Monday, March 28, 2011

When is Something So Beautiful So Bad?

When it's this new poster for The Tree of Life.

The internet essentially went into meltdown - or, more specifically, Terrence Malick fans - upon the exclusive reveal of this poster by IMDb. Despite how gorgeous and beautiful some of the images used in this poster are, am I the only one who thinks it's just a collection of film stills arranged into a rectangular shape? This isn't so much a poster as a film still swatch board.

Okay, so it's not "so bad", but it's not good either. Or am I alone on this? I think I'm alone.

Review: In a Better World

Danish director Susanne Bier has rightfully claimed a place as one of the best and most important voices of international cinema. She has collaborated with Lars von Trier and Benicio del Toro, had films remade by Hollywood (Brothers), been nomination for two Academy Awards, winning this past February for this sober, but compelling, examination on violence and family. In a Better World may be one of the most old-fashioned pieces of filmmaking you’ll see this year, but that doesn’t make it any less fascinating as it wields a dramatic left-hook to the gut.

Read the rest at Trespass Magazine

So Random: Katherine Heigl's Romantic Comedies of Doom

Even as a fan of Katherine Heigl, I have to admit that she's grown incredibly tiresome. I miss the days when she was that spunky, but gorgeous, actress in shows like Roswell and Grey's Anatomy (before it went to shit). While I enjoy 27 Dresses, the standard of her mismatched-pair-that-are-obviously-made-for-each-other rom-coms in which she is increasingly shrill and he (generic "he") is a bit of a douche have become dire.

While it may be sad to have to witness this worsening crisis, at least somebody out there is using it to their advantage. Enter The Onion with this hilarious news video entitled "In Freak Accident, 34 Katherine Heigl Films Released At Once". The hilarity, however, is tinged with sadness at the fact that all the films they invent - not 34, but a fair chunk - look like legitimate Heigl romantic comedies. Especially "Peeping Polly" and "Venus & Mars". The poster for the latter is not only a stinging jab to Heigl (and Bradley Cooper), but to key art designers around the world. Yikes.

Watch and laugh, folks. Watch and laugh.

In Freak Accident, 34 Katherine Heigl Films Released At Once

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go
Dir. Mark Romanek
Year: 2010
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 103mins

In a countryside boarding school named Hailsham, three children – Kathy, Tommy and Ruth – form a triangle of love and jealousy that they will continue to navigate many years later, long after they realise their tragic fates. Such are the beginnings of Never Let Me Go, an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed novel directed by Mark Romanek. A visually arresting mood piece that unfortunately doesn’t deliver the devastating punch its plot desperately craves.

Read the rest at Trespass Mag

Never Let Me Go, or as I like to call it: An Ode to Sea-Green, Beige and Brown.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crafty Courage

When I first saw the poster for Courageous it was in thumbnail size and I said to myself "that reminds me of The Craft." Oh the lulz I had when I clicked on the poster and noticed Courageous is "from the creators of Fireproof". Because reminding people of a film about sexy witchcraft is surely what they intended.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Kaboom

Dir. Gregg Araki
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: MA15+
Running Time: 86mins

If one had to put Gregg Araki’s latest film into a finite box then it would be fair to call it a queer apocalyptic stoner religious cult horror comedy. Not content to just make a movie about the end of the world, or the bisexual frolics of American collegegoers, or masked cult devotees murdering students on campus, Araki has gone and merged them all together in the form of Kaboom. Whether the title is a direct reference to the sound the world would make if it was suddenly blown apart or if it’s the metaphoric noise a young person makes upon entering the sexually confusing world of post-high school education, either way Araki has crafted an entertaining, violently funny movie that’s amongst his best work yet.

Read the rest at Trespass Magazine

Did you hear today that Kaboom star Juno Temple - she of the film's best performance, I might add - has been cast in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises?

Wait - why am I asking that? Of course you've read it since it has been pasted on every single "entertainment" website known to mankind. Never mind that it hasn't been announced exactly who she's been cast as. Nothing more than "street smart Gotham Girl" according to websites like Cinema Blend, which for all we know could be little more than a walk on role with one or two moderately sassy lines about how "the streets work" or some such. I'd recommend seeing Kaboom before Nolan remembers he can't write or direct women very well at all and sticks this formidable rising talent into a do-nothing role. Oh sure, Marion Cotillard was quite good in Inception, but the character was problematic. The less said about Ellen Page, Katie Holmes, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hilary Swank the better.

