Sunday, August 30, 2009

It Turns Out There Are Other Businesses Like Show Business

I love musicals. Some of the greatest films ever made are musicals. However, there is a sub-genre of musicals that are some of the worst. Such is the case with a movie I watched last night, Walter Lang's There's No Business Like Show Business. An epitome of sorts of this kind of musical from, shall we say, a "certain era". An era where just watching people sing and dance about on screen was good enough. Where songs didn't need to have any relevance whatsoever to the plot and where the film was merely an excuse for people to ham it up and put on big numbers. They usually involved costumes made with big feathers. So much mugging so little time! A time when singing was a different form altogether, a form that is so full of warbled inflections. It makes me shudder.

In Show Business Ethel Merman and Dan Dailey star as "The Two Donahues", two vaudeville performers who frequently incorporate their children in their act. The entire first 30 minutes is so bereft of plot that all it is is wall-to-wall production numbers. That mightn't be so bad if they weren't all songs by Irving Berlin, whose songs err on the side of twee mashes of sentimentality and pointlessness. In a day when musicals are cutting out songs that enhance and contribute to the plot, it's so frustrating watching old musicals wherein barely a single song serves any purpose other than to make Irving Berlin more royalty cheques.


Scenes are just interrupted by characters telling a crowd of party goers "I have a surprise for you!" and then a musical sequence proceeds. For no reason at all! And one that we've already heard, too! (for what it's worth, the song is the redundant "When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam'".) "Heatwave" and "Lazy" are fun though. These sort of movies are also really bad when it comes writing. I know realism isn't their strong suit, but characters emotions come and go in a flash while scenes play out all the time like this paraphrased moment:

"I don't like you."
"But I'm a good person!"
"Looks like I was wrong. You're wonderful!"


The movie perks up once Marilyn Monroe shows up, which is so often the case. Her singing scenes are far more interesting than those of the rest of the cast with their far more classical musical style. In fact, the movie is better in general whenever they're not singing! I also wondered if the character of Stevie (played by Johnnie Ray) was supposed to be coming off as gay. He doesn't want to go on dates and spends a lot of time "going for walks" through the city at night. He's "like a poet" says Merman. MmHmmm. Of course, there's a scene that comes off as a "coming out" moment and yet... and yet... it turns out the shocking truth that may surprise his parents is that he wants to be... A PRIEST! Oh those 1950s family values. MmHmmm, indeed. His father doesn't approve, but his female siblings prove supportive.

"You raise your kids... and then this! Why? How come? ... I'm not disappointed Steve. It's a wonderful thing. I'm just not used to it yet. But I'm proud. Very proud."

Heather Small would be, oh yes, "proud"!
I know there was a big audience for this sort of musical "back in the day", but watching it today makes me pine for the musicals like West Side Story, which came about at the end of the decade. As it stands, I'll take my disco version of Ethel Merman's "There's No Business Like Show Business" and be on my way. D+

A Tribute to Whitney Houston

Have you heard Whitney Houston's new album, I Look to You. It's about as good as the title suggest (ie; not very), but there are some corker tracks. Mostly "Million Dollar Bill", "Nothin' But Love" and "Like I Never Left". I am thankful, however, that Whitney exists because it gave us this hilarious MadTV skit from earlier in the decade. One of the funniest things I have ever seen, for sure. In fact, Debra Wilson's portrayal of Houston is one of the funniest things I have ever seen and everything she does with it is just a riot.


"Queen of the night I am!"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Review: The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria
Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: PG
Running Time: 100mins

Did you not think there were enough big hats in The Duchess? Did you think Elizabeth: The Golden Age could have done with a bit more frilly lace? Did Becoming Jane's heroine just not rise above society's sexism enough for your liking? Was The Other Boleyn Girl just too much like an episode of Melrose Place with just a lot of big flouncy dresses? Then you may just like The Young Victoria, a new period costume drama as directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée, a man who was probably only hired because his name sounds French and prestigious and, thus, looks impressive on a movie poster. Bless 'em for trying.

The problem with The Young Victoria is that it is exactly the movie you expect it to be. If you have seen the trailers and the ads on the tele ("she's changed the world while wearing puffy sleeves - she deserves your attention!" is what I imagine they say) then you probably will. A lady behind me at my session was shedding tears by films end, which is a sign that the film's orchestral score had done their job for at least one attendee. For me, however, it mostly fails to do anything verging on different.


In case you had not figured yet, there is no twist in the title for The Young Victoria. It is not some Marie Antoinette-esque telling of Queen Victoria's story in which she is actually played by someone very old who wears Doc Martins. No, no, Queen Victoria's story of love and loss AND THEN LOVE AGAINOMG!!! is played by the usually quite wonderful Emily Blunt. She is an actress who has proven a strong force on screen and has given performances in films like The Devil Wears Prada and My Summer of Love that have elevated said films. Unfortunately here she is forced to put on a weak girlishness while sporting ridiculous curls in her hair that, I guess, are meant to provide the illusion of her being younger than her 26 years. They do not work. Throughout the entire film she looks exactly the same! Hmmm.

