Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Isnin, Februari 02, 2009

#60. Skoop : Hope against hype at the movies this year

02hb Februari, 2009
The Star

Hoping against hope, this week’s column offers a personal look at some of the promising prospects at cinemas this year.So what's there to look forward to at the movies these days? It’s almost the same old story every time.Big bucks are sunk into a lavish production. The hype machine (which can cost as much as, or even more than, the movie itself) kicks into overdrive.

Then, some months later, the movie arrives ... and, underwhelmed and disappointed, we slink off once more into the night to seek comfort in our TV series boxed sets.

I have to admit, I look forward to each year’s new TV shows and returning series with greater enthusiasm than I do to most new movies.

Heck, all the posing, posturing and strutting in a US$200mil (RM725,000) Michael Bay action “epic” can’t amount to one thimbleful of the nuance David Caruso brings to a scene on CSI: Miami by taking off his shades and taking one menacing sideways step closer to a smug perpetrator. (Er, please don’t take me too seriously on that.)

Breathtaking stuff like The Dark Knight doesn’t come along every other week, after all. Even when something like it does appear, its pulpy origins will all but guarantee that it gets left out in the cold come awards time.

We’re not just talking about blockbusters here. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the dialogue fairly sparkled in most any movie worth its marquee position, be it comedy, drama, adventure, or even a B-grade yarn like The Thing From Another World.

These days, movie dialogue on average fairly ... reeks. If it’s not bad one-liners, it’s profanity (curse you, Popeye Doyle and your ilk, for the dark doorway you opened) or – even worse – banality.

But this is not a rant about the state of things. Like all matters during the season of a New Year, it should be filled with hope ... expectation ... and bright chirpy fluttering things.

So, based on my own little set of preferences (which I am sure are shared by at least 3.7 others out there), here are the little things I’m most looking forward to at the movies this year. And when I say looking forward, I mean these movies that hold an elite die-die-must-catch-first-screening status in my estimation.

The Wrestler: I don’t know if Darren Aronofsky’s ode to fallen idols of the squared circle will even get a domestic cineplex release, but I’m keeping my championship belts crossed.

From what I’ve read, it looks like viewers are guaranteed of a) a superlative, career-redefining performance by Mickey Rourke as a fading pro wrestling icon; and b) a realistic and by no means derogatory depiction of the whole world of “sports entertainment”, or pro wrestling.

If today’s Hollywood productions are largely bloated, cookie-cutter monstrosities trying to recapture past glories by just piling on the excess, then the same could well apply to pro wrestling today.

The personalities, the fire from the Golden Age of the 1980s, are largely gone, with the exception of that brief turn-of-the-century period when The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin ruled the ring.

So it could well be that The Wrestler is not just the tale of one wrestler ... but of an entire sub-genre of entertainment where the entertainers risk everything and frequently lose everything just for a moment of manufactured adulation.

Whatever the movie turns out to be, it’s definitely high on my wanna-see list.

Watchmen: Don’t let the fact that writer Alan Moore refuses to be associated with any movie adaptations of his works put you off.

I enjoyed both of director Zack Snyder’s previous efforts (300 and Dawn of the Dead) immensely, but I had some doubts about this one after the second trailer which seemed kind of sluggish.

They were all dispelled at a recent preview of selected scenes from the movie.

Salivating audience members were shown the first scene, the opening credits, the origin of blue superman Dr Manhattan, and a couple of other moments and ... what can I say but Snyder seems to have nailed the look and atmosphere of Watchmen’s freaky parallel-world 1985.

It’s a strange place, where Richard Nixon stayed on as US President and society, having rejected its potential saviours (i.e. its costumed adventurers, or superheroes), teeters on the brink of nuclear Armageddon.

What really impressed me about the footage we saw was how Snyder shoehorned all the “history” of the Watchmen universe so neatly into the credit sequence with Bob Dylan singing The Times, They Are A-Changin’ in the background.

Truly inspired stuff, and if Snyder can deliver even half that sort of energy and wicked wit throughout the film, we’re in for a heady time in just one month or so.

Star Trek: I know I’m courting hostile fire by saying this, but IMHO it was that namby-pamby politically-correct Next Generation crew that killed the Trek movies.

From Insurrection’s nauseating hummingbirds to Nemesis’ pale Wrath of Khan-ripoff storyline ... is it any wonder the final word on James T. Kirk’s lips was “Alamak”?

The sorry state of Trek as filmed entertainment is why The Octopus’ declaration about killing someone “deader than Star Trek” in the gosh-awful The Spirit was the only thing in that piece of overripe saltfish that had a genuine resonance.

So here comes J.J. Abrams, he of Lost and Alias and Mission: Impossible III fame, with a reboot of Star Trek (the original series) – you could call it The Old/New Adventures of New/Old Kirk.

With a cast that includes Zachary Quinto (Sylar of Heroes) as Spock and Eric Bana (Hector of Troy) as a nasty Romulan baddie, Abrams’ Star Trek outing looks quite terrific.

Some of us were also fortunate to have had a little sneak peek at four scenes from the film, including one neat moment when new Kirk (Chris Pine) meets old Spock (Leonard Nimoy himself, doing cameo honours).

Best of all the new cast was Karl Urban as Dr McCoy – you’d swear he was channelling the spirit of the late DeForest Kelley without making it seem like he was just doing impressions.

The bad thing about sneaks like this, though, is that we fans love to fill in the blanks in our imaginations, and that mind’s-eye conception of the film we’d like to see is typically more than any filmmaker could ever live up to.

It’s taking a supreme effort of will for me not to do that, but I have a good feeling about Abrams’ Star Trek which will be good because he seems to have a deep respect for the franchise despite being a non-fan. So ... this Trekker is all set to beam aboard in May.

Here’s a quick look at a handful of other movies that look promising, with reservations:

Quentin Tarantino’s WW2 epic Inglourious Basterds (hopefully more Kill Bill, Vol 1 than Vol 2);

James Cameron’s sci-fi war movie Avatar (bring us the real-deal IMAX 3D print, please);

The animated adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s brilliant kids’ book Where the Wild Things Are;

Future war flick Terminator: Salvation (I only have one misgiving ... this is from the guy who gave us Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle);

Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody’s (Juno) next effort, Jennifer’s Body, with Megan Fox as a demon-possessed cheerleader (it’s a comedy ... and one that may never see the darkness of a local cineplex);

Up, the new Pixar movie about a man who literally floats away from it all (can one of those beasties ever disappoint? Oh, right ... Cars);

More mutant mayhem in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The trailer is just so cool, it would take an awfully thick skull (adamantium coating optional) to mess this up;

Johnny Depp’s turn as notorious bank robber John Dillinger in Public Enemies, from director Michael Mann (pray that no trace of Miami Vice the movie remains); and

The Road, the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s absorbing but bleak post-apocalyptic road trip novel – so bleak that cinema owners will not allow patrons to bring sharp objects into screenings. Well, they might ... we’ll just have to wait and see.

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