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5 stars

Russian Ark

(Russkiy kovcheg)
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dir: Aleksandr Sokurov

Usually when people are ambivalent about something they say "I'm in two minds about this". In the case of this film I am in fifteen minds about it.

Reading reviews of this film from the serious chin-stroking film reviewers over the last few months, I was lead to believe that this film is one of the single greatest contributions to cinema in the last 100 years. It only recently received cinematic release here in Australia, and I was eager to see it on the big screen instead of
waiting another month or so to see it on DVD.

Much has been made of both the achievement in cinema this film represents and the artistic conceptual realisation that the film maker strives for. Essentially the achievement is an entire film made without edits. It is one continuous shot, unedited and incredibly well choreographed behind the scenes, with hundreds of extras having to be doing the right thing at the right time. Apparently it took them three attempts to get it right, which must have been quite frustrating for all concerned.

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:

Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Twilight Eclipse

This stuff really is beyond parody, mostly because it's a
parody of the human capacity for junk tolerance already

dir: David Slade

2010

And the shit keeps on rolling out…

Wow, has it really only been a year since the last Twilight movie? Surely our years and entire lives are now structured around the release of new instalments in this rightly labelled saga? And it is a saga indeed. Epic, if you will, in proportions, length, width, girth, and in precious emotions.

Big emotions. Huge emotions. Bigger than anything you’ve ever snored through in your entire life!

See there’s a girl called Bella (Kristen Stewart) and every boy’s in love with her, because she’s so wonderful, despite not doing, saying or thinking a single interesting thing in her life. She does nothing, thinks nothing, imagines nothing, nothings nothing. She’s such a nothing that four books are devoted to her. Who ever said there was presence in absence was thinking squarely of Bella Swan and Kristen Stewart’s non-acting abilities.

Perversely, not only is she irresistible to every boy in school, but even the vampire and werewolf set think she’s all kinds of awesome. Yes, vampires and werewolves exist in this world, and their only reason for existing is to reassure Bella that she’s the best. The werewolves, however, are American Indian young dudes with shaved chests who run around half-naked until they transform, whenever they feel like it, or get angry, or get horny, into giant dogs.

Rating:

Stalker

Stalker

Staring at the cover from the Criterion Collection is better than
watching the goddamn film

dir: Andrei Tarkovsky

1979

As a self-appointed film wanker, one who’s studied some elements of film history and criticism of the art form, but who hasn’t earned any formal qualifications or work experience in the field or any real credible basis for one’s pretentions, it’s often hard for me to justify my own status. Sure, I think I’ve got something relevant/amusing to say about films, mostly only because I love ‘em, and when you love something, whether it’s individual films or films in general, you might, like I do, feel like that gives you licence to inflict your opinions upon the rest of the world.

The hardest thing for me to justify is not my lack of knowledge of the kinds of things that send professional film critic and theory types into paroxysmic orgasms, but the fact that quite often I just can’t muster any appreciation of them.

In other words, yeah, so I’ve seen Citizen Kane a few times, but, honestly, put that Rosebud shit to bed, it’s had its day already.

Long intro: short point. I’ll acknowledge that I know who the Russian directorial ‘master’ Andrei Tarkovsky is, and what his films are, and that he was a master of crafting what he and many other film wankers consider some of the finest films known to man. But for the fucking life of me it doesn’t translate into my being able to enjoy watching most of his flicks.

Stalker was the last of the films in a Tarkovsky collection I bought a few years ago, last chronologically in the set as well as the last I finished watching. It’s taken me no less than about a dozen tries to get through the goddamn flick. My biggest problem is that, just as with his other alleged masterpiece, Solaris, watching any of the sequences in this flick, especially any time when the camera slowly zooms in on nothing happening, or when it painstakingly, agonisingly pans from left to right or back again, it knocks me the fuck out. I don’t mean it makes me feel a tad sleepy, I mean it knocks me out like a handful of Ambien. Day or night, ragged or rested, certain of his flicks put me into a narcotised state from which it’s not safe for me to operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery for a day afterwards. Even using the phone is not a good idea. You’ll be slurring like you’ve been drinking cough syrup all day.

Rating:

Myth, The

dir: Stanley Tong
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Jackie Chan films are, by and large, pretty silly. The Myth is even sillier than most, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely unentertaining. Is there such a word? That’s it, I’m copywriting it.

Who cares, either way. The Myth is a silly but not unentertaining film about two guys in two different time periods played by Jackie. Let’s fact it, even Jackie’s best films are pretty silly. And here, paired with the same director who made Rumble in the Bronx and the appalling First Strike, this flick happily resides somewhere in the middle.

