dir: Ridley Scott
This film doesn’t need to exist. It didn’t need to be made. But I’m glad Ridley Scott made it, and I’m glad I watched it. I guess.
I even saw it in 3D, and not only did I pay for the experience by literally paying money, but also by incurring a headache from watching it that plagued me for hours afterwards. I don’t think, when our bodies were being Intelligently Designed by some kind of benevolent Creator, that our ocular physiology was ever designed to watch films in such a way. I think 3D is probably a form of blasphemy, and that it should be declared a mortal sin by the Vatican, or NASA, or the Stonecutters.
Even with the heavy toll I paid, I do have to admit that it looked utterly splendid, and that it used the 3D effectively to give both a sense of space and of the alienness of the two main locations in the film, being the ship called the Prometheus, and structures on the surface of an inhospitable planetoid.
The very first scenes of the film, before the title, show a somewhat luminous looking humanoid chap drinking something clearly not fit for human (or otherwise) consumption. The horripilating liquid, which looks like that foul Jagermeister stuff, comes in this totally manky cup, so we can safely assume it’s not very hygienic, whatever it is.
To fill in a little more detail, this chap strips almost naked next to a great rush of water, as some kind of space ship lifts up out of the planet’s atmosphere, and drinks. Immediately, like a dose of MoviPrep, it goes straight through him, making him feel somewhat poorly. His body starts breaking down, falling apart, and then we get a microscopic view of what’s happening to the cells in his body. Oh, he’s long dead, but even the DNA, if that’s what it is, breaks apart. As the rest of him dissolves to nothing in the raging waters he’s fallen into, we see images of that DNA reknitting itself into some new form.
Wow, they can do anything with science. The next exact scene has two adventurous scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and some other guy, knocking some rocks down and getting into a cave on the Isle of Skye, where they weep with joy over the discovery of a particular image carved into the wall.
Do you think the two scenes are related in any way? Does this prompt curious questions in your mind? Do you think the film will seek to answer them to your satisfaction, you poor deluded fool?
dir: Brenda Chapman
Redheads, gods love ‘em. They definitely make the world a better place.
Cinema doesn’t like them, though, and with good reason. For some people, nothing brings as much visual pleasure as watching redheads doing whatever it is they’re doing. For others, they provoke pitchforks, torches, fear and jerkiness.
You know what else Pixar and Hollywood in general doesn’t like? Women, apparently. The female of the species, which is hardly deadlier than the male. Of course they (or their characters) can appear in films, but they’re not wanted as the protagonist. No one wants to depict them as having agency or self-determination. They’re usually the love interest, the prize, the acted-upon rather than the actor, which means they’re usually plot devices or props. Pretty pretty props.
Years of criticism (I doubt that was the actual reason) apparently resulted in Pixar deciding “Whoa, we need to make the protagonist of our next flick a girl, or we’ll lose the support of the oestrogen brigade”. Since they were bought out by Disney, did anyone really care that much? Disney’s released dozens of animated movies with female protagonists, and none of that has really enhanced their image, since they’ve been the worst offenders when it comes to negative gender stereotyping for the last century. Pretty princesses roam the corridors of our minds and the bedrooms (and aspirations) of our daughters like pink saccharine zombies thanks to Disney’s monstrous efforts of many a year.
Were people going to stop buying tickets to Pixar movies because of this perceived lack of gender balance? Not bloody likely. No-one would have cared, because no-one should have. This empty kind of pandering doesn’t help anyone, least of all the sisters.
Whatever forced them to do it, I don’t really think it’s helped the sisterhood in any real way. I don’t think any little girl is going to watch Brave and come out of the film convinced that she is as worthy as any male child and should aspire to any job or activity she wants in this life, or convince adults of the merits of pay equality or breaking down gender stereotypes. I mean, Tangled didn’t exactly break down gender barriers, and The Little Mermaid III: Ariel’s Murderous Revenge didn’t convince a girl she could be President one day, so why should Brave be any more important?
To point out the further hypocrisy of this thinking, Pixar allocated a female director to Brave, being Brenda Chapman. Now, I’m not going to claim to have any backroom knowledge not already in the public domain, but this all reeks of pandering by marketing types hoping to tick all the socially conscious boxes.
"It's Pixar's FIRST movie with a girl as the lead! Also, it's the first time we've graciously allowed a WOMAN to DIRECT! We're so enlightened and in touch with everything that just thinking about how ace we are gets us WET!"
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.
Whenever this happens, you invariably feel compelled to say which one ‘won’, as if it matters. From their perspective, from the studio perspective, the one that makes more moolah is the winner. From our perspective it tends to be the one we hate least.
I did hate Mirror Mirror, to be honest, despite the sumptuous beauty of its visuals, but that never predisposed me to liking this flick either. I expected it to be bad, and when I heard Kristen Stewart was in it as the titular princess, I was certain it would exemplify a Twilight level of awfulness. Also, from the title, I thought she would be fighting some huntsman spider, and, considering how sickly she always looks, I assumed the spider would win.
Shouldn’t laugh. I’m terrified of huntsman spiders. Maybe her battle would be one rich in psychological depth and nutty goodness?
In case anyone doesn’t know, those Twilight movies are utterly shite movies. There’s no doubt or argument. This Snow White is nowhere near that awful, in fact it actually gets a lot of stuff right, at least as far as I’m concerned. It surprised me how much it got right.
There's no real point going further into the multitude of reasons why I thought this couldn't, wouldn't or shouldn't work, because they're all so obvious and time consuming. I mean, Kristen Stewart is a gigantic red flag about the potential crapness of a flick; a red flag so large and broad it could be wielded with difficulty by that giant Jesus statue that overlooks Rio De Janeiro with that disappointed look on his gargantuan face.
