Monday, November 29, 2010

DVD: South Solitary


The first thing that strikes you about South Solitary is its visual splendor. Gorgeous cinematography and unshowy period production and costume design effortlessly draw the audience into Meredith's (Miranda Otto) rather extraordinary predicament. It's 1927 and she's a woman of a certain age, romantically marooned by the impact of the Great War and now literally cast aside onto a craggy rock in the middle of the ocean. With only her cantankerous lighthouse keeper uncle (Barry Otto) and a cuddly lamb for company, the pair receives a frosty welcome from both the weather and the lighthouse's overlooked caretakers, including shell-shocked veteran Fleet (Marton Csokas).

South Solitary marks ten years between films for the Camera d'Or winning writer-director Shirley Barrett (Love Serenade). One has to wonder how much a decade of solitude played upon the mind of a filmmaker once lauded at Cannes, however, much like her plucky protagonist, Barrett's writing betrays no bitterness; instead reveling in a knowing humour that is beautifully embodied by Otto. Also, for a film steeped in metaphor and symbolism (lighthouses, beacons, ships passing in the night, to name a few), Barrett's light touch is to her credit, if only she had also thought to trim the film from its lengthy 120mins.

Audiences expecting a sweeping romantic drama between Meredith's bubbly spinster and Flint's tortured soul will be disappointed by Barrett's restraint. And yet what lurks behind the whirling winds and the stoic characters is a warm-hearted film that also happens to be as pretty as a picture.

Published on Concrete Playground 
DVD release: 1 December 2010 
Click HERE to read my interview with director Shirley Barrett
Click HERE to see the trailer

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trailer: Source Code

After stunning us all with his debut Moon, Duncan Jones looks set to impress again with his Groundhog Day-style thriller Source Code. Better yet, according to Clint Morris over at Moviehole, Source Code is set in the same world as Moon, so eyes must be kept peeled for a Sam Rockwell cameo!

Here's the trailer:

Official Synopsis:

Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes with a jolt to find himself on a commuter train heading into Chicago. Although the other passengers all seem to know him, he has absolutely no idea where – or even who – he is. The last thing Colter remembers is flying a helicopter mission in Iraq, but here he is in someone else’s life going through someone else’s morning commute. Before he can do anything an express train zooms by on the opposite track and a bomb explodes, seemingly killing Colter and all the other passengers. Colter comes to in an isolation chamber, strapped to a seat, and wearing his military flight suit. He still has no idea what’s happening, except that he’s being spoken to by mission controller Carol Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who calmly recites a series of memory questions to which Colter is shocked to realize he knows the answers.

He learns he’s part of an operation called “Beleaguered Castle,” but before he can progress any further, Goodwin starts up the machinery and suddenly Colter is back on the train, at exactly the same time he first appeared there, once again speeding through Chicago with the same group of commuters. Colter figures he’s in some kind of simulation exercise, with his task being to find the bomber on board the train before it goes off again. Living the explosion over and over, Colter must uncover the identity of the bomber, while also figuring out what the alternative universe of “Beleaguered Castle” is. Adding to the puzzle, Colter uses the second chance opportunities to make peace with his father, and to find romance with a fellow passenger on the train.

UK release date: 11 March 2011
Australian release date: 5 May 2011
US release date: 15 April 2011

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving American friends!

Now don't be scared, but an Australian is joining the fun. Here's the skinny:

(via The Washington Post) 

It seems an Australian journalist has been mistakenly cc'ed on to an American family's e-mail chain about their Thanksgiving preparations. Someone in the Tran family had mistakenly added the wrong James West to the chains for three years. The Australian West did not pay much attention until this year, when he began reading the family's plans in earnest. He decided to make a YouTube apology to the family for his eavesdropping, and asked for an invite. Long story short: The Trans will be welcoming James West to Florida tomorrow for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Here's the clip, and don't worry, I know James from school days -  he's a good egg.

James has now touched down in Miami and is en route to Thanksgiving with the Trans. To catch up on the rest of the videos and keep abreast of this holiday saga, follow James West's YouTube channel.

