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Good 3D v Bad 3D & An April Fool's Joke

  

I hope everyone has had a fantastic long weekend.  Mine’s been pretty good – plenty of golf and plenty of movies.  Plenty of sleep too.

 

Clash Of The Titans – Good Movie Or Good Marketing?

 

Clash Of The Titans was the number 1 movie at the box-office in the United States with an estimated take in the States is around $61m.  I believe it’s also top in Australia but am just trying to confirm.

 

So does this mean it was good film?  Absolutely not!  I saw it last Thursday night and couldn’t believe the laughter coming from the audience during some parts of the movie.  The “ease your storm” line will go down in movie folklore as one of the worst.

 

I don’t think I’m in the minority with my assessment of Clash Of The Titans but the film is hanging in there with a 6.8 out of 10 average grading on the Internet Movie Database.  31% of critics have also given it the thumbs up on Rotten Tomatoes (which may sound low but it’s still surprising given my own thoughts).  I’m just trying to point out that there are some people who have liked it.

 

I sound like a broken record but there are times when I just can’t understand what goes through the minds of the public.  There are plenty of other good movies in release at the moment.  Why is it that a film like Clash Of The Titans can do so well?  Is it because of all the TV advertisements, movie trailers and posters?  Is it because people are still going ga-ga over 3D?  Is it because it’s being sold as a huge action blockbuster and that’s what people want to see on the big screen these days?  Maybe it’s a combination of all of these reasons.  Maybe there are other factors I’m not thinking of.

 

Good 3D v Bad 3D

 

When I walked up to ticket counter at the Event Cinemas in the Myer Centre on Thursday night, I asked for one ticket to Clash Of The Titans.  I was then told the cost was $20.  That my friends is what’s called a “rip off”.  My normal discount card gets me in for $8.50 at the Myer Centre but no such discounts are on offer for any 3D movies.

 

Many months ago, I wrote about why cinemas need to charge more for 3D.  The projectors are extremely expensive and they have to recover their costs somehow.  It’s the movie studios themselves who end up with the majority of the takings.

 

My main beef is not with big cinema chains (at least not this time).  I’d gladly pay $20 to see a 3D movie… provided that it gives you a 3D experience!  The two best examples I have this year are Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon.  These two movies were always meant to be in 3D and were filmed as such.  They take full advantage of the format.

 

In contrast, there are movies like Alice In Wonderland and Clash Of The Titans.  These movies were originally shot in 2D and had the 3D added later on using special effects.  You can tell the difference.  With Clash Of The Titans, the 3D adds next-to-nothing.  There were no scenes where I sat back in my seat saying “wow”.  Warner Brothers is just cashing in on the gimmick.

 

The only thing that irked me about the cinema I went to is that the 2D version was not offered.  If you do have a desire to see Clash Of The Titans let me strongly suggest you save your cash and find a cinema which is showing it in 2D.

 

With more and more studios trying to ride the 3D bandwagon, I hope this doesn’t become commonplace.  My plea to studios is that if you want to make a 3D movie then plan it that way!  Don’t use it as a “bolt on” during post-production.  The public will wise up eventually… or so I’d like to hope.

 

You can read more on this in a better written summary from the great film columnist Anne Thompson right here.

 

Leading critic Roger Ebert has been much more critical of the 3D format.  He recently said that “3-D is a distracting, annoying, anti-realistic, juvenile abomination to use as an excuse for higher prices.”  I disagree in that some films are better in 3D (e.g. Avatar) but I respect his opinion a great deal.

 

An April Fool’s Joke

 

My weekly review spot on 612ABC Brisbane happened to fall on 1 April this year.  Spencer Howson came up with the idea of reviewing a fake film to see if we could “fool” anyone.  You can listen to it by clicking right here.

 

If you don’t have audio, here’s a quick summary of the review that Spencer and I put together before the show…

 

 

I've reviewed some pretty strange movies in my time but I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this.

