You are here

2007

Warlords (Tau ming chong)

dir: Peter Chan and Wai Man Yip
[img_assist|nid=1180|title=It must be serious, after all, look at all that facial hair|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=319|height=444]
I never thought that Jet Li, at this advanced stage of his career, could surprise me in a positive way. No-one in this world, regardless or sometimes because of their age, stops finding ways to surprise me negatively. But I was surprised here by Jet Li’s dramatic chops, which hasn’t occurred once in the twenty years I’ve been watching his flicks.

He’s always been a tremendous fighter onscreen, and good enough playing his usual, stoic, heroic roles in the wuxia (martial arts) flicks. But he’s often been quite terrible whenever he tries to do anything dramatic or comedic or tragic or acting in general.

This lack of acting ability has never stood in the way of his career, because his arse-kicking ability is so incredibly amazing. Amongst his peers he’s par for the course, but with age comes, if not wisdom, at least an appreciation for looking like you have the emotions and stuff the director is telling you to have.

Rating:

Burn After Reading

dir: Coens
[img_assist|nid=72|title=Oh, you quality actor, you|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
People give the Coen Brothers way too much credit. Sure they make good films on the odd occasion, but, after dazzling everyone with the exhausting and nihilistic No Country for Old Men, they belched out this Washington DC-based trifle, and still people acted like it was the second coming of Allah, Buddha and Abbott and Costello.

There are Coen Brothers comedies that I have enjoyed, especially Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, but this is certainly not one of them. In fact, I find it pretty much devoid of humour for something being marketed as a comedy.

I had similar issues with Fargo back in the day, which was lauded to the high heavens by all and sundry, but left me cold, colder than a Minnesotan winter. The humour was invisible to me, the purpose as well, though I have gotten to a better place emotionally where I don’t actively hate the film anymore.

Still don’t like it, though. And I definitely didn’t like Burn After Reading either, which has practically nothing to recommend it. Honestly, this is one of those times where I am oblivious as to what worth others see in something. Had the Coens not made it, had the cast not be the usual A-List shmucks like Clooney and Pitt, this flick would not have even gone straight to DVD.

Rating:

Persepolis

dir: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud
[img_assist|nid=16|title=Arguments with God|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=280]
Persepolis is an animated movie about the life of Marjane Satrapi, a French-speaking Iranian woman who grew up in the 70s / 80s in Iran and Europe. That might not sound like a particularly riveting choice of subject matter, but this is a fascinating life story told well with evocative handdrawn 2 dimensional artwork. Seriously.

As such, it’s probably the only animated movie about Iran many people will ever hear of during their short lives, and probably one of the only ones that tells the story of both the impact of the Shah on Iranian society, and the subsequent Islamic Revolution and war with Iraq in the 80s. As well, it tells it as a bitter-sweet work of art combined with a woman’s tale of coming of age in difficult circumstances.

No other film, animated or otherwise, in this century or any other, in French or any other language, is going to have a character deliver a rendition of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger with as much conviction and as much hilarity as what occurs in the middle of this movie.

Satrapi transformed the story of her life into a graphic novel previously, and this is essentially a bringing to life of that graphic novel. Named after the ancient Persian capital, it gives the lucky viewer a glimpse into Iranian life that would rarely be seen otherwise.

Rating:

Walk Hard

dir: Jake Kasdan
[img_assist|nid=7|title=Ain't we sweet together?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
Walk Hard is, truth be told, a more honest, funnier and more musically adept biopic about Johnny Cash’s life than that film that came out a few years ago with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon whose name doesn’t escape me for the moment. Truth be told, the one doesn’t exist without the other since Walk Hard is such a parody of both Walk the Line and Ray, not only in name but in structure and key moments as well. Substitute actual blindness with smell-blindness, and they’re virtually indistinguishable.

