August 29, 2014

Movie Review – Champagne (1928)

Filed under: Alfred Hitchcock Collection,Hitchcock's British Films — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am

Champagne 1928 Review Logo Movie Review   Champagne  (1928)

- Summary -

Director :   Alfred Hitchcock
Year Of Release :  1928
Principal Cast :   Betty Balfour, Gordon Harker, Jean Bradin, Ferdinand Von Alten, Fanny Wright. Uncredited Cast: Alexander D’Arcy, Vivian Gibson, Clifford Heatherley, Claude Hulbert.
Approx Running Time :  85 Minutes
Synopsis:  A young woman is forced to get a job after her father tells her he’s lost all their money.
What we think : Frothy comedy entry for Hitchcock is just a delight of a thing, a frivolous, undemanding affair that – if one was a cynic – might be considered too lite-weight for the master’s oeuvre. Personally, I found this film a real blast, if not for the characters (who are fairly pedestrian, and only really elevated by the cast’s performances) then for Hitch’s visual flair. Most definitely one of the more amusing silent films I’ve seen.

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Pop the cork, folks.

Alfred Hitchcock’s seventh feature as director, co-writing the screenplay based on a story by Walter Mycroft, is ostensibly a comedy – the first of Hitch’s career – marking a departure from the thrillers he’d carved a niche with during the early 20′s. At the time, critics were divided about Champagne’s merits; technical prowess and visual style couldn’t trump an apparent lack of quality story, although exactly what kind of story you’d find in a comedy other than “light and frothy” eludes me. Hitchcock himself was later quoted as saying Champagne was ” [a] film [with] no story to tell”, so even in the eyes of the master it didn’t stack up to some of his later work. The film’s foundation couldn’t have been more solid, with the cast including popular silent film actress Betty Balfour, noted British actor Gordon Harker, and French thespian Jean Bardin, as Betty’s love interest; so what about Champagne could make Hitchcock so dismissive of one of his early directorial efforts?

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August 27, 2014

Movie Review – Need For Speed

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

Need For Speed Review Logo Movie Review   Need For Speed

- Summary -

Director :  Scott Waugh
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott “Kid” Mescudi, Ramon Rodriguez, Rami Malek, Michael Keaton, Dakota Johnson, Harrison Gilbertson.
Approx Running Time :   130 Minutes
Synopsis: An ex-con, seeking revenge for a crime he did not commit, engages in an all-in car race against the man who put him in prison.
What we think :  An assault on all that’s holy and good in this world, Need For Speed is a thunderous waste of everyone’s time; yours, mine, the cast and crew of this stinking turd of a thing. From the acting, to the scripting, to the plot and the discombobulating action, Need For Speed is utterly inane, a nonsensical contrivance designed for sound and fury, a little else. Ugh.

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I feel the need.

Films based on computer games are a risky business. In terms of translating the game’s story and visual style to the screen, film-makers have often had hit-and-miss creative success with the genre (and that’s being kind), although in terms of box-office, there’s no denying the market value of such commodity is still well worth a trip to the well. Need For Speed, a film based on the iconic video game series, was probably always going to happen, it was just a question of when. Mining valued franchise IP’s like Need For Speed provide an inbuilt fanbase for the film. And we all know how Resident Evil has gone from strength to strength on the back of some pretty lousy films, so it’s not like a game-movie even needs to be any good, it just has to deliver a cinematic version of what gamers can’t get at home on their X-Boxes.

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August 25, 2014

Vale – Richard Attenborough

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 8:32 am
richard attenborough Vale   Richard Attenborough

Richard Attenborough – 1923-2014

The man who bade us welcome to Jurassic Park in 1993, Lord Richard Attenborough, has passed away.

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Movie Review – Sabotage (2014)

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

Sabotage 2014 Review Logo Movie Review   Sabotage (2014)

- Summary -

Director :  David Ayer
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast : Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Harold Perrineau, Martin Donovan, Max Martini, Gary Grubbs.
Approx Running Time :  109 Minutes
Synopsis:  After they steal $10 million during a drug raid, a group of DEA Agents find themselves the target of a mysterious assassin.
What we think :  Violent, gritty crime thriller delivers on all fronts – except decent characters or a justification for its lapses in logic (a character involved in a firefight inexplicably turns and heads back into the bullets when they could simply have gotten away) – Sabotage is dynamite, bloody action that offers up a one-two punch of crime and retribution. The motivations and characters don’t quite feel legitimately developed, but the overall aesthetic is one of a solid, muscular, adult thriller that eschews frivolity in favor of a crisp, thunderous, razor-sharp perfunctory edge.

