Real Steel

OK, hands up if anyone still takes Hugh Jackman seriously? Because I don’t. I just can’t. He’s devolved into a glib, preening, self-aware, McConnaughey-esque muppet before our very eyes. (oh I hope Les Mis can still save him.) In the meantime, Real Steel is the latest of his glossy unwatchables-  a by-the-numbers, wastrel-father / bratty-son pic whose unique differentiator is boxing robots. Seriously.  Some glassy-eyed studio exec somewhere was clearly expecting a toy tie-in franchise for the big bucks. Not.

Funnily enough, given my earlier post, it filmed throughout Michigan, courtesy of a whack of incentives. Detroit Free Press lists the locations. Recognize any?

X Men Origins: Wolverine

I used to like Hugh Jackman quite a lot. But he’s turning into a hairier Matthew McConaughey, and not in a good way. Just about every scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine seems designed to show him off in the best possible light – all teeth and blow dried hair and rippling shirtless muscle. He’s doing a Zoolander Blue Steele throughout – even in the trenches of World War I. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – particularly if you’re into soft porn – but you too might find it annoying if you’re keen on other things: like plot, logic, pacing, consistency or absence of cliche.

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There, I’ve said it: X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a bit of a dog’s breakfast. Great special effects, great cinematography, Ryan Reynolds appears shirtless (bonus!) but it’s all a relentless re-hash of things we’ve seen before – the girlfriend with a troubled sister to protect, the kindly elderly couple, the remote hideaway, Native American stories involving the Moon, madness in Vietnam. Yawn. And I’m also not sure how many times we were supposed to enjoy Wolverine and Victor running at each other very fast and shouting as the lead up to a fight. It happens A LOT.

The filming locations were principally New Zealand (standing in for the Canadian Rockies) and New South Wales standing in for everything else. Washed out New Orleans plays itself though. Kind of apt, in a way.

Australia

And so to the other big location pic of 2008/9: Australia. I finally caught it on the very small screen – on the way back from Locations Trade Show 09.

And what can I tell you about it? Well, I can see why so many people hated it, why the critics whipped themselves into a frothing rage of apoplexy. It’s a schizophrenic sort of film that swings awkardly between a whole host of genre pics including Crocodile Dundee, Pearl Harbour, Rabbit Proof Fence, Gone with the Wind, Charge of the Light Brigade, anything Disney with a cute kid, anything with John Wayne and cows. I am also strangely reminded of Who Framed Roger Rabbit – to do, more than anything, I think with Nicole Kidman’s cartoon-hammy, wasp-waisted English aristocrat. There’s even some soft porn in there – cue Hugh Jackman, all shoulders and chest, in a bizarre little shower scene. Nothing much in the movie makes emotional sense. But damn it, it does look good; Jackman prods Kidman into exuding a little bit of chemistry, the cattle drive is exhilirating and the Australian outback is hugely photogenic. So, yes, whilst I can indeed see why people hated it, I strangely enough didn’t.

Cry the Beloved Colorado

Having watched it again last night, I’ve decided that The Prestige is a very good movie.

Beginning in turn-of-the-century London, it tells of two young magicians who set out to carve their own paths to fame. Angier (Hugh Jackman) is a consummate entertainer, while the rough-edged Borden (Christian Bale with a truly horrible accent) is a magical genius without the pizazz to showcase his artistry. They start out as friends but following a tragedy become sworn enemies, each intent on outdoing the other. Trick by trick, show by show, their competitive lust even takes them to Colorado, where they co-opt the fantastical new powers of electricity and scientific brilliance of inventor Nikola Tesla…..

And here I divert to the point of my irritable missive today. Unlike my previous entry, there’s kudos due to Christopher Nolan since he did in fact shoot The Prestige in Colorado for a couple of day – on the Georgetown Railway loop (amongst other places.) I assume he did this for authenticity, since most movies with Colorado settings generally end up being shot in Canada. I can rattle off several: As Good as it Gets, Alien v. Predator II, Blades of Glory, Catch and Release, the entire series of Stargate SG1 to name but a few. 

Continue reading “Cry the Beloved Colorado”

The Hobbit Effect in Australia

Due for release in November of this Year, Baz Luhrmann’s latest opus Australia is set in north of that country just before World War II. It revolves around an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) who inherits a cattle station the size of a small European nation. When rival cattle barons plot to annex her land, she joins forces with a stock-man (Hugh Jackman channelling Crocodile Dundee?) to drive her cattle to market across the country’s most unforgiving territory, arriving in Darwin just as the Japanese airforce begins its bombing attack…..

Noting that following the release of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, tourism numbers to New Zealand were roughly double those visiting Australia during the same period, the Sydney Morning Herald quite rightly trumpets the exciting news that:

Tourism chiefs are to unveil a deal between the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox, its director, Baz Luhrmann and the federal tourism body, Tourism Australia, at a tourism conference in Perth today.

The goal, apparently, is to use the movie to switch the tourism focus back to the harsh but beauteous wilderness that makes up the vast interior of the country. (My quip about Hugh Jackman as Crocodile Dundee was actually semi-serious; the 1985 Paul Hogan movie almost singlehandedly reimagined Australia, Australians and the Australian bush in the global conscience, and it significantly boosted tourism to the vast Outback.) The SMH article notes some of the plans to develop movie tourism around this movie. 

One idea is recruiting travel agents to pitch to travellers the idea of following in the footsteps of the film’s stars, experience the scenery themselves and, perhaps a little of the romance as well.

Well, of course.

So kudos to the Aussies for actually planning this before time, rather than functioning with the “if you build, it they will come” mentality of a lot of jurisdictions.

PS And check out this cute You Tube link to see the genuine excitement of residents of a small rural town when Hollywood rocks up…..