 

Tunnel Vision is a locally made Brisbane film and I’m always happy to support to the local film industry.  But don’t go expecting a cast filled with household names.  In fact, there’s no actual cast.  There aren’t even any locations!

 

Dutch filmmaker Sloop Lirpa was granted permission to attach a camera to the front of Florence, the boring machine that dug the north-south side of the Clem-7 tunnel.  Filming commenced in December 2007 and went through until April last year.

 

I love a good film score but sadly, Tunnel Vision doesn’t deliver in that department.  The soundtrack is pretty much the constant grinding of the machine.  It’ll really test your patience.  You may want to take own music player to help drown out the noise. 

 

I hate to give away the finale but I think we all know how this is going to end.  Florence broke through at Shafston Avenue on 16 April 2009.  There are bright lights and you can make out the sea of photographers waiting on the other side.  And that’s pretty much it.

 

But what makes this film is its experimental nature.  How long will you be sitting in the movie theatre waiting for the tunnel to bore through?  It is 10 minutes? 30 minutes? 90 minutes? 3 hours?  That’s a secret I won’t reveal.  Like The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense, do see it before someone spoils it for you.

 

I have to admit I almost walked out.  I’m glad I didn’t though.  I had the stamina to make it through and I now feel like I passed a test or joined a club.

 

So yes, this film will appeal to a very niche audience.  See it with friends.  Egg each other on.  Take bets on when the boring machine will break through.  Trust me, that scene is worth the wait.

 

It’s very hard to grade a film like this since we all have different tastes.  Some will give it an A.  Others will give it an F.  So I’ll just have to go with both and give it an A F.

 

 

A few were taken in by the joke.  The weekend presenter on 612ABC, Warren Boland, was keen to get the film’s director in for his own show.  I’m not much of a practical joker but it was fun to do.

 

Oh, and whilst I did also see Clash Of The Titans on April 1, my savage criticisms were NOT a joke.

 

The End Of An Era & Poor Uma Thurman

 

Marge: “Homer, the plant called. They said if you don't show up tomorrow don't bother showing up on Monday.”

Homer: “Woo-hoo. Four-day weekend.”

 

It’s the only time of the year I can use that great quote from The Simpsons.  A 4-day long weekend is upon us.  What does that mean for cinema owners?  Big business!  A whopping 9 cinema releases (by my count) will be released this Thursday.  That’s a smidge more than the 8 we had in 2007 and 2008.

 

It also means that I’ve been very, very busy.  I’ve had a few other things on the go and finally gave up last night suffering from exhaustion.  Was in bed by 8:30pm (ridiculously early for me) and so I missed a preview of the new Coco Chanel movie (out on April 15).  In all, I’ve seen 7 films in the last 6 days.  It’s not BIFF-like but not far away.

 

The End Of An Era

 

When I first developed a love of film, we didn’t have the internet.  I wasn’t aware of the talented film critics of the world who spread the word on what was good and what was bad.

 

There was one exception.  I often watched The Late Show With David Letterman which came on around midnight each week night on Channel 9.  How I loved my uni days.  In bed by 2am.  Up by 1pm.  Happy memories…

 

Anyway, Mr. Letterman’s show introduced me to the world’s most renowned film critics – Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.  Their show (called Siskel & Ebert At The Movies) debuted in 1986 and became a smash hit.  Each week, they argued back-and-forth.  It was like something from The Odd Couple.

 

I loved hearing what they had to say and when the internet arrived in the Toomey household, I read the transcripts from their shows every week.  I’ve got scrapbooks at home of their reviews.  Each film received their trademarked rating – either a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  You could find a huge number of movie posters which simply contain the quote – “Two thumbs up!” – Siskel & Ebert.  They were a brand name and their thoughts meant a great deal to many people.

 

It all changed in 1999 when Gene Siskel suddenly passed away.  Richard Roeper became Ebert’s new partner and they worked fairly well together (although they were never the duo that Siskel & Ebert were).

