Undies on the Outside: Thoughts on Superman

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 25th June 2013.

As long as I can recall, the Man of Steel has been a part of my life. For most of my childhood, I had a cardboard Superman stuck on my bedroom wall with pins in his arms and legs so his joints would articulate. Each night I’d doze off with a smiling and waving Kal-El looking over me.

My parents were early adopters of the VHS format in the early eighties and one of my perennial favourites was Superman II, taped off the television. Every couple of week I’d pop the tape in the top of the machine (yep, the VHS player was old school) and enjoy Supes battling Terrence Stamp’s evil General Zod.

Mum had also recorded the original Superman movie but I was less keen on it. I found the scene at the beginning of the film depicting the destruction of Krypton too traumatic for my sensitive little mind and would often fast forward through it and start with Kal-El landing in the cornfield in Smallville.

It was only recently that I discovered that both Superman and Superman II were filmed simultaneously. Original director Richard Donner clashed with the producers and was sacked after finishing the first film and three quarters of the sequel. Richard Lester was brought in to finish Superman 2 and drastically changed the storyline. In 2006, after much lobbying from fans, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released and it is magnificent.

Although a little patchy now, the flying effects in the first two films were groundbreaking at the time. I often could be found as a kid trying to replicate the effects by lying on top of a kitchen stool in a flying pose and making whooshing sounds. Maybe I invented planking?

I went to see Superman III with my mother at the now defunct Roxy Cinema at Parramatta. Even at the tender age of eight, I could tell that the film was terrible. A vehicle for coked up comedian Richard Pryor, this turkey saw Christopher Reeve split into two personas when exposed to synthesised kryptonite that was infused with cigarette tar, and then fight a supercomputer, as you do.

In 1987, I received the Lucky Book Club tie-in adaption of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and wisely steered away from seeing this movie bomb until recently. By this stage, Reeve was not keen to repeat the campy trash of the third instalment and was only swayed by the lure of story input. What resulted was a truly atrocious low budget film which involves Supes disarming the world of its nuclear arsenal and then fighting Nuclear Man, who is created when said bombs are thrown into the sun for disposal by the Man of Steel.

During the late eighties, Superboy started screening on TV in the late afternoon timeslot. Also a low budget affair, I remember it being rather low key, with a young Superman fighting drug dealers and crime lords, rather than super villains (or supercomputers). The romantic adventure series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman followed in prime time in the early nineties. I didn’t watch this one because it was more drama than heroics, plus I was too enamoured with The X-Files at the time. And I still have to catch up on the final eight seasons of Smallville which was a little choppy in terms of quality and certainly very slow moving (just put on the suit and fly already).

In 2006, Bryan Singer’s underrated Superman Returns hit the big screen. I must admit that as soon as John Williams’ iconic score began, the cinema got just a little dusty. Unfairly labelled as a failure, there is plenty to enjoy about this movie, which was largely filmed in Sydney.

On Thursday, Man of Steel will arrive and I cannot wait. Despite hit and miss director, Zack Snyder, being at the helm, I will buy my ticket and hopefully love it. After all of these years together, Superman surely won’t let me down.

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Published in: on June 30, 2013 at 16:19  Leave a Comment  
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Bad Movie Choices for Dating

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 2nd April 2013.

It’s strange how we regularly choose the cinema as a social experience. What’s social about sitting in a darkened room where it is impolite to make conversation? I suppose having that shared experience to discuss afterwards makes all the difference. What did we like about the film? What did we dislike about it?

I quite like going to the cinema alone. One of my favourite film experiences was watching Wolf Creek as the only person in the cinema. My backpacking days came quickly to an end after that one.

Selecting the right film is always a dilemma, especially when trying to impress someone of the opposite sex. As a cinefile, I appreciate all types of films, but there are clearly terrible choices which can turn date night into Fright Night. Here are some of my biggest mistakes. In the interests of protecting the innocent, I won’t name names and if ever asked about this, I will deny that it ever happened (this means you, Doug the newspaper guy).

