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All the Real Girls (2003)
Is the lead character retarded or something?
I loved Director David Gordon Green's debut feature George Washington (which screened at BIFF during 2001) but I couldn't really get into his new film All the Real Girls
On paper it seems like an enchanting and simple story idea, local gigolo falls in love with best mates sister, and this time its for real. Gordon Green doesn't play it for gawkish sentimentality, but instead tries to infuse a very real sense of place and feeling; his continued use of the stark decaying urban landscape is put to good effect as it was in his first feature.
But the dialogue, which was described in the program guide as natural and casual, to me came off as script generated and false. Rarely are the characters saying anything or acting in any way that is typical of teenagers; everything is done for dramatic effect rather than realism.
Gordon Green has always had a great eye for the best way to film a frame visually, but with All the Real Girls its his own script that lets him down. It might not be too kind to say this, but I spent most of the film trying to figure out whether the lead character was playing a guy with a mild retardation, or whether the actor himself was mildly retarded. I don't think any girl would fall for his weird patter and pick up lines. Perhaps they do things differently in the Deep South.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Not a PTA great
I was entranced by a couple of things:
- Sanders performance. While not being the world beater everyone reckons it is it certainly shows that this guy has more of a range that people take him credit for. Thats not to say there isn't the standard Sandler-stickh there; there sure is, but at least its buried. - Emily Watson - beauty combined with that accent... <sigh>
I was surprised by a few things:
- its short running time (90 minutes!) - its small leading cast (it is essentially a two-hander between Sandler and Watson) - this film is essentially a love story, A very personal love story.
I was annoyed by a few things
- lacklustre script development - the story of the sex line and the thugs behind it is poorly developed; it also does not integrate into the story to the level I thought I would and expected from PTA. The love interest is rushed and falls into some cliched traps - lazy camera work - if there is one thing abouta PTA film is the ways the camera is made to sing - PDL had little to be impressed by
I remain undecided about a few things
- the kooky elements; the piano on the street, the pudding, the crashing car - seemed out of place - the message of the movie - it seemed to me to be a story about the troubles communicating in the modern world - I'm probably wrong but if I am perhaps it needed to be developed a bit more?
Not bad. Not Magnolia bad, not Boogie Nights good - somewhere in between heading towards the up side. 7 out of 10.
The Transporter (2002)
Tongue in cheek and proud of it
Took advantage of tightarse Tuesday and went and saw The Transporter this evening.
Interesting film - reminded me a lot of 'The Big Hit' - stylised action and fight scenes mixed in with a lot of tongue in cheek humour. The Transporter didn't go the extremes that 'The Big Hit' did but it was heading there. It even shared a similar theme of the tough guy falling for the Asian school-age girl.
The audience I saw the film with were sniggering at some of the more implausable things (the leap of the car onto the car trailer for one).
The fight scene in the bus depot with the slippery oil was inventive.
Can't help feeling that Jason Statham was a bit miscast for the role of the super efficient Transporter, the guy you hire when you have to get a package from point a to point b. Writer Luc Besson has a long history of projects concerning loners (La Femme Nikita, Leon, heck, even Joan of Arc) and Statham doesn't fully succeed in pulling off the role. He's great in the action sequences but anything else he seems to fall into familiar territory that his old mate Guy Ritchie trained him in for Lock Stock, and Snatch.
The final chase between the Transporter and container lorries did seem to steal a lot from the Bond flick 'Licence to Kill' (taking over lorries, jumping from planes onto backs of lorries etc), but it did add enough wrinkles to stamp its own signature on the scenes.
Good film though - great action sequences and inventive locations. 8 out of 10.
An absolute riot!
Jewish Lesbian folk singing tupperware dealer Phranc is a demi god amongst sellers of those strange plastic bowls. She is regularly acknowledged as one of the top sellers in the country and enjoys the perks that go with the trade. And she is good at what she does, combining music, infectious enthusiasm and a limitless supply of knowledge she consistently breaks her own sales records.
This documentary is an insightful, hilarious and just bloody fantastic look at an industry that is often the victim of derision and scorn; you might snigger at the sight of Phranc and her apron and catalogue, but you will be in no time flat complementing your supplies of Tupperware with some choice selections from her range.
It's a very upbeat documentary, only allowing a negative look when Phranc worries about the perception she puts forward - she is after all a six foot, crew cutted, man's suit wearing ball of energy - it can be very offputting to those not versed in the world of Phranc.
Easily the best thing I have seen at the festival so far; and darn it if people weren't offering to set up Tupperware parties straight afterwards.
Halbe Treppe (2002)
An interesting but flawed drama
Part comedy, part drama, 'Grill Point' gets up close and personal in documentary style with two families in middle class Germany. The local Radio DJ has an affair with a restauranters wife; we are agonizingly close as the fallout of betrayal and discovery manifests itself.
