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Killing Time (2010)
Quality Australian crime drama
I have just seen the fourth episode of Killing Time and am enjoying this immensely. It is interesting that a series of this type has its premier and probably exclusive screening on Cable TV rather than Commercial TV. Perhaps the content is too violent and confronting for Commercial TV. The Cable TV screening actually works very well with a series like this. There are multiple screenings of each episode so there is no excuse to miss anything and only small interruptions from commercial breaks.
David Wenham is superb as Andrew Fraser, a lawyer who chooses the wrong clients. His family and friends know this and look on his successes with an almost condescending bewilderment as to why he seems drawn to representing criminals and exploiting loopholes in the law to set them free. Although he is successful he makes enemies with the police and has a tenuous relationship with the people he defends.
Killing Time is told as two parallel stories - the past, with Fraser's rise to fame and success in making the police look like fools and the present, where he is incarcerated and trying to cope with life in prison. At the moment we are not sure exactly what precipitated his sentence to a term in prison but there are plenty of clues.
With each week we learn more about the man. It seems inevitable that things will eventually turn pear shaped for him. His strange penchant for defending criminals who are obviously guilty is a road to self destruction. Each time he wins in court and humiliates the police, he creates more enemies. He tries to justify his actions to his family but they clearly cannot accept that he uses legal arguments and technical points to defend vicious criminals.
The cast is impressive. Diana Glenn is a very promising actress and plays the role of his wife very effectively. Richard Cawthorne and Malcolm Kennard are both brilliant as the manic criminals that Andrew Fraser chooses to defend.
Colin Friels is at his best as Lewis Moran. He plays one standout scene in a bar with classic understatement that will linger in the memories of anyone who sees the series.
I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the series - great Australian drama and highly recommended.
Caught Inside (2010)
Ben Oxenbould is a standout in this well crafted suspense thriller ....
Caught Inside is a taught psychological thriller set on a Surfing Safari in the Maldives with a thought provoking script that revolves around a central character who is not unlike Max Cady from Cape Fear.
Director Adam Blaiklock and the crew spent a month or so in the Maldives filming Caught Inside. From the outset a requirement was that the actors were all competent surfers and the surfing scenes are all shot with realism. The story is cleverly and quietly developed with moments of real suspense and surprise that make the audience gasp.
Ben Oxenbould plays Bull, at first glance popular with his peers, a larrikin who can charm anyone when he wants to. However we soon learn that he has a dark side. He has issues with women and anyone who disagrees with him and his disturbing sociopathic tendencies cannot be hidden in the confined spaces of the vessel.
He uses his strength as an intimidation to others but, interestingly, never takes on the Captain played by Peter Phelps. It is not clear whether this is due to some past incident, his respect for authority or the fact that the skipper might be stronger than him but anyone else who crosses his path is fair game.
Despite the fact that the Captain laid out the ground rules at the beginning of the trip, it becomes evident that the cruise participants are on their own miles from anywhere. No one can help. This plays into Bull's hands as his manic tendencies become obvious. There are subtle hints that he has shown this type of behaviour before and he becomes more and more menacing and unhinged as the film progresses.
Caught Inside was filmed with a tight budget but it does demonstrate how important it is to base a movie on a great script. The film essentially revolves around Bull and Ben Oxenbould is truly exceptional in the role. He has been known as a comic actor with his performances in Comedy Inc but this film provides him with an opportunity to display a real talent for a complex character role.
In some ways the other actors are incidental to Bull but they are generally all very competent.
It is disappointing that Caught Inside hasn't reached a wider audience. The sad reality these days is that it is very difficult to get wide distribution without major stars and studio backing. Independent film makers face an up hill battle to get their films screened in cinemas.
Very disappointing indeed
In a film that deals primarily with excesses of money and greed, it is interesting that the budget for this movie was in the region of an obscene $70,000,000.00. I'm not sure how much of the budget was devoted to script and substance but the end result was a banal and poorly developed screenplay with puerile, soppy sub plots of romance and the strained relationship between father and daughter.
