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Friday, 25 November 2016

Film No. 71 (2016) The Accountant November 21st.

Film No. 71 (2016) November 21st.  8.00 PM CINEMA CLYDE, Clyde New Zealand.

"I have difficulty socialising with other people, even though I want to". (Christian Wolfe (Ben Affleck) talks about one of life's frustrations to Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).

Right, so Ben Affleck gets to play a character with autism, an accountant who, because of his condition, possesses  extraordinary talents. Talents which are used for less than scrupulous purposes by very unscrupulous people, world wide. It sounds like the sort of 30 second pitch which may have pricked the ears of the money men of Hollywood. So The Accountant came to be, and reasonably entertaining it is.

Gavin O'Connor brought us Warrior (2011) where the depth of family bonding and hand to hand combat made for thought provoking viewing. Warrior had plenty of fans because the father/son relationship built tension. O'Connor brings similar themes to The Accountant. The life of Christian Wolfe (Affleck) takes a turn for the worse when his mother abandons the family. Christian's dad, a military man, takes on the parenting of his sons and teaching them hand to hand combat skills are key to his influence. This is important to the plot as we flick back and forth to unravel the reasons why Wolfe conducts himself in a manner that makes greater sense later in the movie.

The side story belongs to Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). As servants of the government King blackmails Medina into tracking Wolfe, for reasons, once again, made more obvious later. Both characters are under developed because Wolfe and Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) need to become a duo of substance. It's all a bit far fetched but it ties up pretty well and as I've mentioned, it's trivial entertainment.

Be warned however, The Accountant, is a violent, immoral movie which will soon be forgotten. Affleck adds another string to his bow if playing a smart but violent accountant with autism is a string. But what I do recommend is, if you are visiting south island New Zealand, find the small hamlet of Clyde, not far from Queenstown and catch a movie at the 42 seat Clyde Cinema (leather comfort). It's where I caught The Accountant.  9GUMS.


Unique cinemas can be difficult to find in these days of multiplexes. All hail Clyde Cinema, it's a small gem with a view to expand to a second cinema soon.  12GUMS.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Film No. 70 (2016) I, Daniel Blake November 14th.

Film No. 70 (2016) November 14th.  6.45 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"You've got nothing to be ashamed of, you're all alone with two kids, you're amazing" (Daniel (Dave Johns) reassures Katie (Hayley Squires) that she is skilled in her quest to make a life for herself and her kids).

Ken Loach turned eighty in June. Many thought he had directed his last film in Jimmy Hall, two years ago. Thank the heavens that this was not fact. If it were, he would not have delivered I, Daniel Blake to us in 2016.It won the Palme D'or and there were many tweets at the time that it was not deserving of this honour. I beg to differ, I, Daniel Blake is an outstanding film.  

Tis the season to be merry so, most films in the next month will depict a bunch of silly characters (either animated or as good as) in contrived pieces leading to a standard, predictable happy ending. So why recommend, I, Daniel Blake as a must see film just prior to Christmas? The reason; it will stir your conscience and the want to give to people and causes who don't have the same opportunity or money that we do, will be heightened. It's a hard-hearted, middle class westerner who walks from a screening of I, Daniel Blake not feeling deeply affected.

In the words of Ken Loach, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) represents decency, a quality possessed by the vast majority of people. When decent people are restricted in the way they live their lives through no fault of their own, in a system which ceases to care, then film can serve a purpose to deliver a strong message. In I, Daniel Blake, Loach delivers that message in spades. It's the simple images of Blake on the phone, endlessly on hold or Katie, breaking down in a food bank and being reassured by Daniel that she is a skilled mother.

When the film starts, Daniel Blake has recently lost his wife, which may have aggravated a heart condition, rendering him unfit for work. To get a pension, he will need to prove to bureaucracy (The Decision Maker) that he is eligible and that is no easy task. Loach weaves a second family, Katie (Hayley Squires), Daisy (Briana Shann) and Dylan (Dylan McKiernan)into Dan's life simply and with heart. All are fighting for survival in the suburbs of North East England. The Decision Maker holds the key to their survival. Is this a moral system?  11GUMS. 



Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Film No. 69 (2016) The Golden Years November 11th.

Film No. 69 (2016) November 11th.  6.30 PM LUNA SX Fremantle.