Its not all doom and gloom though; we get comedic moments with an ever-growing street side performance troupe that becomes the thorn in the side; and the adultery itself is handled initially with a playful jocularity that belies what is to come.
Let down by not really having a style and sticking to it to maintain consistency; 'Grill Point' is an interesting but flawed drama.
Raye makhfi (2001)
A true gem
While slow moving, Secret Ballot is a delightfully wry look at the absurdity of voting, and the often harrowing futility of government. Following a dim witted guard and the election official he has been charged with protecting on Election Day, we see the official's increasingly futile attempts to get a largely apathetic group of locals to realise that voting makes a difference.
Set against centuries of tradition, local conditions and voter indifference Secret Ballot is a movie with its tongue firmly planted in cheek, while at the same time highlighting some very real problems with government. Its lessons not only apply to the situations in the movie, but the viewer can draw interesting parallels to any system of government around the world.
A tad long - especially with the DOP's penchant for lingering long distance shots that keep the viewer at arms length for some possibly interesting scenes, Secret Ballot is however though an interesting film with something to say.
A true gem
Vinyl does deliver on its promise of delving deeply into the psyche of record collectors and their hobby/habit/obsession. What I didn't expect (and regretted slightly) was the filmmakers constant maudlin monologues on his state of mind. While funny, and occasionally actually making sense, and even sometimes referring to record collecting they got very distracting. I just wished he would shut up after a while so we could get back to the real stars.
And what a motley collection of obsessives are gathered in this hour and a half. Ranging from the guy who wants to collect every song ever produced, to the gal who stands by in comatose shock as her baby jumps all over her vinyl collection, emitting satisfying crunching sounds as her posterior meets its target.
Offering real insights into what could be described as an affliction, Vinyl covers a lot in its time and while proffing up many belly laughs perhaps gets a bit too serious about its subject matter. Satisfying nonetheless.
The Damned (1962)
Part of the retrospective on Joseph Losey at BIFF 2002, The Damned perhaps wasn't the best film to be introduced to this amazing mans works. Widely regarded as his worst film, it is easy to see why; sloppily scripted, casting a nightmare and an editor that didn't fully understand the images he was cutting together, its hard to get into this film as it veers from Clockwork Orange-like violence in its opening reel through to gang thuggery through to opposites attract by the end.
Notable for one of the first screen appearances of Oliver Reed, this film does suffer from many faults. I've seen how far Losey can fall, the others in the retrospective can hopefully show me how far he can rise.
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
Spielberg fans will be bewildered, Kubrick's interested
AI has been much anticipated by movie goers to see what Spielberg would do with Kubrick's 'last' film - would it be a fitting tribute to the acknowledged master or would it be a cheap imitation?
It was always going to be difficult to satisfy Kubrick fans who probably regard Spielberg as being close to the anti-christ but the movie itself has turned out to be an appropriate closure to Kubrick's career.
AI is a film made up of three distinct parts (with a few themes running across various sections.
Osment plays a boy robot, David who is given to the father of a family who works for the creators of the simalcrun, Cybertronics, who for over 100 years have provided robots for use as servants and companions.
What makes David different is that he has been programmed with the ability to truly love, rather than just imitate the sensation.
The first act is David being integrated into the new family and looking for acceptance - despite descending into sappiness on a few occasions it is well done. The Kubrick/Spielberg influences are evident throughout - the almost in some respects clinical set design combined with a level of subdued and well placed lighting that adds a much needed dimension to the visuals.
The second act enters the Pinocchio theme - David searches for the mystical 'Blue Fairy' - the only being that can make David into a true boy and therefore be truly loved by his new mother.
He is accompanied by another Cybertronics construct, Joe Gigilo, who as the name suggests, is a pleasure unit with a sassy step and quick wit. Jude Law is very good in the role, but you must wonder why the character was included at all other than to guide David to the next plot point.
The third act (which I won't give too much away about) is simultaneously confusing, surreal and mesmerising. The annoying voice over pointing out the bleeding obvious every 20 seconds is an unfortunate inclusion.
It is also very unfortunate that the film limps to such a boring conclusion after the previous 2 hours of compelling viewing. If the sacchrine wasn't turned up in the opening act it is allowed to flow freely in the final one.
John Williams again provides the score to a Spielberg movie - and it was a surprise to see his name on the credits list. His score is subdued, quietly melodic and very apt.
On the acting front, Osment is quite good as the artificial boy David - his performance is a bit uneven in places but at all times you are convinced that he is just a little boy looking for the love of a parent. Frances O'Connor is good as the mother hesitant about showing affection for this creation but slowly coming to love him. Sam Robards is barely seen as the company Dad who is initially enthusiastic about David but suddenly and bewilderingly turns against him.
The film is slow, but not disappointingly so, it isn't a film a regular Spielberg buff is going to get a lot out of. Kubrick fans might wince at the over-sentementality of it all but should hopefully be sated by the incredible special effects, which are seamless and flawless.
