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2008

Wrestler, The

dir: Darren Aronofsky
[img_assist|nid=23|title=Fear the Ram!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=321]
It really doesn’t feel like you’re watching Mickey Rourke’s comeback to the big screen. It feels more like you’re watching his swan song. Rourke himself and the character he plays in The Wrestler are so intertwined that it becomes impossible to tell where Mickey Rourke ends and Randy “The Ram” Robinson begins, and vice versa.

Rourke himself has undergone a transformation, but I’m not sure all of it was for this film’s benefit. This isn’t his comeback, since it was only a few year’s ago that he was being lauded for his work in Sin City, but the strangest thing is that I realised watching this that much of what I thought was make-up and latex facework when he played the Frankenstein-like Marv in Sin City was anything but.

Rating:

Max Payne

dir: John Moore
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In a lot of ways, Max Payne, which is overall a pretty mediocre action movie, is as good as you have any right to expect something to be that stars Marky Mark Wahlberg, and that is based on an extremely violent and thus extremely enjoyable computer game.

But if they can’t even use the musical theme from the game in the film, then it was never going to work, was it?

The usual dismissals and criticisms aimed at ‘based on’ fare don’t really apply, since both of the Max Payne games were a distillation of pure 80s Hollywood cop / vengeance crap filtered through a comic book / pseudo-noir sensibility, with liberal splashings of guttural voiceovers and over the top set pieces. Thus you’d think making a film of it would be easy, since there is no shortage of flicks based on a) killing mobsters, b) wanting to kill hundreds of people in retaliation for the murder of one’s family, and c) guns guns and more guns.

Rating:

Eagle Eye

dir: D.J. Caruso
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See, there's precious little I can say about this flick, and about why it's so tedious, and why it's so unsatisfying but still adequate, without giving the whole game away. As in, there's a basic spoiler so spoilerish in its basic spoilerishness that to not say it means I've got nothing else to say about the film apart from mocking it in general and Shia LeBeouf specifically, and that the review itself will not be fulfilling its fundamental obligation to you, the dear reader: telling you what the film is about so you can decide whether to invest two hours of your precious life or not.

Or maybe I can manage it, who knows. Let's see, shall we?

A guy called Jerry (Shia) who's a bit of a bum, a bit of a shmendrick at that, is caught up in some grand conspiracy where some virtually omniscient woman on the phone forces him to do her bidding. At first she's getting him to do stuff just to protect him from the FBI, who soon become involved when he's found to have tonnes of explosives in his apartment. If nothing else, watching those early 'exciting' bits of the movie, I was reminded of the fact that I haven't watched The Matrix in a while. You know, the bit where Morpheus is talking to Neo on the phone at his place of work before the Agents show up. It's somewhat similar.

Rating:

Babylon A.D.

dir: Mathieu Kassovitz
[img_assist|nid=59|title=Let me just shoot my agent|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
What the fuck? Sorry, but there’s only one reaction I can have to having watched this alleged movie. But first, allow me to digress for about a thousand words…

I recently spent nearly three months of my life plowing through a book called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide last year. Since he killed himself, which all the cool artists do, and since many people, book critics and regular humans alike, wanked on rhapsodically about what an amazing writer he was, I started reading it to see for my self.

Imagine my disgust when after suffering through a thousand pages penned more with bongwater than ink and fully more satisfied with itself than it ever deserved to be, I came to the end of the novel only to find that the novel had no ending. No resolution to any of the story it was telling. Nothing to justify the three months of my life where I could have been reading multiple better books during my lunch breaks and train trips to and from work.

Suffice to say, I was pretty fucking angry.

Rating:

Visitor, The

dir: Thomas McCarthy
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Low-key. This film is so low-key that it almost shouldn’t exist. But exist it does, and I found it sweetly enjoyable, far more than most of the films I’ve watched lately and forgotten before the credits have rolled.

Which is odd, quite odd. Because little if anything happens for the whole film’s duration. And instead of using the term ‘low-key’ to describe it, it’s possible that inventing and applying a whole new term to describe such a film might be more appropriate: no-key.

This no-key film begins with an emotionally dead academic played ably by Richard Jenkins, taking piano lessons from a woman. He's not very good at it, and doesn't like the woman teaching him, informing her that though he intends to take more lessons, it won't be with her.

