A place where I jot down my musings on art, life, politics, philosophy and culture.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Movies I'm Excited About (October/November)

Thanks to various complications and commitment, (being down south for three weeks being the primary culprit) I was unable to update my list last month. So, I now present to you a condensed of my discoveries over the last eight weeks. Firstly though...

A Small Portion Of Random Movie News

Yes, the rumours are running wild in Hollywood that Ridley Scott, director of AlienGladiator and Black Rain is primed to direct an adaptation of Monopoly. Where the hell this is going to go is anyone's guess, but I'm looking forward to a heart-breaking moral tale of capitalism and greed from the perspective of a shoe who dreams of owning a string of hotels that charge insane levels of rent.

Mr. Monopoly

In other news, Arrested Development: The Movie is apparently closer than ever to being greenlit. The show's creator Mitch Hurwitz is pushing hard for the feature's production and all the cast is keen to get on board. This could be interesting or, like so many other small-screen big-screen adaptations, it could be a colossal waste of time.

John Boorman of Deliverance fame is working on a new animated Wizard of Oz movie. Now before you start foaming at the mouth, keep in mind the story has been told many many times before cinematically and one more shot at it isn't going to destroy the classic 30's movie. The concept art looks really interesting and this will reportedly stay closer to the spirit of the novel.

A prequel of X-Men (no, not the Magneto or Wolverine movies), is currently in the works, with rumours of it's name being X-Men: The First Class and it will supposedly deal with our core team of mutants as they first attend Xavier's school. Here's the kicker, it will be written and quite possibly directed by Joe Schwartz, the genius behind Gossip GirlChuck and The OC.

Also, the remake of George R. Romero's The Crazies, not a particularly great movie itself, is finally on more solid ground, with it's lead being confirmed as none other than Timothy Olyphant, the bad guy in Die Hard 4.0, the good guy in Hitman and Sheriff Bullock in a little show called Deadwood. 

Terrance Malick is reportedly thinking of putting the tale of Gawain and the Green Knight on the big screen. Although this rumour comes from Jim Caviezel so take from that a fair dose of crazy. Regardless, if executed in Malick's traditional lyrical meditative style, it could be one of the most hypnotic movies ever made. Keep an eye out for more news on this. 

Marc Forster, a director who seems to have enjoyed jumping from genre to genre any chance he gets in his brief career, (Monster's BallFinding NeverlandStayQuantum of Solace) has been signed as the man to helm the anticipated adaptation of Max Brook's zombie epic,World War Z. God only knows how he'll work with the material, but I'm hoping for all-out undead insanity.

On to the movies...

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Where The Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze
USA

After years and years of this project famously being delayed, threatened with the axe and all around banished to the bowels of development hell, Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are is finally preparing to make it's way into cinemas. It promises to contain almost no CGI at all, dazzling cinematography and bright warm colours. I look forward to a heartening, weird and fantastic story of a boy and his imagination. Next to Gondry, no-one but Jonze could pull it off.

No trailer as of yet but check out the stills.



The Pleasure Of Being Robbed
Directed by Josh Safdie
USA

A quiet, quirky and interesting little movie, 24 year old Josh Safdie's debut, The Pleasure Of Being Robbed, which was produced and filmed mostly by himself and fellow members of a New York art collective, tells the story of a young woman (Eleanore Hendricks) who either suffers from kleptomania, or just takes intense pleasure out of re-appropriating other people's stuff. It was shot guerrilla style on the streets of Boston and New York and features a cast of non-actors. All press concerning this movie has hailed it as a wonderfully funny, bizarre and refreshingly unsentimental character study.


Slumdog Millionaire
Directed by Danny Boyle
UK/India

It seems that once again Danny Boyle has proven why is consistently one of England's most interesting directors. Much like Marc Forster and Michael Winterbottom, he seems unrestrained by any genre. He's had his share of blinding successes, (Trainspotting, Millions) and even his failures have been interesting in their own ways (Sunshine, The Beach). This film has garnered an insane amount of critical goodwill and has smashed every festival it's been screened in.

Slumdog Millionaire begins with a young, uneducated, poverty-stricken man named Jamal (Dev Patel - yes that's the guy from Skins) on the Indian edition of the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, having responded to every question correctly barring the final one. Before he can answer the last query, the show runs out of time. He is then taken by the show's security police, (led by the ineffable Ifrran Khan) and interrogated to the point of torture, with the producers of the show unconvinced that a simple person from the slums could have possibly given all the correct answers. The film then proceeds to dive in and out of Jamal's past, revealing along the way the horrors of poverty in India, his life-long love for Latika (Anil Kapoor) and how the events of this young man's life have provided him with the answers to every question of the show.


