Monday, June 27, 2011

The Week In Movies 20/6/11 - 26/6/11

OK, this week was moving week, you may or may not have noticed how quiet it's been around here and I apologise but moving is stressful! We just moved from a 3 bedroom house in to a 1 bedroom apartment. It was hard work. But the trip to Europe next year will be worth it I'm sure.

So there was very little moving picture viewing in the past 7 days. Mostly we fell asleep to CSI. It's a staple of our bed time viewing. Press play get amazed at the obnoxious female characters, get sleepy, zzzzzzz.

First off we largely enjoyed recent LAMB acting school subject Willem Dafoe in Paul Schrader's Light Sleeper. A very well made film that at times feels a little too slow. Or at least this week it wasn't really what we needed to relax to. Dafoe is so very very good as the former drug addict gone straight who still deals and is facing a bleak future. This film is well worth seeing.

Sucker Punch on the other hand is so very very bad. At no point during the partial viewing of this movie was I impressed by anything enough to watch another 30 seconds. I gave it half an hour, I hoped it would get better but the major issue I had with this film is Zach Snyder. He is to movie directing what magic markers are to simple pen drawings. At no point does he even consider making something simple and subtle, he just hits you over the head with a hammer and hopes that the splitting headache leaves you feeling like you've absorbed enough of the "story." I know a lot of people think that his choice of music is maybe even the best part of the film but for me it's the steel casing around that hammer. Repeating the chorus of Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics whilst you watch a bad family situation just in case you weren't sure she was being abused, using Where Is My Mind by The Pixies as she's locked in a mental institution is so ham-fisted it's unreal. The Dawn of the Dead remake was good, Watchmen was merely OK because I loved the book but this was absolutely beyond mediocre. But then you all knew that anyway right?

Bad movie week finished with the stand out worst movie of Ben Affleck's career. And that's saying something. Reindeer Games or Deception depending on what market you're in. Twelve minutes in and I was asking the question "how many stages of development and how many people read this to get this made and nobody thought to remove this first twelve minutes?" and it just got worse. I quite like Affleck, it's my Kevin Smith thing I guess, but his directing is also good so he gets to make whatever he wants as long as he doesn't make any more Michael Bay movies. The rest of the cast are big names who usually put in good performances, the director John Frankenheimer had recently made Ronin and was a big name in the sixties and yet the script is abysmal. There are no redeeming features yet I was so tired after the move that I merely drank my beer and let it happen.

Has anyone watched anything actually good this week?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Fifteen Questions Meme

This is not really the place for lists. I keep telling myself that and I keep breaking the rules to write another list. Well here's the deal, I'll probably post these lists from time to time because I've been invited by people. I'll try to bring a little bit of the blahblahblahgay to them.

This has been around a little while and I've pretty much ignored it until Custard tagged me and then followed it up with a comment about tagging me. Nice one Custard.

Without further ado The Questions:

Movie you love with a passion
I often feel I have no passion left but that's nonsense, there's just so little being created that can awaken the sleeping beast inside me. I'm not really sure how I can define this question.

Brief Encounter

Movie you vow never to watch
There's so many! How about the most recent addition?

Anything that involves Justin Bieber

Movie that literally left you speechless
Speechless? Really? Seems a little extreme. I never really disengage the brain when watching films. I'm always dissecting. How about breathless? Or edge of your seat tension?

Stanley Kubrick's The Killing

Movie you always recommend
These questions are mostly hard because you have to make decisions, there's always more than one answer here! This film blew me away on first viewing and it never fails to disappoint on repeat viewings. I never get a bad response from those I've forced it upon either. Full review and more screenshots here.

Amores Perros

Actor you always watch no matter how crappy the movie
I even gave Just Friends a shot!

Ryan Reynolds

Actor you don't get the appeal for
Recently I posted a discussion on the failure to make Angelina Jolie seem worthwhile and yet the outcome was that I can see the appeal when she makes the right choices. Who else is there?

Oh yeah, Rob Schneider

Actor living or dead you'd love to meet
I'm really not someone who places great stock in meeting celebrities so this would have to be somebody who seems like a normal person you might be able to have a chat with. From everything I've seen and read these two seem like great people who happened to be actors.

Bogie & Bacall

Sexiest actor you've seen
There's a reason they invented the phrase "he's no George Clooney."

Dream cast
Let's do this another way. I made a film once. It was my graduation piece for university. I wrote it and then directed it.

If I'd had a choice the four roles would've been played by

Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock, Amy Adams, Christian Bale

Favourite actor pairing
This is tough! Hugh and Sandra maybe? Michael Cera and Ellen Page? Will Smith and Martin Lawrence?

Jack & Walter

Favourite movie setting
I do love London in Eastern Promises but my favourite has to be

Andy's Room

Favourite decade for movies
The height of film noir has to win for me, the 1940's.

Chick-flick or action movie
The lines may have blurred in recent times, rom-coms with explosions, assassins with a heart of gold but

I'll be back etc

The hero? Arnie saves the day? John Cusack gets the girl? The villain? Christopher Eccleston gets to crush Nic Cage? The anti-hero? Every noir detective to a certain degree?

The really great characters in the really great movies can be all of them

Black & white or colour?
B/W encouraged a lot more creativity than colour, the cinematographers were much more skilled.
There you have it, who hasn't done this yet? Tag yourself and have a go. It's harder than you might think.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Week in Movies 13/6/11 - 19/6/11

Well last weeks post was quite fun so I thought I'd continue with the experiment. Part two coming up.

The Humphrey Bogart noir Dead Reckoning was first up and it seems like forever ago now. It's been a really long week. This was by no means a great film or anything like approaching one of Bogie's best but it was very watchable. It leads to the question "Why is classic Hollywood much more watchable at it's most average when even those films that are often considered quite good in modern cinema make me want to switch off and watch something else?" It's a long question. Actually this was enjoyable right up until the last 30 minutes, it has a fake ending and then keeps going for what feels like an age for Bogie to realise he's shacked up with the femme fatale after all. A tedious ending to an otherwise decent enough film.

