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6 stars

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

dir: Nicholas Stoller
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This is being released under the “Judd Apatow” banner as if Judd’s name alone is now a seal of filthy comedy approval. Wondering if a comedy is funny? Well, Judd Apatow was involved, so it must be so funny you’ll laugh until you rupture something.

Okay, so 40-Year-Old Virgin was funny, and Knocked Up was funny. Apatow directed them. But now are we really meant to believe that Apatow doesn’t even have to make the movies for them to be funny? He just “produces” them under the Apatow Productions banner, other people direct them, and they’re still full of Apatow-y goodness.

I think not. Even with the commercial and critical success of some of his comedies, the law of diminishing returns kicked in around the time of Drillbit Taylor. Forgetting Sarah Marshall isn’t going to kill off the Apatow bandwagon, but it might throw a wrench or two into the spokes.

It’s not a horrible film, in fact it’s relatively funny at some stages. The main actors aren’t horrible, the costumes are nice, the lighting was okay, and the make-up work is top notch throughout. I don’t know what the catering was like, but it was probably okay. No-one looks like they got sick from bad food, so that’s my assumption as to the relative merits of the food service.

Rating:

Run, Fatboy, Run

dir: David Schimmer
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Sure, the title of this flick is a phrase that has been yelled at me by people in passing cars, the police, girlfriends and my own mother, but I’m not bitter about it…

Well, not too bitter.

Simon Pegg is becoming a ubiquitous figure of British comedy, in that a few comedies come out of Britain each year, and he seems to be in at least one of them annually. Yes, that is my new definition of ubiquity.

He’s recognisable, and has a loyal following of fans who find his antics and constant mugging amusing. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are his two most well known roles, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that this flick right here is anything like those other ones.

This should not, nay, MUST not be confused with the comedies Pegg’s been in with Nick Frost and directed by Ed Wright.

Because, in case you missed it, this flick was directed by the tool who used to play Ross on Friends. Yes, the loathsome, the terrible, the horripilating David Schimmer.

This is a fairly lame and lazy romantic comedy, and had it starred someone else I probably would never have bothered seeing it. It does however have some pretty funny people in it, making up for the abjectly pathetic script.

Rating:

Vantage Point

dir: Pete Travis
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What these kinds of flicks usually have going for them is momentum. It’s not brains, it’s not character, and it’s certainly not depth.

Vantage Point is essentially a Bourne-type film without the advantage or the anchor of a Jason Bourne-like character. To compensate for this they fracture the narrative, replay the central event what feels like fifty times, and then break out of the temporal loop by moving forward at break-neck speed to the big action climax.

Initially, we watch the occasion of an anti-terrorism summit in Salamanca, Spain, from the confines of a news van covering the event to the side of a jam-packed plaza. The US President (William Hurt) is here on this historic occasion where the leaders of many nations are banding together to assert that terrorism is bad, m’kay? He is guarded by Secret Service agents (Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid), one of whom recently took a bullet for him, or at least thinks he did. An American tourist (Forest Whitaker) watches the event through his video camera, uncomfortable with the idea of trusting his memory alone. Or is it because the camera has some plot significance later on?

Rating:

Across The Universe

dir: Julie Taymor
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Julie Taymor, being Julie Taymor, delivers high concept drama-free colour-soaked movies rich in immaculate artistic design and acting little higher up on the relative scale compared to dinner theatre.

In Across the Universe, she delivers a musical using much of the Beatles better known back catalogue, which is more of a homage to the gullibility of audiences seeking a romantic fix mixed with 60s Americana clichés rather than honouring the Liverpudlian larrikins and their music.

Is it entertaining? Eh, if you like polished, sickly sweet musicals and karaoke versions of classic pop songs, then maybe it is. Maybe it is.

But otherwise the clearest thought that came into my mind was that this flick seriously reminded me, as most things remind me, of an episode of The Simpsons where trusty news anchor Kent Brockman starts a news story about the 1960s saying something like “And here’s a 60s montage.” Random cliché scenes of hippies, the National Guard popping skulls at Kent State, civil rights marches and Vietnam protests flick past to the accompaniment of All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix. At the end of the montage, Brockman intones in disgust “What a shrill and pointless decade.”

Well, Kent, feel free to describe this film in a similar fashion.

Rating:

Golden Compass, The

dir: Chris Weitz
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The hardest obstacle faced by any new fantasy film that comes out now is that it has to distinguish itself from the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings movies to be taken seriously. That is, if the actual intention is to distinguish itself, instead of aping them and going out of the way to remind you of the similarities to cut down on the marketing budget.

