Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beautiful


Beautiful
is a stylised urban legend from first time writer/director Dean O’Flaherty. Borrowing from David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock, with a dash of Desperate Housewives, O’Flaherty’s debut is an intriguing glimpse behind the idyllic façade of South Australian suburb, Summer Hill.

Reclusive 14-year-old Danny (Sebastian Gregory) turns detective when lured by his seductress neighbour Suzy (Tahyna Tozzi) to investigate the recent disappearances of neighbourhood girls. Danny’s talent for photography is both a source of titillation for the brazen Suzy as well as their key to uncover whether the tenants of the derelict number 46 are responsible for the missing girls. Hampering Danny’s efforts is the ghostly Jennifer (Asher Keddie); ever present at the front window of the creepy house, yet she also holds a clue to a much more personal mystery.

Visually, Beautiful lives up to its title. O’Flaherty has a confident and colourful aesthetic and is well able to turn the safe suburbia spooky. His atmospheric shots and stylised black and white crime montage also make great use of Paul Mac’s dramatic score, the theatricality of which evokes the playful suspense of a Grimm’s Fairytale.

However the film falters with the writing. O’Flaherty includes single shot scenes of clunky exposition and bookends the film with heavy-handed narration from a wasted Deborra-lee Furness. Aaron Jeffery as Danny’s father is similarly one-note, while Tozzi’s performance is more stiff than sultry. And though Gregory’s wide-eyed protagonist works well, the stand out performance is by Peta Wilson as Danny’s conflicted stepmother, Sherrie.

Beautiful succeeds in uncovering the seemier side of suburbia. And yet the film struggles between being a mere scary story, or something truer.

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This review also appeared in The Brag

Beautiful is now available to rent or buy on DVD.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Toy Story 3D

***Update: Click HERE to read my review.


2010 will see audiences getting a triple dose of Toy Story. To coincide with the much anticipated (3D) release of Toy Story 3, Pixar is bringing Toy Story 1 and 2 into the third dimension. What a wonderful opportunity to introduce the series to a new generation! And for the rest of us, how brilliant that we get to revisit these fabulous films on the silver screen.

The trailer is classic Pixar:



To infinity and beyond!

Australian release date: 21 January 2010
Toy Story 3 Australian release date: 24 June 2010

Monday, July 27, 2009

Trespass Trailer: Alice in Wonderland

Image by Leah Gallo via image.net

My Trespass Trailer Teaser for Alice in Wonderland consolidates all my eager/bordering-on-obsessive anticipation for Tim Burton's film in one delightful post.

Click here to read more.

Australian release date: 4 March 2010

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wild Things Featurette

Where the Wild Things Are has a new trailer and featurette! Head on over to Apple Trailers and check them out. The featurette in particular is quite intriguing. Maurice Sendak speaks about handing over the torch to Spike Jonze, while also making the rather ominous statement, "There will be controversy about this [film]."

Consider my interest piqued!

Australian release date: 3 December 2009

My Sister's Keeper


You’d have to be fairly cold-hearted not to shed a tear or two during Nick CassavetesMy Sister’s Keeper. What with the dying teen (Sofia Vassilieva), the overwrought mother (Cameron Diaz) and the tortured, swelling soundtrack, it would be foolish to head to the cinema without some tissues on hand.

But this is a cancer story with a twist. The Fitzgerald family of four becomes five when the decision is made to have ‘designer baby’ Anna (Abigail Breslin), who has the genetic compatibility to donate vital stem cells and bone marrow to her sick sister Kate. Subjected to painful procedures from birth, eleven-year-old Anna secures the help of celebrity lawyer Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) to sue her parents for medical emancipation before she is forced to donate her kidney.

Adapted from quite a personal Jodi Picoult novel, the film makes the curious choice to keep the book’s multiple narrators. While the aim was no doubt to convey the individual impact this illness has had on the family, as well as Campbell’s understanding of Anna, the result is rather episodic and annoying.

