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2013

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

Oi! Stay Away From Our Coathanger!, you giant
physical approximations of adolescent insecurity
and dysfunction!

dir: Guillermo Del Toro

2013

Now, I love me some Guillermo Del Toro. I love him in the way I love Abel Ferrara, Whit Stillman, Hal Hartley, Takashi Miike and other directors who make the either occasional or frequent shit movie: it's irrational, but heartfelt, and rests solely on the fact that they did one or two movies that I truly loved a long time ago.

The most curious thing about Del Toro movies is that I love the idea of them more than the movies themselves. With the exception of Pan's Labyrinth, and maybe Golden Army, I don't think most of his flicks work that well. I'm not sure if it's a cultural/language barrier thing (even though he speaks better, more articulate English than I do), or that he outgeeks me to an embarrassing level, or whether the visual level matters more to him than the storytelling aspect of his movies. Whatever it is, I don't totally get him even though I really, really like him. It's a strange relationship we have.

Rating:

World War Z

World War Z

The queues for Luna Park rides are getting worse and worse

dir: Marc Forster

I wonder if there is anyone on the planet not sick of zombies as yet.

We, and I’m speaking on behalf of all of cinema-going humanity here, are even more sick of zombies than we are of vampires. I am so sick of vampires and zombies that I generally avoid new movies with them even if people I really like are in them, and I hear that they’re good films. I’m sick of them all, and I can’t be summoning the energy and time to watch them and review them, I just can't do it.

Except for this one. Come on, I was curious.

I have read the book this is based on (another reason for my undead care-factor fatigue), but the film has about as much to do with the book as any other flick about zombies has to do with the book: they’ve both got zombies in them, and that’s about it.

Out of the dry reportage of the novel comes a story with an allegedly relatable hero (Brad Pitt, as if any mere mortal men can relate to him) and a story at a scale we can grasp despite it being about a global epidemic of flesh-chomping. It’s the right approach, I guess. They also have to make it even more relatable by making the main guy motivated to find a solution to the zombie apocalypse by his having a redheaded wife and redheaded children: so if he doesn’t find a ‘cure’ or whatever, not only will everyone die, but some redheads too!

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Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2

They kick no ass at all, but they do kill a lot of people

dir: Jeff Wadlow

I know, I know, whenever you hear “It’s better than the first one!” regarding a sequel to an ordinary movie, the immediate response is "well, that's not saying much."

In some ways, though, ways that probably don't matter that much, Kick-Ass 2 is probably a better, or at least less repugnant movie that the first one, though not from want of trying.

The Kick-Ass stories falls into a sub-genre of hero flicks which are about regular people with no discernable skills or abilities wanting to be crimefighters. Also, of regular scumbags who want to be supervillains despite having nothing that makes them particularly super or villainous.

Kick-Ass himself is defined by a look, being a green-and-yellow wetsuit, the wielding of two batons, and no actual abilities. But he has the desire, the will to do good for the city, and he has inspired others to do the same.

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The Heat

The Heat

I have no idea what's going on in this poster either

dir: Paul Feig

2013

Paul Feig made Bridesmaids. Bridesmaids made, perversely, something like a billion box office bucks.

So Paul Feig can basically do what he wants. When he makes another film with who might have been the main actor in Bridesmaids (barely anyone ever remembers that Kristen Wiig was even in it), and it's a buddy cop movie with female leads, well naturally it seems like Paul Feig is a great big feminist trying to right the imbalances of the past by pushing a particular agenda for female equality in the movies.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It's pure marketing. A lot of people find Melissa McCarthy funny. I find her funny. The last few films she's been in have scored big at the box office in such a way that it's impossible to argue that it's in spite of her presence, rather than because of it. Maybe people went to Bridesmaids without any idea of who she was, but no-one went to Identity Thief because of Jason Bateman. No-one came to this because of Sandra Bullock, Demian Bichir or Marlon Wayans.

It's all Melissa McCarthy. For some brief period of time, however long or short it may be, and I hope she gets to enjoy it, she is a box office queen.

But what does all this mean? Does this mean women are in the ascendant in Hollywood? That audiences are keener to see flicks with female leads, that McCarthy has broken through barriers and glass ceilings and such?

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Now You See Me

Now You See Me

Now You See Them, But I'm Telling You, Don't Bother
Looking At Them At All. You'll thank me later.

dir: Louis Letterier

It's pretty strange that I was excited to see this flick. How a man of my age gets to be excited by the prospect of watching a bunch of actors pretend to be magicians who pull off bank heists is a mystery even to me, dear reader.

Somehow the premise did its weird alchemy on my brain chemistry, and I was hungry for this flick despite knowing very little about it except for some positive reviews.

Yes, I was tremendously disappointed. Can you hear it in the tone of what's written thus far?

It would be unfair to call this flick terrible, perhaps. Calling it a worthless waste of my time would perhaps be closer to the mark.

The first fifteen minutes or so of flick introduces us to a number of magicians: sleight-of-hand guy, pickpocket, hypnotist and escapist. Someone is watching them as they do their thing. This someone wears a hood, and has his or her back to us, the audience, as they leave a tarot card for these various goons to find.

The sleight-of-hand guy is played by a guy so intensely arrogant that he could have been played by Mark Zuckerberg himself. Instead they get Jesse Eisenberg to play him. He turns down sex with a sweet young thing just because he sees this card appear in his boot.

There's no reason for the card to be so powerful; it's a mystery to us and to him for the whole film as to why he would have turned that girl down because of the card.

