The Rum Diary

Rum Diary

So many innocent livers were harmed in the making of this movie

dir: Bruce Robinson

You didn’t know this, but The Rum Diary is a superhero movie, of a different stripe. More specifically, it’s a superhero origin story, and it stars Johnny Depp.

Yes, yes, we’re all tired of those. But the superhero in question is Hunter S. Thompson, and the origin is that of his relentless, drug-fuelled campaign against the ‘Bastards’, which only came to an end seven years ago in 2005 when he decided to blow his own brains out.

Now, lest you think he fought against people whose parents weren’t married when they were born (a terrible fate for anyone not born lately, apparently), the battle I refer to is that against the dark forces, the forces of greed, the bastards who would carve up paradise and sell it by the gram, laden with sugar and other life-leeching chemicals. The Rum Diary is about how he found his voice, and how he started writing for the public in order to take the Bastards down.

Or, to at least make life difficult for them in the court of public opinion.

Rating:

Coriolanus

Coriolanus

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a flick about soccer hooligans.
Come on you Reds!

dir: Ralph Fiennes

Speaking of Shakespeare, as I was in that recent review for Anonymous: damn, he really wrote, whoever it was, a lot of plays, thirty-eight in fact. I mean, that’s prolific. And, as with any prolific authors, they’ve got stuff no-one wants to know about, Kenneth Brannagh doesn’t want to direct, and Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t want to star in.

So it’s left up to Ralph Fiennes, still smarting from his goofy brother Joseph Fiennes getting to play the Bard in Shakespeare in Love, to direct and star in Coriolanus.

They used to think it was based on someone who really existed, and something that really happened, but it probably didn’t. That doesn’t stop a Fiennes, though, does it? And it hardly matters for the purposes of whether we’re entertained or not.

It’s set in somewhat ‘modern’ times, though the empire depicted is the Roman one, so all the references are old timey. I’ve also heard, though it’s not obvious from watching it, Fiennes’ intention was to make it look like the Balkans in the 90s, when European unity (and contemporary genocide) was at its finest.

Rating:

A Few Best Men

A Few Best Men

Go back where you came from, you ten-pound Poms!

dir: Stephan Elliot

I am a simple man. Anyone who’s ever met me or read these here reviews will probably have figured that out for themselves by now. So if I watch a comedy whose sole purpose is to make me laugh, presumably, then I consider that comedy to be a success if I laugh.

In that light, to put it very simplistically, this movie made me laugh, it is a comedy, so therefore I give it my highest honour possible, being “eh, it wasn’t too bad.”

That’s not to say that it’s a good film, by any definition other than the one I just offered. It’s clumsy, it’s poorly acted, it’s erratically edited, it’s got actors in it who shouldn’t be in it, or in films in general and specifically, and it’s got a lot of crude, stupid humour.

Shit like that, though, literally and figuratively, makes me laugh sometimes, and I laughed a handful of times while watching this trenchant and probing examination of marriage in the current milieu.

Being a simple man doesn’t stop me from over-complicating things endlessly, though. The main reason for that is this: I’m a simple man who’s also intensely neurotic. So allow me to offer apologies and explanations for this here review and this here flick.

I thought this was an Australian flick made for domestic consumption, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It became pretty obvious after a while that there was a thoroughly misguided attempt to make this flick in Australia aimed at a British audience.

Rating:

Anonymous

Anonymous

Shakespeare, a fraud? Isn't it more likely that Roland
Emmerich = shameless hack?|

dir: Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich has previously been best known for making some of the most explode-y and truly stupid movies the cinema and your eyes have ever played host to. Independence Day, 2012, The Patriot, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC – there are more, and it’s a long, ignoble list of universal infamy.

So why’s he making a movie about the ‘real’ story behind William Shakespeare, when Shakespeare has about as much in common with Emmerich’s cinematic atrocities as Andrew Dice Clay, Pauly Shore or Rodney Rude do?

Who knows? I mean, I could look it up. I’m sure there’s dozens of interviews with him giving what he claims is the real motivation for doing so, but, considering the fact that most of that sort of PR guff is bullshit anyway, I choose not to inform myself in such a manner.

It’s far more tempting to just guess, based on scant or no evidence, as to his deep-seeded desire to tear down someone substantially greater than himself.

