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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Film No. 63 (2016) Joe Cinque's Consolation October 16th.

Film No. 63 (2016) October 16th.  4.00 PM LUNA Leederville.

"Anyone can have bad luck when they're looking for love" (the prophetic words of Joe (Jerome Meyer) during a conversation early in his relationship with girlfriend Anu (Maggie Naouri).

Helen Garner is surely an Australian national treasure. Her contribution to the nation's conscience using gentle fluid tones is extraordinary. Joe Cinque's Consolation is precisely that, a manuscript which hopefully pricks at the consciousness of a nation. It paints the picture of a nice guy having his life extinguished by someone he loves who's placed a spell on him, a spell he was unable to control.  Enter Soliris Dounoukos, a film director, who cared enough to make a cinematic interpretation of Garner's words.

The film is clunky but important. Dounoukos is a first time film maker so Consolation is conservative in approach. He does not delve into the court caseflicking backwards and forwards from evidence to flashbacks, instead his focus is on Anu Singh (Maggie Naouri) and her erratic, and yet charismatic behaviour leading up to Joe's (Jerome Meyer) death. He also highlights, more frighteningly, the dereliction of responsibility shown by those who knew what was going on, yet did nothing.

Joe Cinque's Consolation is no Hitchcock Mystery but it has elements of his genius. The issue is, this is a true life crime committed in the most conservative of environments, Australia's capital Canberra. All of the players are still alive, except Joe, so many of the scenes are close to the truth. The dinner party enactments are directed as described by some of those who where present. It is difficult to conceive that these intelligent people allowed Singh to do as she did.

The real consolation for Joe lands in the hands of his parents. These beautiful people (played exquisitely by Gia Carides and Tony Nikolakopoulos and seen only briefly) have been left heart-broken. Their lives were damaged because their son cared too much for his own good. Every performance is riveting. More importantly the film leaves another tribute, as only the arts can do, to the life of Joe Cinque. As a film purist you'll be disappointed, as a human being you'll be spellbound, angry, reflective and finally respectful. 9GUMS.         

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Film No. 62 (2016) Elle October 13th.

Film No. 62 (2016) October 11th.  6.45 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"The real danger, Michelle, is you" (Husband to wife conversation).

Paul Verhoeven is a gifted film maker. Robocop, Starship Troopers and Basic Instinct are testament to his versatility and talent. Elle fits nicely with Verhoeven's contributions to the thriller genre in a not too disimilar style to the way Basic Instinct exploded onto world wide screens in 1992. Elle is a better film than B.I. with a far more twisted, self-centred main character than Stone's Catherine Trammel; Michelle, played by Isabelle Huppert. Elle won't however have the same Box Office impact as B.I.

Michelle is a "piece of work". She is raped in her own home one evening and she decides there is but one way to respond; to take matters into ones own hands. Verhoeven from here gives us a stylized thriller which revolves entirely around the complex axis of Huppert's Michelle.

There are holes in Elle, as there are holes in all noir films. Red herrings of the obvious kind abound throughout but they are all carried off with style and an ounce of "tongue in cheek". Michelle has money and is an astute business owner of a successful IT games development company. One wonders if fixation with the unreal world has flowed into her own reality. At home she becomes fixated with her cat, then with neighbour Patrick (Charles Berling) a handsome distraction.

Huppert is worth the price of a ticket for Elle. Michelle is easy to dislike as she treats family, friends and employees as pawns in her thirst  to get whatever it is she wants. The ease with which we acquire this dislike is testament to Huppert's brilliance. The cruel way she treats her mother is a particular highlight. In short, Elle is flawed but Huppert is flawless. 8GUMS.      

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Film No. 60 (2016) The Girl On The Train October 5th.

Film No. 60 (2016) October 5th.  6.30 PM Greater Union Event Cinema, Innaloo.

"I don't remember, there's some time missing" (Rachel (Emily Blunt) explains where she was in the hours a woman goes missing).

The book of the same name by Paula Hawkings is a rollicking good read. A film of this popular book was inevitable and in the vein of Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train is a clever re-interpretation of the novel. I say clever because sociologically women read more than men and they are also more prolific film goers. This combination fits nicely with producers, so long as the film stays true to the narrative and has a uniquely shot surreal quality, audiences will flock. 

