Movie Review: Snow White & the Huntsman [M] – #SnowWhite

Director:  Rupert Sanders

Starring: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan,

Running Time :  127 minutes

Release Date :   June 21, 2012

From the very first moment, you know you’re in for a visual feast. The opening scenes set up a very gothic story of a beautiful Queen who wishes for nothing more than a daughter.  As three drops of blood stain the snow, her wish is granted. The kingdom rejoices but their joy is shortlived as their beloved Queen dies.  The King soon remarries the ravishing Ravenna (Theron) who is visibly jealous of the young Snow White (Stewart). As Ravenna walks down the aisle on her wedding day, all eyes are on the young Princess. Snow White’s fate has been sealed.

After the death of her father, the young Snow White is imprisoned by the evil new Queen. The gorgeous and vain Queen has a myriad of magical powers and with the help of her creepy brother Finn (Spruell) rules the Kingdom with a cruel hand. It isn’t long before all is dead and desolate.

On Snow’s 18th birthday, the magic mirror tells the Queen she is no longer the fairest in the land and to reclaim the title, she must have the heart of Snow White. Coincidentally, on this day Snow White escapes her tower prison and heads into the dark forest, a place the Queen has no power, magical or otherwise.  So the Queen sends a huntsman (Hemsworth), a man grieving the loss of his young wife and with nothing left to lose, to kill Snow White and bring back her heart.

The huntsman realises he has been duped and agrees to take Snow White to the castle of Duke Hammond, who was her father’s dear friend and advisor and who fights still to oust the evil Queen Ravenna.  Along the way, they encounter others who wish to see their beloved kingdom restored to it’s former glory, including 8 dwarfs and an array of magical creatures both fair and foul.

Theron is divine as Queen Ravenna. Unlike other versions of the Snow White tale, this movie offers a back story for the Queen and you actually feel empathy for her. Theron moves effortlessly between a sad, damaged, inwardly reflecting young woman who has suffered at the hands of many to an overtly theatrical and dramatic Queen who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. As fine an actress as she is, Theron is perfection when she is overplaying the drama, just shy of the absurd. The Queen’s costumes are gothic fantasy brought to life and should certain moments have been downplayed by even the arch of an eyebrow or the sweep of an arm, you fear Theron would have been engulfed by the costumes themselves.

Hemsworth is a fine huntsman with just the right amount of brawn, brains and bravado to play the hero. Having literally just walked off the Avenger’s set, Hemsworth was in fine physical form to play a sword wielding Scotsman, who sets out to rescue not only the damsel but an entire kingdom. My only complaint is that the thick Scottish drawl Hemsworth adopts for the role was difficult to understand at times.

Stewart, as the feisty Snow White, was the real surprise here. First of all, I was stunned at how beautiful she is in this movie. She was entirely believable as a young woman whose beauty could threaten that of the Queen.  Of course, her beauty was not quite the ethereal, ice queen beauty of Theron but more an earthy, Boadicea, warrior woman type of beauty. In fact, I couldn’t help but compare Stewart’s Snow White to the heroic Joan of Arc as she fought for her people. There is a lot to be said for a woman who will fight at the side of her men and not simply issue instructions and cast spells to aid her quest.

Yeah, take that Queen Ravenna!

Stewart’s acting could use some finesse, especially the deep emoting moments, but this is a young woman with the world at her feet and apparently, a lot to prove. Oh yes, I have seen the snide comments about Stewart and ‘Bella’ and I feel if you cannot walk into a movie theatre and differentiate between two separate, and very different, characters, then the fault lies with you, not the actor. I’m not seeing many comparisons between Hemsworth’s Thor and his Huntsman even though the similarities are indisputable, so why the Stewart hate?

The special effects, as evidenced by the trailer, are spectacular. From the very gothic and vaguely creepy magic mirror sequences, the non-human armies and the scenes involving the ravens, we are swept into a magical world of sorcery and spell casting. The sets are huge, dark and foreboding. The dark forest is literally alive. The castle is set apart from the rest of the kingdom and the only colour of real note is the colour of spilled blood. The dwarves are wonderfully crafted with the faces of some very familiar actors digitally placed onto the bodies of real life little people. It is very effective.

I really enjoyed this dark re-telling of the Snow White tale. It is a fine complementary partner to 2012’s other Snow White movie, the high camp and very quirky Mirror, Mirror. The two are as different as night and day and thus complement each other perfectly. These movies show that an eye cast over the same story can envision two very separate outcomes.

Special mention for the most adorable fairy/pixies I have seen for a long time. No glitter or pink for these fairies, these are the pixies of childhood dreams…..or my long lost Brownie lore.