 

In 2006, Roger Ebert took a break from the show to undergo treatment for his thyroid cancer.  He would never return.  He almost died and permanently lost his voice.  He is still the most highly regarded critic in the world though.  He can’t speak but his reviews and blogs are read by millions on the web.  On Twitter, he currently has over 121,000 followers.  Not bad for a film critic!

 

The show has gone through a number of changes since Roger Ebert departed.  It went through a major revamp in 2008 with two young guys (Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz) brought in as hosts.  They were panned from their first show.  It went through another big change in 2009 with more respected film critics A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips brought in as replacements.

 

Sadly, the ratings were never the same.  And it was announced last week that the show has been officially cancelled.  It marks the end of an era and the final show will air in August.

 

The going has been tough for film critics in recent years.  It just got even tougher.  Another window for knowledgeable film folk to critically evaluate movies has been closed.  I find it hard to believe given that the pathetic Richard Wilkins still adorns our television screens.  His reviews on the Today show each morning (where every film seems to get a good review) irk me like nothing else.  I can barely watch.

 

That said, I shouldn’t be too disheartened because inevitably, things can’t last forever.  Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel and those who have followed in their footsteps on the show have had a great run.  They’ve reviewed plenty of films.

 

If you want to see them in action, here are two reviews which sum them up perfectly –

 

Fargo (in 1996) which they both loved – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbETIZuJgaM – Quote from Siskel – “There won’t be a better film than this.  You called it a masterpiece, I’ll go on and say that too.” 

 

North (in 1994) which they both loathed - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj52wm7l3zg – Quote from Roger – “I hated this movie as much as any movie we’ve ever reviewed in the 19 years we’ve been doing this show.”

 

One lesson from all of this is that you can’t re-create the chemistry that Siskel and Ebert forged.  Even if you take just one of them out of the equation, things will never quite be the same.  It’s like a great movie.  As a director, you may think it’s all coming together but until you sit in your seat at the premiere and gauge the response from the audience, you never know for sure.

 

Hopefully Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton stay on our own screens for a long time to come.  I don’t have the stamina for another depressing tribute piece.

 

Poor Uma Thurman

 

I had to laugh at this story from London over the weekend.

 

The new Uma Thurman movie, Motherood, had an exclusive release in one British cinema.  In its opening weekend, just 12 people went and saw it.  That’s not a typo.  It took in just 88 pounds in its first 3 days.  I hope they bought popcorn to boost the cinema’s takings!

 

The irony is that this negative publicity will generate interest in the film.  It’s no longer showing in UK cinemas (it was pulled after just one week naturally) but it might catch the eye of a few when it appears on the shelves of video stores.  Poor Uma.  I guess she’s not quite the box-office draw she once was.  Pulp Fiction was 16 years ago (also hard to believe).

 

My Ultimate Movie Theatre & A 3D Dilemma

 

It’s been a long week and I’m a little flat so apologies for being a day late with this week’s blog.

 

My Ultimate Movie Theatre

 

I was following the health care reform in the United States over the weekend and it prompted me to do some net searching on the President and the White House.  I’ve always been fascinated by the President’s role and everything that goes with it.  I speak of things such as his security team (someone is always nearby with the codes to disarm nuclear weapons), to Air Force One (which can refuel mid-air if needs be) and to the inner-goings on within the White House and his hard working team.

 

It never occurred to me that there was a movie theatre in the White House but I guess it makes sense.

 

It’s called the Family Theatre and it’s located in the East Wing.  You can view a bunch of photos by clicking here - http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/east-wing/theater.htm.

 

I find it interesting that despite the fact that it’s been refurbished many times, there’s still the four plush seats down the front for the President and his special guests to use.  I love the current look by the way – looks like a classic, old-style cinema.

 

If I ever get lucky and win the lotto one day, I’d love to have a theatre like that of my very own.  Per chance to dream!

 

It’s the golfer in me that is also fascinated by this part of the White House lawns - http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/grounds/putting-green.htm.

