Category: Film

Get Him to the Greek

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of my favourite comedies. I saw it three times at the cinema because I wanted to expose other people to it. Unlike other films I saw thrice, I never tired of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Get Him to the Greek transplants Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and presents a different continuity. Jonah Hill, who featured in Forgetting Sarah Marshall as an hilarious foil for Brand (working largely because Brand almost entirely ignored him), here plays a different character: one not as funny.

The whole movie isn’t as funny, which was always going to be difficult. How do you top a puppet musical about Dracula? Short answer is: you don’t.

The slightly longer answer is that Forgetting Sarah Marshall was not your typical Apatow production, and Get Him to the Greek is … But it lacks that key ingredient that makes so many films in the Apatow Empire click.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 is a great argument against objectivity in the cinema. How can we be objective, when everything that we take out of a movie is informed by who we are, and who we are is at least partially informed by what we see in the movies?

Toy Story 3 is an example to me of a perfect movie. It is not a perfect movie for everyone. I don’t care about everyone and what they think of this movie, I care what I think of it. Does that make me a bad critic, even as an amateur? No, that is how the system works. A movie like Toy Story 3 is one that can be received as a personal gift from Pixar to the viewer, as I did. To take it any other way, to view it as “just another movie”, that’s not my style at all.

Toy Story 3, to me, is love. It is the distillation of fifteen years of Pixar into a single wondrous movie. That is more than enough for me. If I didn’t view ratings for movies as arbitrary and silly, I would give it full marks. There is no definitive review, but Toy Story 3 is a marvel in my eyes.

I Am Love

Melodrama: I had completely forgotten about it. Several years ago, Todd Haynes of I’m Not There fame wrote and directed Far From Heaven, a sumptuous visual feast starring Julianne Moore that very deliberately tasted of arsenic. It was a tribute to the time of Douglas Sirk, Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, intense colour and extreme emotion.

I Am Love is an Italian return to the melodramatic form, but this fact is not so immediately pronounced as Far From Heaven. It differs in several key areas. When I started taking issue with the direction of the narrative, I recalled the conventions of melodrama and suddenly it all slotted into place, culminating in one of the most perfectly realised finales I have ever seen.

Yona Yona Penguin

What did Rintaro do to deserve this? I think that Yona Yona Penguin is a trick that the French played on the Japanese.

“We’ve got an idea about a girl who dresses as a penguin, who gets taken to the land of the Good Fellow Devils to defeat the evil being who rules their land!”

“It would never fly here … Maybe you could get the Japanese to animate it? We can pretend it was their idea!”

Rintaro made Metropolis, which was a great movie. He also made X, which was an incoherent movie. In Yona Yona Penguin he’s made a bland movie, and he’s compounded the issue by making it ugly.

Coco loves penguins. She loves them so much that a goblin thinks that she is the legendary flightless bird, and takes her to his village so that she may defeat the great evil. First, however, they have to deal with the fat kid Zammie who has been terrorising the village.

There’s not a lot to say about Yona Yona Penguin. It features unimaginative CG and ugly character designs. It lacks a lot of the sort of charm that this type of film needs to get off the ground, and amounts to nothing.

The big swelling realisation of the lead’s inner power is kind of offset by the fact that she ends up taking the credit for the work of the gods, and…

…Basically, this is a children’s movie made solely for children with no redeeming features for anyone else. It is not well crafted, nor is it nice to look at. I would not have seen it, but it had Rintaro’s name attached.

The French weren’t tricking the Japanese: this was an elaborate (and expensive) plot against me.

The Tree

You want a standard movie that features strong actors and performances, but never really goes anywhere or bothers to do anything with the flimsy scenario with which it has been entrusted? The Tree is your film.

Welcome to the Space Show

Welcome to the Space Show showed at the Sydney Film Festival before it saw its wide release in Japan. It is an impressive piece of science fiction work, albeit not the same film that I was expecting from the synopsis provided by the program (but then, is a film ever the same as its listing?), and one that is perhaps overloaded with ideas towards the end, but I came out of it glad for having seen it.

Advance word on an Advance Screening of Scott Pilgrim vs The World

My friend Melinda was somehow invited to a market test screening of something that was described to her as “indie/slacker/comic book”. Upon consultation with her brother, she theorised that it may be Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Turns out she was right. Attached are her brief impressions of the film:

“Yo it was Scott Pilgrim- no food stuffs provided, a thought that was a little stingy, considering they didn’t pay us and expected us to do a survey as well.

It’s clearly a niche film, and not really being a Michael Cera fan meant that I didn’t laugh at all the jokes, actually I thought a lot were pretty lowbrow. (pee jokes enough said) not that there’s anything wrong with that humour, but I am not charmed by Michael Cera. He needs to work harder than that to make me laugh.

