Monday, 20 October 2014

Film No. 75 (2014) Kill The Messenger October 18th.

Film No. 75 (2014) October 18th. 11.00 AM LUNA Leederville.

Kill the Messenger

While I enjoyed Kill the Messenger, I wonder if the story could have been better told as a mini series. Gary Webb's character was so multi dimensional that I would have preferred to have gotten to know him over a longer period of time. Given that, there were three definitive aspects to Webb's investigation of drug importation into the US, there was a connection between that importation and the Nicaraguan war of the time and the CIA was closely involved in all of this, I'd like to have known more.

The down side to a mini series production may have been Jeremy Renner declining the key role of Webb. Renner's work in the film is legitimate and gives the character a rugged naivety which is key to director Michael Cuesta's intention. Here is a family man so embroiled in his job that he has no care about the CIA buttons he is prepared to push, we sit knowing there will be repercussions.

Webb wrote a series of articles titled Dark Alliance for his newspaper The San Jose Mercury News. His articles exposed the CIA as being complicit in their knowledge of crack cocaine being transported into California in the 1980's and sold in vast quantities. Web was named journalist of the year (Pulitzer Prize) in 1996 for his articles. The CIA eventually owned up to some of Webbs factual analysis but not before they had discredited him using the forces likely to inflict most harm; his own and other newspapers.

Because this relatively complex tale is told in 112 minutes, Cuesta glosses over elements such as Webb's obvious commitment to his family, the thoroughness of his work in Nicaragua and the relationships he must have melded with key informers. There is even the cliqued CIA "baddies" looking dark eyed and stoney faced when staring him down. Never the less Kill The Messenger tells an important story which may have you theorizing especially after reading the mandatory summary paragraphs when the screen goes black. 8GUMS 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Film No. 74 (2014) Whiplash October 16th.

Film No. 74 (2014) October 16th. 6:30 PM PARADISO Northbridge.


Whiplash is a good film. It's a definite for an editing nomination from The Academy. It's uncompromising in its portrayal of human endeavour, to the point where we can't take our eyes off the screen, but we want to. The teacher / student relationship between Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) and Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons)has a touch of the Karate Kid about it but its Mr Miagi you'd be inviting over to babysit your kids not Terrence Fletcher.

Shaffer Conservatorium of Music, is the most prestigious post grad music school in New York. Neyman is a student battling away down the grades but he has great ambition to become a drummer of the highest standard. To reach that standard he needs to be noticed by Fletcher, who conducts the flagship jazz orchestra of the college. You guessed it, he's noticed and the war of attrition begins. If you've seen the trailer then you have some idea of what you are about to experience.

The film asks the age old question of those who seek to be the best. What are you prepared to sacrifice to get to the top? But this film takes the premise one step further, Fletcher breaks boundaries because his philosophy incorporates brutality, both of a mental and physical nature. He makes no excuses and we just have to watch on, hoping he'll get what's coming. Finally, there is a payoff and it may surprise many.

Whiplash has flaws. They are only minor but they are slightly annoying. The trailer would suggest that Nicole (Melissa Benoist)as Neyman's love interest is integral to the story, not so because their relationship isn't explored in any great detail. The same could be said for Paul Reiser playing Neyman's dad. There is a lack of true depth to their bond. Only one relationship counts in this film; hopefully it won't break you! 


Film No.73 (2014) Pride. October 14th.

Film No.73 (2014) October 14th. 7:00 PM VMAX Innaloo.


Films from the UK depicting the grim times of Margaret Thatcher's reign of power during the 70's and 80's are many and varied. Most of this cinema reflected working class people struggling as they adapted to the repressive social landscape of the time. Pride takes us back to that time, and to arguably the most torturous struggle of them all; the miner's strike of 1984/5, and then lightens our load through humour.

That's not to say the film doesn't have its serious moments. It's because of the the affinity we build for most of its characters during the films quick witted, lighter scenes that we are reduced to tears on a number of occasions in the heavier scenes. 

The real story of what happened in the Dulais Valley in South Wales during the strike became big news when the strike ended. The humble donations made to the small mining community by an unlikely source (LGSM: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners)  were at the time newsworthy but soon forgotten. Perhaps because overcoming homophobia takes time and one event isn't likely to have sudden effects. Pride however comes at a time when societies views have softened, more people are accepting and this film is going to assist the cause even further.    

I've not used a paragraph to summarize the film because there are too many strands to this very entertaining log of history. Bill Nighy, unaccustomed as he is to smaller roles, is brilliant as Cliff. Academy nominee brilliant in my opinion. But the character of most interest, the fresh faced Irish boy Mark Ashton, played brilliantly by Ben Schnetzer, is the key to the story. He's worth researching further once the titles have finished rolling.  10GUMS.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Film No. 72 (2014) I Can Quit When Ever I Want October 10th .

Film No. 72 (2014) October 10th. 8:45 PM LUNA SX Fremantle. 

I Can Quit When Ever I Want (Smetto quango vogilo) [Italian]

On reading the premise to this Italian film you might be lulled into believing that the creators had condensed the six seasons of the award winning US series Breaking Bad into a movie. Not so, and thankfully it has a style and delivery of its own.

Pietre Zinni (Edoardo Leo) is a science lecturer at his local university and like so many of his academic kind is employed on yearly contracts. We meet Pietre on the termination and non renewal of his latest contract. He can't tell his partner Giulia, the beautiful Valeria Solarino so he lies but needs to supplement his income in a hurry.

