Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Flight of the Na'vi-gator

Not sure if the title makes any sense, but I just had to sorry. A couple of little tangential things before I get stuck into Avatar:

(i) If there were any doubts in my mind as to whether this film would take off at the box office, they were destroyed by the crowd that got up before 9am and wandered into IMAX theatre on Queen Street on a SUNDAY MORNING. That's what you call pulling power. That's KEEN. I was one of them - but I got lucky at the last minute finding one decent seat for that screening; the sessions this week were all chock full, and unless you don't mind cranking your head upwards the IMAX screen, you weren't going to get a seat with a reasonable view (and for this film that means everything). But yeah, Avatar is currently performing peachily all over the world.

(ii) SkyCity Cinemas really need to look at their quality control, at least the one on Queen St. These days I'm never surprised if something goes wrong with the projection there. The volume might be too low, the bulb too dim, the wrong lens is on, the framing is off, etc. At this particular Avatar screening there was a 5-minute gap of nothing between the gazillion ads that played and when the film started (we were told the volume needed adjusting; hello let's do it before people arrive...). And the box office didn't open until after 30 minutes before screening, and the kiosks weren't turned on so those who booked tickets via EFT-POS can't pay there and had to queue up, speaking of which, how about clearly delineating where booked tickets can be picked up? There were a bunch of people queuing up on the left, when it turns out you can pick up your booked tickets at the normal ticket counter. Anywho, rant over. Call me a crank, but I just like a consistent standard of service for the $20 ticket I shelled out for. Having said all that - I am very thankful for their new user-friendly website.

Now Avatar. It's hard to not be affected by hype of this scale. It's the most expensive film ever made. It's going to revolutionise cinema. It's James Cameron's first film in 12 years. So for those who say "forget about the hype": I can't. When words are that big, it's impossible not to judge the film based on expectations produced by such grand proclamations. I don't think it's unfair. I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing - I certainly wouldn't expect any less from a guy who declares he's the "King of the World" upon receiving his Oscar for Titanic - but simply: if you talk big, we're going to expect big. Any less, well, we're going to pick at it.

I'll get the good stuff out of the way first. I think James Cameron is a terrific action filmmaker, one of the best in Hollywood. He knows how to make a killer B-movie with A-level materials (Terminator 1 & 2, Aliens). In Avatar's climax, it was refreshing and invigorating to watch complex action choreography involving numerous elements - flying creatures versus battleships, arrows versus machine guns, and an eye-full of background detail - shot and cut in a way that every moment made sense spatially. After ADD headaches like Transformers 2, Avatar restores your faith that more classically conceived action sequences are still possible today, even with the added assistance - and busy-ness - of CGI (which generally tends to make filmmakers lazy). If anything, the muscular fluidity of Cameron's filmmaking remains in the memory more than any of its technological advancements.

I'm a bit torn about the film's visuals. The natural habitat of the Na'vi mostly looks fabulous, pretty, especially the greenery, and those floating mountains. The hardware - the mecha-suits, the giant tractors - are superbly rendered too if you like that kind of stuff. As for the Na'vi themselves, I don't think any amount of photo-realistic CGI is going to get rid of the fact they look a bit goofy. This is a purely subjective thing of course - I know heaps of people buy into these tall, lanky blue beings - but they are a bit too fantasy-fan-art-ish for me, and just, er, at the end of the day, not that cool-lookin' aye. A few Na'vi tribe scenes also brought back memories of that notorious rave scene from Matrix: Reloaded, which is definitely not a good thing. And I can't remember where I read it, but someone described Avatar's look as a Yes album cover come to life, which I have to laugh in agreement.

Much has been made about the film's "immersive quality" due to Cameron's trailblazing 3-D work. Though I can certainly say the film does have that "immersive quality" in spades, I can't say if it would be any less immersive in 2-D having not seen that version to compare. It's bizarre though, 'cos Avatar's 3-D is one of the least 3-D films you'll see. This isn't like seeing Beowulf in 3-D. The subtleties of Avatar's 3-D do contribute to the viewer's immersion into an alien environment, but it's not the only thing that's doing that, or even necessary. Use the fanciest 3-D you want without a competent grasp of basic tools like absorbing characters, story, etc. and no one's going to be immersed in your "world" no matter what. The "flatness" of Avatar's 3-D also begs the question, "why even use it in the first place?" I was immersed in Aliens without 3-D. I was immersed in Jurassic Park without 3-D. What other level of immersion do you need to enjoy a film??

I think it's going to be a while before the masses are going to buy into the so-called "3-D revolution". For starters, it's EXPENSIVE (normal ticket prices are already making us cry). Secondly, until the technology is tweaked and fine-tuned so that it's "friendlier" to our vision, we're going to continue to hear of audiences throwing up or getting headaches or just not wanting anything to do with it to avoid such unpleasant occurrences. Bottom line, I'm still of the mind that it's a gimmick that won't replace 2-D film in the near future. It can be great when used well, but I also hate having to wear an extra set of glasses when I'm going to the movies.

