Friday, 28 February 2020

No. 12. (2020) FOR SAMA February 23rd.

Film No. 12 (2020)  February 23rd.  4:30 PM  LUNA PALACE Leederville. 

"You never cry like a normal baby does. It breaks my heart. Somehow you know." (An extract of the commentary Waad has layered through her film; a film she is making as a gift to her daughter).

A documentary feature so powerful and horrific you need to make sure you are in the mood to see a running commentary on war. Modern day war; conflict we have been flying over or around in our luxury airliners on our way to dream holidays for years.

Waad Al-Katea is a journalist and first time mum living in war torn Aleppo, Syria. She decides to make a film as a love letter to daughter Sama of the life she and her doctor husband Hamza live during the 2012 - 16 civil war. We bump along with Waad through the birth of Sama, the scenes of horror looking over the shoulder of Hamza as he attempts, not always successfully, to save a life, bombs exploding within metres as the dust balloons around the lens etc etc. 

To think these gentle people, existing mainly in and around hospitals because of the nature of their lives, were regarded as the enemy by the state and Russian allied forces. And while there is no historical commentary forming part of the film's narrative, to watch these innocent people bear the brunt of war is scary. How lucky are most of us? This was a recurring personal thought throughout.

Our heroes are Waad and Hamza. Waad's simple voice over is told in heartfelt focus directly to her baby daughter. These heroes we meet in Sama are so because of their bravery. Is their bravery foolhardy? How much horror can the human condition handle? Will the birth of a motionless baby become one of the most iconic and heartfelt scenes you'll ever witness in the cinema? For Sama is a horror film without a Stephen King script, but it has a depiction of beauty of the human spirit which will stay with you. 10GUMS.


Thursday, 27 February 2020

No. 11. (2020) STRANGE COLOURS February 21st.

Film No 11 (2020)  February 21st.  8:10 PM  SBS On DEMAND Living Room, Mt. Hawthorn . 

"You're not just bouncing around the country like a tennis ball are ya?". (Melina's dad, Max, begins his conversation with his daughter after not laying eyes on her in years).

This small film is a classic in the mold of Sunday Too Far Away (1975). A big call I know, but we get to see an Australia in all it's raw beauty through the eyes of a hero not quite sure about where they stand in life. 

Milena, brilliantly underplayed by Kate Cheel, is a beauty amongst beasts as she arrives in Lightning Ridge opal fields in barren New South Wales to visit her dying father Max (Daniel P Jones). They have as much in common as Milena has with the dirt, dust and hot winds. Milena however is mesmerised by this land of strange colours.

Naturalism (more often referred to as realism) in film can surely leave audiences flailing for a foothold in the narrative of a story. Strange Colours will surely leave some audiences flailing, but Alena Lodkina, a first time director, has captured a unique aesthetic. It's like the natural beauty of Milena in all her innocence arrives like a rare stone in this renowned opal town.

The performances are real and unpretentious. The atmosphere is quietly electric but never threateningly so. International cinema lovers wanting to get one specific dimension depicting isolation in Australia should catch Strange Colours. SBS On Demand provides that opportunity. To think Lodkina arrived in Australia as a 15 year old. She really does have a true sense of her adopted country. 11GUMS.



Saturday, 22 February 2020

No. 10. (2020) THE LIGHTHOUSE February 18th.

Film No 10 (2020)  February 18th.  12:10 PM  NEW FARM CINEMAS Brunswick St. New Farm, Brisbane . 

"How long have we been on this rock? Five weeks, two days? Help me to recollect". (Dafoe's Thomas needs reassurance from his fellow "Wickie" about the time span they have been together).

Looking for a grim, and I mean grim, costume drama (1890's) capturing a couple of actors of our time going head to head as they find a remedy for "cabin fever"? No, well don't bother with The Lighthouse.

If, on the other-hand, you love film that captures an atmosphere so suffocatingly dark (black and white) using a format to suit the era (16mm framing), then this rich play for the screen will be right up your alley. I personally didn't care for The Lighthouse, but then again I wasn't in the right frame of mind; that said, the critics are raving about it.

A pair of Thomas's (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) make a lighthouse island their home for 5 weeks. Dafoe is the senior keeper and delegates the dreary, back-breaking work to Pattinson. Pattinson, grows wearier and more disgruntled by the minute. Their feuding escalates, their drinking of rough liquor increases. The film's tone disintegrates to parallel with the younger Thomas's unhinged thinking patterns involving sexual fantasies and a hateful sea-bird.  

Finally a storm cell hits around the time their 5 week shift is to end. Their relief crew can't reach the island. Something has to give. And so the undertone depicting homo eroticism to prove mascility, prevails in a wave, a wave the size of the wall of water crashing against the rocks under the lighthouse. Plenty of critics have heaped praise on this dark tale and I see why, it just wasn't my cup of seaweed! 7GUMS.



Friday, 21 February 2020

No. 9. (2020) RICHARD JEWELL February 16th.

Film No 9 (2020)  February 16th.  2:00 PM  PALACE James St  Fortitude Valley  Brisbane . 

"You always look at the guy who found the bomb, just like you look at the guy who found the body". (FBI logic when it comes to the focus of their investigation into the Centennial Park bombing in 1996).

Is it possible to imagine our world of cinema without Clint Eastwood? We take his innate ability to tell compelling stories (Gran Torino, Sully, Million Dollar Baby) for granted, but knowing he's approaching his 90th birthday (May 31st) reminds us of an inevitability we'd rather not think about.