Thursday, November 25, 2010



How do the French do it? How do they manage to craft such gratifying, character driven dramatic comedies with such guileless grace, and yes, it must be said, joie de vivre? Last year Summer Hours stole our hearts, and now taking a trip to Copacabana promises to have the same effect. This case is perhaps less of a mystery, as the luminous Isabelle Huppert takes centre stage with an ebullient performance as the adventurous, harebrained single mother Babou. Acting alongside her real-life daughter, Lolita Chammah, as the solidly sensible Esmeralda, Huppert’s Babou captivates and infuriates in turn.

A relic of the 60s with her beehive dos and loud clothing, Babou is a force of nature. Never one to hold down a job, her flighty antics have worn threadbare for Esmeralda, who wants nothing more than to settle into the institution of marriage with her boyfriend. The eternal free-spirit Babou is of course aghast, and insult is added to injury when Esmeralda intimates that her mother should not attend the wedding, lest she be saddled with half of the bill. Indignant, Babou drives to Belgium and takes up a job spruiking for time-share real estate agents where she finds surprising success.

Writer/director Marc Fitoussi rounds out his film with a well-drawn supporting cast. Each provide a window into the many facets of Babou's personality, and now sensitive to her daughter's scorn, she gains insight into the more unsightly truths about herself. In this way Copacabana feels like a coming-of-age drama, one in which Huppert — best known for her unflinching dramatic chops in films like The Piano Teacher and Claire Denis' recent White Material — brings all her masterful skills to bear in the subtly of Babou's transformation.

Fun, affirming and supremely joyful, Copacabana is a superb reminder that life is about the journey, not the destination.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 25 November 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fair Game


The importance of identity is once again the leitmotif in Doug Liman's (The Bourne Identity) new political thriller. Based on the scandalous true story of CIA agent Valerie Plame's brutal public unmasking, and the subsequent White House lead smear campaign, Fair Game is as much an illuminating look back to the beginnings of the Iraq War as it is a chronicle of a marriage under fire. Plame's titular memoir as well as her husband Joseph Wilson book The Politics of Truth, provide the provocative source material, and both are brought to compelling life by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

An impressively taut opening introduces us to Valerie the agent: personable, professional and perfectly in charge of her blonde, diminutive stature. We watch as she uses this to her advantage before turning into a cool, commanding operator. With faint echoes of Mr & Mrs Smith, Valerie then returns home to juggle her supremely demanding work in the counter-proliferation department with a warmly affectionate home life with ex-US ambassador Joe and their two kids. This hard won equilibrium is shattered when the CIA-commissioned report Joe has written regarding the possibility of Niger selling enriched uranium to Iraq becomes the vehicle for Valerie's downfall.

Fair Game treads similar ground as the other Bourne director, Paul Greengrass’, recent treatise on Iraq: Green Zone. Both concern themselves with the manifest lies told to shore up the US invasion, but where Green Zone unravels into a rather disappointing cat and mouse chase, Liman manages a much more satisfying intellectual rigour. This is helped along by the riveting chemistry between Watts and Penn, which is most certainly derived from their previous pairing in 21 Grams and from having already played a husband and wife in strife in Niels Mueller's The Assassination of Richard Nixon. Entirely believable and deeply affecting, their onscreen partnership wrings every drop of conviction out of Jez and John-Henry Butterworth's slightly overwritten screenplay.

"Democracy only works if you do your part," Joe preaches in a line one could easily imagine hearing from diehard advocate Penn himself. But the most striking aspect of this film is that it proves that the same must be said for marriage. So while the politics of what constitutes 'fair game' is undoubtedly fascinating, the private sphere proves to be a whole different ballgame.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 25 November 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Japanese Film Festival

What was the last Japanese film you saw? Perhaps the Oscar nominated Departures? Maybe some old school Ozu? Precious few Japanese films actually make it to Australian cinemas, which is why the Japanese Film Festival is such an important addition to any cinephile's schedule.

Selling out screenings around the country, the festival looks set to do the same in Sydney. Tickets to the box office hit Hanamizuki (Flowering Dogwood) are almost gone, and no doubt the opening and closing night fare About Her Brother and A Lone Scalpel can't be far behind. Tetsuya Nakashima’s (Kamikaze Girls, Memories of Matsuko) disquieting revenge tale Confessions was Japan's entry in this year’s Academy Awards, while Dear Doctor has taken out a host of national film awards. Iron Chef fans may want to check out Flavor of Happiness; definitely not a film to watch with an empty stomach!

