Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
After all of the publicity and the hype that preceded it, Baz Luhrmann's larger than life and highly entertaining epic, Australia, has finally arrived.
Here is a film that works on multiple levels; thrilling action adventure, detailed period piece, moving romance, stirring war movie, and it also continues the resurrection of the western.
As a result, the sum of its vast parts make for a long running film (165 min), yet every minute is filled to the brim with captivating detail.
What Luhrmann does well with Australia is tap into the majestic allure of the outback, and amplifies it. This is no surprise, since he is a master at approaching his material with a fantastical bent, creating truly memorable and often surreal sequences, which Australia provides plenty.
Aboriginal culture and its relationship with nature, in particular, have fuelled Luhrmann's imaginative vision. The heart and soul of Australia lies within the mythology and customs of Australia's indigenous people, and their often tumultuous relationship with European settlers.
This is made flesh in the form of young Nullah, a mixed race Aboriginal boy on the run from the authorities, who want to forcibly remove him from his home, and place him in a "civilised" environment. He is played by Brandon Walters, who is impressive in his debut performance.
With Nullah playing narrator, the viewer is introduced to Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), an English aristocrat who inherits her late husband's cattle station, which is located in the Northern Australian city of Darwin. Caught in a rivalry with fellow beef exporter King Carney (Bryan Brown), Lady Ashley enlists the services of The Drover (Hugh Jackman) to herd 1500 head of cattle in order to fulfil a contract with the Australian Army.
Both Kidman and Jackman two exceptionally gifted actors who, with the help of Australia, have overcome recent rocky patches in their careers provide noteworthy performances and believable on screen chemistry.
Tall, pale, and thin, Kidman plays regal very well, courting an in full force stiff upper lip, that gives way to several funny moments, while trying to break out of her icy exterior. Of particular mention is her vain attempt to herd cattle; and a woeful rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" to a clearly amused Walters.
Jackman, meanwhile, evokes Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and Humphrey Bogart to fine effect as the no nonsense, hands on Drover, while also providing eye candy for female viewers.
Supporting roles are superbly fulfilled by top shelf Australian talent: Bryan Brown is effective yet given a disappointing limited amount of screen time; Jack Thompson seems to be gleefully enjoying his role as an alcoholic lawyer; and a scene stealing David Wenham is all evil smirks and nasty attitude as the films key villain.
Yet the most impressive character in Australia has to be its awe inspiring and vibrant landscape, which is captured magnificently by cinematographer Mandy Walker.
Unfortunately, the films use of artificial visual effects does clash with the natural beauty that the outback projects.
Australia is a film which clearly parades its influences on screen. References to The African Queen, Gone with the Wind, and Big Country are particularly notable.
Yet it is no mere carbon copy of the films from decades past. Rather, Australia is an enchanting throwback to an era of film-making which strived to entertain its audiences with dazzling spectacle and melodrama, coupled with a historical snapshot of circa early 1940s Darwin, and all of the beauty and ugliness that comes with it.
