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Patti Cake$ (2017)
Warm funny star is born (Danielle MacDonald that is)
18 June 2017
I saw this at the Sydney Film Festival 2017.

This movie is the typical youth dreaming of becoming a star and then we route for him/her as they are rejected by the establishment only to rise like a phoenix. Why so they keep making them? Because we love them is why. The beauty here is the parallels with the star Danielle MacDonald.

Danielle is a Sydney girl, who could not get noticed down under and went State-side to find her niche. Her talent is unstoppable and she does dirty Jersey (their words in credits not mine) proud.

The rapping is brilliant. I can't understand most of the stuff they play on the radio but given the context, the lyrics are poignant cries to the world of her plight.

Go - be inspired by Killer P and try stop singing P B N J days after you see the movie.
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Bawdy romp
18 June 2017
Loved it. We saw it at the Sydney Film Festival.

The film will struggle to find the audience it deserves because selling a medieval bawdy romp in today's market is difficult. I think back to the 70's and there were many more of these.

The cast is fun and the presence of quality actors such as Nick Offerman and John C Reily show it is not an ultra-low soft-porn production, though the titling could be referencing that at the start.

I saw this at the same weekend as the Beguiled, also about a group of women cloistered who encounter a single male. LH is far more fun and a better use of your time.

Set in Tuscany (no production notes on filming locations) it is prettily shot.

Nudity is not overused, there are a couple of breast shots and the full frontal stuff is in the distance by firelight so hardly tittilating. Nothing that was not done ad nauseum through the 70's
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Well worth your time
24 May 2017
We saw this as part of an AACTA preview and so had the producer, director and Aaron Pedersen in a Q&A afterwards.

This movie is tight and very well written. I usually cringe when seeing movies which are written and directed by the same person. These movies tend to either need development and someone to say "no" that will not work or meandering messes. There was none of that in this movie.

Everything is fleshed out so we do not get two-dimensional characters. We care enough about everyone and even the dog and baby have their moments, that are believable and interesting. I like the decisions and twists in the plotting. There is nothing ridiculous (read: American exceptionalism) in it. People don't suddenly morph into Rambo in this movie and it is better for it.

This is violent but not gratuitous splatter-porn.
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The Daughter (2015)
Flawless acting - I question if it matches 21st C sensibilities
22 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
As you will have read, this is an adaptation of a late 19th-century play by Ibsen. The last film interpretation was also Australian in 1983.

The casting of an American to represent the estranged son returning from the USA for the wedding was good as it removed the need to explain the return. These days with Facebook etc one questions if he would be so distant from his high school best friend. Also, should his accent be a pronounced given his Australian roots?

That said, it was a well-paced drama. Ibsen can be heavy but this did not drag and felt of the moment. The language is now, the tone is now my only concern is the ending as I question whether the ending rings as true today as it may have in the past. Sure, Hedvig has other triggers, which to a young adult would be graver than the question of one's ancestry.

The other characters are left hanging in the movie, which seems to move from Christian in the beginning as the protagonist to Hedvig at the end. Christain and his family are unresolved as a plot point.

Sam Neil and Geoffrey Rush are brilliant, pulling back from a stage bombast, which could have made the movie feel like a play. Leslie and Otto are also good, though Otto is under-developed given she is the pivot to the story.
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Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Powerful - well acted piece
22 September 2016
As someone from Sydney, Australia I was proud at the way this was filmed. Using the Hollywood model, there would have been lots of sets but using actual buildings allowed a lot of warmth to come through in the natural light. Gibson is a fine director, I was impressed with his framing, he shoots very closely for the acting stuff (more head and shoulder) which is quite interesting on the eye. Using more natural light it is quite beautiful. I suspect Gibson will not yet have been forgiven for his personal life to get the recognition he deserves.

This movie could have been another Forest Gump, it could overly sentimental, instead, carries an appropriate amount of sincerity. The backstory is a major part of the movie. Doss is portrayed as uneasy with the girls who fell for the first pretty thing he saw. This could have been so Forest Gump-like but strikes a nice chord.

The cast was excellent. Hugo Weaving was perfection. He carried the first half of the movie as the battle-fatigued (PTSD) WW1 vet father. Some may complain that the women are poorly portrayed as are the Japanese, who are largely like ants coming from their mound or canon fodder.

