Movie Review – Life

Is this the unofficial prequel to Venom?

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic 

You only need to catch the trailer for new sci-fi Life to see how much it borrows from classic space horrors like Alien and Doom. It begs the question as to why this film was ever even made, but thankfully it does pack a couple of surprises that make it somewhat refreshing.

In Life, a crew on board the International Space Station find evidence of extra-terrestrial life. A soil sample taken from a Mars space probe begins growing into a multi-celled organism and soon our A-list crew members – Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal – must work together to survive and protect human kind.

Where Life excels is in its first half. The dramatic opening scene connects you with the characters while perfectly setting up the introduction of the new alien species. From there the story keeps you invested as the scientific discoveries unfold and you learn about the organism along with the crew. You get the sense that this is exactly how this scenario would play out if it ever happened in real life.

But from there everything begins to fall apart. Life quickly becomes the film that’s been done many times before, with mindless action scene after action scene. It becomes painfully predictable and leaves you to question the logistics of its action sequences as well as the motivations of its characters.

Overall, the film is a decent enough entertainment piece. There are some genuine gross-out horror moments backed by fantastic sound design and the alien creatures are relatively unique. If you’re a die hard sci-fi fan, then Life is definitely for you, but if you haven’t seen the classics, you’re better off staying at home and looking them up on Netflix instead.

Life is available in Australian cinemas from March 22

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures 

 

Movie Review – The Boss Baby

An extremely energetic film with not much substance.  Bring the kids, but be ready to browse your phone.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Cody Fullbrook

Imaginative only child, Tim Templeton (Miles Christopher Bakshi), has his life thrown into chaos when his new baby brother (Alec Baldwin) is dispatched. Not born – dispatched. He investigates the decreasing love for babies in this modern age; a deceptively real issue nowadays, and one which could have been handled more genuinely if the baby wasn’t, you know, wearing a suit!

When talking about any movie, it’s important to know that the audience is easily grasping its message.  The Boss Baby’s message is simply “love is important”.  A passable moral, at least when paired with an engaging story, but the problem is that the concept of love is never explored here.

We’re constantly made to feel stressed about our two protagonists stopping the villain (Steve Buscemi) from making people love puppies more than babies, but it’s unclear as to what exactly is going to happen if they fail to stop him. And if they succeed, all they’ve done is prevent the villain’s plan to catalyse the problem. Not cause it. So, even when they win, the issue still exists.

The Boss Baby’s length and pacing is fine and, while never terribly confusing, Tim and the baby’s actions to achieve their goals are just as vague as the goals themselves. Astral projecting pacifiers, immortality milk and a team of Elvis impersonators all progress the story in appropriately comical ways, like all comedies should, but almost all the tension is constantly sapped from the story when you can assume they’ll have a magical gadget to fix any problem, and that includes literally using Tim’s imagination to beat someone in a sword fight.

Alongside the hysterical image of a baby having Alec Baldwin’s voice, the worlds Tim creates is the highlight of The Boss Baby, easily rivalling the colourful energy of Inside Out and The Lego Movie.  In fact, after seeing all the film’s bizarre events mesh seamlessly with the vibrant imagery in Tim’s head, I assumed The Boss Baby would have a reveal similar to The Lego Movie, where the plot was simply the active imagination of an innocent child who, in his own way, learns how to handle having a baby brother. But, no. There was a rocket ship filled with puppies, a skateboarding bodyguard in a dress and babies come from a factory in the sky.  These things all happened. That is reality. Accept it.

For better and worse, The Boss Baby is just plain silly.  Its lively animation and humour make it a fine movie for children and maybe even young teenagers, made even better with the terrific chemistry and voice acting between Bakshi and Baldwin. Older viewers, however, will find the message and overall plot less than substantive.

The Boss Baby is available in Australian cinemas from March 22

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Crazy Star Wars Theories

Cody Fullbrook

Whether it’s Boba Fett surviving the Sarlac Pitt, Han Solo having a wife or the last member of a skinny robot quartet hacking into the second Death Star, Star Wars has an ocean of stories buried in the expanded universe.  Since many of these stories have been wiped clean and stored in the legends category, it has given the universe a degree of narrative flexibility, opening the floodgates for many fan theories.  Here’s several of my favourites.

What If…Jar Jar Binks Was A Sith Lord?

“You know, I find that Jar Jar creature to be a little odd.”

It took a surprisingly long time for the idea Darth Jar Jar Binks to even appear.  The prequels were well over a decade old before Star Wars fans toyed with the concept of the bumbling gungan covertly manipulating the minds of those around him, covering his malicious intentions with his infamously silly persona.

