September 22, 2014

Vale – Polly Bergen

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 9:52 am
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Polly Bergen (aged 23) – 1930-2014

Tony Award and Golden Globe nominated actress Polly Bergen has passed away.


Movie Review – Giver, The

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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The Giver Review Logo Movie Review   Giver, The

- Summary -

Director :  Phillip Noyce
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift, Cameron Monaghan, Emma Tremblay.
Approx Running Time :   97 Minutes
Synopsis:  In a future utopian world, humans have evolved to exist without emotion, leaving their lives completely uniform. One young man is chosen to receive the memories of their past, filled with love, hate, anger and beauty, from the man he comes to know as the Giver.
What we think :  Inordinately indifferent, but certainly well made, The Giver sees yet another Young Adult genre story given the big-screen treatment – for better or worse – and although it tries hard, delivers a few moments of genuine shock, and offers some nice subtext about modern society, the film fumbles its core premise. While it’s no Hunger Games, or Twilight (blessedly), The Giver’s impoverished story lacks true substance, a skeletal effort that renders much of its potency inert.


Not a gift you want.

Aussie actor Brenton Thwaites’ year in 2014 has certainly been a breakout one for the young star. A former soap actor, Thwaites’ career has blossomed with appearances in not only this, The Giver, but also independent sci-fi looper The Signal, opposite Laurence Fishburne, as well as big budget Disney opus Maleficent (playing Prince Phillip), and Oculus, opposite former Doctor Who star Karen Gillan. Thwaites stretches his name-dropping bank by now appearing opposite both the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, and Meryl Streep, easily the greatest actress of this generation. Not bad for a lad from Australia, whose main claim to fame was a tiny weekday soap opera called Home & Away. While I’m loathe to call The Giver Thwaites’ breakout film – I think that title belongs to The Signal, a film you really should check out – this one is perhaps his most mainstream leading role to date, and one that calls into question his ability to actually shoulder a major studio film such as this. Is The Giver a gift to audiences, or is it something we should keep the receipt for, and return to the store as soon as possible?


September 19, 2014

Movie Review – Oklahoma!

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

Director :  Fred Zinnemann
Year Of Release :   1955
Principal Cast :   Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Gene Nelson, Gloria Graham, Charlotte Greenwood, Rod Steiger, Eddie Albert, James Whitmore, Barbara Lawrence, Jay C Flippen.
Approx Running Time :   145 Minutes
Synopsis:   A young cowboy woos a young ranch-girl, competing for her affections from a thuggish, oafish brute. Singing and dancing accompany all this.
What we think :   Aww shucks, gee-willikers, boy-howdy: Oklahoma! is a squeeze-bowl of good ol’ Americana, catchy tunes and wonderful cinematography. The R&H musical takes flight in this dazzling, lavish, brilliantly executed example of the Hollywood musical genre done right, with solid leading performances, nice ensemble work, and some terrific visual motifs threaded throughout. Like a surrey with a fringe on top, Oklahoma! is textured with standout production value that serves to frame this catchy, whistle-ready soundtrack and delightfully uplifting (if paper-thin) story.


So…. much…. gingham.

 It’s such a shame that Hollywood musicals are pretty much non-existent these days. Aside from a few notable exceptions – Moulin Rouge, Dreamgirls, and Chicago – the era of all-singin’, all-dancin’ musical numbers have long since passed, and that’s really a shame. Modern audiences can’t seem to accept the idea of their favorite stars breaking out into song mid-scene, and regard this kitschy conceit as something of a fuddy-duddy concept, almost an embarrassment to sit through. Notably, however, it’s still acceptable in animated films, just not in live-action. It’s easier to accept cartoon fish that burst into song, but apparently Bruce Willis should just keep his trap shut? Back in the 60’s, and even the late 50’s, the musical film was king – Oklahoma! was one of the early examples of the genre’s resurgence as a mainstream idea, and the genre really hit its heights during the 60’s. By today’s standards, Oklahoma! is fairly trite, and almost painfully saccharine, but as an example of musical cinema it delivers several knockout punches. Based on the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s stage play of the same name, Oklahoma! features a simple story, some white-toothed corn-chewing leading characters, and a propensity for an inability to use the past tense (“knowed” instead of “knew” etc), and although one might call it “quaint” today, there’s something about all that gee-whizz gosh-darnit philosophizing that sticks right in the heart.


