Sunday, August 24, 2008

Grizzly Man

PLOT: Man vs Beast takes a bizarre & ultimately tragic turn in this compelling train wreck of a documentary from that determined and persistent German director, Werner Herzog.
The life & times of amateur Eco-activist Timothy Treadwell is recounted, with numerous footage from his own video camera, recording behaviour that is beyond fascination. Surreal doesn't even come close.

The life of Treadwell, grizzly bear 'activist' is shaped into a very powerful story of how mother nature needs to be respected at all times. By ignoring the basic laws of nature, Treadwell's story was always going to result in in nothing less than complete and unnecessary loss of life. What makes it so compelling is the unbelievable raw footage that Treadwell shot over many years & the interactions he had with the grizzly bears of the Katmai National park in Alaska. To just about any seasoned grizzly bear expert, the one thing not to do is engage directly with the bears. Observe from a distance, but don't get too close. Seems entirely sensible & logical to to 99.9% of the human population, but alas Timothy had other more radical ideas. Operating on the mistaken belief that these bears were endangered (they were in a protected national park), Treadwell ignored all basic safety principles to get really close as possible. In fact, you really just have to view this movie to see the things he did with the animals. If i told you, you would probably just either laugh or totally disbelieve me. But Treadwell actually did do all these crazy things because he recorded it all. For us to stare in absolute utter amazement & marvel at the rather extraordinary activities happening before our very eyes.

Herzog interviews various people associated with Treadwell to try and understand why he was committed to putting himself in such a unique & dangerous position. What were his real motives for doing what he did. But as much as the other talking heads shed different views on his motivations/philosophies/beliefs, the most revealing footage is unequivocally Treadwell himself.
And knowing that he is the star in his own show, Treadwell doesn't hold back on showing a increasingly bizarre range of emotions that range from amusing to outright bloody insane !!!
But i do have to say that i did respect Treadwell for his bloody minded attitude & ability to interact with these wild creatures that probably very few people would ever attempt to do.
Balls of steel didn't save him ultimately (and most unfortunately his girlfriend Amie Huguenard), and that it was preventable is possibly the real tragedy.

By the end of this movie you come to two obvious conclusions.

A) He wanted to be immortalized. He achieved that without a shadow of a doubt.
B) Werner Herzog was the only person who could do his story justice.

Unmissable !!! watch it as soon as you can...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Who: Amazing journey-the story of the who

Plot: 2007-doco update on THE WHO & their story to date. Includes uptodate info on post keith/johns deaths with very recent interviews with Roger & Pete.

So, lets get the friggin obvious question out the way first first. Do we neeeed yet another flaming WHO doco ??? Answer is, again, very obvious !!!

Of course it is: ITS THE BLOODY WHO !!!!!!!!!!!

O.k, now Ive made my position clear, why is this latest version worth your time & money?

How about the frank, tender, funny, reveling & very compelling interviews from Rog & Pete that are great to watch, especially with the benefit/hindsight of time. MOONY on the drums. Great archival never seen before footage, esp the "high numbers" mini set at the railway hotel in 1964 or so. Kenny Jones on his tenure in the band (very honest-and surprising comments). MOONY BEING DRUNK & OUT OF IT. Great selection of supporting cast, e.g Chris Stamp, Bob Pridden, John Entwhistle's first wife, Rogers wife, Shel Talmy, and many others-all worthwhile. The revelation that Daltrey didn't really feel an equal until TOMMY. The OX's fingers just running wild over his bass'. More footage of MOON playing performing etc.

And thus, your decision is now very easy. If your interested, go and watch as soon as possible. It will be, i promise, a very entertaining way to spend 2hrs of your time. The best possible introduction to THE WHO!

The rest of you lot. Bugger off now to your nearest shop and buy a copy !!! Or download it, whatever. It has to be in your collection.

Strange Culture

Plot: Docu-drama covering the trial of Steve Kurtz vs U.S govt re charges of bio-terrorism.

