Monday, December 16, 2013

Fatso's Top 20 Biggest Titles of 2013

'Tis the time to be making end-of-year lists and whatnot so we got our number-crunchers to put together the Top 20 titles that were constantly flying off our racks this year. 2013 Oscar Best Picture winner Argo topped the list, a much less surprising title than 2012's #1. Good to see foreign entry The Intouchables crack the Top 10, and curious that some of you were crazy about Alex Cross at one point! Here's the complete list:

1. Argo
2. Skyfall
3. Looper
4. Taken 2
5. Lincoln
6. Life of Pi
7. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
8. Django Unchained
9. Silver Linings Playbook
10. The Intouchables
11. Jack Reacher
12. Les Miserables
13. Iron Man 3
14. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
15. Alex Cross
16. Pitch Perfect
17. Oblivion
18. A Good Day to Die Hard
19. Game of Thrones - Season 2
20. Zero Dark Thirty

Sci-Fi Trailer Mania: Godzilla, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending, Interstellar

Last week saw the release of no less than FOUR trailers for upcoming sci-fi behemoths. Ok, Godzilla might not be technically what you'd consider "hard" sci-fi but anywho... There's Tom Cruise donning a mecha suit battling aliens while stuck in a time-loop (Edge of Tomorrow looks like a cooler Oblivion); there's Jupiter Ascending, the new space opera from the Wachowskis' featuring Channing Tatum with ridiculous pointy ears and a ginger goatee; and the highly anticipated Christopher Nolan Matthew McConaughey-starring joint, Interstellar, the teaser for which shows barely any footage from the movie itself but should make the hairs on the back of your neck stand...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Moa Winners Shopping and White Lies Now on DVD

Two Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards winners, Shopping and White Lies, are both now available to rent on DVD. Shopping, the gritty coming-of-age tale from Louis Sutherland and Mark Albiston, scooped up 7 Moas, including Best Picture and Best Director, while the period drama White Lies picked up Best Makeup Design and Production Design. Check out the trailers below; full list of winners here.
Also it's great to see Geoff Murphy, director of Kiwi classics such as Goodbye Pork Pie and The Quiet Earth, honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hopefully we'll get to see a re-release of the currently out-of-print Utu on DVD in its restored form soon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Final Cut 2013: A Cinema Tribute

Nick Bosworth over at JoBlo.com has put together this fantastic tribute to the movies of 2013. Containing a phenomenal 283 films spread over 8 minutes of sensory overload, the mash-up does an effective job of encapsulating the landscape of cinema in the past year -- although the choices, understandably, are mostly geared towards Western audiences. A number of films haven't made it to our shores just yet, but see how many you can spot:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Paul Walker's "Finest Performance" Hours Out on DVD Jan 15

One of Paul Walker's final films, the Hurricane Katrina drama Hours, will be released on DVD on January 15. It's said to be his "finest performance" yet, showcasing a more dramatic, sensitive side as opposed to the brawny heroics of his career-defining role in the Fast and Furious franchise. Check out the trailer here - it definitely plays to his largely under-recognised "everyman" strengths: For fans wondering what his death will mean for the long-running series, Forbes has a good think-piece examining the tricky issue from a business and creative perspective.  Matt Singer's heartfelt appreciation of Walker over at The Dissolve is worth reading too.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Quentin Tarantino's Next Film: "It's a Western"

Quentin Tarantino has revealed on Jay Leno's The Tonight Show that his next film will be another Western. He didn't give much more detail, other than that it won't be a sequel to Django Unchained. With that announcement we can also probably rule out that it will be the trilogy-capping Killer Crow project that he had mentioned last year. I'm not disappointed he's doing another Western, but given his recent talk of retirement, I would prefer to see him branch out and tackle other genres -- especially horror -- or even return to a more restrained and emotionally mature mode of a film like Jackie Brown. Here's the Jay Leno interview:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lifeforce Pulled from Release... Again

It pains me to report that Tobe Hooper's totally nutty '80s cult space vampire flick Lifeforce has received another blow for a possible NZ home video release. Triton had this movie on their DVD schedule a couple years ago but it was yanked, and now the Blu-ray, which was due to come out last week from Shock, has suffered a similar fate. Shock cited "rating issues" as the reason. Other Blu-rays from the same Cinema Cult line were also withdrawn, including City of the Living Dead, Lisa and the Devil/House of Exorcism and Vampyres. Bummer news for genre fans.... anywho here's the Lifeforce trailer to remind you of its awesomeness:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Trailer: Noah

