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2011

The Rum Diary

Rum Diary

So many innocent livers were harmed in the making of this movie

dir: Bruce Robinson

You didn’t know this, but The Rum Diary is a superhero movie, of a different stripe. More specifically, it’s a superhero origin story, and it stars Johnny Depp.

Yes, yes, we’re all tired of those. But the superhero in question is Hunter S. Thompson, and the origin is that of his relentless, drug-fuelled campaign against the ‘Bastards’, which only came to an end seven years ago in 2005 when he decided to blow his own brains out.

Now, lest you think he fought against people whose parents weren’t married when they were born (a terrible fate for anyone not born lately, apparently), the battle I refer to is that against the dark forces, the forces of greed, the bastards who would carve up paradise and sell it by the gram, laden with sugar and other life-leeching chemicals. The Rum Diary is about how he found his voice, and how he started writing for the public in order to take the Bastards down.

Or, to at least make life difficult for them in the court of public opinion.

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Coriolanus

Coriolanus

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a flick about soccer hooligans.
Come on you Reds!

dir: Ralph Fiennes

Speaking of Shakespeare, as I was in that recent review for Anonymous: damn, he really wrote, whoever it was, a lot of plays, thirty-eight in fact. I mean, that’s prolific. And, as with any prolific authors, they’ve got stuff no-one wants to know about, Kenneth Brannagh doesn’t want to direct, and Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t want to star in.

So it’s left up to Ralph Fiennes, still smarting from his goofy brother Joseph Fiennes getting to play the Bard in Shakespeare in Love, to direct and star in Coriolanus.

They used to think it was based on someone who really existed, and something that really happened, but it probably didn’t. That doesn’t stop a Fiennes, though, does it? And it hardly matters for the purposes of whether we’re entertained or not.

It’s set in somewhat ‘modern’ times, though the empire depicted is the Roman one, so all the references are old timey. I’ve also heard, though it’s not obvious from watching it, Fiennes’ intention was to make it look like the Balkans in the 90s, when European unity (and contemporary genocide) was at its finest.

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Anonymous

Anonymous

Shakespeare, a fraud? Isn't it more likely that Roland
Emmerich = shameless hack?|

dir: Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich has previously been best known for making some of the most explode-y and truly stupid movies the cinema and your eyes have ever played host to. Independence Day, 2012, The Patriot, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC – there are more, and it’s a long, ignoble list of universal infamy.

So why’s he making a movie about the ‘real’ story behind William Shakespeare, when Shakespeare has about as much in common with Emmerich’s cinematic atrocities as Andrew Dice Clay, Pauly Shore or Rodney Rude do?

Who knows? I mean, I could look it up. I’m sure there’s dozens of interviews with him giving what he claims is the real motivation for doing so, but, considering the fact that most of that sort of PR guff is bullshit anyway, I choose not to inform myself in such a manner.

It’s far more tempting to just guess, based on scant or no evidence, as to his deep-seeded desire to tear down someone substantially greater than himself.

If someone like Kenneth Brannagh, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Judi Dench, a literature scholar or one of the Kardashians tried it, you’d think it arose because of their deep connection to and love for Shakespeare’s works, since they’d seemingly devoted much of their lives (or their bandwagons) to him. But because of that connection, there could be an assumption made that they’re not, like Iago from Othello, motivated by just motiveless malice.

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The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady

How can you not be thinking erotic thoughts right now?

dir: Phyllida Lloyd

Damn, that Maggie, she was a bit of a saucy tyrant, eh? Sorry, that’s Baroness Thatcher to the likes of you and me, fellow bloody peasants.

It’s still a freaky occurrence that Maggie, or any woman for that matter, rose to power to lead the Tory party to successive victories at Britain’s polls, and was, for various reasons, one of the most powerful persons in the world, let alone powerful women. For various reasons, the leadership of Golda Meir, or Indira Ghandi or any other women who’ve risen to (elected) power is more explainable than Maggie’s seizure of the reins.

Those driving forces, personal and societal, will remain a sweet mystery for you, perhaps even becoming more mysterious for you, after having watched this flick, because it never comes close to giving us an inkling of how or why any of it happened.

That’s not entirely fair. Maggie, as portrayed here, is possessed of implacable ambition and an iron will. She’s also highly intelligent, and deeply committed to her father’s conservative views about the wonderfulness of hard-working middle-class people, and the worthlessness of the lower orders of society.

Scratch that, I just remembered that Thatcher once famously said that there was no such thing as society. So there’s no society to speak of. However, if such a thing actually existed, then Maggie would be against it, not for it.

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Carnage

Carnage

Parents are just the worst people, they really are, in and outside of plays

dir: Roman Polanski

Parents, as any teenager will tell you, are the worst. They’re just horrible people, perpetually using their children as surrogates, stand-ins and battlefields for all their fears, failures and furies. At least as far as movies are concerned

And they’re always convinced that they’re right, even when and especially when they’re wrong.

Four people get trapped in an apartment, unable to leave, held in place like insects in amber by societal niceties, the social contract, the fear of litigation, and eventually, the shittiness of their own marriages. What a recipe for success!

And it's all over an eleven-year-old hitting another eleven-year-old with a stick.

At least in the Australian context, it's hard not to think of The Slap, which uses the slap of the title to show the fault lines and flaws in the relationships of dozens of interlinked people. The realisation of this story, though, couldn't be more different. This flick is based on a play, and it shows. The 'action' doesn't move from the apartment, well, it only moves as far as the outside of the apartment, as two sets of parents try to wrest some kind of meaning from each other, to make up for the lack of it in other areas of their lives.

