Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids

So many ways this is about Employees of the Weak

dir: Miguel Arteta

I have never been to Cedar Rapids. It’s very unlikely that I’m ever going to go to Cedar Rapids. It is in Iowa, in the States, after all. It’s not like anyone should ever go to Cedar Rapids, because it seems to be the city equivalent of the colour beige.

But I very much enjoyed watching this flick called Cedar Rapids.

Deceptive title. It’s not about Cedar Rapids. It’s about a somewhat strange but mostly harmless chap called Tim (Ed Helms), who’s led a very sheltered life thus far. He’s not a manchild like the majority of the manchild arrested development shitbirds who populate the majority of movies these days. But he is someone who has lived a fairly quiet life, who has never travelled and who has never wanted to.

In some ways he’s like the main character from The Truman Show except without thousands of conspiring people and millions of dollars worth of artifice keeping him ground down and in place for ratings and product placement opportunities.

Rating:

Rango

Rango

I think Johnny Depp's aging okay, for such an old man

dir: Gore Verbinski

I guess it was inevitable, but it still comes as something of a surprise. Considering the extra cost slapped on tickets for 3D flicks at the cinema, one day a studio was going to decide that it was a safe bet to make a CGI animated flick for adults.

I don’t mean like a 3D porno CGI animated flick for the cinemas, which would probably be as eye-gouging as it sounds. I mean a flick that has all the cutting edge visual effects stuff, but a screenplay no kid on this planet could give a fuck about.

Rango is as much Western homage as it is a testament to the power of Johnny Depp. To a lesser extent, it’s also a testament to Gore Verbinski’s sway, being able to convince a studio to sink a shitload of money into something kids would find duller than vegetables and algebra.

Rating:

Love and Other Drugs

Love & Other Drugs

Yes, you should have kept your pie holes shut

dir: Edward Zwick

It tries, oh it tries. Yes, I know it’s an old flick. I feel the obligation to review it all the same.

Why? Well, it’s not very clear to me either, but maybe I’ll stumble over a few reasons as we go along.

Love and Other Drugs sets itself firmly in the 1990s by opening to a montage set to the rocking tones of Two Princes, that fucking wretched song by no-hit-wonders The Spin Doctors. That song alone already put me in a bad mood as the flick began.

This is, somewhat perversely, based on someone’s actual life and experiences. Jaime Reidy, an actual human, apparently, worked in the pharmaceutical industry and experienced many of the experiences such an individual has to have in order to need a yuppie redemption story to be made about them.

Human history, for those either working in the drug industry, who suffer from erectile dysfunction or who are trying to have sex with someone with erectile dysfunction, is divided sharply into BV and AV: Before Viagra and After Viagra. This flick follows suit, because clearly nothing in human history has ever been as important as that single invention.

Yeah, Fuck You, Galileo, Edison, Einstein, Tesla, Newton, Curie, Franklin, Wilkins, Watson, Crick and Hawking! What have any of you achieved compared to the magnificence of a four-hour erection? Your collective discoveries amount to Nothing. Less than Nothing!

Rating:

Thor

Thor

You think you're Thor? I can hardly walk straight!

dir: Kenneth Branagh

More comic book movies. More Marvel comic book movies! See, the waddling Comic Book Guys of the world don’t have enough to entertain themselves with and bitch about across the vast expanse of the tubes of the internets already.

There weren’t enough goddamn Spider-Men, Supermen, X-Men, Iron Men, Batmen, Hulk Men, Man Men flicks out there stinking up the joint as it was?

Of course it’s never going to end because the golden age continues. They make billions of dollars, and they convince grown adults to buy merchandise for themselves to put on their desks at work, without the least amount of shame or reluctance. That’s a fucking money spinner, that is. Comic book franchises make money rain from the skies, so it makes sense that the Microsoft of the comics world, being Marvel, invested a shitload of money setting up their own studio to make these delightful and delicious flicks themselves with greater regularity and with more direct profits to themselves.

And thus, Marvel Studios brings us The Mighty Thor!