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.
dir: Asghar Farhadi
Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moaadi) are seeking a separation, a divorce, in other words. They plead their respective cases to the judge. The judge, in this case, is the camera. For five minutes they argue at each other through the ‘judge’, who keeps admonishing them for whatever they are trying or not trying to do.
They make their plaintive statements, in Nader’s case fairly passive-aggressive statements, to us, pleading for us to understand which one is in the right. The thing is, though, they are trying to use the law to get what they want: Simin doesn’t really want a divorce, she wants the whole family to leave Iran, so she wants custody of their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), to make Nader come with them to places unknown, but far away from here.
The judge’s voice says, with hidden menace, “What’s wrong with living here?” The question is left unanswered, because this is the place where answering honestly can fuck up far more than just your day. Especially for Iranian women.
This is Iran, and I can’t imagine the scenario in which a court grants a woman anything there, including an uncontested divorce. Nader won’t let go of Termeh, because he knows his wife will never leave Iran as long as Termeh stays with him. And Simin might as well be talking to statues, regardless of her determination, regardless of how right or wrong she may be.
This all sounds like too much drama, but it’s pitched at just the right human level. It’s not melodramatic or over the top, it’s not Kramer Vs Kramer Persian style mixed with Nineteen-Eighty-Four: it’s people with real emotions dealing with the bizarre Iranian legal system to get what they think they deserve.
But that’s the problem: to hope for satisfaction from such a legal system, any legal system, but especially this one, is to hope in vain. It’s not just the vicissitudes of the legal system at fault, but the aspects of people’s personalities and their actions that render people both right and wrong at the best and worst of times.
It’s impossible for those of us not living in Iran, and not that conversant with all the various complexities therein, to watch a flick like this without seeing it as an indictment of the oppressive regime they live under. Every Iranian flick, every flick that mentions Iran is unavoidably seen through that lens. It’s also the kind of place that jails and beats its directors and their families, as director Jafar Panahi found out several months ago, the poor bastard.
I try to sarcastically derive all my knowledge of people, political systems and places from movies, so all I know of Iran comes from films like the ones made by Jafar Panahi, Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and the graphic novels (and movie Persepolis) of Marjane Satrapi. It’s a limited perspective in some ways, because it means the sum and total of my impressions are derived from the views of upper-middle-class creative types with the skills and the contacts to dance the razor’s edge between creating art and pissing off the mullahs that would see them jailed and unemployed for the next twenty years.
In other words, if you don’t know from some source just how rich Iranian history is, and how fucked up Iranian society has been since the Revolution, you’re not listening hard enough, and elements of a film like A Separation will look like life on some alternate reality Earth.
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?
Apart from the premise, which isn’t as outlandish these days, since everything’s seemingly up for grabs, in fact it seems downright quaint in comparison to much of the filth that comes out these days, the movie (if such a descriptor is applicable) doesn’t have that much else going for it other than what I’m sure the people making it thought was satire. I can’t really imagine what else a flick would be trying to do if it has a lead character in it trying to portray a President Sarah Palin.
Sure, she’s not called Palin, she’s just called the President (as played by Australian actress Stephanie Paul), but it’s glowingly obvious. The glasses, the hairstyle, the Oval Office stuffed to the eaves with bear pelts and hunting trophies: it’s not grand subtlety we’re talking about here.
However, what you’re thinking, as an intelligent and highly sexually desirable reader of one of my reviews who hasn’t seen this and will never pay good money to see it (like I did, much to my regret, even with a membership discount at Cinema Nova), is this: what’s the point of Palin ailing and flailing here, and indeed the entire existence of this movie?
Nothing. There is no point, they just thought it would be funny.
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.
I caught this at a Friday 11pm ‘cult cravings’ session at Cinema Nova: a time and place that plays other stuff catering to drunken or stoned arthouse crowds and other compliant idiots. As such, the place was packed (despite the ‘cult’ session, the film’s only been out for a month or so in Australia, it’s not like it came out a decade ago) and the audience was of the willing ilk that goes to watch screenings of that diabolically bad and boring flick The Room, or more recently Iron Sky (Nazis on the Moon!). It’s unfair to the film to be classed in such company of ill-repute, but I guess it wasn’t otherwise going to be seen.
It’s not a shame, because despite how entertaining I found it, I can see the general impossibility of convincing people to go see a violent Indonesian action film. I can’t see how to convince people to watch a non-violent Indonesian film either, but then I’ve never been heard to claim to be a genius at marketing.
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.
I thought (again, I don’t know why I had this impression) there was going to be something radically new in the retelling of the story of Snow White. I don’t have any particular fixation on these fairy tales, although I have been reading a lot of them over the last five years to my daughter, and as such they play an important role in teaching her about what people used to think the status of women used to be in society: as subhumans with little of value other than beauty and, more importantly, their virginity intact so they could be traded to other families for money, property or cows.
Pretty much exactly where we are these days, except with worse shoes.
It’s a story that’s been told so often, and to great effect, I guess, that it’s more than a widely-known fairy tale, it’s an iconic story. Obviously, having been exposed to it this often, and having seen so many goddamn versions of it, I’m interested in (or desperate for) alternatives, reinterpretations, distortions, eviscerations that tell the same stories in radically different ways.
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.
On the other hand, a phrase I hate which I’ll never use again under threat of cutting one of my hands off once those words leave my fingers ever again, it would have been hard for Cohen to play a ‘real’ dictator, because that would either get him shot, jailed or at the head of some tinpot dictatorship for real. He is trying, after all, to wrest laughs from that profoundly unfunny subject, which is the genocidal awfulness of despots in their various horrible countries.
