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.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS

It’s doubtful that writer Martin McDonagh has ever suffered from writer’s block, but his latest film SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (MA) has a screenwriter suffering from such a malaise.

Marty Faranan, played by Colin Farrell, is an Irish screenwriter living in Los Angeles. The deadline for his latest screenplay has passed and he is hitting the bottle more often than his laptop.

Like everyone in LA, a mate of his, Billy, has an idea for a movie and is happy to share in an attempt to shake Marty from his crippling over-tippling.

Billy, played with enthusiastic playfulness by Sam Rockwell, is in partnership with Hans (Christopher Walken) in a canine kidnapping conspiracy caper whereby they purloin pooches and redeem rewards for their return.

The shih tzu hits the fan when this duo of dog-nappers hostage the hound of puppy obsessed gangster, Charlie Costello, played by Woody Harrelson in NATURAL BORN KILLERS mode.

This is the reality that feeds into Marty’s screenplay, fleshed out by stories told by Billy and Hans, back stories that include a bunny loving psycho played by Tom Waits and a shadowy preacher man in the guise of Harry Dean Stanton.

It wouldn’t be much fun without femme fatales and we have Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko stepping up to the plate to provide ammo in the amore.

There’s more carnage in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS than there was in McDonagh’s feature film debut, IN BRUGES, and a load more characters, but the sensibility is the same, with dark deeds examined in the light of regret and redemption. It’s a kaleidoscopic jigsaw of a movie, with zinger dialogue delivered by a killer cast.

Think of McDonagh as a kissin’ cousin of Quentin and the Coens.

© Richard Cotter

7th November, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS, Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Abbi Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

FRANKENWEENIE

FRANKENWEENIE

An animation about a reanimation and homage to classic horror movies, Tim Burton’s FRANKENWEENIE outflanks all other cartoon contenders so far this year.

With stunning black and white cinematography by Peter Sorg and one of the best Danny Elfman scores in years, FRANKENWEENIE tells the tale of young Victor Frankenstein, a school student who prefers science to sports, whose science project literally resuscitates his deceased dog, Sparky.

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His success spurs his fellow students to similarly restore and reanimate and under the guise of the school science project inadvertently creates a dead pets society focused on the resurrection of all manner of critter.

A tortoise becomes a terrifying terrapin, a fearsome amphibian grown to gargantuan Godzilla, a bat melds with a cat to create a ferociously fanged flying feline, sea monkeys become popcorn crazed gremlins, and assorted other animals make up a menagerie of mayhem.

Spectacular sight and sound show is complimented by an array of fine vocalisations, from Martin Landau’s mellifluous science teacher, to Winona Ryder’s Elsa Van Helsing. Both these actors are veterans of Burton’s various visions, from Beetlejuice through to Ed Wood.

Victor’s fellow students all have voice patterns similar to great sibilances of the spook genre – there’s a lispy Karloff and the Eastern European cadence of Lorre and Lugosi for example, and the puppets’ appearance patterns classic characterisations as well, from hunchbacks to henchman.

Fun and entertaining, FRANKENWEENIE is also a clarion call for kids to embrace science and for society in general to take more of an interest.

Basically a boy and his dog story, this is Disney daring to be a bit darker, devoid of dreary dirges, and diabetic ditties, giving Pixar a much needed challenge.

© Richard Cotter

30th October, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- FRANKENWEENIE, Tim Burton, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

Argo

ARGOAccording to Wikipedia, an argot ( French, Spanish, and Catalan for “slang”) is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations.

Phonetically the same, with the silent “t” now terminated (with extreme prejudice?), ARGO is the title of a cracker of a clandestine caper purported to be true, lately declassified, after a thirty year security embargo.

When the United States embassy in Tehran is breached at the height of the Iranian Revolution, six American staffers seek refuge and are given succour at the Canadian embassy.

As the turmoil in Tehran escalates anti American sentiment in Iran, CIA and State Department specialists frantically fulminate on exfiltration plans.

One such expert, Tony Mendez, concocts a plot that, in cahoots with Hollywood, offers a farfetched but fundamentally feasible rescue mission.

ARGO is WAG THE DOG out of CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, a remarkable tale brilliantly executed, with a sparkling script studded with diamond dialogue crafted by Chris Terrio. This film is full of spook speak and Hollywood argot all made crystal clear to non industry ears.

In his third helming of a feature film, Ben Affleck casts himself as Terry Mendez and consolidates his ability to self-direct. As a testament to the strength of the screenplay and his steadily growing reputation as a director of astute capability, Affleck has surrounded himself with a cast that is flawless.

As seasoned spooks and weary world watchers there’s Bryan Cranston, Philip Baker Hall, Chris Messina, and Kyle Chandler. Much of the humour comes from the Hollywood hacks, Alan Arkin as crusty producer Lester Siegel and John Goodman as make-up maven, John Chambers. Their banter, proclamations, and deal making, provide a litany of laughs which perfectly leavens the high tension life and death drama at the core of the picture.

A super Score by Alexandre Desplat, impressive lensing by Rodrigo Prieto all adds up to a smart entertainment that is already attracting Oscar buzz.

© Richard Cotter

ARGO

John Goodman and Alan Arkin in Ben Affleck’s ARGO

According to Wikipedia, an argot ( French, Spanish, and Catalan for “slang”) is a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations.

Phonetically the same, with the silent “t” now terminated (with extreme prejudice?), ARGO is the title of a cracker of a clandestine caper purported to be true, lately declassified, after a thirty year security embargo.

When the United States embassy in Tehran is breached at the height of the Iranian Revolution, six American staffers seek refuge and are given succour at the Canadian embassy.

As the turmoil in Tehran escalates anti American sentiment in Iran, CIA and State Department specialists frantically fulminate on exfiltration plans.

One such expert, Tony Mendez, concocts a plot that, in cahoots with Hollywood, offers a farfetched but fundamentally feasible rescue mission.

ARGO is WAG THE DOG out of CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, a remarkable tale brilliantly executed, with a sparkling script studded with diamond dialogue crafted by Chris Terrio. This film is full of spook speak and Hollywood argot all made crystal clear to non industry ears.

In his third helming of a feature film, Ben Affleck casts himself as Terry Mendez and consolidates his ability to self-direct. As a testament to the strength of the screenplay and his steadily growing reputation as a director of astute capability, Affleck has surrounded himself with a cast that is flawless.

As seasoned spooks and weary world watchers there’s Bryan Cranston, Philip Baker Hall, Chris Messina, and Kyle Chandler.
Much of the humour comes from the Hollywood hacks, Alan Arkin as crusty producer Lester Siegel and John Goodman as make-up maven, John Chambers. Their banter, proclamations, and deal making, provide a litany of laughs which perfectly leavens the high tension life and death drama at the core of the picture.

A super Score by Alexandre Desplat, impressive lensing by Rodrigo Prieto all adds up to a smart entertainment that is already attracting Oscar buzz.

