Ricky Gervais making a David Brent movie

Brent

It’s official: Ricky Gervais will resurrect his legendary Office boss and make a David Brent movie.

According to the BBC, the flick will follow Brent as he attempts to pursue his dreams of becoming a rock star.

Titled Life on the Road, it will go into production next year.

Gervais has trotted out Brent a number of times in the eleven years since The Office wrapped up: for Comic Relief, a series of online videos (Learn Guitar with David Brent), and even in the U.S. remake of The Office (twice).

The British comic has had much success on the small screen, earning Golden Globes for The Office and an Emmy for Extras, not to mention a further Emmy nomination for his new, critically-reviled show Derek.

However, in cinema, it’s been a mixed bag. His directorial efforts – Cemetery Junction, The Invention of Lying – were DOA, and those he’s merely starred in (Muppets Most Wanted, Ghost Town) haven’t fared much better.

Maybe by resurrecting one chilled out entertainer he can turn that around.

Elisabeth Moss, Vince Vaughn in talks for ‘True Detective’ Season 2

Mad Men

Colin Farrell and Taylor Kitsch are close to signing on for the second season of HBO’s pop-culture swallowing True Detective, but what of the other two purported lead roles?

Freak out not. Fresh from The Wrap comes news of Elisabeth Moss and Vince Vaughn being in talks to fill those gaps.

According to a breakdown snagged by The Wrap, the second season involves the murder of a corrupt Californian city manager that entangles three law enforcement officers from different branches of government.

Farrell, Kitsch and Moss would play the officers, who discover a much larger conspiracy, because this is True Detective and showrunner Nic Pizzolatto loves that stuff.

Vaughn would take the role of the season’s major antagonist – though, The Wrap reminds, that doesn’t mean the murderer – a former mobster who had been working with the manager on a very profitable new project.

Michelle Forbes is also in talks for a major role.

Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly, Chopper) was reportedly approached to direct, but was too busy working on the Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde with Jessica Chastain (who passed on Moss’ part some months ago).

HBO is yet to confirm any of this, by the way. We remain intrigued.

The first season of True Detective, for those not in the know, concerned a single story that was wrapped up in the final episode.

It’s stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, were both Emmy nominated for their work in the show. Expect the Emmy field to be even more crowded if this bunch sign on.

Sony set female-led superhero film from ‘Spider-Man’ universe for 2017

Felicity Jones

Seeing as Marvel Studios won’t do it anytime soon, Sony has reportedly pledged to release a female-led superhero film in 2017.

According to Deadline, they’ll find a female character from the Spider-Man universe (which Sony holds the rights to) to base a movie around.

It follows news of them delaying The Amazing Spider-Man 3 to 2018 following the exit of its screenwriters, as well as the somewhat disappointing critical and commercial reception to The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Sinister Six – something of an Avengers team-up flick featuring Spidey’s most dastardly villains – is still slated for release in 2016.

Many are speculating Black Cat will be the recipient of her very own flick, what with her alter ego being introduced in TASM2, played by Felicity Jones.

Lisa Joy Nolan has been hired to pen the script, suggesting Sony has a very good idea of who the film will concern. The rest of us just have to go crazy guessing wildly for the next few months.

They’re a weird mob – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review

Guardians Of The Galaxy

By Simon Miraudo
August 6, 2014

Even the most casual fan could name Marvel Studios’ ten features, starting with 2008 trend-setter Iron Man and arriving at 2014’s not-so-surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy. Where they’d be reasonably stumped is correctly identifying the villains. Names like Malekith the Dark Elf, Aldrich Killian, and now, Ronan the Accuser don’t quite send shivers down the spine the way DC madmen The Joker and General Zod have never failed to do (explaining why Marvel’s trotted out Loki twice). But in this battle between comic-book titans, Marvel remain unsurpassed in introducing to the big screen immensely-likable, emotionally-attuned superheroes with a quip for any occasion. Meanwhile, DC are stuck pouring unsold Ryan ReynoldsGreen Lantern dolls into a furnace somewhere. Guardians of the Galaxy skilfully unveils five new protagonists – all-instant favourites, for myself and any sane audience – and one of them is a tree. This, friends, is what we call a streak.

The tree, Groot, is voiced by Vin Diesel, of having-difficulty-speaking fame. His barky extra-terrestrial is only ever charged with saying three words – “I am Groot” – and yet Diesel manages to imbue them with humour, heart, and a healthy dose of pathos, much like the movie around him. (Can Fast & Furious 7 similarly cut down his dialogue to one pithy, versatile phrase?) Groot doesn’t need to talk much anyway. He’s merely the alien muscle for bounty hunter Rocket Raccoon, a genetically transmogrified cyber-creature and munitions expert who sounds a hell of a lot like Bradley Cooper, one of our more adaptable leading men. They find themselves in space prison after snagging intergalactic criminals Peter Quill (it’s Star Lord though, if anyone intimidating asks), played by Chris Pratt, and slinky assassin Gamora, a dyed-green Zoe Saldana. In jail they meet the ultra-literal Drax the Destroyer, performed by wrestler and improbable deadpan zinger-deployer Dave Bautista. Like Gamora, he’s intent on taking revenge against hopeful universe-conqueror Ronan (Lee Pace). Quill, however, simply wants to bust out and recover the last remaining relic from his time on Earth: a Walkman, armed with familiar 80s hits, the very same era from which he stole his Harrison Ford/Bruce Willis swagger. Eventually, they team up. You don’t want me to get into the whys and wherefores. Just know much cosmic action ensues, and later Benicio Del Toro turns up as The Collector, a true space oddity indeed.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Troma disciple James Gunn directs, following on from Slither and Super, meaning this is his first actually good film. It feels fresher than much of ‘Phase Two’, which is what they’re calling the era that joins The Avengers to its sequel, and has so far included Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Much of that fresh feeling has to do with Guardians effectively being the beginning of an all-new franchise, as opposed to the others, the seventh, eighth and ninth parts of Marvel’s sinkhole-like expanding saga. There’s been a squabble behind the curtain for scriptwriting credit, with Gunn claiming he reshaped Nicole Perlman’s draft, as well as injected much of the humour, installed Ronan as the baddie (err… thanks?), and changed every character arc. I’d suggest they take a cue from their own tale, learn to share the glory, and potentially the blame. Guardians of the Galaxy has many of the same issues that plagued Iron Man 3 et al: a shapelessness that leads to each new set piece feeling like a further disconnected step towards a destination that lay in some future flick; a Big Bad who lacks presence; a climactic, city-demolishing showdown we’ve seen elsewhere; maybe too many winks at the few fanboys familiar with all the intricacies of the wider mythology, making numerous sequences seem totally bewildering to us normies. Thematically, it’s not really about anything, either. By this point, ten entries in, these are the elements that classify something as belonging to Marvel. It’s the rest that makes it much, much more.