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.
The main claim to fame of this flick is not that the footage of fire fights and such are real, but that the people performing them, or that are taking part in high altitude parachute jumps, or stealthily using mini-submarines to infiltrate locations are real Navy SEALs. These Real Navy SEALs act the way you’d expect Real Navy SEALs to act: fine in full combat gear with a weapon in their hands, but at a grunting loss when they have to get through dialogue that would make a Gascoigne cheesemaker wince with the sheer cheesiness of the dialogue.
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.
Arthur (Radcliffe) is a bit of a drip, bit of a depressed drip at that. His own darling little son draws pictures of him moping all the time. Nothing wrong with a bit of a mope every now and then, but really, Arthur, snap out of it. This is not the era with any modicum of sensitivity towards anyone clearly suffering from clinical depression. Back then the cure would have been three hours in a radium bath and a snifter of laudanum, because they were, as we would think, unenlightened times.
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.
No longer would they have to share as much of the profits, either. As the sixth instalment (if you count the Hulk flick with Ed Norton, which we probably don’t have to), or fifth sequel, or whatever you want to call it, the groundwork has already been laid for all these characters, and for the promise (or threat) that they would eventually be brought together in an all-star cast match-up/mash-up. There were teases dropped in post credits on most of those flicks, or outright explicit references to getting the Avengers together for whatever reason.
And here are the fruits of their labours.
There's a lot of set up all the same, the only difference between that and the usual origin story stuff is that the set up is specific to the plot here, and not the individual sagas explaining how these chaps became the superheroic clods they've become.
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.
All scum, all talented at something at some distant point in the past, all unworthy of our current, continued attention. That being said, if we only spent time watching the films and discussing the merits of the ‘worthy’ people in the cinematic arts, it’d be a short conversation. The cinemas would be empty. Shelves would be bare. The internet wouldn’t know what to do with itself.
A good friend of mine pointed out that Mel Gibson didn’t just recently lose his fight with sanity because of booze and the Russians and the Global Jewish Conspiracy: he was always like this, but people didn’t care because he was on top of the world, ma, and was a good little earner. He was clearly like this even before he made that supreme piece of Jew-baiting, being The Passion of the Christ, where Christ himself was turned into tenderised beef by the Jews for our pious pleasure.
That mad gleam was always in his eye: we just chose to believe it was method acting.
It’s not. He’s mad as a cut snake, but we’re not here to do psych evaluations. The question before you, which means it was the question I put before myself, is whether or not a person can watch and review a film by this guy notoriously on the outs with decent society, in good conscience?
Can I review this without referring to his many other instances of bad behaviour, in the way that can I justify watching a film by convicted rapist (who’s never served his jail term) Roman Polanski?
dir: Boaz Yakin
Jason Statham playing a character who kills lots of people? That’s a radical turn up for the books.
In the eternal pub argument of Caveman versus Astronaut, Ninja versus Pirate and Pussycat Doll versus Spice Girl, there’s the unfortunate real world competition of which is worse: Russian gangsters or Chinese triads? This film makes the same comparison, but posits it by asking: which is tougher? The answer is, of course, Jason Statham.
Or at least the thinly veiled stand-in character for himself, some guy called Luke Wright. You know, because he’s always Right! He gets on the bad side of the Russians, and they not only ruin his life by murdering his family, they intend to keep his life in a heightened state of ruination in an ongoing fashion. It’s a curious state, because I can’t imagine Russian gangsters having the follow-through long term to keep hassling someone like they do the main character here, and not just killing him as an example to all the other noble loners out there. They tell him, as he walks the earth in the time remaining to him, that any person with whom he shares even a single human moment with, they’ll be there to kill them.
It’s not going to do wonderful things for your state of mind, I imagine. Misery upon misery, he sees the only obvious way out, but demurs at the very last moment, because he sees a girl in trouble. Thank gods there was a girl in trouble, because otherwise: short film.
This girl, Mei (Catherine Chan) is a prime asset prized by the triads, and much sought after by the same Russians who despoiled Luke’s life. What an odd convergence of paths, eh? I wonder if Luke will endeavour to redeem himself by protecting the girl at all costs?
Why is eleven-year-old Mei so sought after? Why are the triads prepared to kill hundreds of innocent bystanders to either get her back or kill her themselves? Why are the Russians prepared to give up their own firstborns in order to get their vodka-soaked, borsht-smeared hands on her?
She’s good with numbers. Really good with numbers. And plus, she’s really good at tax returns. You should see how she finds deductibles and rebates.
dir: Anthony Hemingway
It’s a story that’s been told a few times, but one that bears repeating, and that is clearly deserving of a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars range. Also, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen deserves all the attention George Lucas, his money, and his film technology can bring to the experience, surely.
After all, don’t African American actors deserve, at long last, to repeat all the corn, cheese and clichés of the Hollywood war movies of yesteryear they were so unfairly segregated from? Aren’t they due their dues by now, at long last, in this enlightened age?
Red Tails, in case you didn’t know and probably don’t care, is a story about African American pilots during World War II. It is a story George Lucas wanted to tell for decades, apparently, because of his deep connection to the subject matter(?) Look, I don’t know his real reasons, because who knows why he really does half of the stuff he does, as opposed to his publicly stated reasons. Does anyone on the planet really understand why it meant so much to him that Han Solo shooting Greedo first had to be expunged from the official record, despite the fact that we all saw it happen?
