THE DARK KNIGHT (NOLAN’S 2ND BATMAN EFFORT)

And might I add, a very good second effort!

A great absense of posting (end of semester, an editing gig, a family va-cay) has made me lacklusture about goldstars but after a viewing of The Dark Knight (somewhat later than I would have liked) I feel all inspired to return to the world of blog.

 

THE SET UP?

Following the beginning of Batman just a few years ago Bruce Wayne is continuing to live his playboy lifestyle by day (and dusk) and donning the black cape and horns at night. But it seems that the streets of Gotham are being cleaned up – mainly through the efforts of the new District Attorney Harvey Dent, who is “with” Bruce’s sweetheart Rachel. BUT there’s a new villain in town, guess who. You’ve all probably seen it by now but still I won’t give anymore away.

 

THE CAST?

Heath Ledger – The Joker. I can’t help but putting him first. He is amazing. Really. It may not be the most endearing character to be ultimately remembered for, but in terms of his acting legacy – this film leaves it solid.

Christian Bale – Bruce Wayne/Batman. Bale takes a back seat in this one to Ledger, Eckhart and even Freeman. So in a way its tricky to evaluate his performance. As much as I love Bale as an actor he didn’t really stand out in this at all.

Aaron Eckhart – Harvey Dent/Two Face. The scariest Two Face ever – but that’s more down to the make up department. Eckhart is good in this. He’s not a standout, he’s solid. I didn’t find the transition from Harvey Dent to Two Face in terms of the personality of the character all that convincing. 

Michael Caine – Alfred. Gotta love Alfred. Caine delivers a brilliant performance as ever. He is given some of the better lines in the film, but he does an excellent job as ever in his role. 

Morgan Freeman – Lucius Fox. Its so nice to have Freeman in a film role where he doesn’t double as the narrator these days – its getting rarer and rarer. He is good in this, not excellent but still good.

Maggie Gyllenhaal – Rachel Dawes. I have great respect for Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actor, however, I’m not really happy with her replacement as Rachel Dawes after Katie Holmes decided she didn’t want to reprise her role (bet she’s regretting that now!). There are very few similarities with the two actors’ portrayal of the character and it makes Gyllenhaal as Dawes harder to believe – it seems more like a totally new character.

Gary Oldman – Lt. James Gordon. Another fine older actor. Oldman plays Gordon real and believable.

 

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE THIS FILM?

I feel this is the first film that I blog about that I don’t really have to try to convince you to see. By the stats already released about The Dark Knight it would seem most of you have already seen it (in its first three days it outsold the entire cinema run of Batman Begins). EVEN SO – here are the reasons: Ledger – you’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t make it to the cinema to catch this phenomenal actors last complete film performance- , the imagination of the astonishingly brilliant director- Christopher Nolan – having directed and (co) wrote for The Dark Knight Nolan serves up a treat for the audience. Even if Batman, action, violence and psychopaths isn’t your cup of tea I believe you will be entertained by this film – every aspect of it nears perfection. That being said it seems a bit of a waste to use two old school Batman villains in the one film. It meant that the film stretched out to 2.5 hours (not necessarily a bad thing) and each actor had a lot less screen time than in the first film. In that way, I hate to do this, but it reminded me a bit of Spiderman 3. 

 

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? 

Even though I practically said go see this film even if you don’t like film action, violence etc I doubt any of you would go take a five year old (or young kids in general) to this one – and you shouldn’t. Also, maybe mum and the grandparents aren’t a good idea either. 

 

ANY BITS?

Action. Violence. Psychopaths. But on the upside – limited to no swearing and no raunchy scenes.Yet again on the flip side – this is the scariest Two Face EVER – and even I kind of squinted when he was on screen. It is quite full on. 

 

THIS FILM GETS 4.25 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.  