Chris Marker's short film La Jetee (Jack.L actually reviewed it on his excellent blog back in January here if you missed it and if that wasn't enough the J.G. Ballard centred site Ballardian has a more in depth look at it) has been on my mind for some time and this week I got around to showing it to Leah. It was the basis of David Peoples script for Twelve Monkeys and if you haven't seen it I hope me explaining to you that he uses a series of still images and a voice over to tell what is a very similar story to Terry Gilliam's finished product won't spoil it. From a film history point of view it's invaluable, as a study in experimental film practices it needs to be seen and even just to experience it as a haunting story of post-apocalyptic humanity you won't be disappointed. From a Twelve Monkeys point of view it's quite amazing how much of Markers visual style ended up being incorporated in addition to the story.

And then came a truly odd piece of modern cinema, Take Me Home Tonight is a Topher Grace project, it is essentially an 80's set teen comedy about university graduates (not teens, I am aware of this) with an R rating in America. It's my understanding that an R rating means people don't get to see the film, am I incorrect in this basic assumption? So who did they think were going to spend money to see this at the cinema? Not the all important teen market that it's aimed at because they're not old enough. That aside, it had some funny moments but tragically the talents of Anna Farris, Dan Fogler and to a lesser extent Topher Grace were wasted thanks to an often (but not always) predictable script and some entirely unfunny set pieces. Topher Grace was quoted as saying that he wanted it to feel like it was made in the 80's not just a parody and maybe the fact that you don't really notice that it's the 80's means he's done a good job but I say go watch Hot Tub Time Machine instead. It's all round better and with less uncomfortable moments in which you are embarrassed for the film makers.

I wrote half a review of Dead Again already, it's here if you missed it. We followed it up with The Ghost Writer, which has had all kinds of good reviews but was incredibly obvious and made me yawn. Leah went to bed in a rage at how poor Ewan McGregor's accent was and left me sitting in stupefied silence as "the big reveal" happened. The way the dead writer hid the "awful secret" in his manuscript was shocking, as Leah pointed out when I later described it, it was a device used in the pre-tween tv shows she used to watch. Robert Harris is to blame for this clearly. I don't really have anything negative to say about the construction of Polanski but I don't really remember being impressed with much. The BMW product placement was pretty in your face.

I rewatched Machete this week. It's so much fun. Machete don't text. Makes me laugh just thinking of that piece of dialogue. Danny Trejo is absolutely perfect for the part. The silly gore is exactly that, it's not gratuitous in the way slasher porn films have been recently, it's just fun. I recently saw Hobo With a Shotgun, which initially felt like it was grabbing on to the coattails of Machete until it just went too far with it's needless gore and headed out in to territory that I'm not willing to follow. Machete is just about enough for this blogger.

A Saturday afternoon on the sofa found me online brainstorming with my film making partner in crime and he suggested some films as reference, Tucker & Dale vs Evil and Dylan Dog: Dead of the Night.

Tucker & Dale was so much fun, I may have to write a full post for it this week if I get a chance, but for now we should settle on the first 2 acts being so good and completely original that the slight fault of the third act can be easily ignored because you're going with the flow. For those not in the know, Alan Tudyk (Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball) and Tyler Labine (TV's lame sitcom Mad Love and that good idea gone bad Reaper) are good natured hillbillies fixing up their holiday cabin who find themselves under attack from some holiday making college kids. It's a fun take on a tired genre.

Dylan Dog on the other hand is something else entirely. It's a comic book movie starring Vegan bass player Brandon Routh as a Private Investigator of supernatural crimes. I really liked the idea and wouldn't mind checking out the comics but the translation just didn't work for some reason. The mood is right, Brandon Routh is cast very well as Dylan Dog and Sam Huntington is incredibly likable as his Zombie sidekick (turns out they were Superman and Jimmy Olsen together, I didn't know that cos I skipped Superman Returns,) there are some laughs and some OK action but the script lets it down. Some of the dialogue is clearly taken from the comics and whilst you can imagine it working and making you laugh in a comic book it just doesn't work as a moody voice over in a movie for example. There is a chase scene in somebody's house and the dialogue consisted of "through here...this way...come on...." I kid you not. And the final nails in it's coffin, sometimes your mind wanders and you think you're watching Buffy or Angel (the makeup budget is to blame I think) and the end reveal/fight scene/showdown just goes on and on and on, it's like 40 minutes of blah just roll the credits already.

I managed to finish everything I started this week. How about you guys? Did you turn anything off this week?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Film Texts Giveaway

Hey people, I have come in to posession of the following film books:

New Chinese Cinemas: Forms, Identities, Politics
Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and COntemporary Science Fiction Cinema
Men, Women & Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film

I am offering them to any blogger that wants them on a first come first given basis. All I ask is that they go to a good home and that you pay shipping costs. Please bare in mind that I am in Australia. The occasional link to my blog might be nice too!

Dead Again (1991) and blahblahblahloves Emma Thompson

OK so i was going to review this movie because I anticipated loving it but sadly it falls short of that accolade so I thought I would give you half a review and talk about Emma Thompson a bit instead.

Dead Again was directed by famed thespian and Gilderoy Lockhart himself Kenneth Branagh directly after his big screen success with Henry V - that's Henry the Fifth to American readers not the fifth part of a trilogy. Only his second attempt at directing a film and writer Scott Frank's first full feature (he would later go on to write such quality work as Get Shorty, Out of Sight and The Lookout.)

The theatrical artwork is pretty awesome if you ask me. Really high quality work that kinda freaks you out a bit if you look at it too much. DVD cover on the other hand is merely OK. At first I didn't notice that it was simply both leads repeated in their different roles which is a nice touch however.

It really ratchets up the tension this trailer doesn't it. You think you know what this movie is about? Prepare to be surprised. The trailer is a bit misleading I would say.

A brief synopsis: Grace is a missing person who has lost her voice other than to scream during night terrors. Mike is a PI who is pressured in to helping her. Grace dreams about Roman and Margaret Strauss and the 1949 murder of Margaret. The Strauss couple looked exactly like Grace and Mike. They investigate the earlier murder to try to discover the truth about Grace.

