Piranha 3DD Trailer

From the looks of this trailer, ‘Piranha 3DD’ is going to be more gleefully insane than expected.

This time around the chlorine-adapted killer fish are residents in a water-park filled with big breasted models. And David Hasselhoff is there. As is Ving Rhames, who now has guns for legs.

There’s so much disbelief to suspend here, but I’m really having the hardest time getting past the whole hot chicks hanging out at a public water-park thing. I’m sure they know people who own pools.

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The Muppets Movie Trailer

Well, this is what all cinephiles have been waiting for: the latest Muppets film.

From the trailer, it looks surprisingly interesting, more or less. Sure, the involvement of Jack Black doesn’t exactly scream “integrity,” but their premise seems cute and likable, much like the furry characters themselves. Sure, there are some chickens doing a musical rendition of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck Forget You,” but beyond that, it maintains a timeless quality that its predecessors had.

Also worth noting is a late appearance by Chris Cooper, who I desperately hope is reprising his role as the violent closeted homosexual from ‘American Beauty‘.


“We Need To Talk About Kevin”: Discussion

Scottish director Lynne Ramsay returns after almost a decade recess with a deeply upsetting adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s prolonged waterboarding session of a book, ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin.’ Thought-provoking and emotionally draining, it’s a powerful rumination on the difficulties of parenthood in the face of tragedy. It focuses on the day-to-day life of Eva (Tilda Swinton) as she struggles with memories of her son from Hell and deals with the aftermath of his violent actions.           If you’ve ever wanted to see a toddler express pure contempt, this is your film.

Exploring maternal ambivalence and mental disturbances, Ramsay’s aggressively rendered narrative is bathed in scarlet symbolism, using the colour red as both sign and signifier – a harbinger of danger, a portent of the blood that will inevitably be spilled and an indicator of both shame and sheer rage. The colour seeps through the fabric of the film in almost every scene – during a mass public tomato fight in Spain, a paint-bomb attack on a white house, Kevin’s making of messy jam sandwiches, and the presence of Warholian soup cans in the background during an unnerving encounter at a supermarket. In this regard, it feels like a student film with its over-the-top metaphors becoming running jokes for the audience. A film that’s already so bold in so many other ways doesn’t need to be so heavy-handed.

Nevertheless, Tilda Swinton more than compensates for this fault. It’s her most empathetic yet exhaustive piece of acting thus far, manifesting every feeling with subtle physicality and humility. Each muscular twitch and contraction of her pupils conveys the fear and distress stirring within her as she lives with what has happened. Ezra Miller’s portrayal of the elder Kevin is not as potent or perfectly pitched, seething perhaps with a little too much malice, whilst father-figure John C. Reilly gives a performance of consummate John C. Reilly-ness. I didn’t quite get the sense of a plausible family here, but maybe the casting represents the alarming ambiguity and domestic dysfunction that’s at the heart of the novel. Tilda Swinton certainly wipes the floor with them all – unsurprising given that the film appears to be playing out inside the dark recesses of her own mind through nightmarish visions and half-remembrances. At times it’s like being shown the most miserable family album in human history.

It’s too early to tell whether this film will attain the cult resonance of Ramsay’s earlier films (‘Ratcatcher’ and ‘Morvern Callar’). Maybe it’s too blunt, too on-the-head, too hermetically sealed to require repeat viewings. That said, ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ is still a powerful beast. This is a thrilling and frequently discomforting piece of cinema which proves beyond a doubt that Ramsay is one of the more original film talents that the UK has to offer, and I certainly don’t want to have to wait another ten years to talk about her next film.


“The Skin I Live In”: Banderas dares us…

After each Pedro Almodovar film, I make the same mistake; I think he has exhausted the list of sexual taboos to explore. Instead, his latest melodrama plunges the plot into a further epidermal of viewer’s comfort zones: transgender surgery.

Antonio Banderas plays a plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, who is fixated on developing a revolutionary technique in skin synthetics. The experiment involves Elena Anaya, who is locked away in his home under voyeuristic observation. For a quick impression, here’s the trailer – Please note, it does not have any dialogue or spoilers, but it does feature the best vacuum cleaner ever.

This is the antidote to films like ‘Hostel’ and ‘Saw’, where the pleasure is supposed to come from the gory reprisals and/or blatantly gratuitous violence perpetrated by the villain: here Almodovar shares a laugh with the audience at how preposterous that form of entertainment is, instead of taking the opposite approach, as in Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny Games’ of repeatedly breaking the fourth wall in order to slap us all on the wrist for passively accepting Hollywood’s use of glorifying violence.

