Monthly Archives: August, 2012

Trailer for your Weekend: The Hobbit

CG depiction of Gollum created by Weta Digital...

This familiar chap rather ominously features in this week’s trailer.

I, like many people, am a very big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. So it was with much antipation that I checked out the first trailer for his forthcoming adaptation of The Hobbit.

Have to say though, I was pretty underwhelmed by this. The weird songs, the sheer lack of action or even adventure. Seems like Jackson and co thought a glimpse of Gandalf and Gollum would suffice. Anyone more excited than me by this?

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Trailer for your Weekend: Man of Steel

Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder, hopefully he will channel himself on this film, rather than too much Christopher Nolan.

With The Avengersand Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy both out of the way, Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel is probably the most anticipated comic book film in active production.

After the dirge that was Superman Returns, a lot of people are hoping for a Nolan-esque shot of life for Superman. Those financing the film are obviously hoping for that too as he has been brought on as a producer for this film. This could go either way. Snyder, love him or hate him, is one of the most original directors out there. I want to see his take on the Superman universe, with a little of Nolan’s assured touch in there. I do not want to see Snyder, trying to be Nolan. And on the basis of this trailer, that is what I fear may happen – it’s all very Dark Knightey. What do you guys think?

 

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The Arnie one, not the Colin Farrell one

Here in Australia, the remake of Paul Paul Verhoeven’s iconic sci-fi/action flick Total Recall (1990) opens tomorrow. So I thought this was an apt time to take a look at the original. First of all, check out the awesome trailer for it below.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is undoubtedly one of the biggest actions stars in movie history. In my humble opinion, he is also probably one of the top 5 worst actors to have made a living by being an actor. In this film, Arnie plays the most buff everyman in history. When our hero goes to have memories of wondrous vacations to Mars implanted, he ends up discovering that his real memory has been wiped and that he actually was a secret agent who worked on the red planet. The rest of the film follows him as he attempts to piece together his past and who he really is. Thankfully, despite Arnie’s shortcomings as an actor, he is surrounded by some more assured performer chief amongst them being Sharon Stone, who is fantastic as his wife.

Cover of "We Can Remember It for You Whol...

A collection of short stories by Philip K. Dick. Total Recall is based on the title story.

Total Recall is based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember it for you Wholesale”. Dick is one of my favourite sci-fi authors and his fiction is generally concerned with ideas about identity, the future and many other things. But it is ideas rather than action that are at their core. It is a little strange then that so many films have been made of his work. Total Recall chooses to dispense with most of the ideas and instead focuses on the action. It is really an action flick with a dash of sci-fi sauce on top. But it is an extremely fun one. The action, despite the sci-fi trimmings, is extremely realistic with cool hand to hand fight scenes and a willingness to show a little blood. Actually a willingness to show a whole lot of blood – this is a very violent film. The film is also really quite funny. Often when it does not intend to be, but there are also some pretty inspired scripted comedic touches as well. The film is a little dated, but no sci-fi film predicts technology completely successfully. And some of the dated aspects are quite cool to see these days – the most 80s opening credits ever, and miniature work, which you never see in this age of CGI everything.

I have to say, I consider this film a fun action romp rather than any form of stone cold classic. Others who saw the film closer to its original release, may be able to give some insight as to why the film is so revered. One thing the film has done though is gotten me intrigued to see what they come up with for the remake. Especially given the replacing of the ultra-buff Schwarzenegger, with the more normally proportioned Colin Farrell and the apparent decision not to have any Mars based action.

So there are my thoughts on the original Total Recall. Definitely try and take the chance to see it before the remake opens near you, and please share your thoughts on both films.  

Verdict: Stubby of Reschs

Progress: 57/1001

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Trailer for your Weekend: Life of Pi

Ang Lee

Ang Lee is the guy trying to turn this literary blockbuster, into a cinematic one.

Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi was a massive literary sensation. The first trailers have arrived for the inevitable film adaptation. Making things a little more interesting though is the fact that the director behind the film is none other than Ang Lee.

What do you guys think about this? I’m in two minds. Visually it looks truly spectacular. But it also looks like it could be far too sentimental. Having not read the book, I am not sure whether or not that is just what is to be expected, or if this is Hollywood meddling with things.