Anywho back to Avatar: it's a thuddingly simplistic and badly, none-too-imaginatively written movie. Cameron desperately needs to unload that duty to someone else with an ear for dialogue and an ability to create characters and plotting beyond stock. I understand there's always been that musty B-level cheese element in Cameron's work, but c'mon dude, you've spent enough on this movie to fund a dozen charities for a lifetime, why not scrub up on the writing? Allegorical references to the Iraq war, Vietnam war, 9/11 and Native American history go down like ton of bricks (did I mention Wes Studi is here too?). It is Dances with Wolves all over again. And every other film where a white outsider enters a native tribe, learns their ways, shacks up with their hottest member before they find out he's working for the other side. There are zero suprises in this film. No twists. Not even a shade of grey. Everything plays out EXACTLY as you think it will.

The performances are serviceable, everyone carries their role with as much dimension as the script allows them, which is too say not that much. Zoe Saldana walks away with the most soulful part as the Na'vi babe Worthington falls for; Lang the most beefy, one-dimensional jarhead villain you can think of (look at that nasty scar on his head - you know you're going to hate this guy's guts from the first instance you see him).

If you think I'm unduly harsh on this film and think that I should just relax and check my brain at the door, well, I think Avatar deserves better than that. I don't think Avatar is your average Bayhem monstrosity that gets rolled out annually. There's SUPREME high-end artistry at work here than cannot be denied. I'm ready to appreciate Avatar as an auteur piece. I can even accept it as some kind of Bizarre, Insanely Expensive Art Object Thing. Cameron's heart and soul is all over this thing. But it's no mind-altering masterpiece. It may be technologically revolutionary, it may be startling to look at occasionally, but in all other respects it's awfully familiar, trapped in age-old cliches which it unfortunately doesn't quite transcend. The game hasn't changed.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sam Raimi Gives Youtuber $30 Mill to Make Feature

Do we really need another giant robot/alien invasion pic? Obviously Sam Raimi and his production company Ghost House Pictures do - in a story with echoes of District 9's inception, a Uruguayan filmmaker by the name of Fede Alvarez has caught the eye of Hollywood execs after posting his short film Ataque de Panico! (Panic Attack!) on youtube. Claiming to have made the 5-minute film, which features slick, heavy-duty CGI work nearly on par with War of the Worlds or Cloverfield, for only $300, Alvarez will get $30 million to make a feature-length movie based on the short.

Call me skeptical, but I honestly doubt it was made for a few hundred bucks. Great marketing story though. Have a look-see and tell me what you think:

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Morgan Freeman Chain of Command

Hats off to whoever created this piece of genius:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top 10 Films of the Decade REDUX

I hate making end-of-year lists with a passion. I tend to do them out of occupational obligation, or some strange personal necessity to challenge myself, but I'm never satisfied with how they turn out. The damn thing never looks right. So out of this "personal necessity" I'm going to attempt picking my top 10 films of the 2000s here. But I'm also doing this partially to set the record straight that the list which appeared in Real Groove's December issue doesn't reflect my tastes accurately (The Royal Tenenbaums wouldn't even crack my top 50!), but is the result of tallying votes from all the RG contributors who sent in their lists. Just felt like I need to clarify this, since I've had quite a few people come up to me wondering what IS up with that list... it probably wasn't made clear enough in the copy, but anywho, things happen - now onto the Real List (or as real-as-can-be-at-this-point-in-time, i.e. meaning "will regret once posted").

10.
CAST AWAY
(Robert Zemeckis, '00)
I'm no Tom Hanks fan, but this is probably his greatest performance to date. The first two-thirds is pure incredible. Stranded on an island. Volleyball. Large stretches of no dialogue. Some of the Zemeckis' best, bravest work.

9.
THE HOST
(Bong Joon-ho, '06)
The best monster flick of the last decade came from South Korea. Stylish and funny, superb effects, a Jurassic Park for the new millennium.

8.
FUNNY HA HA
(Andrew Bujalski, '03)
I'm not going to call to this mumblecore - the much-derided term given to the movement this film help kickstart; Bujalski's debut is just a fresh, raw, smart, unaffected "small film" that rings true. A genuine independent gem.

7.
SPIRITED AWAY
(Hayao Miyazaki, '01)
I think Miyazaki might have peaked with this film. Spellbinding MAGIC.

6.
BATTLE ROYALE
(Kinji Fukasaku, '01)
Surprised to see this not getting mentioned more in end-of-decade lists around the web. Timely, blood-soaked, hyperkinetic action movie with a brain.