November 27th is the day for anime fans to flock to the festival, with a two-part line up including: Time of Eve, animated music video Precious, Tokyo Marble Chocolate and Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror, including a Q&A discussion with animator Naoyoshi Shiotani.
Another exciting panel discussion will take place on November 23rd, after the double bill of Kyoto Story and short Wish You Were Here. Running with the topic "Fostering new filmmakers in Japan", Kyoto Story co-director Tsutomu Abe will be joined by film critic Tadao Sato and industry pioneer Shigeki Chiba. Here's hoping Australian cinemagoers do their bit to foster Japanese filmmakers as well.

Sydney dates: 22-28 November 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Trip

Behold. Acting.

My brilliant cousin blogged about this clip from The Trip, and I just had to spread the love. What's not to adore about a series that reunites Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and Michael Winterbottom? If you haven't seen 24 Hour Party People or Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, buy them both immediately!

Here's the show's synopsis from BBC2:

An improvised tour of the north of England reunites comedy favourites Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. In the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the story is fictional but based around their real personas.

When Steve is commissioned by the food supplement of a Sunday newspaper to review half a dozen restaurants, he decides to mix work with pleasure and plans a trip around the north with his food-loving American girlfriend. But when she decides to leave him and return to the States, Steve is faced with a week of meals for one, not quite the trip he had in mind.

Reluctantly, he calls Rob, the only person he can think of who will be available. Never one to turn down a free lunch (let alone six), Rob agrees and together they set off for a culinary adventure.
Over the course of six meals at six different restaurants in and around the Lake District, Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales, the ultimate odd couple find themselves debating the big questions of life, such as how did I get to be here and where do I go next, over a series of culinary delights.
This six-part comedy series is directed by Michael Winterbottom and builds on the success of previous collaborations between Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, A Cock And Bull Story and 24 Hour Party People.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1


There's a veritable crucible of perceptions, emotions and hysterical anticipation to consider when evaluating the penultimate film in the Harry Potter saga. This Global Phenomenon (surely deserving of capitalisation) has claimed the fervent love of at least one generation; come the release of Part 2 in 2011, kids and adults alike will have spent an entire decade with the film versions. This is all by way of saying that the first installment of J.K Rowling's Deathly Hallows tome has undergone an utterly indulgent adaptation — 146 minutes of minutely, magnificently detailed, precisely paced, decidedly dark fare — and the fans wouldn't have it any other way.

Director David Yates, who has been helming the franchise since 2007s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, flexes his muscles with an opening extreme close-up shot of Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour’s (Bill Nighy) eyes as he ominously intones, "These are dark times." Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves are unafraid of taking Rowling's story into the markedly more mature realm she outlines on the page; it's one made even more boldly disquieting with the striking visual allusions to the Inquisition and WWII eras, especially with regards to the ethnic cleansing of the Muggles. That said, Yates is not without a sense of humour; in one scene you can spy a hilariously titled piece of propaganda When Muggles Attack.

A quick recap (SPOILER alert!): Dumbledore is dead. Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) is wreaking havoc, and has Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) splashed across the papers as enemy no. 1. After a series of ruthless attacks, Harry, Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) go on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the hoards of Voldermort's nightmarish 'Snatchers'. The trio are also on the hunt for the remaining Horcruxes (splinters of Voldermort’s soul that sustain his immortality), at which point you can be forgiven for confusing the film with The Lord of the Rings. Even if one can argue Tolkien doesn't have the patent on the quest storyline, the similarities are frustratingly apparent, even including an unearthly apparition that uses the same visual effect as Galadriel’s ghostly transformation. Fortunately, however, Yates is blessed with some true geniuses in composer Alexandre Desplat and cinematographer Eduardo Serra, who conspire to create some of the most sublimely beautiful tableaux you’re likely to see this year out the plot's relative, derivative, monotony.

