An Education

dir: Lone Scherfig
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If I was to tell you that this flick is the coming-of-age tale of a private schoolgirl seduced by an older, sophisticated man, then you’d tell me that this is clearly a porno or at the very least a remake of Rochelle, Rochelle, an young girl’s erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.

If I was then to tell you that it is nothing of the sort, and if I apologised profusely for having made a Seinfeld reference in one of my reviews, then you’d probably still not be interested in what is otherwise quite a charming little flick set in the early part of the 1960s.

Based on the memoirs of journalist Lynn Barber, with a screenplay written by Nick Hornby (of High Fidelity and About a Boy fame), An Education is set in 1961, and looks at what goes on in the life of an intelligent but unworldly girl called Jenny (Carey Mulligan), who comes across the path of a charming and sophisticated (from her limited perspective) older man called David (Peter Sarsgaard).

See, you could only get away with setting a flick like this in the 60s. Back in those halcyon days, the creepy setup looks a little less creepy. Back then you are meant to see it a little bit more as people being a product of their times, and acting accordingly. It's still creepy, but, y'know...

Rating:

Hangover, The

dir: Todd Phillips
[img_assist|nid=1131|title=We are funny, very funny|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=229]
This flick, being a comedy, being set in Vegas, is by its nature the laziest goddamn movie you could possibly imagine. Studios love setting comedies in Vegas because all the work is already done for them. They don’t have to think up anything creative, new or original, at all.

I mean, why would you want to? Thinking is just sooooo tiring. It smacks of effort.

If you haven’t seen this, even you can probably guess most of the settings and most of the things that happen, without watching it. Try it out, see how you go. Maybe your version will be slightly more interesting than the actual version.

It was massively successful though, so what the hell do I know. This movie spoke to millions of people. Presumably males, but millions of them all the same.

Really, though, I’m struggling to remember anything that was funny about it at all. There’s scene after scene that approaches perhaps the level of being amusing, and then fades away before satisfying even basic needs.

Rating:

Last House on the Left (2009)

dir: Dennis Illiades
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The original horror flick does have a nasty reputation, which is certainly well-earned. Since everything is getting remade, from the Friday the 13th flicks, to Halloween, to Gone with the Wind, so naturally, Last House on the Left has to, nay, must be, remade too. On the most part, I would contend that the flick doesn’t do too bad a job for what it is. The ending, though, shows just how worthless the whole setup really was, and how it’s ultimately a lazy entry in both the revenge and nice white middle class people under siege in their own homes genres of quality filmmaking.

The original is a nasty, exploitative, vile flick. It truly is. This certainly isn’t, and for most of its running time actually seems like a highly charged drama more than an out-and-out horror flick. Of course it relies way too often on “someone comes out of nowhere to either attack or save a person that looks like they’re about to die”, but it’s virtually impossible for hacks to make these films otherwise.

Rating:

Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (2009)

dir: Tony Scott
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Ridley Scott’s less talented brother keeps getting work, which is okay, I guess. I don’t know the personal circumstances of Tony Scott’s life, but I imagine he has people to support, children, wives and mistresses and such, or rentboys, blackmailers and dominatrixes. Who knows. The point is, even after the atrocity to the eyes and ears that was Domino, he still gets work.

Here, in a remake of a pretty good flick originally, Scott mostly tones down the irritating editing and filming techniques that have made his more recent flicks virtually unwatchable. Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw assayed the roles the first time round, and they did an okay job. Denzel’s up for the job of playing a craggy-faced blue-colour working man ‘hero’, but they really could have gotten someone better for the Robert Shaw role.

Why? Well, all that John Travolta brings to this particular role is the way his voice goes really high-pitched and whiny when he gets angry, and that he says “motherfucker” at virtually the end of every sentence. I don’t have a problem with language, in fact I love that kind of language. It makes my heart go all aflutter.

Rating:

Brothers Bloom, The

dir: Rian Johnson
[img_assist|nid=925|title=Is it raining, or are we just being quirky?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=251]
Rian Johnson’s first film, Brick, was a noir crime drama worthy of the pen of Raymond Chandler, set in a high school. The dialogue sounded strange in the mouths of actors playing children, but it had style, and a commitment to its set-up that never wavered, perhaps to the flick’s detriment, but no matter.

