Friday, June 28, 2013

We Steal Secrets: The Story Of Wikileaks (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Alex Gibney
Cast: Julian Assange, Adrian Lamo, Bradley Manning, James Ball
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks opens in Australian cinemas on the 4th July 2013 and opens in the UK on the 12th July 2013

If you are starting from scratch with your Wikileaks and Julian Assange knowledge, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks is a great place to start and learn everything you could possibly need to know about the infamous man and his ground breaking website in just over 2 hours.

However, if you are on a need to know basis with Assange and Wikileaks, while We Steal Secrets is thorough enough, it is still very pro-Wikileaks. Interestingly, it is pro-Wikileaks and anti-Assange. Therefore, Alex Gibney's documentary is not rid of bias, but is still extremely interesting and effective.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks is a detailed look at how the concept of Wikileaks was formed by it's founder, Julian Assange and how it came to be the focus of international controversy by being the facilitator of the biggest security breach in US history. Through interviews with ex- Wikileaks employees and detailed biographies of all the major people involved in the scandals surrounding Wikileaks, the truth is learnt about the charismatic Assange and the ongoing effects of Wikileaks.

This documentary, which had it's world premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival and Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, is nothing short of entertaining. There is so much drama surrounding Wikileaks that at times it can feel as though you are watching a narrative feature film rather than a documentary. It can be extremely emotional and heartfelt, especially when looking at the result of Bradley Manning being the whistle-blower on the operations of the US military and the final interview scene with Adrian Lamo.

Throughout most of the film, it is clear that it is pro-Wikileaks. It does seem as though it is pro-Assange for a time as well, but then it suddenly switches. All the dirt suddenly comes out on Assange from the mouths of those who have personally known him and the conclusion of the film makes him out to be the exact opposite of what Wikileaks stands for. Whether this has come to past as being true or not, the film suddenly starts on the path of being extremely one-sided. Especially when it is mentioned that Assange set a price to give an interview for the film and Gibney did not approve of this. After being asked for that amount of money, it is obvious Gibney isn't a big fan of Assange, which is understandable in many ways. However, the bias does bring down the credibility of the film.

We Steal Secrets can almost be quite anti-USA at times as well when it comes to the case of Bradley Manning. Some of the things the interviewees say could be taken quite harshly by many Americans.

Gibney has used other techniques besides the information he has to ensure that We Steal Secrets is as entertaining as it can be. There is the use of loud music, such as that of Midnight Oil and Lady Gaga to increase the excitement and tension of the film as well as an original score by Will Bates which helps add to the emotion of the moment. The visual technique of using the electric blue typing against a black ground is also effective and heightens awareness of how important these electronic messages are to the story.

One thing is for certain with We Steal Secrets is that it certainly makes you think. It challenges you to think further about what you have been informed about and decide whether you think what happened as a result of Wikileaks uncovering the secrets of the US military was handled in the right way or not. The film encourages you to believe that it wasn't, but it still doesn't stop you pondering over the question of morals and the role and treatment of whistle-blowers in society.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks is an extremely interesting documentary and leaves you feeling like you are an expert on the subject, which is what a good documentary should do. However, it is still guilty of the crime of pushing you towards a certain viewpoint through it's bias ways.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

After Earth (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Zoe Isabelle Kravitz, Sophie Okonedo

Will Smith wanted to once again work with his son, Jaden. M. Night Shyamalan needed a blockbuster to get his approval rating back up. Post-apocalyptic movies are very in vogue at the moment.

These are probably the three reasons After Earth was made.

Apart from these three reasons, it is a confusing notion as to why this film was made at all. It lacks more than it does achieve and although not completely mind-numbingly boring, it may be at the bottom of the blockbusters (if you can call it that) this season.

Some years into the future, Earth has been deemed unfit for humans to live and the race has migrated to Nova Prime. General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) returns home to his wife, Faia (Sophie Okonedo) and son, Kitai (Jaden Smith) after a lengthy mission. In order to develop a better relationship with his son, Cypher takes him on his next duty. During the flight, an asteroid storm hits and damages the ship, sending it crashing into Earth. Cypher and Kitai are the only two survivors and as Cypher is badly injured, Kitai must venture across the dangerous lands of Earth in order to get help for his father.

