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A sweet little moment we can all relate to.
Lucky to catch 7.23, a short film which we got to see at the best-of-the-best St Kilda travelling film festival.
I can't really talk about what happens, because that will completely spoil it. If you ever get a chance to see it at a festival - do! Anyway, what transpires is an unexpectedly sweet and touching little episode captured on film. I loved how it was all done in a single shot -- that made it so intimate and personal as well as elevating the film artistically.
The subtlety of the filming style also helped me completely forget that I was watching a film - you really did feel as if you were sitting on the train opposite these people and it wasn't until the camera panned that I remembered it was a movie and then marvelled at the incredibly steady and perfect camera work. I mean, they were all on a moving train but you almost wouldn't know it from the expert camera-work.
I also thought the casting and acting was just spot on. Those actors were just right and so talented at infusing this simple story with genuine and heartfelt warmth. Even the extras fitted in well.
Everybody did such a good job with this little gem and I hope it gets some decent exposure because it really deserves to be seen.
The Eye (2008)
Effective scares and an excellent dramatic lead performance from Jessica Alba
In this era of stem cell research, where genetic re-programming results in human heart cells beating in a Petrie dish, perhaps The Eye's premise of cellular memory is not so far-fetched. Blinded during a childhood accident, gorgeous and gifted first violinist Sydney Wells (Jessica Alba) undergoes a corneal transplant. Previously confident in the dark, sweet Sydney's secure world becomes terrifying when she finds she can see not only dead people, but the prophetic visions of the former owner of her newly restored vision.
Everyone around her thinks she's going mad, from her unsympathetic maestro to her concerned sister Helen (played poorly by an underused and under directed Parker Posey) to her conflicted doctor in an underwritten and choppy character arc. (Is Alessandro Nivola playing an eye doctor or a psychoanalyst? Is he a staunch professional or driven by love to cross the line?) Sydney feels compelled to decipher her visions, sensing that if she does, the troubled spirit of the original donor may finally find peace.
Directorial flaws aside, The Eye's strengths lie in its superb visuals, effective scares and, above all, the impressive and convincing performance of its leading lady. Appearing in virtually every scene, Alba has you blinking tears when her eyes sting and second-guessing your own eyes when you see what she sees.
A remake of the Pang Brothers 2002 Hong Kong hit Gin gwai, The Eye is actually a Hollywood rip-off, traversing the familiar territory of recent thriller Blink, 1978's Eyes of Laura Mars and even Roger Corman's 1963 horror pic X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes.
The Eye has satisfying echoes of J horror plus ghost stories such as The Sixth Sense and The Others.
Charlie Bartlett (2007)
School story with a retro feel
Enterprising teenager, Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin from Alpha Dog) was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Hyper-intelligent and musically gifted, his bedroom wall is decorated with countless framed letters from all the private high schools that have expelled him. His adoring but almost permanently medicated mother (a wonderful performance by Hope Davis) finds herself at a bit of a loss, especially since Charlie's Dad is not around.
Charlie declines the services of their chauffeur and opts to take the yellow school bus to the local public school. It's a far cry from the elite institutions he is accustomed to attending. Still sporting his private school blazer and politely trying to make friends, Charlie quickly becomes the target of bullies who use him for punching practice. Ever the entrepreneur, he nevertheless wins his schoolmates over with a side business marketing his prescribed medications and dispensing psychiatric advice in the boys toilets during lunchtime. Pretty soon Charlie has gained the all-embracing adulation he craved, obtained his first girlfriend, the super-cool Susan (Kat Dennings from 40 Year Old Virgin) but is dangerously at odds with the school's principal (Robert Downey Jr.) who is also Susan's father.
Written and directed by virtual newcomers Gustin Nash and Jon Poll (respectively), this homage to Harold and Maude becomes all the more blatant by the over-use of a familiar song in two key scenes. This misstep aside, Charlie Bartlett is incisive and brilliantly entertaining. Downey Jr. proves yet again he is far and away the best actor of his generation, balancing the gravitas, humanity and wisdom in his role as father-figure while becoming unhinged as the reluctant fall guy for a school on the verge of implosion.
