Romulus, My Father

Richard Roxburgh’s film of Raimond Gaita’s memoirs, ‘Romulus, My Father’, was a well crafted and moving film.

My take on ‘Romulus’. I really got inside the skin of Rai, and his tough life story. Growing up with his father who was a new immigrant to Australia. Having to cope with a mentally ill mother who was very promiscous. Then there are the boarding school days.

To be continued!


The brilliant French writer Albert Camus wrote, ‘life is the sum of all of your choices’. In the new film ‘Evening’ Vanessa Redgrave played Ann Grant Lord, an elderly woman who lies dying in the bedroom of her family home, as times from her life flash before her. As her final days pass, she reflects on her life, and the choices she has made. Ann is tended by nurses, and her two grown-up daughters, Constance and Nina.

As ‘Evening’ unfolds, Ann’s biggest choice, or even more to the point regret, is revealed. She lets go of her dreams of being with Harris, the man whom she truly loves, and decides on a safe marriage with a husband with whom she has two kids.

Such is life! In one of the most key and touching scenes in the film, Ann receives a visit from her closest friend, Lila Wittenborn. On her deathbed Ann shares with Lila her regrets about not keeping Harris. She tells her it was a mistake. Lila responds with her philisophy, something to the effect of that, in life there is no such thing as a mistake, one does what one can. Ann responds to Lila saying straight away, ‘I still think one of us should have married Harris’!

‘Evening’ also looks at some of the choices made by some of the other characters and raises some questions. Why is Lila’s brother Buddy so obsessed with Ann and can’t move on? Why doesn’t Harris take the plunge with Ann? Why can’t Nina settle down and commit or will the fact that she is pregnant finally get her to settle down?!

Lajos Koltai directed ‘Evening’ with clarity and style. Gyula Pados’s cinematography was superb, and Jan Kaczmarek and Piotr Tatarski’s orchestral score worked well with the narrative.

Koltai had a great cast to bring Susan Minot and Michael Cunningham’s script to life. Because of the two time periods, some of the roles were doubled up, with the lovely Claire Danes playing the younger Ann. Ann’s close friend Lila was played by Merryl Streep as the older Lila with Streep’s own real real life daughter Marnie Gummer playing the younger Lila. Natasha Richardson, who in real life is Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter, played one of Ann’s grown up daughters, Constance whilst our own Toni Colette played Ann’s other daughter, Nina. Hugh Dancy, as Buddy Wittenborn, Lila’s very sensitive brother, gave one of the strongest performances in the film.

My verdict! Lajos Koltai’s ‘Evening’ was an engaging, poignant and artfully crafted film.

I Do

In ‘I Do’ Luis has a problem. A handsome man in his forties, he has been living the good life for a long time. He has been living it up…endless nights of wine, women and song. He still lives with his family, and his mum and five sisters have decided that its time for him to get married and find a good woman who will look after him. They are tired of doing his laundry, cooking his meals and organising different single women for him to meet.

After a month of fruitless bad dates, Luis comes up with a scheme to satisfy his family and keep his good life going. He pays Emmanuelle, the sister of his best friend, to play the role of his beautiful girlfriend who agrees to get married and then stands him up at the altar. He figures that should be enough drama to get his family off his back. Well…the best laid plans of mice and men…

‘I Do’ moves very sweetly along to its good natured conclusion. The performances were a treat.


Paris JeTaime

‘Paris JeTaime’ was a lyrical cinematic homage to one of the world’s greatest cities. Twenty of the world’s finest filmmakers including the Coen brothers, Gus Van Sant, Gurinder Chadha, Wes Craven, Walter Salles, Alexander Payne and Olivier Assayas, each provided short films on the themes of unusual encounters that take place in one of Paris’s main neighbourhoods.

The stories are many. An American tourist sees racial tensions stand next to the paranoid visions of the city. A young foreign worker moves from her own domestic situation into her employer’s bourgeois environs. An American starlet finds escape as she is shooting a movie. A man is torn between his wife and his lover. A young man working in a print shop sees and desires another young man. A father grapples with his complex relationship with his daughter. A couple tries to add spice to their sex life.

An outstanding host of actors including Natalie Portman, Fanny Ardant, Bob Hoskins, Juliette Binoche, Emily Mortimer, and Miranda Richardson graced the films with their presence.

Driving Lessons

The British film ‘Driving Lessons’ was a treat. The scenario tells of a shy teenager, 18 year old Ben Marshall, in the midst of taking driving lessons, who endeavours to escape from the influence of his domineering mother, Evie. His world changes when he takes on a part time job working for retired actress, Laura.

The film was written and directed by Jeremy Brock, and beautifully acted by the three leading players. Veteran British actress Julie Walters played Evie, Laura Linney played mother Laura, and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in ‘Harry Potter’) played Ben. Apparantly, the film had an autobiographical flavour to it, with the story being based on Brock’s own relationship with the late British actress, Peggy Ashcroft.

‘Driving Lessons’ was one of those heart warming kind of films. It told the charming story of tender youth and frail old age coming together and offering something to each other. The film definitely had a ‘Harold and Maude’ feel to it. I loved the infectious outrageousness of Julie Walters forever pushing the impressionable Ben to break out of his repressed self, which was due mainly to his overbearing and conservative mother, Laura.