Oh, the structure. At the movie’s beginning, an aged Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) is about to go on stage, but seems to be waiting for something. A stagehand goes up and hassles him about the need to go onstage in short order. One of Dewey’s longstanding bandmates pipes up, “Can’t you see the man has to think about his entire life before he goes onstage?”

And, of course, from there the story moves back in time to where Dewey is but a boy, and playing with his much more talented and accomplished little brother Nate, who dreams of doing great things one day.

Rating:

Across The Universe

dir: Julie Taymor
[img_assist|nid=6|title=Across a boring 60s-infused Universe|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=475|height=347]
Julie Taymor, being Julie Taymor, delivers high concept drama-free colour-soaked movies rich in immaculate artistic design and acting little higher up on the relative scale compared to dinner theatre.

In Across the Universe, she delivers a musical using much of the Beatles better known back catalogue, which is more of a homage to the gullibility of audiences seeking a romantic fix mixed with 60s Americana clichés rather than honouring the Liverpudlian larrikins and their music.

Is it entertaining? Eh, if you like polished, sickly sweet musicals and karaoke versions of classic pop songs, then maybe it is. Maybe it is.

But otherwise the clearest thought that came into my mind was that this flick seriously reminded me, as most things remind me, of an episode of The Simpsons where trusty news anchor Kent Brockman starts a news story about the 1960s saying something like “And here’s a 60s montage.” Random cliché scenes of hippies, the National Guard popping skulls at Kent State, civil rights marches and Vietnam protests flick past to the accompaniment of All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix. At the end of the montage, Brockman intones in disgust “What a shrill and pointless decade.”

Well, Kent, feel free to describe this film in a similar fashion.

Rating:

Rogue

dir: Greg Mclean
[img_assist|nid=38|title=How Scary!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=429]
It wasn’t guaranteed that Mclean’s follow-up to Wolf Creek would be a disappointment, but it was inevitable that people would pick it as such. Mclean is more of a victim of unfortunate timing that anything else, which rendered his monster movie little less than a blip on the radar.

Of course it doesn’t help that the film isn’t that good.

The two strikes that screwed up any chance of Rogue succeeding box-office-wise were that it was going to initially come out around the same time as another flick about a giant crocodile (Primeval), and that another flick with the same title was about to come out (Rogue, which became Rogue Assassin in some countries, and War in the States).

But the real problem is money. Money money money. You can’t always see it, but sometimes where the money for a flick comes from dictates just so much of the content of the flick that you really feel a bit ashamed of yourself.

Money, specifically from Dimension Films, being the genre-trashy arm of the Weinstein Brothers film empire, dictated a strange, strange set-up for what is essentially supposed to be an Aussie horror flick set in the hallowed reaches of the Northern Territory.

Rating:

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

dir: Jon Turteltaub
[img_assist|nid=57|title=Is this a shattered remnant of my dignity I hold before me?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
National Treasure: Book of Secrets is, like the film it is the sequel to, and like everything by this purest of Disney directors, hackwork of the highest order.

Hackwork works, for lack of a better term. Hackwork is what gets bums in seats, sells tickets and gets people to buy merchandise. By which I mean regular members of the public, and not the Asperger’s sufferers who will collect merchandise on the most obscure shit. Oh, look, a 12-inch Angela Lansbury doll wearing that tweed outfit from the third season of Murder, She Wrote! I’ve got to get me some of that.

Hackwork is when you make a dumbed down version (try not to choke on the irony) of the Da Vinci Code for audiences who found that tedious bore too involved and complicated. With too many big words and references to an actual earth history unknown to them all the same, to the point where its fictionalisation could sit just as well as a form of documentary for their tastes.

Rating:

Darjeeling Limited, The

dir: Wes Anderson
[img_assist|nid=65|title=Men, brothers, dickheads|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=200]
Quirkfest abounds. So much goddamn quirk that it’s fair dripping from the screen. But what would you expect from a Wes Anderson flick?

