AICN-Downuder: PAN'S LABYRINTH, THE DESCENT, JASPER MORELLO: THE FEATURE, and Peter Brock's next movie!!!
Published at: Sept. 18, 2006, 3:33 a.m. CST by quint
Hey, you love this one, "How do you give a lemon an orgasm?" You tickle its citrus!
The last few months have been pretty damn hectic. I'll break tradition and not bore you with the details, but it's nice to be back in my home state with a few weeks coming up where I may actually have some spare time to play with.
The Gold Coast Film Fantastic Festival took place last week, and organisers were kind/gullible enough to fly me up and put me in excessively luxurious digs for its duration. Having lived on the Coast for two years, it was a bit odd to be back. I'm not sure whether Surfers Paradise has improved or become even worse, but whichever it is, it went there in a big way.
The festival itself was -- no offense to the organisers! -- a lot better than I was expecting. The list of films was pretty damn good, but I wasn't expecting the events that accompanied it. NACHE LIBRE was preceded with a big wrestling demonstration. In order to get to THE DESCENT cinema, we had to go through a fake cave (brilliantly designed) in which creatures from the film would jump out at us (also, brilliant makeup). For the duration of the festival, the foyer of the cinema had a big sculpture almost exactly like the one in the festival's opening night film, PAN'S LABYRINTH. I introduced the closing night film, TIDELAND, and discovered, to my relief, that it was just as great the second time around. (The film, I mean, not my intro.)
The only real letdown at the festival came from the moderately-sized audiences. I couldn't believe PAN'S LABYRINTH on opening night hadn't sold out, particularly given it was the Australian premiere. This was partly to do with the fact that publicity for the festival didn't appear to be great (I knew some film fans up on the Coast who only heard about the festival through me), and partly because it's a very different place. In Melbourne, the film festival appears to avoid over-promotion because most of the sessions sell-out anyway! Film Fantastic is the biggest film festival on the Coast, and given how damned good it was this time around, I'm considering making my own way up next year just to see the programme. Hopefully, next year it'll get the audience it so clearly deserves.
Regardless of publicity issues, hats off to Jed Cahill, the selection committee and the small army of volunteers who really knew how to put on a show. And if anyone on the Coast is still hungry for film stuff, Jed's companion short film festival In The Bin is taking place this weekend. Go to the film's website for more details!
In what must is clearly the best decision since Renny Harlin said "Hey, I think my direct-to-video sequel to CUTTHROAT ISLAND would rock even harder if Chris Tucker played the prophet Mohammed as an effete retard!", producers of KING OF THE MOUNTAIN are searching for an actor to portray Australian racing legend Peter Brock. Brock -- who is dead but not yet buried -- was not only one of the greatest racers the world has seen, but a pretty decent human being who did a lot of charitable work and always had time for anyone in the room. Now, before his death, he'd been working with writer/director Sam Genocchio (GET RICH QUICK) on KING OF THE MOUNTAIN in which he would have starred alongside Jack Thompson and musician David Campbell. The makers of the film decided they would have to replace Brock, which is natural, but allow me to offer my thoughts on what they're doing wrong. For starters, announcing this film days after Brock's death makes it sound like you dug up an early draft of DRIVEN and added Brock's name so you could cash in on his death. Secondly, it's an action film, not a biopic. Unless you've got Brock playing himself, change the name of the damned character. If this film comes out next year with Gary Sweet as Peter Brock in a fictionalised action film, you're going to get riots. Whatever film you're trying to make -- and I presume it's a good, old-fashioned car racing flick -- will be drowned out by the reasonable assumptions your audience will make before they've seen a frame of footage. And Karl Stefanovic will probably try to kick you in the nuts. Okay, that's my rant done. News of this originated from Moviehole.
It didn't win the Oscar, but it was certainly good enough to. THE MYSTERIOUS GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO is being turned into a feature film, after receiving a right of fellowship from the AFC. Hopefully, the film will continue the adventures of Jasper Morello (instead of re-telling the one we've already seen), but whatever it is, I'm totally there.
Bruce Beresford, who hasn't directed anything too high-profile in a while now, will next turn his eye to LONG TAN. It may sound like a film about Paul Hogan, but it's actually about the Battle of Long Tan that took place in Vietnam in 1966. A group of one hundred and eight inexperienced ANZAC soldiers were surrounded by over two thousand, five hundred Vietnamese soldiers and pretty much just fought to keep themselves alive. It's a pretty incredible story, and should make a decent film, but if Beresford wants to get this film out with the tag "Forty years ago...", he's got about two months to get through pre-production, production and post-production before the round number anniversary date becomes redundant. Quickly now!
