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2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

dir: Gore Verbinski
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I generally avoid using text speak or any of the other variations on txting, l33t speak or online abbreviations that are so popular with ‘the kids’ these. I can type fairly fast, and I find that kind of “c u l8r qt slt:)~” crap offensive to the eye and brain.

If I could allow myself to use this inelegant and conceptually ugly form of expression, and were I to write a very short review of Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End in this fashion, it would simply be thus:

WTF? I mean seriously, WTF?

At World’s End is a very curious film. Upon first watching I thought I’d just seen one of the worst films of this or any other year. Upon second watching I chilled out a tad, and realised that, if it was a dumb flick, it probably wasn’t that much dumber than the second flick in this vaunted series, Dead Man’s Chest. And that as timber-shivering, buckle-swashing experiences go, it wasn’t too painful or dull, and at the very least, had the virtue of being unpredictable.

Watching this third flick is a surreal experience, where the application of sense or logic is the foolhardiest of foolhardy pursuits. And it goes for over two and a half hours, so it’s surreal and overly long to boot, like a proctology exam when you’re tripping on acid.

Rating:

Namesake, The

dir: Mira Nair
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The Namesake focuses on the detail of a person’s life that must seem ridiculous from the point of view of people whose first and last names sound like two first names: the Paul Christophers, Robert Stanleys and Jane Allisons of this world. The unique pressures that arise from possessing a name that sounds strange to the ear and eye dependant upon the culture you reside within is only the most obvious issue that arises as part of the immigrant experience familiar to so many squllions of, uh, immigrants.

On top of that, though, the issue of name and identity gets even stickier for one of our protagonists here, because the name his parents bestowed upon him at birth is one that, transcending his background, he can never come to grips with.

Gogol (Kal Penn) is born to Bengali parents recently transplanted to the States. He grows up somewhat distanced from his family though not violently so. Mostly he seems to resent the fact that his dad called him Gogol.

Such a sweet sounding name. Although Gogol has inklings as to why his father chose the name, of course the flick has to take its time to tell him (and us) exactly how profoundly important the name is to his father.

He, however, resents it for most of his life.

Rating:

Planet Terror

dir: Robert Rodriguez
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Now this is more like it…

The essential argument I’m going to put forth here is that Planet Terror gets right what Death Proof got wrong. The great difficulty I’m going to have pushing this barrow is that I can’t really pinpoint as to why, exactly.

Not ‘why’ as in ‘why am I bothering to inflict my thoughts again on an entirely uninterested populace’ but why as in why it works. And it does.

Fully embracing the 70s trashy movie aesthetic that it aspires to, Planet Terror is a balls-out, at times hilarious celebration of the best that trash cinema used to offer. The footage is deliberately grained up, butchered and cut and with all sorts of flaws and imperfections, including fake film burns and ‘missing’ reel segments. It also has the kind of dialogue that is as ridiculous as it is entertaining.

And it has a hot stripper with a gun for a leg taking on legions of zombie enemies with head and chest bursting alacrity.

Cherry (Rose McGowan) is a go-go dancer who cries every time she dances, much to the consternation of the management. She decides to up and quit one night, which works out quite handily.

Rating:

Last Mistress, The (Une Vieille Maitress)

dir: Catherine Breillat
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I swore off ever sitting through and enduring one of Breillat’s films ever again several years ago, but a free preview ticket pulled me back in to her loathsome cinematic world. Also, reviews saying this was nothing like her earlier monstrosities sucked me in as well.

Her flicks Romance and Anatomie de l’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) convinced me not only that I shouldn’t watch any future films of hers, but that I never wanted to watch any films ever again. Unfortunately for you, like all my other promises and heartfelt vows, this one fell apart swiftly after. I relented, I gave in, because the prospect of watching one of her excruciating films proved too tantalising to me.

Une Vieille Maîtresse is Breillat’s first foray into period piece filmmaking, whereby she’s also working on a screenplay adapted from the novel by Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly. It is set just after, we are told several times, the era of Choderlos de Laclos and Dangerous Liaisons. The only characters old enough to remember the libertine excesses of those days are now themselves too old to be cavorting around themselves. But they remember enough of those licentious times to be able to counsel the next generations.