The “evidence” of this are key moments in Episodes I and II, mostly involving subtle lip and hand movements, alluding to Jedi Mind Tricks.  These are easily boiled down to casual gestures and character designs that coincide with his general alien goofiness, but also consider that it was him who convinced the senate to provide Chancellor Palpatine with Emergency Powers, allowing the construction of the army sleeper agent clones.  Combining all the pieces together paints a very malevolent picture of the floppy eared klutz.

What If…Obi-Wan And Padme Were Secretly Dating?

“She seems to be on top of things.”

Attack Of The Clones is a mixed bag for many Star Wars fans.  I’m sure I’m not the only kid who watched Obi-Wan’s investigative adventure while fast-forwarding Anakin and Padme’s romantic scenes.  Remember; nothing wins a woman’s heart like pretending to get trampled to death, mass murder and casually advocating for a dictatorship.

Although not even slightly hinted at, viewing the prequels as if Obi-Wan and Padme are in a secret relationship adds immediate depth to their actions, most effective of which is Padme’s realisation that the two men she loves are going to kill each other and it’s all her fault.

What If…Luke’s Second Lightsaber Was Qui-Gon Jinn’s?

“Ah, yes.  A Jedi’s weapon, much like your father’s.”

Many find it confusing that The Force Awakens revealed Maz Kanata possessing Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, but what I find stranger is why so much focus is on one lightsaber when Luke used two?  One was lost with his hand and a green one was then used throughout Episode VI.

A deleted scene from Return Of The Jedi shows Luke finishing his construction of this second lightsaber, but since that footage didn’t make it to the film, a new theory emerged which, I feel, adds a depth to the films that connects them in a quick, simple and beautiful way.

We never get to see what happened to Qui-Gon’s lightsaber after he was jabbed by Darth Maul, and even though it’s a shame Anakin’s lightsaber was sliced away from Luke so soon, given its lineage, this theory repairs that.  Since Obi-Wan died in Episode IV, Luke was never made aware of any other trinkets inside that box at Kenobi’s home on Tatooine, so maybe after returning there to warm up a bit after Hoth, Luke comes across another lightsaber.  A green one.

What If…Mace Windu Survived?

“The oppression of the Sith will never return.  You have lost.”

One of the most prevalent theories within Star Wars is the loser of a battle intentionally failing for a secretly higher purpose.  Mace Windu’s survival of a seemingly fatal fall can only live on in the expanded universe.

Considering the theory of Mace Windu avoiding a messy splattering onto Coruscant’s chrome street floor, he joins characters like Grievous, Dooku and Asajj Ventress, who can do little but play within the cracks of the movie saga, resulting in stories that must be intrinsically less interesting than the films, lest they accidentally overshadow them.

Windu’s story has the potential of being extremely solemn, serving as a fly-on-the-wall perspective, with a lone Jedi observing Order 66 and forcing him to hide away from it all without hope.  He would live a short, nomadic life and die a quiet, unceremonious death.  Honestly, it’d make a gritty comic book.

The timeline of Star Wars covers thousands of years and there are stories covering every nanosecond of it. Star Wars may never truly end as much as it’ll simply re-invent itself, allowing interesting theories to rise and fall.  For now, let’s just keep wondering who Snoke is. Face it. You’re probably all wrong.

Image courtesy of Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

9 Films To Look Out For This Oscar Season

Rhys Graeme-Drury 

Ah, awards season – the time of year when everyone becomes an expert on red carpet dresses and pretends to know the difference between sound mixing and sound design.

All kidding aside, the latter quarter of 2016 and early 2017 promise to enthral us with some particularly juicy cinematic gems, and to help demonstrate I’ve picked nine movies that you should keep your eyes peeled for over the next few months.

Hackshaw Ridge
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving
Genre: Drama
Release: November 2016

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Mel Gibson
’s 2016 renaissance continues with his return to the director’s chair in Hacksaw Ridge. A gritty WWII drama that recalls the extraordinary true story of an American field medic (Andrew Garfield) who saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot, Hacksaw Ridge is Gibson’s first directorial effort in over a decade and could signal his return to the elusive awards season winners circle.

Filmed right here in Australia, Gibson’s film received a standing ovation at its premiere at the Venice Film Festival and is filled with a host of talented Aussies like Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths and Sam Worthington. Buoyed by positive reviews, could Hacksaw Ridge follow in the footsteps of award-winning war films like Saving Private Ryan and Flags of Our Fathers to scoop a handful of Oscar nominations?


Arrival
Director: Denis Villeneuve 
Starring:
Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker 
Genre:
Sci-Fi
Release:
 November 2016

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Making its debut at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews, this acclaimed sci-fi is set to send French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve stratospheric. The movie follows Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who is drafted by the US military following the arrival of a fleet of monolithic alien spaceships.

