Friday, March 27, 2009

Film review: The Uninvited

Director: Charles and Thomas Guard
Cast: Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, David Strathairn
Country: USA


"I really hope this works out so you can stay." Rachael

The problem with these remakes of Asian horror films is that something is nearly always lost in translation. It might be a specific cultural idiosyncrasy, a stylistic flourish unique to the filmmaker, or something as simple as setting. The worst thing that could be lost in the transfer is soul, and this is the case for The Uninvited.

Directed by newcomers Thomas and Charles Guard, Hollywood’s take on Ji-woon Kim’s A Tale Of Two Sisters is all a bit paint by numbers. Emily Browning plays a young girl released from psychiatric care where she has spent the 10 months since a fire finished off her already terminally ill mother. Returning home to her father (David Strathairn) and sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) Anna discovers that her mother’s carer Rachel (Elizabeth Banks) is a breath away from officially becoming her evil stepmom. On top of that poor Anna is haunted by eerie visions of a redheaded girl who insists Rachel is dangerous, though we suspect as much given the string score accompanying her sinister appearances.

The purpose of the ghost isn’t exactly clear though it’ll likely make you jump out your seat and spill your popcorn once or twice. More important to the film is the question of whether Rachel murdered Anna’s mother. The Uninvited is effective in these regards and the youthful Browning is suitably vulnerable and convincing to carry it all off. It’s a solid film that looks striking and ticks most of the right boxes for the genre without delivering anything particularly unique.

The Uninvited is released in Australia 27 March
This review also appears in 3D World

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Film review: Bottle Shock

Director: Randall Miller
Cast: Chris Pine, Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman
Country: USA


"You think I'm an ass. And I'm not really. It's just that I'm British and you're not." Steven Spurrier

If Bottle Shock was a variety of wine it would probably be Merlot. Now I don’t know much about wine per se, but I do know the cantankerous oenophile of Sideways wouldn’t be caught dead drinking it, and he seemed to know what he was talking about. The same might be said of Bottle Shock, an occasionally charming film that’s probably best consumed when all the good stuff’s already drunk.

In 1976, the year of the US bicentennial, a winery from California beat the Gaul’s at their own game in a blind tasting competition conducted by French judges. This is the basis for co-writer and director Randall Miller’s tale partly about a snooty Brit (Alan Rickman) who leaves his ailing wine merchants in Paris to taste the best Napa Valley has to offer, meeting along the way a struggling vintner (Bill Pullman) of Chateau Montelena and his son (Chris Pine). As this is one of those ensembles of colourful character-type narratives we meet all sorts of eccentrics and learn, you know, Yanks have culture too.

There’s a love story too between Pine (who plays a buffoon here), his poor ethnic buddy who works at Montelena (Freddie Rodriguez) and the vineyard intern (Rachael Taylor). No prizes for guessing who she ends up with, though that’s not the film’s worst faux pas.

Not one for the connoisseur’s, Bottle Shock is a little bit all over the place and ultimately unsatisfying. Taste test verdict: this one’s a bit corked.


Bottle Shock is released in Australia 27 March
This review also appears in 3D World

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Classic Scene #5: "Can I buy you a drink?"


Taking a 'time out' in Out Of Sight

Is there a more perfect courting/love scene in the history of cinema? Seriously, I can't think of one. After two bland movies (The Peacemaker and One Fine Day) and one disaster (Batman & Robin) Clooney landed the role of Jack Foley in Out Of Sight, the first of many he was 'born to play' but before he'd shaken off his tv doctor persona. When director Steven Soderbergh cast him opposite Jennifer Lopez (who herself was still a popstar playing actress) as Karen Sisko in this Elmore Leonard adaptation who could've know we were about to witness such a perfect storm of onscreen chemistry?

Lopez was elegant and energetic, full of sass and bristling sexuality. Clooney had an unassuming, charming cool about him and a streak of nervous playfulness. They shared just two moments of screen time together prior to this scene, the first a brilliant encounter in the trunk of the car where they speculate how unrealistic it was that Faye Dunaway and Robert Redford hook up so quickly in Three Days Of The Condor. The second was a frozen moment in the hotel elevator where Karen hesitates in arresting Jack, which he responds with a wave. Such connections reach beyond normal explanations Jack points out to Karen in the cocktail lounge where they meet:

"It's just something that happens. It's like seeing someone for the first time, like you could be passing in the street and you look at each other and for a few seconds there's a recognition, like you both know something. The next moment the person is gone and it's too late to do anything about it. And you always remember it because it was there and you let it go and you think to yourself what if I had stopped? What if I have said something. What if? What if? It may only happen a few times in your life."

KS: "Or once."

JF: "Or once..."

It's only then we notice David Holmes sensual score become prominent as Soderbergh begins to cut between the lounge and footage of their actual love scene. Moments overlap, glances are stolen and hands brush against body parts. They discuss their fantasy while acting it out, flirting with their words and their bodies – bittersweetness hangs throughout. Soderbergh keeps his camera unsteady, spying on them through the grainy lens as tiny freeze frames capture their dance. The scene is never gratuitous, refusing to revel in the flesh, eroticism purely by association. It is as close to perfection as it gets.


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Star Trek world premiere at Sydney Opera House


So some very excited news for my closet geek side, the world premiere of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek is going to take place here at Sydney's very own Opera House. Word is that J.J. Abrams and cast members Eric Bana, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban will all be in attendance to introduce the film in the Concert Hall. The event is going to take place on 7 April and you better believe I'm getting ticket and interview requests in today. Big kudos to the team at Paramount Pictures Australia for this huge score.

It's not something I go about broadcasting but I definitely have a big soft spot for Star Trek and would love to see it get back up on its feet after the last couple of disappointing Next Gen efforts. As if I wasn't already hyped enough by the prospect of Abrams at the helm, the trailers have just looked spectacular so far, I really hope this one doesn't disappoint. Check out the latest trailer after the bump, it looks epic!


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Weekend warriors

It's Friday tomorrow so now is as good a time as any to get into the habit of posting a summary of the weekends movie releases and goings on. I'll be watching some movies no doubt, but for me the biggest thing that's going down is the series finale of Battlestar Galactica.

