Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class
Dir. Matthew Vaughn
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 132mins

After The Last Stand and Wolverine failed to recapture the X-Men franchise’s excellence, Marvel have decided to go back in time and show us the groovy beginnings of what would eventually become the “X-Men”. Or, as the case may be, not so groovy. Set in 1962, men and women of all creeds have begun to develop super-human powers. As the changing tides of the world’s social and political landscape take hold, these so-called mutants must discover their place in the world. They must choose either good or evil.

Read the rest at Trespass Magazine

In the review I call this movie X-Men: Muppet Babies, X-Men: Groovy Mutants and X-Men: Born This Way amongst others. Lady Gaga is an unofficial sponsor of this movie, I'm sure of it!

Tina Turner: Beyond Thunderdome

It turns out that I had never seen Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. I had somehow tricked my mind into thinking I had by having listened to the soundtrack so many times over the course of my life. Sitting down to watch the film last night though it became quickly evident that I'd never seen it. Isn't it great how things like that happen?

As it turns out, Beyond Thunderdome isn't anything special. The third instalment of the Mad Max trilogy is a rare beast, indeed. Directed by George Ogilvie with George Miller on action sequence duties (he dropped out of directing the film after the death of producer Byron Kennedy), I appreciated how completely bonkers this movie was for a supposedly quite mainstream action flick. Those early scenes in Bartertown are insane what with their pig shit farming and that "Thunderdome" fight sequence (hailed by Roger Ebert as "the first really original movie idea about how to stage a fight since we got the first karate movies".) I like that they didn't curb the imagination for this film, despite it being a much bigger budgeted American-focused sequel.

Shame then about that second act, which is a complete and utter disaster. Despite a lovely bit with a buried QANTAS jet, the entire passage featuring Helen Buday as the leader of some outback clan of lost children is terminally dull. It's at this point where it went from being a twisted fantasy film and became family friendly drivel. Thanks then to George Miller for at least amping up the energy in that final action sequence. I could have done without Angry Anderson's dopey slapstick, but you take what you can get of Miller's skill. Much like Babe: Pig in the City and Happy Feet, Mad Mad: Beyond Thunderdome is almost unbelievable as a major motion picture, but it is and I respect it a hell of a lot more than I would a gentrified, watered down continuation of the Mad Max story, which it easily could have been.

However, I don't think I've ever met someone who didn't think the film's greatest asset was Tina Turner. Coming directly on the heels of her brilliant Private Dancer comeback album in 1984, Turner's performance as "Auntie Entity" is by far the film's strongest part. She has such presence, clothed in her overflowing and yet risque, heavily shoulder padded chainmail outfit and with a head of hair that defies logic, Turner is a breath of fresh air. It's a shame she never tried to make a career out of her acting as she was also the best thing about Tommy some years prior.

Of course, Beyond Thunderdome's largest imprint upon the world has been Turner's theme song "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)". Not just one of my favourite Turner songs, but one of my favourite songs period and one of the greatest ever original soundtrack songs of all time. Proof that a choir can make any song ten times better, it certainly helps that the production team behind "What's Love Got to Do With It" did such a bang up job in the first place. And how about those vocals? Turner's other soundtrack addition was the Grammy-winning "One of the Living" and it too is a doozy. Watch them below along with my all time favourite Turner tune, "Better be Good to Me".


It's interesting to note that the Mad Max films are one of only three trilogies to be found within the history of Australian cinema. Unless I'm forgetting something, which could very possibly be the case, the Alvin Purple movies were first with it's third film releasing in 1984. Beyond Thunderdome rounded out the Mad Max trilogy in 1985 - and, for the record, it made $36mil at the American box office - whilst Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee series is the most recent trilogy I can recall. Are there any I have forgotten? Will we get a third Wog Boy?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 22 of Scream 2 (1:06:11-1:09:15)

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

SCENE 22 of Scream 2
Length: 3min 4secs
Primary Characters: Sidney Prescott, Cotton Weary, Officer Andrews and Officer Richards
Pop Culture References:
  • Diane Sawyer (Cotton spoke to her)

I have wondered during the process of doing this project whether Williamson and/or Craven were trying to say something with the repeated use of latin texts. Setting your movie on a college campus filled with fraternities and sororities doesn't help, but just shots like this or the "Cassandra" aria from a couple of scenes ago... what are they pointing out. That Sidney's tale is like some fabled tragedy that could be told for centuries before and after? Hmmm... if anyone has anything to say about it, please do so in the comments!

