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2012

Snow White & the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman

Stop staring at me with your dead eyes

dir: Rupert Davies

So soon? Another new version within weeks of the last new version? Didn’t the pointless Mirror Mirror just breathe its first and last gasps in May, and now there’s Snow White and the Huntsman?

One studio hears that another studio is bringing out a new version of Snow White. They must think, “Damn, why didn’t we think of that first?” And then they think the idea, because it was had by someone else, will be a good and profitable idea, and so they need to do some spoilage work in order to dull the other’s profits.

Perhaps. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, like when two studios simultaneously have the same idea about a giant meteor threatening the earth (Armageddon and Deep Impact), or urban volcanos (Volcano and Dante’s Peak), magicians (The Illusionist and The Prestige) or animated insects partying hearty (Antz and A Bug’s Life), and the films come out at roughly the same time. It’s we, the audience, who benefits from this extravagant competition, surely, from this niggling desire not to let the other studio get away with anything, with the slip of an idea.

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Wanderlust

Wanderlust

You bunch of filthy hippies, who aren't really that filthy,
or hippies, for that matter

dir: David Wain

Goddamn hippies. You would think, from this flick and flicks like it, that hippies are worthy of more contempt and loathing than almost every other classification, subculture or type of human in this world. A village full of kiddie fiddlers and hedge fund managers doesn’t rival the awesome awfulness of a bunch of hippies, apparently.

At least to Americans, I guess. Whether they’re contemptible wretches worthy of that contempt or not (all of them, not just some of them or most of them, every single fucking one of them!) is not of tremendous relevance. It’s not as if this flick is going to change any opinions about anything along the way, or raise awareness or anything. That’s not its purpose. The flick isn’t even interested in characters, or characters coming to terms with things, or overcoming things, or anything like that. No flick about hippies that has Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston in lead roles is interested in achieving anything so bold, any so radical.

As much as I like Paul Rudd, if there’s another actor who varies less between roles I haven’t had the honour of discovering him yet. And Aniston, well, if there’s an actress with even less range, science hasn’t discovered her yet.

So casting them here as a yuppie couple who fall upon hard times is the kind of decision a Microsoft program could have come up with unaided: “They’re Bland Enough and Up for Whatever!” the poster could scream.

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Iron Sky

Iron Sky

Go back to where you came from, space Nazis

dir: Timo Vuorensola

What the hell was all that about?

At first I was disappointed because I thought it was going to be a biography about actress Ione Skye, the 80s / 90s It Girl, daughter of folk singer Donovan, former wife of Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, current wife of irritating Australian singer Ben Lee (!), star of such beloved classics as Say Anything and Gas Food Lodging, and mother to several hundred children. Surely that’s more important than Space Nazis?

But there is absolutely nothing about Ione Skye in Iron Sky. Iron Sky might have benefitted a little by including something about her, since it contained almost everything else in the known universe in its running time. Nothing about wavy-haired ingénues from another time, though, sad to say.

Instead it has a premise that’s pretty much the beginning and the end of the entire thinking behind the entire film that employed hundreds of people for several months: Nazis on the Moon. What else do you need when you’ve got such a ‘killer’ idea?

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The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption

Burn it all down, then salt the earth afterwards

dir: Gareth Huw Evans

How bizarre. A Welsh director travels to Indonesia to make a brutal action flick that seems like it’s from Hong Kong in the 1980s.

For his next flick maybe he should make a movie where a one-legged ballerina swordfights with narwhals on Pluto as Gary Numan plays maracas in the background, set during the Victorian era.

Maybe it’s not that bizarre. I guess it’s just a straight-ahead very violent action flick coming from a place I wouldn’t expect to produce such things.

It’s enjoyable if you like brutal flicks where a guy, or a couple of guys, fight against a horde of enemies with the thin sliver of hope of ever surviving. Even though a lot of people get shot, that’s just the hors d’oeuvre. The reason people’s arses are in those theatre seats is, presumably, to watch fist and foot mercilessly meet with face and groin, many, many times.

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Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

Get thee to a nunnery, then set fire to the nunnery, please

dir: Tarsem Singh

If The Dictator inspired profound feelings of ‘meh’ in me, this film left me with the profound feeling of ‘yeurgh’.

Sometimes you get exactly the crap you expect you’re going to get, as with eating at KFC, or the “Dirty Bird”, as a good friend of mine calls it, when you already have plenty of experience backing up your expectations. When you buy dirty bird, you expect dirty bird, and dirty bird is what you get.

That’s not entirely true, gentle reader. I’m telling one of those things I’m told humans call a “lie”. Yes, a little white lie. In truth, even when I have the dirty bird in my grubby little hands, the grease running down my fingers, eventually to be coursing through my veins, I still expect it to be great. No matter how many times I’ve been betrayed, I still think “Maybe this time, it’ll be different.”

I did have completely unrealistic expectations regarding this film, and, as per usual, I have no idea why. And again as per usual, it hardly matters to the film makers or the rest of the world, because what I want doesn’t knock the world’s axis out of joint or pull the sun from the sky.

Nothing from the advertising for it, or the reviews, or the presence of Julia Roberts should have made me think I was getting anything other than dirty bird.

But still, but still… the human capacity for self-delusional is almost infinite, and I’m one of its most skilled practitioners.

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The Dictator

The Dictator

Even Castro would envy that full, luxuriant beard

dir: Larry Charles

Meh. It’s no Borat, but then again, it’s going for something else. Something very much else.

