Reviews written by registered user

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25 reviews in total 
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Lawless (2012)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
John Hillcoat's prohibition-era slow burner, 22 February 2013

If you've seen The Proposition or The Road, then you pretty much know what to expect from John Hillcoat. This latest outing sees Hillcoat once again paired with Nick Cave as screenwriter. This pair of Australians excel in creating a smouldering, menacing atmosphere that feels true to the era, and Lawless is no exception to the rule.

The first fifteen minutes of the film are a bit shaky, the acting feels overdone and those southern drawls take a while to adjust to, but everyone settles into character soon enough. While some have criticised the slow pace of the film, you need to consider this is set in prohibition era deep south. For anyone with a bit of patience, there's a solid story here of sibling rivalry, strange family legends, slow burning romance and escalating violence, as the brothers and corrupt lawmen stake their claims.

A lot has been said of Tom Hardy's unintelligible Forrest; well, it's consistent with the inward, soft spoken man of principle that Hardy portrays, and I understood most of what he said. One of the real surprises for me was Shia Lebeouf as Jack; for once he is given a grown up role as the berated little brother who goes to great lengths to earn his older brother's respect. There are a couple of romantic side stories; Jack's courting of preacher's daughter Bertha (a pretty unlikely pair), and former dancer Maggie's (Jessica Chastain) flight from her seedy past and into the reluctant arms of Forrest - both well done and segue nicely with the main story.

Some of Cave's script can seem a little too poetic to be true, but on the whole it's gritty and original. Guy Pearce is downright slimy as corrupt special deputy Charlie Rakes; his contemptuous attitude towards the southern 'hicks' and numerous neurotic tics are something to behold. Gary Oldman and Noah Taylor are under utilised, but effective. And Jason Clarke as Forrest and Jack's brother Howard, conveys a lot with barely any dialogue.

There wasn't a massive budget here, but the film manages to convey dense atmosphere and feels like a realistic portrayal of a very violent era.

Dredd (2012)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Bad day at the office, 8 February 2013

"Dredd" takes place in real time, over the course of a particularly nasty day at the office for a certain law enforcement officer, and his psychic rookie. The whole film takes place within a huge tower block, which has been locked down by the bad guys in an attempt to trap and eliminate Dredd & Co. This, of course, sets the scene for a barrage of very violent action, as Judge shows the bad guys who's boss, and his protégé gets some, uh, on the job experience.

This film just works. It's well cast, with Karl Urban mastering the deadpan Dredd delivery, Olivia Thirlby providing a great counterpoint as the psychic, sensitive rookie Anderson (who thankfully isn't wearing a helmet), and Lena Headey getting all dark and nihilistic as gang leader "Mama".

The confined setting and simple plot actually enhance the action, as we are kept more or less in real time, where the tension is constant and the stakes are high. It's a slow burner .. I usually abhor pointless violence and mindless action, but the gritty visuals and serious (but not too serious) tone are so faithful to the comic series, it really elevates this film above the usual mindless pulp. You could almost step thru the film and see the frames of a comic book unfold.

We get to see Dredd and Anderson's relationship develop, as Dredd is tested, Anderson grows in confidence, and Mama slowly implodes. Interestingly though, without Anderson's rookie character, I think Dredd would probably have been a failure. Thirlby is not only a rose among some pretty ugly thorns, but her innocent character kind of grounds a lot of the senseless violence in the film, and her actions at the end speak volumes.

Also the few 'slowmo' drug sequences offer a dreamlike change of pace, and are really well shot.

Burning Man (2011/I)
8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Nonlinear storytelling peels back the layers of grief, 29 November 2012

When we first meet Tom, we see a rude, selfish, out of control guy engaging in some pretty self destructive behaviour. Unsympathetic to the core, it's not until this unconventionally told story reveals more about him that we find out why he is this way. By the end of the film, your feelings about this guy will do a complete 180. You may even shed a tear or two.

The way this film is constructed is either going to deter you, or capture you hook, line and sinker. I'm in the latter group. It rightly won an award for Best Editing at the 2011 Film Critics Circle of Australia. The Australian vocalist from Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, does most of the soundtrack which also scored awards. From a budget of 9 million we have a beautifully shot, artistic and emotional film, with strong acting by the leads. It takes an unconventional look at what it would be like to lose someone close, and the process of grief, especially for men, who are not known for their outward displays of emotion.

