You are here

2006

Freedomland

dir: Joe Roth
[img_assist|nid=833|title=Terrible, just terrible goddamn film|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
As the old phrase goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s also drenched in an oil slick of egotism, smug righteousness and self-delusion.

Freedomland is a terrible mess of a film made by a director who hasn’t made a semi-decent movie in his entire career, unless you count Revenge of the Nerds II.

The plot isn’t the worst thing about this film, nor are (all) the acting performances, or its pacing or length, width or girth. The biggest problem is Julianne Moore’s performance as one of the main characters. For someone who’s considered to be so good, goddamn does she stink up the joint with her surreal attempts to act ‘down’. She is completely and fundamentally unbelievable in the role.

She plays Brenda, a recovering junkie whose son has gone missing. She works at a community outreach centre near some New Jersey projects, and tells police that she was carjacked with her son in the back seat on the way home.

Because her brother is a policeman in an adjoining borough, and because she’s white, the police go berserk on the projects, locking them down in order to find the kid.

Rating:

Host, The (Gweomul)

dir: Bong Joon-ho
[img_assist|nid=834|title=The Host|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=444]
It’s been a while since there’s been a decent creature feature. When was the last semi-decent flick where a monster takes on a city and the city loses, at least for a while? Godzilla’s the granddaddy, Jaws was the red-headed stepson, but most monster flicks are just crappy clones and we all know it.

I guess King Kong qualifies, but that bloated morass wore out its welcome with me a long time ago. Three bloody hours of monkey love is barely enough. That he released an extended director’s cut is the final insult. Was anyone craving another 45 minutes of that film? Do you remember anyone saying to you, “yeah, Kong was okay, but it really needed another hour or so to be really great”?

If they did, feel free to punch them in the throat for me. It’s okay. I’ll take the blame. I have ever so broad shoulders.

The Host is a decent enough monster flick, but people are really going berserker over it, I think, because it’s Korean. If this flick came out in the States, which it will, since it’s been snapped up for a remake already, it would go straight to video. Of course when Universal remakes it’ll be for 50 times the budget and will star Tom Cruise. Tom Bloody Cruise, you bastards.

Rating:

Ten Canoes

dir: Rolf de Heer & David Djigirr
[img_assist|nid=836|title=Ten Canoes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=330]
For the first Australian film made entirely in an indigenous language, Ten Canoes has quite modest ambitions. There’s nothing political or activist going on, it’s not representing anything that deep or significant about indigenous culture, contemporary problems or earnest, well-meaning social commentary. So you can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Ah, that’s better.

It’s just a story within a story about a bunch of people living at the top end of Australia before colonisation. Pretty simple. They make fart jokes, they believe superstitious nonsense about sorcerers and people doing bad stuff to them by putting spells on their shit, and they sometimes covet each other’s wives. Simple people living simple lives.

We are introduced to the storyteller, voiced by David Gulpilil, who pretends he’s going to start the story with ‘a long time ago, in a land far, far away’, then takes that back after laughing. He then tells us gradually of the Dreamtime process of birth for his ancestors, and the way of all births, being the soul waiting at their individual waterholes until it becomes time for them to be put in their mother’s womb before being born.

Rating:

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

dir: Tom Tykwer
[img_assist|nid=837|title=Perfume|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=338]
A great book that never should have worked has, miracle of miracles, been made into a great film that could not, should not work.

Perfume: the Story of a Murderer (Das Parfum - Die Geschichte eines Mörders) by Patrick Suskind, is one of the most perfect books I have ever read. Even translated the German novel loses none of its most amazing qualities: an inspired and original story, an economical but expansive use of descriptive language to encapsulate one of the senses that you’d think would least be able to come across on paper, and a macabre, dark humour that delights as much as it horrifies. And THAT ending, oh my good god yes.

It’s the kind of book that potential writers read and then give up because of, convinced that they’ll never produce anything that good.

There’s even more going on in this amazing book that begs for it to be taught to school children from a young age. Well, maybe not from kindergarten onwards, but at least from when they’re young enough to appreciate greatness and stop picking their noses.

In calling it a perfect book, I mean that you can add nothing or subtract nothing from it to make it any better. Not a word, not a comma could be changed to improve it. It is perfect in what it has and what it doesn’t have, and what it has is an embarrassment of riches, both sensual and intellectual.

Rating:

Illusionist, The

dir: Neil Burger
[img_assist|nid=838|title=Watch me make your career disappear|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=270]
For some reason, two different companies decided to release two period pieces about magicians at around the same time. Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe someone sniffs a rival production and decides to jump on the bandwagon, or get in first.

Whatever the reason, in the States at least, The Prestige and The Illusionist came out at about the same time. Similar setting, similar career for the protagonists, but they couldn’t have been more different in terms of plots, themes, atmosphere, intent and realisation.

Which is not a bad thing. For me at least, liking as I do the topic of magicians and prestigitators (it’s a real word), it should have been an embarrassment of riches to have such similarly themed films come out in such close proximity. Alas, the same way that parents have a favourite child no matter what they tell you, I’ve ended up liking one more than the other.

Of course, the difference here is going to be that I’m going to actually admit which one I thought was the better flick. I have to, because I can keep it in no longer.