The first trailer for Darren Aronofsky's retelling of the biblical tale Noah has landed, and as expected, it's loaded with CGI animals, catastrophic weather changes and epic battles, which on the surface, doesn't make it look that far removed your last cheesy Roland Emmerich disaster picture. I'm still curious though, to see what Aronofsky (Black Swan) can do on a large-scale blockbuster-level production, and let's hope the recent news of fights with the studio haven't impacted too heavily on his vision. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Russell Crowe, Ray Winstone, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, and is due for release March 28 next year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Horror, Wes Anderson-ized

This superb SNL horror send-up of Wes Anderson popped up around Halloween but I haven't been able to find a non-geo-blocked clip until a friend alerted me to this site a couple of days ago. It's done amazingly well, aping Anderson's character types, colour schemes and symmetrical compositions to bring us a version of a slasher movie if had been made by Anderson himself. Click here for an in-depth breakdown of how it was all achieved.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Teaser Trailer: The Raid 2: Berandal

When The Raid came out last year, it knocked all our socks off here at Fatso. This Indonesian  actioner raised the martial arts genre to a whole new level of bone-breaking bad-assery, and made a star out of its lead Iko Uwais, a dazzling silat expert. Naturally, a sequel was announced not long after, with writer/director Gareth Evans promising the scale of the action to be much larger and more ambitious than before. Based on the teaser that's just gone online, I don't think we'll be disappointed. Although it's fairly brief, the flashes of action that we do see is enough to get us freakin' excited. Click below for a wall-punchingly intense glimpse of The Raid 2: Berandal:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Leonard Maltin vs. The Multiplex

Maybe Leonard Maltin's not so cool anymore, I dunno, but his 1995 Movie Guide remains one of my most frequent go-to books for quick film reviews. Anywho he's recently set up his own Youtube channel, and just made this rant against underwhelming service in movie theatres, particularly addressing how the digital era has automated everything and ushered out the requirement of any human presence behind the scenes. Call him an old-fashioned coot or whatever, but he makes some points which in my experience, are entirely valid and common today. If theatre owners are going to charge crazy prices for tickets these days, the least they could do is make sure every aspect of the movie-going experience is worth every penny, including checking little things like focus, audio, etc.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ridley Scott's The Counselor: "worst ever made"?

Ridley Scott's new film The Counselor has opened in the States to some of the most negative reviews of the director's career. The drug trafficking thriller, penned by renowned author Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road), baffled and bored critics, even prompting one -- Salon's Andrew O'Hehir -- to deem it the "worst movie ever made". Despite a star-studded cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt, audiences didn't go for it either, leaving the film with a miserable box office opening that's also one of Scott's worst. The Counselor opens in NZ on November 7.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Clips #9

Here's another round of fun/interesting/odd/miscellaneous clips for your Friday viewing pleasure...

Fateful Findings - this extremely bizarre film is being groomed to the "the next cult classic" along the lines of Tommy Wiseau's The Room.

Blade Runner re-imagined as a classic black-and-white noir:

The team at Bad Lip Reading takes on Game of Thrones:

The honest truth about Pacific Rim:

Star-studded "Let It Be" music video - I'm not sure what the heck this is or what it's for, but it plays like a hilarious purgatory for washed-up celebs from the '80s and '90s:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Trailer: Non-Stop

See what happens when you put Liam Neeson on a plane? Non-Stop re-teams the 61-year-old Taken star with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra for a mid-air mishmash of anonymous text messages, ransom demands, passengers getting knocked off and Neeson getting framed for all of the above. The trailer doesn't really leave much to the imagination, and the story feels stitched from a bunch of other terror-in-the-skies-type thrillers, but damn if I don't want to see Neeson kick up a storm at 40,000 ft!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Step into Will Smith's Penthouse-on-Wheels

If you can pony up US$2.5 million you might be able to chill like Will Smith in one of these monster motor homes. Two stories, 14 TVs, leather seats, a 100-inch screen, etc... this thing is insane and must be seen to be believed.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Don't Worry, It's Just a Cat

