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2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

From their expressions, you'd think this was a very serious film.
Why so serious, huh?

dir: David Fincher

Isn’t everyone sick of these goddamn books and movies by now? Haven’t we been dealing with them long enough? Can’t we just let them go, and move on?

Apparently not, since they’re making American versions now, complete with American and British actors speaking with what they hope are Swedish accents. Why are they speaking with Swedish accents? Who the hell knows. We know they’re ‘speaking’ Swedish to themselves, it just ‘sounds’ English to us within the context of the flick, but why some of them would use Swedish Chef accents and some of them wouldn’t makes it all slightly perplexing.

I guess that’s appropriate, since these are meant to be mysteries. Of course, since I’ve read the books and seen the Swedish versions, which had those pesky subtitles and Swedish actors, there’s really no mystery there anymore. Making Hollywood versions presumably opens up a whole new audience of people who hate subtitles, which is a fair number of people. And since they enlisted David Fincher to direct, we know they’re going for the prestige angle, and not the trashy cash-in angle.

Rating:

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo

Ugh, better title would be "We Are Trapped in a Terrible Movie, Please Send Help"

dir: Cameron Crowe

There’s this feeling that certain films and certain directors provoke that’s akin to having been in an embarrassing relationship with someone completely unsuitable in some dark alleyway of your past. Sure, at the time you thought they were wonderful and fun, but then you look back with the benefit of maturity and hindsight and think “what the fuck was I on?”

And it happens, mostly, when you see them in their current state, giving the world new examples of why they were always embarrassing, and why you should have known they were a disaster way back when. Sure, I really enjoyed Almost Famous, and sit through it whenever it pops up on one of the cable movie channels, but, really, I can’t believe I ever liked this man’s movies.

We Bought a Zoo actually has a story that I found interesting. A grieving widower called Benjamin (Matt Damon) decides to buy a zoo, to take his two kids out of the city and all that reminds him of his departed wife, to start afresh. Along the way he has to say a lot of things that would embarrass even those kinds of people you know who biologically seem not to have any capacity for shame. You know, politicians, pornstars, footballers: even they would be blushing with some of these execrable words given to them. Instead, you have Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson uttering this dolorous, dunderheaded dribble, which demeans us all individually and as a species.

Rating:

The Muppets

The Muppets

Welcome back, gentle muppets, now please fuck off again

dir: James Bobin

And now, from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. Having spent a fair few hours this summer in the cinemas with my angelic / demonic child, we’ve traversed the entire current cinematic experience as it exists for the children of this city. There have been ups, and downs, mostly downs, at least from my viewpoint, but there have been some hours spent in the illuminated gloom that were enjoyable for us both.

The most surprising, in that I can’t believe she enjoyed it considering how dated, self-referential, meta and ‘adult’ it is, is this flick, The Muppets.

What a deceptive title. I mean, there have been so many Muppets flicks, but I guess not for a while. Thing is, for her, being all of five, she’s never seen the Muppets tv show. She never saw perplexing cameos from Roger Moore, Twiggy, Vincent Price or Johnny Cash or Liberace, or wondered why these sometimes drunk people were chatting to these furry puppets like they were real people. She never saw the stack of flicks from the 80s, or heard the musical numbers, or owned any of the holy merchandise.

Nor did she know anything about the perverse love/hate insanely passionate relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Nor should she.

Rating:

The Descendants

The Descendants

I wonder how high up on People magazine's Hottest 100 Bachelors list I am this year..

dir: Alexander Payne

I was so surprised when this didn’t turn out to be a biopic-documentary about the great punk band The Descendents, from whose ashes rose other punk superstars Black Flag and All, blessing the world with their fast, brutal pop-punk noise, inspiring a legion of teenage boys in Akron, Ohio and Ringwood, Melbourne, to pick up guitars in their bedrooms and then put them down again once they finished their chemistry and engineering degrees.

No. That would have been too real, too awesome. Instead, here’s George Clooney Clooning things up for the rest of us, based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Cummings.

We see, for the briefest instant, a woman riding on a jet ski, who seems very happy. That’s the happiest we’re going to see her, because Clooney’s sonorous voiceover ensures that we will know quick smart that these people aren’t or can’t be happy for very long.

It turns out that the woman we beheld in all her glory is now in a coma, and her husband, Matt King (Cloons) is looking after her, and dealing more so with the fact that he now has to reengage with his family, being two daughters, which he thinks he’s not ready to do. The youngest, Scottie (Amara Miller) is getting in trouble for acting out (by saying ever so rude and hurtful things to other girls), and his elder daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) has her own problems unsuccessfully hidden away at her elite boarding school.

Rating:

War Horse

War Horse

There's something to be said about the love of a boy for his horse. Well, not that much,
really.

dir: Spielbergo

It’s not much of a stretch to say that Spielbergo gets to make whatever films he wants in ways that most other directors couldn’t dream of.

It’s not his skills as a director that I’m referring to; it’s the fact that he’s Spielbergo: the most successful director in the medium and in the industry thus far in the last 110 years. He's someone who makes any movie with the understanding that the payment for his services is 30% of the gross box office earned by whatever film he puts out there.

Few people have that level of clout. Peter Jackson is the only other one I know of. Let’s not get bogged down into the merits of such a system, since all I wanted to point out, which, in retrospect, is pretty obvious, is that he gets to make whatever flick he wants to make in whatever way he wants to.

So if he wants to make a flick set during World War I about a lucky horse and the boy from Devon who loves him, and all the people whose lives are touched by the horse as he makes his journey through that despicable war, well, that’s what he does.

And that’s what the pretty literal title refers to: War Horse is about a horse that goes to war. How’s that for subtlety?

