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3 stars

Annette

Annette

A Movie... that makes drowning at sea seem preferable
compared to having to watch any more of... the movie!

dir: Leos Carax

2021

I… well, this was never going to go well for me, though I did have optimism at first, fool that I am.

I liked some songs by Sparks from, um, many decades ago, at least the ones that were covered by other people. So knowing that the Mael Brothers wrote all the music and even appear in the film was…not exactly an enticement, but at least a point of interest. With the Edgar Wright doco that came out about them a couple of months ago, it implies this has been a big year for them. So congrats to them.

I know nothing about Leos Carax other than that he exists, makes movies, and has a cool name. I do remember that he brought out a flick called Holy Motors a bunch of years ago, which had Kylie Minogue in it, but the novelty never proved compelling enough for me to track down a copy and watch it.

It is unlikely that I will be delving into Carax’s back catalogue based on Annette. I can’t say whether it’s a shitty film or a shitty musical or not, because others are better placed to judge such things. What I can say is that I found Annette profoundly uninteresting, unengaging and unpersuasive, and I was not moved by it at all. I’m usually a sucker for these kinds of things, but not this time. So I can’t say “it’s a bad movie”, even though I’m really tempted to. I can say, though, that I really, really didn’t enjoy watching it.

I even find myself fascinated by Adam Driver in general, and he seems to be in almost everything that is made these days, and even that didn’t do much for me here. It kinda almost starts off promising with Driver decked out like a boxer about to start a match, except he’s a stand up getting ready to attack a crowd, the so called Ape of God. He, being Henry McHenry spends his time, so he tells us, trying to kill the audience.

He is in love with an opera singer (Marion Cotillard) who every night dies on stage for her audiences. No matter the opera, because seemingly she plays the lead of a different opera every other night, she dies, because every opera needs some woman to die in the end.

They tell us they are very much in love. We know this because they sing a song that says they are so much in love. In fact, that’s all the song says “we love each other so much” with no other lyrics, and they sing it over and over, even during sweaty, bony, very pale sex scenes. So I guess they must be in love or something.

The other key pointers to what is happening in their lives is some celeb chasing tv gossip program, which cares enough about this famous couple that it would signpost all the important things that happen in their lives: when they get married, when they have a kid, when they go on an ill-advised yacht trip into the middle of the ocean.

Rating:

Reminiscence

Reminiscence

If only there was enough booze on the planet to forget this
fucking monstrosity

dir: Lisa Joy

2021

This flick is so terrible, releasing it during this current stage (of the endless stages) of the pandemic seems even more cruel. Weren’t we suffering in lockdown enough?

Reminiscence is terrible in ways that I thought science fiction flicks had stopped being around 15 years ago. It uses imagined technology to represent people’s memories, and sets the story some time in the future where climate change has swamped coastal cities, and the higher temperatures mean people sleep during the day and mostly work at night.

But then it has people wearing suits, natty hats and ties to make it look like the 1950s, and has people walking around during the day like it’s no big deal. And while, where this is mostly set in a Miami made to look like Venice, with canals and boats and such, other times to show the dreadful impact of anthropogenic climate change, they show streets that are just a bit wet, and old fossil fuel based cars driving around like… nothing has happened.

The protagonist is always wearing a long coat and tie, loosened, around his neck in presumably 50 degree temperatures. A woman he becomes obsessed with sings jazz songs in jazz clubs, like there are jazz clubs in the 2050s, probably thanks to the work Ryan Gosling did in La La Land saving the obscure art form from oblivion.

Like, jazz clubs, straight out of the past, still exist, in the future. I was surprised not to see chimney sweeps, shoeshine boys, newsagents or internet cafes.

It’s a very traditional noir / detective kind of story with a few sci fi elements, which is stuff that can work well even in these mishmashed misbegotten kinds of lazy stories. The first Sin City flick was the absolute embodiment of all of these noir clichés, and worked in ways this flick never comes close to.