So dated! Look at those computer monitors! Yowza. I love how when "Library Guy" (an uncredited Corey Mendell Parker) tells her she has an instant message to "hit Alt + M" it sounds like she's pressing about five different keys on the keyboard.

I guess that's one of those "that's her" looks Sidney mentioned earlier.

I know this bit is meant to be all "ooh scary", but I can't help by laugh at the hilarious computer graphics. I haven't the foggiest idea what Sidney is doing on that computer. That program looks like a technicolour cousin to MS DOS.

I like that the IM says "[cancel]".

Also, the way one of Sidney's guard's says "get away from the computer." Where do they move her to?

An empty doorway, of course!

All the better for someone to sneak up behind her I guess. See how they've decided to make Cotton the film's red herring. He likes to pop up behind people, you see! Just like Randy and Cici. JUST LIKE RANDY AND CICI!

Yet again there are some really good compositions going on here.

I just really liked this shot.

Not only does he snuck up behind young ingenues and intimidate them with thinly veils threats, he also wears chunky black shoes. Who else wears chunky black shoes? GHOSTFACE, that's who! I can't recall who I thought the killer was in Scream 2, but they really do try and make a good argument for Cotton, don't they?

"Sid, I'm not Billy Loomis - you killed him, he's he's dead. Remember?"

Yes, Cotton, I am sure she remembers killing the boyfriend who killed her mother and her friends and who has inspired a new killer to kill her new friends. Yes. I don't like this line, it just sounds so silly. What do you think?

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, Scene 13, Scene 14. Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Meek's Cutoff (+ Kelly Reichardt at ACMI Giveaway!)

Meek's Cutoff
Dir. Kelly Reichardt
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: PG
Running Time: 104mins

You can tell a lot from a film’s opening credits. Kelly Reichardt’s latest begins with its title embroidered on a piece of material, it’s an enchanting moment that speaks to the rather simple, sweetly homespun story that Reichardt is about to unfold. Best described as a minimalist western, Meek’s Cutoff’s big moments are not gun-wielding standoffs between heroes and villains, but the breaking of an ox-cart axel, the devastating realisation that much needed water is toxic and the passing of food from a white woman to a Native American “Indian”.

Read the rest at Trespass Magazine.

If you click that link you can also find mini reviews of Reichardt's Old Joy and Wendy & Lucy (another with an incredible Michelle Williams performance at its centre). Trespass are also giving away a double pass to Meek's Cutoff for anybody who lives in Melbourne. Meek's Cutoff really affected me so I hope people seek it out. A

Banderas is Solo?

I don't get this poster for Solo. Has Antonio Banderas' non-Shrek non-Almodovar career come to such a point that he has to "present" his own movies?

I don't quite know what that tagline is trying to say, either. "There are some men who should never be left alone." Why is "some" italicised as if it should be emphasised while spoken?