Yet another example of what not to do when you order stuff on the Internet that might be slightly suspicious to officials in govt departments! When Kurtz is questioned by the first of many over-zealous stooges you suddenly get a very real sense of what the main issue is. It isn't the bio terrorism charges that matter, its the seemingly too-great-to-pass-up-on opportunity that will allow the U.S govt some much needed leeway for censoring artists in this post 9/11 environment.

If only their timing was a little better. What started this sorry mess unraveling was the very unexpected death of Hope Kurtz. She died in her sleep on an early November morning& when the paramedics arrived, first thing they noticed was tin foil on some windows & a few petrie dishes with bacteria in them. Uh-oh thought one of them, "have we got a terrorist here? maybe that's why his wife is dead!" As most fools know, if you jump too quickly to an assumption-it'll make an ass out of you and me... and so it begins, this descent into an quagmire of lawyers & more lawyers doing their very best to persuade a judiciary that this is indeed the work of a bio-terrorist. Or not.

What makes this David vs Goliath story very entertaining is its narrative structure. Its the very near cousin of American Splendor, in terms of blending acted passages/doco footage & animation panels which elevates it above others of its ilk. This combination makes it very accessible & watchable. No confusion about what is happening on screen, just utter disbelief that it is actually taking place as we speak is another grounding reminder about how this world has changed, post 9/11.

Tilda Swinton & Thomas Jay Ryan are very credible in their roles as Hope & Steve Kurtz, but the real star is Steve Kurtz himself. He comes across as an extremely intelligent, sincere & totally honest person who has been put a position most people wouldn't want to be in.

I for one, hope like hell that this case gets thrown out before it ever has to be considered to be presentable to the U.S supreme court. It will be a sad day in hell indeed if the U.S govt wins this glaring example of an "orchestrated litany of lies"

My smart moneys on Steve !!!

After all, its common sense that should prevail...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Singapore Sling

Plot Synopsis: Danger lurks in the shadows for an unsuspecting guy wandering into a house where the mother & daughter love to play "funny games"

As befits my blog title, this movie from 1990 is definitely very "eclectic" to say the least !

Beautifully shot in black & white by director Nikos Nikolaidis, this Psycho-gore feast has something that not many other movies have-performances by two very brave actresses who boldly go where many others would never conceive of going. In fact, so good are they in their roles, that it does blur the boundaries of whether they are indeed acting or not. Of the 2, the daughter-played by actress Meredyth Herold is the more compelling. The rants when she is talking to us are insane to watch. This is method acting at its finest (If indeed, she was acting), you just don't see too many completely unhinged exhibition's like this anymore-probably a good thing by the way !!!

I don't want to spoil anymore of this movie than i have to, so I'll just add a link to reviews on amazon for anyone who is game enough to watch this unforgettable cult movie.

You have been warned !!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Conqueror (1956)

Plot synopsis: Surpasses anything filmed before !!!

Very coincidentally after "Mongol" a friend gave me his DVD of this movie. And I've just watched it. What can I say ???

Actually my girlfriend summed it up fairly well. "Whats this Crap???"
Is that really fair? Whatever, it's immaterial because I want to tell you all about it.

I think its very easy in this day and age to be revisionist and say its crap because of the era when it was made, but that's letting it off too easy! Even by the standard of its time (1956) and comparing to other similar movies from that year (War and Peace, The Ten Commandments, Richard III, The King & I), this was a very bad idea from day one!

If you close your eyes and think of who could have played Genghis Khan, the one name you wouldn't think of is John Wayne. But, some producer or director did then, and now its part of film history. Lucky us. The Duke probably wasn't the first choice but he did have reasonable star power (then), to be considered for the role. These days an actor would be picked for his suitability for the role or selected on whether he is marketable or not - or both. And what of the Duke's performance??? Only one word comes to mind. Bad. It's damn hilarious to hear the words coming out of his mouth.
Here's just a couple to be amazed with. "For good or ill-she is my destiny" & "She is woman - much woman. Should her perfidy be less than that of other women?"

Everything else about this movie is pretty much crap as well. The tired, boring music, the obvious studio sets, the bad costumes just to name a few!

Would it surprise you to learn that this turkey appears in the top 50 worst movies of all time ???

