April 23, 2014

Movie Review – Inside Job (2010)

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Charles Ferguson
Year Of Release :   2010
Principal Cast :   Various, narrated by Matt Damon
Approx Running Time :   118 Minutes
Synopsis: A dissection of the events, people and decisions which led to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, a crisis which very nearly plunged the world into another Great Depression.
What we think :   Inside Job will make you angry. Really angry. A powerful indictment on the financial sector which drove everyone into the Global Financial Crisis, the film uncovers the festering scab of greed, corruption and financial mismanagement that literally brought the world to its knees. If this doesn’t make you question your home loan, your financial institution, or even wary of any shift in economic propriety, then you’re living with your head in the sand.

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Greedy f@kcin’ Americans.

As an outsider looking in, Inside Job is an infuriating, rage-fueled, searing example of how a few peoples’ greed has nearly plunged the world into the financial stone-age. Back in 2009, the world learned a new phrase: “global financial crisis”. Major banks, lenders and other financial institutions, most of whom were based in New York’s Wall Street, began to collapse, writing off millions, nay billions of dollars of bad debt in the bizarrely named “subprime mortgage” market. During the GFC, we also learned several new phrases, the most egregious being the “debt ceiling”, which only recently closed the US Government since it could no longer pay its workers to… you know, work. For the average person, the GFC saw pension plans evaporate (my own parents were effected to a small degree), stocks and bonds crash through the basement, and families forced to walk away from their houses as the money dried up. The shadow of Michael Douglas’ Gordon Geko, in Wall Street, berating students that “greed…. is good”, cut the financial institutions of America off at the knees, sending a tsunami of pain and suffering across the globe. It plunged Europe into a crisis – anybody remember Greece threatening to pull the plug on the black hole of financial ruin across the continent? – and forced millions upon millions of people around the world to the unemployment line. That tsunami, as ethereal as several dollars on a server somewhere, still continues to reverberate around our planet.

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April 21, 2014

Movie Review – Lone Survivor

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :   Peter Berg
Year Of Release :  2013
Principal Cast :  Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Ali Suliman, Alexander Ludwig, Yousuf Azami, Sammy Sheik.
Approx Running Time :   121 Minutes
Synopsis:  A four-man covert operation to reconnoiter a Taliban operative hiding in the Hindu Kush, during the war in Afghanistan, has deadly consequences for those involved when their cover is blown, and they find themselves without backup.
What we think :   Pulse-pounding, muscular, sweaty action flick delivers all the combat you could want in a two hour film, and then some. While the title gives away the ending, and the characters aren’t as well developed as I’d have liked, director Peter Berg proves again that films like Battleship are purely for the paycheck. Lone Survivor is an engrossing, testoserone-laden tribute to the fallen men of the US military’s Operation Red Wings, and a worthy successor to modern classics like Black Hawk Down, or Saving Private Ryan. It might not have the same gut-punch frisson as those two films, but it sure rattles the cage as a solid, first-class military war picture.

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Behind Enemy Lines? Owen Wilson woulda shit himself!

If I was cynical, part of me would reason that the point of war is to provide Hollywood with stories to tell. War films have been a long, proud genre of film-making, and throughout the decades have produced their fair share of classics, from All Quiet On The Western Front, The Longest Day, to Apocalypse Now and Platoon, to name just a few. Traditional war films fill one of three subsets: the all-out action, non-stop firepower of battle (Saving Private Ryan), or the passionate, aching beauty of the futility of it all (The Thin Red Line), or some mixture of both. Lone Survivor, like Black Hawk Down and Three Kings before it, is a modern war picture, set in the recent past, and tells a true story of four men who face incredible, impossible odds to simply survive their mission-gone-wrong. Unfortunately, the very title of the film gives the game away, so we kinda can  guess from the opening who may or may not make it to the end credits - the fact that only one of the four brave men portrayed in this film lived to tell the story is, in itself, heartbreaking, but to sit through two hours of film to witness their bravery and heroism in the face of insurmountable odds is, frankly, something of an honor. Honor or not, though, the question must still be asked: is Lone Survivor a good film? It’s a great story, yes, but as a work of non-fiction transposed to the screen, how does it hold up?