Book Review: Jilted by Rachael Johns

 

 

Jilted

Author: Rachael Johns

355 pages

Available: Now

‘The heartbreaker of Hope Junction is back…. ‘

 

 

Ellie Hughes is Australia’s favourite soap star. Young, beautiful and talented, she is adored by everyone except Flynn Quartermaine, the high school sweetheart she left standing at the altar some 10 years ago. Having fled the small country town of Hope Junction and leaving behind the handsome and rich small town hero Flynn, Ellie is understandably nervous about returning for the first time. But she has no choice as her adored god-mother, Matilda, is ill and needs her. So back to Hope Junction she goes, hoping her visit will be uneventful, perhaps even un-noticed by the locals. Alas, this is not to be.

Once back in town and en route to collect her currently hospitalised god-mother, the drama begins. As the story progresses, Ellie encounters old friends, old enemies, new friends, new enemies, people who know all about what happened 10 years ago and people who know nothing about it at all. The town is abuzz that not only does it have a genuine celebrity in it’s midst, but that celebrity comes with ties to the small town and most importantly, ties to it’s dashing, handsome and all round good guy, Flynn.

But what will Flynn make of Ellie’s return? Will he be angry or forgiving? Will he be married or pining away for her return? Will he be handsome still or a shadow of his former self? Will he even speak to her.

At this point I think I should mention that I bought this book to support the author, Rachael, who I have become friends with via the internet. As you know, I am a great supporter of all Aussie talent and felt this should include Aussie authors. So putting my money where my mouth is, I skipped off to buy myself a copy of Jilted (I found mine at Big W). The aisle where I found this book is one I usually avoid as this type of book really isn’t my thing. Chick lit, sometimes yes, but this? And it was a Harlequin romance to boot *sighs*

What had I done?? I had no choice.

I started reading.

Now obviously it has been some time since I picked up a romance novel because where is the bodice ripping? Where is the fade to black as they tenderly kiss? Where is the outdated, PG and a tad boring storytelling? This was not what I remembered. Once I stopped thinking and started reading, I was hooked.

This is a genuine old fashioned love story with a contemporary edge.  Ellie is real. She is not the most beautiful woman ever created, nor is she perfect with no flaws or issues. She is not waiting to be saved nor is she a heartless bitch who is broken beyond repair. Flynn, too, is very real. Handsome and rugged but with his own failings. Neither is the victim nor the hero. As the story progresses, there is no right or wrong, no black or white. It’s all so…..modern.

But it is the writing style that hooked me. There is nothing forced or studied here. The author clearly lives what she writes or at the very least, knows what she is talking about. The language is fresh, modern and colloquial enough to be instantly recognised as contemporary Australia. There is not the heavy handed ‘g’day mates’ and intimated slow drawls so often appropriated to anyone who lives beyond the urban sprawl.

The residents of Hope Junction and neither slow, timid or simpleminded. They may enjoy the simple pleasures of life and have a sense of community that is lacking in modern suburbia but there is nothing small town about any of the characters we encounter. Okay so I did chuckle at the Cranky Women’s errrrrrr I mean Country Women’s Association and the prayer tree. Forget the interwebs, if you want to know gossip in a small town, join the CWA. You know it’s true!

This story of love lost is exactly what it says it is. A love story with interesting, engaging characters that moves along at a steady pace offering a few surprises along the way. There are moments of suspense that are written to perfection so you are neither frustrated nor uninterested in what will happen next. This story is engaging from beginning to end.

It was a real joy to read this novel for a few reasons. It really is cool ‘knowing’ the author (thank you Twitter & Facebook) so for that reason alone, I am really glad I liked this book. It’s great to see modern Australia so well represented in such a positive, non-patronising manner.  I may have to give these books, previously ignored by me, a second look.

It was wonderful to read a good book. A well written, well thought out story that wasn’t just fodder for the seemingly dumb downed masses.  Novels such as this give me hope that good storytellers with original stories can still have their voice heard and their books published.

I look forward to and will be first in line for Johns’ next novel, which I believe she is writing as I speak.

Visit Rachael at:

http://www.rachaeljohns.com/

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rachael-Johns/260103224001776

 

Magic Mike Movie Trailers – #MagicMike

At the moment, there are so many Magic Mike trailers out and trying to keep track is exhausting! So in the interest of time management (hey….it’s a valid reason ) I have put them all in one convenient place, on one convenient page so you can like, bookmark and visit whenever ummmmm feel the need. You are welcome 😉

Magic Mike opens in Aussie cinemas July 26

The new NSFW Redband trailer…

The very first official trailer that seems to focus on Mike’s relationship woes *sighs* Yep because that is what we are all looking forward to…..a drama about relationship woes.

The next trailer, for international audiences, got smart and focused more on the strippers. The many, many positive reactions to this trailer made someone sit up and say ‘hmmmm, so they want to see nekid mens huh?’ YES!!!