Was anybody else aware that Queen Victoria's life was just like that out of a romance novel? Oh yes. Watch as she DEFIES HER PARENTS! Watch as she begins a SECRET LOVE AFFAIR! Watch as she must STEP OUT FROM THE SHADOW OF MEN THAT SURROUND HER! Watch as she WEARS A GREEN DRESS... ANDTHENABLUEONEOMG!!!

Speaking of the dresses, they are indeed very pretty as designed by Sandy Powell, costume designer extraordinaire. I did, however, get the impression that she just borrowed the costumes from the set of an identical movie. I could have sworn that I'd seen them before! The art direction, too, is quite nice to look at and as unimpressive as Blunt and the rest of the cast is, at least they too are attractive. I'm not sure why the genes in the British royal family mean that once someone fits a certain age their looks just VANISH, but it appears that is the case. Everyone who is young in the royal family is gorgeous, everyone who is older is just soggy and saggy.


I'm not sure how Vallée made Miranda Richardson uninteresting, but he did. Ala Charlotte Rampling's role in last year's The Duchess, she doesn't have much to do other than stand in doorways and look unimpressed by things. Rupert Friend is okay as the Queen's suitor and it's always nice to see Paul Bettany in something that is not Wimbledon.

As I said before, if you like the look of this movie then, by all means, go along. Martin Scorsese and Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson need your money!! Just don't expect surprises. Or suspense. Or emotional conflict. Or anything remotely resembling a scene in which Queen Victoria yells about having a hurricane within her. If she did then I fear we never got to see it, which is a shame and that generally makes the film a wash. I do want to send out a big piece of praise, however, to Harriet Walter. She was quite excellent in her brief role. Shame the rest of the film couldn't rise to her level. C-

Nicole Kidman's Next Decade Starts Now

The finest actor of the naughts and already one of the greats (even if it's going to take some people a few decades to realise it), Nicole Kidman looks set to begin the next decade in a blaze of glory. From the Film Experience comes this (what I assume is new) image from Rabbit Hole. It will be the first film of hers in the new decade when it gets released next year and I don't think she could start it any better. Of course, it could turn out to be a Proof-style Broadway-to-Hollywood version of the play that won Cynthia Nixon a Tony Award, but with the talent involved? I hope not.


Directed by John Cameron Mitchell (currently batting 2 for 2 after Hedwig and the Angry Itch and Shortbus) and co-starring Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Weist, Sandra Oh and Jon Tenney I was excited about it from the moment Kidman signed on. As Nathaniel points out one of her very best films is Birth, a movie that shares a few similarities with Rabbit Hole.

I also hope and hope and HOPE that The Danish Girl gets made. The film in which Kidman is set to play the transsexual lover of Charlize Theron is bound to be controversial and to push buttons and certain to incite massively differing opinions whilst bringing out the Kidman haters. Thankfully, it is generally my experience that if any combination of those things happen then the movie is inevitably brilliant (see: Birth, Dogville, Margot at the Wedding).

And how great is it to see the red hair back? Not sure why she ever got rid of it to be honest. Why get rid of one of your defining characteristics? There is a quote in this New York Times article from Eckhart that goes like this: "The reason why I’m in the movie is Nicole. If she wants to work with somebody, then that’s what happens." That quote gives me comfort. A lot of people may rag on Kidman for being "cold" or for "using too much botox" or for appearing in "flops" as if she's the first star to do so, but I like knowing that the important people realise her talent. What actor this decade has had as many films still ripe for discussion now as they were at the time? Not many I reckon. And they will continue to do so for a very long time.

May she reign for another decade before she retires and raises kangaroos on her Nashville estate and appearing at sporadic film premieres wearing really big hats.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Going Downhill

Downhill Racer. I've never seen this Robert Redford-starring movie about skiing. Something about skiing just doesn't excite me enough to watch a movie about it. Who knows what would've become of the film if the originally hired Roman Polanski had directed. Maybe I would care?! Nevertheless, you may remember that I (and anyone else with, ya know, EYES) thought the original 1969 poster is one of the greatest posters ever made. So sublime that thing is.


And then today I noticed the Criterion DVD cover. Usually even the fake ones are great, and yet here is one that is not only worse than the original art, but more along the lines of "dead-boring and flat-out bad". What a shame.


Yikes!

Away

Hey guys! So, sadly, I have had a death in the family, which explains my absence for the past couple of days and my future absence coming up. Between now and Monday I'm going to be quite busy with radio stuff and then on Monday night I'm off to Sydney for a few days and won't be back until Thursday. I'll try to get some stuff up for you (maybe a review or two), if I can fit it into my schedule, so that you're not completely devoid on entertainment from my end, but I think you can understand if you don't hear much of anything from me for the week.

