CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG NEW website review by Nicole Stenton
Clifford the Big Red Dog
My kids and I had different expectations for this movie. I remember the books from when I was younger, meanwhile my kids had never read the books but had watched the series on pay TV. My daughter is also extremely obsessed with anything dog related, so I knew regardless of what her brother or I thought of the movie it would be a huge hit for her.
The movie focuses on a young girl named Emily Elizabeth (played by Darby Camp) who struggles to fit into her new school. There are the stereotypical bullies who make school life that much more difficult. While her mum is away and her uncle is responsible for looking after her, she ends up with Clifford, who at the time is just a small puppy. She was told the puppy grows depending on how much he is loved. This is how Clifford ends up the size he is. We are also introduced to Zack Tieran, who plays the villain in the movie. He has spent hundreds of millions trying to make things larger. So, when he sees footage of Clifford, he makes it his mission to make him the property of his company Lyfegro. This is where the adventures start.
Overall, I thought Clifford was a feel-good family movie. While some of the storyline seemed exaggerated or predictable it was an enjoyable watch. Both of my kids loved it which made it that little bit more enjoyable for me.
Saturday, 4 December 2021 was the long-awaited Australian premiere of Sing 2. To say my kids were excited would be an understatement. The morning started with lots of excitement which didn’t subside on our arrival. We arrived at Hoyts to be greeted by glitter streamer, coloured lights, a DJ and the biggest hit, two lovely ladies serving fairy floss. Once we had had our photo taken on the large photo set, we headed into the cinema. The noise inside the cinema was one of many excited kids. As the lights dimmed and the previews started, unfortunately there were some technical difficulties which meant the screening was cancelled. The kids and I were disappointed, but it couldn’t he helped.
BERGMAN ISLAND NEW website review by Olga Tolkatcheva
'Bergman Island' is a movie written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, a French director who is known for her easy and reflective exploration of modern women's issues.
The main character, Chris, comes with her partner to one of the Baltic sea islands, where Bergman once lived. They are both filmmakers and are looking for inspiration and a secluded place to work. While Chris's partner is very assured in his approach, Chris is having a creative block and seemingly unable to finish the screenplay she is writing. Her story is about two ex-lovers who accidentally meet again for three days on the island and attempt to rekindle their passion. In the words of one of the main characters, this is a movie about 'invisible things that circulate between couples'. I enjoyed this part of the movie. The director puts the viewer in the centre of the story and makes you relive the scenes, feeling the joy and the struggle from the woman's perspective.
But not everything is as transparent as it looks. Hansen-Love skilfully nests stories within a story and intertwines them in an eerie and masterful way. Fiction and reality are heading to a junction that will take you by surprise. The director is like a magician showing us something unbelievable. Is it a dream? Is it a future? We all will have different answers and this is the magic of art.
It could be said that 'Bergman Island' is a tribute to a famous Swedish director, and will appeal to many fans of Bergman's art. It gives a visual guide and a glimpse into his personal life, not idolising him but making him flawed, and therefore more accessible. This is a movie about the creative process of making a movie, and it depicts well the atmosphere and the feelings of Bergman movies.
'Bergman Island' is currently screening around Australia.
Roger Mitchell’s 2010 film Morning Glory is a charming, funny romantic comedy in which Rachel McAdams proves she is more than a romantic interest or YA high-school melodrama antagonist – her natural charm and charisma are enough to carry a movie.
She plays Becky, a fledgeling television executive whose morning show is failing badly in the ratings. Out of desperation, she takes a desperate gamble on legendary anchor and field reporter Mike Pomeroy – a revelatory performance by Harrison Ford – who in his retirement has become a curmudgeonly old drunk with a special hatred for morning television.
Nevertheless, he relents. What follows is a touching comedy with stellar backup performances by Patrick Wilson and the legendary Diane Keaton in full flight in which Becky awakens Pomeroy’s humanity and learns a few things about the world from him in exchange.
On the other hand, Aubrey Plaza and Michael Caine couldn’t save a knockoff with publishing in place of television. Best Sellers suffers from a lack of structure. Caine’s character’s book becomes a bestseller and saves the company barely halfway through – nothing that follows elevates or enhances the drama. The problems are solved and the audience is left with forty minutes of padding to sit through.
Caine and Plaza are wasted. Morning Glory remains the superior film.
ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL 2021: TO CHIARA NEW website by Sherry Westley
Film: To Chiara Country: Italy Released: 2021 Writer/Director: Jonas Carpignano Star: Swamy Rotolo Cinematography: Tim Curtin Executive Producer: Martin Scorsese Reviewer: Sherry Westley
I enjoyed this film very much.Set in a loving Calabrian family, it centers on persistent and determined fifteen year old Chiara, as she suspects, discovers and reacts to her adored fathers’ financial activities. The source of her comfortable material life.
It premiered in the Director’s Fortnight at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and opened the current Ali Italian Film Festival in Melbourne.
The third feature film of young award winning American/ Italian writer/director Joseph Capignano, It’s a slow burn, absorbing drama.
I knew nothing about Carpignano or the film , and was surprised to see the end credits list eight main actors with the same surname! He is highly skilled in drawing thoroughly convincing performances from non professional actors. It was fascinating reading up on Carpignano’s methods, his film philosophy and the larger genre of neo neorealism. No you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy and admire this film, but for me it really extended the post viewing pleasure.
Although the film is complete on it’s own, it is actually part of a trilogy, intimately observing three facets of the social make up of a real Calabrian town, Gioia Tauro. Carpignano lived there for ten years and used non professional actors in all three films. His first feature film “Mediterranea “ (2015),focused on North African refugees. The second, ”A Ciambra “(2017), on the Roma community, and now “To Chiara“, on the coming of age of a strong minded Ndrangeta mafia daughter.
