This weekend's watch list

This week we experienced a very sad loss in the flickchick household... our DVD player is on the fritz.  Especially terrible as I have had to drive to whoop whoop to get it fixed.  Stupid warranty people.  But with this weekend 35 degrees and beyond humid we've taken refuge in the old DVD player under the only fan in the house.

Watch list:
  • The Hot Chick
  • Hitch
  • Austin Powers 1&2 ("I want my babyback babyback babyback ribs")
  • The Hangover ("Tigers don't like cinnamon")
  • The Proposal
What have you seen lately?

Emotionally abusive relationship? Check! Shirtless boyos? Check! Must be a New Moon...

I was very pleased to attend the first day screening of New Moon yesterday... why was I very pleased?  Because all the Twi-hards appear to have attended midnight screenings across the country meaning that my session was delightfully scream-free.

Being my least favourite of the books, I wasn't all that excited about seeing it on film.  I won't sport with your intelligence by rehashing a plot that you can find with a simple google search except to say not a lot happens as it's mostly backfilling the Bella/Jacob relationship and foreshadowing the events that transpire in the 3rd and 4th books. But what a difference a new director makes! Okay, the fur-splosions still redline in the ridiculous zone but I did enjoy myself.  The film is looooong.... That said, the performances were good, the special effects were, for the most part, well executed and it has the right balance of suspense and mush.  The sparkliness is much improved and gone is the blue filter from Twilight.  This one has a warmer tone to it - ironic given the coldness of the subject matter.

I really liked the visual injection of Edward's character as the voice of Bella's conscience.  I had wondered how they'd illustrate that.  There were a few shots I really loathed simply for their lack of originality - e.g. the passage of time through changing seasons (come on... been done... so boring!) and lots of circular dolly shots gave me vertigo... or maybe I was just nauseated by the frolicking run through the woods shot.  C'mon, really??

However the issues of tacky lighting and art direction appear to have been overcome.


Kudos must go to Billy Burke for his (again) great performance as Charlie.  He really nails the daggy but adorable concerned father.

I will say that having watched this really laid bare the manipulative side of Edward's obsessive overprotection - Tell someone that you don't want them and then later tell them you lied to protect them and get defensive that they believed it so easily??  Total emotional abuse!!

Totally freaked at one of the early scenes when I had a pavolian reaction to a shot reminiscent of Gmork from Neverending Story. Still have recurring issues from that same wolf eyes shot and to see it repeated here means I am unlikely to put the bin out after dark ever again.

PS - Also enjoyed the montage of Victoria's escape from the wolves, Bella cliff diving and Harry's heart attack.  Very cool musical interlude and the right way to show speed without SHOWING speed.

PPS - I also suggest that putting when young actors in a scene with Michael Sheen, they better up their game!
xx

What I watched this weekend...

  • Toy Story I & II
  • The Peacemaker
  • Monarch of the Glen Season I, II, III
  • 3 eps of "Castle"
  • 3 eps of "Big Bang Theory"
  • "Wuthering Heights"
Thoughts, comments, musings?
Til next time kidlets.
xx

The Five Best Film Villains (non human category)

Having a circuitous conversation with Father of Flick Chick with regard to this recent terrific Pajiba Random List, we got to listing our fave non human film villains... Now you could break this down even further into robots vs aliens vs wierd things to fall out of Jim Henson's head but I decided on those exhibiting or exceeding human intelligence and here's where we landed...  Check 'em out... The final five?  Who did I forget?

Five Best Film Villains



Hal, 2001 
(How do you fight logic?)


Pick just one incarnation of him! I still love Gary Oldman's...



How I knew the boy was sick...

No, not the fever or his popping paracetamol like they're tic tacs... It was the fact that he sat through all three POTC, four episodes of Lost in Austen and another four of Jane Eyre... Leads me to speculate that he was simply too ill to get off the couch!!

Til next time kids...

What's in my DVD player right now?

With my professional life in chaos I naturally turn to Tarantino and Tony Scott. This weekend to break up the gratuitous violence I relented to Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.  Believe me, you'll hope they remain bygones.  At least the Bride's past coming back to haunt her in Kill Bill was a Deadly Viper Squad!

For my weekend viewing pleasure:
Mystery, Alaska
Goldeneye
Pleasantville
Cars
POTC (TCOTBP, DMC & AWE i.e. I II & III)
Lost in Austen
Jane Eyre (2006 BBC)

And the experiment as to how long you can actually let washing build up before you need Tenzing Norgay to tackle it continues...

Austen your day

If you’re an Austen fan and you missed Lost in Austen the delightful modern take on Pride and Prejudice recently screened on ABC, I strongly recommend checking it out. Amanda Price, a modern woman from London finds her life swapped with Elizabeth Bennet’s just as the P&P story is beginning. Equipped with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the story, she inevitably influences the characters and event, often to their detriment as well as her own!

 
I am still reeling from some of the events in this adaption with a lifetime of firm opinions on characters and conclusions distorted: Wickham with honourable intentions, a repudiated Darcy and a hedonistic Bingley! (Don’t worry, that won’t spoil anything for you!)

 
Watching Amanda living out a popular post-modern fantasy, it struck me how many Jane Austen adaptations and references there have been in the past decade.... some good, others [shudders] best left forgotten on the video store shelf. There are also references in other popular films such as You’ve Got Mail, the direct adaptations such as the three based on Pride and Prejudice (including Bridget Jones’ Diary) and those a little left of field such as Lost in Austen, Becoming Jane, even Clueless and Bollywood’s Bride and Prejudice!

 
I won’t monopolise your day with my own opinions on what it is about these stories that’s so appealing.

 
Rather, let’s keep it short and sweet. If you’re looking to escape the ennui of everyday life, need a bit of romance or want a happy ending, check out my favourite of all the Austen adaptations: Sense and Sensibility.

 
So what should you get?

 
Sense and Sensibility

 
DIRECTOR: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)

 
CAST: Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee, Love Actually), Kate Winslet (The Reader, Titanic), Hugh Grant (Love Actually, About a Boy), Alan Rickman (Love Actually, Harry Potter), Greg Wise (Cranford), Hugh Laurie (Blackadder, House).

 
PLOT: The Misses Dashwood, sensible Elinor and romantic Marianne, along with their mother and youngest sister Margaret find themselves guests in their own home when their late father’s estate is entailed away to their older half brother and his wife. John and Fanny’s arrival at Norland also brings Fanny’s delightful but reserved brother Edward Ferrars who strikes up a promising friendship with Elinor. But his family disapproves and the Dashwoods must move to the only place they can afford, a much smaller cottage in the country. In their new home in Devonshire the girls become a new project for matchmaking neighbour Mrs Jennings. Despite her attempts to join Marianne to the dignified Colonel Brandon, Marianne is rescued by the dashing Willoughby and a passion ensues. But when Willoughby suddenly departs with no explanation and Mrs Jennings’ cousin arrives, two shocking revelations are made which will forever influence the lives and loves of both the young women.

 
LOCATED IN: Comedy

 
For more Austen on film see:

  • Lost in Austen
  • Becoming Jane
  • Persuasion
  • Pride and Prejudice (BBC)
  • Pride and Prejudice (Working Title)
  • Mansfield Park 
  • Emma

TRIVIA

 
Lead actress Emma Thompson won an Academy Award for her adaptation of the novel and was called in to doctor the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice because of her earlier success at translating Austen to the big screen.

 
Amanda Root was originally cast as Marianne but due to a scheduling conflict (ironically, another Austen adaptation Persuasion) the role went to Kate Winslet, who earned her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal.

 
For some real character dissonance, after seeing this, watch Love Actually and see Emma Thompson married to Alan Rickman (her sister’s suitor in Sense and Sensibility) and Hugh Grant (her own love interest) as her older brother!

Inconceivable!

Do you like classics, comedies or dramas? Do you prefer being swept off on an adventure or prefer to be intellectually challenged?

It may come as no surprise to you that I can tell a lot about a person by their favourite movie. The kind of film one enjoys is generally indicative of their personality, sense of humour, even how they spend their free time. Not to say that a person’s favourite movie is the be all and end all... rather that it gives you insight into a side of them you may not be aware of. My Formula 1 fanatic father’s all time favourite for example is about Mozart! Asking someone’s favourite film presents a great opening for small talk with a new acquaintance or to rescue a dinner party conversation that’s losing its bloom.