Perhaps, in fact, the mere casting of Juno Temple is a sign that things are changing in the brain of Nolan.

I can actually see her fitting in amongst the Joker's menagerie of minions. Or, actually, wouldn't she have made a far more interesting choice for Selina Kyle than Anne Hathaway? Far less obvious and she looks like she could do brittle quite well.

Anyway, amongst all the "Juno Temple Officially in Dark Knight Rises" links that filled up my Twitter feed this morning, I was also bombarded with every website this side of Bea Arthur Mountains Pizza Blog telling me about the latest casting rumour of Superman: Man of Steel. Yesterday is was Carlos Ramirez, today it's Michael Shannon. And what's the bet that a new name pops up within a day or two? It's all such lazy film writing, don't you think? One website posts a rumour from an anonymous source and everyone else just copies it (with or without citation) and tada an easy thousand (or tens of thousands? I can't begin to imagine how many hits those sites - you know the ones - get) blog hits! It's truly depressing.

1. Write article about project being announced before anybody has been attached.
2. Write article about specific actors being considered for various roles of various sizes in project that still may or may not exist.
3. Write article about the perceived “frontrunner”.
4. Write article about a rumour that an actor has been hired, but not confirmed.
5. Write another article as we wait to find out if the rumour was true. Come up with magical reasons for and against chosen actor’s non-selection.
6. Write article about movie studio announcing they haven’t made an announcement. Copy press release verbatim.
7. Write article about how a different actor altogether has been cast, negating everything that was written earlier, and yet conveniently not wiping away your website’s unique hits and advertising dollar!
8.-10. Write several articles about the life and career of the chosen actor, judging them before a single frame has been filmed.
11.-4379. Write articles about every single minute detail including what the extras had catered for them to how many takes it took a notoriously fussy director to film one scene as if it’s news. Announce an entry on Twitter “WOW! NEW PHOTOS FROM SET OF [insert movie]” that are of someone having a cigarette away from the set. Somehow turn paparazzi pictures of a cast night out into a story about a “troubled set. Have site “reporter” visit the set and report about how harmonous and perfectly run the set is as if they completely unaware of the impending visit. Announce everything as “EXCLUSIVE!” or “FIRST LOOK!” even if all you mean is “first look on my own website, but you’ve probably seen it elsewhere already.”
4380.-4412. Report on the test screenings from people who saw the movie without completed visual effects, music, editing and detail how the screenings were “disastrous”. Include spoilers, just ‘cause.
4413. Report on studio “tinkering” with the film, even if said “tinkering” included, ya know, finishing it like they had planned.
4414. Write review.
4415. Write article about box office takings despite having no real knowledge of how box office/budgets/money even works.
4416. Promptly forget the film ever existed because ew, gross, it’s old. Unless it’s good, in which case
a) Start new website feature named “Under-Appreciated Movie of the Week” discussing the film, even though it made over $300 million at the box office,
b) Write article asking “Will Oscar Embrace [movie in genre they rarely ever embrace]?”
c) Write article about how the Oscars “snubbed” said movie and how the Oscar’s “don’t mean anything but omg we’re gonna keep talking about them anyway!”
4417. Repeat for next movie.
It's depressing.

All the more reason to go see a movie like Kaboom I suppose. Those of us here in Melbourne are lucky to have a place like Cinema Nova who are exclusively screening it as well as several other amazing titles like I Love You Phillip Morris. I believe it's getting a similar Brisbane release at the Tribal Cinema, but that's second hand Twitter knowledge so don't take my word for it. It's in Sydney too, but I don't know where. Movies like Kaboom don't come along too often - of, if they do, it's not on a cinema screen - so please see it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

Many of people from "my generation" who haven't taken the time to investigate the career of the one and only Elizabeth Taylor (she hated to be called "Liz") would probably only know her as an actress that they're meant to like, but who's more famous for marrying a lot of men, releasing perfume, being kooky with Michael Jackson, funny award show mix-ups, AIDS fundraisers and The Flintstones.

