Archive | May, 2012

The Avengers: Truly Average

29 May

I have been looking forward to this film for quite some time. Appealing to my inner nerd and outer writer I loved the idea of characters for numerous films coming together in one film to fight the forces of evil. It sounded like an opportunity for a collection of great actors to be part of complex and epic story of what it is to be a hero. I saw The Avengers last week at the cinema and man was I disappointed.

Let me start by saying that I was pretty well prepared for this film having seen the four films that were it’s direct predecessors, Iron Man 1 and 2, Thor and Captain America. I know some would argue that the 2 Hulk films also fall into this category but considering that neither Eric Bana or Edward Norton were in The Avengers and we had to put up with Mark Ruffalo, I decided to stage a protest. One I might cave in to very shortly and watch the 2nd Edward Norton film ‘The Incredible Hulk’, since I hear it is far better than The Avengers.

This film had so much in it’s favor, not only did it have a massive budget and a great cast, it also had Joss Whedon. The writer of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, with one of the biggest cult followings in the world and one one of my favorite writers, he was great choice. And he is no stranger to comic book adaptation writing the far superior ‘X Men’ in 2000.

So what was wrong with this incredibly successful blockbuster you might ask? Well first off it had no heart. Where it’s four predecessors had journeys of character discovery, how Thor over came his ego and Captain America his weakness and Iron Man his playboy ways, all this film had to offer us was a lot of dudes with big muscles bickering. While the wit of Tony Stark embodied by the wonderful Robery Downey Jr is still a highlight, these characters inner journey is very shallow. What do they all overcome to become a team, other than their own self love? Not much.

So with very little inner journey to speak of for any of the characters, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow proved to be the best and even it was pretty thin, at least the plot is stellar. No it’s not, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is no Heath Ledger’s ‘The Joker’ from ‘The Dark Knight’ by any stretch of the imagination in fact he couldn’t be less intimating or cool if he tried. With a ridiculous outfit and weak persona, I wanted to hit the fast forward button every time he came on screen. And as for the wave of demons and space monsters he released through an intergalactic portal, well shouldn’t there be more to beating the enemy that simply trying to hurt it. I like my hero’s to use their brain as well as their brawn. On top of that the science behind the portal was far too complicated and over blown and took far too long to explain. In fact the film was too long in general.

And where was the romance? While all the other films had a romance central to the story like Jane Foster and Thor or Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. This film was decidedly devoid of romance. I mean surely they could have teamed Scarlett Johansson’s character up with someone, I think they were hinting at something like that with Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, but I mean give me a bit of sexiness. You needed something lighter to break up the action other than just lots of banal banter. A reason for this might be that there is an Iron Man 3 film coming out next year as well as a Thor 2 and Captain America 2 so maybe they didn’t want to waste the individual character story lines. But really why do this at the expense of having nothing interesting happen to characters personally in this film.

Having said all of the above I would like to state that I am still a believer in the marvel franchise and will probably still go and see all the up coming films. But I think they missed an opportunity here, they had everything they needed to make a great film and they wasted it.

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CARELESS LOVE (and Sleeping Beauty)

28 May

Careless Love is the first Australian film in over ten years from ‘The Year My Voice Broke’ and ‘Flirting’ director John Duigan. But you’d be best to forget that when you go and see this film. If you try and compare it to those two Australian classics you will  be disappointed. It’s a film that will no doubt be forgotten in the weekly section of the video store.

Interestingly this film is very similar in story to ‘Sleeping Beauty’, another Australian film which came out late last year. They are both about female university students who are forced to become sex workers to make ends meet. Sleeping Beauty had a more dreamlike feel to it and it’s premise: ‘a young woman in financial trouble takes sedatives so that men can pay to do whatever they want to her while she is unconscious’ caused a mild controversy. My mum told me she was ‘sickened’ and refused to talk about it any further, which I think was the general prognosis in Australia (even though it was given a standing ovation at Cannes it was shunned at the AACTA awards, while every other Australian film released that year was given a musical number! Literally!). But as someone who actually saw the film, I have to say I thought it was brilliant. The film slowly undresses the way young women’s bodies are objectified in our society, by the end the protagonist becomes just a inanimate female body. It’s in no way titillating, instead it makes you feel culpable as the viewer, forcing you to face your own participation in this objectification.

But on to Careless Love. Although I mentioned this film doesn’t stand up to Duigan’s other work it definitely has it’s own merit. The strongest parts of it are the episodic sequences that take up much of the film. Linh enters a situation and we watch it slowly play out. The strongest of these are when Linh is booked by a group of drunk university students, these smug little pricks laugh as though they have made some sort of ironic transgression. But really their humiliation of her is the hardest to watch. The sequences of the long nights of comradery as Linh, fellow escort Mint and their driver Dion (David Field in a fantastic performance) discuss clients in the car and stop for fast food in the early hours of the morning, are also brilliant. But the final act changes the structure of the film. It swings away from the episodic nature (that works so well) and attempts to bring all the parts smashing together. I see the potential in this, Linh compartmentalises her life and having everything come together threatens to break her character. But somehow the film slips into melodrama and looses not only its subtlety but its believability as well.

Careless Love may have it’s flaws but every scene had such a rich sense of humanity that it was still a pleasure to watch. I’d recomend this film, It will never be a classic but I really did enjoy it (it was definately an easier viewing experience than Sleeping Beauty that’s for sure!). It also springs to mind that these films have the strongest and most complex leading female characters to come out of Australia in years. Let’s just hope the fact that these roles perscribe that the actress spend most of the film in her undies isn’t the reason for this to have happened.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK

22 May

Hitting this up tonight- the trailer looks awesome (terrible)! Looking forward to seeing Harry in a more sirius role. oh dear.

