Coming soon...

Monday, February 23, 2009

When are people going to learn? Democracy doesn't work.

Mickey Rourke didn't win Best Actor for The Wrestler. The Academy, as always, is wrong.

Otherwise, well done to Slumdog Millionaire for winning 8, including Danny Boyle (couldn't be happier for the guy; he's one of the best working today) for Best Director and Best Film. But when you take into account that Christopher Nolan and the Dark Knight was left out of those two categories, I cant help but feel it's not quite as sweet a victory as it could have been.

Anyway, that's another season of back-slappery over. Look forward to the 2010 awards where Viggo Mortensen and The Road will win. Or else I'll end this blog.*

*or not.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Woody Allen’s career as a director is in it’s fifth decade. With one release every year, it wouldn’t be surprising if Allen’s track record was somewhat patchy. However, he remains one of the most consistent writer-directors working in the industry and his list of successes dwarfs his failures. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Allen’s 42nd film and his 4th since leaving behind New York city, the muse of most of his films.

Vicky and Cristina are two women taking time out from their busy lives to spend a summer in Barcelona. Vicky is uptight and straight-laced, soon to be married to a stuffy business man who lives in New York. Her life has become everything she’s planned for, and on the surface, she seems to be very contented in her choices. Cristina, on the other hand, is somewhat lost. Having just written, directed and starred in a short film about love, she is still on her search for answers to life’s questions. At an exhibition, the two women are noticed by artist Juan Antonio Gonzalo. He propositions both women, with only Cristina responding positively. But when the women travel to Juan’s home town of Oviedo, they find themselves enamored with the artist. But they are both unaware of Juan’s volatile relationship with his ex-wife, who is about to reenter his life.

Woody Allen’s films are known for their cerebral nature. They are driven more by character than plot. Recently, Allen’s made films that have tended more towards genre films. But Vicky Cristina Barcelona sees Allen return to more familiar territory. The film is in no way nearly as good as Allen’s classics such as Annie Hall or The Purple Rose of Cairo, but compared to the slightly disappointing films of the last few years, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is certainly much more of a success. Like the films he has made in New York, Allen has a knack for filming his locations as if they are as important a character as his humans. And that remains the case here. The first thing you’ll think after seeing the film is how much you want to go to Barcelona. Or return to it if you haven’t been already!

The performances in the film are for the most part pretty strong. Scarlett Johansson is, for once, pretty good in her role as Cristina. She probably would have seemed a lot stronger if a great deal of her scenes weren’t with Penelope Cruz. Cruz, who has been nominated for an Oscar for her performance is excellent as the unhinged Maria Elena, Juan’s ex-wife. Rebecca Hall plays Vicky and has her American accent down to a tee. And Javier Bardem is also very good as the brooding and tortured artist Juan. It’s a very strong cast, as always in Allen films.

While Vicky Cristina Barcelona won’t ever be near the top in the pantheon of Woody Allen films. But it’s still a good comedy with plenty to say. It’s not an ideal picture of love. It’s got it’s share of pain and disappointment. But in the end, it’s surprisingly light-hearted.


Sunday, February 15, 2009


There are certain films that you know are made for awards ceremonies. Sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button certainly comes across as one of those types of films. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But watching them, you know exactly the type of audience the film is made for. David Fincher takes a different direction than the dark thrillers he’s known for by directing Benjamin Button. But will the unknown territory work against Fincher’s style.

Benjamin Button is a baby born on the night World War I ends. His mother dies in birth and his father, a rich factory owner is horrified when he sets eyes on his baby son. Benjamin is born with a condition that causes him to age backwards. He is born an old man and gets younger as he gets older. Benjamin ends up living in an old folk’s home, where he simply appears to be one of the people staying there. But as he gets older, and his faculties return, Benjamin wants to get out and see the world. Despite his love for a young girl, the granddaughter of one of the old folks, Benjamin must see the world. And so he sets off, unsure where his travels will take him.

A lot has been made of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button being very similar to Forrest Gump. And in ways, they are quite similar. They both feature protagonists who are unique in the world. They both long to go out and see different things. They are both in love with an unattainable girl. So, yeah, I’ll admit it could be argued that they’re practically the same movie. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to Benjamin Button. Despite all the similarities, Benjamin Button’s still a very entertaining film to watch.

