Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year From Us All At Fatso...

...and also from Zooey Deschanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Trailers: The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

 In case you missed them, trailers for two of 2012's biggest and most anticipated releases have hit the web. I'm not too fussed about The Hobbit, I was never too attached to the world of Lord of the Rings - though I'm interested to see how much WETA's CG has advanced since Fellowship of the Ring, which just had its 10th birthday the other day. The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, already has my money for that one "Holy shit!" shot you'll see in the trailer (the 8-minute prologue that was shown before Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol looked damn promising too).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Before They Were Stars: Michelle Williams

Fantastic bit of adolescent awkwardness. Hoff steals the moment with his reactions to his boy Hobie getting invited to the party.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Trailer: The Raid

Wildly hyped for this one. Welsh-born director Gareth Evans' follow-up to his 2009 martial arts flick Merantau has been getting some high praise on the fest circuit, the general consensus being that it's one of the best action films to come out in a long, long time. Good news is that it will be coming to theatres and DVD early next year. Here's the Indonesian trailer in all its bloody, bad-ass, bone-snappin', groin-punchin' glory:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011: The Cinescape

End of the year, feeling burnt out and can't remember what cinema in 2011 was like? Watch this thoughtful, beautifully edited compilation of clips from some key films that defined the year. Lots of big-hitters like Tree of Life, Harry Potter 7.2, Submarine and Transformers 3, but see if you can spot all those barely-there split-second clips of less high-profile films (Ip Man 2!).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trailer: Battleship

Peter Berg's films have gotten progressively bigger and more blockbuster-y over the years, particularly with the effects-heavy, Will Smith-starring Hancock. But that doesn't quite prepare you for the event-sized magnitude of Battleship, his adaptation of Hasbro's board game. Two words that spring to mind when watching this trailer: MICHAEL BAY. With its military-focused action, slick CGI robot transformations and large-scale scenes of devastation, Battleship is nothing if not Transformers all over again. According to this interview however, the film will be "unique" 'cos Berg is "bringing a level of realism and Naval cooperation" to it. A-hem. Anyway, here's the trailer, enjoy the explosions and get excited and whatnot...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Confessions of a Teenage Movie Geek

Okay, time for a personal, self-indulgent post - one that'll probably portray me as a kid who didn't have much of a childhood other than watching movies 24-7. But surely some of you out there did this too, right? RIGHT??

I was clearing out my closet last night and stumbled onto my old film log book which I kept when I was 15-16. I'd been looking for it for a long time now, and I thought I threw it out years ago so was pretty stoked to have found it. It's utterly embarrassing and cringey stuff of course but an indispensable find for the nostalgist in me. I get a weird thrill from knowing that on Saturday November 26 1995 1:35pm I went to see The Specialist. And in the same year I snuck into see the very-R18 Color of Night in which you get see Bruce Willis' willy!!

I'm amused by the fact that I was obsessive/anal enough - at that age - to denote the format I watched the film on, whether it was on VHS, Laser Disc or SKY (!), and more bizarrely, religiously wrote down the Top 10 Films of the week after watching Box Office America. Who knows what I was thinking really. Anyway here are a few pages from the scrapbook for the world to gawk at. I know, I know, shut up.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

‘‘I picked Captain Bligh because I liked his hat."

For those of you out there that enjoy good art direction and something a little left of centre, here is a great gallery of short vignettes from The New York Times starring some of the hottest Oscar contenders playing some of the most iconic villainous archetypes the screen has seen. Simple, powerful and vibrant.

Plus a few insights from the actors on where they're coming from and/or what they're channeling: here.

The Sixth Annual Xmas Exploitation Screening

If you're looking for an unorthodox way of celebrating Christmas, make your way down to the Academy Cinemas in Auckland tomorrow night for a special double feature screening of the gory Xmas slasher Saint and the indescribable chunk of cine-insanity known as Raw Force (in rare 35mm!). Tickets are only $12. Here's a sneak peek of what to expect:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Future of Cinema Projection in a Picture

"On your left, the past: A person and a film. On your right, the future: A black box." - David Bordwell, "Pandora's digital box: In the multiplex". The piece leans towards the geekier/technical end of things but it provides a lot of insight and context into the forces that have influenced the current industry-wide switch to digital projection in cinemas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Martin Scorsese: Genre-Hopper

I've never really thought of Martin Scorsese as a genre-hopper before, even though it's pretty clear he's had a fairly varied career, working in different genres. Here's a neat infographic from Fast Company that visually summarises his body of work by genre and gives credence to the notion that he's often attempted other things beyond the crime/gangster movies that he's more well-known for:

