick has dialogue sometimes so hard to say and so hard to understand that you wonder if you’re watching a National Geographic documentary about some hitherto unknown American tribe discovered in the ruins of an ancient mall. But therein, for me at least, lies the fun. The director had been trying to get this project off the ground for nearly a decade, and has succeeded where so many others would have given up or caved in to soulless studio reps.

Take the thickened plot and chewy dialogue out, and you’re left with nothing of interest to anyone. Leave it in, and you get something that works most of the time, falters at others, but still remains interesting throughout. This first time director’s mistakes are sometimes as interesting as the times when he gets it right.

Rating:

Night at the Museum

dir: Shawn Levy
[img_assist|nid=853|title=It's age that I'm really running away from|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=337]
I know, I know, no-one really expects me to be capable of sitting through a PG-rated flick without a straitjacket being involved, and those metal clasps keeping my eyes open. But I do, on occasion, watch flicks you would ordinarily require children to gain entry to if you’re not going to have parents looking at you like they were advertising for babysitters and you arrived dressed up like Michael Jackson.

Night at the Museum, something which looks utterly stupid, was playing at the IMAX theatre located just around the corner from where I live, and my significantly better half evinced an interest in seeing it on the super silver screen, so we trundled over to check it out.

I’m not remarkably surprised by the fact that I enjoyed the flick and got a few laughs out of it, but let’s just say it helps to have spent the last few weeks inundated with nieces and nephews making every moment a screaming, whining living hell. Of course, escaping to a packed theatre full of kids would seem like jumping out of the frying pan and into a nuclear reactor, but at least a couple of hours respite from the particular kids I’m talking about was still appreciated. When will the War on Christmas be finally won, anyway?

Rating:

Charlotte's Web

dir: Gary Winick
[img_assist|nid=856|title=Wholesome, earnest, pure, sickening|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=456]
The prospect of watching a new, big-budget version of a children’s classic is quite daunting. The big budget means they have to cater to the widest of wide and low-brow audiences, and the ‘classics’ origins means they’re either going to offend the purists or bore the unwashed who are also unread.

And Charlotte’s Web hardly needed to be made. Sure, the cartoon from the 70s wasn’t exactly gold, but director George Miller pretty much remade Charlotte’s Web a bunch of year’s ago and called it Babe to much acclaim.

That being the case, the film Charlotte’s Web is most reminiscent of, of course, is Babe. It has the same use of CGI mouths for talking animals, and a bunch of humans in key roles as well. What it has on top of that is a lot of celebrity voices meant to make audiences “Awww” instead of going “eh”.

Could Charlotte’s Web not have been made without the voices of Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi et al? Was anyone staring at a poster for this film and thinking, “this is going to be crap, I’m not taking the squealing piglets along to this”, then saw the list of people supplying wise cracks and thought “Wow, how wrong was I, it has celebrity voices! I’m taking everyone I know and their dog to see this one now?”

Rating:

Babel

dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu
[img_assist|nid=855|title=Staring at this biblical picture is more edifying that watching this movie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=284|height=300]
The biblical tale about the Tower of Babel concerns the myth explaining why so many different languages are spoken around the globe. Back when the story is supposedly set, everyone spoke the same language, which was presumably Aramaic spoken with a Brooklyn accent.

All these people communicated with each other perfectly, and considering how wonderful such perfect communication helped them in their endeavours, they decided to embark upon a great project.

The plan was to build a building tall enough to get to Heaven, in order to hang out with God. So they started building upwards with the intention of getting to the Promised Land without having to go through all the trouble of living right and dying well.

God saw the way in which the project was proceeding, and grew irritated both with their plans to invade his crib, and with the effectiveness with which they worked together in this pre-email, pre-weekly meeting age.

So he confounded them by giving them all different languages, and from thence did the Lord scatter them upon the face of the Earth.

Rating:

Click

dir: Frank Coraci
[img_assist|nid=861|title=Click is as good as it gets for you, shmuck|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=446]
Watching an Adam Sandler flick that isn’t as painful as his other movies is a joy to the world. It’s like being in a car crash where people are painfully hurt instead of permanently crippled or killed. If you can walk away from it, then it wasn’t that bad.

Click is, in the peak of what I could ever get to say about an Adam Sandler flick, the least painful or objectionable of Sandler’s flicks thus far, with the exception of Happy Gilmore and Punch-Drunk Love. In that sense, this means Sandler has hopefully reached the pinnacle of his endeavours, and will soon retire.

I don’t need to tell those of you living in downtown Kandahar, Beirut or Brunswick that this is an imperfect world. And, in such a world, what should happen (like Sandler, Jim Carrey and the Hilton mutants dying in a car crash) rarely does. So retirement seems even less likely. Life can be so unfair.

