Tag Archives: Movie Review

FRANK

Frank 1

The Soronspfrbs (that’s actually spelt correctly) are a strange alternative indie rock band; they sound like early Floyd among others, the keyboard players tend to kill themselves and Frank, the lead singer, wears a big smiley paper mache head, all the time – even in the shower. Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young keyboard player who scores a lucky gig which lasts half a song. For no particular reason they invite him to Ireland for a ‘thing’ without telling him it’s to record an album. He starts recording them and putting them up on YouTube without telling them… and soon fame beckons, which seems to be the last thing they want.

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X–MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Hugh Jackman, as always, charming the crowd, especially the young ladies
Hugh Jackman, as always, charming the crowd, especially the young ladies

Thousands of fans turned out at Melbourne Central on Friday May 16 to catch a glimpse of Hugh Jackman, (Wolverine), Peter Dinklage (Bolivar Trask) and Fan Bingbing (Blink) walk the red carpet for the Australian premiere. Although Hugh Jackman received a huge welcome, he was somewhat overshadowed by his diminutive co-star, Peter Dinklage, best known for playing Tyrion Lannister on the Game of Thrones television series, who stole the spotlight. Fan Bingbing also got a massive reaction by her fans, many of them in tears upon meeting her.

Days of Future Past offers some of the most amazing action sequences, 3D and special effects and scenery shown on the big screen. However, film goers who are not fans of the series will get caught up in the story with its many overlapping subplots and characters.

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RISE OF THE ECO WARRIORS

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Climate change, global warming and environmental degradation are catch phrases of this generation. So it is appropriate that young people are enlisted to fight these global threats. The RISE OF THE ECO WARRIORS shows one group who did just that. 15 young people from around the world enlist as eco warriors to spend 100 days in the jungles of Borneo – there to confront the enormous tasks of saving rainforests and endangered orang-utans.

Their tale spans 3 villages of the Dayak and the Longhouse communities fighting to stem the relentless onslaught of palm oil plantation companies.

Jojo, an orphaned baby orang-utan, is entrusted in their care. Prior to returning her to the forest, they plan to build an orang-utan rehabilitation centre. To fight the deforestation, they introduce a satellite monitoring system called Earthwatchers. They teach the local communities about safer sugar palms and assist them with a reforestation nursery. To fund this and to sustain action into the future they build a global support network. They extend the global school network, through education of local schoolchildren. They had adequate computer equipment and cameras despite the remoteness. In their reaching out globally they seek to have people adopt an orang-utan and to stop buying products containing palm oil.

They come to understand and respect the wisdom, skills and traditions of the local Dayak people and learn about trust, decision making and leadership. This was forced upon them when their mentor, Dr Willie Smits, was called away on other environmental projects. Four of them withdrew early and the rest were left to battle the terrain of wild rivers. They learnt to persevere in the face of both human and natural adversity.

This documentary pushes the environmental case as we see the young adults increasing their humanity and knowledge. It provides weblinks for the viewer to further their knowledge and contribution to the cause.

Excellent camerawork and editing (cinematographer Ismail Fahmi Lubish-Ezther) meant that no shot was wasted. It was neither heavy handed nor intrusive.

The 15 young people and a few helpers who joined for two weeks only to provide funds and labour, did not ‘play to the camera’ allowing greater involvement and impact to be felt by the audience members.

Well directed and written by Cathy Henkel. Overall, the RISE OF THE ECO WARRIORS is a satisfying documentary.

THE TURNING

THE TURNING2
Hugo Weaving plays a hermit, drawn to campfires, who is tracked down by his son

Fresh from her Oscar tipped turn in the current box office smash, BLUE JASMINE, Cate Blanchett also shines in THE TURNING, the audacious and ambitious rendering to the screen of Tim Winton’s story cycle of the same name.

The seventeen chapters of the book have each been turned over to a film maker for cinematic rendition all linked by literary heritage and augmented by a motif of animated sand drift, a sort of sand script that introduces and connects each vignette.

As with any composite piece there will be segments better realised than others and indeed appreciated by different audiences, just as a degustation offers myriad tastes and textures.

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PARKLAND

PARKLAND

Mow the grassy knoll, lock the windows of the book depository, and don’t deal with Dealey Plaza.