I'd not heard about this movie until recently but it seems to have been at least a little popular at the time of it's release, tripling its budget with its US box office alone. I find it odd how films start off with high praise and just get forgotten about over time. If I was a multiplex owner with a digital projector I'd look in to screening classic movies for less money. If I owned the rights to all of these old films I'd look at this as a new revenue stream. The film and music industries are always so slow to investigate new revenue streams, only worried about whats happening to old revenue streams. Do not fear, I just bought Brief Encounter on Blu-ray, there's a demand for those things that are bought and paid for!

Anyway the film is enjoyable to a point, the idea is pretty good and as my friend Simon would be quick to point out, it's intricately plotted. Both lead actors and all supporting cast including Newman from Seinfeld are very good. I particularly love Emma Thompson but then I love Emma Thompson in everything. More to come late on my MILF crush. (That's so disrespectful but I have no other way of putting it in my head right now.)

Where this film falls down (and it is only minor points really) is with the theatrical staging of certain scenes and the score. Yes Ken Branagh is a stage actor/director so his theatrical leanings are bound to come out in his first real feature film but even so I think he needed somebody to say "hold on Ken baby you're playing this one as if it's on stage, how about some camera movement or more naturalised movement from the characters?" this is only occasionally mind you as generally it's very well done. The score on the other hand became a near constant source or amusement/irritation. It clearly served a dual purpose, 1) to remove the audience from the action by highlighting the filmic device of music accentuating action and 2) being absolutely silly to the point where there's a chase scene with a potential murder at the end of it and the music sounds like we're on a jolly old horse ride or something.

But it was mostly enjoyable and if you're stuck for a thriller/drama with some nice comedy moments and the charming Emma Thompson you should definitely check this film out. But as I said about Training Day recently, choose wisely. There are many films out there to watch so if you haven't seen The Usual Suspects or Seven yet watch those instead.

I should take this opportunity to mention that Marvel recently picked this stage director to make Thor. I haven't seen Thor but the idea of Kenneth Branagh directing it makes me want to see it even more now. I can't say why this is so but it must have something to do with Henry V. I have seen Sleuth recently and that was just like watching a stage production too and this is not something you would associate with a summer blockbuster superhero comic book film. Bring it on, to use the parlance of our times.

As mentioned at the top I don't have a huge amount to say about this film in the end and I've been looking for an excuse to write a little bit about Emma Thompson for a few weeks now. She came in to my shop with her family recently and I was amazed by the fact that she's really very beautiful in person without the makeup and dressed casually, I kinda expected it to be a movie thing you know. And on top of that she seemed like a really nice person. As did her acting husband (the one after Ken Branagh) and her daughter was extremely well spoken. Hurrah for manners.

So here's a brief rundown of some of my favourite Emma Thompson performances/movies.

1. Love Actually (2003) - Karen

So she's the Prime Minister's sister and married to Alan Rickman, whilst being a shoulder to cry on for the recently widowed Liam Neeson, largely ignored by two domineering men she still manages to be a kind yet forceful mother and friend. It's not a fully fleshed out character, like everybody in Love Actually, but she is rather wonderful, funny when needed (Emma Thompson went to university with Fry and Laurie don't you know) and really pulls off the broken hearted lover to perfection towards the end.

2. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) - Professor Trelawney

I'm really bored with Harry Potter these days but going back to the third instalment the appearance of Emma Thompson as the scatterbrained, hippy-like Trelawney was pretty cool. I laughed a lot and she's really quite scary in a jump out of your seat kinda way. This is her Monster role. Make someone beautiful look ugly in a film and they win an Oscar right? Not in this case.

3. Last Chance Harvey (2008) - Kate

I really wanted to love this movie, the trailer looks like a great time, Dustin Hoffman is great in everything, Emma Thompson looks like she's her usual excellent self. And it is romantic and funny and both actors were very good but it just left me feeling like there was one ingredient missing, like they forgot to season with some salt whilst they were simmering or something. But it certainly pisses all over those Jennifer Aniston vehicles.

4. I Am Legend (2007) - Dr. Krippin

She's barely in it but she did bring the world to an end so that's a pretty big part. Other people may have been able to play this role but Emma Thompson just brings her natural sense of fun and class to the performance.

5. Stranger Than Fiction (2006) - Karen

I loved this film, a wonderful script, great casting which produced standout performances. Nobody ever thought Will Ferrell could act before this film. And Emma Thompson is perfect as the writer with writer's block. Delight in her dead pan sarcasm and playful way of narrating Harold Crick's life.

Yeah I ignored the fact that she won Oscars for period dramas. She can do that too by the way.

If you like the sound of the movie from my review and actually watch it, let me know. If you don't agree with me, let me know. What are your thoughts on Ms Thompson? Film is an art form and art is open to interpretation in any number of ways. The discussion of art and individual interpretation is encouraged around here. And if you enjoy the movie head down to your local independent movie store and buy it, it's only through us actually paying for films that these film makers will get to work again. At least in an ideal world that will be the case. I'm looking at you Uwe Boll.

Dead Again (1991) DivX -

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Blahblahblah Family DVD Guide: Part 1 Science Fiction

OK, out shopping over the weekend and I came across a piece of gold in a bargain bin. The Sunday Age/Sun-Herald Family DVD Guide, marked down from $29.95 to $3. Flicking through it I was amazed at the array of terrible opinions held by the reviewer and thought it would be a fun feature on the blog every now and then.

The blurb states that it is "the ultimate family dvd guide with suggested viewing for every member of the family. Whether you're after a film for a family pizza night, a teenage slumber party or want to impress the love of your life, this user-friendly guide will help you find the perfect DVD."