Notes on a Scandal

Richard Eyre’s film ‘Notes on a Scandal’, adapted by Patrick Marber from the novel by Zoe Heller, is a brilliant drama.

A delicate balance hangs over the characters in ‘Notes on a Scandal’. Cate Blanchett plays Sheba Hart, a bubbly, attractive art teacher who has just started teaching at an inner city London school. She forms an important friendship with older schoolteacher, Barbara Covett(Dame Judi Dench). One night, when the school is having a function, Barbara peeks through the blinds of a school classroom to discover Sheba having sexual relations with 15 year old schoolboy, Steven(Andrew Simpson). She then confronts Sheba about the encounter.

Sheba is amazed when Barbara agrees to keep silent about what happened but Barbara has an agenda. She tells Sheba that she must stop seeing Steven. Barbara also has feelings for Sheba that she hopes will be reciprocated. When Sheba continues to see Steven the delicate balance that keeps Sheba’s dark secret in place threatens to totter over.

‘Notes on a Scandal’ is the kind of film that draws one in, and doesn’t let one go. The screen is lit up by the wonderful character studies of two of the world’s finest contemporary actresses. Watching them in action as their characters unfolded was all consuming.

The film’s first impressions of Judi Dench’s character are vivid. Barbara is a solitary middle aged woman who is coming to the end of her teaching career, and lives alone with her cat. We see her late at night writing in her journal, and hear her thoughts and anecdotes that she is writing down. Her diary reveals her a sharp observer of her work colleagues and quite a together person.

Her diary starts to fill up with entries about new teacher, Sheba. She seems to both attracted to and repulsed by her. Then the diary notes that one day Sheba invites Barbara over to her house for dinner to meet her family, her husband and two teenage children. From work colleagues their relationship has become personal. Sheba has opened the door to Barbara, and Barbara goes in full-hearted.

Dench charts a broad journey with Barbara! By journey’s end we see a very different Barbara, All a dysfunctional, manipulative, even predatorial person. Dench’s portrayal of Barbara’s dark, complex character is simply stunning.

Blanchett’s portrayal of Sheba is poignant. Her fall from grace as a result of her weakness for young boys, is heartrending. Blanchett’s Sheba is a warm, sensitive woman who is very naive and trusting. Her journey is a humbling one, and by the film’s end she is a wiser, more mature woman. Blanchett’s performance is compelling.

The narrative flows well, and the turning points are well established. Patrick Marber’s script is sharp and to the point, similar to his work on the film, ‘Closer’. Plenty of scenes linger in the mind such as when Barbara hangs on to Sheba’s arm and carresses it to which Sheba quickly replies, ‘Barbara, please stop it’.

‘Notes on a Scandal’ is quality cinema. The emphatic ending seals these ‘notes’ exquisitely.


Woody Allen is found in fine form with his latest film ‘Scoop’. With ‘Scoop’, Allen continues in the non-naturalistic vein of films such as ‘Zelig’ and ‘The Purple Rose Of Cairo’. ‘Scoop’ has an original, intriguing scenario.

On his way to the afterlife, late British journalist Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) gets the scoop of his career. He is told that the Tarot Card Killer who has been menacing the women of London is high profile aristocrat, Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman). Like any crusty journalist worth his salt would do, Strombel has to pass on the scoop. From the other world he gets in touch with attractive up and coming journalist, Sandra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson). He appears to her whilst she is participating, behind a closed door, in a stage act run by veteran magician, Sid Waterman (Woody Alllen). Pransky knows that a scoop like this can make her career. She gets on the case, and enlists the help of Waterman who she makes out is her father.

‘Scoop’ is great value. It is a highly entertaining, well crafted film, with the film’s various turning points well laid out. Woody Allen is in wonderful comic form, reprising the magician role that he used to such telling effect in his contribution to the electic short film collection, ‘New York Stories’.

This is vintage Allen, deeply neurotic, wisecracking his way through life, and, in this case, with a pack of cards, and a flashy card trick, always at the ready. One of his zingy one liner goes, ‘I was born of the Jewish faith, but I have now adopted narcissism’.

Allen’s regular lead actress Scarlett Johasson gives a fine, understated performance as Pransky. She portrays something of a ditzy, deadpan character who stumbles her way to success. Allen gives some great one liners to her.

Hugh Jackman shines as the sophisticated, handsome Lyman, whose perfect exterior masks much darker aspects. Ian McShane rounds out the main players as the classic newspaper man.

Allen combines the film’s rich comic tone with some great suspenseful scenes, a great mixture! The soundtrack is great including plenty of classical compositions, including music from ‘Peer Gynt’. The cinematography works well with plenty of lovely shots of beautiful English countryside.

Allen has always had a rich, colourful imagination. One only has to recall early films such as ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask’. In ‘Scoop’, Allen paints a quirky picture of the after-life, with recent additions to the dead, talking to each other on a death boat, and caught in a misty, darkly blue light.

‘Scoop’ is highly recommended.

24 March, 2007

My Best Enemy

Carlo Verdone’s new comedy ‘My Best Enemy’, which took out the main categories at last years’ Italian Film Awards, was good entertainment.

‘My Best Enemy’ is a variation of the buddy flick , featuring two people who can’t stand each other, but who through force of circumstances, have to learn to ‘work’ together and accept each other.