Rating:

Beerfest

dir: Jay Chandrasekhar
[img_assist|nid=839|title=Drink up ladies: I guarantee, the more you drink, the more I look like Johnnie Depp|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=290|height=419]
Beerfest is one of the dumbest films I’ve seen in recent memory. Ordinarily, such an opening statement would guarantee a litany of abuse to follow for thousands upon thousands of pointless words. But it’s actually a complement in this case.

There are a lot of dumb films that are highly enjoyable and very entertaining. Classic dumb films include Porky’s, Bloodlust, Strange Brew, Half Baked, Con Air, Road House, Double Impact and Battleship Potemkin. Of course, most of the films that have ever been made are dumb, just not intentionally dumb.

The people who make those movies whose titles end in “Movie”, like Epic Movie, Date Movie, Scary Movie, try to make dumb films that are entertaining, and by and large they are failing miserably, so miserably. It makes me sad to think of them, sad like a lawn mower running over your cute puppy.

But here the formula for dumbness has worked. There’s crudity, bodily fluids, old people swearing, heroic consumption of alcohol, gratuitous nudity, bestiality and clear references to the great WWII submarine movie Das Boot.

Rating:

Blood Diamond

dir: Edward Zwick
[img_assist|nid=840|title=I bet we look really cool running away like little girls|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=361]
Ah, Africa. The current red-headed stepchild of Hollywood’s favour and heartfelt concern. The unsolvable mess, the venue of all the Western world’s exploitation, the vista of eternal desert, savannah, elephants and children carrying AK-47s.

Of the last few years I can think of: Hotel Rwanda, The Interpreter, Constant Gardener, Tsotsi, The White Masai, Stander, Sahara, Lord of War, Wah Wah, and plenty more, all set on this magical, blood-soaked continent. Okay, maybe including Tsotsi is cheating, since it’s actually a South African film, but at the very least there seems to be a clear pattern of favouritism going on here.

Rating:

Queen, The

dir: Stephen Frears
[img_assist|nid=841|title=Ah Betty, you always were a hottie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=417|height=521]
Of the films from 2006 that I got to enjoy, the least likely ended up being one of the most enjoyable as well. I never would have thought a film about a reigning monarch, an ambitious prime minister and the death of a celebrity princess could have held my interest for more than scant seconds at a time whilst flicking through Women’s Weekly magazine. The Queen not only managed to hold my attention, but kept me riveted and even entertained. Grizzled, cynical old me.

Let me admit from the start that I am profoundly republican in my political sensibilities (note that there’s a little ‘r’ there) when it comes to preferring monarchies or elected heads of state. And my thoughts towards the current reigning Queen of England and her in-bred family are quite succinctly summed up by the Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen, except without the stunning level of insight and social commentary.

And as for the former and dearly departed Princess Diana, the people’s princess, the queen of hearts; I have about as much respect for her as I do for any of the Hilton sisters or any vacuous celebrity who sullies this planet with their sheer pointlessness. I, similar to some of the characters in this flick, cannot for the life of me understand why people around the world went insane with grief over this woman.

Rating:

Marie Antoinette

dir: Sofia Coppola
[img_assist|nid=842|title=You're all class, Marie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=275]
It’s not often that a film gets more press and probably more viewers because it was booed at the most recent Cannes film festival. People who were eagerly awaiting the next Sofia Coppola film after the success of Lost in Translation were momentarily taken aback by the news of the audience reaction to a film that became notorious overnight as one of the biggest and most redolent cinematic turds of recent memory.

Having just watched Marie Antoinette, I have to wonder what flavour and quality of crack the audience members who acted like boorish slobs were smoking. The film isn’t brilliant, but it is hardly a cinematic atrocity that deserves people booing the flick when the director is sitting in the audience. That’s just rude, even if that same director was also one of the main reasons why people hate Godfather III to this day.

I saw a film with a novel premise: that Marie Antoinette was the Paris Hilton / celebutante of her days and age who lived a decadent life oblivious to the societal circumstances outside until it was way too late. And whilst watching it was a profoundly banal experience, akin to eating a kilo of fairy floss at a carnival, it doesn’t make me want to burn down theatres or effigies of the director.

Rating:

Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del Fauno)

dir: Guillermo Del Toro
[img_assist|nid=75|title=You horny old goat, you|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=445|height=300]
So many film reviewers and other shmendricks called this film one of their favourites, if not their favourite film for 2006, that I started wondering if it was possible for me to enjoy it under the weight of so much expectation. The truth is, the film is even better than I expected.

It’s cliché time as people fall all over themselves to come up with superlatives to describe how good this flick is, but the one that I’ll happily use is that Del Toro’s career up until now has been solely in preparation for making Pan’s Labyrinth.

The thing is, directors have got to eat, too. And Mexican director Del Toro is a big guy. So some of the stuff he’s made which has been less than tolerable (Blade II, Mimic, Hellboy), kept him fed, built his profile and gave him the skills to pay the bills so that he could one day pursue a project like this.

It would be a falsehood to assert that, though. The first film of his that got noticed, Cronos, was pretty good right from the start, and The Devil’s Backbone, also set around the time of the Spanish Civil War in the 1940s, also showed promise. In fact, it was pretty damn good. And as much as I was nonplussed by Hellboy, it was one of his pet / dream projects.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to 2006