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2009

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The (Man som hatar kvinnor)

dir: Niels Arden Oplev
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I don’t know how many people are going to make this point, since I assume that people, like sheep, like doing stuff in concert with each other, that this is the rare instance where the movie resulting from an adaptation is better than the book it’s based on. There, I said it. In reality this is the best adaptation of a Dan Brown novel Dan Brown never wrote. But Sweden’s Dan Brown, called Stieg Larsson, sadly died before he could profit from his success, collect his royalty cheques, and watch this version of his book on the big screen. It’s a shame, because he could have gotten to see what his story looked like with most of the boring bits cut out.

When I read the three books in the Millennium trilogy, as you could say with most crime or detective mystery kind of novels, I remember thinking they seemed like they were always intended for the big screen. They all read like that, usually. I’m sure it wasn’t a fact lost on the shmuck’s publishers, or on the people who made this Swedish film version, or the American shysters who snapped up the rights and who are going to allow Fight Club director David Fincher to remake it.

Rating:

International, The

dir: Tom Tykwer
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What the fuck happened to the guy who made Run Lola Run?

Here’s your answer: He’s making shitty, ludicrous flicks that sap the will to live of any audience anywhere.

The International is fucking unbelievable. It is a Bourne Identity – Supremacy flick without Jason Bourne or Matt Damon, but, perversely, with Clive Owen, who was in the first Bourne flick anyway. Recursive much?

So imagine: someone wants to make a Bourne flick but can’t afford Matt Damon. Who’s next on the list, oh, we can’t afford them, how about, no, further down, okay, Clive Owen and Naomi Watts? Brilliant.

And of course you need some German people in it, so why not hire German hot stud superstar Armin Mueller-Stahl, who’s 80 if he’s a day over 16?

Sole direction given to Clive Owen in this: “Um, act the way you did in Children of Men, but don’t run around as much.”

Clive Owen roles can be divided successfully into two groups: the ones where he has stubble, and overacts wildly, and the once where he’s clean shaven, and doesn’t overact as much. This role is clearly one of the former rather than the latter.

Rating:

Funny People

dir: Judd Apatow
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See, the title is meant to be ironic. At least I think that’s the case, since most of the stuff that occurs in Funny People is not funny.

And the funny people who are rich aren’t funny and they aren’t happy. And the funny people who are poor aren’t happy but they are funny. But when rich meets poor, through exploitation and abuse, we get a steaming serving of “we’re all unhappy, rich or poor, unless we’re nice to each other” bullshit.

Isn’t it ironic that funny people are sad, hmm? Don’t you feel sorry for these neglected, forgotten people?

Do I fuck. This is a very odd flick in a lot of ways, odd because it’s increasingly becoming obvious that Apatow tries to wedge as much of his own life story into his films as a way of keeping those close to him happy and employed, but also as an act of revenge by proxy.

Judd Apatow has achieved a certain amount of success as a director and a producer of movies, but he struggled for a long time, especially way back in the day. He came up at a time when a lot of his more famous peers were starting out as well. He even used to share an apartment with some successful guy, what was his name, oh yeah, that’s right, Adam Sandler.

Rating:

Orphan

Orphan

Something very wrong with this child

dir: Jaume Collet-Serra

This is both a horrifying and silly flick. It would be easy to just say it’s a shit flick with the most ridiculous twist ending since the last time M. Night Shyamalan made one of his ridiculous movies. In fact it wouldn’t just be easy, it’d be downright accurate.

Still, I can’t dismiss it entirely. Approached as a genre piece, it’s unsettling and disturbing, as in, it achieves its ambition of creeping out the viewer, the viewer being me, in this case. This strangely-put together flick fits into that horror-thriller sub-genre about competent sociopaths, this time in the form of a nine-year-old child adopted by a nice family, who do what they do, infuriating the viewer because no-one except the main character can see what’s going on until it’s way too late.