Further sullying proceedings is the high melodrama mounted upon an already stricken storyline. Each supporting character is given a tragic subplot, the inclusion and direction of which both grates and hampers the nuance of every performance. Mercifully, however, Cassavetes and co-writer Jeremy Leven opted to alter the ending, which rescues the film with a dose of realism.

Despite these shortcomings, My Sister’s Keeper is a film filled with solid performances and good intentions. Much like his acclaimed film The Notebook (2004), Cassavetes manages to dole out the tears and the tragedy alongside some of life’s bittersweet humour, and a whole lot of love.

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This review also appeared in The Brag

Australian release date: 30 July 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Trailer

For real this time!

Chéri


Never one to shy away from a portrayal of strong, independent women, director Stephen Frears has followed up The Queen with the French fable Chéri. Reteaming with Dangerous Liaisons scribe Christopher Hampton and star Michelle Pfeiffer, Frears has ventured from Buckingham Palace to Belle-Epoch Paris with celebrated courtesan Léa de Lonval (Pfeiffer) and her petulant young lover Chéri (Rupert Friend).

A burden to his calculating, ex-courtesan mother, Madame Peloux (Kathy Bates), Chéri is all but thrust into Léa’s arms, ostensibly to complete his ‘education’, but really to alleviate the pressure on her purse. The pair indulge in a six year romance, which is brought rather abruptly to a halt when Mme Peloux negotiates an advantageous marriage for her son to Edmée (Felicity Jones), the daughter of another courtesan.

Chéri is quite the curious romance, simply because the protagonists aren’t equipped to realise they’re in love. Thirty years and a lifetime of convention separate the pair, even though they both exist within the sensual bubble of courtesan extravagance. And so Frears as director and (uncredited) jocular narrator brings us this unwitting love story with warmth, pathos and a lot of wry humour.

Pfeiffer and Friend shine in what are powerfully subtle and vulnerable performances. Both are angular beauties, captured in intense detail by Frears, alongside their manifest chemistry. And Bates – with her deep, hearty chortle – rounds out the leads with an exuberant melodrama.

Rich cinematography and exquisite production and costume design make Chéri a cinematic treat. Frears also weaves in the style from famed French writer Colette’s original source material, resulting in a visually and thematically impressionistic film, which is at once a delightful and rather peculiar experience.

Symbolic of the fate of pre-war Paris, Chéri reveals both the transience and the transcendence of love, beauty and the luscious excess of the Belle-Epoch.

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This review also appeared in The Brag

Australian release date 23 July 2009

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And thrown in for good measure, here are a couple of images of the luminous Michelle Pfeiffer in her gorgeous period costume.

Image

Image

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Trailer (or not)

*****Update: Click here to read my review*****

Image

It's up! Leaked before the grand release on Facebook.

And what more can you say; it looks simply stunning:

***UPDATE *** Or maybe not so much with the trailer. It's been pulled, so check back tomorrow. Though suffice it to say, it looks AMAZING! My only concern is that the Johnny Depp voice over speaks to a shift in focus from Alice to the Mad Hatter. That would be bad news indeed.

Ok, so while we wait for the official trailer, how about some more character posters?







Australian release date: 4 March 2010

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Alice at the Fair

Some more love for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Here are some images from a recent Vanity Fair spread. I love how they are a subtle twist on the classic portrait.

Aren't they just gorgeous?



And in more exciting news, the film's trailer will be launched on Facebook this Thursday (so Friday, Australian time). To see the trailer before anyone else, you've got to choose who you side with in Wonderland. Are you a Loyal Subject of the Red Queen? A Loyal Subject of the White Queen? Or perhaps a Disloyal Subject of the Mad Hatter?

So where do your dis/loyalties lie?



All images via /Film.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stop Looking For Eric


You can stop Looking For Eric at the Melbourne International Film Festival, for Ken Loach has withdrawn the film in protest against the organisation for receiving funds from the State of Israel.

In what is truly an exquisitely worded press release, MIFF Executive Director Richard Moore has announced the news. Just tell me this paragraph isn't pure genius:

Mr Loach's decision is part of an orchestrated campaign to target events that are in receipt of financial support from the State of Israel. Loach requested that we join the boycott and as an independent arts organisation MIFF has refused. MIFF is extremely disappointed that Mr Loach has taken this stance. MIFF has played every one of his movies at the festival over the years including It's A Free World (sic) in 2008.