If someone like Kenneth Brannagh, Sir Lawrence Olivier, Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Judi Dench, a literature scholar or one of the Kardashians tried it, you’d think it arose because of their deep connection to and love for Shakespeare’s works, since they’d seemingly devoted much of their lives (or their bandwagons) to him. But because of that connection, there could be an assumption made that they’re not, like Iago from Othello, motivated by just motiveless malice.

Rating:

Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids

You're all laughing and smiling, but none of you are funny in this

dir: Jennifer Westfeldt

2009

Hey. Those of you who don’t have kids and who have friends with kids: I know that those of us with them can be pretty annoying, but you don’t have to try to punish us by making films about it. Honestly, most of us aren’t that horrible. Some of us are, but not most, I hope.

Some friends who have kids, sure, are worse than fifty Hitlers, and are completely self-obsessed and self-focussed, and are constantly telling you how little they’re sleeping and how hard they’re doing it, and what saints they goddamn are for doing something no-one forced them to do and that billions of other people seemed to have managed without turning it into such a goddamn saga, but that’s not the fault of the kids.

Let’s be honest, they were probably annoying fuckers to begin with. As a wise man once said: Look into your hearts. You know it to be true.

This flick might have arisen from the simple observation of some people, being Jennifer Westfeldt, that some of her friends became arseholes when they became parents. Maybe it wasn’t a general observation, maybe it was a specific one, maybe Jennifer and her husband’s friends did all turn into horrible, sniping, perpetually angry arseholes. Maybe they’re exaggerating a little bit to justify making a movie about it. Perhaps some viewers will see some similarities between these gorgons and zombies onscreen and their own friends; perhaps it will resonate with millions of angry, dejected people who mourn the loss of their friendships with Friends who now have Kids.

At the very least I would hope that a fair number of viewers would see this flick, if they bother to, and think, “Goddamn, your friends, Jennifer, totally suck, because my friends, on the other hand, seem to do okay as parents, didn’t transform like werewolves once their kids dropped out of their fecund wombs, don’t pressure me/us horribly on a daily basis to breed as well, and still retain some of the qualities I enjoyed about them before they became ‘dreaded’ parents.”

I hope that holds true for some people, because if this flick is any accurate portrayal of what everyone everywhere is like (it isn’t), then we parents have a lot to answer for, possibly at the Hague in front of a war crimes tribunal.

Rating:

The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady

How can you not be thinking erotic thoughts right now?

dir: Phyllida Lloyd

Damn, that Maggie, she was a bit of a saucy tyrant, eh? Sorry, that’s Baroness Thatcher to the likes of you and me, fellow bloody peasants.

It’s still a freaky occurrence that Maggie, or any woman for that matter, rose to power to lead the Tory party to successive victories at Britain’s polls, and was, for various reasons, one of the most powerful persons in the world, let alone powerful women. For various reasons, the leadership of Golda Meir, or Indira Ghandi or any other women who’ve risen to (elected) power is more explainable than Maggie’s seizure of the reins.

Those driving forces, personal and societal, will remain a sweet mystery for you, perhaps even becoming more mysterious for you, after having watched this flick, because it never comes close to giving us an inkling of how or why any of it happened.

That’s not entirely fair. Maggie, as portrayed here, is possessed of implacable ambition and an iron will. She’s also highly intelligent, and deeply committed to her father’s conservative views about the wonderfulness of hard-working middle-class people, and the worthlessness of the lower orders of society.

Scratch that, I just remembered that Thatcher once famously said that there was no such thing as society. So there’s no society to speak of. However, if such a thing actually existed, then Maggie would be against it, not for it.

Rating:

Carnage

Carnage

Parents are just the worst people, they really are, in and outside of plays

dir: Roman Polanski

Parents, as any teenager will tell you, are the worst. They’re just horrible people, perpetually using their children as surrogates, stand-ins and battlefields for all their fears, failures and furies. At least as far as movies are concerned

And they’re always convinced that they’re right, even when and especially when they’re wrong.

Four people get trapped in an apartment, unable to leave, held in place like insects in amber by societal niceties, the social contract, the fear of litigation, and eventually, the shittiness of their own marriages. What a recipe for success!

And it's all over an eleven-year-old hitting another eleven-year-old with a stick.

At least in the Australian context, it's hard not to think of The Slap, which uses the slap of the title to show the fault lines and flaws in the relationships of dozens of interlinked people. The realisation of this story, though, couldn't be more different. This flick is based on a play, and it shows. The 'action' doesn't move from the apartment, well, it only moves as far as the outside of the apartment, as two sets of parents try to wrest some kind of meaning from each other, to make up for the lack of it in other areas of their lives.