Ultimately the story is grossly simplistic, cashing in on the global financial crisis, without any attempt to provide real detail as to how the end results are achieved. You are supposed to just accept that everything that occurs in the film is plausible without any meaningful attempt at a reasonable explanation.
Leaving aside the flaws in the plot there was an opportunity to develop some suspense but Olvier Stone missed his chance and concentrated on expensive sets and effects that did absolutely nothing to provide anything substantial.
The cast all do their best but they are hamstrung by an unimaginative script and poor direction.
At the screening I attended, the person in front of me was playing games on his mobile phone and many people left before the end credits were shown. That, I'm afraid, says it all.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Is it possible to make a successful film without spending a fortune?
I just returned from seeing The Dark Knight this afternoon and although it was reasonably entertaining I have to wonder if a really successful movie can be made today without throwing truckloads of money into the project and relying almost totally on whiz bang special effects and mass destruction of cars, buildings etc etc.
I also thought that it was a little remiss of the director that in a number of scenes it was very hard to hear what Gary Oldman was saying. I actually have no idea what he said in the fairly key final scenes, bearing in mind that his were the last words of the movie, and the people I saw the movie with made the same comment.
In 1960 Hitchcock made a movie with his TV crew for a budget of under a million dollars and shot the film in a matter of weeks. If it hadn't been for the shower scene, he would have completed the project even quicker. I would like to see one of the major directors like Spielberg, or Christopher Nolan, make a film with a low budget and see what they could come up with.
Very Important Person (1961)
Lighthearted British Comedy
Very Important Person combines elements of the Carry On films, The Great Escape and Hogan's Heroes to produce a lighthearted low budget British Comedy that is surprisingly effective. Many of the stalwarts of from this era are here with John Le Mesurier, Stanley Baxter, Eric Sykes in supporting roles. I wouldn't have been at all surprised to see Sid James turning up somewhere.
James Roberson Justice is excellent in his role as the cantankerous Very Important Person. There are lots of stiff upper lips and "tickety boos" from the British and the German officers are typically cast as foolish buffoons. This must have all been an inspiration for Hogan's Heroes but a very long way from the reality of prisoner of war camps.
Overall, VIP is a fine example of British Comedy from the 60s and is well worth a look.
The King (2007)
A little Disappointing
There is no doubt that Graham Kennedy was a master of his craft, with Bert Newton not too far behind as another icon of Australian Television. As such it was always going to be difficult for anyone to accurately portray The King. While Steven Curry's performance is a reasonable effort it still resembles something of a caricature and falls well short of reproducing the magic of Kennedy.
Graham Kennedy's life certainly had its bitter sweet moments with his complex and private personal relationships but I thought that the writers could have delved a little more deeply into his life and what made him tick. Some things appear to have been left unsaid.
There were some interesting insights into the early days of television in Australia where the participants learned their craft on the job but perhaps it was the attempt to duplicate everyone from Noeline Brown to an appalling attempt at replicating Ugly Dave Gray that detracted from the film.
The fact is that many Australians grew up with these characters and appreciate and understand them from viewing hundreds of their performances over the years. Any attempt to re create icons like Graham Kennedy is likely to be very tough indeed. It is ironic that some of the more effective moments in the film came with original footage of Kennedy himself rather than those from his impersonator.
Perhaps this was too big a task. As so many have said, no one will ever replace The King.
Young and Innocent (1937)
What Did I do With the Belt? .........
"Young and Innocent" aka "The Girl Was Young" is rarely mentioned in the same breath as The 39 Steps or The Lady Vanishes but it is nevertheless one of the more underestimated films from the master of suspense with all the ingredients of a Hitchcock classic.