© Richard Cotter

24th October, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie News- ARGO, Chris Terrio, Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Phillip Baker Hall, Chris Messina, Kyle Chandler, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Alexander Desplat, Rodrigo Prieto, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED

Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass in SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED

Time travel. The concept is mind mucking and brain bending. Hot on the chronosynclastic infundibula heels of the splendid LOOPERS comes the sublime and sweetly sensational gentle indie piece called SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (M) where a looney loner in Washington State coastal town advertises for a partner to time travel back to 2001.

A Seattle magazine writer with two interns in tow journeys to the backwater to interview the potential time traveller with an ulterior motive to catch up with an old flame. Relinquishing his journalistic duties to the female intern, the reporter pursues his lost love.

As the intern inveigles her way into the trust of the time traveller, we discover that the motive of his mission is to reconnect with a lost love also.

Parallel stories in almost parallel universes bring unparalleled pleasures in this whip smart and comically clever picture written by Derek Connolly and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Romantic comedy with a tincture of science fiction, an imaginative and inventive take on the time travel theme, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, is a laugh out loud lament on loss and longing, given emotional punch with a bunch of perfectly pitched performances.

Aubrey Plaza, edgily deadpan as Depressed Debbie in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, is dazzling as Darius, the female intern who connects with the kooky Kenneth, sweetly played by Mark Duplass.

Changing the past, preventing the future, altering the present – the mission is different for everyone, but the power to hope for something better is universal. Think along the lines of BACK TO THE FUTURE directed by Woody Allen or Whit Stillman.

© Richard Cotter

18th October, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

TO ROME WITH LOVE

Judy Davis and the Maestro in TO ROME WITH LOVE

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was always going to be a hard act to follow…But while TO ROME WITH LOVE does not soar like last year’s masterpiece it is still one of the better comedies of the year.

TO ROME WITH LOVE is a kaleidoscopic caper, a series of vignettes in the style of those cavalcade movies that came out of Italy in the Sixties and Seventies, so much so I was surprised that they didn’t exhume Marcello Mastroianni to make a cameo. And where was Sophia Loren?

It does have Roberto Benigni in it though, and it’s about time he and Woody Allen collaborated. He plays a guy who wakes up one morning and is inexplicably famous. Famous for being famous. This episode has echoes of CELEBRITY, and Woody’s scorn for the cult of celebrity and the paparazzi.

Alec Baldwin, Jessie Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page step up in an episode about an architect reminiscing about his youth in Rome while commenting on a present day relationship of three young people grappling with love and romance. Baldwin acts as both muse and chorus in a deft bit of cinematic sleight of hand.

Woody himself pops up with five time collaborator Judy Davis, playing husband and wife. He is a frustrated music impresario who wants to put his daughter’s fiancé’s father on stage singing in the shower. His daughter is played by Alison Pill who played Zelda Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris.

Also reuniting with Woody is Penelope Cruz as a firecracker hooker caught up in a case of mistaken identity and forced to masquerade as a newlywed.

Frothy, frivolous fun, the cinematic equivalent of a cappuccino, TO ROME WITH LOVE is beautifully shot by Darius Khondji who lensed MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and features some of Italy’s finest actors including Antonio Albanese and Ornella Mutti.

It casually blends the real and surreal, celebrates silliness, and of course, the Eternal City.

© Richard Cotter

18th October, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- TO ROME WITH LOVE, Woody Allen, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

THE KNOWLEDGE

A scene from John Donnelly’s brilliant drama, THE KNOWLEDGE. Pic Kathy Luu

Here’s a bit of knowledge. This is the definition of Career.

Noun: An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.

Verb: Move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction.

In John Donnelly’s brilliantly crafted play THE KNOWLEDGE, both noun and verb converge, collide and combust as newbie teacher Zoe’s nascent career careens from bright to blighted as she strives for control of a classroom of kids whose parents have abrogated their responsibility in discipline and civility.

There’s Mickey, a lad with a chip the size of a boulder on his shoulder, presumably a chip off the old block, an old block whose mere mention reveals a chink in the boy’s emotional armour. He has a preoccupation with anal sex, thinks that Daniel, the other boy in the class, is gay, and is convinced that all girls are slags.

Female classmate, Karris, does nothing to dispel this opinion, flagrantly flaunting her perceived promiscuity, firm in the knowledge of her attraction to males, either students or teachers.

Daniel, like Mickey, has daddy issues, but is more intellectual than instinctual, and Sal, while more passive than Karris, knows a thing or two about pushing buttons and the duplicity of adults.

These four pupils of the apocalypse are played with such vigour, vim and vitality by Benjamin Ross, Karli-Rae Grogan, John Benda, and Isaro Kayitesi that the stage is virtually ablaze with energy for the duration of its two hours plus run (including interval).

These are not angels, nor are their teachers. The playwright demonises neither. Inappropriate behaviour is expressed and observed by all. The school principal, Harry, a warrior educator whose 35 year service has whittled away much of his idealism, muses on the vain hope of getting his students a job on the counter at Boots when earlier dreams saw him getting bright sixth formers into Oxbridge.

He and his colleagues face the harsh reality of giving their students skills they don’t need for jobs that don’t exist.
Knowledge is power but power can corrupt. And a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Knowledge, power, corruption and danger and a savvy, snappy safety valve of humour permeate this play.

In the centre of this galaxy of swirling satellites and colliding worlds is a stellar turn by Silvina D’Alessandro as Zoe whose journey is exquisitely etched both psychologically and physically.

As Zoe’s Don Juan colleague, Maz, Brett Rogers exudes the love ’em and leave ’em Lothario ethic, and, as her headmaster, Harry, Barry French succeeds in semaphoring a genuine concern concealed beneath the cynicism of the system.

Rebecca Martin directs with an emphatic economy, a whip-cracking pace, and a grand grasp of both script and space.

Antoinette Barbouttis’ set and costume design is not only evocative of classroom and playground but serves the actors and action in a practical manner.

John Donnelly’s excellent play THE KNOWLEDGE is given exuberant execution by Pants Guys Productions in this year’s final instalment of The Spare Room program at New Theatre. It warrants your attendance.

THE KNOWLEDGE opened at the New Theatre, 542 King Street Newtown on Friday 12th October and runs until Saturday 3rd November, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

15th October, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- THE KNOWLEDGE, New Theatre Newtown, The Spare Room, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

LAWLESS

Guy Pearce in John Hillcoat’s LAWLESS

LAWLESS (MA) is a prohibition era crime saga of bootlegging, throat cutting, moon shining, and gun shooting from the team that had the temerity to transfer the Western to outback Australia.

Sure we had sly grog and illegal stills seconded by the six o’clock swill and proscribed Sunday trading but not the punishing Prohibition laws that created a crime kingdom and culture that generated organised crime and created, for all intents and purposes, the modern gangster. So helmer John Hillcoat and his cohorts have set and shot their gory story of grog, greed, gangsters and G men in the cradle of its conception.

