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.