AUGUST RUSH

poster I had high expectations from seeing the trailer for this film months ago. It finally came out in Australia on Thursday and we went and saw it last night.

To say the film peaked at the trailer wouldn’t be an overstatement.

THE SET UP? Evan Taylor is eleven years old and he lives at a boys home in New York state. He doesn’t want to be placed with a family because he is waiting for his parents to find him, deep down he believes that they always wanted him. He stays sane in the face of rejection and bullying through music. He doesn’t have an ipod or anything but he finds music in everything, the wind, footsteps, etc etc. The audience soon learns the genesis of this budding music protege is his parents. A Juilliard trained classical cellist mother and a blue-collar irish rocker father. And their musical romance is a one-night-stand. Evan leaves the boys home and travels to New York to find his parents. The rest of the film is the journey of Evan, his mother and his father to finding each other, unsurprisingly, music is their guide.

THE CAST?
Freddie Highmore is Evan Taylor (a.k.a August Rush). The London native does well in a near flawless American accent and few actors of his age are able to encapsulate pure joy as Highmore does in most of his roles, but excellently in August Rush. Surprisingly for a young actor, even if he is the central character, Highmore gets top billing and it is well deserved.
cellistKeri Russel plays Lyla Novacek, the cellist. I’ve had a girl-crush on Russel ever since Felicity. Just to look at her onscreen is a joy, but in this she actually pulls off the Juilliard trained cellist well. And in most parts, the seeking mother is well realised too. On a side note, there is something ridiculously sensual about cellists that I find totally alluring (in a 100% platonic way).
I wish I could say the same for Jonathan Rhys Meyers. (I’ve had the opposite of a crush on him since Bend it but I’m not letting that little thing get in the way of an objective assessment of his performance). Meyers falls short as the irish front man, Louis Connelly, and love interest to Russel’s character. Something about him seemed like it didn’t fit – a round peg in a square hole type situation. It seems Meyer’s is trying his best but it just isn’t working for him. I personally believe they needed a slightly more masculine ‘leading man’ opposite Russel’s sweetness. But Meyer’s isn’t the only mis-cast actor in this film.
Another is Robin Williams. Though I haven’t mentioned his character in the set up, Williams plays Wizard – a kind of Fagin (from Oliver Twist) who fosters Evan’s budding musical gift (for his own gain). Its kind of hard to express how Williams is a mis-cast here, but saying he is ‘faganesque’ would lead you to see my point.
Terrence Howard with his beautiful, dewey eyes plays the child services officer handling Lyla’s claim. Howard is not a mis-cast here and brings great depth to the amount of screen time awarded to his character.

fagan and oliver WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? As to be expected the music is rather spectacular. There is some likable rhythmic editing around the better musical pieces. The performances, with the exception of Howard, all lack something, the something is less in Russell and Highmore than others. The characters are developed but Highmore’s character in the middle and towards the end seems to clash with what the audience has learnt thus far about him. Also SPOILER ALERT the ending is too abrupt, as the audience we have journeyed with these characters as they seek to find truth through the whole film and the moment where they find each other is over practically before it begins.
Its not a must see, let me put it that way. But it is a rather cute fairy tale style story of love.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Preferably someone not like me, who will laugh inappropriately and snicker at the tragic lines.

one night thangANYTHING TO KNOW ABOUT? Not really. Although, just on a personal note, it bugged me how they totally romanticised and glorified what was a one-night-stand between Lyla and Louis. -But this is true to the fairy tale template.

THIS FILM GETS 3 GOLD STARS.

THE KINGDOM

posterI finally saw this film on DVD the other day. When I first saw the trailer I was intrigued. I love movies that explore topical issues, especially if they are coming from the Hollywood machine.

Then there was the thing that Michael Mann was one of the producers. As a director I have really appreciated his work so I started to get excited about The Kingdom.

Then I heard it was basically a action film so I lost interest and, yeah, only saw it the other day on DVD.

