Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: In Her Skin

In Her Skin
Dir. Simone North
Year: Who Knows?
Aus Rating: Ummm...
Running Time: 108mins

The path travelled by Simone North's debut directorial feature In Her Skin - previously titled How to Change in 9 Weeks, and since retitled I Am You in various territories - has been a long and difficult one. In fact, due to legal wrangling, the film hasn't even been released in Australia at all and I have only been able to watch it due to its recent release in America. Despite it's completion in 2009, a story ripped right from the headlines, a newfound fascination by local audiences of dramatised true life crimes and a big name cast, In Her Skin has languished at the centre of disputes between filmmakers and distributors and - in all honesty - I haven't the slightest idea what version of the film I watched.

In Her Skin sees North tackle the disappearance and subsequent murder of Rachel Barber (Kate Bell), a 15-year-old girl whose parents (a perfectly acceptable Guy Pearce and Miranda Otto) fought a fierce battle with the local police to get attention called to their daughter’s case. The film’s most interesting aspect is that of Caroline Reid, played here with a – pardon the pun – suffocating performance by Ruth Bradley. Caroline is a young woman prone to epilepsy and swinging depression that has gone strikingly undiagnosed by her father (Sam Neill in Sam Neill mode) and mother (a wonderful cameo from Rebecca Gibney). She’s called a “loner”, “odd” and Bradley is the film’s greatest asset, not just the character but the actress too.

Perhaps it's this aforementioned messy postproduction period that lead to several of the film's key issues. Was too much attention paid to the players behind the scene and no enough to the film at hand? In Her Skin as arguably one of the more perplexing narrative structures of the year as North and her editor Jane Moran use flashbacks and flash forwards at film’s beginning before introducing a three-pronged structure that follows the victim, her parents and her killer in individual strands. Both of these are then dropped for standard linear storytelling and this constant chop and changing plays havoc with various passages.

Other technical aspects, however, are nice. Cinematography by Jules O’Loughlin is especially bright and captures Melbourne’s inner suburbs really well. It does a fantastic job of setting In Her Skin apart from similar made-for-TV movies such as The Society Murders, Wicked Love: The Maria Korp Story and A Model Daughter: The Killing of Caroline Byrne. Not only that, but outside of Caroline Reid’s pig sty apartment, the film never succumbs to the drab, lifeless colour palates that dominated Snowtown. The inner suburban Melbourne locations are also nicely filmed, with the city’s abundant trams and trains filling the frame at odd angles.

The film’s I Am You title is a misnomer since, while it’s shown Caroline wished she was Rachel, she never adopts her victim’s life in any form. She never draws strength from the contemporary ballet dancer that she knows from their childhoods living across the street from one another and despite her desire to be “in her skin”, Caroline never once feels the satisfaction that she thinks comes with being a woman of Rachel’s prettiness. In Her Skin is a far better title since it implies not only Caroline’s desire to be, quite literally, in Rachel’s skin, but also the way Simone North has planted the view in the skin of Caroline. The very uncompromising death sequence and its immediate aftermath make the skin crawl and it really can’t be said enough how important Ruth Bradley’s performance is to this and I’ll say it again if you need me to. The film thankfully doesn’t exploit Caroline’s illness, but at the same time, it’s almost as if the filmmakers weren’t confident enough to centre the whole film on her. If they had, it would have been an even more powerful experience. B-

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Stake Land OMG picture of a cute guy!!!

This was originally a review of Jim Mickle's Stake Land, currently screening at Melbourne's Cinema Nova, which follows a small band of survivors on the run from mutant/zombie/vampire creatures. There's a gun-slinger, a cute orphan kid whose parents are eaten, a nun played by Kelly McGillis(!) and a pregnant hitchhiker on the run from her serial killing uncle, Michael Myers - wait, what? The whole thing is rather silly and as I was writing the review the entire thing seemed to focus around one scene wherein the characters run from the snowy, mountainous terrain of the northern states of America into a glorious, mid-west cornfield. The scene didn't make a lick of sense and I wasn't particularly liking what I had written so, naturally, I scrapped it in favour of showing you pretty pictures of the film's star, Connor Paolo - otherwise known as Eric van der Woodsen from Gossip Girl.

I think we can all agree that this is a significant improvement.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 25 of Scream 2 (1:14:55-1:21:30)

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

SCENE 25 of Scream 2
Length: 6min 35secs
Primary Characters: Gale Weathers, Dewey Riley and Ghostface
Pop Culture References:
  • None

And so we come to my favourite scene in the entire trilogy. Yes, the entire trilogy. That includes the Scream opening, Tatum's garage death, the Scream 2 opening, any scene with Parker Posey in Scream 3... yeah, I love this scene that much! And I love that it gets it's own big, epic, gothic location intro shot complete with scared flying birds, ominous coloured skies and a composition that gives the false implication that this may be the scene of the big climax.

