Box Office — Winter 2007

June 1st, 2007 Box Magazine, Film, Film Reviews

Winter’s always a good time for movies. The May/June/July months are the Holy Trinity for the big Hollywood studios as it’s the time when most American and European teenagers have money in their pockets and nothing to do on their extended summer holidays.

That means we’re swamped with press coverage about the latest crop of multimillion dollar blockbusters. If you like your cinema original and fresh, your best bet is to hibernate until the kids go back to school and quality returns to the filmmaking agenda in favour of the first weekend profit grab. One only has to look at the 2007 line-up, where every major release by the studios capitalises on a pre-existing property such as being part of a franchise, a remake or having a popular toy brand’s name on it.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking the end of the blockbuster season means all the movies will be stuffy dramas with no thrills or fun. Releasing movies away from the hallowed ground of the US summer holidays means filmmakers and studios can break free of the very narrow marketing constraints of the blockbusters, limits that dictate everything from the inclusion of a character to ensure he can appear on a Happy Meal to the number of action sequences that must be written in.

For your dose of quality drama, comedy and whimsy, look no further than these forthcoming releases.

The Simpsons Movie

Sure, this technically falls into the realm of the US summer event films, but with some of the smartest writing on TV and an 18 year history we all love, who isn’t excited about seeing the world’s favourite family on the big screen?

The plot is tightly under wraps, and lesser TV shows-turned-movies have failed when extrapolated to the feature film format, so The Simpsons’ adventures will be watched carefully in more ways than one.

The signs look good, though. After Dreamworks Animation, Bluesky, Pixar and even Australia’s own Animal Logic have outdone themselves and each other to produce the most photorealistic computer-generated cartoons around, the line-drawn, yellow skinned 2D of the Simpsons is proof that while great graphics are impressive, it’s the story and the characters we love.

Blades of Glory

What a rise to the top of the comedy mountain it’s been for Will Ferrell. Just a face in the crowd of boisterous Saturday Night Live performers a few years ago, turns in Elf, Zoolander and Melinda and Melinda led to starring roles in what have been some of the standout comic movies of the last few years, such as Anchorman and Stranger Than Fiction.

After NASCAR satire Talladega Nights, Ferrell returns to skewer another sport in Blades of Glory, playing macho figure skating champion Chazz Michael Michaels, a man who doesn’t seem to share our humour in a silver flared suit — all cocksure swagger and big hair.

Michaels’ biggest rival is soft spoken Jimmy MacElroy (Napolean Dynamite’s Jon Heder), and when things turn ugly between the two, the powers that be strip them of their titles and disqualify them from the sport.

When they find a loophole that allows them to compete as the sort of duo traditionally peopled by a man and a woman, the stage is set for a classic fish out of water comedy.

Stardust

What seems at first glance a simple fairy story complete with young lovers and an epic quest takes on a whole new resonance with a cast and crew like the one behind Stardust. Matthew (Layer Cake) Vaughan seemed an unlikely choice to helm a fantasy film, but something attracted a cast of not only huge stars but some of the most talented actors alive.

But this is no ordinary fairy tale. The brainchild of beloved dark fantasy author Neil Gaiman, it promises a lot more than just another Lord of the Rings rip off, with adventure, skullduggery and leaves out of the books of everyone from the Brothers Grimm to William Shakespeare.

Rogue

In a country as beautiful, harsh and unforgiving as Australia, you’d expect a much stronger genre filmmaking scene than the one we have. Apart from a few standouts like Undead, Australian movies are usually broadly targeted comedies or lyrical drama.

Then-unknown director Greg McLean dragged us kicking and screaming into the age of visceral horror in Australia with the wildly successful Wolf Creek. His follow up is CGI and animatronic crocodile thriller Rogue, where a tourist vessel stumbles into the territory of the titular giant. Advance glimpses of the monster suggest a classic in the making, and once again you won’t want to go back into the water…

Home Song Stories

Set partly in Perth, Home Song Stories is writer/director Tony Ayres’ story of a unique crossing of cultures. We’ve always shared a unique and distinctive relationship with our Asian neighbours, quite different from that of the rest of Australia, and with such richness in the stories that can be told from that cultural bridge, the screen potential is endless.

Accomplished Asian-American actress Joan Chen plays a Shanghai nightclub singer who travels to Australia and falls in love with a Chinese man, only for her daughter to fall for him as well.

Home Song Stories will have to be careful it doesn’t get bogged down in the melodrama and style-over-substance that dogged 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha, but advance whispers report Ayers has made a great film.


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