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2010

Predators

dir: Nimrod Antal
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You may ask yourself whether the world needs more Predator movies. It’s a legitimate question. Reasonable and fair.

That’s like asking if trees needs more sunshine, or if a man needs more blowjobs.

The world didn’t necessarily become a better place upon the release of the first flick way back in 1987, but it certainly improved the lives of millions of teenage boys who now had something to tape off television onto VHS in order to watch endlessly. Well, something that wasn’t taped because of the prospect of boobs, BOOBS…

It was the truest, bluest action flick of its time, and it unashamedly traded on the steroidic charms of Arnold as well as a cast of lunkheads like Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura and Carl Weathers, all of whom peaked with this flick where their only purpose is to kill time before they’re killed, so that Arnie could take care of business at the end, unencumbered by girly men or girly girls.

I’ve watched every inch of that flick so many times that watching it again is almost superfluous: If I was deranged enough, or poor enough, I could practically sit in a darkened room, close my eyes and play through the flick in my head, frame by frame, for its entire duration.

Rating:

Green Zone

dir: Paul Greengrass
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Mocking things is easy. Real easy.

Fun, too.

It’s also lazy. The easiest and laziest goddamn thing any reviewer had to say about this flick was that, given the participation of the director, shaky-cam cinematographer and lead actor, it’s essentially a Bourne flick without the Jason Bourne character.

These reviews just write themselves, don’t they?

It’s not an insult that carried a lot of weight, because this was in truth more of a fictionalised rendering of actual events, being the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the lies, damned lies and statistics used as the casus belli, or justification for the war itself.

The problem is that a) what they’re referring to, with such seriousness, no-one really gives a fuck about any more, and b) it’s attached to a plot so implausible and uninteresting that I’m not sure if it really justifies its existence independent of the premise.

Rating:

Kick Ass

dir: Matthew Vaughn
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Can a movie about comic book-like heroes satirise comic book heroes and movies about comic book heroes at the same time?

No. It cannot. Because all it becomes is another movie about a comic book hero, with the satirical elements flying over the heads not only of the audience but also of the people making the damned thing.

Kick-Ass is based on a comic of the same name by Mark Millar, and, in the creator’s own words, it was really meant to be a scathing attack on a younger version of himself who dreamed of being a costumed crime fighter way back when he was reading Batman: Year One for the first time.

The problem with this premise is that the story doesn’t so much satirise the zero-to-hero wish fulfilment fantasy comic writers and illustrators have pandered to since the dawn of time, so much as fulfil it. A director making a porno satirising the bad acting, cheap production values and orifice-stretching of other pornos is still ultimately making a porno.

Kick-Ass is a different kind of porno, but it’s porn all the same. It’s unlikely to result in as much smelly wadded tissues, but it is the same as what it pretends to ridicule.

Rating:

Shutter Island

dir: Martin Scorsese
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Marty and Leo, sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. He puts him in every one of his goddamn flicks these days. If there were a way Scorsese could have figured out to get Leo onstage for that last Strike a Light Rolling Stones concert flick, probably playing Keef Richards or a better version of Ron Wood, he would have done so. Unlucky for us that they didn’t.

It’s a remarkable line of high quality flicks that they’ve been pumping out together, which brings us to their latest collaboration. Shutter Island is a departure for both of them, since I can’t think of the last time either of them, apart or as a couple, made a psychological thriller / horror flick. But they’ve done it now, so let’s see what the fuss, if any, is all about.

Shutter Island is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, a writer whose other books, always situated in Boston in different eras, generally follow, like Scorsese usually does, a more down-to-earth, true crime feel to the proceedings. This is a departure for all concerned, except some of the characters get to use that awesome Southie – Dorchester - Masshole accent. Lucky for them, unlucky for us.

Rating:

Book of Eli, The

dir: The Hughes Brothers
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Another week, another post-apocalyptic flick gets released, meant to chastise humanity for their brutish, selfish ways and profit from our desire for self-destruction. There are so many of these post-apoc flicks coming out that you’d think humanity is obsessed with its own end or something.