Every goddamn flick the guy’s made has been so quirky and idiosyncratic that, by now, you know if you can tolerate any of his new flicks based on whether you’ve tolerated any of his other flicks.

Of course, then there’s the fact that some of his flicks are less tolerable than others, even when you like them.

I have liked some of his flicks, and hated some of them, so: flip a coin, guess how I went with this one.

I was not a fan of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, despite the fact that every Anderson film is the same, and some, like The Life Aquatic, are more the same than others. So I approached The Darjeeling Limited with ample trepidation.

This flick, thankfully, is less bad and more enjoyable than Life Aquatic. The reason is that it’s not as aggressively annoying as the former film, and it doesn’t have a character as rampantly annoying as Bill Murray was in that film.

Rating:

I'm Not There

dir: Todd Haynes
[img_assist|nid=54|title=If I had a hammer|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
It’s amazing to me that anyone could ever have thought something like this could have worked. A bunch of people playing their own versions of Bob Dylan? What, one person imitating him wouldn’t have been enough, or tolerable? So getting twenty people to do it, clearly, is a better idea?

To me it’s apparent right from the start that some of the concept behind the way it ends up being done is that one person playing Dylan wouldn’t work. That it would be inaccurate or disrespectful to dare to do a Walk the Line or Ray on Bob Dylan, because he’s just soooo much more important and complicated, isn’t he?

On the other hand, by fracturing the narrative in such a way, and by having all the various actors play different Dylans, with different names as well, then it obviates the need to actually have a coherent narrative and the need to tell a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

I could be far more scathing and mockworthy about it, but it’d be fruitless. The fact is, regardless of why they decided to do it this way, it actually works. Perhaps I say that only because a) I don’t really care about Bob Dylan and b) I don’t necessarily see him as a figure worthy of adulation and worship beyond the merits of his music.

Rating:

Kite Runner, The

dir: Marc Foster
[img_assist|nid=31|title=Go fly a kite, boys, while you still can|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=340]
The Kite Runner, based on the book by Khaled Hosseini, is a simple story about some Afghan people living through some interesting times.

I have a talent both for understatement, and for inaccuracy. More importantly, the story is about the life and character of a young man called Amir (Khalid Abdalla as an adult, Zekeriah Ebrahimi as a boy). He grows up in Kabul, in the 70s, under the watchful eye of his liberal, wealthy father (Homayoun Ershadi) and family friend Rahim (Shaun Toub).

He also has the constant companionship of servant boy Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) who worships the very ground he walks on. His devotion to Amir is nothing short of heart-breaking, but, to me at least, the devotion is not the sadomasochistic dog-like devotion of a weak, dependant neurotic. Hassan’s loyalty is fierce and strong.

And it would need to be, because Amir himself is something of a coward. When confronted by other child bullies and thugs, it is Hassan who steps up for the fight, protecting his ‘master’, even when the reason that the thugs are harassing them is that Hassan is of a different tribal ethnicity (he is often referred to as a Hazara). Amir’s own father senses that there is something missing in Amir, which is only one of the sources that fuels his resentment.

Rating:

Savages, The

dir: Tamara Jenkins
[img_assist|nid=101|title=We're here because we're serious actors|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=399|height=306]
Oh, parents. They are either the bane or the boon of our existence (or both), as children and even more so as adults, in their prime or their decline.

The Savages has Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney in the lead roles of this quirk-free, fairly downbeat story as siblings looking after a demented elder parent who never really liked them and who rendered them fuck-ups as adults. At least that’s the premise as it seems to me.

The film starts in a surreal fashion with shots of a mystical place called Sun City in Arizona, presumably where old people who aren’t Jewish go to live out their remaining years. The sight of a chorus line of old girls appearing as if from nowhere and starting a dance routine is a strange one that will stay with me for a while.

And not in a pleasant way. We are introduced to an irritable old arsehole called Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) who lives in this Arizonan elder community, just before he becomes single again for the last time. And after a spot of finger painting prior to hospitalisation.

