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2011

Drive

Drive

"Just shut up and keep your eyes on the road, and just Drive" she said.

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

Few films live up to the hype. No films really can. Hype is hype, by its nature an aggravating and ephemeral thing, which complicates how we appreciate films. It complicates the way we come to them, the angle we come at them from.

Drive is one of those deliriously (critically, not commercially) hyped flicks that, of course, can’t live up to the hype. The critical hype obscured, for me, what the flick was actually like, and about, to the point where I expected one thing, and got something completely different.

I thought this was going to be a somewhat more enjoyable or thoughtful action flick to do with some guy who can drive really fast. What it ended up being is more of a standard neo-noir crime flick. That’s not a knock against it or any of the people involved here, because my expectations and assumptions aren’t worth shit.

Really, it’s a very regular, very familiar kind of flick, with a very familiar set of characters, and a very predictable outcome. Along the way, though, it’s well acted, very well directed, and kind of arresting.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a taciturn, competent man, who always wears, even later on when it’s covered in blood, a white jacket with the image of a scorpion. Why? Well, maybe it looks cool to someone back in the 1980s. It’s the kind of thing you can imagine the default leader of an unpopular and weak gang wearing in The Warriors.

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Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

"Funny ladies doing mostly unfunny things" probably isn't that good
as an alternative title

dir: Paul Feig

If this is the ‘female’ response to what is commonly and erroneously referred to as the Summer of Judd Apatow – raunchy comedies, then what the fuck was the question? I’m sure there are plenty of mouthbreathers who were wondering: “Shoot, what would a flick like The Hangover be like if it was all chicks? Yeah, and how do they get I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to taste like butter so much?”

The answer to both is not worth speaking, or hearing, really.

This isn’t really a raunchy comedy showcasing female comedic talent. Kristen Wiig as the lead, and Maya Rudolph have both been funny in stuff, and in far funnier films than this. The problem here is that, for a comedy, it’s not really that funny.

It’s far more of a low-stakes drama than anything else, because all of the impetus of the plot is about how shitty the main character feels because her best friend has some other friend. In other words, this groundbreaking and radical comedy is all about how bitchy, shallow, insecure and jealous women are.

It’s almost as if we live in a universe where the Sex and the City series and movies don’t exist. What a sweet universe that would be…

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Attack the Block

Attack the Block

If children really are our future, then aren't we totally fucked?

dir: Joe Cornish

Did you ever wonder what all those British youthful scumbags were doing before they started rioting through the streets of London?

Apparently, they were saving us from the alien scum of the universe.

Someone had the idea recently of ‘what if aliens invaded the Wild, Wild West?’ That movie was made, and was known as Cowboys and Aliens. Someone else had the idea ‘what if aliens invaded people’s arses?’ And that masterpiece was made. It was called Dreamcatcher. And now some dickhead thought to himself or herself ‘what if aliens invaded a British public housing estate?’

And lo and behold, Attack the Block was made.

It’s impossible to set a flick in or around a council estate, or housing commission flats, or the projects, or the Parisian banlieu or any form of public housing, without much of the underlying story being about the social commentary opportunities the location throws up. Having said that, this flick uses it as an opportunity to comment more on the actions of the protagonists, who live in these places, rather than the supposed ethics of the people or the system that places them there.

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Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses

You know, all bosses may suck, but being a boss ain't
easy either with all these crybabies about

dir: Seth Gordon

Everyone hates their boss, apparently. A flick like this is mining a rich seam of resentment, universal and eternal, that bubbles malevolently under the surface of every working stiff.

And at a time when people in the States either don’t have jobs, or are nervous about job security, a flick, ostensibly a comedy flick with protagonists so trapped by their evil bosses that they contemplate murder, doesn’t seem that outlandish.

It’s probably not that zeitgeist-y, since people have long imagined (or unfortunately, actually) going postal, and cruel petty bosses are a staple of pop culture and literature. It has been for thousands of years, if you believe the Bible. Let’s face it, if you don’t, you’re a godless heathen and I applaud you for your winning ways.

This flick is not a black comedy, despite the premise. It sounds ‘dark’, but it’s not. It’s utterly harmless, and I don’t think that hurts the flick at all. If anything, the fact that it’s so gutless, and that the protagonists are so gutless means that the superficiality allows us to enjoy a bit of fantasy wish-fulfilment without feeling guilty.

Wait, that’s a bad thing, isn’t it? I should be cursing the fuck out of this flick.

But I’m not going to. I actually laughed a fair few times, and didn’t care how silly any of it was, because it was enjoyable.

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Priest

Priest

Don't let the awesome poster fool you, this movie is pretty
fucking far away from being awesome

dir: Scott Stewart

Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick…

Pity poor Paul Bettany. No, really. He’s a decent actor, he’s achieved the Mt Everest of personal achievements by having had sex several times with Jennifer Connolly, and even married her, and had kids with her. He’s handsome, he’s charming, but he can’t get a decent break as an actor.

The most successful films he’s been in are ones in which he doesn’t physically appear (he does some computer voice in the Iron Man films), and in The DaVinci Code he played a self-flagellating albino nun-raping assassin. Have fun telling your mum about that role.

Almost everything else he’s done has been shit. No, that not fair, he was a splendid Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but other than that, it’s all terrible crap.

To whit, he somehow was one of the few people who saw that terrible film Legion that came out a couple of years ago and thought “Wow, I should work with that terrible director again!”

