Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch

ye gods is this so terrible. This is so terrible I
hope this is the last we ever hear of Mr Snyder

dir: Zack Snyder

A lot of people get their panties in a bunch because of the descriptor usually applied to Zack Snyder, either by reviewers or the marketing people marketing his movies: “From the mind of visionary director Zack Snyder…” goes the line on the poster.

They (the collective ‘they’) got sick of always applying the term to Tim Burton, so now they have someone else to pin it to like a badge of dishonour.

I think it’s an adjective that’s appropriate. At least as far as it applies to lots and lots and lots of visionary visuals, he’s got them pouring out from every diseased orifice.

Directors, or at least the cinematographers and programmers the studios hire, are all about the visuals. Getting the look right is their main task, you’d think, it being an entirely visual medium. If he was producing radio plays I’d say he was a failure, but that’s just my opinion.

What Snyder clearly isn’t about, is writing or that pesky acting stuff. I’m sure he’s capable of possibly getting decent performances from humans, but he seems to do much better with computer generated graphics instead. So I guess it’s unfortunate that there are so many people standing around messing up his effects shots in Sucker Punch.

Rating:

I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boattda)

akmareul boattda

Just pray the devil doesn't look back

dir: Kim Ji-woon

2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go

Letting go is never easy

dir: Mark Romanek

2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

The Town

The Town

These clowns go down on this town

dir: Ben Affleck

2010

This flick is still limping its way out of Australian cinemas for at least another week, and so I’m glad not only that I got to see it on the big screen, but that I have something newish to review. Because gods know the world needs more of my movie reviews. You know you crave them, too. It’s like an addiction, I know.

It’s strange that the name ‘Ben Affleck’ as director inspires much more interest in me than when ‘Ben Affleck’ the actor is referred to. One piques my interest, the other inspires my whatevers impulse. When Ben Affleck is the director and the main character, then I’m the very definition of ambivalent.

It really can’t be overstated how good a flick Gone Baby Gone was, which indicated at least that Affleck, at the time, was better placed directing flicks than being in them. Consider it his long march towards redemption for the decade or so of flailing and Jennifer Lopez tabloid hysteria. With all the critical kudos he garnered for directing his brother Casey in probably the best flick they’ll ever be involved in, he somehow decided two seemingly contradictory things: that he should direct more films, and that people were clamouring to see him in front of the camera again.

Only one part of that equation is true, but, hey, it’s his flick, so if he wants to give himself the plum role, good luck to him.

The Town refers to Charlestown, a suburb of Boston even scummier than Dorchester. How do I even know anything about a suburb of Boston? Because of Ben Affleck movies set there and other flicks based on Dennis Lehane novels like that turgid Mystic River flick.

This suburb apparently has more bank robbers than Johannesburg, and it’s considered a family trade handed down from father to son. As such, our main character, Doug MacRay, played by Affleck, is a career crim and a most excellent hand at this armed robbery game. The first eight minutes of the flick involve a bank robbery carried out with ruthless efficiency by experts. A bank employee (Rebecca Hall) is taken hostage, sees something which could identify one of the crims, and is let free. Throughout her ordeal, Doug tries to not freak her out too much. He almost seems to care about her, to want to shield her from what he himself and his cohorts are doing.

The feds, in the form of the FBI, led by my man Jon Hamm, playing some guy, are closing in on these crims, but they’re still a fair distance away from them. These crims aren’t sloppy, and except for Jem (Jeremy Renner), are fairly cool under pressure. Though they worry as to what the hostage might do or say down the track.

Rating:

The Social Network

Social Network

You could try not being an absolute piece of shit for 5 minutes

dir: David Fincher

2010

It’s a fascinating story, and a terrific film, despite being about something so inherently banal. It’s not even really an origin story, along the lines of a biographical tale like the ones regarding the Manhattan Project, or the moon landing, or, you know, something important that was invented or achieved. It’s more concerned with (fictionally) illuminating the thinking of one of the main people involved in the creation of this online behemoth known as Facebook.

Written with an ear towards crackling dialogue, Aaron Sorkin, known for penning the scripts to such immediately familiar fare such as A Few Good Men and many an episode of The West Wing, has crafted a screenplay that tells us less about what was involved in programming up from scratch this most pervasive of online networks, and more about how someone with a genius level IQ, a resentment towards the privileged, no knowledge of how to treat people as people, and a complete inability to forgive perceived slights conjured up something adopted universally across the tubes of the internets that made him a billionaire, all before finishing college.

He didn’t just become rich. To borrow from a Chris Rock routine, there’s being rich, and then there’s wealth. Oprah is rich, Bill Gates is wealthy. Bill Gates would kill himself if he woke up with Oprah’s money.

Well, now Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) would kill himself if he woke up with Bill Gate’s money. And for what? Facebook? An online vanity site where you become inundated with vital info like what people had for breakfast, what their cats are up to, what tv cooking or renovation programs they like watching, or how much time they spent on Mafia Wars or Farmville or something equally life-affirming over the course of any given day? A place where you can reconnect with people you haven’t heard from or thought about in decades, and, once you find and friend them, lose interest in almost immediately?

It’s easy to be scathing, and fun too, but in the interests of disclosure, it would be remiss of me not to admit that I, too, am a Facebook user. By ‘user’ I mean I log in about once a week, perhaps update something to do with a movie I’ve seen (as when I wrote a quick review of The Social Network, on Facebook, no less, where the meta-irony didn’t escape me), perhaps update what book I’ve just finished and what I’m reading, and that’s about it. I’ll check out a few friends’ updates, and that’s the sum and total.

To my knowledge, I’ve never clicked on an ad whilst logged in, I’ve never used my credit card to purchase anything for any of the online games or little virtual knickknacks as gifts that are on offer, so my known contribution to the company’s coffers is nil. I would suspect, though I’ve got little apart from general human apathy to base this on, that many if not most of Facebook’s users are in the same boat.

So why are these people billionaires again?

Rating:

Girl Who Played With Fire, The

Girl Played With Fire

I guess she really doesn't like BMWs

(Flickan som lekte med elden)

2009

dir: Daniel Alfredson

Ahhhh. I like it when they make semi-decent movies out of shitty books. It gives me hope for humanity.

For my money at least, The Girl Who Played With Fire was the best of the three books Stieg Larsson shat out onto an unsuspecting world before he died. By ‘best’ I don’t actually mean that it was a great book. I just mean that out of three terribly written books, the second was the least worst of the trilogy.

