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Two Hands (1999)
A searing Sydney streetscape where boy meets girl
For a movie so heavily laden with violence and bloodshed "Two Hands" is surprisingly feelgood. Heath Ledger as the ingenuous Jimmy is out to impress and the lovely Alex [Rose Byrne] thinks he a bit of alright too. Others also see potential in Jimmy with possibly not always his best interests at heart. Bryan Brown is suitably detached as the Mr Big who is not a complete stranger to a bit of compassion, but can't afford too much of it. This is a side of Sydney not too many of us see [unless your name is Sally-Ann or Chopper]. The vernacular is certainly credible for this mosaic of street kids, touts, thugs, buskers, pimps, gimps, shrimps and wimps who put the flesh on the bones of "Two Hands". Great script, great movie - see it!
Try-hard drama on would-be Guerilla farmers.
I think Homegrown is a bit of a misnomer for this movie - more like "Plantation Grown" - but it doesn't have quite the same ring to it. My guide described it a comedy, but the pathetic travails of these hapless buffoons is not my idea of a belly laugh. More in the genre of the farcical thriller/drama. The characters developed well enough - an all-star cast made it oh-so promising, just a shame the plot was patently absurd. Ted Danson provided a fine cameo as did Jamie Lee Curtis in her walk-on part. Jon Bon Jovi has this amazing ability to measure THC content in the front seat of his car! I guess if you imbibe a few beforehand you should be able to sit through this one - not for the gun shy paranoid types though.
Buffalo '66 (1998)
An ex-con faces difficulties assimilating into society
I thought this movie rarely rose above the very ordinary. Sure it had some redeeming features. The FOX guide described it as a "Comedy" - sorry, but, I must have missed the funny part. You might think that someone who has just got out of jail might wander aimlessly for a while. Not our Billy. He knows exactly what he needs to find. A toilet! Or a bathroom as Americans like to say. So he searches early and he searches often. Eventually he gets lucky and finds a room with a toilet and a bath. So he has a bath -- in his underpants! Really, Billy, I've heard of a shower in a raincoat, but not a bath in your underpants, please. Billy struts the stage looking like some latter day Charles Manson and every bit the loser. I am no expert on American football, but I think the Buffalo Bills have a similar pedigree. Was it three Super Bowls in a row lost? At half time the film had a lot of potential, but like the hapless Bills themselves, the end game, the big play, just was not there. Billy should try looking on the bright side. If his mother had been an Anaheim fan he might have been called "Ducky". I was waiting for something to happen, which never did, then when it finally did, it didn't. If you know what I mean. An all-star cast does not quite lift this one out of the primeval slime. Although the music, especially "Heart of the Sunrise" in the strip club scene, if not the gratuitous crooning of the director's father, helps.
Mission to Mars (2000)
A worthwhile attempt to combine fantasy with a serious space-travel drama.
Any space travel epic will always be compared to 2001 and usually unfavourably. Despite giant leaps made in special effects and the introduction of weightlessness this movie also fall short of it's illustrious predecessor. The astronauts are so nice to one another at the send-off party it is almost sickening, but once the mission gets underway Tim Robbins as the stoic Woody frowns often enough to remind us that something really serious is on. It does have it's lighter moments, the dancing in micro-gravity scene was quite special. Luke is a real trooper and quite reminiscent of OJ Simpson in Capricorn One. But what could possibly happen on Mars? We all know it "ain't the kind of place to raise a kid". You've got to expect the unexpected in the shadow of Phobos and Deimos. Will Woody and Terry join the Million Mile High Club? Will Jim find that special world that he has been looking for? Will the special effects budget run to just one more eye-dazzling, ear-shattering crescendo?
Three sisters are reunited by their mother's death.
Three sisters are reunited by their mother's death. Having led separate lives, the girls seem to have little in common. The intense Mae stayed with Mum to the end. The brooding Chrissy has pursued a singing career overseas, the vivacious Nona is just becoming a woman. The funeral itself is a very sad affair. It seems reconciliation is still a long way off in this part of Australia. A single woman of dubious morality, and aboriginal at that, did not make for a large congregation of mourners. The girls get on with the grieving process as best they can, but it will come as no surprise that as well as Mum's ashes in the can, there are a few skeletons in this family's closet. A wonderful script gives credibility to this excellent drama with operatic overtones. Beautifully shot among the canefields on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, this is a story, indeed an epic for any millenium.
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
A credible recreation of the glam-rock scene of the early 70s.
The story is revealed through the eyes of a journalist, investigating some unexplained mysteries surrounding Brian Slade, and his androgynous alter-ego Maxwell Demon, a David Bowie-esque performer on the English glam-rock scene of the early 70s. Our intrepid reporter revisits some demons from his own youth as a groupie on this scene, of his family's inability to understand him and his uncertainty about his own sexuality. Toni Collette acquits herself very well, within the limitations of her script as the decadent rock star's American wife, stoically enduring her husband's peccadilloes until the very end. The real star of this movie is the music. Some of the finest work of this period by Lou Reed, Roxy Music, Marc Bolan, Steve Harley, Brian Eno and others is reworked or featured in it's original form. They say if you can remember the 60s then you weren't there, but if you can remember the early 70s you will enjoy this movie.
Hard Rain (1998)
Barely raises a ripple.
I though this was an essentially silly film. As an aquatic thriller/drama it was pretty much a waste of water. Even good performances from Chris Slater and the delightful Minnie Driver won't make this dog float. Morgan Freeman keeps his head above water but is never extended. Still, there is a few surprises along the way to keep your interest, but don't hold your breath waiting for them.
The Life of Harry Dare (1995)
Harry must find his stolen Kombi van and himself in the process.Harry must find his stolen Kombi van and himself in the process.
Harry has always been troubled by the disappearance of his father and as he tramps the mean streets of Port Adelaide, in his quest to locate his stolen Kombi van he may just discover more than what he expected to. A young Nungah - in fact any child - needs a father, a fact his own son, the wonderfully precocious Jim is all too painfully aware of. If only reality could be this charming, it is always sunny, everyone has perfect smiles and even the coppers have their good side. Unfortunately for the Australian Aborigines, this has not always been the case. Harry is aware of past injustices, but it is the present one he is more concerned about and Harry is quite the man-of-action when it comes to doing something about it. If you are one of those people who switch off as soon as the credits roll - don't - or you will miss a splendid version of "Melting Pot" by James Reyne.
Small town USA laid bare for all to see.
Philip returns home to find himself after failing n Hollywood. The small town folks of Cuba, however, seem to think he has made the big time and treat him accordingly. There are a few cliches in Cuba - the bored sheriff, the benevolent old war veteran, the wanna-be's, has beens and the ne'er-do-wells. Philip finds his mother in a de-facto relationship with one of the latter, an itinerant musician who doesn't say much but has a band which like to play early in the morning next to Philip's room. There is not a lot happening but the alcohol and testosterone flow thick and fast around these parts. Enter Dorothy, Philip's fixation since she teased him in kindergarten - she has been having a hard time of it lately and having an incestuous layabout for a father and a stormy relationship with the churlish Ezra has her pondering the dilemma "to be - or not to be". Will Philip be her knight in shining armour or should he concentrate on saving himself while he still can? Excellent cinematography and dialogue makes this a worthwhile vehicle, but watch out for the roadkill as you are passing through.