 

Box-Office Update

 

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Avatar sat atop the box-office charts in America for 7 consecutive weeks.  It’s total box-office is now $736.9m (beating the old Titanic record of $100m).  Here in Australia, it’s made an even more amazing $111.6m to date.  It made $561,868 last weekend which is hard to believe for a film in its 14th week of release.  Is there anyone who is yet to see it???

 

In my review of The Rebound last week, I wrote about the choice being presented to the Australian public in terms of romantic comedies.  There were two big ones coming out on the same day – The Rebound with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Justin Bartha and The Bounty Hunter with Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston.

 

Sadly, the public went with The Bounty Hunter.  It’s the worst film I’ve seen so far this year but it pulled in $1,380,000 as compared with The Rebound’s $415,000.  Completely ignored was Brothers with a very disappointing $92,000.

 

Despite all the changes in technology, I’m always amazed that people have never lost the desire to go to the movies.  These days, you can watch movies at home or your computer.

 

For the first three weeks of March 2010, the total box-office take in Australia (based on the top 20 films each week) has been $57.6m.  By comparison, the total for the same period last year was just $35.5m.  Cinema owners must be loving it!  I know it can be a tough industry so it’s great to see the public supporting them.

 

3D Dilemma

 

The huge business for Alice In Wonderland and Avatar has created a curious dilemma for many cinemas around the world.  3D projectors are very expensive so many cinemas just have one at this point in time.

 

Last weekend in Australia, Alice In Wonderland was number 1 for the third week in a row with a total box-office of $3.9m.  It’s made a total of $26.1m to date.  That’s HUGE for what I think is a very mediocre film.

 

Anyway, due to be released this weekend is How To Train Your Dragon in 3D.  What are cinema owners to do if they only have one 3D projector?  Do they shelve Alice which is still pulling in big dollars?  I’ll be interested to see the session times in this Thursday’s paper.

 

It must be tempting for cinema owners to splash out and buy more 3D projectors but is this just a fad which will slow down over time?  How many people went to see Alice and Avatar just because they were in 3D?  We’ll find out over the next year I guess with many more 3D releases on the cards.

 

Dragon Week

 

I like coincidences of any kind but I had to chuckle at the two films which are being released this week – How To Train Your Dragon and The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo.  What are the odds on that?  Just two major releases and both have the word “dragon” in the title.  The good news is that whilst they’re very, very different, they’re both very, very good.  Make sure you check them out.

 

Le Festival Du Film Français Commence Cette Semaine

   

The first two months of any film year is dominated by awards talk.  It’s a chance to celebrate / argue about the best films of the year.  Studios tend to release very few big releases at this time of the year also.  They’re saving up for the American summer.

 

We’re now in March, the Oscars are over and it’s time to move on.  The first big film festival of 2010 is about to start – the Alliance Française French Film Festival.  It kicks off on March 17 (this Wednesday) and runs for two weeks.

 

I love my French cinema.  Some of my favourite French films over the past decade include Persepolis, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, The Class, Amelie, The Spanish Apartment, Russian Dolls, The Triplets Of Belleville and The Man On The Train.

 

I even tried taking a few French classes back in 2003.  I only lasted a few weeks but I deserve a pat on the back anyway (at least I tried).  And of all the places I’ve been in the world, Paris is still my favourite city.  Here’s a few snapshots from when I was there in 2004 including me outside the Musee du Cinema (trying to re-enact the famous 1968 student riots illustrated in The Dreamers).

 

Matt In Paris
Matt In Paris

Anyway, back to this year’s festival.  It’s now in its 21st year here in Australia and there are a whopping 43 movies being screened.  For most, this will be the only chance you’ll get to see them in Australia.  A handful will get a limited cinema release down the track but the others will not (as it’s not profitable to do so).