I was chatting on email with one of my editors who was telling me he'd finally decided that he'd like to check it out after reading this article over at The Guardian. My response was "Let me just tell you that I consider BSG as one of the pinnacles of intelligent television. It most certainly is right up there with The Wire for it's political enquiry and grit, on par with Lost for mystery, alongside 24 for action and in a league of its own for philosophical wondering." I'm find myself both nervous, excited and sad about this particular swansong probably even more so than I was with The Wire, mainly because I was late to that small screen party.

For those of you looking for something of the cinematic variety, these here are the films out this weekend in Australia. If you've got any suggestions for movie viewing of your own after the weekend why not leave a comment, someone will read it...

Blindness
Directed by Fernando City Of God Meirelles I've heard quite mixed things about this one. Could be an interesting movie conceptually, but as I understand it narratively it doesn't quite work.

Walter Chaw at Film Freak Central pretty much hated it - "Blindness reveals itself at the end as having nothing much to say beyond the Lord of the Flies truism that men left to their own devices are no better than animals."
Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian loved it - "I disagree with the detractors. For me, Meirelles, along with screenwriter Don McKellar and cinematographer Cesar Charlone, have created an elegant, gripping and visually outstanding film."

Duplicity
You can read my review, which hopefully doesn't come off as a rant against leading lady Julia Roberts who I thought was dreadful. Otherwise the movie a dose of fun if you don't get bored trying to keep up. Clive Owen is good value.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Can't say this one strikes me as very appealing though it sounds like fairly inoffensive visual comedy.

Roger Ebert appreciates its wholesome quality - "It's as slam-bang preposterous as any R-rated comedy you can name. It's just that Paul Blart and the film's other characters don't feel the need to use the f-word as the building block of every sentence."
Eric D. Snider of Cinematical thought it was ok - "And this is definitely for young and/or undiscerning viewers, a simple comedy, not unpleasant but not particularly funny, either."

Two Fists One Heart
This one caught me by surprise, a really solid Aussie sports drama that is visually lovely and tugs the old heart strings. Well worth checking out.

----------

Tomorrow I'm heading down to Dendy Opera Quays to check out a print of Casablanca which is playing as part of the Young At Heart film festival. I've never seen it on the big screen so I can't tell you how excited I am. Casablanca is one of the reasons I fell in love with cinema, that's entirely cliche but I don't care. I adore this movie. This 'quick' post I was putting together is actually a little longer than I expected it to be, so if you wanna check what else is playing as part of Young At Heart click here.

And finally I just saw the trailer for Sam Mendes new movie Away We Go, which looks fantastic. Mendes it seems has made a little American indie-esque road movie that fits the Focus Features mould perfectly.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Film review: Duplicity

Director: Tony Gilroy
Cast: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson
Country: USA


“If I told you I loved you would it make a difference” Claire Stenwick
“If you told me or if I believed you?” Ray Koval

Pitt/Jolie, Clooney/Lopez, Bogart/Bocall: now there’s a list of onscreen couples that sizzled in smart, sexy, sassy movies. Tony Gilroy gets half the equation right in his slick cinematic ride Duplicity: Clive Owen brings it all with a touch of class whilst Julia Roberts forgoes both the sex and sass, instead occupying the screen with little more than a smug grin.

Not that Gilroy doesn’t try his best to objectify America’s sweetheart, his first shot of the leading lady leering so far over her Brockovich chasm one fears the camera might disappear forever. In fact Gilroy spends much time of the time allowing his camera to obsess over Roberts’ physicality whether using those long legs as a means to identify her in a crowd, or trying to hypnotise the audience with her constant pouting, arm-folding and eyebrow raising.

If you’re tricked into thinking that passes for charisma more fool you, but then that’s what Duplicity is all about. If you can get passed the baggage Roberts’ brings to her leading role you’ll find a jaunty corporate espionage thriller that gets its kicks playing paranoia as pop-parody for screwball laughs.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s fun to be hand here and Gilroy relishes the opportunity, injecting a kinky sense of pizzazz to the whole affair. Witty repartees, confidence games and split screens all identify this as the smart-pants movie of the year. It’s a shame then that it all comes off as an awfully convoluted affair that jumps from one staged sequence to another, back and forth between the present and the past.

Gilroy moves the pieces around his board in a torrent of double-dealing and double-speak as two ex-spies turned star-crossed lovers, Claire Stenwick and Ray Koval, vie to out-dupe their respective companies, headed by rival CEOs Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti) and Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). Giamatti is a constant source of scenery-chomping amusement while Wilkinson connives: one or both might get ripped off by the end of the movie but I’d love to see these two pair up as a sort of modern day Randolph and Mortimer.

The ins and outs of the plot don’t matter much, its all maguffins, smoke screens and slight of hand. Combined though with the dizzying pace of Gilroy’s script one wonders if the film wasn’t written with Mensa candidates as the target audience – course it’s mostly just a bunch of arm waving to throw us off scent. Snappy as it is at times, carried ably by a wry Owen throwing every bit of light-footed charm he’s got into the film, Duplicity just can’t sustain over two-hours of running around in circles like this. It all gets very tiresome once you realise the plot is in fact wafer thin and Roberts isn’t even particularly likeable.

As a sophmore outing Gilroy continues to show a great deal of promise, but as a director he has overindulged himself here and his choice of leading lady is an unfortunate by-product of that. Duplicity’s spunk appears entirely juxtaposed to an actress apparently with little left beyond her own tried, tested and tired persona to offer the acting fraternity.

A shame really, because all this needed to carry it over the finishing line was a real spark between the leads. Perhaps they should have gotten thrown into the trunk of a car together, dance the tango or smuggled people for La Résistance instead of concocting an elaborate con game and playing cute. The smartest, sexiest and sassiest films are usually the ones that don’t have to try so hard.



Scott Henderson

Duplicity is released in Australia 19 March, 2009

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Film review: Two Fists One Heart

Director: Shawn Seet
Cast: Daniel Amalm, Ennio Fantastichini, Jessica Marais, Rai Fazio
Country: Australia


“I treated you like my own son” – Joe Argo
“Come on Joe, you didn’t treat me that bad” – Nico

Real men don’t do weakness: they don’t talk about feelings, they don’t moisturise and they certainly don’t cry at movies. We know that the old adages die hard, and even as they are slowly worn away others remain along with the male ego; stubborn as an old mule, like father like son.