You can read the rest of the well argued press release here.

It's a free world after all...

(And for the link to my review of Looking For Eric - which opened the Sydney Film Festival - click here.)

Love The Beast


My review of Eric Bana's Love The Beast is now up on Onya (click here).

I totally dug this documentary. Granted I've already confessed my love of Top Gear, but you certainly don't have to be a car nut to really get a lot out of the film. But if you are, be sure to watch the credits, because Bana's NASCAR impression is quite hilarious!

Love The Beast is now available to rent or buy on DVD.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Life in Ruins


“Your jokes aren’t funny.” This recurring accusation laid against Greek tour guide Georgia (Nia Vardalos) in My Life in Ruins is unfortunately too true of the film itself. With a storyline that could fit on a cocktail napkin (and should probably have been discarded as such), My Life in Ruins is an entirely unsatisfying trip to Greece, with a bus full of stereotypes, cheesy sentimentality and poo jokes in the form of a hirsute (but underneath, hottie) driver called Poupi Kakas (Alexis Georgoulis).

It’s as if all the self-deprecating humour from Vardalos’ charming My Big Fat Greek Wedding was recycled, churned into something almost entirely unfunny. Mike Reiss, as a producer and writer for The Simpsons, you really should know better.

Even Richard Dreyfuss’ best efforts fall flat. In fact, his knowing widower storyline drags the film further away from comedy, into the saccharine stupor of a midday movie. Add to the mix a klepto Granny, a pair of ocker, beer-swilling Aussies and some loud Americans and you’ve got a trip to the cinema best avoided.

It’s a shame really, because director Donald Petrie (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Miss Congeniality) could have tried to do something with his motley crew, which includes Saturday Night Live talent Rachel Dratch. Or he could even have made more of Greece itself, though as the credits reveal that much of the film was shot in Spain, this might have proven difficult.

The film’s one saving grace is Vardalos herself. She does her level best with this truly trite material, and she’s so likable that you want her to win the heart of the Greek god Georgoulis and succeed in shouldering this ruinous film. To a certain extent she does, but alas her opening line also rings true: “Oh yeah, I’ve hit rock bottom.”

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This review also appeared in The Brag.
Australian release date: 16 July 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tweet Suite


My friend and talented UK musician Ben Walker has set himself quite the challenge: to write 50 songs in 90 days...again.

Yes, the crazy lad did this to himself last year, with hilarious and wonderful results. He's also the man behind The Twitter Song, so it seems a natural next step (if you're in Ben's zany mind) that he should seek to set tweets to music.

So now for all you Twits out there, you can take part by sending your suggestions through to the music man. You can send a tweet to @5090tweetsuite or visit Ben's website.

4 funny/sweet tunes are up already, including one from my suggestion (from the ever entertaining Diablo Cody). Listen to it here.

Now get tweeting!

Soderbergh to Sydney


It's official, Steven Soderbergh is coming to town! Teaming up with Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton's Sydney Theatre Company, Soderbergh's arrival was announced thus:

Andrew: Steven Soderbergh?

Cate: He made Sex, Lies, and Videotape when he was about seven. He made the Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen capers. He was nominated for an Academy Award for two films in the same year: Traffic and Erin Brockovich. We met him when I made The Good German.

Andrew: Just because you can make a good film doesn’t necessarily mean you can direct a play, does it?

Cate: Not necessarily, but trust me, this guy could direct the phonebook.

Andrew: The phonebook? Is that the secret project?

For upcoming news about Soderbergh's as yet untitled project, we're told to watch this space and then wait til December rolls around. In the meantime, however, we have A Streetcar Named Desire to look forward to.

Am I just getting old, or does it sound like time to become a proper theatre goer?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Passenger Demos


New new from the pebbly shores of Brighton: Passenger has new demos!

A couple of months ago, Mike visited our shores with a set list chock full of new tunes. He's now seen fit to let the world in on his new groove - so head to Myspace right quick and check out three of his new songs.

