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Archive for February, 2010

Valentines Day special: Rom-com’s ranks as one of my least favourite genres but I actually found it surprisingly easy to come up with a top five. Some may argue the validity of the list as some of the films aren’t outright comedies but they all made me laugh what more do you need.

Some Like it Hot (1959): The greatest comedy, possibly the greatest film ever made. It isn’t just a romance, it is a Bromance nearly fifty years before the phrase was coined. On the run from the mob (after appropriately for this list witnessing the St Valentines Day massacre) and disguised as women, musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) hide out with an all female jazz band. While Joe poses as a millionaire to woo band member Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) Jerry is pursued by a real millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) who will not take NO for an answer and is blissfully unaware of Jerry’s real sex.

Almost Famous (2000): Cameron Crowe’s semiautobiographical story. William Miller (Patrick Fugit) a high school student who blags a job with Rolling Stone Magazine and gets his dream assignment following an up-and-coming rock band on tour. His life is changed as he strikes up friendship with singer Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) and groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).

The Philadelphia Story (1940): A US Navy Destroyer Escort disappears from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, and sends two men 40 years into the future. No that doesn’t sound right.  The day before her wedding Tracy (not to be confused with the former porn star) Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is visited by her playboy ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) now working for Spy Magazine. He arrives with reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey). As the wedding approaches things start to go wrong not least when Tracy gets drunk for only the second time in her life. Bursting with witty one-liners and sublime performances from Grant, Stewart and particularly Hepburn. Don’t be fooled by the terrible musical remake High Society.

Amélie (2001): Amélie (Audrey Tautou) has led a sheltered life because of her fathers (misguided) concerns of a heart defect, this results in her regressing into a near fantasy world. One day she returns a tin that is a long-lost childhood treasure to a former occupant of her apartment. After seeing the joy it gives him she begins a personal mission to make other people happy. This distracts her from her own quest for love with quirky Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz) a man who collects discarded photographs from photo booths.

Lost in Translation (2003): Once in a while a film comes along that is so sublimely brilliant and transcends styles and genres that you can’t believe anyone will dislike it (yes Katie I am talking about you!). Tinged with an inescapable sense of melancholy not seen since Breakfast at Tiffany’s (a film that nearly made the list), Lost in Translation is the story of two lost souls. Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an actor who travels to Tokyo to be paid $2million to make a commercial rather than appear in a play. There he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) a bored young woman accompanying her photographer husband John (Giovanni Ribisi). The pair strike up an unusual and inexplicable friendship and bond.

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The best place to see a movie is in a cinema. Even the best home system won’t live up to the experience of the massive screen and great sound of a decent cinema. Watching most movies at the cinema I am making up for lost time as I didn’t go very often as a kid, instead watching most movies on video. There was a time in the late 80’s early 90’s that I really got into low budget Sci-Fi and Horror B movies. There was always a certain amount of risk involved in this as for every Evil Dead there were a hatful of crap like Alien Private Eye. Empire International Pictures were responsible for some surprisingly watchable movies. They were formed in the early 80’s by Charles Band as a small distribution company they also produced a few movies. The best known are probably the Re-Animator and Ghoulies movies but my personal favourite was always Trancers, it was also directed by Charles Band. Trancers is the holly grail of 80’s B movies and is actually better than a lot of the mainstream sci-fi films of the time. As such it deserves its own article, it will duly oblige one day. In the late 80’s the company ran into fanatical difficulties and I understand eventually collapsed. Shortly before it did it started making slightly higher budget movies. I don’t know if this is what bankrupted the company but it is possible. I remember seeing three of these movies when they first came out on video. None of them were particularly good but for some reason they stuck in my mind. Please forgive any inaccuracies in these descriptions, I am doing them mostly from memory and I haven’t seen them for nearly twenty years.

Arena: A space station set sci-fi movie about an interspecies fighting sport known as The Arena. A handicapping system is used, a beam of light that controls the competitors strength. Despite this a human has not won for fifty years. Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield) a cook, gets into a fight with an Arena fighter and is quickly picked up by his manager Quinn (Claudia Christian, best known for playing Susan Ivanova in Babylon 5). As he wins his fights Steve becomes a hero to humans on the station.  All the usual sporting clichés are present such as corruption and a hero fighting back against the odds.

