Movie News

AICN-Downunder: THE GREEN HORNET, TAMARA DREWE, THE FIGHTER, TRUE GRIT, and so much more!

Published at: Jan. 21, 2011, 7:03 a.m. CST by AICNStaff

 

 

While I sat there watching', I gave some thought to stealin' a kiss, though you are very young, and sick, and unattractive to boot. But now I have a mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt.

 

AICN-DOWNUNDER

I'd like to kick off the first AICN-Downunder of 2011 with positive news, but things haven't been good here in Australia. Two years after my home state of Victoria was devastated by the infamous Black Saturday bushfires, it's now water that's the threat. My once-home state of Queensland is now aquatic, with three quarters of it declared a disaster zone due to severe flooding.

If you haven't heard the statistics, the area underwater was larger than France and Germany put together. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Between twenty and thirty thousand homes have been estimated to be severely damaged or destroyed. Water snakes, mosquitos and even sharks have been setting up residence on what was once dry land. I've seen different stats comparing it to Hurricane Katrina, but the one that keeps cropping up is that this is four times the size of Katrina.

So things haven't been good here. Flooding has also affected New South Wales and Victoria, and though the worst of it seems to be behind us, the clean-up will be a long, difficult and costly process. If you're able to, please contribute to any of the charities you can. There are a lot to choose from, but this is the best one to go with. Anyone based in Melbourne will want to come along to a charity event on Australia Day run by an outlet I write for, Onya Magazine. OnyaAid will feature live music, lots of donated swag, and much to eat and drink, with 100% of proceeds going to the QLD Flood Appeal. Details to be found here.

 

NEWS

When Joseph McCarthy was on the rampage for communists and blacklisting was the order of the day, those in the film industry reacted in markedly different ways. Director Elia Kazan famously named names, earning him scorn from many, including his former friend and playwright Arthur Miller. Kazan responded by making ON THE WATERFRONT (which Miller wrote an early draft of), in which Marlon Brando's Malloy names names and is shown in a sympathetic light for doing so. Miller's response was a play called A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, also centering around longshoremen, which takes the opposite view: to rat people out is never acceptable, says Miller. It has been filmed before, as ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (directed by Luchino Visconti) and as VU DU PONT (directed by Sidney Lumet). Now a new production is in the works, to be directed by BALIBO's Robert Connolly. The film will star Anthony LaPaglia (who worked with Connolly on BALIBO and THE BANK, and was attached to the film in 2005 when Barry Levinson was directing), as well as Vera Farmiga, Mia Wasikowska, Sam Neill, and Sebastian Stan (BLACK SWAN). One of the world's best editors (in my opinion) Jill Bilcock will cut, and the screenplay comes from Andrew Bovell (LANTANA, EDGE OF DARKNESS). The production begins filming in both Melbourne and New York from June 2011.

Stephan Elliott (PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT, EASY VIRTUE) has begun filming his new comedy A FEW BEST MEN in New South Wales this month. The cast includes Xavier Samuel (THE LOVED ONES), Kris Marshall (EASY VIRTUE), Kevin Bishop, and Olivia Newton-John in her first Australian film since 1965's FUNNY THINGS HAPPEN DOWN UNDER.

I'm often wary of films that include an exclamation mark in the title, but will reserve judgement on SAVE YOUR LEGS!, a new Australian film that will begin production at the end of the year. The film will be directed by Boyd Hicklin, who made a documentary by the same name in 2005. Hicklin co-wrote the film with actor Brendan Cowell, which follows an amateur Australian cricket team during a disastrous tour of India.

Actually, forget exclamation marks: I'm getting increasingly sceptical of the way high concept movies are being made these days, with the failures of DEAD SNOW and HUMAN CENTIPEDE leaving a pretty cynical taste in my mouth. Despite that, I must admit I'm very curious about IRON SKY, a film currently shooting in Queensland. This science fiction film is about Nazis returning from the Dark Side of the Moon, where they escaped to at the tail end of World War Two. The film is written by Johanna Sinisalo and Michael Kalesniko, and is directed by Timo Vuorensola. The production is offering viewers the chance to watch the first five minutes of the film after giving a donation of their choice (starting from one Euro), which you can do on the website here. Additionally (or alternately), you could watch behind-the-scenes footage for free here on their YouTube channel.