Dear Zachary
Directed by Kurt Kuenne
USA

A film that has been lauded as one of the most emotionally raw documentaries produced in the past decade, Dear Zachary begins as a video chronicle by Kurt Kuenne of his best friend's Andrew Bagby's life, following his brutal murder, in the hopes of giving Bagby's newly born son a chance at knowing his father. The first part of the movie deals with a series of interviews with Andrew Bagby's closest friends and associates as they share all the amazing and joyous experiences they shared with this almost universally beloved individual. However, over the course of the filming, it is revealed that the murderer of Bagby is most likely his ex-wife, who flees to Canada with their child. What follows is a harrowing story of the ineptitude of the Canadian legal system and the extraordinary tenacity of Andrew's parents as they suffer emotional torment from their son's murderer in their battle for custody of the last remnant of their child.


12
Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov
Russia

One of the more interesting remakes of recent times, Mikhalov's (of Burnt By The Sun fame) 12 is a reworking of Lumet's classic 12 Angry Men, with the narrative transposed to Russia during the Chechnyan Civil War. Set almost entirely inside a converted school gym, the film follows the course of deliberation as the jurors weigh the balance of a young man's life. Each juror carries with them a history and a motive, which colours their verdict and their reasoning. The course of justice and Russian history is placed under the microscope in this explosive and tense character study.


The Tale Of Despereaux
Directed by Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen
USA

I'm not for a second going to pretend this is on here for any other reason than my bizarre love affair with the original book. Yes it's another story about a heroic mouse, crossed with elements of Dumbo and The Secret Of NIMH. Just take my word for it that the tale is a doozy and it's great fun. That's only my opinion of the book of course, for all we know the studio has bastardised the novel beyond recognition I Am Legend style. Watch and wait.


Christmas On Mars
Directed by Wayne Coyne and George Salisbury
USA

The Flaming Lips direct and star in an insane trippy film about colonisers on Mars trying to celebrate Christmas. It's freaky ridiculousness with surreal bursts of vibrant colour amidst high contrast black and white, techno-organic imagery and a weird droning soundtrack. Only the brave or incredibly high need apply.


JCVD
Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri
France/Belgium/USA

I know I know, a recommendation for a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that isn't Universal Soldier? Hasn't he been irrelevant and churning out awful dtv stuff for the best part of a decade and a half? That is exactly the point of both this film and my curiosity. A truly loopy self-reflexive expose of Van Damme, this movie is gaining a fair amount of critical acclaim for truly allowing the man to deliver more than badly staged kicks to the head. The film follows the characted of JCVD as played by JCVD. He's a washed-up third rate action star who is much worse at combat than his screen appearances suggest, is broke and has lost custody of his daughter after a bitter divorce. Completely demoralized and with nowhere else to go, Van Damme returns home to Brussels to stay with his parents. Needing money he takes a trip to a nearby bank and is suddenly caught up in a robbery/hostage situation. The police believe he is the one responsible and a media circus ensues.


My Name Is Bruce
Directed by Bruce Campbell
USA

Keeping in the theme of self-reflexive movies about faded movie stars, try this one. My Name Is Bruce revolves around cult film hero Bruce Campbell as he struggles with annoying fans and terrible movie gigs. One day he is approached by a group of yokels to come and defend their town from a hideous demon. Mistaking their plea for help as a lucrative film job, he happily signs on. Only when he arrives does he realise that there is no movie and his previous acting experience leaves him completely unprepared for facing anything actually dangerous. It looks hilarious.


I Come With The Rain
Directed by Tran Ahn Hung
Vietnam/Korea/USA

No that's not a misprint. That is the same Tran Ahn Hung who gave us the incredible Cyclo and Scent Of Green Papaya. He has completely switched gears and is making a psychological thriller about a shattered ex-cop (Josh Hartnett) who is hired by a billionaire to retrieve his son. It's a blend of horror, surrealism and detective story, set in some amazing locations and directed by a certified genius. Yes the promo voice-over is dodgy, but just look at that cinematography. Oh and by the way, the music is by Radiohead. 

Here's a 5 minute promo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkqvoEoya3s

Die Schnieder Kranheit
Directed by Javier Chillon
Spain
A mock-documentary short of a 50's educational piece about a viral outbreak caused by a monkey from space crash-landing in Germany. What else do you need to know?



The Forbidden Door
Directed by Joko Anwar
Indonesia
I really liked Joko Anwar's Janji Joniit was one of the funniest comedies I'd seen in years, the acting was all top notch and the production values were great. It really opened my eyes up to what our closest neighbour has to offer cinematically. Now Anwar is trying his hand at comedy horror and it looks like he's hit it out of the park. A famous sculptor's life starts to unravel after he receives mysterious messages from somebody desperately seeking his help.