In fact one could wager Yates wants his audience to experience the tedium — punctuating it as he does with spine-tingling action — as well as the the hormone charged angst and the slow burn build up of tension for what promises to be a staggering climax in Part 2, and in 3D no less. It is definitely for the best that the production halted its mad dash 3D conversion for this installment (Serra's artistry is too thrilling to be ruined by a bad 3D render), but given the actors, director and entire production team are all now playing their A-Game, Part 2 could be absolutely magic.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 18 November 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


"I'm not pessimistic" filmmaker Josh Fox says in his opening line of narration. Just how on earth he can remain so in the face of the devastating realities he uncovers in his debut documentary GasLand is anyone's guess. Having been approached by a natural gas company willing to pay $100,000 to drill on his family's land, Fox started asking around; his questioning taking him on the most surprising and downright outrageous journey across America and into the dark heart of the natural gas industry.

The situation really needs to be seen to be believed — and in that vein, GasLand is absolutely required viewing, especially as there are drilling plans here in Australia. But here are a couple of pearlers to get your ire on the rise: the American natural gas industry does not have to abide by environmental legislation including the Clean Water Act or the Safe Drinking Water Act. And considering the process of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking*) used to release underground gas reserves requires a secret concoction of 596 chemicals and millions of litres of water, this is a diabolical state of affairs indeed. GasLand chronicles the damning results: sick families, poisoned wells and flammable tap water.

Wielding a banjo and a lyrical sensibility, Fox transforms his documentary into more than a provocative call to arms; this is documentary as poetry. Sure The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is evoked, but with his beautifully subjective camera and measured, poignant narration, Fox proves himself as much an artist as an important and powerful voice that joins the choir of filmmakers daring to declare such inconvenient environmental truths.

So how precious is water to you? And even if you're a glass-half-full kind of person, does it count if the water is flammable?

*Anyone who has seen Battlestar Galactica will no doubt agree the situation is fracked in both senses of the term.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 18 November 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


High fives to Dooce for bringing this remarkable video to my attention. It's absolute genius!

Jeremy Messersmith - Tatooine from Eric Power on Vimeo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Giveaway: Copacabana

It's giveaway day here on The Plot Thickens! The lovely folks at Sharmill Films have offered up tickets to this weekend's (Friday 19 - Sunday 21 November) advanced screenings of the delightful French comedy Copacabana.

If you're a fan of the stellar Isabelle Huppert, this film is a must see. I can also recommend reading Lynden Barber's wonderful interview with the actress from The Australian: Super Huppert.

Official Synopsis:

Isabelle Huppert
is Babou, the ultimate free spirit, an unemployed single mother living in the North of France with dreams of going to Brazil. When her by-the-book daughter Esmeralda announces that she is getting married, and that she is too ashamed of her own mother to invite her to the wedding, Babou decides to make some changes. She takes a dubious job selling time-share apartments during the off-season at the Belgian seaside, and surprises everyone in this surreal environment by becoming the model employee. But Babou inevitably gets in the way of her own success, and must decide how to remain true to her unique self while at the same time winning back the love and respect of her daughter.

Tinged with Samba-flavoured music, this bittersweet comedy features a truly memorable performance from Isabelle Huppert, teamed on screen for the first time with her real-life daughter, Lolita Chammah.

Australian release date: 25 November 2010 


To win one of ten double passes to see an advanced screening of Copacabana this weekend, simply email me (subject: Copacabana) with your name and address. Winners will be notified by reply. (Only available to residents in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane - sorry). 

Vite vite! Competition closes tomorrow!  

Giveaway: Agora

***Update: Competition closed. Enjoy the film!

This giveaway definitely tickles my inner history-geek's fancy. Rachel Weisz (whom I adore) playing an ancient Egyptian astronomer, who contemplates the heavens as religious war sees all hell break loose on earth.

The official synopsis reads: 

4th century AD. Egypt under the Roman Empire… Violent religious upheaval in the streets of Alexandria spills over into the city's famous Library.

Trapped inside its walls, the brilliant astronomer Hypatia (Rachel Weisz) and her disciples fight to save the wisdom of the Ancient World… Among them, the two men competing for her heart: the witty, privileged Orestes (Oscar Isaac) and Davus (Max Minghella), Hypatia's young slave, who is torn between his secret love for her and the freedom he knows can be his if he chooses to join the unstoppable surge of the Christians.

