Director Wolfgang Petersen’s latest entry in the territory of Hollywood blockbusters that have served him so well during his years working in America is a return to the sea-based disater film with which he stormed the box office with The Perfect Storm in 2000. Then the story was based on a true account of a terrible storm trashing a fishing boat and Petersen effectively generated some empathy for the doomed sailors. Now, for Poseidon, the story has also been told already: in the form of 1972 Oscar-winner The Poseidon Adventure (Ronald Neame). However, Petersen fails to provide much excitement this time, preferring to serve up an increasingly dull series of set-pieces and an even duller selection of heroes.
Well it is time for another summer of expensive productions vying to clean up at the box office with spectacular results. There is the usual glut of action epics, but also a fair few more interesting pictures among the Hollywood studios’ releases. Zap! BANG! takes a look at the story so far and what’s lined up for the first part of the summer.
It’s fair to say The Last Stand has become one of the most divisive films in recent years. The absence of series director Bryan Singer (who could not resist absconding to direct his dream project Superman Returns (2006)) and the rumour of one or two shock twists has lead to a mixture of apprehension and excitement. Now that the film has arrived, it continues to split general audiences and fanboys alike in much the same way as the arrival of a miracle mutant cure has divided the characters in the story. The result leaves a rather sour taste in the mouth. There is much to enjoy, but for every riveting action sequence and nifty special effect, there is an abandoned storyline or the sidelining of a character we had grown attached to.
Finally, J. J. Abrams was announced, which most of us thought was, well, nice. His creation of TV hits like Lost and Alias may have boded well for those of us who wanted a return to the complex, gadget-filled, super-spy antics of the original, but he was far from a tried and tested director. More good news was to come, however, in the shape of an excellent trailer and the announcement of a superb supporting cast including Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishbourne, Billy Crudup (Big Fish (Tim Burton, 2003)), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point (Woody Allen, 2006)), Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)) and (mouth-wateringly) Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the villain.
All the elements seemed to be in place: the return of an actual IMF team sorely lacking from M:I 2, the promise of a complex plot with the presence of Abrams and, as evidenced in the trailer, an upping in the action stakes. And has it all paid off? Mostly, it certainly has.
Why are people so scared of Paul Greengrass’ United 93? Are they afraid of being confronted with the painful memory of the terrorist strikes on September 11, 2001? Are they anxious that it’s going to pledge allegiance to political agendas not their own? Are they concerned it’s going to distort the facts surrounding the day more than the government and media already have? I was, for the most part, worried that it’s going to be a bad Hollywood movie, capitalizing on the tragedy of the worst day in recent American history.
The Salisbury International Arts Festival in England returns at the end of May with a host of arts events covering literature, film, theatre, music and more. The Festival’s main theme this year is ‘relate’ with an artistic focus on storytelling which is reflected across all the events. Here Zap! BANG! takes a look at the festival’s films, each drawing on this year’s Aboriginal Cultural Showcase.
Horror has become the genre of choice for many production companies as the movies do not cost a lot to make, yet have the potential to earn big bucks from bloodthirsty teen audiences. Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005), Saw II (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005) saw sub-$5 million investments balloon into $50 million and nearly $100 million returns in the States alone so it is the wise man’s choice to make a fast dollar or two. So Silent Hill’s $50 million budget might seem reasonable when you consider that it is a popular video game adaptation with an excellent premise and in the horror genre. It is all a case of what could have been.
Fresh from the tired mind of writer/director Peter Sturridge bounds Lassie, yet another remake of an old TV series attempting to cash in on the nostalgia of old audiences and in doing so creating new audiences in the younger generations. However, veering away from the original American TV series Lassie is given an English makeover as the loyal dog of Joe (Jonathan Mason), a 1930’s Yorkshire lad who’s father has just lost his job in the coal mines.
Writer/director Paul Weitz takes a swipe at the ego-inducing producers of reality television and the incompetence of a certain Whitehouse resident in this satire that is as composed as arriving at a funeral in your underwear, and then finding you were at the wrong funeral in the first place. Dreamz simply takes the most obvious references to popular culture today and feeds it into a blender to create a messy, confusing and downright unfunny picture.
When the Wayans brothers ran out of steam after Scary Movie 2 (Keenen Ivory Wayans, 2001), it was left to new writers and director David Zucker of Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker) to inject some life into the franchise. They certainly did, bringing in just over $110 million at the US box office alone, and now return for more of the direct parodying of recent horror hits and Hollywood blockbusters the last film favoured over spoofing golden oldies.
Laurent Lucas plays Marc, a talented singer/performer who has a strange allure over the women in his audience, a gift that tends to present him with more problems than benefits. After performing a show in Southern France he travels down to his next venue for Christmas, only to find his truck breaking down on a lonely road in the deep South. Fortunately he comes across local dimwit Boris (Jean Luc Couchard) who takes him to a nearby inn run by Bartel (Jackie Berroyer). Marc then finds himself stuck at the inn for a few days with the simple warning never to go down into the village.
A teen comedy adaptation of William Shakespeare’s gender-bender Twelfth Night may seem like an accident waiting to happen but, fortunately for She’s the Man, the light-hearted comedy capers will raise the same faint smile as the daft title. In this modernisation, hot shot footballer Viola (Amanda Bynes) arrives at school to discover her team has been cut due to a lack of interest from the girls. Since her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) will be away for the first two weeks at his new boarding school, Viola gets a male makeover to try out for the boys football team at Sebastian’s school. If that is not complicated enough, Viola falls for her unknowing roommate Duke (Channing Tatum) who is in love with a girl that fancies Viola-as-brother-Sebastian. Misunderstandings abound in this silly but amusing fluff.
