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2007

Shoot 'Em Up

dir: Michael Davis
[img_assist|nid=12|title=Babysitting with a gun makes sense to me|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=328|height=450]
Imagine a film where the hero shoots hundreds if not thousands of people. Imagine that same film actually has an anti-gun agenda as its plot.

Collect the pieces of your head after it’s exploded all over the place, and then try not to think about it again. Or about how truly loopy this movie is.

If you’re a fan of utterly mad gunfest actions films, especially the kind of stuff John Woo used to be able to produce back before whatever talent he possessed was drained out of him by Hollywood, then this insane flick is for you.

As my Canadian friend said of the film, he stopped watching it when, in the film’s first few minutes, the hero kills a bad guy with a carrot.

A few minutes later, he’s cutting a newborn baby’s umbilical by shooting it. That’s the insane level this flick is operating on. And it either gets better or worse, dependent upon your sensibilities.

Smith (Clive Owen), who looks like little more than a carrot-chewing homeless person, steps in to a situation not of his making. A heavily pregnant woman is being chased by goons intent on killing her, and he reluctantly steps in to save her. This sets him on a path of conflict with some progressively nastier men.

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A Mighty Heart

dir: Michael Winterbottom
[img_assist|nid=97|title=The man himself on his wedding day|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=240|height=360]
Daniel Pearl was a journalist working in Pakistan when he was kidnapped by terrorists in 2002. He was held for several days, as his six-month’s pregnant wife Mariane Pearl, their friends, colleagues, fellow journalists and the Pakistani police and ISI security forces, US Embassy staff, FBI, the then Secretary of State Colin Powell and probably Batman as well all tried to secure his release.

If you never heard the story in the media because you were too busy downloading pirated media of all sorts and purposes, or you were watching slack-jawed and mouth agape at the antics of the latest reality television contestants instead, then perhaps the events depicted in A Mighty Heart will be exciting and new. Perhaps then the flick’s structure as an investigative thriller might thrill you.
Of course, if that was the case you’re also probably not likely to give a damn over the fate of a journalist, loathsome creatures that they are.

If you know what Daniel’s fate was at the hands of these vile bastards, then the question this flick might satisfy for you won’t be ‘what happened?’ so much as the how and the why of it.

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There Will Be Blood

dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
[img_assist|nid=104|title=There Will Be Moustaches|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=460|height=226]
Oh, there most definitely will be blood. But the blood will be pouring from the eyes and ears of the audience members at the horror perpetrated by the ending of this movie.

For the majority of the flick’s length, I was pretty sure it was a masterpiece, even if the persistently annoying score was getting on my nerves with how busy it was. But about fifteen minutes from the end it completely, gut-wrenchingly falls apart. It’s one of those endings that’s so awful that it makes you feel like having watched the preceding two and a half hours of film was a total waste of your goddamn time.

But still, I should give it credit for what it does achieve up until then.Very loosely adapted from the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair, There Will Be Blood starts off at the beginning of the 20th century and concerns itself with the origins of the oil industry in America. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a very determined, very driven man. We watch him prospecting for gold and doing it the hard way, the hardest way it can be. Even a broken leg can’t stop him from getting his few lumps of gold to the surveyor’s office.

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Brave One, The

[img_assist|nid=73|title=Oh, You're So Brave, Jodie!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=219|height=325]
Jodie Foster doing Death Wish. That’s all you need to know.

If only that was the case, for your collective sakes

Foster, being Foster, of course, has to have the flick be all important and pretentious around her. It can’t just be a film about a woman pushed too far who decides to take out the trash with handgun and crowbar at hand. It has to be about how a person can lose their soul, even when they feel like they’re doing the right thing in trying to claw their way back to the person they used to be.

Jeez, doesn’t Foster ever lighten up?

Look, as a fan of hers and many of the movies she’s been in, I have to say the simple fact that Foster would choose to be in any film is usually enough of an incentive to get me to watch it. Unless you’re talking Nell, a flick I’m never going to mention again, and you’ll never bring up again, if you know what’s good for you. I mean it, I’ll go all Jodie Foster on your arse.

But the thing is, had some other actress been cast in the role, the flick probably wouldn’t have gotten as many critical plaudits or notice, and would probably have slipped into direct-to-DVD oblivion unlamented and unmissed.

Hitman

dir: Xavier Gens
[img_assist|nid=732|title=Killing people is easy. Working your problems out without resorting to assassination is hard.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=428]
It’s called Hitman. Use your imagination as to what it’s about, go on. I dare you, I double dare you.

It’s about a guy called 47 (Timothy Olyphant), bald and with a barcode on the back of his head, who travels the world at the behest of The Organisation, killing people for money. He’s very good at his job, as one would expect, since centring an action movie and a game franchise around a hitman who’s actually quite lazy and sloppy would seem to be counter-productive.

Varying from the game, 47’s origins are such that he was picked up as an orphan and trained ruthlessly by some macabre monk types before being unleashed upon the world. Orphans just cop it the worst every time, don’t they?

He is hired to take out the current Russian president, and does so, only to find that he is now a target, and that the Russian president seems to be fine despite having had his head JFKed with a high-powered sniper round.

