Archive for September, 2012

Funny Games

If one had to walk into a DVD Nouveau and ask to be disturbed, the friendly man behind the desk would insist you rent Funny Games. This has happened to me personally and yes the DVD Nouveau man was right; Funny Games is truly a unique thrilling experience that is quite impossible to articulate simply. Funny Games is more than a psychological thriller. Funny Games delivers a groundbreaking unsettling experience of which you will be completely uncomfortable throughout. Mark Kemode of the Observer wrote that “rarely has a film-maker exercised such perverse precision in his desire to torment an audience for whom he clearly harbours unbridled contempt.” This is the vision of director, Michael Haneke. He crafted a film that was not intended to be a mere horror, but rather a rebuke of violence in American cinema. The film never shows explicit gore of any kind, but rather cleverly evokes terror with suggestion. Michael Haneke crafted this movie with contempt towards the audience and intended for people to walk out of cinemas. What results is something that deeply disturbs me to this day. This movie, unless understood, will be perceived as a pointless two hours of filmed anguish. However, Funny Games delivers an unforgettable film experience like no other.

Beneath the smirk lurks a monster

Funny Games is a shot-for-shot remake of Michael Haneke’s predecessor and takes place in the U.S. with different actors. Funny Games follows a family that is held captive, terrorized and tortured in the Hamptons by two young boys (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett). The violence occurs off-screen and the audience is only exposed to the reactions and screams of the abused couple and child. The parents are played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth and deliver immaculate performances.

Funny Games attempts to torment the audience by breaking usual horror movie rules. Additionally, the antagonists have the ability to address the audience directly and can rewind time at will. Furthermore, the film’s aesthetic is pristine which inherently feels very anti-horror. What results is a film that blindsides its audience with a strange punch of torment. Michael Haneke crafts a film that ensures that the audience leaves agonized, frustrated and discontent. And he sure succeeds. Watching this film was a lot like being a part of the tortured family. Funny Games lashes out at society’s attraction to gore and violence. This bizarre film, consequently, led to incredibly mixed reviews.

The game begins

Papa and son are also part of the fun

Naomi has had enough fun

Funny Games is truly a stroke of genius. However, it is definitely not appropriate for a cozy movie night or anything like that. It is not for the faint-hearted. Funny Games will leave you disturbed, frustrated and confused but despite this it is recommendable.

Are you bored of typical horror films where girls in underwear are hacked to death by men in masks? Are you tired of clichéd plot lines? Are you an open-minded individual willing to embrace a new kind of film experience? Are you brave enough to endure Michael Haneke’s attack on contemporary society? If you answer yes to all the above questions, then Funny Games may just be for you.

If you are brave enough to embark on the Funny Games ride, firstly Popcornography commends you and secondly make sure you get the 2007 U.S. remade version. This one has Naomi Watts. Everyone loves Naomi. And it is set in the Hamptoms.  The Hamptoms is fabulous.

For more on Funny Games, check out the trailer (if you dare). HIGHLY recommended!

Pretty Persuasion

Popcornography has been running long enough for you all to know the truth. It is time to come clean and reveal my, not so secret, obsession with Evan Rachel Wood. Pretty Persuasion is 2005 black comedy satirical film that personifies Evan Rachel Wood like no other. Pretty Persuasion is my all time favourite dark comedy and deserves special Popcornography treatment.

Now before I begin to swoon shamelessly, Pretty Persuasion is about a 15 year old school girl who causes a fuss by accusing her drama teacher of sexual harassment. When Kimberley Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood) makes the above mentioned allegations she drags her friends, family as well as the media into her sinister plot. If you thought Mean Girls was twisted, then you have never seen school-girl evil quite like that demonstrated by Miss Wood. This film is upsetting and truly dark whilst concurrently managing to be utterly hilarious. Pretty Persuasion will have you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, all of which will be intense. But please, I would hate you to be fooled, Pretty Persuasion is no regular teen comedy and Kimberly Joyce is certainly no Regina George. In fact, Evan Rachel Wood makes Regina George seem like a Care Bear. And that is no easy feat.

