Friday, 30 December 2016

Film No. 78 (2016) La La Land December 29th.

Film No. 78 (2016) December 29th.  6.40 PM LUNA PALACE, Leederville. 

"How are you going to be a revolutionary if you're such a traditionalist. Jazz is about the future (Sebastian, Ryan Gosling) is given some advice about the future by a contemporary).

Who hasn't heard about La La Land since it's Boxing Day opening three days ago? Not too many folk I would imagine. So while the film underwhelmed me I have to say it is a crowd pleaser with all the sparkle, razzle and absolute dazzle of musicals from a bygone era. It does deserve its praise because it unashamedly carries off the genre it emulates fantastically well.

From the opening number on an L.A. freeway where the traffic is bumper to bumper and the only escape is a song and dance spectacular to while away the time, we know we are in for a world of fantasy. It's where we meet Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), the two potential love birds, both lost in their dreams of stardom fuelled by their artistic pursuits. For Seb it's his passion for Jazz while Mia is an actor working to get her lucky break. 

It's inevitable they meet. It's inevitable they fall in love. It's inevitable they drive each other to fulfil their dreams. So the risk with a BIG film like this lies in the casting. In Gosling and Stone the producers, distributors and backers alike must be rubbing their collective hands together. Their chemistry on screen is magnetic. It's the reason people who catch two movies a year will break-out and catch a third.

Unashamedly (yes here is that word again) La La Land is totally un original. Every scene is a cliche of 10 films that came before it. But it is the first to use digital advancements to enhance the sum of it's parts. This crowd pleaser will dominate the box office, awards and both multiplexes and independent cinemas alike for months ahead all because they got the casting and the formula right. It sounds simple but as most producers will tell you, it's never easy to achieve. Yes, I was underwhelmed but forget my view, La La Land works. 10GUMS.   

Film No. 77 (2016) Julieta December 24th.

Film No. 77 (2016) December 24th.  8.00 PM SOMERVILLE U.W.A. Nedlands.


"I'm going to tell you everything I wasn't able to tell you before" (Julieta writes to her estranged daughter).

I can only imagine how pretentious it might sound if you were to hear someone say, I've just been to see an Allen (Woody) at the local cinema. Almodovar rolls off the tongue more fluidly but I wonder about the credibility of a film promoted in a manner Picasso or Da Vinci would have been proud of. It makes me wonder whether an artist like Pedro would have chosen to be promoted in this way.   

Julieta re-vitalises all of the dreamy, melodramatic qualities so characteristic of Pedro's style. Once again he takes us inside the head of his central character Julieta (Emma Suarez) a seemingly ordinary middle aged woman about to move from Madrid to Portugal following her partner Lorenzo in the next chapter in her life. Days before her move, by chance she meets Beatriz (Michelle Jenner), an old friend of her daughters, in the street and the melodrama begins.

Keen to sell this new Pedro special, promoters and distributors have described Julieta as a taut thriller. I may be mistaken but Pedro needed to step in here because a film about a woman reminded of her past via dreamlike snippets drizzled with chamber music (which I might add are beautiful to watch), doesn't add up to a taut thriller. This is a simplistic summary because there is emotional upheaval as Julieta tries to reconcile the sudden departure of her daughter after a family tragedy.

If you are a fan of Petro's then don't miss Julieta. Aesthetically he has returned to his trade-mark self. It is all you would expect from this fine film-maker; it's the legitimacy of the tale he wants us to be involved in which left me flat as the screen went to black. An Almodovar it is but in comparative terms it's no Picasso. 8GUMS

Monday, 26 December 2016

Film No. 76 (2016) A Man Called Ove December 22nd.

Film No. 76 (2016) December 22nd.  6.45 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"It looks like a winter boot with eyes" (Grumpy Ove describes a pesky dog to it's owner simply because it annoys him).

I loved The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared. It's humour and poignancy sold me on Sweedish cinema and in particular their slant on morality tale telling. A Man Called Ove, steps grumpily into similar territory and does it nearly as well. 

Ove (Rolf Lassgard) is a grumpy 59 year old with the demeanour of a grouchy 70 year old. From the beginning we know "rivers run deep" with Ove and the 2 hours we are about to spend with him will reveal all. Somehow we just know we are going to love him. So it's down to Director Hanns Holm's ability to convert the Fredrick Backman novel to the screen. From where I was sitting, he did a good job.

