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2007

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

dir: Shekhar Kapur
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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:

Michael Clayton

dir: Tony Gilroy
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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:

War (Rogue Assassin)

dir: Philip G. Atwell
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Oh what a deliciously terrible movie. What a deliciously terrible 80s movie. How bizarre that they would bring out such a movie, as if constructed by random bits of other 80s movies, in the year 2008.

Actually, I’m going to have to apologise for using the word ‘deliciously’ to describe the abject terribleness of this flick. That makes it sound like the flick is worth seeing regardless. It probably isn’t. It probably, for other people, isn’t so bad that it’s good.

It is for me, because I found myself shaking my head and laughing appreciatively at just how moronic this script was, and how every scene in this flick has a nugget of pure shiteness casting its rosy glow over everything that happens.

As far as I can tell, the flick has undergone name changes and confused delays because of another flick that was going to come out at the same time (Greg Maclean’s Rogue, about a giant croc), and because of studio interference. Well, this flick is a giant crock, and the studio should have interfered more. Who greenlit this idiotic script? Who got these world class, master class terrible performances from everybody concerned? Which one of you executives deserves to have their balls cut off or their ovaries cut out?

Rating:

Control

dir: Anton Corbijn
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It’s… hard for me to review something like this. Perversely, I have adored Joy Division’s music since I was a child, but I never much bought into any of the mythologising of Ian Curtis as a tortured genius who died far too much before his time by his own hand. I say ‘perversely’ because despite having listened to both Closer and Unknown Pleasures more times than you’ve masturbated, I never really had a burning desire to find out more about the events leading up to Curtis’s suicide.

Also, fairly recently, the Michael Winterbottom film 24 Hour Party People seemed to deal with the Joy Division and Curtis story with the care and attention it deserved, devoting half (the good half) of the flick to their tale. Sure, it might have had the depth of a puddle of spilt beer, but I wasn’t really hungry for more.

Control has managed to make a fool out of me, making me doubt the flick’s and maker’s intentions at first, and the validity of the central performance, before it absolutely and utterly drew me in before blowing me away.

Rating:

Charlie Wilson's War

dir: Mike Nichols
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Who?
Charlie Wilson, you know, the guy who single-handedly defeated the Russians in Afghanistan. That Charlie Wilson?

Okay, so he’s not a household name. But if you’re not of the opinion that St Ronald Reagan, dressed as Rambo, beat the Soviet Empire to death with his bare fists, then you might be curious about this flick which purports to tell the ‘true’ story behind the Afghanistan War.

‘Good Time Charlie’ (Tom Hanks) is a drunken, womanising coke-fiend Democratic Congressman from Texas. In 1980, while drinking with strippers and hookers in a hot tub, he watches Dan Rather on 60 Minutes tell a sorry tale about the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. Now, Charlie’s only real achievement to date has been getting re-elected five times, and all he really cares about is drinking and hot women. So he’s already a hero in my book.

The transition for his character is going from a hedonistic deal-making backslapper of a politician with no ambition to a hedonistic deal-making backslapper who wants to defeat Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Why? Well, I’m not too sure.

Rating:

30 Days of Night

dir: David Slade
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The vampire genre of flicks has truly been played out. There’s pretty much nowhere left to go, is there?

Every variation on the theme has been done to death already, hasn’t it? Vampires as romantic tortured souls, vampires as soulless vermin, vampires running the world in secret, vampires as aliens, vampirism as a metaphor for sex, AIDS, addiction, vampirism as a metaphor for capitalism, communism and every other –ism you can imagine.

So I guess it was time to bring it all back to basics and just have them as marauding monsters bent on killing everyone they can like the scum that they are.

