AICN-DOWNUNDER: Ocean's 13, Fantastic Four 2, and the world's best movie show returns!
Published at: June 17, 2007, 2:30 p.m. CST by quint
You shook Sinatra's hand. You should know better.
I've decided to stop setting ridiculous agendas for myself. Like, for instance, last year when I had it in my mind that I could write one of these columns every week instead of every fortnight. Now, every fortnight is a struggle. Blame -- plug alert -- the new season of "The Bazura Project", which has again taken me away from family, friends and sleep. But enough there. I'll plug it more at the end of the column.
Okay, back into it. No more waffle. Enjoy!
For those in the rafters, Rachel Weisz is continuing her current career high. Having recently starred in THE FOUNTAIN, one of my favourite films of all time (whoops, just spoiled my end-of-year top ten list), picked up an Oscar for THE CONSTANT GARDENER, and filmed THE BROTHERS BLOOM, Rian Johnston's follow up to the phenomenal BRICK, she's now just showing off. She'll be in New Zealand soon to star in Peter Jackson's adaptation of THE LOVELY BONES. She'll play the mother of a young girl who is feared murdered, and will almost certainly pick up an Oscar nomination immediately afterwards.
HOW TO CHANGE IN NINE WEEKS is a new Australian film. So new, in fact, that it hasn't been filmed yet. It begins in just under a month, filming Brisbane and then Melbourne. It's described as a crime drama, and stars Guy Pearce, Miranda Otto and Sam Neill, and is the debut of filmmaker Simone North.
Abbie Cornish needs to lighten up. After the depressing SOMERSAULT, the depressing CANDY, and the depressing (though unintentionally so) A GOOD YEAR, she'll be taking direction from Australian director Jane Campion, a helmer not known for her comedic tendencies. BRIGHT STAR will be produced by Jan Chapman, and will be released through Hopscotch Films.
This one looks interesting. The documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD has just been sold to the UK and the US. It's a look at Australian cinema in the 1970s and 1980s, against the backdrop of the country's classification reformation. Fingers crossed that this will, quality-wise, follow in the footsteps of THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED and MIDNIGHT MOVIES. Could make a good double with the criminally-underseen HUNT ANGELS, too.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
That strange feeling in my giblets means that this year's MIFF is almost upon us, and newbie Festival Director Richard Moore has been shoring up films, which is appropriate given the tone of the event. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 HOURS, the Romanian film that picked up this year's Palm d'Or will have its Australian premiere at MIFF. Other films include MOURNING FOREST, ALEXANDER (directed by Aleksandr Sokurov, and therefore at the top of my must-see list), Kim Ki-duk's BREATH, Michael Winterbottom's A MIGHTY HEART, CONTROL (about the life and death of Joy Division's Ian Curtis), and ZOO. Still not sure if I've got the stomach to get through ZOO, but I'm going to give it my British best. This Wednesday we get the full program, so have your diaries at the ready.
BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
If I had the money and the time off, and -- possibly depending on when these things are scheduled -- a time machine, I'd be attending MIFF, BIFF, SFF and AIFF in quick succession. This year's BIFF has a tribute to Queensland native George Miller, and will be screening his films for free in outdoor settings across south-east Queensland. Seriously, big hats off to whoever came up with that concept. Also, Hal Hartley's FAY GRIM (with Parker Posey and Jeff Goldblum) will open the festival on August 2nd.
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL
Australian drama THE FINAL WINTER will premiere at SFF this year. Featuring John Jarratt and Raelee Hill, the film will close the festival on the 24th of June at the State Theatre.
Every time I do this box office thing, I always search desperately for any film that was originated by a writer simply having a good idea. Four of the following five films are sequels. Only one of them is based on a film that was an original idea. One of the others is based on a comic book, another on a kids' book, and another on a theme park. The fifth is based on a book, which was in turn based on a true story. No that there's anything specifically wrong with this; I'm just saying, it'd be nice to see at least one original film in this list from week to week.
1. SHREK THE THIRD
2. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END
3. SPIDER-MAN 3
5. HOSTEL 2
RELEASED IN THE FIVE WEEKS SINCE I LAST WROTE ONE OF THESE THINGS (I KNOW, I KNOW...)
Zombies reappear in time periods divisible by twenty-eight, Will Ferrell looks up obscure sports, Ryan Phillippe proves Chris Cooper is not just another pretty face, Walden Media sets a fantasy film firmly in reality, Ron Weasely gets a lesson from his mother, Hanoi Jane raises Troubled Lindsey, Eli Roth doesn't make torture porn, Patrice Leconte makes L'HOMME DU TRAIN look like LA FILLE SUR LE PONT, Orlando and Keira travel to de ends of de ert, one of Leonard Nimoy's autobiographies gets filmed, a significant halfway point in the greatest cinematic quintology since the CREMASTER CYCLE appears, and David Fincher solves crimes.
