Battle: Los Angeles is an awesome-looking movie. Its Independence Day, District 9 and The Hurt Locker all rolled into one. The action is incredible and the SFX are amazing. The biggest kudos I give this movie is it's depiction of war. Despite being an alien invasion, the warzone is treated like any other. Its gritty and chaotic... having said that, I didn't really enjoy it. It's basically gun-fire and explosions from start to finish without any real narrative arch or structure. I think the film is lacking a perspective. Everything we see is from the ground level but I would have invested in the story more had there been a point of command depicted. The performances are as good as they can be in an all combat movie and its a real accomplishment in terms of effects and sound... but ultimately there's little going for it from my point of view.
Simon Says starts off really shaky and I almost considered turning it off... but then a stoner character picks up a guitar and starts singing "let the fun begin, let the fun begin" as a girl goes off into the wilderness alone. I thought that was a nice nod to the audience and from there on the movie does get fun. It's basically a tongue in cheek backwoods hick horror... think Wrong Turn and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's the usual fodder with a group of teens camping in the hills and being picked off one-by-one. Crispin Glover is the one doin' all the killing and for me this was the clincher. I love him. He's such an eccentric and outlandish actor and this movie allows him to parade a variety of characters in one. He plays a set of twins who murdered their parents (his real father Bruce Glover) when they were teenagers and they've lived in the woods ever since. It's not a great movie but for its genre, its hell fun. The gore is creative and very amusing and there's actually some stuff I've never seen before... most notably is a wicked poodle death. I've never seen so many pick-axes flying through the air at once and for that I give Simon Says my thumbs up!
If the film Sleepy Hollow was bloodless and stupid then it would be Red Riding Hood. This is a good looking film with a cast of support actors that should give it a whole lot of cred... but really, it's just a horror movie for pussies. Director Catherine Hardwicke previously directed Twilight and it would seem that she's hellbent on paving the way for dumb & moronic tweey flicks. As the title says, this is an "adaptation" (I used the term lightly) of Little Red Riding Hood. At first I was impressed with the style and the look of the movie but from the first word spoken I was completely disconnected. Everyone but Gary Oldman speaks in a modern American accent which does the movie a huge disservice. Such fairy-tales lend themselves to olde English... and then there's every werewolf cliche in the book. The town that's stalked... the whole "it's one of us" premise it exploited and the usual romantic arch drives the fodder along (the main dude even looks like Edward Cullen). So yeah, not a great review... the only kudos I will give it is for a nifty wrap-up in the final act. The conclusion didn't disappoint.... shame about the rest.
I used to love Top Cat when I was a kid and its been eons since I've watched it... and so the all new Top Cat movie took me right back. It's an interesting production story, being a Spanish film made independently and it's the first time Warner Brothers have given permission for an outside party to use its licensed property. Apparently Top Cat is uber popular in Mexico and this film performed well at cinemas. I just watched the English version and I was impressed. All of the Hanna-Barbera hallmarks are here and in a modern update, its made in 3D. The animation is great and the gags are just as I remember them as a kid. I have read a lot of negative reviews about the English language version and I don't get the negativity. These naysayers come across like grown-ups who've lost touch with their inner child. Top Cat The Movie stands up to the original and delivers the same brand of amusement for the same demographic.... It's not made for adult film critics!! Very fun.
Spoiler alert for those who want to enter this film blindly - The Innkeepers is a slow burner. I've had customers tell me that they switched the movie off after 30 minutes but if you haven't seen it I would suggest you preserver with it for longer. The first half is misleading, almost like a red herring. Not a lot happens as two staff members tend to the front desk of an old hotel on it's final weekend before closing forever. Stories of a ghost have been passed down amongst the staff over the years and these two wannabe ghost-hunters set out to connect with the spirit. The first half of the film sets itself up as a comical, offbeat kind of flick that works to give the viewer a false sense of security. You know that the movie is heading somewhere but you're not too sure exactly where... and then the humour is abandoned and a genuinely effective horror story takes over. It's skilfully made with a great lighting design and clever cinematography. Tension is built well with a good score and a very well managed use of silence. Before the film begins the producers advise it be viewed at a loud volume for maximum effect and its a useful piece of advice. Not so much for the loud startle moments but more for the subtle whispered ghost noises throughout the halls. I think it utilises a whole heap of classic supernatural themes in a new and refreshing way, all the while feeling traditional. My only real peeve with The Innkeepers is the lead actress. She's mega irritating, but perhaps that's because I've had my dose of her from the pre-teen barforama that is Aquamarine (13 y/o daughter, remember). Anyhow I give kudos to this one and give you the head's up to watch the final frame carefully... there's a delicious subtlety hidden behind an obvious fright!
