Archive | February, 2012

Girls – The New TV Series By Judd Apatow

28 Feb

Looks totally up my alley. This could be the next Freaks and Geeks. Airs in April.

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‘This Means War’ Tom Hardy OMG

22 Feb

So this last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing the new action, romantic comedy ‘The Means War’ staring Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Reese Witherspoon. ‘This Means War’ is directed by McG, the director of Charlie’s Angels, the good one with the hot Demi Moore and of the first season of ‘The OC’. That should give you some indication of the kind of film I am talking about. It was written by Timothy Dowling who also penned the scripts for ‘Just Go With It’ and ‘Role Models’. Neither of which isn’t much of a recommendation.  However I do recommend this film to women of all ages for one reason Tom Hardy.

OMG that man is attractive and a very good actor and did I mention beautiful. He is so attractive that I almost felt like I couldn’t watch the film because I was too busy staring at him. Those eyes, those lips, that body, OK I should stop. But thank god this film has Tom Hardy because other than him and his beautifulness it does have quite a few flaws.

First off the love triangle. The key to every love triangle is for the viewer to be torn but also to always know in some way or other who the right choice is. You might get distracted by the beauty of the other man, the romance he creates or the excitement of the moment but secretly you always know who the character is supposed to be with. ‘This Means War’ however only provides you with the certainty that Chris Pine and Tom Hardy should be together, their chemistry remains unbeaten by any chemistry created with Reese Witherspoon. I believed their friendship far beyond either of their romances with Reece so in a way struggled to figure out why they were putting it on the line for this women. Reece is also frankly too old for both of them, sorry Reece. So as a result I had no idea who she was supposed to be with and found myself at the end of the film wondering if she made the right choice and whether she should ditch the whole thing altogether and find someone else, who didn’t lie to her the entire film and put surveillance teams on her home.

Another problem is the casting, Chris Pine is supposed to be the badass irresistible womanizer and Tom Hardy the sweet sensitive type. First off  Chris Pine doesn’t have the appeal of  the badboy you want to tame. Chris Pine just seems like a sleazy pretty boy you want to leave alone. He is no Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ that is for sure. As Reece’s character begins to see the real him, underneath the facade of the womanizing club rat, the audience is supposed to see his true nature but I could never really feel as if their was anything below the surface.

Tom Hardy on the other hand is an already tamed sexy tattooed leather jacket wearing good boy who has deep feelings. In other words he has it all, I highly doubt all these features exist in one man but if they do I’m first in line. At one point Reece’s character tells her best friend, delightfully played by Chelsea Handler, that Tuck might just be a bit too safe, Tom Hardy ‘too safe’, that boy is nothing but danger no matter how you slice it. In other words neither actor really suited the character they played, they just didn’t make sense in the roles. In fact the entire movie might have been improved greatly if they had of switched. Tom Hardy is the perfect bad boy you want to tame and Chris Pine would be far better cast as the safe good guy.

But despite these problems ‘The Means War’ has one other major thing going for it, it is funny, really funny and that in my book covers a multitude of sins. The jokes are witty, unexpected, real and really engaged you with the content from the get go. The constant bickering between the male leads is inspired and Reece Witherspoon has some very funny moments of her own. The action and romance may seem like something you’d expect from a one time music video clip director like McG but the laughs are first-rate.

So all in all not a substantial film but might do for a date movie. But be warned ladies after seeing Tom Hardy it’s hard to think of anything else.

“Any Questions For Ben” A Different Side of Australia

16 Feb

Excellent for Australia not bad for everywhere else. The ‘Working Dog’ team have branched out with a slick sophisticated film that sells a very different side of Australia than ‘The Castle’ and thank god. ‘Any Questions for Ben’ is a film about a man who has everything, a great job, a great apartment, great friends but he is never satisfied. The film begins a with a quote from Ernest Hemingway “Never Mistake Motion For Action”. Ben played by Josh Lawson is constantly moving, a new job every 6 months, a new apartment every year, a new girl, a new holiday, despite having everything he is never satisfied and is always looking for the next adventure. Until one day he goes back to his old private school and speaks to the kids about his life. There he meets an old friend from high school and college Alex, beautiful, smart and meaningful Alex played by Rachael Taylor. Alex works for the United Nations in Yemen, Ben is in strategic re-branding of products. When Alex gives her speech to the students everyone has a question. But when Ben gives his, no one does. Suddenly Ben is struck, what if his entire life has been a waste, he’s not doing anything important or meaningful, not like Alex. And Ben’s journey begins.