Also be sure to check out the full interview with Scorsese - it's an excellent read which goes into his relationship with Hollywood and how he's manage to stay afloat in the "system" after all these years.  His new 3D kids film Hugo, out here on Jan 12, is currently garnering really good press, probably some of his best in recent years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

RIP Ken Russell

Ken Russell, one of Britain's most provocative and controversial directors, has died at age 84. The breadth of Russell's career is too great and wide-ranging that I could not possibly do any justice to it (having only seen a small percentage), but I can say this: the guy made one of my favourite films of all time: The Devils, an incendiary masterpiece that somehow continues to disturb Warner Brothers so much that they apparently still refuse to release it on DVD or give it any respectable home video treatment it definitely deserves (though the British Film Institute are rectifying this next year; one can only hope for a NZ release).

Sad to say we only have a miniscule portion of Ken Russell's work in our library but what there is is worth delving into if you're the least bit curious about him - certainly films like Tommy, Women in Love and Mahler are among his best and most acclaimed.

Round-up of obits: BBC News, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, New York Times.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Doco Short: The Umbrella Man

Fans of detective fiction, conspiracy theories and oddball phenomena in general should watch this cool short documentary clip by Errol Morris (Standard Operating Procedure) about the "Umbrella Man", a seemingly enigmatic figure spotted in the Zapruder footage that filmed JFK's 1963 assassination. It's a segment from a six-hour interview he conducted with Josiah Thompson, the author of the book "Six Seconds in Dallas" which looks extensively at the Zapruder film.

Even though the man is utterly fascinating and chilling the first time we see him (it's a sunny day, open black umbrella, what the hell??), the "mystery" is not so much what's interesting about this doco, but how it illuminates the notion of macro/micro levels of historical research which Thompson talks about, and what Morris describes as "the nature of investigation and evidence" in his statement. I look forward to seeing more.

(This actually kind of reminds of that silly Cellphone Time Traveler case from last year...)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Spoof Trailer: The Walken Dead

I love a good Christopher Walken impression, here's a video full of them, and they're zombies to boot... a smart little spoof of AMC's The Walking Dead, which is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on December 5th!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fight for 35mm

Here's another boring post/moan about the death of celluloid which everyone should sit up and take notice of, of course. Especially when you have high profile film critics like Roger Ebert writing heartfelt eulogies to 35mm, and Julia Marchese of New Beverly Cinema, a revival theatre in L.A. which Tarantino saved not too long ago, starting a petition to fight for the film's survival. The end is truly nigh. So if you still love seeing living, breathing, beautiful film projected in theatres, as opposed to the ALL-DIGITAL ROUTE things are eventually heading in, read this, and then go sign Marchese's petition to show you care (see also: Death of the Film Camera).

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Outer Limits: A Post-24 Hour Movie Marathon Wrap-Up

One of the oddest things about the 24 Hour Movie Marathon each year is the feeling that it doesn't seem that long since that last one. I only ever venture out to Avondale once a year, for the marathon, and whenever I'm on the way there, taking the motorway exit, driving pass the Avondale shops, I get struck with a de ja vu-like sensation that it was just the other week I was here. This may be in part due to the fact that the marathon is such an indelible experience that it actually stays with you throughout the year, whether you're conscious of it or not. Or least that's how I'm trying to justify the feeling.

Not to sound like my judgement has been coloured by Fatso's involvement as sponsor or anything, but this year's marathon has to go down as one of the best, an opinion I think - I hope anyway - will be shared by many marathon-goers. The line-up of films was as delirious and varied and unpredictable as ever, ranging from pulpy '70s crime dramas to dime-store period horrors to super-obscure spaced-out student films to surreal regional oddities.

For those wondering what the effect of watching around 12 movies in a row in a theatre is like... first off, there WILL be some nodding off at some point. Unless you're wildly hopped up on V, or caffeine or some similar sleep-deprivation substance, there's a high chance you won't be fully awake at 3 in the morning trying to comprehend the non-existent plot of a glacially paced sexploitation flick that features an ailurophobic gangster. Everything starts to blur before breakfast time. You'll be confusing the line-up of films ("did Film X come first or Film Y or..?"), or forgetting something even played. It is a sort of druggy state of mind, something enhanced especially when the program fearlessly plunges into depths of cinema so unconventional, so extremely removed from norms of taste and technique that you feel zapped into another dimension. Which is to stay, whilst the marathon will provide you with many hours of laughter and entertainment, it is also a COMPLETE SENSORY EXPERIENCE. You won't be the same person you were earlier during the day when you sat down and eagerly awaited the first film out of the gate while the innocuous old-timey sounds of a live wurlitzer opened the event.