Rating:

Orphanage, The (El Orfanato)

dir: Juan Antonio Bayona
[img_assist|nid=99|title=I'm getting scared just looking at her|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=353]
Orphanages. Orphanages, psych hospitals, prisons; places of suffering. Places where we can imagine people’s suffering has an almost physical manifestation, that it can impregnate the very walls of a building, rendering it supernatural in and of itself.

There’s a reason why such buildings keep cropping up in horror flicks and computer games. It could just be that people have limited imaginations, and are intellectually lazy when they’re pumping out their formula hackwork. But there’s also a very believable sense that such places can take on some kind of frightful energy from human torment, infecting them long after they have been abandoned.

By the living.

Why anyone would want to return to the orphanage that they grew up in is a mystery to me, but the protagonist of this here ghostly flick, which keeps being sold as a film made by Guillermo Del Toro despite only having him involved in an exec producer capacity, does so. Laura (Belen Rueda) left the place when she was seven, and has lived a long and fulfilling life up until the moment where she and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) decide they want to open up a special school in the grounds of the orphanarium where she grew up for at least the first part of her childhood.

Rating:

American Gangster

dir: Ridley Scott
[img_assist|nid=120|title=We really were begging for Oscars with this flick|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=253|height=400]
There was a time when Ridley Scott’s name commanded respect. People took him seriously. No matter the film or the subject matter, people would say “Well, this is the guy who made Blade Runner and Alien, so let’s all gather round and listen to what he has to say.” Film wankers and aesthetes (such as myself) would reach even further back and say “Well, this is the guy who made The Duellists, so he’s capable of greatness, so let’s eagerly anticipate his next movie with, um, eager anticipation.”

Then he made Hannibal.

After that, Scott’s feet of clay kept growing to swallow up the rest of his body and brain, to the extent where he just seemed like every other British-born Hollywood hack, as capable of an okay film or a terrible shitfest as any other director.

With American Gangster, he’s gone all out to craft an American Prestige Epic worthy of Oscar nomination, critical column inches and applause from the sweatpants-wearing masses. Note the cast, the topic, and the length of the flick. No-one makes a flick this long (nearly three hours in the ‘unrated’ version) with this many A-listers with this subject matter unless they’re expecting, nay, demanding recognition in February / March.

Rating:

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

dir: Tim Burton
[img_assist|nid=151|title=Your wives, girlfriends and mothers would still sleep with me, even looking like this|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=257]
I’ve had a fight recently with someone over the use of the term ‘gay’. Not in the obvious context, but in the one very familiar in a pop cultural sense, especially amongst teenagers. Dear friends who are teachers report that the children in their charge use the term in the pejorative manner ie. “That is so gay” so often that it drives their teachers nuts. Thus they spend a certain amount of time trying to convince The Kids that using it in such a manner is homophobic and inappropriate.

It’s a phrase with the least of bad intentions that is so easy to use and so easy to overuse. In the worst manner, it does, essentially, equate something with something else in a manner that does discredit both the comparison and the comparer. Okay, so describing something as, “ohmygod that’s so gay” doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate gay people, but you are using it in the pejorative sense, and by default saying that being gay is a negative.

Rating:

Golden Compass, The

dir: Chris Weitz
[img_assist|nid=93|title=It has angry polar bears in it|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=240]
The hardest obstacle faced by any new fantasy film that comes out now is that it has to distinguish itself from the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings movies to be taken seriously. That is, if the actual intention is to distinguish itself, instead of aping them and going out of the way to remind you of the similarities to cut down on the marketing budget.

Why craft a campaign around celebrating the best aspects of your brand new potential film trilogy when all you have to say is “It’s just like Harry Potter hanging out with Frodo in Narnia! We’ll even use some of the same actors just to remind you, you stupid muggles!”

