Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Burn-E

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I didn't think it possible. There is no way I could have fallen deeper in love with Wall-E than I did that day in the cinema. Well, that was until I cued it up on blu-ray and discovered Burn-E.

Burn-E is the most delightful 8 minute short about a robot trying to fix a broken light. The genius lies in the fact that Wall-E's actions in the feature film directly impact the tenacious Burn-E. He's just trying to do a job and Wall-E unwittingly hampers his actions, time and time again.

Check it out on the DVD, or, ahem, here. It'll make you giggle and no doubt shake your head in awe of those wonderfully zany Pixar people.



For more Wall-E goodness, check out the hugely insightful interview with Andrew Stanton on the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic


Confessions of a Shopaholic is like watching the stale off cuts of The Devil Wears Prada and Legally Blonde. Harsh to be sure, but this fairyfloss comedy really isn't up to scratch.

All the ingredients were there. 'Our' Isla Fisher is a wonderful comedic actress and Aussie director P.J Hogan has a history of broad, physical comedies with Muriel's Wedding and My Best Friends Wedding. Sophie Kinsella's best selling novels have the story laid out on a platter, and even Kristin Scott Thomas signed up to play a French glamourpuss fashion editor. Great material. Bad, bad, bad execution!

Granted, such light and breezy comedies need to be taken with a similar sensibility (or perhaps a valium). And I'm all for that, if the story isn't all over the place. Confessions of a Shopaholic comes across like a first draft. The pacing is entirely off and the character development is appalling. The prevailing irony is that Rebecca Bloomwood is an inspiring financial journalist despite the reality that she languishes in shopaholic debt. Yet the film fails to give us more than one article to establish this, and the article we see is one fed to her by her boss.

Oh what's the point beating up on this fluff? The fact is, Isla Fisher does manage to carry the film. She's committed, hilarious and her dancing scene had me covering my face in embarrassment.

It's just a real shame the film doesn't live up to the sum of it's parts. I suggest you go and revisit the far superior The Devil Wears Prada instead.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Man date

For every arthouse, there's an equal and opposite mindless comedy. So I can just tell I Love You, Man is in my future:



Australian release date 4th June 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Trespass Trailer: UP


My next Trailer Teaser for Trespass (wow, say that 10 times fast) is...Up!

Ahhh...I crack myself up.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fempire


Hollywood Screenwriters + girl power = Fempire.

Check out this article from the New York Times.

Granted it's from the Fashion & Style section, but I find the descriptions fascinating. The women's outfits and their prettiness seem much more important than their writing capabilities.

“I know a few beautiful women, but none of them write like Dana, Liz, Lorene or Diablo.”

Image - L-R: Lorene Scafaria, Liz Meriwether, Diablo Cody and, in front, Dana Fox

[Insert feminist rant here.]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Duplicity



Duplicity is a fast-paced, sleek-lined star vehicle. Like a Porsche, or seeing as we're in Hollywood, perhaps a Prius. After getting Closer back in 2004, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts reteam for writer/director Tony Gilroy spy - I was going to say thriller, but caper seems more appropriate. Any film that has a credit sequence featuring a slo-mo, shin-kicking brawl between Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson has definitely got its tongue stuck firmly in its cheek.

A quick look at Gilroy's bio reveals a man very confident in the spy genre: he's penned for the Bourne trilogy as well as the Russel Crowe/Meg Ryan saga Proof of Life. However Gilroy is probably most famous for his directorial debut Michael Clayton, and in this follow up, he seems to have attempted to combine the corporate and the espionage worlds.

Duplicity is the story of two spies and their elaborate scheme to rip off the private sector and make away with enough dosh to keep them in the lap of luxury (evidently that's about $40 million). Julia Roberts (and her ample cleavage) play the driven and cynical Claire Sternwick to Clive Owen's eager, "swinging dick" Ray Koval (his description, not mine). Unfortunately, America's Sweetheart seems to have decided that crossing her arms and scowling is how one portrays seriousness. The photo above pretty much sums up her acting style for the entire movie, while Clive spends much of his time looking like he's stepped out of a Lancôme commercial. Then again, we're dealing with a star vehicle, so blatant fetishisation goes with the territory I guess.

