Category Archives: films

What a week!

It has been a super exciting week for the Little Fighter team (Mike and me).

Aside from a rather large and significant gathering of friends which we’re having next week, we’ve made the papers twice this week!
Firstly, the Dom Post covered a safety campaign which we made the video for. Our star, Emma, made the front page with a rather large write up. And to top it off, they showed some of the video in a story on 3 News last night. Combined we’ve had over 6000 views and counting!
Here’s the video, if you’re one of the *six billion nine hundred ninety-nine million nine hundred ninety-four thousand* who haven’t seen it yet:
But possibly even more exciting, is the news today that we’ve been chosen as one of 12 finalists in the Make my Movie competition. With over 750 entries, even making it this far is a huge honour! But, really, we’d love to win it! And to do so, we need your support.
The judges are influenced by public (facebook) support. So if you have a facebook account, please go to this link:
And hit ‘Like’. And if you don’t have facebook yet, maybe it’s time to join up?
Here’s our poster design to give you a taster of what we want to make

Little Fighters’ news update

Well, it’s been pretty quiet on the blog front for us. We’ve had our heads down/tails up working away on Small Blacks TV for the past few months, while tinkering away at a few of our own projects quietly in the background. Now Small Blacks is over halfway through the season (well, technically episode 13 goes to air this weekend, but we’re more than halfway done), we’ll have a bit more time to focus on other projects.

One of these is a series of cycling ‘etiquette’ videos we are hoping to make. We’re applying for funding through a WCC grant which will help cover costs. The goal of the videos is to try to promote safe and responsible cycling behaviour in a humourous and engaging way. We quite like the style of the 60’s PSA style videos which occasionally pop up (there’s a great Harry Enfield spoof titled “Women, know your limits!”). We’re hoping to make a series of videos like this, showing appropriate (or sometimes inappropriate) cycling behaviour. Fingers crossed the funding comes through!

In other news, Mike recently entered his script ‘Te Ara’ (or ‘The Pathway’) in the Pikihuia Writers Awards. He’s just heard that his script has been shortlisted. Very exciting! I have no idea how short the shortlist is, but there are two more stages to get through – finalists are announced end of June and winners in August. The prize is a very tidy $2000 which will more than help get filming underway on his short. So fingers crossed he makes it through!
We’re also in the process of putting together a couple of proposals for Fresh Shorts, which will hopefully get some of these film ideas rattling around in our heads onto a screen somewhere sometime soon!
So that’s what’s keeping us busy. How bout you?

Sucker Punch: 110 minutes I want back

We had a lot of time this evening to ponder what makes a good movie. 110 minutes in fact. The entire duration of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch.

