Category: Film

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).

The Sentinel and 16 Blocks: Shooting things and not making sense

The Sentinel was a movie that has no real purpose in this world other than to show a bizarre president who has totally different motives to the one that the United States presently boasts. We only know this because the president has two lines of political dialogue, but it’s just enough time to express the leanings of the production crew.
The Sentinel simply stops making any sense after a time. I drifted into my thoughts for about thirty seconds and, when I came to, I found myself thinking “Why are they on a boat?” I could not, for the life of me, tell you.

16 Blocks, on the other hand, was a more interesting film that offered somewhat compelling characters and infinitely more sense. It was of the calibre of one of the better gritty early nineties cop films and applied itself to its genre clichés with relish enough to make it an enjoyable film despite its awful, awful Karate Kid style conclusion.

Yet The Sentinel is the bigger of these films. In Australia, 16 Blocks received essentially no advertising and disappeared without trace, while The Sentinel is still mystifying people with its mock thrilling storyline.

I think that the ultimate irony of these films is that Bruce Willis plays a “I’m too old for this shit” sort of role (the traditional ground of Richard Donner cop films), while Michael Douglas is allowed to shoot Canadians and sleep with Kim Basinger without prejudice.

Kenny

I decided that, if I was going to see something that wasn’t going to be very good, I should balance it out by seeing something that would probably turn out okay. Kenny, a new Australian mockumentary by the Jacobson brothers, was just the movie to fill the gap.

Two Actors: Owen Wilson and Matt Dillon

Tonight my friends Maja and Rola dragged me along to see You, Me and Dupree, a movie whose trailers made it look like one of the single worst movies in human history. It wasn’t as bad as that – heck, it even mustered a couple of laughs! – but it got me to thinking about the style of the two featured actors. The rest of the movie is not worth writing about, so I won’t.

Brick

It’s ironic that, at the Sundance film festival this year, a film that was based on reappropriating film noir archetypes into a high school situation was awarded for “Originality of Vision”.
Brick is exactly like a stereotypical hardboiled detective story, except the detective is a student played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This does not make it bad by any stretch of the imagination, because the perfect sort of film noir in my imagination is exactly as atmospheric as Brick.