You are here

2006

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.

Rating:

Day Watch (Dvevnoy Dozor)

dir: Timur Bekmambetov
[img_assist|nid=812|title=Daywatch: Better than the original, but still a piece of Russian borscht|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=369|height=277]
It’s rare than the sequel to an almost intolerable film can be watchable. I’m not talking about times where the sequel is better or still pretty good (Alien/Aliens, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, Rocky/8 Mile) than the original.

I hated, hated, hated the first flick in this series, being Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor), based on the popular novel by Sergei Lukyanenko. I thought it gave the world a barely coherent fantasy flick the likes of which the world didn’t really need. And a set of ridiculous characters with no believability even in a fantasy context and no recognisable motivations for any of the inane things they would do. It had a plot so lame in its qualities and so crappy in its realisation that the ghost of Sergei Eisentein can be seen at some points in the background shaking his head in disgust.

And the lead ‘star’! Anton (Konstantin Khobanksy) would either be or seem drunk throughout the entire goddamn flick without any explanation as to what the hell he was doing. He made less sense and seemed more sozzled than recently departed ‘statesman’ and former Premier Boris Yeltsin. Long may he remain fermented in Hell.

Rating:

Art School Confidential

dir: Terry Zwigoff
[img_assist|nid=813|title=Wankers in their natural habitat|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=363|height=300]
Misanthropy permeates Art School Confidential as it does with everything Zwigoff is involved with. His characters swim in it, bathe in it, drown in it. You expect it going in, you wear a snorkel in anticipation of it.

You can debate whether it is adolescent misanthropy, or the refined, mature misanthropy that comes with a lifetime of personal and professional disappointments. Whatever the level, if you like the work of Terry Zwigoff and the rogue’s gallery he associates with, then it’s likely you’ll find it entertaining.

The battlefield of the egos this time plays out at an art school, with every character held therein exhibiting different magnitudes of egomaniacal pretentiousness. Even our protagonist, Jerome (Max Minghella), is a bit of a preening egotist. But we are meant to see this place, the people and their awfulness through his eyes, until we realise he has become just as bad as them.

At first, at least, he is a headstrong but thoughtful young guy who wants to become a famous artist. Sure, it takes balls or ovaries to say that you’re going to change the world with your art, but great accomplishment sometimes requires monstrous arrogance. Jerome is only a little bit arrogant when the story begins.

Good Shepherd, The

dir: Robert De Niro
[img_assist|nid=815|title=James Jesus Angelton, you have a lot to answer for, in hell, hopefully|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=324|height=475]
A man finds one facial expression in the 1930s, and sticks with it for the next thirty turbulent years. He plays some role in the formation of that caring, sharing organisation known as the CIA. And he’s a crap husband and father. They should make fifty films about this guy.

The plot centres around the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, but only uses that as an anchor from which it jumps spastically around in time in order to tell the important story of how one of the crucial players in the formation of the US’s intelligence infrastructure was a pretty soulless chap. Did he have a soul before the CIA, did he lose it after one too many black ops? Are some of the greatest bungles in American history his fault? And where, apart from in the reader’s underpants, are those WMDs after all?

I don’t know. The relevant people are probably dead by now, so it’s a mute moot point. And the story, as written by Eric Roth, is a fictionalised account of the life and exciting times of James Angleton; it’s not a biopic. All the G man, flat top, pasted down haircuts, horn-rimmed glasses and fedoras in the world, or at least in this flick can’t change that fact.

Last Train to Freo

dir: Jeremy Sims
[img_assist|nid=814|title=Trapped on a train with some fearsome feral bogans|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=397|height=575]
Well, this week’s a real bogan fest here at movie-reviews.com.au, because we have another Australian flick that is utterly dependant on criminal bogans as two of its main characters. Hooray!

Last Train to Freo, surprisingly enough, is about some people travelling on the last train (for that night) to Fremantle, the West Australian port city south of Perth. Two of the people on the train are clearly dangerous criminal thugs. And, as often happens on public transport, thugs can often be overcome with the delusion that they are charismatic and special, and that everyone on the train wants to hear from them.

It’s a delightful circumstance to be trapped in. It’s happened to me a few dozen times, so I assume it’s happened to you, gentle reader. These characters are at the mercy not of the private companies that now run most of the trains in Australia, but of the tyranny of distance and these two thugs.

The thugs (Steve Le Marquand and Tom Budge) clearly have no problem with jail time, with personal space or human dignity. One is tall, hideous and grandiose (Marquand), the other is a nervy and crazy junkie (Budge), but in a seemingly less dangerous way. They discuss various moronic topics on their journey before they are joined by the other passengers.

Rating:

Fountain, The

dir: Darren Aronofsky
[img_assist|nid=91|title=Death is the path to Oww!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=499|height=309]
It’s easy for me to respect directors and filmmakers who don’t want to just make the same crap as 99 per cent of the guys and gals around them. I can respect them even when their films don’t work.

