Just another piece of crap movie in which the two protagonists finally confess their feelings for each other in an ending scene outside during a thunderstorm. Why is it that people in movies like to stand around and talk in the rain?
I suppose it's probably time to write one of these again. I know I took last week off, and I'm sure most of you noticed (thwacking the refresh button on your browser over and over again in the hope that AICN-D was almost upon you), but I let it go. Partly, this was because I've noticed that my sudden commitment to bringing a new column each week has revealed that the frequency of these columns is directly disproportionate to the level of interest they generate. Mostly, though, this was because I was in beautiful Hobart (in Tasmania, for those who have lost their GoogleMaps bookmark), and the holiday vibe just wasn't screaming "write your column!".
Speaking of being in Tasmania, I happened to coincide my visit with Kevin Smith's visit to the mainland. All of my friends managed to get to the screening of CLERKS II plus the Smith Q&A, and to my credit I wasn't the slightest bit insanely-jealous when they told me about it later.
Listening to their reactions to the film was interesting, though. They all totally loved the film, but added they'd probably need to see it again to catch all of the lines they'd missed. The lines they'd missed were every second one, and this seemed to be because the audience was in rapturous laughter at every single scrap of dialogue, slight facial expression, or Jason Mewes nudity.
Now this is the audience I wanted to see the film with. If you recall my review of the film, I saw it with a room full of middle-aged film critics, and was so embarrassed at my own laughter that I spent most of my energy trying to hide it in my hands. An audience will always influence your enjoyment of whatever it is you're watching, and thinking back, I now have an even greater appreciation for CLERKS II: if I managed to really dig the film in a room full of vaguely hostile film critics, imagine how much I'd enjoy it if I saw it with, y'know, real film fans!
The idea of seeing a film with its intended audience is one that doesn't, however, always work in practice. Commonly, animated films are played at times when critics can bring their kids or nephews or neices or (in my case) cousins. Now, even if the intended audience for the film is the six year old seated directly across the aisle from you, if that six year old begins screaming at various points throughout the film, it might have an adverse affect on your enjoyment. But if that film is, say, ANT BULLY (review below), then it doesn't matter so much.
So what's with the mid-week column? Well, this evening I'll once again be leaving my home state for parts not unknown. The reason for my trip? Scroll down to the Awards, Festivals and Screenings section you always skim over...
The problem with writing this column sporadically is that when news breaks and I chase up my sources and get a whole lot of stuff on it, then go on holiday and don't write the column for a week and a half, the news is kind-of stale. Luckily, I'm able to counter this problem by not caring much at all and writing about it anyway. Okay, Peter Jackson. Who is he? What's he up to? How awesome is it that he doesn't wear shoes? Love it. So by now you've read about him producing the DAM BUSTERS remake with Christian Rivers at the helm. Direct quote from my source: "[Rivers is] a seriously cool and very talented guy." So he's got that going for him. But what of this dubious scoop about THE HOBBIT being set for 2007? First of all, I don't care whether they're using Ralph Bakshi and a couple of hand puppets, New Line is not getting this film out in 2007. I agree with the suggestions that it means they're planning to start shooting in 2007, but I'd say that's more of a hopeful intention than a real plan. For starters, nobody at Weta has ben talking about this. The guys I've been speaking to have said that those in the know have been happily chatting about DAM BUSTERS and Neill Blomkamp and all the stuff they really shouldn't be openly discussing, and nobody has mentioned anything about THE HOBBIT. The best we can expect is that somebody at New Line will talk to PJ and company soon about the possibility of putting the film into pre-production, but for now all this HOBBIT business is a storm in a teacup. Resume normal life.
It was only a matter of time before Sam Worthington (SOMERSAULT, MACBETH) got a big break overseas, and now JoBlo is suggesting it's happened. In an interview with Google (the web browser that now apparently chats to movie stars), Worthington revealed he's competing with a mysterious "big name" for the role of ex-Marine Josh in James Cameron's AVATAR. I'd say his chances will go up once people start seeing MACBETH and discussing his performance. More on this when there's confirmation...
Rose Byrne hasn't quite made the impact I thought she'd make, which is surprising given she's both prettier and more talented than Wentworth Miller, who is my current gold standard. She's had some bit parts in TROY and WICKER PARK, but she'll be seen a bit more prominently in zombie sequel 28 WEEKS LATER, not to be confused with the non-existent Sandra Bullock relapse comedy 28 WEEKS.