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April 18, 2014

Movie Review – Returned, The (2013)

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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The Returned Review logo Movie Review   Returned, The  (2013)

- Summary -

Director :   Manuel Carballo
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :   Kris Holden-Ried, Emily Hampshire, Claudia Bassols, Shawn Doyle, Melina Matthews, Paulino Nunes, Jamie Lyle, Paul Anthony.
Approx Running Time :   100 Minutes
Synopsis:   After a zombie virus has infected mankind, wiping out millions. However, researchers have discovered a serum that prevents the virus from taking hold, allowing potential zombies to remain human, and live normal lives. However, the serum is running out, and as tensions rise throughout the world, one doctor and her husband must fight to survive before he too becomes a zombie.
What we think :   I know, you’re thinking “Zombie Apocalypse”, right? Wrong. The Returned takes the zombie genre and flips it on its head – the tension of turning into a flesh-eating killing machine is ever-present, but the film avoids the genre’s traditional gore and horror (for the most part) and keeps this story a more low-key dramatic affair that you might expect. As a work of science fiction, and as a work of dramatic science fiction, it’s actually really good. Worth a watch, just keep your expectations in check. This ain’t World War Z.

**********************

 The last few years have proven to be something of a boon to the zombie genre flick, following the dead-n-gone concept’s revival in Danny Boyle’s apocalyptic 28 Days Later. Cut to today, and classic horror monsters lead the way in much of our cultural television and film viewing – vampires, werewolves and fairies on True Blood, zombies on The Walking Dead, and incestuous sex, butchery and dwarfism on Game Of Thrones. Brad Pitt’s blockbusting World War Z surprised everyone in 2013 by actually being a good film, while projects such as Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, the Twilight Saga, and Let The Right One In keep the mythical underbelly of human horror bubbling along in the periphery of cultural relevance. The Returned features zombies too; albeit, the film has a tone more similar to Soderberg’s Contagion than Boyle’s 28 Days LaterThe Returned features “fast zombies”, although the focus is less on the creatures themselves and more on the social allegory the zombie concept allows. The Returned is the “thinking person’s” apocalypse thriller, determined to provide grist to the intellect than skin crawling, terror-fueled excitement of the kind you might be used to. Is it worth a look, though, just to watch people wax lyrical about zombies and their potential extermination of the human race? Read on to find out!

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April 16, 2014

Movie Review – Grand Piano

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :   Eugenio Mira
Year Of Release :  2013
Principal Cast :  Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Tamsin Egerton, Kerry Bishe, Allen Leech, Alex Winter, Don McManus.
Approx Running Time :  90 Minutes
Synopsis:   Returning to the stage after a five year absence, an acclaimed concert pianist finds himself in the gunsights of an assassin who wants him to play the concert of his life.
What we think :   While it staggers through an implausible mid-section, and doesn’t end with quite the flourish one might expect from a pulp-fiction thriller such as this, Grand Piano will hold your interest and maintain your excitement right up to the last frame – it’s the kind of film I wish Elijah Wood would make more of, just quietly, even though it’s a largely forgettable affair that never last long in the mind once its over. Director Mira wrings every nuance of potential (and then some) from the interesting premise, and – plot chasms notwithstanding – makes this film vastly entertaining in the B-movie style.

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So you’re an acclaimed concert pianist? Think you know stress? The stress of performing some of the worlds most complicated and difficult piano compositions, usually to an agog audience who will know if you hit a bum note? Then you’re best off not watching Grand Piano, an exercise in thrills with the backdrop of sublime orchestral sonics and a deft touch of death. Grand Piano was described by my buddy Dan O’Neill as Speed with an orchestra”, and while I think Dan became a little over-enthusiastic with his praise, don’t mistake my marginal disagreement with his assessment cloud the end product of this review – this is a film worth a look. There’s no Keanu Reeves, no exploding buses, or even sexy Sandra Bullocks anywhere to be found here, but what you will get is a terrific little set-piece that delivers some nice twists, excellent tension, and an exemplary example of how to bring a redonkulous plot, gasping-at-straws concept, and severely implausible characters together in a way that still grabs your attention for the time it lasts. If I was to come up with my own parallel for Grand Piano, it would be “Phone Booth at a piano”. Hmm, probably needed to think a bit harder about that. Still, the echoes of Joel Schumacher’s “single-setting” film resound here, as Elijah Wood is forced to play his piano during a concert, all to the tune of whatever dastardly plan the voice of John Cusack has in store. A man, manipulated by concern for his wife, with death imminent if he doesn’t play along with the villain’s plan, and who must also try and uncover exactly what that plan is before it’s all too late. Does Grand Piano hit any off-notes? Is it a film in a minor key? That, dear reader, is what we’re here to determine.