Trailers galore for the new year! Check out the trailer for Jon Hewitt's highly-anticipated film about prostitution, X. Here's a better quality version of the very promising SNOWTOWN trailer. A nicely understated teaser for WASTED ON THE YOUNG. A very, very endearing and fun-looking trailer for A HEARTBEAT AWAY. Brian Trenchard-Smith's Hobart Gets Frozen film ARCTIC BLAST looks like schlocky, silly fun. And finally, Australian superhero film GRIFF THE INVISIBLE gets a very short teaser trailer.

"Henry and Aaron's Perfectly Adequate Christmas Special" is pitched by the filmmakers as HOSTEL meets Santa Claus. Although the basic concept of the film has been done before, this version has a great style and is worth checking out. It's directed by Antony Webb, shot by Ben Berkhout, and features Wersel Montague and James Helm. It's shot on the Canon 5D mark 2, and it looks fantastic. Check it out.

Just how difficult is it for arthouse cinemas at the moment? With so many closing their doors, one place in Melbourne is attempting to open up, but red tape and bureaucracy is getting in the way. Read the extraordinary story here.

BREAKING: Just as I was putting the finishing touches on this column, some news has come through regarding an issue we've discussed on here many times. You may remember my editorial from November about the banning of LA ZOMBIE, the illegal screening, and the subsequent fallout. Now word has come in that Melbourne Underground Film Festival director Richard Wolstencroft has today been officially charged by police for screening the unclassified film. There's not a lot of information about the charges yet, but we'll be following this closely.

My colleague, contemporary and bon-vivant, Glenn Dunks of Stale Popcorn, has published what looks to be a fairly comprehensive look at the upcoming Australian films of 2011. There are some fascinating titles in there, and a couple that have a big question mark over them. And although Glenn and I often chide one another for the usually-complete incompatibility of our opinions, one thing we both agreed on was the brilliance of Ivan Sen's DREAMLAND that premiered at MIFF last year. Lots to look forward to!

 

AICN-Downunder's Follow Friday: (Drop me a line if there are any upcoming Australian or New Zealand films not mentioned here.) Read about the fascinating journeys Anti-podean films take from production through post-production and into release! Click to follow controversial Uighur documentary 10 CONDITIONS OF LOVE, crime epic ANIMAL KINGDOM, brilliant experimental soundscape DREAMLAND, reality television/terrorism satire ELIMINATED, the self-explanatory GHOST SHARK 2: URBAN JAWS, superhero movie GRIFF THE INVISIBLE, self-described "womantic comedy" JUCY, the based-on-an-old-Australian-joke LITTLE JOHNNY, brilliant Aussie horror film THE LOVED ONES, self-described "graphic novel-style bushranger adventure film" MOONLITE, giant shark movie THE REEF, the dramatic thriller SAY NOTHING, the extraordinary Aussie doco STRANGE BIRDS IN PARADISE, star-studded romantic drama SUMMER CODA, giant squid movie $QUID, the award-winning box office hit TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN, Cannes's closing night film THE TREE, crowdsourcing horror film THE TUNNEL, and genre-defying web series WHERE WERE YOU. And for those still reading, this here is me.

 

AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS

61st Berlin International Film Festival

RED DOG, the Australian made film directed by Kriv Stenders and starring Josh Lucas (HULK, GLORY ROAD), Keisha Castle-Hughes (WHALE RIDER), Rachael Taylor (SUMMER CODA) and Luke Ford (ANIMAL KINGDOM) will premiere next month in the Berlin Film Festival's the Generation 14 plus category, competing with twelve other films. The film will be released in Australia on April 21.

 

40th Rotterdam Film Festival

Two great Australian films have been selected to play in Rotterdam. A year after it debuted at Sundance, word has come in that ANIMAL KINGDOM will play, alongside Mark Hartley's MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED!.

 

33rd Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival

Over in France, Aussie shorts THE KISS (directed by Ashlee Page) and LAST BEAUTIFUL FRIEND (directed by Mischa Baka) will play in the International Competition Category. Meanwhlie, the children's programme will see Aussie shorts MINNIE LOVES JUNIOR (directed by Andy and Matt Mullins) and THE LOST THING (directed by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann).

