Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nurse!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm Here to Save Screen Australia Time and Money

Followers of Australian cinema may have heard that Screen Australia, the country's primary government funding body, has decided to launch an internal review into the how and why of the film's disastrous box office.

A Screen Australia board member prompted an internal review into the box office failure of the agency-backed drama Two Fists One Heart earlier this year.

The informal inquiry – headed by Screen Australia chief executive Ruth Harley – comes amid an economic downturn which has lowered private investment and slashed production budgets across the industry.

...

The $8 million film (which included a $4 million investment from Screen Australia) grossed just $295,000 at the local box office, according to the agency. (The Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia recently updated the figure to $305,300.)

Amazingly Two Fists One Heart did cost $8million. I'm not so sure as to where all the money went because it certainly wasn't on the screen, and it sounds awfully similar to the $7million boxing drama The Tender Hook making less than $70,000. Yes, LESS THAN $70,000! But we're not here to talk about the many failures of that movie.

Apparently Screen Australia can't quite fathom how this movie failed with audiences and so I decided to take some of my own time and try to save Screen Australia some of their time (and money - government tax payer funded money) by letting them in on some of the reasons why. I doubt Screen Australia's investigators will think of these as negatives since this is the same organisation that hand out payments to directors each year who have no desire to make product that is in any way "commercial".

1. "Two Fists One Heart" - You cannot tell me that anybody, outside of the person who came up with it, thinks that that is a good title for a movie. Actually, I'm sure there's quite a few people out there who would like to see this movie if it were about a doctor and his naughty nurses, but Screen Australia isn't gonna start funding those movies. I know your film is about boxing and Two Fists would have worked somewhat better than the sickness-inducing blahness of "Two Fists One Heart". Nobody wants to see a movie with that title.

2. The trailer - When I mentioned the film and it's trailer earlier in the year I said this: "the trailer's penchant for sickening title cards like "FAMILY" and "LOYALTY" don't illicit much enthusiasm." Watch the trailer below and just try to tell me that you don't agree. It can't be done.



3. The Release Date - Granted, the producers and the distributors couldn't have known that in just a few months the fortunes for Australian films would take a (comparatively) massive turnaround in the public eyes (eight $1mil+ grosses so far in 2009 compared to two in 2008), but there were far more obvious reasons to withhold release of Two Fists One Heart.

Jessica Marais is one of the stars of Two Fists One Heart and you know what else she stars in? Packed to the Rafters, the highest rated show on Australian television with a rough average of 1.9 million viewers a week (figures here). The second series premiered in July 2009 and yet Two Fists One Heart was released in March. Seems like a big mistake when you consider the details.

The other thing to consider in regards to the release day is that that the NRL season began on 13 March and the AFL season two weeks later on 26 March. I'm not sure on the exact statistics, but aren't they prime times for people to be staying in on Friday and Saturday nights to watch their favourite teams play for the first time since September? I know if I was far more interested in watching my beloved Geelong Cats trounce Hawthorn than I was seeing naff-sounding movie about boxing.

4. Boxing - I'm not sure boxing is a sport that people want to see. Am I crazy for thinking that? Not even Cinderella Man, starring "our Russell Crowe", couldn't muster much enthusiasm with audiences. It's useless to bring The Tender Hook into this discussion, but perhaps it should. Movies about boxing just aren't that interesting to audiences in 2009.

5. Marketing - This is obviously the big reason. I've already looked at the trailer, but what else did they do wrong? Disney Australia have this penchant for making bad movies (other recent released include Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger and Subdivision, which curiously wasn't even released in Victoria!)
5.a Let's look at the poster, shall we? It's shit.

So people who may have actually wanted to see a boxing movie won't know it's about boxing and those who are just on the lookout for a good movie to see won't see it because, well, look at it.


Throw in a confusing title/tag line combo and you have a recipe for failure.

5.b I believe it was around March that Samson & Delilah started the build-up to its May release. It screened at the Adelaide Film Festival in February and after that did regular advance screenings. We all know what happened after that. Two Fists One Heart should have, has I already noted, withheld its release and done ANYTHING to get noticed. Advance screenings being a given, but I don't remember reading any press. Shocking since its two stars are stars from two of the highest rating programs in Australian history. Marais in the aforementioned Packed to the Rafters and Daniel Amalm in Underbelly. Those programs don't even get a mention on the poster, which we have already established is a waste.

5.c He's not my kinda guy, but Daniel Amalm is half naked for a lot of the film. I imagine staring at him for a couple of hours would be far more entertaining for some audience members than the movie they went to go see instead.


