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AICN-Downunder: Batman Begins; Hot Stuff; Blacktown; Flick; Clara; Elise; LittleFish; TheCrop; Mr & Ms Smith; Vengeance

Back from the land of the dead it's ol'Father Geek with Latauro and THE downunder report, an app title since its (the column) been buried under a monsterious wave of trash-mail and the rotting corpses of castoff, outdated AICN programing code that left some of us useless in a dank, dark Romaroesque world of idle, powerless machines, uncontrolable twitching muscles, and intellectless brains searching hopelessly for some sort of input...

I'd give five bucks to see that cat take a sip of that soup.


A local multiplex down my way has a poster up for THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS. What's interesting is that it's a US poster, so we're treated to a small box in the corner courtesy of the MPAA which tells us that the film is rated PG for, amongst other things, "thematic elements".

I, like many others who attention I drew to the poster, was perplexed. What is a thematic element? Why is it so dangerous? Surely they couldn't mean "adult themes", or they'd just say it. "Adult themes" can't be un-PC, can it?

English professor Tom Eiland defines it thusly: "The tools an author uses to tell a story and get his or her message across are called Thematic Elements. Used alone or in conjunction with others, these literary terms refer to the devices which help the author to keep the story entertaining while adding depth and meaning to the work." (

So SISTERHOOD contains devices which keep the story entertaining? The film has depth and meaning? Children should be protected from this?

Doing more research, I discovered other films contain thematic elements. HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE apparently has them. So does BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE and LEMONY SNICKET. CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN has both thematic elements and brief language. I would have thought coarse language would be more harmful, but apparently language of any kind, no matter how brief, is inappropriate.

Further research took me to the web page for Alberta Community Development (, which described thematic elements as referring to "the attitude, tone, and intention of the film". I'm so glad we cleared that up.

It seems that every day people are inventing new things that are dangerous to children; or, at very least, dangerous for them to see on-screen. See, I would have thought that there's violence, sex, swearing and drug use. I can't really think of any others. Maybe horror, but I'd count that under violence. Unless you start combining them in ways that would make Meir Zachi blush, there's really nothing new under the sun. People I've spoken to have been unable to think of anything new. I mean, nothing really changes, does it? Homosexuality is now supposed to be treated the same as heterosexuality; in theory, they're judged on identical merits. (Ben Stiller, however, claimed that he had to cut suggestive homoerotic stuff out of ZOOLANDER in order to secure the film's rating, although the mostly-heterosexual orgy later on was totally okay.) Cigarette smoking has also become a bit of an issue, with many (particularly in India) worried that kids will see their heroes puffing down the death sticks and want to emulate them, though all it really takes is seeing the slightly-cooler kid from next door light up. (My stance on this is that it's a valid concern, although people do smoke in everyday life so we can't really pretend it doesn't happen. Why not classify it as a low-level narcotic, therefore giving otherwise G-rated films a PG rating for "low level drug use"?)

Wow. Those mini-rants have been bubbling to the surface with disturbing ease lately.

Anyway, I've decided to invent a new thing. Rather than inventing vague terms to cover societal dangers that are constantly being redefined, I've turned my considerable talents towards creating something people have never seen or done before. Ladies and gentlemen, I present: phenting.

We now have violence, sex, swearing, drugs, and phenting. I came up with phenting a week or two ago, and so far it's been a big success. A mother slapped me in the street for phenting in front of her children. A guy cut in front of me at the local Boost Juice bar, so I phented him in the kidneys. The other night I noticed three phents on camera during Parliament Question Time.

At first I was going to try and claim some sort of copyright to it, but my luxurious lifestyle is already well-enough funded by my fat AICN paycheques, so I don't need any royalties. I want you guys to begin phenting whenever the opportunity presents itself. I want phenting to become such a horrible worldwide phenomena that the MPAA and the OFLC are forced to re-evaluate films based on the level of phenting they contain.

After all, I'd much rather see our children protected from the ravages of phenting than the horrors of "thematic elements".


