Playing catch-up with some cinema offerings, since it’s a nice, quiet news day.
First, a sip of my home-made iced coffee.
Yup. That’s a Yum. I repeat that’s a Yum.
First up, this “Hitchcock” movie that, like Hugh Grant’s dry-hump with Divine Brown all those years back, went so, so wrong.
That nice bottle of Chianti and side of farva beans mightn’t have ruined his taste buds, but Anthony Hopkins’ also doesn’t seem that hungry anymore. The acclaimed thesp, who twenty years ago bowled us over with one of the greatest performances to ever hit the silver screen, has ostensibly had his fill of acting – so much so his last turn suggests a man tired of his trade, determined to phone-in and quickly cash whatever’s left for him.
You’d think a role like legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock would have an actor pulling out all the stops to get notices, and it should, but Hopkins seems intent on letting a prosthetic chin and some under-the-jacket padding do all the work in Sacha Gervasi’s ”Hitchcock”.
The Oscar Winner has the wobble walk down pat, he even has the mannerisms of the iconic film director down, but the actor’s woeful attempt at Hitchcock’s accent, and his recital as a whole, leaves, well, everyone else in the otherwise solid outing smelling of roses – even former Karate Kid Ralph Macchio whose barely on screen for more than two minutes.
In fact, in a peculiar coincidence, it’s Helen Mirren’s Alma Reville, the woman many claim did a lot of Hitchcock’s hard yards for him, and helped him achieve such greatness, that steals the show.
Mirren’s absolutely dynamic as the long-suffering, disregarded wife of a filmmaker who, besides his work, spends most of his time ogling the young ladies he casts in his movies. She shows up Hopkins in every scene she’s in and delivers each line of her dialogue with panache and raw emotion.
John J. McLaughlin’s script spends as much of its time with Alma, thank goodness, as it does on the set of “Psycho”, the film that saved Hitchcock’s career, but quite nearly derailed it.
It’s the ’60s horror classic, rather than the films that came before or after it, that “Hitchcock” is interested in.
Being that “Psycho”, derived from a novel Hitchcock discovered (with the aforesaid Macchio playing the author) and consequently bought up every copy of (so nobody would know the ending of the film adaptation), was Hitchcock’s riskiest project – Paramount, his go-to studio, didn’t want to touch it, and in order to get them to distribute it, the filmmaker had to agree to finance it himself – it’s a compelling bit of film history worth retelling.
The libretto explores the unceasing obsession Hitchcock had with “Psycho” (and the real-life murderer who inspired Norman Bates, Ed Gein) and how his determination to get it done turned the filmmaker into somewhat of a intermediate nut-case. We also view the strain the challenging project had on the man’s marriage, allowing charming writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) the opportunity to start putting the moves on on Mrs Hitch.
Not that Hitchcock could talk when it came to hitting on ‘taken’ women, he was renowned for the “fantasy” romances he had with the women in his movies. On the set of “Psycho” , just as he had done on most of his films, ‘Hitch’ had stars in his eyes for his lead (he covertly makes his moves on star Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), while chastising Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), who had also been in his earlier film, for knocking back his advances. Yep, the self-centeredness gets much playtime.)
The tight, fast-moving story gives us a good balance of the good and bad of the man. Sure, he was a self-centered womanizer with a barrage of issues, but he was also a genius. With “Psycho”, Hitchcock crafted one of the most suspenseful, riveting and best-performed horror films of all time. It was the movie that caused Hollywood to sit up and take more notice of the genre, which before was disregarded because of the cheap, schlocky fare it’s output mainly consisted of.
The cast of “Hitchcock” – which also includes James D’Arcy as Tony Perkins, Michael Wincott as Ed Gein (Seen in imaginative flashbacks), and Toni Collette as Hitchcock’s assistant Peggy Robertson- are responsible for as much of the appeal as the storyline, especially Mirren’s memorable turn as the unappreciated genius behind the genius. But with Hopkins on autopilot and failing to impress as much as he should’ve (and could’ve), it’s also clear the movie could’ve been so much more.
On the other end of the scale, there’s the truly spifftacular “Wreck-it Ralph”.
Hand over your cash, fix your eyes straight ahead, and prepare yourself for the next level in family entertainment.
Like two kids on BMX’s riding towards each other down an unmaintained forest track, Disney’s ”Wreck-it Ralph” provides an exciting collision between old and new, as director Rich Moore (”Family Guy”, ”The Simpsons”) rubs together the best bits of the retro gaming world with the snazzier, more contemporary kid-friendly offerings of the Mouse and beyond.
Moore’s feature debut combines the cleverness and cuteness of Toy Story with the visual excitement of today’s most high-tech arcade offerings, complete with the same frayed but eternally fun plot device – the ‘jumping into different shows – or, as is the case here, games – that had the packed out crowd’s watching Freddy’s Dead in 1991 both hollering in laughter and yelling ‘What the heck!?’ towards the screen in synchronized chorus.