Rating:

Death Proof

dir: Quentin Tarantino
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I don’t think there are insults left to fling at Quentin Tarantino. The cries of plagiarism, unoriginality, lack of individual inspiration, immature fixation on the films of his youth, awful personal hygiene; all these barbs have been passed around and thrown at him for over a decade since he came to our collective notice.

And they’ve all stuck, because they’re all true. Yet he keeps going on and on, continuing to do his thing without giving a damn…

Death Proof is the Tarantino half of what was one movie when it was initially released in the States: Grindhouse. Grindhouse itself, whilst a wonderful idea that delighted all those shlubs old enough to remember drive-ins and the sleazy c-grade double bills that used to play at them and at grungy old cinemas that were literally called grindhouses, it didn’t set the box office alight.

As such, the Weinstein Brothers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to split the two halves, the other half being the Robert Rodriguez flick Planet Terror, and released them individually outside of America. Thus, we have Death Proof now, and Planet Terror coming out in a month or so.

Rating:

Eastern Promises

dir: David Cronenberg
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Eastern Promises, being a David Cronenberg film, promises more than it should and delivers more than you’d expect. There’s no shortage of flicks out there about organised crime, but it takes a unique one to stand out from the morass.

A look at the Russian mafia isn’t exactly new either. But the screenplay by Stephen Knight and the whole bloody production, overseen by one of the masters of cinema (even if he is Canadian), creates a living, breathing, unnerving story about, amongst other things, how nasty old people can be.

A pregnant fourteen-year-old girl (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse) staggers into a chemist, bleeding all over the place. She gives birth to a tiny girl later in hospital, and promptly dies. The midwife, Anna (Naomi Watts) searches the poor girl’s belongings to find out where she comes from so see can give the little baby (who she’s named Christina, in honour of rapidly approaching Christmas) to her family.

The problem is, all she has to go on is a diary in Russian. Anna has a Russian background, but needs the diary to be translated. Propelling the plot forward, she also finds a card which directs her to a Russian restaurant called the Trans-Siberian in the heart of London.

Rating:

Hills Have Eyes 2, The

dir: Martin Weisz
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Wow. The sequel no-one except for mutants was crying out for has become a reality.

Did you have a hankering to watch ‘normal’ people be hunted down, raped and eaten by mutants in the New Mexico desert? Quiver in thy flesh no longer, depraved meatbags, the sequel is here to satisfy your cravings.

I like horror movies, lest anyone think I watch flicks like this against my will, with gun pointed headward or whilst stretched across a waterboard. But I don’t enjoy most of them: the main reason being that they’re crap and insulting to the intelligence. Most horror flick makers have unutterable, venomous contempt not for their actors and stunt people, but for their audiences. Also, just like most flicks ever made, formula and familiarity trump originality and thought almost every time.

So whilst The Hills Have Eyes 2, being a brilliant name for such a thing, isn’t the crappiest horror flick to come out this year (that honour probably resides with The Hitcher or Georgia Rules probably), it’s pretty unnecessary.

Rating:

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

dir: Tim Story
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Are you fucking kidding me?

What mental incompetent approved such a script? Was the screenplay put together in any fashion other than having kindergarten kids stick cut-out bits of other scripts together in an amateurish collage fashion, which was then stuck in a blender and pureed until it achieved a truly shitty consistency?

Good goddamn, this makes other crappy comic book adaptations look positively Shakespearean by comparison. It makes Transformers look like something scripted by George Bernard Shaw.

A Barbie doll (Jessica Alba) who looks less convincing as a scientist than Denise Richards did in that terrible Bond film a few years ago, employs constant hissy fits to provoke her potential mate into entering into the holy contractual agreement of marriage. Her paramour, being Horatio Hornblower with the ability to become the consistency of pudding (Ioan Gruffud), is a work obsessed nerd who talks of love but could care less about the shrill blowup doll bitching about his workaholic ways.