This new critique of fetishism from Almodovar, however, succeeds where others have failed by celebrating the malevolent machinations behind it and presenting the villain as a true anti-hero, a victim of his own paranoia and obsession. It teems with overtones of Oedipal drama, and the film becomes more of an exploitation of the exploitation genre, side-swiping the tension with an all-too-familiar brand of irreverence.

You might have noticed how I’ve barely mentioned the acting. That’s because it wasn’t great. You see, character is a collision of philosophies. That is why realistic dramatization of human struggle is so difficult. You must first manage the collision and then tackle the schizophrenia of results it produces, rather than simply charting the course of a single idea safely through a series of sensual scenes. The latter is, unfortunately, what Antonio Banderas follows in the film alongside Elena Anaya and others. To criticise the work of Almodovar feels much worse than kicking a stranger in the face, but it’s almost as if his cast looked at the screenplay after signing the contract. It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for veteran Marisa Paredes, though, who must’ve thought, “Oh, how will I portray a gagged mother masquerading as a servant, who watches her son (resplendent in a cat costume) rape a genetically-modified female captive of her other son’s?” No, really. It’s probably something you’d expect to see on The Jeremy Kyle Show in 2056.

Of course, the juxtaposition of Spanish sun and carnivals with surgical procedure lends a certain surrealism that we come to expect with Pedro Almodovar. However, it lacks the quirky, dark humour that made his previous films so enjoyable. Instead, it seems to lean towards a somewhat camp, over-the-top tone which really hijacks the dialogue (at one point Marisa Paredes shouts, after relating the lifestories of her two unbalanced children, “I have insanity in my entrails!”) Sadly, the film doesn’t quite reach the heights of ‘All About My Mother’ or ‘Bad Education’, but it still remains an intriguing commentary on the body as a work of art. It’s always worth the ticket price to see any Almodovar film as his impeccably-written narratives are always a whirlwind of ideas going back-and-forth with rare insights into the human condition. Alas, this film was more of a gentle breeze on a Sunday afternoon (with helpings of incest and rape, naturally). Then the ending, which I found most disappointing, tidily brings us back to the present as we witness the post-story lives of the character/s in an uneven flash-forward that perhaps tries too hard to hit any note of poignancy. But even these final missteps are made with such care and passion by one of Europe’s greatest directors that in the neon nothingness of Oxford’s Ultimate Picture Palace, ‘The Skin I Live In’ glistens like an oasis of non-neon somethingness. Back in the day, we used to call it storytelling.


Aronofsky’s latest project emerges from the waters…

It’s been officially announced this week that Paramount and New Regency have agreed to partner and provide funding for Darren Aronofsky’s new biblical epic, ‘Noah.’

Since early June, Paramount has been in a fierce bidding battle with 20th Century Fox to partner with New Regency. So it seems that it takes less time to build an ark and survive a biblical flood than it does to close a production deal like this. Also, John Logan (best known for his ‘Gladiator’ screenplay) is rewriting the script by Aronofsky and Ari Handel.

Obviously no casting has been announced yet, but Christian Bale’s name (as ever) has been floated around. Without a big A-lister, it’s unlikely the film will set sail. We’ll just have to wait to see who snags the role. Ryan Gosling’s beard-watch begins… now!


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Trailer

Losing a parent in the 9/11 attacks is an outright tragedy, but in the new film ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ it becomes even more heart-breaking when that adult is Tom Hanks. He seems like such a cool dad.  Al Qaeda will pay in blood!

I hope this isn’t just a cheap Hollywood cash-in on a national disaster. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, who has churned out scripts like ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, which delve too deep into sentiment in a way that hijacks the narrative arc. But we can only judge so far the trailer (overtly manipulative by their very nature), and the concept does seem interesting: a child dealing with the loss of a parent through the power of legacy, not denial. For example, he searches five boroughs of Manhatten in hope of finding the lock to which the mysterious key his Dad left behind fits. Of course, this only appears plausible because his Dad’s two-time Oscar-winning Tom Hanks; he’s so polite even his name abbreviates to “T.Hanks.”

When his son shows him a pebble though, he says “You rock!” in the trailer. C’mon, is that it? Nothing else? Is that the limit of Hollywood’s wordplay?

Here’s my alternative:

“You want cheesy geology puns? Give me a minute, son. I’ll dig some up.

*clears throat*

It’s so nice to see my child with such a solid foundation.

*silence*

From your stony expression, I can tell you didn’t like the joke.”