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Heavy weapons.

While this review might be about Sabotage, if you haven’t seen director David Ayer’s blistering cop-drama End Of Watch, drop what you’re doing and go check it out. Go on, do it! Right. Welcome back. Sabotage has a fairly high benchmark to live up to. Once again, law enforcement comes in to focus in Ayer’s and co-scripter Skip Woods’ story of betrayal, corruption and carnage, as the Austrian Oak attempts to get his career back onto the “serious drama” track after relatively cheesy fare in the Expendables franchise and The Last Stand. The combustible mix of Ayer’s searing character development, and Arnie’s chisel-jawed screen-iconic-ness, had me salivating at the mere thought of what might transpire in Sabotage, a film filled with weaponry and a scenery-chewing cast (Sam Worthington being no stranger to big-budget films!). Would it – nay, could it – deliver on expectations? Or would it mire itself in the vast shadow of Arnie’s illustrious career and become encumbered with scaffolding up the once legendary screen legend?

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August 22, 2014

Movie Review – Muppets Most Wanted

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

Muppets Most Wanted Review Logo Movie Review   Muppets Most Wanted

- Summary -

Director :   James Bobin
Year Of Release :  2014
Principal Cast :   Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Scooter, Gonzo, Sam the Eagle, Constantine, Walter, Rowlf, Rizzo The Rat, Janice, Animal, The Swedish Chef, et al.
Approx Running Time :   117 Minutes
Synopsis:   The Muppets, now back together, go on a world tour organised by “manager” Dominic Badguy, while Kermit is sent to a Siberian gulag when he’s mistaken for arch criminal Constantine; meanwhile the real Constantine pretends to be Kermit the Frog, and goes about with Badguy trying to steal the Crown Jewels.
What we think :   An hour and three quarters of meta-jokes, slapstick, songs, Hollywood cameos, and that unique brand of zany Muppet humor: what more do you need me to say? Although there’s a weird amount of time spent with the film’s key villains, the sense of fun and humor of 2011′s reboot remains as evident as always in this sequel. A lot of fun, and plenty of laughs.

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Utterly entertational. Is that even a word?

If you ever wanted to see Danny Trejo singing a cabaret number (and if you haven’t, why not?), then have I found the film for you. Muppets Most Wanted, the sequel to 2011′s hugely successful soft reboot of the Muppet franchise, sees the story pick up directly following the saving of the Muppet Theater, only to go on a World Tour at the behest of ingratiating manager Dominic Badguy (it’s pronounced “Badgee”, apparently it’s French). As with most Muppet films (or, frankly, all of them), the story comes second to the opportunity to sneak a gag in, be it within context or – most importantly – utterly meta to the point of ridiculousness. Muppets Most Wanted delivers just that, and probably more, within its lengthy just-under-two-hour running time, as it skewers all manner of genres and subtle film references – the opening five minutes reference not only Oldboy but also Apocalypse Now, obscurely, while in-film references to The Great Escape and The Shawshank Redemption offer some nice laughs – to varying degrees of success. Naturally, the insanity of a Muppet film is aided by copious celebrity cameos, ranging from the excellent (one of Canada’s most successful female divas makes an appearance) to the really average (the aforementioned Danny Trejo has a momentary lapse in judgement by agreeing to sing in a film!), but the mantra of “anything for a laugh” has never been more pronounced than it is with Most Wanted.

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August 21, 2014

Vale – Brian G Hutton

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 10:12 am
brian s hutton 0 Vale   Brian G Hutton

Brian G Hutton – 1935-2014

Film director and actor Brian G Hutton has passed away.