Acting styles aside, I happily signed up for this duplicitous ride. Michael Clayton should almost prepare you for the twists and turns of Gilroy's gymnastic plot, which takes us to Dubai, Rome (aahh!), London, Zurich, Miami, Cleveland, New York and the Bahamas. This global criscrossing mirrors the zigzagging timeline of flashbacks which tracks the scheming from the 'meet-cute' six years ago, to present day. Yes, suffice it to say the storyline is convoluted.

However, I believe Gilroy successfully creates enough repetition within these flashbacks to keep from entirely alienating the audience. Each time Ray and Claire get together, Claire will mess with him somehow. Why? Because she can, and apparently because that's how spies get their jollies. It's wry, it's fun, and it highlights the film's cheeky nature.

Duplicity's final twist had me scratching my head a bit, but I think I've nutted it out. I won't spoil the fun, but can say that I think Gilroy gives us a visual clue: the final shot (another long take a la Michael Clayton) is the reverse of one earlier in the film. I think that might be the key.

In any case, I can recommend this fun, mischievous caper. The premise is fabulously absurd, Paul Giamatti pulls out all the stops and Tom Wilkinson has one great scene with a shamelessly phallic sight gag. So while the film might have been stellar with a more nuanced leading lady, there's still plenty of reasons to indulge in a little Duplicity.

Friday, March 20, 2009

¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall!


Last night was the gala opening of the City of Sydney's Living in Harmony Festival. Running from 19 March to 30 April, Sydney is "saying no to racism" (or at least that's what the brochure states). Harmony Day is on March 21, and I now have a badge encouraging me to:

H onour our tradition of a fair go
A ppreciate the benefits of our cultural diversity
R espect each other
M ark the day with a celebration of
O ur successes as a vibrant, cohesive, inclusive
N ation and wear this badge, along with
Y our fellow Australians to show that
Everyone Belongs

And here I thought acrostic poetry was meant for the school room!

I got a guernsey to this group love gala because I'm interning with the Spanish Film Festival, who co-presented the evening. The topic was "Building Bridges: Overcoming Stereotypes" and to that end, the 1953 Spanish classic ¡Bienvenido Mr. Marshall! was a rather bold choice.

It is the story of a rural Andalusian town, who spruces itself up for a visit from the Americans, in the hope of benefiting from the Marshall Plan. By 'spruce' I actually mean entirely transform, for the town refashions itself and its inhabitants into the quintessential Spanish cliche: complete with traditional Andalusian costumes, flamenco dancers, Spanish guitarists and quaint - albeit totally fake - little cottages.

Much of the comedy comes from the fact that this Andalusian town must be taught 'their' customs. The villagers also decide that the Americans will give them one gift each, so they make a list to streamline the process for Santa. The manager of the visiting flamenco dancer is hired to produce his farce; he's qualified because he's been to Boston.

This idea of producing culture instantly reminded me of the Olympic Games. We Australians can easily recall the flying Nicky Webster or giant thong (flip flop) bearing Kylie Minogue at the closing ceremony. This is how we chose to portray ourselves to the world. Suddenly flamenco dancers don't look too bad.

More intriguingly, however, are the stereotypes the Spaniards dream up (literally) about their American counterparts. The film quite bluntly portrays the flip side to the cuddly and comic stereotypes with a dream sequence featuring a villager being hauled in front of the House Un-American Activities Commission by members of the KKK. An audience member informed us that this scene caused the film to be banned in the US, though I've been unable to find anything that confirms this.

I say the film was a bold choice for opening night because the satire certainly comes with a bite. Then again, perhaps humour is a powerful way to challenge stereotypes. I won't say 'overcome' because I don't think that's possible, or even necessary. The negative connotations associated with the term 'stereotype' seem to overshadow the more benign and dare I say natural human tendency to recognise patterns and groups. Of course we must guard against such groupings being used for prejudicial or racist purposes, but surely it is the stereotype that we present and celebrate at events like the Olympic Games? Perhaps we need to find a more useful, or at least less loaded term.

As you can see, I came away from the evening thoughtful, not just full of tapas and sangria! In welcoming Mr. Marshall, it appears we've also held open the door to some challenging ideas about the way we perceive our own culture.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Return to childhood

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There's one in all of us indeed.

I'm super excited by the new poster for Spike Jonze's adaptation of the beloved childhood book Where the Wild Things Are. Can you believe Spike Jonze collaborated with Dave Eggers for the screen adaptation?! Does it get any better than that!?

