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2010

Alice in Wonderland

dir: Tim Burton
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It’s not as shit as I thought it would be.

Wouldn’t it be grand if, by some cosmic fuckup that altered the nature of reality, that I somehow became a respected and admired film critic, even in this day and age where the most effective reviews are written by impassioned cretins in textspeak, and that, as a powerful reviewer whose opinion mattered to the world, marketers used my important words to promote their movies?

Imagine posters for big budget movies, with the so-called pull quote being mine, and plainly stating “It’s not as shit as you’d think.”

That’d pack in the multiplexes, no doubt, upon the strength of my judgement alone. And so people could give up the terrible burden of having to judge for themselves whether they should squander the little time they have left on this planet watching or not watching a flick I recommended or eviscerated.

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Date Night

dir: Shawn Levy
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Some flicks go out of their way to make you wish you were someone or something else. That’s why most entertainment is considered an escape from the mundanity of the everyday. Lose yourself in the fantasy of being some awesomely bicepped highly skilled dancer / spy / seducer / vengeful mutant dentist, and pay us before you’re done, thanks. Not after, before. No refunds.

Other flicks applaud the fact that you, the viewer, are a mundane mediocrity, whose hopes and dreams have been squashed by life, by your own laziness and timidity, and that you are just as you should be. We, Hollywood, wouldn’t want you any other way. Because if you weren’t just as you are, the perfect consumer who can purchase whatever you want, set your life up just as you want, but still always feel vaguely dissatisfied, then why would you be watching Hollywood’s crap? You’d have no need for us and our special magic any longer. And how would we survive?

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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

dir: Mike Newell
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For me there’s an element of watching your kid performing onstage during the Christmas pageant or something similar, in terms of watching this flick. I mean it in the sense that I’m going to be more forgiving in my expectations, and that I’m actively going to like something that others will grind their teeth through.

My fandom for the whole Prince of Persia enterprise goes far back enough that I was but knee-high to a grasshopper; an ancient Persian grasshopper on some grass stalks in the ye old deserts of another time and age.

Yes, I’m talking about the computer games, the many games that have come out with a highly limber and acrobatic protagonist who leaps about defying gravity and fighting bad guys with his scimitar. I’ve played all of them, from the Apple IIe version, through to the Commodore 64 version, and the three million or so versions on PC. I even played the last one, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which proved, to me at least, that I’ll practically buy anything with those fated words scrawled across the cover in fancy script. If they bring out a desert topping and floor cleaner called Prince of Persia, I’ll probably end up buying that too.

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Repo Men

dir: Miguel Sapochnik
[img_assist|nid=1274|title=The things we do for money...|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=248]
And here I thought this was a sequel to the classic flick Repo Man. Repo Man: a classic for the ages, from a kinder, gentler, punkier time when Emilio Estevez was briefly cool, and when Harry Dean Stanton, well, he’s always been cool and always will be.

Now that I think about it, a sequel or remake of Repo Man would be terrible, terrible in ways that would make you hate puppies, babies and baby puppy Jesuses. So perhaps it’s not too bad a thing that Repo Men has nothing to do with Alex Cox’s 80s alleged masterpiece.

Repo Men conjectures a hopefully unlikely future where synthetic organs are the most valuable commodity on the planet. In a parallel with the health care debate in the States, and the concept of whether people should actually be able to live even if they can’t afford what the medical profession would like to charge for its services, this flick envisages a time when companies can kill people with impunity.

They’re not killing them for a laugh on a Friday night: they’re just reclaiming their property, so it’s all legal. People enter into contracts to repay the cost of surgery and the new organs, and, if they can’t keep up their payments, become dead men and women walking after 90 days of being in default.

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Runaways, The

dir: Floria Sigismondi
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The mark of a film succeeding in its job, in this case when it’s based on real events, is usually that after watching it, you know more about the subject matter than before.

Right now, at this moment in time, I know just as much about The Runaways as I did before watching this flick, except for two minor facts: that their manager was a total creep, and that the band members used to lez out at the drop of a hat.

Other than that, it’s not very educational. But then again, it doesn’t really need to be. You could argue that if a flick about the Spice Girls of their era captures the essence of the time (mid seventies, as punk was exploding across the world), and the essence of what made the band noteworthy (that they were a briefly successful all-girl rock band), then it’s achieved its mission.

That’s not what I’m arguing. I said you could argue that. I couldn’t.

Based on this flick, the two major achievements The Runaways are responsible for are a) that it launched the eventual career of Joan Jett, whose most famous single is still a mainstay on golden oldie radio, and b) it gave Kristen Stewart, the notorious non-actor from those godawful Twilight flicks, something to do in between the production of those godawful Twilight flicks.

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Inception

dir: Christopher Nolan
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I don’t know what to tell you, people. On the one hand, there are parts or elements of Inception that are brilliant. On the other hand, there are whole parts and sections that seem arbitrary and cliché. And on the third hand, pretending for the moment that you’re some kind of three-handed mutant, it has an ending that I’m not sure whether it justifies the two-and-a-half hours spent watching it.

