AICN-Downunder: THE KINGDOM, DEATH AT A FUNERAL, WONDER WOMAN and STAR TREK!!!
Published at: Oct. 1, 2007, 1:02 a.m. CST by quint
Tea can do many things, Jane, but it can't bring back the dead.
You'd think the only two films in production were STAR TREK and JUSTICE LEAGUE. I mean, you gotta be getting sick of hearing about these things, right? Well, I've been able to link the JUSTICE LEAGUE film back to Australia somehow, so I'm going with the crowd and talking about it some more. Still working on how to justify talking about STAR TREK, beyond that ridiculous Russell Crowe rumour... wait! Hahaha, literally just found something whilst I was writing this editorial. Brilliant.
IESB has a rumour that Kiwi Karl Urban (LORD OF THE RINGS) is up for the role that Crowe is supposed to have been offered. Urban will play a Romulan hell-bent on destroying the Federation. Now, I like JJ Abrams a lot, but time travel? Ret-conning? Alternative timelines? Prequels? I will admit to being very nervous about this project.
It's impossible to keep up with all the JUSTICE LEAGUE news (and by "impossible" I mean "mildly difficult"), but it's been widely-reported that Jessica Biel has now turned down the role of Wonder Woman, so she can -- and I'm making this next bit up, but god I hope it's true -- reprise her role opposite Freddie Prinze Jnr in WINTER CATCH. Who knows her reasons, but they'd better be pretty good if she's turning down a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie. Either way, this now leaves the role up for grabs, possibly from one of the actresses who has already auditioned. Included in that list is Victoria Hill, who managed to do the best Lady Macbeth I've ever seen in Geoffrey Wright's oddly-maligned MACBETH. Moviehole.net scooped Hill's involvement (nice one, Mr Morris), and though Hill is one of my favourite actors at the moment, there's a physicality to Wonder Woman that's almost impossible to get right. They'll never get her, but for my money Jolie's the only one who could do the role... here it comes... justice! Woo! (All that said, go Victoria!)
Sixteen-year-old Amanda Michalka did some great work at Nate's niece in a couple of "Six Feet Under" episodes, and whilst you're all waiting for her role in SUPER SWEET 16: THE MOVIE, I'm going to tell you instead about her role in THE LOVELY BONES. Quoted on MTV, Michalka says she'll be playing Claissa, the best friend of the murdered girl (retroactive spoiler alert!). Peter Jackson begins production on the film next month.
Finally, check out Black Magic to see the poster for DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE, a New Zealand period horror coming out later this year.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
2007 SPAA FRINGE
The Screen Producers Assocation of Australia joins forces with the Foreign Reporters International National G-- yeah, I ran out of steam on that acronym before I got started. Anyway, there's a bunch on this year, including workshops, activities, and a lot of keynote speakers. Check out the rundown at: http://www.spaa.org.au/fringe_2007/index.cfm
SHOOT OUT FILM FESTIVAL
Shoot Out is a terrific idea: a film competition where all of the films must be made within twenty-four hours, and all editing must be in-camera. This year's winning entry didn't even bother with a video camera. CARRION ran for two and a half minutes, was shot entirely on a stills camera, and scooped the top prize. Congrats to Shane Emmett, Brian Dyer, John Roy and Jason van Genderen.
This is what you're watching, people. Embrace it.
2. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
4. SURF'S UP
5. NO RESERVATIONS
RELEASED THESE PAST TWO WEEKS
9 SONGS nearly gets banned whilst this travesty passes through without issue, Daniel Radcliffe shows how an Australian accent should be done, Steve Carrell tries to survive a flood (the flood is a metaphor for a bad film), The Clash's Joe Strummer gets his nominative determinism on, the next generation gets THE PRINCESS BRIDE: LITE, possibly the year's funniest film also manages to be its sweetest, and desperate film execs try to prove they're still relevant... and fail.
BRATZ: THE MOVIE
JOE STRUMMER: THE FUTUE IS UNWRITTEN STARDUST SUPERBAD
If you're going into a film that purports to be about the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia, you know it's going to be one of three things: (a) a serious yet subtle polemic along the lines of TRAFFIC or SYRIANA; (b) a two hour lecture disguised as an even-more-obvious lecture, a la Paul Haggis; or (c) RAMBO.
The pitch for THE KINGDOM is: yes, but what if this one was all three at once?
After an absolutely terrific opening that looks like The David Fincher Guide To Saudi Arabia (seriously, as much as I'd like to rant against the McHistory MTV generationality of it all, people would pay a lot more attention if all of history was taught like this), we're introduced to America. America, in this case, is Jamie Foxx, who is happily married, and whose happiest day was when his son was born. America is smart, he is strong, he gets angry when his friends are killed, but he doesn't let his anger overcome his reason.
