Hullo, and welcome to the inaugural edition of The 405 Film Digest. Once every week herein we'll compile features, thoughts and general mockery of the film industry and its respective denizens in an accessible and relatively bite-sized manner. Don't feel like you need to read it all at once! Bookmark us or get that fancy Read It Later app, dip in and out, do with us what you will.

Fret not - we'll still be popping up worthy news, reviews and trailers as the week goes on, but this is your one-stop-shop for features now. So thanks for stopping by, and enjoy!

Danny - Film Ed.



The Weekly Harrumph

- Yashoda Sampath

Dear reader, you must forgive me as I must kick off this new year with a rant. The release of The Iron Lady, or as it should be called, Margaret Thatcher Really Is Quite An Ok Lady If You Ignore Absolutely Everything You Already Know About Her, has provoked the biggest “harrumph!” of my young adulthood. What we are seeing now is a marriage of two heinous trends: the "near history close-up biography" and the "biography without politics," basically reducing anyone's story to the perfect Weinstein-ian journey of youthful hardship, eventual adult success, and lashings of “wit” that were already stale when your grandparents were young.

This approach has even infected films dealing with topics considered dead history. Take The Young Victoria, which transforms the life of young Vic into the perfectly Jane Austen tale of love between two with identical backgrounds yet different temperaments, completely ignoring the facts of what they did. The British monarchy has never received such effective advertisement as from Weinstein-ian Oscarbait. You may recall that we Yanks once fought a war so that we would no longer have to celebrate the dubious exploits of the British monarchy. But at least the films mentioned thus far at least pretend to be something other than exercises in self-aggrandizement.

In the ultimate exercise of film as PR exercise, Elton John gets to choose who’s cast to play him in an upcoming biopic. He’s stated a preference for Justin Timberlake, which perhaps tells us more about what dear Elton sees in the mirror than it does about the film. Ok, if they cast Timberlake, it probably does say quite a bit about the film.

But I digress…



Film Talk

- Evin Keane

Christmas this year meant (as it does every December) time for Hollywood to fill theaters with novelty films and half-assed sequels. Thank God we have the Shrek spinoffs and weed movie christmas specials out of the way, you might say to yourself. Bring on the new stuff, the movies we can't predict every minute of just by glancing at the film's title. Sadly, you'll be holding your breath for another week or two.

This week’s two big releases came from directors whose track records merit our renewed interest: David Fincher and Brad Bird. But really, is Fincher's take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo really going to be all that revelatory? The pulpy Swedish novel franchise has already been served up as a film adaptation by the Swedes themselves, and Fincher clearly isn't too eager to put a fresh spin on things; so why bother? The time spent making this film was simply a wasted opportunity for Fincher to work on some more truly great original material, as he did in The Social Network.

On the other hand, the prospect of Mr Bird (of Pixar fame) taking the helm for the fourth Mission Impossible film is one to savour. He's shown a knack for tight, snappy action sequences in all of his animated features, and The Incredibles is one of the best superhero movies of the last ten years. There's nothing to suggest that his talent for thrilling and often playful set piece direction wouldn't translate well to live action. So if you've seen the previous Dragon Tattoo movie or read the books, expect Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol to be the more rewarding watch. As the heavy-hitting Oscar contenders start to be rolled out kicking off with The Iron lady next week, MI4 might be the only chance you’ll get for a long time to enjoy some entertainment that’s not too self-serious.



The 405 Awards

- Steven O'Shea

Award for: The Film Most Likely To Confuse Twitter #Hashtaggers Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

In a world where ITV can legitimately make entire shows about the #hashtags of the year and the world finds out about everything from the death of Kim Jong-Il to who’s out on X Factor at the click of a timeline, Twitter’s become one of the most innovative outlets for news, trivia and social updates. It’s not the most accurate in some situations however. A case for Sherlock Holmes perhaps?

Well, actually, he’s the problem. With the BBC releasing the new series of Sherlock on New Years day and fans viewing the new Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows movie over the holiday season, those tweeting the word Sherlock on twitter landed themselves in the same pot. For those who don’t look at twitter trends in depth (ie. Most of us), this isn’t much of an issue, but to anyone that fancies a quick look for procrastination or a long look for research of anything, it could prove to be a logistical nightmare. Stephen Fry, almost intellectual property of the BBC of late, plays Mycroft in GoS, which just complicates things further.

Mix that with the bro-mance between Holmes and Watson in both film and television adaptations are escalated to a point that you’d question it, you’ve got yourself a confusing set of parallel story lines. Guy Ritchie’s film version has been popular with film goers due to its blend of complex story line, comedy and drama mix and acting by the likes of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. It’s mostly easy to follow and interesting throughout its 2 hour running time. The TV version, written by Steven Moffat (also the writer of Dr. Who) encapsulates most of what we enjoy about New Years tv. It’s easy on the eyes, thoroughly entertaining and has the twists that leave the whole family guessing. Without spoilers it’s hard to complain, although it does come across as a little cheesy at times, something the film also suffers.

That said, both are brilliant. In the tv show, it’s nice to see Benedict Cumberbatch live his badass side whilst also holding hostile romantic emotions as Holmes and across to its big screen cousin, both Downey Jr. and Jude Law bring a comedic yet not completely preposterous outlook to an often serious backdrop. If it was possible to give the award to both, it would be done, but rules are rules are rules, even if they’re new ones so #Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows wins the first award of its kind.