From acclaimed writer and director Alejandro Amenábar (The Sea Inside, The Others), AGORA is the story of a woman, of a city, of a civilisation and of a planet. Inspired by real events which have never before been brought to the screen, AGORA boats a stunning central performance from Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz.


To win one of ten double passes to see Agora, simply email me (subject: Agora) with your name and address. Winners will be notified by reply. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wild Target

Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt and Rupert Grint starring in a crime caper from the man behind Yes, Minister (Jonathan Lynn) sounds almost too good to be true. Throw in supporting players Rupert Everett, Dame Eileen Atkins and The Office's Martin Freeman, plus a storyline about rogue assassins, and you've got all the hallmarks of a hit...if you can buy the storybook romance. And alas, that's a fairly hefty if.

But first things first: there's no doubting that Nighy is a British national treasure. So, after scene stealing performances in films like Love Actually and the last two Pirates Of The Caribbean blockbusters it's devilishly good to see him taking the lead as Victor Maynard, an austere, ruthlessly precise assassin whose prodigious command of his professional life is matched only by the sterility of his lonely existence. Shouldering the weight of this rather unusual family business, dutiful (if long suffering) Victor is further harangued by his mother (Atkins) to ensure that he carries on the family name. It's a mission seemingly impossible...that is until he's contracted to kill the frivolous, fresh and kleptomaniacally fancy free Rose (Blunt).

While Nighy and Blunt deftly handle the film's broad range of sardonic to farcical comedy, their May-December romance doesn't quite ring true. It doesn't help that in 2005, both actors took home Golden Globes for playing the titular pair in Gideon's Daughter. Wild Target's suspension of disbelief centres not on the criminality, but, precariously, upon this romance. But if you can accept the pairing - with Grint's unwitting apprentice to boot - then there really is an awful lot to enjoy about this film.

In Anglicising director Pierre Salvadori's 1993 French original, Lynn and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon have created a rich, colourful and intricately mannered comedy, brought to life with wonderfully wry performances across the board.

Published in Filmink Magazine
Australian release date: 11 November 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Messenger

You do not want Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) or Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) knocking on your door. The two are arguably entrusted with one of the US Army’s toughest assignments: casualty notification. It's a job that's driving teetotalling Stone to an alcoholic abyss, and one that promises to scratch at the viscerally raw nerves of recently returned Staff Sergeant Montgomery. Together the pair set out on their thankless task in screenwriter Oren Moverman's (Jesus’ Son, I’m Not There) strikingly simple yet devastatingly powerful directorial debut. Co-written with producer Alessandro Camon (American Psycho, The Cooler), Moverman's film shows remarkable restraint for a first time director, particularly one saddling himself with the often unwelcome subtitle of 'an Iraq War film'.

Visually and thematically, The Messenger sticks fearlessly close to its titular character; as the film traverses six notifications, Moverman's camera predominantly stays on Will as the news horrifically hits home off camera. Forbidden to reach out and comfort the N.O.K (next of kin), the audience experiences Will's fearful, then seething seclusion, and can thus almost empathise as he entangles himself with a widow (Samantha Morton). Mercifully, similar restraint is shown in this storyline, with an utterly electric, single-shot scene of Morton and Foster emotionally opening up to each other.

Such punch in the gut performances are present across the board, with Steve Buscemi making a remarkable cameo and Harrelson even garnering an Oscar nomination. With such impressive acting and understated, poignant direction, Moverman can be forgiven for stretching a couple of the film's metaphors a tad too far. The Messenger is nevertheless a beautifully rendered and necessarily painful window onto an overlooked reality. But you can take cold comfort from the fact that you really needn’t worry about shooting the messenger — he's already at the raggedy edge.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 11 November 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Winter's Bone

Like the title suggests, Winter's Bone makes for a rather frosty trip to the cinema. Set in frigid winter and against the stark forests of Missouri's Ozak region, Debra Granik's (Down to the Bone) sophomore effort is steeped in unapologetic, deeply affecting verisimilitude. In adapting Daniel Woodrell's novel, Granik intriguingly combines this cinema verite with the structural conventions of a film noir. It's a striking mix, which sees poverty-stricken but proud 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) struggling to raise her young brother and sister in the face of a catatonic mother and an absent, meth-crook of a father. When the police inform Ree that they'll lose the house if her father doesn’t make his court appearance, she tenaciously sets about 'huntn' for dad.'