It’s interesting how many people find the question difficult though. How do you define your favourite film? Is it a movie that you only saw once but it touched your soul... or is it a film you can watch over and over again and enjoy it as much as you did before? Do you have more than one favourite?

Think it over – what does your favourite movie say about you?
So what is my favourite?
THE PRINCESS BRIDE

I first saw this quirky fairy tale as a young girl and over two decades later I still adore its irreverent wit and the eccentricities of its characters. I love it for its optimism. I love Mark Knopfler’s score. And of course, I was always in love with its hero, Westley. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen it; only that I stopped counting years ago.

 The only thing I dislike about it is that it is very difficult to convey just what makes it so thoroughly fun. I could tell you that it’s not really a kids’ fairy tale but children and adults alike will enjoy it. I could tell you it has an ensemble cast that puts Ocean’s 11 to shame but you may not recognise any of them. Though you’re bound to have heard some of the eternally quotable lines before, would that be a strong enough endorsement?

In the end I will simply say: “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...” What more could you want in a story?
As an aside, it should be noted that while the ‘story within the story’ fairy tale is the main focus of the film, the relationship between the grandfather and his reluctant audience is also a beautiful story of childhood and family relationships. Their sub-plot is an inventive way of telling Buttercup and Westley’s fairy tale which sets this film apart from those that share its genre and it also provides some of the best moments of the film.
DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, This is Spinal Tap, The Bucket List?
CAST: Robin Wright-Penn (White Oleander, Forrest Gump), Cary Elwes (Kiss the Girls, Robin Hood: Men In Tights), Wallace Shawn (Clueless, Toy Story), Mandy Patinkin (Criminal Minds, Chicago Hope), Andre The Giant, Christopher Guest (Best in Show)
PLOT: A grandfather visits his sick grandson and reads him a special book: it is the story of Buttercup and her true love, the farm boy Westley. To enable them to marry, Westley seeks his fortune across the sea but is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Buttercup, though vowing never to love again, is persuaded by Humperdinck, the ambitious heir to the throne, to be his bride. She is kidnapped by an unusual gang of misfits in order to start a war, and as they haul her to the setting for her murder, they are pursued by a man in black whose intentions and identify are equally mysterious.
LOCATED IN: Comedy
If you enjoyed this, see:
  • Stardust 
  • Willow 
  • Ladyhawke 
  • Legend 
  • Enchanted 
  • The Neverending Story
TRIVIA 
See if you can spot Billy Crystal’s fabulous cameo.

Long live the Queen

Mid week movies are a great way to invigorate Wednesday inspired apathy... and The Young Victoria liberated our little posse perfectly.
I walked out of this film feeling lighter than the soufflés served at Buckingham Palace.

No surprises in this biopic - it tells the story of the early years of the longest reigning English monarchy so far. While lacking the treachery and intrigue of other periods (Tudors for example!), Victoria does have many claims to fame including nurturing of the Arts and Sciences without which film may never have happened!

While I admit to being a huge Austen fan, it was lovely to immerse myself in a story that isn’t another variation of Darcy but rather a period film based on a very real story of great love.

The plot ticks along nicely however the aforementioned lack of intrigue does leave one wondering where it could possibly be leading. That said, I could easily have watched another hour. It’s almost reminiscent of the feeling you get at some weddings, that voyeuristic pleasure of being close to a happy couple and completely lacking in cynicism (for once).

However, the film is let down by odd camera angles and the impression of hasty editing. Although the art direction is a little sparse and safe, the film is nonetheless visually beautiful with exquisite costume design.

The cast is delightful with a few old favourites – mine being Jim Broadbent as Victoria’s uncle and predecessor who so obviously adored her. Emily Blunt in the title role strikes a remarkable resemblance to Victoria and her naiveté but determination bleed through the screen. While I’ve often accused Rupert Friend of being a studio substitute for Orlando Bloom, I confess he’s wonderful in the role of Albert... unassuming but with a quiet intelligence and strength.

All up, a genuine love story, not overdone – a deliciously pleasant hiatus from the pressures of modern life and love.

I encourage you all to donate to the cause I was supporting at the event – Ovarian Cancer Research.

TRIVIA

Victoria initiated the white wedding dress trend.

Keep an eye out in the coronation scene for current real Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York!

Frackin' cool






As per usual I ran out things to watch and with TV still a crapshoot, I finally took the advice of the BFF and got out Battlestar Gallactica.  Okay, I'm more than fashionably late to this party but a character driven sci-fi series that's also visually dynamic... strap on the spacesuit!
PS - Jamie Bamber aka Lee "Apollo" Adama is currently to be seen in Law & Order UK - but he'll always be Hornblower's Archie Kennedy to me xx

What's your favourite comedy?

I turn to you my fine feathered friends to point me in the direction of films which have won your high esteem...

So tell me... what is your favourite comedy??

And ugly it is...

With the ladies of the flickchick family being such Gerard Butler fans, I was greatly anticipating the release of “The Ugly Truth”. Sadly, my review remains curt... The Ugly Truth is the film equivalent of ‘pull my finger’… nothing but a bad smell and the feeling you aren’t in on the joke.

In a barrel

Sadly, in the It has been a long time since I saw a decent comedy and, despite having seen three of the latest offerings, I’m still waiting. With the recent spate of comedies that mistake lewdness for genuine humour, I can’t help but wonder: are 13 year-old boys running Hollywood these days??

Having sat through more than my fair share of crappy films of late, and in a market awash with unimaginative sequels or remakes, I found myself pining for the days when comedies were charming and, dare I say it, funny. So I thought about some of those classic comedies that have stayed with me over the years and one of the standout films is this month’s recommendation...
Shooting Fish was released in 1997, pitting it against the likes of The Full Monty, Austin Powers and Oscar winning comedy As Good As It Gets, so it’s of little surprise that it passed many people by. Although it lacks big box-office success to recommend it, this little off-the-wall, popcorn comedy is a delightfully entertaining 109 minutes. It’s clever and original, the characters are thoroughly likeable and the performances are very fine especially Futterman as charismatic, fast talking Dylan and Townsend, the quieter genius Jez. I really enjoy the inventive ploys the boys come up with not only to retaliate against an adversary or fleece the rich and undeserving, but even to evade phone bills!

I recommend a bowl of popcorn, good company and spending a night in with this one.

So what should you get?

SHOOTING FISH


DIRECTOR: Stefan Schwartz (The Best Man)

CAST: Dan Futterman (A Mighty Heart, Judging Amy), Stuart Townsend (Queen of the Damned, About Adam), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Serendipity)

PLOT: Two orphans, Dylan and Jez, are successful con artists hoping to finance a home for themselves. They enlist the help of temp, Georgie, who immediately cottons onto their scam and is intrigued enough to agree to assist them again. But Georgie has her own agenda and it could spell the ruin of the modern day Robin Hoods.

LOCATED IN: Comedy

Note: Shooting Fish is currently only in limited release in Australia.

For more slightly askew comedies see:
  • Election
  • Death at a Funeral
  • American Beauty
  • Go
  • Grosse Point Blank
TRIVIA
During filming, animal rights activists showed up, not realising that the title is not literal but an idiom referring to a guaranteed enterprise i.e. ‘shooting fish in a barrel’. They left somewhat embarrassed.
While Dan Futterman may be best known for his roles in "Judging Amy" or as Charlotte's effeminate pastry chef boyfriend candidate in "Sex and the City", he also wrote the screenplay for Academy Award winning film Capote!

Bloodlust

If you don’t have the influence of a teenage girl in your life, or you’ve been living under a rock, you may be unaware of the literary spectacle of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight quadrilogy. It tells the story of Bella who, after moving to a drearily small town, is intrigued by a brooding but devastatingly handsome boy at her new school. Sounds like the plot of a John Hughes film, right? What I forgot to mention is that Edward is a century old vampire. I know, groan, but the book series has sold 25 million copies worldwide in just 3 years and Hollywood, never one to stay off a bandwagon, has fast-tracked the film adaptation. This has of course sent palpitations throughout the teenage girl community.