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August 20, 2014

Movie Review – Beauty And The Beast (2014)

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

Beauty And The Beast Review Logo Movie Review   Beauty And The Beast  (2014)

- Summary -

Director :  Christophe Gans
Year Of Release :  2014
Principal Cast : Vincent Cassel, Lea Seydoux, Andre Dussollier, Eduardo Noriega, Myriam Charleins, Sara Giraudeau, Audrey Lamy, Jonathan Demurge, Nicolas Gob, Louka Meliava, Yvonne Catterfeld, Dejan Bucin.
Approx Running Time :  115 Minutes
Synopsis:  The famed story of a young girl and the Beast she falls in love with.
What we think :  As far from Disney as you can imagine, this film version of the classic French story can be reviewed with but a single word: stunning. To say more, would merely limit this film’s magnificence to the bounds of my vocabulary.

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This Beast rocks.

Anyone who knows me well has no doubt heard me claim French cinema to be “moist and sexy” – my experience with film from the European continent isn’t broad, I’ll admit, but the films I have seen shimmer with the look of wet, sultry charm that makes them almost impossible to resist. Christophe Gans, the man who gave us Silent Hill and the weird Mark Dacascos-martial-arts-flick-slash-French-period-piece in Brotherhood Of The Wolf (which isn’t a fantastic film, but worth a look for the cinematography, action and production design!), helms this lavishly mounted, gorgeous looking take on the 18th Century French fairy tale, La belle et la bête, better known to English speakers the world over as The Beauty and The Beast. Anyone who has lived through the last century should be familiar with the story, if not in detail then at least at a cursory level, with Disney’s Oscar nominated animated feature being perhaps the most iconic portrayal in the modern era of this classic fable. So how does this modern version cover off on the story? Does it transcend the Disney singing and dancing to become a successful, iconic film in its own right?

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August 18, 2014

Movie Review – Noah

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

Noah Review Logo Movie Review   Noah

- Summary -

Director :   Darren Aronofsky
Year Of Release :  2014
Principal Cast :  Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winston, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Douglas Booth, Leo McHugh Carroll, Frank Langella, Dakota Goyo, Marton Csokas, Madison Davenport, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, Kevin Durand.
Approx Running Time :  138 Minutes
Synopsis:  God. Ark. Flood. Animals. Noah.
What we think : Heady, concussive attempt to bring the Noah’s Ark story to life, with a gamely led cast doing their best to elevate some uneven and often pedestrian material. The film looks amazing, at the very least. Visually striking, Noah is unfortunately unable to really tap into the divine elements of this early Old Testament story in a way that’s as impactful as it really needs to be. Still, it’s entertaining to a large degree, so there’s that.

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In the beginning, God created Hollywood’s version of the Bible.

Hollywood loves a good biblical epic. While the rise of secularism in society has pretty much made Hollywood staunchly cautious about a film centering on a story from either Testament, occasionally a film like Noah, or The Passion Of The Christ, sneaks through into the mainstream. Noah’s Ark, one of the oldest stories in the Bible, is basically the tale of God hitting reset on humanity – in the time of Noah, people constantly fought, belittled and argued with each other, engaging in all manner of debauchery and depravity for their own pleasure (or pain)….. wait, so….. kinda like us now, right? Ahem. Anyway, God decides to send enough rain to flood the world, and tasks one dude and his family with building an enormous boat, filling it with all manner of animals (except unicorns and dragons, because nobody f@cking likes them, eh?) and sailing on until striking land again, much like Kevin Costner appropriated for Waterworld. We’ve kinda seen a Noah story already this century, with Evan Almighty, although one got the sense through that film that the word of God wasn’t exactly foremost in the minds of the film-makers, especially when a good laugh could be had. No, the story of God wiping us all out doesn’t lend itself to comedy, so naturally if you’re making a film you want to be completely unfunny, you hire two actors who have absolutely zero comedic timing in their repertoire – Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly. Noah, directed by Pi and Requiem For A Dream maestro Darren Aronofsky, is a full-bore biblical epic – albeit without much reference to the core text – that goes for gritty, muddy sensationalism rather than stagey, studio-bound stateliness a la Charlton Heston’s famous descent from the mountain carrying those two “rock” tablets. So is this biblical story one for the ages? Or does it miss the point of the Old Testament story, washing away the reason for the story in pursuit of gleeful destruction and rampant visual effects?