Campignano refers to “guerrilla film making”: combining both fictional and documentary elements in his films.
“A Chiara” is shot in dark , secretive colour tones ,at first seeming to be at odds with the loving, relaxed family interactions at home .Later we realise there are in fact dark secrets in the family. There are metaphores to notice….or not. The atmospheric sounds, while not subtle, are intriguing and tense.
Although I found the early party scene too long, I was soon absorbed in Chiara’s search for the truth and the strength and intimacy of Swamy Rotolo’s acting.
I’ll be searching out his previous two feature films and looking forward to the next one.
Many in metropolitan Melbourne have delighted in the reopening of cinemas, following the end of our sixth lockdown. Last week I attended a preview screening of new release Blue Bayou. And whilst it wasn’t quite the welcome back to the cinemas I had expected with only a handful of people in the cinema, the film itself didn’t disappoint. Blue Bayou is a moving story of an American family fighting for their future.
Antonio is a Korean-born man, living in New Orleans. He has lived in America nearly his entire life, having been adopted at 3 years old. Unknown to Antonio, the family who adopted him never filed the correct paperwork to make him a legal citizen. This only comes to light when he gets in trouble with the police as an adult, and the government step in to deport him.
Even being happily married to an American doesn’t make Antonio a citizen. He is also an adoring step-father to a daughter from his wife Kathy’s previous marriage, and their own first child together is on the way. Money for the family is tight, and Antonio struggles to find additional work to supplement his income he earns as a tattoo artist.
The first time we meet Antonio on screen he sits and patiently answers questions for a job interview. He is questioned on how he got his last name, and where he’s from. Antonio takes the questions in his stride and answers naming the American town he grew up in. The interviewer asks again ‘No, where are you from? Like born.’ The line of questioning is nothing new for Antonio. He is basically forced into saying Korea, even though he has no ties to Korea.
Interestingly I also attended a book launch this week, where the author discussed a similar experience of being commonly asked where he’s from. When asked repeatedly, the author said the question starts to sound more like ‘Why are you here?’ America is Antonio’s home – he considers himself American – he is American and is he desperate to stay. As things start to unravel for the family, they engage the services of an immigration lawyer to appeal the case. The sympathetic lawyer lays out the difficult road ahead, and the outlook does not look hopeful.
The film is multi layered and does a great job of balancing the themes of family, and the tension of overcoming the past. One of Blue Bayou’s biggest strengths is in the authentic performances, which really put you in the front seat as we follow the families struggle. The film has an unexpected ending, with a final devastating scene where the film makers really work hard to hammer down and pull on the heart strings. With several blockbuster titles having been released over the past few weeks, Blue Bayou may not be front of mind and may slip under the radar. However it is certainly a worthwhile film to watch. A powerful story that needs to be told, and will no doubt open conversations towards America’s unjust immigration system. Blue Bayou opens in cinemas on November 18.
BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORNNEW website by Sam Bell
In a time of fake news, online propaganda, and normalised national conspiracy theories. People have learned to doubt everything and suspect all players. Political rhetoric in particular is deconstructed and sifted for the slightest trace of bias, in order to justify its removal. The solution for filmmakers, and artists of all kinds then, is to avoid a frontal assault and flank their audiences. Using satire, parody, and abstraction, the modern artists greatest skill is to spread their message without every saying what it is.
Writer, Director Radu Jude seems not to have gotten this message, as his new film Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn rides the wave of Romanian cinema directly into the throats of its audience. The film definitely relies on satire to express its circus mirror reflection of modern Romania, but its messaging and themes are about as subtle as a brick to the face, and at times only slightly less painful.
Jude has a lot to say, about a lot of topics. Loony Porn comes out of the gate swinging, aiming its blows at cultural misogyny, nationalism, antisemitism, and xenophobia. All valid targets, but the refusal to focus and instead hit everything that passes by, means that each conflict is watered down and the message becomes slightly less biting with each new victim. Had Jude stayed on target with his clear message on sexuality, or even just sexually adjacent topics, the film would have been a very different affair. Loony porn does give equality and domestic violence a passing mention. He even gives historical context for some, explaining, in detail, the philosophical concepts of others and throws in the occasional metacinematic consideration. Even the film structure itself is eclectic and difficult to parse. Broken into three separate parts, each acting as a stand alone narrative, held together by a paper-thin plot. Each with their own aesthetics, themes, cinematographic language and style.
The film begins with a decidedly unique prologue, show the explicit, unsimulated pornography that will later become the centrepiece for the plot. Before down shifting noticeably and immediately swerving off course in the first act. Theoretically, the film follows the protagonist in near real time as she walks through the city running errands before an important meeting that night. In practice, Jude uses the film as a Romanian hit piece. The director goes out of their way to ensure that the city is shown in the worst light possible. Veering away from cinematic standards when they stand in the way of his antinationalistic propaganda. The camera focuses on anything but the characters presented, the dialogue is grating and forced, while every single passer-by is some kind of disreputable bigot. Even the city itself is shown as dirty and decaying, with long shots on delict buildings and graffitied walls. This film was not sponsored by the tourism bureau.
The second part is when the film will lose most of its audience. Replacing the long shots of the first act with an extensive clip show, Jude leans into the artistry, takes off the gloves, and begins aiming at the unmentionables. This is where the films core themes are hammered into the audience with an unrelenting passion. The messages are abstracted, but only through a thin, transparent veil. An explanation of a published novel, made entirely of letters sent to celebrities without reply, is followed by a video of a woman masturbating for a cam show. It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines here. Liberal use of explicit nudity and pornographic material, ensure this is the segment that will be focused on by most, but those same segments are why the more telling, and poignant messages are largely ignored, or unnoticed.
