All posts by Richard Cotter

As a child, Richard loved going to the pictures. He is still getting over the advent of the talkie which set cinema back a century but still sounds off on radio ABC, 2GB and 2UE etc about the state of cinema whenever invited. As well, Richard has been a theatre practitioner for the past 35 years and has been resident director for Big Splash Productions for the past 10 years.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – JAMES BALDWIN, IN HIS OWN WORDS

Told entirely in the words of James Baldwin, through both personal appearances and the text of his final unfinished book project, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO touches on the lives and assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers to bring powerful clarity to how the image and reality of Blacks in America today is fabricated and enforced.

Medgar Evers, died on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X, died on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr., died on April 4, 1968.
James Baldwin loved these men and was determined to expose the complex links and similarities among these three individuals. He was going to write about them. He was going to write his ultimate book! ‘Remember this House’ was the working title of that book.
But James Baldwin never wrote ‘Remember this House’ and film maker Raoul Peck has stepped in with this ambitious film to partly fill the void. Continue reading I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – JAMES BALDWIN, IN HIS OWN WORDS

PATTI CAKE$ : A UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE

Like 8 Mile out of Precious, PATTI CAKE$ is a rock solid cinematic rap to dreams, aspirations and perseverance.

Written, directed, and with original music and songs by Geremy Jasper, the film stars Danielle Macdonald, an Australian actress fallen on her feet in the American film market.

Macdonald plays the titular Patti Cake$, a Jersey girl tending bar, doing casual catering gigs, and dreaming of making it in the music business as a rap artist. Patti’s rich inner life is depicted in hallucinatory sequences that turn classic hip-hop tropes into surreal dreams, giving the film a delightful dose of cinematic splendour. Continue reading PATTI CAKE$ : A UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE

MOTHER

The Legion of Mary may well take out a fatwa on this Lady of Fatima inversion of Rosemary’s Baby.

MOTHER has a shocking, literally scorching pre title sequence. Fire and ash give way to verdant vistas, a pristine secluded paradise, an Eden of solitude.

The Adam, credited as Him, is a writer, a poet suffering writer’s block. The Eve, credited as Mother, is his handmaiden, renovating their rural abode, cooking, cleaning, creating a space for him to create. They are newly married yet the union has yet to be consummated.

Into their universe of two, someone comes a knocking, a tubercular doctor, a chain-smoking quack seeking succour. Continue reading MOTHER

VICTORIA AND ABDUL

Last time Judi Dench was directed by Stephen Frears, she was nominated for an Oscar.

The film was Philomena.

The last time Judi Dench played Queen Victoria, she was nominated for an Oscar. The film was Mrs. Brown. That was twenty years ago.

Sadly, VICTORIA & ABDUL is not up to the calibre of these preceding films, however there is no denying the technical virtuosity and sheer screen presence of Judi Dench.

Here she plays the Queen as a moribund, morbidly obese monarch obsessed with her bowel movements. Nobody does bedpan as dead pan as Judy!

This supposed true story unfolds thus:

In 1887,Abdul, played by Ali Fazal, a tall Muslim bookkeeper travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, a task allocated to him merely because he is tall. He is tutored in protocol which he breaks and Queen Victoria is quite amused, beginning an unlikely relationship, reminiscent of the Mr. Brown infatuation. Indeed, the court refers to Abdul as “the brown Brown”.

It is in Scotland that Victoria’s history with John Brown resonates and strengthens her new bond with Abdul. Screenwriter, Lee Hall, observes Glassalt Shiel was Victoria’s remote, private little house where she would retire to be on her own, sometimes with John Brown. After his death, she had avoided going there. But from the diaries found, she took Abdul there. Hall and Frears tap into the resonating romance to the place; they share an appreciation of the glorious landscape. The Queen and Abdul grow closer. Continue reading VICTORIA AND ABDUL

12th LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL @ DENDY OPERA QUAYS

Only a limited window of an extended long weekend opens for the 12th Latin American Film Festival, but it’s chock full of films you may not see otherwise.

A highlight is the Ricardo Darin starrer, KOBLIC, about an ex Argentinian top gun who rebels at his government’s policy of taking political dissidents up in his aircraft and jettisoning them sans parachute.

