Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Tonight's Movie

I have seriously been out of touch with movies for the last couple of months. I think I overdosed during winter. Anyway in the mood for a film tonight and thought I should tackle the ultimate tear jerker. Already got a lump in my throat picturing that little pointy finger. See how I go.....

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Artist

I know nothing about this film, other than Mark Kermode really likes it and that the trailer looks great.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Umberto D, Vittorio De Sica, 1953

This film made me cry.

Already a fan of Italian director, Vittorio De Sica  (I had watched his extraordinary film, The Bicycle Thieves, many months ago, which also made me cry) I recently viewed Umberto D.

This was my second viewing of Umberto D, a film about an elderly pensioner struggling to survive during Italy’s postwar economic boom.

Umberto’s wealthy landlady evicts Umberto because she wants to use Umberto’s rented room to extend her living room and because Umberto is behind on his rent.   Alone, penniless and with nowhere to go Umberto does his utmost to maintain his dignity whilst trying to find the means to survive.  But the city seems void of any human compassion, even when he encounters former colleagues and friends.

There is a parallel story about the landlady’s kind maid, Maria, a very young girl, alone and pregnant.  She too seems destined to become homeless and penniless like Umberto.

To me this film is as much about Umberto’s poverty and homelessness (the desperation is palpable!) as it is about Umberto’s companionship with his ever-faithful dog, Flicke (Do they give Oscars to dogs??) 

It is Umberto’s love and concern for Flicke, which keeps him going. 

Umberto D is cast with non-professional actors but you wouldn’t know it from the performances and many of the cast members went on to have successful acting careers.

This story is heart-wrenching, but a must-see. It’s a masterpiece.  I love this film and I love Flicke.

Pierrot le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard, 1965

I recently watched the French New Wave film Pierrot le Fou (Peter the Fool) by director Jean-Luc Godard.  A story about a man named Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who dissatisfied with his marriage and bourgeois lifestyle runs away with the babysitter, Marianne (Anna Karina). 

Soon they lead a less ordinary lifestyle – always on the run, either being chased by Algerian gangsters or the police.  Marianne refers to Ferdinand as ‘Pierrot’ much to his annoyance (and hence the ‘Pierrot’ in the title).  Eventually they settle down near the Mediterranean Sea, philosophising about life, reading... and more philosophising.

Marianne soon becomes bored of this quaint, non-materialistic lifestyle and wants to move into town.  After some time apart, the couple is reunited and Ferdinand discovers that Marianne is not all she has appeared, which leads to a violent and strangely comical conclusion.

Many years ago I would have found this film a little too arty and wanky (those are film terms) and I must say there were certainly times when I wondered WTF was going on.  But I loved this film’s youthful vibrancy, it’s use of colours and pop art and the idyllic Mediterranean scenery.

The leads were excellent.  Jean-Paul Belmondo worked with Godard on his previous film ‘Breathless', which I think was his breakthrough role.  Anna Karina would become the muse and wife of Godard and appear in many of his films.

This film turned out to be a lot of fun.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Welcome back!

Well Jo’s been travelling, Dan has been partying and I have been downright lazy watching films and keeping my thoughts and opinions to myself (not altogether a bad thing).

Dan, Jo and I caught up with each other on Sunday afternoon and watched the weirdly wonderful (were the animators on drugs???) Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet (La Planete Sauvage).  It was this session of movie watching which reminded me that I do enjoy contributing to this blog and I better make a start on it this week (or else!).

Not to mention (but I will) that I have heard rumours that friends, acquaintances and people-I-do-not-yet-know have taken an interest in this blog (thank you x).  Which is AWESOME!!!

Well, what’s been happening?

I saw The Hunter with Dan and, well, I thought that was a bit so-so.  The best part was going to the “world premiere” in Hobart and standing next to Willem Dafoe himself (!!!!), yes, on the red carpet! He is really short!  And much better looking in real life.  

However, I really do not wish to review The Hunter. Nope.

What I have been doing of late is watching French films by Jeunet, Truffaut, Godard and Tati.  And Italian works by De Sica and Bresson... and in between all of this Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited!

And it is about such films I wish to write about.  Because I love foreign films, and less mainstream films, and I would really like to peak people’s interest in seeing a film they may not normally rent out from the video store.