Now, I confess I was reluctantly introduced to the series and, despite its poor spelling and narrative construction, have become one of many older fans of this pulp fiction. They are engaging and highly entertaining, the epitome of trashy, easy to read romance.

Setting aside any familiarity with the books, the biggest problem with the movie is that while it has captured Edward’s obsessive tendencies and Bella’s weakness around him, they neglected the romance. Edward comes off as a frightening stalker, moody and unstable rather than fiercely protective. Ironically, this has been the foremost criticism of the literary character also, from those not engaged by the romance.

Much of this censure should be laid at the door of the screenwriter. Many scenes have been consolidated and in doing so they have bled the soul out of the story (pardon the pun). Key moments have been merged or simply sacrificed altogether. Gone are the subtle intimations of a mystery brewing, replaced with a mere exposition. Rather than Bella discovering Edward’s secret, it feels plainly revealed. The result is that the foreshadowing is lost, as is the momentum which leads you with the couple towards the culmination of their relationship – the very essence of the book’s appeal.

Hardwicke too must bear some blame with her fantasy lighting and 180o camera sequence. While creativity of technique can be marvellously incorporated they fail in execution here. Once again a film is injured by SFX through lack of camera skill. The superiority of Twilight’s predecessors is their simplicity. While Hardwicke had the benefit of LucasArts SFX, it’s overdone and out of place. Less would be more: the suggestion of speed rather than showing slipstream, silence over score. And yet, this philosophy was used is demonstrating the many voices Edward hears. Unfortunately, in this matter a more literal illustration (e.g. Frodo wearing the ring in LOTR) would have served better than this subtle approach which, on an audience having other things spelled out for them, became lost in the clutter.

In other words the film lacked consistency, inspiration and most importantly, intimacy.
While I hear nothing but praise for Kristen Stewart, I must confess that I see nothing of this personality and flair reflected in the character. Though Bella’s awkwardness is clear, she seems meek and afraid, quivering in Edward’s presence not from an exquisite tension but in fear. While you should be burning for the antagonists to get it on, instead you rather wonder why she doesn’t run the other way if he’s so very frightening. How can you relate to a girl so courageous when confronted by four men in a dark alley who then appears fearful in her supposed-lover’s presence. As a result Bella comes off as a silly, lovesick girl instead of a strongly opinionated young woman boldly pursuing her desired. And don’t even get me started on the orgasmic writhing on the floor in agony... melodramatic muchly... though I will allow that this scene is written from Bella’s blacked out POV in the book and so Kristen didn’t have much frame of reference.

In stark comparison, Robert Pattinson is, simply put, the best thing about this - and that's not saying much at all. However, his portrayal of Edward is reminiscent of Buffy’s Angel (before he got syndicated) – pensive, mysterious and damned sexy. Now, I concede that next to other weaker cast, it was not hard to shine. I was impressed though with how he captured the character’s constant internal struggle with the smallest of gestures and expressions throughout the entire film. Through Rob, the film gained credence with me. Sadly, this was not sufficient for many others.

As an aside you’ve gotta feel for a guy who has portrayed two of modern literature’s “hottest” young men, he constantly finds himself the subject of belligerent teenage girls claiming he isn’t hot enough... While a fan of his, independent to this film (watch some interviews on youtube – his apathy with Hollywood glamour is refreshing!), Twilight simply cemented my regard.

The supporting cast is generally good, and as a tween from the 90s I was stoked to see Peter Facinelli once again grace the silver screen. His elegance as Carslile is something other cast should aspire to. Jackson Rathbone as Jasper was beautiful and his very deliberate but infrequent blinking was inspired.

MY FAVES
Scene – Bella is harassed by four drunken men in an alley and Edward comes out of nowhere to the rescue, screeching to a halt into the group. Without even a sideways glance at Bella he commands her to get in the car and then (wait for it) growls menacingly at the posse.
Moment of hilarity – same scene: I laughed my head off when the great roar of an engine turns out to be a Volvo careening around the corner.

Moments – Edward gently lifts injured Bella from the floor with a tender apology and vulnerable look – finally an outward sign of intimacy! Or Edward’s grimace in the final kiss – still struggling. Or Jasper elegantly dancing with the bat in the baseball sequence.

PS – Despite a clear description of Edward’s skin sparkling like diamonds, I confess I felt taking a bit of licence here to make him glow aka Yvaine in Stardust may have worked better.

Dear Oprah, RE your "Australia" special

Let me start by pointing out to you that a film cannot be an epic before the damn thing is even released. Comparing it to Gone With the Wind.. really?

Gone With the Wind has had almost 70 years kudos to earn that esteem. Because your audience shrieks when you ask them to indicate if they loved it simply isn't enough for the rest of us.

From my limited experience of your programme, your average audience needs very little encouragement to shriek at even the smallest thing.Also, suggesting that a film about the land down under is perfect for that all American holiday Thanksgiving.

Had you intended irony it would have been quite clever but I strongly suspect you were not...

Yours frustratingly
Nxx The Flick Chick.

Double O zero

So we have another 007instalment.

Well, let me start by putting a number out there – 2 out of 5

Why?

All in all they’ve simply tried too hard and fallen flat. The film is a meagre 106mins, a featherweight compared to its predecessor and yet they clearly struggle to fill even this minimal time. Perhaps I expected too much of Casino Royale’s sequel but I cannot even say it was just your average action flick because clearly it wasn’t made in this spirit.

Many action sequences, Bond bread and butter, seem to be an afterthought and, having dissed traditional techniques in favour of recent overused practices scenes are reminiscent of the Bourne trilogy but lacking their seamlessness. These broken edits have been so overly cut, they’ve edited the soul from of the scene. Now I admit that Casino Royale set the bar high. The opening sequence remains a very enjoyable and well executed scene.

I thoroughly enjoyed the return to a couple of classic Bond staples. Firstly, the aptly named taken female (this time around we have Strawberry Fields) and secondly, her unfortunate demise. **SPOILER** I really loved the dichotomy of her crude-oil slicked form laid out across the crispness of white silk sheets. A beautiful shot!

And yet, the lead female leaves much to be desired (given that James doesn’t shag this one he clearly agreed). Where Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd was a sassy ice maiden in need of a good thaw, QoS’s Camille, having suffered genuine abuse, is less the damsel in distress and more a young woman psychologically damaged. And the many (many!) unsolicited and unnecessary references to Vesper and the way she felt about Bond begin to grate early in the film. As the tally built up (along with the body count) my opinion exactly mirrored James’ terse expression with each reference i.e. would you stop bloody mentioning her?

Indeed for every good thing in this film, there are twice as many faults. Some are glaringly obvious – plot anyone? But my biggest criticism is that while the film attempts to tie up the loose ends left at Casino Royale’s conclusion, it never actually does so. We are still left in the dark on many issues. This is typified by the numerous red herrings the writers mistook for clever plot twists.

Bond pursues environmentalist Dominic Greene, whom we are lead to believe is in fact an eco-terrorist though it seems his worse crime is damming a small Bolivian’s town’s water supply. He’s elevating dictators only to fleece them but his scam lacks the desire for anarchy displayed by Elliott. Greene’s apathetic approach to his business affairs dilutes his claim to villainy.
He’s so indifferent you can’t really be intimidated by him. Bad as the Brosnan years were, at least 2morrow Never Dies’ Elliot Carver inspired chaos.

I must agree with Pajiba’s example of Bond as a blunt instrument. As a cold, methodical killer his dispatch of the ‘dead end’ on the balcony while calmly looking around to make sure he hasn’t been seen embodies this trait in our hero. Indeed the only saving grace in the film is Daniel Craig stellar second turn as 007. Branded with battle scars, determination burned into his expression, he gives an unforgiving performance which far outstrips others.

Though you may hope to enjoy a few hours suspended from reality you will in fact find dissatisfaction and more questions. Head to the dvd store and hire something else instead!

PS - When a Baz Luhrman flick (and starring the darling curse herself, Kidman) steals the thunder from an established franchise like Bond, you know something's not right.

T:4?

Regular readers will recognise my affinity for Christian Bale. Thus this blogger was disturbed to hear that The Dark Knight has swapped black rubber for fatigues... that's right he's signed on to play John Connor in the next Terminator instalment.