Doesn't this shot remind you of the shots of Stu's house from the original? I think it does.

One reason amongst many for why it's my favourite - ya know, apart from it being scary and tense and the sorta stuff that makes it hard to keep breathing with great set up for the finale, a bonza chase scene, great acting and loving nods to the original - is the music. In a masterstroke of a decision, they chose not to use a piece of original film score by Marco Beltrami (who did the score for all four Scream movies), but instead used Hans Zimmer's music from John Travolta/Christian Slater nuclear missile thriller Broken Arrow. A curious addition, indeed, but this scene makes it work especially well, and it's sprinkled throughout other parts as well, notable mislabeled as "Dewey's Theme" since that twang score pops up whenever he's around.

"It's locked."
"Can you pick it?"
"That would be breaking and entering."
"No shit!"

Hah. Love it.

I actually think the main reason I like this scene so much is because it features, perhaps, Courteney Cox's greatest acting. Much like Drew Barrymore in the opening of Scream, there is something to genuine about her terror in the later part of this scene (which we're, obviously, get to very shortly). But even aside from that, the sprightly way she rings off dialogue like "no shit!" always makes me smile.

Cute! Ow, but cute!

There she is. Mrs Loomis admiring her handy work just like Gale suspected. Yet again, however, they don't show us Mickey, but instead we do get Hallie looking all shifty at Derek... hmmm...

It's almost as if they were setting them up as the killers or somethin'!

Meanwhile, can I mention the shoddy camera work of Joel the Cameraman? Not sure how this was ever meant to be edited into some sort of news segment for Gale's TV show. If I saw this footage I'd look like this, too!

I'd be all "This is what I was paying him for?"

I mean, you know it's pretty bad when the killer's voyeuristic kill-cam is steadier, clearer and has better quality than a profession. Although, I guess, this is Mickey we're talking about.

"You're cute when you're angry."
"Rude. I was being rude."

David Arquette, here at least, is cute when he's embarrassed and bashful! Love this moment. Love these TWO! Ugh. They slay me. Shame that Scream 3's treatment of these two turned them into idiots, but at least they were somewhat more realistic people in Scream 4 with actual problems and actual issues.

Nice streaks.

And bam! False sense of security. I like that this scene mirrors two from Scream. Firstly, the obvious make-out in the bushes scene where they kiss and Gale has to turn Dewey's attention to the mysterious object just feet away (in the original, Neil Prescott's car; here, a TV)...

... and secondly, the way a make out sessions leads to a it-looks-fatal-but-really-isn't stab scene. Well played Kevin Williamson, well played.

Ugh, this scene just works so well. The tension gets turned up to 11 within an instant and I like the way this sorta works as a reminder of how this film has followed it's own rules of there being more death scenes and aims a big ol' target at these two.

Aw, Randy! Imma go cry now, okay?

Holy shit! I vividly remember getting a sudden onset of pins and needles at this moment when I first saw Scream 2. Sure, it's seems so obvious that it was going to happen, but when you're so wrapped up in a movie you stop thinking "oh well this is gonna happen and this is gonna happen", preempting everything you possible can. I had that with Scream 4 as well where after a while I stopped trying to piece all the bits of information we'd seen in trailers and read about and just got swept up in the movie.

While I'm not quite sure how Ghostface got from up in this little room to downstairs behind the desk, this at least isn't quite as egregious of a logic problem as the Hallie death scene coming up. Although, perhaps, it was Mrs Loomis in the video control room to lure somebody up there, leaving the other alone at the bottom of the lecture hall giving Mickey ample opportunity to sneak in through the back entrance and attack.

Still, I've always found myself slightly confused as to the timeline between this and the car chase sequence coming up. Are they the same killer? If so, how much time is elapsing and, as Mickey jokes, if it were just him it would mean he's running around all over campus by himself, which would be exhausting. Then again, something tells me Mrs Loomis is inside a Ghostface costume at some point here because she is outside the building on the telephone later when Gale escapes... but in the sound proof booth section of this scene it looks quite silly to imagine Mrs Loomis there. Aaagh, so confusing. And yet, I don't really care because it's just so good!

Well, being framed like that was never a good sign for a character in a horror movie now was it?

