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6 stars

Flash Point (Dao huo xian)

dir: Yip Wai Sun
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This is superficial and pointless even for a Hong Kong action flick, but damn are the fights good.

They’re too few and far between, but at the very least you can rely on Donnie Yen to deliver the goods fight-wise.

Donnie Yen is the current superstar of Hong Kong fight!-fight!-fight! fighting. He’s in the position for two reasons that I can think of that have nothing to do with acting: every other half-able fighter has moved over to Hollywood, and no-one really wants the mantle.

It’s not because of his thespian abilities, that’s for sure. And if you were wondering if Donnie is the best, have no doubt, he’ll tell you himself. The special features on DVDs of his flicks, a term devalued purely by many of the features film producers consider to be special, will often have interviews with Donnie Yen wearing sunglasses indoors and telling the camera that he is the greatest movie fighter around. Humility doth flow from this man’s every pore, yea verily.

Yes, so he’s a monumental wanker. Thing is, though, whenever I watch him fight, I forget for those few minutes all about the sheer magnitude of his wankerishness, and I marvel at just how amazing the guy is when he’s kicking the absolute shit out of some poor shmuck.

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Transformers

dir: Michael Bay
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It is easy to hate Michael Bay, and especially to hate his movies. They are the apotheosis of mindless action raised to the status of pure content-free escapist claptrap that steals souls whilst it damages minds with its spastic imagery and brutal soundtracks. And Michael Bay himself is the grinning face of Death, seducing us with worm-filled decaying excrement dressed up in shiny chrome and flash. He is the painted whore of Hollywood, he is the handmaiden of horrible men like Jerry Bruckheimer; he is Bruckheimer in director’s form, and the world becomes a substantially worse place every time he disgorges or defecates a movie out onto our planet.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by Transformers. It’s still an incoherent, character-less mess, but it’s a vaguely entertaining incoherent, character-less mess.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the film did not make me want to gouge my own eyes out and perforate my own eardrums in self-defence or in protest.

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Freedom Writers

dir: Richard LaGravenese
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If you ever desperately prayed for a way in which to figure out just how cynical and jaded you’ve become in your stinky old age, you need to watch a flick like Freedom Writers as the true test. It’s a perfect gauge of where on the miserable old bastard scale you currently reside.

The thing is, though, it’s such a finely tuned, sensitive Geiger counter of a test that I’m not sure how many will come out smelling of roses. I think even Mother Theresa would come out of it looking bad.

The premise, which is prefaced with those dreaded words “Based on a true story”, is that in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots, a young idealistic teacher (Hillary Swank) tries to teach some underprivileged kids at an urban school whose life expectancies are akin to that of grams of drugs around AFL footballers: they’re not going to last very long at all.

Erin Gruwell starts off all sunshine and light, and remains all sunshine and light throughout. She cares about the kids right from the start, but her character arc is that she has to learn to speak to them about life in a way that doesn’t condescend and that appreciates the war-torn realm in which they live their lives. How will she achieve the seemingly impossible? By getting them to read The Diary of Ann Frank.

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Reign Over Me

dir: Mike Binder
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Hmmm, Adam Sandler in a serious role again. Smells like Oscarbait to me.

Reign Over Me is a somewhat manipulative attempt by the filmmakers to both make Sandler look like an Oscar contender and to use the September 11th attacks to tug at the heartstrings of gooey audiences everywhere.

When I think of that terrible day, I don’t say to myself: “what I really need is a way to make the tragedy personal, to understand it in the scope of the impact it had on one person. And I want that person to be Adam Sandler looking like a very dishevelled Bob Dylan”.

I mean, after all, no tragedy is more hard-hitting or better explained except when it’s done by a comedian.

In a lot of ways, though Sandler isn’t as excruciating as you would expect, he plays the role the same way he plays every role, whether it’s a comedy or not. It’s still the same character - an aging poster child for arrested adolescence deals with, uh, stuff – that he plays in absolutely everything he’s ever played.

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28 Weeks Later

dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
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Gee, I wonder what flick this is a follow-up to?

Danny Boyle doesn’t return to helm this sequel, but I’m sure he made some money out of it as an executive producer. As such I’m sure he’s not too disappointed with how it turned out, but I’m sure he would have done it quite differently.

Instead of Boyle and his usual crew, it gets a bunch of other writers, and the Spanish director of a superb flick from a bunch of years ago called Intacto. I loved Intacto (a strange flick about luck as a power, as a curse) so much that I expected 28 Weeks Later to be some kind of masterpiece as well.

As it stands, this flick is passable entertainment, I’d say. They keep the location, and the story (a rage virus spreads throughout Britain making most of the population go berserk and kill each other), but saddle it with a pretty simple (some might say almost stupid) plot in order to gain some kind of currency with world events.