Kudos to Ant and the Incredibly Strange team, the Hollywood Cinema crew, and the appreciative, douche-bag-free audience for a fantastic 24 hours.

Stray thoughts:
  • The dinner/breakfast catering seemed to work really well.
  • If most people knew the rarity of some of the prints shown... mind-blown.
  • It seems to be warmer upstairs than downstairs. I usually sit down stairs at the back. There's a lot of legroom. 
  • Few projection issues this year, i.e. nothing broke (Correction: there was a break at the end of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark according to marathon attendee Doug Dillaman - I must have slept through it)
  • Ant mentioned that this would be the last year that the marathon will be mostly 35mm (sob).
  • The superette next door has expanded!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Trailer: Safe and Safe House

A couple of action-packed trailers for upcoming films with the word Safe in their titles and starring two actors who I'll almost always watch simply because they look cool beating the crap out of people. Both films seem to be on par quality-wise, though I might give the edge to Safe House because of Denzel's acting muscle.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ABCs of Death Winner Announced: T is For Toilet

Check out the winning entry for the ABCs of Death competition, a terrifically gory piece of claymation from UK-based Lee Hardcastle. His short will be joining works by the likes of Ti West (House of the Devil), Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun) and Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) in this hotly anticipated horror anthology film produced by Ant Timpson and Tim League.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fatso 24 Hour Movie Marathon: The PSAs

The PSA entries for the Fatso 24 Hour Movie Marathon competition are in. Check them out, tell us what you think! Thanks to all who entered - great effort! (warning: contains offensive language, nudity and bad taste)

The Dangers of Sitting: DVT & YOU from Hand-Out Collaborative on Vimeo.

Movie Marathon PSA: A Moviegoer's Story from Andrew Todd on Vimeo.

Spike Cellphone Helmet from Nick Withers on Vimeo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Loopy for Looper

SlashFilm has just posted some early buzz on Rian Johnson's next film, the time-travel thriller Looper and I couldn't resist echoing my anticipation for it. Although his sophomore effort The Brothers Bloom was a bit wobbly, I'm expecting - at least hoping - Looper will demonstrate the creativity and conviction of his debut Brick, albeit on a larger scale. Johnson's been documenting the production on tumblr, which is filled with beautiful images from the set, and if it's any indication of how the film will turn out, then it's going to be a real stunner. Unfortunately we'll have to wait until September 2012 to see it...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Make My Movie Finalists Announced

The 12 finalists for the Make My Movie competition have been revealed. They were culled from 730 entries (!), no easy task I imagine - but from seeing the sheer number of head-slapping, WTF pitches I'd say it also wasn't too hard to pinpoint the contenders. For what it's worth, here's my loosey-goosey rundown of the finalists:

Poster: Fantasy, adult-fairy-tale graphic novel by a 16-year-old girl? I dunno.
Idea: My initial thought was it was some kind of non-PC Harold and Kumar deal (incompetent slackers...), but the synopsis ends up reading darker ("brutal kidnapping"). The one-location setting and real-time approach are ambitious, budget-conscious decisions, but it's going to need some solid perfs and smart, convincing writing to pull its premise off.
Verdict: Nope.

Poster: Eye-catching perspective/image, wide open spaces = sense of mystery, possibility.
Idea: Limited location/characters works for the budget. Sergeant Dave sounds like a great meaty role. Interesting shifting dynamics between characters could fuel some tense moments, but will need to be super persuasive and not turn into a turgid chamber drama.
Verdict: Maybe.

Poster: That typeface has got to go.
Idea: Fun fantasy concept, if not entirely original. Could see this as a winning, charming lo-fi comedy if done right. Want to see what they do with the costumes and sets on a shoe-string. Getting a Bill & Ted/Galaxy Quest meets Michel Gondry/Special Problems feel.
Verdict: Potential.

Poster: Off-putting. What is that? Ecoli?
Idea: Maybe it's the poster, which doesn't even begin to give you an idea of the story's tone or anything, or maybe it's the thought of blue cheese and porn in the same picture... but this smells like misfire to me.
Verdict: Nope.

Poster: I get it, but needs work.
Idea: Has there been a creepy stalking rom-com before? I can't think of one off the top of my head. This could be a goer. Mass crowd appeal because we're all stalkers at heart.
Verdict: Potential.

Poster: First thoughts: The Invisible Man/The Tenant/Timecrimes.
Idea: This kind of hallucinatory brain-melt plot is usually up my alley but hard to gauge if this is tongue-in-cheek or not ("drinking endless pina coladas"). Intriguing to say the least, and there aren't enough movies with hypnotists around. Not really fond of that title aye.
Verdict: Maybe.