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Next

dir: Lee Tamahori
[img_assist|nid=733|title="I'm worse than you." "No, I'm worse than you."|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=220|height=144]
Are you fucking kidding me?

This flick is terrible by any of the standards you care to think of to apply. Except maybe that someone didn’t leave the lens cap on the camera. Maybe that’s the only bit they got right.

Everything else is, not to exaggerate too much, so fucking awful that it renders the film a crime against humanity. I’m amazed the film prints didn’t fall apart on the subatomic level and cause black hole singularities from the weight of their crapulousness. Destroying projectors, creating gaping holes of nothingness in the fabric of space/time, drawing in and disintegrating countless foolish movie patrons.

And to add insult to injury, it’s awful even by the standards of most Nicolas Cage films. Now, don’t get me wrong, Cage has starred in some movies that haven’t sucked completely and utterly. But he has starred in many that have sucked more than the infinite gravity of the aforementioned theoretical black holes. Such monumental powers of sucking necessarily make me wary whenever his name and creepy hairpieces appear onscreen.

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Lucky You

dir: Curtis Hanson
[img_assist|nid=734|title=I bet you $500 that I'm going to sleep with you eventually|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
I have, as a film geek obsessive, certain film obsessions that trump even all the others I posses (beyond samurai flicks, heist flicks, flicks with zombies, boobs or explosions, of course). For reasons not immediately apparent to me, flicks about gambling and gamblers appeal to me immensely.

I’ve never been a gambler myself, but only because I know I have an addictive personality (hence the film geekdom), and because I’ve barely got enough money to waste on food, booze, rent and childcare, let alone to lose at the poker tables. It is perhaps the high-stakes tension that appeals, or the self-destructive characters these stories inevitably conjure with. Whatever the elements, I dig them big time, and am a keen watcher of films about these chronic fuckups.

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Resident Evil: Extinction

dir: Russell Mulcahy
[img_assist|nid=735|title=And yet I still haven't won the Nobel Peace prize|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=200|height=321]
The first flick in this franchise, based on the popular survival horror game, achieved the remarkable by not being an absolute piece of shit. The basic premise involved a poster child for genetic engineering, Alice (Milla Jovovich), squaring off against legions of zombies and the machinations of the evil Umbrella Corporation that created her.

Had a few stunts, few gory parts, the requisite rip-offs from better flicks like Aliens, plenty of references and in-jokes for the alleged gamer fans, and all in all didn’t represent a completely excruciating experience, despite being directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.

The second flick, RE: Apocalypse, achieved the unremarkable by being a complete piece of shit that made no fucking sense and defied all laws of knowledge, gravity and common decency by being an aggressively, relentlessly stupid experience for all concerned. I’m sure it made audiences dumber just with partial viewings.

This third one, Extinction, is directed by Australia’s own Russell Mulcahy. Russell Mulcahy is a hack of the first order and top rank, so imagine my non-existent surprise when this managed to find an happy medium between the mediocrity of the first film and the utter shiteness of the second.

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Lust, Caution

dir: Ang Lee
[img_assist|nid=736|title=I respect you for your mind|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=321]
You could say that the subject matter of Lust, Caution was a strange choice for Ang Lee, if it really was possible to contend such a thing. But he’s never been consistent in his film choices or in their content, so it really isn’t that strange, is it?

I mean, look at this CV: The Ice Storm, Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hulk and Brokeback Mountain.

If there is one consistency to point to, it's that these aren't superficial films. Clearly, he makes films about whatever he wants, and he is not bound by any genre or convention. For this he has loyal fans but an unpredictable output.

Lust, Caution looks at the blossoming, in more ways than one, of a young patriotic lass called Wong Jiazhi (Wei Tang), whose fateful job it is to infiltrate the affections and bed of a very bad man, being Mr Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai). The film begins when she is already in place, and then flashes back to four years in the past, to show how she got to this precarious place in her life.

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La Vie en rose (La Mome)

dir: Olivier Dahan
[img_assist|nid=738|title=Go on, earn that Oscar|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Outside of France this biopic about Edith Piaf was called La Vie en rose, one of her most famous songs. In France itself the flick was called La Môme, being her nickname, “the sparrow”. In Australia it should really have been called The Miserable Fucking Life of a Street Urchin who becomes Edith Piaf and Dies a Wreck in her Forties.

It has a certain ring to it, a certain je ne sais quoi, wouldn’t you say? It certainly would be both accurate and illuminating.

Despite knowing absolutely nothing about Edith Piaf and any other French singer of her era or magnitude, I have to say that the story as presented in La Vie en rose is ridiculously familiar. It’s not just because the story of the rise, fall and comeback of artists tends to have the same trajectory, it’s because the filmmakers, whether American, Hollywoodian or French, tend to create the same narrative and use the same plot devices to tell their story.

The personal, actual details of their lives are comfortably wedged into the pre-ordained format, so the whole story, whether it’s about the rags-to-riches tale of a Mongolian throat singer, or the rags-to-riches story of a member of New Kids on the Block, it’s all going to be pleasantly familiar.

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