And so, I have a few things to share with you …

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Hunter, 2011

I'm looking forward to watching this film which is set and shot in my home state, Tasmania.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Battle Los Angeles

Some commenters have said that it’s too soon to commit to film, the tragic events that left thousands dead in Los Angeles a few years ago. Personally, I don’t subscribe to that lefty thinking. I believe the story of the men and women that defeated the alien hordes on that tragic day is too important not to be told and Battle LA tackles the subject with sensitivity and compassion.

Based on the best selling biography of Sargent Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), Battle Los Angeles follows the now famous rag tag team of marines that spearheaded the defense of LA. It recounts, in detail, the heroic sacrifices made by our fighting forces that were needed to defeat the alien scum.

This film is brilliantly cast; I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a clean sweep at next year’s Academy Awards. As well as Aaron Eckhart’s blistering performance, other notable standouts were Michelle Rodriguez as Technical Sargent Elena Santos and Ne-Yo, playing Corporal Kevin Harris. If there was an Academy Award for an ensemble cast, this is the film that would receive it.

Christopher Bertolini expertly adapted the screenplay, based on the book. You really get a sense of whom these people are. The character development is brilliant and is complemented by dialogue worth of Aaron Sorkin at his best.

History tells us what happened after the invasion, but Battle Los Angeles tells us the untold story, the personal story, of the American Heroes who put the lives on the line to protect our planet.

4 patriotic stars.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2011)

Submarine is the highly acclaimed debut film of Richard Ayoade (Moss from the IT Crowd) based on the best selling novel by Joe Dunthorpe, which I feel a very strong need to obtain and read.

15-year-old Welsh schoolboy Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is a cool literary genius.

In reality, however, he’s socially inept and unpopular. 

Oliver has set himself two tasks for the coming months:  to lose his virginity and save his parents’ marriage.  He suspects that his mother (the ever wonderful Sally Hawkins) is having an affair with her first love Graham (Paddy Considine) a new-age Psychic.

Meanwhile, Oliver attempts to attain the affections of Jordana (Yasmin Paige) who introduces him to pyromania and eczema.

This film had the whole audience in stiches.  This film is so funny, quirky and warm hearted.  Oliver is such a fun character with strange idiosyncrasies (some of which I share – - when lending books, make sure the borrower knows not to crease the spine!)

The young actors playing Oliver and Jordana were fabulous.  I loved Noah Taylor as the reserved and sad father and Paddy Considine was hilarious as the spiky mullet wearing mystic. 

This film was so enjoyable from start to finish.  Definitely another film to add to the DVD collection!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

And here's the trailer... Jane Eyre (2011)

Jane Eyre (Cary Fukunaga, 2011)

I wish I were a good writer. So that I could put on the page exactly what I felt when watching this film. But I shall try…

On Saturday afternoon I went to the lovely State Cinema in North Hobart with a friend to watch the most recent film adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and my golly gosh how much did I love this film!

Most people know the story of young English orphan Jane who is shipped off by her aunt to a very punitive boarding school and who at 18 years of age, goes out into the world (still England) to work as a governess for the ward of the fiery, older and more worldly (been overseas), Mr Rochester. A man she falls in love with and which is requited but, alas, Mr Rochester is hiding a terrible secret.

Now, one could expect that this would be the usual period drama cliché. But this is not the case. In fact this is the best adaptation of Jane Eyre I have ever seen. Why, is this so? Well…
The cinematography by Adriano Goldman is breathtaking. The moors at once breathtaking and then haunting and gothic; the direction by Cary Fukunaga superb. I love the way the structure of the story was tweaked so that it flowed so well on the screen. The timing was beautiful and though I had seated myself with a full bladder I had forgotten all need by the time the film was into it’s 5th minute and I did not want this film to end. In fact, 2hrs later, I would, quite happily, have sat and watched more of the majestic scenery and some more fiery banter between Jane and Rochester.

Which brings me to the acting. Mia Wasikowska is amazing as Jane. The best Jane! She can look young and naïve and a child of 12 in one scene and in another a fiery independent woman. And she doesn’t even have to say anything. There is so much she can say with just a look.
And Michael Fassbender… He brings all the charm, temper, and fire you want in a Mr Rochester. It’s a superb bit of casting and the supporting cast which includes Sally Hawkins, Judi Dench and Jamie Bell is just great.

This film is thought provoking and beautiful. I want to go back and see it again. At times it was touching, you could feel Jane's turmoil and it wasn’t just me being a softy, I heard some teary sniffs behind me!

