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Film reviews

Oct 19, 2013

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Prisoners

See itIn Howard Suber’s screenwriting textbook The Power of Film, the UCLA lecturer argues there is no such thing as an antihero. Instead, there “are only characters who act heroically and those who do not.”

If we watch a person drive down a street, see a house on fire and run inside to rescue an elderly lady, we naturally bestow on them the status of a hero. If we watch a person drive down a street, see a house on fire, and respond by looking at their watch, grumbling and racing off to an appointment, he or she is not an antihero (so the logic goes) but simply a person who is not a hero yet.

That argument begins, if not to unravel, then certainly to enter far muddier territory when a character performs an otherwise unconscionable act because they believe it is in service of a wider moral imperative; muddier still if that moral imperative may not be obviously the “right” one. In other words, if a person believes they are doing awful things because they are acting heroically. Continue reading “Prisoners movie review: trapped in a maze of moral murkiness”

Film reviews

Aug 5, 2013

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Don't rush“In this movie for the first time we finally explore what it’s like to live almost indefinitely with regret and pain,” said Hugh Jackman, on the promotional circuit to advertise his sixth incarnation of Marvel’s famous fork-armed hero. According to the 44-year-old former Boy from Oz, who bulked up for his latest role so much he looks both super fit and kind of freaky, this is the Wolverine movie he always wanted to make.

It’s a given that one should never trust an actor doing PR, but Jackman is a special breed of snake oil salesman. His ability to earnestly enunciate various iterations of “cha-ching” doesn’t come naturally to everybody.

“When I read the script for The Fan I was very happy, because I thought it was very funny,” he said last January, discussing the merits of one of his lesser known producions. It wasn’t a comedic remake of the 1996 Robert DeNiro thriller. It was a commercial for Lipton Iced Tea. Continue reading “The Wolverine movie review: all bark, no bite”

News & commentary

Mar 19, 2013

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I stood transfixed, staring at a well dressed man — black smoking jacket, bow tie, slick hair — repeat the same trick over and over. His left hand held a 20 cent coin. His right was empty. When he turned them over, the coin magically traded places. I grabbed his palms and inspected them. This was eighteen years ago, at my father’s 50th birthday. My fragile little mind was blown.

In the tradition of gobsmacked children who suddenly know the answer to that question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, and in the tradition of real-life moments that play like scenes from cheesy movies, I asked him, with what I assume was a look of puppy dog adoration, “Can I be a magician one day?”

“Yes you can,” he said. “But you’ll need to practise a lot.”

A few months later I found the first trick I could do ad infinitum and never stuff up. It had a good finish and, best of all, didn’t require much practice. A magician sold me the secret at a town fair.

The trick goes like this. An envelope lies face down on a table. You remove three cardboard strips from the envelope and ask a participant to choose blue, orange or green. You ask them to confirm their choice. Let them change it if they want to. You tell them you already knew what colour they were going to choose, and you can prove it.

Let’s say the participant selected blue. You turn the blue cardboard strip over. On the back, bold typeface reads I KNEW YOU WOULD PICK BLUE. He or she naturally asks to see the reverse of the other two strips. You joke around, say something like “why does it matter?” or “surely not?”. After some banter you turn over the orange strip. It’s blank. You turn over the green one. Blank too.

It’s a decent trick involving a simple but effective deception. I soon discovered not many magic tricks are this easy to pull off, and the ones that were generally weren’t very good. This magic thing actually took effort. So I did what just about any kid contemplating a future of ongoing hard work would do.

I gave up.

A decade later, I’m a university student in my early 20s and my interest in magic has been rekindled after meeting the legendary Penn and Teller in Las Vegas. I practise card and coin sleights and other techniques daily. One morning I’m channel surfing between TV programs and on Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s show (don’t judge me) I see a man who looks a lot like a magician. I tune in.

The man asks KAK to pick a card, any card. She chooses the Seven of Hearts. He takes a deck out of his pocket and fans it. There is only one card face down. She takes it and sure enough: it’s the Seven of Hearts.

My reaction? “Pfftt.”

Either he was carrying 52 different decks (unlikely) or — yeah! — they simply communicated before broadcast. The magician had stooged the trick, arranged the deck to match the card he already knew would be picked — the laziest form of “magic” out there. The next weekend I visited my magic mentor, a brilliant but slightly over the hill Australian illusionist whose magic shop was situated in a room at the back of his house, and groused about it.

