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2009

Push

dir: Paul McGuigan
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I love Hong Kong, I really do. That doesn’t mean I’m going to like any film just because it’s set there. But I really do love the place, visually speaking at least. It’s not because I have any personal experience of the place, or because of my heritage, or because of any deep-seeded identification I have with the former British colony. I just like it, is all, and have watched around a thousand flicks set there.

This film Push has a lot of great cityscape footage of Hong Kong, truly it does. It mixes the high art cityscape stuff with postcard shots and, most importantly for me, the shots revealing the commonplace squalor of some areas, with the hustle and bustle of places like Mongkok, Wanchai, Kowloon Bay and all the rest, whether tourist destinations or not, whether ‘pretty’, grungy or not.

Beautiful, beautiful images of a real city that looks almost like what Ridley Scott was going for with Blade Runner, except that it’s real, and it’s a place even more thriving, alive, chintzy and garish than you can imagine, with the quicksilver of commerce, greed and violence running through the city’s veins, in the abstract perhaps more than in fact. All of this I could see and think about as I watched this amazing city depicted in this film.

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District 9

dir: Neill Blomkamp
[img_assist|nid=715|title=Have gun, will travel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=595|height=325]
It seems like a brilliant idea on paper. It even seemed like a brilliant idea in the promos and trailers and such. Truth be told it was the first genuine-seeming actual science fiction movie to pique my interest in a long time.

As the film begins, the premise is set out for us very quickly and easily. Twenty years ago, a huge alien vessel appeared above the skies of Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens, for which we are never given a better title than prawns, are settled into a ghetto / township, all million plus of them.

The ghetto is cordoned off, and twenty years later, as an impetus to the current story we’re supposed to be watching, the organisation tasked with corralling the prawns decides it needs to move the prawns 200 kilometres away because of tensions with the locals. Mostly because South Africans, white or black, don’t want them there. They are seen, despite their hideous appearance, as really being nothing more annoying or dangerous than refugees.

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Knowing

dir: Alex Proyas
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I’m not usually in two minds about any movie I’ve watched. And, truth be told, I’m not in two minds about this flick either. This is, in a lot of ways, a terrible film. The plot is terrible, the stupid things that happen are the opposite of good, and having a ham of Nicolas Cage’s magnitude in it doesn’t help either. For once, though, he is not to blame. At least, not the primary blame.

And it having been filmed in Melbourne doesn’t help either. I feel so biased and conflicted.

There is, still, something compelling not about why something big happens in this film, but what ultimately happens. I’m going to try to avoid saying what ultimately happens, because it’s a pretty big spoiler, as big as spoilers get, really.

Back in 1959, a little girl hears these mysterious whispers. They compel her to scrawl maniacally a sequence of numbers that don’t mean anything, and then the sheet of paper is coincidentally locked up inside a time capsule that is to be opened 50 years hence.

Now in 2009, a drunken astronomer (Cage) speaks to a class about whether determinism governs the universe, or whether it’s all random chaos that exemplifies what happens, down to the death of the drunken astronomer’s wife. The drunken astronomer has a depressed son (Chandler Canterbury) who hears whispering too.

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Angels and Demons

dir: Ron Howard
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They must be taking the piss, right?

It’s impossible to believe that intelligent people, which includes all the people involved in this production except for Dan Brown (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt but not him), could make this film and be treating it as a serious endeavour. It is one of the only films I can think of in recent memory that would benefit greatly from the inclusion of a rabid, nitrous oxide suffused laugh track. Taken on face value, that this wasn’t intended as some kind of parody or black comedy, is almost incomprehensible.

The two words that come most readily to mind about anything to do with Dan Brown in general and this film specifically are ‘absurd’ and ‘unconvincing’. I’m sure there are plenty of other words, but these are the cleanest and most accurate I can think of right now. I’m not going to ramble on about The DaVinci Code, because I reviewed it when that stinking, lumbering turd of a film first stank up the cinemas a few year’s ago.

They are however peas in a pod. Shitty peas in a stinky pod. The one singular virtue this latest film possesses over its predecessor is that it is nowhere near as long, thank Satan.

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Samson and Delilah

dir: Warwick Thornton
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Samson and Delilah is unlike any other film, Australian or otherwise, in its depiction of Aboriginal characters or an Australian story. It is unflinching, and brutal, and beautiful. It might take its name from the biblical story, but this tale is far more real, current, tragic and yet hopeful in its ultimate realisation.

It is not an enjoyable flick. There isn’t much dialogue. It’s as meticulously crafted as any work of art you’re likely to ever see, but its purpose isn’t to entertain. Though there is occasional humour to leaven the grim circumstances of these lives, it remains true to the characters and the reality of their situation. A situation not exclusive to the characters in this film.

It’s not easy going, not by any stretch. But then, why should it be?

