Movie Review : Dallas Buyers Club

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It is 1985 and AIDS is making news the world over. At this time, there was very little understanding of the disease and those inflicted with the HIV virus were treated as outcasts out of simple ignorance. The medical community was at a loss to provide any real answers and the average person was being fed different information almost weekly. They were terrible, dark days. But the big pharmaceutical companies were already rubbing their hands together in glee….. because fatal disease = money for these greedy corporations.

Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) is a good ole boy from Dallas, Texas. He is also a womanising, homophobic, cocaine snorting, part-time bull riding, con man who is well-known to authorities. This guy is basically an absolute wanker. Injured one day at his workplace, he is taken to hospital where he is diagnosed with HIV and given 30 days to live.

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Movie Review : What Maisie Knew

 

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Based on a 116 year old Henry James novel of the same name ( yeah I had no idea either!), this is the story of a young girl trapped between her warring parents as they unsuccessfully try to navigate a bitter break-up.

Susanna (Moore) is a touring rock singer and her partner Beale (Coogan) is an art dealer. They live in a huge New York apartment and appear to lead a somewhat bohemian lifestyle. The only thing is they hate each other and are currently engaged in a protracted and nasty custody battle over 6 year old Maisie (Aprile). The movie is an homage to bad parenting and is told in aching innocence from Maisie’s point of view.

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Movie Review : Silver Linings Playbook [M] #SilverLiningsPlaybook

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Movie Title: Silver Linings Playbook [M]

Director : David O. Russell

Starring : Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver, Chris Tucker, Anupam Kher

Running Time : 122 minutes

Release Date :   In Cinemas Now

When I started writing this review, I found myself becoming distracted by listing the awards this movie and it’s actors have garnered. So, to make things easier not only on myself and you, my adored readers, but to highlight just how well received and lauded this movie is, I am simply going to list the major awards now. And this is by no means the entire list …. (any inaccuracies are purely unintentional)

Best Picture – Won – AFI (Australian Film Institute) International, Independemt Spirit Awards. Nominated – Academy Awards, BAFTA, Golden Globes

David O Russell – Director/Writer – Nominated and/or Won – Academy Award, AFI (Australian Film Institute) International, Golden Globes, BAFTA, Independemt Spirit Awards

Bradley Cooper – Best Actor  – Nominated – Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globes, AFI (Australian Film Institute) International, Independent Spirit Awards

Jennifer Lawrence – Best Actress – Won – Academy Award, Golden Globes, AFI (Australian Film Institute) International, Independent Spirit Awards. Nominated – BAFTA

Jackie Weaver – Best Supporting Actress – Nominated – Academy Award. Won – AFI (Australian Film Institute) International

Robert De Niro – Best Supporting Actor – Nominated – Academy Award. Won – AFI (Australian Film Institute) International

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Pat Solatano ( Bradley Cooper) is serving a mandatory eight month sentence in a mental institution. He feels he is now ready to leave and reclaim all that he has lost….his wife, his career, his home, his life. His mother Dolores (Australia’s Jackie Weaver) has agreed to bring him home and as part of his release, he must live with his parents. His father Pat Sr (De Niro) is unaware of this agreement. It doesn’t take long before we realise this is a family fractured by their son’s mental illness. It is not an angry, bitter fracture but more a silent resignation of how things are.

Pat Sr is recently unemployed and is attempting to make enough money to start a new business via bookmaking. He bets mostly on the Philadelphia Eagles football team. The entire family are unswervingly loyal Eagles supporters and the rituals and superstitions that go hand in hand with this obsession…. well let’s just say that it is easy to see where Pat Jr may have inherited some of his ummm quirks.

Pat does not want to take his medication for bipolar disorder because he doesn’t like the way it makes him feel. This causes some interesting moments, some amusing, some rather serious and as anyone who has lived with family or friends who are ‘off their meds’ can attest, it can go either way at any moment.  One of his biggest goals is weight loss. It is never addressed exactly how much weight he has lost during his stint at the institution but as most people comment on how well he looks, one can assume it is rather significant. To this end, Pat runs every day wearing a full tracksuit and a black plastic garbage bag…..the garbage makes him sweat thus hastening the weight loss.

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It is during his daily runs that he is consistently ‘ambushed’  by Tiffany (Lawrence), a young woman he was introduced to by a friend at a recent dinner party. Their initial interactions are awkward and mildly hostile. Tiffany has issues of her own and she seems to instinctively know how to push Pat’s buttons. The two form an almost unbearably uncomfortable relationship with the most basic of social interactions difficult for them. Yet it’s good for both of them, this much is obvious and thus gives the fledgling relationship momentum.

Tiffany agrees to help Pat win back his wife and he in turn agrees to enter a local dance competition with her. The relationship changes and flourishes as the pair prepare for the competition.