Villeneuve has been overlooked by the Academy thus far (2015’s Sicario being a notable snub) but Arrival has been generating a lot of buzz on the film festival circuit, particularly concerning Adams’ central performance and Villeneuve’s work behind the camera. Expect this one to pop up in a lot of the technical categories.


La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons
Genre:
Musical
Release: December 2016

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Pop quiz – what’s the one thing that Hollywood loves more than sequels and ringing cash tills? If you guessed ‘prestige pictures about the film industry’, you’re right!

Hollywood goes loopy for films about films; I mean, just look at recent Best Picture winners like The Artist, Argo and Birdman. It should come as no surprise then that Damien Chazelle‘s new movie La La Land is getting rave reviews from all corners of the web and is hotly tipped to scoop up all sorts of statuettes come Oscar night.

La La Land sees Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone partner up once more for a smooth, sweeping romance set against the backdrop of studio-era Hollywood. Stone has already won the Best Actress Award at Venice and the film scooped the People’s Choice Award in Toronto. This one could have the legs to go all the way to a Best Picture win.


Loving
Director: Jeff Nichols 
Starring:
Joel Edgerton, Ruth Neggs, Will Dalton 
Genre:
Drama
Release:
January 2017

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Jeff Nichols already blew our minds earlier in the year with soaring sci-fi road movie Midnight Special; now he returns with an all-together more heartfelt and personal love story in Loving.

Starring Australia’s Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, the film follows Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who’re sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence in 1950’s Virginia following their outlawed marriage to each other.

However, rather than following the Supreme Court case in minute detail, writer-director Nichols has endeavoured to showcase a more imitate side of the story by focusing on how discrimination and prosecution affected the day-to-day lives of Richard and Mildred. Reviews have thrown around superlatives such as ‘gentle’, ‘stirring’ and ‘understated’, making this something of a quiet underdog in an already chock-a-block awards season.


The Birth of a Nation
Director: Nate Parker 
Starring:
Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller 
Genre: Drama
Release: February 2017

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One of the most talked about films this awards season is The Birth of a Nation – and not for all the right reasons either. After emerging as the talk of the town at Sundance, this drama about a 19th Century slave revolt, which is co-written, co-produced, directed by and starring Nate Parker, has since been overshadowed by rape allegations from 1999 against Parker.

The subsequent handling of said allegations hasn’t done the film any favours, but if we attempt to separate the art from the artist, The Birth of a Nation can be considered a timely and poignant examination of America’s past that could still factor into awards season this year. Whether Oscar voters see it that way is another story entirely…


Silence
Director: Martin Scorsese 
Starring:
Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver 
Genre:
Drama 
Release: 
February 2017

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Set in 17th Century Japan, Silence follows two Portuguese priests facing persecution and violence whilst searching for their mentor and propagating Christianity. If that sounds like a drag, consider this – it stars Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield. Still not convinced? What if I told you that Martin Scorsese directed it?

Okay, now you’re listening. Truth is, we don’t know much else about Silence. Aside from being a passion project of Scorsese’s for the last 20 years, the whole production has been kind of quiet (pun intended), and even though it’s slated for release in February next year, we still haven’t seen a trailer! Plus, the film hasn’t been touring the festival circuit.

Nevertheless, I’ve included it on this list because, y’know – Scorsese. Hopefully we’ll learn a little bit more about the movie in the coming weeks.


Jackie
Director: Pablo Larraín  
Starring:
 Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Greta Gerwig
Genre: Biopic
Release: TBA

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After stepping away from the limelight for a few years, Natalie Portman is now eyeing up her second Best Actress statuette with her starring role in Pablo Larraín’s heartrending biopic about Jackie Kennedy.

The Academy sure does love a good biopic (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and The King’s Speech are recent examples that spring to mind), so Jackie shouldn’t face a lot of opposition when it comes to racking up those sweet, sweet nominations. Not only that – Jackie Kennedy is a tragic icon of American history and by all accounts Portman brings her to life with aplomb, cutting a strikingly forlorn figure on the screen. The supporting cast pulls in the likes of John Hurt, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch and Richard E. Grant.


Moonlight
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris
Genre: Drama
Release: TBA

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Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is an ambitious film that follows an African-American man who is struggling with staying true to himself, as well as the challenges of coming out to his family, across three periods of his life.

Starring the likes of Trevante Rhodes (who plays adult Chiron), André Holland, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, Moonlight has been garnering praise as it tours the northern autumn festival circuit, screening at Telluride, Toronto, New York and London.