The Wrestler
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
USA

The critics have been going nuts for this movie, by all accounts it's the movie that Sin City promised to be. That is, Mickey Rourke's official comeback. It's somewhat of an odd choice for Aronofsky, who shot to fame with his intensely inventive dissections of thought, emotion and meaning with PiRequiem For A Dream and The Fountain. I have to admit that with all three movies the scripts were, in my opinion, underdeveloped and lacked that killer punch. Well this time he's interpreting somebody else's screenplay and how he copes with no crazy editing or special effects is anyone's guess. This is already hotly anticipated as an Oscar winner in at least the best actor and best film catagories.


The Class
Directed by Laurent Cantet
France

A film that takes place exclusively within a single classroom, The Class is being lauded as one of the best films about the relationship between teacher and student ever made. The character of Francios is a teacher who believes in being straight with his class and in giving everyone a chance to prove themselves, but as he comes face to face with the realities of class divisions, racial tensions, cultural misunderstandings and sexual politics he is forced to question the validity of what he is trying to do and despairs at ever being able to give the kids in the school anything like a good education. The teenagers themselves are at first hostile to Francios, but as the film progresses they develop a more complex relationship with their unsually honest mentor.


The Broken
Directed by Sean Ellis
UK
I was really intrigued by Ellis' previous film Cashback, though I think it went off the rails a bit in the second act. That said, there's no denying it was a very well shot and edited film and dealt with some intelligent issues. This next film looks to me like Ellis has grown in leaps and bounds since then, as this looks to be an extraordinary psycho thriller. A young woman spots her doppelganger on the streets of London and we follow her as she descends into paranoid madness as her personality and identity utterly collapse. The trailer is a Japanese sub job, but it's a very well cut piece.



Mum and Dad
Directed by Steven Sheil
UK
Familial horror is a subject that is often attempted and rarely done well. Steven Sheil's film concerns a young immigrant to Britain who is offered a place to stay by a friendly pair of siblings. She takes them up, hoping for a new life in the UK. Unfortunately for her, the home she has been invited to is in fact run by two certified psychotics who chain her up and torture her, forcing her to obey nonsensical and cruel "rules of the house". It reminds me a lot of one of my favourite quirky horror flicks, Barraccuda, which had a young man "adopted" by the nightmare old man Monsiuer Clement and his mannequin wife. 



First Squad
Directed by Yoshiharu Ashino
Russia/Japan

If you'll remember from one of my earlier blogs, I have a huge obsession with the work of Studio 4c, one of the most inventive and crazy awesome animation houses in Japan. They specialise in pushing the format in new and ridiculous directions any chance they get. Well here's a feature produced in a joint project with a Russian production house that portrays the Nazi-Soviet war of the 1940's in anime glory. I don't really know what all those sword fights are about but it looks really really damn good. The soundtrack is by none other than DJ Krush and it promises to be a trippy and fascinating exploration of the Soviet war effort. Again, it'll never see conventional release in Australia, like everything else 4c produces. WHY DISTRIBUTORS WHY?!



The Clone Returns To Homeland
Directed by Kanj Nakajima
Japan
Already being touted as one of the most Tarkovsky-esque films made this year, The Clone Returns To Homeland is a masterfully well-shot science fiction exploration of identity and spirituality. Kohei Takamara is an astronaut who dies whilst working. With permission, scientists clone his body to, in a sense, ressurect him. However, the "new" Kohei only carries his childhood memories and relives the death of his twin through drowning ceaselessly. When he discovers his deceased former self, he mistakes this for his long dead brother and sets out on journey back to his hometown. It looks stunning.



A Christmas Tale
Directed by Arnuad Desplechin
France

I'm simultaneously very much looking forward to this film and secretly wishing I could hate it, thanks to one of my most loathed wanky film critics, Andrew O'Hehir, touting Desplechin as the greatest living film-maker in Europe. That said, I have to concede that Kings and Queen andThe Sentinel were both great movies and Desplechin is definately extremely talented. This film is nothing like a heart-warming sappy morality tale usually typified by such a title, but is in fact a somewhat experimental effort analysing the characters in a family, their secrects, lies, pains, heartaches, fears and loves over the course of Christmas. There are moments of levity and moments of sadness. Roger Ebert describes the movie as one which switches tones and approaches freely, shifting our perspective and our sympathies at the drop of a hat. Very interesting. And what a cast!


Pray The Devil Back To Hell
Directed by Gini Reticker
Libera/USA

Already in the shortlist for oscar nominated documentaries, Pray The Devil Back To Hell captures the heroic efforts by the women of Libera, both Christian and Muslim, to end the cycle of violence and despair in their country. In the wake of decades of bloodshed, a united front of females was formed which opposed the seemingly endless corruption and murder. Instead of violence, the union promoted peace and tolerance and we watch as over the course of the years the movement grows in strength and purpose, to the point where even the gun-crazed militias start to listen.