America and his crack government team head to Saudi Arabia to figure out why a bomb went off. They encounter a whole bunch of Evil Arabs, but also one Good Arab. Good Arab wants to raise his children in peace, and is angry that someone would want to kill so many innocent people. Good Arab and American shake hands.
Many interesting questions are raised in this film, but not nearly as many as the (I'll say it again) utterly brilliant opening sequence promises. What's frustrating is no attempt is made to answer the questions, nor, failing that, is effort made to explain why questions like these can't be answered as simply as we would like. Because this film is at its best when it's raising these questions. It's at its worse in Paul Haggis territory (if the Arab dude is so used his own customs, and Jennifer Garner's character is such an expert on the Middle East, why is he so worried about telling her that she can't do certain things, and why is she so sensitive about it? These points could have been made without compromising the integrity of these characters.
It actually gets pretty good when it turns into RAMBO. And though I was mildly annoyed that they had to resort to turning the last third of the film into a straight-out action film, it was very well done. Peter Berg certainly knows how to ramp up the tension when he wants to.
Big points here though: Jason Bateman? Seriously? I was pretty skeptical when he was cast. I mean, aren't we all going to be distracted by looking at Michael Bluth the whole time? Apparently not. Bateman's so good and so believable, that we're sure to see him experience a pretty big and successful dramatic career alongside the comedic one.
THE KINGDOM does a lot right and a lot wrong, and though there's a lot of really great stuff in here, it ultimately fails when it tries to be too many things at once.
DEATH AT A FUNERAL
It's easy, when looking at the poster for the non-beautifully-titled THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING, to say "That Harry Potter has a lot to answer for!" (as if whatever film happens to come along and successfully revive a long-dead genre is then personally responsible for every pale imitation that then comes along). I've never had to say "That FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL has a lot to answer for!", because you can't really blame it for LOVE, ACTUALLY or the career trajectory of Hugh Grant. There haven't really been any obvious FOUR WEDDINGS rip-offs by people who weren't involved in the original film... (here comes the pull-quote) until now!
Yes, the opening of DEATH AT A FUNERAL is so obviously "inspired" by Richard Curtis's genre-bending rom-com, I got a very disturbing feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was going to be an also-ran of a film; a pale imitation that wears its source so overtly on its sleeve, that it's impossible to judge it on its own merits. Thankfully, I'm incredibly clever, and was, in fact, able to judge the film on its merits: it's not good.
There are funny moments, no doubt. Most of them come from Alan Tudyk overcoming a pretty obviously-written character setup (English fop spends the film hallucinating after accidentally taking drugs!) to give us the only genuine and consistent laughs in the whole film. He's clearly a gifted physical comedian, and is an inspired piece of casting. The other entertaining piece of casting is Peter Dinklage, and credit must be given to the filmmakers for only mentioning his physical stature when it would have been suspicious not to. Dinklage is also very funny, and knows how to make the slightest facial alteration do what many actors would need flailing limbs for.
But it's these two, plus a few other cast members, plus Murray Gold's very good score, that comprise the only particularly good elements of this film. Quite a lot of the script and the direction seems to rely on "Aren't British people quirky, with their effete manners and politeness and unexpected swearing?". It's an impression of an English comedy rather than being an English comedy itself, and with every single comic setup being as contrived as they are, it gets very tiring very quickly.
That said, there was quite a bit of laughter from the audience I saw it with. Most of it came from the Alan Tudyk storyline, but I couldn't tell if they were laughing, like me, because of Tudyk's excellent physical comedy, or whether they found the situation itself genuinely surprising, or whether it was that most annoying of audience reaction: the loud laugh to indicate to those around you that you, too, have taken drugs and can TOTALLY relate to what's happening on screen! Sorry, pet peeve. And I think I detected at least a bit of that from the people around me.
But I mention everyone else's laughter because I suspect this may be one of those cases where I'm again out of step with everyone else, and I feel I have a responsibility to wave a flag when I think that's happening. Because I found DEATH AT A FUNERAL to be contrived, mostly unfunny, and thoroughly irritating... but you'll probably love it.
- Alejandro González Iñárritu to direct ponderous drama/zombie sequel 21 GRAMS LATER
- Lindsay Lohan to bear all in computer nerd sex comedy RANDOM ACCESS MAMMORIES
- David Lynch to make a biopic about Finnish cricket umpire Sanjeev Kad in FINLAND UMPIRE