To commemorate the assassination of JFK check out PARKLAND on DVD.

Nonplussed that this very fine film failed to find a cinema release, nevertheless it deserves a wide audience.

Written and directed by controversial journalist Peter Landesman and based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi who prosecuted the Manson clan and author of HELTER SKELTER, the bestselling book about the case, PARKLAND takes its title from the hospital that JFK was taken to after being shot.

The opening sequences are reminiscent of Robert Altman’s MASH with all the blood and gore hubbub of a surgical emergency, and indeed the overall film has an Altmanesque quality with its big cast and multi weaving plot structure.

Zac Efron plays the overworked surgeon who valiantly tries to resuscitate the mortally wounded President, his frustration palpable as is the enormity of the situation creepingly realised by theatre nurse Marcia Gay Harden.

Shock and awe is also the register illustrated by Paul Giammatti’s portrayal of Zapruda, who fatefully filmed the most famous snuff movie in history.

Billy Bob Thornton bustles as senior secret service agent Forrest Sorrels, devastated that this incident happened on his watch and determined to close the case as quickly as possible.

As much as procedure is followed by medical and law enforcement people, a sense of panic generated by the magnitude of the act plays interference and almost immediately the seeds of conspiracy are planted.

PARKLAND also has a fascinating aspect to the Oswald connection, focusing on Lee Harvey’s brother, Robert, played by James Badge Dale. Guilty by association in the eyes of colleagues and the community, he must traverse the swampland of familial loyalty with the insanity of his sibling’s actions. Jeremy Strong portrays Lee Harvey Oswald, with Jackie Weaver as their mother, delivering more than a hint of her matriarch in Animal Kingdom.

A more than worthy addition to the Kennedy canon, PARKLAND is a movie mosaic depicting the confusion and grief of an event that stalks the zeitgeist half a century on.

 

 

THE BUTLER

THE BUTLER

All the presidents, man.

That’s one of the joys of Lee Daniels’ ballsy new film, THE BUTLER (M).

It’s the story of White House Silver Service Black Man Cecil Gaines who served the President of the United States from Eisenhower to Reagan, and a chief delight is seeing the cavalcade of cameos depicting the commanders in chief.

Robin Williams plays a bright Dwight, James Marsden a more than OK JFK, Liev Schreiber goes all the way with LBJ, John Cusack is a suitably sweaty Tricky Dicky and Alan Rickman charms as Ronald Reagan.

These characterisations are worth the admission alone, but Daniel’s stack the picture with a terrific leading man, Forest Whittaker and casts Oprah Winfrey as his leading lady. The movie marriage is magic.

And the casting pedigree doesn’t stop there. Cuba Gooding and Lenny Kravitz play White House colleagues, Jane Fonda does a finely tuned turn as Nancy Reagan, Vanessa Redgrave as a plantation matriarch, Mariah Carey as Cecil’s mum and Terence Howard plays a long standing family friend.

From slavery through segregation to holding the supreme office of the United States, this is much the story of Black struggle as it is the story of one man and it’s a triumph of dramatic distillate that Daniels and his screenwriter Danny Strong bring to this thoroughly engaging and entertaining panorama of politics and social change.

The big picture is distilled through the conduit of conflict between Cecil and his son, Louis played by David Oyellowo. Louis becomes politicised when his brother is killed in Vietnam, becomes a Malcolm X devotee and a member of the Black Panthers.

One of the great scenes in this movie is A Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner piece where Louis brings his radical girlfriend home and the table discussion erupts in a critique of Sidney Poitier.

Inspired by Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election” about the real life of former White House butler Eugene Allen, LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER traces the dramatic civil rights struggles that ultimately made it possible for an African American to rise to the highest position in the White House with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

LASSETER’S BONES

Searching for Lasseter's Bones
Searching for LASSETER’S BONES

Sifting the truth from the myth of Harry Lasseter and his fabled reef of gold is like lassoing a shadow. A 20th century Burke & Wills story of expiration in the thrall of exploration the tale has endured and grown.

Like so many others over the years, director Luke Walker became fascinated by the story of Harold Lasseter, whose body was found after perishing in Central Australia’s deserts in 1930.