Verdone himself plays Achille, the manager of a hotel chain owned by his wife. When he fires a hotel maid for stealing, he earns the wraith of her son, Orfeo (Silvio Muccino), the best enemy of the title, who sets about destroying his personal and professional life. Orfeo’s vendetta is going strong when a beautiful young woman, Cecilia, gets in the way.

The turning point is when Orfeo gatecrashes Achille’s sycophantic 25th wedding anniversary celebrations and announces that Achille has been having a wild affair with his brother in law’s wife. His actions alienate the woman he has been dating, Cecilia, who he cruelly finds out is Achille’s daughter. What ends up happening is that Cecilia, furious with both her father and her lover, goes AWOL, and the two enemies have to combine together to win back Cecilia’s affections.

Verdone directs the film with flair and wins good performances from his cast.

‘My Best Enemy’ keeps up a fairly frenetic pace as it draws to its conclusion where all the loose ends are tied up artfully, and in the film’s good natured style.

Stranger than Fiction

More than for the star power of the likes of Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson, I went to see Marc Foster’s (‘Monster’s Ball’, ‘Finding Neverland’) new film ‘Stranger than Fiction’ for its fascinating premise.

Will Ferrell plays middle class tax auditor Harold Crick. He lives a very straight, totally organised life. For instance he has his meals at the same time of day every day, he brushes his teeth a certain amount of times each ‘session’… Then one day his humdrum life is thrown into jeopardy. Crick wakes up one day to find out that there is a voice in his head running his life. He soon works out that he has become the main character in a new novel that is being written, and seeks the advice of literary professor, Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman). Crick receives bad news from the Professor. Prof Hilbert tells him he believes he has become the main character in Kay Eiffel’s latest novel, and she always kills off her main character at the end. Crick sets off to find her before he becomes her latest ‘victim’.

‘Stranger than Fiction’ is for filmgoers who love quirky-well done! Films that it reminded me of included Peter Weir’s ‘The Truman Story’, Charlie Kaufmann’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. It had an appealing theme, shake up one’s life a little or one will forever regret it. The film combined a richly comic, satirical tone with a good dose of suspense. Will Crick save his ass, will be get to Katy Eiffel in time.

Marc Foster’s well made film is from an original script by Zach Helm. The performances were a treat. Will Ferrell is great in a basically straight role, Dustin Hoffman goes to town as eccentric Professor, Professor Jules Hilbert, Emma Thompson goes shows her warm screen presence as Kay Eiffel, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Crick’s love interest, Ana Pascal is a bit of a knockout!


Adrianna Barraza and Elle Fanning in ‘Babel’

With his latest film ‘Babel’ Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s latest film ‘Babel’ has added another outstanding drama to his list of credits which include ‘Amores Perros’ and ’21 Grams’. ‘Babel’ has deservedly been nominated for multiple Academy Awards.

‘Babel’ starts off in the remote sands of the Morrocan desert where a rifle shot rings out which detonates a chain of events that link an American couple’s frantic struggle to survive, two Morrocan boys involved in an accidental crime, a nanny illegally crossing into Mexico with two American children and a deaf Japanese teen rebel whose father is sought by the police in Tokyo. In the course of a few days these characters are pushed to the farthest edges of confusion and fear as well as to the very depths of connection and love.

‘Babel’ has that special quality one associates with Inarritu’s films. He just has the ability to get inside his characters hearts. One can really feel what’s going on for them, and one just wants to do something/anything to help them. Inarritu pulls apart the comfortable distance that one usually associates with a filmgoing experience, and draws one right inside

One’s heart goes out to Richard (Brad Pitt) who is trying to get help from the American embassy to provide medical care to wounded wife, Susan (Cate Blanchett). And to Yasujiro (Koji Yakusho) , a disturbed deaf-mute teenage Japanese girl who has been traumatised by her mother’s suicide and is in desperate need of some affection and care. Inarritu sustains the drama till a final scene that is incredibly poignant.

‘Babel’ was a very well put together film. Inarritu’s taut direction of Guillermo Amiago’s incisive script is top class, and he wins strong performances from a quality cast. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography gives the film a great look, composer Gustavo Santaolalla provided a haunting, memorable score, and Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione’s editing takes us breathtakingly between the various stories.

‘Babel’ is highly recommended, a fine piece of contemporary, compassionate cinema.

(c) David Kary


Some of my favourite American movies have been documentaries. A few years ago there was the film ‘Spellbound’ about the 1999 National Spelling Bee. The film featured eight very different teenagers competing to win the national spelling competition. The film was quirky, touching, and suspenseful. Now I have another favourite, Patrick Creadon’s film, ‘Wordplay’. With ‘Wordplay’, we move from the world of spelling champions across to the world of crossword champions.

‘Wordplay’ has a charming, winning formula. The film boosts that over 50 million people do a crossword every week. ‘Wordplay’ is basically everything one wants to know about crosswords and was afraid to ask!

Creadon interviews in depth crossword expert, New York Times puzzle editor, Will Shortz and some of the main, and often hilarious, puzzle contributors. We learn about how they go about creating their different puzzles, and the different puzzle styles they create.

Creadon goes on to interview many celebrities who are passionate about their crosswords including Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, a very funny Jon Stewart, and the Indigo Girls. They each reveal their own particular process of tackling crosswords.

The hub of the film is the coverage of the 28th annual crossword championship, the world’s largest championship of its kind, held at the Marriott hotel in Stanford, Connecticut. Once a year, on a wintery weekend, roughly 500 puzzlers from all around the world and all walks of life, gather to compete.