 

Here in Brisbane, the festival is spread across the Palace Centro and Palace Barracks (two excellent venues).  Ticket prices are $16 for adults and $14 for most concessions.  You can get small discounts by buying a 5 or 10 film pass.  A few films are a little more expensive (because they include drinks and/or entertainment).  You can get the full list of films on the website (which details on how to book) at http://www.frenchfilmfestival.org.

 

To make things a little easier, I’ve scoured through the program and have picked out the one film which interests me most from each night.  Below are the blurbs from the Festival website which tell you more about each film.  Hopefully there’s something to tickle your fancy.  If you’re tired of the same old films in your traditional multiplexes, he’s a chance to open your eyes to something new.

 

You can click on each title to find out more and view a few pictures.

 

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Micmacs – 6:30pm Palace Centro ($50 including after party)

 

A thrilling comedy from the director of Amelie centring on a group of misfits as they plan to bring down two big arms manufacturers.  Bazil (Dany Boon) is a man down on his luck following an accident that's left a bullet lodged in his brain, with a good chance that he could die at any moment.  The story of his revenge is populated by a ragtag of characters with unique foibles and abilities.

 

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Legal Aid – 6:45pm Palace Centro

 

An honest young lawyer sees his life radically change when he meets a more experienced lawyer, who will 'educate' him.  But one day, Marsac spills the beans: he didn't take Lahoud on for his legal skills, but because of his uncanny resemblance to one of his notorious clients, and that Marsac's interest in him is far from benevolent.

 

Friday, 19 March 2010

Anything For Her - 6:45pm Palace Centro

 

With a loving, stable marriage of many years, a devoted son and a quiet life in suburban France, life feels supremely happy for Julien and Lisa. Then one morning, police burst in and inexplicably arrest Lisa for a murder she appears to have no knowledge about. Unwilling to endure the time it will take to sort through French bureaucracy and reeling in turmoil, Julien resorts to a desperate plan of action...

 

Saturday, 20 March 2010

LOL – 8:45pm Palace Barracks

 

In text messaging, LOL means "Laughing Out Loud", but here it's also the nickname of 14-year-old Lola, who is returning to school after summer break. It's no laughing matter for her though when her boyfriend reveals that he has cheated on her over summer, leading her to hesitantly move on to his best friend Mael. Meanwhile her divorced mother Anne is secretly again seeing her father. In a world of virtual communication, faceless technologies, and oblivious parents, LOL is a tongue-in-cheek take on female self-perception and relationships.

 

Sunday, 21 March 2010

I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive – 8:00pm Palace Centro

 

Thomas is four years old when his teenage-mother gives him up, along with his infant half-brother, and the pair are adopted by a couple who wish to leave the boys' past well behind them. However, while his brother grows up with no desire to delve into his past, Thomas cannot let go. Unbeknownst to his adoptive parents, he tracks her down, firstly as an angry adolescent taken aback by what he finds – and later as a young adult.

 

Monday, 22 March 2010

No Pasaran – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Maxence Lafourcade, a peaceful single man, raises pigs in the Pyrénées. His life takes a radical turn when he learns that a highway is going to cut through his farm. To confront the mayor and his project, he must join forces with the 'local American', Peter Konchelsky. This retired, cynical lawyer adopts the farmer's cause, while his stunned daughter, Scarlett, looks on. She's an eccentric artist, and in Maxence she discovers an unexpected human model.

 

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Every Jack Has A Jill – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Twenty-six-year old Chloé lives by herself in between an invasive neighbour, a petty-minded colleague and a preachy kind of employee at a DVD rental store. It is a life that doesn't live up to her expectations. And yet a random course of events changes her luck. One day she stumbles upon a suitcase of young American Jack, who has won a vacation to Paris. As Jack is trapped inside his hotel with no money, clothes or French-language skills, Chloé falls in love with his belongings and, feeling fate has brought them together, sets out on a search to find him...