It has been years since M. Night Shyamalan has had a well received film. After Earth is a different path for him to walk down but it has not proved a successful one. Even having one of the biggest movie stars in the world take part in his film hasn't helped his cause.

 After Earth lacks the suspense, wonder and emotion such a film would be expected to provoke. What it doesn't lack is predictability, which isn't anything to be proud of. From the word go, you know exactly what is going to happen and how the film will reach that point. Although it isn't so dull that you would rather have a nap than watch it, it isn't a particularly interesting or unique piece of work. It just seems like the film didn't even have that much potential from the onset being as it comes along in a swarm of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films and it doesn't present anything that makes it stand out from the rest.

What the film does have going for it are some very impressive and realistic visuals, particularly those on Earth itself. It is just a shame that there is no impressive story nor a worthy musical score (which is very much like the score in other Shyamalan films) to accompany it.

Jaden Smith does well in his role and does absolutely overshadow his father. He does well in the emotional scenes with his father and shows that he does have a successful career ahead of him. Smith Snr is completely unlikable in his role as Cypher. He gets no sympathy from the audience and just gives a dull and lifeless performance. Perhaps he wanted to let his son have the spotlight more in this film, but it is painful how little substance his performance and character has.

After Earth is sure to be one of those films that just disappears into the abyss when it's season is over. The Smith combination should look into the past at what made the team work in The Pursuit Of Happyness and stick at this rather than try too hard to make a blockbuster.


On a side note.....

This is the way we would much prefer to see the father and son combination.

(Photos courtesy of

Everyone loves some Smith love! We need Will Smith to crack a smile or two in his films, he is far more likable when he has a smile and hope.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Miranda Cosgrove
Now showing in Australian cinemas
To be released in the UK on the 28th of June and the USA on the 3rd of July 2013

 Despicable Me fans can now breathe a sigh of relief. Despicable Me 2 is in no way an insult to the first film.

The second film carries on all the fun, laughs and entertainment that the first film gave us, with a few little changes according to what fans loved from the first film. The main change being that those crazy minions have a greater presence in this film. There shouldn't be too many complaints about that.

After Gru (Steve Carell) is cured of his villainous ways in Despicable Me, we find him at the beginning of this film still completely besotted by his three adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes ( Elsie Fisher). He has adapted to fatherhood well and is living a low key life, which is quite the opposite to his days as a villain. That is until Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) shows up in his front yard trying to convince him to join the Anti-Villain League (AVL). Gru takes some convincing, but he eventually decides to help out the AVL find a new villain who is creating mayhem. The unthinkable happens for this one time bad man though, he may have found his match in Agent Wilde.

Despicable Me 2 is great for the same reasons that Despicable Me was. Both of the films have a wide appeal in that their attraction isn't restricted to a particular group of people. It isn't your typical clichéd film in that the protagonist is not a particularly charming character nor is he easy on the eye. Gru may not be a villain anymore, but he still looks like one and can also have the attitude of one too.

The screenplay, written by Ken Daurio and Chico Paul, is very good and very different from the first film, while still having the basics right. When Daurio and Paul were writing the screenplay for Despicable Me 2, they must have seen how well the minions were received by all in the first film because they feature a lot more in the second film (and in it's promotions). They feature more in the actual plot than they did before and there is some hilarious scenes with them right at the end of the film.

The wonderful thing about the actors who supply the voices in Despicable Me 2 is that they are truly in actor mode and are not just speaking in their own voice. Both Steve Carell and Russell Brand's voices are almost unrecognisable as Gru and Dr Nefario. They both truly become their character and show there is a lot more to giving an animated character your voice rather than just reading your lines. Kristen Wiig is also good, not for the same reasons as Carell and Brand, but rather because she is able to portray emotions through her voice and it would seem like she had a great amount of fun being  Lucy Wilde.

It is not a necessity to see Despicable Me before you see Despicable Me 2, but it is recommended so that you understand the characters a bit better. There isn't a great deal of character development as it is assumed you know who the main characters are and how they got to be who they are. There really is no spoken connection to the film before, so it is preferred you would see the first film before this one.