The femme fatale literally wears red when she first walks into Nick’s office. Nick is played by Hugh Jackman, who in other flicks has given credible performances with believable motivations and personality. None of that is present here, at all. There’s a scene at the three quarter mark where something really “bad” happens, where he tries to emote a lot of emotion and I found myself laughing uncontrollably.

The femme fatale is played by Rebecca Ferguson, who would be great if she was playing a poorly programmed android, but she isn’t, she’s meant to be playing a human woman. I joke about this because the writer director of this monstrosity has worked on the recent tv series Westworld, which I have watched and which is also way better than anything in these wasted two hours.

Rating:

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Spiral from the Book of Saw

What the fuck does "from the Book of Saw" even mean?
I must have missed that bit of the Bible

dir: Darren Lynn Bousman

2021

You can’t always blame people who create something for how things ends up, but somehow I do think you can blame Australians James Wan and Leigh Whannell for the fact that people are still trying to pump out these dreadful Saw and Saw-adjacent movies.

They didn’t reinvent the wheel with the original Saw, but they did tap into something, some need not being fulfilled by the previous crop of horror flicks.

There wasn’t enough imagery of people being tortured, you see, or punished for something. People in impossible situations given a choice by a deranged maniac / visionary future candidate for president to either save themselves through harming themselves or someone else, or choosing to die in excruciating ways.

I confess that I did watch some or many of the Saw movies. The first one worked basically as a rigged escape room, and was, dare I say it, some weird kind of ‘fun’. I don’t now nor have I ever particularly enjoyed watching people being harmed, but there was a curious logic at play in these flicks at first.

There’s always been a strange morality at play in horror flicks, and these Saw ones, intellectually deathly as they are, somehow appealed to people despite the nonsense that was being paraded before us. There’s something there about bad people getting their comeuppance, but more than that I cannot say why anyone would think the original Jigsaw serial killer is some kind of hero, anti-hero or standard-bearer to light our way through these darkened times.

Especially these pandemic-laden times. It’s curious that the tack they take here is making the majority of the victims cops. There’s a lot of pig imagery in the flick, a lot of people wearing pig masks, a lot of talk about corruption and how, basically, All Cops are Bastards.

But, and this is a very big but, and I cannot lie, the main issue for the longest time, at least in the States, has been beyond the fact that the cops operate along very similar lines to entrenched organised crime, and more about their propensity for killing unarmed people, predominately people of colour, with little if any repercussions. Most of the cops who’ve done so haven’t even lost their jobs, let alone been charged, regardless of what happened with George Floyd’s murderer.

Rating:

The Predator

The Predator 2018

Yes, it's evolved, into Something Even Dumber!

dir: Shane Black

2018

So. What with all the plague happening everywhere, I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately, far more so than usual. It has been pretty much the only positive to arise out of this dreadful crisis that has killed so many people and revealed the stupidity and selfishness of so many who profit from the labour of us lower order types and the minimum wage expendable / “essential” services provided by those who have no other choice anyway.

Lest you think I lump myself into that group, oh no, it’s not true. My services to the world are very inessential, which is why I can happily work from home, sip lattes, watch movies and then pontificate about them for no money and to no end other than my own amusement / bemusement.

In that spirit, the films I’ve been watching lately have been great. Thoughtful, intelligent, well-made, reminding us of the links between people across this world and through time; the elements that unite us, the dangers we face, the aches we all feel.

I’ve had enough. I can’t take it any more. I need a break, emotionally and intellectually.

In the same way that we take a break from preparing and eating food that’s nurturing and healthy for us and the people in our lives, and seek the convenience of food that’s not only crap but is actively bad for us, I need to occasionally watch shitty movies in order to have some perspective, and also to replenish my store of tears. Not only did I gorge on cinematic junk food, but it involved a buffet of two recentish movies that stand as squalid sequels to action franchises that started in the 1980s: The Predator and Terminator: Dark Fate, for the people playing at home. Both peaked a long time ago; both keep being resurrected to increasingly diminished returns.

