He Died With a Felafel in His Hand

He Died with a Felafel in His Hand

It just struck me, falafel is the tasty chick pea mix, did they actually
mean 'kebab', as in, a falafel kebab in his hand? Because...no, it
doesn't make much of a difference I guess

dir: Richard Lowenstein

He died with a review of He Died With a Felafel in His Hand in his hand…

I always intended to write a review that started thusly, and now I’ve finally achieved that lofty ambition. I am a simple man, after all, with simple tastes and simpler pleasures. It doesn’t take much to amuse me, but it takes much to maintain my interest for more than a few minutes at a time.

He Died With a Felafel in his Hand is one of those classic books, like Trainspotting, like the Bible, that’s more of a collection of stories than a story with a single protagonist and a clear narrative, which, in the hands of cinema geniuses, is transformed into a story with a protagonist and a clear narrative. The book, by John Birmingham, is a funny collection of the kinds of nightmare Australian sharehouse experiences which should (but probably won’t) close the book on writing about such stuff for future generations.

The film takes some of the material and transforms it into a story about an aimless young chap called Danny (Noah Taylor), who lives in a number of sharehouses, and has a bunch of hangers-on and ridiculous experiences. The story starts in Queensland, moves to Melbourne, then finishes in Sydney.

One of the opening scenes is of someone taking a swing at a cane toad with a golf club. With the sound of the impact, and then the splat, we pretty much know this flick is going to try desperately hard to be ‘out there’.

The other part of the opening is a scene where someone sits with a felafel held rigidly in their hand, presumably dead whilst watching the ABC program Rage. Golden Brown by The Stranglers blares at top volume as Danny loudly asks him to turn the volume down, before realising that the felafel-clasper is dead.

The story then jumps back several months to Queensland, and the protagonist’s 47th share house. Housemates argue about the latent homosexuality in Reservoir Dogs in between bucket bongs. New potential housemates turn up out of the blue to take up residence in cupboards. Menacing debt collectors menace the residents over the non-payment of rent. One housemate is a giant bean bag of a man, who spends all his time sitting in a bean bag sternly operating the remote control to the television. Another lives in a tent in the lounge room, whilst another seems to be trapped mentally in Apocalypse Now. Danny’s friend Sammy (Emily Hamilton) seems like the only sane person in the entire house, but that’s only because she has glasses on and reads a textbook most of the time.


Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikushi)

Sen to chihiro no kamikushi

She isn't the hero we want, but she's the hero we need

dir: Hayao Miyazaki


The great difficulty in reviewing one of Miyazaki’s animated movies, compared to just watching them, is that the temptation to reel off superlative after superlative usually proves too great for the humble reviewer. Also, Miyazaki is revered to such a degree as the reincarnated Japanese alternate reality Walt Disney that everything he touches is tainted with greatness in the eyes of reviewers, humble or not.

The high praise makes latecomers come to his films with an insane level of expectation, which usually results in bewilderment when they see something like this, Princess Mononoke or My Neighbour Totoro which are different but simpler stories than what they could have expected.

Well, I’m neither a worshipper nor much of a reviewer, so it’s as easy for me to reel off expletives and superlatives as it is to watch one of his flicks and to sit there, thrilled out of my goddamn mind.

Spirited Away is a singularly beautiful experience, as similar as his other films (plucky female characters triumphing over adversity with hard work and intelligence), and as resolutely different from anything else in existence. The story mixes recognisable story dynamics with quintessentially Japanese story-telling (which doesn’t resemble at all the usual ‘hero’s journey’ Campbellian crap at all) and presents it all within the production of the
most beautifully simple and complex animation not reliant on thousands of computer geeks working in concert.

It would be a lie to say that all of the animation is hand-drawn, because it’s not. Miyazaki carefully uses CG in appropriate circumstances to create images and transitions between scenes not possible otherwise. But in every other circumstance it looks like every frame of every cell has been lovingly painted by a craftsman who loves what they’re doing.


Fellowship of the Ring

Fellowship of the Ring

...and in the darkness, bind them

dir: Peter Jackson


I don't think that there's been a film quite like it, to be honest, realised on such a scale, and so lovingly. Such attention to detail, such awe-inspiring design and creativity, I almost cannot believe that such a film was
allowed to be made in the current culture of big budget film making, where the shoddy special effect is king, and inspiration and inventiveness are as alien as the concept of personal hygiene is amongst users of public transport.

Having not read any of the works of JRR Tolkien, I could potentially be at a disadvantage in discussing the source material and its transition to the big screen. What I am qualified to mention is that it is patently obvious that Tolkien has been ripped off by nearly every fantasy writer and filmmaker for the last sixty years. And perhaps they can be accused of interfering with his desiccated remains in a truly unwholesome manner in the pursuit of financial gain or sex with strange women. The same accusation cannot, I feel, be leveled at Peter Jackson, who has approached the characters and the story with such an obvious love for the source material, and an exhausting amount of dedication and creativity that more than justifies the entire venture, despite the staggering amount of merchandising.


Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back

you all have better things to do than this...

dir: Kevin Smith


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.


Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Dr

nothing will ever be okay ever again

dir: David Lynch


A few minutes after watching the film, I found myself at a pub which just happened to be conveniently located around the corner from the cinema. I wasn't sure how I'd gotten there, nor what I was planning on doing once I was there. I sat at the bar, confused and wondering.

One of the girls working behind the bar must have come towards me to ask what I wanted to drink, but I must not have heard her at first, because when I realised where I was, she was shaking me by the shoulder, concerned with the current location of my mind and presumably my wallet.
"Eh, are you okay?"
- "I'm not sure."
"What's happened to you, were you beaten up?"
I felt around my face and body "No."
"Were you in a car accident?"
Again, I answered in the negative. "Do I look that bad?"
"Well, you look like you just found out your mother just died. Ah, wait, I've worked it out now."
She walked away from me, poured a double shot of some stiff drink into a glass, and handed it to me.
"On the house."
- "Th-- Thankyou. Why?"
"You'll need it. You just watched the latest David Lynch film, didn't you?"
- "Yes, yes I did. How could you tell?"
"We get that a lot around here." She waved her hand in a broad arc, encompassing many of the other people sitting around the pub. Many of them had the same shellshocked, post traumatic stress disorder facial expression that I must have had plastered all over my face.


Forsaken: Desert Vampires


you bunch of fucking hacks

dir: J.S. Cardone


I watched the first session with about three other people in the audience. I'm amazed they stayed until the end. I'm amazed I stayed until the end.

The actual cinema (no. 4 Hoyts) I watched it in has a grand tradition, a legacy to live up to. Nearly ten years ago I had the good fortune to be horribly drunk on a Sunday night, and the female friend in my company was even more drunk than I. As she was an esteemed employee of the Hoyts Corporation, we were lucky enough to just be able to walk into any of the films showing, whenever we wanted to. This particular night we staggered into a "special" screening, an advance screening for an upcoming release that was expected to do big business.

The audience was packed, we tried to quietly make our may to the only available seats, but had as much luck as a sumo wrestler wearing nylon. It was about half way through the film, but considering our blood alcohol levels, it didn't matter.

We settled in our seats, dazzled by the bright lights and the big people on the screen, watched fifteen minutes, laughed uproariously at its high crappiness, loudly screamed "This is shit!" and staggered out again. That film was called Garbo, one of the worst Australian films (if that isn't a tautology) of all time. We found out later that the special screening included members of the cast and crew, and their families.

So, this particular theatre has a history of showing quality films. I was ready for anything. But this time I didn't have the luxury of being drunk to dull the pain.

This is easily one of the dumbest vampire films ever made. Trust me on this, I pride myself on my knowledge and my watching of as many vampire films as inhumanly possible. This is of the most worthless, certainly. This isn't one of those "it's so bad, it's good, in a campy sort of way" type of deals, it doesn't have at least a sufficiency of breasts, gore, fucking and fighting to make up for the lack of plot. It just sucked.


The One

The One

He's not the One, he's just a very naughty boy

dir: James Wong


People, by and large, watch television. Whilst watching television, they will often see commercials, being as that is the nature of the medium. These aren't necessarily the World's Funniest or Sexiest commercials, either. Quite often, those commercials will be seriously truncated theatrical trailers shortened for the gnat-like attention spans of the tv viewing audience, promoting the imminent release of another work of art
to us, the presumed great unwashed masses.

Often, but not always, a viewer could be forgiven for thinking, "Who in their right mind, based on this appalling trailer, would want to go and see this pile of drek? Who sees these films?" If there's anyone out there that has seen the commercials for The One, or Highlander 5 as I prefer to think of it as, on telly, and
wondered the same thing, solace is at hand. I have the answer for you. When pondering who watches these Desert Vampire Mars Ghost C grade sci fi shlockfests, know now that it is me. I am the audience they're aiming for, apparently because I'm there on opening day.

Even reading a stack of bad reviews the quantity of which combined together would result in a mass exceeding that of Roger "Spiderbaby" Ebert wasn't enough to dissuade me from paying my hard earned cash in order to bask in the glory of Jet Li's exponential decline as he transforms from martial arts God to the
next Van Damme. In fact, I am virtually certain this film would initially have been offered to the Musclehead from Brussels, it has that odor of cheap nastiness that you associate with the star of such masterpieces as The Quest, Wrong Bet, the very McBain-sounding Sudden Death, and of course Time Cop. Perhaps Van Damme was too busy beating up one of his girlfriends to make it. Instead the illustrious makers of this stinker, Glen Morgan and James Wong of previous X Files acclaim decided to hitch the film's success on the rapidly declining 'star' power of Li Lien Jie, better known as Jet Li.


