The Usual Suspects (1995)

I wouldn’t have been surprised if Kevin Spacey got some strange looks walking down the street in 1995.

In the same year he freaked everyone out with the “what’s in the box?!” shocker in Se7en, he also played one of the line-up in The Usual Suspects – a role he actually won an Academy Award for.

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He played the cripple ‘Verbal’ Kint in a line-up that included:

An uber young Benicio Del Toro, before he became known as a Mugatu look-a-like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe –

Looking very much like Mugatu from Zoolander as Marvel's The Collector

Del Toro doing his best death stare as Marvel’s The Collector

 

One of the Baldwin’s that no one remembers

Alec? Nope. William? Nope. Aha! It's Stephen! Huzzah!

Alec? Nope. William? Nope. Aha! It’s Stephen! Huzzah!

Gabriel Byrne, who was actually in 2006 Australian film Jindabyne

Filming Jindabyne in Australia

Filming Jindabyne in Australia

And Kevin Pollak, who’s other film for 1995 was a little one called Casino, which is also on my long lists of films to watch

Pollak in Scorsese's Casino. Copyright Universal Pictures

Pollak in Scorsese’s Casino. Copyright Universal Pictures

Now, I have been meaning to watch Usual Suspects for years and years.

1. It’s directed by Bryan Singer, who’s better known these days for directing the X-Men movies. Well, he directed three of the best ones anyway – X-Men in 2000, X-Men 2 in 2003 and this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). He’s also set to helm the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse.

Bryan Singer checking out Magneto's helmet

Bryan Singer checking out Magneto’s helmet

2. Christopher McQuarrie penned it – and won an Academy Award for the clever, twisty screenplay. I interview McQuarrie back in 2012 for Jack Reacher, which he wrote and directed. A pretty solid action flick actually, with Tom Cruise in the lead role. Obviously, Hollywood agreed because he’s know directing Mission: Impossible 5.

Christopher McQuarrie directing Tom Cruise

Christopher McQuarrie directing Tom Cruise

3. Kevin Spacey is in it. Nuff said.

If you need convincing, watch this:

If you need more convincing, check out Netflix series House of Cards. In fact, if you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon already, you really need to. No one nails creepy/ruthless as much as Spacey. I think if you met him in person, you would be partly in awe, and partly terrified.

So with such high expectations, I wasn’t sure about The Usual Suspects. But I have to admit, I was really impressed.

It took a while to grab my interest, but then I was hooked.

And that ending…

What a shock that ending was!

What a shocker!

Out of 10 I would give it:

3 points for THAT ending (and that it was still a surprise nearly two decades later), 2 points for superb directing/writing, 1 point for Benicio Del Toro’s accent and 2.5 for having everyone asking ‘who is KEYSER SOZE?’ years before social media made it easy.

8.5/10

 

Loco for Docos

Before I became a journalist, I had dreams being an actor and then a screenwriter.

I was still chasing those dreams when I decided to become a journalist. And it was the unquenchable love of movies brought me to film journalism.

 

Interviewing Mia Wasikowska at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival

Interviewing Mia Wasikowska at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival

But I still get that nagging feeling of wanting to make my own.

 

Super 8

Super 8

And with one particular idea bubbling away, I enrolled in a four day (two weekend) Directing Documentary course at Metroscreen in Paddington.

It’s how I spent my weekend – learning about the art, history and techniques of making a documentary.

 

Still from Man with a Movie Camera - one of the docos we studied over the weekend

Still from Man with a Movie Camera – one of the docos we studied over the weekend

It’s fascinating stuff, and good thing too, because it’s now Monday and I’m scratching my head, wondering where on earth the weekend went.

I’ve also taken away from the course an enormous list of films to watch – including Grizzly Man, Hoop Dreams, Samsara, Act of Killing and Searching for Sugar Man (I felt quite guilty I haven’t seen the last two cause they’re both recent).

Still from the poetic doco Samsara - which I'm yet to see!

Still from the poetic doco Samsara – which I’m yet to see!

 

But in case you’re keen to check out some docos, here are some of my recommendations (in no particular order):

 

STORIES WE TELL

Filmmaker Sarah Polley in  the beautifully engrossing Stories We Tell

Filmmaker Sarah Polley in the beautifully engrossing Stories We Tell

Filmmaker Sarah Polley turns the lens on her family, herself and the idea of memory in what begins as a portrait of her mother and becomes a kind of unravelling mystery. One of my favourites – it goes to some surprising and unexpected places.

BLACKFISH

I was seriously fired up after watching this partisan-style doco. Get angry at SeaWorld, the brutal abuse of animal rights for money and how it ultimately led to the death of killer whale trainers and imprisoned a traumatised creature in the process.

SENNA

It doesn’t matter if you’re an F1 fan or not – this is a gripping, superbly crafted film about beloved Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna

THE LAST IMPRESARIO

You’ve heard of Rocky Horror Picture Show? Of Monty Python? Of Anna Wintour and Kate Moss? Meet the man who believed in and championed them first, the theatre and film producer Michael White, who’s often referred to now as “the most famous person you’ve never heard of”. Made by Aussie socialite Gracie Otto in her impressive directorial debut.

THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY

Made up of 15 one-hour chapters, this aired on TV network SBS here in Australia before it got a DVD release , although I luckily was given it for my birthday. It’s a thorough, in-depth account of film’s evolution, by Irish film critic and director/narrator Mark Cousens. A must-see ode to cinema, even if I do find his voice a little irritating.

20 FEET FROM STARDOM

I’ve always loved songs like Walk On The Wild Side and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). In this, you meet the powerful voices that made those songs what they are.

What are some of your favourites?

 

The Terminator (1984)

Ok, let’s get this straight.

I have two older brothers – I grew up on a diet of action movies, mainly starring Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger (essentially what is now the grizzly cast of The Expendables movies).

Ah nostalgia.

Ah nostalgia.

So I have actually seen The Terminator. Just not in a veeeery long time.

In fact, I realised most of what I remembered was actually from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which I watched waaay more times.

Firstly DAMN Arnie makes an excellent villain.

Seriously, I know the role didn’t require him to have many (any) facial expressions, but it was chilling stuff, even before he lost chunks of his face and became the creepy, red-eyed, death-stare skeleton.

Pretty impressive make-up/prosthetics for the time

Pretty impressive make-up/prosthetics for the time

And with all this talk of Ghostbusters getting a female reboot and the thumbs up for more oestrogen-driven action flicks, why don’t we take a moment to cheer director/co-writer James Cameron and the original Sarah Connor Linda Hamilton for creating a movie heroine  some three decades ago.

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No wonder Ripley got a shot of badass in Aliens with Cameron on board to direct.

In fact, I found Connor very reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley – particularly her transformation from a scared survivor in the first film, to a warrior in the sequel.

What also struck me – aside from a super young Bill Paxton looking hilarious as a punk

Nice hair Bill Paxton

Nice hair Bill Paxton

– is just how much I hadn’t realised Terminator’s influence on modern day films.

Most recently, in the grim future of X-Men: Days of Future Past, where in the piles of skulls and even the Sentinels themselves, I could have been watching the 2029 of The Terminator.

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Terminator-esque Sentinels

Terminator-esque Sentinels

What can I say? The Terminator is a classic for a reason. Not as scary as it would have been back in 1984, but still a gripping ride.

This year marks it’s 30th anniversary – next month (October) to be exact

and there’s been lots of news of late about the fifth Terminator film – Terminator: Genisys, which will see Arnie back in the franchise.
I told you I would be back...

I told you I would be back…

Couple of things to keep in mind:
– Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke will play Sarah Connor
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Practising her Sarah Connor death-stare in season one of Game of Thrones

Coincidentally, her Game of Thrones co-star Lena Headey has also played the part in TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
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Lena Headey looking very un-Cersei as Sarah Connor

And director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) has directed Game of Thrones eps. Ok, this is feeling a little incestuous now, isn’t it?
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No comment.

– It also stars Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, who has no link to Game of Thrones.
But he IS an Aussie, so we will claim that. He also won’t be intimidated by Arnie – he acted opposite Bruce Willis in the terrible A Good Day to Die Hard (aka Die Hard 5 – he likes his fourth sequels, doesn’t he?)
Courtney and Willis having a father-son moment in A Good Day to Die Hard

Courtney and Willis having a father-son moment in A Good Day to Die Hard

– The trailer will reportedly play before Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Interstellar according to Theterminatorfans.com
– Although fans might be waiting on the Terminator rights to revert back to Cameron in 2019, he said at the Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex Film Festival that he “told the story I wanted to tell.” 
– And lastly, just cause….

Oh Bill. You also didn’t manage to find the Heart of the Ocean.

Oz Comic-Con arrives in Sydney!

Oz Comic-Con arrived in Sydney today and did not disappoint.

 

Helping E.T. phone home

Helping E.T. phone home

Jason Momoa (aka Khal Drogo and the potential future Aquaman) was there, along with William Shatner and Orlando Bloom. Although I’m a massive GoT and LOTR fan, I was also particularly excited about Jim Cummings – the voice behind Winnie the Pooh and Tigger – making an appearance.

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Kudos go out to all the creative people who got in on the cosplay fun.

I went as Black Widow

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Rocking Black Widow for Oz Comic-Con Sydney

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But was put to shame by my fellow Natasha Romanoff

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Another – far more realistic – Black Widow and Captain America in their Winter Soldier get-up

Check out my video about the day. Also here’s some of the other great costumes we saw walking around:

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Venom and Spidey

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A Transformer stomps around Oz Comic-Con in Sydney

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A pirate’s life

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Epic photo bomb on the right

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This guy apparently paid $1000 for this Iron Man suit

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Using the force at the Star Wars Rebels stand

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I have several theories about who these guys were – what do you think?

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These two were hilarious – look at that pose!