Firstly, it looks amazing. Fincher’s one of the great directors working today. Working with cinematographer, Claudio Miranda, Fincher creates a film steeped in detail and gorgeous colours. Aside from the special effects, which I’ll get to in a moment, the quality of the production is second to none. 1920s New Orleans looks amazing. Russia feels cold and sharp. And the golden era of 1950s America is suitably golden. And the special effects themselves are fantastic. The old (or is it young) Benjamin Button really looks as if they somehow aged and shrunk Brad Pitt. The only thing that still remains elusive when it comes to creating CGI people is they eyes. No matter how expensive and professional the CGI, they still can’t get human eyes right. There’s just something empty about them. I guess the eyes really are the windows to the soul!

Pitt’s performance is good enough for the role. The thing about Button is, he seems to be an observer in his own world, rather than somebody who drives events. When it came to Forrest Gump, while Gump was observing the things he witnessed, he did have a significant role to play in the events. Button seems to be drifting from event to event and allowing things to happen to him. And this reflects in Pitt’s performance. He just seems to be observing and isn’t required to do very much. Cate Blanchett plays Daisy, the object of Button’s affections. While the character does come off as a bit of a bitch, Blanchett plays her very well. The rest of the characters are played by some very good character actors, including Elias Koteas, Jared Harris and Jason Flemyng and are all very good in their roles.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button’s not as memorable as Forrest Gump. Nor is it really deserving of the 13 Oscar nominations it’s received. I’m sure it’ll win a good few, but it’s in no way the film of 2008. It’s entertaining, and inoffensive, but it’s not going to set the world on fire. Fincher’s direction is rock solid. It looks amazing, and the performances are good, if not the best we’ve seen the actors deliver. And it should be seen on the big screen. But as I said at the start, some films are made to get awards. This is one of them.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Inglorious Basterds trailer...

So here's the first glimpse of a film that has been eagerly anticipated since first mentioned a decade ago. Inglorious Basterds. Tarantino and World War 2. Sounds like a dream combo. But me, I dunno what to make of the trailer. Some moments look badass. Some look comical. We get a tone of the film from one shot and then a completely different feeling off another. This a worrying indication of inconsistency? I'm sure Tarantino knows exactly where the film's going. Let's just hope he refrains from disintigrating into a sess-pit of obscure 1940's pop-culture dialogue. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

GHOST TOWN (2008) - David Koepp

Ricky Gervais has forged one hell of a successful career on television. The Office, the show he created with Stephen Merchant has become one of the most successful television programmes of all time, and has made Gervais a household name. Over the last few years, Gervais has taken on a few film roles, always in support roles. Ghost Town marks his first role as a leading man. The transition from television to film has been an easy change for some actors. But for Gervais, it’s somewhat of a gamble, since he is working off somebody else’s script. Is it a successful transition?

Bertram Pincus is a dentist with a big problem. He hates people. He likes his job because it means that he doesn’t have to talk to anyone. His patients’ mouths are packed with cotton wool, making it impossible for them to talk to him. After a colonoscopy that left Pincus dead for seven minutes, the dentist finds himself with an unusual ability. He can see and communicate with dead people. It’s something that irritates Pincus incredibly. The dead need favours and only Pincus can help. One dead guy, Frank Herlihy has a proposal for Pincus. Stop his widow, Gwen form marrying her new fiancĂ© and the dead will leave him be. But as Pincus strives to break Gwen’s relationship up, he finds a new set of problems. The biggest problem being his growing love for Gwen.

Ghost Town is written and directed by David Koepp, a writer who has written successful films such as Jurassic Park, Spider-Man and... um... Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Despite the last film in the list, Koepp has a pretty solid track record. So it’s easy to see why Gervais took the role of Pincus as his first leading role. However, you do feel throughout the film that Gervais had a great deal of input in the Pincus role. He is very comfortable in the role, and having played some very unsavoury characters in the past, he plays Pincus convincingly.

The film isn’t exactly laugh-out-loud. For the first fifteen or twenty minutes, I found myself wondering if Ghost Town was going to be a complete flop. However, once the story takes off, the film finds it’s feet. And thankfully, despite not being one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen, it is a very entertaining film. Playing opposite Gervais are Tia Leoni and Greg Kinnear. While they’re there to support Gervais, they do bring credibility to the film. Gervais didn’t necessarily need actors used to film to support him, but they never overshadow him in the comedy stakes and help ground the film.