Cats: the source of all false terror. I'm sure there are way more examples but not a bad start, Vulture:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In Space No One Can Hear You Nitpick

Firstly if you haven't seen Alfonso Cuaron's spectacular Gravity yet, just set aside 90 minutes this week and buy a ticket to a 3-D screening at your nearest IMAX pronto. Reviews have been largely, universally positive (it's currently boasting an impressive 96 rating on Metacritic), and having seen the film, I can attest that it IS a big screen experience worth savouring. And not just any normal screen, but the biggest screen possible, hence the IMAX recommendation. I rarely go back for seconds at the movies these days -- heck I barely make it out to the theatres anymore -- but Gravity is one film that could justify another viewing. It's just that kind of film. 
Plenty have been written about Cuaron's gob-smacking technical achievements already so I won't go into detail, but for those who've seen the film and need some post-viewing reading, Vulture has a great interview with director Cuaron and former US astronaut Scott Parazynski, who fact-checks the film's space experience. Meanwhile, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson unleashed a barrage of tweets nitpicking the film's "realism". Trust me though, none of this will matter when you're watching it -- Gravity is one of the most beautifully immersive blockbusters ever created, and definitely the best of its kind released this year.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quentin Tarantino's Top 10 Films of 2013... So Far

The Tarantino Archives have published the Django Unchained filmmaker's fave films of 2013 so far, and I have to say, it looks like the guy hasn't been eating his "cultural vegetables" lately. Again, as with recent years, it's a rather middle-of-the-road, American-centric bunch of films that speaks to QT's populist leanings rather than the cinematic eclecticism that's influenced his work. That's not to say there aren't any good films in there, but I always seem to expect something more adventurous from Tarantino...
 
1. Afternoon Delight
2. Before Midnight
3. Blue Jasmine
4. The Conjuring
5. Drinking Buddies
6. Frances Ha
7. Gravity
8. Kick Ass 2
9. The Lone Ranger
10. This is The End

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trailer: Escape from Tomorrow

I haven't been able to shake Escape from Tomorrow since seeing the trailer last week. Randy Moore's debut film is one unique beast. An impressive feat of guerilla filmmaking, this surrealistic horror flick was shot on location at Walt Disney World and Disneyland without any permission from Disney. After shooting - with a cast and crew who did their best to remain incognito - Moore apparently took the film to South Korea to edit it in secrecy just in case Disney caught wind of what he had done. So far it's screened at Sundance to positive reviews and Disney are "aware" of its existence, but no legal action has been taken. Click below to see Disneyland as if imagined by David Lynch (or something):

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V: Brief Reactions from a Non-Gamer

Full disclosure: I am in no way a hardcore gamer of any sort. The last time I seriously "gamed" was probably when I was 10, playing Super Mario on a Gameboy (these days I'm occasionally distracted by Jewels Saga on my phone). I guess you could call me a "noob" when it comes to PS3, 360, etc. You can imagine my surprise then, that I found myself completely mesmerised by Grand Theft Auto V over the weekend. I went through a mixture of reactions while playing it, mostly variations on these:
Like many people, I decided to take a day off work to delve into the GTA V world, only to discover that I've barely scraped the surface. The possibilities seem endless, the expanse of its virtual universe breathtaking and mind-bogglingly detailed. It offers a bounty of heart-stopping action-adventure-type pleasures (I can die happy now knowing what it's like to be in a Ronin-like car chase), but from a technical and aesthetic standpoint, it's just as exciting to simply look at. GTA V is addictive, insane, and INSANELY fun -- almost to the point of inducing nausea. This closes my first ever "game review".

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Clips #8

Another selection of fine clips for your viewing pleasure this Friday arvo:

Everything is Samuel L. Jackson's Fault:


Paul F. Tompkins has a chat with Breaking Bad tough guy Jonathan Banks - only for fans who are up to date on this show:

Ben Affleck addresses fan reaction to the announcement of his casting as the next Batman:

World War Z: The Honest Trailer - a bit spoilery but if you've seen the film, it's hilarious:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Trailer: Homefront

Okay I'm not entirely sold on James Franco as a meth-producing hick bad guy whom Jason Statham should be afraid of; without tats, corn-rows and gold teeth a la Spring Breakers, he doesn't especially look like a threat to anyone, just the annoyingly ubiquitous Franco whom everyone enjoys drubbing of late. But the Sly Stallone-scripted Homefront does appear to have a fun B-picture kick a solid (however generic) Statham vehicle can sometimes deliver, so if you're in the mood for that, click on... PS: Yes that's WINONA RYDER.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trailer: The Double