A film that could have done with a bit more trimming and some tightening up of its ending 20 minutes.
7 out of 10.
A Knight's Tale (2001)
Wacky mixture of modern and classic
I did a search for 'knight' on IMDB and it came up with around 140 title matches - there certainly are a lot of movies with the word 'knight' in them.
The latest to be added to the heap is the Heath Ledger vehicle 'A Knight's Tale' - a hi energy middle ages romp with all the modern trimmings so the target audience of 12-17 year olds don't get confused.
So, to cater to this audience, A Knight's Tale forgoes any notion of a coherent plot, throws out the window any attempt at characterisation, and laughs in the face of any idea of believability.
The plot in a nutshell (and believe me, it could fit in there - even with large type) is our boy Heath gets a taste for jousting after sitting in for a recently deceased Knight and decides that he can do it himself and enters the competition. He doesn't let a small detail that he is not of noble blood deter him - he just gets a naked Jeffrey Chaucer (don't ask) to forge some documents for him and voila!, he is a Knight!
And it wouldn't be a proper film for our boy if he didn't get to romance and bed a lovely lady along the way would it?
You know you are in for a rocky ride within the first two minutes; not only is the theme tune for the first jousting match Queen's 'We Will Rock You' - but the entire crowd and participants of the tournament are bashing their hands and chanting along with the music! A later scene involving dancing bizarrely morphs into a dirty dancing romp set to David Bowie's 'Golden Years'.
All the characters are basically time travellers from the modern day plonked in the past - they have all the modern mannerisms that just did not exist back then (witness the line "It's called a lance... Hello?" that features in the trailer prominently).
This wouldn't be so bad if the movie settled on a style and stuck to it; it veers from comedy to drama to romance and back to comedy again over its unwelcome length of close to 2 hours.
And nobody appeared to have briefed Rufus Sewwell that he was to play it for laughs - his seriousness throughout the entire film is a testament to his acting ability. Or perhaps it was too late by the time he realised what sort of film he was in and he decided to 'grin and bear it'.
Alan Tudyk and Mark Addy provide the only constant throughout the entire film - they are under no illusions of being any more than comic relief and the modern anchors for the audience to cling to. Paul Bettany as 'Geoff' Chaucer is pretty good - but he doesn't get much to do after his initial introduction.
The movie works best when it decides to go for the true drama of the situation - Heath's dilemma in the closing 15 minutes; his reuniting with his father, and his battle with the future King of England. It descends into self parody and anarchy for the remainder.
The romantic interest is distracting and quite frankly boring - the only mildly attractive lady plays hard to get for so long you wonder why Heath kept pursuing her.
I wouldn't want to create the impression that I didn't like this film - there is plenty to chuckle at - but the fact I was chuckling rather than being given a good jousting film was a bit of a let down. The jousting scenes themselves are pretty good and well staged, but the sets themselves seem very small - surely jousting competitions were held over a larger area than what is portrayed?
All in all 'A Knights Tale's is reasonably entertaining fare that will certainly appeal to its target audience as long as they are not too put off by the modern touches in what is primarily a period piece. 6 out of 10.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Harrowing but incredible
I saw an amazing film on DVD over the weekend. I am still a bit shell shocked because it had such a profound effect on me. I haven't seen a film like it for many years.
Requiem for a Dream has to be one of the finest films I have seen for a long time. Basically a story about drugs, it follows to storylines; one a lonely widowed mother gets invited to appear on a game show and tries to lose weight so she can fit in her 20 year old red dress; the other, her drug addled son and his friends try to crawl their way up the drug food chain to become small time dealers to make their fortune.
To be sure, this film is not a pleasant experience. Humour is hard to come by in this gritty, visceral, trippy 100 minutes.
The mother resorts to diet pills to get thin, and in the process becomes addicted and starts to go slowly mad; in her fevered mind the fridge won't stop attacking her, and she is addicted to a daytime television speaker/game show host who she slowly allows into her subconsious where reality and fantasy begin to blur.
Our little drug cartel starts off promisingly but after one failed deal the spiral of tragedy begins; they need to feed their own habit as well as sell the product and they are a group of 20 somethings with no self control.
Director Darren Aronofsky uses every trick in the book to pull the visual feel of each scene - split screen is used to dazzlingly good effect and the sets and locations used exude a warmth that hide any possible budgetary shortcomings that I thought would be evident with this film.
Ellen Burstyn plays the mother with harrowing subtly and finesse; it is easy to see why she was nominated for an Oscar for this standout performance. Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly are both very good as the drug addled couple trying to make it big - they are very convincing. The supporting role by Marlon Wayans is also very good but not given the full opportunity to shine like the other three.
Requiem for a Dream is a movie that will leave a lasting effect on you. 10 out of 10.