Some of the transitions between scenes may seem a little contrived. I think the intention was to reveal the story in much in the same way that our memory works .. by association.

It loses a point for a few rather silly scenes. Burning Man deserves a much bigger audience, especially outside Australia. Looking forward to Jonathan Teplitsky's next feature.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Realistic - to a point, 2 October 2012

Most people are awed at the level of realism here. And it's impressive - they've strived for the feeling of a real engagement.

But let's be honest - this is still a stylised, slightly sanitised action film. Don't expect to see dismembered bodies, civilian casualties, or traumatised, limbless soldiers. Don't even expect a widow to cry. This began as a military recruitment video, and it remains so, to some extent. It reminds me of some of the video games I've played - intense, nonstop action, but still very detached.

As a film, viewed by a much bigger audience than wannabe soldiers, it owes us more than that. The guys do make some small talk and display a tiny bit of personality. They're non actors, and it's cheesy stuff. But despite constant references to wife and kids back home, it's unsentimental and devoid of emotion, right down to the service at the end of the film. I totally get that's how these guys need to be to do what they do.

According to the voice-over, to be dangerous, you need to stuff down feeling and channel it towards the enemy. It's no doubt the same thing the enemy tell themselves every night. It's probably what perpetuates the cycle of violence in the world. Nothing valorous about it, IMO. Don't think of the enemy as people with wives and kids at home.

Don't expect anything ambiguous about violence, or about good and bad. As a soldier, there's no room for ambiguity or reflection.

Ray Harryhausen was better, 18 August 2012

It's not saying much, but Ray Harryhausen's films had more charm than this stuff, and his original "clash" still rates better on IMDb.

Rosamund Pike is not bad, you can see Worthington has tried harder, and the other big names have done more than just phone it in .. but the film completely fails to engage, in fact there are some laughably bad scenes. The script is dreadfully boring, stakes are not really established and there is no emotional pull .. the relationship between the three generations of men is not explored anywhere near enough. Also, like a lot of these films, it's completely devoid of any fun or humour, which is a shame.

No doubt a nice little earner for all involved. But please, please don't make another one, or if you do, have the good grace to call it "Cash of the Titans".

Lastly, I'm Australian, and I can barely understand a word of Sam Worthington's dialogue. We seem to have established a tradition of gruff male action heroes that mumble their way through action films. Voice coach, Sam?

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Bloody good vampire noir / B movie, 19 June 2012

This is bloody good, intelligent take on the vampire genre, with a bit of noir, a bit of cheesy B- movie action, and some excellent prosthetic and CG effects, all made on a meagre $20 million budget. Starts out strongly and draws you in with its bizarre portrayal of a futuristic vampire society, and all the bizarre details that entails. And when the story gets too heavy, there are plenty of gory, blood-spattering scenes and silly car stunts to balance things out. Actually, of all the things, the worst part for me was seeing someone drinking coffee with a dash of blood in it. Still makes my stomach churn.

My only real gripe is that this had been Americanised heavily. The reasons are obvious, and perhaps it would not have made a profit otherwise, but it's disappointing to see Australian and New Zealand actors faking American accents in an Australian film, and the the US flag planted in an obviously Australian outback setting. It's a little sad that American audiences won't watch something unless they see and hear the reassuringly familiar, even when it is faked. I don't know how it got government funding to be honest, but it made a profit from US takings, so what do I know.

Anyway, go see it if you like a blend of horror, action, scifi and gore, with an intelligent storyline. I hope the Spierig Brothers are not a one-trick pony, and invest some of that profit into another great film - preferably one set in Australia.

In Time (2011)
Visually interesting, but lacking substance, 20 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gattaca is one of my all time favourite films, so I was naturally excited to see another scifi from Andrew Niccol. He's also a great writer. I think it's interesting to compare the two films, because thematically they are similar : a guy from the poor end of town gets his own back, by pretending to be someone he's not, essentially beating the system. In Gattaca we had an aspiring astronaut who was genetically inferior; here it's a guy from the (extremely tidy and unconvincing) ghetto, who plays Robin Hood to fix an unjust system. In Time is more of an action flick, aimed at a younger audience.