If no distinction is entertained or sought, then you can dismiss these flicks to straight-to-DVD hell and brand them little more than a cheap Rings/Potter knock-offs, and go back to sleeping comfortably. Night-night baby.

The great difficulty faced by this film specifically is that the story stands in stark contrast to material like that of the Harry Potter franchise or, more aptly, the Narnia tales, but has been rendered into a form most calculated to remind people of, say, the Narnia and Potter franchises. Ah, familiarity and the contentment / contempt that it brings.

Rating:

Lars and the Real Girl

dir: Craig Gillespie
[img_assist|nid=100|title=The Perfect Anatomically Correct Couple|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=392]
Part of me knows I should hate this film, hate it with a passion. Hate it with an unholy passion usually reserved for reality television, politicians and those times when you jump out of bed in the middle of the night and stub your toe whilst desperately trying to get to the crack pipe.

But for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, I didn’t hate it. Come with me as I try to unravel through the writing of this review what highly improbable series of unfortunate events has led us to this sorry conclusion.

The Lars of the title is played by Ryan Gosling, who is a fairly young guy getting a lot of press and attention despite the fact that he acts pretty much the same way in everything that he’s in. He’s been giving these identical, artificial, affected performances in flicks like Half Nelson, United States of Leland, Stay and Fracture, but people are still screaming and wetting themselves over him like they’re teenage girls and the Beatles are playing The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time.

Wow, how old did I just make myself sound? I swear, Ed Sullivan and his show were long gone way before I came along, with a suitcase and a song.

Rating:

Paranoid Park

dir: Gus Van Sant
[img_assist|nid=43|title=I believe that children are the future. Unless we stop them|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=471|height=367]
Gus Van Sant really likes them teenaged boys. No, I’m not going for the obvious gag here, I mean that there really is something he seems to love in terms of capturing, trying to preserve this brief moment in their lives between the adolescent and adult worlds.

Paranoid Park has a really simple story fractured into pieces and told in a manner whose purpose seems to be less the telling of a story and more capturing how Alex, our main character, feels about stuff. That sounds like some deep shit, doesn’t it.

There is something enjoyable about watching a flick about a teenage kid that isn’t about popularity, that isn’t about getting laid, it’s not about the prom and it’s not about some stupid bet usually involving sleeping with one particular girl until the protagonist realises that the girl who truly loves him was the slightly tomboyish but still totally feminine best friend who was alongside all etc etc.

In terms of other flicks Van Sant has made, it’s also refreshing to watch him make a film about teenagers that isn’t about a Columbine-style massacre, about two morons wandering lost in the desert or the last days of a drug-addled rock star.

Rating:

Atonement

dir: Joe Wright
[img_assist|nid=26|title=Feed me, I'm hungrier than Christian Bale|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Atonement is an exquisite rendering of an exquisite book, brought to life in a way that is surprising in the sense that good literary adaptations for the silver screen are rare.

Whilst I do find Keira Knightley’s anorexic and perpetually hungry features disturbing, she makes a decent Cecilia, in fact everyone seems perfect in terms of casting and what they bring to their roles. So full praise to the casting director.

Kudos to you, sir or madam, kudos.

What’s doubly surprising is that the book could be transformed so readily into so decent a film, sacrificing little that made the book so compelling. The three-part structure is intact, the key moments and situations as seen from crucial view points are well presented, and there’s even room for some directorial virtuosity in the form of an incredible long take on the beaches of Dunkirk.

Rating:

Southland Tales

dir: Richard Kelly
[img_assist|nid=5|title=Fucking terrible tales|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=277|height=400]
Sure, Richard Kelly made Donnie Darko, but what has he done for us lately?

Well, pull up a pew and prepare to be dazzled: he made a really shit follow-up film called Southland Tales.

Southland Tales is, at the same time, an incoherent and over-explained mess that has almost no redeeming value except that the viewer shifts between boredom and incredulity on a second-to-second basis.

