Let Me In

dir: Matt Reeves
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Remakes. The making thereof. Proof of creative bankruptcy, or just outright mercenary greed?

Let the Right One In was only made a few years ago, but it suffered from being made in the native language of its author, being Swedish. When certain Hollywoody types saw that film, they thought, “The film is so awesome that the only way we can improve upon it is by making it in American. That’ll earn us a packet, and show the Swedes how it’s really done.”

Of course, they remade it, it was little seen, and the point of the exercise, or the merits, remain solely on the artistic level.

I liked Let the Right One In plenty when I saw it at the cinema, and I read the book as well. In Swedish, initially, which was quite frustrating, since I can’t read Swedish. Then I tried in Swahili, then Farsi, and finally in an English translation. The book is solid, too. I have no particular axe to grind against an American remake in theory, so I went into this with my closest approximation of an open mind.

Rating:

127 Hours

dir: Danny Boyle
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Whatever problems I might have had with Danny Boyle’s films in the past, whatever misgivings I might have had dwindled to nothing fifteen minutes into this film. In the first few minutes I was worried that I was going to be watching something closer to The Beach or Life Less Ordinary end of Boyle’s oeuvre, rather than the actually watchable, decent end of the Boylian spectrum (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire).

But then something happened at exactly 15 minutes in, and the title flashed up on the screen, and I realised that Aron Ralston’s (played by James Franco) real story had just started.

And oh holy fuck what a story it is.

That it’s a true story, and a very narrowly defined story, based entirely on the relevant 127 Hours in question of Ralston’s life, would almost make you think that telling this story in movie form would be impossible. Telling it well, at least. Telling it poorly would seem to be piss-easy. Telling it so that it’s heroically bad would take real hack skills, some of which Boyle has hinted at in the past.

Rating:

Blue Valentine

dir: Derek Cianfrance
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Jesus, what a fucking depressing film.

Maybe it’s not entirely depressing, just mostly depressing. At the very least, it’s wrenching, gutting and very uncomfortable. And sad.

And what’s it about? Well, it’s about two people not in love anymore.

I don’t think I could ever bring myself to watch this flick again. That’s not entirely true: it’s really well made, I guess. And the music is really nice and appropriate, and heartbreaking at certain points. And it’s well filmed and well acted.

But, jeez, does it hurt to think about it.

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple who are clearly not happy. Their marriage is clearly headed towards dissolution. Dean is surly, drunk and hectoring, passive aggressive as well as just outright aggressive, fuelled by his sensing that Cindy is shutting him out.

Cindy clearly cannot stand Dean anymore, and their every remark to each other is brittle, jagged and fraught with peril. Don’t mistake this for some highfalutin Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf retread where sophisticates are tossing martini-enhanced barbs and cutting witticisms at each other. They, being the two leads, play it like real people unwilling to face the reality that they shouldn’t be together anymore.

Rating:

True Grit

True Grit

That's some mighty fine squint-acting y'all doing there

dir: Coens

2010

Remakes are usually pointless. They’re often just emblematic of the risk averse nature of Hollywood, which wants only to shiny up the tried and true for profit and plaudits. This isn’t even the first time the brothers Coen have remade something: they did it before with The Ladykillers, receiving global yawns for their troubles.

But they’ve also made a career out of making films about other films, or at least films that don’t usually exist as separate, independent entities, but which exist on that ironic meta level as if to comment on the genre they’re indulging in at that given time.

True Grit is fairly straight ahead, down the line, and doesn’t indulge as much in their genre commentary; as in, it’s not like it either deconstructs the earlier flick starring John Wayne, or the Western genre itself. The story comes from a book, and they’ve stayed true both to the book and the earlier film, without indulging Jeff Bridges the way John Wayne was indulged by the makers of the earlier flick.

The real main character of the film isn’t Rooster Cogburn, played as a fat, drunken, vicious idiot by Jeff Bridges, it’s Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a fourteen-year-old girl looking for justice. Or vengeance, whichever.