Astroboy
Directed by David Bowers
Japan/USA

It's Astroboy in CGI, with Freddie Highmore and Nicholas Cage! Yeah I know, but it could be good! Maybe!? Sure thing! Let's go! *engages rocket boots*


Coraline
Directed by Henry Selick
USA

Neil Gaiman's Coraline was one messed-up book and Henry Selick is known for his messed up animation. All logic points to this being crazy great. Let's have a looksie. The blend of stop motion and cgi is getting pretty seamless, I had trouble spotting the difference in the trailer.

Anyway, Coraline is about a young girl who discovers a portal to an alternate reality where here parents are extra nice to her and she gets pretty much everything she wants. There's just one small catch. Everyone has buttons for eyes and pretty soon they're keen to sew a pair onto Coraline's corneas.


Black Dynamite
Directed by Scott Sanders
USA
Yes that's exactly right. Yes it is amazingly awesome. Holy Christ I want to see it now.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Movies I'm Excited About (September)

Milk
Directed by Gus Van Sant
USA



The 70's documentary The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk still stands as one of the greatest documentaries in the history of cinema, but the true story has never been adapted into a movie. I'm intensely interested in seeing how Van Sant pulls this somewhat conventional narrative off after finishing his more esoteric projects.

For those who don't know, Harvey Milk was the first openly homosexual man to run for public office, who was assassinated by Dan White, the city supervisor. It's an amazing and heartbreaking story and we'll have to see if Van Sant can pull it off. I'm betting an emphatic yes.


Synecdoche New York
Directed by Charlie Kaufman
USA 



Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a depressive theatre director losing his automatic body functions (breathing, heart rate etc) who mounts his most ambitious project yet. Determined to make an epic about the painful mediocrity of everyday life, he stages a production inside a gigantic warehouse, building a mock-up New York and casting thousands to live out the narrative threads he assigns them. The play spirals out of control and the years begin to fall away and Caden must come to terms with not only the final outcome of his masterpiece, but the overall direction of his life and humanity.

Of course you all know Charlie Kaufman for his screenplays for films such as Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovitch and Adaptation. Now we finally get to see what his directing chops are like. Will he be a superb success, like Coppola and Kurosawa before him? Or will his lack of experience in creatively managing the somewhat more industrial process of film-making produce a massive failure? One way or another this movie looks fascinating. The broad outline is wonderfully bizzare, the cast is first rate and the cinematography is by legend Frederic Elmes, the man who shot Eraserhead and The Ice Storm.


Ballast
Directed by Lance Hammer
USA



Bela Tarr comes to America! Well maybe not, but the Hungarian director's stylistic fingerprints are all over this feature debut by Lance Hammer, which is a quiet and haunting picture about people attempting to piece together their lives after trauma. I have to say the cinematography looks great and the rhythm of the trailer is somewhat seductive. Lets see if it ever gets Australian release.


Sukiyaki Western Django
Directed by Takeshi Miike
Japan



Try and look past Quentin Tarantino's grating presence and consider just how amazingly crazy this movie could be. A western, filmed by Takeshi Miike (The Happiness of the Katakuris, Visitor Q, Dead or Alive, Audition, Ichi the Killer etc etc etc), where the weapons are entirely era inappropriate and everyone speaks phonetic English. It could be the greatest thing ever.

The plot is meaningless. The action is all. Embrace the weirdness.


Let The Right One Come In
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Sweden



Coming off the back of the Texas Fantastic Fest with major awards and stellar reviews. Let The Right One Come In is Sweden's answer to all the simpering and neutered vampire fiction out there. It almost plays as a bizzaro version of the insanely popular female romantic fantasy series Twilight, with a young (seriously young) boy falling in love with an ancient vampire who looks like a little girl. This is horror played straight and all indications are that it's one that doesn't shy away from the ugly side of being a creature of the night. Despite appearances, vampires are not human. The film has already been slated for an American remake but I can't see why beyond the idiocy of the commercial marketplace. The production values look great. Highly recommended.


Sad Dream
Directed By Kim Ki-Duk
South Korea



Kim Ki-Duk is one of the great minimalist masters out there at the moment and after 3-Iron I'm prepared to go anywhere with him. I'll admit that I haven't seen his two latest efforts, but this new film looks some kind of incredible. A man discovers that an unknown woman is sleepwalking his dreams every night. Good stuff.



Waltz With Bashir
Directed by Air Folman
Israel



A surreal and visually dazzling exploration of war, guilt and memory, Waltz With Bashir utilises it's animation not just as a gimmicky portrayal of dreamstate, ala Waking Life, but actively explores the more emphatic tropes the style has to offer. It tells the story of an ex soldier from Israel who is haunted by his inability to remember his actions during the Lebanon War, in the form of violent dreams. He seeks out and interviews other soldiers and, from their testimonies, slowly re-creates his own experiences. There has been a strong push for more "adult" animation during the last five years or so. Let's hope it's a trend that continues.