Guardians is, without question, the loveliest looking thing to roll off the Marvel Studios’ production line, not only because of the nutty, eye-popping delights on offer (including the town within a giant, floating rotting head, or Benicio Del Toro’s hair), but also cinematographically; DP Ben Davis gives each Guardian plenty of hero shots, the purple haze of the cosmos their backdrop, and doesn’t rely on Dutch tilts to inspire wonder. The CGI bringing Groot and Rocket to life is ungodly good. The energetic action scenes have a lot of moving parts, thanks to the breadth of the Guardians roster, and Gunn slickly corrals each element, resulting in a cohesive, and, more importantly, relentlessly enjoyable final product. The whole thing is particularly funny too, even by the standards of its predecessors, which are largely joke factories for absurdly muscular dudes. When Guardians of the Galaxy is firing on all cylinders, you’ll think there’s nothing better in this world, or any other.

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All five of the main performers are wonderful; great tastes that go great together. Saldana is the closest to a seasoned professional the main cast has, and despite her forever being amazing in this type of role, it’d be nice to see her one day given a more grounded, less skin-bleached character to complement her spunky sci-fi turns. Still, it’s a delight to watch her and Pratt’s reticent romance slowly unfold. Pratt, previously known for being the goofy comedic relief in the already-goofy Parks and Recreation, has emerged as the unlikeliest action man since Michael Keaton. (Here’s an even unlikelier stat. For the past three years, Pratt has appeared in consecutive Best Picture nominees: Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty and Her.) He is Guardians’ most welcome presence, and his underlying sweetness helps him sell the stealthily-inserted dirty jokes. Hopefully in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 he’ll be called upon for more than merely reminding us of Han Solo. Pratt is an endearing actor who could create an original entity, equally iconic for legions of children to emulate for decades. Today, I’ll happily settle on him as a much-needed respite from the current bland-bots leading these tentpoles (… yes, I’m mostly talking about Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Guardians of the Galaxy arrives in Australian cinemas August 7, 2014.

Do it again – ‘The Infinite Man’ Review

The Infinite Man

By Richard Haridy
August 5, 2014

The Infinite Man is a remarkably assured debut Australian feature that perfectly balances character and concept to give us not only one of the most tightly controlled time travel narratives ever conceived but also a genuinely sweet romantic comedy.

Dean (Josh McConville) just wants to recreate the perfect anniversary weekend with his ex-girlfriend Lana (Hannah Marshall) but when her javelin throwing ex-boyfriend Terry (Alex Dimitriades) shows up his plans go awry. So Dean, doing what any high-strung perfectionist would do, spends the next year inventing a time machine to go back to that weekend and get it right.

As the film begins to loop on itself and multiple versions of Dean begin inhabiting the same location, things get complicated real fast, but debut writer/director/editor Hugh Sullivan manages to find an incredibly impressive balance of tone and never lets his increasingly convoluted and clever narrative feel unduly contrived or confusing. Each new iteration of the same event feels like an organic derivation of Dean’s journey rather than an overly smart screenwriting gesture.

The Infinite Man

McConville and Marshall also share a great deal of credit in bringing a warmth and humour to these amusingly self-involved characters while Dimitriades’ hilarious turn as Terry almost steals the show with some pitch-perfect moments of dry comedy. The magnificently stark location also acts as a silent fourth character. This abandoned hotel found at Woomera in central South Australia functions as a beautifully desolate and blank canvas for the movie’s games to take place in.

Most impressive is Sullivan’s absolute control of his tone and pacing. It’s easily the most confident and cinematically sophisticated debut since David Michôd‘s Animal Kingdom. Sullivan’s use of classical formal techniques from iris wipes to an engagingly baroque score make The Infinite Man fully formed and aesthetically cohesive, unusual for a first-timer. Touching on everything from old screwball comedies to modern puzzles like Primer, The Infinite Man has many cinematic precedents but never feels derivative. Rather, it offers us a uniquely original mash of several genres while also presenting up a masterclass in clever low-budget filmmaking. This is nothing less than one of my favourite Australian pictures in quite some time.

4.5/5

The Infinite Man plays the Melbourne International Film Festival August 6, 2014.

Play It Again – Sophie’s Choice

Sophie's Choice

By Glenn Dunks
August 5, 2014

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. Hey, whatever. It fits!

When a film such as Alan J. Pakula’s Sophie’s Choice has become famous for one thing, it can be hard to visit 32 years later. And while Meryl Streep’s performance is largely worthy of its laurels – an Oscar winner and hailed one of the greatest performances of all time, yet I’d suggest not even her best work – the film around it is much harder to forgive. Beyond Streep, Sophie’s Choice is little more than a tediously assembled WWII drama of interminable length.

In 1947, a young man named Stingo (Peter MacNicol) arrives in New York to pursue his dreams of being a writer. In his Brooklyn boarding house he meets Sophie (Streep) and her lover, Nathan (Kevin Kline). Theirs is a relationship of tempestuous peaks and valleys, but the three soon become the best of friends. However, in a moment of weakness, Sophie decides to tell the young writer about her time at Auschwitz and the terrible choice she had to make one fateful night.

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Vaguely exploitative, and frequently filmed using crass, obvious imagery, Sophie’s Choice inspires only fleeting interest. Perhaps by pure virtue of its weighted drama, the WWII flashback scenes are infinitely more compelling than the love story that Pakula has chosen to make the focus of the narrative. So while Streep’s performance is captivating, albeit initially somewhat off-putting thanks to a glaringly obvious set of prosthetic teeth, the film is more concerned with the story of MacNicol’s writer. An audience proxy of the blandest vanilla variety, and a clear riff of The Great Gatsby’s Nick Carraway, Stingo simply isn’t a rich enough character to pivot the story around.

The music of legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch is divine, and the cinematography at least attempts interesting things as it switches to and from flashbacks. Sadly, spoiled by three decades of pop culture appropriation as well as the preceding two hours of lacklustre drama, the film’s most famous scene lacks much of the dramatic heft it likely had in 1982. What’s left to admire is Streep’s performance, and it is excellent. Everything else about Sophie’s Choice is inert.

2.5/5

Sophie’s Choice is available on Quickflix.

Kevin Feige says we’ll have to wait for a female-led Marvel movie

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Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says the studio is too busy for a female-led superhero film right now.

Ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s massive opening weekend, Comic Book Resources asked how far away Marvel was from a movie with a female lead.

“I think it comes down to timing, which is what I’ve sort of always said, and it comes down to us being able to tell the right story,” Feige answered predictably.

He did relent, somewhat:

“It can certainly be done. I hope we do it sooner rather than later. But we find ourselves in the very strange position of managing more franchises than most people have — which is a very, very good thing and we don’t take for granted, but is a challenging thing. You may notice from those release dates, we have three for 2017. And that’s because just the timing worked on what was sort of gearing up. But it does mean you have to put one franchise on hold for three or four years in order to introduce a new one? I don’t know. Those are the kinds of chess matches we’re playing right now.”

Sorry Gamora, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Elektra, et al; Doctor Strange and Ant-Man will get their shot first.