 

2011 BigPond Adelaide Film Festival

Robert Connolly can't be kept down, which is good news for us. The man hasn't paused for breath, as evidenced by his feature documentary MRS CAREY'S CONCERT, which he co-directed with Sophie Raymond, opening this year's AFF on February 24. Meanwhile, the film festival will close out with Brendan Fletcher's MAD BASTARDS, which premiered in Sydney and will soon screen at Sundance. The full programme comes out on January 28, and will no doubt make me wish once again that I was in Adelaide for it.

 

GRANT MORRISON: TALKING WITH GODS

Melbourne comic book fans, this may be your only chance to see this doco on Grant Morrison. The Australian premiere (and, so far, its only booked screening) will take place at Federation Square's ACMI Cinemas on Friday January 28 at 6:45pm. The film is presented by Noncanonical Comic Podcast, and features interviews with the likes of Morrison, Geoff Johns and Warren Ellis.

 

BOX OFFICE

I've been talking a lot lately about how great the recent spate of films have been, but you wouldn't really know it to look at this list. A few gems aside, the worst holiday fare nonsense is what's appealing to people, which does answer the question of why these films get made in the first place.

Australia

1. YOGI BEAR
2. TANGLED
3. BURLESQUE
4. THE KING'S SPEECH
5. THE DILEMMA
6. UNSTOPPABLE
7. MEET THE PARENTS: LITTLE FOCKERS
8. GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
9. MORNING GLORY
10. THE TOURIST

New Zealand

1. YOGI BEAR
2. TANGLED
3. BURLESQUE
4. UNSTOPPABLE
5. GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
6. THE TOURIST
7. LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS
8. THE DILEMMA
9. TRON: LEGACY
10. MEET THE PARENTS: LITTLE FOCKERS

 

RELEASED THESE PAST THREE WEEKS

Why do all the best black parts go to white actors?, my low tolerance for camp keeps me from this film, Sam Worthington appears in a non-CGI heavy film, one of the best scores of 2010 also has a film to accompany it, I had no dilemma trying to decide whether to see this or not, David O Russell bounces back, airport novels are classy if they're in another language, this film defines "best intentions", the captivating story of Mrs Simpson is discarded in favour of an even more captivating story, my invitation to this v1agra-themed film must have got filtered to my spam folder, this film confounds expectations by not sucking, Disney rediscovers greatness, Tony Scott rediscovers "meh", and I'm just happy that Tom Cavanagh is working.

BLACK SWAN (AUS)
BURLESQUE (AUS/NZ)
THE DEBT (NZ)
DESERT FLOWER (NZ)
THE DILEMMA (AUS)
THE FIGHTER (AUS/NZ)
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST (NZ)
THE GREEN HORNET (AUS/NZ)
THE KING'S SPEECH (NZ)
LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (NZ)
MORNING GLORY (AUS/NZ)
TANGLED (AUS/NZ)
UNSTOPPABLE (AUS/NZ)
YOGI BEAR (AUS/NZ)

 

 

REVIEWS

THE GREEN HORNET

Australian/New Zealand release: January 20

At this stage, it's clear we're all looking for a new take on the superhero genre, and so is Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), the orphaned millionaire who gives a speech to that effect halfway through the film. His argument about what superheroes always do wrong is so impassioned, it makes us feel as if THE GREEN HORNET is not taking place in a grounded reality, but in one in which superheroes and costumed vigilantes pass by every day.

On screen, Reid's out-of-nowhere plan to differentiate himself from other superheroes is to pose as a villain. Off screen, the plan is to take Rogen's comical personality and feed it into a hero role in a way we've not seen before. On paper, it looks great. Love it or hate it, Rogen is the 21st century everyman; he's a doofus who is out for himself and doesn't know basic facts (Shanghai, Rogen's Reid believes, is in Japan). Even the drunken billionaire Tony Stark knows about chemistry and physics, but Rogen is simply "us" with more money.

