Here's the inimitable Latauro with entertainment news from the land of Kangaroos and Didgeridoos...
Man, we're gonna be banned from our own funerals.
Sleep is unimportant when the World Cup is on, and downright offensive when Australia's in the competition. Nothing should take precedence over that. So, partly due to the sleep thing, partly due to the large number of reviews down below, I'll keep this bit short. Enjoy.
Okay, I love Peter Jackson. I think he's teh awesome. But I've been a little confused as to why someone would go from one of the greatest novels of all time (LOTR) to one of the most critically-acclaimed novels of recent years (THE LOVELY BONES) to a novel by, er, Uri Geller. Yeah, the one who bends spoons with his brain. That guy. The novel is, not surprisingly, a work of fiction about a teenage girl who discovers she has psychic abilities. Is the book, which incidentally is called "Ella", any good? Well, Mr Geller himself said "it's an incredible novel", which is high praise indeed... for himself. Or maybe he was just praising his ghost author. Who's probably an actual ghost. According to Yahoo, Jackson was given the novel by Geller when he was in the UK, which may well mean jack squat. Someone gave me a muesli bar the other day, doesn't mean I'm going to make it into a film.
Matthew Grainger and Jonathan King are two of the guys behind NZ killer sheep film BLACK SHEEP, which, frankly, I can't see soon enough. Looks like it won't be long until their next film begins shooting. THE TATOOIST (not "TATTOOIST", apparently, or maybe that's a plot point), based on an idea by Vela Manusaute, will be directed by Peter Burger who is mostly known for his TV work. The film centres on a skin artist who "must battle an evil spirit that is inking his clients to death". Just one request: one of the tattoos has to be a killer sheep, yeah?
Still in New Zealand, and it looks like we'll be seeing Sir Edmund Hillary's life on the big screen soon, in the form of a film called HIGHER GROUND. The film, written by Tom Scott, will probably be directed by Roger Donaldson. Well may you scorn Donaldson for his direction of DANTE'S PEAK and THE RECRUIT, but the man made THIRTEEN DAYS and THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN, which are both pretty damned perfect films. So that proves you wrong, buddy. Pictures of Hillary, circa his Everest climb, suggest that he should be played by none another than British comedian Lee Mack... but will probably be played by Karl Urban. All this first appeared in the New Zealand Herald.
Chris Isaak was in Australia recently, and, for all I know, is still here. AICN-D reader Meg happened across him, and got what can only be described as "some information". Says Meg, "I went to a Chris Isaak in-store today - great by the way! really nice - here in Australia. Asked him if he's doing any more movies, and he said he's writing a film about his old friend, Roy Orbison, and hopes that will be his next acting gig." Photos of a young Orbison don't immediately suggest any actors, but I'll be pushing for Lee Mack, because that seems to be my thing today.
The year is 1986. The country is New Zealand. The key word here is "zombies". After taking out Best Horror/Comedy Short Film at Screamfest LA in 2005 and Best Short Film at the New York City Horror Film Festival in 2005, filmmakers Michael J. Asquith and Ben Stenbeck are presenting their film ZOMBIE MOVIE online. To watch the film or just watch the trailer, head to the boys' website at www.2chums.com and get your cricket bat ready.
I've discovered that researching for news stories is not nearly as easy as stealing them from Mark Wilcox and his essential website black-magic.co.nz. Mark dropped us a line the other day to let us know that WETA has uploaded some conceptual artwork from DAYBREAKERS, the new film from the Spierig Brothers (UNDEAD). You wanna see what the boys have in store for vampires? There's only one picture up, but it's worth a look.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
2006 MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
This is, unfortunately, the last year at MIFF for Festival Director James Hewison, who did some sterling work the last few years. What note is he going out on this year? Well, the opening night film is being kept under wraps, and, if all goes to plan, nobody will know what's playing until the lights go down and the credits start. I want to dismiss it as a semi-interesting publicity stunt, but I'll be damned if I'm not chomping at the bit to find out what it is...
The theme for this week is "cars", repeat: "cars". Those of us smart enough to stay off the roads for the duration of FATF3's will have to stay at home and dig into some backlogged DVDs until SUPERMAN RETURNS is released next week (hooray!).
1. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT
3. THE BREAK-UP
4. THE DA VINCI CODE
5. STICK IT
RELEASED THESE PAST WEEKS THREE
Vince Vaughn nicks the title of the next FAST AND THE FURIOUS film (THE BRAKE UP), Pixar proves that their worst effort is still about a hundred times better than anyone else's best effort, Australian filmmakers break all the rules by making a film about a young girl's emotional journey, Chumscrubbing proves to be almost as popular as Phenting, Adam Sandler mixes high concept with low brow and ends up with zero interest level, John Malkovich plays at Not Being Stanley Kubrick, Matt Dillon is a load of Bukowski, Lucas Black proves he's both three fast *and* three furious, an attempt to muscle in on SHREK territory proves a tad unsuccessful, a dirty old man takes advantage of a minor (love your work, Mr Polanski!), DreamWorks unfortunately associates the word "hibernation" with its latest CGI-fest, a group of Tennessee students correctly identify paperclips as the one thing Holocaust victims needed, Zhang Yimou makes his HOUSE OF FLYING MELODRAMA, and Richard E Grant forgets what a trumpet is called.
THE CATERPILLER WISH
COLOUR ME KUBRICK
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT
OVER THE HEDGE
RIDING ALONE FOR THOUSANDS OF MILES
Quite a haul for you today, including a couple of guest reviewers. The first managed to see a couple of screenings at the recent Sydney International Film Festival; the other caught an early screening of the new Australian film THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS. I did some searching around, and I believe this is the first review of the film anywhere, so enjoy.
Reviewed by Latauro
Morgan O'Neill's SOLO is going to be judged pretty harshly by many who see it; it's the script that beat most of them in the high-profile "Project Greenlight: Australia" competition. Even I begun with a pretty cynical eye, and I didn't even enter the contest!
Nevertheles, the moment the uber-cool opening title sequence kicks in, your expectations and judgments fall away pretty quickly. It's a film that wears its genre on its sleeve, and because so few Australian films do that do that successfully, you want to love it.
I didn't actually end up loving it, but I really liked it. When, during our recent interview, I told Morgan that I was really impressed with the script and the film, I wasn't blowing smoke. It's a terrific movie, and a very enjoyable one. Colin Friels is a hitman who wants to retire, but the big bosses don't want him to until he does one final job... and it's a job he doesn't want to do.
It's a slightly cliched premise, but so much that it's debilitating. If anything, the film is let down by the rather disturbingly-high number of character inconsistencies. Barrett (Friels) has to kill Billie (Bojana Novakovic), and keeps trying to warn her that this is going to happen... only he refuses to be specific. His reasons for avoiding saying it directly seem to be more of a plot device that something he would actually do, given he keeps telling her to leave town and stop nosing about in the mob's business. Likewise, Billie is writing her thesis on organised crime and keeps trying to dig into the organisation, but whenever Barrett gives her any piece of information, she dismisses it. In fact, on three separate occasions she claims it sounds more like something out of a novel by either John Grisham, James Ellroy or Raymond Chandler. For someone that invested in what the mob does, she comes across as having no clue about it. Meanwhile, the relationship between Barrett and Reno, his boss, changes from scene to scene. Are they old buddies? Do they dislike each other? Is Barrett submissive to Reno? I'm all for a layered relationship, but again, this smacks more of inconsistency.
The only other major problem I had was that a lot of the film hinges on Barrett's desire to protect Billie, which, given she's one of the more irritating characters in recent months, is a bit difficult to swallow.
But the rest of the film is really quite solid. The relationship between Barratt and Havana, the eighty year old piano player, is beautifully drawn. The scene where Barrett tries to casually avoid a sniper whilst sitting behind a desk is one of the film's highlights. The cameo by Bruce Spence as a dodgy gun salesman is terrific. Angie Milliken plays a slightly-aging hooker with a tremendous amount of class. There's really a lot to like in the film.
But more than anything else, you should see this film for Friels. Sure, he's been great in the past, but this is one of the coolest performances he's ever given. Sure, it's easy to play cool when you're portraying an icy hitman, but Friels gives it something more. He is absolutely the man here.