A few weeks ago, we mentioned the upcoming indie film THE NEXT RACE. The trailer has just gone live, so head to http://www.thenextrace.com and check it out.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
GOLD COAST FILM FANTASTIC
In a few hours, I jump on a jet plane and head up to the Gold Coast Film Fantastic, where I will be introducing Terry Gilliam's TIDELAND on the closing night of the festival. Book your ticket for the session, rock up to Reading Cinemas at 8pm, and bask in the awesomeness of me, and (if you must) Terry Gilliam. As excited as I am to see Gilliam's brilliance once again, I'm foaming at the mouth to see PAN'S LABYRINTH., which is the opening night film this Wednesday. There's a whole bunch of other cool stuff, so go to the Gold Coast Film Fantastic website, make some bookings, and prepare for five days of utter coolness.
TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL
Rolf de Heer was awarded the Silver Medallion for the "significant impression" he has made on the world of cinema. The ceremony took place this past week in Telluride, following a screening of his film TEN CANOES. The award was presented to him by people who had presumably not seen BAD BOY BUBBY or ALEXANDRA'S PROJECT.
2007 ACADEMY AWARDS
Recently, the Oscars changed their rules so that the category of Foreign Language Film does not require the film to be in the country's official language. Presumably, this means a film made entirely in Klingon or Elvish would be a contender. And having typed that, I'm almost positive I've made that joke before. Nevertheless, Australia has announced it is submitting Rolf de Heer's TEN CANOES in the category, as it was filmed entirely in one of the many indigenous Aboriginal dialects.
Everyone got in on the exclusive joke, pushing Sam the Man's thriller up to number one. Aside from DUPREE, it's not a bad-looking list. Hopefully, we'll see 48 SHADES up there next week...
RELEASED, LIKE, LAST THURSDAY
A comedy-drama aimed at teens completely forgets to be condescending towards them, Kevin Smith disproves his critics (ie: me) by having a good reason to show his characters ten years on, five guys have funny initials, wasn't this film made years ago?, we get a glimpse of what SEX IN THE CITY or DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES might be like if either of them were well-written, and Roger Avary hopes the Hills Have Legs.
The good news is, it's not as bad as SHARK TALE. The bad news is, it's as bad as ROBOTS.
You're not going to want to, say, gouge your eyes out with the hairpin of the girl sitting in front of you. You will, however, spend most of the running time wondering what the bloody point of making this film was.
I mean, I know what the film is about. It's about small people standing up to big people who bully them. I know this because the line "I'm BIG and you're SMALL!" is repeated so often, it's almost as if the logline of the film was accidentally pasted onto every third page of the script and nobody noticed. Given A BUG'S LIFE managed to cover much the same ground -- and did so with humour and clever storytelling and an interesting plot -- there's really not much point of a retread.
So what does ANT BULLY give us that neither A BUG'S LIFE nor ANTS could offer? The big one is Nicolas Cage's character: an ant that does magic. Yes, you read that correctly. This is one of my favourite deus ex machinas of all time in that the only possible explanation for why he's a wizard is that we need the main character kid shrunk down to ant size and there are a bunch of dangerous situations that need quick, question-free solving.
It's also sad to see Bruce Campbell in yet another piece of lazy stunt casting. I don't fault The Chin for wanting to pay the bills (like I could get mad at him), but his character suffers most from the film's biggest failure: its lack of jokes. The humour in ANT BULLY falls into two categories. The first is "hey, that guy fell over! Classic!". Bruce's ant gets the majority of these, particularly the ones where the punchline revolves around him going from heroic to terrified in the blink of an eye. The other category is extreme sarcasm. Now, I've never subscribed to the view that sarcasm is the lowest form of humour. I think it can be, but it's not necessarily a lock. Go buy the "Blackadder" DVDs if you don't believe me -- sarcasm has never been finer. ANT BULLY is at the other end of the spectrum. When a character needs to make an important point, he will do so by putting on the most over-the-top "I'm being sarcastic" voice possible and emphasising each syllable with unnecessary force. Like "hey, that guy fell over!", I can stand it one or two times, but when the entire film is overloaded with it, you go further and further into the foetal position as the film progresses.
Actually, Lily Tomlin suffers more than Bruce does. I just remembered the grandmother character; possibly the lamest character ever put into a modern animated film. Y'know, outside of SHARK TALE. The alien conspiracy-obsessed grandmother whose teeth keep coming out? That's who's supposed to babysit the kids? Are you kidding me? Or does the fault lie with me in hoping to find a modicum of logic within the proceedings?
The true barometer for these films is whether the kids enjoy them or not, and all the kids I saw (including the ones I brought with me) seemed fairly bored when there wasn't an extremely loud action sequence taking place. And there are a fair few non-sequitorial loud action sequences. (By the way, if you haven't read it, AICN published the definitive review of ANT BULLY, written by Massawyrm. Read it -- I guarantee you'll love it.)
