Friday, January 29, 2010

In The Loop

Currently in Australian theatres, Armadno Iannucci's caustic (though that word barely does it justice) comedy is a must see for fans of political satire. Based on the television show The Thick of It (which I must now track down pronto) In the Loop is a veritable powderkeg of expletives and Machiavellian machinations. It's as if someone went postal on The West Wing.

Though the film is very much in the current The Office style mockumentary (which may grate), and though it isn't quite able to keep up the furiously frenetic pace of the opening act, In the Loop and it's ferocious lead performance by Peter Capaldi are well worth your time. You won't believe your ears.

Here's one of my favourite film critics, Dana Stevens of Slate breaking down the opening scene. It's a brilliant 4 minute sneak peak to see if you really are up for Capaldi's special brand of Scottish swearing.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trailer: Beneath Hill 60

Australia Day saw the launch of the Beneath Hill 60 trailer. A World War 1 story of Australian miners drafted to use their explosive expertise on the Western Front.

Although I'm on record as being a bit dubious about the poster, I think the trailer does a more engaging job conveying this rather incredible true story.

Australian release date: 15 April 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Road

Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novella is a personal, epic poem about a father and son clinging to their humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. Suitably, a lyrical director John Hillcoat (The Proposition) has brought the story to the screen, capturing the stultifying bleakness and depravity in which the last tendrils of hope still remain. Reuniting with The Proposition scribe Nick Cave, and star Guy Pearce, Hillcoat brings his own, confident eye to the tale; casting Australian newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee (Romulus, My Father) alongside Viggo Mortensen (Lord of the Rings) as the leads Man and Boy.

This is a sparse, disturbing and evocatively precise film. Screenwriter Joe Penhall, cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe and production designer Chris Kennedy have done a remarkable job recreating McCarthy’s harrowing dystopia (just what caused the world’s demise is provocatively left untold), while Mortensen and Smit-McPhee generate beautiful chemistry in what is a captivating love story between father and son as well as a brutal right of passage.

The overuse of Cave’s muscular music sullies the experience somewhat, however Hillcoat succeeds in creating his unflinching apocalypse, while quietly shepherding his film towards a faint, fading mirage of hope.


Published on Concrete Playground - visit the site to win free tickets.
Australian release date: 28 January 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lactose Intolerance

Have a spare 10 minutes? Check out a 100 cheesy film quotes (some may warrant 'of all time' status).

Scary thing is how many of the films are DVD favourites of mine. No, I won't napalm my credibility by naming names :)

Thanks to Matt Ravier for the heads up!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Clint Eastwood is getting sentimental in his old age. The laudable director and gritty actor, who only last year seethed, “Get off my lawn,” is now all about the group-hug, rugby style. Taking the true story of Nelson Mandela’s reunification aspirations for the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Eastwood somehow manages to sit on the sidelines; serving up neither a political thriller nor a sports drama.

The premise is intriguing. Based on John Carlin’s book Playing with the Enemy, South African screenwriter Anthony Peckham chronicles the story of Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman – surely born to play this role), freed from prison after 27 years and rising to the presidency of a divided nation. A potent symbol of this schism is the Springbok rugby team, captained by Francois Pienaar (a beefy Matt Damon); their green and gold jerseys hated by the new ‘rainbow nation.’ With South Africa hosting the World Cup, Mandela calls on Pienaar to lead his team and with it the nation, to victory, glory and unification.

Invictus’ refers to the poem by William Ernest Henley, which inspired Mandela and translates to the powerful meaning, ‘unconquered’. Alas Eastwood hasn’t managed to conquer this profound historical moment; instead he seems at pains to tell us how important this is, be it through exhaustive pontificating by Freeman, hokey scenes (such as a black boy refusing to take a Springbok jersey) or spelling it out through an entirely unnecessary song, “Colourblind.”

And yet, despite being at risk of drowning in sentimental symbolism, Invictus is still worth a look. It’s a thought-provoking and at times compelling tribute to an astounding event in South Africa’s history. If only Eastwood had been more ambitious with the drama, and more imaginative with the rugby scenes (be prepared to see a lot of scrums). Then again, a scrum is just the kind of aggressive, impassioned and symbolic group hug that Eastwood was after.

Published on Concrete Playground

Australian release date: 21 January 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Days!


Those of you on Twitter will already have seen me raving about making the back cover of The Girlfriend Experience DVD. A friend spotted it and let me in on the happy news. I still can't believe my name is printed so close to Steven Soderbergh's!! Eeeee!!!