“No no, that’s a real trick,” he said. “It’s called the Invisible Card Deck.”

“Do you have that in stock?” I asked/yelped.

“I do. In fact, you’re holding it right now.”

So I learnt the secret of the Invisible Card Deck. You can do it anywhere and it doesn’t require a “force” (sleight of hand that presents the illusion of choice). Late one night at a club in the city I performed it to an old friend from school and his jaw fell to the floor, cartoon style. He grabbed me by the arm and rushed me over to a group of his friends who were drinking and chatting the night away. I performed the trick again. Their eyes lit up, bulged as if they were about to leap out of their sockets like frogs from a dynamite pond. I was revered for the rest of the night as a Christ-like miracle worker, and that was fine by me.

The point of all this, if you’ll excuse the patter, is that I was vastly more impressed by the coin trick at my dad’s 50th birthday and the colours trick I found at the fair than I was by the Invisible Card Deck (which is actually a vastly more impressive trick) simply because I saw the latter on television. If you watch an illusion performed live, preferably close-up, the rules of game are clearer and there is less room — literal or otherwise — for the performer to move. There is no ability for the them to edit or cut away; little chance they have arranged it with the participant (especially if that’s you) beforehand.

One of the frustrating things about depictions of magic in contemporary movies is their use of special effects. Magic itself is a special effect, a seemingly impossible feat brought to life before your eyes. Add two kinds of magic — a trick actualised through the trickery of another medium — and the effect generally becomes a lot less impressive. Add CGI and there are three levels of abracadabra: the magic trick, the magic of a camera and the magic of an editing suite.

A great example of how these forces combine to form less rather than more of an impact can be found in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (now playing in cinemas), a dopey comedy starring Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as veteran magic performers/partners who fall out and pursue solo careers.

Carell’s titular character, out of luck and out of gigs, finds himself demoted from performing on a Vegas stage to hopping between tables at a retirement home. There he bumps into the person who inspired him to take up magic as a child, a now jaded “seen it all” magician played by Alan Arkin. Arkin’s character shows him a stunning trick in which he slams a salt shaker down on the table. From it emerges a white dove, which flaps its wings and flies away.

Carell is astonished. Arkin notes that his reaction is what got him engaged with magic in the first place; the equivalent of me watching the coin flipping magician as a child. Emotionally the beats of this sequence are all in place — it’s not exactly a complicated moment — but it falls down because the moment the dove emerges from the salt shaker is obviously rendered in CGI. It looks completely fake and, even by the perception-bending standards of illusion, absolutely impossible.

Special effects that look so conspicuous are the equivalent of a botched magic trick: the moment the audience notices the hidden card, the plastic thumb, the trick deck, the invisible wire.

Digital effects ruin most of the tricks depicted in Neil Burger’s The Illusionist (2006) because they too were obviously plucked from a computer rather than from a sleeve. At least one of them, involving an unhealthy plant that magically grows oranges, was based on a real trick, which adds another twist of despair.

Sylvain Chomet’s 2010 feature about a past-his-prime magician, also titled The Illusionist, executed depictions of magic performance more modestly and more impressively, despite the style of the film (animation) allowing a lot more elbow room.

Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (2006) took an imaginative route in exploring the most impressive illusion in the repertoire of two dueling magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. It involves the magician entering one door on the left of a stage then almost instantly appearing from another on the right.

The reveal of how this is performed inside the reality of the film is impressive for a few reasons. Firstly because it is an invention of writing rather than a simple, crude way to spoil a real trick. The reveal is also a sleight itself, which leads to two more reveals that arrive in the form of final act plot twists. We learn (spoiler alert) Bale’s magician is secretly two characters (identical twins) and Jackman has used a dangerous machine to create replicas of himself, which he kills as soon as they are “born.”

Director George Marshall’s Houdini (1953), starring Tony Curtis as the legendary magician/escape artist, gets the balance between screen and stage trickery right in all the ways The Incredible Burt Wonderstone doesn’t. An early scene depicts Curtis pouring milk into a cone of paper (“I have an ordinary piece of paper”) then, once the paper is unravelled, it is revealed to be dry. The audience is showered in white confetti. There are no edits or special effects but it is nevertheless a high impact illusion, and in the context of cinematic history, perhaps a sort of proto-CGI. Similarly, David Copperfield’s character in Terror Train (1980), a junky slasher pic starring Jamie Lee Curtis, appeared to use tools for “real” magic.

