Podcast - 3 September 2010 - The Ghost Writer, Brothers, Ichi the killer plus an interview with Canberra Short Film Festival winner Britt Arthur

Join Luke McWilliams, Liam Jennings, Steven Robert and Felix Barbalet as they review

  • The Ghost Writer
  • Brothers
  • Ichi the killer

 plus an interview with Britt Arthur, writer and director of 'My Uncle Bluey' which won the 'Best National Film' category at the 2009 Canberra Short Film Festival

Youth in Revolt

  

 

 

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 Youth in Revolt is a 2010 American film adaptation of C.D. Payne's epistolary novel of the same name starring Michael Cera. The novel was written in 1993 epistolary novel, and is part three of a six-part series.

  

Plot 

 

Nick Twisp (played by Michael Cera) is a 16 year old virgin who has, by the standards of his peers, a peculiar taste in media culture; the music of Frank Sinatra and the films of Federico Fellini. Nick lives with his mother and her awful boyfriend, Jerry, who soon finds himself owing a group of angry sailors money due to a sour car sale. Instead of righting this wrong, Jerry decides to lay low for a while and takes Nick and his mother on vacation to a Christian trailer park. This is where Nick meets the beautiful but dangerous Sheeni Saunders (played by Portia Doubleday). The two strike up a relationship however it is soon thwarted as Nick inevitably has to return home. The shy, awkward and naïve Nick is however encouraged by Sheeni to become "very, very bad" so he may be kicked out of home and be free to live with his father, George (played by Steve Buscemi), and they can be together. Nick soon develops an evil, French alter-ego to help him along with his quest to become evil, afterwhich whackiness ensues. 

 

Review 

The epistolary nature of the novel is referenced in the film by use of plastacine stop-motion characateurs of the characters, references to letters and diary entries. This lends to the quirkiness of the film that a Michael Cera movie seems to ask for.

 

The film is not quite a drama, not quite a comedy. This makes it fall into the safe niche of young adult quirky dramedy, a la Juno; i.e. if you don’t find it funny, you weren’t supposed to, as it was a drama. Laughed at it? You were supposed to; it was a comedy. 

 

I loved Michael Crea in Arrested Development as he played the shy and socially awkward George Michael brilliantly; a minor character in a pretty much all-star show. I am not yet sold with the idea that he can carry an entire movie, especially with the same ‘hipster’ type of role. He has played this type of character in most of his film roles, but it is at least pleasing to see him stretch himself in this role if only by just a bit; as an evil-French alter-ego.

 

Obviously Michael Crea fans and fans of this type of quirky comedy in general may like this movie.  

Rating 

It is curious that Michael’s films are based on material that was created in the early 90’s (such as Scott Pilgrim vs The World)but are reimagined as movies to apply to ‘hipster’ contemporary youth culture. I am not part of, nor a fan of, ‘hipster’ culture and therefore, again, I cannot empathise with the main character and the choices he makes.

  

2 revolting youths out of 5 

 

Check out the film at IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and check out the  trailer.  ~                                                                                ~ 

 

Luke McWilliams August 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The World Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Pilgrim VS The World    is a 2010 American action comedy film directed by Edgar Wright of (Spaced, Shuan of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame) based on the comic book series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Interestingly, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was planned as a film after the first issue of the comic was released! 

 

Plot  

 The film follows the precious little life of Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera). Scott is a bass guitarist for the band "Sex Bob-omb," who dates a Chinese catholic high-school girl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and lives (and sleeps) with his gay housemate Wallace (Kieran Culkin). Scott eventually literally meets the girl of his dreams, a mysterious American called Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). To date her however, Scott must defeat the League of Evil Exes, 7 of Ramona's Evil Ex boyfriends who are hell bent on destroying all that is Scott Pilgrim. Whackiness does indeed ensue.  