Felafel has been a long time coming to the big screen. Five years of begging for money, writing umpteen screenplays and casting issues have delayed this adaptation of John Birmingham's cult classic novel.
And now that we finally have it here to see it can be described as a big disappointment.
First off let me say that if there are any fans of the book out there (and the amount of dog eared copies of Felafel I have seen seem to indicate there is), you will not like the movie. Its as simple as that.
Lowenstein has taken Birmingham's book, picked out a few choice moments from it, and just made up the rest to suit himself. It is no wonder that Bimingham wanted his name removed from the credits.
As a movie totally divorced from the book it just may stand up on its own - but its lack of drama and its reliance on heavy handed character musings will work against it.
The book is a series of recollections by the author of his share house experiences. Now I understand that adapting the novel for the screen would have been a difficult task; when I first heard Lowenstein was undertaking it I said to my friends "that will be a difficult task" - but the screenplay is so removed from the book as to make any comparisons useless, other than to comment that the two are entirely unalike.
But Lowenstein's solution - to make up a ficticious central character and artificially create a love triangle with his fellow house mates - is a bizarre and severly misguided one. Instead of 90 minutes of rollicking fun and mayhem, we are treated to a film that tries to solve 'Life, the Universe and Everything', occasionally throwing in a watered down or totally made up exploit of share house living.
There are many stories in it that would be great on the big screen - the exploits with the fish fingers, milk crates and their uses, the radio program and the raid, not to mention the furniture smashing sex session. Whether or not it would have made the film a bit too undergraduate is open to debate; but I feel it would have improved it vastly. That the film employs the use of several upbeat songs to make the fact they are trying to liven things up to cover deathly boring script.
The central character played by Noah Taylor is the emotional anchor for the film, and in that respect he does it well. We follow through three of the 'hundreds' of share houses he has occupied, meeting along the way various strange characters, as well as being reunited with former buddies. At one point he berates a recently 'outed' flatmate by running through the catalogue of woes that has beset him in his great accommodation journey, and you can't help but cry out "why aren't they in the bloody film!!!??".
As I said before, as a fan of the book I was very, very disappointed by this limp adaptation. If they had the guts to admit it wasn't really an adaptation and put a different title on it then it might have made a better impression. But as it stands "He Died with a Felafel in his Hand" is a poor bedfellow to the novel, and that is a crying shame. 3 out of 10.
Jalla! Jalla! (2000)
Funny and rude, what a combination!
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** What sort of film do you get when you cross a Lebanese marriage, a Swedish girlfriend, a manic muscle head with a dog called Rambo and sexual impotence? You get the riotous romp, Jalla Jalla, a fantastic film from Lebanese born director Josef Fares.
Best friends Mans and Roro are in their twenties and work as park attendants cleaning the duck pond and picking up dog s***, but nevertheless still think they are cool! Their lives stroll calmly and peacefully along until, suddenly, Mans can't get it up for his wife any more and Roro finds out he has only a week to avoid being married off to a good Lebanese girl by his father!
Roro has a Swedish girlfriend he has been planning to introduce to his strict family but has lacked the courage until it's too late. Now his father has brokered an arrangement for him to marry the teenage Yasmin, and her brother seals the deal. Neither of the youngsters wants to get married but they pretend to agree to buy some time. Meanwhile Mans tries everything to correct his problem, from sexual games to whips, a penis enlarger and a gigantic dildo!
All this might seem a little sick and perverted, but the style with which Josef handles it is to his credit. There is barely a moment in the film where you are not either laughing out loud or enjoying the wry comedy that comes from cultures colliding.
Josef's real life dad plays the father in this film to his real life son, so Jalla Jalla is a real family affair. The dad is very funny, especially in the way he deals with any trouble. I have a 'gut' instinct he would be very handy in a fight!
The film's title translates as 'Hurry! Hurry!' from its native Arabic and serves as a good description of the frenetic pace of this charming comedic look at cross-cultural clashes and love in times of integration. 9 out of 10.
Disco Pigs (2001)
A film that doesn't have enough words to describe its greatness
Two 16-year-olds share a birthday, a love, a language of their own and a uniquely violent world view. Disco Pigs is an electric, disturbing and violent sprint through the unique world of Pig and Runt, two 17 year old kids who were born with a special, almost psychic affinity for one another.
It's a gentle and tender story about a pure, innocent love between two inseparable people who 'want for something different' out of life, lashing out at 'the sameness of it all'. When this invisible thread between Pig and Runt is stretched to breaking point, the inseparable are about to separate and which one will survive depends on which one can break free.
I'll stick my neck out here and say that Disco Pigs has a real Clockwork Orange feel about it - its use of a lyrical communication between our two leads - a combination of baby talk and Shakespeare monologue gave me that strong impression. The lead roles also exist in their own world, oblivious and unbound by the rules that govern us all.