Granik underscores Ree's indefatigable hunt with scenes of poignant domesticity. She needs to teach her siblings to survive, and does so with the same blunt stoicism that she brings to her increasingly harrowing search. As Ree, 20-year-old Lawrence is an absolute revelation; her performance easily ranks amongst this year's best. The film itself has already taken home the Grand Jury prize for Best Picture at Sundance, alongside a litany of deserved critical acclaim.

Further adding to this film's appeal is its female take on the film noir. Ree may be as hardboiled as your classic private eye, but she consistently comes up against women who obliquely then brutally stand in her way. "Ain’t you got no men to do this?" one asks her. "No ma’am, I don’t."

And like their resolute leading lady, Granik and Lawrence manage masterfully well without.

Published on Concrete Playground
Click HERE to read my review from the Sydney Film Festival
Australian release date: 11 November 2010

Summer Coda

The affecting strains of romance and regret are strummed alongside the slow hum of country life in Richard Gray’s warm-hearted debut, Summer Coda. Part road movie, part romantic drama, this film follows the fate of talented violinist and erstwhile-Aussie Heidi (Rachael Taylor), as she returns from America to hitchhike her way to her estranged father’s funeral. En route she meets Michael (Alex Dimitriades), and the two unwitting kindred spirits inch closer together as they toil amongst a motley crew of fruit pickers in Michael’s idyllic orange grove.

From the lyrical title and resonant themes, through to the saturated glow of Greg De Marigny’s cinematography, there is something subtly celebratory about Summer Coda. The film’s synopsis draws an apt comparison with Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, and though Gray’s characters feel more understated, the two share a rich and languorous pace. At 108 minutes, this may well prove too slow for some, but the emotional payoff is both sincere and satisfying. Mining his lead actors’ easy chemistry, Gray has constructed a beautiful picture, where the rhythms of love and loss are echoed in the sweet tang of Mildura oranges.

3 ½ stars

Published in The Big Issue #366
Summer Coda is in Australian cinemas now.

Summer Coda - official trailer from Summer Coda on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Social Network

The Social Network is not a mere chronicle of the beginnings of Facebook; it is the site’s foundational myth. Spun into existence by two master craftsmen, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War) and director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club), this film is a myth of classic, tragic proportions. Distilled to its essence as the story of a scorned soul, The Social Network sees 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) retreat to his room after an abrupt break up. He downs a few beers, and enact his revenge by creating a watershed, misogynistic and instantly viral website, Facemash, which asked fellow Harvard students to rate their female classmates’ photos.

Taking the bit in his teeth after this fateful evening, Zuckerberg acquires funding from his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and the two develop The Facebook (later to drop the ‘The’), an idea which may or may not have been ‘appropriated’ from a set of strapping Harvard twins, the Winklevosses (both played by Armie Hammer). Ludicrous success and lengthy depositions ensue, as The Social Network pivots around the two separate legal battles Zuckerberg was forced to tackle: one against the entitled Winklevosses and the other, facing down his erstwhile best friend, Saverin.

And herein lies the rub, for Sorkin’s Rashomon-esque screenplay juggles these conflicting points of view with such an ingenious, entertaining ease that his three sets of narrators equally unreliable. Sorkin’s trademark, dizzying dialogue makes a meal of these vying truths, while Fincher captures all with a murky, ominous sensibility.

Remarkably, the cast takes this intricate verbal and visual detail in their stride. Eisenberg is a revelation. Purportedly the one man who can ‘do Sorkin better than Sorkin,’ his delivery of the rapid-fire lines is a sight to see. His quick-witted, though largely inscrutable performance is played against Garfield’s more emotive role, and rounded out by Justin Timberlake’s impressive (and wryly reflexive) turn as the party-boy founder of Napster, Sean Parker. Rooney Mara is also striking in her brilliant opening scene as girl who kicked off all the fuss, Erica Albright.

As a study of the trappings of exclusivity, entitlement and embitterment, The Social Network is a potent, jawdropping success. “Every creation myth needs a devil,” intones one of Zuckerberg’s lawyers (Rashida Jones). Well, Sorkin and Fincher have given us at least one that is guaranteed to go down in history.

