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2011

50/50

50/50

Now boys, getting cancer is no reason to become neo-nazi skinheads, okay?

dir: Jonathan Levine

Cancer is a hard sell. It’s okay for those four-hanky weepies they make for the abundance of chick channels on cable, but for a comedy drama with nice, liked actors in it, you have to think a lot of people apart from the creative ones involved would have been a bit leery or at least anxious.

“Who’s going to see this?” muttered one studio executive, tugging on his soul patch and massaging his shoulder where Consuela, his usual deep-tissue masseuse had failed to work out the knot that had been bugging him all week.

“I mean, it’s a bit of a bring-down, isn’t it? Can’t he have, like, a cold or something less depressing?”

“What about lupus?” said his female counterpart, fighting the urge to think about food denied to herself at least until daylight hours were over. “Lupus would play well to 27 to 39-year-old one legged lesbians who like blue blankets, at least that’s what our data shows. What about an earache? No, we don’t want to alienate the people with sore eyelids. How about AIDS? Everyone loves AIDS. That’ll get the, you knows, into the theatres.”

Rating:

In Time

dir: Andrew Niccol
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Oh, World: Stop foisting Justin Timberlake onto us as a lead actor. I know he doesn’t want to record albums anymore, but really, when he’s talking and moving, he’s not really conveying whatever the hell it is that you think he’s conveying.

He’s certainly not an action hero in the making. Where do you think this is, Taiwan? Only in Taiwan, Seoul and possibly Hong Kong do people make a career as treacly pop singers before they make the jump to action superstardom.

And what a film to try to make him the next Jason Statham, eh? A science fiction flick where Timberlake’s character, who’s from the ghetto, don’t you know, tries to upend an unfair system which keeps most of humanity in virtual slavery to Father Time.

Yeah, I know, it’s just like every single other flick that comes out, with Timekeepers instead of cops, and people literally stealing the life left to people off of each other’s arms instead of having Matrix-y type fights, but these chaps have thrown in a completely new spin on the Bonnie and Clyde set-up, so it must be good.

Rating:

The Ides of March

Ides of March

I believe in Ryan Clooney, and so do you

dir: George Clooney

Cloons. Cloooooons. He’s not content having every woman over forty getting wet in the gusset or drooling over him, or buying coffee just because of his ads. No, he has to direct flicks too. He has to get shiny golden statues to make him feel loved too.

And he’s directed a doozy here. Sure, the point of the flick is that politicians are arseholes, a novel and radically new idea never captured on film before, but the solid performances and commitment to following through on its depressing premise carries the picture through. And mostly these prized hams don’t overact, so they’ve all done pretty well.

Clooney can’t resist being in the flick as well as everything else, including the catering, but he doesn’t give himself the plum role, nor could he. He is Governor Mike Morris, the genial, charismatic front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in some fantastical place where democracy actually works. But he’s not the main character. That role is taken by man of the moment Ryan Gosling.

He plays Stephen, a young campaign manager on the governor’s staff, whose brash and cynical enough for the role, but not so brash and cynical that he can’t be disappointed in the brashness and cynicism of others. Hey, he’s Ryan Gosling, he can do anything at this point and people will take it and say thank you no matter how good or terrible.

Rating:

Bellflower

Bellflower

I can't imagine it gets decent fuel mileage, but it sure looks cool,
doesn't it?

dir: Evan Glodell

I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. I’ve watched it twice, and I still don’t know.

But I can tell you that it connected with me, for reasons I cannot fathom as yet.

Let’s fathom those reasons out together, dear reader. Maybe over the course of the review, I’ll be able to figure it out for myself.

This could be a flick about two youngish alcoholics, Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who really wish they were living in post-apocalyptic times. They don’t seem to have jobs or money, but they have a close friendship, I guess defined by the frequency with which they bellow ‘dude’ and ‘so awesome’ to and at each other. They’re really close, even just for best friends.

I’m not implying anything, I’m just saying. They spend their days talking about some fairly strange stuff, and they do it in a fairly casual way. Mad Max – The Road Warrior seems to have had a fairly profound impact upon them. They don’t just dream of modified beasts of cars, or flamethrowers; they build flamethrowers and modify cars in practical but cumbersome ways.

And, for fun, they chain up a propane tank and shoot it with a shotgun, just to watch it burn under escaping explosive pressure. They are, or at least think they are, preparing for something that the rest of us would desperately hope would never come to pass.

Rating:

Warrior

Warrior

Brothers beating themselves and each other up all to get back at their fathers
- a story as old as the Bible

dir: Gavin O’Connor

Men. Manly Men. Beating the crap out of each other.

This is easily the most masculine film I’ve seen this year, in a lot of ways. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact it’s a very good thing.

This is also one of the best flicks I’ve seen this year. At the very least it’s one of the flicks I’ve enjoyed the most this year. There are only a few aspects that squandered the tremendous amount of goodwill and positive feelings I had about the film, and none of them have anything to do with the phenomenal performances put in by nearly all the actors involved.

And yet, it’s still a flick about a bunch of guys beating the absolute shit out of each other.

Soldiers fight for king, queen or country because they have to. Mercenaries fight for coin. Warriors fight because they live to fight. Warrior doesn’t really sit well as a good title for this flick, because the people fighting don’t necessarily want to fight.

But they have to.