Rating:

Underworld: Awakening

Underworld Awakening

Awakeworld Underning: No-one asked for more of this. You're welcome.

dir: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein

A fourth Underworld flick? Who clamoured for that? The first three didn’t bring enough shiteness into the world?

In writing this review, I'm probably going to reveal slightly more about myself than I should. Any long time reader would have to know already, considering the sheer quantity of reviews contained herein, that I'm both compulsive and not that bright. To see the Self-Prosecution’s Exhibit A of damning evidence of this, I present to you this shameful admission: I've watched all of the Underworld vampire/werewolf flicks in the cinema.

Why? Not as in, why am I admitting this, since I'm obviously doing so because I think it's got some mysterious relevance to the flick being reviewed right here. Why have I watched all of these flicks in the cinema, despite the fact that the first one was terrible and deeply leotarded to a degree previously unfathomed, and the others haven't been much better? Why, since I can't stand Kate Beckinsale, and think she's the acting equivalent of a tranquilizer smeared all over beige wallpaper? Why, when too many stupid vampire/werewolf movies and series have permanently poisoned the well, to the point where the whole genre should be off-limits for me?

Rating:

Take Shelter

Take Shelter

What's most terrifying is the possibility that the craziest people have
been right all along.

dir: Jeff Nichols

Michael Shannon is the new Christopher Walken, only even more unsettling. And now they’re giving him lead roles in movies, which is going to scare even more children down the track.

Scooch closer, children, don’t make me tell you again about the scooching.

Take Shelter is a meditative, unsettling, measured story about a man overwhelmed by dread. Curtis (Michael Shannon) has dreams and visions of something awful that’s about to happen, and yet, because of his family history of mental illness, he allows for the possibility that it all might just be in his head.

This is a man who sees his dreams as omens, and takes actions in the ‘real’ world, which, obviously, look like the actions of an insane man, after a while. He knows they’re dreams, but, for him, it would be a crime not to prepare for what is coming. He loves his family too much to ignore the signs, and sees as absolute his obligation to do right by all of them.

His wife (Jessica Chastain, who I think was in every movie released in 2011), apart from being a redhead, is a rock, is a cornerstone, is a heroically supportive woman, but even she has her limits. Anyone would. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, though, she’s the embodiment of the concept of standing by your man to the bitter end.

Rating:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

It has a cumbersome, unwieldy title. I would have gone with
"Fuck I Really Hated This Movie".

dir: Stephen Daldry

This is the last of the nominees for Best Picture this year (well, at the 2012 Oscars scheduled for the 26th of Feb) that I have seen and reviewed, well, am reviewing right now. That’s the only reason I saw it, or at least endured its entire length without walking out, and the only reason I’m reviewing it is so I can at least have the tenuous justification for having an informed opinion about the worthiness of the flick that ends up winning.

And, at the very least, I can say that this flick should definitely not win.

At even very leaster, I can say that this flick should definitely not be watched by anyone, either.

I can’t say if it’s a faithful rendering of the book, because I’m never going to read the book that produced such an aggravating movie. An actively irritating, unsatisfying, unfulfilling, unenjoyable movie.

It’s safe to say that if it didn’t include a lot of footage of the World Trade Centre attacks, an abundance of footage and references and elegiac scenes of people falling, or the smoking towers, or the last (fabricated) words of someone about to die in one of the Towers, this flick would have never seen the light of day. I don’t think people can be casual or dismissive about September Eleven stuff yet, hence the nomination, but, goddamn is this flick unpleasant to spend time with.

Rating:

The Grey

The Grey

Gaze into those eyes and try to avoid the unavoidable truth:
that we are all worthless compared to Liam Neeson

dir: Joe Carnahan

Bleak, brutal, beautiful.

But enough about my previous relationship…

The Grey is one of the bleakest things I’ve seen since The Road, which was that horrifying post-apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy adaptation, which was the bleakest thing I’d read since Blood Meridian, which was the bleakest thing since my previous relationship. Plus, it’s got wolves, just like my previously relationship.

Yes, enough about ruthless predators that won't be satisfied until your bones are scattered, torn limb from limb, strewn across a desolate landscape…

But how could there ever be enough? The Grey is not really the film that it seems to be, at least, the film that they are marketing it as.