Charlie Bartlett is much more than Harold and Maude meets Rushmore meets Ferris Bueller; its rewards are many.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Good, in spite of weak direction ...
PTA really needs to get over himself. He is far from a great filmmaker. Although I quite enjoyed the movie and am glad I saw it, I think there are many flaws in the sketchy (as in lightly sketched vs deep) storytelling of There Will Be Blood. Where is the character depth, the motivations, the background and the context to these events and this man's tale?
I did enjoy the tipping see-saw balance of power between Plainview and the Preacher. I do not, however, share everyone's accolades for Paul Dano. He did his best, but he was ill-suited for this role as a morally ambiguous preacher.
Also -- SPOILER -- the part when Plainview rubs mud in the preacher's mouth came out of nowhere! Huh?
-- end spoiler--
The only thing that maintained my interest in this movie was the intensity and ferocity of the magnificent performance by Daniel Day Lewis.
Although I have to begrudgingly admit that the director was, in part, responsible for eliciting such a stunningly fierce and chilling performance, I doubt very much that even a crappy director would be left with a crappy performance from Day Lewis. I just don't think he's capable of giving less than his all. He is truly one of the greatest actors of our generation.
Also the film's score is a complete joke and the fault largely resides with the choices of this oftentimes pretentious and perverse director. The score is far too attention seeking and emotionally inconsistent. Although I applaud a director that takes a risk with an atypical score for a Hollywood movie, this one misfires too often to be considered successful.
Still, There Will Be Blood is definitely worth seeing, for Daniel Day Lewis, for a decent yet bare-bones story and for seeing what not to do when you are at the helm of a big Hollywood movie with a large budget.
Slick, pro-military propaganda and simple storyline
Transformers was fine entertainment. Definitely skewed towards a young audience (tweens) thanks to its simplicity.
Big 'wow' factor, especially with the speccy spfx. One jaw-dropping moment, in particular, was a scene late into the movie when a gold-coloured Decepticon (the evil robots) appeared to be roller-blading down the freeway in pursuit of the good guys.
Really impressive how seamlessly the animation blended with the live action.
The part that left a really nasty taste in my mouth was how blatantly pro-war it all was. Military might and efficiency plus zero body count (wait, did someone die in this movie?) as opposed to the grim and harsh reality of countless deaths daily in this current war and pretty well every other war that's ever happened. I even turned to my guy at one stage and said (obviously ironically) "I wanna enlist!" That definitely seemed to be what Bay was going for above all else.
Ghost Rider (2007)
I don't fully understand all the negative reviews...
We rented Ghost Rider last night (July 4th - fireworks - yay!) and we really enjoyed it immensely! I had wanted to see it on the big screen, in spite of all the negative reviews, and now I wish I had because we don't own a monster TV and I had to wear my driving glasses to watch it (which I never generally have to do when watching TV at home...) I completely loved the basic premise of this story when I first heard it.
I thought the tone of the whole movie was pitch-perfect. Everyone's movements were so precise. Sometimes they were just acting with their eyes. I dug all the camera movements -- this movie had momentum, which was appropriate to the subject matter. Nic Cage is a fantastic (if limited in range) actor and well suited to this kind of comic book *extreme* role. Wes Bentley was great. I really liked the Police Captain and his dark-haired side-kick. (Lots of Aussie actors in this movie as it was shot there.) Eva Mendes was a little disappointing -- I like her a lot but her acting wasn't great (I blame neglectful direction) and she wasn't given enough to do. Plus, her costuming was appallingly poor. There's one time when she's getting back into the car and we see her from behind and her dress is so ill-fitting and wrinkly. Sure, we got to see lots of cleavage (not too much) but dressing a sexy Latina with olive skin in a brown dress that's almost the same colour as her brown hair AND then putting a brown leather jacket on top of that? UGH! Did they WANT her to disappear?! Yeah, I've never read the comics, but I will now.