6. The Movie - Lastly, it also didn't help that the movie just isn't that good. Sure, it received plenty of nice reviews, but nothing much in the way of raves, which is what a movie like this needed with the absence of good marketing. I know I wouldn't recommend this movie to people, but maybe that's just me.

Conclusion Hey, Screen Australia! How come you're doing an internal review of Two Fists One Heart and not, say, Cedar Boys? Serhat Caradee's Cedar Boys received government funding - although, nothing as high as the ludicrous $4mil of Two Fists - and was a far, far better film that deserved much more than it's $204,160 gross. Perhaps Screen Australia should be investigating why someone in their office gave four million of the government's money to a first-time feature director. Shawn Seet must have done one helluva pitch!

So there we go. No need for any grand investigations. It comes down to the same ol' same ol' when it comes to why an Aussie film fails. Nobody knows it exists, and those who do think it looks like crap. Investigation over.

Review: Into the Shadows

Into the Shadows
Dir. Andrew Scarano
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 90mins

It’s curious to be watching a film such as Andrew Scarano’s Into the Shadows, since a large portion of the film is dedicated to investigating why Australian audiences don’t go see Australian films. And yet I’m sure the one thing Australian audiences want to see less than an Australian film is an Australian documentary on why they’re not going to Australian cinema. Okay, that’s complicated, but I’m sure you followed it.

Read the rest at Onya Magazine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

45 Seconds to Break Your Heart

Anybody who read my Sugababes eulogy will know how I feel about the gals, and now the day has come where - thanks to these here interwebs - some of the studio versions of tracks that were recorded by the group when they still had Keisha Buchanan have emerged. The Sugababes are over, but the name continues with Heidi Range, Ammelle Berabah and Jade Ewen and there isn't work yet on which of these Keisha recordings are going to be rerecorded and which ones will be scrapped. The best of the Keisha versions is "Thank You For the Heart Break", a stormer of a disco song that's been injected with steroids. Reminds a lot of Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music" with its music-is-cathartic message and bevy of swirling beats.

However, there are 45 seconds in the song that prove just why these girls were as good as I and many others say. Listen to the track below and listen carefully from 2:12-2:57 and they are some of the greatest 45 seconds of the entire decade, true. No hyperbole. That middle eight is just amazing - they were always good at that - and the broken down chorus that follows with its dark, almost menacing, beats and Keisha's adlibs - we love Keisha's adlibs - are enough to break this listeners heard, knowing we will never get an album of it ever again. It's so very good and even though they are far far away from the sound they used to have, they were still head and shoulders above most groups of their kind.


I will listen to the new "Sugababes" record, but having already heard Jade's vocals on songs like "About a Girl" I can already tell they've lost something massive. Oh well. Pop carries on.

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 29/10/09

The Box - It's almost unfathomable that Richard Kelly's latest film is getting a release. And a cinema release. Definitely wanting to see this although Cameron Diaz's accent will certainly be something to bare through.

The Marriage of Figaro - This new Australian romantic comedy (I think) has been screening to success in South Australia and is starting its very limited national roll-out.

Michael Jackson's This Is It - I don't think I'll be going along to see it

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - Terry Gilliam's latest film has quite a cast - you already know about Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law - and definitely sounds intriguing, but I have never particularly been a Gilliam fan (I don't even like Brazil).

Into the Shadows - An Aussie documentary about this country's film industry, the lack of audiences for them and the death of independent cinemas. My review will be up at Onya later today.

It Might Get Loud - Another documentary, this one a music documentary with Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. It was directed by Davis Guggenheim who made one of the worst documentaries in the form of An Inconvenient Truth and I've been reading not many positive things about it.

Prime Mover - David Ceaser's latest film is about a truckie and his new wife, played by Michael Dorman and Emily Barclay respectively. A review is forthcoming, but it will not be positive. It opens in regional NSW today, but isn't in larger cities until early November.

DVD Releases for the Week 29/10/09

Katyn - Andrzej Wajda's Oscar-nominated WWII drama (what else?).

Star Trek - Funny fact, I got a piece of hate email a couple of months back because of my Star Trek review. Basically the person was offended that I let politics get in the way, as I wrote "Not only do the armies of the future have only one member of each minority (and broad minorities too such as "women", "Asians" and "blacks"), but "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is still very much in effect." How dare I?!

Trick 'r Treat - This horror film had been one of those apparently its-so-good-but-the-nasty-studio-won't-let-us-see-it for so long and then it was released on DVD and people realised why it was left on the shelf for so long. Moving on.

