Monthly Archives: October 2012

Disney Deal Delivers New Star Wars trilogy…

Not pictured, Jar Jar Binks stuffed into a suitcase and LEFT FOR DEAD…

You go to sleep for a few hours and the movie business throws you a curve ball over night.

George Lucas is $4 billion richer, Disney now owns Lucasfilm and have a new trilogy of “Star Wars” movies in the works.  Things are in such a state of advancement that a treatment exists for the first in the proposed new series, with releases scheduled at a decent clip of every two to three years.

Of course, the negative Padawan in me is convinced that Disney’s involvement hastens the inclusion of Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber being cast as the offspring of Han Solo and Princess Leia, cheese-ball 3D bombast and full CG characters so irksome that they make Jar Jar Binks look like Marlon Brando.  But Disney involvement hasn’t exactly hurt Marvel Studios‘ world-domination strategy, so perhaps the knee jerk reaction to the House of Mouse snagging the rights to a Galaxy Far, Far Away should be tempered by the prospect that the best thing for the universe that George built is for its creator to hand the Bantha reins over to a new creative team?

I’m just intrigued by who Disney are going to enlist to bring this new series of films to cinemas worldwide.  Lucas is on board as a creative consultant and won’t be helming things – dare we hope for the calibre of filmmakers on First Showing’s list of suggested candidates (yes, yes, YES to Brad Bird.  A marriage made in nerd heaven…).

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“Hansel & Gretel” – now with added red stuff…

Apparently Jeremy Renner is in this movie. Didn’t notice.

Put “Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters” in my eyes now, Hollywood!  Now, damn your eyes!

Ahem.

What I meant to say was that there’s a new Red Band trailer for Tommy Wirkola‘s first American movie and its a tad on the intense side. Yes, there will be blood, but as it’s Halloween, you’re probably not going to be afraid of mucho witch decapitation, folks exploding into gory chunks and up-close head-shots.

Subtlety is not on this film’s agenda, clearly, and I’m a lot more assured by the tone of this trailer than I was by the initial, general audiences effort which went online a month or so back and induced much in the way of ‘Meh’ from the internet cognoscenti – this looks like a film from the director of “Dead Snow“, as opposed to the slightly ‘Van Helsing‘-ish initial first look.

Still, it’s a long wait for me – this film will be merrily decapitating Witches from January 25th 2013 in the US and won’t make the broom-hop across the pond for another two months, by which time I’ll probably be seeing the first pre-order news for the Region A Blu-Ray disc and dropping my cash on that instead.

And there I was thinking that film distributors had gotten wise to the idea that artificially staggered release dates harm the box office prospects of their products…

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Adapt or die – “Hanna”, reviewed

Diminutive assassin and spell-check challenge Saoirse Ronan in “Hanna”

Hanna is my kind of action movie.

Directed by Joe Wright, who previously brought you such pulse-pounding, seat-edge filling thrill rides as “Pride & Prejudice”, “Atonement” “The Soloist” and that bloody annoying Chanel commercial with Keira Knightley, “Hanna” benefits immensely from having a director behind the camera who usually doesn’t make this kind of movie, resulting in a one-of-a-kind experience, crammed full of images and moments which live on long after the film has finished.

“Hanna” has a delightfully simple story – A strange feral girl (Saoirse Ronan) living in the Finnish wilderness with her Dad (Eric Bana) one day decides to accept her birthright and go to the big city to kill lots of CIA types – and merrily splices as many genres as it can get away with for the bulk of its one hour and 46 minute running time to quite grand effect.  It’s an action movie with the languid pace of the best seventies road movies, a teen coming of age drama that’s at least half off-beat, art house festival fare and a story about the difficulties of modern parenting rather rudely interrupted by frequent outbreaks of murderous, hand-to-hand combat.

It is, dear friends, a veritable locker full of bonkers and all the better for it.

Getting beyond the credibility issues introduced by the film having a pint-sized teenage girl be an amoral killing machine capable of brutally dispatching anybody who gets in her way, the way that Wright subverts some of the expected tropes of the spy action genre more than compensates for some of the insanity inherent in the premise – just when you’re convinced that you’ve got this film’s number and that you’re in for another slice of pan-European property destruction and moody intensity akin to “The Bourne Identity” and its sequels, Wright has Hanna abscond from her pursuers with a family of British hippy travellers, led by the glorious Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng for an extended stretch of the film.

