Archive for August 2010

Top 5 Edward Norton Films by Dave

August 11, 2010

Without a doubt, Edward Norton is my favourite actor. I first discovered Norton whilst watch Rounders, a cult film directed by John Dahl surrounding the world of underground high stakes poker. Norton’s acting was incredible and unique; his portrayal of ‘Worm’- formally, Lester Murphy- was extremely convincing. He has a knack for building great rapport with the audience irrespective of his character’s nature in the script- whether he plays  ‘good guy’ or the ‘bad guy’. Let the countdown begin…

5. The Illusionist (2006)

Directed by Neil Burger

The Illusionist Poster In this film Norton plays a distant and complex illusionist. The film first premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and was distributed in limited release originally, before going mainstream shortly afterwards. Dick Pope, the director of photography, earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. Over time, the film easily exceeded its (approx) $17 million budget,  grossing $87 million worldwide and, interesting, performing extremely well in DVD form- earning close to $36 million in rental revenue in the first 5months of release in 2007.

4. Rounders (1998)

Directed by John Dahl

Rounders PosterIn 2003 an ‘amateur’ poker player won the World Series of Poker main event. His name was Chris Moneymaker; he walked away with US$2.5 million. This has been given credit as the official start of the poker boom, as television programs like the ‘World Poke Tour’ gained a massive following- and card games trickled down to clubs, pubs, and gatherings between friends like never before.

During this time, poker enthusiasts sought- vehemently- for mainstream media that shed light on this phenomenon. Rounders fit the mould exactly. It offered a first person insight into the world of high stakes underground poker. If you have never sat around a poker table and mumbled a quote from Rounders… well, you obviously have not seen the film. May I encourage you to do so, promptly.

Norton is brilliant. He plays the role of the scoundrel perfectly. You want to hate him. You would sometimes like to sit him down and explain the tenets of moral virtue. His portrayal was powerful without stealing the limelight from Damon who, I might add, plays his character to a tee.

3. Primal Fear (1996)

Directed by Gregory Hoblit

Primal Fear poster

This film was Norton’s first major hit, undoubtedly his breakout role. He supported Richard Gere- a high-priced lawyer, Martin Vail- as a boy accused of murder. Norton’s character, Aaron Stampler, is complex. His portrayal is devilishly clever. A few key scenes highlight Norton’s exceptional acting ability, as he presents the façade  of a multiple personality illness to avoid a jail sentence. This film is intriguing and intense.

Norton was nominated for a plethora of awards for supporting actor, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA as well as an MTV award for ‘best villain’. I am so tempted to fast-track this film to the top of the list, but due to Norton’s relatively minor role, I will not. This, however, is classic Norton!

2. Fight Club (1999)

Directed by David Fincher

Adapted from novel written by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club PosterFight Club is a potent comment on materialism and self-worth. It’s one of the few films I know that has been adapted very well from book to screen.

Interestingly, it performed quite poorly at the box office, only grossing $US37 million domestically (in the US)  from a $US63 million budget. Yet when released on video and DVD, sales and rentals boomed.

It has since become a ‘must-have’ for any serious DVD collection- particularly if you are male between the ages of 18 and 30.

The cinematography broke new ground. The themes polarized audiences: they either loved it or hated it. If you have no seen this one, shame on you! But as a warning, due to some graphic violence it’s now restricted to 18+, so maybe not the best to watch whilst chomping on a lamb chop.

1. American History X (1998)

Directed by Tony Kaye

American History X PosterThis drama starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong is nothing short of touching. It raises some very powerful issues along the lines of race, hatred, brotherhood, and family. The film is a combination of ‘real time’ and flashbacks.

If you were looking for a feel-good flick to bring a smile to your face, this is probably not for you. It has a high level of emotional intensity- and that’s an understatement.

Norton captures an emotional transformation in a way that I have not seen before. It’s sincere. He was nominated for an Academy Award for best Actor. Need I say more?

On reflection, I am more convinced of my preference for Norton as my favourite actor. He is unequivocally versatile. The way he connects with his audience seems unrivaled. My only concern is that his ‘prime time’ seems to have been between 1996 and 1999. I am eagerly awaiting another script that is receptive to Norton’s elite abilities.

Top 10 Comedies by Sam

August 6, 2010

Let me tell you, this has been one of the more difficult lists to conjure up. I am a big fan of a good comedy, and there have been many great comedies over the course of the last 20 years, hence the difficulty in creating the list. I expanded the list to 10, which was still an arduous task, but nonetheless, here it is, the top 10 comedies of all time.