It's only with a bit of time, subtlety, that we figure out what's really going on. His wife, now dead, used to play the piano. Since her death, he tries to keep playing it in order to honour her / remember her, but it doesn't really work. When he speaks to people, he is completely shut down, completely uninterested in those around him, especially when it comes to his work. He teaches one class, and even that's under sufferance.

Rating:

Pineapple Express

dir: David Gordon Green
[img_assist|nid=108|title=Three morons for the price of two|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=452]
There’s this impulse in many of us, ‘us’ as in the kind of people who post and read opinion, commentary and other bullshit on the tubes of the internets. When anything appears, even if it is well liked from the start, there’s always this impulse to be the first to say the honeymoon is over, baby, and that thing, tv series, sequence of books or person has ‘jumped the shark’. Outlived their usefulness. Exceeded their use-by date. Outstayed their welcome.

I come not to praise Seth Rogen but to bury him. The funny, charming slightly shlubby guy has now reached the stage, at least with me, where I no longer find his shtick funny, and instead find him somewhat tiresome and obnoxious. I don’t know if it’s this film specifically, or the ‘character’ he plays, but he’s really starting to annoy me.

As an actor he has the range of a comedian, which means he has practically no range at all, and it doesn’t help that the ‘character’ he plays here is pretty much indistinguishable from anything else he’s ever done. He plays an unambitious low achiever who likes smoking dope.

Rating:

Quantum of Solace

dir: Marc Forster
[img_assist|nid=37|title=He just needs some love|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=309]
Casino Royale was one of the more surprising films for me last year, surprising in that I was expecting the same old shit in a new and shiny bucket. It proved to be better than my lowest expectations, and rekindled my interest in the Bond character, something which dwindled to nothing through most of the 90s.

Riding on that wave of successfulness, all Quantum of Solace had to do was not suck too much, and everyone would be mostly happy. Was that too much to ask?

Craig plays the character with the same level of intensity he brought to his first trip in Bondland, but the story is significantly different. I can dimly remember reading an Ian Fleming short story sharing the name of this film, but I doubt this flick follows the story closely if at all.

All I remember about the short story is that it only features Bond tangentially, and is more about two characters with a bad, bad marriage rather than anything to do with shooting people or beating the crap out of disposable henchmen.

But, see, we live in a different era these days. When Roger Moore played the guy, it was enough to be a suave motherfucker, have some occasional fisticuffs, and always bed the lasses within easy reach of a bottle of Dom Perignon. Despite being as gay as anything.

Rating:

Mutant Chronicles, The

dir: Simon Hunter
[img_assist|nid=77|title=Pretty Goddamn Stupid|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=175|height=250]
You really have to wonder how some movies get made. I don’t mean microbudget indie films about depressed people having soulless sex and squeezing their pimples in the mirror for two hours: all you need is a camera and a PC for editing to do that.

But some films sound so bad even as you’re watching them that you can’t help but wonder how drunk the people were who gave the go ahead, and how desperate for attention some of these actors were to agree to appear in something like this.

Ron Perlman, I’m sure, doesn’t turn down any film roles. He’s that prolific, and probably wants to pay off the mortgage or get a country house or whatever. At the very least he’s like an American Michael Caine, who appears in the majority of movies made in the last thirty years. Perlman’s appearance here isn’t that surprising, I guess. He plays what I thought was the main character, Brother Samuel.

Brother Samuel is but one of the many characters in this strange flick, but not the most inexplicable. What is John Malkovich doing here? Surely Malkovich has made enough money over the years to be able to turn down a role every now and then.

But no…

Rating:

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

dir: Guillermo Del Toro
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I usually give Del Toro respect for his Spanish films which have all been great (Cronos, Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth), and derision for his Hollywood flicks (Blade II, the first Hellboy). Perhaps I’m feeling more forgiving, or perhaps Del Toro is starting to meld the two ways of working into a workable whole.

Whatever the reason, or whatever is really going on, I surprised myself by enjoying Hellboy II: The Golden Army much more than I thought I would. The main reason I’m surprised is that I really didn’t get into the first Hellboy, and that one of the main reasons is something that’s carried over to this sequel.

I’m also a bit burned out by the whole comic book adaptation thing, and Hellboy is nothing if not a comic book property.