I wasn't too taken by IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade's 2010 directorial debut, Submarine, but his follow-up The Double, based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella, sounds like it might be something I would lap up mainly because it features one of my favourite plot elements in cinema: doppelgangers. So here we get TWO Jesse Eisenbergs for the price of one, and it seems to have mostly impressed critics who caught its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Guardian favourably compared Ayoade's film to Terry Gilliam, Michel Gondry and the Coen Brothers; Indiewire says it's "Totally bonkers, hilarious and wickedly clever... special and singular filmmaking at its best." Nice use of Son House's "Grinnin' In Your Face" in this dialogue-less trailer:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything #29

Did any eagle-eyed Star Trek or Star Wars fans spot this at the movies? JJ Abrams snuck in a cameo from R2-D2 into Star Trek into Darkness, which will be out on DVD/Blu-ray next week so you can freeze-frame this shot to see it with your own eyes!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Before They Were Stars: Vin Diesel

Hard to believe it but Vin Diesel once had hair! Check out this '80s break-dancing instructional video where the Riddick star shows off some moves we didn't know he had...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Trailer: Under the Skin

The first trailer for Scarlett Johanssen's new film Under the Skin has hit the web and (AV quality issues aside) it looks intriguing and positively mind-blowing, though I'm hard-pressed to tell what the heck is going on. This arty, ambitious sci-fi flick, directed by Jonathan Glazer (his first film since 2004's Birth), has already generated a lot of talk and divided critics since its screenings at Telluride and Venice Film Festivals. The Guardian calls it an "extraordinary malarial dream"; The Telegraph says "astonishing"; Variety didn't show as much love, describe it as an "ultimately torpid and silly tale of an alien on the prowl". Me? I'm sold.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Citizen Kane of Bad Movies" Returns to Auckland

If you've never been acquainted with the ultimate experience in bad-movie nirvana that is Tommy Wiseau's The Room, now's as good a time as any to do so. This one-of-a-kind vanity project is returning to Auckland on September 6 for monthly Friday screenings, and you'll be able to catch it inside the crumbling beauty of the Crystal Palace Theatre in Mt. Eden!
Need another reason? It'll be shown in glorious 35mm, so this will be pretty much be the only time and place in New Zealand where you can see old school celluloid projected on the big screen. More details here. Spoons mandatory.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fan-Made Teaser Trailer: Man of Steel 2

As the internet continues to process the idea that we're living a world where the next Batman is being played by Ben Affleck (via petition, via think-piece), a crafty fan out there has put together a teaser trailer of what the sequel to Man of Steel might look like. Note: Bryan Cranston hasn't been officially cast as Lex Luthor yet as of writing.

Man of Steel will be out on DVD and Blu-ray on October 30.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tony Jaa Joins Fast 7

While the "woah, didn't see that coming" movie news of last week may have belonged to the casting of Ben Affleck as the next Batman, I'm more excited at the announcement that Muay Thai ass-kicker Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) has signed up to join Fast and Furious 7. Jaa will be making his English-language debut, and though details of his role haven't been revealed -- it's likely he'll just end up being a token martial artist as Joe Taslim and Gina Carano were in Fast 6 -- it's encouraging to see him back working after seemingly abandoning acting altogether in 2010. Later this year Jaa has Tom Yum Goong 2 on the way -- check out the action-packed teaser trailer below:

Skyler White vs. The Haters

Other than Game of Thrones' pint-sized sadist Joffrey, I can't think of another character on TV now who has received more hate than Breaking Bad's Skyler White. I have friends who regularly take to twitter and facebook to share how much they despise her. Anna Gunn, who plays Skyler -- a difficult role which she does wonders with -- is well-aware of the mounting hate-campaign against the character too, and has contributed a thoughtful op-ed piece to New York Times discussing this. It's distressing to read how the hate bleeds into real life, with fans conflating Gunn with Skyler to the point where death threats are being made. Ugh. I've never understood it: Skyler's not the most likeable character, but she's as complex and flawed you'd want the long-suffering wife of a sociopathic meth-dealer to be. The final season of Breaking Bad is currently screening on Soho.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trailer: Byzantium

Vendetta Films will be releasing Neil Jordan's Byzantium on October 9 on DVD and Blu-ray. This stylish, atmospheric vampire tale, starring Gemma Arteton and Saoirse Ronan as a mother-daughter pair of nomadic bloodsuckers, marks a great return-to-form for Jordan (Interview with the Vampire), and has secured a place in my Top 10 films of the year so far. Worth a rental for fans of the genre looking for a fresh, revisionist take on vampire lore. Check out the trailer below...