Which begs two questions:

1) what was he thinking given the shite that was 3; and
2) what is anyone thinking making fourth given the shite that was 3.

Now granted, the bat has had a comeback after some poor, well insipid really, instalments but come on, Terminator? And without Cameron at the helm we can pretty much anticipate what we're getting.... let's simply trust in Mr Bale's integrity and superb choice of scripts in the past....

Whatever it takes

Something funny happened at the movies recently. As usual I was at the first public screening of the latest Harry Potter instalment.
My sister and I chatted sporadically through the previews and adverts. But when those lights dimmed and that Warner Bros symbol descended onto the screen, we sat back, shut up and prepared for two and a half hours of escapism.
Unfortunately, the four 13yr olds on the other side of the cinema mistook their surroundings for a coffee shop and, despite constant “shh”s and the occasional frustrated “Be quiet”s, they sanctimoniously continued to express their strong opinions on whether or not someone called ‘Kate’ should go watch ‘Josh’ play rugby.

This continued for the full first half hour of the film. Eventually it got to be so loud and giggly that one of three mid-thirties guys sitting directly behind us simply had enough of the macaque-like chatter, stood up and bellowed, “For God’s sake, will you SHUT UP!”. This would have been amusing in itself but the really funny thing was that the dead silence that followed his outburst was broken by enthusiastic applause and whooping from all the rest of the audience!! The four girls were of course shell-shocked by receiving such a direct command from an authoritative voice and were quiet for almost the whole film.

The experience made me think about my own time as a teen (surely I wasn’t that annoying) and, of course, the stereotypes in movies of teenage life. When it comes to film, to find this stereotype there’s really only one place to look - High School Melodramas. You know the one; stereotypically boy likes girl, girl doesn’t know boy exists, there’s a scheme to get the girl. Usually a lighter, PG version of the RomCom, through these films you can transport back to a stereotypical high school experience and become whichever character you were (or wanted to be).
The genre has become a lot more sophisticated over the past decade. Vintage teen romcoms such as Pretty in Pink were basically just romances in a high school setting. They now tend to include a lot more comedy and are no longer ‘just a chick flick’.

So what should you get?
WHATEVER IT TAKES

One of my personal favourites is Whatever It Takes and I’m often surprised how few people have seen it. You not only get the ‘boy/girl’ scenario but some wonderfully executed comedic mayhem – What could possibly go wrong at a Titanic-themed prom?

PLOT: Nice guy Ryan likes the most popular girl in school, Ashley. Ashley’s cousin Chris, the most popular guy, likes Maggie, Ryan’s best friend and literally the girl next door. The two guys combine forces and coach each other in how to be their respective girl’s perfect guy. But is the grass always greener? As he tutors Chris in exactly what it is Maggie wants in a guy, Ryan comes to realise that she’s the girl he’s really after. Who will get the girl?

CAST: Shane West (ER, A Walk to Remember), Marla Sokoloff (The Practice), James Franco (Flyboys, Tristan & Isolde), Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (She’s All That).

LOCATED IN: Comedy section

For more teen romcoms see:
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • John Tucker Must Die
  • Bring It On
  • Can’t Hardly Wait
  • Never Been Kissed
  • Drive Me Crazy
  • Get Over It
or for vintage teen romcom see:
  • Grease
  • Pretty In Pink
  • Clueless
  • 16 Candles
  • Breakfast Club
  • American Graffiti

10 Years After

Somehow (don’t ask me how) I wound up organising my high school reunion. How do you go about arranging the event that brings people together, but that everyone appears to dread? Even funerals have a better rep.

In the course of this delightful responsibility, I’ve come up against an array of excuses including “I stayed in contact with the only people I care to see again” along with the classic dichotomy “I don’t want a bunch of [married people/career driven women] making me feel bad about not having a [relationship /career].”

What is it about the high school reunion that has normal, happily satisfied people questioning what they’ve been doing all this time? Then when we get there, why do we insist on playing the one-upmanship game, overselling our achievements instead of just being ourselves...? It’s like a first date and job interview rolled into one night; you want to look sensational and sound really impressive - all without looking like you’re trying too hard! Why do we give so much credence to the opinion of people whom last week we didn’t give a rat’s?

As ever, I turned to movies for inspiration. The soundtracks in reunion flicks alone are often well worth the watch. For the classic reunion flick, you can’t go past Romy & MichelleI’s High School Reunion; the premise is inherent in the title! There’s the nerd, the overachiever, the rebel, the jock, the A group... what happens to all the cliques of high school after school’s out forever? The film focuses on what the girls hope will happen when they see them again, what might actually happen and how it all really goes down.

But by far my favourite reunion film would have to be Grosse Point Blank. After skipping town before graduation, Martin Blank “freaked out, joined the army: now I’m a professional killer”. He’s received an assignment back in his home town on the same weekend as the ten year reunion he was trying to avoid. Throw in the Feds, the former best mate, the high school sweetheart he stood up on prom night, an overly enthusiastic union advocate and Martin’s newly developing conscience – and this hit becomes far more complicated than expected.

I particularly love the little sarcastic responses Martin gets when he tells people his profession: “Does that come with dental?”

So what should you get?

GROSSE POINT BLANK

DIRECTOR: George Armitage (Hitman)

CAST: John Cusack (High Fidelity, Identity), Jeremy Piven (entourage), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), Dan Ackroyd (Ghostbusters, Evolution), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine, Get Smart)

LOCATED IN: Comedy

For more reunions on film see:
  • Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion
  • Peggy Sue Got Married
  • The Deep End of the Ocean (Note: drama not a comedy)
  • Since You’ve Been Gone AKA Ten Years Later
TRIVIA
Siblings John and Joan Cusack have done 10 films together. Two of their other siblings, Ann and Bill, also appear in this movie

Vocal coach

Okay, so a lot of emphasis is placed on beauty in this industry. The term actor-slash-model surely substantiates it. But what it you look beyond face value? Take away the exterior… or go further… put them in the hands of a CGI designer or animator and make them The Lion King or I, Robot. What then?

The mark of the truly great actors are those who can not only change their gate and let the character envelope them (see Heath Ledger’s The Joker) but also change their voice… not just an accent, but a new vernacular, intonation and sentence structure. The really special performers’ accents are not just your standard English, Irish, Scottish, Southern American or Aussie (though I have yet to see any actor not of our shores master the latter!). They can add a regional inflection to the accent. Christian Bale in particular is exceptionally talented in this way. Despite what you may think, Adam Sandler’s Little Nicky in no way qualifies.

But for those of you who crave a more generic definition of vocal talent, here is my list of sexiest voices in the biz. For phwoar factor, I would happily listen to these people reading the phone book….

Sean Connery - it’s a given really
Matthew McFadyen
Cary Elwes
Ewan McGregor
Charlie Cox
Gerard ButlerAaron Eckhart
Liam Neeson - only once has a lion been sexier, and that was…
Jeremy Irons
Stuart Townsend
Ioan Gruffudd
Heath Ledger
Dan Radcliffe – will come into his own
Mel Gibson

(yes, the united kingdom has a certain appeal)

Jodie Foster
Holly Hunter
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Rachel Weisz

Honourable Mentions
Comedically speaking: Nathan Lane, Hank Azaria
Musically speaking: Jon Stevens in Jesus Christ Superstar

Mex and the City

So, six seasons of sassy, sophisticated women is reduced to 2 hours of ditzy stereotypical behaviour.Prepare yourself for the dumbing down of a breakthrough program for the masses.

SPOILER ALERT
Charlotte must be dumbed down in order to make the happy marriage scenario survive - oh, and she's flatulent now too.

Samantha... There's a big todo about her weight gain when she returns to NYC with a gut instead of Gucci. Most women will still kill for her figure sans gut or no.

Carrie... it's actually a pretty powerful performance by SJP - no, wait, failing to wear makeup on screen in order to look haggard is not a substitute for acting.

Miranda... oh, Miranda. Let's just get it over with.... Steve is the most real character on the show and yet the writers have decided to destroy what they spent 4 seasons carefully constructing just to tie Miranda's plotline to Carrie's.