Here it is then, the sequel that Sharon Stone’s career has been screaming out for, to get her back in the headlines and cinemagoers back into the cinemas. Well this is definately the biggest release since the acclaimed Casino (Martin Scorcese, 1995) but the impact on her credibility is more likely to resemble that of her recent disaster Catwoman (Pitof, 2004).
Tsotsi is not director Gavin Hood’s first film, although it’s probably the only reason most of us have heard of him. The South African film just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, which makes it small fry no longer and stamps a fairly high expectation on it. Unfortunately an expectation a little too high. The film is by no means bad in fact it can be engaging, it just seems to lack something like a real message instead choosing to meander around through several ideas with no real definition.
Race is always brought to the fore in a Spike Lee film, however with Inside Man his talents for telling often very personal stories are mapped onto a genre movie to make what would have been a routine heist thriller into a more engaging tale that crosses ethnic border without getting bogged down with moral messages. It is, after all, aimed to be thrilling.
Hollywood got political last year with several ‘serious’ films that went on to win Oscar recognition. V for Vendetta binds the political with action, but was denied a release alongside such thought-provoking hits such as Syriana (Stephen Gaghan) and Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney) when its November release was delayed, rumoured to be because of the London bombings in July. Its narrative use of Guy Fawkes and the gun powder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament were perhaps too contensious so soon after the London terrorist attacks — certainly disappointing for the marketing department. While that may have been cause for concern for the distributors, what should also have been preying on their minds was how silly the whole film is even if its graphic novel roots are taken into account.
Buck began his foray into directing with a small college project that exploded into a fully functioning production involving a professional crew who were willing to work for nothing and a budget of nearly £4000. Smokescreen (2004), a psychological drama concerning a man who has a crippling fear of cigarettes as a result of a dark childhood, became Buck’s calling card and led to his involvement in the production and post-production on a number of other projects. Now, however, Buck is taking on the responsibility of organizing this new documentary on Peter James’ life and work, a task that includes tracking down a number of famous interviewees and shooting in countries such as Germany and Canada. Even when the filming is completed, Buck still has to convince film and television companies to hop onboard and supply additional finance to complete it.
Horror lends itself to being remade over the years with sequels, remakes and spoofs continually rehashing the same material over and over again because it is still finding a relatively popular place among audiences. The Ring and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are two of the more distinguished horror films that have been remade recently, and now Wes Craven’s 1977 ‘classic’ gets a new lease of life. Should this be an exercise actively encouraged at the cinema? Well if its aim is to supply gore fans with a regular dose of blood and axes to the head that keeps them happy, The Hills Have Eyes is fulfilling a worthy tradition.
Unapologetically confronting its history head-on, this “Australian Western” (as it has been termed) takes a classic age-old dilema (a man has to kill his older brother in order to save his younger sibling) and plants it on the backdrop of racial tension and the fragile formulation of Australian identity. Consequently, director Hillcoat and writer Nick “Bad Seeds” Cave (who previously collaborated on Ghosts of The Civil Dead (1988) have fashioned a superb rendering of the time with a totally engaging story and refreshingly subtle characters.
Political films have become all the rage in Hollywood recently with The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005) and Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney, 2005) finding popularity among audiences and winning over critics with their portrayals of politicians doing wrong. Here Clooney is again involved in a film that tackles the subject of the oil industry and the corrupt attempts by big corporations and governments to control the extraction and distribution of oil from the Middle East. Based on a non-fiction novel by Robert Baer, writer/director Stephen Gaghan has swapped the truth for fiction in what becomes a interesting but vaguely unsatisfying movie that fails to achieve what it seems to want to do.
After being roped into the hugely successful action based glamorama that is Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), soon to be the Pirates trilogy, it makes a thoroughly nice change that director Gore Verbinski should take time out of his busy schedule to make a strange, quirky and lower budget indie film that seeks to impress by content rather than charming good looks and minimal narrative.
Well, Lucky Number Slevin avoids that well-trodden road in favour of the twisty, mistaken identity story, but seems to have learnt from Ritchie’s mistakes. In effect, it bends over backwards to help the viewer understand the plot intricasies that you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe it trying too hard to win approval. It is that darn nice.
Shock, horror, Crash was the surprise package of the Oscars for the films of 2005 as it tied with three other films, including hot favourite to sweep the board Brokeback Mountain with a win for Best Picture, Editing and Original Screenplay. Zap! BANG! scored a not-bad-at-all 13 out of 19 in the categories predicted, getting it right for most of the major prizes. See below for a full list of winners and reaction to a night that left many with raised eyebrows as the final announcement saw the underdog claim the top prize.
Anyone familiar with the Senator Joseph P. McCarthy era of the ‘Red Scare’ in America during the Cold War will be aware of the tension his witchhunt against Communists caused. As America battled out a war of political manoeuvring with Russia after World War II, at home the main cause for concern was the activities of possible Communists attempting to disrupt the American way of life and overthrow its Capitalist ideology. In hindsight there was no real threat from these ‘Reds’, but at the time scaremongering had made it practically illegal to be a Communist in America.
Oscar night looms this Sunday. Over the last month Zap! BANG! has brought you its predictions for the main categories, now it presents a run down of the rest. Check back next week for a full list of winners, and how our predictions compared.