Archive for May, 2009

Sometimes a film is so bad it’s bad.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by babydylan

I am a very tolerant person. I like to think that when it comes to films, I try very hard to find at least one good point, a moment, a look, the lighting, the script, Christ anything! But even Christ himself could not help Ron Howard’s latest blockbuster, Angels and Demons.

What were you thinking Ron? Don’t make me hate you more than I already do! Frost/Nixon was pretty damn amazing and I felt I could perhaps stomach this latest ‘thrill-ride’, while the cheap tickets did sweeten the deal (it is rather helpful/brilliant to have one half of babydylan working at Hoyts. Eugene is tops, go stalk him there). And even after an exceptionally long two-and-a-bit hours I thought maybe I could see the good side. But on reflection, I really can’t. I doubt this will be anything particularly insightful, nor coherent but sometimes it just has to be said.  

Hanks: Running from one major plot hole to another

Hanks: Running from one major plot hole to the next

Tom Hanks, please, please stick to your comedies. That Thing You Do is a bit of my childhood genius, you made me love you in Sleepless in Seattle, your voice in Toy Story defined my youth, hell even Big and Turner & Hooch rocked my world. If not that, go all out and pluck at the ol’ heartstrings in Saving Private Ryan, Forest Gump or Philadelphia. But DO NOT pretend to be some action hero vying to be number one in the worlds worst hair competition. Because that space has already been filled by my old friend Nicolas Cage as I have mentioned before.

Nic Cage called, he wants his hair back.

Nic Cage called, he wants his hair back.

Secondly, I know the church didn’t allow you to shoot at the Vatican (can’t imagine why, perhaps God told them the film would be pox?) but the CGI is annoyingly obvious. It felt like you took a basic tour guide of Rome and made sure to tick all cliche boxes. And then the accents, it felt like the Amazing Race linguistic style, German, Swiss, Amercian Italian, Scottish…all speaking flawless English without once needing to whip out the phrase book, not to mention attractive physicist token-female lead who accidentally created the worlds most powerful bomb and happens to be fluent in Latin. That’s the type of girl you want around in a sticky situation.

Baaa, baaa! The budget for the extras was mighty large this day. No one knows what the hell is going on.

'Baaa, baaa!' The budget for the extras was mighty large this day. No one knows what the hell is going on.

Then there is Ewan McGregor (playing a priest who spent most of his life in Italy yet has a messed up Scottish/Irish hybrid accent and speaks not a word of Italian to his minions. Che cosa?). I will never stop loving you, but that crazy shit with the helicopter is wiggity-wack stupid town and you know it. Being somewhat lacking in the workings of Catholicism, or any ism, I had no idea what your function was, nor the purpose of the five million priests in various types of robes along with the eighty-five levels of police that seemed to be completely inept at anything, catching crooks, protecting priests, driving cars, staying alive. All epic fails.

The whole creation vs. faith, science vs. religion was handled pretty shoddily, sweeping statements were made and leaving the film you felt they were trying very hard not to step on anyones toes and offend as little as possible.

Fail cat tells it like it is

Fail cat tells it like it is

If judging from my cohorts and my reactions – one snickered the whole way through, one tried their hardest to remain interested (me), while two fell asleep, missing most of the plot while managing to drool and snore all over the theatre and STILL felt the film ran too long – this film is highly offensive. Offensive for all those who like to be entertained by a good, old-fashioned treasure hunt movie. Ron Howard, you disappoint me.

I’m sure there are some who will feel I am being too harsh, but you can’t deny the film is flawed. Perhaps I’m wrong. Got any films that no matter how you look at them, they completely suck? Let us know, we’d love to prove you right/wrong.

Gotta Get To The Previews!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by babydylan

Sometimes the greatest thing about the movies is the wait.

The apprehension, the excitement, the countdown. If you’re anything like me, which I fear a large portion of you are, you will rarely see a new film you know nothing about. Whether it be trawling through Internet sites, looking for the latest announcements (such as Chris Hemsworth – of Home and Away and recent Star Trek fame – to play Thor!) reading film mags, both trashy and intellectual, newspapers and of course my favourite, watching the trailers. What on earth did we do before YouTube?

Sometimes going to the film is more exciting due to the trailers that proceed it. I will get quite shirty if I miss them, any of them. I remember before the Lord of the Rings films came out, I could quote every line from the trailers, knew ever shot. And who could forget the jizz-in-your-pants inducing Watchmen trailer. There were two major ones, distinguished by many as the ‘one with the Smashing Pumpkins song’ and ‘the one with the Muse song’. Often showed before The Dark Knight, a comic book nerds wet dream.