I keep meaning to watch more of Dame Elizabeth's films, but get sidetracked. I have, however, seen the performances that are routinely hailed as her best - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant, Suddenly Last Summer, A Place in the Sun and Little Women. She is even responsible for the one of the greatest and most poignant moments of The Simpsons' 22 years. Who can forget Elizabeth in that slinky white dress, cooing at Paul Newman as "Maggie the Cat" in Hot Tin Roof? Or, most vital of all, starring as "Martha", sparring with Richard Burton's ""George in Virginia Woolf? Anybody who thinks of her as just a celebrity with a couple of good roles needs to seriously revisit.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
General Hospital (bloopers) | The Simpsons

As I've already alluded to, my first on screen experience with Elizabeth Taylor was in the 1994 film adaptation of The Flintstones as "Pearl Slaghoople". A misnomer of a beginning for sure. If anybody from my age group hasn't explored Taylor's amazing filmography - and given the sort of readers that I get here, I'm sure that's the case for nobody, but you never know - then run, don't walk, to the, er, online DVD rental service you use and get to it. RIP Elizabeth Taylor.

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 13 of Scream 2 (0:40:32-0:42:15)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 13 of Scream 2
Length: 1min 43secs
Primary Characters: Sidney Prescott, Mickey, Hallie, Derek, Dewey Riley, Chief Hartley, and Captain Downs (Timothy Hillman)
Pop Culture References:
  • None

This is quite a vital scene. It gives us more time to eventual killer Mickey as he plants the seed of doubt in Sidney's mind over Derek. The whole scene, Dewey's involvement too, is build to create the red herring of Derek, while at the same time screaming at audiences, in retrospect, to look closer at Mickey.

"It's the easiest interrogation of my crime-filled life."

Teehee. As one of America's most active serial killers (according to Debbie Salt) I wonder if that has actually happened that often?

This is another cute little, seemingly throwaway, moment that helps build that sense of closeness between these friends. Like Randy's puppy dog eyes!

"That poor girl."

And it's bits like this that really do make us like Sidney as much as we do (and you can't build an entire trilogy around someone that's unlikable, especially a horror trilogy where the urge to scream "JUST KILL HER ALREADY!" is constantly there). That's where so many horror movies go wrong; having a central character that is inherently unlikable and instead of cheering them on to defeat the bad guy, you kinda just want the movie to be over because you know the "final girl" will never die.

I know his character is an insane psycho killer with crazy hair, but don't you just wanna make out with Timothy Olyphant right there? I love Sidney's face when he queries - and rightfully so - why anyone would go back into the house, although I query why anyone (we're discussing Derek here, remember?) would go back into the house and leave Sidney outside all alone where any knife-wielding madman could jump out at her and kill her. Hmmm.

She's all "oh shit!"

This is Jerry O'Connell's ow face (hopefully not to be confused with... well, you know.) I have nothing of value to add here other than: he looks funny (lol).

This here is Captain Down, played by Tim Hillman. We won't see him again after this scene so let's just mention him here, shall we? As a matter of fact, Scream 2 is Tillman's only acting credit. He usually works as a location manager and he was indeed the location manager on Scream 2 (but neither Scream nor Scream 3).

I tried to get a shot of Jerry O'Connell's confused face, but it instead came out looking like his i'm-intoxicated-and-i'm-trying-to-follow-your-conversation-but-now-i'm-bored face. Agree?

Intro, Scene 1 Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14, Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, Scene 31 Scene 32, Scene 33, End Credits

Scream 2
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12

Here It Is

I had heard great things out of the recent Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival about the poster for Beck Cole's Here I Am, but unfortunately the work hadn't been released anywhere online. Thankfully, Jeremy Saunders' Facebook page has released the work and it's fantastic, as one has come to expect.

Just so gorgeous. Look at all those colours shimmering on the face of first time actor Shai Pittman. She looks like mother of pearl. Contrast that to the fiery tribal red of the backdrop and that simple typeface (that works with the film's rather no fuss title) work together to make a great poster.