In Two Fists One Heart we meet Anthony Argo (Daniel Amalm), a young up-and-coming amateur boxing champion. Anthony’s life is filled with violence inside and outside the ring thanks to his job as a bouncer and friend’s troublemaking. But mostly Anthony is just another kid in a man’s body who doesn’t quite know what he wants from life besides his father’s approval.

An ex-boxer from Sicily, Joe Argo (Ennio Fantastichini) has been coaching his son since he was a small boy and runs a backyard gym where other local youths train. Anthony is Joe’s pride, though it seems less so as a son and rather as a means through which he lives his own failed dreams of success in the ring. When Anthony becomes distracted by a new girl in his life, rebelling against his father’s plans, Joe throws his son out of home and adopts another boxer as his protégé.

There’s not much in the way of originality in Two Fists, as a drama it is predictable and as a sports movie it's inevitable. There is, however, a mature confidence in the storytelling accompanied by engaging performances and a film that is really quite compelling.

Amalm employs some considerable charm in keeping Anthony on the right side of likeable and enjoys genuinely endearing moments with girlfriend Kate (Jessica Marais) in-between bouts of fisticuffs with local louts and larrikins, never losing touch of his frustration amidst an ever-present undercurrent of tension. A word of credit is due Jessica Marais for a strong female performance in a movie otherwise dominated by fistfuls of machismo.

It is, meanwhile, Fantastichini who really steals the show – the Italian actor commanding the screen with resolute authority, never wavering as the family patriarch who demands absolute commitment from his son with no thought to the world outside of his training regime. Joe’s own history is etched quite literally on his body like ring patterns on an ancient tree: a history that drives his actions and clouds his judgement.

And so at the heart of Two Fists remains this relationship between a father and his son, grounded in realism by Rai Fazio’s autobiographical script in which he has crafted an emotionally satisfying story alongside a sporting cliché you can cheer for. Fazio himself gets to star in the film as Nico, the Sicilian ex-con who becomes Joe’s surrogate son before betraying him for riches and glamour offered by a hand-wringing local promoter.

Director Shawn Seet and cinematographer Hugh Miller (who replicates elements of his Three Blind Mice lens) show real flare in their compositions, capturing the script's sense of realism whilst finding moments of romance in the city landscape and mystique in the backyard gym. Creative camera angles, stolen reflections and gorgeous sunsets paint a film that is beautiful to look at and consistently compliments the storytelling within each frame.

It is in this final stretch Two Fists stumbles as it rushes toward the final showdown, albeit in a forgivable fashion. The time-honoured training montage stirs a little excitement, though mostly lands with the dull thud of a telegraphed right hook. Fazio’s Nico becomes little more than another one-dimensional man-to-beat metaphor of overcoming personal adversity a la Ivan Draco or Clubber Lang. The film also struggles to find a conclusion to contemplations of violence, justified or otherwise, instead choosing to tie them off a little too conveniently.

That said amidst the excellent fight sequences, climaxing with Nico and Anthony’s big title fight, the emotional payoffs are all delivered on cue and are just as satisfying. Two Fists One Heart isn’t exactly a film with a wealth of depth to reach into, but it is an honest film. Love, violence, betrayal, sport, and family: all form key ingredients for a hearty serving of quality drama. It might not be particularly original, but sometimes it’s just the way they tell them.



Two Fists One Heart is released in Australia nationwide 19 March, 2009.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shotgun Critic #4: Appaloosa

Building them up or tearing them down in 5 minutes...ish


I actually got a chance to watch Appaloosa after all and while I don't have time to write a full review I thought I should resurrect the Shotgun Critic for this film. Ed Harris has directed a film that is better placed in the 1950s canon of Westerns as we find it inspired mostly Rio Bravo and Shane in it's romantic, moral notions. But in cinema today it feels like a film with no edge.

Appaloosa takes an odd comic tone throughout from its bizarre choices in music, farcical love entanglements (with Renee Zellweger of all people), and its mocking characterisation of Harris' otherwise steely sheriff Virgil Cole. There is definitely some hint of post-Brokeback homoerotic curiousity in Cole's relationship with his partner in law-keeping Everett Hitch played by Viggo Mortensen. In fact Mortensen once again is standout in this film as the professional gunslinger who chooses to be a lawman and is happy to take the take backseat to partner Cole despite being smarter and possibly quicker. No real climatic gunfight to speak of though it certainly ends with a smoking gun.

No much for anyone other than a Western aficionado and even then it's a stretch. The film mostly lands pretty flat beyond the cool of Virgil Cole's posturing in the face of many guns possessed by men who aren't really prepared to die. I did however love a moment after the film's one good showdown when Everett Hitch notes that it was over faster than normal to which Cole replies" "That's cos everyone knew how to shoot." Great Western observation in an otherwise bland movie.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Shout out

Word on the Twitter board is that Dark Habits got a shout out from the /Filmcast (with guest Kevin Smith who funnily enough I interviewed a few years back for Jersey Girl) for my interview with Zack Snyder, which is totally awesome on several levels. Just thought I'd say thanks to Dave Chen for the plug and welcome to anyone who bothers to swing by and check out Dark Habits.

Keep up the good work Dave, Devindra and Adam, love the /Filmcast and anyone who hasn't should totally check it out. If my carload of readers can add to their minions then my work here is done.

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Classic Scene #4: "I'm in my prime"


Doc Holliday shows off his shot glass skills in Tombstone.

Appaloosa is out this Friday in Australia and I haven't got to see it – being a huge fan of the Western genre I'm somewhat irked even though I've only heard middling things about this Ed Harris directed film. In meantime I thought I'd just throw out a scene from a film that may not be significant in the Western canon but is certainly a lot of fun and features a remarkable cast that includes Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton as Earp's brothers, Michael Biehn, Terry O'Quinn, and even Billy Zane is in there.

The scene in Tombstone that always sticks out in my mind is not the gunfight at the O.K Corral, which is great by the way and has some revisionist element to its execution, but the scene in which Biehn as Johnny Ringo and Kilmer as Holliday face off for the first time in the saloon where the Earps are running cards. The setting is about as far from Deadwood as you could expect, plenty of colourful 90s blockbuster glam in there, but what makes the scene is the pure charisma of Kilmer as Holliday.