So the year is 2000. You’ve asked a girl on a first date. You’re at the box office and you suggest that an Aussie film would be a great choice. Eric Bana is that funny guy from TV. His film debut should be hilarious, right? Wrong. About twenty minutes into Andrew Dominik’s Chopper, Bana’s titular character has been stabbed in the gut. There is blood everywhere. I look across to my date. She’s looking down. Wait, she’s not looking away from the visceral violence on the screen. She’s not looking anywhere. She’s passed out.

Trust me, assisting a faint, clammy girl out of the cinema is not a great start for a date. It is, however, a pretty definitive ending. I did go back later and see the rest of the film. It’s brilliant.

Jumping backwards in time almost a decade, I asked the smartest girl at school on a date to a Saturday afternoon matinee. How quaint! The year is 1991 and in hindsight, there was an amazing array of superb films on offer: Cape Fear, JFK, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Silence of the Lambs. Which film did I actually choose? Suburban Commando, starring Hulk Hogan, of course. This cinematic abomination is neither funny nor dramatic. As an actor, the Hulkster is a fantastic wrestler. Whilst remaining friends throughout school, we never spoke of this date again (Girl X and I, not Hulk Hogan and I).

My final embarrassment came during my university years. I frequented the Sydney Film Festival every year and was keen to share my film discoveries with anyone who would listen. I asked a girl to see a film that I was keen to champion, an underrated Aussie gem starring Jack Thompson and a young actor named Russell Crowe.

It was only when the lights darkened and I was thinking about trying the Yawn and Stretch Technique™ that I remembered that The Sum of Us was a tale about a father and son coming to terms with the son’s homosexuality. Although by definition a romantic-comedy, and still a film I recommend, this selection was not necessarily in line with the message I was trying to send. That date ended with a handshake. Enough said.

Trust me, choosing the right film is vital to romance. Learn from my mistakes. I’ll leave you with one last rule, which I learned the hard way. It goes like this. Don’t drop a mega-sized Coke on your date at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and insist on staying for the rest of the film.

Halloween Movie Franchises: John Carpenter’s Halloween

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 23rd October 2012.

On October 25 1978, a low budget slasher film made its debut in US cinemas. John Carpenter’s Halloween was produced for a paltry sum of US$325,000 and eventually grossed $55 million at the box office worldwide. Introducing masked serial killer Michael Myers to popular culture, no babysitter was safe in this classic horror flick.

Halloween starred a young Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Michael’s sister and the object of his (murderous) intentions. On the killer’s trail was Donald Pleasance as psychiatrist Dr Sam Loomis. Complete with a spooky piano melody, composed by Carpenter himself, the movie is genuinely creepy and still provides “watch through your fingers” scares decades later.

The original Halloween spun off seven sequels, and was rebooted in 2007 by musician turned film director Rob Zombie, which in turn spawned a sequel. To date, the franchise has generated over $366 million worldwide. Not bad for a series of films featuring a lead character wearing a Captain Kirk rubber mask sprayed with white spray paint.

Each entry of the Halloween story was released on or around, not surprisingly, Halloween, thus beginning not one, but two traditions: scary movie franchises released at Halloween; and scary movie franchises released at Halloween with diminishing returns.

Three years after the original, Michael Myers returned in Halloween II. Picking up immediately after the events of the first film, Myers survived six bullets from Dr Loomis’ gun to continue stalking Laurie.  The following October, Halloween III: Season of the Witch was unleashed on unsuspecting fans. Intended to shift the franchise into an anthology of unrelated horror films, the film features a plot to kill thousands of children at Halloween with deadly latex skeleton, witch and jack-o’-lantern masks. How are the masks deadly? They have evil powers because they are each embedded with a tiny chip of Stonehenge. Insert your own sound of crickets chirping here.

Unsurprisingly, Myers was resurrected in 1988 for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Unfortunately, this and the next two sequels all hail from the late eighties, a period that was not kind to horror franchises. With box office returns shrinking, desperate film companies churned out substandard, low budget Freddy, Jason, Jaws, Chucky and Halloween flicks.