A study in abusive political power and the power of an individual to to oppose, KOBLIC is a suspenser full of intrigue, subterfuge and romance. Continue reading 12th LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL @ DENDY OPERA QUAYS

TOMMY’S HONOUR : A GOLF STORY FOR THE AGES

Without doubt, my favourite golf movie is Goldfinger.

The sequence where James Bond and Auric Goldfinger club it out for a bar of Nazi bullion is full of suspense, tension, drama and wry humour.

The sequence cemented Sean Connery’s love of the game – he became obsessed with it. Fitting, then, that his son Jason, has directed the film TOMMY’S HONOUR, about a couple of sporting legends and pioneers of the multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on green fees and tees.

By rights, the story of Old Tom Morris and his son Young Tommy ought to be known the world over. Old Tom, Master greens keeper of the iconic St. Andrews Links, struck the very first ball at the inaugural Open Championship in 1860, going on to win the tournament on four occasions. His extraordinary feats were matched by teenage prodigy Young Tommy soon after – establishing the Morris family at the forefront of the emerging sport, and as the pride of their countrymen.

Based on Kevin Cook’s prize winning book of the same name, TOMMY’S HONOUR is a beautifully detailed story of ambition, class politics, and filial conflict. Continue reading TOMMY’S HONOUR : A GOLF STORY FOR THE AGES

GIFTED : A MOVIE TO CHERISH

It’s hard as algebra to find a more charming, feel good movie than GIFTED.

Featuring Fred the monocular moggie, a cute kid maths prodigy, a hunky uncle and a wicked witch from the east, GIFTED is a tacit custody tussle with a controlled tear jerking muscle from the gifted penmanship of screenwriter Tom Flynn.

A Beautiful Mind out of Kramer vs Kramer, GIFTED gifts us Chris Evans as Frank Adler, a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary, played by Mckenna Grace, in a coastal town in Florida. Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven year old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn, a brilliant portrayal by the formidable Lindsay Duncan. Continue reading GIFTED : A MOVIE TO CHERISH

THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

Like a brick through a plate glass window, Michael Brissenden’s debut novel, THE LIST, grabs attention, raises the heartbeat, and showers an all encompassing thriller in shards of intrigue, tension and sharp wit.
Sifting through those shards, the shrapnel of evidence, clues, markers and pointers is primarily the job of the Australian Federal Police’s K Block, a unit doing whatever it takes to to stop terrorist attacks on home soil.

The pebble that starts the ripple, the murder and mutilation of young Muslim men on the Terror Watchlist, soon becomes a stone around the neck of investigators. They know it’s a message, but from whom and about what? Is it a serial revenge spree perpetrated by a rogue agent or a harbinger of a greater horror to come? Continue reading THE LIST : THE DEBUT NOVEL BY MICHAEL BRISSENDEN

KILLING GROUND : 5 DOUBLE PASSES TO THIS NEW AUSTRALIAN THRILLER

KILLING GROUND is an attempt at schlock horror channelling Wolf Creek and Deliverance. The deliverance is an ugly cry wolf experience.

A well heeled couple, Ian and Sam, who should be booking a holiday at the Hilton decide to go on a camping trip in a remote spot of the Australian wilderness. Passing through a one horse town, they ask directions to the secluded spot from a pair of suspiciously psycho locals. As you do in films of this genre.

Finally finding the secluded spot, the couple find it not so solitary, as a tent has already been pitched. But where are the happy campers?

Is that the faint twang of Duelling Banjos I hear on the soft, off shore breeze, rustling the leaves of the eerie eucalyptus?

With the other campers at large, Ian and Sam’s discovery of a child wandering alone sets off a terrifying chain of events that will put them through a hellish ordeal and punch a hole in the space-time continuum. Continue reading KILLING GROUND : 5 DOUBLE PASSES TO THIS NEW AUSTRALIAN THRILLER

THE KING’S CHOICE

A grandfather plays hide and seek with his grandchildren in the snow. This simple autumn pleasure will soon turn into a winter of discontent as the grandfather faces the future of a war with Germany.

THE KING’S CHOICE is based on the true story about the three dramatic days in April of 1940, when the King of Norway is presented with the monstrous ultimatum from the Germans: surrender or die.

