Project 101

Dan attempts to watch 101 movies in 12 months

Archive for December, 2008

#16 Tsotsi

Posted by Dan on December 30, 2008

tsotsiposterI was looking for something fairly chunky and heavy-duty this morning for a movie, and I definitely got it with Tsotsi.

Golden Globe nominated, and winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006, as well as countless other awards around the world, Tsotsi takes place in the slums of Soweto in South Africa and centres around a small gang of African kids, lead by the emotionless Tsotsi, who will do anything to get what they want, including murder. After a fight that breaks out between Tsotsi and one of the other boys, Tsotsi runs off, and in an act of desperation, car-jacks a wealthy African woman and speeds off in her car, only to quickly find that the woman’s baby is in the backseat. Tsotsi takes the child back to his shed in the slums and starts to look after it. As the movie progresses, his dedication for the child finally teaches him empathy and decency.

Now, I know that the premise sounds corny, but it actually does work quite well. You get to know about Tsotsi, aka David’s past, growing up with an abusive drunk for a father, and a dying mother. It’s fairly heavy going through most of the movie, and there are some genuine moments of fear and panic throughout the movie as Tsotsi’s world starts to fall down around him as he tries to regain his new sense of responsibility and values.

To be honest, it’s hard to write about this movie without giving too much away. It’s a fantastic movie with a great lead with Presley Chweneyagae as the title character, supported by a great supporting cast. It’s wonderfully shot and captures the bleakness, and great juxtoposition of rich and poor in South Africa. I never really knew how to feel about the lead character in whether or not to pity him. He seems a very confused young man who finally starts to open his eyes to the world around him, and on his journey it’s hard to tell whether or not the person he’s talking to is about to get stabbed, or whether he genuinely is seeking some kind of deeper connection and understanding, but therein lies the beauty of this movie and the journey that Tsotsi takes.

I would highly recommend this one to anyone after a good solid movie-going experience. Definitely a hidden gem.

I give Tsotsi 3 and a half out of 5.

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#15 For The Bible Tells Me So

Posted by Dan on December 26, 2008

ftbposterGiven that it’s the Christmas season, what better topic of movie to watch than a documentary about Christianity’s opposition to homosexuality!

For The Bible Tells Me So centres primarily around 5 American families, who are all very devout to their religion, but who also have a gay child. They each tell their stories about their views on homosexuality before having a child who is gay, and generally discuss the reaction towards gays and lesbians in their own community and across America as a whole. The main theme that the movie touches on is the defence by these bible bashers is that homosexuality is “an abomination towards god” and that it’s a sin, so the movie tackles this mis-interpretation of the bible and discusses with a series of academics regarding the literalism of the bible.

The two main interesting points that most people race towards when defending their hatred towards homosexuals was the point of selective reading of  The Bible. In the book of Leviticus (Chapter 18 for those of you playing along at home), which says “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”, and then also shows examples of how newer updated version of the bible go even further with it’s condemnation. What Leviticus also points out though in just that same chapter is all sorts of other fucked up shit that you can’t do – collect firewood on a Saturday, Wear two different types of cloth at the same time, you must never shave or cut your hair, and that if you cheat on your partner, both of you must be put to death. Have you ever cursed at your mother? You deserve to die. Having sex while she’s on her period? You’re banished from the city you live in. Enjoy eating prawns? You deserve to die.

Then there’s also an interesting point made on the actual meaning of the word “abomination”. Today, something that is an “abomination” is considered wrong and horrible. But many years ago, the word “abomination” was simply a word used to describe something that wasn’t traditional or “the thing to do”. There was never any real prejudice placed on the usage of the word though.

