Thursday, June 26, 2008

You Don't Mess With the Zohan

This Friday I'll be producing the Cinemascape show on Eastside 89.7FM. The show will feature reviews of Kung Fu Panda, Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky as well as my thoughts on the comedy You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Adam Sandler stars as Zohan; an all fighting, all killing one man Israelii army. He dreams of becoming a hair stylist in New York so he fakes his own death during an epic battle with his arch nemesis The Phantom, John Turturro, and heads to NYC, scissors in hand. After a few set backs he swallows his pride and gets a job in a Palestinian hairdressers. He romances his clients by giving them "special services" in the back room. As his prowess makes him more and more popular, he is inevitably recognized, and risks losing his newfound life and career as his past comes back to haunt him. To hear me pass judgment on the latest Sandler comedy tune in at 18.00.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sydney Film Festival round up Part 1

Well we’re over half way through this years Sydney Film Festival and we’re already witnessed some wonderful cinema within the walls of the State Theatre, the Dendy Opera Quays and the George Street cinemas. It’s still a glorious sight watching festival regulars bolting between screenings, festival pass blowing in the wind.

My favourite film thus far has been the fabulous Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist the film portrays the trials and tribulations of a twelve year old boy dealing with bullies, his parents divorce, school and living next door to a vampire. Subtlety using ideas and motifs from many classics of the genre, in particular Salem’s Lot, but redefining them against the chilling, snow covered vistas of the Swedish countryside. The film brings fresh blood to often staid and predictable vampire genre. Visually the film is stunning, from the nocturnal vampiric attacks to the final swimming pool massacre, director Thomas Alfredson shows a show hand during even the most uncomfortable moments. The fact that it is two twelve years olds discovering love and dealing with an uncontrollable thirst for plasma only adds to the frisson and the two young leads are outstanding. One of the best horror films of recent times.

Running a close second was In Bruges, the tale of two hitmen hiding out in the small Belgium town of Bruges. Colin Firth and Brendan Gleeson star as the killers and both give career best performances in the hilarious, moving and beautifully played film that twists and turns whilst always giving our heroes a human side, despite the horrific nature of their chosen career. The script is razor sharp; written and directed by Martin McDonagh, the playwright has an audacious turn of phrase and Firth revels at the opportunity to spit out some wicked one-liners. Ralph Fiennes appears at the films blood soaked finale as a cockney gangster who would make Sexy Beast’s Ben Kingsley proud.

Guy Maddin made a welcome return to the festival after Brand Upon the Brain astounded viewers at last years festival, despite the fact that his The Saddest Music in the World was voted last place by the audience a few years ago. A point brought up, much to the directors amusement and festival director Clare Stewarts embarrassment, during Maddin’s hilarious Q&A session after his latest film My Winnpeg was shown. The gala screening of his hilarious travelogue featured a live on stage narration. Two thumbs up must also go to the trashy Donkey Punch, love that outboard motor in the face scene…(best since Dr Butcher MD!) and the high school nightmares of Class. Another nice surprise was the quirky Russian fairy tale Mermaid. I also very much enjoyed Steve McQueen’s Hunger, a beautifully shot retelling of the hunger strikers of the early Eighties, in particular Bobby Sands. The director used his artistic background to stunning effect and was aided by some fabulous performances. The unusual structure of the storytelling was slightly unsettling and there was an assumption that the audience had some prior knowledge of the subject but this warts and this expose definitely lived up to its Cannes hype.

I missed out on Takashi Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django but did manage to catch the director’s Crows: Episode 0 which was enjoyable but to be honest, we’d seen it all before. You, the Living also showed initial promise but descended into an episodic mess that when it worked certainly raised a smile, but come the films conclusion it garnered little more than a shrug of the shoulders.

The retrospective season this year is the amusingly From Kerr to Eternity gave me another chance to revisit Jack Clayton’s The Innocents. Last time I saw this classic was at London’s then National Film Theatre as a prelude to the Q&A with the legendary Freddie Francis and the film still looks wonderful. The black and white photography is beautiful to behold giving the film a sense of ominous foreboding way before the film’s startling conclusion and Debora Kerr gives a fabulous performance as the Governess who has to deal with the young tearaways of the title.

That’s it for now, there are plenty more movies to see so I’ll be back with a final round up next week.

RIP Stan Winston

I was very sad to hear of the recent death of make up and special FX legend Stan Winston. Ever since I started reading Starburst and Fangoria he was a name that constantly popping up in articles about films like The Monster Squad, Invaders from Mars and The Exterminator. Hey I even remember reading a review of his work on Dead & Buried that said his make up effects were too realistic, you can't get better praise than that. He won visual effects Oscars for 1986's Aliens, 1992's Terminator 2: Judgment Day and 1993's Jurassic Park and a makeup Oscar for 1992's Batman Returns. What can you say about the man who gave us Edward Scissorhands, the Predator, the Terminator and the T-Rex? The work he produced for director's like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and Tim Burton will live on forever.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What's Happening?

This Friday I'll be producing the Cinemascape show on Eastside 89.7 FM. This week the show features reviews of Sex & The City and Prince Caspian along with my thoughts on M. Knight Shyamalan's The Happening. A huge fan of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable it seems that the director has unfortunately lost his mojo of late. Lady in the Water just didn't work on any level and while The Happening revolves around a fabulous idea as the people of New York City decides on mass to commit suicide, leading to some astonishing scenes that hark back to the real life tragedies of September 11th, it fails on almost every level. Unfortunately the script, performances and a limp environmental message that is forced down the viewers throat mean that Shyamalan's latest isn't happening at all.