Hellboy (played, I guess, by Ron Perlman) is an actual demon, snatched from the gates of hell by a kindly scientist (John Hurt) when still a baby hellspawn. He grows up to love and protect humanity whilst fighting against supernatural shenanigans that threaten humankind.

He is bright red, with ground-down horns, a very large fist, styles his hair like a samurai, smokes cigars and loves kittens. And he loves to fight.

Rating:

Promotion, The

dir: Steven Conrad
[img_assist|nid=113|title=Dorks just trying to dork their way up the corporate ladder|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=476|height=317]
What are our dreams? I don’t just mean what do we dream of, because most of us dream of flying, or exacting revenge on our childhood tormentors, or giving speeches naked in front of our co-workers and fellow students. And let’s leave out all the sex-related dreams regarding 80s sitcom stars or bus drivers. Please, let’s just leave them out.

Most of us, not being the super-creative and talented people whose works we crave in written, visual or auditory form as entertainment, have modest hopes and dreams. We dream of having jobs that don’t crush our souls on a daily basis. We might dream of owning, past a certain age, our own homes so we’re no longer at the mercy of deranged housemates, too-thin walls separating us from annoying neighbours and independence from the whims of landlords and slimy real estate agents.

We dream of being able to do okay and avoid looking like shmucks, at least those of us that aren’t shmucks. And even those of us who are shmucks dream of somehow getting that one thing (or several things) that’ll make everything seem a bit more worthwhile, in our eyes and in the eyes of others.

Rating:

Sparrow (Man jeuk)

dir: Johnnie To
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Hong Kong director Johnnie To has made so many films that saying something like “and so I’m going to review the latest film by Johnnie To” is a pointless endeavour, because by the time you’ve finished writing the review, he’s put out another film.

At the very least I can say this is a recent film of his, and that I managed to catch it as part of a retrospective in honour of the great man that played recently at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Apparently he even came out to Australia for it, which is pretty sensational. He was probably pissed off that he couldn’t smoke in the theatre, if I can hazard a guess based on anecdote and on most of his films, in which every single goddamn character has to smoke constantly.

Of course even a fairly knowledgeable film watcher / movie goer would be saying to themselves, “yeah, and who the fuck is Johnnie To anyway, and why should I care?” And right you are.

It doesn’t matter. He is a good Hong Kong director who has made a string of decent movies. Sparrow is his latest, is a very good film, and I would even call it a significant departure for the director if his career wasn’t already littered with examples of genre-ignoring endeavours on his part.

Rating:

Speed Racer

dir: Wachowskis
[img_assist|nid=52|title=I'm not crying from watching this; I'm just vomiting with my eyes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=513|height=219]
I guess we can’t call them the Wachowski Brothers anymore, since technically they’re not both brothers anymore. Allow me to illuminate your confusion with an explanation, one of the few times where one of my more obscure references can actually be explained in a sane way that might make sense to another human being.

When they made Bound and the Matrix trilogy, two chaps sharing the name Wachowski were responsible as the directors. Now, as in as of a year or two ago, one of them is still a Brother Wachowski, and the other, thanks to the type of surgery that in Australia is still colloquially referred to as the “cruellest cut of all”, one of them has undergone gender reassignment surgery to become a Sister Wachowski.

Strange, I know, but don’t for a moment feel that I’m impugning the lifestyle choices of people who I believe have every right to do whatever the hell they want as long as they’re not hurting other people. He / She can do whatever the heck they want with their pink bits, surgery-wise or otherwise as long as it doesn’t involve my pink bits.

Rating:

In Bruges

dir: Martin McDonough
[img_assist|nid=83|title=Seeing the sights in sunny Bruges|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=228]
It’s not often that I am completely ignorant of a film’s content or worth prior to checking it out, but I can honestly say that I knew nothing about In Bruges, Bruges or director Martin McDonough before watching this flick.

Sure, I’d heard that it was an okay film, but I had no practical knowledge of what would transpire when I watched it. And that’s a good thing.

Two criminals, Ray (Colin Farell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are forced by their boss Harry (Ralph Feinnes) to take a little trip to a medieval town in Belgium called Bruges. We don’t know why for the film’s first half hour at least.

Ken finds the town beautiful, and is excited about doing some sightseeing. Ray is jittery, and acts like a reluctant five-year-old boy being dragged to cultural sights and delights that he couldn’t possibly give a toss about. Ken and Ray seem to have that snippy, comfortable relationship of people who’ve known each other long enough to know how far to go before pulling back, what, with the constant insults and sharing of drugs.