As tempted as I am to keep ripping the shit out of them and this flick just for the mere fact of their lazy existence, I’m not going to. Mostly, I’m not going to because I actually enjoyed Thor, ridiculous as that seems. Embarrassing as it might be.

Rating:

Fast & Furious 5

Fast 5

Quick, everyone find someone to rub steroid-enhanced muscles against

dir: Justin Lin

Wow, five movies in, this series must have some serious foundations to it. It must have deep and complex dramatic character trajectories, resonant symbolism and references extending back over the collective 10 hours or so of Fast and the Furious mythology that audiences have come to crave and demand. People don’t just want Fast Furious flicks, they’re threatening to overthrow the Empire if they don’t get their Fast Furious fix every few years.

Or maybe, just like any bad thing that keeps coming back like a brain craving zombie, they just keep coming back because they are tremendously, inexplicably liked by audiences and they want to eat our delicious brains.

I can’t really say whether this is a good Fast Furious flick, better than the others, or worse. I’ve seen them all but can recall very little about any of their plots or what the point of any of it was apart from having people race cars very fast and yell at each other loudly in moments where men in love with each other can’t express their emotions in positive ways, so they bump each other’s chests and threaten each other.

Rating:

Scream 4

The only thing that should really die is this franchise

dir: Wes Craven

There doesn’t need to be a Scream 4. It doesn’t need to exist. Then again, you could argue that any number of things don’t need to exist, that do exist. Instant coffee. Pancake hotdogs. The Royal Family. Syphilitic chancres. Syphilitic Royals.

Scream 4 has as much right to exist as any other crappy flick trading on a franchise’s name to justify its own existence. Look, we live in a world where there are seven or eight Saw films, five Superman flicks. Hell, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants got a sequel. Alvin and the Chipmunks got a sequel, called The Squeakquel. People keep making them, people keep watching them, they keep making money, I keep reviewing them, and the Circle of Crapulence rolls on.

I watched Scream 4 with the same jaded eye that I watched any of the preceding flicks in the series. They’re all as good or as bad as each other (in that they’re all pretty crap, except perhaps for the first one, which was slightly less crap) and as such even a horror fan has difficulty differentiating them from any of the other flicks where people are killed in order of annoyingness over the course of 90 minutes, until one person survives, and the status of a sequel is left open in some way.

Rating:

Hanna

Awfully big gun for such a little girl

dir: Joe Wright

This is an odd film, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. Far from it. It’s actually much better than it has any right to be.

The oddest thing about it is that I was sure it must have been directed by Tom Tykwer, the German director responsible for the decent flick Run Lola Run, and the tremendous flick Perfume. But, no. It’s Joe Wright, responsible for the ordinary version of Pride and Prejudice with that bony hag Keira Knightley, and that great version of Atonement with all those other good actors including that bony hag Keira Knightley.

Hanna has him venturing into unknown, yet ultimately familiar territory. The real point of the flick doesn’t become obvious until the Brothers Grimm fairy tale allusions start piling up like a sink full of stinky dishes until you can’t ignore them anymore.

The Hanna of the title, Saoirse Ronan, is a very young, alien looking creature. She either looks like an Aryan superchild, or one of the more grown up children from the Village of the Damned. She hunts and survives in the icy wilds of some place. Out of goddamn nowhere, some bearded lunatic (Eric Bana) starts trying to kill her dead. She’s pretty well trained in lethal hand-to-hand combat, though, and she holds her own.

Rating:

Hobo With a Shotgun

Hobo shotgun

No, it's not from 30 years ago! It's fresh and rotten today!

dir: Jason Eisener
[
We see a lot of films that were filmed in Canada. It’s cheaper for nearly every single goddamn American tv series and movie to be filmed there. We don’t see that many Canadian films, though. They’re rare. Rare as teeth in Saskatoon.

What are even rarer are Canadian films from Halifax, Nova Scotia. When was the last time you heard of a flick filmed in Halifax or Dartmouth?

Never, that’s when. And from the looks of this film, there’s a very good reason for it.

