Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: Disgrace

Dir. Steve Jacobs
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 121mins

Some movies have such interesting heritage. Disgrace is an Australian financed film, adapted from a book written by a South African, starring an American and a Frenchman while also written, directed and co-produced by a pair of Italian Australians. This mix of nationalities is a far cry from the previous film from husband and wife team director Steve Jacobs and writer Anna Maria Monticelli, La Spagnola. They have spent eight years since that more frothy title navigating the terrain of JM Coetzee's novel Disgrace, getting the rights and adapting it to the screen. On a strictly emotional and intellectual level, the film aims at a higher level, but it also reaches for loftier ground in a pure movie-making sense. It succeeds far more than it doesn't, and that is cause to be thankful.

Set in South Africa after the demise of Apartheid, Disgrace stars John Malkovich as Davie Lurie, a poetry professor at the university of Cape Town, a position he uses to his advantage to get one student, a fine Antoinette Engel, into his bed. His dismissal - and, yes, his disgrace - sends him to the fringes of society from there he decides to move in with his lesbian daughter Lucy, an exceptional Jessica Haines, who lives in the country with only her property's maintenance manager Petrus (Eriq Ebouaney) as company. The political, gender and sexual politics that are already rife due to Lurie's indiscretions are further.

The audience's sympathies, empathies and thoughts are constantly changing and that is one of the film's strongest assets. Just who, if anybody, is right? While it is understandable to take Lurie's position when it comes to the decisions his daughter is making in regards to dealing with the violence heaped upon her situation, one must also ask themselves if we should be trusting anything this man says or thinks, since he has no problem crossing ethical boundaries. And while we may sit confused at the daughter's decisions, at other times it feels as if she is the only sane one. And then there is the character of Petrus, who represents the black Africa that was thwarted for so many years under the rule of Apartheid. Just what is their place in this new South Africa where people's houses - whites and blacks alike - are lined with gates within gates and how one black man can turn on another for misdeeds when they, as a people, have been ostracised for so long.

This tricky web of lofty dramatics could very easily be a turn off, and it's easy to see how an audience member could find it hard to find interest in any of the characters in here. I can't say I liked any of them either, but I found their situations, their motivations and their actions fascinating. A late scene involving Lurie and a dog he has befriended at a kennel is of particular note and perhaps the most important in the whole film. Just what has he learned from the ordeal and are incidents like it just going to further tear apart at a nation already ripped apart by race.

I have not read the novel that Jacobs' film is based on, but I am lead to believe that it is an incredibly faithful work of adaptation. So while I can't come at it from the perspective of somebody who has the read the novel, to which is the littlest of scenes can mean a lot, I could tell where I felt the film had issues and that, perhaps, the elimination of some scenes and the lengthening of others may have been the way to go. By the final act of the film there are many scenes of no great length and of no apparent strong necessity yet they are there and they help to bring it down. Heavy symbolism takes took this viewer out of the film and I felt as if a large amount of the intensity that the film had in spades at the start disappears. Scenes feel almost abstract in their intention, although as I move further away from the film I realise that that is probably the reason for them. The final shot is particularly breath-taking and leaves the film of a mixture of hope, sadness and anger.

Performances are all exceptional with Malkovich proving that he actually is still capable of a good performance after being embarrassing on more than a few occasions recently (Colour Me Kubrick comes to mind). It is probably his finest work yet. Newcomer Haines is quite a find and she presents her characters dueling emotions well. Another to astound is Fiona Press as a vet worker who uses Lurie for her own needs in a wonderful twist to their characters. Photography by Steve Arnold of the South African landscape is wonderful, but thankfully resists the obvious temptation to make it a series of postcards. Music by Antony Partos is effective, while the art direction has a wonderful authenticity about it. That flower garden has a gorgeous juxtaposed quality to it, don't you think?

Disgrace could be a hard slog to sit through for some, but if you are willing to invest your energy in this evocative story then you should be rewarded with a thought-provoking experience. While the final act doesn't meet the rest of the film's high standard, the lasting effects of the film as a whole are well worth the effort put into delving into it. B

Do You Like Scary Movies?

Since writing that very impromptu My Bloody Valentine 3D review I've been watching some mid-to-late '90s horror movie trailers. They bring back so many VHS memories. Getting one from Blockbuster and then discovering a whole new lot to get excited about. I remember going to three different stores just to rent a copy of Halloween H20. How crazy is that!.