Overall, die hard fans stick it out simply because they know and love the characters... Were this any other RomCom and less hyped people would've walked out in droves....xx

Never smile at a crocodile

I am a huge fan of great Australian films. Now, those who know me well would accuse me of more willingly lining up for the latest American blockbuster than a limited release Aussie flick.

True, but simply because I dislike Australian films under the pretence that to make it big you have to make it abroad – especially as they inevitably flop. The kind of Australian films I genuinely love are made because they are tight scripts and well executed productions. They also bring something original to the table.

One such flick is Rogue. I absolutely adore Greg McLean’s work. They’re the kind of films I wish I’d thought of. In just two films, this one guy has done more for attracting (or maybe deterring!) tourists to the Top End than Darryl Somers did in a decade.

Wolf Creek remains to this day the most disturbing film I have ever sat through (granted with a much needed tea break in the middle!). McLean ’s latest offering is sensational viewing.Starring one of my fave Aussie gals, Radha Mitchell, and Alias veteran, Michael Vartan, Rogue tells the narrative of an unfortunate NT tourist troupe trapped on a sandy island in a tidal estuary smack dab in the territory of a highly aggressive saltwater croc.Vartan is the quiet Chicago travel writer, Pete; Mitchell, the rough around the edges tour operator, Kate. Throw in an arrogant American couple, a cancer riddled woman, her hubby and tween daughter, a pretentious photographer, an easygoing Irish chick, and a grieving man and the dynamics of the tour itself would’ve been interesting enough. Especially given the superior Aussie talent cast in the roles. Sam Worthington in particular is terrific as a Territory roughneck keen on our Kate - watch out for him when courage and sense are called upon in equal measure.

And the script is excellent with the narrative and dialogue moving fluidly. McLean’s screenplay has captured completely the broad spectrum of Australia’s personality; the laconic conversational style, ‘bush time’, local techniques. The cinematography illustrates the breathtaking beauty and, simultaneously, the isolation that is the Territory. As much is said with a single shot as an entire scene (eg the slow but escalating lapping of the water).The croc itself is unrelenting, the real terror of the film stemming from the complete lack of predictability of this invisible threat. It is shadows, a mere rumble in the black night. My favourite moment is when a member of the troupe simply disappears from the shoreline, a small ripple the only evidence of his demise, along with a fleeting glimpse of a knobbled tail slinking away.

The film is unlike any other croc flick out there – more reminiscent of the original Jaws than anything reptilian. The SFX creators haven’t cheapened the film with an overly digitised creature, nor do you ever really see the monster in all its glory, making it so much scarier. McLean ’s script remains firmly engrained in the premise that a rustle in the dark is infinitely more terrifying than that which is tangible.This is what I loved about the film. It never falls into the trap of obvious device. It relies on tension rather than gore to sell the scare.

And scared you will be – all 92min of it – indeed the first fright occurs within two minutes of the opening credits! Although many of the incidents may set themselves up predictably (climbing across the water on a rope strung up with a knot in the middle, anyone?) how they conclude will astound you. Plus, you really will be so far on the edge of your seat that you won’t have headspace to notice…

Check it out.... flickchick out.

Always remember, those who didn’t make it, teach…

I want to take a moment to lament the sad passing of Sydney Pollack – a legend and a great talent –and the ever so slow, yet progressive decline of Emma Watson’s acting ability.

Emma’s portrayal of Hermione in the first Harry Potter film was sharp and right on the mark. She embodied the character described so lovingly by JKR, a remarkable achievement for one so young. But perhaps, we gave credit to her too soon. As the film heptology progresses, Hermione’s speech becomes proportionally more clipped, breathy, even rushed. She takes these seemingly enormous pauses before delivery and it makes the whole scene stilted.

It’s acting by numbers and it really shits me.Frankly, she’s been overcoached and you can see it in every line, particularly in the latest instalment, Order of the Phoenix. She isn’t so much over-acting as over-thinking how to deliver her lines. In action sequences, she’s back on form, clearly having little need to over plan her performance.

Emma, you’ve got the gift. We’ve seen what you can be capable of. Simply have the confidence in your own ability and ignore what your dramatic tutor has drummed into you – they do you a disservice!!

Why so serious?

Okay, so there are two big ones coming... each with completely different hype.

The Dark Knight has had a sensational viral marketing campaign www.whysoserious.com whereas SATC has taken the more flash bulb approach with Oprah specials and fashion mag spreads.

Frankly, SATC already strikes me as the kind of film that has the funniest parts in the promos whereas The Dark Knight has kept much of its secrets exactly that.

And that's despite a great big spotlight on the film following the death of one of its stars.\

Which one will you be seeing??

The List

Inspired by the episode of F*R*I*E*N*D*S with the list and since I get asked so often... here's my top lists so far...

To make the first two, they have to have an XFactor and really knock my socks off on more than one occasion!
Top Actors (per Talent)
  1. Christian Bale
  2. Edward Norton
  3. Gary Oldman
  4. Clive Owen
  5. Viggo Mortensen
  6. Johnny Depp
  7. John Cusack
  8. Chris Cooper
  9. Ed Harris
  10. Kevin Bacon
  11. Tom Hanks
Top Actresses (Talent)
  1. Cate Blanchett
  2. Allison Janney
  3. Frances McDormand
  4. Charlize Theron
  5. Michelle Pfeiffer
  6. Ashley Judd
  7. Laura Linney
  8. Maggie Gyllenhaal
and just for fun...
Sexiest Men
  • ChristianBale
  • Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Gerard Butler
  • Aaron Eckhart
  • Orlando Bloom
Yes, I have a definite type...
PS - Kudos if you can guess the films or junkets these shots come from...
Christian Bale tops both male lists - he's got it all people!

Current must see list

A list of films I've either always wanted to see or want to check out again...
13th Warrior
25th Hour
28 Weeks Later
Annie Hall
Breach
Casablanca (yep, never seen it, can you believe it?!)
Closer
Crimson Tide
Deer Hunter
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Finding Neverland
Glory
Monster
Notes on a Scandal
Out of Africa
Owning Mahony
The Painted Veil
Restoration
Sleeping with the Enemy
Sunshine
The Black Dahlia
The Cooler
The Juror
The Last King of Scotland
Unforgiven
Wall Street
Who is Cletis Tout
Witness

And I wonder why the dishes never get done...

Political clout

Politicians. Love them or hate them they are here to stay. Nixon and Watergate, Harold Holt’s mysterious disappearance, Clinton and Lewinsky and of course, the subsequent torrent of expression that was the result of the JFK assassination. Politics has provided much fodder for film. Indeed, politics infiltrated the film and TV biz itself during the McCarthy era.

As the majority of cinema releases are produced by the US , the rest of the world is subjugated to films devoted to the American political system and those within it. Especially here in Australia we have such an overexposure to American material, it is commonplace for us to know more American Presidents than Australian Prime Ministers…

Which is why I really love it when Australians produce material of their own. I particularly enjoyed the ABC series “Curtin” when it screened last year. I was also pleased to see it take out the 2008 Logie for Most Outstanding Drama series, especially with crime shows becoming a bit dime a dozen on our screens – exactly how many versions of “Law and Order” or “CSI” do we really need?

It was also wonderful to see an Australian take on local politics in the ABC’s series “Grass Roots”. Its satirical look at the plotting and scheming behind the scenes of a local council was delicious viewing. I love the clueless mayor, the ambitious councillor and the independent councillor just looking to make a difference. There’s even a dodgy property developer to boot!
Though politics may remain a taboo topic at dinner parties, it continues to be compelling subject for many a TV series or film. “The West Wing” made politics accessible to people other than just Political Science majors and remains, in my opinion, one of the most intellectual and enjoyable programs ever made. The show’s creator, Aaron Sorkin, also helmed The American President, a delightful Rom/Com set in the White House.

With the next American Presidential Election in our near future, and invading our current news, take the time for a more serious look at the process itself.

What should you get?

I loved this month’s film from the very beginning. It is a gritty political thriller and an interesting commentary on the public’s hunger for a scandal as well as what we consider important when choosing our leaders. It stars several of my favourite actors including Gary Oldman, Joan Allen and William Petersen and all give powerful performances. I also love the way it shines a light on the dichotomy between the methods used against a woman versus a man when vying for the same position.

