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Merrick here...

Latauro took a break from chasing dingoes and boxing kangaroos to send in this batch of Entertainment News from the vegemite realm!

Here's Latauro...

Gods are selfish beings who fly around in little red capes and don't share their power with mankind.


Nearly a week has passed, so it's becoming more and more unfashionable to complain about the Australia vs Italy game in the World Cup. I won't start bitching about the result here, only to say that if we had been squarely thrashed and there'd been no question as to who was the better team, I'd be very happy right now. I'd be proud of how far the Socceroos had progressed at a world level. I'm still proud, but because of the black cloud hanging over the proceedings, all I can do is wonder how far we'd have gone if the umpire had been, say, standing a few metres to the left.

Still, there's always cinema to make us feel better, and I had a pretty good time this week. Wednesday night was my regular film night with my friends where we each programme a pair of films. This week was my turn, and I put on THE LIMEY and FULL FRONTAL (those who have seen both will understand the connection, which, when it happened, brought the room down). The following night we all went out to see SUPERMAN RETURNS at V-Max, and less than twenty-four hours later I'd seen PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST.

My thoughts on POTC2 can be found below in the trusty reviews section, but needless to say my downunder frown has been turned upside down. And now it's time for the news.


I was really happy for Adam Elliot when he got the Oscar. I thought it was cool that he gave a shout-out to SBS and thanked his boyfriend (even if it was the friendliest room in the world in which to do it). I enjoyed HARVIE KRUMPET, and didn't begrudge him the opportunity to cash in on his fame by appearing in TV commercials all over the place. Didn't mean I wasn't getting sick of him, though. A year later I was tapping my watch and wondering when -- after famously turning down offers from Disney, Dreamworks and the like -- he was going to announce a new project. Well, it's finally happened. According to Victorian broadsheet The Age, Elliot will utilise a budget of $8.5 million to make MAX AND MARY, a feature length stop-motion animation. The film, based partly on Elliot's own experiences, follows an eight-year-old girl from Mount Waverley who begins correspondence with a middle-aged autistic man in New York. So, not exactly talking donkeys and "clever" Starbucks references, then. It may not attract the school holiday crowd, but I think the man's got potential. Now if only we could hear similar news about JASPER MORELLO's Anthony Lucas and Mark Shirrefs, we might have a pretty cool local animation industry we can excited about!

Man, Peter Jackson loves those extended cuts. Hot off the news that the LOTR trilogy is about to be re-released in a theatrical cut/extended cut combo pack (don't fret; if you've got the EEs, you still have -- in my opinion -- the best editions), unconfirmed reports are coming from Spanish website that Spain will be getting a three-disc extended cut of KING KONG. So, if you're up for a Spanish-language edition of REY KONG, check back with us on November 15: that's when the set will apparently be released. Cheers to Black Magic.

You may remember Darlene Johnson as Lady Dalrymple from Roger Mitchell's 1995 film version of Jane Austin's PERSUASION. Well, Ms Johnson turned her attentions to directing, shooting docos FOLLOWING THE RABBIT-PROOF FENCE (the superb making of Phillip Noyce's 2002 film) and GULPILIL: ONE RED BLOOD (a portrait of Australian institution, David Gulpilil). Johnson has just begun filming her next film, CROCODILE DREAMING. DREAMING is described as "a comic fable about two men who are in a race to hunt down the legendary crocodile, Big Tooth". The film is likely to screen on SBS later this year.

If you're in Waitakere, New Zealand, and need a seven million dollar film studio and sound stage facility, you're in luck: they're about to build one in Henderson. According to the Waitakere City Council, the studio will be the largest in New Zealand at 2000 square miles. As Black Magic's Mark Wilcox points out, this is good news for the upcoming NARNIA sequel; apparently the idea that PRINCE CASPIAN would shoot in New Zealand was looking a little unlikely due to the lack of studio space available. This should set it all straight. Originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald and on Black Magic.

Over the last year or two, we've had to report on the unfortunate closure of many art-house cinemas in Sydney and Melbourne. Well, we finally have some good news for you. Sydney's The Chauvel is re-opening on July 24, with a massive gala event beginning at 7pm. The cinema will also host the World Premiere of the non-fiction feature film HUNT ANGELS.



MODERN LOVE is the first feature film from Adelaide director Alex Frayne, and is written by jack-of-all-trades Nick Matthews (who has worked as cinematographer, producer and editor on film such as LOOK BOTH WAYS and TWO THIRTY 7). The film has been invited to screen at Mostra in São Paulo, Brazil in October of this year.


LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, the US indie flick starring Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin and, of course, Toni Collette, took out one of what I believe are three audience awards at the close of SFF last week. Other winners included Ronny Yu's FEARLESS and the TEN CANOES making-of documentary THE BALANDA AND THE BARK CANOES.


Despite the trailers for CLICK, people still went to see it. Someone explain that one to me. At least the next few weeks should be dominated by big "Summer" movies that really deserve to be seen.



An art dealer fish goes out of the water, Rolf de Heer continues his quest to prove he's not the Rowlf that played the piano in the Muppets, and Michael Winterbottom graduates from the Charlie Kaufman School of Adapting Novels.




It's one thing to make a kickarse movie and then take everybody by surprise. It's another thing to do a follow-up to that movie where everybody's expectations are heightened and make it work. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know: expectations for DEAD MAN'S CHEST are damn high.

First of all, the film's two stars really shine here, and I expect they'll be getting a lot more work based on what they've done in this film. I'm referring, of course, to Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. These guys were given the task of (a) continuing a Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney franchise that is expected to rake in more money than your average European GNP, and (b) totally geek out and write exactly what a die-hard fan would want to see in a sequel. Okay, (b) wasn't a task they were given, but you can just tell these guys totally geeked out in the POTC Universe and had more fun than any writer should be allowed to have. Is it perfect? No, but the flaws are fairly minor and will be discussed later.

I don't even know where to begin describing the plot. There are so many intersecting strands that overlap and step on each other that we'd be here all day. (Also, I hate recapping plots in my reviews, so it's not really an issue.) In fact, the plots run into each other so often, there's several moments where characters suddenly stop to look off to the left where a completely different storyline is taking place. If you can keep up with it, it's ridiculous amounts of fun, and nearly sent me into a fit of joyous giggles. Joyous, masculine giggles.

Gore Verbinski is one of those directors who annoys me a bit. I've liked every film of his I've seen (yes, even THE MEXICAN), but I just can't put my finger on his style. The man adapts his directorial style to whatever the film demands; sure, it's a pretty ego-free way of doing things, but it makes it difficult to define him. Bottom line is that in a double-blind test, I couldn't pick a Gore Verbsinki film, but each and every time I'd compliment the direction. Oh, and DEAD MAN'S CHEST is his best work. The man knows exactly where to stick the camera. Is that an actual compliment? Well, when you've got about a dozen main characters, each with their wildly conflicting desires, plus a huge number of extras, special effects and who-knows-what-else going on, putting the camera in exactly the right spot is not as easy as it sounds. Still, the complexity never becomes complicated, and a large amount of the credit should go to Verbinski, who also manages to shoot some absolutely beautiful images amidst all the chaos. It's impressive stuff.

Still, it's not a 100% flawless effort. At times, particularly in the first half, the film feels a little forced. It's hard to put a finger on, but I did have a slightly-uneasy feeling that this wasn't going to rock as hard as I was hoping it would. My biggest problem was Captain Jack.

Yeah, I know I'm committing some sort of blasphemy here. If there's one thing critics and audiences alike (oh no, did I really type that?) agreed on, it was that Depp's performance in the first film was a work of greatness. Even the advertising for the sequel ("Captain Jack Is Back") seems to confirm that Disney knows it too. Me? It gave me faith in audiences again. That someone could subvert the "hero" role into something so different to what we expect from these types of films and have audiences lap it up made me happy. I thought Depp was a genius, but at that point I was still trying to get over how great he was in FEAR AND LOATHING, so I wasn't at all surprised by it. But yeah, I loved him in the first film.

So what happened in DEAD MAN'S CHEST? Exactly what I was afraid of. In the first film, he was written as a Han Solo-type, a not-too-trustworthy braggart, a pirate who'd sell you out for the gold in your pocket. All the humour and wackiness came from Depp's performance. I was worried that the sequel would self-consciously write a whole bunch of wacky crazy shit for Captain Jack, and everybody would be playing the character for laughs. And, to an extent, that's how he's played here. Depp's brilliant, and revels in everything Jack does, but everyone's just a little too aware of how popular he is, and some of the sheen comes off in the process.

Look, it's not a major complaint. When I say Jack was my biggest problem, I mean that there really isn't much to complain about! I still loved Jack, and the twenty trillion dollar opening you'll see next weekend will confirm that everyone else in the known world will feel the same way. The better a film is, the more obvious its minor flaws are, and I suppose it's a compliment in a way that the only thing that really bothered me in the film was so minor. Captain Jack is still the reason these films are so successful, and Disney owes an awful lot to Mr Depp.