Since I haven’t seen the last instalment in this series of flicks yet, I can’t say whether this is the best of the three. I thought the first flick, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, did pretty well whittling down a phonebook of empty and stolid prose into a competent enough crime investigation flick, with a compelling central character (Lisbeth Salander, not the journalist Blomkvist). She becomes even more central to proceedings here, as the second story, and indeed the rest of the series becomes the All About Lisbeth show.

It opens with Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) in the Caribbean, lazing away and working on a tan despite clearly, from years lived in the land of the midnightish sun, not possessing a skerrick of melanin throughout her emaciated body. She still bears the tattoos and piercings of her first incarnation, but now she also has a fortune stolen from some tangential business character in the first film.

When she returns to Sweden, after finding out that the sadistic advocate Bjurman (Peter Andersson) is trying to get the tattoo she helpfully gave him removed, she decides to step in and remind him that she’s the one in charge.

This starts a chain of events that results in Salander becoming Sweden’s public enemy number one as she is wanted for several murders, including those of a journalist and his scholar partner writing about the sex trade and human trafficking in Sweden and Europe.

All the while, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a pudgy middle-aged journalist, tries to convince the cops that Salander is innocent, and that there is a darker conspiracy afoot, whilst trying to track down Salander herself.

Because this wouldn’t be enough, they throw in Lisbeth’s lesbian lover Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi), so that there can be a scene of hot lesbian sex, a giant German guy with white hair who never feels any pain (Micke Spreitz) and some former boxing champ called Paolo Roberto (played by, funnily enough, Paolo Roberto) who gets involved with the crazy goings on.

To say that they’ve pared down the acres and hectares of exposition from the book is an understatement. The makers clearly had two things in mind: leave as much out as they could, and assume that anyone watching has read the books anyway. That works for me, since I have had the singular dishonour of reading all the books, but I fear for the poor viewer of more discriminating tastes who has failed to do their homework.

I guess a lot of it might not make sense, but then it’s not really going to matter anyway. The pleasure, or the point of watching this flick is watching Lisbeth Salander, who seems like one of the Furies from Greek mythology, do her thing. And her thing is a beauty to behold.

That’s not a euphemism for her vagina, in case you’re wondering. Salander is a compelling character because she’s ruthlessly efficient, and because she lacks any of the basic emotions that would stop most people from doing the shit she does. It also helps that, whilst her actions could often be termed sociopathic, her adversaries are truly monstrous motherfuckers.

Rating:

The Box

Box

Don't you dare touch my box

dir: Richard Kelly

This is not a good movie. It’s not even mediocre. It’s just incompetent.

It’s not as utterly godawful at his last awful foray into moviemaking, which was the truly dire Southland Tales, but whilst it’s not as asinine, it’s not much better. It’s staggeringly not much better.

Richard Kelly came to prominence with Donnie Darko, and since then has been squandering whatever goodwill the flick engendered with a much too forgiving audience. Honestly, these other films he’s been making are so eye-rottingly rotten that it makes me think Donnie Darko was a fluke, a goddamn fluke.

Maybe the elements that he was able to put together coherently the first time have never been able to coalesce since then. I know this is a review of his latest shitfest The Box, but bear with me for a second: I think you can see the seeds of his failure even back in Donnie Darko, by comparing the theatrical cut with his director’s cut.

That’s what it comes down to: Kelly doesn’t know how to edit his own flicks. Of course, the companies hire editors to actually edit the films, but the directors (and often producers) can end up sitting in at every stage to ensure their singular ‘vision’ gets carried through.

The director’s cut of Donnie Darko spends an inordinate amount of time explaining elements of the story that don’t matter, no-one other than Richard Kelly cares about, and that don’t make sense anyway. The most important part is that these sections don’t add anything, because they’re for arbitrary elements anyway.

Ignoring the poorly rendered story, the grainy and dulled visuals and the actors who clearly have no idea what they’re doing, it’s the editing which really takes the viewer out of the experience here.

A long time ago, there was a Twilight Zone episode called 'Button, Button', and it dealt with a mysterious guy knocking on a couple’s door, and presenting them with a dilemma: here’s a box with a button on it; if you press the button someone, somewhere whom you don’t know dies, and you get a million dollars. If you don’t press it, nothing happens and you get nothing.

The couple agonise over the decision, the pros and cons, the rationalisations and justifications, and finally make their decision. The clincher, twist or punch-line of the episode, coming as they always did on the Zone, right at the end, is the remark from the mysterious man that the box, with its button, will now go to someone else, someone that this couple doesn’t know.

The implication is clear, but I’m leaving it muddy, deliberately. It worked, concisely, and it delivered that queasy gut-punch that was the show’s trademark, leaving you with that sinking feeling accompanying realisation. This was a half-hour tv episode, which actually, with ad breaks, amounts to 22 or so minutes.

Richard Kelly, who obviously saw this episode at some point in his life, became obsessed with it, and thought “I shall turn that into a two-hour film, and include shit from my own life, and give an explanation of how the box works, and who the mysterious guy is. That’s the ticket!”

My point is, for Kelly to do what he’s done, means he completely missed the point of why the original episode worked. And (it’s more likely, since I’m sure he’s a highly intelligent guy, that he does grasp this obvious truth), in a remarkable time-wasting exercise, he decides to elaborate upon the parts of the story that are the least meaningful and least rewarding.

Rating:

Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Twilight Eclipse

This stuff really is beyond parody, mostly because it's a
parody of the human capacity for junk tolerance already

dir: David Slade

2010

And the shit keeps on rolling out…

Wow, has it really only been a year since the last Twilight movie? Surely our years and entire lives are now structured around the release of new instalments in this rightly labelled saga? And it is a saga indeed. Epic, if you will, in proportions, length, width, girth, and in precious emotions.

Big emotions. Huge emotions. Bigger than anything you’ve ever snored through in your entire life!

See there’s a girl called Bella (Kristen Stewart) and every boy’s in love with her, because she’s so wonderful, despite not doing, saying or thinking a single interesting thing in her life. She does nothing, thinks nothing, imagines nothing, nothings nothing. She’s such a nothing that four books are devoted to her. Who ever said there was presence in absence was thinking squarely of Bella Swan and Kristen Stewart’s non-acting abilities.