Yes, it seems similar to films like Alive (where a Uruguayan rugby team survive a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, get over their squeamishness and learn to love cannibalism), or Flight of the Phoenix (bunch of guys survive a plane crash in the desert, only to face death from the sun and guys on horses with guns). No, this is totally different.

In The Grey, a bunch of guys crash in Alaska, and face harsh conditions and wolves, and struggle to survive in a place where survival is unlikely.

Completely different.

Rating:

Safe House

Safe House

They're not safe from you, that's for sure, you smug bastard

dir: Daniel Espinosa

Who doesn’t want to watch Denzel being tortured?

Not me, for one, since he’s a National Treasure. And so dreamy.

But not all of his flicks are a safe bet, these days, ever since, oh, I don’t know, he won the Oscar for Training Day and lost all sense and reason and started believing he was the badass he was portraying onscreen, and that he could keep playing that same badass no matter how good or bad the flick he’s currently in.

In a few years, he might even be picking up the flicks Nicolas Cage considers are beneath him.

Safe House is not a great movie, it’s not even a particularly bad movie, but it’s okay. It’s okay for what it is. It doesn’t really exist or linger past the actual watching of it, and it has a thoroughly pointless ending that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I did not hate it as I was watching it. I could easily hate it now, but there’s not much percentage in that.

I actually remember enjoying whole parts of it. Denzel plays a rogue CIA agent called Tobin Frost, which is a name I don’t think any African American has had in the history of African-Americans. He’s been off the grid for nine years, and surfaces in South Africa. A young(ish) and cowardly CIA agent called Matt (Ryan Reynolds) ends up babysitting the guy, and then some stuff happens to them.

Rating:

Chronicle

Chronicle

Seattle never looked so sunny. A morally and visually murky place

dir: Josh Trank

With great power comes great responsibility, as well as a great opportunity to get back at everyone who ever did us wrong, right?

Chronicle is a pretty keen take on the superhero genre, told through the non-narrative construct of handheld camera / found footage telling us the story. For that to work, it means that the person filming, at least initially, has to have some reason other than what’s about to happen for filming themselves. At least in theory.

That person is Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a pale and isolated jerk in high school, as are all Andrews, really. Has he got a decent reason for being a loner jerk who films himself with a camera? Well, maybe. The first instance we see worthy of immortalisation, which opens the flick, is him filming himself and his bedroom door, because his violent drunken jerk of a father (Michael Kelly) is threatening him through that door.

We also find out that Andrew’s mother is dying, very slowly, so things aren’t going that well for any of them. And at school, naturally, the other teenage scum sense his vulnerability, and bully the heck out of him. He does have, at least, a cousin who’s on friendly terms with him, which makes him seem like the only person in the world who gives a damn. Matt (Alex Russell) seems like a kid too tall and popular to give a damn about a scrawny skeleton like Andrew, but care he does, all the same. Inexplicably.

Rating:

The Artist

The Artist

Love us, just please love us. We turn to dust if you're not loving us

dir: Michel Hazanavicius

I know this last year was the year of celebrating the early days of the cinematic art form, but, you know, let’s just chill the fuck out, at least a little bit, okay?

The Artist is an entertaining enough flick, there’s no doubt, but it’s not the second coming of Buddha Jesus or the second coming of silent and black & white movies. At least I hope not.

And yes, I’ll even grant that Jean Dujardin does a nice job as the main character, being George Valentin, and that Berenice Bejo is lovely as Peppy Miller, but the manner in which this flick is being lauded to the high heavens is a bit confounding, and more than a tad bandwagonesque.

That this maudlin, melodramatic tale has been nominated for Best Picture is slightly surreal, if not absurd, in this day and age, and speaks more to the way that a whole bunch of critics and reviewers, once a flick gains critical mass, are pulled along almost involuntarily praising something exorbitantly that they know is just ‘pretty good’. It’s like they’re watching an event at the Special Olympics and are getting way ahead of themselves.

Rating:

A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method

Tell us all about your mother, Doctor Freud. We promise it will all be
kept in the strictest confidence.

dir: David Cronenberg

Famous and frightening Canadian director Cronenberg’s love affair with Viggo Mortensen continues, with every film he comes up with having Viggo in a crucial role. Who can blame him? Viggo is awesome. And even more than Viggo being thoroughly awesome, he was also great in those last two flicks of his, being A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Michael Fassbender’s no slouch in the awesomeness department either, so casting these chaps as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, the two titans of psychoanalysis in the early part of the 20th Century, would seem like a sure-fire box office blockbuster.