The film starts with a dedication in loving memory to recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, long may his crazy ass fry in hell, and it’s called The Dictator, so we’re expecting an Ali G – South Park level of subtlety and historical complexity right off the bat.

Or maybe we’re not.

Sometimes, as audiences, we get not what we’d like but what we deserve. Since, like an undisciplined child, Sacha Baron Cohen’s bad behaviour not only goes unpunished or ever corrected, but is instead rewarded with money, critical acclaim and redheaded wives, he ends up giving us exactly what we might not like, but should totally expect.

The fundamental difference here is that he’s acting with other actors, and not inflicting his persona onto unsuspecting members of the public. What this shares with the other flicks is that he behaves in a similarly vulgar and boorish manner, in order to make us laugh, but the other characters, in on the act, either ignore, feign shock towards or applaud his repellent behaviour.

When he does this stuff in Borat or Bruno, the bits that should or would otherwise horrify a decent human being are why it matters to us, and where the humour comes from. Otherwise it’s pretty weak sauce.

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Act of Valor

Act of Valor

Terrorist, your game is through, 'cause now you'll l have to
answer to: America! Fuck Yeah!

dirs: Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh

Act of Valor, presumably, refers to a specific act of conspicuous bravery above and beyond the usual, everyday bravery people exhibit. The heroes on display here, we would guess, commit these acts on a second-to-second basis. They live and breathe valour, as they are warriors of the highest calibre dealing out and embracing death for the protection of all good people everywhere. Well, at least of good Americans everywhere.

The only act of valour on our part is the potential willingness to hand money over for what is essentially a curious recruiting product meant to remind us of nothing else so much as USA! USA! USA!

People have shelled money out, though, a lot of money. This movie has more than made its money back already. And yet you’d not call most of what happens here a movie, per se.

It’s more like a very serious training video, one with a great deal of verisimilitude (I’m guessing, because I’ve never been a Navy SEAL myself as yet, though, you never know, there’s always time). It’s also very mindful of the aesthetics of first person shooters (computer games where the field of view is first person, and a weapon is ever present as you ‘walk’ through a three-dimensional environment), replicating the visual image continuously, to make the audience feel not like they’re there themselves, but that they’re playing the game they’re watching.

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Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo

Crazy, I'm crazy for feeling so lonesome, crazy
for feeling so blue

dir: Adrian Grunberg

Mel Gibson still makes movies? After all that, you know, unpleasantness?

Apparently so. Some people you just can’t stop without silver bullets.

Like cockroaches, the thermonuclear detonation directly above their lives, self-triggered, doesn’t stop them from scuttling ever onwards. He’s completely out of the closet in terms of his hatred and paranoia towards the members of the tribes of Abraham, and has even more runs on the board as a violent misogynistic fuckhead who would beat up a woman holding his own baby.

Clearly nothing, no level of opprobrium or societal disinterest in what else he may have to say will ever stop him.

Ideally, Leni Riefenstahl would be directing this movie, and it would star Mel Gibson, Dominique Strauss-Khan and Charlie Sheen, who would spend their time alternately screaming at and beating up Jewish Russian models, who are just happy to get some attention. Screenwriter of Showgirls and Basic Instinct Joe Eszterhas and fascist poet Ezra Pound would finish the script, David Irving would do the production design, Albert Speer would build the sets, Idi Amin provides the catering, and Wagner would do the soundtrack. The perfect storm of cinematic awesomeness.

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The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

You should never trust anyone who wears black all the time

dir: James Watkins

Creepy, very creepy. Victorian England is so very creepy. England is creepy.

All those orphans. That fog. All those smokestacks. All those debtors prisons and cholera and rickets.

And they apparently cornered the market on vengeful ghosts way before the Japanese jumped on the bandwagon.

The Woman in Black isn’t a redo of Wilkie Collins’ alleged classic The Woman in White, just with an African American flavour to the proceedings. Plus, I overstated the creepiness of the era. And it’s not set in the Jack the Ripperesque Victorian era: it’s the Edwardian era, because someone’s got a shiny new newly invented car.

The old timey car is somewhat creepy, though, but nowhere near as creepy as everything else that goes on here. Reminiscent somewhat of poor Harker in the Bram Stoker Dracula novel, a young lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe, yes, Harry Potter himself) is sent out to an isolated mansion to settle the estate of a woman recently dead. He himself is grieving for the death of his wife several years earlier.

This is a ghostly horror story after all, and a sense of dread permeates almost every moment of screen time. It’s in everything: the hairstyles, the clothes, the fog, the architecture, everything. Even the eel pie and the candelabras all drip with dread.

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The Avengers

The Avengers

So many egos in so little space

dir: Joss Whedon

You know what this needed? More superheroes.

Not enough superheroes. Also, more scenes of Scarlett Johansson’s character Black Widow elaborating upon her back story. Because the masses needed to know.

Also, it needed more shots of Samuel L. Jackson flipping the tails of his long leather coat outwards in an ever so attractive manner.

Other than that, it’s about as good as we could have hoped for.

Despite the idea that this is a discrete ‘let’s get the band together’ supergroup combination, it’s really the sixth instalment in a series that started with Iron Man. All of the flicks I’m talking about had different directors, but the link between them all is that comic book titans Marvel set up Marvel Studios specifically to make the movies for their own properties. No longer would they have to rely on other studios to bring their stable of heroes to the big screen.

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