Why craft a campaign around celebrating the best aspects of your brand new potential film trilogy when all you have to say is “It’s just like Harry Potter hanging out with Frodo in Narnia! We’ll even use some of the same actors just to remind you, you stupid muggles!”

If no distinction is entertained or sought, then you can dismiss these flicks to straight-to-DVD hell and brand them little more than a cheap Rings/Potter knock-offs, and go back to sleeping comfortably. Night-night baby.

The great difficulty faced by this film specifically is that the story stands in stark contrast to material like that of the Harry Potter franchise or, more aptly, the Narnia tales, but has been rendered into a form most calculated to remind people of, say, the Narnia and Potter franchises. Ah, familiarity and the contentment / contempt that it brings.

Rating:

30 Days of Night

dir: David Slade
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The vampire genre of flicks has truly been played out. There’s pretty much nowhere left to go, is there?

Every variation on the theme has been done to death already, hasn’t it? Vampires as romantic tortured souls, vampires as soulless vermin, vampires running the world in secret, vampires as aliens, vampirism as a metaphor for sex, AIDS, addiction, vampirism as a metaphor for capitalism, communism and every other –ism you can imagine.

So I guess it was time to bring it all back to basics and just have them as marauding monsters bent on killing everyone they can like the scum that they are.

Rating:

Hitman

dir: Xavier Gens
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It’s called Hitman. Use your imagination as to what it’s about, go on. I dare you, I double dare you.

It’s about a guy called 47 (Timothy Olyphant), bald and with a barcode on the back of his head, who travels the world at the behest of The Organisation, killing people for money. He’s very good at his job, as one would expect, since centring an action movie and a game franchise around a hitman who’s actually quite lazy and sloppy would seem to be counter-productive.

Varying from the game, 47’s origins are such that he was picked up as an orphan and trained ruthlessly by some macabre monk types before being unleashed upon the world. Orphans just cop it the worst every time, don’t they?

He is hired to take out the current Russian president, and does so, only to find that he is now a target, and that the Russian president seems to be fine despite having had his head JFKed with a high-powered sniper round.

Rating:

I Am Legend

dir: Francis Lawrence
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You know, Will, you’re really not.

He may be the biggest box office star currently, he may be a good earner, he may be an occasionally decent actor, he may even be the Big Willy he claims to be in his music, but Will Smith is no Legend. At least not in this bloody movie.

I remember The Omega Man with a certain degree of affection, or at least as much affection as you can have for a film with Charlton Heston in it. Both this flick, that flick and another called The Last Man on Earth all stem from the same novel, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Just because this flick, directed by the guy who brought us the cinematic adaptation of Constantine, uses the name of the source material for the first time, don’t go thinking it chooses to cleave closely to the actual story.

Oh no. Why would you want to, when instead you can have Will Smith talking to himself and talking to his dog Sam for 80 minutes and then killing evil puffy looking vampires for the other ten minutes?

Rating:

Die Hard 4.0: Live Free or Die Hard

dir: Len Wiseman
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Oh, Bruce. You are so old. But there’s no reason for you to stop acting. Still, please think about what it looks like when, in a flick where fighter jets blow up freeway overpasses in Baltimore or when a lunatic uses a police car to take out helicopter, the most unbelievable aspect of the film is the idea that you’re still capable of running around and beating people up.

Think of your fragile hips. I know I was for most of this movie’s duration. Not in an erotic way, oh no, but more in a “is he getting enough calcium in his diet?” kind of way.

Bruce Willis joins a list of other well-aged hams who are most recently, reluctantly coming to terms with their aging process. In a desperate attempt to remain relevant, in an even more desperate attempt to convince audiences that they’re still hard men, Willis joins Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and Paul Hogan in reprising a character they played in some cases over twenty years ago in order to earn some beer money.

Rating:

Death Proof

dir: Quentin Tarantino
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I don’t think there are insults left to fling at Quentin Tarantino. The cries of plagiarism, unoriginality, lack of individual inspiration, immature fixation on the films of his youth, awful personal hygiene; all these barbs have been passed around and thrown at him for over a decade since he came to our collective notice.

And they’ve all stuck, because they’re all true. Yet he keeps going on and on, continuing to do his thing without giving a damn…

Death Proof is the Tarantino half of what was one movie when it was initially released in the States: Grindhouse. Grindhouse itself, whilst a wonderful idea that delighted all those shlubs old enough to remember drive-ins and the sleazy c-grade double bills that used to play at them and at grungy old cinemas that were literally called grindhouses, it didn’t set the box office alight.

As such, the Weinstein Brothers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to split the two halves, the other half being the Robert Rodriguez flick Planet Terror, and released them individually outside of America. Thus, we have Death Proof now, and Planet Terror coming out in a month or so.

Rating:

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