There's that sort of omnipresent voice over by Don LaFontaine that suits them so perfectly. The constant cross-referencing - The Faculty trailer even includes scenes from Scream! - and the way they all seem to mention rules or have jokes about horror movies (Scream brought many things in vogue, didn't it?) So much fun to watch if, like me, these were the movies you actually grew up watching. Desperately begging a parental to take you and your mates (before shunning them to the back of the cinema, naturally) and thinking you were so cool for seeing an MA15+ rated film that features Tara Reid get butchered while in her underwear (clearly the latter aspect of that moment was a bit lost on me).

Speaking of The Faculty, I had forgotten what a great cast that movie had! Piper Laurie, Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Jon Stewart, Clea DuVall, Elijah Wood, Christopher McDonald and Josh Hartnett. Nowadays the biggest cast member would be someone from The Hills plus a bunch of too-pretty nobodies who nobody will ever see again. Seemingly gone are the days when someone like Anne Heche would show up in I Know What You Did Last Summer! :/

And now I have the overwhelming desire to watch them all.

Review: My Blood Valentine 3D

My Bloody Valentine 3D
Dir. Patrick Lussier
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: R18+
Running Time: 101mins

Sometimes when one is sick, one just wants to sit down and watch some silly bimbos and idiotic jocks get murdered in increasingly "suspense-filled" ways. So it was with that idea in mind that I sat down to watch My Bloody Valentine last night. I attempted to watch it in 3D with a flimsy pair of painful glasses that came with my copy of Friday the 13th Part III - my Valentine DVD did not come properly equipped with glasses of its own - but they didn't work so I promptly flipped the disc over and watch it in standard 2D. I can't say the 3D would have given the film much hope of being any better than it was, and watching 3D movies in 2D always holds some amusement to me. The sight of people waving things around in front of themselves for no reason elicits chuckles from me.

The movie, let's face it, isn't the rocket science equivalent of a horror movie, but it held some interest with me. I was glad to finally watch a horror movie from recent times that could be described as "slasher". In my formative movie-watching years the big horror hits were titles like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, Halloween H20 and Urban Legend. At the same time I was discovering older titles like Friday the 13th and Halloween and so it grew that these were my favourite kind of scary movie. All on VHS too! They were rarely genuinely great movies (sometimes they very much were), but they provided a few scares and a whole lotta fun. Perhaps there's just something about a person in a mask with a sharp weapon that is much more enjoyable than Japanese twin sisters or sadistic mind games. You can't say many (if any at all) of the horror movies released in the last few years could be described as "fun". So, yes, it was nice to see a horror title try and be fun again. Not every time I sit down to watch a fright flick do I want to feel like slashing my wrists from the miserable hopelessness of it all (as much as I can actually like those sort of scary movies).

Starting ten years ago we get the deaths of a good 30 or so characters in about fifteen minutes. There are explosions, pick-axe murders and open-heart guttings. Charming. However, the highlight of this opening passage is seeing the likes of Jensen Ackles (29 years old), Jaime King (30 years old) and Kerr Smith (37 years old!) portray teenagers. The film promptly jumps forward ten years, which makes the actors look far less ridiculous, although the image of Smith wearing a backwards baseball cap and pretending to act like he's still on Dawson's Creek would have made the whole affair, perhaps, even more fun. It also reminded me of the days when these movies were filled with casts made up of the entirety of WB's teen program lineups as opposed to nameless nobodies whose entire career will be heretofore made up of direct-to-DVD Saw sequels.

The film follows the expected pattern. Various characters start getting murdered by a man in a gas mask wielding a pick-axe, but this time in 3D! Eyes pop out at the screen, gun barrels are aimed directly at the audience's face, blood splatters in various directions like you're in the front row of a play that requires you to bring your own coat. There's even 3D breasts, which is perhaps the film's most bizarrely hilarious moment. Betsy Rue (what a name!) gets to strut around completely starkers before running away - still completely starkers - from the murderous villain. It'd be offensive if it wasn't so stupidly whack.

(black bars added by me - this blog has some decency ya know!)