The Predator does not inspire tears, it does not provoke emotions other than whatever emotions scorn and contempt are most aligned with, and it has nothing to do with my favourite Ice Cube album of all time of the same name. It is the hackneyed work of people who don’t give a shit about anything but love pretending they’re having fun, so we should too.

When Predator came out in 1987, it was a minor hit. It sustained the upward trajectory of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action movie career, and never resulted in another movie that really justified its existence as a franchise. One of the people in the original movie, as a soon-killed army jerk called Hawkins, was Shane Black. Literally the only thing Hawkins does in the movie is tell a horribly misogynistic joke and then die.

Rating:

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad

I guess a more honest title like "Dumb People Not Doing Much"
was never going to fly with the marketing department at DC

dir: David Ayer

2016

Considering…

No, wait – And I thought Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a piece of shit…

Suicide Squad is a whole other unique piece of shit. It’s terrible, oh so terrible. This is the standard met where intelligent people make movies for people they see as being irredeemably stupid.

Oh so many aspects of this movie are terribly ludicrous. Sure, it’s logically possible to make arguments about a whole array of movies and whether they should exist or not. Knowing that this is based on a comic book doesn’t make this make any more sense as a premise. Even, wait, maybe I’m contradicting myself, even if I buy Amanda Waller’s (Viola Davis, who is excellent in this but it’s not enough) plan as being a necessary one, how is it that it makes any sense that these particular morons are the ones you would force into action in order to save the world?

Yes, yes, I understand The Dirty Dozen style premise. I understand it because I’ve watched The Dirty Dozen a bunch of times, and I’ve seen a stack of other films that ripped the idea off as well. There’s nothing new about it under the sun, being this sun, or any of the other suns around the galaxy around which planets inhabited by comic book geeks orbit.

Rating:

Pan

Pan

This was terrible in ways Huge Ackman has rarely ever been, which
makes it something of an achievement

dir: Joe Wright

2015

Did I want to like this? Did I go into this determined not to like it, like I had an agenda?

I’m not sure. I think I was predisposed towards liking it, because I have a nostalgic love of the original story, or at least earlier versions of Peter Pan (that don’t include Spielberg’s Hook, which I still loathe with every fibre of my being to this day, like all good-hearted people). The thought of a ‘prequel’ didn’t particularly excite me, because it just seems lazy to me, or like a boring stealth way of trying to ‘reboot’ Pan without having to do too much work.

I’ve liked a lot of Joe Wright’s movies thus far, I think he’s a pretty impressive director. Atonement, Hannah, even his sweaty Pride and Prejudice would have been solid had there not been a Keira Knightley at the centre of things. And his Anna Karenina would have been a decent experiment (had there not been a Keira Knightley at the centre of things). Okay, well I loved at least two of his films outright, and tolerated the others. That’s better than most of the other directors you can think of.

Alas, now he’s made a flick I downright disliked. My problem is not the direction per se, since it’s probably as well directed as crap of this kind could be. I just feel like the script itself is a misbegotten and awful thing that should never have seen the light of day.

Rating:

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four

This is... I can't... no, you're all in a movie that's bad and you should feel bad

dir: Josh Trank

2015

It’s… it’s not good.

Bad buzz killed any chance this flick had of being successful, but even more than that, being a bad movie, and a badly made movie at that, certainly doomed this flick more than just having Dr Doom in it.

I just don’t think Fantastic Four can ever work as a big budget franchise type-dealy, like the execs hope and dream. They’re never going to get Avengers-like numbers, because it’s too hard a sell.

It’s weird, because at a certain stage, like, forty years ago, the Fantastic Four were the Big Enchilada, the Cohuna Grande, the kings (and queen) of the Silver Age, the top of the heap when it came to comic book teams. Sales-wise and pop cultural recognition-wise, they were huge. They were bigger than gonorrhoea, milkshakes, Vietnam and drag racing.