(Special note: given how long it's been since the last AICN-D, consider this section less "news" and more a compilation of stuff that's happened over the past month. Y'know, like Elston Gunn, only with more Minogue jokes.)

It's about a five minute drive from my place to my girlfriend's. Directly in between us is a hospital, one that had a gaggle of reporters and cameras in front of it a week or two back. Later, I discovered they were there because that's where the Green Fairy was being treated for breast cancer. As many of you may know, national treasure and hot pants endorser Kylie Minogue has been battling the disease since it was discovered earlier last month. What you may not know is that in the midst of all this, she was also in negotiations with some broccoli stems for a role in CASINO ROYALE. Chalk it up to unfounded rumours (I know, shocking for a Bond production), but the Singing Budgie might just be following up on the promise displayed in BIODOME and starring as the next Bond girl. Latino Review got it from British tabloid The Sun, and I got it from "Shannon".

* Hey, speaking of Minogues and unverifiable rumours, a bloke in the UK calling himself "The Institution" sent me a bit of info he apparently got from a Lucasfilm rep. As the new STAR WARS TV series is going to shoot in Australia, they're looking at a bunch of local actors to fill the roles. AICN-D reported that Matthew Newton (son of Bert and one of the original contenders for Anakin) was being considered, along with Dannii Minogue and Joel Edgerton. Edgerton's an interesting choice, given he played Owen Lars in the prequels. Dannii Minogue is most likely up for the role of Tattoine's twin suns.

* In addition to that bit of info, "The" also dropped this nugget: "I also asked about those rumours on AICN last week about the 'Knights of the Old Republic' movie, and I think there might be something going on there. The word was "George Lucas isn't doing that one". I repeat HE isn't doing that one - but someone else is? YOU GUYS NAILED IT ON THE HEAD!" Personally, I would have emphasised the word ONE, or possibly DOING, but our scooper's way is interesting as well.

* The Michael Noonan novel DECEMBER BOYS is getting an adaptation, courtesy of screenwriter Marc Rosenberg and director Rod Hardy. The 1960s-set drama about four orphans who fight crime (that last bit is a lie) has just signed Harold Potter thesper Daniel Radcliffe, who will presumably have to pretend to have an Australian accent. So long as it's better than Meryl Streep's overrated attempt, I'll be happy. Or, at least, indifferent.

* The Rushmeister (who, according to tabloid rumour, makes everyone call him "Geoffrey" on set), looks to be joining fellow antipodean Eric Bana in Speilberg's VENGEANCE, or whatever it's called now. You know the one. 1972 Munich Olympics, etc. the new draft is written by Tony Kushner, and will presumably be shot by Speilberg during lunch breaks on his God biopic.

* This is a little fourth-hand, but there's some interesting news regarding the recently-decrowned Australian Miss Universe, Jennifer Hawkins. See, she's been doing some work on the TV travelogue "The Great Outdoors", but according to that program's Diane Smith, Hawkins won't be with them for long. Seems she's in-demand for a lot of film roles, including "a female Superman... Supergirl movie". This was revealed in an interview with a Perth radio station and passed on by an avid listener. Having read the painfully funny SUPERGIRL synopsis Akiva Goldsman did a few years back, I can say I find the prospect of a FEMALE SUPERMAN film far more interesting. Clark gets a sex change? Certainly more palatable than PARALLEL UNIVERSE BULLSHIT, AKIVA! Awesome. I used caps. Thanks to "Lennox" and "Jack".

* More likely than MS SUPERMAN coming to fruition (I say keep Brandon Routh and throw a pink ribbon on him), is Hawkins appearing in the new Adam Sandler high concept click, FLICK. Or high concept flick, CLICK. One of those. Sandler saw her during the Miss Universe ceremony and decided he wanted her. That's pretty much how I met my last wife.

* A lot of places are cottoning onto the idea of Australian actor Lachy Hulme as the Joker in BATMAN CONTINUES. Something about a rumoured invite to the US premiere that Mr Hulme was unable to attend due to shooting commitments for M, the Geoffrey Wright adaptation of Bill Shispeare's "Macbeth". No script has yet been written for the sequel, but so far the lanky Aussie is at the top of the list. Cheers to "Abba".