My Favourite… Childhood Film

 Ok, so after a rather too long hiatus (my fault), the ‘My Favourite’ series of posts is back. Up first is the cracking topic of favourite childhood films. This is an interesting one, because often the films you love as a child turn out to be… well ill-advised choices attributable to our youth.

James from Film Blerg writes:

Back in the day, not too long ago, video cassette tapes were all the rage. Frequently, I wore tapes out til the colour had faded and constant static fuzz pervaded the television screen. One film that I repetitively hired from the video shop (until I bought it as an ex-rental) was Problem Child 2. I spent years rewatching this film religiously. It even took a while until I saw the first Problem Child (a much inferior film).

Picking up from the troublesome adoption that surrounded the first film, Ben Healy (John Ritter) and his son Junior (Michael Oliver) have left their home town of Cold Rock and moved into the leafy green suburban paradise of Mortville. Newly divorced, Ben finds no trouble attracting attention from the ladies, as the town has a 50:1 ratio of women to men. Junior is not pleased with this development, wanting the sole attention of his devoted dad.

Junior subterfuges Ben’s multiple dates with much success until the richest woman in town appears. Lawanda Dumore (Laraine Newman) is a Southern Belle with an overly anxious libido, and once Ben appears in her radar, she literally moves in and takes over. Meanwhile, Junior makes an enemy in local school girl Trixie (Ivyann Schwan). As marketed in the film’s tagline, he’s bad but she’s worse. The two battle it out until we meet her mother Annie; the school nurse (Amy Yasbeck). Ben and Annie hit it off immediately, as the score tells us with the sweet sentimental music. But their relationship is fraught from further potential due to Trixie’s rebellious, all-consuming ways, and Ben’s impending marriage to Lawanda. Of course, Junior and Trixie step in and make the necessary changes.

Problem Child 2 is not the greatest film in the world by far, but its energy is playful and wicked. Capitalising on the title, Junior and Trixie are given ammunition to swear, use dynamite and constantly raise their middle ringer. Born wild, Junior manages to not only fuel a propane explosion in a neighbour’s BBQ, but induce mass vomiting on a fairground attraction ride.

The late, great John Ritter is warm and funny as Ben Healy. Ritter has clear chemistry with his off-screen wife Yasbeck, as well as with Oliver. Joyfully, Jack Warden and Gilbert Gottfried return as the obnoxious Big Ben Healy and Principle Peabody, and Laraine Newman is hysterically demented as Lawanda. Like Looney Tunes cartoons, characters are blown up, fall out of windows high above the ground and survive to tell the tale. Simply put, Problem Child 2 is a whole lot of fun and still hilariously enjoyable over twenty years after it was first released.

James Madden is the Editor of Film Blerg. He is currently undertaking a Master of Arts and Cultural Management at the University of Melbourne and is a Screen Editor of Farrago Magazine. James has contributed to countless student and online publications including Portable, T-Squat and Upstart.

 

Jon from The Film Brief writes: 

By most accounts, Cool Runnings is no classic. It’s a pretty straight-forward sports movie, done in an almost deliberately cheesy fashion, following unsurprising twists and turns that one would expect from any sports film. The revered Roger Ebert said about it, “If you like underdog movies, you might like this one. Especially if you haven’t seen very many.”

Cool Runnings

Poster for Cool Runnings

When I first saw Cool Runnings at age 7, I hadn’t seen many movies at all, let alone underdog movies. Cool Runnings captured my heart and imagination in the dramatic way that only a child can experience. I often wonder if, had I seen this movie at, say, age 24, if I would feel the same way about it. Probably not. It’s light-hearted and affable, but completely formulaic, the sort of movie that you sit through, laugh once or twice at, and then forget about it. I didn’t see this movie as a 24-year-old though – I saw it as an eager and impressionable 7-year-old, and I remember being completely inspired by the idea that Jamaica could field a respectable bobsled team.

It helped that Cool Runnings is filled with characters that my seven-year-old self could really relate to (or at least, thought I could). I related to the pain that Derice felt when he didn’t qualify for the 100-metre dash and I related to Derice’s rebellion against his controlling father. The characters were brought to life by genuinely impressive performances by the principal cast: Leon as Derice Bannock, Doug E. Doug as Sanka, Rawle Lewis as Junior, Malik Yoba as Yul Brenner and, of course, the avuncular John Candy as Irv, the forlorn former bobsled champion, sodden with drink and cramped by regret. Cool Runnings was John Candy’s last really noteworthy film – he completed Wagons East and Canadian Bacon before his passing in 1994, but public opinion condemned those in a way diametrically opposed to the esteem that Cool Runnings is held in.