As brutal as the second half is, I am sure it could not convey how truly gallant Doss was or brutal it was in reality.
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Snow Monkey (2015)
Long but rewarding experience
15 September 2016
Rare will you see a documentary as long as this 2 1/2 hour piece of magic. George Gittoes is an artist first and foremost, making a documentary, he understands layers of complexity.

Gittoes is also the centre of the documentary set in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The city is in the shadow of Tora Bora, and so you know some very bad people are nearby and war has left no real law and order. The Taliban are around, they make an appearance a few times and you are fearful it could go bad but in its place is a level of lawlessness that permeates to the children. One "Steel", who is the poster boy of the movie is a sociopathic child, who steals and maims other children. Gittoes does not judge him or anyone and you see him lovingly offering him a path to a better life. You know he will not change but the viewer has some empathy afterwards as you get a sense that this is not necessarily his own doing.

The structure of the documentary is unwieldy. Four fine documentaries in a traditional sense could have been made but the longer format gives context for which no explanation is offered directly. Like art, the viewer has their own experience, whereas a documentary is more about the maker's experience. Note: much of the camera-work is done by the children or Gittoes' local friends but they are more than competent.

The last twenty minutes covers a suicide bombing. Harrowing stuff as we see the dead, the dying and mutilated. Powerful stuff which could have been its own movie if explored.
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Sucker (I) (2015)
Fine but not great
12 September 2016
I saw this as part of AACTA screenings. I was neither pleased nor disappointed by this movie.

The movie is based on a comedy stage show. I found issues with this as it was not particularly well structured. This movie shows a good sized budget with the fine cast with Timothy Spall doing his schtick. Spall is good but too much of a caricature to be believable, he pulls out some of his older pieces from Potter, Willows et al, the problem I had was that as a conman you should not see him coming, he needs to be believable instead he is a larger than life parody.

The principle character, Lawrence, is supposed to grow if it is a coming of age. Other than the final act he seemed totally out of his depth until he suddenly became a master card shark.

This movie needed development. There was stuff about con artists not having friends but I needed to see the loneliness of this life. The cons looked a bit high school, I can understand the opening as Lawrence learns but he needed to be en pointe by the end.
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Red Billabong (2016)
Flawed - I wish it was better. A few laughs
6 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
There is a reference to Scooby Doo in the movie and sadly much of the movie resembled the reference in terms of depth of character but in many other references. The combi = mystery mobile. The brave dog = Scooby The hammy American trying to buy the land. For all of those in Murica relax, it is an Aussie with a bad accent.

This story needed many, many rewrites to make this thing sing. Sadly the usual Aussie formula of writer/director/producer being the same guy or gal rang true here. Nobody said "hey," this needs to be tighter or this makes no sense.

-----For example ---- Brother had more drugs than Pablo Escobar and he was supposed to be dealing on the side. He seemed quite open to his brother about such a lot of drugs. Considering the drugs - everyone is too cute etc.

The went to the town to buy food for breakfast but did not return until nightfall, all the better for the creepy scenes.

What happened to the tribe? Only the tribal leader appears in the final scene.

This movie is fun but really needed to be a lot tighter.

The acting is fine for the two leads, the rest were clichéd if not hammy.

The CGI was always going to be a problem as it is a monster movie it is hard to make something believable yet not of this world.
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Downriver (2015)
Confusing gay drama
30 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This movie divided the household. I thought it was messily written and improbable in its story line. While my partner thought it was moving and atmospheric.

This moodily shot movie was shot in the upper reaches of the Yarra. The muddy creek running through Melbourne. The river looks slow and moody. I wanted more sense of foreboding in the place. There is a bar scene with an ex-partner of one of the boys, but nobody cares when a child killer comes home. As we saw from the Bolger murder, this is unlikely.

I wanted to care or find out what happened to the missing boy but I didn't by the end. It really is a gay drama rather than a mystery. Sadly, the gay subject matter is all about child murder, blackmail, mutilation, and assault to name a few. It could have been an Aussie Mystic River.

A clearer story line with better focus and a simpler story would be better. It could have been improved simply by better flashbacks which would have filled in the plot holes.
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Disappointing - too lazy but some nice moments.
30 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This has divided our household. I was disappointed while my partner thought it was another Japanese Story (same writer/director).

The movie is broken into different perspectives (chapters based on differing characters)

The first part of the story (Grace's story) felt very teen angst. Girls on a bus running away. It ends with a penniless girl trying to walk the Nullabor. It made no sense. We do not know why the ran away or get anything from this action.