THE CONTENDER

PLOT: When the US Vice President dies in office, the President decides he wants the legacy of the first woman in the office of VP. Senator Laine Hanson is nominated to fill the vacancy but during the confirmation process, the opposition launches a vicious attack on her personal life in which rumours regarding sexual deviancy take centre stage. Though pushed by colleagues to fight back, she refuses to comment on the allegations, determined that the confirmation should be based on her political merits alone.

DIRECTOR: Rod Lurie (The Last Castle)

CAST: Joan Allen (The Bourne Supremacy, The Notebook), Gary Oldman (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , Air Force One), Christian Slater (Interview with a Vampire), Jeff Bridges (Seabiscuit).

LOCATED IN: Drama section

FOR MORE POLITICAL FILMS SEE:
  • “The West Wing”
  • The American President
  • Primary Colours
  • Dave
  • “Grass Roots”
  • Curtin
  • Thirteen Days
  • JFK
  • All the President’s Men
  • Charlie Wilson’s War
  • All the King’s Men
  • Bulworth
TRIVIA
For this performance Joan Allen received a well deserved Oscar Nomination but lost out to Julia Roberts in Erin Brokovich.

War. What is it good for?

There is a plethora of films set in wartime and, sadly, a range of wars to choose from: The Napoleonic War, American War of Independence, American Civil War, Bohr War, The Crusades, Gulf War, War on Terror, Yugoslav Wars, 30 Years War, Crimean War, Korean and Vietnam wars, not to mention the various revolutions, civil and tribal wars. I’ll look at the period wars sometime in the future. This month, films about the two World Wars.I love a good war film. That sounds terrible but they are well written, well acted and usually well funded. Sometimes they’re the only kind of film the guys will agree to watch.

I particularly enjoy films about the WWI and WWII as they often explore the chess-like battle plans rather than the blood and guts of recent guerrilla warfare. But as poignant as I find war films, and as much as I enjoy guns and explosions (not to mention men in uniform), I have a soft spot for the films that focus on characters, rather than overall theming – patriotism, camaraderie – or that show a different side of more modern war – the women back home, the code breakers, the spies.

The ABC mini series “Changi” was one of the tightest screenplays and well executed productions set in wartime I’ve ever seen. It juxtaposed the prison camp experiences of the men against their pre-war lives and explored how these experiences affected the men as they aged. It was gripping, beautiful and devastating. And I was stoked to hear they’d commenced filming the sequel to “Band of Brothers”, another brilliant exploration of World War II.

So what should you get?
One of my favourite films is Paradise Road, an adaptation of Arthur Miller's play “Playing For Time”. It tells the story of female English, Australian and Dutch prisoners of war in Singapore and I love that the primary cast members are almost all female and the performances are all stellar. It’s rare to have so many women in one production – just look at the list of recommended films below – just a handful have more than 4 or 5 female characters.

But aside from the brilliant cast, Oscar winning director and terrific narrative, this is a story different from any other WW movie. Paradise Road explores the stories of women interned in camps with abhorrent conditions unique to female camps. It explores how women suffered abuse both physically and sexually. It shows how some women were forced to choose between living in squalor or a life of comparable luxury but which would reduce them to a soldiers’ whore. But it also shows how they raised their spirits and fought back in their own unique way. This is a powerful film that every woman should see.

PARADISE ROAD

PLOT: 1942, World War II ravages the South Pacific. A transport ship filled with Australian and English officers’ wives, children, nurses and nuns is bombed by the Japanese. Survivors wade to the shores of Singapore , through the mangroves and across wetlands, only to be interned in prison camps. Their lives constantly in peril and in the face of starvation, disease and the brutal methods of their captors, these women of differing nationalities and backgrounds will turn to each other. Just as hope begins to fade, two women will drive them through a vocal orchestra to lift their spirits and keep hope alive.

DIRECTOR: Bruce Beresford (Double Jeopardy, Driving Miss Daisy)

CAST: Glenn Close (Air Force One, Fatal Attraction), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, The Aviator), Frances McDormand (North Country, Fargo ), Jennifer Ehle (Possession, BBC’s Pride & Prejudice)

LOCATED IN: Drama

FOR MORE WAR FILMS SEE:
  • Enigma
  • Charlotte Gray
  • Tea with Mussolini
  • “Band of Brothers”
  • “Changi”
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • The Great Escape
  • Kokoda
  • All Quiet On The Western Front
  • A Bridge Too Far
  • Windtalkers
  • The Thin Red Line
  • We Were Warriors
  • TORA TORA TORA
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • The Longest Day
  • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
  • A League of Their Own
  • Flags Of Our Fathers
  • Letters From Iwo Jima
  • Joeux Noel

Strong women

I like films with strong women. I don’t mean the ball-busting, man eating kind but women of all shapes and personalities who display courage, determination and perseverance in the face of adversity. Even if things don’t pan out in a Cinderella, happily ever after way, it is their strength that really shines. Think of your favourite Austen or Bronte heroine. These are the women I’m talking about.

Now I’ve gone on about the Katharine Hepburns and Deborah Kerrs of the classics, but you don’t have to go that far back to find great examples of strong women. And you don’t have to look at remakes of classic novels either - though these are a cheap and easy solution. There are strong women all around us, every day; ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It might be an act that has pioneered something for the rest of us. Or their extraordinary act may be something that the rest of us do every day without a second thought. These are inspiring characters and they make film that much more watchable.

I have a couple of staple movies that I always keep on hand because of the women in them. If I find my motivation to exercise beginning to wane, a bit of GI Jane gets me in the spirit. Bad day at work? Throw on North Country to put things in perspective. One of my favourite films is Paradise Road, the story of female English, Australian and Dutch prisoners of war in Sumatra . But more about this one next month!

What should you get?

If you regularly read this column, you’ll know that I like to recommend films located in the weekly section. This month I am recommending a new release, a bit unknown but a real gem, Waitress.

I picked up this film simply due to the great cast but was won over completely by its quirky charm and, at times, laughed out loud. Shelly has a unique directorial style and it takes a little while to get into the groove. But once you’re there, this is a small-town tale told in a delightful new way.

WAITRESS

PLOT: Jenna makes unusual but phenomenal pies at the local diner. She’s trapped in a miserable marriage to the controlling, immature Earl, and has just discovered, most unhappily, that she’s pregnant (“It must’ve been the night he got me drunk”). Her only hope of leaving is to win the prize money in an upcoming pie contest. Then she meets the new, handsome, married gynaecologist. The resulting affair injects her with confidence and gives her a shot at happiness.

DIRECTOR: Adrienne Shelly

CAST: Keri Russell (Felicity; Mission Impossible 3), Nathan Fillion (Serenity; 2 Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place)

LOCATED IN: Comedy section

FOR MORE STRONG WOMEN IN FILM SEE:
  • The Contender
  • The Constant Gardener
  • North Country
  • Paradise Road
  • Courage Under Fire
  • Brokedown Palace
  • GI Jane
  • The Missing
  • Me Myself I
  • The Gift
  • Veronica Guerin
  • Charlotte Gray
  • Enough
  • What Lies Beneath
  • “The Buccaneers” miniseries
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Sliding Doors
  • Jane Eyre
  • Pride & Prejudice
  • Emma
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Raising Helen
  • No Reservations
  • Quills
TRIVIA
The director also plays Dawn in the film. The film is especially poignant given her understated but brilliant performance and the fact that it was her last. She was brutally murdered before the film was released.Pick your favourite pie: I love the names Jenna comes up with for her creations e.g. “baby-screaming-its-head-off-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-ruining-my-life pie”.

The Classics

I was delighted to discover the latest adaptation of Bronte’s Jane Eyre on the ABC recently. It is a terrific production and I confess, a DVD in my collection that is already showing the telltale signs of one watched too often!

Many a new film adaptation from classic novels has been released in the past decade. There have been four new versions of Pride and Prejudice alone! We’ve had CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare… And those are just the literary adaptations. Lately there’s also been an influx of remakes on our screens – Casino Royale, King Kong, The Italian Job, Ocean’s 11, Alfie, Thomas Crown Affair, Sabrina, The Longest Yard, Mission Impossible, Charlie’s Angels, Miami Vice, Starsky and Hutch, Transformers, and, most recently, I Am Legend.