Bill Murray to voice Baloo in ‘The Jungle Book’

US-OSCARS-ARRIVALS

Bill Murray, still unwilling to do a third Ghostbusters, has instead signed on to voice big ol’ bear Baloo in Disney’s The Jungle Book.

Jon Favreau’s CG/live-action hybrid will retell Rudyard Kipling’s classic fable, and will feature the voices of Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito and Ben Kingsley.

Newcomer Neel Sethi will star as Mowgli, the young boy taken under the wing of Baloo and some other jungle animals.

The flick is set to hit cinemas October 2015.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros’ competing flick, Jungle Book: Origins, will land October 2016. Andy Serkis, weirdly, is directing that one.

‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ grosses $1 billion at the box office

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

Transformers: Age of Extinction has become the 19th film to crack the billion dollar milestone at the worldwide box office, surpassing The Dark Knight this weekend to take the 18th place on the overall chart.

The Michael Bay picture has so far grossed $241 million in North America, which is significantly less than the three preceding entries in the series. The first Transformers managed to top $300 million without even nearing a billion worldwide, while the second entry, Revenge of the Fallen, earned more than $400 million in North America alone.

However, Age of Extinction was specifically tailored to the burgeoning international audience, particularly China, where much of the movie was shot.

This has led to an astounding $763 million in “foreign” grosses (yes, that includes Australia and New Zealand), eclipsing all but Dark of the Moon’s final foreign tallies.

Age of Extinction is now within $100 million of besting Dark of the Moon‘s final $1.123 billion worldwide gross.

Paramount might have to surrender some of that cash to their promotional partners, unfortunately. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a number of Chinese businesses are unhappy with their presence – or lack of presence – in the blockbuster, one of which has taken the studio to court. Another is threatening to do the same.

Sony considering an all-female ‘Ghostbusters 3’ directed by Paul Feig

Paul Feig

Sony – and especially Dan Aykroyd – really want to make a third Ghostbusters movie, and after years of false starts and rewrites and failed attempts to woo Bill Murray, the studio might be close with an all-female reboot.

According to Variety, Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) is being courted to direct the flick, which would instead have four comedic actresses playing the ghostbusters.

No formal negotiations have taken place, Variety cautions, but this is closer than Sony’s seemingly been before.

The original script penned by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky will be thrown out, and a new one written from scratch.

You can assume that if Feig gets involved, he’ll bring alone his muse Melissa McCarthy too. That is not a bad thing.

Studio Ghibli to close film production department… maybe

totoro

Studio Ghibli is shuttering its animation feature film department… depending on who you ask.

Hypable reports Toshio Suzuki, Studio Ghibli’s general manager, took to Japanese TV to announced the closure of the wing that produced such classic movies as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and many, many more.

However, SlashFilm (and many others) insist this is just a misinterpretation of Suzuki’s statements, claiming he merely meant they were looking at “housecleaning” or “restructuring” the department. (That still ain’t great.)

Exacerbating the closure angle is the fact Ghibli’s most recent movies have flopped at the box office. The retirement of legendary co-founder Hayao Miyazaki in 2013 was also a major blow, with his successor, Suzuki, abandoning film production to act solely as general manager.

Should the animation feature film department close, Ghibli would exist solely to manage trademarks and copyrights, but might potentially outsource new projects (as they did before Porco Rosso).

Brain candy – ‘Lucy’ Review

Lucy

By Simon Miraudo
August 1, 2014

God is a woman. Well, she is now anyway. In Luc Besson‘s Lucy, Scarlett Johansson goes from doe-eyed mafia pawn to all-powerful superbeing, and all it took was accidentally absorbing the intellect-enhancing drug placed beside her abdomen by a Korean cartel. The rest of us, meanwhile, have to choke down so-called superfood Quinoa just to get an extra boost of riboflavin. It tastes awful, and it doesn’t even make you omnipotent.

When Johansson’s Lucy – a hard-partying American student not-studying in Taipei – agrees to deliver a briefcase on behalf of her boyfriend-of-a-week, she becomes embroiled in the brutal plans of mob boss Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). Inside the case are bags of powdered drug CPH4, which promises to unlock the constraints of our brain and allow humans access to the 90 per cent not yet activated. As we learn from Professor Norman’s (Morgan Freeman) concurrent lecture in Paris, we’re stuck using 10 per cent, while dolphins are running at 20, kind of explaining why they’re always laughing at us. Jang’s men make poor Lucy an unwitting mule, placing the cargo inside her (under the skin, even). The bag, of course, breaks, and she instantly sheds those measly mortal sensations of fear, pain, sentimentality and morality, replacing them with clarity, confidence, impossible intellect, and swift murder skills. This is, as intertitles handily remind us throughout proceedings, simply the result of her hitting 20 per cent. When she finally reaches 100… well, it is a sight to see.

Lucy

Luc Besson has made many an entertaining film before; this, however, is his first in some time to be devoid of troubling caveats. Léon is a cracking hitman thriller, unfortunately carrying the albatross of subtextual paedophilia (the textual scenes were mercifully left on the cutting room floor). The Fifth Element was a vibrant, uber-90s sci-fi romp that made the grave mistake of thinking additional Chris Tucker was better than none at all. The Taken franchise Besson wrote and produced rebirthed Liam Neeson, though it also suggests Europe exists solely to steal your white daughter. The one obstacle to liking Lucy is whether or not you buy into its central premise: that our brain-boxes are working at just 10 per cent of their capacity, and we could evolve into transcendent, dolphin-eclipsing deities if we tapped into those hidden recesses. It’s a bogus hypothesis previously posited by Neil Burger’s Limitless and countless stoned philosophy students, but, tellingly, probably not that many neuroscientists.

Lucy goes much larger than Limitless, and thus earns forgiveness for furthering this particular fallacy. Besson’s big-money chase sequences are inventively composed by cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, and the final act’s nutso, cerebrum-melting montage defies convention by giving an action movie an emotional climax rather than an explosive one. Most indicative of Besson’s unexpected ambition is the story he ultimately tells: about mankind’s march towards the technological singularity, the oneness of all matter in the universe, and man’s Prometheus-like attempt to wrest power from the Gods despite not totally knowing what to do with it.

Lucy

This marks Freeman’s second word on the subject in six months, except Transcendence – shockingly – turned out so much sillier (thanks to a terrorist cake attack and the worst haircut in Kate Mara‘s life). He hangs around mostly to explain pseudoscience, and, once Lucy gets in touch to say his research is right, to look on at her in awe. He’s very convincing. Choi Min-sik, the great Korean actor, speaks solely in his native tongue and leaves a memorable mark. That said, the title of Lucy indicates where most of our attention will be paid, and deservedly so.

Johansson’s performance is really quite excellent, and all the more impressive when compared to her past two science fiction jaunts (Her, Under the Skin), noting the subtle calibrations made to differentiate each turn. In Her she voiced an artificially-intelligent operating system, and in Under the Skin she played an alien who took advantage of her ‘Scarlett Johansson’-looking skinsuit to harvest men. This triptych of sci-fi features cover freakishly similar ground: all three ponder what it means to be human, why we keep seeking something beyond, what it would feel like to not be human at all; to lose that humanity, or realise it was never there; to pretend you are human, and have the rest of the world remind you otherwise; to be one with all things, and remain singular somehow; to be within and without.