No, we don’t. When you’re that powerful, have more money than Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, and can make whatever you want, other people don’t have to understand your desire to shape reality to your whims, they just have to cut you a check and say “Yes, George.”
I remember seeing Lucas on The Daily Show talking about this film, and about how he had great difficulty getting studios to pony up cash for it, because they couldn’t imagine audiences wanting to see a film with so many African American actors in it. So he funded it himself. I don’t know if that’s true or not, because you can never tell with George, but if that was the reason it took so long to come to fruition, well, George got his wish in the end, and he also got to make a flick with aircraft getting into dogfights and blowing shit up without requiring Anakin Skywalker getting in on the act and fucking things up.
dirs: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
File this under “should not have worked, but somehow did.” If such a file exists. Which it probably doesn’t.
In truth they could have just called this flick A Couple of Dicks Go Back to School and had exactly the same story without any of the Jump Street references or cameos, and it probably would have succeeded just as well, though it probably wouldn’t have made as much money.
I freely admit I was a fan of the show as a kid, and watched its first four years religiously, as in, always on the Sabbath. Loved the show, loved how moralising and try-hard it was, loved especially the various depictions of the teen experience forced through the filter of episodic police procedural television, with its “I learned something today” consistency. It was very of its time, dealing with the horrors of white kids using drugs, the rise of AIDS, the eternal tensions between parents, teachers and kids, and funky hairstyles. At least, at first, it was one of the only bright spots in that dark age known as the 1980s.
Nothing except eternity lasts forever, and even that the quantum physicists are always trying to fuck with, so Jump Street came and went, all the other actors went back to the obscurity they so richly deserved, and Johnny Depp went on to become the most powerful and highest paid actor in human history.
Time passed, and the kind of shit-eating creativity-free movie producers who think anything that exists should only exist as an amalgam of something else, “It’s like Schindler’s List meets the Pussycat Dolls” or “It’s like Pulp Fiction crossed with Spongebob Squarepants!”, decided this needed to be remade. Good for us, I guess.
Instead of following the template of the tv show, it mocks it entirely, creates its own dynamic between two leads completely unlike any of the characters from the show, and goes off on its own course, without a hint of seriousness or faux gravitas.
What’s strangest is that the two leads, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) don’t just seem like young adults returning to school, they act, for our benefit in the audience, like two people who were cryogenically frozen for a few decades in order to seem like naifs in a contemporary American high school.
dir: Ben Wheatley
Pretty nasty. Pretty goddamn nasty. Ugly and goddamn nasty would perhaps be most apt.
Trust the Brits to make a flick about work-a-day hitmen that’s probably closer to the reality of what such monsters must look like. None of this aestheticisation of murder crap for them, no.
Oh, fuck the ethical / moral arguments about it; they’re not worth having, they can’t be had because no-one’s arguing the contrary. What I’m saying is, considering the sheer abundance of films with characters who are hitmen, in reality, such professionals are probably more like the chaps here than, oh, let’s say George Clooney in The American.
I’m not just talking looks-wise here. Although I am. Bless the Brits for doing something to ensure unattractive people get to make a living. No, I mean it just feels more credible to have two chaps like the ones here, Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) doing what they’re doing, rather than two rarefied, classical-music-listening, Faberge-egg-collecting pretty-boy buff chaps, which would be the norm if you believed a lot of movies with the subject.
Nah. Working class chaps all the way, ex-Army, who don’t mind getting their hands bloody in order to pay the mortgage and keep their scrag wives in the luxury (of jacuzzis and Katie Price designer hand bags) they’ve become accustomed to. A job, a grinding trade-like job. One where you’d think they could wack on some overalls, get their lunchbox and a thermos of tea, and wander off after kissing the wife and ruffling the hair of their kid, to a full day of brutal murder.
With a name like Kill List, presumably people aren’t expecting My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic! Despite Jay’s reluctance, he eventually agrees, after a dinner party with Gal and his girlfriend, to work on another project. Various characters make regular allusions to Jay’s last job, which apparently didn’t go very well. Kiev, they say, everything went wrong in Kiev. Everything always goes wrong in Kiev.
You can make a horrible thing worse. It’s true. It’s very obviously possible. And here we have further evidence of this sad fact as the cinema births a new monstrosity aimed at our limpid eyes.
Who takes something horrible and makes it worse on purpose? An evil fairy godmother? A ticket inspector? Dentists? And why would you?
The first Ghost Rider movie, inexplicably shot in Melbourne, was terrible in ways even dedicated viewers of Nic Cage’s films were surprised by. This second flick in this godawful franchise is worse in some expected ways, and terrible in ways that are new but should in no way be confused with inspirational entertainment.
Considering the ‘talent’ on offer here, well, I guess it could have been even worse, but it doesn’t seem likely. They could have strapped cameras to a pack of rabid dogs. They could have told Cage ‘act even crazier, the kids will love it’. They could have made the character an alien who crash-landed on Earth wanting nothing more than to understand this emotion we humans call ‘love’.
Actually, no, it really couldn’t have been worse. The unholy directorial team of Neveldine/Taylor, responsible for such films as those Crank ones, and such shit films as pretty much everything else they’ve ever touched or been associated with, don’t even seem to give enough of a fuck to make a deliberately bad film. It just kinda happened anyway in their rush to finish this exciting new instalment in a stillborn series that should never have been bothered with in the first place.
dir: Sean Durkin
A strange film. A strange, awkward film about a strange, damaged girl called Martha (Elizabeth Olsen). Well, her name is usually Martha, and then someone else anoints her as a Marcy May, and then later on, when asked her name on the phone, she calls herself Marlene, just like all the woman in her cult when they’re on the phone.
