Archive for May, 2009

The Round-Up

May 30, 2009

The pick of this week’s internet rumours, rumblings and total fabrications. Reboots, remakes, prequels and sequels – is Hollywood so out of fresh ideas that a $70 movie made from the perspective of a zombie is about to be picked up?

Alien re-make, or prequel?

Looks like the Alien franchise will be the latest to get an update, with Fox head honcho Tim Rothman announcing that they have been in talks with Ridley Scott. It’s not clear however whether the talks have been about a re-make of the cult classic, or whether the project they are discussing is a prequel.

Ferrell keen to make Anchorman 2

Sweet Lincoln’s mullet!!! Will Ferrell, in Australia to promote his upcoming feature, The Land Of The Lost, dropped a number of hints to reporters that preparations for a sequel to the comedy hit, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy may be in the works.

That’s it, Reboots for everyone….

With Vampires suddenly all the rage again, it looks like the Buffy franchise is in for a re-boot, although this time with no attachment to Joss Whedon or the cast from the successful TV series.

Battlestar Galactica actress Kate Sackhoff also got the internet buzzing when she purchased a large amount of Daredevil comics that feature one of the Marvel characters – Typhoid Mary. Is a Daredevil re-boot in the works? Or, is this character research for the recently green-lit Deadpool movie? Or, you know, does she just like comics?

Colin set to be picked up by Hollywood

My favourite story from Cannes – Colin, a movie made in the UK, told from a zombie’s perspective and shot with a budget of 45 pounds has picked up a distributor in Japan, and may be close to landing a deal with a major American distributor. I can just picture Hollywood execs crying into their soy mocaccino’s latte’s as they heard the news.

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Checking Out The Road Ahead

May 29, 2009

I loved Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road – a bleak, broodingly creepy but fundamentally good hearted novel about a father’s determination to protect his son at the end of all things. It is unconventional though, and it doesn’t appear to be a book that would translate easily onto the big screen. It’s mysterious, haunting, and unrelentingly grim…I mean, this sounds exactly like the sort of thing Hollywood is going to balls up, right?

Maybe not.

Plenty can go wrong on The Road.

Plenty can go wrong on The Road.

Early reports suggest that this is shaping up to be a very literal, respectful adaptation of the winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Let’s hope so. The last thing we need is a repeat of what happened with I Am Legend – where they changed some key facts and tacked on some cheery feel-goodery so audiences felt more comfortable on their drive home. The Road isn’t that kind of book, and shouldn’t be that kind of movie, and anybody looking for light entertainment would probably be better off watching something else.

I like the decisions they have made with cast and crew, eschewing star power and going for people they feel confident can capture the right tone. Charlize Theron is probably the biggest name in the movie, but her “serious acting” credentials are pretty well known. Viggo Mortinsen seems like an outstanding choice for the father, and whilst he may not be known too well outside Australia, Director John Hillcoat showed in both The Proposition and Ghosts…of the Civil Dead (largely unknown but brilliant Australian flick from the late 80’s) that he is a man who appreciates mood and pacing. Fans of Nick Cave may also be interested to hear that he is composing the score, a job that on paper suits the dark prince of indie rock well.

Esquire Magazine’s Tom Chiarella is calling The Road The Most Important Movie Of The Year, which may be stacking a little too much pressure on it, but the article makes for a great read. The big question on everybody’s lips though – will audiences respond to a movie this dark and moody? Or will generations of film-fans who are used to their post-apocalyptic mayhem coming with Terminator style special effects walk out wondering what all the fuss was about?

Trailer Addict has previews for anybody wanting an early look at the trailer from The Road.

Top Three Russell Crowe Performances

May 28, 2009

We’re celebrating Russell Crowe’s new film, State of Play with a podium dedicated to the actor/singer/occasional scrapper.

This was a tough list to put together, with so many solid performances throughout Rusty’s career. Honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the podium include his work as Det. Richie Roberts in American Gangster, the Spaniard in The Gladiator, Captain Jack Aubrey in Master & Commander, and finally, his work as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind – a role he was nominated for an Oscar for. Solid stuff.

3. Cindarella Man

Crowe is outstanding in his portrayal of the real life Cindarella Man, James J. Braddock, the depression era prize fighter who overcame injury and poverty to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. I’m a sucker for a good boxing story, and this happens to be a very good boxing story indeed. The film features great performances from Renee Zellweger and a vastly under-rated Paul Giammatti. Ron Howard is also at his best here – but the movie belongs to Crowe, who plays Braddock with exactly the right mix of desperation, humility and pride.