I wished I had seen it on the big screen.

THE SET UP? After an attack in an American compound by radical Islamic suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia, four FBI agents head to the Kingdom to find the masterminds behind the bombing(s) and bring them to justice (read: killing them). Things get complicated when they end up in harms way.

THE CAST?
Jamie Foxx is doing his thing as Ronald Fleury, the FBI division leader who takes the team to Saudi Arabia.
farisAshraf Barhom – I wanna give guy the billing he deserves, in the film (and consequently on IMDB) he got billing after the four actors playing FBI agents. This actor you’ve never heard of is exceptional in this film. I had never seen him in anything before The Kingdom but look out for more from this talented actor in the future. Barhom plays Colonel Faris Al Ghazi, the Saudi police officer charged with ‘babysitting’ the FBI agents. Barhom is able to invoke such empathy in the audience for his character and his character’s situation – more than any other actor in the film.
the crew> Chris Cooper is near his Adaptation-best as bomb expert Grant Sykes.
Jennifer Garner does her best to be un-Sydney Bristow -like as CSI type Janey Mayes. Garner is quite good in this, she shows that she is capable of acting outside of her type-cast, though that may sound hard to believe (considering the genre of this film) and not be the central character.
Jason Bateman plays computer/analyst geek Adam Leavitt. I like Bateman, he can practically do no wrong – he does seem slightly out of place in this film because of his comedic and irreverent recent past, but he still does the job well.
Jeremy Piven does HIS thing as fast talking US diplomat on the ground in the Kingdom, there to get the FBI agents out and back on home asap.
Piven has the best line in the film: [to Janet Mayes while preparing her to meet the Saudi Prince] Can we dial down the boobies? [Mayes is wearing a cream tank top (presumably with t-shirt bra) and cargo pants].

WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM? While this film could be described as primarily an action film, it was never intended that way – it was intended to be an exploration into Middle Eastern politics and the extent of US involvement in the oil riddled lands. This film shows both sides to the issue, looking at what it all means for the Americans and the muslims (this is the Middle Eastern perspective shown in the film). The final lines of the film are exquisite in their irony and respective selfish perspectives. Merely as an exercise in learning more about the world we live in I’d recommend The Kingdom. All technical aspects of the film are also well done.

poster 2 WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Anyone who likes controversial films or action films. However it would be better to see it with people who enjoy controversial films so you can have a debrief about it afterwards.

ANY BITS TO KNOW ABOUT? Lots of action – bombs, gunfire. There is a reasonable amount of swearing thrown around – but it is highly amusing to see how the Saudi police officers react to the ‘profanities’.

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS

HOT ROD

poster INITIAL RANTING I have a confession to make, I really liked this film.Chances are you probably haven’t heard of it. It lasted about one week at Aussie cinemas and according to IMDB only grossed $14 mil in the US. I saw it for the second time on DVD the other night.I first heard of Hot Rod months before its release date here via the apple trailers page (which I highly recommend – especially if you’re on a mac coz they load so fast). It looked like a good goof-ball movie and sometimes they can be worthwhile so I looked out for it and managed to see it during its “limited” release. With next to no distributor promotion Hot Rod came and went without as much as a tv spot and when Dave and I saw the film we were the only 2 people in the theatre.But this is a seriously funny movie, well written (by a South Park heavy weight you probably haven’t heard of) and acted charmingly by a SNL guy and a deserving ensemble.

THE SET UP? Evil Kenevil wannabe Rod Kimble, supported by his “crew” (friends and a half-brother) attempts serious stunts that turn into jackass gold at every free moment. However when Rod finds out his step-dad is dying and needs a new heart they can’t afford (bloody American health care system) Rod endeavors to fight fight fight raise the money required for the surgery through pulling off a massive stunt. And the rest, as they say, is hilarious.However Rod isn’t just doing the stunt to purely save his step-dad, he wants his step-dad to be well so he can kick his ass in hand-to-hand combat — sounds like to stupidest thing ever, but trust me it totally works.