The first adjustment for those who loved the book will be adapting your images of the passing English scenery on the train trips to London. Tate Taylor's version is shot in leafy North Eastern U.S. This may be off-putting for some. Next is the casting of Emily Blunt as the dowdy Rachael. Blunt does a good job of playing an alcohol dependent misfit struggling with life through intoxicated perceptions of reality. The extended close-ups and slow-mo visuals capture some of the essence of the liquid prose of Hawking's novel.

The Girl on the Train is a closed circuit when it comes to characters and location. Basically there is Rachel, her ex, Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna, their nanny Megan (Haley Bennett) and her partner Scott (Luke Evans) playing out their lives in their abodes adjacent to the all important train-line. Hitchcock was the master of these packaged narratives; this film has a little of Rear Window about it. Unfortunately Tate can't tighten the grip of tension needed in the all important final stanza to make the film as memorable as the book.

It is inevitable that there will be comparisons when it comes to the retelling of a book on the screen, especially when the genre of choice is the thriller. That is always the risk taken by production houses. The Girl on the Train is a serviceable redepiction. It is not as thrilling as it could be, Gone Girl is a far more tense film. There I go again, comparing. My image of Rachel in the book comes close to Blunt's wide-eyed work. Generally though, I have reservations but I doubt my view will affect the Box Office.  7GUMS.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Film No. 59 (2016) Snowden October 4th.

Film No. 59 (2016) October 4th.  1.10 PM LUNA SX Fremantle.

"Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honour you can give an American" (A quote from the real Ed Snowden during a Skpyed Q & A with a quorum of U.S. Grad. students in 2014).

Oliver Stone steps up to the biographical feature film making plate once a again, after a lengthy absence, to give us Snowden. His bio's from the 90's are legendary; The Doors (1991), J.F.K. (1991)and Nixon (1995) represent his best efforts. Snowden is both enjoyable and something of a disappointment. If it wasn't in the hands of Stone I wouldn't have used the term disappointment; I was simply surprised this usually hard hitting director incorporated some incongruous scenes and characters. More on that later.

Unless one has been living under a rock over the last 5 years, Ed Snowden is to whistle blowing what Usain Bolt is to world athletics. Snowden "blabbed" to the world about the surveillance practices of both the CIA and the NCA. Practices kept "in house" for purposes of national security. In many ways this is a complex subject told by a  unique filmmaker about an uncomplicated, intelligent young man. Thus, Snowden is an accomplished slice of entertainment. Stone, if nothing else, gives mainly younger audiences an opportunity to understand the motives of an ordinary moral guy embroiled in extraordinary circumstances.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job of playing a bland Snowden. We meet Ed in a Hong Kong hotel room conducting his Citizen Four interviews with British journalists only days after fleeing his Hawaii base. From here we flick backwards and forwards through time tracking Snowden's career as first a failed soldier then a clever Internet Protocol expert, keen to serve his country to the point of creating software critical to national security; or is it? Shailene Woodley as girlfriend Lindsay gives a grounded performance which is supposedly close to the truth.

It's true that Stone has done his research as he always does. It's just that Corbin O'Brian (Rhys Ifans) and Hank Forrester (Nicholas Cage) are too simplistically two dimensional for a Stone original. There is an unintended laughable quality about some of their scenes. The real Snowden endorsed the film, this is evident in the closing sequences so perhaps I'm being over critical. That said, Snowden is a thorough, informative entertainment which doesn't quite live up to Stone's previous classics but it's classy never the less.  9GUMS.


Film No. 58 (2016) The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe September 24th.

Film No. 58 (2016) September 24th.  11.00 PM LUNA Leederville.

"Rape, violence against women. Can they ever put their lives back together again? I wanted to do something, however small". (Director Ros Horin's voiceover to a trailer outlining the beginnings of her seed of an idea).

I won't rate this slice of social commentary about the trials of theatre director Ros Horin, as she seeks out 4 African women who sought refuge here in Australia to escape their torturous lives. A rating may be misleading because the film is not sophisticated or ground breaking. It is simply a running commentary, but an important one none the less.

We meet Ros driving through the suburbs of Sydney thinking aloud. She is seeking a project to extend her skills as an accomplished theatre director. It dawns on her that interviewing newly settled refugees adapting to suburban life after escaping their war torn existences' would make interesting commentary. And she is right, the commentary is interesting.

From here our "fly on the wall" experience becomes just that, until the drama of the process unfolds. Yordanos Haile-Michaels (Yordy) was left to her own devises, along with her two brothers, at age 3 in war torn Eritrea in the late eighties. Her path through Horan's therapeutic theatre process steals the show (from a film POV). Yordy provides the most moving scenes as we focus on the strengths and vulnerabilities of a woman facing her fears. Fears we can't even pretend to imagine. Take tissues for a three minute scene as Yordy's 11 year old son describing why he admires his mum so much.