Review 

 As a director, Edgar Wright makes all of the right decisions in regards to this film: Edgar hired Mr Brad Allan, the wushu expert who has worked with Jacki Chan in countless movies, and Bill Pope, the cinematographer of the Matrix trilogy was brought on board. The soundtrack includes music from Beck, Canadian bands Metric and Broken Social Scene, Nigel Godrich (who is a producing collaborator of Radioheand and Beck), and two members of Supergrass who recorded a Legend of Zelda theme. Several sound effects were sampled from retro 8-bit titles like Sonic and the Legend of Zelda to give it the most authentic flavour possible and techniques such as switching aspect ratio’s were used to mimic the look of in-game cut-scenes. 

     

As with Shuan of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this script is well constructed; the first part serves the audience metaphors of what is to follow in Scott’s subjective ‘reality’. For example, there is a great scene where we see Scott and Knives at an amusement centre. Without giving too much away, a lot of information in regards to Scott’s subjective outlook on his own life is weaved into this scene both visually and through the dialogue, setting up more surreal / hallucinatory sequences for later. 

 

A lot of trouble has gone to marketing the film to both Gen Y ‘hipsters and Gen X gamers. It is interesting to note that Scott does not use a mobile phone, plays coin-operated arcade games in arcade stations and is pretty much computer illiterate. The technology on show is either the use of a pay phone, an old beige computer and several old Nintendo consoles littered around his sorry; Wallace’s) apartment. However, one can’t help but feel that the film is a very expensive marketing exercise that ultimately targets a very specific audience: males currently in their early 20’s. 

  

The film tries to hard to be hip and cool, or perhaps this is what the current hipster culture is all about, it certainly was with Gen X…or like, whatever. 

  

Thankfully, in regards to this, the film has a lot of self-referential observations of how ridiculous it all is, from bystanders of Scott’s ‘world’, i.e. – Scott’s friends namely his older sister and his roommate Wallace, played brilliantly by Kieran Culkin.

 

The special effects are amazing and cannot be flawed. It is such a shame to see Brandon Routh play a superhero role which is shot in a way that you wished his performance in Superman Returns was. 

  

It is interesting to note that this movie has bob-ombed at the box office. This may not be all that surprising as the film is a dangerously niche, quirky comedy. It will be interesting to see if it dates quickly. It is a tremendous indulgence and it is amazing that such a film was made on such a budget in the first place. It seems that lessons were not learned from Speed Racer; a film which audience’s did not know what to make of amongst the tremendous amount of CG which created a digital divide between the audience and film: ie - is it a cartoon? Is it supposed to be taken seriously? Or perhaps falut can be found simply in the marketing strategy of the film: if you think you are walking into a hip-cool counter-culture movie a la Empire Records, Dazed and Confused or Clerks you might be disappointed. You will definitely be surprised! 

 

Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a surreal, hallucinogenic kung-fu rock-musical peppered with retro-video game and other pop-culture that Scott has been raised in. All of this serves Scott’s perspective of his world and his role in it. As Randel in Clerks, and Holden in Chasing Amy, Scott must confront his feelings of inadequacy in relation to his current crushe’s romantic past, all the while facing the end of his adolescent reality as he knows it. In fact, this film would have been Kevin Smith’s opus if hehad been, like, bothered to make it…..pfft…… 

  

This type of money, expertise and the serious nature in which the film has been constructed makes one think of all the missed opportunities in regard to other comic-book-titles (The Batman film series, Superman Returns and a possible Ultimate Spiderman). 

  

For all Gen X grouchiness aside for a minute, one can empathise with this world viewed from the self-interested mind’s eye of its protagonist: when one is young, everything is played for high-stakes and you are the immortal rock-star of your own life (such a metaphor was used successfully in The Lost Boys). 

 

Special effects aside, Scott Pilgrim VS The World is a study of growing up: waking up to the world around you, coming to terms with a serious relationship, confronting sexual jealously and planning on leaving all childish things behind to venture off vulnerably into the great unknown, strengthened by the one that you love.