It would be potentially fascinating if a director making a movie about magicians regarded live action magic as a special effect and CGI as an unnecessary addition. A modern magic movie that uses “real” tricks could be marketed along the same lines as Thai director Prachya Pinkaew’s 2003 martial arts hit Ong Bak, associated with taglines such as “no computer graphics, no stunt doubles, no wires.”

How about: stunning magic. Mind-bending tricks. No CGI.

Disclosure: I used to be an amateur magician. I still have a bag of tricks. I haven’t performed them for years. 

News & commentary

Feb 12, 2013

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Movie 43

The brainchild of producer Charles Wessler, Movie 43 was dreamt up in the early 2000’s as an outrageous anthology comedy consisting of a series of gross-out Funny or Die style sketches from a range of writers and directors. Wessler and co-producer Peter Farrelly (one half of the infamous Farrelly brothers) shopped their pitch around. No studio would touch it. Almost a decade later, Relativity Media gave it a green light and a six million dollar budget — a remarkably small price considering the bevy of A-list actors who would be drawn to the project.

The movie was shot over several years, bending to the availability of its cast. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were involved early on but jumped ship. So did Colin Farrell. George Clooney was asked to star as himself in a skit about how he can’t pick up women. “No fucking way,” Clooney responded. Richard Gere reportedly tried to wriggle out of it, but eventually agreed to cameo as a Steve Jobs-like character who struggles to understand why consumers are putting their penises inside his company’s hottest new release: the ‘iBabe’. Gere succumbed, under the condition that the set come to him and the shoot would take no more than four days.

Movie 43‘s most talked about sequence, in which Kate Winslet goes on a blind date with Hugh Jackman and is horrified to discover, when he removes his scarf, that he has a pair of testicles dangling from beneath his chin, was shot more than four years ago and used to convince a raft of other high profile actors to join.

The resulting production has 14 storylines credited to 13 directors and nine writers. Its never-ending Timtam packet of luminaries include Jackman, Winslet, Gere, Gerard Butler, Naomi Watts, Halle Berry, Uma Thurman, Emma Stone, Dennis Quaid, Liev Schrieber, Greg Kinnear, Justin Long, Johnny Knoxville, Stephen Merchant, Terence Howard, Seann William Scott, Anna Faris and Seth MacFarlane. They didn’t do it for the money. According to Farrelly, each of the actors received US$800 for their contributions.

Movie 43 wasn’t screened for critics prior to its release in America and the UK on January 25 (it opened in Australia on February 7). Two separate cuts were made for each release. In the US the framing device is a crazed screenwriter (Dennis Quaid) pitching scenes to a studio executive (Greg Kinnear), the resulting feature a collection of his kooky ideas. As Kinnear’s attention wavers, the screenwriter grows increasingly desperate and pulls a gun to try to seal the deal. In the UK version, a bunch of teenagers try to find a mythical movie called Movie 43. Australian cinemas are screening the former.

None of its many stars promoted the film on talk shows or in the press. Asked about the lack of PR, Farrelly responded: “the studio is not hiding it. We knew it would have to find its audience, and believe me, it will.” The film’s poster taglines include “The most outrageous comedy ever made” and “Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.”

Not many people have. Movie 43 tanked at the box office, and its chances of becoming a sleeper hit at cinemas are on par with its chances of winning a Best Picture Oscar. As soon as it opened, the tsunami hit — a sustained and  unrelentingly savage attack from critics, up there with the biggest collective take-down of any star-studded Hollywood release.

Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper led the charge, trotting out a variation of a line famously applied to Tommy Wiseua’s low-fi 2009 romantic drama The Room, which went on to become an unlikely cult hit. Roeper called Movie 43 “the Citizen Kane of awful.” The Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin was “overcome with a sudden rush of emotion: not amusement, anger or even mild irritation, but a profound and faintly tragic sense of pity.” The New York TimesStephen Holden warned that “it brings Hollywood’s standards of comedy one step closer to the gutter.” Vulture’s David Edelstein looked on the bright side (sort of). “It’s rare to see a piece of shit that actually looks and sounds like a piece of shit. It’s exciting,” he wrote. The Star‘s Peter Howell put it simply: “the worst film ever.” At time of publication, Movie 43 is sitting on a dismal 5% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. To say it has been lambasted by critics is to put it very, very lightly.