Maybe not. Both of these chaps bring solid acting chops to a story that isn’t that well known. Freud’s name is common currency, but Jung’s not as prevalent, since people don’t make Jungian slips that often, perhaps, or at least they don’t admit to it. The point of this story, however, is not a biopic about the lives of the two men instrumental into identifying and pathologising a lot of the craziness out of there. It’s about Jung’s relationship with a crazy woman, played very crazily by Keira Knightley foremost, and then it’s about the falling out between Freud and Jung.

Rating:

Hugo

Hugo

Here's Time Itself, making fools of us all, especially Hugo

dir: Martin Scorsese

With delight, I watched this, with great delight in my heart.

If you’re reading this review, you know that I watch a lot of films, and a lot of them I even review. Those reviews, you would know, are to my benefit and to your detriment as a reader. I’m sorry about that. Really, I am. I wish I were a better reviewer; someone who could encapsulate succinctly and with wit what is great and what is less great about certain movies in this artistic medium I prize the most, after literature, puppetry and the accordion, of course. And I wish I could say it all without having to resort to the boring bullshit a billion other (paid) bunglers routinely trot out to justify their verbosity.

No, honestly, I wish I were a better reviewer, so that I could credibly explain why I loved Hugo so much, so that you, too, could feel the joy that I felt, and get a glimpse of how it felt to watch it. Yes, even cynical old me feels joy whilst watching a film, very rarely, but it happens. Aiming that high dooms any enterprise to failure, no doubt, but it should be perfectly obvious that failing at something doesn’t stop me from doing it. Au contraire, to get into the vernacular of it, au contraire, mes amis.

Rating:

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

From their expressions, you'd think this was a very serious film.
Why so serious, huh?

dir: David Fincher

Isn’t everyone sick of these goddamn books and movies by now? Haven’t we been dealing with them long enough? Can’t we just let them go, and move on?

Apparently not, since they’re making American versions now, complete with American and British actors speaking with what they hope are Swedish accents. Why are they speaking with Swedish accents? Who the hell knows. We know they’re ‘speaking’ Swedish to themselves, it just ‘sounds’ English to us within the context of the flick, but why some of them would use Swedish Chef accents and some of them wouldn’t makes it all slightly perplexing.

I guess that’s appropriate, since these are meant to be mysteries. Of course, since I’ve read the books and seen the Swedish versions, which had those pesky subtitles and Swedish actors, there’s really no mystery there anymore. Making Hollywood versions presumably opens up a whole new audience of people who hate subtitles, which is a fair number of people. And since they enlisted David Fincher to direct, we know they’re going for the prestige angle, and not the trashy cash-in angle.

Rating:

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought a Zoo

Ugh, better title would be "We Are Trapped in a Terrible Movie, Please Send Help"

dir: Cameron Crowe

There’s this feeling that certain films and certain directors provoke that’s akin to having been in an embarrassing relationship with someone completely unsuitable in some dark alleyway of your past. Sure, at the time you thought they were wonderful and fun, but then you look back with the benefit of maturity and hindsight and think “what the fuck was I on?”

And it happens, mostly, when you see them in their current state, giving the world new examples of why they were always embarrassing, and why you should have known they were a disaster way back when. Sure, I really enjoyed Almost Famous, and sit through it whenever it pops up on one of the cable movie channels, but, really, I can’t believe I ever liked this man’s movies.

We Bought a Zoo actually has a story that I found interesting. A grieving widower called Benjamin (Matt Damon) decides to buy a zoo, to take his two kids out of the city and all that reminds him of his departed wife, to start afresh. Along the way he has to say a lot of things that would embarrass even those kinds of people you know who biologically seem not to have any capacity for shame. You know, politicians, pornstars, footballers: even they would be blushing with some of these execrable words given to them. Instead, you have Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson uttering this dolorous, dunderheaded dribble, which demeans us all individually and as a species.

Rating:

The Muppets

The Muppets

Welcome back, gentle muppets, now please fuck off again

dir: James Bobin

And now, from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. Having spent a fair few hours this summer in the cinemas with my angelic / demonic child, we’ve traversed the entire current cinematic experience as it exists for the children of this city. There have been ups, and downs, mostly downs, at least from my viewpoint, but there have been some hours spent in the illuminated gloom that were enjoyable for us both.

The most surprising, in that I can’t believe she enjoyed it considering how dated, self-referential, meta and ‘adult’ it is, is this flick, The Muppets.