Perversely, not only is she irresistible to every boy in school, but even the vampire and werewolf set think she’s all kinds of awesome. Yes, vampires and werewolves exist in this world, and their only reason for existing is to reassure Bella that she’s the best. The werewolves, however, are American Indian young dudes with shaved chests who run around half-naked until they transform, whenever they feel like it, or get angry, or get horny, into giant dogs.

Rating:

Twilight Saga: New Moon

Twilight New Moon

Time spent with you cretins is a hell beyond human reckoning

dir: Chris Weitz

2009

The problem, the problem with this is… let me just put my finger on the problem…

How do you make a good flick out of a terrible book? How do you get good performances out of terrible actors playing terrible characters? How do you achieve what alchemists have been trying and failing to do for centuries, being the transmutation of shit into gold?

I don’t know. Neither do the people making this flick.

No-one expects either Spanish Inquisitions or full scale refutations of the basics of physical chemistry in order to achieve the impossible, and I didn’t exactly go into this with an open mind. You cannot have read any of the despicable books by Stephanie Meyer in this series and have any hope either for a film version to be a decent film, or hope for humanity in general.

You just can’t. They’re bad, but they’re bad in the way that precludes being ironic about it, taking it as camp, as kitsch, as anything than what it is: a painfully earnest, unintentionally hilarious but soul deadening attack on human dignity.

That’s gilding the lily if I’ve ever gilded anything. Perhaps I’m exaggerating just a tad.

The thing is, though, watching this flick I can’t help but marvel at how demented its sexual politics are, and how unhealthy its depiction of ‘young’ love is. It doesn’t help that the running theme, lifted from Romeo and Juliet and pounded into our eyes and ears with multiple clumsy Romeo and Juliet references, is how cool it would be to die over obsessive love.

You know, I always thought what teenagers needed were more reasons to want to kill themselves. And here’s a bunch of books and flicks telling them just that.

The annals (that’s double n, you smut-merchants), as in the collective literature of nations, of romantic stories is, dependant on your nation and its psyche, either conformist in nature (ie. Snow White and Cinderella: where beautiful girls are hated by nasty older women but loved by handsome princes because, hell, they’re hot jailbait), or fatalistic (Indian, Turkish, Japanese or Shakespearean tales of true love perpetually thwarted, resulting in misery and death).

What the Twilight series serves up is essentially nothing new: a plain and unexceptional female protagonist who is a stand-in both for the author and the prime audience, falls in love with a brooding and cold older guy who will permanently look young, who seems to love her for some reason. He is controlling and bipolar, which only makes it hotter. He also is permanently on the verge of killing her, as are some members of his family, and, oh, he happens to be a vampire.

The only other guy that she could possibly love also is on the verge of killing her if he gets overexcited, and, oh yeah, he happens to be a werewolf who runs around in cut-off jeans and no shirt all the time, edging out the other two terrible actors for Worst Performance Ever in a Twilight flick.

But where the genius of this flick lies is in its comical struggle to find ways to fill the empty, pointless hours between the opening credits and the closing credits. And what a fucking wasteland that expanse truly turns out to be…

Rating:

Expendables, The

The Expendables

Forget Gandhi, Bertrand Russell or Simone De Beauvoir:
you're all my heroes now

dir: Sylvester Stallone

2010

I guess if someone absorbed and retained all the juicy goodness of crappy 80s action flicks, it was the guy who starred in most of them. And if there’s one person who can profit from perpetuating what he used to be good at, rather than doing anything remotely new, it’s Sylvester Stallone.

His last three films including this one are virtual monuments to himself (the other two being Rocky Balboa and the fourth Rambo flick creatively titled Rambo) and the time when he was one of the biggest action stars on the goddamn planet. But this flick, far moreso than the others, is more of a monument to the era itself and the trashy 80s action flicks that were so beloved by all.

By ALL. Don’t dispute me on this: I bet back in the day even the Pope, the Queen of England and the King of Siam were sitting around in their sweatpants watching video tapes of Red Heat or Cobra or Commando and drinking a six pack in between punching the air and screaming “YEEEEEAHHH” in full throated passion. It didn’t matter if there was no reason for shit to be exploding, or for a man with a gun to be walking around mowing down an army of faceless Hispanic goons without so much as a scratch on him: it was fun, apparently, and everyone had to like it or be sent to re-education camps for indoctrination. Maybe I remember the 80s differently to the rest of you, but I’m positive that all happened.

That golden era couldn’t last forever, and these films where jeeps would explode mid-air, or when cops would be killed days before retirement, and the villain’s headquarters would always blow up even if there was no earthly reason for such to happen, were shunted aside so that the comic stylings of Pauly Shore and Jim Carrey could come to the fore, and chick flicks as far as the eye could see were Steel Magnolia-ing and Fried Green Tomatoes-ing their way into our hearts and colons.

Rating:

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

Blood is much thinner than we like to admit

dir: David Michôd

2010

It’s not entirely clear why the film is called Animal Kingdom until past the middle of the flick, when Guy Pearce’s character has to explicitly spell it all out: everything in nature, like in the Australian bush, inherently knows its place. There are trees that live for thousands of years, and insects that die in the space of time it takes to think of them. There are predators and prey, the strong and the weak, and they all have to compensate accordingly.

It’s a moment of exposition that sounds superfluous, because it’s rarely a good idea to explain your title, but it’s used wisely. It’s used by a character who thinks he has the measure of the person he’s speaking to, who thinks this is the best way to convince him to go along with his program.

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Australian cinema has often gone to the crime well to come up with its quality television programs and movies, and this flick certainly doesn’t come up dry. It’s as good as a lot of reviewers are saying it is, but what I failed to glean from other people’s comments and analyses was how emotionally complicated it is, how tension-filled and how grim. And how little it compromises.

Yes, it deals with a family of crims, but this isn’t a mob style organised crime story, or the tits and violence concoction that is the Underbelly franchise. In fact it’s the complete antithesis of all that trashy splendour. It’s mostly a story about a kid called Josh, who calls himself J (James Frecheville), who, upon the death of his mother, moves in with his grandmother and uncles.

His uncles are hardcore crims, of the armed robbery variety, but in the main, they’re reasonable guys. The eldest brother, though, is operating on a different level than the rest, implied as being related to mental illness. Or the fact that he’s a truly ruthless bastard.