Poster: Torturrrre porrrnn.
Idea: Like The Bach, title is unmistakably NZ. Do we really need a Kiwi Deliverance or Rituals? It'll need to bring some fresh to the table. Dig the MacGyer quote, hope they can come up with some cool make-shift contraptions.
Verdict: Maybe.

Poster: Nice, clean.
Idea: Source Code-y high concept that sounds like a tired Twilight Zone gimmick, but if it can produce some serious laughs and nifty twists, then I'd like to see them.
Verdict: Maybe.

Poster: Looks like a sports flick with a phantom angry face seeping through the paper.
Idea: I can go with 4 girls on mountain bikes, but the rest of it sounds a bit rote. Broken leg, no cell phone reception, etc. Actually if you had the 4 girls on mountain bikes vs the Number 8. wire dude that would be the ideal pic.
Verdict: Nah.

Poster: Oh dear.
Idea: A haunted taxi cab.
Verdict: Do not want.

Poster:  I actually would love to see a poster with the words "SEX PRIEST" in the lobby of Event Cinemas.
Idea: Bad Santa but with a priest? Taboo-busting, irreverent comedy could be quite something if they can make it work (I can't imagine how at this stage) - but sounds like it has a sweet twist to it as well.
Verdict: Maybe.

Poster: Slick. Minimal. Striking.
Idea: A profession rarely seen on film so immediately fascinating. Thinking Rod Serling's Blow Out or The Conversation or something. Trick is whether writers can sustain the plot's central tease for an entire feature.
Verdict: Sure.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Every Michael Bay Explosion Ever

Don't think this needs any further explanation... what can I say, the guy loves it when things go BOOM.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Craziest Film Set in the History of Film?

Ok, now this is nuts. This jaw-dropping GQ article goes behind the scenes of Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky's insane magnum opus Dau, a film which has been shooting for 5 years with no clear intention of stopping. But that's only the start of it. You need to read the entire piece to fully appreciate the magnitude and craziness of this undertaking, which involves a self-contained community under totalitarian rule. If this is true, it would be the most bizarre film production ever, like a real-life Soviet version of Synecdoche, New York or something...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Depp vs Gervais

Ricky Gervais (whose mouth seems to land him in trouble every now and then) has a new BBC sitcom coming out called Life's Too Short, starring dwarf actor Warwick Davis (Willow) as the head of a talent agency for actors under five feet tall. Here's an amusing preview clip featuring Johnny Depp taking Gervais to task for some stuff he said at the Golden Globes. I love watching actors be arseholes to each other.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Unofficial Credits Sequence: The Adventures of Tintin

This "unofficial" opening credits sequence to Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin by James Curran (aka slimjimstudios) is one of the most charming bits of animation I've seen in a while. It also charmed the pants off Spielberg, so much so that he's invited Curran to the premiere and given him a job!
The Adventures of Tintin from James Curran on Vimeo.

In sort of sucky news, we're going to be among the last in the world to see this movie...

60 Years of Cinema (in 40 Seconds)

A stunning little montage, with many iconic images. See how many films you can pick out... (via Wonders in the Dark)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trailer: Premium Rush

David Koepp's name is more widely associated with the scripts he's penned for some ginormous blockbusters (Spider-Man, Jurassic Park), but he's also directed a couple of interesting smaller movies in his career like The Trigger Effect and Stir of Echoes where he's showed some deftness in executing an economical thriller (let's not talk about Ghost Town). His next directorial effort, Premium Rush, looks to be in the same modest scale as those films (albeit on a bigger budget), relying on smart thriller writing rather than big expensive effects to sell itself. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger who's carrying an envelope that bad cop Michael Shannon really wants to have. Trailer shows off some cool stunts, vibrant location shooting in New York and a brisk sense of pace that promises it'll be an adrenalin rush.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Trailer: The ABC's of Death

Highly anticipated horror anthology The ABC's of Death now has a trailer for the competition they've been running to decide who will be the 26th director to make the cut. Click here to see all the entries so far and vote for your favourite. Lots of gore and nasty stuff to follow so consider this NSFW...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seems like such a long time ago...

This almost had me in tears. It's so over-the-top it's almost like a Tim and Eric spoof.

Death of the Film Camera

Woke up to this distressing news. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but it doesn't make it any easier!! I'm trying to look on the positive side and imagine when Digital = Film as technology improves but right now it's hard to get excited about this development.