Knowing why Ove has such a dim view on life and the people who surround him is gradually unravelled. We see flashbacks including the touching relationship he had with his father and the events which led to him following in his dad's footsteps and ultimately meeting the love of his life, Sonja (Ida Engvoll) who's beauty, inside and out, gives the film a lift. Then there is the humour surrounding his love of Saab and disdain for other car makes, in particular his neighbour's devotion to Volvo.

Ove wins us over as we are manipulated in the nicest possible manner. Neighbour Parvaneh (Bahar Pars), an Iranian immigrant married to a Swede, gives Ove the reality check he needs when all looks lost. She and her children draw the very best qualities from Ove which is all  part of the film's clever manipulation. I notice the author of the novel, Backman, was also involved in the writing of the screenplay. This will add legitimacy for those who have read the book. Ove is still growing on me, it's a better film than I first gave it credit for. Like an onion I'm still peeling back the layers. 9GUMS.


Friday, 23 December 2016

Film No. 75 (2016) Lion December 17th.

Film No. 75 (2016) December 17th.  10.30 AM LUNA PALACE, Leederville. 

"I had another family, a mother, a brother, I can still see their faces" (Saroo's (Dev Patel) reaction to Lucy's (Rooney Mara) enquiry about his anxiety). 

Those who remember the closing scenes of The Killing Fields (1984) will recall the moving reunion when Sydney embraces Pran at the Red Cross station on the Cambodian / Vietnamese border. Well, Lion presents a similar emotion fuelled conclusion, but for me, it's twice as heartfelt. Given this comparison, Lion does not reach the standards of the afore mentioned classic.

Based on the memoir, A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, Lion retells, in two halves, Saroo's quest to allay his real mother's anxiety at the fate of her son. I've described the heartfelt conclusion but it's the first hour in the hands of 5 year old Saroo so brilliantly played by Sunny Pawer which captures our attention. Young Saroo wending his way through the slums of Calcutta (as it was known then) trying to re-unite with his brother has us willing him to be safe.

Dev Patel takes up the second half of Saroo's story from Tasmania, Australia. While unlucky to lose contact with his mother and brother on that fateful night his luck turns when he's adopted by Tasmanian couple Sue and John Brierley. Saroo spents the next 20 years without the stress of poverty in middle class Australia. The development of Saroo's western family link is not as thorough as his journey as a 5 year old. We are not as connected to the Australian family unit as perhaps first time feature director Garth Davis would have liked.

Girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara) is the rock a determined Saroo leans on while he tries to find his mother and brother, knowing their stress at not knowing where he is must be excruciating. Mara is her usual fresh faced self, she's the perfect rock and it's this relationship in the back half of the film which resonates. I couldn't beg, borrow or steal a tissue as the final scenes closed in. Let me tell you, those final scenes are moving, but the image which remains is the face of Pawer, our 5 year old Saroo, he's the reason we become so invested. 9GUMS.       


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Film No. 74 (2016) Jackie December 13th.

Film No. 74 (2016) December 13th.  6.30 PM Greater Union Event Cinema, Innaloo.

"I believe the characters we read about on the page end up being more in relation to the men who stand beside us" (Jackie begins her recount of the days immediately after J.F.K.'s assassination to her handpicked journalist (Billy Crudup.)

Natalie Portman (Jackie) may well have sewn up a Golden Globe and an Oscar in this highly stylised account of the most loved U.S. presidential first lady in the days immediately following that fateful day in November 1963. So therein lies the warning. This is not a Jackie tell all story about her life, loves and final days. This film is so, so much better than that.

Jackie Kennedy was best known, prior to 22.11.1963, as the beautiful first lady who took the world, via T.V., through the White House as she described her new home as The Peoples House. This event becomes a corner stone flash back scene for the film as Jackie talks to unnamed journalist Billy Crudup through the effective technique of story management via Jackie's reflective, highly emotive words.

Because of the private nature in which the actual Jackie Kennedy conducted herself, there were only fleeting moments when she spoke, so her distinctive, breathy vocal tones were very much her fingerprint. Portman has worked her craft, vocally, as fastidiously as she she did physically in Black Swan. She is mesmerising as Jackie. Chilean director Pablo Larrain has a reputation for a thorough approach to his work, his melding with Portman in Jackie is a masterstroke. 

