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2007

La Vie en rose (La Mome)

dir: Olivier Dahan
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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.

Rating:

Stardust

dir: Matthew Vaughn
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It’s been a while since a fairy tale has dared to aim itself at anything apart from the audience of infants and drooling dateless wonders. Neil Gaiman wrote the book this modern fable is based on, and that’s almost enough to pique my interest.

Not that adaptations of his works have translated that well to the big screen. Mirrormask missed the mark somewhat, and Neverwhere should have stayed there. But he is still a remarkable writer whose spin on old ideas often yields surprising and amazing results. Adaptations of great stuff like American Gods and Sandman have long been threatened, and will eventually reveal his genius to wider audiences.

Until then…

Still, Stardust feels awfully generic and little of it is new. There’s a skill in that, insofar as people want the familiar sometimes, just so they can see how the familiar can be played out in a different fashion. That explains the popularity of sports, as far as I can work out, since it’s the same shit all over again, week in week out, season after pointless season.

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Superbad

dir: Greg Mottola
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I can’t really explain the 70s retro chic aesthetic that permeates this flick, from the music to the titles. It’s set contemporarily, the main characters Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) are only supposed to be around 17-18. But, you know, whatever floats Judd Apatow’s boat.

Apatow, who previously struggled as a comedian, writer and creator of TV series that were good but were canned (a la Freaks and Geeks), who then became huge with the success of his comedies 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, has become this media juggernaut producing comedies that have his imprimatur upon them without having to bother directing them. He’s like Spielberg now, except without the cheese or the virgin blood drinking.

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I Am Legend

dir: Francis Lawrence
[img_assist|nid=742|title=I Am... The Fresh Prince of Legend|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
You know, Will, you’re really not.

He may be the biggest box office star currently, he may be a good earner, he may be an occasionally decent actor, he may even be the Big Willy he claims to be in his music, but Will Smith is no Legend. At least not in this bloody movie.

I remember The Omega Man with a certain degree of affection, or at least as much affection as you can have for a film with Charlton Heston in it. Both this flick, that flick and another called The Last Man on Earth all stem from the same novel, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Just because this flick, directed by the guy who brought us the cinematic adaptation of Constantine, uses the name of the source material for the first time, don’t go thinking it chooses to cleave closely to the actual story.

Oh no. Why would you want to, when instead you can have Will Smith talking to himself and talking to his dog Sam for 80 minutes and then killing evil puffy looking vampires for the other ten minutes?

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No Country For Old Men

dir: The Brothers Coen
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I never thought the Coen Brothers would ever make another movie that completely and utterly achieved greatness. That’s the only superlative I’m going to use in the review, because belabouring the point that this is a pretty strong film and one of their best for over a decade will only prompt people brought in by the hype to say “Eh, it’s not so great.”

More important that saying “It’s Great, Mate!” is being able to articulate as to why I think it’s so good, and why I enjoyed it so much. It’s actually quite odd, because the elements that really made it stand out for me might not even seem that important to anyone else.

By far the part of the flick that struck me most profoundly was not the Southern Gothic tone, the (admittedly) strong performances, the dialogue, plot or the production values. What struck me the most was the use of sound, and the fact that there was barely any music used in the flick at all.

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Ocean's Thirteen

dir: Steven Soderbergh
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Lord Jesus, Satan, Buddha, Easter Bunny: save me from myself. If a punter ventures forth to the cinema or a rental place and buys a ticket or hires something they know nothing about, I guess they’ve got the right to be pissed off when it turns out to be woeful and blowful.

If you watch something knowing full well how much of a craptacular experience it’s going to be, then how much of a right do you have to complain?

Bugger-all, but rights don’t always dictate actions.

Ocean’s 13 or Thirteen is the unlucky third entry in this glib, shallow franchise centred around the fact that Brad Pitt and George Clooney occasionally want to get paid a shitload of money so that they can remain high in the public’s celebrity consciousness without having to actually act in a film. They’re being paid to play themselves, which I’m sure is wonderful for the women who routinely swoon whenever they watch them being ‘interviewed’ on Oprah, but it is of little interest to me.

Several times during this flick our two main protagonists are almost interrupted by the camera in the middle of an anecdote that sounds something like:

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Die Hard 4.0: Live Free or Die Hard

dir: Len Wiseman
[img_assist|nid=745|title=So old and sweaty|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Oh, Bruce. You are so old. But there’s no reason for you to stop acting. Still, please think about what it looks like when, in a flick where fighter jets blow up freeway overpasses in Baltimore or when a lunatic uses a police car to take out helicopter, the most unbelievable aspect of the film is the idea that you’re still capable of running around and beating people up.

Think of your fragile hips. I know I was for most of this movie’s duration. Not in an erotic way, oh no, but more in a “is he getting enough calcium in his diet?” kind of way.

Bruce Willis joins a list of other well-aged hams who are most recently, reluctantly coming to terms with their aging process. In a desperate attempt to remain relevant, in an even more desperate attempt to convince audiences that they’re still hard men, Willis joins Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Paul Hogan in reprising a character they played in some cases over twenty years ago in order to earn some beer money.

Rating:

Black Snake Moan

dir: Craig Brewer
[img_assist|nid=746|title=Moaning Christina Ricci|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=393]
The posters for this flick and the DVD are pure, purer, purest exploitation material. Big black man restraining a skinny white girl who is literally chained to him. The title reads “Black Snake Moan”, and your not unreasonable expectation is that this flick must be some kind of trashy crap. There’s an entire line of, uh, movies out there that focus on, um, interactions between African-American males and ‘white’ females. And the black snake they’re referring to is an entirely different animal.

You can debate the tastefulness of the promotion, and doubt the artistic merit of such an enterprise, but that would be doing this decent flick a grave disservice.

The Black Snake Moan of the title refers to the despair that can consume us whole in the face of a life spun out of control. Usually because of love gone wrong. Or stubbing your toe, whichever comes first.

The film opens and closes with ancient footage of genuine old school bluesman Son House pontificating about what the blues is about. Cut short, the blues is about the misery caused by interactions between men and women in love or lust. Same sex couples clearly are not part of this equation and need not apply. If a gay person with a broken heart listens to the blues and relates to it, then clearly they’re not gay enough.

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I Think I Love My Wife

dir: Chris Rock
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Who does Chris Rock think he’s kidding?

Watching I Think I Love My Wife reminded me, more than anything else, of two things. One is the subject of marriage as it appears in much of Chris Rock’s stand-up material. The other is the extent to which Rock must be treading dangerous waters in order to desperately convince his wife that he’s not sleeping around. Really.

Back in the sixties, notorious womaniser and acclaimed director Federico Fellini, having been caught out one too many times by his long-suffering wife Giulietta Masina, decided to make a curious little film called Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli spiriti, 1965). In this curious flick, he cast Giulietta as the main character Juliet, the long-suffering wife of a notorious womaniser and director, who tires of her husband’s infidelities and their pretentious lifestyle. She initially flirts with the idea of adultery-as-revenge, but ultimately finds more fulfilment in simply achieving freedom away from her bastard husband.

Rating:

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.

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