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AICN-Downunder: Be Cool; The Writer; Irresistable; Swiss Family Robinson; Runelords; Logan's Run'

Father Geek here...bitch bitch bitch that's all we get out of Latauro. Look how his life has improved over the last year... he's got a private room with a view of a magnificant 8' termite mound in the outback, the wonderful nightly music generated from the hind legs of thousands of locust, his own 25 watt light bulb with a spare, a cot, a table, a rain barrel, a vat of croc-grease to keep the chains from irritating his ankles if he uses it properly, annnnnnd of course my old 1995 PC and a phoneline. What the hell else does he need? He didn't have any of that where I found him...

Stop hatin', start participatin'. Come on, twinkle twinkle, baby, twinkle twinkle. Wanna take a shot at me kid? Do it.


Two years I've been doing this.(editing and writing the Downunder column for AICN) Two years since Father Geek picked me up from the orphanage with the words, "You'll be suitable for a life of manual labour". Two years of laughter, tears, singing, crying, joy, weeping, ecstasy and tears. (a little sugarless gruel each week, if I dot all the i's and cross my t's)

But enough about me. Let's talk about underage sex.

The Victorian State Government has introduced a bill that, if passed, will expand the definition of "objectionable films" that cannot be legally made in the state. Currently, the ban is on films in which teenagers under the age of sixteen engage in sex acts, or are depicted in an "indecent sexual manner". The new bill seeks to raise that age to eighteen.

Richard Harris of the Australian Screen Directors Association noted that a film such as Cate Shortland's AFI-sweeping SOMERSAULT could not be made in Victoria under this new law.

This murkily-defined law would make it possible for the government to shut down films such as THE YEAR MY VOICE BROKE, AMERICAN BEAUTY, or MY LIFE AS A DOG. While it's presumably in place to prevent a Larry Clark-like KEN PARK being made here, what it will actually do is give legal credence to groups such as the Australian Family Association to stop such films being made. Let's be clear: this law isn't about trying to stop pornography; it's about preventing films from even exploring such issues. Does exploring these issues automatically mean depicting them on-screen? No. But the above films (KEN PARK notwithstanding) could hardly be described as pornography or anything even approaching it. They are smart films that talk about innocence and its ending/renewal.

Aside from its inherent hypocrisy (the age of consent is still sixteen), this law is unnecessary. The State Government has cited no examples of films that have brought about the need for these changes. It's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist, and the side-effect (which will be the law's only tangible effect) will be a rope around the wrists of filmmakers. When the AFA complained about ANATOMY OF HELL, its reasoning was that it breached the OFLC's guidelines. That was the basis of its argument, and their representative could not speak to any further infringement, moral or otherwise. Imagine what they'll do now they have a law in their favour.

The Victorian government has invested a lot in local filmmaking, particularly with the opening of the Docklands Studio. Productions such as GHOST RIDER, CHARLOTTE'S WEB and others have been attracted to Melbourne and its promise of cheap filmmaking. This is the sort of film Victoria seems to want. Inoffensive entertainment. There's nothing wrong with that, and I'm as glad as anyone that we've got productions bringing millions into the economy and promoting the region. What we don't want to do is support them with one hand, whilst the other one is holding down filmmakers who feel they have something important to say.

Filmmaking needs to be regulated to an extent, but as morally sensible as the law may superficially sound, it's the latest example of the ever-encroaching film industry censorship.


* Now this is how it's done. "Runelords Fan" wrote to me, asking for more info on the RUNELORDS adaptation we reported briefly on last year. I had no info, in fact, I'd forgotten all about it until the email arrived. So "Fan" went digging himself, contacting all the production partners listed on the film's website. Story Island Entertainment President Dave Wolverton wrote back, saying, "We've hit a bit of a bump, and not much in happening at the moment." Responding to the listing on IMDb that claims the movie is filming, he said, "The IMDb is incorrect. We were supposed to be filming, but we're not even close." He apologised for not being able to go into more detail, but it seems there's a lot of disquiet behind the scenes. "Runelords Fan", who described the book as a cross between THE MATRIX, LORD OF THE RINGS and SPIDER-MAN, suggests that fans get writing if they want to see the adaptation crawl out of development hell.

