Movie Review : 12 Years a Slave

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Based on the true story, Solomon Northup (Ejiofor) is a well-respected and happily married father of 2 young children. The year is 1841 and Solomon makes a very decent living as a musician. Overnight he loses everything …. he is betrayed, drugged and shipped south to New Orleans where he is sold into slavery.

In the week or so it takes for the sea journey south, every attempt is made to strip these slaves of their humanity and dignity. When they are sold …. in an actual shop…. they are stood naked and poked and prodded as if they were nothing but animals. Children are ripped screaming from their mothers. Families are torn apart.

Heartbreaking.

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Movie Review : The Counselor

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Thank you to Event Cinemas – Glendale and NEW-FM for their hospitality 🙂

The Counselor (Fassbender) is a lawyer looking for some quick cash to maintain his lavish lifestyle. As he and his girlfriend Laura (Cruz) live in El Paso Texas, a town situated on the infamous Tex-Mex border, dabbling in the illicit yet lucrative drug trade is the obvious choice.

He is dealing with a variety of characters including the mysterious urban cowboy type Westray (Pitt) who seems to be the money man/go-between for the drug cartel. Westray warns him against getting involved, to no avail. The Counselor’s business partner Reiner (Bardem) is also dubious but is rather more pragmatic about it all. He has his own hands full with his cold-as-ice yet brilliantly clever girlfriend Malkina (Diaz).

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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: 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.

 

 

Prometheus [MA15]

 

There is a lot of discussion and debate as to whether this is an Alien prequel. Ridley Scott and various cast members are having a seemingly great time fanning these flames and some blogs, sites and discussion forums have put a lot…a LOT….of effort into this.

My research is by no means exhaustive because I believe that you can have too much information and share in too much discussion which can dull your movie-watching experience. But that doesn’t mean I am not looking forward to this movie. Because I am. A lot…

From IMDB :

A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

In Aussie cinemas June 7, 2012

 

 

Shame [R18+]

 

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release Date: In Cinemas Now (Limited Release)

I was desperate to see this movie and I had very high expectations. Everyone was talking about it and Fassbender had been nominated for a slew of major awards for his role as Brandon. I have been a Fassbender fan since his Hex (TV Series) days but had seen and heard little of him…until recently. And now he is heir-apparent to Daniel Day-Lewis’ title of ‘the actor’s actor’. Warranted? Well that’s another discussion entirely…

Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender) is a 30 something man living a quiet, successful life in New York City. But Brandon harbours a deep, dark, dangerous secret and an unexpected visit by his wayward sister Sissy (Mulligan) threatens to throws his carefully constructed existence into complete turmoil.

And carefully constructed it is. He lives in an almost sterile environment, devoid of anything other than the most basic human necessities. His office is more of the same…efficient and cold. His interactions with others appear normal but his thoughts never stray far from his dark secret. Brandon is a sex addict and his every waking moment is consumed by his addiction.

There is lots and lots of sex in this movie. Sex scenes, porn mags, online porn sites…you get the picture. But I have never seen a movie that is less about sex. Sex is simply the addiction that Brandon is compelled to feed. He could have been an alcoholic or drug addict. He can easily hide his addiction because it doesn’t make him drunk or stoned or high. In fact, he can feed the beast anytime he wants. In this modern world of online porn and one night stands, it’s all too easy.

Then Sissy shows up and things take a drastic turn. From the very first scene they shared, it was clear that something is very, very wrong with this pair of siblings. Sissy is as needy and as dysfunctional as any woman I have ever seen. She is also as vulnerable as a tiny child.

Sissy is a lounge singer and when she takes to the stage for a slow, haunting rendition of the classic New York, New York…well words cannot describe it. Sissy is raw. Raw and wounded. The scene was filmed at 3am and the reactions are real. None of the other actors had heard Mulligan sing so what you see is not acting.

This is not a movie for everyone. In fact, as I watched the first 30 minutes or so I was starting to worry that I just wasn’t getting it. I mean, I was captivated but it just wasn’t this great masterpiece I was led to believe it would be.

(Just to clarify, as my regular readers would know, I am not one of those pretentious and oh-so-precious reviewers who bleats on about the existential dilemma of life through the protagonist’s jaded eyes blah blah blah…I leave that type of review to those who feel the need)

Then I did start to get it. Brandon’s dead, soulless eyes. His lack of connection, any connection, with his sexual partner/s. His fumbling attempts to seduce a woman he was genuinely interested in. His need for thrills, for danger. His endless search for release because it does become clear that it is not the intimacy or the thrill of a new sexual conquest that Brandon needs, but the release an orgasm provides. That is his addiction.

The last 15 minutes of this movie will captivate you. Both Brandon and Sissy are so damaged, such broken human beings that I found myself in tears. Not sad tears but the tears for characters that have just broken your heart. Yes, heartbroken.

As I said, this movie is not for everyone and the reasons I went to see it (mostly being a fan of Michael Fassbender) are not the reasons I am glad I did. The fact that he was overlooked for an Oscar nod this year while he was nominated for almost everything else (Golden Globe, BAFTA, AFI to name a few) must be one of the greatest travesties in recent cinema history. Fassbender is quite simply extraordinary and I can only assume, as so many others do, that the nudity and sex lost him this most coveted of nominations.

Please do try to see this movie but know what you are going to see as it will stay with you long after the movie has ended.