Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Completely Horrible Doctor

Image and video via Dr. Horrible

The complete Dr. Horrible is online - check it out!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Female Agents

Just back from a preview screening of Les Femmes de l'ombre, featuring a Q&A with director Jean-Paul Salomé. While I get some shut-eye and write up my thoughts on this wonderful film (not at the same time), may this trailer pique your interest:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button intrigues me. Firstly, it's directed by David Fincher (of Se7en and Fight Club fame), the screenplay is written by Eric Roth (think Forrest Gump, The Insider and Munich - to name but a few) and it stars Brad Pitt and (our) Cate Blanchett! The production design and cinematography looks stunning, soft lensed, warm and nostalgic. And though I do worry about the depth of Pitt's acting ability (may we never Meet Joe Black again), I thought he and Cate were amazing together in Babel, and look forward to similar affective performances here.

Australian release date is set for Boxing Day, so we all have til then to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's book.

Monday, July 28, 2008

SFFF IV: The Visitor

Image via Indiewire

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door. ~ The New Colossus

These hallowed words, engraved on the pedestal of New York's Statue of Liberty, are brought into sharp relief by Thomas McCarthy's The Visitor. In his endearing and provocative follow up to 2003's indie hit The Station Agent, McCarthy tackles the apathy brought on by grief and middle age, in a textured allegory of post-9/11 America.

Images via The Visitor

Richard Jenkins, best known as the ghostly presence in Six Feet Under, here plays college economics professor Walter Vale, drifting through life after the death of his pianist wife, until a conference returns him to his New York apartment and its squatter residents. Like The Station Agent, McCarthy throws together some unlikely friends, this time Syrian drummer Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend, Zainab (Danai Gurira). Walter takes pity on them, allowing them to stay in his flat and in turn Tarek reintroduces music into Walter's life, in the guise of the African drum.

The film turns on the arrest of Tarek in the subway and his subsequent incaceration in a detention centre. His worried mother, Mouna (the beautiful Hiam Abbass) arrives in search of her son and Walter assumes the role of visiting Tarek as illegal immigrants Mouna and Zainab cannot.

I don't mean to give the whole story away here, as the plot is really secondary to the wonderful characters and amazing performance of Jenkins in particular. And while the immigration issues remain very topical in America as well as here here in Australia, The Visitor, for me at least, was more about the wretched and tempest-tossed Walter, and his journey to breathe free.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Images via Kung Fu Panda

If there's no charge for awesomeness...or attractiveness, then the Pom and I should have seen Kung Fu Panda last night for free. What a beautiful, brilliant film!

From the very beginning I was struck by the stunning visuals, then quickly won over by the characters. Jack Black embodies the lovable Po, a wannabe kung fu master and emotional eater. The film's highly predictable storyline would have dragged on were it not for some great scripting of Black's natural irreverence.

Dustin Hoffman also brings depth and his particular brand of wry warmth (think Stranger Than Fiction) to the tiny stature of Shifu. Similarly, Ian McShane is well cast as the evil Tai Lung - any Deadwood fans will recognise the gravelly voice of Swearengen. I did feel, however, that the remaining cast members were a little underused. True, this is a kung fu film and should be more about the fighting than the talking, but still, when you've got Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogan to hand, it seems a waste not to make the most of them.

I can now also appreciate Kate's disappointment at the lack of resolution for Tigress. It certainly felt like there could have been room to expand more on the back stories of all the members of the Furious Five, however I can see how the Shifu/Tai Lung/Tigress story came to a certain resolution with Shifu finally finding peace. One imagines his acceptance of Po and his restored sense of peace would see Shifu open his heart once more, freeing Tigress to embrace her own destiny. Again, I feel this is indicative of a simplistic storyline that misses some great opportunities with its supporting characters.

However a lot of notes are hit just right. I love a good training sequence, and Po and Shifu don't disappoint. The requisite Rocky homage is comically dispensed with in the opening ceremony, leaving the training montage to stand alone as a spectacularly shot and wonderfully entertaining scene. The Pom is still chuckling at the line: Panda, we do not wash our pits in the Pool of Sacred Tears.

So while I didn't quite go blind from exposure to pure awesomeness, I did really enjoy this beautifully cinematic film. It's certainly worth watching on the big screen, as the animators have gone to town on the CinemaScope, just as Jack Black has with the eager and endearing Po.



All images via Cirque du Soleil

I've always been a bit wary of the circus. I think I was traumatised by Dumbo, and as everyone knows, nothing is scarier than a clown. So it was with some latent childhood angst that I ventured into the Big Top to see Cirque du Soleil's Dralion. In preparation, the Pom had been quoting Knocked Up all week, talking about giant snails and hotel chairs. Fortunately we avoided the magic mushrooms, settling instead for some carnival staples: beer and nuts.