Rating:

WALL-E

dir: Andrew Stanton
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For some people, WALL-E represents a welcome return to form for Pixar, putting the now Disney owned company back at the top of the computer animated movie pile. For others, it’s just a continuation of their general excellentness, with WALL-E only representing the latest in an unbroken stream of quality products pumped out by the Dream Factory.

And for others, it’s just a movie. A very well animated one, but a movie all the same. I have to admit to being something of a Pixar devotee, so the arrival of their flicks tends to pique my interest greatly. WALL-E's good reviews raised expectations even higher.

But they weren’t too high. I didn’t really expect this flick to be a revelation, because long ago, around the time of Cars, I realised that Pixar’s movies would remain distinctive, and look cutting edge whenever they were released, but that being utterly blown away would be unlikely. Computer animated movies are a dime a dozen these days, the stunning visuals have become commonplace, and the quirky stories about being free to be yourself or stopping to smell the roses are becoming pretty clockwork regular as well.

Rating:

Doomsday

dir: Neil Marshall
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Doom, doom, doom…. Oh yes, someone is doomed. It’s you, dear watcher. It’s you if you sit through this.

Watching this movie gave me some hideous sexually transmitted disease. Not syphilis, but something not altogether nice all the same. Time for the blue lotion again, except this time I have to make sure I keep it away from open flames.

Doomsday as a title for this flick doesn’t even really make sense, but I guess they had to shorten it from its original title: Escape from 28 Days of Resident Mad Mars Aliens Later. Because this flick is little more than an attempt to do what the two prime dickheads in the recent Michel Gondry flick Be Kind Rewind do, which is to make cheesy versions of classic action flicks.

And poorly, I might add. It is so brazen in what it does, though, and I am qualifying this as much as inhumanly possible, that there are almost moments where I forgave it for how shitty and derivative it was.

It’s almost like walking through a crowd, sensing the hand of a pickpocket and grabbing it, and then feeling almost forgiving as you glimpse the little urchin’s cheeky smile beaming up at you. Before, of course, you bring the hammer down and crack his wrist.

Rating:

Happening, The

dir: M. Night Shyamalan
[img_assist|nid=11|title=Are we scared? Yes we are!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=188]
The Happening, the happening… What happened again?

What happened was, M. Night Shyamalan made another film that was universally panned, and was actively laughed at by audiences, despite not being a comedy. I think it’s fairly obvious that Shyamalan is never going to be able to make another successful film. He should go back to working the drive through at some burger place.

Honestly, at least then people will buy what he’s selling. At the moment, no one gives him the benefit of the doubt when his unfortunate films debut in the cinemas. They’re pre-loaded for failure. People, whether critics or not, expect them to be bad with almost more certainty than the films of Uwe Boll or movies whose titles end in Movie.

Rating:

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

dirs: Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
[img_assist|nid=98|title=Harold and Kumar in Search of Humour|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=354]
Wow, even with two directors this flick is still pretty dumb and unfunny. Maybe it needed some more directors. Maybe five directors would have been the magic number.

It couldn’t have hurt. Such a sequel sounds, from its title, like it’s going to be a ribald, politically pointed satire on the contemporary American milieu and its terror at the prospect of terrorism. What this sequel actually does is limply deliver another film where two alleged stoner friends get into scrapes and shenanigans of a generally crude or sexual variety for 90 or so dull, punishing minutes.

Crude’s fine. I can handle crude. Dumb fun I can handle to, in the right mood. The thing is, even dumb and crude humour needs a bit of wit. Without wit, it’s all just shit.

There is precious little wit and plenty of shit on offer here. It doesn’t make it a supremely painful experience to sit through, kind of like a proctological exam, but it doesn’t make for much fun either.

Rating:

21

dir: Robert Luketic
[img_assist|nid=50|title=I'm ever so bland|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Love films about gambling. Can’t get enough of Vegas films about high stakes gambling. Having an addictive personality myself, and having the tenuous self-control to be able to completely stay away from any forms of gambling simply because I know how all consuming they would be for me, I get to live vicariously through these kinds of flicks.

