MADE OF HONOR

or “Honour” if you’re australian.

This was a mistake. But the thing was I knew that going in. I’ll blame it all on Laura who wanted to see this over Leatherheads (no matter, I’ll see that one today).

SET UP?

Tom and Hannah have been friends ever since Tom accidently “dry-humped” her at a college party (you won’t get that info in the trailer). But besides that rather intimate first meet the two developed a platonic friendship based on honesty! In the mean time Tom gets his “intimate-fix” from a barrage of girls who abide by his complex system of rules.

Hannah heads off to Scotland on business and while she is away Tom realises that Hannah is the girl for him. He plans to reveal his newly found affections when Hannah returns. But Hannah returns with a fiance!

Tom is asked to be the maid of honour! His buddies convince him its a good idea as he’s got a better chance of breaking up the wedding from the inside and here begins the trials of Patrick Dempsey as the maid of honour pursing the bride.

(that took a lot longer to explain than i expected – or than it deserves really).

 

THE CAST?

Mc Dreamy – his typecast character continues.

Michelle Monaghan – Hannah. Ever since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang I’ve loved Monaghan. She’s a breath of fresh air and she is good in this.

Kevin McKidd – the Scotsman fiance. Underwritten part – but he plays within his small confines well.

I better also mention Sydney Pollack who sadly passed away (in real life) the other week. Fantastic director, of one of my favourites actually, Sabrina. Oh! In this he plays, Tom’s serial marrying father. 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM?

You probably shouldn’t.

Acting is barely on par.

Script is woeful. 

Oh, on second thoughts, girls, take your mother. If she’s anything like mine, she’ll love it and you’ll get to hang out together.

 

ANY BITS? Ummm… thunder beads??? – Could have done without that bit. Its more your M-MA romantic comedy than your PG-M rom com, if you get my drift.

THIS FILM GETS 2 GOLD STARS – they belong to Monaghan.  

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THE PAINTED VEIL

Coming out in just a few hours in Australia (FINALLY!!), I was fortunate enough to make it to an advanced screening last weekend. And having waited a long time for this film, it came out in the US Boxing Day 2006, I was expecting good things…. and I wasn’t disappointed.

THE SET UP? (NB: Possible spoiler alerts – but nothing more than is in the trailer.) Twenty-something Kitty still lives at home determined to not be persuaded into marriage by her family, before eventually she is. Kitty marries Walter, a bacteriologist who is head-over-heels in lurve with her. She just wants to get away from her family. The couple move to Shang-hi (as all newly wed bacteriologists do) and it isn’t long before Kitty gets distracted and has an affair. When Walter finds out he volunteers his services to a cholera-infested remote town deep in China. Kitty is dragged along. Do they forgive each other? Do either of them die? But the most important question, do they grow to love each other?

 

CAST? 

Naomi Watts plays Kitty. I have come to expect a lot from this gifted actor and she is great in this. However she didn’t really ‘hit the nail on the head’. But a fine performance. 

Edward Norton plays Walter. I’ve always kinda liked Norton’s work but now I have a new appreciation for his amazing acting abilities. He is splendid in this. The audience totally gets Walter, his personality, his character and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Just like Margaret, I never thought of Norton as a romantic lead but he pulls it off with excellence. 

I’d like to give next billing to Toby Jones, who plays Waddington, a fellow-Englishman stationed at the remote cholera-ridden village. This guy is a fine actor, who’s acting range is only limited by his physical stature. I really liked him in this. Hopefully he’ll get some more meaty roles!

Liev Schreiber plays the distraction (Charlie). I’m so immature, it makes me giggle to think that Naomi Watts and Schreiber play characters having an extramarital affair in this film and in real life they’ve been together since filming this and have a kid together! He he. Schreiber does the suave playboy thing well. Check out his directorial debut if you haven’t seen it already, Everything is Illuminated (3.5 GOLD STARS). 


WHY YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FILM?
Breathtaking cinematography. Well-spun dialogue. A beautiful, classic, old-fashioned narrative. And without giving terribly too much away – one of the best love stories I’ve seen in a film, ever. (Okay, that kind of gives everything away – but in my defence, no more than the distribution propaganda.)

 

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Anyone really. I saw it with one of my best mates. Probably not your twenty-year old brother. But anyone else. Suggestions …. friends, partners, mothers. 

ANY BITS TO BE WORRIED ABOUT? From memory, I think some Chinese drugs and alcohol are involved, but, phhf! Oh, and the mild sexual activity usually involved.

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 GOLD STARS.  

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

Once again this was as film that I had been looking forward to after seeing the trailer on apple months ago. The idea of this young, spunky, blockbuster gold-written-all-over-him male actor continuing to take on various art house roles makes me very happy!!!

 

THE SET UP?  Lars is a shy and reclusive young man who lives in the garage at his brother (Gus) and sister-in-law (Caron)’s  house in a small town somewhere in middle america. He pulls away from social interaction where it can be avoided. But a few months later all this changes when Lars brings over a lady-friend (Bianca) he met online to his brother’s house for dinner – oh yes she doesn’t speak much English (only Spanish), she is relatively wheelchair bound and all her luggage got stolen at the airport so she’ll need to borrow some of Caron’s clothes. Gus and Caron are very supportive and excited until it is revealed that Bianca is a lifesize doll – a sex doll. 

