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AICN-Downunder: THE KINGDOM, DEATH AT A FUNERAL, WONDER WOMAN and STAR TREK!!!

Tea can do many things, Jane, but it can't bring back the dead.

AICN-DOWNUNDER

You'd think the only two films in production were STAR TREK and JUSTICE LEAGUE. I mean, you gotta be getting sick of hearing about these things, right? Well, I've been able to link the JUSTICE LEAGUE film back to Australia somehow, so I'm going with the crowd and talking about it some more. Still working on how to justify talking about STAR TREK, beyond that ridiculous Russell Crowe rumour... wait! Hahaha, literally just found something whilst I was writing this editorial. Brilliant.

NEWS

IESB has a rumour that Kiwi Karl Urban (LORD OF THE RINGS) is up for the role that Crowe is supposed to have been offered. Urban will play a Romulan hell-bent on destroying the Federation. Now, I like JJ Abrams a lot, but time travel? Ret-conning? Alternative timelines? Prequels? I will admit to being very nervous about this project.

It's impossible to keep up with all the JUSTICE LEAGUE news (and by "impossible" I mean "mildly difficult"), but it's been widely-reported that Jessica Biel has now turned down the role of Wonder Woman, so she can -- and I'm making this next bit up, but god I hope it's true -- reprise her role opposite Freddie Prinze Jnr in WINTER CATCH. Who knows her reasons, but they'd better be pretty good if she's turning down a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie. Either way, this now leaves the role up for grabs, possibly from one of the actresses who has already auditioned. Included in that list is Victoria Hill, who managed to do the best Lady Macbeth I've ever seen in Geoffrey Wright's oddly-maligned MACBETH. Moviehole.net scooped Hill's involvement (nice one, Mr Morris), and though Hill is one of my favourite actors at the moment, there's a physicality to Wonder Woman that's almost impossible to get right. They'll never get her, but for my money Jolie's the only one who could do the role... here it comes... justice! Woo! (All that said, go Victoria!)

Sixteen-year-old Amanda Michalka did some great work at Nate's niece in a couple of "Six Feet Under" episodes, and whilst you're all waiting for her role in SUPER SWEET 16: THE MOVIE, I'm going to tell you instead about her role in THE LOVELY BONES. Quoted on MTV, Michalka says she'll be playing Claissa, the best friend of the murdered girl (retroactive spoiler alert!). Peter Jackson begins production on the film next month.

Finally, check out Black Magic to see the poster for DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE, a New Zealand period horror coming out later this year.

AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS

2007 SPAA FRINGE

The Screen Producers Assocation of Australia joins forces with the Foreign Reporters International National G-- yeah, I ran out of steam on that acronym before I got started. Anyway, there's a bunch on this year, including workshops, activities, and a lot of keynote speakers. Check out the rundown at: http://www.spaa.org.au/fringe_2007/index.cfm

SHOOT OUT FILM FESTIVAL

Shoot Out is a terrific idea: a film competition where all of the films must be made within twenty-four hours, and all editing must be in-camera. This year's winning entry didn't even bother with a video camera. CARRION ran for two and a half minutes, was shot entirely on a stills camera, and scooped the top prize. Congrats to Shane Emmett, Brian Dyer, John Roy and Jason van Genderen.

BOX OFFICE

This is what you're watching, people. Embrace it.

1. HAIRSPRAY
2. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
3. RATATOUILLE
4. SURF'S UP
5. NO RESERVATIONS

RELEASED THESE PAST TWO WEEKS

9 SONGS nearly gets banned whilst this travesty passes through without issue, Daniel Radcliffe shows how an Australian accent should be done, Steve Carrell tries to survive a flood (the flood is a metaphor for a bad film), The Clash's Joe Strummer gets his nominative determinism on, the next generation gets THE PRINCESS BRIDE: LITE, possibly the year's funniest film also manages to be its sweetest, and desperate film execs try to prove they're still relevant... and fail.

BRATZ: THE MOVIE
DECEMBER BOYS
EVAN ALMIGHTY
JOE STRUMMER: THE FUTUE IS UNWRITTEN
STARDUST
SUPERBAD
UNDERDOG

REVIEWS

THE KINGDOM

If you're going into a film that purports to be about the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia, you know it's going to be one of three things: (a) a serious yet subtle polemic along the lines of TRAFFIC or SYRIANA; (b) a two hour lecture disguised as an even-more-obvious lecture, a la Paul Haggis; or (c) RAMBO.