Of course, once the final act rolls around and it brings out more and more of the old slasher chestnuts it starts to derail. The red herrings aren't well-played and the big reveal somehow succeeds in being more disappointingly handled than realising it was actually Rebecca Gayheart's giant hair under that woolly parker the entire time! It's around this time that the movie's overriding sense of fun dissipates and ends up as a more cynically motivated piece of trickery. Still, director (and co-editor) Patrick Lussier keeps the film moving at a quick pace - working on Wes Craven's Scream films clearly helped - and visually the techs are well done, even if the 3D effects appear to be entirely superfluous. I know I'd rather spend time with this splatter town than I would the mean-spirited and nasty ones of recent times. C+

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Movies in Movies: House of Wax in "Thriller"

Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is more of a movie than a lot of the ones I see, so I felt no qualms about including it in here.


Still sick. Still don't have much desire to do anything at all except watch DVD repeats of Golden Girls and The Closer. Maybe something tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Further Proof that Richard Wilkins is a Knob

Courtesy of Crikey. Also, this is very funny.

RIP Michael Jackson

I heard word about the death of Michael Jackson only an hour into my working day at around 8am. They were rumours at that stage and I dismissed them as a hoax, especially considering the number of times it's been said he was on his death bed. Alas, no, it was real and for the rest of the day I have had his music circulating through my head. Yes, he was... troubled (to say the least), but I'm choosing to focus on his music if you don't mind.

That he was an icon, a superstar and an altogether master of music is undeniable. Much like Madonna or The Beatles, almost any pop artist around today owes him something; some debt for his creativity and desire to stretch pop music beyond what anybody thought possible. I remember my first experience of Michael Jackson was whilst watching Video Hits and seeing him dancing around those dark and blue-tinged streets in "The Way You Make Me Feel" in 1989 as he tries to seduce the woman. It was only years later that I even realised the West Side Story choreography had been placed in there! I think I ended up seeing that video over 200 times and it never got tired.

After that I saw each of his new videos as they came around like "Black or White", "Scream" (I still remember the stories about it being the most expensive video of all time and by that stage I was a Janet fiend) and "Earth Song" being particularly memorable. "Do You Remember" became another video that I was increasingly obsessed with. That Egyptian dancing blew my mind and I seemed to be in love with all the clothes, too! I slowly investigated his old work through VHS. "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" with its primitive, and yet still quite fantastic, visual effects and one sleeve arm roll. The classic "Thriller" and the bikie fad of "Bad" (Bad is actually my favourite Jackson album), the glowing concrete of "Billie Jean".

"Smooth Criminal" would end up not only my favourite video, but also my favourite Jackson son period. Everything about it is so perfect. Songs like "Human Nature", "Dirty Diana", "Man in the Mirror", "Off the Wall", "Beat It", "Burn This Disco Out" and so many more would all became instant favourites the moment I heard them. I would even go so far as to say that five second synth moment between 0:37 and 0:42 are the greatest five seconds of music ever. Anybody who doesn't get a jolt that those five seconds should just never listen to music ever again. Off the Wall is like the perfect disco album, too.

It is impossible to ignore all the ugly details that consumed his life in his later years, but the music... my god, THE MUSIC! I'll be listening to it on repeat for quite a while. I won't stop 'til i get enough. I know in this day and age it's easy for any one artist to have a hit album and all of a sudden they're the biggest star in the world, but you don't get to be "King of Pop" for nothin'.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"When this kind of fire starts, it is very hard to put out."

The above is a screen grab from David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. I took it from Club Silencio's piece about the film under the "Defensive Cinema" banner. I've agreed with Adam's take on Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding as well as Roger Avary's The Rules of Attraction (I haven't seen Cronenberg's Crash, unfortunately), but this take on Lynch's much-maligned prequel to his hit TV series Twin Peaks is a marvel.

I love that movie so very very much. It took all the sinister undertones from the series (which occasionally became quite overt) and cranked them up to 11. The entire movie feels like it's on cocaine, much like Laura Palmer, and for that it actually works. It's the version of this town that the townspeople don't want to acknowledge, when in actual fact it is right under their noses. No coffee and cherry pie at the local diner, here. It's more likely coke and bourban at a bar before being taken back and rooted in a train car.

Below is one of the many stunning moments from the film when Laura discovers somebody in her room. It shouldn't be watched by anyone who ever intends to immerse themselves in the Twin Peaks universe since it, basically, gives away the entire mystery of the television series. Terrifying though, isn't it? You can't say Sheryl Lee didn't have an impressive set of lungs on her, that's for sure!

