Saturday, December 25, 2010

Little Fockers

Director: Paul Weitz

Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo and Jessica Alba.

For a movie which is based on a one line joke to have made three pictures seems to stretch the point but despite not being as hilarious as the prequels, Little Fockers is low comedy but amusing for all that. Greg (Ben Stiller) and his father-in-law, Jack Byrnes (De Niro) are still at it. Now grandfather Jack, comes to visit uninvited, Greg, Pam (Teri Polo) and the twins for their birthday. Jack is starting to have heart problems and confides in Greg as a precaution. Greg is a drug rep currently promoting a new erectile dysfunction medication. So you are in for some stand-up comedy. Once again the plot involves misunderstandings and white lies that escalate and blow up in Greg's face as Jack tries to separate Greg and his wife Pam. Clever writing (screenplay is by John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey) and slapstick combine to make this watchable. Owen Wilson, Barbra Streisand, and Dustin Hoffman give support with Jessica Alba as the manic, pill-popping pharmaceutical drug rep that takes a shine to Greg adding a bit of glamour. Rather over long but none the less watchable nonsense.

The King's Speech

Director: Tom Hooper (The Damned United)

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush

Prince Albert (Colin Firth), The Duke of York had a severe speech impediment which made him the butt of family jokes. He dreaded public speaking but because he was the younger brother of the heir apparent, Prince Edward (Guy Pearce), mercifully there was little call to give them. All that changed when Edward, after assuming the crown in 1936, abdicated a few months later to marry an American divorcé. ‘Bertie’ assumes the crown and as King George VI of England has to master public oration. Realizing the situation his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), goads him into seeking help from Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an unconventional Australian speech therapist. Pygmalion in reverse, the speech therapist and Bertie embark on a long and arduous journey. All the more stressful when Logue adopts unorthodox methods including treating the Royal as an equal. The situation becomes more dire when Edward abdicates and threat of World War becomes a reality. Britain and the Commonwealth need a king to mobilize and inspire the populace for the impending conflagration. Can Logue work his magic in time? Well you will need to see the movie, but the acting is great, the wit excellent and the story inspirational.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Catfish

Director: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost

This is a DIY documentary presented as a video diary. Yaniv Schulman (known as Nev), is a New York photographer gets involved with an on-line relationship with a middle-aged mother from Michigan, called Angela. Nev’s brother and his friend decide to capture the developing relationship on camera. The film plays out like a suspense thriller with Nev and his crew finally making a trip from New York to Michigan to confront his virtual friends. The audience is treated like voyeurs witnessing intimate, one-to-one moments and series of flirty texts and Facebook messages as the narrative unfolds. The subject is less interesting than the telling and the movie does dramatize the new era of social network sites and modern technology, relating an age old story of how vulnerable people really are. The real enigma here is, is the documentary genuine or cleverly presented construct and exemplar of cinema yet to come. Novel and worth a watch.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

True Grit

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper

The Coen Brothers have fun with a remake of the John Wayne classic which was based on the Charles Portis’s novel. Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) plays Marshall Reuben ‘Rooster’ Cogburn which might not sit too well with John Wayne fans but Bridges plays a darker character in this rather verbose but comedic version. Credible performances from Hailee Steinfeld (Mattie Ross) , Matt Damon (Texas Ranger LaBoeuf ) and Josh Brolin (Tom Chambers ) and the movie is shot brilliantly by Roger Deakins. An avenger story well told and in the classic Western genre. Worth a watch.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Year

Director: Mike Leigh

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville and Oliver Maltman

Four stories set to the four seasons; this fly on the wall movie tells a year in the lives of elderly married couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) and friends. A motley crew if ever there was with mediocrity a byword and in short Mike Leigh’s kind of people. Family and friends of geologist Tom and medical counselor Gerri are all searching for what the couple has i.e. contentment honed by decades of kindness, tolerance and understanding. Together they spend their spare time pottering about in their allotment and generally loving every second of their time together. Their close circle of friends includes bruised fruits and far less well rounded. Bachelor son, Joe (Oliver Maltman) is too busy to find a partner and Mary (Lesley Manville) is a childless divorcée who feels life has passed her by and now seeks solace in the bottle. As the seasons pass hope, disappointment, love, loneliness, sadness, joy, birth, and death are all played out in this superbly acted drama. The movie is beautifully and sensitively photographed by Dick Pope and as you might expect from the director of Happy-go-lucky et al, the dialogue is quick fire witty, natural and very Mike Leigh. Savour Lesley Manville’s brilliant performance as Mary in this good movie which is well worth seeing.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Black Swan

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey.