Rating:

Transformers

dir: Michael Bay
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It is easy to hate Michael Bay, and especially to hate his movies. They are the apotheosis of mindless action raised to the status of pure content-free escapist claptrap that steals souls whilst it damages minds with its spastic imagery and brutal soundtracks. And Michael Bay himself is the grinning face of Death, seducing us with worm-filled decaying excrement dressed up in shiny chrome and flash. He is the painted whore of Hollywood, he is the handmaiden of horrible men like Jerry Bruckheimer; he is Bruckheimer in director’s form, and the world becomes a substantially worse place every time he disgorges or defecates a movie out onto our planet.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by Transformers. It’s still an incoherent, character-less mess, but it’s a vaguely entertaining incoherent, character-less mess.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the film did not make me want to gouge my own eyes out and perforate my own eardrums in self-defence or in protest.

Rating:

Flash Point (Dao huo xian)

dir: Yip Wai Sun
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This is superficial and pointless even for a Hong Kong action flick, but damn are the fights good.

They’re too few and far between, but at the very least you can rely on Donnie Yen to deliver the goods fight-wise.

Donnie Yen is the current superstar of Hong Kong fight!-fight!-fight! fighting. He’s in the position for two reasons that I can think of that have nothing to do with acting: every other half-able fighter has moved over to Hollywood, and no-one really wants the mantle.

It’s not because of his thespian abilities, that’s for sure. And if you were wondering if Donnie is the best, have no doubt, he’ll tell you himself. The special features on DVDs of his flicks, a term devalued purely by many of the features film producers consider to be special, will often have interviews with Donnie Yen wearing sunglasses indoors and telling the camera that he is the greatest movie fighter around. Humility doth flow from this man’s every pore, yea verily.

Yes, so he’s a monumental wanker. Thing is, though, whenever I watch him fight, I forget for those few minutes all about the sheer magnitude of his wankerishness, and I marvel at just how amazing the guy is when he’s kicking the absolute shit out of some poor shmuck.

Rating:

Freedom Writers

dir: Richard LaGravenese
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If you ever desperately prayed for a way in which to figure out just how cynical and jaded you’ve become in your stinky old age, you need to watch a flick like Freedom Writers as the true test. It’s a perfect gauge of where on the miserable old bastard scale you currently reside.

The thing is, though, it’s such a finely tuned, sensitive Geiger counter of a test that I’m not sure how many will come out smelling of roses. I think even Mother Theresa would come out of it looking bad.

The premise, which is prefaced with those dreaded words “Based on a true story”, is that in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots, a young idealistic teacher (Hillary Swank) tries to teach some underprivileged kids at an urban school whose life expectancies are akin to that of grams of drugs around AFL footballers: they’re not going to last very long at all.

Erin Gruwell starts off all sunshine and light, and remains all sunshine and light throughout. She cares about the kids right from the start, but her character arc is that she has to learn to speak to them about life in a way that doesn’t condescend and that appreciates the war-torn realm in which they live their lives. How will she achieve the seemingly impossible? By getting them to read The Diary of Ann Frank.

Rating:

Blades of Glory

dir: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
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Will Ferrell as an ice figure skater? That’s the comedy cinematic equivalent of crack cocaine, isn’t it?

The people who made the film probably sold it to the company with a text message to an executive saying exactly that: “w/about Ferrell on ice?” with probably a few smiley faces and LOLs thrown in for good measure.

The entire movie is predicated on the impression that ice skating is both gay in the sense that ‘gay’ is sometimes used as a synonym for lame, and gay in the sense that it is a sport best enjoyed by and participated in by gay people. So of course Ferrell plays his character of Chazz Michael Michaels as a rampantly hetero alcoholic sex addict lothario who never actually gets laid. And of course there are lots of scenes where men have to uncomfortably hold another man’s genitals either in their hands or close to their faces in order to win something important. What’s funnier than another man’s gonads being waved in your face?

His opponent Jimmy McElroy (Jon Heder, he of Napoleon Dynamite fame), and eventual partner on the ice, is the literal golden-haired child who is taking the role that Owen Wilson surely must have turned down due to his current bout of drug abuse and suicidal tendencies.

Rating:

Reign Over Me

dir: Mike Binder
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Hmmm, Adam Sandler in a serious role again. Smells like Oscarbait to me.

