Bellflower

Bellflower

I can't imagine it gets decent fuel mileage, but it sure looks cool,
doesn't it?

dir: Evan Glodell

I couldn’t tell you what it’s about. I’ve watched it twice, and I still don’t know.

But I can tell you that it connected with me, for reasons I cannot fathom as yet.

Let’s fathom those reasons out together, dear reader. Maybe over the course of the review, I’ll be able to figure it out for myself.

This could be a flick about two youngish alcoholics, Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who really wish they were living in post-apocalyptic times. They don’t seem to have jobs or money, but they have a close friendship, I guess defined by the frequency with which they bellow ‘dude’ and ‘so awesome’ to and at each other. They’re really close, even just for best friends.

I’m not implying anything, I’m just saying. They spend their days talking about some fairly strange stuff, and they do it in a fairly casual way. Mad Max – The Road Warrior seems to have had a fairly profound impact upon them. They don’t just dream of modified beasts of cars, or flamethrowers; they build flamethrowers and modify cars in practical but cumbersome ways.

And, for fun, they chain up a propane tank and shoot it with a shotgun, just to watch it burn under escaping explosive pressure. They are, or at least think they are, preparing for something that the rest of us would desperately hope would never come to pass.

Rating:

Warrior

Warrior

Brothers beating themselves and each other up all to get back at their fathers
- a story as old as the Bible

dir: Gavin O’Connor

Men. Manly Men. Beating the crap out of each other.

This is easily the most masculine film I’ve seen this year, in a lot of ways. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact it’s a very good thing.

This is also one of the best flicks I’ve seen this year. At the very least it’s one of the flicks I’ve enjoyed the most this year. There are only a few aspects that squandered the tremendous amount of goodwill and positive feelings I had about the film, and none of them have anything to do with the phenomenal performances put in by nearly all the actors involved.

And yet, it’s still a flick about a bunch of guys beating the absolute shit out of each other.

Soldiers fight for king, queen or country because they have to. Mercenaries fight for coin. Warriors fight because they live to fight. Warrior doesn’t really sit well as a good title for this flick, because the people fighting don’t necessarily want to fight.

But they have to.

There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to fight flicks. It’s a genre of sports film so well-trodden that it’s virtually impossible to say anything new. It can be said in a more contemporary way, but the themes are ancient, as are the beats and rhythms of the screenplays.

Rating:

The Future

The Future

The future is no longer looking as bright as before

dir: Miranda July

Do you ever wonder if you’re really as intelligent as you think/hope you are?

I mean, no-one really thinks they’re as dumb as they actually are, hence the essence of dumbness, but, for me, watching a flick like this, called The Future, it makes me think I’m nowhere near as bright as I think I am.

Miranda July is a performance artist, writer, director and probably cobbler in her spare time as well. Film is just another installation / exhibition to her, perhaps. I watched her first film Me, You and Everyone We Know, and enjoyed it as much as these kinds of flicks can be enjoyed. And I read her collection of short stories called No-one Belongs Here More Than You.

None of this has given me a window into her thinking, apart from knowing she’s a very odd person. And that’s cool. I’ve been watching a lot of formulaic Hollywood pap lately, and it’s good to have a cleanse now and then. This flick The Future couldn’t be more different from formulaic pap.

By the same token, that doesn’t mean I entirely get it, or that I enjoyed it that much.

Rating:

30 Minutes or Less

30 minutes

Less would have been better, as in either zero or negative

dir: Ruben Fleischer

Getting Jesse Eisenberg and director Ruben Fleischer together again after Zombieland must have sounded like a good idea, since they did pretty well on their first time out. Inserting Aziz Ansari into the mix might have sounded good, because Aziz is pretty funny, whether as a stand-up or as a comedic actor.

But then someone somehow thought Danny McBride would improve things as well, and so we have 30 Minutes or Less: a mediocre flick so pointless and ineffable that the rage it could inspire doesn’t have time to coalesce before the film evaporates.

I’m telling you for free, Hollywood: Danny McBride improves nothing. Smearing shit on a Picasso doesn’t make it more valuable. Au contraire, fuckers.

Not that, oh no, don’t get me wrong, not that this flick would have been a Cubist masterpiece without McBride’s value-adds. No, it would still have been utterly pointless and forgettable. It just wouldn’t have been as annoying.