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April 14, 2014

Movie Review – Human Race, The

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :   Paul Hough
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :   Paul McCarthy-Boyington, Eddie McGee, Trista Robinson, T Arthur Cottam, Brianna Lauren Jackson, Fred Coury, Noel Britton, J Louis Reid, Richard Gale.
Approx Running Time :   87 Minutes
Synopsis:  A group of disparate people find themselves forced to run to survive – breaking the rules means instant death.
What we think :  If you’re one of those people who enjoys films where people’s heads explode, The Human Race will be a must-see for you. Violent, kinetic, brutal blood-sport film delivers plenty of gore, blood and human depravity, although after a while the point becomes lost as it simply becomes a case of who’s going to be the last man (or woman) standing. The “twist” at the end is fairly easy to spot coming well early, which mitigates a lot of the “what the hell is going on?” feeling the film aims at throughout, but the tone and aesthetic indicates Paul Hough is a film-maker to keep an eye on. Definitely worth a look for gore-hounds and fans of low-budget horror.

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A race to survive.

Let’s be honest here. Humanity is, in its current form, pretty shit. I mean really. We’re a bunch of douches all trying to get along with our fellow man, looping a giant ball of burning gas on a rock with finitie resources and complete lack of idea. The Human Race epitomizes the dog-eat-dog nature of humanity, when we’re up against the wall and it’s kill-or-be-killed, men and women suddenly become a base, survivalist animal, hell bent on continuing to breathe. I realize having such an existential opening to this review might be preparing you for a better film than you’ll find The Human Race to be, so be forewarned that this film isn’t intended to be some social commentary on where humanity is in terms of its value of life, rather it’s simply designed to shock, to gall, to make you uneasy as to where it will all end up. The concept is straightforward – or as straightforward as one of these gore-fests can be – and the execution of the concept is actually pretty decent, considering the budget and the no-name cast all doing their best in service of the admittedly fairly ham-hock screenplay. Put a bunch of people against each other in a form of combat, with the option of death if they refuse to fight/play, and watch the carnage ensue. Philosophical discussion aside, is The Human Race a film worthy of watching, simply from a violent, horror standpoint?

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April 11, 2014

Movie Review – Nymphomaniac, Volume I

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Lars von Trier
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Mia Goth, Sophie Kennedy, Connie Nielsen.
Approx Running Time :   117 Minutes
Synopsis:   A woman’s erotic journey from birth to old age is recounted to a man in his apartment, after finding the woman beaten in an alleyway.
What we think : Lars von Trier’s sex-odyssey redefines artistry on film, a masterclass in style, theme and story – it’s confronting in its depiction of sexuality, and no doubt will have many conservative buckaws running for the censorship lawbook, but as a work of magnificently filmed, wonderfully depicted fiction, I’m in little doubt that Volume 1 of Nymphomaniac is a triumph.

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Editor’s Note – This review is based off the original theatrical cut of Nymphomaniac Volume 1.

Every man’s fantasy?

Lars von Trier is, if nothing else, a hugely divisive director. Divisive not only for his films, as for his actions away from the camera – famously at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, declaring understanding of Hitler, being a Nazi, and other somewhat controversial comments, caused a significant uproar at the time (he was there to promote his film Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst, who looked positively dumbfounded whilst sitting next to him as he made these remarks) – yet for all his dogmatic style and eccentricity, his films often speak for themselves. Nymphomaniac, a film project which has been divided into two “volumes”, much like Tarantino’s Kill Bill, is loosely considered the conclusion to von Trier’s “Depression” Trilogy, following Antichrist and Melancholia, both of which had dealt with grief and depression (an affliction from which the director also suffers); its very title might give one pause as to what you might see when watching it, and if Antichrist is anything to go by, von Trier isn’t afraid of showing some rather graphic and confronting imagery to make his artistic point. Nymphomaniac does feature some rather graphic depictions of sexual behavior, throughout its two-volume, four-plus hour runtime, and I guess this will make people swerve away from it regardless of intent or artistic merit, so there’s no changing some people’s minds. For the rest of us, those with a more liberal bent, who does von Trier’s latest work of fiction stack up to his previous output – is it as controversial as ever, is it simply a work of artistic porn, or does it have merit and value regardless of sexual content?

