Tag Archives: Mel Gibson

Review: The Beaver

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence

Director: Jodie Foster

‘You’re nothing without me, Walter. Nothing. I’m the only part of you that works.

After two years of severe depression, toy executive Walter Black retreats completely and begins communicating with his long-suffering family through a glove puppet. Meanwhile, his estranged elder son fights to avoid becoming his father.

Having been trapped in limbo for over a year, waiting for the dust to settle on Mel Gibson’s public meltdown, The Beaver is finally released into the world. And it’s hard to imagine a more fitting role for Gibson to have chosen, even if it was chosen and performed before the event.

Walter Black, so lost in a black hole from which he feels there is no escape that he is forced to hide within an alternative persona, is such a perfect fit for Gibson that it’s hard to believe that he was second choice for the part and equally hard to believe that original choice Jim Carrey could have brought half the pathos that Gibson delivers to The Beaver. With every flicker of his eyes, every hunch of his shoulders, Gibson portrays a man trapped in his own personal Hell, while still managing to mine the ridiculous premise for nuggets of comedy. Foremost in this regard is the English cockney accent Gibson utilises for the beaver puppet itself. Apparently coached by Ray Winstone, you would swear in several places that Winstone was dubbing the puppet himself, so accurate is Gibson’s delivery. It’s the ideal voice for a puppet that becomes increasingly sinister as the movie progresses.

The always excellent Foster who, like Gibson, is no stranger to acting and directing in tandem, turns in a solid performance as Walter’s exasperated wife, torn between wanting to escape her husband’s destructive condition and wanting to save him from it. Anton Yelchin is not entirely sympathetic as Walter’s teenage son, who keeps a list of similarities between himself and his father with the intention of ridding himself of each one. It’s a sub-plot that, like The Beaver itself, is weakened by skipping over the depth, never quite fulfilling its potential.

Where the movie as a whole fails is in its rather half-hearted exploration of Walter’s underlying depression, or analysis of why he chooses to disengage from himself the way he does. That he creates a persona through a glove puppet for his own rehabilitation is a fascinating conceit. It deserves to have been explored with a little more depth, rather than simply rely solely on Gibson’s nonetheless accomplished performance.

I was going to make a gag about hands in beavers but this is a family site. Sort of.

The Beaver is by no means a bad movie. Foster has an assured touch behind the camera and the movie has real heart at its core. It is also anchored by one of Gibson’s best performances, without which it would certainly have been less of a success. By turns heart-breaking, sinister and funny, rarely has an actor seemed more at home in a part. However, the titular character itself never quite manages to become more than a puppet on the end of Walter’s arm, which seems like a failing given the importance it plays.

Ultimately, The Beaver gets caught up in trying not to be too much of any one thing. Torn between the tragic and the comedic aspects of Walter’s tale, it never quite reaches the heights of either.

Rating – 3 Stars

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The 2010 Celluloid Zombie Awards

And you thought the award season was over. Not so. On the last day of 2010, I’ve decided to hand out a small series of prestige awards to some of the most notable people, events and movies of the industry year. Trust me, the Oscars will be cleared from the shelves to make room for these babies. Probably.

Welcome to the Celluloid Zombie Awards 2010!

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The Tina Turner Award for Sticking It To Your Ex

Kathryn Bigelow

After years of being ignored by Oscar, watching ex-husband James Cameron win enough of them to form a small army with Titanic, Kathryn Bigelow finally enjoyed some sweet times when The Hurt Locker beat Cameron’s Avatar to both the Best Picture and Best Director awards, at the Oscars and the BAFTAS. Both Academies enjoyed a rare moment of sense and sagacity in choosing  Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the Best Director action figure in the Oscar’s history. Well done, Kathryn. Have another golden paper-weight for the shelf.

No doubt the Oscars will resume normal service in 2011 and hand Best Picture to Transformers 3. Meanwhile, James Cameron is lobbying the Academy for the introduction of a Best Expensive Cartoon With Blue People In It category, in the hopes of a sure-fire win with Avatar 2.

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The Keanu Reeves Award for Disastrous Casting

The Beaver

Poor Jodie Foster. For her third movie as director, Foster turned to wacky Mel Gibson to play the depressed Toy Company CEO who begins communicating through a hand-puppet. With shooting completed and a 2010 release date set, Gibson promptly, and very publicly, imploded. He decided to start communicating through an answer machine and single-handedly made himself the most unpopular actor since Fatty Arbuckle. Since this could spell death for the project, Summit Entertainment promptly pulled The Beaver’s release date, putting the movie ‘in a holding pattern’ in the hopes that the smell around Mel would waft away. At the time of writing, Summit Entertainment have tentatively announced a release date of Spring 2011 for The Beaver, no doubt hoping that Gibson can keep his mouth shut for the next three or four months. Foster must be wishing she’d dialled Harrison Ford.

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The Stephen Sommers Award for Screwing Up a Good Idea

The Expendables

Bring together all the biggest names of action cinema from the last thirty years for a single movie and you have a sure thing, right? Wrong. Stallone’s attempt to create the ultimate action movie merely proved to be a successful exercise in exhuming the decomposing careers of several stars only to shoot them in the head and re-bury them. Just making sure they were really dead, I guess. Unintentionally the worst zombie movie ever made. I’m tempted to change this site’s name to Celluloid Expendable.