This film could have been titled Jackie: 7 Days of Grief. There is no pretence about where we are led as an audience. We learn a little of Bobbie Kennedy's (Peter Sarsgaad) grief and care for his sister-in-law. Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson are background puppets and Jackie's exchanges with priest John Hurt and assistant Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) are telling. Gerwig is as never seen before in her fleeting role. But Jackie is all down to Natalie Portman and Natalie is good, very good.  10GUMS

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Film No. 73 (2016) A United Kingdom December 5th.

Film No. 73 (2016) December 5th.  6.45 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"This is likely the most inspiring story of love and endurance ever told" (Nelson Mandela on becoming the first black president of South Africa) as he described the love shared by Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.

Botswana is a success story when it comes to looking at the past of Third World African countries. It's a country I've not visited and while I know little of it's historical past this tale of enduring love went a long way in helping me to understand Botswana's current economic and social standing.

We've all heard the phrase, Love Conquers All, it's often used as a snappy film catch phrase to lure a prospective audience. The phrase is tired  but A United Kingdom could be the flagship film for it's rejuvenation. The film is clunky enough to support the cliched phrase but this criticism in no way diminishes the importance of the story.

This is the story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), Botswana's first president, who meets and falls in love with his wife Ruth (Rosamund Pike) a white, english girl, while he is studying in the U.K. Serenest is a prince and he's about to be called home to become king. His union with Ruth caused major reactions on both sides of their respective national spectrums. Britain held sovereignty over Botswana at the time. Sanctions on the couple came thick and fast, sometimes heavy handedly from a cinematic POV, in a bid to break their bond. 

Director Amma Asante created a better film in Belle (2013)as she told a different story of the hardships endured in mixed race relations. A United Kingdom however is a bigger film with a more important story.  A quick reference to Botswana's contemporary history will verify this. Oyalowo and Pike maintain the right chemistry but it's Jack Davenport's plodding performance as the stiff upper lip diplomat which made me cringe. On reflection it's how it had to be I suspect. 8GUMS. 



Film No. 72 (2016) Arrival November 27th.

Film No. 72 (2016) November 27th.  12.30 PM READING CINEMAS, Queenstown New Zealand.

"You are at the top of everyones list when it comes to translations" (Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker) addresses Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as unidentified craft appear on Earth.

Amy Adams is the flavour of this cinema year it would seem. She certainly has a charismatic quality which endears her to the screen. Arrival will likely earn her many a nomination over the coming awards season. So what is it about Arrival, the movie?

With all that has gone down politically in the U.S. over recent months this is a timely film. A film to drag us up by our moral lapels, so that we might be shaken into the realisation that if it's possible to communicate with alien life, then why the hell can't we make positive contact as humans in our global village? Does it work? Yeh it does, surprisingly, because if one had 30 seconds to pitch this plot, corny maybe the concluding verdict.  

I'm doing Arrival a disservice by suggesting the film is a blueprint for the global benefits of effective communication channels. It's most endearing quality is the thread of life, and the premise, if one knew the future, would you make a decision knowing the pain as well as the beauty of what was to come. Still sounding corny? Well Arrival has a corny premise and farfetched threads but it works.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a world renowned linguist who is co-opted by the U.S. govt. to make contact with "visitors" who have suddenly arrived and are literally hovering in different positions all over the world. She teams with Donnelly (Jeremy Rimmer) to peel back the layers of a coded exchange between beings. While the film is both subtle and clever, I'm not convinced there is real chemistry between Adams and Rimmer during their key moments as Earth's ambassadors. You see, the film demands chemistry, for me it doesn't deliver on that front but delivers everywhere else. 9GUMS. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

Film No. 71 (2016) The Accountant November 21st.

Film No. 71 (2016) November 21st.  8.00 PM CINEMA CLYDE, Clyde New Zealand.

"I have difficulty socialising with other people, even though I want to". (Christian Wolfe (Ben Affleck) talks about one of life's frustrations to Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).

Right, so Ben Affleck gets to play a character with autism, an accountant who, because of his condition, possesses  extraordinary talents. Talents which are used for less than scrupulous purposes by very unscrupulous people, world wide. It sounds like the sort of 30 second pitch which may have pricked the ears of the money men of Hollywood. So The Accountant came to be, and reasonably entertaining it is.

