2012 Movie Blitz: Part 5

August 1, 2013 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

Man on a Ledge (2012)

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The aptly titled Man on a Ledge is about — wait for it — a man (Sam Worthington) on a ledge. It looks like he’s there to commit suicide, but there’s more to the story because Worthington is actually an ex-policeman turned ex-crim who stole a very valuable diamond from a douchey businessman played by Ed Harris. Elizabeth Banks plays a negotiator with the most perfect hair in the world despite being summoned at a second’s notice, and Anthony Mackie is Worthington’s old partner. And Ed Burns plays an officer with the most annoying voice in the world (actually, that’s just because he’s Ed Burns).

Man on a Ledge is a fairly interesting film with a nice set up but it should have been a lot better. It’s a crime thriller that works backwards in the sense that you start off at a climatic situation without knowing what is going on, and the film takes you through various twists to turns to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Personally, I like such films, but the execution here is too weak to make the film compelling. Apart from the implausible plot and the even more impossible stuff that happens in the film, the tension was never there — even though you have a man standing on the ledge of a building the whole time!

Sadly, despite the great cast and interesting set up, Man on a Ledge is straight-to-DVD fodder.

2.5 stars out of 5

Piranha 3DD (2012)

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I watched the predecessor to this film, Piranha 3D, for some reason I cannot recall. I had been expecting a gimmicky Jaws-like tribute in 3D that was enjoyable in a campy sort of way. As it turned out, it was gratuitously gory, tasteless and not nearly fun enough. It was a film made for the stupid generation who just want to see naked girls and carnage. I think I gave it 2 stars, even though looking back on it I can’t see how it could have been so high.

The title of the sequel, Piranha 3DD, should give audiences a fair idea of what they are in for. With a smaller budget (US$5m vs US$24m for the first film) and a lesser known cast, Piranha 3DD tried to make up for it by upping the gore and tastelessness to a new level, including coming up with possibly the most gruesome sex scene in history (you can take a guess). Maybe I am showing my age again, but is this seriously supposed to be funny? What is wrong with people these days?

I have trouble remembering the plot but it had something to do with a family water park and the prehistoric piranhas being unleashed on the poor patrons. As expected, the carnage is epic and there’s a lot of over-the-top blood and guts and people screaming and fish being blown up. Strangely, I found all of it mind-numbingly dull.

The only positive worth noting from this film, if it can be called that, is an extended cameo from David Hasselhoff as himself, playing a douchebag parody of himself (potentially accurate depiction). Unfortunately, even that is nowhere near as funny as the filmmakers thought it was.

0.5 star out of 5

Project X (2012)

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I don’t care if everyone else in the world liked it or thought it was making some kind of meaningful social statement — Project X is without a doubt one of the worst films of 2012. This is one movie I will gladly admit I didn’t get it.

The film is allegedly based on the antics of Corey Worthington, the worthless Melbourne party boy who shot to international fame for about 15 seconds after holding a party at his parents’ house that spiralled out of control. The story itself was newsworthy, I get it, but I just didn’t understand why people think trashing your parents’ house is a cool thing to do.

That didn’t mean Project X had to suck though. But it did. Badly.

As the story goes, three friends want to throw a party to make themselves more popular. They invite a lot of people and the invitations go viral, and as a result the house is flooded with losers. Drinking, dancing, drugs, sex, infantile behaviour — all the stuff you would expect — ensues, before things get so out of control that police, firefighters and media descend upon them.

The movie is largely captured by a handheld camera belonging to one of the three protagonists, which adds to the obnoxiousness of the whole affair. If the movie was actually funny it would have made a huge difference on my opinion but sadly it was criminally unfunny, so much so that I have genuine fears about the future of humanity. It would be false advertising to market this movie as a comedy.

Add on top of that unoriginal, mean-spirited, moronic, charmless, and infuriating (and many more words not suited for this family-friendly blog), and what you end up with is one of the worst movies of the year, or any year. Sometimes movies are just bad. Project X is loathsome.

PS: It’s frightening that a sequel is in the works.

0.25 stars out of 5 — and only because I don’t believe in zero stars

Iron Sky (2012)

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I was excited about Iron Sky, or at least the concept of Iron Sky, which is about Nazis who fled to the moon (and colonised it) after their WWII defeat but are planning their return to conquer the world in 2018. It’s a premise so deliciously outrageous that it seemed like a cult classic waiting to happen.