In this erotic thriller , prima ballerina , Nina (Natalie Portman) lands the role of Odette, the Swan Queen, in a daringly "revisionist" production of "Swan Lake." She must also dance the ballet's bewitching Odile, (the Black Swan) but the artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) is skeptical and brings in a rival dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), to act as both goad and back-up. This unnerves the obsessive young lead who begins to fantasize and break down. Nina lives with her mother (Barbara Hershey), a bitter ex-ballerina who gave up her career to raise Nina alone. The on stage drama is reflected offstage as the neurotic Nina comes to terms with the demands of the role. Will she metamorphose and triumph? Well you need to see the movie to find out. Not a patch on Red Shoes and overall despite some nice ballet inspired touches, very disappointing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sarah's Key (Elle s'appelait Sarah)

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Aidan Quinn , and Niels Arestrup

Based on Tatiana de Rosnay’s novel, Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas - I’ve Loved You So) is an American journalist living happily in Paris in 2009 with her husband and daughter. She is researching recent French history about the detainment of Pairs Jews when her investigations turn up a disturbing discovery: The apartment her family is moving into (which has been owned by her husband’s family for more than 60 years) was previously occupied by a displaced Jewish family. Julia believes the youngest daughter Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance) of the Jewish family may still be alive and feels compelled to track her down. However all this occurs when the journalists discovers she is pregnant and her architect husband (Frederic Pierrot) does not want her to keep the child. Julia slowly comes to understand her own life by researching Sarah’s plight. Sarah was 10 when her parents and younger brother were arrested and send to a Nazi prison camps during the Vel d'Hiv roundup (th infamous July 16, 1942 roundup and imprisonment of Parisian Jews byt the Vichy regime's). A poignant tale of two women confronted by the madness of history with an excellent cinematic score by Max Richter. Well worth a watch.

Lebanon

Director and Writer: Samuel Moaz

Starring: Michael Moshonov, Yoav Donat, Zohar Shtrauss, Dudu Tassa), and Ashraf Barhom.

The anti war movie tells the story of the first day of the Lebanon war in 1982 through the eyes of some soldiers in a tank. The action is set almost entirely inside the tank during the Israeli invasion. The claustrophobic setting is ideal for an unfolding drama which depicts four characters, all in their 20s, under intense pressure. Every once in a while someone drops into the tank from the outside world to add or subtract tension. The movie contains disturbing war violence, language includes sexual references, and there is some nudity which is perfect for the setting with close up photography nothing short of brilliant. The narrative is structured episodically and subtly shifts focus around each of the four main characters. The director gradually adds layers of development which place the audience firmly in each moment. Lebanon gives an insightful portrayal of men in war and is well worth your attention.

Monday, November 29, 2010

L'Immortale (22 Bullets)

Director: Richard Berry
Starring: Jean Reno (Léon and Ronin) , Marina Foïs

Loosely based on Franz-Olivier Giesbert’s novel, L’Immortel the movie tells the tale of Charly Matteï, (Jean Reno) a reformed gangland enforcer who is plugged 22 times (hence the English title) in the first scene by masked gunman. Against the odds Matteï, lives to tell the tale (L’immortale), and with the help of cop (Marina Foïs) and hindrance from his former gangster associates seeks revenge on his inept assassins. Despite a dramatic opening the first part of Richard Berry’s movie is slow moving and what begins as a serious and gritty gangster/cop thriller, it swiftly and uncomfortably changes tempo half way through, to become an over complicated comic book action movie. Not a patch on Taken, but a Jean Reno movie is always worth the watch. Reasonable performances all round with some dodgy special effects but a great score from Klaus Badelt.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Agora

Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Ashraf Barhom, Michael Lonsdale, Sammy Samir

Set in the Roman Egyptian city Alexandria in 391 AD. Agora tells the cautionary tale of Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), brilliant mathematician, philosopher and astronomer who is the head mistress of the Alexandria Academy. Schooled in neoplatonic enquiry she is on a quest to unravel the mysteries of celestial movements. This makes her almost oblivious to all things material, including being wooed. As the years pass and her students and slave become more influential in a changing society, she fails to realize she has now become a heretic. The movie is a parable about religious intolerance and in particular the intolerance of militant Christianity. Despite the ingredients, which are all there, it is not a very gripping film. Which is a great pity.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The American

Director: Anton Corbijn

Starring: George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido, Irina Björklund, and Paolo Bonacelli

Don’t be fooled has George Clooney in the starring role but this is a rather somber arthouse, spy thriller. Ageing elite hit man Jack/Edward (George Clooney) is a man of few words gradually losing his edge. Once an efficient killing machine he is aware things are not what they seem. After an assignment in Sweden goes horribly wrong Jack wants out. One last job beckons. Hiding out in Castelvecchio, a small Italian town, he starts a romantic relationship with a prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido) but his enemies are closing in. Jack is ruthless but Clooney gradually endears the character to the audience despite what he does. This is a clever against–type casting which was most famously done by Sergio Leone, when he cast Henry Fonda as a villain in Once Upon a Time in the West. It almost comes off in The American. Finally the sobriety of this film is used to highlight the moments of suspense. Worth a watch.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Red

Director: Robert Schwentke

Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Ernest Borgnine, and Richard Dreyfuss

A-list celebrities join together in an A-Team style action-comedy. Oldies retired from the Service once again reform to save the world in this film based on a DC comic book series created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. Retired CIA 'black ops' agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) becomes pre-occupied with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a call-centre employee, who handles his pension payments. On their first date a hit squad attempts to them and Frank takes action. Suspicious of a cover operation called RED ( Retired, Extremely Dangerous) and led by his old boss, Frank enlists the help of his retired colleagues. Enter Morgan Freeman (Joe), Helen Mirren (Victoria), John Malkovich (Marvin the paranoid), and Brian Cox as a delicious Russian ring-in. Will definately appeal to fans of fun loving, Bruce Willis and all that ‘root’en toot’en stuff’.

