Mr.Moviehole takes a swig and gets into ‘em
Caffeinated Clint on…. “Sunshine”
Sometimes you can’t see the sun from a legion of clouds that are cloaking it, but you know it has to be there somewhere. Many experienced that same feeling when they first caught the fairly underwhelming trailer for Danny ’28 Days Later’ Boyle’s new film “Sunshine” – you’re expecting the film to burn bright (after all, the script is supposed to be terrific and Boyle has a terrific track record), but its masked a fairly murky, unappealing trailer that has many evoking nightmarish viewings of “Supernova”, “Event horizon” or “Solaris”.
Thankfully, it’s just a case of someone in the trailer-cutting department slacking off that day – because “Sunshine”, as early word had it, shines bright…. Well, brighter than at first anticipated. But, does it knock every one of those similarly-themed movies to smithereens with its dynamic rays?
How the fuck would I know. I only got to see half the friggin’ movie.
Yep, as part of one “of the first audiences in the world” to see the film at the Popcorn Taxi event, held in Melbourne, last Monday, I was treated to a film not-so-much breaking down half-way through… but playing backwards. Suddenly, everyone on screen is talking backwards, clocks are upside down, people are moving backwards – after ten minutes, it became suddenly clear that a) this wasn’t a David Lynch film b) that the film reel had gone to shit.
Still, they kept the movie playing – backwards and all – for a further ten minutes or so, until someone finally had the smarts to let the organizers of the event know that “the movie isn’t supposed to be backwards”. At which time, they consequently jumped out of their seats and asked the projectionist to press ‘stop’ on the big machine.
That was 8:10 pm.
At 9:15 pm, the film – despite being told an hour back that it would be back on “in a couple of minutes” – still had no started.
With a tired pregnant wife by my side, little recollection of what had happened in the first half of the film, and those “couple of minutes” becoming longer and longer apart… we decided (with another journo pal) to head for the Exit.
There was no way this movie was starting anytime soon.
So what a fucked up evening that was. All the way from the hills – yep, I live in the hills; much like those disturbed buggers from “Wrong Turn” – and twenty-bucks worth of ‘citylink’ fees later (lets not forget 1/4 tank of petrol)… to see half a movie.
So, did I enjoy what I saw?
Well, the visuals looked good (if sometimes negligible), Murphy seemed to be good (though he might have even got better, and apparently, does); the film dragged a bit at the bit but started chugging after about twenty minutes; the storyline itself is rather intriguing even if the pacing seemed a little languid… so yeah, it seemed OK. But… it could’ve all went to shit in the second half… or it might have turned into the best science-fiction film ever.
Who knows? If you DO know (i.e. you have seen the film), and want to give me your FIVE CENTS, write in and we’ll run your verdict next week!
Danny Boyle and Rose Byrne (in the audience) were to speak after the screening… geez, they would have been miffed.
Anyway, what did I miss out on? Not a hell of a lot it seems… judging by some of the other reviews on the web.
“Wasn’t great, wasn’t terrible. Murphy and the effects were the best thing about it. Byrne was bland” – Michelle Webster, IMDB Boards.
“After a slow start, the action truly kicks off and the audience is in for quite a thrill-ride thanks to some eye-popping special effects and fantastic sound design. That is, until the film’s third act rolls around and the plot takes an inexplicable turn into slasher territory, an act that reeks of either desperation by the screenwriter or interference by ignorant producers (“the audience must be growing restless by now, how about throwing in a deranged serial killer for the astronauts to cope with as well!”) Not only is this final act highly improbable, it also cheapens the tone of the movie” – SciFi Movie Page.
“If the narrative and characterization of “Sunshine” were as innovative and arresting as its visual, technical, and sound values, it would have been a great film. But they are not, and thus the resulting work is an intermittently enjoyable, sporadically involving tale in which arresting images overwhelm, and sometime even bury, the rather slender text.” – Emanuel Levy
The most positive review I have read for the film is by none other than Moviehole’s own Drew Turney.
Drew says, “Watch “Shallow Grave” and “Sunshine” back to back and you’ll barely believe they’re from the same director. Not because of a difference in quality – but because after graduating from low maintenance drama about human relationships, Boyle’s feel for telling the story by manipulating the image is stunning. Almost every frame is punctuated by a flare of light, a distortion of vision, the semi-blindness of a dream.
It’s the script that elicits such realistic performances from the cast despite the ability of each player, and Boyle does it justice and complements it with some of the most effective effects work in recent history.
