Thursday, 7 February 2013

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom - This is a coming of age romance, done Wes Anderson style.  Set during the 60s on a New England island.  Sam, a Kahke Scout, has resigned from his troop to run away with Suzy, a girl he met a year before.  Different groups then set out to find them....
I am a big fan Wes Anderson films, even though I have mixed feeling for the last three.  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, which followed my Favourite The Royal Tenenbaums, was a bit of a let down, The Darjeeling Limited was OK and Fantastic Fox, though while beautifully animated, it was a childhood favourite made for adults, which to me was very odd.  So while I came to this with lower expectations than I used to for his films, I was pleasantly surprised that this, for me, is his best since his first three, Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.
If you have never watched a Wes Anderson film before, well they are quirky, not a word I like to use really.  They are very much in a style of their own.  As in all his films, the cast are excellent and as always, the ever excellent Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are in it.  This time around though it's the kids who are the primary focus and in particular Jared Gilman, Sam, and Kara Hayward as Suzy who add the sweetness and charm.  Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Bob Balaban, as The narrator, are terrific as the adult supporting cast.  The direction as ever is great and the script is sharp and funny. 
I feel that there was a change in quality of the scripts, after Owen Wilson, who co-wrote with Anderson on the first three films, stopped writing with him, but this one seems to capture that spark again.  Not quite as good Rushmore or Tenenbaums, but very close.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Some Aussie film recommendations

After watching Oranges and Sunshine a few nights ago, I thought I would recommend some of my favourite Australian films, some you may have heard of and seen and perhaps a few you haven't.

Picnic At Hanging Rock - Is about the disappearance of a group of school girls and one of their teachers.  A beautifully shot and ethereal film.  Directed by Peter Weir (Master and Commander, Truman Show), who also directed Gallipoli, which is a terrific first world war film about the brave Anzac soldiers who fought in the Turkish campaign, Gallipoli.  Another of his earlier films which is a great B-Movie is The Car that Ate Paris

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Killer Joe

Killer Joe - Chris, Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Speed Racer..), is in trouble... he owes money and drugs to Digger, the local businessman, yeah he deals in drugs etc... Chris goes to his dad Ansel, Thomas Hayden Church (Sideways, Spider-man 3), to get the $1000 he needs, Ansel doesn't have it.  Chris then puts a proposition to him... they pay someone to kill Chris's mum for her $50,000 insurance policy.  Enter Joe, Matthew Maconaughy (A Time to Kill, Lone Star), a Dallas Detective who's a contract killer on the side, he wants $25,000 up front, they don't have it, so he suggests a retainer... and that retainer is Chris's younger sister Dottie.  Suffice to say the plan doesn't quite go to plan.

This is definitely a twisted tale.  The acting is very good from everyone, but two in particular shine, Maconaughy and Juno Temple.   Maconaughy is back on form and in a film where he isn't leaning against something in the film's poster, as Dr Kermode pointed out (Mayo and Kermode film review).  He's quiet and deadly menacing as the twisted Joe, who wants what he was promised.  Juno Temple, who I wasn't aware of before, is terrific as Dottie.  I think this British born actress is one to look out for in the future.  As for the direction, well it's very good.  Considering William Friedkin's age (French Connection, The Exorcist), he certainly isn't picking easy films to do, with this and Bug, he's previous film.  This isn't his best film by a long way, but if you like dark and twisted criminal gone wrong films, then check it out.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Oranges and Sunshine

Oranges and Sunshine - This is about the true story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker, who in the 1980's uncovered an appalling systematic cover up by the British Government and children's charities, such as those run by Barnardos and various churches.  Over many decades some 130,000 children had been removed from orphanages and children's homes and deported to Australia.  The children had been given the impression of a better life... what they found couldn't have been further from the truth.  Margaret worked to try and reunite the children, now adults, with their families back in the UK.

This isn't a particularly cinematic film, but this isn't a criticism of its quality.  It's a sensitively handled and well told film about a really awful and shameful part of British history.  Emily Watson is great in the lead, as Margaret Humphreys, bringing real emotion as she uncovers all that went on.  Watson is well supported by the likes of Hugo Weaving and David Wenham, as two of the boys shipped to Australia.  This is a fine debut feature from Jim Loach, son of Ken Loach (Kes).

It was only in 2009 when Gordon Brown apologised on behalf of the Government for what they had done in ruining  the lives of 10s of thousands of children's lives.


If you like this, you may want to seek out Rabbit Proof Fence, starring Kenneth Branagh, about the treatment of Aboriginal children over decades.

The Artist

The Artist - Outside of the premier for his latest film, Silent movie star George Valentin, Jean Dujardin, is photographed with an admiring fan, Peppy Millar played by Berenice Bejo.  The pic becomes from page news.  Peppy, an aspiring dancer, decides to go for a film audition, which happens to be for a part in Valentin's next film.  Valentin spots her on the set and they spark.  But like all good romance films things don't go smoothly.....

This is a warm and delightfully charming modern take on silent film.  Jean Dujardin is wonderful as George Valentin, deserving of his Oscar win for best actor, for me it's like he walked straight from the set of a silent classic.  While Dujardin may have won much of the praise for his performance, you can't overlook how good the rest of the cast is, no matter how small their role, especially that of Berenice Bejo.  She is excellent as the young starlet who's fame rises with the advent of the Talkies, while Valentin's wanes with the silent era being superseded.  Oh and you can't forget the acting talent of Valentin's film sidekick pooch.

While it may not have the spectacle or visual flare of some of my favourite silent era films (Metropolis, The General, ....), it is none the less a film I definitely recommend.  And if you are one of those who has a problem with black and white films, well Bollocks to you is all I can say.


This and Hugo would make a great double bill.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Seaking a Friend for the End of the World

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - After an unsuccessful attempt to divert/destroy an asteroid, named Matilda, The Earth is going to be obliterated in three weeks.  With inevitable death approaching, Brad (Steve Carell) finds himself alone after his wife walks out on him.  An encounter with a neighbour, Penny (Keira Knightly), leads him on a road trip to find his college sweet heart, with Penny in tow, after finding out she had wrongly delivered mail of his, which contained a letter from said sweet heart.

The tone of this film is both melancholic and uplifting, with some sweetness thrown in.  I can't say I loved this film, though it did make chuckle in places.  Keira's character bordered on the annoying, but I felt this was tempered by Carell's dispirited Brad.  The direction was ok and the supporting cast is uniformly good and played by well known, well to fans of certain American tv shows.  I think this is more for fans for either Carell or Knightly

I give this film 6.5/10  Another indie End of the World film from 1998 called Last Night, which is set 6 hours before everyone dies, is better and one I would recommend over this one.