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6 stars

Frida

dir: Julie Taymor
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This will not be the definitive account of Frida Kahlo’s life, I am sure. She’s too interesting a person and an artist to remain bound only by what is presented in this biopic as an account of her life. This film will probably do for now as a somewhat superficial precise of the life of this mercurial Mexican artist. And whilst not a terrible film, it suffers from a lacklustre and cliched script and a major confusion as to where to go halfway through the film.

The real star of this film isn’t Salma Hayek, as Kahlo. It’s not Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera, even though at times it seems as if Frida is merely co-starring in a biopic of his life. Which reminds me, how many people would have gone to see a film about notorious Mexican communist revolutionary artist Diego Rivera, simply called Diego? :) Imagine it, huge billboards above buildings, with a coy picture of chubby Alfred Molina pouting seductively into the camera, with one word writ large against the sky: “DIEGO!” Every man and his dog would be beating down the doors of the cinema, surely.

Rating:

Barbershop

dir: Tim Story
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With the recent release of its sequel I thought it was about time I caught up with a film I’d heard was pretty funny back in the dim distant reaches of the heady days of 2002. See, there aren’t many funny films out there, at least films I find funny. Sure there are stacks of comedies pumped out by the studios, but even the thought of most of them makes me want to tear my eyeballs out of their sockets using salad forks.

I was a fool to think Barbershop would be an outright comedy. It’s a treacly tv movie with something to say about tradition and community. I know this because every time any character started talking about the good ol’ days of Calvin’s barber shop and the importance of community, this drippy, cloying piano music would start up in the background. It’s very handy if you didn’t know how to feel about the scene. It’s a very convenient shortcut for those of us that couldn’t work out what our reaction was supposed to be. Thanks to the quality direction, we no longer have that worry.

Rating:

Transporter, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Again, I got suckered in by a goddamn tv commercial. I don't know how the marketing people keep doing it to me, but when it comes to sub-standard martial arts / gun-fu orientated films, they know just what to put in to get me interested, and there on opening day. I'm ashamed of myself.

This is a dumb film. Dumb as a box full of hammers. Dumber than a locker room full of football players. But is it big dumb fun?

The other thing that burns me about being suckered in by the trailer was the fact that there are scenes in the trailer that have been edited out of the film. And that there are obvious overdubs and cuts presumably to lower the MPAA rating as well, which is funny, though they never stooped so low as to do the "melonfarmer" substitute that I adore so much.

When the film works (which is for 30 minutes of its overall length), it's on fire. The fight scenes and various action scenes are well choreographed and Jason Statham looks suitably professionally hard when he is belting three shades of fuck out of the various bad guys. I need me some of the chewable steroids they've been feeding this guy, because he looks like a lean, corded, vicious machine. He also seems pretty good in the action sequences in terms of looking believable as a fighter.

Rating:

Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones

dir: George Lucas
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See, I had misgivings when I heard the title last year. Scratch that, I had misgivings when I heard Lucas was going to direct prequels to his smash hit merchandising empire in the first place. You'd think the man could just stay home and throw some money around with the kids, set fire to massive Cuban cigars with $5000 bills, race homeless people on a deadly indoor obstacle course, purchase small third world countries where for his amusement he can watch or physically take part as people's arses are branded with the Lucasfilm logo, or make them build pyramids in his honour. In that case, surely it is Georgie Porgie's love of creating quality films to be remembered throughout the ages that keeps him coming back to the trough for more. Surely.

I've had the opportunity to watch the film twice over the last couple of weeks, and I have to say that the second viewing was significantly less enjoyable than the first. Such a detail certainly indicates to me at least that the film's quality is no where near as high as several relieved reviewers would have you believe.

If I'd written the review after the first viewing, I possibly might have had more positive things to say. As it is, the film's flaws were magnified with a subsequent viewing, for which the rest of you who loved it are now going to have to suffer.

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Reign of Fire

dir: Rob Bowman
[img_assist|nid=1030|title=Matthew McConaghey trying to fuck a dragon in mid-air|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=344|height=260]
Dragons. Post apocalyptic scenarios. People dressed like Mad Max. People being burned or eaten by big lizards. Gay pirates. What's not to like?

Yes, the film has been out for a donkey's age, but I only got to see the film a few days ago. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, in that I wasn't violently disgusted by the film that transpired.

I do have to wonder who thought this would be a good idea for a film. Audiences stayed away in droves. Critics collectively scratched their heads and groins. Still, someone must have thought that wasting nearly a hundred mill on a film that grossed $30 was a worthwhile exercise. Damn, I wish I worked in the industry. At my place of work if 30 bucks goes missing they bring in the auditors and the Federal police and the guys we refer to as the ‘nutcrackers’.

Hollywood is a place of magic, which extends to their accounting practices as well. Still, what zeitgeist or movement were 'they' trying to capitalise on? Did someone think that audiences driven ecstatic and orgasmic by Fellowship of the Ring would be so desperate to see anything with a fantasy theme that they'd be selling their firstborns in order to be able to get in line? Have dragons ever really been that much of a box office draw card?

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Insomnia

dir: Christopher Nolan
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Well, who wasn't going to be disappointed by Nolan's follow up to Memento? Nolan had the profoundly unenviable task of moving on from one of the most critically celebrated films of the last bunch of years, and delivered a film that many would find unsatisfactory simply due to its conventionality, solely in comparison. Despite this, he has managed to deliver a decent film, again, showing that he is a quality director, and that he's not just a one-trick pony.