This is not a problem shared by the third act. Returning to the supposed protagonist, Jude sets his characters in a mock trial, rachets their own idiosyncrasies to eleven, and flattens them all into one dimensional caricatures. Any and all subtly is now long gone. Every theme or message mentioned so far is explicated stated and spelled out in excruciating detail. In an impressive feat of self destruction, the film beats its audience over the head with its themes so harshly and overtly, that the message is lost in the sheer audacity of its portrayal. The nationalistic idiot is wearing a military uniform despite never serving. The xenophobe is wearing an SS uniform without the swastika epilates. Every one takes the time to give long, uninterrupted speeches explaining their perspective and give a thorough deconstruction of all their arguments. Students of sociology could use the last twenty minutes of this film as a checklist before their finals.
The most disappointing aspect of this film is that Jude isn’t wrong in his observations. He clearly knows what he is talking about and has put a great deal of effort into his take on each topic. That he chooses to present them in a deliberately antagonistic fashion, prioritising audience reaction, over education is telling. Satire is offensive by definition. It breaks down the subject and forces the audience to rationalise something they would rather not think about. Its purpose is to make the audience think, rethink, and then reassess their own thoughts. Offending your audience and then telling them what to think isn’t satire, it’s mental reprograming. A far less laudable goal. Likewise, the film bills itself as a comedy and outright claims itself to be a joke by the end, yet until the last 2 minutes, the humour is decidedly hard to come by. It has a light tone, and a playful delivery. Jokes are clearly being made and time taken to account for laughter, but with all the punchlines removed or hidden, the audience is left awkwardly waiting, trying to get the joke.
In the end, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, had the potential to be a truly biting, politically relevant, historically memorable short film. At a third of its current length, the film would likely have swept through western audiences and made itself known. As it stands, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is a satire without context. Romanian audiences may well find this film perfectly represents their reality and can appreciate its masterful strokes. Foreign audiences are far more likely to either fall asleep, or walk out in anger. You can't debate satire. Either you get it or you don't.
It is important to remember that Daniel Craig is no stranger to Bond controversy. Those old enough to remember will recall that tabloids were up in arms when his casting was announced and nearly the entire world decided pre-emptively that Casino Royal would be the worst James Bond film ever made. Likewise, after the critical failure of Spectre, fans were ready to riot. No Time To Die was a long time coming and many used the delay to further sharpen their pitchforks and practice their disparaging speeches. It’s a good thing Crow pairs so well with merlot, because director Cary Joji Fukunaga brought his absolute A game, as did the entire, star-studded cast.
As the first ever true finale, any Bond has ever gotten, it is painfully clear that everyone involved in the making of this film knows they are making history. Craig’s baby blues are as piercing as they have ever been, and this film demands more of him then any of its predecessors. Rami Malek proves that for all the charm and charisma he possesses, few can make themselves quite as subtly unsettling. Léa Seydoux gets significantly more room to stretch her wings in this film, and uses it to fly straight off the screen and into the minds and hearts of all to see lucky enough to see her. Given that the supporting cast consists almost exclusively of Hollywood heavy weights, it should come as no surprise that every one of them knocks it out of the park. From the recurring power trio of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw; to the new comer Lashana Lynch. No Time To Die provides a vehicle for all involved to show off the depths of their skills, to the point that at times it almost feels like there is a silent competition going on behind the scenes to see which actor can force the audience to weep/cheer the loudest. Nowhere is this more obvious then when watching Jeffrey Wright cement his name forever as the one and only Felix Leiter, almost directly after watching Ana de Armas appear unexpectedly, steal the entire scene from the likes of Craig himself, then vanish into the wind.
Gone are the days of 1D characters and static film archetypes. A chronology of 5 films allows for true characters arcs and, for the first time in Bond history, true story progression. The times, they are a changing. This is does mean that for everything improved, their will be some who like it just the way it is. Engraved into the bedrock. Even the die hard fans should have enough to keep them occupied, if not happy though. For his final swansong, Craig leans into the classic Bondisms. The most future tech heavy Bond outing since Die Another Day, No Time To Die is filled with quips, humour, and more goons than any villain could realistically payroll. This isn’t your grandaddies Bond, but they aren’t too far off either. Fans will recognise a distant cousin to Sean Connery’s Bird hatted Debut.
That said, Fukunagais unafraid to break new ground and go boldly, where no one has before. With an intact chronology, and four previous films behind him. This Bond knows he is getting on in years and uses it to his advantage. This isn’t the grey haired spy, bedding the high school aged model. This is a worn and experienced solider, who’s lived through more than most and survived long enough to get sick of it.
It would be remiss to not address the various predictions made about this film during its production. Articles about a cuckold Bond, and a retcon heavy storyline have all been thrown about as if fact. People have made assumptions about studio interference and political correctness gone mad. None of this has come to pass. Craig era Bond is known for its strong female roles and departures from the series more misogynistic roots. As with its previous entries though, there are strong, well-written characters, that do what well written characters in actions movies do. It’s not until the film is over and people start making lists of their favourites, that people start to realise how many of them are women.
Thematically, No Time To Die is the most ambitious Bond film to date. Every Film in the series has tackled their own questions, with varying success. From Casino Royal’s exploration of What make a 00? To Quantum of Solaces musing about whether or not an assassin can do their job while still feeling? To Skyfall’s excellent deconstruction of the price we ask our armed services to pay in our name. Even Spectre tried to fumble around the question of whether closure is possible while the pain is still raw. No Time to Die however asks the question that people have asked for nearly 60 years, Who is James Bond? Without passing judgment, or claiming any sense of morality, a clear answer comes to everyone paying attention. James Bond is the greatest spy to ever live; a broken, patriotic man, driven to protect the few positive forces in his life.