These days, a quick google search will point out more of these so called “abominations”, so when you’re done here, I recommend having a read of some of these sites, it’s truly fascinating reading. But back to the movie…

The movie does labour on a bit, and there’s a few times I found myself thinking “yes, okay, I get the point you’re trying to make, let’s move on”, but overall, it’s an incredibly moving tale that points out not just the scary levels of hatred in these people who otherwise pride themselves on being ‘good Christians’, but also a story of understanding and almost of ‘reform’ of the opinions of these five families who while still dedicating their lives to their chosen religion, all that teach that homosexuality is wrong or a “disease”, that have discovered that their love for their own family is truly the strongest, most important bond a person can ever have.

I give this one 3 and a half Deity’s out of five.

“I can’t, for the life of me, imagine that God would say ‘I will punish you because you are black – you should have been white’, ‘I will punish you because you are a woman, you should have been a man’, ‘I punish you because you are a homosexual, you ought to have been heterosexual’, I can’t. I can’t for the life of me, believe that that’s how God sees us” — Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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#14 Bubba Ho-Tep

Posted by Dan on December 25, 2008

671647bubba-ho-tepcShithouse. I’m not even going to write about it.

I love Bruce Campbell, I loved the Evil Dead series. I have a copy of They Call Me Bruce sitting next to the dvd player.  Hell, the only reason why I sat through those piece of shit Spiderman movies was because I found out that Bruce Campbell was in them.
But this? Shit.

I give it nothing out of nothing.

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First failure!

Posted by Dan on December 22, 2008

theninesukposterWell, it took 13 movies to do it, but I finally got to a movie that I couldn’t bare to finish: The Nines. It’s fucking awful.

I only got about 45 minute in before I stood up, brushed my hands and claimed “that’s it, I’m done” And walked off.

I’d also nodded off a few times beforehand too – and I wasn’t even tired.

Essentially Ryan Reynolds plays a computer programmer who’s having some pyschosis and is playing out the lives of the people in his game.

It’s shit. Only recommend this movie to people you hate

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#13 Definitely, Maybe

Posted by Dan on December 20, 2008

maybeposter1I know that any last shred of credibility has probably now flown out the window at the mere reading of this title, but please bare with me faithful reader, it’s worth it in the end.

I probably should’ve given up on the romantic-comedy thing after watching Elizabethtown, which was fucking woeful. But you know, as much as I wouldn’t normally like to admit it in public, I still have a soft spot for a good romantic comedy. I did say good romantic comedy. There are some shockers, trust me. Apparently “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit”, but generally, you can replace the word “sarcasm” with “romantic comedy” and replace “wit” with “film making”. It’s such a terrible cookie-cutter of a plot-line that it’s easy to dismiss it entirely.  While you can pretty much write off anything with Meg Ryan in it, every now and again, on a very rare occasion, a genuinely enjoyable romantic comedy comes along.

Definitely, Maybe is a movie that surrounds the tale of boy-meets-girl which starts after Wil Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) picks up his daughter Maya (Abigail “Little Miss Sunshine” Breslin) to find commotion at the school after the kids were taught some rather graphic and brutal sex education classes. Maya’s a naturally inquisitive girl, and eventually the questions turned to the typical “how did you and mummy meet?”. The story it tells, however, is anything but typical. Wil then tells the story to Maya, but changes the names along the way of his story of growing up and the 3 main relationships in his life, leading Maya to try and guess which one is her real mother.

I know it sounds really cheesey, and I guess in a way, it sort of is – but the cheese isn’t laid on thick. But it’s a nice story that’s told really well, and there are a lot of genuinely funny moments. I think the reason why I enjoyed this movie so much is because I wasn’t expecting to. It’s a very sweet story told lovingly by writer and director Adam Brooks, who’s previously brought us Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, Wimbeldon and French Kiss. Fortunately though, this movie is far more enjoyable than anything else that Brooks has done before. Whether or not you’re a girl or a guy or whether or not you love or hate romantic comedy movies, if you’re looking for a nice feel-good movie about love lost, then won then lost again, this is the perfect one.

I give Definitely Maybe 4 pelvic thrusts out of 5.