English: Canadian actor John Candy, photograph...

The late, great John Candy

Cool Runnings demonstrates for me the veracity of the aphorism originally uttered by Martin Scorsese – “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame, and what’s out.” There are some niceties in the frames of Cool Runnings – the disbelief displayed by all when Derice suggests a Jamaican bobsled team, the hilarious orientation seminar Irv MCs, demonstrating the dangers of bobsledding, and of course the recurring joke: “Sanka, ya dead?”

But, as with all of these “Favourites”, this choice is an intensely personal one. This movie is important to me because I remember practising the Cool Runnings song with my brothers, hoping that I’d never get as fat and sad as Irv did, dreaming that maybe one day I could grow up to be a Jamaican bobsledder, too.

Jon Fisher is the creator and editor of The Film Brief and host of The Film Brief podcast which you can find on iTunes. 

 

Tim from Not Now I’m Drinking a Beer and Watching a Movie writes:

Settling on my favourite childhood film necessitated a bit of an in-depth thought process. Immediately films like Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and the James Bond films sprang to mind. But pondering this more, I realised that these were films I loved from my childhood, that still held up as classics now I am an adult. They were not my absolute favourites at the time though.

Childhood films for me were all about school holidays and the local video shop. When Mum would let you go down to the store and hook up the 5 weeklies for 10 buck deal, or whatever they had going on. And in my mind there were two films that I raced for more school holidays than not – Home Alone and The Sandlot Kids. I think the latter just shaved the former though in terms of favouritism.

My adoration of The Sandlot Kids is somewhat inexplicable. It’s not necessarily considered a classic, though I am sure many of my vintage have fond memories of it. Also, it’s a story of a distinctly American childhood, one dominated by baseball. I really enjoy watching baseball now, but as a kid when I was loving on this movie, I had zero knowledge of it, and zero interest in learning more about it.

The first thing that stood out for me, on a recent adult viewing of the film, is the passion the film evokes for baseball, making

Cover of "The Sandlot"

Cover of The Sandlot Kids on DVD

it the centre of the universe for a group of young boys. The narrative is stock standard kids film fare. The new kid in town, summer vacation, cool kid taking the nerd under his wing etc. But these familiar tropes, delivered through a witty script, are put to good use in showing the value of friendship and the joy of childhood. 

Performance-wise, the film excels, and I think that this explains a lot of why the film still holds up for me when watching today. Dennis Leary and Karen Allen of Indiana Jones are wonderful choices for the parents of the main character Scotty Smalls. And the performances by a number of the kids are really great actually. Chief amongst them are the charismatic leader of the pack Benny played by Mike Vitar, and the wonderful Patrick Renna (who is somewhat ubiquitous in family films of this vintage) as the hilarious Ham.

Re-watching this recently, I can see why I was such a fan of it as a kid. Everything is done with so much charm and I still absolutely love the film.

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Trailer for your Weekend: Love

English: A photo of Tom DeLonge at an Angels &...

Tom DeLonge – member of Blink 182 and founder of Angels and Airwaves, the band behind this fim.

It is so nice that in this age of endless trailers online, something can still creep up and surprise you. The trailer for Love did just that when I saw it at the cinema the other week. This beguiling looking film comes out of the work of the band Angels and Airwaves, the side project of one of the members of Blink 182. What an awesomely strange source for a film! The film looks incredible, and extremely ambitious, spanning history and the universe. I think the film has been available in various forms for a while now, but it is getting a cinema release here in Australia very soon, and I for one will be lining up to check it out. Thoughts on this one?