Pig and Runt are two kids that really don't want to grow up, but despite their enforced isolation from common reality the pressures bear upon them to change. Pig wants the relationship to move to the 'next level', but innocent Runt either doesn't understand or doesn't want that right now. She seems more interested in experiencing other boys - finding a local bartender particularly intriguing. He is frustrated that their relationship, while deep, is not deeper, and she is perhaps seeing the blinkers removed from her eyes a bit, allowing the outside world a peek in.
I've made mention of the language that is used throughout the film used by Pig and Runt; the dialogue between the two is at times heart breakingly beautiful; witness Pig's love expressed in words as he talks to himself about the beautiful passion they would both share when they would make love for the first time. It nearly made this hardened critic cry.
Disco Pigs is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is unconventional, yes, but that is the stuff of greatness. The incredible soundtrack complements the visuals perfectly and is nearly a character in its own right. My only gripe is `REMOVE THE SUBTITLES!'
If this film gets a local Australian distribution, see it. It's that simple. 10 out of 10.
Get Carter (2000)
Lead role miscast, but otherwise enjoyable
Whoever told Sylvester Stallone he would be right for this part needs some serious counselling.
Now perhaps the movie was a pet project for Syl, maybe that is why he insisted in being the lead character.
Stallone plays Jack Carter, a Vegas heavy man who returns home for the funeral of his brother only to find that he wasn't as lilly white as he thought he was. He descends into a world of violence, sex and drugs to uncover the truth about his brother and why he died.
Stylistically Get Carter looks and feels great - it employs great and unique use of split screen to establish mood. The score by Tyler Bates (his first major film by the looks) works well with the visuals, cementing it in the present while throwing out soft hints towards its 1971 predecessor.
Speaking of the 1971 original, I must be honest and say I haven't seen it yet (although it is next on my list for viewing) - so I can't really give you an comparisons between them.
What I can say is that Stallone is woefully miscast as Carter. He can handle the action scenes pretty well, but give him more than one line in a row to speak and it gets quite silly. Witness the excruciating scene on the hotel roof with his niece.
Michael Caine makes a guest appearance as the boss of Carters slain brother - where he worked as a bartender. He should have been used more, for in every scene he is in, he steals it unashamedly.
I did enjoy Rachel Leigh Cook's performance as Carters neice. She played it very understated, not feeling the need to overact or play up the 'fatherless daughter' role too much.
Overall I enjoyed the movie but felt that with a touch more attention to casting it would have been better. I did get lost now and again with the twists and turns (the second bartender and his sideline business seemed to come from nowhere, and the Mickey Rourke character seems to get away scot free) but never felt totally at sea.
A good movie if you are in the mood for a bit of action.
7 out of 10.
Patchy but reasonably enjoyable
I really hate going to see movies that do nothing but remind me of other movies. Now I don't mind the odd knowing wink or sly dig at a genre or series of movies, but when you decide to rip off wholesale what already has been a winning formula and just give it another title that is when I get a little annoyed.
Evolution, if you haven't already worked it out from the trailers and publicity, is pretty much a rehash of the Ghostbusters formula. Which is not surprising considering the creative team behind the two films.
So in Evolution we have a group of misfits out to save the world from the dirty aliens. A meteorite crashes in the desert and begins to spawn off an amazing variety of nasty creatures that seem hell bent on destroying the good 'ole US of A.
Our three hapless heroes (Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Seann William Scott) are the first to make the discovery, which is quickly and rudely taken away from them by some nasty, nasty army intelligence types (Ted Levine).
But of course it soon transpires that our underdogs are really the ones with all the clues and the inside line on ridding the earth of these nasty speedily-evolved critters.
Evolution unfortunately is not the sum of its parts; a film made up of a series of set pieces that do not really tie together well or even work well on their own.
Many of the gags and situations fall flat primarly because of Duchovny's bizarre sense of comic timing - they ar e only saved because Orlando plays such an over the top character that it hides much of Duchovny's faults.
Once our three heroes are allowed to shake the movies tendency to play it straight for the first 30 minutes it truly starts to shine. They initially seem confined by the need to get across the necessary exposition before they are allowed to truly stretch their wings and enjoy themselves; and allow the audience to finally get some good laughs.
Julianne Moore as the scientist with a heart of gold is probably one of the most miscast parts this year - she is truly at sea in this film and her characters tendency for clumsiness only makes this reviewer more bewildered about her inclusion other than somebody for Duchovny to eye off.
The CGI on the whole ranges from average to good - you get one scene of dazzling work only to be confronted the next scene with some truly ordinary effects.
On the whole Evolution isn't that bad - it just could have been a whole lot better.
7.5 out of 10.
Vertical Limit (2000)
By the numbers and cliche ridden
All this talk lately of screenwriting software and the suggestion that some scripts look like they have been generated from within one of these programs rather than out of the imagination of a writer certainly shows up in this by the numbers action flick.