Richard Jewell suffered an injustice that made Eastwood angry, so much so, he believes the world should be reminded, and so we might get angry as well. I must say that the name rang a bell but it wasn't until I saw the trailer that I remembered the story of the unjustly treated loner and security guard, who saved the lives of hundreds after he discovered a back-pack containing three pipe bombs in Centennial Park, Atlanta in 1996 during the Olympic Games.

Jewell, exquisitely played by Paul Walter Hauser (I,Tonya) is of such a personality that the FBI decided that he and he only could have planted the bomb. Their reasoning, mainly shown in the form of John Hamm's, Tom Shaw, is that Jewell had a desire to become a policeman. This had to be his most obvious method of gaining acceptance (hero) then finally recruitment. But how does such sloppy investigating by the country's leading bureau happen? Eastwood doesn't try to answer that question but he certainly makes the bureau look silly.  

The story, instigated from the Vanity Fair article AMERICAN NIGHTMARE The Ballad of Richard Jewell, is glued together via Jewell's relationship with his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates) and friend, humanist lawyer, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell). I'm going to use the term again, compelling; the story Eastwood tells here reflects a disgraceful chapter in America's justice system. It's highly compelling, there I go again, and we should be angry. Thanks again Clint! 10GUMS. 



Tuesday, 18 February 2020

No. 8. (2020) EMMA February 10th.

Film No 8 (2020)  February 10th.  6:30 PM  LUNA PALACE Windsor,  Nedlands . 

"Who can think of Miss Smith when Miss Woodhouse is near?". (The trifling musings of Mr Elton as he fails to see the path Emma is making for him so he might court Miss Smith, or better still marry Miss Smith).

Another British costume drama wringing out the Jane Austen, 204 year old classic tale, Emma. Lead, Anya Taylor-Joy, gives a cutesy take on this manipulative protagonist who compares favourably with the sweeter versions played by Paltrow (1996 Emma) and Silverstone (1995 Clueless). Taylor-Joy is both cute and edgy, it's an interesting take.

Johnny Flynn (Beast) plays friend, confidant, agitator and finally lover, George Knightley, with a believable balance. Someone needs to prick the conscience of Emma, Flynn has a raw masculinity which leads to much, much more. Chemistry is all important for this tale, Taylor-Joy and Flynn provided first time feature director Autumn de Wilde with a good platform to launch a career. 

Bill Nighy fans will lap up his stately but quirky interpretation of Emma's father, Mr Woodhouse. Nighy would surely have been licking his lips at the prospect offered up in this script. And while Nighy's role is minor he steals every scene so subtly we hardly realised he's "picked the pockets" of the other players.

I'm not in love with this type of fare. But I know plenty of film goers who are and they all enjoyed this interpretation of Austen's tale of matchmaking and social manipulation. I'll take their word on this classic. It will be loved by many. 9GUMS.


Monday, 17 February 2020

No. 7. (2020) HONEY BOY February 8th.

Film No. 7 (2020)  Feb. 8th.  10:45 AM  LUNA PALACE Leederville. 

"You think you're hot? You think you're hot because you don't know how good I am at what I do." (A drunken Otis yells at the arresting officers after crashing his car minutes into the film).

Honey Boy is a terrific film about A Type personality, Shia LaBeouf (writer), telling the story of the emotional traumas of his early life, but be warned, it is not an easy watch.

LaBeouf, himself, plays the controlling father James, to a point that there must be a story behind the rollercoaster Shia surely encountered in the re-creation of the man who so tortured (not physically) him. LaBeouf wrote the screenplay, after nearly killing himself and others in a car-crash, while in rehab in the mid 2000's. The narrative is told as fiction, based around his real-life experiences.

Young Otis at 12 is played by Noah Jupe; Lucas Hedges is Otis at 22. Both, seamlessly, bring LaBeouf to life a decade apart with Jupe giving a wonderful insight into a boy growing at a rate beyond his years. The rants of a 22 year old Otis gives Hedges the chance to display his range as the star he soon will be, if not already.

For La Beouf fans wanting to know a truth about their subject, Honey Boy shouldn't be missed. For those who stumble across this flick, you are bound to be fascinated for 90 minutes before researching the films of La Beouf and remembering a performance or two. The Peanut Butter Falcon is a current offering worth a look.  8GUMS.      


Tuesday, 4 February 2020

No. 6. (2020) TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG January 30th.

Film No 6 (2020)  Jan. 30th.  2:30 AM  Stan, Australian Streaming Service from Home. 

"And here is a chance my boy to step out of your mongrel life into something new" (Harry Power gives some life changing advice to young Ned as his guardian of sorts).

The essence of the Peter Carey novel of the same name is gathered here in a gritty, chilling version of the legend that was Ned Kelly and his gang.

Writer Shaun Grant (Snowtown, Berlin Syndrome) and Director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown) have created a film full of brutality and loveless chaos. We rarely witness hold ups or gunfights with more high octane drama, answering questions about the tortured life of the Kelly crew. Careys novel was all about the sense of grime and repression that surrounded Ned, the essence of why he had such scant respect for law and order. There is no Robin Hood effect here.

True Histroy presents in two parts. The star performer is young Ned played by Orlando Schwerdt. His relationships with mum (Essie Davis) and Harry Power (Russell Crowe), the man touted as Ned's mentor in the murder and mayhem, essential to all that follows. George Mackay (1917) takes over as Ned to take us through his inevitable demise. Some scenes in the latter half of True History are puzzling but they add to the experience of this unique film. 

I'm saddened that I watched True History on my phone (Streaming on Stan) and not on the big screen, but if it means a wider audience, then all hail new technology. I fear however that because of the unconventionality of True History it's easier to hit the red standby button. Time will tell. 10GUMS.