Ever since Gladiator, I find myself struggling to watch Russell Crowe films. I rarely enjoy watching him... and yet strangely I have watched two in a row. lol. Tenderness is a surprising film. I would normally get the sense that Crowe feels that he is above a low budget indie movie like this, but Tenderness proves me wrong, although I from what I read he only agreed to it on the provision that his character is given more screen time and a narration. Regardless, its a solid film. A kid is released from juvenile detention (he murdered his parents) with his prior convictions dissolved. A 16 year old girl who is besotted with him from newspaper headlines and a previous brief encounter worms her way into his life. The two of them drive across country, she desperate for his affection and he eager to lose her. Russell Crowe plays an ageing cop who is convinced that the kid is actually a psychopathic serial killer and follows his every move. This is a slow, meandering and psychological film which gradually builds tension really well. All actors are great and the few twists and turns with each character are unexpected. I found the vibe to be a sort of cross between 'We Need To Walk About Kevin' and 'Kalifornia'. Well worth seeing but definitely requires patience.
State Of Play is a condensed Hollywood adaptation of a 6 part British mini-series of the same name. I've never seen the original and I imagine it's a gripping film. But judging this version on it's own merits I think that it's a really well made political thriller. A leading senator (Ben Affleck) becomes the centre of a scandal. His lead researcher (and mistress) died in suspicious circumstances and his best friend (Russell Crowe) is a leading journalist assigned to the story. He has a loyalty to his friend and sets out to expose the truth behind the death. In doing so, with the help of rookie journo (Rachel McAdams), he connects the death with another recent murder and a snowball effect of revelations begins to unravel. It's a solid film with solid performances. Ben Affleck (imo) hammers this film home with a really powerful performance. His naysayers ought to enjoy their humble pie. Helen Mirren offers a strong support role and the newspaper chief, and other support players include Jason Bateman, Robin Wright and Jeff Daniels. I admit that I thought the finale was a bit contrived but it is otherwise an excellent political thriller in the same vein as All The President's Men.
My sweetheart went to bed early this Valentine's evening and so I busted out a classic. Dead-End Drive In is a belter from the mid 80s. Directed by legendary genre film maker Brian Trenchard-Smith (BMX Bandits, Frog Dreaming, Turkey Shoot) the movie is a bizarro dystopian story set in the near future where a large drive-in cinema is used as a detention compound for the scumbag gang members and other criminals. Two teenagers are accidentally caught inside the fences with no way out and spend the movie defending themselves against thugs, murderers and rapists. It's a delicious slice of cinema and its great to see it receive a whole new lease of life with Quentin Tarantino listing it as one of his favourite Aussie films. Ocker, menacing, funny and trashy... Dead-End Drive In represents a brilliant era of Australian cinema.
I'm indulging in some Ozpoitation cinema at the moment and Dead Kids is a forgotten gem I highly recommend all horror buffs see. It's a strange mash of cultures. It's an Australian movie filmed in New Zealand and set in America with an American cast. Scientific experiments in a small town turn all of the children into homicidal maniacs. It's a gruesome and depraved film with some of the sweetest gore you'll see. When released the movie was banned in various regions and was blacklisted as a Video Nasty. There's loads of flesh, severed limbs and one fucking massive needle in the eyeball. And here's something for the tweens, Twilight: Breaking Dawn director, Bill Condon, wrote Dead Kids. Ozploitation WIN!
John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing remains one of the most terrifying sci-fi horror films ever made. It told of a research team being stranded at an Antartic outpost with a parasitic alien, which replicates it's victims. It was sort of a body snatchers type of premise and one of the integeral details in that film was that another nearby outpost had previously encountered the alien and the entire Norwegian team at that post was dead. Cut to 2011 and the new The Thing tells the story of those Norwegians. This is a sly film because it easily boasts itself as a prequel given that there's already an established set up with audiences... but really, its just a reworking of the first film. Having said that, it does offer a few new elements and the alien's behavioural patterns and origins are explored in slightly more detail. What initially impressed me about this movie was that it kept with the period. The characters are all dressed and styled as though they could seamlessly wander into a frame of Carpenter's 82 film and the aesthetic of it all matches well. That's a big tick in my books. Also impressive is that a lot of the gore effects are done physically... that is to say that puppetry and FX makeup has been used similarly to the original. And so I went along with this movie and really enjoyed it. The only disappointment for me was that as the alien became more prevalent there was an over indulgence in the CGI FX. Totally unnecessary as far as I'm concerned. If John Carpenter was able to achieve some of the most groundbreaking and innovative gore PRACTICALLY and on a fraction of the budget, then there's no reason why this film couldn't have also. But as I said, its a small bone to pick. Overall this is a good prequel that leads into the next story well. The title is a shame though, don't you think? The Thing?? That's what the first movie was called. Apparently they couldn't think of a good subtitle and so they settled on The Thing. I think a totally different title with a subtitle of "Prequel to The Thing" would have been more effective. Anyhow... worth seeing.