Friday, August 16, 2013

Trailer: The Wind Rises

Celebrated Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki is back with his first film in 5 years, The Wind Rises, a historical piece that looks to be a departure from his beloved fantasy-oriented works like Spirited Away and How's Moving Castle. An avid plane enthusiast, Miyazaki was inspired to make this film by the real-life stories of WWII aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi. The footage in this subtitled trailer released by the Toronto International Film Festival suggests Miyazaki in "heavier" mode, but it's as beautiful a production as you'd expect from Studio Ghibli. No NZ release date announced yet -- would be great if NZIFF's Autumn Events picked it up for a screening at the Civic!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Doco Short: From One Second to the Next

If you're one of those people who have been guilty on occasion of texting while driving, please take some time to watch this short 34-minute documentary by Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams) commissioned by AT&T for an anti-texting-and-driving campaign. Through four sets of moving stories interviewing both victims/families of victims and driving texters, it delivers a loud and clear message, highlighting how a split second decision to attend to something so trivial can irrevocably and tragically alter lives forever. Time to put away that phone while you're on the road folks!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Trailer: Her

Four years after Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze is back with Her, an oddball romantic comedy starring Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely writer who falls in love with an operating system. Scarlett Johansson lends her sexy husky voice to the Siri-type artificial intelligence. It looks imaginative and stylish as you'd expect from Jonze, who's directing from his original screenplay for the first time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Clips #7

Movies in Movies: A Montage - this is great, a supercut of scenes featuring characters in movies watching movies

Fake Daria trailer with Aubrey Plaza

Awkward interview with Bruce Willis - possibly the most cringey thing you'll watch this week (next to the Fox interview with Reza Aslan)

Pacific Rim trailer, done Toho-style

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trailer: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

After starring in three consecutive mediocre films -- Little Fockers, Tower Heist, The Watch -- it looks like Ben Stiller might be getting back on track with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Stiller directs and stars in this remake of the 1947 classic, about a meek, day-dreaming LIFE magazine photographer who gets swept up in a larger-than-life adventure.  I got strong warm-fuzzy The Truman Show vibes from watching this great-looking trailer, which doesn't spell out too much plot-wise, but gives us a sense of its protagonist's penchant for getting lost in vivid fantasies. Kirsten Wiig and a crazy-bearded Adam Scott co-stars.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Many of Spike Lee's Essential Films Have You Seen?

Spike Lee's been popping up a bit in the press recently: his new film Oldboy is on the way (although the release date has been pushed back), and he currently has a Kickstarter project to raise funds for a movie about "human beings who are addicted to blood". To drum up more publicity for it, Lee -- who's also a film professor at New York University -- shared a list of what he deems "the greatest ever films made", must-sees for anyone who wants to make films. Although we could question some of his picks (e.g. John Frankenheimer's The Train is great, but Seconds and The Manchurian Candidate might be more essential; no Friedkin?), this list of 87 films is a pretty solid cinema textbook-type selection, and if you need to fill in gaps in your film education, we do stock most of them in our library:

Bad Lieutenant
Rashomon
Yojimbo
Ran
Rear Window
Vertigo
North by Northwest
Bonnie and Clyde
The Conformist
Last Tango in Paris
Ace in the Hole
Some Like It Hot
Killer of Sheep
Night of the Hunter
Raising Arizona
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Lawrence of Arabia
On the Waterfront
Face in the Crowd
La Strada
La Dolce Vita
8 1/2
City of God
The Godfather
The Godfather Part II
400 Blows
Day for Night
Patton
Mad Max
The Road Warrior
Battle of Algiers
The Last Detail
Breathless
West Side Story
Stranger than Paradise
The Train
The Maltese Falcon
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Fat City
Midnight Cowboy
Marathon Man
Boyz n the Hood
Los Olvidados
Black Orpheus
Home of the Brave
Mean Streets
Raging Bull
Apocalypto
Casablanca
Thief
The Red Shoes
Coolie High
I Am Cuba
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next
District 9
In the Heat of the Night
Touch of Evil
Blue Collar
White Heat
Is Paris Burning?
MASH
To Kill a Mockingbird
Rome Open City
Paisan
Chinatown
Black Rain
Dog Day Afternoon
Singin' in the Rain
Paths of Glory
Spartacus
Dr. Strangelove
Kung Fu Hustle
Dirty Pretty Things
Hoop Dreams
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Empire of the Sun
Cool Hand Luke
Badlands
Days of Heaven
The Wizard of Oz
An American in Paris
Lust for Life
The Bicycle Thief
Miracle in Milan
Dead End
Zelig

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Story of Life as Told by the Movies

This great little mash-up pieces clips from a whole bunch of movies together to tell the story of life through its various stages, from birth to death etc. See if you can spot where the clips are from...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity Wows Comic-Con

Exclusive footage of Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi flick Gravity was revealed at Comic-Con and the reactions have been, promisingly, rather hyperbolic. The film, which stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, is said to recreate the terrifying experience of being adrift, floating helplessly in space, and from the footage shown, it appears to have done just that for those who saw it. I kinda dig Cuaron's description of the film as "an IMAX documentary that goes wrong". Interestingly, he cites Steven Spielberg's Duel and '70s existential car-chase pic Vanishing Point as influences. Here's the teaser trailer to get an idea of the dazzling technical virtuosity we can expect come October 3:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trailer: 12 Years a Slave

Was Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained too cartoony and silly for you? Was Spielberg's Lincoln just too dry, talky and boring? Maybe Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave will meet you halfway. This period piece, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt, looks like McQueen's most accessible, biggest-budget film to date, but in saying that, it's unlikely that the director of such uncompromising works such as Hunger and Shame will turn in a film about a touchy, controversial topic like slavery that's remotely "easy" to watch. Click below to check out some sweet facial hair on the Pittster:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mockbusters 101

Last Thursday Twitter went berserk over the screening of a TV movie called Sharknado in the States. I don't think it's too difficult to guess what Sharknado is about but in case you're wondering here's the trailer:
So it's basically a movie about sharks falling from the sky. And it apparently led to 5,000 tweets-per-minute during the busiest period of the tweet-storm. Many celebrities contributed the frenzy too, including Mia Farrow (!), Olivia Wilde and screenwriter Damon Lindelof.

We haven't got Sharknado in our library yet (it will probably come soon), but do carry many of these "mockbusters", most of them produced by The Asylum studio. Surprisingly these titles get rented (which is why we continue to stock 'em)....but unsurprisingly they lead to bad customer reviews, like this one of Super Shark:


I have to ask though, what do you expect when you rent a movie called Super Shark??

Anyway, Total Film just compiled a useful list of these laughable knock-offs; for the curious who've never seen a mockbuster before you can rent these ones from us:

The Day the Earth Stopped
Mega Piranha
Princess of Mars
American Warships
6 Guns
Street Racer
Titanic II
The Amityville Haunting
I Am Omega
Alien Origin
Monster
Transmorphers: Fall of Man
3 Musketeers
2012 Supernova
200 MPH
The 7 Adventures of Sinbad
The Terminators
Nazis at the Center of the Earth
Jack the Giant Killer
Allan Quartermain and the Temple of Skulls
Bikini Spring Break
Alien vs Hunter
Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies
Grimm's Snow White
Almighty Thor
Paranormal Entity
Battle of Los Angeles
Snakes on a Train
Transmorphers

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trailer: Oldboy

Park Chan-wook's Oldboy remains one of the most electrifying, stylish and gleefully twisted revenge thrillers of the '00s. Its ingenious plotting all but guaranteed an English-language remake, but the road to getting there has been an incredibly long one, with names such as Justin Lin, Will Smith, Christian Bale and Steven Spielberg attached to and passing through the project at various points since the rights were secured. Spike Lee was finally given to the job to direct it, and though I generally do not care for most of Lee's work, I'm somewhat curious to see how different the two films are, other than the fact that the American version, understandably, will be sans the infamous octopus-eating scene of Park's. If you have not seen the original, I definitely urge you to catch it first, but subtitle-phobes will probably just want to hang out for Lee's film. Here are the trailers for both (they look pretty similar to these eyes):