The Clatons show up to warn the Earps about trying to enforce the law in Tombstone and instead it turns into a pissing contest in Latin between Ringo and Holliday as the two of the most reputed gunslingers in the west, "watch it Johnny, I hear he's real fast," warns Curly Bill (Powers Boothe). Ringo pulls his gun on Holliday, who doesn't react knowing that he's just posturing and showing off how fast he is, then does all manner of twirling and spinning impressing everyone in the crowd. There's great shot of Bill Paxton who's eyes can barely keep up with Ringo's gun.

After his display Holliday dissolves all the tension in the room and shows he has no need to rise to Ringo intimidation by showing his own skills spinning his shot cup on his finger before pretending to holster it. It's a great moment of humour, charisma, machismo and some downright cool gunplay. Val Kilmer completely steals this whole movie and really lays down one of my favourite portrayals of a Western icon. Check out the scene after the bump with a little translation from Google of their chat in Latin.

Doc Holliday: In vino veritas.
"In wine is truth"
Johnny Ringo: Age quod agis.
"Do what you do"
Doc Holliday: Credat Judaeus apella, non ego.
"The Jew Apella may believe it, not I"
Johnny Ringo: Eventus stultorum magister.
"Events are the teachers of fools"
Doc Holliday: In pace requiescat.
"Rest in peace"

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Film review: Friday The 13th (2009)

Director: Marcus Nispel
Cast: Jared Padalecki, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Derek Mears
Country: USA
Year: 2009


"You have perfect nipple placement, baby" – Trent (Travis Van Winkle)


Girl! Woods! Running! Rain! Exposition (zzz). Jason Voorhees lives! Five kids go camping, wonder what’ll happen to them. Two hot chicks: check. Two boyfriends: check. One dweeb: check. Camp Crystal Lake, [quiet] yay. Jason! Slash! Thud! Death! Horror! Sex! Hmm, pretty pornographic sex. Slash/thud: more death, more horror, less sex. Repeat. Oh, it’s just the prologue. Cue six weeks later tile, cue same 15-minute narrative stretched out over 80. Jason. Tits. Murder. Horror… Oh, the horror.

Hearing news that the guy who remade Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) was taking on Friday The 13th there frankly weren’t many who breathed some sigh of relief, whispering to fellow slasherphiles ‘phew, thank God they’re laying to rest the time they sent Jason into space. Credibility here we come’. But studio hack Marcus Nispel manages to make this reboot/remake/rehash almost as laughable, turning the cash-grab into a carnival of cliché, a pukepile of absurd toss that is as dull as it is derivative. That he has done so with such obvious aplomb and muster would be almost be charming if you weren’t expected to pay $15 to endure it.

After the lively campsite massacre of his opening salvo Nispel introduces us to some slightly more recognisable high school drama has-beens, not-quites and Jared Padalecki. The only other memorable cast member here might be Travis Van Winkle. Now there are assholes in the world and there are caricature assholes devised with the sole purpose of being victims of horrible (deserving) deaths in slasher flicks. In this Van Winkle plays the part he was seemingly born for and is rewarded with some of the many best bad lines the script has to offer.

I suppose it might be unfair to target specific actors in this yawn fest but the moment they signed up for the roles of ‘Generic Dickhead’, ‘Token Asian Guy’, ‘Local Hick’, ‘Chick Who Gets Boobs Out II’ and ‘Jared Padalecki’ they knew what they were getting into. Unsurprisingly it is Padalecki who gets the films only plot: ‘Jared Padalecki searches for missing sister Amanda Righetti while everyone dies’. Which I suppose is fine as device to get him to Camp Crystal until it is used to change Jason’s modus operanti who makes a lateral merger into kidnapping; these are tough times after all.

While you contemplate that radical departure be assured the rest of Friday The 13th demands nothing more than your tolerance of an entire cast of unlikeable characters. Slashers have always set certain people up for a great kill to be accompanied by a (sort of) guilt free cheer, but there are usually one or two people amongst the fray to root for. Not so here, the sooner Jason dispatches this collection rabble of losers the better.

It’s hard to find anything good to say other than to compliment Jason on his formidable archery skills after witnessing them first hand killing off a guy who managed to stick around for three seasons of Veronica Mars despite being of no interest to anyone. Kills-wise it might also be the most surprising, if only because of it didn’t involve having Jason SUDDENLY materialise right behind an unsuspecting victim.

Actually Derek Mears takes on The Hockey Mask with relative competence for a guy who just has to wield a large machete and appear menacing out of nowhere whenever we expect him to. Oh and the boobs were pretty good too I suppose.



Friday The 13th is released nationally in Australia 12 March, 2009

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Monday, March 9, 2009

DVD: Ran: Special Edition

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Satoshi Terao Taro, Jinpachi Nezu
Year made: 1985

King for a day

Akira Kurosawa may have been 75 years old when he made Ran, but he certainly had not lost his touch. It might not be the old master’s best film but it is certainly one of his grandest.

Following in the footsteps of Throne Of Blood, which was an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Ran takes the story of King Lear and places it firmly in feudal 16th Century Japan in such a unique way it equals any telling of the English playwright’s work. Kurosawa spent a decade preparing himself to make this epic a final coup de grace in the twilight of his career.

The result, while at times indulging itself a little too much in classic Shakespearian pageantry, is quite spectacular and affirms the fact forevermore that no one could better AK when it came to ambitious battle scenes. And Ran is littered with them, all incredibly choreographed and executed perfectly.

After ruling his land for nearly half a century, the Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji decides the time has come to pass on his power and land to his three sons; Taro, Jiro and Saburo. Hidetora dreams of peace in his region and hopes for his children to always remain allies. However, Saburo, the youngest of the brothers, is uncomfortable with the whole situation and voices his immense dissatisfaction with the arrangements and is subsequently banished from the kingdom.

It does not take long for the youngest prince’s fears to come to fruition as chaos begins to consume when civil war breaks out between the ruling lords. The Great Lord goes mad as a result of the betrayal his two elder children show in their greed and hunger for power, forgetting any honourable duty they ought to hold towards their father.

