Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Trust What You See on TV

Wow, I had no idea of the extent of green screen usage on TV. It's obvious for special effects-heavy shows like Heroes, but for ordinary scenes of people walking across the street or just standing outside a building?? Quite impressive when they can make it all look so seamless.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Remembering the Laserdisc

This clip made me laugh and a little nostalgic for that dinosaur of a format, the LASERDISC! I recall way back when I watched things like Star Wars and Reservoir Dogs first on LD at my cousin's thinking it was the greatest invention ever. Looking at it now, it's easier to laugh (in fondness of course). Is it just me or do they look way more primitive than VHS? The size of the disc looks positively prehistoric, like some short-lived artifact that time forgot. When the commentator of this clip initially pulls out the disc it's enough to make you gasp in awe. And you gotta flip the damn thing! But he also makes some interesting points on the differences between LD and DVD (exclusive extra features, the cool vinyl-like gate-fold packaging etc) that acknowledges its collectibility and advantages. (warning: contains offensive language)

After watching that I recommend checking out this article about the Art of the Japanese Laserdisc Jacket. Very cool. Man that Crash cover design is awesome. So anyone out there used to own an LD player? (or still own one?)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Cinemas This Week

9 - The trailer for this has been doing the rounds since the middle of last year and those of us into this sort of digital animation have been getting quite excited by the dystopian steam-punk asthetic on show here. Directed by newcomer Shane Acker, based on his 2005 short film of the same name, and starring the vocal talents of Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, Martin Landau and a host of other massive names. I deliberately have avoided any spoilers on this one, because I want to be surprised by what looks like a wonderfully dark wee piece about finding individuality in a post-apocalyptic world. (I just hope it doesn't get lost in the slew of other movies with "nine" in the title that have been gracing screens lately!)

Crazy Heart - Jeff Bridges stars in this absorbing character piece from first-time writer-director Scott Cooper. Bridges plays boozing country singer Bad Blake, trying to turn his life around and find meaning in a dying career and seems to channel the likes of Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson (who at times Bridges looks uncannily similar to). A highly able supporting cast, (Maggie Gylenhaal, Robert Duvall, even Colin Farrell in yet another breakout role as a highly popular American country singer) give this film a richness and depth that lend it the texture of a bio-pic. One of the most extremely watchable character pieces in some time. Well worth a look.

From Paris With Love - Action-thriller from director Pierre Morel (Taken, District B 13), written & produced by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon). John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers team up as an American spy and a young worker from the US Embassy who have to foil a terrorist plot in downtown Paris. Just those four names attached to this make it look like it will be a fun gun-totting action-packed chase flick.

Friday, February 19, 2010

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything... #6

You can rent the DVDs. You can own the toys. You can play the video games and you can register by census as a follower of the Jedi religion.

Now it appears Adidas "Originals" have exploded the Star Wars zeitgeist into an entire lifestyle choice. Sports shoes, street wear, gym gear and any other grossly overpriced product Adidas can squeeze a Rebel Alliance logo onto, I'm sure...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Cinemas This Week

Shutter Island - Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas) brings us a tense psychological thriller, set in the 1940s and based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Detective Teddy Daniels who is investigating a several disappearances at a mental asylum on the titular island. There seems to be a conspiracy amongst the staff which leads the investigators in circles. They start to doubt the clues presented to them and even their own memory, family and sanity. The snappy, mysterious and beautifully moody trailer has been doing the rounds for quite a while and reports from early screenings have been full of praise. This is Scorsese's first full narrative feature since The Departed, so I am ever hopeful it delivers on the promise of its trailer and excellent novel.

Max Manus - World War II epic about Norwegian war hero, Max Manus (Aksel Hennie), who helped disseminate much Nazi Propaganda of the time and turn the tide of the war by forming the Rognes Organization. The war becomes ever more brutal and many of Manus' friends die in the struggle, and he starts to blame himself for being the one who survives. He soon realises that everybody is a victim of the meaninglessness of war. Apparently this is quite a spirited period piece and offers quite a message of hope, despite the bleak subject.

