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AICN-Downunder: Japanese Story; Kangaroo; Stealth; Closer; King Kong; Superman; LOTR; Star Wars 3; Bad Boys 2

Well, it's ol' Father Geek here in Tejas with our latest report from Latauro, holdup in his shack in the Outback...

This shit just got real.


Okay, well I sat and watched the Emmys the other night. And, like everyone else, I yelled at the television, hoping that my television would somehow address my concerns and alter the outcome. But it didn’t (lousy Sony...).

Honestly, on the whole I didn’t really care about the results. I mean, “Raymond” does zero for me – I’m a little sick of seeing it win all the time, and it’s about bloody time Brian Cranston got some recognition – but mostly I don’t care. Except for one.

Christopher Misiano is a great director, and his work on “West Wing” is solid. But Alex Graves set a new benchmark for television direction with “Commencement”, the second-last episode of the same show. It is without a doubt the best directed hour of television I’ve ever seen. I was rendered speechless by the last five minutes, a perfect balance of writing, music, acting... it was as good as television gets.

So, Alex Graves, you get the esteemed honour of winning a Downemmy. That’s right – some geek a thousand miles away thinks you done good. Feels terrific, doesn’t it?

(Oh, and Paul McGann for the Doctor! He didn’t get enough of a go, sign him up already! Okay, I’m off to watch the AFL Grand Final.)


* The biggest request I get is for RETURN OF THE KING news, and it’s only out of my love for you (the reader) that I’m constantly applying the Chinese water torture to my loyal New Zealand spies. It’s tough getting good info (given that six days out of the week they’re chained up in Phillipa Boyen’s basement), but AICN-D can be the first to give you the *official* running time. The theatrical cut of LOTR:ROTK will run for three and a half hours (give or take a minute), as opposed to the oft-rumoured 3 hours, 4 hours, 4 ½ hours... So there you go. Start planning your Decembers around that. And don’t forget to thank NZ’s own Mr Fusion.

* Australian scooper The White Whale has heard some rumblings from within the local industry... It seems that SUPERMAN may be shooting at the Sydney Foxy Studios within about two months, and that set construction will begin within the month. What makes this rumour any more legitimate than the others? Crew persons are being slowly gathered – some of the approached ones are from the STAR WARS set. Now if only they could find a Superman and a director, they’d be set.

White Whale’s scoopaliciousness doesn’t stop with Supes. Listen up – or skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid STAR WARS spoilers: “Also, on the Star Wars front, saw a picture of Anakin after his brush with the volcano – now I have to come clean and admit that I hate the new Star Wars films – with a passion, but seeing this make-up appliance, well it just blew me away. It is so... full on – both his arms and his legs are burned off, his face is just horrific. Really very unsettling, and I mean that in a good way. Also got a look at the 'blockade runner' space ship that features in the film, quite neat, a real trip down 'memory' lane.” Thanks, Whale. I, for one, won’t be poaching you for scientific purposes.

* I know it’s been mentioned a million times already, but for the sake of completion, Naomi Watts may be playing Ann Darrow, the second-lead role made famous by Fay Wray, in Peter Jackson’s KING KONG. (Jackson making KONG was first mentioned in this column here: Just Click ... you’d think I’d get tired of mentioning it, but apparently not.) There’s also talk that studio chiefs are not happy with the big-money deal Jackson got to make the film. Apparently this could set a precedent for money going to the people who, y’know, actually make the films. We can’t have that!

* While we’re on the topic of Australian beauties, the gorgeous Cat Blanchett has been forced to pull out of Mike Nichol’s adaptation of Patrick Marber’s CLOSER, due to her pregnancy. It looks that Julia Roberts will fill her shoes, joining Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen. Blanchett has already completed work on Martin Scorsese’s THE AVIATOR, and will quickly take part in Wes Anderson’s THE LIFE AQUATIC before the arrival of Cate Jnr.

* Columbia Pictures is all about the preproduction for Rob Cohen’s next film, STEALTH. The flick, which is a drama about US fighter pilots, will lens at Sydney’s Fox Studios from January 2004.

* Australian filmmaker Lee Robinson passed away on Monday, following a long illness. Robinson had been working in the industry since the 50s, lending his talents to such projects as TV’s “Skippy” and 1982’s HIGHEST HONOUR. Our sympathies go out to his family and friends.



For the first time, SPAA Fringe will split from the major conference this year when it’s staged in Byron Bay this November. Could this signal an end to civilisation as we know it? It’s possible.


On October 4, mosey on over to the Australian Centre of the Moving Image in Melbourne and you’ll hear filmmaker Tim Burstall (STORK, “Water Rats”) talking about things. Using sound. His talk will be followed by a screening of his 1986 film KANGAROO, starring Judy Davis and Colin Friels.


The IF Awards, to be held in Sydney on November 12, will have the coolness factor upped following the announcement that Deborah Mailman will host this year’s ceremony. Mailman, who is generally the best thing about anything she’s in, follows Libby Gorr, who hosted the previous two years’ shows.


Johnny and Orlando held onto the top spot, with Will and Martin debuting at second. New releases FREAKY FRIDAY and RUGRATS GO WILD took sixth and seventh respectively, whereas JAPANESE STORY got tenth spot on previews alone.

Annnnd the winners are...
  • 2. BAD BOYS II


Toni Collette goes bush, Jan De Bont manages to kill another franchise, Tian Zhuangzhuang gets un-oppressed, and Nick Giannopoulous proves that he can be desperately unfunny without resorting to self-proclaimed “wog humour”.

The New Releases Are...



The thing I kept reading about BAD BOYS II on AICN is that it was going to be a “hard R”. There was going to be no holding back, no cutting down on the violence or language or sex or drugs to try and get a PG-13 rating. We have a different rating system in Australia, and so these terms rarely make any difference to me. All I wanted a good film, but I was pleased that they weren’t going to hold back on anything.

Boy, do I wish they’d made the PG-13 version.

This film suffers from a desire to be edgy. (It suffers from a lot of things, but this the one I’m going to start with.) It’s one thing to have a freedom to use language and violence without fear of censorship, but quite another to abuse that freedom. The word “fuck” quickly became comparable to the tired and overused catchphrases of bad sitcoms. The violence stopped having any meaning. The sex was desperate and gratuitous (seriously, a necrophilia joke?), and the Martin Lawrence Does Ecstasy scene was just about the lamest attempt at R-rated humour I’d ever seen.

I love the first film. I thought it was a classic. A great blend of cheese and comedy and action. Sure the plot made no sense, but it’s a great diversion whenever it comes on TV. So what was wrong with this one? How did they get it so badly, awfully, depressingly wrong?

First of all, I want to see a Special Edition Re-Edit. Not with extra footage, but with less. Follow Peter Weir’s example when he recut PICNIC AT HANGING WRONG and lose what’s not necessary. At the 90 minutes mark, I was looking at my watch. I could have sworn I’d been there for at least two hours. At the two hour mark, I was praying for the end. By the time the film had reached its 2 hours 40 minutes, I was prepared to shove bamboo shoots up Michael Bay’s fingernails. Did no one think this film was too long? I know not many people say “no” to Michael Bay, but surely Bruckheimer could have said *something*. Did he not realise that the longer the running time, the less sessions you can play therefore the less money the film makes? Did he not realise that there was over and hour of pointless material in here? Did he not realise that when it goes for twice the length it should, it just stops being entertaining?

There are many things that bothered me in the film. For one, the total disregard for human life. Yes, I know, it’s a hackneyed phrase that is always used to bash Hollywood, and I for one am sick of it (the phrase). But watching BB2, I understood. Watching innocent bystanders get blown to smithereens as Martin Lawrence and Will Smith made with the (attempted) funny was just astonishing to me. “This shit just got real.” That’s Lawrence’s line when he finds out his sister has been kidnapped. Wow. Talk about apt. Did they realise the relevance of that line? Did they realise that hundreds of people had just been killed, but now it’s a main character it’s suddenly important? Did they realise that line was pointing out the filmmakers’ own inhumanity?

I’ll avoid the contender for Most Unbelievable Plot Point of 2003 as they suit up and go to Cuba to rescue Gabrielle Union (did *anyone* buy that?), I’ll avoid the not-in-the-least-bit-smirkworthy racist banter, I’ll avoid the rats-fucking scene that was almost as bad as the Splinter flashback in TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, and go to the actors. Because I have way too many complaints to fit into one review.

Will Smith. Big Willy’s recent indignation at an ID4 sequel is suddenly becoming very funny. BAD BOYS and MEN IN BLACK were very enjoyable, well put-together films. And he’s followed them with some pretty shitty sequels. Smith is fine, and he’s always fun to watch, but why bother when he hasn’t got the material? When he’s doing a pale imitation of his former success? What’s the point?

Martin Lawrence is a car crash of an entertainer, and the only thing I’ve been able to tolerate him in was the first BAD BOYS. I never saw any of his early stand-up work, but if it was anything like his performance in this, I’m amazed people pay him to work. He’s constantly falling back on foul language to compensate for a lack of jokes, and it really wore thin after about ten minutes. We get it. He said “fuck” again. Good one.

Gabrielle Union is fine but ultimately disposable in her thankless bikini love interest role. Peter Stormare desperately needs to stop playing clichéd Russians in Michael Bay films (okay, he’s not as bad as he was in ARMAGEDDON, but that would take some serious, serious work). It’s actually Emmy Award Winner Joe Pantoliano who comes off best here. And that’s even though he’s playing the most stereotypical character in the film: the stressed out screaming boss. Pantoliano is a very good actor, and when I see him in this I’m not carrying the baggage of Cypher or Ralphie Cifaretto. But that’s the best thing I can say for him. His character was being sent up years before he played him the first time around, the “so far up my ass” jokes fall flat, and the pressure-point-therapy running gag is nowhere near as funny as the writers seem to think it is.

All this would be bad enough without BAD BOYS II becoming the benchmark for New Racism. Have you heard about this? With two black leads, you’re allowed to be as racially irresponsible as you want. Here’s how it breaks down: black people are cool, white people are stuffy and uptight, Latinos are drug dealers and incompetents, Russians are drunks who can’t complete a sentence without referring to the fact that they’re Russian, and Jamaicans are Jesus freak stoners. And did anyone count the number of gay jokes in here? Was any one of them partially funny? What about the scene where they smashed a whole bunch of religious statuettes? Anyone?

The only scene I felt had potential for the funny was the bit where Lawrence and Smith scare the boy who’s come to take out Lawrence’s daughter. Sure it was amusing, but why was it in there? It felt like a scene that should have been at the start of the film. My theory: they realised that there wasn’t enough funny in that section of the film, so they either transplanted it from the beginning, or rushed back to reshoots. Coming straight after the big blowout between the two leads, it felt wrong. It felt out of place. Had it been in the beginning, it could have been brilliant.

And that leads me to the film’s biggest failing. Bigger than the racism, sexism, homophobia, bigger than the violence-without-consequence: the two lead characters clearly don’t like each other. Mike and Marcus do not get along. In the first film, the banter revolved around their friendship. You could see genuine affection between them. Here, their big argument scene means nothing because it felt like they hated one another in the first place. Was this an attempt to try something new for the buddy comedy genre? Because to me it was a colossal failure. Avoid.


It’s been an interesting year for Australian films. From BAD EGGS to UNDEAD, the focus has been on crowd-pleasing comedies, easy-to-watch entertainment that gets arses on seats. And why not? If there’s one problem with Australian films, it’s that nobody wants to watch them. They’re usually low-brow no-laugh comedies (THE WOG BOY) or wanky art house bullshit (THE MONKEY’S MASK). So this year has been an interesting push in the other direction: comedies that actually attract audiences and contain actual comedy, and now art house films that can walk the talk.

JAPANESE STORY starts off as a fish-out-of-water film: Japanese businessman in the desert with loud-mouthed Aussie businesswoman. And it’s done well. The plot is very efficient, the characters are well-drawn, the direction isn’t hopelessly self-conscious. And that was fine. I was happy watching what I felt was a fairly standard plot executed with precision.

Then it took a left turn.

I don’t want to go into too much – or, for that matter, *any* – detail, because the filmmakers have been suitably tight-lipped about what happens. And so they should be. JAPANESE STORY knows exactly where it’s headed from the beginning, even if we don’t.

Some scripts – and the best example that springs to mind is IDENTITY – have their idea firmly in mind, and lead the audience to a place in the first two acts. But their misdirection usually gets the better of them, and their setup proves to be infinitely more interesting than the ultimate payoff. This is a common problem, and JAPANESE STORY comes fairly close to it. But it doesn’t get there.

It’s a very economical film, an A-to-B-to-C, and it contains one of the finest performances you’re likely to see, as delivered by Toni Collette. There’s a reason this girl is in everything, and this is the best she’s been since... well, ever. I’m not a huge MURIEL’S WEDDING fan. As a matter of fact, I pretty much loathe the film. But Collette is always superb, and this is the film that should be her show reel.

JAPANESE STORY played at the Melbourne International Film Festival this year, and if you’re overseas you’ll probably be seeing this crop up in local festivals. If you’re Australian and near a theatre playing it, get there as soon as you can. I’m not going to feed you some story about “supporting a local film that blah blah blah”. In the end you only really want to see films for yourself, right? Me too. See this one.


- In a special audio commentary, George Lucas will explain why he’s the only director in Hollywood who can get away with casting James Earl Jones and Natalie Portman as Mark Hamill’s parents

- Through digital alteration of his mouth and voice, Alec Guiness will now mention midiclorins at every available opportunity

- Han will no longer have a gun in the Cantina scene; instead, Greedo will shoot first, then have an unexpected heart attack

Peace out,


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