When THE GREEN HORNET starts, it is extremely promising. It's not great, but it's promising. The opening feels rushed, as if they're desperate to get to the action in the middle of the film. Imagine every scene is three pages long, and imagine the middle page of every scene was removed before filming. That's the sense it gives you.

What starts well soon goes sour. Primarily, this is because Rogen and screenwriting partner Evan Goldberg go for laughs above all else, and hit the mark nearly every time. The jokes all seem to revolve around Reid saying something painfully dorky -- ie: a hundred variations on "Can I get a hug, y'all?" -- or someone getting kicked in the nuts. Repeatedly. Worse than that, there's the trendy and repetitive post-modern lines, where characters must narrate what's happening -- "This is very scary!" or "That's a big gun!" -- and the laugh apparently comes from the audience not expecting such self-awareness. Sometimes this can work, but here the dead horse is beaten beyond recognition.

But a film called THE GREEN HORNET should make us care a little about the character called The Green Hornet, and this film completely fails at this. Reid is written as a complete prat, and the further we go into the film, the more pratty he becomes. And not in a charming or endearing manner, but in a way that took me from liking him in the beginning to disliking him in the middle and flat-out hating him by the end. He treats everyone around him so poorly, and for no reason other than it's apparently funny; gags that don't work are presented in place of characterisation.

The lack of arc is the problem here. Reid doesn't actually change at any point, at least not believably. He suddenly gains Kato's superpowers in one scene, with no explanation given. He suddenly becomes incredibly smart and figures out the bad guy's plans (and I will give credit to this sequence: it is not only extremely well-directed and mostly well-set up, but the payoff gag afterwards is very good), but somehow acquires new information from his dead father in order to figure it out. Reid suddenly develops a conscience about what his father's newspaper should be doing, but without any real motivation. He didn't care before, why does he now? We keep waiting for Reid to make good and redeem himself, but he remains a dick throughout the film. Acts of heroism are discarded in favour of cheap pratfalls.

Around the third act, I realised that the basis for THE GREEN HORNET wasn't superhero films, but WITHOUT A CLUE. If you've never seen the Sherlock Holmes spoof from the late 80s, you need to see Michael Caine's bumbling Holmes playing against Ben Kingsley's brilliant but underappreciated Watson. That's exactly what THE GREEN HORNET is, and everyone seems to be in on it except Reid himself. This might be funny at first, but after two hours his belief that he is the superior warrior despite all evidence to the contrary becomes exhaustingly dull.

I want to like Rogen, and I think I would in the right role, but I'm yet to see it. Here, he's too self-conscious and too enamoured with his own material. Jay Chou is the standout here, even though Kato isn't really the charismatic character you want him to be. Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson and Edward James Olmos all seem unable to connect with their characters, underwritten as they are. Olmos actually introduces himself by saying: "I was your father's most trusted colleague", which seems like a character note that accidentally got typed into the dialogue. Diaz's Love Interest could have been excised from the film without really losing anything, and the love triangle that apparently forms between her, Kato and Reid is the biggest disaster in a film filled chock-full of them.

The good news -- and there is some -- is that Michel Gondry's direction is excellent. Even if he can't magically transform the script into something particularly good, his interpretation of many scenes and his staging of action turns parts of the film into something a bit more interesting. Though much of the 3D is a bit rubbish, Kato Vision (as it is apparently called) works quite well.

There's promise in here, and I think that's what's the most frustrating part about it. There's enough in here to make you want to see a great GREEN HORNET film, but the ultimate result is a filmsy mess that is in desperate need of a re-write.

 

TAMARA DREWE

Australian release: February 3 // New Zealand release: February 24

Speaking of unlikable characters, meet Tamara Drewe. Actually, meet the dozens of characters in TAMARA DREWE, because it's actually an ensemble piece and Drewe is merely one of many.

This English film directed by Stephen Frears is apparently based on a graphic novel, and I have to say it shows. Graphic novels and books require a different tone of storytelling. Tangents are acceptable, even welcome, due to the nature of how we consume them. Films are very different beasts, and require a very different discipline.

TAMARA DREWE is a rambling mess. There are no real goals for the characters, and nothing really thrusting the film forward. The way the film slowly arcs its way through the seasons suggests it was going for a pastiche in the style of ANOTHER YEAR, but that film earned its stoicism. It felt natural. Here, it feels stilted.