The Good, The Bad and The Weird
Directed by Kim Ji-Woon
South Korea



This is getting slightly ridiculous. I can't believe how many westerns Asia is pumping out at the moment. Noodle Westerns are in apparently. Anyway, this is another film which did gangbusters at the Fantastic Fest. It won the audience award so you know it's at least got to be a damned good time.

Essentially a remake of Sergio Leone's original classic, TGTBTW twists the bizarreness level up to eleven with explosions, iconic dialogue and amazing action set-pieces aplenty. Well worth your interest. Keep an eye out for it.



The Soloist
Directed by Joe Wright
UK/USA



So far Joe Wright has shown himself to be an intensely focused and technically accomplished director who can pull great performances out of his cast in the service of classic adaptations with features such as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice. I kind of hate how he abuses Bach's most overplayed Cello Suite in the trailer, but there's no denying this looks to be an impressive and no doubt Oscar-hopeful feature. God bless the resurrection of Robert Downey Jr's career.

The film tells the story of an intensely gifted musician who also happens to be schizophrenic and the journalist who discovers him and crusades to get him the help and recognition he deserves.


Fear[s] of the Dark
Directed by Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti and Richard McGuire
France



Another fascinating exporation of the vast potential animation has to offer the cinematic world. This series of shorts exploring the notion of fear and horror has been given intensely positive reviews and is sure to cast a bit more light onto the criminally unheard of careers of graphic masters such as Lorenzo Mattotti.


Martyrs
Directed by Pascal Laugier
France



Another entry into the growing genre of New French Horror. This is a film which has gotten a lot of good press and has generated waves of controversy reagrding it's content. I don't want to go too much into it as the surprise and "fun" of the film develops from it's plot twists. Suffice to say, very bad things happen and people go very very crazy.



Revolutionary Road
Directed by Sam Mendes
USA



I'm both excited and horrified by the notion of this movie being made. Richard Yates' novel is something which has stayed with me since I first read it five years ago. It not only enormously shaped my view of the contemporary world, but gave voice to a lot of the gnawing existential problems that I felt lying under the surface of a lot of things. That someone has the audacity to take what is essentially a book that lives purely on the vibrant strength of Yates' narrative voice and transpose it into action without comment is a scary, yet intriguing notion. We'll see how it pans out. Mendes has shown he can do suburban angst well with American Beauty, but whether he can handle something as complex and beautiful as the lonliness of the human soul is something else entirely.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Movies I'm Excited About (August)

"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"
Directed by David Fincher
USA
I'm not obsessed with Brad Pitt, honest. Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film details the life and times of a man who ages backwards, starting life as a wizened 90-year old and steadily growing younger as he passes through time. David Fincher, (the guy behind Fight Club and Se7en), is a director who at the very least makes visually arresting kinetic cinema. The special makeup effects look great and the casting is truly excellent. Plus the notion of falling in love with someone evn though your body is destined to infantalise whilst your partner rots away is a pretty potent one.

Trailer (HD only): http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/thecuriouscaseofbenjaminbutton/

"Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist"
Directed by Peter Sollet
USA
I can't really explain it but I have a huge love for Sollet previous effort, "Raising Victor Vargas", the characters were engaging, the storyline uncomplicated and it was just, I don't know, fun. I've got a man-crush on Michael Cera, (though the awkward guy routine is wearing a bit thin) and this looks like a breezy, light-hearted time at the movies with what looks to be a decadently good soundtrack. It probably won't reinvent the wheel, but the compressed chronology of the film (over a single night), will hopefully keep this a tight and entertaining movie.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/nickandnorahsinfiniteplaylist/

"Appaloosa"
Directed by Ed Harris
USA
Thank God someone like Ed Harris finally realised that Viggo Moretenson's face was made to be put in a western. Recent stabs at this maligned genre, such as "3:10 to Yuma", have all seemingly taken their cue from the genius tv show Deadwood, with an emphasis on grit and smart dialogue. The plot in this kind of movie is somewhat arbitrary compared to the actors all nailing their characters. Jeremy Irons is such a brilliant performer and his villains are legendary, plus Lance Henrikson and Timothy Spall are in this! What a cast.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/appaloosa/

"The Brothers Bloom"
Directed by Rian Johnson
USA
I love Rian Johnson's first movie "Brick"; for all it's clever dialogue and brilliant cinematography, it's an intensely well-plotted piece of cinema. The early reviews on this one have been stellar and I'm a sucker for a good con movie. The concept of Racheal Weitz's character being an obsessive shut in, playing these conmen for suckers is a nice touch. It's also great to see Rinko Kikuchi getting more international work, she was the best thing about Inniratu's uneven "Babel".