Monsters

Director and writer: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Scott McNairy, Whitney Able

Six years ago a crashed NASA probe sets free alien DNA samples in central Mexico. The result is fishy terrors grow and start to run riot overturning pickup trucks and knocking down buildings. Most of the country (Mexico) has been cordoned-off into Infection Zones and Andrew Kaulder (Scott McNairy) is an American photo-journalist documenting the post-invasion ruins. He is assigned to escort the boss' daughter, and bruised fruit, Samantha (Whitney Able) back to safety. Ultimately, the hapless pair find themselves alone in the warzone and things get complicated. If you enjoyed “District 9,” and “The Host” you may like this post-apocalypse road picture.

Sins of My Father (Pecados de mi padre)

Director: Nicolás Entel

A documentary from Argentina based on the sinful life of Pablo Escobar, as told by his son, Pablo Escobar Jnr (or Sebastian Marroquin as he prefers to be known). Daddy was a much feared and revered Columbian drug lord who was allegedly responsible for the deaths of many people as head of the Medellin drug ring. Like Robin Hood, Pablo Escobar Snr had a philanthropic side and according to the documentary anyway helped his community by buying housing projects and soccer fields for the poor. Behind the facade of criminal mastermind lay a good husband and father and his son wrestles on camera with the father he loved and the monster he was. Nicolas Entel also interviews the sons of assassinated Columbian politicians Luis Carlos Galan and Rodrigo Lara Bonilla to get perspective of the enigma, Pablo Escobar Snr. The story of Escobar is told mostly through stock footage filmed by news crews in Columbia, which is often shaky and dull. Definitely has elements which will interest historians and criminal sociologists but lacks mass appeal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Red Hill

Director and writer: Patrick Hughes

Starring: Ryan Kwanten; Claire van der Boom; Tom E. Lewis; and Steve Bisley

Constable Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) is a big-city cop who asks to be reassigned to a small Australian town after hesitating to shoot a young junkie in the course of his duties. The sea change is ostensibly because his wife, Alice (Claire van der Boom ) is pregnant and life is simpler in the country. The city slicker arrives in a small town,( Red Hill) set ranching community for his first day at work. His new boss is sheriff, Old Bill (Steve Bisley) is less than impressed. Slowly Shane is adjusting to the quirky locals when there is news of a prison break nearby. Local bad boy, Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis) has escaped for murderous vengeance. Novice Shane discovers there is more to this situation than meets the eye. Set in marvelous countryside atmospherically caught on camera by Tim Hudson this is a suspenseful thriller that pays loving tribute to the old cowboy movies. Something old, but nothing new.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wild Target

Directed by : Jonathan Lynn (my cousin Vinny)

Starring: Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt, Rupert Everett and Rupert Grint

Remake of a French farce which has sadly lost a lot in translation.
Following an audacious art theft, small-time scammer, Rose (Emily Blunt) sells art crook, Ferguson (Rupert Everett) a forged Rembrandt. Keen for revenge he hires professional hit man Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) but after the hit goes pear-shaped, the debonair Maynard discovers he has lost the killer spirit and has a crush on Rose. Further complications arise when Tony (Rupert Grint) =Victor’s hapless, de-facto son, witnesses his father in action . Martin Freeman (The Office) has a small part as the rival assassin sent to kill Victor and Rose. Not nearly so good as previous comedies of the same genre, but quirky enough and with the odd flash of black humour, to keep most in the audience, mildly amused.

Anything for her (Pour elle)

Director: Fred Cavayé

Starring: Diane Kruger, Vincent Lindon

Nightmare thriller about a happily married couple whose life is shattered when one is falsely accused of murder. After his beautiful wife, Lisa (Diane Kruger) is arrested for murder, literature professor; Julien’s (Vincent Lindon) grasp on his family becomes more and more tenuous. As Lisa’s health deteriorates in prison she begins to lose her will to live. Julien refuses to accept the destruction of their lives and plans desperate measures. Well structured narrative in classic Hitchcock, style, beautifully filmed in various parts of Paris and suburbs. Performances are par excellent in this suspenseful drama which sees the innocence of Lindon’s character challenged as the audience is left guessing as to her true nature of Lisa’s involvement in the original crime. Well worth seeing and catch it before the American remake, The Next Three Days (starring Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks and directed by Paul Haggis) is released in 2011.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Town

Director: Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Pete Postlethwaite, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall and Jon Hamm.

This is a tense, intelligent crime thriller set in Boston and based on the Chuck Hogan novel Prince of Thieves. Ben Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a working-class career criminal confronted with various moral dilemmas. He is the leader of a gang of armed bank robbers based in the Charlestown district of Boston. His love interest is junkie, Krista (Blake Lively), sister of his best friend, Jimmy Coughlin (Jeremy Renner). The latter is a psychopath. After the bank robbery Jem takes the bank manager, Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), hostage but later releases her unharmed. Keen to tie up loose ends and frustrate the FBI investigation Jem decides to kill Claire but Doug has another plan. He starts a relationship and soon falls head over heels in love with her and decides to make a break from his life of crime. The news gets to neighbourhood crime boss, Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite) who insists the gang pull off one more heist. Claire begins to realize her new lover’s dark secret as the FBI investigation led by Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm) closes in. Despite the unconvincing ending this is a reasonably good movie with a chilling (and all too short) portrayal by Pete Postlethwaite as the top villain. Good support performances from Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men). The movie is long at 125 minutes.