Based on a family memoir by Matt Bondurant, The Wettest Country in the World, (a pun on their produce rather an accurate climatological title) LAWLESS tells the tale of three brothers, In the mountains of Franklin County, Virginia, the Bondurant brothers. The eldest, Howard (Jason Clarke), managed to survive the carnage of the Great War, but he returned home unmoored by what he had seen and done. He’s a bugger for the booze they brew. His brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) nearly died from the Spanish Flu that took his parents. He beat back death with a quiet strength and ferocious, visceral invincibility that came to define him. Jack (Shia LaBeouf) is the youngest sibling, impressionable, irresponsible, sensitive, sartorially splendid.
In these here parts, these booze brothers are liquor legends, entrepreneurs of the piss, distillery royalty, purveyors and providores of high octane hooch.

Into their enterprise paradise comes creepy, corrupt copper, Charlie Rakes, a chilling, sinister portrayal of psychopathology by Guy Pearce, a sort of prototype Joker, a deadly dandy hell bent on burying the brothers.

Nick Cave’s screenplay, like his script for The Proposition, shows a preoccupation with siblings mixed with a mastery of genre. It’s visceral and violent, laced with a laconic humour and rolls like a badlands ballad

As well as Jason Clarke and Guy Pearce, the picture is peppered with performances from other Australian thesps like Mia Wasikowska, and Noah Taylor.

Mia plays Jack’s love interest, a bible belt babe attracted by the baby bootlegger’s blarney and brio. Taylor plays a hick henchman to Gary Oldman’s flamboyant Floyd Banner, head honcho in a Chicago syndicate. Oldman’s dapper manner as a Tommy toting anti-tea totalitarian is one of the many pleasures proffered in a picture that packs punch in style and substance.

© Richard Cotter

11th October, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- LAWLESS, Nick Cave, Guy Pearce, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

KILLING THEM SOFTLY

Andrew Dominik’s latest, KILLING THEM SOFTLY

Wise guys, goodfellas, reservoir dogs. You dig the lingo, get the jargon, like the genre, you’ll dig, get and like KILLING THEM SOFTLY (MA) the latest film from CHOPPER writer/director, Andrew Dominik.

Returning to the milieu of contemporary crims and crooks after a visit to the Wild West with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Dominik delivers a cross between talkative Tarantino and bloody balletic Peckinpah in this adaptation of a George V. Higgins novel.

Higgins novels are dialogue driven with flashy, fully fleshed characters, and it’s bizarre that not more of his work has been adapted. On the strength of this production, expect a slew of Higgins’ stories to be slated.

Originally titled Cogan’s Trade, after the enforcer played by Brad Pitt who, when it comes to these people who need to be murdered for some misdemeanour against the mob, likes to “kill them softly”, a quick kill, not a torturous drawn out torment.
His targets here are three guys who have robbed a card game causing the local criminal economy to collapse. One of them is an Australian, an aspiring drug dealer who is dealing dogs to make some cash before he embarks on the heist, is played with an unglamorous grunge by Ben Mendelsohn, a pleasure-seeking pig, a stinky filthy guy in body, mind and mouth.

It’s a tour de force in low life, drug addled dopey-ness, a stand-out in a remarkable ensemble of actors that includes Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins and James Gandolfini. Gandolfini’s character, a hit man on hard times, spits verbal venom like a vitriolic viper; vituperative, vexatious, venal.

KILLING THEM SOFTLY is an allegory of the current global financial crisis with all the characters motivated only by the desire for money, their moral compasses completely out of whack, and their dreams our nightmare. The time span of the film follows the 2008 presidential elections with Obama and Bush platitudes playing on televisions in the background.

As Brad Pitt’s character, Jackie, says, “America is not a country, it’s a business’.

The Great Depression is evoked in this current currency catastrophe through clever motif of Depression era songs as harbingers of annihilation, a device the great Denis Potter, creator of Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective, would approve.

Patricia Norris, as production and costume designer, has created an awesomely real universe of a hellish underworld of collapsed economy, and Greig Fraser’s camera work has brilliantly captured the environment.

Ugly, brutal, bloody, incisive and bloody funny, KILLING THEM SOFTLY is a must see.

(c) Richard Cotter

11th October, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- KILLING THEM SOFTLY, Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide

LOOPER

Emily Blunt in LOOPER

LOOPER (M) is an innovative addition to the time travel canon.

LOOPER is set in the near future and involves a group of hit men called Loopers who work for a crime syndicate in the further future. Their bosses send targets back in time, and the Looper’s job is to simply shoot them and dispose of the body. The target vanishes from the future and the Looper disposes of a corpse that technically doesn’t exist. A very clean system, unless you let your loop run…

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a young looper who literally comes face to face with his own mortality when an older version of himself is sent back to be executed. Talk about turning Terminator on its head!

Suddenly the future isn’t what it used to be with young Joe’s present preoccupied with pursuing his future while old Joe, played with bulldog belligerence by Bruce Willis, is diligently dodging his past whilst seeking to secure his future.

LOOPER is a science fiction film of the highest order with fully developed characters and ideas, a mix of action mayhem and moral dilemma.

Writer/director Rian Johnson continues his rise as one of the more interesting American film makers with LOOPER following the audacious and highly entertaining BRICK and THE BROTHERS BLOOM.

Much of the movie’s success is its look and Sharen Davis, costume designer, and Ed Verreaux, production designer, have created an extraordinary textural realm through which the narrative navigates a kind of metro retro dystopia.

Gordon-Levitt is sensational in his characterisation, not only realising Joe’s mindset but emulating Bruce Willis’ physicality to eerie effect.

Jeff Daniels is superb as the crime boss, “doing time” in a backward time, pining for his future, compensating his present by wielding absolute power.

Philosophical, funny, metaphysical, LOOPER is a leap forward in the wake of back footed sci fi remakes where special effects are not so special and the scripts less than ordinary.

© Richard Cotter

20th September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- LOOPER, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Rian Johnson, Sharen Davis, Ed Verreaux, Gordon Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

WATER

A scene from Filter and David Farr’s production, WATER

Water molecules, we are told at the commencement of this Theatre as Aquarium experience, are amicable atoms which like attachment and are tactile and societal. Quite a contrast to the techno set and situations we are presented with in this imported production that comes to us following two sell out runs in London and en route to BAM (New York), directed by David Farr, Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a former Artistic Director at London’s Lyric Hammersmith.

Using water as the intrinsic link between its characters, WATER spans two generations, two continents and two sets of relationships.

Can one dive deeply into what is a shallow relationship? Has technology, with its Skype and Twitter and Smartphone actually served to disconnect us as tactile beings – Social Network being as oxymoronic as Military Intelligence? We now interface remotely, with true feelings finding the same purchase as water off a duck’s back. As the world’s oceans rise, our wells of emotion evaporate, humanity dehydrated, like marine mammals marooned by receding tides.