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/thebrothersbloom/

"Vicky Christina Bareclona"
Directed by Woody Allen
USA
This movie is essentially tailor-made for me. Javier Bardem as a moody, sexy artist, engaging in hot sex with Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clackson and Scarlett Johansson in the amazingly beautiful city of Barcelona. As long as Woody Allen supplies the witty lines I'm sure to have a great time with this one. Although I have to ask what's up with that terrible tinting in the trailer?

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/weinstein/vickycristinabarcelona/

"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
Directed by David Yates
USA/UK
I really liked Yates' previous work on "The Order of the Phoenix" and this should be another solid effort. That young Tom Riddle is seriously creepy and things are coming to the pointy end of the grand narrative arc now, plus the cinematography is just sexy. I've resigned myself to the fact that Cuaron's "Prisoner of Azkhaban" will be the best and am very curious as to how Jim Broadbent will do as the odious Slughorn.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/harrypotterandthehalfbloodprince/

"Ashes of Time Redux"
Directed by Wong Kar Wai
Hong Kong
I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about this movie. Finally I'll get to see this cinematic genius' work in the martial arts genre. As expected it looks completely amazing and what a stunning cast. Maybe it won't have a completely depressing ending like all his recent work as well!

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony/ashesoftimeredux/

"Full Battle Rattle"
Directed by Tony Gerber, Jesse Moss
USA
Out of all the seemingly endless examinations of the Iraq occupation now pouring out of US cinema, this one seems to actually do something unique. A documentary about the bizzare urban warfare testing zone constructed by the military in the Californian desert so their soldiers can "simulate the experiences of combat" before being shipped out. It's all elaborate and ridiculous theatre; with hundreds of actors being employed as civilians and terrorists, thousands of blank rounds, buckets of fake blood and some depressing truths about the inanity of the US military experience. It looks hilarious.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/fullbattlerattle/

"New York I Love You"
Directed by tons of people
USA
I really liked "Paris J'taime" and found the collection of shorts to be generally excellent. There's some interesting choices for directors in this second mediation on a metropolis including Scarlett Johnansson and Natalie Portman.

Trailer: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6iqyf_new-york-i-love-you-teaser_news

"Nightmare Detective 2"
Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto
Japan
Yes, the first one was not very good narrative-wise but Tsukamoto (he did "Testuo: The Iron Man") is an undeniable genius at visual insanity. I've loved all of his films and this one just ups the creepy factor. Truly disturbing and a bizzare concept in the first place. A detective who goes into people's dreams and conquers their nightmares. Seriously.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1704054363

"Dorothy Mills"
Directed by Agnes Merlet
France/Ireland
Possession movies are rarely made these days and are even more rarely done well. There's been a groundwell of critical and audience positivity towards Merlet's foray into English-language horror. That child is chillingly disturbed and I love the line "Some seriously evil shit is going on". Classic.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1704079524

"Genius Party Beyond"
Directed by lots of people
Japan
If you see one movie in my recommendations for this month, please make it this one. Studio 4c is legendary for their absolutely incredible animation and fascinating inventive scenarios and... and... just look at that trailer! There were more original ideas in those 60 seconds than anything Hollywood has made in ten years! If you get a hold of it, please give me a copy because it'll be a cold day in hell when this sees Australian release.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1486891058

"Tokyo Gore Police"
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura
Japan
I don't really know what to say about this final one, except that the trailer is probably one of the greatest things I've ever seen. Please be advised that the title for this movie is very apt and if you're not much interested in a movie where Eihi Shiina, (the insane woman from Takeshi Miike's "Audition") disembowls various mutants who grow weapons from their newly formed wounds and spends the first fifteen seconds of the trailer walking in slow motion towards the camera while... uh... well anyway, it's a very violent piece of work. Watch yourself...

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1716424197

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Movies I'm Excited About (July)

I've decided to try my hand at a monthly update detailing all the cinema I'm most looking forward to consuming as I become aware of it. I'll try and post trailers as much as possible so you can all see what I'm talking about. This first one will be unusually long as I've had a lot that I've gotten wind of over these past few months.

JULY

"Burn After Reading"
Directed by the Coen Brothers
USA
After their masterfully bleak adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "No Country For Old Men", it looks like Joel and Ethan decided to flush all the bad juju out of their systems by following up with a wacky espionage comedy. I love the idea of Brad Pitt as a mentally deficient gym-junkie and anything with John Malkovich threatening to kill people is at least worth a look.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/burnafterreading/trailer1b/

"The Road"
Directed by John Hillcoat
USA
Speaking of Cormac McCarthy, this movie looks to be one of those rare planetary alignment films, where all the elements are perfectly suited to create a masterpiece. It could somehow totally fail, but with Joe Penhall adapting McCarthy's latest work, John Hillcoat (of The Proposition fame) directing, Viggo Mortenson starring and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis scoring, it'll be one of the most amazing failures ever. My money's on roaring success. It's cannibal-infested apocalypse time! Ba beeew!