* Everyone who isn't Andrew Bolt loves Philip Noyce, as evidenced with Tim Robbins lovingly signing up to HOT STUFF, about a white man in apartheid-era South Africa. The flick is written by Shawn Slovo, daughter of anti-apartheid campaigner Ruth First.

* Natalie Imbruglia has become Terrance Malick. Ever since her powerhouse debut in box office smash JOHNNY ENGLISH, everyone in the film industry has been waiting to see which project she'd choose next. Finally, she's signed onto ELISE, where she will play a woman whose sister disappeared twenty years ago. Sounds like she'll be imbroigled in mystery.

* The Western Australian state government, returning from a lucky day at the track, is planning to empty its wallet into the state's film industry. AUS$8million has been pledged to film and television over the next four years. It sounds like a decent amount, but break it down a bit. Let's say they split it evenly down the middle, giving the film industry one million a year. That's enough to make one YOU AND YOUR STUPID MATE per annum, only you'd have to hire Holly Vallance instead of Rachel Hunter and ditch that expensive final CGI shot. Go WA!

* Though it's dominated the news here (and, by the time it goes up, happened a number of weeks ago now), it's worth mentioning again. TV legend Graham Kennedy passed away on May 25 at the age of 71. Most critics and reporters have spoken of his TV work (he reinvented live comedy, so fair enough), but it's worth mentioning his film work as well. He appeared prominently in Bruce Beresford's adaptations of David Williamson's DON'S PARTY and THE CLUB, as well as the Australian-soldiers-in-Vietnam film THE ODD ANGRY SHOUT, and as "Dougal" in THE KILLING FIELDS. He defied convention and broke taboos, and few others have come close to matching him. Sincere condolences go out to his family and friends.



SFF will premiere BLACKTOWN (from ILLUSTRATED FAMILY DOCTOR helmer Kriv Stenders). The film's been getting a lot of positive press, and will also screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival and the Brisbane International Film Festival.


The premiere night of MIFF will feature LITTLE FISH, directed by Rowan Woods and starring Cate Blanchett. On the same night, the festival will play short film TAMA TU by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT).


Curiously, 2004 Australian film THE CROP, which sunk quite quickly amidst bad reviews, took out Best Feature Film at a ceremony in New York. Suggestions that those responsible for giving the award were treated to "special samples" from the film were quickly made up by me.


While there wasn't a staggering amount of success for Australian features over in the south of France, short film CLARA by Van Sowerwine got a Special Mention. It might have only been a special mention, but capitals make things more important.


Who took out top honour? Morgan O'Neill, who will get $1million to make his film SOLO. If anyone read the script while it up on the Project Greenlight website, feel free to post a review in talkback below. Come on guys, he won! Time to tear him a new one!


George's control of the box office is masterful.






(note: this was a lot funnier a four weeks ago. Blame the computers)


Wong Kar Wai makes the long-awaited sequel to Peter Hyam's 2010, Sean Penn gets uncharacteristically political, Colin Farrell engages in a threesome that sadly excludes Sydney-based webmasters, the Dark Knight continues his titular verbs, Kevin Bacon's agent does some expensive maneuvering to win a game of Six Degrees, DEAD POETS gets remade for Generation Diddy, Australia's most underrated fi lmmaker releases another brilliant film no one will ever see, Burt Reynolds plays one-upmanship and remakes MEAN MACHINE, Ashton Kutcher pretends to play a character with charisma, Mary-Kate Olsen auditions for BATMAN, DreamWorks craps out another moneymaker, Woody discovers two early drafts pasted together make a shooting script, then wonders why he wasn't hired to do a redraft for Doug Liman, then he gets angry that someone else made a film about Jews in New York, a new Australian film has its description placed out of alphabetical order so I can make some lousy Woody jokes, Peter Krause and company follow the example set by Alice, the bean counters bravely put a redhead with a gay best friend with Rupert Everett in a film with "Wedding" in the title, and the lamas keep on regenerating.





