To recount the plot is pointless, but the setup is basically a group of characters in a lazy English village who are decidedly horrible to one another. Unsure of who to follow, the film ambles about without a protagonist in sight, but still manages to avoid the sort of balance that ensemble pieces like this need.

You find yourself grasping onto the few characters who aren't completely abhorrent, but by the film's end every single one of them has turned you off them in some manner. I can name hundreds of films in which adulterers, murderers and thieves are still portrayed in a way that makes you want to keep watching them. Here, Frears seems to be subconsciously judging them, showing them in a completely hideous light with every single transgression.

Moments of "dark" comedy are misjudged. Scenes that are meant to elicit a shocked laugh elicit only shock. By the time the film drags to its final scene, you are completely ready to wash your hands at all of them; when a certain couple finally gets together at the end, the most you can respond with is a shrug.

The actors themselves are all quite good, with Tamsin Grieg a particular standout, but with such hideous and unappealing characters to work with, their performances are mostly wasted.

 

THE FIGHTER

Australian/New Zealand release: January 20

Whether or not you find boxing (as I do) to be an abhorrent practice, it's not hard to see why filmmakers are so drawn to it. It's a symbolically-rich event that is unlike any other sport. If team sports and track & field events are all about you doing your best, then boxing is about making sure the other guy loses. It's beating him down until you're the only one standing; as a metaphor for a life mis-lived, it cannot be (ahem) beaten.

In THE FIGHTER, the tribalism of boxing is what's on display. The crowd is either for you or against you, and no shades of grey exist. Such is the trial of Micky (Mark Wahlberg) who is torn between his family and the new people in his life. Both sides are all-or-nothing, us-or-them, and even as Micky spends most of the film questioning whether or not he wants to box any more, he is torn by the two elements of his life being unable to mesh or even accept the other's existence.

The only one who eventually comes to recognise this is the least self-aware character in the piece, Dickie (Christian Bale) who has dealt with his former glories by spending his time strung-out on cocaine. Dickie is a larger-than-life character, all of his movements recalling the boxing he can no longer do.

The screenplay (credited to Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Keith Dorrington) is a very fine, very well-crafted piece. David O Russell is at his best here, with direction both subtle and overt. (Note in the scene when Dickie first comes to the gym and Micky is watching him, his white-gloved hand in centre of frame as if foreshadowing the eventual harm Dickie will do to him.)

There is a tremendous amount of humour injected into the film, with characters both intentionally and unintentionally funny. No one gets a reprieve from it, and you find yourself laughing more than you would expect. Many of my colleagues have found this to be mean-spirited, a patronising look at poor people, which is a position I find difficult to agree with. Would that still be patronising if the characters were wealthy? We laugh at these people, but in an affectionate way. Their not-insignificant struggles are not diminished by the humour, but are enhanced.

Wahlberg and Bale both give career-best performances here, with Wahlberg's frustrated wannabe a natural extension of Dirk Diggler's lost boy struggles. Bale gives the sort of over-the-top performance you can only get away with when accurately portraying a real person, and is more charismatic than he's ever been. Dickie is a complex guy, and the relationship between Micky and Dickie is the film's biggest strength. Memories of RAGING BULL (another true-life boxing tale featuring two brothers and the girl that comes between them) are hard to shake, but THE FIGHTER is absolutely its own beast, and a superb one at that.

 

TRUE GRIT

Australian release: January 26 // New Zealand release: January 20

Few filmmakers evoke the same consistently innate style that the Coens do. Regardless of whether they're telling a drama-heavy polemic or an all-out comedy, characters and situations manifest themselves in a way that is unmistakably Coeny.

TRUE GRIT is, of course, no exception. The Old West setting gives them plenty of leeway to play with dialogue, a mix of old timey-ness and their own irrefutable logic twists. The revenge story they are telling is a straight one, with few plot exaggerations or switcheroos. In an age of post-modern self-reflexivity, this in itself is something to be lauded.