I could just say it’s rubbish and stop there. But there has to be a point to suffering through this film. Perhaps we can prevent others from the same fate. Or even worse, paying to see it (we got free preview tickets – Thanks for the good intentions – we’ll try not to hold it against you.)
There’s usually a reason that a young director’s boyhood dream film doesn’t get made. So when said young director does well with his first few films (300, Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead), and is given free range with his next project, perhaps someone should keep an eye on it. For the love of humanity.
Sucker Punch is the film that a twelve year old boy, who plays too many video games, would come up with as a masturbation fantasy. It is bad on every level. It’s the kind of film that should have been kept in a quiet room with just him and his sock. It even makes his previous work look worse in hindsight.
It starts of with a bit of promise. A rocky remake of ‘Sweet Dreams’ underneath (or over the top of) a montage which shows the main character, Baby Doll (she never gets a real name – that would destroy little Zack’s dream), lose her mother, accidentally kill her sister while trying to defend herself against an evil step-father. I think we already saw this in Lemony Snickett, which Emily Browning starred in seven years ago.
As soon as she arrives at the mental institute we are overwhelmed with a barrage of stereotypes, over-cranked music, flat acting, and a incomprehensible boring story-line. She enters a dream world (thanks, Inception), where she is able to do a hypnotic dance which allures her captors. We never actually see this dance (no budget left for choreography), so are instead taken a step down the dream ladder to ‘battle scenes’. But she does kick ass alongside her fellow-scantily-clad dancer/captives (Coyote Ugly anyone?)
These battle scenes are where Zack Snyder plays out his various dreams of making
  1. a samurai fight film,
  2. a steam-punk WWI film,
  3. a fantasy dragon slayer film and
  4. a futuristic spy-thriller splosion fest.
This may sound kinda cool, but after Baby Doll defeats the first of three bad guys in the first battle, it’s already getting boring. In fact, these are possibly the most boring action scenes I’ve ever scene. The effects were well done. The look, style and editing was fine. Their failing was in the lack of plot, tension, drama, consequences… you know, story-telling stuff).
Let’s back up a level. I like to call this the melodrama, stereotype level. Early on, I complained that the main bad guy was missing an evil moustache which he could dramatically twist. That was in the ‘reality’ level. In the melodrama level, he had a moustache, of course. The evil/tormented female side-kick had compulsory eastern European accent, although was missing an eye-patch. The cliche department dropped the ball there.
The mentor in the battle dream scenes was some kind of mutant hybrid of David Carradine’s character from Kill Bill and Dicky Fox from Jerry Maguire with his husky voice and terrible inspirational mottos; “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” etc. He even had a David Caruso sunglasses moment, although you’d have to watch right to the end to see that, so don’t bother.
It borrows steals elements and stylistic techniques from many recent films. Moulin Rouge, Sin City, Lord of the Rings, Lemony Snickett and pretty much every Tim Burton film. It doesn’t achieve any of them successfully.
It lacks nuance. It doesn’t care about the characters so neither do we. It doesn’t invest in any of the scenes so their destruction is cheap. It lacks depth, passion, drama, tension. It lacks story. Many films these days lack some of these elements, but I’ve not seen any that lack all of them. It is comparable to a bad video game cut scene. All it was lacking was the bonus point graphics.
It may seem like I’m labouring a point, but so did the film. Only twice before have I wanted to walk out of a film (avoid Southland Tales and Pearl Harbour!), and if we hadn’t been sitting in the far right corner away from the exit, this would have been the first time I actually did.
I’ve heard it described by some reviewers as a glorious failure, but I’d remove the ‘glorious’ and leave it simply as a failure.

Save the Hobbit!

In the 90’s New Zealand made about three films of international significance. Only three films made any kind of waves internationally, and then only really at film festivals. They were good films, all made by talented directors; two of these directors (Jane Campion and Lee Tamahori) now ply their trade overseas. One, Sir Peter Jackson, chose to stay in New Zealand. He chose to build a film industry here, rather than take the easy option and move himself to one of the existing hubs. This was a gamble he made to reward those people who supported him on his early ventures. And from what we’ve heard he has always been loyal and generous to the industry – and it’s people – who have helped him build up, what is now known as ‘Wellywood’.

