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5 stars

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:

Tron Legacy

dir: Joseph Kosinski
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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:

Greenberg

Greenberg

oh, this looks so much like a quirky indie comedy. It's not. It's so not.

dir: Noah Baumbach

Officially the most depressing flick of the year. Worse than a twenty-hour Holocaust documentary. Worse than a dramatic indie flick chronicling the breakdown of a marriage in excruciating detail. Worse than a live action film where the main character is a computer animated dog.

It always gets me when the people designing the posters for films do this, whereupon they put the name of the ‘star’ at the top linking it directly to the main character of the flick they’re obviously in. When they were making those Bourne Identity et al flicks, the posters, which featured a big muscly pic of Matt Damon, often came standard with the phrase “Matt Damon IS Jason Bourne!” as if there were any lingering doubts in the confused populace.

Of course the confusion arises because Matt Damon isn’t Jason Bourne, a fictional character, he’s the actor and soft drink salesman Matt Damon, surprisingly enough.

So when the posters for this dirge of a flick has the same type of phrase, as in “Ben Stiller IS Greenberg”, I don’t have the same pedantic reaction. What I actually think in this instance is that if Ben Stiller actually was this Greenberg person, someone should murder him in his sleep.

Rating:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

dir: Mike Newell
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For me there’s an element of watching your kid performing onstage during the Christmas pageant or something similar, in terms of watching this flick. I mean it in the sense that I’m going to be more forgiving in my expectations, and that I’m actively going to like something that others will grind their teeth through.

My fandom for the whole Prince of Persia enterprise goes far back enough that I was but knee-high to a grasshopper; an ancient Persian grasshopper on some grass stalks in the ye old deserts of another time and age.

Yes, I’m talking about the computer games, the many games that have come out with a highly limber and acrobatic protagonist who leaps about defying gravity and fighting bad guys with his scimitar. I’ve played all of them, from the Apple IIe version, through to the Commodore 64 version, and the three million or so versions on PC. I even played the last one, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which proved, to me at least, that I’ll practically buy anything with those fated words scrawled across the cover in fancy script. If they bring out a desert topping and floor cleaner called Prince of Persia, I’ll probably end up buying that too.

Rating:

Green Zone

dir: Paul Greengrass
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Mocking things is easy. Real easy.

Fun, too.

It’s also lazy. The easiest and laziest goddamn thing any reviewer had to say about this flick was that, given the participation of the director, shaky-cam cinematographer and lead actor, it’s essentially a Bourne flick without the Jason Bourne character.

These reviews just write themselves, don’t they?

It’s not an insult that carried a lot of weight, because this was in truth more of a fictionalised rendering of actual events, being the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the lies, damned lies and statistics used as the casus belli, or justification for the war itself.

The problem is that a) what they’re referring to, with such seriousness, no-one really gives a fuck about any more, and b) it’s attached to a plot so implausible and uninteresting that I’m not sure if it really justifies its existence independent of the premise.

Rating:

Bodyguards and Assassins (Shi yue wei cheng)

Shi yue wei cheng

The Party is Good the Party is Great, I surrender my will
as of this date

dir: Teddy Chen

Sometimes, movies, and indeed film reviews, ask a lot of you. They demand that you know a little bit about something in order for you to either give a fuck about what you’re watching / reading, or that you have some idea of what’s going on in order for it to make some sense.

What I’m talking about, in this instance, is not a knowledge of relevant history, contemporary or ancient. Nor is it a demand for understanding of the incredible history of one of the longest continuous civilisations on the planet, being the Chinese.

No, what is demanded in this context is a deep/superficial knowledge of just how much the Chinese, and Hong Kong, film industries, desperately need to pacify and placate their Communist / Totalitarian / Capitalist masters by popping out propagandistic swill occasionally.

You yourself might have heard about the real life person called Dr Sun Yat-Sen, who sought to unify China and cast off the shackles of their Manchu masters, but it’s even more relevant to know why a flick such as this depends on knowing that: Sun Yat-Sen was one of those initially ‘unpersonned’ persons, to use the Orwellian phrase, that the Communists initially reviled as a tool of foreign backsliding imperialism, but then reclaimed. It’s even more illuminating to realise that the fucker has fuck all to do with this flick, except for some crucial lines delivered by an eerily waxwork replica of the man.