Gainsbourg

Gainsbourg
Director and Writer: Joann Sfar
Starring: Anna Mouglalis, Laetitia Casta, and Lucy Gordon

This is a intelligent biopic about the controversial French singer / songwriter, Serge Gainsbourg . Gainsbourg enjoyed celebrity and notoriety as a womanizer with a string of famous lovers, including Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta) and Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon). Some touching and nostalgic moments in the telling of this fanciful portrait of France's most unlikely sex symbol. The movie runs from the gambit from the time the precocious Lucien Ginsburg grew up in Nazi occupied Paris; to when he finds success as a composer, ladies' man and recording star. Strong cast and an excellent score. Sfar is a cartoonist and makes good use of animation throughout. An imaginatively directed movie with a strong script, this is well worth seeing .Superb cast and excellent soundtrack.




La Danse The Paris Opera Ballet

Director: Frederick Wiseman

Legendary documentary maker, Frederick Wiseman is at it again with an intriguing documentary that follows the members of the Paris Opera Ballet as they rehearse for a series of ballets. Behind the scenes the dancers work on their movements over and over as the choreographers make their charges ready for performance. Watch as the dancers train and train until finally they come together into a single, fluid performance. Exquisite but with no interviews, narration, or explanatory captions, the documentary lacks context. Subsequently after the nearly three hour movie it is difficult to tell who is more exhausted, you or the performers. A must for the obsessed but take a cushion.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Let me in

Let me in
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz , Cara Buono

This is a remake of the Swedish classic Let the Right One In, directed by Tomas Alfredson. Many consider this to be one of the most atmospheric, creepy, intelligent horror films in recent memory. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) version is not a bad movie it is just not as good as the original. The story is based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire novel but unlike the book the movie is set in New Mexico in 1983. Oewn (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is an awkward 12 year old who lives with his alcoholic mother (Cara Buono ). Separated from his father they live in a depressing apartment complex. Bullied at school the young boy passes his time with his Rubik’s Cube. Then new neighbours arrive and he meets and eventually befriends young Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) who like himself, likes to be to be left alone. Strange things start to happen in the neighborhood none of which seems to bother Oewn who is now infatuated. Unbeknown to all Abby is a vampire hiding in a little girl’s body and her “father” is a servant who plays the role of serial killer to procure blood for her continued existence. As the kids grow closer Abby begins to exert more control over her innocent and naïveté friend. Better than Twilight but otherwise so, so. Not so creepy as the original but otherwise good performances all round.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Loved Ones

Director & writer: Sean Byrne
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, John Brumpton, Richard Wilson, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee.

The Loved Ones is a scary movie from down under and tells the story of teenager Brent Mitchell (Xavier Samuels)who is in a car accident which kills his father. Devoured by guilt he turns drugs and self harm. His widowed mother Carla (Suzi Dougherty) and girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine) are unable to help him as he slips further into depression. When Brent declines to do a dance macabre with High School vamp Lola Stone (Robin McLeavy) she and her bazaar father plan revenge on the tormented teenager. Plenty for the squeamish to squirm over but not really my cup of tea. Movie score includes Little River Band's Lonesome Loser.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gasland

Writter & Director: Josh Fox

Another hard hitting documentary in the style of “What have they done to the electric car?” by Josh Fox. He sets out to examine the background to $100,000 offer for drilling rights to his family’s 16-acre homestead in the Catskill Mountains of Pennsylvania. Apparently under the family home there is an “ocean of natural gas.” Until now “fracking” a process described as extracting underground natural gas using a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals in hydraulic fracturing was uneconomical. Now all this has changed, and rural settings right across the US are being exploited. Former Vice President, Dick Cheney’s company sells the fracking technology. Enough said. Fox sets out across 24 states to investigate for himself how landowners have fared when they sold their drilling rights and been exposed the real health risks as a result of “fracking.” Allegedly among the 500 probable chemicals used in the process some are banned carcinogens. Major concerns are already expressed as to the impact of “fracking” on drinking water supplies to major US cities. Although Fox is stonewalled by companies and official bureaucracy he skillfully manages to draw out the truth. Not so much entertaining as really frightening. Worth a look.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Winter’s Bone

Director: Debra Granik

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Kevin Breznahan,and Isaiah Stone

Based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel the movie is set in the Ozark Mountains and tells the story of Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) who sets out on a dangerous journey to track down her bail-jumping father. To secure his bond he used the family home and failure to appear in court will mean repossession of the family home with the dependant family left to fend for themselves in the bitter Ozark woods. Against threats of retribution and violence the 17 year old slowly uncovers the truth behind her father’s disappearance. The movie sets out to explore the closed society of America’s rural poor, their insular and loyal attitudes, and what lies behind. Good sound performances from Jennifer Lawrence, and John Hawkes (Teardrop).