Given my penchant for getting horribly embarrassed on behalf of and in front of people, I was quaking as the zany Italian clowns did the rounds, warming up the audience. Thankfully, the Pom was on the aisle, so I figured if worst came to worst, he could be the sacrificial lamb. Gratefully he/we were overlooked and could sit back and enjoy the show.

Cirque du Soleil has transformed the circus into mind-boggling avant-garde theatrics. Gone are the scary clowns and sad elephants, replaced by insane acrobatics and snazzy costumes. Dralion is a fusion of East (the dragon) and West (the lion) and a celebration of the elemental world; earth, air, water and fire are our guides for the evening, introducing some truly fantastic (in all senses of the word) performances.

First up was this amazing gymnastic feat, the single handbalance:

This girl could twist herself into some gravity-defying shapes that are absolutely extraordinary to see. The Pom's comment, "She has more core strength than me." You don't say!

His favourite act was the trampoline - or, thanks to The Simpsons, as it shall forever more be known: the tramampoline - which featured five fearless acrobats, twisting and tumbling from impossible heights. This did cause us to ponder our own tramampolining efforts as kids (in the heady pre-safety net days), and needless to say we were found wanting!

I loved the ariel pas de deux, not only for the jaw dropping abilities, but for the love story so beautifully told. If love is all about trust, then these two, dangling from great heights, certainly put it to the test:

I was also struck by this troupe of gymnasts, who fancied building impossible human pyramids while balancing, on ballet points, on a dias of light bulbs. As you do...

The whole production is astoundingly impressive. The band and the two spectacular singers (singing in an invented language no less) really set the scene for the fairytale land of Dralion.
If Cirque du Soleil is the future of the circus, then perhaps I can at last put Dumbo behind me, though I shall remain forever wary of clowns...

Many many thanks to Chris and Nance for this fabulous and very generous birthday present. As you can see, I loved it! xx

Friday, July 25, 2008

All About Alice

Image via Love You Big

I've recently developed a bit of an Etsy obsession, and embarrassingly, it's all about me, or at least my love for Alice in Wonderland. As an Alice, I often receive an excitable 'in Wonderland!' suffix, or sometimes 'the camel', and, worst of all, 'Who the F*** is Alice?!'.

So you can see how I would prefer Alice in Wonderland.

Like most kids, I grew up with Lewis Carroll's wondrous book and Disney's timeless cartoon - can you believe that was released in 1951? Later in life, upon a visit to my talented cousin in Oxford, we made a beeline for Alice's Shop, the Alice in Wonderland Mecca, full of beautiful books and stationary (my two great weaknesses).

Then recently the crafty Kate posted the delightful Alice envelopes on her Etsy site, and drew my attention to the fabulous jewelry at Alice Wears Gold, and the Etsy/Alice obsession ensued.

Image via Alice Wears Gold

Now spoiled with Alice in Wonderland inspired lovelies, I'm keen to revisit the cartoon. I'm also keeping my eye on the hugely anticipated Tim Burton film adaptation which is due out in 2010. New news released today on that project see Australian actress Mia Wasikowska slated to be cast as the lead.

Curiouser and curiouser said Alice...

For more Etsy treats, see Kate's latest update love you big: New Shop Lovelies!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dark Knight

Image via

It strikes me that Christopher Nolan may be the Dark Knight in this scenario*. He's the man who has confounded us with Memento, bewitched us with The Prestige and breathed new life into the Batman saga. He's drawn to the dark and gritty side of life; his stories driven by crime, passion and power play. Even his less successful Insomnia was a journey into the heart of darkness, set in an Alaskan summer of endless light.

So Mr. Nolan, why so serious?

The Dark Knight is another expedition into darkness. Indeed from the opening shot, we descend through the tumbling plumes of smoke into the heart of Gotham City, guarded by its tireless protector. Nolan's filmmaking is as slick and sinister as ever; Gotham has never looked so good (though cinematographer Wally Pfister should get some props for that as well).

Now, everyone is raving about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker, and, try as I might to shake things up, I must heartily concur. He's absolutely terrifying! The streaked make-up accentuates the dead eyes and the compulsive licking of his scarred face and lips. He's so horribly captivating in every scene that it feels like everyone else just leaves him to it, or perhaps they just pale into insignificance in comparison.