It made me think a lot about how lucky I am to be a woman in 2011 living in the developed world. I can choose my career, who to de facto or marry and travel where I choose. Jane is a 2011 woman stuck in 19th century England and when Jane is running along those moors without a house or carriage in site (and no mobile phone handy) it’s devastating to see just how isolating and cruel 19th century working class life could be. I highly recommend this film and can’t wait to get my own copy on DVD.

The Night Porter (1974, Liliana Cavani)

Tonight's movie:

Monday, 5 September 2011

Basket Case (1982, Frank Henenlotter)

As a kid I used to be quite frightened of the front cover of Basket Case and made the decision it was too scary to ever watch……

But then I grew up.....

……Young Duane Bradley arrives at a cheap hotel in New York with a wad of cash and a big wicker basket. He feeds the contents of the basket hamburgers while they communicate semi-telepathically. It quickly transpires that Duane and the basket contents are Siamese twins who are seeking revenge on the Doctors that separated them.

It’s the perfect horror movie if you want a good laugh. Henenlotter seems to take great enjoyment of making the movie gross but funny. He also somehow manages to make you feel a little sorry for the deformed critter, who was left in the trash to die after the twins were operated on.

Really though, it’s enough to just watch the film for the stop motion animation where the wee mutant goes ballistic in the hotel room.

The extras are also worth viewing as Henenlotter revisits a few of the movie locations 20 years on. Interesting to note that part of it was filmed in a building which is now the Hellfire Club.

I give it 4 1/2 comedy horror movie stars.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Change of Seasons (1980, Richard Lang)

Karen Evans (Shirley MacLaine) has just discovered that her arrogant husband, university professor Adam (Anthony Hopkins) is having an affair with one of his students Linsey (Bo Derek).
After a moment or two of contemplation, Karen decides not to leave her husband but to instead to find a lover of her own. As it happens, a happy go lucky carpenter turns up at the house one morning and she invites him in.

Much to Adam's chagrin, Karen decides they all should spend the holidays in Karen and Adam's Vermont chalet to do some skiing and open relationship exploring. To add another dimension to the unusual mix is the arrival of the Evans' daughter Kasey with her very new and ultra conventional fiance.

You know when movie isn't overly successful when you google it and can only find a handful of images to choose from.
It apparently nearly destroyed Shirley MacLaine's career and from what I have read Anthony Hopkins couldn't stand Bo Derek as she refused to rehearse and abhorred MacLaine even more for being one of the most obnoxious actresses he had ever worked with. I don't know if I can give any credence to those claims as I only read it off other reviews of people like myself....but they pleased me as they made me chuckle.

I also don't know if I am just one for a B grade film, or that I now own this particular film (I bought it for $3)...but I didn't mind it. True, I was unsure if it was meant to be a comedy or a drama or a combination of the both or neither....but it was easy to watch.
It defintely drove home the idea that men shouldn't leave their wives for someone more than half their age- because although younger women have bouncy boobs (opening scene) they just end up squirting water in your face (opening scene and another scene); and if the man messes with the domestic balance they will be alone and sad while the wife will have a new lease on life with lots of new love interests.

But all said and done I liked the skiing scenes.

2 1/2 or 3 stars

The Conversation (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)

Written, directed and produced by Francis Ford Copolla, The Conversation tells the story of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a highly successful surveillance expert from San Francisco. As successful and revered as he is in his line of work, he is incredibly secretive and obsessed with his own privacy, to the detriment of his personal relationships.

The opening scene shows Caul and his team recording what appears to be a rather inocuous conversation between a man and a woman in San Francisco's Union Square.
Caul successfully combines the tapes to make a clear recording of the conversation however, its meaning is ambiguous. Harry becomes more intrigued by the conversation he taped and decides to investigate it further. The more he learns, the more the meaning of the conversation changes. His investigations also threatens his anonymity.
This film is one that stays with you well after you have seen it.
Gene Hackman's performance is perfectly pitched to show the restraint and lonely world of Harry Caul.
I felt such empathy towards his character during the brief moment when opens himself up.

The music score by David Shire is definitely a part of why the The Conversation is successful - the main theme played on a solo piano is one of the most enchanting that I have heard and am suprised that I haven't heard it before.

I give it 4 1/2 stars

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Monpti (1957, Helmut Kautner)

It gives me great pleasure to introduce a film by my favourite German director, Helmut Kautner.  Helmut Kautner was a true storyteller and humanist. 