But 21 isn’t like Rounders, Lucky Me, The Hustler, Let it Ride, Owning Mahoney or the recent biopic High Roller about Stu “The Kid” Unger. It’s not about a person or people good at gambling risking everything to win a hefty pot o’ gold at the end of a compulsive / obsessive rainbow. 21, based on a book about these MIT math nerds who made good, is about some students who figured out a way to beat the house at its own game with both counting cards and a system to exploit it.

The risk, or the danger, here, is not losing everything through the vagaries of chance or being outplayed or through losing the battle with one’s own demons. It’s being crushed by the people Vegas casinos hire to ensure card counters, who aren’t doing anything illegal, don’t beat the house at its own game.

Rating:

Wanted

dir: Timur Bekmambetov
[img_assist|nid=35|title=Guns, guns and more guns. And Meat!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=312]
Trash. Not mindless trash, but trash all the same. And it’s trash you’ve already seen, as long as you’ve seen The Matrix. Even with a completely different setting and premise, it is so reminiscent of The Matrix that you keep expecting Agents to turn up and Kanooie to appear mouthing “Whoa!” in that supremely affectless way of his.

It’s not just the fact that the supposed hero of the piece, Wesley (James McAvoy), starts off as a depressed office drone who finds out that he’s actually a gifted superhero type, and thus goes from zero to hero in record time. The entire special effects package seems to be solely aimed at insulting the laws of gravity and making entities such as Sir Isaac Newton spin in their graves in a fashion wholly contrary to the physical universe as we know it.

Taking a gratuitous leaf out of The Matrix’s script, the intro begins the film’s descent into cinematic cliché and carnage by having a normal seeming guy do some completely impossible shit involving killing a bunch of guys at a great distance and jumping from one skyscraper to a distant other. Before he is almost mystically killed with a bullet that curves through space and possibly time.

Rating:

Tropic Thunder

dir: Ben Stiller
[img_assist|nid=14|title=Catch the Tropical Fever|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=286]
If you’d told me that Ben Stiller, yes, that annoying nervy guy with the big ears, was capable of ever making another funny film, I would have metaphorically spat in your face. Maybe not metaphorically, maybe literally! I contend that flicks like Zoolander and many of the other misfires Stiller has been in, just aren’t that funny. I know people who lose control of their bladders at the mere mention of Zoolander, but I’m certainly not one of them.

And I say that as someone who likes Ben Stiller and thinks he’s a funny guy. Funny in the sense that he’s odd, not that he consistently makes me chuckle with his antics or his silly characters in the painfully neurotic films he stars in.

So colour me surprised that I got many a laugh out of Tropic Thunder. Many, many laughs, far more than is usual for me in public. Some parts had me in tears, literal tears of disbelieving, paralysing laughter.

As a fan of war movies, I’ve pretty much seen them all, especially the ones from Nam onwards. Also, I’ve probably seen Saving Private Ryan more times than most mental health professionals would consider healthy. A film that righteously takes the piss out of these films is, perversely, right up my alley. They’re so ripe for parody that they’re practically begging for it.

Rating:

Drillbit Taylor

dir: Stephen Brill
[img_assist|nid=103|title=There is death in my eyes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Soon after making this here particularly worthless flick, Owen Wilson tried to commit suicide. Coincidence?

Director Stephen Brill is responsible for two of the dumbest Adam Sandler comedies (if that isn't a tautology), being Little Nicky and Mr Deeds. Is it possible for a movie directed by such a lowlife to be anywhere near worth watching, especially considering the fact that one of its main stars tried to kill himself soon after the production wrapped up?

The premise revolves around nerds so nerdy the nerds from Revenge of the Nerds would beat them up, being terrorised by an evil bully. So desperate and afraid are they, and so blind is the school to the campaign of terror waged against them, that they decide to hire a bodyguard, who turns out to be a homeless bum. Are the people involved in this production likely to receive Nobel nominations some time next year for their services in highlighting the plight of the homeless?

It’s unlikely. Perhaps I’m making too much of Wilson’s attempted suicide, but the fact is, you know, for a few moments, I was contemplating embracing the emptiness of eternal oblivion just minutes into this misbegotten 80s throwback idiocy.

Rating:

Onion Movie, The

dir: James Kleiner?
[img_assist|nid=74|title=Onions, by their very nature, not especially funny|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=225|height=300]
There is a shroud of mystery, a deathly pall hanging over this movie, the movie called The Onion Movie. What’s its story? What’s going on? How is Rodney Dangerfield in it? Hasn’t he been dead a long while? Has he risen from the grave, searching for the respect that long eluded him? Will his undead zombie be calling for “Brains!” or “Boobies”?