Gavin O'Connor brought us Warrior (2011) where the depth of family bonding and hand to hand combat made for thought provoking viewing. Warrior had plenty of fans because the father/son relationship built tension. O'Connor brings similar themes to The Accountant. The life of Christian Wolfe (Affleck) takes a turn for the worse when his mother abandons the family. Christian's dad, a military man, takes on the parenting of his sons and teaching them hand to hand combat skills are key to his influence. This is important to the plot as we flick back and forth to unravel the reasons why Wolfe conducts himself in a manner that makes greater sense later in the movie.

The side story belongs to Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). As servants of the government King blackmails Medina into tracking Wolfe, for reasons, once again, made more obvious later. Both characters are under developed because Wolfe and Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) need to become a duo of substance. It's all a bit far fetched but it ties up pretty well and as I've mentioned, it's trivial entertainment.

Be warned however, The Accountant, is a violent, immoral movie which will soon be forgotten. Affleck adds another string to his bow if playing a smart but violent accountant with autism is a string. But what I do recommend is, if you are visiting south island New Zealand, find the small hamlet of Clyde, not far from Queenstown and catch a movie at the 42 seat Clyde Cinema (leather comfort). It's where I caught The Accountant.  9GUMS.


Unique cinemas can be difficult to find in these days of multiplexes. All hail Clyde Cinema, it's a small gem with a view to expand to a second cinema soon.  12GUMS.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

Film No. 70 (2016) I, Daniel Blake November 14th.

Film No. 70 (2016) November 14th.  6.45 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"You've got nothing to be ashamed of, you're all alone with two kids, you're amazing" (Daniel (Dave Johns) reassures Katie (Hayley Squires) that she is skilled in her quest to make a life for herself and her kids).

Ken Loach turned eighty in June. Many thought he had directed his last film in Jimmy Hall, two years ago. Thank the heavens that this was not fact. If it were, he would not have delivered I, Daniel Blake to us in 2016.It won the Palme D'or and there were many tweets at the time that it was not deserving of this honour. I beg to differ, I, Daniel Blake is an outstanding film.  

Tis the season to be merry so, most films in the next month will depict a bunch of silly characters (either animated or as good as) in contrived pieces leading to a standard, predictable happy ending. So why recommend, I, Daniel Blake as a must see film just prior to Christmas? The reason; it will stir your conscience and the want to give to people and causes who don't have the same opportunity or money that we do, will be heightened. It's a hard-hearted, middle class westerner who walks from a screening of I, Daniel Blake not feeling deeply affected.

In the words of Ken Loach, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) represents decency, a quality possessed by the vast majority of people. When decent people are restricted in the way they live their lives through no fault of their own, in a system which ceases to care, then film can serve a purpose to deliver a strong message. In I, Daniel Blake, Loach delivers that message in spades. It's the simple images of Blake on the phone, endlessly on hold or Katie, breaking down in a food bank and being reassured by Daniel that she is a skilled mother.

When the film starts, Daniel Blake has recently lost his wife, which may have aggravated a heart condition, rendering him unfit for work. To get a pension, he will need to prove to bureaucracy (The Decision Maker) that he is eligible and that is no easy task. Loach weaves a second family, Katie (Hayley Squires), Daisy (Briana Shann) and Dylan (Dylan McKiernan)into Dan's life simply and with heart. All are fighting for survival in the suburbs of North East England. The Decision Maker holds the key to their survival. Is this a moral system?  11GUMS. 



Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Film No. 69 (2016) The Golden Years November 11th.

Film No. 69 (2016) November 11th.  6.30 PM LUNA SX Fremantle.

"A Great British Comedy" (The words on a promotional poster for Golden Years ......... DON'T BE MISLEAD!)

There used to be so many of these "try hard", feel good, caper films coming out of the U.K. There probably still are but they have become T.V. fodder. People want more from a cinema experience.

Other than amongst those who have experienced a real hold-up, Golden Years will have some fans. Oldies getting revenge on The Banks because of their dwindling pensions is an easy theme to pursue to get a following. But Golden Years is light, wet, offensive, predictable and generally immoral. It has a quality cast all looking to be challenged. Golden Years does not fulfil their needs.

Look out for this strange little film on a streaming network one cold afternoon. The only thing wetter than the rain splattering against your window that sodden afternoon will be the script blaring from your flat screen's surround sound system! 5GUMS.     

Film No. 68 (2016) Hell or High Water November 5th.

