This week, Will Ferrell and Danny McBride’s bizarro comedy Land of the Lost arrives on DVD (surely bound for a possible cult following among stoners), as does Miley Cyrus’ first big screen adventure as Disney songstress Hannah Montana. Plus, John Malkovich heads to South Africa for Disgrace and an Oscar-winning stop-motion animator cranks up the quirk for his feature debut Mary and Max — starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in puppet form.
Back in the shag-pile depths of the 1970s, the dynamic duo of fish-out-of-water concept television, Sid and Marty Krofft, created one of the cult classics of the small screen: Land of the Lost. The Kroffts recently returned to the producers’ seat to bring their alternate universe to life as a big-budget Will Ferrell vehicle.
Ferrell plays the often-wrong, ostracised palaeontologist Dr. Rick Marshall who miraculously gets one thing right: his Tachyon Amplifier. This device transports Marshall, his beautiful and bizarrely loyal researcher (Anna Friel) and their dim-witted redneck guide (Danny McBride) into a parallel universe set ‘sideways in time’. Their little trip through a hole in the space-time continuum lands them in a surreal world of dinosaurs and strange life forms, including the slowest moving enemy of all time, the half-human/half-reptile Sleestaks.
This is entertaning for an easy night in. The film’s greatest appeal, without doubt, is Will Ferrell. The man is funny just standing still and in this film he pushes himself to the full extent of his comic lunacy. What the movie lacks in a coherent script, it more than makes-up for with laugh-out-loud pratfalls.
If you have a daughter between the ages of 8 and 13, you know all about Hannah Montana. You’ve probably already seen the film, heard the soundtrack, suffered the television show blaring every Saturday morning and been strong-armed into buying pieces from the Hannah Montana clothing line. You also know that your life will become instantly unbearable if you are not first in line at the video store the day this film is released.
Hannah Montana: The Movie is a spin-off of the Disney Channel phenomenon. It tells the story of Miley Stewart, played by Miley Cyrus, and her double-life as an average hillbilly teen by day and famous pop star, Hannah Montana, by night. She maintains this double life by the cunning use of a blonde wig, the support of Miley’s real-life father, Billy Ray Cyrus, and an assortment of other family and friends.
Quite frankly, the movie’s plot is ludicrous. Miley, on becoming overwhelmed by the trappings and complications of stardom, is whisked off to her hometown in Tennessee to take a good hard look at herself and regain a bit of perspective. Actually, that bit is quite sensible and it’s a shame no-one thought to do it for Britney or Lindsay. It’s after that that things get a little complicated. There are love interests, mistaken identities, hopeless contrivances, a bunch of evil property developers and much singing. Still, Cyrus’ young fans will adore it, and there’s no denying that Miley has enough charisma to light up the screen with her all-American charm and goofy brand of physical humour.
This adaptation of Nobel Laureate J.M. Coetzee’s acclaimed novel captures the tumultuous and raw ferocity of a post-apartheid South Africa. This is a complicated, confronting and challenging film but also immensely rewarding.
All of the performances are exceptional but the one that drives the film is the cold, arrogant turn by John Malkovich as David Lurie. Lurie is a misanthropic professor of romantic literature who seduces one of his young students. The resulting scandal costs Lurie his career and his position in the world, leaving him nowhere to go but his daughter’s isolated farmhouse.
Themes of power and victimisation are translated expertly from the novel. Lurie is a predator but his icy stillness sits in stark contrast to his own predators when he and his daughter are brutalised during a dramatic home-invasion. This violent act carries with it the weight of oppression and retribution.
Australian director Steve Jacobs and his wife and screenwriter, Anna Maria Monticelli, have successfully taken one of the most acclaimed novels of recent years and turned it into a film worthy of its source. Aside from its faithfulness, it is a powerful film in its own right with a tight script and cinematography that captures the rugged beauty of rural South Africa.
Fans of stop-motion claymation will go weak at the knees for this endearing tale of friendship across the seas. When a young Australian girl, Mary (Toni Collette), goes in search for a friend and pen pal she becomes inextricably linked to the elderly Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a New Yorker who finds the world rather chaotic. Their 22-year friendship unfolds through both letters and the delightful narration of Barry Humphries.
This film is brought to us by the Academy Award-winning Adam Elliot, who melted hearts with his short-film Harvie Krumpet. Like Harvie, Mary and Max finds the sweetness in human struggles and the joy in simple pleasures like condensed milk or a new letter in the mailbox.
Mary and Max is also quite dark and addresses themes of great hardship, albeit in a sweet and gentle way. This is a film for those who find life a little confusing or who have ever felt a hint of loneliness. Thankfully, with films like Mary and Max in the world, everything seems a little more possible.