Will: I had two serious girlfriends… and then some other smattering of other women.
Maya: What’s the boy word for ‘slut’?
Will: They still haven’t come up with one yet. But I’m sure they’re working on it.

Charm, if you’re reading this, I know you’re going to want to comment, and I know what you’re going to say. Don’t bother, because I’ll never approve the comment.

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#12 Little Fish

Posted by Dan on December 20, 2008

little-fish-poster-01Little Fish is an Australian film about the story of Tracey (Cate Blanchett), a former junkie trying to get her life back together, despite the pulling factors around her. Her drug-dealer ex returns from overseas, her step-dad is trying to kick his heroin habit, she’s constantly being knocked back for bank loans to expand the business at the local video shop she works at ,and her mum, while the straight one of the family, struggles to keep everything together.

Little Fish received loads of critical acclaim from almost every media publication in the country. To me, there seems to be a just as many reasons to agree with the praise as there are to disagree with them. I wanted to like this movie so much, and for the most of it I did. I just felt myself wanting more by the end. The movie ambles way too much, and there are far too many unanswered questions for me to really enjoy it.

Much like when I watched Layer Cake the other day, the same reasons seem to resonate again – there are some great moments, some fantastic acting and a really fucking impressive cast, but when it all comes together, there’s just a really big build up for what seems to be very little pay-off. I feel bad for not liking this movie, because it has so many good things about it – there’s just more bad things. The biggest problem I found was that the movie feels like you’re watching the second half of a movie. I spent half the movie trying to work out who was who, and there seemed to be no real plot to speak of, and some of the motivation for some of the characters seemed a little misplaced within the confines of the movie. I just can’t help but feel that it could’ve been a lot better than what it was.

I give Little Fish 1 out of 5 hits of golden brown.

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#11 Suburban Mayhem

Posted by Dan on December 20, 2008

Suburban MayhemFor all of it’s pride, Australian cinema still struggles to get real mainstream recognition. I’ll be the first to admit, that there’s a lot of stinkers that we put out, but it’s because of these mainstream flops that a lot of other smaller indie movies never get the exposure that they deserve. For every Fat Pizza: The Movie, there’s a dozen 2:37‘s, which I have to say that for the larger part of it, it breaks my true blue heart.

Suburban Mayhem, when it was released, seemed to get a fair bit of press, but nobody I know actually went to see it at the movies. I’ve always liked a good Aussie indie movie, but this is one that kept slipping down my To See list.

Suburban Mayhem is the quintessential tale of “where did it all go wrong?”, and at the end of the movie, you kinda realise that your life aint too bad. The story centres around Kat, a hormone-charged 19 year old single mum who seems to exist in her own separate world compared to everyone else – one that’s full of drugs, petty crime, cheap sex, fast cars and manicures. Her life then quickly starts to fall around her after her older brother Danny goes to jail for murder. Kat idolises Danny to almost disturbing levels of loyalty. He’s not a bad guy,  just a stupid kid with a bad temper. The true tragedy is that it appears that Danny is the most level-headed member of the family.

Kat’s mum was a drug addict that abandoned the family when Kat was a young girl, yet she’ll always be a little princess to her dad, John, played by Aussie screen stalwart, Robert Morgan. John’s a honest hard working tradie who just wants the best for his kids, which ends up with Kat walking all over him and treating him like her own personal ATM. Then there’s family friend Dianne, but to be honest, she has very little baring on the movie and her role seems to be nothing more than a mere afterthought.

One day, John decides that enough is enough and cuts off Kat’s financial flow, so Kat does whatever she can to make sure that someone’s looking out for her – and she gets it no matter what she has to do. Kat betrays and uses people left right and centre, and becomes more and more dillusioned about the world she’s living in, and to boot, she’s a truly awful parent, to the extent that John and Kat’s boyfriend Rusty are constantly being visited by police and Child Welfare. The main driver of the movie, is Kat’s obsession with the idea that Danny can get out of jail, if only she can raise the money to pay for court costs to appeal his sentence. It’s  then suddenly Kat gets an idea of how to get money – by killing her dad and selling the house. What happens then, well, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Kat is played fantastically by Emily Barclay, who won an IF Award for Best Actress for this role. She’s supported by a great ensemble cast. Why Laurence Beuls, who plays Danny, hasn’t starred in more roles than he has is just beyond me.

