Category: Film

Super Size Me

Super Size Me was a huge sensation upon its release a couple of years back, yet I never saw it. The movie Fast Food Nation was made on the strength of its success, ironic for the fact that Supersize Me itself was at least partially inspired by the Fast Food Nation book.

This is how you make a film about this topic: you make it interesting. It doesn’t have to necessarily be entertaining – although Super Size Me most definitely is that – but it certainly should not be dull and leaden. Even if you claim that that is “real”, it is not real in the sense of cinema, which demands something.

I thought that it was strange that Channel Ten showed this program after Australian Idol, which is sponsored by McDonald’s. In response to Fast Food Nation, McDonald’s has released a Make Up Your Own Mind ad campaign.
Those wiley McDonald’s fiends have chosen to exercise that campaign during this movie. One of the wisest things that Richard Linklater said when I saw him on Thursday was that McDonald’s would have been wisest not to have brought out a retaliatory campaign at all (although they claim it’s just coincidental).

They needn’t have worried, of course: Super Size Me had the natural appeal that would allow people to actively seek it out. McDonald’s is going to positively pump money into Fast Food Nation, though, and we all know that money could be spent on something far more effective, like bringing the 30 cent cones back to 30 cents.

Popcorn Taxi: Fast Food Nation

Popcorn Taxi is an organisation in Australia that presents advance screenings of films, frequently with the films’ directors on hand afterwards to answer questions and give interviews.

Popcorn Taxi programmes that I have attended include Mysterious Skin (painful but phenomenal), Thank You For Smoking (hilarious and, coupled with Jason Reitman’s short films, an all around excellent evening) and Monster House (the interview providing genuine insight into the film that had me appreciating it ever more).

Generally, you get the impression that the people present have enjoyed the film they’ve seen. Fast Food Nation did not supply me with that feeling. I got the impression that quite a few people were disgruntled.

I didn’t think it was that hot, either.

CrabStorm: A Work in Progress

This post marks the launch of “ideas”, which covers great creations that may never come to fruition.

My initial notes began:

Best idea ever for a horror movie or video game: something involving crabs. Possibly in a science lab: research ship.

I’ve since upgraded the idea to “action/thriller”, generally because I don’t like horror. I then came up with the following fragments of plot:

A scientist is drinking coffee at his computer and gets up to check a print out. He hears a scuttling sound behind him, but signs it off as his imagination. He returns to his desk and hears the sound again. He turns around, worried now. The sound continues, again behind him. The scientist turns back to his desk, but we see only his face. He screams as a shadow advances on him, and the screen fades to black as we hear the sound of frenzied snipping …

I liked the sound of crabs scuttling against a metal corridor/air duct, and therefore based a movie around it.

Our hero, we’ll call him Rob, at one point runs outside and looks over the railing, into the ocean: the ship is surrounded by crabs, using their claws to climb up the side, and a line of crabs making their way up the ship’s stairs …

Yes, just like zombies converging on a car or something.

…a confrontation scene in a giant, empty stock area of the ship, Rob and the captain standing against a wall, facing the crabs, Rob with a gun in his hands.
Captain says “Damnit, Rob! Shoot their weak point!”
“I’m trying,” says Rob, “but the bastards keep strafing!”

Strafing was my other idea.

…Deus ex Machina in the form of a previously thought dead heroine, Clare, emerging with a mighty crab hammer.

At this point I imagined that the film would descend into a series of Deus ex Machinas. I’d go see it, and I’m a member of the pro-crab lobby! I’m going to hope the crustaceans have just suffered a horrible misunderstanding.

Which gives me an idea for the true ending:

Spoilers for my non-existent movie’s ending ahead! You’ve been warned!

Snakes on a Plane

I was surprised that Snakes on a Plane fever continued up to a week after its release. Really, I was. Then it died away, as if the major excitement that had built up had never existed.

In my continued quest for topicality and relevance, I present to you my view of Snakes on a Plane.

Article contains 1 (one) expletive

The Nacho Liberation Front

Nacho Libre or, as it is known in some territories, The Free Dorito*, was everything that I expected it to be and more.

It is like Napoleon Dynamite in some aspects, but in many ways it is nothing like Jon Heder’s vehicle for goshness and ambiguous Mormonism. For one thing, Nacho Libre has more of a definite story with scenes that actually relate to each other. Once, when I was at HMV looking through their ridiculously overpriced DVDs, Napoleon Dynamite was playing on their TVs. I had not seen it for several months, and so I thought the disparate scenes being shown were something like a “best of” compilation. I was surprised when I put in my own DVD a few weeks later and that was what the movie was actually like.

But I digress. Nacho Libre is a film that will polarise audiences as Napoleon Dynamite did, and even moreso simply for the inclusion of Jack Black. I love Jack Black, and my New Year 2003 celebration was spent watching Tenacious D perform at the Enmore, so this film was something like Heaven for me. Some of the lines are funny simply because Jack Black is saying them. His control of facial expressions is second to none.