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This movie is touted as a dramatic comedy and there are some laughs but it is heavier on the drama. And this is a very good thing. The developing relationship between this emotionally damaged pair is lovely to watch. It did take me a little while to warm to this movie but in hindsight, this was possibly because it was very real.

The reality is that most of us are damaged in some way and just because you are not diagnosed or on medication is irrelevant. Too often in movies the dialogue between couples is fluid and clever and witty. This rarely happens in real life, despite what those dating website advertisements want us to believe. There are awkward pauses and confronting comments. The wrong things is said and reacted too. You try to be on your best behaviour but why should you have to be? Why should someone not accept you for who you are?

And that is the secret to this movie.

It is about relationships that are not perfect between people who are not perfect. And that is okay. We learn to adjust and live with and love these non perfect people and if we are very lucky, they will love us right back. We can try and fix ourselves and try and fix those we love but when all the superficial stuff is gone, love is just love. Sometimes the one we love is not the one for us and we have to deal with that before we can see clearly. Most of us have been in this situation and can relate to the frustrations and pain that it causes. To lose the one you love, no matter how it happens, is painful. It’s what you do next that is important.

Try and see this movie because it does live up to the hype and all the awards are richly deserved….

Movie Review: Flight [MA] – #Flight #Oscars #BestActor

 

Movie Title: Flight  [MA]

Director : Robert Zemeckis

Starring : Denzel Washington, Nadine Velazquez, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood , John Goodman

Running Time : 138 minutes

Release Date :   In Cinemas Now

 

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When I first sat down in the cinema, I thought I would be watching another good guy vs adversity movie in which Denzel ultimately triumphs. I had only seen the trailer and knew nothing else about this movie, but being a Denzel and Director Robert Zemeckis ( Cast Away, Contact & the Back to the Future trilogy) fan, I was in. You can imagine my surprise when from the opening scene, it appeared Denzel was not a good guy…..well not entirely anyway.

This movie opens with Flight Attendant Katerina ( Velazquez) waking in a hotel room, obviously a stopover and surrounded by the remnants of a big night. She wakes airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Oscar nominated for this role Washington) who not only finishes some stale alcohol but then proceeds to snort a huge line of coke. A few minutes later, Whitaker is strutting purposefully down the hotel hallway looking every inch the handsome, self assured, experienced, in-control dream pilot we all hope is in the cockpit when we board a flight. And he is all of those things.

 

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He is also a functioning alcoholic.

Whitaker boards the plane and immediately takes control. The flight leaves in very bad weather and a major emergency soon eventuates. This is where things get really interesting.

The next 10 or 15 minutes of the movie are completely enthralling. We see a plane begin to lose functions one by one….oh this is a bad, bad day …..and it would seem like death for all aboard is imminent. But the highly capable Whitaker employs some manoeuvers that are mind bending and look amazing on the screen. The scenes are tense, seeminly authentic, moving, make you hold you breath incredible. The result is the plane does crash land but only 6 people die.

 

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As Whitaker wakes in the hospital, the crash investigator types are there to start proceedings. The pilot is a hero but they have a job to do. Here we are introduced to Charlie Anderson (Greenwood), Whitakers long time friend, colleague and champion. He will play a major role in the ensuing drama and remains unquestioningly if not pragmatically loyal to the errant Whitaker. We also meet Whitaker’s drug dealer/friend Harling Mays (Goodman), a man who for good or bad, knows his stuff and knows how to help Whitaker when he most needs it.

In the hospital, Whitaker meets the gorgeous but damaged addict Nicole (Reilly) and relationship develops. She has dark demons of her own and together, this could have been such an important part of this story. But alas, the writers and Director never give Nicole  the attention she deserves. She does, however, provide calm for Whitaker and seems to bring out long suppressed emotions and feelings that he himself seems quite surprised to see re-emerge.

 

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As the crash investigation continues, even knowing what we know, I still wanted Whitaker to triumph. He valiantly tries to overcome his alcoholism but the lure proves too much for him time and again. Each time he has a decision to make, I held my breath and was truly disappointed when the demon won. So too were the rest of my fellow cinema patrons judging by the collective sighs and mutterings that echoed my own.

The crash investigation itself was remarkable. I found these parts of the movie fascinating as we watched the puzzle pieces all put back together. The lawyer Hugh Lang (Cheadle) was particularly interesting as he did all he could for his client, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds. The underlying fact, that we are aware of from the begining of the movie, is this was indeed a case of equipment failure. It just needed to be proven. The fact that Whitaker may have been intoxicated during the flight sometimes seems almost secondary.

