8 stars

Incredibles, The

dir: Brad Bird
[img_assist|nid=965|title=Ayn Rand oversaw the whole production, no doubt. Objectively.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=686]
I don’t think Pixar know how to make a bad movie. Really, even if they’d wanted to, I don’t think they could manage it. They just wouldn’t know how to be mediocre. Perhaps they need to take notes from Disney. Now there’s a creatively and intellectually bankrupt company still churning out sub-standard product at a rapid rate. There’s your business model worthy of emulation.

Calling Brad Bird the director of something that would have required the supervision and input of countless bazillions of people seems somehow deceptive, but he must know what he’s doing and not just be Steve Job’s footstool. Whilst watching The Simpsons the other night (one of those rare times when I only get to watch one Simpsons episodes in a day as opposed to three) I noticed his name in the credits, and then again after watching King of the Hill last weekend. So he knows about conventional animation as well, not just this fancy-shmancy stuff.

Now that computer animated movies rule at the box office, every studio is trying to pump them out quicker than you can say ‘Bandwagonesque’. And of course as you’re saying it remember and cherish the Teenage Fanclub album from the early 90s that shares its name. Ah, the early 90s. When flannel and dewberry bodywash reigned supreme, but not usually on the same people.

Rating: 

Shaun of the Dead

dir: Edgar Wright
[img_assist|nid=959|title=Are they zombies or not?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=240]
Shaun of the Dead is a pretty goddamn funny movie. I say this as someone who sees a whole bunch of films at the cinema, but would laugh out loud about once, if not twice as a member of the audience over the course of a year. It's not the kind of laughter that leaves you sore and moaning in pain afterwards from the splitting of sides or the rupturing of organs from the bellowing belly laughs, but it's close enough. This is a well-made and decidedly British entry into the zombie genre, one which is a whole lot more fun than the 150 of so other zombie films that have come out in the last year or so.

Rating: 

Hidden Blade, The

(Kakushi ken oni no tsume)
dir: Yoji Yamada
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Just like in The Twilight Samurai, this film follows the adventures of a samurai on the absolute lowest rank samurai can be on without falling off the feudal ladder. Just like in The Twilight Samurai, the noble and impoverished main character is vulnerable to the machinations of those more powerful than him within his clan, who compel him to do something he doesn’t want to do. And just like in The Twilight Samurai he is loved by and loves a woman he cannot be with because of some tenuous, noble, self-sacrificing reason.

But don’t let that give you the impression that it’s a rip-off of Twilight Samurai. Oh, heaven forfend such a perception on your part.

Truth is, though they have many similar elements, right down to the main character being too busy and noble to clean and repair their own kimonos, they are significantly different stories. Regardless of the sheer multitude of similarities.

Rating: 

Sideways

dir: Alexander Payne
[img_assist|nid=951|title=Just drink the fucking wine already!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=267]
When you’re being really pretentious and annoying about wine, you’re supposed to hold the glass at a tilted angle (sideways) to examine its colour, consistency, panoply of aromas and possibly the amount of anti-freeze in it. Also when wine is cellared it’s kept lying on its side to best protect the precious contents within. That’s where the title comes from, if you were gnawing off your leg in frustration over it. In other words sometimes to be able to look at life clearly you have to kind of tilt your reality to get a good look at it. Or maybe someone trying to get some kind of trite ‘quote of the day’ type of banality out of the title is just one of the many kinds of moron Payne loves to ridicule in his films.

Rating: 

Monster

dir: Patty Jenkins
[img_assist|nid=1025|title=She read a bad review|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=397]
This isn’t a story about the redemptive power of love. It isn’t a story where everything will work out all right in the end. It is, in essence, a sad love story all the same.

It would seem to contradict the advertising and many of the reviews already written about the film. Its two main selling points were the fact that Charlize Theron won the Academy award for Best Actress for 2003 in the role, oh, and she happens to play a serial killer. And seeing as it is based on the life and times of Aileen Wuornos, convicted and recently executed killer, you’d think the focus would be more on the killings than any other elements. At its heart, however, it’s about a horribly damaged woman and her desperate attempts at finding some happiness in a world that had guaranteed her thus far a life of ceaseless misery.

Rating: 

Oldboy

dir: Chan-wook Park
[img_assist|nid=1024|title=Crazy man and a hammer. Winning combination|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=286]
What a wonderfully keen film this is that no-one will get to see. I mean honestly: who goes to see Korean films at the cinema? They’re hardly hot ticket items.

You don’t see people selling their own or someone else’s organs or offering oral favours for the honour of getting to see a Korean film, good or otherwise. Maven of the multiplexes that I am, doyen of the drive-in, still I can honestly count the amount of Korean films that I’ve seen on one hand.