Incongruous Trailers: Threat Level Alpha

When I went to DOA, I saw trailers for what will be a buckwild mainstream success (Talladega Nights), a children’s movie with a good cast (Storm Breaker – Bill Nighy!), and what is guaranteed to be purely horrid which, when last I checked, had a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes: The Covenant. (I just checked again: 2% now.)

The calibre of the movie you go to is going to affect the calibre of the trailers you see, with exceptions made for indisputable films that everyone is guaranteed to go and see (except, strangely enough, I can’t remember ever having seen a legitimate full length Dead Man’s Chest trailer, only a couple of teasers).

No other movie I’m going to see in the coming weeks is going to have a trailer for The Covenant, I can guarantee you that.

Talladega Nights, on the other hand, featured a trio of trailers I did not expect to see, plus one trailer that Americans will never see but was a perfect fit for this particular film.

The most understandable was Casino Royale, which is looking pretty damned good. I have my reservations about Judi Dench playing M in a story where M has been in the position longer than Bond has been a double 0 agent, but that’s really a quibbling argument when you consider just how awesome a Dame she is.
As a side note, the Casino Royale theme song, “You know my name”, leaked onto the internet this week: it’ll have to grow on me. I was looking forward to a big title song rather than just a theme song. I mean, who remembers Rita Coolidge’s “All Time High”, from Octopussy? No one, that’s who! (We’ll take on the world and win/So hold on tight/Let the flight/Begin)

Next up was A Good Year, the new comedy type film from Ridley Scott starring Russell Crowe. Beyond the fact that Crowe is box office poison and that Cinderella Man deserved to do much better than it did, do the audience going to Talladega Nights want to see a film about Russell Crowe – using his Antipodean accent, no less – rediscovering what it means not to be a bastard in France? I honestly can not tell you if I’m interested in seeing it, but Crowe does look somewhat personable and does not have to be offset by Renée Zellweger.

The big surprise of the selection was Children of Men, the trailer for which can be found here. (Apple.com)
Or, here’s YouTube (curse your usefulness, demon site!):

Children of Men is a dystopian film based on P.D. James’ novel of the same name. In a future where no children have been born for eighteen years, humanity is dying out and the world is at war. One pregnant woman has been discovered, and she must be delivered to safety.
I think that sounds interesting enough, but then it was revealed that the hero was Clive Owen, who has impressed me in the few movies of his that I have seen (Inside Man was particularly good). Then they cracked out the big guns: Julianne Moore, with whom I have become infatuated after absorbing Far From Heaven into my bloodstream over the last few weeks, and Michael Caine, about whom nothing needs to be said other than that he is awesome.

Children of Men came out last week in the UK, comes out here next month and, for reasons that I’m not going to begin to fathom, December 25 in America. (Boxing Day is the biggest day for movies in Australia; but does anyone actually go on Christmas Day?).

Children of Men, in being promoted at Talladega Nights, caught my attention. Yet it seemed out of place there, being promoted at a movie set in a hermetically sealed fantasy world where nothing bad ever happens – and if it does, it certainly doesn’t stick.

I suppose that the lesson I’ve learned is that a trailer doesn’t always need to fit with the movie that it accompanies: if it can make someone aware of, perhaps even interested in, something that they would otherwise be blissfully ignorant of, I suppose that makes everything worthwhile.

(For the record, the one trailer that made complete sense was that for the new Australian film Boytown, about a boy band reuniting in middle age to sing songs about the issues of the middle aged. It actually looks pretty funny, and is an Australian film that might get audiences in.)

Renaissance

I saw this movie a couple of weeks ago but couldn’t muster up interesting enough words. It comes out in America on September 22nd.

Renaissance is a noirish CG motion capture French film. It tells a compelling story with sometimes stiff acting from some of its voice actors, but Daniel Craig and Ian Holm do good jobs with their characters. It heaps some twists on the audience that make it a more satisfying film than if its trajectory had been too straight, but it’s most intriguing aspect is the aesthetic: with the exception of transparencies like glass, the entire film is in black and white. Literally black and white – no grey.
The items in each scene are forced to define each other and it is a striking film. Your brain has to be in the right place to comprehend it, but it’s essentially an animated version of Sin City. The movement makes it easier to follow than Frank Miller’s work on the page, too.

If you can get out to a cinema, I emphatically recommend seeing Renaissance, even if you hate the French.

TallaDOA Nights: The Ballad of Jaime Pressly

I bit the bullet and saw DOA. To chase it, I saw Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

These are the sorts of movies that you will be punished for trying to take seriously. When you went into the cinema last month to see Talladega Nights, Americans, you’d better not have looked for hard hitting drama!
When you go to the cinema next month to see DOA (it came out here 6 weeks ahead of you: we can see the future), don’t expect any semblance of sense!