"A Great British Comedy" (The words on a promotional poster for Golden Years ......... DON'T BE MISLEAD!)

There used to be so many of these "try hard", feel good, caper films coming out of the U.K. There probably still are but they have become T.V. fodder. People want more from a cinema experience.

Other than amongst those who have experienced a real hold-up, Golden Years will have some fans. Oldies getting revenge on The Banks because of their dwindling pensions is an easy theme to pursue to get a following. But Golden Years is light, wet, offensive, predictable and generally immoral. It has a quality cast all looking to be challenged. Golden Years does not fulfil their needs.

Look out for this strange little film on a streaming network one cold afternoon. The only thing wetter than the rain splattering against your window that sodden afternoon will be the script blaring from your flat screen's surround sound system! 5GUMS.     

Film No. 68 (2016) Hell or High Water November 5th.

Film No. 68 (2016) November 5th.  10.30 AM LUNA PALACE, Leederville. 

"All this was my ancestor's land, till these folk took it and now it's been taken from them, 'cept it ain't no army doin' it, it's those sons of bitches right there (pointing to a bank in the town's high street)" (Alberto summarizes the state of play historically in his home state of Texas)

It was hard to watch Hell or High Water and not reflect on the  dysfunctional political landscape surrounding this once great nation the U S of A. A scene late in the film depicts Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) hurriedly rushing from a bank they'd just robbed into a hail of gunfire. Our immediate thought is the police had the bank surrounded; cut to local towns folk crouching behind their vehicles taking pot-shots. A bizarre scene but perhaps the norm in this remote Texas outpost.

Hell and High Water is an ironic comment on many aspects of life in contemporary U.S. society. It has all the ingredients of an old fashioned western. There are Toby and Tanner a couple of bank robbers with a humane edge. Then there's Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Geoff Bridges) and Mexican/Indian side-kick Alberto (Gil Birmingham) whose method it is to track these baddies "on foot" rather than via modern day methods using laptops or mobile phones. But there is a whole lot more to this film of simple themes.

Toby, the elder brother, has inherited the family property which possesses rich oil reserves. The bank holds the deeds and will foreclose if debts aren't paid within a strict timeframe. His only course of action is to steal from the bank keen to take over his property, or more importantly the property which is the inheritance of his children. The tension builds as Hamilton and Alberto track the brothers the old fashioned way; the bloodhound method. Each of the robberies by the brothers is more daring and violent than the last. Robin Hood, these guys ain't!  

The steamy, tense feel, coupled with the earthy soundtrack gives Hell and High Water the credibility it deserves. The relationships, key to ratifying the concluding scenes (e.g. the dysfunction in Toby's relationship with his ex-wife and kids) lack real development. The role of corporate banking and the irony of the brothers' quest wasn't fleshed out completely. But Geoff Bridges, Hamilton is all one would expect of this quality, character actor. The less he says, the harder it is to take our eyes off him. 9GUMS.        


Monday, 31 October 2016

Film No. 67 (2016) Nocturnal Animals October 27th.

Film No. 67 (2016) October 27th.  6.45 PM Greater Union Event Cinema,  Innaloo. 

"When you love someone, you have to be careful with it, you may never get it again". (Edward explains a philosophy of his to his first love, Susan, in their early years together). 

This stylish drama by second time director Tom Ford (A Single Man) takes the audience on a journey of revenge in a wonderfully original manner. From the bizarre opening images of large, gyrating female forms to the thrilling story within a story, to the inevitable concluding wide angle shot, there is a lot to like about Nocturnal Animals.

The surprise is, Ford has taken seven years to get back to film making. He is a fashion icon so perhaps he uses that to give him financial security before taking the inevitable risks aligned to feature film making. It's worth the wait because he takes beautiful people, dresses them with sheer style then blends them into an unreal world of treacherous self obsession where they hope they'll achieve happiness. At least that's the set up for this journey with Susan Morrow (Amy Adams). 

Susan is a gallery owner who craves adulation for every exhibition she hosts. Her 19 year marriage to drop dead handsome Hutton (Armie Hammer) is tired and she has regrets about her past, more particularly, the way she betrayed her first love Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). We learn all this via  Edward's manuscript, Nocturnal Animals, which he sends an advance copy of to Susan for reasons that become more obvious with every page she turns.

