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Posts Tagged ‘ET sucks’

The Lodger: Director David Ondaatje‘s debut is loosely adapted from Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film about a ‘Jack The Ripper’ copycat killer. Ondaatje gives The Lodger a routinely modern twist by throws plenty of false climaxes, both run-of-the-mill and unexpected, at us. The visual elements are also far grittier than these types of films normally lend themselves to, thanks to nifty cinematography from David Armstrong. Actress Hope Davis (with whom I’m having a cinematic affair) as the hapless patron of the lodge and Alfred Molina as the obsessive detective deliver on so many levels that we can ignore Simon Baker‘s ineffectual brooding as the title character. Two other things that didn’t quite work for me – Philip Baker Hall darting in and out as the generic Captain Smith, grimacing perhaps a tad too unnaturally, and the predictable ending. Everything else deserves a thumbs-up in this suitably atmospheric Hitchcockian thriller.

Pig Hunt: I have the softest corner in my mind for low-budget horror films that scream bloody murder. It is adorable how they make us curl into a foetal position, letting our mind escape from recurring group hugs that define our lives, careers and breaks in sobriety. It is also heart-warming that there are film-lovers out there scraping together money and questionable talent to scare the shit out of other people. Like many other gory backwoods thrillers turn out to be, James Isaac’s Pig Hunt could be an extended metaphor for the socio-political hierarchies that govern every aspect of our world; so if you’re into that sort of thing, you may find sly references to misogyny, established religion and if you’re drunk, oedipal complexes too. Mutilated emus, a machete-wielding maniac, nymphomaniacal pot cultivators, and a monstrous wild boar that makes Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback look like Babe lost and hogtied in the city? The show goes on. And how.

Greenberg: These comedians have become infatuated with playing caricatures of their publicized persona – Adam Sandler in Funny People, Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, and that creepy guy, to an ostensibly lesser extent, in Pauly Shore Is Dead. Even crappy action stars have embraced it (spoiler: this intro is a waste of time) and gone on to make fun of themselves (JCVD and My Name Is Bruce). I assume Ben Stiller was going for something similar in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, but I could be wrong. Actually, Roger Greenberg isn’t very different from characters that we’ve come to associate Stiller with. Domesticated, empathetic, dorky and infatuated with delusions of grandeur – traits that don’t mesh very well with the character’s existential despair in this film. Sort of like Chris Cornell’s Scream album that toyed with hip-hop. I can appreciate the deviance from normalcy but uh uh no thanks…it’s just too weird. Thankfully, the film’s zanier and more admirable bouts of melancholia lie in Rhys Ifans‘ droopiness and Greta Gerwig‘s gut-wrenching facial expressions, both of which, are spectacular as is the soundtrack provided by James Murphy (front man, LCD Soundsystem). Now go watch Oswalt set the bar incredibly high in Big Fan.

The Losers: Sylvain White is the genius behind I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. We definitely know what he did the summer of 2010. He made an abortion of an action flick.

American Splendor: Harvey Pekar died last week, so let’s spend a minute in obligatory silence as I pray to the distraught geeks in the sky for his soul to keep. In case you don’t already know, he was a iconic comic book writer and legendary cultural nihilist. His autobiographical comic series detailed the tortuously funny bits of his life as a file clerk at a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Cleveland. In Berman and Pulcini’s biopic, Paul Giamatti is very believable as Pekar. It is evident that someone has done proper research. One of the details I really enjoyed was the way Giamatti lets his eyebrows do most of the talking as did Pekar in so many of his interviews, especially on Dave Letterman. In addition, a special mention to the cameos from his real-life friends and their splendidly spaced-out, interstellar stares; with friends like these who needs copies of Hitch Hiker’s Guide. All said and done, a notch below the utterly cool crankiness of Terry Zwigoff’s documentary on Robert Crumb, but a tremendous water pistol salute to the man nevertheless.

Splintered: Vincenzo Natali‘s extended love letter to Spielberg’s epically bad film about cute aliens is no longer the odds-on favourite to win my ‘wasted storyline potential’ trophy for 2010. Director Simeon Halligan could have gone about a million other ways with Splintered‘s storyline and still had me thoroughly engaged. While the first 15 minutes promises vicious creatures of the night, creative dismemberment and a wee Welsh lassie’s descent into hyper-realistic madness, the rest of the film has some of the flimsiest excuses for bloodshed. He mucks things up further by paying zero attention to group psychology during moments of crisis. At times, I wasn’t sure if the guys were being stalked and attacked by unseen evil or frantically seduced by their pregnant cousins; a strange mix of disgust, euphoria and fear. Some of dialogues are so absurd that we might soon have a ‘Godzilla vs Splintered’s Script’ straight-to-DVD classic on our hands. Holly Weston‘s passive hysteria in the last frame as she walks towards a close-up angle is a thing of beauty, but everything is such a chore to endure.