In 1998 the series peaked again as Jamie Lee Curtis returned for Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later. With an original star onboard, the film picks up the Laurie Strode storyline again, finding her hiding from her now infamous brother at a posh private school. Of course, Myers tracks her down and mayhem ensues, but at least the storyline had some weight due to Curtis’ presence, unlike the cast of unknown victims from the previous sequels.

Four years later, the original Halloween canon concluded with a disappointing whimper, as Myers returns to his childhood home to find it the subject of a Big Brother-like television show. After so many brushes with death, serial killer Michael Myers is finally sent to hell by the incredibly terrible acting of rapper turned “actor” Busta Rhymes.

I’m not a big fan of the Rob Zombie reboot so I won’t discuss it here. I have no interest in back story or motivation when it comes to my movie killers. Call me old fashioned.

For a real Halloween treat this, er, Halloween, grab a copy of the original, er, Halloween on blu-ray and relive the mother of all slasher films in high definition. Next week, I’ll discuss more recent movie franchises to also capitalise on Halloween releases. Boo!

Published in: on October 23, 2012 at 11:11  Leave a Comment  
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100 Movies in 5 Months

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 29th May 2012.

This past week I passed an important milestone. Sure, I celebrated my 24th birthday for the second time in my life. More importantly, I watched my 100th film for the year. Not bad for five months. Notice that I use the word “watched” rather than “enjoyed”. As a lover of cinema and a budding filmmaker, I believe that there is something to be gained from every film experience, even if it is learning what not to do. For every cinematic treasure, there are quite a few trashy clunkers. Here are three of my highest rated films (all 9 out of 10 in my books).

I really dislike 3D movies at the cinema. I find the picture too dark and have a hard time following the action. However, I love my 3D TV. The backlit LCD is easy on the eyes and I don’t have to pay extra for the glasses. Two of my top five are 3D documentaries that don’t use the extra dimension as a gimmick and are well worth hunting down.

TT3D: Closer to the Edge follows the riders who put their lives at risk to compete in the notorious Isle of Man TT motorcycle race. More than 200 riders have died since the inception of this race, all on public roads. In 2010, director Richard de Aragues filmed the trials and tribulations of leading entrants Guy Martin and Ian Hutchison. I have no interest in any motor sports (I drive a hybrid) but I was absolutely gripped by the nail biting race footage where every corner might be your last. This documentary cleverly lets the riders speak naturally rather than be interviewed and by the end, you can almost understand what drives these men (and women) to compete. Almost.

Werner Herzog is one of my favourite directors. Whether tackling fact (Grizzly Man) or fiction (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans), Herzog loves the idea of man versus nature and infuses all of his work with just a touch of crazy. Cave of Forgotten Dreams focuses on the discovery of the Chauvet Cave in France. Untouched since they were sealed by a landslide 25 000 years ago, the caves contain prehistoric paintings and fossils. The delicate nature of the artefacts means that people are rarely allowed to enter the caves and Herzog’s cinematic exploration may be the only way to see them. The 3D is breathtaking and the director’s trademark Bavarian accented musings and narration is unforgettable.

Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive is a gritty and violent crime thriller that deserved more attention than it received on release last year. Starring leading man on the rise Ryan Gosling as a stuntman who moonlights a getaway driver, Drive features an eighties inspired soundtrack and a remarkable supporting cast featuring Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. The hardly original storyline of a disciplined criminal who breaks his own rules for a woman is freshened up with a tight script and expert cinematic craftsmanship from the cast and director. Not for the faint hearted, Drive will convince you that Gosling deserves his place on the A list and Winding Refn as the director to watch.

Rounding out my highest rated films are Hugo, The Hunger Games, Melancholia, The Hunter and Singin’ in the Rain.

Next week I’ll review my lowest rated films. Film 101 is already on the list and I’m on track to reach my goal of 200 movies for 2012.

My list is viewable online at http://www.imdb.com/list/e2oIoohE9ZM/

Published in: on June 2, 2012 at 09:55  Leave a Comment  
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The Reef Review, The “Spooky” Workers and TV’s Alcatraz

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 21st February 2012.