Rating:

Ninja Assassin

Ninja Assassin

This Assassin will Ninja you! No, wait, the ninja will assassin you?
Could be it's a tad tautological

dir: James McTeigue

Wow. I haven’t seen a flick with as many meaty chunks flying around since the last time I took a trip to a slaughterhouse, or perhaps Easter Sunday lunch at my parent’s place. There’s substantially less mooing going on here, but all the same, the majority of the people who appear onscreen are here only to end up as chunks of meat on the floor for our entertainment.

That is what we are, after all. Maybe there’s something depressing about seeing visual (and entirely computer generated) representations of the essential meatiness of our bodies. Rendered down into our component parts, everything we were and ever will be, annihilated like that, well, it’s pretty confronting.

At least for a while. This decidedly substandard action movie opens with a bunch of yakuza thugs exploding into discrete piles o’chunks, at the hands, blades and shurikens of unseen, shadowy assassins. In other words, there must be murderous ninjas afoot!

The heyday of the ninja flick was definitely the 80s. At no other time has there been as much of a market for the endless permutations of the magically murderous character, which is why we had, for an all too brief, halcyon period, a stream of ninja related action flicks. For reasons I haven’t expended and won’t expend brain power on, the ninja sub-genre appealed to American audiences, leading to this procession of flicks starring obviously non-Japanese people as experts in ninjitsu, and the art of assassination and deception. Not for nothing did men like Franco Nero and Michael Dudikoff become household names.

What do you mean, they didn’t? Surely almost everyone in Christendom and Buddhisdom, for that matter, watched everything from Enter the Ninja to Silent Assassin to American Ninja 5: The Re-ninja-ing? They didn’t? Well, what were they busy doing, building treehouses, setting off bottle rockets or building crystal meth labs instead?

I don’t know if I’m at all glad that they’re bringing this genre back again. Like Michael Jackson, it had its time and place, and probably doesn’t merit resurrection. It feels uncomfortably like coming home and finding your significant other in flagrante delicto which Chuck Norris. Tell me seeing him on his hands and knees with someone else in deep up to their elbow wouldn’t be the most retro yet disturbing thing you ever saw in your life.

Rating:

Hangover, The

The Hangover

I swear we're funnier in real life, officer

dir: Todd Phillips

2009

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.

But then, it is exactly what it claims to be. It never pretended to be anything more than a lowbrow comedy centring around a bachelor party in Las Vegas, where a bunch of dicks act dickish and try to get back to their town in one piece. It’s pretty much an American rite of passage, right up there with losing your virginity and shooting a gun for the first time, preferably at the same time.

The truly original part of this story is that it’s about a bunch of guys who end up having a crazy Bachelor Party kind of night, but they can’t remember it and they lose the groom, in a Dude, Where’s My Car kind of fashion. So they have to follow a trail of vomited-on bread crumbs to find their stuff and the groom, who, for all they know, has been sold into white slavery and is now the chattel of some odious sheik. Dance, pretty white boy, he’ll say, dance for me or it’s the chop for you.

Rating:

Batman Begins

dir: Christopher Nolan
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I have to say, I’m starting to get sick of all this superhero shit. The names and stars change, the settings and villains, but it’s the same shit in a different bucket every time a new one comes out.

With fairly low expectations I ventured onward and upward to check this out, being mindful of the exuberant reviews that paint this as being the bestest superhero flick ever made. I have to say, I just can’t see what they’re seeing. To me Batman Begins is just another generic superhero film, only slightly lamer than the others that have been coming out lately.

Sure, it’s better than the other four movies directed by old spookykid Tim Burton and uberhack Joel Schumacher, but they were pretty crappy anyway. Batman & Robin was the acknowledged nadir of the franchise, but for my money it was just as lame and cringeworthy as any of the other flicks.

Rating:

Matrix: Revolutions

dir: The Wachowski Brothers
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Wow. I mean, honestly, wow. This is a perfect picture. Actually, it's a picture perfect example of how even when people have a guaranteed hit on their hands, all the money in the world, complete creative control and the freedom to do whatever they want, people, in this being case the Wachowski Brothers, can still find a way to fuck things up seven ways from Sunday. And not in that
good way that your girlfriends like so much.

Rating:

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