Friday, July 29, 2011

NZFF '11: Week Two

I haven't been too many films this week but the ones I saw were worthwhile:

Martha Marcy May Marlene - found this disturbing indie drama effectively grueling. If nothing else, it boasts an amazing performance from Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sis of the Olsen Twins, that'll definitely put her on the One-To-Watch-in-the-Future map. She plays a former member of a creepy cult who leaves the compound and tries to get her life back on track living with her older sister, but yeah, it's not easy, seeing as she's pretty pretty screwed up. The Blue Valentine-style flashback-vs-present day structure maybe a bit too studied at times for my liking, but director Sean Durkin has made an impressively assured debut feature that knows how to unsettle the viewer without being too in-your-face about it. Also, John Hawkes (Deadwood, Winter's Bone): skin-crawling.

Le Quattro Volte - The most relaxing film of the fest yet, this endearing, calming little pic looks at the cycle of life-and-death in various forms (human, animal, mineral) in a rural Italian village. Standout scene featuring a dog being a bit of a jerk is one of the most incredible things I've seen in cinema all year. Oh and the goats... SO MANY GOATS. And their trance-inducing ringing bells. Contemplative, beautiful.

The Turin Horse - Taking its inspiration from a moment in German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's life that apparently caused his mental breakdown, revered Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr's last film sent at least 12 people walking out of the theatre, and unsurprisingly so, as it's easily one of the more difficult works screening at NZFF this year (appropriately, in the "Go Slow" section). If you're not familiar with Tarr's works, it's torturous - the slowest, most depressing and desolate cinema you can imagine where nothing happens for 2.5 hours. But get into "the zone" - as you would with a Tarkovsky film or something - and the thing just works away at your soul and mind with its searing, bleak imagery and grinding, repetitive score, and when the lights come up and you sorta see everything in a different light... The awesomely minimalist trailer:

Stray stuff:
  • How about dem coughers? Out in full force as usual.
  • The focus during Le Quattro Volte at the Civic was particularly shonky. In fact there've reportedly been a lot of tech issues this year, which is a shame.
  • Check out the daily diary reviews by our very own Steve at 3 News Entertainment.
  • Still to see: Sleeping Beauty, Melancholia, Wild River, Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
  • Heading over to Melbourne next Wednesday so will catch a few festival films there too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

10 Pixar Themes Played by 1-Man Band

A truly wonderful tribute to Pixar's music... played entirely by 1 person! File under: best thing you'll see all day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harry Potter as a Teen Comedy

Brilliantly done!

(via Total Film)

Trailer: Drive

Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive is probably my most anticipated film of the year thus far; it's a real bummer that it's not out until November here, and only playing at the Wellington Film Fest. I actually considered catching it in on the closing night of the Melbourne Film Fest when I'm there next week but tickets are a 100 smackeroos!! The film, an "existential heist movie" about a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for the mob, received great reviews since playing at Cannes, and Refn picked up Best Director prize too. Without further ado, here's the damn fine-looking red-band trailer... man, what a cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Secret LOST Video: "The Marbled Rye" (SPOILERS)

This one's strictly for fans of LOST who've seen all 6 seasons of the show, i.e. it's very spoilery so stop here if you've haven't finished the series. A little background on the video: showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse appeared to be engaged in a verbal spat on twitter last week over evidence that the show had been planned all along, but it was just a little tease leading up to their presentation of this jokey clip at Comic Con 2011. Shot on Disney's back lot a few weeks ago by regular LOST director Jack Bender, it shows Jacob (Mark Pellgrino) and Man-in-Black (Titus Welliver) overwatching Jack (Matthew Fox) and Locke (Terry O'Quinn) having a deep moment in the first season finale "Exodus", then bursting into an amusing argument takes potshots at the show's mythology. More proof that it's really the show that'll never die; dang, I miss it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Trailer: The Grandmasters

It could be argued that we don't exactly need another a movie about Bruce Lee's mentor, Ip Man, what with no less than 3 Ip Man-related films released in the space of the last few years: Wilson Yip's Ip Man and Ip Man 2, and Herman Yau's Ip Man: The Legend is Born. But I'm still hanging out for The Grandmasters, Wong Kar-wai's take on the kung fu master. Wong's undeniable, distinctly stylish stamp could bring something fresh to the plate, if not narrative-wise, then at least visually and texturally. And things look damn promising in this clip featuring black-clad Tony Leung Chiu Wai dishing out some good ol' whoopass in the rain in gorgeous slow-mo...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NZFF '11 So Far....