Many refer to the central conceit of Memento, being the non-linear format, as a gimmick, almost as if it was a flaw. They mean it as a pejorative term. That's fine and dandy, but without it, instead of being a brilliant film with a sad, occasionally affecting story, it would have been an unworkable yet mundane revenge 'thriller' with a joyously happy ending. Perhaps he should have also taken out the main character's progressive amnesia / Korsakov's syndrome out as well just to make it extra simple for the test audience demographics that he never screened it to.

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Panic Room

dir: David Fincher
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There's no disputing that this is a technically adept film. There is also no denying the irony that whilst being one of David Fincher's most successful movies at the box office, it is also one of his most uninvolving pictures to date. I have pretty high expectations when it comes to the guy.

In a recent interview in Sunday's Age, Fincher draws a distinction between the 'films' and the 'movies' he makes. His 'films' so far have been Se7en and Fight Club, his movies, in his own words, would therefore be Alien 3, The Game and now Panic Room. He loosely defined (or I am sporadically paraphrasing him in such a way as to further my own flimsy argument) movies as being made solely for an audience, whereas 'films' are where a director has greater leeway, and creates the picture for himself/herself as much as for an audience.

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Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

dir: Kevin Smith
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The question burning on everyone's lips is not "Will I be selected for Big Brother II?" or "Just how does someone sow their lips together?", it is moreso, considering the grand opening of the aforementioned Kevin Smith film in Australian cinemas yesterday, that question remains "Is Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back better than Dogma?"

The answer, like any good cocktail, is mixed at best. Smith has taken the sacred duty of satisfying the dictates of his ego to ridiculous extremes, to the point where he now has made a film about his other films, a self-referential exercise in self groin rubbing that represents an increasingly tightening spiral of self-indulgence. Couple that with a breathtaking amount of pettiness on his part, and you are left with a bloated,
embarrassing film that occasionally works brilliantly, yet more often than not stinks like week-old entrails in the sun.

Not content with the screen time he and his good friend Jason Mewes have had in the past, he's decided to up the amount of time they appear to the point where they are practically in every scene, with hilarious results ensuing. An arguably simple formula can be applied to Kevin Smith films, that being the greater the
amount of time Silent Bob and Jay appear on screen, the worse the end result.

Rating:

Ryan's Daughter

Ryan's Daughter

Strumpets, the sweaty pair of 'em...

dir: David Lean

1970

Hoochie. Ryan’s daughter is a hoochie. In case you’re not up with the latest in derogatory nomenclature, Rosy Ryan is an Irish strumpet, and this long-arse movie is entirely devoted to elucidating upon the topic of just how much of a hussy she is.

It’s a strange film in some ways, and a very simple film in a few others. It is filmed in an awe-inspiring way that makes the west coast of Ireland look like a mythical land of giants, but the story it tells is so small that you wonder why they went to all the trouble and expense. The same story is played out on daytime television every single day. Usually with lots of bleeped out swearing and people throwing chairs.

But enough about my last intervention.

Rosy (Sarah Miles) is young and headstrong in more ways than one, and she is the daughter of the guy who owns the local pub. She has decided she is in love with the local widower schoolteacher, Charles Shaughnessy (Robert Mitchum), and she wants to marry.

She doesn’t really want to be married or to have kids: she wants sex. In her mind, enhanced by reading trashy novels, she imagines sex to be a transformative experience that will lift her off of her feet and lift her up to the heavens for ever more.

Thing is, as wonderful as Shaughnessy is, he just doesn’t ring her bell.

Rating:

Pusher

Pusher

This is unpleasant and these are not nice people, shock horror

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

1996

There was an explosion of drug films after, I dunno, some indeterminate point. Probably after Trainspotting, I’d say. Whatever and wherever the origin point of the renaissance in this nasty genre was, the one thing we do know is that even the Danish needed to get in on the act.

Now, I have to admit a certain amount of ignorance about Denmark. I know vaguely where it is, I imagine it’s very cold there, but I had this ridiculous idea that it was some kind of idyllic winter wonderland that would delight Hans Christian Anderson himself, what with his tales of naked emperors and little mermaids, even today.

Imagine my horror when Copenhagen is revealed to be as grimy and sleazy a place as everywhere else.

Pusher, part of a series of films that screened as a retrospective at the 2006 Melbourne Film Festival, is an ugly, grim, vicious film about drug dealing in Denmark’s capital. There’s isn’t a single sympathetic character in the whole film with a single redemptive quality.

None of that prevents the film from being somewhat entertaining.

Pusher represents drug dealing as anything but cool or sexy. It’s shown as the trade of desperate and amoral sociopaths who would feed each other through a meat grinder alive if there was a kroner in it. That was their currency prior to the Euro, in case you’re wondering whether it’s the beer I’m referring to.

Frankie (Kim Bodnia) is a low-level drug dealer scrambling to make a living. He has multiple deals going at any given time, and always has an ear open for anything else in the offing. Though goddamn ugly, he seems to have a thuggish ease with which he carries himself through life.

When not dealing, which initially only represents a fraction of his time, he spends the rest of his time drunk and coked up, hanging out with his practically retarded friend Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen). They routinely talk about whatever crap pops into their addled heads, most of which is banal, much of which is crude. Much of the dialogue here sounds and feels improvised, which adds to the impression that you’re eavesdropping on a real conversation between two morons.

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