Yet DOA is among the most illegitimately entertaining of 2006. Sure, it grossly misrepresents video games, but then almost every video movie (including the best movie ever, Super Mario Bros.) grossly misrepresents its subject matter. Talladega Nights, by being a hotch potch of the unexpected, is exactly what one expects from the people who created it. They hit targets that may not be clear to everyone, but they are there.

The Holy Grails of Low Art

This week I’ve been dashed down in my pursuit of three examples of “low art” of various calibres.

Yesterday I had intended to see DOA, which came out here last week (about a month before it’s due to hit American cinemas). For whatever reason, I had decided that it would be one of the heights of trashy fun.
I really wanted to see Jaimie Pressly as … whoever it was she was playing (scientific fact: video game movies attract audiences who don’t play the video games in question). She has this strange allure about her that only a woman who radiates classlessness can possess.
I’m certain Jaimie Pressly is perfectly nice in reality, but she’s got white trash so downpat I simply cannot resist her. Less of a drawcard for me is Holly Valance, who used to play one of the most boring, vain characters on my old Australian soap addiction, Neighbours. She carries the stench of “Flick” with her and I cannot begin to find her attractive.

Still, the film wins bonus attraction points for embracing both the fighting and beach volleyball aspects of the franchise. That’s like a Mario film in which Mario has to save Peach from Bowser, and fits in tennis, golf and an incredibly boring party with time enough for an adventure that feels only 60% complete.

Today I intended to watch Nacho Libre and Snakes on a Plane. Nacho Libre is a no brainer for me as I love Jack Black and, in my mind, Jack Black jumping into a wrestling ring to find himself facing two satyrs is the ultimate scene in cinema.
The amount of time it has taken to get to Australia – it came out many, many moons ago in America – indicates that it is somewhat “controversial” (ie not very well received critically), but I’m not going to let that get in my way.

Snakes on a Plane is slightly different. I was really surprised that the internet enthusiasm and jokes continued up to a week after its release. I was incredibly excited about seeing it when I had a concrete plan to see it the day after it came out (a week after America, for reference) but then, when that plan fell through, I simply didn’t care any more.
I’m going to see it out of fealty, but I never thought that this was the movie to save Hollywood. To pin your hopes on this movie that is blatantly not claiming to be the messiah (and, through the application of wonky logic, therefore is the messiah) is wrong.
It would also be wrong of me to pin the blame on the audiences but heck, I’ll do it:

    How to Save the Film Industry!

  1. Audiences need to get better taste and get out to the cinema more!
  2. We need to tear down the internet!
  3. Freemasons rule the country!

No, I don’t have the answers and I’m not going to pretend to, but I can tell you this: Snakes on a Plane is not the answer.

How does one reconcile one’s “classy” interests with the “low”? I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, so I don’t let it worry me. You’ve just got to figure out the trash that you like and screw the rest. If I find myself having to justify myself, well, I’m not going to. Dead or Alive will feature some colour and also some T&A; Nacho Libre will feature Jack Black doing what he does; and yes, I know what Snakes on a Plane will feature.

It takes a special class of “trash” to lift itself above the rest and become enjoyable. How someone sets about making a bad movie and thinking it’s good, I’ll never know, but erecting a target and hitting it is a beautiful thing.

The Trailer Narrator must be stopped!

Tonight I watched Boys Don’t Cry which, while well made, I really didn’t want to see. After I finished it, I checked out the trailer so that I could see how they promoted the film: it seems very much like something that you can’t market, almost as if it should go directly onto the “university text” list and bypass the cinema entirely.

I was most surprised by what I heard:

A true story of hope, fear, and the courage it takes to be yourself.

In what way does this pertain to the movie that I saw about the fallout of a woman passing herself as a man in smalltown America? In an effort to get people to see their films, the studios will pass their movies off however they can.

Boys Don’t Cry can be compared, I suppose, to Brokeback Mountain: the trailers for Brokeback Mountain were honest. I went into that film expecting something and getting it. I knew what Boys Don’t Cry was offering me, and the trailer was vaguely honest in that it admitted that the film was about a hate crime (well, it was more about the lead in to a hate crime), but when that voiceover man comes on, you know it’s all over.

My terrible secret is that, with the number of movies I go to, I hate some trailers a heck of a lot. In July and August, just about every film I went to had a trailer for 48 Shades in it. It was a really poorly made trailer:

“How many shades of brown are there?”
“48.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of shades of brown!”

– ACTUAL DIALOGUE
No one in Australia has gone to see the movie.
Sadly, the voice over for 48 Shades is probably telling the truth, but it is the most trite, life affirming truth that it could possibly tell. It’s no small wonder that Australians hate local cinema. That and we’re an island of pirates.

The whole lying about your product débacle reminded me of the Comedian:

As long as the studios recognise that this stuff is pure BS, I suppose they can get away with it. If they think that I gleaned a single ounce of hope from Boys Don’t Cry, though, they’ve got another thing coming.

(if you’re wondering what Boys Don’t Cry‘s “flaw” is, I’d suppose that I’d put it down to a mild case of Hilary Swankitis).