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2012

Films released in 2012

Underworld: Awakening

Underworld Awakening

Awakeworld Underning: No-one asked for more of this. You're welcome.

dir: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein

A fourth Underworld flick? Who clamoured for that? The first three didn’t bring enough shiteness into the world?

In writing this review, I'm probably going to reveal slightly more about myself than I should. Any long time reader would have to know already, considering the sheer quantity of reviews contained herein, that I'm both compulsive and not that bright. To see the Self-Prosecution’s Exhibit A of damning evidence of this, I present to you this shameful admission: I've watched all of the Underworld vampire/werewolf flicks in the cinema.

Why? Not as in, why am I admitting this, since I'm obviously doing so because I think it's got some mysterious relevance to the flick being reviewed right here. Why have I watched all of these flicks in the cinema, despite the fact that the first one was terrible and deeply leotarded to a degree previously unfathomed, and the others haven't been much better? Why, since I can't stand Kate Beckinsale, and think she's the acting equivalent of a tranquilizer smeared all over beige wallpaper? Why, when too many stupid vampire/werewolf movies and series have permanently poisoned the well, to the point where the whole genre should be off-limits for me?

Rating:

The Grey

The Grey

Gaze into those eyes and try to avoid the unavoidable truth:
that we are all worthless compared to Liam Neeson

dir: Joe Carnahan

Bleak, brutal, beautiful.

But enough about my previous relationship…

The Grey is one of the bleakest things I’ve seen since The Road, which was that horrifying post-apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy adaptation, which was the bleakest thing I’d read since Blood Meridian, which was the bleakest thing since my previous relationship. Plus, it’s got wolves, just like my previously relationship.

Yes, enough about ruthless predators that won't be satisfied until your bones are scattered, torn limb from limb, strewn across a desolate landscape…

But how could there ever be enough? The Grey is not really the film that it seems to be, at least, the film that they are marketing it as.

Yes, it seems similar to films like Alive (where a Uruguayan rugby team survive a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, get over their squeamishness and learn to love cannibalism), or Flight of the Phoenix (bunch of guys survive a plane crash in the desert, only to face death from the sun and guys on horses with guns). No, this is totally different.

In The Grey, a bunch of guys crash in Alaska, and face harsh conditions and wolves, and struggle to survive in a place where survival is unlikely.

Completely different.

Rating:

Safe House

Safe House

They're not safe from you, that's for sure, you smug bastard

dir: Daniel Espinosa

Who doesn’t want to watch Denzel being tortured?

Not me, for one, since he’s a National Treasure. And so dreamy.

But not all of his flicks are a safe bet, these days, ever since, oh, I don’t know, he won the Oscar for Training Day and lost all sense and reason and started believing he was the badass he was portraying onscreen, and that he could keep playing that same badass no matter how good or bad the flick he’s currently in.

In a few years, he might even be picking up the flicks Nicolas Cage considers are beneath him.

Safe House is not a great movie, it’s not even a particularly bad movie, but it’s okay. It’s okay for what it is. It doesn’t really exist or linger past the actual watching of it, and it has a thoroughly pointless ending that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I did not hate it as I was watching it. I could easily hate it now, but there’s not much percentage in that.

I actually remember enjoying whole parts of it. Denzel plays a rogue CIA agent called Tobin Frost, which is a name I don’t think any African American has had in the history of African-Americans. He’s been off the grid for nine years, and surfaces in South Africa. A young(ish) and cowardly CIA agent called Matt (Ryan Reynolds) ends up babysitting the guy, and then some stuff happens to them.

Rating:

Chronicle

Chronicle

Seattle never looked so sunny. A morally and visually murky place

dir: Josh Trank

With great power comes great responsibility, as well as a great opportunity to get back at everyone who ever did us wrong, right?

Chronicle is a pretty keen take on the superhero genre, told through the non-narrative construct of handheld camera / found footage telling us the story. For that to work, it means that the person filming, at least initially, has to have some reason other than what’s about to happen for filming themselves. At least in theory.