2. LA Confidential

Bud White is more than just a rage fuelled, mean son of a bitch, but that’s what you see at first. The rest Crowe lets out a piece at a time, adding complexity as the film progresses. You start with his hatred of violence against women, for reasons hinted at rather than explained, and as the movie moves forward you see more of what makes the character tick; his relationship issues, his drive, his integrity and courage. Crowe adds each of these layers with an understated intensity, an iceberg of a performance where you see the tip of an emotion and yet can still guess at the depths of what lies beneath. But you know, let’s not get bogged down too heavily with that sort of artsy bullshit. Let’s just say Rusty kicks ass in this film and we’ll move on.

Fightin' Round The World was precluded on a technicality.

Fightin' Round The World was excluded on a technicality.

1. The Insider

We are miles away from the Gladiator and Master & Commander here. No stealing the lady with his quick witted charms. No grabbing his sword and fighting off the barbarians with a display of shock and awe. Crowe goes out on a limb – overweight, middle-aged, socially awkward and filled with doubt – and yet his portrayal of Jeffrey Wigand, a key whistle blower against Big Tobacco gives us a real life hero every bit as compelling as any of the other characters in the Crowe oeuvre. Rusty showed he didn’t need flash and special effects to carry a movie here, and more than held his own in pivotal scenes with Al Pacino. For mine, this is the standout performance in his career so far.

Previous Podium – Top Three Ben Stiller Movies

Movie Review – Angels & Demons

May 27, 2009

angels%20and%20demonsTom Hanks reprises his role as Professor Robert Langdon here, a sort of grown up Encycolpedia Brown who is doing for symbology today what Indiana Jones did for archaeology during the 80’s (ie; making a generation of film go-ers believe that the profession is much cooler than it actually is).

Professor Langdon caused all kinds of trouble for the Catholic Church in the last film, but they need his help this time around when an ancient enemy called the Illuminati shows up with a plan to kill the leading Cardinals during a papal election. A good thing they called him too, because in addition to his knowledge of symbols and what have you, he has managed to learn many crucial facts about Catholic art, history and architecture that happen to elude the poor suckers who have dedicated their lives to the stuff.

That’s all by way of story mechanics though – there is a lot of exposition that is necessary to the plot and this is how they do it. If this movie was going to be appreciated by anybody outside a small portion of the academic community, somebody was going to have to explain the history and significance of certain artifacts and documents as they appear on screen. Langdon does the job, with a little help from scientist Vittoria Vetra (capably played by Ayelet Zurer, although her character seemed a bit superfluous at times).

Ewan McGregor is convincing as the quiet, seemingly progressive and determined Carmelengo Patrick McKenna, and the cast gets a boost from Armin Mueller-Stahl who represents the aloof, conservative sub-section of the Catholic elite in his portrayal of Cardinal Strauss.

There is a hint of the Science v Religion debate here, but after the furor over the first film Ron Howard steers well clear of the all the tricky areas. The closest we come to a controversial topic would be some crowd fisticuffs in the middle of St Peters Square between dissenting groups of the pro and anti stem-cell research argument. They could have done more with this. At the very least they could have gone for some symbolism of their own and hired Richard Dawkins to play one of the villains. Instead, they took the safe road, and softly ventured the contention that religion and science should be able to happily co-exist.

No wonder the Catholic Church didn’t bother to muster its troops for a boycott campaign this time around. Truth be told, they come out looking pretty good in this one, and the Vatican City will probably enjoy a boost in tourism thanks to the prominent display of their amazing repository of art, and the jaw droppingly impressive architecture of many of their Churches (even though most of it was shot in a studio in LA).

The pacing can be a little uneven at times – one minute Hanks is running for his life with explosions erupting around him, the next he is flicking through an aged document with a pair of tweezers, discussing Michelangelo’s personal history. But the story moves inexorably forward, and there aren’t too many flat moments. The basic premise is a little preposterous, but that’s a common complaint in this kind of film. That aside, it’s entertaining, full of plot twists, and should feature enough mumbo-jumbo about secret societies and institutional cover-ups to keep Dan Brown’s legion of adoring fans happy.

Rating – 7/10

Random Quote – When you write about us, and you will, do so gently.

Random Actor You Will Recognize From Somewhere Else – Stellan Skarsgard, who I last saw as the Vinny Chase hating Werner in Entourage, does a good job as the chief of the Swiss Guard, Commander Richter.

Previous Movie Review – The Boat That Rocked

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen Update

May 26, 2009

Just under a month to go until Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen hits cinemas and the marketing campaign is kicking into overdrive.

You can find all the latest trailers and movie posters here.

The promotion isn’t going to be quite as big as initially planned however, with one of the key advertising partners from the first film, GM Motors, on the verge of financial collapse and is downgrading its contribuition to the marketing budget.

Don't worry - still plenty of Megan Fox headed our way.

Don't worry - still plenty of Megan Fox headed our way.