I do still feel that all this posthumous Oscar talk is a bit much, and more than a little patronising. I heard one (American) entertainment reporter comment, "it's something the fans and the industry feel like they can do to support Ledger and honour his memory." Come off it! If his performance stacks up come awards season (which I believe it will), then sure, nominate the guy. But don't for pity's sake award an Oscar because you feel sorry for him! Ohh that sort of sycophantic, saccharine thinking makes me nutsy.

But I digress...

The film is more than The Joker show; though given less to do this time, Christian Bale carries the duty and burden of Batman well (both as an actor and Bruce Wayne). Gary Oldman makes a wonderful return as Lt. Gordon - I only wish Oldman took more roles, he's a favouite. As are Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine whom I love as the wry and kindly Lucius Fox and boyish Alfred respectively. Maggie Gyllenhaal assumes the role of Rachel Dawes from Katie Holmes and is a much better and feistier fit. Then there's the cleft chinned hunk of American pie Aaron Eckhart as the saviour of Gotham, District Attorney Harvey Dent. After Ledger, Eckhart has the biggest role to play and does so valiantly.

Curiously, my weekend viewing of The Incredibles stood me in good stead for The Dark Knight. No, really. Both tackle the idea of a society rejecting its superheroes yet failing to assume the responsibility of fighting crime. Now obviously the Nolan brothers dwell a little more deeply on the subject, but the comparison made me smile nonetheless.

Christopher Nolan has delivered another confronting, thought-provoking and spectacular looking film for audiences to revel in as well as another terrific baddie for us to revile. May he sign on to another film, for the Batman legacy is in good, dark hands.

Image via The Dark Knight

*It also works because he's a Pom, and could technically receive a knighthood. Hee! Ahh bad joke.

Keep Calm

All images via Keep Calm Gallery

I love everything about the Keep Calm Gallery. I want to cover my walls with their bold, quirky (and very relavant!) prints and have them entertain, encourage and inspire me.

It won't come as a surprise to some of you that it was the crafty Kate who recommended this site to me. True, I was fairly stressy at the time, but I like to believe Kate was thinking about my love of History when she forwarded me Keep Calm And Carry On: this was a poster issued throughout England during World War II. Bless British stoicism.

Other favourites include:

Perhaps I should see if I can have one commissioned: Insert Movie Quote Here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Be Like Captain Hammer!

Images via Dark Horse

For those of us suffering Dr. Horrible/Whedon withdrawals (or is that just me?!), you might fancy trundling over to Myspace to see some classic Captain Hammer in comic form. The talented Zack Whedon has released Be Like Me! as an hilarious addendum to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

I won't spoil it for you, but I can't resist sharing my favourite that even the right term? Eeek, don't hurt me comic geeks!

For more Dark Horse delights, see love you big: Another Obsession Rears Its Head...

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Night Before

Image via The Dark Knight

The biggest opening weekend, ever, and I missed it. I turned down not one, but four invitations to see The Dark Knight in order to see it with the Pom on Saturday night...and it didn't happen! A certain someones adventures ran overtime and instead we ended up having a superhero/villain night in, watching the complete Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, followed by The Incredibles.

Image via The Incredibles

Now I really enjoyed The Incredibles. I love Holly Hunter and Jason Lee (not to mention Samuel L. Jackson) and I think, yet again, Pixar has delivered a film that works for both children and adults. I'd actually hazard a guess that this film appeals more to adults - the idea of an overly litigious society driving superheroes underground, and the commentary on marriage and middle age would soar over the heads of little 'uns, but it had me chuckling.

So superheroes featured on Saturday night to be sure, just not the right one.

Close is a lingerie shop without a front window.

Karma was on my side, however, and at the family Sunday dinner not one, but four people brought up The Dark Knight. It went something like this:
"So we saw The Dark Knight. [Insert rave review here]. What did you think? Oh, you haven't seen it yet? Good God, why not?!" (x4).

Couldn't have been better if I planned it myself! By the end of it I was actually feeling a little sorry for the Pom!

I've been assured we're heading to the cinema tonight, so in preparation last night I dug out Two Hands.
Image via Geocities

It had been a few years since I'd seen Gregor Jordan's 1999 gangster flick, and it's aged well. Heath Ledger and Rose Byrne are sweet and baby-faced, and Bryan Brown's crime lord, Pando is delightfully deviant. I still don't quite get the ghost brother subplot, but the bank robbery remains the funniest, most random scene I've seen in an Australian film. It certainly borrows a lot from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but there is so much brilliant, bogan culture that is unashamedly Aussie. Jordan's energetic style is wonderfully cinematic and well accompanied by the brilliant soundtrack featuring the awesome Powderfinger. I can recommend a revisit.

And on to tonight...despite appearances, I'm trying not to hype up my viewing of The Dark Knight. It's been impossible to escape all the posthumous Oscar chat surrounding Heath's performance, but I'm hoping to go and see it sans expectations.

