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12 reviews in total 
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Blackthorn (2011)
43 out of 56 people found the following review useful:
Western cinematography is not dead..., 11 September 2011

Westerns are all about cinematography, and Blackthorn is no exception.

Wide, sweeping vistas are the order of the day -- but this time, they're something new: South America, and in particular, Bolivia. This tale of an aging-exiled American outlaw and his attempts to return home may seem a bit straightforward and tame, but in the end it's not and you'll be glad to have spend the hour and forty-five minutes partaking in this latest great example of the genre.

The directing isn't too bad either and the actors generally deliver their lines well, although a few are a bit over-read.

For a modern western that's not an adolescent fantasy and has a great deal of heart, it gets 9/10.

14 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Beware of those whose path you cross... you may be surprised just who they really are., 31 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A stylised remake of a 1960's Japanese historical drama, 13 Assassins focuses less here on any attempt at claiming to present hard fact, and instead concentrates on the stoic camaraderie between the cast of protagonists, and the eventual impossible battle they must wage against a psychopathic warlord.

Director Takashi Miike is not known for tame movies, and here he does not disappoint, forcing the audience to confront a victim of warlord Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira's cruelty, and prompting his actress to give the most heart-wrenching scream I've ever heard in a film. Happily, the gore is not too over-the-top; there are severed heads, but we do not see them being severed. The only exception is an unrealistic amount of blood generated due to an exploding samurai, but the irony of this becomes apparent in the end.

Unlike the original portrayal of Naritsugu, Gorô Inagaki's portrayal is of a despot, bored of peacetime life and wishing to return to the ways of war. Indeed, at the end one is left with the impression that Naritsugu inflicted all of his cruelty only to create the chain of events that led to his demise (although I don't believe he truly intended to die quite just yet.) Kôji Yakusho's Shinzaemon is stoic but identifiable, portraying a leader who connects to his followers (and his audience) better than most I've seen in recent years (if he speaks English, he might want to consider a move to LA).

The battle sequence is convoluted, but watchable, and the glimpse rendered into feudal Japan, although perhaps not entirely accurate in historical terms, gives one a better understanding of where Japanese culture came from.


There is a definite departure from reality, however, in the character of the guide the 12 meet in the forest (the '13th Assassin'): he dies several times, and it quickly becomes pretty clear he's this film's interpretation the Buddhist 'Monkey God'. This leads to an amusing close, as the last samurai left alive is left in disbelief when, after seeing the guide run through, the guide is left without even a scratch. This leaves the viewer with a mild impression the 12 had 'divine approval' of their bloody activities, and ends things on a bit of a lighter note than the simple grim specter of the massacre, and the irony of the feudal system where to obey was one's foremost duty, regardless of the insanity of those one served.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Kevin Bloody Wilson Made A Movie!, 7 September 2011

Having made Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson's Christmas album pretty much compulsory annual listening I was curious as to what would happen ought said inspiration result in a cartoon. Unfamiliar myself with the whole 'Little Johnny' series of jokes, I kind of went on into this one based solely on an idea of Wilson's humour. There I was not disappointed. If you want to see dunny gags and schoolchildren using the F-word inappropriately this is going to be quite (and repeatedly) rewarding and on this basis alone I wholeheartedly recommend it.

That said, it's a bit long. To meet feature length, they really pushed their 80 minutes, but a 45 minute 'special' on one of those FoxTel channels that doesn't mind the foul language might have been a better bet (and maybe better funded!). A series of amusing but non-topical jokes and some antics involving a rooster pad the time but detract (my partner fell asleep) from the core premise of the work: Johnny wants to win a go-cart race to get the girl.

That last bit does go entertainingly well besides the maddening insistence to apply Motion- rendered DOF to animation. I like my cartoons depth-of-field free.