The script was apparently written by a child and several action stars all wanting to get their fair bite of the cherry. The dialogue is head-in-hands dreadful, with such cracking lines as, “We are the shadow, the smoke in your eyes, the ghosts that hide in the night”. Stallone says this just before running around shouting and blowing shit up. Because that’s what shadows do.

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The J.J. Abrams Award for Making Television Watchable

The Walking Dead

Zombie movies have long been a genre all their own, with the undead lurching around the cinemas of the world for decades (and in my town that’s just the audience). This year, however, the disease spread beyond the multiplexes and those wacky walking corpses finally got their own TV show, care of Frank Darabont and TV channel AMC.

Based on a comic book (let’s face it, what isn’t based on a comic book these days), The Walking Dead’s tale of survivors in a post-zombified America aired to record numbers despite being the shortest season for a TV show since Joss Whedon last announced a project. However, the success of The Walking Dead guaranteed a second season, scheduled to air October 2011, which is an eternity for those of us ravenous for more than the taster offered by a paltry six episodes.

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The Darth Vader Award for Making a Memorable Entrance

Chloe Moretz

Forget the Chinese Tiger, 2010 was The Year of the Chloe Moretz. The young actress has been around for a little while, but this was the year when Moretz truly entered the radars of movie-goers everywhere. With engaging turns in no less than three acclaimed movies in 2010 (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Kick-Ass and Let Me In) I was almost considering her for The Award for Attempting to Appear in Every Movie Made.

However, it’s for Moretz’s first appearance in costume as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass that Chloe wins her Celluloid Zombie Award. Let’s face it, a 10-year-old girl with purple hair acrobatically carving up a roomful of drug-dealers makes for a memorable enough scene. But give her the line, “Okay, you c**ts, let’s see what you can do now”, and you have a jaw-dropping moment of gleefully irresponsible cinema fun.

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The Dante Alighieri Award for Burning in Development Hell

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson’s prequel to Lord of the Rings started 2010 with Jackson as Producer and Guillermo Del Toro as Director. Ian McKellen (Gandalf) had indicated that shooting would start in July, which was put on hold when MGM’s financial troubles hit the project. Del Toro then quit and rumours began circulating about who would replace him. Jackson began casting in July but this hit a snag when several actors unions urged clients to boycott the film due to contract issues. The movie was officially green-lit in October, the union troubles were resolved but ill-feeling from negotiations with the New Zealand Government left The Hobbit looking to relocate. This was solved, leaving the project back where it started, except with Jackson now down to direct. Casting has continued through the rest of the year and it’s starting to look like The Hobbit might have survived its year in Hell. There and back again, indeed.

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Honourary Award for Being My Son’s Favourite Movie of 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Edgar Wright’s third feature under-performed at the box office, but was still one of the most energetic and imaginative movies of the year. It’s here, however, because it’s at the top of my son’s list. And in the slim hope that he’ll let me off for putting it 6th in my own list.

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Top Ten: Alien Invasion Movies

Sometimes they are benevolent visitors. Sometimes they come in peace, to aid mankind in our hour of need and help us overcome our struggles. Sometimes. Most of the time, however, they come to kick our ass, steal our resources and breed with our females. Yes, those aliens are rarely here for the good of anyone but themselves. More often than not they are just intergalactic hoodlums and Earth is the bar they choose to pick a fight in. Probably because the human race is so willing to oblige them.

With the recent release of both Monsters (reviewed on this site) and Skyline, the alien invasion movie is enjoying a spell of popularity. So, I tip my hat to the genre and present my list of the ten best it has to offer. Die, alien scum!

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10. Independence Day

1996

Roland Emmerich’s first exercise in monument pounding has arguably some of the worst dialogue in summer blockbuster history, but it more than compensates with its on-screen carnage. These visitors don’t even say hello before calmly giving the planet both barrels. Luckily, our fair globe has three lines of plucky defence. We have Will Smith, to see them all off with his smug wise-cracks. We have Bill Pullman, a US President who doesn’t carry on listening to kids read a story when trouble hits. And we have Jeff Goldblum, who is able to upload a virus to an entire alien computer system using just his laptop and a pair of ‘I Am Super-Smart’ glasses.

Great invasion movie, but if you’re looking for gritty realism and convincing plot developments, look elsewhere.

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9. Signs

2002

The alien invasion movie that doesn’t actually show you the alien invasion. Inspired! Budget friendly! And thanks to the now increasingly dwindling skills of director M. Night Shayalaman, it works beautifully. The invasion itself is set in place as a backdrop to the story of widowed Reverend Mel Gibson’s crisis of faith. The aliens are rarely seen, and their presence on a global scale is made known only through TV broadcasts. It’s a neat approach, and Signs features Gibson’s last great performance before he, too, was invaded by aliens.

Just try to ignore the basic premise that a group of extra-terrestrials who are fatally allergic to water plan to invade a planet which is 70% covered in the stuff. Dumb asses.