With great expectations come great disappointment, and unfortunately Iron Sky was at best a mediocre farcical comedy that couldn’t quite get over the hump. The jokes were largely based on the idea that the Nazis were stuck with their primitive 1940s technology and their outdated political ideals, which worked for a while but soon became stale. The tone was also all over the place, making the film feel like a complete mess at times despite the occasional good joke.

The film also employs a cool colour scheme of mostly all greys and blues, which made it almost graphic novel-esque, and I kind of liked it, even though the dreariness got a bit annoying by the end.

In all, it was simply not good enough to be just a good movie, and not bad enough to be a guilty pleasure or cult classic; just a worst place to be for a film — frustratingly mediocre.

2.25 stars out of 5

Writing fiction after all that non-fiction is really really hard

August 1, 2013 in Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

once upon a time

I have recently developed a very real fear that I may never be able to write fiction again.

They say writers need to write, and over the past year all I’ve been doing is reading and writing non-fiction, almost exclusively. At work every day I write news, and in my spare time I write on this blog, which essentially comprises film, restaurant and book reviews these days, or my sports blog, which is, well, all about sports.

My reading habits have also veered towards non-fiction. Browsing through my book reviews this year I see (chronologically from the start of the year):

– Fifty Shades Freed by EL James (fiction) — the final book in the Fifty Shades Trilogy and probably the worst book I have ever read, fiction or otherwise. I think it barely counts as a book, let alone fiction.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (non-fiction) — the legendary writing book, part memoir and part writers’ guide.

Tokyo Sketches by Peter Hamill (fiction) — a collection of short stories about Japan.

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (non-fiction) — another seminal writers’ book about staying out of the rejection pile.

Inferno by Dan Brown (fiction) — no introduction necessary, though again, some would argue whether Brown’s writing classifies as fiction given that it is dominated by Wikipedia-like entries about history, architecture and artworks. And the quality of the fiction writing is, let’s just say, somewhat lacking.

Dream Team by Jack McCallum (non-fiction) — a riveting account of the one and only 1992 Dream Team.

The War for Late Night by Bill Carter (non-fiction) — the fascinating account into the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno late night television feud of 2010.

Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty (non-fiction) — Phil Jackson’s account of how he won his 11 NBA championship rings as a coach and 2 as a player.

The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (non-fiction) — the writing bible.

The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith (non-fiction) — the controversial book about Michael Jordan and the tumultuous 1990-91 season of the NBA champions Chicago Bulls.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (fiction) — the classic novel about a man whose youth and beauty was preserved by a magical painting.

Justice by Michael J Sandel (non-fiction) — an engrossing philosophy book about morality and the right thing to do.

By my count that’s 8 non-fiction books and 4 fiction books. But one of the fiction books is Fifty Shades and another is Dan Brown, so they don’t really count. And of the other two, one is a short story collection and the other is a classic novel written in the 19th century (which can be helpful but not that helpful).

It’s not that you can’t be creative with non-fiction writing, it’s just that the parameters are defined and confined by the facts you have to convey. With fiction writing it has to all come from your imagination, and that’s where I feel as though my brain has been reprogrammed and all that creativity I once had (however little it may have been) has been sucked out of me completely.

If I had to sit down and write a short story or screenplay right now I wouldn’t know where to start. In fact, just the thought of the possibility of getting back to working on my novels or screenplay makes me nervous, and scared — which probably explains why I have set myself the long-term target of completing all my backlogged blog posts before commencing any “proper” fiction writing. It’s pathetic, I know, but at least I am clearing out my backlog.

To lubricate my ride back into fiction, I am going to try and re-enter the land of fiction. Classics are good, but right now I’m thinking something less challenging, like commercial fiction. I’ve started reading Gillian Flynn’s acclaimed Gone Girl. I’m only about a fifth of the way through but it’s already shaping up to be one heck of a cracking read. It’s one of those books that grips onto you with characters that ring so true you feel like you know them. Apparently Ben Affleck has signed on for the film version, to be directed by David Fincher, so his head keeps popping up in my mind. (And Rosamund Pike has reportedly been cast as the other lead).

I still have some other non-fiction books I must get through, including parenting books on baby sleep (it’s gotta be done) and a couple of book reviews for publication. But my focus for the rest of the year will hopefully be on fiction. I have lined up The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed and Anna Funder’s All That I Am, and I intend to get through them all before December 31. I don’t know how, since having a job with two kids under two means I pretty much only have time to read while travelling to and from work and just before bed — but I’m still going to try to reach my New Year’s Resolution goal of 20 books for the year.

And before you start being a dick, give me a break; that’s very good for me already.