Rating:

3:10 to Yuma

3:10 to Yuma

Men go bang bang with gun guns, everybody wins

dir: James Mangold

2007

Do you have a hankerin’ for some good ol’ western fun? Gunslingers shooting each other, shooting injuns and making way for the railroads by shooting the landscape? Do you want to watch two titans of contemporary cinema use hokey Southern accents and shoot at each other and their enemies for two hours? Do you know the quantity of wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Then this remake of a western from the 50s could appeal to you. It’s a very simple premise: honest rancher is forced by circumstance to escort an outlaw to a train in a town called Contention, being the 3:10pm train to the prison in Yuma, Arizona. Along the way he has to fight off the crim’s gang, the Apache, and the criminal’s charismatic manipulations and seductions. All this he does to earn respect in the eyes of his teenage son, who sees him as a pretty pathetic paternal figure, and to make some money in order for his family to keep their ranch.

Christian Bale plays the heroic Dan Evans rancher role, and Russell Crowe plays the charismatic outlaw Ben Wade. As in the original, the two earn each other’s respect with various actions and arguments about right and wrong. Unlike the original, we wish the criminal would just kill all the nice people and ride off into the sunset with an attractive senorita draped over his saddle.

Rating:

Alien Versus Predator 2: Requiem

dir: The Brothers Strause
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I know, I know, whenever crossovers are attempted, it’s always faintly magnificent. Freddy Versus Jason, Superman versus Batman, Astronaut versus Caveman: It’s an idea so geeky that it sounds like it should stay where it originated from, being the comic book universe.

And what a rich and complicated universe it truly is. Who else gets to ask those questions of universal importance to the human species: who’d win in a fight between She-Hulk or Bat-Girl? What if Dr Octopus gained possession of Mighty Thor’s hammer, or what if Wolverine’s blades came out of his penis instead of his hands?

You know, the important questions. Well, a comic book by Dark Horse, and a computer game first posed the crucial question: how cool would it be to have the Predators from the Predator films, and the aliens from the Alien films, in the same room at the same time?

It would surely bring in fans of either or both franchises, and double the money, attractiveness and general powerfulness of all concerned with the production, yea verily. And no-one with any sense would doubt it.

Rating:

Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The

Assassination of Jesse James

Good job making Brad Pitt look like a legend from a bygone era, photoshoppers

dir: Andrew Dominik

Assassination is one of the most beautiful and mournful films you’ll ever see. It is long, and sad, from its first immaculately composed and photographed scene to its last. None of which will make it any more enjoyable an experience for the general audience that will be bored out of its collective fucking mind.

Though anyone seeing the film should know exactly what it’s all about from beginning to end from the title alone, what they might not expect is that the flick is really about both the deconstruction of a myth and the deconstruction of a person’s soul. Not a lot happens in the 160 or so minutes of screen time apart from the falling apart of a curiously larger than life persona.

These are the twilight years of Jesse James and his gang. At the advanced age of his mid thirties, James is plagued with physical and mental ailments that render him something of a paranoid wreck, and unknowable to the people around him. As the persistent voiceover keeps telling us, he trusts not a soul, and moves his family at a whim at the slightest hint of trouble. He moves between Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri, always restless, always harried even if the law is not on his trail.

Rating:

Condemned, The

dir: Scott Wiper

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch a movie celebrating rape, torture and other cruelties as entertainment, and then have the same movie lecture you that you should be ashamed of yourself for watching a flick that celebrates such violence? Curious about whether it would work or not to have a movie made by a scumbag of Vince McMahon’s proportions that tells you that YOU are the reason why he produces the crap that he does.

On that same track, has anyone ever slapped you in the face with a handful of wet shit and then told you to say “Thankyou?”

All these experiences and more were mine for the enjoyment when I dared to endure this terrible film. I sat there, mouth agape, muttering to myself, “I cannot believe the shit that I am seeing.”

Maybe this isn’t just a terrible film. Maybe it is the Bad Lieutenant of ‘transgressive” survival-of-the-fittest films, made with ex-wrestlers, C-list American actors and soap opera calibre Australian actors in supporting roles with terrible American accents. Maybe seeing a clearly Australian town and pub standing in for a Texan town and bar was meant to be funny. Maybe the subtext was meant to thrill the kinds of media academics and cinema studies students who would never ordinarily crap of this nature.

Rating:

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