Farrelly, co-director of flaky OTW comedies such as Kingpin, Stuck On You and Me, Myself and Irene is no stranger to a bad review. But so vicious was the critical mauling that the 56-year-old filmmaker took to Twitter to vent his outrage.

“To the critics: Movie 43 is not the end of the world. It’s just a $6-million movie where we tried to do something different. Now back off,” he wrote. And later: “To the critics: You always complain that Hollywood never gives you new stuff, and then when you get it, you flip out.”

That’s the story, up until this point, of how one of Hollywood’s strangest comedies got made and received. The question on everybody’s lips: “is it actually that bad?”

At the risk of being ridiculed by my zinger-happy brethren, the answer is simply: no. Not even close.

Movie 43 has its faults. It is a freakshow of gross-out humour that goes harder and further than virtually any of its vomit bag contemporaries. There are plenty of funny moments — myself and 15 or so other cinema attendees regularly laughed out loud, one person to the point at which he erupted into an ugly coughing fit — and it’s one of the most unconventionally entertaining insane-in-the-brain pictures you’ll see (or not see, as the case may be) this or any year. Its structure relies on a slippery variety show “throw mud and see what sticks” approach, and plenty sticks, even if some jokes can only be appreciated if viewed through the fuzzy prism of pure absurdity (a short segment about how oppressed small children live and work inside photocopy machines is Python-esque in its random ridiculousness).

The absurdly disproportionate critical response to Movie 43 has brought to the fore one of the laziest strategies a film reviewer can deploy, and we’ve seen it time and time again: the technique of describing content with the insinuation that such a description constitutes analysis.

For example: “Hugh Jackman wears testicles on his neck,” “Halle Berry makes guacamole with her breasts” and “Anna Faris asks to be defecated on”. The implication being that a movie featuring giant, ugly, sweating, life-like balls dangling from Hugh Jackman’s chin cannot be good. Yes, that indicates the humour is being pitched at a certain level, but the point is that description is not a form of analysis, and to correlate the two is either lazy or disingenuous.

The way Wessler and Farrelly’s ostentatious production has been unceremoniously dumped on says less about its shortcomings as a work of “art” and more about a critical commentary echo chamber where catchy lines and shrill put-downs have replaced any reasonable look at what went wrong and why. The consensus among clambake commentary has been to pick low hanging fruit — an irregularly shaped comedy full of bodily fluid puns — and smash it with a mallet, creating analysis more vacuous than the movie’s many grotesequeries.

Applying to Movie 43 any vaguely analytic point-of-view now, apparently, constitutes an act of lunacy. And there is, despite the movie’s technique of reducing the impact of its more thoughtful moments with self-sabotaging toilet bowl punchlines, plenty to consider. (At this stage I should point out that this post contains some spoilers).

Movie 43‘s first sketch is the now infamous Hugh Jackman testicles scene, which was directed by Farrelly. It’s a combination of crass sight comedy and Twilight Zone mystery, in which the protagonist is shocked to discover something nobody else is bothered by and subsequently calls into question her sanity. Those awful, mesmerising testies hog the viewer’s attention but the thrust of the scene concerns why they are there in the first place.

Kate Winslet is the only person perturbed in a busy restaurant. Nobody else notices, cares or pays the conspicuous ball sack any mind. The many critics of Movie 43 who dismiss the whole package as nothing more than senseless gratuity are the Winslet character: all they can see are the testicles, and they can’t get past the gross-out. Audiences happy to go along with it are the other people in the restaurant: carefree, accepting the reality they’ve been handed and unafraid to enjoy themselves.

Or, perhaps, this is Farrelly’s slap-down of the current state of studio-sanctioned crassness, a statement about the nadir toilet bowl humour in Hollywood has reached and how no-one in the industry bats an eyelash at the most reprehensible of visions. To argue that these readings are something that could never have been intentioned isn’t fair to the narrative framework (at least the US / Australian version I watched), which goes to great lengths to power these kinds of “what am I watching, and where did it come from?” thought trains. Quaid’s screenwriter is violent and insane, his ideas risible and rotten. Kinnear’s studio executive is reluctant to cater to the wishes of a person determined to lower the tone of his product, before eventually turning on his own rationale as part of a perverse prank against a superior — a pundit deliberately sabotaging the studio system from the inside.