Outcast is a low-budget British horror film and its unlike anything I've seen in ages. Its about a Woman who descends from an ancient & mystical celtic race and she protects her son from evil forces using curses and magic. Sound weird? Yep. Enter James Nesbitt (my all time favourite actor). He plays a ruthless killer on a blood hunt who's made a pact with a strange cultish syndicate which grants him a once only demonic transformation. Meanwhile a predatory beast is slaying residents of a low-rent apartment complex. This is one of the strangest horror films I've seen in ages and its really refreshing. Nesbitt never ceases to amaze me. One minute he's delivering heartbreaking performances in films like Bloody Sunday and Matching Jack and then he's punching out hardcore stuff like this and Jekyll.
It's important that you go into Chillerama well prepared... it will make the difference between loving it and loathing it. Possibly taking cues from Tarantino & Rodriguez's Grindhouse, this new anthology film sets itself around the classic drive-in monster movies. Chillerama takes place at an old fashioned drive-in theatre on its final night before being closed forever. 4 creature features are screened for the patrons and each pays homage to different sub-genres. The first film is "Wadzilla" which is directed by Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City, Homo Erectus) and it tells the story of a man who has a low sperm count. In fact he only has one sperm, but its gigantic. When it eventually gets free it continues to grow and destroys everything in it's path. It's very amusing. The second film is "I Was A Teenage Werebear", directed by Tim Sullivan (Driftwood, 2001 Maniacs) and parodies the 50's greaser flicks. A pack of teenagers terrorise a small community and begin turning people into werebears (yes, gay werewolves). I found this instalment kind of lame and was keen to move on to the next film which was "The Diary of Ann Frankenstein, directed by Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen). I loved this one. Presented in black and white it tells the story of Adolf Hitler who discovers the REAL diary of Ann Frank which was a how-to guide to creating life from death. And so Hitler builds his own creature. All of the dialogue is spoken in german-sounding gibberish with subtitles. I LOL'd aloud with this one. Very funny... and finally the last film is "Zom B Movie" directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2). It's a piss-take on George Romero's zombie flicks and its a nice way to finish up. Chillerama is intentionally bad and if you don't know that to begin with, then you will hate the film. It's crammed with great cameos from the likes of Eric Roberts, Lin Shaye, Robert Wise and Joel Moore just to name some.
If you saw the first three American Pie movies then you might as well persevere and watch American Reunion. 13 years have past since the first instalment and all of the original gang return to town for their high school reunion. Its great to catch up with them as they reminisce and relive some of their old teenage antics. With the crude slapstick aside, the first film worked because it had a charm that struck a chord with it's viewers and this new movie works for similar reasons. Where they were young, confused and desperate in the first movie they're now dealing with age and the realisation of a youth they can never recapture. It's a more mature story with all of the famous infantile gags. I'm a guilty sucker for the American Pie series and I confess that I even like the 4 spin off movies. Not every joke hits the mark but enough of them hit bullseye to make it worth the time. They also managed to get Stifler's character back on track after he took on a weird uber-stupid mode in American Wedding.
What has happened to movies like The Gate? As a kid of the 80s I fondly remember genuinely scary horror films being made for kids. Stuff like Ghoulies, Gremlins and Monster Squad to name just a few. Nowadays we tend to bubble-wrap our kids and protect them from such horrors. I share the sentiments of creature-designer Craig Reardon who sees horror films romantically and recalls seeing his most influential ones before the age of 10. The Gate is a fantastic fright flick for kids. A tree is uprooted in a boy's (Glen) backyard and with the help of an accidentally coincidental ritual, a horde of subterranean demons are unleashed. Along with his best friend and sister, Glen has to find a way to defeat the savage minions. With virtually no adult actors in the film, it's such a wonderful kids flick. Often gory, it balances the scares with a childhood sense of imagination and adventure. We don't get many films like it anymore and when we do, they're classified with adult ratings and are widely unseen. If you're a parent I would urge you to expose movies like The Gate to your kids when the time is right, and before it's not too late. Fear is that healthy and important emotion that builds character and confidence... kids really lack it these days and I would argue that it's irresponsible to deny them that emotion!
How do you possibly make a film about necrophilia that's both beautiful and romantic? You'd think it impossible but Lynne Stopkewich did it effortlessly with her 1996 film, Kissed. It stars Molly Parker as a woman fixated on death. From early childhood she has held and embraced a morbid fascination, seeing it as equally beautiful as life itself. The subject matter is handled so delicately and it's never offensive. The story is both tragic and inspiring and Parker's performance deservedly propelled her into the world's spotlight. With gorgeous photography and a haunting soundtrack, Kissed is easily one of my favourite Canadian films. Take the time to see it because its unlike any love story you will have seen before. A beautiful film.
Yeah I admit it... I get a laugh out of Yahoo Serious. I appreciate what he does. He writes, directs and stars in his own movies. What we see is his vision and little is compromised. He puts an old style of slapstick on the screen which is otherwise lost in time. There's an innocence about the comedy and critically I think he's hard done by. Reckless Kelly is his second of three movies (Young Einstein & Mr Accident). Its a stupid take on the Ned Kelly legend with Serious playing a descendant who's trying to uphold him family's legacy. It's ridiculous but its fun. He's only made 3 movies and last I heard he was preparing to direct a serious film about the people who live along the Kokoda trail. If that happens it will be a welcome change of style and will hopefully bring him some more cred, but I would love to see him return with another comedy. I reckon Burke & Wills needs the Yahoo Serious treatment... or perhaps The First Fleet. hehehe.
I don't watch television often. I find it mundane. When I do watch it it's usually ABC or SBS. Last night I caught this excellent film on SBS but before I comment about it I have to ask, since when has SBS interrupted their programs with commercials??? Wow, now there's even more reason to avoid tellie. Anyhow, Cloud 9 is a German film about an elderly woman who falls in lust with another elderly man. The film alternates between her two relationships focusing on her desires, guilt & regret (and not nessessarily in that order). I found a sense of compassion for every character throughout the film but ultimately came away with little regard for the main protagonist. The performances are exceptional and brave. All 3 elderly players get their kit off and perform some damn explicit sex scenes. And there's a lot of it. On a side not, Cloud 9 reminded me a lot of Paul Cox's Innocence. If you enjoyed that, you will love this.
Last night I mentioned that the National Film & Sound Archives do an amazing job restoring forgotten Australian classics. Well this is one they should really pay some attention to (along with most of Frank Howson's other films). Boulevard Of Broken Dreams tells the story is an Australian writer who strikes it lucky in Hollywood and becomes a star. The film introduces us to him at a point in his life when he's decided to give it all up and return home. He desperately tries to make amends with his estranged wife & 9 year old daughter. It feels like a very personal film in many ways and John Water's performances is amongst his best. The use of Melbourne locations is also to the film's credit with the city comes across as a part of who the character is. Two years after Boulevard of Broken Dreams Frank Howson wrote another film called Heaven Tonight which also starred John Waters (alongside Guy Pearce). I consider the two films as companions. Both deal with similar themes on a flip-side. Boulevard is about a man who's at the height of success and wants out, whereas Heaven Tonight is about a man who's washed up and desperately wants in. John Waters stars in both as does Kim Gyngell in similar roles and they're so well written. Penelope Stewart also stars in Boulevard and for the sad few of you who actually pay attention to anything I write, she was previously in Vincent Ward's Vigil. She's great. What also struck me about this film is that it's aged gracefully. Aside from a few dated 80's tunes, the film could have been made last year.
The Story Of The Kelly Gang has been confirmed as the first feature length film ever made. Released in 1909 it received a controversial reception. Ned Kelly was executed 30 years earlier and so his story was still relatively fresh. Many people saw this film as a glorification of crime. Over a century later and the film is one of the most significant films of all time. Sadly little of it remains and strung together the footage runs a total of 15 minutes. There is little context and the footage has very little narrative and it can only be viewed for study and/or nostalgic purposes. I understand the film's importance but there's very little to enjoy from it really. Technically speaking the scenes are poorly staged and in silent-era standards its mediocre and contrived. Kudos to the National Film & Sound Archive for restoring the film to its current presentation. They do some amazing things with rare and lost films. The dvd offers the film in several presentations; silent, with piano accompaniment, with an experimental soundtrack by electro group Endorphin and with two historian commentaries.
Paul is the 3rd theatrical collaboration between Simon Pegg & Nick Frost following Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz (both of which succeeded their tv series Spaced). It's a story about two British sci-fi nerds who are on a trip of a lifetime as they road trip their way across America visiting infamous alien hotspots. Along the way they cross paths with an actual alien, Paul, who has been assimilating into American culture for the past 60 years. This movie is a love letter to all of those geeky fanboys and UFO freaks out there. Packed with in jokes and cameos Paul is a hilarious movie that nods to just about every alien movie made. Sadly Edgar Wright who directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz was committed to filming Scott Pilgrim and so he is absent from this one. And while it's been handled well by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) I think it would have had an entirely different feel and chemistry had Wright been on board. Nevertheless a great in-joke film with loads of laughs.