Thursday, April 21, 2011

Water for elephants

Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz

The movie is an adaptation of Sara Gruen's bestselling novel and is set during America’s Great Depression. Veterinary student, Jacob (Robert Pattinson) suffers a breakdown when his parents are tragically killed in a car accident in 1931. He literally runs away and joins a circus, where he becomes the vet. Jacob falls for the glamorous Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), wife of the circus owner, August (Christoph Waltz) and a clandestine love affair ensues. All at a time when Jacob helps the circus to box office success with his work on their new star, the elephant, Rosie. This is an excellent adaptation of the novel with strong characterizations and well written screenplay. Good performances from the three main characters make this matinee romance, well balanced and a real joy to watch. Rodrigo Preto's camerawork is par excellent.

The Round Up (La Rafle)

Director and writer: Rose Bosch
Starring: Jean Reno, Melanie Laurent, Gad Elmaleh, Raphaelle Agogue, Hugo Leverdez, Anne Brochet, Sylvie Testud

During the Second World War, under the occupation of the Nazis, the French police and officials arrested over 13,000 Jews living in Paris and held them in detention at the Vél’ d’Hiv, indoor bicycle track. Crammed into a stadium they were systematically humiliated, beaten, and starved. Most were eventually sent to the death camps in Poland. This is a dark passage of French history which still promotes controversy. The drama unfolds when the Weismann family, Shmuel and Sura (Gad Elmaleh, Raphaelle Agogue) and their son Jo (Hugo Leverdez), are caught up in a police raid on a Jewish quarter. Once imprisoned at the Velodrome they meet Dr , David Sheinbaum (Jean Reno), who struggles to minister to the deportees' needs, and a non-Jewish nurse, Annette Monod (Melanie Laurent) who accompanies them in their transit camp ordeal. Based in the main on actual characters this is a harrowing tale. The movie does not quite however match up to the excellent Sarah's Key (Elle s'appelait Sarah) which deals with the same subject.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oceans

Directors: Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

Narrator: Pierce Brosnan

A French documentary released under the DisneyNature label. The film is narrated by Pierce Brosnan and contains breathtaking cinematography but little else. The narration fails to fill in the key elements which would enlighten the audience more as the movie aimlessly meanders vaguely from one body of water to the next. A haphazard and random dip into the seas in search of oddities which sadly has the cumulative effect of profound monotony but this one will suit all those who love nature documentaries. Already on DVD in the US.

Monday, April 18, 2011

William and Kate: The Movie

Director: Mark Rosman

Starring: Justin Hanlon, Nico Evers-Swindell, Camilla Luddington, Mary Elise Haydon, Mary Elise Haydon and Ben Cross

This is the fictionalised love story of Prince William (Nico Evers-Swindell ) and Kate Middleton (Camilla Luddington) made by Lifetime for the US cable network. Shot not on location but in the US with all the obvious boo boos clearly in view. The actors do a passable job with the limited script. Accuracy is clearly not a number one priority in this movie but look out for Ben Cross playing Prince Charles. A must for all collectors of Royal bric-a-brac but otherwise, cheesy, sentimental slush.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Snowtown

Director: Justin Kurzel

Starring: Lucas Pittaway, Louise Harris, Daniel Henshall

Based on the true story of the Bodies in Barrels murders, this is a grisly film about a grisly subject. What appears is a pitiless portrait of a psychopath and this is a hard movie to watch. The story is one of corruption of innocence involving 16 year old Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway), drawn into a world of criminal violence by older men. Jamie comes from a dysfunctional family and has been abused all his life when he falls under the spell of charismatic John Bunting (played brilliantly by, Daniel Hanshall) who takes up with Jamie's mum, Elizabeth (Louise Harris). Bunting is the epitome of evil and he and his gang go on a rampage of torture and murder. Soon the hapless Jamie is luring helpless victims to their death. Most of the violence is off screen (thankfully), but otherwise there is enough graphic menace to make the movie uncomfortable to watch. Snowtown was made on a low budget, with a cast of non-actors drawn from Adelaide's northern suburbs. Not for the faint hearted but may appeal to these who liked Rowan Woods' The Boys, although it is not so good. Unnerving.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Tempest

Director: Julie Taymor

Starring; Dame Helen Mirren, Ben Whishaw, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming,
Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, and David Strathairn

Those familiar with the Shakespeare’ play will recognize the plot with one major difference Prospero has become Prospera (the resplendent, Helen Mirren) the ousted Milanese noblewoman practicing the dark arts on a Mediterranean island. There she is kept company by Caliban (Djimon Hounsou), the brutish drudge, her spirit slave Ariel (Ben Whishaw), and beautiful daughter, Miranda (Felicity Jones). Hell-bent on revenge and return from exile, she conjures up a storm (the Tempest) which causes a shipwreck. On board is Prospera’s villainous brother, the current Duke, Antonio (Chris Cooper), and his venemous cohort Sebastian (Alan Cumming) as well as King Alozo (David Strathairn). Other crew members include the clowns, Trinculo (Russell Brand ) and Stephan (Alfred Molina) for a bit of comic relief. The movie does not lack special effects nor excellent cinema photography but this all seems out of place in a Shakespeare play where, ‘words are the thing, to catch attention of the audience.’ A bit of a mismatch, I fear and not for the purists.