The supporting cast -- and, let's face it, everybody who isn't Jack in the film is a supporting character -- is so damned good that you never really find yourself wishing someone else was on screen. Both Bloom and Knightley are better than they were in part one, and everybody else from Mackenzie Crook to Bill Nighey to Naomie Harris completely owns every moment they're on screen. Even Jack Davenport impresses; I think he's a good actor, but the type of role he had in the first film usually leads to an incredibly dull, two-dimensional character in the second one. Luckily, this cliche is turned completely on its head, and the character of James Norrington ended being one of my favourite things in the film.

Whilst nothing can ever match Captain Jack's entrance in the first film (one of the greatest of all time), his re-introduction in this film comes pretty close. Oh, and there's a sequence about two thirds of the way in that starts off as one of the best sword fights I've ever seen, and ends up as one of the best sequences I've ever seen. It just doesn't stop. What you expect to be an entertaining five minutes or so ends up as a super-duper-entertaining twenty odd minutes where everything you've seen up to that point just converges in the messiest and most enjoyable way possible. God, just typing this makes me want to go back and watch it again.

There's a lot of stuff that it would be criminal to spoil at this point, but I'll say this: by the time the film ended, I was nearly shaking with the desire to see the third film. It's such a beautiful set up, and I really want to see this with an opening night audience just so I can watch five or six hundred people explode in excitement. It's such a geek moment, and that's what makes it work.

I'm a big fan of trilogies. I think it's a very neat and satisfying number for a series of films, echoing the three-act structure that almost all films rely on. Part of it is also hoping that nobody comes along with a bad fourth film and messes up the legacy, but mostly it's the satisfaction of having an epic "film" with a nice, solid ending. That said, if Terry Rossio, Ted Elliot, Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and, well, every character they've introduced in this film (I don't care how convoluted it gets!) all return, I say sign them up for another few films. 'Cos if they keep up the quality displayed here, I think we're going to be very, very lucky film geeks.


Here's a warning: if you want to slam your head in a car door when you read that title, this probably isn't the film for you.

The cynic in me is conflicted when I see a target as easy as that. A film that's so obviously a romantic comedy, it refuses to hide behind a couch or disguise itself as something "cooler"? The non-cynical part of me (that wide-eyed doe that nearly giggled in PIRATES) loves it when a film wears its heart so clearly on its sleeve, and taunts you by throwing rose petals and kittens at you as it prances around the place. This is that sort of film.

The basic history of the film is that writer Bernie DeLeo, one of those American fellows, scripted the film with the idea of it being set in somewhere like New York. He was convinced that the film would work just as well in Sydney, and it went to Australian director Michael Egan. This, right here, is why the film works. A New York setting would have forced too many comparisons with the greats (ANNIE HALL, etc); the Sydney setting is new, and turns every element on its head.

See, the film is filled with romantic comedy cliches. The bastard boyfriend of the main girl, the initial personality clashes that leads to the passion, the snobby parents, the public declaration of love, these all get ticked off the checklist, but that's the whole point. Egan plays up these standards, and leads Rhett Giles and Joy Smithers are clearly encouraged to do the same. The fact that they all jump in head-first makes it very difficult to dislike the film; the fact that it's set in a city that hasn't been done to death, with accents we haven't heard spouting rom-com dialogue... well, that's why it works. This film knows exactly what it is, and spends its entire running time enjoying itself.

Rhett Giles is entertaining as Fred Thatcher, providing a sort-of grounding you'd expect to see Hugh Jackman play if this film had that sort-of budget. He's been getting a fair bit of work lately, and it's not too hard to see why. He's very relaxed on camera, and it's easy to like him. Likewise, Joy Smithers is totally brilliant as Leslie Barrett, playing the uptight workaholic with total conviction. She's also someone worth keeping an eye out for.

The film does occasionally slip into cliches you'd wish it would avoid (the idea that people aren't really happy unless they're following an artistic pursuit... wouldn't it have been more convincing if Leslie had totally loved what she did?), it moves along very quickly and keeps the pace up surprisingly well given the shoestring budget it had.

The film (also known as STRAIGHT TO YOU) is touring around the place (I think it's doing the circuit in New South Wales at the moment). If you get a chance to catch it, it's definitely worth giving a go.


George W. Bush to host a documentary feature film about how global warming doesn't exist and oil companies are awesome, titled AN UNCONVENIENT TRUTH

- A crazy publicist from Lions Gate castrates the members of Il Divo after coming up with an idea for a SAW 4 teaser poster

- Lions Gate commissions a script for SAW 4 based on the true story of four singers held hostage by a crazy publicist

Peace out,


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