Rating:

The Devil's Double

Devil's Double

This golden boy is going to go far: I can feel it in my bones, because there's a gun
pressed against them

dir: Lee Tamahori

Jesus Christ, or maybe by the grace of Allah, this Uday Hussein was a sick fuck!

I remember the stories from back in the day, around the time of the first Iraqi Adventure, where the tales of Saddam’s sons being monsters were coming out, and I just thought, “Eh, they’re just being mean.”

And then the many and varied stories of what a demented sociopath he was, to the extent where he shamed his own tyrant of a father, slaughterer of innocents and torturer of people who disagreed with him, and there was little doubt.

Of the many controversies regarding the second Iraqi Adventure Part II in 2003, one of the only aspects that has never troubled me were the reports of the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein. See, in my limited knowledge and understanding of history, and especially history as it applies to people, the only monsters often worse than the despots and tyrants who seize power in bloody times and rule their people with an iron fist caked in shit, are their sons.

Rating:

Margin Call

Margin Call

Why so serious, gentle fellows? Is there some sort of crisis looming?

dir: J.C. Chandor

This is a non-stop rollercoaster ride of Armageddon-like thrills and fucking spills. If you’ve seen Children of Men, the incredible action / dystopian sci fi flick about a planet where no children are being born, then imagine that level of cinematic amazement, only set in an office populated entirely by shmucks working in the finance industry.

Yes, the finance industry, or the financial sector, if you want to be pedantic, and who, splayed seductively across the tubes of the internets, doesn’t? It’s the place where the best, brightest and most amazing people in society work with the largest sums of money that anyone outside of the accountant for an oil-rich country’s brutal dictator gets to play with.

Margin Call is not about a specific firm (cough Lehman Brothers cough) or a specific time (hello Global Financial Crisis circa 2008), but it does seem to be trying to represent a certain kind of muted catastrophe that some of us might remember, seeing as its effects are still reverberating, and, if you believe certain doomsayers, hasn’t even peaked yet.

Rating:

Our Idiot Brother

Our Idiot Brother

One person's idiot is another person's presidential candidate

dir: Jesse Peretz

Ah, a finer adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot we’ll never get in our lifetimes. Even Akira Kurosawa’s version isn’t this good.

Yeah, I’m pulling your leg. I’m pulling the heck out of your leg. This isn’t a particularly good movie, but it’s not the worst flick ever made either.

Now that’s a ringing recommendation, isn’t it? The thing is, though, I really did enjoy this movie. I pretty much enjoyed it solely because of Paul Rudd’s performance as the likeable idiot of the title.

For much of the flick, the impression we’re meant to have is that whilst his family might see him as an idiot, he’s not an idiot. He might come across as naïve, or too trusting, but generally he’s just a happy-go-lucky guy surrounded by cynical, selfish, awful people.

And then he does some stuff that could only really be done by an idiot, or at least someone with strong idiotic tendencies. Sometimes, even when someone isn’t entirely something, they can sidle close enough up to it that they might as well ‘be’ the label they’d like to avoid.

Ned (Paul Rudd), who’s pretty much a hippy in the modern age, is so trusting that when a uniformed police officer asks him if he’s got some dope, considering what a difficult, stressful week the cop’s had, Ned believes him and gives him some dope.

Rating:

Another Earth

Another Earth

We need another earth... this one's nearly done

dir: Mike Cahill

No, it's not a movie version of the soap opera that ran for a thousand years, the only rival for the daytime soap crown against Days of Our Lives. This is Another Earth.

The five people that will see this outside of the film festival circuit and at ‘special’ screenings might argue, if they found themselves at the same coffee shop or crack house, whether this is actually a science fiction flick at all. I’m not sure myself, and I’ve had a few days to think about it.

A teenage girl with the unfortunate name of Rhoda (Brit Marling) gets drunk at a party, and, whilst drink-driving her way home, hears a news story on the radio about the discovery/appearance of a celestial body in the sky that looks a hell of a lot like Earth. She tries to spy this phenomenon in the sky, losing track of the fact that she’s meant to be watching the road.