I’d like to thank everybody who washed their car or mowed their lawn over the weekend. Now it’s raining again.

I like to support Australian cinema as much as possible. Unfortunately this weekend I chose to watch The Reef, a humourless thriller involving two good looking couples, a yacht and a hungry shark. Can you guess what happens? Whilst beautifully shot in Queensland, the plodding storyline makes the 88 minute run time seem much longer. The bland characters were paper thin, making it very difficult to care as they are picked off by Jaws one by one. Just like the characters, all I wanted to do was endure the experience and make it to the end. None of the promotional material for the movie suggested a feel good film so I suppose I wasn’t deceived. After all, the uplifting tagline on the box was, “Pray you drown first.” If you want to see your favourite actors from McLeod’s Daughters and Underbelly become fish food then The Reef is definitely for you. Avoid if your holiday later this year is at the beach.

 

Speaking of scary movies, have you noticed that the Southern Cross Ten kiddie bedtime commercial starring The Workers has been reshot? A bizarre hybrid of The Wiggles, Hi-5 and The Village People, these children’s entertainers managed to film the creepiest goodnight jingle ever, complete with creepy death stares straight into the camera, toothy robotic smiles and horrible harmonies. Not surprisingly, a newly refilmed version of their ad appeared a few weeks ago. Gone is the weirdness. Instead, none of The Workers look at the camera at all, opting to sing to each other instead. So are they putting themselves to bed, or the kids at home? For my money, make kiddie entertainment come in the form of men in skivvies, fairies or singing and dancing clones. Leave occupational stereotypes for their teenage years when you put them to work at a fast food joint to pay for their Proactiv.

 

Have you checked out Alcatraz, the latest TV series from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, the production house responsible for head scratcher Lost? Starring Sam Neill (in boggle eyed, “you must eat meat” mode) and the rotund guy from Lost, Jorge Garcia, the series follows a team of investigators searching for the population of guards and prisoners who mysteriously “disappeared” from the famous prison island in 1963. As the inmates reappear in their former cells one by one and resume their former evil ways, the team have to track them down and work out who or what is behind this event. Whilst I am enjoying the show, I have some major problems with the storyline.

If the team’s HQ is underneath the prison on the island, why don’t they just close the tourist attraction? The prisoners will reappear in their cells and be caught immediately, instead of catching the ferry back to mainland to cause trouble. And why do we never see the team on a boat travelling to and from Alcatraz? If you’re not going to close the island, then why inconvenience yourself with a boat ride several times a day? Do they have to wait for the hourly tourist ferry each time? If Lost has taught us anything, only time and a polar bear will tell, perhaps.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 07:31  Leave a Comment  
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Razzie Nominees 2012 & Star Wars 3D

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 28th February 2012.

The Academy Awards may have come and gone but this year’s most important film awards ceremony is still yet to come. The Golden Raspberry Foundation, honouring the worst in cinema, has changed their format for 2012. Instead of being awarded the night before the Oscars, the Razzie nominations have been announced this past weekend, with the winners (or losers, depending on how you look at it) to be unveiled on April Fools’ Day.

This year’s array of schlock has seen renown thespian Adam Sandler break the record for the most nominations ever. Between romantic comedy Just Go with It and alleged comedy Jack & Jill, Sandler has racked up a craptastic 11 nominations. Of course, receiving a nod for Worst Actor as Jack and Worst Actress as Jill, helped a great deal. He’s also a writer and producer of Worst Picture nominee Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star which has bypassed Australian cinemas and will plop onto video store shelves in early March. It follows the adventures of a young man who hopes to follow in the footsteps of his parents and become a porn star. It sounds like it possibly might be the Citizen Kane of our generation, if Orson Welles’ classic was about a young man who hopes to follow in the footsteps of his parents and become a porn star.

As one of two Razzie voters in Orange (that I know of), I’ve already sat through many of the nominated abominations. There are still a few that I will need to witness prior to sending my ballot papers to Artesia, California, so unfortunately, Jack & Jill, Abduction, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and The Hangover Part 2 are on my “must watch and try to stay awake” list.