Skimming across the internet, I came across a site called "It's Cool News!" or something similar. One the guys on the site had an interview with director Ronny Yu, who mentioned that his live action adaptation of BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE would shoot part of its filmicness in my home town of Melbourne. Come this October or November, if my own speculation is to be believed, the film should begin lensing. And if past experience is anything to go by, I'll make a big song and dance about getting on the set and then get read on Dark Horizons that the shoot wrapped a month ago. Look forward to it!
Any Australianites looking forward to seeing the Outkast movie IDLEWILD should now look forward to intense disappointment. UIP has decided to pull the movie from its theatrical release, and they wanted me to tell you they suggest you download it instead. No, I'm making that up. Don't download. It robs artists and so forth. The film should instead be released on digital versatile disc within the next time period.
If you head to the comprehensive New Zealand film news site Black Magic, you'll be treated to the following tidbits: new exclusive pictures from THE DEVIL DARED ME TO, a clip from horror film BLACK SHEEP, a clip from 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and the poster for OUT OF THE BLUE. In the words of the Beastie Boys, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
SPLIT INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Croatia, a land known for its abundant film festivals, will begin on September 25. Australian film MODERN LOVE (directed by Alex Frayne) will make what I presume is its Balklandian debut in the FIPRESCI competition of the festival. All of our Croatian readers should definitely take a look.
16TH ANNUAL FLICKERFEST
The country's biggest short film festival (and by country, I mean Australia; by biggest, I mean largest) has extended its deadline by one week. If you want your short piece of cinematic brilliance entered into the festival (which plays this coming January), then get your damned entries in. I can't do all the work for you. Or even some of the work. In fact, I'm not even going to look for a link. See what you've made me do?
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
This is one festival I would love to be at. Geoffrey Wright's excellent MACBETH (read my early review here!) played with "only a few" walk outs to a generally-enthusiastic response. Also premiering were New Zealand films OUT OF THE BLUE and BLACK SHEEP, both of which have been getting some excellent reviews (particularly on this site).
Nick Cave has won the inaugural Gucci prize for writing THE PROPOSITION. Apparently, this prize is awarded annually to an internationally acclaimed artist not normally involved in cinema, but who has made a significant contribution to a film within the past eighteen months. What a wonderfully specific and obscure award from such a random source! With any luck, we'll be able to report next week on Stephen King winning the Pucci prize for Best Entertainment Column Written By a Horror Author, and Paris Hilton getting the Yves Saint Laurent award for Most Significant Lack Of Contribution To Society Or Culture.
Just as a matter of course, you guys know that when a film has a link attached, it's there to hark back to my own original review? It's designed as a handy way for you to substitute your judgment for mine when you're trying to decide whether to see a film or not. And judging by the top two spots in this week's box office, this is something you need to do far more often.
1. JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE
2. LADY IN THE WATER
4. DAO: DEAD OR ALIVE
5. SILENT HILL
The scariest film I've seen in years features wall-to-wall Gore, a drunken diarrhetic smear is somehow turned into a film, Steve Oedekirk comes up with the brilliant idea of a CGI film featuring barnyard animals, producers manage to miscast frigging pixels, Alkinos Tsilimidos is replaced with a significantly less-talented clone with the same name, Jet Li proves that not all modern martial arts epics need to dispense with substance, the makers of JOHN TUCKER must die, M. Night should be ashyalamed of himself, catching train to Perth has never been more exciting, the Duff sisters do an impression of the Olsen twins playing the Hiltons (thanks, Tim), Pixar considers legal action when a CGI film they didn't make manages to not suck, Jack Black wrestles with his identity (get it?), I find it difficult to come up with a joke for this film so I'm just going to move on, a film drowns in its own hype, the funniest trailer of the year is unfortunately for a serious film, and those hoping for at least four CGI films this week will be happy to see THE WILD finally limp into cinemas.
I'll do a quick bite review of NACHO LIBRE before I get into the meat and vegetables: it's really not a particularly good film, but I laughed all the way through and it left a fairly pleasant aftertaste. I wouldn't recommend rushing out and seeing it, but I also dug it, so I'm kind-of in two minds about what to say about it. I sort-of suggest you consider maybe seeing it if you like Jack Black and have a forgiving personality.
First of all, remove expectations before you see this film. If anything hindered my enjoyment of this film, it was the tremendous about of anticipation based partly on on the stills that had been released and based mostly on the rave reviews that have appeared online. Not that I blame any of the reviewers themselves; if I saw this film before there was any buzz, I think I'd be singing its praises until I was blue in the crotch. As an audience member, however, it's hard to divorce yourself from that stuff, and I was starting to wish I'd gone in without having heard a thing.
Actually, the biggest hinderance was the fact that I was expecting a fantasy film. This is a mistake. PAN'S LABYRINTH should be seen as a drama with fantastical elements, because I strongly believe that's what the film really is. It's the story of a girl during what I think is the Spanish civil war, trying to deal with the awful situations she is placed in by all of the adults around her. Regardless of whether you are a nice person or not, regardless of whether your intentions are good or bad, if you are an adult in this film then you are making the wrong choices, and those choices are hurting the innocents around you. It's that sort of wide-eyed beautiful cynicism towards grown-ups that makes films such as these such a joy to watch. There's something really beautiful when a director seems to honestly believe that children know more than adults, and this is a lot to do with the fact that the director is indicting themselves in the process.