At first I thought the setting of the flick was some post-apocalyptic wasteland. Then I realised that that’s what Halifax must look like all the time.

In the flick it’s called Hope Town, but, in a stunning example of irony, there’s barely any hope at all for the good citizens of Hope Town. Ruled as they are by a strange man who calls himself The Drake who seems not to do much apart from kill people randomly in the streets, their town has degenerated into an ugly cesspool. Or, alternatively, it is raising itself up to the status of an ugly cesspool.

He has two annoying sons called Slick and Ivan, actors so bad I refuse to look their names up, who yell every line of dialogue they have, and who also kill random people in the street. The police, for reasons never really explained, not only turn a blind eye to the excesses of these morons, they actively help them in their endeavours, because, I guess, they’re deranged morons as well.

Rating:

Paul

Paul

Aliens walk among us. And they're very rude

dir: Greg Mottola

This flick is a perfect storm of nerd signposts and signifiers so nerdish in their nerdishness that it’s akin to watching a table full of Comic-Book Guys playing with their Magic the Gathering cards, drinking Pepsi Max straight from the bottle for an hour and a half.

However, before you suspect that I’m going to go for cheap and easy laughs mocking the indefensible, and an easy pop cultural target at that, let me just say that I am a fairly nerdy person myself (as are all people who obsessively watch movies and complain about them on the tubes of the internets, let’s be honest about it), so the question for me is whether Paul is a tolerable movie because of its nerdiness or in spite of it.

Well, the two are inseparable, really. Since its two lead characters are nerds playing nerds (quite deftly, I might add), and it’s a homage to the science fiction flicks of the 1980s (mostly, though Close Encounters was earlier), and one of its main characters is a CGI alien, you can’t really grade it on its Shakespearean qualities or its Byronic pathos.

Clive and Graeme (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) are two British nerds who’ve achieved the dream of a lifetime by travelling to the States and going to the Comic-Con event in San Diego. Some people aim high in their dreams, others aim low, but the important thing is to have a dream, I guess, no matter how achievable.

Rating:

I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris

Love, exciting and new. Come aboard, they're expecting you

dir: Glenn Ficara and John Requa

Gee, I wonder why this flick, which has somehow only now reached Australian cinemas (Cinema Nova in Melbourne), nearly three years after its production, never really got a decent release at the cinemas in the States.

Could it be because of the subject matter: a con artist in love who perpetrates stacks of scams in order to keep himself and the object of his affections in the comfort they have become accustomed to? Is it because it’s based on a true story? Hollywood hates that. Is it because of where much of the flick is set, being prison? Is it because Jim Carrey is the lead actor, and no-one’s heard of this young up-and-comer, or Ewan McGregor in a supporting role, and studios are reluctant to release flicks with such unknowns in the lead?

Or is it because it’s the gayest flick this side of one of those Sex In the City movies?

Brokeback Mountain didn’t really break down that many barriers or walls of prejudice in terms of changing the dynamic that dictates what flicks get out there into the intellectual marketplace or the cinematic marketplace. Sure, a casual stroll through one of those dinosaur DVD stores might grace you with the vision of a section devoted to movies considered to be representatives of the Gay and Lesbian genre (a ghetto that resides next to the world movies and ‘special’ interest documentaries and such.

Rating:

Source Code

Source Code

Trying guessing what the film's actually about just from the poster

dir: Duncan Jones

Singer and national treasure Paul Kelly had the violent alcoholic’s lament If I Could Start Today Again, reincarnation-believers base their whole religious-spiritual existence on the allowance of do-overs, and computer game players long have known the joy of getting another chance (depending on how many lives you have left) to make things right.

They all come from the same source, they all appeal to the same part of us that wishes the universe could allow for multiple chances to get things right. If we could just have one more shot, if we could only have replayed some moment from our lives, and done something right, then everything else would have worked out right. If only…

Well, our universe doesn’t work like that, but our art does, so when a science fiction flick comes along based around that very idea, then we’re supposed to be throwing our hands up in hallelujahs at the chance to bask in the warming glow of wish fulfilment with Jake goddamn Gyllenhaal as our stand-in.