 

Speaking of movie duds, I still haven’t witnessed the mess that is Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 3D. I remember how excited I was in the lead up to its original release in 1999. I had tickets to a screening at one minute past midnight on the day of its Australian release. The cinema was packed with fans. The Lucasfilm logo appeared and the crowd went wild. Then up came the title screen with the familiar John Williams fanfare to more screams and applause. The crawler text began.

Taxation? I’ve been waiting 16 years for the prequel to my all time favourite movie franchise and its origins lie in taxes and trade routes? The bubble burst. The hopes and dreams of millions of Star Wars fans faded away just like Yoda in Return of the Jedi. It was all downhill into the sarlacc pit from there. Besides the podrace and the double lightsaber duel, The Phantom Menace is truly awful.

No amount of expensive 3D conversion will salvage this movie. The only problem is that Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum has announced that unless this initial 3D revision is a success, there won’t be any further 3D Star Wars releases, and I do want to see Episode IV in eye popping, headache inducing 3D! So, to do my part, this week I shall be purchasing a ticket to The Phantom Menace at the cinema and then going home to enjoy the original trilogy on blu-ray.

Cinematic Showdown: Snow White vs Snow White

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th February 2012.

Every few years in Hollywood, two very similar motion pictures are produced and go head to head at the box office. This seems to occur entirely by accident. These projects are greenlit by their respective production companies and developed without any knowledge of each other until it is too late. Whoops. Too much money has been spent to cancel the project and it then becomes a matter of marketing and star power to determine who outmuscles who at the box office.

This year will witness the showdown of the “fairest of them all.” That’s right, it’s Snow White versus Snow White. But before we examine the tale of the tape, let’s have a look at some other cinematic similarity showdowns.

In 1991, we had the clash of the green tights. The low budget Robin Hood, a fairly straight adaption of the legend starring Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman, was completely annihilated by Kevin Coster’s American accent and lack of moustache. Released two months later, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves also starred Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham (pretty much reprising his Hans Gruber character from Die Hard). It grossed $390 million worldwide and marks the moment that I realised I have an allergy to Bryan Adams. Both films make for arduous viewing but at least Patrick Bergin bothered to grow a moustache so I’ll take the underdog as my pick.

A few years later, we had volcanorama-rama. February 1997 saw the release of Dante’s Peak, starring new James Bond at the time Pierce Brosnan and a no longer Terminator 2 buff Linda Hamilton. It grossed $178 million worldwide. In June the same year, Los Angeles was decimated in the imaginatively titled Volcano. With star power provided by Tommy Lee Jones and a pre-gay controversy Anne Heche, the film grossed $122 million. Both movies have cliché ridden scripts and feature ridiculousness such as vehicles miraculously driving through molten lava so I’ll call it a draw.

A year later, just as the world was recovering from the volcano disaster, namely Tommy Lee Jones’ poor attempt to play the action hero, the earth came under attack from not one, but two, asteroids.

Deep Impact saw a planet led by US President Morgan Freeman under attack. To ensure that the human race survives, only eight thousand people can be chosen to live underground. With an ensemble cast including Elijah Wood and Robert Duvall, Deep Impact is more drama than disaster flick and grossed a respectable $180 million.

Two months later, the world was threatened again, but this time we had Bruce Willis to save the day. Armageddon also stars Ben Affleck and Billy Bob Thornton as members of a drilling team who are dispatched to the asteroid to blow it up from the inside, as you do. Despite the silly storyline, an awful Aerosmith theme song and a misleading title (hint: the film has a happy ending), Armageddon trounced its rival with a box office take of $250 million.

Both asteroid flicks are guilty pleasures but I’ll take the film with more pathos and less Willis.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s now time to predict who will win the battle of the Snow Whites.

In the red corner we have Mirror Mirror. Starring Lily Collins (daughter of Phil “Su-Su-Sussudio” Collins) as Snow White and Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, this is being marketed as a family friendly action comedy.

