Friday, October 30, 2009

The Box

There is a moment, probably about 45 minutes into The Box, where you begin to wonder what the hell is going on. Up until this point director Richard Kelly (of Donnie Darko fame, and Southland Tales infamy) has his audience believing they are watching a morality play, but then the sci-fi kicks in and everything just gets weird. It is credit to Kelly that even with the twists and tangles of the plot, The Box is oddly enthralling.

The Box extends well past the scope of the original text, a short story by Richard Matheson called Button Button. Setting the action in 1976, Kelly has used the backdrop of the Viking Mission (first robotic research unit on Mars), with the NASA Langley facility playing a pivotal role in the film. Kelly has contextualised the film in a way that is familiar to him, setting it in Richmond, Virginia, where he grew up, and where his father worked as an engineer for NASA Langley. This lends the film an authenticity that enables the more fanciful elements of the script to still remain (clinging by its fingertips) suspenseful.


click here to read my full review at Trespass

Thursday, October 29, 2009

It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud is an absorbing look at the creative minds behind three influential bands, Led Zeppelin, U2 and White Stripes (to a lesser degree, so far, The Raconteurs). Set up as a love letter to the electric guitar, the documentary spends time with Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge (David Howell Evans). The producers/director Thomas Tull and Davis Guggenheim have come up with a simple premise, put these three men in a studio (the size of an aircraft hanger) with guitars and lots of amps and see what comes out. The meeting of these musical minds, whose approach to the electric guitar are all distinct and conflicting, is a fan’s dream.

Thankfully the audience also gets to spend solo time with the musicians, discovering the whys and hows of their passions for music. We are introduced to each musician’s local habitat and influences. These men are all considered to be electric guitar virtuosos, with distinct visions of how music should and can be produced. How did they find their ‘sound’?

click here to read my full review at Trespass or at The Debaser


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is complicated. There are so many things to like; a brilliant lead performance by Robin Wright Penn, impressive female ensemble cast, and compelling storyline- exploring the life of the ultimate people-pleaser. However, there are also immensely off-putting elements to the film; sugary chick-flick moments, the romantic subplot and a deeply unfulfilling conclusion.

Based on the novel of the same name, written by director, Rebecca Miller, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee introduces us to Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) the beautiful wife of a successful publisher, Herb Lee (Alan Arkin). Pippa and Herb have downsized to a small house in a retirement village following Herb’s multiple heart attacks. Pippa, who is decades younger than her husband, is out of place in her new surroundings. Heralded as the supreme artist’s wife and an enigma by one of Herb’s writers at a dinner party she is hosting, Pippa begins to reminisce about her young self. These memories, shown in flashback with the teenage/twentysomething Pippa played by Blake Lively (of Gossip Girl fame), increasingly impose on Pippa’s life and she begins to exhibit unusual behaviour.


click here to read my full review at Trespass

Saturday, October 17, 2009

NT LIVE- Stage to Screen

All's Well That Ends Well

The National Theatre (London, UK) is trying to spread theatrical love across the world with its launch this year of NT LIVE. This pioneering scheme promises to open up the experience of their world class productions to wider audiences, as the National Theatre broadcast live-captured performances of plays to cinemas throughout the globe. NT LIVE’s pilot season is firmly underway with its second production, All’s Well That Ends Well, coming to cinemas around Australia this weekend - 17th and 18th October.

Whilst time constraints make it impossible for Australia and other regions to see the live performance at the same time as the production (the play was screened in cinemas in UK and US earlier this month) the screenings this weekend are the same live performance seen in the Northern Hemisphere; there has been no additional editing.

It was the final night of All’s Well That Ends Well that was chosen to be recorded for the NT LIVE programme. This seldom performed Shakespeare comedy was recorded using nine HD cameras around the venue, the prestigious Olivier Theatre. Certainly there are both pros and cons to watching a play in the cinema, captured in a filmic way. The atmosphere of the live theatre environment is not easily transplanted. While this experiment of translating the stage to the screen is not the equivalent of seeing the live production, surely it is the next best thing.

click here
to read full review at Trespass


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Departures- Okuribito

The surprise winner of the 2009 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Departures (Okuribito), is a visually stunning film. This Japanese film is both a reverential and humorous look at death and its taboo place in society. Examining this difficult subject, Departures manages to stay on the right side of sentimentality, but only just.

Departures follows the story of Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) who after losing his dream job is forced, by financial concerns, to relocate to his childhood home in Yamagata (north-eastern prefecture). Daigo’s concern over moving his wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) from Tokyo and his patriarchal need to provide, sees him answering an extremely vague job ad in the local newspaper, which he wrongly assumes is for a travel agency. Daigo finds himself working as an encoffineer (nokanshi) under the guidance of the lovingly paternal and slightly mischievous Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki). Taking on the unusual task of encoffination (nokanshiki), Daigo finally feels useful; however the social shame of the position threatens to destroy his marriage and old friendships.

click here to read my full review

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Whatever Works- Woody returns to NYC

Back on home territory, after a sojourn on the continent, Woody Allen has reunited with his muse, New York City for Whatever Works. The hits and misses of his European period have not dented his enthusiasm for witty, neurotic musings on life, love and religion. His purist fans must be delighted he is back in the Big Apple after five years, returning to the landscape that inspired Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters - films that have given Woody Allen his exulted status as a director.

Whatever Works follows the story of an aging suicidal misanthropic physics genius, Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David). This is a man who has got the self-destruct button firmly in sight, unable to understand the how or why of happiness. Boris is rude, funny and ultimately confused by life. Eking out a living as the worst children’s chess teacher ever, he spends his time preaching his beliefs about life, love and religion to his friends and whoever else gets in his way. Boris’ life takes an unusual twist when he has a chance encounter with a southern teenage runaway, Melody St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood). She is the polar opposite of Boris; sweet, young, pretty, naïve and somewhat dumb (in an amusing beauty pageant kinda way).

Click here to read my full review at Trespass

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mao's Last Dancer


It is rare for a film to be better than the book it is adapted from, and Mao’s Last Dancer is disappointingly no exception. It is hard to take seriously a film which presents the inner politics of a ballet company as more cutthroat than those of Communist China.

Li Cunxin’s story is an incredible one and hugely worthy, hence the success of his autobiography. Unfortunately director Bruce Beresford isn’t able to convert this story to film in a way that does justice to the extraordinary source material.
Click here to read my full review at Trespass

Friday, October 2, 2009


I wish I had one that could have gone and watched this film instead of me


Surrogates is not a film that is so bad, it’s good. Not a guilty pleasure. Not a great idea, just poorly executed. Surrogates is a stinking pile of excrement. It is the pass-the-parcel of clichés, where every layer you unwrap there is another obvious story point unashamedly mooning you from the screen. It is truly rare to watch a film with no redeeming features.

Click here to read my full review at Trespass