She plows into a car, killing most of the occupants. It’s a very bad thing she’s done, no-one’s saying any different, you know, so no need to get on your high horse. She is/was a bright girl, planning on becoming an astronomer, astrophysicist or astrologer to celebrities, but now that’s all gone. Once this moment of hideous negligence occurs, that bright future she envisaged disappears in that instant.

Rating:

The Hangover Part II

Hangover 2

Why would you ever want to wake up next to these shmucks again?

dir: Todd Phillips

Second verse? Same as the first.

Anyone who paid good money to see this flick, and complained that it was exactly the same plot as the first obviously doesn’t understand what the purpose of a flick called The Hangover Part II was really meant to be.

I didn’t pay good money to see it, because all of my money is tainted with the blood of the innocent and the guilty alike, and I expected it to be exactly what it was, and thus I enjoyed more than the first flick. It’s not better than its predecessor, nor could it be, really. Honestly, these flicks are less movies than they are long, stretched sketch, with multiple gaglets along the way before a punchline that can’t live up to anything.

It doesn’t have to. The premise is so fucking simple, and so enjoyable, that nothing else matters. Characterisation, believable dialogue, people acting sanely is completely unnecessary and unwanted.

Why? Because it’s about that most awesome of things: getting fucked up and not being able to remember the reprehensible shit you got up to the night before.

There’s no Oscar in that. There’s no longing to peer into the depths of the human condition. There’s no need for some Ingmar Bergman-like exploration of man’s misery in the face of God’s silence. It’s about terrible people doing terrible stuff, not remembering either the fun or the awfulness, and trying to find one of their number who’s gone missing.

Rating:

Contagion

Contagion

Lotsa people gonna die because of something Gwyneth Paltrow did

dir: Steven Soderbergh

As if germophobes and compulsive obsessives didn’t have it hard enough already.

Speaking as someone who has long been pathologically afraid of germs and contamination (the psych term used to be mysophobia, or, having too much time on one’s filthy, filthy hands), I don’t need flicks like this. I’m already freaked out enough by the prospect of infection that I am the person the scientists lament creating superbugs by using hand sanitiser and giving other neurotics a bad name.

I’m not at the mask or tinfoil hat stage just yet, but, you know, it’s only a matter of time.

Contagion does me no favours, does me no help. It’s almost as if it’s aimed specifically at people like me for whom the horrifying prospect of an epidemic like this, of evil germs finishing off many, many people, is almost too close to home to appreciate. It’s easy enough to handle zombie flicks, where the virus is transferred through biting. Hand washing and ethanol can’t do anything about that. But a bunker mentality and obsessive hygiene could, actually COULD help if this scenario came to pass. And that’s why it hits closer to home. It’s practically goading us with the propensities into indulging them further and falling even further down the rabbit hole.

Rating:

The 3 D Musketeers

The Three Musketeers 3D

But there are four of them! I'm so confused but I don't care

dir: Paul W. S. Anderson

You might ask yourself: why would you voluntarily see a movie that you know can’t be good? You might specifically ask me: Why would you, a person of moderate intelligence who thinks every movie made by Paul W.S Anderson is shite of the highest order, see another flick made by him, especially one that seems like the dumbest thing since someone passed a law allowing children to legally own guns?

It would be a good question. It’s not one I have a satisfactory answer for. I’ve hated this shmuck’s flicks for decades, and his flicks are definitely not improving.

But an opportunity presented itself, and so I watched it.

Historians and philosophers, centuries from now, if there are people still around then, and let’s hope they’re not, will wonder if this is the dumbest version of the Three Musketeers story, or if it’s the awesomest. Rivalries will angry up the blood. Factions will form. Lines will be crossed. Feelings will be hurt.

It’s a prelude to the war to come, you see. The two sides will eventually meet in a war to expunge the earth of those they perceive as their blood enemies, without all realising the deepest, most saddening and salient fact: it doesn’t matter, because both sides are right and both sides are wrong, simultaneously.

Rating:

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Crazy Stupid Love

I don't know if the filmmakers got the memo, but stalking your ex isn't cool,
romantic or legal

dir: Glenn Ficara & John Requa

There’s two things wrong with that title, and I’m not referring to the grammar or punctuation.