In an isolated community in the Northern Territory, Samson (Rowan McNamara) wakes up, sniffs petrol for a while, rubs his head then gets up and wanders around. He has nothing to do all day. The isolated community is so small that it probably consists of about 5 shacks, a shack church and a shop. Heat vibrates off everything. A communal phone rings and rings, but no-one answers it.

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Oceans

dirs: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
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Oceans. They’re everywhere! And, did you know that they’re full of water?

Very watery waters, apparently. And mostly the water is blue. Sometimes green, sometimes grey, sometimes a mixture of greeny-bluey-grey, but always very watery.

We owe a lot to the oceans. They feed us, naturally, and they’re also where we dump all our sewerage and garbage, as the gods intended, and they also willingly have become the final resting place for murderous / saintly Osamas who’ve outlived their usefulness, but they’re also really pretty. And they’re also chock full of thoroughly beautiful creatures like dugongs, walruses, stonefish and moray eels.

Who could not love the Oceans? They’re practically the puppies/kittens of the solar system. Only a completely dead-inside monster, that’s who. Or the captain of the Titanic, I guess. Or anyone who’s lost a loved one to the Ocean’s watery embrace, I guess as well.

This astounding documentary which has taken its time to get here, and is playing at Cinema Nova (in Melbourne as at 22/5/2011) acts as if people don’t know what oceans are (as opposed to seas, which everyone knows are the oceans’ poor orphan cousins), or that there are fish in them. There’s actually a line of narration that says the following:

Rating:

Girl Who Played With Fire, The

(Flickan som lekte med elden)
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dir: Daniel Alfredson

Ahhhh. I like it when they make semi-decent movies out of shitty books. It gives me hope for humanity.

For my money at least, The Girl Who Played With Fire was the best of the three books Stieg Larsson shat out onto an unsuspecting world before he died. By ‘best’ I don’t actually mean that it was a great book. I just mean that out of three terribly written books, the second was the least worst of the trilogy.

Since I haven’t seen the last instalment in this series of flicks yet, I can’t say whether this is the best of the three. I thought the first flick, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, did pretty well whittling down a phonebook of empty and stolid prose into a competent enough crime investigation flick, with a compelling central character (Lisbeth Salander, not the journalist Blomkvist). She becomes even more central to proceedings here, as the second story, and indeed the rest of the series becomes the All About Lisbeth show.

Rating:

Box, The

dir: Richard Kelly
[img_assist|nid=1300|title=Don't you dare touch my box|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
This is not a good movie. It’s not even mediocre. It’s just incompetent.

It’s not as utterly godawful at his last awful foray into moviemaking, which was the truly dire Southland Tales, but whilst it’s not as asinine, it’s not much better. It’s staggeringly not much better.

Richard Kelly came to prominence with Donnie Darko, and since then has been squandering whatever goodwill the flick engendered with a much too forgiving audience. Honestly, these other films he’s been making are so eye-rottingly rotten that it makes me think Donnie Darko was a fluke, a goddamn fluke.

Maybe the elements that he was able to put together coherently the first time have never been able to coalesce since then. I know this is a review of his latest shitfest The Box, but bear with me for a second: I think you can see the seeds of his failure even back in Donnie Darko, by comparing the theatrical cut with his director’s cut.

That’s what it comes down to: Kelly doesn’t know how to edit his own flicks. Of course, the companies hire editors to actually edit the films, but the directors (and often producers) can end up sitting in at every stage to ensure their singular ‘vision’ gets carried through.

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Twilight Saga: New Moon

dir: Chris Weitz
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The problem, the problem with this is… let me just put my finger on the problem…

How do you make a good flick out of a terrible book? How do you get good performances out of terrible actors playing terrible characters? How do you achieve what alchemists have been trying and failing to do for centuries, being the transmutation of shit into gold?

I don’t know. Neither do the people making this flick.

No-one expects either Spanish Inquisitions or full scale refutations of the basics of physical chemistry in order to achieve the impossible, and I didn’t exactly go into this with an open mind. You cannot have read any of the despicable books by Stephanie Meyer in this series and have any hope either for a film version to be a decent film, or hope for humanity in general.

You just can’t. They’re bad, but they’re bad in the way that precludes being ironic about it, taking it as camp, as kitsch, as anything than what it is: a painfully earnest, unintentionally hilarious but soul deadening attack on human dignity.

That’s gilding the lily if I’ve ever gilded anything. Perhaps I’m exaggerating just a tad.

Rating:

2008 Film Year In Review

dir: Buxbaum or Bixby Ali Van Allen O’Shea

2009

Very late in the game, very late in the year, I have decided to close the lid, as in the coffin lid, on the previous year’s festivities by summarising all of my highly valuable yet worthless thoughts on how I thought the year went movie-wise. You might wonder “why?” whereas I just wonder “why not?”

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