One relationship of the piece examines two estranged half-brothers who meet for the first time on the eve of their father’s cremation. The older brother, played by Ferdy Roberts, is a marine biologist with mental illness and a mummy fixation. His younger and more successful brother played by Oliver Dimsdale, handles the loss very differently. He’s a hip shock jock working for WAIL radio, a playful pun which serves to highlight the sibling’s polarity.

A parallel story of a pragmatic political aide, Claire, played by Poppy Miller trying to grapple with issues of climate change and commitment with her semen donor seaman, Joe (Dimsdale in doubling mode), a deep water diver who cannot fathom her.

Water weaves the political and the personal together. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make waves. The production’s use of visual and sonic storytelling techniques is clever but cloying. Some of it works but mostly the theatrical is thwarted by pseudo-cinema and dance floor deejaying. Video and sound are mixed live on stage by composer Tim Phillips and the actors, but this ploy only seems to alienate the human factor more. Of course, that may be its intention.

A Filter and Lyric Hammersmith production, WATER created by Filter and David Farr, opened at the Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay on Wednesday 12th September and runs until Sunday 23rd September, 2012.

© Richard Cotter

15 September, 2012

THE SUMMER OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in THE BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

THE BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (M) is an extraordinary film, a tempestuous magic realist movie with all the turbulence of a force 10 tornado generated by a hurricane performance by Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy, a sassy six year old who lives with her father Wink in BATHTUB in the bayous of Louisiana.

THE BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is one of those movies that come along from time to time that defies description and makes reviewers just want to cut to the chase and say, “ Go. This film is going to transport you”.

Set in America, but not the homogenous Hollywood America so often served up in stars and stripes tripe. This is squalid United States, third world status, a foreign place of strange customs and speech and eats. Its grits and jowls and black eyed peas, catfish, buckets of beer and crustaceans.

Hushpuppy’s daddy is dying and her whole world seems to be disintegrating, like a personal Katrina has disrupted and uprooted her, her levees have been breached, banks busted, beasts baying for her blood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, and desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny tornado must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

Based on a stage play called Juicy and Delicious, it is hard to fathom such a cinematic piece had its origins in the theatre, but Lucy Alibar, the playwright, working with director Ben Zeitlin on the adaptation have made a marvellous and magical transition, transformative, transfixing, tantalisingly teasing. Ben also composed the music score with Dan Romer, which is one of the best scores of the year.

Extraordinarily shot by Ben Richardson, this film has a style and texture that is almost tactile.

Made for a couple a million bucks, it has already recouped beaucoup to the tune of 9 million and deserves to stuff its coffers further on its Australian release. Once seen, not forgotten.

© Richard Cotter

14th September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, Quvenzhane Wallis, JUICY AND DELICIOUS, Lucy Alibar, Ben Zeitlin, Dan Romer, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS

Idiosyncratic savant. That’s how I’d describe film- maker Whit Stillman.

From his feature film debut, METROPOLITAN to his fourth and latest film DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, I have been a fan. Original, audacious and always Whit-smart, Stillman’s movies are stars that inhabit the same firmament as Woody Allen and Hal Hartley.

This latest masterpiece –his first this century – has the ace advantage of having that living droll, Greta Gerwig, deliver in delirious deadpan Whit’s delicious dialogue.

Greta plays Violet, leader of a sub sorority consisting of Rose and Heather, who take transfer student Lily under their wing.
The girls introduce Lily to their main activity, running the university’s “Suicide Prevention Centre” where a regime of donuts, good coffee, and musical dance numbers are intended to distract severely depressed and suicidal students from self-destruction. Indeed, it is Violet’s primary ambition to create a new dance craze that will take its place beside The Charleston and The Twist. “Yes. Something that might enhance the life of every one — and every couple”.

Megalyn Echikunwoke as Rose is acerbic, articulate and astute, suspicious of the male gender considering them to be either infantile or playboy operators.

Carrie MacLemore is Heather, a daffy, ditzy dame whose lack of general knowledge is matched only by the colour blind jock, Thor, whom she adores.

Lily is played by Analeigh Tipton, so gloriously captivating as Steve Carrel’s secret admirer in CRAZY, STUPID LOVE last year and equally spellbinding here.

DAMSLS IN DISTRESS is the cream of campus comedy, with a quartet of captivating leads, surrounded by a stellar supporting cast, fuelled by a fantastically funny script.

© Richard Cotter

15th September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, Whit Stillman, Whit Stillman, Greta Gerwig, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie Maclemore, Analeigh Tipton, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

LAST WILL

Malin Crepin plays the reporter on the hunt for a killer

Originally titled Nobel’s Last Will, LAST WILL (M) is the latest cinematic realisation in a spate of Scandinavian crime thrillers based on Nordic novels.

Like the most celebrated of these ice cold conspiracy and corruption capers, The Millennium Trilogy, LAST WILL has a crusading journalist as its protagonist, Annika Bengtzon played by Malin Crepin.

She is covering the annual Nobel bequest banquet when one of the Nobel committee, Caroline von Behring, is gunned down by cold, calculating hired killer, Kitten.

Caroline’s dancing partner, Israeli stem cell specialist, Aaron Wiesal is assumed to be the real target of the hit, but the intrepid reporter’s investigations indicate that the obvious often obfuscates and the plot thickens when other bodies start mounting up.
Based on a Liza Marklund novel that is part of a series featuring Annika Bengtzon, the film’s most fulsome characters are female, with the men mostly meek as mouse spouses, megalomaniacs, misogynists, and male members.

The heroine is a ballsy, no bull, anti-bullying bureaucracy buster and the assassin with code name Kitty is pure purrfection as a feline femme fatale, played with a lithe athleticism by Antje Traue. As assassins go, move over Scaramanga, – with her amber eyes and auric dress Kitty is certainly the Woman with the Golden Glam.

Director Peter Flinth helms this hybrid feature film/telemovie with panache although hampered slightly by a tad too trite episodic structure by screenwriter Pernilla Oljelund.

If there was a Nobel Prize for Thrillers, LAST WILL would probably not be nominated, however it is a worthy addition to the tradition of Scandy pipe and slippers crime capers, less Nesbo, more Wallander

© Richard Cotter

13 September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- LAST WILL, Cinema Paris, Ticket giveaway, Martin Crepin, Lize Marlund, Antje Traue, Peter Flinth, Pernilla Oljelund, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

KATH AND KIMDERELLA

Having just directed the comedy MURDER MOST FUNNY (still playing till this Sunday at Tap Gallery, by the way) with a very Danny Kaye-ish turn by Seaton Kay-Smith, it was a Zeitgeist moment for me when Danny Kaye was channelled, purloined, pastiched, and humongously homaged in KATH & KIMDERELLA (M).

Suspicious of stretched out sit coms, I was cynical of this films ability to sustain feature length laughter, so I was pleasantly surprised that it succeeds in keeping its stamina for most of its 85 minutes.

Kath & Kim, cringe-dwellers of bas couture and culture, jet off to the Continent having won a pharmacy raffle. Their destination is a European kingdom run to ruin by a despotic monarch played by Rob Sitch.