Oh, and Nicolas Cage is a wizard ant.
LADY IN THE WATER
LADY IN THE WATER has the dubious honour of being not only the worst script that M. Night Shyamalan has written, but being the most interesting autobiographical film I've ever seen.
You've probably heard the plot of the film a fair bit (introverted superintendent finds a magical being in the apartment swimming pool), but that's not what it's about. Here's the real plot: a writer (played by M. Night Shyamalan) is inspired to write the most amazing piece of prose which will one day bring peace and love to the world, but he has to battle evil film critics first. This wonderful plot is coloured by the following points: all beings, both mystical and human, have been brought together to ensure Night finishes his great works; he finds out he'll die before his work his recognised, thus allowing him to enjoy his martyrdom whilst still alive; critics do not take their power seriously, and this can result in innocent people dying; people who don't appreciate or understand Night's work are dangerous.
I'm not making any of this shit up. I mean, I went in looking forward to seeing Bob Balaban's contemptuous critic because the idea of a critic-despising filmmaker having a totally unlikeable film critic character in his film is a pretty funny one. Unfortunately, it's funny in concept only. The execution is actually a little pathetic. Balaban's critic makes his mind up about films before he sees them, never says thank you or goodbye or anything vaguely polite, and believes he can predict everything that will happen in a film. It's in this character's plotline that Shyamalan makes one of the biggest errors of judgment I've seen in a script since, say, OCEAN'S 12. Firstly, he's set up a whole bunch of archetypes, residents of the apartment block who are essentially plot points in human form. Then the story calls for certain archetypes, so our hero (Cleveland Heep, played by Paul Giamatti) goes to the critic to ask about how to find character archetypes. The critic explains how these things are set up in films, and Cleveland uses this to track down the people he thinks they need. Later, they discover that they picked all the wrong people, and somebody wonders who could have been so presumptuous as to presume what people should do. For his sins, the critic is mauled to death in one of the more humourless sequences (and it wants to be humourous) I've ever witnessed.
One of the big problems with this whole plotline is that Shyamalan actually sets up all of his supporting characters by introducing us to their skills or uses. It's clumsily handled, and we don't meet a single person that doesn't have some importance to the plot. Having a critic point out this lazy storytelling does not forgive it, nor does it make the film critique-proof. All it does is point out that you're aware of your script's failings, which actually makes the whole thing worse. If you knew you were writing a film where all the characters are one-dimensional plot devices, why not change it? Hanging a lantern on it does you no favours.
Whilst the arrogance of the critic plotline makes you a bit annoyed, the blandness of the "main" plot just leaves you bored. First of all, it's not entirely clear what this mystical creature is doing there. Secondly, Cleveland appears to accept her existence immediately, without her really saying much about who she is. Thirdly, the motivations seem to come out of nowhere. When Cleveland says, "we need to get her home", I was thinking "oh, is that what we're doing now? When did that happen?". Characters appear out of nowhere with unmotivated motivations. Exchanges in the film have the ring of truth of: "Hi, my name's Bob." "Hi, Bob." "Why won't you believe in fairies?!?"
THE VILLAGE made me angry because it had so much potential, and went in the most predictable, uninteresting direction it could have gone. I understand that the "twist" was the impetus for the film, and I appreciate the subtext it creates, but from a purely story point of view, it was a big ball-drop. LADY IN THE WATER doesn't make me angry, because as much as I liked the idea of a film in the form of a bedtime story, there's really nothing of promise to be ruined.
M. Night Shyamalan needs a script editor like no one else. The preciousness with which he treats his own work is ridiculous, and blaming film critics for his own poor storytelling just makes him look sad. I love THE SIXTH SENSE, I love UNBREAKABLE, and I met him halfway with SIGNS, but the guy has disappeared so far up his own arse, you end up simply feeling sorry for him. With any luck -- before he goes into production on his next film -- Shyamalan will realise that when his films are bad it's not actually the fault of evil film critics, misguided Disney executives, unenlightened marketers or stupid audiences, but with his own storytelling.
- - Dreamworks animation to make a film about a Russian war ship that also happens to be a celebrated actor and showtunes singer, BATTLESHIP PATINPKIN
- Mel Gibson makes an error of judgment by failing to check the spelling of the title when he agrees to star in the courtroom drama remake, TRIAL BY JEWRY
- M. Night Shyamalan to play himself in Sidney Lumet's drama about a man who unsuccessfully attempt to join a lesbian militia group, in NIGHT FAILS IN MAN-HATIN'