Robot Jox: Following a nuclear holocaust the world is split into two giant superpowers that encompass all surviving nations. They are basically East and West/America and Russia. Fifty years after the holocaust the two sides agree to outlaw war, instead deciding conflicts with a one on one gladiatorial battle. The fights are between giant robots, piloted by men know as Robot Jox. The movie revolves around a fight for the natural recourses of Alaska and the subsequent rematch. The robot battle scenes use stop motion animation and look really dated after just twenty years. The movie should have been Empire International Pictures biggest film, when the company went under the rights were sold to Epic Productions who finished the movie.

Crash and Burn: Marketed as “From the makers of Robotjox and Arena” and sometimes called Robot Jox 2, Crash and Burn is not a sequel to Robot Jox. Unicom is a corporation that basically rules the world following an economic crash. Their motto is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic stability”. In order to achieve this computers and robots have been outlawed (for some reason) by Unicom who use robots or synthetic humans themselves. Set at a remote TV station where the workers are stranded by a deadly “thermo-storm” caused by the depleted ozone, they also have to one of Unicom’s killer robots (that borrows heavily from The Terminator) after them. There only help: a delivery man and his plan to resurrect an old eighty foot tall robot that (conveniently) lies rusting out back. There is a neat rip-off of the scene from The Thing where they cut themselves to prove they are human with a good twist. There is also some interesting casting, the main stars Paul Ganus, Megan Ward and Bill Moseley have had reasonable careers on TV and in B movies, Jack McGee is a respected character actor, Ralph Waite is best known as John Walton Sr. in The Waltens and is still working today aged 81, and Eva La Rue will be recognisable to CSI fans as Natalia Boa Vista form CSI Miami. Information on the subject is a little sketchy but my understanding is Crash and Burn was made by Empire International Pictures possibly as early as 1988 but not released by them. The production and distribution company listed is Full Moon Entertainment, another Charles Band company mainly responsible for horror movies.

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Last year I purchased the novel, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but didn’t get around to reading it. By strange coincidence I started to read it a last week, then whist at the cinema a few days later I saw a trailer for the movie, I had no idea the movie had even been made.  I am only halfway through reading the book so can not be certain where it is going but the two hundred and something pages I have read so far are totally brilliant. The novel is the first part of the “Millennium” trilogy by Stieg Larsson (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest). The trilogy are Larsson’s only novels, a journalist by trade, the novels were originally written for his own pleasure and enjoyment, he died of a heart attach before they were published. Together the original Swedish version and the English translation of the trilogy have sold over 20 million copies worldwide.  All three movies where released in Scandinavia last year, the first one is due to be released here in the UK on the 12th March this year and in the USA a week later.  There are no dates for the other two as yet.

Without giving away too much plot (I don’t know it all myself yet): Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is a middle aged journalist who is sentenced to three months in prison following a conviction for libel. Before beginning his sentence he agrees to investigate a disappearance and possible murder on behalf of a wealthy retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube). Blomkvist is helped by Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) an investigator, researcher and computer hacker who is brilliant, beautiful (despite her unconventional appearance) but is also somewhat eccentric totally lacking in social skills.

I will finish the book in the in the next few days and am really looking forward to the film. I also really like the look of the posters.

 

Negotiations are underway for the inevitable Hollywood remake with some big named stars and directors being suggested.  Here are a few possible ideas on casting:

  • Viggo Mortensen as Mikael Blomkvist
  • An unknown actress as Lisbeth Salander
  • Robin Wright-Penn as Erika Berger
  • Max Von Sydow as Henrik Vanger

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Aiden R. from Cut the Cram Movie Reviews and myself were recently asked to join Ross McD and Ross McG from RossvRoss for one of their famous infamous movie battles.  Based around this years Oscars the Rosses picked four contenders Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up In The Air and Inglourious Basterds. 

I quickly volunteered for The Hurt Locker, Aiden went for Inglourious Basterds, Ross McG, Up In Air and Ross McD must have drawn the short straw, he got Dances with Smurfs Avatar.

You can see the results here at Metro by clicking here.

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As a footnote to a list of Top 10: Young Actresses last year I added two names as possible breakout stars, one working in TV and the other a German actress.  The German actress Jenifer Ulrich doesn’t appear to be moving to Hollywood any time soonso is unlikely to be the next Franka Potente but Olivia Wilde is looking increasingly like a good call.  As well as Tron coming out later this year she is also in two drama/thrillers that are already in post production.  In NorthWood set for release later this year and The Next Three Days due out next year.  The Next Three Days is directed by Oscar winner Paul Haggis.  Haggis previously worked with Wilde on the TV show “The Black Donnellys” having directed some episodes.  She also counties to appear in the multi award winning House whose sixth season is currently airing in America. 