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 25/06/09

Bastardy - Aussie documentary that I remember seeing posters for at last year's Melbourne International Film Festival and is only now getting a theatrical release (11 months later). Follows Jack Charles, an accomplished and popular indigenous actor who is a heroin addict, petty thief and a strange case altogether.

Coco Avant Chanel - French biopic about Coco Chanel (betcha didn't see that coming?!) starring Audrey Toutou. Reviews haven't exactly been glowing, but I want to see it for the costumes. Those glorious, beautiful costumes.

Hannah Montana: The Movie - No joking, I've attempted to watch Hannah Montana about three times in my life and I swear everytime I do the exact same episode comes on. There's something about a ventriliquist dummy and Hannah Montana is eagerly awaiting a phone call or something. I dunno. I did win free tickets though so I kinda have to go, right? ...:/

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - I liked the original, I have mentioned that on many occasions, but even fans of the original seem to hate this sequel, which is a shame. It was one of the few big blockbusters of the winter that I really wanted to see.

Wake in Fright - This Aussie film from 1971 was directed by Ted Kotcheff, the man behind the original Fun with Dick and Jane and First Blood, and was nominated for the Palme d'Or in Cannes. It was since deemed a lost classic since only poor-quality VHS versions were around (and in scant supply too). That was until an original film version was found in an American rubbish tip. It has now been remastered and is getting a limited theatrical re-released. Amazing.

Also, Chan-Wook Park's Thirst screens at a couple of Sydney theatres before it's MIFF (and then theatrical) release later. They're so lucky!

DVD Releases for the Week 25/06/09

Chicago 10 - I've heard a lot of good things about this animated documentary (mostly from NicksFlickPicks).

The Last Word - It's so rare to find a movie being released that I have never heard of once in my life. Voila! Stars Winona Ryder and Wes Bentley. Random.

Passengers - I find the idea of Rodrigo Garcia directing Anne Hathaway, Patrick Wilson, Dianne Weist, Clea DuVall, Andre Brougher and David Morse in a movie that goes direct-to-DVD so fascinating. And it's nice to see they're using the artwork in which Hathaway looks like Liv Tyler!

Pride and Glory - Ed Norton and Colin Farrell in a movie about dodgy cops or something to that effect.

The Reader - What can I say? I really liked it. I imagine if this movie were 40 years old and made in black and white then people would hail it as a masterpiece.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sickness and...

Too sick to do anything right now - other than watch MasterChef (omg!!!! my two favourites are up for elimination. Totally devastated!) and Golden Girls DVDs. Tomorrow is a day off so I'll hopefully be feeling a bit better and will get the chance to finish my Disgrace review. Also coming soon will be reviews of Coco Avant Chanel as well as a delightful little announcement of JOY. Be kind. Rewind.

PS; I won a free double pass to go see Hannah Montana: The Movie. Isn't that a hoot! I'm totally going to be seeing that. I have a strange infatuation with "The Climb".

Movies in Movies: Singin' in the Rain in Mean Girls

Monday, June 22, 2009

Review: Last Ride

Last Ride
Dir. Glendyn Ivin
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 90mins

A large number of working directors in Australia hail from backgrounds in short films. Not many have gotten quite the level of success that Glendyn Ivin though, who won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for Cracker Bag in 2003. An auspicious beginning to a career, no doubt, but having now seen his debut feature, the well-tread tale of Last Ride, I'm not sure he's utilised it to his advantage. While the story told in this film may appeal to the nodding heads of the Australian film industry who think to be worthy of accolades you must be raw and tough, I couldn't help but feel it was another case of a director telling a story we've all seen plenty of times before.

Another example of wallowing in lower class miserabilism without the tact, beauty and poignancy of this years Samson and Delilah or the horror and ferocity of Rowan Woods' The Boys. I understand it is meant to be some "harsh" and "powerful" portrayal of the "real" and "uncompromising" Australia that our filmmakers just love to force upon us, but I wanted to throw my hands up into the air and yell "I KNOW!" Australia is filled with a lot of terrible people who do terrible things. I don't need to see this again and especially when it's done like this. Much like the dreaded coming-of-age genre, this sub-section of Australian film has grown immensely tiresome and there's only so far that pretty (if still rather ho-hum) cinematography can get you.