I can just imagine the scene now

Him: "Hello my love, I stopped by the video shop on my way home, thought we'd get dome Chinese delivered and put our feet up"
Her: "Oh wow, I was having second thoughts about our relationship but now you've brought home Hidalgo let's make a lifelong commitment to each other. How ever did you think to rent that?"
Him: "Rob Lowing in my new DVD guide gave it 4 stars and called it solid entertainment that will have both of us cheering on a horse"
Her: (Thought bubble, Viggo is rather delicious)

So, here's what we're gonna do: Leah is gonna pick a chapter, and I shall attempt to appraise the selections and offer some replacements. First chapter selected is Science Fiction. (note: the book has a separate chapter for comicbook/superhero types which could easily be considered sci-fi and it also dedicates a sub-chapter to Star Wars so when you find yourself as shocked and amazed that there is no mention of the holy trilogy of sci-fi film as I was then that is why)

I guess it was almost inevitable that she would choose this chapter first, we're becoming sci-fi geeks as the months fly by, led by my fascination with those Grandmasters Asimov and Heinlein and more recently cyberpunk creator William Gibson.

The Guide lists:
Alien vs Predator (***)
Back To The Future Trilogy (****)
Blade Runner (*****)
Code 46 (***)
Escape From New York (*****)
I, Robot (****)
Johnny Mnemonic (***)
Metropolis (*****)
Minority Report (***)
Pitch Black (****)
Serenity (****)
Stargate (****)
T2 (*****)
T3 (****)
Day After Tomorrow (***)
Fifth Element (*****)
Hitchhiker's Guide (***)
The Island (***)
Man Who Fell To Earth (****)
War of the Worlds (***)

It's not comprehensive, it's not particularly imaginative and it's got quite a few shocks in there.

T3 with 4 stars? Perhaps I was alone in thinking that that movie was awful?

I wasn't a fan of Minority Report or The Island but giving them the same 3 star rating as the truly abysmal Johnny Mnemonic is more than a little harsh. I'm not suggesting that either of those movies deserved much more than a "for fans" recommendation but that the Keanu film should have been given a "miss" recommendation.

And on that subject why have a book of recommendations if you're going to take up valuable space with your opinions on what's terrible? I love to rant and frequently have to reel myself in from writing a negative post instead of a review of something I enjoyed but I'm pretty sure you should get as many 5 star movies as possible in a book like this.

The inclusion of the classic Metropolis feels like a nod to film history more than a recommendation but giving it 5 stars and a "must see" rec may be selling his audience short. What does he say about this masterpiece from Fritz Lang? "Hardcore movie buffs (that's me and probably some of you) will stampede to get this restored version of the famed 1927 movie. There are gaps in this black and white silent story (black & white! silent! I'm not watching this movie!) of a rich man who falls for a factory girl in a brutal, futuristic society (cue for all those Jason Statham fans to tune back in.) But outstanding visuals and the rich remastered score make this a treat to watch."For me that's not exactly a go out and see this movie level of review.

So he's listed 20 films in his sci-fi chapter, 8 of which he doesn't even think many people will enjoy. So lets remove them and Terminator 3 as well because that feels like a paid for inclusion.

That leaves 11 films, of which I haven't seen Escape From New York, Serenity and The Man Who Fell To Earth so I cannot judge. So my challenge is to recommend 9 science fiction films currently available on DVD. I won't lie to you, at this point that sounds like a daunting task.

A few rules I shall place on this:
1. Movies that have become a part of the public consciousness will not be included. If you need a guide to tell you whether to watch these movies then you've been living under a rock.
2. Movies that are primarily another genre such as comedy or romance will not be included. If you flip to this section chances are you aren't looking for a comedy or a romance.
3. Must have been released at the cinema longer than 2 years ago, otherwise you'd just hit up the new release section of your local video store. I shall use 1 June 2009 as the cutoff date.
4. Animation and films not in English will be discounted for pretty much the same reason as other genre.

First things first - I do love Hitchhikers myself and would always recommend it to fans of Douglas Adams or non-fans but as it's already been labelled as "for fans" by The Guide I shall have to think outside the box.

So straight up I will cut The Matrix and Men In Black from the shortlist as well as all of the Alien movies and the original Terminator. If you've got to this point there's a fair chance you have seen or decided not to see these movies already. The reboot of Star Trek falls in to this category as it is my experience that minds are made up on Star Trek, so that includes all of the old films too.

Movies reluctantly cut due to being too new are District 9, Pandorum and Gamer. Despite my constant cries bemoaning the dearth of quality science fiction films getting released I think these three getting cut for being too new is a slap in the face. As it is for one of my favourite movies of recent times, Moon, which should be seen by everyone.

Comedies such as Ghostbusters and Galaxy Quest are science fiction based but I cannot tell the good people who buy The Guide to go watch them for their science fiction content. This also applies to the Bill & Ted movies.

Such quality animated films as Akira and Ghost in the Shell must be moved to one side and perhaps I am underestimating the readers but A Scanner Darkly is going to have to count as an animation for these purposes. I would love to get more people watching City of Lost Children but it's in French so no can do.

With Metropolis already in the list there's not a huge amount of room for old school classic movies so I am thinking I should try to not pick so many. Narrowing down to the original Day The Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, 2001, Fahrenheit 451, Soylent Green, Logan's Run, Omega Man, the original Planet of the Apes. I am immediately inclined to dismiss 2001 for being too odd for most audiences and the two films that have recently been remade (despite both being appalling) as I can't imagine most casual viewers wanting to see those stories again despite them being much better. I'm gonna only pick one Charlton Heston movie - Soylent Green over Omega Man - and then Logan's Run as my other classic pick as it's one of my personal favourites.

7 to go. Paul Verhoeven made three kickass sci-fi films in English; Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. I loved all of them for different reasons but I'm gonna go for Total Recall for the Arnie effect and Starship Troopers not least because it's the best adaptation from a Heinlein or Asimov book (I, Robot does not count) but also because both of these films stand up on repeat viewings as being extremely enjoyable. So that leaves 5...

I'm giving at least one pick to a family film but do I pick Tron or The Rocketeer? Instinct says The Rocketeer because of that recent Tron sequel but I'm just not sure.

Terry Gilliam has made some great fantastical science fiction films, there was always going to be one space on this list for him.Twelve Monkeys beats out Brazil for accessibility in my opinion so to keep one Gilliam film on the list the one that is most watchable gets the nod. And if you're told that there's a movie with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt you will turn in to the man from Del Monte.