Despicable Me 2 is very funny and entertaining and one of the best animations you will see this year.

Does anyone want to petition for a Minion Translation Dictionary?


You may have also seen Steve Carell in......
Despicable Me as Gru
The Way, Way Back  as Trent

You may have also seen Russell Brand in.....
Despicable Me as Dr Nefario
Rock Of Ages as Lenny

You may have also seen Kristen Wiig in......
Bridesmaids as Annie

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

RIP James Gandolfini

We are very sorry and saddened this morning to hear the passing of the wonderful actor, James Gandolfini.

The 51 year old, who is most well known for his lead role in the HBO television series, The Sopranos, died as a result of a heart attack while on holiday in Italy.

The news has struck the hearts of many people in the industry who had met and worked with Gandolfini and fans around the world. He had the reputation of being a very gentle, genuine and loving man and he will be missed by many.

Gandolfini was born in New Jersey in 1961. He made his break on Broadway before landing his breakthrough role as Virgil in True Romance. However, it was for the role of mob boss and family man, Tony Soprano that he will most be remembered in The Sopranos that he will be most remembered for. He won three Emmy awards and one Golden Globe award for the role.

Since the end of The Sopranos in 2007, he has appeared various films including In The Loop, Where The Wild Things Are, Welcome To The Rileys, Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.

Before his death, he was scheduled to take part in the new HBO series, Criminal Justice.

James Gandolfini will be missed by movie and television show fans alike. He leaves behind his wife, Debroah Lin and two children, Michael (13) and Liliana (8 months)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)


Year: 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher
Now showing in cinemas everywhere

There is one simple way to determine if you are a fan of The Great Gatsby. It's by whether you are a Baz Luhrmann fan or if you are not.

The Great Gatsby is Baz Luhrmann's most ambitious and extravagant film yet. Luhrmann has an unmistakable style to his films and if you are not a fan of his past films, in particular Moulin Rouge!, there is little chance that you will enjoy The Great Gatsby. On the other hand, if you are a Baz fan, then you will think that this film is one of the events of the year. That being said, for it to really have been one of the events of the year, The Great Gatsby would have to have broken down the barrier between the two and that's something it failed to do.

Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, The Great Gatsby is told from the viewpoint of young bond worker, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who moves to New York and into a cottage on Long Island. He quickly becomes enchanted by the extravagant lifestyle of his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). When Nick finally meets his enigmatic neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), he finds that below the surface nothing is as it seems.

Luhrmann's version of The Great Gatsby is extremely over the top. That has always been his style, but this film seeks to overemphasise parts of the story which don't need to be as they already create an impact naturally. The moment when Gatsby is introduced into the film is so over the top. DiCaprio doesn't need fireworks placed around him for his entrance into the film. That's enough to provoke a sea of eye rolls.

Even though it is extremely over the top and there is a lot of the film that visually seems unnecessary, you can't deny it is also visually stunning. The party scenes are incredible as are the recreations of 1920's New York City. All of the costumes for the players are also incredible, Carey Mulligan never looks less than a million dollars.

Luhrmann also is very good at employing the best choreography for the party and club scenes. It almost makes you want to learn the Charleston. It can be a little too neat at times when it is employed for butlers opening and closing doors in time with each other at the Buchanan's house, again unnecessary. The musical score is also very good. It is a risk to mix modern music with a historical picture, but it does The Great Gatsby justice.

One thing that everyone will agree on is that through the exaggeration and the extravagance, Luhrmann does make sure that the film stays true to Fitzgerald's novel the whole way. He may let the cinematography run away with itself, but the story stays on it's path.

There could not have been a better person to play Gatsby than Leonardo DiCaprio. He is everything Gatsby should be and is consistently good. His most wonderful scene is when his Gatsby catches sight of Daisy for the first time in years and you can see all his love and pain in his expression in such a pure way. Carey Mulligan is also a very good Daisy Buchanan. It is wonderful to finally see her smile in a movie again.

Tobey Maguire is good as Nick Carraway, but is overshadowed by his fellow players in many of his scenes. His best comes at the end of the film. Joel Edgerton is also brilliant as Tom Buchanan, and also quite intimidating.