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

poster(As you can tell I’m still having some difficulties with formatting – so i need help… ) I’m guessing most of you would have seen Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by now. Its either one of those films you get really excited about before its released and rush out to see it in the first week or so its out OR you’ve decided that even though you generally love the work of the holy trinity* (the name my yits friend Tom gave to the combination of Tim BurtonHelena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp) but the idea of horror meets musical loosely regarding the topic of cannibalism didn’t seem like your cup of tea so you decided to sit this one out and salivate over the knowledge that Burton will be directing the latest remake of Alice in Wonderland (due for release in 2010). SO! A gold stars review on the film may be largely superfluous so I thought I’d just jot down some thoughts I had about the film, based on MY tastes and then fling open the floodgates for you guys to let me know what you thought of the trinity’s* latest offering.  Firstly, I really didn’t like the film. I joyfully acknowledge that it was rather spectacular and another fantastic film by Burton but it just didn’t suit my tastes (I will stop using words with food connotations in the remainder of this post). The combination of music (as in sing-song music), a possessed barber, and human meat pies is a combination only Burton could bring to the screen. And its done well, the elements of the mise-en-scene come together beautifully to create the overall effect and draw the audience in.The stand out performance for me was the young lad Ed Sanders playing workhouse orphan boy Toby, his singing was reminiscent of choir boys in an old cathedral (although I suppose all pre-pubity males sing that way) and he was so sweet and ultimately takes on a form of righteous anger to combat the increasing alienation the audience feels from the mad barber.  Well, that’s all from me on this one.

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARSNow what did you think? Come on now, I know most of you fitted into that first category I mentioned……spill the beans. 

* I hope no one takes offense at this reference. If you do, blame it on frezned

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.

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.

Sorry it took so long

logoI hope you all out there will indulge this very Australian-centric post.Today, after decades of waiting Australia’s indigenous population will finally hear an official apology from the current Australian government for previous Australian governments policies of removing aboriginal children from their families. This was government policy and happened for half a century in Australia and was the leading cause of the degradation of their culture.Unlike some commonwealth and colonised countries, Australia shuns its indigenous peoples and has up until now failed to officially acknowledge the irrevocable damage caused by its governmental policies.Today this is changing. Thank God.poster There has been very few Australian films (full stop, but especially) that have dealt with issues of aboriginality. It would seem. not only do we want them ignored in our “multicultural” society but also in our entertainment. However there is one film that comes to mind, by the skilled and experienced Australian director Phillip Noyce: Rabbit Proof Fence.If you haven’t seen this film I encourage you to see it, depending on where you live it may be hard to find it. There are also several clips of the film on youtube.Last year I wrote a paper for my Australian cinema class about how aboriginality has been shown throughout Australia’s film history. Here is an excerpt:”The media is often a reflection of the dominant attitudes and values of a society; the medium of film is no exception. Through looking at Australian films of the last century we are able learn something of the attitudes that existed towards the indigenous population. Firstly it is important to note that it is only recently, in the last twenty years, that indigenous Australians have taken positions behind the camera. poster Since the 1920’s aboriginals have been in front of camera, blatantly portrayed, almost without exception, as savages. Exploitation of indigenous Australians in film was commonplace, further accentuating the belief of the aboriginal as ‘other’. They were either seen as part of the flora and fauna, mysterious forces to overcome, or ‘sub-hominids’. Racial prejudice continued into the 1970’s, perhaps in a more sophisticated fashion than in earlier days but was manifest in the misrepresentation of history, the aboriginal culture and oversimplifying moral and social issues. Indigenous characters were crafted to add to the stereotyped ideas about the aboriginal people rather than the characters being individuals who were also aboriginal. The use of aboriginals in film was never as protagonist, the aboriginal characters were never designed to be understood by the audiences, they served the function of savage, or noble savage.”…girls with neville“Films exploring indigenous issues in Australia do not come more perfectly realised than Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence. Noyce left Hollywood, where he had established himself as a prominent film director, to return to Australia and direct Christine Olsen’s adaptation of Doris Pilkington Garimare’s text Following the Rabbit Proof Fence. The story concerns three young “half-caste” girls, two sisters and their cousin, Molly, Daisy and Gracie (respectively) who were removed from their mothers in 1931 and taken to Moore River Native Settlement under the order of the chief protector of Western Australia A. O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), 1600 miles from their home in Jigalong. The eldest of the three girls, Molly (played by Everlyn Sampi) convinces her sister and cousin to escape and the three set out on the near impossible journey home. The rabbit-proof fence that stretched from the south of the continent to the north was their guide home. The two sisters made it back to their mother at Jigalong, but Gracie was recaptured and returned to Moore River. the tracker The three girls made their journey with the help of some aboriginals and Europeans along the way, pursued by the police and aboriginal tracker Moodoo played masterfully by David Gulpilil. Noyce says he was attracted to the project because it was an emotional and compelling story, but also because it was a true story and the films central protagonists are alive today. The film concludes with narration from the real Molly, in her native tongue, and footage of Molly and Daisy at Jigalong. The decision to conclude the film in this way was nothing short of inspired. Veteran American film reviewer Roger Ebert revealed that ‘not since the last shots of “Schindler’s List” have I been so overcome with the realization that real people, in recent historical times, had to undergo such inhumanity’. “