The bulk of the movie is of other characters' stories. They overlap but better storytellers use the later stories to enhance what you have just seen. This is only lightly done. Some of the scenes are quite funny, and this should have been the heart of the movie. A little like "The Road to Nhill".

The final act the writer falls back to Japanese Story and throws a huge curve ball. Once is interesting, Toni Collette acted the crap out of JS, but to me, it was a cheap letdown to do the same concept twice.

The acting was competent based on what they were given. Terry Norris is a star. The non-teen stars did excellent comedic turns even in the face of their child running away to who knows where. She may have been kidnapped and the tone is light. So when you are expected to get to the change, it does not feel right.

The outback, anyone watching Australian movies sees more outback in the cinema they could care to see. In this case, the DP could have used warmer tones, wider shots. Just look at Ivan Sen's Goldstone. If you are going to use it. don't be lazy.
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Girl Asleep (2015)
One of the best shot Aussie films (may contain spoiler)
22 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I was pleasantly surprised by this lovely stage adaptation.

The first thing you get in this movie is the opening scene. I do not know how long it was but it is one continuous static shot with two kids talking, in the background lots of little activities pass by which keep the long shot interesting. To have two young actors do such a long piece is worth the price of admission.

The movie is set in the 1970's, it is not stated at the beginning but the art direction is fantastic. The outside shots, dressed sets and clothing are detailed and layered. The colours pop in the burnt orange and browns of the day. Though growing up in Sydney I do not remember the beret/tea cosy hats some of the boys wore, (may be an Adelaide thing).

I do question their target market. It was an adult play with adults playing the children. The age-appropriate cast are brilliant. I fear it is not going to grab the young audience as would something like Red Dog or Paper Planes. Also, there is a little swearing which will prevent school excursions. There is some adult subtext but it is reasonably safe. Being chased by a daddy-monster... ?

Go and enjoy. It is not a mainstream flick but you will enjoy it.
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Good - Seen Sydney Film Fest 2016
9 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a nice vehicle for Steve Coogan and Andrea Riseborough. The film is about the old pre-Mandela South Africa and it does not illuminate any of the current issues they may face, so it could be called a period piece.

This is a courtroom drama and we do not see Andrea's character outside the courtroom setting, which is a pity as it could have added some depth to the issues. There is a touch of depth added by the protagonist's tennis buddies.

The story is moving but we know the steps to the end early and the movie just gets us there. There is a scene with Steve Coogan running along a beach, obviously this was to show he was troubled by the case but he was set up in the first scene as an anti-capital punishment campaigner and so he should not be shocked.
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Mr. Holmes (2015)
Lovely small movie
8 June 2015
Ian McKellen plays Sherlock Holmes as a 60 yo and a 93 yo. Both are excellent as without layers of makeup he gets the physicality of both roles perfect.

This movie is all about Ian McKellen and his acting ability... and it is a masterclass. Laura Linney is fine in this very small cast, though I question whether she was right for the role. Too upright and groomed for a middle aged war widow. Not her fault, but she was meant to be the foil for the son who is bright and full of potential and she is offering to bring him to Portsmouth to follow in her footsteps.

Beautifully shot, lots of external shots and small cast show off the small budget But the acting is superb. Definitely bound to be a favourite in the boutique cinema.
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More gastro-tourism than a food show
30 April 2009
I love this show not as a a cooking show. The cooking is a waste and I can't believe that they could put a cookbook out. That said I love the light and beauty of Spain besides where in the world can you go to lovely places and eat a metre long churros and I am not talking about horrible fast-food places.

The cast are likable and it has a pleasant conversational tone to them. The joy of this series is that it is not commercialised and though it is shot on a shoestring is very well photographed. It is interesting that the cast would come and go over the episodes to catch up with their lives. Claudia Bassols is a gorgeous and holds her own against GP (as Mario Batali likes to call her) It shows why Spain is at the forefront of the best restaurants in the world and I want to kidnap Frank Gehry and put him to work transforming the Sydney great locations but crap architecture.
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Rats and Cats (2007)
Strange they did a Russell Crowe movie and forgot to invite him
20 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a little off-kilter, never outright funny and unless you take this as a bit of social commentary of actors and in particular Russell Crowe, has little to say. The character is way too self-important. Some of the gags have a long set up for little reward. Basically, it is about a Aussie movie actor, who leaves the industry to live in a quiet little seaside town, who is tracked down by a journalist doing a "where are they now?" piece. Nobody seems to care that he is still there days later following him around, as a regular piece in the magazine it would not budget for such a in-depth piece and other than curiosity could not see the attraction he has to the actor, Darren McWarren.