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Clips #6

Three funny supercuts to start off, then an Onion Kickstarter spoof, James Gandolfini in Sesame Street, and a beautiful time-lapse short film...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Hulk vs. Man of Steel

I don't usually have time to read all the lengthy film essays that pop up on the web, but there's one particular writer -- who pumps out among the longest -- I'm happy to devote a few hours to. Going solely by the name of "Hulk", he's a regular contributor to Badass Digest, where he publishes extremely wordy but thoughtful pieces on film and film criticism, with the added novelty of writing entirely with the CAPS LOCK on. I'm sure the fact that it seems like he's always shouting adds to the persuasiveness of his arguments, but really, this guy knows what he's talking about and how to lay down the law in the most cogent, perceptive yet accessible fashion possible.

His latest piece takes down the abysmal storytelling of Zack Snyder's Superman reboot Man of Steel and should be read by anyone interested in how dramatisation and characterisation are important tools in telling effective cinematic stories. Where Snyder's film might excel in its VFX department, it practically fails in every other regard, most glaringly, getting us to care for any of the characters amidst the destruction. If you fall into the "critics should relax, just enjoy the damn action" camp*, Hulk's writing probably isn't for you, but for a deeper understanding of movies and how certain elements affect us while we watch them, it's a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking, if slightly exhausting read.

*Actually if you're one of these, I recommend you read it anyway, you might learn something :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Changing Shape of Cinema: The History of Aspect Ratio

Ever wondered what the "Screen format" field in the movie detail page is? What it means, what it refers to?
I'm assuming most people these days are already clued into letterboxing etc., but if you're not or have always wondered "what those black bars" are on your TV screen, let me direct you to this educational video from FilmmakerIQ breaking down the history of the Aspect Ratio...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NZIFF: Picks of the Fest

Tickets for the New Zealand International Film Festival go on sale tomorrow in Auckland, and if you've just been too busy to even look at the programme, here are a few films which I'm looking forward to...

ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA
Some years ago the NZFF screened a great doco on avant-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler which I’ve been trying to see again without much luck. Ayler was one of two musicians John Coltrane said he would like to see play at his funeral. The other was Ornette Coleman. I’m hoping this once-hard-to-see 1985 doco by underground filmmaker Shirley Clarke will offer a similarly fascinating and impressionistic mix of context and perspective on this true genius of seriously out-there sounds. Clarke’s unconventional approach to the format -- supposedly as free as experimental as Coleman’s playing -- should appeal to anyone bored with routine hagiographic portraits.

DIAL M FOR MURDER 3D
Normally I’d wouldn’t make anything 3D a priority, but when you put Alfred Hitchcock into the equation, well, everything changes. I mean how often do you get to see Hitchcock in 3D on the big screen? Word is that Warner did a bang-up job restoring this smart, witty ‘54 suspenser starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly, and the screening at Toronto International Film Festival last year sold out in TEN MINUTES. Reviews of the 3D have been encouraging, stating that Hitch wasn’t just about the gimmick, only employing it sparingly to enhance depth and emotion. Also: retro programming is easily my favourite part of the festival.

LEVIATHAN
The New York Times on Leviathan: “a product of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard, offers not information but immersion: 90 minutes of wind, water, grinding machinery and piscine agony.” You had me SENSORY ETHNOGRAPHY LAB. The rest is gravy. Critics worldwide have been bowled over by the visceral sensory wallop of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s “doco” “about” the commercial fishing industry, which was filmed entirely on tiny cameras more commonly used to shoot extreme sports. From the startling images I’ve seen, Leviathan could be the darkest, most beautiful and terrifying experience of this year’s fest.

COMPUTER CHESS
Andrew Bujalski hasn’t put a foot wrong yet. I still think his debut, 2002’s Funny Ha Ha is one of the best indies of the last decade, even if it spawned a movement with a much-maligned name (“mumblecore”) which he’s ever since been eager to sever ties with. It’s always heartening to see a filmmaker grow with each film, and with Computer Chess, Bujalski seems to be transitioning into a new promising phase of I’m not exactly quite sure what yet. Already a festival favourite stateside, its singular, retro-nerd-core video-vision of chess software programmers in the ‘80s sounds endearing and speaks to the geek inside me -- who also likes the fact that it was shot in the rarely used and unfashionably boxy Academy ratio.