World events like the present Iraq Adventure, I guess.

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Spider-Man 3

dir: Sam Raimi
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You know, I'm ashamed to admit this, but maybe George Lucas was right. Lucas delighted the no-talent shlubs who write the entertainment gossip columns by announcing that, in his lofty opinion, Spider-Man 3 was 'silly'. I ridiculed him for it, pointing out that the man who gave the world Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks and nancy-boy Anakin Skywalker was in no position to be telling other people their films are silly.

Thing is, though, he might be right. Just because Lucas is a shitheel doesn't mean his opinion in this instance is wrong. And just as his spite might be motivated by jealousy over the massive juggernaut that is the Spider-Man franchise, which has eclipsed his own 6 instalment
franchise in terms of box office power, he still might be right.

Spider-Man 3 is, in many bits, very silly. Whilst watching the opening battle between the Son of Green Goblin and Friendly Neighbourhood Spidey, I thought I was watching the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flick. That isn't a good frame of mind to be in when you're watching the supposed blockbuster of this or any other year and the most expensive flick ever made (til now).

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300

dir: Zack Snyder
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It’s history as the backstory for a deliciously violent computer game. Games with a solid backstory
are always more enjoyable; it makes the slashing and dismemberment all the more entertaining and meaningful.

See, there was a Battle of Thermopylae. And there were 300 Spartans who fought and died in
battle against a much larger army of Persians. But I doubt any of it looked as pretty as this.

The Spartans, proudly led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), are incredibly handsome and ridiculously
buff. They are noble, strong, resolutely heterosexual, fearless and fabulous in their leather codpieces.
The Persians are sexually ambiguous, freakish, have tattoos and multiple piercings, and are inhuman
and monstrous.

The Persians come to enslave all Greeks. The Spartans, lovers of freedom that they are, fight for
honour, for freedom and for justice.

The Persians use rhinoceroses, elephants, bombs and arrows, and all sorts of nasty tricks in battle
because they have no honour and they fight like cowardly girls. The Spartans, warriors to a man,
fight with vigour and honour, fronting their foes face to face before rending them limb from limb.

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All the King's Men

dir: Steve Zaillian
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Of all the flicks that came out last year, few garnered more scathing reviews and cat-calls than All the King’s Men. Not in Australia, necessarily, where pretty much no-one cared (though it still got bad reviews). In the States it was treated by reviewers and audiences alike as if it was a piece of shit covered in leprosy germs. Few films lost more money last year, and few were so hated. With that kind of rep, I was obliged to see it.

In the time-honoured tradition of spruiking for worthless crap, before the film even came out, and before it played on the film festival circuit and was screened for critics, the PR minions backing the film put out bullshit hype about how the flick would doubtless kill at the Oscars, with little golden dildos all around for all involved. Instead of generating positive buzz and interest, this had the effect of souring people on the whole experience before they even stepped into the theatre.

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Rocky Balboa

dir: Sylvester Stallone
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Why did this film have to be made? Was it because of you?

Did anyone want a sixth Rocky film? A film where a guy in his sixties steps into the ring once more at an age where what he should be fighting against is the onset of diabetes and osteoporosis? Whose greatest opponent should be his fragile hips?

I’ll tell you who demanded that this flick get made, who needed to see it through: Stallone himself. It is impossible to separate the motivations of the character from the actor/director. Rocky feels the need to once more step into the ring at a time and place so far passed its use-by date that the very idea is met with incredulity by all around him. Stallone resurrected and made this flick when no-one around him apart from accountants thought it should be made.

“Rocky/Sylvester, you’re too old, no-one thinks you can do it, you’ll embarrass yourself, get over your glory days and live in the present. Just let it go, old man, please, we’re begging you.”

But, like Don Quixote, like King Knut railing against the tide, like Rocky Balboa himself, Stallone refuses to admit his age and to admit his own irrelevancy in this modern day and age.

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Idiocracy

dir: Mike Judge
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You may think stupid people are making this a harder place to live on a daily basis, but can you imagine a planet of morons where intelligence has been bred out of our species entirely? Can you imagine using that as a premise for a comedy / sci fi flick?

Well, Mike Judge, creator of King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead and director of Office Space, uses it as his main contention here. In Idiocracy, we have a look at an American future where IQs are around 60 and people are so fucking stupid that the most popular television show in world history is Ow, My Balls!, a show where a guy gets whacked in the balls repeatedly, and the number one film at the box office is Ass, a 90 minute film of an arse farting.

Wait a second, that doesn’t sound too much different from the America of today, does it?

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