The issue that plagues me the most is that I can’t figure out why the actors and crew making this load of crap didn’t rebel and overthrow Kelly in a bloody coup. He should have, based on how painfully embarrassing scene after scene is, been strung up like Mussolini at the end of his reign of terror.

It’s pretty clear that whatever happened to make Donnie Darko a fan favourite was almost purely by accident. Not only does Kelly fail to achieve anything worthwhile in this flick, he proves consistently that he has no idea how to tell a story or how to make a film.

Rating:

Rendition

dir: Gavin Hood
[img_assist|nid=80|title=Come with me please, you look a bit terroristy|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=241]
Rendition is, yes, another one of those recent films tagged “political” by those reluctant to be drawn into the culture wars (which is, usually, most people) but eager to dismiss something with the least amount of effort required.

Just in case you thought movies don’t mean squat unless they’re based on something true, Rendition is based on the ordeal of Khaled el-Masri, a German national of Kuwaiti descent, who was taken from the Serbian-Macedonian border and held and beaten in prison in Afghanistan for five months in 2004.

And then released when they figured out that it was Khaled AL-Masri that they were looking for in the first place. Because if they’d beaten that guy for five months, it would have been all right.

Rating:

Mist, The

dir: Frank Darabont
[img_assist|nid=47|title=I See Dumb People|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
I watched this flick last night, and this morning, I made my way to work through a thick, chilling mist. I have to admit, for a second, I wondered what horrors the mist might hold for me.

The Mist is one of those rarest of rare movies: something based on the works of Stephen King that doesn’t suck completely and utterly. Yeah, sure, people point out The Shining, Misery, Shawshank, Green Mile, Christine and that’s about it, as a way of saying that one of the world’s most prolific horror writers has had flicks translate well from their book origins.

Bullshit, I say, to them. For every Shawshank, there’s almost ten flops that make you want to tear your eyeballs out based on some scrap of cocktail napkin that the legendary crank hack scrawled something onto.

To be fair, I started looking through all the gems he’s had a hand or toe in, and there were plenty of other flicks that don’t suck completely that he’s been involved in.

Then again, there’s still Dreamcatcher.

Rating:

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

dir: Sidney Lumet
[img_assist|nid=9|title=Good God I'm loathsome|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
The title might be a bit confusing to people who haven’t heard the whole phrase before. It refers to having the temporary good fortune to get to heaven a half hour before the devil, who’s keen to get His due, knows you’re dead. In other words, getting a few minutes grace before the hammer, or, in this case, the pitchfork, comes down on you.

As you wandered into the cinema, wondering what the title was referring to, you’d sit there, munching on your highly unhealthy popcorn, chipping into your choc-top, which drips shards of chocolate onto your already dirty clothing that take a while to melt into the fabric real good. After enduring the trailers and idiotic commercials for mobile phones, 4WD trips to South Australia and switching your mobile phone off before the film starts, you’d be greeted with a sight that will push the question regarding the title out of your empty little head.

The first entire minute of this film concerns itself solely with Philip Seymour Hoffman drilling Marisa Tomei in the doggie style position and watching himself in a mirror as he does it. You can like or admire Hoffman’s acting abilities and performances, but I’ll bet your firstborn that you never really ever wanted to see him pretending to fuck anyone, let alone watch that chubby arse wobbling back and forth.

Rating:

Gabriel

dir: Shane Abbess
[img_assist|nid=142|title=Watching the movie Gabriel will give you cancer of the AIDS|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=354|height=500]
It’s one thing to admire the scrappy, underdog determination it takes for someone with no track record as a filmmaker to pull together the financing for a flick and then film it, their way, making up for the paucity of their resources with innovation, creative thinking and inspired finagling and wangling.

That’s admirable. But it’s another thing entirely to actually enjoy the end product of such a scenario.

So I admire the best efforts of the people involved with this, but that didn’t make it any less painful to sit through.