Traumatizing the new girl 101

Besides the twisted, evil and methodological plotting of a 15 year-old, Pretty Persuasion has so much more to offer. The director, Marcos Siega, depicts an upscale 90210 high school as a metaphor for everything in contemporary American life. However, this is not new as we have seen this many times in film such as Heathers or Election. Screenwriter, Skander Halim, goes all out and focuses on a vast amount of issues in his satirical writing i.e. race, sex, gender identity, materialism, blackmail, intolerance, sexual harassment, discrimination, the war in Iraq, ignorance, suicide, celebrity and homosexuality. Pretty Persuasion embodies a tremendous amount of depth which lifts it above the regular teen comedy. To enhance the themes of materialism and moral decay, the film does not feature any popular music and does not feature contemporary branding of any kind. Social commentary sneaks in everywhere and we love it.

The epitome of family dysfunction 

 Consequent internal troubles

Evan Rachel Wood is scary good in this film. Emphasis on the scary. Her affinity towards challenging and daring material is awe-inspiring. Let’s not forget her role in Thirteen or more recently her part in Mildred Pierce. OBVIOUSLY, Evan would play a vampire queen in Trueblood. Evan loves to shock people. There is no one that makes interesting film choices quite like Evan.

Kimberley Joyce, an angst-ridden teen with a razor sharp mind and cruel agenda, is played almost too perfectly. Beautiful, evil geniuses excite me and the best of these is undoubtedly Kimberley Joyce. Evan’s portrayal of the troubled teen was praised by critics and these daring roles have lead to her mainstream success. Marrying Marilyn Manson did not hurt I am sure, but the gorgeous and incredibly talented Evan Rachel Wood can do no wrong.

Evan misbehaves in detention

Evan does what it takes to succeed. Women

Black comedies are rarely done well. And although Pretty Persuasion is often preachy, it delivers in shock-value, depth and genuine laughs. Besides this, Evan is perfect (as always). Lastly, Pretty Persuasion teaches us the importance of knowing whose boyfriend you are stealing. Do not miss Pretty Persuasion.

For more on Pretty Persuasion check out the trailer. 

The Talented Mr Ripley

…it’s like the sun shines on you, and it’s glorious. And then he forgets you and it’s very very cold.” spoken by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1999 psychological thriller film The Talented Mr Ripley by Anthony Minghella.

The Talented Mr Ripley is outstanding. It is fascinating to watch the skilled Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) deal with the horrific consequences of his endeavours. The Talented Mr Ripley follows Tom Ripley who is sent to retrieve a filthy rich and spoiled playboy; Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) from 1950s Europe. Unfortunately things do not go smoothly. Tom Ripley sure can forge signatures and impersonate people. Matt Damon plays the obsessed psychopath perfectly and I was continuously amazed by his performance. After establishing a (suspiciously) close friendship with the playboy millionaire, the plot soon twists into dark themes of unrequited love and obsession.

Stalky

Stalky stalky

When you find yourself sympathizing with sly, tricky and clever homicidal psychopaths, you can be sure that the performance is top notch. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the heart breaking role of Dickie Greenleaf’s girlfriend. My heart bled as she gets further entangled in the lies of Tom Ripley. However, it is Jude Law that really impresses. Dickie Greenleaf is amazing. He is gorgeous, charming and charismatic so much that one can understand the root of Tom’s obsession. As the mistreated Gwyneth so eloquently expresses, Dickie’s attention is sought after and when it subsides, it is difficult to handle. Dickie’s attention would drive anyone to homicidal behaviour. Tom Ripley would certainly agree. Losing

Let’s sum up why you should watch The Talented Mr Ripley. Ahem.

Number 1: Tom Ripley sure is a tricky one. Matt Damon delivers a career-best performance and gives new meaning to the word stalker.

Number 2: Gwyneth will have you sympathizing with her before long. No one plays the victim quite like old Gwyneth.

Gwyneth grows suspicious

Number 3: Watching the plot descend into darkness is truly fascinating. Despite how unnerving it becomes, there is a morbid fascination with how Tom Ripley outsmarts everyone.

Number 4: Jude Law is delightful. I want to be in San Remo with Jude Law. Like now. Like right now.

Number 5: The boat scene is truly moving and disturbing all at once. You won’t look at boat oars the same way ever again. The Talented Mr Ripley teaches us that hiring boats with psychotic stalkers is unwise.

Why would anyone hit this with a boat oar? I just don’t understand

Disturbing, ominous and thrilling, The Talented Mr Ripley should not be missed.

For more on obsessed homicidal stalkers, check out the trailer for The Talented Mr Ripley. 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

With the exponential success of its sequel trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit is an upcoming 3 part film series directed by Peter Jackson. The initial instalment of The Hobbit entitled An Unexpected Journey is being released towards the end of 2012. I was an avid fan of The Lord of the Rings back in its conception, however the first trailer for The Hobbit left me somewhat disinterested and underwhelmed.