I'm sure a lot of people will dislike the film. There's far too much history there to go in with a clean slate ("THAT'S the script that beat me?!?"), but I can see why it won. It's a neat story, it's more than just colonial navel-gazing, and, though far from perfect, is easily one of the country's highlights this year.
Reviewed by Latauro
I was trying to figure out why Village Cinemas had been pushing SIONE'S WEDDING so much lately. None of the leads were famous, none of them were white, and it was a film from New Zealand (sans hobbits) with everyone speaking in those funny accents. Why not just put in another ad for STICK IT and leave the arthouse films for the arthouse crowd?
Then I realised: it has "Wedding" in the title, the easiest way to ensure box office success!
Okay, so I'm a bit cynical. But walking into the cinema, I was wondering what this film would contain that would cause it to not only leap to the top of the New Zealand box office, but get itself a release in Australia (we almost never get NZ films).
The answer is that SIONE'S WEDDING is a funny, almost grown-up version of AMERICAN PIE, that will certainly star Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Paul Rudd when Hollywood gets around to remaking it. The story follows four friends who cause a massive ruckus at every wedding or major event they attend, so much so that they've been banned from Sione's wedding. This is unacceptable, as Michael -- one of the banned boys -- is Sione's brother, and was set to be best man. Then the boys come up with a solution: if they can commit themselves to a woman and bring her along, they'll definitely behave. An agreement is struck, the clock is ticking, and the boys need dates.
What's incredibly charming about this setup is it's not trying to be a carbon copy of its successful Hollywood counterparts. Far from it. SIONE'S WEDDING is completely focused on the Polynesian culture of Auckland. Our four boys have grown up in that culture, but are also heavily influenced by Americanisms and hip-hop. It's a mix that's never really directly addressed, just shown.
Most of the story is fairly predictable. When you meet the "dowdy" office geek girl, for instance, you know she's going to throw her hair back moments before the end and suddenly become the pretty girl-of-someone's-dreams. You can pretty much guess what's going to happen in most of the plot threads, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the film. For every predictable plotline, there's another that goes in a slightly different direction to the one you were anticipating. For every joke that falls flat on its face (the, er, highly comic white boys who act all ghetto), there's at least two more that do work. I laughed out loud more than a few times, and isn't that all you really require of a comedy?
SIONE'S WEDDING won't break any records or make you rethink the entire genre, but it's worth your time. Particularly if you see every film the Frat Pack (or whatever we're obligated to call them these days) puts out, or the teen comedies that look like they might have something to offer. SIONE'S WEDDING stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of them.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Reviewed by Spans Man
This had a very brief but very favourable mention on AICN after it was shown at Sundance this year. Having read little about this movie prior to seeing it on Saturday night, I really went in with very few expectations, except knowing that it had a very simple premise of a likeable but ultimately flawed family, forced together on a cross-country road trip after their 9 year old daughter Olive flukes entry into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.
Sounds simple enough, even - So what? Wrong!
Imagine the tragic subtly of the human condition of the Office (uk version) crossed with the situation humour of Lampoons European vacation and you'll begin to get close to the what unfolded before our eyes.
This is a film about dreams, family and the school of hard knocks called Life. The whole family comprises of people who just want to achieve something for themselves in life, nothing grand, just something that defines them.
From the wannabe motivational speaker Dad facing a last chance saloon of business glory, the gay academic brother in-law on suicide watch after a failed relationship ruined his career, to the son who has taken a vow of silence until he gets into flight school- this is a family struggling with their dreams.
As my better half eloquently put it afterwards, this is a family who, when thrown together, put aside all their issues to help one chubby little girl chase her dreams and in-turn, possibly theirs.
The film set's up the family beautifully during the first scenes and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Toni Collette gives a solid performance as a mother trying to keep them all together, as do Greg Kinnear and Steve Carrell.
Stand-out performances come from Paul Dano playing the son, who, even though he doesn't speak for the majority of the movie plays with an under baked subtly that provides many of the movies many laughs and Abigail Breslin, who delivers again a near perfect performance of a 'seemingly' innocent little girl chasing her dreams.
Without wanting to spoil the movie, the real stand-out is Alan Arkin, who not only blows you away as the family's rampaging drug taking, porn loving Grandfather, that takes this movie to another level when he's on screen and then into the stratosphere with the legacy he leaves the family.