Reign Over Me is a somewhat manipulative attempt by the filmmakers to both make Sandler look like an Oscar contender and to use the September 11th attacks to tug at the heartstrings of gooey audiences everywhere.

When I think of that terrible day, I don’t say to myself: “what I really need is a way to make the tragedy personal, to understand it in the scope of the impact it had on one person. And I want that person to be Adam Sandler looking like a very dishevelled Bob Dylan”.

I mean, after all, no tragedy is more hard-hitting or better explained except when it’s done by a comedian.

In a lot of ways, though Sandler isn’t as excruciating as you would expect, he plays the role the same way he plays every role, whether it’s a comedy or not. It’s still the same character - an aging poster child for arrested adolescence deals with, uh, stuff – that he plays in absolutely everything he’s ever played.

Rating:

Hostel Part 2

dir: Eli Roth
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What Borat has done for Kazakhstan, Eli Roth and his Hostel horror movies have done for Slovakia.

You thought that Slovakia was just a former part of the Soviet Union that was recovering from no longer having the word Czech in front of its name. In Roth’s hands, Slovakia is a place as bleak and foreboding as Chechnya, as Srebrenica, as Caroline Springs where, in the post-Communist aftermath, life is simultaneously cheap and auctionable to the highest bidder.

In the first Hostel flick, two American backpackers and an Icelandic traveller find themselves on the pointy end of the Eastern European tourist industry when they are selected, hunted down, tortured and murdered by the clients of a company who pay to maim and kill people in the slaughterrooms of an old industrial complex.

It’s a horribly macabre idea, and Eli Roth and his many producers could not see any reason as to why they shouldn’t repeat the idea again, only with American girls this time.

Rating:

Hitcher, The (2007)

dir: Dave Myers
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Is the message that you shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers? Or that you should pick up hitchhikers, lest they become murderous lunatics? Or is it that you shouldn’t pick up The Hitcher 2007, because it’s a dull remake of a superior horror flick from the 80s?

I like Sean Bean, I really do. He was good as Boromir in the Lord’s Ringpiece movies, good as the villain in the only tolerable Brosnan Bond flick Goldeneye, and good in a half dozen other flicks. He’s no Rutger Hauer though.

Rutger Hauer was, in some ways, the 80s. I have a deep love for the man, who could play shlocky heroes and shlockier villains in any flick they attached his meaty presence to. It doesn’t matter that most of them were utter shite. That’s the thing about 80s flicks as opposed to any bad flicks from any other era that I can think of: they’re watchable (now) despite being terrible simply because they’re 80s flicks. There’s so much to enjoy about them in spite of and often because of their relative terribleness.

Rating:

Noise

dir: Matthew Seville
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Who doesn’t love a bit of aural every now and then?

Noise is a moody Australian character piece about a depressed Melbourne cop who’s not really that into his job. Despite the murder investigation going on around him, his story is tangential to the grand drama occurring outside his skull.

Some nutter goes crazy on a Melbourne suburban train, and shoots every person in a particular carriage. A girl, Livinia (Maia Thomas), who gets on the train just after her shift at Macca’s has ended and just after the massacre has occurred, sees the bodies and the killer as well, making her the only witness.

Concurrently, copper Graham McGahan (Brendan Cowell) at another train station gets a call on his CB radio, but doesn’t seem to be able to hear the dispatcher. His hearing problem gets worse until he collapses on an escalator.

His unimpressed senior sergeant, ignoring the medical diagnosis of persistent tinnitus (ringing in the ears), seconders the hapless cop to an information-gathering caravan in the suburb of Sunshine, at the site of another murder that might be connected to the train killings.

His job is to sit in the caravan during the night shift, in order to give members of the public the chance to come forward with information regarding the crimes.

Rating:

Disturbia

dir: D.J. Caruso
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Rear Window was crap anyway, right?

I mean, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly: What are these names compared to DJ Caruso, Shia LaBeouf and David Morse? Nothing, I tells ya, nothing and nobodies.

So if someone tells you there’s a remake of Rear Window, what, are you going to check your eyesight or your glasses prescription before looking into the gift horse’s mouth?

No, you’re not. You’re going to watch it, marvel at the charming Shia LaBeouf, his retarded Asian sidekick and the nubile jailbait from next door, and forget all about that bloody Rear Window movie.