5.
GERRY
(Gus Van Sant, '02)
Don't care if Van Sant was shamelessly riffin' on Bela Tarr. This is my favourite of his "Death" trilogy. Beautiful head movie to zone out to.

4.
PRIMER
(Shane Carruth, '03)
Ultra-cerebral low-budget sci-fi screwed my mind and I loved it. Nothing quite like it.

3.
KEANE
(Lodge Kerrigan, '04)
Remember seeing this at the Melbourne Film Festival and being blown away and emotionally shattered. Why isn't Damien Lewis more famous? This is a performance for the ages. Kerrigan should be making more films.

2.
ZODIAC
(David Fincher, '07)
Finally Fincher is married to material that's worthy of his perfectionism and obsessiveness. Mystery with no solution. Devil is in the details. Masterpiece.

1.
PULSE (KAIRO)
(Kiyoshi Kurosawa, '01)
If the 2000s felt somewhat apocalyptic - Y2K fears, swine flu, Bush, recession, etc - Pulse seemed to prefigure, and perhaps now in a way encapsulate, this prevading ominous mood that we've been experiencing in the past ten years. As a horror film, it pretty much closed the chapter on the post-Ring J-horror boom, and for my money, it's one of the scariest, creepiest and most haunted movies ever made.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Films for one reason or another couldn't be squeezed into the Top 10, in no particular order:

L'Intrus (Claire Denis, '04)
Read My Lips (Jacques Audiard, '01)
Yi Yi (Edward Yang, '00)
Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, '02)
Session 9 (Brad Anderson, '01)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, '00)
Ong Bak (Princa Pinkaew, '03)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, '05)
Ratatouille (Brad Bird, '07)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Cristian Mingiu, '07)
Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, '03)
Gosford Park (Robert Altman, '01)
Adaptation (Spike Jonze, '02)
Femme Fatale (Brian DePalma, '02)
Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, '06)
The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, '03)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 01)
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, '00)

Missing lots no doubt. Next up? Top 10 of 2009. Gahh.

Eastwood vs Pixar

Another genius Youtube trailer mash-up: Gran Torino meets Up! Enjoy...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Avatar Not Blowing Everyone Away

Avatar reviews are popping all over the web right now, the majority of them raving and singing praises about James Cameron's long-awaited-years-in-the-making-sci-fi-epic-that-will-change-cinema-forever. But there are also a handful of reviews that are a bit more cautious, and less outright blown-away, usually pointing towards a crappy script as the film's chief failing. So being the annoying contrarian and cynic* that I am (I'm gonna go into the film with low expectations...), here are a few examples of mixed reaction reviews that I've come across to balance out all the positive ones:

9 First Impressions of Avatar - S. T. Vanairsdale's piece for Movieline is the loosest, wittiest one I've read so far weighing up the pros and cons of the film.

Epic Filmmaking, Epically Bad Dialogue - from SlashFilm.com, David Chen laments the script, which he says he can't describe as "anything but terrible".

Cinematical's Avatar review - well-written, even-handed review by Todd Gilchrist who says "it's neither the worst or best film of the year".

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips, on his Talking Pictures column, says the first 90 minutes are terrific, and "the other 72 minutes, less and less terrific".

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gives Avatar a B rating, claiming "as a movie, it all but evaporates as you watch it".

The always-amusing Mike D'Angelo tweeted: "Avatar ('09 Cameron): 51. Pretty evenly divided between engaging and stupid. Cool concept, lame script, some stunning F/X, I still hate 3-D."

Keith Phipps' review on his Celluloid Heroes blog wrote, "It never took me further than James Cameron’s laptop".

It's kind of ironic then that Cameron's toiled so much over the advancement of technology when his writing skills are - if what these reviews are indicating - rudimentary at best. Which is unsurprising I guess, coming from the guy who wrote Titanic. Anywho I'll reserve judgement until I've seen the film...

(*seriously though, I like reading a good take-down, especially if it makes you think twice about the film. And variety is the spice of life and all that jazz...)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything... #5

Believe it or not, once upon a time David Lynch was in the running to direct Return of the Jedi. In this clip, he tells us, in good humour, why he turned it down (can you even imagine a Lynch version of Jedi??):

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Inglourious Basterds: The Comic?

If only! But some crafty artist has gone and created these beautiful covers in the style of Jack Kirby. There's definitely potential for the film to make a great-looking comic series.

Inglourious Basterds is out on DVD and Blu-ray a week from now!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Kung Fu Dream Team Soon to be a Reality

So it appears this guy...


...is going to star in a film with this guy...


...and also this guy...

I'm less enthused about the third guy, but otherwise, what can I say? BOOM. Bring it on. I was actually just thinking about this recently after watching Ong Bak 2. Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen staring each other down. Trading blows. Kicks. Elbows. Pummeling each other. It's every kung fu fan's dream movie. Twitch has reported that this Hong Kong production, called Vanguard, is to start shooting in April.