Billed as “a timeless story of human connection and self-discovery” this could be one indie gem that has enough momentum to chug all the way to the centre stage of the Dolby Theatre. Although it doesn’t currently have an Australian release date, the first quarter of 2017 would be a safe bet.


Fences
Director: Denzel Washington 
Starring:
Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson
Genre: Drama
Release: TBA

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Denzel Washington has made the move back behind the camera for his third directorial effort in Fences. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the film follows a retired baseball player (also played by Washington) who now works as a garbage man and is struggling to provide for his family.

Adapted from an acclaimed stage production, the film focuses heavily on race relations and the evolving African-American experience in 50’s America. Both Washington and co-star Viola Davis starred in a 2010 revival of the play, making their familiarity with the material an encouraging sign. Davis even took home a Tony Award for her work on the project. Put all this together and you’ve got an early lock on both Best Actor and Best Actress nominations, possibly even a shot at the Best Director category for Washington.


Images courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, Roadshow Films, eOne Films, 20th Century Fox, Transmission Films, A24, 

4 Films That’ll Make You Shed A Tear… Or Twenty

Josip Knezevic


Do you feel like you need to take a moment, let it all go and bawl your eyes out? Well, you’ve come to the right place! These four films are guaranteed to delve deep into your human side and touch your emotions like they’ve never been touched before. And with that melancholic introduction out of the way, let’s get on with the list. In no particular order…

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

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Dear Zachary takes the cake as one of the most powerful yet underappreciated films. Written and directed by Kurt Kuenne, this is the saddest film I have ever seen. I don’t want to mention anything else and risk giving it all away, but running at only 90 minutes, this movie will truly take you on an emotional rollercoaster. The fact that it only took $20,000 at the box office is an injustice to the film community. Thankfully, it’s on Netflix now so you have no reason not to see this film – that is unless you don’t want to die a little bit on the inside. A tremendous film and one of those rare 10/10’s. Go see it.


Her (2013)

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There’s a reason why Her won the academy award for best original screenplay; it’s a film that is well ahead of its time. Centred around the life of a lonely, introverted man (Joaquín Phoenix), Her explores his new love with the world’s first artificial intelligence operating system. Anyone who refers to this film as the one about the guy who falls in love with his computer, is simply downgrading it to a level that is unworthy of the greatness of writer/director Spike Jonze. It deals with relationships from every aspect, and you’ll feel like you’ve experienced the full highs and lows of one by the end of it. I love everything about this movie from its futuristic landscapes to its way of making you feel the present.  Another 10/10 film.


Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

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Grave of the Fireflies by writer and director Isao Takahata comes from one of the best production companies in the world, Studio Ghibli. Although almost 30 years old, Grave of the Fireflies still holds up as a serious tear jerker. The premise is based on the lives of two children in the final months of the Second World War in Japan. Yet again, set at only 90 minutes long, this film doesn’t stray away from its dark subject matter for a moment, and whilst seemingly appearing as a children’s film, it is far from it. That’s all I’m going to say about it to avoid spoiling it further.


Mommy (2014)

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Written and directed by promising Canadian filmmaker, Xavier Dolan, Mommy tells the story of a mother struggling to control her delinquent teenage son. Shot with a handheld camera, in a 1:1 aspect ratio, the film represents a completely unique experience; one that doesn’t serve as a pretentious work of art striving to stand out. The reason behind Dolan’s choice to shoot in such a ratio becomes depressingly clear throughout the film. It’s a very smart choice, in fact, everything in this film feels smart and fully realised to the point where you almost wish it wasn’t because the outcome is brutal to watch. Even if you think you can see something coming, the next second you’ll be proven wrong. A beautiful film with powerful performances from its three central actors. 


Images courtesy of Sony Pictures, Sharmill Films, Madman Entertainment & Oscilloscope  

Can Netflix beat the Hollywood studios at their own game?

Netflix and Amazon are drastically changing the film distribution system. Could it spell disaster for the old guard?

Rhys Graeme-Drury

Something seismic occurred at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year; for the first time, the biggest players with the deepest pockets weren’t the usual studios like Fox and Weinstein. No, this year it was streaming services like Netflix and Amazon that made headlines by forking out tens of millions for a raft of independent films, outbidding the traditional powerhouses and firmly announcing their arrival onto scene.

No longer satisfied with outclassing most TV networks with high-quality shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Narcos, Netflix and their US-based rival Amazon Prime now have their sights set on beating the major film studios at their own game, threatening to turn the industry on its head in the process.

At the festival, Amazon outbid Fox and Universal by forking out a whopping $10 million for Manchester By the Sea, a drama starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams that is already tipped to be a strong contender come the Oscars. Meanwhile, Netflix bid $20 million for Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation. They lost out in the end to Fox, but the fact that they got involved in the bidding war didn’t go unnoticed; Fox’s winning bid was the largest in Sundance history.

