2002

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: 

Whale Rider

dir: Niki Caro
[img_assist|nid=1066|title=Whales. Maoris. Hilarity ensues.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=515]
Whale Rider is certainly a touching, sweet film, but people shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s a children’s movie. It is a story of far greater complexity and depth than what one comes to expect from films that seem to be aimed at the kiddie market.

It’s clear, at least to me that there is much more going on here. As well, dismissing it as a glib post-feminist treatise about how wonderful girl power is would be doing the film a disservice, and would denigrate the work all the people involved put into crafting this little gem of a film. It is not a masterpiece by any estimation. It is however a sweet film about a little girl finding her destiny and teaching an old man that the links between the past, present and future can be strongest in the places we are least able to see.

Rating: 

Narc

dir: Joe Carnahan
[img_assist|nid=1040|title=Narcoleptics need not apply|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=664]
Narc was one of two outstanding recent police-focussed dramas that came out recently, both of which were criminally ignored by audiences and deserved more respect: The other was Dark Blue, but that’s a different review. What they both had was a healthy distrust of the nobility of the boys in blue, and an eye to putting some otherwise decent, hard-working lads in a situation which shows just how much of the law they are willing to break in order to get the job done.

Jason Patric, well, he owns the film. Yeah, so it’s hard to stand up to Ray Liotta, seeing as Liotta always looks like he’s only a second away from biting your face off, but he more than holds his own over the duration of the running time. He is the film’s protagonist, Liotta is, well, we’re not sure what exactly he is, because he is clearly a chameleon whose purpose changes as the story progresses.

Gangs of New York

dir: Martin Scorsese
[img_assist|nid=1041|title=Fear the moustache, fear the glass eye or the huge hats I wear. For your sake, fear something|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
History is replete with examples of grand folly. Times where people were inspired by big ideas that outstripped their ability, their budget or the laws of physics and failed spectacularly in ways so tragically overblown that they have become the stuff of legend, despite being remembered, perhaps incorrectly as time stumbles inexorably forward.

As an example, how about the plans of Arthur Paul Pedrick, who came up with a scheme to irrigate the Sahara by flinging giant snowballs from Antarctica using catapults? Or Howard Hughes’ ‘Spruce Goose’, the biggest, goofiest model aeroplane ever constructed, with its seventeen separate engines and its wingspan exceeding that of a football field by 20 metres, and possessing enough cabin space to carry two railroad carriages side by side? Perhaps someone should have told Hughes that railroad carriages already had a way of being moved around. It might have saved him some cash. And time. Lots and lots of time. And glue, probably.

Rating: 

28 Days Later

dir: Danny Boyle
[img_assist|nid=1042|title=Dead London|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=242]
An amazing film, on a number of levels. The most amazing fact is undeniably the redemption of Danny Boyle and his crew. It’s a touching tale of intellectual rags to riches to rags and then hopefully back to riches. It’s also the kind of story all too common with young ‘cool’ film makers who compete with each other to find new ways of fucking up as their careers progress from the ènfant terrible stage to the illustrious ‘sellout’ stage. Starting off with the low key Shallow Grave, he and his people established themselves as being capable of producing a decent, nasty film with believable characters acting believably nasty towards each other as situations moved from bad to worse.

With Trainspotting these bastards upped the ante substantially, making a film as compelling and, dare I say it, fun as it was repellent. With a soundtrack that became a mainstay on the radio station I listened to and on the stereo at every party, bar and club that I frequented at the time, it was a fiendishly inventive urban nightmare, speaking to the uglier corners of our natures and the natures of people we don’t want to bump into on a Saturday night: it has been continually imitated but seldom matched by a multitude of pretenders in the years that have followed.

Road to Perdition

dir: Sam Mendes
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I have been waiting a long time to watch this film, and it has to be said that I was not disappointed, but it was not the film I expected it to be.

It's a beautiful film, to be sure to be, to be sure, but I can't help but feel that the film kind of collapses under the weight of its own self-importance. Every scene is immaculately constructed, scored and acted, and it all has this pervading gravitas which is supposed to be reminding us constantly of how serious it all is, but it did make me wonder: does a story this simple justify such an extravaganza?

For it is an utterly simple story: good man gets done wrong, good man vows revenge and takes on the mob, good man kills pretty much anyone that ever pissed him off. This has been a staple for so long that you know everything that will come to pass before the opening credits have finished rolling.

Rating: 

Transporter, The

dir: Louis Leterrier
[img_assist|nid=1057|title=Is it my body odour knocking you guys out? I swear, my mom bought me deoderant|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=200]
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: 

24 Hour Party People

dir: Michael Winterbottom
[img_assist|nid=1047|title=I remember what it used to be like, going to gigs *sigh*|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
It's like this film was based on a book written by a Kurt Vonnegut born in the sixties who got to see the glorious birth of punk first hand. It's a fractured, glorious shambles of a film. It doesn't always work, and I had major issues with the second half of the film, but, Jesus, what a ride.

Steve Coogan had made a career out of playing a character that Tony Wilson was the template for way before this film was ever conceived of. Anyone who's ever seen any episodes of Knowing Me Knowing
You with Alan Partridge
would know the only real difference between Alan Partridge and Tony Wilson is the wig. It seems fittingly appropriate that he end up playing him for real. You have to ask yourself whether the film is about what it purports to be about: Manchester and the incredible importance it played in the growth of two major scenes in contemporary music.

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.

Rating: 

21 Grams

dir: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
[img_assist|nid=1037|title=Let's overact together, shall we?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=406]
Poetically, romantically, the human soul is said to weigh 21 grams. This is based on experiments inaccurately carried out long ago which claimed that upon death a person would instantly lose 21 grams of weight, thus the departure of the soul must be responsible for the change. Of course it has no basis in reality. But the central question still remains: whether the body loses 21 grams or not upon death, how much do we lose when those we love die? How much do they lose when we die? When we take a life, save a life, how much is gained? How much is lost? This film seems to indicate that at the very least it's something more than 21 grams.

Director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu is two for two. After his most excellent debut with Amores Perros, along with writing partner Guillermo Arriaga he again delivers a compelling, emotional and thoughtful film which packs an emotional punch without resorting to cheap tricks or manipulation. Whilst most will focus on the disjointed chronology with which the story is portrayed through the complicated editing, at its core the film deals with powerful moments in these character's lives which rarely if ever overstep the bounds of genuine drama into kitchen-sink melodrama. The film achieves pathos without bathos, which is a glib way of saying that it's a damn fine film.

Rating: 

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