 

THE CAST? Andy Samberg is Rod Kimble. This guy kick-started his comedic career online, with Hod Rod’s director and the guy who plays his half-brother. From there the three were picked up by SNL. Samberg is adorable in this, he is so funny and obviously enjoys taking the piss out of himself and everything else – including Footloose.

Jorma Taccone plays Kevin Powell, Rod’s half-brother. He’s funny, but you can tell he’s not really an actor (he writes for SNL). But he sure can dance like a comedian – or maybe that’s how a writer dances.

Isla Fisher plays Denise the love interest in the film. Its one of those things where the girl thinks she’s just being a friend but the guy thinks its more and then eventually the girl falls for the guy. I don’t particularly like Fisher, even though she is an Aussie, but she serves her function in this picture.The wonderful

Sissy Spacek and Ian McShane plays Rod’s mother and step-father. McShane is particularly good.all american

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? Because its good! And I doubt anyone else will tell you to see it because no one else has seen it. I do admit you do have to be a particular mood to enjoy its humor, preferably the same crowd you enjoyed Napoleon Dynamite with, but do see it! The writing and the way the film is edited, acted, and put together is gold! Oh and I won’t spoil the surprise but John Farnham’s 80’s anthem “You’re the Voice” is featured to radiant effect.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Mentioned above.

ANY BITS TO BE WORRIED ABOUT? Hmmm….let’s put it this way, if you found jackass’ milder slap-stick efforts (such as tropical pole vaulting or night pandas) offensive sit this one out, otherwise you’re sure to enjoy it – unless you’re my grandparents.

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS

FOOL’S GOLD

posterThis was movie number two for Marita and I the other night, and after the mistake that was Jumper we thought anything would be better, we were mostly right.

THE SET UP? Benjamin is a treasure hunter married to Tess, they live in the Caribbean (Ben on their boat, Tess on her employer’s boat). Ben loves his wife, so its a shame she doesn’t feel the same way and at the beginning of the film Tess is in the process of finalising their divorce. Inevitably Ben, who has just found some information about a treasure the couple have been trying to find for almost ten years, arrives late for the court appointment so all assets are awarded to Tess. Ben sees the opportunity to win Tess back by telling her about the treasure he figures he’s almost found. Tess begrudgingly agrees to try and find it with him. What follows is a frolic around beautiful islands on Tess’ employers magnificent boat as the ex-couple try and find treasure and (you guessed it) salvage their love. They are helped and hindered by an entertaining supporting cast.

THE CAST?
Matthew McConaughey plays Benjamin. Now ladies, we all know this guy can’t act, right? He has the capacity to play about one character…the same one in every film he does. He just continues to get gigs because he’s a bit of eye candy. Well, unfortunately he was unable to even serve that measly little function in this. argh!The hair…its just ghastly – with such sleazy and trashy connotations it was impossible to develop a crush on the character (don’t deny it ladies, that’s the only reason why he’s in this). And he spends too much of the film half naked. Yes we all know he has a gorgeous fake tan and must work out whenever he’s not “preparing” for his roles to sustain THAT torso, but I just couldn’t help thinking about what Stephen Merchant said on the Ricky Gervais Show on XFM (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve heard it).
Kate Hudson plays Tess. I’d really like to give this girl some credit, but I just can’t. Like her leading man, the promise the young Hudson of Almost Famous showed was quickly squandered with a barrage of bums-on-seats, pop-corn-crazy, studio-loved-up rom coms, and now she’s a one-character actor. She is far from her best rom com effort (funnily enough also co-starring McConaughey).
Donald Sutherland plays Tess’ employer, Nigel Honeycutt (who owns the magnificent boat they go treasure hunting in). He’s a charming old English man who is looking for some spark in his dull, over-indulged life. Sutherland is rather adorable in this, and brings some class to the film. His performance is far from oscar bait, but its probably the best of the film.
Alexis Dziena plays Gemma Honeycutt, Nigel’s Paris Hiltonesque daughter who happens to be visiting her father when the treasure hunt begins. She plays a bimbo almost too convincingly. Actually, Dziena is rather good in this (not that I’ve seen her in anything else).
Other cast members include Ewen Bremner (of Death at a Funeral “Listen, Martha…”), an undervalued Ray Winstone, and Kevin Hart who plays the (rapper) villain.