The NZFF kicked off about a week ago - here's a quick report of what I've seen:

Submarine - I can't fully review this Quirky Coming-of-Age Indie since it's been embargoed so I'm just gonna say it didn't really do it for me and was a bit of deflating way to start off the festival. It does have its ardent fans though.

The Tree of Life - it's been a looong wait for this, and while I can't say regretted seeing this at the Civic, Terrence Malick's latest opus failed to connect with me on most levels. It's as beautiful to look at as they come, and I'm generally a fan of his previous films, but something about The Tree of Life felt off to me, like the work of a director who's too close to his material to see it for what it is: a gigantic mess that only he can make sense of. I had a good nap...

The Last Circus - this nutty, completely over-the-top black comedy from Alex de la Iglesia is nothing like Sam Fuller's The Big Red One as described in the write-up (sorry Ant), though it does share some of the carny wildness of Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre. But Iglesia isn't so much an "artiste" in the sense that Jodorowsky is, he's looser and aesthetically rougher around the edges and more interested in going for our jugular. The last act falls apart - you start caring less and less about the characters - but until then, it's demented pulpy fun.

Take Shelter - if you've seen Bug, you know Michael Shannon really knows how BUG THE HELL OUT. He's the best in the biz at this kinda thing, and in Jeff Nichols' unnerving psychological drama, he's utterly riveting to watch. Performance of the year, maybe. Felt like a horror film to me in the same way Todd Haynes' Safe or Lodge Kerrigan's Clean, Shaven and Keane are: uncompromising, bone-chilling portraits of human anxieties and madness. Loved how restrained Nichols handles all the weird stuff.

Meek's Cutoff - Kelly Reichardt's western is very much in same minimalist, meandering vein as her other films like Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy. Very, very little happens, but the grueling passage of these 19th century settlers sticks with ya as it goes along (and long after too). Beautifully shot in Academy ratio, it's the vibe-out movie I've been waiting for all year. Reichardt sure loves her campfire scenes.

Stray observations/thoughts/complaints about things:
  • There was a big reel change fail at Meek's Cutoff where we could pretty much see the film soundtrack strip slipping out of the gate. Also at the screening: a lady who said "You go, girl!" or "good girl!" when Michelle Williams pulled out a rifle (cringe), and the guy who sat in the very centre front row (the theatre was fairly empty)... what the hell dude. Are you really enjoying the view?
  • What's up with who people who bring books into the theatre to read before the film starts? Is the book so good you can't put it down until after the film? The light's so dim in there you're going to ruin your eyes.
  • I was told off by an usher for walking too loudly down the steps of the Civic in the Stalls area. "Shhh, they can hear you inside", she snapped. Seriously...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaser Trailer: The Dark Knight Rises

Ok, this one's a REAL teaser, so don't get your hopes up for any amazing footage. It shows next to nothing, starting off with bits cobbled from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, before giving us a small look at Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) on a hospital bed looking rather worse for wear talking to Bane (Tom Hardy), the new big baddie Batman has to contend with. The most striking footage is the one that's already been revealed in the teaser poster image above. Visit the facebook page to check out the trailer. The film's not out until 2012!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Notable Festival Titles from Madman in August

Since it's film fest season, I thought it'd be apt spotlight three terrific titles from last year's NZFF that are coming to DVD from Madman next month. Check out the trailers and click on the titles to add to your queue:

Carlos the Jackal (Mini-series; Shorter Theatrical cut) - Édgar Ramírez stars as Ilich Ramírez Sánchez -- aka Carlos the Jackal -- an elusive Venezuelan terrorist who executed scores of assassination plots, abductions and bombings across Europe and the Middle East. This Golden Globe-winning biopic follows Sanchez from 1973 to 1994 as he and his cohorts wreak havoc on the Left Bank in Paris, storm OPEC headquarters in Vienna and carry out other devastating acts of politically motivated violence.

Certified Copy - Renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami serves up an elegant rumination about art and love in this story about British writer James Miller (William Shimell), who meets an art dealer named Elle (Juliette Binoche) in Tuscany and begins -- or possibly continues -- a romance with her. As James and Elle wander through a small town, their playful conversations reveal an intimacy that leads locals to suspect that they are actually longtime spouses.