Eeee!!!

Australian Release Date: 10 December 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Day

Sure, tradesmen have been at my place since the sparrow's fart, and the dust and noise weren't really conducive to study - but excuses aside, this pretty much sums up my day:


Kate Wins-it

Art imitating life, imitating art...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another shameless plug

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Check out my first trailer teaser for Trespass (yes I warned you this plug was shameless!).

I've joined the ranks of contributors for this fledgling online mag. So rock on over on Tuesdays (at least) to get the skinny on a new film I'm eagerly anticipating.

What cinema nerdy fun!

Monday, March 16, 2009

RIP Ron Silver

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Ron Silver succumbed yesterday to a two year battle with oesophageal cancer. The 62 year old died in his sleep, surrounded by family.

To me, Ron was the brilliant, blunt and mischievous Bruno Gianelli from The West Wing. Call me a sook, but I loved the scene where Bruno feigns ignorance of Margaret's name before giving her a personalised necklace. And one of my favourite Gianelli lines: "Elitist feminist. You can't do that to the English language."

A quick look at Ron Silver's filmography, however, quickly reveals the depth of experience of this committed character actor. May he rest in peace.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shameless Plug

A moody looking Mike - Image

I've just received word from my friend Mike (of /Passenger. fame) that he's heading down to the land of Oz! He'll be hitting our shores come late April to play a few gigs with Lior and hold some of his own.

No doubt beach trips and new episodes of Neighbours and Home & Away are also huge draw cards...

Mike's debut album Wicked Man's Rest was released last month, so pick up a copy and settle into the passenger seat for some compellingly unique music.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Public Enemies

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Booyah!

Michael Mann has teamed up with Johnny Depp, Christian "Berko" Bale and Billy Crudup for the true story of Depression-Era bankrobber John Dillinger in Public Enemies. Depp is playing the dastardly Dillinger, Crudup is J.Edgar Hoover's and Bale one of his fledgling FBI agents, Melvin Purvis. Marion Collitard and Leelee Sobieski are Dillinger's sometime dames and if the trailer is anything to go by, this film is going to be awesome!



Now I was one of the few fans of Mann's Miami Vice, and between that and Collateral, I've been digging his digital style. With Public Enemies, however, Mann looks like he's returned to a higher-gloss aesthetic to depict 1930s America.

And speaking of the Depression Era, I find the timing of this film intriguing. Dillinger was a legendary and charismatic bankrobber, so given the current economic climate, and general antipathy towards bank bailouts, I think Mann may just find a sympathetic audience!

Less than sympathetic is the official FBI History of John Dillinger. Compare the FBI language about the "lurid desperado" and "nortorious and vicious thief" with the film's website: "the charismatic bankrobber," whose "charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone." That's just classic!

Oh yeah, definitely looking forward to this Hollywood history lesson!


Australian Release Date: 30th July 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Signs of Life


I came across this sign in the most amazing bookstore/delicatessen in Bologna called Eataly.

It made me giggle. A lot.

Do you think they left anyone out?!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Suite Dreams


I've been meaning to rave about my stay at Suite Dreams for a while now. To set the scene: we've been in Siena, tripping around Tuscany for about five days (don't hate me), and we're now planning to head down to hub out of Rome, stopping briefly on the way to visit Assisi. Our fabulous hotel in Siena has a sister in Rome, but TripAdvisor says not so much (Computer says no). So we've got to leave now, got a long drive ahead and nowhere to stay. What do you program into TomTom? Whatever's number one on TripAdvisor: Suite Dreams.

Rocking up after dark, we take poor Pierfrancesco completely by surprise. We've tried to call, but to no avail, so we're complete drop-ins. Hoping like hell that they'll have some available rooms, and nice one's at that. Fortunately we're entirely in luck.

A is for Alice?? Yes please! - Image

Pierfrancesco and his co-owner Frederico were so welcoming and their place is gorgeous. Sleek, minimalist, modern design and so well located (just around the corner from Repubblica Metro station). But, more importantly, owners are total cinephiles! Within minutes I'd learned that Pierfrancesco is a writer/director, and Frederico's brother is a film journalist. Film posters feature on most walls, including this little in-joke:

My dodgy photography - but that is indeed their rear window.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the gigantic Simpsons poster on the dining room wall. That's when I knew I'd found some true kindred spirits.