Gervais makes for an odd leading man. He’s the first to admit he doesn’t have movie-idol looks. In fact, some of the comedy comes from Gervais’ short, pudgy frame. But the film doesn’t resort to easy physical comedy and instead relies on more subtle jokes. And it’s here that I think Gervais’ input was substantial. It’s a very entertaining film, and provides a good start to Gervais’ career as a film actor, in lead roles. Hopefully Gervais moves into writing as well as staring in films, and then the real test will begin.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Watchmen Propaganda

Nice bit of faux-propaganda related to the upcoming Watchmen. It's a film released 1977 (in the Watchmen universe) warning citizens of the danger of vigilantism and promotes the Keene Act, the outlawing of costumed heroes like the Watchmen. It's a really smart bit of promo video and really fits in with the tone of the graphic novel.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The wrath of the Christian

If you're interested in movies and you haven't come across the pretty astonishing clip of Christian Bale's on-set Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, rant, then you've been in a cave. Bale loses his temper when DP Bruce Hurlbut walks into his eye-line during a take. Professionalism falls apart when director McG pussies out and refuses to take control of the situation. Bale's known for his immersion in roles, so his fury, while over the top, is somewhat understandable. It wont hurt Bale's career at all. However, McG's lack of anything resembling a backbone does cause concern. Jesus man, control your set.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

FROST/NIXON (2008) - Ron Howard

True life often makes for better drama than fiction. Had somebody written the story of Richard Nixon and his fall from the most powerful political office in the world, few may believe it. But the truth was an unbelievable web of lies and deception with the president becoming one of the most hated people in public life. Despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing, Nixon refused to admit he broke the law. After President Geral Ford gave Nixon a free pass, TV presenter David Frost took it upon himself to give Nixon the trial he escaped. Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard’s new film shows us the events that led up to the now famous interview between Richard Nixon and David Frost.

It’s 1977. Three years have passed since Nixon resigned from the office of the President of the United States after the Watergate scandal. People are pissed that Nixon was given a pardon for any wrongdoings by Gerald Ford. David Frost is a television presenter looking for a challenge. He’s not a major player in television, presenting an Australian chat show after a failed attempt to break the US market. Frost sees an opportunity when he approaches the ex-president with a proposal to do a number of interviews. Nixon is interested in one thing only. Money. Frost wants to further his career. But no network wants to touch the interview. And those working with Frost want to put Nixon on trial. As the interview approaches, a number of factors threaten not only the production, but also the integrity of all involved.

Frost/Nixon is the filmed version of the play by Peter Morgan. Michael Sheen and Frank Langella continue the roles they made their own on stage. And it’s pretty clear from the start that both actors are incredibly comfortable in the roles. The problem that can exist when an actor plays a real-life person is that the performance can focus on mannerisms and then become little more than a caricature of the person. But thankfully, that problem doesn’t exist here. Sure, both Sheen and Langella have the little quirks that make both Frost and Nixon such memorable characters. But once these little mannerisms are dealt with, the actors are able to concentrate on motivations and performance rather than imitation.

It doesn’t hurt that Sheen and Langella are joined by four great performances by Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and Matthew MacFadyen. They play characters that are integral to the interview, but will never be recognised for it. While Sheen and in particular, Langella are the two actors given the most attention, the support they receive from these actors is vitally important. And none of the actors let anybody down.

There is in the film, a great emphasis placed on the power of television and the close-up. And in one pivotal moment, this is hammered home. Howard’s direction resists the need to be flashy or extravagant. After all, this is the adaptation of a play, and as such, doesn’t need to be anything more than a camera trained on actors. And for this reason, the film is successful. I will say however, that until the actual interview begins to unfold on screen, the film does tend to drag a little. A lot of emphasis is placed on how hard it is to get funding, and the problems that arise when people with different agendas clash. And in this section, I did find myself willing the film to get to the money shot, so to speak. However, once the actual interview arrives on screen, things get very very interesting.

Frost/Nixon is a very interesting look at an interview that has become a part of popular culture. It’s also a detailed examination of the power of television. The performances are rock solid, and Langella in particular is brilliant as Richard Nixon. He refrains from caricature and thus is very compelling to watch. Is it one of the best films of 2008? I don’t think so. But it is still a very solid film.


Tales Of The Black Freighter

Anyone who has read Watchmen will know what this is all about. For the uninitiated, Tales Of The Black Freighter is a support story featured in Watchmen. In the graphic novel, the story is unfolded as a comic, that mirrors the themes put forth in the main story. In the film, Tales Of The Black Freighter is an animated support film for the main feature. While it wont be in the theatrical version of Watchmen, Snyder envisions the animated part being edited back into the extended version of the film when it arrives on DVD. But for now, here is the cover of the support film which will arrive on DVD.