There was never any question, that the cast and crew of The Hobbit would be more than adequately recompensed for their labour. There were never any complaints about working conditions or rates on any of his previous films. In fact, The Hobbit was going to be the first New Zealand film which paid actors residuals – something PJ has fought for. The queue of people vying to work on The Hobbit stretches the length and breadth of the country.
Yet, Actors Equity decided to start a little boycott. And I do think they intended it as a little boycott. I won’t give them credit for wanting to bring down The Hobbit – I honestly don’t think they have the ability to see that far ahead. Of course, they’re being driven by Australian Union head, Simon Whipp. Now, to put him into context, this is the man who a few years ago, lobbied against an Australian director filming an American story in Australia because:
“For the public, both in Australia and outside of Australia, it will be seen as an American film,”
He was worried the Australian actors would have to put on fake accents to get work. Oh dear, I do believe that is called ‘acting’! He would rather his actors get no work, than some work. I wonder if he realises that feature films are fiction. They usually aren’t based on reality. Most actors like to work. Thanks to him their reality is making coffee or surviving on a benefit. But Simon Whipp seems to think that their integrity would be at stake if they worked on a large international film. I’m starting to think Simon Whipp doesn’t actually like the film industry.
He has had death threats from producers (and probably a few kiwis now, too), and has been almost single-handedly involved in destroying the Australian film industry. So why is he involved in this debate (aka the deliberate attempt by an Aussie to bring down good hard-working kiwis)? Well, it seems that the NZ based Actors Equity union joined up with Australian MEAA, headed by Mr Whipp, a few years ago. Since then, they have refused to meet with SPADA (the NZ producers guild) to re-negotiate their ‘Pink Book’ – the book of guidelines for employing actors in NZ. For 18 months now, SPADA have been trying to meet with Equity to revise the Pink Book. According to NZ law, this is the only way to negotiate terms and conditions for actors. But Equity have been lying in wait to make their point heard when the Hobbit was at it’s most vulnerable.
So the Australian snake infiltrates and maims its prey (Equity), then lies in wait for the big juicy target that is The Hobbit. Because this is the real crunch of the matter… Equity don’t know what they want. One minute they claim it’s ‘fair rates and conditions on The Hobbit’, the next it’s ‘industry wide’. And that’s the problem…
You see, Peter Jackson is more than happy to negotiate great and awesome conditions for actors on The Hobbit. But Peter Jackson cannot make decisions for the entire industry. Because outside of Miramar, there are many relatively low-budget feature films being made, who cannot afford to pay their actors the $5000 a supporting role in Middle Earth gets. They can’t offer their cast residuals, because there probably won’t be any! And Peter Jackson knows this better than anyone. He can’t (by law) and won’t (thankfully) make decisions that effect all of us.
So, Equity backed down and said they were after fair rates on The Hobbit. Well, they’re getting paid more than the SAG minimum by quite a bit, and the residuals are better than those offered in Canada and equal to what the UK offers. What’s the problem? Are they worried about how their feet might look big in their hobbit costume? No really, what is the issue here?
I’m not sure Equity knows any more. They’ve backed down from the boycott. Although their unsure when they did that – last night or last week. It’s all a bit vague. But they won’t accept any responsibility for their actions.
And this is where I start to get sad and outraged, because up until now I’ve been quite reasonable.
The Hobbit may be forced to film off shore now. We’re talking about a US$500 million budget. That’s a hell of a lot of money. Most expensive film ever, according to some. (Although technically two films and I’m not sure that accounts for inflation, etc).
So if you’re a global company who has spent two years trying to resuscitate a project into life (the whole MGM bankruptcy really didn’t help) and you’re gambling that kind of money, you’d want it to be a low-risk gamble wouldn’t you? Best option is stick with what you know. This guy, Peter, down in that little country, ‘Nu Zeeeland’ seem like a safe bet, don’t they? But wait, what’s this? Some little union is striking. Hmm, sounds scary. Let’s see if we can find somewhere safer.
That’s what it comes down to. New Zealand is Middle Earth. Has been for the past decade. The safe bet for Warners, is to stick with what they know worked last time. But if that is no longer safe, then they’ll look at other options. This isn’t about them going elsewhere to increase their profit. This is about them protecting their investment. It’s a significant difference. A month ago, the offer of an extra 5% tax rebate wasn’t enough to make them look off shore. Now, with obvious unrest in the kiwi industry, it is enough.
A month ago, they were rebuilding Hobbiton in Matamata. There was no talk of going overseas, no matter how much was on offer. Now, in all likelihood, without some kind of magical intervention (and I’m not just talking about Gandalf here), The Hobbit will go overseas. How can Actors Equity still face up to media interviews and be in denial about their doing? Surely they’re not that dim. Sure they don’t want to take the blame – noone ever does – but at least have the decency to hide in a hole, and at the first opportunity hand themselves over to the dark lord that is Simon Whipp.
These actors have not just risked the location of filming. Personally, I think Ireland was probably alot closer to what Tolkein envisioned for Middle Earth. But what about our industry? A 3 BILLION DOLLAR per year industry! I, like almost every New Zealander, have many friends who were looking forward to working on The Hobbit. Thousands of people, who have been struggling through the past year, waiting for MGM’s problems to be fixed and Warners to give the green light, have had their celebrations cruelly cut short by this boycott. Their jobs, their livelihoods, their homes and careers are at stake here.
Actors Equity represent just 400 NZ actors. Of these, maybe 60 stood a chance of getting some small parts in The Hobbit. Of these, I’d say less than half stand by their leaders actions. Many actors signed the petition saying they did not support the boycott. Many were at last night’s protest march. Very few have openly supported it. But as a whole they have contributed to what may be the loss of thousands of jobs. It’s a real shame that so few can ruin it for so many.
As a friend, who works on The Hobbit, said to us last night “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I don’t think any of us ever thought the NZ film industry – more successful and flourishing now than ever before – was broke. What are they trying to fix?
RIP New Zealand film.
Further reading:

Martin Freeman IS Bilbo Baggins

On the off chance that the crazy ramblings of fans out here on the ether has any actual impact on casting decisions down the road (and around the corner, across the airport and over a small hill), I thought I’d express my – and Mike’s – views on The Hobbit casting.