Rob’s skunk stippled flowing maned Romeo seeks to seduce cashed up Kath and has Kim marry his illegitimate heir.

Chewing up the scenery and stealing the show is Richard E. Grant as the monarch’s aide de camp, Alain, a man of malevolent ambivalence, who tends to converse in verse, part court jester, part male Mrs. Danvers.

The regulars of the TV series abound- Magda Szubanski as Kim’s second best friend, Sharon, accompanies the mother and daughter on the trip and, in an art imitating life sequence, is cajoled out of the closet.

Glenn Robbins and Peter Rowsthorn reprise their roles as Kath and Kim’s respective spouses, Marg Downey is back as the marriage counsellor, Marion, and Dame Edna is along to pass the baton from Moonee Ponds to Fountain Lakes.

Shot and Co-produced by David Parker, creator of another Australian comedy classic, MALCOLM and filmed on location at Nerola Italy, Amalfi Coast Italy, Castello Orsini Italy, Monsalvat and the Regent Theatre Melbourne, the picture looks impressive, even the dodgy, cheesy, back projection which actually adds to the comedic flavour of the flick.

Jane Turner and Gina Riley have written a suitably silly big screen screamer for their indelible creations Kath and Kim, and also, Prue and Trude (love to see them get their own film).

Ted Emery, long time Kath & Kim collaborator, directs this committed crew of comics with a cosy competence. I’m sure it would get an OK from Danny Kaye.

© Richard Cotter

4th September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Cinema News- KATH AND KIMDERELLA, Jane Turner, Gina Riley, Ted Emery, David Parker, Glenn Robbins, Peter Rowsthorn, Marg Downey, Dame Edna, Magda Szubanski, Richard E Grant, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

THE RUSSIAN RESURECTION FILM FESTIVAL 2012

THE WHITE TIGER, a Festival highlight

Too much for one cinema, the Russian Resurrection Film Festival has seconded the Event Cinemas, Burwood to its original showcase, the Chauvel in Paddington, to present a pageant of contemporary Ruski film making.

From blistering drama, to sizzling history to delightful comedies, the festival, now in its ninth year, offers an extravaganza of rousing Russian entertainment.

The festival’s opening night film is SPY (M) the self evidently titled picture about espionage and Soviet intelligence’s efforts to discover the Nazi’s true intentions towards Mother Russia.

Aleksei Andrianov’s debut feature feels like an old Saturday matinee serial with better production values as our hero, a dashing young soldier with delusions of the debonair and a predilection for the debacle, deals with death, deceit and duplicity under the guidance of seasoned spion spoon feeder, Fedor Bonderchuk.

The ubiquitous Fedor, son of celebrated Soviet cineaste, Sergei Bonderchuk, pops up in the delightfully daffy but bitingly delightful comedy, TWO DAYS.

Here he plays a Politburo hard head sent to a rural museum to dictate cultural policy. There he meets an equally hard headed woman, passionate about the museum and local and national culture and not just for political expediency.

The dramatic, comedic and romantic soil tilled here is alluvial with Shakespearian richness, with more than a tincture of the Taming of the Shrew and a measure of Much Ado About Nothing. Gender politics is as much to the fore as party or government policy which makes for vigorous and robust jousting all set against a backdrop of rural idyll.

With its summery situation and denizens putting on shows of re-enactments for the powers that be, one can hardly dislodge another Shakespearian allusion to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

SIBERIA MONAMOUR (M) sounds like a love letter but this ironically titled film is a severe triptych of backwater life in a Russia seemingly unchained since pre Soviet days.

Ostensibly about the struggles of a grandfather and his grandson in the savage snowbound ice age of Siberian wilderness, a wilderness where superstition outstrips any notion of statehood, and where any semblance of civilisation succumbs to the primitive.

At the center of the story is a young orphan, Lyochka, and his grandfather, who is played by Pyotry Zaichenko. The two live in the otherwise abandoned old village, in the kind of disrepair that is one step from destitution. Their only protection is an ancient icon they pray to each night by candlelight. These icons are beacons for robbers who trawl the taiga looking for treasure to steal. A troubled Army officer and his grunt soldier abuse but then ultimately find a surprising solidarity with a teenage girl and their path eventually leads them to Lyochka, who has landed in a most perilous predicament.

EXPIATION (M) is an exploration of the exploitation of the state against the family, the subversive suspicion sown in Soviet society which spawned paranoia before Perestroika put paid to its corrosive effects.

In a moment of pique, a young girl places her mother, their tenants, and her mother’s lover in a perilous political pickle, the consequences of which play mercilessly on her conscience.

Cause, consequence and conscience are the cornerstones of this drama, which dour and dire subject matter is leavened with an act of contrition and the gift of forgiveness.

Had HOME(MA) been a Hollywood film you would probably think that Quentin Tarantino had a hand in it.

Congregating to celebrate the centennial birthday of the family patriarch, a family’s skeletons come out of the linen closet to air their dirty laundry.

Dirtiest of all is the prodigal son who returns from the big smoke trailing a hit squad of goons. As familial tensions flair among the reunion of self-servers and unsociable reptilians, the homicidal posse closes in on their quarry, cuing a denouement of carnage.
This is domestic drama with gangster sub-genre at its best, gorgeously shot, powerfully played, and with a string of surprises that keeps this thriller enthralling.

THE WHITE TIGER (M) is a WWII combat film about a legendary Nazi tank that wreaked havoc on Soviet armoured divisions.
Miraculously surviving an incineration after his tank is destroyed, Ivan makes a marvelous recovery and is imbued with a seemingly supernatural symbiosis with mobile artillery. He literally becomes a think tank able to sense turret and tread tactics from a phantom Panzer dubbed the White Tiger which has decimated Soviet tank divisions.

With hints of The English Patient and catch 22, THE WHITE TIGER is a breathtakingly beautiful film about the brutality and futility of war, a meditation on the myth-making power of conflict, and an honest exploration of whether war is man’s natural state.

Musings range from a Darwinian argument that man will evolve into more sophisticated killing machines as they merge with the technology of weapons and that the Nazi’s were only doing what all of Europe was thinking – that both Russia and the Jews were inferior, a blot on the Continental landscape, and required remedy.

The battle scenes are predominantly real, that is without the use of computer graphics, brilliantly staged and strategically placed in the body of the narrative.

Reminiscent of romantic screwball comedies of the 40’s, FIVE BRIDES is a madcap matrimonial mayhem set at the end of WWII, where a dashing aviation ace must again display his courage by masquerading as four of his comrades in a quest of conjugal contract.

This deception is due to the denial of these men’s demobbing and their fear that all the fertile females they’ve fought a war for will be forfeit. Their future forsaken, desperate measures must be undertaken, and the flyer granted furlough is charged with wedding a quartet and bringing them back to quarters.

The good natured and good looking emissary (Lesha) is fortunate to fall in with a feisty female postal worker, Zoya. (Think about it – a female mailman- a nod and a wink to the tone of the fun feminist farce this film is). Au fait and ok with his fraudulent yet fervent mission to marry multiple women, Zoya becomes his accomplice, partly out of fondness for this faithful friend and partly for her disdain for the bureaucracy that has put this farce into play.