  

Rating  

Ultimately, I was not the audience for this, so I felt like I was babysitting for 2 hours and was slightly angry that I could not join in on the fun (a bit like watching The Goonies again. Trust me; the experience has changed). 10 – 15 years ago I would have loved it. It would have been perfect if it was made in 1985 and starred Michael J Fox! 

  

That being said, if you are already a fan of Scott Pilgrim, coin-op or console video-games (now labeled as, sigh, ‘retro), romance Manga comic-books, kung-fu, rock’n’roll and Michael Cera, you will undoubtedly love this little-big film. 

 

3.5 evil Ex-Boyfriends out of 5 

 

Check out the film at IMDB, and check out the trailer..

~                                                                                                               ~ 

 

Luke McWilliams August 2010 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast - 27 August 2010 - Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Youth in Revolt and Nosferatu plus an interview with Travis Cragg from the ANU Film Group

Join Luke McWilliams, Liam Jennings, Steven Robert and Felix Barbalet as they review

  • Scott Pilgrim vs The World
  • Youth in Revolt
  • Nosferatu

 plus an interview with Travis Cragg from the ANU Film Group

 

A Single Man Review

A Single Man is a 2009 film based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood and is the feature debut of fashion designer Tom Ford

 

Firth has received career best reviews for his performance and was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 66th Venice International Film Festival in 2009, and also the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. He was also nominated for the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BFCA.

Plot

 

The film is set in LA, a month after the Cuban missile crisis. We follow George Falconer (played by Colin Firth) who is a gay middle-aged English college professor who is still mourning the death of his long term partner.

 

As a result of his inconsolable grief, George decides that at day’s end, he will take his own life. We witness George’s day and are privy to past experiences, his views on his future, and the emotions he experiences when he farewells items that hold sentimental value and people that he knows. As George methodically prepares for his suicide, a few of life’s unexpected surprises come his way, which may disrupt his plans after all.


Review

 

Known for his role as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (and I guess in Bridget Jones’ Diary), Colin Firth here is extraordinary in his understated performance as George Falconer. There is also a surprising but welcome performance by Julian Moore, who plays George’s long-term friend.

 

The strong, deep but effortless performance of Colin Firth, like Ben Stiller in Greenberg, was the back-bone of this character study, and he is convincing.

 

The Cuban Missile Crises serves as a very apt allegory which captures the feelings George experiences in relation to his own expectation of his life: an over-hanging sense of unavoidable, apocalyptic doom.

 

The script is very tight but allows for a loose, dream-like ambience which is due also to the beautiful cinematography and score. The film’s narration and structure when combined with smooth editing, especially in its flashback and slightly surreal sequences, results in creating a poetic flavour.

 

Rating

 

This is the type of film that I love: a perfect example of the power of film to deliver a narrative using all available techniques to manipulate the senses.

 

5 out of 5 martinis.

 

Check out the film at IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say, and watch the trailer.

Luke McWilliams August 2010 

  

The Waiting City Review

Plot

 

The Waiting City plays host to an apparently happily married Australian couple, Fiona (played by Radha Mithcel) who is a corporate lawyer and her husband Ben (played by Joel Edgerton) who is a struggling musician. They make the journey to Kolkata to collect their adopted baby. However, they soon experience many bureaucratic delays and are forced to ‘wait in the city’ (see what they did there?). Soon the two reflect on their strained relationship and their motives for adopting a baby all the while being subject to the magical, spiritual and mystical powers of the Indian city which affects them both.

 

Review

 

I could see where the film wanted to go; the moral and spiritual reawakening of a flawed couple in a foreign land but it did fail. This is either due to the performances of the actors or their direction (perhaps both).

 

The audience is not given the chance to like or, at least, empathise with the protagonists. We therefore have no stake in their plight. We are introduced to a couple who, by most accounts, are odious ‘ugly’ tourists. There is too much for the audience to assume: i.e. – a high-power lawyer is married to an unemployed musician = why? What served as the attraction in the first place? We don’t see any attraction or sense of love between the two, therefore there is no real stake to whether or not their relationship remains intact in this quite stressful time.