How to describe the Tetsuo trilogy? The word 'cyberpunk' is used a lot in reviews. Surreal and grotesque are two I would used. The first film is a low budget black & white film which looks like Eraserhead fell into a metal-grinder. An unknown man begins to metamorphose into a machine. His flesh is torn, stretched and melded into a bizarre hybrid which is both graphic and sensational. Its doesn't make a lot of sense in it's story but visually it all comes together like a feature length music video as a furious score pounds us into submission while the Iron Man embarks on a murderous rampage through the city streets. If you recall the early Nine Inch Nails videos you will recognise that they were heavily influenced by this film. Think David Lynch combined with David Cronenberg and you get the picture.
And then comes Testuo 2: Body Hammer. Again it features a man experiencing a torturous transformation. The visual style is similar to the original and this time it's in colour, highlighting the bloody contortions of flesh. Also evolving from the original film, Body Hammer has a story. Our protagonist is a father who's son is kidnapped by the same mysterious underground organisation who has inflicted his metamorphosis. Again it's fast paced and visually appealing. Even if you don't understand it, it's images are too wicked to ignore.
And to part 3, Bullet Man. Director Shinya Tsukamoto has chosen to film this instalment in English. An American officer worker, who lives in Tokyo, sees his young son murdered. Rage consumes him and like the characters from earlier films, his body adopts mechanical characteristics. His body is contorted and his flesh is shredded. It is essentially a reworking of part 2... in my opinion this is easily the best in the series. It looks incredible. The imagery is crisp and the pace is erratic. Adding to the chaos is a title track written exclusively by Nine Inch Nails (Reznor using the moniker) and a score which extends Reznor's tone. Released in 2010 I am surprised that this didn't receive more recognition. I would love to have seen it in art house cinemas. It's surreal, macabre and terrifying... definitely see it if you get the chance.
Watched the trilogy again this weekend. Three great films, each completely different from the other. The first Mad Max is my favourite. It's a groundbreaking movie and I don't think any film has matched its road sequences yet. Watching it on a big screen really emphasised how amazing these chases are. From POV shots to full speed tracking... it's such a powerhouse of a movie and until the late 90s it was the highest earning film (profit to budget) in history. Its raw, gritty and menacing... a real belter of a movie.
Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) is hailed as a masterpiece. While I still prefer the first movie I do recognise the importance of this one. When it was released there was nothing like it before. A baron, stark and dirty epic set entirely in the dustbowl. A dystopian post-apocalyptic future full of barbaric nomadic gangs and a deathly desperation for gasoline. It's a bold sequel which bares little resemblance to its first instalment, and yet continues Max's story perfectly. On a big screen with a good sound system it rumbles through your gut like a mack truck belting through your lounge room.
Beyond Thunderdome concludes Max's story (for now). Continuing the themes from The Road Warrior its set in a dusty desert landscape and Max roams the land as a loan nomad. The film sets itself apart with the location of Bartertown. An isolated city founded on trade and it's own set of laws. Their laws are simple and punishment is absolute. Searching for a man who stole his possessions Max enters Bartertown and finds himself in a contract with the town's ruthless leader. When he relents on the agreement Max is banished to death in the wastelands. And then the story becomes really strange with a tribe of children finding him and assuming him to be their long lost saviour. This 3rd instalment abandons the high octane energy of the previous films and presents itself completely differently. It has divided fans but I still consider it a strong film. I don't know why people would want it any different? I like that each film in the trilogy is unique and nothing is recycled. The story evolves and pieced together it's a damn good contribution to Australian cinema.
Forget history, Alcatraz has earned itself a place in pop-culture. We've seen so many movies about it, we're read books about it... and David Copperfield has even escaped it. It was the notorious maximum security prison which boasted that no one has ever escaped, or at least survived an escape. Oh yeah, bar one exception when 3 men staged an incredible escape when they tirelessly carved through their ventilation holes and climbed their way to the roof before paddling out into the harbour on a raft, hand-made from regulation raincoats. The men were never captured, nor were they ever seen alive. They simply vanished! The FBI have maintained an open investigation over the years however there has never been confirmation one way or another. Either they drowned, or they didn't. And so this film starring Clint Eastwood tells their story. It's a fantastic film, built with genuine suspense and a calm patience. You can read up on the real life escape and see the photos for yourself... from the looks of it, this movie is close to accurate in all of it's detail. The only thing that doesn't sit right with me is the calm and docile atmosphere of the prison. Perhaps it really was that way but none of the inmates seem like criminals to me, least not deserving of the nations tightest maximum security facility. Nevertheless a great film.
The premise sounds contrived but I am a willing sucker for this type of thing. A struggling musician meets a girl and it's love at first sight. Problem is that she's deaf. With an obvious divide the two take a chance on each other, refusing to let difficulty stop something potentially life changing. And that's all I need to say. You know exactly where the movie is taking you but with this type of story you just cross your fingers that the journey there is a good one. I ignored the first two warning signs with this movie... firstly the title is so cheesy and secondly Cybill Shepherd stars as the girls domineering mother. I put my doubts aside and hit play. The movie looks great. Its shot really well and the two leads are good. Unfortunately the original music in the film is absolute tripe... and I mean bad in every sense. These are the type of songs with lyrics that recall my own self-written songs from when I was 8 years old. You know the type.... "I was walking down the street". All of my songs started with those lyrics. And so given that this is a movie that heavily relies on its music, it fails miserably. Masochistically I persisted and made it to the end.... and the first thing I did then was to then watch "Once".
Seen the Hollywood adaption yet? There's bits of both films I liked more. I thought Daniel Craig was excellent, and Rooney Mara does an admirable job as Lisbeth, Christopher Plummer is a great choice as Henrik. The story is adapted well for the typical western audience. Fincher has done an excellent job and you can see Steven Zaillian's writing throughout. The major differences are to do with pacing of certain sections, a more romance element, and that the Hollywood Lisbeth seems to have more of a hardened exterior with a soft underbelly, whereas the original she is far more ruthless and emotionless. My mum is a Stieg Larsson nutter so watching with her made for an entertaining watch. Her summary is probably the best one to use - treat them both as separate movies on the same subject matter, that have nothing to do with each other. Don't treat one as a remake, and it will be all the more enjoyable with prejudices cast aside. Regardless of whether you are a fan already or a newcomer to the Millennium series, this is a must-see film of 2012. :)
1988 / Director. Jud Taylor & Paul Wendkos.
The Great Escape II continues from where the original film ends. The first 5 minutes recounts the famous tunnel escape we are all familiar with. The next 30 minutes follows a different group of escapees with some eluding recapture and others being caught. One of those men is played by Christopher Reeve who is selected by a secret underground faction of the Nazi party who want to bring an end to Hitler's occupation. They get him across the border into Switzerland so that he can get back to London and inform Churchill of their intentions. End Part 1. The rest of the film then takes place after the war and follows a selected team of men, with Reeves leading, who have been secretly ordered back to Germany to arrest former Nazi captains and bring them to trial. Surprisingly it's not a bad movie at all...particularly for an 80s made-for-tv one. There's course language which was rare for 1988 television and the locations feel classic. I have never considered Christopher Reeves to be a great actor but he does hold this movie well. While mostly fictionalised I still found the continuation from the original film intriguing and enjoyed it a lot. I wonder if Tarantino took inspiration from this? Much of it foreshadows Inglourious Basterds quite eerily. According to online info The Great Escape II runs for 180 minutes. I was strapped in for the long haul but disappointingly with all of the commercials omitted the film actually runs for 110 minutes. I wanted a little more.
I had reasonable expectations for Texas Killing Fields. Danny Boyle was originally attached to direct the film but he pulled out stating that the movie was so dark that it was never likely to get made.... hmmmm. The script he had must have been drastically different from this one. Two cops investigate a series of murders in the bayou's of Texas. Inspired by true events to movie really fails on most levels. It's so underwhelming. I found myself completely confused by it... not a lot made sense. Most of the dialogue is muffled and there's nothing (at all) grounding the characters. Sam Worthington and Jeffrey Dean Morgan star in this mess and they're both as wooden as my coffee table. I'm keen to read some other opinions of this movie because it's had some decent write-ups... I just wasted 100 minutes.