In Lucy, we get fleeting glimpses of her past life – by meeting her roommate, witnessing a call home to her mother, getting flashes of a rowdy night out – but from her initial jolt of genius, she seems to abandon everything that makes her her. A moral compass, doubt, suspicion, hurt: those traits belong to the unevolved. Are these human imperfections – the kind she sought to mimic with her creaky, breathy voice in Her; the physical connections (and sweets) she craved in Under the Skin – what we’ll one day lose in the quest for enlightenment? Will it be worth it? Like a vitamin sticking out of a sundae, Lucy smuggles important questions within its rambunctious, dizzy-making set pieces. And through it all, Johansson remains totally compelling. Lucy is too much fun. Scarlett could have had a perfect year if it wasn’t for that whole SodaStream mess. They say cleanliness is close to godliness, and in 2014, controversy was all that kept Scarlett Johansson from achieving as much.

4.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Lucy is now showing in cinemas.

Round the twist – ‘Predestination’ Review

Predestination

By Simon Miraudo
August 1, 2014

“Smart” movies can be dumb fun (Inception, Shutter Island), and “dumb” movies can be secretly smart (22 Jump Street, Spring Breakers), but movies about time travel… mostly just frustrate. They exist in some sort of netherworld, caught between smartness and dumbness, kind of like this sentence. They require rigorous plotting, and yet, remain utterly preposterous. If time travel movies take themselves too seriously, they invite scrutiny they cannot withstand. If they don’t take themselves seriously enough, they open themselves up to easy unraveling. (The exception is Hot Tub Time Machine, which turned “not giving a crap” into an art form.)

The best ones try. A bit. Back to the Future, Looper, Primer, Edge of Tomorrow, 12 Monkeys (and La Jetee). Throw Predestination onto that pile too. Michael and Peter Spierig’s latest eschews the zombies and vampires that populated their previous flicks, and instead zeroes in on a freaky-deakie love story set within a future science-fiction universe. Not that we realise this when the feature begins, what with its Minority Report-recalling premise. It opens with Ethan Hawke – reteaming with his Daybreakers directors here – as a time-skipping assassin on the trail of a terrorist who is similarly chronologically-unstuck. Where ‘The Fizzle Bomber’ will strike next is well known by the shady government agency (led by Noah Taylor) on his case. It’s the ‘when’ that has them puzzled, with company man Hawke frantically jumping across eras to stop the maybe-inevitable leveling of New York City.

Predestination

The only other major player is Sarah Snook, who solidifies her burgeoning star status with a complex, complicated performance that sees her span decades… and genders. She’s introduced early on as a man, looking, convincingly, like Dane DeHaan, for your reference. Born Jane and now going by the name of John, she drowns her sorrows at a 1970s New York pub tended by Hawke, who spurs her to spill her sob story; their individual motives mysteriously and deliciously teased out. Much of the film’s first half details Jane’s long, curious journey towards John, and Snook shines in what feels like a transgender parable tucked within a sci-fi setting. (Her subtle make-up is effective, however, it’s Snook’s understated, heart-hurt performance that makes the transformation feel truly believable.) As is revealed, Predestination is not quite that either. It’s not quite like anything else, actually.

When the Spierigs finally pull the rug out from under us, you’ll probably start to feel a light thumping feeling in the back of your head. This indicates only that you are still sane. The twist at Predestination‘s core might incite some sleepless nights amongst those who plan on picking at its few fraying threads. I’d advise against it. This thing can’t be solved. At least during the watching, the mechanics of the plot appear to make sense, and that’s all we need. More important than whether the internal logic holds up is whether or not the character beats ring true and pay off. They do. Hawke and Snook’s circuitous arcs both reach individual, moving crescendos. Actors never do their best work in silly B-movie exercises, I thought. Yet another of Predestination‘s paradoxes.

Predestination

The fraternal writer-director duo – adapting Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies – drop plenty of clues in their opening sequence to prepare you for Predestination’s ultimate end; helpful hints that indicate they’re having fun, are in on the joke, and that we needn’t stress out over the increasingly accumulating impossibilities. Their fleet-footed filmmaking adds to the deliriousness of the yarn, which never really pauses long enough to allow a moment of doubt, and puts plenty of fantastical, beautifully-photographed imagery before us to keep our eyes from ever rolling.

A narrative ouroboros with no seeming beginning, middle or end, Predestination is a magnificently captivating mystery; a curly thriller that often feels like the best tall tale you’ve ever heard, and will likely send you out into the streets eager to grab someone by the lapel and relay it with breathless, “you won’t believe this” enthusiasm. (Fitting how the story proper begins with a man walking into a bar.) Shot in Melbourne, it’s a convincingly slick picture with none of the technical trappings that make other audacious Australian produce look embarrassingly out of its element. Also, not being more than 100 minutes long, it moves at a clip, and thanks to a playful Hawke, an entirely committed Snook, and a cheeky vein of dark humour, Predestination is a wildly, weirdly rollicking ride. Underestimate the Spierigs – experts at turning trashy genre excursions into fare that’s exhilarating, entertaining and profoundly thoughtful – at your own peril. The same goes for breakout star Sarah Snook now too.

4.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Predestination played the Melbourne International Film Festival. It arrives in Australian cinemas August 28, 2014.

Folman and Robin – ‘The Congress’ Review

The Congress

By Simon Miraudo
August 1, 2014

The Congress is where brutal reality meets impossible fantasy, Tex Avery meets Studio Ghibli, and director Ari Folman meets actress Robin Wright, resulting in, at the very least, a truly unique cinematic experience, and inspiring one genius headline. (See above.)

Set in a near-future Hollywood that has no further need for actors, Wright plays a version of herself, compelled by her long-suffering agent (Harvey Keitel) and the brutish “Miramount” studio head (Danny Huston) to sign over her likeness, abandon acting, and let them do with her data as they please. Having earned a reputation for being “flaky” – when really she’s just been caring for her ailing son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) in their home, a fitted-out former airplane hangar – she’s told her best years are behind her, and it’d be smarter to leave “Robin Wright”, the brand, to the professionals. When the film jumps forward twenty years, CGI “Robin Wright” is the biggest star in the world, and that’s not nearly the most shocking thing about this new dystopian age.

The Congress

Based loosely on Stanislaw Lem’s 1971 novel The Futurological Congress, Folman’s adaptation traffics in big ideas; some of them scarily probable, others not particularly insightful, and a fair few totally incomprehensible. (As my partner pointed out, if you’re still explaining the rules of the universe five minutes before the credits roll, something’s gone terribly wrong in the screenwriting process.) Folman’s follow-up to his Oscar winning documentary Waltz with Bashir isn’t quite as singularly successful as that movie, in which he animated the nightmares and suppressed memories of Israeli soldiers who served during the Lebanon War. We see his distinctive animation style resuscitated in the second act, in which an aged Wright attends ‘The Congress’: an animated phantasmagoria wherein the elite can actually ingest their favourite stars through drink and present themselves to the world as that celebrity. The biggest irony here: Jon Hamm voices Wright’s companion through this fantastical realm, and yet, he didn’t choose to look like Jon Hamm.