In Aronofsky’s case, his films definitely work: but they’re not easy films to like. Pi was a low-budget headfuck likely to have repulsed as many people as it attracted with its strange mathematical wizardry story of sexual frustration gone awry. His next film, a notorious adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr’s Requiem for a Dream, made addiction, in all its forms, look like the worst living hell we can imagine. Not a single character gets out of that flick unscathed. Nor audience member.

Depressing, so depressing. I remember coming out of the theatre shaking, which continued for hours afterwards and even after several drinks. I felt like the only thing that could make things better was a little bit of heroin…

At the very least, Aronofsky and his production crew (and especially his cinematographer Matthew Libatique) announced themselves as major talents unwilling or unable to make crass product for its own sake, and that they were people who wanted to and could make original, distinctive films.

Rating:

Book of Revelation, The

dir: Ana Kokkinos
[img_assist|nid=816|title=In a way I guess this is really a horror movie, even if the premise sounds like a porno|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=638]
The Book of Revelation is a complex and deeply unpleasant movie, which nonetheless deserves to be watched at least once. Based on a novel of the same name, and having nothing to do with the actual Book of Revelation at the tail end of the Bible, it is an intellectually interesting but flatly unenjoyable experience. I imagine it is like having sex with a kitchen appliance.

I haven’t tried it, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. Our protagonist, Daniel (Tom Long), is an incredibly toned dancer who is kidnapped by three women and sexually abused over the course of 12 days.

The gender difference means the film is approached by the makers and the audience in a very different way. If it had been a flick about three men raping a woman, it is about one thing. Reverse the gender, and you (in the filmmaker's opinion) open an intellectual can full of worms the size of pythons.

Rating:

Suburban Mayhem

dir: Paul Goldman
[img_assist|nid=817|title=This chick is deadly|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
This flick could have been called “When Bogans Attack”, but I guess it wouldn’t be as credible a title. It would also have conjured images of some Steve Irwin nature doco type tracking down and wrestling with bogans in their Western suburbs habitats.

Katrina Skinner (Emily Barclay) is a lethal bogan proving, if nothing else, the old adage that the female of the species can be much deadlier than the male. She is a rampaging sociopath who cares not one whit for any of the people around her, including her baby Bailey. She is an absolutely narcissistic bitch who draws the line at no extremes and cannot be stopped by man or machine, like a classic monster movie fiend.

No one goes the silver bullets / cross and wooden stake route, but maybe they should have thought about it. Or even the cleansing fire, and lots of it.

The film begins with a funeral, that of Katrina’s father John (Robert Morgan), whose death seems untimely. Even at the start, Katrina’s lamentations seem forced and overdone, and the rest of the film catches us up on what really happened to send Daddy to his maker.

Rating:

Grudge 2, The

dir: Takashi Shimizu
[img_assist|nid=818|title=Someone needs help getting down the stairs. Would you mind?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
This Japanese director has gotten to make this same film six times. It’s not like he hasn’t been given adequate opportunity to get his groove on, and to work out whatever the hell he wants to get out of his system.

I’m sick of it. Stop now. Kudasai, domo arigato gozaimashita.

He made the first Ju-on (Grudge), remade it another three times in Japanese, then was hired to remake it in English (twice thus far) and to wedge Sarah Michelle Gellar into it. Big bucks apparently in remaking Japanese Horror for the American market.

Problem is, even as exponents of J-horror these flicks are excruciating.

I don’t mean that in a good way, since they’re all supposed to be horror films. They’re excruciating because they’re so abstract and untethered, and repeat boo moments until you’re so sick of them.

This surge in J-horror for the American market is really about being able to make horror flicks that pander to the horror-liking audiences but also getting the flicks in under a PG-13 rating. All of the remakes (Ringu, Dark Water, these ones) retain most of the plot aspects and visual elements and repeat them, with some success (and a lot of failure) ad infinitum.

Rating:

Notes on a Scandal

dir: Richard Eyre
[img_assist|nid=819|title=These kinds of situations betwixt teacher and student usually end well for all concerned|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=299]
What a nasty film. The biggest shame is that it’s taken me this long to get around to watching it, and reviewing it for you, the dear punters. You, who hang on my every word, who flat out refuse to watch a film or hire a DVD unless it has my seal of approval hoof print on it. It is for you that I labour, day in, day out.

And so onwards with the review. Notes on a Scandal was the other high profile British film last year. Notes, The Queen and The Last King of Scotland received a lion’s share of the nominations at the Oscars this year. Dame Judi Dench and Countess Cate Blanchett both received nominations for their work in this dark film, but both got dudded when it came to the Night of Nights. How perfectly feudal to have such royal paraphernalia cluttering up the one paragraph. One king, a queen and a Dame. If someone had given Blanchett a title, I would have had a royal flush.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to 2006