In the blue corner, we have Snow White and the Huntsmen. A much different take on the fairytale, the trailer and poster features the ever wooden Kristen Stewart as an armour clad warrior Snow White. Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth will play the titular huntsman assigned to murder Snow White in the woods but ends up training her to defeat the evil queen, played by Charlize Theron.

Despite my aversion to Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsmen looks like the more interesting picture, however, I predict the family friendly Mirror Mirror will win at the box office. Let the battle begin!

Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 07:23  Leave a Comment  
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The Year in Film: 2011’s Best

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday  27th December 2011.

In my annual wrap up of the year in cinema, we’ve so far waded through the stinkers and underrated gems that disgraced and graced the silver screen. After much deliberation (at least five minutes), it’s now time to announce my best films of 2011. Drum roll please.

3. Captain America: The First Avenger In the final lead up to The Avengers, the ultimate Marvel superhero team up, this year saw the release of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and the far superior Captain America. Directed by Joe Johnston (Jumanji, Jurassic Park III), this action adventure got the mix just right. A likeable hero (Chris Evans) and a charismatic baddie (Hugo Weaving channelling Werner Herzog), combined with some amazing special effects to render Evans as a pre-transformation weakling, plus a not too complicated storyline all made for an enjoyable ride. The setting of the film in World War 2 gave the flick some real stakes too. The final five minutes of the film were essentially an ad for the next film but I was having so much fun to care. The 3D effects were OK too.

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes “Rotpota”, as it has become known, was really the little film that could this year. Dismissed pre-release as another unnecessary remake, à la Footloose, this reboot of the original sci-fi classic franchise was a taut thriller that features the best motion capture performance so far. Starring as the CGI chimpanzee Caesar, Andy Serkis was a revelation and brought true gravitas to what was essentially a bunch of pixels. He truly deserves a much touted Oscar nomination, the first for such a performance. Directed by Rupert Wyatt, this is a seamless blend of live action and CGI.

1. Super 8 J.J. Abrams’ homage to the eighties films of Steven Spielberg was simply magical. A throwback to a time when movies for children were allowed to be scary, this was The Goonies, Gremlins and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial all rolled into one. Abrams managed to elicit the most natural child actor performances from stars Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning since Henry Thomas left a trail of Reece’s Pieces to attract a certain alien. All of the Spielberg hallmarks were present: the single parent family, the military and the monster wanting to find its way home. In one hundred and twelve superb minutes, Abrams manages to encapsulate the wonder of childhood.

My notable mentions for this year are: Thor, Bridesmaids, Fast Five and X-Men: First Class.

2011 also saw the release of twenty eight sequels (that’s right, twenty eight). It shows that in the current financial climate, the major studios are not prepared to bet on original ideas when there are less risky properties and franchises to build upon.

2012 is already looking interesting with The Adventures of Tintin, Warhorse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Muppets on the schedule in the first weeks of January. Have a great cinematic 2012!

The Year in Film: 2011’s Underrated Gems

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th December 2011.

Last week I ran through my cinematic disappointments of the year. Of course, I hadn’t seen New Year’s Eve at the time. Starring every actor working in Hollywood today and Jon Bon Jovi, this ensemble piece comes from those responsible for the similarly structured Valentine’s Day. A stomach ache inducing mix of cheese and saccharine, the multiple strand storyline eventually collapses under its own weight and like me, you’ll be counting down from ten with the stars, only because it means that the film is almost over.

It wasn’t all bad out there in the multiplexes this year. Here are my underrated or undiscovered gems for 2011.

Rango came and went without much fanfare in March. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the man at the helm of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films, this clever and witty animated feature starred the voice talents of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Ned Beatty and Bill Nighy, amongst others. Following a wise cracking pet chameleon who is separated from his owners and accidentally becomes the sheriff of a town inhabited by desert dwelling creatures, Rango is much more sophisticated than your average animated film  and will play strongly to kiddie and adult audiences alike. Admirably, it was released in 2D only.