What a deceptive title. I mean, there have been so many Muppets flicks, but I guess not for a while. Thing is, for her, being all of five, she’s never seen the Muppets tv show. She never saw perplexing cameos from Roger Moore, Twiggy, Vincent Price or Johnny Cash or Liberace, or wondered why these sometimes drunk people were chatting to these furry puppets like they were real people. She never saw the stack of flicks from the 80s, or heard the musical numbers, or owned any of the holy merchandise.

Nor did she know anything about the perverse love/hate insanely passionate relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Nor should she.

Rating:

The Secret World of Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arrietty)

The Secret World of Arrietty

It's not easy being miniscule, doncha know

dir: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

The wait in between new Studio Ghibli releases is too long, way too long. Being a man with a level of patience a saint would envy, I still find this particular wait too painful, but then, only a few new animated films are truly worth waiting for.

One of the most awesome things about being a movie-obsessed lunatic who also, by the grace of God, Allah and Satan, has been blessed enough to become a father, is having a new person to inflict my obsession upon.

Scratch that, reverse it, play it again. What I meant to say is that it’s tremendous, a tremendous thing to have a daughter to watch flicks with. And, with Studio Ghibli, it’s a tremendous thing having animated movies to watch with my kid in a cinema that are this nice, and don’t make me want to gouge out my own eyes and eardrums.

Sure, Pixar this and that, but surely we all know that the vast majority of stuff made with an eye towards the kid market are visual abominations and a stain upon our collective soul as a species. Most of these visual and auditory atrocities are the artistic equivalent of red cordial, whose only purpose is to overstimulate the kids until they become so het up and ADHDed that, upon leaving the cinema, a parent or guardian has no choice but to buy some merchandise to shut them up, calm them down and cork their cry hole.

Rating:

The Descendants

The Descendants

I wonder how high up on People magazine's Hottest 100 Bachelors list I am this year..

dir: Alexander Payne

I was so surprised when this didn’t turn out to be a biopic-documentary about the great punk band The Descendents, from whose ashes rose other punk superstars Black Flag and All, blessing the world with their fast, brutal pop-punk noise, inspiring a legion of teenage boys in Akron, Ohio and Ringwood, Melbourne, to pick up guitars in their bedrooms and then put them down again once they finished their chemistry and engineering degrees.

No. That would have been too real, too awesome. Instead, here’s George Clooney Clooning things up for the rest of us, based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Cummings.

We see, for the briefest instant, a woman riding on a jet ski, who seems very happy. That’s the happiest we’re going to see her, because Clooney’s sonorous voiceover ensures that we will know quick smart that these people aren’t or can’t be happy for very long.

It turns out that the woman we beheld in all her glory is now in a coma, and her husband, Matt King (Cloons) is looking after her, and dealing more so with the fact that he now has to reengage with his family, being two daughters, which he thinks he’s not ready to do. The youngest, Scottie (Amara Miller) is getting in trouble for acting out (by saying ever so rude and hurtful things to other girls), and his elder daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) has her own problems unsuccessfully hidden away at her elite boarding school.

Rating:

War Horse

War Horse

There's something to be said about the love of a boy for his horse. Well, not that much,
really.

dir: Spielbergo

It’s not much of a stretch to say that Spielbergo gets to make whatever films he wants in ways that most other directors couldn’t dream of.

It’s not his skills as a director that I’m referring to; it’s the fact that he’s Spielbergo: the most successful director in the medium and in the industry thus far in the last 110 years. He's someone who makes any movie with the understanding that the payment for his services is 30% of the gross box office earned by whatever film he puts out there.

Few people have that level of clout. Peter Jackson is the only other one I know of. Let’s not get bogged down into the merits of such a system, since all I wanted to point out, which, in retrospect, is pretty obvious, is that he gets to make whatever flick he wants to make in whatever way he wants to.

So if he wants to make a flick set during World War I about a lucky horse and the boy from Devon who loves him, and all the people whose lives are touched by the horse as he makes his journey through that despicable war, well, that’s what he does.

And that’s what the pretty literal title refers to: War Horse is about a horse that goes to war. How’s that for subtlety?

Rating:

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Tally-ho what, we love each other and we're
not going to hide it anymore

dir: Guy Ritchie

Mr Ritchie, is there something you’re trying to tell us? Your last three films have had, shall we say, a curious subtext considering the material (all violent action-y crime capers), and yet now, in the sequel to your inexplicably successful Sherlock Holmes flick, that subtext has now just become text. Congratulations? Are you making progress? Are you getting somewhere with your, um, feelings towards other men?