The story revolves around climbing, you can't escape that and initially that may have looked like a great idea for a movie. And it is to a certain degree. It is unfortunate though that 'Cliffhanger' made a better hash of it than this one did.
Brother and sister (Chris O'Donnell and Robin Tunney) are both climbers who haven't spoken to each other for three years after the death of their father in an horrific climbing accident - she blames him for his death. She becomes a reporter for a news service - one that is covering the ascent of K2 by flamboyant billionaire (Bill Paxton). He wants to be at the top of K2 in time to wave at the inaugral flight of his airline. Great publicity, wrapped up in a great adventure.
So after the team heads up the mountain and gets into a spot of trouble, it is up to O'Donnell to put together a rag tag team of climbers to go and rescue the party - one of whom is his sister.
So the stage is set for a few interesting climbing set pieces - some of which are genuinely exciting. Some fall very flat (O'Donnell jumping the chasm to the opposite cliff face is not set up at all - and is cut away from and forgotten as soon as he hits the other side - very strange indeed), while some are very nail biting indeed.
Mention must be made of a duo of aussie actors who provide a lot of the comic relief - Ben Mendelsohn and Steve Le Marquand - they are very funny as the brotherly team who only seem to be at K2 for the weather.
What really irked me about this film was the utter predictability of it. Many early comments I was sure where to have their payoff later in the film, and I was not disappointed. The initial accident that took the life of the father was later repeated nearly shot for shot; the grizzled old climber who lost his wife on the peak and spent the next 10 years looking for her body is resolved in a probably unintentionally comic way. And of course the foolhardly billionaire who just doesn't listen to anyone.
Chris O'Donnell again puts in another near cardboard performance; whoever in Hollywood thinks this guy can act should be given a further reality check with this film.
What saves this film from being a total wipeout is the beforementioned action sequences which do provide some interesting tension to the proceedings.
If just a little more thought had gone into the script this might have been more of a winner.
6 out of 10.
Sex: The Annabel Chong Story (1999)
Moving and tragic
Intensly personal and moving documentary about the life and times of arguably one of the more well known porn stars - Annabel Chong.
The film covers the time during and following her world record of sleeping with 251 men in 10 hours. We see her preparation for the attempt, the attempt itself and the years following where she was afforded great fame but at a huge personal loss.
Annabel is a very intelligent woman; she studied and graduated from USC in 1998 and from her teachers accounts she is a very articulate writer and thinks very analytically. Its only when she tries to verbalise a lot of what she is thinking that we see the pain, the emotional torment that must be facing her every day of her life.
Her voice is one that seems to be on the verge of breaking down into total incomphrensibility - it falters, pauses and staggers along - fuelled a mind that is providing the information but the mouth cannot process it fast enough.
She is a tortured woman; you can see everyone of those 251 men in her eyes every time the conversation moves around to the record breaking feat. She often justifies it by calling it an experiment; one that shows the empowerment of women over men - she was showing that women can be just as agressive sexually as men.
But the price she has paid for it is great. She did not tell her parents for over two years that she was a porn actress. Though not filmed; the after effects of the revelation are shown graphically; her mother on the floor of her room packing Annabels bag, crying and moaning as she removes all trace of her daughter from her life.
There is a lot to this documentary that is worth discovering. Don't get it just for some mindless titalation - there is little of that during its 86 minute running time. What you do get though is a look into the human condition; a condition that craves acceptance amongst peers, a condition that believes it is in control of its own destiny.
A moving lesson for all.
8 out of 10.
The House of Mirth (2000)
Dreary, dull and boring
Dreary early 20th Century period drama that more than outstays its welcome at the half hour mark.
Lily (Gillian Anderson) is on the lookout for a husband - one that can help her out with her financial problems and steer her back into civilised society. She is taken advantage of by various suitors, notably a slimy American played with relish by Dan Ackroyd.
That is pretty much as far as I got with this tepid tale before I walked out on it.
I pity the people that had to remain for its entire 140 minute running length.
Does anyone have a job in these sorts of movies? All the woman are either automatically rich or live on allowances handed out by rich rellies.
We have a world where every conversation is of Oscar Wilde proportions, every stolen kiss an orgasmic marathon, and nobody walks faster than 2 metres per hour.
A bit more incidental music might have lightened up the proceedings somewhat.
Anderson however is quite good - any thoughts of her alter ego on the XFiles are quickly forgotten as you are immersed in her part.
Boring, slow and directionless.
1 out of 10.
State and Main (2000)
Sticks it right up the filmmakers!
Film crew for big Hollywood blockbuster rolls into a sleepy American town and causes havoc and mayhem.
This is the premise for David Mamet's latest film - 'State and Main'.
The cast reads like a whose who of talent. William H Macy as the Producer, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the writer, Sarah Jessica Parker as the female lead and Alec Baldwin as the male lead. Providing able support is Charles Durning as the towns mayor and David Paymer as the studio executive.
