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2009

Observe and Report

Observe and Report

Ignore and Avoid, at absolutely all costs, have no doubts

dir: Jody Hill

Damn, this is one ugly movie. I’m usually comfortable with the kinds of flicks about which people say “I felt like taking a shower after watching it”, but in this case, I want to lift my brain and eyes out of my skull, and scrub them clean with something caustic and abrasive.

As if I didn’t currently already dislike Seth Rogen enough, here he is in a ‘starring’ role as a mentally ill, possibly retarded security guard who holds onto his job for no reason I can glean. He is a stupid and violent prick, and yet he is the hero of this incomprehensibly bad film. At first I thought it was a drama. Then, a comedy. Then, a black comedy. Then a drama again. Then maybe a horror flick, then maybe a romance. A character study? Slice of life? Social satire? By the end I’d given up trying to figure out what genre the flick resides in, because I figured the people making it couldn’t figure it out either. I haven’t seen such an ending with so little credible believability in a long fucking time. That this character gets the ending this flick doles out is a travesty of injustice alongside the fact that it’s taken over thirty years to bring that scumbag Roman Polanski to justice.

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Drag Me to Hell

Drag Me to Hell

So, watcha been up to, Buffy? Slayed any vampires lately?

dir: Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi. Sam Raimi. Where have I heard that name before? Oh, wait, I know. He’s the lesser known brother of Ted Raimi, who dazzled the world with his performance as Joxer the Magnificent in that Xena: Warrior Princess series, and as J. Jonah Jameson’s assistant in the Spider-Man movies. Or maybe it’s that he’s the brother of Ivan Raimi, famous scribe of Spider-Man 3 and actor in the classic Nude Bowling Party?

No, I’m sure I’ve heard of Sam from somewhere else. Wherever it’s from, it seems like he’s decided to enter the family business by directing feature films. For what may be his debut feature for all I know, he’s decided to make a strange little horror-comedy called Drag Me to Hell, which, honestly, shows to me that this Sam Raimi guy might just have what it takes to make a career for himself with these movie shenanigans.

The kid definitely has a future ahead of him. Or maybe a past, I’m not sure. Like most rookies in the business, he’ll probably piss it all away on hookers and cocaine, but maybe he’ll survive and make some more tiny small budget horror films in the future. I think that’s all a guy can hope for, really.

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Bronson

Bronson

A gentle soul, trapped in the body of an absolute lunatic

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

I thought I’d seen everything. But then I saw Bronson.

In some ways, it’s one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. That it is based on a true story is almost immaterial, since it’s still highly fictionalised and hyper stylised as well. And there isn’t really any story or plot, which itself is less interesting that the rendering of it, because there’s only so much you can do or say about a person as remarkable as Michael Peterson, sorry, I meant Charlie Bronson.

Though it is a biopic, it’s not a biography of legendary dead actor Charles Bronson, whose Death Wish films, numbers I to V, brought sensitivity and nuance to the debate regarding crime, immigration and vigilantism in modern America. No, this flick is about an absolutely incompetent career criminal who is clearly insane and who elects to call himself Charlie Bronson. He is still alive, so I better be careful what I say.

Not that he’s ever likely to see the light of day.

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Terminator: Salvation

Terminator: Salvation

I will destroy you, you puny filthy humans!

dir: McG

It’s a sad day when you acknowledge for your own benefit that the world no longer needs Terminator movies. New ones that is. The first two will always be classics of a sort, but it’s just a sad realisation to see that it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be able to approach them in quality, let alone match them.

The curious element was that the story we were always watching was never really the main story. The main story was always the reason for watching these various people and cyborgs run away and try to fight progressively more advanced robots, but it was never the overarching plots of these films. The battle between the remnants of humanity and the ruthless artificial intelligence called Skynet was always some nebulous threat in the future: our immediate concern was supposed to be the survival of some people in the present.

Salvation, being the first of the Terminator flicks that doesn’t have time travel as its main plot device, is set during the time when this apocalyptic conflict has already destroyed most of the world, or at least North America. Sure, the protagonists are all still trying to survive assault from fiendish and relentless machines, but it’s not for some way of safeguarding humanity in the future: it’s survival in the here and now.

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine

X-Men: Origins Wolverine

Oh look!. It's the patron saint of the wifebeater singlet!

dir: Gavin Hood
I know that the X Men movies have been pretty popular, and I know that a major component of their success has been the efforts of Hugh Jackman as the most popular of the mutant comic book characters, being Wolverine. And I can see why making a film just about Wolverine would have seemed like a winner right from the start.

I mean, it just feels like a logical progression. If the X Men films were successful, and, the theory goes, Wolverine or Logan is the key ingredient, then if you take all the distractions and unnecessary components out, you’re left with something pure and wonderful.

I believe it’s the same process used in manufacturing crack cocaine.

Get rid of the sometimes interesting dialogue, the ethical questions, the underlying science fiction themes and debates that typify the conflict between a powerful mutant who wants to shepherd mutants, and protect humanity (Professor X), and a powerful mutant who wants to destroy or subjugate them (Magneto), and just have Hugh Jackman jump around tearing shit up with his adamantium claws. Do it for 90 minutes and you have yourself a blockbuster.

Indeed, it made enough money at the box office to guarantee that more X Men flicks are going to excrete themselves down the studio pipeline. But it’s not even a vaguely worthy 90 minutes. Your dollars could otherwise better be spent on the aforementioned crack cocaine.

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Star Trek XI

Star Trek

Organised by rank, and by how much they probably got paid

dir: JJ Abrams

Excitement might have been high in some quarters; dread might have been higher in others. The prospect of a new Star Trek film might have seemed inevitable to some, and downright puzzling to most. After all, the Trek flicks, either the ones with the ancient crew or with the still quite old Next Generation crew never really made that much money (certainly not blockbuster numbers), and the last hurrah critically and financially was back in the 90s.

And yet they kept putting out films as if there was a burning need in the public to see these same weak characters age poorly and deliver groan-worthy jokes that seemed outdated even back in the era where the only form of mass entertainment were cave paintings and hitting each other over the head with clubs.

As with a whole bunch of other franchises, properties, brands recently, they decided to bring it all back and to undertake a reboot / reinvention in order to rekindle interest in a largely apathetic public. And they handed the responsibility for directing this, the eleventh, or XIth, if you want to get all Roman numeral and classy, entry in the franchise to J.J. Abrams, the guy who, amongst other crimes, created the television shows Felicity, Alias and Lost, and directed the third Mission: Impossible flick.

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Watchmen

Watchmen

Who watched the Watchmen? Eh, not a hell of a lot of people

dir: Zack Snyder

It’s almost unbelievable to me that this flick has eventuated, has been realised and ended up on the big screen. I don’t say that as a fan of the graphic novel that spawned this monstrosity, but as someone simply who’s read the story and thought it could never work as an audience-pleasing, seat-filling, multiplex product. Watching Watchmen hasn’t convinced me otherwise.

The story, well, let’s just say I can’t imagine it ever connecting with the kinds of audiences who go to the cinema to watch a flick chock full of super heroes. People, the vast majority of people who go to the cinema to watch a flick based on a comic book are expecting and wanting something along the lines of Spider-Man, Batman, Iron Man, stuff with Man in the title. Maybe Dark Knight’s incredible success has broken down some barriers and prepared people for more ‘serious’ and ‘complicated’ stories, but I don’t think it’s going to do much for people’s appreciation of Watchmen.

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