Let's put a smile on that face!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Deltoids of Compassion

Image via Dr. Horrible

The final act of Dr. Horrible ain't no cosy sing along. While there are still lots of laughs and silliness to be had, the final minutes are dark indeed. This is the origin story of a supervillain after all.

I suppose we were given ample warning, Dr. Horrible revealing in the opening minutes,"There's no happy ending, so they least not for me." But then Captain Hammer steals the show with his buffoonery (check out his eyes when the fans sing "We do the weird stuff"...pure gold), and we forget.

Hammer's "Everyone's a hero in their own way" is hilariously entertaining and its air of Elton John makes for great singing. I also love that we get a final duet from Penny and Dr. Horrible.

And yet the big (but obvious, and shouldn't come as a shock) shock is the Dr. Horrible turns, well, horrible! His transformation is brilliantly shot and menacingly lit, and it all ends with such tantalising abruptness that you're left reeling.

Image via Dr. Horrible

I do hope this is successful enough for the Whedon brothers to consider penning more episodes. The characters are so delightfully imagined, and all praise to Neil Patrick Harris (yet again) for his ability to - alongside all the laughs - evoke real pathos for Billy Buddy.

Perhaps we should take our lead from Captain Hammer and flex our deltoids of compassion and abs of being kind for the righteous and wretched Dr. Horrible.

And, just quietly, my favourite Captain Hammer lines from Act III: "I hate the homeless...ness problem that plagues our city."
"It's not enough to bash in heads, you've got to bash in minds."
"I'm in pain! I think this is what pain feels like!! Mama! Someone maternal!!!"

For more random thoughts on Act I and Act II

Friday, July 18, 2008

SFF III: The Square

Image via Dendy Cinemas

Godard famously pronounced that all you need for a film is "a girl and a gun." The Square adds a big wad of cash to the mix and all hell breaks loose. Penned by brother Joel, Nash Edgerton's debut feature is a hot and grimy affair...literally. Set over a sweaty Australian Christmas, it is the story of Raymond (David Roberts) and Carla's (Claire van der Boom) passionate love affair, running off the rails.

I missed the premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, but fronted for the 10am screening the next day, where we were welcomed by a weary looking Nash, who thanked us for our early morning eagerness, but suggested this wasn't exactly a '10am movie'. Care Bears it ain't, but fun was had nonetheless.

The characters are well crafted, if a little too woodenly portrayed by the leads. The supporting cast fared better, with Joel Edgerton and Anthony Hayes (of Ten Empty fame) giving depth to what could easily have become caricature crim-types. Also well avoided is the tourist-brochure Australia, Nash opting instead for a suburban setting and the eponymous construction site.

A recurrent criticism of the film I heard around the festival was that the story is unrealistic. Indeed events quite neatly go from bad to worse, but I saw the film more along the lines of a classic tragedy. Like the square building site, the film works to the metaphor of being penned into a life of your own making, and yet what tragedy befalls those who try and break out at the expense of others.

This is a tense and torturous thriller with a good dash of dry humour to boot. Just the recipe Godard had in mind.

The Dendy Newtown is hosting a Q&A preview screening with Nash Edgerton on Friday 25th July, prior to the Australian release on 31st July.

The Edgerton brothers will also be on Rove this Sunday night. Check it out!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A PhD in Horribleness

Image via Dr. Horrible

Dr. Horrible is back, and this time he's armed with a PhD. One wonders if he was always a PhD and that we just assumed he was an MD...

Act II is more about the singing, though it seems they've realised Nathan Fillion has a much weaker voice than Neil Patrick Harris or Felicia Day because this time around Captain Hammer is relegated to cheesy ('on the inside') smiles and car throwing.

The opening shot is priceless, as is the second 'letter' from Bad Horse (aka the Thoroughbred of Sin). The homage to Snow White is as sweet and innocent as Penny, and is nicely tempered by the testosterone of Captain Hammer and the angsty awkwardness of Dr. Hammer. My favourite shot though is the one pictured above, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it, finger curl that is just looks cool...full of evil horribleness.

Looking forward to the final act on Saturday...

Pysche! I love it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Happy Place

Image via Apple

Always one to revel in the pre-feature trailers at the cinema, I now delight in viewing the latest film trailers via Apple. There's something about the simplicity of the site, with the film posters lined up in neat rows, so one can judge a book by its cover. I love that summer blockbusters are side-by-side with small indie films, foreign titles and documentaries. It's a veritable lucky-dip.

