3 stars

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: 

Last Tango in Paris (Ultimo Tango in Parigi)

Last Tango

What happened to you, man? You used to be beautiful

dir: Bernardo Bertolucci

1972

Oh, my good gods do I loathe this film.

I find myself truly amazed that this film has such a vaunted reputation. Famous film critic Pauline Kael wrote a 6,000 word review practically calling it the death and rebirth of cinema. Other critics fell over themselves to praise Brando’s performance beyond the high heavens and to heap the shiniest and gaudiest superlatives that they could upon this film and its lead actor.

What the fuck were they snorting?

Brando may have been the greatest actor of his generation, but I find his entire performance, most of which is improvised, excruciating to listen to and behold. This is not acting, it's actoring: this is an actor doing whatever the hell he wants because he thinks he’s beyond being directed. Whether he’s saying whatever pops into his head, or smacking Maria Schneider in the head with a hair brush, he’s less of an actor than Jim Carrey is.

I mean that seriously. There’s only one genuine scene in the whole film. The most famous scene, from an acting point of view, is the one whether Brando’s alleged character Paul rails against his dead wife as she lies in state. He begins by cursing her out for the whore that she was, railing against her before he breaks down. It’s a powerful scene. I guess.

Everything else reeks of artificiality. It’s as artificial and false, unfeeling and unengaging as if the two main characters were computer generated or if they were acting in different rooms. These two characters are not in the same film, and I bought not a second of the two hour plus running time. I’ve heard that there was a four hour version when it was first released. I hear the US has been using it at Guantanamo Bay to get suspected terrorists to confess that they sniff girl’s bike seats or wear suspenders and stockings under their robes.

If you strapped me down and forced me to watch such a version, I’d be confessing each and every bad or nasty thing I’ve ever done in order to be set free. The credits would barely have started before I’d be spilling my PIN number, network passwords and the amount of times and quantity of money I stole from the church collection plate throughout the last financial year. Don't blame me, I have a yacht to pay off.

Paul (Brando) is an overacting guy in his mid forties whose French wife appears to have committed suicide. They lived together in a sleazy hotel she owned, being the same place she chose to pop her clogs in a spectacularly bloody fashion.

Rating: 

Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000

Battlefield Earth A Saga of the Year 3000

There might be worse movies, but there are few worse posters

dir: Roger Christian

2000

Amazing. Brilliant. Incandescent. Visionary.

But enough about me. This film is considered to be one of the worst films ever made, setting a new standard of shiteness for others to emulate or run screaming from. It’s the benchmark and the reference point for every film that has come out since this wretched new millennium began. Too often I’ve read the phrase “Almost as bad as Battlefield Earth”, or “Battlefield Earth - quality” used as the most scathing of insults aimed at nearly every mediocrity with the temerity to be foisted upon the silver or television screen.

I am here not to praise Battlefield Earth, but to bury it, but as well to bury it in its rightful place in the cemetery, the shallow grave, the unvisited plot or more appropriately, the potter’s field that it belongs in. Long after DVDs and stray videotapes of BE, as I shall refer to it henceforth, have biodegraded into lethal toxins in landfills the world over, its legacy will still be trotted out every time someone makes a crappy sci fi movie, and so it warrants scrutiny, analysis and final judgement even now, nearly a decade on.

The truth is, from my point of view, it’s really not one of the worst movies ever made, not even close. I’ve seen at least ten movies made this year (2008) worse than it, and hundreds since it was first birthed into an unfriendly world. The truth, as well, is that had John Travolta not been in it, and had not Scientologist and L. Ron Hubbard fan – apologists for the book not embarrassed themselves in such numbers and so completely trying to defend it, it never would have mattered. The flick would have gone straight to DVD, would have been watched on late night television by bored and half drunk guys hoping to see some skin, and it would have been mostly forgotten by now along the lines of Event Horizon, Supernova and Leprechaun 4: In Space.

As it stands, the extreme notoriety it has garnered ensures that it will eventually be considered a camp classic along the lines of Showgirls, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Animal House and The Passion of the Christ: each being a movie at the absolute top/nadir of their respective fields.

It’s bad, don’t for a second get me wrong, it’s just not the absolute fabric-of-reality tearing monstrosity it’s been painted as. It’s a D-grade movie with a C-grade script and B-movie acting, led by a supposedly A-list cast. Forrest Whittaker is a fucking Oscar winner, for crying out loud. Travolta, long famous for being one of the hammiest hams that are out there, has had the odd moment of credibility as an actor, and as such is one of the most successful crap actors out there.

These guys aren’t total chumps, they’re players. Heavy hitters. Important people.

Rating: 

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