Film No. 68 (2016) November 5th.  10.30 AM LUNA PALACE, Leederville. 

"All this was my ancestor's land, till these folk took it and now it's been taken from them, 'cept it ain't no army doin' it, it's those sons of bitches right there (pointing to a bank in the town's high street)" (Alberto summarizes the state of play historically in his home state of Texas)

It was hard to watch Hell or High Water and not reflect on the  dysfunctional political landscape surrounding this once great nation the U S of A. A scene late in the film depicts Toby and Tanner Howard (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) hurriedly rushing from a bank they'd just robbed into a hail of gunfire. Our immediate thought is the police had the bank surrounded; cut to local towns folk crouching behind their vehicles taking pot-shots. A bizarre scene but perhaps the norm in this remote Texas outpost.

Hell and High Water is an ironic comment on many aspects of life in contemporary U.S. society. It has all the ingredients of an old fashioned western. There are Toby and Tanner a couple of bank robbers with a humane edge. Then there's Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Geoff Bridges) and Mexican/Indian side-kick Alberto (Gil Birmingham) whose method it is to track these baddies "on foot" rather than via modern day methods using laptops or mobile phones. But there is a whole lot more to this film of simple themes.

Toby, the elder brother, has inherited the family property which possesses rich oil reserves. The bank holds the deeds and will foreclose if debts aren't paid within a strict timeframe. His only course of action is to steal from the bank keen to take over his property, or more importantly the property which is the inheritance of his children. The tension builds as Hamilton and Alberto track the brothers the old fashioned way; the bloodhound method. Each of the robberies by the brothers is more daring and violent than the last. Robin Hood, these guys ain't!  

The steamy, tense feel, coupled with the earthy soundtrack gives Hell and High Water the credibility it deserves. The relationships, key to ratifying the concluding scenes (e.g. the dysfunction in Toby's relationship with his ex-wife and kids) lack real development. The role of corporate banking and the irony of the brothers' quest wasn't fleshed out completely. But Geoff Bridges, Hamilton is all one would expect of this quality, character actor. The less he says, the harder it is to take our eyes off him. 9GUMS.        


Monday, 31 October 2016

Film No. 67 (2016) Nocturnal Animals October 27th.

Film No. 67 (2016) October 27th.  6.45 PM Greater Union Event Cinema,  Innaloo. 

"When you love someone, you have to be careful with it, you may never get it again". (Edward explains a philosophy of his to his first love, Susan, in their early years together). 

This stylish drama by second time director Tom Ford (A Single Man) takes the audience on a journey of revenge in a wonderfully original manner. From the bizarre opening images of large, gyrating female forms to the thrilling story within a story, to the inevitable concluding wide angle shot, there is a lot to like about Nocturnal Animals.

The surprise is, Ford has taken seven years to get back to film making. He is a fashion icon so perhaps he uses that to give him financial security before taking the inevitable risks aligned to feature film making. It's worth the wait because he takes beautiful people, dresses them with sheer style then blends them into an unreal world of treacherous self obsession where they hope they'll achieve happiness. At least that's the set up for this journey with Susan Morrow (Amy Adams). 

Susan is a gallery owner who craves adulation for every exhibition she hosts. Her 19 year marriage to drop dead handsome Hutton (Armie Hammer) is tired and she has regrets about her past, more particularly, the way she betrayed her first love Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). We learn all this via  Edward's manuscript, Nocturnal Animals, which he sends an advance copy of to Susan for reasons that become more obvious with every page she turns.

Because the thriller plays out scene by scene, Susan's life and then a scene from the manuscript as Susan takes up from where she last left off, it becomes a "can't put it down" scenario. We are always anxious to get back to Edward's story. I'm trying not to delve too far into this highly original film. Michael Shannon turns up as the white hatted hero via the thrilling manuscript. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the tormented figure and lead for good reason. All will be revealed as you watch. Film lovers shouldn't miss Nocturnal Animals. It's stylish, it's thrilling, it's clever and it's all communicated via Susan a person we ultimately don't care much for in any case. 11GUMS.

Film No. 66 (2016) Hacksaw Ridge October 25th.

Film No. 66 (2016) October 25th.  6.30 PM Greater Union Event Cinema, Innaloo.