Ran is filled with wonderful standout performances throughout, in particular from Tatsuya Nakadia as the Great Lord who is as gripping as he is mesmerising, capturing the descent into insanity of Hidetora in true tragic Shakespearian tradition.

The last word has to be reserved for the man Kurosawa who has quite simply put together a film of incredible magnitude and brilliant vision. At worst it could be accused of being indulgent, but this is Shakespeare so a little drama and grandeur is never far away.

It is a real letdown that more has not been done with this supposed two-disc special edition. The Region 1 Masterworks Edition features two commentaries from Kurosawa and Japanese culture scholars, which would have made for fascinating listening for those wanting to learn more about the director and are sorely missing from this release.

What lifts this disc from the gutter though, is a very good 71-minute documentary on the making of Ran. It is rammed with behind-the-scenes footage and covers the full scale of Kurosawa’s challenge, his meticulous rehearsal process and an exploration of his techniques and trademarks.

This may not be the most comprehensive DVD treatment of a Kurosawa film, but what there is cannot be faulted.

Film 5 stars
Extras 2 stars

Special features
• ‘AK The Making Of Ran’ documentary (71 mins)

If you like this why not try…
Throne Of Blood (1957)
Akira Kurosawa’s reworking of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to 16th Century Japan is one of his finest works.

This review first appeared in DVD Review #64

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DVD: Labyrinth

Director: Jim Henson
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Shari Weiser (voice)
Year made: 1986

Maze of misadventure

Whatever the reason, the Eighties has become a cool decade again. However, nothing can make the lunchbox-revealing grey jodpers David Bowie wears in Labyrinth anything other than a little disturbing. If you can ignore this and allow yourself to be lost in Jim Henson’s imagination then you will surely feel the nostalgic memories come flooding back.

Of course you have to wonder how a film where a camped up Bowie kidnaps a baby, then makes strange advances on a 16-year old girl would go down in the present climate. You might also spend time considering how he managed to retain any credibility after such a shoddy performance. But such thoughts are secondary to the enjoyment to be had in Henson’s wonderful characters and landscape.

Jennifer Connelly plays Sarah, who wishes the Goblin King would take her baby brother away. He does, and the only way she can get him back is by solving the riddle-infested Labyrinth, surviving perils like ‘the bog of eternal stench’ and taming David Bowie’s hairdo.

Even 18 years on there isn’t much that can top the style and character that the Henson workshop created in its puppets. The likes of Ludo, an orange Yeti-like creature, and Hoggle, Sarah’s begrudging guide, still look as realistic as they do fantastic.

As per usual, again we have a disc flagged up as a collector’s edition without offering much in the way of extras. Some contemporary retrospective featurettes would have made good additions but all the DVD has to speak of is a making-of documentary filmed at the time. This said the 56 minutes are of a high quality. All the main culprits are on hand to talk, from Henson himself, to Bowie, to Brian Froud to screenwriter Terry Jones.

What is particularly pleasing is the vast quantity of behind-the-scenes footage that will leave you with a qualified appreciation of the work that goes into puppeting each and every Muppet.

Weird and wonderful, everyone should lose themselves in this Labyrinth.

Film 4 stars
Extras 2 stars

Special features
• ‘Making Of The Labyrinth’ documentary (56 mins)
• Photo gallery
• Storyboards
• Filmographies

If you like this why not try...

The Dark Crystal (1992)
Jim Henson’s first foray into the dark side with lashing of mysticism and muppets: magic.

The review first appeared in DVD Review #63

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DVD: The Dark Crystal

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Voice of: Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw
Year made: 1982

A step into the dark

Do not underestimate the power of the dark side. In a foray away from all things bright and cheerful Jim Henson dipped his toes into some unfamiliar murky waters with this fantastical story of Gelflings, Skeksis and Mystics. It was 1982 and the film that spurned many a childhood memory was The Dark Crystal.

As the tagline truthfully declares this is ‘another world, another time… in the age of wonder.’ It is not so much the complexity of the tale that the master storyteller is telling, but the way in which he tells it; through another wonderful fantasy world transported from his imagination to celluloid.

A thousand years ago this world was split when the dark crystal was broken and a shard lost. Since then the evil Skeksis (think vultures) have ruled the land while their counterparts, the peaceful Mystics (sort of large Muppet gypsies) have just hung out waiting in their commune for a prophecy to be fulfilled: at the time of the great conjunction of the three suns a Gelfling (Jen) will make the crystal whole again and end the Skeksis’ reign.

The nostalgic value of The Dark Crystal is high but beware of your expectations: time and technology have not been kind to what was groundbreaking work at the time. It still looks great though, if you can get thoughts of Spider-Man flying through New York out of your head. This is not helped by the lack of effort that has gone into remastering the picture to a treatment one might rightly expect of a collector’s edition disc. There is another disappointment and that is the dropping of the DTS soundtrack that was provided on the Superbit version.

Appeasing some of your expectations is an excellent 60-minute featurette, ‘The World Of The Dark Crystal’, produced in 1982. It is a great document charting the evolution of Henson’s creation with contributions from the man himself offering numerous observations over the nature of his work on the project. The disc is rounded off with some stocking filler deleted scenes and a collection of image and text-based extras. A collector’s edition they do not make, but a valuable edition to your collection nonetheless.

A great film on a disappointing DVD.

Film 3 stars
Extras 3 stars

Special Features
• ‘The World Of The Dark Crystal’ documentary
(60 mins)
• Deleted scenes
• Original language work print scenes
• Character profiles
• Character illustrations
• ‘The Mithra Treatment’: Jim Henson’s original
treatment of the film
• Storyboards
• Filmographies
• Theatrical trailer

If you like this why not try…
Labyrinth (1986)
David Bowie sings, Jennifer Connelly gets lost and the Muppets… well, they act like Muppets.

The review first appeared in DVD Review #63

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DVD: There’s Something More About Mary

Directors: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon
Year made: 1998

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Thank God for the Farrelly brothers. Without them, guys around the world might still be going out on dates with loaded guns – and as we know, “People get hurt that way.”

This was just one of the many lessons to be learned from There's Something About Mary, as well as a multitude of new ways to describe ‘choking the chicken’. Only the most anti-PC viewer can watch without realising there is something grim about the brothers Farrelly. No joke is too rude, crude or lewd in their so-called gross-out comedy fashion. And if you can’t stand the heat get the disc out your spinner.

