All posts by Peter Morrison

Peter Morrison was brought in the vast area west of Sydney known as Suburbia. He was educated, at first, by Nuns, then Brothers, and finally by Academics. He has also has educated himself by reading a large number of randomly chosen books. Having achievcd a small degree of success- a Bachelor of Arts, at Sydney University, he has since disappeared into the lower branches of the Public Service. Sporadic, unconfirmed sightings of him have continued to be made, up to the present day.

SKYFALL

Arch rivals Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem in SKYFALL

This is a very, very good film. It gives you everything you want in a Bond movie, and more besides.

All the ingredients are in place, and nicely integrated too. There are more ingeniously staged fights and chases, where Bond does the impossible, outwits the bad guys, and generally proves himself superior to other men, whilst maintaining a sense of style and a close hold on his feelings.

There is that important thing, a great villain. Javier Bardem is creepy, impossibly powerful and a bit camp, and manages to make computer hacking exciting. Forget greed or political disagreement, In our brave new world, the real enemy is the hacker with a grudge.

Dame Judi Dench is back as M, and we get to see what a touch cookie, and a devious operator, she can be. (You don’t get to be M by being sweet or naïve). She also shows us just enough of the human being under the hard bitten exterior. Her final scene is particularly moving.

Everyone is suitably tight lipped, dispensing dry quips in as few words as possible, as each wild plot twist rolls in. Bardem goes the other way, way over the top, but then he is a Spaniard, and our heroes are, you know, British.

There’s a sprinkling of gorgeous women, of-course, but apart from a tastefully blurry shower scene, there is not much intimate action. This Bond is not the type for carefree fun.

One obvious feature of SKYFALL is the spectacular look of it. There’s a shot of Scottish scenery that is just breathtaking. A fight in a skyscraper becomes a ballet of silhouettes and rippling neon lights.

The villain’s hideout is in a weird, rubble filled town that looks like a war just finished that morning. A train crashes through the ceiling of our heroes’ lair. (That’s right, this time the good guys have an underground lair). And we’re given some fabulous views of Istanbul and the Turkish countryside at the start.

So top marks, all round, eh, 007?! But there is something else. Apart from all the spy stuff, SKYFALL is a film with strong themes…

Getting old…Honouring the past, before leaving it behind….Stepping forward into the future…A battle between the future and the past, and the enduring bonds between the two…

And so, the good guys have to go back into the past to plan their strategies. First, in a hidden bunker from World War 2 (this time the heroes have the underground lair, not the villain), then later in the old Scottish farmhouse where Bond grew up. Only these places are out of reach of their ultra-modern enemy (For a while, at least).

But then, Rodriguez (or whatever the villain’s name really is) is haunted by his past too, obsessed with revenging the Secret Service’s mistreatment of him years ago.

All through the film, symbols of the past appear, and are put to the test: can they, should they survive in the new world of mutating encryption codes and Asian mega-cities?!

So we get a new Q, seemingly just out of school, who gives Bond a small radio transmitter and says, ‘what do you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t do that anymore’. And there is a new, younger rival for M. Even old Aston Martin car gets Bond to safety in one scene.

Even the opening titles manage to be old fashioned and ultra-modern at the same time.

The ultimate symbol of the past is, of-course, Bond himself. When Bond is asked what hobbies he has, he replies ‘Resurrection’, and he’s not kidding. Even before the opening credits, he has been shot, and fallen (apparently) to his death, and throughout the film he keeps being defeated and written off, only to rise again.

His ultimate return is signaled at the end, when we finally see the traditional shooting into the camera lens sequence. 007 is back!

So Bond lives on. He has become one of those characters, like Tarzan or Doctor Who, that will outlive any individual character who plays him, and will become reinvented for each new generation. But…for the next few episodes at least, he is in safe hands.

To sum up: It’s Bond! It’s fabulous! Go see!

© Peter Morrison
11th December, 2012
Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- SKYFALL, James Bond, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Sydney Arts Guide, Peter Morrison

SHOWGIRLS, TEEN WOLVES AND ASTRO ZOMBIES

Michael Adams binges on bad movies

The title grabbed me straight away- how could I not buy it?! Michael Adams watches at least one bad movie a day for a whole year- telling us how they were made and what he thought of them. Let me tell you, this guy knows his onions about trashy films! He doesn’t however go completely mad!