Movie Review: Prometheus 3D [MA15]

 

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring : Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba

Running Time :  124 minutes

Release Date :   June 7, 2012

 

‘The search for our beginning could lead to our end’

At a time that pre-dates history, an alien craft hovers menacingly in the air as a pale humanoid creature deposits his DNA into the churning waters of Earth. Many, many years later, two archaeologists, Shaw (Rapace) & Holloway (Marshall-Green) find a 35 000 year old cave painting depicting what appears to be giant humans pointing to or worshipping a constellation far, far away. Convinced the painting is an invitation, a few years later and our scientists are part of a deep space voyage aboard the Prometheus, currently en route to the constellation depicted in the paintings.

The slumbering crew are tended to by the android David (the stunningly talented Fassbender) who spends at least some of his time modelling himself on Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia. Once they near their target, they awaken and are briefed on their mission by the ice cold Meredith Vickers (Theron), who is not a scientist or specialist but is there to oversee the trillion dollar Weyland Corporation mission.

The crew, very small considering the size of not only the Prometheus but the mission they have embarked upon, are a combination of scientists and technical support. They land on their destination planet/moon and venture forth to investigate a mysterious rocky dome which may or may not be natural.

This new planet is dark, dismal, grey and dead. The initial investigation of the rocky dome reveals that is not a natural structure. Once inside, 4 small tennis ball sized laser droids are despatched to map the structure & to determine if any life forms are present. This real time mapping is shown as a constantly moving 3D geographical map at the centre of the Prometheus control room. It maps the structure and tracks the scientists as well as any alien life forms. It’s fascinating and a constant link to the outside.

Naturally, our scientists find alien life forms. There is the usual, as we would expect in a Sci Fi movie, and the unexpected. They stumble upon a huge cave full of rows and rows and rows of what seems like canisters of….something. It appears the scientists trigger some sort of reaction and the canisters begin to ooze black goo and come to life within. That’s what I saw anyway.

The team, both on the ground and back on the ship, experience all sorts of things. Some are real, others are imagined. There is lots of alien stuff…..dark caves, strange writings on walls, unidentified life forms, creepy pictures and carvings, things that go bump in the night, odd weather, skeletons, holograms…..the list goes on.

There is the battle of wills between the company rep and the scientists. Is there a hidden agenda at play? When corporate funds are involved, scientists immediately lose ground (take note NASA!!) as there is always, always a bottom line, hidden agenda or some other ulterior motive to contend with. The Prometheus crew will always be at the will of the Weyland Corporation and nothing good can come from this either scientifically or personally.

Is this an Alien prequel? I’m saying no. It is, as Ridley Scott promised, within the Alien universe but a prequel….no. If it is, we have quite a few more films to go between this and the first Alien movie. There are many similar and familiar elements, of course. The droid David is perhaps the most obvious connection, perhaps a prototype. There are lots of other connections, some obvious some subtle but there is great deal of originality too.

I liked this movie. It is old fashioned storytelling with fantastic special effects to enhance the story. Sure the plot has some holes and paper thin connections at some points. And sure some of the characters are underused. And sure the decision to send a trillion dollar expedition into deep space on the seemingly gut instincts of a scientist are bordering on laughable but still, none of this affected my enjoyment of the movie. Yeah, when I look at what I just wrote, it really should have. But it didn’t.

The special effects are spectacular and creepy. Oozing black goo, snake like creatures that start to open and you’re like rut roh……no good can come from a snake like creature gradually unfurling as a scientist  tries to soothe it as you would a baby. No good at all! And no good does come of it. It’s brilliant. I love the Alien aliens, new and old. They are horrible and tap into something primitive and scary within me. Excellent stuff!

Oh I know the knives are out for Scott with this one. Is it or is it not a prequel. Has he slipped with the scary stuff. Is he letting the Alien franchise down. This movie asks more questions than it answers. Okay…..stop right there.

I have seen reviewers and many others cry foul with this movie simply because it doesn’t answer all their questions. Since when was it a movie making prerequisite that all things be uncovered, dealt with, then neatly boxed up again within 2 hours?  Unless of course there is an obvious play for a sequel. That, it seems, is acceptable. But still, all questions must be satisfactorily answered within the movie or else it fails? Absolutely ridiculous.

If you want your story done and dusted within a certain time frame, try a Scooby Doo mystery.

 

 


Movie Review: What to Expect When You Are Expecting [M]

~~ Warning! This review contains a ‘Joe Manganiello Pause for Perve’ moment.