Gone are the days of “Men want to be him, women want to be with him”, now we are forced to all stop and stare at a force of nature made human. Cursed to suffer the consequences of their actions, yet powerless to stop themselves. In place of envy is awe and respect, with a hint of pity and understanding. This isn’t the mythological face changing super soldier of yore. It’s a man, with a tortured past and nothing but duty and love holding him together. An avatar of violence, who dreams of nothing but retirement and peace. He goes through the motions we all know and love, he dances through enemies, making slaughter look like ballet, he saves the world, he beds beautiful women, but it’s not the same anymore, and it never will be.
Every Era has their own James Bond. Most people are highly protective of their own. This is no different. The 2000’s all the way to the 2020’s got the first Bond unafraid to rock the boat and potentially sink the whole ship. A fierce, vulnerable Bond, who cries for his loss, bears the scars of his foes, and was more human than anyone would have ever predicted. No Time To Die, isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it is beautiful. It is poignant. It is fitting. It’s not the send off many wanted, but it’s the one we needed. Love it or hate it, No Time To Die will not be forgotten anytime soon. Nor will its star. Rest well Daniel Craig, and thank you for everything.
The Duke Screening for the British Film Festival Max Davine
Melbourne awakens from hard COVID lockdown and theatres begin to open for guests again. Audiences make their way in to the stalls ready to feel the electricity of live performance. Cinemas open too, and it’s a different kind of energy when the lights go dark and the curtain lifts to a canvas screen. You feel your fellow audience members brace. The proscenium arch is lost in residual light. You are half witnessing and half involved in the events that are about to take place.
How we’ve missed them both.
The British Film Festival opens in Melbourne with The Duke, a fictionalised account of the true story of 60-year-old bus driver Kenton Bumpton’s theft of the portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London and the subsequent trial that saw English laws rewritten so that theft had a clearer definition.
Roger Mitchell’s sedate direction lets veteran masters Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent work the magnificent script by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman – every scene between them is a joy to watch. The younger cast are well chosen too and hold their own in an intimidating set piece. The story itself is lightened from its historical context to allow moments of jolly English humour and though the pacing drags its heels sometimes there is an innocence and playfulness abounding that perfectly capture the essence of the fictionalized Bumpton.
ERIC CLAPTON: LOCKDOWN SESSIONS NEW website review by Jeanette Russell
The Lockdown Live Sessions were recorded in 2020. The resulting 17 track album is titled, "The Lady in the Balcony Lockdown Sessions", so named apparently because Clapton's wife was the very private audience of one.The film takes us on a somewhat nostalgic journey featuring the multitalented Eric Clapton at the helm. Some are classics, all tracks put down are presented live and sound magical, and phenomenal. I so enjoyed hearing "Layla" and a very moving recent rendition of Clapton's song inspired by losing his 4 yr old son called "Tears in Heaven. We were also treated to "Black Magic Woman" Some other hits that were included in these Lockdown Sessions were " Believe in Life'" Going Down Slow" and " Nobody wants to know you when You're down and Out,".
It feels like such a privilege to be invited into the personal journey of this wondrous group. Such talent ensues. The camaraderie between them all, their philosophies of life and inspirational tales are really captivating. Such an entertaining show.
I highly recommend the film. The music is extraordinary, creative, and harmonious. Live acoustic guitar rhythms , drums, base, are ever present, as well as the grand melodies. These live concert sessions , I feel , are not to be missed. It was also wonderful to have insight into the musos ventures, loves, passions and most of all delightful music making which spans the ages.
Thoughtful reflections from this diverse group as well as Eric sharing his thoughts of the pandemic world were most profound as well as interesting.
Thank you for the opportunity to view this exclusive, special and enjoyable show. I was certainly swaying to the awesome music and it's catchiness which doesn't seem to me to date. They still "got it" Even though there were discussions and deliberations, planning and some warm ups it was still completely professional, and always on point and key. The band members are Nathan East (Bass and vocals ) who has worked with Eric since the early 80s Steve Gadd plays Drums and he has been with Clapton since the mid 90s. Chris Stainton is on Keyboard.
The recordings take place in a mansion in West Sussex, we get to view the beautiful vistas of the lovely English countryside during the film. The landscapes are quite picturesque, and add to the atmosphere and settings.
DEAD AND BEAUTIFUL NEW website review by Taylor Cougle
Film Review: Dead and Beautiful Writer/Director: David Verbeek Producer: Erik Glijnis, Leontine Petit Cast: Gijs Blom, Aviis Zhong, Yen Tsao, Anechka Marchenko, Cheng-En Philip Juan Running Time: 98 minutes Genre: Thriller/Drama
What happens when you have all the money in the world and is there anything that you can do to experience being alive when the everyday does not stimulate you?
What a very nice and refreshing twist on the vampire genre from the mind of David Verbeek. The films centres around five super rich friends, their relationship with each other and how the bored elite find ways to bring excitement into their lives. Each of the friends have their “turns” to create more exciting and elaborate experiences for each other just to feel alive. After a night camping out and undergoing a shamanic ritual, they wake up to find that they have fangs, and that the shaman is dead. They are at first surprised and not sure what to do but soon come to embrace their new accessories. They quickly go back to a safe place in the city out of the suns reach and start exploring the night in all the glam and opulence that only the elite can do. They try some “blood” and feel invigorated and alive, though one of the friends does not partake as he is not convinced by the idea due to his moral position. One of them goes deeper into the rabbit hole and embraces his new life by kidnapping a victim to feed upon and starts to believe his new powers. The film continues to explore upon the mental and emotional ties that each have with each other.