Rating:

Kenny

dir: Clayton Jacobson
[img_assist|nid=863|title=A good man is hard to find|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
A lot has been written about Kenny, both its success and the film itself. At least in Australia, since I can’t imagine the rest of the world giving a tinker’s dam about it. And its success at the AFI awards also points to Kenny’s acceptance and approval from a country notoriously averse to watching its own films.

Kenny has struck a chord with Australian audiences, and there are a good number of reasons why. As played by Shane Jacobson (whose brother wrote the screenplay and directs), Kenny Smythe is the kind of salt-of-the-earth character that you feel obligated to get behind or risk feeling like the most humourless and elitist of curmudgeons. It is that very calculation that goes to how the character is written and portrayed, which sounds cynical, because it is cynical. But it gets the job done.

This comedy has the format of a documentary, or a mockumentary, to use the latest nomenclature. It all focuses on Kenny’s daily grind as he waxes lyrical and philosophical constantly to camera. As such, you could say the movie is a character study of one working-class quiet achiever just trying to get by in this turvy topsy world.

Rating:

Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

dir: Justin Lin
[img_assist|nid=862|title=Look! Cars going fast|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, could actually be an enjoyable film. Honestly, it could be, stranger things have happened. However, I am uniquely incapable of being able to assess if that is actually the case.

I would need to consume some magical kind of potion that would strip me of over twenty years of my life and about fifty or so IQ points in order to be able to judge the film on its merits. To say the movie is aimed at fourteen-year-old boys, or people with the brains of fourteen-year-old boys is an insult to, you guessed it, fourteen-year-old boys. I’m sure there are teenagers that will watch this and think, “damn, that’s a condescending film.”

It panders to a mindlessly immature mentality in a way only a movie produced by older adults with contempt for teenagers can. It’s with this kind of marketing mentality that Tokyo Drift was prematurely ejaculated onto screens worldwide in another desperate to milk teenagers out of their crack money.

Silent Hill

dir: Christophe Gans
[img_assist|nid=864|title=You're not welcome, run away, run out of the theatre now!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=375|height=300]
There really isn’t any logic to the way producers think making a film out of a computer game will work at the box office. Sure, it’ll get them extra money, but rarely does it result in anything worth watching in any state apart from being drunk. From Super Mario Brothers onwards, the vast majority of computer games transferred to the silver screen have stunk like a crate full of decaying skunks.

Look at the illustrious list of movies that have undergone this transformation from nerd property to mass entertainment: Doom, Resident Evil, House of the Dead, Bloodrayne, Alone in the Dark, Wing Commander, Mortal Kombat, Streetfighter, Tomb Raider 1 & 2. Were any of these films watchable in any state apart from being drunk? And would humanity be any worse off if these films were never made and the actors and directors responsible for them were banished to a lower level of hell?

Rating:

Banquet, The (Ye yan)

[img_assist|nid=865|title=The Hamlet-y Banquet|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=421|height=600]
(also released as The Legend of the Black Scorpion, for no good reason)

dir: Xiaogang Feng

A wuxia version of Hamlet sounds like a crazy way to try to sell tickets. It comes as a major surprise that it actually works. The universal themes of treachery, loyalty, love and revenge are easily transferred from the court of the Danish monarchy to the throne room of the Tang Dynasty.

The writers retain the elements from Hamlet that work, discard the rest and make fundamental changes where it suits them, turning the tale into one of court intrigue and romantic deceptions rather than emphasising an indecisive son's desire to avenge his father's murder. Wu Luan (Daniel Wu) is the crown prince in this version, without the madness or the indecisiveness, but his desire for vengeance against his usurper uncle remains the same.

The new Emperor Li (Gou Le) tries to wear his brother's armour, but it is uncomfortable. The armour bleeds from an eye socket just to make sure we understand that something is wrong.

Rating:

Catch a Fire

dir: Phillip Noyce
[img_assist|nid=866|title=We both have our serious faces on. After all, we are expecting Oscars.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450]
There were a number of reasons to be dubious about this flick. It’s a film set in South Africa in the 80s, but the title of the film is a Bob Marley album title, the music in the trailer is all Marley and the Wailers, the two most prominent roles in the film are played by Americans (Derek Luke and Tim Robbins) and the theme seemed to be how torture by the nasty state compels otherwise docile serfs into becoming terrorists.

In other words, it looked like a crapfest drowning in commercial clichés. Like Hotel Rwanda from a few years ago, I had to wonder how it was possible to make films about places in Africa where you don’t actually want Africans or Afrikaans playing any of the lead roles.