Near the start of the book, he has a brilliant idea. Instead of plodding through the films alphabetically, he buys a toy Bingo machine, and let’s chance decide what type of film he will watch next.- Evil baby movies, Gorilla movies, movies with midgets, movies by Andy Milligan, and so on….The suspense…what will come next?!

To come along on a journey of discovery such as this, you have to like your guide. He makes sure that we do by adding the story of his own life that year when he was manically watching movies- his patient, brave wife…his over-active 4 year old daughter, his hilarious attempts to become a reviewer for a television show…his interviews with filmmakers of all types- by the end I really got to know and like this guy.

This is not a book to get all intellectual about. It’s fun…it’s interesting…it’s entertaining. Why it even has a picture of the author as a Zombie!

My verdict…Well worth a read!

(c) Peter Morrison

24th November, 2012

Tags: Sydney Book Reviews- SHOWGIRLS, TEEN WOLVES AND ASTRO ZOMBIES- My year long quest to find and watch the worst movies ever made, Michael Adams, Sydney Arts Guide, Peter Morrison.

AVATAR

Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington in AVATAR

James Cameron’s film is a big, showy entertainment which rolls over its own weaknesses and comes out a winner. No masterpiece, that’s for sure, but in the end this doesn’t matter. You get way-out scenery, tough-guy marines, blue-skinned aliens, big battles, a love story, a few laughs- why else do we watch movies, anyway?

Our hero is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a wheelchair confined Marine (‘just a dumb grunt’, he calls himself). Jake gets the chance to go to the alien world Pandora, where the Marines are helping a large mining company to subdue the Na’vi, indigenous people who, for some oblique reason, are trying to stop the Earth people from ripping their planet to shreds.

Continue reading AVATAR

THE IRON LADY

Merryl Streep gives a masterly performance in THE IRON LADY

This movie has annoyed people on both sides of politics by treating Margaret Thatcher ‘lightly’. We see her as a young, idealistic woman, determined to do some good work in the world ( a charming performance from Alexandra Roach). We see her rise and rise and rise to power, and her eventual fall (Merryl Streep is truly spectacular).

And we see Margaret as an elderly woman, dementia looming, talking and reminiscing with her deceased husband, Dennis (Jim Broadbent, in a sweet, finely judged performance). Merryl Streep is heartbreaking in these scenes.

What you won’t find in THE IRON LADY is any deep political analysis. The great issues of Margaret’s time are treated as a series of tests, hurdles she has to jump to prove her toughness.

Financial reforms, fights with unions, with Argentinians, with the IRA, with colleagues, angry faces at the window of her limousine- she’s under stress, exhausted, she toughs it out, she wins!

That’s about as deep as it gets!

I learnt some interesting things about Margaret’s life, however because she’s always more interested in ideas rather than feelings, and because she was so sure of herself about almost everything, the audience is kept at a distance. How exactly can we relate to someone like her?!

Never mind- Merryl’s performance is huge, astonishing. Where’s my Thesaurus? You get the idea.

Now to change the mood, I’d like to hand out some imaginary Oscars. Harry Lloyd as the young Dennis Thatcher is sweet and quirky, matching Jim Broadbent’s work as the older Dennis (and the imaginary one).

The make-up artists do some of the best old-age work I have seen in quite a while. And the whole film looks conservative but stylish, with a lot of care put into it. Well done, everybody!

Alexandra Roach’s almost loveable performance as the Margaret, and Merryl’s performance as the older version, are the heart of the film! They get through to our feelings, because in those stages of her life the Iron Lady mask wasn’t so firmly in place. Merryl’s performance isn’t huge in these scenes: it’s sad and human and real. She could be your mother- or mine!

THE IRON LADY is a grand experience. It must be seen. Criticism is beside the point. As Margaret used to say, ‘There is no alternative!’.

© Peter Morrison

27th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE IRON LADY, Merryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Harry Lloyd, Alexandra Roach, Phyllida Lloyd, Sydney Arts Guide, Peter Morrison.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

This film gave me a warm glow. It isn’t hilarious or dazzlingly witty, but it raises some wry smiles. It isn’t at all original either, however it’s clichés have been lovingly polished.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is basically a bitter-sweet romance. Hollywood screenwriter Gil Pender (the ever boyish Owen Wilson) visits Paris with his utterly incompatible fiancée Inex (Rachel McAdams) and her unpleasantly conservative parents. None of them understand or appreciate Gil’s desire to write a great novel or to wander the streets of Paris or to walk in the rain. They are not romantics, that is their problem!