Possibly the biggest project on her horizon is the comic book/graphic novel adaptation Cowboys & Aliens.  Created by Mitchell Rosenberg it is the story of a group of cowboys and native Apache’s who battle against an extraterrestrial invasion of nineteenth century Arizona.  The movie is set to be directed by Jon Favreau and will star Daniel Craig as a mysterious gunslinger.  The script is provided by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (whose many credits include last years Star Trek reboot and the TV show Alias) and Damon Lindelof (who has spent the last six years working on a little TV show called Lost).  The movie isn’t set for release for more than a year and appears to be Jon Favreau’s only post Iron Man II project, this and DreamWorks name suggest it could be big.

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Edited to include some information of the image of Olivia Wilde used above. Something didn’t look right about it so I did a bit of searching on the internet. I found photograph that made me think the one above may be the result of a Tron fan with photoshop! What do you think?

The one below is genuine though, as far as I am aware!

Now Tron: Legacy is out and reviewed here. I thought I would update this post with a few real images from the movie:

And a couple more from the upcoming Cowboys and Aliens:

 

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Movies seen this week.

I have seen three movies in the past week and have been too busy to review any of them, I fact all my posts this week are ones I wrote weeks ago and have only just published them. Its Sunday tomorrow and I will be going to see another movie so I rather than drawing a line under this week here are slightly shorter than normal reviews for this weeks movies.

Edge of Darkness:  After an eight year hiatus Mel Gibson is back in front of the camera doing what he does best. A slightly off kilter character with a gun. The film starts out as a murder mystery. Thomas Craven (Gibson) plays a widowed Boston cop, his daughter (Bojana Novakovic) is shot dead whilst visiting him. It is assumed that he was the actual target. As he investigates the film descends into a conspiracy thriller as Craven begins to realise the true motives for the killing. For a film that is based on a TV series and has to compress everything into less than two hours it is actually quite slow paced. There is little action so the comparisons go Gibson’s Lethal Weapon movies are inaccurate. The main problem is the plot, it doesn’t make as much sense and it should and isn’t particularly original. I haven’t actually seen the original TV series that it is based on but the movie does come with a certain credibility as the share a director. New Zeeland born Martin Campbell who was also responsible for the best Bond films in recent years, GoldenEye and Casino Royale. Overall the film feels a little flat and fails to live up to the star and directors reputations. It is however worth seeing for Gibson.

Two Stars Out of Five

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Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire:  Before I talk about the movie I have to say I have a real problem with the title “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”. To give it a new title but to the convolute it with the title of the book it is based on lacks conviction in the movie as a piece of art in a different medium.  They should have just had the confidence to call it Push (used for a different movie last year) or Precious.

Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is a girl who has been abused all her life, emotionally, psychologically, physically and sexually. She is obese and at 16 is pregnant with her second child having been raped by her farther. Being kicked out of school actually becomes the catalyst for her to start to get her life on track. This begins with attending an alternative school with a teacher who actually gives a shit. The film is not perfect, there is a very poor sense of time and space and as because of this the pacing of the movie can feel erratic.  The story often seems to go down avenues that are never explored or resolved.  The movie also unashamedly plays with the emotions of the audience by knowing exactly when to lift its characters up and when to kick them down again, it does this with the ease and bravado of a sports movie.  Many would praise a filmmaker for this ability but I found it somewhat contrived.  I also found all the supporting characters to be somewhat under developed.  That is why Mo’Nique’s performance as Precious’ mother is so impressive, she is given so little to work with. I find the accusations that the movie is racist preposterous for two reasons. The experiences of Precious are not related to her ethnicity and could happen to anyone. They also don’t portray her or her family as the norm for African American people.  At the end of Precious I joked that I wanted to go and see The Road to cheer me up. With occasionally uplifting moments the movie is not depressing; it is just a bit of a hard slog at times. As radio presenter Simon Mayo and film critic Mark Kermode are fond of saying in relation to one of last years hit movies “There’s a lot of slumdog before you get to the millionaire”, similar could be said of Precious.  It is not a film I am in a rush to see again but I am glad I have seen it.