Ten Empty (2008)
Ten Empty contains a solid first hour, but loses steam in its final act
Ten Empty is a film which Australian actors Brendan Cowell and Anthony Hayes had been developing for over several years. It stars long time Australian TV and theater actor Daniel Frederiksen (in his lead film debut) as Elliot, a big city player who returns to his childhood home in Adelaide 10 years after running off to Sydney to fulfill the wishes of his father Ross (Geoff Morrell) and his step-mum -formerly Aunt- Diana (Lucy Bell) and become the Godfather of their new baby, his half-brother. Almost immediately awkwardness driven by bitterness sets in when he returns. Diana plagued by Catholic guilt for marrying his sister's husband tries to accommodate Elliot with the best of intentions. However Elliot does not want her generosity, nor does he care much of his half-brother, who he casts aside like a bad disease when asked to take care of him. The fireworks really go off when Elliot comes face to face with his father. A culture clash of sorts ensues between the blue-collar dad and the big city son. The most trivial of gestures leads to colossal arguments, such as when Ross offers his son home brewed beer, only to be defiantly turned down because he only drinks red wine. A subsequent dinner scene turns into an even bigger argument, and a backyard BBQ highlights the widening gap between old school sensibilities and new school sensitivities. At first it feels like a cynical look at Australian suburbia that ventures dangerously close to becoming satire. But soon it becomes apparent what is happening. This is not a family story: This is an exorcism. A purging of guilt and remorse for past atrocities that has crippled the spirit of one family. On top of it all hangs the black cloud of mental illness, which took away the mind and life of Elliot's mother (who suffered from bipolar syndrome). Now it is Elliot's brother Brett (played by burgeoning actor Tom Budge) who has succumbed to a (unspecified) mental illness. In turn he has willingly gone mute, will not leave his room, and has become dangerous and suicidal. The family is faced with limited options as to what to do with him, crumbling under the prospect of countless pills on top of a mountain of medical bills for private care. It is a damning commentary on the Australian Governments attitude towards mental illness, and is the films strength. As can be imagined, Ten Empty is a distressing and sad film to watch. Co-writer/director Anthony Hayes sets up tense altercations for his actors, and captures the carnage in several scenes that are held in a single frame, not flinching from the conflict before him. With such heavy material (written by Hayes and Brendan Cowell), powerful performances were needed and are given by its cast. Supporting roles by the amazing Jack Thompson and Cowell lend much needed laughs to counter its heavy moments. Yet for all of its promise, it is a choppy conclusion that stops the film from becoming that something special. This is due to a major flaw in the screenplay which prompted me to question: Why is a man who is clearly mentally disturbed (with suicidal tendencies) left alone without adequate supervision? The answer, of course, is to create a shock drama moment that will have the audience reeling. The problem is that moment had come and gone in the middle of the film, and the fact that the films characters did not take precautions to make sure it would not happen again reeks of poor story telling. It is drama for drama's sake, feels predictable, and undercuts the emotional value expertly built before hand. So while Ten Empty dos contain a lot of good points, it fails to capitalize on the promise felt in its first hour.
Matthew Pejkovic, Matt's Movie Reviews
Hancock is a superhero flick with a twist
Hancock is a superhero movie which holds a more interesting concept compared to its comic book inspired contemporaries, for while those films hold the usual tales of hero's with dual identities who continue to fight the eternal fight of good VS evil, Hancock's main protagonist is a crude superhero living in a PC world who must make amends for the disastrous consequences of his heroic deeds. Former Fresh Prince and current reigning king of the summer blockbuster Will Smith plays the tile character Hancock, a boozing loner and all around prick whose often well intentioned heroism leads to often catastrophic results and a spiraling out of control collateral damage bill. During one of his heroic exhibitions, Hancock saves the life of bleeding heart public relations agent Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who believes that Hancock is in need of a dire image change and offers his services as payback for saving his life. Hancock begrudgingly agrees and is convinced to voluntarily turn himself over to the authorities (who have several hundred outstanding citations against him) and do time in prison in a bid to win public affection and clean up his act. His stint in prison gives way to one of the more hilarious scenes thus far this year involving one prisoners head being thrust into another prisoners rear end! It is crass, but it works. With the first half passed what has been presented is an entertaining urban superhero movie which comes dangerously close to having already shot its load. However, with a switch of genre and some nicely placed twists, a love triangle is established between Hancock, Ray, and Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron) which adds some more spice to the unconventional superhero film. And so it goes, as the film jumps from comedy to action to drama and does so quite nicely. Throughout it all the films three leads adapt very well to the shifts in genre, especially the versatile Will Smith who hits all of the right notes. Charlize Theron who I usually do not look forward to watching due to her often pretentious and dour portrayals of late seems to be having the most fun on screen that I can remember, and low key comedy maestro Jason Bateman continues to forge a reputation of becoming quite the scene stealer, ala Bill Murray. Keeping the film on a steady register is Michael Mann protégé Peter Berg, who was brought in after several directors attached to the film before him moved on to different projects. Berg's gritty tones and shaky cam styling blends very well with the films big budget fodder, most notably the special and visual effects which are a visceral treat. Since Hancock does not play slave to a source material, it does not come off as generic. The only film which comes close to matching its concepts would be the excellent animated film The Incredibles. Yet while its script may be shaky especially with its talk of Gods walking amongst men the films performances and Berg's spirited direction make up for whatever flaws are present.