Just as a side point - this is not so much about film cameras as such but digital projection, and to illustrate the "unevenness" of all things digital (not saying 35mm is perfect but humour me for a sec). A quick run-down on three films I saw projected digitally recently and what they looked like:
  • Source Code (St. Lukes) - this was the best of the bunch. Crisp, fine-grain-look, great colour. But the image also felt like there was no life. The flicker is missing!
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (Gold Class, Queen St) -  it looked like Blu-ray projected on the big screen. Sharp, but sterile and lifeless image.
  • The Devil's Double (Rialto) - one of the worst I've ever seen. Smeary, blown-out, lacking detail. It was pretty much DVD on the big screen.
I guess what I'm saying is there is a "living" aesthetic to film that digital lacks at the moment. When I go to the movies, I want to watch something that moves. I can save sharp Blu-ray/HD-whatever for the home. I want a different experience at the movies.

Anyway, back to film cameras - a massive pet peeve I have is when you can detect the video-y look slipping into an otherwise good-looking digitally shot pic. Way to take you OUT of the goddamn movie. This occurred when I watched Fright Night recently. 80% of the film looked ok, but then in the last reel heaps of shots started to exhibit really awful video blur/motion that looked like they were last minute re-shoots (imagine a slick big budget film that suddenly looks like something you could've shot on your consumer-grade DV cam). I'm not the most technically minded person but I appreciate aesthetics and I see what I see, and if I see something crap... well, it's crap. If anyone can explain to me the nature of this "effect", I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Trailer: The Avengers

There's this shot in modern action blockbusters that I'm becoming increasingly weary of: a crowded New York street, a massive explosion or three, cars being flung into the air and peeps making a dash for it. It's like a Roland Emmerich signature that seems to be poppin' up with frequency in superhero films too. And it's definitely in The Avengers. Okay so it's an attention-grabbing way of conveying destruction of an enormous size, but it's not surprising anymore guys. It looks too easy. It was quite a thing back when Twister air-lifted an oil tanker in 1996. But today it's just another multi-million dollar CGI set-piece you can gawk at with jaded indifference.

But I digress. Let's talk The Avengers. Casting aside my usual hang-ups with the genre (enough already!), this looks fun, if only for the geeky satisfaction of having characters from different franchises coming together for a men-on-a-mission-type deal. There's always a danger of character-overcrowding with this kind of project though, especially with a star cast that could be awkwardly vying for equal screen time. But I think fans can rest easy knowing that fellow fanboy Joss Whedon (Firefly) is at the helm, it looks like he knows what he's doing. The Avengers is scheduled for a May release next year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

R.I.P. Bill Barounis

The name Bill Barounis may not mean much to a lot of people reading this, but for anyone who's into lost Turkish genre films - or weird world cinema in general - Bill was King. Sadly I just found out that Bill, who started the one-man-company Onar Films to make available some of the rarest Turkish movies ever, passed away over a week ago (yep, I'm falling way behind on my Google Reader updates...). From dipping in and out of discussion forums, I'd been aware that he was battling cancer for a couple of years now, and that he recently had a bad stroke. It didn't look good, but it still comes as a shock to find out that he's actually gone.

I first dealt with Bill some years ago when he was selling tapes on eBay under the name deathland. I bought a few things off him (still have J.P. Simon's Supersonic Man gathering dust somewhere), and he was a great guy to deal with, but I mostly liked to check back on his items-for-sale to see what kind of oddities he was selling - and the crazy prices they would go for. These were super-rare, original, often bootlegged Greek pre-records of horrors, gialli, superhero films that were highly sought after in the collectors' market.

Onar Films was a godsend to fans of these films. Because of the rarity of these films, and the lack of decent sources, these prints generally look less-than-stellar (HD snobs need not apply), but they were the best he could find and he packed the DVDs with many neat extra features. Plus they were all subtitled. Have a peek at the opening minutes of Casus Kiran (Spy Smasher) just to get an idea what they're like:

I tried to pick up almost everything he put out, and it's a real bummer that Onar will cease to exist now that he's no longer around. We're talking the preservation and distribution of movies that an industry had zero interest in archiving or caring for. There's no cushy vault somewhere housing a mint print of 3 Dev Adam. These aren't films that'll likely get released in New Zealand. One can only hope someone else will continue the legacy that Bill left behind, and do it with same kind of dedication that could only come from someone who did it solely for the love of these films.

Friday, October 14, 2011

For The Star Wars Fan With Everything #17

Our Inventory Administrator, Joel, is a huge STAR WARS fan and a very talented bass player. This post is especially for him.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Liquid Television is Online!