And he did, because, on some level, Legion must not have been one of the dumbest and worst flicks he’s ever seen or been in. Sure as shit it’s one of the worst flicks from 2010 that I saw, so one of us is clearly wrong.

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Win Win

Win Win

Giamatti, you handsome devil, when will your day come?

dir: Thomas McCarthy

When you watch a lot of movies, you get so used to the hysterical, overbearing, oversaturated general default setting of cinema, that when a relatively quiet flick comes out that treats (mostly) dramas between people in a sane manner, it seems strange.

Not bad strange, just not at the fever pitch of melodrama that people expect from their media, or I guess have expected for decades.

Thomas McCarthy specialises in films seemingly devoted to fairly ordinary people living lives of quiet desperation, alleviated only by their interactions with other more interesting people. The films meander along, some conflict seems to arise organically, forcing some kind of crescendo, and then people’s lives continue, hopefully in a slightly better way. Maybe it sounds like I’m being derisive, but it’s not intended.

Though the protagonists of his previous flicks and the settings are all different (The Station Agent, The Visitor and this one), that approach seems to hold as a constant. You know, in case I haven’t made it clear enough, it’s a gentle, meandering, believable, human way to get a film and a premise across.

Perhaps you can guess what the laziest and most obvious criticism of these flicks could be. Something that mimics ‘real’ life in too realistic a manner runs the risk of being like actual life, in other words, tedious and painful. It can sap the will to live.

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Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

You wish he was thinking about you.
All he's really thinking about is being 55 million dollars richer

dir: Rob Marshall

When Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1,000,000 to star in Cleopatra back in ’64, it was considered both a record and a travesty. When man mountain Marlon Brando was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of profits for a few minutes of screen time in Superman, it was considered a fiasco and a symbol of how the days of Hollywood were numbered, seeing as it was starting to resemble the last days of Rome.

In the present day, Johnny Depp gets paid $55 million dollars to appear in another Pirates of the Caribbean flick, and it’s no big deal. Business as usual. Whatever.

And why? Well, surely it’s because these are the most beloved flicks of all time, and Depp, for playing the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, deserves every bloody well-earned penny? Surely?

Isn’t it a bit obscene, though? I don’t want to come across all ‘Workers Unite!’ and like some retrograde commie-pinko wanker, but is there really anything in this world that justifies getting paid that much? For that amount of money you’d think he was getting paid to sexually service, to the point of guaranteed happy ending, every person who steps into the theatre, anywhere in the world, any way they want.

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Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Go on, say I'm underacting one more time, I double dare you

dir: Jon Favreau

It’s not even Cowboys VERSUS Aliens. It’s Cowboys AND Aliens, as if pitting them against each other in the title would be too aggressive and off-putting to audiences who just want to see them together on the screen at the same time, peacefully co-existing, standing nonchalantly side by side.

Well, they’ll still be disappointed, because the Aliens attack the Cowboys, so all hope of gentle understanding and interspecies acceptance fly right out the fucking window.

However, in the flick’s greatest conceit, rugged outlaws, cattle men, Mexicans and Apaches fight together to conquer the alien menace, which transcends the genre bounds of science fiction and enters into the realms of purest fantasy.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not an example of my natural contrariness when I say that I actually enjoyed this flick. Nor have I suffered a stroke, or a fruity outburst of dementia, nor was I on film-enhancing drugs whilst watching, or receiving passionate head for the duration.

More’s the pity. Still, I somewhat enjoyed this strange flick despite the lack of the aforementioned, or any tangible reason as to why.

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Friends With Benefits

Friends with Benefits

Do you think, no, that they're implying, it can't be, something sexual?

dir: Will Gluck

Two attractive people. A fast-talking banal screenplay. The very barest of mocking derision aimed at romantic comedies within the text and the subtext. What could go wrong?

Nothing, nothing at all.

I find it very hard to buy Justin Timberlake as anything or anyone else apart from Justin Timberlake. It’s hard for me to buy him playing a character, any character. It doesn’t adversely impact on one’s potential enjoyment of this flick, I guess, if enjoyment is what you’re hoping for from a flick with Justin Timberlake in it.

It’s an effervescent trifle, a virtually forgettable flick forgotten as it is being watched, of such an incredible level of shallowness that it barely registers within human let alone goldfish memory consciousness.

I guess that’s not a bad thing. It’s not like they’re trying to teach us anything of great importance, like that tolerance is nice, and that racism is bad, or something similarly controversial. It’s just something people, presumably youngish people, could take someone to on a date, presumably to convince that someone, being a female, to have sex with you, being a male, afterwards.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise up, or end up as one of their pets, why don't you

dir: Rupert Wyatt

Never has humanity’s downfall been so enjoyable or well-deserved.

Really, could it be a spoiler? Does anyone whose interest perks up at the elaboration on the title not know that, at some point, there’s this Planet, and it’s going to be Of The Apes? That there was a book about it, and a film about it with Charlton “My Hands Are Cold and Dead Now” Heston, and a bunch of other films to lesser success, and then Mark Wahlberg appeared on the scene to fuck things up?

And he wasn’t even playing an ape? How inexplicable is that?

Otherwise, the title wouldn’t resonate, and presumably, the multitudes wouldn’t care. Nah, what we craved, without knowing it, is an explanation; a grounded, believable explanation as to how the Apes came to ‘own’ our Planet, and what ‘we’, being arrogant, hubristic humans, did to allow them to take over.

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