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17 August 2005 @ 11:09 am
Film Reviews  
I've been meaning to get around to reviewing the films I saw at MIFF, and since I saw two films for $10 last night at Greater Onion, I figured I'd do the lot.

The Ax

A black comedy about a long-term unemployed paper engineer who decides that the only way to find employment in such a niche industry is to murder the competition. I found this film to be very funny, with some really great moments but, for what pretty much amounts to a one-joke film, it was way too long (over two hours). I was also rather dissappointed at how cliched the film's climax was, and how obvious the ending was.

Beyond Our Ken

I pretty much saw this on the basis of it being by the same director as my favourite film from last year's MIFF, Men Suddenly In Black. Whilst it wasn't nearly as slick or funny as last year's offering, it was a rather delightful comedy/buddy-film about an unlikely friendship between a man's current and ex-girlfriend, the latter recruiting the former to help her get revenge on the man for posting nude pictures of her online. Like Men Suddenly In Black, this one had a great ending.

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Documentary about America's first dedicated cable movie channel and its creator Jerry Harvey. It was most interesting to note that it was Z Channel and Harvey that championed the cause of the "director's cut", showing many films for the first time in their original uncut form. The main reason for this film is that Harvey killed his wife and then himself, and it was a portrait of a troubled soul. It was truly interesting to see the different takes on that event from Harvey's friends; those that say it was a terrible tragedy caused by mental illness, and those that are still angry and hateful about a shocking murder. My main complaint with this film is that two hours is a long time to be staring at talking heads.

Gunner Palace

A much-needed antidote to Farenheit 9/11. I mean, don't get me wrong I love Mike Moore, but that was not the most balanced of films and was particularly criticised for its portrayal of the soldiers in Iraq. Gunner Palace was basically a kind of candid "day-in-the-life" style documentary about the experiences of the troops in Iraq, after the fall of Saddam. What this film shows is that there is no such thing as a typical soldier, and they aren't all the dumb rednecks we are shown in Moore's film. We see artists, poets, parents, scared kids and dumb rednecks. But basically it is just about fairly normal people, trying to do their job under difficult, dangerous and often deadly circumstances. The point I feel is that we need to be angry at the politicians, not the soldiers.

Ten Steps

A short film from Ireland, that was supposed to be scary or something. Maybe if you were eight.

Primer

This film is about a couple of engineers who stumble across the secret of time travel whilst working on a project in their garage. What follows is a convoluted twisting of alternate timelines as these two do their best to screw up the space-time continuum. If you have seen it and you understand it, you are either a fucking genius or a liar. The plot to this film was incomprehensible, but that is not a criticism. It's one of those movies where you come out going "I didn't really understand that, but it was fucking cool." They can expect a lot of DVD sales because I think I need to watch it about a dozen more times before I start to maybe sort-of understand a little bit about what's going on.

Dumplings

My pick of the festival. The words "black comedy" don't begin to describe the depraved humour of this film. It's very strange, it is absolutely disgusting, and it is the kind of film that could only have been made in Asia. I highly recommend this, with the caveat that you probably shouldn't eat Chinese food (or any food) before seeing it.

Dead Meat

I got a refund on my ticket, because they only had three-quarters of the film. Frankly, I wish it had ended sooner. Un-original, un-inspiring, un-funny Irish zombie film. No production values, no script to speak of and no real point.

Howl's Moving Castle

Not Miyazaki's best by a long-shot, but a delightful flight of fancy as always. Cute and sweet, but not sickly. Enjoyable, but not earth-shattering. Some nice escapism, which I guess is Studio Ghibli's speciality.

Murderball

A slick, pacy documentary about the world of elite wheelchair-rugby, aka Murderball. A real insight into the lives of men with severe physical disabilities, that doesn't pull any punches, but doesn't dwell on pity. You wouldn't dare pity these guys, or they'd beat the shit out of you. This is everything a documentary should be: entertaining, enlightening and not so damn long.