Long have people joked or slyly nudged nudged and winked winked over the potential for the fictional sleuthing characters of Holmes and Watson to have been, shall we say, better than the best of friends and companions. The last flick with Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law as the principles humorously alluded to it in a plethora of ways. In this one, it’s flat out right up there on the screen. Holmes is jealously needling Watson over whether he’d rather be spending time with him or his wife on their honeymoon, he’s dressing up in drag whenever he can, compelling Watson to lay down with him. And, just before the film’s climax, at some diplomatic ball at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, they even dance a loving waltz together. And no-one bats an eyelid. Which is progress, of a sort.

At the conclusion of their dance, Holmes jealously says to Watson, “Who taught you to dance like that?”

You know what’s coming, don’t you? Watson whispers lovingly to him, “You did.”

Love, oh careless love.

Rating:

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Ghost Protocol

Look at poor Simon Pegg, way way back in the distance. He looks lonely

dir: Brad Bird

Sweet Zombie Jesus, if you’re going to make more of these monstrous Mission Impossible flicks, then continue getting Brad Bird to direct, because this one’s pretty amazing. From a pure action point of view, this is probably the best action flick I’ve seen in a long while, and I watch a lot of violent action flicks. Sure, a lot of them involve Chipmunks or are on the Nickelodeon channel, but my point still stands.

These lapdog American retreads of the James Bond espionage action genre have peaked right here, and it would probably be best if they just put it aside and backed away from the franchise. But they won’t, like we all know. Success breeds laziness, so Tom Cruise will probably be making these when he’s in his 80s and still puttering around looking like a 40-year-old thanks to foetal grindings and other secret Scientological super serums. I still find Cruise somewhat scary at the best and worst of times, but I can’t fault him for his work here. This flick exemplifies its own formula, excelling with the stuff that it’s known for, which is a bunch of incredibly orchestrated heists / break-ins, high-tech trickery, complicated impersonations, and saving the world at the very last second after travelling around it first.

Rating:

Moneyball

Moneyball

This awards season, Brad Pitt IS a Ball of Money!

dir: Bennett Miller

Why would I watch a flick about baseball? Why would anyone? That is, why would anyone watch a flick about a sport they know nothing about apart from its existence, and couldn’t care less about?

Well, there have been some decent baseball flicks, for which it doesn’t matter a tinker’s dam whether you’re a fan of the sport or not. Eight Man Out, Cobb, The Babe, The Natural, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams: they're all the ones I can think of right now. You can argue that it’s not even the sport itself which is relevant in terms of whether they’re good films or not: it’s the story that goes along with it, eliciting as it does awe, hope, joy, boredom, strange sexual feelings and probably other darker emotions that I'm not privy to.

Well, truth be told the only reason I saw Moneyball is because I’d seen a lot of good reviews, a lot of praise for it, and many if not all of those reviews said stuff like “you don’t have to be a fan of baseball to enjoy the flick”. And so I watched it.

The reality is, though, if you don’t know or care about baseball, or sport in general, this film could bore you so much that you eventually hate any mention of it, or have all affection eroded you may have had for the athletic arts.

Rating:

The Adventures of Tintin

Adventures of Tintin

Bloody Belgians are taking over, mark my words

dir: Steven Spielberg

Spielbergo’s first foray in the field of fully animated films is not going to set the world alight. The fact that it’s in 3D isn’t going to dazzle the masses much either. Whether it makes its money back, or results in dozens of sequels, or honours the Hergé source material matters not to me. But I am interested in being entertained.

There I was, then, stupid glasses perched upon my nose. Entertain us, I whispered to the screen.

And he did. It did. I had a ball watching Tintin. I remember reading the books as a kid, but they never made that much of an impression upon me, in that these aren’t to me like what the comic-book faithful often moan like sad cows over when their treasured properties are rendered unto the big screen. I feel no ownership of the character or the stories. To me they’re artefacts of the old world, like polio, diaphragms and vinyl records, when racism was cool and colonialism rocked. It’s also a kind of adventure tale which we miss, since today these stories seem to be bogged down by setup, thematic bullshit, meaning, significance and purpose.

Rating:

Real Steel

Real Steel

Look at me, robot, look at me. My ears are up here, you pig

dir: Shawn Levy

It’s Robot Rocky. Anyone telling you anything different is a liar, and you can call them a liar to their face. Tell ‘em I said it was okay.