Seemingly on the run from something, Hugo Weaving and newcomer Tom Russell play father and son Kev and Chook. What details Ivin does give us about their past come in quick bursts and they actually provide the film with its strongest moments. Essentially a road movie, Last Ride follows these guys as they navigate the harsh landscape of Australia and Greig Fraser's cinematography does an impressive job of expressing the ideas that Ivin has. Slowly revealing their former life in flashbacks, we soon discover the secrets behind the mysterious character of "Max" (John Brumpton) and why Kev is so desperate to not be found.

Tellingly, the film's best moments are indeed these tiny fragments that shoehorn themselves into the tale. The small flashbacks we get of Weaving and Russell before they ran away are the strongest aspect and hold one of the film's key moments, but it is barely expanded upon. A character played by the impressive Anita Hegh, a former flame of Kev, is another strong aspect, but is quickly disposed of by the film for more scenes of these two guys staring out of car windows at barren terrain. It doesn't help that Weaving is far from his best. He's done this performance before and could do it in his sleep. The standout, however, is ten-year-old Tom Russell who displays more conflicted emotions bubbling underneath his surface than a lot of adult actors could manage.

As the film progresses to it's natural conclusion I eventually stopped caring about the story Ivin was telling. More equating of masculinity to violence and more ponderous hypothesising about the bond between father and son. Weaving's Kev is a vile man and a cliched representation of a real Aussie bloke. Bashing his son for wearing make-up, teaching him to shoot and being abusive to perfectly innocent people. It's not so much tough viewing as just unpleasant. Perhaps that's a personal bug I must bear, but Ivin just does not do enough to warrant telling this story of a man so un-equipped for fatherhood yet again. Only in a sequence of quiet beauty at a location called Lake Gairdner - great location scouting there - does it all seem to actually come together and feel truly organic and less like a tired excursion into woe.

I can't imagine any regular filmgoer wanting to subject themselves to this. It doesn't have the power of other films of this kind and as the current box office success of Samson and Delilah proves, you really need to be spectacular to get audiences to see these gritty tales of life and hardships on the fringes. Last Ride just does not do enough to warrant sitting through it. D+

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not All Is Right

Sometimes posters come along that I don't think are good and yet I can't entirely understand why. I mean, there can be obvious faults but it's when there's just something that doesn't feel right and they are sometimes the very worst.

Okay, so these two character posters for Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes aren't "terrible", but something about them really bugs me. Is it just my imagination or are their heads not proportionate to the rest of their bodies? They seem... large. And Downey Jr's face looks too polished and obviously photoshopped. I also don't like that they don't include the title on the poster outside of the website at the bottom. They just don't feel right. Right?

So there's this movie called Bandslam that I think it like High School Musical, but with less shit Disney pop music and more shit pop rock music. Am I even close with that description? Nevertheless, in France it has been called High School Rock Stars, which is hilarious in itself (also: high schoolers have a deranged idea of what makes a "rock star", don't they. I'm looking at you Miley Cyrus!), but then they go and... I dunno. Those three were clearly not photographed together like that and their shadows are all over the place and the fact that it says "et Lisa Kudrow" is tres depressing. And yet there is something else here that is irritating me. Surely it's not just the awful font and general tackiness of the poster?

This poster is just terrible, don't you agree? Like, in every conceivable way. The marketing material for this movie - Rob Zombie's non-remake sequel to his remake of Halloween? - have been shambolic to say the least.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Black + White Friday: Pulp Fiction (Part I)

What if Quentin Tarantino's revolutionary Pulp Fiction was, in actual fact, just another cheap pulp knock-off from a studio who had a bunch of has-been actors on their books with contracts to complete before being tossed aside. What if said pulp film became a Cannes and Oscar-winning classic?

As I was going through and taking the screencaps I realised I was only about an hour into the movie so I decided to do two entries devoted to Pulp Fiction, because... really, why not?

Things we can learn from this experiment. Amanda Plummer looks just as crazy and deranged in black and white as she does in colour.

Remember when Samuel L Jackson was good? I try to as often as I can, but all he keeps making is shit and it gets harder and harder with each ever-frequent franchise that he signs himself up for.

See, this is why I love QT! Just small simple things like giving Ving Rhames' character a bandaid on the back of his neck. It's not entirely necessary, but I still dig them all.

I bet that, after many movies now of constant incredibly overt references to old school cinema, many forgot this scene was in Pulp Fiction. If he were to do it now people would say he's worshiping at the alter of bad cinema (as always, thankfully) and that it "takes you out of the movie" or whatever.