At the moment, most films (like Birth of a Nation) will still choose to go the route of a traditional theatrical release, but Netflix and Amazon’s increasing eagerness to muscle in on awards season does beg the question of how this will impact the industry five to ten years down the track.

The upside is that independent filmmakers are finding it easier to get their movie in front of global audiences. Properties like The Fundamentals of Caring (which stars Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez and Craig Roberts) and Tallulah (Ellen Page, Allison Janney), which were scooped up at Sundance this January, have already been available on Netflix for months. Furthermore, access to these new release movies isn’t hidden behind a premium paywall; they’re all included in a standard Netflix subscription.

Beaming directly into millions of homes across the world, these independent films find themselves in a win-win situation. They scored a deal that recouped their production costs and are available to be streamed at any time, anywhere by umpteen subscribers. Score one for the little guy, right?

However, how does this trend impact more mainstream cinema? Probably not a great deal at this stage, but it certainly raises the question – at what point are we going to see blockbuster films make their debut on a major streaming service? How long is it going to be before a tentpole film, like a Jurassic World or a Jason Bourne, forgoes the theatre entirely and seeks a larger audience at home on Netflix?

Bear with me here, because that might seem like quite a leap – but think about it. We’re at the stage now where a major studio film opens every fortnight, sometimes two or three in the same week. Naturally, some of these are going to bomb – and hard. This year alone we’ve had Warcraft, Ghostbusters, The BFG, Independence Day: Resurgence and Alice Through the Looking Glass (amongst others) all flunk at the box office, struggling to find an audience amongst crowded multiplexes. Could these movies have fared better if they’d steered towards streaming, or even split the difference by going both routes?

Be honest, what sounds more appealing – a cosy night on sofa with your significant other or a costly jaunt to the local movie theatre? One is filled with blankets, candles and all the comforts of home; the other sees you standing in queues for ages, forking out for tickets and snacks and, worst of all, being forced to deal with the general public. Who wants that?

Even if it seems unlikely right now, this hypothetical future is a worryingly real proposition that could spell doom for cinema owners and the major studios. That being said, cinema chains aren’t going quietly into the night. The increasing prevalence of VMAX (or Cinemax) screens with Dolby ATMOS surround sound and Gold Class theatres are their answer to this quandary; bigger screens, a more immersive experience and an inviting domestic setting is striving to make the movies a more attractive option for film fans.

Bringing this back to my original point, I don’t think it’s going to be too long before Netflix, Amazon or even their Aussie equivalent Stan are going to be producing blockbuster movies that are unmissable and eagerly anticipated.

Cast your mind back to where they were five years ago; an exclusive political drama starring Kevin Spacey seemed like a quaint novelty at the time, but now Netflix and Amazon’s original programming rivals HBO, AMC and FX. If they can challenge those guys, who says they can’t take on Hollywood at it’s own game too?

Image courtesy of Netflix Inc. 

Movie Review – Storks

Following the success of the Lego Movie, Warner Bros. Animation Group continues to soar.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Chantal Victor

Nicholas Stoller’s most recent film Storks is far beyond what I expected from the man who brought us Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek. Under the wing of Warner Bros, Stoller brings us a beautiful animation that shows the true joy a baby brings to a family.

We all know how babies are brought to a family, right? A white stork finds a tiny human and delivers them to their expecting parents in a blanket. As easy as that. Well, imagine a world where the storks decide to become the next local post office and babies are no longer the usual parcel.

Tulip (Katie Crown) was the last attempt at delivering a baby to a set of parents. Unfortunately, her homing beacon gets destroyed, leaving her as the only human in a stork-run business up at Cornerstore.com. She has worked in the factory her whole life, but as her 18th birthday comes near the boss wants to get rid of her. Junior (Andy Samberg), the top delivery stork, struggles to fire her and instead shifts her to another department. Meanwhile, the Gardners are a lovely family with everyday struggles. Their son is always fighting for their attention and his solution is easy: order a baby brother. Tulip finds the order, leading to a great adventure.

At first I was a little concerned with how the storyline would keep all audience members interested for 89 minutes, but the child-filled cinema kept laughing and tearing up right to the last minute. The film balances some great funny moments, with the complications many families face in today’s life; from parents being too busy to spend time with their children, to how siblings can possibly fill the void.

Having not heard of this film until very recently, I went into the cinema with no expectations and was able to sit back and enjoy it. Although not quite the next Pixar craze, Warner Bros has brought us a decent slice of entertainment. It’s a fantasitc film for the kids these school holidays, or just a light-hearted, happy movie for adults, if that’s what you’re looking for!