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August 15, 2014

Movie Review – Transcendence

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

Transcendence Review Logo Movie Review   Transcendence

- Summary -

Director :  Wally Pfister
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :   Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Paul Bettany, Clifton Collins, Cory Hardrict, Josh Stewart.
Approx Running Time :   120 Minutes
Synopsis: A dying man transfers his soul into a supercomputer, desperate to live on. When he achieves sentience, he begins to undertake to improve the quality of human life, only his achievements begin to strip humanity of the very thing it desires most – autonomy and self-awareness.
What we think :  A lumbering screenplay and inadequate plot threads bring Transcendence down from the insta-classic it so badly hopes to be. Characters are ill defined, the story snoozes through a turgid second act, and Depp disappears from the screen (figuratively) for about an hour of this movie, leaving audiences scratching their heads as to what, exactly, was the point of it all. Ultimately, a misfire, although you kinda get the sense that the intentions were motivated by a desire for conversation about a future which may yet still come to pass, which should elevate the importance of Transcendence’s overriding premise.

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Hardly transcending.

Is there an actor working today who is as divisive in his career choices as Johnny Depp? Aside from starring in a number of Disney backed mega-projects, such as the enormous turkey reboot of The Lone Ranger, Tim Burton’s CG-fest version of Alice In Wonderland, and a creepy reboot of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Depp’s main poplar franchise remains the inexplicably successful Pirates Of The Caribbean series. When he’s not essaying Jack Sparrow, Depp’s cinematic output has ranged from lethargic to stupid to flat-out idiotic, so one approached Transcendence with a sense of reticence that the notoriously kooky actor would either sink or save cinematographer Wally Pfister’s debut directorial effort. Pfister, better known for lensing films like Inception, The Dark Knight and The Prestige for Christopher Nolan, helms Depp in the lead role, in a futuristic, sci-fi philosophizing jaunt that asks many questions about what constitutes intelligence and “life”.

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August 14, 2014

Movie Review – Bad Words

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

Bad Words Review Logo Movie Review   Bad Words

- Summary -

Director :  Jason Bateman
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Jason Bateman, Katherine Hahn, Allison Janney, Rohan Chand, Philip Baker Hall, Ben Falcone, Judith Hoag, Rachel Harris, Beth Grant, Patricia Belcher.
Approx Running Time :  88 Minutes
Synopsis:  After discovering a loophole allowing him to compete, a grown man takes on the challenge of winning a national, live televised, spelling bee.
What we think :   Jason Bateman’s directorial debut is low-key but terrifically funny, with Bateman leading the charge as the unscrupulously pot-boiled Guy Trilby, a foul mouthed, arrogant, driven man hell-bent on achieving success in the Golden Quill spelling bee. Laugh-out-loud funny and endearing as all hell, Bad Words is – like Guy himself in many ways - a winner.

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Don’t look at me.

I’m not a big one for spelling: frankly, if it wasn’t for spell-checker, this website would probably be damn near unreadable. Or at least less than it is now! One of the most obscure-yet-popular “sport” in America is the good old fashioned spelling bee, competitions to determine who amongst the youngest and brightest has the best vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. Major Bee’s are broadcast on television, not bad for an event where its a bunch of kids standing about spelling words so obscure it’s surprising they even exist. Yet, people are enthralled with it – the Bee’s have become a cutthroat competition across America, the prestige and acknowledgement sought by all manner of wunderkind and their parents. Bad Words, a film directed by, and starring Jason Bateman, is set in and around one of the country’s most prestigious of the Bees, the Golden Quill, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve had so much fun watching one man be such an asshole as Bateman’s character is in this one.

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August 13, 2014

Vale – Lauren Bacall

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 10:31 am
Lauren bacall promo photo Vale   Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall – 1924-2014

Legendary screen actress, and Academy Award nominee, Lauren Bacall, has passed away.

