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21 reviews in total 
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Australia (2008)
208 out of 387 people found the following review useful:
A true epic, 26 November 2008

Baz Luhrmann has done a great job with 'Australia'. While cliché's and political agenda runs rife, this is set nicely into an historic, epic story in three distinct acts.

Great casting - Hugh Jackman was what the role needed, and he played the role very well. Nicole Kidman, while being rubbished by several critics, appeared somewhat typecast in her role, but that style was exactly what the role needed, and I think she did a great job at pulling it off. However, I think that the standout performances actually came from Brandon Walters (in his first film), Jack Thompson (in a minor role) and David Wenham who brought 'aussie sleaze' to a new level. Unfortunately, I had trouble believing in Ben Mendelsohn's character of Captain Dutton, but seemed to finish on a high, pulling the 'British stiff upper lip' thing fairly well.

Luhrman's epic was long, and had the full gamut of Luhrmanesque style, which we've come to love through his films. Stylised backgrounds, unique, visual approaches, and a sense of humour that is truly Luhrman, flood the film bringing a rich Australian environment.

'Australia' presents to the world, perhaps a very different Australia to what a lot of people think. While the fictional characters and some of the style is very reminiscent of "Gone with the Wind", the historical Darwin during the 'Stolen Generation' era and the impact of World War Two on Australia's doorstep may be a new insite to many.

I enjoyed 'Australia' a lot. While it wasn't the best film I've ever seen, I definitely think it's worth looking at - even if it's just to see what Baz Luhrman has done.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining in all the right places, 15 January 2008

"Nothin' happened the way it was supposed to happen." The amazing thing about this film, is that that quote sums up a lot about how this film came to be. Based on the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson, Warner Brothers took hold of the rights in 1970 and produced "The Omega Man" in 1971 with Charlton Heston in the lead role. "I am Legend" was then attempted by director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Gladiator) and was due to star Arnold Schwarzenneger but fell through when the budget blew out. Michael Bay (Transformers, Bad Boys) then tried to make it in 2002 with Will Smith playing the lead, but then decided to do Bad Boys II instead. Finally, Director Francis Lawrence (Constantine) picked it up and ran with it, also with Will Smith, this time finally coming to the big screen.

The film is set in a post-cataclysmic New York where Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the sole survivor of a cancer cure which turned everyone into blood-thirsty, zombie-like creatures of the night. Neville tries to find a cure for 'the cure' while trying to find anyone else who may have survived like himself. Filled with 'flashbacks' to let us catch up to the present story, I found this method to be effective and while they occurred often throughout the film, didn't appear to be overdone.

Will Smith took the role of Robert Neville, and while he was portrayed as a tough warrior, Smith also brought to it an extremely emotionally damaged side, brought on by the fact that his character had been alone for over three years - a pleasant relief considering the usually generic characters in this genre of film.

I suspect that Will Smith and supporting cast member Alice Braga probably brought their own talent as actors and required minimal direction - but I feel that Francis Lawrence's direction lacked somewhat when it came to the two children's roles who tended to look very much staged and "non-natural". This could primarily be to Lawrence's relative newness to movie direction.

The set designers did a fantastic job, transposing the real New York city into a life-less, big city wasteland. No detail was overlooked, from the hundreds of weeds growing through the main roads in New York, down to the houses and apartments left in disarray as the victims of the 'cure' died.

Screenwriters Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman did a great job, bringing some comic-relief to break up the suspense. Both are familiar with the disaster-film genre having been associated with the 2006 production of "Poseidon".

The CG effects were pretty good, but at times, slightly too "computerised", especially with respect to the zombie-type characters, who seemed too computer generated. At times, I found myself thinking of them more like orcs from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, rather than humans who had deteriorated into sub-human form.

I wasn't and expecting Academy Award winning effort - after all, it is a disaster film. However, it kept me on the edge of my seat at times, made me feel upset and annoyed at others, made me laugh every now and then, and over all, kept me thoroughly entertained - just as a movie should. I really enjoyed I Am Legend, and will no doubt watch it again and again in future.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
You represent progress. A progress which will un-glue their world., 14 January 2008

"A successful black man like yourself? You represent progress. A progress which will un-glue their world." American Gangster is based on the true story of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), a black drug king who operated out of Harlem in t...(read more)he 1960s and 1970s and Detective Richie Roberts (played by Russell Crowe) who brings him down.

This film is long. Two hours and forty minutes long. But other than being distracted by people walking past in the cinema to go to the bathroom after drinking their upsized soft drink in the cinema half-way through, this wasn't an issue. The script is solid, the characters very well-played out and the direction by Ridley Scott is excellent.