If you are offended, please move along now. Thank you. ~~~~

Director : Kirk Jones

Starring : Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Chris Rock, Chase Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Dennis Quaid, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Manganiello, Rebel Wilson

Running Time : 110 minutes

Release Date :   31 May 2012

Inspired by Heidi Murkoff’s baby bible of the same name, this movie follows 5 very different couples as they navigate their way through impending parenthood. Jules (Diaz) is a TV fitness trainer/TV show host and her new boyfriend Evan (Morrison) was her dance partner on a reality show. She expects her pregnancy will simply fit in with her hectic celebrity lifestyle. Holly (Lopez) and Alex (Santoro) are adopting from a third world country. Holly is sure it’s the right thing, Alex not so sure. All Wendy (Banks) wants is the glow, the pregnancy glow promised by the books, magazines and TV show. Her hormones have other ideas. Wendy’s  step mother-in-law Skylar (Decker) is breezing through her pregnancy, with twins no less) and still wearing 6 inch heels at 8 months along. Yeah I know….

 

From the opening credits, showing the finale of a TV Dancing with the Stars type of reality competition, you know this film is going to be an over the top chick flick. These scenes are so full of real life celebrity cameos you inwardly roll your eyes and hope this movie is not going to take itself too seriously. And it doesn’t. At least, I didn’t think it did.

This movie tracks our couples for the better part of a year as they deal with falling pregnant, not falling pregnant, raging hormones, job worries, family issues, baby joy, baby sadness and most of all love. The 5 couples have very different situations to deal with. Some are humorous and played for laughs, other are more serious and make you pause and think. Some are a combination of both.

 

The focus is on the women but their partners receive lots of attention as well. The relationship between Gary (Falcone) and his father Ramsey (Quaid) is ridiculously combative but hilarious. Ramsey’s gorgeous but genuinely warm-hearted trophy wife Skylar intercedes a lot of the time defending ‘her son’, much to the chagrin of Gary who is actually older than her. It worked for me, I loved the storyline.

Then there are ‘the dudes’. This group of fathers meet every Saturday, pushing their strollers with a dazzling array of accessories and giving out advice to father-to-be Alex. Led by the irrepressible Vic (Rock), the dudes are a suburban daddy fight club. The first rule is you don’t tell the wives anything. Their wisdom runs between sage and sane to ridiculous and misleading. These men love being fathers but if there is one thing they want to be more than anything…..they want to be Davis (Manganiello).

 

Davis. Joe Manganiello. Please, let us pause for just a few moments and revel in the glory that is Mr Joe Manganiello. True Blood’s Alcide Herveaux. The soon to be released Magic Mike’s Big Dick Richie. This is the real reason my friend Miss L & I went and saw this movie. We had heard he was in it for just a few minutes but we didn’t care. We waited and waited and *gasp* there he was in all his cinema size glory. Audible sighs and a few groans were heard as the delicious Davis ran onto the screen. Then he did pull ups. With one arm. Every fertile female in the cinema spontaneously ovulated and self-impregnated.

Later in the movie when Davis’ character announced an unexpected Australian connection, Miss L and I looked at each other and mentally high fived in that smug and just a little scary/sad way that adoring fangurls the world over will understand. From now until proven wrong, we know he fancies the pants off Aussie women and he can fancy the pants off us anytime he likes. Too much? Whatever……you read the warning before the review!

Now where was I. Oh yes….the movie.

I have seen criticisms that this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be, a comedy or a drama. But so what? Why does it have to be on or the other. I certainly didn’t think I was going to see a cinematic masterpiece with Oscar buzz surrounding it. It’s a chick flick with lots of attractive but not too threatening actresses in it. A funny and quirky plot. Some drama. Some laughs. The odd tear. Cute babies. Funny guys. Handsome guys. Joe Manganiello.

Australia’s own Rebel Wilson is a stand out as the quirky and funny Janice. She is better in this movie than she was in Bridesmaids. She has much more screen time too. Go Rebel!

I liked this movie. It’s just an average chick flick with some solid acting and funny moments. If you go in expecting just that, you won’t be disappointed.

And there is always Joe……

SYD2030 : Back from LA!! (Webseries)

You may remember a few months ago I wrote about a talented bunch of young Sydneysiders who were about to take the acting world by storm. In case you don’t, here is the link but just to quickly refresh your memories….

SYD2030 is a web series about a group of 20-something uni friends. Through 6 x 15 minute episodes, we follow their lives, loves and tribulations as their lives twist, turn and intersect with each other…..not all of it happily either.

At the time of my initial article, SYD2030 had been selected in the final 15 webseries to be screened at the LA Film, TV and Webisode Festival.  They were really thrilled just to have been selected and I am proud to say I was among the very first to write about this talented bunch. Personally, I loved their philosophy of ‘The worse they can say is no’ – so ask for everything’. It is one I share so I was always going to be a cheerleader.

A month or so later, I hear the news that SYD2030 has won Best International Webseries.  Yep they won. There was much celebrating and media attention and lots of happy people came back from LA all excited for the future. All that hard work had paid off and a more grateful bunch of young people you would have been hard pressed to find.

