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AICN Downunder: Remakes, HOBBIT Casting, And TRANSFORMERS 2 Reviewed!



So, your favourite film is about to be remade.

Question: why do you care?

Oh, I used to be like you. I'd recoil in horror at the idea that any of Hitchcock's films would be remade by lesser hands. The mention of a SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY had me retching. The idea that Vin Diesel would go anywhere near GUYS AND DOLLS put in the foetal position for a month.

Then I got over it. It didn't happen immediately. In fact, it was the news of a PSYCHO remake that first did it. After we got over the initial shock that such a thing could even be contemplated, my friends and I took great relief when Gus Van Sant signed on and announced his approach: he would make the film shot-by-shot, thereby preserving Hitchcock's vision. Still being in high school, we all thought this was a terribly good idea, and breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The following year, in my first few months of University, I went along to see the film, and, in the closing credits, realised how utterly pointless the whole exercise had been. Only then did it occur to me that it would have been more interesting if Van Sant had gone off the rails and done something new. The fidelious remake was like having two copies of the same film on DVD, only one was a terrible transfer. (That's the Van Sant version I'm referring to, by the way.) Sure, I'd have been happier if they'd left the film alone completely, but doing it the same as Hitchcock's version just felt like everybody's time had been thoroughly wasted.

It took ten years for me to completely get over the remake idea. I just don't care any more. Tim Burton's PLANET OF THE APES sucks? I don't care, I've still got the original. OLDBOY about to be watered down? Doesn't bother me, my box set of the Park Chan-Wook version isn't going anywhere. They're doing a "Buffy" movie without Joss Whedon? Good. It'll just serve to remind everyone how good Whedon is before it fades into obscurity.

They're going to remake STAR WARS. They're going to remake APOCALYPSE NOW. They're going to remake THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, TAXI DRIVER, LORD OF THE RINGS and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. It's inevitable.

My current plan is not care all that much. Oh, I'll give them a fair look -- after all, I love Soderbergh's OCEAN'S 11, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and Peter Jackson's KING KONG -- but I'm not going to lose sleep over them. This year, the films I'm getting work up about (in a good way) include BALIBO, MOON, the new HARRY POTTER (sue me, I love 'em), THE LOVELY BONES, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, THIRST, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, and the array of films I've not even heard of yet that I'll likely see at this year's Melbourne International Film Festival.

Here's what I have to ask: if you hate remakes so much, why don't you spend your energy talking about these new films instead? Remakes get made because of name recognition, and the fact that we obsess over them only gives producers more cause to remake. If we all became infatuated over new projects from established and debut filmmakers and talked about nothing else, there would surely be a shift from the studios towards them.

Or maybe I'm being naive. But even if I am, it would still be vastly more interesting to talk about something new, than complaining about the same old crap over and over again.


Screen Australia has been busy dolling out the funds. First, and most significantly to everyone of my age, TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN just received investment cash. The book most of us spent our teenage years studying will finally be brought to the big screen care of Stuart Beattie, the writer whose credits include GI JOE, AUSTRALIA, 30 DAYS OF THE NIGHT and COLLATERAL. "Tomorrow", which kicked off a popular series of teen-oriented books, follows a group of teens who return from a camping trip to discover an unnamed foreign army has invaded Australia. The entire story is told through the eyes of the teens, rather than the military. No doubt, the entire "Tomorrow" series, as well as the sequel series "The Ellie Chronicles", will all be made into films, HARRY POTTER-style. Yes, TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR began will be the first of ten movies! You read this fictitious fact here first, people. (Incidentally, news of the TOMORROW film appears to have been scooped weeks ago by Salty Popcorn's Jason King. Kudos to him for the exclusive!)

I'm sure there must have been some people who enjoyed THE WOG BOY, though I've never met any of them. Nonetheless, THE WOG BOY 2: KINGS OF MYKONOS also received Screen Australia funding, and will see the return of both Nick Giannopoulos (whose entire career is predicated on different uses of the word "wog") and Vince Colosimo (who recently worked with Ridley Scott, and is now doing this). The story will follow Giannopoulos's Steve after he inherits a beach on the island of Mykonos from an uncle he's never met. If Baz Luhrmann directs, I might actually see this.

Bill Bennett, the Australian director of KISS OR KILL, TWO IF BY SEA and THE NUGGET, and not the American conservative windbag, also received funding for his film UNINHABITED. The film stars Geraldine Hakewill and Henry James, and follows a young couple "whose island paradise becomes a nightmare". Bennett, incidentally, recently wrote this piece for the Brisbane Times, in which he calls SAMSON AND DELILAH "remarkable", but trashes the motives of the critics who lauded it. So, to summarise: Bennett loved SAMSON because it's a great film, but I loved it because I'm a petty fraud who needed the film to win a major prize at Cannes before I'd give it the time of day? Wow! I had no idea! I can't wait to find out what preconceived notions and biases I have when it comes time to review UNINHABITED! (Incidentally, feel free to read my review of S&D, published over a month before it was announced the film was heading to Cannes...)

I'm burying this news a bit because it's been covered everywhere else, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it: Andy Serkis and Ian McKellen have apparently signed on for Guillermo Del Toro's THE HOBBIT. Hugo Weaving was also announced, but has told Moviehole that he's not signed anything yet, nor had any discussion about it yet. Don't despair -- he sounds quite open to it, but nothing's been finalised yet.