Wikipeida tells me that one of the pioneers of film trailers was Stanley Kubrick. Are we at all surprised? Watching the trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey is a mini-movie moment in itself. And quite interesting to see how the previews have changed.

It’s a fine line to walk for the filmmakers, as I’m sure we have all seen one too many comedy trailers that make the film look hilarious, but actually reveal all the humorous parts thus making the actual viewing flat and predictable. Sometimes filmmakers choose a different path, where scenes are shot for the trailer alone, such as the second Terminator film or, one of the greatest trailers of all time, and my very favourite trailer,  Hitchcock’s Psycho, where he actually escorts the audience through the house and hotel of the film. All the iconic rooms that hold such chilling significance are made even more exciting by his lordly presence until the final reveal. Genius.

For now, I will leave you with the two trailers that have been making me salivate recently. Star Trek, making the worn out franchise look vibrant and sexy again, giving glimpses of the iconic cast members and making you desperate for the release date to be now, now, now (obviously this is how I felt before I saw it recently…on opening day). Along with Rob Marshall’s new venture, Nine. It doesn’t give much away but by God he has given me more than enough to know I will be all over it like a lampshade when it is eventually released. If The Internet Movie Database is to be trusted, and it usually is, we won’t be seeing it in Australia until January 2010. Looks like this will have to do for now.

Clean and Music

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 12, 2009 by babydylan

Clean is the film, music is what it’s about, that’s why I love it.

One of my favourite articles is a piece written by the French filmmaker Olivier Assayas for The Village Voice, a New York based newspaper. In it he talks about his personal, almost idiosyncratic relationship with music, and how it is music, more than films, that inspire him creatively. As Assayas himself puts it, ‘music more than cinema gives me the most intense artistic emotions.’ When he makes films he tries to direct with the same energy as a musician creating music, willing his love of music to be obvious. He wants his films to be a “homage to what music meant to (him) during his adolescence.”

THE MAN!

THE MAN!

I love Assayas as a director because I admire him as a person, admittedly I’ve only seen three of his films – although I know I’ll appreciate every film of his that I do see because I respect him so much, unless he directs something seriously offensive – but within each of the films I could see his love of music. Irma Vep, a film about remaking the silent classic The Vampires, has a thumping soundtrack that matches the frenetic energy of the film set in the picture. Demonlover, about an internet conspiracy, has an improvised soundtrack by Sonic Youth, with contributions by Assayas himself (he played guitar).

Clean, premiered at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, is a film about music, it is also about addiction, regret and forgiveness. When her husband Lee Hauser, a faded has-been rock star from the eighties dies of an overdose, his wife Emily – already vilified for ruining Lee’s career, think of her as being one part Yoko and another Courtney* – takes blame for his death and spends six months in prison. In short, she gave him the heroin he overdosed on and is thusly blamed.

Emily is released into a world which is cold and distant, she is held accountable for Lee’s death by the public, most of her previous friends, her father and mother-in-law and her son Jay. To mend her fractured relationships, she must rebuild her life and become Clean.

Beached as...

Beached as...

Assayas has himself stated in interviews that the film isn’t about drugs, it is about music, he has selected a contemporary story and then matched with a form of art that he feels has world-wide appeal, one that he connects the most with. This connection is apparent with his attention to detail, the energy behind Metric’s performance at the start of the film is beautifully captured, the hand held cameras that are just metres from the stage give us the feeling that we are there, as do the reactions from the crowd and the close-ups of the band members performing. The fashion also, is spot on. It is obvious that Emily, Lee and their friends are all musicians, and the residence that Emily shares with a friend is perfectly suited to their lifestyle. All the characters in the film are fans of music, even the secondary ones are seen listening to tunes, and some of the actors also are played by real life musicians. Metric are a band heavily inspired by Lee’s music, they give a performance at the start, and then talk backstage about his relationship with Emily and their son Jay. Tricky plays a long-time friend of Lee’s, and another person who blames Emily for his death, and David Roback of Mazzy Star plays a music producer at the end that cuts a demo with Emily and a friend of hers.

Assayas has also captured the mood behind music, the way it can inspire you and make you feel, this is hard considering the elements that go into making a film. After she arrives in Paris, Emily catches up with a friend (almost the only friend that still talks to her) and gives her some demo tapes to listen to that she made whilst in prison. They begin to play a game of pool while her friend listens to Emily’s demo, and as they sink their balls, and lean against a wall, and drink while waiting for their turn, and then lean forward to take another shot – this is one, almost continuous take – the music is the only thing we hear. It’s one of my favourite shots, I’m always talking about this shot, or that scene, but this one is officially the shiznat, because Assayas has captured something that’s totally real. How many times do we go walkies, or buy something, or do anything with music blaring in our ears and not really think about it. Assayas has done well to get that on film.