Let's Talk (Talk Talk)

This is the music video for Darren Hayes' new single "Talk Talk Talk". It's a great, catchy tune, but I adore the video most of all! Reminds me a lot of Kylie Minogue's "The One" video mixed with the fantasy sequences of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. And, hey, there's even some Beatles references in there, too! Sounds like a bizarre combination, sure, but watch the video and decide for yourself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Old, Older, Oldest

I haven't just been watching insiped kids' movies, chilly, porcelain art films and meditative journey's through time. No, I do occasionally give myself time to see movies made before the invention of the DVD and thank heavens for that because the only film I've seen from 2011 that even approaches the brilliance of the follow trio of films has been Meek's Cutoff - a movie that has gotten a barely there release, even by Australian standards.

Beginning with David Cronenberg's frighteningly prophetic Videodrome seems as good a place as any, doesn't it? As I slowly make my way through the man's oeuvre I find myself becoming more and more of a fan. So much so, actually, that as I viewed the recently launched trailer for his latest, the Freud and Jung psychoanalysis A Dangerous Method, I kept hoping for something deliciously wicked to happen like - oh, I dunno - Michael Fassbender dissolving into a giant vagina made of goo and thorns.

Nevertheless, Videodrome is a crazy psycho-sci-fi-horror flick that paints a lurid, grotesque picture of a mentally decaying civilisation, which, in a neat twist, has turned out to be a spot on prediction of the future. Made in 1983, it presents a world where executives of a niche television network play amongst themselves trying to push the boundaries of taste and to tell you any more would be silly because, even though it's nearly 30 years old (!!!), to witness its hallucinogenic mindfunks free of knowledge is still the best way to go.

If you must - or if you've already seen it - how about this trailer! Created on a Commodore 64 with graphics that look like a long lost Lime record cover, it's certainly a relic of its time.

James Woods plays James Woods as always, but how great is Deborah Harry? She pops up in the strangest of places (usually Canadian) and yet is always a treat. As the seductress with an interest in the burgeoning kink scene, Debbie's "Nikki Brand" is a wonderful creation and it helps that she can play it so very well. Cronenberg is so enamoured with Harry's lips that they become the centrepiece of what is arguably Videodrome's most famous sequence. I love how smouldering she looks on the two ace Videodrome posters below. The film as a whole is just terrific though. Ugly and menacing, yet never stifling and claustrophobic. It's science fiction at its most fascinating and mind-blowing. Long live the new flesh Videodrome! A

I recently had the chance to see Victor Fleming's 1939 epic Gone with the Wind on the big screen and, without hesitation, I jumped at it. Screening at The Astor Theatre with overture and intermission in tact - the only thing missing was Marzipan creeping around the lobby (she was at the vet).

What is there that can be said about Gone with the Wind that hasn't already been said? And I'm not just saying that because I can't be bothered typing much about it, but because there really isn't much to say that wouldn't just sound like heavy squeals - VIVIAN LEIGH! THE COSTUMES!! THE SETS!!! VIVIAN LEIGH!!!! EVERYTHING!!!!! VIVIAN LEIGH!!!!!! ETC!!!!!!! You get the deal. Seeing it on a big screen was, needless to say, a bit better than a DVD on the TV (and, on at least one viewing, with the wrong side of the disc in, resulting in watching a hefty chunk of the film's second half before everything else. Oops.) I lost track of the amount of times my face lit up with a grin as big as Tara witnessing those images projected onto a cinema screen for the first time. Tomorrow is another day... A+

Lastly - just last night in fact - I immersed myself in The Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein's famed 1925 silent film about the mutiny on board the titular ship and the effects - albeit fictionalised - it had on the nearby port town of Odessa. It's an astonishing film, and one that is constantly surprising in its use of editing and cinematography, not to mention the curiously numerous moments of homoerotic imagery that Eisenstein, a gay man, put into the film. Querelle eat your heart out! Okay, maybe not that much...

As someone who finds his resistance to silent films deteriorating with each subsequent viewing, I was shocked by how little it felt like a chore to sit through as some silents can be. There was only one instance of my biggest silent movie pet peeve where a character speaks for what feels like a lengthy moment of time and yet only one brief title card of dialogue appears on screen afterwards! That's a win in my book. Much like the best silent films I have seen - Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and Nosferatu, Pabst's Pandora's Box, Lang's M and Metropolis - it has a vibrancy and a strength of storytelling ability that belies its origins. It's why I don't care for DW Griffith's The Birth of a Nation or Intolerance, both of which are unwieldy, excessive and over-wrought. For all the "he invented [insert camera trick]!" praise that Griffith gets, I couldn't help but feel that watching this film, and in particular the "Odessa Steps" sequence, was more akin to watching cinema for the first time. It's such a striking, deeply powerful piece of filmmaking that actually had be gasping. It's amazing how techniques seen hundreds of time since can still have such an impact like they do here. I'd heard about the "Odessa Steps" scene and everytime I saw those steps I thought to myself "is this is?" When it began, however, I could tell "oh, this is it!" and was instantly swept up, just as I was the rest of the film. A

