Friday, October 29, 2010

First Impressions: Tron: Legacy Sneak Preview

Last night Event Cinemas and Disney treated the public to a free 20-minute sneak peek of TRON: Legacy, the upcoming update-cum-sequel to the influential 1982 cyber-reality cult classic that's due for release on December 16. I'm not usually one for short "sneak peeks" like these, but my curiosity got the better of me (plus I needed some sort of feel for the film for a feature I'm writing on it).

The screening took place at the IMAX, and if there's one place I'd rather not be watching 3D anymore, it's here. Those big plastic glasses are crapola, and for an effects-spectacle-driven thing such as this, it's going to be headache city staring at the IMAX screen for two hours (20 minutes was almost enough...). Anyway, so around 5 scenes from the first hour of the film were presented to us - I won't go into too much detail, but I'll give you a general idea of the vibe I'm getting.

The first scene was purely exposition (a lot of this appears in the trailer), a meeting between Tron's original programmer Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner reprising his role), and Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), son of Jeff Bridges' Kevin who has disappeared. Next Sam visits his father's now-old-and-dusty arcade shop, finds an underground office, and soon gets zapped into the cyber world. It was kinda cool seeing the old arcade, but I don't think I like Hedlund as a lead at all, too bland (stiff?).

The next few scenes showcase the effects and action a lot more, drawing us into the freshly rebooted Tron universe. The basic neon circuitry design - the suits, the buildings, the machinery - is still there but with noticeably added dimension, sleekness, and general Blade Runner-sized epicness. Visually, it's impressive and trippy as hell, especially in 3D - but I don't know if the film will be as striking in the acting and writing department. At worst it brings back bad memories of something like Spy Kids 3D or any other soulless video gamey/3D-oriented sci-fi flick, and in the scene where Sam and Kevin are reunited, you feel like the film's mythology and seriousness will eventually bog things down in turgid Matrix: Reloaded fashion.

Anywho, I don't doubt Tron: Legacy will deliver some snazzy action and visuals to satiate your eyeballs in some way, I'm just a little skeptical about everything else.....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Cinemas This Week

Cyrus - Indie favorites Jay and Mark Duplass co-direct this wry look at modern love and family dysfunction. John C. Reilly plays a divorced man who thinks he's found just the right woman (Marisa Tomei) to help him recover and move on. Unfortunately, the woman's son, played by Jonah Hill, has no interest in allowing another man into their lives -- a stance he proceeds to demonstrate in a variety of obnoxious ways.

Made In Dagenham - A dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant in London, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination. Made infamous by the strikers' banner, which read "We want sexual equality" but only unfurled enough to read "We want sex", much to the mirth of passing motorists.

Red - After trading in his professional past as a black-ops CIA agent for a new identity, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is basking in normalcy. But he's forced to return to old habits when a shadowy assassin puts a target on his back and goes after the woman (Mary-Louise Parker) he loves. Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich co-star as former members of Moses's team who reluctantly reassemble to save his life.

Resident Evil: Afterlife - The Undead Apocalypse continues unabated as super-soldier Alice (Milla Jovovich) finds her way to a supposed sanctuary in Los Angeles, which may just be a deadly trap set for her by the ruthless Umbrella Corporation. The fourth film in Paul W.S. Anderson's blood-soaked saga finds Alice teaming up with Claire (Ali Larter) and Chris (Wentworth Miller) and a handful of stragglers to save what's left of humanity.

Winter's Bone - With an absent father and a withdrawn and depressed mother, 17 year-old Ree Dolly keeps her family together in a dirt poor rural area. She's taken aback however when the local Sheriff tells her that her father put up their house as collateral for his bail and unless he shows up for his trial in a week's time, they will lose it all. She knows her father is involved in the local drug trade and manufactures crystal meth but anywhere she goes the message is the same: stay out of it and stop poking your nose in other people's business. She refuses to listen, even after her father's brother, Teardrop, tells her he's probably been killed. She pushes on, putting her own life in danger, for the sake of her family until the truth, or enough of it, is revealed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Time Traveller at Charlie Chaplin Premiere?!