Whatta mess!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 21 of Scream 2 (1:00:19-1:06:10)

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

SCENE 21 of Scream 2
Length: 5min 51secs
Primary Characters: Gale Weathers, Randy Meeks, Dewey Riley, Joel the Cameraman and Ghostface
Pop Culture References:
  • Jennifer Aniston (A joke is made about Aniston and Gale Weathers)
  • Saved by the Bell (Joel wishes they'd discuss something more "Saved by the Bell-ish")
  • Malcolm X (Joel references him)
  • Showgirls (Randy's "favourite scary movie")
  • The House on Sorority Row, The Dorm that Dripped Blood, Splatter University, Graduation Day and Final Exam (Randy's suggestions for the killer's favourite movie)
  • OJ Simpson, Ted Bundy and Charles Manson (Randy suggests these as other killers worth copycatting)

And so we come to this scene. We all knew we'd have to look at it eventually, but it's always sad when it comes around and it's all "but... but... RANDY!" Let's push through, okay? Let's navigate our way through this traumatic scene together.

"Sidney wasn't killed in Woodsboro."
"Wasn't for a lack of trying. The killer's trying to finish what was started."

Here it is folks! The very dead centre of the entire Scream trilogy! This very shot is, if I have my maths correct, the dead centre and it's quite fitting that it's in one of the entire franchise's greatest scenes and features three of everyone's favourite characters.

While this is indeed quite cool, it's also depressing because I'd intended on having this project finished months ago and yet we're still only at the half way point. I just... ugh.

"When did she start smoking?"

"Ever since those nude pictures on the internet."

"It was just my head... it was Jennifer Aniston's body."

Teehee. I love that Gale Weathers lives in the same world as Courteney Cox. It still bugs me that only Aniston and David Schwimmer of her Friends co-stars got references. Although what could you say about Matt LeBlanc?

"Time out! See, now I don't need to be hearing about no dead cameraman, all right? Now I'm warning you guys, I am a verb away from vacating these premises. I'm gonna get me some coffee, donuts, prozac, see if I can find some crack, special k, x - not Malcolm - and I'll be back when you're talking about something a little bit more Saved by the Bell-ish, all right?"

Joel the Cameraman goes off on this little spiel when Gale says there were more victims "before the home stretch", two of which include Tatum and Kenny the Cameraman. I would've thought their deaths were indeed part of the home stretch, but as we've already established Gale's recollection of the events of "the Woodsboro murders" is a bit, shall we say, off.

I accidentally paused on this next shot:


"Not interrupting anything, am I? You three look deep in thought."

Uh-oh! I love this line reading by the way. Not so much the "knife scraping bone" line that was re-used in Scream 4 (although I like that even in Stab 7 Gale was still able to take inspiration from real life!) There's a playfulness that is so sick and twisted without being overtly grisly. I love it.

So much of what typifies the Scream films (or, at least, the first two and some of the fourth) is evident here. The little chuckles that come about from stuff like this where all three look around like they're lost, and yet its juxtaposed against the very real threat. I think it works particularly well here since that creeping thought that "oh no, one of them will die!" is such a terrifying one since we love these characters so much. And then to have it play out in broad daylight? That was a stroke of genius.

I've spoken at length about Wes Craven's use of space in these films. Framing his shots with optimum levels of uneasiness and tension. Always making sure the viewer is aware of what's around the target like Casey standing in front of those patio glass doors or Tatum being shot walking into the garage from the living room location of the party so we know how close she was to everyone else.

"What's your favourite scary movie?"
"Showgirls - absolutely frightening.

This line disappoints me. I would have thought Randy would be able to see the inherent greatness within Showgirls! Although, I guess, the two years between Showgirls and Scream 2 wasn't enough time for it to have accrued the good will that it has today. The line works well as a funny way to cap a Scream 2 trailer, but my love of Showgirls means the line irks me.

"What's yours? Wait, let me guess: The House on Sorority Row? The Dorm that Dripped Blood? Splatter University? Graduation Day? Final Exam?

I like how once the telephone call comes though, the point of view of the scene becomes much more voyeuristic and a bit dizzying as it rotates around Randy and uses slight "Steadicam" style filmmaking as we follow Randy around and being very conscious of where he is amongst his surroundings.

The only one of the films Randy mentions that I have seen is The House on Sorority Row, which I discussed just last week! I've tried to see the others but they're unavailable here. Very disappointing.