This film is a wonderful social experiment in how the psychology of each person is affected by something new and how they develop mentally and emotionally through that experience be it real or perceived. Given the right circumstance and incentives it does not take much to bring out the monster within. The ending has a surprising twist and is worth watching all the way through.
By their very nature, all war films are propaganda. For this reason, there have only ever been two kinds of war films. Pro-war, and anti-war. The films that tell tales of heroism and nationalistic ideals of violence for the greater good, pitted against portrayals of the horrors of war and all the harm it brings. As with fashion, these trends come in cycles. Political instability breeds tales of political might, while peace and introspection bring reminders of past atrocities. It is no surprise then, that Covid and the general state of the world has called forth J.P. Watts and his new film, The War Below.
Optimistic audience members may read the synopsis and focus on the specifics of the story. A team of sewage workers and their profound effect on WW1 using their expert tunnelling skills. It sounds like a story never before told, and perhaps it is. It’s not a subject often covered by Hollywood or even the state education system. Specifics aside though, this is a story of underdog protagonists, defying the power structure and proving themselves to be heroes against all odds. It’s as patriotic as earl grey, as sappy as maple pine, and contains enough British tropes to make Blackadder blush.
The question then, is how does it stand out from the crowd, with nothing new to offer. The answer is as simple as it is impressive. By going back to basics and mastering the fundamentals. The War Below deserves to be studied in film schools around the world. Every shot is textbook and follows the time honoured traditions flawlessly. From Anné Kulonen’s soundtrack, that cranks up the brass for drama and sets the sorrow with slow piano/violin accompaniment; to the costumes of Oliver Cronk, that may as well be uniforms lifted from a museum. Even the Editorial Department have produced a work so unbelievably standard and seamless that it may as well be a stage recording; the post production is so invisible.
This isn’t to say that the film is boring; far from it. The War Below boasts a number of truly excellent features. Not least of which is the work of Nick Cooke and his incredibly cinematography. After a decade of shorts and a few tv episodes, Cook has truly proven himself capable with this cinematic debut. The shot composition is flawless and the lighting is truly superb. More than anything though, the writing of J.P Watts and Thomas Woods is what makes this film what it is. A grounded, realistic story, with some great dialogue, that hits every beat it can be expected to, exactly when it is meant to. Based in one of the bloodiest and most violent settings in modern history, The War Below is largely pacifistic, with very few deaths explicit deaths, and each one hitting far harder than they have any right to. This could also be due to the films spot on casting. Sam Hazeldine and Tom Goodman-Hill do most of the heavy lifting in this film. But every cast member does their bit and supports as much of the film as their screentime allows. No one steals the scene, but everyone works together with such incredible chemistry that at times it almost seems like Casting Director Shakyra Dowling merely found a large family of siblings and put them to work.
Some will be disappointed by this film. It’s formulaic plot and cookie cutter assembly will not win it any favours among the more adventurous of film goers. These people are missing the point however. The War Below doesn’t break the mould, but it doesn’t attempt to. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. This film takes the war film genre that we all know and refines it into its core components, then polishes those parts to a mirror shine. Fans of the genre will love this film and haters of it, were doomed from the beginning. The War Below is a quintessential war film with all the trappings. If that appeals to you, then you owe it to yourself to watch this movie.
THE OBSCURE LIFE OF THE GRAND DUKE OF CORSICA NEW website review by Sam Bell
There is an art to arthouse cinema. To blending the surreal and unexpected with the familiar and mundane. It requires a delicate touch and an eye for nuance. Writer and director Daniel Graham’s latest film The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica contains neither of these things. It is a loud, messy, convoluted and largely incomprehensible film about an awful lot, that says almost nothing. A flaw Graham seems aware of since the film opens with narration urging the viewer to “pay attention”. Lamp-shading the issue does little to solve it however, and no matter how much attention is paid, there must be a payoff to reward the viewers efforts.
This is an equation the Australian director seems to understand as the film is packed to the brim with what could generously be described as Deliberate Choices. It is impossible to watch this movie and not understand that its maker very clearly wants to say something. But they are saying so much at once that it all becomes meaningless noise. It is easy to describe what happens in this movie; an elderly and overly cantankerous architect is hired to build a mausoleum for a Maltese billionaire. An ancient monk finds god in the conservation of matter and energy. A plague destroys a city. Among many other plots lines, these are all simple to follow and make enough sense. Blend them all together and portray them as if they are all part of a cohesive whole? Now there’s a problem.
There are motifs and symbols very clearly scattered throughout the film. Characters draw attention to similarities while plot lines run parallel. It’s not subtle. Nor is it in any way comprehensible. Plot lines are created and then cut without warning or payoff. Decisions are made to draw attention to things that are never seen or referred to again. Each scene is filled with witty dialogue that works for the 2-5 minutes the scene runs for, but nothing is connected to, or seems to affect anything else. The film feels like a compendium of the directors favourite scenes from at least six different movies stitched together just to see what would happen. It’s like watching a film through a kaleidoscope. All the parts are there, but trying to put them in order is impossible while you’re looking at it. The films pacing follows the plot. Extending and stretching out scenes of seemingly little importance, only to skim through what appears to be an information dump. For all that the film attempts to do and say, most of the plot and character progression all happens in the last 15 minutes; without build up or warning. As if the film makers were made aware that nothing had happened and then scrambled to make up for lost time.