Some Internet chatter has already pointed to the awry science of the film, but let’s face it – true to life space travel comprises four or five people strapped into chairs for hours at a time. If the sun was dying in 50 years and we sent a hastily-prepared mission to reignite it with a city-sized bomb, you can’t help felling this is exactly what it would be like.”.
If only “The Holiday” had been played backwards… I might’ve found it endurable.
Caffeinated Clint on…. “300”
If film is still considered a purely visual experience, then “300” will find a few choice coins in its cup post-performance. If, on the other hand, you’re about as impressed by new-age flashy imagery as a lawyer is by someone being accepted into art school, you’ll probably walk out of the new graphic novel cum film with a “Everyone’s carrying on about nothing” look on your face.
Nobody would be wrong in this case. Both the art connoisseur and the literary-loving lawyer are right – this is a film that pretty much gets off pretty colours, backdrops and fake-but-funky milieu; but at the same time, is obviously missing a script supervisor… or better, script.
“300” is a bit like a runway model – pretty on the outside, but hollow within. The visuals are absolutely staggering, but once the novelty of seeing what they came up with for the film passes (which is about 15 mins into the movie), there’s nothing else to really grab you.
For instance, the script – or did they just work from storyboards? – And character detail is as thin as a Libra-Fleur; events in it unfold about as excitingly – it actually reminded me of one of them, too, with it’s ludicrous monster sidekick characters (what the heck is Gollum doing in this? And I didn’t even know Sloth from The Goonies was still alive? And tell me you didn’t see Emperor Palpatine in there!) – As one of the less-energised “Mortal Kombat” sequels.
Granted, Miller’s graphic novel isn’t exactly thick on story… so Zack Snyder (“Dawn of the Dead”) had his work cut out from the beginning, but you’d think someone (like maybe the usually-unwilling-to-have-films-made-of-his-books Miller would’ve insisted on something a little bit more compelling than the paint-by-numbers (bad guys kill good guys, over and over and over again) stencil they’ve got here? I’ve had milk-free coffee weaker than it.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a Bachelor of Arts degree, or love comic books, you’re going to love this thing. It looks like a damn comic book, and some of the visuals in it are prettier than Anne Hathaway at a premiere. You’ll be truly taken back by some of the PC-generated backdrops that they’ve come up with – like the thousands of ships setting sail at sea, or the immense army at the end of the film – because they’re truly larger-than-life and undeniably scrumptious to look at. That wares off though.. and you start to turn your attention to a story that should be there.. and isn’t.
Acting-wise, Gerard Butler is probably the standout… if only because his muscles are Oscar worthy. The guy proves he’s got the inner [and outer] makings of an action hero here… and is reasonably credible throughout most of the movie. Unfortunately, his dialogue is a little cheesy, though. Not half as bad as co-star David Wenham’s though.. Wenham has to speak some of the brownest junk ever to grace a script, and as for his performance? Lets just say, you can take Diver Dan out of Pearl Bay, but you can’t take Diver Dan out of David Wenham.
So, yeah… “300” : Loved the effects. Loathed the script. So what to do? Slash it in half, I guess… and award 150 to each point.
Be nice to see a blockbuster that actually delivers on its promises one of these days, though.
My producing partner received an interesting email today from one of his associates. Here it is:
If you go and see 300 (or even if not), here’s an historical perspective to read if you are interested. One of my colleagues here at the American School wrote the following for the Toronto Star (he teaches in Canada).
Enjoy! Cheers, Amelia
Sparta? No. This is madness
An expert assesses the gruesome new epic Mar 11, 2007 04:30 Am The battle of Thermopylae was real, but how real is 300? Ephraim Lytle, assistant professor of hellenistic history at the University of Toronto, has seen the movie and offers his view.
History is altered all the time. What matters is how and why. Thus I see no reason to quibble over the absence in 300 of breastplates or modest thigh-length tunics. I can see the graphic necessity of sculpted stomachs and three hundred Spartan-sized packages bulging in spandex thongs. On the other hand, the ways in which 300 selectively idealizes Spartan society are problematic, even disturbing.
We know little of King Leonidas, so creating a fictitious backstory for him is understandable. Spartan children were, indeed, taken from their mothers and given a martial education called the agoge. They were indeed toughened by beatings and dispatched into the countryside, forced to walk shoeless in winter and sleep uncovered on the ground. But future kings were exempt.
And had Leonidas undergone the agoge, he would have come of age not by slaying a wolf, but by murdering unarmed helots in a rite known as the Crypteia. These helots were the Greeks indigenous to Lakonia and Messenia, reduced to slavery by the tiny fraction of the population enjoying Spartan “freedom.” By living off estates worked by helots, the Spartans could afford to be professional soldiers, although really they had no choice: securing a brutal apartheid state is a full-time job, to which end the Ephors were required to ritually declare war on the helots.