* Disney's remake of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON has booked itself into the Warner Roadshow studios in Queensland, listing September as its start date. This is the first I've heard of this production, but no doubt there'll be more info available when Cedric the Entertainer and Nia Long sign on.

* Lennox has written to us again, letting us know that Nic Cage has been rather vocal about a meeting with Bryan Singer. While Lennox speculated that it could be related to LOGAN'S RUN (Singer's post-SUPERMAN project), it doesn't feel right to me. Unless Cage is producing or co-starring, he's far too old to play Logan. Could he be cameoing in SUPERMAN FRETS? Possibly; he *was* originally attached to play the blue man Supes, and he's already in Australia shooting GHOST RIDER. Then again, they've already begun production, so the likelihood of any decent roles remaining open are dim. Most likely, in my opinion, it's a completely different project we know nothing about.

* South Australia has announced an incentive for filmmakers to shoot in the state: a ten per cent rebate on the cost of local cast and crew, post-production inclusive. At the moment it's only on a trial basis, and is currently capped at $500 000. Go City of Churches!

* Finally, Susan Sarandon arrived in Melbourne a few days ago to shoot IRRESISTABLE, alongside Sam Neill and Emily Blunt. The film is written and directed by Ann Turner (DALLAS DOLL, HAMMERS OVER THE ANVIL), and joins a long list of films currently lensing in the town. IRRESISTABLE actually begins filming about two streets away from Lat's own domicile, a fact that was discovered when my girlfriend's employers received a letter informing them that the film would be shooting on their street! Small world.



AUSTRALIAN SUMMER was the film that took out the big award on February 27. Look for helmer Luke Eve to be the next Gregor Jordan.


Currently-released Australian film THE ILLUSTRATED FAMILY DOCTOR will screen at De Niro's festival this April.


Matt Norman's film THE WRITER, starring Kim Gyngell, will have its World Premiere at the Commonwealth festival in the UK. The festival takes place between April 29 and May 8 in Manchester.


Okay, for the hell of completionism, Cate Blanchett took out the Best Supporting Actress award for her portrayal as Ray Charles in the hard-hitting Rwandan-set film, SHARK TALE. (I hope this is all correct; I've been using the Herald-Sun as my source...)


There was a minor boost to the Oscar nominated/winning flicks this week, but nothing substantial. CONSTANTINE still took home the money in its first week of release.

Annnd these took home most this last week...



Will Smith again defies popular casting by playing film director Alfred Hitchcock, Samuel Johnston acts in a film, Joseph Fiennes is curiously cast as Mr Martin Luther, and Chan-Wook Park teaches us once again that there's nothing like forgiving and forgetting.

Here's what's fresh downunder...




The screening room was more like a sardine can. It's one of those small theatrettes they pack critics into, one of those cinemas where raising your head slightly will interfere with the projection. It's also frustratingly structured so that, unless you're sitting in the front row, there's a good chance someone's head is obstructing your view. This happened right at the start of the screening. A woman came and sat down directly in front of me, requiring me to lean to my right in order to see the screen, and, judging by the shuffling behind me, the guy sitting directly behind had to do the same in a chiropractic domino effect. I mention this because about halfway through the film, I decided to watch the back of the woman's head, infinitely more entertaining, it was, than the film.

There's a film called, I think, THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS. Lars Von Trier, God to black skivvy-wearers everywhere, asked a filmmaker to make or remake a short film five different ways, each time throwing different obstacles (or "obstructions", if you will) in his way. I haven't seen the film, but it's a fascinating premise. It also explains how BE COOL came into being. Von Trier asked F. Gary Gray to remake GET SHORTY with the following obstructions: change most of the character names, take out any semblance of a cohesive plot, and remove all humour.

It's really ridiculous how bad this film is. It's what BAD BOYS II was to BAD BOYS. It's what MEN IN BLACK II was to MEN IN BLACK. It's what happens when the filmmakers completely miss the point of the original, fail to understand what made the first film so successful. Keep in mind, I've never read the book, but it's irrelevant. I'm reviewing the film, so I can't speak to it as an adaptation (a review which would be largely redundant, anyway).