September 17, 2014

Movie Review – Godzilla (2014)

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

Director : Gareth Edwards
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Richard T Jones, Carson Bolde.
Approx Running Time : 123 Minutes
Synopsis:  When a giant radiation-powered monster escapes containment in Japan, another, equally powerful monster, arises to combat the threat.
What we think :  While the human characters offer little depth or development, the suspense and action Godzilla’s 2014 iteration unleashes makes this a roller-coaster thrill-ride delivering destruction and monsters on a scale so massive it requires a bigger screen just to capture it all. Finally, the stench of ’97’s ‘Zilla is laid to rest, with Edwards making restitution for past hubris with a fantasy sci-fi opus that delivers the entertainment goods.


The king of the monsters has yet to be usurped.

Hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years since the team of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin all but eviscerated the Godzilla franchise with their loud, bombastic, utterly American take on the famous monster. That effort, a risible affair beset by terrible casting, horrid plot twists and a script carved from three forests, all but killed any chance the famous Japanese creature had from taking a mainstream foothold in the US, or anywhere else in the West for that matter. Thankfully, the passage of time (and an improvement in visual computer effects!) has allowed Hollywood to have one more go at getting the Big Z right: Godzilla, the 2014 edition, helmed by Monsters director Gareth Edwards, is big in budget, has a decent cast (although one shouldn’t expect much “character development” from a film where the star is a giant mutated lizard, right?) and by all accounts has done a markedly better job of delivering on its promise than the 1998 ‘Zilla ever did. Considering the legacy Godzilla has around the globe, from its foundational appearance in 1954 to today, Edwards and his team had to deliver a more truthful examination of the Giant Monster Movie than had been attempted to this point: is Godzilla’s 60th anniversary appearance worth the foot-stomping, battle-cry hue-and-din the trailers made us expect? Or is this second Hollywood go-round just another mediocre summer blockbuster, empty and worthless once the dust has cleared?


September 15, 2014

Vale – Sir Donald Sinden

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 10:14 am
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Sir Donald Sinden – 1923-2014
Photograph (C) 2010 Patrick Baldwin

Acclaimed British stage, radio, television and film actor, Sir Donald Sinden, has passed away.


Movie Review – Mr Peabody & Sherman

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

Director :  Rob Minkoff
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Allison Janney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton, Zach Callison, Dennis Haysbert, Mel Brooks, Lake Bell, Jess Harnell, Tom McGrath.
Approx Running Time :   92 Minutes
Synopsis:   Mr Peabody and his adpoted son Sherman must travel through time to prevent the destruction of our galaxy and an angry Adpotion Agency lady from removing Sherman from Peabody’s custody.
What we think :   Solid animated film delivers the required laughs, energy and action to keep kids occupied, adults entertained and the wheels of Hollywood greased. Hardly a stand-out classic, or indeed warranting excessive re-watching, but worth a look for a throwback to the original cartoon series.


It’s all about the WABAC.

Weirdly, my childhood must have missed this one. Apparently, Mr Peabody & Sherman is based on a cartoon from the 60’s, one which was inserted into The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show (which was a cartoon I never got into, with it’s middling screenings in 80’s Australian regional television). Without that baggage, I wondered if I’d find the film as enjoyable as I probably should – it’s definitely a film for kids, although adults will enjoy the mild humor and vague (very vague) inappropriate sexual propositions – and whether it’s a film for fans of the original series. Mr Peabody & Sherman’s bright, shiny exterior had a fair challenge ahead: it had to compete with the multitude of other talking-animal-animated-kids-films on the market today, and even with it’s lineage stretching back well before Hollywood’s pop-culture chum bucket mined it for modern “updating”, the film’s cross-generational appeal surely had to be limited. The kids watching today probably have no idea about the ancestry of this film, while the adults who do would more likely give this a casual view, rather than make it a must-see event. With its canine lead and angular humanoid companion design, Mr Peabody & Sherman needed to deliver; so does it? Or, like a good doggy bone, does it need to be buried in the back garden where noone can find it?