From painful zipper encounters to particularly salty hair gel, the Farrellys succeed in their efforts to shock and entertain. Ted (Stiller) is in love with Mary (Diaz). He hasn’t seen her for 13 years and sends private detective Pat Healy (Dillon) to find her, who in turn also falls for Mary. Despite all its attempts to turn your head in disgust at the gall of their humour, Mary has a tender, heart-warming streak a mile wide running through it that’s impossible to ignore.

On first inspection this looks to be a quality special edition. However, it does seem to be one of those examples of quantity over quality. The disc includes a second version with 14 extended scenes, which dilute the overall tone and pace of the movie.

While the Farrellys’ commentary is intermittently enjoyable it does frequently descend into a holiday slideshow, with Peter and Bobby taking great pains to point out all their friends and family. ‘Getting Behind Mary’ is the best of the rest. It features loads of behind-the-scenes footage cut with interviews of Diaz, Stiller and Dillon. The other extras are disappointing filler-fodder, while the interview roulette with Harland Williams is just not funny at all.

Definitely more about Mary, just not enough.

Film 5 stars
Extras 3 stars

If you like this why not try…

Kingpin (1996)
Underrated Farrellys film, sitting somewhere in between The Hustler and The Big Lebowski.

Special Features
• Audio commentary by directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly
• Audio commentary by writers Ed Dector and John J Strauss
• 14 extended scenes with seamless branching (25 mins)
• ‘Getting Behind Mary’ documentary (43 mins)
• ‘AMC Backstory: There’s Something About Mary’ featurette (20 mins)
• ‘Comedy Central Reel Comedy: There’s Something About Mary’ featurette (21 mins)
• ‘Best Fight’ spoof award footage (Ben Stiller And Puffy The Dog) (3 mins)
• ‘Frank And Beans: A Conversation With W. Earl Brown’ featurette (6 mins)
• ‘Touchdown: A Conversation With Brett Farve’ (6 mins)
• Interview roulette with Harland Williams (7 mins)
• ‘Puffy, Boobs And Balls’ featurette (11 mins)
• Outtakes
• ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ Karaoke video
• Music video
• Theatrical trailer
• Easter eggs

The review first appeared in DVD Review #64

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DVD: Stuck On You

Directors: Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Matt Damon, Eva Mendes
Year made: 2003

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother


The Farrelly brothers’ brand of humour may not be for everyone but the writers/directors certainly have drifted from the extremities of Dumb And Dumber and Something About Mary into far more sentimental territory. Stuck On You's softening touch might not be to general audience’s liking either.

The stars of the Rhode Island drama society on this occasion are conjoined twins Bob (Damon) and Walt (Kinnear). When Walt decides it’s time to leave their small community in Martha’s Vinyard, where they both run a fast food restaurant, to pursue his dream of becoming an actor Bob doesn’t exactly have much choice other than to go along. Of course, Los Angeles is not a forgiving place, even to the beautiful people, and success proves to be more than a little tricky.

The gags are becoming more slapstick than the gross-out we have come to expect but it is not the Farrellys that make it play this time but standout performances from Kinnear and Damon, who are nothing if not entertaining.

Once again the commentary is more of an identity parade of the Farrellys’ friends and family than an insight to their moviemaking style. The two main featurettes, ‘It’s Funny’ and ‘Stuck Together’, are both humourous but flirt with the now clichéd notion of how great it is to be one of Peter or Bobby’s friends.

‘Making It Stick’ proves to be interesting for about 60 seconds until you realise what you’re about to watch is two men standing having makeup done for another eight minutes. The blooper reel, however, is great value and a nice way to round things off.

Funny in parts, but not classic Farrellys.

Film 3 stars
Extras 3 stars

Special features
• Audio commentary by directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly
• Eight deleted/extended scenes (with optional commentary)
• Blooper reel
• ‘It’s Funny: The Farrelly Formula’ featurette (16 mins)
• ‘Stuck Together: Bringing Stuck On You To The Screen’ featurette (13 mins)
• ‘Making It Stick: The Makeup Effects Of Stuck On You’ featurette (9 mins)

If you like this why not try…
Dumb & Dumber (1994)
One of the stupidest movies of all time, also one of the most fun.

This review first appeared in DVD Review #64

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Combination controversy: update

Really don't have much time to post right now, currently super-snowed under with work for 3D World (interview with Neville Staple of The Specials and a column amongst other things) and preparing music for DJing Friday night, but I though I'd really better just give an update on The Combination. Following Greater Union's decision at the weekend to yank the movie from screens in Sydney after fights had been reported, which distributor Australian Film Syndicate's responded to with a big pr push against the move, the film has been reinstated into at least the Parramatta GU under an agreement that will see screenwriter/star George Basha introduce screenings in a bid to prevent any further trouble. You can read the full story at Inside Film. The Combination has impressively taken some $188,000 in four days from 32 screens. This little debacle should help keep those numbers ticking along.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Human Cyborg Relations and Terminator Salvation


"You think you're human?" – John Connor

One of my earliest profound experiences in cinema was seeing James Cameron's original Terminator movie. It was probably the darkest, bleakest film experiences I'd had up until that point and it featured Bill Paxon dressed up like a punk rocker and getting stabbed by a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first five-minutes. Crazy. Between the first film and Terminator 2 I salivated at the prospect of seeing the future post-apocalyptic world envisioned by Cameron as a place where humans are hunted down by robots only to fight back under the leadership of John Connor and realised in its own standalone film. Now that time is nearly upon us and the last person I would have expected to be delivering on it was McG.