It’s hard to know where Wright’s involvement in the creative process for The Congress begins and ends, though her devotion alone deserves applause. Her history informs the entire feature, and often it feels hugely invasive because of it. She endures a series of monologues from countless characters, each crucifying her for real life actions, making note of her age and how the industry has left her behind. (Sidebar: Wright indeed suffered a number of big screen flops in the decade preceding The Congress, however, she’s since enjoyed a revival thanks to her Golden Globe-winning, Emmy-nominated turn in House of Cards. Nonetheless, swap her out for any number of forty-something actresses, and the tragic point remains.)

As a satire of celebrity culture, and the way in which we choose to escape into it to shield ourselves from “the truth”, The Congress, sadly, gets too tangled up in metaphysics to make a salient point. As a commentary on Wright’s career, it’s fascinatingly frank. The standout scene involves a technician charged with motion-capturing Wright’s final “performance” prodding her to express exuberance, first, and then utter devastation at the remains of her existence, without Wright uttering a word (the poor woman dressed only in an unflattering body sock). There’s much gobbledegook in The Congress, but also some bewilderingly beautiful animation. Most significantly, The Congress gives Wright, a star who needs no special flourishes to astound, an impressive showcase, and that’s it’s true gift.

3.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

The Congress played the Revelation Perth International Film Festival. It arrives in Australian cinemas December 4, 2014.

Talk Hard – Zak Hilditch, These Final Hours

It’s anarchy in the WA! This week, we review the Perth-based apocalypse movie These Final Hours, now in Australian cinemas, and speak to writer-director Zak Hilditch. Get the party ended!

Zak Hilditch

 

Show Notes:

Thanks for tuning in! Apologies for the audio quality of the interview… and the chatty bystanders.

Tell your friends to subscribe to Talk Hard on iTunes and feel free to leave a review. Or, follow our RSS feed.

You can shoot us a line at talkhard@quickflix.com.au. Find me on Twitter here: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

The Top 10 ‘Orange is the New Black’ Inmates

Orange is the New Black

By Simon Miraudo
July 30, 2014

Every sentence is a story, Orange is the New Black‘s tagline punnily promises, and it ain’t lying. Jenji Kohan’s spunky black comedy concerns the highs and lows (okay… mostly lows) of the populace in a female prison seen through the eyes of Taylor Schilling‘s Piper Chapman, a waspy, artisanal soap-maker way out of her element, serving a short sting for smuggling drugs once upon a time.

This being a – sadly – rare instance of a TV show having a largely female, multicultural cast, OITNB smartly begins to shine a light on its gargantuan ensemble as the episodes pass, flashing back to each inmate’s pre-prison life. Thank goodness. Though Piper – based on real-life ex-con and author Piper Kerman – is plenty entertaining, we’re happy to see her take a backseat to some of the more complicated characters marking time at Litchfield Penitentiary; particularly ones with nicknames like ‘Crazy Eyes’ and ‘Yoga Jones’.

Orange is the New Black‘s first season is one of the strongest comedy debuts in recent memory, managing to build to an astounding dramatic crescendo whilst still providing laughter and pathos in equal measure. Never before has a rogue chicken and a missing screwdriver inspired such comedic gold and sweat-inducing panic, respectively. Its second season, somehow, is a step up, expanding its empathetic reach to everyone in Litchfield, no matter how intimidating, and that includes (heaven forfend) the guards. Sometimes this show does miraculous things. Even Born-Again Pennsatucky would have to admit that.

OITNB is up for Outstanding Comedy Series at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards later this month, with an astounding five of its stars competing for their own statuettes. With Season 1 now available to stream on Quickflix and Season 2 rolling out over the next few weeks, I decided to share my ten favourite characters.

Orange is the New Black

10. Carrie ‘Big Boo’ Black

Played by comedian Lea DeLaria, Big Boo has a cutting sense of humour, but that doesn’t make her any less terrifying, especially when she’s threatening her prison wife. But there’s a sweetness underneath; one that comes to the fore once she’s united with a therapy dog, christened ‘Little Boo’. (That is, until things between them “get weird.”)

9. Sister Jane Ingalls

A rebellious firebrand, activist, would-be celebrity and “bad nun,” Sister Jane (Beth Fowler) offers sage advice at Litchfield. Just don’t call her the Pope’s b****. “I like to think of myself as the Pope’s homie.”

8. Gloria Mendoza

Selenis Leyva‘s Gloria is the matriarch of the Spanish crew with a smirk for every occasion. I’d love to get into what makes her great, but that would spoil too much. All I’ll say is that her storyline intersects with that of…

Orange is the New Black

7. Galina ‘Red’ Reznikov

Kate Mulgrew‘s Head Chef, an irascible Russian with a shock of red hair, ties to the Mafia, and the ability to smuggle in all sorts of contraband. You need lip gloss, you see Red. Mulgrew’s up for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her part here, though seeing how she moves closer to the center of the story as the show progresses, you might find her – deservingly – up for Lead Actress alongside Schilling in the coming years.

6. Sophia Burset

Laverne Cox is the first openly transgender person to ever be nominated for an acting Emmy, thanks to her performance as Sophia Burset (whose flashback ep in S1, Lesbian Request Denied, might be the best thing the program’s ever pulled off). Resident beautician, the rest of the girls wish they were as well coiffed as Sophia. Me too, frankly.

Orange is the New Black

5. Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson  & Poussey Washington

I hate to combine two rich characters like besties Taystee and Poussey, but I figure they’d be happy to share a space, if their sister act of ‘Amanda and McKenzie’ is any indication. Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley, you’ll get your nominations soon enough.

 

Orange is the New Black4. Lorna Morello

Australia’s own Yael Stone plays the perpetually-wedding-planning Lorna Morello. I say that up front to partly explain her bizarre, beautifully off-kilter accent, which perfectly hints at the something not quite right beneath her surface. Stone’s heartfelt, compassionate turn here might be the saddest of all.

3. Nicky Nichols

Natasha Lyonne came back with a vengeance in Orange is the New Black, starring as the sarcastic Nicky Nichols, the most eminently quotable, sexually voracious inmate of them all (collecting, you guessed it, an Emmy nom for her troubles). A recovering drug addict, she trades heroin for in-prison conquests. And she’s doing just fine.

Orange is the New Black

2. Tiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett

Every good show needs its villain, and OITNB gets a big one in the miniscule Taryn Manning, nearly unrecognisable as former meth addict and devoted-to-the-point-of-insanity Christian Pennsatucky Doggett. That we alternately find her adorable and despicable – especially as more and more terrible things from her past emerge – is proof positive Manning’s performance is mighty impressive stuff. Honest to God. Who could have imagined this from the former lead singer of Boomkat?

1. Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren

Our final Emmy nominee – and perhaps only lock for a win – is Uzo Aduba, playing Suzanne Warren, the inmate affectionately nicknamed “Crazy Eyes” for reasons that hopefully don’t need explaining. A manic, energetic force of nature with a lot of love to give – especially to Piper – Aduba (and the show around her) slowly reveals Suzanne’s deeper layers, proving she might be the sweetest, most dangerous person in all of Litchfield. I’m certain I’m not alone in saying she’s earned the top spot.

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Television Revision: ‘The West Wing’ – Season 7

The West Wing S7

By Andrew Williams
July 29, 2014

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and the rest).

Now, this is a story all about how… The Bartlet White House has to deal with one last scandal as focus shifts to the Presidential election between Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda).

The West Wing S7

Happy days? For a series that produced some of the most dramatic finales in television history, this final season of The West Wing is surprisingly low-key, given it features the death of a beloved character and a Presidential election. Showrunner John Wells chooses to eschew the thunderous approach his predecessor Aaron Sorkin took to ending things, instead opting for a calm, almost documentarian tack in filming the battle to become the next President of the United States – and it works like gangbusters.

The season’s astonishing prescience aside (it pitted a charismatic minority-race Democrat against a long-serving ‘maverick’ Republican long before Obama v. McCain was on the cards for 2008) the realism with which Wells depicted a modern Presidential election is nothing short of remarkable. Alda and Smits excel as the candidates and Bradley Whitford anchors the whole season as Josh Lyman finds himself relocated at the centre of the show. The contest ebbs and flows as a real contest would, and there’s even an ambitious live debate episode that works perfectly. The only thing that doesn’t ring true is the alarming amount of mutual respect on display between the opposing sides.

If the season falters at all, it’s back at the White House, where a skeleton staff is basically running out the clock until the new mob comes in (much like the real world, mind you). The ‘leak’ plotline that dominates the White House action for much of Season Seven is controversial, as many feel it betrays a character we’d known for seven years (I think it’s exactly the sort of thing this character would do) and the whole thread feels a bit too much like a lame duck storyline.

The final frontier: The West Wing may have transformed from passionate to dispassionate in its seventh season, but I haven’t. This is the best show ever made, and Season Seven is a worthy part of that legacy.

The West Wing S7

Top three episodes: 7) The Debate. Only The West Wing could stage a live presidential debate between two fictional characters and make it compelling. 6) The Al Smith Dinner. The show tackles the divisive issue of abortion with the kind of intelligence and even-handedness that would come to define this final season. 22) Tomorrow. The show goes out on a minor, but quietly inspiring note.

Worst episode: 5) Here Today. As mentioned, the White House portion of the season is not its strong suit, and this episode situated almost entirely in the White House off the back of a shocking revelation can’t help but leave us impatient to get back to the darn election already.

Season MVP: Whitford’s Josh Lyman would come to be The West Wing’s most crucial original character – from so close to being fired in the pilot to its heart and soul by the finale. He’s the bridge between the old and the new, our familiar pair of eyes with which to view this unfamiliar situation. It’s a credit to Whitford that even as the character begins to come under unbearable pressure, he never loses the twinkle in his eyes while still modulating his performance to fit this new paradigm. He’s the standout member of an impeccable cast.

4.5/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:

Television Revision: The West Wing – Season 1

Television Revision: The West Wing – Season 2

Television Revision: The West Wing – Season 3

Television Revision: The West Wing – Season 4

Television Revision: The West Wing – Season 5

Television Revision: The West Wing – Season 6

The West Wing is available on Quickflix.

Anarchy in the W.A. – ‘These Final Hours’ Review

These Final Hours

By Simon Miraudo
July 29, 2014

There’s never been an end-of-days movie quite like These Final Hours before, an anything-goes orgy of grief, savagery, and sex, with just enough humanity to remind us why maybe farewelling mankind would be a shame after all. Zak Hilditch‘s major feature debut makes Perth the final destination for an apocalyptic event that has already laid waste to the rest of the planet (which makes sense, given the popular definition for W.A. is actually “wait awhile”). With just twelve hours until the west coast erupts in a fiery, meteoric “come to Jesus” blaze, the locals spend their last moments entirely shedding the facade of morality, running amok on machete rampages, fornicating in the streets, and, at the mohawked, methed-out Freddy’s (Daniel Henshall) mansion, enjoying a pansexual, skin-on-skin bacchanalia the likes of which would make Jordan Belfort blush. Good thing the world’s already ending. Otherwise the lot of them would have been rendered pillars of salt.

The flick begins with a familiar lover’s tiff: James (Nathan Phillips) wants to go the party, while his girlfriend Zoe (Jessica De Gouw) would rather stay at home. He can’t bear to “feel” the end of the world, hoping to drown the pain out with whisky, cocaine, and whatever’s available, really. He abandons her at the beach house where she’d like to see out existence, but his trip to Freddy’s is waylaid by some of the nutters wilding in the streets, including a duo of dastardly gents who’ve kidnapped a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice), for nefarious purposes. Conducting the first unselfish act of, perhaps, his entire life, James rescues Rose, who’s desperate to reunite with her father. James toys with taking her to him, though not before stopping off at that party, where Rose is harassed by a distraught young mother (Sarah Snook) and plied with drugs. Hey, if you’ve got to go…

These Final Hours

There’s an appreciated forward momentum to These Final Hours, and not simply because there is a literal ticking clock and a clear conclusion we’re driving towards. (Bonnie Elliot’s camera captures the smothering, smouldering sensation of the unbearable summer heat, amplified by the gradually-increasing incineration of the entire G-ddamn globe). Hilditch directs with great propulsion, and his script swiftly takes us from vignette to vignette, with James and Rose encountering a variety of strangers all enduring their own private drama during These Final Hours. James’ personal journey, from ‘jerk’ to ‘not that bad really’, is satisfyingly travelled too. The dialogue is occasionally overwrought – and Phillips is not always up to the task in the more dramatic moments – however, I don’t necessarily know how you tell this tale in which every person on the planet faces death and not devolve into screeching, histrionic madness. If anything, this hysterical panic and frequent ugly-crying is almost freeing to behold; “Oh good,” we think, “everyone is as emotionally ill-equipped as I’d be.”

Where Phillips falters, Rice acts as anchor; a remarkably impressive performance from the 13-year-old actress. Snook and Henshall are similarly memorable in their small, startling turns. What makes the picture most compelling, however, is the fine filmmaking on display, which convincingly turns Western Australia into a hellscape with suspicious ease. (As a Perth resident, it was alarming to see empty streets turned into sites of chaos, as well as how little effort was required to do so.) The energetically assembled party sequence, as a parody of sandgroping bro culture – seen at any music festival, or outback B&S Ball, or on any Australia Day – pierces with devastating precision, and is punctuated by bursts of uncomfortable humour and outrageously graphic violence. On the other end of the spectrum, beyond Freddy’s compound and around each new corner, are countless heartbreaking moments for James and Rose to happen upon, and for us to wince at as they unfold. This won’t be a pleasant experience for many, and you may not want to watch These Final Hours more than once. And yet, it does the job so well, you shouldn’t need to.