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Mud

Mud

He ain't no Mudhoney, that's for sure

dir: Jeff Nichols

Mud continues a fairly stellar run for an actor people wrote off as a vacant himbo jock a long time ago. 'People' being me. And yet somehow, inexplicably, the Renaissance of Mathew McConaughey continues.

But it's not even his film. Mud firmly belongs to one of the two boys who are the film's leads, not to the character of the title. It's a coming-of-age story for a boy called Ellis, a boy living a hard scrabble life on the banks of the Mississippi River, amongst and amidst a whole bunch of riverbillies or swampbillies, whatever the right term is. And they all earn our sympathies, every one of them. Every single goddamn one of them.

Ellis is the one going through the grinding agony of finding out that life is one crushing, disillusioning disappointment and letdown after another. And there's some joy, beauty and hope along the way.

It has nothing to do with Winter's Bone, another stellar flick about a young kid trying to get by in an impoverished and shitty world, but it reminded me of it a bit. It has another strong performance by a teenager in a complicated role.

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Oblivion

Oblivion

Imagine a world without people. Now imagine a world
without Tom Cruise. You know which one is more
terrifying.

dir: Joseph Kosinski

The global obsession with obsessively destroying the globe continues…

This is film #437 to come out this year which either has the world about to be destroyed or a world already destroyed as its setting.

When will they just leave the world alone? What did it ever do to you? Why do you always have to be wrecking the place? Get your feet off the couch, and put that beer on a coaster, that coffee table is mahogany, arsehole!

A while back I would have said these flicks of a pre or post-apocalyptic nature reflected our anxiety about the place actually being destroyed, as in we feared nuclear war or pollution or some other catastrophic fuck up permanently. The wrecking of the world would probably be the highest stakes that a film could put up, and so you'd think we'd have to take it really seriously and really care.

Since we see a flick come out almost every week with a world on the brink or just flat out ruined already, I think it signifies that we just gave up being scared about it. We no longer fear that the world will be destroyed, or at least the people at the studios think it's no longer that shocking for us. It's commonplace, it's every day now to think about a world destroyed. And even though we're not going to be able to get internet connectivity or soy lattes in a ruined world, whether it's crawling with mutants or completely poisoned, we're resigned to it, and we're looking forward to what comes next.

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The Lone Ranger

Lone Ranger

The dead bird is the smartest one out of the three of them

dir: Gore Verbinski

I was told to expect a disaster. We were assured it would be the absolute bomb – total dog of the year.

I wasn’t told that it was episode 5 of Pirates of the Caribbean, because ultimately that’s what this flick comes across as. With Trains!

Johnny Depp simply plays a more boring yet still over-the-top character than he does in the Pirates franchise, and the strongest similarity is that just like most of the character's actions in those nautically and intellectually wet movies, his character's actions here don't make a hell of a lot of sense most of the time either, but they’re meant to be entertaining. Meant is the operative word.

This possibly was meant to be like an origin story for a new Lone Ranger franchise, which strikes me completely as the triumph of wishful thinking over intelligence, but the horrible pre-release press and the dismal box office performance should have staked this idea before it had a chance to flourish.

This isn't a complete disaster, though, as irritating as Depp's Tonto might be, and as ill-considered as the idea was, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with resurrecting the squarest American hero of all time. The Lone Ranger may be a complete unknown to people under thirty, but who’s to say it was the wrong time for a comeback?

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Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra

This is the least gay moment of the whole film

dir: Steven Soderbergh

I never thought a biopic about Liberace would turn out to be one of the best flicks of the year. I can't imagine that anyone thought a flick about Liberace could be one of the best flicks of any year.

I don't think even Liberace would have predicted it, but, based on the character here, he probably would have felt entitled to it all the same.

I mean, how many people even remember him?

People of a certain age, I guess. If you were old enough to see him on the telly, and his twinkly smile, and the countless references / mentions of him in a pop cultural sense that seemed to pop up all over the place in the late 1970 / early 80s, then he would still come as something of a revelation to you, as played by Michael Douglas.

Did you know, for example, that Liberace was gay?

I know, I know, it shocked me too. Apparently, a lot of people, including perhaps some of the guys Liberace was having sex with, didn't realise he was gay.

This virtuoso pianist who wore extravagant mink coats and costumes dripping with jewels, from what this film says, turns out not to be the paragon of heterosexual conformity that he portrayed himself as being.

Rating:

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

He almost looks like a real person

dir: Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder was given an incredible reward when they chose to make him the director of a Superman film. This is very strange, to me, a very strange turn of events.

Snyder’s last film was called Sucker Punch. What was Sucker Punch , I hear you ask, since you blocked it out of your memory or didn’t see it and it doesn’t seem like a real film that was released in this, the apparently real world?

Sucker Punch was an incredibly bad movie, a movie so bad it assaulted the very nature of the word ‘movie’. 'Movie' almost became a derogatory word for a degenerate and pointless form of entertainment previously adored by the masses and now shunned for the horrid waste of time and money that it became post-Sucker Punch for all eternity.

The actual shitty movie itself seemed like it was the fevered dream of an idiot on acid and meth simultaneously, furiously and pointlessly masturbating as he watched a whole bunch of fetish material (Aerosmith’s Janie’s Got a Gun film clip, nubile females in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms fighting Nazi robots and samurais and dragons and lobotomies), who then somehow translated this dirty weekend of cable watching and jerking off of his into a movie, an actual movie, that people paid for and such. Not just to make, but to watch!

And like an idiot, I was one of those people!

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