Matthew Pejkovic, Matt's Movie Reviews
Blood Diamond (2006)
"Blood Diamond" is an unfortunate disappointment
"Blood Diamond" is the story of Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) a fisherman who lives in Sierra Leone where a civil war is being fought between the Government and rebel troops known as the RUF (Revolutionary United Front). When his village is attacked by the rebels, Solomon's family flees as he is abducted and sent to work in the diamond mine fields where the money spent on the precious resource by international companies is used to buy illegal weapons and finance the war. Coming across a large pink diamond, Solomon buries it as government troops attack the mine field throwing all survivors in jail where he comes across Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a former soldier turned diamond smuggler from Zimbabwe. Finding out that Solomon has possession of a diamond that can help him get out of Africa once and for all, Archer makes a deal with Solomon where he will help find his family if he leads him to the diamond. Archer in turn makes comes to an agreement with American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) who will use her resources to help locate Solomon's family in exchange for inside information on who, where and how the illegal diamond trade works. Things however get complicated when Solomon's family is located in a refugee camp minus his son Dia (Kagiso Kuypers) who is tortured, drugged and trained to be a child soldier for the RUF leading to a conflict of interest between Solomon and Archer whose main priority is possession of the diamond first and rescuing Dia second. Meanwhile Archer's employee and former commander Colonel Koetzee (Arnold Vosloo) also wants in on the deal. Directed by Edward Zwick (whose previous film "The Last Samurai" was one of the best of that year), "Blood Diamond" is an unfortunate disappointment which tries to hard to put its message across. The main problem has to do with the fact that I've already seen this film at least half a dozen times before. Corruption, murder and civil war in Africa at the hands of rebels/international companies/governments can make compelling viewing in the hands of the right film maker ("Cry Freedom", "Hotel Rwanda" and "The Constant Gardener" are all great examples). Yet "Blood Diamond" just does not deliver. It doesn't pull at the heart strings like it should, Solomon's dilemma not scoring in the emotional stakes no matter how hard they try, the action scenes are well shot but seem out of place and the movie runs way to long with an extremely dismal and tacky ending ruining whatever credible it had. However it can be a rather brutal film. The body count is high, the beautiful scenery undone by the brutal savagery of the rebels as the disturbing images of brainwashed children, high on drugs and trained to be killers gun down helpless villages. The movies saving grace comes from Leonardo DiCaprio who gives another career defining performance and, along with his work in "The Departed" has won this reviewer over. With a pitch perfect accent, DiCpario plays a man jaded by bitter horrific experience, a classic contradiction as his willingness to do good is undone by his greed. Djimon Honsou is also good with a powerful and emotive display that although is a little over the top at times, his credible presence gives whatever film he appears in a sense of class. Jennifer Connelly's talents unfortunately are wasted, the Oscar winning actress delegated to nothing more than eye candy, although her role may be the most important as the journalist looking for a story big enough to garner the world's attention. And with that comes the question: does "Blood Diamond" make a big enough impact to actually change the attitude of a world obsessed with 'bling'? Or is it a case of to little to late to actually make an impact amongst does whose only source of international affairs comes from the cinema's they frequent? The only thing I know for sure is as long as every rap video contains a Bentley with diamond incrusted steering wheels and every gushing new bride drools over her shiny new rock on her finger, than the message is not getting across quick enough.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Sylvester Stallone comes back swinging!