10. Wedding Crashers (2005)

Directed by David Dobkin

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson proved in the film to be one of the greatest comedy duos of the last decade. The humour they provided in this film was of such a high standard, and had me laughing my head off at almost every scene. A great comedy, and a well deserved place on this list.








9. Hot Rod (2007)

Directed by Akiva Schaffer

One of the most “laugh out loud” movie experiences I have ever encountered. I watched this film at my home with a large group of guys, and without a doubt, every single one of us were in tears at some point laughing at this film. You can imagine, then, why I’ve added it to the list.








8. Big Daddy (1999)

Directed by Dennis Dugan

Big Daddy is a classic Adam Sandler film, and undoubtedly is his greatest comedy so far. It has a great script, and a great performance by Sandler, and is one of those iconic comedies of the 90’s. Well, in my mind anyway.










7. Dodgeball (2004)

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

Another one of those “laugh out loud” type comedies. Vaughn once again delivers some good stuff as the hero of the film, but the real highlight of this film goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Ben Stiller portrays such a funny character in this film, and gives audiences good reason why his films perform so well at the box-office – he’s a funny guy.






6. Zoolander (2001)

Directed by Ben Stiller

Once again, Stiller hits the list, and with the well deserved Zoolander. Written and directed by the man himself, Ben Stiller delivered a great comedic film, and really began the trend of outrageous, stupid humour in modern films. I will be honest and say that it took me multiple viewings of Zoolander to actually realise the greatness that it was – but nonetheless, here be Zoolander sitting comfortably at number 5.





5. The School of Rock (2003)

Directed by Richard Linklater

You either love Jack Black, or you dislike Jack Black – and I love the bloke. When I first watched The School of Rock, I was aware of Black, and I knew he had done some films prior, but I don’t think I had fully realised his capability. This film was where our relationship really began to flourish, and I understood the greatness of his humour. The School of Rock is a well-written comedy, and an excellent performance by Black and his peers.




4. Anchorman (2004)

Directed by Adam McKay

What is there to be said about Anchorman? ‘Silly’ humour at its finest provided by the man himself, Will Ferrell, with one of the funniest performances of his career. Also, a great supporting cast with the likes of Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and Christina Applegate who all add a great comedic element to the film. Laughs all round.







3. Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Directed by Peter Farrelly

Another one of those ‘laugh out loud’ films in which I literally cried laughing in an uncountable amount of scenes. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels were superb as the leading comedy duo in this film, and their performances were timed brilliantly. A brilliant comedy, and a well deserved number 3 on the list.









2. The Hangover (2009)

Directed by Todd Phillips

The Hangover is a brilliant comedy of all aspects. It has an excellent story line, great performances, and holds a high standard in the humour it uses. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the high quality of The Hangover, and was repeatedly laughing out aloud in the cinema. This film is definitely deserving of its position in 2nd place.







1. Groundhog Day (1993)

Directed by Harold Ramis

Without a doubt, Groundhog Day is my all-time favourite comedy. Bill Murray is in his prime here, and his comedic timing is perfect. The concept of a man living the same day over and over is excellent, and it provides for some great laughs all over the place. This film never fails to entertain me no matter how many times I watch it. Harold Ramis hit the high point of his directing career with Groundhog Day, putting it at number one position on my list.







I can feel you wanting to let me in on some of the comedies you think should’ve made it to the list. I know that I didn’t add some of you all time favourites, so lash out in the comments below.

Top 5 Best Remakes by Sam

August 5, 2010

It is becoming more and more common these days in the cinema world, for a director or producer to undertake the task of bringing a film of the past back to life by remaking it into a new movie. It is often assumed that a remake should add something to the original, which should warrant the remake to actually be made. I mean – lets face it, what’s the point of remaking a film if it’s going to be worse than the original? Sadly though, it is a common tale. Producers are far too often looking for something that is simply going to bring them money, and are dismissing the fact that people want a good film that lives up to the standard the original set. Despite the fact there are a lot of remakes worse than the original, I have decided to put together a list of what I think to be the top 5 best remakes. Have a read.

5. King Kong (2005)

Directed by Peter Jackson

Fresh of the success wagon that was The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Peter Jackson set his mind to making one of his all time favourite films, King Kong. Originally, King Kong was a 1933 classic, with technology seeing the Kong being animated in the Claymation style. But Jackson re-envisioned King Kong in a unique and visually captivating way, and in my opinion, did justice to the 1933 black and white epic.





4. The Italian Job (2003)

Directed by F. Gary Gary

Like many of the films on this list, I was unaware that The Italian Job was a remake when I first watched it. Nonetheless, I thought this was an immensely entertaining film, and had a decent structure, great characters and I saw it was a film worthy of remaking the 1969 original.