I'm absolutely fascinated by this kind of inexplicable WTF-ery. Take a look at this video which shows a woman in 1928 seemingly talking on a cellphone at the premier of Charlie Chaplin's The Circus. I actually pulled out our own copy here in the warehouse to have a closer look, and it's there - it's freaking weird and exciting and mind-boggling!! Reminds me of this time travel-related discovery too, but that seems to have a plausible explanation whereas this ... WTF? Theories, anyone?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Animated Short: Alma

Watch this beautifully creepy animated short film from Rodrigo Blaas, an animator for Pixar who made this while working on Up. According to Hollywood Reporter, it's getting made into a full-length feature with Guillermo Del Toro helping out! I totally love The Twilight Zone-for-kids feel of this one...

The Battle for The Hobbit

If you haven't been watching the news and need a quick catch-up on the whole The Hobbit saga, here's a clip from Close-Up of Mark Sainsbury interviewing the main players - director Peter Jackson, producer Phillipa Boyens, Minister of Economic Development, Gerry Bronwlee and President of the NZ Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly:

And if you're wondering how heated things can get (note: not comfortable viewing)...

Friday, October 22, 2010

South Park Skewers Inception

It was only a matter of time...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Cinemas This Week

Four Lions - Comedy writer Christopher Morris makes his feature directorial debut with this outrageous comedy about a group of young Islamic Brits who fancy themselves bloodthirsty jihadis of the first order. Co-written with Simon Blackwell, the film showcases Morris's satirical talents at their vicious best in a scathingly hilarious indictment of true believers and the social systems that create them.

Life As We Know It - Caterer Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl) and network sports director Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel) discover a reciprocal hatred during an ill-fated first date -- but are forced to put their feelings aside when their mutual friends die and they become the guardians for orphaned Sophie. Now, Holly and Eric must learn to live with each other and juggle their promising careers while taking care of the little girl in this romantic comedy.

Paranormal Activity 2 -People hovering over beds for hours while asleep, moving shadows across the floor -- the unexplained, terrifyingly real supernatural forces are back, and this time, a baby and a dog become part of the nightmare as the camera rolls. Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor) directs and Michael R. Perry (Persons Unknown) writes this spine-chilling sequel to the wildly popular 2009 flick.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My VCR Collection VHS Recorder

Apologies in advance for this post - and any future VHS-related posts - I realise I work for a DVD company, but I grew up in the age of VHS so I still have lot of nostalgia for the format, especially since now it's obsolete.

First up, this is a bizarre clip of a German dude with a mean bowl cut showing off his VCR collection. Backed by soundtrack themes for films like Star Wars and Ghostbusters (!?), he drones on for an interminable 8 minutes in his thick accent, commenting on the different models - "Panasonic is very good". It's fascinating to watch in a mind-melting WTF way.

Second up, something from the Found Footage guys, who've unearthed some hilarious gems from trawling through garage sales and trash bins over the years. In this clip they pick some of their best-worst VHS covers. They're a bit annoying to watch as usual, but it's worth it just for the covers:

Best-worst VHS covers, part one

In Memory of Barbara Billingsley...

The "original TV mom", star of classic '50s sitcom Leave It To Beaver, passed away a couple of days ago at the age of 94. Watch Billingsley talk jive in one of the funniest scenes from Airplane:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trailer Mash-up: Toy Grit

Monday Mash-up Time! The trailer for the Coens' upcoming remake of John Wayne's '69 western True Grit (or perhaps, to be more precise, adaptation of Charles Portis' novel which Wayne's movie was based on) meets Toy Story 3, and the results are superb...

See the original trailer here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

VHS Vortex #21: Deadly Strangers (1974)

If you're wondering why it's #21 of a column that has never appeared on this blog before, you have reason to, but here's why: for nearly two years, VHS Vortex was a monthly wee thing I wrote for Real Groove magazine, who sad to say, went under a couple of weeks ago (must-read eulogies here and here). It was a bit of an unusual column in a sense that it wasn't tied to anything commercial, it wasn't promoting any current product - it was pure indulgence on my part (thanks Duncan!), a reason to go through my VHS stash which otherwise would have remained unwatched for years. But it also gave me a chance to shed some on light on interesting, rare, off-the-radar, offbeat movies, yet unavailable on DVD, that would've gone unnoticed.

So I thought I'd share my last column, which was to appear in November's issue, here. I don't think I'll ever get paid for watching VHS ever again (though I'd be more than happy to...), but I've been thinking about possibly continuing the column here. Anywho we'll see. Copy + paste, final VHS Vortex:

By the time Hayley Mills dropped her top for Sidney Hayers’ 1974 road thriller Deadly Strangers, she was well into her attempts at scrubbing away her career-defining squeaky-clean image as Disney’s top child actor of the ‘60s. She’d already done non-family-friendly psycho-thrillers like Twisted Nerve (’68) and Endless Night (’72), and with this trashy, sleazy film, Mills couldn’t be further away from her Pollyanna days.