the beach> WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? Every now and then we all need a movie night that insults our intelligence. When that night comes around, this is a good one to see.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Anyone who is the same mood as you which should preferably be the one I described above.

ANY BITS TO KNOW OF? Nothing comes to mind, but I really don’t want to dwell on this film for too much longer, so let’s just say no. For specifics see here.

THIS FILM GETS 2 GOLD STARS

JUMPER

poster Against my much better judgment I went to see this ……”film” last night with my film pal extraordinaire, Marita (my cousin). Really I should have known better, I mean half a star from Margaret and David wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence.

…but the trailer made it look so good!….

(Well at least I didn’t waste any money, and I don’t really wanna waste much time on it now so this will be quick and relatively painless – I hope)

THE SET UP? While the concept has promise, the plot and resulting script are shameful. David Rice is a JUMPER – a human being able to teleport himself instantly to any location in the world he can visualize. He discovers this gift as a fifteen year old dork with an impossible crush on friend, Millie. He leaves home and begins his career as a bank robber. Years later he’s told by fellow jumper, Griffin, that jumpers have been hunted down and killed by the paladins (stupid name) for centuries and he is within the their sights. So David returns to see Millie and take her to Rome – on a plane. The rest of the film is a wild jumper-and-paladin chase around the globe with David, Griffin, and Millie as they run from Paladin leader Roland.

THE CAST?
bell and christensen Hayden Christensen plays David. I always had the sneaking suspicion that this guy couldn’t act, but because – I don’t know – he was just so darn cute I thought I’d apply naivety in his case. No more. Christensen really needs to find a day job – and so does the person who cast him.
Jamie Bell is Griffin. Billy Elliot is growing up and, unlike his co-star, is growing into a fine young actor. Its a massive shame that Bell’s character wasn’t cast as the film’s protagonist. Bell plays a much more likable character who evokes empathy and understanding in the audience while Christensen frustrates as the selfish and self-important David.
I just wanna know why in the hell were these characters written this way?!
Rachel Bilson is Millie. Arghhhh…. Just….bad. (but not as bad as Christensen). And, not that this is Bilson’s fault, but she looks nothing like the younger version of Millie at age fifteen – its like its a different character.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Agent Roland. Sammy L, Sammy L what are we going to do with you? His performance here is so UNmentionable that all I can say is his white hair piece was an awesome abomination.

jacksonWHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? I hope I’ve made it pretty clear you shouldn’t.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Assuming you’ll do what I did and ignore all your inner thoughts instructing you that watching your dog throw up his meaty-bites would be better viewing than this drivel…it wouldn’t really matter who you went with.

ANY BITS TO KNOW OF? Besides bad acting, a bad hair piece and rather dull SFX, there is some electronic related violence – but you’re not going to see it anyway so no need to go any further.

THIS FILMS GETS 1 GOLD STAR and it belongs solely to Jamie Bell, and the boom operator who did his job really well.

It was just incredibly frustrating to watch the potential of this concept of jumping/teleportation squandered on this.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD

poster>INITIAL RANTING After a rather shocking day, winding up a five-week long saga over a computer I bought (I’m fine now, thanks for asking) my dad insisted we go see “the movie about the oil”.

Not wanting to spoil the surprise (that the film was less about oil and more about Daniel Day Lewis), we headed off to my work (where we see movies for free, oh yeah, you’re so totally jealous).