The problem is that character of Ben is rather under drawn. He is looking for something to make his life meaningful but given that the movie gives him two hours to find it, it all comes out rather shallow. He gets the girl and commits but given that he was worried about a lot of other elements in his life he doesn’t really come to any grand realisations about himself or about his career which he seems largely unsatisfied with but continues with until in the end of the film. The writing of the film feels as if the writer was like Ben and felt unsatisfied, recounted the journey of trying to find meaning but never really figured out what he was missing so by extension neither does Ben. There is too much talking in this film, Ben goes about telling people how he feels and asking for advice and no one seems to understand, but how many times can you see a character describe how they feel before you begin to wonder if the director and writer were being a bit lazy and should understand the concept of show and not tell.

This film could be American in the way it looks and particularly the way it is cut the montage being a particularly prevalent feature. I don’t mind that all, as I believe Australian films refusing to adopt American conventions has been holding us back for years. The only problem is that these techniques backed up by the shallow script tend to make you feel as if film is like it’s message always moving but with no action. This may be what was intended but with a rather shallow ending to boot it just feels like you are seeing a lot of pretty stuff that didn’t mean much.

The film was funded partly by City of Melbourne and boy did they get their money’s worth, every important event on the Melbourne calendar was covered from the Australian Open to the Melbourne Cup, even Captain Cook’s Cottage got a look in. I rather like this element of the film especially as I was living in Sydney at the time and it made me feel very nostalgic. However it may have been a bit of over kill and more time could have been spent on the substance of the story. The audience needed a quiet break from the constant movement which they never got. A moment to reflect on the action and see the truth of Ben. This was decidedly missing.

All and all this film was very enjoyable and I  found all the characters very likeable and understandable, my favorite being the character of Emily played by Felicity Ward who cuts through the crap and sees Ben for what he really is, the man that can never follow through.

‘Any Questions For Ben’ is a new kind of Australian movie, that shows a sophisticated Australia with characters that make money, wears designer clothes, eat at great restaurants and live in the city. More than anything this film’s great achievement is showing an Australia apart from Wolf Creek, Red Dog and The Dish. It shows an Australia that I know and I live in and for that I am grateful. So for any of you that thought you couldn’t make an Australian film because you have no passion for Kangaroos this is the film that breaks the mold and so can yours.

SHAME

4 Feb

I saw a preview of Steve McQueen’s new film ‘Shame’ a few days ago thinking I’d be one of the first at my work to see it. But no, a few of the projectionists had already watched the film after the cinema had closed. Not together, but separately watched it alone in empty cinemas. Now, it does sound pretty amazing to have a cinema all to yourself in the early hours of the morning (although it also sort of sounds like the premise of a horror film), but it also seemed a bit strange. They both said this was a film they would never want to watch with anyone else around. I found this surprising, it was almost like they felt shame just from viewing the film. I knew there was a fair bit of nudity but surely that wouldn’t be enough to illicit such a strong response.

So I watched it. And there were many parts that were beautiful, the film seemed to glow from the screen. It starts with Brandon (Fassbender) waking and staring up blankly from his blue silk sheets. We get a brief window into his life: working hard with toilet breaks to ‘unload’, frequent conquests with anonymous girls in bars and prostitutes, he watches porn over dinner and ignores calls from his sister. But then of course his rhythm is broken. Enter Brandon’s sister, Sissy (Mulligan). She is girl that a lot of us have met before, I know I have. The op shop goddess with dark roots protruding, she has the explosive laugh that cuts through walls and the constant thirst for affection. She moves in with Brandon and his life is thrown of kilter. When he is denied his own space he begins to realise that perhaps he doesn’t have as much control over his sex drive as he thought. Perhaps instead it controls him.

Firstly I want to say what I really loved about this film: the long shots. Punctuating the normal pacing of a feature film are two sequences with long still shots that are quite mesmerising. The first is at the nightclub. Sissy sings a slow and slowly heartbreaking rendition of ‘New York, New York’. The film seems to pause for a moment, just focusing on Brandon and Sissy’s faces. As Sissy sings Brendan eyes begin to well up and it hits you in the pit of your stomach. What has happened in the past to these siblings? We never find out for sure.

The other long still sequence that was just fantastic is the first date between Brandon and Marianne (a lady from his office who he has long being eyeing, played by Nicole Beharie). The whole scene is one long still take. Their back and forth is humorous and awkward and really stands away from the rest of the film. I wish there could have been more of this.