Alfred Hitchcock loved the theme of a man accused of a crime he didn't commit and used this successfully in other films like The 39 Steps which preceded Young and Innocent and later, Saboteur and North by Northwest.
He wanted to introduce a fresh approach in this film with stars that were young and relatively unknown (and cheap). Nova Pilbeam had featured a few years earlier in The Man Who Knew Too Much and was a fairly prominent child/teenage actress and Derrick De Marney had had some moderate success but both actors were not well known overseas.
Hitchcock added his usual array of interesting character studies which typified so many of his films. I always thought that he never wasted a character in any of his films with even the smallest bit part being used effectively. Young and Innocent is no exception with a couple of wonderful cameos from J.H Roberts as the myopic solicitor who advises his client "We mustn't be depressed on a day like this" after he has been accused of murder.
George Curzon as the villain plays an aggrieved, black faced drummer who has been two timed by his actress wife who he "dragged out of the gutter to make a star". Curzon hams it up to the hilt complete with a twitch which eventually leads to him being exposed as the murderer.
Edward Rigby is the quintessential tramp who dons an uncomfortable tux to enter the Grand Hotel in another fine cameo role. Basil Radford and Percy Marmont as the kindly Police Chief are also very impressive in their small roles.
The film closes with one of Hitchcock's most impressive scenes from all of his films. He loved the concept of furthest to nearest with the camera moving slowly from a very wide shot through the hotel to finally focus on the drummer. He used a crane to achieve this in Young and Innocent and it must have been an extremely innovative and logistically difficult task in 1937. He used the concept again in Notorious and other films to great effect.
Young and Innocent has all the charm and humour that typifies so many Hitchcock movies and is set in another world - country England in 1937.
I have always thought that Hitchcock's English films from the mid to late 1930s produced some of his best work and this is a forgotten gem that helped progress him to Hollywood.
The Limping Man (1953)
Pity about the ending.......
The Limping Man is a fairly bland British B grade Noir with Lloyd Bridges imported from America to play the lead role and add appeal to a wider audience. The plot follows a reasonably intriguing path towards what should/could have been a dramatic conclusion before reaching a disappointing ending that might have been borrowed from a children's story. Despite this, the film has its moments with fine performances from Bridges and Alan Wheatley as the Inspector. Leslie Phillips appears as the inspector's subordinate and, as always, is typecast as the ladies man who ogles everything in a dress.
Although the ending is flawed the film still has appeal as an interesting example of British Film Noir.
Hollow Triumph (1948)
Fine Film Noir with an ironic twist........
"The Scar aka Hollow Triumph" The Scar is somewhat underrated as a film noir but powerful performances by Joan Bennett and Paul Henreid as Johnny Muller, and stylish direction from Steve Sekely make this a gripping film with some very effective twists. All of the ingredients of Noir are present with the flawed characters, dark settings and the inevitable tragedies. Henreid sees a way of escaping from his troubles by stealing the identity of a psychiatrist. Ultimately, irony plays its part in the destiny of the leading characters. Although Johnny Muller appears as a highly intelligent criminal, he makes a fundamental blunder that could expose him. However, the vagaries of human nature allow him to succeed with his impersonation with only a charlady detecting him. Look out for a wonderful cameo from Alvin Hammer as Jerry, the garage attendant who dreams of becoming a famous ballroom dancer.
If you are a fan of Film Noir, I would recommend adding the film to your collection.
The Ipcress File (1965)
Fleming would have approved....
I suspect that Ian Fleming would have preferred the James Bond films to have been closer to the Harry Palmer movies than the over the top series that relied on special effects and huge budgets but were so short on substance. The Ipcress file has a gritty realism that the Bond films lack. Michael Caine is brilliant in the role with some of the same character traits as James Bond but far more vulnerability. The Ian Fleming books portrayed Bond in a similar way. Sure, he had his expensive tastes for the good things in life but the films left out the character. The producers of the Bond films would do well to add some of the Harry Palmer realism to their films.