Creadon captures the anticipation and excitement as participants gather, his camera focuses on the stressed puzzlers as they work away in their small booths, and before long the film focuses on the players who will come to the fore, at the business end. Included amongst them are a piano player, an editor, a professional puzzle maker, and a computer engineer, each with distinctive personalities.

The defining quality of ‘Wordplay’ was its warmth, as it captured some 500 people gathering together with goodwill in a hotel over a weekend and sharing their love of one of life’s simple pleasures, the good old crossword.

Little Miss Sunshine

Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris’s ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is one of the great feel good movies, and its fitting to include in this write-up for the last edition of Stage Whispers for the issue.

‘Little Miss Sunshine’ focuses on the small town American family, the Hoover family. The Hoovers certainly are a motley and loveable group of characters. There’s father Richard (Greg Kinnear) who is a flop as a motivational speaker and is not doing too good in the relationship stakes with his chain-smoking, unfulfilled wife. Sheryl (Toni Collette). There’s Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell), a Proustian scholar, who has tried to commit suicide following a failed romance with a male graduate student. Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin) is a raunchy, outrageous man, a never do well who is also a drug addict. Son Dwayne (Paul Dano) is a freaky teenager and mad Nietzsche follower who has taken out a vow of silence within the family until he hears that he has made it into the Air Force. And then there’s seven year old, bright and, cute as a button daughter, Olive (Abigail Breslin).

The Hoover family are the kind of family who find it difficult to get motivated. All this changes when young Olive learns that she has won a place in the finals of the Little Miss Sunshine Contest in far off California. Richard decides it is good an opportunity to pass up, and, much to Olive’s excitement, the whole Hoover family pack up and head off cross country in a clapped out old VW van to California for the weekend.

The film just simply has a wonderful rich recipe. My favourite ingredients …the positive, all in it together attitude of the Hooker family as they come up against all range of obstacles with some very creative, and often quite hilarious solutions….who will ever forget the images of the clapped out van that the family manages to use to get them to their destination.

There are some awesome performances. Alan Arkin is just tremendous as the feisty Grandfather who trains Olive for the competition. Paul Dano is great as freaked out Dan, Steve Carrell is wonderful as the deadpan academic Frank. And of-course the star of the show is Abigail Breslin as vivacious Olive.

Any good film worth its salt has a strong end. ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is a case in point. The film motors along well to an ending which brings ‘the house down’ with laughter.

One last favourite ingredient, the snappy dialogue…There are some fabulous exchanges. My favourite exchange happened near the end, between Olive and the Pageant Master of Ceremonies- Olive-‘I’d lke to dedicate my performance to my grandpa, who showed me these moves. MC- Aw, that’s so sweet. Is he here? Where’s your grandpa right now? Olive- In the trunk of my car!’.

The Story Of My Life

I really enjoyed the French film ‘The Story Of My Life’, directed by Laurent Tirard. It is a shame it has taken so long to get here as it was released in France in 2004.

The storyline is a familiar one, a thirties something man goes on a journey of self discovery. This version features Raphael, a man who is in a rut in his life. He does not know what he wants romantically, and is bored in his journalistic career.

Raphael works as a ghostwriter, writing up the life stories of dull, uninspiring celebrities whose stories he unashamedly embellishes. He holds dreams of making it himself as a writer, and years ago wrote a novel which he has kept locked away in a cupboard. When he tells his girlfriend Muriel
about his ‘hidden’ novel she won’t get off his case. It starts getting at Raphael, he has felt like an imposter all the time he has been a ghostwriter. Now it really is the time to go for becoming a real writer!

‘The Story of My Life’ was a good example of satirical, playful, romantic, and freewheeling cinema. My favourite ingredients…I loved the quirky character stories, well played by the cast. Raphael is a bit of a Hamlet character, a bit bumbling, incredibly indecisive and awkward. There’s one of Raphael’s clients, soccer star Kevin. He’s a bizarre, dorky character who rattles Raphael with his demands, including wanting to write his story ala Charles Baudelaire. There’s Raphael’s old flame, Claire, a sophisticated woman who doesn’t know what she wants.

I loved the films’ satirical tone. Broad satire is aimed at the shallow world of star biographies. It is all about pleasing the star, and Raphael’s editor is always on his back to make sure that he appeases their wishes.

Most of all, I enjoyed the film’s playful, unpredictable, good natured style. Scenes go one way, and then another, not always making perfect sense but adding to the film’s charm.

The Emperor of Sydney

The Stables theatre recently presented ‘The Emperor of Sydney’, the final play in Louis Nowra’s outstanding trilogy about the Boyce family, following on from ‘The Woman with Dog’s Eyes’ and ‘The Marvellous Boy’.

Nowra starts ‘The Emperor of Sydney’ in very dramatic fashion. The three sons and two partners are gathered in the living room of the family’s mansion as their father, business tycoon, Malcolm, lies dying in his upstairs bedroom. While they are anxiously waiting for their father to finally give up his struggle, all sorts of conflicts and tensions come to the surface.

I came out of the play feeling that ‘The Emperor of Sydney’ was the strongest of the trilogy. The play ran for 90 minutes without interval, and it was simply an electric atmosphere on stage all the way through.

