You are here

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
[img_assist|nid=3|title=All Gun, no Fun|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
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:

Visitor, The

dir: Thomas McCarthy
[img_assist|nid=20|title=Economics Lecturers need love too|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=512|height=343]
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:

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:

Eagle Eye

dir: D.J. Caruso
[img_assist|nid=148|title=Yes, I am interested in making savings on my long distance phonecalls|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
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:

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:

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

dir: Guillermo Del Toro
[img_assist|nid=66|title=Methinks he's overcompensating for something|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=300]
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:

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:

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:

Pages

Subscribe to 2008