Latauro took some time away from kangaroo boxing to send in the latest in entertainment news and musings from The Land Downunder.
This is a momentous edition -- Latauro births a new genre herein: "The Feel-Retarded Movie". And, what an enormous genre that's likely to become!
Oh, a comedian. What, did you eat clown for breakfast?
I've always like the Kevin Smith origin story. The man was told that his method of funding CLERKS would not work, but he did it anyway, and hey presto. Of course, for every success story like his there are hundreds of lack-of-success stories; people who have gone out on a limb, racked up debt, and have had to leave the country or work at a convenience store to pay it off.
But regardless, it shows that there are multiple paths to success. Successful directors have worked their way up through the production crew, or they started in the advertising industry, or made a video clip, or won a short film competition, or cut together a trailer for I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and was hired to direct URBAN LEGEND. Their films were made by generous family members, or government grants, or for no money at all. There's no one way to do it, no pattern for success, and there's something about that idea that should both frighten and excite all the budding filmmakers out there.
Jon Dixon has a good idea. It's not the first time this idea has been attempted (as Jon himself admits), but then when was the last time you heard about something being done for the first time? He's got a website up and running called The Making of The Tomb. The idea: to shoot a teaser for his script THE TOMB, and use it to shop the film around. While he attempts this, he'll be updating his website with a video blog keeping us updated on the facets of the production.
I like the idea of someone using the internet like this. Hell, a week or so back I received a copy of the New Zealand film FUTILE ATTRACTION, which was made via Mark Prebble's website Make Mark's Movie. He invited people to donate money towards the making of the film in exchange for a mention in the end credits. A number of people thought this idea was dumb, but the film is made, it got NZ distribution, and it's currently doing the festival rounds. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Keep in mind that there's no "correct way" to get your films made, and that novel ideas are what drives independent film. And in the meantime, visit Jon's website and voice your support.
For the past few weeks, hours after I submit the Downunder column to the AICN lawyers (ie: run it through the spell-checker), some piece of big Australian-oriented film news usually hits the presses and I harrumph about having to wait a week before mentioning it. Last week, it was the news that Spike Jonze's adaptation of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is definitely set to shoot in Melbourne. Tom Hanks is doing the producing, and the film will shoot at the Melbourne Central City Studios... which is probably a good thing, as no local productions can afford to do so. I was surprised to see a bit of confirmed casting go unreported (at least, in the places I read): Australian actor Angus Sampson has joined the production. I don't know who he's playing (I'm guessing one of the beasties), but it's a terrific break-out for the local actor/comedian. Sampson appeared in YOU AND YOUR STUPID MATE, but was recently able to redeem himself by being really quite good in the improv TV show "Thank God You're Here". On a slightly-related note, his STUPID MATE co-star Nathan Phillips will soon be seen by everybody in the known world when he appears (quite prominently) in SNAKES ON A PLANE.
Okay, this has now appeared in a few places, most notably on Latino Review: the new Joker will be played by an Australian actor! Before Lachy Hulme pops the champagne bottle, we should point out that it's actually Heath Ledger, who was recently seen in Jake Gyllenhaal. Unlike every other rumour that has come out about BATMAN BEGUN, this one has a small whiff of believability to it. It makes sense that they'd want to cast an actor of similar age to Bale (a la Cillian Murphy), particularly if they go the route I'm suspecting they may go, which is having villains recur instead of appear just the once. Ledger definitely has the grin to pull it off, and would suit the non-campness that the films are striving for. Also, LR is claiming that they're not just looking at Ledger for the role; the offer has already been made. I may not have the scoop on the story, but I can be the first to refer to the film as JOKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Sweet.
Comic book "The Adventures of Luther Arkwight" has been optioned, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Produced (What's the future tense of "produced"? Write in if you know!) by Australians Andrew Prowse and Sophie Patrick, the story follows a man who can travel across parallel worlds, and is assigned to save all the various worlds from the Evil British Empire. Here's hoping they all have goatees.
In the spirit of the editorial, the teaser for SWEET FA is online at both MySpace and YouTube. The HD-shot film is written and directed by Mick Skelton, who describes the film as a "road movie on foot". Check out the teaser, and share your thoughts below.