Now being a David Mamet film, it goes without saying that one of the leads goes to his wife Rebecca Pidgeon. She plays one of the local townfolk, head of the amateur dramatic society, and becomes a pivotal force in the life of the writer who is suddenly sent into a frenzy when the script for the film 'The Old Mill' has to be rewritten because they don't have an 'Old Mill' to shoot in any more.
A fledgling love interest starts between them, much to the consternation of local political type and former fiancee (Clark Gregg).
He exacts his revenge by gunning for the Producer, demanding the towns cut of the adjusted gross as well as pursuing a prosecution against the films male lead who becomes embroiled with a local girl (Julia Stiles).
Now of course this does not have a positive effect on Macy's character, as he tries to keep the picture together with only 3 days until principal photography begins.
'State and Main' is a great film for those that are involved in the film industry and can appreciate the constant barrage of witty and subtle digs aimed at them. The script positively crackles with energy and there is rarely a dull moment in the entire film.
The performances are all top drawer, with special kudos going to Macy and Hoffman. Macy plays a Producer very well - constantly with a phone in one ear and a disaster being relayed into the other. Hoffman is also very good - a writer on his first big film who is struck by a pang of guilt when he witnesses the shennagins of the leading man with the local girl and doesn't say anything for fear of being fired.
If I had to pick a fault with any performance it would be that of Rebecca Pidgeon - her refined accent and well groomed look is out of place for a small town - she is much better when she applies her talents to period dramas like Winslow Boy. It is a minor quibble though.
'State and Main' is a great film and will not fail to entertain.
9 out of 10
Joe Dirt (2001)
I braced myself for yet another film with low grade humour, plenty of bodily function jokes and not enough plot to go around.
Well, 'Joe Dirt' has all that and more... but surprisingly it turned out to be not half bad.
Perhaps the day of the preview caught me in a particularly good mood, because this story of a white trash loser searching for his parents who left him for dead at the Grand Canyon when he was eight was relatively enjoyable entertainment.
The movie is told primarily in flashback; Joe stumbles into the studio of a radio disc jockey who coaxes out of him his incredible life story. In the process Joe Dirt becomes a media darling as his story of woe and misfortune is heard by an ever sympathetic audience.
This is another movie which relies on the gross and disgusting to get its laughs; dogs balls stuck to the front porch, being covered in excrement, blowing up atom bombs, consumed by alligators and much much more!
The movie works for the most part because of David Spade's affable loser Joe Dirt. He plays a character that is not a 100 miles away from his 'Just Shoot Me' personna - a loveable idiot. He goes through life having all these setbacks - but he still maintains his positive outlook.
The movie does lag a bit at the three quarters mark, but this is a minor quibble for a film that does what is sets out to with a lot more style than its lamentable cousins.
A whole lotta fun
6 out of 10.
Superlative performances, great storyline - one of the best of the year
Showing as part of the European Film Festival currently in Brisbane, Aberdeen is a strong, narrative driven movie of a daughter sent to Norway by her dying mother to bring back her father so that the terminally ill mother can see him and her for the last time before she dies.
All the performances in this stellar outing are first class. Stellan Skarsgård as the alcoholic, former oil rig working father is simply outstanding. He plays a man losing a battle with the bottle so convincingly that it makes you seriously wonder whether he has personal experience on which to draw from for his performance.
Charlotte Rampling plays the cancer-stricken mother; even though she spends the majority of the movie talking over the phone from her hospital bed she brings to the character a dignity that is totally believable.
Ian Hart plays a English truck driver who stumbles across the daughter and father returning home from Norway and helps them out. With his shaved head I hardly recognised this veteran actor - but he again puts in another superlative performance as he comes to grips with the dynamics at play in this unique family
But the standout performance is that of Lena Headey, playing the daughter entrusted with the task of bringing her errant father to Aberdeen. She's also someone battling with their demons - she is a drug addict, nympho and does not take to trusting people easily. Having to bring home her father (whom she hates) to a mother (whom she also hates) is yet another thing to speak poorly of and bemoan her lack of a life.
I thought Lena was a relative newcomer to the acting scene - but a cursory look at IMDB revealed a wealth of acting gigs that I was not aware of. But 'Aberdeen' has to be one of her first leading roles; she is one to look out for in the future.
She won the Silver Iris award for Best Actress at the Brussell Film Festival last year.
The movie is described as a 'dark road movie'. Now when I watched it it didn't appear particularly dark - perhaps that says more about what I class as 'dark' in a movie than the tag line writer for these movies! It certainly is 'real', and 'gritty'.
If you get a chance to see this one when the festival rolls into town (some states haven't got it yet so you may still get a chance) you wouldn't go far wrong with this as one of your choices.
9 out of 10.