4 ½ stars

Published in The Big Issue #366
The Social Network is in Australia cinemas now

Monday, November 8, 2010

Giveaway: Winter's Bone

Debra Granik's powerful, uncompromising Winter's Bone was one of my stand outs from this year's Sydney Film Festival. Now, thanks to Curious Film, I'm thrilled to be giving away tickets to see the film upon its theatrical release on November 11.

Official synopsis: 

17 year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) sets out to track down her father, who put their house up for his bail bond and then disappeared. If she fails, Ree and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods. Challenging her outlaw kin's code of silence and risking her life, Ree hacks through the lies, evasions and threats offered up by her relatives and begins to piece together the truth.

Based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell, WINTER'S BONE is directed by Debra Granik (DOWN TO THE BONE) and adapted for the screen by Granik and Anna Rosellini. The film stars Jennifer lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Sheryl Lee and Tate Taylar.

WINTER'S BONE was awarded the Grand Jury Prize as well as the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. 


To win one of ten double passes to see Winter's Bone, simply email me (subject: Winter's Bone) with your name and address. Winners will be notified by reply. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Breakfast with BeGerk

Beached Az is now available to buy on DVD, and here is a...err...taste of one of the special features (nb. massively NSFW!):

Now you understand why the DVD is rated MA 15+ !

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Movie Club: Gainsbourg

Et voila! Here is my second TV appearance (though they were filmed back-to-back, so I'm still counting it as the first) on The Movie Club. We're talking all things Frenchie with the biopic Gainsbourg.

Click HERE to see the show and marvel at Michael Adams' accent.

Click HERE to read my much less tongue tied review.


Gainsbourg is in cinemas now - look for the slightly psychedelic Australian poster! 

Gainsbourg (Vie héroïque)

Joann Sfar's debut film is less a biography of French provocateur musician Serge Gainsbourg than an irreverent, audacious tribute from one artist to his icon. Comic book artist Sfar bends the biopic genre to his will and that of Gainsbourg's seductive celebrity with a film that outwardly adheres to a linear, cradle-to-grave structure, but is in fact steeped in magical realism and entirely unconcerned about imparting truths of any kind.

With no dates and barely any names given, Sfar throws us into the world of a wily Jewish boy, who manages to thumb his nose at the threatening reality of the Second World War with charm and sly obsequiousness. Sfar also brings his comic book sensibilities to life, bequeathing the future Gainsbourg with an alter ego in the form of a Jewish caricature that literally steps out of an anti-Semitic poster and into his life. Ironically, this 'ugly mug' (looking like a surrealist Guillermo del Toro character and indeed played by del Toro regular Doug Jones) has all the confidence and cocksure drive that Gainsbourg lacks, and isn't afraid to go to dastardly lengths to shape their intertwined existence.

It is the 'ugly mug' that urges Gainsbourg to step away from his love of art and embrace the skills he so reluctantly learned from his lounge-musician father. Musical fame, fortune and fabulous love affairs follow, and all too soon he's being seduced by songstress Juliette Greco (Anna Mouglalis), bombshell Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta) is frolicking naked about his flat, before he settles down to marry and sing that raunchy duet with Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon).

Eric Elmosnino's uncanny resemblance and transporting performance goes a long way to traversing many of the yawning gaps in detail (and those pesky truths) Sfar has purposefully omitted from his screenplay. But that doesn't quite prevent this willfully opaque portrait from becoming frustrating in parts. While no-one can fault the sumptuous design (Sfar's artistic eye translates superbly) Gainsbourg's staggering self-indulgence — painted with the barest scrape of context — ends up feeling stifling. It's an odd storytelling decision to be sure, but one that Sfar sticks to absolutely. Instead Gainsbourg is an impressionistic rendering, a decadent celebration and a downright sexy account of a supremely talented musician, and his ugly mug.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 4 November 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

La Danse: Le ballet de l'Opéra de Paris

For some, 2 hours and 39 minutes pinned as a fly-on-the-wall of a premiere ballet company might be akin to one of Dante's circles of hell. For others (and not just balletomanes), tempus will fly by like one of the flitting, majestic, and ludicrously talented creatures that grace Frederick Wiseman's superb documentary. Entirely free from talking heads or narration or any kind, it’s as if Wiseman has merely ventured behind the velvet curtain of the prestigious Ballet de l'Opera National de Paris (Paris Opera Ballet), planted some cameras and cut it all together at the aforementioned, leisurely pace.