Training Day

Training Day

I know you think it's good, but it really isn't. Take that, your beliefs!

dir: Antoine Fuqua


Could have been. This flick could have been a contender. It is well acted (mostly), well directed, and with one monumental example to the contrary, mostly well scripted. It is deeply unfortunate that the monumental fuck-up that occurs in the script at about the 1 hour mark renders the rest of the film an exercise in pointlessness, but then again, if life has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t have everything, and even if you did, some bastard would probably break in and steal all your shit when you were at work.

It’s the way of the world. None of this justifies the awful and insulting way that the film degenerates into a true Hollywood morass by its end, but hell, as I’ve mentioned a million times before, most films stuff up the ending because they never put as much work into the conclusion as they do with the pitch:
(pitch meeting between producers and studio execs)
“Um, Denzel as the bad guy?”
- “Sold!”

The premise alone is supposed to be enough to justify our interest: Denzel overacting all through the film playing a badass cop. That they weave some strands regarding ethics and the morality of police work into it would seem to be an additional, intellectually enjoyable level upon which the film could have worked. That they piss it all away by insulting our intelligence with a plot conceit so shameless that it would make M. Night Shyamalan blush means the only reason the film will ever be remembered will be because of the sympathy Oscar Denzel Washington received for his overrated performance, and not for any particular virtue of the film.


Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes 2001

you handsome devil, you

dir: Tim Burton


Even though it's been out for only two weeks, already the topic of this film is straining to raise even the mildest level of interest anywhere. We get gangbanged by the hype regarding new films leading up to their release, they're released, then everyone collectively reaches over and hits the snooze button. Being ever timely in my responses, now that any interest has pretty much waned, I have seen fit to post a review of Tim Burton's latest coke fueled extravaganza.

Tim Burton's only real mistake was in remaking what is usually referred to as a "classic". He should have remade a different classic, that being Planet of the Gapes, originally directed by Tom Byron, starring himself, Allysin Chaines, Alisha Klass, Sabrina Johnson and a host of other starlets and studs. I have not the courage or the mortal fortitude to tell you readers what a "gape" is, suffice to say it is one of at least a hundred things I wish I'd never seen, and curse the internet each day for inflicting it upon me.

Regardless, the mere concept of doing a remake of Planet of the Apes is enough to raise people's hackles, and as appealing to long time fans as it would be to announce to Christians that you're planning on re-writing the Bible, replacing all references to "God" and "Jesus" with "Dingus". They'd love that.

Calling it a "reimagining" was a cheap copout on the part of Burton's publicity machine. They're completely different films. Truth is, I don't think the original was all that great to begin with. Charlton Heston has never been a credible actor. He's been in some semi-decent films, but he himself is the hammiest actor in movie history. His jaw eternally clenched like he's contracted lockjaw after being bitten by a rabid dog, his pained delivery, is only matched by his pathological penchant for overacting.


The Mummy Returns

The Mummy Returns

Well, he should go away again, now.

dir: Stephen Sommers


Yes. You must think I am kidding. I am not. I sat through this piece of shite, and now it's your turn to suffer.

Some films are unintentionally stupid, because they're made by stupid people (Tomcats, Battlefield Earth, Armaggedon, Music from Another Room), other films are stupid because they're made by intelligent people who continue to try to underestimate the intelligence of the lowest common denominator, and never succeed (Godzilla, Independance Day, Look Who's Talking 15). Some films look dumb, but are actually very smart (Scream, Men in Black). Then there's those "tongue in cheek" films which are a bit dumb, which you're just supposed to laugh at and forgive them for because of the twinkle in their eye and their mischievous grin.

Why I watched this is still a mystery to me, since I thought the first film was a piece of shit as well. Perhaps there was some subliminal imagery in the advertising that planted the idea in my subconscious that I'd willingly suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy the ride. However it may have happened, it did, and here are the fruits of my painful labours.

Adding salt to water has more chemistry than our two lead heroes, Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, as Rick and Evie O' Connell respectively. No science geeks need to correct me regarding the analogy, since I know that salt dissolving in water is not a chemical reaction. That's my point, shmendrick. They have a son, played by some munchkin, who does all the cute stuff and fulfills a major obligation of sequelitis, being that a kid thrown into the mix is always a great idea.

The only decent actor in it is John Hannah, who plays an English prat written the way that only Americans can, having an even more stereotypical view of the British than they do of other racial minorities like Muslims and eskimoes. He gets the funniest lines, though he is forced to whine throughout for the duration.