There’s your explanation of the title, if that’s what was perplexing you. It’s also the only way to remember the title itself. For months people would refer to the film or ask me if I’d seen it, and we’d both be flustering or dribbling “you seen that Marley uh Macy Grey, uh Mandlebrot movie yet?” in the struggle for a title.
I’m not sure if it’s a character study, or if it’s just an uncomfortable look at a mildly insane woman, but what it ends up being is a tedious drag. I know it’s meant to be a great film, and that it garnered a lot of praise last year for the central performance and for the creepy and oppressive atmosphere it generates, but I really, in the wash up, don’t see what the fuss was about. I'm not trying to be oppositional just for the sake of it, nor am I disliking it just because critics wanked over it.
Olsen has a very expressive face, though, for my money, she’s more reminiscent of Maggie Gyllenhaal than her evil twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley. Her performance is strong at times, and weak at others. I wasn’t sure if it was the characterisation or the character that was the most inconsistent, but I found her compelling only rarely. Quite often, the character and the actress annoyed me, and not in a way that made me sympathetic to the portrayal or the film. If readers feel that I'm being unfair, I'm all ears (or eyes, as the case would be on the internets), and I am looking forward to someone putting forward the case that it's actually great, for this and this and this reason. Good luck, by the way.
dir: Drew Goddard
Five teenagers go camping, or to a secluded cabin in a forest, or a house by a lake. They go there to get wasted and have sex, generally, to incur the wrath of some truly conservative and reactionary forces embodied in a killer who then goes to work.
Something always arises from somewhere, at least, in the horror flicks of the last thirty years, and kills all or most of them one by one, in the most grisly of fashions.
There will be naughtiness, but not too much. There will be harsh language. There will be alcohol and drug consumption. And there will be blood, lots of blood. And boobies, but mostly blood.
There are a thousand movies like this, I’m not going to list any of them. You know the ones. You either love them with a passion, in which case you’re a sick fuck and you should be avoided, or you love them ironically, with hipster detachment, which possibly makes you worse than fifty Hitlers, or you hate them and have absolutely no time for them, yet know intimately of their existence.
But why? Not ‘why do they keep making these movies’, because money you’d think is the sole determinant, but why is or was the template adhered to so rigidly? Why do five teenagers, five American teenagers, always seem to find themselves in this predicament every other ‘week’ or so? You’d think that, considering the sheer quantity of movies, and their sequels with teen slaughter as the special of the day, even in the world these fictional teens inhabit, they’d be more terrified of these trips away than they would be of terrorism, chlamydia and paying off their student loans.
Genre blindness aside, they all keep seeming to make the same mistake eternally, endlessly, over and over again, like lambs to the meat grinder on a conveyor belt.
dir: Steve McQueen
I understand shame. Believe me, I have a deep appreciation of shame, both the concept and the feeling, the horrible feeling, of shame.
I don’t think I really understood Shame.
The main reason is this: I don’t understand what it was trying to say. I think I understood what it said, in the way that if someone says to me “my cat’s breath smells like cat food”, I understand the individual words and the overall sentence. If the statement was made to me when I was standing at a shop counter asking for a pack of smokes, though, you can understand my lack of understanding from the context.
Michael Fassbender is a tremendous actor, and I’ll happily watch him in anything he does. All I did in this flick was watch him. He is this entire film, and he’s definitely a major presence, in or out of this flick, in or out of the nude. I still didn’t get what he was doing here, though, or why.
Let me be blunt: his behaviour in this flick, except for the visit to a certain type of club towards the end, is what most guys are like, or at least most guys wish they were like. You might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm sorry to say, ladies, that this is what men are like all day every day. They're pigs, and you only have the barest appreciation for how truly piggish most of us are. His character here is an alpha male who, for the purposes of this flick, is meant to be some kind of sex addict. That's meant to be the key: this is supposed to be a gruelling trawl through the dark world of sex addiction.
I find this a bit perplexing, because most of the guys on this planet do the same when they have the time, money, looks, confidence and inclination. In fact, let me phrase it more concisely: this is what guys who probably aren't defined as sex addicts act like, every fucking day of their delightfully full lives.
I'm not talking from personal experience, lest you think, dear reader, that I am raising myself to the lofty or lowly heights of gods amongst men like Michael Fassbender or the characters he plays. I am so far from being an alpha male that I don't think using the designation of "omega" would even cover it. But I do, unfortunately, know plenty about the male mind, more than any human should ever want to know, to the point where I despair for our entire species sometimes.
See, men live in this reality, which is a cold, grey, grim concrete world with brief glimmers and sparkles of joy and meaning. But part of the male mind, or at least around six inches of it, permanently resides in that porno fantasy land where sex is always potentially in the offing, always just around the corner, and is always a possibility no matter how unlikely or sexless the circumstances.
dir: Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt
Ah, finally, a film with Pirates that doesn’t have Johnny Depp in it.
No-one told the lovely people at Aardman Animation that the rest of us in this non-Claymation world are sick to fucking death of pirates, pirate-related stories and even the word ‘pirate’. They just went ahead and ploughed through, adapting a book in order to generate some hilarity and some box office. I can’t imagine this flick is going to do this well, what with the school holidays being over and all by now, but it was quite entertaining for a ‘kids’ movie.
Yes, I took my daughter along, and yes, she and I both thought it was a wonderful way to spend an hour and twenty minutes in a cinema strewn with beanbags. But don’t go in expecting it to be comparable to Pixar, or for any deep environmental messages or heartfelt heartstring-pulling mawkish sentiment-fests. It’s just meant to be clever but goofy fun, and it entirely succeeds.