By the way, don't get all "omg are you alright?" on me. Bit sad, but other than that all is fine on my end.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shouting

Isn't this just gorgeous? I had never heard of it until Xolondon mentioned it on Twitter. It is "The Shouting Stage" by the smooth Joan Armatrading.

Monday, August 24, 2009

MIFF 2009 Review: Bran Nue Dae

Bran Nue Dae
Dir. Rachel Perkins
Year: 2010
Aus Rating: PG
Running Time: 100mins

Bran Nue Dae are three words, entirely misspelt, that will, if all pans out, be on the tip of your tongue in 2010. Known to some already as a hit stage show by Jimmy Chi from 1989, director Rachel Perkins has adapted this Aboriginal musical into a film, and it is one that is bound to appeal to audience members of all ages. Bran Nue Dae screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival to rousing applause and won the audience award for Best Film – for good reason too. It looks great, sounds great and features some scene-stealing work by some of this country’s finest actors.


To read the rest then head over to Onya Magazine, a website dedicated to discussions of Australian content.

Download Me

In case you weren't aware (and if you weren't then you clearly don't read this blog properly) I was co-hosted a radio show on Saturday with the wonderful John Richards from Outland Institute. The podcast has been uploaded and you can download it here. The show was 2hrs, but it has been edited down to 1hr after getting rid of all the songs and the intros and some other stuff (which is a shame since there was some great songs on there!)

John and I will be back next week, but that's it. So listen in. Download it. Whatever you want, just listen to it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In Bed with The Stars

I watched In Bed with Madonna last night for the first time. It is otherwise known as Madonna: Truth or Dare for you American readers out there. This movie has always been quite tricky to find down here and I finally couldn't stand it anymore so I did what I never do and downloaded it. It's their own fault for having a dodgy release.

The film itself is, clearly, one of the greatest documentaries ever made and I say that as not only a fan of Madonna, but also a fan of movies. I love how it plays games with the audience - it's so brutally honest and yet... - and the technique behind it all is superb. Everything from the editing and the sound. The musical sequences too, taken from her "Blond Ambition" tour, are so very good and they look amazing too. That "Express Yourself" scene is just phenomenal. That amazing thrust strut move she does gets me every time. Of course those scenes just go even further to increasing the anger that rises inside of me whenever I realise she hasn't toured here in 16 years.

One of the biggest pleasures out of the film, however, is the celebrity spotting. The famous ones are Warren Beatty and Kevin Costner. The former because he was Madonna's boyfriend at the time and the latter because the two ended up in a feud after the film's release due to the use of the concert descriptor "neat". Oh what a fool Kevin Costner was. The funnest celebrity inclusion though is most definitely Pedro Almodovar! That was not somebody I was expecting to see. Al Pacino? Sure! Pedro Almodovar? Not at all. I love that in 1990 she even knew who he was. "I love Pedro's movies, I've seen every movie Antonio [Bandares] has ever done", she says. Amazing.










Has anybody spotted where Matt Dillon is here? I can't see him, and yet he's credited as being there. Hmmm. How amazing is that "WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE DARE?" poster near the top though? A definite favourite of mine, I must say.

A Bit of Bette

Don't ask me why, but I have been in a bit of a Bette Midler mood. Not really sure what that is meant to entail other than listening to her songs a lot though. Nevertheless, here are some of my favourites. I really wanted to include the Fast Forward version of "From a Distance" because it's very funny - the song is dreadful and yet lovely all at the same time? - but I cannot find it. That's a shame.



Friday, August 21, 2009

That Avatar Thing

I feel like I should mention my trip to "Avatar Day" this afternoon. Walking into the cinema we got given an Avatar card thingy (way to use that vocabulary, Glenn!) to hang around our necks and as we proceeded into the IMAX theatre at Melbourne Museum we got given popcorn and a drink. That proved good indeed because I was a bit peckish at that stage. Apparently fries from Maccas does nothing to satiate one's hunger.

We sat in the cinema for around 30 minutes listening to a continuous loop of what I assume was James Horner's original score and staring at an image of Avatar on the massive IMAX screen. If it was indeed the score then chalk it down as one of the strongest contenders of the year. Just the brief five minute snippet they played was amazing. We had these gaudy glasses to wear that did not fit at all on my ears and I hope these were just temporary and not the final version.


After a brief introduction by a 20th Century Fox spokesperson and James Cameron himself (on screen, naturally) they started the clips. About six in total and they each got progressively longer. The 3D in the first couple of live action scenes was quite astounding. They really did have that "you're in the scene" feel to them. Once the Sam Worthington character becomes his "avatar" I did indeed feel a twang of Jar Jar Binks, but I was surprised by how quickly I adjusted to the oddness. Especially once he (and Sigourney Weaver in her avatar) arrive on Pandora it felt much more natural.