But sex is the furtherest thing from Lars’ mind – he even insists she stays in the spare room at Gus and Caron’s – Lars just wants a friend. What follows is a delightful exploration of how Lars’ family and community come to terms with his “delusion” and how to (as Gus puts it) “fix him”. 

THE CAST?

Ryan Gosling – embodies Lars. Gosling is SUCH a talented young actor. He is beautiful as Lars, fleshing out all the complexities and eccentricities we discover about Lars as his story unfolds. I’d even go as far to say oscar worthy (or at least nomination-worthy) but the best Gosling got was a Golden Globe nom. 

(I want to put Bianca next, but she’s not given a credit)

Emily Mortimer – Caron. Mortimer continues on her acting journey of “sweet” in this role. I do like her, and its nice to see a different kind of beauty on the screen in this capacity. But I’m yet to see her change her character. 

Paul Schneider – Gus. I’ve had a little crush on this actor ever since the little indie film All the Real Girls (check it out!) so its great to see him continuing to pop up in more films approaching the mainstream. His performance is rather perfect as the concerned brother but also as the male who just wants to “fix” the situation and not spend time exploring why Lars has done this (I hope no males take offense at this comment!).

The ever-lovely Patricia Clarkson is Dr. Dagmar, the family’s GP. Ahhh…. she’s just great.

I will also mention Kelli Garner   who plays one of Lars’ work colleagues, Margo. Its evident from the start she’s got a bit of a thing for Lars so its interesting to see how things evolve when Bianca shows up in town.

 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE IT? For a vastly different film experience and one that will make you feel good and marvel at brilliant acting and loving community. The script by Nancy Oliver is a treat, with its twists and turns unexpected and beautifully realised by Aussie ex-pat Craig Gillespie

 

ANY BITS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT? I must PLEAD with you not to let the fact that this story is primary about a young man’s obsession with a sex doll stop you from seeing this film! (I didn’t help myself just there.) This film always stays above the myriad of connotations that would normally be associated with such a subject – the film’s only rated PG here for goodness sake! 

THIS FILM GETS 4 GOLD STARS.

 

recapping on all the movies I saw and forgot* to review

*Forgot more refers to a lack of time for such activities as writing on goldstars, or a lack of motivation, or a …. wanting to do other things (I’ve kind of hit that wall I usually hit after doing something for a while – the new and exciting thing [goldstars] is losing its shininess and I’m getting a bit bored with it). 

ANYWAY – Here for you are some goldstar mini reviews, I’ll give you the title and one or two noteworthy points, and the gold star rating:

RUN FATBOY RUN (Comedy)Plots along like a typical mid-90’s romantic comedy with the charming and very british humour of Simon Pegg and Dylan Moran. 

THIS FILM GETS 3.25 GOLD STARS.

 Feel free to ask for more… on this or any of the following “mini reviews”

 

 LEONARD COHEN: I’M YOUR MAN  (doco)

A well crafted documentary on one of the greatest song writers of the 20th century.  Though the vision switching in the concert scenes was very amateurish.

THIS FILM GETS 3 GOLD STARS.

 

DEFINITELY, MAYBE (rom-com) 

Adam Brooks tries to do a new take on a well-worn story we all know by heart – he kinda succeeds – at a pinch. A great movie to see to learn how NOT to focus pull (in one scene the focus is pulled correctly to the CHEST area of the female actor framed in a mid shot while her face is left somewhat fuzzy – Marita and I couldn’t stop laughing).

THIS FILM GETS 2.5 GOLD STARS. 

 

DEATH DEFYING ACTS (romance/drama)

I was fortunate enough to see this film with an introduction by its Australian director, Gillian Armstrong.  And I hope I am not tainted by that when I suggest that this film was well acted – Pearce is exceptional – and the narrative is warmly engaging and is nicely reminiscent of Armstrong’s other work.

THIS FILM GETS 3.75 GOLD STARS

 

Science des reves, La (or less fancily) SCIENCE OF SLEEP  (niche comedy)

My favourite director pulls another one out of his hat (of weirdness). Needs a few viewings, but if you’re a fan of Gondry’s other work, especially Eternal Sunshine (…) you’ll fall in love with this vision of obscurity and absurdity in the vein of a classic dream-like trance, as realised as only Gondry could.   

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 GOLD STARS

 

THE BUCKET LIST (comedy)

Hmm… Nicholson shows he’s still got the stuff. But using Freeman as narrator, surely this format is getting a bit weary. Oddly a feel good film despite (spoiler alert!) the death of both characters by the time the credits roll. Though I haven’t done any research to substantiate this claim I would assume that this film will be praised by Christian groups for its moral/family message. 

THIS FILMS GETS 2.25 GOLD STARS

 

VANTAGE POINT (comedy/action)

 I feel director, Pete Travis would be horrified at my classification of his first feature film as comedy but laughter was the predominant reaction in the audience I saw this film with. Certainly a very different cinema experience – and therefore I am reluctant to bag it out – Vantage Point should help you appreciate coverage and the choices of directors, editors and DOPs (director of photography/cinematographer) more. 