Rating:

The Fighter

dir: David O. Russell
[img_assist|nid=1362|title=Idiots on parade|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=284]
David O. Russell is a director not known for sports flicks. He’s known, if he’s known at all, for three things: directing Three Kings, which remains one of the only decent flicks set during the first Iraqi adventure; making a thoroughly stupid flick called I Heart Huckabees; and for a screaming match that occurred and was recorded between himself and Lily Tomlin on the set of that flick.

Mark Wahlberg is best known for having a brother who was in New Kids on the Block, who had a short career as rapper-performer-Renaissance man Marky Mark, and playing John Holmes stand-in Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. He is not well known for his acting ability.

Christian Bale is best known for screaming abuse at people on the set of some films he’s been on. And a wicked eating disorder. He’s also an actor, or so I’ve been told.

The three of them, oh, and a bunch of other people as well, collaborate here in order to make a fairly amazingly good film, one which, noting the participants, the location, and what they’re famous for, I couldn’t really have predicted.

Rating:

The King's Speech

dir: Tom Hooper
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This is what you get when Ham (Geoffrey Robertson) meets Wry (Colin Firth): a tasty, award-winning sandwich.

Could there have been a confection more Oscarbaity than this? Was the public so desperately crying out for more cinematic proof that royal personages are so much better than the rest of us? Eventually we’ll be able to put all these films together into a neat collage that exists to convince us only that as commoners, we really do suck compared to all those kings and queens.

And I get enough of that already, thanks for nothing.

The King’s Speech is an almost clever double-meaning title referring both to a specific speech which apparently saved Europe from Hitler, and the speech impediment endured and surmounted by the reluctant eventual heir to the throne, George VI, ably played by Colin Firth. Colin Firth will so win an Oscar for this performance. It’s not because it’s the performance of the year (something so subjective and unmeasurable in any meaningful way so as to be meaningless), or last year, or because this characterisation is so wonderful and crucial to our understanding of the time involved or humanity general.

Rating:

Tomorrow, When the War Began

dir: Stuart Beattie
[img_assist|nid=1358|title=Yesterday When We Weren't Stereotypes, but people, with thoughts and feelings|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
An Aussie version of Red Dawn? Sign me up right now! I'd watch the shit out of such a movie. And I did, I guess...

Red Dawn, that brilliantly stupid 80s flick about American teenagers leading a guerrilla war against their Communist oppressors, deserves to be a template worth replicating. Of course, I’ve heard that they’re making a new Red Dawn, which I think is completely redundant now, with this flick having been made.

Of course, though cheesier than a three-cheese pizza, this flick doesn’t have a scene where Harry Dean Stanton yells with a demented gleam in his eye: “AVENGE ME, BOYS, AVENGE ME!”

And for that alone there need to be multiple competing versions of this meme out there.

Rating:

World's Greatest Dad

dir: Bobcat Goldthwait
[img_assist|nid=1356|title=Being a good father is hard work. It's double the work of a half-arsed dad, and four times the work of a deadbeat dad|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=451]
The name Bobcat Goldthwait is not one that resonates in the hall of fame of respected comedy directors. The main reason is that there isn’t a hall, alcove or basement of fame of respected directors of comedies, since there are so few of them, so few in fact that they could all fit in a broom closet, bathroom or crawlspace with room to spare.

It’s a name that probably doesn’t come up in common public discourse, or in personal conversations between lovers in bed post-coitally “You really Bobcatted my Goldthwait good tonight, baby”, or a name used by the Pope in his annual chastising pronouncements, or by the Queen in her Christmas address.

In fact, anyone under thirty has probably never heard of him, and those over thirty wish they could forget him and his eardrum shredding voice.

