Hilleke’s Movie Preview – end of 2009

Earlier this year I optimistically listed all the films I was was looking forward to seeing this year. Some of these we have now seen, and mostly enjoyed (Watchmen, Milk, Benjamin Button, and especially Coraline). Others, like Up, we are still anxiously waiting for, although much of the rest of the world has already partaken of the Pixar magic. Dr Parnassus (29th October) and The Lovely Bones (11 Dec) are also due out later this year, as is Where the WIld things Are (11 Dec). Some I sadly lost interest in as time flew by and film-going budgets shrank (Vicky Christina Barcelona, W.). But a few other films have since appeared on the edge of my radar and are, I think and hope, worth mentioning.

Mike has already written a detailed review of Moon, a throwback to traditional sci-fi, ala Alien or Bladerunner, directed by first-timer Duncan Jones (yeah yeah, he’s David Bowie’s son, but I think soon enough he’ll be a name to remember in his own right, if he continues along this track at least). Sam Rockwell spends three long isolated years alone on the moon, slowly going crazy, with only Kevin Spacey’s voice (as computer GERTY) for company. ‘Nuff said. Brilliant old-fashioned sci-fi/suspense/drama. We’ve already seen it obviously, but as it will be traveling the art-house circuit for a few months yet I thought it worth adding to the list! If in doubt, watch the trailer (go on, click on large!)

A film getting a lot of attention from various note-worthy internet reviewers (aintitcool, Empire and Roger Ebert have certainly become the ‘go to’ sites for movie reviews) is The Hurt Locker. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, known for Point Break (amongst other cult hits) and once being married to James Cameron, this is the film to watch out for come Oscar time. While it is destined to be an arthouse film, it sounds impressive, and will hopefully get the audience it deserves. The story follows a bomb disposal squad in current day, war-torn Iraq. Not the safest job in the world, the drama and tension easily build, and the situation gets to some of the squad. Roger Ebert’s review is worth reading for more info – he’s actually seen it, I just hope to sometime soon. The inevitable comparison to Transformers 2 has been made; Transformers 2 received the most support from all 4 branches of the US military of any film ever. And when asked about it’s realism, a US general replied that if the world were attacked by giant transforming robots that is exactly how the military would respond. In contrast, The Hurt Locker, which received almost no help from the military, depicts a very real situation. No glamour or heroics for the stars of this film, it’s all sand, sweat and damned scary situations. It sounds like one of those painful to watch, edge of your seat, no break to pee in movies which will haunt you for days or weeks after. Can’t wait!

District 9 is obviously a biggie. Produced by Peter Jackson after his project with newbie film director Neill Blomkamp, Halo, fell through. District 9 is based on a short film made by Blomkamp, available on youtube, called Alive in Jo’burg. Aliens land on earth, but the leaders of their hive-like society are all killed and so the drone-type population are at a loose end and don’t know what to do. They have the technology and ability to destroy humans but lack the leadership. So they get interred in apartheid style camps in Johannesburg, where humans taunt and interrogate them. MNU agent, van de Merwe, gets to know the aliens a bit better than he would like.

Looks amazing, effects are – as always when it comes to PJ – brilliant, and it has a interesting story and story-telling technique. Even the website is pretty cool. It even had a 100% positive feedback rating on Rotten Tomatoes, until troll-critic, Armond White, gave a predictably bad review (see here the whole saga, and see here the list of films White does and doesn’t like – you can make up your mind whether he’s nuts or just messing with people). And yes, several of my friends/former colleagues were involved in the production so I might be just a little biased. I’m not saying it’s ‘the best film ever’ yet, but I am excited about seeing it.

A slightly less serious but curiously interesting film, Julie and Julia, is coming out soon. Based on the book of the blog based on the book of cook(?)/author Julia Childs. The trailer shows two parallel stories – one of Julia Child who follows her diplomat husband to Paris, where she takes up cooking lessons as a hobby. The French are appalled at this American woman’s lack of grace, skill, etc as they would be in the 60s/70s when this took place (and probably still would be today). But she fumbles through the lessons and at the end of it writes and publishes her hit book on Mastering the Art of French Cooking – now unsurprisingly on the bestseller charts after 40 odd years. Cut to the 2002 where New Yorker Julie Powell finds her life unfulfilling, and decides to embark on a year long mission – cooking every one of Julia Child;s recipes in one year. And writing about it. This was back when blogs were a fairly new concept (and not flooded with muppets like me sharing every boring detail of their lives and or opinions!). A pretty tough challenge on a good day/year and bound to result in many humorous, inspiring and possibly poignant situations. Trailer looks good. Even the boys at aintitcool like it, so it can’t all be silly chick-flick drivel. Plus I’ve found a newly undeveloped desire to learn to cook, so this may yet inspire me! Hope it’s playing on the flight home next week 🙂

Another short film to gain enough notice from the right people (TIm Burton and Russian director Timur (?) are good names to have on your call sheet) is ‘9‘. The short is available on youtube and is now being developed into a feature length film. It’s a touching animated tale of a professor who creates 9 puppets each with a part of his soul in them to protect humanity from complete extinction (at least that’s the way I read it). Crazy Bosch or steam-punk inspired machines roam the earth seeking the last traces of humanity and attempting to destroy them. The flimsy stuffed dolls seem no match for these evil devices. The animation is stunning – watch the short film to get a sample – and the online viral campaign has very passionate followers (see facebook group). It’s one to watch out for.

A wee bit further into the future, but starting the promotional drive already, is Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (March 2010). Predictably it stars Burtons’ best-friend-for-life-Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter) and wife-Helena Bonham-Carter (Red Queen), but also attracted a couple of British comedy acting talents; Stephen Fry (Chesire Cat), Matt Lucas (Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle Dee), American Anne Hathaway (White Queen), and newbie Australian Mia Wasikowska as titular Alice. The film apparently combine Lewis Carroll’s two Alice novels – Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland, and features a teenage Alice returning to Wonderland after loosing all memory of having been there before. So far only production stills and promotional shots of the cast have been released, but the crazy costumes and combination of talents are enough to whet my interest.

I’m sure I’ve overlooked plenty of exciting films coming out soon (I haven’t even mentioned the new Twilight film…), but this should at least keep me going for a wee while. Any thing else worth looking out for will, of course, be added to the blog in due course. In the meantime, enjoy your popcorn!

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