Indeed, local bureaucrats in the film are portrayed as buffoons, albeit led and abetted by a woman, with authority thwarted by frank feminine wiles.

A frothier fantasy is MY GUY IS AN ANGEL, a rom com riff on Wings of Desire where a contemporary Russian woman is visited by a charming Malachim sent presumably to settle her for romantic and domestic bliss.

A soufflé light comedy, the film still manages to echo a theme that runs through much of the festival’s fare – that of the old USSR (or CCCP) rubbing up against the new Russia, and the resurrection of religion and supernatural in society.

For the kids there is the animated feature Ivan Tsarevich and the Grey Wolf and the Transformers inspired AUGUST 8.
The Festival marks the bicentenary of the 1812 defeat of Napoleon with screenings of 1812, a hundred year old silent classic, and Sergey Bondarchuk’s epic Academy award winning WAR & PEACE.

Special events during the festival include a series of Q&A sessions with a host of visiting international actors and directors.
Alexey Andrianov Director of the Opening Night espionage thriller Spy will be in Sydney to introduce his film, plus do a Q&A at subsequent Sydney sessions.

Producer Dmitriy Pirkulov will present discussions on the making of his new film Expiation, which masterfully recreates the post-war Totalitarian Soviet State. A must see for all history-buffs, the film is yet to be released in Russia!

Also visiting Australia is Darya Ekamasova winner of the Best Actress NIKA Award for her role in the confronting and moving art-house drama There Once Lived a Simple Woman. Darya will be in Sydney on Friday 31 August to do a Q&A following the 6.30pm screening.

With just two weeks to go, tickets to all sessions are available for purchase.

In its ninth year the 2012 Russian Resurrection Film Festival promises to showcase the best of new and old Russian Cinema to Australian audiences. Over 44,000 people have embraced the festival in past years, and the highly anticipated line-up for 2012 looks set to impress. The Festival takes place between August 30 and September 12, 2012.

For more information visit the official website at www.russianresurrection.com.

© Richard Cotter

25th August, 2012

Tags: THE RUSSIAN RESURECTION FILM FESTIVAL 2012, Sydney Arts Guide.

HOLY MOTORS

HOLY MOTORS

In what is arguably the most astonishing, audacious and auspicious movie this year, Leos Carax’s HOLY MOTORS (MA) serves up a surreal slice of cinema that the likes of David Lynch would sacrifice their first born for.

It begins with a pajama clad man waking up and finding a door in the room in which he has been sleeping opens into a cinema where an audience is collectively dreaming the scene on the screen. In cinematic sleight of hand we, the audience, become that audience.

The fundamental identity of existing, dreaming and acting inspires this puzzling, perplexing yet playfully profound picture.
At first, we are introduced to lead actor Denis Lavant as a seemingly well-heeled business man fareweling his family before embarking on a day’s work in his chauffer driven stretch limousine.

Turns out the car, driven by a formidable female, played by the super sexy septuagenarian Edith Scob, is the man’s office and his line of work is being a chameleon. Throughout the film he is a banker, beggar woman, motion capture specialist, Monsieur Merde ( a grotesque who disrupts a fashion shoot and kidnaps the beautiful model) ,an accordionist, an assassin, The victim, and a decrepit.

He is real, but simultaneously an illusion, an actor strutting himself upon a stage that is no less the streets of Paris!

Mystery, intrigue, imagery, dance, music, sex, love and death infuse this monumental mind-field that dares to be bombastic whilst strangely reverent.

HOLY MOTORS is a film that references films and film makers- Kubrick, Franju, Fellini, Lon Chaney, Charlie Chaplin and Charlie Kaufman to name a few. The use of mask and costume is highly theatrical but the framing is supremely cinematic.

Apart from Denis Lavant and Edith Scob, pic is adorned with cameos from Kylie Minogue, Michel Piccoli and Eva Mendes and the director himself.

HOLY MOTORS is wholly engrossing, compulsively puzzling, and awesomely audacious. I can’t wait to see it again!

© Richard Cotter

25th August, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- HOLY MOTORS, Leos Carax, Deni Lavant, Edith Scob, Kylie Minogue, Michael Piccoli, Eva Mendes.

BERNIE

Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine on the massage table

Remember WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S, the comedy about keeping up appearances that a stiff is still very much alive?
Well Richard Linklater’s latest flick has a certain similarity.

What is it with the name Bernie that brings out the blarney in body obfuscation?!

BERNIE has been brewing a decade in the distillery of Richard Linklater’s prodigious picture making mind. Since first reading Skip Hollandsworth’s Texas Monthly story about Bernie Tiede, Marjorie Nugent and the town of Carthage, Linklater has had BERNIE on the boil while he completed some eight feature films including WAKING LIFE, A SCANNER DARKLY and ME & ORSON WELLES.

Too much boiling might have burnt BERNIE but the film has just the right consistency to tell this fascinating tale.

“What you’re fixing to see is a true story” declares the opening title of the movie about a friendly funeral director domiciled in Carthage, East Texas, behind the pine curtain.

Bernie’s magic is to take the maudlin and morbid out of mortician’s work, to put the fun into funeral, to “cosmetise before casketised” and make ready for requiem, requiescat in pace.

He has an after sales and service policy which endears him to a legion of doting old widows, but the doting turns to deadly dependency with one particular widow, the detested Marjorie Nugent.

Neither murder mystery nor black comedy, BERNIE has a distinct pseudo-documentary style about it, the majority of the story told through townspeople accounts of what happened when their mild mannered mortician is accused of murder.

This group of gossips with their deep southern drawl is a splendid device to spin this surprising yarn that culminated in a court case that had to be moved to another town for fear that the accused would be set free because of community conviction that guilty or not, Bernie had done nothing wrong.

Linklater’s casting of Jack Black as Bernie reunites director and star of SCHOOL OF ROCK and Matthew McConaughey’s turn as the local district attorney marks his third collaboration with the helmer.

Shirley MacLaine gives grumpy gravitas as the cloying, suffocating Widow Nugent, a pitiable, pathetic person whose selfishness was ultimately her downfall.

Dollops of delicious Southern sayings by a chorus kin to Greek tragedy give this film a charming charge of verisimilitude. Audiences that stay for the end credits will be rewarded with more home-spun comment and a folk ballad inspired by the events.

BERNIE OPENS AT CINEMAS ON THURSDAY 16TH AUGUST.

© Richard Cotter

7th August, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews-BERNIE, Richard Linklater, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

A DANGEROUS METHOD

Keira Knightley and Michael Fassbender

New to DVD is David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD(M).

Sex, sex, sex. Is that Michael Fassbender ever thinks about? Fresh from his shenanigans in SHAME where he unashamedly showed his schlong, here he is a shrink and Carl Jung no less!