The decision has most likely been made, but until an announcement is made and at least a third of the film is shot, I think it could still be open to influence (note Mark Wahlberg replaced Ryan Gosling just before shooting commenced on The Lovely Bones).

So who should play the all-important eponymous character of The Hobbit? In my humble opinion, none other than British actor, Martin Freeman.

Rather than ramble at length (which I am prone to do), I shall list all the reasons why it must be Martin Freeman and couldn’t possibly be anyone else (that I know of anyway…)

1. Bilbo Baggins is Very English. You could almost imagine him as a stuffy professor sitting across the pub (The Eagle and Child, in Oxford?) from Tolkien as the first little seeds of Middle Earth germinated in his mind. Martin Freeman is also Very English, having starred in some of the best and Most-English comedy and drama to come from those fair Isles in the past decade (The Office, Love Actually, Hitchhikers’ Guide).

2. Bilbo Baggins is approaching middle age. 50 or 51 according to the ever-relaible Wikipedia (and confirmed by my hazy memory). Now Hobbits don’t age quite as quickly as humans, so 50’s in a hobbit would look like 40’s in a human. Martin Freeman is a rather weathered looking 38, and could certainly pass for Hobbit middle age.

3. He has an uncanny resemblance to Ian Holm, which simply can’t be ignored. If The Hobbit and LOTR’s are to hold their place in many fans hearts as enduring classics, then they must also flow together and fit. Already Ian McKellan has signed on to reprise his role as Gandalf. Ian Holm is too old, so his successor must at least have some likeness. See here:

4.Martin Freeman does flustered like a Hobbit. (Skip to 4’12” if you don’t wish to be charmed and outsmarted by singing dolphins.) Replace his townhouse with a hobbit hole; Stephen Fry’s voice with Ian McKellan’s and a gaggle of bulldozers with a swarm of dwarves and you’re already watching the opening scenes to The Hobbit.

5. He’s available. A quick look on his IMDb page shows he has no films currently in (pre-)production. Keeping his slate clean for a big announcement? We can but hope…
Now, other names have been bandied around regarding what must be the most anticipated bit of casting news this year. James MacAvoy has been hinted at. Daniel Radcliffe quickly quashed. Even Ricky Gervais has been suggested by some (have they not see Stardust – he almost ruined it for me!?)
Lips in the know around Wellywood are tightly sealed, but these two hints have been found on the internet, and as always may be completely unrelated, or may be quite suggestive. James McAvoy has recently dropped out of a film due to start shooting later this year due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ or ‘personal reasons’. Could mean he has something bigger and better up his sleeve?
Secondly, Martin Freeman, I today found out, auditioned for Stanley Tucci’s role in The Lovely Bones. He didn’t get that of course, but old PJ knows of him, knows about him and possibly, hopefully likes him. Fingers crossed!
That’s my two cents worth. Feel free to comment, or make suggestions (which will be duly ignored).

Still alive, still kicking and still watching films…

Well, it’s been a while since Mike or I have posted any film reviews or even film related news. But there has been plenty of news, and we’ve seen a few films – not even close to enough, but some.

Currently we’re working our way through Band of Brothers -a long neglected DVD set on our new tetris shaped DVD shelf – in anticipation of the ‘sequel'(?) HBO’s The Pacific. Before that we finished of season one of The Big Bang Theory and Pushing Daisies (which if you haven’t seen it, you must!). So more TV-show-DVD-set watching than movies, really.
But with awards season behind us, there’s actually quite a few good Oscar and non-Oscar nominated films hitting screens here soon. So all I need to do now, is work out how the hell to find the time to see them all! Here’s a brief summary, hopefully we’ll have some reviews up soon.
Showing now:
Shutter Island – Scorcese. Dicaprio.

Drama is set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island

Looks bloody scary.

Alice in Wonderland (3D) – Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter – I’d be more surprised not to see one of their names there. Also stars Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat and Matt Lucas as the Tweedle twins. It’s an adaptation based on the novels. Should look amazing in 3D. Has had mixed reviews.
Crazy Heart – Oscar winner Jeff Bridges. Not sure if I’ll make it to this one, to be honest. Not the kind of film which usually appeals, but might be pleasantly surprised.