I deleted the initial review I wrote for this film. I actually wrote it a week before its international release date, and the opening line was, "I'm going to recommend this film, even though it's not that good." I'd like to retract the first half of that statement.

I was recommending it as a date movie. I saw it with my Girl Friday, and there's something about seeing two impossibly beautiful people up on screen being cool and sexy that makes you feel a little like that as well. Normally, it would be the other way around, but, I don't know, we're a little delusional.

The more I've thought about it, though, the more my dislike of the film has come to the fore. It really sucks (though all of you know this now from having (a) seen it, or (b) avoided it because you knew it would suck). If you've heard the premise, you've seen the film. It's almost like they asked the marketing guys to make a two hour trailer. Oh, and two hours is *way* too long for this film, especially given nothing happens. I'm not at all surprised to see Akiva Goldsman's name in the credits given how little attention was given to the script. It's a car crash of a movie, and if Angelina's sexiness and Brad's charisma can't save it... I mean, Angelina is exceptionally sexy, and Brad is very funny, but they can't sustain the film's running time. A waste of money.


There's something pretty cool about going to a premiere. I've only been to two at time of writing, and am unlikely to have attended any more at time of reading, but there's a fairly unjustifiable air of excitement going in. I say unjustifiable, because it's really not the ideal viewing experience. The people you're watching the film with are, by and large, not film geeks. While press screenings may be solemn and quiet affairs save for the pen scratchings of nearby critics who presumably won't be able to remember enough of the film to fill a three hundred word review in their tabloid hack rag, they at least allow you to watch the film without all the usual distractions. At premieres, you're surrounded by people who are there to be seen, who really only care about how good looking the actors are and who they're currently dating, and who are unable to suffer through an entire film's running time without munching loudly on popcorn. This was exactly and completely the wrong audience for this film, because BATMAN BEGINS is a film for the geeks and the serious film goers.

I honestly don't know how this film got made. Perhaps there was a general feeling at Warners that the DC films had got such a bad rap lately that they nervously allowed indie filmmaker and fan favourite Christopher Nolan to do whatever he wanted in the hope that it would raise the repute of DC films. Consequently, we have a film that's more of a character piece than a blockbuster BATMAN film. This is - almost - as far away from Schumacher as you can get.

I love that Batman doesn't appear for something like an hour into the film. Practically the halfway mark. I love that the first sixty minutes of the film is about how fucked up Bruce Wayne is. This is truly a character study, more so than any of the films that have come before. None of the McPsychobabble from BATMAN FOREVER, but a genuine look at someone who is unable to control the fear they live with. Rather than trying to come to terms with what's inside, Bruce realises that he must create a person, an outer shell, for his insides to live in. It's the exact opposite of what someone would do to make themselves better, and both Nolan and Goyer have a good handle on that. It's why Batman isn't shown as a hero, but as a vigilante whose revenge motives only happen to coincide with the motives of the non-corrupted police (ie: Gordon).

What makes this film work is that they've hit upon the main thing that separates him from the Supermans and Spider-mans and Elongated Mans... er, Men... That is, his complete lack of superpowers. It turns him into an entirely different concept from the other heroes and gives the filmmakers an opportunity to ground him in reality. My absolute favourite element of this film is how real it all seems. Where does he get all those wonderful toys? It's explained. It's incredibly satisfying and avoid feeling obtuse or aching. All those lingering, back-of-the-mind questions about how he's able to be physically powerful and how he's able to get his hands on so many gadgets without anyone finding out... it's all there, and appears to make perfect sense.

It helps that the actors are the best the series - or, dare I say, *any* superhero film - has yet offered. Christian Bale leaves the others for dead. Of course, the script helps, but it's the character's attempts to play at being both Batman (comfortably) and Bruce Wayne (awkwardly) that make him interesting, and Bale nails it. I like Michael Keaton, but my feelings about his performance are the same as my feelings on both the Burton films (explained later in the review). Bale has just the right amount of pain, fear and humour. It's a perfect mix. His Batman is phenomenal; he takes a big risk with the deep, husky voice, but it pays dividends. His ability to mask his true identity is all the more believable.