The script sticks surprisingly close to Charles Portis's original book, with few moments either sugar-coated or ratcheted-up. Mattie Ross is every bit the formidable force she is in the book, and the scene in which she negotiates the return of her father's goods is both entertaining in its own right, and essential to convincing us of what she can accomplish. Hailee Steinfeld is, as I'm sure has been noted many times, an astonishing find, with an unwavering glare and matter-of-fact straightforwardness. It's a difficult balance to get right, but Steinfeld makes it look easy.

Jeff Bridges makes me love him again (he and I had a close call with TRON LEGACY) with his mumbly turn as an ornery US Marshall who is not as flawless as one would expect. Matt Damon's turn as Texas Ranger LaBoeuf is just as impressive, with Damon constantly two sides at every turn -- good guy/bad guy, competent/incompetent, etc -- and impressively taking a back seat to Steinfeld and Bridges for much of the film. Josh Brolin's Tom Chaney is convincing, funny, and frightening, and a tremendous impact is made in not a lot of screen time. Barry Pepper's Ned Pepper is one of the highlights, as is Ed Corbin's amazing turn as a frontier dentist.

Carter Burwell's score and Roger Deakins's cinematography are both expectedly top-notch, adding to an intangible mood that permeates the film and creates a work that is so much more than the sum of its flawless parts.

 

DVD REVIEWS

SPLICE (December 15, Region 4)

The film: The film that came in at number 46 on my 2010 top fifty was schlock horror as it's supposed to be done. Genetic experiments? Beings that shouldn't be? Sexual deviancy? Lots of gore? Tick, tick, tick. It doesn't hurt that the cast is comprised of Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley, two great actors who still manage to feel at home in a big B film like this one. There's tremendous fun to be had with this film if you give yourself over to it; full marks must be given to any horror film that manages to make you laugh and jump out of your seat in the same moment.

The extras: There's an interview with director Vincenzo Natali, a featurette "A Director's Playground", a Behind the Scenes piece, and the original theatrical trailer.

Should you buy it: Even if you're not a big horror buff, this is too much fun to not demand repeat spins. One to buy.

 

ME AND ORSON WELLES (December 12, Region 4)

The film: This story of a seventeen-year-old finding himself working with Orson Welles on a production of "Macbeth" feels like it was designed as a coming-of-age story, which is weird as that's the one level the film doesn't quite work on. Although the journey of Richard isn't particularly compelling, Zac Efron is really good in the lead role. The show is stolen by Christian McKay, whose impersonation of Welles is easily the best I've ever seen. The voice and the look are both spot-on, and McKay imbues his performance with more nuance than a basic impression would suggest. Richard Linklater is always interesting, and though ME AND ORSON WELLES doesn't always work, it is a fine film worth your time.

The extras: Capitalising on the film's biggest strength, the main feature is an interview with Christian McKay. There are also deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer.

Should you buy it: You should definitely see it, but maybe rent it first.

 

TEENAGE PAPARAZZO (December 1, Region 4)

The film: Adrian Grenier's documentary about a young celebrity photographer surprised no one more than me, easily cracking my top ten docos of 2010 list. Far from being some sort of lightweight freak show, it was a complex and fascinating look at celebrity culture and what constitutes morality in such a seemingly-superficial world. If the worst part of this sort of culture is the lack of intellectual curiosity, then Grenier admirably counters this with a genuine regard for the questions that this situation raises. He peels away the onion, examining his own values and lifestyle, but without turning it into a gigantic ego-fest. A really remarkable film.

The extras: There's an exclusive-to-region four interview with Grenier, as well as deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer.

Should you buy it: I think it's a must-own. It's definitely one we're going to be talking about for years to come.

 

THE ECLIPSE (December 1, Region 4)

The film: I'm not sure what I was inhaling when I compared THE ECLIPSE to Ralph Bakshi's COOL WORLD, but my original fundamental point remains the same: go into this film knowing nothing. It's one of those films that's a slow burn. Now, nearly a year after I saw it, I find it's still at the forefront of my brain when other films have long slipped away. It's got a beautiful mood to it, and works more than it doesn't. It's great seeing Ciarán Hinds in a lead role, HIGH FIDELITY's Iben Hjejle is great, and Aiden Quinn plays a jerk like few can.

The extras: A Making of doco, a "look at" the film from HDNet, and the original theatrical trailer.