There's a few tasteless but yet chronically appropriate ethnic jokes (and I think one gay one) and it makes families from the 1960's a bit less spank-happy when they were (I grew up in the late 1970's and had my hide tanned seemingly daily for crying out loud!) but generally, it was a fun if perhaps unnecessarily extended ride, and I give it 7 out of 10.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Best Harrison Ford In Ages..., 27 February 2011

A laid-off morning-show producer lands herself executive producer of a failing program, which she then blackmails an ageing news-anchor into hosting in Morning Glory. All of the cast does quite well in this film, which I suspect only ran into trouble because people really don't want to know the mechanics of television, and I have to say it's a pretty tight knitted production despite the unfortunate choice of 'IBS' for the fictional broadcaster -- but the real glowing star here was Ford, who gave a far more genuine performance than Crystal Skull, and perhaps since Air Force One.

Don't give this a miss. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry. Maybe the most under- looked movie of 2010.

5 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
'Wentworth' Light Edition, 18 July 2013

The concept of life in a women's prison is not a new one to television -- the Australian series 'Prisoner', made from 1979-1986, and this year's Aussie remake of that series, 'Wentworth', are essentially the same plot borrowed by 'Orange Is The New Black', if albeit a little stronger on the violence, and a little lighter on the sex.

As a contrast to Wentworth, OITNB holds its own thanks to its comedic differentiation, but it's hard to give this more than a 7 given its obvious lack of originality. That said, NetFlix viewers raged over this year's 'House of Cards' largely oblivious of the 1990's British mini-series that introduced the world to the original FU, Francis Urqhart. It seems that making international series its own is proving a quite successful strategy on Netflix' part.

So, although a worthwhile watch, I would encourage Netflix's audience to check out the series upon which their net-TV's new offerings have been based -- they'll find some of the similarities quite striking.

"Smash" (2012)
68 out of 87 people found the following review useful:
'Smash' just "Wants to be Loved by You....", 17 January 2012

NBC takes it head-on in its ongoing battle with the cable channels with Smash, an edgy take on the inner workings of Broadway. With production values you would expect more from AMC or Starz, Smash is sure to light up broadcast television like nothing has in years.

The plot is simple in premise: thanks to the observations of an eager intern, a couple of Broadway producers decide to work on a musical featuring the life of Marilyn Monroe -- despite the fact that the last attempt on that subject matter failed abysmally. But, as spectacular as the potential subject matter might be, it is the inter-relationships between the characters involved in that production that inevitably make the show 'work' -- just as it is in a great musical.

There is the blonde 'born to play' Marilyn, and the brunette who just does it oh-so-much-better. There is the conflict between a producer and a director who just cannot stand each other. There are the money problems faced by an executive producer cutting it just a wee bit fine. There's the difficulty producers face running a production 16 hours a day and maintaining any semblance of a home life.

Not only is there entertainment value in the acts that make up the musical themselves, but the eye-opening realism of the personal dynamics involved in mounting a musical on Broadway ensure that this program will not run out of steam any time soon.

Frankly, I'm just surprised this show didn't happen any sooner. Congratulations, NBC -- you've got a great one in 'Smash'.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Awesome, but the lead actors should step back, 26 October 2013

The pilot episode (and I'm calling it a pilot on purpose) of Star Trek Continues is lavish in its faithfulness, and with a touch of later canon inserted here and there, it creates an intriguing milieu, more than worthy of the original, enjoyable to witness.

However, while the lead actors have quite obviously channeled their passion for Trek into making the production values what they are -- and this love shows -- if they want this endeavour to truly succeed they need to take a step back, and consider re-casting their characters with more mainstream actors, not themselves so invested in the show, not involved in production.

If they can see their way to do this, I expect 'Star Trek Continues' will easily grow beyond simply being an extremely well-produced fan tribute and become a genuine, credible new series, that might even find some longevity. If they don't, I sadly suspect that although it will provide an amusing, momentary diversion for some hard-core Star Trek fans, it will not prove memorable to the general television-viewing audience, and be quickly forgotten.

Re-cast and re-shoot the pilot, and this may well be ready for 'prime time', becoming a true part of Roddenberry's legacy. You have something special here -- don't smother it with your own desire to take the stage.