Rating:

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Tally-ho what, we love each other and we're
not going to hide it anymore

dir: Guy Ritchie

Mr Ritchie, is there something you’re trying to tell us? Your last three films have had, shall we say, a curious subtext considering the material (all violent action-y crime capers), and yet now, in the sequel to your inexplicably successful Sherlock Holmes flick, that subtext has now just become text. Congratulations? Are you making progress? Are you getting somewhere with your, um, feelings towards other men?

Long have people joked or slyly nudged nudged and winked winked over the potential for the fictional sleuthing characters of Holmes and Watson to have been, shall we say, better than the best of friends and companions. The last flick with Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law as the principles humorously alluded to it in a plethora of ways. In this one, it’s flat out right up there on the screen. Holmes is jealously needling Watson over whether he’d rather be spending time with him or his wife on their honeymoon, he’s dressing up in drag whenever he can, compelling Watson to lay down with him. And, just before the film’s climax, at some diplomatic ball at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they even dance a loving waltz together. And no-one bats an eyelid. Which is progress, of a sort.

At the conclusion of their dance, Holmes jealously says to Watson, “Who taught you to dance like that?”

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Watson whispers lovingly to him, “You did.”

Love, oh careless love.

Rating:

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Ghost Protocol

Look at poor Simon Pegg, way way back in the distance. He looks lonely

dir: Brad Bird

Sweet Zombie Jesus, if you’re going to make more of these monstrous Mission Impossible flicks, then continue getting Brad Bird to direct, because this one’s pretty amazing. From a pure action point of view, this is probably the best action flick I’ve seen in a long while, and I watch a lot of violent action flicks. Sure, a lot of them involve Chipmunks or are on the Nickelodeon channel, but my point still stands.

These lapdog American retreads of the James Bond espionage action genre have peaked right here, and it would probably be best if they just put it aside and backed away from the franchise. But they won’t, like we all know. Success breeds laziness, so Tom Cruise will probably be making these when he’s in his 80s and still puttering around looking like a 40-year-old thanks to foetal grindings and other secret Scientological super serums. I still find Cruise somewhat scary at the best and worst of times, but I can’t fault him for his work here. This flick exemplifies its own formula, excelling with the stuff that it’s known for, which is a bunch of incredibly orchestrated heists / break-ins, high-tech trickery, complicated impersonations, and saving the world at the very last second after travelling around it first.

Rating:

Moneyball

Moneyball

This awards season, Brad Pitt IS a Ball of Money!

dir: Bennett Miller

Why would I watch a flick about baseball? Why would anyone? That is, why would anyone watch a flick about a sport they know nothing about apart from its existence, and couldn’t care less about?

Well, there have been some decent baseball flicks, for which it doesn’t matter a tinker’s dam whether you’re a fan of the sport or not. Eight Man Out, Cobb, The Babe, The Natural, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams: they're all the ones I can think of right now. You can argue that it’s not even the sport itself which is relevant in terms of whether they’re good films or not: it’s the story that goes along with it, eliciting as it does awe, hope, joy, boredom, strange sexual feelings and probably other darker emotions that I'm not privy to.

Well, truth be told the only reason I saw Moneyball is because I’d seen a lot of good reviews, a lot of praise for it, and many if not all of those reviews said stuff like “you don’t have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy the flick”. And so I watched it.

The reality is, though, if you don’t know or care about baseball, or sport in general, this film could bore you so much that you eventually hate any mention of it, or have all affection eroded you may have had for the athletic arts.

Rating:

The Adventures of Tintin

Adventures of Tintin

Bloody Belgians are taking over, mark my words

dir: Steven Spielberg

Spielbergo’s first foray in the field of fully animated films is not going to set the world alight. The fact that it’s in 3D isn’t going to dazzle the masses much either. Whether it makes its money back, or results in dozens of sequels, or honours the Hergé source material matters not to me. But I am interested in being entertained.

There I was, then, stupid glasses perched upon my nose. Entertain us, I whispered to the screen.

And he did. It did. I had a ball watching Tintin. I remember reading the books as a kid, but they never made that much of an impression upon me, in that these aren’t to me like what the comic-book faithful often moan like sad cows over when their treasured properties are rendered unto the big screen. I feel no ownership of the character or the stories. To me they’re artefacts of the old world, like polio, diaphragms and vinyl records, when racism was cool and colonialism rocked. It’s also a kind of adventure tale which we miss, since today these stories seem to be bogged down by setup, thematic bullshit, meaning, significance and purpose.

Rating:

Real Steel

Real Steel

Look at me, robot, look at me. My ears are up here, you pig

dir: Shawn Levy

It’s Robot Rocky. Anyone telling you anything different is a liar, and you can call them a liar to their face. Tell ‘em I said it was okay.

This might have shiny robots in it, or at least CGI approximations thereof, but in all honesty this entire flick is constructed as if by robots in a factory, except instead of using metal alloys and circuits, they’re using clichés so old Sylvester Stallone is tempted to run up and rub human growth hormone all over them because they’re so aged and creaky.

Into this technological whorehouse of gimcrackery they insert the compelling and obnoxious presence of Hugh Jackman playing a former boxer who ekes out a living having his robot beat up cows at county fairs.

I’m not making this up. In the first few minutes of this illustrious flick, Charlie is rudely awakened by children, finishes off a beer, then comes off worse during an argument with them. It doesn’t bode well for his skills as a smooth operator.

A former opponent in the ring (Kevin Durand), with a pretty poor Texan yeehaw! accent, despite or because of being a Canadian from Thunder Bay, goads Charlie into a bet: Charlie’s robot Ambush versus the shitkicker’s two thousand pound bull.

Rating:

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