There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to fight flicks. It’s a genre of sports film so well-trodden that it’s virtually impossible to say anything new. It can be said in a more contemporary way, but the themes are ancient, as are the beats and rhythms of the screenplays.

Rating:

The Future

The Future

The future is no longer looking as bright as before

dir: Miranda July

Do you ever wonder if you’re really as intelligent as you think/hope you are?

I mean, no-one really thinks they’re as dumb as they actually are, hence the essence of dumbness, but, for me, watching a flick like this, called The Future, it makes me think I’m nowhere near as bright as I think I am.

Miranda July is a performance artist, writer, director and probably cobbler in her spare time as well. Film is just another installation / exhibition to her, perhaps. I watched her first film Me, You and Everyone We Know, and enjoyed it as much as these kinds of flicks can be enjoyed. And I read her collection of short stories called No-one Belongs Here More Than You.

None of this has given me a window into her thinking, apart from knowing she’s a very odd person. And that’s cool. I’ve been watching a lot of formulaic Hollywood pap lately, and it’s good to have a cleanse now and then. This flick The Future couldn’t be more different from formulaic pap.

By the same token, that doesn’t mean I entirely get it, or that I enjoyed it that much.

Rating:

30 Minutes or Less

30 minutes

Less would have been better, as in either zero or negative

dir: Ruben Fleischer

Getting Jesse Eisenberg and director Ruben Fleischer together again after Zombieland must have sounded like a good idea, since they did pretty well on their first time out. Inserting Aziz Ansari into the mix might have sounded good, because Aziz is pretty funny, whether as a stand-up or as a comedic actor.

But then someone somehow thought Danny McBride would improve things as well, and so we have 30 Minutes or Less: a mediocre flick so pointless and ineffable that the rage it could inspire doesn’t have time to coalesce before the film evaporates.

I’m telling you for free, Hollywood: Danny McBride improves nothing. Smearing shit on a Picasso doesn’t make it more valuable. Au contraire, fuckers.

Not that, oh no, don’t get me wrong, not that this flick would have been a Cubist masterpiece without McBride’s value-adds. No, it would still have been utterly pointless and forgettable. It just wouldn’t have been as annoying.

Rating:

The Devil's Double

Devil's Double

This golden boy is going to go far: I can feel it in my bones, because there's a gun
pressed against them

dir: Lee Tamahori

Jesus Christ, or maybe by the grace of Allah, this Uday Hussein was a sick fuck!

I remember the stories from back in the day, around the time of the first Iraqi Adventure, where the tales of Saddam’s sons being monsters were coming out, and I just thought, “Eh, they’re just being mean.”

And then the many and varied stories of what a demented sociopath he was, to the extent where he shamed his own tyrant of a father, slaughterer of innocents and torturer of people who disagreed with him, and there was little doubt.

Of the many controversies regarding the second Iraqi Adventure Part II in 2003, one of the only aspects that has never troubled me were the reports of the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein. See, in my limited knowledge and understanding of history, and especially history as it applies to people, the only monsters often worse than the despots and tyrants who seize power in bloody times and rule their people with an iron fist caked in shit, are their sons.

Rating:

Margin Call

Margin Call

Why so serious, gentle fellows? Is there some sort of crisis looming?

dir: J.C. Chandor

This is a non-stop rollercoaster ride of Armageddon-like thrills and fucking spills. If you’ve seen Children of Men, the incredible action / dystopian sci fi flick about a planet where no children are being born, then imagine that level of cinematic amazement, only set in an office populated entirely by shmucks working in the finance industry.

Yes, the finance industry, or the financial sector, if you want to be pedantic, and who, splayed seductively across the tubes of the internets, doesn’t? It’s the place where the best, brightest and most amazing people in society work with the largest sums of money that anyone outside of the accountant for an oil-rich country’s brutal dictator gets to play with.

Margin Call is not about a specific firm (cough Lehman Brothers cough) or a specific time (hello Global Financial Crisis circa 2008), but it does seem to be trying to represent a certain kind of muted catastrophe that some of us might remember, seeing as its effects are still reverberating, and, if you believe certain doomsayers, hasn’t even peaked yet.

Rating:

Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother

One person's idiot is another person's presidential candidate

dir: Jesse Peretz

Ah, a finer adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot we’ll never get in our lifetimes. Even Akira Kurosawa’s version isn’t this good.

Yeah, I’m pulling your leg. I’m pulling the heck out of your leg. This isn’t a particularly good movie, but it’s not the worst flick ever made either.

Now that’s a ringing recommendation, isn’t it? The thing is, though, I really did enjoy this movie. I pretty much enjoyed it solely because of Paul Rudd’s performance as the likeable idiot of the title.

For much of the flick, the impression we’re meant to have is that whilst his family might see him as an idiot, he’s not an idiot. He might come across as naïve, or too trusting, but generally he’s just a happy-go-lucky guy surrounded by cynical, selfish, awful people.

And then he does some stuff that could only really be done by an idiot, or at least someone with strong idiotic tendencies. Sometimes, even when someone isn’t entirely something, they can sidle close enough up to it that they might as well ‘be’ the label they’d like to avoid.

Ned (Paul Rudd), who’s pretty much a hippy in the modern age, is so trusting that when a uniformed police officer asks him if he’s got some dope, considering what a difficult, stressful week the cop’s had, Ned believes him and gives him some dope.

Rating:

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