When I heard that he was making a film about two con artist brothers, I was pleased. Pleased was an understatement. I was ecstatic. For reasons that make no sense, I felt glad that a guy who struggled, fought and agonised over making a flick with no budget (which is what happened with Brick) was getting the chance to move up in the moviemaking hierarchy, and was getting to make more flicks.

I’m still glad he’s making movies, watching Brothers Bloom hasn’t diminished that, but I realise he’s got a fair way to go as a director as long as his films require actors.

Listen to me, offering unsolicited advice to a director who’s achieved stuff I’ve never dreamed of and will never get close to creatively and professionally. How generous of me to criticise him and offer tidbits of wisdom.

Rating:

Crank 2: High Voltage

dir: two shmucks called Neveldine & Taylor
[img_assist|nid=905|title=Some guys will do anything to get out of an honest day's work|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=382]
There really isn’t any point reviewing a film like this. Notice that I’m still writing. There’s no point because it’s like reviewing a headache, a baseball bat to the groin, an epileptic seizure, a finger amputation, and a bag of strychnine-laced crystal methamphetamine all jumbled together and shredded through an industrial sized rusty blender.

It exists less as an actual movie and more as a collage of violent imagery sped up mightily, completely uncaring as to whether an audience can even comprehend most of the shit it is viewing. Sure, we’re supposed to parse it through the obvious lens of a live action version of a computer game, so much so that sections play out like sequences from Grand Theft Auto and its myriad knockoffs.

But even beyond there it’s the making of something that makes no fucking sense at all, and doesn’t care, making up for the complete lack of coherence only by trying to keep the crazy momentum up and the visuals experimental and vivid.

Rating:

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

dir: Stephen Sommers
[img_assist|nid=859|title=What, you expecting Shakespeare?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=652]
Watching Transformers 2 and this here G.I. Joe flick in close proximity to each other brought something to the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t just the strange knowledge that both movies arise from a product, being toys, being Hasbro toys at that. It was the sad reality that, at least for American audiences, film is what they now have to make up for a lack of a cultural mythology.

Sure, the US has a long and proud history, with all sorts of tall tales and Delaware Crossings, Fort Sumpters, Alamos, Granadas, Last Stands and Flags raised on Iwo Jima, but it’s not the same thing compared to the ancient myths and legends of other cultures, which, the more pretentious throughout history, whether writers or philosophers or people with real jobs, will tell you represent a deep cultural connection to the subconscious.

Instead what we now all have are films that basically explain or reinvent the origins of toys. The toys aren’t the adjunct, the alternative marketing stream, the subsidiary merchandising as such. They ARE the product, the emblem, the totem, and the films essentially pretend to market the toys themselves.

Rating:

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

dir: Michael Bay
[img_assist|nid=857|title=Which one's the machine? Go on, guess|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=377]
Michael Bay may be the director most movie reviewers and commenters on the tubes of the internets ridicule and belabour with the hate, but he is extremely successful, and thus virtually untouchable. He is like a shiny metallic titan from one of his movies: towering like a Colossus, legs splayed over the entirety of Hollywood, all his withered critics mewling and mouldering in his gargantuan shadow. The worst reviews, the lowest opinions of thousands, if not millions of people, are nought but ants at the feet of Alexander the Great. We cannot mark, let alone harm him.

If you were to run an algorithm or some kind of search on a review aggregator to find out what words are used most commonly by the majority of film reviewers who tackle his monstrous products, the list would run something like this: “visually spastic” or “incoherent”, “all shiny surfaces with no substance”, “nonsensical plot”, “aggressively violent”, “assault on the senses”, “women looking like glossy pornstars”, “way too long”, “painful, stupid dialogue”, “overedited”, “two dimensional characters”, and “breasts bouncing around in slow motion”.

Rating:

Inglourious Basterds

dir: Quentin Tarantino
[img_assist|nid=729|title=Let me just have a few moments to redecorate that forehead of yours|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]

Look, it’s a Tarantino film. If you don’t know by now what that means, then you should probably skip this review, and this film.