Well, actually, you’re not. If you’ve seen Rear Window, you’re going to sit there whilst watching Disturbia, and you’re going to be shaking your head from side to side, marvelling at what passes for a ‘remake’ these days.

Rear Window gets practically everything right as a thriller and as a compelling film. Disturbia muddles through as a deliberately pale imitation in comparison.

Rating:

Reaping, The

dir: Steven Hopkins
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Despite continuously implying the opposite, this crapulent movie is proof positive that there is no God, benevolent or otherwise. No God would subject his believers or even his deniers to a movie as poor as The Reaping with any intention past convincing people that He / She / Shmoopie doesn’t exist.

A town deep in the Southern swamps called Haven is having some strange events occur that seem like they’re out of the Old Testament. A patented disbeliever, who used to be a servant of the Christian God, spends all her time disproving phenomena that look like miracles. Katherine Winters (Hillary Swank) is the Doubting Thomasina required by such a setup, and the highly serious flick’s lead. She lost her faith when her husband and young daughter were killed by, I dunno, a machete-totting wildebeest, when they were performing God’s missionary position work in some nasty section of Africa.

When someone pretending to be all nice and wholesome and Southern (David Morrissey) comes to her for help in explaining the town’s strange occurrences, of course she feels compelled to go to the Louisiana boondocks in order to debunk the superstitions of the surprisingly clean and well-adjusted townfolk.

Rating:

28 Weeks Later

dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
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Gee, I wonder what flick this is a follow-up to?

Danny Boyle doesn’t return to helm this sequel, but I’m sure he made some money out of it as an executive producer. As such I’m sure he’s not too disappointed with how it turned out, but I’m sure he would have done it quite differently.

Instead of Boyle and his usual crew, it gets a bunch of other writers, and the Spanish director of a superb flick from a bunch of years ago called Intacto. I loved Intacto (a strange flick about luck as a power, as a curse) so much that I expected 28 Weeks Later to be some kind of masterpiece as well.

As it stands, this flick is passable entertainment, I’d say. They keep the location, and the story (a rage virus spreads throughout Britain making most of the population go berserk and kill each other), but saddle it with a pretty simple (some might say almost stupid) plot in order to gain some kind of currency with world events.

World events like the present Iraq Adventure, I guess.

Rating:

Zodiac

dir: David Fincher
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The director with one of the most variable records in Hollywood has returned to us mere plebs with a police procedural flick about the hunt for the Zodiac killer.

Fincher’s flicks have an almost odd-even quality, in that he has a good film follow a mediocre one with grim predictability. I don’t have to nuts and bolts it for you: suffice to say I really like half of his movies, and am indifferent to the other half, and they follow each other like night follows day, like hangover follows drinking binge.

I can’t really say if Zodiac breaks the cycle, because the formula would require that a good film follow his last mediocre one, being Panic Room. But I can’t say that it blew my socks off.

It’s just over two and a half hours long, which in itself is no crime. As long as it does something magical with that time, who would complain. It’s just that, for my money, it is two and a half hours of tedium with no pay off.

Rating:

Bourne Ultimatum, The

dir: Paul Greengrass
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Jason Bourne gets the job done.

If you sent him to the supermarket, he would power through the aisles, hip-and-shouldering other customers out of the way, strategically rolling cans of kidney beans under the feet of pensioners and somersaulting over the shelves in his single-minded determination to get to the cat food before anyone can stop him. During his manic dash towards the checkout counter, he would be plotting intercept vectors and ambush choke points whilst mentally calculating the savings he’s making versus the current cost of 1400 other brands of cat food that he memorised prior to entering the store.

If anyone got in his way during his exit strategy towards the carpark, he’d kill them, probably with the cat food, even if it was in those soft foil sachets. The cat food would be unharmed and still tasty when he force-fed it to your cat using a funnel and some improvised explosives.

Rating:

Sunshine

dir: Danny Boyle
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Decent, actual science fiction movies are few and far between, so when word started spreading that Danny Boyle, he of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later fame (and Life Less Ordinary and The Beach infamy) had made a serious sci fi flick, I was curious.