In Homeschooled, co-written and directed by Will Graham, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber play overzealous parents who take micro-management of their only child’s life to absurd levels. Their hypothesis, as they explain to another couple, is that homeschooling can offer the curriculum educative value of going to school, but cannot replicate coming of age experiences indirectly related to the classroom (being teased and humiliated by other students, experiencing a first kiss with a fellow classmate, etcetera). So Schreiber teases his child about his penis in the shower, and Watts, sitting on his bed, begins making out with her own son.

The final punchline is mediocre, but the rest is a neat two-hander, condemning the vulgarities of high school culture while extolling the virtues of them as resilience-building rites of passage and, most importantly, sledging overzealous parents along the way.

In Victory’s Glory, Terence Howard plays Coach Jackson, who is giving a pep talk to his basketball team before they face-off against an all-white opposition. It’s a piss-take on sports movie conventions and a mockery of racial expectations. The nervous team murmur about how they are going to get beaten but Jackson repeatedly slams home the point that they’re black and therefore, they’ll win.

Truth or Dare mines sexual perversion in a depraved society, with Stephen Merchant and Halle Berry mutilating themselves to get laid. Beezel is a Ted-esque corruption of kiddy play things by foul, adult realities, as if Puff the Magic Dragon grew up, flew away from Honah Lee and became a smack-taking sadist. iBabe imagines a world in which obsession about gadgetry leads to mutilation of the body and mind. Middleschool, which focuses on a girl embarrassed by her first period, paints a shocking portrait of men’s compulsions to outlaw women’s issues.

Movie 43 has a great deal more on its mind than poo and fart jokes. More, in fact, than most comedies that come out of Hollywood, though the mauling its received over the last couple of weeks suggest a critic isn’t supposed to say that.

A froth from the mouth groupthink review is the name of the game. Drink the pee-poisoned Kool-Aid, whip up a zinger, join the snark brigade and kick the dog when it’s down.

Interviews

Dec 28, 2012

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Tom Hooper

There was never any doubt that director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Les Misérables, gift-wrapped with singalong performances from a pedigree cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, would arrive with a huge built-in audience. Many of us have seen and loved the musical. What caught some off-guard — perhaps Hooper himself, still basking in the glow of his Oscar-winning The King’s Speech — is the divisive response the film has received from critics.

Some have trotted out the line “if you love the musical, you’ll love the film.” If that’s a ‘rule’, I’m one of the exceptions. I’m a fan of the stage production but found Hooper’s adaptation stiff and soporific. What irked me the most was his decision to shoot almost every sequence just a few feet from his actors, which strips the film of a sense of location, makes it feel more about the singers than the songs. Why not zoom out, widen the lens, soak up the 19th century European settings?

“Because in most cases the songs are not about where the person is,” Hooper said to me shortly before the film’s release.

“If you think about Dream a Dream, she’s talking about this lover she had that betrayed her. She’s talking about her broken dreams. She’s talking about the end of her hopes. None of it relates to the fact that she’s sitting in the depths of a rotting ship.” Continue reading “All about the close-up: interview with Tom Hooper, director of Les Misérables”

Film reviews

Dec 13, 2012

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Hollywood studio mogul Jack Warner pioneered a unique rating system for films he “reviewed”. Warner’s method of critical appraisal directly related the cinematic experience to the number of times he felt an inclination to go to the bathroom. A zero or one piss picture? Tolerable. A three piss picture? Forget about it.

It’s probably a good thing Warner is not alive to sit through director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of beloved novel-cum-musical-cum-musical-movie Les Misérables. He would never have made it through.

It’s not just Les Misérables’ hefty 157 minute running time that will have general audiences running back and forth to the bathroom. It’s how Hooper has managed to suck the life out of a magnificent production, draining the blood of bread-pilfering Jean Valjean into a port-a-loo of tedium.