The pitch for THE KINGDOM is: yes, but what if this one was all three at once?

After an absolutely terrific opening that looks like The David Fincher Guide To Saudi Arabia (seriously, as much as I'd like to rant against the McHistory MTV generationality of it all, people would pay a lot more attention if all of history was taught like this), we're introduced to America. America, in this case, is Jamie Foxx, who is happily married, and whose happiest day was when his son was born. America is smart, he is strong, he gets angry when his friends are killed, but he doesn't let his anger overcome his reason.

America and his crack government team head to Saudi Arabia to figure out why a bomb went off. They encounter a whole bunch of Evil Arabs, but also one Good Arab. Good Arab wants to raise his children in peace, and is angry that someone would want to kill so many innocent people. Good Arab and American shake hands.

Many interesting questions are raised in this film, but not nearly as many as the (I'll say it again) utterly brilliant opening sequence promises. What's frustrating is no attempt is made to answer the questions, nor, failing that, is effort made to explain why questions like these can't be answered as simply as we would like. Because this film is at its best when it's raising these questions. It's at its worse in Paul Haggis territory (if the Arab dude is so used his own customs, and Jennifer Garner's character is such an expert on the Middle East, why is he so worried about telling her that she can't do certain things, and why is she so sensitive about it? These points could have been made without compromising the integrity of these characters.

It actually gets pretty good when it turns into RAMBO. And though I was mildly annoyed that they had to resort to turning the last third of the film into a straight-out action film, it was very well done. Peter Berg certainly knows how to ramp up the tension when he wants to.

Big points here though: Jason Bateman? Seriously? I was pretty skeptical when he was cast. I mean, aren't we all going to be distracted by looking at Michael Bluth the whole time? Apparently not. Bateman's so good and so believable, that we're sure to see him experience a pretty big and successful dramatic career alongside the comedic one.

THE KINGDOM does a lot right and a lot wrong, and though there's a lot of really great stuff in here, it ultimately fails when it tries to be too many things at once.

DEATH AT A FUNERAL

It's easy, when looking at the poster for the non-beautifully-titled THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING, to say "That Harry Potter has a lot to answer for!" (as if whatever film happens to come along and successfully revive a long-dead genre is then personally responsible for every pale imitation that then comes along). I've never had to say "That FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL has a lot to answer for!", because you can't really blame it for LOVE, ACTUALLY or the career trajectory of Hugh Grant. There haven't really been any obvious FOUR WEDDINGS rip-offs by people who weren't involved in the original film... (here comes the pull-quote) until now!

Yes, the opening of DEATH AT A FUNERAL is so obviously "inspired" by Richard Curtis's genre-bending rom-com, I got a very disturbing feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was going to be an also-ran of a film; a pale imitation that wears its source so overtly on its sleeve, that it's impossible to judge it on its own merits. Thankfully, I'm incredibly clever, and was, in fact, able to judge the film on its merits: it's not good.

There are funny moments, no doubt. Most of them come from Alan Tudyk overcoming a pretty obviously-written character setup (English fop spends the film hallucinating after accidentally taking drugs!) to give us the only genuine and consistent laughs in the whole film. He's clearly a gifted physical comedian, and is an inspired piece of casting. The other entertaining piece of casting is Peter Dinklage, and credit must be given to the filmmakers for only mentioning his physical stature when it would have been suspicious not to. Dinklage is also very funny, and knows how to make the slightest facial alteration do what many actors would need flailing limbs for.

But it's these two, plus a few other cast members, plus Murray Gold's very good score, that comprise the only particularly good elements of this film. Quite a lot of the script and the direction seems to rely on "Aren't British people quirky, with their effete manners and politeness and unexpected swearing?". It's an impression of an English comedy rather than being an English comedy itself, and with every single comic setup being as contrived as they are, it gets very tiring very quickly.

That said, there was quite a bit of laughter from the audience I saw it with. Most of it came from the Alan Tudyk storyline, but I couldn't tell if they were laughing, like me, because of Tudyk's excellent physical comedy, or whether they found the situation itself genuinely surprising, or whether it was that most annoying of audience reaction: the loud laugh to indicate to those around you that you, too, have taken drugs and can TOTALLY relate to what's happening on screen! Sorry, pet peeve. And I think I detected at least a bit of that from the people around me.