What would a pulpy B-movie be without a cigarette-smoking femme fatale? Uma Thurman is just so amazing in this movie, isn't she? It's staggering that Tarantino is the only director to have been able to harness her into multiple great performances.

I could have done this entire entry based around caps from the Jack Rabbit Slims sequence, but I chose not to. The entire scene is just brilliant. Everything from the acting to the writing to the composition to the dance to... everything.

I love how this looks like it belongs to a long lost scene from Sunset Boulevard! Except maybe without the Edwyn Collins on the soundtrack.

It's weird to say, but isn't this one of Christopher Walken's least insane performances?

I just love this shot.

I don't think they had guns like that in the 1950s, but it's fun to imagine isn't it? Something like Kiss Me Deadly would look a whole lot different, wouldn't it?

Part II will arrive, hopefully, next Friday.

2012 is Making My Brain Fall Out

Look, I know Roland Emmerich ain't no great director - hell, even the movies of his that I liked on first viewing grow progressively worse - but somehow I still manage to get excited for his movies. Not 10,000 BC. Not at all.

No, but 2012? Hell yes. Have a look at the newly-released trailer below and tell me it doesn't look, as the kids may say, "awesome!" Yes, the humans are going to be poorly conceived, written and performed. Yes, the John Cusack character will probably save the day through some improbably means. Yes, it is basically all window dressing and visual effects to "blow stuff up good". But sometimes that all I want. This trailer is, like, 30 different money shots combined into three handy minutes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

When Bad Posters Strike: Love Happens

Boring title? Check!

Boring movie still as central image? Double Check!

Boring font? Extra Double Check!

Big giant stripe? I'M GETTIN' MAD!


All in all it's a pretty woeful effort, don't you agree?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 18/06/09

Disgrace - Definitely been looking forward to this one a lot (check out the tag at the bottom of this entry). From director Steve Jacobs and the novel by JM Coetzee starring John Malkovich, Eriq Ebouaney and newcomer Jessica Haines. Supposed to be quite good and it will be interesting to see how this very un-Australian-looking film plays out. I wonder if people will even know it's an Australian film (co-production with South Africa, it must be said).

Noodle - Israeli film from 2007 that finally getting a release.

The Proposal - Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds star in this rom-com about two people who hate each other, but who have to spend a lot of time together and proceed to discover that, hey, they actually love one another. The only thing more obvious than where this movie ends up (and, having said that, I still kinda actually sorta wanna see it) is that Bullock has been photoshopped to within an inch of her life waist. Yowza, who are they trying to fool there? (sorry Sandy!)

Year One - How about "No!"

DVD Releases for the Week 18/06/09

Changeling - This wasn't a very good movie, was it? Answer: No. It has some nice elements, but I generally think focusing on Angelina Jolie's character was the biggest problem since she is, quite literally, a nigh on insufferable bore here. It is somehow ranked #219 on the IMDb Top 250, which is quite an unfathomable occurrence, really.

Hotel for Dogs - It's a shrug of a movie, isn't it?

Milk - A very good movie in case you have forgotten.

My Bloody Valentine 3D - Now the DVD cover says it comes with 3D glasses although I wonder how Quickflix deals with it? I don't see how they could just keep sending out the same pair of glasses (if people even returned them to begin with.) I have a pair of glasses that came with my Friday the 13th Part III DVD. I tried watching it a while ago and it was terrible. The glasses were cutting into my ears, the movie looked dark and the 3D was barely noticeable. Grrr.

Repo! The Genetic Opera - Yeah, when Paris Hilton is one of the more interesting aspects of your movie (and a musical to boot) you know you have problems. Problems mainly considering for Paul Sorvino. I can't claim to be anything resembling an expert on his career, but it was definitely the worst performance I have ever seen from him. Truly dreadful.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno - This movie would have been better with a different third act, no? Like, incredibly so.

When Bad Posters Strike: A Perfect Getaway

Can someone please make this madness stop?!?!

Stripes? AGAIN!

I have become so blase about stripes these days when it comes to poor poster design concepts that I only mention it when it seems to rise to new levels of badness and here is one example. The movie apparently stars Timothy Olyphant (who is either the killer of the only survivor - early hunch!) and yet I can't recognise him. I can see Steve Zahn (who is either the killer or the first to die - early hunch!), but which of the other two men is Timothy? I've studied that man's face a lot ( and I don't recognise it any of the face shown.