Not sure how many of you out there remember MTV's Liquid Television from the '90s, but it's one of my fondest adolescent TV memories and I've just discovered that a sizable collection of shorts from the show are now available to watch online! Featuring heaps of wild, seriously screwed-up cartoons (some like Beavis and Butthead and Aeon Flux would later achieve cult status), it's a one-of-a-kind programme that I'd religiously set the VCR to record weekly when it aired on TV3 late at night. I've never seen anything like it, with that kind of anarchic creative freedom, on TV again. Browse the archives here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

End-of-Week News Round-up

Sorry it's been a bit of a mad week so haven't had a chance to post anything! Here's a quick round-up of interesting/topical news and stuff from the past week split into easy-to-digest categories:

  • Steve Jobs, visionary former CEO of Apple, passed away at 56. While he gave us MacBooks, iPhones, etc and revolutionised personal computing, we should remember he was also a crucial player in jump-starting Pixar. See also: amazing, powerful tribute image from a 19-year-old graphic designer in Hong Kong, and a typically great Onion piece here.
  • Also RIP Charles Napier, a legend in his own right, a classic "Hey, it's that guy!" character actor who specialised in playing tough authority figures like cops and military dudes. You may not know his name, but you will have seen his face: 

  • Looks like Kurt Russell is stepping in to replace Kevin Costner in Quentin Tarantino's due-in-2012 spaghetti western Django Unchained. I would've loved to have seen Costner in the role but absolutely not complaining about Russell. 
  • The weirdest, and most awesome casting news of the week has to be Werner Herzog playing a villain in Tom Cruise's next thriller One Shot, based on Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels.  
  • I'm also excited to hear Steve Carrell will be tackling a non-comedic role in Foxcatcher, which, based on the subject matter, sounds like it could be a great true crime film.

  • Magna Pacific have pulled They Call Her Cleopatra Wong and The One Armed Executioner from their October schedule, citing "high rating costs" (both titles were going to be R18). A real bummer, I was very much looking forward to having these in our library.
  • Horror fan-fave Hellraiser and its sequel are on the way from Vendetta next month. Strangely these have never been on DVD here, though we've had III and IV on our site for a while now.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lee Unkrich Joins Tumblr

Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story 3, has taken to Tumblr to document the making of his next, yet-untitled Pixar movie with one photo a day. Tumblr is a blogging platform that uses a similar "follower" concept to Twitter, and it's incredibly user-friendly ("blogging for lazy people"). The ease of adding text, photo, video and audio makes it an ideal way for a film director - or any artist - to quickly share their creative process with the public. Unkrich has only added two photos so far - a close-up of a keyboard, a sandwich with a side of broccoli - but these aren't really clues to the film: on his twitter, he said, "About my photo-a-day project: don't expect revealing clues. This is a personal project detailing my experience in an abstract way". Which is fine, since there's always the risk of revealing too much. It's an ingenious teaser anyway. We don't know anything about this movie at this stage but we'll be following closely.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Drive + Hype

I finally had the chance to catch a screening of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (courtesy of our friends at Vendetta Films) last week after months of buzzy anticipation (blogged about it back in May), but this isn't going to be a formal review, just some stray non-spoilery (possibly incoherent) thoughts on the film:
  • Intial reaction: mostly positive. For a film that's on a narrative level, not particularly "interesting" nor ground-breaking, I'm finding it rather hard to pin down; I usually write my notes post-screening but I've left it until now - four days later - to do anything about it. Maybe to let the film sink in? Maybe it was so damn good, I couldn't bring myself to write about it? I'm still not sure.
  • Drive is all look and feel. The opening scenes oddly felt like Blade Runner to me or something. L.A. never felt so futuristic in the present. Yet it's a film that's blatantly '80s retro in its aesthetic (the pink script font of the opening credits, the lush Euro-tinged electro-pop on the soundtrack, etc). Either way, this might end up being one of the best-looking L.A. movies ever. I always love seeing the US through the eyes of a foreign filmmaker.
  • It's easy to see where Refn is cribbin' from: Jean Pierre-Melville, Sergio Leone, Walter Hill, etc. But it's not distracting - nor obnoxiously fanboy-ish, like Tarantino at his mix-master worst - since the whole thing's so marvelously synthesized and emerges with its own unique vibe.
  • This is NOT an action film. It's not Fast and Furious 5. It's more crime-noir. More dream cinema. More Taxi Driver. Almost anti-action. Though I did keep thinking of John Woo's The Killer, which itself of course is indebted to Melville etc.
  • Ryan Gosling - dude can do a wicked stare. He's as tightly wound and pared down as Refn's direction. No fat here.
  • My main fault with the film is the rather thankless treatment of a couple of characters - but my lips are sealed...
The film opens 3rd November in NZ and I hope it does alright, considering it's a "small film" that has proven a little difficult to market (it looks like a car movie, but it's not). It has the weight of HYPE on its shoulders too. I'm gonna call this the "Black Swan Effect". I recall the agonising wait for Black Swan to come out last year. Blogs all over the web were going nuts over it and when I finally got to see it, I dug it - but now, almost a year later, it's a film I have not much interest in seeing again. Ever. I blame it on hype. The expectations built by hype have ruined it for me. It's a bit of a strange thing I've noticed more and more recently: getting super-excited about upcoming films but when you finally come to see it, it never achieves the level of excitement that you initially had for it, even if it might be a perfectly okay movie. I really do hope Drive won't turn into another Black Swan; at this point in time, it seems like something I'd like to visit again soon.