David Berthold was again the director, and kept the play going at fever pitch. Toby Schmitz was again tremendous as Malcolm’s youngest son, Luke, who carries within him so much well deserved anger towards his father. Alex Dimitriades was sharp as the calculating Todd, who had been the black sheep of the family but had recently come back into favour. Anita Hegh played Todd’s pushy wife, Diane who had used her sex appeal and the birth of a son to curry favour with Malcolm.

Then there was the oldest son Keith, played by Jack Finsterer, who seemed to have the most practical and business like nature but that didn’t seem to help him get very far. And also Keith was embarrassed by the flirtatious, drunken and manic behaviour of his wife Gillian (Sibylla Budd).

Nicholas Dare’s set of the Boyce’s family home communicated the strong materialistic values that Malcolm Boyce lived and died by.

I felt kind of sad, after the actors took their final bows at the end of opening night. Now there would be no more about plays about the Boyce family. Still one has to be grateful, the Boyce trilogy been well worth the journey!

Last Train To Freo

The new Australian film ‘Last Train to Freo’ has had quite a journey. Back in 1999 Reg Cribb wrote a short play titled ‘The Return’, directed by Jeremy Sims, which had a very successful season at Sydney’s Stables theatre. In 2000 the playwright and director presented a successful full length version of the play for the Perth Theatre Company. The talented duo then set about making a full length feature film out of the work, which has now come to fruition with ‘The Last Train To Freo’ opening around Australia in September. The film represents popular actor Jeremy Sims’s debut as a film director.

‘Last Train To Freo’ starts at midnight, on a hot summer’s night, with two ex cons, the Tall Thug (Steve Le Marquand) and Trev (Tom Budge), getting on the last train to Fremantle. Bored, restless and looking for trouble, they start to poke fun at their mind numbing existence. Then a beautiful young law student Lisa (Gigi Edgley) steps onto the train- not knowing that the train guards are on strike, and its time for the boys to create some trouble. Further down the line, at Perth Central station, two new passengers. Maureen (Gillian Jones) and Simon (Glenn Hazeldine) get on board. The lives of the five train passengers are forever changed by the time the train terminates at Fremantle.

I came out of ‘Last Train to Freo’ thinking gosh that was a bold, interesting film but feeling that it just didn’t come off. I loved the way the film tried to change audience’s expectations. Just when the audience is getting in a comfortable mind-set thinking they’re just watching another creepy, claustrophobic film about a couple of thugs throwing their weight around, and tormenting a beautiful young woman, the film goes in different tangents and adds new layers. That is exciting! But then, it felt like the filmmakers just got a bit too carried away with the different twists that they incorporated, and though theoretically everything tied up well in the ending, the truth in the work seemed to get lost on the way.

Still, though ‘Last Train To Freo’ doesn’t reach great heights, the film is worth watching. There was a buzz about the film’s level of energy and commitment. Sims’s first stab at directing was impressive, his creative team supported him well, and the cast played their hearts out…Steve Le Marquand’s edgy, dangerous portrayal as the Tall Thug, Tom Budge as his less charismatic sidekick Trev, Gigi Edgley playing Lisa like an exposed nerve, Gillian Jones’s tough worldliness as Maureen, and Glenn Hazeldine’s simmering rage as Simon.

The Devil wears Prada

Hollywood came up with one of the best trailers of the year in line with the release of David Frankel’s ‘The Devil wears Prada’, based on the best selling novel by Lauren Weisberger, and straight away it went on my list of films to see.

Thankfully, this was one film that lived up to the previews’ promise. The film worked wonderfully well as an fascinating battle of wills between two very different characters. Streep is wonderful as the ruthless fashion magazine editor (of Runway magazine) Miranda Priestly who has everyone shaking in their boots. Anne Hathaway plays Miranda’s nervous new assistant, Andy Sachs.

At first, it seems like there will be no contest at all, because it looks like Miranda will eat Andy for breakfast. Andy walks each day into the office looking as timid as anything and with little to no fashion sense. Simply put, Miranda enjoys squelching people and Andy is just next in line. Miranda’s first assistant Emily doesn’t think that Andy will last out the first week.

A major turning point is when Andy, conscious of her daggy image, enlists the support of colleague Nigel and goes shopping for a new work wardrobe. When Andy walks into the office the following morning, she turns everybody’s head around, including Miranda’s. Andy has announced that she is no pushover. By the end of the film Andy proves to be a formidable, independent woman in her own right.

The main features of ‘The Devil wears Prada’ were its breakneck New York pace and feel, Aline Brosh McKenna’s witty, incisive screenplay, a pounding contemporary soundtrack, some great shots of New York and Paris, a showcase of some of the latest fashions, strong performances from the cast, and a stylish, resonant ending.

Merryl Streep was wonderful as the haughty, intimidating Priestly. The great Streep goes to town playing a super bitch, hyper driven career woman.

Anne Hathaway’s (‘Brokeback Mountain’, ‘The Princess Diaries’) portrayal of Andy Sachs was on the money. Hathaway delivered a touching portrayal of an unsure young woman who grows as a person tremendously during the course of the film.

English actress Emily Blunt (‘My Summer of Love’) impressed as Miranda’s first assistant, Emily. Blunt had a strong celluloid presence, and left audiences in no doubt as to the type of character she was playing. Here was the prototype of an attractive, sophisticated, ambitious, private school, catty, snobbish young British woman.