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So if you're like me and take your travel with a side of cinema, then definitely stop in on the guys at Suite Dreams.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Changeling


Changeling was not the film I expected. I should have known that Clint Eastwood wouldn't pull any punches, yet somehow I was profoundly surprised by the direction he throws the film in during the second act. Suffice it to say, it's not a happy film, but it's certainly compelling.

I must admit I found Angelina Jolie quite distracting in her role as the distressed and determined mother, Christine Collins. Which is not to say she wasn't good, but her performance felt a little one note. I should perhaps take it up with Mr. Eastwood the fact that he constantly shot Jolie with watery, dark kohled eyes peaking out from under her hat, and her (scarily skeletal) hand covering her ruby red lips (see pic below). Granted, her character had good reason to be shocked and crying, but the gesture to me became self-consciously repetitive.

In fact repetition is a big part of the film. Christine steadfastly clings to the fact that "this is not my son," and tells us so, time and time again. Mr. Eastwood is also repetitive with his framing, consistently shooting Jolie through windows, or framed by architraves. It's beautifully done, and almost locks her into her surroundings; locks her in with this interloper.

Despite the repetition, I felt that the film fails to flesh out some of the other characters. John Malkovich just plays himself, which is fine, if a little disappointing. I was also disappointed by the police Captain J.J. Jones, played by Jeffrey Donovan (or Vance Munson from Hitch, as he will forever be to me - just because it's a brilliant name). I thought there should have been higher stakes for his character, and that Vance (told you) should have played the role with more depth. To me he came across as a priggish chauvinist and not much more. I found myself imagining what someone like Josh Brolin would have made of the character.

I feel like I'm picking apart the film a bit, which is perhaps detracting from the fact that I did really enjoy it (as much as you can, given the subject matter). I guess I have high expectations for everyone involved - except maybe Vance - and moreover, history nerd that I am, I was curious to see how Mr. Eastwood would handle this horrific true story. And as a gut-wrenching tale of a mother's loss, tenacity and ferocious hope, Changeling absolutely delivers.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

So Frenchie


Wednesday night's gala opening of the French Film Festival was a definitely a Frenchie affair. At the atmospheric National Art School drinks and canapés were enjoyed by a large contingent of stylish looking expats (and at least one self-conscious Aussie - moi!). Later on, a short stroll down Oxford Street brought us to the Palace Academy Twin, where we took our seats and waited for the welcoming committee to begin...

...45 minutes of welcoming later (by various Frenchies, and, surprisingly, our own Tina Arena, who has just been awarded the French Order of Merit), we were yawning into our wine glasses, waiting for the film to commence!

Finally, the lights dimmed and after a litany of Tefal advertisements, the very appropriately titled Paris 36 (Faubourg 36) took centre stage.

This film is so French; it's theatrical, quaint and quirky Paris, with an inbuilt accordion. It's a very affectionate tale about the failing Chansonia theatre in the 1930s, whose tenacious stagehands attempt to restore it to its former glory. Set amidst the political turmoil of the inter-war era, much of the action comes from the clashes between Communists and Fascists.

Actually, this political subplot doesn't do much for the film. It certainly creates tension, but in an almost cartoonish way. The two emotional journeys - the love triangle surrounding the fetching Douce, and the efforts of the down-and-out Pigoil to win back his son - are far more interesting, if also a bit overcooked at times.

The star of the show is the show itself. The musical numbers performed at the Chansonia are totally engaging and wonderfully presented. This is certainly a feel-good film, and though it could have done with about a half an hour prune, it's absolutely gorgeous to look at. So if you feel like getting Frenchie, find your way over to Faubourg 36.

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Paris 36 has further screenings at the Alliance Francais Film Festival. Check the website for session times.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Double Trouble




Granted, there are only a limited number of stories to be written, yet I'm always bemused when Hollywood saturates the market with almost identical movies. We've had Finding Nemo and Shark Tale, Armageddon and Deep Impact, Wyatt Earp and Tombstone - to name just a few (can you think of any others?).

Coincidence? I think not.

I'm sure this all gets worked out in development, marketing and distribution meetings. Give the people what they want; fish are so hot right now...etc etc. But surely something can be done to ensure even a mere skerrick of originality?

In this most recent/blatant example, the names even sound the same! Kevin James is playing Paul Blart, and Seth Rogen is Ronnie Barnhardt. It's ridiculous!