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April 9, 2014

Movie Review – Hotel Transylvania

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- Summary -

Director :  Genndy Tartakovsky
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Cee lo Green, John Lovitz, Luenelle, Chris Parnell, Jackie Sandler, Rob Riggle.
Approx Running Time : 92 Minutes
Synopsis:  Dracula tries to protect his daughter, Mavis, from falling in love with a human, Johnny.
What we think :  A tired and overplayed plot is covered by a smorgasbord of character design and rapid-fire comedy, mixed with dynamite animation and a refusal by the filmmakers to slow down for a second and… you know, develop the characters. When the story does try and slow down a little, the film comes to a dead stop (get it? “Dead” stop?), but when it hits its straps the thing just powers along without pausing for breath. Look, it’s good for the kids, and will probably entertain most adults who don’t expect a lot, but after a second or third viewing it’ll probably start to annoy more than it entertains. Worth at least one watch, but that’ll be about it.

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Room service is optionally scary.

One of the great things about having young children is the excuse it gives you to watch a lot of animated films. Some might say this is a curse (and to a large extent, those people are probably right), but at least I still get to see plenty of films even when the kids are scampering around the television, and that’s gotta count for something. Every so often, you get to see a Frozen, or a Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and every other so often, you have to endure a Planes or a Shark Tale. Swings and roundabouts, people. Hotel Transylvania, the latest film out of the Sony Animation stable, is yet another of the whirligig riot of color passing as a movie these days, a frantic, entertain-at-any-cost endurance test for more reserved, conservative viewers, but an experience which will no doubt captivate a lot of the younger kids this flick is aimed at. It’s filled with all the classic cinema monsters (and even some new ones!) as it tells a story of Dracula and his attempts to keep his daughter from experiencing the “outside world”, a traditional “rebellious teen/overprotective parent” narrative that does little to stimulate the intellect, even though the film feels like drinking a hundred Red Bull’s through your eyeballs.

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April 8, 2014

Vale – Mary Anderson

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 1:14 pm
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Mary Anderson – 1918-2014

Mary Anderson, one of the co-stars of the classic 1939 film Gone With The Wind, has passed away.

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April 7, 2014

Vale – Mickey Rooney

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 4:26 pm
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Mickey Rooney – 1920-2014

Mickey Rooney, the legendary star of stage and screen for some 90-odd years, has passed away.

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Movie Review – Host, The (2013)

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Andrew Niccol
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :   Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Jake Abel, William Hurt, Chandler Canterbury, Frances Fisher, Emily Browning.
Approx Running Time :   121 Minutes
Synopsis:   When Earth is colonized by an invading Alien species, who take over the human body, one young resistance fighter finds herself cohabiting her own body with one of the invaders.
What we think :   Flat, boring film about an alien invasion couldn’t be more insipid than this – based on Stephenie Meyer’s book (yes, she who stillbirthed the Twilight series onto us all) the film lacks interest, cohesion or even a point. Ronan acts well enough, Kruger provides a reasonably active Bad Girl presence, and the two male love-interests look almost identical, but the overall tone of the thing is everywhere, resulting in a lifeless cinematic venture that says little, does even less, and never really entertains.

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Stephenie Meyer needs to stop writing.

Stephenie Meyer somehow tapped into the zeitgeist with her genre-defining Twilight saga, a series of four nigh-inconsequential books that somehow sold like diamonds, and which, when turned into five “blockbuster” films, managed to earn everyone involved a small fortune. It was a shame that the books, and the films, were utter garbage, and the fact they became so successful was probably to down to a herd-like mentality amongst the teen girls to whom the books were marketed – if one watched, they all watched… etc etc. The Host, a book set outside of the Twilight universe but still written with excruciating literary skill by Meyer again, sees Meyer attempting to scale the lofty heights of science fiction and bring a vomit-worthy love triangle into the picture once again. It’s a film about an alien invasion, and how the last hope of humanity is fighting back. With a director of the caliber of Andrew Niccol, who has been coasting on his Gattaca success for most of his career without doing anything to support it (did anyone else see In Time, or S1m0ne?) you’d expect a film of at least passable competency. What we get with The Host, however, is anything but.