September 12, 2014

Movie Review – Draft Day

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

Director :  Ivan Reitman
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Chadwick Boseman, Rosanna Arquette, Sam Elliot, Ellen Burstyn, Terry Crews, Arian Foster, Griffin Newman, Patrick St Esprit, Chi McBride, Kevin Dunn, Sean Combs, Josh Pence.
Approx Running Time :  110 Minutes
Synopsis:    The General Manager of the Cleveland Browns football team must balance his personal life with the business of recruiting the best talent possible during the key NFL trade period – draft day.
What we think :  Costner delivers a heartfelt performance in this near-indecipherable football-talk film, a film devoid of any depth (and actually nearly condoning assault and battery charges as a part of the lifestyle) in this NFL-sanctioned love-letter to big business. Although I had no idea was was going on most of the time (especially with the football-y specifics, because nobody cares about the NFL outside of America, do they?) the passion with which the film delivers its genteel message is noticeable and tangible. Hardly a classic, but worth a look for fans of American football.


 From the director of Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop and Stripes comes a film about….. the NFL Draft.

Okay, so I can admit to not knowing a thing about American football (Gridiron to my Aussie readers) other than what I’ve seen through the lens of Hollywood’s fascination with the sport. With bizarre player positions, weird defense/offense sub-teams and rules that make no sense whatsoever, the fact that the Superbowl, the NFL’s “Oscars”, if you will, is as successful as it is, is perhaps testament to clever marketing more than it is about the actual game. Yeah, I’m not knowledgeable about the NFL or its format, which probably makes me the least qualified person to determine the accuracy or technical proficiency of this film – Draft Day is centered almost completely around the televised drafting of potential NFL players into teams, held on a single day in New York City. I can also admit that a lot of Draft Day went right over my head; the language of American Football is utterly foreign to me in terms of plays, team structure or even the nature of the draft itself, so I was relying on the film to “fill in the blanks” for those of you in similar positions to myself. After all – weird as this is – not everyone follows the NFL. Draft Day’s particular genre aside, is it a worthwhile sports film, or is would it be best served spending time on the bench? Costner’s film choices have ranged from great to terrible across his career, so the fact it stars him isn’t an absolute guarantee of “greatness”; but he’s generally solid even in the dreck.


September 11, 2014

Vale – Richard Kiel

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 10:32 am
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Richard Kiel – 1939-2014

Iconic James Bond Villain, Richard Kiel, has passed away.


September 10, 2014

Movie Review – Expendables 3, The

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

Director :  Patrick Hughes
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz, Glen Powell, Robert Davi, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Approx Running Time :  126 Minutes
Synopsis:    The Expendables are back in action to thwart the plans of a former ally-turned-arms-dealer, as he attempts to finally defeat the team once and for all.
What we think :  Incomprehensibly loud and obnoxious, the third Expendables movie delivers more of the same, only with slightly less blood. If you’ve enjoyed the franchise this far, this one won’t disappoint; Stallone and Co deliver another blast of rock-choppy gunplay and chest beating machismo, delighting in the pure idiocy of it all while having a great time. Ex 3 isn’t a great film – hell, by any standards it’s utter crap – but it does exactly what it says on the box.


Slam-bang wham. Kapow.

Stallone’s Expendables franchise was one of those fanboy wet-dream projects that came along at just the right time. For action fans, the idea of casting some of the 80’s and 90’s biggest names in the genre together in one film satisfied the salacious blood-sport dream long thought impossible. For a while, Stallone had languished in cinema purgatory, until re-appropriating his worn-out image with a reboot of Rambo and Rocky. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to the big screen after a long lay-off governing California. Most of the other stars, excluding Jason Statham, hadn’t had a major hit (or any kind of success) in the best part of a decade or more. With its brand of muscular machismo and the throwback to bloody days of 80’s carnage, The Expendables touched the zeitgeist for rose-colored reminiscence of a simpler time, before our heroes got all weird and angsty. The sequel (the inexplicably uninteresting title of Expendables 2) delivered more, only louder and sillier (although equally as fun), and so the inevitable threequel was destined to try and go even further in testosterone-fueled gratuity and inanity. Then word came that E3 would be aiming at a more family-friendly PG13 rating, as different from the first two films’ R rating – something franchise fans were against. The lack of an “edge” with a PG13 rating would mean much of what made the first two installments successful might not be possible with a third, leaving some to ask whether the franchise was fast becoming redundant against the slew of similarly PC-friendly action films released every week.