They showed one scene in particular that truly blew me away. It's a night time sequence in which the forests of Pandora light up in a sort of glow-in-the-dark light show and it is a wonder a behold. Those colours! I am quite positive that I have never witnessed those colours before. Ever. So beautiful and on the big screen (the really big screen) they just made me ache. Stunning.


Another major setpiece was shown featuring Worthington's avatar attempting to rein in a dragon-like creature and then flying it around the planet. Quite a solid sequence that really showed off the 3D. Speaking of the 3D, however, there are still issues. Because the entire film is 3D (not just individual scenes or things being thrown out at the audience) I think I noticed a bit of an issue. Characters running around and such didn't look as entirely convincing as I perhaps should. And the use of foreground and background focus meant that you ended up with a big blurry spot right in your face from time to time. We'll see how that aspect turns out when the film is released 17 December (and 18 December in the US).

Overall though I was mightily impressed. Can't wait for December! Pictures were courtesy of My New Plaid Pants.

A Quick Thought On Inglourious Basterds

It's like an episode of 'Allo 'Allo! as directed by Quentin Tarantino. B+

I'll probably type up more later, but I will be discussing it tomorrow from 5PM on JOY 94.9. Tune in.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don't Mind Me...

...but I'm off to the Avatar preview screening at IMAX here in Melbourne. I'm sure I am about to have my shoes knocked off by all the pretty colours and visual effects. I am also sure that Sigourney Weaver is being amazing. After that I'm then off to see Inglourious Basterds and tomorrow I am on the radio again so blogging may be a bit quiet.

And yes, the radio thing is new. You know I have been guesting on Friday afternoons during John Richards' "The Outland Institute" program talking about film (which you still have time to catch today!), well for two weeks (TWO WHOLE WEEKS!) John and I are co-hosting "The Casting Couch" a two-hour movie program there on Joy 94.9 while the usual hosts are off on a little holiday. The program airs between 5pm and 7pm on Saturday and you listen via live-streaming on the website or by, ya know, listening to the radio between 5 and 7! We're reviewing Inglorious Basterds and Three Blind Mice as well as The September Issue, which I have already talked about on here.

Have a great weekend if you don't hear from me.

Review: The September Issue

The September Issue
Dir. RJ Cutler
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: PG
Running Time: 90mins

Watching the new documentary The September Issue is, at times, quite strange. It was made in 2007, which means its filming started before the similarly-themed The Devil Wears Prada was released and became a worldwide hit. Director RJ Cutler must have been kicking himself that he hadn't come up with this idea a couple of years earlier, which would have made its release come at the same time, making it able to feed off of that Hollywoodised version of the tale. It's also funny that the world of fashion is so deep into trends and seasons and yet this movie is coming out nearly two years after the fashions it features would have run their course and been thrown out by the "fashionistas" and fashionista wannabes that rush to purchase Vogue so they can feel in the know. Everybody watching The September Issue will be judging the clothes as much as they will the movie itself, and it adds an interesting dynamic in knowing that this is all from two years ago. Interesting too is that barely any of the clothes featured within are the sort of outfits that regular people could indeed purchase and wear on a coffee date. Such is the world of fashion.

As the poster states, "Fashion is a religion, this is the bible" and The September Issue goes a good way in showing just why. In its brisk - very brisk - 90 minute running time we follow the five month process that goes into creating the famed "September issue" of Vogue. Given unlimited access to the work (and occasional home) life of editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, it is this that gives the film an edge over a more broadly-based documentary on the fashion industry.


Wintour has been called many things, least offensively being "bitch" (yes, least offensive), but while she can, at times, come off as quite passive aggressive, a bitch she is not. Not to those who she cares for anyway. She's blunt, yes, but if you were in charge a media empire such as Vogue and you lived and breathed it every day of the year then I am sure you'd lose the ability to be subtle too. And the old expression is as true here as it's ever been; if Wintour was a man she would be commended for doing such a great job, but because she's a woman she is "cold" and "a bitch". It's unfortunate then that the film doesn't delve into Wintour's opinions on those ideas. It sticks strictly to the fashion and in that regards the film succeeds.

Watching this alternate universe work is quite fascinating. Watching not only Wintour, but also the likes of her fashion editor Grace Coddington, up-and-coming designer Thakoon, eccentric and flamboyant editor-at-large André Leon Talley and the many models, art directors, photographers and assistants that populate the offices at Vogue. Not enough time is given to them, unfortunately, but thankfully Cutler has recognised what a wonderful personality he has in Coddington, who eventually becomes the star of the film with her giant mass of hair and her defiant opinions on Wintour's methods. The film truly sparks when she is on screen.

Wintour herself, however, does prove to be an enjoyable person from time to time. It's quite endearing to see her cracking jokes when she has the reputation she does. She is confident and motivated and worked her arse off to get the best magazine she can onto the shelves. She is in charge of this empire and that means not talking to the models in a way that would please them then so be it. Having seen the mammoth task she undertakes - remember that whilst this "september issue" is being produced there are still other issues to be published - then I think comes off more than acceptable.


