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6 stars

Fountain, The

dir: Darren Aronofsky
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It’s easy for me to respect directors and filmmakers who don’t want to just make the same crap as 99 per cent of the guys and gals around them. I can respect them even when their films don’t work.

In Aronofsky’s case, his films definitely work: but they’re not easy films to like. Pi was a low-budget headfuck likely to have repulsed as many people as it attracted with its strange mathematical wizardry story of sexual frustration gone awry. His next film, a notorious adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr’s Requiem for a Dream, made addiction, in all its forms, look like the worst living hell we can imagine. Not a single character gets out of that flick unscathed. Nor audience member.

Depressing, so depressing. I remember coming out of the theatre shaking, which continued for hours afterwards and even after several drinks. I felt like the only thing that could make things better was a little bit of heroin…

At the very least, Aronofsky and his production crew (and especially his cinematographer Matthew Libatique) announced themselves as major talents unwilling or unable to make crass product for its own sake, and that they were people who wanted to and could make original, distinctive films.

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Book of Revelation, The

dir: Ana Kokkinos
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The Book of Revelation is a complex and deeply unpleasant movie, which nonetheless deserves to be watched at least once. Based on a novel of the same name, and having nothing to do with the actual Book of Revelation at the tail end of the Bible, it is an intellectually interesting but flatly unenjoyable experience. I imagine it is like having sex with a kitchen appliance.

I haven’t tried it, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. Our protagonist, Daniel (Tom Long), is an incredibly toned dancer who is kidnapped by three women and sexually abused over the course of 12 days.

The gender difference means the film is approached by the makers and the audience in a very different way. If it had been a flick about three men raping a woman, it is about one thing. Reverse the gender, and you (in the filmmaker's opinion) open an intellectual can full of worms the size of pythons.

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Macbeth

dir: Geoffrey Wright
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With the last 20 or so murders that occurred in during the so-called Melbourne Underworld war, I guess it seemed like a good idea to combine the Shakespeare play about ruthless ambition and the crime pages of the daily newspapers. A natural alliance, like whisky and baby formula, or dope and speed.

They decide to play it fairly straight, despite the contemporary and Melbournian setting, and keep the language as the Bard would have liked it. So the dialogue hasn’t been made modern with people saying ‘like’ or ‘whatever’ all the time.

Macbeth (Sam Worthington) loyal to mobster king Duncan (Gary Sweet), oversees something like a drug deal gone wrong that results in lots of dead Asians. Victorious, Macbeth is commended by the king and seems like he’s on top of the world.

Whilst taking drugs, he sees three jailbait redhead witches, who tell him he will be king.

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Crank

dir: Mark Neveldine and Mark Taylor
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Crank is an aggressively adrenalin-fuelled odyssey in the day of one lunatic in LA. This bad day for professional killer Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) is courtesy of being murdered by criminal rival Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo).

He’s pretty loud and violent for a dead guy. Verona has given him a Chinese poison called the Beijing Cocktail which attacks the heart of its victim. If Chelios’s body doesn’t produce enough adrenalin to keep his heart rate up, he dies. He’s like the bus in Speed that can’t slow down or it will blow up.

The next 80 or so minutes are essentially Chelios doing two things: staying alive via keeping his adrenalin as high as possible, and tracking down Verona to get revenge before dying.

Yes, it’s as incoherent and stupid as it sounds. Actually, I made it sound linear and sensible, thus I’ve failed to encompass the true stupidity of what is on offer.

To keep his adrenals pumping, he commits robberies, gets into fights with large groups of black guys, uses cocaine, drinks heaps of caffeine drinks, takes on the cops, performs some idiotic stunts on a motorcycle, and fucks his deeply stupid girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) in full view of a large crowd in Chinatown in broad daylight.

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Hollywoodland

dir: Allen Coulter
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There must be, somewhere, someone who was desperate to find out about the fate of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on tv before most of us were born. Hasn’t it been keeping you up at night? “George, George, what happened to you, you bright, shining star?”: isn’t that how you cry yourself to sleep each night?

Maybe he was mentioned around the time when Christopher Reeves, who played the cinematic incarnation of the Man of Steel, snapped his unsteely spine or when he died. The Superman Curse, people intoned in hushed voices. The hubris of playing a guy who is invulnerable calls down the anger of the gods to punish the idolater, in the same way that playing Jesus tends to crap out most actors careers. Just ask Jim Caviezel.

Who? It doesn’t matter. This is, after all, about a different fantasy character that we’re talking about.