The story begins in Zurich, 1904. 29-year-old psychiatrist Carl Jung is at the beginning of his career, and lives with his pregnant wife Emma (Sarah Gadon) at Burgholzli hospital. Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s work, Jung tries Freud’s experimental treatment known as psychoanalysis, or ‘the talking cure,’ on 18-year-old Sabina Spielrein, played with jut-jawed ferocity by Keira Knightley.

Sabina is a well-educated Russian who speaks fluent German, has been diagnosed with hysteria, and is known to be disruptive and violent. In talks with Jung, she reveals a childhood marred by humiliation and beatings from her authoritarian father. The psychoanalysis uncovers a disturbing sexual element to her dysfunction, which upholds Freud’s theories connecting sexuality and emotional disorders. More than slap and tickle, Sabina likes to be spanked.

Through his correspondence on Sabina’s case, Jung forges a friendship with Freud, a splendid Viggo Mortensen, teaming up with Cronenberg for a third time after the superb A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and EASTERN PROMISES. Relationships deepen between Jung and Freud, who sees Jung as his intellectual heir, and between Jung and Sabina, who is brilliant despite her ailment.

Freud asks Jung to treat a fellow psychiatrist, Otto Gross, played in ultra louche bravura by Vincent Cassel. Jung is intrigued by Gross’s defiant and clever arguments against monogamy. After being influenced by Gross, Jung pushes aside his own ethics and gives in to his feelings for Sabina. They enter into a sexual tryst, violating the doctor/patient relationship.

Says director Cronenberg, “With A DANGEROUS METHOD, I sought to make an elegant film that trades on emotional horror, but loses none of its power to seduce. I was stimulated by offbeat and intimate details that illuminate the three leads themselves, and that give a sense of what it must have been like to be at once trapped and liberated by their cerebral and physical bonds. It was a strange ménage à trois, not that Sabina had any sexual relations with Freud, but still there was love in each part of the triangle, including between Jung and Freud; there was an incredible affection and friendship between them.”

With a terrific script by Christopher Hampton derived from his stage play and dazzling dueling dialogue, A DANGEROUS METHOD continues Cronenberg’s contrapuntal fascination with the normal and the bizarre, and works like an amalgam of two of his previous films, SPIDER and DEAD RINGERS, and is certainly more accessible than his most recent film COSMOPOLIS which opens in cinemas this week.

© Richard Cotter

1st August, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- A DANGEROUS METHOD, New DVD release

THE DEEP BLUE SEA

Tom Hiddlestone and Rachel Weisz

New to DVD is Terrence Davies’s film of Terrence Rattigan’s play, THE DEEP BLUE SEA .

On the face of it, THE DEEP BLUE SEA (M) seems terribly old fashioned and an odd choice of film for a 21st century cinema audience.

Based on the play by Terence Rattigan written sixty years ago, it tells the story of Hester, a high society hostess who heaves her husband aside to co-habitate with a raffish RAF pilot shortly after the end of the hostilities of WW II.

Under the deft direction of Terence Davies, Rattigan’s play slow burns across the screen, a simmering experience rather than a boil over, and all the more enthralling for its subtle nuance.

Terry does Terry a treat, bringing in his trademark sing-alongs in public houses and tube stations to help drive the narrative and establish the era.

In what is basically a ménage a trios, a trio of thesps bring the central characters to vivid life.

As the wedded woman wooed by the dashing flying ace, Rachel Weisz continues to collect career accolades, with a winning performance of pluck and vulnerability, a finely judged characterisation of one wounded while capable of wounding.

As the laddish, cadish, former flyboy whose escapades in the sky have been superseded by the somewhat sedate sidewalks of Civvy Street, Tom Hiddleston, awfully good as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, casts a dapper dash as a man trying to find his place in peace time.

As the wronged and wounded husband, Sir William Collyer, Simon Russell Beale is excellent as the baffled cuckold bouncing between vindictive, vengeful and forgiving.

The supporting cast are marvellous with particular kudos to Barbara Jefford as Collyer’s mother – frightening!

Davies use of Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op14 is inspired. The composer commenced work on the composition on the eve of WWII but did not complete it until a month after Hitler had invaded Poland, plunging Europe into six years of chaos and upheaval. The disruption is clear in the piece and has a disjointed resonance that is perfect for the picture’s soundscape.
It is time , yet again, to give a rat’s about Rattigan.

© Richard Cotter

1st August, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- THE DEEP BLUE SEA, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

HICK

Chloe Grace Moretz as Luli McMullin in HICK

New to DVD is Derick Martini’s HICK. This film never made it to the local cinemas. Derick Martini’s adaptation of Andrea Portes novel is a mess – Portes in a storm- although Andrea is credited as screenwriter, so she shares the blame.

This Martini is neither shaken nor stirred, and lacks a twist.

Chloe Grace Moretz plays white trash Luli McMullin, progeny of white trash mumma, Juliette Lewis.

When mama vamooses Luli packs her crayons and Smith & Wesson 45 and hitch hikes to Vegas. In her Lolita lenses, harlot halt neck, and slutty skirt it’s not long before she’s picked up by redundant rodeo rider Eddie Kreezer incongruously played by Eddie Redmayne. After making an offensive remark about his limp, Luli finds herself ejected from his pick up truck but soon finds a ride with Glenda, Blake Lively in a performance that contradicts her name.

But shucks, aint no time at all before Eddie is back in the picture and all manner of boring as bat shit white trash shenanigans ensue. Yes folks, HICK is ick!
© Richard Cotter

1st August, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- HICK, Sydney Art Guide, Richard Cotter.

A HOAX-

Glenn Hazeldine and Shari Sebbens in A HOAX. Pic Brett Boardman

False, fallacious, facetious, fake, fraudulent, fiction. These are the F bombs that explode in well timed detonations throughout the drama of A HOAX, directed by Lee Lewis, currently playing at Griffin Theatre Company.

Winner of the 2011 Griffin Award, Rick Viede’s explosive exploration of literary hoax and the reasons they are committed makes for a mature examination of ethics, race, gender and identity.

Hoaxers can be hucksters, pranksters, psycho or sociopaths but Viede’s Ant, the author who perpetrates the furphy is none of these. His charade channels his own life, experience and thoughts informed by toiling as a social worker. He’s savvy enough to know that the best way for his work to find purchase in publishing and find a wide audience is by gilding the truth with a fiction, of tapping into the “misery memoir” that has mesmerised the market and making his creation carnate.

The play begins in a hotel room with a young girl visiting a man for payment. It plays like a hooker/client transaction, and in a way it is. But who is taking advantage of whom? Ant, the bard, needs a beard; Miri, the beard, needs the bread.

The real prostitution here is that of the truth. Ronnie, the literary agent, declares: “people want the truth” in one breath and “no one cares as long as they say it’s true”, in another. She further obfuscates “the only difference between fact and fiction is the way you package it.”

In this mire of masquerade a hoax can be commissioned by culpable publishers complicit in its creation yet hypocritically critical if discovered.