In making Lasseter’s Bones (G) Walker discovered Lasseter’s 85-year-old son Bob still wandering the desert after 50 years, on a quixotic mission to discover the gold that killed his father and destroyed his childhood. As a result, Walker found himself teaming up with Bob Lasseter on a quest to solve the many riddles his father left behind

Walker’s journey took three years, leading him across six states and deep into the heart of Australia.

It’s a fascinating study of family obsession, a cinematic love child of Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Treasure of Sierra Madre, where the skeletons in the desert may be more like skeletons in the closet.

Prospecting the past, Walker discovers a number of narrative nuggets in the alluvial plane of a life with more layers than a lasagne.

Inventor, explorer, entrepreneur, charlatan- any one of these applets could describe the mercurial and mysterious Lasseter whose claim to a dead heart El Dorado is either a last laugh by a larrikin leg puller or a last ditch con? Did he really come to grief searching for the reef or was it an elaborate plan to disappear and start a new life in America? Far sighted futurist or flim flam man, Lassiter is a fabulous part of our folk-lore and Walker’s splendid documentary deserves to be seen on the big screen.

RUSH

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Exhilarating and enthralling, RUSH (M) sees a return to form from director Ron Howard.

From the pen of the biopic go to man, Peter Morgan, screenwriter of The Queen, The Last King of Scotland and Frost/Nixon, this is the story of the legendary rivalry between Formula 1 race car drivers James Hunt and Nikki Lauder.

Firing on all cylinders, this high octane entertainment has a grand prix cast headed by Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Lauder.

Already a commercial commodity as the hammer wielding thunder god, Thor, Hemsworth gets to flex his acting chops and not just his muscles in this role and flexes them splendidly, likewise Bruhl whose laudable Lauder is a treat.

Hemsworth’s cavalier, off the cuff delivery coupled with his camera loving charismatic charm and looks made me think calling card to another character with first name James who has a penchant for fast cars and glamorous women.

Their rivalry is palpable, their realisation that they are similar adding a simmering frisson to their relationship. These driven drivers dealt with demons differently – the Austrian with discipline and diligence, the Brit with drink and dope, and yet both achieved world champion status.

For Lauder, racing was strategic and scientific, for Hunt just sport, but their will to win was intrinsic to both. And as the film shows, both were fabulously flawed phenomena.

The film accelerates from the first frame and never flags which is something of an achievement as it clocks in at two hours. So packed with intrigue and incident, RUSH is an adrenalin ride that’s in top gear for its duration.

Shot by Slumdog Millionaire lenser Anthony Dod mantle and edited by Daniel  P. Hanley and Mike Hill, Oscar winning cutters of Apollo 13, RUSH is indeed a rush.

 

LOVELACE

Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Taylor and Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace in LOVELACE
Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Taylor and Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace in LOVELACE

“Don’t forget to breathe” Chuck instructs his new bride Linda as she fellates him. His coaching and her natural talent created a phenomenon in the persona of Linda Lovelace, infamous star of the landmark porn flick, Deep Throat.

Directors Rob Epstein and Jerry Friedman have teamed to make a biopic of Linda, simply called LOVELACE (MA) and it’s a solid if not sensational cinema experience.

Amanda Seyfried plays Linda in a brave performance, a naïve Catholic girl with a loving father (Robert Patrick) and a neurotic mother who plays like a wicked step mother (Sharon Stone). The family has fled to Florida from New York after an indiscretion by the young Linda.

She comes to the attention of Chuck (Peter Saarsgard) who runs a titty bar and is a charming chancer. Strapped for cash after his establishment is busted for prostitution,  Realising Linda’s particular carnal talents and her cute freckled face could be his entre into the adult movie business, he sets up an audition, and the rest is history.

What this film seeks to do is colour in the parts we don’t know, how Chuck, who later married another mega porn star, Marylyn Chambers, was an abusive, obnoxious man, really nothing more than a pimp.

Both leads acquit themselves splendidly and there is sterling supporting work from James Franco as Hugh Heffner, Hank Azaria as Deep Throat director, Gerry Damiano, Bobby Cannavale (currently cutting up the screen in BLUE JASMINE) as a porn producer and Chris Noth as a mob money man.

As competent as it is LOVELACE never comes out of the shade of the documentary Inside Deep Throat or the feature film Boogie Nights.