Since the film is a sort of a fairy tale, Gil finds himself back in the 1920’s, meeting the Fitzgerald’s, Dali, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway and various other artists. There’s even a joke about Luis Bunuel, which is very flattering of Woody, thank you. (But who was Djuna Barnes?!). And Gil falls in love with one of Picassso’s spare mistresses. He wants to stay with her in the golden age of cafes and jazz.

As a striking contrast, Gil’s visits back to Inex become more and more brittle and awkward, in vintage Woody style. In the end he learns his lesson- everyone thinks that their own time is insignificant compared with the golden age of long ago, so one should be one-self and accept one’s world.

Our hero learns his lesson and receives the ultimate lesson for a Woody hero, a beautiful woman, noticeably younger than himself, who loves the music of her grandparents’ time, just as much as Gil does.

They walk off in the rain. Isn’t that lovely?! It’s the oldest cliché in the book, but it works!

I should say that Paris looks gorgeous in this film, both in its modern and in its 1920’s setting. The opening sequence of various scenes of Parisian life is absolutely wonderful- and a blatant copy of the opening to MANHATTAN. It made me want to go to Paris straight away!

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS has become one of Woody’s most successful movies, and deservedly so. I hear that he is ‘doing’ Rome next. I can’t wait!

© Peter Morrison

6th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Woody Allen, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Sydney Arts Guide, Peter Morrison.

HUGO

Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz in HUGO

HUGO is a good, entertaining film. Scorsese wanted to make a film that his 12 year old daughter could watch, and he has succeeded very well. It will also be a nice memory for her when she grows up and sees her Dad’s other movies, where people are often stabbed in the throat and beaten to death with baseball bats!

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a young orphan living in Paris’s Montparnasse railway station in the 1930’s. He spends his days keeping the station’s big clock in repair, peeking out at the goings-on at the station, stealing food, and escaping the clutches of Borat- sorry Sasha Baron Cohen, as the nasty station Inspector, who has a bad leg and a vicious Doberman, and quite enjoys sending young thieves to the orphanage.

Continue reading HUGO

IRON SKY

IRON SKY

Nazis! On the Moon! In a swastika-shaped fortress! Building a monstrous super-weapon! Plotting to take over the world!

There’s an ageing Fuhrer (not that one), a ruthless Military Commander, an evil scientist, and his beautiful daughter, who thinks Nazism is all about love and brotherhood (oh yeah!).

Oh no! They’ve captured an astronaut. Mein Gott- He is a black man. ‘What is wrong with your skin?’, they ask him. They’re going to kill him.! But he’s not really an astronaut, he explains. He’s a model. He’s on the moon to put an election poster for the President! The President looks like Sarah Pailin.

The evil scientist looks like Albert Einstein.

What???

For the first half hour or so, there were no laughs from the audience, only occasional snorts of disbelief and plenty of puzzled expressions. Personally I could have done without the scene where the evil scientist turns the black man white with an Albinizer, and the poor man forces himself to give a Nazi salute. German humour, yeah?!

Things improve when we get back to earth, but the humour remains, shall we say broad. The United Nations delegates end up having a fight.

The ruthless US President has an even more ruthless Campaign Manager, she falls for the evil Nazi Commander. (Politicians are all basically Nazis, you see!). The Nice Lady Nazi falls for the whitened Black guy. And so on…..

The special effects, I have to say, are spectacular!. They are much too good for this cult comedy that IRON SKY is trying to be.

The final invasion and Space battle is genuinely exciting! The Evil Commander blasts a piece out of the moon to get a better shot at planet earth! But the Americans have an illegal super spaceship. So does everyone else except Finland. It’s name is the George W. Bush! (Ha Ha).

The main problem, though, is the Evil Nazi Commander. He is played absolutely straight, vicious, heroic, perversely charming, like the ultimate Bond movie villain. The joke is supposed to be that he’s way over the top however his character resists satire. He keeps on dragging IRON SKY down into genuine drama. As Woody Allen once said, ‘It’s hard to satirise a guy in shiny boots’.

Where am I? What’s going on? The ruthless Campaig Manager has become a spaceship Captain! Why the hell not! In a leather outfit straight out of Star Trek! Or possibly Mardi Gras.

IRON SKY is a big strange, entertaining mess of a movie. If you want to see it, you better hurry! When I was there, there were only 8 people in the audience, and two of them had free tickets!

© Peter Morrison

25th May, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- IRON SKY, Sydney Arts Guide, Peter Morrison.