It’s certainly Stupid, but there’s no real craziness or love to speak of.

This flick manages to achieve something that I never considered possible: it manages to be both bland AND offensive, which I thought was a combination that was oxymoronic.

I can’t even begin to describe how wrong this flick is, on how many levels, yet I can start up on how unentertaining I found it to be.

Yeah, I could start on that stuff, but instead I’ll indulge myself, as if I do anything else whenever I write about flicks. A person would never suspect it from looking at me, or from reading my reviews, or from using public transport in close proximity to me, but I am, or at least consider myself to be, something of a romantic. I’m not going to quibble about whether that’s a small ‘r’ romantic or a big ‘R’ Romantic, because that’s a pretentious bridge too far even for me. Clearly I wasn’t palling around and doing drugs with the actual Romantics like Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge or Benny Hill, but I do still have the capacity to swoon in the presence - and at the thought of - heartbreaking beauty, overwhelming passion, and love, careless love.

Rating:

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Not the sequel to One Night in Paris, unfortunately

dir: Woody Allen

Woody Allen… Woody Fucking Allen…

Eh, let’s not go there. Let’s just focus on the fact that there is a film out, and I watched it, and here’s a review of it.

Midnight in Paris doesn’t have Woody Allen in it, so that’s already a plus. The late era renaissance continues for Allen, who is still making films that star famous people, and still get reviewed by people, almost incredulously. It boggles the mind.

Regardless, any film without Allen still has an Allen surrogate in it, and this flick’s surrogate is played by Owen Wilson. He’s a nice enough chap, and nowhere near as neurotic or painful as the usual Allen surrogate.

His problem, and there’s always a problem, is that he’s more focussed on the past than the present. There are probably lots of good reasons for this. The main reason is that his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams) is an awful harridan of a human being, so awful that she’s, like, worse than fifty fucking Hitlers.

Independent of his awful relationship with this person, it seems like being in Paris kindles all sorts of misgivings, regrets, passions and longings within him. It is the City of Lights, after all, with an infamous history, but a lot of it, all the same. As Gil is a writer, naturally his thoughts tend towards both the self-involved and the literary titans of the past who frequented Paris during its many heydays.

And, whodda thunkit? He gets to meet them.

Rating:

Snowtown

Snowtown

Not a place you should visit for more than 2 hours

dir: Justin Kurzel

Snowtown is a horrifying, crippling, debilitating trawl through a true blue Ozzie True Crime story, being the murders of 11 poor bastards in South Australia way back in the 1990s. Only one of the poor victims were killed in Snowtown, or had anything to do with Snowtown, but the name stuck so powerfully that even the people who live there wanted to change the town’s name at the peak of the public’s interest in this depressing story.

Unlike Animal Kingdom, which a flick like this will be inevitably compared to, this isn’t a stylised, fictionalised version of events. I mean, it’s still fiction, it’s not a documentary. What I mean is, it’s something almost along the lines of a feature length re-enactment, in all its banal, ugly detail, and with certainly no glory.

The eye for detail, though, isn’t focussed on replicating everything to give us all the factual minutiae. It’s more focussed on giving us an inkling as to what happened, how it may have felt to be involved, and just how awful it was.

In which case, it functions less as a True Crime kind of film. Its purpose isn’t delivering information on the empirical level. It’s about getting us to feel an overwhelming dread pervading everything.

Rating:

Fright Night

Fright Night 2011

Those dreamy eyes... that overcompensating axe.. the perfect recipe

dir: Craig Gillespie

I… I don’t know what to say. I’m almost ashamed of myself for saying this.

I enjoyed this remake of Fright Night.

I think it matters that about the only thing I really liked about the original was nothing. Well, almost nothing. I kinda liked Roddy McDowell’s performance, because he was always a camp delight to behold on any screen. But I found the flick way too silly to ever like it or be scared by it, even as a kid, watching it surreptitiously on video without parental consent or knowledge. Though, to be honest, I still get the heebie-jeebies from the poster.

No, it was just too silly. Chris Sarandon was just too odd and wacky to be scary, and I hated the guy who played Charley, and always did for ever more. Especially on Herman’s Head, which is a tv show and war crime the Hague should get around to prosecuting any day now.