The Great Gatsby is not going to be for everyone. It will be for those who crave visual extravagance and love experiencing how the other half live.


You may have also seen Leonardo DiCaprio in.....
Inception as Cobb
Django Unchained as Calvin Candie

You may have also seen Carey Mulligan in.....
An Education as Jenny
Drive as Irene

You may have also seen Joel Edgerton in.....
The Waiting City as Ben Simmons

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Internship (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne, Josh Brener, Max Minghella, Jessica Szohr

The Internship pulls no surprises. One look at the poster and you know exactly what you are getting. Actually, as soon as your hear the title you could guess what the film would be about and you could bet your last dollar you wouldn't be far off the exact plot outline.

Thankfully, you could guess the story and the end, but watching it is still entertaining and provides the laughs you are craving when you see it.

Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) are two salesmen who find themselves out of a job due to the changing economy and the changing face of technology. They decide their last chance at getting a real job is to apply for an internship at Google which gives them a chance to earn a position at the search engine company. Upon turning up on their first day, they realise that their age sets them apart from the younger interns and they join a group of other misfits. Billy and Nick are able to help change their new friends lives, but they still need some help in order to change theirs.

The Internship is predictable and quite cliché from beginning to end. You could figure out what the ending is and how they are going to get there. However the good news is that there is some laughs along the way. There are some parts that can be more annoying than funny at the hands of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, but the important thing is that the laughs are definitely there considering this is a comedy film. The story may not be a completely brilliant one, but the script, written by Vaughn and Jared Stern is fairly strong.

This film could not have made Google look any better. The setting for this film, which is the Google offices in San Francisco, is like a theme park for adults. There is sure to be many people in the area looking to apply for an internship looking to Google based on this film. It gives a really fun feel to the film and at the same time, does a great job of giving Google a fun image.  If Google wasn't the search engine you normally went to, straight after this film it will be the one that is at the forefront of your mind.

Vaughn and Wilson have proved in the past with their 2005 film, Wedding Crashers that their combination does work on screen. Thy work off each other when it comes to their dialogue. Again, sometimes the way which they try to create laughs by using long drawn out anecdotes explained by the two of them can become annoying when done more than once or twice, but there are still some very funny scenes with the two of them. The opening scene with the two singing along to Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" is quite hilarious.

The other good thing about this film is that it does well in character development and creating colourful and amusing characters. The group of interns played by Josh Brener, Dylan O' Brien, Tiya Sircar and Tobit Raphael all do well and are relatable as well as being fun to watch.

The Internship isn't a film which will have you rolling on the floor laughing whenever you think of it, but it funny enough to make it a fine watch and a visually fun one.


On a side note.....
Like many people who saw this film, I had to wonder whether Google's offices were quite as fun as this. I had my doubts, but according to this article, it does sound like the most fun place to work ever!

You may have also seen Vince Vaughn in....
Couples Retreat as Dave

You may have also seen Owen Wilson in.....
Midnight In Paris as Gil

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sydney Film Festival: Rear Window (1954)

Year: 1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey
Rear Window will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 9th and 15th of June 2013. Please see here for times, venues and tickets.

It is only fitting that Rear Window be shown at the 60th Sydney Film Festival. The first Sydney Film Festival was in 1954, the same year that Rear Window was released. 30 years later in 1984, Rear Window opened the Sydney Film Festival and the special guest was none other than the star of the film, James Stewart.

It's 2013 and Rear Window has not lost any of it's magic. In fact, it is even more magical on the big screen.

Rear Window has everything that makes a wonderful film. It is flawless. Alfred Hitchcock was the master in his working years and his mastery continues to entertain and amaze those who see his films. This film is a perfect example in every way of how much of a genius in film making and suspense that Hitchcock was.

The scene is set. Panning across the courtyard of a Greenwich Village apartment in New York City, there is much activity going on that photographer, L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) plays witness too. As Jefferies is wheelchair bound with a broken leg, he spends the steamy summer in his apartment analysing his neighbours lives. He soon notices some very strange activity that is taking place in the apartment directly opposite his and suspects there may be foul play involved. As his detective friend, Lt. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey) doesn't prove to be much help, Jefferies, his girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) and his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) set out to solve the case themselves.