4/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

These Final Hours arrives in Australian cinemas July 31, 2014.

Talk Hard – Clio Barnard, The Selfish Giant

Sit down, kids, as we share the fable of The Selfish Giant. Simon Miraudo reviews this acclaimed English drama, in Australian cinemas July 31, and then interviews its director and writer, Clio Barnard.

Clio Barnard

 

Show Notes:

Thanks for listening!

Do tell your friends to subscribe to Talk Hard on iTunes and feel free to leave a review. Or, follow our RSS feed.

You can shoot us a line at talkhard@quickflix.com.au. Find me on Twitter here: @simonmiraudo.

Thanks to Blue Ducks for our theme, “Four, Floss, Five, Six.” You can find more of their work at www.recordsonribs.com

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ trailer promises non-stop carnage

Mad Max Fury Road

Almost – almost – confirming that the long-delayed, production-plagued Mad Max: Fury Road actually exists and will be fit for release is this new teaser trailer, fresh from Comic Con.

The clip is just a short excerpt of the lengthy sequence played at the Con, where director George Miller revealed that the entire movie would be one long car chase.

Miller also added that he never wrote a script for the movie, due to the almost complete lack of dialogue, instead relying on a 3500-frame storyboard.

Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson here, playing Max, and he’s joined by Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult; none of them actually Australian, hinting at maybe why there’s so little dialogue.

The teaser is certainly electrifying, and continues to promise a 2015 release. Yeah, we’ll see.

Walrus? Yes! Kevin Smith’s ‘Tusk’ trailer revealed

Tusk

The trailer for Kevin Smith’s podcast-born horror flick – his first since 2011’s Red State – has arrived online, following its premiere at Comic Con.

Inspired by a Gumtree post and discussed on Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast, Tusk will concern a podcaster (Justin Long) who answers a classified ad from a lonely former seaman (Michael Parks), looking for an interesting story, and finding himself in way over his head.

Anyone familiar with Smith’s now infamous Smodcast episode has a fair idea of the grotesque, Walrus-related area the movie ventures into, but the trailer plays it coy, so we won’t spoil it for you here.

This ain’t no Jersey Girl, that’s for sure. Check it out for yourself below.

Tusk arrives in US cinemas this September, with a local release to hopefully follow.

Unexpected ‘King Kong’ prequel, ‘Skull Island’, set for 2016

Film Title: King Kong.

Among the things no one expected to be announced at Comic Con: a remake of Kazaam, a live action adaptation of the ill-fated comic hero Arm-Fall-Off-Boy, and a prequel to King Kong.

So, you can imagine Con-goers surprise when the teaser for a new King Kong movie was played at the conclusion of Legendary’s panel.

Titled Skull Island, the picture will take place in the jungle terrain prior to Mighty Kong’s capture by that pesky film crew in the famed King Kong story.

It’s unknown if it will have any involvement from Peter Jackson, who made the most recent Kong movie in 2005, but we do know its slated for release in November of 2016.

Slashfilm, in their account of the teaser, wonder if a potential Godzilla vs. King Kong movie is being set up by Legendary, which, while hugely speculative, is very, very appealing.

The following is from Legendary’s official press release:

“Previous works have touched on the island, but staying and exploring this mysterious and dangerous place offers Legendary the opportunity to take audiences deeper inside this rich world with a style and scope that parallels other Legendary productions.”

Quentin Tarantino is making ‘The Hateful Eight’ after all

comic-con-django-unchained-panel-jpeg-1968627819

Quentin Tarantino, that tease, revealed at Comic Con he is indeed moving forward with The Hateful Eight, despite suggesting he would abandon the film after the script leaked early this year.

According to Deadline, Tarantino made the confirmation after being prodded by a fan’s question at his Django/Zorro crossover comic panel.

In an earlier report, Deadline suggested QT was lining up stars and producers for an early 2015 filming start.

He recently held a live reading of the script with actors Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Zoe Bell, Amber Tamblyn, James Remar, Michael Madsen, James Parks, and Denis Menochet.

Bell confirmed to us she would want to be affiliated with the movie, so maybe we’ll get to see that exact line up living out Tarantino’s upcoming western.

Also in the works: an extended cut of the Kill Bill saga with more animated sequences. Surely one Con soon he’ll spill on Kill Bill Vol. 3.

Marvel reveals ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ concept art, announce ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2’ at Comic Con; Joaquin Phoenix in talks for ‘Doctor Strange’

Avengers Age of Ultron

Marvel, the reigning kings of Comic Con, selfishly dominated the weekend’s news cycle with some juicy new details about their upcoming slate.

First, over the course of the Con they unveiled some concept art character posters, which, when “assembled” make up the above image, showing the Avengers (plus newbies Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Vision) in serious peril.

At their panel – available online in all its glory – the cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron revealed the hotly anticipated trailer, featuring James Spader as the villainous robot Ultron, and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark (sort of spoiler alert) standing amongst his slain fellow superheroes (as recounted by Slashfilm).

The latter sequence calls to mind the famous comic book thread involving Thanos, which many believed was being saved for the third Avengers movie.

However, with Josh Brolin cast as Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy (and him making an impromptu appearance at the panel), perhaps we won’t have to wait that long to see this particular storyline unfold.

Speaking of the Guardians, Marvel has confirmed a July 2017 release date for its sequel, with James Gunn confirming on Twitter that he would return to write and direct. The first film hits US cinemas this weekend, and arrives locally next Thursday.

Finally, though Marvel decided not to comment at the Con, Joaquin Phoenix is reportedly in negotiations to star in Doctor Strange.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the deal-making is quite far along, meaning Phoenix could soon be announced as the sorcerer in Scott Derrickson’s upcoming film.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman debuted at Comic Con

Wonder Woman

The first image of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince (fitted out in full Wonder Woman garb) has been released online, following its debut at the Batman V Superman Comic Con panel.

Her character portrait joins the previously released posters for Bats (Ben Affleck) and Supes (Henry Cavill), though neither was quite as rapturously received as this one has been.

Perhaps that has something to do with the drab, metallic grey sheen of both; something we’ve seen countless times before.

But Wonder Woman in all her Amazonian glory, in an other-worldly environment? That’s something we’ve never seen on screen.

You never would have imagined people needed a good reason to see a Batman vs Superman movie, but it’s certainly starting to feel that way. If Gal Gadot’s performance (and Zack Snyder’s filmmaking, of course) can live up to the promise of that striking image, then this might actually be an interesting new superhero movie after all.

We won’t find out until it hits cinemas May 2016.

The Top 25 Films of 1989

The top 25 films of 1989

By Simon Miraudo
July 28, 2014

Every year is a good year for cinema, however, few can boast about having as many memorable movies – certainly ones that remain ingrained in our collective consciousness – as 1989 can. With that in mind, I dug into the Quickflix data bank to see which had been deemed the very best, based on thousands of Quickflix subscribers ratings and reviews.

