April 16, 2014

Movie Review – Grand Piano

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

Grand Piano Review Logo Movie Review   Grand Piano

- 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

The Human Race Review Logo Movie Review   Human Race, The

- 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

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 Review Logo Movie Review   Nymphomaniac, Volume I

- 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

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

Hotel Transylvania Review Logo Movie Review   Hotel Transylvania

- 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
mary anderson Vale   Mary Anderson

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
472px Mickey Rooney still Vale   Mickey Rooney

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

The Host 2013 Review Logo Movie Review   Host, The  (2013)

- 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

Before Midnight Review Logo Movie Review   Before Midnight

- 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

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

Before Sunset Review Logo Movie Review   Before Sunset

- 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

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

Before Sunrise Review Logo Movie Review   Before Sunrise

- 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

Filed under: From the Editor — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am

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

Lawrence of Arabia Review Logo v2 Movie Review   Lawrence Of Arabia

- 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

Dead Poets Society Review Logo Movie Review   Dead Poets Society

- 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.

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 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

Mandela Long Walk To Freedom Review Logo Movie Review   Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

- 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.

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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

A Single Shot Review Logo Movie Review   A Single Shot

- 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

The Couselor Review Logo Movie Review   Counselor, The

- 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
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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Movie Review – Foolish Wives

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

Foolish Wives Review Logo Movie Review   Foolish Wives

- Summary -

Director :   Erich von Stroheim
Year Of Release :  1922
Principal Cast :  Rudolph Christians, Miss DuPont, Maude George, Mae Busch, Erich von Stroheim, Cesare Gravina, Malvina Polo.
Approx Running Time :   140 Minutes (BluRay Release)
Synopsis: A conniving conman pretends to be a Count to fleece silly women from their money.
What we think :  A film made in 1922, about to broach its centenary, cannot withstand the critical eye of modernity, and it shouldn’t have to. Made in the period between the two World Wars, and featuring the 20′s equivalent of Stanley Kubrick in von Stroheim – who wrote, directed and starred in this thing – Foolish Wives attempts to be a clever sex melodrama; in modern context, it’s as sexy as sushi and as melodramatic as three rutting goats, but there’s an old-world charm and high-art sense of style that cannot be missed. I’m not a student of this cinematic vintage, and were I one I guess I’d find a lot more to like, but to my post-Y2K-millenial eyes there’s a whole lot of nothing going on here.

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Ego runs rampant.

The opening text (on the disc-release format) of Foolish Wives recounts the problematic history the film has had throughout the nearly 100 years it’s been around. To steal from the text itself, Foolish Wives (Erich von Stroheim’s third directorial effort) ran at a massive twenty-one reels upon its completion – von Stroheim intended the film to be cut in half and shown over consecutive evenings, according to the info I dug up online. The studio, Universal Pictures, refused this idea, and cut out over five reels of footage prior to release. A later version, cut in half yet again – to seven reels total – meant the film ran at about 117 minutes, a brief interlude for a movie intended to be some kind of monumental epic. The version I watched, a restoration version clocking in at an almighty 2 hours and 20 minutes (remember, this was a silent film, made in 1922, so length came at considerable cost), remains now the most complete version of the original cut von Stroheim completed, although it must be said that even at 2 hours and change, there’s little redeeming value in a film this long, featuring this little story.

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March 23, 2014

Movie Review – Oldboy (2013)

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

Oldboy 2013 Review Logo Movie Review   Oldboy (2013)

- Summary -

Director :  Spike Lee
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen,Samuel L Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Pom Klementieff, James Ransome, Max Casella, Lance Reddick.
Approx Running Time :  105 minutes
Synopsis:  A man, imprisoned for 20 years, seeks revenge on whoever did this to him; he’s led on a chase to unravel a mystery which, if unsolved, will lead to the death of his long-adopted daughter.
What we think : Cumbersome, insipid, lacking in texture or good taste, Oldboy’s 2013 remake treads much the same territory as the original, only without the subtlety, the class, or the wit. Spike Lee’s hack-job of a film is utterly lacking in story depth, character development or logic, and a dire performance from Sharlto Copley unravels this turd long before it reaches its “shocking” climax. Ugh.

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 Olderboy than before.

And so the long line of remake-itis has even scooped the once-great Spike Lee into the eddy, with this misanthropic remake of the original Korean classic, Oldboy, one of the most shocking, amazing films I’ve ever seen. Having now seen the original, there’s little chance the “updated” version, made for dimwitted American audiences who hate reading subtitles (or watching poorly lip-synced dubbing), will contain the same visceral gut-punch Park Chan-wook’s version contained, but in the interests of completing the task of reviewing both, I figured that Spike might just have one or two of his own surprises within it. Surely, right? This is Spike Lee, the groundbreaking, cult film director who never sticks to the mainstream (excepting Inside Man, his most mainstream film yet) and who always seems to want to raise the middle finger up to the suits with the money. Oldboy 2.0, which is the name I’m giving this slick, bloody production, retells the same story as before, although with a few minor modifications to make it palatable to Western audiences – namely, speaking in English. Now, considering the original Oldboy was a bona fide classic, and remains a defining film in my movie-watching career, and also considering most remakes are never – repeat, never – able to recapture that magic, is this American Oldboy worthy of the title even in the slightest? Or, is it another remake they can quite happily throw onto the pile of junk cinema Hollywood spews forth every year, bereft of creative drive and lacking heart and soul?

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March 22, 2014

Movie Review – Last Vegas

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

Last Vegas Review Logo Movie Review   Last Vegas

- Summary -

Director :  Jon Turteltaub
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenbergen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Roger Bart, Joanna Gleason, Michael Ealey, Bre Blair.
Approx Running Time :   105 Minutes
Synopsis:   Four old friends reunite in Las Vegas for a bachelor party, although an old grudge and some unfinished business
What we think :   Last Vegas is what might happen if you take the cast from The Hangover movies and wait until they’re old and wrinkly. The cast keep things ticking along, the story bounces between middling dramatic fare and some nice comedic moments, and the glitz and glamor of Vegas has never seemed so crisp and brightly hued. Last Vegas is thoroughly forgettable comedy with no bite (perhaps it lost its dentures somewhere?) but offers a pleasantly diverting 100+ minutes of watching Douglas, Freeman, Kline and DeNiro spar for the laughs.

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What happens in Vegas, should stay in Vegas.

Last Vegas is the kind of movie that just goes to prove you can’t keep old film stars from taking a paycheck from time to time. With almost zero redeeming quality other than simply to elicit the most minor guffaws and wry smiles as a group of seniors embark on a holiday in America’s party capital, Last Vegas is genuinely pop-corn friendly entertainment at its most basic. Led by four extremely likeable stars in Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, Last Vegas has substantial echoes of those horrible Hangover movies; although here it’s party hard with colostomy bags. The old “senior citizens venture into territory best left to the young folk” routine is material requiring something fresh these days – it’s a cinema trope which has been done to death (and will probably continue to be) – so does Last Vegas bring anything new to the table, or is it – like so many others – a laugh-free zone filled with dubious gambling themes and copious bikini-clad female shots?

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