I recently had Julian Buckeridge write for my film section at Onya Magazine and he didn't like Here I Am at all, but word out of the festival was still very positive. We'll see how the film goes when it's released on 9 June. What do you think of the poster? Another winner or does everything Mr Saunders do just compare badly to Antichrist?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Courteney Has a Question for Wes

"Hey Wes! So I watched My Soul to Take last night... well, I tried. I had to turn it off after 50 minutes because I couldn't believe what I was watching. It was so bad! And not bad in any entertaining way, just really, really boring and bad. I knew it wasn't going well when I started to wish you'd just return to the halcyon days of Cursed! Yes, I sat through all of Cursed, so I know bad Wes Craven when I see it.

Seriously, what was up with My Soul to Take? It was 50 minutes in and only two characters had died! And really poorly, too. Thrown off of a bridge? Bitch, I could come up with a better death scene with the writers of Cougar Town! Such a yawner. And what the fuck was with all the freakin' birds?


That's all I've got to say on the matter, Wes. I hope you've brought your A-game to this Scream 4 set! PS I look hot in this dress."

Review: Limitless

Dir. Neil Burger
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 105mins

There is a scene right smack bang at the start of Neil Burger’s Limitless that zooms in on a dishevelled and raggedy-looking Bradley Cooper crossing the street. His voice-over intones that the reason he looks so homeless is because, wouldncha know it, he is a writer. Not necessarily a struggling one – a small, but convenient, New York City apartment with a sink of overflowing dishes that suggests he can at least afford food, plus a book deal with cash advance suggests otherwise – but a writer nonetheless. Being a writer, for Hollywood, means depressed, untidy and a general mess in the whole life-having department.

Cooper’s Eddie Morra walks the street looking alternatively drug addicted or in need of shelter. He stumbles about in tracksuit pants and with long, greasy hair trailing down from his scalp. As a writer myself, I can say that I have never looked like this. In fact, despite the precarious financial position that many of us find ourselves in – including the adult ones who have grown up, don’t include take out as their dietary staple and maybe even married – many of the creative types that I know are some of the most stylish people I know. I, for one, would never walk to the shops in trackies and smelling of canned fish, let alone around New York City.

Of course, this is all a rather silly sticking point to centre a review of Limitless around. Especially since this film features stuff like: the positive side of drug addiction; Bradley Cooper drinking blood and stabbing people in the eye with hypodermic needles; bizarre going nowhere subplots about a murdered skank (both this and Barney’s Version, out next week, feature a murder mystery subplot that literally goes nowhere); Abbie Cornish using an eight-year-old girl as a weapon and all sorts of other silliness you could only ever expect to see in a movie.

And yet Limitless doesn’t go far enough for my liking. When the absurdity really hits the fan in the final act, I couldn’t help but wish the entire movie had been as loopy. The sounds of horror and hilarity at the aforementioned blood-drinking scene by the crowd I saw it with was amusing in itself. The hyperactivity suggested by the wonderful opening credits sequence is there throughout the film’s entirety, but it strikes me more as a film that realised its inherent silliness a bit too late into production.

With his first solo lead role, Bradley Cooper makes a good enough go at being another in a long line of hunky, if not exactly rangey, actors like Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe (both of whom are, against time and space, starring together in an upcoming movie). Cooper has a bit of a brighter spark than those two and it must be said that he looks great in and out of a suit, so there is that too. Abbie Cornish is, surprisingly, the film’s greatest asset, no matter how underutilised she is. Cornish hasn’t been this bright eyed and beautiful yet, having usually been stuck with portraying miserable or quiet and introspective types in the past. With Limitless and the upcoming Sucker Punch, perhaps she’s coming out of her shell a bit, and for that I would be very thankful.

Audiences likely won’t overdose on Limitless - it is not a never-ending series of ridiculously entertaining absurdity like, say, The Green Hornet - but what’s there is perhaps just good enough to get a slight buzz. C+

Monday, March 21, 2011

Review: Griff the Invisible

Griff the Invisible
Dir. Leon Ford
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 90mins

It’s inevitable that Griff the Invisible will get compared to Matthew Vaughan’s Kick-Ass and other films of that kind. Doing so commits a great disservice to Griff, as it actually appears to align itself more with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s bouncy soufflĂ© Amelie. Griff the Invisible is about two socially awkward and self-isolating people whose burgeoning relationship becomes a tale of whimsy and magical fantasy, yet one that never forgets the harsh reality of the cruel world around them. It’s a film that asks potent questions about important topics, but will first and foremost charm viewers with its oddball humour and romanticism. Griff the Invisible is a treat.