This remake isn’t particularly great, groundbreaking or goddamn gothically grotesque either, but it’s definitely better than the original, and its even dumber sequel.

I’m not sure if Anton Yelchin is that great in the role either, but he’s a likeable chap. Even though he’s a total dweeb, or perhaps because of it, he plays the role in a relatable or even believable way.

Rating:

Red State

Red State

And here's another thing wrong with America that President Trump is gonna fix

dir: Kevin Smith

You know, for a Kevin Smith flick, it doesn’t suck too much.

But does it suck enough? Well, these things are always relative, aren’t they?

I’m not sure if Smith thinks this flick makes him seem like a director with his finger on the pulse of society, but it at least shows that he can make a flick about something more serious than his own sexual obsessions and his desire to get back at those who’ve ever wronged him.

Red State takes a decidedly different tack from the one, and only, smutty track his flicks usually take. It’s serious, man. Entire sections of Red State could have come from one of the Hostel movies. And there are long, agonising sections where a preacher (Michael Parks) lectures his congregation, telling them, and us, about how much God hates humanity. And the gays, especially.

And it’s not played for laughs. It might sound inelegant to describe this flick as Smith’s most ‘serious’ flick, but it’s pretty much played straight, if you’ll pardon the pun, and I’m sure you won’t.

Rating:

The Help

The Help

Well kiss my grits and deep fry my chitlins

dir: Tate Taylor

Yeah, yeah. I know. It can’t be good, can it?

It’s so obvious in its pandering for Oscars. It’s so worthy. It reeks of Oprah, and it’s all so, so goddamn earnest.

What if I told you that it’s actually not that a bad film? I think you’d be unpleasantly surprised. And even if the spirit of Hattie McDaniel hovers over the movie, cursing and moaning in contempt, it’s not entirely without merit.

Naturally, I’m not the intended audience, though I’m the right ‘colour’. White, American middle-aged, middle-class women are clearly the key demographic that made this flick such a success. It has dominated the US box office for the last few weeks like it’s one of the Transformers movies. Of course, some of the characters are less animated than the robots, but other than that there is little they share in common.

Apart from being big, stonking successes, that is. Of course, one is slightly less annoying and self-righteous than the other. And the other doesn’t have robots.

It’s set in the early 60s, in Mississippi. Guess what and who it’s about. Go on, I dare you, I double dare you, I triple dare you.

Yes, it’s about the Poles who fled the Nazis and the Soviets, and who emigrated to the States, and how they were oppressed and persecuted by people who sought to make them the butt of every lazy joke.

Rating:

Drive

Drive

"Just shut up and keep your eyes on the road, and just Drive" she said.

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

Few films live up to the hype. No films really can. Hype is hype, by its nature an aggravating and ephemeral thing, which complicates how we appreciate films. It complicates the way we come to them, the angle we come at them from.

Drive is one of those deliriously (critically, not commercially) hyped flicks that, of course, can’t live up to the hype. The critical hype obscured, for me, what the flick was actually like, and about, to the point where I expected one thing, and got something completely different.

I thought this was going to be a somewhat more enjoyable or thoughtful action flick to do with some guy who can drive really fast. What it ended up being is more of a standard neo-noir crime flick. That’s not a knock against it or any of the people involved here, because my expectations and assumptions aren’t worth shit.

Really, it’s a very regular, very familiar kind of flick, with a very familiar set of characters, and a very predictable outcome. Along the way, though, it’s well acted, very well directed, and kind of arresting.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a taciturn, competent man, who always wears, even later on when it’s covered in blood, a white jacket with the image of a scorpion. Why? Well, maybe it looks cool to someone back in the 1980s. It’s the kind of thing you can imagine the default leader of an unpopular and weak gang wearing in The Warriors.

Rating:

Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids

"Funny ladies doing mostly unfunny things" probably isn't that good
as an alternative title

dir: Paul Feig

If this is the ‘female’ response to what is commonly and erroneously referred to as the Summer of Judd Apatow – raunchy comedies, then what the fuck was the question? I’m sure there are plenty of mouthbreathers who were wondering: “Shoot, what would a flick like The Hangover be like if it was all chicks? Yeah, and how do they get I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to taste like butter so much?”

The answer to both is not worth speaking, or hearing, really.