I also feel like I should mention the curious/hilarious fact that there has been a Babel / A Mighty Heart combopack released for those who need Brangelina together all the time being all politically active.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

AFI Nominations Announced!

The Australian Film Institute have released their annual award nominations in the last hour and, as per usual, there are some oddities mixed in with the goodies. Let's take a look at the good, the bad and the Ana Kokkinos, shall we?


SAMSUNG MOBILE AFI AWARD FOR BEST FILM
Balibo (John Maynard, Rebecca Williamson)
Beautiful Kate (Leah Churchill-Brown, Bryan Brown)
Blessed (Al Clark)
Mao’s Last Dancer (Jane Scott)
Mary and Max (Melanie Coombs)
Samson & Delilah (Kath Shelper)

Five of these felt like obvious nominees - Balibo, Beautiful Kate, Mao's Last Dancer, Mary and Max and Samson & Delilah - in this year's expanded category of six. However, the shocker is Blessed being nominated over the likes of Australia, Cedar Boys, Disgrace, My Year Without Sex and so on. The ego of Ana Kokkinos has been stroked yet again for such a mediocre film.


I imagine this is not a fun woman to be around :/

AFI MEMBERS’ CHOICE AWARD
Australia (Baz Luhrmann, G. Mac Brown, Catherine Knapman)
Balibo (John Maynard, Rebecca Williamson)
Beautiful Kate (Leah Churchill-Brown, Bryan Brown)
Mao’s Last Dancer (Jane Scott)
Mary and Max (Melanie Coombs)
Samson & Delilah (Kath Shelper)

Quite tellingly, the non-professional members of AFI chose Baz Luhrmann's Australia over Ana Kokkinos' Blessed. Imagine that!

BEST DIRECTION
Robert Connolly, Balibo
Rachel Ward, Beautiful Kate
Bruce Beresford, Mao’s Last Dancer
Warwick Thornton, Samson & Delilah

Nothing really to note here. Thankfully Kokkinos didn't get nominated. It's a bit disappointing that Adam Elliot wasn't able to continue his run of luck that recently saw him win the Director's Guild of Australia award though, but these four are fine enough.

BEST LEAD ACTOR
Anthony LaPaglia, Balibo
Ben Mendelsohn, Beautiful Kate
Hugo Weaving, Last Ride
Rowan McNamara, Samson & Delilah

All of these actors, excluding debut actor McNamara, could have done their performances in their sleep and I think LaPaglia and Weaving were weaker parts of their respective films, but it's obvious why they were nominated over the likes of Les Chantery (Cedar Boys) and Paul Hogan (Charlie & Boots). The big WTF moment is the snub of John Malkovich in Disgrace. Not just him, in fact, but the entire film. What happened there? I can't help but feel that AFI voters (of which I am one of, by the way) reacted against the fact that it's not an "Australian story".

BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Sophie Lowe, Beautiful Kate
Frances O’Connor, Blessed
Sacha Horler, My Year Without Sex
Marissa Gibson, Samson & Delilah

I could have predicted these nominees in my sleep. All worthy nominees, I gotta say. I would've preferred Jessica Haines for Disgrace, but... well... yeah.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Brandon Walters, Australia
Damon Gameau, Balibo
Oscar Isaac, Balibo
Bryan Brown, Beautiful Kate

The nomination for Walters is surprising, especially given the lack of major nominations Australia got, but the best surprise is Damon Gameau for Balibo, who I figured wouldn't be known enough to get in. Brown and Isaac were obvious and there really aren't any other true contenders. As usual with any Supporting Actor category at any award show.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Bea Viegas, Balibo
Maeve Dermody, Beautiful Kate
Rachel Griffiths, Beautiful Kate
Mitjili Gibson, Samson & Delilah

I'm a big fan of Dermody, but her inclusion here is disappointing since her character in Beautiful Kate is borderline horrific. Viegas is a nice surprise, but her role is miniscule and Gibson - Marissa's own grandmother - gets in on the wave of Samson & Delilah love. Griffiths will surely win, however, in a case of Toni Collette Syndrome. Vale Hanna Mangan-Lawrence who gave the finest supporting performance of the year and couldn't manage a nomination. Such a shame.


Hanna decides to run away before having a good cry over her lack of AFI nomination.

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR
Russell Crowe, State of Play
Martin Henderson, House
Anthony LaPaglia, Without a Trace
Guy Pearce, Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories, really? I guess it's a nomination that can sit alongside it's Kid's Choice Award nominations for Favourite Movie and Favourite Movie Actor. Woohoo! I would have figured they'd go with Ryan Kwantan in True Blood or, more obviously, Eric Bana in Star Trek.

INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Rose Byrne, Damages
Toni Collette, United States of Tara
Melissa George, In Treatment
Mia Wasikowska, In Treatment

I'd instantly say Toni Collette will win, but they gave her an award last year so maybe they'll go with Wasikowska who has been making a lot of news down here lately in regards to her Hollywood success.

YOUNG ACTOR AWARD
Brandon Walters, Australia
Sebastian Gregory, Beautiful
Tom Russell, Last Ride
Toby Wallace, Lucky Country
Marissa Gibson, Samson & Delilah
Rowan McNamara, Samson & Delilah

Will probably be Gibson or Walters as makeup for not winning their acting categories, although I thought Tom Russell was fantastic in the otherwise dreadful Last Ride.

MACQUARIE AFI AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Cedar Boys, Serhat Caradee
Mary and Max, Adam Elliot
My Year Without Sex, Sarah Watt
Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton

I actually think this may be my favourite category of the lot. There is not one disappointing film here, and I'm extra happy that Serhat Caradee got something for Cedar Boys since it was so very good. This will probably go to Adam Elliot or Warwick Thornton and I'm leaning more towards Elliot as a sort of consolation prize. Plus it's far more wordy than S&D, which probably means something.

MACQUARIE AFI AWARD FOR BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Balibo, Robert Connolly & David Williamson
Beautiful Kate, Rachel Ward
Blessed, Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius & Christos Tsiolkas
Mao’s Last Dancer, Jan Sardi

There were only seven adapted titles this year and when you erase Disgrace, which the AFI clearly did not like, these four seem like obvious nominees since the other adapted contenders were $9.99 and Closed For Winter, which obviously weren't getting anywhere near the AFI nominations.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Balibo, Tristan Milani ACS
Beautiful Kate, Andrew Commis
Last Ride, Greig Fraser
Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton

Apart from Greig Fraser - a current major contender for Oscar glory with Jane Campion's Bright Star, sure to be an AFI heavy hitter next year - these are all fine nominees. I'm not sure I'll ever quite understand what people aren't seeing in Mandy Walker's cinematography on Australia, but there ya go. Or what about Richard Michalak's work on Newcastle or Jules O'Loughlin and Lucky Country?

BEST EDITING
Balibo, Nick Meyers ASE
Blessed, Jill Bilcock ACE, ASE
Mao’s Last Dancer, Mark Warner
Samson & Delilah, Roland Gallois

The lesson to be learnt here is that if you have two time periods running parallel then you'll be nominated in this category since three of the nominees follow that well-travelled path. Jill Billcock surely got in here on name alone since the editing in that film was rote.

BEST SOUND
Australia, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Wayne Pashley MPSE, Guntis Sics
Balibo, Sam Petty, Emma Bortignon, Phil Heywood, Ann Aucote
Mao’s Last Dancer, David Lee, Andrew Neil, Yulia Akerholt, Mark Franken, Roger Savage
Samson & Delilah, Liam Egan, David Tranter, Robert Sullivan, Tony Murtagh, Yulia Akerholt, Les Fiddess

Outside of the major categories, the Best Sound nomination for Samson & Delilah is perhaps the most impressive of all. What stunning work these people did on the soundscapes for that movie! So glad they noticed it alongside the heavies nominated alongside.

BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Australia, David Hirschfelder, Felix Meagher, Baz Luhrmann, Angela Little
Balibo, Lisa Gerrard
Mao’s Last Dancer, Christopher Gordon
Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton

I'll be honest and say that I don't remember the music to Samson & Delilah at all (outside of remembering those glorious song cues), but the other three nominations are all great. I'm personally hoping for Christopher Gordon who gave great Hollywood on the Mao's Last Dancer score. Interesting that Baz Luhrmann and Angela Little were nominated alongside Hitschfelder and Meagher. The original song "By the Boab Tree" was included in the "original music score" definition I presume.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Australia, Catherine Martin, Ian Gracie, Karen Murphy, Beverley Dunn
Balibo, Robert Cousins
Mao’s Last Dancer, Herbert Pinter
Mary and Max, Adam Elliot

So happy that Mary and Max was recognised for it's art direction, which is totally deserved. The other three are all worthy nominees, but I'm wondering if Catherine Martin can win here and in Best Costume Design or if ambivalence (or outright hatred) towards the film will stop what should be an easy get for her.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Australia, Catherine Martin, Eliza Godman
Balibo, Cappi Ireland
Lucky Country, Mariot Kerr
Mao’s Last Dancer, Anna Borghesi

Can't complaints here. Lovely to see Lucky Country here since I feel it deserved more.