Then there's Milla Jovavich. If you have Milla Jovavich in a movie set on a tropic island and the best you can do to sell her place in it is by cropping her face behind a filthy algae green filter? Not good, folks.

But, really, what it comes down to is just poor execution of a dull design. The uneven widths of each panel is bugging me. The annoying blurring that is going on reeks of somebody with too much spare time on their hands and a copy of Photoshop (is the blurring meant to imply they are running really fast through the trees?) So much space in each stripe dedicated to nothing but fuzzy palm fronds. Gah! And then there's just the general oddness of the stripes. They were just put there because they had no other way of proving that there were actors in that people may have heard of, I guess.

Having said all that though, I think the bottom half is quite nice. The green filter actually looks sinister, the blood splattering actually looks chilling and the tag line is actually not that bad. Whoever the final two cast members are though? They must feel bad that "Kiele Sanchez" gets above-the-title credit and they do not.

Movies in Movies: Attack of the 50ft. Woman in Pulp Fiction

This poster was also discussed in the 100 Greatest Movie Posters countdown. It was #21

Two Steps Forward (Two Steps Back)

There's nothing quite like having "Opposites Attract" pop up during a playlist shuffle to quell a bad mood, is there? This track by Paula Abdul FEATURING MC SKAT KAT(!!!!!omg!) was one of the many songs I was obsessed with in the early '90s when I spent, quite literally, hours upon hours just watching video taped episodes of Video Hits and Rage.

I recently did one of those silly quizzes on Facebook and the one question that everybody got correct (!!) was the one about owning a Paula Abdul greatest hits album. It is indeed true and if I am not embarrassed by it at all. It was $3, y'all!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Charlotte Gainsbourg to Self-Mutilate Her Way Through MIFF

As the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival gets ever so closer and closer more news continues to emerge about some of the movies that will be screening. We've already heard about the opening and closing night films and a host of others, but today came a BIG announcement.

MIFF has succeeded in getting screenings for some of the Cannes Film Fest's biggest hitters. Lars Von Trier's Antichrist is one and you can guarantee it'll be in it's uncensored form. I am strongly considering checking it out since there is a good chance that it will get edited in some form (Australia can be so strange like that sometimes). I won't, however, be going to see Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, which is quite a coup for the festival. Its release is - apparently - 20 August and that's three hours I could be spending watching something that won't see the light of day here in any way outside of a festival.

Other titles to get festival screenings are Chan Wook Park's vampire priest tale Thirst, and Bong-Joon Ho's Mother. I was a big fan of Andrea Arnold's debut film Red Road and so am pleased to see her Cannes-winning followup, Fish Tank, is getting a screening. Although I may skip that one, too, since it will likely receive a theatrical release in the not too distant future. The other film that gets a mention that piqued my interest was animated title A Town Called Panic from Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, which sounds like a French Toy Story.

I don't have much interest in Ken Loach's Looking for Eric, but it will be screening after it's opening night gig at the Sydney Film Festival recently. Speaking of Sydney it will be interesting to see if we get that festival's big prize winner Bronson. The news of it's win was greeted with puzzlement and it doesn't sound like the sort of film I'd want to see, but you never know.

The entire article can be read @MIFF and I'm sure there's plenty for exciting news to come.

The American Dream

Any Madonna fan - hell, any music fan - should definitely check out my friend Adem's revision of Madge's American Life album. I maintain that it is her best record, although like Adem I think Like a Prayer really does give it a run for it's money, and I am always trying to defend it as often as I can since so many seem to have all but shunned it. And all because she does a funny rap? Shame. Not to give too much away, but you're going to be seeing American Life rank very very high on my Best Albums of the Decade countdown to come later in '09/early '10.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My JJJ Top Ten

One of Australia's most popular radio stations is Triple J. Every year they hold the "hottest 100", in which people vote for their favourite songs from the year prior and on Australia Day (January 26) they countdown the entire 100-strong countdown. It's become an institution and is the world's biggest countdown (800,000 votes last year) and to celebrate the 20th anniversary Triple J are doing their second "Best Ever" Hot 100.