 

Their characters don’t follow the script’s planned emotional and spiritual arc for the main characters. Even amongst the couple’s spiritual awakening, they seem to only turn to superficial actions of religious practice out of selfish reasons; i.e. – another means to reach their own end.

 

The film seems to serve as a flawed morality tale; teaching a woman the importance of life and the emotional impact experienced as a consequence of abortion.

 

The Waiting City seemed like a purgatory for the main couple who had to learn the errors of their ways before leaving and living a more substantial married life once back in Australia. It showed India to be a self-service one-stop-shop for religious refill and spiritual enlightenment.

 

That being said, the shots of India are wonderful. It seemed like the second-unit director was filming a great looking documentary to be viewed on an Imax screen. The shots are very tight, however this serves the viewpoint of the constricted view a tourist has of a new, unfamiliar foreign land.

 

Rating

 

It is not a good sign when you are watching a movie not only for the scenic shots, but also due to the examination of the quality of a RED camera.

 

1 out of 5 arms of Lord Shiva.

 

Check out the film on IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say and check out the trailer. 

 

 

                                                                                                                      Luke McWilliams August 2010

Greenberg Review

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Greenberg is a 2010 American comedy-drama film staring Ben Stiller, co written by actor Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The film's soundtrack features the first film score by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records fame, which is amazing as you could have sworn it was a retro compilation mix.

Plot

Fresh out of a mental institution, Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), a 40-year-old man, returns to L.A. to housesit for his brother. We learn that this is Greenberg’s home town, where he and his friends were on the cusp of signing a record deal 15 years beforehand. Greenberg quickly strikes up a relationship with his brothers 20 something assistant, Florence. Soon Greenberg is attempting to reconnect with his old friends and past life including his ex girlfriend, his bitter old band mates all the while struggling with his age amongst the twenty-something’s he finds him self surrounded by.

Review

As Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebrowski, Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. and George Clooney in Up in the Air, Ben Stiller is Greenberg – a 40 something man constantly attempting to break into youth culture. This was acknowledged in his Tropic Thunder marketing skit for MTV, but is explored even further here.

Stiller does an amazing job playing such a character that is so unlikeable. This is probably due to fact that many aging males can relate to Greenberg or, at least, know of someone who is just like him.

The fantasy of the single bachelor is cast into an uncomfortable reality in Greenberg. Instead of being awesome and travelling the world, wearing a suit, having affairs and unfathomable adventures a la James Bond or Barney from How I Met Your Mother (“legen-I-hope-you’re-not-lactos-intolerent-dary”), Greenburg is surrounded by reminders of what he should be doing with his life and, when trying to break into the fantasy of bachelorhood, is reminded of the reality of his situation. An example being his 20 something crush not being able to offer him any ‘real’ drinks at her modest apartment apart from half a bottle of corona, and her owning a dinosaur hologram ruler. The humor and awkwardness of such situations are pleasantly and nauseatingly entwined.

The film is a great study of the micro-culture of youth in LA. As Greenberg himself admits, it was only a moment ago that he was 27, thus middle-age existentialism vs young adult existentialism. A drowning, grey haired skunk with a party full of laughing gen Y’s is a heavy but apt metaphor.

It wouldn’t matter to me if Greenberg had or hadn’t had a mental breakdown or become institutionalized. It is enough that this character has had a psycho-sexual fix on the events of 15 years prior: what if he had signed that contract? Is there still hope? Maybe if I get my friends back together I can repent with what I have done to their lives and fix everything! With such noble motives but flawed logic, Greenberg has to learn to let go, thus accepting his life and with that, the beginning of a new decade.

Rating

I enjoyed not knowing exactly where the film was taking me, a bit like Greenberg himself I guess. It unfolded at such a steady-pace that it could have been a television series a la What About Brian with a difference: I cared for the character and was interested in where he may or may not end up.

4 half drunken bottles of Corona out of 5

 

Check out the film at IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say, and check out the trailer..