Kid Casting

Don't you love a well-cast kid actor who appears in a flashback of the adult character? Here's a tumblr full of them... very cool.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random Stuff #24

Just realised it's been in a while since the last batch of Random Stuff... 

Teaser Trailer: The Grey

I like how Liam Neeson is kinda shaping up to be a version of those gruff old school old-timer leading men that Hollywood used to have in abundance; think Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Warren Oates, Charles Bronson etc. - men who look like they've been around the block but still have a little bit of fire in their engine to really kick some ass. Following Taken and Unknown, The Grey is the latest Neeson vehicle to give him some serious action chops and it looks frickin' great. Re-teaming him with The A-team director Joe Carnahan, it's a snowbound survivalist thriller pitting a plane-crash-surviving group of oil-rig workers against the Alaskan wilderness. I'm not crazy about Carnahan's Smokin' Aces nor The A-Team, but I like Narc a lot and hope perhaps The Grey will deliver something on the level of that bad cop flick. Teaser trailer here.. how cool is that makeshift Wolverine claw thing Neeson is sporting??

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Attack the Block To Premiere at 24 Hour Movie Marathon

British comedian Joe Cornish's urban sci-fi monster movie Attack the Block has been announced to screen at the 24 Hour Movie Marathon on November 19th. The film's been getting some hot press around the place and looks pretty dang fun... check out the trailer and buy yourself a ticket (or two) to this "Mount Everest of Movie Experiences" here (don't waste your time, it'll sell out!):

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making the Pitch

Have you been sitting on an amazing story/idea for a film with no money to make it? Now here's the chance to catch your big break! In the tradition of Project Greenlight, 48Hour Filmmaking Competition founder Ant Timpson and entertainment editor Hugh Sundae have come up with MAKE MY MOVIE, a low-budget filmmaking scheme/competition which will give $100K to a budding filmmaker with the best movie pitch. It's pretty much open to anyone who has an idea, and what's neat about this competition is the multi-platform approach, which includes social media interactivity (voting via Facebook, Google+) and a reality-TV component with "webisodes" that'll cover the entire process.

The submissions go up live on the website, and so far there have been some unintentionally hilarious WTF ideas, especially when coupled with the less-than-polished Photoshop artwork. It also makes it hard to tell what percentage of these might be piss-takes... I dunno. It'll be an entertaining ride I'm sure... now anyone up for Battle Scar?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Piecing Together the Action Sequence

Jim Emerson, who runs the excellent blog Scanners at Chicago Sun-Times, has put together a great video essay taking apart a key action sequence from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight. It makes for a nice follow-up to Matthias Stork's Chaos Cinema essays, cogently scrutinising how certain editorial choices have affected the way this particular action sequence has turned out. It's not something that I noticed, nor probably most viewers out there; if you watch it uninterrupted without Emerson's commentary, it seems to hang together fairly well. And that's what's cool about this essay, is that it's examining the flaws of an action scene that isn't actually all that terrible or incoherent - Nolan's fight scenes are much worse - but the problems with "spatial integrity" are still there, as he persuasively points out:
In the Cut, Part I: Shots in the Dark (Knight) from Jim Emerson on Vimeo.

Emerson also looks at the the Angelina Jolie chase scene in Salt, which comparatively has a better sense of on-screen spatial relationships, even though it drops the ball where logic is concerned in one crucial bit:
In the Cut, Part II: A Dash of Salt from Jim Emerson on Vimeo.