Take a look at these clips and imagine these two fighting together:





If that isn't the definition of "bad-assery" I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wild Thing, I Think You Move Me

There was a lot of expectation riding on this one, a LOT. Since the first trailer dropped maybe a year ago, Where the Wild Things Are became my most anticipated film of 2009, though not for the same reasons as others might have, i.e. the childhood love of Maurice Sendak's children's book which the film adapted. I never read it as a kid so I have no emotional attachment to the source, so it was probably down to these things: the promise of watching something truly wondrous and magical hinted at in the trailer (the mix of the Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" and those creatures really did wonders - a stroke of marketing genius!); an eagerness to see what Spike Jonze, whose previous two films I dug (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), would do next. Let's put it this way: there was a sense that cinematic alchemy was at work in the trailer.

I caught a screening last night but it's taken a long five years to get here. The production history for Wild Things is tumultuous to say the least. Warner Brothers were displeased with Jonze's original cut - apparently a lot bleaker - and to produce something they could agree on, he had to commit to a massive overhaul and reshoot, reshoot, reshoot. Factor in the time to augment the animatronic creature suits - initially the only way Jonze wanted to do it - with CGI, and you have an unwieldy production that's grossly over-budget and potentially a disaster waiting to happen.

Thankfully, while imperfect (and I'd give my spleen to see the original cut), the final film isn't a mess bearing all the seams of post-production hell. It's actually quite a beautiful, lovely piece of work. It still lingers in the mind. There's a voice in my head telling me I should see it again (always a good sign in my book). But it is dark, deeply melancholic, and obviously not a "kid's film" in the traditional sense. The Arcade Fire trailer is a great sell, but also shrewdly misleading; despite the song's strains of sorrow, its heart-thumping, surging progression made the film look more joyous and uplifting than it actually is.

One of the saddest, most rueful films about childhood in recent memory, Where the Wild Things Are is ostensibly about being a raging 9-year-old: the stormy emotions, the restless imagination, hell - the restlessness. One minute you're playing with snow, the next minute you're biting your mum, and the next you'll be sailing off to an island where there are dopey giant furry creatures whom you can reign over and hang out with. After that's over you'll just want to go home again.

The notion of nightmarish or 'adult' themes in children's literature or cinema isn't new. From The Wizard of Oz to Watership Down, kids have long been dealt subject matter that'll upset or confuse them. But Wild Things does an interesting, brave, polarizing thing: it doesn't feel the need to graft these themes - nor its fantastical elements - to a "story". The plot meanders. There are no elaborate backstories. Motivations are left ambiguous. It's relatively unexciting. Have a kid compare it to Toy Story or something and they'll think it's like watching paint dry. But that it's not made directly for children is not to say that children, given their appropriate age and parents discretion, cannot glean something from it. What Jonze has done really is create an experience from which viewers can take what they will from it. It's not an easily pigeonhole-able movie - it's open-ended, without solutions - and in mainstream cinema, that's a freakin' unique achievement to pull off.

I have to echo NY Magazine's David Edelstein's comment that it's "a fabulous treehouse of a movie". I love the woodsy, primitive, minimalist feel of the film, the combination of the Dreamy and the Tactile, from the scrappily scrawled title card freeze frame of the opening sequence to the creatures themselves, whose CGI facial expressions are among the most convincing and human I've seen so far. And I like that Jonze avoided embellishing the creatures or locations with any more CGI than necessary. Everything in this world it felt authentic, every element in place as it should be. Except maybe Karen O - I could've done with less of her songs, or even just gone with a straight Carter Burwell score. Not that they're bad or anything, but they're a bit obvious, and as some reviews have noted, too keenly pandering to the indie crowd.

Wild Things might bum you out at the end, but it'll also make you reflect, on the film, yourself, your childhood, or your children - maybe all of the above - which is more than you can say for the dozens of disposable family entertainments churned out by Hollywood every year. I know I'm still thinking about it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Amazing Colour Footage of London, 1927

Feast your eyes on this absolutely astounding, otherworldly colour footage of 1920s London shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Frisse-Greene, who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William - a noted cinematographer - was experimenting with. It's like a beautifully dusty old postcard you'd find in a junk store, but moving. Read more about Greene here.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Before They Were Stars: Jason Reitman

He's not technically a "star" as such, but Jason Reitman, the director of Juno and Thank You For Smoking, got his first kiss on the set of Arnie's Kindergarten Cop (which was produced by his father Ivan) and it's been immortalised on youtube in all its dorky awkward adolescent glory. I guess there are worse things to be embarrassed about... (via InContention)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lego Matrix

It's hard to believe it but The Matrix turns TEN this year. Does anyone remember when this first came out? It was like nothing you'd seen before. It was like seeing Star Wars for the first time. Or Jaws. Or Blade Runner. Or Jurassic Park. Thinking about it now, I don't remember the last time I've been in a full theatre going UTTERLY BALLISTIC at a mainstream blockbuster film like the screening of The Matrix I attended ten years ago. The film's CGI felt fresh at the time; all that slow-mo bullet time stuff was still in its infancy. Ten years later, we've been inundated by so much CGI it's lost its power to surprise (here's hoping Avatar delivers the same kind of first-time magic). And for The Matrix, it's gone from being New Cool Thing to Who Cares? in the space of two poorly received sequels which tried to expand its mythology but ended up alienating everyone who loved the first film.