Flash forward a few weeks and more good news was just around the corner. SYD2030 has been nominated for THE biggest Webseries festival in the world: ITVfest – International Televsion Festival.  A few months ago when I first wrote about this production company, being selected for this most prestigious of events was a dream……something they hoped would happen but they were focussed on the LA festival. Well they blitzed that one so now it’s into the big leagues.

Now, I know many of you are probably thinking webseries…..so what? Big deal. It’s not like it’s real TV. I don’t watch TV on the web.

Really?

Do you have any idea what your kids are watching? Have you watched Nickelodeon or MTV or The Comedy Channel lately? Fast paced, short episodes are slowly creeping into the mainstream. As the fickle kids of this new generation of hyper gadget consumption flick and text and watch their lives play out on the internet, catching and keeping their attention is proving ever more difficult so these quick 15 minutes ‘bites’ of story are the new medium.

Does anyone remembering thinking no one would buy their entire VHS movie collection again on DVD? Well not only did they buy it on DVD, 5 years later they are buying it again on BluRay.

But back to SYD2030, webseries is the wave of the future. Cheese on Toast Productions may not be a name on everyone’s lips just yet but give it time. Perhaps one day you will be reading about this visionary team who dared to step into the future.

And we knew them when……

I will be back in July to let you know how they went at the ITVfest. Until then, please send some positive vibes their way and watch and share their webseries with all your friends and family. Go take a look at their recently spruced up site (yeah I noticed LOL) and be proud of how far our Aussies have come.

I am absolutely sure that the positive energy generated by their Aussie friends here was what gave them the final nudge for their last win so let’s help them achieve their next goal.

Watch it on the website: http://syd2030.com.au

Watch it on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SYD2030

Movie Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen [M]

Director: Lasse Hallström

Starring : Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Tom Mison

Running Time :  107 minutes

Release Date :  In Cinemas Now

Harriet (Blunt) is a UK investment consultant to a Yemeni Sheik (Waked). The Sheik enjoys salmon fishing and wishes to bring the sport to his homeland. As well as providing him with constant access to his favourite pastime, he hopes to provide resources, agriculture and jobs for his people. As the Yemen is a dry, desert country, this is quite a challenge.

Harriet contacts a salmon expert, Dr Fred Jones (McGregor) at the governments fisheries department for help and the duo embark on this most challenging of projects.

Simultaneously, the UK government is looking for a good news story out of the middle east and the Prime Minister’s scathingly brilliant press secretary Patricia (Scott Thomas) decides that salmon fishing in the Yemen is just the story she needs.

The Sheik wants his salmon stream. Harriet wants to make it happen. Dr Jones says it is feasible but so is a manned mission to Mars. Patricia wants to milk this story for all it’s worth and will meddle and cajole and threaten whoever she come across to get what she wants. The scene is set for a fantastically fun movie.

The movie opens with the gorgeous Harriet finishing an email to Dr Jones regarding his thoughts on getting salmon to the Yemen. She is on her way out for a date with her dashing army boyfriend. It is all very new and she is shy and nervous with him. Cut to the more reserved Dr Jones as he emails his negative reply. He is quite, conservative and married. I sense romance in the air. All movies that begin by going to such lengths to show how different two people are have romance in mind.

Once Dr Jones realises that the Sheik is very serious about his venture and that money really is no obstacle, he begins work on the project in earnest. I should say that after being threatened with the sack, he begins work in earnest.

The PM’s press secretary, Patricia, begins her meddling almost immediately. She is ruthless and shrewd and utterly hilarious. Her very dry with a hint of smutty British humour is a winning combination.  Her discovery that 2 million Brits are keen fishermen…..or ‘play with their rods’ as she so keenly observes….delights her no end as all she can see is more press opportunity for her Prime Minister.

The attraction between Harriet and Fred is hampered and helped by their current relationships and their working so closely together. Is it simply a working relationship or is there more?  I won’t go into these too much as I will spoil them for you.

The Sheik is also a major part of this story. He is not just a rich man who pays the bills and will appear when the salmon are running, he is very much involved and emotionally invested in this enterprise. He too develops very real relationships with both Harriet and, more importantly, Fred. Their shared love of salmon fishing binds them and an act of bravery cements a friendship you suspect will cross all barriers and last a lifetime.

This movie is just beautifully shot. From the glorious Scottish hillsides to the desert of the Yemen, the scenery is spectacular. The contrast between the hustle and bustle of the big city to the serenity of the lush rivers of Scotland and the dry, rocky emptiness of Yemen is breath taking to behold.

The characters, as you would expect from actors of this experience and calibre, are beautifully played. They are fleshed out and believable. Even the awkwardness and bumbling of Fred is a delight to watch. Blunt shines as the sweet yet ambitious consultant and Scott Thomas is absolutely divine as the no nonsense press secretary. McGregor plays it straight and geeky and gets the most laughs, usually at his own expense and by his own self-deprecating wit.