Erik Poppe’s picture is a slow burn affair, building a calm before the storm so exquisitely that the mounting tension is almost taken for normal until sudden and seismic action comes crashing down.

The hypocrisy of Hitler’s hideous hegemony is highlighted as German ambassador to Norway, Curt Braeuer, desperately tries to find a diplomatic solution to the King’s dilemma – submit sovereignty or assign bloody war to his subjects. It is a duplicitous gambit on behalf of the militaristic territory grabbing Reich, a regime that is quite prepared to use their envoy as a decoy.

Surrounding this central drama, there is the concurrent story of the ineffectual Prime Minister who desperately wants to leave his position and his responsibility.

The opening scene is mirrored, although transformed from playfulness to lethal pursuit as a game of hide and seek between the Nazis and the Royal Family ensues.

With German Air Force and soldiers hunting them down, the royal family is forced to flee from the capital. They decide to go separate ways, not knowing if they’ll ever see each other again. While Crown Princess Maertha leaves Norway with the children to seek refuge in Sweden, King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav stay on to fight the Germans, and bicker amongst themselves about how they should proceed.

THE KING’S CHOICE is a spell binding film of human eminence over dry historical fact.
Jesper Christensen is quietly majestic as the beleaguered monarch, and Anders Baasmo Christiansen is equally absorbing as his son, bridling under the perceived slowness of his father to act.

Karl Markovics as Curt Brauer finely conveys the frustrations of a man whose desperate diplomacy dents his domestic life, a man in crisis due to his conflict between patriotic duty and despotic expansionism.

A terrifically tiered and textured film, THE KING’S CHOICE is a back room view of brutish bureaucracy and a benevolent monarch forced to choose on life and death matters as dictated by a madman.

AMERICAN MADE

Absolution. Welcome back, Tom Cruise, all is forgiven after the misjudged, miscreant mess of The Mummy. AMERICAN MADE is hip, hep and a hoot, and gives Cruise a character to inhabit rather than being a mere cypher action automaton.

Cruise plays Barry Seal, a hotshot airman who gets caught up in a shadowy division of the government—running crates of AK-47s and kilos of cocaine—he makes a fortune as a key player in the Iran-contra affair. From trading arms for hostages to training forces of Central and South American kingpins, Barry becomes an improbable hero working against the system. So, how does he sleep at night? Well, it’s all legal if you do it for the good guys.

According to the press notes, screenwriter Gary Spinelli had recently seen Argo, which had piqued his interest in other untold CIA scandals of the era. After a bit of research on key players of the time, he had come across a man called Barry Seal, a fascinating character in recent American history—one whose devilish swagger and zest for life affected all he met.

In AMERICAN MADE, we are introduced to Barry as captain of a TWA airliner, an accomplished aviator reduced to cruise control and automatic pilot. The thrill of flying has dissipated and he spices up his routine life by taking the airliner’s controls from time to time to create a little turbulence, and also by smuggling contraband Cuban cigars.

Sprung by the CIA, he is given the option of serving time in the penitentiary or being sequestered into the secret world. Seal can’t wait to trade TWA for CIA.

Set up with a plane and a company called AIC stationed out of a small town in Arkansas, Barry was sanctioned by the CIA to run guns into Central America, especially to arm the Contras in their struggle against the Sandinista in Nicaragua. Continue reading AMERICAN MADE

47 METRES DOWN

Hook, line and sinker,47 Metres Down is a stinker, a John Dory of two sisters, Americans, whose holiday of a lifetime becomes a living nightmare when they become trapped in a shark observation cage at the bottom of the ocean in Mexico.

Hello! Mexico? Could this be the first bit of Hollywood halibut inspired by the great trout, Trump? Forget the wall, here’s a great idea, let’s put up a shark net between America and Mexico. Really great!

With oxygen running low and great white sharks circling, it becomes a race for survival for these two siblings, one an adventurous party girl, the other a sedate bore, a prim and proper whose lack of challenge has cost her her marriage. Trouble is, the film itself runs out of puff, a lack of narrative oxygen afflicting the film with a fatal case of the bends. Continue reading 47 METRES DOWN

TERMINATOR 2 : JUDGEMENT DAY 3D 4K RESTORATION

August 29, 1997 has come and gone but T2 is back and it hasn’t really aged a bit.