Some others I've penciled in: Ilo Ilo, Camille Claudel 1915, Post Tenebras Lux, Blue Ruin, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, The Dance of Reality, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, The Strange Little Cat... there'll be more to come no doubt!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Trailer: Jobs

When Joshua Michael Stern’s biopic of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs premiered at Sundance earlier this year it received middling reviews. The Hollywood Reporter said it played "like a two-hour commercial covering the first 20 tumultuous years of Apple’s development"; The Guardian called it "overly reverential and saccharine". Many praised Ashton Kutcher's performance as Jobs though, and as you can see from the trailer, the actor -- who's mostly done ephemeral rom-com/dumb-com roles thus far -- is acting with a capital A. Let's scrutinise the evidence, lest one isn't convinced of his dramatic abilities:
The Self-Questioning Mirror Stare
The Rage Drive
The Scream to the Skies ("Give me an OSCARRR")
The Triumphant Arms Outstretched (in a Field)
Bad Wig Alert: Dermot Mulroney and J.K. Simmons.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Trailer: The LEGO Movie

Okay I'm so DONE. The LEGO Movie trailer is here. The Hollywood machine that's obsessed with turning every established toy/board game into a movie will delight us next year with this feature-length version of the popular brand, which believe or not was first manufactured way back in 1949 (thanks Wikipedia). However before we prematurely declare "RIP Hollywood", the dudes tasked with directing this project offer a little hope that it'll be a wee bit more than a blatant toy commercial: Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who did Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, two movies which definitely did not suck and were surprisingly good and funny.
For those who need to jump on the LEGO bandwagon now, we do have a selection of DVDs that might answer the niggling question of how you can actually transform interlocking plastic bricks into something narratively watchable.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Quick Thoughts: World War Z, Only God Forgives, Monsters University

I surprised myself last week by dragging my lazy ass to a staggering THREE preview screenings last week, none of which I had to review... But thought I'd share a few quick words here if anyone cares to read.

World War Z - It's not as bad as the negative pre-release press (ballooning budget, last minute rewrites) would have you believe, but meh, it's nowhere near as good as you want it to be either. I haven't read Max Brooks' zombie apocalypse novel which it's based on, but word is that Marc Forster's adaptation removes everything remotely interesting in favour of making a dumb, blockbuster action-centric thriller.
The decision to keep carnage off the screen where possible to get a PG-13 rating is crippling and laughable: there's a scene where a character whose hand has just been chopped off is bandaged up with not a drop of blood in sight. You really expect us -- adults -- to buy this? There are a few suspenseful moments, and I was moderately entertained in the moment, but as the film limped to its disappointingly scaled-down climax, I started to care less and less until walking out of the film feeling unsatisfied. World War Z opens on Thursday, and if you hate 3D, I recommend that you do not see it in its worthless 3D state.

Only God Forgives - I was surprised at how quick this got a screening here.. within a couple weeks of its booing at Cannes! It's not getting boos from me though, but nearly a week since seeing it I'm still yet to be able to formulate a coherent thought about it. Any Ryan Gosling fans casually heading along to see their favourite hunky Drive star act tough and cool will probably be in for a deeply unpleasant time at the movies: Nicolas Winding Refn's ultra-stylized neon-splashed noir, set in the sordid underbelly of Thailand, unfolds with the blood-curdling, unsettling tenor of a horror movie rather than your traditional crime drama.
Gosling's performance, all smoldering glances, is even more pared-down than in Drive; how many pages of dialogue did he have to remember, like two? Maybe less. If you don't mind pure style, visuals and atmosphere over plot and everything else, Refn's film might seduce you. Dig that Alejandro Jodorowsky dedication in the credits. Only God Forgives opens August 1st.

Monsters University - I for one would prefer if Pixar stuck to new stories instead of cashing on their existing franchises, but when it's as expertly conceived as this Monsters Inc. prequel, it's hard to complain. University definitely has a Pixar-by-numbers feel, as opposed to say, Toy Story 3 - but it's also another a smart, funny and visually dazzling demonstration of what they do best. Monsters University is out in theatres July 11.