AFI AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY
Bastardy, Philippa Campey, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Lynn-Maree Milburn, Andrew de Groot
The Choir, Chris Hilton, Michael Davie
Glass: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts, Scott Hicks, Susanne Preissler
Lionel, Lizzette Atkins

All the other nominees - including ones such as "Best Direction of a Documentary Under 1 Hour" (yup) and all the TV nominations (basically the Underbelly and Review With Myles Barlow show there - what a wonderful treat in regards to the latter!) can be found at The Australian or the AFI website.

All in all it's a fine set of nominees, slightly hampered by movies like Blessed and Last Ride showing up where they have no right to. A lot will be made of Baz's Australia missing out on the big categories, but he'll have to console himself with making the second-highest grossing Aussie film of all time (after only Crocodile Dundee) and having a career making movies that people actually see. I'm sure he'll manage. It's also a shame to see Lake Mungo go unnoticed, especially since Black Water somehow managed to get through the genre bias to some major nominations. That film just can't catch a break!

Movies to be snubbed altogether are the aforementioned Lake Mungo and Disgrace as well as $9.99, Charlie & Boots (a really wonderful movie, but hard to nominate), Closed for Winter, The Combination, Dying Breed (a definite shocker), Stone Bros, Newcastle (a worthy-ish film), Sweet Marshall, Two Fists One Heart (I have a piece on that movie coming up hopefully today or tomorrow), Under a Red Moon, Van Diemen's Land (because it's crap) and The View from Greenhaven.

Twin Peaks x10

Writing that bit about David Lynch and Twin Peaks put me in a mood. Doesn't it always when you think about Twin Peaks, even just momentarily?










David Lynch Likes Slumdog Millionaire?

True.

I discovered this video at dugpa.com of David Lynch discussion a bevy of things with Amoeba. He mentions that the only recent movie he's particularly liked was Slumdog Millionaire and that's a very disappointing thing, indeed. This was my face when I heard him say it:


Very disappointing, David!

A lot of the interview is filled with David Lynch's usual blather about "ideas" and "fish" and "transcendental meditation", however there is a nice bit of info towards the start regarding the infamous deleted scenes of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. They're hoping for some developments on that next year, but - let's be honest - the likelihood of that happening is, well, not very likely at all.



There has also been news that a new Twin Peaks picture book was to be released. Here's what has been said:

'Northwest Passages' contains a treasure trove of rare and unpublished photos from Paula's personal archive. It's all here, from deleted scenes, intimate portraits, photos that ended up as key props within the show to official publicity shots and cast and crew having fun on the set. This lavish hardback edition will be strictly limited and numbered. We highly suggest registering your interest now to secure your copy and avoid disappointment.

Very exciting, indeed!

My Apologies, Bai

It just occurred to me last night that in my ten favourite horror movie performances of the '00s entry a few days ago that I forgot one very important player. It is, of course, Bai Ling in Dumplings. This quite shocking Chinese film is something to behold and if you've seen it you know what I'm talking about! Those dumplings... wow. Ling was fantastic though as the chef with the, ahem, potent dumplings and deserves to be ranked accordingly.

My apologies, Bai Ling. You are a deranged, crazy cat!

Tyler Perry, "The Colour Yellow" and Precious

I am aware that African American director Tyler Perry is a "name" in America and can get away with being incredibly arrogant by including his name in a movie title - even going so far as to make his titles grammatically vulgar, Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion, anyone? - but his names value doesn't extend outside of America where his films rarely get a release. I know a handful of his movies have gone direct-to-DVD in Australia, but that's about it.

However, as smart as getting Perry's name on board for the release of Precious is, I find it a bit bizarre that his name is being used to advertise the movie outside of America. He and Oprah Winfrey jumped on board as executive producers - a term that, I think, means they don't actually do anything to physically make the film, but merely provide cash or other means of support - late in the game, which is quite a coup since those names are two of the biggest selling names in the USA. It is Winfrey, however, that remains the only person associated with Precious that is known outside of American en masse (excluding supporting players Mariah Carey and less-so Lenny Kravitz) so I guess it's only natural to keep her name on the poster, but Tyler Perry? His name on a foreign Precious poster, such the Dutch one below, is more likely to result in responses of "who is that?"