Though they call him Pope, Andrew Cody (Ben Mendelsohn) is introduced to us in an innocuous way, seeming, like the rest of the brothers, to be a remnant of an earlier age. He’s not exactly strapping on metal armour and taking on the cops at Glenrowan, but he seems lost during a conversation with his brother Barry (Joel Edgerton), as they wonder about alternatives to their current method of income earning. Barry recommends that Pope invest in stocks online, and Pope, confused, talks about not even having a computer.

The problem they face is not the desire of the police to arrest them for their many crimes: it’s a more uniquely Australian problem, at least in the way that history has been transmuted for the purposes of grounding this story.

Rating:

Unthinkable

Unthinkable

Lots of screaming for the whole family

dir: Gregor Jordan

2010

I know, I know: you’ve never heard of it, and neither had I until yesterday.

You have to wonder how flicks with A-list casts like this can disappear so completely in an era where the biggest flick in the world at the moment only has Tom Hank’s voice in a major role, and the next in line hosts the anti-charismatic properties of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in lead roles: three people who if you added their personalities together, you’d still be coming up with a figure significantly less than 1.

I hear they share the one personality between them. Which is why, most of the time, you don’t see them all together in the same place. And the rest is computer generated imagery, just like their sparkly, bare-chested, sexless fame.

Perhaps it overstates it to claim that Unthinkable has an A-list cast. Michael Sheen did play Tony Blair, and a werewolf, and a vampire, David Frost and an even more horrific undead creature in the form of the coach of Leeds United. He’s got to be up there.

Samuel L. Jackson once tickled some Maori guy with a lightsabre in some Star Wars flick, and some snakes on a plane, and lost an overacting battle with John Travolta in a couple of movies. I guess he’s at least somewhere on some list of vaguely credible actors. Still, this flick disappeared into the aether without so much as a by your leave, and you have to wonder why.

Enough of the rhetorical bullshit: it’s no mystery why. It’s been effectively dumped because a) the director is Gregor Jordan, and b) it’s about torture, and the general non-goodness thereof.

America doesn’t want to hear that. Even in the post-George Dubya world, in the enlightened and instantly everything better world of Obama, still no-one wants to see films made by Gregor Jordan, especially ones critical of America’s love of torture.

You may ask yourself who Gregor Jordan is, and why Hollywood hates him so much. He is an Australian director, after all, and he did bring Heath Ledger to global or at least suburban prominence with his delightful film Two Hands. Then Jordan made Ned Kelly, again with Ledger, which was terrible, just fucking awful.

Somehow this meant that instead of being punished for all eternity, Gregor Jordan skipped the Pacific and starting working in Hollywood. So he makes Buffalo Soldiers, which suffers a strangled death in its release crib because, gee, they were about to release it when America the Beautiful unleashed hell upon the degenerate nations of Afghanistan and Iraq. The suits thought no-one was comfortable watching a flick that depicted US soldiers in Germany as the venal, criminal opportunists they might very well have been. It’s so unfair when real life screws up your release date, isn’t it?

Rating:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

She has other qualities, traits, interests. Don't reduce
her to only one aspect

Man som hatar kvinnor

dir: Niels Arden Oplev

2009

I don’t know how many people are going to make this point, since I assume that people, like sheep, like doing stuff in concert with each other, that this is the rare instance where the movie resulting from an adaptation is better than the book it’s based on. There, I said it. In reality this is the best adaptation of a Dan Brown novel Dan Brown never wrote. But Sweden’s Dan Brown, called Stieg Larsson, sadly died before he could profit from his success, collect his royalty cheques, and watch this version of his book on the big screen. It’s a shame, because he could have gotten to see what his story looked like with most of the boring bits cut out.

When I read the three books in the Millennium trilogy, as you could say with most crime or detective mystery kind of novels, I remember thinking they seemed like they were always intended for the big screen. They all read like that, usually. I’m sure it wasn’t a fact lost on the shmuck’s publishers, or on the people who made this Swedish film version, or the American shysters who snapped up the rights and who are going to allow Fight Club director David Fincher to remake it.

The fact that it’s a bestselling set of books helps too, I’m sure. The women I see on the train not reading any of those damned Twilight books are often reading one of the three books in the trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl Who Played with Fire, Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

They’re not great literature. Actually, I’ll restate that. Perhaps in Swedish those novels are brilliantly written and plotted, but in English, which is the version I read, they’re so hacky and flat that their tremendous success would be mysterious if it weren’t for a few salient factors.

The thing with crime fiction is that no-one expects it to be well written or even well-plotted. I’m not trying to malign the entire genre or the fans of that style of writing. It’s a perfectly valid genre, and I’m a big, big fan. But the shit writes itself. The general audience just wants a plot that moves, location changes, surprise twists and red herrings, and closure at the end where everything fits together nicely, with a hint of future adventures. And of course, sexy results.

These books have all that, along with the flattest exposition and most unlikely conversations as dialogue I’ve ever read. But they get the job done.

I was making this point to a dear friend of mine last week who loathed the book, but who hasn’t seen the flick yet, that the novels are a product of their nation similar most of all to IKEA furniture. No-one buys IKEA furniture because it’s beautiful or valuable. They buy it because it’s cheap and functional.

These books, and by extension this film and the other ones that will doubtless eventuate, are purely functional. They’re drab, blocky and aesthetically unappealing, but they get the job done.

Rating:

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road

Some things are stronger than love. Like hate,
for example

dir: Sam Mendes

Oh what a miserable fucking film. It starts off with one of those miserable and uncomfortable couple fights that makes you want to slink away without making eye contact, and progresses onwards with a gruesome autopsy of a relationship that should never have been between two people who should never have been together.

Based on an apparently classic 1950s novel of the same name by Richard Yates, it’s a film undoubtedly influenced at least in its stylistic elements by the rise of that Mad Men era-philia. In truth, though, this is an earlier era depicted, even if visually they’re indistinguishable. Sure the guys all wear smart suits and those hats, and smoke everywhere, and drink constantly and such.

But this is a time meant to be closer to the end of World War II rather than the cool cat airport lounge hipsterism of the early 1960s depicted in the aforementioned (and admittedly highly loveable) television series. Men and women were still working out what their post-war roles were meant to be, and for some people the answers were never going to be pretty.