Never would I have thought that I would be hoping and crossing fingers that the salmon would run. But I did just that. The characters and project was just so likeable and positive that any notion that it may fail was horrible. But the truth is not everyone agreed with the Sheik’s ideas of a future for his country. And they go to great lengths to stop it all from happening.

I learned a lot today…..mostly about salmon and fly fishing. I cannot comprehend why anyone would want to wade thigh deep into a cold river to fish for fish that are notoriously difficult to catch. But I really want to give it a go now. I like the idea of the skill involved in flicking the rod. You don’t just cast a line and wait with this type of fishing. There is some serious skill involved.

I liked this movie a great deal and would recommend it to anyone. It is funny and dramatic and quirky and endearing all at once. All the good things you have heard about it is true. So what are you waiting for? It’s nearing the end of it’s run so you better get to the cinema quick!

 

Thank you to my friends at Scotty’s Cinema Centre for their hospitality.

Movie Review: Wish You Were Here [MA]

 

Director : Kieran Darcy-Smith

Starring : Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price. Teresa Palmer, Antony Starr, Tina Bursill

Running Time :  89 minutes

Release Date :   26 April 2012

Two Australian couples head off to Cambodia for a holiday. Married couple Dave (Edgerton) & Alice (Price) join Alice’s sister Steph (Palmer) and her new boyfriend Jeremy (Starr) for a week of the normal touristy stuff. They ride bikes, go to temples, laugh with local kids, eat crickets, buy cheap trinkets, eat local food, drink local booze and end their trip with a drug and alcohol fuelled beach party. This is all pretty average stuff for a group of young Aussies taking a week out from life in South east Asia.

But only 3 of the 4 friends make it back to Australia. The disappearance of Jeremy is basically assumed knowledge from the start. This allows for the a slow, steady unravelling of the story of not only the week in Cambodia but what may or may not be simmering family tensions.

The first secret to come out is not unexpected. It sets the tone of suspicion and jealousy and secrecy that permeates the movie. It seems that everyone has a secret. As more people become involved…. the mother of the Alice & Steph (a seemingly ageless Bursill), Jeremy’s distraught parents and the Federal Police…. I found myself looking for clues. Listening closely and watching the flashbacks carefully trying to piece it all together before the finale.

It is almost a cliché how obvious it is that Dave knows more than he is letting on right from the start. As the story of the holiday, together with flashbacks of life before the holiday, is revealed, you just want Dave to speak up and say what he knows. But what does he know? He’s just an average Aussie bloke caught up in a bad, bad situation right? Or is he?

Dave’s reluctance to speak with anyone, including his pregnant wife Alice, is what drives the plot. That his wife is becoming more isolated, more distraught, more suspicious, seems to mean little to Dave. Nothing, it seems, will make him speak up. The pressure from everyone is intense and as we start to piece together the trip and why they perhaps were really in Cambodia, the tension builds.

I loved this movie. I am actually hoping I can see it again before it leaves cinemas.  Joel Edgerton continues what seems to be his love affair with South East Asia. Have you seen the achingly beautiful The Waiting City?  If not, you should. Okay, okay I know he has done lots of other work between then and now but his movies with this kind of Asian connection are just so beautiful I cannot help but comment.  Edgerton is a film maker not just an actor and this shows. His real joy appears to be in storytelling.

Wish You Were Here moves along at a steady pace. It was perfect as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t needlessly drawn out or overplayed to the point of frustration. The tension built and was timed just so. As the movie moved between the present day, the holiday and pre-holiday, you always felt a full story was being explored. Sure we knew Dave was holding out on us but I wanted to know why. I didn’t just want the tension to end. There is a big difference.

It was a very Australian story. The characters were just ordinary people, people we encounter every day. I have seen some criticism that the actors didn’t invest themselves in the characters. I strongly disagree. I loved the way the actors played their characters. Throughout, I felt I knew these people and thus this situation really could happen to anyone. Cambodia is a popular destination for Aussies so this slightly uncomfortable feeling was very real. A simple twist of fate or one bad choice and this could be me tomorrow.

The camerawork was gorgeous. I loved the hand held feel that was used at times. I love love loved the lighting. The use of dawn and dusk. It is in the still of night during the rain that many dramatic moments are played out. Alice confronts Steph at night and Alice confronts everything on a rainy, dismal night. Of course, Australia has been almost monsoonal for 2 years so this may have been chance.  Even if it was, it works.

As dawn is breaking, Dave loses everything. It is a pivotal moment and set against the spectacular Aussie panorama, it is dramatic and beautiful. As tense and unnerving as it is, it is truly a beautiful time and the actors involved in this scene bring such depth and emotion that I found myself wiping away a tear or two.