It is comforting to see foreign marketing for this film though, since it's not a film that would have received a major international release if it weren't so critically acclaimed. It's nice knowing that it will be seen theatrically by audiences outside of film festivals. I wonder how well Mo'Nique gets dubbed into Chinese or Spanish. It is not comforting to see the foreign marketing take such a step down from the American work. The posters being used in America are all works of art (see them here) and a blandly photoshopped movie still (yellow is still in, see the original photo) isn't anywhere near as classy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: The Man From Hong Kong

The Man from Hong Kong
Dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith & Jimmy Wang Yu
Year: 1975
Aus Rating: R18+ (DVD: MA15+)
Running Time: 111mins

The Man from Hong Kong begins with a fist fight on top of Uluru and ends with George Lazenby being - very literally - set on fire. In between there are explosions, kung fu, abseiling, hang gliding, sword fights, grenades, sniper rifles, Chinese food, cars flying through weatherboard houses, nudity, party crashers, assassins, slapstick comedy plus "Sky High" by 1970s one-hit wonders Jigsaw as the movie's theme song! Does this not amaze you?

The plot, what litter there is to be attained in between fight sequences, is this: Some Chinese dude must come to Australia to take a drug dealer back to Hong Kong, but he then becomes involved in some sort of mission to bring down Sydney's biggest drug kingpin. Or something to that effect. It really doesn't matter, does it?

The action scenes, courtesy mostly of Jimmy Wang Yu, are what anybody watching this movie in this day and age is after and they don't disappoint. Apart from the opening scene at Uluru, there is the famous stunt wherein Yu kicks a man off of a moving motorbike and - my favourite - the knife fight in the Chinese restaurant, there are battles with a pack of kung fu experts, a car chase along a cliff and a moment that would cause PC cops today to shudder at the media attention it would receive. While making former "James Bond" George Lazenby look like a profession martial arts expert is a challenge, there are moments when the action is full on. You can tell it's real when the dirty footprints are left on the shirt of a man who has just been kicked in the gut by an agile kung fu master.


In other regards the film is not so much of a success. Acting is generally quite woeful with Yu being the worst offender and his occasional love interests - Rebecca Gilling predominantly - all register nil on a score of ten. At least George Lazenby is having fun! Or was he? At least the cinematography by future Oscar-winner Russell Boyd is lively and the score by Noel Quinlan is energetic and exciting like many scores from this period of Australian cinema. I'm surprised Quentin Tarantino hasn't used bits of the score in his films! Actually, the entire car chase that happens towards the end of the film was, surely, the inspiration for the near-identical scene that Tarantino featured in Death Proof.

One of the film's guiltiest pleasures is watching in shock and awe at how incredibly racist the film is. And while it is the Asian race that bares the brunt of it, the white people are presented as such moronic doofuses on many occasions that I can't help but feel writer/director Brian Trenchard-Smith was an equal opportunist in this department! How does one explain the scene in which Yu is kissing a girl and she mentions her surprise at how good it it, to which he responds with a joke about acupuncture! And just moments earlier the woman was making slanty-eye jokes! Or when asked "do you normally sleep with white women" he replies "Only on Tuesdays and Thursdays." I am not making this up! And then there's the barrage of comments from the white police officers such as "I find Chinese make the best servants" and "I never met a Chinese yet that didn't have a yellow streak." My personal favourite, if you can call it that, was "This is Australia, not 55 Days at Peking!" Er, if you say so, but I was sure I saw Charlton Heston sulking around in the background at one point!

Having seen Mark Hartley's Not Quite Hollywood helps, as witnessing the moments discussed in that award-winning documentary is something to behold. Watch as a car door flies perilously close to the camera after an explosion with the knowledge that it actually was that close! Watch as stunt men (or, usually, just regular actors being paid a pittance) get flung about onto cars and into rivers. Watch as George Lazenby accidentally gets set on fire, resulting in Lazenby being sent to hospital, and watch how Yu interacts with the white women in the cast, knowing now as we do that he actually despised white women and would eat bugs before having to kiss one. He was such a lovely man, I'm sure.


Truly a time capsule worth cherishing for ways that, perhaps, aren't the purest, The Man from Hong Kong is a blast of energy that is sorely lacking within the Australian film industry right now. The size and scope of the entire film is impressive - especially since it was Trenchard-Smith's first feature - and it remains mind-boggling that they were able to get away with half of this. People aren't even allowed to walk up Uluru anymore, let alone stage and elaborate fight sequence! It's a hoot and I don't care what you say! B

Saturday, October 24, 2009

bitch plz

This photo of Nicole Kidman encapsulates everything that I've been feeling these past couple of days. I had a really horrible Saturday and to top it all off Blogger hasn't been working for me since Friday. It's nice that they finally got their act together and fixed what was wrong, don't you reckon?