September 8, 2014

Movie Review – Locke

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

Director :  Steven Knight
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast : Tom Hardy, Voices of Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland, Bill Milner, Danny Webb, Alice Lowe, Silas Carson, Lee Ross, Kirsty Dillon.
Approx Running Time :   84 Minutes
Synopsis:   Concrete laborer Ivan Locke diverts his life off-course during an eventful drive to the hospital, where a former lover is – well….. that would be spoiling things.
What we think :   Sparse dramatic film is given effortless heft by a commanding performance by Tom Hardy, alone and only rebounding off voices through his car-phone. It looks great, and ostensibly plays well with the art-house crowd, but with its iffy story premise there’s plenty of wobble in this one. Hardy aside, Locke’s mediocre; watch once, but that’s about it.


Locke Down(er)

Tom Hardy’s superstar status is rising; star turns in The Dark Knight Rises, the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road, and multiple supporting roles in films like Inception,Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Layer Cake and Lawless, have kept him in the eye-line of producers and directors alike. His appeal with the public is perhaps one of mild curiosity – I’ve yet to see him utterly headline a mainstream blockbusting film, but Locke is certainly one that’ll not do him any harm at all. Hardy carries the entire film; he’s the only actor on the screen, driving his car, and aside from his conversations with people over the phone (who we never see), he doesn’t actually interact with anyone other than himself. It’s a performance that required intensity, nuance and sincerity of character, and the entire film hangs on Hardy nailing it. Like many a “man in a box” film before it, the film’s tension, its momentum (ha!) and drive (ha ha!) are derived from what emotional heft Hardy can bring to his character and scenario; does Locke stack up, or does it steer itself into average and stop there?


September 5, 2014

Movie Review – Divergent

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

Director :  Neil Burger
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jai Courtney, Ashley Judd, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Ben Lloyd-Hughes.
Approx Running Time :   139 Minutes
Synopsis:  In a dystopian future, society has split into five differing “factions”, each with their own unique focus. One girl discovers that she’s “divergent”, not fitting into any of the five factions and thus creating a problem for the ruling class.
What we think : Divergent borders on terrible,  thanks to iffy scripting and a prerequisite to adhere to the PG sensibility of its Young Adult tone, but is rescued (barely) by charismatic leading performances from Shailene Woodley (who seems suspiciously similar to The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence for my liking) and co-star Theo James (who might as well be listed as Man Hunk #2 for all his character registers with the audience). While it offers some tantalizing concepts and delivers plenty of typically apocryphal futurism  (seriously, why can’t we all just get along?), Divergent never really delivers, and remains standing wistfully in the shadows of its much more successful predecessors.


The world could do without this Hunger Games clone.

I don’t know about you, but the glut of “young hero/heroine trying to change the fabric of a society which treads on human freedom” routine is starting to get very old. I guess with the success of The Hunger Games (and the lack of new Twilight) the world is crying out for more Young Adult fiction to be transmogrified into film – not. Honestly, the shadow of that much more iconic franchise looms large over Divergent, a shadow the film never quite escapes, limping across the finish line at the end of some two hours and change of mild romance, inadequate action and an honest, menacing performance from chief villain Kate Winslet. The target audience for Divergent will probably lap up all the film has to offer about repression, conforming and rebellion (because all teens want to explore those aspects of themselves, apparently), and no doubt drive the box office for this thing into inevitable sequel world, but as hard pressed as I was to try and enjoy it all, in the end I just felt bored. Divergent skips digging into the human condition with any sense of meaningful exploration, content to skid along on its teen-centric conflict and sense of competitiveness to succeed (in fact, the film’s opening half is almost identical in narrative aesthetic to The Hunger Games to the point I had to check the label on my ticket to make sure I was watching the right film!) and never really blazing its own trail.


Vale – Joan Rivers

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:00 am
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Joan Rivers – 1933-2014

Comedienne, actress, producer, writer and commentator Joan Rivers has passed away.