Storks is available in Australian cinemas from September 22

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Top 5 Depp-Less Burton Films

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Tim Burton developed a storytelling language in the 1980s that quickly consumed his films. He employed visuals that were immediately striking but also lingered in our minds. His characters, often disempowered and lonely, lived in worlds that sought their demise. To live in a Burton film was to live in constant isolation, entangled in a visual style that sent chills to the bone.

He collaborated with Johnny Depp on eight movies, forging a professional partnership as recognisable as Leone and Eastwood, or Kurosawa and Mifune. As Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children approaches, however, I look back on the Burton films over the years that have found their way into our collective consciousness by leaving Depp out of the picture.

5. Frankenweenie (2012)
Starring:
Charlie Tahan, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara

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I would be remiss not to include a Burton stop-motion production. Stop-motion has been around as early as the 1900s, and fuelled the special effects of action classics like King Kong (1933) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), but Burton’s uncanny marriage of the morose and finely-tuned physical craftsmanship pioneered a fresh flavour of entertainment.

Frankenweenie, his latest stop-motion effort, is both endearing and morbid (a dog actually gets run over by a car). It harkens back to the golden age of Hollywood monster movies and finds the right notes to bring it down to a level comfortable for kids. It may not be as seminal as Corpse Bride (2005) or Burton’s creative brainchild, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), but Frankenweenie can be admired simply for its dedication to puppetry perfection.


4. Batman Returns (1992)
Starring:
Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito

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Infinitely darker and more intense than its predecessor, Batman Returns is also clumsier and more camp, featuring a Penguin (Danny DeVito) who somehow learns English and violence from a colony of waddling birds, who grow up to be terrorists. But this moody sequel is wicked fun, almost bordering on horror territory.

Like Batman (1989), the film doesn’t work as a Bruce Wayne biography – we never learn how or why he chooses to become a superhero – but its images are unforgettable. The towering Christmas tree in downtown Gotham releasing a swarm of bats. The Penguin bouncing and jiving in his remote-control Batmobile. Michelle Pfeiffer’s fetishistic bondage costume and customary whip. If the first film established the arena, this one dumbs the characters down and amps up the atmosphere.


3. Beetlejuice (1988)
Starring:
Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton

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Beetlejuice
can be considered the genesis of Burton’s vision; a dark, grisly supernatural gimmick combining stop-motion with grotesque imagery, three short years after the suburban whimsy of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. What starts off as a genial romance between Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis quickly degenerates into a series of props, costumes and visual trickery. Heads pop off. Eyeballs fall out. Backyards are replaced with vast desert dunes. It all looks fantastic.

And that, I suppose, is the point with Beetlejuice. Content with a boilerplate screenplay that didn’t favour human emotions, Burton focused instead on creating scene after scene of innovative and screeching designs, aimed, of course, to scorch themselves in the back of our minds. By the end of the movie, we are branded, and not just by the memory of Baldwin and Davis as clueless ghosts, but by Michael Keaton’s astonishingly vulgar turn as one of Hollywood’s most treasured demons.


2. Big Fish (2003)
Starring:
Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange

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Quiet. Powerful. Tragic. Big Fish means different things to different people. Either you hold its hand and allow its family drama to drag you down with it (as it did me), or you admire it from a distance and lament Burton’s lack of visual energy. There’s much to treasure in the designs of the characters, to be sure, but Big Fish tells a story that’s broken at the heart and in desperate need of mending. Its visuals aren’t the point.

There’s a hint of Life of Pi (2012) about its ways. The film tries to reunite a son with his estranged father via a string of outlandish – and repeated – fables about the father’s life as a young carnie. Either you believe them, or you choose to put your faith in the whispered words of truth. Big Fish isn’t as ambiguous as Pi, but its firm grasp on the dynamics of family is what punches you hard in the gut. If you allow it.


1. Batman (1989)
Starring:
Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger

09-september-depp-burton-batman
If Beetlejuice was the genesis of Burton’s trademark style, his 1989 adaptation of Batman is the racehorse that breaks for the finish. Before Batman, everyone’s idea of the caped crusader was Adam West waving a finger and instructing kids to remember their geography. The film noir detective of the comics was lost. Batman does away with the geography and the campy underwear and reintroduces a harder, more troubled hero.

Bound by twisted edifices and an overall feeling of claustrophobia, Burton’s Batman is unequivocally damaged. Michael Keaton brings both Bruce Wayne and his alter ego some much needed humanity, and reassures us that under that cowl breathes a man, not a public service announcement. Add to that a sparkling performance by Jack Nicholson as a Joker that’s actually scary and you’ve got a formula that works even today. It lacks a proper origin story, but one could certainly argue that without Batman, Henry Cavill might’ve had to share Batman V Superman’s poster with Adam West.


