May 29, 2011

Review — X-Men: First Class

Fassbender doing a nice loom as the young Magneto.

What a superb difference an origin story makes to this series. When we had grown tired of Halle Berry's eyes clouding over and James Marsden requiring protective eyewear 24/7, X-Men: First Class takes you back down memory lane to the swinging 60s and the beginnings of Professor X (at the time, simply Charles Xavier, and played by James McAvoy), Magneto (at the time, Erik Lehnsherr, played by the in-demand Michael Fassbender) and Co., before the factions split and shit got real. 

The beginnings of the life of one Erik Lehnsherr provide a powerful opening to a film that isn't as Hollywood as you might suspect. A troubled child in World War II Germany, ripped apart from his family as they're sent off to a death camp, the young Magneto discovers a power within himself to will objects (but particularly metal) to do his bidding. His abominable treatment as a post-War lab rat and the cold-blooded murder he's left in the shadow of create an unwavering lust for revenge, his thoughts impenetrable until he meets Charles many years later.

One of the most pleasing elements of this film, which presents us with an alternate history that ties in with the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, is the willingness to deal with the emotional truths that lead each of the characters to their forms in X-Men (2000), or not (some don't appear in X-Men at all).

Most surprising to those who haven't read the comics may be the friendship between Charles and Raven/Mystique (played in a very naturalistic way by Winter's Bone star Jennifer Lawrence), who first meet as children; however, her DNA and ability to change her appearance mean she continues to look far younger than her best friend. We meet the duo again in Oxford, Charles is teaching and she, masquerading as his sister. His cheesy pick-up lines allowed us a guffaw or two and it's apparent that the writers and cast are both here for a rollicking good time.

However, the film does have a few minor flaws. The pacing, whip-fast for the most part, seems to overuse titles to orient the story and tell the audience where the hell they are, even though most of the settings are fairly obvious (who doesn't know what some of the famous momuments in Washington, DC look like?). Sebastian Shaw's multilingual ability (there were at least four) tiptoe towards the edge of unlikely scenarios, although Kevin Bacon is most evil as Sebastian Shaw; Emma Frost (January Jones) appears to have forgotten her clothing in most every scene. Crikey, if that's what people meant about this having similarities to a Bond film, then sure. 

All jokes aside, Fassbender and McAvoy have a strong screen chemistry, which works best when Xavier's kind, gentle nature prevails to bring out the best in his friend. The big action set pieces are well executed (if not heart in your throat spectacular) and Vaughn and Co. have overall delivered an entertaining, well constructed film packed with solid performances from a mixed lolly bag of seasoned actors and newcomers. Tasty.

X-Men: First Class is a definite return to form for the series and can sit comfortably on Director Matthew Vaughn's shelf of otherwise worthy accomplishments in the geek genre: Stardust and Kick-Ass—the same applies for his co-writer on all three of the most recent projects, Jane Goldman. We think we'll use Professor X and Magneto to demonstrate how we felt about the film on the whole.

"Pip pip, old chap." "Yes, bloody well done."

Rogen & JGL in 50/50: Trailer News

The trailer for 50/50, penned by Will Reiser (his first feature) and directed by Jonathan Levine (indie-auteur of 2008's The Wackness) has arrived, without much of a fuss, but more of a 'hey, what's up' kind of vibe.

You can't underestimate the power of Seth Rogen's bear-like voice and demeanour to simultaneously soothe the senses and elicit giggles. Team that with Joseph Gordon Levitt's unwitting charm and the commonly mishandled subject of cancer and you've got a slow-burn success on your hands, people. This is no My Sister's Keeper: not a screeching Cameron Diaz in sight--rather, an inviting Anna Kendrick as Katie, Adam's (Joseph Gordon Levitt) therapist.

There's currently no Australian release date for this flick, but with the US release slated for 30 September 2011, it can't be too far away.

Fincher's 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' Teaser Trailer Hits

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander: punk heroine.
Oh how we've railed against this remake, telling anyone who'll listen that it's just too soon: the sort of thing you say to the person about to crack an inappropriate joke about a recently deceased celebrity. Yes, Fincher is undoubtedly a very intelligent man and in our opinion, a brilliant Director. Hell, he was practically crowned King of Hollywood with last year's The Social Network.

That said, the brand-spanking new red band teaser trailer for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has hit the interwebs early (so early, in fact, that it appears to have been filmed in the cinema with a hand-held). The trailer is incredibly fast paced and action packed in that 1:39 time period - fairly dissimilar in composition to the original Swedish trailer (but not entirely dissimilar to the original film). The mood they're capturing looks very grim indeed, however, the cinematography and overall feel of the film seem to largely mirror the original. Which begs the question, why? 

