7 stars

Flyboys

dir: Tony Bill
[img_assist|nid=809|title=I hope no computers were hurt in the making of this movie|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=375|height=300]
I guess it seemed like prime time for a World War I war movie right about now. War flicks about WWII are a bit played out, no-one wants to watch contemporary ones to be reminded of the hell the world is presently for many people. Why not go back in time to an era where American involvement in a war was considered a good thing? Who are YOU to say no?

So it’s The Great War. 1916. The fields of Verdun, France. The Germans are warming up for the real fight in a few decades time by sending a young Hitler, amongst millions of others, to die and rot in the trenches of Europe. The English and French are fighting the good fight as the US, in the form of Woodrow Wilson, the second coolest named President the US has had so far, dithers and looks on in growing horror. Mechanical flight, having been recently invented, is applied to the battlefield because of the obvious advantages of being able to survey and travel greater distances and to be able to rain death from above. And to look like Errol Flynn whilst doing it.

Rating: 

Last Train to Freo

dir: Jeremy Sims
[img_assist|nid=814|title=Trapped on a train with some fearsome feral bogans|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=397|height=575]
Well, this week’s a real bogan fest here at movie-reviews.com.au, because we have another Australian flick that is utterly dependant on criminal bogans as two of its main characters. Hooray!

Last Train to Freo, surprisingly enough, is about some people travelling on the last train (for that night) to Fremantle, the West Australian port city south of Perth. Two of the people on the train are clearly dangerous criminal thugs. And, as often happens on public transport, thugs can often be overcome with the delusion that they are charismatic and special, and that everyone on the train wants to hear from them.

It’s a delightful circumstance to be trapped in. It’s happened to me a few dozen times, so I assume it’s happened to you, gentle reader. These characters are at the mercy not of the private companies that now run most of the trains in Australia, but of the tyranny of distance and these two thugs.

The thugs (Steve Le Marquand and Tom Budge) clearly have no problem with jail time, with personal space or human dignity. One is tall, hideous and grandiose (Marquand), the other is a nervy and crazy junkie (Budge), but in a seemingly less dangerous way. They discuss various moronic topics on their journey before they are joined by the other passengers.

Rating: 

Suburban Mayhem

dir: Paul Goldman
[img_assist|nid=817|title=This chick is deadly|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=400]
This flick could have been called “When Bogans Attack”, but I guess it wouldn’t be as credible a title. It would also have conjured images of some Steve Irwin nature doco type tracking down and wrestling with bogans in their Western suburbs habitats.

Katrina Skinner (Emily Barclay) is a lethal bogan proving, if nothing else, the old adage that the female of the species can be much deadlier than the male. She is a rampaging sociopath who cares not one whit for any of the people around her, including her baby Bailey. She is an absolutely narcissistic bitch who draws the line at no extremes and cannot be stopped by man or machine, like a classic monster movie fiend.

No one goes the silver bullets / cross and wooden stake route, but maybe they should have thought about it. Or even the cleansing fire, and lots of it.

The film begins with a funeral, that of Katrina’s father John (Robert Morgan), whose death seems untimely. Even at the start, Katrina’s lamentations seem forced and overdone, and the rest of the film catches us up on what really happened to send Daddy to his maker.

Rating: 

Ten Canoes

dir: Rolf de Heer & David Djigirr
[img_assist|nid=836|title=Ten Canoes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=330]
For the first Australian film made entirely in an indigenous language, Ten Canoes has quite modest ambitions. There’s nothing political or activist going on, it’s not representing anything that deep or significant about indigenous culture, contemporary problems or earnest, well-meaning social commentary. So you can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Ah, that’s better.

It’s just a story within a story about a bunch of people living at the top end of Australia before colonisation. Pretty simple. They make fart jokes, they believe superstitious nonsense about sorcerers and people doing bad stuff to them by putting spells on their shit, and they sometimes covet each other’s wives. Simple people living simple lives.

We are introduced to the storyteller, voiced by David Gulpilil, who pretends he’s going to start the story with ‘a long time ago, in a land far, far away’, then takes that back after laughing. He then tells us gradually of the Dreamtime process of birth for his ancestors, and the way of all births, being the soul waiting at their individual waterholes until it becomes time for them to be put in their mother’s womb before being born.

Rating: 

Beerfest

dir: Jay Chandrasekhar
[img_assist|nid=839|title=Drink up ladies: I guarantee, the more you drink, the more I look like Johnnie Depp|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=290|height=419]
Beerfest is one of the dumbest films I’ve seen in recent memory. Ordinarily, such an opening statement would guarantee a litany of abuse to follow for thousands upon thousands of pointless words. But it’s actually a complement in this case.

There are a lot of dumb films that are highly enjoyable and very entertaining. Classic dumb films include Porky’s, Bloodlust, Strange Brew, Half Baked, Con Air, Road House, Double Impact and Battleship Potemkin. Of course, most of the films that have ever been made are dumb, just not intentionally dumb.

The people who make those movies whose titles end in “Movie”, like Epic Movie, Date Movie, Scary Movie, try to make dumb films that are entertaining, and by and large they are failing miserably, so miserably. It makes me sad to think of them, sad like a lawn mower running over your cute puppy.