Otherwise, be prepared to wallow in the geek hipsterism and pedantic cinephilia of a man-child who made the jump from obsessive fan to filmmaker to our collective eternal delight / regret. Tarantino has only ever made films about films, and this is no different.

Inglourious Basterds is not a remake of the shoddy Italian flick of similar name, nor is it the Dirty Dozen rip-off I’d heard so much about. In fact, you’d think from the trailers and promos that this was a rip-roaring action flick about a team of Jewish American soldiers striking fear into the hearts and scalps of the Nazis during World War II.

It’s nothing like that. The Basterds and their exploits take up a miniscule amount of screen time in a film that is certainly not a war film. This flick is far more about the thrill of revenge and the power of cinema.

Rating:

Push

dir: Paul McGuigan
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I love Hong Kong, I really do. That doesn’t mean I’m going to like any film just because it’s set there. But I really do love the place, visually speaking at least. It’s not because I have any personal experience of the place, or because of my heritage, or because of any deep-seeded identification I have with the former British colony. I just like it, is all, and have watched around a thousand flicks set there.

This film Push has a lot of great cityscape footage of Hong Kong, truly it does. It mixes the high art cityscape stuff with postcard shots and, most importantly for me, the shots revealing the commonplace squalor of some areas, with the hustle and bustle of places like Mongkok, Wanchai, Kowloon Bay and all the rest, whether tourist destinations or not, whether ‘pretty’, grungy or not.

Beautiful, beautiful images of a real city that looks almost like what Ridley Scott was going for with Blade Runner, except that it’s real, and it’s a place even more thriving, alive, chintzy and garish than you can imagine, with the quicksilver of commerce, greed and violence running through the city’s veins, in the abstract perhaps more than in fact. All of this I could see and think about as I watched this amazing city depicted in this film.

Rating:

Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The

dir: David Fincher
[img_assist|nid=711|title=CGI, CGI will tear us apart, again|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=470|height=314]
David Fincher almost gets a lifetime pass from me for Fight Club. It’s a film so goddamn good that it elevates him into the lofty heights of directors whom I’ll defend even if they make twenty shitty films compared to their one or two masterpieces. Brad Pitt has no such pass from me, lifetime or otherwise. I have such a deep antipathy for his brand of actoring that he is usually the weakest link (for me) even in the strongest of films.

This flick, right off the bat, I enjoyed, very much so, despite the fact that there is less going on here than meets the eye. The premise sounds like it’s high concept enough, but it’s used more for its ironic sense than anything else. A F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is the origin of the film’s screenplay, but it has been fleshed out and elaborated upon in order to make it a serious, prestige Oscarbait contender, instead of the Twilight Zone half-hour that it probably warranted instead.

In the early part of the 20th Century, a clockmaker grieves over the death of his son in the Great War. He constructs a clock for a train station that runs backwards instead of forwards, with the (poetic, not literal) hope that such a clock going backwards would reverse time and resurrect the many sons who died needlessly, bringing them home to their devastated families.

Rating:

District 9

dir: Neill Blomkamp
[img_assist|nid=715|title=Have gun, will travel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=595|height=325]
It seems like a brilliant idea on paper. It even seemed like a brilliant idea in the promos and trailers and such. Truth be told it was the first genuine-seeming actual science fiction movie to pique my interest in a long time.

As the film begins, the premise is set out for us very quickly and easily. Twenty years ago, a huge alien vessel appeared above the skies of Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens, for which we are never given a better title than prawns, are settled into a ghetto / township, all million plus of them.

The ghetto is cordoned off, and twenty years later, as an impetus to the current story we’re supposed to be watching, the organisation tasked with corralling the prawns decides it needs to move the prawns 200 kilometres away because of tensions with the locals. Mostly because South Africans, white or black, don’t want them there. They are seen, despite their hideous appearance, as really being nothing more annoying or dangerous than refugees.

Rating:

Red Cliffs (Chi Bi Xia)

dir: John Woo
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I’m a bit confused. There’s a film called Red Cliffs that’s playing in the cinemas at the moment, which is meant to be an amalgam of two movies John Woo finished last year. But I don’t know if what I watched is what cinemagoers got to see, since I saw something around five hours long.