28 WEEKS LATER
BLADES OF GLORY
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA
MON MEILLEUR AMI
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END
ROMULUS MY FATHER
SHREK THE THIRD ZODIAC
OCEAN'S 13 Reviewed by Latauro
If there's ever a need to professionally employ a Soderbergh apologist, I suspect I'll be -- at very least -- on the shortlist. I'm the guy who thinks OCEAN'S 11 is a brilliant heist flick up there with the best; that SCHIZOPOLIS is a sensational and funny art flick; that FULL FRONTAL is a wonderful character piece. And yes, all three get regular rotations in the DVD player, as do most of his films.
That said, even I couldn't get next to OCEAN'S 12. Believe me, I tried. I came up with as many excuses as I could. Unfortunately, I had to admit that despite the top notch direction, the awesome cast, the cool moments... the script was just woeful, and you can't have a good film without a good script. Even if I hadn't already known that it was adapted from HONOUR AMONG THIEVES, or whatever it was called, I think I could have guessed that it was from a pre-existing script. It just didn't feel like the last film, and not in a cool, reinventing-the-medium way, but in a sloppy, misstep way. I'm all for homaging "bad" plotlines of the 70s, but there's homaging, and then there's slipping into self-parody. I wanted to love that film. I would have settled for like. I ended up with an immense dislike.
How happy I am, then, that the third film decided to follow the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE format: pick yourself up from the disaster of film #2 and make a film that's almost as great as the first film.
OCEAN'S 13 succeeds because it actually gives everyone something to do. You feel like they couldn't pull this heist without everyone pulling several different duties at once. It succeeds because it's funny. It succeeds because it's cool. As much as I like elements of the original Rat Pack film (ballsy ending more than anything), the one thing you expected it to be if nothing else was cool. And it failed at that. This film gets it right. Or, at least, it does if you consider the actors exceptionally cool, which I, for one, do.
The additions work well. Terry Benedict's addition as the thirteenth member makes perfect sense, even if it does happen a little too easily. Pacino looks like he's actually having a lot of fun. Ellen Barkin is incredibly funny and exceptionally attractive.
There's not a whole lot to really discuss beyond whether it works or not. If you've seen the first film, you should have a fair idea of what to expect here. Although anyone who's read Bob McCabe's "Dreams and Nightmares", the brilliant behind-the-scenes book about the making of Gilliam's BROTHERS GRIMM, should get extra enjoyment out of the big nose that Damon sports throughout most of the film.
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER Reviewed by Latauro
There was no chance I was going to like this film.
I've never read any of the "Fantastic Four" comics, but I always liked the idea behind it. If "Spider-man" was a metaphor for growing up, "X-Men" was a metaphor for discrimination and "Hulk" was a metaphor for inner-demons, I thought "FF" being about a family dynamic was a terrific idea. There's a lot that can be explored there, particularly by a writer with a good sense of subtext and irony.
The first FANTASTIC FOUR film was devoid of any of this. It was also devoid of quality. Ioan Gruffudd was miscast, Julian McMahon was miscast, and Jessica Alba was incredibly miscast. Tim Story was miscast as the director. The script was abysmal. I tried enjoying it as a kids' film, but even then I could feel the ten year old inside me having his intelligence insulted.
So why did I enjoy the sequel?
A big part of it is lowered expectations. When you're expecting the cinematic equivalent of a screwdriver to the crotch, it's hard not to be impressed. Seriously. It's how I was able to enjoy (and I'm not kidding) Stallone's DRIVEN, Stallone's GET CARTER, and Stallone taking to my crotch with a screwdriver. And so, FANTASTIC FOUR 2 managed to get on my good side, by virtue of not being a complete bucket of crapness.
Ioan Gruffudd is actually good now, after doing exactly what I suggested he do after the first film: age a bit. See, in about ten years, Gruffudd will be the perfect Reed Richards. And I'm not saying that as a comic book nut (we've already established I haven't read them); I'm saying that as someone who simply felt the cast was too young, too cover-of-one-of-those-magazines-that-has-young-people-on-them. Anyway, Gruffudd's only got a couple of extra years on him, but they suit him, and he's definitely relaxed into the role a lot more. I enjoyed him a whole bunch in the role.
Alba and McMahon are still miscast, but it's fairly easy to ignore them. Chris Evans is the shining star here. He was pretty good in the first film, but suffered from cliched writing. He was the cer-azy guy in the first film with the wacky one-liners, and it got a little irritating. In the sequel, they finally figured out what to do with him, and his natural charms make Johnny Storm a really engaging character, and genuinely funny this time around.