Because the thriller plays out scene by scene, Susan's life and then a scene from the manuscript as Susan takes up from where she last left off, it becomes a "can't put it down" scenario. We are always anxious to get back to Edward's story. I'm trying not to delve too far into this highly original film. Michael Shannon turns up as the white hatted hero via the thrilling manuscript. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the tormented figure and lead for good reason. All will be revealed as you watch. Film lovers shouldn't miss Nocturnal Animals. It's stylish, it's thrilling, it's clever and it's all communicated via Susan a person we ultimately don't care much for in any case. 11GUMS.

Film No. 66 (2016) Hacksaw Ridge October 25th.

Film No. 66 (2016) October 25th.  6.30 PM Greater Union Event Cinema, Innaloo.

If you thought Saving Private Ryan took the cake for the most graphic depiction of a battle scene then think again. Hacksaw Ridge has double the visuals, double the gore and double the impact. This big budget war film takes us to the WWII battle field of Okinawa; known as a legendary blood fest. We follow the heroics of Desmond Doss a christian conscientious objector who saved the lives of 75 soldiers in a 24 hour period without lifting a rifle because he vowed he never would.

The issue with Hacksaw Ridge is, there is too much cliche in the scenes leading to the gruesome battle field scenes, scenes where director Mel Gibson excels. The thing is Gibson announces the film as a true story. Perhaps he'd have been better to use the term "inspired by real events" because the big screen (Hollywood) treatment of some scenes suggest convenience of storytelling rather than reality. Given this treatment, Hacksaw Ridge is a big, ballsy film full of power and old-fashioned inspiration.

Desmond Doss was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honour. It's an American story waiting to be told. Interestingly enough, it has taken a major U.S. ally in Australia to provide most of the artistic resources to bring to film to light. Mel has always been fascinated with the story, so ten years on from Apocalypto he returns, with an army of Australians; actors and studio techs alike to make the film. It's fitting that Vince Vaughan as Sergeant Howell returns to his brilliant best (Swingers) in this bio-pic. The sharpest, wittiest dialogue is penned for Vaughan.

So, back to what is most memorable about Hacksaw Ridge; the violent depiction of the reality of war. Gibson has a reputation for   depicting the brutality of an exceptional historical occasion (Passion of the Christ). In Hacksaw Ridge he excels. A couple of Oscars may very well reinforce his brilliance early in 2017. I suggest that people of a similar disposition to Mr Doss will not be able to stomach at least 30 minutes of Hacksaw Ridge. You have been warned.  9GUMS.


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Film No. 65 (2016) American Honey October 24th.

Film No. 65 (2016) October 24th.  7.30 PM LUNA Leederville.

"I've been trying to be christian, but I can see the devil has a hold of the two of you" (the words of a potential customer after letting Star (Sasha Lane) and Jake (Shia LaBeouf) into her house).

Andrea Arnold has made one of the most original American road movies of contemporary times in American Honey and surprisingly she's a product of the U.K. It is a film she's had on her mind for a few years as she travelled the states meeting with young people who were cold calling, door to door, in the hope of selling magazine subscriptions. 

Arnold's storytelling has a lot of Ken Loach about it. That she found her lead, Sasha Lane, on a beach in Panama, Miami two weeks before filming began rings true of her cinema hero. What a find she made in Lane who plays Star, a teenage girl with little to no prospects but a big heart and a mind of her own. Star believes a better life, full of riches lies ahead if she joins Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and a team of vagabond sales kids on the road.

It's here the film questions the American idea that materialism will make for a better life. The simple catch cry for Star and her off-siders, egged on by team leader Krystal is to "make money". When the vehicle for that purpose is selling subscriptions to magazines, we know that their cause is hopeless. But it's through Star we see glimmers of hope. She begins to make money by being honest and above all, a good person. She becomes a lightning rod for the very vulnerable Jake.

Arnold has already claimed a jury prize and a major nomination at Cannes 2016 for American Honey. No mean accolade for a non-American making arts outside her own territory. 165 minutes may seem lengthy on the face of things but when one becomes totally invested in a character to the point we'd be more than willing to buy her subscriptions, the time flies. Films baring their all through raw naturalism aren't for everybody but this one will gradually charm most.  10GUMS.