Gabriel is an excruciatingly bad fantasy film within the subgenre of fantasy which has angels and demons as protagonists. There was a trilogy of low budget movies a while ago called The Prophecy with ascending numerals, no less, and they essentially told the same story.

One of the big differences is that those flicks had Christopher Walken in all three of them. Sure, they were crap films, but you can never underestimate the appeal of that lunatic in any film.

He played, coincidentally enough, the archangel Gabriel, angry (at least in the first two flicks) that his pre-eminent place in the celestial order has been usurped by God’s love of humanity, thus he endeavoured to bring the monkeys, as he called them, low.

Rating:

Beowulf

dir: Robert Zemeckis
[img_assist|nid=49|title=I Will Kill Your Monster, Then Sleep With Its Mother|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=471|height=201]
This doesn’t happen very often, but between my two viewings of Beowulf, my opinion of the flick has undergone a complete 180 degree shift. I hated, hated, hated, hated this flick the first time I saw it. Now, I think it’s pretty good.

Surprisingly good. It’s like I watched two completely different flicks, and, in truth, they weren’t the same flick. One I watched in 3D on the big screen at an IMAX cinema. The other, many months later, was viewed sober sitting on a comfy couch in my lounge room, and was the better for it, I’ll admit.

They seemed like completely different films, or maybe I was two completely different people. I found 3D Beowulf ludicrous, painful, aggressively shallow and an irritating waste of 110 minutes of my life. I remember being disgusted with myself for having thought it would be remotely watchable, let alone worthwhile.

Plus I was horribly hungover when I watched it, which is a very rare occurrence for me.

It felt like I was watching one of the Shrek movies, only with less intelligence and meaning at play. The characters annoyed me, the voices of the actors playing these mannequins annoyed me, the stupid plot and crap jokes annoyed me, and the ending bugged me no end.

Rating:

Into the Wild

dir: Sean Penn
[img_assist|nid=51|title=I'm even dirtier than I look|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
There are films and books that purport to be about genuine individuals, about iconoclasts, rebels who are unlike everyone around them. Mostly it seems like it is praise for the latest sporting icon or actor/directors getting paid millions to indulge their affectations and the contempt they have for other people, in an easily marketable and digestible package. When the real thing comes along: a person in the modern age completely unwilling to live life like the vast majority of the people around him, we might not know what to make of him.

Into the Wild is based on a book by Jon Krakauer and looks at the life and times of one Christopher Johnson McCandless. The only really notable thing about this chap is that for seemingly no reason, but in reality a whole heap of reasons, he chooses to eschew the luxuries of modern life and travel the lonely road.

Rating:

Gone Baby Gone

dir: Ben Affleck
[img_assist|nid=42|title=I am not my brother's keeper|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=480|height=270]
To me, and I suspect a lot of other audience members, the concept of a film directed by Ben Affleck starring Casey Affleck seems like one of those perfect storm conditions for a Shit Storm of the Century-type of outcomes.

And setting it in Boston amongst working class, criminal and trashy Southies? That’s like a tornado inside a hurricane inside a campaign of sustained aerial bombardment hitting your trailer park.

The suburb of Dorchester, which is both the setting for the film and where the book’s author Dennis Lehane was birthed and growed, looks like the trashiest, grungiest shithole in America. Whatever initial claim it might have had to being the Irish heart of old Boston is long gone. It looks like the kind of place that not only houses the highest levels per capita of Jerry Springer viewers, but also the greatest amount of participants in the show.

Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) is just another one of these Southie scumbags, who manages to be repellent and compelling at the same time. She’s one of those alcoholic drug addicts who would probably start a lot of sentences with the phrase “Now I’m never going to win a ‘Mother of the Year’ award, but…” and then proves it with her behaviour on a continual basis.