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April 4, 2014

Movie Review – Before Midnight

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Richard Linklater
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davy-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Walter Lassally, Ariane Labed, Athina Rachel Tsangari.
Approx Running Time :  109 Minutes
Synopsis:   Jessie and Celine have been together for the last 9 years – Jessie has split from his wife, and now shares custody of his son, Hank, while both he and Celine are parents of twin girls. While on holiday in Greece, both of them find themselves having to resolve some unfinished issues currently dogging their relationship.
What we think :   As uncomfortable as it is to watch, Before Midnight is the culmination of a relationship which began some 18 years earlier, in 1994, with Before Sunrise. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy once again provide luminous, effective performances, as Jessie and Celine have now journeyed to the harder side of a relationship – familiarity and the loss of romance. While it’s a substantively different film than the previous two, this threequel is as organic and as justifiably realistic a portrayal of a relationship going bad as the previous films set up. Before Midnight – if it is to be the last we see of Jessie and Celine (and I hope it isn’t) - brings their relationship’s depiction on screen to a beautiful, if somewhat melancholy, close.

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The Argument They Had To Have.

Richard Linklater’s Before saga, which began with Before Sunrise, continued with Before Sunset, now concludes (hope not, Richard!) with Before Midnight, a sublimely written and acted dramatic performance that will stay with you for days afterwards. Whereas the previous two films dealt with a relationship beginning, Before Midnight deals with the uncomfortable truth about a relationship possibly ending – or coming close to ending – as Jessie and Celine’s relationship is tested over a holiday in Greece. It’s fair to say that most relationships have problems of one form or another, with everything from infidelity to not putting the cap back on the toothpaste fast becoming an ever present icon of our decaying society, and while in Hollywoodland there’s an apparent inability to not “live happily ever after”, in Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, together with his two leads in Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, examine the breakdown and fracturing of a real relationship, over the course of time. It’s a shattering, confronting, and heartbreaking look into a real relationship going south.

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April 2, 2014

Movie Review – Before Sunset

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- Summary -

Director :  Richard Linklater
Year Of Release :  2003
Principal Cast : Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff.
Approx Running Time :  80 Minutes
Synopsis:  After 9 years apart, Jessie and Celine reunite for one evening in Paris, where Jessie is on a book tour and about to return to the USA.
What we think :  Richard Linklater’s sequel to Before Sunrise involves more walking, more talking, and more emotional depth to our two favorite lovebirds, as they take a stroll around Paris and rekindle their love-lost during a brief catch-up. Fans of the first film (of which I have become on) will enjoy the continuing “adventures” of Jessie and Celine, as they rediscover their feelings for each other, and the fact that those feelings haven’t faded in the years since their first brief encounter. A delight from open to close.

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The ache of regret.

Regret can be an all consuming emotion, can’t it? As hard as it is to admit, I doubt there’s a person alive who doesn’t regret something about their lives, some kind of missed opportunity or a choice not made, a decision leading down a path of hardship – regret is probably one of the most heartbreaking emotions a human can endure, mainly because it rarely fades with time. If anything, regret is a feeling that only grows with the passage of time, as the distance between the event and the present becomes larger. For Jessie and Celine, who met for a brief 24 hour encounter back in 1994, and who promised to meet at the Vienna train station 6 months later (roll credits!), it’s been 9 years since that fateful meeting. While it’s obvious that time has passed for them, what is unknown as the film opens is whether they did indeed meet up, hook up again, or did one of them bail before the event? Before Sunset broaches this topic – and more – giving us another glimpse into the relationship between two of cinema’s great romantic figures.

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March 31, 2014

Movie Review – Before Sunrise

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- Summary -

Director :  Richard Linklater
Year Of Release :   1995
Principal Cast :  Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Approx Running Time :  101 Minutes
Synopsis:   A young American man, traveling around Europe on the train, meets a French girl and the two spend a night walking around Vienna, finding themselves falling in love.
What we think :   Delightful romantic drama rewrites the possibilities of the genre, by having two immensely likeable leads just…. talking to each other. No convoluted plot, no hurdles they must jump, no last-minute chase through New York to “get the girl”….. this is straight-up refreshment-stand romance, with two people who behave with realism and unaffected falseness. Before Sunrise is charming, romantic, and occasionally sexy; what it is most, however, is entertaining.