Having not read the book, I am unfamiliar with the plot of The Hobbit. I watched the initial trailer and was confused at the amount of dwarfish humour that was occurring. The tone was considerably different to what I was expecting. Quirky and intrusive dwarves do not make for epic J.R.R Tolkien film adaptations. The Lord of the Rings changed lives when it was released and proved the Peter Jackson really was the hot new thing. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a massive box office success and was praised by critics and fans alike. Do not get me wrong, I love Frodo as much as anyone else but it is suggested, from personal experience, that you do not watch all three movies in immediate succession. I recently watched all the extended director cuts which accumulated to something like 10 hours. It was intense. It felt like I was taking the ring to Mordor.

The pressures of entertaining

Anyway, I pray, that The Hobbit will not stray too far from the artistic style that was so successful in The Lord of the Rings. Let’s hope that the prequel trilogy will stay true to the J.R.R Tolkien roots. However, there is considerable evidence that The Hobbit will ultimately not disappoint. And of course is presented in list format. Ahem…

Number 1: Peter Jackson does no wrong. Peter Jackson is an outstanding director and besides The Lord of the Rings trilogy he is responsible for epic projects such as King Kong and The Lovely Bones.

Number 2: Expect eerie and moving Middle Earth music, hoera! Howard Shore is returning and is responsible for the related soundtrack. Put simply, this means we can expect the grandiose and emotionally stirring soundtracks so well attributed to Frodo and his quest.

Number 3: Gollum. That is all.

Number 4: One last thing that gives me hope is the fact that Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett will be reprising their well known roles. Everybody loves Gandalf and Galadriel. Who can forget Galadriel’s freak-out when tempted by the ring in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring? I certainly can’t.

Elf Queen loses her cool. Love it.

Anyway, my interest has finally been sparked. Let’s just hope there is less quirky-dwarf humour and more dragons.

Everybody loves dragons

For more on The Hobbit, check out the second trailer. Much better.

The Little Mermaid

Life is full of tough choices, innit?!,” spoken by Ursula in the 1989 animated musical fantasy The Little Mermaid by Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Here at Popcornography we love Disney. Old-school Disney was something remarkable back in the day and today there is nothing that quite lives up to the splendour of those Disney gems we grew up with. Disney films were meticulously crafted and complimented by glorious soundtracks of which Alan Menken was mostly responsible. God bless Alan Menken. Anyway the point is, Disney movies were the thing back in the day. Well before they were tainted by atrocious sequels like Timone and Pumba do New York or Aladdin 5. Whatever.

Today’s Quote of the Day is inspired by the films that characterize many childhoods and more specifically to the most villainous animated Diva that ever was. The tentacles, the voice, the attitude, the BOOTAY, the nefarious plotting and mermaid tormenting. It all works and we LOVE it.

Fabulous.

Popcornography just loves it when villains deliver sadistic monologues in song. For  glorious villainy goodness make sure to check out Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls.

Man of Steel

We all know how Popcornography loves superheroes and aliens. So imagine the joy it gives me to write a preview for Man of Steel which combines both of Popcornography’s great loves. Man of Steel is the newest reboot of the Superman franchise directed by Zack Snyder which will be released around June 2013. You may recognize Zack as he is responsible for the over-stylised 300 and Sin City. Making movies that drip with artistry is kind of his thing, even if it does not always succeed. Think Sucker Punch. Apologies to Emily Browning who is totally my sister…

Anyway, reboots seem to be all the rage right now. First old Brucey got a reboot, then Spidey and obviously Kal-El (aka Superman) would follow suit. However, we must not forget that this is the second attempt at rebooting the Superman franchise. Superman Returns starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth and Kevin Spacey was released in 2006 but was lame. I remember that cinema experience being marred by particularly heinous CGI effects. Besides having a few unforgettable scenes and Kevin Spacey (of course) Superman Returns was a great let down.

Man of Steel will deliver and here is why presented in the ever-popular Popcornography list format. Ahem.

Number one: Zack Snyder is so hot right now. His film style may be the saving grace for Mr Kent. Even the new and improved Superman emblem is ‘Snyder-fied’ and we like it.