CLOVERFIELD

As a rule of thumb, I usually would not be interested in a film that has been called a cross between Godzilla and The Blair Witch Project . Ordinarily it would be right down the bottom of my list of films to see (along with anything in the Sci-Fi genre – sorry nerds). But after seeing the wicked cool trailer which I have put here for your convenience, if you haven’t taken a gander – take one now!

Its seriously messed up.

For a mainstream guy who could easily get the big bucks off a studio, J.J. Abrams decided to make a monster movie in a completely different way – on a little dv cam as if you were there when it happened. A truly creative choice and very brave. (Abrams gets 3 gold stars from me.)

At my mainstream cinematic complex of employment we’ve had people return to the box office after half an hour wanting to switch their tickets to ….anything else. There’s now a memo up telling staff to remind patrons of the handy-cam style of filming after someone vomited in the cinema.

But if you know what you’re in for, Cloverfield is a real treat.

THE SET UP? Jason’s brother, Rob, is about to leave Manhattan for Japan for work. Jason decides it would be a great idea to do video messages for Rob at his going-away party. So he hand-balls the job to Rob’s best mate Hud. Hud wonders amateur-ishly around the party with the camera. We catch a glimpse of this gorgeous girl, Beth, who apparently Rob has loved forever but she arrives with another bloke. Reality tv style we see the two fighting before Beth leaves with her male companion. Then loud crashes are heard outside. The party quickly disintegrates as people run into the streets screaming, as the head of the statue of liberty comes hurtling through the sky eventually scraping to a halt outside Rob’s apartment. Rob’s first thought is Beth.

Who dies? Can Rob find Beth? Does Hud ever shut off the camera? What is the crazy monster laying seige to NYC?
The rest of the film ‘documents’ their journey out of Manhattan.

THE CAST?
All unknowns. Although I had seen Lizzy Caplan before in Mean Girls (that’d be why she gets top billing).
All were great though, really believable, not a bit overacted – considering a giant monster is after them.

WHY SHOULD YOU SEE IT?
Because its something new in cinema! Maybe its just me, but I get excited when I see something completely different – not the narrative being different but the way the film makers go about bringing the narrative to the audience, its especially impressive coming from Abrams, who could have made this Michael Bay style no worries. He didn’t need to stretch himself to save the studios money – he did it to do something new!
As an aspiring filmmaker I get excited when I see new ways of creating movies being given international mainstream distribution. It means audiences are getting used to different things and the big guns of Hollywood widen their views on what constitutes (profitable) filmmaking.
Also theirs a special treat in the movie that I haven’t told you about – no its not another monster – but its super super creative (find new word Jess) and just contextualise the ‘tension’ between Rob and Beth. Its rather genius.

Rob Hawkins: Hey, is that my camera.
Hud: Uh, I don’t know. Jason just gave it to me.
Rob Hawkins: Did you change the tape. Because I had a tape in there… Something important.
Hud: I didn’t, it was already on when I got it

WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IT WITH? Well, if you’re anything like me, preferably someone who doesn’t mind you grabbing their arm every now and then when it gets a bit freaky! – I took my brother.

ANY BITS TO BE WORRIED ABOUT? Besides a really weird monster, nope.

THIS FILM GETS 3.5 GOLD STARS.