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Just walking, chattin’.

Romantic movies tend to skew towards the silly end of the cinematic spectrum; usually, a pair of characters must overcome a variety of personality, social or economic issues to “find” each other, either with or without the aide of mystical or supernatural occurrences, and invariably come to the end of the story with everyone living “Happily ever after” – dammit, Disney has a lot to answer for. Occasionally, however, you get a romantic drama that doesn’t pander to cliche or convention, and Before Sunrise, the first of Richard Linklater’s trilogy of films which continues with Before Sunset, and concludes with Before Midnight, is the epitome of that exception disproving the rule. Before Sunrise sees two people wandering around a romantic European city – in this instance, Vienna – just talking and gradually falling in love. It’s a film of frustration, of sorrow and joy, of finding that One True Love before having to let them go…. Before Sunrise captures the ecstasy and agony of love gained and lost, all wrapped up in two excellent performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Released in 1995, the fact it spawned two equally successful sequels should indicate how good this film really is, so I decided to put aside my genetic predisposition to abhorring “romantic comedies” and give Before Sunrise a shot; with wife in tow, I sat down to find out if all the critical acclaim and cult-favorite chit chat was accurate.

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March 30, 2014

From The Editor – 30.3.2014

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March 30 2014 From The Editor   30.3.2014

Well, we made it to #800!!!

Yes, our massive 800th review (which you can see below) of Lawrence of Arabia, brings March to a close – it’s been a ripper month for film, with the Oscars to open proceedings, followed by a number of big name films and franchise fillers, and now we head into April having crossed the almighty threshold of a centennial review.

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March 29, 2014

Movie Review – Lawrence Of Arabia

Filed under: Film Classic,Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director : David Lean
Year Of Release : 1963
Principal Cast : Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy.
Major Award Wins : 35th Academy Award Wins: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre), Best Film Editing, Best Sound. Academy Award Nominations: Best Actor (Peter O’Toole), Best Supporting Actor (Omar Sharif), Best Adapted Screenplay. BAFTA Wins: Best Film, Best British Film, Best Actor (O’Toole), Best Screenplay. Golden Globe Wins: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Sharif), Best Cinematography.
Approx Running Time : 216 Minutes.
Synopsis: A discontented young British solder is sequestered to the company of an Arabian King for the purposes of utilizing his forces in against the Kaiser during World War I. Along the way, the warring clans of Arabia are brought together in unity for the first time ever, thanks to the passionate preachings of young Lawrence.
What we think : Critic-proof cinematic behemoth is sweeping, magnificent, and designed simply to exhaust any supply of superlatives you might have lying about. Towering in scale and power, sealed with dynamite performances and a legendary orchestral score, Lawrence Of Arabia remains an enduring cinematic icon, and rightfully so.

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Still a miracle.

Much like Citizen Kane, some films defy criticism and the weight of a legendary legacy to remain among the very best of their art-form ever made. Sitting at my computer after a recent re-screening of this film, and still shaking my head in utter astonishment at the power the film continues to exude some half-century after initial release, it would be easy to think a review of a film this brilliant might very well write itself. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and so I thrust my fingers upon the keyboard in the vain hope of cobbling together enough rational thoughts to make some sort of sense – at least to impart a little of the wonder of this film to anybody reading who may not have seen it yet. Hollywood history is littered with the corpses of bygone epic films that have not stood the test of time; only a select few remain easy to identify to all but the most ignorant film lover. Ben Hur, Bridge On The River Kwai, Sound Of Music – such films were designed by Hollywood to combat the increasing pervasiveness of television, which was a fairly new invention back in the 60′s. Massive budgets and vast, sweeping storylines captivated audiences and dragged them back into the cinema to see these adventures on massive screens, the kind of storytelling only Hollywood could really deliver. Lawrence Of Arabia, perhaps moreso than any of the other films I just mentioned, is the most accessible of any of the big-budget event films of the era, in terms of anybody being able to appreciate and enjoy it. Even Steven Spielberg, in his assessment of it, labelled it “a miracle of a film”, and never more an apt description of Lawrence Of Arabia has been made.