This all is just a long-winded way of prefacing this very cool clip of one of Matrix's key scenes re-done in LEGO form to commemorate its 10th Anniversary!! There's no CGI in this, everything was done, rather impressively, "in camera". It took 440 hours and $500 to create. Quite genius:



Now check out the side-by-side comparison of the original scene and Lego version. Talk about attention to detail:



To learn more about the making of, visit Lego Matrix.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Screaming Susie Greene

This one's strictly for diehard Curb Your Enthusiasm er, enthusiasts. Season 7's just wrapped up in the states - word has it that it's one of the best seasons yet - so a super fan decided to put together a video montage of every instance of Susie cursing and screaming in the show. Here's one woman you do not want to sass. Click on the picture to check it out (warning: offensive language follows):

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two-Minute Warning on DVD Next Year!

Been browsing upcoming release catalogues this arvo and had to stop and share my excitement in coming across a film I've wanted to see for ages on Vendetta's February slate: Two-Minute Warning. Directed by Larry Peerce, this 1976 thriller, about a sniper opening fire on a packed crowd at a football game, boasts what must be one of the all-time great star-studded disaster movie casts ever: Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Martin Balsam, Beau Bridges, David Jansen, Gena Rowlands, Walter Pidgeon, Marilyn Hassett!!! Have a peek at the cool trailer ("91000 people. 33 exit gates. 1 sniper"):



And continuing on a '70s note (my favourite note...), two other coming soon releases to look out for: The Silent Partner, heist flick starring Elliot Gould and Christopher Plummer, and The Spikes Gang, Richard Fleischer's MGM western which, as far as I know, has never been on VHS or DVD in the US! Love those guys at Shock for putting out these back catalogue MGM movies!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

R.I.P Edward Woodward (1930-2009)

Many will remember him for his starring turn in the original (and arguably the greatest British horror film ever made) The Wicker Man. Yet others will recall his hard-as-nails private eye, Robert McCall in The Equalizer. While those of a certain age will remember him fondly as Callan.

Edward Woodward passed away on Monday, in Turo, Cornwall, England, at the age of 79. This hugely influential character actor will be missed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything... #4

I love cosplay and I love Star Wars - so this guy gets bonus imperial credits for this one:

Roger Corman Receives Oscar!

Fans of B-movies will be pleased to learn that director/producer Roger Corman (83-years-old but still looking well!) received an Academy Award at the Oscar Governor's Ball on Saturday night for lifetime achievement. Longtime fan Quentin Tarantino gave an affectionate, charismatic speech, and Corman alumni Jonathan Demme presented the award to the influential low-budget filmmaker. Some big faces in the audience, including Steven Spielberg, George "I Devoted My Life to Star Wars" Lucas, Ron Howard and Jack Nicholson, who all in one way or another have crossed paths with Corman. The ceremony was untelevised but you can watch footage over here. Actress Lauren Bacall and cinematographer Gordon Willis also received awards.

Trailers for a few Corman titles we stock:

A Bucket of Blood (1959)


Little Shop of Horrors (1960)


Premature Burial (1962)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Superhero Trailers: Kick-Ass and Kanthaswamy

Here are two neato superhero trailers to kick-start your week. First up is Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, a forthcoming adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr's comic series about amateur crimefighters. Looks like Watchmen for the Superbad set or something.



Secondly, check out the Tamil blockbuster Kanthaswamy (via Twitch) which looks like all kinds of crazy; I can't quite describe it right now but hope it comes to a theatre around here soon...


Enjoy!

Monday, November 9, 2009

2012 Floods Subway

This is a cool marketing campaign from Sony Pictures for the release of Roland Emmerich's disasterific 2012 in Brazil. The film opens here on Thursday. More 2012 reading: Making Waves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Poker Face Walken

Hands down the best viral thing I've seen all week - Christopher Walken reading out the lyrics to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on BBC's Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. He's one of those guys who could read a phone book and still keep you enthralled. A little bit creepy (as Walken can only do in his own inimitable way) but incredibly funny stuff.