MORE RANTING/THE SET UP? I jokingly say There Will Be Blood is about Daniel Day Lewis because that is probably the first thing you knew about it. In fact when I first saw the poster on apple trailers I thought it was some shocking horror movie, the words “There Will Be Blood” tend to evoke in me feelings of horror rather than excellent acting. But when I heard that the aforementioned actor was in it and the rather spectacular Paul Dano (of Little Miss Sunshine) I was there!
For those of you who haven’t seen the trailer yet and are a little in the dark as to what “the new Daniel Day Lewis movie” is about I’ve youtubed it for your convenience.

The basic set up is self-titled “oil man” Daniel Plainview and his “partner”, only son H.W. (about 7 y/o) are told about a province rich in oil. The majority of the film takes place at this province, Little Boston. As I sit here trying to think about how to write this film’s plot overview I am suddenly struck by the realisation that there isn’t really that much of a plot. Its a really character driven (who would have guessed?) piece. It kind of has the feel of really well developed characters being put in a series of connected and unconnected situations and seeing what happens and where things end up. I know this is probably heresy to all those millions of critics who proclaim this film as brilliant – which it is – but not a great deal of plot happening.

The really interesting “plot” developments occur between the exchanges of Plainview and Eli Sunday, Little Boston’s protege evangelical minister (read: televangelist, without the tube).

THE CAST?
baptism>Daniel Day Lewis embodies Daniel Plainview. As fan-flamin’-tastic Day Lewis is, I can’t help feeling I thought he was so good in this because we’ve all been told he is so good in this (via reviews/awards/etc). Maybe I’m being too harsh on the greatest actor of his generation.
Paul Dano is Eli Sunday. Dano excels in this truly disturbing depiction of God’s anointed, I shudder to think where he did his research. If you’ve seen the trailer and the clip linked below (and especially if you are a Christian) Dano’s performance in these short clips should send shivers down your spine. I feel like I’ve seen aspects of Sunday in a few places in different “houses of God” over the years, however this is like those memories, but in my worst nightmares, and if I was on crack. “Overacted.” – That statement was made to me last night by one of my colleagues at the cinema. I think not, Dano’s just performing as the performer who is Eli Sunday. Dano shows he’s a great actor here, and can hold his own again you know who. But a part of me felt I was seeing Dwayne with a different haircut, a dated wardrobe, and a religion of church rather than Nietzsche. Am I wrong?
Dillon Freasier plays H.W. Plainview. This kid is too cute. But I feel somehow inadequate to judge his performance – its one of those that could go either way – its either genius or really bad. I’d like to err on the side of genius. (Freasier has no other credits on imdb except this film.)

Check this out and click on the “I have abandoned” clip just to the right of the screen that will come up.

Full on, eh?! I watched this clip before I saw the film and to the actors’ credit, the way you imagine the context of this scene within the whole film would be (through the acting of Day Lewis and Dano), is dead on.

fireWHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? If the above clip doesn’t intrigue you enough, let me tell you more. The cinematography is gripping and awfully beautiful, the music is amazing – really new, really fresh, really different – possibly a bit too overwhelming at times but maybe that’s what they wanted. You know when music in films (or like, LOST) is just so in your face and makes you feel claustrophobic, horrified, squeamish and entranced at the same time. Yeah, be prepared.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Hmmm…. preferably someone who will want to dismantle it with you after. I don’t think I need to tell you not to take kids to a film with this title.

ANY BIT TO KNOW OF? Awe inspiring acting and music. Some rather strong themes – pertaining to twisted versions of Christianity – abound, as well as the odd unexpected bullet. Not much else.

Actually I didn’t really like this film, but I have to practice what I preach and judge it on whether it was good or bad. Its oh so good: THIS FILM GETS 4.5 GOLD STARS.