The harder the life, the sweeter the song.
A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him

Boy – Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi’s second feature. Looks pretty darn good. Inspired by his short Two Cars, One Night, it’s a coming of age story set in 1984. Nice website too. Not sure how it’ll do overseas, but check out the trailer:
The Road – Based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which I can’t bear to read, and starring Viggo Mortenson. Does bleak really well, I’ve heard. “A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.”
This Way of Life – The NZ doco which made it to the Berlin Film Festival, and even won the jury prize, has critics raving. Follows the life of a family in Hawkes Bay trying to “build a happy, stable life for their six children and 50 horses while engaging as little as possible with a consumer capitalist world they see as soul-sapping.”
Phew, getting there. It’s a long list. Apologies for having been so slack lately.
Righto. My picks of the World Cinema Showcase 2010:
The Hurt Locker – needs no introduction, I hope. If it does, why are you even reading a film blog? (Mum, go back to your gardening site!)
Gentlemen Broncos – Jermaine ‘Flight of the Conchords’ Clement. Sci-fi comedy. Brilliant.
Winter in Wartime – Dutch film about war. In winter. Could be the low-profile pick of the festival.
A Single Man – Tom Ford’s directorial debut, starring Colin Firth. Raises the question of what a director actually does?
The Box – based on/inspired by a Twilight Zone episode. Looks freaky. Moral dilemas etc. Stars Cameron Diaz. From Richard Kelly, director of the brilliant Donnie Darko and the atrocious The Southland Tales.
Soundtrack for a Revolution – tells the story of the American Civil Rights movement through music. “…pairs modern renditions of freedom songs by Wyclef Jean, John Legend, Joss Stone, The Roots, and others with a retelling of this important moment in history.”

Hilleke’s musings on 2009’s film offerings – almost a list but not quite

Alright, 2009 is over and done with and twenty-ten is well under way. I’ve been staring at my blog draft for The best films of 2009, rapidly renamed to The Top 5 ‘Top 10 films of 2009 lists’ and now living in limbo without a title until I finish writing this post and am forced to make one up.