All in all, this is a really enjoyable movie. It’s a very gritty, often confronting story about a group of people off the rails who will do anything within their grasp to get back the control of their lives that they once had.

I give Suburban Mayhem 4 out of 5 life sentances.

“I knew the mother, she was mad. I knew the grandmother, she was madder. It’s genetics I reckon. That’s the only thing I can come up with. You just can’t get clean water from a dirty tank.”

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#10 Layer Cake

Posted by Dan on December 19, 2008

Well, I’m 10% of the way through, so, uhh, hooray?

I love Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, as well as Snatch. In fact, I’ve watched the two of them so many times, I can recite almost the whole thing without actually needing to play the movie at all (this annoys my fiance to no end – it’s great!). So naturally, I was dead keen to watch this – which is probably why it’s taken me this long to watch it. I knew I’d like it, so it’s kinda like I’ve already seen it and approved of it, if that makes sense?

I should’ve watched this long ago. Not because I enjoyed it, but so I could’ve spread the word about how awful this movie is. It’s pretty much looks and feels like someone like me who’s obsessed with the two movies decided to cash in on it too. It’s a lot more serious and gritty than the LS&TSB and Snatch, but the artistic style is there. Just don’t let that “from the producer of…” bit act as some kind of recommendation.

In fact, now that I think about it, this rule applies for any movie – if they have to justify the reason for seeing a movie based soley on the fact that someone that has something to do with this movie did something else that was really good, then the movie’s a stinker. Take my word for it.

Daniel Craig plays the main character, and he does a fairly solid job at it too. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of really great parts of the movie, and there’s some great acting performances, but with everything tied together, plus an overly complicated storyline, it just seems to trip over itself more times than it successfully sprints.

I give it 2 out of 5 Duke of Windsors.

Interesting fact about the movie: The country club where XXXX and Morty meet Jimmy in the beginning of the film is the same location as the golf club where James Bond plays a match with Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger

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#9 Lars And The Real Girl

Posted by Dan on December 15, 2008

I remember when I saw Mysterious Skin a few years ago, when it was finished, I sat in the cinema chair completely silent through the credits, trying to gather my emotions. When I left the cinema, me and the two friends didn’t say a word until we were out on the street, and one of my friends said “I need a drink”, and we all nodded. It seriously fucked with us all, and it took me a while to work out whether or not I like it. It’s that sort of feeling that I live for in movies. As much as I love a good brainless comedy, or some cheap throw-away action film, I truly love a movie that fucks with my head.

Lars &  the Real Girl is one of these. I only finished watching it an hour or so ago, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. So really, this ‘review’ (a bit rich calling it that, but still) could go either way.

Lars & The Real Girl is a story of Lars (Ryan Gosling) living with the grief of the death of his parents. His mother died at birth, although I don’t think that they never really explained what happened to his dad. But now, Lars and his brother have inherited the family home.  His brother Gus lives in the house with his wife Karin, played wonderfully by Emily Mortimer. Lars chooses to live in the garage on his own. He’s a strange guy bordering on mental illness – he’s a shut-in with very little friends except for the guy he shares a cubicle with at work. It’s here that he’s shown the Real Doll website, and a few days later, Lars orders one.

Lars’ mental instability takes a new turn when Lars treats his new doll, Bianca, like a real person. Gus and Karin are delighted by the news that Lars has met a woman who he’s invited to dinner (at which Karin struggles each day to get him to share a meal with even just the two of them), but then things get awkward when Lars brings along Bianca. They send him to see their family GP (played by Patricia Clarkson), who also happens to be a pyschiatrist, who treats Lars under the guise of taking Bianca in to the practice each day for a check-up.