No trailer as of yet but here are some stills: http://twitchfilm.net/site/entry-images/category/C169/

"Tropic Thunder"
Directed by Ben Stiller
USA
I have nothing but praise from all quarters concerning this latest comedy from Stiller, in which a trio of Hollywood actors get put in the jungle for an expensive war film which goes totally off the rails and ends up coming across gangs of murderous drug thugs. What makes the film completely hilarious is the notion that none of the actors realise they are not on a film set anymore, very much a similar theme to Bill Murray's "The Man Who Knew Too Little", which I regard as totally underrated. Moreover, all the actors seem to be bringing their "weird" game, with Jack Black as a heroin addicted Eddie Murphy-clone, Ben Stiller as an action star whose bid to turn "oscar" resulted in one of the worst films of all time and, most importantly, Robert Downey Junior as an Australian method actor who, for his role, has himself surgically treated to become a black man, a role he plays to the racist and ironic hilt. If all this doesn't sell you, you've got Steve Coogan as a Coppola-type director going insane, Nick Nolte as the handless war veteran author of the story the movie is supposed to be adapting and TOM CRUISE as a fat, slimy and totally amoral film executive.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/tropicthunder/

"Man on Wire"
Directed by James Marsh
USA
At last something to do with the World Trade Centre that isn't depressing or moralistic. This wonderfully light-looking doco tells the amazing true story of "guerrilla artist" Phillipe Petit, who has made it his life's work to do trapeze acts on every world monument he can get his hands on. In the 1970's he conspired to make the WTC his next conquest and the film tracks his progress as he assembles a crack team to get him on that wire. It looks part social document, part caper movie, part awesome.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/manonwire/

"Encounters at the End of the World"
Directed by Werner Herzog
Germany/USA
I'll watch anything by Herzog, but this looks to be something extra special. All reviews of it have been glowing and the underwater cinematography looks mind-blowing. Werner travelled to Antarctica for this film and documents the amazing landscape, the bizzare people and weird idiosyncrisies that make up this alien continent. The title has two meanings, of both the literal geographical position of the film's subject and the future of humanity. Werner tackles both with his legendary genius. I hear his view of penguins is markedly different than previous efforts. You owe it to yourself to see this.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/thinkfilm/encountersattheendoftheworld/

"Miracle at St. Anna"
Directed by Spike Lee
USA/Italy
Love him or hate him, it's undeniable that Spike Lee is a damned talented director and this latest film, telling the story of Buffalo Soldiers in World War 2, looks very good. Derek Luke is one of my favourite actors and it's a thrill to see him get a starring role, plus it's got Joseph Gordon-Levitt!

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/touchstone/miracleatstanna/

"Mad Detective"
Directed by Johnny To
Hong Kong
Johnny To is always a film-maker who can at the very least deliver great action and at the very best create deeply analytical character studies. He's a film maker who clearly is in love with both the possibilities of cinema and with humanity, for all it's flaws and foibles. I consider him one of the best humanist directors around at the moment. This latest movie, starring Lau Ching Wan and Andy On, looks to be some kind of fever dream crossover between John Woo and David Lynch. The whole multiple personality thing is a pretty heavily mined plotline, but this movie looks to me to buck the stereotypical trend.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/maddetective/trailer/

"Chandi Chwok Goes To China"
Directed by Nikhil Advani
India/China/USA
This just looks like some of the most fun you can have with your pants on. Bollywood meets Wusha in this hilarious comedy-musical about an Indian cook who is mistaken for a martial arts master. Also starring Gordon Lieu! The first Bollywood picture to ever be funded by Warner Brothers.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1659879987

"Lone Summer"
Directed by Yoon Hong-Seung
South Korea
I don't know what it is, but all the Korean horror movies I've seen have been terrifying. This looks like an interesting blend of a race-against time thriller with a macarbe slasher film. What is it with Koreans and school corridors yielding unspeakable evil? Check out the Washing Machine death at the end!