September 4, 2014

Vale – Gottfried John

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:13 pm
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Gottfried John – 1942-2014

German actor, and noted James Bond villain during the Pierce Brosnan era, Gottfried John, as passed away.


September 3, 2014

Movie Review – Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie

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

Director :   Ben Kellett
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Brendan O’Carroll, Nick Nevern, Eilish O’Carroll, Paddy Houlihan, Jennifer Gibney, Danny O’Carroll, Dermot Crowley, Robert Bathurst, Dermot O’Neill, Fiona O’Carroll, Simon Delaney, Chris Patrick-Simpson, Keith Duffy, Martin Delaney, Daithi O’Carroll, Rory Cowan, Gary Hollywood, Pat Shields, Amanda Woods, Sorcha Cusack.
Approx Running Time :   94 Minutes
Synopsis:   Martiarchal Mrs Brown finds her fruit-n-veg stall at a Dublin street market under threat, as well as being up for millions in a tax payment long overdue.
What we think :  Leaden, uneven, lacking in vitality and ultimately dying horribly on-screen, the fabulously funny Mrs Brown’s Boys doesn’t make the transition from the small screen the way it might have hoped. Many of the jokes don’t work – especially O’Carroll’s somewhat racist caricature of an Asian sensei training a bunch of blind ninja (which is a stupid as it sounds) – and I think even fans of this hugely popular franchise might find themselves scratching their heads in bemusement more than hilarity.


D’readfully unfunny.

For many, Mrs Brown remains the inexplicably popular matriarch of her self-titled television program, a man-in-drag one-joke wonder that has gone from strength to strength based on the success of not only a live stage show, but (as of this review) 3 television series from the BBC. Brendan O’Carroll, the creator and the guy in a dress who performs as Mrs Brown, brings his bawdy, oft-crude sense of humor from the small screen confines of a Glasgow studio to the wide-screen local flavor of Dublin, Ireland, where the series is actually set. Usually crass, often derivative, sometimes predictable, the film version of Mrs Brown doesn’t exactly offer much respite from the smattering of sight gags and entendre-laden dialog as it barrels along on whatever trajectory the director – Ben Kellett – decided on any given day. If you’re a fan of Mrs Brown’s Boys, there’s almost nothing that will prevent you from checking this thing out, and I can spoil it a little if I say that non-fans will find little here to endear itself to them – other than confusion – so approach this film with all the requisite caution you would were you to stumble upon the brash, colloquial television series.


September 1, 2014

Movie Review – Under The Skin (2013)

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

Director :   Jonathan Glazer
Year Of Release :  2013
Principal Cast :  Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Joe Szula, Krystof Hadek, Paul Brannigan, Adam Pearson, Michael Moreland, Dave Acton, Jessica Mance.
Approx Running Time :   108 Minutes
Synopsis:   An alien, in the form of a human woman, seduces men off the streets of Glasgow.
What we think :   Haunting, weird, obscure, beautiful, boring; all words used to describe Under The Skin, and all of them entirely accurate. Casual cinema audiences will scoff at the merits of Jonathan Glazer’s film aside from a seeing the beautiful Johannson nude, while fans of art-house cinema will perhaps cheer this one to the rafters. In my opinion, dressing a film up like it’s some weird, mad, grungy sci-fi opus when it’s just a dude getting his rocks off on being able to shoot Scarlett Johannson without clothes on, is just cheating. This film is a bore.


Can I get those last two hours back, please?

I just…. struggled with this one.  I’m not the most appreciative film critic going around, mainly because I prefer films with a structure and, well, a point, but I like to keep myself open to new experiences and ideas, of which Under the Skin represents perhaps the most brain-meltingly intriguing variety of “new experience”. That said, I really found Under The Skin tough going. Perhaps it’s my indoctrination into the Hollywood “normal”, appreciating films with some kind of structure, but when film-makers take away that structure, I often find myself hard-pushed to appreciate a film simply for its random, disparate visual cues. It’s fair to say that Under The Skin isn’t exactly a normal film, in terms of characters, story and a point, and although I definitely struggled with what I should have been feeling towards it, there’s absolutely nothing you’ve ever seen that’ll come close to its eerie beauty.


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