Most flicks use sci fi elements purely to propel a flick that’s mostly just an action/comedy/horror movie. It’s all fine and dandy to imagine what a society full of robots would be like in the future, but let’s not pretend the driving concept behind a flick where someone is fighting hundreds of robots makes it an existential exploration of the idea of artificial intelligence. Why would you bother with that when it’s far more fun to watch Will Smith get slapped around by a robot/alien/grandmother?

Sunshine has as its premise the inexplicable cooling of our solar system’s sun in about half a century’s time. In a desperate attempt to jump start the sun, and thus save all life on earth, an international team of scientists and astronauts sets off on a mission to the sun.

Rating:

Fracture

dir: Gregory Hoblit
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I went in expecting one thing; what I got was completely different.

I was expecting a movie that would be passably entertaining. What I got was a lazy court room / legal drama that was marginally less interesting than the average episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Ah, Angela Lansbury. They just poured her into that old biddy outfit.

Godsdamnit, that’s going to replace the ninjas in my nightmares. I can’t say I was ever a fan of Murder, She Wrote, or Diagnosis: Murder or Matlock, but they do serve a purpose: a light confection designed to present a puzzle and solve it just after the last ad break, with everything tied up in a neat little package.

Personally, I was always a bit more of a Columbo fan. Watching Peter Falk and his glass eye shuffle around and causing the murderer to go berserk with ever-escalating levels of frustration was a joy to behold. By the time they’d get to the end of the episode, you knew Columbo knew the bugger or buggette was guilty right from the start: he just needed enough time to figure it out for himself, or to wait for the guilty sod to trip him or herself up.

Rating:

Mr Brooks

dir: Bruce A. Adams
[img_assist|nid=771|title=These guys are smart. Serial killer smart|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=301]
How smart are you? I mean, obviously you’re reasonably smart, since you’re reading one of my reviews. But how smart are you, you super genius Poindexter?

Sure, you’re smart, but are you serial killer smart? Are you as brilliant as the serial killers Hollywood routinely serves up to us, the duped masses, on a regular basis? It’s unlikely, I would say, that any of us is that smart. It’s even more possible that no-one is that smart in reality that isn’t strapped into a chair, using a computer voice synthesiser to communicate with the rest of the world.

Stephen Hawking would be the ultimate serial killer, you’d have to think, based on flicks like the Hannibal Lecter franchise, and this here nasty, clever flick Mr Brooks. Hawking grasps the structure and infinite complexity of the universe like few others can, and, if he’d had better luck in the physical genetic stakes, would probably be stalking the globe with a bloody knife in his hand and a trail of bodies behind him.

Rating:

Primeval

dir: Michael Katleman
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How do you solve a problem like Maria? On that same tack, how do you fuck up a cheap movie about a giant crocodile chomping on people and making their heads pop like grapes? Ask these shmucks.

It should be impossible to stuff something like that up. Just deliver what you say you’re going to deliver, and the audience should take care of itself, as it lolls about stuffing its gaping maw with candy and popcorn as if to mimic the CGI reptile on the screen.

For a reason I cannot work out, they refer to the crocodile, Gustav, as a serial killer. It’s just a crocodile, it’s not Hannibal Lecter. Although maybe this should have been the next Lecter film instead of Hannibal Rising: whilst on safari, Sir Anthony Hopkins takes some time out from eating some of the local cannibals to strike up a romance with a sexy, slinky lady croc. After a few wines, and to the sweet background sound of the buzzing of millions of tsetse flies, they consummate their relationship on the banks of the Mfulakwe river. A year later, a brilliant, sociopathic young crocodile starts targeting rude tourists and ripping out their organs whilst expounding on the virtues of 14th century Alexandrine poetry.

Rating:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

dir: David Yates
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Betterer and betterer…

Order of the Phoenix is probably the best of the Harry Potter films thus far, but that seems kind of redundant to point out. The story itself, of a young wizard, his friends and allies, and the evil arrayed against them, and the author herself have been improving over time. The story is getting more complicated, deeper and richer, and, as such, it is getting harder and harder for me to maintain my disdain for the books and the people who wank on about them all the time.