I grew up in a German household and Kautner films were a regular feature and thus I feel a little nostalgic when I watch these films.  His films are engaging and centre on the every-man/woman and the comedies and tragedies that weave through all our lives.

The film I watched last night was Monpti.  A story about a young, poor, Hungarian art student (Horst Buchholz), living in Paris, who meets a beautiful girl, Anne Claire (Romy Schneider), in a park on a lovely summers day.

The young art student falls madly in love with her and spends his few coins in an effort to woo and win her heart.  But Anne Claire, though clearly interested, does not give in so easily.  Anne Claire tells him she is the daughter of a wealthy family, which makes the young arts student’s pursuit of her even more challenging.

Eventually they are in are tender relationship.  Anne Claire refers to the young man as ‘Monpti’ short for Mon Petite.   But this relationship soon becomes tumultuous when Monpti discovers that everything Anne Claire has ever told him about her, is nothing but fantasy and lies.

There is also a second story intertwined through this tale, which is about a rich couple that are in complete contrast to Anne Claire and Monpti.

Whenever I finish watching a Kautner film, I always want to share it with my close friends, but I can never seem to find a copy with English subtitles! I hope, one day, more old German films are restored and available with English subtitles. Some of these films are such gems they should be shared to a wider audience.

I love this film for many reasons: It is by my favourite German director; It is a tragedy but it has a lot of funny, touching moments between the characters and its a fun look at human idiosyncrasies; it stars my favourite German actress, Romy Schneider, and… it always makes me want to have a duckling for a pet!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Paul (2011, Greg Mottola)

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are two comic-book-loving, alien-believing, anything-to-do-with-space obsessed British buddies, who go on a once in a life time trip to the US. After a successful visit to Comic-Con, they start their pilgrimage to all places connected with UFO's and UFO sightings. Along the way they bump in to an alien, Paul (Seth Rogan) and reluctantly agree to help him return to his mothership. They also happen to pick up a religious fanatic and love interest for Graeme, Ruth (Kristen Wiig), and hot on their trail are FBI agents and Ruth's incensed father.
A major fan of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's previous work - tv series Spaced (1998-2001), Sean of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007); I was excited to watch the next insta
I ruddy well enjoyed it. Apart from great
writing and directing in these movies, why I love their work so much is the fact that Pegg and Frost are best mates in real life. Their friendship is evident on screen and adds a special dimension to their films. Paul is funny and well paced, with tender moments. It was fun spotting the sci-fi film references and I loved seeing a stunning Sigourney Weaver. The dvd extras are great - especially watching how how Paul was created out of Seth Rogan.

Four stars from me

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell

Hansel (John Cameron Mitchell) is a young man from East Berlin who falls in love with an American soldier. In order to marry him and migrate to The States, Hansel has to have a sex change. Hansel becomes Hedwig and moves to America - but with the operation being a bit of a botched job, all she is left with is an a bit of a mess in the downstairs department - hence the angry inch.
Hedwig tours America (her husband has since left her), singing with her Eastern European band in chain restaurants and shopping mall foyers - her songs too big for the location. Hedwig's US tour also follows the tour of her now famous ex boyfriend Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt) who has stolen her songs.

Not a one for musicals, I sta
rted watching Hedwig and the Angry Inch (written and directed by John Cameron Mitchell) expecting I would be frequently pausing it to do the dishes, check Facebook and pat the dogs. But from the first scene I was hooked. Hedwig's band performances are so over the top they are deliciously funny. Yet Mitchell plays Hedwig's character as so brittle, affectionate, sweet and flawed that I fell a bit in love with her. The moments between Hedwig and Gnosis were tender are real that I lamented their break up.

I give it 4 stars.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Withnail and I (1985, Bruce Robinson)

A story about friendship (drugs and booze) and a holiday in the country.

This is a film that underwhelmed me the first time I saw it, two years ago.  However, on this, my second viewing, I think it’s a masterpiece.

This film is hilarious! And with so many quotable lines I wish I had a better memory.

It’s 1969 and struggling London actors, Withnail and Marwood, tired of the filth they live in and their uneventful lives, decide to rejuvenate themselves with a jaunt in the country. But without the modern conveniences with which they are accustomed, their friendship is put to the test.

Richard E Grant is superb as the ever-intoxicated Withnail and Paul McGann is brilliant as Marwood.

Highly recommended!