Rating:

Drive Angry

Drive Angry

He looks confused or bemused more than angry. Maybe that can
be the sequel? I'd go see Drive Slightly Bemused. I would.

dir: Patrick Lussier

Drive Angry. Drive Angry 3D, no less. A film that, in any just universe, would have been the last 3D flick ever made, because it finally displayed in a definitive form just how wretched and pointless the format is.

This isn’t a just universe we live in, though, as you should well know by now. According to this flick, however, there is some kind of eternal balance sheet at work, with debits and credits just itching to be calculated.

If you want to know whether it’s possible for you to enjoy this flick, this is the litmus test for you: the premise of the flick is that a bad, bad man called John Milton (Nicolas Cage) breaks out of Hell in order to save his granddaughter from some loathsome cultists. They never explain how, but they just explained why.

If you’re the kind of person who then sits there in the cinema muttering under your breath “Well, how the fuck did he get out?”, perpetually dissatisfied and disgruntled because of that lack of crucial explanation, then nothing that comes after will seem at all tolerable. No manner of shootings or blood spattered breasts will satisfy that niggling voice in your head with such a mindset.

Rating:

Battle Los Angeles

Battle Los Angeles

Big thing probably go boom by movie's end

dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Finally, Shakycam has come of age. It’s been a long, agonising adolescence, but this most painful of weapons in the director’s / cinematographer’s arsenal is now constituting the entire running length of goddamn movies. Even the opening titles get to squiggle and spaz around like a meth addict with no meth, money or people to blow for money.

Eh, it’s not so bad. Depending on the venue, I find that if I sit far enough back from the screen, instead of being actively aggravating, it’s just a mild irritant at worst and a confusing blur at best. Far enough in this context is right up the back against the goddamn wall.

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles is the full title of the flick, apparently, which seems to imply that if it’s successful enough, an entire series of World Invasion flicks will ensue. World Invasion: Battle Morwell, World Invasion: Battle Ulan Bator and World Invasion: Battle Yackandandah are doubtless on the cards if the right return on investment is achieved. Considering the fact that much of the flick looks like it was filmed on someone’s mobile phone, and that the aliens themselves look like they were created on a Commodore 64 computer, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to break even.

Rating:

Limitless

Limitless

He is here to fuck all your girlfriends. Just look at
that facial expression.

dir: Neil Burger

My memory still works fairly well, even at my tender age. It’s not eidetic (photographic), but it’s not porous or sieve-like either, especially since I scaled back on the drinking after becoming a dad. Somewhat. Relatively.

I recall seeing, in some magazine, some kind of ad for something. See how great my memory is? In the ad, which was black and white, there was an image of a brain at the top of the page, and the fairly famous trope expressed as Einstein saying something about how humans only use ten percent of their brains, and imagine what potential we could unlock if we could get the rest of it working? Narrowing down the likely publications, it was either a science magazine like Omni, a comic book or Playboy.

I have remembered the diabolical claim all my life, since I was but a callow child when I first read it. I heard the concept repeated continuously throughout the 1980s, mostly by types of people with certainty about how they had psychic powers or some other supernatural / spiritual bullshit. I even remember a science teacher in school repeating the claim as truth. Honestly, I really should have gone to a better school.

Rating:

Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood

There's not much decent stuff here, but she does have a hood

dir: Catherine Hardwicke

So, chicks dig this stuff, huh? Tame mixtures of the supernatural and the melodramatic, and the direct competition of two hunky lunkheads wanting to kill each other over you, and that’s the ticket for fiddly remembrances in the bath?

Surely women have higher standards than that? Surely it takes more to satisfy them than that?

I’m going to quote famous dead film critic Pauline Kael for a second, but not in a filmic capacity. She once expressed surprise and shock that Nixon won re-election, because she didn’t know a single person who voted for him. Of course, this quote has been used more to show how self-selecting her circle of acquaintances was, rather than the validity of her knowing what a likely political outcome would be.

