Jeff Orlowski’s Oscar-nominated climate change documentary Chasing Ice reveals the delicate craft of measuring global warming on glacial ice. It’s no easy job — and neither is making a film about it.READ MORE
A wheelchair-bound US president, action figurines writ large, strange cults and chop socky action in this fortnight’s The Parallax Podcast, hosted by myself and Rich Haridy.READ MORE
The life of veteran American film critic Roger Ebert is inspiring for many reasons. None more so than those relating to his greatest “crime.”READ MORE
“I’m on vacation,” Bruce Willis grumbles several times throughout A Good Day to Die Hard, with the grunt of a man who doesn’t want to be there because, you know, his character really doesn’t want to be there.
In every Die Hard movie (this is the fifth) Willis plays John McClane, a humourless cop whose off-the-clock activities (such as enjoying his wife’s office Christmas party in the first installment and nursing a hangover in the third) are inevitably gatecrashed, usually by bad guys with thick accents and diabolical plans.
This “I don’t want to be here” shtick isn’t limited to Willis’ characterisation of McClane. It applies to virtually every character the 58-year-old professional blank canvas has ever brought to the screen.
The first major indication there is something amiss in the writing department of A Good Die to Day Hard is the hollowness of that line: “I’m on vacation.” The problem isn’t Willis’ stoic delivery; it’s the screenplay.READ MORE
It’s difficult to gauge whether Alex Gibney’s searing exposé Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God has more or less currency now a new Pope hobbles down the hallways of the same old controversy-riddled Vatican.
If Benedict XVI were still sitting on the throne, Gibney’s documentary — which connects the first known fight against Catholic church sex abuse in the US, spearheaded by four deaf men, to the highest echelons of the papacy — would play like a fire and brimstone push to get Benedict out. It stands just as well as a damning document capturing two legacies: his, and the church’s sordid history in handling sex offenders.
The former Pope isn’t the core “villain” of Gigney’s film. That scope is set on a serial suspected rapist the church protected despite hundreds of separate allegations. The man Gibney’s four central subjects pursue for decades, from outraged young adults distributing homemade wanted flyers to middle-aged men shouting at him to turn himself over to the police.READ MORE
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the latest example of how CGI can mess up depictions of magic on film. To discover why venture back with me to my former life as an amateur magician…READ MORE
Paul Fenech is something of a spectre lingering on the peripheries of the Australian pop culture landscape, a high-powered troller who flings fireballs of low-brow comedy usually involving niche groups — ethnic minorities, the disabled, the job-less, etcetera — in the direction of broad audiences.
His TV show Pizza began in 2000 and ran for five seasons, expanding in 2003 to a feature extension, Fat Pizza. The Maltese Australian actor/writer/director created Housos in 2011, which has also, via Housos Vs. Authority, been given a cinematic workout, and is now available on DVD.
Like Fat Pizza, the film struggles to sustain a longer format. Fenech’s sketchy point-and-spray style is more conducive to short bursts and channel surfing than a drawn-out three act structure.READ MORE
Pushing aside the creative shortcomings of Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful – and boy, there are many – there is one scene director Sam Raimi gets absolutely right.
The prologue of his prequel to Victor Fleming’s beloved The Wizard of Oz (1939) introduces us to a conniving, womanizing, big-thinking circus illusionist (James Franco) who is chased by angry carnies and escapes in a hot air balloon. The balloon is swept up in a tornado and lands in the CGI-splotched land of Oz.
Shot in 4:3 ratio, in smoky black and white, the scene is a handsomely rendered old-school prelude to two hours of candy-coloured landscapes and 3D-enhanced screensavers. The original film similarly opened in sepia-toned monochrome (though it, of course, was not lathered in digital artifice).
But the top brass at Warner Bros. (distributor of the 1939 film) were not beguiled by this beauty. Instigating a stoush that may have far-reaching implications for how film copyright law is enforced and understood, Warner’s lawyers have scoured every frame for ammunition that could be used to blow away the Big Mouse, then sip champagne while eating his cheese.READ MORE
James Franco is the Wizard of Oz. Mark Wahlberg is Mark Wahlberg. In this fortnight’s The Parallax Podcast, Luke Buckmaster and Rich Haridy review Oz: The Great and Powerful, Broken City and a trio of strange DVD releases.READ MORE
They are regular albeit unpredictable events emblazoned on the Australian film culture calendar. Observers know of them all too well: government-financed productions directed by clipboard-wielding people in dark screening rooms.
They are, of course, the critically lambasted antics of our national censorship body, the Australian Classification Board.