I'd love to add Wim Wenders' Until The End of the World but only because I really want to see that movie sometime not because I know it's great. So I'll leave it off for this edition. With 3 picks left I'm gonna have to throw another Arnie movie in to the mix, The Running Man sure it's not for everyone but this is a popcorn movie with a message that is relevant even today.

The prevailing theme of these picks has been action. Action movies galore. But science fiction is much more than that so my last two picks are going to be less about action more about science. So despite my love for Dark City and Repo Man they will not make the list. Which leaves me with a 4 film shortlist and only 2 spots left in the book.


This task is tougher than I imagined. I thought it would be difficult to find 9 but actually it's been difficult to narrow it to 9. I'm gonna pick Gattaca because I think I was always going to pick Gattaca. It's a thinking man's movie that is impressive in its idea and impressive in its execution. The there is Primer. The most un-action science-fiction movie there is. Whilst this film will twist your brain in knots even on the second viewing you'll also come away having enjoyed it (not all of the people and not all of the time.) There should be room for tiny indie films in these lists, broaden people's horizons with them, don't you think?

And that concludes the juries deliberations, the Science Fiction chapter of The Blahblahblahfamily DVD Guide will contain the following:
Back To The Future Trilogy 1985 (****)
Blade Runner 1982 (*****)
Escape From New York 1981 (*****)
I, Robot 2004 (****)
Metropolis 1927 (*****)
Pitch Black 2000 (****)
Serenity 2005 (****)
Stargate 1994 (****)
T2 1991 (*****)
Fifth Element 1997 (*****)
Man Who Fell To Earth 1976 (****)
Rocketeer 1991 (****)
Twelve Monkeys 1995 (*****)
Gattaca 1997 (****)
Primer 2004 (****)
Running Man 1987 (****)
Total Recall 1990 (****)
Starship Troopers 1997 (****)
Soylent Green 1973 (****)
Logan's Run 1976 (****)

Agree or disagree with the choices I've made? Do any of the original cut 9 actually deserve higher ratings thus keeping their place in the guide? Leave me a comment, let me know. I'd prefer to cut Serenity and The Man Who Fell To Earth until I've seen them but that would go against the rules. It's especially tough when I look at all those films that I had to leave out.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Week in Movies 6/6/11 - 12/6/11

So this is my first attempt at this rundown of what i've been watching over the past week. I've seen it used by other bloggers and initially I didn't think it was the kind of post I wanted to write here at blahblahblahgay but then I thought of all the films that I watch that are never going to make it to a full review but I could still have some fun chatting about and so I talked myself in to it.

This week saw me continue on from last Sundays viewing of Independence Day by rewatching some other great Will Smith performances. I'm a big fan. And Leah had never seen Enemy of the State. It was OK, not his best movie by a long way but an enjoyable watch, the supporting cast is jam packed with those bubbling under stars of the late 90's - Jack Black, Jamie Kennedy, Seth Green, Jake Busey (whatever happened to him?) Scott Caan, Barry Pepper and Jason Lee. The similarities between Gene Hackman in this film and Gene Hackman in Coppola's The Conversation are quite marked, to the point where it feels somewhat like a sequel and this is probably Tony Scott's second best film of the 90's after True Romance.

Michael Bay, I hate him, his films are awful to the point of being unwatchable from my film watching point of view but there's something about Bad Boys that makes it infinitely enjoyable and ripe for repeat viewings. Will Smith is excellent in it, as i mentioned in my Angelina Jolie post last week he was still only doing TV when he made this. He is so good that he pretty much built his career off of this performance. Even Martin Lawrence is watchable, not to mention enjoyable, they're a perfect double team as far as cops go. And Bay is still feeling his way into movie making, his technique is toned down compared to his later offerings, the camera for example moves much less so you are less likely to have a seizure during an action scene.

The Simon Pegg and Nick Frost film Paul was very much on my have to see list and when the opportunity finally presented itself I didn't hesitate but was left quietly disappointed. Sure it was fun but at times it felt like one giant in-joke or filmic reference and I usually love that kind of thing! There's no real plot, no real scenes, it's just one long chase scene with some jokes thrown in. I'm sad to say it but it looks like the winning part of the formula was Edgar Wright and Greg 'Adventureland' Mottola was not an adequate replacement.

The Joe Wright directed revenge film Hanna was a total letdown, premise = good fun, application = blah. Joe Wrights direction was directionless, like he had watched too many Bourne clones and quite a few scenes were actually laughable, to quote the multiplex slut "he unashamedly throws the kitchen sink at it." I must pose a question on behalf of Leah "why do people think that having a bunch of guys attacking the hero one at a time is acceptable in movies? how can anyone make that scene work in a post matrix world?" and i agree with her wholeheartedly. I have to or i dont get my dinner. at this point to direct a fight scene in an action movie you've either got to surpass that which is almost impossible or you've got to pare it back and do it really well and really simple. this film did neither. my other major faults in what could have been a quite enjoyable movie were the accents of the two australian stars, neither of them could decide which accent to settle on and as such were all over the place. oh and the sound editing. annoying. very.

The Canadian indie flick Good Neighbours finally got watched here at casa del blah thanks to a day in bed due to a morning migraine, this one is probably less well known by movie viewers and if it had been just a touch more enjoyable it would've got a full review from me. However it didn't inspire me enough, it had something lacking. With an all star Canadian cast of Xavier Dolan (Heartbeats) Scott Speedman (Barneys Version) and Apatow favourite Jay Baruchel (Sorcerers Apprentice?) and an interesting premise I was quietly looking forward to checking this out "In the dead of winter, a serial killer is on the loose in the small Montreal neighborhood of Notre Dame de Grace. The tenants of an old apartment house must figure out who they can trust and who they can't" it's funny and matter of fact with it's violence, there are a few gross moments to enjoy but I was left with a general sense of meh during a few periods where not much happens. If you've got a coupe of hours check it out, but then why would you when there's hundreds of amazing movies out there to watch? It's a mystery. Why do we feel like watching the movies we feel like watching instead of seeing those important films?

