Reviews written by registered user
stevewest-1

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113 reviews in total 
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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Three wonders of industrial Australia, 26 November 2007

From watching numerous historical documentaries on the expanding USA I was keen to see something on Australia that featured similar production values. Constructing Australia did not disappoint, although I watched the episodes in chronological order, I see no reason why they weren't in that order in the first place.

Coming from Adelaide it was great to see how important a national role it played in its early days, before it hit the ceiling of economic and geographic limitations (no goldrushes, not much farmland) that led to its present relative unimportance.

What I liked about the three documentaries were that they told a human story. Rather than dry facts about the achievements, the psychology of the people who brought them about is given some attention. The actors that portray the historical figures were well chosen and perform convincingly. Wendy Hughes' narration is good but a little too forceful in the last two episodes (Pipeline and Sydney Harbour Bridge).

Australia may not have the masses of the Americas and tides of history but it shows that a small population with few resources can accomplish great engineering works that push the limit of what is possible.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Believable, rough-around-the-edges spy film., 26 May 2007

The only reason I didn't instantly dismiss this film was because it was written and directed by Nicholas Meyer (who wrote and directed the only good Star Trek films). Gene Hackman as the lead actor lent it credibility as well, although I recall him doing B-grade films during this period, eg. Narrow Margin. The "all star" cast of supporting actors came as a pleasant surprise.

What I liked bout the film is that the story seemed "real", the characters were inspired by the real world rather than the world of movie-writing. Hackman's character ekes out a living doing petty Industrial Espionage (and not very successfully from the look of it). The bad guys aren't two-dimensional, they're doing what they believe is best. Neither side stays one step ahead, they simply wing it.

The European setting gives the film a little extra character eg. seeing one of those Trabants (with their horrible 2-stroke engine) in action. The film is rough around the edges however, with some shots given significance for no reason, and some important plot elements that if you blink, you'll miss. If I had watched this in the cinema I would have been confused by the whole thing.

I think David Mamet could take a few lessons from this film (his characters in "Heist" seem to possess a telepathic level of anticipation). Company Business is nowhere near as polished as Meyer's Star Trek films but it is enjoyable if you're willing to rewind when it stops making sense.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Doomed from the start, 17 May 2007

I'm not sure the reasons why the two reviewers below found the show so enjoyable, but I had not seen "Recovery" so this was my introduction to a Dylan Lewis-hosted variety program.

Something was wrong across the board, morale was extremely low from the first episode. Lewis was never in a positive or confident frame of mind and to quote Sampson himself on his attitude toward the show, "my talents are wasted here".

The guests were interesting and redeemed the show somewhat, but I think the fact that they were only there for a five-minute interview kept the negative atmosphere from sinking in. Along with The Big News and The Late Report, The 10:30 Slot was another bad chapter in Australian late-night variety for me, I can't even watch Sideshow (which uses the same set) because of the associations with this show.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Hmm a sketch show on HBO..., 11 February 2007

After stumbling upon a rave review of this show by accident at Amazon.com, I kept it in mind in subsequent years. I now have seen all four seasons thanks to broadband internet (albeit at reduced quality).

Mr. Show is inventive and original but I found it wasn't quite as funny as the reviews claimed. Partly this is due to the humour being very late 90's and U.S. based; for example, if two infomercials, one called "Amazing Discoveries" and another (one or two) featuring an enthusiastic British presenter weren't on Australian late night TV in the late 90's, a sketch parodying these two would have gone completely over my head. Probably something like 50% of the show's humour refers to things only observant U.S. TV watchers of the late 90's would be aware of. But nonetheless Mr. Show did have some quite funny or memorable moments in each episode, amongst a lot more weird or chin-scratching ones.

The show kept me coming back for more, although it's probably not best to watch all the episodes in a short space of time. The performances are good all around, one notable feature being the commitment of all the cast members to the material. The tangential nature of the sketches keeps them from being drawn out or overstaying their welcome, and provides a more interesting way of going from sketch to sketch compared to other sketch shows (after reading other reviews I am now aware this was borrowed from Monty Python).

