Tuesday Timeshift #15: District 9

district9_3Can’t be bothered reading an entire review? Check out my Haiku Film Review. Otherwise keep reading!

If you’ve somehow managed to miss all the advertising, the internet chatter, the general hype-i-ness that is District 9 let me take you back.

A couple of years ago, South African ad director Neill Blomkamp made a little short film called Alive in Joburg.  It traversed the globe quickly, thanks to that handy little distribution channel you and I know as YouTube, because it was clearly high quality (and had a decent budget) but mostly because it’s an intriguing idea.

How would we treat refugee aliens marooned on our planet?  According to Neill, not all that nicely.

Peter Jackson – yes, that Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) – thought that might make for an interesting feature film.  Ch-ching!  It sure does.

Uber-real, tense, graphic, sad, interesting… how many more adjectives can I use?  Just be glad I haven’t started in on the superlatives yet.  It’s a film that defies it’s sci-fi label because the fact that they are aliens is somewhat irrelevant.  It could be any disenfranchised refugee group.  Setting the movie in Johannesburg, while natural due to the films origins, is poignant because it is a city which today still struggles with significant race issues.

It’s got the requisite extremely effective CGI and the appropriately chest thumping explosions, don’t get me wrong.  But just don’t write District 9 off as a sci-fi movie or a boy movie or whatever cliche’s you want to to apply.  It will surprise and entertain but it also has a very serious point.  Not just on the grand scale of mass refugees but it can be boiled down to more local, more immediate circumstances.  When you treat those weak than you like animals or criminals they may well rise to meet your expectations.  This is a lesson that we’ve seen time and again in our refugee detention centres that we don’t seem to really learn.

Or you can ignore all that and just see an entertaining film.  Either way, go see it!

Opens everywhere this Thursday.

Tuesday Timeshift #14: Red Cliff

red_cliffCan’t be bothered reading an entire review? Check out my Haiku Film Review. Otherwise keep reading!

Let me commence by saying, I’m a girl.

Look call me sexist if you want, but this is a guy movie through and through.  That’s not a bad thing – but I’m not a guy so it really wasn’t for me.  So for the purposes of this review I will be channelling my partner in crime  – lets call him Batthew – as much as is humanly (and legally) possible without having anything surgery added and/or removed.

When I saw this, I was all a-flutter – and not just because I actually lob around a set of boobs wherever I go in reality.  Director John Woo intro’d the film.  In person.  In front of me.  If I stretched my little girly fingers out I could have groped him inappropriately.  John Woo!  Face Off, Broken Arrow, Mission Impossible II.  John Woo goddamit!  Lost in Space!  Oh, wait… Some might call these boy movies too.  Well, I cannot agree good sirs!  Fun is fun even if you are nut-free.  And this film had the largest budget EVER for a Chinese movie.  When those credits rolled I sat back all prepared for fun.  Thrills. Grandeur!  All round craziness.

Grandeur yes.  Thrilling fun? Not so much.  Strategic, warring, man-pride.  Chest-beating all round.  Ok so I still haven’t really found my inner manhood yet have I?  Look, Batthew loved it.  But he adores Battleship Potemkin, The Great Escape and Toy Story, for christs sake!  Damn men.

Don’t get me wrong.  I did enjoy much of it.  Just not all of it.  It was beautiful to look at, some great CGI scenes  and the sound was phenomenal.  I’m glad I saw it on the gigantor screen with super-sound-max-3000.  It’s a chest-thumping grand experience.  Batthew tells me all that war-ry stuff was great – you know, the hamster-style attack formation and the backward-scissor-lift defence formation and all that…  let me quote The Guardian “some of the best battle scenes since Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers”.  Frankly, I snoozed towards the end of that bit in LOTR too.

Yeah, go see it.  It’s fun.  And Red Cliff II will be out next year.  Take your nut sack and go see that sucker too. For those of us bereft of said sack, how do you feel about seeing Coco APRES Chanel instead?

Tuesday Timeshift #13: Young Victoria

Can’t be bothered reading an entire review? Check out my Haiku Film Review. Otherwise keep reading!

As the metaphorical curtain came up at the end of the Young Victoria, the girls next to me said “I loved that. He is so hot”. The he in question is Rupert Friend as Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Frankly, I couldn’t hear his name without giggling. Penis piercing anyone?

Young Victoria is Jean-Marc Vallee’s (C.R.AZ.Y.) latest family drama, a period piece about the lead up to and beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign of Britain starring Emily Blunt as the eponymous royal. Blunt is excellent throughout; beginning at wilful, charming and naive and ending at resolute, sincere and wise.