This isn’t really a raunchy comedy showcasing female comedic talent. Kristen Wiig as the lead, and Maya Rudolph have both been funny in stuff, and in far funnier films than this. The problem here is that, for a comedy, it’s not really that funny.

It’s far more of a low-stakes drama than anything else, because all of the impetus of the plot is about how shitty the main character feels because her best friend has some other friend. In other words, this groundbreaking and radical comedy is all about how bitchy, shallow, insecure and jealous women are.

It’s almost as if we live in a universe where the Sex and the City series and movies don’t exist. What a sweet universe that would be…

Rating:

Attack the Block

Attack the Block

If children really are our future, then aren't we totally fucked?

dir: Joe Cornish

Did you ever wonder what all those British youthful scumbags were doing before they started rioting through the streets of London?

Apparently, they were saving us from the alien scum of the universe.

Someone had the idea recently of ‘what if aliens invaded the Wild, Wild West?’ That movie was made, and was known as Cowboys and Aliens. Someone else had the idea ‘what if aliens invaded people’s arses?’ And that masterpiece was made. It was called Dreamcatcher. And now some dickhead thought to himself or herself ‘what if aliens invaded a British public housing estate?’

And lo and behold, Attack the Block was made.

It’s impossible to set a flick in or around a council estate, or housing commission flats, or the projects, or the Parisian banlieu or any form of public housing, without much of the underlying story being about the social commentary opportunities the location throws up. Having said that, this flick uses it as an opportunity to comment more on the actions of the protagonists, who live in these places, rather than the supposed ethics of the people or the system that places them there.

Rating:

Horrible Bosses

Horrible Bosses

You know, all bosses may suck, but being a boss ain't
easy either with all these crybabies about

dir: Seth Gordon

Everyone hates their boss, apparently. A flick like this is mining a rich seam of resentment, universal and eternal, that bubbles malevolently under the surface of every working stiff.

And at a time when people in the States either don’t have jobs, or are nervous about job security, a flick, ostensibly a comedy flick with protagonists so trapped by their evil bosses that they contemplate murder, doesn’t seem that outlandish.

It’s probably not that zeitgeist-y, since people have long imagined (or unfortunately, actually) going postal, and cruel petty bosses are a staple of pop culture and literature. It has been for thousands of years, if you believe the Bible. Let’s face it, if you don’t, you’re a godless heathen and I applaud you for your winning ways.

This flick is not a black comedy, despite the premise. It sounds ‘dark’, but it’s not. It’s utterly harmless, and I don’t think that hurts the flick at all. If anything, the fact that it’s so gutless, and that the protagonists are so gutless means that the superficiality allows us to enjoy a bit of fantasy wish-fulfilment without feeling guilty.

Wait, that’s a bad thing, isn’t it? I should be cursing the fuck out of this flick.

But I’m not going to. I actually laughed a fair few times, and didn’t care how silly any of it was, because it was enjoyable.

Rating:

Priest

Priest

Don't let the awesome poster fool you, this movie is pretty
fucking far away from being awesome

dir: Scott Stewart

Jesus H Christ on a pogo stick…

Pity poor Paul Bettany. No, really. He’s a decent actor, he’s achieved the Mt Everest of personal achievements by having had sex several times with Jennifer Connolly, and even married her, and had kids with her. He’s handsome, he’s charming, but he can’t get a decent break as an actor.

The most successful films he’s been in are ones in which he doesn’t physically appear (he does some computer voice in the Iron Man films), and in The DaVinci Code he played a self-flagellating albino nun-raping assassin. Have fun telling your mum about that role.

Almost everything else he’s done has been shit. No, that not fair, he was a splendid Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but other than that, it’s all terrible crap.

To whit, he somehow was one of the few people who saw that terrible film Legion that came out a couple of years ago and thought “Wow, I should work with that terrible director again!”

And he did, because, on some level, Legion must not have been one of the dumbest and worst flicks he’s ever seen or been in. Sure as shit it’s one of the worst flicks from 2010 that I saw, so one of us is clearly wrong.