Elected annually, the five Ephors were Sparta’s highest officials, their powers checking those of the dual kings. There is no evidence they opposed Leonidas’ campaign, despite 300’s subplot of Leonidas pursuing an illegal war to serve a higher good. For adolescents ready to graduate from the graphic novel to Ayn Rand, or vice-versa, the historical Leonidas would never suffice. They require a superman. And in the interests of portentous contrasts between good and evil, 300’s Ephors are not only lecherous and corrupt, but also geriatric lepers.
Ephialtes, who betrays the Greeks, is likewise changed from a local Malian of sound body into a Spartan outcast, a grotesquely disfigured troll who by Spartan custom should have been left exposed as an infant to die. Leonidas points out that his hunched back means Ephialtes cannot lift his shield high enough to fight in the phalanx.
This is a transparent defence of Spartan eugenics, and laughably convenient given that infanticide could as easily have been precipitated by an ill-omened birthmark.
300’s Persians are ahistorical monsters and freaks. Xerxes is eight feet tall, clad chiefly in body piercings and garishly made up, but not disfigured. No need – it is strongly implied Xerxes is homosexual which, in the moral universe of 300, qualifies him for special freakhood. This is ironic given that pederasty was an obligatory part of a Spartan’s education. This was a frequent target of Athenian comedy, wherein the verb “to Spartanize” meant “to bugger.” In 300, Greek pederasty is, naturally, Athenian.
This touches on 300’s most noteworthy abuse of history: the Persians are turned into monsters, but the non-Spartan Greeks are simply all too human. According to Herodotus, Leonidas led an army of perhaps 7,000 Greeks. These Greeks took turns rotating to the front of the phalanx stationed at Thermoplyae where, fighting in disciplined hoplite fashion, they held the narrow pass for two days. All told, some 4,000 Greeks perished there. In 300 the fighting is not in the hoplite fashion, and the Spartans do all of it, except for a brief interlude in which Leonidas allows a handful of untrained Greeks to taste the action, and they make a hash of it. When it becomes apparent they are surrounded, this contingent flees. In Herodotus’
time there were various accounts of what transpired, but we know 700 hoplites from Thespiae remained, fighting beside the Spartans, they, too, dying to the last man.
No mention is made in 300 of the fact that at the same time a vastly outnumbered fleet led by Athenians was holding off the Persians in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, or that Athenians would soon save all of Greece by destroying the Persian fleet at Salamis. This would wreck 300’s vision, in which Greek ideals are selectively embodied in their only worthy champions, the Spartans.
This moral universe would have appeared as bizarre to ancient Greeks as it does to modern historians. Most Greeks would have traded their homes in Athens for hovels in Sparta about as willingly as I would trade my apartment in Toronto for a condo in Pyongyang.
Amelia Robertson Brown
[address / phone removed]
20007 Ancient Corinth
Caffeinated Clint on…. Danny Zuko’s “Hairspray”.
After that god-awful “Wild Hogs” (another piece-of-shit Disney movie that skyrockets to the top of the box office… for no good reason other than some cinemagoers are a tad fucked in the head), John Travolta will be seen in “Hairspray”. Am I excited about it? I dunno… Travolta (who I love, by the way.. or rather, used to love), has let me down too many times. I still remember interviewing him for “Swordfish” a couple of years back and so dearly wanting to ask him “Why?!”.I think he needs to be told. He was so damn nice though… you just don’t wanna accuse him of anything. But…he should start holding out for the good stuff again… and not simply say yes to anyone willing to pay him his $20 million dollar price tag. I personally believe that Quentin Tarantino is even disgusted by what Travolta has become since he gave him his comeback shot in “Pulp Fiction”, and that’s why he hasn’t worked with him since.
Anyway, back to “Hairspray”. Apparently – so say a couple of early sneak reviewers – it’s supposed to be good. And though Travolta looks damn embarrassing in those early shots (my wife refuses to look at the pictures of him in the get-up; wonder how many other people it will turn off?), he’s apparently supposed to be good. I don’t believe it. I hope its true, though.
‘Quint’ at Aint it Cool saw 10 minutes of the film at ShoWest and says: “Travolta plays it over the top, but not nearly at BATTLEFIELD EARTH levels. It actually fits and he goes all out. He was absolutely great in the footage I saw.”