A quarter of a century ago, when Terminator 2 was freshly minted, August 29, 1997 was mooted as Armageddon, the day Skynet triggered World War III and the rise of the machines.

Twenty years on from that inglorious date Terminator 2 has been newly minted as T23D4K.

It’s the same thrill ride movie from 1991 enhanced by 4K restoration and 3D conversion.

Some seven years passed between Terminator and this sequel, clearly not a rushed job, and the care and detail in the honed and polished script is all up there on the screen, from performance, cinematography, special effects that are special and effective, and good old fashioned startling stunt work.

From its first skull crunching frame to the self sacrificing cyborg finale, director James Cameron makes that rarity – a sequel that is the equal or better than the original. And for all its macho gun play, T2 is a masterpiece of feminist pacifist cinema.

Sarah Connor, is a tough woman, working on emotion and instinct to protect her son and mankind from assured destruction. Like Ripley in Aliens, another James Cameron sci fi/actioner masterpiece, Sarah is not some passive adjunct to a male driven story, she’s a driver not a passenger. Linda Hamilton is fantastic in the role.

And John Connor, the savior of the human race, illustrates his humanity by ordering the robot sent to protect him not to kill anybody. So the death toll is depleted even among all the destruction. Mayhem without mass murder!

The killing is left to the shape shifting assassin cyborg T-1000 played with steely confidence and deadly droid focus by Robert Patrick.

And, of course, there’s Arnie, reprising his role in a most surprising and satisfying way, with deadly deadpan delivery and convincing robotic bulk.

T2 was a triumph when it was made and remains a triumph today – in mood, textures, concerns. Meticulous in its manufacture, it is a text book example of cinematic craftsmanship.

The 4K 3D are enhancements to be savoured, especially on the big screen, where its size and spectacle can be best appreciated.

Make sure you get in early – who knows what may happen come August 29, 2017.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is hitting cinemas for one-week-only on August 24.

 

MAHBAS : OPENING NIGHT FILM TO THE 14TH ARAB FILM FESTIVAL

Perhaps not as funny or as slick as the current film phenomenon, The Big Sick, MAHBAS, casts a probing eye on carcinogenic parental prejudices that cause impediments to impending intended unions of their offspring.

While both studying in Dubai, Lebanese lass, Ghada and son of Syria, Samer, fall in love and plan matrimony. Ghada’s dad, Maurice, has no trouble giving his blessing but baulks at telling his wife, Therese, knowing her systematic hatred for Syrians will null the nuptials.

Twenty years ago, Therese’s brother was killed by a Syrian bomb and ever since she has borne a bias against all things Syrian.
Dad has the fervent but foolish belief that an ambush meeting between the intended in laws will bring Therese to her senses, especially as the stakes are her only child’s happiness.

And so the scene is set for some some sprightly, spiteful conflict, with Therese going into seat of the pants sabotage mode in an attempt to rent the couple asunder.

Apart from being a study in racial or cultural tensions, MAHBAS can be read as a meditation of marriage, the sterility of the unions of both parents in contrast to the couple eagerly anticipating their own embarkation into the deadlock of wedlock.
Maurice is busily shagging his secretary, excused by Therese’s devotion to her martyred brother. Samer’s dad is gregarious whereas his mum is the opposite. She harbours an idea that all Lebanese girls are sluts.

It is interesting to note that both mothers perceive their prospective son in law/daughter in law as unsuitable, whereas the father’s are both happy for the match to take place.

Sophie Boutros‘ film has a slow burn beginning where drama takes the ascent before the descent into comedy leavens the mood. However, just before it free falls into farce, the fractious facts of foibled humans ferment and foam in a brew that is true, sobering and bitter sweet.

MAHBAS is anchored by a sterling performance by Julia Kassar as Therese, conniving, manipulating, furious and flawed. Her counterpoint is delightfully played by Betty Taoutel, as her daffy neighbour, Solange, a scene stealer at every stage.