As with the more recent flicks, they just go straight into it, with no shilly-shallying about. There’s plenty of references to happenings and characters from the previous films/books, but not in the sense of summarising the whole premise for the clueless coming in. It’s assumed that if your bum’s on the theatre seat, you know everything that’s transpired over the course of the story, or at least have some idea.

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Simpsons Movie, The

dir: David Silverman
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Well it’s about bloody time. The series has only been running for 18 years. So grateful should we be that they took the time to put together a cinematic version of the popular television animated series. Because, you know, there aren’t enough movies to watch as it is.

The Simpsons Movie arrives in a form that is unsurprising, with a running time of what three episodes would be like run back to back, with no profoundly earthshaking or universe-altering message. It has plenty of chuckles in it, doesn’t vary from the known Simpsons universe that much, and delivers exactly what long term fans would expect.

Long term fans aren’t the ones who have been saying since the fourth season of the series that it has jumped the shark or sold out a long time ago. I’m not necessarily talking about the Comic Book Guy-type fans who know everything about every episode and feel personally offended when an episode fails to live up to their expectations.

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Knocked Up

dir: Judd Apatow
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The advertising for this was brilliant. There were variations, of course, but their main theme was along the lines of just what a loser Seth Rogen looks like, and how unlucky any woman would be to fall pregnant because of his drunken thrustings.

The ads literally had pictures of Rogen’s goofy, almost apologetic face, with the phrase “what if this guy got you pregnant?’ or variations thereof plastered across them worldwide. Marketing genius; pure marketing genius.

Considering the fact that Rogen wrote most of the screenplay (or whatever you call the process that eventuated in this film), it’s something of an odd but extremely successful sell. In the real world, attractive women have sex with slobs all the time. And we thank you for it. But in the Hollywood film world, it’s seen as something of a gross anomaly, or at least enough of one to justify such a premise. Like some major disruption in the space time continuum, or a tear in the fabric of reality.

See, they don’t have this problem in French films. The uglier and older the French male protagonist, the hotter the French babe who adores him and has freaky French sex with him all over the place. Before she kills herself and probably him too by flick’s end.

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Hannibal Rising

dir: Peter Webber
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Hannibal Lecter: The Wonder Years, or Look Who’s Stalking could have been better titles for this new prequel chapter to the Hannibal Lecter legend. Did you wonder what Hannibal was like as a child? How was his toilet training conducted? At knifepoint? Did mummsy and daddsy punish him for wetting his bed by ripping out his liver and feeding it to him with a mediocre Chianti and some azuki beans as an accompaniment?

All Hannibal Rising is and ever will be, is another trip to the well for fun and profit. The makers, especially ancient Dino De Laurentis, have confused the popularity of Thomas Harris’s initial books (Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs), and the iconic status of Sir Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence, with an unquenchable thirst in the audience for anything with a hint of Lecter-related marketing attached to it.

I’d understand if Thomas Harris has written a book that resonated with the public, garnered major sales, and seen a resurgence in demand for a cinematic version. Since the book in question was released simultaneously with the film’s release earlier this year, we know that’s not the case, and that it’s just merchandising.

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Razzle Dazzle: A Journey Into Dance

dir: Darren Ashton
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You could argue that making a mockumentary about stage mothers and their poor, put-upon children is a bit redundant, since you can’t satirise something that is already such a horrible reflection on humanity from the start. You can’t satirise a satire: it’d be like satirising Yes, Minister or parodying The Simpsons.

Or maybe you can, I’m not sure. Maybe anything is fair game.

Though I have no proof for this bollocksy assertion, I like to think that this flick’s origins were initiated by the last part of Little Miss Sunshine, which focused on a beauty pageant for 8-year-old girls. That was a hideous and insightful peak into the mentality of parents who make their children look like Las Vegas showgirls in order to live through and profit by them.

Razzle Dazzle makes the whole film about the sheer horribleness of these stage mothers, and the delusional maniacs who coach them. The difference is that the setting isn’t the exciting world of pre-teen beauty pageants, but instead resides in the magical land of dance.

The only characters who come through okay in this are the girls, who have their ups and downs, but at least they’re still recognisably human. For now.

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