Rating:

Win Win

Win Win

Giamatti, you handsome devil, when will your day come?

dir: Thomas McCarthy

When you watch a lot of movies, you get so used to the hysterical, overbearing, oversaturated general default setting of cinema, that when a relatively quiet flick comes out that treats (mostly) dramas between people in a sane manner, it seems strange.

Not bad strange, just not at the fever pitch of melodrama that people expect from their media, or I guess have expected for decades.

Thomas McCarthy specialises in films seemingly devoted to fairly ordinary people living lives of quiet desperation, alleviated only by their interactions with other more interesting people. The films meander along, some conflict seems to arise organically, forcing some kind of crescendo, and then people’s lives continue, hopefully in a slightly better way. Maybe it sounds like I’m being derisive, but it’s not intended.

Though the protagonists of his previous flicks and the settings are all different (The Station Agent, The Visitor and this one), that approach seems to hold as a constant. You know, in case I haven’t made it clear enough, it’s a gentle, meandering, believable, human way to get a film and a premise across.

Perhaps you can guess what the laziest and most obvious criticism of these flicks could be. Something that mimics ‘real’ life in too realistic a manner runs the risk of being like actual life, in other words, tedious and painful. It can sap the will to live.

Rating:

Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides

You wish he was thinking about you.
All he's really thinking about is being 55 million dollars richer

dir: Rob Marshall

When Elizabeth Taylor was paid $1,000,000 to star in Cleopatra back in ’64, it was considered both a record and a travesty. When man mountain Marlon Brando was paid $3.7 million and a percentage of profits for a few minutes of screen time in Superman, it was considered a fiasco and a symbol of how the days of Hollywood were numbered, seeing as it was starting to resemble the last days of Rome.

In the present day, Johnny Depp gets paid $55 million dollars to appear in another Pirates of the Caribbean flick, and it’s no big deal. Business as usual. Whatever.

And why? Well, surely it’s because these are the most beloved flicks of all time, and Depp, for playing the character of Captain Jack Sparrow, deserves every bloody well-earned penny? Surely?

Isn’t it a bit obscene, though? I don’t want to come across all ‘Workers Unite!’ and like some retrograde commie-pinko wanker, but is there really anything in this world that justifies getting paid that much? For that amount of money you’d think he was getting paid to sexually service, to the point of guaranteed happy ending, every person who steps into the theatre, anywhere in the world, any way they want.

Rating:

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Go on, say I'm underacting one more time, I double dare you

dir: Jon Favreau

It’s not even Cowboys VERSUS Aliens. It’s Cowboys AND Aliens, as if pitting them against each other in the title would be too aggressive and off-putting to audiences who just want to see them together on the screen at the same time, peacefully co-existing, standing nonchalantly side by side.

Well, they’ll still be disappointed, because the Aliens attack the Cowboys, so all hope of gentle understanding and interspecies acceptance fly right out the fucking window.

However, in the flick’s greatest conceit, rugged outlaws, cattle men, Mexicans and Apaches fight together to conquer the alien menace, which transcends the genre bounds of science fiction and enters into the realms of purest fantasy.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not an example of my natural contrariness when I say that I actually enjoyed this flick. Nor have I suffered a stroke, or a fruity outburst of dementia, nor was I on film-enhancing drugs whilst watching, or receiving passionate head for the duration.

More’s the pity. Still, I somewhat enjoyed this strange flick despite the lack of the aforementioned, or any tangible reason as to why.

Rating:

Friends With Benefits

Friends with Benefits

Do you think, no, that they're implying, it can't be, something sexual?

dir: Will Gluck

Two attractive people. A fast-talking banal screenplay. The very barest of mocking derision aimed at romantic comedies within the text and the subtext. What could go wrong?

Nothing, nothing at all.

I find it very hard to buy Justin Timberlake as anything or anyone else apart from Justin Timberlake. It’s hard for me to buy him playing a character, any character. It doesn’t adversely impact on one’s potential enjoyment of this flick, I guess, if enjoyment is what you’re hoping for from a flick with Justin Timberlake in it.

It’s an effervescent trifle, a virtually forgettable flick forgotten as it is being watched, of such an incredible level of shallowness that it barely registers within human let alone goldfish memory consciousness.