If you thought Saving Private Ryan took the cake for the most graphic depiction of a battle scene then think again. Hacksaw Ridge has double the visuals, double the gore and double the impact. This big budget war film takes us to the WWII battle field of Okinawa; known as a legendary blood fest. We follow the heroics of Desmond Doss a christian conscientious objector who saved the lives of 75 soldiers in a 24 hour period without lifting a rifle because he vowed he never would.

The issue with Hacksaw Ridge is, there is too much cliche in the scenes leading to the gruesome battle field scenes, scenes where director Mel Gibson excels. The thing is Gibson announces the film as a true story. Perhaps he'd have been better to use the term "inspired by real events" because the big screen (Hollywood) treatment of some scenes suggest convenience of storytelling rather than reality. Given this treatment, Hacksaw Ridge is a big, ballsy film full of power and old-fashioned inspiration.

Desmond Doss was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honour. It's an American story waiting to be told. Interestingly enough, it has taken a major U.S. ally in Australia to provide most of the artistic resources to bring to film to light. Mel has always been fascinated with the story, so ten years on from Apocalypto he returns, with an army of Australians; actors and studio techs alike to make the film. It's fitting that Vince Vaughan as Sergeant Howell returns to his brilliant best (Swingers) in this bio-pic. The sharpest, wittiest dialogue is penned for Vaughan.

So, back to what is most memorable about Hacksaw Ridge; the violent depiction of the reality of war. Gibson has a reputation for   depicting the brutality of an exceptional historical occasion (Passion of the Christ). In Hacksaw Ridge he excels. A couple of Oscars may very well reinforce his brilliance early in 2017. I suggest that people of a similar disposition to Mr Doss will not be able to stomach at least 30 minutes of Hacksaw Ridge. You have been warned.  9GUMS.


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Film No. 65 (2016) American Honey October 24th.

Film No. 65 (2016) October 24th.  7.30 PM LUNA Leederville.

"I've been trying to be christian, but I can see the devil has a hold of the two of you" (the words of a potential customer after letting Star (Sasha Lane) and Jake (Shia LaBeouf) into her house).

Andrea Arnold has made one of the most original American road movies of contemporary times in American Honey and surprisingly she's a product of the U.K. It is a film she's had on her mind for a few years as she travelled the states meeting with young people who were cold calling, door to door, in the hope of selling magazine subscriptions. 

Arnold's storytelling has a lot of Ken Loach about it. That she found her lead, Sasha Lane, on a beach in Panama, Miami two weeks before filming began rings true of her cinema hero. What a find she made in Lane who plays Star, a teenage girl with little to no prospects but a big heart and a mind of her own. Star believes a better life, full of riches lies ahead if she joins Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and a team of vagabond sales kids on the road.

It's here the film questions the American idea that materialism will make for a better life. The simple catch cry for Star and her off-siders, egged on by team leader Krystal is to "make money". When the vehicle for that purpose is selling subscriptions to magazines, we know that their cause is hopeless. But it's through Star we see glimmers of hope. She begins to make money by being honest and above all, a good person. She becomes a lightning rod for the very vulnerable Jake.

Arnold has already claimed a jury prize and a major nomination at Cannes 2016 for American Honey. No mean accolade for a non-American making arts outside her own territory. 165 minutes may seem lengthy on the face of things but when one becomes totally invested in a character to the point we'd be more than willing to buy her subscriptions, the time flies. Films baring their all through raw naturalism aren't for everybody but this one will gradually charm most.  10GUMS.


Film No. 64 (2016) The Light Between Oceans October 20th.

Film No. 64 (2016) October 20th.  6.30 PM Gold Class Greater Union Event Cinema, Innaloo.

"She needs us, we're not doing anything wrong." Isabel, (Alicia Vikander) pleads with her husband Tom(Michael Fassbender)).

Derek Cianofrance nailed the heartfelt film with Blue Valentine six years ago. The Place Beyond the Pines had a powerful pull as well but it was not in the same mould as Valentine. The Light Between The Oceans reinforces his ability to power us back to witnessing real human heartbreak without cliche. He also parallels the anguish of Tom (Fassbender)and Isabel (Vikander) against the backdrop of a windswept vastness that takes our breath away.

This Australian story is stamped with British know how. It's shot in Tasmania and on a New Zealand island. It's important to mention the locations because they co-star in this exquisite production. The beautiful but desolate locations bring to bear the rawness of what it feels like to experience bad luck, regret and loss. Key in all of this is the question, does isolation and heart ache alter perceptions of reality?