Of course, this being voted on by the Australian public means it will be filled with shit like Powderfinger, Eskimo Joe, The Living End and any number of pub rock and identikit rockers. Say what you will about pop stars being manufactured, but I'd rather take them than yet another Aussie rock outfit. The list will probably also be incredibly current. I shudder to think that the very first Hottest 100 winner, Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart", won't even rate a mention. Frightening prospect, that.

I am fully aware that all but one or two of the songs I have voted for will make the countdown as they lean far too much onto the side of pop. That the 40,000 strong list of songs that people have already voted for did not include the Cocteau Twins' "Heaven or Las Vegas" is both disturbing, depressing and tragically comical. Nevertheless, here are the ten songs I voted for. I don't actually consider them the "ten best of all time" - although several of them would be - but I decided to choose some songs that scream "DEFINITIVE" and "ALL TIME" and are more likely to get votes from others as opposed to more esoteric or overly pop tracks.

(in alphabetical order)

Cocteau Twins, "Heaven or Las Vegas" (1990, Heaven or Las Vegas)
I go to another world when I listen to this song. Dream pop is one of my favourite genres and there is no better example of it than "Heaven or Las Vegas". The chorus simply soars and Elizabeth Fraser sounds like some beautiful, incandescent (and indecipherable) goddess.

Curve, "Horror Head" (1991, Doppelgänger)
Alt rock extraordinaires that almost nobody knows about! This group from the early '90s are truly amazing and "Horror Head" is them at their very best. You could do worse to wash away the stink of modern day rock than giving this two piece are go. It's elegant rock pop in the style of alt rock from the early '90s filled with grimy guitar work and breathy vocals. Female voices in rock = superior to Bernard Fanning.

Hole, "Miss World" (1994, Live Through This)
Well, I could have chosen any number of Hole songs since they are, after all, the best band of the 1990s, but I went with "Miss World" off of Live Through This as it's probably their most recognisable (outside of "Celebrity Skin", but there are better tracks off of that 1998 album) and well-known by the sort of people who hate women in rock, and even they can admit this song is classic.

INXS, "Don't Change" (1982, Shabooh Shoobah)
Okay, so perhaps it is a little un-Australian to not have anything Aussie on here and if I'm gonna put any Australian rock band on here it's going to be INXS and it's going to be for "Don't Change" off of Shabooh Shoobah. It's those opening synths followed by those epic guitars that makes this song as flat out classic and brilliant as it is, but then adding Michael Hutchence's beautiful singing on top (especially the wailing in the final 30 seconds)? Fuckin' ace!

Kate Bush, "Wuthering Heights"
Has there ever been a voice like Kate Bush? Probably not. Her first single - she was the first female solo artist to go to #1 with her first single, btw - is still my favourite, although - let's be honest - there is an endless supply of songs that could have taken its place.

Madonna, "Vogue" (1990, I'm Breathless)
I originally wasn't going to put it on, but I figured I had already excised some brilliant pop tracks and this is my favourite song of all time so I thought I would give myself some leway. It really is the perfect pop song though, isn't it? Catchy tune, easily memorable lyrics, dancable and instantly iconic.

Massive Attack, "Unfinished Sympathy" (1991, Blue Lines)
The song that I constantly to-and-fro over as to what just is my favourite song of all time and i would probably say it is if you asked me tomorrow. "Unfinished Sympathy" is a captivating epic and the musical equivalent of a Shakespearean tragedy. Anybody who doesn't claim it as a favourite simply has never heard it. Still disappointing that The Verve get all the credit for their "Bittersweet Symphony" video clip when it was, quite obviously, stolen from Massive Attack.

Nirvana, "Come As You Are" (1991, Nevermind)
It was between this or "About a Girl" and the opening bass of "Come As You Are" won out. Truly earth-shattering and absolutely has to be turned up loud. It's tracks like this that make me understand head-banging.

Prince, "Purple Rain" (1984, Purple Rain)
If you don't know why I voted for this song then you need to go out, listen to the album, and then come back. If you can't figure it out then I don't know what to do with you, honestly.

Queen Latifah, "Just Another Day..." (1993, Black Reign)
I had to add this song to the database. Hip-hop music from the era of this track (you know, when hip-hop was good) didn't cross over and much as it should have. "Just Another Day..." is, by my account, the best hip-hop song of all time, so while I know it would never even made the Hot 1000, I felt like I had to give it a vote.

Now you go and VOTE too! Just don't ask me to confirm this list tomorrow and as it would most certainly change. It's just how it is.