The idea of making a ‘best films’ list is very tempting, but is also, inevitably, flawed. Because I am not a film critic or even a film reviewer. I don’t get sent along to see films for free, or even paid to see them (wouldn’t that be nice though?). So the films I see come with built-in bias. They’re almost always films that are well-publicized, happen to be playing near me and happen to be playing when I have money to go see them. They also have a slight sci-fi slant to them, courtesy of Mr T who loves watching these on the big screen, are very rarely serious dramas (which we save for watching at home on DVD so we can cry with wild abandon… but then never actually get round to watching because we’re too busy) and tend to be recommended by our favourite reviewers (Harry Knowles for Mikey and Roger Ebert for both of us).
So within these constraints, I shall endeavour to come up with my favourite films of the year, and my list of why-haven’t-I-watched-these-yet? films which should or could also be on the favourites list. My judging criteria are simple: good, fun, original entertainment, or epic adventure, or any other film that sticks well to it’s genre and does what it says on the tin – with some added spark. Basically something that can guarantee two (plus or minus) hours of escapism and leave you feeling better off afterwards – not too hard you’d think?
Okay, so the easy stand outs for me this year, because they’re memorable, obviously brilliant and I’ve seen them recently (old age, memory loss, you know…) are Up and Where the Wild Things Are. Yes, they’re ‘kids’ films but they’re also very much adult films.
Up is the most touching story I’ve seen in a long time, and has amazing CG, it’s beautiful, inspired, inspiring. It makes you want to be a kid again! It’s full of adventure and excitement. Full review here…
Where the Wild Things are does the same but in a completely reversed kind of way. It reminds you how tough it is to be a kid. Yeah the kids a brat… or is he? Maybe we’re just in denial that we were like that too (my parents sit behind their monitors nodding sagely as they read this). It’s tough being a kid – noone understands you, everyone expects more of you than you know and they never spell out what they want. You’re ignored, harassed and lonely… and then to top it all off you have to go do your chores! WTWTA understands this, and adapts the very short picture-book in a way that helps you understand it too. Because despite all the hardships of ‘growing up’ it can also be a wonderful thing – as long as you look for ‘the wonder’ in the right places. Mike puts it into words better than I can in his review, found here.
I might as well wrap up the animated/kids films now with Coraline. Coraline was my most anticipated film of 2009. And although it was brilliant, and I enjoyed it, Coraline is what the above two flicks aren’t – a true kids film. It was criticised for being too dark and scary, but I’d argue that kids can handle dark and scary better than we can. And they understand the line between fiction and reality better than we think they do. So I’d say watch Coraline with your (or someone else’s) kids and you’ll enjoy it. Watch it by yourself and you’ll think you’ve just seen a really good kids film. More from me here.
Growing up now… and moving to NZ.
Avatar and District 9 both get honourable mentions (aren’t they all just honourable mentions?), not just because they were made in NZ, or friends worked on them, but because they’re both good fun entertainment. Well, District 9 gets pretty gruesome at times, but wins me back with it’s originality. Whereas, Avatar may not be a terribly original story it won me over with it’s shear beauty and style. More here for Avatar and District 9.
The two stand out films of the year were Let the Right one in (not technically 2009 but viewed in that period so it counts) and Moon. Both are simply amazing films. They tick all the boxes and then some. Original stories, amazing cinematography/effects, well-acted, haunting and creepy where needed, amazingly memorable and leaving me wanting to watch them again and again. (Damn, I should have made this list before Christmas – I don’t have either on blu-ray yet!).
Let the Right One in is being re-made this year in the US (original was Swedish) and re-titled with the more correct translation ‘Let Me In‘. One to watch out for if you don’t fancy sitting through two hours of sub-titles – although I will frown on you and shake my head disapprovingly if you don’t give the original a go first. It is a testament, however, to the quality of the original that they are willing to re-make it so soon, simply to have it appeal to the rather large market in the US who don’t want to read sub-titles.
Moon director, Zowie Bowie – oops, I mean Duncan Jones, of course – is working on his second feature, a Blade Runner inspired tale set in future Berlin called Mute, which will also be released in the coming year(s). As well as rumours of Moon sequels. Another one to watch out for.
Finally, to end on a more cheerful note, although again technically not a 2009 film, we watched it and went there in 2009 so it will do. In Bruges was possibly the best subtle/dark comedy I’ve seen in a long time. Very well-acted, original and quite brilliant. If you haven’t watched it check it out. It’s not necessariy laugh-out-loud funny (unless you have a creepy dark sense of humour like me) and gets quite bloody, not to mention the foul language (there’s a bonus feature on the DVD highlighting the monotonous vocabulary of some characters), but it’s good fun. Try it.
Honourable mentions go out to:
Milk, Watchmen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Inglorious Basterds, Harry Potter 6(? Is it 6? well, whatever one came out this year. I lose count), and The Hangover.
Special mention to: Rudo y Cursi (which is a small indy Mexican film, worth a watch if you can get your hands on a copy).
Dishonourable mention to:
Transformers 2, Twilight and Angels & Demons – for lowering audiences expectations and giving Mike something to rant about.
Look at me, I could totally be handing out awards at a prize-giving…
And finally the very very long list of amazing (I hope or have heard) films which I haven’t seen but want to:
The Hurt Locker, The Lovely Bones, Away We Go, Men Who Stare at Goats, Zombieland, Paranormal Activity, Coco before Chanel, The Informant!, New York, I love you, Amelia, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Wrestler, Ponyo, 9 (the animated film, not ‘Nine‘ the musical), The Princess and the Frog, The Road, Invictus and Fantastic Mr Fox.
(Consider this a shopping list for future birthdays and Christmases! Mike can probably add a few more to this…)
Righto, I am done. Now I have to think up a title for this post…
postscript of sorts:
For those who want a broader opinion, can I direct you to:

Harry from Ain’t it Cool

If you’re still with me, go back to Roger Ebert for his best 10 films of the decade!

And finally the people (or US teenage film geeks with too much time on their hands) vote over at, who have published their best films of the 2000’s list.

Where The Wild Things Are – Mike’s Review

Wow. Just wow.