Images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Roadshow Films, Chapel Distribution, Sony Pictures 

Hooked Takes On CinefestOZ 2016

Chantal Victor

Sit back and imagine the best party you’ve ever been to, mixed with your favourite film of the year. Add in some beautiful landscapes and a road trip, and there you have it… CinefestOZ 2016! I don’t think I’ve had this much fun while being so busy in such a long time! I know CinefestOZ is that one festival that gets talked about every year, but I never seem to make my way down south to attend because I always have enough excuses not to go. Well, this year I made it my goal to go, and believe me, if there is one event all film lovers should attend its Cinefest!

The festival runs from a Wednesday to Sunday with the Gala evening on the Saturday night where the winning film of the $100 000 prize is announced. This year’s winning film is Girl Asleep, which is certainly a weird film, but once I got to sit in conversation with the creators, everything started to make sense. The festival also delights itself in premiering ground breaking films, and this year I was lucky enough to get a seat to the world premiere of Pulse, an independent Australian feature film about a gay disabled teenage boy who changes into the body of a beautiful woman so that he can be loved.

Even though it rained throughout the weekend, there wasn’t a time when people weren’t either lining up to make it into a cinema or chatting enthusiastically in the foyer about the most recent film they’d seen. As soon as I thought I’d take a quick break and grab lunch I’d catch myself buying another ticket for the next screening. Popcorn became a staple in my diet. One of those unplanned tickets was for the Sydney Film Festival Finalist documentary Zach’s Ceremony, a beautiful film about a boy learning to transition from boyhood into a man, in both the modern world and his ancient culture. The audience got to see a glimpse of the traditional ceremony Zach had to take part in to become a warrior within his culture in loving honour of his grandfather.

My favourite film at Cinefest was Hotel Coolgardie, a very raw documentary of a remote pub in Coolgardie which receives a rotation of foreign travellers every 3 months who work as bar maids to replenish their travel funds. The documentary follows two Finnish girls and how they cope in the outback. At times, I honestly feared for the girls’ safety throughout the film and I didn’t want to look. It sheltered the audience from nothing and made us feel like we were a part of it.

I only got down on Friday night and missed out on all the industry days where aspiring filmmakers got to chat to industry experts, but I managed to squeeze everything out of the festival right to the very end at a side bar at Caves House with a few short films. The South West is a beautiful backdrop for such an eventful week with amazing food and friends. I cannot wait to drive down next year and see what CinefestOZ 2017 has to offer. See you all next year!

Top 5 Dialogue Driven Scenes

Corey Hogan

What makes a movie memorable? Different parts of films seem to stick with people for different reasons – usually it’s the charming characters, the mesmerising visuals, the resounding music or the emotions brought to surface. But while one-liners and catchphrases are commonplace, it’s only while watching a film that we can place ourselves in the middle of a conversation and feel like we’re actually there listening in.

There’s an added tension that permeates the air in most film conversations that gives their dialogue a compelling edge. Here are five scenes that utilise dialogue in a creative and visionary ways to serve their respective films. Note that these are the standout scenes in films predominantly driven by dialogue; there’s plenty from genres all across the board that offer incredibly gripping communications.

Annie Hall (1977)
Director:
Woody Allen
Starring:
Woody Allen, Diane Keaton & Tony Roberts

08 August - Dialogue Annie
Woody Allen seems simply incapable of putting away his typewriter. He’s written and directed a new film almost every year without fail since 1977, and though he’s had towering highs and staggering lows, his obsessive psychoanalysis of the chemistry between a man and a woman has always poignantly deconstructed the way we speak to one another when attraction is in the air. None has done it quite so perfectly since  Best Picture winner Annie Hall.

In the film, Alvy Singer (just one of Allen’s many neurotic Jewish New Yorkers) reflects on his failed relationship with the insecure and somewhat ditzy Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The most inventive instance of dialogue comes when Alvy and Annie sit atop a balcony, sipping wine and awkwardly getting to know one another. Strictly speaking, it’s a very natural sounding exchange between an unacquainted man and woman that expertly captures the nervous jitters and blurts. It’s an intelligent contrast of the rapid-fire thought process that circulates our minds against the talk we often spew without thinking in an effort to impress someone we like, and Allen is all too aware of how these ungainly conversations play out.