I dare you not to fall for I See Love.

Every Little Step


My review of the charming documentary Every Little Step is now up on Trespass (click here).

I really loved this film, it definitely made me want to dust off my dancing shoes. Alas I think my Broadway years are behind me!

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Burning Season


Awww...how cute is this little munchkin?

To spend more time with these gorgeous Orang-utans, and learn a little about carbon trading along the way, then check out Cathy Henkel's inspiring documentary The Burning Season.

Click here
to read my review on Onya.



Australian release date (limited): 9 July 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A New Domain


That's right party people, I've done gone bought my domain name. May fame and fortune follow (or not!).

Technophobe that I am, customising my domain on blogspot took a bit of wrangling and helpful advice from friends. Oh and I trust everyone picked up on the GoldenEye quote.

So welcome to my new domain!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Trespass Trailer: Balibo


Image 1 & 2

Art imitates life in Robert Connolly's Balibo. The film's trailer was released today to much a twitter.

Read my Trespass Trailer Teaser here.

***UPDATE 10/7 The Balibo official site is now up. Very nice to see the historical detail curated by UNSW@ADFA. Check it out.



Australian release date 13 August 2009.

Win Tickets to Beautiful Kate


Cinephiles of Sydney and Melbourne! This month Rotten Tomatoes is hosting two exclusive preview screenings of Beautiful Kate and there are tickets to be won! Not only that, but Rachel Ward, Bryan Brown and producer Leah Churchill-Brown will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.

Click here for more information. Entries close 15 July 2009.

Now I certainly have my reservations about the film, but these screenings are surely a great opportunity to learn more about Ward's approach to the subject matter, as well as her striking visual style. You can read my Beautiful Kate post with links to my Rotten Tomatoes review here.

Australian release date: 6 August 2009.

Winged Creatures


My review of Rowan Woods' Winged Creatures is now up on the new and improved Trespass (click here).

Trespass is also giving away some free passes to the film, thanks to the generous folks over at Icon. Click here to enter the competition.

Australian release date: 9 July 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Very Merry Blog Birthday

To me!

Yes, I'm officially one year old today and I'm proud to say I now know a smattering of html, can toggle between web pages, and have developed a profound love of Google Reader.

Special thanks to the crafty Kate for her eager introduction to this crazy blogosphere, as well as her ongoing encouragement. It's really quite cool that in the space of a year I've gone from posting reviews for family and friends to writing 'for serious'.

I wonder what my terrible twos will bring?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

At a bloated 150 minutes, Transformers 2 could have been called Transformers². Michael Bay’s latest blockbuster is a veritable binge of CGI, explosions and bad taste.

Appealing to the lowest common denominator, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is all about action, explosions and humping dogs (and, woefully, robots). In the loosest possible interpretation of a storyline, the film careens from one action sequence to the next, while miraculously also managing to get bogged down in a schmaltzy, “no you say it first” love story, by way of a twee ‘leaving for college’ dilemma. Oh, and there’s even a dubbed in Swine Flu joke.

Shia LeBeouf, Megan Fox (but mostly her breasts), John Tuturro and Josh Duhamel all signed up for another Bay bonanza, while Home & Away alumnus Isabel Lucas joins the team, glowering through her scenes with a feline intensity. And did anyone realise Hugo Weaving is the voice of Megatron?

More apparent to those versed in Michael Bay will be the shots taken straight out of The Rock and Bad Boys, the schlock romance that comes directly from Armageddon and an overly dramatic, swelling score that drags you back to Pearl Harbour. This film is derivative (or at the very least lazily reflexive), cheesy, and with the crassly ghetto banter of twin Autobots Mudflap and Skids – perhaps even racist.

Which is exactly why you need to check it out on the big screen, or preferably, IMAX. Michael Bay has created a cinematic spectacle, in all its ridiculous, big budget, hubristic glory. Epitomised by a shot of enormous, dangling Decepticon testicles, Transformers 2 is a film you really need to see in order to shake your head in disbelief.

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This review (minus the last sentence) also appeared in The Brag

Australian release date: 25 June 2009

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