A screening of MAHBAS will launch the 14th annual Arab Film Festival Australia at the opening night party in Sydney, held at Riverside Theatres Parramatta, Thursday 17 August with director Sophie Boutros in attendance.

http://riversideparramatta.com.au

LOGAN LUCKY : STEPHEN SODERBERGH’S LATEST, A CRIMINALLY ENTERTAINING ROMP

Think Oceans 11 as made by the Coen Brothers, inverting Vegas artifice into a red neck, blue collar, John Denver themed heist at a speedway and you’ve got LOGAN LUCKY, Steven Soderbergh’s sensationally silly return to the big screen after a four year spell.

LOGAN LUCKY is wheeling, stealing West Virginia, where two brothers and a sister, Jimmy, Clyde and Mellie Logan plot to make a pot from relieving a raceway of its takings. The scheming siblings enlist the help of another trio of kin, the Bang Brothers, Hoe, Fish and Sam.

Joe is a safe cracker currently incarcerated in the local penitentiary, so part of the plan is to extricate this bleached blond in black and white bars onesie, and reinstall him in the pen after the robbery is just one of the delicious intricacies in this criminally entertaining romp.

The script is credited to Rebecca Blunt, a first time screenwriter, and is filled with plot twist, twisted humour – what’s with the bag man bear in the woods? – and characters who are around the twist. Continue reading LOGAN LUCKY : STEPHEN SODERBERGH’S LATEST, A CRIMINALLY ENTERTAINING ROMP

THE TRIP TO SPAIN : ON THE ROAD AGAIN WITH COOGAN AND BRYDON

It’s kinda like a culinary 7 UP, three pictures in seven years, the latest THE TRIP TO SPAIN.

Seven yeas ago, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon , under the direction of Michael Winterbottom, embarked on a tasty tour of England called THE TRIP, where they gourmandised and performed duelling impressions in a hip, flip and funny film that had us laughing in the British Isles.

The film spawned THE TRIP TO ITALY, with more gutsy gourmandising with gusto and impressario impressions of Michael Caine, Al Pacino and Sean Connery.

THE TRIP TO SPAIN is more of the same with more impressive impressions, this time with the additions of Roger Moore, David Bowie and Anthony Hopkins in full Bligh bounty. The Moore jousting comes about specifically because of the locale, where the Moores’ left behind an impressive array of architecture.

Putting Steve’s Range Rover on the ferry, the pair sail to Spain then drive through a taste tempting tapas tour to the accompaniment of Windmills of Your Mind. Yes, it’s an allusion to Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but Brydon’s dry meandering wit links it this way – Noel Harrison had the hit version of the song. Noel Harrison was Rex Harrison’s son. And Rex Harrison sang The Rain in Spain. Ole!

The Cervantes analogy is definitely and drolly pursued with Coogan as the Don and Brydon as Sancho Panza, as if Winterbottom is playing at being Terry Gilliam.

THE TRIP TO SPAIN is a voyage around a quasi fictional infarction (from the Latin infarctus, meaning stuffed into) of the two real flesh and blood characters. These fictional traits are stuffed into the factual where the audience is at odds to know where the reality ends and the fantasy begins. It’s an impression, and so the ad infinitum, (some, unkindly, may say ad nauseum), impressions become the film’s trope. It is certainly the film’s shtick.

Coogan and Brydon are the 21st century Crosby and Hope, bringing silliness, charisma, storytelling and nostalgia with more than a wink and a nod to insider jokes from television and movies.

If orthodoxy is the grave of invention, then Coogan, Brydon and Winterbottom seem to be whistling past the cemetery.

More than a moreish morsel of madcap mirth, THE TRIP TO SPAIN takes a serious and sinister turn towards the end, either flagging a finale to the series or a further fling possibly titled The Trip to Tripoli.

THE BIG SICK : A MOVIE THAT WILL CHASE THOSE BLUES AWAY

THE BIG SICK could well be the title of an article about the health of the romantic comedy, a noble genre that has been gasping for breath lately due to anaemic scripts and endemic malnutrition.

The film, THE BIG SICK, brings the rom com back from the brink of death, and restores it to the rudest of health, even though a life and death experience embodies the film’s narrative and story.

Based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, THE BIG SICK tells the story of Pakistan-born aspiring comedian Kumail, played by co-writer, Nanjiani, who connects with psychology graduate student Emily after one of his stand-up sets. However, what they thought would be just a one-night stand blossoms into the real thing, an ankle over ears love affair, which complicates the life that is expected of Kumail by his traditional Muslim parents.

