Review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter @ The Film Emporium

August 3, 2012 Leave a comment


My review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter can now be found at The Film Emporium. I quite enjoyed it, surprisingly. It takes itself a little too seriously, but some of the highly-stylized action sequences are impressive.

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Releases 14/04

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment
I’ll keep this really brief today. The new releases in Australian cinemas include Paul, Scream 4, Mars Needs Moms, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules and Brighton Rock.

Paul – Re-unites the comedy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) but this time with director Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland). Pegg and Frost star as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America’s UFO heartland. It is here that they accidentally meet Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an Alien who has been hiding out in a military base for 60 years, and the unlikely trio embark on an insane road trip that takes them on the run from pursuing federal agents. This should be good fun. Written by Pegg and Frost, whose work in their aforementioned collaborations have been instant classics. Superbad certainly isn’t unfunny either. The film to check out this week, without a doubt.

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%

Scream 4 – The Scream franchise, which started back in 1996, make a return here, with horror master Wes Craven still at the helm. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), now the author of a self-help book, returns home to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. There she reconnects with family and old friends. Unfortunately Sidney’s appearance also brings about the return of Ghostface, putting the entire town in danger once again. I haven’t seen any of the Scream films properly, I think I watched the first half of the original once, so I’m going to give it a miss. But it will be a blast for horror fans.

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%

Brighton Rock – The second film adaptation of Graham Greene’s best selling novel starring Sam Riley (Control), Andrea Riseborough and Helen Mirren. The story chronicles a gang war raging through the underworld of Brighton. It charts the headlong fall of Pinkie, a razor-weilding disadvantaged teenager with a religious death wish. I have read 10 pages of the novel and so far it is quite good. I intend to finish it before I see the film. But I believe under the first-time direction of Rowan Joffe (the screenwriter of The American) the character relationships become convoluted and sloppy and the altered story is a mess.

Rotten Tomatoes: 52%

Mars Needs Moms (RT: 35%) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules (RT: 38%) are purely for the youngster these school holidays. I don’t think either look particularly good. The former especially. I also thought that the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid film did terribly. This sequel seems unjustified.

This week’s Recommendation: Paul

Categories: New Releases

Classic Throwback: The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1974)

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

The Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1974 masterpiece, lacks a conventional or linear plot, which makes it difficult to describe or interpret. It works instead as a stream of consciousness rhythmically combining elements from three mirrored time periods, the pre-World War II time, the wartime itself and the postwar 1960’s. Through the activity of the camera, The Mirror relays the thoughts of its narrator (Alexei) and the memories of the world surrounding him. The prewar sequences depict Alexei as a young boy, taken care of by his mother, while the latter sequences reveal Alexei as an older man, living apart from his wife and his young son. His own son is played by the same actor as the one who plays him when he is young, while Margarita Terekhova doubles as his mother and wife. We never actually see the older Alexei, though he communicates with his mother and his wife and son through a series of telephone conversations, which indirectly accompany the action.

I have read that this is Tarkovsky’s most autobiographical film as he draws from his personal childhood experiences; notably the evacuation from Moscow to the countryside, with most of the film shot within the interior or surrounding exterior of a country cottage, and that he also had a mother who worked as a proofreader during the war. The voice of Alexei isn’t alone in narrating. The poems which filter throughout the film are actually written and spoken by Tarkovsky’s father, Arseny Tarkovsky, while the newsreel footage that accompanies the dual stories is real footage from the war period. Much of the film can be realised as a stream of consciousness, with moments from the prewar period seamlessly combining with those from the post, often within the same scene, divided only by a sweeping camera movement or a cut. Haunting dreams and hallucinations also feature throughout. There is a shot near the conclusion of the film of Alexei on his death bed, so I took it all to be a series of memories, reminisces and considerations.

Every shot is perfectly constructed, with every movement of the camera calculated and precisely thought through. Like Andrei Rublev (1969), there is a dynamic and atmospheric quality to every scene that really holds your attention, and very often delivers something completely unexpected. Alternating between vivid colour and sepia, the cinematography is astounding, as are the array of haunting musical accompaniments. The burning barn shot is unforgettable. It opens inside the cottage and in one take snakes through the hall, pauses to capture the illuminated children watching the fire from the front door by way of a mirror, before jumping forward in time to see Alexei’s brother (now older) emerge from behind the mirror and make his way out to examine the fire. The camera rounds the side of the house and reveals the extraordinary sight. The fire is blazing violently in the background, but the camera stops to include the rainwater dripping from the roof of the cottage in the foreground, which is a wonderful display of interaction between the natural elements.