Esther is an odd child adopted from an orphanage because a mother (Vera Farmiga) can’t get over the recent death of the baby she was carrying. This is conveyed to us, the viewers, right at the beginning in a horrific birth scene which is rendered as some kind of demented nightmare. Whilst the details aren’t considered literal, the loss of the child is, and we learn more details about spiralling depression, alcohol abuse and infidelity. All this occurs despite the fact that the two parentals have two other kids, an annoying teenage boy called Daniel, and the sweet, deaf Max.

Into this house they bring this strange girl who not a soul buys as being anything but the demented creature the promo posters depict her as being. Those posters were a stroke of genius, I have to say. The way that image was composed, by splitting and mirroring half of her face and reconnecting them at an odd angle, was far-more off-putting than probably most of the flick.

Ah, that’s probably not entirely true. There are plenty of instances of Esther murdering a whole bunch of people, and meting out violence to children, which of course is horribly disturbing.

Rating:

The Road

The Road

It was grim I tell you, grim as being awake at 5am.

dir: John Hillcoat

Oh gods is this film depressing. It’s not as completely hideous and bleak as the Cormac McCarthy novel from which it takes its name, since it leaves out some of the most horrifying bits. Even without some of that stuff, good goddamn is it depressing.

John Hillcoat has made some grim flicks, like Ghosts… Of the Civil Dead and The Proposition, but this out-grims them all. And as with The Proposition, adding to the bleak landscape and sombre atmosphere is a score created by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Of the soundtracks they’ve done together, well, this is of a piece, and whilst it’s not as powerful as the one they managed for that Jesse James flick whose title was almost longer than its running time, it’s still pretty devastating.

This film mostly has three characters. Sure there are others, but three characters are the majority that we look at and care about. There’s The Man (Viggo Mortensen), there’s The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and then there’s the dead world they walk upon.

This is a post-apocalyptic story with a difference. The difference is that there’s nothing cool or romantic about this devastated place where we spend two hours of our lives and the last days of humanity. Plenty of flicks have been set in some nebulous future setting where nuclear war, robots, a virus, melting icecaps, zombies, evolved monkeys or Michael Bay have been responsible for wiping out human civilisation as we knew it. In almost all of those stories, though, the world left behind might be seriously fucked up and rubble strewn, but there’s still life, of a sort, and as they say, where there’s life, there’s fucking. I mean, where there’s life there’s hope.

The Road posits a world where there will be no redemption, no Hand of God coming down from the heavens to save / kill us, no rebuilding, no preservation of a copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz for future generations, no hope. The world is cold and getting colder, ashen, dead, really dead, and it’s just waiting for its last species to violently expire in order for the whole planet to become as quiet as a global grave can be.

Rating:

Thirst (Bakjwi)

Thirst

I am thirsty too, but not for Korean blood, thanks.

dir: Chan-wook Park

It’s an odd film. It’s interesting at times, boring at others, mostly enjoyable but also emotionally and stylistically flat some times. I’m sure it was deliberate. Chan-wook Park is an accomplished director, but don’t go expecting this to be too much in line with either Old Boy or Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.

It’s clear to me that he really intended on telling a very different vampire story from the ones popular with the girls and their wine cooler soaked mothers at the multiplex. He also intended on supplying the audience with a fairly leisurely, some might say lazy, broad satire of Catholicism. It seems odd to me that a Korean director would give a damn about Christianity, but then again I have no idea how widespread the Christbotherers are in South Korea, or even if the sky is blue and grass is green over there.

All I know about the peninsula is that the North Koreans have some fiercely choreographed high goose-stepping soldiers, millions of them, all starving for attention, freedom and a handful of rice.

South Korea is where the action is, and where the steady streams of films are coming from. It seems, though it’s not true, that Kang-ho Song is in most of them. He is, at least, even fleetingly in all the ones that I’ve seen thus far, whether good, bad or just plain weird.

Rating:

Coraline

Coraline

Be careful what you wish for, because it might just
KILL EVERYBODY!!!

dir: Henry Selick

You don’t know how wary I was going into this. Genuinely scared. Not scared in the sense that I was scared about what would happen in the story, or about some of the imagery. Sensitive little tulip that I am.