Special mention should go to cult apocalypse thriller Miracle Mile which is without doubt the strangest movie i've watched in quite some time. Anthony Edwards had hair, it's that old. Basic premise is that he falls in love with Mare Winningham and then finds out a nuclear war is happening and they have 70 minutes til the end of the world. What follows is a close to real time experience as the news spreads panic. Calling to mind a mixture of Repo Man and classic post a-bomb noirs a la Henry Hathaway it is enjoyable in a what?! kind of way. my personal favourite moment was the alien bounty hunter from the x-files turning up as a gay weight lifting helicopter pilot. yeah, i did just say that.

films we didn't finish this week: gone in sixty seconds (changed our mind about rewatching after 25 minutes,) sneakers (wasn't that interesting after 30 minutes,) henry's crime (oh my god keanu is looking old, this movie felt wrong from the start,) Natural City (Korean Sci-fi that looks more like a computer game cut sequence than a movie and moved about as slowly too) and Training Day (didn't watch it when all the hype was going and switched off because it was only interesting when Denzel was talking)

Some of you may ask why I switch films off, but the answer is simple: I keep wanting to watch something better. Half way through Trining Day for example all I could think was how much more fun it would be if I was watching L.A. Confidential and so why bother finishing Training Day at that point?

Willem Dafoe: A Notable List

The LAMB is running the Acting School 101 on Willem Dafoe this month, an actor I've long admired and as my last list on Angelina Jolie raised some interest, including mine, I thought I'd give Willem the blahblahblahgay treatment.

Refreshing my memory of his resume on imdb was pretty revealing, a huge catalogue of films to choose from and at least 3 on my To Watch list, his choices are wildly diverse both in film content and roles. A serious actor who doesn't want to get typecast yet he always seems to add a little bit of creepy to his work.

I'm not going to discuss Antichrist here, I haven't seen it and not even Lars von Trier can make this one sound appealling to my delicate sensibilities.

He's worked a lot with Paul Schrader, himself a man who tends to bring a bit of creepy to his work, check him out with Nick Nolte starring in the incredibly good Affliction, The Walker and the insanely dark biopic/sexual oddyssey of Bob Crane in Auto Focus but my favourite of his work with Schrader has to be

1. Light Sleeper (1992)

A film noir, as most of Schrader's work is, this movie is pretty much all Dafoe. His character is lost in the Manahattan of the early 90's; this is the time of American Psycho and Bright Lights, Big City, a time when it was easy to get lost and never resurface and Dafoe really carries it off well. As a direct descendent of Schrader's own Taxi Driver this film offered a great opportunity to a talented actor and Willem Dafoe took it with both hands. One of my absolute favourite performances from him.

David Cronenberg
for me can be hit and miss but he does have a habit of casting very well indeed, Ralph Fiennes in Spider for example or Viggo in the very recent and still-blowing-me-away Eastern Promises, and then of course every single choice for...

2. eXistenZ (1999)

...seemed spot on. This was a very weird movie. There was a time when all Cronenberg movies were categorised as such and in comparison eXistenZ is pretty tame but I really enjoyed it at the time and is still enjoyabe on repeat viewings. Willem Dafoe has a pretty small role but his ingame character of Gas is, I think as Jennifer Jason Leigh puts it, really creepy (a recurring theme me thinks) and with the denouement (or is it?) he becomes a really nice but awkward geek.

Wes Anderson, another fine director in modern cinema has used Dafoe twice, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was quite underwhelming both times I watched it despite top quality performances but his recent Roald Dahl adaptation...

3. Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

...was enjoyable on so many levels. As always with Anderson he chooses only the finest talent to work with. My particular favourite was Pulp frontman and style icon Jarvis Cocker singing a bad campfire song but Dafoe's turn as Rat was decliciously creepy for a "kids" film. If I'm honest I would suggest that this isn't really for kids! He has provided voice talent for animation previously, most notably as the scarred Gill in Finding Nemo. As widescreenworld pointed out "maybe it's his chin, his eyes, that grin of his - that is particularly unsettling" and for me it is a testament to his acting skills that he can add his own creepy signature to an animated rat. Or fish.

As testament to his wide body of work and as an example that even though he is a fine actor, sometimes great actors make bad films and Willem Dafoe made...

4. Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)

...a movie I saw twice at the cinema. Ouch. I can't believe I admitted that on this blog! An appalling movie that not even Willem Dafoe could save. Highlight for me is Sandra Bullock in a bikni. From a Dafoe POV we've already discussed his ability to be creepy, here he is a computer geek with a bug up his ass over something or other nonsensical and it doesn't really work, perhaps a touch of the overacting to compensate for a terrible idea of a film?

And that takes us on to our last pick, I've chosen to ignore such well trodden ground as his appearance as The Green Goblin, which was very good and his small but well formed role in Platoon and even Christian Bale's nemesis in American Psycho to share my love of...

5. The Boondock Saints (1999)

I know it isn't everybody's cup of tea, in fact most reviewers hate the film but everyone I've watched it with has felt the same as me: a thoroughly enjoyable film most notably for the performance of Willem Dafoe. This is my "go to" movie when I think of him as an actor. He steals the show, his class shines from amongst a bunch of average to amateur performances and the acting choices he makes with his character are instrumental in the watchability of the film (see Boondock Saints 2 for an example of how this works.) So yes I am aware that there are some average performances, that there are holes galore in the plot and the director is a self-obsessed crazy man (see the documentary Overnight for reasons why) but it just works. If I ever get asked why I like this movie I invariably mention that it's so funny and the action is cool, the story is fun and Willem Dafoe is excellent.