Kumail, out of filial duty, keeps Emily’s existence a secret, and continues to have dinner with his family, meals that are always punctuated by an impromptu arrival of a marriageable Pakistani girl. The girls bring pictures of themselves as if they were actors looking to be cast in a role, the role of Mrs. Kumail. Continue reading THE BIG SICK : A MOVIE THAT WILL CHASE THOSE BLUES AWAY

UNCLE DYSFUNCTIONAL : UNCOMPROMISING ANSWERS TO LIFE’S MOST PAINFUL PROBLEMS

“In the lacunae of language men and women understand different things about personal boundaries. What men call privacy, women know as secrecy. For men, privacy means not being told stuff that would hurt. For women, secrecy is having stuff go on behind your back.”

This is just a snippet in the well of wisdom that is UNCLE DYSFUNTIONAL, a collection from Esquire’s advice columnist, the late, great, acerbic abolisher of bosh, A A Gill.

Unhaltingly hilarious and unfalteringly funny, unflinchingly unflattering to the foolish followers of the fashion of political correctness, Gill is more likely to sneer and scorn as smile and sympathise, but his scathing analyses of what ails modern humankind is sublimely sage. Continue reading UNCLE DYSFUNCTIONAL : UNCOMPROMISING ANSWERS TO LIFE’S MOST PAINFUL PROBLEMS

A MONSTER CALLS : A TRIUMPH OF IMAGINATIVE FILM MAKING

A film that defies easy definition is a film to cherish in these days of flaccid franchise.
A MONSTER CALLS sounds like a horror movie, but it’s not really.

With a pre-teen protagonists it could be pathetically pigeon-holed as a teen movie, but it is not in the prevailing pen of kiddie gross out pictures.

A MONSTER CALLS is a wholly original film that deals with the monsters that come a calling throughout our lives, the monster of bullying, the monster of illness, the monster of separation, the monster of dealing with the death of a loved one.

Continue reading A MONSTER CALLS : A TRIUMPH OF IMAGINATIVE FILM MAKING

LALLY KATZ’S ‘NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH’ @ THE MONKEY BAA THEATRE

Featured image – Christine Greenough, Anne Wilson and Gertraud Ingeborg. 

Gertraud Ingeborg swoops to conquer in Iluminate Educate’s encore production of Lally Katz’s NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH, leading a cohort of fellow conquerors whose craft retools a familiar blueprint.

Ingeborg plays Ana, octogenarian Hungarian, World War II survivor. Recently widowed, she has relocated to another street in her suburb with her dog, Bella, a German Shepherd with a pinch of Pinscher.

Ana is the eyes of the street, the veritable neighbourhood watch, an imperious curmudgeon inquisitive of other people’s secrets, always ready to impart her vast well of wisdom and pool of opinion.

She takes under her wing a young woman who lives in the street, Catherine, a struggling actress sharing a house with aspiring writer, Ken.

Catherine is emotionally crippled by a past relationship and Ana appoints herself as Catherine’s emotional rescuer, whether Catherine wants rescuing or not. Continue reading LALLY KATZ’S ‘NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH’ @ THE MONKEY BAA THEATRE

THE LATE SHOW : MICHAEL CONNELLY’S LATEST THRILLER

The Late Show is LAPD parlance for the night shift and it’s been appropriated as the title of Michael Connelly’s latest thriller.

Eschewing Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller his seemingly perennial serial protagonists, Connelly has created a new lead character, Renee Ballard, an Hawaiian transplant pulling the late show out of Hollywood.

THE LATE SHOW is a slow burn of a page turner, a police procedural that sees Ballard pick up a trio of cases she wants no part of but cannot bear to part with.

The first of the three appears to be a benign case of credit card theft. But it brilliantly builds the base of Ballard’s philosophical foundation of seeking justice for a victim no matter the felony, whether it’s petty theft or first degree murder. Continue reading THE LATE SHOW : MICHAEL CONNELLY’S LATEST THRILLER

A COUPLE OF COPPOLA GEMS AWAIT YOU AT A CINEMA NEAR YOU

Your cinematic cup runneth over in July with a couple of Coppola pictures that are a cut above the pack.