Trailers are interesting things. Obviously their main role is promotional - hence the stars and directors' names splashed across the screen. But it baffles me that some trailers are content to give the whole story away. To be sure these are often paint-by-numbers films anyway, but still!

I giggled recently over Kate's account of how disappointed my brother was when a certain scene from the Kung Fu Panda trailer didn't make it into the film (the 'skadoosh' shot). Apart from pausing for a moment to appreciate the disappointment of a 26 year old for a kids film, I think it's telling how wedded we can become to trailers, and how, ironically, such a deviation can take you out of the film for a moment.

A similar 'hang on a sec' situation cropped up for me during the practice kissing scene in Hitch. In the trailer, Will Smith shrieks "you overzealous son of a b...", but the final cut was "you overeager son of a b.." Now I think overzealous is funnier than overeager, but perhaps that's just me. And I'm guessing overeager is more widely understood. In any case, I managed to get over it.

Nowadays however, there are teasers and featurettes to consume over and above theatrical and online trailers. Wall-E for instance, has 2 teasers, 1 trailer and 6 vignettes on the Apple site. No doubt this amps up the anticipation for the film, not to mention being ample fodder for procrastination!

For distraction or discovery, the Apple trailer site has become my happy place.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A man's got to do what a man's got to do!

I have no idea what happened. The Pom fiddled with internet and proxy settings and somehow (and to be fair, he doesn't know either*) WE GOT TO WATCH ACT ONE OF DR. HORRIBLE!

Joy of joys! The World Youth Day celebrations might be singing all around us (literally), but I have watched the first episode of Joss Whedon's supervillan musical. Twice. And it rocked!

I won't spoil it for those of you fellow keen-beans, but suffice it to say, this low-fi extravaganza is immediately appealing, the dialogue is classic Whedon and the actors look like they're having a blast.

Oh and I especially love the Teen Wolf homage.

Bring on Act 2!!!

*It seems Whedon doesn't hate foreigners - looks like the streaming has been opened up for internationals... I won't tell the Pom.

Ach du Meine Güte!!

I rushed home from work today and, like a kid waking up on Christmas, eagerly ripped open my laptop and hit refresh on the Dr. Horrible site. With almost reverent anticipation I clicked on Act 1, to see that it's only available to stream within the United States!!!!

Such crushing disappointment!!

Now I guess I've got to wait until someone puts it up on youtube...hurry up you pirates! Grr...argghh!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Step Brothers

The Pom loves all things Will Ferrell, so it was with some trepidation that I showed him this trailer.

And now it's a little worrisome that he quotes, "As soon as your eyes are shut I'm going to punch you square in the face."

Step Brothers will be hitting Australian cinemas on September 18.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Damn You Dr. Horrible!!!

Image via

I blame Dr. Horrible and this blog for what went down this afternoon. A routine shopping trip to buy household necessities (like a coffee table) was co-opted by a 3 for 2 TV boxset sale at JB HiFi. Standing in front of a wall of TV goodness, with thoughts of Dr. Horrible's imminent release and craving more Comfort Food, I decided to binge on the seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My flatmate did little to talk me out of it, but we may now need to rethink whether or not we really need that coffee table...

Quantum of Solace

Image via

I'm a little bit too excited about the new Bond film. For starters, it's strikes out 30 minutes after the end of Casino Royal: Vesper is dead and James has just announced himself as "Bond...James Bond." Now I have a massive girl-crush on Eva Green, so I get that Bond is out for blood., and it's a brilliant way to continue Daniel Craig's reign as 007.

Next, we have Marc Foster (of Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball fame) at the helm. He's a savvy director, and I reckon he'll do great things with B22. Then Mathieu Amalric has signed up to bat more than his eyelids as the (very topically) rogue environmentalist Bond baddie, Dominic Greene.

And finally, of course, there are the cars. The V12 Aston Martin DBS has already taken a drink in an Italian lake during filming, but I'm not sure that will have stopped the stuntmen including at least one crazy-dangerous car chase.

Image via Daily Telegraph

The Australian release date is set for 27 November....until then, may we find solace in the trailer.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Comfort Food

Image via New Jersey Film Festival

Some films are like comfort food. They are those big bowls of soup, bars of chocolate and, erm... tubs of icecream in which we find consolation (and calories!).

I once asked one of my university film lecturers about comfort films, painting the scene thus:

It's Sunday afternoon, you've had a big night out and you're feeling a little seedy. It's way too much effort to go to the cinema, so you peel yourself off the couch for long enough to pick up which DVD?

When his response was, "Perhaps some Rivette like Paris nous appartient, or maybe some Truffaut," I somehow got the feeling my answer - Zoolander - might not go down so well. But then again that's precisely my point: comfort films are entirely idiosyncratic, and highly dependable upon the individuals emotional state.