Stanley Tucci (‘Shall We Dance?’, ‘Maid In Manhatten’) gave a great, natural performance as Miranda’s camp, sophisticated, urbane fashion director, Nigel.

‘The Devil wears Prada’ was so good that I’m sure that it will make it into many people’s private collections.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

In the new American film ‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend’ Matt Saunders is your average, all American single guy on the lookout for attractive female company. Matt gets more than he bargained for when he forms a liaison with beautiful gallery assistant, Jenny Johnson. She just also happens to be G-Girl, a sort of female Superman with supernatural powers who is often saving the city from dark criminal elements.

Matt can’t believe his luck. What he hasn’t reckoned on is that his lady is one insecure lady, and can’t handle him enjoying any other female company. Matt ends up breaking up with her. He finds out that hell hath no fury greater than a woman scorned, and G-Girl unleashes all her vengeful powers on him. Matt works out that the only way he will be able to get his life back to normal is if somehow he is able to remove Jenny’s supernatural powers.

‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend’ is the latest film by prolific Hollywood director and producer Ivan Reitman, whose credits include box office hits such as ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Kindergarten’. Reitman has come up with pretty average, mega bucks, escapist entertainment.

I collected a few snapshots…the time when G-Girl sends a live shark flying through Matt’s apartment window whilst he is trying to make it with work colleague, Hannah…and anytime when Uma Thurman flicks back her beautiful mane of blonde hair, a surefire cue that Jenny Johnson is about to transform into G-Girl.

Uma Thurman did fine as Jenny Johnson aka G-Girl. She seemed to revel in the jealous, vengeful slant to her role. I liked her especially in the scene where as Jenny Johnson she is dining with Matt and Hannah in a plush New York restaurant and then the news come over the television that the city is being attacked by errant missiles. Thurman conveys well her characters’ reluctance to leave her boyfriend with another woman even though she is needed to turn into G-Girl in order to avoid a major crisis for the city. For my money, this was the best scene in the movie!

Owen Wilson played Matt Saunders. He had, down pat, the standard, average Joe, non intellectual character that is typical for these kinds of films.
Anna Faris shone as Matt’s work colleague and other love interest, Hannah Lewis. She has a lovely, warm quality about her.

Eddie Izzard didn’t have much room to move in his role as Professor Bedlam, Hannah’s nemesis since they had a falling-out as teenagers. This was pretty ordinary fare…playing the heavy who is really a big softie at heart.

The pick of the supporting cast was Wanda Sykes’s fine comic performances as Matt and Hannah’s work boss, Carla Dunkirk. Carla spends most of her time in the office, keeping her eye on the men, trying to ensure that they don’t harass any of the young women.

My recommendation…Wait till ‘My Super Ex- Girlfriend’ goes to DVD to see it…but then again, that has probably already happened!

Sione’s Wedding

The New Zealand film ‘Sione’s Wedding’ is set in the heart of Auckland, amongst the local Samoan community. Within a month the community has a big celebration taking place, the wedding of one of their favourite son’s, Sione (Pua Magasiva). Sione and his fiancé can’t wait for the big day except Sione is agonising whether to invite his brother, Michael (Robbie Magasiva).

Michael is part of a rowdy group called the Duckrockers. The group has been together since they were sixteen, and are now looking down the barrel at turning 30. The group, comprising ladies man Michael, softie Albert (Oscar Kightley), weird one Stanley (Iaheto Ah Hi) and party boy, Sefa (Shimpal Lelisi), have had a terrible reputation within the community of behaving outrageously, especially at weddings. He doesn’t want them to spoil his special occasion.

Sione comes up with a solution. He invites Michael and his group to his wedding on one condition; they each have to bring a respectable girlfriend to the wedding, which will make sure they behave. The Duckrockers have one month to get it together. There is no way that Michael is going to miss his younger brothers’ wedding, so the pressure is on…

I really wanted to like ‘Sione’s Wedding’. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. I expected to see a film about a group of good time lads getting up to mischief who somehow manage to get over the line, and see it through the big day. I expected the film to hone in and be a celebration of Samoan culture, which thankfully it did!

Director Chris Graham’s film started on this basis, and it was great fun, but then somewhere in the filmmaking Graham and writer James Griffin decided the Duckrocker boys would reform and that, in the end, all the boys would marry the girls they brought along.. I just couldn’t buy it! The film lost credibility. A fatal flaw.

Match Point

Woody Allen’s latest film ‘Match Point’ has Chris Wilton as one of Allen’s more interesting, edgier protagonists.

Wilton is a thirties something guy who is looking to establish a new career after having played on the professional tennis circuit for many years. Wilton takes a job as a tennis coach at a prestigious London tennis club, and forms a close friendship with one of his pupils, Tom Hewitt.

The friendship opens many doors for him. He gets a good position in Hewitt’s lucrative family company. He woos and marries Tom’s warm and loving sister Chloe, and she falls pregnant. His life is taking shape, he has found the security, the social position and the family life that he has been searching for. There’s just one thing….

Chris has been having a torrid affair with Tom’s ex fiancé, Nola Rice, a struggling American actress. Whereas Chris has been able to keep his passions in check, Nola is becoming clingier, and is pressuring Chris to leave his wife. Chris starts to panic, if he doesn’t do something definitive about the affair, he can see that all the financial and personal security he has attained will disappear…

With ‘Match Point’ Allen is in similar emotional territory to that which he explored in his brilliant 1989 film ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’. ‘Çrimes’ also featured an extra marital relationship that had spun out of control.