As with Let the Right One In vs. Let Me In, we have now shifted position from 'not seeing it in protest and out of respect for the original filmmaker's vision' to 'seeing it, because despite the obvious too soon element, it could actually be pretty awesome'. Check out Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara below in the first look at David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. 


May 26, 2011

Review - The Hangover: Part II

Director: Todd Phillips
Release Date: 26 May 2011
Runtime: 102 mins

Did y'all see The Hangover? Well, sure you did. It's mystifyingly difficult to find someone who didn't and won't, but very few people care to examine why they went in the first place. The actual funny part is, we all know what to expect. In terms of reviewing the film, you needn't worry about reporting on elements such as cinematography, story, or emotion. Scratch those and focus on the realities. How does one narrate a long sequence of—quite honestly—flat dick jokes and spin it into something called a feature film? Todd Phillips probably teaches a course in it at UCLA.

In The Hangover: Part II we join the 'Wolfpack' (yes, it deserves quotation marks - what a bunch of pussies) again, this time in Thailand for Stu's (Ed Helms) wedding to Lauren (Jamie Chung), who seems like a genuinely sweet girl in the five minutes of screentime afforded to her character. Or any of the women, for that matter. Feminist rant? Not really. We get that this is a movie about guys being guys. Frankly, if we knew a bunch of guys this stupid in real life, we think the odds of Darwinism triumphing over their pea-sized grey matter would be ten to one. Just sayin'.

Was this just Warner Bros. trying to cash in on a certifiable money spinner without a decent attempt to one-up the previous effort or imbue it with some modicum of originality? Will millions of people the world over still go to see it? As sure as we are that Tim Burton will work with Johnny Depp again, yes. Given this eventuality, we feel it only fair to say that there were moments—mere moments, when we laughed out loud. Phil (Bradley Cooper) dropping the C-bomb at Stu's bachelor brunch, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) accidentally shooting the roof of a Thai club to smithery smithereens, Stu sitting astride the stern of a Thai water taxi singing a sad, sad ditty about the groups travails thusfar: all very funny.

Really though, The Hangover: Part II can be likened to a drunken night out and the hangover that follows: very fuzzy around the edges during, allowing the participants of the previous night's festivities to recollect events in a way that inexplicably and against all will, purports to have been the best thing ever. This doesn't hark back to exploitation cinema. If it did, it would have some balls about it and showcase some of the funnier situations relegated to the film stills that roll with the closing credits. At the risk of impersonating a whiny three-year old, whhhhhhyyyyyy didn't you film that stuff?


May 17, 2011

Tintin Teaser Trailer: And the Crowd Goes Wiiiild

Ahhh, we've been traversing this chilly Sydney evening, from Walsh Bay to Mosman, from Fatima Bhutto's opening address at the Sydney Writer's Festival to the Tintin teaser trailer. Fuck yes, Tintin. Hey, we didn't say our brows were high, just that we had some.

Yes people, the very first trailer for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson (a dream team, if ever one existed) is indeed on the interwebs. The motion capture technology creates stunningly crisp images; married with the braying, dramatic soundtrack (thank you John Williams, master of the blockbuster movie score) and intriguing glimpses at the characters and the mystery surrounding said unicorn, this first-class trailer leaves us eager for more. 

Et tu, nerds?

May 15, 2011

Beastie Boys, Hells Yeah: Why Music Videos Matter

There are few bands who take such pride in their work (and have such an obvious love for film) as to commission a 30 minute short in the lead up to the release of their new album (in this case, Hot Sauce Committee: Part 2). The Beastie Boys are one such band and oh boy, should they be pleased as pie, or whatever it is MCs eat, with the results. 

Fight for Your Right (Revisited) is not simply an exercise in record company marketing, although we don't doubt this short would have busted first week sales wide open. It's a celebration of fun, hard work, and the enduring beats--yes, we realise we're white, but so are they--of New York's Beastie Boys. 

Written and directed by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (Ad-Rock), we pick up where the story in Fight for Your Right left off and follow The Beastie Boys of yester-years, Ad-Rock (Elijah Wood), MCA (Danny McBride), and Mike D (Seth Rogen)--out of the party they've clearly just trashed. To that end, we're back in early-80s New York, in the company of brownstones, bodegas, and terriflyingly brick-like police cars. "I think we can all agree we're on the same team here and that's the no pie no sledgehammer team," says the young Mike D to an uptight Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci, who are returning to their apartment and rightly concerned for its continued equilibrium.

The boys rock out onto the street, intent on picking up more beers and perhaps, but less importantly, some breakfast. It must be said that the editing, as well as the story and screenplay, is truly well-refined. The use of rewind and slow-mo takes in just the right places fit in perfectly with what is first up a remixed version of the Beastie's new single, 'Make Some Noise'--a song so catchy, mind you, you'll find it difficult to get out of your head for days.