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March 28, 2014

Movie Review – Dead Poets Society

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Peter Weir
Year Of Release :  1989
Principal Cast : Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, Kurtwood Smith, Norman Lloyd, Dylan Kussman, James Waterson, Allalon Ruggerio, Welker White.
Major Award Wins :  1990 Academy Awards: Best Screenplay; BAFTA 1989: Best Film, Best Original Film Score (Maurice Jarre)
Approx Running Time :  128 Minutes
Synopsis:   A new and exuberant poetry teachers at a prestigious all-boys school brings out the best and worst in his young pupils.
What we think :   Involving, lyrical, poetic film about young boys becoming men, and that awkward transitional stage of puberty, sees Robin Williams give a relatively (for him) restrained performance around a terrific ensemble of young actors – among them, Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard – in what is, in my mind, one of Peter Weir’s best films. The screenplay rightly won an Oscar, and definitely warranted its Best Picture nom (Driving Miss Daisy eventually won…); Dead Poets Society is a terrific, well acted, wonderful movie.

**********************

 Carpe Diem.

This review is part of the Your Face! Movie Tag Blogathon. You can read more here. The blogger we’ll be tagging you can find at the bottom of this review! Thanks to Nick from The CK for nominating this film for me!!

Australian director Peter Weir had come off the success of Witness and The Mosquito Coast before he wrangled Robin Williams in 1989′s coming-of-age drama, Dead Poets Society. Set within the walls of a prestigious all-boys school in the 1950′s, the film contrasts the rigidity and conformity of the upper class society, and the “go where your heart leads you” enthusiasm for life personified by youthful and enthusiastic poetry teacher, John Keating. It must be said, though, that while Williams’ name is above the title (and quite predominant in the promotional material, the film isn’t really about him per se; instead, Dead Poets Society focused a lot of its time on the cadre of classmates and their gradual refusal to conform to what we perceive as a rather strict, inflexible educational regime. Throw in a dose of teen rebellion against the parents, an unrequited infatuation, and the gradual realization that life is for living, not conforming, and you have the recipe for what is a quietly moving, utterly beautiful, period film that delivers what it promises. Weir was again nominated for a Directing Oscar for his work here (a note: including Dead Poets Society, Weir has been nominated four times, and never won!) and the film deserved its Screenplay gong; Dead Poets Society remains popular probably less for Williams inclusion and more for the life affirming tone it takes showing us these young boys’ trials and tribulations.

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March 27, 2014

Movie Review – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Justin Chadwick
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaan Moosa, Fana Mokoena, Jamie Bartlett, Terry Pheto.
Approx Running Time :   146 Minutes
Synopsis:    Charting the life of South African icon Nelson Mandela, from his early ages to his work for the ANC, his imprisonment, relationship with Winnifred Mandela, and his eventual release to become South African President after the fall of Apartheid.
What we think :   Mandela aims high, and certainly delivers some moments of human tragedy, but because it’s based on the great man’s autobiography, feels more circumspect than it probably should. Idris Elba is superb as Mandela himself, and Naomi Harris is equally magnificent as Winnie, Mandela’s wife, but a (expected) devotion to protecting Mandela’s stature as one of history’s great individuals means the film never allows breathing room for flaws or nuance. As a bio-pic goes, there’s plenty to dig into, but you get the sense that the best stuff has been cherry picked over stuff that’s probably more controversial. Hefty, solid, yet unremarkable outside of the two lead performances.

**********************

Throughout my childhood, three people always stood out to me as icons of their era: Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. One, Diana, became an impossible pop-culture touchstone thanks to her untimely death in a Parisian tunnel, while Mother Teresa passed away almost unnoticed barely a week after Diana’s death, obscured (like she was in life, really) by the more vulturous and headline grabbing tragedy most of the Western World was swept up in. The third, Mandela, who was released from a South African prison after spending some 25 years behind bars, became a figure of hope and freedom not only within his home country, but around the world wherever oppression and persecution was felt. His death at the close of 2013 marked the close of a remarkable chapter in our history, and the conclusion of a life that was lived less for his own sake, rather for the sake of millions of others. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, attempts to document key moments in the life of the great man, whose fight against Apartheid in South Africa made him into one of history’s true giants; is this film of his life worthy of the great man, even if it does star cult hero actor Idris Elba, or should it too be imprisoned for a generation, locked away from public scrutiny?