That ‘S’ sure is Snyder-fied

Number two: Big names are everywhere! Russel Crowe plays Clark’s alien papa Jor-El. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Clark’s boring human parents. Amy Adams takes the role of Lois Lane which should be interesting.

Number three: When you are talking super-heroes, one needs a Christopher Nolan. Luckily Man of Steel has one. Christopher Nolan is producing and Popcornography is sure this will lead to great things.

And lastly,

Number four: Clark Kent is played by Henry Cavill who you may recognise from Stardust and The Tudors. Henry Cavill is so hot I want to spin in circles and scream. That is all.

Sexy Screenshot indeed!

Man of Steel will revisit the Superman origins in a more real and gritty fashion than ever before. Thanks Christopher Nolan. This coupled with Snyder’s directorial vision should result in a very interesting end-product. Just look at the trailer. People are fishing in the beginning to an eerie score. It does not get more real and moody.

The most popular of all super-hero characters may finally get the reboot it deserves. We can all only hope.

For more on Man of Steel, make sure to check out the trailer. Moody.

American History X

American History X poster

You think you’re the only one doin’ time, Derek? You think you’re here all alone? You think I’m not in here with you?!,” spoken by Beverly D’Angelo in Tony Kaye’s 1998 American drama film American History X.

Popcornography learnt a very important lesson this week. What it is you may wonder? The lesson is; despite how many times you watch American History X, it never becomes less disturbing. Re-watching it this past week, only served to bring back all the immense uneasiness that I worked so hard to diminish over the years. The profound and thought provoking film is today’s inspiration for Quote of the Day.

American History X, obviously hits close to home with regard to its strong theme of hate encouraged by racial prejudice. Very few countries can watch a film such as American History X and identify with as strongly as we South Africans do. American History X follows the lives of two brothers residing in Venice Beach in California. Daddy fights fire and dies due to an unfortunate incident involving black drug dealers. The murder of his father, leads Derek (the eldest brother) to become obsessed with the issue of racial prejudice. After Derek, brutally murders two black gang members he is sentenced to three years imprisonment for voluntary manslaughter. The story focuses around Danny, the youngest and impressionable brother, who begins to follow in Derek’s misguided footsteps. The entire Vineyard family’s descent into darkness occurs as a result of the hatred harboured by Derek and Danny. However, during Derek’s imprisonment he establishes an emotional friendship with a black inmate and ultimately learns to relinquish his inherently harboured hatred. Upon his release, Derek struggles to be reintroduced to his family and friends who are trapped in the now overpowering Neo-Nazi movement of Venice Beach. INTENSE stuff.

Edward is angry a lot of the time

The film is shot in a mixture of black and white as well as colour which serves to reiterate the strong themes the film carries. American History X received overwhelmingly favourable reviews and led to an Academy Award nomination for Edward Norton. In my opinion, this is certainly Edward’s most powerful and moving performance. American History X is moving for a number of reasons. Firstly, the inmate whom Derek befriends is the unsung hero of the story and provides much needed comic relief. Additionally, watching the family’s crisis explode is truly unnerving. In particular, Derek’s mother (Doris) gives a heartbreaking performance as she struggles to cope with the nightmare of murderous and imprisoned sons. Poor Doris. I’m sorry Doris. It wasn’t your fault.

Catching up with mama

Despite its profound message, American History X is never preachy but more visceral. Riddled with controversial themes, brutal violence, nudity and profane language, American History X is an awfully difficult experience to endure. So why in the world would you want to suffer through this? Popcornography implores you. Films as powerful as American History X are rare. These films are directorial visions created to challenge their audiences with powerful albeit unpleasant messages. In short, this film will trap you in a glass case of emotion. It is that intense. But don’t be frightened. American History X is spectacular, transcends entertainment and is totally worth it.

To get you through the daunting task of watching American History X, I have prepared a list. I like lists. I call it Popcornography’s guide to surviving American History X. Ahem…

Number 1: Edward Norton is really a nice guy in real life. Well actually I don’t know. But he sure doesn’t kill anyone in Keeping the Faith.

Number 2: In prison, when other people leave the shower that is your cue to ALSO leave the shower. We know this. Sadly, Edward did not know this.

Number 3: There is no defence against the strife of a battered woman. Doris will cry numerous times. It is okay. It is just a movie.

Number 4: The teeth-on-the-curb scene is coming. There is nothing you can do about it. Just embrace it.

Leave the shower Edward…

American History X shower

Get up, Doris 

For more on American History X, check out the trailer! 

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