2009 Melbourne International Film Festival

I've said it before: MIFF is like Christmas for me. (Christmas is like Cannes for me, I won't go into that now.) Over two weeks of films from around the globe -- who wouldn't love that? MIFF recently returned from Cannes with a swag of goodies, including Quentin Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, Bong Joon-Ho's MOTHER, Andrea Arnold's FISH TANK, and Lars Von Trier's ANTICHRIST. (I'm torn with ANTICHRIST -- I swore I'd never sit through another Von Trier film, but can I afford to miss a film as notorious as this? I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this. Talkback below! I'll even read them this time.) I'm also really hoping to catch the restored version of Godard's PIERROT LE FOU, which is playing part of MIFF's Anna Karina tribute. Please, can it be July already?

Toy Story Trilogy 3D

I must confess, the email I sent back to the Disney publicist in response to the following press release was overexcited and overenthusiastic. Not my most professional moment, but who cares? When films are as brilliant as TOY STORY (the film I claimed could never be topped) and TOY STORY 2 (the film that topped it), I think you're allowed to act like a hyperactive child. Especially when we discover that the Digital 3D releases of the first two films is not just confined to the US! Both Australia and New Zealand will see the first two films released in both 3D and 2D format on January 21, 2010. This will be in advance of the TOY STORY 3 release on June 24th! Seems that unlike WALL-E and UP, we'll be getting TOY STORY 3 at roughly the same time as the US -- great news!


I held off my review of LAND OF THE LOST, partly because I found it to be so extraordinarily bad, I didn't want to spend any more time thinking about it. But I'll excise those demons here: it's the laziest film I've ever seen. If you're not one of the unlucky masses who have helped make it to number three, continue your blissful ignorance. You'll be the better for it.



Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich, the AICN-referencing STAR WARS-themed film finally gets a limited run, I love Ed Helms, I love Paul Rudd, I love Michael Caine, to hell with this film, a Jewish woman and a Chinese boy teach each other the value of marginally-different chicken soup recipes, Sandra Bullock shocks the world by appearing in a low-grade romantic comedy, Amy Adams and Emily Blunt have an indie darling-off, the fourth TERMINATOR film isn't nearly as bad as I was expecting, Joaquin Phoenix appears in his final ever role before his scheduled descent into madness, and two of my favourite comic actors appear in a film that doesn't look too hot.




Australian/NZ release: June 24

Note: this will be an entirely spoiler-free review.

This is not because the movie has any particularly impressive twists and turns, or because I think you should all go in as fresh and possible, but rather it's that I have no fucking idea what happened.

I'm not even kidding. This film is almost completely impenetrable. Oh sure, it looks like a big Hollywood blockbuster, but as bad as they can sometimes get, at least they're relatively simply to follow. This film is all over the place, and I'm not even sure the audience is expected to follow what's going on.

What I would like is for this to be an anger-fuelled review. You know the type. Where they took some property I loved, or even liked, and distorted it beyond belief, creating something that offended every one of my sensibilities. Those reviews can be a lot of fun to read, as well as a lot of fun to write.

Unfortunately, I wasn't angry. I was just bored. Yes, bored. Big explosions and CGI creatures are not interesting just because they're BIG. It takes about five minutes to get desensitised to all the Big Stuff Happening, and so for the remaining seven hours you're just numb. CGI should work for your story, not the other way around. And I'm not saying that from the point of view of an analytical critic; I'm guessing a lot of the audience is going to feel the same way, even if many of them can't articulate why. When mega-huge Transformers are climbing up the side of a pyramid, you don't for a second believe that's what you're watching. You're watching an exercise in large-scale CGI, and that lack of engagement is what makes it dull. No attempt is made to engage us with the story, so you end up just ticking off each scene as it runs through the predictable motions.

I'd have been more impressed had the CGI been better. The Transformers, I'm sorry to say, have not improved since the first film. They're too busy, there's too damn much going on. If you're going to do anything with the core idea of a Transformer, then I should be amazed at how all the parts folds into one another, how a robot can become a truck. Instead, we're blinded by an infinite number of moving parts that mean nothing. As if someone waved streamers in your face and then showed you a semi-trailer.

The dialogue is, it must be said, fucking terrible. Look, I'm not expecting Mamet when I go into one of these things (although, who wouldn't love to see Mamet write a TRANSFORMERS?), but this is just unforgivably bad. Are those two African American robot car things supposed to be funny? I don't understand. Are we supposed to like them? Did the poor woman who plays Shia's mother ever stop to point out her dialogue is the worst ever given to an actress? Oh, I know middle-aged people saying "shit" a lot is really funny in and of itself, but after a while the joke starts to wear thin, you know? And why is one of the deep-voiced dignified Autobots saying "Damn, I'm good" like he's recording catchphrases for his toy? Who fucking wrote this shit?

Well, two of the writers were Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the guys I praised for delivering me a STAR TREK film I actually loved. I'm at a loss. I loved TREK, so much so that I was willing to forgive some minor flaws and inconsistencies. How did they go from that to this? Maybe it's Ehren Kruger. I don't know. Kruger did write the terrific ARLINGTON ROAD. Dammit. Who is to blame? Who can I throw stones at? Who was responsible for the line -- and I swear, this is verbatim -- "I'm just an ordinary kid with ordinary problems". Guys, I think that was a suggestion for characterisation, not a dialogue note.

I know this reviews is a bit all over the place, but that's appropriate given the film is as well. And I know it sounds like I'm angry, but I'm not. I'm enthusiastically confused.

But hey, it's not all bad. The film does somehow manage to be closer to three hours than two. If nothing else, rest assured that what the film lacks in quality, it more than makes up for in length.

Just don't bother.


- Two reporters at the Washington Post discover a demonic child is trying to bring down the Democratic Party in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S OMEN

- In response to Rob Zombie continually making films with Michael Myers, Mike Myers plans his revenge with a film about kleptomaniac undead

- After coming across a first edition of Milton's "Paradise Lost", producers hastily commission a comedy about a young couple living in a Loft in the fictitious New York borough of Paradife

Peace out,


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