In Darkness

Ultra-low budget Spanish short about a man trying to pick up messages from ghosts by picking up their essence through the power of television antennae and video cameras. Weird, nonsensical schlock. Very funny in that 'this is so stupid' kind of way. But, as far as I can tell, they were in on the joke.

Zombie Honeymoon

The first thing that struck me about this film was the digital format it was obviously shot in. Somehow it gave the film a crisp, clear picture but felt like you were watching TV (perhaps the squarish aspect ratio had something to do with it). It was one of the most original takes on the zombie genre I've ever seen, but I'm not sure that works in its favour. I thought it had enough laughs to sustain it, but the story moved along at a tremendously slow pace.

Kung Fu Hustle

Typical of Stephen Chow, his latest offering has virtually no story, except the barest bones to string one fight scene into the next. But the fight scenes are spectacular, and this is one of the funniest films I have ever seen. In one scene in particular I was laughing so much that I was literally in pain. If you haven't already, go and see it, since this one is on general release.

Paul's Beautiful Laundrette

A short documentary made in Melbourne about the filmmaker's rather different brother. It is a nice portrait of the kind of man that other's might dismiss as crazy or worse. A man who washes in the sea, and uses an empty chip packet as a wallet, because he is so stubborn about environmentalism that he has no elictricity or gas at home, and he recycles absolutely everything.

Rash

A documentary about Melbourne's graffiti scene. I felt this film was way too one-sided, and was mainly a vehicle to show-off the work of the featured artists. It never really got stuck into the debate of 'art versus vandalism', rather trying to portray it as the former and paying lip-service to the latter. Basically on the side of the former,we had the artists themselves and a rather progressive, obviously intelligent mayor of Yarra; on the side of the latter we had an obviously stupid councillor saying he could "wipe-out" graffiti for good (people have been trying to do that for thousands of years), the cops threatening a "court appearance" and some people saying they don't like taggers, but do like the good stuff. I really felt that, in particular, we were missing the stories of the people whose property was being defaced - somehow it was always alley walls, billboards and council property, but I've seen many rather intrusive graffiti on privately owned property. But we don't hear stories of the victims. Also, much was made about the danger of being caught, yet still I have no idea what kind of penalties these artists are facing. Perhaps cynically, I suspect that part was left out to create an artificial sense of danger about the dreaded "court appearance" as I imagine a vandalism charge carries a very light sentence (probably community service cleaning walls). A nice look at the work of local underground artists, but I felt there was so much that wasn't addressed, perhaps because it would have gone against the aim of this picture to portray graffiti as a legitimate artform.

Land of the Dead

Romero, much respect to his earlier works, has finally got it right. This is what a zombie film is supposed to be like - pure fucking entertainment. Romero has finally dropped his concept of insane paranoia, and has given his characters some real motivations for their actions. I guess part of the reason for that is that this film is about a world in which people have been living with the zombie menace for a long time and are no longer freaking out about it, but getting on with living their lives. A brilliant concept, and I'm sure you can see where it goes from there. Plenty of action, plenty of gore, plenty of classic moments, and Dennis Hopper just steals the show.

Sin City

If nothing else, the look of this film is enough to blow you away. It really captures the exaggerated noir quality of Frank Miller's books perfectly. And the freakish characters in particular make this seem like a live action cartoon, but in a really amazingly good way. The film deliberastely has a kind of disjointed pace, where you can make out each indivisual frame of the comic book, and it works incredibly well. The performances are just so deliciously hammy, in a way that only such a talented cast could pull off.
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Mikmareth_redorb on August 17th, 2005 01:43 am (UTC)
"his latest offering has virtually no story, except the barest bones to string one fight scene into the next"

You make it sound like a bad porno....
rusty_dkrusty_dk on August 18th, 2005 02:07 am (UTC)
I completely agree with you on Sin City

You could pause it at any point and it would look like a panel from a comic strip...amazing bit of work that film.