She plays Belle Adams, a twenty-something beauty who accepts a lift from a trucker when her car breaks down. Not long into their journey, the man stops the truck and proceeds to rape her (“I thought we’d settle the fare”), but she makes a run for it and catches a ride from another passing stranger, Stephen Slade (Simon Ward), who’s a tad friendlier, more dashing, but a little disconcertingly drunk. Meanwhile, there’s a murderous psychopath on the loose in the countryside…

Not a lot of what happens here is remotely plausible, and it’s not difficult to guess the outcome, but Deadly Strangers is fast-paced, well-acted and rousing enough to forgive its rougher edges.

The film basically amalgamates two genres: on one hand, it dabbles in the psycho-sexual themes of films like Psycho and Peeping Tom, and on the other, exploits our fears of thumbin’ a ride a la The Hitch-Hiker, Road Games et al. To be sure, the psychological stuff doesn’t rise above exploitation, delivered none-too-subtly via standard horror-trauma flashbacks into the characters’ pasts: Slade has trouble in the sack with his wife due to his love of dirty mags, Adams haunted by a traumatic past where her parents died in a car accident and she’s forced to live with a creepy uncle.

But the rapport the pair build during the film, by turns jovial, sexually tense, and off-kilter, is engrossing and suspenseful (their best scenes are played out in simple passenger/driver-conversing shots), and veteran TV director Hayers, clearly not working with a particularly large budget, makes the most of the depressing, soggy Midlands landscape to drench the film in atmosphere. There’s also an oddball, goofy appearance by Sterling Hayden as a heavy-bearded, jalopy-driving old-timer that adds an element of welcome quirkiness to the mainly sombre drama.

Deadly Strangers was released on VHS in the US by Paragon Video Productions in the ‘80s – apparently cut – and an English-language DVD has yet to surface yet. It’s no forgotten classic, but if you like this kind of thing, it’s worth hunting down.

Banksy Does The Simpsons

Just in case you missed it, here's the notorious and quite brilliant opening credit sequence for The Simpsons that elusive street artist Banksy designed. It popped up on the viral circuit a couple of days ago, and dropped a lot of jaws - nothing in the history of the show will prepare for how far it'll go, and it's a wonder that a mega-corp like Fox let it happen.

Click here for an interview about how it came to be. Also if haven't seen the superb Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, it's available to reserve on our site now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Cinemas This Week

Eat Pray Love - Julia Roberts stars in this adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's best-selling memoir about coping with a depressing divorce. After deciding to reshape her life, Liz (Roberts) travels the world in search of direction. She heads to Italy, India and Bali, indulging in delicious cuisine while seeking the true meaning of self-love, family, friendship and forgiveness. Along the way, she meets a bevy of characters and, possibly, her true love.

Farewell - In this thinking man's spy thriller, KGB agent Sergei Grigoriev (Emir Kusturica) plans to hand over hard evidence that proves the depth of his agency's penetration of U.S. intelligence, in a one-man crusade to bring down the Soviet empire. French engineer Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet) is drawn into this web of espionage against his will, but proves a surprisingly resourceful operative in the process.

The Town - Career bank robber Doug (Ben Affleck) and his volatile partner, Jim (Jeremy Renner), hit a roadblock when Doug falls for bank manager Claire (Rebecca Hall), whom he kidnapped during their last heist. Worse, an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) is now trailing the thieves around their Charlestown, Mass., territory. Affleck directs and co-writes this smart, intricate actioner that co-stars Blake Lively as Krista, Jim's sister and Doug's troubled former flame.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything #12

A very cool open letter from Steve Spielberg to George Lucas that appeared in Variety congratulating Lucas on the success of Star Wars. These guys really knew how to work it back in the day... this kind of showy, elbow-nudging levity amongst filmmakers is rare today. Imagine say, James Cameron doing this to er, Michael Bay? Unlikely.

(via Letters of Note)

Monday, October 4, 2010

David Cronenberg's iPhone Charger

I'm not convinced on how practical this is, but damn - doesn't it look like something right out of Videodrome??