But of course there's a much more subtle genius at work here. With the absence of such documentary/narrative staples, the devil (or should that be the divinity?) is in the detail. Early on Wiseman captures the artistic director mentioning the imperative for the older dancers to pass their knowledge down the line. This instills a theme that is evoked and confirmed in the many vignettes of choreographers and their performers painstakingly perfecting their dance. Movements that appear jaw-droppingly faultless are tweaked and even grumbled over by the cast of demanding artists. Then again, credit where credit's due, the demands and debate consistently result in performances which ascend before your eyes to new levels of beauty and craftsmanship.

This blood, sweat and tears aren't the sole domain of the dance floor. Wiseman's camera spends time in the cafeteria, the costumery, with the maintenance men and, most delightfully, with a lone bee-keeper and his hives that are kept on the roof of the Paris Opera. Alongside all these adjunct employees, funding becomes another recurring theme of the documentary — how do you keep this magic factory in business? So you can't help but wince when the Lehman Brothers are mentioned as an interested party in the company's various, luxury patronage packages.

Yes it's long, but like the seven ballet productions it follows, La Danse prizes meticulous, exhaustive and downright entrancing precision. Wiseman allows the realities, the creativity and the emotional investment of this prodigious company enough time to be not just appreciated, but actually felt by his audience. Indeed, La Danse is a film that makes you profoundly grateful documentaries exist.

La Danse is in cinemas now


The Brisbane International Film Festival kicks off today, and check out the newsletter header:

Couldn't have said it better myself! ;)

After a quick perusal of the programme, here are some titles I can recommend:
Bill Cunningham, New York (I heart this film so much)
Blue Valentine (though I haven't seen it yet - jealous!)
Copacabana (though it's getting a theatrical release)
Fair Game (ditto)
Gasland (ditto)
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
La Danse
Last Train Home
Life During Wartime
Mugabe and the White African (and prepare to be outraged)
Somewhere (then tell me all about it - again, jealous!)
Teenage Paparazzo (frothy, but fun)
The Red Shoes (a MUST)
Winter's Bone


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Movie Club: The Loved Ones

So you know how I promised you a review 'of sorts' for The Loved Ones?'s a prospect almost as frightening as the film itself:

My television debut! 

Last Monday I filmed two daunting episodes of Showtime's The Movie Club. Though in equal parts entirely nerve-wracking and super fun, I joked at the time that my first take should have gone the way of the first pancake! 

You be the judge...but, please, be kind!

I also still have some tickets to give away for this film, so click HERE for more details.

The Loved Ones opens in cinemas tomorrow.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Giveaway: The Loved Ones

Put down your Halloween treats, it's time to gear up for an altogether more frightful experience. The new Australian horror flick The Loved Ones is creeping into cinemas this Thursday (November 4) and I have some double passes to give away. Oh yes, despite my absolute aversion to the horror genre, I did make it through this film, and will have a review (of sorts) for you later in the week. Stay tuned!

The film's synopsis reads:

Brent (Xavier Samuel) never recovered from the car crash that killed his father: the crash that he was responsible for. His only solace is his loving girlfriend Holly (Victoria Thaine). But there's another girl who yearns to comfort Brent, the quietest girl in school, Lola (Robin McLeavy), and when he turns down her invitation to the end of year dance he enters a nightmare beyond imagining.

A terrifying series of events take place under the light of a mirrored
disco ball, involving pink satin, glitter, syringes, nails and power drills. Brent must summon every ounce of will he possesses if he is to survive and prevent Lola and her father from extending their revenge to those he loves the most.

I blogged about the trailer back in July, so click through if you want to see it, but be warned, it may just spoil a couple of the shocks for you. 

To go in the running to win one of ten double passes to see The Loved Ones, just email me with your name and address (subject: The Loved Ones). Winners will be notified by reply. Enter if you dare!
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