Personally, I loved the closing shot too. The last time the film features Alexei is on his death bed, but I saw the camera movement in the closing scene to be his final retreat from the story. Still existing in a spiritual form to track the memories of his mother (in both young and elderly form) the camera retreats into the woods, and the image fades to black. The other metaphorical references present throughout went over my head; actually I don’t think I understood much at all. Perhaps that is the intention. Some of the dream sequences portray nature as a threatening presence and must have influenced Lars Von Trier in his making of Antichrist (2009). The most notable performance is Margarita Terekhova. With the most screen time, close-ups of her face are used by Tarkovsky as a mosaic of emotions. The Mirror is near-unfathomable, but certainly a marvel of contemporary Soviet filmmaking. I can’t think of two films more different than Andrei Rublev and The Mirror. Having only watched these two, Tarkovsky is already one of my favourite directors and I’m now eagerly awaiting Solaris, Stalker and The Silence.


My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (A-)
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An Invitation to the Set of Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 8

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

A big thanks to Larry David Fan for making me aware of this, but the 8th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm is approaching release in the United States (damn!). This season Larry tackles New York, having set each prior season in Los Angeles. Ricky Gervais, Rosie O’Donnell, Bill Buckner and Michael J. Fox will guest star, and its great to see the regulars make their return (Marty Funkhouser and Leon especially). Check out the video:

J.B Smoove cracks me up every time: “This city is dirty, it’s very honest…see that shi-WHAT UP PLAYBOY? 
But Larry’s line at the end sums it up: “I hate to actually state publicly that I enjoy anything…but it is a great deal of fun.” Amen, Larry. Looking forward to it! 
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10 Things I Currently Love About the Movies

April 12, 2011 7 comments

Recently there have been an influx of bloggers creating their personal lists of 100 Things They Love About the Movies. I recently contributed some ideas to Anomalous Material to be used in the collaboration of one such list. I don’t desire to go all the way and create my own, but I thought I’d quickly post the 10 that came into my mind immediately (these being the ones I ultimately sent to AM). I don’t really know why these 10 came to mind first, but its quite an entertaining little list I thought. They are as follows:

1. Carey Mulligan

2. Pixar Animation Studios

3. Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

4. Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in There Will Be Blood

5. The soundtracks from Wes Anderson films

6. The revelation about Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects

7. ‘Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and come out clean’

8. Amelie Poulain/Audrey Tautou

9. The old Star Wars Trilogy

10. The opening scene from The Social Network

Bonus: Sitting all the way through the credits discussing an ambiguous ending with friends.

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Classic Throwback: Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)

April 12, 2011 2 comments

Having completed the first of two Andrei Tarkovsky films I plan to watch this week (the other being The Mirror), I am very satisfied to cross his 1966 film, Andrei Rublev, off my ‘Must-See’ list. What an enthralling but challenging journey it is. There is no question as to its consideration as one of the great cinematic works of art of all time. The 205 minute uncut version certainly requires a time investment but I can assure you, it’s more than worth it.

While my knowledge of 15th century Russia is limited at best, there is still so much happening in every frame to attract your undivided attention. The black-and-white cinematography for one, is absolutely stunning, and in nearly every episode of the story there is evidence to suggest that Tarkovsky is a technical genius. Andrei Rublev is full of memorable moments, notably the controversial Tatar raid sequence, whose carnage is relayed in great detail. Brutal violence, attempted rape and images of animal cruelty feature. Nearly every frame of the film is endowed with something special, whether it be grand sweeping camera movements or lengthy unedited dialogic exchanges. As an elaborate, richly detailed and complex cinematic masterpiece, Andrei Rublev is haunting, sensual, provocative and moving.

Andrei Rublev is set against the background of 15th Century Russia and is based loosely on the life of Andrei Rublev, the great 15th Century Russian icon painter. Tarkovsky shows the artist as a “world-historic figure” and “Christianity as an axiom for Russia’s historical identity”during a turbulent period of Russian history that ultimately resulted in the Tsardom of Russia. The film concerns the relationship between man and God, man and nature, the artist and the people, the artist and the art form and the Russian and his land as a physical and mystical element. But as rich as Tarkovsky’s film may be on a thematic level (originally made as a weapon against the Soviet regime, but faced forced censorship and cuts), it is a powerful mystery that chronicles humanity in the face of war, faith and love. It is also a film about artistic freedom and the possibility and necessity of making art for, and in the face of, a repressive authority and its hypocrisy, technology and empiricism. I can’t wait to see more of Tarkovsky’s films. Up next The Mirror, followed by Solaris and Stalker. 

My Rating: 5 Stars (A+) 
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Five Anticipated Upcoming Releases

April 12, 2011 4 comments
Here are the trailers for five upcoming 2011 releases that I like the look of. Incendies is released on April 21st and I Love You Phillip Morris on the 28th. Source Code is scheduled for release on May 12, while The Tree of Life has been pushed back until July 7. Melancholia’s release is yet unconfirmed. 
Incendies (Denis Villeneuve) 
I Love You Phillip Morris (Glenn Ficarra)
Source Code (Duncan Jones)
Tree of Life (Terrence Malick) 

Melancholia (Lars Von Trier)
How eagerly are you anticipating these releases? 
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