Or, alternately, that screenwriters have very limited imaginations.

Hot on the heels of that other mega-blockbuster The Road, which no-one saw, and those that did promptly committed suicide (or at least thought about it a whole hell of a horrible lot), comes another flick where a barren earth plays host to the last scrambling remnants of humanity.

The great difference here, though, is that this is meant to be more fun.

Sure, life on the desiccated plains is desolate, short, brutish and Hobbsian, and cannibalism and general viciousness abounds, but, unlike the dead Earth of The Road, there is some hope here for the species' survival. And that hope travels in the form of a man called Eli (Denzel Washington), who walks West, carrying a book.

Not just any book, but The Book.

Rating:

Iron Man 2

dir: Jon Favreau
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Finally, a sequel to a superhero flick! The world is crying out for Part 2s. Part 2s are generally speaking, always better than Part 1s. Part 1s have all the horrible heavy lifting to do in terms of establishing an iconic character’s origins and motivations, which generally makes anything else that happens superfluous.

Part Deuxes only have to refer to those origins in the opening credits, and then it’s all away-we-go. And is thus better because, after all, who wants all that baggage?

Baggage-handlers, that’s who. They live for baggage. Also, customs people, drug smugglers and the thieves that work in airports, they all love baggage.

The rest of us, though, just want to skip the entre and get to the main course.

Iron Man 2 is the rare Marvel Part 2 that extends but doesn’t exceed its initial instalment: of that I mean the current crop of superhero flicks that have been coming out recently which have generally done pretty well with the follow-up instalment. Most people, I think, would agree that Spider-Man 2 was significantly better than either 1 or 3, and X-Men 2 is still the best of four admittedly mediocre movies.

Rating:

Clash of the Titans

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Did Clash of the Titans need to be remade? In 3D no less?

Of course it did, you anti-capitalistic naysayers. Everything should be remade in 3D. Weekend at Bernie’s 3D. Driving Miss Daisy 3D. Deep Throat 3D.

That last one could have your eye out if you’re not careful.

It’s profitable, isn’t it? And, as the drug, prostitution and pornography industries have always taught us: If something’s profitable, of course you should be doing it.

Most reviewers keep referring to the original flick as being not very good in the first place, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. The story’s based on Greek mythology from three millennia ago, so blaming Harry Hamlin or Ray Harryhausen seems a bit much. For all the blather regarding Joseph Campbell, the heroic journey and the fundamentals of epic story telling, the tale of Perseus slaying the Gorgon Medusa and saving Andromeda from a monster while riding a winged horse is pretty cheesy crap regardless of how big the budget or whether you’ve got Sir Ian McKellen or Fabio in a lead role.

Rating:

Submarine

Submarine

Young idiots not the least bit in love, not in the slightest

dir: Richard Ayoade

Coming of age stories are a laugh, aren’t they? Whether it’s some spotty git fucking an apple pie, or four friends searching for a dead body, coming of age stories are almost always nostalgic and poignant, because they’re watched by people far removed from the actual age. Throw in some period detail, some tunes from an earlier, ‘better’ time, and it’s like crack to oldies of a certain oldness.

The problem or virtue of Submarine is that it’s set in the 80s, which no decent person should be nostalgic for, including and especially those of us who came of age in the 80s, and also it’s a flick in love with coming of age flicks. There’s plenty of references to other classic boyish coming-of-age flicks (400 Blows, Harold and Maude, The Graduate, bunches of others), but this has its own unique take on the Bildungsroman.

That doesn’t make it good, necessarily. The reason I went out of my way to see this flick is because of the almost surreally positive reviews it has garnered, even down to local Potato Head Pomeranz and Old Farmer Stratton giving it stratospheric approval. And it was lauded and praised to the heavens around the world long before it came to Australian shores to die a quiet death at the box office.

I don’t really see it. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m not as interested in coming of age stories any more. The appeal of Submarine pretty much escaped me.

