Jun 13, 2011

Sydney Film Festival Review: The Future

Director: Miranda July
Release Date: Australia TBC
Rating: TBC
Runtime: 91 mins

Let it be known that we find Miranda July adorable. Let it also be known that the online reactions to the film following the Sydney Film Festival screening were not all positive; we're here to give an alternative view. 

In her follow-up directorial effort from 2005's Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July takes us inside the lives of 30-something children's dance teacher Sophie (Miranda July) and IT consultant Jason (Hamish Linklater): right at the very moment they feel their lives will change forever.  

These hip, well-meaning Los Angelens are about to make the ultimate sacrifice on their personal and professional lives: adoption. Of Paw Paw, the cat. Sophie and Jason quit their jobs in the countdown to the adoption date in order to live like it's their last month on earth—she to post 30 dances on the internet and upstage her slutty colleagues, he to save the environment by virtue of his new post as door-to-door tree salesman. Our fearful feline narrator, Paw Paw (voiced by July), is the central catalyst—the ball of yarn, if you wish— around which the story unfurls, providing a central point of reference but also some of the film's biggest laugh-out-loud moments.  
Jealousies emerge early on in the process, when Sophie can't finish one whole dance and Jason can't sell a single tree; Sophie believes strongly that Jason is more successful in their quest to be aware and 'notice things', making choices that will alter her future with Jason forever. The themes of deception, truth, and the overarching need to know what happens next are integrated well throughout the film. Jason's conversations with the Moon, in particular, add emotional resonance as well as stylistic quirk to an overall excellent film.  

To the surprise of the audience, the story even gets a little Sci-fi, using time travel to explain the possibilities and consequences the couple now face in light of what the future looks certain to hold. With an indie soundtrack to die for and genuinely offbeat, humorous writing, this hearty dose of July's finely-tuned brand of deliciously awkward will leave viewers with a bittersweet aftertaste. Sadness never looked so good.


The Future is in Official Competition at the 2011 Sydney Film Festival.

Jun 12, 2011

Sydney Film Festival Review: The Troll Hunter (Trolljegeren)

Director: Andre Øvredal
Release Date: Australia TBC
Rating: TBC
Runtime: 103 mins

As the first film in Sydney Film Festival's Freak Me Out programming, The Troll Hunter (original name Trolljegeren) from Norwegian director Andre Øvredal sets standards high for future films in the section. In a throwback to 1999's The Blair Witch Project, the opening titles claim that the material we are about to see is authentic and to be believed on all fronts. Just the very notion of this statement elicits a chortle and thus begins the F.U.N. 

Three students set out to document and film the alleged bear poacher, Hans (comedian and actor Otto Jespersen), but it soon becomes apparent his evasiveness has little to do with the illegal killing of Yogis. Set deep within the Fjords of Norway, the juxtaposition between the beautiful scenery and the deliberately amateurish jump cuts functions convincingly to place The Troll Hunter firmly within the mockumentarygenre.

When our fearless threesome Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud),  Johanna (Johanna Mørck), and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) follow Hans into the woods, their confidence crumbles following a series of guttural groans (like listening to any Slavic language amplified) and flashes of light; Hans comes crashing along the forest floor screaming 'Trooooolllllllllll!'. The Trolljegeren has indeed arrived.

One element The Troll Hunter does particularly well is keeping the humour fresh but recognisable, with smatterings of pop culture references foreign viewers will likely appreciate. A keen Thomas (the presenter of the bunch) admonishes his frustrated colleagues with 'Do you think Michael Moore gave up after the first try?'. Writer and director Andre Øvredal invents his own twisted mythology, species' of troll, and methods for dealing with them: yes, it's confirmed —all signs point to hilarious. 

The visual effects work on this film should also get a mention for quality; the trolls are disgusting, and quite terrifyly, angrier than say...John McEnroe? Yes, that's a pretty accurate account. With lashings of ridiculousity, The Troll Hunter will make you its disciple and then cover you in slime. No matter, because you'll be enjoying smart laughs right the way through. Stay for the credits and you'll be rewarded in the form of a song so fitting, John Williams may just quit his day job. Take a guess in the comments.