3. Ocean’s 11 (2001)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Ocean’s 11 was a brilliant remake of the 1960 Rat Pack movie. It’s a comedy-crime film with a star-studded cast, such as the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts just to name a few. Normally, a film with so many famous people in the cast is not that likeable at all – but Ocean’s 11 is a great film, and certainly worthy of being a remake. Whether we can say the same about its sequels, well that’s a question not for here.




2. Casino Royale (2006)

Directed by Martin Campbell

Technically, this is not a remake, or at least what is normally expected to be a remake. The original Casino Royale, made in 1966, was actually a comedic satire of the James Bond novels, and is considered to be “outside” of the Bond franchise. Despite this, both films take their titles from Ian Fleming’s novel, and so I am considering Casino Royale to be a remake. A suitable adaptation of Casino Royale wasn’t made with the 1966 comedy, so the producers remade the film with the 2006 version. There, that makes sense – doesn’t it? Anyway, it comes at number 2 on the list.


1. The Departed (2006)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Without a doubt, The Departed is one of the best films of the Naughties, let alone the greatest remake the cinema world has to offer us (so far). I know a lot of you may not have even known that The Departed is a remake, and do not fear, it was a while till I myself found out this very piece of information. It’s actually a remake of the 2002 foreign film, Infernal Affairs. Apparently the film is a great watch in its own right, but I am yet to see it, and all I know is that The Departed is a brilliant movie, definitely worthy of making it to the top position on the best remakes list.



So then, have at it. What are your top remakes? What are a couple of films you think were worthy of taking the content of an older film, and re-envisioning it into a new movie? Discuss below.

Does Popcorn enhance the Movie Experience? By Dave

August 3, 2010

The aroma of movie popcorn is intoxicating. I don’t care that, on average, each bucket- and yes that measure should be a significant clue as to the ‘health’ of the product- contains a a reported 1650 calories according to DietBites. It’s that faux-butter fantasy that overwhelms the senses and pulls you in like lemmings to an inevitable death. It’s a beautiful thing. But does it really enhance the movie experience? To decipher this question, we must consider a number of issues and obstacles. So grab some popcorn and sit back!

1. Why is movie popcorn so expensive?

The answer to this question is found at the cash register. It would be universally accepted that the price of movie popcorn is nothing short of extortion, yet does this stop individuals from purchasing it? The answer is no. In fact, this uber-high pricing creates a sense of privilege and surreality that arguably begins the journey into another world before the movie has even begun.

Movie Popcorn

Movie Popcorn

There is a real sense of journey when you do something that contradicts logic. It’s the same when purchasing movie popcorn. No doubt, making the mind shift from being reluctantly extorted to embracing a dreamy popcorn fantasy world might be difficult if you are Scrooge McDuck or a cash-strapped student. If you’re wondering, no I’m not employed by the movie popcorn people- although I may very well become their best salesman!

2. You cannot eat popcorn without a beverage

Actually, you can eat popcorn as a standalone entity- but it’s about as sensible as eating a meat pie without sauce. It’s just not intelligent. I am happy to live in ignorance about the actual amount of salt in popcorn. If my brain knew these specific details it would send a message FedEx to my salivating tongue (and my wallet) to prevent the handing over of cash, and the entry of the buttery goodness into my mouth. This would not be good for business, no matter how you construe it.

The best accompaniment to movie popcorn is cola. In my mind, there is no competition. I’d be happy to concede that a frozen cola equivalent may also be very good. But it is not the best. There is nothing more comforting then placing a giant cola cup in the drink compartment on the armrest of the movie seat. I’m salivating right now. I should clarify that I’m not addicted to cola. I can stop at any time. Moving right along…. If you thought that buying popcorn was extortion, then adding a giant beverage to complete the ensemble is not going to make your night. I’d ask you to reread point 1. and seek to engage in the illogical dream world of movie purchasing.

3. The Cola-Consumption-Conundrum

Unless you are superhuman you cannot avoid the inevitability that is the strong desire to visit the toilet after consuming copious amounts of cola, brought about by eating copious amounts of movie popcorn. Here is the problem: most movies run for about two hours, yet you will begin to consume the popcorn about 15 minutes before the movie commences. This requires drinking cola. This will require a visit to the little boys room- or the ladies lavatory, if you are so eloquently inclined- and, I should add, if you’re a lady.

As far as I can see your options are two. On the one hand your can miss about 3-4 minutes of the movie, depending on how fast you can pee (I’m sorry all eloquence has now left the building). This may result in missing strategic plot development or creating a bad impression with your date. Both of these are far from ideal. The second and- I hasten to think- the most common, is holding on. I’m not a medical doctor, but If you prescribe to the George Costanza School of Urinary Philosophy (GCSUP), holding on is not good! Not only is it uncomfortable, you cannot really become properly engrossed in the movie, nor can you give your fullest movie attention to your date, if such an action is required. By fullest movie attention I mean projecting a demeanor: relaxed ambivalence meets encapsulated critic.