Go and see it, if you’ve ever been a lonely kid. Go and see it if you’ve ever been misunderstood or angry for no reason.
You see being a kid is hard. We try to forget that when we grow up. We try to just remember the fun times and the good weather.
But no one listens to you. They’re too busy to play with you. You don’t know what’s going on most of the time and have no control over anything. It’s frustrating and sometimes you lash out for no reason.
Where The Wild Things Are understands this and says, “You know what, it’s ok to feel like that”. Everyone feels sad sometimes and just wants someone to make them feel better.
This isn’t a kids film, it’s a film about being a kid and that’s a subtle but profound difference. It’s made from a kids perspective. So some things don’t make sense, things happen randomly and situations get out of control. And in the the end, even though we may want it too not everything is resolved neatly.
And just like life, not everyone will enjoy this film. Many people in the audience didn’t like it, or understand it. And that’s ok too.
This review’s all jumbled up and messy, just like the film. But I’m just trying to get down how I feel about it and that’s the best thing about this film, how much it makes you feel. It dredged up a lot of feelings, not all of them pleasant.
I haven’t talked much about the film itself. It looks amazing (check out the photo above). The Wild Things themselves are a joy to behold and are an incredible mix of puppetry and CGI.
The acting, both voice and from Max Records (the kid) are awesome and understated.
I don’t want to talk much more about it, just go and see it and take your kids. There are some dark and scary bits in it but they can handle it.
We saw the film as a promotion for an organisation called Square Eyes. There mission is to foster a love of film in children. And to show them good films, not just CGI talking animals (although there is a place for them too). If this is the kind of film they want to show kids then we should all support them.
We’re lucky that this film exists at all and wasn’t made by Dreamworks featuring CGI rapping streetwise Wild Things. We need to reward this kind of film making, so go and see it.

A Serious Man and the Coen’s

Mike and I have a theory about Coen Brothers films – only the even ones are very good. The others aren’t bad – they just tend to be a bit weird. I’ve never really tested this theory, but let’s give it a go.

So working backwards, here’s a list of their films (excluding shorts) courtesy of

  1. A Serious Man (2009) (written by)
  2. Burn After Reading (2008) (written by)
  3. No Country for Old Men (2007) (screenplay)
  4. The Ladykillers (2004) (screenplay)
  5. Intolerable Cruelty (2003) (screenplay)
  6. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) (written by)
  7. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) (written by)
  8. The Big Lebowski (1998) (written by)
  9. Fargo (1996) (written by)
  10. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) (written by)
  11. Barton Fink (1991) (written by)
  12. Miller’s Crossing (1990) (written by)
  13. Raising Arizona (1987) (written by)
  14. Crimewave (1985) (written by)
  15. Blood Simple. (1984) (written by)
Hmm, so my favs are 2, 7 and 9. I quite like 10 and 13, and of course 8’s got quite a cult following. But I guess the theory’s just been rubbished. The one thing that does still apply, though, is that their films are split into two very distinct category’s. There’s the quirky, funny, slightly unconventional ones, like Burn After Reading or Fargo. And there’s the odd, uncomfortable, breaking all conventions ones, like No Country for Old Men. The one thing they all share is very unique and well defined characters. George Clooney in O Brother, Frances McDormand in Fargo, and Javier Bardem in No Country. All very memorable characters, whether likeable or not.

A Serious Man has one of those characters. Several in fact. And it is definitely quirky and funny, but also uncomfortable and breaking many conventions. To explain would be to spoil it. But lets just say it starts and finishes oddly.

In fact to explain much more about the film would spoil the few really good elements. Briefly then: the main guy, Larry, is struggling with his life, family, work – the usual. He needs good advice and struggles to find it. Strange situations ensue, such as the particularly irritating moment when his wife’s new ‘companion’, Sy, grips Larry in a tight bear hug to comfort him about the divorce Sy’s caused. It’s weird and annoying. But also strangely amusing.

There’s moments of Coen magic, but all in all it left me feeling mildly indifferent (not very indifferent or passionately indifferent – you can only ever be mildly indifferent). I enjoyed the film, but couldn’t honestly recommend it except to hardcore Coen fans or film buffs. And I’d even warn them that it’s probably not what you expect.

I’ve probably put you off by now, very possibly made you curious enough to see it. Hopefully made you interested enough to read a bit more about it. If so, check out Rotten Tomatoes for a variety of reviews, or this article on The Guardian about ‘weird one-offs’.

Or check out this trailer, which is strangley appropriate for the film…

Lego Matrix – Awesome!

So it’s been 10 years since The Matrix came out. I can’t really believe that… I still remember seeing it for the first time (yay my memory lasts at least 10 years!) and being completely blown away by it. I still am… even if they did steal the idea from a drunken conversation I had with friends 5 years earlier…

Anyway, here is a lego version of a scene from the film. It’s pretty cool, took 440 hours to make and was released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Matrix. This would make for a great lego video game.