In both films, the protagonist is shadowed by a detective, which gives things a certain noirish feel; and Niccol's signature visual style, a kind of futuristic art deco, draws on past and future, which is disorienting, because it's partly familiar. Gattaca balanced this with warm, relatable characters, and a story that took its time; in the brothers who competed since birth, in the friendship between Vincent and Jerome, and a believable love interest.

In Time suffers from a lack of engaging characters, a subpar script, odd casting, and some rather confusing plot arcs. I was still struggling to understand why no one gets old (it's never explained) when the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat suddenly turns on her own society, and teams up with a guy from the cheap side of town, all in the space of a few frames. It could work, but too much detail is brushed aside, and Seyfried comes across as so blase about everything, I just wanted her daddy to ground her for a week.

In Gattaca, the emotion was visible, the risks palpable. Here, Timberlake throws himself into the action, but he is all good looks and no depth. It all feels too unreal - there's no emotion bubbling under the surface - nothing is really at stake.

The look and feel of the film is brilliant (car stunts aside) - Niccol came before the Matrix and its swathe of imitators, and he has a unique take on the future. But it all feels sterile. The central plot device is a little too gimmicky, and it gets monotonous seeing people checking the time over and over. It really needed a more convincing pair of leads. Cillian Murphy is great as the timekeeping detective, however.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Some intriguing ideas, not fully explored, 6 July 2011

This feature certainly feels like it was based on a short story.

The original idea comes from the legendary pen of sci-fi author Philip K Dick. That idea is essentially that the world is shaped and directed by a group of what I would call "God's bureaucrats", who intervene with human affairs in a darkly comic, cloak and dagger 50s spy film kind of way.

We explore the idea of free will and divine intervention through the experience of one man, played by Matt Damon, as he struggles to choose his own fate, even as it clashes with The Plan of "The Chairman". (Yes folks, Frank Sinatra is running things upstairs. But I digress..)

The beautiful Emily Blunt brings charm and emotional depth to the love story, so much so that I can almost forgive its predominance over the broader sci-fi elements. She can have all the screen time she wants.

But there's not enough juice here for sci-fi heads - the mind bending ideas are not fully explored, and we're left with more questions than answers. The Bureau remains a mysterious place, reminiscent of Get Smart's CONTROL. It's an entertaining ride, and a love story with a light philosophical bent, but it's not a Philip K Dick sci-fi.

Moebius (1996)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Unconventional sci-fi, in an unconventional place, 2 April 2011

Just saw this and on balance thought it was a very good and unique film. Would like to add that the cinematography and lighting are excellent, and the locations chosen are amazing. The atmosphere created by these two things alone made me enjoy the film - I could pretty much forgive the strange storyline. This is coming from someone who loved "Pi" and "Primer" - good scifi must have plausible science and in my opinion, and this is where "Moebius" fell short.

Subterranean Buenos Aires is an interesting and probably challenging place to shoot a film - but these students pulled it off admirably. There are some clever camera angles and tracking shots, and what looks like some post-production that brings some rich colours to the film.

Recommended as an unconventional sci-fi, in an unconventional time and place.

Æon Flux (2005)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
In the future, everyone talks and moves like pretentious robots., 8 January 2011

Futuristic sets and arty, angular cinematography abound. Unfortunately, that's as good as it gets really. The lovely Cherlize Theron does well enough with what she's given, but this film suffers from a flat, emotionless tone that's at odds with the action sequences which are too few and far between. The exposition of plot is plodding and rather boring, there is not enough backstory, and it's difficult to care about these monotone characters, no matter how sharply dressed they may be.

I guess if the action sequences were up to par, it would provide a welcome reprieve. But these lacked believability. I get the feeling this director comes from a music video or fashion background - aesthetics seem more important than pacing. Long, loving shots of the costumes and set pieces tend to wear thin rather quickly.

Yet another in a swag of sci fi films that take themselves too seriously, without a story good enough to compensate.

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