Forging away from father and husband Francis, daughter Sofia and wife, Eleanor, have each made a film that entertains, enchants and engages in both narrative and image.

THE BEGUILED

Sofia’s choice is THE BEGUILED, the latest in the crinoline and corset carousel that’s merry go rounding our cinemas at present.

Often one will see a film and be inspired to track down its source material.

This was the case when Sofia Coppola finally caught up with Don Siegal’s Clint Eastwood starrer, The Beguiled.

Instead of doing a remake she wanted to shoot a re-imagining of Thomas Cullinan’s novel of the same name, a bit like the Coen Brothers did with True Grit a spell ago.

Laced with elements of a taut psychological thriller, the tale unfolds in 1864 – three years into the Civil War – and is tightly concentrated in and around a Southern girls’ boarding school in Virginia.

Sofia Coppola weaves some Peter Weir-ness in this Southern Gothic, with a haunting hitch of the petticoat nod to Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Coppola’s version begins with a young student of the school out foraging for fungi when she comes face to face with a not much fun guy, a fearful and almost fatally wounded infantryman. He’s an Irishman in a Yankee uniform. He might as well be the Devil in blue dress, but Christian benevolence suffered by little children determines the little girl to bring the soldier back to the school fore succour and sanctuary.

The girl brings him back to the school where the headmistress ministers his wounds. As she and the French teacher and the remaining students provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events.

Think Misery out of Picnic at Hanging Rock and you get the picture.

Nicole Kidman is at her recent best as the school principal, Miss Martha. Prim and proper but with a perceptible impishness, she is a deliciously decisive den mother with a nuanced sense of propriety mixed with a suitably appropriate sense of humour and irony.

Kirstin Dunst is her dignified French teacher, Edwina, seduced by the soldier’s courtly charm.

Elle Fanning is the precocious senior student, Alicia, intent on seducing the soldier and satisfying the curiosity of her own burgeoning sexuality.

The soldier is played with rat cunning charm by Colin Farrell. When he tries to get a leg over, he comes a cropper.

Among the younger students, watch out for rising Australian star, Angouri Rice as Jane.

Sofia Coppola’s script is succinct, suspenseful, sexy and very funny, and the look of the film is to die for.

Draped in Southern Gothic, Costume Designer Stacey Battat brings a stately gorgeousity to the film that is beguiling and bewitching as the narrative.

PARIS CAN WAIT

Departing the historical Southern states of America for the byways of contemporary France, Sofia’s mother, Eleanor Coppola, delivers a delicious and delightful road movie PARIS CAN WAIT, her first narrative feature that benefits from her documentary film making experience.

Basted biographical, PARIS CAN WAIT had a six year gestation from its genesis. In 2009, Eleanor Coppola found herself with a bad head cold which prevented her from flying. She had accompanied her husband, Francis, to the Cannes Film Festival with an expectation of continuing on to Eastern Europe, where he had business. What now?!

The dilemma was quickly solved by her spouse’s long-time business associate, a Frenchman, who was driving back to Paris right then. He suggested she come with him. She accepted. By nightfall she’d be sleeping in the Coppolas’ Paris apartment. And, when his meetings were over, Francis would join her for a short vacation.

Weeks later, after returning to her home in Northern California, Eleanor regaled a friend with colorful anecdotes about her jaunt from Cannes to Paris with a cuisine-obsessed Frenchman who took her on a “trip” in more ways than one. A seven-hour sojourn stretched to forty before his gasping vintage Peugeot took its final breath and was exchanged for a rental. “That’s a movie I’d like to see,” her friend said, laughing.

PARIS CAN WAIT is that movie. Written, directed and produced by Eleanor Coppola, it is a wry contemporary comedy, starring Diane Lane and Alec Baldwin as the fictionalized film couple, “Anne and Michael Lockwood.” , with French writer director-actor Arnaud Viard portraying the irrepressible “Jacques.” , Anne’s sheer chance chauffer.

PARIS CAN WAIT reflects both the pleasures and vexations which stem from hours of close contact between an American woman at something of a crossroads in her life, and a charming Frenchman who oozes charm and erudition to camouflage life “issues” of his own.

It’s a road movie and a culinary adventure, much like the Steve Coogan/Rob Brydon Trip movies, but without the self consciousness.