People generally say that and it’s hyperbole, but I actually mean that I’ve only ever seen five Korean films in my life: Bichunmoo (which was fairly mediocre), Musa the Warrior, (which was beyond mediocre), Volcano High (which I love, despite its abject madness), The Isle (which has one of the nastiest scenes I’ve ever seen in any film or in real life) and Oldboy. Without a doubt Oldboy is the absolute greatest movie I’ve ever seen. From Korea, that is.

I don’t know enough about Korean culture to understand their cinema, which is to say that the way I generally get to ‘know’ about a culture is from their cinema, and if I haven’t seen enough of a culture’s films then I tend to know fuck-all about their people.

Rating: 

Bukowski: Born into This

dir: John Dullaghan
[img_assist|nid=1018|title=What a beautiful man, eh? On the inside?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=236|height=341]
The likelihood of you seeing this film and enjoying it depends on whether a) you’ve heard of Charles Bukowski, b) you’ve read and liked the writing perpetrated by Bukowski, and c) you’re happy to watch a two hour documentary about a very damaged, eloquent bastard in a cinema.

You have to weigh this up against likely alternatives, such as instead of watching Bukowski: Born Into This, you could be watching a reality television program where one of the participants is called Hotdogs. How do you live with yourself?

On each of the three points, I am sold, so along I went to watch a flick about this deeply ugly man. Heroically ugly. Child-traumatisingly ugly. Anyone who has read the man’s work and did not know what he looked like might be both surprised and reassured. He looks pretty much exactly as he should. The real ugliness is on the inside though, and that is represented as well, because it cannot help but pour forth.

As a career alcoholic he clearly developed a way of speaking so that, whether drunk, really drunk, fall over drunk or sober, he always sounded the same. Speaking either conversationally or reading his poetry, you can never tell whether he’s drunk or sober. Just to clarify matters a tiny bit more, I doubt at any stage of the two hours that we ever see him completely sober.

Rating: 

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

dir: Takeshi Kitano
[img_assist|nid=1017|title=Oh Takeshi, is there nothing you can't do|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=299|height=406]
Do you remember the 80s? More importantly, before you get all
nostalgic tripping down memory lane remembering ra-ra skirts and dumb
haircuts that seem to be making a comeback, do you recall that classic
of the cinema called Blind Fury? It starred one of the undisputed
kings of the 80s; the multi-talented, extraordinary auteur Rutger
Hauer. He brilliantly played the part of a blind guy who could fuck
shit up old school with a sword. No-one could stand against him, but
then he would still confuse alligators with dogs due to his being
differently visually-abled. Blinded in 'Nam, if I'm not mistaken,
fighting for Truth, Justice and the Iraqi Way.

He didn't let his blindness mess up his life. He still got to be a
bad-ass, make stupid jokes and get laid. In fact he gets to lead a
better life than most of us schmucks. It's enough to make you want to
blind yourself in a rage just so that you too can sample the sublime
delights of what being blind must truly be like.

Rating: 

Hulk

dir: Ang Lee
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Ang Lee's Hulk is an incredible achievement, but not so incredible
when you consider the films the man keeps making. Upon first hearing
that Ang was making a comic-book adaptation I thought, "Great, they're
trying to turn Lee into a John Woo. Soon he'll be making Mission:
Impossible
films alongside Tom Cruise's healthy ego". I need not have
worried. Here he has made the film least likely: it's dramatically
compelling, it's incredibly well put together, it looks incredible
(which is kind of crucial for the film medium, I believe), and it
achieves a level of depth that is nothing short of amazing in a film
you were expecting to be nothing but action.

Essential to the story is the emphasis on various parent - child
dynamics, but central even more so than that is the idea that parents
can sometimes severely damage their own children unintentionally. Thus
the story focuses on two people whose fathers have left indelible
scars upon their psyches, and in one case the damage goes even deeper
than that.

Rating: 

Lost in Translation

dir: Sofia Coppolla
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Considering how little press this film has received and the manner in which it has been criminally ignored, by critics, by audiences, by homeless people, I thought I'd do the greater community a service by bringing this film to the attention of the billions of people out there hunched over and trembling in the cold, shadowy vale of ignorance.

Yeah, right.

Rivalling only Mystic River in terms of overblown ejaculatory press over the last year, Lost in Translation has amazed many people by having achieved such incredible notoriety for what is essentially a low key, small scale film. I mean, it's a lovely little film, but the frenzy surrounding it leaves me utterly perplexed.

Rating: 

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