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?

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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.

Tuesday Timeshoft #10: Synecdoche NY

Ok first things first.  On route to said film, I spent 15 confusing and brain-confuzzling minutes looking up (a) how to pronounce it and (b) what it means.  Si-neck-dock-ee.  Sounds like Schnecktedy.  If that means anything to you.  And as to (b), well ok… it’s when you substitute a part of the thing to mean the whole of the thing eg saying 20 head instead of 20 cows or 10 souls instead of 10 people.  Alternately it’s when you substitute the thing with the material the thing is made of, for example saying “treading the boards” instead of “on stage”.  Like you cared!

Suffice to say, the name is as elaborate as the film.  It’s classic Charlie Kaufman, this time in his first directorial effort.  Surrealism abounds.  An unexplained burning home, a man who lives beneath the stairs, a fractured and re-spliced timeline, a play within a play within a movie, and a fake city built within a giant rotting glass factory.  

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is Caden Cotard, a mediocre director at a suburban (Schenctady) theatre rehashing classic plays.  His marriage, work and life in general are all faltering when he receives a large grant and begins putting together a play about real life.  Literally.  Caden’s actual life.  The problem with this concept being that it never ends.  The story continues to evolve, the tentacles keep expanding further and further and rehearsals never come to an end.  For around 40 years.  

I call it navel-gazing film-making or art as therapy.  I don’t mean to sound like I didn’t love the film – I really did. It is flawed however.  I kept sort of expecting Caden to “wake up and it was all a dream”. I also struggle with the assumption that there can only be one soulmate and everything else is destined for failure.  Those concerns aside, I enjoyed the process of seeing this film.  The more I think about it, that is.  And think about it… well, I can’t stop.  And I like that in a film, from time to time!  Although, it’s probably best not to see this film if you’re a feeling a little depressed or sad about your life because frankly, Synecdoche is NOT going to help!  For me, this film touched quite a few chords so I was able to connect to it quite well.   

Synecdoche is about expectation and apathy.  Fear.  Love. Disappointment. Parents and parenthood.  All the really big scary things in life.   It does get a little bogged down in all that.  Like I said, it’s not a perfect film but it is an interesting one, if only to get an insight into Kaufman’s tortured mind. We saw flashes of it in the much-lauded Adaptation but with Synecdoche, we leap blindly into the rabbit hole.

Tuesday Timeshift #9: Inglourious Basterds

inglourious_basterds1The trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was released recently.  Ok so the film itself won’t actually be released till August (although it’s in competition at Cannes this month) and I’m not going to review a trailer cos you know, that’s kinda weird.  However, I did manage to come across the script for this little film which, sucker that I am, I had to read.

First things first.

QT cannot spell.   Yes I know the title was intentional, however the rest of the script is equally as poorly spelt. Call me a whining writer myself but I like to think that other writers can, at the very least, employ a spell-checker by the time the final draft is in play.  Whatever.

Secondly, for someone who’s famed for his very quotable dialogue, he’s not a particularly great writer.  There’s no economy of thought and no love for language.  He writes as he sees and his ideas are intriguing (albeit entirely pilfered from others) but a writer he is not. I suspect the genius of QT is in casting.  It is, fortunately for his back pocket, his actors who bring the words to life and make them so memorable.

In this film, we have Brad Pitt playing the only role he’s really any good at – the comedic, hyperactive hick (vis-a-vis Burn After Reading, Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club).  With Diane Kruger, starlet of nonsensical celebre, as a spy and Mike Myers as an aging General, I do believe the script will certainly come to life as expected and QT will make the requisite squillion dollars for the weinsteins yet again.

Sure Inglourious Basterds is not an original idea – it is in fact a remake of a spaghetti western Quel Maledetto Treno Blindatto.  Nothing QT ever does is original but his love and passion for certain aspects of the film ouvre is appealing and he brings them back to us, the educated public, in a way which is terribly au currant and entertaining!  (Pretentious, moi?). Look, Tarantino’s job is to trawl through the past and then bring it to us on a pretty white platter all ready to gobble down.  He does it because he truly loves it so who am I to complain?  Can’t fault him for that cos I ain’t gonna do it that’s for sure!

Tuesday Timeshift: #8 Kings

ian_mcshane-king-gilboaA few months ago I had the good luck to see a screener for a new series called Kings. It was so early that the pilot had yet to be colour graded. Well, finally, it is on air in the US.

Kings is allegorical, it tells the biblical David and Goliath story. But don’t let that put you off. It’s set in a current day alternate-universe New York, now called Gilboa. A world which is eerily clean in a post-apocolyptic sort of way and where neighbouring cities/countries (it’s hard to tell) are at war. A small town boy with a heart of gold finds himself enmeshed in the political intrigue and skullduggery of the Kings court.

It’s a bit like watching an opera, it’s over the top but it’s quite beautiful and the journey is entertaining.  I certainly wanted more when the episode finished. 

Ratings in the US have been poor and I suspect the same will occur here if it ever gets to Australia at all.  I do know that a certain free-to-air channel has the rights however with ratings in the US the way they are, well… we’ll see.   What with 10’s digital channel being sport and Nine’s being for ‘entertainment’ (whatever that means!) and Seven still yet to announce anything… perhaps we’ll start seeing a vehicle for some of these rating’s weaklings through multi-channelling?  

Who knows?!  Anyway, keep an eye out for it.  Kings is worth a watch!