Which is a shame, because his long career as a standup comedian, his brief career as a successful actor in Police Academy films, and the intervening years where he struggled for meaning and money meant that he made the shift over to directing films, with some success. And so here he directs Robin Williams in a flick that looks for all the world like a comedy, again, with some success.

Rating:

Restrepo

dir: Sebastian Junger & Tim Hetherington
[img_assist|nid=1354|title=War is... something or other|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=299]
Back, way back in the dim, distant reaches of last century, there was a war in a little-known and already forgotten place called Korea. The battle was between the noble South supported by the United States (and other allied nations of course), and the evil and horrible Northern Communists supported by the terrible Chinese. There were many battles, much slaughter, even towards the end of the war. The Battle of Pork Chop Hill in April of 1953, not only resulted in the slaughter of many noble soldiers, but resulted in a war film that made the careers of a lot of shiny Hollywood dickheads. It showed how random death on the battlefield can be, and how countless soldiers can die horribly because someone far from the front lines commands some men to hold a seemingly strategically important hill.

The supreme irony comes when soldiers who have given almost everything to defend a position, who’ve seen all their buddies die for it, can be told to retreat from the position because of some other strategic need or because it’s decided that, in retrospect, it wasn’t really that important, or that some other hill was the really crucial one that’ll win the war.

Cue scream of forlorn and impotent rage in the face of the universe’s cold disinterest.

Rating:

Black Swan

dir: Darren Aronofsky
[img_assist|nid=1352|title=I wonder if that crack represents her state of mind. Ya think?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=666]
Hmmmm.

Darren Aronofsky returns to the well that prompted him to make Pi way back in the day, with a different gender in the lead but the same ultimate problem: madness brought on by sexual frustration. In Pi a maths genius can’t get any, and goes mad (or madder) listening to his hot Indian neighbour have sex. In Black Swan, a sexually- repressed prima ballerina called Nina (Natalie Portman) has to go mad in order to access her dark side to become the most perfect ballerina in the history of Swan Lake performances.

With mixed results. In a way, though she’s won’t and shouldn’t get credit for it, Portman did a Christian Bale and starved herself down in order to play this character. She’s already tiny, but here she’s depleted enough here to have that horrible strained look on her sternum where flesh is supposed to be, and now there’s only bone and tendon.

It’s not for me to judge what actors do in the pursuit of money, critical respect and the adulation of the masses. If it’s okay for Bale to do it in every second flick he does, then why not a chick that probably already weighs about 40 kilos anyway?

Rating:

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

dir: Tsui Hark
[img_assist|nid=1350|title=Dig our funky facial hair: my eyebrows, your moustache|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=431|height=600]
Some directors win their way back into our good graces by making a transformative leap in their filmmaking in order to deliver a great film after decades of slumming. Other directors delight or depress us by consistently putting out the same kind of film, year after year, Woody, decade after decade.

Other directors win us over again by going way back in style and intent, and delivering the kind of flick they delivered way back when they were still making good flicks.

Tsui Hark’s great claim to fame is, in my opinion, being part of that new wave of Hong Kong film in the late 80s – early 90s which reminded the rest of the world that Hong Kong was still making some awesome action flicks. Along with the John Woo flicks The Killer and Hard Boiled, Hark’s Once Upon a Time in China flicks were part of that vanguard reinvading the West with hyperactive action and a complete disregard for the safety of stuntpeople that blew the tender sensibilities of audiences away all over again.

Of course, with success comes money, hookers and moving to Hollywood to make horrible flicks with Jean Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman, which will kill your career if there’s any justice in the universe.

Rating:

Greenberg

Greenberg

oh, this looks so much like a quirky indie comedy. It's not. It's so not.

dir: Noah Baumbach

Officially the most depressing flick of the year. Worse than a twenty-hour Holocaust documentary. Worse than a dramatic indie flick chronicling the breakdown of a marriage in excruciating detail. Worse than a live action film where the main character is a computer animated dog.