Two digressions: I’ll try to keep them quick. The real antecedent/origin of this flick is an attempt to make something along the lines of Kentucky Fried Movie or the Airplane/Flying High! movies. That’s the style of comedy that comes closest to this both in format and content. Since the movie uses the Onion television channel as its framing device, and the soothing, credible crooning of newsreader Norm Archer (Len Cariou) to link the various stories, with ads and other programs thrown in, it’s almost like it’s made to order template-wise according to the KFC spec.

Rating:

Pathology

dir: Marc Schoelerman
[img_assist|nid=149|title=You're going to stick what in my mouth?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=267]
This is some pretty sick shit. Insane, too. I hesitate to call it a horror flick, because that makes it sound like it’s scary and that there’s a plot, albeit a generic one.

No, though some elements of this insane flick were guessable in advance, I can’t really say I predicted just how crazy and nasty this crazy flick was going to play out.

Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) is an allegedly brilliant doctor who is interning at an acclaimed pathology centre. The on-the-job training focuses on not only the techniques of pathology (autopsies and such), but on figuring out how people died and what killed them.

From the moment he starts working and studying there, a strange group of idiots led by someone whose name is coincidentally Gallo (Michael Weston) initially ridicule him but then bring him into their ranks with a deadly game they’re just itching to play with him.

In this world without police or pretty much any law enforcement, these crazy kids commit elaborate murders, with the intention being stumping the other interns in their little club with the sheer elusive brilliance with which it was carried out.

Rating:

Ruins, The

dir: Carter Smith
[img_assist|nid=25|title=Feed me young Americans, please|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Four hot young American kids on holiday in Mexico? Of course it’s a horror film. Why else do Americans in any movies go on any holidays, whether it’s Slovenia, Central or Southern America? To be killed, presumably, because every American knows that the rest of the world hates/fears/envies them.

Also, I guess it’s scarier for American audiences to think of themselves as the targets of the world’s attentions.

Our four chaps and chapettes here are just college age kids partying before heading back to their studies. Partying for them is like what partying for the rest of the non-American world is like: drinking and fucking. But they do possess a modicum of curiousity about tourist traps as well.

So when a German guy with an unconvincing German accent tells them of some secret archaeological dig site, they decide to go along for the ride, in order to do something ‘cultural’ before catching their plane back home.

Little do they know that they are mere fodder for some hellish example of history and evolution gone wild. Wild I say!

Rating:

Stop Loss

dir: Kimberley Pierce
[img_assist|nid=143|title=We look like we're having fun, but inside, we're dying|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=318]
Stop Loss is the latest entry in the new genre of American war flicks examining just how terrible it is for young Americans fighting in Iraq. Thanks to a cruel administration and a cruel commander-in-chief, these noble, selfless men (and a fair few women) are suffering, suffering for their time spent in country nobly fightin’ them over there so they don’t have to fight ‘em over here. Or in Texas, as the case may be.

Even those soldiers who aren’t killed or horribly maimed; they suffer on the inside. They suffer even when they go home. Then their families and loved ones suffer. America, how much suffering can your poor nation endure?

And, to add insult to injury, the ruthless and cruel Army is sending them back to the meat grinder against the express conditions of their assumption that entering the Army enhances instead of comprises your free will.

What? How dare they? Don’t they have any consideration for my feelings? How dare they send me back to kill more Iraqi civilians? What gives them the right?

Oh, wait, is it because I enlisted voluntarily in the Army? Yeah, okay, that’s why.

Rating:

Dark Knight, The

dir: Christopher Nolan
[img_assist|nid=94|title=The Joker in all his posthumous glory|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=633|height=310]
We don't really have 'event' movies anymore. No movie, because of the sheer quantity of flicks that come out, and the quantity of other potential things a person can do (and might prefer to do) instead of going to the theatre, can come out and dominate the landscape like it could in the past.

The days of something completely massive in its level of public interest, a flick that gets everyone to watch it and everyone to talk about it, are pretty much gone. The last such flick, one that almost everyone worldwide went to see at the cinema, everyone talked about whether they saw it or not, and everyone just knew of its very existence was Titanic.