One person who doesn't come out smelling quite as nice is, unfortunately for her, Sienna Miller. The actress whose managers somehow got her onto the cover of the September issue that the film follows. Miller is ripped to shreds by this movie. Whether its everybody and their pets talking about how bad her hair is, to the photographer blaming her for a photoshoot in Room not working and then to everyone complaining her teeth are too big in one shot while her neck isn't right in another. Poor gal probably won't wanna sit down to watch The September Issue any time soon.

In the end though The September Issue is a fun time at the movies. It overflows with gorgeous feathers, frills and fashion with a great collection of characters on show. It's not all light and fluffy, but its never a drag. One just wishes that the director had used this unique and rare opportunity that he was given to truly delve into some of the more serious issues on hand such as sexism and the idea that fashion is nothing more than a waste of time by people who think football is the height of greatness. B-

Quote Whore

Unfortunately I cannot find a copy of it anywhere online, but there is a new poster for Matthew Newton's Three Blind Mice hanging in the lobby of my local Cinema Nova in Carlton. It features 11 pull quotes from various critics from such illustrious publications as Variety and the Sydney Morning Herald (ahem). There's one quote however, "Astoundingly good" it reads, that comes from the most unlikely of source.

ME!

Next thing you know I'll be drunk with marketing power and will be calling GI Joe "a rollercoaster of excitement and thrills!" As I said though I can't find it online and my mobile phone is currently "in the shop" (aka it's destroyed and never coming back) and the replacement phone is unable to take photos. Eventually I'll provide photographic evidence, I promise.

Of course, they got the URL wrong, but who am I to complain really? They could hardly put the entire blogspot address and I am currently in the process (or, pre-process, really) of actually acquiring a domain so even though it says "stalepopcorn.com" on the poster, if people really care enough they can just Google it and viola they'll arrive here. Clicking the "Three Blind Mice" label at the bottom there will take you to all the entries that the movie has figured into. It was this sad piece that bore the "astoundingly good" quote that was used.

And again, GO SEE THE MOVIE! My opinion is more necessary than ever.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 20/08/09

Adam - A movie that looks as generically made as it is titled. Apparently it's quite pleasant and lovely, but that's generally not enough to get me enthused. Rose Byrne can be quite good sometimes, but I'm currently out of interest with Hugh Dancy who I thought was quite terrible in Confessions of a Shopaholic (a movie I watched just last weekend).

The Cove - Well-received documentary about the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Dance Flick - Is it wrong that I get a chuckle out of the "Fame" reworking from the ads for this dance spoof? Other than that it looks dreadful.

Eden is West - Costa-Gavras' latest film.

Inglorious Basterds - Yes! This is a much better release date for the latest Quentin Tarantino film than the one Australia got for his last film, Death Proof, which came out over half a year after it did in America (in its Grindhouse form). Can't wait to see this one, how about you?

The September Issue - Documentary that goes behind the scenes of the famed "September Issue" of Vogue magazine.

Subdivision - This movie has just sort of... been there, hasn't it? I don't even remember reading anything about it in the past year and now it's released (and only in Queensland and New South Wales?) Hardly surprising that it's not that good. The first of many indicators was that the premiere of its poster was on Wikipedia. Er. And then it wasn't even submitted for the AFI Awards. It's a shame though since it's from director Sue Brooks who made the sublime Japanese Story as well as Road to Nhill and it has a fine cast.

Three Blind Mice - The best Australian film since Noise in 2007 finally gets the most limited of releases. It's out in Melbourne today and from next week it screens on Friday nights at the Chauvel in Sydney. Truly baffling and sad.

DVD Releases for the Week 20/08/09

Baby on Board - This is just the first direct-to-DVD film starring John Corbett this week! Also stars a bunch of other soon to be direct-to-DVD veterans such as Heather Graham, Lara Flynn Boyle and Jerry O'Connell.

Borderland - I've never heard of this either.

Bottle Shock - Some movie about wine? Does anybody care?

Dean Spanley - A film from Enzed starring Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Jeremy Northam and Peter O'Toole.

Elegy - Isabel Coixet's beautiful film that features a jaw-dropping Penelope Cruz performance. She truly blew me away. It would have definitely been in my top ten from 2008 (really? will I ever do that list?) I have a strong urge to rewatch it now just to prove to myself that I really did like it as much as I did (I loathed Coixet's My Life Without Me so much that I thought I'd never be able to remain objective about a movie from her ever again!)

I Hate Valentine's Day - A dismal-looking movie starring a far-too desperate Nia Vardalos and John Corbett. This is going direct-to-DVD, which is actually quite surprising since My Life in Ruins has been a minor hit here theatrically (it's still in release).

The International - Clive Owen and Naomi Watts run around the Guggenheim with guns. Next.

The Lucky Ones - I feel like I've heard of this movie before and yet... no.

Pride and Glory - Ed Norton and Colin Farrel play policeman brothers. Next.