Maggie Cheung as Emily

Maggie Cheung as Emily

Those who dislike the film could accuse it of being too stylised, perhaps too ‘Greenwich village’ and maybe a self indulgent wank on Assayas’s part (“look at me, look how incredibly immersed I am in the Paris music scene. I can call Tricky and have him do a part in my film”). Its true that for a poor, recently released prisoner Emily does have a pretty awesome wardrobe, and her scooter is amazing too, it wouldn’t be ‘rock n’ roll’ enough for her to be riding a BMX or a unicycle and the house she is ‘forced’ to share with a friend is an amazing, Parisian villa, as opposed to being commission house or a crappy unit. Yet it is these little excessive details that make the film what it is, a living breathing testament to music. I know the film is flawed but I love it for this reason (Assayas should have spent more time on the screenplay, so as scenes didn’t appear so random) but with the picture Assayas has satisfied his own tastes……and mine.

*Personally I don’t think that Yoko and Courtney had anything to do with ruining John or Kurt’s careers. John was in his peak – song writing wise – when he was killed. Him and Yoko used to tie each other up with twine and eat chocolate cake in a sack but that’s cool, and I once saw this footage of Yoko blindfolded and knitting a scarf, and that was pretty bizarre but….whatever. And In Utero is better than Nevermind (even though I’m the only person to think so). Also I read Who Killed Kurt Cobain? And I still think that Kurt killed himself and the Courtney had nothing to do with it, despite all the ‘evidence’ to the contrary. But then Kurts suicide did suck, it made some people think that the ’teen angst’ thing was everlasting and that it wouldn’t go away, despite all the money and fame. So if you makes you feel better to think that Kurt Cobain was murdered then that’s cool.

P.S. Grunge didn’t die when Kurt Cobain died……

All Together Now – The Boat That Rocked

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by babydylan

I have always been a sucker for ensemble casts. For many years my idea of movie perfection came in the form of Empire Records. My cousin described it to me once as ‘a story where nothing happens’ but the plot seems irrelevant as it meanders towards a conclusion of sorts. It’s not what’s happening that matters, it’s the characters that blow your mind.

Orange!

Gina's choice is: 'Orange!'

And how could I possibly pick my favourite employee? Was it sensitive and sexy AJ (Johnny Whitworth) who is second only to Eugene (resident filthy grunge God) as self proclaimed creator and front-runner of the grunge movement and in love with Corey (Liv Tyler), destined for Harvard but resorts to secret pill-popping to cope with the pressures from Daddy. Or was is Mark (Ethan Embry), the goofy red-head whose infectious mannerisms make you want to hug him and slap him all at once. Then there’s Gina (Rene Zellweger) uber-slut with dreams of pop-stardom or Deb (Robin Tunney) suicidal skin-head who is desperate for some love and not necessarily from her boyfriend Berko (Coyote Shivers, who in some creepy trivia, was married to Bebe Buell at the time of filming making him Liv Tylers step-father). But the ultimate battle for characterisation supremacy must be played out between Lucas, the zen-like Yoda, dealing out nuggets of wisdom while throwing everyones life into chaos and Warren, rampant shoplifter whose name isn’t actually ‘FUCKING WARREN!’

As I left high school, my love for Empire Records was still as strong as ever but I discovered a slightly more mature ensemble love. This came in the form of Robert Altman’s masterpiece Gosford Park (2001), a sophisticated and classy whodunit/murder mystery (which incidentally is one of the perfect ways to fully utilise the ensemble cast. And if you’re after a laugh along with the severity of homicide, check out Tim Curry’s oft neglected but equally hilarious 1985 film Clue based on the board game with a cast to split your sides and three-endings to match).

What do you do?  Im the butler, sir. I buttle.

'What do you do?' 'I'm the butler, sir. I buttle."

But enough of that. In Gosford Park Altman has collected one of the finest casts that would cause any cinephile to salivate in their popcorn strewn seat. His goal was to show the acute difference between the ‘downstairs’ life of the servants, butlers, maids and footmen, to the snooty ‘upstairs’ aristocrats who depended on them. The audience never travels upstairs unless following one of the downstairs inhabitants, and what a staff to have.