But then again, this is directed by Phillip Noyce, who has made a remarkable career for himself as both a hack of extraordinary hackiness (The Saint, Sliver, Clear and Present Danger) and a socially conscious director of extraordinary deftness (Newsfront, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Quiet American). It’s hard to understand how he balances the two aspects out, but I’m sure it’s probably to do with juggling his practical need for securing funding and his higher need to tell a meaningful story every now and then.

Rating:

Prestige, The

dir: Christopher Nolan
[img_assist|nid=867|title=What's lighting the pretty lights?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
Based on a novel by Christopher Priest, The Prestige is one of the most intriguing and entertaining films of the year. If you told me that a film about two rival magicians at the end of the 19th Century would be a winner, I'd have told you to pull something else apart from a rabbit out of a hat.

The first image of the film is a winter scene on a hill, with dozens of top hats reclining upon in it in various states of disarray: one of the magician's most cliché of tools and part of their uniform. A voice asks us "Are you watching closely?"

Of course we're watching, but the magician's skill and the filmmaker's desire is to trick us whilst we're watching ever so carefully.

A different voice-over soon also starts up, explaining the film's title to us. The magic trick, as performed on stage in that era, is comprised of three parts. The Pledge involves showing the audience the elements of the trick, to convince them of the normality of the stage and the lack of dodgy machines. Of course, the machinery and parts that make the trick work are in plain view, but they look normal.

Rating:

Flags of Our Fathers

dir: Clint Eastwood
[img_assist|nid=868|title=Flagtime|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=362]

The curious thing about Flags of our Fathers is that it isn't really a war film. I think a lot of people were expecting Clint Eastwood to give us his version of (at least) the first forty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, only this time at Iwo Jima against the Japanese in World War II. Instead, Eastwood focuses the flick on three men who played a part in the raising of a flag on Mt Suribachi, which has become one of the defining images of the war.

These three men are brought back from the Pacific theatre and sent around the United States to raise money for the war effort. The government is nearly bankrupt and needs to get money from the public in the form of war bonds to keep war production going. They don't know, like we do, that the war will end soon. So, to the men there is the real fear that not playing their part will lead to the US losing the war.

The part they are expected to play is that of war heroes in the public limelight, but, as they keep pointing out, all they did was raise a flag. Each of the men thinks long and hard about some other guy who was with them on the island more deserving of the title 'hero', who is now dead.

Rating:

Candy

dir: Neil Armfield
[img_assist|nid=870|title=You really should have stuck around a bit longer, Heath|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=439]
Based on the novel by Luke Davies, Candy is the story of two junkies in love. And that’s about it. As movies about drug addiction go, Candy is a decent enough offering, although it really doesn’t say much that we haven’t heard many times before.

It hits all the right and predictable notes these stories always cover, because many elements of addiction are universal. Movies like this tend to follow the same path: the good times, the bad times, and then hopefully beating the addiction.

It completely lacks the stylistic excess and overwhelming viciousness of a filthy masterpiece like Trainspotting, and gains the greater credibility for it.

So the characters start off crazy in love, with the drugs being the cherry on top. The drugs inevitably take over their lives and relationship, and destroy everything in their path. The third stage, if the characters are lucky, is their chance at redemption.

Dan (Heath Ledger) and Candy (Abbie Cornish) are young Sydney artistic types who dabble with heroin in the beginning, because they don’t have much else in their lives. They don’t seem to have much else to do apart from have sex, use heroin, write poetry and paint pretty paintings. As their supply of money dwindles, and their addiction grows, they face harder and harder choices.

Rating:

Borat

dir: Larry Charles
[img_assist|nid=869|title=No, we cannot.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=369|height=297]
The full title of the movie is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Perhaps the title should more clearly represent what the film is: an affront to human dignity. So, had I the power to change the title, it would be something more like: Borat: People are Pigs.

I know why Sacha Baron Cohen puts himself in these horrific situations: because it has lead to fame and fortune, whether as Borat or Ali G or in the other roles he is starting to get in Hollywood. But that doesn’t make watching him put himself into increasingly dangerous situations to provoke laughs down the track any easier to handle.

If this is a comedy, and mind you, I said ‘if’, it is generally the comedy of discomfort, where watching people do or say awful things makes us cringe and hopefully laugh uncontrollably. But in many ways this movie is little different from the MTV Jackass series and movies where Johnnie Knoxville and his crew of mental defectives cause themselves and each other extreme amounts of pain for our amusement. The difference is that in the Jackass films, the participants are volunteering to drink horse semen or jump head first into sewerage.

Rating:

Departed, The

dir: Martin Scorsese
[img_assist|nid=871|title=Dearly Departed|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=447]
The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s remake of the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs (Wu jian dao) manages something few remakes ever do: it improves on the original and contributes something more than just proving that there are no new ideas left in Hollywood.