The name of the flick makes it sound like it’s going to be a film explaining to kids why they should or shouldn’t have pictures of Che Guevara on their t-shirts, but all it refers to is the suburban road in Connecticut where the unhappily married Wheelers live.

Rating:

The International

The International

This film is so boring it made me appreciate architecture

dir: Tom Tykwer

2009

What the fuck happened to the guy who made Run Lola Run?

Here’s your answer: He’s making shitty, ludicrous flicks that sap the will to live of any audience anywhere.

The International is fucking unbelievable. It is a Bourne Identity – Supremacy flick without Jason Bourne or Matt Damon, but, perversely, with Clive Owen, who was in the first Bourne flick anyway. Recursive much?

So imagine: someone wants to make a Bourne flick but can’t afford Matt Damon. Who’s next on the list, oh, we can’t afford them, how about, no, further down, okay, Clive Owen and Naomi Watts? Brilliant.

And of course you need some German people in it, so why not hire German hot stud superstar Armin Mueller-Stahl, who’s 80 if he’s a day over 16?

Sole direction given to Clive Owen in this: “Um, act the way you did in Children of Men, but don’t run around as much.”

Clive Owen roles can be divided successfully into two groups: the ones where he has stubble, and overacts wildly, and the once where he’s clean shaven, and doesn’t overact as much. This role is clearly one of the former rather than the latter.

Naomi Watts doesn’t really have any differentiation between roles, and strides around with “concern” face the entire time here. Is she credible as a district attorney trying to bring down one of the biggest banks in the world? Maybe, if her plan is to wear them down by asking them continuously to make monthly donations to Amnesty International whilst on the street corner outside their headquarters.

Rating:

Funny People

Funny People

Funny Rich People have Feelings and Problems Too, you know

dir: Judd Apatow

2009

See, the title is meant to be ironic. At least I think that’s the case, since most of the stuff that occurs in Funny People is not funny.

And the funny people who are rich aren’t funny and they aren’t happy. And the funny people who are poor aren’t happy but they are funny. But when rich meets poor, through exploitation and abuse, we get a steaming serving of “we’re all unhappy, rich or poor, unless we’re nice to each other” bullshit.

Isn’t it ironic that funny people are sad, hmm? Don’t you feel sorry for these neglected, forgotten people?

Do I fuck. This is a very odd flick in a lot of ways, odd because it’s increasingly becoming obvious that Apatow tries to wedge as much of his own life story into his films as a way of keeping those close to him happy and employed, but also as an act of revenge by proxy.

Judd Apatow has achieved a certain amount of success as a director and a producer of movies, but he struggled for a long time, especially way back in the day. He came up at a time when a lot of his more famous peers were starting out as well. He even used to share an apartment with some successful guy, what was his name, oh yeah, that’s right, Adam Sandler.

And isn’t it funny that Adam Sandler is in this flick? It opens with some home movie footage of a very young Sandler and some of his goofy friends like Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo, one of whom seems to look suspiciously like Apatow, prank calling people for a laugh. It’s real, in the sense that they are obviously from Apatow and Sandler’s past, and not something fabricated just for the movie, like Apatow’s kids.

Then it cuts to a much older Sandler, sorry, George Simmons, living in an impossibly expensive beach front house, miserably alone, watching five different big screen tvs all with real footage of Adam Sandler through different stages of his career, as far back as his time on Saturday Night Live.

Rating:

Orphan

Orphan

Something very wrong with this child

dir: Jaume Collet-Serra

2009

This is both a horrifying and silly flick. It would be easy to just say it’s a shit flick with the most ridiculous twist ending since the last time M. Night Shyamalan made one of his ridiculous movies. In fact it wouldn’t just be easy, it’d be downright accurate.

Still, I can’t dismiss it entirely. Approached as a genre piece, it’s unsettling and disturbing, as in, it achieves its ambition of creeping out the viewer, the viewer being me, in this case. This strangely-put together flick fits into that horror-thriller sub-genre about competent sociopaths, this time in the form of a nine-year-old child adopted by a nice family, who do what they do, infuriating the viewer because no-one except the main character can see what’s going on until it’s way too late.

Esther is an odd child adopted from an orphanage because a mother (Vera Farmiga) can’t get over the recent death of the baby she was carrying. This is conveyed to us, the viewers, right at the beginning in a horrific birth scene which is rendered as some kind of demented nightmare. Whilst the details aren’t considered literal, the loss of the child is, and we learn more details about spiralling depression, alcohol abuse and infidelity. All this occurs despite the fact that the two parentals have two other kids, an annoying teenage boy called Daniel, and the sweet, deaf Max.

Into this house they bring this strange girl who not a soul buys as being anything but the demented creature the promo posters depict her as being. Those posters were a stroke of genius, I have to say. The way that image was composed, by splitting and mirroring half of her face and reconnecting them at an odd angle, was far-more off-putting than probably most of the flick.

Ah, that’s probably not entirely true. There are plenty of instances of Esther murdering a whole bunch of people, and meting out violence to children, which of course is horribly disturbing.

Rating:

The Road

The Road

It was grim I tell you, grim as being awake at 5am.

dir: John Hillcoat

Oh gods is this film depressing. It’s not as completely hideous and bleak as the Cormac McCarthy novel from which it takes its name, since it leaves out some of the most horrifying bits. Even without some of that stuff, good goddamn is it depressing.

John Hillcoat has made some grim flicks, like Ghosts… Of the Civil Dead and The Proposition, but this out-grims them all. And as with The Proposition, adding to the bleak landscape and sombre atmosphere is a score created by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Of the soundtracks they’ve done together, well, this is of a piece, and whilst it’s not as powerful as the one they managed for that Jesse James flick whose title was almost longer than its running time, it’s still pretty devastating.

This film mostly has three characters. Sure there are others, but three characters are the majority that we look at and care about. There’s The Man (Viggo Mortensen), there’s The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and then there’s the dead world they walk upon.

This is a post-apocalyptic story with a difference. The difference is that there’s nothing cool or romantic about this devastated place where we spend two hours of our lives and the last days of humanity. Plenty of flicks have been set in some nebulous future setting where nuclear war, robots, a virus, melting icecaps, zombies, evolved monkeys or Michael Bay have been responsible for wiping out human civilisation as we knew it. In almost all of those stories, though, the world left behind might be seriously fucked up and rubble strewn, but there’s still life, of a sort, and as they say, where there’s life, there’s fucking. I mean, where there’s life there’s hope.