I think Mr. Show's strongest point is it has material that would never be seen on regular network television and despite being aimed at a narrow audience, is well worth watching.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Best of class, 5 February 2007

Sacha Baron Cohen has maintained a moderately obscure profile on Australian TV but Da Ali G Show ran long enough that a reasonable percentage of people would be familiar with his work. I was never really a "convert" but it usually managed to not be cringeworthy enough for 10 minutes or so of viewing. Borat was one of the characters that made me warm to the show, as I wasn't familiar with the aspect of UK culture that Ali G was parodying, and the German guy was too over the top. Cohen's interviewees seemed to be in on the joke most of the time but I'm sure this wasn't the case in the early episodes.

After a few year's absence, a movie-length feature has been given to Borat, to be unleashed across the Atlantic on an unsuspecting populace. There's something about the Americans and the way they react that makes them such an entertaining target for obnoxious behaviour. When Tom Green (and Jackass) went to Japan I couldn't help but feel they were an undeserving target, given their politeness and large amounts of patience. The American culture is built on assertiveness and unmitigated self-expression, resulting in some fairly eye-opening reactions.

From New York to Los Angeles Borat charts a range of U.S. attitudes and behaviour. What comes as a surprise is how in a few instances Borat's behaviour is the least outlandish. Luckily violence is not threatened (that we see) but you could still say Americans seem to be practiced in dealing with trouble makers. Generally any American production I see on TV is undiluted (maybe with a Brit thrown in for good measure) but Borat provides a good yardstick for American behaviour, especially when he gets picked up by a group of students on an alcohol-fueled road trip.

As painful as Borat can be at times (a remote control can alleviate this) it's the most purposeful and sophisticated Jackass-style comedy you're ever likely to see.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The last hurrah of the 2D platformer., 4 January 2007

The Playstation and Sega Saturn heralded the switch of almost every game released from 2D to 3D. A number of game types were sacrificed in the process, only the 2D fighter (Street Fighter Alpha), Side Scroller (G-Darius), and platformer (Oddworld) manage to survive one last generation. To my knowledge there has not been a game with 2D gameplay released on any subsequent consoles.

Abe's Oddysee and Exodus use the Playstation's capabilities to provide rich backgrounds and slickly animated characters, all integrated with seamless cutscenes. There have been no games like them before or since (Munch's Oddysee included). Another World, Flashback, Heart of Darkness, Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exodus represent the last of an era (and not forgotten by gamesplayers of the time).

Bad Eggs (2003)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Light hearted tale of police corruption, 26 November 2006

I watched Bad Eggs with the preconception that it was a mix of serious cop drama and comedy. After watching The Late Show and listening to Martin/Molloy, Tony Martin has come to my attention again through his return to the airwaves on MMM. I am catching up on the self-confessed movie buff's interim works by watching Bad Eggs and reading his book Lolly Scramble.

Bob Franklin and Mick Molloy didn't strike me as the two best leading actors for a film, but they perform respectably within the low budget Australian comedy format. The comedy and drama are better integrated than I was expecting, Bad Eggs is basically a tale of two detectives with a capacity for ineptness and clumsiness, who get mixed up in corruption in their own department, the fictional Zero Tolerance Unit of Victoria. There probably actually are individual agencies like this now with a similar lack of transparency, with ASIO recently being expanded and given increased powers. The film gets serious when the two detectives get deeper and deeper in the poo, but the comedic elements return when they strike back with the help of Northey, played by Alan Borough.

On the whole Bad Eggs is akin to a film like True Lies on the comedy scale, it is primarily a drama with comedy arising from storyline elements rather than from deliberately inserted jokes. It never manages to excel in any particular area but what was achieved was a film with a professional look, a storyline that maintains interest for the first 90 minutes, and a cast of fairly decent Australian actors and comedians.