Valentines Day Films

heartAs a happily single girl I kind of see Valentines Day much the same way other “happily single” people see it…as a farce.

Talk to my now un-single friends and they’ll tell you how the day has special meaning. But if you’re un-single for long enough it becomes a farce again. Case in point: Asked dad what he was going to give mum (his wife for almost 28 years) for valentines day and he replied “That’s Sunday, isn’t it?”.

I was checking some emails and I stumbled upon what yahoo’s idea is of perfect valentines day movie fair. Furthermore they had a list of what were the worst valentines day (ie: anti-valentines) movies. Needless to say I was a little disappointed with the lists.

in the “Valentines Day Scrooge’s un-romantic Movie Guide” we have:

Closer – haven’t seen it…yet. Been thinking about it but yeah, also heard that its pretty full-on crude.
The Break-Up – well dah! I think the title would suggest that this film is not one to pick up to what with your honey unless you wanted to tell them something… Actually the film isn’t really un-romantic at all. In fact I give it gold stars for trying to hit some version of reality. Nice ending too – as expected but not saccharine.
unromanticFatal Attraction – haven’t seen it, and its from that era of decidedly bad American cinema so it is likely to remain unseen by me. If you liked it let me know! – Also the title doesn’t exactly scream “For richer or poorer” (more “Til Death” but we won’t go there).
The Shape of Things – haven’t seen it, although with Paul Rudd in it I may have to put it on my list of things to see.
Single White Female – Hey that’s me! – I already don’t like it. And haven’t seen it. The sequels called Single White Female 2: The Psycho.
The Opposite of Sex – haven’t seen it. Feel free to comment, infact DO comment if you think anything about any of these films.
Waiting to Exhale – haven’t seen it. Four women of a certain age sitting together laughing – I suppose you can guess why this is unromantic (looks like an African American version of First Wives Club).
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – What tha? Now, while this film isn’t your conventional love story it is definitely a love story – and the best kind of all – quirky, uncool, and unconventional. This is SO going on my romantic list. (I will review this film soon and to spoil the surprise its getting 4.75 Gold Stars).
Alexandra’s Project – never heard of it. Which is rather strange for me. Maybe its before my time. Looks Australian and therefore probably crap.

Now for Yahoo’s Romantic Fodder:
The Notebook – I could actually vomit- but then I’d get gunk all over the mac I’m wanting to sell. Well atleast it did bring two fine actors together and now they’re engaged…WHOOPS……Damn it! -I’ll have to buy a new keyboard.
Pretty Woman – how is this romantic? The acting alone-
Casablanca – as much as I love this super old school classic, its more an German (albeit Nazi) war propaganda film.
Music and Lyrics – I can’t write too much or I’ll vomit all over the-
The Holiday – Hooray for Hollywood! At last a relatively good and smart and well written rom com with the lovely Kate Winslet!
blah blahSleepless in Seattle – My mouth tastes all like salty and icky I’m starting to feel hungry but %$&%*&(* oh there I go again…I should really have a sick bag with me when I think about drivel like this.
The Lake House – okay, I must sadly and shamefully admit I kinda liked this one – no good excuses so I think I might just have to vomit on myself.
Pride and Prejudice (Wright version) – yes it is the Wright version and the right version! – As previously mentioned (a few times) on Gold stars I love this adaption. And when I get around to do a review on it you’ll see I have all the excuses in the world as to why this is worthy of your time (but maybe not on Valentines Day).
An Affair To Remember – Ooooh just the thought of the aging Cary Grant in this old classic and I’m gagging again. Haven’t seen it, although with a title like that, unless you’re up to what you shouldn’t be this valentines day I’d stay away from this one – although its a film from the era where gay meant happy so its probably safe. Then again I doubt my newlywed friends Bec and Geoff would hire out a film entitled A Gay Affair To Remember – no matter how innocent the content would be.

Well, whatever you’re doing tonight……I forgot what is supposed to come next.