And it gets better, the delightful people over at Icon sent me a copy, which just arrived in the post*!

Behold my dodgy camerawork!

Read my complete review of the film here.

*Their generosity may or may not stop me from going to the shops and loitering in the DVD section to periodically proclaim my serendipitous discovery.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Fantastic Thank You

Read my review of Fantastic Mr. Fox here.

(Thanks to the Film Experience Blog for the heads up)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trespass Top 3 for 2010

Beth has set us yet another impossible task; to only enthuse about a mere three films set for release this year. Decisions decisions!

Alice in Wonderland

Director: Tim Burton

Writer: Linda Woolverton

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway + too many others to name

Australian Release Date: 04/03/10

Naturally, I was champing at the bit to see this from mid-last year, and the anticipation only builds with the steady drip feed of images and new trailers from Disney. I am however, slightly concerned that this revisioning of Lewis Carrolls beloved tale has been skewed towards the Mad Hatter. Fingers crossed its just the American PR campaign getting Johnny Depp to drive audience interest, whereas the UK trailer shows this is very much Alices important date.


A Prophet/Un Prophète

Director: Jacques Audiard

Writer: Thomas Bidegain, Jacques Audiard

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi

Australian Release Date: 21/02/10

Having absolutely adored Jacques Audiards The Beat My Heart Skipped (De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté), Im keen to see what hes done next. The trials and tribulations of an illiterate young Arab in a French prison set the scene for what sounds like an incredible thriller (no Shawshank Redemption sentimentality here). The film has already won a slew of awards including the Grand Prix at Cannes, so for those unfamiliar with Audiards work, prepare to be converted.


Griff the Invisible

Director: Leon Ford

Writer: Leon Ford

Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Maeve Dermody, Toby Schmitz

Australian Release Date: 01/06/10

Having spent New Years camped in front of the first season of True Blood (sad, but true), Im keen to see Ryan Kwanten a) clothed, for once and b) as a superhero. Thats right, Leon Ford is giving Australia a superhero (its first?) with the story of office worker (by day, of course) Griff, whose antics are interrupted upon meeting the beautiful Melody (Maeve Dermody). Dermody was my favourite discovery from Beautiful Kate, so Im looking forward to seeing her as a femme fatale. Griff the Invisible is in post-production now, so keep an eye on the films Twitter feed for intriguing updates.

There is no trailer yet for this film but more information can be found at

Honorable mentions:

The double billings: Shutter Island & Inception (Leo DiCaprio), Creation & Legion (Paul Bettany)

The sequels: Toy Story 3 & Iron Man 2

The indie: Fish Tank

The blockbuster: Robin Hood

Published on Trespass.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Little White Lies

I am in love. I haven't fallen so hard for magazine, well, ever, actually. May I present Little White Lies a British, bi-monthly movie mag that just oozes retro cool and cinematic style. Where has this been all my life?

Beth brought the latest edition back from the UK and it was all I could do not to conspicuously steal it from her right there and then. I love the fact that each issue takes one film and runs with it. Sure, there's additional content, but what a treat to dedicate an edition to delve into an upcoming film and look at it every which way. Just look at these covers!

But wait, there's more! Head on over to the website and you can flip through digital versions of each issue. Colour me happy!

Little white lies have never felt so good.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Critic

A critic is the man who knows the way, but can't drive the car.

Kenneth Tynan

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson seems to polarise audiences. There are those die-hard fans who worship at the altar of Rushmore, while others (many of whom enjoyed Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums) can no longer stand Anderson’s particular brand of quirk: his increasingly wealthy, bizarre and entirely dysfunctional characters who no longer remotely resonate with reality.

So, what better way to win over both factions than to ditch reality altogether and take up with Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox? The result is indeed fantastical. Anderson fleshes out Dahl’s slender novel about a sly fox stealing from three grouchy, gun-toting farmers, creating a wonderful, intricate and yes, quirky world that charms and delights.

George Clooney and Meryl Streep take the foxy leads of an impressive ensemble cast alongside Anderson stalwarts Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson (Clooney and Streep must work together again, what a fabulous pairing!). And though American accents abound, there is a nod to the story’s English origins with the Michael Gambon lending his rounded tones to the malevolent farmer Franklin Bean.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is also distinctly aware of its cinematic origins, with Wallace & Gromit clearly in the mind of Anderson and his crew of patient craftsmen. The painstaking requirements of stop-motion filmmaking can’t be for the faint of heart, but is a perfect world for Anderson. Here his heightened, stylish, orangey aesthetic augments the story, rather than distracting from it. Thinking back to cross-sectioned boat from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Fantastic Mr. Fox feels like the logical, wonderful conclusion of Anderson’s playful eye.