The balcony scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLblwVUEHyw

Hunger (2008)
Director:
Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham & Liam McMahon

08 August - Dialogue Hunger
Empty bellies and smeared excrement fill the Maze Prison throughout the 1981 hunger strike endured by its Irish Republican prisoners to become the centrepiece of Steve McQueen’s deeply challenging debut Hunger. With initial protests foiled by the relentless brutality of the prison guards, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) leads his fellow captives in an epidemic of starvation as an act of sacrificial faith and devotion to their Nationalist Catholic convictions. Naturally the situation becomes grim and distressing, but McQueen’s filmmaking artistry finds the beautiful in the bleak; particularly when Sands opens his mouth – not to eat, but to unfurl some words and wit.

Though it’s less dialogue-impelled throughout than the other films on this list, there’s a mammoth chunk of Hunger that takes the cake – a near half-hour long stretch dedicated purely to the conversation between Sands and a priest (Liam Cunningham), disputing the morality of the strike. There’s a stunning 17-minute uninterrupted take while the two rattle off each other, the priest trying his best to sway Sands from his suicidal mission.

The morality debate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq0SETWIO8U

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Director:
Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth & Michael Madsen

08 August - Dialogue Dogs
The name Quentin Tarantino immediately brings to mind eccentrically groovy soundtracks, highly visceral violence and gore, and of course incredibly iconic, ingenious (and almost always expletive-laden) dialogue. In fact, you could ultimately rationalise every Tarantino film as a string of scenes consisting of long, suspenseful and venomous conversations/monologues punctuated with sudden extreme carnage – which would be undermining their depth and impact, obviously. Each of his films has a dozen scenes that could easily make the cut here, but it’s his explosive debut Reservoir Dogs that introduced us to his unique brand of wicked wordplay for the screen.

And surprisingly, the urgent arguments and chaotic showdowns following the botched heist that make up most of the film are overshadowed by the opening scene – a somewhat calm, completely ordinary diner spread, where the ‘Dogs’ drink coffee and discuss a handful of trivial topics, including the true meaning behind Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. It’s seemingly extraneous, but weirdly fascinating; plus it successfully sets up the characters, prompting call-backs and making more sense as events unravel.

The diner scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyR4RK0LA_E

The Social Network (2010)
Director:
David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield & Armie Hammer

08 August - Dialogue Social
Another master of giving linguistics a prodigious presence on screen, Aaron Sorkin made his name creating and writing some of the most intelligent, relevant and socially conscious television shows in history (The West Wing, The Newsroom). He teamed up with David Fincher in 2010 to deliver his magnum opus – The Social Network, the stunning true tale behind Facebook’s conception and all the legal issues, betrayal and treachery along the way. The real people involved would object to its factual basis, and Sorkin later admitted that much of it was highly dramatised – but when it’s cinema this compelling, who really cares?

It’s a film stuffed to the brim with dynamic dialogue that never once ceases to maintain attention and interest, but the best example again has to be the scene that opens the film. We meet our maker Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) on a date night with his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), landing in the middle of a debate over SAT’s and final clubs. Erica becomes flustered by his simultaneous discussion of multiple topics, and then promptly dumps him when he insults her without realising it. It brilliantly sets up the genius of the marvellous monster that is Zuckerberg, and is one of the very few scenes that humanises him enough to rationalise his cold backstabbing as an inability to empathise, or possible mental disorder.

The breakup scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlXwTxpC6u0

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Director:
James Foley
Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin

08 August - Dialogue Glen
The greatest film ever made about the business of sales (yes, even better than Death of a Salesman) also ranks as one of the finest films driven entirely by dialogue. Directed by James Foley from David Mamet’s award-winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross follows four floundering real estate salesmen struggling to reach their targets on the dud leads they’ve been handed. When their manager reveals that the top two sellers will be awarded the promising Glengarry leads and the rest face sacking, the men turn to desperate measures – including a plot to rob the office. It’s the first film to honestly portray the many routines and deceptions used by real salespeople, and the harsh reality they face as a result of their failure.

It’s utterly captivating from beginning to end, with countless brilliant conversations and exchanges unfolding in a mere handful of settings, but anyone who has seen it knows it’s crowning scene – Alec Baldwin’s singular appearance (and possibly the most memorable of his career) as the serpent-tongued motivator sent in by the company owners to motivate the staff into crushing their sales. Admittedly, much of it forms a monologue, with only a few lines from the bewildered workers here and there, but it’s truly one of cinema’s most powerful scenes, unleashed in a tornado of curses and abuse.

“Always be closing!”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEg8TFxVLF4

Other dialogue driven films worth watching: 12 Angry Men, My Dinner with Andre, Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight, Night on Earth, Coffee and Cigarettes, Locke and many more.


Images courtesy of MGM Home Entertainment, Chapel Distribution, Dendy Cinema, Sony Pictures, Umbrella Entertainment, Roadshow Films & Icon Film Distribution