The Road posits a world where there will be no redemption, no Hand of God coming down from the heavens to save / kill us, no rebuilding, no preservation of a copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz for future generations, no hope. The world is cold and getting colder, ashen, dead, really dead, and it’s just waiting for its last species to violently expire in order for the whole planet to become as quiet as a global grave can be.

Rating:

Thirst (Bakjwi)

Thirst

I am thirsty too, but not for Korean blood, thanks.

dir: Chan-wook Park

It’s an odd film. It’s interesting at times, boring at others, mostly enjoyable but also emotionally and stylistically flat some times. I’m sure it was deliberate. Chan-wook Park is an accomplished director, but don’t go expecting this to be too much in line with either Old Boy or Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.

It’s clear to me that he really intended on telling a very different vampire story from the ones popular with the girls and their wine cooler soaked mothers at the multiplex. He also intended on supplying the audience with a fairly leisurely, some might say lazy, broad satire of Catholicism. It seems odd to me that a Korean director would give a damn about Christianity, but then again I have no idea how widespread the Christbotherers are in South Korea, or even if the sky is blue and grass is green over there.

All I know about the peninsula is that the North Koreans have some fiercely choreographed high goose-stepping soldiers, millions of them, all starving for attention, freedom and a handful of rice.

South Korea is where the action is, and where the steady streams of films are coming from. It seems, though it’s not true, that Kang-ho Song is in most of them. He is, at least, even fleetingly in all the ones that I’ve seen thus far, whether good, bad or just plain weird.

Here he plays the main character, a Catholic priest called Sang-hyeon, who is very dedicated to his vocation. So dedicated is he that he decides, for reasons we can’t fathom, to sacrifice himself as a medical guinea pig in Africa, where a dreaded disease caused by the Emmanuel virus kills everyone infected with it. Sang-hyeon volunteers to have the virus injected into him.

I don’t know why he swallowed a virus, but there it is. Instead of dying painfully, Sang-hyeon covers himself in bandages, because of a bunch of pustules, and discovers that, whilst reoccurring, his symptoms disappear when he drinks blood. And sunlight disagrees with him. And he’s super strong, and he doesn’t feel very priestly any more.

Rating:

Milk

Milk

So happy, so pleasant, so we'll forget you used to
beat up Madonna

dir: Gus Van Sant

2008

You would have thought that the acclaimed documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk would have pretty much covered the story of this incandescently flamboyant political icon of the 1970s. But, let’s be honest: unless someone wins an Academy award and fictionalises the fuck out of a story, we don’t really care.

And why have footage of Harvey Milk playing Harvey Milk in a documentary about himself when you can have Sean Penn overacting all over the place instead?

So much better. To be fair, Penn mostly controls himself and delivers what is a stand-out performance in a career defined by stand-out performances, overacting, having been married to Madonna and beating up paparazzi.

I knew plenty of the details surrounding Milk’s death moreso than his life, because of the hilarious manner in which the person who murdered him used one of the most incredible defences in order to beat the rap and reduce his clearly cold-blooded and premeditated crime to an act of junk food-fuelled manslaughter due to diminished capacity. Of course the truth of what was actually argued by his defence team and what has become the pop culture meme of the “twinkie defence” are two completely different things.

What I didn’t know about the Harvey Milk story was the life story of Harvey himself. And, as far as biopic stuff goes, he seems like he was a pretty amazing man. Two hours is barely enough to do anyone’s life and times justice (though my biopic could be comfortably encompassed within a short film of forty or so seconds), but the director, screenwriters and actors have done a more than decent job of revealing who he was and why he mattered, and the times in which he lived.

Rating:

Coraline

Coraline

Be careful what you wish for, because it might just
KILL EVERYBODY!!!

dir: Henry Selick

You don’t know how wary I was going into this. Genuinely scared. Not scared in the sense that I was scared about what would happen in the story, or about some of the imagery. Sensitive little tulip that I am.

What I was most scared of was the prospect of disappointment. I love the works of Neil Gaiman and Henry Selick so much that the potential for failure seemed very high. Gaiman has written so much incredible stuff, including Coraline itself, and then there’s all the Sandman stuff, and American Gods, and and and…I need to curb the fanboy enthusiasm. Selick made James and the Giant Peach, and Nightmare Before Christmas, both of which I love, and is probably one of the (last) greats in the field of this old school style of animation.

It was a sweet relief to have all my fears allayed. Coraline isn’t a perfect flick, either in its story or its rendering, which is a mixture of stop-motion ‘solid’ animation and computer generated imagery, but it’s so goddamn close that the distinction becomes purely academic. Neil Gaiman, as with any of the greats when it comes to working in the areas of fantasy or what are often derisively dismissed as children’s fairy tales, understands the deep psychological underpinnings of what he’s working with, in the way that the Brothers Grimm and the creators of mythology throughout the ages have always understood. It’s not just childhood fears that these people have to approach and understand: they have to know the different motivations and intensities of feeling that children possess and most of us adults have forgotten. When people like Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman get it right, they forcefully remind us again.

Of course there are similarities with other tales, from Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli stuff to Alice in Wonderland to more ancient stuff, but I should really learn to stay on message and deal with the subject at hand without feeling the need to start enumerating everything else I’ve ever thought of in excruciating detail.

What I absolutely loved about Coraline the most was the fact, which seems really obvious on the surface, that Coraline makes choices and has to act in order to achieve anything in this story. She’s not just a character that stuff happens to until a cliché ending where every bit of a status quo is restored. She’s a bit of a brat who almost gets everything she could ever have wished for, only to realise that if she doesn’t work really hard, everything will become terrible forever for a lot of people, especially herself.

Rating:

Friday the Thirteenth (2009)

Friday the Thirteenth

Hi, we hardly knew we missed you

dir: Marcus Nispel

2009

There are remakes that are pointless. Remakes that are insults to human dignity. Remakes that just make you wish a nuclear war would wipe out the world so that you wouldn’t have to watch any more crappy flicks ever again. It would be a small price to pay.

And then there are remakes of crap horror flicks, which are just as crap as their origins, which it’s hard to get angry at.

Shit repackaged as another form of shit, when you know it’s shit, can’t really surprise you. It doesn’t have that power.