Bad Taste (1987)
Amateur Mayhem, 25 November 2006

I imagine that without the popularity of the Lord of the Rings films, Bad Taste might not have received the distribution it otherwise would. For film-goers that enjoyed Jackson's light touch in earlier films, Bad Taste is of interest as it was Jackson's first feature length film and made on a shoestring budget. The Wikipedia article states "It was shot primarily on weekends over the course of four years, at a total cost of around $11,000 (toward the end of the shoot the New Zealand Film Commission invested around NZ$250,000 into the film to ensure its completion)".

I was initially confused about whether the introductory character, Derek, was played by Peter Jackson as he fought the alien played by Peter Jackson (I didn't believe such camera-work was achievable on this picture). The humorous approach works well, as it allows the viewer to gloss over the unavoidable irregularities and have a good laugh. There is a frenetic mix of comedy, horror and action to be had. Everyone is having enough fun that the light atmosphere is maintained throughout, despite what must have been some uncomfortable or disgusting situations for the actors at times (Jackson reserves the messiest shots for himself).

The recurring theme of this film for me is how good it is for what it is. It can't amount to much but the camera-work, prosthetics, and special effects manage to rival professional films of the era. It just goes to show that with the right combination of talent and encouragement, an amateur film maker can turn out something fairly watchable.

Another film in a similar vein is Star Wrek: In the Pirkinning which could be considered a modern equivalent (be warned it makes a lot of references to Star Trek and Babylon 5).

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A special effects demo by ILM, who seeks to be the Pixar of the blended live action/computer animation world., 22 September 2006

After the previous two installments of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, discerning viewers know what to expect of Revenge of the Sith. A special effects demo by ILM, who seeks to be the Pixar of the blended live action/computer animation world. We know it's nothing more than a kids film, that the acting is uninspired, and that the absurdities will fly thick and fast.

Revenge of the Sith has the benefit of actually having some storyline, making me wonder if the first two needed to be made at all. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones could be condensed into about 20 minutes worth of key scenes, giving a full background to the events in Revenge of the Sith (which could itself be shortened by 20 minutes with no consequence).

Lucas's reprisal of Star Wars film making is over with this installment, which might bring some relief to genuine Star Wars or science fiction fans. With practically every scene having CGI in it, I understood why Lucas didn't have the last two films directed by someone else like he originally intended. Given that most of the film is made in the computer lab, there wouldn't be much point in having someone else oversee the ILM computer animators.

The computer effects are impressive, they're getting near the point of looking believably real but that point is still some years off. Impressive visuals are really the only merit of Revenge of the Sith and the entire prequel trilogy. In terms of storytelling, Revenge of the Sith is the only one to have its moments, but they are literally moments in an unbelievable "history" of the original trilogy. I will take episodes 1,2 and 3's version of events with a pinch of salt and stick to my original notions and beliefs of the original trilogy. I believe "young Lucas" knew what he was doing and will ignore the prequel trilogy, having satisfied my curiosity.

Tarnation (2003)
30 Up: The Autobiography, 12 August 2006

Jonathan Caouette has something of an interest in films and filming and his life story ended up being the focus of his own movie-making efforts. Tarnation serves as an autobiography, documentary, and film-making lesson for Caouette. Having coming from a highly dysfunctional background myself I expected to have more in common with Caouette's experiences, but he seems to have a different set of issues to the ones I have. He spent the majority of his childhood in a stable environment at his grandparent's house.

Tarnation is a good amateur effort, the music selection is the most professional aspect in my opinion. While watching the commentary, I was aware in places of how the effect that Caouette wanted to achieve with chaotic graphics didn't register in my own viewing experience, they just seemed like psychedelic iMovie demos.

Caouette's constant filming from an early age has paid off in being able to create something like Tarnation. It's not a masterpiece but it's interesting and gives us a rare insight into the life of another person. The Up series is the only thing comparable I can think of, but they lack the first person insight and the people are generally less interesting.


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