I have a dim recollection of the show being played on telly when I was a kid. Black and white, initially, but then again, the telly was a black and white one anyway. The Richard Donner Superman movie had already come out as well, so watching the tv serial was anachronistic even then. It was like watching something from vaudeville, from the visual Stone Age. That’s where it derived its charm from, at least for me.

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Host, The (Gweomul)

dir: Bong Joon-ho
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It’s been a while since there’s been a decent creature feature. When was the last semi-decent flick where a monster takes on a city and the city loses, at least for a while? Godzilla’s the granddaddy, Jaws was the red-headed stepson, but most monster flicks are just crappy clones and we all know it.

I guess King Kong qualifies, but that bloated morass wore out its welcome with me a long time ago. Three bloody hours of monkey love is barely enough. That he released an extended director’s cut is the final insult. Was anyone craving another 45 minutes of that film? Do you remember anyone saying to you, “yeah, Kong was okay, but it really needed another hour or so to be really great”?

If they did, feel free to punch them in the throat for me. It’s okay. I’ll take the blame. I have ever so broad shoulders.

The Host is a decent enough monster flick, but people are really going berserker over it, I think, because it’s Korean. If this flick came out in the States, which it will, since it’s been snapped up for a remake already, it would go straight to video. Of course when Universal remakes it’ll be for 50 times the budget and will star Tom Cruise. Tom Bloody Cruise, you bastards.

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Illusionist, The

dir: Neil Burger
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For some reason, two different companies decided to release two period pieces about magicians at around the same time. Maybe it’s a coincidence, or maybe someone sniffs a rival production and decides to jump on the bandwagon, or get in first.

Whatever the reason, in the States at least, The Prestige and The Illusionist came out at about the same time. Similar setting, similar career for the protagonists, but they couldn’t have been more different in terms of plots, themes, atmosphere, intent and realisation.

Which is not a bad thing. For me at least, liking as I do the topic of magicians and prestigitators (it’s a real word), it should have been an embarrassment of riches to have such similarly themed films come out in such close proximity. Alas, the same way that parents have a favourite child no matter what they tell you, I’ve ended up liking one more than the other.

Of course, the difference here is going to be that I’m going to actually admit which one I thought was the better flick. I have to, because I can keep it in no longer.

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Blood Diamond

dir: Edward Zwick
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Ah, Africa. The current red-headed stepchild of Hollywood’s favour and heartfelt concern. The unsolvable mess, the venue of all the Western world’s exploitation, the vista of eternal desert, savannah, elephants and children carrying AK-47s.

Of the last few years I can think of: Hotel Rwanda, The Interpreter, Constant Gardener, Tsotsi, The White Masai, Stander, Sahara, Lord of War, Wah Wah, and plenty more, all set on this magical, blood-soaked continent. Okay, maybe including Tsotsi is cheating, since it’s actually a South African film, but at the very least there seems to be a clear pattern of favouritism going on here.

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Click

dir: Frank Coraci
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Watching an Adam Sandler flick that isn’t as painful as his other movies is a joy to the world. It’s like being in a car crash where people are painfully hurt instead of permanently crippled or killed. If you can walk away from it, then it wasn’t that bad.

Click is, in the peak of what I could ever get to say about an Adam Sandler flick, the least painful or objectionable of Sandler’s flicks thus far, with the exception of Happy Gilmore and Punch-Drunk Love. In that sense, this means Sandler has hopefully reached the pinnacle of his endeavours, and will soon retire.

I don’t need to tell those of you living in downtown Kandahar, Beirut or Brunswick that this is an imperfect world. And, in such a world, what should happen (like Sandler, Jim Carrey and the Hilton mutants dying in a car crash) rarely does. So retirement seems even less likely. Life can be so unfair.

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Flags of Our Fathers

dir: Clint Eastwood
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The curious thing about Flags of our Fathers is that it isn't really a war film. I think a lot of people were expecting Clint Eastwood to give us his version of (at least) the first forty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, only this time at Iwo Jima against the Japanese in World War II. Instead, Eastwood focuses the flick on three men who played a part in the raising of a flag on Mt Suribachi, which has become one of the defining images of the war.

These three men are brought back from the Pacific theatre and sent around the United States to raise money for the war effort. The government is nearly bankrupt and needs to get money from the public in the form of war bonds to keep war production going. They don't know, like we do, that the war will end soon. So, to the men there is the real fear that not playing their part will lead to the US losing the war.

The part they are expected to play is that of war heroes in the public limelight, but, as they keep pointing out, all they did was raise a flag. Each of the men thinks long and hard about some other guy who was with them on the island more deserving of the title 'hero', who is now dead.

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