In that spirit of same insular cluelessness, I don’t know a single girl or woman who likes this kind of supernatural – romantic bullshit, whether it’s explicitly Twilight or not, or ersatz Twilight like this movie. Not a one. Sure, most of the women I’ve ever known are too intelligent for this bullshit, but can I really use them as my sample size for judging the population of women?

Surely not, since someone has to buy those mentally defective celeb magazines, and those products promising eternal youth, eternal desirability and bras more torture device than structural support. And it’s not me.

Rating:

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau

I think the buildings are after them. And the hats.

dir: George Nolfi

Great, another film convincing paranoid schizophrenics that someone really IS out to get them…

This fairly good flick, which I liked a lot, is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the mentally ill science fiction writer who’s been dead a long while. Almost every science fiction movie, if not every movie is either based on or should be based on something Philip K. Dick came up with. And why not. His most famous adaptation is of course Blade Runner, but there are probably nearly a hundred other monstrosities based on his stuff out there as well.

The important element you need to grasp about Dick’s writing, if you know or care nothing about him or his writing, is that paranoia underlaid virtually everything he ever wrote. Almost every novel or short story of his that I can remember has a protagonist, who may or may not be crazy, who senses or gleans that someone is either after him or tinkering at the edges of his reality. And always always always, if someone thinks ‘they’ are out to get him, ‘they’ always are. None of his protagonists ever realise in the end that they were just being irrational and paranoid. Never ever ever. Now that’s some good support for the delusions of the mentally ill right there.

Rating:

Inside Job

dir: Charles Ferguson
[img_assist|nid=1396|title=Liars, fibbers and whoremongers, oh my|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=408|height=605]
With documentaries, sometime it’s the content, far more so than the quality of how it’s put together, that’s the defining element deciding whether it works or not. Sure, I am the first person in human history to point out that documentaries tend to veer between polemical and propagandistic, so it’s the most obvious thing to point out ever, but it’s far more true of this ‘genre’ than any of the others. There’s usually far less revelation, and far more letters-to-the-editor aggravation.

Inside Job seeks to illustrate for us what went on and wrong in the lead up to that recent minor economic kerfuffle you might have heard about or lost your job over, charmingly referred to as the Global Financial Crisis. The most important word in that phrase is not the first one, anti-globalisation crusaders, or the last one, catastrophists and doomsayers. It’s the middle one, because, as Matt Damon’s soothing and scolding voiceover articulates for our benefit, it was the goblins of high finance, abetted by cowardly governments that were the ones that did the dirty.

Rating:

Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch

Serious face for seriously stupid times

dir: Dominic Sena

There used to be, in my arsenal of movie reviewing weapons, a basic metric for assessing generally the likely worth or shiteness of a flick Nicolas Cage was in. This basic metric came down to this: The shittier the hairpiece or wig, the shittier the performance and the crappier the overall film.

Of course, past a certain age, every flick Cage was in ‘required’ the usage of skilled hairpiece technicians, teams of them, working around the clock, and separating Cage’s crappier performances from his decent performances proved a mission impossible in its scope and objective.

As such, his every flick has a hairpiece now, and most, if not all, are terrible in new ways previously unimagined by the hackiest of Hollywood hacks.

And yet, and yet, he still occasionally puts in semi-decent (but still completely lunatic) performances in semi-decent (but ludicrous) flicks. I’m not thinking of Adaptation, the Kaufman / Spike Jonz flick, which was a class act all around, but of more recent fare like the very strange Bad Lieutenant remake.

Of course, for each Bad Lieutenant, considering how prolific the guy is, there’s dozens of Ghost Riders, National Treasures, Sorceror’s Apprentices and every other permutation and combination of wretchedness and villainy you can sorrowfully imagine.

Rating:

Howl

Howl

Nerds with powerful words

dir: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

Wow – can you imagine, even for a second, anything as totally fucking thrilling as a movie about a poem? You can’t, your petty little mind can’t encompass anything as utterly mind-blowing as that without having an aneurysm, for sure.

So be warned, those of jaded palates and timid dispositions – here comes Howl to blow away your petty lives and sclerotic brains.

Yeah, well, maybe the fuck not.