Here it is, the second trailer for Terminator Salvation which is currently hosted on Yahoo! Movies. It certainly gives a better idea of what we might be able to expect and what kind of weight the screenwriters (Jonathan Nolan, Anthony E. Zuiker, Shawn Ryan, Paul Haggis) who have worked on the project have been able to insert into this massive studio project. It's Warner Bros and that gives me hope, but it also big budget and the pressure is on to prevent an R-rating. Four screenwriter credits isn't the most appealing advertisement, but considering the hoops this story has been through with the studio it's unsurprising. I'm feeling pretty good about this film right now, especially the concept of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) the discontinued terminator who believes he is human. Plot synopsis after the jump, trailer looking suitably mechanised and grundgy is embedded below:



Set in post-apocalyptic 2018, John Connor (Christian Bale), the man fated to be the leader of the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators, and the future he was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet's operations, where they find out a terrible secret that may lead to the possible annihilation of mankind.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Violence and The Combination


Barely a month since news about a stabbing in a US cinema during a screening of My Blood Valentine we now have stories breaking (ABC.net) over the weekend regarding Australia film The Combination and a couple of punch ups that erupted at screenings. While the My Bloody Valentine incident was a one off by a frustrated security guard, I wonder if we'd be getting different responses with questions of violence on film reflected by violence in life if it had been committed by a patron. The Combination on the other hand is a film about Lebanese-Australians and gang violence in Sydney's western suburbs. A couple of incidents over the weekend has led to cinema chain Greater Union pulling the film from its theatres in New South Wales...

One has to question this decision by Greater Union as being extremely reactionary and furthermore wonder about whether any time was taken over the implications of this decision. Obviously such incidents are ugly and unwanted, but there's more than a little irony in the fact that a film about prejudice and stereotypes has led to such a media storm see (The Buck Stops 'ere summary) considering we have fights breaking out in every pub in Australia every night and I'm yet to hear a peep about prohibition (see bottom of page re: 2am Lockouts).

The Combination is a violent film although screenwriter George Basha is quoted saying “this film doesn't glorify violence, doesn't glorify gangs; it's actually the opposite.” This may not be entirely true considering the film's violent conclusion (certainly being in a gang doesn't come across that cool), but what is suspect is the precise thinking behind the decision at Greater Union to pull the film from all its screens in NSW (a decision it's considering recanting). I'm sure staff safety is a concern for management, but does Greater Union really think that this film's patrons are more likely to be so incensed by its content that we might see riots breaking out up and down George Street? What does this say about the Greater Union's management's perception of The Combination's target audience.

As Basha is further quoted in The Australian: "You've got 300 or 400 people in the cinema, and then you've got three or four kids, 15 and 16 years old, making a nuisance... The cinema is saying they were smoking in the cinema, and there were fights breaking out ... I've seen fights happen. I'm pretty sure those films didn't get closed down."

There's a much bigger discussion to be had here, but I wanted to post these quick thoughts before I get on with my day whilst the tabloids set about exploiting Australian fears over some sort of implied dark danger lurking within Sydney's western suburbs. The Combination was always an interesting film to me as a non-Aussie and for reasons unrelated to the violence within, now it's becoming positively fascinating.

You can read my review of The Combination here,
or
Read my interview with director David Field here.

Watch the trailer here:


UPDATE: Re: 'peeps about prohibition', it has been pointed out to me that while 2am lockouts are not quite the same thing as prohibition they are a form of restriction on drinking freedom.

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Classic Scene #3: "It's pretty good isn't it"


'The Jaguar Shark' scene in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

I promise to run a scene that isn't a ending next time round, but the moments I found myself thinking about today were the huge spoiler scene in LA Confidential and the ending of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004). Whilst The Royal Tenenbaums is easily be my favourite Wes Anderson film The Life Aquatic might be the one I hold dearest. Maligned and underappreciated on its release, this is a film that will reward those who return to it and could even be a most necessary film for anyone who finds doubt in their purpose or generally suffering from melancholic maladies.

Watching Life Aquatic the first time round I confess was roundly baffled by the point so close the movie itself skirted with meaninglessness in its whimsical meanderings, entertaining and colourful though they certainly were. I got that this was a Moby Dick parody about revenge and one man facing the reality that he is over-the-hill, broken both emotionally and in practicality, chasing little more than his own lost dreams. But until the end it all seemed somewhat hollow, all style and literally no heart only a malaise. Rarely have I experienced all the pieces of a character puzzle so subtly and melodically fall into place as the Life Aquatic's climactic scene, which took me to a place I never expected and landed a heart-rendering sucker punch squarely on my gut.

This is a fragile piece of cinema no doubt, a portrait that takes its time to unfold. Bill Murray was in a class of his own at the time, but the emotion he packs into a character so tired and so stiff totally sweeps me off my feet every time I see this scene. Upon finally discovering the Jaguar Shark deep in the ocean accompanied by his team, estranged-wife (Anjelica Huston), journalist (Cate Blanchett) and rival (Jeff Goldblum), Steve Zissou no longer wants to blow it up, "we're out of dynamite anyway," he quips. When he wonders out loud if the shark remembers him and the emotion squeezes its way onto his face we recognise a profound moment in this character's essence of being and the deep sadness that comes with the realisation of dreams that were never really about the object of the obsession, rather they are just the symbol of something much deeper and personal.

And all this occurs to the wonderful 'Staralfur' by Sigur Ross, a band whose musically I could quite fittingly lose myself for in eternity. Enough from me, check out the scene below and tell me what you think...


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Sunday, March 1, 2009


Complete Watchmen coverage at Dark Habits:

WATCHMEN REVIEWED BY DARK HABITS

"If you thought The Dark Knight was good just wait till you see Watchmen…"
You can read an abridged version of this review at 3D World.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ZACK SNYDER
"Right when you start to like a character or you start to think you understand them, they do something that makes you go ‘oh fuck, that’s right he’s a Nazi’."
AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH SNYDER
"I think a lot of times Hollywood wants to tie everything up in a nice little bow and happy package."
AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN
"[The Comedian] is a little bit misunderstood, I like to say he had some communication problems. He really needed to go to the Hallmark store"
AN INTERVIEW WITH MALIN AKERMAN
"Poor Billy, everyone just laughed in his face. It was just such a silly costume and he’s supposed to be this larger than life type of character and here he is looking like a human Christmas tree."
DARK HABITS FIRST REACTION TO WATCHMEN
"For the uninitiated I envy the wild ride you are about to embark on"

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Film review: Watchmen

Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Jackie Earle Hayley, Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode
Country: USA
Year: 2009


“Never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon” – Rorschach

The camera slowly zooms out from the iconic yellow smiley face badge worn by Eddie Blake. He flicks channels on his television set as talk show hosts discuss the likelihood of nuclear Armageddon imminently faced by the human race in this alternate 1985 Cold War universe where Trick Dick Nixon is still president and the US won in Vietnam. Finally he settles on a channel with promise of a better life as Nat King Cole sings ‘Unforgettable’. It’s the last momentary ironic pleasure of his life because The Comedian dies tonight.