I’m still here

Directed by: Casey Affleck
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix

A documentary detailing Joaquin Phoenix’s dramatic descent into madness, or is it? Written by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix it does leave you in some doubt. Either way, Joaquin Phoenix puts in an elaborate, ballsy performance in which he confronts the media and entertainment industry with a warts and all bio of the screen actor committed to share the ‘behind the facade’ of celebrity. No wholes barred I am afraid but unfortunately it might have worked better had it included likable characters. Ricky Gervais has shown this works with comedies like Extras; and Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borak, but not here, I fear. Joaquin Phoenix(the character) is both a degenerate and unlikeable. This is bold cinema but only time will tell whether it is brilliant cinema.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chloe

Director: Atom Egoyan
Starring: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried

A remake or reinterpretation of the French film “Nathalie,” (2003). Directed by Adam Egoyan the melodrama unfolds when loveless, Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) suspects her husband, David (Liam Neeson) of infidelity. Driven by jealousy she engages, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a high class prostitute, to tempt him and report back. Chloe’s meticulously detailed, voyeuristic reports transfix Catherine who finds herself sexually awakened. What transpires has devastating consequences to the whole family. Good performances all round in this slow moving, creepy, erotic tale. Script by Erin Cressida Wilson.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

South Solitary

Director: Shirley Barrett (Love Serenade)
Starring: Miranda Otto, Barry Otto, Marton Csokas, Rohan Nichol, and Essie Davis.

Set on a windswept isolated island (South Solitary) in 1927 George Wadsworth, (Barry Otto - Cosi) is the new lighthouse keeper. His companion is his niece, thirty-something, Meredith Appleton, (Miranda Otto) who is on the rebound. They share the island with Harry (Rohan Nichol) a light house assistant who is resentful for being passed over for the job and his colleague Jack Fleet (Marton Csokas) who is barely coping with post traumatic stress disorder from the Great War. The atmosphere is tense and all the more so because the previous lighthouse keeper shot himself. Time lies heavily on the lighthouse because ships are rare in the area due to the lighthouse’s unreliability. Under the thumb of her uncle Meredith acts as his housekeeper and tries to befriend Harry's wife, the unwelcoming Alma, (Essie Davis), and their 9-year-old daughter, Nettie, (Annie Martin). Nettie is a foul mouthed child with a scab collection and a crush on Jack. Inevitably a romance blossoms between Meredith and Jack as the characters are thrown together. This is a well shot movie with an affecting score and overall good performances. There is a fair degree of black humour which maintains your interests but it does tend to drag here and there.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Infidel

Director: Josh Appignanesi
Starring: Omid Djalili, Richard Schiff, Archie Panjabi, Igal Naor
Not quite to the level of the satirical pen of Johnny Speight and ‘Til death us do part’ but under the circumstances which prevail today with PC etc., not a bad effort for all that. Foul mouthed Mahmud Nasir (Omid Djalili ) is a moderate Muslim, father and general foul mouthed, couch potato. Happy to let the world go by he also yearns for his youth and the eighties. The apple of his son’s eye is local beauty and daughter of a much-feared, unjovial, fatwa-friendly imam who holds Mahmud in very low regard. Keen to do the right thing by his family Mahmud is beginning to adopt a more religious attitude when by chance he discovers a family secret. Seems he was adopted and is Jewish? What to do? See the movie and find out because it is well worth the experience. The witty screen play was written by David Baddiel and comes across as a high amusing comedy which deals well with contemporary issues. Omid Djalili, as the challenged Mahmud is immensely funny, as is Richard Schiff (Whitehouse), the Jewish cabbie, Lenny, who tries to help. Worth the watch

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Marmaduke

This shaggy dog story is based on Brad Anderson's comic strip and tells the story of Marmaduke (voiced by Owen Wilson). The big, slobbering Great Dane, with the grace and pose of a cart horse is made for slap stick and there is plenty opportunity in the movie. Marmaduke’s family are on the move from Kansas to Orange County, California and Marmaduke and co, are naturally apprehensive at the prospect of meeting new friends and settling in. A coming of age movie designed for younger children it is definitely a feel good movie with a few canine laughs up its sleeve. Not the finest example of animal talking genre but not that bad for all that.




Monday, August 9, 2010

The disappearance of Alice Creed

Director and writer: J Blakeson
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, and Eddie Marsan

This is a scary, dark and clever thriller. Vic (the marvellous Eddie Marsan), and his younger accomplice Danny (Martin Compston), plan to make a load of money by kidnapping a millionaire’s daughter (Alice Creed - Gemma Arterton) and holding her for ransom. The simple but dastardly plot goes a rye when Alice proves a challenging hostage and brings out the best and worst in her captors. One of the most endearing aspects to this movie is the writer finds so many credible ways for fate and treachery to make the situation increasingly precarious. This alone will assure the movie get cult status. The film does contain some graphic violence and nudity and with only three speaking roles and basically two sets, a lot of dramatic weight falls on the shoulders of the actors and they completely deliver.
If you liked Shallow Grave and Deathtrap, then this is a movie for you.




Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Writer and Director: Stuart Beattie



Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz, Phoebe Tonkin, Chris Pang, Ashleigh Cummings and Andy Ryan.