I am, as always, a great supporter of the Aussie film industry and this film does nothing but validate my feelings of pride for local film makers, actors, writers, producers and everyone else involved. This movie was an Official Selection at Sundance, a place Edgerton and his Blue-Tongue Films must be feeling is a second home, and rightly so. Go and see this movie, you won’t be disappointed. I look forward to their next production.

 

Movie Review: A Dangerous Method [MA15]

 

Director : David Cronenberg

Starring : Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel, Sarah Gadon

Running Time : 99 minutes

Release Date :   29 March 2012

Around 100 years ago, 2 psychiatrists were making waves with a radical new ‘talking cure’ for patients. Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) was already an eminent if controversial psychiatrist and Carl Jung (Fassbender) was his heir apparent.  The two men have never met or even corresponded. When an hysterical Sabina Spielrein (Knightley) is admitted into his care, Jung begins treating her with Freud’s talking cure. The results are almost immediate and Sabina makes great progress. Sabina’s psychological problems stem from her abusive father and her own sexual pleasure derived from his punishments.

As Jung’s treatment of Sabina continues, his young wife (Gadon) suggests he contact and visit Freud. Their first meeting lasts some 14 hours. Freud is an interesting character who, although adamant and unmoving in his views, is played as a family man with some warmth to him. Jung, on the other hand, is beyond cold, almost robotic. No matter what questions are asked or how he answers, his demeanour never waivers or falters. He is deeply, deeply repressed.

Otto Gross (Cassel) is a rogue Freud devotee who spends many months with Jung, talking with him and opening his eyes to the possibility that Freud may not have it all right. He is a tragic and clearly unbalanced character, another searcher who can never find the answers he craves. It ultimately leads to his demise and subsequent death.

This movie explores many different relationships.  Mentor and student, father and son, husband and wife, lover and lover, doctor and patient, parent and child, friend and friend, colleague and colleague.  And it is all done with exquisite care and beauty.

With Cronenberg as Director, I had expected a certain level of violence, especially considering his last few collaborations with Mortensen were Eastern Promises and a personal favourite of mine, A History of Violence.  When it became clear there would be no obvious violence, I sat back and waited for the psychological violence. Or the undercurrent of violence.  It never happened.

Instead this movie is a study in subtlety. It is quiet and structured and orderly. Everyone and everything has it’s place. The actors play their characters as understated almost refined beings. I suppose they were rather refined at this time in history, just before the onset of WWI. Apart from Knightly and her utterly distracting jutting chin that is. She is a wonderful actress but her far too slender physique and jutting jaw were uncomfortable, almost painful, to watch. This is not just my opinion either. I spoke with other patrons and they felt exactly the same. Truly horrendous.

The scenery and sets are gorgeous, just gorgeous. The interior sets are rich and lush and the outdoor scenery is truly spectacular. The location shots are mesmerising. I love the look and feel of Europe so much and it is captured gloriously in this movie. At times it is used to juxtapose the inner turmoil of the characters. When Sabine & Jung are interacting as lovers, but not being intimate, most of their scenes are shot outside in a calm garden or on a boat on the gently moving lake. He is married so their relationship is inherently fraught with danger, even removing all other elements.

The acting is flawless. As I touched on previously, the actors underplay their characters.  Mortensen is a God among actors and his Freud is perfect with just the right amount of arrogance coupled with a man who has studied for a long time and knows what he is talking about. Knightly is good but that jaw….oh dear.

Michael Fassbender is the true star. His tightly wound up and controlled Jung is divine. Only once does his carefully constructed shell crack and it is so unexpected, the audience gasped. He is a watcher, an observer and seems to move on the fringes of his life, never truly stepping in and living it. Clearly he is a disturbed man but he is also a brilliant psychiatrist.

The names Freud and Jung are so much a part of modern culture that their names, especially Freud, has found it’s way into our everyday language. And with good reason. These men were controversial trailblazers who broke with tradition and followed their instincts. It is to Cronenberg’s eternal credit that he cast the wonderful Mortensen and Fassbender in his lead roles. They do the story and real life men justice.  You should ensure you see this movie. It is compelling, thoughtful and very educational. It will be more than you could ever have expected.

 

 

Fifty Shades Darker (Book 2 in The Fifty Shade Trilogy)

 

Author: EL James

532 pages

Available: Now

Warning: Very Adult Content in parts….read at your own risk

 

My review of Book 1, Fifty Shades of Grey, can be found here but a quick recap:

Christian Grey is a super successful businessman and a sexual Dominant who meets uber virginal Ana Steele who is a college student and just uber virginal. They fall in love and he introduces her into the world of BDSM. Nice tame BDSM but he does tie her up a few times and spank her. And she introduces him to the world of spending the night together, cuddling and ‘vanilla’ sex. Unable to cope with Christian’s lifestyle, Ana leaves him.