The Housemaid - A wealthy family's new maid, Eun-yi (Do-yeon Jeon), attracts the attention of Hoon (Jung-Jae Lee), the man of the house, and a fiery affair develops between them. But although Hoon signs Eun-yi's checks, he's not the one controlling the relationship. One secret leads to another, until Eun-yi threatens to destroy the entire family. This update of the 1960 chiller was an Official Selection of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

For the Star Wars Fan with Everything #15

Star Wars as a silent film with intertitles:

This cute pint-sized Vader Volkswagen ad has over 40 million views but it's the first time I've seen it, so just in case you're in the same boat:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

George C. Scott Watches Jack and Jill Trailer

The trailer for Adam Sandler's upcoming comedy Jack and Jill is so astoundingly dreadful it almost looks like it can't be real. If you found yourself slapping your head or cringing in horror, then you'll probably relate to this witty little mash-up that has George C. Scott in a clip from Paul Schrader's Hardcore reacting to it:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trailers: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

A couple of highly anticipated spy flicks for ya this morning... First up, Tom Cruise's long-awaited return to the Mission: Impossible franchise (it's been 5 years since the last one) and it's probably going to be a sure-fire blockbuster hit for him - at least he would hope so, considering the dude seems to have faded into the background somewhat in the last few years, with industry watchers questioning whether he's still a viable box-office draw. A few things to be excited for: The Incredibles director Brad Bird making his live action feature debut, The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner being groomed to take over the franchise from Cruise, and the Burj Khalifa stunts filmed with IMAX cameras.

Secondly, a less escapist, more "adult" take on the genre: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, an adaptation of John le Carré's Cold War novel, which was previously made into a BBC mini-series in 1979. This one's armed with a rock-solid Brit cast that almost makes it a can't-miss: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Ciarán Hinds and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock). Directed by Thomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), the film has a paranoid '70s conspiracy thriller/The Ipcress File-feel all over it and I'm not complaining.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Transformers 3: Compendium Post

I was meant to blog something about Transformers: Dark of the Moon post-screening last week but busyness got the better of me, and also 'cos the film was so X-TREME that it temporarily disabled my ability to construct critical thought in a timely manner. So here's a bumper post of all things Transformers 3 from the past week (hopefully that'll cover this film, and Michael Bay, for the next while).

Firstly, some loose, potentially spoilery observations about the film:
  • There was a valid, but cautious reason to be pumped: Michael Bay had taken criticisms of no. 2 to heart and vowed to make a better film. He said the "dorky comedy" would be toned down. When the trailer first appeared, it looked like a darker film with no comic relief Transformer in sight. While there might be less comedy than the previous film, it's still there - in abundance - and very bloody annoying and only funny for how unfunny it is. See any scene with John Malkovich, Ken Jeong (WTF dude), Alan Tudyk, Shia's parents, and those two smaller "sidekick" robots. All of this comedy-driven exposition swallows up nearly half the entire running time.
  • The 3D was promising in the opening scenes on the moon, and generally better than any post-converted 3D film (a given). But as the film wears on, like most 3D films, you'll mostly forget about the 3D (and remember that it's not a pleasant experience).
  • Interestingly, shooting in 3D does reign Bay in. Shots are held longer, but not consistently so. You definitely won't forget that it's a Michael Bay film.
  • Stupid but irresistibly "wow" moments: Shia being flung from Bumble Bee in slow-mo then thrown back inside as it transforms into a car again; those mad base-jumping stunts; Shockwave snapping the high rise in two.
  • Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: a shapely vacuum. Her intro into the film is already the stuff of legend (as is a scene that might suggest Bay is a closet tentacle-porn fan).
  • The film is 157 minutes long. What does Bay think he's making? JFK? Combined with one hour of non-stop destruction, the running time is so punishing the only reaction to feel after it's all over is SWEET RELIEF.
  • Twitter gets 2 mentions, Facebook only 1.
  • Those crappy generic radio-friendly rock songs on the soundtrack...

It might sound that I'm incredibly harsh on the film (yes, it's awful), but the fact of the matter is Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a fascinating film in many ways, inspiring both immediate repulsion and deeper-level discourse. It's been torn apart with acerbic wit by critics (Roger Ebert, Walter Chaw - a must-read!), but I find myself digging those fence-sitters, those writers trying to evaluate Bay in a mixed light and coming up with interesting points of discussion (Nick Schager, Jaime N. Christley). I also love Vern's "software upgrade" description of the film.

Now here's bunch of related stuff that don't require much reading:

Michael Bay reusing scenes from The Island for Transformers 3:

Optimus Prime or Darth Vader?

And if you're wondering what's next on the cards for Bay, he'll be making a "small little movie".