Rome & Jewel (2008)
Excellent updating of a classic tale
Rome and Jewel is a fine musical that I truly hope gets picked up for theatrical release. I was lucky enough to see it when they showed it at the high school where I teach.
At first I thought "Oh, not another take on Romeo and Juliet..." but I was really drawn into this story, mainly because of the strong acting and the catchy and memorable songs. And let's face it, anything that gets our kids to accept Shakespeare is a good thing. I show Baz Luhrmann's excellent movie when I want to ease them into the nuances and rhythms of Elizabethan language.
But Rome and Jewel is even more accessible viewing.
Set in Los Angeles (present day -- hence contemporary dialects and language) it tells the story of a young white girl who falls instantly in love with a young black guy who crashes her sweet sixteen party. This causes a clash between the white kids and the black kids at the party that spills out into the streets of LA. Meanwhile there's an intense political back story (just as in Shakespeare's play) and the lovers do their best to keep their romance secret...
The actor playing Mercury was fantastic. I hope he gets discovered soon. Okay, I just looked him up and he will be playing a character named "Goatee" in the fourth Die Hard installment. I hope it's a substantial role.
This movie is gorgeously shot and well edited. See it whenever you get the chance.
Now I want to look up and watch everything this director has done, because he really knows what he is doing behind the camera.
Bittersweet romance under the shadow of smack
Saw Candy - wonderful performances from a marvellous cast. Beautifully shot etc. One thing did strike me as being strange -- the casting of Noni Hazlehurst as the Mum who harangues her daughter and fails to comprehend her choices. This actress is well-known (in Oz, anyway) for her brilliant portrayal twenty years ago as a junkie in "Monkey Grip". So, casting her in this diametrically opposed role did not serve the movie well *at all* I found it so distracting, and completely at odds with the purpose of the casting, that it did my head in!
Another quibble -- a truly hilarious scene from the novel, where Dan tries to rob a bank, was not in the movie. Too bad. Armfield also changed what happened to Geoffrey Rush's character, which was interesting to observe. In the movie he gives him a much more poetic trajectory.
Otherwise Candy is an excellent druggy pic and love story and definitely worth seeing if you don't remember Christiane F etc
Deja Vu (2006)
Deja Vu is a great ride!
I was also at that Century City screening last night, and I was probably one of the people who were saying they thought this movie was awesome. I enjoyed it immensely. It has been described as an action-adventure-romance-sci-fi pic and it truly is all of that.
First of all, the cinematography was stunning. Tony Scott and his DOP, Paul Cameron, do fantastic work -- every shot is beautifully composed. And all the footage that involves a cast of thousands (meaning the crowd scenes) is masterful work.
I don't know why I started with commenting on the photography (also the editing) of this movie. It's probably because that is what struck me from the very beginning, particularly when there is so much going on in the opening sequence. Yet you never get lost. Above all, the performances and story are great and really suck you in. Yes, this movie requires a fair bit of suspension of disbelief. I would go so far as to say the plot was far-fetched, but the heart of the story just takes you along for the ride.
For the record, I felt Scott's most recent teaming with Denzel, Man on Fire, was one of the best movies of 2004. I don't think Deja Vu is as good as Man on Fire, but it's right up there as one of the most entertaining and thrilling movies I've seen this year.
For sheer entertainment and an intriguing (though not flawless) plot, Bruckheimer, Scott and Co. sure have DELIVERED the goods.
I recommend you see Deja Vu on the big screen with a big, loud audience for maximum enjoyment. Part of the appeal last night was exactly that; hearing the audience -- as one -- laugh, applaud and sigh along with this movie and getting swept up in that communal experience.
post scriptum -- Any fans of Otto Preminger's wonderful 1994 classic Laura may be delighted by the echoes of that storyline in Deja Vu.