From a spectacle perspective, it’s pretty extraordinary. The sight of a Parisian arrondisement being folded over; the impact of waking someone with water from their induced dreams; weightlessness; dream perspective cityscapes; all of that stuff looks mighty purty. It’s a big budget movie where every element, every frame has been fussed over extraordinarily. Christopher Nolan, who probably can do whatever he wants as far as the studio is concerned after the tremendous success of The Dark Knight, made exactly the flick that he wanted to make. And in terms of coherence and meaning, this is a stronger film than Dark Knight, mostly because it’s not as painfully over-edited.

But then why didn’t I like the film that much?

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Exit Through the Gift Shop

dir: I’m not sure, though Banksy is credited.
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They call it a documentary, but I don’t think you can take anything that transpires in it at face value. It seems like it’s the story it claims to be, but that could all be bullshit.

After all, Banksy is involved.

The parts that are undeniably ‘real’ focus on street art, which is the contemporary term describing graffiti, or whatever you call it when people paint, spray-paint, creatively deface or otherwise do anything in public which inflicts their eyesores on the general public for a brief period of time.

The thing is, if you’ve seen any of the stencil stuff that’s sprung up in the last ten years, the stuff that looks like it was painted but is really stuck on, it’s Banksy.

Banksy didn’t necessarily do it himself, and in fact it’s very unlikely that he did it in your city, unless you live in London, whereby it’s a possibility. But his stuff, his concepts, his radical juxtapositions and provocations, spread across the world like a virus.

His stuff, and I know how pointless it is saying this, is brilliant. I’ve known of his stuff, living and working as I do in the inner city, where his stuff is pasted over everything, for much of the last decade, but I knew next to nothing about the man. Now, after watching this flick, I know even less.

Rating:

Ghost Writer, The

dir: Roman Polanski
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Okay, okay, I’ll get this out of the way right from the start: yes, Roman Polanski is a scumbag, and, no, I’m not condoning anything he’s ever done or said, nor am I exonerating him by watching and reviewing one of his films. No, it’s not the moral equivalence argument. No, I’m not saying that his art justifies anything he’s ever done.

And yes, Hitler’s watercolour paintings were okay, not great, but not awful either.

So if I acknowledge that Roman Polanski is worse than a million Hitlers, will you let me just review the fucking film?

The Ghost Writer is so old school that it really does feel like a throwback. If it wasn’t for some of the technology involved, like mobile phones, GPS and memory sticks, the flick could have been indistinguishable from something set or made in the 70s. It’s a very 70s flick, regardless of some of the subject matter.

It’s 70s because it’s languid, paranoid and, despite some of the wintery open spaces, claustrophobic. I guess it makes sense that someone like Polanski could capture that feeling because a) the 70s were his heyday and b) he can probably relate to a main character feeling under siege from the media and the courts. Just a guess, there.

Rating:

Legion

dir: Scott Stewart
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Legion is, and this probably is not going to surprise any of you, a deeply stupid goddamn flick. There’s never been a flick with angels in it that has ever worked worth a damn except for two profound exceptions: It’s a Wonderful Life, and Wings of Desire.

But those are dramas, albeit romantic ones, with a bit of darkness in them.

This angel-filled fiasco belongs to the sub-genre of fantasy films whereby angels, either enacting or contradicting the will of God, decide to either eliminate humanity or at least battle it out on our planet’s surface.

If you’re of a certain age, and inclination, like me you might remember such 90s movies as The Prophecy trilogy, which had Christopher Walken trying to kill us all while playing the Archangel Gabriel (I don’t think he knew the cameras were on). If you’re even older, you might be boring enough, like me, to have read Milton’s Paradise Lost, and have heard it badly quoted a million times by pretentious shmucks in movies for the last 100 years.

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Predators

dir: Nimrod Antal
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You may ask yourself whether the world needs more Predator movies. It’s a legitimate question. Reasonable and fair.

That’s like asking if trees needs more sunshine, or if a man needs more blowjobs.

The world didn’t necessarily become a better place upon the release of the first flick way back in 1987, but it certainly improved the lives of millions of teenage boys who now had something to tape off television onto VHS in order to watch endlessly. Well, something that wasn’t taped because of the prospect of boobs, BOOBS…

It was the truest, bluest action flick of its time, and it unashamedly traded on the steroidic charms of Arnold as well as a cast of lunkheads like Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura and Carl Weathers, all of whom peaked with this flick where their only purpose is to kill time before they’re killed, so that Arnie could take care of business at the end, unencumbered by girly men or girly girls.

I’ve watched every inch of that flick so many times that watching it again is almost superfluous: If I was deranged enough, or poor enough, I could practically sit in a darkened room, close my eyes and play through the flick in my head, frame by frame, for its entire duration.

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