Hailed by many as one of the best movies ever made, Rear Window is one of the most attractive and clean cut films you will ever see.  Hitchcock lives up to his reputation as being the Master of Suspense here by building the tension in the film from the word go to the climax at the end of the film. It may seem as though the start of the film takes a bit to really get going, but what Hitchcock is doing is building on character development so you grow with the characters and feel like you are going through exactly the same things as them.

The screenplay, written by John Michael Hayes and based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich, is wonderful. The story never stops moving forwards and there is a new revelation and occurrence in quite succession. The spoken dialogue by the characters is also brilliant. Very witty and clever. Almost comical at times, but the suspense and drama of the situation is never lost.

The actual set for Rear Window was the biggest ever constructed on a studio lot at the time it was made. There has never been such an amazingly intriguing set such as this since. There is so much going on all around the apartments of the courtyard. Every time you watch Rear Window you pick up on something different. It is an incredible set, full of intrigue and beauty. You can't blame Jefferies for wanting to stare at the happenings out his window day in and day out.

James Stewart and Grace Kelly are just magic on the big screen. Stewart never had any problem carrying any film as the lead actor and in Rear Window he proved that he could even sit down throughout the whole film and be just as commanding and imposing. He could always show in as subtle way as possible how his character is feeling and towards of the film his anxiety is completely infectious.

It is no secret that Hitchcock loved his blonde leading ladies and the way he directed Grace Kelly shows that she was one of, if not his greatest love. From her entrance into the film, her beauty is entirely captured from the best possible angle. Kelly was not just a pretty face, she was a wonderful actress. It is wonderful in Rear Window to watch how her character grows and changes and also how the relationship between Jefferies and Lisa evolves. Stewart and Kelly had an incredible amount of chemistry on screen, but in real life, Stewart was one of the very few leading men to Kelly who could resist her charms and always strayed true to his wife, Gloria.

It was an absolute treat to experience Rear Window on the big screen at the Sydney Film Festival. It remains one of the great masterpieces of cinema and is, and will always be, completely timeless.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sydney Film Festival: The Bling Ring (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Leslie Mann, Gavin Rossdale
The Bling Ring will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 13th and 15th June, For more information on times, venues and tickets, please see here
Now showing in cinemas in the USA
Opening in the UK on the 5th of July and Australia on the 8th of August 2013

One thing that can be said for The Bling Ring is that it is very busy.

Sofia Coppola's highly anticipated new film has so much going on that you're not really quite sure what type of film you are watching. Interesting and intriguing enough, The Bling Ring is memorable enough for it's content and proves that we really are obsessed with celebrity and not just because of the content on the screen, but because it is the celebrity representations that draw us in.

When Marc (Israel Broussard) starts at Indian Hills High School, he once again feels like he is the odd one out. That is until Rebecca (Katie Chang) and her gal pals take him under their wing. It isn't long before Marc is exposed to Rebecca's rebellious ways and they soon become almost addicted to breaking into celebrities homes while they are out of town and taking what they can in order to make themselves feel like they are experiencing the same lifestyle as their "victims".

On the surface, The Bling Ring looks like it could be your typical teen flick. In part, this is what it is, but it is also an in depth study of society's obsession with celebrity culture, a piece of work that invigorates your senses and also a little creepy. It is a whole lot of things that make the film a little too much to take in and when you leave the cinema, you are a bit confused what to make of everything.

Director and writer, Sofia Coppola was quoted as describing The Bling Ring as a movie about society's obsession with celebrity. In this way, the film is an absolute winner. It will be a great study tool in years to come to anybody who is studying celebrity and it's place in culture. The characters are obsessed with celebrity as are us, the audience. The characters in the film love going into celebrity houses and we love to see what is inside them.

The Bling Ring will also appeal to the teenage audience because of the age of the characters. It has got all the features that a teenage film would have and is like one of the reality television show's set in Los Angeles projected onto the big screen. There are no lack of selfie's being uploaded onto Facebook in the film which many young adults will be able to relate to.