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March 26, 2014

Movie Review – A Single Shot

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director : David M Rosenthal
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Sam Rockwell, Jeffrey Wright, Kelly Reilly, Jason Isaacs, Joe Anderson, Ophelia Lovibond, Ted Levine, William H Macy, Amy Sloan.
Approx Running Time :  110 Minutes
Synopsis:   After accidentally killing a young girl in the woods while out poaching, a lonely, poverty-stricken man, John Moon, discovers that she was in possession of a large sum of money. Hiding the body, taking the money and trying to reconcile with his estranged wife, John’s life rapidly spirals out of control when a number of people come looking for the missing loot.
What we think :   Sam Rockwell remains one of the more underrated actors going around these days, sashaying from lite drama, to outright blockbuster, to low-budget thrillers, barley registering as a blip on the pop-culture radar. It’s a shame, because he makes A Single Shot worth watching – his ability to craft a character that’s both believable and empathetic, even with limited material, makes this slow-burn drama work even when it sputters and often outright stalls. A Single Shot is deliberately paced, well acted and lensed with a melancholy, tragic tone that echoes some of those gritty, urban 70′s crime thrillers, but for most of the time it only barely ekes out any interest whatsoever.

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When you shoot someone, own up to it. Even if you’re broke.

It’s fair to say that Sam Rockwell has one of “those” faces – a face that people know from “that other film I saw”, but rarely remember his name. He’s something of a household name in many respects, because most of his major roles have been memorable in one form or another – he played the key villain in Charlie’s Angels and Iron Man 2, a psychotic criminal in The Green Mile, a spoof version of Star Trek’s “red shirts” in Galaxy Quest, and an isolated astronaut in Duncan Jones’ Moon, among many other film appearances – yet you’d never find him on any Hollywood A-List. Rockwell’s career has built up into a steady stream of quality roles, making even the most minor of parts identifiable through his laconic, slow-drawl manner and wry glint of wit in his eye. Anyone who enjoyed Moon, for example, will appreciate the man’s subtle turn of emotion, his ability to make every character different from the last. Personally, I find him to be one of the most underrated actors going about Hollywood these days, and I always try and seek out any film he’s in, just to watch him in it. A Single Shot, a film by director David M Rosenthal, finds Rockwell delivering a role that is neither heroic nor villainous; his character is all too human, and it’s this frailty and emotional wretchedness that gives him room to bring this character to life.

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March 25, 2014

Movie Review – Counselor, The

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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- Summary -

Director :  Ridley Scott
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Peneolope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, Natalie Dormer, Edgar Ramirez, Ruben Blades, Goran Visnjic, John Leguizamo.
Approx Running Time : 117 Minutes
Synopsis:  After a drug deal goes wrong, a man hoping to start a new life with his lady-love find himself on the run from the Mexcan drug cartels.
What we think :  Ridley Scott’s career continues to nosedive off the back of Prometheus, with The Counselor, a crime thriller that lacks both thrills, or a point. Michael Fassbender is again superb, and the rest of the cast chew their scenery and lines with requisite aplomb, but the dire script and ambivalent characters create a malaise from which this film cannot escape. It’s unpleasant garbage, is what it is.

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Here in Australia, we spell it with two “L’s”.

Ridley Scott’s career post-Gladiator hasn’t really held up the bargain he made with audiences during his Alien and Blade Runner days. Aside from Kingdom Of Heaven’s “director’s cut” edition on DVD, and probably American Gangster, his films since that millennial Oscar winner have been met with a fair degree of critical – if not box office – ambivalence. The Counselor seemed to come from nowhere; here in Australia, it wasn’t hyped, wasn’t promoted nearly as vigorously as most of The Ridster’s previous films, perhaps indicative of the quality of the film itself in the minds of distributing studio 20th Century Fox. With Ridley in dire need of a hit, particularly after the miasma that was Prometheus (whether you like it or not, the film was a turkey almost across the board), would The Counselor deliver? It boasted a great cast, led by Prometheus alum Michael Fassbender (who apparently can do no wrong) and featuring Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz, The Counselor looked to be a film in a similar mold to Matchstick Men or American Gangster – would it deliver a guilty verdict, or would The Counselor be yet another mistrial before Judge Ridley?

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March 24, 2014

Vale – James Rebhorn

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 10:13 am
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427px James Rebhorn at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival Vale   James Rebhorn

James Rebhorn – 1948-2014

American actor James Rebhorn, who appeared in Independence Day, David Finchers’ The Game, and Meet The Parents, has passed away.

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