Now, there are films that are epic in length, others epic in scope, and still others are epic in terms of the boredom they inspire in audiences. ‘Epic’, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily synonymous with ‘good’. Some things are great the bigger they are, and I’ll leave it up to your personal preferences to imagine which ones, but tumours, debts, jail sentences and divorce settlements don’t necessarily improve with increased length, width or girth.

Yet it was viewed at my leisure, at least I can say that. What I saw is what Asian audiences saw staggered over two releases last year when this/these films made more money than Titanic. Only in Asia though. The rest of the world could care less, and rightly so.

John Woo hasn’t made a decent flick in twenty years, so just contemplate for a moment that it has taken him twenty fucking years to make a decent film again despite so many opportunities. To call it a return to form is an understatement.

Rating:

Knowing

dir: Alex Proyas
[img_assist|nid=716|title=They pay me millions to do this|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=570|height=300]
I’m not usually in two minds about any movie I’ve watched. And, truth be told, I’m not in two minds about this flick either. This is, in a lot of ways, a terrible film. The plot is terrible, the stupid things that happen are the opposite of good, and having a ham of Nicolas Cage’s magnitude in it doesn’t help either. For once, though, he is not to blame. At least, not the primary blame.

And it having been filmed in Melbourne doesn’t help either. I feel so biased and conflicted.

There is, still, something compelling not about why something big happens in this film, but what ultimately happens. I’m going to try to avoid saying what ultimately happens, because it’s a pretty big spoiler, as big as spoilers get, really.

Back in 1959, a little girl hears these mysterious whispers. They compel her to scrawl maniacally a sequence of numbers that don’t mean anything, and then the sheet of paper is coincidentally locked up inside a time capsule that is to be opened 50 years hence.

Now in 2009, a drunken astronomer (Cage) speaks to a class about whether determinism governs the universe, or whether it’s all random chaos that exemplifies what happens, down to the death of the drunken astronomer’s wife. The drunken astronomer has a depressed son (Chandler Canterbury) who hears whispering too.

Rating:

Angels and Demons

dir: Ron Howard
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They must be taking the piss, right?

It’s impossible to believe that intelligent people, which includes all the people involved in this production except for Dan Brown (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt but not him), could make this film and be treating it as a serious endeavour. It is one of the only films I can think of in recent memory that would benefit greatly from the inclusion of a rabid, nitrous oxide suffused laugh track. Taken on face value, that this wasn’t intended as some kind of parody or black comedy, is almost incomprehensible.

The two words that come most readily to mind about anything to do with Dan Brown in general and this film specifically are ‘absurd’ and ‘unconvincing’. I’m sure there are plenty of other words, but these are the cleanest and most accurate I can think of right now. I’m not going to ramble on about The DaVinci Code, because I reviewed it when that stinking, lumbering turd of a film first stank up the cinemas a few year’s ago.

They are however peas in a pod. Shitty peas in a stinky pod. The one singular virtue this latest film possesses over its predecessor is that it is nowhere near as long, thank Satan.

Rating:

Samson and Delilah

dir: Warwick Thornton
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Samson and Delilah is unlike any other film, Australian or otherwise, in its depiction of Aboriginal characters or an Australian story. It is unflinching, and brutal, and beautiful. It might take its name from the biblical story, but this tale is far more real, current, tragic and yet hopeful in its ultimate realisation.

It is not an enjoyable flick. There isn’t much dialogue. It’s as meticulously crafted as any work of art you’re likely to ever see, but its purpose isn’t to entertain. Though there is occasional humour to leaven the grim circumstances of these lives, it remains true to the characters and the reality of their situation. A situation not exclusive to the characters in this film.

It’s not easy going, not by any stretch. But then, why should it be?

In an isolated community in the Northern Territory, Samson (Rowan McNamara) wakes up, sniffs petrol for a while, rubs his head then gets up and wanders around. He has nothing to do all day. The isolated community is so small that it probably consists of about 5 shacks, a shack church and a shop. Heat vibrates off everything. A communal phone rings and rings, but no-one answers it.