Although, when I tell you that two of the villains in the piece are Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria, you’ll think that I’ve been sucked in and duped by a flick produced by creationists and anti-monarchist nutbags, which would be a strange alliance indeed.
I have loved the Aardman animated movies, ‘specially the Wallace and Grommet stuff, for a donkey’s age, but I still find their continued existence in this high falutin' day and age somewhat surprising. Surprising in a good way, but I just find that stop-motion animation something that contemporary kids, who have rarely if ever seen that stuff, would find it too ye olde worldy.
There's a charm to it, a physical charm, an expressiveness that is illusive and probably really difficult to achieve, that they do, nonetheless. And it's refreshing to see, after all the goddamn CGI 1s and 0s I've been subjecting myself and my heir to lately.
Having said all that, what I found most enjoyable about the flick were the visual gags (as in the opening seconds, where a title card explaining the time and place is revealed to be being held up by a confused looking chap), the strange Science! based story, and especially the character of the Pirate Captain voiced by Hugh Grant.
Even in our current age where pirate-weariness is at an all-time high, the underlying 'dumb' premise of the story, being the Pirate Captain's fervent wish to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award, leads to a perplexing adventure as the Captain and the crew try to safeguard the most exceptional member of said crew, being Polly. Polly's called a parrot at first, but Polly is actually a dodo, thought extinct for a long while. When they cross paths with Charles Darwin, who reveals himself to be something of a rum cove with a crush on a Queen, it appears the crew have a more fearsome opponent on their hands than just the potential shame of losing.
dir: Gary Ross
For readers of the book the only question is whether Jennifer Lawrence is a credible Katniss Everdeen. For people who haven’t read the books, it would surprise me if they care at all, and surprises me even more that they went in such droves to watch this film, which they have. It’s the biggest film of the year, thus far, which is pretty surprising in itself, and also gratifying.
In my mind at least, the success of The Hunger Games trilogy has always been a statement of quality against that other titan of the teen – young adult genre, being the Twilight series of abominations. Katniss is the anti-Bella Swan, in that she’s a decent and enjoyable female character to follow, who has agency and makes tough decisions concerning her fate and the fates of others. In contrast, Bella is a blank who has two hot supernatural boys fight over her.
There’s no need to fight over her, boys, she’s definitely not worth it.
But Katniss, Katniss Everdeen… It was like Suzanne Collins was saying ‘this kinda thing can be done right’. And so even if the story comes across as a melange of Battle Royale, Running Man, Predator, Nineteen-Eighty-Four and every reality television cliche of the last ten years, it's still the product of a worthy endeavour.
Let me say up front that I loved the books, have read them all, so I'm fairly conversant with the source material. In the interests of being a semi-responsible reviewer, I will set aside that so I can try to talk about it purely as a film.
Nah, can't do it. It's impossible. I can’t pretend to not know what’s coming, or what’s left out.
Right off the bat I’ll say that it’s a reasonable adaptation of a book that’s not that complex. The problem in adapting it is that the book’s narrated in the first person, and a lot of that narration colours what Katniss does and why. Without that insight into why she’s doing things, it’s hard to differentiate (for those who don’t know) between what she seems to be doing, and what she’s actually doing. Some of this was communicated non-verbally, to good effect, but a lot of the time it looks like Katniss is behaving wildly out of character.
It took me a long while to warm to Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She doesn’t match the Katniss I carry around in my head from the books, though that’s not to say she doesn’t do a good job. She does the best she can, and after the halfway point, it no longer matters.
The film is equally split, exactly on the hour, into the pre-Hunger Games section and the Games themselves, so there’s a fairly long set up. Some people I’ve spoken to prefer the first half, but I have to say that it didn’t really click with me until the second half.
The story is set in some distant Cowardly New World that Aldous Huxley himself would spit on in terror if he ever beheld it. The United States we love and cherish is no more. It is now called Panem, and is loosely modelled on both an Orwellian depiction of a totalitarian state and the worst elements of the Roman Empire. There’s the Capital, where everyone dresses like Nicki Minaj (if you don’t know who that is, she generally looks like a combination between a sugary dessert and a child’s toy), and there are twelve districts where the majority of the population live in misery and starvation.
dir: Andrew Stanton
‘Old-school science fiction’ is one of those phrases that seems like it’s too oxymoronic to be allowable to be used in common parlance and polite company. Even if it’s meaningless semantically, I’m still going to use it because I think it’s totally applicable. And what do I mean by such a phrase?
Tarzan in space.
Maybe Flash Gordon is a better example of where it’s coming from. At the very least, it’s not robots and star ships and ethical dilemmas about helping lichens on distant planetoids.
It’s just about a guy, called Herman Merman, no, sorry, he’s called John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), and he was on the losing side of the Civil War. The American one, not the one in England, or Liberia. In the pursuit of a cave full of gold, he mysteriously appears somewhere else. Somewhere very much else.
Without him knowing it, he’s turned up on Mars, which the locals call Barsoom. And on Barsoom, there are really tall green four-armed Martians, some other reddish looking ‘white’ human types, and some shapeshifting shitstirrers, who look like whoever they want. It’s too difficult to unpack the racial implications of much of this stuff, so it’s easier to just drop it on the ground, and back away quietly.
At the very least it’s not as obviously retrograde as that other paragon of science fiction, being Dances with Avatars.
John Carter notices something strange about the planet, being the fact that he seems to treat it like one great big trampoline. Someone else comes along and explains to him later that it possibly has something to do with his body being accustomed to the higher gravity of Earth, which means that he’s like some kind of goddamn superhero on Barsoom, jumping like a hypercaffeinated monkey all over the place.