All the way through, the Sydney audience laughed and clapped en masse at several points, but with the family realising that Olive's dreams are about to be smashed to smithereens, the final pay-off delivered an ending that that had not only people crying with laugher, it brought one of the longest and loudest applauses that I have ever experienced.
This is a small budget masterpiece, and one that I really hope gets the support it deserves when it's released later this year.
Reviewed by Spans Man
Next up is another gem albeit with a much much darker message. Before I go on about Kidulthood - - A message to Australian (yes you Hopscotch) and International distributors -PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE - stuff the straight to DVD release -if the reaction of the Sydney audience and UK press is anything to go by - get Kidulthood into the cinemas!
This low budget flick receiving its international premier, is a hard-core urban fable set in inner-city London and centres around lives and influences on a group of inner city kids struggling to find direction in life and whose world is generally hidden from adults.
The film focuses on a group of teens given the day off after from school a girl in their year commits suicide and follows them through a day in their lives. From sex for cash , peer group pressure, to drug dealing and racism - the film runs several themes that, whilst not without hope, combine and combust in a shocking yet inevitable conclusion.
The picture that is painted is both tragic and brutal. There are a couple of scenes that left the audience aghast and during a great Q&A with Menhaj Huda, aside from a high level of praise from the audience, one audience member (who happened to be a teacher) said not only was he >shocked by what he had seen but raised a question of how realistic the film actually is?
This question of reality was one brought-up by a couple people and was best answered by Huda when he explained that they had used kids from inner city London, many of them who had never acted before.
As a result some wanted to include some of the London patois (a cross between Jamaican and cockney English) that is their language, and a language that is so alien to modern English, they had to curb its use so that the audience could understand what these kids were saying (yes - I can easily see this English film being subtitled).
Having lived both in London and now Sydney, this movie captures something that has been years in the making and something that most older generations cannot understand namely that underneath the surface of society multiculturalism and commercialism, a generation of children are bring driven to create a society whose language, values and behaviours are radically different from what would be considered mainstream.
Although this film is essentially a British film, as Huda quite rightly feels, its message is international and one that may help explain, drive and heal racial and cultural explosions in a world where the boundaries of race religion and identity are creating an increasingly secular and fragmented society.
A great film that will linger long after you leave the theatre.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Reviewed by Noddy
CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS
Last night, and friend and I attended a feedback screening of The Book of Revelation, Ana Kokkinos's follow up to her critically acclaimed Head-On, at Melbourne's Cinema Como. We saw Greg McLean (director of kick-arse-but-too-scary-to-see-again-even-though-I-bought-the-DVD Wolf Creek) and Germaine Greer (feminist activist and author of The Female Eunuch - an appropriate audience member as it happens) in the lobby, although both must have seen the film in one of the three other theatres there that screened the film simultaneously, as there were only about ten people in the theatre my friend and I were in, none of whom was Greer or McLean. Kokkinos herself introduced the film following the Palace films marketing woman's spiel. She described the movie as a "ride" and one that would be both confronting and thought-provoking, a film we'd still be thinking about a while after we'd seen it. Kokkinos was right.
The film opens with a dance rehearsal as choreographer Isabel (Greta Scacchi - Looking for Alibrandi), encourages the dancers with some >corny words of wisdom and inspiration, reminding the male dancers "You're warriors, remember". The focus settles on Daniel (Tom Long - Two Hands) and Bridget (an impressive Anna Torv - The Secret Life of Us) as they dance in an incredibly balletic and stylised manner, the female dancers suspended by ropes and harnesses from the roof as their male partners guide them through the air. Yet Daniel's movements soon become fast, deliberate and sexual, roughly dragging Bridget through to the finish. When the dance finishes, Isabel warns Daniel that "...there are more ways to seduce someone than through sex..." This line sets up the entire film, offering a hint at things to come.