Balibo - Another true story, this time about the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor from the point-of-view of five Australian based journalists (one of them is actually a kiwi). They are lured to the country with the promise of some great news footage and to investigate the disappearance of several missing men. A conspiracy is uncovered and as they slowly peel away the layers of truth the invasion grows in strength and an unlikely friendship grows between one of the journalists and the man who would soon become the President of East Timor.

Bright Star - New film from our very own Jane Campion. This is a 19th Century drama based on the affair between the great romantic poet John Keats (Ben Wishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), before his untimely death at a young age. Has been wowing film festival audiences all over the world, has been nominated for an Oscar (Best Achievement in Costume Design) and has already started winning various other awards for sound and costume. Looks like a sumptuous period romance for a Sunday afternoon's viewing.

Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (3D Double Feature) - Both of the original Pixar movies realised in digital 3D! What could be more awesome? Not much, really. I saw this a few weeks ago with a packed house of kids, hopped up on sugar and food-colouring and it sure was a fun ride. There's even games during the intermission between movies! The remastered image and 3D effects give the films a whole new lease of life, so even if you're a seasoned fan of the franchise (or even a bored parent looking for a way to entertain the kids) you'll still find something fun here. Its only playing for a limited season, in the lead-up to the release of Toy Story 3, so see it while you can (in selected digital cinemas).

Essential Ebert

Roger Ebert is regarded as one of the greatest cinema critics of our time. His work, especially with long time writing and reviewing partner Gene Siskel, is renowned for being unapologetic opinions and having a joyous sense of humour. Many movie-goers highly respect his views and base much of their attendance on his words. Most will recognise his "thumbs up, thumbs down" approach to reviewing, that has become his personal trademark and and a catch-cry of many critics since.

Early last decade he was diagnosed with cancer and continues to battle illness through his life - to the point where he had his bottom jaw removed (see picture), meaning he could not speak which almost crippled his career.

Esquire magazine paid tribute to him this week in this fascinating, insightful and highly touching glimpse into his professional and personal life:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In Cinemas This Week

The Wolfman - Horror fans will either be up-in-arms or in hog-heaven this week as this big-budget remake of the much-revered 1941 Lon Chaney Jr classic hits screens. Starring Benecio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt, directed by Joe Johnston (Jumanji, Rocketeer), adapted by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) and David Self (Thirteen Days). The tale is well known: a man returns to his ancestral home only to be bitten by a wolf and cursed to roam the nights lusting for blood during a full moon in the form of a hirsute creature. This interpretation looks pretty dark and early reports have been highly positive, so I am quite excited that this could be a "re-imagining" worth waiting for.

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief - "Kid-ult" fantasy adventure about a young boy who discovers he is a Greek demi-god. Adapted from the 2005 novel, this looks like a rushed Harry Potter clone to me - heck, it's even directed by Chris Columbus, who directed the first two films in that multi-million-dollar franchise. Still, it's got a great line-up of cameos from some A-list stars (Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Steve Coogan, Uma Thurman, etc.) as the higher echelon of Greek gods. Could be fun, but ultimately looks like a cash-in on the current trend to fantasy aimed at teens.

Valentine's Day - It's Valentine's Day on Sunday, so what could be more perfectly timed than an ensemble cast rom-com about the very day? Several intertwining stories intersect across Los Angeles on February 14th as couples find each other, fall apart and do all those things that couples do. Apparently. The cast for this is staggering - Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizando, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Kathy Bates, Patrick Dempsey, Julia Roberts, plus heaps more! Doesn't look like much to this ol' cynic, but with a cast like that how can you go wrong? Likely date movie off the highest order. But really, would you take your partner to this when you could be somewhere having these sort of romantic (mis-)adventures yourself? More likely one for the single romantics out there to have a cry into their Kleenex.

