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2010

Tomorrow, When the War Began

dir: Stuart Beattie
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An Aussie version of Red Dawn? Sign me up right now! I'd watch the shit out of such a movie. And I did, I guess...

Red Dawn, that brilliantly stupid 80s flick about American teenagers leading a guerrilla war against their Communist oppressors, deserves to be a template worth replicating. Of course, I’ve heard that they’re making a new Red Dawn, which I think is completely redundant now, with this flick having been made.

Of course, though cheesier than a three-cheese pizza, this flick doesn’t have a scene where Harry Dean Stanton yells with a demented gleam in his eye: “AVENGE ME, BOYS, AVENGE ME!”

And for that alone there need to be multiple competing versions of this meme out there.

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World's Greatest Dad

dir: Bobcat Goldthwait
[img_assist|nid=1356|title=Being a good father is hard work. It's double the work of a half-arsed dad, and four times the work of a deadbeat dad|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=451]
The name Bobcat Goldthwait is not one that resonates in the hall of fame of respected comedy directors. The main reason is that there isn’t a hall, alcove or basement of fame of respected directors of comedies, since there are so few of them, so few in fact that they could all fit in a broom closet, bathroom or crawlspace with room to spare.

It’s a name that probably doesn’t come up in common public discourse, or in personal conversations between lovers in bed post-coitally “You really Bobcatted my Goldthwait good tonight, baby”, or a name used by the Pope in his annual chastising pronouncements, or by the Queen in her Christmas address.

In fact, anyone under thirty has probably never heard of him, and those over thirty wish they could forget him and his eardrum shredding voice.

Which is a shame, because his long career as a standup comedian, his brief career as a successful actor in Police Academy films, and the intervening years where he struggled for meaning and money meant that he made the shift over to directing films, with some success. And so here he directs Robin Williams in a flick that looks for all the world like a comedy, again, with some success.

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Restrepo

dir: Sebastian Junger & Tim Hetherington
[img_assist|nid=1354|title=War is... something or other|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=299]
Back, way back in the dim, distant reaches of last century, there was a war in a little-known and already forgotten place called Korea. The battle was between the noble South supported by the United States (and other allied nations of course), and the evil and horrible Northern Communists supported by the terrible Chinese. There were many battles, much slaughter, even towards the end of the war. The Battle of Pork Chop Hill in April of 1953, not only resulted in the slaughter of many noble soldiers, but resulted in a war film that made the careers of a lot of shiny Hollywood dickheads. It showed how random death on the battlefield can be, and how countless soldiers can die horribly because someone far from the front lines commands some men to hold a seemingly strategically important hill.

The supreme irony comes when soldiers who have given almost everything to defend a position, who’ve seen all their buddies die for it, can be told to retreat from the position because of some other strategic need or because it’s decided that, in retrospect, it wasn’t really that important, or that some other hill was the really crucial one that’ll win the war.

Cue scream of forlorn and impotent rage in the face of the universe’s cold disinterest.

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Black Swan

dir: Darren Aronofsky
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Hmmmm.

Darren Aronofsky returns to the well that prompted him to make Pi way back in the day, with a different gender in the lead but the same ultimate problem: madness brought on by sexual frustration. In Pi a maths genius can’t get any, and goes mad (or madder) listening to his hot Indian neighbour have sex. In Black Swan, a sexually- repressed prima ballerina called Nina (Natalie Portman) has to go mad in order to access her dark side to become the most perfect ballerina in the history of Swan Lake performances.

With mixed results. In a way, though she’s won’t and shouldn’t get credit for it, Portman did a Christian Bale and starved herself down in order to play this character. She’s already tiny, but here she’s depleted enough here to have that horrible strained look on her sternum where flesh is supposed to be, and now there’s only bone and tendon.

It’s not for me to judge what actors do in the pursuit of money, critical respect and the adulation of the masses. If it’s okay for Bale to do it in every second flick he does, then why not a chick that probably already weighs about 40 kilos anyway?

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Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

dir: Tsui Hark
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Some directors win their way back into our good graces by making a transformative leap in their filmmaking in order to deliver a great film after decades of slumming. Other directors delight or depress us by consistently putting out the same kind of film, year after year, Woody, decade after decade.

Other directors win us over again by going way back in style and intent, and delivering the kind of flick they delivered way back when they were still making good flicks.

Tsui Hark’s great claim to fame is, in my opinion, being part of that new wave of Hong Kong film in the late 80s – early 90s which reminded the rest of the world that Hong Kong was still making some awesome action flicks. Along with the John Woo flicks The Killer and Hard Boiled, Hark’s Once Upon a Time in China flicks were part of that vanguard reinvading the West with hyperactive action and a complete disregard for the safety of stuntpeople that blew the tender sensibilities of audiences away all over again.

Of course, with success comes money, hookers and moving to Hollywood to make horrible flicks with Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman, which will kill your career if there’s any justice in the universe.

