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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Movie Stingers and Credit Cookies

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 24th May 2011.

Projectionists must hate me. I’m the sucker that stays in the cinema until the very end of the credits. I know they want to get in there and clean up but watching every name involved in making the film is my way of saying thank you. I also like to check out which countries and locations were used as shooting locations. And I feel so much better knowing that no animals were harmed in the making of the picture.

I’m kidding. I’m actually on the lookout for what is known as a movie stinger, tag, credit cookie or movie coda. That is, an extra little scene at the end of the credits.

Current superhero movie factory, Marvel Studios, has been adding a stinger to its recent crop of pictures, each one slowly building towards The Avengers movie which will unite Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor. At the end of Iron Man (2008), Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., meets S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Tony Stark then makes a cameo at the end of The Incredible Hulk (2008), although this is just before the credits. The credits of Iron Man 2 (2010) conclude with Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. discovering Thor’s hammer in the desert. I won’t spoil the tag at the end of Thor but it is certainly worth waiting for.

Each entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise also features a stinger. The original, released in 2003, ends with Jack the Monkey stealing an Aztec medallion and becoming a cursed undead primate. Dead Man’s Chest (2006) concludes with the island dog being worshipped by the natives as a god. At World’s End (2007) features a stinger which shows Will being united with Elizabeth and his son, ten years into the future. The latest, On Stranger Tides (2011), also has a tag, but after a whopping 141 minutes of Piratey goodness or tosh (depending on your taste) you’ll need to sit out a bum numbing 8 minutes of credits to get to the good stuff.

The recent A-Team movie (2010) hilariously brings together the new Face and Murdock (Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley) with their original TV series counterparts, Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz in a post-credit stinger. I had to leave the cinema in a hurry for that one to return the large frozen coke I borrowed but I did catch the tag on blu-ray.

This year’s Fast and Furious 5, or Fast 5, also features a post-credit sequence which hints that there will another sequel. I don’t need a stinger to tell me that. $23 million at the Australian box office is a pretty good indication that another instalment is in the works. As a kid, I loved the Famous 5. I don’t remember them having cars though…

Stingers are by no means a new thing. My favourite stingers are from eighties flops. The Super Mario Bros. disaster from 1993 features two Japanese businessmen discussing a video game starring Mario’s enemies, Iggy and Spike. OK, so that’s not very funny but it’s Flying High compared to the rest of the film. The Masters of the Universe (1987) feature film stars renown Shakespearean actor Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. Post-credits, a defeated Skeletor (Frank Langella) pops out of the waters surrounding Castle Numbskull to declare, “I’ll be back.” I’m still waiting.

So stick around after the credits have rolled. You never know what extra morsel the filmmakers may have left for you.

 

 

 


The Sixth Sense (1999) features a creepy repeat of the spooky voice on tape saying, “I don’t wanna die” right at the end of the credits to scare anyone left in the cinema.