For the following ten minutes, the film plays out as a downbeat relationship drama as a tense Bridget (who it turns out is Daniel's lover) walks in on Daniel flirting with another dancer, before arguing with him to buy her cigarettes. He reluctantly does so, yet is kidnapped while taking a detour down a secluded laneway by three (ridiculously) black-cloaked women (think cheap Ringwraiths) who drug him. It is at this point that the film takes a dramatic narrative shift. It becomes graphic sex-crimes-role-reversal as Daniel is forced into sex acts by the three masked women while chained to the ground in an abandoned warehouse. The "rape" scenes are pretty explicit, showing full-on nudity, even an incredibly graphic female/male masturbation scene and a deeply disturbing anal rape scene. Daniel is made a sex object by the women who explain that their actions are for their own pleasure. It was during these confronting (I mean seriously confronting) rape scenes (and they were rape scenes, even though Daniel was able to "perform", he was not a willing participant) that I asked my friend "What's the male equivalent for misogynistic? As a guy, watching these scenes play out was disturbing, and really uncomfortable. About three people walked out. Yet Kokkinos isn't being a man-basher. Instead, she effectively conveyed (at least to me - a male audience member) the vulnerability, the degradation and sheer mental destruction of rape on a person. Rather than depicting a woman being raped, which, really, in Film and TV is now a generally desensitised subject, (just like murder - it happens all the time on Law and Order, so what?) Kokkinos has reversed the situation and her statement is pretty clear; the sexual objectification of a person is disgusting, cruel and dehumanising. Daniel is released by the women after twelve days and is >forced back into society not knowing who the perpetrators were nor how to explain to anyone what had happened.
His relationship with Bridget is strained as he finds himself unable to open up to her about his abduction. He stops dancing, and feels he is no longer a man. Meanwhile, Isabel, Daniel's mother figure, has since found out she's dying of cancer. Daniel's world has fallen apart. He struggles to deal with his experience and the film becomes pretty grim and dirty at this point. Yet in another mood-shift, he meets Julie (Deborah Mailman - The Secret Life of Us, who turns in a fantastic performance), a woman who he sees not as an object of his lust, but rather a woman with a personality, a woman who returns light to Daniel's life (literally - the visual style of the film becomes warm and sunny). Kokkinos appeared to be making a point that Daniel had learnt his lesson, telling the audience that people can be more than just animals made for fucking each other. Their relationship blossoms. Daniel returns to his dancing. He is happy again. Yet it all changes (AGAIN!) when he finds who he believes is one of the masked women who kidnapped him. He attacks her violently, searching her body for identifiable features he can remember from the masked women, none of which are apparent on this woman's body. Daniel is arrested and sent to jail. The final scene depicts Daniel and Isabel's policeman ex-husband, Olsen (Colin Friels - Tom White) sitting together. Olsen hugs a silent Daniel, consoling him in his unspoken grief, before he breaks down completely. Olsen asks Daniel to "...start from the beginning..." before the film abruptly ends.
With the film's unexpected sudden finish, I thought, "It left a few too many questions unanswered." Kokkinos warned us before the screening that it really is food for thought, a film begging questions to be asked of it. In retrospect, I think Kokkinos has created a piece of art, as oppose to cinema, through which she has conveyed several significant ideas. She is obviously making comment on the humiliation of a person by rape, yet has amplified this (at least from a male audience member's point of view) by reversing the roles of the rapist and victim to female and male respectively. Yet she is also trying to explain to the audience that it is a person's qualities that make them attractive, as she conveyed through Julie. Yet, as I explained, The Book of Revelation is more a piece of art, perhaps a surrealist didactic piece of art rather than cinema. As a film, it is confusing, explicit, uncomfortably confronting, unsatisfying and not an enjoyable experience - of course not all films are. Yet Kokkinos appears to have preferred to make a severe social comment through imagery rather than a film that conveys one as such. On the plus side, performances were superb and the music combined with the dance sequences were just amazing. Daniel's final solo dance sequence for Isabel is heartbreaking and moving especially. Overall, an unsatisfying experience, an ordinary film (if not original), yet one that make a statement that needs to be heard.
** ½ out of 5
- Tony Jaa to star as a B&D loving sex addict in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's THE THAIS THAT BIND
- Kids who wear black clothes and have really bad hair cuts are being asked to participate in a crowd scene for the new Dreamworks family film FINDING EMO
- Bryan Singer announces that, due to a typographical error, the soon-to-film sequel SUPERMAN REMAINS will star Ian McKellen as the film's villainous painter, Pisarro-Superman