Having robbed the bodega, accosted a bunch of richies in a cafe for champagne, been hit by a limo (MCA) and then dragged into it (all of them) and drugged by metal chicks (Chloe Sevigny, Kirsten Dunst, and Maya Rudolph), the wayward MCs are at their halfway mark: out on the pavement and tripping on LSD, having just 'seen' a certain anchor man dressed in a traditional Mexican costume, standing on top of the limo, going to town with a stick and cowbell. Awesome. 

Then, all of a sudden, silence, except for the howl of wolves in the back ground and the wind picking up, that is. The street in front of them is deserted, all but three older men materialising from a Delorean (but probably not THE Delorean): The Beastie Boys version 2.0, in the form of Will Ferrell (Ad-Rock), Jack Black (MCA), and John C. Reilly (Mike D). A challenge to a dance contest is layed down, for shiz. "All right guess what? I get what you're layin' down, you future fuckers. And it's on. I'm tripping my balls off right now," says the young MCA. 

The sextet start their epic dance battle to another track from Hot Sauce Committee: Part 2, 'Too Many Rappers', which has to be seen in all of its cracked-out comedic glory to be believed. The last title and statement, 'To be continued, check back in 25 years' serves as a testament to the longevity and development of a band who have always been ahead of their time and yet, simultaneously relevant. And kids, you don't get much more relevant than Seth Rogen and freaking Frodo. 
If Hollywood hasn't already cottoned on to the fact that Adam Yauch should be writing full-length comedy screenplays, well, they hot damn will. Fight for Your Right (Revisited) has parties, girls, crime, nerd references, celebrity cameos up the yin yang, and Jack Black dancing: we for one wouldn't change a single busted beer can. 

****1/2 (shiny, shiny stars)

May 11, 2011

Review: Burke & Hare

Pegg was mighty unimpressed with Serkis's hipster hat. For shame.
Director: John Landis
Release Date: 12 May 2011
Rating: M
Runtime: 91 mins

The mighty, they have fallen: and probably into a grave of their own digging. William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis) are conmen of sorts. We meet the hapless pair on the streets of Edinburgh in 1828, trying to sell miracle moss from bonny Donegal to anyone stupid enough to take pause. Apparently, not such a convincing act, as the cheese mould is discovered in seconds and the deadend duo are chased over the cobblestones by riotous villagers. It's a new plan that needs a hatchin' and unfortunately for them, brains only pass in their vicinity in the form of fresh corpses, as opposed to getting thoroughly acquainted with the living, breathing sponge most of us use daily. 

Their new enterprise as grave robbers, which they come across by mistake, is sadly shortlived. What ho? Graverobbing a fun pastime? Not exactly what we're trying to say here, just that the synopsis of the film was entirely misleading in representing how Burke & Hare come across their bodies: bodies sold profitably (in a time of medical discovery and scholarship) to the Edinburgh Medical College. 

Against everyone's better judgement, not least the screenwriting team Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft (who worked on both St Trinian's films together before this), Pegg and Serkis start giving people a nudge, and then a more definite push towards death, perhaps keeping with the notion that if you play it light hearted, everyone will forget it's murder you're committing. 'Oh look a puppy!' says Darth Vader as he draws out (draws out, fires up?) his Lightsaber and proceeds to cut off your arm. Mmmm, that'll work. If this film had been penned as a straight-up black comedy, perhaps we could commit more to the idea. However, the current even balance of light and dark only serves to confuse the viewer and doesn't allow us to invest in the concept as a whole. 

What's more, the laughs come sporadically: like having half-popped bubble wrap on the ground and stomping about willy nilly, you're not always guaranteed a success. Pegg is still loveable and Burke as a character has many redeeming qualities, but Serkis lacks the charisma he usually radiates like an iceberg poking out of a black, Arctic sea. The addition of big names in British cinema and comedy such as Bill Bailey and Tim Curry do little to drag this confused comedy out of the murky patch of bog marsh it seems content to reside in.

John Landis, who in his early career directed popular horror and comedies including The Blues Brothers. An American Werewolf in London, and Three Amigos (not to mention the music video for Thriller, possibly the only music video ever made to share popularity equally with critical acclaim) is actually responsible for the direction of Burke & Hare. A shame, really, when you consider his previous achievements in popular cinema. Burke & Hare? Non non, pas de tut. Burke & Shmeh. 


May 2, 2011

Trailer: One Day

Lone Scherfig's forthcoming film (she of An Education fame) One Day, starring Anne
Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, finally has a trailer. We've been looking forward to a peek at this for some time and the story element does not disappoint: the evolution of a relationship over twenty years is fascinating and full of charm. However, we are lft wondering if it wouldn't have been better to cast a British actress in the role of Emma. Hathaway did a good job in Being Jane, but seems to falter on the accent and phrasing of a modern, middle-class British woman.

