3 stars

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

dir: Gore Verbinski
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I generally avoid using text speak or any of the other variations on txting, l33t speak or online abbreviations that are so popular with ‘the kids’ these. I can type fairly fast, and I find that kind of “c u l8r qt slt:)~” crap offensive to the eye and brain.

If I could allow myself to use this inelegant and conceptually ugly form of expression, and were I to write a very short review of Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End in this fashion, it would simply be thus:

WTF? I mean seriously, WTF?

At World’s End is a very curious film. Upon first watching I thought I’d just seen one of the worst films of this or any other year. Upon second watching I chilled out a tad, and realised that, if it was a dumb flick, it probably wasn’t that much dumber than the second flick in this vaunted series, Dead Man’s Chest. And that as timber-shivering, buckle-swashing experiences go, it wasn’t too painful or dull, and at the very least, had the virtue of being unpredictable.

Watching this third flick is a surreal experience, where the application of sense or logic is the foolhardiest of foolhardy pursuits. And it goes for over two and a half hours, so it’s surreal and overly long to boot, like a proctology exam when you’re tripping on acid.

Rating: 

Factory Girl

dir: George Hickenlooper
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With no intended slight against the girl herself, I can’t think of a figure less worthy of cinematic biographical treatment than Edie Sedgwick, solely based on this flick here.

The only reason I ever knew anything about her was because of a song by The Cult back in the late 80s that was presumably about her called Edie(Ciao Baby), which featured a video where long-haired hair bear lead singer Ian Astbury was smashing a pool cue on a table for no discernable reason. And then there’s all those Warhol films and Chelsea bloody Hotel references.

In other words, she was a person who was famous for being famous for knowing famous people. This flick goes no way towards disabusing viewers of such a notion, nor does it presume to give her even any basic semblance of humanity or interest.

Who’d have thought that being the alleged most notorious party girl of her day, and being a hanger-on to the likes of Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan could be so dull?

Rating: 

Home of the Brave

dir: Irwin Winkler
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It’s hard to know why exactly they made this particular film. I don’t mean films about soldiers coming home from wars, or films about the current Adventure in the Middle East. I mean, I can’t fathom why they made this particularly crappy film.

If they wanted to honour the nobility and sacrifice of US service men and women, then they should have crafted a story where the characters weren’t just the embodiments of singular clichés. If they wanted to portray the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder, maybe they should have spent some time actually finding out what it was. If they wanted to make a statement about the war, as in whether it should be ongoing or not, and whether the ungrateful Iraqis should be more worshipful of their masters’ gentle attempts at nation building, then perhaps they could spent some time with them.

And could they have chosen someone else apart from Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson to be in it? Perhaps an actor, if it wasn’t too much trouble?

Rating: 

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

dir: Dito Montiel
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This is a film by Dito Montiel, about the life of Dito Montiel, based on the book written by Dito Montiel. Wow, this Dito Montiel is some kind of wonderful guy to want to bring Dito Montiel to the attention of millions, isn’t he?

After all, Dito Montiel won the Nobel Peace prize for solving the Sonny and Cher crisis back in the 70s, and also won the Nobel Physics prize for inventing the tubes that power the internet. He cured all cancer, discovered the clitoris and came up with a tasty breakfast cereal high in fibre but low in sugar to boot.

If it wasn’t for those obviously fabricated highlights of Dito Montiel’s life that I just made up, we wouldn’t have any clue why we’re watching a film about Dito Montiel’s life. Having watched the film, I still have to ask myself why anyone is supposed to give a good goddamn about the fucker.

Dito, played by Shia LaBeouf in the 80s, and Robert Downey Jr in the 2000s, hasn’t really done anything worthy of note that I can figure out apart from write a book about himself and having directed a film about himself. These are achievements, don’t get me wrong, I just can’t for the life of me see what in his life justified such endeavours or why we should be interested.

Rating: 

Freedomland

dir: Joe Roth
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As the old phrase goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s also drenched in an oil slick of egotism, smug righteousness and self-delusion.

Freedomland is a terrible mess of a film made by a director who hasn’t made a semi-decent movie in his entire career, unless you count Revenge of the Nerds II.

The plot isn’t the worst thing about this film, nor are (all) the acting performances, or its pacing or length, width or girth. The biggest problem is Julianne Moore’s performance as one of the main characters. For someone who’s considered to be so good, goddamn does she stink up the joint with her surreal attempts to act ‘down’. She is completely and fundamentally unbelievable in the role.

She plays Brenda, a recovering junkie whose son has gone missing. She works at a community outreach centre near some New Jersey projects, and tells police that she was carjacked with her son in the back seat on the way home.

Because her brother is a policeman in an adjoining borough, and because she’s white, the police go berserk on the projects, locking them down in order to find the kid.

Rating: 

Happy Feet

dir: George Miller
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Enough, already. The success of Pixar’s movies and the Shrek monstrosities has led to an incredible and totally fathomable explosion in the amount of computer animated movies stinking up the cinemas. A bunch of years ago there’d be one or two over the course of the year. In 2006, there were about twenty of them.