A movie based on John Marsden’s inspiring novel of the same name tells the story a group of high school teenagers (Ellie, Homer, Lee, Kevin, Corrie, Robyn and Fiona) who discover their hometown of Wirrawee deserted on their return from a bush camping trip. Their pets are dead or dying and the telephone lines have been cut the kids assume the country has been invaded by a foreign power. The kids take action against the invaders and what follows is a riveting adventure that reminded me of the ABC Minors and the Saturday morning pot boilers of the 60s. Lord of the Flies meets the Survivors in this coming of age movie.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cairo Time

Writer and Director: Ruba Nadda
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Tom McCamus, and Alexander Siddig

Mark (Tom McCamus), is a UN official working in Gaza. He arranges to meet his wife Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) in Cairo for a three week vocation but at the last minute he is unavoidably delayed. Mark arranges for his close friend and former security officer, Tareq (Alexander Siddig), to be her escort. Despite the awkward situation Kismet and the beautiful and exotic city of Cairo conspire to bring the lovers together. Well written and well acted the movie is quite breath taking. Photography of the Cairo cityscape will hold you spellbound and the score by Irish composer Niall Byrne is a perfect complement for this modern love story. Cairo Time is smart, compelling and appropriately sad at its finale.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The killer inside me

The Killer Inside Me
Director: Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, In This World, A Mighty Heart)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, and Jessica Alba
Based on the novel by Jim Thompson this neo-noir styled, psychosexual thriller will have you fixed to your seat or running out of the cinema for fresh air. The movie tells the story of a small-town, stalwart, deputy sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) who is faced with mounting problems. Son of a local doctor the mild mannered lawman presents with a gentle disposition and innate sense of politeness. Not all may be as it seems. As he begins to investigate a crime, he perpetrated, the bodies start to accumulate as suspicion begins to fall upon himself. This man has a dark and deep secret which comes to goriest technicolour on a screen near you. Winterbottom pulls no punches to deliver an unflinching psychological portrait of fetishistic sexuality and submerged brutality let loose, but graphic as this is the movie is, it lacks warmth. Good performances from Affleck as Lou; Kate Hudson as Amy Stanton his girlfriend; and Jessica Alba, the town prostitute Joyce Lakeland, whose liaison with Lou triggers the unthinkable. The Killer Inside Me is stylish and beautifully shot but does contain disturbing brutal violence, aberrant sexual content, and graphic nudity. Not for the faint hearted and in my opinion there is a better movie in the same genre "Red Rock West," starring the late, great Dennis Hopper.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Father of my children

Father of my children (Le pere de mes enfants)

Writer and Director: Mia Hansen-Love (All Is Forgiven)

Starring: Louis-Dominique de Lencquesaing, Chiara Caselli, Alice de Lencquesaing, Alice Gautier

French film producer, Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) has a wife (Chiara Caselli) and three delightful daughters (Clémence , Valentine and Bobbie ) he adores. He loves his work and is driven and fulfilled artistically by discovering new talent and developing new projects. His world is perfect. Or is it? On the surface all is well but when the ‘worm turns,’ Gregoire has to contend with debts that have piled up over the years and issues with his productions that are currently in the works, Can he cope and will his loving family give him support ? You will need to see the movie to find out.

This is a well made French movie and thought provoking drama offering a rare insight into the joys and challenges of family life.



Look out for the end credits with the only song in the film and all is revealed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The kids are all right

Director and Writer: Lisa Cholodenko (High Art and Laurel Canyon)

Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson

Comic tale of a dysfunctional family in which Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a married lesbian couple with two upstanding children, the introspective 18-year-old Joni (Mia Wasikowska); and her 15-year-old sibling, Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Unbeknown to their parents the kids decide to meet their biological father, the man who donated the sperm that led to both their conceptions. He turns out to be the laid-back Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an organic restaurateur who rides his motorcycle to and fro, from organic garden to Tuscan kitchen. His scruffy demeanor and easygoing attitude eventually earn the affection of the kids and Jules but sets Nic on edge. Unsure of how to allow him into their collective lives, the adults try to determine what’s best for all involved. Never realising of course the consequences of what awaits. Good performances throughout this well crafted and at time hilarious, movie.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Boy

Director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark)

Starring Taika Waititi, James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Moerangi Tihore

Set in 1984 in Waihau Bay, New Zealand this coming of age movie tells the story of Boy (James Rolleston), and his younger brother, Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) who live with their deserted extended family on a farm. Nan (Mavis Paenga), the kid’s gran, looks after them and there is a goat called Leif. Boy's father, Alamein (Taika Waitit) has been absent for several years but makes a surprise return when Nan takes a short trip away from the farm. In the father’s absence the boys have become infatuated with Michael Jackson who has become a romanticised version of their old man. In reality of course the King of Pop and this incompetent criminal in search of hidden loot have little in common.... or have they? The movie is littered with a cast of quirky characters, swimming with imagination, humour and crammed full of in-jokes.



Matching Jack

Matching Jack
Director: Nadia Tass (Malcolm, The Big Steal, Amy)
Starring: Jacinda Barrett (Ladder 49, The Namesake), and James Nesbit (Five Minutes of Heaven and TV’s Cold Feet and Murphy’s Law).

Set in Melbourne, Marisa Hagen (Jacinda Barrett) struggles with her son's (Tom Russell) leukemia and her architect husband's (Richard Roxburgh) infidelity. In desperation she seeks potential doners from possible siblings from her husband’s previous affairs. After a chance encounter with the quirky Connor (James Nesbett) and his son Finn, (Kodi Smit-McPhee ), her life is turned upside down in a love story that defies explanation and breaks all the rules. As director, Nadia Tass deals sensitively with real issues affecting families, and how humour and optimism guide a mother through her darkest hours. Based on experiencesof Lynne Renew whose son was diagnosed with leukemia she co-wrote the script with Nadia Tass. Always enjoy watching James Nesbett (more so on the big screen) and there are good performances from the rest of the cast. This is a movie worth the watch. Take you hanky.