I hope I never make it to the location where it was shot as this form of seaside Victoria looks quite sad.

I did not like the arty discordant music either.

I hope this finds its market as I do not know who this was made for. Stay around after the credits for the final piece they tacked on where Darren McWarren speaks, it says volumes about the film and prophetically the Australian film industry.
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September (2007)
Quiet but simple movie
25 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a story about two families, one a white generational wheat farmer and the other the aboriginal family indentured to the farm who are not paid but are given food and lodging and nothing else. They live 40 miles from town and 2 miles from the nearest neighbour. Dialogue is minimal as it would be in these circumstances with them being simple, quiet people.

The two boys mirror their father, who mirrored theirs so we know what is the destiny of the boys as it is mapped out for them. The change is the granting of rights to the aboriginals such as a right to a salary. This has consequences to both families.

The film reflects the speed of life in the beautifully shot countryside, yes very little happens but the small bits are tiny bright gems.

I'm sorry they tried to put a little of the "coming of age" bit as it felt over-sentimentalised as these boys would have been quite worldly in things such as boxing, driving etc
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A Cold Summer (2003)
25 February 2004
I applaud a director who puts out a movie like this, it is well-shot with three good leads but a lack of budget is well-evident (not as though that fact is a crime).

Each of the characters has "issues", which are revealed through the story-line. They are all a little off-centre but we have to deal with their personas they reflect to each other to try and like them. We rarely see them away from this environment to learn more about who they are, so we feel a little detached while they get naked and do the wild thing but unashamedly this is not a love story.

I understand the script was developed through taping the rehearsal process. It is novel and very natural to the actors but it lacks the drive on the narrative and the understanding of the characters.

I gave it 6/10,as I wasn't moved nor did I care but I certainly was not not bored.
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Criminal Ways (2003)
Too much for the kids but too stupid for anyone over 10.
16 September 2003
I loved Wogboy, Nick Giannopoulos' earlier hit. The Wannabes was a major disappointment to me. Wogboy came from where the writer understood and has successfully used this genre over the past 15 or so years on stage and TV.

The Wannabes starts of with some badly drawn characters "the world's worst actor", cardboard cutout crims and the obvious bad girl with the heart of gold for love interest. Needless to say, everything else follows the formula.

Many ideas should and would have been discarded with re-writes, the "Flashdance" reference is one and their big break where they are "discovered" just left me confused for the mess that was on the screen.

Don't take the kids as it's language content is definitely not for the kids but can adults sit through guys doing a bad Hi-5 imitation without the cute girls to look at?
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Horseplay (2003)
A nag!!
6 September 2003
This movie has the makings of what could be a good movie but is misses trying to juggle too many balls in the air. This is shown by the way they needed 10 minutes of Hugo Weaving's great voice-over work just to try and set the scene. Way too complicated for what is a farce. Jason Donovan is the best thing in it.
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Blurred (2002)
As pointless as Schoolies itself
3 November 2002
Schoolies is a pointless exercise... Go to Gold Coast, get drunk and have sex. Worthwhile ambitions maybe but not highly intellectual. The plot is a simple as a few sentences assigned to each character and nobody is helped by the cliches doled out here.

Something that would help is the casting. Everybody looks too old. These characters are supposedly innocents embarking out on their own in faltering steps to adulthood yet they all look way too old to be believable in the role.
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Garage Days (2002)
Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll - Sydney Style
17 September 2002
I saw this movie as part of the AFI screenings. The movie is very upbeat and you walk out feeling very satisfied with the experience. The direction is excellent with some nice special effects esp. slow motion which is used for character thought pieces.

There is great use of music, including the Cure but we don't really see them play much at all. Why there are probably many reasons probably because we know they are actors and that would be a little indulgent to have long mimed pieces. I don't think the band has a name.

The plot starts off by being obvious. I was thinking, another "band wants to hit the big time" movie. Yes it is but it works due to this being only the starting point. Although the usual cliches are found here they aren't as laboured.

Drugs and sex will means it will not suit the munchkins.

Loved it!!!
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