It was inevitable that computer animation would replace traditional hand drawn animation and that it would start garnering a greater share of studio and audience attention. And that’s not because it’s any cheaper or quicker to produce, because these flicks cost multi-millions to make and take many years to complete. But being able to point to the advances in animation techniques is the selling point itself. The stories certainly aren’t improving along with the programming. So much money is being invested in these things, so much money is at stake, so the stories are getting more and more bland and safe as their producers become even more risk-averse than previous.

Rating: 

Da Vinci Code, The

dir: Ron Howard
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I’m not of the inclination or the right mood to criticise the at least forty million people that bought copies of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Riding on public transport requires reading material, so whether it’s the latest Harry Potter trotter, geisha memoirs or some highbrow crap by Martin Amis or Camille Paglia is irrelevant to me. It’s up to the individual to decide what’s going to distract them adequately from the knowledge that soon they’ll be at the unsatisfying job that daily brings them so much closer to suicide.

Anything else is just sneering snobbery. Which is, nonetheless, quite enjoyable as a hobby.

Brown’s books have sold like cocaine, so by default movie versions become mandatory. And, for such a popular novel, it dictates (according to some commentary I’ve read) that the film plot adhere strictly to the novel, because variation or divergence would be seen (ironically enough) as heresy.

As such, we get a two hour and 40 minute lumbering, ludicrous monstrosity of a flick that brings new depths to the use of the term ‘highly dubious’.

Rating: 

Van Helsing

dir: Stephen Sommers
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Not that anyone asked, or that anyone wants to know, but I can honestly say that I’ve never paid to have sex with a prostitute, a working girl, a ‘lady of the night’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a comment on the ladies, I know they do a hard job and they earn their money bringing to fruition the old business success mantra about the customer always coming first. I joke about hookers and cocaine all the time, but it’s just that: a joke. Who can afford that kind of crap when a bottle of decent single malt whisky costs between $60 and $80?

The reason I hold this particular credo, which has nothing to do with morality or personal ethics or anything of the sort, is that I can imagine after money changed hands and business was taken care of, the deed being done, I’d be filled with a profound emptiness inside. It would come from the fact that I had to pay money to get someone to have sex with me, a person who couldn’t possibly even remotely have any tender feelings towards me. Sure, live long enough and you end up having sex with a bunch of people that can’t stand you and whom you can’t stand, for a multitude of different reasons. But at the very least you shouldn’t have to pay cash for it.

Rating: 

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

dir: Alexander Witt
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For a director with the surname Witt, there's a fundamental lack of it
in this movie, even by the meagre standards one might apply to the
zombie / horror / computer game adaptation genre. The presence of a
few vaguely entertaining action set pieces can't really elevate this
material from the cesspool from which most of this kind of crap oozes
out from. Of the recent plethora of zombie films this is both the most
recent and the least of them. Absolutely the least.

Bizarrely enough it even makes the original look good in comparison.
Those familiar with the work of the first one's director, Paul W.S.
Anderson, know what a criminal indictment such a claim must be. Anyone
who makes Anderson look good (apart from Milla Jovovich) must be in
league with powers darker than the ones at the beck and call of the
Republican Party.

Rating: 

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge!

Truth! Beauty! Overediting! Too much cocaine!!

dir: Barry Luhrmann

2001

Moulin Rouge, the fourth in the Three Colours series, is the first to depart from the tried and true formula of having silly French people overact at the drop of a croissant. Instead, in another of his long list of genre bursting endeavours, Barry Luhrmann decided to shift the focus of his vision to the future. In this science fiction / horror crossover, Luhrmann paints a bleak yet colourful canvas of his chilling view of a post apocalyptic alternate future where the fabric of society has been discarded like a drunken bridesmaid's undies and people speak in a post literate language called "ham", obscuring all meaningful communication and leading to sorrow, loneliness and death.

The film begins at a time referred to as "1899", but astute viewers will note that this has nothing to do with actual earth history. On some newly colonised planet, a city called "Paris" cradles both our protagonists and the venue that the film takes its name from, the Moulin Rouge, or "Red Snapper", cunningly referring to the legendary Led Zeppelin groupie anecdote of the same name.

Ewan MacGregor reprises his role of Obi Wan Kenobi without raising the ire of Lucasfilm's platoons of lawyers, and neglects to display his well-abused fleshy lightsabre, to the disappointed groans of audiences everywhere. Hired by an opium addicted Yoda (played by John Leguizamo, in the second most terrifying role of the film), he is asked to kill an evil cannibalistic cyborg played astoundingly well by Nicole Kidman, who doesn't break character once. Reluctantly, he agrees, against his better judgement, but cannot see that he is being set up for a fall.

Nicole Kidman is truly chilling as the cyborg cannibal, often seen wiping the blood of her victims from her mouth. In her cover role as the most famous and highly paid "courtesan" (ie. working girl) in all of the Paris moon colony, her credibility ranks second only to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman for portraying such a convincing, risky, edgy role. Utterly convincing as a mercenary prostitute that never actually has to "put out", so to speak, her acting talents are barely stretched, especially since her simultaneous portrayal of the cannibal cyborg and wily courtesan is flawless, in that it couldn't be more static or inanimate.

She truly is the most terrifying presence I've seen in a film since Divine in Pink Flamingoes.

Rating: 

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