Scorsese's Top 11 Scariest Horror Films

This is a bit late, but better late than never... last week Martin Scorsese shared with The Daily Beast his Top 11 favourite horror flicks. Cool to see less-recognised titles like Dead of Night and The Entity in there with the usual suspects. Also dig his line about Psycho - "the shower... the swamp... the relationship between the mother and son" - it's a film that's so often imitated and lampooned people tend to take for granted its under-the-skin creepiness. This here is a man with taste.

Most of them are available to rent from fatso:


2. Isle of the Dead

3. The Uninvited (where's the DVD dammit!)

4. The Entity

5. Dead of Night

6. The Changeling

7. The Shining

8. The Exorcist

9. Night of the Demon

10. The Innocents

11. Psycho

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Luxo Goes Nutso

This is a darkly funny parody of Pixar's logo intro from CollegeHumor where Luxo the Lamp goes homicidal. Don't think we'll be seeing this one gracing the start of any Pixar film anytime soon...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Zombieland

It's Halloween tomorrow, so to get you in the mood, here's a post solely focused on nothing but zombies, zombies and zombies...

First item of interest: [REC] 2. If you haven't already heard, there's a marketing challenge out there to create as much buzz as possible for the New Zealand theatrical release of this sequel to the Spanish horror hit. There have been some cool ideas floating around already - visit the website to see them - and one of the niftiest is probably the zombie insurance auction ("Revenant Emergency Coverage 2") that's up on trademe at the moment (Bid now to avoid losing out...).

This Balloon Boy mash-up is cool too:



[REC] 2 opens on November 13, and is having its premiere this weekend at the very sold-out Vendetta Films 24 Hour Movie Marathon (which a few of us here at fatso are crazy enough to attend).

For those going out trick or treatin' (probably no one in that age group will be reading this) or dress-up Halloween parties and need some tips, check out this amazing zombie invasion in Monroeville, Pennsylvania where around 2000 people, fully caked in pasty, skin-peeling make-up, took to the mall where Dawn of the Dead was shot. Read more here.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, a man was called a zombie and punched twice (!?).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Trailer: 24 - Season 8!

Yesss! A trailer for 24 - Season 8 has finally leaked online! Chloe, Kim and Jack seem to be the only recognisable returning faces in the trailer (what's happened to Almeida??), but I guess that's what you get for killing off your regulars regularly. Most exciting is probably the addition of Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire) in the cast - I think this will give the show an interesting dynamic with Kapoor and Sutherland acting off each other. There are rumours that this could be the last one, so let's hope for a season that's on par with 5 - the sharpest, most consistent 24 thus far (Season 7 promised a return-to-form but kinda fizzled at the end after a strong opening). Season 8 is opening in Jan in the States, so I guess we'll get it a few months later, if not sooner.

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything... #3

I really don't know what to say about this one. Click on the image to see more of this DEAD TAUNTAUN WEDDING CAKE.

FACEPALM.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Before They Were Stars: Keanu Reeves

Keanu talking "bearness" on 80's Canadian kids TV show Going Great

Educating Jenny

A quick rave for Carey Mulligan in Lone Scherfig's An Education. I'll have to echo the chorus of praises for her superb performance as Jenny, a 16-year-old schoolgirl who's seduced into living the life of her dreams by Peter Saarsgard, a smooth-talking charmer twice her age. Next to Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, this might be my favourite piece of acting in any film this year: pure exuberance and unaffected beauty just radiating from the screen and seemingly without any effort. Hard to imagine one else in the role and definite shoe-in for Oscar material. The film's good too, nicely played coming-of-age tale (penned by High Fidelity's Nick Hornby), but definitely wouldn't be what it is without the positively mercurial presence of Mulligan. Check out the trailer:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trailer: Black Lightning

This film produced by Timur Bekmambetov - the hotshot Russian director behind Night Watch and Day Watch (and also, unfortunately Wanted) - looks pretty darn ridiculous, but man I'm getting a buzz off it. Maybe it's that '80s vibe that seems to be written all over the trailer (you can easily imagine Back to the Future-era Michael J. Fox in the car seat), and besides it's been a while since we've had a good movie about a FLYING CAR! And it's not just some flying car, it's a Volga sedan - love that it's an old vehicle, not some flashy Initial D. machine. I'm not too sure about plot details since the trailer's in Russian, but I think it'd be safe to say that it's about a young guy-turned-crime-fighter-with-a-flying-car. Bekmambetov has been quoted as saying that it's "Russia's reponse to Transformers and Batman".

Monday, October 19, 2009

CineAsia Spotlight: The Message

One of the more gratifying things to come along to our local multiplex in the past year or so has been the availability of more Asian cinema programming in the form of CineAsia. It seemed like it came out of nowhere, without any fanfare; the first CineAsia flick I recall seeing was the Donnie Yen bone-snapper Ip Man earlier this year (which reportedly packed houses consistently during its run). Since then they've supplied a steady stream of Asian flicks (Korean, Hong Kong, Chinese etc), including Ong Bak 2, The Underdog Knight, Murderer and the brilliant Accident - all which I'm totally thankful for being able to catch on the big screen. Not everything's super, but making them available is a great thing for fans.