I don’t care what classic horror buffs think about the original Friday the 13th series: they were crap, whether the first or the four hundredth movie in the franchise. They achieved then and have maintained since a cheap notoriety far in excess of the actual artistic or frightful merits of the actual productions. Most film critics and social pop cultural commentator-types point to them as a barometer of the political and ideological landscape of their era: that being the Reagan era of conservatism for which the protagonists, being generally teenagers, are punished for drug and alcohol use and for having sex by the wordless and faceless Jason. Clad generally in his tasteful but elegant rags and hockey-mask, the unstoppable killing machine mows his way through swathes of people whose purpose is solely to die, until an ending where he looks like he’s finally bought the farm, only to come back again and again.

I find it fucking tiresome, and pointless, generally to watch a movie whose sequences I can predict just by hearing the franchise title. I don’t get off on watching people being killed, so when I know it’s just going to be nearly two hours of the same crap, done so mechanically, I have little to be interested in.

At the very least, considering the recent rash of ‘classic’ horror remakes, the rare one that does anything right (I’m one of the few people who thinks this, but the first of the Texas Chainsaw remakes wasn’t completely worthless in my anything but humble opinion) is the one that references its origins well enough not to be bound to or by them, and by achieving a tone and mood consistent with what the initial ones were going for.

Rating:

The Boat That Rocked

Pirate Radio

Please, Poseidon, let them all drown

dir: Richard Curtis

2009

It’s getting to the stage where hearing that Richard Curtis, the genius behind such pop cultural fodder as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and the diabolical Love, Actually, which actually opens and closes with long montages of people hugging. Hugging, honest to fucking gods…

No, I haven’t forgotten what other stuff Richard Curtis was involved with back in the day, like actually funny stuff, like the various Blackadders and maybe even the Vicar of Dibley. But that was mostly as a writer, as a writer of gags. Humorous asides and witty banter. Funny, mildly amusing stuff.

Then he wisely, from the perspective of making more money, started directing the monstrosities he was writing the scripts for on numerous post-it notes while drunk out of his skull. And thus a directorial legend was born.

Now he inflicts these awful goddamn flicks on us which have too many characters, most of which are little different from each other, with sequences that connect little to the ones preceding and following, and which exude an overall stench of desperation that never hides the fact that he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, but hopes the editing, popular songs and cheeky swearing can hide the fact.

The Boat that Rocked, or Pirate Radio as it was briefly known when it was released in the States, is another in a long line of pointless Richard Curtis vehicles that’s nowhere near as funny or coherent as Richard Curtis thinks it is, or as funny or as coherent as Richard Curtis thinks Richard Curtis is.

Rating:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

When will this neverending story end?

dir: David Yates

2009

Another year, another Potter flick. The difference is, now, after having enjoyed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix so much, I thought I actually cared about future Potter flicks.

And then the Half-Blood Prince came along, and reminded me why I never really liked these tales of magical whimsy and whimsical magic in the first place.

That’s a bit harsh. Initially, going into it, I was pretty excited. I also thought, and still think, that this entry looks phenomenal as well. Hogwarts never looked so vast, so foreboding, so much more like a place that is no longer a sanctuary to these budding sorcerers.

Of course the ‘kids’ are getting older. Harry, Ron and Hermione are becoming awfully, um, grown-up physically, at least, if not emotionally mature. The story reflects and spends an inordinate amount of time fixating and developing these developments, as if the fact that they’re all acting like horny teenagers is supposed to be some kind of revelation.

Of course, this being a very successful franchise, they’re not going to turn it into an episode of the frightening school-age British series Skins, which has kids shagging, doing drugs and carrying on like teenagers having been acting since the dawn of cask wine.

Needless to say, no decent person expects to see that kind of stuff happening within the hallowed walls of Hogwarts. But they’re perfectly entitled to expect to see it in the inevitable porno versions that tend to ensue.

Rating:

Ong Bak 2: The Beginning

Ong Bak 2

This poster barely captures the insanity involved

dir: Panna Rittikrai, Tony Jaa

2009

You could be forgiven for thinking that this movie was a sequel or even a prequel to Tony Jaa’s debut Ong Bak. I mean, that’s what 2 usually stands for in these circumstances. Having watched both flicks, I can’t really see any point of intersection except in the fact that Tony Jaa kicks several shades of fuck out of a hell of a lot of people.

As far as I’m concerned, as long as the fights are as jawdropping as this, I don’t care if he calls every movie he makes Ong Bak with some numerical designation following, with no more connective a story-based tissue than: ‘Some guy, for some reason, beating a lot of people up in incredibly elaborate ways.”

For all I know, that’s what Ong Bak actually means in Thai. For all I care though, I eagerly look forward whenever I hear that Tony Jaa’s stepping up and putting out another movie.

Sure, he’s not much of an actor, and spends most of this flick glaring and not saying any dialogue. That’s good, though. We don’t want him talking. Talking’s not his forte. I hear he’s not good at math or doing the dishes, either. And he’s not very considerate in bed.

It doesn’t matter, because he is an amazing cinematic fighter. I say this with some knowledge only of what people look like fighting on the big and small screens. I have no idea if people like Tony Jaa, or Donnie Yen, or Jet Li for that matter are actually formidable opponents away from the cameras. They are skilled and trained in a certain kind of choreographed performance that exists for the camera, not for actually beating up legions of people with. I guess if we ever hear about any of those guys, or even Jackie Chan or Chuck Norris, staging a bloody coup, and taking over some nation, we’d know for sure that they actually do possess the skills to pay the bills, conquer nations and crush dissent, and that this movie stuff was just an elaborate ruse to lull the world into a false sense of popcorn-fuelled security.

Thing is, Tony, when his blood is up, actually looks like he could take on an entire nation of fighters (who don’t possess firearms) and win. I pity the poor stuntmen and co-stars in these films, because sometimes it doesn’t look like he’s pulling his numerous kicks, punches or multiple knees to the head and throat. They earn their pay, that’s all I’ll say, and then some.

Rating:

Observe and Report

Observe and Report

Ignore and Avoid, at absolutely all costs, have no doubts

dir: Jody Hill

2009

Damn, this is one ugly movie. I’m usually comfortable with the kinds of flicks about which people say “I felt like taking a shower after watching it”, but in this case, I want to lift my brain and eyes out of my skull, and scrub them clean with something caustic and abrasive.