29 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
Surprisingly good..., 21 April 2011

I don't think it's a spoiler to say this film has a great deal to do with Collateral. Unfortunately, I think that perhaps the distributors also felt the same way, to the point of rejecting the film for fear of some kind of backlash. Although superficially it does share much with Collateral, it goes its own way, and has its own conclusion. And it's a good one. It may not be the most high- budget movie, and it may not be the best edited movie, but it does deliver better than most efforts seen lately, even in the big-budget category. Cuba may have a new career here as an Ice-T reminiscent bad-ass. Worth a matinée ticket.

For what it is, 8/10.

The Tunnel (2011/I)
14 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
It's a good student film..., 19 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

... but sadly, one has to rate it as if it was a commercial release, because on IMDb there's no distinction.

In the old days (of not-too-long ago) this probably could have picked up a distributor as a weekday matinée or a drive-in B-movie. Now, it's the latest example of 'donation-ware' filmmaking, distributed through torrents managed by 'free-media' outfit VODO.

Now, as a VODO-released production, it's pretty good. The bar is not high. The storyline is stupid. The actors behave in tired, predictable horror-movie cliché's. The cinematography is okay, until the fourth wall is broken by bright, shiny plastic buttons and power-points, and the realisation that the 'night vision' footage is just used to make the runs down the hallways seem longer. But, from what I've seen in VODO-released stuff, it's probably the cream of a very limited crop. (I know, it's very difficult to make long-form visual media, ie. TV or feature-length movies, and I respect that, but once again, this is IMDb, not some feel-good community media forum.)

The frustrating thing is that technically, this is a very good film. If only the other aspects involved in movie production had reached that level, well, I don't think it would have been distributed by VODO. (I mean, it might have been picked up.) Let me explain.

First, you can only recycle the (I'm guessing an abandoned factory or warehouse of some kind) limited available space so many times before suspension of belief becomes a major problem. 25 minutes? Sure! Outer Limits and its ilk did it a million times. 44 minutes? Maybe. I think X- Files got away with it once or twice. 90 minutes...? Good luck with that!

The editors decide the solution is to pad the run-time out with faux-documentary footage, but (secondly) the major problem with that, especially from the point of view of a horror movie (and this is _not_ a spoiler because it's just painfully obvious) is unless it's a post- mortem voice-over or some-such, the people being interviewed DIDN'T DIE. As such, having long, drawn-out scenes involving how frightened these characters are have almost zero impact, since we know they're going to live! Especially (third) when one of those scenes is some bizarre homage to the "I'm so scared" scene from The Blair Witch Project.

(Fourth) the script itself feels like a first draft that someone thought was so cool it didn't need any revision, because it was PERFECT! Real productions throw scripts through a meat- grinder of a million 'script supervisors' for a reason -- even if it was written by Lucas (and especially if it was written by Lucas!) Even if a director is billed as a writer-director, their script still goes through that mill. Typically, there's an editor that supervises a number of editors. So it goes -- the reasoning is that, although you want continuity, you don't want your production to get 'same-y'.

Same-y makes people post reviews where the summary says something like, "It's a good student film..."

Which is a shame, because (fifth) I know personally and for a fact that there is a veritable legion of talent here in Australia that would love to work for free, especially for a Denton gig. But productions here tend to be closed -- 'tight-knit' small production groups are supposed to somehow 'be better'. If that's true, then someone really should set the international distributors straight, because they've got it all wrong!

They don't have it all wrong. If you can't take criticism of your script, you don't belong in the film business. If you can't share editing, sound, or whatever it is you do, you don't belong in the film business.

The film business is about involving as much talent in your production as you can afford, not about founding a little club that just happens to make 'movies'. Come on, Australia; get with the program.

Good luck next time.

19 out of 53 people found the following review useful:
Information must be free -- but at what cost?, 16 June 2013

Firstly, Julian Assange is not the 'second coming' -- not even in his own circles. His 'hacker' background is by no means unique, and was almost a common experience amongst 'geeks' who grew up during the late 80's and early 90's. Being investigated for, or even charged with, hacking / phreaking / fraud offences was as common amongst his peers as trailer trash being arrested for shoplifting, or simple assault. (Heck, if you were trailer trash with a modem you might have been charged with all of them!)