I, unfortunately, feel like I could barely find time to watch all 74 minutes of Battleship Potemkin once this weekend let alone twice, which is what I wanted to do. I have heard the Pet Shop Boys' score to the film long before I'd seen the movie itself and now that I've seen it I really did want to watch it again with the sound on mute and their 2007 electronic synth driven music score on the speakers. It's a thrilling 69 minutes worth of music from the Boys - credited as Tennant/Lowe for some reason - and would be interested to see how it plays alongside the monster of a film. Has anybody done it or, better yet, been a one of the rare screenings featuring the Pet Shop Boys' score? People have done the same thing to Metropolis, which would be another fascinating combination given science fiction and synthesisers go hand in hand.

If you're at all like me and are curious, here is a video that somebody uploaded. Very interesting.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Cars 2

Cars 2
Dir. John Lasseter & Brad Lewis
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: PG
Running Time: 113mins

That sound you hear is the screeching of breaks on the seemingly unstoppable Pixar express. After 15 years of peerless computer animation and cinematic magic, the Pixar juggernaut has come to a severe end with Cars 2. A follow-up to their 2006 charmer Cars, this year’s annual Pixar entry lacks everything that makes their movies so good. Missing the emotion, pathos and laughs (for anyone over the age of ten) Cars 2 places merchandising revenue over quality entertainment, with the film being excessive and overwrought in every department.

Read the rest at Trespass Magazine

It's not good. D+

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 24 of Scream 2 (1:12:08-1:14:54)

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

SCENE 24 of Scream 2
Length: 2min 46secs
Primary Characters: Gale Weathers, Debbie Salt, Joel the Cameraman and Dewey Riley
Pop Culture References:
  • None

Ya know, considering the fashion crimes going on around her - the floral mini-skirt! THE SLEEVELESS PANT-DRESS THING WITH WHITE PANTYHOSE!!!! - it's surprising how Gale Weathers gets out of Scream 2 unscathed. And once she takes the blazer off and is running around in that white top and black pant ensemble she looks positively rockin'! No hyper fluorescent green dresses for her this time!

I randomly adore this shot. I like that they don't cram every frame with stuff. Sometimes, this this moment, they do interesting compositions. Out of context, this looks like it's from a completely different movie and I love it.

Meanwhile, loving the way that they do actually keep having Debbie Salt around, not always doing something, but certainly making her more of a presence than Mickey or whatshisface in Scream 3. And I like how Debbie is standing back, like she's waiting to pounce on Gale, not even pretending to be a proper journalist like she others by scraggling for a quote from Cotton Weary. Actually... that's exactly what she says the killer must be doing. Sneaky!

"How are you holding up, Gale? It must be scary knowing somebody is out there, waiting and watching, enjoying all this. How does that make you feel?"

"Look local woman. I know that you hold me up as your career template and it gives you some sorta charge to challenge me... but GIVE IT A REST!"

See, if this were Scream 3 or Scream 4, Joel the Cameraman here would be knife food by film's end - and, let's face it, even though he says he's leaving the scene of all these crimes, we all still kinda expected him to pop up in the final reel with his tongue sticking out and his eyes gouged out, yeah? I like that one of the black characters is the smart one and gets outta this murder capital.

"I feel bad, Dewey. I feel really bad. I never say that because I never feel bad about anything! But I feel bad now."

Aw, Gale has a heart!

"Is this just another brilliant Gale Weathers performance?"
"There are no cameras here. I just wanna find this fucker!"

Teehee, I love that bit: "I just wanna find this fucker!" One of my favourite lines, for sure.

Aw, they're so cute together. Investigatin' crimes and solvin' mysteries. It's a shame they couldn't make it work. Wait, am I talking about Gale and Dewey or Courteney and David? Who knows, aren't they one and the same?

But do you know what time it is? Oh you know what time it is. !!!!!! *explodes*

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, Scene 22, Scene 23

Review: Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty
Dir. Julia Leigh
Year: 2011
Aus Rating: MA15+
Running Time: 105mins

There comes a moment about two thirds of the way through author-turned-director Julia Leigh’s debut Sleeping Beauty where a character breaks the fourth wall and recites a lengthy monologue directly to camera. It’s a particularly intriguing and brave moment, in a film that is filled with intriguing and brave moments, that solidifies Leigh’s intention to completely ignore the fundamentals of cinema. She all but states with this scene late in Beauty’s proceedings that there will be no neat and tidy bows tied to this story of high class high creep prostitution. She’s been confounding the audience up until this point and there’s no way she’s about to stop just so we mere mortal filmgoers can walk out the cinema feeling as if we know what we just witnessed.