Currently playing is the Mainland Chinese feature The Message, an old-fashioned wartime spy yarn that's worth a look if you like twisty whodunits. Set in Nanjing during the 1940s Sino-Japanese war, the film's premise involves the Japanese Intelligence trying to capture a resistance leader who's been bumping off their officials. They think there's a mole (dubbed "the Phantom") in their counterinsurgency center, and to flush them out, 5 of the suspected department's officers are sent to a remote castle where they'll be submitted to a succession of brutal interrogations and devious mindgames.

I dig red herring-peppered Agatha Christie-style drawing room mysteries, and The Message definitely engages on that level. Though there aren't that many suspects, it keeps us guessing and fingers pointing like any good mystery should. The film also features a number of fairly gruesome torture scenes - the most grisly probably too R-rated to talk about in detail here (let's just say it employs a rope and positions a woman in a compromising position) - and its dark, grungy palette occasionally makes you feel like you've just walked into some sort of Saw-inspired torture-fest.

The Message doesn't quite make it to the finish line with the assuredness of its opening scenes: the non-stop swooshing, hand-held camerawork wore me down eventually and detracted from the film's suspense, while the uneven CGI work is distracting and at odds with the gritty subject and tone (I'm sick of blatantly digital aerial shots being used to capture a sense of grandeur; see most recently, Red Cliff, and pretty much any other big battle epics of the last 10 years). Also the wrap-up isn't as satisfying as I'd like; it's neatly resolved, but didn't quite give me a case of the HOLY-SH*T-SO-THAT'S-WHAT-HAPPENED?! Still worth checking out though, and it's been getting positive notices around the place. Here's the trailer (no English subs):

Friday, October 16, 2009

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything... #2

This bit of news is too daft not to mention, especially in the light of today's absurd mass global media hysteria over Balloon Boy... Someone actually sold a used Starbucks cup that George Lucas drank from on eBay! The seller claims it's the real deal and they acquired it from a "press event at Skywalker Ranch". The item went for $51 to Reelguyz.com, who've posted a pic on their site which validates the authenticity of the cup! Ridiculous! Click here to see the auction.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trailer (Unofficial): The Expendables

The first footage of Sylvester Stallone's star-studded action-fest The Expendables has leaked online in the form of an unofficial bootleg teaser. As far as I know there seems to be two versions doing the rounds: one's a version that was shot by an audience member at the Venice Film Festival and the other's a proper, non-shakey cam version. Either way they seem to be getting yanked off the web by Lionsgate really quickly, so better get in fast if you're itching to get a glimpse of this much-anticipated star-studded project. The trailer's only so-so and put together in a really slapdash manner. We do get to see Dolph Lundgren duking it out with Jet Li though, and it does promise a lot of bang - and cheese - for your buck.

Friday, October 9, 2009

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything...

Remember that scene from The Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo saved Luke Skywalker's life on the ice planet of Hoth by slitting open the belly of a Taun-Taun? Well, thanks to a great company in the U.S, you too can re-enact that famous scene with your kids! Just in time for Christmas!

(More details about this crazy item can be found HERE)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Making Waves

If you've been to the movies in the past few months you've probably seen those amazing-looking tsunamis in the trailer to Roland Emmerich's upcoming disaster juggernaut 2012. Yahoo Movies have just posted a little behind-the-scenes clip featuring the effects guys talking about creating those waves:



But for a funnier and more interesting 2012-related clip, watch this, a re-edit of the trailer which cuts out all the visual effects and leaves the actors "acting". Needless to say, this movie is not a showcase for them.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Combo: A Collaborative Animation by Blu and David Ellis

I know zilch about Blu or David Ellis, but this animated vid blew me away at my desk yesterday - check it out, it'll make your day!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Damn, No Signal

Have cellphones ruined the movies? I think it's taken a little bit of magic out of the problem-solving aspect of film narratives. Everything seems a bit easier and lazier today with cellphones, though sometimes it's a necessity: just watch 24 and try to imagine it being made without them. In the realm of horror movies, it's become a tired device for generating tension and this great clip below shows you it's now as common a cliche as the car-that-won't-start or fumbling-key-drop. Lull in the narrative? No problem. Just strand your characters out of coverage area! Or give them a nearly empty battery! Perfect. They're screwed.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wild Fashion

With the release of Spike Jonze's loooong-awaited adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are only a few weeks away (we don't get it until December! argh!), fever for the film has officially reached a peak with a line of fashion collections inspired by the classic children's book. Urban Outfitters are selling Wild Things tops, dresses and t-shirts, but for bigger spenders, Christian Joy - the designer for Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O's crazy stage outfits - has produced 5 monster suits that'll guarantee to make you the talk of your Halloween party. If that's not enough, designer outlet Opening Ceremony are stocking a range of limited edition fake fur bits and pieces and jewellery designed in conjunction with Jonze. Would love one of those Ts from Urban Outfitters but they don't ship to NZ d'oh.