Rating:

Django Unchained

Django Unchained

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

dir: Quentin Tarantino

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

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

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

Rating:

Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians

But who guards the guarded
against the Guardians?

dir: Peter Ramsay

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

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

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

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

Rating:

Looper

Looper

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

dir: Rian Johnson

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

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

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

Rating:

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin

I really wish we didn't need to talk about Kevins, but we do, we so completely do

dir: Lynne Ramsay

We Need to Talk About Kevin is pretty brutal. Actually, it’s beyond brutal. It’s one of the most brutal depictions of the terror involved in becoming a parent that I’ve ever seen.

It’s terrifying enough becoming a parent, bringing a new person into the world, trying to shepherd them towards becoming a decent person (if you have the capability or inclination, that is, because I’m sure there’s plenty of terrible parents who don’t give a damn). Mix in with that those feelings of ambivalence, of momentary regret a parent might have, lamenting the loss of their freedom, of their self-determination sacrificed on the altar of being a ‘good’ parent, which can manifest in anger towards that child, and consider the range of emotions that conjures up.

And then wonder whether monsters are born or made, and whether that monster, which is your own, became so because of everything you did, some of the things you did, or nothing you did, and know that there can never be a definitive answer, and there you have the crux of this whole, harrowing story.

Such a complicated premise isn’t going to be told in a straight-forward fashion, so the story jumps around in time, creating parallels and juxtapositions through the different timelines that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Throughout all looms that titan of cinema known as Tilda.

Rating:

Submarine

Submarine

Young idiots not the least bit in love, not in the slightest

dir: Richard Ayoade

Coming of age stories are a laugh, aren’t they? Whether it’s some spotty git fucking an apple pie, or four friends searching for a dead body, coming of age stories are almost always nostalgic and poignant, because they’re watched by people far removed from the actual age. Throw in some period detail, some tunes from an earlier, ‘better’ time, and it’s like crack to oldies of a certain oldness.

The problem or virtue of Submarine is that it’s set in the 80s, which no decent person should be nostalgic for, including and especially those of us who came of age in the 80s, and also it’s a flick in love with coming of age flicks. There’s plenty of references to other classic boyish coming-of-age flicks (400 Blows, Harold and Maude, The Graduate, bunches of others), but this has its own unique take on the Bildungsroman.

That doesn’t make it good, necessarily. The reason I went out of my way to see this flick is because of the almost surreally positive reviews it has garnered, even down to local Potato Head Pomeranz and Old Farmer Stratton giving it stratospheric approval. And it was lauded and praised to the heavens around the world long before it came to Australian shores to die a quiet death at the box office.

I don’t really see it. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m not as interested in coming of age stories any more. The appeal of Submarine pretty much escaped me.

Rating:

Conan the Barbarian

dir: Marcus Nispel

Honestly, I’m capable of being objective. I can be. Seriously.

I know you don’t believe me, but at the very least you might accept that I think it’s true.

It’s important to have perspective on various issues, be it elements of one’s own life, or the world in general. It’s especially handy when you’re trying to sift through the detritus of modern life as represented by pop culture and the world of sub-par art known as The Movies.

Having said that, let me now say this regarding the original film Conan the Barbarian that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and came out in 1982: It’s one of the single greatest movies of all time. It decapitates Citizen Kane, dismembers Lawrence of Arabia and rips the bloody, pulsing tongue out of Bridge Over the River Kwai.

It’s not only a great film, it’s one of the greatest achievements our species has ever been responsible for, up there with the pyramids, landing on the moon, and g strings.

You might laugh, or giggle a girlish titter and think, “Oh ho ho, how fucking funny. He must mean it ironically, or that it’s a camp classic, or he’s saying it as a set up for some punchline. I won’t get fooled again by his shenanigans.”

Rating:

Oceans

dirs: Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
[img_assist|nid=1431|title=Oceans. Someone needs to tell them to stop being so smug|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=597]
Oceans. They’re everywhere! And, did you know that they’re full of water?

Very watery waters, apparently. And mostly the water is blue. Sometimes green, sometimes grey, sometimes a mixture of greeny-bluey-grey, but always very watery.