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Million Dollar Baby: I hate the second and third sections of Hotel California. Don Henley and the gang hardly do anything to break up the monotony of the rhythm that gets tiring after 2 minutes. When the song eventually does take a turn, it is in the form of THE lamest solo ever. Clint Eastwood gets the audience nodding to a pretty decent groove  for about 75% of Million Dollar Baby; neither spectacular nor terrible, just a bland sports film about a working-class heroine. The last half-an-hour of the film is cringe-worthy. I’m talking about “Step Mom” bad here, people. I wanted to rip that dam respirator tube out of Hilary Swank and throw it at Paul Haggis. First Crash, now this. Have a heart, man.

Ordinary People: I think Ordinary People won an Oscar in 1980 because Kramer vs Kramer had won the previous year, beating out Apocalypse Now and someone in the jury thought this would make for a really funny extended joke. David Lynch’s Elephant Man and Scorsese’s Raging Bull shared the same ignominy in 1980 as they lost out to Robert Redford and this bore-fest of a movie. Many of us still don’t get the joke.

Saving Private Ryan & ET: Guns don’t kill people, Steven Spielberg kills people. Only Paul Haggis and the irritating couple sitting behind us in the theatre would enjoy this sort of crap.

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Braveheart: At least for national security purposes, the last scene in Braveheart with Mel Gibson screaming “FREEDOM” needs to be kept in a top-secret vault. With more and more people binging on  hallucinogens and sedatives these days, it is only a matter of time before the truth serum becomes impotent; either that or terror mongers will start realizing how well it goes with whole grain bread and start becoming immune to it. Don’t panic, Mel Gibson has given us a secret weapon.

Which embassy are you planning to blow up tomorrow?” (Silence) “I said, which fucking embassy you fucking planning to blow up tomorrow, you terrorist fuck?” (Silence) “Play that last scene from Braveheart again” (Noooooooooooooo)

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Dead Poets Society: Giving Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society an Oscar for best screenplay is like giving one of those dudes who design gnarly cigarette packets a Nobel Peace Prize for promoting cancer awareness. Some of the dialogues involving Robin Williams waxing whimsical about transcendentalism are so awful that I got the shivers. The torment continues with his pseudo-rebellious students attacking conformism by vying for a spot in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Are you friggin kidding me? We should have known that the once great Peter Weir had lost his mind when he chose Harrison Ford for a lead role. Twice.

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Shrink: Kevin Spacey has been misconceieved as one of most talented American actors of our generation. Maybe it has to do with all the really cool characters he gets to play. Just to set the record straight, he neither ad-libbed the final speech in American Beauty nor did he impulsively straighten his limbs and walk out of the police station as Kaiser Soze. If you ask me, both Chris Cooper and Gabriel Byrne acted circles around him in those films. Yes, he was good in Seven; I’m sure the staleness of Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman did wonders to his confidence. In Shrink, the character he plays brings out the worst in him. Awkward, boring and full of chicken soup for everyone’s soul. Jonas Pate’s film about the quasi-tragic life of a celebrity psychiatrist/ best-selling author isn’t any better. It swallows any semblance of talent that its actors might have and spits out the bits that matter. Then there’s Dallas Roberts playing a second-rate House MD-type guy and the desecration of Mary Jane. Please stop the pain.

Scent Of A Woman: I’ll let Tony Montana handle this one.

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District 9: Aliens have been at the rear end of the deal with cinema. Films with aliens in them fall prey to either predictability or patriotism, both of which have been known to cause unparalleled damage to its kind. Steven Spielberg’s ET made me want to eat my face inside out. I wanted to chew through my cheekbones and pull my eye sockets out through my nostrils every time the camera zoomed in on the ghastly bugger and everyone else in the room went, “awwwwww so cute”. Independence Day was big dumb mediocre fun, but it had its share of unforgivable crimes – especially, the ‘let’s hug it out, you earthling…you’ climax.

Neil Bloomkamp’s District 9 side-steps such irksome details and then some to deliver a kickass film. The coolest part of District 9 is that it never takes itself too seriously; even in the false finishes that threaten to pull the curtains when you least expect it to. It even avoids the shock shtick that such ambitious directors have been known to fawn over. For instance, like Ebert mentions, despite making it clear that Nigerian prostitutes were doing it with the aliens, director Blomkamp merely makes an awkward joke about it and never bothers grossing us out with unnecessarily graphic imagery.

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So the deal is that aliens have landed on Earth two decades earlier and after much diplomacy and brain cells-racking, the government of South Africa has decided to put them all in a “militarized ghetto” – where the only rule is that there are no rules…wait, there are a few rules like the aliens can’t purchase cat food without paying for it and kleptomania is generally frowned upon, but you get the picture. Pretty soon the lack of a civil and a maintainable social order in the ghetto drives the government to forcibly evict all the aliens.