  • It's kinda interesting that he used Salt as an example. Noyce may have executed this sequence skillfully, but rest of the action in Salt is pretty forgettable and plagued with "Chaos Cinema"-style editing.
  • Stork's essay made me re-watch Ronin - for the first time since its theatrical release - and it was simply a breath of fresh air and much better than I remembered. Frankenheimer really knew how to direct good, clear action.
  • I'd like to see an essay from someone defending Paul Greengrass's Bourne films and how his use of shakey-cam can be argued as effective (or in the greater scheme of things, how this technique can be used well).
  • Check out the comments under Emerson's essay. If you're really into this stuff, you'll lose yourself in it. Great stuff.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cult Classic Trailer: They Call Her Cleopatra Wong

Holy shit. Maybe we should just call October "Filipino Action Comes to Fatso" Month! Not only is For Your Height Only/Impossible Kid and Machete Maidens Unleashed! coming from Vendetta Films, now we have Bobby A. Suarez's They Call Her Cleopatra Wong and The One-Armed Executioner due from Magna Pacific!! Both films were released last year as a double feature disc by Dark Sky Films in the US, but are coming out separately here, and what's interesting, and possible cause for excitement, is that Aussie retail site DVD Orchard lists Cleopatra Wong as being a "16x9 Enhanced Transfer"... the Dark Sky DVD used a full-screen master, and in all likelihood, the version we'll be getting will be the same one, but here's hoping someone's dug up a nice scope print for this and it's not just a data error on DVD Orchard's part. As for the film itself, I have a soft spot for it because (1) it sports one of the catchiest titles around, and (2) that poster art.... goddamn, it's one of the best ever. Plus there are nuns with shotguns in it, long before any of that post-modern nonsense like Machete and this.

  • There seems to be THREE Cleopatra Wong-related films: The Bionic Boy, They Call Her Cleopatra Wong, and Dynamite Johnson (aka Return of the Bionic Boy). The latter is a favourite of mine, and if memory serves me correctly was the first VHS Vortex column I wrote for Real Groove a few years ago. Sadly, both Bionic Boy films are still unavailable on DVD (at least not officially anyway).
  •  A little background on Cleopatra Wong herself, Marrie Lee.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Classic Trailer: Metropolis: Reconstructed & Restored

Fritz Lang's monumental sci-fi classic Metropolis has finally been reconstructed and restored and DVD and Blu-ray is out today from Madman! This new release contains the original 150-minute director's cut and reinstates 25 minutes of footage that was thought to have been lost for 80 years. You can read more about the restored footage here, and if you've never this film, this is the best possible version available. Here's a glimpse of what to expect...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Old School Pixar

From 1972, this really neat video shows one of the earliest CG 3D animations ever, made by Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar. It eventually found its way into a sequence in the movie Futureworld. Read more about it here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cult Classic Trailer: For Y'ur Height Only

If you had told me, 7 years go (when I started working here), that we'd be stocking For Y'ur Height Only in our library, I'd probably think you were punkin' me. This Filipino midget-spy-spoof insanity was one of the treasures from the days of Pete Tombs' Mondo Macabro (the DVD label released it in 2005) and I never thought I'd see the day when it'd be getting a local release. So props to Vendetta Films, whose October 19th release of this nutty gem (and its sequel The Impossible Kid) will be getting my award for Most Surprising Local DVD Release of the Year. Check out the trailer:

Also worth checking out is Machete Maidens Unleashed! a documentary about low-budget Filipino filmmaking in the '70s from the director of the superb Not Quite Hollywood. Long live Weng Weng!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Death Delivers: A Quick Spoiler-Free Word on Final Destination 5

Caught a screening of Final Destination 5 last night, and to put it simply, it delivered. After the cruddy, lazy fourth one, this entry felt very much like a reinvigoration of the franchise, an attempt to put things right and round off the series in a way that would satisfy both fans and newcomers. Much credit must be given to director Steven Quale*, whose staging of the film's gruesome, Grand Guignol set-pieces - the series' raison d'etre - is spectacularly well-executed, especially the jaw-dropping opener, which is just as good if not better than FD2's. I tend to switch off if too much CGI is used in horror splatter and there's still a bit of that here, but the CGI is also subtly, almost invisibly applied in this opening sequence without losing the scale of the devastation. Of course, the 3D bits are gimmicky as usual, though strangely I didn't mind it as much as FD4, perhaps 'cos everything about this movie is just better overall. It's the funnest horror film I've seen in a theatre in a while - and I wouldn't even count myself a FD fan. Opens this Thursday, go see it!

(*Quale hasn't done much by way of feature directing, but he's served as second unit director for James Cameron on Titanic and Avatar, so it's not inconceivable that he's picked up some of Cameron's chops for staging spatially coherent spectacle. Keen to see what he does next.)

Roadshow's screening invite