Jacques knows all the best off the beaten track sights and restaurants and Anne, at first frustrated by the meanderings and barely muted amour of Jacques, becomes fascinated with the journey and her guide.

Anne, like Eleanor, has a fine eye and constantly snaps away with her camera, capturing the many moods and foods encountered on this epicurean and emotional epic.

Anne is also frock conscious and Coppola has had the great good sense to employ costume designer Milena Canonero, four time Oscar winner, for Barry Lyndon, Chariots of Fire, Marie Antoinette and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Adding to the sumptuous look of the picture is production designer, Anne Seibel, who was the art director on Sofia’s film, Marie Antoinette.

PARIS CAN WAIT is worth the price of admission for the travelogue aspects alone. The drive from Cannes to Paris with its sublime stopovers, including Lyons, is a scenic spectacular.

The narrative may seem to take a back seat but it drives the movie in a deceptively simple way.
Diane Lane is perfect as Anne, graceful, articulate and strong, a luminous presence, the complete antithesis of the Ugly American, while Arnaud Viard relishes the sometimes stereotypical “Frenchness” of Jacques.

PARIS CAN WAIT is well worth a look – don’t wait.

BABY DRIVER

A bona fide instant cult classic, BABY DRIVER turns up the heat with cool: cool script, cool cast, cool wardrobe and cool music. Hot!

This full throttle thoroughbred is a mash up masterpiece – think Drive out of LA LA Land, a motor musical, a heist feist pedal to the metal toe tapping genre fender bender!

A good kid and a devil behind the wheel, Baby is a getaway driver for criminal mastermind, Doc.

Suffering tinnitus after a tragic traffic event that left him orphaned, Baby is permanently plugged into an Ipod, of which he has an array. On any given caper, he chooses his own personal soundtrack that fuels his feel with the wheel and gets his engine running. Continue reading BABY DRIVER

DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM : THE STORY OF RADIO BIRDMAN

DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM is the warts and all, no holds barred story of groundbreaking Sydney band Radio Birdman.
Written, directed, edited and co-produced by filmmaker Jonathan J Sequeira, the documentary chronicles the rise and fall of the band – from the vibrant music scene they created, to the legions of bands they influenced in their wake.

The ascent into the maelstrom began in 1974 at a house in Kensington, where band members met up and decided to play together. Two of them, Deniz Tek and Pip Hoyle, were med students.

From their first gig at the Exelsior Hotel IN 1974, where the quintet outnumbered the audience, through to 1978, Radio Birdman’s uncompromising, high-energy ethos inspired a ‘New Race’ of disaffected youth, ready for a change, while their DIY attitude and self-released records were the prototype for the indie music scene.

It was a fraught four years with break -ups and bust-ups fuelled by a brutal combustibility, somewhat a Catch 22 as this unstable chemistry created the explosive energy of the band’s music and persona.

Radio Birdman’s volatility as a unit came to a head on their UK tour, where emotionally and economically stressed, their touring vehicle, a Kombi, became known as the van of hate. Continue reading DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM : THE STORY OF RADIO BIRDMAN

THE DARK LAKE : MELBOURNE AUTHOR SARAH BAILEY’S DEBUT NOVEL

Featured pic. Author Sarah Bailey.

These violent delights have violent ends says Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet.

He loved a good warning to set the scene. Perhaps these days he’d be writing crime fiction sensations like THE DARK LAKE, the debut novel from Melbourne based author, Sarah Bailey.

Bailey has harnessed her tale of regional town homicide to the work horse of Shakespeare, and of Romeo & Juliet in particular, complete with teenage suicide, parental displeasure, and a victim called Rosalind.

When the body of high school drama teacher, Rosalind Ryan, is found in the lake the morning after the triumphant opening night of her student’s production of Romeo & Juliet, ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny, as local cop, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock, uncovers a ‘storm’ of Shakespeare like dimension.

Woodstock was a contemporary of Ryan and vied for the attention and affections of the same boy at school. That boy’s much younger brother is now Ryan’s star student, cast as Romeo in her brash, bold and brilliant re imagining of the classic tale of star crossed lovers. Continue reading THE DARK LAKE : MELBOURNE AUTHOR SARAH BAILEY’S DEBUT NOVEL