When I first heard that Sylvester Stallone was going to bring back the Italian Stallion for another round I found the news to be rather unsettling. "Rocky V", while not the best film in the franchise was still (in my opinion) a fitting finale to the series, and the fact that it has been 16 years since the last film (making Stallone 60 years old) did not make things any easier. But I was wrong. Dead wrong. "Rocky Balboa" sees the aging southpaw still living in his house in Philadelphia. Long retired from the sport of boxing, Rocky is now widowed and alone after his beloved wife Adrian (played in previous films by Talia Shire) passed away a few years previously due to cancer while his relationship with his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia) is fragile to say the least since Robert feels he can't be his own man due to his father's celebrity. The owner of an Italian restaurant named after his late wife, Rocky holds court re-living past glory's while once a year on the anniversary of Adrian's death he along with brother in law Pauile (Burt Young) tour the places where he and Adrian had met and fell in love which angers Paulie who does not want to be reminded about how he treated his sister, and tells Rocky that he should let Adrian go. Alone and depressed Rocky goes back to his old stomping ground for a quick drink where he finds 'little' Marie ( the girl from the first film who told Rocky to screw himself now played by Irish actress Geraldine Hughes) working as a bartender. They become fast friends and Rocky offers her and her son Steps (James Francis Kelly III) a job at his restaurant. Around this time ESPN host a simulated computer fight between Rocky and the current undefeated yet disrespected champion Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver) which Rocky wins by knockout. After watching the fight something awakens in Rocky who decides to come out of retirement and box again but only in small time local fights. Receiving the go ahead to box again by the state athletic commission, Rocky is approached by Dixon's managers who want to capitalize on the popularity of the computer fight and set up an exhibition match in Las Vegas. Rocky accepts the challenge only to be faced with a public backlash and the ire of his son, as once again the underdog must go against the odds and unleash the beast that has built up inside of him. A compelling and emotionally touching film that reminds of the first two Rocky movies, "Rocky Balboa" is an excellent finale which reminds just how good an actor Sylvester Stallone is when given the right material. Having played the character five times before Stallone doesn't phone in his performance as he gives Rocky a depth we haven't seen before thanks to his great script which contains some excellent monologues, with Rocky's breakdown in front of Paulie and confrontation with his son two of the better scenes I have seen this year. With Stallone getting older I can't help but feel this movie is more than autobiographical. Indeed this is a man exorcising his demons on screen through his alter ego as Stallone does not shy away from the main issues that have drawn criticism from all corners (myself included), with the biggest issue of his age being met head on with both humor and sincerity. Burt Young is great as Paulie, firing away the often humorous one liner's with ease, while Milo Ventimiglia is a vast improvement when compared to Sage Stallone. Geraldine Hughes absolutely shines as Marie, with Stallone making a wise decision by not having Marie and Rocky fall in love. Like Rocky says, "My wife may be gone, but she is not gone", and I'm sure the fans will agree. The only flaw casting wise lies with Antonio Tarver who not only doesn't have the intimidating presence needed to strike fear in the hearts of the audience (much like Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago), but also lacks character. Now many would say that fault lies within the script, but I must disagree. Are you going to tell me that Ivan Drago was a well written part? That will be a big fat no, yet he was still affective. Direction wise Stallone is on top of his game. Granted there are pacing problems (especially at the start of the film) but once the Rocky theme hits and training montage begins it is pure bliss. The best scene has to be the excellent boxing match between Balboa and Dixon. Starting off as your average HBO covered fight, Stallone creates an emotionally charged slug fest complete with slow motion, black and white color palates mixed with crimson red ala 'Sin City', images of Adrian and Rocky's former trainer Mickey giving encouragement from the grave and Bill Conti's excellent, driving score which in all honestly had me a complete mess at it's conclusion. This is great film making which grabs you by the heart and does not let go. Rocky fans will know what I'm talking about. With six films in 30 years Stallone has created a world which we have in trusted ourselves emotionally. From running up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum to his re-match against Clubber Lang to Rocky kissing his wife's headstone, we have watched the evolution of a beloved character from the highest highs to the crippling lows and back again. Cheers to Sylvester Stallone for the ultimate send off and making it all worth while.