On a fragile Sunday afternoon, like a salty snack, I'll often reach for a comedy or action film. Favourites include Armageddon, Oceans Eleven, Spy Game, Serenity, The Princess Bride, Hot Fuzz or The Bourne Trilogy (as evidenced by a previous post).

During the week, like Mum's spaghetti bolognese, I'll tend to crave the familiarity of TV shows. Able to be ingested in delectable, bite-sized pieces (or in a back-to-back binge) 'my shows' are: The West Wing, Firefly, Sex and The City, Alias, Spaced, Gilmore Girls, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Buffy, Angel, Extras, Lost - in fact it probably would have been easier to say anything by Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, JJ Abrams or Ricky Gervais.

Other quiet afternoons or are whiled away with films such as the delightful Amélie (French! Though not quite Truffaut), Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (which is screening as I type), Coppola's Marie Antoinette, Gondry's superb Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Malick's meditative The New World. These films are beautiful to watch and they make me smile.

Comfort films are different from nostalgia flicks, or your old (or new) favourites. They're the films you instinctively reach out for, and enjoy, every time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

SFFF II: Son of Rambow

It can be a bit touch-and-go with child actors, ever since the Jodie Fosters, the Haley Joel Osments and Dakota Fannings of this world set the talent bar that high. So many kids just don’t make it on to the Hollywood rollercoaster. With this in mind, I managed to drag the Pom and some other festival neophytes along to see Son of Rambow, which is fronted by two young actors Bill Milner and Will Poulter. And to our surprise and delight, they really carry the film.

Son of Rambow
is the gloriously warm and gorgeously funny story of two unlikely friends hellbent on making their own version of First Blood. Set in 1980s suburban England, school bully Lee Carter and sacrificial lamb Will Proudfoot band together to make a short film for a local competition. Hilarity ensues when the French exchange students roll into town and self-appointed school royalty Didier Revol casts himself and his minions in the film. (I was an exchange student back in the day, and I don’t recall causing such a ruckus. Perhaps it’s a French thing.)

The characterisations, soundtrack and production design are spot on, culminating in the reflexively irreverent common room scenes, where we children of the 80s delight in spotting the faithful recreation of our misspent youths…right down to the mixing of Pop Rocks with Coca-Cola. Cue: explosion.

80s flashbacks aside, the strength of this film is its infectious innocence. Writer/Director Garth Jennings really shoots from the boys’ point-of-view, never allowing the haze of nostalgia to fog over the heart of the film as the story of friendship, family and the robust, creative exuberance of youth.

Be sure to track down Son of Rambow for the laughs, the stunts...or for Gossip Girl fans, to swoon over Chuck Bass with a British accent.


Son of Rambow is due for release in Australia on 4 September 2008.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Quotation Compulsion

Thanks to Lorna for this accurate portrait!

What is the etiquette when it comes to film quoting? I ask in all/relative seriousness because film quotes are always popping up in my head and peppering my conversations, so I wonder if those around me actually enjoy playing along, or just indulge their nutty friend.
I say playing along, because - in my family at least - film quoting requires the (hapless) person/group to do one of the following:

- name the film/actor/character
- pick up the quote quickly enough to finish it off alongside the quoter
- say the next line (extra points)

This is by no means an easy task and I imagine it can be fairly intimidating for the uninitiated. A seconds delay or (shock horror) a mental block can lead to disappointed head shaking and perhaps a muttered "tsk tsk". That said, there is often a stockpile of well/over used film quotes that become a quasi-shorthand amongst some groups of friends or family.
The following spring to mind from my family catalogue (perhaps this is betraying too much!):

"There's something out there waiting for us...and it ain't no man...We're all going to die."
- Predator

"He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!"
- Life of Brian (plus countless other favourite Monty Python quotes)

"I'm your Huckleberry"
- Tombstone

"Ludicrous speed....GO!" - Spaceballs

"When will then be now?" "...Soon." - Spaceballs

"Where do you come from?" "Outside!" - The Rescuers Down Under

"Hey man you just fucked up your Ferrari."
"It's not mine" - The Rock

"Number 5 is alive" - Short Circuit

"Just how obscene an amount of cash are we talking about here? Profane or reaaally offensive?"
"Reaaally offensive"
"I like him so much" - Pretty Woman

"The United States government has just asked us to save the world. Anyone wanna say no?" - Armageddon

....And speaking of the United States government, certain family members (you know who you are!) can quote ridiculously large chucks of The West Wing. It's like a really geeky party-trick.

So what are the rules for film quoting in public? What are your favourite film quotes?