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Take Shelter

Take Shelter

What's most terrifying is the possibility that the craziest people have
been right all along.

dir: Jeff Nichols

Michael Shannon is the new Christopher Walken, only even more unsettling. And now they’re giving him lead roles in movies, which is going to scare even more children down the track.

Scooch closer, children, don’t make me tell you again about the scooching.

Take Shelter is a meditative, unsettling, measured story about a man overwhelmed by dread. Curtis (Michael Shannon) has dreams and visions of something awful that’s about to happen, and yet, because of his family history of mental illness, he allows for the possibility that it all might just be in his head.

This is a man who sees his dreams as omens, and takes actions in the ‘real’ world, which, obviously, look like the actions of an insane man, after a while. He knows they’re dreams, but, for him, it would be a crime not to prepare for what is coming. He loves his family too much to ignore the signs, and sees as absolute his obligation to do right by all of them.

His wife (Jessica Chastain, who I think was in every movie released in 2011), apart from being a redhead, is a rock, is a cornerstone, is a heroically supportive woman, but even she has her limits. Anyone would. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, though, she’s the embodiment of the concept of standing by your man to the bitter end.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

It has a cumbersome, unwieldy title. I would have gone with
"Fuck I Really Hated This Movie".

dir: Stephen Daldry

This is the last of the nominees for Best Picture this year (well, at the 2012 Oscars scheduled for the 26th of Feb) that I have seen and reviewed, well, am reviewing right now. That’s the only reason I saw it, or at least endured its entire length without walking out, and the only reason I’m reviewing it is so I can at least have the tenuous justification for having an informed opinion about the worthiness of the flick that ends up winning.

And, at the very least, I can say that this flick should definitely not win.

At even very leaster, I can say that this flick should definitely not be watched by anyone, either.

I can’t say if it’s a faithful rendering of the book, because I’m never going to read the book that produced such an aggravating movie. An actively irritating, unsatisfying, unfulfilling, unenjoyable movie.

It’s safe to say that if it didn’t include a lot of footage of the World Trade Centre attacks, an abundance of footage and references and elegiac scenes of people falling, or the smoking towers, or the last (fabricated) words of someone about to die in one of the Towers, this flick would have never seen the light of day. I don’t think people can be casual or dismissive about September Eleven stuff yet, hence the nomination, but, goddamn is this flick unpleasant to spend time with.

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The Artist

The Artist

Love us, just please love us. We turn to dust if you're not loving us

dir: Michel Hazanavicius

I know this last year was the year of celebrating the early days of the cinematic art form, but, you know, let’s just chill the fuck out, at least a little bit, okay?

The Artist is an entertaining enough flick, there’s no doubt, but it’s not the second coming of Buddha Jesus or the second coming of silent and black & white movies. At least I hope not.

And yes, I’ll even grant that Jean Dujardin does a nice job as the main character, being George Valentin, and that Berenice Bejo is lovely as Peppy Miller, but the manner in which this flick is being lauded to the high heavens is a bit confounding, and more than a tad bandwagonesque.

That this maudlin, melodramatic tale has been nominated for Best Picture is slightly surreal, if not absurd, in this day and age, and speaks more to the way that a whole bunch of critics and reviewers, once a flick gains critical mass, are pulled along almost involuntarily praising something exorbitantly that they know is just ‘pretty good’. It’s like they’re watching an event at the Special Olympics and are getting way ahead of themselves.

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A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method

Tell us all about your mother, Doctor Freud. We promise it will all be
kept in the strictest confidence.

dir: David Cronenberg

Famous and frightening Canadian director Cronenberg’s love affair with Viggo Mortensen continues, with every film he comes up with having Viggo in a crucial role. Who can blame him? Viggo is awesome. And even more than Viggo being thoroughly awesome, he was also great in those last two flicks of his, being A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Michael Fassbender’s no slouch in the awesomeness department either, so casting these chaps as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, the two titans of psychoanalysis in the early part of the 20th Century, would seem like a sure-fire box office blockbuster.

Maybe not. Both of these chaps bring solid acting chops to a story that isn’t that well known. Freud’s name is common currency, but Jung’s not as prevalent, since people don’t make Jungian slips that often, perhaps, or at least they don’t admit to it. The point of this story, however, is not a biopic about the lives of the two men instrumental into identifying and pathologising a lot of the craziness out of there. It’s about Jung’s relationship with a crazy woman, played very crazily by Keira Knightley foremost, and then it’s about the falling out between Freud and Jung.

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Hugo

Hugo

Here's Time Itself, making fools of us all, especially Hugo

dir: Martin Scorsese

With delight, I watched this, with great delight in my heart.

If you’re reading this review, you know that I watch a lot of films, and a lot of them I even review. Those reviews, you would know, are to my benefit and to your detriment as a reader. I’m sorry about that. Really, I am. I wish I were a better reviewer; someone who could encapsulate succinctly and with wit what is great and what is less great about certain movies in this artistic medium I prize the most, after literature, puppetry and the accordion, of course. And I wish I could say it all without having to resort to the boring bullshit a billion other (paid) bunglers routinely trot out to justify their verbosity.

No, honestly, I wish I were a better reviewer, so that I could credibly explain why I loved Hugo so much, so that you, too, could feel the joy that I felt, and get a glimpse of how it felt to watch it. Yes, even cynical old me feels joy whilst watching a film, very rarely, but it happens. Aiming that high dooms any enterprise to failure, no doubt, but it should be perfectly obvious that failing at something doesn’t stop me from doing it. Au contraire, to get into the vernacular of it, au contraire, mes amis.

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