The Way of the Gun (2000)
Flawed and mildly enjoyable blood-fest
'Way of the Gun' comes to us with what should be a winning pedigree; Director and Writer Christopher McQuarrie collaborated with Bryan Singer on the writing of 'Usual Suspects'; Dick Pope, cinematographer, who worked on such gems as 'Debt Collector', 'Secrets and Lies' and 'Naked'; and Stephen Semel, film editor on such great past works as '187'.
It is perplexing then as to why this movie ended up being such a jumbled mess.
The basic story concerns to career criminals (Del Toro and Philippe), who while donating sperm at the local bank, stumble across an opportunity to kidnap a gal acting as a surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis) to local bad dude Chidduck (Scott Wilson).
Once the kidnap takes place, Chidduck calls in local 'fix-it' man Joe Sarno (James Caan) to get the as yet unborn baby back safe and sound.
Keeping this man a secret from his son Dr Allen Painter (Dylan Kussman), the good medic is also sent into the fray to deliver the baby and return it safely.
And so begins the muddled mess that forms the film. The film has an unfortunate tendency to lurch from one scene and location to another; there is no overall fluidity to it; despite the fact it is trying to emulate other films such as 'Desperado' and 'Reservoir Dogs'. 'Way of the Gun' just doesn't pull it off.
Phillippe and DelToro are good enough leads mostly; Philippe particularly as he plays against type as a hardened criminal. The two characters and actors have an obvious chemistry; it only takes one look or nod and they are in perfect synch. Which is probably a good thing, as they are often involved in scenes of protracted gun play - usually with the two mother-to-be's bodyguards (Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt). The almost balletic dance the two criminals perform on numerous occasions enable them to cover each others backs in the face of overwhelming odds.
As can often happen with Writer/Director combinations, screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie has allowed the script to become littered with an over abundance of snappy phrases and soundbites. All the characters seem to come up with numerous lines that would not look out of place on the movie's poster.
Overall I personally became a bit jaded by the constant gun play that seemed to serve no purpose other than to use lots of blood packs and show various gruesome injuries inflicted. The films score by Joe Kraemer is all-pervasive and is often very intruding on what should be relatively quiet scenes. Del Toro does the same sort of stuff he has done for his past 10 films and offers nothing new here.
See it for the gun play, just don't try and make too much sense of its supposed twists and turns.
4 out of 10.
Gripping, absorbing film-noir
I haven't seen a film for a long time that has kept my attention so absolutely as Memento did. It is a superbly crafted film-noir thriller that is rivetting from beginning to end. Or should that be from end to beginning?
You see, that is what makes Memento so interesting. It is told backwards. Guy Pearce plays a guy who suffers from short term memory loss - he can't form any lasting new memories ever since his wife was raped and killed by the mysterious Jimmy G.
He keeps his life stable by writing notes on polaroids so he knows where he is staying, notes on the crime are kept in a rubber bound foldre provided by a contact within the police department.
He is looking for the guy that killed his wife, Jimmy G.
The structure of Memento is clever in that we share the amnesiacs fate throughout the course of the film - we see the results of actions and are as bemused as he is - it is only later we see the cause.
Guy Pearce puts in a stellar performance as the afflicted avenger. He is totally convincing and fully immersed in his role.
He is ably supported by Joe Pantoliano and Carrie-Anne Moss who may or may not be what they seem - are they using him to their own ends or not?
Get out and see it. A film guaranteed to please if there ever was one. It'll have you talking post-movie with your mates in such a way you haven't experienced since seeing The Usual Suspects.
Walk the Talk (2000)
It's awful, stay away
Pretty succinct review I know, but it has been a long time since a film has left me in such a bewildered state - wondering how the hell a film like that gets made.
The last time it happened was last years turkey 'Mission to Mars'.
Salvatore Coco is an ex-con - trying to better himself through self help videos, endless seminars and betterment courses. He lives by the catchphrases these courses expound.
He stumbles across a washed up nightclub singer, played by Nikki Bennett, and has an epiphany; his new career is going to be that of a talent agent - with the singer as his one and only client.
Financed by his gospel singing, paraplegic girlfriend, played by Sasha Horler - he sets up shop and tries to relaunch Nikki's career, with disastarous results.
'Walk the Talk' is the reason why Australians are so contemptuous of Australian cinema. It is poorly constructed, lame and way wayyy too long (111 minutes for a comedy that should barely have scraped the 80 minute mark).
Every scene is too long, and are very repetitive. The audience is not given a character to empathise with; a vital ingredient in a film like this supposedly about an 'underdog' giving it a go.
The downbeat and frankly poor ending comes at the end of 30 minutes of the most mind numbing dialogue and scenes that have you crying out for a power failure.
This film is a failure on all levels - made worse for Queensland audiences by its liberal and innacurate use of various Gold Coast/Palm Beach location; and its laughable use of Brisbane suburb names like Norman Park and Caboolture.