It’s not for want of trying, or laziness, or even skill. But decisions Hooper made in the mammoth task of bringing this musical to the big screen — one of them to shoot gargantuan portions of the production no more than three feet from his actors, on, indefensibly, handheld cameras — stacked the deck against him. The resulting film is weirdly lethargic, as if the bulk of it were gleaned from footage of rehearsals. Continue reading “Les Misérables movie review: a ten piss picture”

In Hugh Jackman’s latest bout of small-minded big budget balderdash, Real Steel, boxing is used as an emotional magnet to connect a father — played by the Boy from Oz himself — with his estranged young son, played by wide-eyed lil’ tyke Dakota Goyo.

The sport draws ’em together, gives ’em common ground, shared aspirations and Quality Bonding Time. Their triumphs and tribs are decorated by the sport movie genre’s staple fist-in-the-air conventions: training sequences, a championship to look forward to, a titanic never-been-beaten carry-over to topple, a nefarious win-at-all-costs enemy manager, an unexpected last minute hurdle to overcome, etcetera. Continue reading “Real Steel movie review: straight to the junkyard”

Hugh JackmanInstead of jetting away to an island paradise to sink cocktails, fiddle with tiny novelty umbrellas and bask in the success of X-Men Origins: Wolverine – the movie gobbled up US $87million at the American box office last week – star, producer and all-time Our Boy Hugh Jackman has just announced his latest project, Ghostopolis. Jackman has signed on to star in and produce the supernatural adventure for Disney, which will adapt a yet to be released graphic novel of the same name from author Doug TenNapel. TenNapel doesn’t seem to have made an impression in Australia (has anyone actually read one of his books?) but he’s hot property in tinsel town at the moment, with three of his other works in development at various studios: Tommysaurus Rex (Universal), Creature Tech (Fox), and Monster Zoo (Paramount).

In Ghostopolis Jackman will play a member of the Spiritual Immigration Task Force (no word yet on whether Kevin Andrews will cameo) which are a group devoted to policing interaction between our world and the supernatural world. When a child crosses over, ala Monsters Inc., Jackman must team up with a dead former flame to retrieve him. Another gig as producer is further evidence that Our Boy enjoys a little extra power and influence on set, although no evidence as yet suggests he’s done anything particularly valiant with it.

WolverineYou may recall reading a couple of weeks ago about an incomplete work print of X-Men Origins: Wolverine that was leaked online. Star Hugh Jackman reportedly reacted by saying he was “heartbroken,” a response in stark contrast to the emotional gravitas of his character in the movie – a stony-hearted, ill-tempered mutant with a skeleton made of indestructible metal, complete with retractable claws that jut out from behind his knuckles.

Jackman’s outcry came from a man well accustomed to overacting; since the original X-Men movie blitzed worldwide box office in 2000 he has made a handsome career of it. If you need inflated emotions delivered earnest-to-goodness with grand histrionic flair and not a trace of knowingness or self-conscious performance Jackman is your man, a fair dinkum middle-of-the-road movie star who seems to have drifted in from an older, simpler time, where a man always opened the door for a lady and never wore a hat inside.

There is a moment in Wolverine that would have been oddly prophetic had the movie come out a couple of years ago. The scene is set in a barn as a benevolent farmer looks at Jackman with soft, soulful eyes and says “you look like a man fixin’ to do a bad thing.” He’s right, but the prophecy came too late. The bad thing was called Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.

The previous X-Men films were set in the not-too-distant future, but this one encompasses flashbacks that span 150 years. After growing into an adult Logan aka Wolverine (Jackman) doesn’t seem to be affected by the ageing process. He remains in stagnant, perfectly manicured manhood; if Hugh Jackman ever decided to get cryogenically frozen, those amorous abs scream out that now is the perfect time to do it. Continue reading “X-Men Origins: Wolverine film review: sharp claws, big chops, fast pace”

WolverineHollywood is cautiously monitoring the outbreak of swine flu for any signs it may impact box office earnings. The widespread influenza has altered the course of Hugh Jackman’s comic book caper X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with the movie’s release in Mexico postponed at least two weeks in the wake of outbreaks that have taken up to 149 lives in the country. Over the last few days dozens of theatres in Mexico City have temporarily closed following reports of contamination.

“Theatres are closed and that’s why we can’t open the film. It’s that simple,” says Tomas Jegeus, Twentieth Century Fox’s co-president of international distribution.

Concern about movie revenue may seem petty in lieu of the swine flu’s trail of devastation, but hardly surprising given Hollywood productions are business ventures with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens around the world on May 1. Australians can see it a little earlier, from tomorrow (April 29).