There were parts that were weird for the sake of being weird, and it felt a little long, it was a solid two hour movie- but the fight scenes were good and the video game feel/ style made it a little different from your usual action movie.

I gave it a 7, good enough, even if it wasn’t something that i’d pay to see. My bro loved it and wants to see it again, so there you go.”

There you have it: the inside word on Scott Pilgrim from a woman who is interested in nerd type things, and a mention of her brother who I’ve never met – but I believe we’re not so very different, he and I (translation: nerdlinger to the maxtreme).

As for myself, I haven’t watched any of the trailers, and my exposure to Scott Pilgrim in general is very limited – but I have enjoyed Edgar Wright’s previous work and I was definitely going to see it anyway … even if “Sex Bob-omb” is a ridiculous idea and is the very reason that the terrorists hate us (even Canadians!).

Post script: Just watched the trailer, now my interest is piqued.

Au Revoir, Taipei

At last, a truly light movie in the Sydney Film Festival! Au Revoir, Taipei is obvious and insubstantial fun that provides quite a few good laughs.

Kai wants to go to visit his girlfriend in Paris, but he doesn’t have any money. He consults local crime boss Brother Bao to get the money for the airfare, but Bao’s henchmen want to get a cut of the job Kai has been given, and give chase to Kai and Susie, a bookstore worker.

Thus begins a crime farce that’s essentially Taiwan’s equivalent of Date Night.

Au Revoir, Taipei is a consistently funny film that never takes itself too seriously. There is no point at which the characters pull over and have a heartfelt talk about the state of their relationship (“you never give me a chance to help out!”). Instead you have dancing exercises and nice night food market scenes.

There’s not much more to it than that: there are perhaps more subplots than one might expect, but it’s light and fun and entertaining. The ending is a great scene, too. If you judge a movie on “feeling”, then “happiness” is the result of watching Au Revoir, Taipei. Plus it’s executive produced by Wim Wenders, of all people.

It’s nice to have some fluff amongst all of the “worthy” films you get in a film festival.

The Illusionist

Beautiful but disaffecting is probably the best way to describe a film like The Illusionist. It is very pretty to look at and can be quite funny in places but it feels a bit hollow. The back story that I was unaware of lends it slightly more depth, but I will be honest in my philistinism here: my limited exposure to Jacques Tati has not left me enamoured of him.

In 1959, A magician travels from job to job until he meets a young girl in Scotland, who then joins him. The magic business doesn’t run so well, but the girl is convinced magic is real – so the magician picks up odd jobs here and there in Edinburgh to keep the girl in material possessions.

True to Tati’s form, The Illusionist has almost no dialogue. The character of the magician is modeled after Tati himself, and the girl is apparently supposed to be based on a daughter that he allegedly abandoned.
What follows, based on what we can piece together from the largely emotive animation and gibberish speak, is a literal object lesson: nothing comes from nothing, all people in entertainment are suicidally depressed (and this is apparently funny), and young Scottish girls fail to understand the way the material world operates.

It would be a disservice to silent films to say that the lack of dialogue means we can never really know these characters: it is the disjointed nature and repetition of the film that means that we don’t really know that much about them or care much for them. They are simple caricatures who don’t really have many emotions beyond a baseline affection for one another.

While it’s engaging to look at, there’s something ever so slightly off about the film. One of the aspects of this offness is that in many places it’s simply annoying: the depressive clown, the ventriloquist, the effeminate mincing “Britoons”, aren’t so much a joy to watch as they are a protracted distraction to endure.

While Sylvain Chomet was awarded for his Triplets of Belleville, this is a simple case where nostalgia for a much-loved filmmaker triumphs over “proper” cinematic sensibility.

I fully expect to be contradicted by the professional critical establishment when The Illusionist reaches wider attention. I enjoyed it “enough”, but I didn’t think there was much more to it than the fluidity of its mostly excellent animation.

Postscript: On the advice of commenter Matt I append some more context for the film: Roger Ebert has publicised two sides of the argument. First is “The secret of Jacques Tati“, the second is “In defense of The Illusionist“. The key quote in the defence is the following:

The Illusionist” is a work of the imagination that seeks only to stand or fall as a film in its own right.

Personally, I think it falls. And that is all that really matters to me: it’s a movie that doesn’t quite work.

I Killed My Mother

Xavier Dolan. 19 years old when he wrote and directed I Killed My Mother! Instiller of fear and jealousy into the hearts of men and women alike!

Dolan is a boy of honesty, a boy of spite. A boy who loves pieces to camera, but only if he’s allowed to do them naked and black and white in his bathroom.

I Killed My Mother is a pretty good movie, but it’s rough around the edges and its protagonist is misplaced. There’s one great character here, but her whiney idiot foil has been mistakenly made the lead in her place.