It always gets me when the people designing the posters for films do this, whereupon they put the name of the ‘star’ at the top linking it directly to the main character of the flick they’re obviously in. When they were making those Bourne Identity et al flicks, the posters, which featured a big muscly pic of Matt Damon, often came standard with the phrase “Matt Damon IS Jason Bourne!” as if there were any lingering doubts in the confused populace.

Of course the confusion arises because Matt Damon isn’t Jason Bourne, a fictional character, he’s the actor and soft drink salesman Matt Damon, surprisingly enough.

So when the posters for this dirge of a flick has the same type of phrase, as in “Ben Stiller IS Greenberg”, I don’t have the same pedantic reaction. What I actually think in this instance is that if Ben Stiller actually was this Greenberg person, someone should murder him in his sleep.

Rating:

The American

dir: Anton Corbijn
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It must be quite a burden, not just being an American, but playing THE American. How do you summarise millions of lives and hundreds of years of complicated history in one movie?

You have The American of the title played by George Clooney.

That distinguished salt-and-pepper hair, those smoky eyes, that smug grin; who else can represent everything from exterminating the natives and calling it manifest destiny to dresses made out of meat and massive planet-sized cars that run on endangered species thrown straight into the fuel tank?

George Clooney, that’s who.

I had heard two main comments regarding this flick: 1) that it was a good flick, and 2) or that it was an extremely slow, extremely boring flick. Well, I was totally sold on those ends of the spectrum meeting somewhere in the middle. Who wouldn’t want to watch a decent flick that’s also tortuously dull?

Is it in truth a dull flick? I didn’t think so. The pace is perfect for the story it’s trying to tell, and I guess the lack of over-editing and jump-cutting shaky cam probably put off those hoping for the hyperkinetics of another Jason Bourne-type flick.

Rating:

Reign of Assassins (Jianyu)

dir: Chao-Bin Su, John Woo
[img_assist|nid=1344|title=Yes, lovely swords, but are you going to do anything interesting with them?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=480]
It’s strange, and a little bit embarrassing that I am still as gullible as I am at the age that I am. I saw a clip for this flick during Potato-Head Pomeranz and Old Farmer Stratton’s Movie Show a few weeks ago, mentioned as getting a lot of people excited at some festival, possibly this year’s Venice festival.

A few seconds of people fighting, and a few excitable words from Margaret, and I was somehow convinced that this was the flick of the year, a continuation of the good work John Woo was currently doing (after the success of Red Cliff), and all around another in the exciting high-end line of wuxia (martial arts) flicks that started with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and resulted in other dazzling entries like Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

And so I bought into all this meaningless hype, as if I was some teenage girl buying Twilight merchandise, or some object Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga might have touched with some part of their anatomy as some point in time.

And what did I get for this emotional and financial investment, in getting excited about this flick and going out of my way to see it? What’s my recompense, my due, my pay back?

Rating:

Red

dir: Robert Schwentke
[img_assist|nid=1342|title=RED - Really Extreme Dubiousness|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
Old people. What to do with them. This movie’s entire purpose seems to be just to remind the rest of us not to turn our backs on these wrinkly potential badasses.

Because, you know, just ‘cause they’re old, doesn’t mean they can’t kill you three ways from Wednesday.

I’m not entirely sure how Bruce Willis gets to swan around with decent older actors and pretend they’re contemporaries, but then, if that’s the least plausible part of this flick, it would be a doddle to accept. As it is, this is a total fucking cartoon that makes James Bond flicks look like documentaries.

This flick is such a cartoon that it makes computer generated owl and toy films look like actual reality instead of animation. In this flick called Red, or RED, or R.E.D, a bunch of people mostly in their late 50s and beyond, all the way up to Morgan Freeman’s tender 70s, show the young ‘uns that they can still kick arse like it’s 1989.

Rating:

Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

dir: Giorgos Lanthimos
[img_assist|nid=1340|title=The family that's depraved together stays together mostly because of the high wall around the property|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=298]
Oh, what a fucked up family, and, oh, what a fucked up film.