Cianofrance seamlessly transports Tom, a WWI vet who's been to hell and back and is looking for real peace, to an island off Australia where he is manning a lighthouse. During his induction he meets Isabel and there is real chemistry, they swap love letters and marry within the year. Their life is bliss as they nestle in their love for one another in the most isolated of environments. A family is the punctuation point needed to complete their perfect life. Isabel miscarries twice. We share their heartache and our investment is complete. Then a boat washes up, there is a baby aboard. 

I'm predicting an Oscar nomination for The Light Between Oceans but I don't think it will win. Weisz as the grieving mother and widow fills the space in her usual charming manner however I wasn't convinced the vital role of Hannah Roennfeldt suited her range. My criticism is minor but the character is crucial to the final stanza of the film. I'd like to have felt more compassionate towards Hannah. Meanwhile this wonderful film will win and break hearts the world over for years to come. 10GUMS.    


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Film No. 63 (2016) Joe Cinque's Consolation October 16th.

Film No. 63 (2016) October 16th.  4.00 PM LUNA Leederville.

"Anyone can have bad luck when they're looking for love" (the prophetic words of Joe (Jerome Meyer) during a conversation early in his relationship with girlfriend Anu (Maggie Naouri).

Helen Garner is surely an Australian national treasure. Her contribution to the nation's conscience using gentle fluid tones is extraordinary. Joe Cinque's Consolation is precisely that, a manuscript which hopefully pricks at the consciousness of a nation. It paints the picture of a nice guy having his life extinguished by someone he loves who's placed a spell on him, a spell he was unable to control.  Enter Soliris Dounoukos, a film director, who cared enough to make a cinematic interpretation of Garner's words.

The film is clunky but important. Dounoukos is a first time film maker so Consolation is conservative in approach. He does not delve into the court caseflicking backwards and forwards from evidence to flashbacks, instead his focus is on Anu Singh (Maggie Naouri) and her erratic, and yet charismatic behaviour leading up to Joe's (Jerome Meyer) death. He also highlights, more frighteningly, the dereliction of responsibility shown by those who knew what was going on, yet did nothing.

Joe Cinque's Consolation is no Hitchcock Mystery but it has elements of his genius. The issue is, this is a true life crime committed in the most conservative of environments, Australia's capital Canberra. All of the players are still alive, except Joe, so many of the scenes are close to the truth. The dinner party enactments are directed as described by some of those who where present. It is difficult to conceive that these intelligent people allowed Singh to do as she did.

The real consolation for Joe lands in the hands of his parents. These beautiful people (played exquisitely by Gia Carides and Tony Nikolakopoulos and seen only briefly) have been left heart-broken. Their lives were damaged because their son cared too much for his own good. Every performance is riveting. More importantly the film leaves another tribute, as only the arts can do, to the life of Joe Cinque. As a film purist you'll be disappointed, as a human being you'll be spellbound, angry, reflective and finally respectful. 9GUMS.         

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Film No. 62 (2016) Elle October 13th.

Film No. 62 (2016) October 11th.  6.45 PM LUNA Paradiso, Northbridge.

"The real danger, Michelle, is you" (Husband to wife conversation).

Paul Verhoeven is a gifted film maker. Robocop, Starship Troopers and Basic Instinct are testament to his versatility and talent. Elle fits nicely with Verhoeven's contributions to the thriller genre in a not too disimilar style to the way Basic Instinct exploded onto world wide screens in 1992. Elle is a better film than B.I. with a far more twisted, self-centred main character than Stone's Catherine Trammel; Michelle, played by Isabelle Huppert. Elle won't however have the same Box Office impact as B.I.

Michelle is a "piece of work". She is raped in her own home one evening and she decides there is but one way to respond; to take matters into ones own hands. Verhoeven from here gives us a stylized thriller which revolves entirely around the complex axis of Huppert's Michelle.

There are holes in Elle, as there are holes in all noir films. Red herrings of the obvious kind abound throughout but they are all carried off with style and an ounce of "tongue in cheek". Michelle has money and is an astute business owner of a successful IT games development company. One wonders if fixation with the unreal world has flowed into her own reality. At home she becomes fixated with her cat, then with neighbour Patrick (Charles Berling) a handsome distraction.