Four Stars Out of five

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Brothers:  I normally hate Hollywood remakes of European films but Brothers benefits from the fact I haven’t seen the Danish original. If you don’t know what it is all about you haven’t seen the trailer that gives the whole story away. Captain Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire) is in a a helicopter that is shot down in Afghanistan, along with private Joe Willis he is missing in action and presumed dead. Shortly before he left his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) returns from prison. Over time Tommy grows closer to Sam’s Wife Grace (Natalie Portman) and butts heads with his farther Hank (Sam Shepard). Things are turned on their heads when Sam returns. In the early part of the movie Tobey Maguire appears that he can not match the acting ability of Gyllenhaal, Portman and the sublime Shepard. On his return he gives a twitchy edgy performance that is more than equal to his best early performances, Ride with the Devil and The Ice Storm.  Jake Gyllenhaal could easiy have come across as too much of a nice guy for his “black sheep” performance but he is always believable proving Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead were not flukes. Working best as a character study and an expression of the affects of war. The shortcomings of pacing and character development mean the film fails to live up to the underrated In The Valley Of Elah and the brilliant The Hurt Locker but the first rate acting make it well worth seeing.

Three Stars Out of Five

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Mad Max 4: Fury Road

It’s been 25 years since Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but director George Miller has never given up making another movie in the hit Australian series. Mad Max 4 is described by many as being in Development Hell for the last quarter century, it has actually spent most of the last decade in something more akin to purgatory! His most recent attempt was thwarted by the economy as the war in Iraq began. That may have been a blessing in disguise. That movie was to be shot in South Africa. Thanks to government assistance Fury Road will be filmed where it belongs in Australia. With studios in Sydney and the main locations in Broken Hill, New South Wales where Mad Max 2 was shot. Despite saying many times in the last twenty years that he would like to be involved it doesn’t look like original star Mel Gibson will be involved. It appears the character of Max Rockatansky will remain but played by a different actor. IMDB has Mark Hildebrandt listed, they also have Tom Hardy down to play an unnamed role. Other rumours suggest it will be in fact be Hardy who plays Max. English born Australian actor Sam Worthington has also been suggested but he may be busy with the inevitable Avatar sequel. The other names that keep coming up who it appears have been cast are Charlize Theron and Teresa Palmer; I think we can safely say neither will be playing Max. It appears the movie will be independently funded with no studio backing. That makes the suggested $100 million look impressive. This is going to be one big indie movie! I hope that budget is going on real sets and real vehicles and not on post production CGI. If ever there was a movie that needed to be real, even dirty and visceral it is a Mad Max movie.

A report on the Hollywood Reporter website suggests the movie is set not long after Beyond Thunderdome. Mel Gibson was 29 though I suspect his character is intended to be a few years older than that stretching the time between the original three films. The three suggested starts are between 32 and 37 years old so that fits in well with the plan.  There are various videos on the internet shot in the carriage works in Redfern Sydney that is acting as a studio for the production. This one from Sky news Australia has the most information of the ones I could find and includes a glimpse of a few of the vehicles that will be in the movie including Max’s “Pursuit Special” a 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT. The car was destroyed in the second movie so it will be interesting to see how they work it into the story.

After a twenty-five year gap where can the series go from here? The way I see it there are three basic options.

  1. The one they are going for, ie a direct sequel set a few years after Thunderdome. The movie ended much like the second one, after helping the kids escape Max is alone again. The story can literally go anywhere from here. The vehicles constructed for the movie suggest that movie will be closer to The Road Warrior than Beyond Thunderdome, this can’t be a bad thing. My only concern, can there really be a Mad max movie without Mel?
  2. 20 to 30 years after the events of Beyond Thunderdome communities are getting back together as small towns begin to crop up in the wastelands. Each town has its own natural recourses. Natural springs providing fresh water, oil reserves for fuel or fertile land for farming to provide food and bio-fuel. These towns are able to exist by trade between them. Over time the roads have been painstakingly reclaimed from the deserts. Vehicles are cobbled together from the relics of the past. The uneasy civilisation is at risk from nomadic bandits who survive by stealing from the trade convoys. As an important delivery is due the young impetuses driver is killed taking a stupid risk. Enter an unlikely hero the old recluse who lives on the outskirts of town. A man with an unlikely past Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson).
  3. It is the late 70’s the world is falling apart nomadic gangs of bikers rule the wastelands, they take whatever they want from whoever they want to without anyone to stop them. Living of the scraps of the old world society is looking for a hero. They may just find it in the MFP, the cops that are the only thing holding society together. When he loses everything one man travels the wastelands looking those responsible. Is he looking for redemption or just revenge? Sound familiar? A reboot of the first movie could start a whole new series of movies. But here is the twist, set in a different part of Australia with a different biker gang and more importantly a new character to replace Max. Mel Gibson is Max, anyone replacing him will have to emulate his performance, a new character would give an opportunity for a new young actor to emerge.

Whatever happens one thing is certain if there is a Mad Max movie directed by George Miller I will be watching it.

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