‘Match Point’ had a winning recipe. Allen combines a suspenseful and and tricky narrative with a haunting operatic soundtrack, some highly charged erotic scenes, and plenty of Woody’s latest musings.

Allen had his main character Wilton voice some of his latest ponderings, such as when Wilton uses a tennis analogy:- “The man who said ‘I’d rather be lucky than good’ saw deeply into life. People are often afraid to realise how much a impact luck plays. There are moments in a tennis match where the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, remains in mid-air. With a little luck, the ball goes over, and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose’.

Allen, the despairing pessimist was captured in Wilton’s speech when he says, ‘It would be fitting if I were apprehended…and punished. At least there would be some small sign of justices…some small measure of hope for the possibility of meaning’.

Allen, as always, assembled an accomplished cast to play out his latest scenario. In the leading roles, Jonathon Rhys Meyers as Wilton, Emily Mortimer as his wife, and Scarlett Johansson as his mistress, were excellent.

Hard Candy

The appropriately named hard candy of the title is precocious 14 year old American girl Hayley Stark. Through an internet chat website Hayley arranges a meeting with thirties something fashion photographer, Jeff Kohlver. After meeting at a hang-out called Nighthawk, Jeff invites her back to his place, which as well as being his home he uses as his photographic studio.

Hayley decides in her mind that Jeff is a pedophile, which he proves to be. This is what he does, lures young girls back to his flat to have his way with them. Once she is ensconced in his house, Hayley exacts upon him the most extreme forms of revenge. She is intent on him suffering at least some of the pain that he has inflicted on his victims, and to take responsibility for his actions.

‘Hard Candy’ was a brutal movie going experience. Director David Slade with writer Brian Nelson take on the subject of pedophilia head on. The tension never lets up. The camera work (cinematographer- Jo Willems) was harsh with plenty of close-ups, and also the use of shaky hand-held camera footage. The setting was claustrophobic with all the main action taking place inside Jeff’s house. The films’ relentless, driving action was Hayley’s determination to have Jeff face himself, and take responsibility for his actions. The suspense was well built-up, with the action taking unpredictable turns.

Slade exacted great performances from his two leads. Ellen Page is extraordinary as the disturbed, fierce Hayley, and Patrick Wilson was strong as Jeff who is tormented for his sins. Sandra Oh plays the only other significant role as Jeff’s nosey, concerned neighbour, Judy.


The South African film ‘Tsotsi’ is outstanding cinema. The film by Gavin Hood, based on Athol Fugard’s 1960’s novel, deservedly won the best foreign film award at this years Academy Awards.
Tsotsi’s story is that he is a 19 year old black man who has grown up in the grimmest of black ghettos on the outskirts of Johannesburg. His mother died early and his father wasn’t around for him. Because of the poverty Tsotsi resorted to crime early. Now, at 19, he has his own street gang. Tsotsi is a great survivor, the ultimate tough guy, with a propensity for violence. He has become a bit of a psychopath, unable to feel anything, or have compassion for his fellow man.
Tsotsi’s fate seems to be sealed. He will end up in jail for a very long time or his destiny will be to be found dead in a gutter, having been murdered by some rival gang member.
Then an event happens that turns his life around. Tsotsi hijacks a BMW late one night, as a beautiful black woman is about to drive into the garage of her highly fortified house. After he has driven off he finds out that there is a baby in the back seat. Knowing that he can’t return the baby, he decides to take him home to the ghetto and look after him.
The struggles that Tsotsi has in looking after the baby produce some of the films most haunting scenes. Having no experience with babies before, Tsotsi does what he can. We see him changing the baby with pieces of newspaper, or coming home one day to find the baby covered with ants because he left a can of carnation milk beside him.
As tough as it is for Tsoti, finding the baby is a positive change for him. Looking after the baby reconnects him with his humanity. And as more of his human side comes out, there is more of a chance for him to create a different, more positive destiny for himself.
Gavin Hood’s vision is well realised. Hood gets great performances from his cast. Presley Chweneyagae is tremendous as Tsotsi. In the other main role Terry Pheto is great as the nursing mother who Tsotsi abducts to feed the baby, and then befriends. Lance Gewer’s cinematography is evocative as was the films hip hop soundtrack.


In American filmmaker Paul Haggis’s film ‘Crash’ cuts in and out of the lives of different groups of people who connect with each other over a two day period in Los Angeles, with a horrific car accident being the inciting incident.

The characters include an Afro American police detective with a drug addicted mother and a thieving younger brother, two young Afro American car thieves who are forever philosophizing about society’s problems, a stressed district attorney and his irritable wife, a racist veteran cop and his idealistic partner who is appalled by him, a successful Afro American Hollywood film director and his wife, an immigrant Iranian shopkeeper and his family, and a Hispanic locksmith and his family.

This was a film with full force impact. It was a movie similar in nature and theme to ‘Grand Canyon’. It felt like the filmmaker was making an important statement-about how contemporary American society was going through something like a civil war that was becoming increasingly unmanageable, with so many different racial, social and ethnic groups at odds. It begged the question, how long society could keep on adequately function when such terrible tensions exist?!