More info on the Extention Edition of KING KONG... Black Magic and DVDActive have the info on the new three disc set, including the fact that the film itself is only thirteen minutes longer, but contains forty minutes of deleted scenes! The film is split over the first two discs, with the third disc containing all the extra goodies, the most of interesting of which is the ability to compare the 1996 script with the 2005 script. Click on the above linkages for more detailages.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
2006 MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL
MUFF 7 came to a close last Sunday night, where the winners were announced. They include DARKLOVESTORY, which took out best film, Stefan Popescu, who took out best direction for ROSEBERRY 7470, and a tie for best short: REMEMBERING NIGEL and PENNY shared the honours. For a complete list of the winners, go to http://www.muff.com.au/.
2006 MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
A series of free talks will take place at this year's MIFF, with some pretty sweet guests. Friday, July 28 will see Christopher Doyle discussing cinematography at the Coopers Festival Lounge from 8pm. Saturday, August 5 sees Spike Jonze at the same venue discussing his work, from 8pm. On Sunday, August 6, Geoffrey Rush will discuss creating characters for the big screen alongside many local filmmakers, from 4pm. All of those events take place at the Forum Theatre on the corner of Filnders and Russell.
2006 NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALS
New Zealand film is now so big, they can barely keep their festivals in the one city. If you're in NZ and you're wondering when NZIFF is coming your way, check out the festival's website. The season runs (in both senses of the word) from last week until November.
My hope is that only one person saw CLICK, which means two people might have seen SUPERMAN RETURNS, which means three must have seen OVER THE HEDGE, which means there is a slight possibility that only four people saw LITTLE MAN to get it to number two. The idea that there were any more is too horrible to think of...
1. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST
2. LITTLE MAN
3. OVER THE HEDGE
4. SUPERMAN RETURNS
RELEASED THIS WEEK
Bruce Willis discovers what it's like to drive down Elizabeth Street at 5:30pm (ie: moving sixteen blocks just under two hours), Craig Rosenberg decides it's finally time to follow up HOTEL DE LOVE, Ray Lawrence makes LONG CUTS, Ivan Reitman is a genius, and Nina Hos gets a Masai for the Swiss Guy... er, Girl.
MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND
THE WHITE MASAI
THE LAKE HOUSE
I had a fairly embarrassing moment a week or two back. I frequently trade light-hearted emails with a Roadshow publicist, usually as an aside when RSVPing to the various screenings. My embarrassing moment occurred when I took completely serious a comment that was meant to be a joke, and sent a reply that took umbrage at what had been said. When I was informed that it was, in fact, a joke, I humbly bowed my head, mumbled a few apologies, and promised to give positive reviews to every Roadshow release for the next six months.
I break my promise today with my review of THE LAKE HOUSE, which I've decided has given birth to a completely new genre: the Feel-Retarded Movie.
Firstly, the trailers have so completely foreshadowed the "twist ending", that anyone still wondering where they're going with this concept should probably get a job as a Yes Man in Shyamalan's entourage. I'll come back to that twist ending towards the end of the review, and say now that anyone who doesn't want this film spoiled is clearly reading the wrong website and would probably feel more at home on IMDb's Celebrity News page.
The premise is simple: a man and a woman living two years apart from each other fall in love for some reason because of a magic letterbox. The script expands on this idea in no ways at all. If there's one thing that irritating about these supposedly high-concept films, it's how aware the characters themselves are of their genre limits. So we have a time-traveling letterbox that, once established, is used purely for flirting with the mystery man/woman they're correctly expecting will look like Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock. Only in a the romance genre can such a concept be so idly tossed aside. In (a) the real world or (b) a good film, the people who discovered the magic properties of their letterbox would do something other than just continue to send letters. Whether it's explore the possibilities of cause and effect, win the lottery, copyright "My Name Is Earl", or burn the damn thing down because it's an affront to God, I'm sure you'd find functioning retards who would be, at very least, mildly interested in exploring one or two more possibilities that this Magic Box affords. But no, it's a romance film, so the two leads are only allowed to worry about falling in love. And the audience who will go to see such a film doesn't want to be bogged down in, y'know, plot, so we'd better not make it too complex for them.