We owe a lot to the oceans. They feed us, naturally, and they’re also where we dump all our sewerage and garbage, as the gods intended, and they also willingly have become the final resting place for murderous / saintly Osamas who’ve outlived their usefulness, but they’re also really pretty. And they’re also chock full of thoroughly beautiful creatures like dugongs, walruses, stonefish and moray eels.

Who could not love the Oceans? They’re practically the puppies/kittens of the solar system. Only a completely dead-inside monster, that’s who. Or the captain of the Titanic, I guess. Or anyone who’s lost a loved one to the Ocean’s watery embrace, I guess as well.

This astounding documentary which has taken its time to get here, and is playing at Cinema Nova (in Melbourne as at 22/5/2011) acts as if people don’t know what oceans are (as opposed to seas, which everyone knows are the oceans’ poor orphan cousins), or that there are fish in them. There’s actually a line of narration that says the following:

Rating:

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch

ye gods is this so terrible. This is so terrible I
hope this is the last we ever hear of Mr Snyder

dir: Zack Snyder

A lot of people get their panties in a bunch because of the descriptor usually applied to Zack Snyder, either by reviewers or the marketing people marketing his movies: “From the mind of visionary director Zack Snyder…” goes the line on the poster.

They (the collective ‘they’) got sick of always applying the term to Tim Burton, so now they have someone else to pin it to like a badge of dishonour.

I think it’s an adjective that’s appropriate. At least as far as it applies to lots and lots and lots of visionary visuals, he’s got them pouring out from every diseased orifice.

Directors, or at least the cinematographers and programmers the studios hire, are all about the visuals. Getting the look right is their main task, you’d think, it being an entirely visual medium. If he was producing radio plays I’d say he was a failure, but that’s just my opinion.

What Snyder clearly isn’t about, is writing or that pesky acting stuff. I’m sure he’s capable of possibly getting decent performances from humans, but he seems to do much better with computer generated graphics instead. So I guess it’s unfortunate that there are so many people standing around messing up his effects shots in Sucker Punch.

Rating:

I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boattda)

dir: Kim Ji-woon
[img_assist|nid=1379|title=Just pray that he doesn't look back|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=408|height=605]
Jeez, do I need a shot and a shower after that. Make that three shots and two showers to get the taste of death out of my mouth and the stench of this film off my skin.

This is a revenge flick, usually a genre known for being full of sweetness and light, made even uglier and darker by a director committed to making the audience feel as harried, exhausted and sick to the stomach as the main characters.

And good goddamn is it a long film. Even had this flick been 45 minutes shorter it still would have felt like the longest flick since Gone with the Wind crossed with Holocaust epic Shoah.

You wouldn’t know it, but South Korea seems to be, based on this flick, infested with serial killers. They’re everywhere. And, even better, they all know each other. I tell you what, this entire scenario is only even vaguely plausible if South Korea is actually located right next to Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico, because they’re getting away with murder on a daily basis in both locations.

Okay, so the Korean peninsula is nowhere near there, but all the same, these fuckers put Hannibal Lecter, Henry Lee Lucas and Colonel Gaddafi to shame.

Rating:

Never Let Me Go

dir: Mark Romanek
[img_assist|nid=1377|title=Letting go is never easy|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=406|height=600]
What a strange, sad film. Watching Never Let Me Go was a profoundly melancholy experience for me, despite the fact that not much overtly happens, and none of my tears flowed in programmed Pavlovian response to deftly deployed violins or postcard photography.

After all, I’m not some flouncy squats-to-piss girl’s blouse. Even if the ending of Toy Story 3 made me weep like a little girl with a skinned knee. No, no sooky la-la, I.

At its heart it’s a simple love story involving three people, but its setup is anything but simple. The flick, based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, posits an alternate history timeline where certain medical breakthroughs in our history changed the course of humanity.

And not for the better, as far as the protagonists are concerned. The flick’s timeline covers three distinct time periods, being the 1970s, the 80s and the 90s. Though the setting and the environs don’t really change with the passage of time, our protagonists grow up, and change, and realise just how awful their predicament is.