Haggis, whose previous credits include a screenwriting credit for ‘Million Dollar Baby’, assembled a marvelous cast for the film. The cast included Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brandon Fraser and Thandle Newton, and they all gave credible, intense performances. ‘Crash’ also benefited from being a great looking film, thanks to James Muro’s cinematographer.

Monster In Law

Robert Luketic’s film ‘Monster-in-Law’ has been a big box office hit. It’s easy to see why. This is a scenario that most people will find so easy to relate to. And the fact that the situation is played out for laughs rather than for heavy drama, which it could easily have been, has given it much broader audience appeal.
Charlie Cantilini is the main character, and the goal she has set herself is to find the right man, and settle down. After years of fruitless search Charlie believes that she has finally found the right partner, Kevin Fields. Kevin thinks so too, and the couple agree to a quick marriage.
Charlie has one obstacle to overcome, and it is a major one. The obstacle is Kevin’s mother, Viola. Viola is an over-possessive, unstable mother who doesn’t approve of Charlie- (what’s my son doing with a girl who works as a temp at a doctor’s office)- and will do everything in her power to sabotage the relationship.
As Viola keeps on turning up the pressure, Charlie’s attitude about Viola changes from thinking she’s a difficult woman to working out Viola’s plan to ‘dethrone’ her. When Charlie finally ‘clicks on’’, all out war is waged between them.
I really enjoyed ‘Monster-In- Law’. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film where the two main characters were so at each other! Sometimes the battle of wills was like a subtle game of chess, other times it was like a full on boxing match.
It did help that two fine actors played the sparring characters. Jane Fonda, after many years of absence from the big screen, was the cranky, irascible Viola, and the beautiful Latino lady, Jennifer Lopez played Charlie, who once her ‘line’ was crossed was able to play real nasty and dirty. Michael Vartan played the man the two women were fighting over, Dr Kevin Fields, and Wanda Sykes played Viola’s worldly wise assistant, Ruby.

My Summer Of Love

The new British film ‘My Summer Of Love’, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, is a romantic drama set in a village in Yorkshire over a summer vacation. The main character is Mona, a working class tomboy type who is going through a difficult time. She lives with her older brother Phil who she is close to. He has come back from a stint in prison a religious nut, and she can’t cope with his moralistic ways.
Mona befriends Tasmin, a charismatic, petulant, wayward girl who comes from a wealthy but emotionally family. She is deeply drawn to Tasmin, and their friendship turns into an all consuming romance. It soon becomes apparent that Mona is serious about her emotions and Tasmin is loose with them.
‘Summer of Love’ poignantly played out an experience that many of have been though. That is, to fall deeply in love with a partner whose feelings are not as genuine as our own, and to then have to make the call.
Director Pawlikowski’s direction was sure, as were the lead performances. Natalie Press was a gritty Mona, Emily Blunt’s Tasmin was dreamy and self indulgent, and Paddy Condisine played the born again Phil with a genuine edginess.


The writer E.B.White gave this advice to young writers, ‘If you want to get ahead without annoying delays don’t write about Man, write about a Man’.

Bennett Miller’s film ‘Capote’, based on Gerald Clarke’s biography, is a knockout. The film focuses on a pivotal time in Capote’s life. This was the period from when Capote, then working as a journalist for the New Yorker magazine, reads a newspaper article about the brutal murder of a Kansas murder in 1959, and decides to research and write an article about it, to the time in 1964 when the two killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock go to the gallows, and Capote is finally free to publish his masterpiece.

Whilst writing ‘In Cold Blood’ Capote was able to establish a close relationship with Perry Smith, and this gave him extensive material to work from, and gave the book a personal, raw edge. The complex part that Capote played in this relationship becomes the films’ focus.

I saw ‘Capote’ primarily as a film about a writer who goes after a great story, and then forgets the human beings behind it. It is a familiar enough story, especially in journalistic circles. Perry Smith was a great story, and Capote wanted it badly.

Capote’s crime was that he deceived Smith. He knew that Smith was vulnerable, that Smith believed that Capote with his influence could save him from the gallows. Capote led Smith to believe that his book would help when, instead, Capote was basically damning him.

There’s a defining scene midway during the film when the audience sees Capote reading excerpts from his promised his next great work. (He had already established his reputation with ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s) to an adoring audience at a literary soiree. The camera sees him soaking up the adulation. Significantly, it’s not long after the time he visited Smith in his cell and told him that not only had he not written much of the book but that he had not come up with a title yet!

Clearly the film is damning of Capote. Capote gets his just desserts. Where there is crime, there is punishment and Capote does come through the whole experience damaged.

The movie highlights his flashy, egocentric manner and his sometimes malicious behaviour. Yet is shows Capote as a contradictory, complex character, who could be also be generous and compassionate.

‘Capote’ also implicitly argues that it could have only been such a brilliant, driven and cunning man who could have produced such a literary masterpiece.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave a masterful performance as Capote. Of-course Hoffman got the squeaky voice and the extravagant gesturing down pat but his performance was so much more than that! One could read what was going on with his character without words needing to be said. What higher praise can one give an actor?!

In the supporting roles, Catherine Keener stood out in a memorable performance as Capote’s friend and literary colleague, Harper Lee, a literary figure in her own right, having just completed ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’.

Bennett Miller’s direction was peerless. He had a vision for the film and clearly communicated it to the audience.

My recommendation…Go see ‘Capote’ if you haven’t already. This is a film guaranteed to foster much fertile supper conversation.