The Pink Panther 2 - Just next.

Also, the second season of Man Men has been released! Woohoo! I'm totally going to have to buy that soon although I am just about to start season three of Battlestar Galactica so I'm unsure as to when I'll find the time!

This Week in Penne Hackforth-Jones News!

Alongside Heather Mitchell (aka ASHKA!!!), Penne Hackforth-Jones is one of those great Australian character actors who routinely appear in small roles and have done so for so long and yet everytime I see them I get a bit excited. She's appeared in films such as Bitter & Twisted, Muriel's Wedding, Paradise Road and Alvin Purple as well as TV series such as Number 96, GP (oh man, I used to love GP!), A Country Practice and so many more I can't list them all. Just last week I got a bit squealy upon seeing her amongst the ensemble of Mao's Last Dancer and just now I'm reading this wonderful news (wonderful for multiple reasons) about a new movie in which she will appear.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is to star in the Australian/French co-production The Tree, the new film from writer/director Julie Bertuccelli whose debut feature Since Otar Left won the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes in 2004 and the César (French Oscar) for Best First Film.

The Tree will also star Marton Csokas (Romulus My Father, Lord of the Rings) and Aden Young (Mao’s Last Dancer, Lucky Country) and will introduce Morgana Davies as Simone. Other key roles feature Penne Hackforth-Jones, Gillian Jones, Arthur Dignam and Tom Russell.

As it says up there, The Tree (cue name change, please) will be a co-production between France and Australia, which explains the strange mix of French director/star and Australian co-stars. It's also adapted from an Australian novel called Our Father Who Art In The Tree. It all sounds like a bit of a bizarre mish-mash, but one that has so many interesting people involved. I was a fan of Bertucelli's Since Otar Left and Gainsbourg is a worthwhile edition if ever there was one. Plus, you know, Penne Hackforth-Jones!!

ETA: OMG were you aware that Penne Hackforth-Jones has her own blog? That is quite fantastic, really. It is called "Penne Ponders..." and she actually writes about movies instead of, ya know, politics and social agendas like so many other famous peoples' blogs.

Sofia, Not Sophia

In the past 24 hours I have seen Sofia Coppola's name written as "Sophia" three times, which begs two questions. Why has Sofia Coppola been on people's minds today and how come they can't spell her name? Surely she's been around long enough to have people know the correct spelling. Surely.

That's all I have to say right now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Big Fat Italiant Rip-Off

My good mate Simon - of The Gun in the First Act - sent me a text message today that read:

Zomg, i've just seen the worst poster ever. "Everybody wants to be italian", but it should be called "my big fat italian ripoff"

I quickly searched for said poster and he's right. While perhaps not the "worst poster ever" it is indeed horrendous and a blatant ripoff of the poster for My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Simon is so witty, no?


Although, as far as I am aware, this film does not feature Nia Vardalos in any way so it's probably better. Even the man's pose is the same! Yikes. And then there's this poster, which... well, I'm not quite sure what it's all about.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Lynch. Herzog. Shannon. Dafoe. Sevigny. Ostriches.

The title was the tweet that Rob Ruminski used that alerted me to the presence of a movie called My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, a movie that is truly baffling me in so many ways. Watch the trailer below and then join me for question time.


There. Did you watch it?

WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Did it not just stink of "direc-to-DVD"? Everything from the dodgy voice over to the uninteresting way they have filmed Los Angeles, to the rote police/rookie plot line and all that. The only difference between this and so many other direct-to-DVD titles is that it is directed by Werner Herzog and stars three Academy Award nominees. Oh and it is "presented" by David Lynch. I truly cannot fathom this project. It appears to be straddling the line between wanting to be a major mainstream release and being so batshit crazy that it will be released in three cinemas during a lonely week in June.

Herzog sure does work fast, doesn't he?. His 2009 release Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans hasn't even been released yet and already we have a trailer for his next release from 2010 and this is just just a year after the release of his documentary Encounters at the End of the World, which scored Herzog is first Academy Award nomination. He seems to have a fascination with police at the moment, doesn't me? Nicolas Cage stars in the aforementioned Lieutenant (a sort of spin-off from Abel Ferrara's film) and now this My Son... thing.

Alongside Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe and Chloe Sevigny are are cult names like Udo Kier and, one of David Lynch's favourite crazy ladies, Grace Zabriskie. Maybe that's why he's presenting this movie, And then there's Michael Peña, Irma P Hall and "Vaughn" from General Hospital, James C Burns. How incredibly bizarre.

Apatow in Australia

Like clockwork, really. Barely two weeks after Judd Apatow's latest directorial job, Funny People, flopped at the American box office, Apatow himself has flown into down to spruik his product to a nation of people studios think won't know any better. It's a well-travelled path; a celebrity being flown into Australia to sell their latest movie on the back of disappointing box office or bad buzz. A good 95% of the time whenever an actor is in town doing interviews the movie they are selling isn't worth the cost of the airfare let alone the cost of a ticket.