Huppert is worth the price of a ticket for Elle. Michelle is easy to dislike as she treats family, friends and employees as pawns in her thirst  to get whatever it is she wants. The ease with which we acquire this dislike is testament to Huppert's brilliance. The cruel way she treats her mother is a particular highlight. In short, Elle is flawed but Huppert is flawless. 8GUMS.      

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Film No. 60 (2016) The Girl On The Train October 5th.

Film No. 60 (2016) October 5th.  6.30 PM Greater Union Event Cinema, Innaloo.

"I don't remember, there's some time missing" (Rachel (Emily Blunt) explains where she was in the hours a woman goes missing).

The book of the same name by Paula Hawkings is a rollicking good read. A film of this popular book was inevitable and in the vein of Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train is a clever re-interpretation of the novel. I say clever because sociologically women read more than men and they are also more prolific film goers. This combination fits nicely with producers, so long as the film stays true to the narrative and has a uniquely shot surreal quality, audiences will flock. 

The first adjustment for those who loved the book will be adapting your images of the passing English scenery on the train trips to London. Tate Taylor's version is shot in leafy North Eastern U.S. This may be off-putting for some. Next is the casting of Emily Blunt as the dowdy Rachael. Blunt does a good job of playing an alcohol dependent misfit struggling with life through intoxicated perceptions of reality. The extended close-ups and slow-mo visuals capture some of the essence of the liquid prose of Hawking's novel.

The Girl on the Train is a closed circuit when it comes to characters and location. Basically there is Rachel, her ex, Tom (Justin Theroux), his new wife Anna, their nanny Megan (Haley Bennett) and her partner Scott (Luke Evans) playing out their lives in their abodes adjacent to the all important train-line. Hitchcock was the master of these packaged narratives; this film has a little of Rear Window about it. Unfortunately Tate can't tighten the grip of tension needed in the all important final stanza to make the film as memorable as the book.

It is inevitable that there will be comparisons when it comes to the retelling of a book on the screen, especially when the genre of choice is the thriller. That is always the risk taken by production houses. The Girl on the Train is a serviceable redepiction. It is not as thrilling as it could be, Gone Girl is a far more tense film. There I go again, comparing. My image of Rachel in the book comes close to Blunt's wide-eyed work. Generally though, I have reservations but I doubt my view will affect the Box Office.  7GUMS.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Film No. 59 (2016) Snowden October 4th.

Film No. 59 (2016) October 4th.  1.10 PM LUNA SX Fremantle.

"Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honour you can give an American" (A quote from the real Ed Snowden during a Skpyed Q & A with a quorum of U.S. Grad. students in 2014).

Oliver Stone steps up to the biographical feature film making plate once a again, after a lengthy absence, to give us Snowden. His bio's from the 90's are legendary; The Doors (1991), J.F.K. (1991)and Nixon (1995) represent his best efforts. Snowden is both enjoyable and something of a disappointment. If it wasn't in the hands of Stone I wouldn't have used the term disappointment; I was simply surprised this usually hard hitting director incorporated some incongruous scenes and characters. More on that later.

Unless one has been living under a rock over the last 5 years, Ed Snowden is to whistle blowing what Usain Bolt is to world athletics. Snowden "blabbed" to the world about the surveillance practices of both the CIA and the NCA. Practices kept "in house" for purposes of national security. In many ways this is a complex subject told by a  unique filmmaker about an uncomplicated, intelligent young man. Thus, Snowden is an accomplished slice of entertainment. Stone, if nothing else, gives mainly younger audiences an opportunity to understand the motives of an ordinary moral guy embroiled in extraordinary circumstances.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job of playing a bland Snowden. We meet Ed in a Hong Kong hotel room conducting his Citizen Four interviews with British journalists only days after fleeing his Hawaii base. From here we flick backwards and forwards through time tracking Snowden's career as first a failed soldier then a clever Internet Protocol expert, keen to serve his country to the point of creating software critical to national security; or is it? Shailene Woodley as girlfriend Lindsay gives a grounded performance which is supposedly close to the truth.

It's true that Stone has done his research as he always does. It's just that Corbin O'Brian (Rhys Ifans) and Hank Forrester (Nicholas Cage) are too simplistically two dimensional for a Stone original. There is an unintended laughable quality about some of their scenes. The real Snowden endorsed the film, this is evident in the closing sequences so perhaps I'm being over critical. That said, Snowden is a thorough, informative entertainment which doesn't quite live up to Stone's previous classics but it's classy never the less.  9GUMS.