I guess that’s not a bad thing. It’s not like they’re trying to teach us anything of great importance, like that tolerance is nice, and that racism is bad, or something similarly controversial. It’s just something people, presumably youngish people, could take someone to on a date, presumably to convince that someone, being a female, to have sex with you, being a male, afterwards.

Rating:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise up, or end up as one of their pets, why don't you

dir: Rupert Wyatt

Never has humanity’s downfall been so enjoyable or well-deserved.

Really, could it be a spoiler? Does anyone whose interest perks up at the elaboration on the title not know that, at some point, there’s this Planet, and it’s going to be Of The Apes? That there was a book about it, and a film about it with Charlton “My Hands Are Cold and Dead Now” Heston, and a bunch of other films to lesser success, and then Mark Wahlberg appeared on the scene to fuck things up?

And he wasn’t even playing an ape? How inexplicable is that?

Otherwise, the title wouldn’t resonate, and presumably, the multitudes wouldn’t care. Nah, what we craved, without knowing it, is an explanation; a grounded, believable explanation as to how the Apes came to ‘own’ our Planet, and what ‘we’, being arrogant, hubristic humans, did to allow them to take over.

Rating:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Deathly Hallows

Do you think, maybe, if they just kissed, then maybe things would be all right?

dir: David Yates

2010 & 2011

I’m going to review both of them together. I don’t think it really matters either way. They don’t work separately, and together they’re just a big old mess of convenient moments, slavish fan service and muggle muddling.

This will not be a good review. This will provide none of the fulfillment that you're looking for. The only thing worse than reading this review would be sitting down and watching both films back to back.

But they are, in their various parts and pieces, the culmination of a bunch of books and the films they were translated into, and an endpoint in a long-running series, and, at least the second part, is the third highest grossing film of all time, at least for another week or so.

And thus it deserves our special attention. It’s impossible to discuss anything that happens in these films without spoiling the events of the previous ones as well, so there’s virtually no point in issuing a spoiler warning. How else could you talk about the seventh (and eighth) instalments in a series?

Rating:

13 Assassins

13 Assassins

Is it blasphemous to say this this might even be greater
than the film that inspired it? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

(Jusannin no Shikaku)
dir: Takashi Miike

2010

Whenever I hear that Takashi Miike has a new film out, I wonder out loud to myself, especially when I’m on public transport, “Well, what new piece of fucked-upedness has he come up with now?” I mean, after all, this is the demented Japanese director responsible for, in a criminal sense, films like Audition, Ichi the Killer, the yakuza Dead or Alive trilogy, Visitor Q and a whole host of other flicks so vicious I don’t even want to quote scenes from them, because it’s too traumatic to remember.

Suffice to say, there’s never, apparently, been a moment where he’s thought of depicting something on screen that is vile, horrifying, obscene or demented and thought, “Nah, that’s too fucked up, even for me.”

Whatever depravity he’s previously been responsible for, he still remains a completely flexible director with the ability to make any kind of Japanese flick in any kind of Japanese genre, which, to use an overused phrase, ranges from the sublime to the truly, hideously ridiculous.

Instead of spending time talking about the truly horrifying and nightmare-inducing stuff I’ve seen in all his other films, which is tempting in the extreme, I’ll just talk about this film, which is surprisingly solid.

Rating:

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

I think there needs to be at least a thousand more versions of
this book before we can stop

dir: Cary Fukunaga

Jane Eyre, eh? Prestige costume drama Oscar bait, eh?

Just imagine all the doilies and lace trimmings and bustles akimbo all over the place.

This just screams of potential audiences climbing over each other’s corpses, desperately trying to get to the box office in order to get tickets to the latest Brontean Blockbuster.

Despite the fact that the book presumably is still all over those high school reading lists for English or English Lit or whatever classes haven’t been cancelled and replaced with Glee-like activities (proudly sponsored by some repellent lip gloss), I’ve never read it, and never seen the dozens and dozens of versions of it that have been expelled onto an unwilling public.

I’d always lumped it in with all that Regency-era frippery like all of Jane Austen’s pap, and always assumed it to be on a par. You know, attractive and spirited but somewhat impoverished young ladies desperate to get married to someone who seems to treat them mean initially, but turns out to be more rad than cad, and who welcomes their spiritedness instead of having them incarcerated in a sanatorium for being hysterical.

Rating:

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