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...


Where The Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze

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

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

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

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.

Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov

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

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

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.

Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri

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

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

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.


Die Schnieder Kranheit
Directed by Javier Chillon
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
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

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

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
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
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

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
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

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

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.

Directed by David Bowers

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*

Directed by Henry Selick

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
Yes that's exactly right. Yes it is amazingly awesome. Holy Christ I want to see it now.

About Me

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