The studio is bouncing back with a viral marketing campaign that got underway last week. It’s a strategy that got them plenty of buzz in the first film, and they will be looking to repeat the dose here.

The release comes at a difficult time, surrounded as it is by big budget movies such as Star Trek, Wolverine and Terminator: Salvation. That aside, studio hopes remain high. Transformers was a box office monster in 2007, and plenty of pundits are predicting this to be another box office success story for Michael Bay.

What about the critical response though? Throughout his career Bay has been lampooned over his preference for action and glamour (not to mention product placement) over plot and character development. Admittedly, some of his films have missed their mark pretty widely (and I hated Pearl Harbour as much as everybody else), but his position as the favourite whipping boy of critics, bloggers and journalists alike puzzles me a little.

Sure, his films tend to lack depth, he has little time for subtlety and his action sequences can be preposterously over the top – but he also makes fun, entertaining flicks that look good and perform well at the box office. Still the critics attack him like a polar bear on a gravy covered seal.

It’s a phenomenon the man himself is well aware of, and as he outlines in this interview in LA Times, he is ready for whatever backlash comes his way. Michael Bay knows you hate him: “There’s a lot of poison on the internet…whatever”.

Movie Review – The Boat That Rocked

May 25, 2009

The Boat That RockedThe Boat That Rocked is the story of a pirate radio station that was based offshore the UK, broadcasting rock music during the 1960’s to a generation of fans who were left unsatisfied by the BBC’s limited rock offerings. The story is loosely based on true events, although, I’d probably focus more on the “loosely based” than “true events” part of that statement if I were you.

The ensemble cast does a good job of spreading the laughs around, with bigger stars like Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy happily sharing the screen with relative newcomers like the reliably funny Nick Frost. Indeed, so keen were they to share the love that at times this film suffers from a surplus of side-stories in an attempt to get characters their allotted screen time. The result is that some of the scenes seem forced, with some sub-plots working better than others. Not to put too fine a point on it, but some of the actors are just flat out stronger than others as well. Equality is not always a good thing.

Kenneth Brannaugh does a decent job as the British Minister in charge of shutting the station down, but the character is so clichéd and one dimensional that it seems like a waste of his talents. It’s like hiring Pavarotti to sing you Happy Birthday. Sure, he’ll do a good job of it, but if you don’t give him a song that will really show his range, you’re just not getting your money’s worth.

The tone of the thing is so damn upbeat that by the mid-way point I suspected Writer/Director Richard Curtis might have been loaded up on prozac for large parts of the shoot. This makes BlackAdder look like Schindler’s List. There is at least one montage of a dancing pub crawl that looked like it came straight from the cutting room floor of an Austin Powers edit. Which reminds me – this film could have done with a more judicious edit itself, because at 130+ minutes it runs the risk of seeming self-indulgent.

But that’s not to say there isn’t some good stuff here as well. The sound track is fantastic – a who’s who of the 60’s rock scene with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones all getting airtime. The cast of characters that live on the boat are funny and for the most part, likeable.  The movie also gets a lift in the final twenty five minutes, with some action sequences that inject life into the film just as it was beginning to sag under its own weight.

I walked out of this one not feeling particularly annoyed, or especially pleased. I’ve spent money on worse things. It is decent entertainment, and it is fun – but it could have been much more than that. It’s an interesting premise and features a great cast who obviously get along well together, but I get the feeling that this was probably more fun to film than it is to watch as a film.

Rating – 6/10

Random Quote – I find alcohol rather sharpens my mind…

Random Actor You Will Recognize From Somewhere Else – Rhys Darby, who plays the Manager in Flight of the Conchord’s plays the socially inept and largely unpopular Angus Nutsall here.

Previous Movie Review – Defiance

Gilliam, Parnassus and Quixote

May 23, 2009

Terry Gilliam’s new movie, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus has had its first screening at Cannes (outside of competition though), to luke-warm early reviews.

This movie is most notable as the final film of Heath Ledger, and given the extraordinarily difficult circumstances this film was made in, I think getting it finished and all the way to Cannes is something of a miracle. Large parts of the movie had to be re-written on the fly, and I think a few plotting/character issues can probably be expected (and even forgiven).

Gilliam is probably not crazy

Gilliam knows a thing or two about a crisis

Gilliam’s films are rarely made easily, and his well publicised aborted attempt to bring the man from La Mancha to the big screen was illustrated in the documentary Lost in la Mancha. But even with those experiences, the tragic passing of his star actor mid way through the shoot must have come as a blow on both a personal and technical level.

He is not the man to quit lightly however – the latest proof of which is the somehwat ironic news that he is going to once again attempt to get The Man Who Killed Don Quixote made. Johnny Depp is still attached to the project, but with with the enormously popular star committed to other productions, the scheduling difficulties are already beginnning.