KING OF DEVILS ISLAND

22 May

You know, I love a good melodrama. Especially mixed with beautiful scenery and beautiful boys. So this film gets a double thumbs up from me.

King of Devils Island has been slotted in with the new wave of gritty Scandinavian thrillers like Girl With a Dragon Tattoo and Let the Right One In. But I don’t think it really fits in that mould.  It’s quite a classic story and not really a thriller. Really I can imagine it being on the curriculum for year 10 students or being played in the middle of the day on TV. Which isn’t a bad thing at all.

The Good: That crawling over the ice scene near the end was fantastic- I looked around the cinema and absolutely everyone was squirming in their seats.

The Bad: I couldn’t looking at the blonde guys labret piercing hole. Killed the period feel a little.

The Ugly: Sigur Ros overkill- enough said.

The Art of the Season Finale: Smash, Hart of Dixie and Nikita.

22 May

Well the time has come, it’s the end of ratings season and I have watched at least 7 season finales in the last 2 weeks. The season finale is a hard beast to get right. You don’t want to leave your audience too satisfied but you don’t want to leave them too irritated either. In my opinion a great season finale is a mix of tantalizing questions and satisfying answers.

Many writers underestimate the benefit of a good answer. A show like ‘Lost’ for instance just kept asking questions and rarely gave an answer for anything but season finales are the perfect time to give answers for lingering questions and close some doors. If this isn’t done I would argue that audiences become unsatisfied and may lose faith in the show and turn off. A writer must never lose sight of the fact that viewers are watching for answers not for questions and it you don’t give them what they want sometimes, they will stop watching.

Nikita  gave us plenty of answers in its finale, Division was shut down, Birkhoff got the girl, Alex got together with Sean and Nikita had finally been seen as a legitimate hero in the eyes of the government. In fact Nikita answered so many questions it had to change the game entirely in order to keep the story going, it’s a risky move but I think it paid off.

Smash still had plenty of questions still in the tank but managed to give us a few answers of it’s own. Karen finally became the star of Bombshell. Ivy’s evil ways caught up with her and Dev was exposed for cheating on Karen. Ahh the satisfaction of a secret being exposed, this is the season finale bread and butter.

Now Hart of Dixie was perhaps the slimmest of them all on answers, but it did provide a few. George called off his wedding admitting he was in love at least partly with Zoe and Zoe and Wade finally worked out their differences and slept together. And George admitted to Zoe that he loved her. That last part was more of a question than an answer as it created a whole lot of trouble that as a fan of Zoe and Wade I could have done without. This show is doing the love triangle very well at the moment, confusing it’s audience at every turn. It could even give Vampire Diaries a run for it’s money.

Now for the questions or the cliffhanger. The cliffhanger is the reason viewers come back but don’t make your cliffhanger too bleak other wise you’ve got a Grey’s Anatomy situation on your hands. I found it very tough to start watching that again after last years depressing cliffhanger and this years season finale was even worse. I prefer cliffhangers that have the possibility for good as well as bad.  For example Hart of Dixie, who will Zoe choose? The beautiful Wade, whose abs would make icebergs melt or the country good boy George whose name should tell you how boring he really is. It could go either way.

Or Smash, the love of Karen’s life has cheated on her with her worse enemy and the emotionally bankrupt but super sexy director is making his move, again who will she choose. I like this one because even though you know Derek and Karen would be a disaster together it’s a disaster you would really like to see.

Or changing it up Nikita has finally taken down Division, the shady ex government agency that made her life hell and has been offered a job as it’s new leader, will she go into the belly of the beast and make it a force for good. What does the future hold? Very positive but with a dark underbelly of foreboding lurking in the future.

Now while all three of these season finales were very enjoyable I would have to say that Nikita was the best. Having seen many season finales I know or can estimate where Smash and Hart of Dixie will lead in the next season but the best season finales are the ones that change the game entirely, leaving the audience in a completely new place with no idea what will happen next.  It’s risky but Nikita’s season finale changed the rules of the show and as a result, it blew the others away.

What was the best season finale you saw this ratings season?

WISH YOU WERE HERE

17 May

I really wanted to love this film. I wanted to be able to sing its praise and suggest everyone go and see it. Why? Because it’s Australian. It felt like it was going to hit that great middle ground of not being a Yank impersonator (Any Questions For Ben) or being horrifyingly depressing (Last Ride… oh jesus!). But actually being a compelling film that is true to Australian life. It focuses on two couples from Sydney who travel to Cambodia together on a holiday, only three return. Slowly what really happen on the trip starts to unravel.

This film definitely wasn’t bad. It was worth seeing and I quite liked it. But something just rubbed me up the wrong way. Something was off about the two female characters, Alice and Steph. At first I thought it was bad acting but then I realised: their characters were paper thin! Teresa Palmer got to play the ‘Tarty little sister’ while Felicity Price is the ‘Good Wife and Mother’. Sure, they react to the situations around them but there wasn’t enough complexity to their characters to make these reactions very interesting. This felt like such a pity since it’s rare to have a female central protagonist in Australian films. In fact, I haven’t encountered an interesting female protagonist in a film for a while now. This article from the AV Club sums the situation up well.

Also- If you happen to see this film at a Palace Cinema you’ll notice that they are playing a short film after the end credits. This is such a great idea and could have been a really fantastic opportunity for short filmmakers! What a pity it was wasted on ‘The Palace’ by Anthony Maras. This film was brutally violent, felt exploitative to it’s content and also just wasn’t very good. If you do go and see Wish You Were Here, which is still worth a watch despite it’s boring lead ladies, just make sure you leave during the end credits.

Total Recall 2012

11 May

I love love love, the original. Will Colin Farrell measure up to the genius that is Arnold Schwarzenegger. I doubt it but it looks awesome anyway.