I'm a big Michael Chiklis fan, but his casting in the first film felt like an olive branch to the online community than anything else. A way to shut up all that negative internet buzz whose level of impact no one seems entirely sure about. He was good, but not great, like once they'd cast him, they simply left him alone and didn't bother to do much with him. The same is true here. Ben Grimm is passable, but not the great character he really should be.
That brings us to Silver Surfer and Galactus. Silver Surfer is great. He was always going to be great, and credit is due to the FX guys and Doug Jones, who all bring him to life with unexpectedly understated expressions and movement. Galactus is the interesting one here, and I'll tell you why.
When all the hubbub hit this site and others about how Galactus was going to be a big, giant cloud instead of a guy in a helmet, I couldn't understand what all the complaining was about. Back then, I was expecting the film to blow chunks, but this actually felt like a good decision to me. I'm not emotionally tied to any continuity with the original comic, so I just went with what I thought would be cooler on film. See, I'm kinda sick of the big villain in the helmet. I don't find him that scary, and after Dr Doom in the first film, I was fairly sure they wouldn't be able to do anything interesting with him at all.
Back before I got my hands on the STAR TREK movies, all I had was the novelisations. Reading the back of the MOTION PICTURE book, I actually got a shiver down my spine. The blurb described an enormous cloud of energy that was moving through the galaxy, destroying everything it came into contact with. Now THAT'S scary. The most frightening thing we can ever encounter is something we can't reason with, and when I first read about that cloud, I couldn't figure out how the Enterprise could beat it. You can't reason with it, you can't fire weapons into it... I HAD to see that film!
My eventual mild disappointment in ST:TMP aside, I got the same feeling here. A big cloud moving through the universe eating planets? There we go. Try beating that, kids. Of course, the way they eventually beat Galactus is moderately interesting (as opposed to powerfully kick-arse), but it's still more interesting to me than another guy in a mask.
I can't believe I'm actually recommending this film. I'm a bit cautious to do so, given how geared against it I was going in (and therefore unable to properly calibrate my reaction for your benefit), but what the hell. If you're a FF fan and you want to see them done a lot better than they were done in the first film, go catch it. If this trend continues, the third film might actually be incredibly good.
EAGLE VS SHARK Reviewed by The El Stupido
Just a quick write up for you from rainy Auckland. Got back from a preview screening of NZ Napolean flick 'Eagle Vs. Shark' which I straight up enjoyed. As lead actor Jemaine Clement's Flight of the Conchords has struck a note in the US at the moment, AINC readers might be interested.
First: the elephant in the room. Yes this film will remind most who see it of Napolean Dynamite but this reviewer asks you to see past that - it actually is a different story where the main char you connect with is a chick called Lily played by Loren Horsley. She was great.
That leads me to the second: The two mains are very funny. This is a must see for Kiwis and Aussies around the globe. Loren's Kiwi accent is side splitting stuff. Both are strong comedic performances and oh so Kiwi. Supporting actors, quirky and good. I love the Samoan family on the phone. So spot on.
Thirdly: perhaps my only criticisims is that Jermaine's character Jarrod doesn't have any redeeming features really. This is very funny in the third act mind you, but yeah... Lily is such a top chick.
Conclusion? This flick was enjoyable to me as a New Zealander. I think Australian's would like it too in their condescending way like they think they're better.... HAVE YOU BEEN TO QUEENSLAND?! America and the rest of the world, sadly they'll box it in as a southern hemisphere Napolean and they're lifes will be sadly unfulfilled having never seen Eagle Vs Shark.
PREVIOUSLY ON THE BAZURA PROJECT
Those of you late to the party should know that I co-host a movie show on Australian TV called "The Bazura Project". You should also know that the show is online, so if you can read this, you can watch that.
The second season has had two episodes air thus far. Last week, we interviewed Danny Boyle, who spoke about almost directing Joss Whedon's ALIEN RESURRECTION script, as well as giving us a heads-up about 28 MONTHS LATER. The week before, we instructed you on how to make your own romantic comedy. Click on www.bazuraproject.com and watch.
In the meantime, here are the first two opening sequences in all their embedded goodness:
- In a further effort to reinvent his property, Todd McFarlane adapts his comic from the point of view of internet gamers in SPWN
- Aleksandr Sokurov is signed to direct the sequel to NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, which will be a time traveling look at America's history in one continuous take
- Upon closer inspection of the screenplay, Steven Soderbergh discovers his Che Gueverra biopic is actually about Bob Marley