Filmosophy - Hungover Again

- Alex Gordon

On New Years Day, in beds in dark rooms all around the world, there were people feeling shitty. There were headaches, mouths like the Gobi Desert, bouts of reverse peristalsis, vitriolic dyspepsia, weaponized methane expulsion; there were sunglasses, there were ibuprofi, there were many, many people hungover.

For all their agitating symptoms, hangovers have an interesting universality to them. They transcend all walks of life and like losing your keys or stubbing your toe, they are easily relatable.

In the second installment of The Hangover, Director Todd Phillips revisits this romance with the good, bad and ugly sides of morning-after misery. With 'Part II', the original film’s paradigm remains intact, if not uncannily, with a few choice details refurbished. This time it’s Stu (Ed Helms) who’s taking the marital plunge, in Thailand instead of Vegas and it’s his brother-in-law to-be Teddy that’s gone missing. Like the original, the Wolfpack wakes up in the throes of the H-word, surrounded by cryptic clues they must decipher through the magic of selective flashbackery. Mishaps follow.

In one scene sixteen-year-old Teddy, filling the franchise role of lost-child, expresses a strange sense of satisfaction in being hungover for the first time. “I can’t remember anything,” says Teddy, “but when I woke up this morning, I was kinda happy.”

There’s something satisfyingly simple about hangovers; they’re a basic study in consequence, cause-and-effect 101. They have this way of simplifying thoughts into two-dimensional, primeval urges. Like being stoned, it’s a cloudy, half-competent, one-track thought-process (what some folks on the internet have dubbed ‘the Dumbs’).

Teddy’s gone through hell, sure, been subjected to some wily, lampshade-on-your-head, Black Eye Pea’d hi-jinx. But damn, what a story. At the core of these films is this idea that hangovers are basically battle scars, souvenirs of a life-well-lived, to be worn with a sense of pride. For the film’s target collegiate demographic, the concept is all too easy to relate.

Visit any college dorm on any given Saturday morning and you’ll find groups of young people nursing headaches with smiles on their faces, recalling fondly the night’s antics with stories of fights, hookups and missing person reports.

“It seems like a rite of passage for them to drink to mental obliteration, as if they need some excuse to be sexually promiscuous and intensely loud in doing so,” from the online publication Christwire. “The life of the Bowery Bum beckons these young and irreligious hedonists.”

Films like The Hangover are essentially pandering to us irreligious hedonists and our party-egoism. The film’s face-tattoos, monkeys, drug dealers, transvestites and celebrities are simply the exaggerated earmarks of a “wild-night” as we’ve come to know it through television and the movies. And it makes sense. The themes of indulgence, regret and amnesiatic mystery inherent to binge drinking and hangovers are practically prepackaged for cinematic storytelling, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the films have enjoyed such juicy returns at the box office.

Phillips is no stranger to party culture. His resume (Old School, Road Trip, Due Date and The Hangovers) reads like an all-time-list for a fraternity film club. And his next picture, Project X” seems equally intent on hitting the same spots, in what appears to a Superbad meets Cloverfield mashup.

But back to Teddy and his happy hangover. The biological side of a hangover is unequivocally unpleasant but the emotional side can be oddly satisfying. Sure, it may be a painful way to remember that our actions have consequences, that our bodies can be self-punitive and resentful, that our memories don’t owe us a thing and that, well, alcohol is in its very essence, poisonous.

But with the post-bender regret and confusion comes a sense of accomplishment, the sort of victorious exasperation normally reserved for professional athletes having exerted their bodies and minds against the thresholds of durability and surviving to tell the tale. And it’s the tale-telling that makes it all worthwhile.

In “Part II,” the characters are still recovering (emotionally) from the first film’s shenanigans and they are persistent in reminding you. Remember that time Stu lost a tooth? Married a prostitute? Left Doug on the roof? Stole Mike Tyson’s tiger?

The first film’s hijinx shadow every moment of the sequel, though not everyone sees eye-to-eye on how it all went down. For Alan (Zach Galifinakis), the night in Vegas was a highpoint in a lifetime of lows and he spends most of his time in Thailand aching to replicate the Vegas bond, chasing it like some sort of friendship junkie. But for the rest of the pack, it was a night they were lucky to survive, something they’d never purposefully reenact.

The discrepancy between their memories highlights one of the most interesting things about the film and hangovers in general: during a hangover, you decide how the previous night will be remembered for the rest of your life, you get to re-write a memory. This is how present-tense debacle becomes past-tense lark.

When the morning-after finds the Wolfpack mending bullet shot wounds in a Bangkok police station, Alan giggles, “Man, we love to party.” There are two ways of looking at this. On a cynical hand, Phillips is romanticising behaviours that are unhealthy, dangerous and at times criminal. You could be offended by this if you wanted to. What kind of message does it send to the children (the children!), that you can carpe-diem the night away and wake up the next morning laughing?

But let’s be realistic. Movies aren’t supposed to set standards for morality and comedies in particular have no obligation to dictate safe or healthy behaviour. The truth is that movies reflect already existing human phenomena. And in that sense, Phillips is simply doing his job. If we don’t like what it says about us, tough shit.

It’s not about whether or not party films like The Hangovers should romanticise questionable behaviour, but rather that they often do little else.