Rating:

Town, The

dir: Ben Affleck
[img_assist|nid=1338|title=Nuns on the run with guns|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=591]
This flick is still limping its way out of Australian cinemas for at least another week, and so I’m glad not only that I got to see it on the big screen, but that I have something newish to review. Because gods know the world needs more of my movie reviews. You know you crave them, too. It’s like an addiction, I know.

It’s strange that the name ‘Ben Affleck’ as director inspires much more interest in me than when ‘Ben Affleck’ the actor is referred to. One piques my interest, the other inspires my whatevers impulse. When Ben Affleck is the director and the main character, then I’m the very definition of ambivalent.

It really can’t be overstated how good a flick Gone Baby Gone was, which indicated at least that Affleck, at the time, was better placed directing flicks than being in them. Consider it his long march towards redemption for the decade or so of flailing and Jennifer Lopez tabloid hysteria. With all the critical kudos he garnered for directing his brother Casey in probably the best flick they’ll ever be involved in, he somehow decided two seemingly contradictory things: that he should direct more films, and that people were clamouring to see him in front of the camera again.

Rating:

Social Network, The

dir: David Fincher
[img_assist|nid=1322|title=You could try for a few less enemies, all the same|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=468]
It’s a fascinating story, and a terrific film, despite being about something so inherently banal. It’s not even really an origin story, along the lines of a biographical tale like the ones regarding the Manhattan Project, or the moon landing, or, you know, something important that was invented or achieved. It’s more concerned with (fictionally) illuminating the thinking of one of the main people involved in the creation of this online behemoth known as Facebook.

Written with an ear towards crackling dialogue, Aaron Sorkin, known for penning the scripts to such immediately familiar fare such as A Few Good Men and many an episode of The West Wing, has crafted a screenplay that tells us less about what was involved in programming up from scratch this most pervasive of online networks, and more about how someone with a genius level IQ, a resentment towards the privileged, no knowledge of how to treat people as people, and a complete inability to forgive perceived slights conjured up something adopted universally across the tubes of the internets that made him a billionaire, all before finishing college.

Rating:

Girl Who Played With Fire, The

(Flickan som lekte med elden)
[img_assist|nid=1311|title=I guess she doesn't like BMWs|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=432|height=639]
dir: Daniel Alfredson

Ahhhh. I like it when they make semi-decent movies out of shitty books. It gives me hope for humanity.

For my money at least, The Girl Who Played With Fire was the best of the three books Stieg Larsson shat out onto an unsuspecting world before he died. By ‘best’ I don’t actually mean that it was a great book. I just mean that out of three terribly written books, the second was the least worst of the trilogy.

Since I haven’t seen the last instalment in this series of flicks yet, I can’t say whether this is the best of the three. I thought the first flick, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, did pretty well whittling down a phonebook of empty and stolid prose into a competent enough crime investigation flick, with a compelling central character (Lisbeth Salander, not the journalist Blomkvist). She becomes even more central to proceedings here, as the second story, and indeed the rest of the series becomes the All About Lisbeth show.

Rating:

Box, The

dir: Richard Kelly
[img_assist|nid=1300|title=Don't you dare touch my box|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=300]
This is not a good movie. It’s not even mediocre. It’s just incompetent.

It’s not as utterly godawful at his last awful foray into moviemaking, which was the truly dire Southland Tales, but whilst it’s not as asinine, it’s not much better. It’s staggeringly not much better.

Richard Kelly came to prominence with Donnie Darko, and since then has been squandering whatever goodwill the flick engendered with a much too forgiving audience. Honestly, these other films he’s been making are so eye-rottingly rotten that it makes me think Donnie Darko was a fluke, a goddamn fluke.

Maybe the elements that he was able to put together coherently the first time have never been able to coalesce since then. I know this is a review of his latest shitfest The Box, but bear with me for a second: I think you can see the seeds of his failure even back in Donnie Darko, by comparing the theatrical cut with his director’s cut.

That’s what it comes down to: Kelly doesn’t know how to edit his own flicks. Of course, the companies hire editors to actually edit the films, but the directors (and often producers) can end up sitting in at every stage to ensure their singular ‘vision’ gets carried through.

Rating:

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