If you haven't seen the trailer, here it is - it's one of those trailers that leaves the hair on the back of your neck standing in joyful anticipation:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ghanian Handmade Poster Weirdness

If you're as sick as I am of the Floating Head-style design of today's movie posters, feast your eyes on these handmade posters from Ghana! Utterly incredible, warped, beautiful, BIZARRE... it's hard to pick a favourite from those examples, but I might have to go with Cujo and John Woo's The Killer. Words fail. I'd happily hang them on my living room wall. Like all great outsider/folk art, they're charming and sincere in their primitivism. You can see more here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trailer: Paranormal Activity

There's so much buzz surrounding this low-budget horror flick it's too bad that seeing it might not be that easy. The backstory to the release of this Blair Witch-y movie is a knotty one: made two years ago by Oren Peli, it was originally picked up by Dreamworks, who didn't really know what to do with it but had plans to remake it, only to back off when industry insiders who saw it gave it the thumbs up (among them Steven Spielberg apparently). The film is now being handled by Paramount, who is giving it a limited release in the States (IMDB has NZ's release date as January 2010, but who knows if that'll stick at this stage?). Unfortunately they - or whoever organised the event - totally made a mess of a free screening of the film in New York that has angered a lot of people. Read about this horror story here.

Interestingly, they've devised an interesting strategy to gauge interest by allowing fans to "demand it" on this website. So if you want to see Paranormal Activity in your town - and if you're a self-respecting scary movie fan you will want to - please register your vote! Here's the trailer complete with night-vision audience reactions and all:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

School of Herzog

Imagine the coolest, most radical film school ever. Stop imagining. It's here: Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School. Forget your standard academic film-schoolly-type course. Apparently the director of such towering masterpieces as Aguirre: Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo "will not teach anything technical about filmmaking". Okay, it's not a school as such, but a series of weekend seminars that will first take place in Los Angeles but travel around the globe. The unusual topics you'll be taught include the art of lockpicking, travelling on foot and the athletic side of filmmaking.

Meanwhile, Herzog's Nic Cage-starring "remake" of Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant has played Toronto International Film Festival and from initial reports, it sounds like it's an altogether different beast - funnier it seems. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman has called Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans "demon-rich, loopy, fascinating and improbably entertaining" while Twitch praised it "as fine an example of gonzo filmmaking you are ever likely to come across". Yes, I'm excited.

[Sorry it's been a while but I've just returned from a rather wonderful holiday in the Big Apple! Been adjusting, sorting out and catching up with admin stuff in the last couple of days]

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Covin' In

Louie Psihoyos' disturbing dolphin-killing doco The Cove, which opened here last week, seems to be making quite a splash about the place. Which is what it's intended to do of course. The subject matter is so sensitive that the Tokyo International Festival has refused to screen it, citing the film's highly critical stance on Japan's environmental policies as the reason for the rejection. Psihoyos said the decision was "hypocritical", since the festival's theme this year involved protecting the environment.

Another side effect has been the parting of ways between the Australian coastal town of Broome and Taiji, the Japanese village where the dolphin killings take place. Broome and Taiji have been sister cities since the late 19th century, but pressure from residents in Broome have forced the town to sever their historic ties until the slaughter stops. It's also, unfortunately, invited anti-Japanese sentiment there - which is one of the concerns Psihoyos and a Japanese audience member raised when he spoke after the film's second screening at the NZ Film Fest back in July.

Although I don't think Psihoyos has made an anti-Japanese film in any shape or form - and he does point out that the average Japanese citizen does not know about nor do they condone these killings - such extreme, racially motivated reactions seem inevitable, since it depicts strong stuff that inspires strong emotions, and strong emotions often overwhelm reason and perspective.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hitler Finds Out Avatar Trailer is Crap

The blogosphere is currently rife with dissenting opinions on the Avatar preview/trailer, and also lots of Tarantino/Inglourious Basterds chatter - so why not, sort of, kinda, combine the two? This is another one of those Downfall parodies that seem to pop up every time there's widespread disappointment in the media about some major event (more Hitler spoofs here). As far as it goes, it's not bad, with some good lines: "Cameron has spent too much time underwater and has taken the Hollywood opiate of putting technology before story!".



Also, if you want more Tarantino/Basterds-related reading material, check these links out: QT's Top 20 Grindhouse Movies & Spaghetti Westerns; Five Things You Should Know About Basterds; interesting piece about Basterds' structure.