Let’s go to the start though, shall we?

Read the rest at Onya Magazine

They're Remaking Sarah Jessica Parker's Childhood!

Earlier today I posted another film trailer on Facebook as a part of the "30 Day Film Challenge" - a project that, like every other project I partake in, has taken far longer than I had originally anticipated. For Day 29 I had to list my favourite movie as a child and, without even so much as a second thought, I selected Flight of the Navigator. A Disney movie that was released in 1986, but which I remember most fondly from years of VHS repeats. I loved that movie growing up, and I still do!

Nevertheless, I was saddened to see that there is a remake in the works. Thankfully, that news apparently came through the pipeline all the way back in 2009 and there hasn't been a peep about it since so hopefully they've ditched the idea. I can see how easy it would be to remake, but... ugh. I hate being one of those people who holds their childhood memories ransom to a new generation of moviegoers, but Flight of the Navigator just wouldn't quite feel the same without the endearing dated futuristic visuals, Paul Reubens' voice work as the spaceship and Sarah Jessica Parker's adorableness as a frizzy-haired NASA employee (?!) It's just not right, I tellsya!

Perhaps my continued fondness for Sarah Jessica Parker stems from how ingrained she was in my childhood. No matter how many Did You Hear About the Morgans?', Failure to Launch's or I Don't Know How She Does It's she makes with her Sex and the City residual rom-com fame I'll always fondly remember the '80s movies, which were followed by films like LA Story, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks and The First Wive's Club. And, of course, the brilliance that is Sex and the City (the television series, at least).

It's not just Flight of the Navigator from Parker's youth that Hollywood wants to remake! Her seminal '80s dance movie Girls Just Want to Have Fun (co-starring Helen Hunt, Shannon Doherty and Lee Montgomery - *sigh* Lee Montgomery...) has also been put into the big machine. It seems particularly pointless to remake that one since it's plot has already been recycled so many times to the point of redundancy.

And, seriously, who would want Girls Just Want to Have Fun with this?

Not me!

Anyway, despite all the talk about remakes of Flight of the Navigator and Girls Just Want to Have Fun, the one Sarah Jessica Park teen flick that has indeed made its way down the remake pipeline is, of course, Footloose. Far more famous for it's classic soundtrack and being one of Kevin Bacon's breakthrough movies (alongside Friday the 13th) than for anything Sarah Jessica Parker did, it's still a vital part of her early career. Let's take a look at the poster for Footloose circa 2011 first, shall we?

"This Is Our Time" you say? Wasn't that 1984 when this movie was actually new and original? Hmmm. I like the typeface, but that's about it. Also: No walkman. Disappointing! No matter how average the poster is - and that's all it is: average - nothing could have quite prepared me for how bad the trailer makes this movie look. You truly have to see it to believe it.

Oh boy. This looks like a lame direct-to-DVD sequel cash-in, doesn't it? It's been a while since I saw the original and I'm sure it was made with very intentions, but there's no denying that if it continues to have a life in this day and age then it is as a culty comedy of incredibly '80s-ness. To see the material treated with such seriousness is quite off putting. Dennis Quaid laying down the law over crunk dancing? Oy... The film's star is some dancer/actor named Kenny Wormald who is exactly as famous as you would expect from that name. He, sadly, looks like the typically bland male lead these movies all get nowadays. Kevin Bacon was never the most attractive man, but there was a time when teen movies featured actors that didn't all look perfect. Not that they're not in the same pretty boy file, but I wish Zac Efron or Chase Crawford had ended up making this film like originally rumoured. They would at least give it a bit of pizazz. As it is, it just looks lame.

I think the tweet I made last night says it all:

Have you actually watched Footloose lately? It is not a good movie (apart from the soundtrack.) I can spot several visual cues within this remake's trailer that begs comparison to the original and, sadly, those are the best bits! Sadly, no mention of gymnastics and uneven bars. Nostalgia has a lot to answer for!

The one aspect of the trailer that makes me genuinely curious is the inclusion of Miles Teller. He was so good in Rabbit Hole, opposite Nicole Kidman, and seeing his face pop up here in the Chris Penn role was cause for a double take. If he's having fun and getting a decent pay check then good for him. As for Footloose though? Well, I'll be there with bells on like I am to virtually any dance movie, but I just don't see how it's possible that Footloose will be anything other than one of the worst movies of the year. I would, however, love to be proven wrong!