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1672070795

"Quick Gun Murrugun"
Directed by Shashanka Ghosh
India
I don't know what's going on in Asia at the moment, but everyone and his grandmother seems to relish the idea of making Western films. This one looks like a cut above the rest, with a South Indian "Karmic Cowboy" sworn to uphold the tenants of vegetarianism against the evil of the McDoha chain. Featuring insane gun battles and a heady dose of curries, it looks to be a fun ride. Hopefully it'll beat out Tears of the Black Tiger as one of the most loopy takes on the Western genre.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1659879732

"Ichi"
Directed by Fumihiko Sori
Japan
I've got a burning love for Sori's "Ping Pong" and this latest film is one of the more interesting takes on the Chumbara genre, with a reimagining of the classic Zatoichi legend, this time with an unspeakably beautiful young girl as the blind swordsman. While I'm not the biggest fan of the look of the lighting in this movie, I'll watch anything by Sori and we'll see if he can outdo Takeshi Kitano for a weird take on this staple of Japanese lore.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1659879857

"The Fall"
Directed by Tarsem Singh
USA/India/UK
You may recall Singh's work as the director of that visually sumptuous but narritively hollow film "The Cell", where Jennifer Lopez had to travel inside the mind of a serial killer. Well, he's back with this movie and it's the most beautiful thing I've seen all year, just in a trailer! It took 8 years for Singh to make this film, after a quarter of a century scraping together enough money making commercials and music videos and from all the press, it looks like it was worth it. This is actually a remake of the 1981 Bulgarian movie "Yo Ho Ho", which I haven't seen; it's about a little girl who visits a wounded man in hospital and the stories he weaves toegther for her in an effort to convince her to steal morphine for him so he can kill himself. Dazzling. It's worth noting while you watch this trailer that NOTHING WAS DONE WITH CGI. Every location, every effect is real and in camera.

Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/thefall/

"Krabat"
Directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner
Germany
Adapted from the famous (in Germany) teen fantasy series, Krabat is the story of a young boy who enters into the world of wizardry. It's got a great horror aesthetic to it, crossed with the slickness of the recent Harry Potter efforts. I'm keen to see it.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1683872050

"Acolytes"
Directed by Jon Hewitt
Australia
At last, something that looks like Australian film makers aren't all ahistorical. This movie is soaked in the 70's ozsploitation feel (check out the sunglasses on the murderer!) and packs a curious story to boot, with a group of school friends blackmailing a serial killer to bump off whoever they want. It looks very well shot and I'm always a sucker for people screaming in Aussie accents.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1659795390

"Truffe"
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Canada
Very aptly described as Jarmusch meets Jeunet, this boldly expressionist quirky sci-fi/comedy/thriller/I-don't-know is set in a dystopian Montreal where a legendary truffle hunter is pursued by an evil faceless corporation. Amazing camera work, lighting and set design, combined with a bizzarely great storyline.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1659879964

"Tokyo!"
Directed by Michel Gondry, Bong Joon-Ho and Leos Carax
USA/France/Korea/Japan
What's that you say? Michel Gondry in Japan?! That's right, this trio of shorts is a meditation on the great Japanese metropolis, with what looks to be awesome stuff from all three directors. Check out the guy from the sewers in Leos Carax's one, appropriately titled "Merde".

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1659879955

"Komplex"
Directed by Uli Edel
Germany
This just looks sexy. A cinematic treatment of the Red Army Faction's terrorist campaign during the 60's, with Bruno Ganz as Horst Herold!

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1659795350

"Sexy Killer"
Directed by Miguel Marti
Spain/USA
What do you get when you cross Legally Blonde with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer? This movie. What the hell? Brutal slaying cut to Aqua's "Barbie Girl". The trailer is one of the most bizzarely cut things I've ever seen.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1662583318

"A L'Interier"
Directed by Alexandre Bustillo, Julian Maury
France
Man, these French are really digging their horror these days. This is apparently one of the sickest and most relentless scare-a-thons out at the moment, featuring some legendary gore and a gripping performance by Beatrice Dalle as the insane killer.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmdCfv2jZKA&feature=related

"Hitler Kaput"
Directed by Marius Balchunas
Russia
It looks like capitalism is finally loading up the coffers of Russian film makers given the massive spike in production values recently witnessed. This movie is something I can't believe even exists. A farcical, Zucker brothers-style take on the Nazi invasion of the motherland. With wacky humour, background jokes and just all out insanity. The Britney Spears cover is worth the price of admission alone.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1472348204

"Dachimawa Lee"
Directed by Ryu Seung-Wan
South Korea
James Bond spoofs have gone beyond cliche, but this brings something else to the table, namely the most ridiculous po-mo remix of every genre imaginable, spy thriller, western, noir, martial arts epic, hong kong gangster film, it's got them all. I love the moment when the hero wacks a guy on the head with a gun, resulting in an anime-style blood nose explosion.

Trailer: http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1214128517/bctid1662475246

"Late Bloomer"
Directed by Go Shibata
Japan
This is probably the movie I'm most excited by. This still hasn't been released in Australia but hopefully it'll happen soon. The movie is about a severely physically disabled man who takes revenge on those who mistreat him, played by an actually disabled man. It looks amazingly shot and has Worlds End Girlfriend, one of my favourite musicians out there, doing the soundtrack. I want it so bad.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kJ9k1LOYbo

About Me

Timothy John Sharp is a writer/director based in Perth, Australia.