The green many-armed Martians, or Barsoomians, I guess, at first marvel at him, then they want to kill him, then they want to kill him more, then they love him and want to have his babies. Which brings me to another point: their parenting skills leave much to be desired. Sure, I know they’ve got a completely different physiology and such, but their brutal approach to selecting which hatchlings live and which die makes our culture of helicopter parenting and co-sleeping seem positively precious in comparison.
John Carter, of Virginia, doesn’t give a tinker’s dam about the Barsoomian issues going on, being some villain (Dominic West) trying to take over the city of Helium by hook and by crook, because all he wants is to get back to his cave of gold. But once he spots a Princess, in fact a Princess of Mars called Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), he gets all patriotic and concerned as to what happens to this red planet. Yes, pussy clearly makes the universe go round, and so it should.
dir: Jason Reitman
Charlize Theron was terrifying in Monster, where she played serial killer Aileen Wuornos all those years ago, snagging an Oscar for her performance.
There are scenes in Young Adult where she’s even more horrifying.
She does this thing with her eyes where she leeches them of all human sentiment or human feeling. They transform into the eyes of some infinitely old and infinitely cold alien who observes our species with nothing but contempt.
And then she just acts like a self-centred brat who’s never grown up from being the high school mean/popular girl, who is doomed to be nothing but this for the rest of her life.
When Mavis (Charlize Theron) receives a group e-mail announcing the birth of her married, high-school boyfriend’s daughter, who has been out of her life for decades, she somehow twists this to mean that now is the time for her to return to her shitty home town to rescue him from a life of domesticity and human feeling.
She is a piece of work, a true piece of work. Her alcoholism is only one of her many estimable qualities. When she piles in to her car in order to drive back home to Mercury, Minnesota, with miniature dog in tow, she puts in a tape that dates back to her glory days, to the halcyon, to the peak of existence.
That tape, a mixtape, is just one of the many testaments to a certain age, here. What kids make mixtapes these days? I would hazard a guess that there’s possibly only about five people constructing even ‘mixtape’ CDs worldwide, and they’re probably just perverts.
What’s the contemporary equivalent? Sending a text message with a playlist that has links to the torrentz where some songs could be downloaded? Cram that up your iPod’s nethers and smoke to it, freaks and groovers.
Mavis plays the same song again and again. Actually, not even the entire song. She keeps repeating the intro mostly, again and again, just to hear the words “She wears denim wherever she goes / says she’s gonna get some records by The Status Quo oh yeah / Oh Yeah.”
Oh, yes indeed, it’s a great song from a great album, being The Concept from Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub. It’s meant to date not the film but the protagonist. The strangest thing, for me at least, is that it perfectly situated me in a time and place so I could understand the exact era these halcyon days of hers were meant to be from: the early 90s. If it had been a Nirvana song, that would have been too broad, and too on the nose, too easy. But this song narrowed it down even more.
It’s the way that she keeps playing the first bit of the song that’s even more telling, or possibly even more telling. She can’t even let the rest of the song play, or the tape itself. As if that wasn’t subtle enough, the song plays a key part later on as well.
dir: Chris Renaud
I love Dr Seuss books. I didn’t know that until a couple of years ago, when I started reading them to my daughter. I don’t really remember them from my first go-round, as a kid, but this time, I delight in the rhyming nonsense and the stern moralising underpinning everything that Theodore Geisel thought up and brought out onto the page.
I don’t think they’re necessarily brilliant, or childhood defining, or fundamental to our understanding of society the way that a comprehensive understanding of Greek mythology or Jersey Shore is, but they’re all right as entertainment. Transmuting them in the crucible of Hollywood to animated movies is a relatively pointless endeavour except from the perspective of earning big cash pay offs.
And there's nothing wrong with earning heaps of big money in ethical and environmentally sustainable manners as far as I'm concerned, so hurray for more flicks based on Dr Seuss books! They can only, surely, make the world a better place.
The Lorax is possibly the least subtle and most colourful anti-rampant consumerism big budget animated movie you'll ever see that isn't WALL-E. Unlike WALL-E, however, which was never that subtle to begin with, this flick is aiming determinedly lower. This will never be confused with something put out by Pixar.
That hardly matters, because does anyone really expect a piece of consumerist product to change people's minds, especially about their materialism and, uh, unrestrained consumerism?
Fuck no, that’s never going to happen, and the cognitive dissonance at play, of marketing and merchandising something that seems to be saying marketing and merchandising is bad doesn’t bother anyone except pretentious fucks who wank on about this kind of bullshit in movie reviews posted all over the tubes of the internets.
dir: Bruce Robinson
You didn’t know this, but The Rum Diary is a superhero movie, of a different stripe. More specifically, it’s a superhero origin story, and it stars Johnny Depp.
Yes, yes, we’re all tired of those. But the superhero in question is Hunter S. Thompson, and the origin is that of his relentless, drug-fuelled campaign against the ‘Bastards’, which only came to an end seven years ago in 2005 when he decided to blow his own brains out.
Now, lest you think he fought against people whose parents weren’t married when they were born (a terrible fate for anyone not born lately, apparently), the battle I refer to is that against the dark forces, the forces of greed, the bastards who would carve up paradise and sell it by the gram, laden with sugar and other life-leeching chemicals. The Rum Diary is about how he found his voice, and how he started writing for the public in order to take the Bastards down.
Or, to at least make life difficult for them in the court of public opinion.