But tell the kids o’ today that, and they’ll act like you’re talking about the time when you caught the ferry to French Island with an onion on your belt, which was the style at the time, and tickets were tuppence ha’penny each.

Whatever, though. I don’t care about the comic book, because, honestly, after the last few years of superhero saturation, does any comic book matter as a comic book any more? Or the origins of whatever group of heroes? Do you care? Can anyone?

Rating:

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Million Ways to Die in the West

There might be a million ways to die, but it doesn't seem there
are a million things to laugh about, based solely on this shitty flick

dir: Seth McFarlane

2014

I couldn’t say which movie is the funniest I’ve seen this year. There are still a few months to go, so I probably haven’t seen it yet. I can safely say which is the least funny comedy I’ve seen this year, or will see this year, or in many a year.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is the least comedic comedy I’ve seen in a donkey’s age. On that score alone I have to say that for me the flick is an abject failure. What bugs me the most is that it should have been something nifty. Some poor studio gave McFarlane a huge budget and thought comedy gold and box office glory would ensue. Clearly there was no screenplay yet when that money changed hands.

McFarlane is guilty of many things, but he is someone who has made me laugh before, many times. Family Guy, Cleveland Show and American Dad may not have the stellar reputation of shows like The Simpsons or even South Park, but they do possess streams and streams of gags. Not all of them make you laugh, and most are risqué just for the sake of it, gleefully stumbling all over the fine line between ironic sexism/racism/homophobia/whateverism and actual sexism/racism etc.

Rating:

Jobs

Jobs

It's like looking into a great big dumb mirror. Would you buy
a used computer from either of these two jerks?

dir: Joshua Michael Stern

I want to make a movie about someone famous. I didn't know them personally, but they're really famous, so people should be interested.

I don't know much about them, either, and what I don't know about the transformative moments of their lives is probably pretty important in telling the story of their lives, but I'm not interested in finding out what they were or telling an audience about what made them tick.

I think if I get someone that looks a lot like the person whose biopic this is, then I should be okay. If we get them to do a couple of famous mannerisms, then audiences won't care that they're not doing anything interesting or revealing or watching a good movie.

Since this biopic is set in the 70s and 80s, mostly, I'll just blare lots of golden oldies during those scenes, in case the sluggards and dullards in the audience have no idea. I'll spend more on the soundtrack than I will on the script.

All in all, I'll tell a story that has no more depth or meaning than one of the ads used to advertise some of the products this person was responsible for, but I won't even make it that good.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Jobs.

Rating:

The Man With the Iron Fists

Man with the Iron Fists

Y'all terrible, just terrible. You should be working in
soup kitchens instead

dir: RZA

We like to think that, with enough love, time money and knowledge, we can make great things happen. The disinterested universe, however, just doesn’t work that way.

It would come as no surprise to anyone that knows anything about rap music, The RZA, or the Wu Tang Clan and its many offshoots, that he has a deep love and knowledge of classic Hong Kong martial arts flicks. Almost every Wu Tang (et al) song I can think of has a sample from an old kung fu movie, replete with poorly overdubbed dialogue and the sounds of people fighting.

A natural next step, you could argue, would be that a man who so wished he could insert himself into the past, into the movies he loves, the movies that consume his vision, his hopes and dreams, would try to make such a movie. And so we have The Man With the Iron Fists, starring RZA in a lead role.

In this he has endeavoured to make a movie like the movies he loves. Unfortunately, he is in the same position I am in.

Let me clarify: I love those movies too. I’d love to make one of those movies. I’d be terrible at it, though, because I have no idea how to direct a martial arts movie, let alone any movie. I don’t possess the skills necessary, or the hard-won experience required, and I wouldn’t magically possess them just because I’ve watched like a thousand of those flicks over the last 30 years.

Rating:

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