Glenn Hazeldine as Ant is terrifically good in his second consecutive show at the Stables. Talk about own the space.

Shari Sebbens, currently starring in the film version of The Sapphires, is sensational as Miri Smith, a contemporary cut up of Eliza Dolittle and Frankenstein’s creature, both outgrowing and destroying her creator. She charts a coruscating course from clueless to cruelly controlling and destructive.

Sally McKenzie is a force of nature as Ronnie Lowe, the agent once admired as Momma Midas, now known as Momma Shit, a PR piranha who needs a feed.

And Charles Allen, making his Sydney stage debut as Tyrelle Parks, the revenge seeking self proclaiming camp, black, Queenie faggot, delivers the goods.

An exceptional piece of writing – funny, sad, poignant, frightening- excellently executed, A HOAX is a fully fleshed foray into where the truth lies.

Rick Viede’s A HOAX opened at the Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross on Wednesday 25th July and plays until Saturday 1st September, 2012.

© Richard Cotter
31 July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- A HOAX, Stables Theatre Kings Cross, Lee Lewis, Rick Viede, Glenn Hazeldine, Shari Sebbens, Sally McKenzie, Charles Allen, Brett Boardman, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER?

Two Hollywood greats live it up in Paris

Hollywood dynastic DNA is all over AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER? (M) (Et si vivait tous ensemble?), a fine French film that features Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin.

Fonda plays Jeanne married to Albert (Pierre Richard). She is dealing with a fearful physical diagnosis as well as Albert’s declining mental faculties.

Chaplin plays Annie, married to Jean (Guy Bedos), close friends of Jeanne and Albert.

Both couples share a forty year friendship with each other and with a lone wolf Lothario, Claude (Claude Rich), who is preoccupied with erectile dysfunction.

Children of the Swinging Sixties and the storming of the Sorbonne, they now stand united in old age, raging against the dying of the light, recalcitrant organs and joints, the five forms a federation of friends and decide to shack up together.

These women and men who caught and sang the sun in flight refuse to go gentle into that good night; however their newfound communalism is not without its pros and cons. Memories, both good and bad, fond and foul, when flesh was fresh and firm, and youthful feelings flashed across the firmament, fuel contentment and contempt, yet in the face of mortality the positives prevail.

Fonda and Chaplin are gorgeous, and while Jane has obviously had some cosmetic complementation, it is subtle, and both women present a suppleness of body, presence and poise. Piss elegant!

Fundamentally light and breezy, AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER?, directed by Stephane Robelin, is a more honest less laboured approach to the geriatric genre than THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL. As much as I admire Dench and Smith, I’d rather cohabit with Fonda and Chaplin and their retinue of male duffers in France than some fake, fakir fairytale in the subcontinent.

© Richard Cotter

26th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER?, Jane Fonda, Geraldine Chaplin, Pierre Richard, Guy Bedos, Claude Rich, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter

IN DARKNESS

Children faced with the horror of the Holocaust IN DARKNESS

Agnieska Holland’s film IN DARKNESS (MA) conjures not only SCHINDLER’S LIST but Nathan Englander’s recent short story collection, WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ANNE FRANK.

One may ask if everything has now been said on the subject of the Holocaust. But in Holland’s opinion the main mystery hasn’t yet been resolved, or even fully explored. How was this crime (echoes of which continue in different places in the world from Rwanda to Bosnia) possible? Where was Man during this crisis? Where was God? Are these events and actions the exception in human history or do they reveal an inner, dark truth about our nature? Does our true nature live IN DARKNESS?!

Exploring the many stories from this period uncovers the incredible variety of human destinies and adventures, revealed in the richest texture of plots and dramas, with characters that face difficult moral and human choices, exercising both the best and the worst in human nature.

One of those stories is Leopold Socha and the group of Jews from Lvov’s Ghetto, whom he hides in the city’s sewers. The main character is ambiguous: seemingly a good family man, yet a petty thief and a crook, religious and immoral at the same time, perhaps an ordinary man, living in terrible times. During the story Socha grows in many ways as a human being. There is nothing easy or sentimental in his journey.

This is why it’s fascinating; it’s why we can make this journey with him. The group of Jews he saves is not made of angels. The fear, the terrible conditions, their own selfishness make them complex and difficult, sometimes unbearable human beings. But they are real and alive, and their imperfections give them a stronger claim to their right to life than any idealized version of victims could.

The screenplay is by novice screenwriter, David F. Shamoon, the son of parents who had to flee Baghdad to escape Iraq’s persecution of Jews, who personally optioned the film rights to the book, IN THE SEWERS OF LVOV by Robert Marshall, and spent a year researching the era and writing the script ‘on spec’.

Instead of the attics and basements and barns used to conceal Jews fleeing from Nazi annihilation, this group is secreted in the sewers, a dank, dark, disgusting dungeon, degraded in a damp dung heap, a labyrinth of liquid filth. They live in the dark, stink, wet and isolation for over a year. An ordeal of ordure…

Arbitrary executions coincide with selfless acts of love as the film runs a gamut of extremes, a testament to human endurance and the eventual triumph over inhumanity.

Great films like this remind us of uncomfortable truths but also attest against the detestable, and that IN DARKNESS a light can be shed, and shared.

© Richard Cotter

25th July, 2012

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- IN DARKNESS, Agnieska Holland, David F Shamoon, IN THE SEWERS OF LVOV, Robert Marshall, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter.

MAGIC MIKE

Channing Tatum, Cody Horn and Olivia Munn in MAGIC MIKE

Imagine a brassier, bolder, glitzier THE FULL MONTY shelving Sheffield, England for Tampa, Florida and you have an idea of MAGIC MIKE.

Based loosely on the experiences of Channing Tatum who plays the titular character, it’s about a band of boy disrobers, all male revue, a virtual pay for view, who titillate women of all ages by stripping and dry humping their way through raunchy musical routines.

The troupe is led by Dallas, a real carney, played in uber exuberance mode by Matthew McConnaghy. His dream is to take his strippers into the stratosphere.

Magic Mike has a protégé, a young feller who shows a flair for flagrante, played by Alex Pettyfer. This should serve as calling card for better things as it should for Cody Horn who plays his sister, who Magic Mike takes a magic like to.

Written by Reid Carolin, director Steven Soderbergh steers the picture in a quite relaxed fashion, allowing a sense of freedom in dialogue and delivery, which for the most part, works quite well. Shooting the picture under his nom de plume, Peter Andrews, and cutting it under the pseudonym of Mary Anne Bernard, Stevie Three Hats has created quite a freewheeling spin on the subculture of male strippers, with subplots of drug abuse, group sex and other excesses.

Botox, buttocks, boobs and nude dudes – not as cheerful as THE FULL MONTY or as edgy as BOOGIE NIGHTS – but worth a look, or a peek, just the same.

© Richard Cotter

Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- MAGIC MIKE, Channing Tatum, Matthew McConnaghy, Reid Carolin, Stevn Soderbergh, Sydney Arts Guide, Richard Cotter