People will argue endlessly over which is the better film, but it’s an irrelevant argument. Both films stand independently of each other, and do what they do best in their own ways. It’s not a competition, after all.

Scorsese and screenwriter William Monahan take as much as they need from the original script, and add enough distinctive original material to make the film their own. They go to a lot of trouble to add substantial detail to make the story look like a product of its place and time, which makes many of the more central characters seem more believable.

The story is transplanted from Hong Kong to Boston, and the villains are transformed from triad gangsters to an Irish mob led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). With the location change, the premise remains the same: two men pretend to be something they are not.

Rating:

Saw III

dir: Darren Lynn Bousman
[img_assist|nid=872|title=This is what happens when you don't have decent medical insurance|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=271]
Saw III, which is currently dominating the US box office, might actually be an okay movie. It might even be better a better movie than Saw II, which goes against the Law of Sequels that states as more sequels get made, the quality declines exponentially.

Even if that is the case, it still does not make this a good horror movie.

If horror movies are meant to scare audiences, to instil fear in them, by that standard Saw III is a failure. Because as uncomfortable as it is to watch people being torn apart or tormented by complicated machines, and as disgusting as some of the scenes in this movie are, they are not actually scary. We are not afraid about what is going to happen to most of the people who are introduced into the story only to die a few minutes later. Because they’re not characters, on the most part, they’re just props whose usefulness is soon to end.

In that sense, identifying with any of the characters in these flicks is virtually impossible, which means their ultimate fates are only of mild interest to the audience.

Saw III also goes to extraordinary lengths to tie up loose ends from the earlier movies, even to the extent that a major plot hole identified by many audience members after enduring the first instalment is not only referenced but dealt with.

Rating:

Little Miss Sunshine

dir: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
[img_assist|nid=873|title=This little bitch is responsible for getting whole generations of kids onto acid|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=268]
Even though it looks like just another American film about just another dysfunctional American family, Little Miss Sunshine has more going for it than that. At the very least, it manages to provoke a few more chuckles than the average film of this type usually does.

True, there’s no shortage of movies, both mainstream and art-house, that try to outdo and out-quirk each other with crazy families and their crazy adventures on the road to getting to their version of a happy ending. The lazy message always is, no matter how wacky and insane members of your family are, they’re still your family. So, you know, appreciate them for who they are.

Well, this film boasts a quirky collection of characters, and has the same predictable message regarding the thickness of blood versus water. But it ends up being a lot more fun that usual, even if it doesn’t have anything new to say about anything.

Olive (Abigail Breslin) is a cute little awkward girl who somehow makes it to the finals of a beauty pageant for cute little girls. For various unimportant reasons, her entire family has to accompany her on a cross-country trip in an old Volkswagen Kombi van as they try to get to Los Angeles for the competition.

Rating:

Fast Food Nation

dir: Richard Linklater
[img_assist|nid=874|title=Eat death, Ronnie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=332|height=500]
It hurts to say it, but Fast Food Nation is not a good movie. At its best, it is depressing, and at its worst it is glib and superficial. Which is a real shame, because it is about a very important subject.

Eric Schlosser wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine back in the 90s. It was an expose on the American fast food industry, covering everything from the unhealthy quality of the food, to America’s obsession with the stuff, to the exploitation of migrant and teenage labour and the marketing of products to the most vulnerable consumers: children. It was expanded into a book, which exists as a scathing indictment of a system that allows consumers to be exposed to such crap, literally, because it’s economical, it’s everywhere and people are lazy.

You would wonder how or why someone would decide to make a movie out of the book, as opposed to a documentary, but the advantages are pretty obvious. More people are likely to see a movie at the cinema than they are going to be inspired to pay money to watch a documentary. It’s simple economics. Plus, using characters to represent the various issues tackled by the book personalises its themes, and makes it more identifiable for audiences. Watching something bad happening to a character is more confronting than having someone talk about something bad happening.

Rating:

Children of Men

dir: Alphonso Cuaron
[img_assist|nid=875|title=It's pretty grim in this brave infertile world|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=210]
Imagine a world where a baby hasn’t been born in 18 years. Imagine a world where the entire human race is infertile. Imagine how people would act towards each other with humanity’s extinction being just around the corner.

Based on the novel by PD James, Children of Men is really a thriller. It sounds like a science fiction film with a weighty premise, and it is, but it is still essentially a film where the hero, played well by Clive Owen, spends a lot of time running away from all the dangers that exist in the world around him.

The film is masterfully put together. Even if there are a few elements I thought were wretched (especially in an idiotic scene where two characters play around with a CGI ping pong ball, or a wasted scene at the Ministry of Art), the film consistently sticks to its vision and does it in a remarkable fashion.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - 2006