Rather than filling the film with wall-to-wall violence, Wright picks his set pieces carefully and stages them with the eye of a master, assisted greatly in this endeavour by director of photography Alwin Kuchler – whose previous work includes the likes of “Sunshine”, “Code 46” and my favourite, “Morvern Callar” – and the two combine to brilliant effect in a virtuoso, one-take fight scene which casually bests the similar extended take in “Atonement” whilst never feeling like an effort in directorial self one-upmanship (if that is, indeed, a thing).

The performances are great.  Ronan’s an appealingly distant, eccentric and out-of-place character, wandering into an adult world with the ability to kick the crap out of world-class assassins but wholly out of her depth when trying to navigate the unspoken codes and expectations of a date.  She manages to make this pulp fiction character somehow seem real, by virtue of delivering the physical action with skill and occupying the emotional side of the role without seeming to pander or tear-jerk unduly.  Bana’s also great, but is in the film less than I expected him to be – his confrontations with Cate Blanchett as the rogue operative self-tasked with ending Hanna’s young life are a highlight and underscore that you expect virtually none of this cast to be in action thriller like this.

I would be remiss if I ended my review of “Hanna” without noting the awesome score by The Chemical Brothers, which is so perfectly pitched to the film that you wish more directors enlisted musicians to score movies – and I mean do mean write a score as opposed to having a music supervisor hunt-and-peck the catalogues of record labels to produce a saleable soundtrack album.  Perhaps the best thing about their “Hanna” score is the fact that it often doesn’t sound like the Chemicals tracks I remember from the glory days of Big Beat/Electronica in the late nineties – there’s a woozy, low-fi, existential quality to the music in this film which recalls the likes of Board of Canada as much as it does the Chemicals brand of pumping, electronic battle weapon bass.  And that’s no bad thing.

An action movie for people who don’t really like action movies and a thriller-travelogue-teen-fairytale-family drama which defies easy categorisation, “Hanna” is one to add to your queue promptly if you haven’t seen it.   I really rather enjoyed it.

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Merry Mutant Merry-go-round

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So, Matthew Vaughn has apparently left the X-Men First Class sequel, “Days of Future Past… and I’m actually okay with that news.

Not a slam against the Vaughn – I’ve enjoyed everything that he’s directed – nor a dig at the franchise either (I’ve just received the first movie on Blu Ray for my birthday), just slight excitement at the news of whom might be taking over Vaughn’s director’s chair.

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Why, that’s looking remarkably like Bryan Singer, erstwhile director of X-Men, “X-Men 2” and The Usual Suspects, coming back to save cinema audiences from the horrifying prospect of Hacky McHack Brett Ratner being tasked with helming the sequel.

It’s all completely unofficial at this point, but the idea of Singer coming back to Prof X’s cheery band of super-powered social pariahs to steer a story which apparently intersects with his original take on the Marvel heroes has me nodding appreciatively and believing that Fox isn’t full of buffoons after all.

Vaughn, meanwhile, is believed to be taking on another comic book adaptation, this time of old mucker Mark Millar‘s ‘Secret Service’ which – my goodness – he’s already had a hand in the writing of.

It’s a small world – but I wouldn’t want to paint it ((C) Steven Wright).

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Behold – Old Age!

Oh, Norwegian Black Metal – you make everything funnier…

Huzzah – it’s my 40th birthday!

And to celebrate this momentous transition from the joys of youth to the inexorable call of the grave, my teeth have elected to cause me nominal (but omnipresent) pain.  This, I rather suspect, is a herald of things to come – not that I’m being negative or having the first vestiges of a mid-life crisis or anything…

Mrs Rolling Eyeballs was kind enough to obtain the new Devin Townsend album, “Epicloud” for me as a birthday present and I’m going to be listening to that later on.  I also received “X-Men First Class” on Blu-Ray (I suspect that Rose Byrne‘s presence in the latter might help me forget my grumbling gums for an hour or two) and various vouchers from folk and nice cards, so it’s nice to know that people were bothered enough to celebrate with me (particularly as I didn’t do much shouting about the fact).

If it’s your birthday today too, have a great day and share it with people you love (it makes all the difference…)

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“Iron Man 3” Teaser Trailer Teaser Tribulation

Lookit! He’s got a new suit!

We live in strange times – witness the trend towards advanced teasers for film trailers.

Yes, that’s right – an advanced glance at an advance glance of a film which doesn’t arrive for months is the newest way that film companies have dreamt up to keep their products in the popular conversation in this age of blipvert attention spans and social media accelerating our expectations for the newest, fastest stuff now.