I haven’t had much cause or recourse to review Greek films thus far, in fact it’s never come up. In a decade or so of reviewing (and twenty years of chin-stroking viewing), there’s never been an instance where I’ve watched a Greek flick in a local arthouse cinema, because I can’t recall the last time one got to play. Sure, you can occasionally watch flicks about Mongolian yak herders, or Massai tribesmen, or Inuit fishermen fishing for fish through tiny ice holes, and every single French flick no matter how vacuous or silly, gets arthouse play, but practically nothing from Greece.

I have no idea if the European Union’s poor orphan cousin has that much of a film industry, to be honest. Can’t imagine there’s that much spare cash lying around. Still, arguably the most famous (internationally) director from Greece, called Costa Gavras, who’s a pretentious pill but an accomplished director if I’ve heard or seen one, doesn’t even direct flicks in Greek, preferring the international language of arrogance, being French.

Rating:

Monsters

dir: Gareth Edwards
[img_assist|nid=1336|title=It's Grim South of the Border, Down Mexico Way|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]

Monsters. They’re everywhere. Not just under your bed, or bursting out of your closet when you’re not looking, or threatening you on public transport with their odours and with requests for money.

They’re also, apparently, in Mexico, trying to get across the border to the States in order to make some money and eat some quality junk food. These monsters are so terrible that a huge wall has to be built in order to keep them out, away from decent, law-abiding white people.

And then there’s this strange flick some guy made about some actual monsters, as in, giant alien octopi, that have infected Central America with their casual destruction and socialist economic programs.

Clearly, military strongman and certifiable egomaniac Hugo Chavez is the real target here. Whether he is or not, there’s monsters out there, and the going is getting tough.

Rating:

Agora

Agora

I was brilliant once, and they destroyed me for it

dir: Alejandro Amenabar

2009

It’s about time there was a biopic about the life, loves and times of Hypatia. You know, the famous 4th century mathematician and philosopher? One of the most renowned and virtually unknown women of antiquity?

Okay, unless you were a desperate and insecure teenage boy who struck upon the brilliant strategy of reading up on feminist icons believing that it would somehow result in some girl with low standards throwing you a pity grope every now and then, you might not have heard of her. But I had, and so when I heard that the director of Open Your Eyes, The Others and the superb The Sea Inside was making a biopic about this Hottie from History, I thought, “meh…”

Still, it’s turned up in our cinemas this week, and in a choice between watching something enjoyable, and watching something edifying, I chose Agora over, let’s say Monsters, or The Town.

More fool me.

Agora is the rare case of a biopic that works despite being about a person who’s not that interesting, and with not one but two ‘wrong’ performances from two of the main characters, but which still gets enough of the feel right and the depiction of the setting looks impressive enough to make you feel like it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Rating:

Enter the Void

dir: Gaspar Noè
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What a crazy, fucked-up film.

Preparing yourself for a Gaspar Noè film is not something that is genuinely possible. Having seen others of his flicks, none of which I will ever see again, I was determined to not see this flick ever as well. Since I’m reviewing it, well, that means something changed in my thinking, and I’m glad, to an extent, that it happened. Not too proud to admit when I’m wrong.

A friend of a friend who works in the film industry told me she saw the flick at a festival, and that it was quite an amazing experience. Though I knew nothing about her before that day, her thoughts, conveyed to me over a long and boozy conversation on a Saturday afternoon at a local pub, regarding flicks in general (that she’d worked on in New Zealand, being those flicks involving children wandering into a Witch-filled wardrobe and a Jesus-substitute lion called Aslan) and this flick itself intrigued me. They intrigued me to the point where my absolute determination to never again be violated by a Gaspar Noè flick wavered, and over time led to a confident ‘maybe?’