But here the formula for dumbness has worked. There’s crudity, bodily fluids, old people swearing, heroic consumption of alcohol, gratuitous nudity, bestiality and clear references to the great WWII submarine movie Das Boot.

Rating: 

2006 Film Year in Review

dir: Andrew Moshos

It was the best of years, it was the blurst of years, to quote Mr Burns from The Simpsons reading something written by one of thousands of monkeys typing away at thousands of typewriters. There were a few really good films this year, a lot of crappy films, but there were a lot of mediocre films too. Mediocre movies are worse than outright shite movies.

Rating: 

Night at the Museum

dir: Shawn Levy
[img_assist|nid=853|title=It's age that I'm really running away from|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=337]
I know, I know, no-one really expects me to be capable of sitting through a PG-rated flick without a straitjacket being involved, and those metal clasps keeping my eyes open. But I do, on occasion, watch flicks you would ordinarily require children to gain entry to if you’re not going to have parents looking at you like they were advertising for babysitters and you arrived dressed up like Michael Jackson.

Night at the Museum, something which looks utterly stupid, was playing at the IMAX theatre located just around the corner from where I live, and my significantly better half evinced an interest in seeing it on the super silver screen, so we trundled over to check it out.

I’m not remarkably surprised by the fact that I enjoyed the flick and got a few laughs out of it, but let’s just say it helps to have spent the last few weeks inundated with nieces and nephews making every moment a screaming, whining living hell. Of course, escaping to a packed theatre full of kids would seem like jumping out of the frying pan and into a nuclear reactor, but at least a couple of hours respite from the particular kids I’m talking about was still appreciated. When will the War on Christmas be finally won, anyway?

Rating: 

Charlotte's Web

dir: Gary Winick
[img_assist|nid=856|title=Wholesome, earnest, pure, sickening|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=456]
The prospect of watching a new, big-budget version of a children’s classic is quite daunting. The big budget means they have to cater to the widest of wide and low-brow audiences, and the ‘classics’ origins means they’re either going to offend the purists or bore the unwashed who are also unread.

And Charlotte’s Web hardly needed to be made. Sure, the cartoon from the 70s wasn’t exactly gold, but director George Miller pretty much remade Charlotte’s Web a bunch of year’s ago and called it Babe to much acclaim.

That being the case, the film Charlotte’s Web is most reminiscent of, of course, is Babe. It has the same use of CGI mouths for talking animals, and a bunch of humans in key roles as well. What it has on top of that is a lot of celebrity voices meant to make audiences “Awww” instead of going “eh”.

Could Charlotte’s Web not have been made without the voices of Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi et al? Was anyone staring at a poster for this film and thinking, “this is going to be crap, I’m not taking the squealing piglets along to this”, then saw the list of people supplying wise cracks and thought “Wow, how wrong was I, it has celebrity voices! I’m taking everyone I know and their dog to see this one now?”

Rating: 

Catch a Fire

dir: Phillip Noyce
[img_assist|nid=866|title=We both have our serious faces on. After all, we are expecting Oscars.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450]
There were a number of reasons to be dubious about this flick. It’s a film set in South Africa in the 80s, but the title of the film is a Bob Marley album title, the music in the trailer is all Marley and the Wailers, the two most prominent roles in the film are played by Americans (Derek Luke and Tim Robbins) and the theme seemed to be how torture by the nasty state compels otherwise docile serfs into becoming terrorists.

In other words, it looked like a crapfest drowning in commercial clichés. Like Hotel Rwanda from a few years ago, I had to wonder how it was possible to make films about places in Africa where you don’t actually want Africans or Afrikaans playing any of the lead roles.

But then again, this is directed by Phillip Noyce, who has made a remarkable career for himself as both a hack of extraordinary hackiness (The Saint, Sliver, Clear and Present Danger) and a socially conscious director of extraordinary deftness (Newsfront, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Quiet American). It’s hard to understand how he balances the two aspects out, but I’m sure it’s probably to do with juggling his practical need for securing funding and his higher need to tell a meaningful story every now and then.

Rating: 

Borat

dir: Larry Charles
[img_assist|nid=869|title=No, we cannot.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=369|height=297]
The full title of the movie is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Perhaps the title should more clearly represent what the film is: an affront to human dignity. So, had I the power to change the title, it would be something more like: Borat: People are Pigs.

I know why Sacha Baron Cohen puts himself in these horrific situations: because it has lead to fame and fortune, whether as Borat or Ali G or in the other roles he is starting to get in Hollywood. But that doesn’t make watching him put himself into increasingly dangerous situations to provoke laughs down the track any easier to handle.

If this is a comedy, and mind you, I said ‘if’, it is generally the comedy of discomfort, where watching people do or say awful things makes us cringe and hopefully laugh uncontrollably. But in many ways this movie is little different from the MTV Jackass series and movies where Johnnie Knoxville and his crew of mental defectives cause themselves and each other extreme amounts of pain for our amusement. The difference is that in the Jackass films, the participants are volunteering to drink horse semen or jump head first into sewerage.

Rating: 

Pages