Overall, unfortunately, it seemed like McQueen was trying to shove this feeling of shame down my throat. As Brandon pays a prostitute early in the film we hear almost ridiculously dramatic music, as though he is doing something truly horrifying. This music is there again at the climax as Brendan tries to pick up a mans girlfriend in a bar and eventually ends up in a gay bar.  Yes Brendan is obsessed with sex, perhaps even ‘addicted’ (which I actually think could have been explored more) but instead the film just seemed to be preaching sex negativity. That prostitutes, porn and casual sex are things that should make us feel shame. If Brandon is at the mercy of an addiction why is he treated so differently on film to those with other more recognised addictions? Not only does the film seem to showing Brandon’s sexual exploits to be ‘shameful’ but attempting to make the audience feel shame just from baring witness to them.

Battleship – Staring ‘Friday Night Lights’ star Taylor Kitsch

4 Feb

If this film is as big as they are planning it to be my favourite actor from “Friday Night Lights” Taylor Kitsch is soon to become a big star. So I want to say it first, I loved him before he was famous. Check out the preview, the film looks a little predictable but he looks super hot. “Battleship” how desperate are they for scripts now anyway.

Friday Night Lights – High Quality Drama For Everyone

4 Feb

“Friday Night Lights” is one of the best quality TV dramas I have every watched and enjoyed. I have watched many high quality drama’s but usually they strike me as a little to far away from the real world, a little too full of themselves with a little too much angst and pain and not enough joy. “Friday Night Lights” is the critically acclaimed drama that I believe everyone can watch and enjoy not just the snobs.

“Friday Night Lights’ the TV series is based on “Friday Night Lights” the film and “Friday Night Lights” the book. The book is written by H.G. Bissinger and is the true story of a journalist living in the Texas town of Odessa and the football crazed culture he observed there. The book also focuses on the misplaced priorities of football over everything else and the racial tensions in the red neck Texas town.  The film is produced by Brian Grazer and the directed and written by Peter Berg and David Nevins. The series retains the same team and is executive produced by Peter Berg, Brian Grazer, Jason Katims and David Nevins.

First off this is a amazing team for a TV show, Brain Grazer was one the executive producers on “Felicity” and Jason Katims was the executive producer of  my favourite scifi teen drama “Roswell”. “Friday Night Lights” had the TV dream team from the very beginning. Lasting 5 seasons and garnering an Emmy for it’s excellent writing and for it’s male lead Kyle Chandler the world seems to agree.

A critique of small town football culture is what the original film is all about but when Peter Berg adapted his film script into a long form series he broadened his horizons. Using the fictional backdrop of the Texas town of Dillon and their famous and fan fanatical football team the Dillon Panthers, “Friday Night Lights” creates a world that is at one part typical and one part extraordinary with an amazing array of believable flawed characters that you will want to come back to again and again. It addresses with realism and grit issues prominent in small town Texas, like drugs, lack of government funding for schools, abortion, sex, racism, the importance of family and economic instability and the lack of opportunities in small towns.

“Friday Night Lights” is rough and textured which can sometimes put a first time viewer off, scenes are shot often in only in one or two takes with 2 or 3 cameras and their is a hand held gritty style to the show. But this style allows for amazing locations and pitch perfect performances. The actors are encouraged by Berg to feel as real as they can within the scene, with the scene structured to get the best possible performance rather than the great light or perfect camera pans. This rawness gives the show an amazing sense of heart and makes me cry in almost every episode.

I love a good sports movie or TV show, the simplicity of the goal, the hardship and rewards of the journey to get there, it gets me every time and this is what gives “Friday Night Lights” a brilliant structure to hold it in place, the teams football season plays out over one TV season. But if you’re not into sports on film don’t despair, the sport is only one part of the action, their is the amazing relationship between coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami and the sexy romances of Matt Saracen, Tim Riggins, Lyla Garity, Julie Taylor and Tyra Collette. Not to mention the heart breakingly honest story of a man paralysed in his prime, Jason Street.

Add to all this “Friday Night Lights” crowning glory amazingly talented and beautiful actors. You can tell Peter Berg is an actors director and it really pays off. If you don’t have massive crush on Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen by the end of the pilot, your not human.

Give it a watch, but I warn you it may come with one side effect. Tragically I now know more about American Grid Iron Football than I ever knew about Aussie Rules. Damn what a pity.