This might have shiny robots in it, or at least CGI approximations thereof, but in all honesty this entire flick is constructed as if by robots in a factory, except instead of using metal alloys and circuits, they’re using clichés so old Sylvester Stallone is tempted to run up and rub human growth hormone all over them because they’re so aged and creaky.

Into this technological whorehouse of gimcrackery they insert the compelling and obnoxious presence of Hugh Jackman playing a former boxer who ekes out a living having his robot beat up cows at county fairs.

I’m not making this up. In the first few minutes of this illustrious flick, Charlie is rudely awakened by children, finishes off a beer, then comes off worse during an argument with them. It doesn’t bode well for his skills as a smooth operator.

A former opponent in the ring (Kevin Durand), with a pretty poor Texan yeehaw! accent, despite or because of being a Canadian from Thunder Bay, goads Charlie into a bet: Charlie’s robot Ambush versus the shitkicker’s two thousand pound bull.

Rating:

50/50

50/50

Now boys, getting cancer is no reason to become neo-nazi skinheads, okay?

dir: Jonathan Levine

Cancer is a hard sell. It’s okay for those four-hanky weepies they make for the abundance of chick channels on cable, but for a comedy drama with nice, liked actors in it, you have to think a lot of people apart from the creative ones involved would have been a bit leery or at least anxious.

“Who’s going to see this?” muttered one studio executive, tugging on his soul patch and massaging his shoulder where Consuela, his usual deep-tissue masseuse had failed to work out the knot that had been bugging him all week.

“I mean, it’s a bit of a bring-down, isn’t it? Can’t he have, like, a cold or something less depressing?”

“What about lupus?” said his female counterpart, fighting the urge to think about food denied to herself at least until daylight hours were over. “Lupus would play well to 27 to 39-year-old one legged lesbians who like blue blankets, at least that’s what our data shows. What about an earache? No, we don’t want to alienate the people with sore eyelids. How about AIDS? Everyone loves AIDS. That’ll get the, you knows, into the theatres.”

Rating:

The Debt

The Debt

How bloody deceptive is this poster? You'd think this was
an exciting movie or something

dir: John Madden

Who would have thought a flick about three Mossad agents trying to hunt down a sadistic Nazi war criminal could be a depressing and unfulfilling trawl through the sewers of human weakness and failure?

Not me, proving how truly not bright I am, which is why I’m reviewing films instead of making them. But there’s nothing I can do about that now *sob*. So let’s just talk about the film then, shall we?

John Madden is, I’m sure he’ll be mortified to hear, not a director I’ve ever had much time for. The most famous thing he’s done is probably Shakespeare in Love, which has about as much to do with the actual Shakespeare as that recent hilarious flick Anonymous did, which argued that Shakespeare himself was too much of a bloody peasant to have ever written all those plays and sonnets, and so it had to have been the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere. But even if he had something to do with Gwyneth Paltrow shooting forth like the poisonous, leprous star that she is, and she may have even won a goddamn Academy award, if I’m not mistaken, for her weepy performance, he obviously wishes that he was directing stuff that was taken a bit more seriously.

So, instead of following Gwyneth’s lead and popping out strangely-named children, he persists in making movies, much to our collective disinterest.

Rating:

The Ides of March

Ides of March

I believe in Ryan Clooney, and so do you

dir: George Clooney

Cloons. Cloooooons. He’s not content having every woman over forty getting wet in the gusset or drooling over him, or buying coffee just because of his ads. No, he has to direct flicks too. He has to get shiny golden statues to make him feel loved too.

And he’s directed a doozy here. Sure, the point of the flick is that politicians are arseholes, a novel and radically new idea never captured on film before, but the solid performances and commitment to following through on its depressing premise carries the picture through. And mostly these prized hams don’t overact, so they’ve all done pretty well.

Clooney can’t resist being in the flick as well as everything else, including the catering, but he doesn’t give himself the plum role, nor could he. He is Governor Mike Morris, the genial, charismatic front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in some fantastical place where democracy actually works. But he’s not the main character. That role is taken by man of the moment Ryan Gosling.

He plays Stephen, a young campaign manager on the governor’s staff, whose brash and cynical enough for the role, but not so brash and cynical that he can’t be disappointed in the brashness and cynicism of others. Hey, he’s Ryan Gosling, he can do anything at this point and people will take it and say thank you no matter how good or terrible.

Rating:

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