No disrespect to Michael Gough, but Michael Caine is the best Alfred. Two things puzzled me when he was cast: why were the filmmakers seemingly going for a big and British name when he seemed so wrong for Alfred? And: what would attract Caine to a background "Yes, sir" role? Well, the answer is the same for both. Alfred is a different character here; he's passionate, he has his own motivations and beliefs, and has an incredibly rich history, though it's never revealed what it is. The chemistry between Bale and Caine is ten times better than I was expecting, and is the best love story of the film.

Morgan Freeman is also dead-on. It's not stunt casting. It's not Sam the Man with a lightsaber. He brings weight and trust to Lucius Fox, the gadgets man who becomes Wayne's second confidant. Like Caine, he's not slumming it for the paycheque (despite what he's said in interviews). He's putting in a real performance, and I'd rank this up with his work in SHAWSHANK, SE7EN and MILLION DOLLAR BABY. The one scene between Lucius, Alfred and Bruce is brief and expository, but exciting because you so enjoy these characters. If Christopher Nolan ever quits directing, he should go into casting.

Despite that one, brief ID4 moment (they really should have known better), Gary Oldman disappears and becomes Gordon, and, now I think about it, also shares a lot of chemistry with Bale. He's also spot-on, as is Linus Roache who manages to give real depths to Thomas Wayne in the brief flashbacks we're given. Liam Neeson is as good as always, but doesn't break the mould the way the other actors do. Cillian Murphy has never been as brilliant as he is here with the Scarecrow.

I'm talking about the phenomenal acting here because my biggest (and, really, only) problem with the film is the complete miscasting of Katie Holmes. After vaguely enjoying the first few seasons of "Dawson's Creek", and suffering through the last few, I was truly sick of Katie Holmes's *one* expression. It's the expression she uses to express both happiness and sadness, and it's used to full effect in this film. For all the (mostly unfair) grief that Goyer gets over his dialogue, there's one scene where Holmes is given some fairly meaty stuff. It should be a powerful moment, and instead it's delivered like a line reading. She's way out of her depth, and it drags the film down. Look, I don't hate Holmes. I respect her choice of films; I just don't think she's very good in them. Given the power of the actors on display here, Holmes seems like The Chick, and despite her predictable damsel-in-distress scenes, she's given enough to make it a meaty role. Unfortunately, she sleepwalks through it. Funnily enough, despite being the romantic interest, she shares zero chemistry with Bale. The romance subplot is never overwhelming, but it is thoroughly unnecessary.

Despite Holmes, and Ra's Al Ghul's motives not being 100% clear (I got them, I just don't think they were clear enough), this is one of the best superhero films ever made. It's up there with SUPERMAN and SPIDER-MAN. It also knocks the previous instalments out of the park. See, I really like BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS, I don't really mind BATMAN FOREVER, and appreciate BATMAN AND ROBIN as a cautionary tale, an horrific train wreck, and an unintentional homage to the Adam West series. The first two films of that series are not particularly good Batman films. They're just not. I love them as Tim Burton films and enjoy them on that level, but Burton paid little regard to who and what Batman actually was. Also, there's no fucking Prince in BEGINS.

This should be the first of many films. I don't mean a trilogy, I mean many. They've set up the universe so well that they have a chance to introduce recurring villains into the world (I'd love to see Scarecrow and Joker enjoy reappearances, as well as, I don't know, Penguin set up as a crime boss in place of Falcone), and if Warners can pull of the unenviable task of trying to continually woo back Bale, Caine, Freeman, Oldman, Goyer and Nolan, this is a series that really, genuinely deserves ten films, each of this quality.


- Nick Broomfield to make a documentary about the untimely death of Ashton Kutcher in TRIUMPH OF THE WILLIS

- Jewel Staite's brother Garden sues Zach Braff

- Peter Segal to direct a biopic of Alan Moore, with Martin Lawrence signed on to play the Harlem-based graffiti artist who discovers a magic spray-can that makes him rich and famous... but also turns him into a dachshund!

Happy 30th, Paul,


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