Rating:

I Am Love (Io Sono L'Amore)

I Am Love

Of course you are, there's no doubting that

dir: Luca Guadagnino

You wouldn’t think a title like I Am Love would pack them into the multiplexes. I guess in Italian, if you’re not an Italian speaker, Io Sono L’Amore sounds that much more exotic and alluring. Despite these obvious obstacles, these wonderful people still thought they’d get together and create an exquisite flick about how passion makes idiots of otherwise rational people, as if the books Madam Bovary and Anna Karenina were never written, and no-one ever read them.

Honestly, I can’t recall the last time it was implied in a flick that women could have sex with someone outside of their marriage and that it didn’t result in death, murder, suicide or the end of the fucking world. Is it really that catastrophic? Male characters cheat constantly, and the world seems to keep turning, and yet whenever a female character, and a mother, no less, finds passion or solace in the arms of another, someone always ends up dead.

Of course it would be unfair of me to assert that this flick is going for anything close to a moralistic or judgemental tone in the slightest. It’s anything but what it sounds like I’ve described, because it’s an amazing construction. I rarely see flicks, and I’ve seen a bundle, so exquisitely and meticulously put together. It’s so intricately put together, from a cinematography, set design, sound, score and editing point of view, that there’s almost little room for the acting performances.

Almost, but not quite. This flick is an engine, or a machine at least. Not a single shot is taken simply when it can be done in a far more fussy and seemingly meaningful way. Even as I marveled at it from a distance, and realised I was more impressed with the construction that the content, I had to remind myself that it’s still about people. Rich people. Rich People With Problems.

Rating:

Toy Story 3

dir: Lee Unkrich
[img_assist|nid=1326|title=He's an Intensive Care Bear|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=252]
Yeah, I know, it’s hardly brand new fodder worthy of reflection and critique. But Pixar flicks are the pinnacle of the animated heap: every release is an event, they make more money than Jesus, and nobody does it better.

And I love their flicks with a passion, the kind of passion most other people reserve for quaint garden gnome collections or pointless sports results. Thus, reviewing their latest gift to us, the luddite, barely computer-literate, unwashed masses, is less of a necessity than an obligation.

Toy Story 3 is as great as any of the other flicks in the series. Ranking them is pointless. You could point out that yet again the technical expertise envelope has been pushed even further out, with computer-generated animation second to none, but that misses the point. These movies are beloved not because of the quality of the graphics, but because of the quality of the story-telling, and the deep nostalgia they inspire in adults.

Rating:

Winter's Bone

dir: Debra Granik
[img_assist|nid=1324|title=Let's hunt us some squirrel|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=435|height=290]
It’s criminal that it’s taken this long for Winter’s Bone to be released into the cinemas of Australia. It’s a damn shame. Usually the length of time it takes certain films to appear here doesn’t bug me, because 600 flicks get released each year, and for every flick I’m not getting to see, there are dozens of others I could be seeing instead.

But there’s something about this flick that, on some level, makes me angry that I had to wait eight or so months before I could see it in the salubrious confines of the Cinema Nova multi-arty-plex.

The film itself, and the main performances, are better than fine, they’re great. There’s some problems arising with the ending, but I can forgive them since for around 100 minutes, Winter’s Bone, which is essentially a detective story, had me riveted to my seat. There’s not a fire, disaster or siren’s call of promised orgasmic pleasures that could have coaxed me out of that seat before the end.

On the other hand, I know these kinds of films that seem to focus on, shall we say, the salt of the earth, reek of condescension and insult to those who think they’re being exploited or mocked. It doesn’t strike me as relevant, but then, I’m not from the Ozarks or the Appalachian Mountains, and I wouldn’t know moonshine from shoe shine.

Rating:

Machete

dir: Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
[img_assist|nid=1320|title=He can jump your mum's border anytime|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
Like Oscar the Grouch, I, occasionally, love trash. Love it to death. Robert Rodriguez makes some exceptionally trashy flicks. Some I hate, some I love, and the more enjoyable ones are pure, much adulterated trash.