THIS FILM GETS 2.75 GOLD STARS.

 

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (period drama)A departure from history for the historically illiterate. Too harsh? Fine acting and a compelling script are this film’s strong points. Bana was slightly disappointing and the framing choices of director Justin Chadwick left me wondering (however they were imaginative). 

THIS FILM GETS 3.75 GOLD STARS. 

 

BE KIND REWIND (comedy)

Gondry’s latest offering was anticipated by yours truly for a good 8 or so months so its final revelation (on my birthday I might add!) was a bit disappointing, however it was rather brilliant. You always expect more from the best. Possibly too much Jack Black but the creativity of Gondry continues to blow me away.  

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 GOLD STARS

 

HORTON HEARS A WHO!(children’s/comedy) 

A highly enjoyable cartoon with great voice talents. The comedy is drawn out of the original story by the Dr. creatively and smartly. The coupling of Carrey and Carell was swell casting. The homage to Japanese anime was a treat!

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS.  

 

SEMI-PRO (comedy – Ferrell comedy) The highly anticipated (and publicised) next comedy from Will Ferrell & co was a disappointment, with the trailer showing its better parts. Not that I’m a swearing-nazi but there was a dramatic increase in the number of “curse words” used in this Ferrell film, and it therefore seemed to lack the creative writing and “wordsmithery” (if you will) of the likes of Anchorman or Talledega Nights 

THIS FILM GETS 2.75 GOLD STARS. 

 

Phew!!! Now I think I’m all up to date. From now on I’ll try and post a more substantial review (without going overboard). If you want additional info on any of the films listed PLEASE ask me.  

RENDITION

posterNow I, once again, feel at pains (mainly a pain to me) to say that I missed the first little bit of this film and unlike 3:10 this film is directed by a non-american and therefore is arguably more intelligent (oh!) and refused to adequately recap for us tardy folk.So I’ll do my best to review this film, however it won’t be a wholly whole and accurate review…

The Set up? Egyptian born chemical engineer (Anwar) living in the US with a green card and am American wife and son is taken by officials at an airport as he’s returning home. Anwar El-Ibrahimi is suspected of being involved in a bombing that occurred in an Islamic country (that killed many including an American CIA operative). Under US legislation passed under the Clinton administration the American government give themselves the right to hold suspects indefinitely outside the US in order to extract terrorist related information. Anwar is stolen away to the country of the crime and his wife Isabella searches for answers. There’s also an intriguing subplot that I think you’ll get a lot more out of if I say – .

 

CAST? 

Omar Metwally is Anwar – though he doesn’t feature in the film’s propaganda and doesn’t get billing I rate him as the stand out in this film. He also plays the character the film is based around.walking and talking

Resse Witherspoon plays his wife Isabella. I used to love Reese but ever since the Oscar she seems to be dawdling. She’s good in this but not great. She doesn’t hit the my-husband’s-been-taken-away-by-my-government-on-the-basis-of-exactly-no-hard-evidence-and-I’m-“cheesed”-off nail on the head. She was probably distracted by her new love interest…(not that I buy into all that crap)

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Douglas Freeman, the CIA agent who takes over from his colleague who was killed in the bomb blast. He oversees the ‘interrogation’ of Anwar resulting in self-loathing but ultimately compassion. Gyllenhaal pulls this off well. He’s proving himself to be quite a fine actor, but similarly to his sister – he often plays abnormal characters – they’re always the same shade of abnormal.

Peter Sarsgaard plays Alan Smith, assistant to Senator Hawkins and formal college mate of Isabella and Anwar. He’s the first person Isabella comes to when she seeks to find out what happened to her husband. It is plain to the audience that Alan still holds a torch for Isabella. As usual, Sarsgaard pulls out the good stuff – hitting the perfect pitch in his performance.

Alan Arkin plays Hawkins,  the left-wing sympathising Senator who seems keen for social change but only if and when it will actually work.And of course we can’t forget the ever-bloody-brilliant

Meryl Streep who is Corrine Whitman, head of the CIA and defender of the greater good. Streep is icy cold and straight down the line as Whitman – did I mention brilliant?! (But when isn’t she?).

German posterWHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM? Well if I’ve got my timing wrong – which I think I do on this occasion – you’ll either already have seen it or will have to wait until DVD by now. But you should see this film if you enjoy/get something out of looking at the politiking and state of current events in our world. Although you might not get that much out of it. Without wanting to give it away – I agree with David Stratton (of At The Movies – oh, totally podcastable!) that the movie would be far better if it was less ambiguous as to the guilt (or lack thereof) of Anwar. It makes it too neat, too perfect in the end and therefore true blue lefties won’t like it. Its a bit too one sided in the end – doesn’t give the other side of the argument a proper hearing – narratively speaking.

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Doesn’t really matter so much for this one. But save it for the over 16’s would be my suggestion.

ANY BITS?  Ummm….did I mention “interrogation”? Put on Uncle Sam’s hat and use your imagination.

 

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS.

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