With so many remakes and adaptations bounding into the cinematic fray, I thought it might be worth revisiting the original classics upon which many of these are based.
I have found that many of my friends are reluctant when it comes to the classics. They whoosh past this section in favour of finding a ‘guaranteed’ gem in more recent dramas, actions, thrillers or comedies. But don’t be so quick to dismiss the classics.

Classic isn’t code for boring or slow. They became classics because they were the finest films of their time. Many of them won just as many Oscars as Titantic.

But the thing I love most about the classics are the women. And when it came to babes, this was the era. There are basically two kinds of women in classics, the strong, independent female and the bombshell, with little to recommend her but her looks. (This is of course thanks to the majority of writers in classic Hollywood being male and with the emotional range of stucco!). For a great (albeit brief) description of how great classic film females can be, check out the Kate Winslet storyline of ‘The Holiday’. Now, personally, I much prefer the former, the best example being Katharine Hepburn. I particularly love the screwball comedies, pitting our heroine against Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart – sometimes both! You can probably already guess that I’m not especially an Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe fan, however I do enjoy many of their films despite the characters they were often pigeonholed into playing.

So pick up a screwball comedy, spaghetti western or a grand sweeping love-story next time you’re at the DVD store. After all, they are considered classics for good reason.

So which classic should I start with??

CALAMITY JANE (1953)

For my part, it has always escaped me why some characters in film instead of getting to the point and stating their intentions, spontaneously break into song. Why sing what you could say? Perhaps if I had Randy Newman or John Williams in my pocket I’d feel differently? For many, Doris Day is the epitome of the classic movie babe. I like this film in particular because she breaks the mould a little and, despite random musical interludes this is a terrific Pygmalion tale.PLOT: Calamity Jane is a hard-riding, loudmouthed, gunslingin’ Indian scout. But her inclination to boast and yell, rather than impress her handsome army lieutenant crush attracts much taunting from her oldest friend and adversary, Wild Bill Hickok. One particularly grand boast takes Calam to Chicago to persuade an actress to return with her to the frontier. But in doing so Calam has produced a more feminine rival for the affections of the two men in her life.

DIRECTOR: David Butler (Tea for Two, High Society Blues)

CAST: Doris Day (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Love Me or Leave Me), Howard Keel (Showboat, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)

LOCATED IN: Classics

FOR MORE CLASSICS SEE:
  • North by Northwest
  • The Great Escape
  • To Catch A Thief
  • The Birds
  • 7 Brides for 7 Brothers
  • The King and I
  • Born Free
  • Psycho
  • Rear Window
  • Bringing up Baby
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Philadelphia Story
  • My Fair Lady
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Roman Holiday
  • Funny Face
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Dirty Harry
  • African Queen
  • Stand By Me
  • The Way We Were
  • Casablanca
  • Showboat
  • An Affair to Remember
  • The Seven Year Itch
  • The Apartment
  • Marnie
  • All About Eve
TRIVIA TIP
Did you know that Grace Kelly’s films are not allowed to be screened in Monaco ?
As ever, enjoy!
I wanted to take a moment to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of the talented, late Heath Ledger at this tragic time. Please take the time to check out some of my favourite of his performances:

DRAMAS
  • The Four Feathers
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • The Patriot
ROM COM
  • Ten Things I Hate About You
  • A Knight’s Tale
  • Casanova

Give Sci-Fi a try

With the incredible popularity of recent science fiction TV series, I thought it prudent to focus this month on the genre of sci-fi and notorious films from the genre. BUT DON’T BE PUT OFF!

I’m not about to tell you to “use the force” or “live long and prosper”. Scotty will not be beaming anyone up. Sci-fi gets a bad rap a lot of the time simply because a lot of it is made on a feeble
budget with an obscure cast still waiting tables in LA diners. The screenplays are written by the stereotypical guys who sit out on the highway waiting for their close encounter of the third kind.

These are not the kind of films you will hear me endorse… more likely you’ll catch me ranting about the incredible amount of celluloid wasted on half-baked ideas and neophytic, predictable writing. Especially when so many terrific scripts sit in a drawer.
Really good sci-fi should follow all the rules that other films are obligated to follow: strong narrative, strong writing, strong cast (though not necessarily a famous cast). As clichéd as they have become, I still really love the original Star Wars trilogy.
Given the ridiculous amount of hype surrounding the most recent three films (prequels to the original 3) and with the originals re-released with unnecessary digital enhancements it’s not surprising that many people have been put off.
That said, the original Star Wars films were excellent and, to this day, remain on my Top 20 list. They have terrific narrative, are appropriate for kids and adults alike, and the special effects are believable, even in this era of excessive digital effects... They’re just cool movies. (Okay, I realise the oxymoron there – cool and sci-fi!)
That some people have not seen the originals is a shame. I recently discovered that my other half is one of them… as someone who contemplated registering my religion as Jedi Knight on the last census, I found this a disturbing revelation.
My favourite thing about sci-fi films in general, aside from their irreverent wit, is how each director crafts original visions of the future. BladeRunner is celebrated for the depth of detail in its metropolis. I loved the series “Firefly” for its ‘frontier’ depiction and strong Asian influence.

As I conceded earlier, not all science fiction is good. I have had to sit through my fair share of bad sci-fi. One example that really sticks out in my mind is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although one of the most artistic, ground breaking and influential films of its time, it’s just SO boring. I love a concise narrative but I’ve seen 2001 at least 4 times and still can’t tell you what it’s meant to be about! The imagery is incredible and it’s a very important film – but neither guarantees you’ll enjoy sitting through the three hours of footage. The only guarantee I can make about 2001 is a numb derrière and a Blue Danube Waltz earworm. But you get doozies in every genre.
Thematically, sci-fi is split in two and both are pretty self evident. The first is based more on science: SETI programs, first man on the moon. Think Tom Hanks getting Apollo 13 back to Earth. The other focuses on the fiction side, usually with a loose plot and more action oriented: getting lost in space, people going nuts in space or scary aliens trying to kill everyone in space.

So what is good science fiction??
The two films I suggest you check out are Contact and The Astronaut’s Wife. Each represents one of the above themes and hopefully you’ll agree they’re examples of good science fiction!

CONTACT (Science Related)

PLOT: Dr Ellie Arroway has dedicated her life to SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Palmer Joss has spent his life searching for truth through faith in God. Ellie has been laughed out of room after room but just as her team is informed of their project’s cancellation, they receive a signal from deep space, on a massive scale. Exploring the social, political, religious and scientific ramifications of first contact, the world will question science, belief and the very meaning of our being here.

DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis (Castaway, Forrest Gump)

CAST: Jodie Foster (Flight Plan, Silence of the Lambs), Matthew McConaughey ( Sahara , The Wedding Planner), William Fichtner, Tom Skerritt, David Morse.

THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE (Fiction related)

Charlize Theron is brilliant (as always) and Johnny Depp’s performance, simply chilling. You will not look at him the same way again.

PLOT: While undertaking repairs on a satellite, astronaut Spencer Armacoust loses contact with NASA for just 2 minutes. His friends celebrate his safe return home to Earth but his wife recognises something is amiss. She falls pregnant not long after and notices more and more oddities in his behaviour and begins to feel that lives she is carrying are not of this world.

DIRECTOR: Rand Ravich

CAST: Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean , Chocolat), Charlize Theron (Monster, The Italian Job)

LOCATED IN: Sci-Fi section

FOR MORE SCIENCE FICTION SEE:
  • Stargate
  • The Abyss
  • The Fifth Element
  • Apollo 13
  • The Faculty
  • Equilibrium
  • The Matrix
  • Alien and Aliens
  • The Terminator and Terminator 2
  • Pitch Black
  • E.T: The Extra Terrestrial
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Signs
  • Gattaca
  • K-Pax
  • Cocoon
  • Alien Hunter
  • Solaris
  • Event Horizon
TOP TIP
Although once an expensive optional extra, I strongly recommend investing in surround sound speaker technology. Even used with a smaller, older television set up, the superior sound will vastly improve your home movie experience. There are lots of economical stereo options readily available these days. Also invest in decent cables – this will avoid crackle sounds. And read the manual so you can set up the Dolby features of your DVD player.