That person is Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a pale and isolated jerk in high school, as are all Andrews, really. Has he got a decent reason for being a loner jerk who films himself with a camera? Well, maybe. The first instance we see worthy of immortalisation, which opens the flick, is him filming himself and his bedroom door, because his violent drunken jerk of a father (Michael Kelly) is threatening him through that door.

We also find out that Andrew’s mother is dying, very slowly, so things aren’t going that well for any of them. And at school, naturally, the other teenage scum sense his vulnerability, and bully the heck out of him. He does have, at least, a cousin who’s on friendly terms with him, which makes him seem like the only person in the world who gives a damn. Matt (Alex Russell) seems like a kid too tall and popular to give a damn about a scrawny skeleton like Andrew, but care he does, all the same. Inexplicably.

Rating:

Django Unchained

Django Unchained

He looks like he's going to paint a portrait with the gun.
A portrait of... REVENGE!!!!

dir: Quentin Tarantino

So, saviour of humanity that he is, using the magic of cinema to correct or at least exact retribution for the crimes of the past, Tarantino does for the slaves in Django Unchained what he did for the Jews in Inglourious Basterds: he gets historical revisionist revenge, REVENGE!

I don’t know how much moral or philosophical thinking goes into what he does, but Tarantino doesn’t really strike me as a director who has an agenda beyond making films that look like and reference other films. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ve enjoyed so many of his films (to wildly different degrees) that to criticise Tarantino for what he doesn’t do (come up with entirely and wholly new themes, aesthetics and plots/stories) ignores what he does do (makes entertaining and sometimes hellishly funny films).

With Django Unchained it’s an even thornier proposition. Sure, it’s entertaining, but I can see how the criticism of trivialising the legacy of slavery in the US is a theoretically valid one. It raises the hackles of the kinds of hackle-ready outrage merchants who thought getting a wholly symbolic and fantastical revenge on Hitler and his high ranking scumbags trivialised the Holocaust in his earlier film.

Rating:

Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians

But who guards the guarded
against the Guardians?

dir: Peter Ramsay

Many, many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a galaxy just like this one except it smelled a little bit like juniper berries, I watched a film at a mysterious place called a cinema. That film was called The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Yeah, I knew it was Christian propaganda going into it. Yeah, I knew it couldn’t really be that great, considering the source material. But it did have Tilda Swinton in a key role, and that’s almost enough for me to justify watching any flick.

In this movie were four kids going on adventures. Three of the kids were painful to listen to and even more painful to watch trying to act. I didn’t mind it too much, this being a childish fantasy, after all, and one of the first books I can remember reading all on my own.

The moment that had me standing up in fury and yelling at the screen as if the actors themselves could hear me, and the director, the assistant directors and their assistants could hear me too, was the moment where Santa Claus comes out of nowhere and gives the kids all the tools they’ll need to beat the evil Snow Queen.

I screamed “Oh come on! It isn’t ludicrously far-fetched enough already, you’ve got to drop that fat fuck Father Christmas on us as well? Give us a goddamn break!”

Rating:

Looper

Looper

They made one look uglier and one look prettier to make them look alike. Good job!

dir: Rian Johnson

An appreciation for time travel shenanigans is not a prerequisite for enjoying this odd but interesting film, but a lot of attention to what’s going on is mandatory for understanding it. Let your attention drift for a while, and you’ll be yelling “where did that purple elephant unicorn come from?” at the screen, much to the chagrin of the people around you.

Looper is set about 40 years in the future, in Kansas, of all places. We are told that at a time even more distant in the future, they’ve invented time travel. Not only that, but the best and only use for it they could think of was for crime lords sending back to the past people they want killed. So in 2070, they have time travel, but they can’t dispose of bodies because of the awesomeness of forensic technology. In 2044, they don’t have time travel, but they shoot these people who are sent into the past.

These killers, who wait in a designated spot with a gun called a blunderbuss, are the loopers from which the flick gets its title. The looper we’re concerned with is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who shoots these hooded people who appear out of nowhere, collects the silver strapped to their bodies, and then disposes of the corpses.

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