Director Sydney Sibilla encourages Jacques Tati like performances as Pietre forms a band of ex lecturer colleagues,  all with specific skills, to produce synthetic tablets for the lucrative recreational drug scene. There are some quite disturbing themes here but the characters are all so likable, naive, self-effacing and generally bumbling that the theme becomes a sidelight.

Made as a regional comedy this small film is the reason festivals at home are such a delight. Leo is excellent as the "key bumbler" and reminds us that the French and Italian comedies outdo the bigger budget western efforts regularly because their central characters are funny without resorting to vulgarity or star power. 8GUMS   

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Film No. 71 (2014) Obvious Child October 4th.

Film No. 71 (2014) October 4th. 11.00 AM LUNA Leederville.

Obvious Child

In the concluding scene of Obvious Child, Donna (Jenny Slate) comments "I don't connect with romantic comedies" which is interesting considering we've just connected very successfully to her brilliant 85 minute performance. It was an ironic twist in a film full of small moments; moments which add up to a very serious comedy of the romantic variety.

Now just because I've mentioned romantic comedy please don't jump to Ashton Kucher or Jennifer Anniston conclusions. Obvious Child deals with the issue of abortion through the persona of Donna Stern a young stand up comic who loves life but because of a break up she didn't see coming and a one night stand of the energetic kind, has to take a more serious approach to decision making. She turns to friends and family for support and it is the uniquness of these relationships which gives the film its substance.

Her best friend in the world, Nellie (Gaby Hoffman) exclaims; "You're dizzy because you played russian roulette with your vagina," when commenting on Donna's bout of morning sickness. In the same scene Donna responds with "I remember seeing a condom; I just don't know exactly what it did". Then there is the warm scene between Donna and her dad Jacob (Richard Kind) where he uses the puppet he is painting to cheer her up. All the while Max (Jake Lacy), her one night standee,  is attracted to Donna and we feel for him as Donna contemplates telling him.

Then finally, in the brilliantly handled sedation before abortion scene we focus on Donna coming to terms with the decision she's made and because of the clever work of director/writer Gillian Robespierre we are now part of her circle. We know she'll be fine but more importantly it was nice to be there to help her through it. 9GUMS 


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Film No.70 (2014) Gone Girl. September 30th.

Film No.70 (2014) September 30th. 6:30 PM VMAX Innaloo.

Gone Girl

I'm told Gone Girl, the film, slides nicely into the narrative groove of Gillian Flynn's book of the same name. Ms. Flynn wrote the screenplay so I dare say she paid particular attention to including details essential to the original story. Both Flynn and proven director David Fincher have done a great job; Gone Girl is a riveting, if not slightly long, melodramatic thriller.

So without spoiling a single minute of your Gone Girl experience the story unfolds like this: Nick Dunne (Ben Afflick) lives a knock about life in the suburbs of North Carthage, Missouri, running a bar with his sister Margo (Carrie Coon). He's blissfully married (or so it would seem) to Amy (Rosamund Pike). In an early scene he takes a call from his neighbour; the cat is out and the front door is ajar. All is not what it would seem on the domestic front; cut to a close up of a pen on the page of a diary. Amy scribbles down the story of her first meeting with Nick; the beginnings of her ambition to live a perfect life.

Afflick and Pike play the fractured couple perfectly; their ability to manipulate our feelings towards them from one fluctuating scene to another succeeds splendidly. Coon along with Tyler Perry as "flagshot" lawyer Tanner Bolt deliver sharp performances. Typically Fincher layers his film with a soundtrack which weaves just the right amount of uneasiness into its demeanor.

I've not read any of Flynn's novels so I'm no expert but on reflection I can't help but wonder if she made it a stipulation that she, and she alone had narrative control over this big studio film, so her female characters maintained their intellectual stamina. The female characters in Gone Girl have more dimension and are a step ahead of their more predictable male counterparts at all times. Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) is the measuring stick on this matter; with the less said about her cliched offsider Officer Gilpin (Patrick Fugil) the better. 8GUMS.

Film No. 69 (2014) The Skeleton Twins September 29th .

Film No. 69 (2014) September 29th. 4.30 PM LUNA SX Fremantle. 

The Skeleton Twins

Mark and brother Jay Duplass worked as executive producers on The Skeleton Twins. Mark, in particular, is gaining a reputation for involving himself in interesting projects in both film and television. Duplass (Mark) played Jack in another accomplished relationship drama, Your Sister's Sister. If you liked Sister then you'll enjoy The Skeleton Twins.

This is a film of substance. It is well acted, in fact it is exceedingly well acted with the theme of sibling relationship under repair the focus of our attention. The fulfillment for an audience in this drama comes in the delicate mix of its ingredients. The humour is layered perfectly throughout the reflective and insightful dialogue; dialogue so legitimate we enjoy the company of all the characters.

Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) are twins with issues. We meet them as they contemplate suicide on precisely the same day. Milo attempts first and just as Maggie makes her move she receives a call from the hospital to which Milo has been admitted. Maggie flies from New York to L.A. to be with her brother, a brother she brings back to NY to re-connect after 10 years of being apart.

Any film dealing with themes of depression and suicide, not to mention adolescent rape (a past experience of Milo's)takes a risk with what sort of audience it might attract. Twins prevails because of the accomplished work of Hader and Wiig who never take us to the depths of negative emotion because they have each other and their support of one another is genuine. But most likable of all is Lance (Luke Wilson), Maggie's lovable husband. Wilson has set new teddy bear like standards in his ever smiling, non-judgmental character. I thoroughly enjoyed The Skeleton Twins.  9GUMS.