However, it is the age of the characters and their activities that make this film really quite creepy. It is scary to know that the criminals look like any of the well dressed young girls that you see on the street, and that they committed these crimes so easily (it would seem). If getting into the home of a celebrity is that easy, are any of us safe?

In typical Coppola style, this is a parade of attractive images and carefully placed music. All the pretty things society associates with celebrity are on show in this film and like a Kardashian episode, there are no lack of brand names marketed.  The soundtrack is well suited for the film and the great volume of it helps opens the film with a bang.

The big problem with the acting and characters is that there really is no substance behind them, particularly Marc who is meant to be the main character of the film. He opens with a sympathy story, but after that we feel as though we haven't really found out who he really is. Is his sexuality in question with those high heels he is obsessed with? There are no answers. Is Rebecca really cunning, or is she just an obsessive fan?

The best thing about The Bling Ring as far as acting and the characters go is Emma Watson. It is overwhelmingly obvious that it is Watson who has the most acting experience and talent. She is the only one who gives any real emotion and we know exactly who her character, Nicki actually is. In preparation for her role, Watson is said to have watched a large number of reality show episodes, particularly that of "The Hills" and "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" in preparation for her role, and also video footage of the member of the real Bling Ring whom her character is based on, Alexis Neiers. She has perfected the LA "it girl" way of saying "awesome".

The Bling Ring is not a critical success, but it is still very entertaining in a celebrity obsession kind of way.


On a side note....
If you are interested in finding out more about the real Bing Ring gang that terrorised Hollywood celebrities, here is a link to an interesting article about all of them.

Here is a news story released in 2009 on ABC news about the actual gang (to be viewed via YouTube link in bottom right hand corner).

You may have also seen Emma Watson in.....
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part I & Part II as Hermione Granger
My Week With Marilyn as Lucy
The Perks of Being A Wallflower as Sam

Another film of Sofia Coppola's you may have seen is.....

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sydney Film Festival: Borgman (2013)

Year: 2013
Country: The Netherlands
Director: Alex van Warmerdam
Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Alex van Warnerdam
Borgman will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 13th and 14th of June 2013 and is one of the entrants in the Official Competition. For more information please see here

Having had it's world premiere at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Borgman became the film everyone was talking about for it's unsettling atmosphere and creepy characters.

From all the talk coming from the south of France, one would expect Borgman to leave you completely rattled and with recurring nightmares as promised. However, if you listen to the hype you will be disappointed. Yes it is creepy and unsettling, but not as much as the hype suggests. There is no doubt that it is a very interesting, entertaining and well made film, but it isn't the scariest film of the year that it has been made out to be.

A strange, bearded man (Jan Bijvoet) is chased by a priest and his men with spears and axes when he comes across a modern family house. He knocks at the door asking the man of the house, Richard (Jeroen Perceval) if he could have a bath. Richard isn't convinced, but his wife Marina (Hadewych Minis) feels pity for the man and takes him in. The man, who now reveals himself as Camiel Borgman, and his strange friends draw each of the family in, causing turmoil and havoc which intensifies until the dramatic final night.

Borgman seems to be one of those films you like more the more you think about it. When the credits roll, there is a lot to take in. On the surface there is a good film that is well shot and very clean cut and neat. It is not a typical "horror" film. It is extremely subtle and doesn't force itself to scare the audience. It has a very dark undertone and it's creepiness resides in how Borgman and his friends don't visually resemble the typical idea of what evil forces would be. It is scary that they come across so normal  and just fit right into society, until their behaviour suggests otherwise.

 There is a lot more to the film that lies under the surface. There is a lot that you need to really think about and take in after the film. One thing about this film is that it doesn't supply you with answers and you have to come to conclusions yourself about several aspects of the film, such as the presence of the greyhounds on the property and also the actual inner character of young Isolde. This is frustrating, especially with the events at the end of the film. As you really need to think about it and draw your own conclusion, you don't feel a sense of closure or peace with the film. The overall feeling of the film is unsettling, but it is unsettling in a different way at the end in that you are left in an unsettling state of confusion.