Batman: The Dark Knight

Plot Synopsis: The Bat finds out that cleaning up the streets too effectively can actually be counterproductive, especially when he's up against the Joker whose only modus operandi is "maximum chaos".

This sequel explores very different territory to the first movie, in fact I would say that more emphasis is rightly on the various relationships Batman has with various people in his world - good, bad and definitely "otherwise". It's the conflict of what exactly is the right thing to do at times that drives this excellent sequel to levels of near greatness. We've never really seen the Bat ever get this morally conflicted before, and Christian Bale's performance is near flawless in his portrayal in this particular outing.

Although the usual blockbuster elements are in place (Set pieces - check; Cool costumes - check; great production/set design - check; etc, etc) it's the overwhelmingly consistent great acting from the main cast that caught my eye.

Gary Oldman is far more layered in his performance, Aaron Eckhart is very believable as Harvey dent, Bale I mentioned previously, but obviously all the pre-hype surrounded Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker. In some circles, he's been suggested as a possible Oscar contender. Is he that good? IMHO, yes he is that damn good. He is simply mesmerising every time he's on screen. This is one of the most definitive villain portrayals in a very long time. But crucially, he doesn't overwhelm the movie either. Simply put, the Joker is the Joker. You don't need to really know who's playing him, the performance is that good. The fact that it's Ledger's last really complete movie is not the point.

This film is one of those rare things - a sequel with substance that actually builds on the first movie, and expands it into far more darker territory altogether. Without doubt, I'm now eagerly awaiting the next instalment (Which is rare for a 2nd sequel), but the bar has been raised considerably by Ledger's portrayal of the Joker.

And lastly, it has had plenty of criticism regarding the running time. I didn't feel the need to look at my watch once. But maybe, I'm just a sucker for long movies...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Banishment

Plot Synopsis: During a family's journey away, secrets are revealed that shatter the idyllic vacation. From there, the dark forces swirling around them tighten rapidly, forcing an decision from which there is no return.

One of the great pleasures for me attending film festivals is the discovery of new directors. Over the last 8 years i have become a great fan of films by talented auteurs like Bent Hamer, Gyorgy Palfi, Park Chan-Wook, Miranda July, and director of this powerful movie: Andrei Zvyagintsev. With the body of work from the aforementioned, you can take heart that the future of cinema is in great hands. Indeed, its one of the very key reasons i love working (and now, writing) in this very creative industry. You know that every year, someone, somewhere is going to produce a film that is of immense interest to your own unique love of film.

The start of the movie is a very obvious (now, more so in retrospect) visual clue to the themes that will be slowly revealed throughout its length. Long, meandering takes of a car driving to somewhere, a destination we're not entirely sure about. The road to redemption perhaps? Whatever, like so many journeys we make, its not the destination that's crucial, its how we get there & what happens along the way this is vastly more important. We then get introduced to brothers Mark & Alex whose relationship to each other is unfaltering. No job, task or favour is out of bounds & its this familial bond that gets tested to the extreme later on. Soon we meet the rest of Mark's family, Wife Vera, & their son and daughter. Although the family is away in the country-to Marks Fathers rural retreat, the tensions between the couple are soon very evident. And once the wife reveals her 'secret' things change rapidly and start to head down the only road then can go on-to hell.

Buts thats all i am going to say about the story proper. The rest you'll have to experience for yourself. The only other details i want to mention are the stunning cinematography, the dark haunting foreboding soundtrack, and the understated performances of all the actors.

Like his 1st movie (2003's "The Return") Zvyagintsev's "The Banishment" reaffirms his supreme talent for powerful Symbolic movies that undeniably confirms his position as a more than worthy pretender to the throne of king of Russian cinema! Undoubtedly, Zvyagintsev more than likely is extremely familiar with the demigod of Russian cinema -the other Andrei-Tarkovsky.

If you do enjoy this movie, then you will be stunned by "The Return" as well. Check out the making of doco as well-in particular, the story of the actor who played the eldest son. Whats revealed, makes a great movie even more poignant.