That’s, I think, what the purpose was behind the flick. Johnny Depp, who apparently loved the man deeply and profoundly, is trying to convert everything written by the man into a film, and has essentially played Thompson twice now, both here and in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I suspect that every few years, whenever there’s a lull in his schedule, he’s going to make more flicks as Hunter S, alternating between him and Captain Jack Sparrow in those damned Pirates of the Caribbean flicks. Damned unnecessary, I say!
dir: Ralph Fiennes
Speaking of Shakespeare, as I was in that recent review for Anonymous: damn, he really wrote, whoever it was, a lot of plays, thirty-eight in fact. I mean, that’s prolific. And, as with any prolific authors, they’ve got stuff no-one wants to know about, Kenneth Brannagh doesn’t want to direct, and Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t want to star in.
So it’s left up to Ralph Fiennes, still smarting from his goofy brother Joseph Fiennes getting to play the Bard in Shakespeare in Love, to direct and star in Coriolanus.
They used to think it was based on someone who really existed, and something that really happened, but it probably didn’t. That doesn’t stop a Fiennes, though, does it? And it hardly matters for the purposes of whether we’re entertained or not.
It’s set in somewhat ‘modern’ times, though the empire depicted is the Roman one, so all the references are old timey. I’ve also heard, though it’s not obvious from watching it, Fiennes’ intention was to make it look like the Balkans in the 90s, when European unity (and contemporary genocide) was at its finest.
The Coriolanus of the title is the main character, a Roman general who, until recently, was known only as Caius Marcius. He is really good at soldiery and ordering troops around. He's even better at killing the enemy. When Rome's enemies rear their ugly but still compelling heads, Caius will be there to crush them, and crush them good.
This isn't enough for some people, though. The common people of Rome, the plebians, they are not that enamoured of this chap, who some find haughty and too proud. In fact, they downright hate him for not handing out grain, like they want, just because they've got nothing to eat.
Goddamn starving freeloaders. Don't they know that conservative economic policies haven't been invented yet to justify their starvation by claiming that the free market deems them not worthy of living, and that the grain will better serve the wealthy if it stays locked up and eventually rots in granaries? Selfish, selfish people. They're so selfish that they agitate, threaten, protest and demonstrate against this prince amongst men, this lion amongst meerkats. Against all counsel, he goes out to tell them just what he thinks of them.
dir: Stephan Elliot
I am a simple man. Anyone who’s ever met me or read these here reviews will probably have figured that out for themselves by now. So if I watch a comedy whose sole purpose is to make me laugh, presumably, then I consider that comedy to be a success if I laugh.
In that light, to put it very simplistically, this movie made me laugh, it is a comedy, so therefore I give it my highest honour possible, being “eh, it wasn’t too bad.”
That’s not to say that it’s a good film, by any definition other than the one I just offered. It’s clumsy, it’s poorly acted, it’s erratically edited, it’s got actors in it who shouldn’t be in it, or in films in general and specifically, and it’s got a lot of crude, stupid humour.
Shit like that, though, literally and figuratively, makes me laugh sometimes, and I laughed a handful of times while watching this trenchant and probing examination of marriage in the current milieu.
Being a simple man doesn’t stop me from over-complicating things endlessly, though. The main reason for that is this: I’m a simple man who’s also intensely neurotic. So allow me to offer apologies and explanations for this here review and this here flick.
I thought this was an Australian flick made for domestic consumption, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It became pretty obvious after a while that there was a thoroughly misguided attempt to make this flick in Australia aimed at a British audience.
Most of the flick transpires at a stately country manner perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Blue Mountains, possibly one of the most beautiful parts of the entire world. Every time the flick used a certain shot where the big sky appeared in the background, I would filter out the humans in shot, and whatever the hell they were saying, and just sigh at the beauty of that vista, of that panorama, of that exquisite vision splendid.
Then I’d be rudely dragged back into a very contrived and very clumsy story relating to a bunch of Brits acting like total fuckwits in Australia.
dir: Roland Emmerich
Roland Emmerich has previously been best known for making some of the most explode-y and truly stupid movies the cinema and your eyes have ever played host to. Independence Day, 2012, The Patriot, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC – there are more, and it’s a long, ignoble list of universal infamy.
So why’s he making a movie about the ‘real’ story behind William Shakespeare, when Shakespeare has about as much in common with Emmerich’s cinematic atrocities as Andrew Dice Clay, Pauly Shore or Rodney Rude do?
Who knows? I mean, I could look it up. I’m sure there’s dozens of interviews with him giving what he claims is the real motivation for doing so, but, considering the fact that most of that sort of PR guff is bullshit anyway, I choose not to inform myself in such a manner.
It’s far more tempting to just guess, based on scant or no evidence, as to his deep-seeded desire to tear down someone substantially greater than himself.
If someone like Kenneth Brannagh, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Judi Dench, a literature scholar or one of the Kardashians tried it, you’d think it arose because of their deep connection to and love for Shakespeare’s works, since they’d seemingly devoted much of their lives (or their bandwagons) to him. But because of that connection, there could be an assumption made that they’re not, like Iago from Othello, motivated by just motiveless malice.
When a hack like Emmerich, someone responsible for films as lobotmised and terrible as anything Michael Bay has ever managed, just with less robots, makes a movie where the whole point is that Shakespeare was an illiterate hack and never wrote the plays he was acclaimed for, you suspect that resentment and envy are the key.
Ultimately, though, and whilst I strongly and loudly assert that not for a second do I believe any of the alternate / conspiracy theory scenario at play here, I don’t think that’s what motivated him.
The main point the flick is trying to make is that the works themselves, works the flick never really devotes much time to in an artistic sense, are sublime and truly eternal, but that pretty much every living being in the Elizabethan Age was a scoundrel, a scumbag and a fuck-up.