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8. Killer Klowns from Outer Space

1988

As dumb as it sounds, but a total hoot from beginning to end. Special effects trio The Chiodo Brothers brought us this singular tale of an American town invaded by aliens who look like…clowns! Yes! Landing in their Big Top shaped spacecraft, the malevolent harlequins set about harvesting the inhabitants for food, cocooning them in cotton candy, liquidising them and then drinking them through huge straws. Armed with such deadly weapons as killer shadow puppets, rabid balloon animals and brightly coloured ray guns, the clowns seem unstoppable. But they have a weakness. A big, red weakness in the middle of their faces.

Sophisticated, high-brow filmmaking this is not, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space has a rare, anarchic imagination.

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7. District 9

2009

The passive alien invasion, and allegory for any race of people who find themselves unwelcome in a foreign land. These aliens come to Johannesburg…and just don’t leave. Segregated into their own ramshackle part of the town and referred to as ‘prawns’ by the indigenous population, they are only a threat in the paranoid imaginations of the humans. Director Neill Blomkamp and lead actor Sharlto Copley deliver a well-observed, cutting, but thoroughly entertaining examination of the human capacity to loathe what it doesn’t understand.

One of the more successful uses of the ‘mockumentary’ style, District 9 is a lot of fun. And the prawns themselves, thanks to New Zealand based FX company Weta, are strangely sympathetic.

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6. Men in Black

1997

Not only are the aliens coming, they’re already here, have been for years and someone needs to keep an eye on them. Cue deadpan veteran Tommy Lee Jones and livepan new recruit Will Smith (yep, him again) as the titular Men in Black. Like the CIA for alien visitors. This is the kind of movie that could have been truly awful, but thanks to the light touch of director Barry Sonnenfeld, his two leads and a fantastic supporting cast, the alien invasion movie has rarely been so much fun.

Playing on popular stories among UFO conspiracy theorists of shadowy government figures, it’s possible the whole project was part of a government plot to hide the true existence of shadowy government figures. And aliens. Probably.

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5. They Live

1988

The first of two from director John Carpenter, They Live was arguably the last of Carpenter’s great movies. Released in 1988, at the end of a decade which celebrated greed and the accumilation of wealth, the movie sees an out-of-work drifter inadvertently discover that the ruling elite of America are aliens. Disguising themselves by manipulating humans through broadcast signals and subliminal messages, the aliens encourage a culture of ruthless aspiration designed to turn humanity upon itself, preparing the way for an easy invasion. Sound far-fetched? No, I didn’t think so either.

Carpenter’s dialogue isn’t always the best, but any movie that contains the line, ‘I have come here to chew bubble-gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble-gum,’ is a winner.

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4. The War of the Worlds

1953

The first movie adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic book, which in turn was the first piece of alien invasion fiction, Byron Haskin’s movie deviated greatly from the source material. Out went the tripod machines, replaced by floating ships which looked a bit like green coat hangers. Cooler than they sound, trust me. The aliens are just as ruthless and relentless as Wells intended, however, bringing destruction to the world with their unstoppable and diabolical death rays. Is there any other kind?

Steven Spielberg brought his own considerable talents to the story in 2005, also straying from Wells’ original, but this first attempt still stands as a spectacular piece of science fiction from an earlier age of fantastic cinema.

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3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

1978

Jack Finney’s original novel The Body Snatchers has been filmed a total of four times, with several looser adaptations along the way, but Philip Kaufman’s version is by far the best. A dark, brooding exercise in paranoia, Kaufman squeezes every last drop of fear and melancholy from Finney’s source material. As aliens invade us by the simple act of becoming us and disposing of us while we sleep, Donald Sutherland and a small group of survivors struggle to find a way out, the odds against them increasing by the hour. You don’t have to be a narrative expert to know it’s not going to end well.

As if the premise itself isn’t scary enough, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is filled with macabre imaginary. Look out for the dog. And the closing scene will stay with you for a long time.

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2. The Day the Earth Stood Still

1951

The Day the Earth Stood Still is possibly the first great alien invasion movie, rising above the B-movie fare of its time with a premise and an agenda that demands to be taken a little more seriously. When a flying saucer lands in President’s Park, Washington, the sole occupant, a man called Klaatu, emerges and tells the people of Earth that unless they mend their violent ways they will be eliminated. Backing him up is a big-ass robot called Gort. This is an alien who hasn’t come to kick our ass. He’s come to spank it.

Smarter than the average invasion movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still was remade to disastrous effect in 2008 with Keanu Reeves. Believe it or not, he didn’t play the robot.

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1. The Thing

1982

John Carpenter’s remake of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World is essentially a more faithful adaptation of the original source material, the short story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. Similar in theme to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the alien invader is an organism which can overcome and imitate anyone. Infiltrating an American research station in the Antarctic, the alien picks off the 10-man team, one-by-one, leaving the survivors mistrustful and increasingly paranoid. Featuring some of the best live-action special effects ever seen, The Thing is a complete master class in taught, streamlined storytelling.

How next year’s prequel will measure up to this classic remains to be seen, but it will have to work hard. Other attempts to remake Carpenter have left expectations on the floor.

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