So too does the story work to his idiosyncratic ends. Like Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a more adult adaptation of a children’s book; it’s humor ironic, with that special brand of Anderson zany. Yet fortunately – and unlike Jonze – Anderson manages to keep the whimsy and the audacity of Fox’s adventure, so even where some family rivalry plot points drag, there is still the spirited caper and an in-his-element Clooney to have fun with.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is all about embracing your true nature, and with this film Anderson has done just that (it appears both he and Jonze want to celebrate their inner ‘wild thing’). So while going wild is a little incongruous given how domesticated and snappily dressed all the animals are, it still makes for a cussing good time at the cinema.

Published on Trespass.
Australian release date: 1 January 2010

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

It's Complicated

People jump up and down a lot in Nancy Meyers movies. Her heightened, playful worlds of wealthy white characters may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Meyers has established herself as a bit of a champion for the Baby Boomers. Egad! They still have sex, get drunk and make bad decisions!

Meyers’ latest offering almost feels like a remake of Something’s Gotta Give, but the Alec Baldwin/Meryl Streep/Steve Martin love triangle is much more successful than her previous attempt with Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton/Keanu Reeves. Let’s face it, many would pay to see Streep recite the alphabet, let alone delight in her reapplying her Julie & Julia cooking skills to mouthwatering effect, whilst playing Jane, a confused divorcee rekindling the relationship with her ex some 10 years after the nasty split. She and Baldwin spark off each other nicely, and Martin does well playing the straight man and her besotted architect.

Though sugary sweet, there’s a lot to giggle about in this film, as well as a few home truths. Meyers strikes a much better balance this time around, so while having “an ex with benefits” leads to much hilarity, she also shows that a divorced family isn’t anything to jump up and down about.

Published on Concrete Playground.
Australian release date: 7 January 2010

For a great chat about the complicated feelings of actually enjoying this film, I can recommend listening to
this Slate Culture Gabfest episode.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Trespass Top 3 Cities

Yes, it's another list I'm afraid! Though mercifully this one isn't about 2009 films - instead I was asked to share my favourite three cities. I had a lot of fun looking back through travel photos (and picking these three), but of course my feet are itchy again...sigh.

Here's what I had to say:

It’s nigh impossible to pick only three favourite cities for this wanderlust-ful Trespasser. There are too many to choose from, but apart from my pure love for Sydney (it’s always so good to come home), these three consistently draw me back.

1. Siena

Much as I love Florence, Siena has stolen my Tuscan heart. This embarrassingly picturesque, walled city is a haven of winding cobbled alleyways and beautiful stone buildings. My favourite is the gothic Duomo; the strikingly green and white striped marble façade that under beautiful vaulted ceilings houses a staggering display of medieval art, impossibly detailed marble flooring and dazzling illuminated manuscripts.

Siena is also perfectly located for staring out into the hilltop Tuscan towns. A fun activity: keep a count of Medici’s balls – i.e. the Medici crest, which is everywhere once you start looking!

2. Berlin

Ah my beloved Berlin! Where I first fell in love with Germany, it’s checkered history and it’s convoluted language. I’ll never forget taking my first walking tour of the city back in 1999, where our guide asked us to peak over a fence and view some tractors clearing land. Why? We were watching Germans turning the site of Hitler’s bunker into a car park.

Nowadays I delight in returning to Berlin and watching it grow more cosmopolitan with each visit. I remember Potsdamer Platz being a sterile No Man’s Land and now it’s a vibrant, bustling part of town, not to mention the site of the Berlinale, where world cinema heralds its new year.

3. Paris

If listing Paris as a favourite city makes me a cliché, then so be it. Gertrude Stein famously stated, “America is my country and Paris is my home town,” and though I’m not an American, I whole-heartedly agree with her sentiment. I adore wandering along the Seine, musing in Rodin’s Gardens and marveling in Sainte-Chapelle. Having stayed with my family around the corner from Notre Dame one visit, we now rather boldly refer to the beautiful cathedral as “our place,” (once it came into view, we knew we were close to our hotel). And having twice celebrated new years in the city of light (once on Pont des Arts and once at the Bastille), I know there’s a distinctly Parisian promise that comes with exclaiming Bonne Année!

What are your favourite cities?

Read more at Trespass.
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