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2008

10,000 BC

dir: Roland Emmerich
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The name Roland Emmerich, for most people, isn’t one that drips with infamy. It’s not used in the same sentence as “a horrible, big budget hack as bad as Stephen Sommers, Bret Rattner or Michael Bay”. It probably should, though.

Clearly, if the name means nothing to you, you don’t remember who directed noisy big budget shitfests like Independence Day, Godzilla, Day After Tomorrow or the loathsome The Patriot starring Mel “I love the Jews today, I really do” Gibson.

As such, it’s not clear whether Emmerich has made any films ever worth the celluloid expended in making and screening them. There are some terrible films on his resume. Awful, godawful movies that sapped the will to live of audiences worldwide.

It would be reasonable to expect that since almost every film he’s made has been dire, that any future films he makes will be dire too. It’s only fair.

Well, of all the films Roland Emmerich has been responsible, this one, 10,000 BC is the most recent. That’s probably the nicest thing you can say about it.

Rating:

Jumper

dir: Doug Liman
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And I thought this was going to be a movie about someone’s woolly pullover.

No, a jumper is a person with the innate ability to teleport around. David Rice, our main character, teleports around. He discovers he can do this at around age 15, and abandons all semblance of a normal life.

Since he lives outside the bounds of regular society (he abandons his surly father, and their small hick town of Ann Arbour, Michigan), he also freezes at this point in his intellectual and emotional development.

Eight years pass, and now David is played by Hayden Christensen, arguably one of the greatest and hardest working actors of his generation.

No, wait, I meant to say he’s a terrible, woeful actor, so – so - terrible that he is almost a joy to watch. Almost.

The greatest, most awesome aspect is that Christensen isn’t even the worst actor in the movie. The love interest is so fucking awful that she actually makes Christensen look less terrible.

Goddamn is she godawful. If no-one stopped her, I can imagine she would have started and ended every sentence of dialogue with, “like… you know, dude” as if she was a hippie chick from a 1960s Roger Corman biker pic. Oh good gods was she terrible.

Rating:

Incredible Hulk, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Hope. People hope for a lot of things. Some people hope they’ll have enough money to feed themselves and their families tomorrow, after of course they’ve bought their daily requirement of drugs. Others hope for the election of a leader with the audacity to claim that everything instantly will get better everywhere once he gets elected.

Others hope for a way to forget the Freudian nightmare that was Ang Lee’s Hulk. Well, Marvel and French action director Louis Leterrier, previously celebrated for making the entertaining but utterly brainless Transporter movies with Jason Statham, hope that you’ll be able to replace all memories of the previous instalment with the current one.

The Incredible Hulk jettisons absolutely everything from the earlier film: It’s like it never happened. All new actors, all new origin, and absolutely none of the psychomalogical Oedipal rage crap that dragged down audience enjoyment levels in the past. And it is far more of a generic comic-book adaptation than anyone could have ever dreamed or imagined.

Or maybe we’re supposed to pretend that other Hulk never existed. Don’t mention the war.

Rating:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

dir: Steven Spielberg
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The wave, like any wave, builds slowly at first. The forces at work that generate a wave are staggering, truly, physics and hydrodynamics on the grandest scale. The effect of the moon’s gravitational pull, weather patterns, the Coriolis effect, currents, underwater structures like reefs and rock formations, tectonic plates and volcanic activity; all combine to generate the mightiest and meekest of waves that plague our oceans and seas.

Other forces include anticipation, nostalgia, relentless marketing campaigns and the blind willingness to believe that something that has to be shit could actually be all right against all the logic and sense available in the universe, let alone under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade.

The wave I’m referring to is the crashing wave of disappointment that is this motion picture in its entirety: this picture in motion of such staggering awfulness that it makes me weep for the lost childhood that Spielberg and Lucas have stolen from me retroactively.

Rating:

Untraceable

dir: Gregory Hoblit
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Oh, it’s SO unnecessary.

Director Greg Hoblit makes thrillers, mostly, and oh are they formulaic. So formulaic that watching them, in fact, is quite pointless. The only time he managed to have a twist worth arching an eyebrow over in one of his films, it was thanks to Ed Norton. Nothing else, no matter what actors he uses, ever transcends the level of ‘hackwork’ or general hackery on the scale of directorial ability.

Why so harsh, you might think? Did he fuck my girlfriend, knife my best mate in the nuts, or run over my dog? Knife my girlfriend, run over my best mate, fuck my dog? Knife my dog whilst fucking my girlfriend and running over my best friend? After all, aren't directors supposed to be multitaskers, or at least have enough of an entourage of assistants to be able to do everything simultaneously?