She's so "bitch plz!" here and I love it.

Posting will hopefully return to normal tomorrow. I'm seeing Paranormal Activity and Amelia early in the week plus, I'm sure, plenty of other goodies will pop up worthy of discussion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In the Shadows

With Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire set to take over the world upon it's American release in the coming weeks, I thought I would take a look at Lee Daniels' first feature, the 2005 hitman drama Shadowboxer. It appears that one of Daniels' trademarks will be his eclectic casts. People may think the likes of Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz make a far out cast, but that's nothing compared to Shadowboxer.

There's Helen Mirren as a dying assassin, Cuba Gooding Jr as her quasi-adopted son slash love interest, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mobster's private doctor, Mo'Nique as his nurse (and love interest) called - funnily enough - Precious, Stephen Dorff as said mobster, Vanessa Fertillo as the mobster's wife and Macy Gray as... well, I'm not sure what Macy Gray is here to be perfectly honest with you.

The movie is not very good. Not good at all. Always flopping about in various directions, going nowhere in a hurry. Characters routinely just act like bad movie characters to one another and then it ends. Daniels, however, does know how to grab your attention. Whether it's random zebras walking around in gardens or having the likes of Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr perform a strip dance on each other, it's certainly never dull in the way that throwing electrical equipment at people's heads is also never dull, it's just not very productive.


However, when the movie isn't thrusting Stephen Dorff's predominantly shirtless (and occasionally full frontally nude) body at us - and what a delightful time it is when that happens - the film's highlight is clearly Macy Gray as the best friend of Fertillo's mobster wife. I don't know if she adlibbed or if she just slurred her way through Daniels' dialogue, but whatever she was doing it was hilarious. Or, it was until she was unceremoniously slashed out of the picture.


I don't have any concrete evidence, but I am fairly sure that Gray was drunk and/or high when she filmed her scenes here. Her "Neisha" (bless ghetto names) is a tragic mess who drools and drawls and slurs her way through her brief time on screen. She's hilarious and is the only real lift that the film gets (I am not going to joke about the lift Stephen Dorff gets in his now infamous sex scene). Watching Gray flounce about sure is enjoyable and I'm actually glad she's only in the movie for such a short amount of time since any longer and it could have become sad and sorry since it does indeed look as if she was... under an influence or two.


In the end the movie has made me even more excited for Precious in order to see how he went from this oddity to something that could win him and Oscar. If you want to read a review of Precious that also heavily takes into account Shadowboxer then click on over to Nick's Flick Picks as Nick as an ever-thorough review. Amazing as usual.

(images via StinkyLulu)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 22/10/09

All About Steve - I am not kidding when I saw that this new Sandra Bullock/Bradley Cooper "romantic comedy" looks like it could be the worst movie of the year. Dreadful. Even worse than that dire-looking French movie about the two guys who move in together or whatever.

An Education - Talk about a change of pace! Lone Scherfig's film has been all but guaranteed a spot for Carey Mulligan in the Best Actress contest at the Oscars and is gunning for more. Definitely looking forward to seeing this, but with so many other movies out right now that I want to see (Moon, Whip It) it might take a couple of weeks.

Coffin Rock - Cocked up release for this new Aussie horror(?) flick. The only cinema in my state that's showing it is in freakin' EPPING! Huh? Cocked up indeed.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee - Screening only in NSW and Queensland (and only one cinema each), Rebecca Miller's latest has a bevy of big names (Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Julianne Moore, Blake Lively, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder), but I'm still not sold on it. I liked Miller's last film, Personal Velocity, but not enough to really seek out the rest of her work (one of which stars her husband Daniel Day-Lewis, so I really have no excuse on that one). Winona Ryder looks gorgeous, by the way, in the clips I have seen.

Saw VI - Each time a new one of these comes along I think to myself "surely people are over this by now!" and that it will flop and they'll start going direct-to-DVD before, in a few years time, we get a series reboot that becomes the highest grossing film of all time. Hmmm.

TinkerBell and the Lost Treasure - This direct-to-DVD film is getting a limited cinema release for some reason.

DVD Releases for the Week 22/10/09

Disgrace - Steve Jacob's wonderful film stars John Malkovich, who sadly won't be in play during awards season since, unlike here in Australia, the film vanished after only a couple of weeks. If it had been picked up by a distributor who had more experience, then perhaps it might've worked. Alas...

Hannah Montana: The Movie - The title says it all.

Hardwired - It's a solid bet that if your sci-fi action flick stars Cuba Gooding Jr and Val Kilmer then it is going to be awful.