The only things that work are the performances of John Travolta, Uma Thurman and The Rock. Uma and The have annoying and undeveloped characters to work with, but you still get a sense of their range. Bottom line is, they give better than the film deserves.

The rest of the performances are fairly atrocious. Andre Benjamin hams it up in an embarrassing display, Cedric the Entertainer - clearly used to performing powerfully unfunny scripts based on what I've seen of his sketch show - is a non-entity, Harvey Keitel is really embarrassing, and Vince Vaughn... well, I'm a big fan of Vaughn. I think he's got a tremendous amount of charisma, and made DODGEBALL what it was. I look forward to a film with him in it. That said, his acting is nearly as bad as the character itself: a white man who thinks he's black. Great. Note to Hollywood: we've seen this character about two hundred times before. It wasn't funny the first time, and it's been getting progressively worse. This is his worst incarnation. You'll be trying to gnaw a major artery open in the scene where Gray lets him run on in a barrage of "black speak" for at least five minutes.

I suppose attacking the actors, no matter how bad they may be, is unfair. Especially given the screenplay and direction they're working with. Off the top of my head, the only Gary Gray film I can think of seeing was THE NEGOTIATOR. Not a particularly memorable film, but I think I enjoyed it at the time. The direction in BE COOL is shocking. Need to show a character is rich and affluent? Let's trot out Vivaldi again, because The Four Seasons hasn't been overused. There's recognisable codes and then there's outright clichés. This is Gray's direction throughout. Lazy, sloppy, bland.

The script itself is one of those first drafts you discard before hiring someone who knows what they're doing to do it properly. Whereas in the first film, Chili was a cool guy who honestly cared about people, in the second he's simply cardboard who, when a friend of his is shot in the street, he stands emotionless before looking wistfully at his shot-up car. No second thought to his friend. In that respect as well as many others it reminded me of BAD BOYS II and the complete disregard it had for human life. The dialogue is as awful as the underwritten characters, none of whom I cared in the slightest bit for.

The biggest problem, which is saying something in this film, is believing Chili's transformation into music mogul. In GET SHORTY, we knew he had a love of film. Have you ever seen a better Travolta moment than the ecstatic giggle he stifles when reciting the dialogue from A TOUCH OF EVIL? He got into the film business because he loved it. In BE COOL, his decision to jump into the music business is random, apparently because he thinks it might be a better gig. He "discovers" a girl with, we're told, astounding talent. Everyone who listens to this girl perform her own songs is blown away, including the great Steven Tyler in a perplexing and embarrassingly self-conscious cameo. Here's the problem: the song is boring. Even if you love the Alicia Keys/Vanessa Carlton style of inoffensive warbling, we've heard it before. There's an abundance of this music every-frigging-where, and I don't buy anyone over the age of thirty who knows even a little bit about music being impressed by it. Having to listen to her warbling songs in their entirety (at least three times, by my inaccurate count) and pad out the running time beyond necessity forced the unintentional laugh factor up several notches. I mean, yes, she's got a great voice, but beyond that... Given that the entire shaky premise of the film was based around this girl's mind-blowing talent, it's incredible when she completes her transformation into a Christina Aguilera clone. It's pandering to the wrong audience.

BE COOL is as bad as GET SHORTY was good. It's really, really not worth seeing. Don't feel obligated to out of loyalty to the first film; your loyalty should keep you at home rather than raise the box office takings of a film that disrespects its audience to such a large degree.


- Following the Weitz Brothers adaptation of ABOUT A BOY and the Farrelys' adaptation of FEVER PITCH, the Wachowski brothers will soon film HOW TO BE GOOD, turning Katie Carr into a futuristic lesbian fighting machines in the distant future

- Ice Cube to star as the uncle of a young kid, played by Lil' Bow Wow, in the English-language remake MY LIFE AS A DAWG

- Sean William Scott signs on to play Sean Burnham in the Alan Ball's college-set follow-up, AMERICAN BOOTY

Peace out,


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