As if I didn’t currently already dislike Seth Rogen enough, here he is in a ‘starring’ role as a mentally ill, possibly retarded security guard who holds onto his job for no reason I can glean. He is a stupid and violent prick, and yet he is the hero of this incomprehensibly bad film. At first I thought it was a drama. Then, a comedy. Then, a black comedy. Then a drama again. Then maybe a horror flick, then maybe a romance. A character study? Slice of life? Social satire? By the end I’d given up trying to figure out what genre the flick resides in, because I figured the people making it couldn’t figure it out either. I haven’t seen such an ending with so little credible believability in a long fucking time. That this character gets the ending this flick doles out is a travesty of injustice alongside the fact that it’s taken over thirty years to bring that scumbag Roman Polanski to justice.

Rating:

Role Models

Role Models

Jerks jerks jerks jerks jerks jerks there's not a person
in this flick who isn't a jerk. They're not Role Models,
they're... they're Jerk Muddles!

dir: David Wain

2008

I really do wonder how some flicks get made. This isn’t a bad flick, but when I think about the performances, the plot and its success, I wonder who thought it was a good idea in the first place.

For a flick without a single likable character in it, it does manage to generate several laughs, at least several more laughs than another recent comedy that inflicted itself upon our eyeballs called Observe and Report. The difference is that this flick is nowhere near as vile, and does have some pretty funny moments. Not many, but enough.

This one, unfortunately, has Seann William Scott in a lead role, and that never helps anybody. As I’ve said in other reviews, I think it’s great that retarded people not be excluded from working in Hollywood, and that Scott continuing to get work gives hope to all the other Downs Syndrome sufferers out there. But good God is he dumb. Even knowing that he’s supposed to be dumb doesn’t change the fact that he consistently gives the impression that he’s only a few seconds away from crapping his own pants.

Paul Rudd is a bit better, but he’s really only playing a minor variation on most of the characters he ever plays. Actually, scratch that, he remains unchanged from movie to movie. The difference is that I actually find him likable even if his characters are obnoxious.

Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are two shmucks joined by a common work purpose, that being working for one of those loathsome energy drink companies. Their task in life is visiting schools, delivering speeches about how kids should stay off hard illegal drugs and instead get addicted to legal substances like the contents of their energy drink Minotaur. Wheeler, being a moron, loves the fuck out of his job. Danny hates the fact that he’s been stuck in a job he hates for so long, and hates pretty much everything else in the world as well. When his long-suffering lawyer girlfriend starts getting tired of his bullshit, sensing this, he proposes, with apposite results ensuing.

After a nonsensical binge that only makes sense if the contents of energy drinks actually contain half the crap the producers contend, Danny and Wheeler end up in trouble with the law, and are both looking at jail time. Of course, the legal system being what it is, these middle class white guys get screwed, and end up having to do community service in the form of a Big Brother program.

Rating:

Hunger

Hunger

Fancy a bite to eat? Maybe some crackers or something?

dir: Steve McQueen

When I heard that there was this apparently really cool film that was going to come out, and that it was directed by Steve McQueen, my first question was: “Isn’t he dead?” My next question was “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck had nothing better to do with its fucking time?”

The answers to both questions, surprisingly enough, are “Yes” and “Not much.” Steve McQueen is some artist, not the classic actor from Great Escape, The Getaway and Bullit. The car did most of the acting in Bullit, I admit, but no, McQueen is some other guy which doesn’t mean that the original McQueen is doing a Tupac Shakur from beyond the grave, releasing stuff despite the minor inconvenience of being dead.

The one thing I’ve never heard or seen in any of the reviews of this flick, which have been uniformly positive, is that the film would actually make me sick. I’m not, as is my wont, exaggerating or embellishing like I usually do. In the last fifteen or so minutes of the flick, when Michael Fassbender, who plays Bobby Sands, really earns his keep, the image of his emaciated and lesion/sore covered body comes up on the screen.

Rating:

Doubt

Doubt

They're not Amish, oh no, they're just penguins

dir: John Patrick Shanley

I have doubts about this film. It’s well made, there’s no doubt about it. It’s an interesting story. My doubts stem from the fact that Meryl Streep, for all her sheer wonderfulness, doesn’t always hit it out of the park, as an American might say. Being an Australian, I guess I’m obligated to say that she should be hitting it for six, but the truth is I like cricket even less than baseball, if it’s even possible.

My problems with the whole wide world of sport shouldn’t bleed into the quality time you spend reading my reviews, so I should back down, I guess. The fact is, Meryl’s performance in this was so off-putting that I could barely appreciate the flick at some points. Every time she spoke or overdid some physical mannerism or affectation, it would kick me out of the film and remind me that I was watching some of the alleged prime thespians of their day battle it out in a no holds barred Battle Royale.

Again with the sport, though wrestling is hardly a sport in the real sense. She plays a nun, Sister Aloysius, with the fierceness and demeanour of some kind of treasure-hoarding troll. I appreciate that she’s meant to be this fearsome personage at the school where she rules/teaches, but c’mon Meryl, don’t you think you took it a bit too far? She looked and acted like she was auditioning for the part of Gollum in a Lord of the Rings remake.

And don’t think it’s too soon. Give it a few years.

Rating:

Drag Me to Hell

Drag Me to Hell

So, watcha been up to, Buffy? Slayed any vampires lately?

dir: Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi. Sam Raimi. Where have I heard that name before? Oh, wait, I know. He’s the lesser known brother of Ted Raimi, who dazzled the world with his performance as Joxer the Magnificent in that Xena: Warrior Princess series, and as J. Jonah Jameson’s assistant in the Spider-Man movies. Or maybe it’s that he’s the brother of Ivan Raimi, famous scribe of Spider-Man 3 and actor in the classic Nude Bowling Party?

No, I’m sure I’ve heard of Sam from somewhere else. Wherever it’s from, it seems like he’s decided to enter the family business by directing feature films. For what may be his debut feature for all I know, he’s decided to make a strange little horror-comedy called Drag Me to Hell, which, honestly, shows to me that this Sam Raimi guy might just have what it takes to make a career for himself with these movie shenanigans.

The kid definitely has a future ahead of him. Or maybe a past, I’m not sure. Like most rookies in the business, he’ll probably piss it all away on hookers and cocaine, but maybe he’ll survive and make some more tiny small budget horror films in the future. I think that’s all a guy can hope for, really.

Rating:

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