 

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Someone I Loved – 8:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Recently dumped by her cheating husband, Chloé and her two young daughters are spirited away to a remote cabin by her father-in-law, Pierre. Over the course of the night, Pierre shares an important secret with her. He reveals his illicit affair with a woman he met in Hong Kong 20 years ago, and for whom he didn't dare abandon everything, choosing instead a safer and more familiar path. Reflecting on his choice and its dramatic consequences, he attempts to help his daughter-in-law understand and overcome her pain.

 

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Wild Grass – 6:45pm Palace Centro

 

Director Alain Resnais delivers a career-crowning masterpiece with this delightful roundelay, based on Christian Gailly's novel "The Incident", about the fate-altering ripples triggered by a lost handbag.  The purse belongs to Marguerite, a dentist who flies airplanes as a hobby. Georges, an eccentric married man discovers it – and soon finds himself infatuated with the purse's owner, even though he hasn't met her. Resnais observes their elaborate dance of attraction and rejection, hesitation and impulsiveness with all the wisdom of an artist who loves his characters and revels in their misadventures.

 

Friday, 26 March 2010

Father Of My Children – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Film producer Grégoire Canvel has it all – a wife and three delightful daughters he adores and a stimulating job that he's devoted to. On the surface he seems invincible, maintaining humour and charm as he tirelessly juggles the never-ending demands of his company with his domestic responsibilities. But when Grégoire's reserves, financial and emotional, reach a dramatic cracking point, his wife Sylvia and children are forced to cope with the repercussions...

 

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Welcome – 8:45pm Palace Barracks

 

17-year-old Bilal has spent the last three months travelling illegally across Europe in an attempt to reunite with his girlfriend in England. The difficult journey is almost over when he finally reaches the far northern coast of France, and can literally see his destination from across the Channel. But it's here that his journey comes to an abrupt halt. Spurred by his dream, with all legal options exhausted, Bilal decides he'll swim across. Here he meets Simon who impulsively risks everything by taking Bilal under his wing.

 

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky – 8:00pm Palace Barracks

 

The opening sequence sets the film's grand tone by unfolding one of the great artistic scandals in its original venue: the 1913 premiere of revolutionary composer Stravinsky's radically modernist ballet, Rite of Spring, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Seven years later, rendered penniless by the violently negative reaction to his work, Stravinsky accepts the newly successful Chanel's offer to lodge him, his wife and four children, in her new villa 'Bel Respiro' in Garches. And so begins their frenzied liaison, paralleled by revolutionary ideas – the designer's desire to transform women's fashions and the composer's redefinition of musical taste.

 

Monday, 29 March 2010

One For The Road – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Hervé, the head of a press agency, is traveling fast down a road headed in only one direction: self-destruction. He is an alcoholic, and his drinking is wrecking his marriage, family and career. In desperation and still in denial, he checks into a detox clinic in Geneva, his last-chance saloon. There he meets a group of fellow sufferers and one person in particular, a young woman named Magali (Mélanie Thierry), who help him to see life other than through the bottom of an empty bottle.

 

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

In Your Arms – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Louis was abandoned by his mother when he was only a few weeks old. Now sixteen, he wants to know where he comes from and despite the reluctance of his adoptive parents he heads south to find the mother he's never known. Totally thrown by this unexpected visit, florist Solange violently rejects the child she never desired and had forgotten for so long. But Louis perseveres, and in the midst of this turmoil he searches for, and finds himself. Stumbling between obstacles and small victories, a fledgling but luminous relationship develops between Louis and his mother.

 

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Gainsbourg – 7:30pm Palace Centro

 

The Festival's Closing Night Gala for 2010 is graphic novelist Joann Sfar's audacious directorial debut, an amusing and fantastical biopic of the debonair Serge Gainsbourg.  This surreal and evocative record of Monsieur Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino) - iconic singer, poet, writer, actor and general provocateur - traces his youth growing up in 1940s Nazi-occupied Paris, through to his transformation into the hard-living showman, enfant terrible and successful songwriter during three decades.

 

Hopefully I’ll see you at the Festival!