On some levels, I could accept this. This film, unfortunately, resides on the level where any benefit-of-the-doubt I'd perhaps be inclined to give it is pissed away in a flurry of awful dialogue and piss-poor direction. There are scenes that are written and executed in a way that made me think I was watching a bad student play. I know this because I wrote a bad student play just like this, but in my defense I was nineteen, all the people who were in it were nineteen, all the people who saw it were nineteen, and we all managed to move on to higher things by the time we were twenty. The scenes where Reeves and Bullock talk to each other across time and space -- which is supposed to be a visual representation of how they're communicating via the letters -- are just laughable. Like all the "impactful" scenes in the film, it falls flat. The big moment where the two of them actually meet and engage in a seduction is pretty stock-standard, but what makes it great is the completely misplaced song they put over it. A quick search suggests it might be a Paul McCartney song (thus preventing me from knocking it too much), but like most of the songs in this film it comes off as over-sentimental and sappy. It's a pity, because Rachel Portman's score isn't too bad. She's been better in the past, but she still has the occasional good moment.
I don't mind Modern Day Keanu most of the time, particularly when he's doing things like SPEED or MATRIX or CONSTANTINE, but he's suited to those roles. Roles like this one, where he's supposed to play a normal guy who says normal things and speaks naturally just don't suit him at all. Most of his dialogue sounds even sillier than it must have appeared on the written page when he says it. Bullock's okay.
Back on that ending I mentioned earlier... The thing I hated most about the film THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT -- and there was a lot to hate about it -- is how it completely ignored the rules it had set up in the beginning. A film can be as crazy and out-there as it wants, so long as it reasonably defines its parameters first. Admittedly, THE LAKE HOUSE only vaguely defines its parameters, but it still manages to break those rules for the sake of two should-be-deleted scenes. Guys, your film must stick to an internal logic, or you have no film! All you have is a bunch of scenes that sort-of fit together. Like BUTTERFLY, we're treated to something that happens in the past at the EXACT SAME TIME it happens in the future! Again, it's a conceit I'd be happy to go with if it hadn't been handled in such a ridiculous way. Completely abandoning its own internal logic is something that pisses me off more than a predictable ending, and guess what? Lack Of Logic trumps Predictable Ending! Yes, the twist I saw coming a mile off, the one that was shockingly revealed to us five minutes before the ending, is cast asunder for an ending that manages to be thoroughly unsatisfying and make absolutely no sense at all! To miss the boat so grandly on two points is an impressive feat, and had me burying my head in my hands before we were told who the Unit Production Manager was.
I've been told that the original Korean film on which this is based is actually quite good, and I'm planning to seek it out soon. The central concept really is an interesting one, and it could be quite solid with a great execution. Unfortunately, THE LAKE HOUSE doesn't have great execution; it simply deserves one.
Next in our series of films that make no sense is THE SENTINEL, a film you've seen many times before if you've ever seen a vaguely political action thriller. But is it really just like all of its predecessors? Doesn't it have anything new to offer? Turns out it does. It has a big twist on the genre's concept, and the twist is that everything is crap.
I'll give you an honest account of my reactions as the opening unfolded:
00:10 -- Interesting editing. I wonder what this film's
00:20 -- Michael Douglas doesn't look as bad as I thought he would.
00:35 -- Okay, here come the credits. I didn't know Kim Basinger was in this!
00:40 -- Oh, that person's in it, and they're listed x number of people down. Yeah, that's the mystery bad guy.
00:45 -- How much longer does this thing have to go?
See, we're at a new stage in cinematic evolution (or cinematic design, if you prefer). We've passed the stage where we recognise the codes and conventions of various genres. We're now at a stage where we know well in advance what each and every single plot point is going to be, and exactly how they will all unfold. It's an interesting cultural phenomenon, and unfortunately THE SENTINEL suffers from our advanced understanding of--
No. Screw theories about intelligent audiences recognising codes and conventions. THE SENTINEL is just plain predictable, and in the worst ways possible.