To the films credit though, the acting is sublime. No matter how confusing, or inexplicable the movie becomes, the audience is inevitably drawn to the sheer magnetism on display. Unsurprising since both Timothy Spall and Peter Stormare are national treasures and deserve more recognition that can ever be given. They own every second they are on screen and bring their best to every scene. While it is often impossible to know why are they are doing what they are doing at any moment, it is always abundantly clear what is being done. What is a pleasant surprise though, is just how well the relatively unknown Matt Hookings is able to keep up with the two heavyweights. Though much less hinges on his performance, he has definitely made himself one to watch. Unlike this film, no matter how good the acting is, the stars can only work with what they are given after all. A good film can survive bad acting, but great acting cannot save a terrible film.
It is possible, if not likely that this film would reward repeat watches. That taking it apart and examining each scene would reveal some grand lesson. Unfortunately, The Obscure Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica is not nearly an enjoyable enough film to willingly watch more than once.
Director Philip Barantini brings the magic of the one-take film – in the tradition of Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian Ark and Alejandro Iñàritu’s Birdman and that breathtakingly unforgettable episode of The Haunting of Hills House – to a busy East London restaurant. The demand placed on actors and crew by this technique cannot be overstated. However, a gimmick it is and should not be attempted unless you’ve got a stellar cast, great story, excellent script, and high stakes behind you.
Barantini succeeds for the most part – whether or not anyone cares Stephen Graham’s head chef Andy Jones gets through the health department check and subsequent busy service might be up in the air – but it’s the cast that carry this one through. Veterans of the London stage and a few survivors of Guy Ritchie films shine and bring truth and intimacy to their roles. The script is also strong.
An auteur piece for lovers of art cinema, Boiling Point is a fun, worthwhile piece that should induce fond memories to anyone who has cut their teeth in the stressful world of commercial hospitality.
BECOMING COUSTEAU NEW website by Jeanette Russell
Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born in 1910 in France and passed away in 1997 at age 87. He had an amazing life as documented in "Becoming Cousteau" that portrays his work, discoveries passions and achievements. Some of those were in the French Navy, exploring the sea quite extensively, and being the co-inventor of the Aqua-Lung, in his younger years. Later in life he made films, documentaries, and wrote. He formed the Cousteau society. This was born because Jacques was convinced that humans were ruining the planet. The documentary film is very interesting and informative, showing the man, emotional, real and active in preserving the planet for future generations. Cousteau's life was one of searches, pioneering journeys, and great accomplishments. Married to his first wife in 37, Jacques met her as the first female aquanaut and diver. . Simone loved the Calypso boat that became her home with Jacques and family, until her death in 1990. She loved the sea and the tours they took on the boat. She was also his business partner. They had 2 children Philippe who sadly passed at age 37 and Jean Michel. Cousteau's second wife who he married in 1991 had 2 children with him Diane and Pierre Yves, her name is Francine.
In 1957 Jacques made the documentary film called A Silent World. It was derived from a book. He won awards for it one an Academy Award and an Oscar as well as an award from the Cannes International Film Festival. Cousteau was a director in Monaco of its Oceanographic Museum, in 1957.
Jacques starred in many T.V shows and documentaries, as well as producing. One of his most famous was The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. He had produced many with his son Philippe. This multi-talented man also wrote many books. The documentary, Becoming Cousteau, was a fascinating insight into the life of this famous man. Showcasing his journey with commentary by Jacques himself as well as friends, colleagues and family. I highly recommend watching the film. Towards the end we are able to understand and get insights into his love of marine life and the planet, and wanting to leave a better world for future generations.
The Cousteau Society was a not for profit group formed that is dedicated to marine conservation.. In October 91 a protocol was established to protect Antarctica from mineral resource and oil collection, for the sake of the environment. A treaty was born in which the USA and 24 nations agreed to ban these explorations for at least 50 years. Antarctica balances the planet earth with the mix of sun and Antarctica's 90 % ice. Cousteau has described.
In 1992 Cousteau was heavily involved in "The Earth Summit " . Jacques ascertained that " Biodiversity is shrinking and energy is in demand" He was urging people to act, and stated that he believes in people to do the right thing for the planet, and our future.
Very impressive, well made movie well worth the watch. Released on the 22nd of October.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to review it.
My Father and Me is above all, an exploration of the morality of representation and honest depiction. It asks the question faced by all artists, but documentary makers in particular. When faced with the downtrodden and the destitute; is it kinder to uplift their image, glorify their strengths and downplay their hardships, in order to shield them from stigma and shame. Or is it safer to show the reality of the situation, no matter how brutal or harsh the effects, in the hopes that the knowledge will empower those able to affect change and influence things for the better. The film makes it abundantly clear that Writer/director/narrator/star Nick Broomfield has struggled with this question since before he understood what it was. The film ostensibly follows Nicks father, the famed British photographer Maurice Broomfield. In chronological order, the film goes through his life beat by beat from the start of his career to his recent death.
The film itself is a perfect encapsulation of its core theme. It bounces between mythologising Maurice and hinting at the darker realities. It builds up an image of a perfect holiday and endlessly caring family, then undercuts it with the knowledge that Maurice hated being called Dad and the whole family was on a first name basis. It doesn’t shy away from discussing facts or events, but resorts to vagary and glosses over context. It’s a contrarian movie, packed to the brim with artificiality and idealised versions of events, but presented with absolute honesty and conviction. The narrator isn’t so much unreliable, as they are naïve. Watching the film, it feels like the movie and its maker are learning about the events in real time. As if the film is happening in the background and the audience is sitting alongside the director and we’re both trying to make sense of it together.
In that vein, it is impossible for anyone to watch this film and not understand how hard it was for Nick to make. No matter how events are being presented or how quickly major downbeats are sped through, there is an inescapable sense of true emotion instilled into every frame. Scenes last too long, and important context is skipped, but it all feels like a story being told by someone who lived it. It is reminiscent of listening to a dinner story where the narrator focuses on trying to remember the brand of wine, or sums up the epic tale with “but it all worked out”. It’s not what you want to hear about, and it’s terrible storytelling, but it’s honest and its real. Watching this film is an emotional rollercoaster ride. It’s a story about a hard man, who was hard on his family and by all rights should have been difficult to love; but very clearly was loved, by many of those around him. Nick describes his mother’s death, the effects of depression and the darkest points in the family history, but frames them in a tale of love and legacy.