A poem is just a poem, after all, and Howl, the movie, doesn’t even conform to the basic parameters of ‘movieness’ enough to imply that this is a movie about the life and times of Allen Ginsberg, Poet Laureate of the Beat Generation, and his writing of the epic poem Howl. What it is, is something more, and far less at the same time.

It’s far less, because James Franco plays Ginsberg in the 1950s as a fairly young man, basically giving a monologue about ‘his’ life and times before, during and slightly after the writing and performance of Howl. In between footage of himself reading the poem aloud to some lousy beatniks at some hovel of a beatnik club, he sits there talking about himself, mostly in black and white, but sometimes in colour. The colour bits where he sits there in his flannel shirt with a fake beard pasted on have the unfortunate effect of making it look like he’s playing George Lucas, instead of Ginsberg. You could hardly think of a worse fate for a man.

Rating:

Catfish

dir: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
[img_assist|nid=1389|title=Catfish are not tasty. Do not click on the fish.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=338]
The lifeblood, the cornerstone, the fundamental currency of documentary filmmaking is credibility. The subjects, as in, the people being interviewed don’t have to necessarily be credible, since there are a lot of quality documentaries about dishonest or deeply delusional, misguided people (the Aileen Wuornos: Selling of a Serial Killer doco, Fog of War, Tyson, Mr Death: the Rise and Fall of Fred Leuchter Jr), so I have zero problems with unreliable interviewees.

The people who we have to trust as being credible are the ones making the documentary. Michael Moore squandered a lot of the goodwill his earlier documentaries engendered in the public once revelations as to the level of ‘creativity’ involved in putting together his various screeds, manipulating facts and the depiction of events to buttress his arguments, came out. Also, he's a bit of a hypocrite, but his documentaries have forcibly improved in the interim.

The people involved in this documentary don’t strike me as being very credible, honest or forthright in their depiction of events. It doesn’t completely torpedo the doco, because, after all, it’s about dishonesty. I just would prefer it if the makers could be a tad more honest than the fabulist at the core of this story.

Rating:

The Mechanic

dir: Simon West
[img_assist|nid=1387|title=If Jason Statham wants to do ballet in the middle of an action flick who is going to argue with him?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
There are remakes and then there are remakes. In theory, and it’s a very Hollywood-based theory, anything remade that puts Jason Statham in the lead role is going to be inherently better than the original, and will make lots of dollars because everyone loves Jason Statham.

Surely, he’s a household name? Your mum even knows who he is, clucking her tongue at his violent onscreen antics, but finding him a charming man all the same. Although she probably doesn’t remember his name.

As strange as it sounds to assert, Jason Statham would have to be the biggest action star in Hollywood currently. Who else has been in as many arse-kicking, explosions and tits movie recently? He’s the king, and he’s uncontested, for now.

Though I can’t really figure out why.

Sure, he looks like he’s carved from granite, and acts like it, and can glower with the best of them, but surely someone needs something more than that to climb to the lofty heights of action moviedom?

Rating:

The Green Hornet

dir: Michel Gondry
[img_assist|nid=1385|title=Please just go away, no, don't talk, just go|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=299]
Terrible, utterly terrible. A crime against humanity and basic decency. An abomination unto future generations and an affront to God.

Well., that’s enough about my weekend in thrall to the demon drink. Jeez, was that messy. What… what was I thinking?

No, instead I’m here to warn you, and to warn future generations not to bother with this flick. The Green Hornet is a superhero crimefighter action flick so badly thought out in its premise and so poorly executed (and poorly cast), that I’m amazed it was ever released. Really, this is something that shouldn’t even be illegally downloaded.

Honestly, I can’t act for shit, and I’m nowhere near as funny as Seth Rogen might be, but I would have made a better lead in this flick.

And I’m definitely not Hollywood material. I’m not even Cleveland material.

Hell, I’m not even Mt Isa, Dubbo or even Newcastle material.