...And when is it ok to greet someone with a sotto voiced Mr. Anderson?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Show Friends

Well, friends, I have some big, goofy news to share. Joss.Whedon.Is.Back. The giver of television goodness has gone global, and, potentially, gaga, with Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.


While we wait with breath that is bated for The Dollhouse to hit the small screen, we will hunch over our computer screens on July 15th, 17th and 19th to enjoy Whedon's latest That's right, this short film/micro mini series will be free for online viewers until July 20th, when it will be wrenched from cyberspace for a DVD release, chock-a-block with extras. But don't take my word for it, Whedon reveals his Show-Friends-Not-Show-Business Master Plan here, and he writes funnier than me.

So, Doogie Howser is all grown up and who knows what he'll get up to in Whedon's Horrible hands. Nathan Fillion is back, he's still a Captain, but now it's Hammertime. There'll be singing, dancing* and supervillians....this is the best thing to come out of the Writers' Strike. Show Friends indeed.

Grrr Argghh...

P.S. This is three-for-the-price-of-one Whedon, with brothers Zack and Jed on the writing team (with Maurissa Tancharoen).
- AND thanks to blogger extraordinaire Kate for bringing this brilliant news to my attention!

*I don't actually know if there will be dancing. One can only hope!

Monday, July 7, 2008

All cut up

Image via The Bourne Ultimatum Official Site

Over the weekend, I spent a lazy afternoon sprawled in front of The Bourne Ultimatum. Now, perhaps it was the after-effects of a boozy night before, but I found myself feeling a little queasy as I tried to follow the film's jerky hand-held camera and fast paced editing. I'm a huge fan of what Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass have done with the Bourne Trilogy*, and I have no doubt their rapid fire style and frenetic editing constructs the razor-wire tension in the films, so I wonder if the audience is supposed to feel a little queasy?

Back in the 1920s, a talented Russian by the name of Sergei Eistenstein forever changed cinema through his use of montage. The famous "Odessa Steps" sequence of his Battleship Potemkin (1925) is the master-class in film editing, and illustrates the power of the montage to transcend the meaning of the single image, confront the audience, and even challenge time itself.

"Odessa Steps" - Image via GreenCine

Eisenstein's montage theory lays the foundation for all action films, MTV, and any tripped out drug or dream sequence. At the core is this idea of affecting the audience: confronting or confounding (or causing queasiness!), the key is that we not only watch the film, but experience it.

Watching The Bourne Ultimatum, you can't help but notice your heart rate ratchet up as Desh hunts Nicky through labyrinthine Tangiers, or when another 'Asset', Paz, tracks down Bourne in that insane car chase. Greengrass amps up his action sequences with an amazing soundtrack - just listen to the bathroom fight between Desh and Bourne, and how he crescendos the car chase: roaring engines, squealing tires and shrieking metal laid over a scene that is all cut up.

You're invested, you're on the're realising you'd make a terrible spy.

* Heads up, it looks like Greengrass has signed on to the Untitled Jason Bourne Project, due out in 2010! Woooo!!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sydney Film Festival Favourite I: Salute

Seeing as these blogging shenanigans stem from my cinematic binge at the Sydney Film Festival, I figure I should spread the love and share a few of my personal favourites. My SFFFs if you will.

Salute is the story of Peter Norman, Australian silver medal winner at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, who became embroiled in the American Civil Rights movement by sharing the podium with Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and showing his support by wearing a civil rights badge.

Written, produced and directed by Peter's nephew, Matt, this is a very personal story, a eulogy of sorts, as Peter passed away in 2006. Introducing the film at its world premier at the SFF, Matt spoke of the film as a labour of love, and said he wanted Australia to know Peter Norman, and what he has contributed to our sporting history. Matt traces the US lead up to the 1968 Games, the violent suppression of the student protests in Mexico - all of which has particular relevance in light of Beijing - and finally the sad aftermath, which saw each of the men ostracised from their sport and their nation's history. Peter still holds the Australian record for the 200m, yet was not invited to participate at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

For me, the fascinating part of the documentary is the way each man (including Matt) has narrativised their history. Smith, Carlos and Norman have obviously told their stories a thousand times and their 'tales' convey a sense of legend. There are a few humorous inconsistencies, particularly surrounding how Peter came to wear the "Olympic Project for Human Rights" badge. Yet ultimately, the men have carefully sculpted their narrative, and Matt shies away from challenging it. Not that this necessarily detracts from film, but it's worth keeping in mind.

Salute is a poignant, funny and provocative film that brings to light some forgotten facts about Australia's political, social and sporting history. Go and be belatedly introduced to Peter Norman.

