12 Months of Movies 2006: August

It looked slow, but Popcorn Taxi doesn’t actually put any details on its tickets. August actually turned out to be quite a lively month.

Thank You For Smoking

August 1, 7:30, Greater Union Bondi Junction (Popcorn Taxi)

This movie was snappy, smart, and one of the funniest I’d seen in a long time. Powerhouse performances from all of the key players, with particularly honourable mentions to M.O.D. members Maria Bello (looking ironically more natural than she did in A History of Violence) and David Koechner.
This screening was part of Popcorn Taxi, and two of director Jason “Son of Ivan ‘Ghostbusters‘ Reitman” Reitman’s short films were shown. While they showed rudimentary use of boom mike technique and a hand as a blocking device, they were highly entertaining.

The Popcorn Taxi conceit of “Watch the movies. Meet their makers” is an almost fool proof way of enhancing enjoyment of a movie.

Wah-Wah

August 3, Dendy Opera Quays (Cinema 3) – ticket missing

Due to an incidental remembrance of having seen The Boy From Oz on the same day, I managed to slot in Wah-Wah into this year in review. Good thing I did, too, as this was one of my favourite films of 2006. A fictionalised account of writer/director Richard E. Grant’s childhood in Swaziland, Wah-Wah sets up so many bad things and overcomes them, only to be ruined by reality. The truth is that real life sucks and has no place in the cinema!
That said, Wah-Wah was excellent on all fronts. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring myself to cry in the cinema, and so I kept bursting into tears in the streets outside for a good fifteen minutes after I left. Draining but rewarding.

Monster House

August 7, 7:30, Greater Union Bondi Junction (Popcorn Taxi)

I had no cynicism going into this film. In fact, I did almost no background research at all beyond watching a trailer. Monster House was too scary for small children (wimps!), but it had a surprisingly good story behind its gimmick, that resolved itself in a sentimental but not tacky fashion.
Discovering the technique behind this film actually improved it: not only was it motion-captured, but all of the actors actually performed the film on a special stage. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the plasticness of the hair, but Kathleen Turner turning up on set every day wearing a 300 pound suit makes the whole project worthwile.

Brick

August 9, 6:30, Hoyts Broadway – no ticket issued

Another of my favourites of the year, Brick was an intriguing transplant of noir to a modern high school. With a score that could not help but remind me of Vangelis’ work on Blade Runner, and marvellous acting from Joseph Gordon Levitt, Brick can not come recommended enough. Sadly, like most of the films I love, it’s not for everyone’s taste. That said, if you like it, you might just be a good person.

Confetti

August 13, 12:30, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 11)

Free double pass, baby!
Confetti is a British improve mockumentary. For such a project to work, a fairly talented comic cast is required. Fortunately this ensemble, led by Martin Freeman, is spot on. The promo materials and the balance of the film’s scenes rendered its conclusion foregone, but it is both a sweet and funny film that, in the tradition of Love Actually, includes enough casual nudity to put a lot of people off. Luckily, six of the eight major characters are likeable, and the ending is a glorious celebration of the best in British tackiness.

Miami Vice

August 18, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 7) – ticket missing

Incoherent in every way: the plot made no sense, and all of the non-American actors had accents so thick that very few of their words could be understood. Gong Li was wasted and Dion Beebe, normally so good behind a camera … I have no idea what the Hell he was thinking? I really expected something more of Miami Vice than a film where every bad guy dies in a gun fight and the only damage sustained by the Vice Squad is that one of their number gets shot in the leg.

Sophie Scholl: The Last Days

August 21, Dendy Opera Quays (Cinema 3) – ticket missing

I think that it’s safe to say that I don’t like Nazis. Can’t stand them, in fact. Sophie Scholl: The Last Days is a film based on transcripts of police interviews and court proceedings in the last few days of the life of the titular heroine. I thought that it was admirable that Sophie stuck to her principles and revealed nothing, although the epilogue demonstrates that the Nazis were indeed efficient bastards.
Despite the fact that Sophie’s death is included in the title, it’s nice to know that such a movie can end on a positive note. I wouldn’t exactly call Sophie a martyr, but she definitely died for a worthy cause.

