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Avatar Screenings

Posted by: Matthew Turner 28/08/2009 @ 14:51
Subject: Film

Films seen so far this year: 280
Films seen this week: Cold Souls, Sorority Row, The Vanishing of the Bees, The Final Destination (3D), Taking Woodstock, The Soloist, Triangle, The Hills Run Red

Avatar screenings hoo-ha
Normally, when PRs and distributors offer taster screenings with 20 or so minutes of footage for an upcoming BIG movie, I politely decline, reasoning that if it looks great (e.g. Star Trek), it will annoy me to then have to wait three months or so before it comes out and if looks terrible (e.g. The Spirit), then I'll only have to sit through that same dreadful 20 minutes again once the film is released. Taster screenings I've turned down include: Watchmen, The Dark Knight and the afore-mentioned Star Trek, all of which I was obviously dying to see beforehand.

That said, I felt I had to break my usual stance for James Cameron's Avatar screenings, just to see what all the fuss was about and whether it lived up to the “future of cinema”-style hype. So last week, along with most of the internet, I went to the 15 minute preview screening at the BFI IMAX and duly donned the 3D glasses. I have to say, I was underwhelmed. To be honest, the teaser trailer (see below) does a much better job of selling the movie than the rather dull clips we saw, 3D or no 3D. Having said that, they tagged an edited version of the teaser onto the end of the clips and I have to say, the bit where the creature tosses the guy out of the heli-carrier looks amazing in 3D. Other than that, though, I'm not wildly excited about the plot (Pocahontas in Space, anyone?) or the look of the creatures and all the jokes I've heard about the film (Jar-Jar Binks family reunion; love-child of Jar-Jar and a smurf) are, unfortunately, rather apt. Who knew James Cameron was such a fan of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest?

The CGI is obviously state-of-the-art (dodgy dinosaur rip-offs aside), but I didn't see how this was supposed to “change the way we think about 3D films forever” - the 3D stuff was as good as but no better than the best of the 3D features I've seen this year, most notably My Bloody Valentine 3D. It's also fair to say that the audience reaction in the screening I went to was distinctly muted. I'm not in the hate camp though – I am still looking forward to seeing the finished film and I trust Cameron to pull it off, but as for The Future of Cinema? My jury's still out.

Films I'm Looking Forward To: Youth in Revolt
I have been waiting MONTHS for a trailer for Youth in Revolt and I'm pleased to say it doesn't disappoint. Based on the cult novel by C.D. Payne (which I highly recommend – it's sort of like Adrian Mole, on acid; I realise that's an annoying cliche, but it really IS like Adrian Mole on acid), it stars Michael Cera as teenager Nick Twisp, who gets rejected by the girl of his dreams (Portia Doubleday as Sheeni Saunders) and fashions a dangerous new persona named Francois Dillinger in order to win her over. Miguel Arteta is perfectly suited to the outrageousness of the novel, having previously directed the vaguely similar Chuck & Buck. The superb cast also includes the wonderful Jean Smart as Nick's mother, Ray Liotta and Zach Galifianakis as her lovers and Steve Buscemi as Nick's father, George.

Looking at the trailer, I'm intrigued by the way they've handled the Twisp / Dillinger split, especially by the way that Sheeni appears to see them as two separate people. It's also alleviated my reservations about Cera being right for the role (in my opinion, Emile Hirsch would have made a better Twisp), but I still think that, as much as I like him, it's incredibly unfair that Michael Cera gets to play both Nick Twisp and Scott Pilgrim. No sign of a UK release date for Youth in Revolt yet, but hopefully it won't be too long. I'm also hopeful that the film's release will mean that the book (and its sequels) will finally be widely available in the UK.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Lots of changes this week, with no less than five new entries into the top ten. They include: Kathryn Bigelow's superb bomb-disposal thriller The Hurt Locker (which should hopefully make a star out of my favourite unsung actor, Jeremy Renner); the second Mesrine thriller,
Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 (which picks up where Mesrine: Killer Instinct left off); Funny People, the third movie by writer-director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up); twisty British amnesia thriller Jetsam and The Final Destination 3D, although don't bother seeing it in ordinary D, as it won't be  nearly as much fun.
Also, check out our exclusive interview with Jetsam star Alex Reid (The Descent) here and our reports from the Funny People press conferences with Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill and Judd Apatow.

1. Inglourious Basterds
2. The Hurt Locker
3. Moon
4. Mesrine: Killer Instinct
5. Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1
6. Orphan
7. Funny People
8. Jetsam
9. Afterschool
10. The Final Destination 3D

DVD of the Week: Outlander (released Monday 31st August, RRP £17.99)
This week's DVD of the Week is the sci-fi thriller Outlander, starring Jim Caviezel as an astronaut who crash-lands his spaceship in AD 709 and has to convince some Vikings to help him fight a vicious alien creature. With strong performances (the film also stars John Hurt, Ron Perlman and Sophia Myles) and great special effects, this is a hugely enjoyable sci-fi action romp that delivers pretty much everything you could hope for from a movie whose premise basically boils down to Vikings fighting aliens. It also received a criminally blink-and-you'll-miss-it theatrical release, so it's well worth catching up with on DVD. Extras include: a commentary by the director and producers, visual effects tests, animatics, a Making Of featurette, artwork galleries, the trailer and 25 minutes of deleted or extended scenes.



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