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6 stars

W.

dir: Oliver Stone
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On some level I have to suspect Oliver Stone wants to think of himself as one of the premiere chroniclers of the American nation . Kind of like a Ken Burns or Sir David Attenborough of presidents, wars and otherwise momentous times. True, he did the dirty with Alexander the Great, which is an abomination wrapped in a travesty wrapped in a fiasco, but his focus has generally been on the American soul and body politic in all its glory.

After JFK, after Nixon, he’s taken the curious step of eulogising or biographising a president still in office at the time of the film’s release, which seems odd. There hasn’t been time for history to either elevate or diminish a statesman’s legacy to any appreciable degree yet, to warrant such a going over, you could say. There hasn’t been the time for the dirt to come out, for the squealers to squeal, for the many damning versions of the truth to accrete, accumulate and overflow. You question the purpose, the intent, the objective. The point.

Oliver Stone is not a subtle man, nor a humble one. Making a film about a sitting president is as much about trumpeting the director’s view of that president to the world as it is about the president himself. You’d think the intention, thus, is critical or at least condemnatory.

Rating:

Eagle Eye

dir: D.J. Caruso
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See, there's precious little I can say about this flick, and about why it's so tedious, and why it's so unsatisfying but still adequate, without giving the whole game away. As in, there's a basic spoiler so spoilerish in its basic spoilerishness that to not say it means I've got nothing else to say about the film apart from mocking it in general and Shia LeBeouf specifically, and that the review itself will not be fulfilling its fundamental obligation to you, the dear reader: telling you what the film is about so you can decide whether to invest two hours of your precious life or not.

Or maybe I can manage it, who knows. Let's see, shall we?

A guy called Jerry (Shia) who's a bit of a bum, a bit of a shmendrick at that, is caught up in some grand conspiracy where some virtually omniscient woman on the phone forces him to do her bidding. At first she's getting him to do stuff just to protect him from the FBI, who soon become involved when he's found to have tonnes of explosives in his apartment. If nothing else, watching those early 'exciting' bits of the movie, I was reminded of the fact that I haven't watched The Matrix in a while. You know, the bit where Morpheus is talking to Neo on the phone at his place of work before the Agents show up. It's somewhat similar.

Rating:

Quantum of Solace

dir: Marc Forster
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Casino Royale was one of the more surprising films for me last year, surprising in that I was expecting the same old shit in a new and shiny bucket. It proved to be better than my lowest expectations, and rekindled my interest in the Bond character, something which dwindled to nothing through most of the 90s.

Riding on that wave of successfulness, all Quantum of Solace had to do was not suck too much, and everyone would be mostly happy. Was that too much to ask?

Craig plays the character with the same level of intensity he brought to his first trip in Bondland, but the story is significantly different. I can dimly remember reading an Ian Fleming short story sharing the name of this film, but I doubt this flick follows the story closely if at all.

All I remember about the short story is that it only features Bond tangentially, and is more about two characters with a bad, bad marriage rather than anything to do with shooting people or beating the crap out of disposable henchmen.

But, see, we live in a different era these days. When Roger Moore played the guy, it was enough to be a suave motherfucker, have some occasional fisticuffs, and always bed the lasses within easy reach of a bottle of Dom Perignon. Despite being as gay as anything.

Rating:

21

dir: Robert Luketic
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Love films about gambling. Can’t get enough of Vegas films about high stakes gambling. Having an addictive personality myself, and having the tenuous self-control to be able to completely stay away from any forms of gambling simply because I know how all consuming they would be for me, I get to live vicariously through these kinds of flicks.

But 21 isn’t like Rounders, Lucky Me, The Hustler, Let it Ride, Owning Mahoney or the recent biopic High Roller about Stu “The Kid” Unger. It’s not about a person or people good at gambling risking everything to win a hefty pot o’ gold at the end of a compulsive / obsessive rainbow. 21, based on a book about these MIT math nerds who made good, is about some students who figured out a way to beat the house at its own game with both counting cards and a system to exploit it.

The risk, or the danger, here, is not losing everything through the vagaries of chance or being outplayed or through losing the battle with one’s own demons. It’s being crushed by the people Vegas casinos hire to ensure card counters, who aren’t doing anything illegal, don’t beat the house at its own game.

Rating:

Pathology

dir: Marc Schoelerman
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This is some pretty sick shit. Insane, too. I hesitate to call it a horror flick, because that makes it sound like it’s scary and that there’s a plot, albeit a generic one.

No, though some elements of this insane flick were guessable in advance, I can’t really say I predicted just how crazy and nasty this crazy flick was going to play out.

Ted Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) is an allegedly brilliant doctor who is interning at an acclaimed pathology centre. The on-the-job training focuses on not only the techniques of pathology (autopsies and such), but on figuring out how people died and what killed them.

From the moment he starts working and studying there, a strange group of idiots led by someone whose name is coincidentally Gallo (Michael Weston) initially ridicule him but then bring him into their ranks with a deadly game they’re just itching to play with him.

In this world without police or pretty much any law enforcement, these crazy kids commit elaborate murders, with the intention being stumping the other interns in their little club with the sheer elusive brilliance with which it was carried out.