Washington's portrayal of Lucas was excellent. His character flipping between loving family man, then violent drug importer was handled very well, and made me emotionally concerned for the other characters, not knowing when he might suddenly fly off the wall. It was a strong, believable portrayal. Crowe's characterisation of Roberts was also excellent - but my attention was drawn more toward Washington.

Small part appearances by Cuba Goding Jr (Boyz In The Hood, Jerry Macguire) and Carla Gugino (Sin City, Entourage) were also excellent choices, playing their roles as Nicky Barnes and Laurie Roberts respectively, very well.

I was also impressed with the cinematography by Harris Savides. While nothing extra-ordinary stood out, this was actually why I was impressed. The storyline of American Gangster does not need anything special, or overdone - and this was achieved. Being such a large film, I'm sure the temptation would have been there to experiment, but Savides didn't - resulting in a fantastic cinematic result.

Co-Written by Steve Zaillian, he was the perfect writer for the job, having had already been proved with realistic, historical and 'intense' films such as Clear and Present Danger and Schindler's List, the dialogue, characters and historical scene settings are fantastic.

If detailed story lines and long, sometimes a little slow, films are not your thing, then you probably won't be a big fan of American Gangster. But if you enjoy historically-based, cop and crime stories, then American Gangster will be right up your alley.

King Kong (2005)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The crux of what King Kong is all about., 28 December 2005

"And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty. And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead."

Weighing in at a whopping 187 minutes in length, King Kong is big in both cinematic scale and movie reel length. Peter Jackson's latest incarnation of the classic is extremely entertaining and very well done.

Set in the depression in New York, the storyline revolves around struggling comic actress Ann Darrow (Watts) who meets a film producer Carl Denham (Black) on the run from his financial backers. He talks Ann into agreeing to star in his film and shortly after they are on a ship to supposedly Singapore. Carl has other ideas though, and takes the ship to legendary Skull Island, where they meet Kong.

King Kong is very well cast: Naomi Watts is excellent as Ann Darrow, soft, feminine and lovable enough to convince us that a giant ape would want to love and protect her; Jack Black (of 'Tenacious D' and 'Rock School') is very impressive as Carl, bringing forth the desperation associated with greed and fame; Adrian Brody plays Ann's love interest and script writer Jack Driscoll. Add to this the talents of Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy) as the 'voice' of Kong and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as the young Jimmy.

Peter Jackson's direction was very well done - all characters are neatly packaged and slot very well into the film and the situations presented.

Interaction between computer generated scenery and characters, versus real-life actors was generally very good. The 'that just doesn't look right' thought presented in my mind a couple of times (especially during the 'stampede' and 'row boat' scenes), but over all was fairly neat and tidy.

Kong is an impressive beast. The CG presentation of the giant creature is almost flawless - the actions and animal behaviour appear accurate and plausible.

Screenplayers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh (both of whom worked on Lord of the Rings, and Fran has actually worked on almost all of Peter Jackson's projects) have put together a very good script. The only criticism I could make is the couple of 'dead end' situations that occur, that have the same 'get out of jail free' cards associated with them. Their interpretation of the relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong is touching and believable - which in my humble opinion is the crux of what King Kong is all about.

If you are interested in seeing it in all its glory, I suggest you see it on the big screen. while it will transfer well to your television, there is nothing like seeing this 'big' film on the 'big screen'. Sure the film is long, but it honestly doesn't feel like goes for as long as it does. I really enjoyed King Kong.

In the Cut (2003)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Explicit, Gruesome & Nothing Special., 30 January 2005

I had heard a lot of hype prior to watching this film, unfortunately, most of it was negative – so when I watched this film I tried to block out the hype and see what I thought for myself. Unfortunately, I found a lot of it justified. I usually start my reviews with a quote from the film, so it's very unfortunate that none stuck out enough as being memorable.

Its storyline focuses on Frannie (Ryan), an English teacher who is fixated with poetry and language slang, who ends up getting caught up in a serial killer case when a severed head is found in her New York apartment garden. She meets Detective Malloy (Ruffalo) who is investigating said case and ends up having a steamy, sordid relationship with him while trying to avoid her ex-boyfriend (Bacon) who appears to be stalking her.

In The Cut is a modern 'who dunnit' film, but instead of dropping some hints to the audience to have them suspect one or two characters, Director Jane Campion throws obvious references in your face to make you think everyone did it. While I have nothing against the characters in the film per se, and the acting of these characters throughout the film isn't too bad, I think this film just boils down to a bad storyline. I kind of liken this film to Basic Instinct with its likeness of a 'sexy serial killer flick' - and although the sexual content of the film is due to the character archetypes, it seems as if it was directed and presented for the sole purpose of creating a marketing furore and social controversy. I cannot help but think that Meg Ryan took this role to kick start her slowing career, as did perhaps Campion – who both appear to have had slight hiatuses in their respective careers at the time of production. Oddly enough, Nicole Kidman was slated for the lead role, but turned it down, preferring to stay as a producer instead.