A little while ago, I wrote a piece about the horror comedy Tucker and Dale vs Evil. A film festival darling, a thoughtless decision by a US theatre chain representative denied the movie a mainstream cinema release. Now available in Australia for rental or retail, this low budget affair tips the rules of horror films on its head as two well meaning hillbillies get mistaken for serial killers by a bunch of stupid teens. As the college students become more and more convinced that they are being “hunted”, they accidentally off themselves in hilarious and bloody ways. Starring the versatile Alan Tudyck of Serenity and Firefly fame, Tucker and Dale vs Evil is great fun and will hopefully find its audience on DVD.

Super, a very black comedy from James Gunn, the writer and director of splatter horror laugh-fest Slither, has just had its Australian premiere in November at the Gold Coast Film Festival. Reminiscent of Kick Ass, it stars Rainn Wilson from TV’s The Office as an everyday man whose life spins out of control after his ex-junkie wife, played by Liv Tyler, relapses and falls into the arms of Kevin Bacon’s crime kingpin. Becoming The Crimson Bolt, a super hero armed only with a monkey wrench, Wilson is joined by Ellen Page as his deranged sidekick Boltie.

Dark and violent at times, but laugh out loud funny throughout, Super really resonated for me. With the current glut of super hero movies on the market, it is refreshing to see a different take on your traditional storyline. In this case, the super heroes are much more disturbed and mentally unhinged than the villains. Super will hits Australian shelves in early January and comes highly recommended.

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 09:27  Leave a Comment  
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The Year in Film: 2011’s Worst Movies

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6th December 2011.

With 2011 almost done and dusted, it’s time once again to review the cinematic good, the bad and the ugly of the past eleven months and 6 days. Admittedly, I didn’t frequent the cinema or video shop as much as in previous years but that didn’t help me to avoid these clunkers. Over the next few weeks, let’s start from the bottom and work our way to the top. Here are my worst films of 2011.

There were two fighting robots movies released this year and the one you should have missed was Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Directed with the subtlety of a Jeremy Clarkson rant by Michael Bay, this sequel was more than a two hour toy commercial, it was also a sales pitch for paracetamol. Robots clashed, people ran, things exploded, people ran some more and all in eye smashing, headache inducing 3D.

Shea LaBeef and Fergie’s husband returned for a payday, alongside franchise newcomers McDreamy, the guy from Being John Malkovich and Oscar winner Frances McDormand. Megan “so hot in 2004” Fox was canned from the production for apparently saying negative things about the director. I guess I’m out of contention for Transformers 4 now too.

After several stalled attempts, The Green Hornet finally arrived in January. Written by funny man Seth Rogan and directed by the imaginative Michael Gondry, The Green Hornet was strangely neither funny nor imaginative. Also starring as the titular super hero, aka Britt Reid, Rogan was obviously overstretched as he forgot to make his character likeable. Oscar winner Christoph Waltz lazily reprised his villainous character from Inglorious Basterds and I have no idea what Cameron Diaz was doing in this film.

The Green Hornet was also presented in pointless 3D. You know your 3D is terrible when the end credit sequence looks better than the rest of the movie.

Director Zack Snyder of 300 fame is another hack who doesn’t like to let story get in the way of the action. His effort for this year, Sucker Punch, is virtually unwatchable. Featuring Aussie actresses Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish, alongside High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens, the film follows an institutionalised girl who escapes into an imaginary alternate world where she joins her fellow inmates as a team of kick ass fighters.

This misogynistic and violent tale is hard to watch and will make you want to escape into an imaginary alternate world where, well, you know the rest.

Finally, from the director of the original Twilight came Red Riding Hood. Would you like your movie with extra cheese? Starring doe eyed Amanda Seyfried as the doe eyed Valerie, this very silly film is set in a village menaced by werewolves. Torn between two suitors, Valerie seeks to unravel the source of the lycan menace alongside werewolf hunter Solomon, overplayed by Gary Oldman.

Did I mention that this film is sensual and romantic? That’s how I prefer my fairy tales. Director Catherine Hardwicke proves that lightning can’t strike twice with this retread of her previous sensual and romantic adaption of Twilight.

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 09:20  Leave a Comment  
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