I like Quint. I think he knows his stuff. And we seem to agree with most stuff. Fuck I hope he’s right about this… I’d love nothing more for Travolta to make another comeback. As far as I’m concerned, he’ll always be the cinematic king of cool… he just needs someone to help steer him in the right direction. (P.S – John, it ain’t Walt Becker!)
Critically-slammed Pics I like :
What : Navy SEALS
Released : 1990
Stars : Charlie Sheen, Michael Biehn, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer
One critic said : “”Not entirely bereft of entertainment value, even if most of it comes in the “unintentional” variety.” – Scott Weinberg, DVDTalk.com
Another critic said : “Nothing great, or even good, but better than you might expect.” – Carol Cling, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Clint says : “Its essentially the has-beens of 80s action cinema teaming up for a final shot at glory.. and missing… but that cheesy pop soundtrack and over-the-top theatrics was too much for me.. I caved in and enjoyed the fucker”
What : A Walk to Remember
Released : 2002
Stars : Mandy Moore, Shane West, Peter Coyote
One critic said : “An awful movie that will only satisfy the most emotionally malleable of filmgoers.” – Brian Webster, Apollo Guide
Another critic said : “Could have been crisper and punchier, but it’s likely to please audiences who like movies that demand four hankies.” – Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times.
Clint says : “Not only does Ms Moore prove herself to be a damn good actress, but this one proves good movies can be made of good books”.
The Movie Going-Experience
This next new feature is a bit where I recall some of my ‘cinema going experiences’ – i.e. it may be a date-gone-wrong to “Weird Science” (actually happened); it may be falling asleep in “Super Mario Bros” (actually happened); or maybe the time two people decided to have sex in the back row behind me (actually happened, in a screening for Van Damme ‘classic’ “Double Impact” at the old Hoyts Mid City).
The Movie-Going Experience : “Hook”
What : One of Steven Spielberg’s weaker films; an updated but enthused take on ‘Peter Pan’
When : On a Saturday night
Details : Friend and I got totally drunk, grabbed two females, and booked four seats to the new Spielberg dud. We sat in the front row – with our bottles of ‘Coke’ (ahem) – before being kicked out on own arses about 20 mins into the movie. Damn kids.
Movie any good? : Nup.
Night any good? : Can’t remember.
Forgotten actors I like
Who : Emilio Estevez
What did you like him/her in? : “The Breakfast Club”, “St. Elmo’s Fire” and especially, “Young Guns” and “Stakeout”.
What’s so good about him/her? : He could play it all… and he always a cack to watch, especially in the two latter films.
Where the heck are they now? : Trying to make a name for himself as a director. “Bobby” is his latest venture in that area.
Show me them in action : OK…
1. Harsh Times – Didn’t quite know what to think of this one when it first started… but once it going, this was great. Christian Bale again proves himself to be one of the most versatile actors of his generation, giving a remarkable performance as a borderline psycho whose trying to get a job with the L.A.P.D, and later, the F.B.I. Pick it up on DVD.
2. Wild Hogs – The problem with the film isn’t so much the actors – they, in fact, make it worthwhile; and from what I hear, worked from an unworkable script – but the very Vanilla script. It’s a bit of a mess. Ya see, this is supposed to be a ‘road’ movie, but yet the guys seem to be only on their bikes, riding down the desert highway, for about 15 mins of the film – before they permanently stop off, for the rest of the movie, at the one locale. One can’t help but think if the script actually took the guys ‘somewhere’ – rather than the one little diner in the one little town – it might have actually been a little more endurable. In its current form, Disney really should ask writer Brad Copeland for their cheque back.
3. Dukes of Hazzard : The Beginning – Thankfully, ‘Sucking’ isn’t a word to fully describe Warner Premiere’s direct-to-DVD “Hazzard” prequel. Whereas the first film – the theatrically released blunder starring Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott, Jessica Simpson and Burt Reynolds – was about as loyal to the original TV series as Bush is to the people… this new instalment, with its better-suited cast and reasonably charged script, nearly gets it right. Sure, it’s still not the same old ‘Dukes’ we grew up watching – it’s smuttier and the characters are all loons – but its much closer in tone to what people were expecting first time around.
(A scientist who seems to be able to sum up the world – or a movie – in just a few words, whilst the rest of us feel a page review isn’t even sufficient).
“The Hitcher fuckin’ rules – it was just so damn cool. Out of everything I’ve seen this year – all that arty shit, things like The Queen and Babel, and especially Sunshine – I’ve enjoyed that the most!” – Mrs Morris, or one of the many people we can blame for the amount of remakes Hollywood is churning out.
Contact Clint at his MySpace