Ralph (voiced by John C.Reilly) is the villain of a video-game known as Fix-it Felix Jr. Tired of being thrown off a building by resident good-guy Felix (the unmistakable vocal stylings of Jack McBrayer) and his pint-sized tossing team, the gruff giant decides to pack-up and leave. While the co-stars of his game fret over his whereabouts, and consequently, worrying their game may be put out-of-business if he doesn’t return, Ralph escapes into some other games, where he plans to steal a medal and come back to his own offering a hero.
After invading a tense, shooter game featuring marines holding off aliens, Ralph finds his way into a sweet, female-targeted racing game where he develops an unlikely friendship with malfunctioning character, young race enthusiast Vanellope (Sarah Silverman).
Ralph ultimately goes out of his way to see his new friend is appreciated more, while Vanellope teaches Ralph a thing or two about himself. While Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac-Man, and the action-men of the Street-Fighter game look on.
Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee have penned a funny, smart and very, very sweet flick full of the kind of larger-than-life, memorable characters Disney insist on having in the market place.
As important as visuals and a fun libretto is, a good Disney/Pixar film is only as good as it’s voice cast though and thankfully, this one comes equipped with excellent players one and two. John C.Reilly, heavily involved in the production from concept to bow, is the perfect match for the hulkish, loudmouth good-bad guy, while Sarah Silverman is – as offensive as it may sound – an imaginative and brilliant choice for the role of the flawed youngster. The duo, complete with their atypical brand of humour and larger-than-life personas still intact (though obviously restrained for the family audience), not only have great chemistry, they provide as many laughs as the script does – sometimes simply by just.. speaking.
The casting director has also earned his or her Christmas bonus in hiring perfect matches for the supports – ”Glee”’s Jane Lynch as the gusty Ripley-esque alien-busting heroine, 30 Rock’s resident dork Jack McBrayer as the simple savoir Fix-it Felix, the criminally underrated Alan Tudyk (”Death at a Funeral”, ”Serenity”) as the madcap madman King Candy, determined to keep young Vanellope from succeeding on her mission to participate in her own game, and TV comic Mindy Kaling as Taffyta Muttonfudge, one of the snotty racers that comes up against our heroine.
Disney have been trying to get a film set within the world of video games up for a couple of decades now, but it’s a good thing Wreck-it Ralph didn’t happen any earlier; the retro appeal of the game characters adds appetizing wistfulness and an extra fun element to proceedings, the effects and animation could never have looked so dandy back in the Reagan-era (“Dot & The Kangaroo”, anyone?), and the storyline’s bring-it home message, that of accepting and loving who you are and what you do, is needed much more now, with the pressure to be someone or something else at an all-time high, than it ever was.
Jot ”Wreck-it Ralph” down on your must-see list of movies.
Lastly, one of the flicks out in February, “Save Your Legs!” – which, if competition is at a minimum, might entice a few local yokels into the ‘plexes.
With the hit-and-miss traditions of Australian comedies, ”Save Your Legs!” could’ve been an absolute balls-up that left the industry as red as a pitcher’s swollen sack. Instead, it’s one that snags a few points on the usually bare scoreboard of the sub-genre, and might possibly do runs around the competition upon release.
Tyro director Boyd Hickman’s film, based on the documentary of the same name about a self-confessed “D-grade” cricket-team from Melbourne, Australia who manipulate their way to playing for Australia in India, is structured largely around the strengths of its cast – including recognizable aussie thesps Stephen Curry and Brendan Cowell – but it’s effective mesh of underdog sports yarn, enjoyable silly stuff (maybe not to the extent here, but we have all endured a bad case of the runs while on overseas holiday, right!?), and lightly-tread bromance themes, also helps in its cause to be a future boys’ BBQ classic.
Curry and Cowell, two of Australia’s most popular models for the ‘everyman’, shine in their roles as the over-eager president and clown captain, respectively. But quite honestly, every character in the film – from Gameau’s snazzily-dressed Casanova-type (no doubt a role Matthew McConaughey has sewn up to play in the Hollywood remake), David Lyons’ hippie Yoda clone, to ‘s veteran sponsor, whose gamble on the team looks to sour at any minute, and, of course, the country of India itself – has the spotlight shone on them at one time throughout the film.
The conclusion feels a little rushed and doesn’t encompass the rousing momentum that fellow underdog sports-comedies – be it ”Major League” (1989) or even, fellow Aussie laffer ”Crackerjack” (2003) – usually come with. Seems Writer is more inept at writing zappy dialogue and making sure every character has something to do on the field than choreographing the game itself, because the film’s finale lacks the punch and panache of the first hour-or-so. Still, I challenge you not to be barracking for the Abbostford Anglers by the ten-minute mark; it’s a seductive little thing.
”Save Your Legs!” doesn’t hit it for six, but the cynical might want to pad-up anyway – this one comes with some zingers you mightn’t see coming.
Back to my coffee.