In an odd turn of events, the whole community decide to go along with Lars’ delusion, showing the great compassion that everyone has for Lars, and everyone in the community seems to draw something out of the situation for their own benefit. It’s a sweet tale that proves that it’s actually possible to love, without having to feel like it’s some kind of transaction, that it’s possible to simply love.

Now, there are bits of this movie that I loved, but others that I struggled with when it came to suspending my sense of disbelief. I can’t imagine a community, big or small, so openly accepting Lars’ delusion with such open arms. Whether or not Lars’ family was a “pillar of the community” type is never really explained. There isn’t a single person that seems to have openly hostile prejudices to the situation, which I find a little hard to believe. There’s really only one scene where Gus tries to tell Lars that Bianca isn’t real and is just a rubber doll, but even that only lasts a moment, and is largely ignored by Lars. Even the sweet Margo, who’s clearly had a crush on Lars since the dawn of time is patient and understanding when she realises that she’s been passed up for a rubber doll. She either has a stone for a heart, or is even more accepting than I give her credit for. I mean, shit, I’ve been knocked back by a girl for another guy before, but at least that guy was alive. I’m not sure I could take that kind of set-back.

If anything, I really related to the role of the brother, Gus and if anything, Gus really relates how I felt about the movie. I found Gus to be the main driver and a metaphor for the movie’s plot – at first, Gus was confused about what was going on and didn’t really understand it, so he became resentful and angered with Lars, hoping that he’d just “snap out of it”, but then, like everyone else in the movie, used the situation to explain his feelings and what happened in the past with his brother and finally tell him he was sorry, and in the end, even though he was still a little unsure about the life he and everyone around him was living, learned to become compassionate and understanding.

“Sometimes I get so lonely I forget what day it is, and how to spell my name”

I give Lars & The Real Girl 3 out of 5 Fleshlights

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#8 Street Kings

Posted by Dan on December 13, 2008

I’ve kinda been avoiding this movie a little. I’ve read some fairly unfavourable reviews, and the few people I know who have seen it seemed a bit iffy. Plus the cover is practically the exact same cover as the one for a shitty video game called The Club, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Given that it’s been nothing but wet and cold here in Melbourne for the past couple of days, I figure why not spend the night in tonight watching a couple of movies. So thanks to Video Ezy, I’m pretty much set until Monday morning.

Street Kings is a story about Tom Ludlow, who’s being somewhat wrongly implicated in the murder of his ex cop partner who’s gunned down by two thugs. There appears to be a cover-up, and Ludlow isn’t happy and goes searching for answers, which uncovers a web of corrupt cops, which only results in him questioning the allegiance of co-workers he’s spent his entire life with.

Look, to be honest, it’s really hard to talk about this movie without giving everything away. It has a really great plot that’s interesting enough to keep you entertained, but not so confusing that it’s impossible to follow. The cast is terrific – my only real complaint is how under-utilised some of them are. It’s kinda creepy seeing Jay Mohr with a bad comb-over and a big thick moustache

Despite my general dislike for Keanu Reeves (I had no idea he was the main character when I picked it up), he’s actually really good in this and actually manages to out-act Forrest Whitaker (which, to be honest, I never really liked him much as an actor – although The Last King Of Scotland is a movie that you’ll see here soon). You’ll spend the entire movie going “ooh look, it’s that guy who’s in that movie/tv show!” to almost distracting levels. There’s a couple of great action scenes. I often wonder whether Reeve’s character has some odd fetish for breaking limbs.

If you’re after a good action flick that has a good storyline with enough of a plot to keep it interesting, as well as some great action scenes (the chase scene with that Mexican guy in the ‘hood was cool as fuck), and a great ensemble cast, you can’t go too far wrong with Street Kings.

I give this one 3 and a half dead cops out of 5

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