In summary? The sex is explicit, the nudity is constant, the gruesome violence is mostly done off camera, and the storyline is nothing special.

Slow to start but a fantastic film, 30 January 2005

"Magnificent. The boy is gone. In the last 30 seconds... you became a grown-up." It's probably quite important to inform those who perhaps do not know anything at all about Finding Neverland, that it is not the actual story of Peter Pan – it is the story of Sir James Matthew Berrie who created Peter Pan.

After writing a theatrical flop, Berrie (Depp) heads down to the local park to ponder new ideas for a play, where he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Winslet) and her children – one of whom is Peter (Highmore). Peter is a young boy struggling to come to terms with his father's death and immediately bonds the closest to Barrie. Barrie spends more and more time with Sylvia and her children, causing issues within the 'polite society' as he spends more time with Sylvia than his own wife (Mitchell), and even more time with the young boys. Berrie encourages the children to use their imaginations and takes them all on adventures – the basis of which would become Berrie's next play 'Peter Pan'.

I really enjoyed Depp's performance as Barrie, and Winslet's performance as an ill widow trying to raise her children in the hardest of circumstances was fantastic. Melbourne girl Radha Mitchell was extremely good as the lonely wife who has lost her husband to his work and perhaps another family, but the most surprising performance for me, came from Freddie Highmore, who I found not only took, but ran, with the highly emotional character of Peter Llewelyn Davies. Johnny Depp obviously admired the eleven year old Highmore, as he requested Tim Burton to cast him as Charley, in the up coming remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Director Marc Foster (Monster's Ball) did a great job, and while it did take me a little while to get into this film, once in, I found it to be a wonderful piece of work, which I would love to watch again.

Saw (2004)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A brilliant debut, 2 December 2004

'So many people are so ungrateful to be alive. But not you - not anymore.'

'Saw' is the project of James Wan and Leigh Whannell; two Melbourne boys who between the two of them wrote, directed and starred in a psychological thriller that has made the big-time in Hollywood. Shot on a budget of a little over one million US dollars and shot in only eighteen days, this dark, grungy and bloody film is a true testament that the Hollywood dream of nobodies turning into somebodies overnight can come true – with the film currently grossing over US$53,000,000 and being screened world-wide.

The film opens with Adam (Whannell) and Lawrence (Elwes) waking up in the dark, only to find that they are chained in a filthy bathroom with a dead body between them, a tape recorder, two hacksaws, a gun and one bullet. It is the beginning of a game by a disturbed serial killer who asserts that unless Lawrence kills Adam by six o'clock, his wife (Potter) and daughter will be killed. With that said, we now historically backtrack through the killer's games he has played with other victims, and follow the exploits of Detective Tapp (Glover) as he attempts to apprehend the violent psychopath.

Whannell's performance, with the exception of occasionally slipping back into an Australian accent, was very good – much better, unfortunately than Elwes performance – whom I think was mis-cast. James Wan's feature film directorial debut is excellent - very horror noir-ish – with most of the violence implied rather than shown – although you still feel quite uneasy during many of the flashback scenes despite not actually seeing the gore.

During an interview, Wan mentioned that he was limited due to timing constraints rather than budget constraints, and that the idea for the film was deliberately produced as a low-budget film. He said that what you see in the film is only about thirty percent of the vision he had for the film – having said that, I'm not sure if I could handle his full hundred percent and found the thirty to be plenty for me.

I did enjoy this film and absolutely adored the ending – with the exception of one spoken clichéd line of script at the very end – which, if you go and see this film, will find out what it is.

If you're after a violent storyline, don't get turned off by a bit of blood and loved films like Se7en, then Saw will probably really appeal to you.

7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
This film is drama, pure and simple, 21 November 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"I miss my dad. He worked really hard for that house – it took him thirty years to pay it off, and it took me eight months to f--- it up."

House of Sand and Fog deals with two characters. The first is Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) - wrongly evicted from her house by the County for non-payment of a tax-debt that was never hers. The second is Behrani (Ben Kingsley), an Iranian Colonel who fled to the United States with his family from Iran. When Kathy's house goes under auction by the County, Behrani purchases the house for well below cost – using the money he has saved from working two jobs. His plan is to fix the house up, sell it for a large profit, and then put his family back to the lifestyle they were accustomed to, and for which he has worked so hard to give them. Both Kathy and Behrani believe they own the house, triggering some pretty major emotional conflict, threats and violence.