Enter Wikus Van D Merwe (Sharlto Copley). A key player and bootlicker unparalleled in a premier ammunitions corporation – Multi-National United – who has been put in charge of the eviction formalities by his father-in-law. From then on, Wikus’ life becomes spectacularly worse than ever before, with aliens and humans conspiring to either kill him or dash his hopes of getting out of this mess, alive, well and almost human.

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With an engrossing storyline, a suitable cast (Sharlto is awesome) and tremendous CGI effects, District 9 gets my vote for the ‘flick of the year’. It can’t get any bigger or funner (yes funner) and god bless Nick Blomkamp for that. The only thing dumb about District 9 is that some movie executive in Los Angeles is probably jerking off to the thought of casting Steve Carell in the Hollywood remake. Please fucking don’t.

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Public Enemies: Two years ago, the sheer prospect of Christian Bale and Johnny Depp sharing screen space in a gangster film would have had me stalking YouTube and Daily Motion for every user-made promo video. Lately I have turned sour towards both of them. When the initial euphoria of Dark Knight faded away, I became increasingly cynical of it and especially of Bale’s performance. Much like Gerald Butler’s in 300, Bale’s overdubbed voice as Batman really really pissed me off. It sounded like he burped out Clint Eastwood after seven shots of single malt whiskey. In Public Enemies too, he sounds odd. So very odd that you almost forget that Bale is one of the top five method actors in his country; insert Dustin Hoffman quote (if there’s a method, where’s the acting?). As for Johnny Depp, well…part two and three of the Pirate series have made me rethink the whole ‘who’s my favourite American actor” business. If anything, it was a sign of an actor coming to terms with his own celebrity status.

Back to the film…I felt that Public Enemies showcased these two blokes quite poorly. It wasn’t as bad as Pirates III or Terminator IV, but it still was a pretty terrible way of utilizing them; especially considering how good director Michael Mann can be (Collateral).

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’d probably know the storyline by now…so I’ll close with something you might not know. Elliot Goldenthal’s original music for the film is brilliant and I really think you should go out of the way and buy the soundtrack. Matter of fact, it almost takes away the uneasy feeling that you have watched something mediocre by the time the end credits hit the screen.

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Bronson: Director Nicolas Winding Refn has gone ahead and carved a nice little niche for himself in European pop cinema. His grim debut Bleeder and the Pusher trilogy have given him enough street credo and maturity to craft something as exquisitely brutal as Bronson. As for actor Tom Hardy, I have only seen him in the recent film adaption of Wuthering Heights, in which he plays Heathcliff. In this film, he plays the awesomely moustached and tough-as-nails – Charles Bronson– England’s most infamous prisoner and general pyschopath extraordinaire.

To call this a tribute to the real-life title character would be a bit short sighted since one gets the impression that it was more of a tribute to pulp cinema. The scenes in which Bronson addresses the crowd, dressed as a clown and drenched in existential ennui, are indicative of the theatrics that daftly help the film avoid genre classifications. The ending however made me feel a bit queasy with the melodrama and all, but as a whole – the film worked very nicely.

However once again, folks, life has asked art to sit the fuck down and observe. In 1994, the real Charles “Charlie” Bronson, whilst holding a guard hostage at Woodhill Prison, Milton Keynes, demanded an inflatable doll, a helicopter and a cup of tea as ransom. In 1998, he asked one of the Iraqis he had held hostage to hit him “very hard” over the head with a metal tray; when he refused, Bronson slashed his own shoulder six times with a razor blade.

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Ed Wood: There is something very strangely beautiful about this one. Why, you ask? Johnny Depp stars as the worst film director ever in the history of moving pictures and halfway through decides to start impersonating the bastard child of Michael Jackson and Willy Wonka. Martin Landau plays Bela Lugosi – the actor who was the original Dracula – but with more self-loathing decay. Bill Murray is Bunny Breckinridge – the soon-to-be transvestite perennially getting screwed over by bad luck and worse makeup. Jeffrey Jones is Criswell, the man who can see into the future as long as the TV ratings go up. So that takes care of the strangeness.

As for the beauty, tiny moments of awkward sadness make Tim Burton’s Ed Wood prettier than I had expected it to be. When the character Ed Wood watches Bela Lugosi for the last time, a gloomy ethereal note pierces the scene and threatens to make us feel bad for laughing about them earlier.

Funny thing is in 1980 when this gentle and eccentric man was voted as the worst director of all time, the Carroll Ballard’s tortorously dramatic The Black Stallion won a friggin Special Achievement Award. Probably for making a shitty movie without even an ounce of the dedication that Ed Wood had for his films.

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