The information required to exploit various devices, systems and networks was freely available, if you knew where to look (or what number to dial), and the mechanics of doing so were often trivial (Captain Crunch whistle, anyone?) Anyhow, let's just get all of that out of the way, and accept that for the purposes of this review, Assange was, prior to Wikileaks, nothing particularly extraordinary, just someone in possession of some useful but dangerous knowledge.

However, having the chutzpah to publish classified information when 'everyone knows' what would happen to you for doing so is really what differentiated Assange from the rest of the crowd -- no one can or should dispute that. It's surprising he hasn't already had an 'accident', and he should be applauded for his evident vigilance in keeping himself alive. But, there are other documentaries that do that. What this particular documentary seemingly wants to explore is not whether what Assange did was exceptional (we already agree that it was), but whether how he elected to bring his 'secrets' to the world was done in the most appropriate, compassionate way.

'We Steak Secrets' recognises that, to some, this is important -- even if many of Assange's supporters think that it isn't.

Bradley Manning is a tragic individual. Those who find themselves questioning their gender identity (often before pursuing gender reassignment) do not typically make the best choices. (This is why to proceed on such a path one usually needs to see a psychiatrist.) It is an incredibly confusing, frightening and yet euphoric time and I don't generally advise people in such circumstances to make any decisions that could change their lives in any real degree while they mull over their future, since they're not likely to be their best choices in retrospect.

Being transgendered may not itself be a 'mental illness', but the anxiety, depression and mania associated with coming to terms with being so certainly is, and one can't be considered of 'sound mind' in such a state -- this is an important point to make, and one the documentary attempts to impart through Manning's IRC chats with the sad little man who would eventually turn him in.

Obviously, deciding to copy a large amount of classified data and deliver it to Wikileaks would qualify as a 'poor decision', especially when you're in the US military, and have practically zero likelihood of defending your actions to your superiors. This is what the documentary suggests, and to do so is not slander -- it merely tries to explain to the layperson why such a bright young man would choose to martyr himself in such a dramatic way when very few others (if anyone) would ever consider embarking on such an ambitious but dangerous course of action.

The documentary assumes that a completely rational individual in a similar scenario would never jeopardise his personal security in such a rash fashion irrespective of a perceived collective humanitarian benefit -- which is not an unfair assumption to make -- and asks what made Manning different; what could lead him to behave so contrary to that norm.

In doing so, 'We Steal Secrets' makes a decent hypothesis.

Moving on from Manning to Assange, the documentary then raises the question, "If Assange was aware of Manning's personal difficulties, was he irresponsible in choosing to receive the classified information, and go ahead with publishing it, knowing what would result?" This is an ethical conundrum that is open for debate, but open for debate it most certainly is -- regardless of whether Assange's supporters like it or not.

Although Assange evidently concluded that releasing the information was of greater value to humanity than preserving the remainder of Bradley Manning's productive life, others may not have felt similar. But go ahead Assange did, at full steam.

He made his choice, fair enough -- but could Assange have redacted details that weren't all that important to the context of the information, such as the names of informants? Could he have released statistics, or related overall 'stories' told by the data, rather than the data itself, to mitigate some of the consequence to Manning? Would Manning's looming punishment have been reduced had the information been handled differently?

We can only speculate -- but we are entitled to, make no mistake.

It's not 'unfair' for the documentary to ask these questions, either. It's also not 'unfair' to continue on and examine Assange's exploitation of his subsequent 'rock-star' status -- after all, it speaks to his motivations, and casts a shadow on his supposed altruism. However, although to me the documentary tells the unfortunate tale of a fame-seeker who took advantage of someone in the grip of reconciling a very difficult truth in order to further his own agenda, others could interpret it differently.

I'm not sure how, but I'm sure they could. Can you?

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