Sure, sometimes this is not the case. They hardly needed to put Meryl, Colin and Dominic on a plane down here to sell Mamma Mia! to the masses, but by and large you can count on a celebrity trip equalling a bad movie. I remember one infamous time when Charlize Theron was sent here to talk about North Country and then the movie made less at the box office than it would have cost to get her here. Poor distributors, thinking they can cover their arse with glitter and sparkles (aka celebrities).

However, sending Judd Apatow here? That's a bit... bland. For a movie that stars Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and "Australia's Own™" Eric Bana the best they could get is Apatow? He's hardly a celebrity here like he is in America. Nevertheless, he's been out there selling his movie, telling stories about just how darn funny "Australia's Own™" Eric Bana is and how crazy it was discovering how funny he was. He even went to the football and has had photo shoots decked out in St Kilda garb. The media, who fawn over even the most B grade of celeb, will be calling him an "honourary Aussie" in no time!

Funny People is out in cinemas 10 September and by then nobody will remember he was ever here. Money well spent!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

MIFF 2009 Review: The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon
Dir. Michael Haneke
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: N/A
Running Time: 144mins

As some people will be aware, I have a strange relationship when it comes to Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. Of the films from his resume that I have seen, opinions run wild from the excellence of Hidden to the appalling Time of the Wolf. I have routinely felt that he is a director who feels he is better than you, me and everyone we know. Although his recent shot-for-shot remake of his own dire Funny Games proves that, perhaps, he's not as smart as he thinks. All this brings me to The White Ribbon, a movie that feels like none other than Haneke has made.

This latest, the winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes earlier this year, feels distinctly different to his previous work. Not so much more conventional as it is made with more conventional ingredients. There's a love story, notably pretty cinematography and a fluid flow made out of less stagnant shots. Of course that doesn't mean the movie is any more mainstream than The Piano Teacher. There is a mystery that doesn't get resolved, there are disturbing themes of violence and sexual repression and other goodies just like it. If Hidden couldn't break him out of the arthouse ghetto then I doubt this will.


A man riding his horse gets tripped by a hidden wire in the opening scene of The White Ribbon, and so starts the series of mysterious events that plague the villagers in this pre-WWI German town. And while they prove quite fascinating Haneke seems to lose interest, as I was certain he would, and instead decides to focus more on the lives of these townsfolk. There's a religious teacher, the adulterous Baroness, the nosy school children, the mean-spirited doctor. It could almost count as a soap opera if it weren't for all the displays of pretension and worshipping of arthouse deities. The mysteries are always there, mostly kept to the background, but he has other things on his mind. What they are I can't quite say.

That may come off as negative, but I actually quite liked The White Ribbon in a general sort of way. I battled sinking eyelids throughout early parts of the film, but once I got over my enjoyment went up. Perhaps "enjoyment" isn't the right word, actually, since there's not much here to enjoy if the typical sense, but the world that Haneke makes here is a great study and one that is filled with tension, danger and even, at times, delightful frivolity.


However, and there tends to always be a however when it comes to Haneke and I, I can't help but feel that The White Ribbon is yet another case of a director putting too much onto the audience when there, perhaps, might not be enough there to warrant it. I am sure Haneke has all sorts of ideas inserted into this movie, which he also wrote, but yet again a director has gone down the path of ambiguity to disguise it and, judging from the people sitting around me at the MIFF screening, I'm not alone in thinking that it's not there on the screen. It's all well and good for a film to be a metaphor or an allegory or whatever Haneke intentended this film to be, but if he expects the audience to pick up all of the slack then I don't know if he has done his job.

There are moments here that with just minor tweaking could have really changed the entire film. Whether that be making it more sinister or having less of a wondering eye in regards to certain plot points. He also provides narration, but that barely helps since it usually acts as nothing more than a literal narration of what is on screen. By now fans of Haneke can probably see anything they want to see in one of his movies, but I'm not entirely positive that with this film it actually is there. No amount of stunning - and I do mean stunning - cinematography (by Christian Berger) or solid acting (my personal favourite being who I believe is Leonie Benesch, but character names are all a blur here so I can't be entirely positive unfortunately) can hide that. For me The White Ribbon falls squarely alongside Code Unknown. Respectable and well-intentioned, but flawed by a director who is too busy being mysterious instead of actually just telling a story. B-

Saturday, August 15, 2009

President Roslin is Better than You

Anybody that follows me on Twitter will be keenly aware that I have recently been watching Battlestar Galactica. For a while there it was like I'd type several tweets for each episode that I have been watching back-to-back. Most of them revolving around my love for Mary McDonnell as President Roslin. Man oh man how great is McDonnell? (Also, how bad was Man O Man "back in the day"? Aw). I have read for years how people thought she had been robbed of Emmy love and only now do I finally realise why.