All five woman make inspirational transitions via this unique theatrical therapy method. Those who have enjoyed the final production, mainly Sydney or Melbourne patrons, will have a more intimate sense of the film. It's an interesting fly on the wall experience. An experience I found both inspiring and enjoyable.  


Film No. 61 (2016) Cafe Society October 8th.

Film No. 61 (2016) October 8th.  11.00 PM LUNA Leederville.

"Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer" (The best line in Cafe Society recited by Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) during yet another verbal stream of consciousness.

In a major first for Woody Allen he used digital technology to film this, his 47th film, but there is very little else that is un-Allen like in Cafe Society. This is not a negative observation, it's simply an observation. The lead, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), plays a quintessential New York Jewish boy grappling with his runaway thoughts and social insecurities. You know, the same character type Woody would have played in his younger days.

Dorfman is young and frustrated with his Bronx life, he needs to spark up, grow-up and leave New York for the wild west. His mum Rose brilliantly played by Jeanie Berlin rings her brother Phil Stern (Steve Carell), an agent to the stars. He'll see Bobby, even offers him an insignificant job for a time; enough time for him to be smitten by Stern's secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). He's smitten but there are complications because she's taken.

The spaces are filled by guest narrator, Woody, himself. He keeps time, characters and distance all in check in the most simplistic terms. See, it's a typical Woody scenario. The highlight  is the sharp dialogue which only lets up when Allen narrates. Laugh out loud scenes come from Bobby's family banter punctuated by Berlin and Ken Stott, an interesting choice as, dad, Marty Doorman along with Bobby's thug of a brother, Ben. There is also an early scene; Bobby negotiates and pontificates with a rookie prostitute Candy (Anna Camp) which is fun.

So why is Cafe Society only a luke warm contribution to The Allen catalogue? I'm not sure really. The cast is brilliant but for me I'm not convinced by the Bobby and Vonnie chemistry. Individually both filled the screen brilliantly but as a couple I wasn't invested. Their contrasting love for one another is essential to 80 minutes of the film. Then there is Carell; he had the look but I'm not sure he was the right man for the job. Anyway, I've said it before, I'm a Woody Allen fan, thus comparisons are inevitable. Cafe Society is not in his best 20 films for me but entertaining never the less.  8GUMS.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Film No. 57 (2016) Sully September 1th.

Film No. 57 (2016) September 17th.  12.50 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"The Miracle on the Hudson; it was a good omen during a challenging period". (Clint Eastwood describes the event as it stood in U.S. history during a promotional discussion).

The Miracle on the Hudson is a simple phrase which nearly has us recalling where we were when Captain Chesley Sullenberger force landed his Air America passenger jet into the Hudson River on January 15th 2009. I say nearly because it didn't have quite the world impact of 9/11 but the images of the passengers standing on the plane's wings centimetres above the freezing New York waters, in the minds of most, has left an indelible imprint. 

Because we know the story my first thoughts, when viewing the trailer, were, maybe I won't bother. Well, I did and I'm glad I did.   Clint Eastwood has captured this legendary event with clinical precision and in typical Eastwood style it's all about the human face with just a smattering "poetic licence".

At 86, Eastwood is leaving an outstanding legacy. Tom Hanks (Sullenberger) is directed, believe it or not, for the first time by ClintTom has described his experience as astounding. To watch the "crash" from varying POV's to punctuate the relevance for each scene ranging from Sully's flashbacks to the investigative enquiry is very convincing. Aaron Eckhart plays Sully's co-pilot Jeff Skiles with an assurance that convinces us we'd all like him by our side in a decision making event of the split second kind. The Sully / Skiles team is a key ingredient in this relatively short feature for Eastwood.

The "poetic licence" comes in his depicttion of the three investigators. One woman (Anna Gunn) and two men (Mike O'Malley and Jamey Sheridan) had a job to do, to protect the safety of all who fly. They are depicted more as protectors of the corporate world by Eastwood. Clint has infiltrated "his baddies" to up the tension; it does work to a point but from my reading of events it wasn't how it unfolded. Sully was and has been a hero from the time those geese first inadvertently flew into the the engines of Flight 1549. Sully isn't a classic but unlike the engines of the A320 airbus spluttering out feathers it's a finely tuned 93 minutes of entertainment.  10GUMS.