Our lovers part, lives are ripped asunder and misery abounds. And so ends Book 1.

Fifty Shades Darker finds Christian and Ana still apart and absolutely miserable without each other.  Ana has started her new job and just a few pages in, Christian has sent her flowers and an email. Yep…..it’s all going to be back on.

This novel concentrates on the burgeoning relationship between our protagonists. We get to watch as they really get to know each other, as they move through the lust stage and have to really deal with each other. Now that’s not to say they aren’t still lusting but it’s moving into relationship territory. We’ve all been through it and it can be tough.

James also delves a lot deeper into Christian’s ‘issues’.  As Ana spends more time with him, including nights, he can no longer hide behind his whips and chains and has to confront who he is and who he wants to be. We meet his family & some friends…..and of course, Ana is still blindly and irrationally jealous of Mrs Robinson.

Ahhhhh Mrs Robinson. I think every female knows a Mrs Robinson. The woman in your man’s life you are insanely jealous of either with good reason or just because she exists. Nothing like a good dose of jealousy to amuse and delight those among us who enjoy witnessing a hissing mini breakdown…..hopefully in public!

Christian finds himself in unexpected territory when it comes to Ana’s friends & family as well. He meets and is very surprised by his reactions to her parents & close friends. The common ground he finds made me smile. Another layer of the mysterious Mr Grey peeled away.

And again there is the sex. Still lots and lots of it. And in Darker, it is a little more creative, a little more giving, a little more meaningful. But…..

But…. it’s still oh so dull!

Ana has managed to shame the already damaged Christian into almost exclusive vanilla sex. He is allowed to spank her once. As a treat.

Now I have mentioned that we delve deeper into Christian’s issues and I am in no way negating the impact an abusive childhood can have on people but this all happens before Ana knows the truth.

Ana becomes just another person to use Christian. Sure it’s all wrapped up in so called love and sweetness and her wanting to help him and blah blah blah. What rubbish.

Just like it’s oh so obvious big sister aka The Twilight novels, this is an ode to dysfunctional relationships. The women who read…..nay inhale….these novels are being told it’s okay to stalk and be stalked as long as it’s ‘love’. It’s okay to be controlled and controlling as long as it’s ‘love’. It’s okay to want to change another person and berate and shame them into doing this….you guessed it. As long as it’s ‘love’.

I would have preferred to leave the psychoanalysis to the professionals. To offer it up as erotica is a little bit nasty. I am sure there are lots of screwed up BDSM aficionados out there but to demonise them again is just rude. I am sure there are a lot of screwed up vanilla sex devotees out there too but I guess that’s not so titillating.

And that’s the rub. Another Fifty Shades novel marketed as some kinky sex romp is nothing of the sort. It’s simply more validation for the modern woman’s belief that bad boys just need the love of a good woman to sort them out. The irony is that once a bad boy has been tamed by the love of a good woman, he becomes dull, uninteresting and pathetic.

What changes within Ana? Nothing. To Christian, she is perfect just as she is. He tells her constantly. He adores her. Yep….more validation for the self absorbed narcissistic modern woman. If a man truly loves you, he will change into whatever you want.

Sure Christian is a good ummm an excellent lover and we love that in a man. As a close friend pointed out, the reason women are swooning over Christian Grey is because he is good in bed. He knows what to do, how to do it, how long to do it and when to do it. Ana doesn’t have to tell or guide him (not that she could anyway). He knows how to give a woman endless orgasms and he does it gladly, with great instinct and he genuinely loves giving her pleasure. Come to me Christian…you can bring the whip baby!!!

Let’s not tame all our bad boys. I like my boys bad. And so does the vast majority of women judging by the men we find hot, sexy and gorgeous. Why is Mad Men’s Don Draper so attractive. Because under that smart suit beats the heart of a bad boy. Why is True Blood’s Eric the Vampire so damn sexy. Because he doesn’t ask, he takes…..and you will love every second of it!

And don’t even get me started on the eternal bad boy, the image on whom all bad boys base themselves James Dean and even his modern namesake, porn superstar and women’s lust object James Deen. What? You don’t believe me about the porn guy? Google him. A pop culture phenomenon. But more on him at a later date 😉

All these words for a book I found boring. Oh my….

Will I be reviewing book 3, Fifty Shades Freed? You betcha!!! I won’t stop reading now but I am taking a break from Fifty Shades and reading some Sookie Stackhouse.

I did say I liked my bad boys bad……

PS. A quick look around my local stores shows they are sold out of Fifty Shades of Grey but have piles and piles of the other two books. Make out of that what you will.

PPS. Alexander Skarsgard….please do not do these movies. Please.