Welcome to the world of Watchmen, an unparalleled comic book world that was for 20 years deemed unfilmmable and yet now finds itself released in a hail of cinematic glory. The so-called Citizen Kane of graphic novels massively anticipated by a rabid fanbase should not disappoint in its big screen debut because director Zack Snyder’s (300) loving adaptation is all and more that they could have reasonably hoped for. And for the curious uninitiated whose perception of the comic book genre is about to change forever? If you thought The Dark Knight was good just wait till you see Watchmen

Contained within the glorious opening punch-up and the wonderfully vaudevillian credits sequenced played out to Bob Dylan's 'The Times They Are A-Changing' are the beats, themes and spirit in which Snyder has captured the essence of author Alan Moore’s opus to masked heroes and a world consumed by madness. Darkness, the loss of innocence, human determinism and mutually assured destruction are all-pervasive.

Some of the novel’s elements such as the ‘Tales Of The Black Freighter’ (to be inserted in Snyder’s ultimate director’s cut) have been mined out altogether while other subplots (the home lives of psychiatrists) are stripped down in order to do justice to the story’s central narrative inside three hours. But Snyder, using David Hayter and Alex Tse’s screenplay, resolutely stays true to the mean streets neo-noir of Rorschach’s (Jackie Earle Hayley) pursuit of The Comedian’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) killer. As Rorschach was to the novel Hayley is to the film, brilliant as the menacing, snarling vigilante with sociopathic tendencies to be found wandering the rain and vice-drenched city at night.

What makes Hayley’s performance so impressive is the fact the vast majority of it takes place behind Rorschach’s ink-oscillating mask. Reciting portions of his character’s journal Hayley is able to convey every drip of bitter disgust, anger, suspicion and resoluteness that lies underneath the many faces of Rorschach and when he is called upon to unleash all the rage he can muster in his origin story we feel the ripples of a character changed forever. Remove the mask and Hayley is simply terrifying as Walter Kovacs, a man whose fierce nature belie his appearance and stature. This is an outstanding performance, one that will be remembered as one of 2009’s standouts.

And this is just one of Watchmen’s casting success. Hayley finds his equal in Patrick Wilson’s excellent realisation of washed-up Nite Owl II Dan Dreiberg, always with a simmering strength beneath a bookish exterior. Wilson plays Dreiberg as the geeky wannabe who never felt like he fitted in with the cool kids perhaps because he wasn’t insane enough. He needn't have feared, turns out Dreiberg has mental problems of his own and is literally rendered impotent by an inferiority complex, anxiety and his refusal to accept that being a masked vigilante was what he was supposed to be all along. When the Keene act signed by President Nixon outlawed his chosen profession, he complied willingly whilst his partner Rorschach continued recognising what Dreiberg failed to see, that he was giving up not just on vigilantism but on a world gone to pot.

Whilst Wilson and Hayley seamlessly translate their character from page to screen, it is worth noting that Morgan perhaps elevates his, finding untapped charisma and new depths of tragedy in one of literature’s greats. This dystopian Captain America who actions horrify at every juncture is the mirror of the world we have come to inhabit, a parody of a dream lost and an innocence sacrificed. Just as Rorschach says, The Comedian “saw the world for what is really was”: capitalism, war, fascism/greed, violence, moral corruption – these are the things that have largely come to define civilisation. Yet despite a modus operandi that is sheer nihilism, Morgan finds the conflict within the man Eddie Blake and his creation The Comedian. He’s a murdering, would-be rapist sonofabitch, but damn if we don’t find ourselves empathising with him in the end thanks to Morgan.

Malin Akerman bravely assumes the mantle of the slightly thankless role of Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II sometimes struggling with clunky dialogue but always bringing some sense of depth to her character, finding hurt, pain and wonder in equal measure. She also looks great and kicks ass in leather. Then there is a motion-captured Billy Crudup as the only real superhero in the movie Dr Manhattan, somehow finding emotion in the naked blue-luminous being who claims to have none. Of all the origin stories in Watchmen his 10-minute arc told during his self-imposed exile to Mars might be the most breathtaking visual and narrative achievement in the film.

Snyder revels in his 300-style speed ramping action sequences, executing them with stunning effect, without ever allowing these moments to become stylistically distracting. Punches land with thunderous impacts, bones snap and split sickeningly, knifes plunge into flesh, glass shatters and blood splatters. But this is just one element of Snyder’s visual accomplishment here, many of his frames literally pop off the graphic novel panels and are filled with just as many textured layers that Watchmen will reward repeat viewings. The film may be ripe with style, but it is never at the sacrifice of substance.

That all said, Watchmen is not without its flaws. Firstly Matthew Goode feels miscast as the world’s smartest man Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias and is largely disconnected from the audience in the overall narrative despite his centrality to the climax. Though Goode manages to find a certain leering arrogance in Veidt we are never given a chance to consider his character beyond his actions, which are admittedly significant but revealed hurriedly by a film already clocking up some serious minutes. This has the added effect of making his role in Watchmen’s third act somewhat jarring even for knowledgeable members of the audience: it’s for this reason if anything, and not the absence of giant squids, that the ending suffers.

There are other minor quibbles, the worst offender being a pretty erotic sex scene cut to Leonard Cohen’s version of ‘Hallelujah’ that’s a leather boot fetishist’s dream come true (especially disappointing given all the other excellent music choices made by Snyder and the fact that Jeff Buckley’s really is the definitive version of ‘Hallelujah’, albeit an overplayed one).

But for now space is almost certainly better spent focussed on Watchmen’s successes as a comic book movie for the ages: one that is deeply intellectual, emotionally satisfying, uncompromisingly violent and a visceral, unrelenting assault on the senses. This is “as dark as it gets” says Rorschach; and Watchmen is all the more astonishing for it.



Scott Henderson

Watchmen is released in Australian cinemas March 5.
An abridged version of this review appears in 3D World #949

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