Not that our protagonist does everything right. In fact, she makes a lot of mistakes, and these mistakes seem to be symbolising her transition from childhood into adulthood. Still, she's resistant to these changes, and is naturally attracted to the world she discovers in the labyrinth. Sorry, this is turning into a first year uni student film essay, isn't it? I'll try to stop.
If there's one thing that can hinder your ability to write a review, it's starting by telling you that you should probably avoid them. So I'm going to keep it simple: you have no excuse not to see this film when it comes out. If this review seems faint on praise, it's because I'm trying not to raise your expectations too high. If I didn't care about not raising your expectations, I would be spending paragraph after paragraph going on about how the story of this girl's escape from her world is beautiful yet unsentimental, and that the actual fantasy sequences are among the best ever committed to film, and that the experience of watching this film is one that will stay with me for a very long time. But I do, so I won't.
If you're someone who likes, I don't know, "film" or "cinema" or "things that kick arse", then you already know what you're doing on the day this truly amazing film opens.
I think this film can be best summed up by the reaction of my friend Michelle, who asked me why I would do this to her, told me she hated me, and decided never to speak to me again. All this because I took her to a film that I thought she'd like because it was made by an English guy and Michelle was from England. I know, I'm a bit of a bastard, but even I didn't know the extent of what I was getting her into. Or me.
The joblo.com quote that appeared on the trailer -- something about it being the scariest film since ALIEN -- did not do the film any favours. Expectations get too high, and when you compare a film to a classic that anyone who possesses brains or genitals loves, people get skeptical. The quote seems to come from the fact that it's chicks fighting monsters, and has very little to do with dismissing the many scary films that have come out in the past quarter century. All that said, THE DESCENT is one of the scariest films I've seen, and is actually of quite a high quality.
I haven't seen DOG SOLDIERS yet (it's on my "Hey, I should really get around to seeing that" list, somewhere between BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF and Scandinavian albino midget porn), but Neil Marshall is officially on my "that dude's cool" list. Packing the cast with women does something I wasn't sure horror films could do anymore: show us something new. I know that comment is going to serve as an invite to list the fifty films that have done that already, but my point is that I'm not sick of it. It's not a total cliche, and when you say that about a horror film, it's high praise.
It doesn't hurt that one of the main characters is not only an interesting and sympathetic antagonist, but phenomenally hot. I know, I know, I hate reviews that can't discuss actresses without making mention of their attractiveness level, but there were at least a couple of scenes in this film that caused me to forget my name. (For those playing at home, the name of my future wife is Natalie Mendoza, best known here for being part of pop duo Jackson Mendoza.)
The film works because of the nuggets of hope we are offered. Marshall amps up the horror, but also allows us brief pockets in which we are allowed to relax. The tension comes less from the "will they/won't they survive this scene?" moments, but more from the possibility that these guys may actually make it out alive. Again, placing the tension in those moments of hope instead of the scene-by-scene survival bits is something I'm not completely sick of (ie: not a cliche), and kept me riveted in the way most horror films just don't.
It's a damned scary film, but in fairness to Michelle, Jed (the festival director) decided to send the two actors from the cave (see the above editorial if you have no idea what I'm talking about) into the cinema at the scariest moment. We were sitting on the very back row, and Shell was sitting with the aisle directly in front of her. She did not see the cave person until they were directly upon her, so she naturally began screaming and writhing in her seat. The guy sat down next to her, and I was temporarily worried about her blood pressure. He left soon after, and I was able to laugh at the situation, not mentioning, of course, that if I'd been in Michelle's seat, it would have needed replacing. I mention this little adventure, because I'm not usually a fan of anything interrupting the cinematic experience, but this completely kicked arse and made the whole thing even better. Nice work.
Look, I'm not a huge fan of the horror genre. I find the vast majority to be boring and poorly-made, and falling more into the slasher sub-genre ("slasher" nearly always being a synonym for "lazy"). THE DESCENT held me from start to finish, and I really expect it to be hold up over time, possibly even reaching "classic" status in the future. Anyone who doesn't have a medical condition preventing them from seeing horror films needs to check this one out.
- Lee Tamahori to direct a documentary that goes in search of one of the minor stars of the late 90s, WHAT BECOMES OF THE BRECKIN MEYER?
- Hilary and Haylie Duff sign onto sequel IMMATERIAL GIRLS, in which nobody cares what either of them does
- Universal options "Eragon" author Christopher Paolini's new horror novels "Wampire" and "The Curse of the Nummy"