Watching Battlestar Galactica these days is, however, a tricky prospect. I have only just completely season two with it's crazy jump at the end, which I did not see coming at all. So many people have written about Battlestar over the past few years that I am constantly worried I am going to come across something I don't want to. I want to go into this series as blind as possible, which is so very very hard. It's all very Blair Witch Project; "I'm scared to Google, I'm scared to IMDb." I was even worried about finding the picture up there of McDonnell since other images may have appeared alongside it showing stuff that I didn't want spoiled.

I am hopefully going to acquire season three very soon (John Richards, are you hearing me?!), which will help calm me. Watching the show a few years after it originally aired though is tough. I wanna talk to people about it, but - as I have already mentioned - I am wary of spoilers. I do wonder though, is the Dr. Gaius/Number 6 storyline the least interesting to everybody else? Does anybody else not like Chief as much as I do? Is President Roslin the greatest fictional President ever?

I'm glad I'm watching it the way I am though. The (multiple) networks that screened the show here did it such a horrible way that I never would have been able to keep up. And, in all honestly, I don't know how anybody watched this show from week to week and managed to keep their sanity. I need to move on to the next episode straight away! I'd just crumble from the anticipation of it all.

Movies in Movies: Battle Royale in Shaun of the Dead


Sorry for appearing absent lately. Life happens. Writer's block happens. etc.

The Twilight "Saga" Must Be Stopped!

They keep taking interesting actors! The list continues to grow with the likes of Dakota Fanning, Bryce Dallas Howard, Xavier Samuel, Nikki Reed and now - perhaps most frightening of all - the so-called "Twilight Saga" has managed to rope in an Academy Award-nominated actress in the form of Catalina Sandino Moreno! Moreno, as you may recall, was nominated for her work in Maria Full of Grace a few years ago.

Now, Moreno hasn't exactly been rivalling some others in Hollywood and churning out five movies a year, but she's accrued a small and steady career out of movies such as Paris je t'aime, Che and Fast Food Nation in which she had by far the best storyline. That she's had to resort to appearing in Eclipse is a sad sign of the way actors of colour must go about earning their rent. Will she be playing a Hispanic character though? I can't imagine the northern states of America have too many people of Colombian descent. Or will they pretend she's Native American and accept that nobody will notice?

Please forgive my ignorance if I misused the word "Hispanic".

Friday, August 14, 2009

Me Plus One

I scored an invite to AVATAR DAY! You can proceed with jealousy now.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Movies in Movies: Citizen Kane in Day For Night

The Trailers are Back

Here are some trailers that I have neglected to mention, all for new Aussie films coming out some time in the next six months of the year.

The Boys are Back - Clive Owen stars in Scott Hicks' new film about an absent father who must take care of his children after his ex-wife dies. Basically it's an excuse to make audiences cry. Don't you find it interesting though when these sort of things happen and people can just take months off work? It's also annoying when the title of a movie is so obviously a song reference and yet they don't make use of said song? Gah!

Mao's Last Dancer - An adaptation of the popular book, directed by Bruce Beresford (remember him?) This actually stars Amanda Schull! As somebody who watched Centre Stage way too many times as a teenager, I can't tell you how amazing/strange/funny it is to see her in a movie again. It may surprise you to learn this is an Aussie film, but anyone with a keen eye could tell you it is. Nestled right in the middle of this trailer is but a brief glimpse of none other than Penne Hackforth-Jones! PENNE HACKFORTH-JONES, PEOPLE! I'm absolutely in love with the music score from the second half of this trailer though and even if the film proves a disappointment (memories of The Children of Huang Shi linger) there should at least be some great dance sequences.

Three Blind Mice - Still the best Aussie film of the year (and last year, when I actually saw it!) and it is finally being released here next week (but not Sydney). Do yourself a favour!

Charlie & Boots - Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson star are a father and son travelling 3000 miles... wait, what? 3000 miles? Hmmm. Whose bright idea was it to use an American term like "miles" in an Australian movie? It's not like this is exactly going to be getting an American release any time soon so it really serves no purpose. Silly idiots. The second half of this trailer - the sentimental half - is dirge too. Really can't say I'm looking forward to this one.



Triangulate the Variables

I remember a few years ago there were a spate of these sort of "pick what poster we should use" voting things. A lot of the time they involved fans making posters and then people voting (I distinctly remember it for Resident Evil), but this one is different. The new Australian/UK horror flick Triangle is currently seeking your opinion. They have four different posters and they just want you to vote for on. The winner will be used as the official poster for the film's release (mid-October for the UK, elsewhere I'm unaware).

I think the first one is quite boring, and the second isn't that good mainly because of the ugly colour (it is the colour of sea sickness, is it not?) and the too obvious visual conceit. I like the idea of the third one, but I'm not sure if it's enough, ya know? I voted for the fourth poster because I liked it's visual idea with the angles and lines and thought that, of the four, it would be the one most likely to grab the eye of person walking by.

What about you? Head on over and vote and let us know what you chose!