Nothing so terrible. All he represents is the quintessential manner in which Hollywood propagates itself pointlessly, almost unconsciously, through making films that don’t need to be made. It’s not as if there’s a shortage of movies coming out. In fact, considering how many movies clog up the multiplexes and rental shelves, do you reckon they could stop themselves even if they wanted to?

Other Boleyn Girl, The

dir: Justin Chadwick
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First up: I haven’t read the book this is based on, and I’m never likely to. So this isn’t going to be either a bitchfest about how it doesn’t conform to the book, or a point by point comparison betwixt the two. Seeing the book (and, to a lesser extent, the film) advertised gives me a strong sense that it’s chick lit/flick material.

Of course, it’s not: it’s history! With Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman! And Eric Bana (who cops third billing, which must be somewhat humiliating) playing Henry the VIII! Sorry, Henry Tudor, King of England.

It’s pretty hard to take a set-up like that seriously. With due respect to Bana, who can play everything from a loathsome criminal (Chopper), to a Hulk, to a noble Trojan prince (Troy) to a Mossad hitman (Munich), such a cast list invites derision even before parking one’s arse in the theatre. It’s simply ridiculous. Hollywood goes middlebrow: that’s always a recipe for disaster.

It’s preposterous on paper, and comes at a difficult time for historical ‘epics’ to be taken seriously, especially after that recent Elizabeth: The Golden Age abomination, which was an act of cinematic atrocity inflicted upon an all-too-forgiving audience.

Rating:

Bank Job, The

dir: Roger Donaldson
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I loves me a good heist movie, I does. Big fan of heist movies. Probably one of my favourite genres, since my tolerance for vampire movies, zombie movies and Merchant Ivory productions has waned.

Who am I kidding, I still love that lace doily, maiden aunt with scones Merchant Ivory shit.

The Bank Job, you might think, is something of a heist movie. But it has the added bonus of allegedly being based on a true story. As well!

As far as I’m concerned, this is based on a true story the way 10,000 BC, Pearl Harbor and Transformers were based on true stories. Sure there were woolly mammoths building the pyramids. Sure giant robots travelled to our planet searching for Rubik’s cubes. Sure, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale fought the Japanese and won with their dignity and 40s hairstyles intact in a love triangle story that echoes throughout the ages..

So, to reiterate, I believe the “true” elements in The Bank Job involve the fact that there is a place called London, and it is populated by people, some of whom are British. And there was a calendar year called 1971.

Other than that, I don’t even believe there was such a time and place as the so-called 70s, at least not as represented here. And a Princess Margaret? Who ever heard of such a being?

Rating:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

dir: Nicholas Stoller
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This is being released under the “Judd Apatow” banner as if Judd’s name alone is now a seal of filthy comedy approval. Wondering if a comedy is funny? Well, Judd Apatow was involved, so it must be so funny you’ll laugh until you rupture something.

Okay, so 40-Year-Old Virgin was funny, and Knocked Up was funny. Apatow directed them. But now are we really meant to believe that Apatow doesn’t even have to make the movies for them to be funny? He just “produces” them under the Apatow Productions banner, other people direct them, and they’re still full of Apatow-y goodness.

I think not. Even with the commercial and critical success of some of his comedies, the law of diminishing returns kicked in around the time of Drillbit Taylor. Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t going to kill off the Apatow bandwagon, but it might throw a wrench or two into the spokes.

It’s not a horrible film, in fact it’s relatively funny at some stages. The main actors aren’t horrible, the costumes are nice, the lighting was okay, and the make-up work is top notch throughout. I don’t know what the catering was like, but it was probably okay. No-one looks like they got sick from bad food, so that’s my assumption as to the relative merits of the food service.

Rating:

Iron Man

dir: Jon Favreau
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The only real criteria I had initially for whether the flick would be great or disastrous shite was the demand that the guitar riff from Black Sabbath’s Iron Man had to be used at least once during the whole experience. So I watched it all, forgetting my initial charge, until the film ended on a deliriously funny high note, with the riff then booming out of the theatre’s speakers. I was pretty damn happy about that.

Still, it shows at the very least how profoundly low my expectations were.

The most surprising element of this whole Iron Man extravaganza is not that Robert Downey Jr is great in the title role (he’s a great actor, fully comfortable with a role that is a gift to him), or that the flick itself is very entertaining. The surprise is that Jon Favreau has now finally made a flick worth watching.

Rating:

Vantage Point

dir: Pete Travis
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What these kinds of flicks usually have going for them is momentum. It’s not brains, it’s not character, and it’s certainly not depth.

Vantage Point is essentially a Bourne-type film without the advantage or the anchor of a Jason Bourne-like character. To compensate for this they fracture the narrative, replay the central event what feels like fifty times, and then break out of the temporal loop by moving forward at break-neck speed to the big action climax.

