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Lennie Cahill Shoots Through (2003)
Tony Barry at his best as the lovable larrikin Lennie Cahill
This is the sort of comedy that Australians make well. The hero as always is a villain, the bad guys are the cops who persecute them by investigating their criminal activity.
Tony Barry is superb as the dying criminal Lennie keen to purge his conscience of a crime that resulted in unanticipated and tragic events. His nemesis, soon-to-be-retired cop "Twink", played competently as always by Chris Haywood is the perfect foil, as he too is determined to know the truth about this crime before he goes. Both lament the passing of old times, where a cop and a crook can at least have some grudging respect for each other.
Some of the veteran support cast members are wonderful, obviously relishing the opportunity to ham it up.
The script is tighter than we sometimes expect from Aussie comedy and it all ties together into a neat little package. This film won't change the way you look at the world, but it will amuse and entertain.
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
A witty comedy that stands the test of time
Julius Epstein (the man who gave us Arsenic and Old Lace) excels with his adaptation of James Hagan's play One Sunday Afternoon. (For those who think the credit belongs with the playwright not the scriptwriter, I refer you to the 1948 remake One Sunday Afternoon.) The script is crisp and witty, one liners abound, and I found myself laughing out loud often.
The film gains its strength from the morals of a bygone era, as men and women struggle to find love without overstepping the bounds of decency. Yet it holds up well more than 60 years after it was made. The themes of love and happiness are timeless.
Cagney is excellent as jailbird-turned-dentist Biff Grimes. His famed tough guy persona bubbles not very far below the surface but we are reminded that this actor is much more multi-faceted than history sometimes remembers him.
The female cast members are outstanding. The beautiful Susan Hayworth plays the title character Virginia Brush superbly, showing every nuance of the shallow yet ultimately dissatisfied wannabe socialite. Her best friend, Ann Lind, provides a great showcase for Olivia de Havilland's talent, moving from the brash, forward suffragette to the devoted wife, showing her vulnerability as well as her strength along the way.
Some of Hollwood's fine character actors get a chance to impress too. The hard-working Jack Carson impresses as Hugo Barnstead, the charming womanizer turned sleazy tycoon. George Tobias has plenty of scene-stealing moments as Grimes' good friend, Nick the barber. (Look closely and you may recognize him as Bewitched's Abner Kravitz.) Alan Hale is at his best as Grimes' irrepressible Irish father. Keep your eye out for TV's Superman George Reeves as Harold, the Yale student neighbour.
This film provides an amusing reminder that beauty and wealth do not always bring happiness.
Enjoy Strawberry Blonde. I did.
Australian Rules (2002)
A powerful film about racism, inter-racial relationships & growing up in a small country town
I have just returned from an advanced preview screening of this powerful film and was happy to have the opportunity for a Q & A session with the three young stars of the film.
Aboriginal actress, Lisa Flanagan, was moved to tears as she spoke about the emotional turmoil that making this film caused her. Her mob is from South Australia and are closely linked to the real-life events on which this film is based.
Lisa is off to Edinburgh to promote the film in a few days.
Melbourne-born Nathan Phillips, who plays Blacky, was asked what he wanted audiences to get from the film. He pointed to Lisa and said "I want audiences to feel for even one minute the emotions you just saw from Lisa." And we do!
All three stars spoke of the film as a journey - and it is a journey well-worth experiencing.
Sydney indigenous actor Luke Phillips has plenty of TV experience but has made his first foray into feature films - and it won't be his last. A first-class performance!
International audiences have reported some problems in the early stages of the film understanding the local dialect and pronunciation but felt it was well worth the effort. I couldn't agree more. See it.
I should add that the film-makers did make attempts to discuss the film with the local indigenous communities. The cast even attempted to show them the script. For reasons of their own, maybe understandable, they didn't take that opportunity.
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
An absolute classic
This is one of the very few films that I can happily watch over and over again. For those who have not seen it, the twists and turns in the plot are guaranteed to keep you guessing and on edge. But for those who have seen it many times, the dialogue is so crisp as to retain its impact. (There is one line from the film that still sends shivers up my spine - and I have probably seen it more than 20 times!)
Laughton is superb, and at his best when matched with wife Lanchester. Tyrone Power does a good job too but is not quite in Laughton's class. Marlene Dietrich almost manages to steal this film from Laughton and that is no mean feat.
This film has everything going for it - script, acting, direction. Don't miss it!
The Devil's Playground (1976)
A fresh approach from a new director and a strong Australian cast.
A fine early example of Fred Schepisi's directing style. The film is more than 20 years old but is still fresh. Some strong acting performances, particularly from Nick Tate and young Simon Burke and Arthur Dignam as the tortured Br Francine. Watch for a cameo performance from Tom Keneally, the author of Schindler's List.
Apt Pupil (1998)
Powerful performances from the 2 leads in a gripping psychological drama
Very powerful performances from the two principals make this film gripping viewing. Stephen King's novella has been sanitised for film and some of the impact has been lost. But the psychological battle between Bowden and Dussander, and their dependence on each other, is still fascinating. Ian McKellen gives an even stronger performance here than in his Oscar-nominated role in Gods and Monsters, but young Brad Renfro is not left behind.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Neither a disappointment, nor a masterpiece, but entertaining nonetheless
I'm surprised at many of the reviews I read here for this film. It is neither Kubrick's greatest masterpiece, nor an absolute disappointment, but something in between.
I was left with the impression that Kubrick may have not quite finished this film before he died. A little more editing could have tightened things up. Kidman's performance is strong, while Cruise wanders somewhere between very good and half-asleep.
This film is not an erotic film, nor is it really a thriller, although it contains elements of both. It is a pretty good attempt at exploring a marital relationship and the impact of jealousy on that relationship.
A wonderfully effective soundtrack helps keep people on edge and I am still a little on edge some days after seeing it. If a film is meant to entertain then this one has reached the mark. The talk in the foyer after the session I attended was all positive - and that is rare these days.