As popular as sitcoms and dramas are, they are far outstripped by the popularity of science fiction series. In fact when the TV series Roswell was initially cancelled after one season, fans sent so many bottles of Tabasco sauce to the studio in protest, it was reinstated!!
As ever, enjoy!

Occupy the kidlets

So, school holidays are approaching. 8 weeks with no more teachers, no more books. And while I am a strong believer in the value of kids reading, I also can’t help but recommend chucking the kids in front of a DVD every now and then, giving you no doubt a well deserved break.
For those of you without children - don’t dismiss this article as just for those with kiddlywinks. Take a stroll down memory lane and re-immerse yourself in your childhood faves – The Never-Ending Story, Willow or The Boy Who Could Fly. I still find that when I’ve had a really rough day, the charm of a G or PG film can really lift my spirits – happy endings are guaranteed!
The inspiration for this month’s recommendation came from last school holidays when I visited my aunt and cousins who are nine and eleven years old. They really wanted to get out a DVD but my aunt was completely at a loss as to what they should get. As I do with anyone who asks me to recommend something, I asked the boys for their favourite movies. A problem quickly announced itself. My aunt and uncle are divorced and it became apparent that they strongly disagree on what is appropriate viewing for the boys. Both their mother and I were appalled to learn that their father had let them watch Blood Diamond, Gladiator and Master and Commander, three films with fairly graphic battle scenes. A fight inevitably ensued that their mum was out of touch and they watch that kind of thing all the time.
Eventually, the fight was resolved with a compromise; we came up with some movies that their mother considered appropriate for their age but with a bit of the themes they were accustomed to and expected thrown in.So, the summer hols are coming but you’ve been through every Disney film available - to the point that you know the difference between a “fork” and a “dinglehopper”. You also can’t bear to sit through a Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. And you certainly don’t want to dip into the adult movies and risk the aforementioned violence, language etc (and the inevitable uncomfortable conversations likely to arise from other ‘adult’ themes!) But you want the kids to watch something with substance, something that they can learn from without knowing it.
You may be surprised how many great DVDs you can get for the kids from your local store where you wouldn’t think to look. Don’t fall into the trap of just walking into the Children or even Family section. Though there are many terrific choices here (including this month’s recommendation), you can also browse through the Westerns, Dramas, even Sci-Fi. Use the classifications as a guide – remember, G and PG rated films are located right across the store.

What should you get?

A FAR OFF PLACE

PLOT: Noni is the precocious daughter of a gamekeeper in Africa . Stuck-up city kid Harry is visiting with his Dad when tragedy strikes. As the only witnesses to their respective parent’s slaughter and pursued by the poachers who killed them, Noni and Harry must escape to the nearest town by the only available means – walk the two thousand kilometre distance across the Kalahari Desert. With the help of Noni’s friend, African bushman, Xhabbo, on this treacherous journey they will become firm friends and learn to appreciate the strengths in their differences.

DIRECTOR: Mikael Salomon (Band of Brothers, Alias)

CAST: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Legally Blonde), Ethan Randall (Can’t Hardly Wait, Empire Records), Maximilian Schell (Deep Impact), Jack Thompson (The Some of Us).

LOCATED IN: Children section PS – A Far Off Place is only in limited DVD release internationally so may be difficult to find (check the VHS section too).

FOR MORE KIDS FILM SEE:
  • Drive Me Crazy (also known as Dutch)
  • Bushfire Moon
  • The World’s Fastest Indian
  • Storm Boy
  • Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids
  • Treasure Island
  • First Kid
  • Labyrinth
  • Ladyhawk
  • Legend
  • Cats and Dogs
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Storm Boy
  • Hook
  • Born Free
  • Two Brothers
  • Indiana Jones
  • The Great Escape
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Robin Hood Men In Tights
  • The God’s Must be Crazy
  • Willow
TOP TIP
Sometimes the greatest resource for entertaining the kids can be the Classics, especially the Screwball Comedies and Westerns of the 30s – 50s. Think John Wayne, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Doris Day. You won’t have to worry about violence, language or adult themes in the content as classification laws were much stricter in the past. And just think of how many films have been made since the 30s – there’s no shortage of choice!

All Hallows Eve Approaches…

For a primarily American tradition, Halloween is well known in Australia for trick-or-treating, costumes and scaring yourself silly with horror movies. The level of exposure here is thanks in most part to the multiplicity of American television and movies screened here every day.

In celebration of the impending pumpkins, skeletons and ghosts and the brilliant new film Black Sheep I am devoting this month to HORROR.

As a teen I too was, not surprisingly, swept onto the bandwagon of watching horror flicks late into the night. It saddens me that the genre has lapsed over the past few years. The Ring and Wolf Creek are probably the best horror films I’ve seen of late… But the overall quality and quantity of horror has severely waned.

Okay, so horror isn’t everyone’s thing. It’s formulaic, gory and more often than not haunts you for days afterwards. At least, that’s what good horror should do. A genuine horror movie should scare the living daylights out of you. A common criticism of horror used to be that it was too gory with blood literally flooding the screen. But with everyone desensitised to gore, regularly exposed to forensic visuals on CSI type programs, blood and guts has long since taken a back seat. Lately, the formula has moved towards clichéd twists, to the point that you are expecting some twist which inevitably spoils the twist. These might be relegated to the thriller section were it not for the perfunctory ‘creatures’ thrown in. That said, some recent films have returned to supernatural or science fiction themes – curses, demonic possession, zombies, vampires, lichens, aliens.

The latter has always been a popular medium and I still count Alien and Aliens amongst my favourite films of all time. They continue to instil fear in new audiences even though they were made over 2 decades ago. The anticipation fear factor is the key in Alien. I’ll always remember a story my parents told me about one of their first dates. They went to see Alien and after an hour glued to the edge of their seats and at the crucial moment, the guy sitting three rows in front of them suffered an epileptic fit – mirroring the horrific scene occurring on screen. This poor man emptied the theatre in record time!To get a really good scare out of a horror there needs to be considerable tension, gore and that eerie accompanying music. You can always rely on the classic horrors for a good scare such as:
  • The Shining
  • Halloween
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • The Candyman
  • The Exorcist
  • Carrie
The number of grown adults STILL terrified of clowns can surely be attributed to Tim Curry’s portrayal in IT. It amuses me which particular subcategory of horror people fear. Though I must confess that ANY werewolf film (no matter how unrealistic the special effects – e.g. An American Werewolf in London) has me too frightened to put the bin out after dark. I suspect I’ve never fully recovered from my childhood fear of Gmork, the wolf in The Never Ending Story.Horror should make your flesh crawl from the tension and at times the gore should horrify you. But a common criticism levelled at horror is that it is simply too predictable. Since studying film construction, this has become especially true for me and thus I have rarely been genuinely frightened in many movies.
However, all that ended recently when I came across a real stunner, relatively new to the weekly shelves.What should you get??

THE DESCENT
Before giving you the basics, I have to say I found this film disturbing. It is claustrophobic and has a true jump factor throughout even from ordinary things. As my favourite reviewer suggested, the pitch black surroundings serve only to heighten the genuine feeling of paranoia.
And as a marketer by day, the graphic design of the cover is the most innovative and impressive I’ve seen in years.

PLOT: After a tragic accident, six friends reunite for a caving expedition. Their adventure soon goes horribly wrong when a collapse traps them deep underground and they find themselves pursued by something savage and bloodthirsty living in the caves. As fear erodes their friendships, they find themselves in a desperate struggle to survive the creatures and each other.
DIRECTOR: Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers)CAST - Relatively unknown as is usual for horror: Shauna Macdonald (“Spooks”), Natalie Jackson Mendoza (“Hotel Babylon”), Alex Reid.
LOCATED IN: Horror section
FOR MORE HORROR SEE:
  • The Ring
  • Arachnophobia
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer
  • Scream
TOP TIP
Really experience horror:
Leave the lights off and watch after dark and don’t watch the special features until after the film. They nullify the jump factor. After all, if you know how it was done, it’s a lot less scary.