It would be dishonest to claim that My Father and Me is completely true, but equally dishonest to claim it isn’t. It is true to itself, if nothing else. It is not a masterclass in film making. It falls slightly into self-aggrandisement at times as Nick pats himself on the back for all he’s done; and tonally the film is a scrambled mess. It asks the question of romanticisation vs harsh reality, yet it settles on compromise. It glorifies the father of glorification, and spotlights the realist son. Attempting to have its cake and eat it too. For all that though, it is difficult to imagine any other way the story could have been told. Hearing the narration struggle to find its voice and rely on external sources when emotions run high, sounds like a live performance. Seeing the images taken to be brutal and confronting, then hearing artificial sound effects layered over them is startling. My Father and Me doesn’t feel like watching a film. It feels like reading a friend’s personal diary. You know every word is true, even if you remember it differently. It is fascinating and you want to know more, but everything you learn instils a sense of guilt in you. Like you have invaded someone’s privacy and gained knowledge you were never meant to have. This isn’t a film, it’s a therapy session, recorded without the patient’s knowledge. It’s real, in the way only art can be.
SPARKLING: THE STORY OF CHAMPAGNE website review by Sam Bell
In a digital age of outrage and cancel culture, when true crime reigns supreme and hot takes are the only takes worth listening to; Sparkling: The Story of Champagne is something of an enigma. A documentary so determined to be unoffensive or jarring in any way, that it bucks the industry trend and defies expectations. Sparkling attempts to make up for its lack of conflict or overarching story, by drowning the audience in so many interviews, with so many different figures that the camera cuts rival most shaky cam action sequences. Keeping the audience entertained by way of puzzling out who is talking and about what, rather than the actual dialogue or information being presented.
A method that proves surprisingly effective. While the film meanders aimlessly from topic to topic, exploring tangents and unrelated factors in abrupt, unpredictable segues; It does maintain its chronology throughout. A pacing backbone that is tentatively capable of keeping the film together through its absolute mess of a storyboard.
The films tone assists in its cohesion as well. By maintaining its light and breezy tone, it stops the audience getting too invested in any particular topic, so the sudden shift is less worrisome. Without any trace of conflict, there is no side to take or follow. Even in the second half, when the film undergoes a complete paradigm shift. Choosing to abandon the historical and technical aspects of the first half for a nationalistic debate of local specialities and whether a lack of competition has helped or hindered the industry.
The film maintains its ultra-fast paced interview cuts and random topic shifts, but the topics shifted to bare no resemblance to those of the first half. By this point audiences have either grown accustom to the frenetic, skin-deep style, or left; making it less of an issue and more of a talking point. This trained apathy is strong enough that even a 2 minute cameo by Stephen Fry, reading a poem and making a vague statement about the etymology of the word champagne seems like a fitting and reasonable section for the film to contain. That he seems to have been given top billing Is a bit of a stretch however. No matter how sporadic and unpredictably the information is portrayed, there is no denying that Sparkling, does impart a lot of information. From the contested origins of the drink, to its effects on pop culture and world history. All the way the effects of climate change on different regions of the world and the ways national agriculture is shifting to maintain the status quo. The downside of this is that no matter your interests, you are certainly going to find some part of the film painfully slow. Which part is likely to change from person to person.
Sparkling is a documentary without a message, goal, or topic of interest. It presents no new information and provides no unusual views. It is the coldest of takes and least confronting film seen in a long time. It is a light, gentle puff piece, utterly devoid of narrative or structure. Viewers would be better served not thinking of this as a conventional documentary, but rather an hour and half long guided tour through the encyclopedia entry, for the word Champagne. Likely too slow for most, but calming enough for many. Sparkling is not a film to sit down and focus on, but rather a pleasant mood setter, to have playing in the background while you cook dinner, or to listen to while going for a walk.
Séance is a revolves around a group of teens at a prestigious girl’s school, Edelvine Academy and opens up with a small group of students standing in front of a mirror calling the Edelvine ghost, in a similar manner as Candyman, as part of a prank on those students not in the “know”. Soon afterwards one of the students is found dead, supposedly falling out of her dorm window. This leaves an opening for a new student to arrive and soon the main character Camille Meadows (Waterhouse) arrives. Camille is the new girl in the school and soon comes face to face with the mean girls of the school but soon finds common ground as a series of deaths of the girls who attended the mirror awakening take place. There are flashes of a masked face prior to each death suggesting that the ghost of Edelvine is at play but is it a ghost or something else at play, there are several surprises as the movie develops.
I enjoyed the film as a Teen Slasher meets Nancy Drew, though most of the slasher action happens towards the end but still it was neither slow nor boring. There are only a few jump scares, but you are compelled to keep watching just to find out how this will unfold. There is also a developing romance which puts a nice touch to the events in the film and Suki Waterhouse plays her part very well along, revealing her motivations as Camille for coming to the school in the first place at the end of the film.
This is good to watch as an afternoon film or as part of a girls night if you enjoy a Teen Slasher with a touch of murder mystery
YAKUZA PRINCESS website review by Olga Tolkatcheva
The film is based on a Brazilian comic book and has all the features of an indulgent escape: exotic Japanese subculture with samurai philosophy and yakuza tattoos; a beautiful but deadly Japanese girl-orphan living in Brazil; an exquisitely crafted ancient katana sword, famously cursed to bring destruction to its owners; a mysterious powerful stranger with a memory loss, who helps the main heroine. Finally, a portion of mysticism and loads of action complete the recipe.