Which, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly how Terry Gilliam rolls.

Inglorious Basterds Update

May 22, 2009

Reviews from the debut of Inglorious Basterds in Cannes are in, and as usual, Rotten Tomatoes has the pick of them.

Nikki Finke has also put together some of the UK reviews, and they can be checked out at her Deadline Hollywood Daily site.

It’s a mixed bag, to be sure, with comments ranging from “Gott-Awful”, all the way through to “a wonderfully acted movie that subverts expectation at every turn”. Some claim this is a return to form, sure to revive his career, whilst others are calling it a complete flop.

I'm predicting this scene ends in violence...

I'm predicting this scene ends in violence...

What we can be sure of is that the audience gave the film a rousing ovation at the end of the screening, and that right now Quentin Tarantino is the talk of the town. Those have to be good signs, although, Cannes has been kind to him before.

Personally, as an un-ashamed, un-repentant an un-whatever-else Tarantino fan, I’m excited about this one. In an era of sequels and prequels, Tarantino keeps moving forward, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with his WW2 spaghetti western.

For those looking to whet their appetites, TrailerAddict has some previews. Ain’t it Cool News is also promoting a new clip – with an introduction by Tarantino himself. Check it out here

Top Three Ben Stiller Movies

May 21, 2009

Night at the Museum 2; Battle of the Smithsonian,  is out, so I’m marking the occasion with a Podium devoted to Ben Stiller.

Honorable mentions; Dodgeball, The Royal Tenenbaums – and one glorious cameo as the tyrannical Orderly in Happy Gilmore. I would count Meet The Parents, which I honestly didn’t mind, but he ruined all the credit he built up there with the sequel, and this third installment they have scheduled, Little Fockers. Hmm.

3. Tropic Thunder.

Bounced back after a couple of so-so efforts, putting together an all-star cast and hitting the jungle for some old fashioned hijinks. He probably doesn’t nail every joke in this, but they come fast enough that you don’t mind. This movie also earns points for the Tom Cruise cameo – his funniest work since the stuff on Oprah’s couch.

2. There’s Something About Mary

Stiller has a gift for awkwardness, and plays it to the hilt here as one of several unrequited/sometimes requited suitors for the aforementioned Mary. Cameron Diaz is great as the friendly, successful, unrealistically hot girl (a role she is playing in real life in fact), and they get some solid support from Matt Dillon’s teeth. Some memorable moments, but this film will probably always be remembered two things; Cameron Diaz’s hair gel, and the most painful zipper scene in film history.

Current count of free hair gel offers since this movie? 3, 685, 456.

Of course, Stiller movies aren't always classy.

 1. Zoolander

For mine, the definitive Ben Stiller role – Derek Zoolander, the troubled male model who questions the shallowness of his existence as he starts to be replaced by a younger, more talented rival. He is brilliant in this, alternately carrying the comedy and making his co-stars shine. Plenty of iconic comedy scenes; the petrol pump shower, the walk-off with Owen Wilson, the orgy with the dwarves, a strange and creepy cameo from Billy Zane – and of course, Blue Steel.  Plenty of folks just didn’t get into this movie, but I rank it as his very best.

Previous Podium – Top Three Tom Hanks Films

Terminator Salvation Update

May 20, 2009

I didn’t like this idea when I first heard it. We’ve been through the Terminator story…Arnie is the Governator now, the Terminator 3 fiasco is best not talked about, The Sarah Connor Chronicles were struggling (and has now been terminated itself)…I just didn’t see it.

But around the same time Christain Bale started screaming at people on the set, I started to become excited. Bale was obviously into it, I’m curious about what Director McG can do, and I liked the look of the cast – Aussie Sam Worthington, rap star Common, Helena Bonham Carter and the smoking hot yet oddly named Moon Bloodgood.

Terminator Salvation

The future looks pretty similar to catching the 5:30 train from Central.

Plus – the early photos looked fantastic. And now the latest trailer has me plenty excited.  For those who are interested, Apple.com also has an exclusive 4 minute preview.

Early reviews of the film haven’t been too flattering, but I’m reserving judgement. This seems like the kind of flick that movie critics may not get into as much as fans of the genre.

Plenty of support around Sam Worthington’s performance though, with this article in the Sydney Morning Herald suggesting that he is set to become the second Aussie in a row to outshine Christian Bale in a big-budget epic (in reference to Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight).

That sounds a bit rich to me, but I guess there is nothing wrong with a little nationalistic flag waving every now and then. As long as it doesn’t end up like last time, when Paul Hogan got a Golden Globe for Crocodile Dundee and somehow wound up as the national tourism spokesperson.