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Greenberg

Greenberg

oh, this looks so much like a quirky indie comedy. It's not. It's so not.

dir: Noah Baumbach

Officially the most depressing flick of the year. Worse than a twenty-hour Holocaust documentary. Worse than a dramatic indie flick chronicling the breakdown of a marriage in excruciating detail. Worse than a live action film where the main character is a computer animated dog.

It always gets me when the people designing the posters for films do this, whereupon they put the name of the ‘star’ at the top linking it directly to the main character of the flick they’re obviously in. When they were making those Bourne Identity et al flicks, the posters, which featured a big muscly pic of Matt Damon, often came standard with the phrase “Matt Damon IS Jason Bourne!” as if there were any lingering doubts in the confused populace.

Of course the confusion arises because Matt Damon isn’t Jason Bourne, a fictional character, he’s the actor and soft drink salesman Matt Damon, surprisingly enough.

So when the posters for this dirge of a flick has the same type of phrase, as in “Ben Stiller IS Greenberg”, I don’t have the same pedantic reaction. What I actually think in this instance is that if Ben Stiller actually was this Greenberg person, someone should murder him in his sleep.

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The American

dir: Anton Corbijn
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It must be quite a burden, not just being an American, but playing THE American. How do you summarise millions of lives and hundreds of years of complicated history in one movie?

You have The American of the title played by George Clooney.

That distinguished salt-and-pepper hair, those smoky eyes, that smug grin; who else can represent everything from exterminating the natives and calling it manifest destiny to dresses made out of meat and massive planet-sized cars that run on endangered species thrown straight into the fuel tank?

George Clooney, that’s who.

I had heard two main comments regarding this flick: 1) that it was a good flick, and 2) or that it was an extremely slow, extremely boring flick. Well, I was totally sold on those ends of the spectrum meeting somewhere in the middle. Who wouldn’t want to watch a decent flick that’s also tortuously dull?

Is it in truth a dull flick? I didn’t think so. The pace is perfect for the story it’s trying to tell, and I guess the lack of over-editing and jump-cutting shaky cam probably put off those hoping for the hyperkinetics of another Jason Bourne-type flick.

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Reign of Assassins (Jianyu)

dir: Chao-Bin Su, John Woo
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It’s strange, and a little bit embarrassing that I am still as gullible as I am at the age that I am. I saw a clip for this flick during Potato-Head Pomeranz and Old Farmer Stratton’s Movie Show a few weeks ago, mentioned as getting a lot of people excited at some festival, possibly this year’s Venice festival.

A few seconds of people fighting, and a few excitable words from Margaret, and I was somehow convinced that this was the flick of the year, a continuation of the good work John Woo was currently doing (after the success of Red Cliff), and all around another in the exciting high-end line of wuxia (martial arts) flicks that started with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and resulted in other dazzling entries like Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

And so I bought into all this meaningless hype, as if I was some teenage girl buying Twilight merchandise, or some object Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga might have touched with some part of their anatomy as some point in time.

And what did I get for this emotional and financial investment, in getting excited about this flick and going out of my way to see it? What’s my recompense, my due, my pay back?

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Red

dir: Robert Schwentke
[img_assist|nid=1342|title=RED - Really Extreme Dubiousness|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
Old people. What to do with them. This movie’s entire purpose seems to be just to remind the rest of us not to turn our backs on these wrinkly potential badasses.

Because, you know, just ‘cause they’re old, doesn’t mean they can’t kill you three ways from Wednesday.

I’m not entirely sure how Bruce Willis gets to swan around with decent older actors and pretend they’re contemporaries, but then, if that’s the least plausible part of this flick, it would be a doddle to accept. As it is, this is a total fucking cartoon that makes James Bond flicks look like documentaries.

This flick is such a cartoon that it makes computer generated owl and toy films look like actual reality instead of animation. In this flick called Red, or RED, or R.E.D, a bunch of people mostly in their late 50s and beyond, all the way up to Morgan Freeman’s tender 70s, show the young ‘uns that they can still kick arse like it’s 1989.

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Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

dir: Giorgos Lanthimos
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Oh, what a fucked up family, and, oh, what a fucked up film.

I haven’t had much cause or recourse to review Greek films thus far, in fact it’s never come up. In a decade or so of reviewing (and twenty years of chin-stroking viewing), there’s never been an instance where I’ve watched a Greek flick in a local arthouse cinema, because I can’t recall the last time one got to play. Sure, you can occasionally watch flicks about Mongolian yak herders, or Massai tribesmen, or Inuit fishermen fishing for fish through tiny ice holes, and every single French flick no matter how vacuous or silly, gets arthouse play, but practically nothing from Greece.

I have no idea if the European Union’s poor orphan cousin has that much of a film industry, to be honest. Can’t imagine there’s that much spare cash lying around. Still, arguably the most famous (internationally) director from Greece, called Costa Gavras, who’s a pretentious pill but an accomplished director if I’ve heard or seen one, doesn’t even direct flicks in Greek, preferring the international language of arrogance, being French.

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