"Who's this?"
"Who's this?"
"Gale Weathers, author of The Woodsboro Murders!"

Behold the best line reading in all of Scream 2! Love it! I hope that at some point in my life I write a book called The Woodsboro Murders just so I can quote this line like I do others in the films. "Glenn Dunks, author of The Woodsboro Murders!" Amazing.


I kinda love that Mrs Loomis aka Debbie Salt - who we know is the one who gets "knife happy" with Randy since she admits it in the climax - knows all this stuff about how Randy will "never be the leading man" and "never get the girl" because I like to imagine that Billy and his mum used to sit around and talk about his friends and what cinematic archetypes they fill. Well, until she skipped town like the exceptional mother that she is :/

So sneaky with the composition of those frames. It's Gale's van, it must be innocuous, right? Nope. Think again "dead boy."

Yeah, I'd make that face too if some random stranger tackled me from behind. O_O

Silly Randy, you should be trying to be around people! Ghostface can't exactly attack you around others. Love this shot though, don't you?

"Why copycat to high school loser ass dickheads? Stu was a pussy-assed wet rag and Billy Loomis - Billy Loomis? What the fuck? Jesus! What a rat-lookin', homo-repressed mama's boy. Why not set your goals higher, huh?

And I like the casual inclusion of "Loomis" and "mama's boy" into the conversation. Stu doesn't get a last name, but Billy does. We need to remember that name, that's why. And the "mama's boy" is yet another slight reference to Billy's mother that would go otherwise unnoticed unless you knew who the killer was. I keep quite dialogue from this scene because I think it's so well written and structured, don't you? Such rhythm.


Meanwhile, there's symmetry once against between Scream and Scream 2 in the way that Randy nearly died first time around by not paying attention behind him and here goes and does it again, but isn't quite as lucky.

Love this shot! In fact, it's not just my favourite shot in this scene, but it's definitely one of my favourite shots in the entire movie. No particular reasoning behind it, I just think it looks nifty, although it does give us that great van opening van door reveal a few moments later. Plus, the idea of Ghostface looking around after having just smashed in the window of a news van is humourous.

Arty shot alert!

I find it interesting - and it goes on to that theory about this scene being directed in such a voyeuristic manner - that we're never inside the van. Not for one second. Filming Randy's murder from the outside of the van adds an even bigger dollop of tragedy to it because we can see how close he is to help with that group of hip-hoppers walking by.

And, furthermore, by filming from the outside we miss seeing someone so beloved getting - to quote Maureen Evans - "cut the fuck up". We don't need to see it in order to recognise the terror of it unlike, say, Cici. The scene is vital and a bit heartbreaking all on its own without having to actually witness the knife going in and out of his flesh.

What have we learnt from all of this? If Gale Weathers shows up in a news van, you best not get near it, because eventually blood is going to be dripping out of it. Probably YOURS!

...or maybe not.

Gale head title of "oh no..." when they realise they can't see Randy.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best scream in the Screams. Casey's mum sure had a doozy, but there's something about this one of Gale screaming for Randy that kills it (er, pun unintended).

For a movie franchise that is called Scream, Craven refreshingly didn't use many moments like this where it's like there's a drum roll and a "here it comes!" announcement in neon. Like when movies use their title in the dialogue and sometimes it just sounds silly! We don't need every character belting out a scream that could shatter glass.

I'd scream like Gale too if I'd just discovered that. Poor Randy. :(

On one hand I'm sad that Randy had to die, but I'm glad they had the balls to do it. In Scream 3 they say "all bets are off" and that "anyone can die", and yet it's Scream 2 that adheres to those rules more than Scream 3.