Land of the Lost - Oh man, I had forgotten this movie even existed. Damn.

Mary and Max - Adam Elliot's quite wonderful stop-motion animation features the voices of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana, Renee Geyer and Barry Humphries and the always-present narrator. Do see it if you haven't already and here's hoping Elliot gets a welcome surprise on Oscar nominations morning (although it will only happen if the category is extended to five, surely).

A Horror-able Performance

I randomly started wondering today about horror movies and the performances within. Specifically horror films from this past decade. I've got a couple of ideas of how to do rundowns of the '00s and this wasn't one of them, it was just a spur of the moment thing. Here for no reason whatsoever - although Halloween is coming up so let's take that and run with it - are my ten favourite horror movie performances of the decade. I've decided to include films that are on the edge as to whether they are classified as horror or not, but they're impressive and any chance to mention them I'll take.

Bare in mind that this is in no way some "official" list. It's just ten performances I like for the sake of doing a list (and who doesn't love a list?) And I am aware that I haven't seen every horror movie that has come out this decade (far from it) and that some of the notable exceptions probably include some fine performances.

In alphabetical order:


Christian Bale
as "Patrick Bateman"
American Psycho
"You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death, and then play around with your blood."



Angela Bettis
as "May Canady"
May
"It was sweet... I don't think she could've got his finger off in one bite, though. That part seemed a little far fetched."




Jennifer Carpenter
as "Angela Vidal"
Quarantine
"THE LIGHT! THE LIGHT! THE LIGHT! THE LIGHT!!"




Maeve Dermody
as "Lee"
Black Water
"It's not gonna leave us alone, is it? We're gonna die, aren't we?"




Laura Dern
as a"Nikki Grace / Susan Blue"
INLAND EMPIRE
"Damn! This sounds like a dialogue from our script!"




John Jarratt
as "Mick Taylor"
Wolf Creek
"How 'bout I cut ya fuckin' tits off?"





Ashley Judd
as "Agnes White"
Bug
"I am the mother queen."




Nicole Kidman
as "Grace Stewart"
The Others
"Where's my daughter? What have you done with my daughter?"



Parker Posey
as "Jennifer Jolie"
Scream 3
"...someone wants to kill you. So now, starting now, I go where you go. That way, if someone wants to kill me, I'll be with you, and since he really wants to kill you, he won't kill me, he'll kill you. Make sense?"



Jennifer Tilly
as "Jennifer Tily" (and "Tiffany")
Seed of Chucky
"I'm an Oscar-nominee, for God's sake. Now look at me, I'm fucking a puppet."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

[insert Tourist pun here]

I really, really liked Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others. It was one of my top five from 2007 and I'm definitely on its side when it comes to debates between it and Pan's Labyrinth, the movie many people say was "robbed" by Lives for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. However, here brings up a major issue. The Lives of Others was so good than von Donnersmarck is moving to Hollywood to make a movie starring Sam Worthington and Angelina Jolie. Call me skeptical.

In a move that puts Angelina Jolie starrer "The Tourist" on track for a February production start, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has emerged as the top choice to direct the Spyglass thriller.

While von Donnersmarck hasn't formally entered into negotiations yet, studios are expected to begin jockeying for the film that is likely to be ready for a 2011 release.

...

If a deal comes to fruition, "The Tourist" would be the first for von Donnersmarck since the German helmer's 2006 breakout "The Lives of Others," which won the Academy Award for foreign-language film.

Now, as it says above von Donnersmarck hasn't officially been signed on to direct the film, which was previously to star Charlize Theron, but there you go. I worry about him, I really do. There number of foreign directors that have moved on to Hollywood product directly after their breakthrough and been engulfed by mediocrity and flops is becoming longer and longer. In recent years we have had the likes of Oliver Hirschbiegel who went from Oscar-nominated Downfall to The Invasion. How about Gavin Hood who won the Oscar for Tsotsi and then made Rendition and Wolverine. Susanne Bier directed Oscar-nominee After the Wedding and then got lost with Things We Lost in the Fire and I bet you forgot that Walter Salles went from such acclaimed foreign titles like Central Station (Oscar-nominated) and The Motorcycle Diaries to horror flop Dark Water.

I would have preferred von Donnersmarck to remain in Germany and build up an enviable reputation abroad instead of instantly moving to Hollywood to direct a movie that, in case you weren't aware, is a remake of a French film in itself. Gah! Craziness. Of course, we'll find out in 2011 if he's made it good or if it was all a mistake. I hope it's the former, but can't help and feel that it will be the latter.