Getting in the action are Marvel, who engaged in a Facebook ‘like’ campaign to release stills and a 17-second look at the forthcoming trailer for next spring’s “Iron Man 3”, the first movie from the House of Ideas following this summer’s “Avengers” and it’s blockbuster success.  The full trailer is scheduled to show up on Apple’s site on Tuesday, but if you’re spectacularly impatient (and have a Facebook account) you can find a glimpse here…

 

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Midnight Masked Maniac Movies: “Friday the 13th” (2009)

A classier poster than the film deserves…

Who ordered a glossy “Friday the 13th” movie?

The 2009 re-make of the classic 1980 slasher flick has production values roughly 224% higher than the just-above-grind house standards of Sean S. Cunningham‘s original movie, a development which we can presumably attribute to the presence behind the cameras of Michael Bay‘s Platinum Dunes production outfit.

If the producing presence of the “Transformers” director doesn’t fill you with foreboding, the actual bloke calling the shots should do just that – Marcus Nispel is the guy that you can hold responsible for making the least scary, most annoying and generally most pointless slasher flick rehash that I’ve seen since “Prom Night“.  You may remember him from such earlier, equally useless time-wasters as “Pathfinder” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and his IMDB listing indicates that he proposes to film Tim Seeley‘s superior comic “Hack/Slash” in the near future.  I can’t confess to being happy at the prospect, although it would be delightful if he could erase my cynicism by directing a film which doesn’t make me want to head to the nearest memory erasure parlour, a-la “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind“.

When it comes down to it, I hated this remake for the same reason that most people gravitate towards the slasher genre – the disposable teen killer fodder.  It would be an act of profound eccentricity to suppose that any movie of this ilk will do more than the bare minimum to distinguish whatever interchangeable  ex-CW/Disney Channel replicants are headlining the film from the other gaggles of identikit cuties doing hard time in mid-budget, jump-scare laden schlock, but one lives in hope.

Right from the get-go this remake rubbed me up the wrong way, chiefly by contriving to introduce a cast of machete-ready kids so obnoxious that its difficult to imagine any context in which their survival is acceptable – archetypes all, and barely possessed of a distinguishing characteristic worthy of the term.  What’s more galling is that their manner of dispatch is wholly at odds with the spirit of the series – the creative, lunatic gore and hilariously elaborate kills that you know and fear Jason Voorhees for are completely missing from this remake, which has decided to push the button marked ‘torture-porn pseudo-realism’ and make every character dispatch a fumbled, ‘blink and miss it’ farrago.

And that shower of inanity merely covers the pre-titles sequence.  The movie proper doesn’t start until ANOTHER gaggle of eminently despicable, upper middle class college kids show up near Crystal Lake for a weekend of nit-wit fumbling and Jason-baiting at Daddy’s house.  It’s saying something when you would forego the stalk-and-slash staging which the hallmark of this horror sub-genre so that the teen protagonists could be wiped out in one fell swoop by simply handing Mr Voorhees a 50 cal machine gun and letting him go all “Rambo” on their butts.

Showing up in Crystal Lake at the same time as the soon-t0-be-deceased kids is “Supernatural” heart-throb Jared Padalecki, whose likeable presence allows you to hope at least one person survives the teenage apocalypse unscathed – he’s fetched up to track down his sister, who disappeared during the pre-credits sort-of-bloodbath (you remember – the one that was staged badly and edited in such a way as to obscure how/if/when the characters were bumped off) and his efforts to track her down are met with police shoulder shrugging and side-long glances from the hick locals.

Cute, non-threatening people in trouble – Jared Padalecki and Amanda Righetti in “Friday the 13” (2009).

There are no real positives to take away from this remake.  The changes to the series formula that “Friday the 13th” does manage to make nudges it closer to the “Saw”/”Hostel” school of CG-assisted injury porn and bone-headed torture than the (by comparison) almost nostalgic practical effects and gross effects make-up of the 80’s slasher genre.  And as I’d sooner see my breakfast again than watch a “Saw” movie, that’s not a recommendation to me.

It’s probably absurd to hope for an end product that’s any better than this movie ends up being given the talent behind the camera, but this totally scare-free, visually incoherent, narratively inert slab of latter-day horror still manages to bore more than slasher flick should ever do.   If this slice of neo-slasher filmic flatulence actually scares its target audience, I despair for today’s nascent horror audience – I’ve been more scared by what I would find when flipping the cushions on my sofa than I was during this piss-poor slice of hack-work.

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