So that's my 5 notable Dafoe flicks, I was unable to assess on his entire catalogue as he's made quite a few films that I am yet to see. On my "To Watch" list are Abel Ferrara's New Rose Hotel, Paul Auster's Lulu On The Bridge, William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. (it's on the noir list for the upcoming Noirathon) and eventually I might get around to watching Paris, je t'aime.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Down Terrace (2009)

Recently Custard over at Frontroomcinema listed the 5 best films set in Brighton and in the discussion this movie came up. Then a few days later Bonjour Tristesse actually reviewed the film. Now I had never heard of it, as i'm sure most people haven't, but i'm partial to a bit of British gangster movie now and then - Gangster No. 1, Sexy Beast, Anything with Ray Winstone calling people slags that kind of thing - and thought it would be crazy not to watch it.

Written and directed by newcomer Ben Wheatley, Down Terrace is a different kind of British Gangster Movie. Featuring a cast of unknowns and Spaced favourites Julia Deakin and Michael Smiley.

I love all of these images for different reasons. Whoever designed the art for this movie deserves to get paid more than a tiny indie flick can afford. They all play to different genres and all feel like good representations of the film. Top left will probably only make sense after you've seen the film but when I found it during my research I couldn't help but laugh. Top right, this half imitation of Warhol in yellow, possibly the worst of the 4 but I like the feeling it gives about the characters, everyone looks a bit confused and fed up. Bottom right, a slick almost 60's era poster, similar in part to the fad they had in the late 90's of breaking up the images (see The Limey) and then bottom left, I feel like it has to be for an international audience, using the Union Jack in that way and then the tagline "it's all about to kick off" reminiscent of the football thug movies that have had a resurgance of late, guaranteed to hook a certain audience to the point that they may as well have advertised it using Danny Dyer.

It's a great trailer that really doesn't emphasise the humour enough I think. It's arty, concentrating on the verite and kitchen sink drama aspect of the production as opposed to the gangster storyline. This is interesting to me as based on the international poster I thought there would've been a different trailer, one filled with violence. Still you can't complain when a distribution company doesn't lie about the content of a film.

Synopsis? I thought you'd never ask. Bill and Karl are father and son, gangsters who narrowly escape jail after a court appearance and the film centres on the paranoia of their investigation in to who the grass is amongst their associates.

Pretty standard stuff for a criminal underworld plot but this film is different in many ways. Down Terrace focuses on the internal workings of the central characters as they go about their daily lives with this burden hanging over them. It's filled with great comedy moments from the very start and it's scarily believable.

The comedy may not be to everyone's liking. I'm a recent emmigrant from England so these characters are the kind of people I know, people I saw everyday and a lot of the humour is related to the realism for me and could easily go over people's heads. For those of you not from England who watch this, I assure you people really do behave this way.

The hitman who takes his toddler to a hit because he couldn't find a babysitter at short notice however is a slice of comedy gold that may never have come up in everyday life in the UK. Said hitman, Pringle, is extremely funny to watch and his facial expressions alone are priceless.

Not to say that this movie makes light of it's dark material, killing for these characters carries a huge amount of baggage, both before and after. The verite style of direction adds some real gravity to proceedings, the ensemble cast performance is reminiscent of the great work of Mike Leigh and whilst Poor Cow by Ken Loach springs to mind i'm unsure whether that is because of the gangster singalong in the breakfast room complete with double bass and violin or simply because he pioneered the kitchen sink realism that this movie uses to excellent effect.

The performances are all round pitch perfect, you instinctively warm to Julia Deakin's matriarch, Maggie, in a role that might draw comparisons to Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom, but it is the performance of film debutant Robert Hill that characterises everything this movie is about; thoughtful, melancholy, rejecting of modern society (or in the films case modern attitudes towards cinema) with a tension and violence bubbling under the surface at all times. This is no Ray Winstone style performance but it works just as powerfully and not once does anyone utter the word slag. I have just finished reading Patricia Highsmith's Talented Mr Ripley and she expertly created a simmering tension and expectation of violence yet when the violence actually happens it is dealt with quickly and matter of factly and Down Terrace is very similar in this respect.

It's funny, it's violent, it moves at a rate of knots unknown for a kitchen sink verite piece and it's very very well made. I instantly wanted to tell everyone just how good this movie was and then watch it with them. Watch it.

I can't let this review finish without a mention for David Schaal, recently seen as the extremely funny father of Jay in The Inbetweeners and putting in another great performance here.

If you like the sound of the movie from my review and actually watch it, let me know. If you don't agree with me, let me know. Film is an art form and art is open to interpretation in any number of ways. The discussion of art and individual interpretation is encouraged around here. And if you enjoy the movie head down to your local independent movie store and buy it, it's only through us actually paying for films that these film makers will get to work again. At least in an ideal world that will be the case. I'm looking at you Uwe Boll.

Down Terrace (2009) DivX -

Monday, June 6, 2011

Top 5: Angelina Jolie Goes To Acting School

I'm in the mood to post again today but my house is cold like an ice box and i can't concentrate on telling you how good Down Terrace is right now so I thought i'd back down on my original statement that i wouldn't write lists of movies, Top 5 films starring Dustin Hoffman that doesn't feature an excellent performance from a toothbrush type stuff. Is there even one?

We've been discussing Will Smith recently and sat through Independence Day for the first time in forever last night and the conversation drifted around to just why some people become stars. Will Smith was still making The Fresh Prince when he was cast in Bad Boys and Independence Day but in these films he owns every scene he is in, to the point where you really can't comprehend that he wasn't already the biggest movie star in the world at that point. But why is Angelina Jolie a star?

So here is my list. Top 5 Angelina Jolie movies and an attempt to discover why she is famous.

1. Hackers (1995)

A movie made so well that you can switch it on half way through without realising and still know everything there is to know about the film. Whilst the 'star' was Johnny Lee Miller for me Angelina made me pay most attention, the hacker who liked to wear the oddest clothes imaginable incluing a neon blue tight fitting cycling top that pre-empted Tomb Raider by a long way.

2. Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)

She's only the love interest of Nic Cage in a supremely enjoyable yet silly car chase movie yet when you think about the flick you remember that she had won an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted that same year and wonder why she felt the need to look like an albino rastafarian. You never even think of the stellar ensemble cast which included Araki favourite James Duvall and post Scream 2 pre Deadwood/Hitman/Die Hard 4/Justified megastar Timothy Olyphant.

3. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

This movie was shot entirely in front of a blue screen, it's remarkably similar in theme to an Indiana Jones movie and Angelina was fresh off of the 'success' of the Tomb raider Movies. Paired with Jude Law this movie won my vote for must miss film of the year based on that casting alone but as a forerunner to the current trend for steampunk literature it was ctually quite enjoyable.

4. Playing God (1997)

A David Duchovny vehicle? If it was it didn't take him further than straight to the VHS bargain bin. He was still doing The X Files when this movie was being ignored by everybody. His character feels like the basis for Hank in Californication at times, there's some fun dialogue, some cheesey British accents and Ms. Jolie plays the refreshingly ordinarily named Clare, a gangsters wife who is a half assed version of the femme fatale. Made the same year as Gia in which she gets naked. I know which film of 1997 helped push her towards stardom.

5. Changeling (2008)

Clint Eastwood is getting better and better it seems. In one year he made the superb, yet simple Gran Torino and this fine melodrama. Ange shows she can actually act, for the first time since Girl, Interrupted in 1999 perhaps, and the costumes are really pretty.

So this proves what? A talented actress can get famous by taking her clothes off and putting in one decent performance every 10 years? That being born in to a Hollywood family and taking your clothes off equals mega money? Hollywood is so devoid of ideas that putting a masculine woman into action films instead of a man means they can make more money and Juliet Lewis and Hillary Swank have no interest in taking the roles so every single terrible idea for a female centred action movie gets offered to the female half of Brangelina? I dunno. But I really struggled to pick 5 and keep myself away from being overly sarcastic.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Good Thief (2002)

OK, so it's a remake but its a good remake, in many ways better than the original perhaps. BUT it is one of those remakes where it's set in France but everyone speaks English. Loses points for this. Neil Jordan's The Good Thief is at times an almost exact re-telling of Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le Flambeur (1956) but it adds a little extra spice and seediness to the story, perfect for a modern film with noir tendencies.

Nick Nolte is Bob, he's our main character, Tcheky Karyo is his close friend and nemesis Roger. Georgian actress Nutsa Kukhianidze is the beautiful young prostitute Anne and amongst the fine ensemble cast of European actors you will find the Polish brothers, Mark and Michael, makers of the extraordinarily atmospheric Northfork. For those of you not familiar with the name Neil Jordan you may know his more mainstream successes Interview With The Vampire and The Brave One or if like me you care little for vampires or revenge thrillers starring that girl from Taxi Driver you may also know his work in Breakfast on Pluto, The Crying Game or the Graham Greene adaptation The End of the Affair.

The similarities between original and remake in the main body of the poster was enough to make me want to compare and contrast those two images instead of my usual multiple image for the same movie breakdown. The femme fatale foregrounded with our antihero in shadow. Or is it the other way round? Interesting that both creative teams opted for the same iconography don't you think? Bob le Flambeur probably gives away a little more of the plot than The Good Thief but only marginally. For more on how these posters are really a pretty standard noir image check out the awesome rundown of noir posters over at Where Danger Lives. The sheer volume of work that's gone in to that post is overwhelming.

I saw this trailer when it was initially released and didn't really have much interest in watching the movie to be honest but having seen the film and then watched the trailer again I think I have a different appreciation for it. Offers some hints as to the content, shows off the beautiful cinematography and the song at the end evokes a strong feeling of days gone by, that time when going to a casino had some class associated with it and tourists in shorts and thongs (flip-flops) were not allowed entrance.

My synopsis of this would probably be something along the lines of Bob has run out of money because he's a crook and a junkie, Roger is the local cop who knows Bob's history, Bob wants to make one last score and Roger is torn between stopping him and letting it slide. There's some twists, some turns, some laughs and some drama as we work our way to a Monte Carlo casino-based climax.

Nick Nolte, who seems to be superb in everything he's done in my recent memory, see Paul Schrader's Affliction for proof, puts in a high quality performance that drifts from subtle to in your face obvious as required, sure he's the antihero with a damaged past (see Jack L's recent dissection of modern action movies for why this is a bad thing) but he shakes that cliche about a bit (if not off) with a performance that threatens to boil over into crazed straight villain at any point, add to that Neil Jordan's direction which brings an extra energy and atmosphere to proceedings and you have a thoroughly enjoyable film that on any other day with a different pairing could have been quite awful.

It's almost a less polished yet classier version of Soderbergh's Oceans movies with scenes reminiscent of the Norton/De Niro heist movie The Score, a plot reminiscent of great ill-fated heist noirs of the past like The Killing and Rififi (the same era the original material came from) and probably a dozen other recent heist movies but it's sheer quality steers it past being a simple clone.

Sure there are twists and turns like any good heist caper flick should posess and at times you can probably see them coming from a mile away but it's not like there's much room left for imaginative double crosses in cinema these days.

And at times it looks simply amazing too, beauty and style combining with the jazz soundtrack to make for a sumptuously cool picture. Isn't that always the way with jazz scores? You'd think we'd all stop getting suckered in by it by now wouldn't you.

As the credits roll you're left with a feeling that the film is questioning the nature of existence (an existential heist movie?) with that long forgotten (but recently rediscovered) myth of the honest crook, that is a staple of the classic noir, running the show. And what a show! He has a ball with all his plotting and planning, playing one person off on another and the audience can't help but get swept up in the journey with him.

The other aspects of the film are also of high quality, the fine performances from the ensemble cast, the questionable motives of everyone involved bring a nice intrigue to proceedings, a near perfect musical accompaniment and a story told at just the right pace.

Breaking down why you should see this movie I would say
a) class
b) Nick Nolte
c) so much dross has been made in this genre you should probably watch a good one to compare them to.

If you like the sound of the movie from my review and actually watch it, let me know. If you don't agree with me, let me know. Film is an art form and art is open to interpretation in any number of ways. The discussion of art and individual interpretation is encouraged around here. And if you enjoy the movie head down to your local independent movie store and buy it, it's only through us actually paying for films that these film makers will get to work again. At least in an ideal world that will be the case.

The Good Thief (2002) DivX -