Still Bill -An intimate documentary portrait of soul music legend Bill Withers. Everybody will have heard Withers' iconic sound at some stage in their life, with his tuneful rendering of such hits as "Just The Two Of Us", "Lean On Me", and "Ain't No Sunshine". Looks at his career over the past forty years and offers an insight into his private home-life, especially his relationship with his children.

My Name Is Khan - Story of an Asperger's Syndrome Muslim who is mistaken as a terrorist by American authorities and seeks to clear his name. This has been a huge hit in its native India and has incited some political groups to boycott cinemas. Looks like powerful, stirring stuff from Bollywood, who we're used to seeing frivolous musicals and actioners. India's current biggest stars Shahurkh Kahn and Kajol star as the romantic leads in this epic.

Silent Wedding (Nunta muta) -Romanian/French co-production set during the fall of Stalinism in the 50s. Apparently quite a textured, complex character piece in a Chekhovian vein. Subject matter looks quite heavy, but this is apparently a very warm human tragi-comedy.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Greatest Action Scene of All Time!

Why don't have Hollywood movies have action scenes this utterly berserk? Oh that's right- they have laws protecting their horses...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Creepy Kid from Back to the Future III That No One Remembers

Take a close look at the blonde kid on the right next to the dog. Like most viewers, I didn't notice this until now. Truly bizarre, and worthy of closer scrutiny:

(also bizarre: two BTTF III-related posts in one week!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Cinemas This Week

Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire
Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Leading Actress (Gabourey Sidibe), Supporting Actress (Mo'Nique) and Writing (Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published), this adaptation of gritty urban bleakness is sure to provoke some tears and anger for its laying bare of modern illiteracy in African-American teens. The book is highly regarded by many critics, but a cinema adaptation could easily push it towards the sentimental. The big meaningful "issue" movie of the season, produced by Tyler Perry & Oprah
Winfrey, so expect to be moved in some way.

Edge of Darkness
Mel Gibson returns to duty in front of camera after a six year hiatus, as a cop who begins a vigilante investigation when his daughter, who works at a nuclear research facility, is gunned down on the family porch and dies in his arms. This highly charged thriller involves corporate cover-ups on a global level, some quite jarring violence and a dizzying array of twists at every possible point in the plot. Directed by New Zealander Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, The Legend of Zorro)

Did You Hear About The Morgans?
"Rom-Com" regulars Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker team up in this story of a New York couple whose relationship is in turmoil after witnessing a murder. To cope, they are sent to Wyoming. Hilarity (hopefully) ensues. Co-starring Mary Steenburgen, Sam Elliott and Elizabeth Moss. From writer/director Marc Lawrence (Music & Lyrics, Two Weeks Notice).

Charlie & Boots
Paul "Crocodile Dundee" Hogan and Shane "Kenny" Jacobson star in this comedy-drama paired as an unlikely father & son bonding on a fishing trip off the northern tip of Australia. Expect lots of scenic postcard shots of Australian coastlines and goofy one-liners. Probably a safe bet to take your Dad to.

Cry Me a River

Are you one of those sensitive types that tear up at sad endings? Then you might have something in common with this lady...

... although the only difference is you probably haven't got a partner who's filming your tears and putting it up on youtube for the world to see. That's pretty much the idea behind The Crying Wife, a site dedicated to a wife's uncontrollable weeping at the end of movies - be it a happy or sad ending. It's a bit creepy and voyeuristic - and I wouldn't be surprised if it's all faked - but the FAQ claims it to be all real and done with the wife's consent. I have to ask though, how you can be emotionally involved in a movie if there's a video camera waving around in your face?? I don't think this will develop into any kind of internet sensation, but we are living in the day and age of the Balloon Boy, so who knows... If you think you're a wussy cry-baby, watch Hollie as she loses it at the end of Back to the Future III (!?):