What I was most scared of was the prospect of disappointment. I love the works of Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick so much that the potential for failure seemed very high. Gaiman has written so much incredible stuff, including Coraline itself, and then there’s all the Sandman stuff, and American Gods, and and and…I need to curb the fanboy enthusiasm. Selick made James and the Giant Peach, and Nightmare Before Christmas, both of which I love, and is probably one of the (last) greats in the field of this old school style of animation.

It was a sweet relief to have all my fears allayed. Coraline isn’t a perfect flick, either in its story or its rendering, which is a mixture of stop-motion ‘solid’ animation and computer generated imagery, but it’s so goddamn close that the distinction becomes purely academic. Neil Gaiman, as with any of the greats when it comes to working in the areas of fantasy or what are often derisively dismissed as children’s fairy tales, understands the deep psychological underpinnings of what he’s working with, in the way that the Brothers Grimm and the creators of mythology throughout the ages have always understood. It’s not just childhood fears that these people have to approach and understand: they have to know the different motivations and intensities of feeling that children possess and most of us adults have forgotten. When people like Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman get it right, they forcefully remind us again.

Of course there are similarities with other tales, from Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli stuff to Alice in Wonderland to more ancient stuff, but I should really learn to stay on message and deal with the subject at hand without feeling the need to start enumerating everything else I’ve ever thought of in excruciating detail.

What I absolutely loved about Coraline the most was the fact, which seems really obvious on the surface, that Coraline makes choices and has to act in order to achieve anything in this story. She’s not just a character that stuff happens to until a cliché ending where every bit of a status quo is restored. She’s a bit of a brat who almost gets everything she could ever have wished for, only to realise that if she doesn’t work really hard, everything will become terrible forever for a lot of people, especially herself.

Rating:

Friday the Thirteenth (2009)

dir: Marcus Nispel
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There are remakes that are pointless. Remakes that are insults to human dignity. Remakes that just make you wish a nuclear war would wipe out the world so that you wouldn’t have to watch any more crappy flicks ever again. It would be a small price to pay.

And then there are remakes of crap horror flicks, which are just as crap as their origins, which it’s hard to get angry at.

Shit repackaged as another form of shit, when you know it’s shit, can’t really surprise you. It doesn’t have that power.

Rating:

Boat That Rocked, The

dir: Richard Curtis
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It’s getting to the stage where hearing that Richard Curtis, the genius behind such pop cultural fodder as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and the diabolical Love, Actually, which actually opens and closes with long montages of people hugging. Hugging, honest to fucking gods…

No, I haven’t forgotten what other stuff Richard Curtis was involved with back in the day, like actually funny stuff, like the various Blackadders and maybe even the Vicar of Dibley. But that was mostly as a writer, as a writer of gags. Humorous asides and witty banter. Funny, mildly amusing stuff.

Then he wisely, from the perspective of making more money, started directing the monstrosities he was writing the scripts for on numerous post-it notes while drunk out of his skull. And thus a directorial legend was born.

Now he inflicts these awful goddamn flicks on us which have too many characters, most of which are little different from each other, with sequences that connect little to the ones preceding and following, and which exude an overall stench of desperation that never hides the fact that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, but hopes the editing, popular songs and cheeky swearing can hide the fact.

Rating:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

dir: David Yates
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Another year, another Potter flick. The difference is, now, after having enjoyed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix so much, I thought I actually cared about future Potter flicks.

And then the Half-Blood Prince came along, and reminded me why I never really liked these tales of whimsy and magic in the first place.

That’s a bit harsh. Initially, going into it, I was pretty excited. I also thought, and still think, that this entry looks phenomenal as well. Hogwarts never looked so vast, so foreboding, so much more like a place that is no longer a sanctuary to these budding sorcerers.

Of course the ‘kids’ are getting older. Harry, Ron and Hermione are becoming awfully, um, grown-up physically, at least, if not emotionally mature. The story reflects and spends an inordinate amount of time fixating and developing these developments, as if the fact that they’re all acting like horny teenagers is supposed to be some kind of revelation.

Of course, this being a very successful franchise, they’re not going to turn it into an episode of the frightening school-age British series Skins, which has kids shagging, doing drugs and carrying on like teenagers having been acting since the dawn of cask wine.

Rating:

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