Brick

August 26, 7:00, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 5) – ticket missing

Just as good the second time, although this time I had a terrible audience to contend with and someone with which to discuss the film afterwards. Definitely a worthwhile exercise, I look forward to obtaining the DVD.

Kenny

August 29, 2:40, Hoyts Broadway (Cinema 8)

This movie works better on a television, where its digital production does not betray it. Kenny was financed by a portable toilet company and distributed by Madman Cinema. At $500,000 to produce and more than $7,000,000 in box office return (and still in some cinemas at the time of its DVD release), Kenny is the feel good of the Australian industry for 2006. If we could make more films as thoroughly unimportant as this one, then we’d be more than afloat, we’d be solvent. I have no idea what the Jacobsen brothers can make to follow this up (the execrable [hah!] Kenny Reloaded, perhaps? It would take K for Kendetta to make up for that), but I look forward to it.

You, Me & Dupree

August 29, 6:30, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 8)

It’s rare that I’ll see a film as bankrupt as this one. Matt Dillon plays a comedic lead as petty, Kate Hudson does her job of being the movie’s “flip flopper”, and Owen Wilson plays a riff on his traditional Owen Wilson role. Basically the only true joy of this film for me was unintentional: having seen Thankyou For Smoking earlier in the month, I took note of Adam Brody’s quote from that film “As you can see, [my boss] really likes Asian shit”. Michael Douglas’ character’s office was decorated similarly and entirely unironically in a faux “Zen” fashion.
No redeeming features, one intentional laugh provoked from sheer deliberate stupidity: You, Me & Dupree.

The Sentinel

August 30, 6:50, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 17)

What was I saying about bankruptcy? The Sentinel had it followed the idea set out by its trailer, could have been a good cat-and-mouse thriller. Instead, it turned out to be some poorly realised plot involving terrorists or some such and a ridiculously wish-fulfilling liberal president (his one line is “We need to ratify the Kyoto Protocol!”). Keifer Sutherland and Michael Douglas could have chased each other across America, but alas! Their rivalry and chemistry were defeated in mere seconds. They were not helped by Eva Longoria being on the scene for the sole purpose of “look at me, I am a Latina” – a role that she has taken with relish across multiple all media.
Disappointing and pointless.

Renaissance

August 31, 4:55, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 11)

I wanted to say something about this back in August, but I couldn’t find the words. I love dystopic futures, particularly when they’re presented in compelling fashions. The appeal of Renaissance is that it’s animated entirely in black and white. When I say entirely, I mean it: there’s no grey at all, with the exception of necessary transparencies. It’s a true delight to watch, with a more than serviceable story to boot. The bizarre dream-like nature of its conclusion expertly implies the not quite truthful stance that the protagonist had to take. My only regret is that I could not see it in its original French: while Daniel Craig and Ian Holm do their jobs admirably, some of the support cast are less talented (yet the motion capture lip synch is remarkably accurate). Still, that’s what DVDs are for.

Fearless

August 31, 7:15, Greater Union George Street (Cinema 1)

When is a martial arts film not worth my time? When it turns out to be a propaganda piece promoting the People’s Republic of China and their need to stand up to the rest of the world that would denigrate them. What is somewhat excellent about Fearless is that a little research into the events of this true story shows that Jet Li’s character died of TB rather than being poisoned by the Japanese. It’s little facts like that, and also really bad stunts like hanging horizontally off a tower, that make Fearless such a great not-good movie.

Pick of August 2006: Wah-Wah


Certainly it ruined me, but Wah-Wah was, in my estimation, expertly cast and made. Tremendously sad, but that’s one of the reasons I go to the movies. If a film vindicates my film-going lifestyle I am, of course, going to have to approve.
Brick gets a very close second because it was awesome and also because I forgot that I had seen it this month so it missed the first round of voting.

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