There is genuine empathy on the part of the audience for both parties involved although personally, I found myself siding more with Behrani than Kathy. There is so much more to this film that I could mention, but not without including spoilers. This film deals with legal injustice, racism, corruption, family struggles and the needs and desires to create better lives. It is an emotional movie, bringing out frustration in the characters as the unorthodox situations they are in spiral helplessly out of control. It is the story of the failure of the legal-system and the failure of society.

In the research I did on Ukraine born, Vadim Perelman and this is the only film I can find listed under his name – which is a pity because House of Sand and Fog is a wonderful piece of work, so much so, that he won the Best Debut Director award by the National Board of Review (NBR). Kingsley's performance received him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, while Connelly clearly displayed Kathy as being 'damaged goods' and brought about a nomination for Best Actress by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA). Iranian born Shohreh Aghdashloo also won four awards and was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role as Nadi, Behrani's wife – who for most of the film doesn't even speak English.

This film is drama, pure and simple – nothing has been sugar-coated to make it go down easier. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and look forward to watching it again.

25th Hour (2002)
216 out of 249 people found the following review useful:
Masterpiece of human emotion, 8 November 2004

'I tattooed 'survive' on my hand the night before I went away to prison. And I did. We do what we have to do to survive.'

I don't think I can remember a film that has put me more on an emotive level with the main character as this film has. Edward Norton plays Monty Brogan – he's not the nicest of people by anyone's standards – and certainly no one you should feel sorry for. But having said that, I have never felt so sorry for the bad guy as I did watching this film. We watch the anguish of Monty during his last 24 hours on the 'outside' before he must go to prison for seven years, knowing completely what is in store for him on the 'inside'.

Set in post 9/11 New York City, we are constantly reminded of humanity and the need to bond together and to make the most of the little time we have; as do Monty's friends, including Jacob Elinsky (Hoffman), a confused and self-tortured school teacher who has strong feelings for one of the students in his class, Mary (Paquin – of X-Men and The Piano fame). Although not about to die, Monty's world is about to turn severely bad, and there's nothing he can do about it. Norton's performance made me feel nervous and quite scared on his behalf, almost to the point of feeling nauseous. It made me want to forgive him, forget about his crimes and let him go (he seemed sorry for what he did – he was no longer a drug dealer – he was trying to make an effort). His performance worked. He had successfully transformed the criminal figure into your best mate and buddy, perhaps even yourself, and you genuinely feel sorry for him.

Director Spike Lee's films usually deal with African-American themes, so it came as a surprise to me to find that this film was something very different – proving that Lee's talent extends across multiple genres and styles.

I highly recommend 25th Hour, not just for the brilliant story, but for the emphatic feelings the film imparts on the viewer.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Taking your non-sugar-coated pill, 10 October 2004

'Welcome to the United States of Depression, welcome to the Prozac Nation'

Prozac Nation presents a raw painting of a girl suffering from major depression in the 1980s and is based on a novel by Elizabeth Wurtzel who wrote the novel of the same name based on her own life. Christina Ricci plays Wurtzel during her days at the prestigious Harvard University, dealing with sex, drugs and alcohol and forcing her friends and mother (Lange) away through her ongoing battle with depression, most likely founded by her parent's separation. Wurtzel's paranoid and almost psychotic mood-swings paint a very unflattering, raw and honest view of a person battling depression. When her psychiatrist (Heche) prescribes Wurzel with Prozac, she is able to calmly see things from the outside – which eventually turns to anger and frustration when she realises how reliant she is on the drug in order to appear 'normal'.

Ricci's performance of Wurtzel was fantastic, as was Lange's performance of her closet-smoking and slightly unhinged mother. Jason Biggs plays Ricci's boyfriend Rafe, in love, but eventually driven away by Wurtzel's constantly changing nature. It was certainly interesting to see him play a different role than his type-cast American Pie-style character but I wasn't moved one way or the other with regard to his acting in this film; it wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't anything special either.

I found the film to deal with more than just the stereotypical portrayal of someone suffering depression, dwelling rather heavily on the frustration of being depressed, rather than moping around itself. Wurtzel knew how she should handle a situation, but found herself unable to stop from handling it incorrectly; leading to further frustration and deeper depression; the cycle starting over again. All in all, I did thoroughly enjoy this film. There was no 'Hollywood ending', but on the other hand I wasn't left feeling in a state of depression myself. If you do like happy movies, then this is certainly not the film for you – but if you like contemporary dramas and films that deal with real-life issues, then Prozac Nation should be right up your alley.

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