The most recent instalment premiered late last month, when up-and-coming American filmmaker Travis Matthews’ drama I Want Your Love was granted an RC rating, effectively banning it from Australian screens. The film, which depicts graphic homosexual sex, was due to play at festivals across the country.
This arrived four months after Canadian horror-comedy Father’s Day was similarly banned. Before that, Norwegian horror/thriller The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) was OKed for distribution in May 2011. In an embarrassing about-face it was banned late November, then, with less than one minute shaved off its running time, re-granted an R classification.
This time is a little different, in the sense Hollywood has become involved. At least, one man: 34-year-old actor, filmmaker, teacher and one-time Academy Awards host James Franco.READ MORE
The cast and crew of Australian drama Blinder have shown courage in confronting complex issues head on. And with that courage should come the conviction to admit they got it very, very wrong.READ MORE
From a conceptual point-of-view it made a lot of sense. A blokey Australian comedy about bumbling good-natured cricket players who travel to India to mingle with the locals, bowl a few wickets, swig marijuana lassis and dance to exotic music. A sort of export-ready fair dinkum mash-up of The Hangover (2009) and Dodgeball (2004), with a splash of Bollywood panache and 30-something “what are we doing with our lives” angst.
Director Boyd Hicklin and screenwriter Brendan Cowell, who also stars as a dope smoking team member of the Abbotsford Anglers, avoid drilling the most loaded comedic premise in Save Your Legs! — that the focus is on the trials and tribulations of wobbly-footed blokes who can’t play their favourite sport very well and, on their supposedly important overseas challenge, spend the lion’s share of their journey getting sidetracked.
To give the film some gravitas, Cowell constructs dramatic friction between his character Rick and team captain Teddy (Stephen Curry), who is reluctant to let his mates’ lives evolve too far from the pitch. Hicklin and his cast work hard to try and make the audience care for these characters, but dramatic moments feel heavy-handed and conspicuous. When an old substitute player collapses on field, the subsequent hospital room scene plays like stodgy daytime TV.READ MORE
Post-Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to his first starring role in almost a decade in The Last Stand. In this new era of Arnie, how does the film represent his values as a politician?READ MORE
When Ricky Gervais rolled out a stream of snarky zingers as host of the 2010 Golden Globes, in turn generating a smattering of controversy and a spike in ratings, organisers of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences would have looked on with intense curiosity. Some said the 51-year-old British comedian’s “give the A-listers a hard time” approach went too far. Needless to say, he returned to the podium in 2011 and 2012.
When Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was announced as host of this year’s Oscars ceremony, the question was never whether his distinctly irreverent sense of humour would be tempered, but to what extent. Family Guy’s appeal has always been as a fearless hotbed of “went there” gags. Disabled people, fat people, drugs, pedophilia…
Nothing is out of reach in MacFarlane’s comedic universe. If there was ever any doubt, the writer/producer’s big screen directional debut, Ted, the story of a friendship between a grown man and his bong-smoking, hooker-hiring teddy bear, put this to bed on a well-soiled mattress.
A good example why MarFarlane’s shtick so often works was found in this year’s opening Oscars musical number. A weary-looking William Shatner, in Captain Kirk garb, beamed in a video message / conversation from the future warning MacFarlane of the terrible job he was about to perform and the subsequent ‘Worst Host in History’ headlines, which turned out to be deliciously propheticREAD MORE
Cloud Atlas baffles. Arnie returns in The Last Stand. On DVD, we find Sugarman and review John Hillcoat’s Lawless. This and more from myself and Rich Haridy in our fortnightly show The Parallax Podcast.READ MORE
This week John Polson, film director and organiser of the world’s largest short film festival, created a different kind of production: a bizarre PR debacle on Twitter.READ MORE
An elderly woman’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. A man helps her get it started. She offers to pay him. The Good Samaritan refuses.
The old lady goes to a cafe. She is served by a heavily pregnant waitress. She hands the pregnant waitress, dressed in an apron, a $100 bill. The waitress leaves the room to collect her change and, when she returns, the old woman has left.
There is a note on the table, Pay it Forward style. It reads “we’ve all been there”. The pregnant waitress goes home to her husband. In a last moment twist, we discover the waitress’ husband is the same man who helped the old lady at the start.
That’s an account of what transpires in director Nicholas Clifford’s We’ve All Been There (available to watch here), which won the coveted fruit bowl trophy at Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival, on Sunday night.
It is also exactly what happens in The Chain of Love, a smaltzy song/musical video from American country musician Clay Walker. Except in Walker’s song, the note reads “I’ve been there too”.
Ordinarily such similarities — not just broad plot points but specific story, character and even visual details — would constitute an open and shut case of plagiarism. Viewers would be right to accuse Clifford of pilfering another artist’s work.READ MORE