The film begins when the princess is just shy of 18 and her sickly uncle, the King is desperately clinging onto life until Victoria is old enough to take the the throne so as to avoid his despised sister-in-law, Victoria’s mother, gaining control of the throne by default. Intrigue, plotting and familial loyalty and love comes under examination – cleverly, nothing is as black and white as a child often assumes. The seemingly trusted advisor has his own agenda but that doesn’t mean his love is not genuine; regret, pride and disappointment mar the mother/daughter relationship; the beloved uncle can in turn be cruel and thoughtless to others; those we trust and who love us, do not always care about the same things we do.

Then the second half of the film gets underway and it becomes a turgid, mills & boon-esque romance. Blah blah blah. Boring. The worst part is that Young Victoria ends very suddenly with no real resolution to the issues it sets up in the first hour. There is a throw-away epilogue that speaks to the achievements Queen Victoria went on to achieve during her reign. That’s what should have been your 2nd hour of the film Monsieur Vallee! Get rid of the soppy romance and get stuck into the amazing things she did for the people of Britain. That would have been interesting. And I say to you, don’t introduce an interesting mother/daughter dynamic but go nowhere with it. F-rust-rating.

There are other problems of course which could have helped it along but this isn’t a script editing session so I’ll leave my criticisms there. In fact, I will say this, the jewellery and hats are fabulous. No kidding.

So the first half of film gets a B+ maybe even an A. The second half gets a C-. From me. For the girls next to me, it was a total winner clearly. Or maybe they’d just never heard of a lowercase “prince albert” so were able to watch the love scenes without imagining royal vaginal tearing?

Tuesday Timeshift #12: Thirst

Can’t be bothered reading an entire review? Check out my Haiku Film Review. Otherwise keep reading!

A vampire flick from Korean director Chan-wook Park, this is a genre film that stands up to the best of them. It avoids the obvious cliche’s but instead plays up to them – there is no religious intervention, the vampire IS a priest; in a nod to the coffin, at one point the priest hides in a bedroom cupboard flipped on it’s back on the floor; the priest isn’t bitten but infected during a medical trial; he isn’t a killer but must feed or die so he only drinks if it is freely offered and never to death.

Eventually the nature of the vampire takes hold of course and the lusty priest takes a mate, Tae-joo. She is fiery, angry and takes complete ownership of every scene. She’s a fabulous victim turned vixen. In one exquisite scene, in a blindingly white white white interior of an apartment, she struts all arms and legs in an electric blue dress and stillettos; vicious, powerful and brilliantine against the monotone background. Gorgeous!

Where it falls down is in the middle. There’s so much plot shoved into it’s 133 minute running time that it actually gets a little boring about halfway in. Where it needed to ramp up, it slows – gets bogged down in the character building of Tae-joo. Park should have (apparently I’m the voice of wisdom for all film-makers *snigger*) short-handed how miserable her life is so we can get to the bit where she becomes wonderful and terrible.

In the Korean style, it’s a beautiful film to look at. I love the Korean films we get here in Australia. Even with a genre film, they never treat the script or the cinematography as irrelevant. Details are attended to and from the films I’ve seen so far, including this one, there is a strong visceral sense. Space is given to let the the small details speak, like the scary quiet that springs from nowhere when standing alone in the middle of the road at 3am.

It’s funny, it’s gleeful and a teeny bit slow but, whatever! Loved it.

Tuesday Timeshift #11: Winged Creatures

Winged Creatures is an ensemble film by Australian director Rowan Woods (Little Fish, The Boys) that charts the interaction between a group of strangers in the aftermath of a shooting in an LA diner. It’s a film that initially threw me, till I saw the light brothers and sisters!

As we headed home afterwards, my movie-going compatriot asked me what I thought and I gave it a giant “meh”. That got us talking quick smart because he thought it was fabulous. Some of the characters (not all, to be fair) seems like such archetypes – the trailer trash waitress who’s a single mum and tries to shag everything in sight (Kate Beckinsale), the working class middle-aged man who feels a failure (Forest Whitacker) and the doctor who poisons his wife for no good reason (Guy Pearce) just made no sense to me. Nor did the creepy kid (Dakota Fanning).

Then my wise and wizened friend said something that stopped me in my tracks. The lights came on and suddenly, there was someone at home. To mix a metaphor or two. My perceptions as to what the characters were doing was so completely wrong. As a person who sees MANY films, I sat down in that comfy chair with my tank of popcorn and watery cola… and a bucket-load of preconceptions about what certain archetypes do and say and why they do and say these things. In doing so, I missed the subtlety… the gentle picking away at the scab of these supposed cliches and seeing the truth underneath.

With blinkers off, I can say I too am a convert. Winged Creatures is so layered and delicate. Nothing is dropped up in your lap ready for you to swallow down whole. It’s thoughtful and interesting and requires the viewer to set aside their own prejudices and see the individuals within. In hindsight, a marvellous film!

Oh, yeah. It looks real purdy too.