4. What do I do with my greasy popcorn hands?

This is a tough question to answer. My first thought is simple: do not let that precious faux-butter go to waste. Lick your fingers! However, no matter which etiquette class you attended in finishing school, all will tell you that this is a faux pas. There is a new japanese invention that goes some way to remedying this situation. See below.

There are many problems with this contraption. Firstly, you run the risk of being a little too prepared. Let’s face it, when you are on a movie date, you want to be casual cool. If you magically pull out a popcorn utensil from your pants, things could go downhill pretty quickly. It’s just a little too weird. You also have the same problem, do you now lick the fake fingers? The second and most obvious problem is this contraption can only pick up one, or a couple, pieces of popcorn at a time. This is clearly not enough!

The final issues raised here is ‘where do I wipe my hands’? Mid-movie, your hands will have built up quite a layer of faux-butter and saliva- depending on your previous tact. As a side note, this could become an occupational health and safety risk if you plan on drinking more of your giant cola, as this could slip out of your hands and potentially onto yourself or your date. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is not good. You could surreptitiousness wipe your hands on your jeans, or if you have any form of self respect, you could opt for wiping them on the seat. Either way, you must go for the ‘stealth wipe’. Neither choice is really advised. There is a third and, perhaps, a more refined choice. It involves bringing in a handkerchief or some napkins. I’d steer away from this option, mainly due to post-wiping disposal issues. Do you put them napkins back in your pocket? Do you ask your date to put them in her handbag? Do you throw them over your shoulder? None of these are realistic options. In reality, this in a problem without a practical solution. Rest assured than my research will continue.

5. The Gobbler

You may not be directly familiar with the term gobbler, so let me paint you a picture. You are attending a movie with a group of peers. Some of these individuals you know well; some others you do not. As a good person, you offer your giant bucket too all your friends and pass it along the line. Without paying too much attention, you keep a peripheral eye on the amount of popcorn that is disappearing from your giant bucket. You may begin to calculate a price-per-popcorn-piece in your mind. You notice that when the bucket finds its way to the end of the line, the momentum stalls. There he is: the gobbler. He eats your popcorn like it’s going out of fashion. His gratification is mechanical. It’s relentless and passionate. It almost has a sexual energy about it. It’s disgusting! You do not like what you see. You hold in the urge to say something. Most of your popcorn is now gone. The gobbler is no urban myth. You may well know one gobbler. You may even know more than one. There should be laws against this vile act.

The Gobbler

The Gobbler

6. The almost-empty popcorn situation

I would contend that most, if not all, of us have been in this situation. The majority of the popcorn is gone; only a few remnants remain. The bucket may be in your lap, or it may be in the lap of another. This matters not. The outcome is equally disorienting, some may even say ‘chilling’.

You reach, essentially, into someone else’s lap and fumble around in search for some kernels to satisfy your whim. This situation is overwhelmingly awkward. Timing is so crucial. Ideally, you want a very fast and methodical extraction. If you linger too long, the energy changes and it becomes an unwanted moment. In this moment you have a number of choices. You can either put your head down and continue with your planned extraction of kernels. On the other hand, you may in fact panic and remove your hand prematurely with an insufficient amount of popcorn. This ends in great disappointment.

The most scary of situations is when you have been ‘digging’ for quite some time. What do you do? If you make eye contact, things could become altogether weird and out-of-hand. As a general rule, eye contact should be avoided at all cost. The other alternative is to apologize for your inadequate popcorn extraction ability. Yet this option seems somewhat bizarre. Apologies are generally reserved for matters very serious in nature. It seems like a paradox to apologize over the subject matter of popcorn.

Finally, I did not want to have to go here, but there is a final situation that trumps the fear imposed by both the gobbler and the almost-empty-eye-contact situation combined. I ask you this: what if there is no popcorn left? What if you reach then? Granted, the architecture of popcorn packaging differs depending on the manufacturer. But there is a situation where you could reach, accidentally, all the way through. I do not wish to discuss this any further on the grounds that the very fear and awkwardness of such a situation is too weighty to bear. But you need to know all the facts.

Conclusions

I hope you were both enlightened and comforted in the knowledge that you are not alone in the difficulty that comes with popcorn in the movie context. In the end the decision is yours. You have been given all the facts. You power is in your hands; your oh-so-buttery hands! For goodness sake, wouldya just wipe them on your pants!