Then again, perhaps this whole thing is a conspiracy. Perhaps it's a set up like tag team wrestling. Check out the trailer for Paul Blart: Mall Cop and you'll see he actually wacks a sign above the door that reads, "Detect. Deter. Observe. Report." Hmmmm....

....Or perhaps this is just crazy talk about two crap comedies I won't even bother to watch!







Australian Release dates:
Paul Blart: Mall Cop - 19 March 2009
Observe and Report - 9 April 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hot Cross Bun Season!


Can you believe it's March already?!

Though the year is flying by at an alarming pace, I'm super happy that hot cross bun season is upon us. Eeee!

Sure, a hot cross bun is just fruit loaf in a cuter outfit, but I can't help but be a little obsessed. There is nothing better than curling up in front of a good book or DVD with a cup of tea and a scrumptious Easter bun. My favourites come from those quirky fellows over at Bakers Delight, but, surprisingly, the Woolies bakery has come up with the goods this year as well.

Technically hot cross buns are only supposed to come out for Easter Friday, but that marvelously accurate historical resource Wikipedia reckons these baked bad boys have been around since pagan times and perhaps even Ancient Egypt. Though it may reveal the depths of my history geekdom, but check out this quaint New York Times article from 1912, espousing the rights and rituals of the humble hot cross bun.



Hot cross buns, hot cross buns,
One a penny, two a penny.
Hot cross buns.

Rachel Getting Married

UPDATE 1/9/09: Click here to read my DVD review of Rachel Getting Married (as published in FILMINK)

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Families: you can't choose 'em and you can't shoot 'em.

This adage is put to the test in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married. Anne Hathaway's much lauded performance succeeds in getting you to want to wring her neck. The princess has traded in her diary for drugs, and it ain't pretty.

The film's title ironically sets the scene for a storyline that should be about the bride, but is really all about her narcissistic and very troubled sister, Kym. The fact that Rachel is getting married creates a Copernican revolution within a family so unconsciously revolving around Kym, and this provides more than enough friction to bring old wounds to the surface. Indeed the dynamics of a family orbiting around the relapses and rehabilitation of an addict are intimately and courageously portrayed in both the writing and performances.

Hathaway's performance in particular derives much of its power from the fact that she is so unlikable. In many scenes it feels like she's physically wrenching the spotlight away from her sister, and her willful impropriety is less than endearing. The strength of the film comes with Demme's willingness to give Kym enough rope to hang herself...time and time again.

Demme also allows the long suffering Rachel time to be heard. Rosemarie DeWitt's compassionate performance provides a wonderful counterpoint to Hathaway, as the film explores that unique relationship between sisters. Indeed most of the films striking scenes are the showdowns between Rachel and Kym, which really resonated with the friend accompanying me in the cinema. As the youngest of three with two older brothers, I don't really understand sisterly rivalry, but my friend seemed to think the film's portrayal was pretty spot on.

Mum and Dad get to weigh in as well, with the film appearing to invert the usual divorce scenario: the girls seem to have grown up in the family home with Dad, and Mum is very self-consciously absent. Amongst all the tears and tantrums, a lot still goes unsaid, and it is a tribute to Bill Irwin and particularly Debra Winger's subtle performances that the family tragedy becomes more than a plot device.

The cinematography is also worth a mention. The coverage of all the angst is mostly carefully unobtrusive, with a good pinch of handheld shakiness to get in the thick of things. Unfortunately I felt that some of the camera moves were quite self-conscious: a tracking shot down a hallway early in the film, and another bizarrely timed pan during the wedding ceremony are two examples that come to mind. I'm all for cinéma vérité, but I guess you just need to know when to reign it in.

That said, I totally dug the reflexivity of having the band's music from within the film contribute to most of the soundtrack. It could have come across as unnecessarily forced, but instead seemed like a natural part of the film, particularly in the very last shot.

Rachel Getting Married is by no means a carefree trip to the cinema, indeed it is more akin to being hauled over hot coals. However, from the epic battle between love and pain comes an ultimately rewarding experience.

Now doesn't that just sound like the definition of family?

I found this publicity still very intriguing - Image

****
And if you can tell me why Rachel and Sidney (who is Jamaican, living in Hawaii) decided on a Hindi wedding, you'll be putting this weirdly obsessive girl out of (a bit of) her misery!

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