It’s why Titanic is the all time box office champion, and will continue to be until something magically compels people to go back to the theatres instead of watching flicks on their home theatre set-ups, computer screens or handheld devices.

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Hancock

dir: Peter Berg
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There seem to be superhero flicks coming out every goddamn week, and mostly they’re the tried and tested superhero properties carefully branded and nurtured by DC and Marvel Comics over the last century. They are, at least the successful ones, considered to be powerful box office draws and dependable investments. Yes, I’m talking about Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Fantastic Fours and the X-Men flicks. You can now, due to its inexplicable success, add Iron Man to the list.

Then there’s the second tier of flicks based on lesser known superheroes which seem not to do as well simply because they’re not as well known, and aren’t considered serious draws, no matter how well they do (Spawn, The Crow, Blade, Daredevil, Electra, Hellboy, Constantine, Ghost Rider, The Phantom, The Shadow et bloody cetera.) The primary difference is that the top tier characters are so well known and so recognisable that everyone goes to see them at the cinema, and children the world over whine until their parents buy them the merchandise. With the second tier, only the fans and nerds go or care.

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Street Kings

dir: David Ayer
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For my money, any film based on a screenplay that James Ellroy worked on is necessary watching. Obligatory watching. It would be a crime not to.

Now that I think about this a bit more, I start to wonder why this should be the case. Sure, LA Confidential did all right, and I really liked Dark Blue. But Black Dahlia is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t really Ellroy’s fault: we can parcel out the blame to superhack Brian DePalma, Josh Hartnett’s beady little eyes and complete inability to act and a whole host of bad actors looking foolish and acting worse.

Then again, since it was a pretty ludicrous story, maybe it was Ellroy’s fault. For all the gritty crime writing he’s been responsible for, he also, like Stephen King, had a long period of time working fuelled by stimulants, whereby both have written lots of stuff neither remembers writing at all. And it shows, if you know the respective time periods involved.

He remains, though, someone I very much respect in the field of crime writing. I’m not sure how well his work meshes with the world of David Ayer, whose script for Training Day trod a very Ellroyesque path of very corrupt cops doing very corrupt things, but it would seem to be a natural fit.

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Forbidden Kingdom, The

dir: Rob Minkoff
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a young clueless kind of guy (Michael Angarano) who’s a big fan of 70s Hong Kong martial arts films gets mysteriously yanked through time in a bid to save China from the evil Jade Warlord (Collin Chou) by returning the staff of the Monkey King (Jet Li) to its rightful owner.

From zero to hero in record time. Yes it is the same plot as every ill-advised attempt to bridge the cultural and box office gap between America and China through the distorted lens of Hong Kong cinema that has ever been committed to celluloid, cellulite and cellulose as well.

Homaging, pastiching, or downright ripping off Hong Kong flicks is nothing remotely new, in fact some hacks have made a career out of it. This flick takes a slightly different tack in that it uses CGI and current editing/post production tricks not to reference those flicks, but to at least replicate them on the whole, whilst remaining American-friendly throughout.

In other words, except for the pasty, awkward American teenager, this looks like a pretty good approximation of one of the many Shaw Brothers flicks that they talk about, except it’s in English.

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Be Kind Rewind

dir: Michel Gondry
[img_assist|nid=4|title=A less boring version of 2001: A Space Odyssey|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=270]
Being able to enjoy a flick like this is dependent upon a few variables. A high tolerance threshold for enduring Jack Black helps. Being able to put up with yet another variation on the ‘stick up for the little guy against the heartless government/corporations’ plotline helps.

Being able to appreciate the artschool, ramshackle aesthetic / messiness and the idea that an entire community in New Jersey could be delighted by and pay good money to see short films based on famous movies starring Jack Black and Mos Def, in lieu of watching actual movies, would also be paramount.

Also, where I write ‘artschool’, what I really mean is ‘artfag’. Such a term is not exactly dripping with political correctness and sensitivity, so I’m glad I never used it in the body of this review.

Phew! Dodged a bullet on that one, eh?

In varying degrees and with varying quantities, I guess I do possess or at least entertain some of the variables previously mentioned, because I didn’t hate Be Kind Rewind, despite feeling as if I should have. Sure, it’s pretty shaggy, creaky and cheesy, but I still enjoyed the shit out of it.

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