Rating:

I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boattda)

akmareul boattda

Just pray the devil doesn't look back

dir: Kim Ji-woon

2010

Jeez, do I need a shot and a shower after that. Make that three shots and two showers to get the taste of death out of my mouth and the stench of this film off my skin.

This is a revenge flick, usually a genre known for being full of sweetness and light, made even uglier and darker by a director committed to making the audience feel as harried, exhausted and sick to the stomach as the main characters.

And good goddamn is it a long film. Even had this flick been 45 minutes shorter it still would have felt like the longest flick since Gone with the Wind crossed with Holocaust epic Shoah.

You wouldn’t know it, but South Korea seems to be, based on this flick, infested with serial killers. They’re everywhere. And, even better, they all know each other. I tell you what, this entire scenario is only even vaguely plausible if South Korea is actually located right next to Ciudad Juarez, in Mexico, because they’re getting away with murder on a daily basis in both locations.

Okay, so the Korean peninsula is nowhere near there, but all the same, these fuckers put Hannibal Lecter, Henry Lee Lucas and Colonel Gaddafi to shame.

A woman, stranded by dint of defective car, is raped and murdered by a deeply horrible man, who then dismembers her and disposes of her earthly remains. Not that the guy would care, seeing as he is a complete psychopath, but the woman’s husband, Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), works for the National Intelligence Service, and is some kind of superspy type. Not only that, but the girl’s father was a police chief. Not only that… I think you get the idea.

Soo-hyun intends to find the vile motherfucker (played by Choi Min-sik, best known for playing the main character in Old Boy) in order to get revenge for his murdered lady love. And he intends to do so, in the old parlance, with extreme prejudice.

The problem is, the flick wants to tell us the audience something that we already know: that in a decent society, regular folks can’t be going around getting their vengeance on, because it’s bad and it never works out properly and people’s feelings get hurt and so on. Even if they’ve got secret spy super skills, even if the scumbags they’re after are irredeemably evil, it doesn’t work out when people take the law into their own hands. The aggrieved become just as monstrous as the murderers and yadda yadda yadda.

Rating:

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Letting go is never easy

dir: Mark Romanek

2010

What a strange, sad film. Watching Never Let Me Go was a profoundly melancholy experience for me, despite the fact that not much overtly happens, and none of my tears flowed in programmed Pavlovian response to deftly deployed violins or postcard photography.

After all, I’m not some flouncy squats-to-piss girl’s blouse. Even if the ending of Toy Story 3 made me weep like a little girl with a skinned knee. No, no sooky la-la, I.

At its heart it’s a simple love story involving three people, but its setup is anything but simple. The flick, based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, posits an alternate history timeline where certain medical breakthroughs in our history changed the course of humanity.

And not for the better, as far as the protagonists are concerned. The flick’s timeline covers three distinct time periods, being the 1970s, the 80s and the 90s. Though the setting and the environs don’t really change with the passage of time, our protagonists grow up, and change, and realise just how awful their predicament is.

When they’re just kids, at a very exclusive school called Hailsham, we see pretty quickly that this isn’t a Hogwarts International School of Magical Whimsy and Delight. Mostly, we know this because everything’s so drab, drab in that way that Britain does so well. It’s a drabness, a leeching of colour and life that’s meant to recall an even earlier time of rationing and fearing the air raid sirens and clustering in bomb shelters and singing mocking songs about the Germans.

Hailsham is lorded over by an imposing schoolmistress played by Charlotte Rampling, who weightily intones to the children how important it is for them to stay healthy at all times, for theirs is a sacred and charmed life meant for greater service to humanity. Not for them the callow joys of smoking or fucking, no.

At least that’s what it looks like to me. Three children, out of a large group of healthy, bright children, form a strange bond. Kathy (played as an adult by the always excellent Carrie Mulligan), Ruth (the always bony and frightening Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield). Tommy is artistic, incompetent at sports and subject to screaming rages. Kathy ignores the mockery of the other children, and seeks to lighten his burdens by caring about him. Ruth, being a total bitch, sees Kathy’s affections, and driven by jealousy, interposes herself between the two once it is made apparent that Tommy loves Kathy as well.

Rating:

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