Rating:

Ruins, The

dir: Carter Smith
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Four hot young American kids on holiday in Mexico? Of course it’s a horror film. Why else do Americans in any movies go on any holidays, whether it’s Slovenia, Central or Southern America? To be killed, presumably, because every American knows that the rest of the world hates/fears/envies them.

Also, I guess it’s scarier for American audiences to think of themselves as the targets of the world’s attentions.

Our four chaps and chapettes here are just college age kids partying before heading back to their studies. Partying for them is like what partying for the rest of the non-American world is like: drinking and fucking. But they do possess a modicum of curiousity about tourist traps as well.

So when a German guy with an unconvincing German accent tells them of some secret archaeological dig site, they decide to go along for the ride, in order to do something ‘cultural’ before catching their plane back home.

Little do they know that they are mere fodder for some hellish example of history and evolution gone wild. Wild I say!

Rating:

Street Kings

dir: David Ayer
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For my money, any film based on a screenplay that James Ellroy worked on is necessary watching. Obligatory watching. It would be a crime not to.

Now that I think about this a bit more, I start to wonder why this should be the case. Sure, LA Confidential did all right, and I really liked Dark Blue. But Black Dahlia is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t really Ellroy’s fault: we can parcel out the blame to superhack Brian DePalma, Josh Hartnett’s beady little eyes and complete inability to act and a whole host of bad actors looking foolish and acting worse.

Then again, since it was a pretty ludicrous story, maybe it was Ellroy’s fault. For all the gritty crime writing he’s been responsible for, he also, like Stephen King, had a long period of time working fuelled by stimulants, whereby both have written lots of stuff neither remembers writing at all. And it shows, if you know the respective time periods involved.

He remains, though, someone I very much respect in the field of crime writing. I’m not sure how well his work meshes with the world of David Ayer, whose script for Training Day trod a very Ellroyesque path of very corrupt cops doing very corrupt things, but it would seem to be a natural fit.

Rating:

Jumper

dir: Doug Liman
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And I thought this was going to be a movie about someone’s woolly pullover.

No, a jumper is a person with the innate ability to teleport around. David Rice, our main character, teleports around. He discovers he can do this at around age 15, and abandons all semblance of a normal life.

Since he lives outside the bounds of regular society (he abandons his surly father, and their small hick town of Ann Arbour, Michigan), he also freezes at this point in his intellectual and emotional development.

Eight years pass, and now David is played by Hayden Christensen, arguably one of the greatest and hardest working actors of his generation.

No, wait, I meant to say he’s a terrible, woeful actor, so – so - terrible that he is almost a joy to watch. Almost.

The greatest, most awesome aspect is that Christensen isn’t even the worst actor in the movie. The love interest is so fucking awful that she actually makes Christensen look less terrible.

Goddamn is she godawful. If no-one stopped her, I can imagine she would have started and ended every sentence of dialogue with, “like… you know, dude” as if she was a hippie chick from a 1960s Roger Corman biker pic. Oh good gods was she terrible.

Rating:

Incredible Hulk, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Hope. People hope for a lot of things. Some people hope they’ll have enough money to feed themselves and their families tomorrow, after of course they’ve bought their daily requirement of drugs. Others hope for the election of a leader with the audacity to claim that everything instantly will get better everywhere once he gets elected.

Others hope for a way to forget the Freudian nightmare that was Ang Lee’s Hulk. Well, Marvel and French action director Louis Leterrier, previously celebrated for making the entertaining but utterly brainless Transporter movies with Jason Statham, hope that you’ll be able to replace all memories of the previous instalment with the current one.

The Incredible Hulk jettisons absolutely everything from the earlier film: It’s like it never happened. All new actors, all new origin, and absolutely none of the psychomalogical Oedipal rage crap that dragged down audience enjoyment levels in the past. And it is far more of a generic comic-book adaptation than anyone could have ever dreamed or imagined.

Or maybe we’re supposed to pretend that other Hulk never existed. Don’t mention the war.

Rating:

Bank Job, The

dir: Roger Donaldson
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I loves me a good heist movie, I does. Big fan of heist movies. Probably one of my favourite genres, since my tolerance for vampire movies, zombie movies and Merchant Ivory productions has waned.

Who am I kidding, I still love that lace doily, maiden aunt with scones Merchant Ivory shit.

The Bank Job, you might think, is something of a heist movie. But it has the added bonus of allegedly being based on a true story. As well!

As far as I’m concerned, this is based on a true story the way 10,000 BC, Pearl Harbor and Transformers were based on true stories. Sure there were woolly mammoths building the pyramids. Sure giant robots travelled to our planet searching for Rubik’s cubes. Sure, Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale fought the Japanese and won with their dignity and 40s hairstyles intact in a love triangle story that echoes throughout the ages..

So, to reiterate, I believe the “true” elements in The Bank Job involve the fact that there is a place called London, and it is populated by people, some of whom are British. And there was a calendar year called 1971.

Other than that, I don’t even believe there was such a time and place as the so-called 70s, at least not as represented here. And a Princess Margaret? Who ever heard of such a being?

Rating:

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