 

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This is a movie not about a plane crash and who was to blame, but about human frailty and suffering. It is about redemption, humanity, love, compassion, forgiveness….all the things that make for a great drama. Denzel was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this role. Was it warranted? Of course. Denzel is one of the finest actors of our generation and I loved seeing him in the role of heroic anti hero. This a good movie but not a great one. The ending was particularly surprising and seemed like a cop out to me. I would like to have seen the resolve the movie promised continue through to the end but it was not to be. But it is still a movie well worth seeing.

If you are at all interested in the ‘can that really happen in real life’ aspect of the in flight piloting, try here for some insight into not only this movie but Hollywood’s take on airplane disasters in general. A great read on it’s own.

 

 

 

The Dictator [CTC]

 

I loved Ali G. I loved Borat. I thought Bruno was really funny in places but went to far in others, so I am looking forward to seeing what Cohen has in store for us with The Dictator (aka Admiral Aladeen).

Cohen has already caused a stir with this character, most recently spilling the ‘ashes’ of deceased North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il on Ryan Seacrest at this years Oscars.

 

 

Just a few days ago, Aladeen had this to say ” I would like to congratulate your dictatoress Elizabeth on her blood diamond jubilee and I hope it is a smooth transition when her son Charles eventually kills her and seizes power”

Sounds interesting at the very least. So here is the basic promo information about the movie and I will be back in a few weeks to let you know what I thought of it.
Flick x

 

Director: Larry Charles

Starring:  Sacha Baron Cohen, Sir Ben Kingsley, John C Riley, Anna Faris

Running Time:  1hrs 30min

Release Date: Wednesday, 16 May 2012

 

The film tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Black Swan [MA15]

 

Director : Darren Aronofsky
Starring : Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder
Running Time : 108 minutes
Release Date : On DVD – 2011

Nina (Portman) is a ballerina who eats, sleeps and breathes dance. She shares an apartment with her overbearing mother (Hershey) who is obsessed with Nina’s career. When the ballet company’s Artistic Director, Leroy (Cassel) decides to stage a production of Swan Lake, he chooses Nina over his former lead dancer Beth (Ryder) for the role of the Queen Swan.

Whilst Nina can dance the role of the innocent White Swan to perfection, she must also be able to portray the sensuality of the Black Swan with the same authenticity…something Leroy has doubts she can do. Enter Lily (Kunis) a new dancer who personifies the essence of the Black Swan. Thus begins a twisted tale of friendship, desire, obsession and, of course, dance.

I first got wind of this movie way back in November 2010. I started hearing ‘the buzz’ about Black Swan, and more precisely Portman, on a few online message boards and websites that I frequent. Since then, Portman has won a Golden Globe, SAG Award and BAFTA for this performance. She is also nominated for an Academy Award.

To set this tense psychological thriller against the backdrop of the world of ballet is surely a stroke of genius. In this world, perfection and effortless grace are everything. I think it prudent of me to mention at this time that even if you know little of ballet or Swan Lake, fear not.

This is not just a dance movie. Aronofsky’s camerawork gives an almost documentary like feel. It can be a little dizzying at times but it adds to the intimacy of the movie

Portman, who trained for a year to prepare for this role, including learning to dance en pointe, plays Nina as a woman so repressed, both physically and emotionally, that it is almost painful to watch. From her tight ballerina’s hair bun and forced, exaggerated smile, to her self mutilation, everything about Nina screams tension and restraint.

The mother, Erica’s, overbearing presence and subtle manipulation of her daughter is sad to witness. Erica seems determined to keep Nina in a perpetual state of co-dependency. Nina takes to devising ways to lock out her mother, both physically and emotionally, from her life.

In one early scene, although technically perfect, Leroy is trying to explain to her what he expects from his Black Swan. Nina looks at him with big wide eyes and that taut, almost grimace-like smile and nods her understanding. But her eyes reveal the truth…..she genuinely has no idea what he wants from her. He admonishes her to loosen up, to be sensual and seductive but she is so tightly wound that she simply cannot do as he wishes.

One morning Nina is late and arrives at the theatre to find Lily dancing the role of the Black Swan. Leroy, rather offhandedly, points out that this is what he wants from Nina. Nina stares at the beautiful and laughing Lily in abject horror and the die has been cast. Lily’s sensual self assuredness and languid movements are the absolute opposite of Nina’a taut, tight self loathing and doubt. The two women develop an uneasy friendship……or do they?

From here on in, the movie tracks Nina’s demise into seeming madness. We are never quite sure what is real and what is only in Nina’s tortured mind. Subtle CGI effects as Nina becomes the swans, leave you blinking and asking if you really did just see that. The opening night performance of Swan Lake will leave you breathless in it’s magnificence as the perfect culmination of the movie.

I will be going to see this movie again before it’s cinema run is over because I need to make sure that the movie I think I saw was the one I did see. Yes, it really is just that good.

Nominated for Best Film, Best Directing and Best Actress at this years Academy Awards, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, the Best Actress Oscar is Natalie’s (sorry Nicole).