Rating:

Tron Legacy

dir: Joseph Kosinski
[img_assist|nid=1383|title=Wow, it's like looking into the recent past|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=643]
Great looking film, seriously. It looks amazing. I loved every visual second of this phantasmagorical virtual shiny neon action science fiction apotheosis of computer programming.

It’s true. I play a lot of video games, I’ve watched a lot of movies, and this is a pinnacle of visual entertainment.

Oh, wait a second, I have to qualify something a bit further. I loved every single centimetre of visual real estate that didn’t involve humans or people talking.

Really, visually and aurally, thanks to an amazing soundtrack / score by Daft Punk, who have a curious cameo in full costume, so it could have been two Banksies instead for all I know, it’s amazing. But when the humans intruded, what with their annoying heads and flapping gums. The problem is when they start talking. And continue talking.

Even worse, when people say deeply stupid shit like “now that’s what I’m talking about” in a flick that probably cost a billion dollars to put together, it makes me wonder whether the studio is taking a diarrhoeic dump, wrapping it up in nanotechnological silk scarves and then singing “Happy Birthday” to me as it hands it over, expecting me to not only pay for it, but to be grateful about it as well.

Rating:

Confessions (Kokuhaku)

dir: Tetsuya Nakashima
[img_assist|nid=1381|title=Remember the days of the old school yard? We used to bleed a lot|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
From revenge… to more revenge. This time, we’re doing it Japanese style.

Now, just to get all simplistic, reductive and borderline racist, if the old saying regarding revenge goes that it is a dish best served cold, like sushi, then what this particular director and cast do is take that revenge, like a platter full of sushi, dip it into a tank of liquid nitrogen, and shatter the freeze-burned remains with a HIV-covered sledgehammer.

Man, do they serve this revenge up cold. And, man, do the Japanese hate school kids.

Confessions is a flick where a whole bunch of people confess to each other or to us in the audience in order to tell the story. There are bits where people talk to each other, but mostly people are talking in monologues.

Our first speaker is a junior high school teacher who explains to her class that she’s quitting her job, and why. For the next half hour, mostly she stands in front of the class and talks earnestly but quietly to a bunch of savages who are barely in their teens. They carry on like they’re on the island from either Lord of the Flies or Battle Royale, just with lots of texting involved, but they listen and react whenever she says any crucial element of her story.

Rating:

The Kids Are All Right

dir: Lisa Cholodenko
[img_assist|nid=1375|title=Insufferable. Utterly insufferable.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=284]
And here is the last of my reviews of the ten flicks of 2010, nine destined to lose the award for Best Picture, and the one that will doubtless win at the upcoming Academy Awards. I've seen and reviewed all the rest (Toy Story 3, True Grit, Social Network, King’s Speech, Winter’s Bone, Inception, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The Fighter), and felt, for some inexplicable reason, that I had to review the one remaining flick if I was ever going to pretend to have an informed and important opinion about the annual filmic circle jerk scheduled to occur on Monday.

Whoopee for me.

So here’s my review of The Kids Are All Right. Enjoy.

If you permit me to enter the American Culture Wars for a moment, and if you’ll grant me the license to pontificate about the aforementioned despite the clear fact that I have absolutely no stake in that polarising political / ideological bullshit by dint of nationality or geographical location, please just let me say the following: This flick reminds me of how utterly insufferable we are.

Rating:

The Illusionist (L'Illusionniste)

dir: Sylvain Chomet
[img_assist|nid=1372|title=And stay out of my goddamn hat, you puffed up rodent!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=252]
The Illusionist, not to be confused with the flick of the same name that came out a few year’s ago with Ed Norton as a weirdo with a beardo, is the fourth film we can believe that Jacques Tati wanted to make but never got the chance to.

Who’s Jacques Tati, I hear you ask, already overwhelmed with irritated yawns before finishing your own thought process? Well, he was a French guy who made some films that pretty much tried to outdo everything Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton did, except he did it about thirty years after they did it, when colour and sound existed in cinema as well.

Jour de Fete, Mon Oncle, Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, Traffic – these are famous flicks to film wankers, turtleneck wearers and chin strokers the world over, but they might not be common currency amongst most people. Sure, I’ve seen them, but I am a film wanker who strokes his chin ever so definitively, though turtlenecks are a bridge too far.