It's predictable in ways I didn't think were possible. There are some scenes I was trying to stifle the laughter because of how shite it all was. One of my favourites is when Michael Douglas finds out he's being framed, so makes a daring escape and becomes a wanted man! The only possible way this makes any kind of sense in the context of the film is that this is what happens in these films: the hero discovers the blackmail, then escapes! It's so patently ridiculous and cliched and crap that you wish you had a magic letterbox so you could travel through it and watch George Nolfi as he writes that scene and then cries into his suitcase of money. Come on, you expect them to try a little harder than that! At least pretend you have something original to show, don't just go through the motions and tick off the scenes as if to boringly drawl at the audience: "And this is the bit where he goes on the run... you know all this, right?" It's insulting.
It's also a frigging hour until the film gets to its main plot. You know those films that come up with a Big Idea, but in order to justify it, the film has to build an entire feature's worth of narrative just to get there? Then the Big Idea that prompted the film in the first place only ends up being a scene or two long, because the rest of the film is filled up with the justification for it? That's what this is. Until Keifer lays down the law at (I checked my watch) the one hour mark, you don't really know what this film is trying to be. You know it's an action thriller, and you know what all the plot points are going to be, but you don't know what the film thinks it is. What's even better about The Big Setup is that it doesn't get its payoff. The line that Kiefer gives the agents is something about "this is your worst nightmare... an agent who knows exactly what you'll do before you do it..." etc. But the things we see him do ("Oh my god! He picked up a fridge magnet at that hardware store knowing he'd need it two scenes later to prop open a door! How does he do it?") are the things you see accountants, train drivers, janitors and zoo keepers do in these action thrillers when they're on the run from the law. I don't have a problem with the clever usage of fridge magnets, but when it's the most extraordinary thing you see him, you start to wonder why he's always being referred to by the other characters as some sort of super-genius agent. Especially when his masterful plan to escape from Keifer Sutherland is to run onto a ship (he thought this was a good idea, why?). Of course, he later manages to escape by using the tried-and-true "I know you won't shoot me" line, before wandering off. Keifer and the other agents at the scene let him go, naturally, because that's what the script demanded. Did they bother to stage it in an interesting way? Find some way to make this conceit believable? I think you already know the answer.
As a quick aside, who has the bright idea to cast Keifer Sutherland? Yes, he's very good, and seems to be gaining screen presence with age, but haven't we seen him go down this path before? Putting him in this film invites further comparisons with 24 that you don't really want... that you really, really, really don't want. Next to 24, this film is a clumsy but ultimately successful cure for insomnia. The plot twists are even more absurd that Bauer's, but don't have the same element of heightened ridiculousness: SENTINEL actually takes itself very seriously. (Second aside: like LAKE HOUSE, the biggest redeeming feature is the score. Christophe Beck does a really nice job, and I hope it helps him land some quality gigs instead of the dreck he's been forced to do lately...)
Not forgetting the awkward scene between Douglas and Kiefer's ex-wife (so clearly inspired by a stupid test screening audience), the sheer pointlessness of Eva Longoria's character (we get it, she's hot, please stop telling us about it), the motivation of the head bad guy (he's British), the brain-numbingly-boring "action" scenes ("He ran through a door! He shot and missed! He also shot and missed! Who trains these guys?"), the laugh-out-loud climax (yes, I actually did laugh out loud), the laugh-out-loud resolution ("Isn't it great we're all better people?"), and the total lack of anything even remotely engaging about the storyline, THE SENTINEL is exactly the sort of film you expect to see come out of an automatic screenplay generator. (And yes, they're on the market; I just Googled "computer screenplay automatic create" and found one instantly.)
If you ever want to convince someone of the value of European cinema, or Asian cinema, or reading books, or being blind, take them to THE SENTINEL. You won't be disappointed.
- Due to a complicated copyright issue, the Silver Surfer will no longer appear in the FANTASTIC FOUR sequel, but will instead battle Luke Wilson in Ivan Reitman's MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND 2
- Eli Roth sells a pitch to Disney for the film HOSTILE, in which a group of teens go to Europe and have a pleasant time
- David Goyer signs onto MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND BEGINS, a serious look at G-Girl's origin