Over at Scream-Trilogy.net many people discussed the trailers and ads of Scream 4 to such a degree that they figured they knew who died in what order and how. Many said the Weinsteins were releasing too many clips and all that, but many of them seem to be unaware that the trailers for the first three were equally spoiler-filled. Looking at the trailer for Scream 2 now and it's quite obvious that Randy dies and, hell, they even show Cici being thrown off the roof of the sorority house! Silly people have no memories. <-this had nothing to do with anything, I just felt like mentioning it.
I love that this scene ends on such a sombre note with some sort of sad, lonely gong note playing over this shot of an empty college campus. Almost like a moment of reflection for Randy, letting us calm our nerves after the jolt of electricity that this scene is. This brief overhead shot of the campus is like the dot at the bottom of this scene's exclamation point. "This shit is real, you guys!" And I love the way it completes the eventual diminishing of people from the campus as each of these overhead shots has included fewer and fewer people. The ranks are thinning!

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, Scene 13, Scene 14. Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rubbing the Wrong Way

Quentin Dupieux's telekinetic car tyre movie Rubber was one title I was very eager to see after last year's MIFF. Unfortunately I missed it due to bad scheduling (on behalf of the festival and myself), but having just watched it thanks to Madmen's DVD release I can comfortably say I didn't miss a thing. In fact, after 40 minutes of watching it I went to Twitter and labelled it "unwatchable" before going to bed.

Returning to it today and it was pretty much just as bad as it was last night. It holds no water at all, in one ear out the other, and amounts to noting more than an overly extended Tropfest winner. It probably would have made a very entertaining Tropfest winner, too, but as a feature film it's 80 minutes of blah.

"In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T. why is the alien brown? No reason.
In Love Story why do the two characters fall madly in love with each other? No reason.
In Oliver Stone's JFK why is the President suddenly assassinated by some stranger? No reason.
In The Excellent Chain Saw Massacre [sic] by Tobe Hooper why don't we ever see the characters go to the bathroom? Or wash their hands like people do in real life? Absolutely no reason.
Worse, in The Pianist by Polanski how come this guy has to hide and live like a bum when he plays the piano so well? Once again the answer is no reason.
All great films contain some element of no reason."

With this introduction, writer/director Quentin Dupieux waves his magic wand and gives himself carte blanch to do whatever the hell he wants with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. 'It's the point, stupid!' This dialogue sounds like it was written by a 13-year-old who was eager to prove he knew a lot about movies by citing some famous movies and their directors (except, quite tellingly, Arthur Hiller who I guess doesn't have the same arty cache as Roman Polanski or Oliver Stone). Instead, he just comes off looking silly and more than a little childish. It's not like mainstream audiences are going to be watching Rubber anyway, so why not take inspiration from that other directing Quentin and cite some more esoteric titles?

This scene, a prologue of sorts, sets up the film in the wrong manner from the get go, anyway. Without it I may have been able to accept Rubber as just some sort of bizarre, prosaic stoner film, but by deliberately trying to give it a point of not having a point makes the whole thing a rather useless viewing experience. Dupieux is just making a movie with no point, and what's the point of that? There are movies that have free-flowing forms with little to no plot at all that still feel like more vital, energetic and importantly necessary, like they were born out of the directors need to tell that story, than Rubber. There's no need to think "what is he trying to do here?" because he admitted right up front that his movie is about nothing. And not in a humourous "it's a show about nothing" kind of way that is actually about something. It's just... there. A car tyre awakens by itself for some reason, it does some stuff and then the movie ends. Nothing to think about or enjoy here; It's just slow, repetitious and dull

It doesn't even have a deranged edge to it, with Dupieux - acting as cinematographer and editor - choosing to film it in a very chilly, straight-forward manner. It's easy to follow and boring when it should be messy and kinetically insane. It does have great visual effects, make-up and a wonderful pulsating music score by "Mr Oizo" and Gaspard Augé, but they can't save the film from being anything other than a director trying to cynically make a "hip" movie to get himself on the scene - something made all the more obvious by Dupieux's decision to film in English and set it in America, despite being a French filmmaker using French money - without having anything to actually say or anything interesting to show. D-