But I mention everyone else's laughter because I suspect this may be one of those cases where I'm again out of step with everyone else, and I feel I have a responsibility to wave a flag when I think that's happening. Because I found DEATH AT A FUNERAL to be contrived, mostly unfunny, and thoroughly irritating... but you'll probably love it.

NEXT WEEK

- Alejandro González Iñárritu to direct ponderous drama/zombie sequel 21 GRAMS LATER

- Lindsay Lohan to bear all in computer nerd sex comedy RANDOM ACCESS MAMMORIES

- David Lynch to make a biopic about Finnish cricket umpire Sanjeev Kad in FINLAND UMPIRE

Peace out,

Latauro
AICNDownunder@hotmail.com



Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 1, 2007, 1:05 a.m. CST

    testing 1 2 3

    by xega

    test

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 1:51 a.m. CST

    Star Trek movie sounds like ass on arrival

    by AllPowerfulWizardOfOz

    The whole time travel thing for one has been done so much in the Trek universe that this really is just beating a dead horse as an excuse to bring back Nimoy and Shatner. Really the movie should not be getting made. It's insulting to the franchise IMO to try and "re-boot" TOS characters with new actors.

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 4:37 a.m. CST

    Amusing and informative as ever, Latauro.

    by raw_bean

    Alan Tudyk kicks arse.

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 5:18 a.m. CST

    The new Star Trek could be ok...

    by The Mothman

    ...if the crew travel through some sort of wormhole and end up on the island on Lost, ending the series and film in one swoop. Now there's an ending I would give 'well I didn't expect that' props to.

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Boy who grows! WETA boys are working on FEATHER!

    by maybe banana-nut

    This has been an under wraps and little noticed short film in production in Wellington, NZ I've keen to see what kind of effects they can pull off for their modest budget. Anyone know if Jackson is officially supporting them? Heeeeeeres the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYXwJ5Onz7g Enjoy!

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 8:39 a.m. CST

    Boy who grows wings! I meant.

    by maybe banana-nut

    Check it out - nothin much to see yet but good that WETA workers are supporting short film! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYXwJ5Onz7g

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 8:58 a.m. CST

    maybe banana-nut

    by messi

    yo can you email me at vincetripodi@hotmail.com

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 9:07 a.m. CST

    The Dark Is Rising ...

    by berserkrl

    is not an imitation (pale or otherwise) of Harry Potter! The Dark Is Rising books came out *long* before Harry Potter; I grew up on them in the 1970s. It would probably be more accurate to say that Harry Potter is an imitation of them. (This isn't to deny that the *movie* is probably going to be an imitation of Harry Potter. And from what I've read about the movie, Susan Cooper's wonderful series of books is NOT going to be done anything like justice.)

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 9:21 a.m. CST

    21 Grams Later - f'ing hilarious.

    by Christopher3

    What other Mexican director mashups are there?

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 10:46 a.m. CST

    Wonder Woman should be .....

    by GreatCzarsGhost

    Erica Cerra the hotie who plays the deputy on Eureka.

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 10:58 a.m. CST

    Time Travel in a Star Trek Story?

    by bigbill

    Crap Even David Tennant is tired of time travel....

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 11 a.m. CST

    GreatCzarsGhost...

    by bigbill

    She's hot but about 6" too short. Diana needs to be 5'10" minimum

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Jolie As Wonder Woman? Are You Kidding?

    by uppercanuck

    She's repellent. She could pull off Skeletor, but definitely not WW. I'd like to see Lauren Graham grab the role.

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 2:09 p.m. CST

    Retroactive spoiler alert

    by Knuckleduster

    That was actually quite funny.

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 5:56 p.m. CST

    Jolie would be perfect for the role

    by jonsnow

    Jolie is second only to Lucy Lawless in actress's who could pull off the role of Wonder Woman in my books. It's hard to cast that role after Lynda Carter, one of the, if not THE best looking woman ever.

  • Oct. 1, 2007, 9:40 p.m. CST

    Trek and Wonder Woman

    by half vader

    I wonder if the ratio of time travel to non-time travel Trek stories has now tipped in favour of the former? They gotta be getting close for fuck's sake. <p> As for Angelinina, sure she can do the chicken fillets again like she did for Tomb Raider, but what about her skinny-arse arms and legs? Might have to get KNB on the job.

  • Oct. 2, 2007, 2:43 a.m. CST

    WETA to CGI Jolie's arms and legs

    by messi

    sounds like something Singer would waste money on.