The Troll Hunter is playing again at Sydney Film Festival, Event Cinemas, Friday 17 June at 8.30pm. 
P.S. - In baffling news, Chris Columbus (director of Home Alone and the first two Potter films) has bagged the American remake rights to The Troll Hunter, reports Empire. The only foreseeable upside to this news is that it may guarantee timely, widespread distribution of the original.

Jun 8, 2011

Review: Super 8

The kids were confused by the behaviour of the Big Brother housemates.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Release Date: 9 June 2011
Runtime: 112 mins
Depending on how much you frequent the interwebs (our guess is a lot if you've even found this page), take some well-meant advice and forget all of the fanboy nonsense surrounding J.J. Abrams, Lost, Star Trek, et cetera. When you're done over there, embrace the fact that no matter what has come before for this remarkable young Director, Super 8 officially announces him as a talent to watch this decade. 

Frankly, reviewing the film serves little purpose in telling you what the film is about; we're going to try and do J.J. a solid and not reveal any of the particular or juicy details. It's important as an audience member and particularly a reviewer to write about how a film made you react, made you feel at the time. These are the true indicators of passion (be it good or ill) for a viewing experience. 

Allow us to set the scene: it's the late 70s in the small town of Lillian, somewhere in Ohio. There's a steel works, some other commercial industry, a school, and not a whole lot else. School's out for the Summer and five young boys (around age twelve) are in the process of finishing their Super 8 zombie flick, led by Senor Bossypants, Charles (Riley Griffiths). The rest of the crew include our protagonist Joe as make-up artist (Joel Courtney), Cary as explosives guy (Ryan Lee), Martin as leading man (Gabriel Basso), Preston as cinematographer (Zach Mills), and Alice Dainard as leading lady (Elle Fanning). 
While out one balmy evening filming at a train station as the witching hour approaches, the kids bear witness to a crash so terrifying in its magintude and implications--a car runs on to the tracks deliberately to derail it--that the story unfolds at a frenetic, yet appropriate pace. 
As an aside yet an integral part of the development of the characters and story, Joe's Mother passed away a few months before in a tragic steel works accident: this element forms the emotional backbone of the story and allows us to invest time and energy into Joe and his father, Deputy Lamb. It should also be mentioned that to people who grew up in the mid-late 70s or even 80s, this film holds huge nostalgic power via its set dressing, its music references (watch out for a hilarious rendition of 'My Sharona' by the five lads), and its overall naturalistic, slightly gritty picture quality. 
In terms of craft, we're not pretending to know much (if anything at all) about basic principles of cinematography; however, the obvious stylistic decision to have light pierce the top and mid-range sections of the frame in nearly every shot gave the film a spooky, slightly B-movie feel by way of E.T. (yes, that was a deliberate reference to the duly noted Co-producer, Steven Spielberg), which added so much to the overall feeling that the viewer is receiving a gift: something different and a bit special. 

Super 8 is a top notch coming-of-age tale that blends emotion, real humour, and compelling character development with military conspiracies and big fuck off explosions to create a film that is cinematic entertainment at its finest. Whether or not it means to be, it's also a sage reminder that there's something for everyone in the World to really kick ass at and belong to: for Abrams that was making movies and for you it will probably be totally different. Maybe crab farming is your bag. The point is, it's out there and if you look hard enough, so are good entertaining films. Mass respect.


Jun 6, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part I Trailer Arrives

Depending on your outlook (and your age), this is either the moment we've all been waiting for, or the moment we've all been dreading. Yes folks, Stephenie Meyer's harlequin romance vamps are back in all of their glittery glory in the first trailer for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part I. Personally, we feel that calling your work a saga is a bit rich, unless in this case Meyer means 'saga' strictly in the horrid daytime TV Passions sense of the word. Probably not. 

Check out the trailer below and let us know what you think.