The ingredients for a gripping action thriller are there, however in trying to stay true to the original graphic story, the result is a stylish, visually stunning movie with schematic characters and a plot that was difficult to follow.
The main character, Akemi, discovers that she is the only surviving heiress to a slain Yakuza crime family. She was saved as an infant and hidden far away from her home. Fate has finally caught up with her, and her proficiency in combat and sword fight comes in handy when she needs to defend herself against the bloodthirsty Yakuza. The war between crime lords provides a perfect backdrop to showcase graphic violence and frequent fight sequences.
I enjoyed beautiful photography and music, as well as the stimulating scenery. It was an interesting view of shadowy, Japanese underworld culture. One of the interesting facts I discovered is that Brazil has the biggest Japanese ex-pat community in the world.
This movie would appeal to die-hard fans of action movies and fans of grungy film-noir.
A FIRE INSIDE website review by MD, a volunteer fireman
A Fire Inside
Every good documentary has an angle. There is some intrinsic point of their subject that has been overlooked by the public that the documentary team whish to shed light upon. Some vital aspect that has gone overlooked by the media and the popular discourse. There’s no shortage of choices when you’re topic is the horrifying bushfires of 2019-2020 – the Red Cross’ flagrant abandonment of their duties as soon as the media cameras packed up and left, the ongoing struggle for resources and housing for the members of the public left homeless and destitute while our moron Prime Minister spends 90 billion dollars on submarines we won’t see for a quarter of a century, the fact that planned burns have been a vital part of fire land management for decades but couldn’t be done in the months leading up to the fires because climate change had so effected conditions that planned burns couldn’t be done safely, the arrogant politicization of the disasters and the utterly bullshit blaming of the situation on “arsonists and lightning” by the Murdoch press, the astonishing surges of domestic violence which occur after a national emergency which Sherele Moody attempted to address and was cancelled for, the fact that selflessness in Australia only extends as far as personal inconvenience and when it comes time to wear a mask and stay indoors for a spell it’s all too much for Australian communities far and wide, the music and comedy industries which came to the rescue of fundraisers and communities only to be shut out and left to destitution come the COVID lockdowns, or maybe the continued and blatant lack of action on providing firefighters the resources they need to combat the growingly complex and aggressive blazes we’re going to see on a regular basis henceforth.
Any of this would have been good. A generic puff-piece full of tear-eyed sentiment, generic montages, and scary music isn’t what we needed. A 90-minute A Current Affair piece does nothing to address the continued lack of initiative shown by the Australian PUBLIC on who they vote for, the corporate destruction of the GLOBAL environment and its consequences, and the mental health of first responders and the public.
Lastly, I seem to remember the fires engulfing most of the country – including Victoria – but it is the gift of the New South Welsh to be able to convince themselves that they are the entire nation.
To accord some credit, mental health is focussed on for a spell. But it is not significant, not targeted, and does not appeal to anyone who needs help now to reach out and seek guidance.
A safe, generic, boring load of shit. Don’t call firefighters heroes. Create a community where we can rest easy knowing we won’t have to put our lives on the line like this – or make the support happen where we need it afterward.
by Jeanette Russell
A Fire Inside is a heartening, inspirational documentary about the lives of volunteers coming together in the wake of a disaster to protect and support their local community in country NSW. This film is a true insight into the lives of some of these dedicated volunteers, the firefighters, who have put their own lives on the line so many times to combat the scary and all engulfing flames. It's the story of volunteers supporting and helping others not only to save their lives, homes and properties, but afterwards to assist people rebuild, re-fence and also to aid with food, clothes and other essentials.
The amazing spirit and bravery of these individuals does not go unnoticed. Their phenomenal resilience and perseverance is incredible. I was awestruck.
This not to be missed doco had me in tears, truly inspired and extremely impressed me also. I was so humbled by the character of these strong human beings. It felt such a privilege to have insight into their journeys as they shared very personal stories and accounts of what they had been through.
I felt so moved by the whole film. Volunteers apparently make up 90% of the fireforce which is so surprising to hear. My hat goes off to them, as many described the huge personal sacrifices that have been made not only during Black Saturday, but afterwards coping with mental health issues, physical ailments and the like.
During the stories families share from all aspects of being involved in the Rural Fire Service, from fighting fires on the front line to losing loved ones, and being part of a family waiting for the firies to come home. Other volunteers involved from food bankers, to backpackers who were involved in assisting farmers to re-fence, share their experience. They aptly describe how they feel about volunteering and what it brings to their personal journeys in life.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to review this amazing documentary. It's such a good watch and really gives such valuable insight into the NSW rural communities and how the volunteers are such heroes and mentors. I highly recommend this film. Icon Run time 91 mins Release 7 th of Oct. Writers / directors Justin Krook Luke Mazzaferro Production Michael Hilliard Camilla Mazzaferro Casey Ventura Nick Worthington.
“Last man down “- let me start by saying: what a movie!
It’s one of the most amazing piece of art which was performed so well by two main characters of the movie - John and Maria.
It is a movie full of suspense and amalgamation with great acting, story, directorship and cinematography. It is one of ten few movies which I enjoyed watching after so long.
The character, John is someone who left the civilisation and lives now in a forest, in the woods. The entrance of Maria into his life has not only changed John’s life but also brought a sweet and sour flavour to the film.
Being an artist myself, I understand and appreciate the amount of hardwork and effort which was put into this movie creation by th whole cast and film crew.
I would like to give special congratulations to the director and the writer of the film for this incredible work and for their talent.
Please keep entertaining us with this kind of superb piece of art.
I would highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone.