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Father Geek here with the latest from Downunder and Latauro. He's finally suceeded in converting Peter's kids into full fledged AICN spies, if we cough up cash for their rediculous demands, sooooooo check out the coverage on THE EXTENDED RETURN OF THE KING he's got below, buuuuuuut ONLY if you do not mind spoilers, because... THERE ARE TONS OF SPOILERS in that part of this week's column...

How about ask him for a drink, and then maybe after twenty minutes casually slip into the conversation the fact that you love him totally and would like to marry him and have lots of sex and babies.


As I write this, there are six sleeps left until I’m seeing RETURN OF THE KING. That may not be exciting to those of you who have already seen it, but I’m giddy as not so much a school kid but something with giddy potential that still sounds cool.

I’ll be seeing it at Knox, near Melbourne, on the big V-Max cinema. Talkbackers feel free to correct me, but if water cooler whispers are to be believed it’s the biggest screen in the Southern Hemisphere. I saw MATRIX REVOLUTIONS there a few months ago, and wow, what a screen. I should go see STAR WARS – EPISODE III: BLUESCREEN HARVEST there so I can carry on the part-three tradition.

And I’ve seen a whole bunch of films lately, so enjoy reading my self-important opinions below.


* I’ve been secretly emailing Billie and Katie Jackson, trying to get them to start sending me some insider info. Billie, unfortunately, has felt some sort of curious loyalty to his parents and refused to spill the beans. Katie, on the other hand, claims that Dark Horizons was offering her two chocolate frogs and an orange lolly... that damn Lolly put it out of the budget range Harry allowed for the caper so it was then that negotiations broke down. Luckily, we still have top spies imbedded deep within Mount Doom, and here’s what they had to offer on the upcoming Extended Edition of RETURN OF THE KING...

(BEWARE... Spoilers abound)

- Word is that New Line are balking at the price for another Extended Edition, and may be farming out the FX to El Cheapo American FX House Inc rather than the high-quality excesses of WETA... our scooper (Toss the Dwarf) pointed out that this is strictly rumour-mill stuff, but remember who told you first.

- This one isn’t going to come as a surprise, but for the record: we’ll be seeing Gandalf and his Power Rangers confronting Saruman after the Helm’s Deep battle, followed by the multi-coloured one falling to his death.

- Merry will pledge his allegiance to Theoden in a scene similar to the Pippin/Denethor bit. Toss points out that shots from this scene have appeared in an early ROTK teaser, as well as a *very* early LOTR teaser from way back in the beginning.

- Following his acceptance of Anduril from Elrond, Aragorn uses the Palantir to reveal himself to Sauron. Sauron shows him a vision of Arwen’s sickness. This stuff was used instead during the dream sequence just before Elrond arrives at Dunharrow in the theatrical cut.

- From the horse’s mouth: ‘Remember the scene in which the Witch King is asked what he’s going to do with Gandalf, and he says I will break him? This pays off big time in a battle between the Witch King and Gandalf as Gandalf and Pippin ride to save Faramir from the pyre. At the end of the battle, the Witch King breaks Gandalf’s staff and then the Rohirrim turn up and the Witch King gets distracted. The beginning of this confrontation is one of the $$$ shots in the ROTK trailer: the Witch King’s fell beast landing on the ramparts in front of Gandalf and Pippin on Shadowfax.’

- ‘We see Gamling die on the Pelennor Fields theres a quick shot of Eomer bawling in the ROTK trailer.’

- ‘In the Houses of Healing, Aragorn heals Faramir, who then meets Eowyn and they fall in love. Aww.’

- ‘A disguised Frodo and Sam join a column of marching orcs on the way to Mt Doom. Their master is a ferocious orc captain with a whip. Remember the line heard over the sweeping shot of the orcs marching down through Mordor right after the Cirith Ungol sequence? That’s him, yelling Come on you slugs!.’

- ‘The Mouth of Sauron scene changes the emphasis of the entire final battle between men and orcs at the Black Gates. In the theatrical cut, Aragorn and Co. ride up to the gates, they open, and orcs come out to fight. In the extended version, they are greeted by the Mouth of Sauron (played by the Matrix’s Train Man, Bruce Spence), who has pointy teeth and a pointy helmet that covers his eyes (he doesn't need them, see? He's just a mouth). He rides out to show the heroes Frodos mithril vest, recently stolen by the orcs at Cirith Ungol, and to let them know that Frodo is dead and the ring is on its way to Sauron. Aragorn believes him, and the heroes despair. Going into battle at the Black Gates, the heroes have no hope at all it’s their last stand for sure, and Aragorn’s line for Frodo refers to his sacrifice, not to buying time.’

Well, there you go. I quoted Toss word-for-word there for the most part so I wouldn’t have to think too hard about the film before I saw it! More to chew on until November of next year...


* Centaur Enterprises (Sydney-based film production house, for those of me who don’t know), has put THE RIVAL into development, a low-budget feature about a female boxer training for her title.

* Bruce Beresford may direct THE WOMAN IN BLACK, a film that’s been in development for the best part of a decade. (Although, for Beresford it may have been the worst part of the decade. You’d really have to ask him.) The production will be co-financed by the United Kingdom. The ENTIRE United Kingdom.



The fool’s gold of awards festivals announced its nominations recently, and as always Aussies and Kiwis featured heavily in the list. RETURN OF THE KING is up for Best Picture (Drama), Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman are up for Best Actress (Drama) for VERONICA GUERIN and COLD MOUNTAIN respectively, Russell Crowe is up for Best Actor (Drama) for MASTER AND COMMANDER, Aussie Peter Weir and Kiwi Peter Jackson are up for Best Director for MASTER AND COMMANDER and THE RETURN OF THE KING respectively, while Anthony Lapaglia and Judy Davis picked up nominations for the televisual side of the ceremony.


The Zucker take on the Wayans’ series shot it to number one as school holidays kicked off, whilst Richard Curtis’s directorial debut managed to get fourth place on weekend previews alone.

Annnnnd the money winners are...
  • 1. SCARY MOVIE 3
  • 3. ELF


A surprisingly good cast makes for an unsurprisingly bad film, Latauro misreads an email and tries to go to a press screening a month too late (oh, and the film’s some Italian deal about something or other), a filmmaker tackles the issue of houses and those who ‘keep’ them, SPACE JAM sucked, the boy who couldn’t grow up directs the JM Barrie adaptation, SCARY MOVIE 2 sucked, and some European renovation show gets the big screen treatment.

Here are the new ones...



Peter Weir was pretty much the only reason I went and saw this film. I don’t have anything against Russell Crowe, but he’s not a major draw card for me. And the look of the film itself... I don’t know, there’s something about a big ship-set historical epic that felt too distant. Like I wouldn’t be able to relate.

Very happy to be proven wrong. Very happy. This is one of those left field surprises that is about something completely different to the thing you think it’s about. In the same way that a show about a girl who slays vampires can deal with issues of death and communication better than any ‘real’ drama, a film about an 18th Century sea battle with a privateer in the employ of Napoleon deals with unspoken class wars better than any wrong-side-of-the-tracks kitchen sink melodrama.

There are so many complexities and layers going on here, it’s a matter of minutes before you’re completely sucked in to the world. It’s those mundane details on screen that echo the mundane details of real life, and give a sudden edge of reality that’s lacking from most blockbusters. The sort of thing you get from a Peter Weir Film instead of a Jerry Bruckheimer Production. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Bruckheimer tent pole (so long as it isn’t shit like ARMAGEDDON or BAD BOYS II), but I never believe the world. I never believe Sean Connery breaking into Alcatraz or Nicolas Cage getting shot in the arm and not flinching. But maybe those are the wrong examples. Maybe I should be drawing comparisons with, say, THE PATRIOT, a film which was more comfortable glossing over any sense of historical complexity to tell an overly-standard tale of revenge fantasy.

It’s these details that really make the film, and complement the surface story... a story which is, in fact, a very engaging tale. Or, rather, a simple tale engagingly told.

Crowe does a good job, but it takes about fifteen minutes before he gets there. His performance starts off as a high school student doing Shakespeare. To show they understand the material, they rattle off each line with a sly smile to show that they’re interpreting it. It’s completely disingenuous and quite annoying. Luckily, though, it soon disappears and Crowe gives the sort of multi-layered performance we’ve come to expect. A performance that seems to be derived solely from the tone of the script that from the direction or the other actors. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a style of acting I’ve not seen from anyone else.

It doesn’t surprise me that the marketing has been so hum-drum. Yes, the film is being sold in completely the wrong way. Aimed at the wrong audience. Focusing on the wrong things. But I wouldn’t know how to sell this film, either. The element that made this film so brilliant is Weir’s masterful control of a myriad of layers. And how do you sell that in a thirty second spot?


The Slow Burn genre has been gaining momentum over the past few years. Inspired (in atmosphere more than structure) by two separate entities: the big Kael movement of the 1970s headed by Scorsese and Coppola; and Altman’s incidental long-lens style. Steven Soderbergh, p.t. anderson, Wes Anderson... there’s an interesting laid-back-ness to their films that seems as real as any of the raw dramas created thirty years ago.

It’s fitting that Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter is also included in this group. Sofia C made the astonishing VIRGIN SUICIDES only a couple of years ago and in one fell swoop obliterated the naysayers who assumed she was trading off her father’s name. It was an amazing piece of work, and it made me desperate to see her follow-up, LOST IN TRANSLATION.

Bill Murray is also a big draw card. Hilarious though he has always been, his recent career renaissance has been extraordinary. Falling in with the Slow Burn filmmakers who grew up watching him on “Saturday Night Live”, he simultaneously played against and played up to the baggage he’d built up over the years. After two (soon to be three) films with Wes Anderson, there’s something natural about him working with Sofia Coppola. To watch them combine their dramedic pathos (oh, how I’d love to see those words up on a sign in a Blockbuster) and forge something that doesn’t necessarily have a plot but doesn’t necessarily need one... it reminds me of films like BARAKA and KOYANAASQUATSI: aesthetics crafted into a whole.

The fish-out-of-water story is applied in this film to both Murray’s character and Scarlet Johannsen’s character. They are not the only foreigners in the film, but the only two who don’t seem to fit in. But it’s that fish/water story – usually a cliché reserved for broad comedies – that is used to new depths. Rather than a contrived construct used to get some laughs out of Murray’s deadpanning, it’s the very basis of their characters. Two people who simply cannot communicate with anything around them, who cannot understand the life they’ve built for themselves... this isn’t a film about Aren’t The Japanese Kooky With Their Cer-razy Customs?!? These characters would be just as lost in any setting, any locale. This is what they’re like at home. The languages they don’t understand and the cultural differences they try to work past are simply their fears embodied. This is how they see the world, regardless of where they are.

All the elements – production design, actors’ performances, and a cool but strange soundtrack – are all top notch, and the film itself is something to marvel at. But it’s not for everyone. I’ve found that in life you can pretty much divide people into those who get p. t. anderson and those who don’t. (By ‘get’, I don’t mean ‘understand’, I’m not trying to patronise people who don’t like anderson by saying they don’t understand him... Equate ‘get’ with ‘enjoy’ or ‘empathise’.) If you’re in the latter category, there’s a chance this film isn’t for you. If you find these Slow Burn films to be intellectual exercises in pretension, then that’s probably what you’re going to get here.

But if you do enjoy these films, if you do think that there’s something more at work and it’s something you love watching, I can’t recommend this film highly enough.


There are few people who do the rom-com well these days. Off-hand... well, I can’t think of any. I don’t think the Nora Ephron has made a particularly good film yet (her scripting on HARRY MET SALLY was fine, but ultimately over-influenced by Woody Allen), Allen himself is moving away from the genre, and most other attempts are star vehicles with no discernable structure. I mean, SOMEONE LIKE YOU? Really? HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN TEN DAYS? This is what the genre has been reduced to?

Richard Curtis is just about the only person worth a damn in the genre today. Sure, he wrote the same film twice and slapped a different title on the second one, but both were brilliant. Bottom line: I ain’t complaining. I was curious to see him attempting an ensemble for his directorial debut. Moreover, I was curious to see that number of characters in the film equated the number of minutes in the running time. He really keeps them coming.

Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister is probably the most entertaining plotline of the bunch (and a big shout-out to Billy Bob Thornton’s uncredited US President... absolutely brilliant), yet I don’t think he has more than five scenes. There’s just no room for them. Curtis isn’t making a film about people in love – he’s making a film about love itself. He shows us as many relationships as possible, and the one continuing strand is the concept of love, be it romantic or platonic.

It *sounds* schmaltzy, and it *sounds* like it’s been done a million times already, but it feels new. I mean, yes, it’s schmaltzy, but schmaltz isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just done so badly in so many things that it’s built up its negative connotations. Why can’t we have a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, collar, cummerbund, pants leg and bow tie? The concept of love isn’t taken to its extremes like it would be in, say, an Almodovar film. The film is simply a series of vignettes about a selection of witty English people whose primary concern (above running a country, running an aide organisation, running their lives in general) is how love works for them.

The weirdest part, though, is who gives the best performance. In a film featuring Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson, the best performance comes from Thomas Sangster. Yeah, the kid who plays Neeson’s stepson. He’s adorable, but not sickening. He’s to this romantic comedy what Haley Joel was to his supernatural thriller. Every line delivery is perfect, every expression is nuanced and impeccably timed. It’s freaky – no kid that age should be that good.

With the exception of one plot line which (unless I missed something) was left with a big hanging question mark, it’s a very satisfying film. It’s one I look forward to seeing again. And any film that has Shannon Elizabeth and Denise Richards playing slutty American sisters gets instant full points.


Let’s be clear: I’m a big fan of Pan. I’m a Pan Fan. What am I not a fan of? PJ Hogan. I’m sorry, I just don’t like his films. MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING was an uneven mishmash that had an inventive title sequence and little else. MURIEL’S WEDDING is a film I loathe, notable only for giving Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths much-deserved career boosts.

But I love the book, so I had to go along. Also, people I know who worked on the film said it was exceptional. It’s a sentiment I would love to share.

First of all, let’s not kid ourselves: Rachel Hurd-Wood – the girl who played Wendy Darling – is one hell of a find. I challenge all twelve year old boys to watch this film and not fall in complete punch-drunk knuckle monkey love with her. She’s one of the most photogenic actors to ever be photographed, and she clearly has the talent to back it up. I sincerely hope we’re seeing the beginnings of a long career. The boys who play Michael and John almost look perfect, and were almost perfect for their parts, but felt lacking. And, of course, Jason Isaacs is brilliant.

But why did Peter have to be American? He’s got the only American accent in the film, and it never stops being distracting. It was obviously a conscious decision, designed so the US audiences will have someone to relate to. Lord knows they need it. Note my use of the word ‘Lord’ there. Can you think of any recent wildly-successful films that have contained ZERO American accents? It’s not that I have a problem with American accents in and of themselves, but it’s completely wrong in PAN, and one of the film’s biggest misfires.

But the major problem comes in the scripting. Hogan, who worked on the script, obviously did so with his direction in mind. And, as a director, he’s clearly someone who loves the big moments. Loves the big payoffs. But he never earns them. Resolutions come without build-up, without the necessary setups and establishing moments. As a result, these Big Moments that Hogan is pushing so eagerly have no emotional impact. And it’s frustrating, because with a little more work, these moments could be incredible.

Then there’s the theme. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film so confused in what it’s trying to say, ever. At some points it seems to be saying that kids need to move on and grow up, and at other times it seems insistent that everyone should always remain a child. That’s the overall muddle – each individual scene has its own muddles: arguments are without direction, sequences without point. The script appears to conform to the adage that if two people are mad at each other, it doesn’t necessarily need to be clear about what. It’s very irritating.

It’s not all bad, though. The production design is mostly impressive, the music is (more often than not) very good, and the effects are self-conscious but work. Richard Briers makes a good Smee (in a very similar performance to Bob Hoskins’s).

But then you have Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier). It’s really good getting low-budget filmmakers to make big-budget films: Raimi was a perfect fit for SPIDER-MAN; Jackson was the only person who could have made LORD OF THE RINGS. It seems like a logical progression for someone like PJ Hogan to do a big family literary classic... but it ain’t. One of the many things that turned me off MURIEL’S WEDDING was how ridiculously over-the-top it all was. I love over-the-top when it’s used to great effect, but in MURIEL it was forced and unnecessary. That sensibility has been transferred to the character of Tinkerbell, who looks like she escaped from a really bad pantomime.

It’s a pity, because it epitomises everything that’s wrong with this film, and how much potential it had to enter Big-Time Classic Status. For now, it will have to rely on its biggest strength: the ability to mercilessly break the hearts of every pre-pubescent boy who sees it.


- Universal takes a chance on CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, a series of films following the chase for international monsters (part one will show the capture of Saddam, part two will follow the chase for Bin Laden, and part three will feature the general public whipping Rick Berman’s naked body with birch twigs)

- Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to play brothers who discover that aliens have replaced their voice boxes with bags of gravel in GRRRHNNNNHHHNN MMHHMBLLLLE

- Paul Schrader has been replaced by Renny Harlin for reshoots on EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING ...oh, wait, that actually happened.

Peace out,


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