All posts by Daniel Dewar

After working as a freelance record and mix engineer while completing a Bachelor of Sound Engineering in Brisbane, Daniel moved to New York City and worked in film & television as a sound editor and designer on productions such as the Emmy-winning documentary When I Walk, feature-western Dawn of Conviction and New York music and discussion show, The Facts. Returning to Australia, Daniel moved to Sydney where he continues to work as a sound designer on local and international productions, most recently the Namibia Nine, a documentary on nine Namibians who fled persecution and migrated to the United States. Daniel's critical writing is published on www.filmaday.com.au and has been published on Sydney Arts Guide. He has also just completed the production of his screenplay, Blue Morning, through Sydney production house FiveTwenty.

HACKSAW RIDGE

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HACKSAW RIDGE arrives ten years after Mel Gibson’s previous directorial effort, the near-excellent APOCALYPTO, and follows an industry-imposed absence from filmmaking after repeated personal indiscretions. Gibson returned to the screen as an actor in 2010’s EDGE OF DARKNESS. Gibson’s difficulties in securing Hollywood financing may still be an ongoing issue, as he returns here with an Australian cast and production on a very American subject. This decision ultimately harms the impact of Gibson’s artistry as it fails to connect its characters to any artistic or cultural relevance.

HACKSAW RIDGE follows the story of American Army Medic, Desmond Doss, who joined the services following the attack on Pearl Harbour and served in Okinawa. His religious beliefs—or personal beliefs more accurately—meant that he refused to even handle a weapon, let alone kill someone. And so, due to his legal right to serve, Desmond is sent to Okinawa where his actions would eventually lead to him being the first Conscientious Objector to receive the Medal of Honour. Continue reading HACKSAW RIDGE

THE SHALLOWS

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THE SHALLOWS arrives in theaters with a great deal of anticipation. The film’s marketing campaign has focused on it’s minimal setting and straight forward narrative—a drawn out game of cat and mouse as a surfer tries to make it out of the ocean without getting eaten by a shark—and Blake Lively’s figure in a bikini. This is, it seems, enough to generate great anticipation.

Written by Anthony Jaswinski (KRISTY) and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, whose previous directorial efforts include the Liam Neeson vehicles UNKNOWN and NON-STOP, the film proper delivers on the marketing campaign’s promise and little more.

Continue reading THE SHALLOWS

APPROACHING THE UNKNOWN

Mark Elijah Rosenberg writes and directs his first feature, APPROACHING THE UNKNOWN, with a keen appreciation of scientific ingenuity and human life but without an understanding of the artistry required to translate these ideas into a cinematic experience.

The story focuses on astronaut William Stanaforth (Mark Strong),  as he embarks on a near two-year journey to Mars to make the foundations of a human colony on the planet. He is followed by Emily Maddox (Sanaa Lathan), who leaves several weeks after Stanaforth, I can only presume as a redundancy given that Stanaforth seems very much capable of running his own operation. He has developed a machine that can draw water from soil which of course would allow the greatest chance for humans to settle.

Continue reading APPROACHING THE UNKNOWN

BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN

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On September 11, two thousand and one, four commercial airliners were hijacked in the United States and used to attack key US landmarks. Three days later the United States Congress passed the Authorised Use of Military Force (AUMF) bill, authorising use of the US Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks.

Nine days after September 11, then American President George Bush told Congress “every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”.

A month after September 11, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the aircrews of the 509th Bomber Wing, “Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter. And you are the ones who will help achieve that goal.” Continue reading BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN

THE WITCH

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THE WITCH arrives in Australian cinemas thirteen months after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, during which time the initial, glowing reviews have helped establish the film’s own mythicism. Robert Eggers’ THE WITCH is a horror film in the most classical sense.

Banished from a pioneering New England settlement, a Puritanical family resettle in a small clearing surrounded by woods. Not long after arriving, the eldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is playing with her newborn brother when he vanishes practically before her eyes. The father, William (Ralph Ineson), suspects wolves while Thomasin and the children suspect a witch. The corn crops begin to rot, the goats leak blood during milking, and eldest son Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) disappears before reappearing bewitched. The young twins, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), say that the large goat, called Black Phillip no less, whispers to them. Once the family accept the curse they turn inward and against each other and slowly reveal the falsehoods of their claims to modesty.

As with the great horror films—Rosemary’s Baby, Nosferatu, and The Haunting—THE WITCH is effective because of its grounding in the perspective of its characters and its sole interest in exploring the human condition.
Continue reading THE WITCH

ZOOLANDER 2

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ZOOLANDER 2 occupies strange territory—both in its own art and in its place within the popular culture of 2016.

It’s interesting to think about what Ben Stiller, the film’s writer and director, thinks of its place in the world and why he felt an updating of the adventures of Derek Zoolander was relevant to today’s audience. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its own lifeforce—for it does. The film’s life and charm, as with the first film, comes from the total commitment to the material from its actors. What stifles the film is its timidity. Stiller has created a parody without a parodic sensibility and when the barbs are pointed, it’s more of a kneading than a provocation.

The film opens with an action sequence involving a motorcycle assassin, Sting, Justin Bieber and the city of  Rome. Stiller gets the tone wrong from the start. It might be enjoyable for some to play out their fantasies and see the machine-gun-slaughter of a pop-star even though there are still plenty of people alive who remember what it felt like to read about John Lennon. The joke isn’t the opening scene’s greatest crime, mind you—that belongs to the incoherent photography and direction that provides no sense of environment, space or tension. Continue reading ZOOLANDER 2

NAOMI KAWASE’S ‘AN’

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Throughout the history of Japan cherry blossoms have been a symbol of life, death and rebirth.

Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase’s latest film, AN, from a script written by Kawase based on the book by Durian Sukegawa, explores these themes in modern Japan. Kawase wants us to think about how life—its pulse and energy—exists within societal and architectural structures governed by straight lines. Kawase has always been interested in how people and chaos can play out despite the conformity of their surrounds. That’s not to say the characters Kawase presents are wild characters—they are quiet and unassuming. They speak when they have to—which is usually out of need—and reveal their chaotic inner-lives through small facial movements. Continue reading NAOMI KAWASE’S ‘AN’

SPOTLIGHT

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Access is a recurring theme in modern journalism discourse—direct access to source, access to content and access to the abilities to churn out journalistic content at an alarming rate—where it is no longer a matter of if but when we reach peak content. The argument against this mass of mass media follows the thinking that the ease of access—the ease in which we can consume and create journalistic content—means the work of journalism is easier than before and it’s output is more lightweight. Journalism as a line of work and the work of journalism—that is the work of investigation, thinking and writing—makes up the core of Tom McCarthy’s SPOTLIGHT, a film that embraces the idea of work as its artifice in telling the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church’s’ cover-up of child abuse in and around Boston.

The initial findings of the report were published in 2002, a Pulitzer-winning body of journalism that would form the genesis of over 400 articles that would later be published at the Globe on the subject. The film is named after the investigative team that worked on the story, a four-person unit that would invest months and years into producing their work. They are in the middle of investigating an inconsistency in Boston Police Department reporting figures when they are pushed by the Globe’s new editor-in-chief, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) to dig deeper into recent reports about a pedophile priest. Baron, newly arrived in Boston by way of the New York Times and Miami Herald, is looking to make an impression—a fact not lost on attorneys representing the Catholic Church, who are also eager to suggest that a Jew might want to provoke the Globe’s Catholic readers, who make up fifty percent of its readership. McCarthy’s sensibility of this suggestion is true—Baron is not interested in targets but the truth. Continue reading SPOTLIGHT

CREED

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Ryan Coogler’s CREED is a rhapsodic exploration of life imbued with the filmmaker’s own social conscious and intelligence.

His previous film, Fruitvale Station, was a commanding work, both angry and vital without ever being truly inventive. Building on the confident storytelling in that film, Coogler has taken his muse, Michael B. Jordan, and created a work that is completely attuned to the time of its making—a film infused with social awareness and understanding of the need for a diverse representation of American lives. Coogler’s greatest wonder with CREED is the black lives he puts on screen.

The movie opens with a young Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson) involved in a brutal fight while serving time in a Los Angeles correctional facility. An illegitimate child of Apollo Creed, he is taken in by Creed’s widow, Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad). Seventeen years later and despite being raised in a life of luxury, Adonis secretly fights unprofessionally in Mexico and leaves a promising job to start training full-time to become a professional boxer. After being turned down by his father’s trainer, he heads to Philadelphia looking for Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)—the man his father trained shortly before he died in the ring. Continue reading CREED

KNIGHT OF CUPS

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Terrence Malick’s follow up to 2013’s dazzling To The Wonder is another meditation on the human world and the relationships and bodies that inhabit it. It’s an introspective work intensely engendering the world he interacts with.

Malick’s stylistic choices in KNIGHT OF CUPS will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his work and will do little to endear those who have been alienated by it in the past. It acts as a continued mood piece from “To The Wonder”, only this time there is more to distract him.

Finding inspiration in the hyper-energy and aural-stimuli of Los Angeles, Malik’s film follows Hollywood screenwriter, Rick (Christian Bale), seeking to understand and mend his relationships with his brother (Wes Bentley) and his dying father (Brian Dennehy). Rick lives in excess and we follow his transgressions through the impermanent women in his life—Freida Pinto, Imogen Poots, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer—as well as the permanent—his ex-wife, Nancy (Cate Blanchett), and Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a married woman who he falls deeply in love with. Continue reading KNIGHT OF CUPS

THE NIGHTMARE

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Rodney Ascher’s infamous Room 237 explored the possible hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s treatment of The Shining. While each theory examined in the film became crazier and crazier, there was at least a commitment to analyse the ideas via extended footage from the film. Although never pushing back against the testimony, its documentation of its subjects was worthy of a documentary.

With THE NIGHTMARE, Rodney Ascher interviews eight sufferers of sleep paralysis. Without a formal source to reference (and without even attempting to bring one in), Ascher decides to recreate each sufferer’s account through poorly staged dramatisations. These dramatisations reveal Ascher’s severe short supply of cinematic vision and are unfortunately not the worst aspect of the film. Continue reading THE NIGHTMARE

99 HOMES

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From his debut feature Man Push Cart, Ramin Bahrani has proven himself to be an effective teller of stories infused with social awareness. He has the ability to sincerely and accurately examine the micro worlds that exist at the fringes of the larger world.

99 HOMES focuses on Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a labouring carpenter in Orlando facing default after missed loan payments. Nash unsuccessfully challenges the notice in court.

The next day, local real estate mogul Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) shows up at his house with local law enforcement and a small labour crew to evict Dennis, his mother Lynn (Laura Dern), and young son, Connor (Noah Lomax). They are given two minutes to collect their most important things before the labour crew moves all of the furniture onto the lawn. The Nashes are given the opportunity to take as much as they can with them. Continue reading 99 HOMES

JUSTIN KERZEL’S MACBETH

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Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown

Australian filmmaker Justin Kerzel’s (Snowtown) MACBETH opens with the funeral of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s child. It’s common for writers to add scenes to Shakespeare that help render their telling unique and develop strands of his work that have yet to be explored.

The decision to include this is a bold move and suggests a particular subtext to the interpretation that will follow. That it never is, through dialogue or performance, is emblematic of an interpretation lacking in direction and depth. Continue reading JUSTIN KERZEL’S MACBETH