Should you buy it: I really dig it, but this is another one I'm going to suggest you rent first. It's terrific, but it won't be for everyone.

 

THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME (December 15, Region 4)

The film: This strange anime film manages to be simultaneously great and lame. There are moments where you may go to reach for the remote to shut the damn thing off, but these are countered by moments of sublime creativity that have you cheering for more. It's a very odd dichotomy, and it lasts the entire film. This story of a girl who discovers she can time travel to parts of her own life has a unique take on the well-worn time travel tropes, but these are flattened out a bit by her ultimate goals (ie: she wants this boy to ask her out, she wants to get out of this awkward situation, etc). It's sort-of believable that a teenaged girl would care about such things above all the other possibilities time travel could afford, but after a while you start wondering why you care. Which is odd, because the film is ultimately very satisfying, and I'm not entirely sure why. It's obviously made by someone who cares a lot about the mechanics and mythology of time travel, and that alone is enough to sustain you happily throughout the entire film.

The extras: The recent Blu-Ray release includes the same extras as the two disc edition released a year or two back, featuring a storyboard comparison, a profile of director Mamoru Hosoda, the film's premiere in Tokyo, behind the scenes videos, a music video, and various theatrical trailers.

Should you buy it: The ultimate test for this part of the DVD review is what I ultimately end up doing with the disc. If I give it away, it's a no. If I keep it with the intention of seeing it again, it's an absolute yes. And, to my surprise and despite my misgivings, I am holding onto GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME, and am looking forward to watching it again. Anime fans, this is a big yes.

 

GRACE (Month #, Region 4)

The film: I'm overdue with this review given it came out two-and-a-half months ago, but having finally caught up with this wonderful b-grade horror, I thought it was worth mentioning. Maternal fears are brought to the fore in this truly demented film about a woman desperate to give birth to the healthiest baby possible. To expand on the setup is to spoil the film, as the twists and turns are not plot-based, but character-based. Some of the most horrific stuff in the film comes from natural, non-violent moments where characters act on their own understandable desires. It's deceptively clever stuff, and is the sort of thing you genuinely want to see from lower-budgeted horror films.

The extras: They've not skimped on this one. There are about six different mini-docs on different aspects of the film, from the score's composition to GRACE's premiere at Sundance. There's also the theatrical trailer.

Should you buy it: Horror fans, pick it up. Anyone wanting to give a celebratory gift to someone expecting a child, you are sick.

 

CRONOS (December 15, Region 4)

The film: Time to confess a deep dark secret: I don't love Guillermo Del Toro as much as the rest of you. I really, really, really like him, and anything he makes is an automatic must-see in my book, but I find myself admiring his films more than all-out loving them. His 1993 film CRONOS is a good example of this. It's got a great mood to it, the horror is fantastic, and the performances are a blast. I can see why Del Toro go so much attention from this film; in terms of horror films about living forever, it's a surprisingly new take. His influence from Universal horror films and Hammer horrors are evident, and distilled perfectly into a modern film that is the natural progression of those classics. Love it? Not completely, but I really, really, really like it.

The extras: Lots of features on this disc, including the theatrical trailer, a Making Of doco, interviews with Del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navaro, a stills gallery, sketches and storyboards, and a commentary from Del Toro.

Should you buy it: I say yes. Del Toro's stuff is always worth owning, and CRONOS is no exception.

 

EVA (December 15, Region 4)

The film: The story in Joseph Losey's EVA is almost completely irrelevant. The characters, the cutting dialogue, the strong cuts, the mood, is what propels this 1962 film along. It's a French film, but most of it takes place in Venice, and the whole thing just feels Italian. The tale of a Welsh novelist sexually obsessed with a French woman is one that gets under the skin, thanks in so small part to the performances of Jeanne Moreau and Stanley Baker. Losey's direction is brilliant, and the cinematography will take your breath away.

The extras: There's a fantastic colour booklet in the case called "Three Journey's To Venice: Joseph Losey's Eva" by Geoff Gardner, which is well worth the price of the disc. There's also a great poster gallery featuring original art from the film's original release.

Should you buy it: This is European cinema at its most luxurious, a classic that should be better remembered than it is. Frankly, a must-own.

 

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