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Movie Review – Bad Boys II

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

Bad Boys II Review Logo Movie Review   Bad Boys II

- Summary -

Director :   Michael Bay
Year Of Release :   2003
Principal Cast :  Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Jordi Molla, Otto Sanchez, John Seda, Peter Stormare, Oleg Taktarov, Michael Shannon, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, Jason Manuel Olazabal, Yul Vasquez, Treva Etienne.
Approx Running Time :   148 Minutes
Synopsis:   Two loose-cannon narcotics cops investigate the flow of ecstasy into Florida.
What we think :  Smith and Lawrence carve a swathe of destruction, carnage and misogyny through the streets and waterways of Miami, while Michael Bay’s adrenaline-fueled camera barely captures the entirety of this film’s “plot”. Filled with loads of “banter” by the two leads, as well as Bay’s penchant for filming women up their skirts, and plenty of brutal gunfights, car chases and explosions, Bad Boys II is lo-fi storytelling with hi-fi money behind it. Extremely violent and utterly irredeemable as a piece of “entertainment”, the sequel to the fairly competent original is dirty, nasty, and utterly trashy. In other words: it’s a Michael Bay film.

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Whatch’a gonna do? Find somewhere else to live, is what.

Michael Bay’s fifth film as director re-teamed Hollywood A-lister Will Smith with fellow “comedian” Martin Lawrence – I use the term with emphasis because I’m still unconvinced at Lawrence’s comedic skills actually being something a normal person might make a living off – for the sequel to the 1995 out-of-the-box smash hit, Bad Boys. With Bad Boys II, Bay channeled all his rampant sexualization of women, his fetish for wanton destruction and carnage, and off-kilter humor into what was, for him, a smaller film than those he’d done to that point. Coming off a box-office hit (but critical turkey) with Pearl Harbor, after three consecutive action hits in Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon, Bay’s return to the Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey show felt a little like he’d come full circle – it was where his career began, and thus the sequel felt a little like a tip-of-the-hat to the fans, the audiences who’d made him a (relative) household name. Bad Boys II is a bigger, badder, meaner, slicker sequel in every way, the kind borne of character familiarity and perhaps a sense of pushing the envelope beyond breaking point; while Smith was churning out box-office gold with almost every film he appeared in, Lawrence’s career to this point involved box-office poison like Blue Streak, Big Momma’s House, and the precursor to stupid medieval spoof movies like Your Highness, in Black Knight, all of which were rightly condemned as utter shit. Lawrence needed a big hit to get back into Hollywood’s good graces – and Bad Boys II was his meal-ticket. With Bay behind the camera, Will Smith once again charming the ladies and everyone else with his debonair swagger, and a budget set to cater for massive pyrotechnics and action sequences, would Bad Boys II recapture the glory of those halcyon days of the mid-90′s, or would it be yet another drubbing by critics at the hands of a director known for his lack of subtlety and restraint?

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August 12, 2014

Vale – Joe Viskocil

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 1:03 pm
joe viskocil 354459 Vale   Joe Viskocil

Joe Viskocil – 1952-2014

Academy Award winning Hollywood special effects artist, Joe Viskocil, has passed away.

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Vale – Robin Williams

Filed under: Obituary — Rodney Twelftree @ 9:02 am
Robin Williams 2011a 2 Vale   Robin Williams

Robin Williams – 1951-2014

Academy Award winning actor and comedian Robin Williams has passed away.

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Movie Review – A Bug’s Life

Filed under: Movie Review,Walt Disney Collection — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am

A Bugs Life Review Logo v5.1 Movie Review   A Bugs Life

- Summary -

Director :  John Lasseter
Year Of Release :    1998
Principal Cast :  Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Spacey, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, David Hyde Pierce, Joe Ranft, Denis Leary, Jonathan Harris, Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, John Ratzenberger, Brad Garrett, Roddy McDowell.
Approx Running Time :   96 Minutes
Synopsis:  When his colony is constantly threatened by a horde of nasty grasshoppers, one lone ant tries to find help in the form of warrior ants.
What we think :  Pixar’s second feature shows no signs of sophomore blues, with a ripping yarn and delightful characters encased in some showstopping animation. A Bug’s Life is an instant classic.

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Following up after Toy Story was always going to be the danger film for Pixar. Toy Story had raked in the cash, been the talk of Hollywood for ages, and set the bar for future efforts. In most cases, the pressure to produce a film worthy of following Toy Story would have crippled most studios and creators. Not so Pixar. Thankfully, the next film they made was just as delightful, almost whimsical, and came out here in Australia just a few short months after Antz.

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