The Orpheum is holding an advanced screening on Monday 7th July.
Release date: 24 July 2008 (Australia)

Revisited: Finding Nemo (2003)

Image via NiceWallpapers

T'was a cold and windy, winter Friday night spent curled up watching Finding Nemo. It's been a while since I last saw this Pixar masterpiece, and considering I spent my last post cringing at the portrayal of Australians in our cinema, it's curious that I lapped up and laughed along with this American portrayal of some very Aussie characters. I think it's a testament to the amazing writing - I continue to be baffled by cartoon writers' ability to entertain for both adults and children. No doubt Matt Groening set the industry standard back in 1989, but the Pixar team have a particular talent. In her review of Kung Fu Panda, Sandra Hall distinguishes this gift by unfavourably comparing the gangster spoof story-line in Dreamworks' Shark Tale with the poignant, worldly themes of Nemo. Indeed it seems it's all down to good writing.

The visuals are kinda important too though. Last year I visited the Pixar: 20 Years of Animation exhibition held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. I was completely blown away by the atistry and complexity of Pixar creations. The production design process includes a series of stunning inks and oil paintings, rendering - in Nemo's case - the majesty of the Great Barrier Reef. These were of course beautifully realised on the screen, and my viewing of the film last night was coloured with a new depth of respect for the Pixar people.

...And respect turns to outright childish glee when I come across the trailer for Pixar's latest creation Wall.E
Image via Pixar

Go on, check it out and tell me you're not super-duper excited!?!

Friday, July 4, 2008

A blank canvas

Image via Ten Empty

Why am I so critical of Australian cinema? I'll crinkle my nose through challenging avant-garde films and happily imbibe the saccharine Hollywood fare, yet I experience some kind of involuntary reluctance when it comes to queuing up for the latest offering from my fellow countrymen. I find this odd, particularly as it's coming from a passionate film lover and wannabe screenwriter. Is it simple snobbery? After a bit of soul searching, this is what I've come up with...

1. I get embarrassed for people:
It's an odd trait I share with my brother, which will see us cringing, blushing or outright diving into our hands and cushions to escape the torture of an awkward situation. It's akin to "I feel your pain,"only on steroids. Unfortunately, said awkward situations may be quite innocent, like a family member giving a speech, or have absolutely nothing to do with me, like a little pig-tailed girl twirling a baton on Australia's Got Talent. The little girl may be having a swell time, but I'll be quaking with embarrassment on her behalf.
Perhaps this might contribute to my aversion to Australian films; even if they're critical, or (heaven forbid) commercial successes, I'll be awkwardly anticipating any potential gaffs and worrying about their international distribution and reception by overseas audiences. I feel this ultimately stems from a place of love and maybe even some misplaced patriotism...though I appreciate it sounds a little nutty. But I think we can all blame Mick Dundee.

2. I shirk my obligations:
Another unsavory admission to be sure - but it feels like the Australian film industry's marketing strategy = appeal to their sense of duty. The whiff of desperation doesn't help matters, and I don't think audiences respond well to the pressure of obligation.

That said however, this very subject cropped up at the recent Sydney Film Festival when I sat in on a forum with Nash & Joel Edgerton, led by the ubiquitous Margaret Pomeranz. Nash's view was along the lines that we shouldn't be prodded and pushed into seeing Australian films, rather we should be champing at the bit in anticipation. The films, according to Nash, should be of such a high and entertaining standard, that audiences shouldn't have to think "oh we really must go and show our support for that little Aussie flick". Margaret then admitted she was guilty of appealing to her viewers in this way. So I guess my point is valid, but hopefully more money, time and talent will be pumped into the local industry so the films can just speak for themselves.

One that does just that is Anthony Hayes' debut feature Ten Empty, and my, it speaks volumes. Perhaps it was the festival withdrawal symptoms, the post-work crankiness or the complimentary Heineken, but I sat through this film last night without getting my usual dose of awkward. Hayes introduced the film (along with the standard "thanks for supporting the local industry" spiel) and said he and co-writer Brendan Cowell were consciously trying to get away from the The Castle spin-offs in their treatment of working-class, suburban Australia. They also wanted to write about depression and the relationships between fathers and sons, all of which finds its place in this poignant and beautifully rendered film.

Having recently seen Cowell as the tortured prince in Bell Shakespeare's Hamlet, and having eaten up his writing and performance in Love My Way, I recognised the similarities in the protagonists and themes of all three productions (minus the working class in Hamlet's case).* More importantly, however, I realised I didn't shirk or cringe from any of these!

Therefore I must conclude that Brendan Cowell is the antidote for Crocodile Dundee!

*For more on the similarities see this SMH article.
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