Rating:

We Own the Night

dir: James Gray
[img_assist|nid=62|title=Maybe we should kiss to, you know, break the tension|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=290|height=238]
That’s pretty arrogant isn’t it, saying that you own an event of such all encompassing magnitude? That’s like saying you own the words “yesterday”, “blowjob” or “craptacular”. Who did the NYPD think they were kidding when they took the phrase as their motto in the 1980s?

Yes, We Own the Night is what it looks like: a moody cop drama. And though it smells generic, looks generic and tastes generic, it’s not entirely generic. It doesn’t feel like a mass-produced slab of a movie product. It’s thoughtful and serious, where most flicks of its ilk concentrate more on squeezing through the formula like toothpaste out of a tube.

The drama focuses more here on the characters than the plot, which, less face it, is the plot of 30,000 other films: There’s cops, and there’s bad guys, cops chase bad guys, bad guys kill or hurt cops, cops kill bad guys. Et cetera, etc.

It’s a plot as old as cinema. But the story about the dynamics of the cop family in turmoil is the focus here.

Rating:

Saw IV

dir: Darren Lynn Bousman
[img_assist|nid=44|title=How many more Saw movies are there going to be?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
This movie is fucking awful. I can’t sugarcoat it, I don’t have some other witty or vaguely amusing way to intro this review or to prepare the prospective viewer. This flick is terrible from beginning to end. But don’t think for a second that it’s consistently terrible, or that it maintains a steady tone of terribleness throughout. It starts off bad and keeps getting increasingly shittier and more nonsensical as it wears you down and just makes you want to die.

If you were ever a fan of these movies, you’re going to doubt your own judgement after watching this piece of abject shite. You are, or at least should be, wondering just how dumb you might be for ever having defended them to anyone.

Oh my good gods does it stink. It is horribly directed, the editing is irritating and confusing, the acting is shitty, the dialogue and script are atrocious and it just looks and plays out like something cobbled together from the collected deleted scenes from the other three movies in the Saw franchise.

Rating:

Michael Clayton

dir: Tony Gilroy
[img_assist|nid=76|title=Give me more Oscars. You know you want to.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
No, it’s not the flick starring Liam Neeson about the Troubles in Ireland. And it’s not a light-hearted romp about the ethnic tensions between Greeks, Yugoslavs, Islanders and Vietnamese people living in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton.

It is, simultaneously, a film about the paths people take in order to do the unthinkable for money, and George Clooney’s shameless pandering need for another Oscar.

You already have one, pretty boy. Enough’s enough.

The title character, played by Clooney, is a fixer for a prestigious law firm. Though a lawyer himself, he never gets to step inside a courtroom anymore. All he does is try to fix situations that could damage the firm’s clients, or, for most of this film, the firm.

The film starts where it starts, with Clayton driving out to Westchester in order to calm and help out a wealthy sonofabitch who wants to avoid legal troubles for running someone over and leaving the scene of the accident. On the drive out there, the GPS display in his luxury car starts screwing up. In other words, Clayton has lost his moral roadmap. Subtle as a crowbar to the kidney. Then there’s an explosion, and the plot goes back four days in time in order to show all the events leading up to the explosion.

Rating:

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

dir: Shekhar Kapur
[img_assist|nid=21|title=Get me off of this fucking horse|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
I’ve figured something out. It’s been something of a revelation. I finally understood what history represents to those who make movies.

History is a brand, a logo. Historical figures, real people who once lived and did great, mediocre or dastardly deeds, are nothing more than marketing properties.

Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, the monarch who presided over a great time for the Empire, is as real to the people who made this film as Robin Hood, Captain Jack Sparrow, or Darth Vader. They’re branded characters, recognisable from their trademark physical characteristics, a few character traits (stealing from the rich, choking people without touching them, being drunk and gay) and little else. Elizabeth is whatever they want her to be, and whatever Cate Blanchett’s ego wants her to be.

Because the selling point alone is that it’s Our Cate playing the Elizabeth property for the second time.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - 2007