Sturgess is interesting enough, but will one bodged accent ruin a film and ultimately take away a role from a British actress who could have done a highly convincing job? Also, what's with the annoying American voiceover? This is a British film, is it not? Are you responsible for this, Random House Films?

May 1, 2011

Tarantino in for Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino ala Hoodie, Photo Copyright Zach Zupancic.
For those who've been waiting for an announcement about Tarantino's next project after Inglourious Basterds, look no further. Variety exclusively reported this morning that cult Director Quentin Tarantino has penned and will direct Django Unchained for The Weinstein Company. Django Unchained will be a Western (freakin' A), but we'd be interested to see if buddy Robert Rodriguez would come on board to crew. The pair of them together on a Western would be an unstoppable filmmaking force. Variety's report also contained information that the front page of the script had in fact been leaked online, which you can see at Collider until the takedown notice is undoubtedly served. 

Our thoughts? Can't wait for more plot details (but not too many - that's the beauty of a Tarantino production) and for someone to throw us some meagre scraps of casting news. 

Trailer News: Transformers 3 Stomps In

If Michael Bay ever learns subtlety, we'll eat our own feet. That said, the full length trailer for Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon is visually dynamic. This time it's World War III, Transformers style, and Le Beouf & Co. are battling with the knowledge that the 1966 moon landing was also the location of an event of national importance. Government conspiracy + robots + a former Victoria's Secret model will probably equal success for Bay and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg.

Will you be lining up to watch things go boom boom with Optimus and friends for a third time running?

Review : Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil (3D)

Red (Panettiere) attempting the innocent look in Hoodwinked Too!

Director: Mike Disa
Release Date: 5 May 2011
Rating: TBC
Runtime: TBC

This sequel to Hoodwinked!, which is a mash-up of Little Red Riding Hood (without the bad character makeup seen in the recent Catherine Hardwicke adaptation) and Hansel & Gretel. Really, the film just takes the characters and picks elements from each story to spin a modern tale fit for your little ones. Many, many of them. Our decision to attend the preview where, suspiciously, four tickets had been issued instead of the regular two should have alerted us to what was to come. What was it that Dylan Moran said about children being like midget drunks? Oh right, just that.

Red (Hayden Panettiere) is off in some far-flung location training with the Sisters of the Hood. Deep. Well no, but kind of funny. Things go awry during a tactical mission where Granny (Glenn Close) and the Wolf (Patrick Warburton) are attempting to save Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Poehler) from the Witch and a finer pair of hilariously stereotyped German children, you won't find anywhere else.  Granny is kidnapped along with the kids and the H.E.A (Happily Ever After) Agency calls Red back from her training to save the day.

The integration of 3D here is seamless: that said, you wouldn't notice if it wasn't there either and it doesn't necessarily blow minds like it's meant to. As far as animated children's fare goes, all is well up to a certain point. Some of the jokes are really funny, for example, when the Wolf says of Witch Verushka's gingerbread house (Joan Cusack, who was just born for voice acting), 'It's against housing codes to live in any dessert bigger than a cupcake', the cinema just exploded in cackles. The Yokel Goat (Benjy Gaither) playing the banjo is a nice touch, as he uses every opportunity to make up nonsensical songs about his current situation: a troubadour, if you will.

The only downfall here is the rather heavy-handed message about kids eating right and exercising at the end of the film. The writers really could have left it at 'You have the right to a treadmill. If you do not have a treadmill, one will be provided for you' when the H.E.A Agency arrest the now gigantor Hansel and Gretel.

Even though our viewing experience was more like feeding time at the Zoo (but louder), Hoodwinked Too is light-hearted, genuinely amusing entertainment the whole family can watch together.


Trailer & Pic News: This Week in Fantasy

Remember when we posted this back in January? Well, now Summit have released the second pic from the forthcoming film Breaking Dawn, starring every 16-year-old's favourite vamp/werewolf. Behold, a buff Taylor Lautner running in the rain. We can't remember exactly what scene this is supposed to be, but it looks like the werewolf has now become some sort of messenger-dog. 

Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black, photo Copyright Summit Entertainment.

Next up on the agenda, and really, how could it have taken us this long to report this, but the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is here. Yes, on the interwebs. Sorry, Harry Part 1, but this trailer foreshadows a film that is ultimately more exciting than you. We know that due to the expository nature of the story that had to be told in Part 1 that it was always meant to be more of an 'oh, that's why' fitting-together-of-the-puzzle-pieces type of film. However, the trailer for Part 2 looks equal parts chilling, emotional, and exciting. Ralph Fiennes is truly terrifying and it looks as though Radcliffe will finally get to come into his own as an actor in the final installment.

Can July 14 come soon enough? We think not! Your thoughts are required below.