The eventual victor surprised me, mostly because it bested such imposing competition. I mean, consider the contenders: Spike Lee‘s Do the Right Thing, the rare picture to remain as incendiary and important in 2014 as it was upon release twenty-five years ago (it’s also, cutely, what the Obamas saw on their first date, and contains maybe the greatest ever opening credits sequence); Disney’s comeback flick The Little Mermaid, which, despite some questionable sexual politics, rescued the Mousehouse from irrelevancy and could be considered directly responsible for leading to Frozen; the timeless When Harry Met Sally…, the template for the modern rom-com genre, and yet to be topped. That’s not to mention cult favourite Heathers, surprisingly good blockbuster sequels Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Back to the Future 2, and beloved dramas Dead Poets Society and Cinema Paradiso. How beloved? Well, the latter, an Italian ode to cinema, managed fourth place on this chart, while Robin Williams‘ inspirational teacher tale took the top spot. O captain, my captain indeed.

It was such a good year for film, take a look at what just missed out on making this Top 25 and weep: Batman, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, sex, lies & videotape, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Born on the Fourth of July, Henry V, Meet the Feebles, and, depending on how you feel about Nicolas Cage, Vampire’s Kiss. Turner & Hooch snuck onto the list though, so…

I didn’t compile my own 25 – and for my reasoning I’d like to crib from Lethal Weapon 2: Diplomatic immunity!” – but I would have put Do the Right Thing, When Harry Met Sally… and Say Anything… in the top three spots. (Sidebar: What’s with all the titles being styled with an ellipsis in 1989?) Still, it’s hard to argue with any group of people who rate Kiki’s Delivery Serviceand Road House – so highly.

Happy twenty-fifth bday to you all!

DEAD POETS SOCIETY

Quickflix subscribers’ Top 25 Films of 1989.

1. Dead Poets Society
2. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
3. Kiki’s Delivery Service
4. Cinema Paradiso
5. Back to the Future 2
6. The Little Mermaid
7. Jesus of Montreal
8. Glory
9. Do the Right Thing
10. My Left Foot
11. Driving Miss Daisy
12. When Harry Met Sally
13. See No Evil, Hear No Evil
14. Shirley Valentine
15. The Abyss
16. Lean on Me
17. Road House
18. Field of Dreams
19. Steel Magnolias
20. Heathers
21. Parenthood
22. Roger and Me
23. Turner and Hooch
24. Honey I Shrunk the Kids
25. Lethal Weapon 2

Start reviewing those 1990 movies now!

Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Play It Again – Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet

By Glenn Dunks
July 25, 2014

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. Hey, whatever. It fits!

By far one of the most fascinating careers of an American filmmaker is that of David Lynch. To watch his 1986 neo-noir masterpiece Blue Velvet is to be plunged headfirst into the mind of an extraordinary filmmaker whose experiences with the mainstream studio system had left him burnt – his 1984 adaptation of Dune was a long-gestating failure – and who then returned to the world of independent cinema and made one of the finest dissections of the American mythos yet seen, filmed using high-gloss suburban iconography and with heavy use of symbolism and graphic violence.

Upon discovering a severed human ear, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan) and the local detective’s daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern), decide to investigate. They are led to a local nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini) and the sadomasochistic criminal who has kidnapped her family and uses her for his sexual gratification (Dennis Hopper), sending them careening through a nightmarish peek behind the artificial veil of suburbia.

Blue Velvet

Lynch was clearly inspired by the excessively wholesome images of America that television perpetuated in the 1950s and ‘60s and echoing themes that Lynch would go on to investigate in even greater detail in his Twin Peaks franchise. No clearer is the brilliance of his concept seen than in the opening sequence that begins with Bobby Vinton’s titular tune playing over stylized images of red roses, white picket fences, cute puppies, and friendly neighbours that quickly burrows beneath the surface into a cacophony of the grotesque as chomping insects and filthy dirt take over. It’s ugly, yet beautifully intoxicating at the same time.

While Lynch’s command of the movie’s visuals, sounds, and tone are exceptionally on point – he was nominated for the Best Director Oscar, the film’s only nomination – the actors are equally special. McLachlan and Dern are especially tuned into Lynch’s gee-whiz innocence, while Rossellini and especially Hopper as the deranged Frank Booth are the film’s propulsive, dark hearts. (Dean Stockwell also memorably appears as a Roy Orbison-singing creep.) Despite its wild cross of genres and styles, Blue Velvet is an endlessly fascinating and ultimately rather horrifying excursion into the mind of a genius.

5/5

Blue Velvet is available on Quickflix.

Look but don’t touch the saucy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trailer

50-Shades-of-Grey-still-1

Have that fainting couch at the ready! The scandalous trailer for e-book sensation Fifty Shades of Grey has arrived online.

Dakota Johnson plays sexually inexperienced uni student Anastasia Steele in the flick, ultimately seduced by BDSM-loving billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).

The teaser – tease being the key phrase here – for Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation is light on the hardcore naughtiness for which E.L. James former-Twilight fan fiction is famous.

Still, there’s enough breathy Beyonce on the soundtrack and brief shots of Johnson in states of ecstasy to suggest that, yes, there will be a lot of sex in this movie.

Fifty Shades of Grey comes out Valentine’s Day, 2015.

‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’ trailer full of ‘Back to the Future 2’-style shenanigans

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

The sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine you didn’t realise you had asked for hits cinemas next January. For those who are eagerly waiting for it – okay, I’m one of them – this new Red Band trailer should suffice.

The picture sees Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry and Clark Duke reeling from the events of the first movie, in which they changed history – thanks to their helpful hot tub – and made themselves into wildly successful futurists.

But when an attempt is taken on Corddry’s character’s life, the trio jumps forward to the 2020s with the intention of tracking down his would-be assassin, and much Back to the Future 2-like madness ensues.

John Cusack is conspicuously absent, though the presence of equally-appealing everyman Adam Scott here makes up for it.

Oh, and Chevy Chase is back too.

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 3’ delayed until 2018

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Following the disappointing box office returns for The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro, Sony has delayed the release of its sequel from 2016 to 2018.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3 does not have a specific date in 2018, suggesting that perhaps the studio is waiting to see how their still-slated villain team-up flick Sinister Six fares in 2016 before committing to more movies from this particular universe.

According to Variety, The Amazing Spider-Man 4, once dated for May 2018, has been taken off the slate entirely.

The writing’s been on the wall for some weeks, with TASM3‘s screenwriters having mostly walked away.

TASM2 collected an impressive $706 million worldwide, and yet, because of its gargantuan budget, barely turned a profit. It is also the lowest grossing of the Spider-Man movies, and the worst reviewed to boot. Yes, it score a lower Rotten Tomatoes score than Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.

Surely Sony execs are wondering if maybe they’d not be better off retiring Andrew Garfield and rebooting once again in four years time.