Sin City, Planet Terror and this latest visual and aural amoral atrocity are flicks of his that I’ve greatly, greatly enjoyed. Why? Why these ones and not his parade of other flicks that either bored or actively irritated me? I mean, in all honesty, is there really much of a difference between this and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which I loathed? Gratuitous violence? Too many characters? Gore on tap?

Yes, yes and yes. And add to that the immensely transparent agenda of arguing against the exploitation and demonisation of so-called illegal immigrants who stream across the border from Mexico desperate for a better life, and you have a live action ‘contemporary issues’ cartoon with a protagonist who is the meanest looking Mexican ever to star in a motion picture made in this part of the galaxy.

Rating:

Salt

dir: Philip Noyce
[img_assist|nid=1315|title=Who is Salt? Who is Pepper? Who is Vinegar? Who is Wasabi?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
And you thought it was about the mineral…

Were you disappointed to find out that Angelina Jolie wasn’t going to be playing this most ancient of food additives? I know I was. Imagine her, sitting on a table, in one of those grinders or in a shaker, just sitting there patiently, waiting for someone to pick her up and sprinkle her onto their food during dinner. The twist is, though, the middle-aged people at the dinner are all on a low sodium diet, due to doctor’s orders, and Angelina Jolie goes sadly unused, uneaten, untasted for the whole film.

It’s a story about longing, about unfulfilled potential, about loss of purpose.

Sure, it’s far more sedate than what’s actually on offer here, but there should be a place for films as deathly dull as the one I just described. Salt, this Salt, is possibly a lot of things, but it certainly can’t be accused of being dull.

Rating:

Boy

dir: Taika Waititi
[img_assist|nid=1314|title=It's a Boy!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=360|height=390]
Do you remember a time when Michael Jackson was neither an obituary notice nor a punchline to an increasingly sad set of jokes? Do you remember when everybody had names that came from popular alcoholic beverages and American soap operas? And do you remember when ET was the closest we could come to a cinematic hero who was like Jesus, Buddha and Chuck Norris all rolled up into one?

If you can’t, then you’re either under twenty, you’re Amish, or you’re just not from an era that has much in common with the world Taika Waititi tries to conjure up for our delectation and amusement in this here flick Boy.

Set and filmed in Waihau Bay, which is on the East Cape, south-east of Auckland on the North Island, Boy is also set in the heady days of the 1980s, 1984 to be exact. Boy himself (James Rolleston) greets us with a show-and-tell summary of his existence in this impoverished town, and his complicated family life, and all the things he loves or doesn’t love about his life.

The tone of the flick, like Boy himself, is light and funny. He’s a chatty and sweet boy, even if his introduction to us involves a fight with a vulgar schoolmate who taunts him over his mother’s death.

Rating:

Robin Hood

dir: Ridley Scott
[img_assist|nid=1308|title=It's grim up North, and especially in Russell's head|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=275]
Give it a rest, Russell, honestly.

And you too, Ridley. Stop pretending you’re all prestigious men of quality deserving awards and kudos. You’re both hacks and you know it.

And now you’ve taken a much beloved myth about some woodsy guy sticking it to The Man, and you've turned it into a grim Braveheart clone. For shame, gentlemen.

A few years ago, I remember reading a headline somewhere scrawled onto the tubes of the internets saying that Russell Crowe would be playing Robin Hood. My first and only thought was, “That’s boring, stop being so boring.”

And then I thought no more of it, until months later I read another buzzy story saying that the flick was going to be called Nottingham, and it would star Crowe in the main role, but that the clever hook would be that Crowe would be playing both the Sherriff of Nottingham, Robin’s classical antagonist, and Robin Hood as well. I don’t mean as twins or clones or anything, just that the role and script as envisaged had the Sherriff masquerading as his own fabricated enemy. Upon reading that I remember thinking, “That actually sounds a bit interesting, I wonder how they’ll pull it off.”