Jennings the butler (Sir Alan Bates) who keeps the staff in check whilst guarding his own shameful past, Mrs. Wilson (Dame Helen Mirren) the housekeeper, backbone of the house, guarding everyones secrets including her own, Mrs. Croft the ill tempered cook with a particular loathing for Mrs. Wilson, Elsie (Emily Watson) head housemaid and one of Lord McCordles many lovers, George the footman (Richard E. Grant), sleazy and calculating with a love of the ladies, Robert Parks (Clive Owen), a valet with a special motive, newly appointed Mary Maceachran (Kelly Macdonald) learning the ropes and barely staying out of trouble along with ring-in Henry Denton (Ryan Phillipee) pretend servant and all round cad.

This would be impresive enough but the upstairs folk more than match their minders. Squee inducing actors such as Sir Michael Gambon as Sir William McCordle, a more unpleasant man I have yet to see, Dame Maggie Smith as his sister Constence who loves a bit of servant gossip, only if she isn’t involved, Kristin Scott Thomas as Lady Sylvia McCordle, her icy tone matching her husbands lack of charm perfectly, and when you think it can’t get any better, Stephen Fry decides to pop in for a bit as the incompitent Inspector Thomas. The joy of the film is seeing these huge stars interact with each other brilliantly. You hardly care if the mystery is solved, you just want to see what they will do next.

The jaw-dropping cast

The jaw-dropping cast

Thus, with my love of all things ensemble, there was no way I would leave The Boat That Rocked without a spring in my step. I can unasamedly admit that I am quite a sucker for Richard Curtis films, as I know secretly everyone is. Only a heart of stone could despise all his films, between Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Love Actually (2003) there is some aspect for everyone. Every female anyhow.

In The Boat That Rocked Curtis has moved away from the traditonal romance story plotlineto a story about an ecclectic bunch of men and their love of rock, and in so doing, highlighting Curtis zealous love for the music and the time period. The fictional story, as several critics seem to have forgotton, explores the hey-day of pirate radio between 1966 and 1967 where the BBC broadcast only two hours of pop music a day. Not content to take that kind of treatment, the pirates anchor themselves in the North Sea and broadcast 24 hours a day. As the pop/rock scene was exploding in the UK at the time, Radio Rock’s popularity is particularily high. The film thus tells the story of the many DJ’s packed onto the boat and general hilarity ensues.

Dancing to a bit of Bowie. Not exactly circa 1967, but do we care?

Dancing to a bit of Bowie. Not exactly circa 1967, but do we care?

The film appears to be somewhat plot-less, a series of events trudging on to no foreseeable conclusion. Where after all, can an anchored boat journey to? But, as I’m sure I have given away, the plot for me seems somewhat irrelevant as you see the talent that Curtis has yet again drawn together.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his rarer but no less welcome comedy roles, shines as The Count, the only yank on the station and as loud as one would expect. In terms of costume, Bill Nighy playing himself but disguised as Quentin the station owner wears his 1960s garb with such flair and can only be topped by Rhys Ifans as golden-tonsiled Gavin, most popular DJ in Britain making an unforgettable entrance to the film. Further cast enticement is Nick Frost (holding up well without other half Simon Pegg) as leery Dr. Dave, Tom Sturridge as Young Carl whose coming of age, find-me-a-father-search the plot is loosely structured around, Flight of the Conchords Rhys Darby as the ‘most annoying man on radio’ Kiwi Angus Knutsford, and Tom Wisdom as the butterfly-inducing handsome Midnight Mark. Not to mention IT Crowd favourites, Chris O’Dowd as adorable romantic Simon Strafford and Katherine Parkinson as Felicty the lesbian cook, thus allowed to inhabit the boat with the fine men folk.

Rhys Ifans - looking damn sharp

Rhys Ifans - looking damn sharp

The female cast members aren’t particularly displayed in a positive light, with Emma Thompson as Young Carl’s dismisive mother, Talulah Riley as the seemingly virginal yet ultimately sneaky Marianne and take-the-cake, out right wrong, January Jones as Elenore. You leave the film hating the female characters and feeling very in love with the boys club.

Ultimately I found the individually shallow male characters to make up the many faceted amalgamation of the father Young Carl is desperately searching for. Each character offers him some form of wisdom – he is the blank slate they all want to project their ideas and musical tastes on, he being the sponge eager to absorb. Even when the plot lulls, Curtis’ canny song choices propel the story along to one jolly, giggle inducing jaunt after the other. Toe-tappingly fun it always is. To end with a cliche, it ROCKED.