I Am Love (Io sono l'amore)

Writer/Director: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Marisa Berenson, Gabriele Ferzetti, and Edoardo Gabbriellini.

A tragic love story set at the turn of the millennium in Milan. The film follows the fall of the haute bourgeoisie due to the forces of passion and unconditional love. Emma (Tilda Swinton) is the Russian-born wife of a Milan industrialist, Tancredi Recchi (Pippo Delbono). She lives in a beautiful house with her two sons and daughter. Domestic bliss prevails until Edo (Flavio Parenti), introduces his mother to Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) a young chef with dreams of opening his own restaurant in the countryside. Kismet and the two have a passionate affair but are their lives about to change? This is a beautiful film, moving, stylish with a sensual romance at its heart. Great performances all round.



Friday, July 23, 2010

Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue

Director: Bradley Raymond (Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II)

Featuring: Mae Whitman (Tinkerbell) , Kristin Chenoweth (Rosetta), Lucy Liu (Silvermist), Jesse McCartney (Terence), Raven-Symoné (Iridessa)

I am a great believer in the power of pixie dust and so it was with great expectation I went along to see Disney’s Tinkerbell and the great fairy rescue. During the fairies' summer visit to the flowering meadows of England, Tink develops a special bond with a curious child in need of a friend. As her fellow fairies launch a daring rescue, Tinker Bell takes a huge risk, putting her own safety and the future of all fairykind in jeopardy. Bursting with excitement and imagination, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue is perfect entertainment for children of all ages.


Look out for it at a cinema near you although this is likely to come out in DVD.


Toy Story 3

Director : Lee Unkrich and written by Michael Arndt

Starring: Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Andy (John Morris).

Pixar are back with Toy Story 3 and it is a cracker full of fun for both adults’ children alike. The story is Andy is now grown older and about to leave home for college. He decides to take Woody for sentimental reasons but the other toys face the prospect of being thrown on a rubbish truck. Fate however has them wind up in a day centre for toddlers. At first everything appears to be going well with new friends and children until they realise the kids are spoilt brats who whack, batter and abuse them. The worse is yet to come when new friends turn out to be cruel captors when the children have gone. The sinister, Lots-o’-Huggin (Ned Beatty) is the leader of the day centre toys and shows little mercy to Buzz and his friends. Faced with this and the prospect of being incinerated, Buzz and crew plan to escape from Sunny Side. All of which provides the backdrop for some dazzling and alarming moments. The 3D animation is glorious, and the plot turns are relentlessly witty, from the love affair between a discarded Barbie and a wonderfully camp Ken, to the scene in which Mr Potato Head has to make do with a floppy tortilla for a body. Take your handkerchiefs as they milk the sentiment but the climax of this 3 D movie is riveting (and worth the cost of the ticket, alone). Fear not because Pixar will be back with Toy Story 4.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Greenberg

Director: Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale")

Starring: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh

This Noah Baumbach movie has Ben Stiller (The Night At The Museum), as
New Yorker, Roger Greenberg, recovering from a nervous breakdown and house-sitting for his absentee brother. The self-obsessed bachelor lives in the shadow of his more successful sibling but takes opportunity to start again in LA reconnecting with old friends including his former band mate, Ivan (Rhys Ifans – Twin Town). However things are no longer as they once were. Meantime romance of sorts blossoms as Greenberg and his brother's personal assistant Florence (Greta Gerwig) finally get together after a false start. Superb performance from Greta Gerwig is the highlight of the movie and Stiller, to be fair, is not too bad either in this Woody Allenesque comedy. Rhys Ifans puts in a good effort as the long suffering friend and the movie does contain some clever dialogue in places, so it is worth seeing.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Room

Chance to catch the cult movie, The Room. Deemed the worst film ever made it is so bad as to make it essential art house. Writer, director and actor Tommy Wiseau ((Homeless in America, Neighbors) decided to make a film out his play and book. Turned down by mainstream Hollywood he spent five years developing and independently raising funds for the project. Originally shot on film and digital camera sitting side by side on the same mount. The camera crew was replaced twice during the making of the movie due to artistic differences with the director. Much of the dialogue was overdubbed and there is little attempt to lip sync. Many of the main actors had either never appeared in movies or taken a lead role. Both sub- plot and characters come and go and continuity errors abound. There is no attempt to set the narrative in chronological order, so like life itself: you just take this movie as it comes. Absolute celluloid chaos and well named the ‘Citizen Cane of movies,’ from the 21st century answer to Ed Wood (some say).



Not put off, then the plot is:



A melodramatic story of a tragic love triangle between banker, Johnny (Wiseau), his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). Johnny has a sidekick named Denny (Philip Haldiman) who he’s putting through college (no explanation why?) The boys like to throw ball together and Lisa’s mother Claudette (Carolyn Minnott) is an interfering old bat. The film has also several subplots involving secondary characters. Be warned for fans of the Room will rock up to the showing, dressed as their favorite characters, throw plastic spoons at the screen (a reference to unexplained framed photos of cutlery often seen in the background), Some will mimic the characters and throw and catch a ball and everyone throughout the movie calls out insulting comments and criticisms about the quality of the film.



Who would want to miss that?




Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ghost Writer

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams

A contemporary, thriller written by Robert Harris (Fatherland, and Enigma) and directed by Roman Polanski. The story involves Ex Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Bronson) who wants to capitalise on his situation and have his memoirs written but his advisor and writer is tragically killed in an accident. Keen to complete the works in a timely fashion the publishers engage a virtual unknown ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) to clean up the autobiography of former British Prime. Plucked from obscurity the McEwan character is promised fame and fortune and flown to an oceanfront retreat on an island off the U.S. Eastern seaboard. There Adam Land his wife are in residence with a small team including the ex- prime minister’s attractive assistant, Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall aka Samantha Jones of S&TC ). No sooner has the Ghost arrived when a major controversy breaks concerning the former PM who is accused of being a war criminal. Now under the watchful eye of the world’s press the Ghost begins to uncover clues suggesting his predecessor may have been murdered after he stumbled on a dark secret of political skullduggery. Will the same thing happen to the McEwan character or will he survive ? Well you need to go to the movie to find that out – but this is a good suspenseful thriller well told and resonates with topical themes. The moral to the movie seems to be “history is decided by whoever stays alive to write it.” Good characterisations in this watchable movie with stellar performances from McGregor and Brosnan. But it is Olivia Williams playing the ex PM’s wife gets the five stars for her performance. A better effort from Polanski and more like his better work (China Town and Rosemary’s Baby). If you enjoyed Shutter Island you will want to see The Ghost Writer.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Me and Orson Wells

Director: Richard Linklater (Fast Food Nation)

Starring: Christian McKay; Zac Elfron (High School Musical ), Claire Danes.

Rather a sterile but accurate bio-flick with one redeeming feature, Christian McKay performance as Orson Wells is impressive. Based on a book by Robert Kaplow the narrative follows the adventures of aspiring 17 year old actor, Richard Samuels (played by Zac Elfron). His forwardness gets him an invite to join the Mercury Theatre production of Julius Caesar in 1937. There he has a (non paying) small part and comes under the Svengali control of Orson Wells as he learns his craft with Joseph Cotten (James Tupper) and producer John Houseman (the great Eddie Marsan), during the Wellsian chaos that prevails behind the curtains. The most remarkable aspect of the movie is in the glimpses we are privy to i.e.the opening-night performance of Julius Caesar.

The sub plot involves a romantic association with the ambitious office manager, played by Sonja Jones Claire Danes.

The irony is not lost with the casting of McKay and Elfron. Both young talents and like the parts they play, so different.

A must for all Wells fans.



Every Jack has a Jill (Jusqu'à Toi)

Writer and Director: Jennifer Devoldere

Starring: Melanie Laurent, Justin Bartha .

Chloe (Melanie Laurent - Inglourious Basterds) is a 26-year-old Parisienne who lives in a world of anxieties, defences and missed opportunities. She is completely insensitive to the possibility that others may possess feelings just as refined as her own and seeks solace with her neighbours, Myriam (Valerie Benguigui) and Didier (Yvon Back). Her other most significant adult relationships revolved around the characters she meets at her local DVDs rental store. All this changes when there is a luggage mix-up at the airport. Chloe becomes fascinated with the contents of a stranger’s suitcase and fantasises about its owner. In the tradition of French Farce, she is wrong. The owner Jack, Chloé (The Hangover) is a young American on the rebound and visiting Paris for the first time. His friend, Rufus (Billy Boyd – Lord of the Rings), is a pithy Scot. Added comedy comes from the manager of Jack's hotel (played by the French veteran actor, Maurice Benichou) who is every bit the ‘Manuel’ of the Parisians hospitality industry. Jack is also befriended by an English couple staying at his hotel who persuades him to take the Da Vinci Code tour with them.

A light romantic comedy (sic. been done before and better).



Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Runaways

Writer and Director: Floria Sigismondi

Starring; Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon

This is a bio-pic of the 70s all girl rock group, The Runaways. Very much in the sex drugs and rock’n’roll tell all vein and is based loosely around the memoir of Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning - The Secret Life of Bees). The movie does its best as 'kiss and tell' of the period but is somewhat sanitised. (sic. I prefer Sid and Nancy). Kirsten Stewart (Twilight Saga) plays the enigmatic Joan Jet and both young actresses give credible performances as they stride more toward adult roles. Who steals the show (for me) is Michael Shannon who plays slime ball manager, Kim Fowley. A dream part if there ever was one. In real life Fowley was a shadowy cult figure and every bit a match for Malcolm McLaren and his ilk. The movie has two parts i.e. the rise then the decline. The second part is more of a cinematic experience and hence more interesting. The bittersweet story is predictable and joins a long line of similar bubblegum flicks. Joan Jett was one of the executive producers for the film but Jackie Fox declined to be involved in the project.




Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Waiting City

The Waiting City

Middle class Australian couple (Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton) travel to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) to adopt an infant from a city orphanage. On arrival they discover the adoption arrangements have still to be finalised. Filling in time and caught in the mystique of the city they begin a spiritual awakening. Forced to confront their differences and concealed deep secrets the couple ultimately rediscover themselves and belief in life’s possibilities. The movie plot is not unlike Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973), although much less intriguing. A reasonable weepy although I am not sure about the casting of Joel Edgerton.
Written and directed by Claire McCarthy and cinematography by Denson Baker. The film accurately captures the atmosphere of the city slums.






The Waiting City - Official Trailer from The Waiting City on Vimeo.