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Let Me In

dir: Matt Reeves
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Remakes. The making thereof. Proof of creative bankruptcy, or just outright mercenary greed?

Let the Right One In was only made a few years ago, but it suffered from being made in the native language of its author, being Swedish. When certain Hollywoody types saw that film, they thought, “The film is so awesome that the only way we can improve upon it is by making it in American. That’ll earn us a packet, and show the Swedes how it’s really done.”

Of course, they remade it, it was little seen, and the point of the exercise, or the merits, remain solely on the artistic level.

I liked Let the Right One In plenty when I saw it at the cinema, and I read the book as well. In Swedish, initially, which was quite frustrating, since I can’t read Swedish. Then I tried in Swahili, then Farsi, and finally in an English translation. The book is solid, too. I have no particular axe to grind against an American remake in theory, so I went into this with my closest approximation of an open mind.

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127 Hours

dir: Danny Boyle
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Whatever problems I might have had with Danny Boyle’s films in the past, whatever misgivings I might have had dwindled to nothing fifteen minutes into this film. In the first few minutes I was worried that I was going to be watching something closer to The Beach or Life Less Ordinary end of Boyle’s oeuvre, rather than the actually watchable, decent end of the Boylian spectrum (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire).

But then something happened at exactly 15 minutes in, and the title flashed up on the screen, and I realised that Aron Ralston’s (played by James Franco) real story had just started.

And oh holy fuck what a story it is.

That it’s a true story, and a very narrowly defined story, based entirely on the relevant 127 Hours in question of Ralston’s life, would almost make you think that telling this story in movie form would be impossible. Telling it well, at least. Telling it poorly would seem to be piss-easy. Telling it so that it’s heroically bad would take real hack skills, some of which Boyle has hinted at in the past.

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Blue Valentine

dir: Derek Cianfrance
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Jesus, what a fucking depressing film.

Maybe it’s not entirely depressing, just mostly depressing. At the very least, it’s wrenching, gutting and very uncomfortable. And sad.

And what’s it about? Well, it’s about two people not in love anymore.

I don’t think I could ever bring myself to watch this flick again. That’s not entirely true: it’s really well made, I guess. And the music is really nice and appropriate, and heartbreaking at certain points. And it’s well filmed and well acted.

But, jeez, does it hurt to think about it.

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple who are clearly not happy. Their marriage is clearly headed towards dissolution. Dean is surly, drunk and hectoring, passive aggressive as well as just outright aggressive, fuelled by his sensing that Cindy is shutting him out.

Cindy clearly cannot stand Dean anymore, and their every remark to each other is brittle, jagged and fraught with peril. Don’t mistake this for some highfalutin Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf retread where sophisticates are tossing martini-enhanced barbs and cutting witticisms at each other. They, being the two leads, play it like real people unwilling to face the reality that they shouldn’t be together anymore.

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True Grit

True Grit

That's some mighty fine squint-acting y'all doing there

dir: Coens

2010

Remakes are usually pointless. They’re often just emblematic of the risk averse nature of Hollywood, which wants only to shiny up the tried and true for profit and plaudits. This isn’t even the first time the brothers Coen have remade something: they did it before with The Ladykillers, receiving global yawns for their troubles.

But they’ve also made a career out of making films about other films, or at least films that don’t usually exist as separate, independent entities, but which exist on that ironic meta level as if to comment on the genre they’re indulging in at that given time.

True Grit is fairly straight ahead, down the line, and doesn’t indulge as much in their genre commentary; as in, it’s not like it either deconstructs the earlier flick starring John Wayne, or the Western genre itself. The story comes from a book, and they’ve stayed true both to the book and the earlier film, without indulging Jeff Bridges the way John Wayne was indulged by the makers of the earlier flick.

The real main character of the film isn’t Rooster Cogburn, played as a fat, drunken, vicious idiot by Jeff Bridges, it’s Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a fourteen-year-old girl looking for justice. Or vengeance, whichever.

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