I love Jackie Chan. It’s impossible not to love him. Anyone who doesn’t love him barely retain the tattered remnants of a soul that makes them human. He’s just so lovable, like puppies, like cute little babies, like panda cubs.

That’s not the same thing as saying that a) he’s a great actor, or b) most of his films are good. Most of his films are crap. Really, really crap. So crap that they make you want to gouge your eyes out and those of the people sitting next to you. And the longer his career has gone on, the more crap his films have generally become. Of course, he’s been in 97 movies, so it’s not surprising that most of them are shite.

Rating:

Twilight

dir: Catherine Hardwick
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Oh good gods is it terrible! Make it stop!

Stop the night terrors, the images of atrocious acting that march through my nightmares each night since subjecting myself to this awful, awful movie. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but this truly is a flick so atrocious that it almost seems like a parody of itself, a parody of teen vampire romances, and a parody of filmmaking in general. This film uniquely captures, the way dogcatchers uniquely capture stray and rabid dogs, a collection of actors giving performances so terrible that if they were racehorses, you would surround the cast and crew with screens, load up the shotguns, and put them all out of our misery.

Rating:

Pineapple Express

dir: David Gordon Green
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There’s this impulse in many of us, ‘us’ as in the kind of people who post and read opinion, commentary and other bullshit on the tubes of the internets. When anything appears, even if it is well liked from the start, there’s always this impulse to be the first to say the honeymoon is over, baby, and that thing, tv series, sequence of books or person has ‘jumped the shark’. Outlived their usefulness. Exceeded their use-by date. Outstayed their welcome.

I come not to praise Seth Rogen but to bury him. The funny, charming slightly shlubby guy has now reached the stage, at least with me, where I no longer find his shtick funny, and instead find him somewhat tiresome and obnoxious. I don’t know if it’s this film specifically, or the ‘character’ he plays, but he’s really starting to annoy me.

As an actor he has the range of a comedian, which means he has practically no range at all, and it doesn’t help that the ‘character’ he plays here is pretty much indistinguishable from anything else he’s ever done. He plays an unambitious low achiever who likes smoking dope.

Rating:

Happening, The

dir: M. Night Shyamalan
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The Happening, the happening… What happened again?

What happened was, M. Night Shyamalan made another film that was universally panned, and was actively laughed at by audiences, despite not being a comedy. I think it’s fairly obvious that Shyamalan is never going to be able to make another successful film. He should go back to working the drive through at some burger place.

Honestly, at least then people will buy what he’s selling. At the moment, no one gives him the benefit of the doubt when his unfortunate films debut in the cinemas. They’re pre-loaded for failure. People, whether critics or not, expect them to be bad with almost more certainty than the films of Uwe Boll or movies whose titles end in Movie.

Rating:

Wanted

dir: Timur Bekmambetov
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Trash. Not mindless trash, but trash all the same. And it’s trash you’ve already seen, as long as you’ve seen The Matrix. Even with a completely different setting and premise, it is so reminiscent of The Matrix that you keep expecting Agents to turn up and Kanooie to appear mouthing “Whoa!” in that supremely affectless way of his.

It’s not just the fact that the supposed hero of the piece, Wesley (James McAvoy), starts off as a depressed office drone who finds out that he’s actually a gifted superhero type, and thus goes from zero to hero in record time. The entire special effects package seems to be solely aimed at insulting the laws of gravity and making entities such as Sir Isaac Newton spin in their graves in a fashion wholly contrary to the physical universe as we know it.

Taking a gratuitous leaf out of The Matrix’s script, the intro begins the film’s descent into cinematic cliché and carnage by having a normal seeming guy do some completely impossible shit involving killing a bunch of guys at a great distance and jumping from one skyscraper to a distant other. Before he is almost mystically killed with a bullet that curves through space and possibly time.

Rating:

Onion Movie, The

dir: James Kleiner?
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There is a shroud of mystery, a deathly pall hanging over this movie, the movie called The Onion Movie. What’s its story? What’s going on? How is Rodney Dangerfield in it? Hasn’t he been dead a long while? Has he risen from the grave, searching for the respect that long eluded him? Will his undead zombie be calling for “Brains!” or “Boobies”?

Two digressions: I’ll try to keep them quick. The real antecedent/origin of this flick is an attempt to make something along the lines of Kentucky Fried Movie or the Airplane/Flying High! movies. That’s the style of comedy that comes closest to this both in format and content. Since the movie uses the Onion television channel as its framing device, and the soothing, credible crooning of newsreader Norm Archer (Len Cariou) to link the various stories, with ads and other programs thrown in, it’s almost like it’s made to order template-wise according to the KFC spec.

Rating:

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