Rating:

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

dir: Edgar Wright
[img_assist|nid=1306|title=Do you think Michael Cera ever gets sick of being Michael Cera?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=296|height=500]
Oh, Michael Cera. If you didn’t already exist, they would have had to construct you from the corpses of several painfully thin hipster douchebags, held together with wet papier mache from indie street newspapers, deliberately ironic hipster unwashed t-shirts and neurotic tics so pervasive even Woody Allen would give you a wide berth.

And they would have constructed you too, so that you could play Scott Pilgrim. There probably isn’t a person on the planet better suited to playing this supremely annoying character. You were handpicked by fate, by the universe, by all the random possibilities that lead to an almost supernaturally predetermined result.

For that I congratulate you. And, also, for becoming this generation’s white Urkell.

The weird thing is I actually like Michael Cera. He only ever plays one kind of character, and, as Scott Pilgrim, he’s the weakest and whiniest version of that Michael Cera character (except when he’s fighting). I like him even when I find him annoying, which is a remarkable trait to possess. As Scott Pilgrim, it’s ultimately irrelevant how he plays it, because it’s almost like Bryan Lee O’Malley wrote the comic book with him in mind, which he clearly could not have, having never met him.

Rating:

Centurion

dir: Neil Marshall
[img_assist|nid=1303|title=Let's kill us some noble savages together, hungry eyes|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=294]
What a sweet relief! Thanks for making a decent film again, Neil Marshall.

His last flick Doomsday was hilariously bad, but with Centurion he’s regained his stature (in my eyes at least) as someone who can make decent action flicks. Dog Soldiers was a long time ago. The Descent is his masterpiece thus far (and is not tainted by the cheapie sequel he didn’t direct). Doomsday made me think he was going to turn into a hack on the level of a Paul W.S. Anderson, Kurt Wimmer, Len Wiseman or David S. Goyer: purest of total hacks to a man, which is why I keep going on about it.

Rating:

Splice

Splice

Polly shouldn't be

dir: Vincenzo Natali

2010

Ah, Canadians. They make different films from the rest of the world, don’t they? Even though almost every single Hollywood flick that gets made seems to get made in Canada, there is a world of difference in style and sensibility between the two rival North American empires.

Vincenzo Natali came to prominence when he made a flick called Cube oh so long ago now. Whatever its merits, a lot of people talked about the flick for long enough that it established a career for what I’m sure is a sweet, sweet man (for all I know he stabs puppies in his spare time).

He has a reputation for make relatively low-budget high concept science fiction flicks that are ultimately, in my humble opinion, thoroughly ridiculous. The ridiculousness doesn’t completely detract from the interesting elements of his flicks, because he knows how to put them together in a competent fashion. Yet something always happens to make you doubt your commitment to his singular lunacy at some stage of his flicks. Like night following day, like hangover following binge, his flicks always, always go wrong at some point. It’s a lovely kind of wrongness, however.

Rating:

Alice in Wonderland

dir: Tim Burton
[img_assist|nid=1296|title=Deathly pale protagonists are Burton's bread and butter|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=664]
It’s not as shit as I thought it would be.

Wouldn’t it be grand if, by some cosmic fuckup that altered the nature of reality, that I somehow became a respected and admired film critic, even in this day and age where the most effective reviews are written by impassioned cretins in textspeak, and that, as a powerful reviewer whose opinion mattered to the world, marketers used my important words to promote their movies?

Imagine posters for big budget movies, with the so-called pull quote being mine, and plainly stating “It’s not as shit as you’d think.”

That’d pack in the multiplexes, no doubt, upon the strength of my judgement alone. And so people could give up the terrible burden of having to judge for themselves whether they should squander the little time they have left on this planet watching or not watching a flick I recommended or eviscerated.

Rating:

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