~                                                                                                                                   ~

Luke McWilliams August 2010

Rashomon review

Rashomon review by Liam Jennings

Before the Throne of Blood, Hidden fortress, Yojimbo & Seven Samurai
hit our shores, there was a film that opened up western eyes to the
incredible complexities of Japanese cinema.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival and an honorary
Academy award that caused the Academy to create the best foreign film
category. This film was Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Rashomon.

Based on the short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Rashomon tells the
complex tale of the rape of a young woman and the brutal murder of her
husband whilst travelling alone in the forrest.
Rashomon is translated to “In the woods” which tells you everything
about this film. Something happened in the woods, a very nasty thing,
but what exactly happened and who’s to blame? This is a question that
two men ask a priest who was present at the trail. The priest then
introduces you to the main suspects through his recollection of the
events that followed: the bandit Tajōmaru played by Toshiro Mifune,
the samurai's wife played by Machiko Kyo,the deceased Samurai and
finally the nameless woodcutter played by Takashi Shimura who would
later pop up in countless Kurosawa productions. The suspects are held
by Jury and asked to tell their side of the twisted story.

The interesting part of this film is that it gives off an ‘in cold
blood ‘ narrative, something that had been played with by the Noir
films in the west, but there was nothing that really devised a
screenplay around unreliable narrators. You never know who is telling
the truth, even when the most absurd things happen for example: a
Spirit medium conjuring up the ghost of the dead samurai to tell his
side of the story. You start to question the dead, and there lies the
most intriguing part of the film, the motives of the individual are
skewed & the age old saying “Dead men tell no tales” is thrown on its
head.
This film is about pride and how you can literally deny things to the
grave so savour your public image.Even after the films climax you
think about the characters, about their pride, how they would rather
stain the reputation of another and hold their own head high than do
what’s right. This Includes the victim of this crime herself. Shimura
has a line in the film where he says “This time I may finally lose my
faith in the human soul” And just right he is.

The lighting in this film is a marvel in its self, being deep in a
Forrest, Kurosawa famously hung mirrors throughout the trees, these
would catch the light and send obscure patches of glimmering light
through the scenes. I feel that this distinction between light and
darkness is an allegory for the good and bad in the world, how even
the deepest parts of the woods bare many evils and you never know when
you are going to step into a patch of darkness. The acting is again
something special, with another jaw dropping performance by Toshiro
Mifune and everyone involved. Previously Kurosawa had worked with
Toshiro on The Drunken Angel, Quiet Duel & Stray Dog, but this film
put Mifune in a place where he shines brightest, the Edo Samurai
Period.

I recently read a passage by Kurosawa in his Autobiography “Mifune had
a kind of talent I had never encountered before in the Japanese film
world. It was, above all, the speed with which he expressed himself
that was astounding. The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet
of film to get across an impression; Mifune needed only three. The
speed of his movements was such that he said in a single action what
took ordinary actors three separate movements to express. He put forth
everything directly and boldly, and his sense of timing was the
keenest I had ever seen in a Japanese actor. And yet with all his
quickness, he also had surprisingly fine sensibilities.”
Kurosawa has the ability to get the most from his actors but what he
achieved with Mifune is outstanding and is an utterly mesmerising to
watch.


If you wanted to get your hands on this film I would highly recommend
the Criterion edition from the states with the new high-definition
transfer, with restored image and sound. Time was not good on the
original print and all editions I have found locally look like they
were ripped from a VHS.

I read a quote by Mifune in regards to his work with Kurosawa long ago
where he said "I am proud of nothing I have done other than with him"
And the work between the two is nothing short of breathtaking. Mifune
and Kurosawa fit like a glove and this film is a perfect stepping
stone into the work of two of the greatest characters in cinema.
I adored this film, it was well paced, the picture was beautiful and
the eloquence of the actors was amazing. For a film to be sixty years
old and to still make an impact to its audience today is something of
a marvel in itself. If you haven’t seen Rashomon, grab a glass of wine
this winter, warm up the lounge room, turn off the lights and enjoy.

5/5 - Liam
5/5 - Luke