Read the rest at Onya Magazine

The Will to Live?

At first I thought White Irish Drinkers was the tagline that had 2011 all wrapped up for pure dopiness - "Blood is Thicker than Brooklyn"? Really? - but, then I saw this poster for upcoming Oscar-nominee Incendies. It's just so freakin' stupid!


Add to that a boring central image and is this poster not just one of the most deathly dull pieces of key art you've seen in ages? "Ooh, a movie about a will! That'll be thrilling cinema, no?"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review: Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles
Dir. Jonathan Liebesman
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 116mins

Battle: Los Angeles is a thoroughly depressing and numbing event. You’d be forgiven for crying after witnessing it purely out of sadness for the art of cinema.

Aliens are colonising the Earth and Los Angeles is the American military’s last stand. Two hours of bombastic combat later and I think we all know who is going to come out on top, but to quote the poster for Alien vs Predator ‘Whoever wins, we lose’. We being the moviegoer, who has to sit through this endless parade of sequences designed like video game levels, nauseating handheld camerawork, soldiers screaming identical dialogue at one another and deafening sound design. If the visual effects are nice, scene after scene of grenade and gunfire between gung-ho American marines and robot invaders soon puts any visual pizazz to rest.

Read the rest at Trespass Magazine

Truly. To call this movie "depressing" is allowing it to get off lightly. At one point on my walk from the train station to my home I had to stop and was all but on the verge of tears. TEARS! I wouldn't let this film defeat me though and I promptly finished my walk home and wrote this review. Personally, I'm quite proud of that Alien vs Predator reference.

Truly a despicable movie. I hate every single thing about it. I even hate the marketing, which not only aims to position it as the first in a long line of terrible Black Hawk Down-meets-District 9 style lobotomies, but also alludes to a back story that is never, for one single moment, mentioned.

And then there's the main poster - or, at least, the one being used in Australia - that brought about unfair comparisons to Deep Impact. I know I am a bigger fan of Mimi Leder's asteroid-on-path-to-Earth film than most, but even leaving that film to the side for a moment, even Michael Bay's Armageddon had quiet moments, you know? Battle: Los Angeles has one quiet scene and during it, quite tellingly, I dozed off for about 30 seconds or so.

Hmmm. Writing about Battle: Los Angeles is making me sad again. Let's move on... F

Friday, March 18, 2011

Boys vs Girls

Screen Australia, it has been announced, are helping to fund a new Aussie film called Satellite Boy. It's a story of a young Aboriginal boy set in the far north who tries to save his land in the Kimberley region from being developed. One of it's producers is David Jowsey who is behind the much buzzed Mad Bastards.

It got me thinking about how often Australian films about about "boys", "men" and other versions of the word. Rarely, if ever, will a film's title reference the female gender equivalent. Outside of using a character's name - Beautiful Kate, Muriel's Wedding, Amy, Lillian's Story, Alexandra's Project, Thank God He Met Lizzie - titles for films about women are usually something less gender-related. Would you know Me Myself I, The Jammed, The Well, The Tree and Radiance were about women if you weren't already aware?

Curiously, even a movie like My Mother Frank has to turn its title into something androgynous. Meanwhile, La Spagnola means "The Spanish Woman", but unless you know a bit of Spanish you wouldn't know it.

Take a look.

Compare to these, which were the only female descriptor titles I could think of. Does the gay film with "queen" in the title count? And, yes, I am aware that is the book cover for Black Chicks Talking, but the subsequent documentary never got a poster, it would seem.

Is there a reason for this?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying there's underlying sexism here - although perhaps there is, I just think it's curious. Would we ever get a film named The Girls are Back? Not sure we would, to tell you the truth. How about The Nothing Women or Bra Gi..., er, scrap that last one.

And, of course, this isn't just relegated to Australian cinema, but to go any further would seriously damage my health. So let's just leave it, shall we?