Initially, we watch the occasion of an anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain, from the confines of a news van covering the event to the side of a jam-packed plaza. The US President (William Hurt) is here on this historic occasion where the leaders of many nations are banding together to assert that terrorism is bad, m’kay? He is guarded by Secret Service agents (Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid), one of whom recently took a bullet for him, or at least thinks he did. An American tourist (Forest Whitaker) watches the event through his video camera, uncomfortable with the idea of trusting his memory alone. Or is it because the camera has some plot significance later on?

Rating:

Run, Fatboy, Run

dir: David Schimmer
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Sure, the title of this flick is a phrase that has been yelled at me by people in passing cars, the police, girlfriends and my own mother, but I’m not bitter about it…

Well, not too bitter.

Simon Pegg is becoming a ubiquitous figure of British comedy, in that a few comedies come out of Britain each year, and he seems to be in at least one of them annually. Yes, that is my new definition of ubiquity.

He’s recognisable, and has a loyal following of fans who find his antics and constant mugging amusing. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are his two most well known roles, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this flick right here is anything like those other ones.

This should not, nay, MUST not be confused with the comedies Pegg’s been in with Nick Frost and directed by Ed Wright.

Because, in case you missed it, this flick was directed by the tool who used to play Ross on Friends. Yes, the loathsome, the terrible, the horripilating David Schimmer.

This is a fairly lame and lazy romantic comedy, and had it starred someone else I probably would never have bothered seeing it. It does however have some pretty funny people in it, making up for the abjectly pathetic script.

Rating:

Rambo

dir: Sylvester Stallone
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Some things are just unbelievable, even when you see them with your own eyes. I had heard the level of violence in this film described to me by a friend, but even then I had no idea just how incredibly violent it would be.

This is one of the first times I’ve watched a flick with war footage where I seriously think actual war footage wouldn’t be as graphic and violent. Just think of that irony: an actual war would be less violent than hopefully the last flick in this holy franchise.

Oh sure, all the Rambo films have been violent, but that violence, viewed now, of a mannequin of a camp commandant being blown apart by an exploding arrow, or the torture of numerous poor shmucks at the hands of America’s enemies, seems positively quaint in comparison. Ah, the wonders of modern technology.

I’m not sure how this works, but we went from First Blood, to Rambo II: Electric Boogaloo, to Rambo III to this latest flick, titled Rambo. No, we haven’t gone back in time. No, you don’t have to go through the misery of high school and your first humiliating sexual encounters again.

Rating:

Cloverfield

dir: Matt Reeves
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Disaster movies seem kinda superfluous in this day and age. Even major cities suffering horrendous destruction hasn’t been a rare occurrence (obviously) in, let’s say, the last decade or so. And with war, arbitrary death and ‘splosions being common in the less white parts of the world, getting to enjoy a film where a nebulous horror visits destruction upon hapless urban sophisticates seems like a pointless indulgence.

Of course, by that logic, practically no films have any moral justification for their existence at any time. And then where would I be? Writing reviews of plays and the goddamn opera? I’d have even less people reading my reviews. How do you get less than zero again? Okay, negative numbers. I’d have negative numbers of readers reading my reviews, which, if I’ve got the temporal mechanics right, would mean that the reviews would be being unread by increasing numbers of non-existent anti-matter readers.

Then there’d be some kind of tear in the fabric of space-time, and I’d be responsible for damning the universe to non-existence as it turned itself catastrophically inside out.

Who are you to say that it isn’t feasible? Hey, according to string theory, any point of time and/or matter could be existing simultaneously in 26 different dimensions. So there. Anything’s possible.

Rating:

2007 Film Year in Review

dir: Me

2008

Another great year of movies. Another couple of hundred reviews read by a few bored people online and by harvesting bots trying to find email addresses to send crucial details regarding penis breasting and Nigerian viagra accounts to.

From a film-watching point of view, I was forced by dint of circumstance, in other words, by the entry of my daughter Dawn Matilda into this harsh and occasionally beautiful world, to watch a lot of flicks on DVD (legitimately) and a few via the illegal largesse of the download fairies. I’m not justifying it, I’m not excusing it, I just think that when I can barely make it to the cinema a dozen times due to looking after a baby girl, I am morally justified in watching stuff that I didn’t and you didn’t pay for.

There’s a logic there that I hope I won’t be explaining to any prosecutors any time soon. Hey, if they can find a babysitter for me, then I’ll be happy to watch Scary Movie 5 or the next Lindsay Lohan flick in the salubrious confines of a theatre the way the Gods of Cinema intended.

Still, I got to see a fair few films I liked this year, and less that made me want to unleash an apocalypse of jihad and tickle torture on the world.

Rating:

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