Worth Watching July 2012

     Worth Watching:

  • Not Suitable for Children (2012), Peter Templeman – A cracker of a script brings this inner-west Sydney comedy to life. Not afraid to confound expectations, the film also delivers a healthy quota of genuine laughs. Refreshingly frank about booze, drugs and sex this excellently performed piece is the kind of Aussie film you really hope finds an audience.  Also features the most fantastically awkward sex scene ever.
  • East West 101: Season 1 (2007), Steve Knapman & Kris Wyld – This is an intriguing Aussie cop drama. There are definitely annoyances – shaky, hyperkinetic camerawork and individual storylines that are not always satisfying – but the storyline of Malik and his father is really well drawn out. The exploration of race, despite some initial clumsiness, also comes to satisfy by the season’s excellent (and genuinely shocking) conclusion.
  • This Means War (2012), McG – I’m a big fan of all three leads in this – Pine, Witherspoon and Hardy. This is nice and light, there is no real sense of tension but the action scenes are good. The script is not great, especially the early establishment of Pine’s character and the motivation of all the characters is often warped. But in the end, this is genuinely funny and well performed, with Chelsea Handler as Witherspoon’s best friend almost stealing the show.
  • The Amazing Spiderman (2012), Marc Webb – This is a fun film that looks great. But there is no denying that much of what is covered was done better by the first Raimi film. Andrew Garfield is a little hit and miss in the title role but Emma Stone is her usual delightful self. Unfortunately very little of the welcome humour that characterised the trailer is transferred to the final film. But despite all of this, the film is still more than enjoyable enough popcorn fluff.
  • Batman Begins (2005), Christopher Nolan – This incredible film has come to sit somewhat unfairly in the shadow of its phenomenal sequel. Nolan’s first Batman flick is a really dense, multifaceted origin story which remains extremely accessible to non-comic book readers. The script expertly establishes the characters’ values and psychology above all. Katie Holmes’ performance in this is really underrated; I think she does better than Maggie Gyllenhaal who replaced her in the sequel. The film finishes on one of my all time favourite sequel setups as well.
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Christopher Nolan – As a standalone film, this is imperfect. However as the closing film of the trilogy, it is pretty darn close to perfection. The quibbles for me include the late twist, OWS references which veer into the overwrought and resolution of the main action that is not 100% successful. But I loved much of this. There is a couple of cracking action set pieces, the setup for the sidequel/spinoff is masterful and personally I was a huge fan of the ending. Michael Caine is amazing in a small role whilst Joseph Gordon-Levitt in detective mode is very good.
  • Magic Mike (2012), Steven Soderbergh – I really liked this. On the surface this is a tale of male strippers. But there’s some (not too much) added depth here. Channing Tatum has a real charm and presence about him onscreen, as does female lead Cody Horne who is delightful despite occasional stilted line delivery. Biggest accolades must go to director Soderbergh though who is in good form, keeping proceedings zipping along rapidly, even as the action threatens to become predictable.

Not Worth Watching:

  •  Brave (2012), Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman – As far as animated films go, this is decidedly average. For a Pixar film it is utter pants. Technically, they continue to improve but it seems too much effort has gone into making Merida’s hair look amazing, and not enough into making the narrative amazing. This is a tepid tale, totally lacking in any Pixar distinctiveness or subversiveness.
  • Safe House (2012), Daniel Espinosa – Cool idea. A CIA traitor just saunters into the American embassy in South Africa. Especially when you add in the fact that the traitor is played by none other than Denzel Washington. But this film never gets off the ground, making you wonder why anyone bothered. The action scenes are surprisingly sparse, and when they arrive they are annoyingly, shakily shot. Denzel is surely the most watchable actor of his generation, but even he can’t make this worth your while.
     
Denzel Washington after a performance of the B...

Not even this guy can make Safe House worth your time.

If you only have time to watch one The Dark Knight Rises

Avoid at all costs Brave

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Trailer for your Weekend: Skyfall Teaser

Daniel Craig in the gun barrel sequence that e...

The James Bond films have managed to build up such iconic images over the year. Like this one.

After the appearance of James Bond at the Olympic games opening ceremony, a new trailer has been released for the forthcoming Bond Flick Skyfall. The new trailer is cool, but  for me veers dangerously into giving too much away territory. So I thought this week I would revisit the teaser released a little while ago. I am a huge James Bond fan, and this teaser has me insanely excited for the new flick. I think the word association thing is killer, and it gives an idea of the film’s tone but gives basically nothing away. And I still can’t wait to see what a James Bond film directed by Sam Mendes looks like. Check it out.