Borgman also claims to be blackly humorous. It is only very, very subtly funny. It is not overtly funny, it's more bizarre than funny. If you find the strangeness of something funny, than you may well find Borgman quite comical.

Visually, the film isn't a masterpiece or a selection of beautiful pictures, but it is very neat and clean cut. That is one of the things that makes Borgman unlike other films of it's particular genre. It doesn't rely on it's visuals for it's atmosphere, but does make sure that the visuals are as polished as they can be.

The players bring these unsettling characters to life. Jan Bijvoet delivers a very subtle and unexaggerated performance of Borgman. He doesn't give the typical performance of such a being, but this is why he works. Borgman is manipulative, cunning and scheming and this is were his evil shows through. Even though not physically powerful, he presence is that of a leader and of control.

Hadewych Minis and Jeroen Perceval are very good as married couple Marina and Richard. Perceval gives an emotionally charged performance as a father who wants to protect his family and is falling apart at the seams in the process.

Borgman is very interesting and keeps you enthralled from the beginning to the end without fail. However, questions remain unanswered and it is made to unsettle and it is fine if that unsettling feeling comes from confusion.


Please click here to see the official English trailer for Borgman (embedding unavailable)

The 60th Sydney Film Festival will be running from the 5th-16th June 2013. Please see the official website for more details.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sydney Film Festival: Nerve (2013)

Nerve Film 2013 poster.jpg
Year: 2013
Director: Sebastien Guy
Cast: Christian Clark, Georgina Haig, Gary Sweet, Andrea Demetriades, Craig Hall
Nerve will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 12th and 16th of June 2013. For more information on times, venues and tickets, please see here

At the beginning of the Australian premiere of Nerve at the Sydney Film Festival, the audience was told that the film had only finished production about 10 days before.

To be completely honest, that is what it looks like too.

While Nerve actually does have the heart to be a great movie with a wonderful story and screenplay, the editing and cinematography leaves a fair bit to be desired. Visually the film looks a bit rough around the edges and looks like it just needs a bit of tidying up. This may be the look that director Sebastien Guy was going for, but it just seems a little too rough to completely enjoy.

Jakob Evans (Christian Clark) has had a very rough time. He has been released from rehabilitation after suffering an emotional breakdown brought on by his wife's death in a car accident. To make matters worse, just before the car accident he caught his wife in bed with another man. He believes the only way he will receive answers and closure is by finding the man who was sleeping with his wife. Jakob sets out on his search with the help of his new flatmate, Grace (Georgina Haig), a girl who has problems of her own.

The idea and backbone of Nerve is actually very, very good. It is probably one of the best psychological drama's ever to come out of Australia due to the incredible turn of events towards the end of the film. It takes awhile to get into the film, but once it finds it's momentum the story is quite enthralling. There are several scenes which seem to be out of place towards the beginning of the film, but they all make sense in the conclusion. However, the conclusion also does present more unanswered questions.

It is the editing and techniques used to construct the earlier scenes which provide more annoyance than artistic integrity. Each scene is really quite short and there is the over-use of the fade to black technique. It would have been far more effective to have just cut from one scene to another but the result of every scene fading the black just makes it seem jerky and makes the film lose momentum constantly. This is where the impression of the film having a rushed production finish becomes evident, as it just doesn't seem like there was enough time for actual editing and more time just to do the same thing over and over. Even if this was meant to seem artistic, it just comes across as an annoyance. Also, there are some scenes that probably don't need to be in the film at all as they don't tell us a great deal and they don't add to the story at all.

One good thing about the cinematography is that it emphasises some things in certain scenes (such as those with Dr White) which all make sense at the end of the film. It is a clever technique to use as it doesn't make much sense at the time, but does at the end. On the other hand, there are quite a few shaky shots, particularly of the scenery, which seem out of place in the film.

Christian Clark does well to carry the film. In particular, when he is first released from rehabilitation, he is wonderful in the state of confusion he is still in. Georgina Haig is particularly good and completely believable as Grace. While Clark's performance is very intense, Haig's lightens it up a bit and she is a joy to watch. Gary Sweet is also a stand out as Ben, the mourning father of Jakob's wife.

Nerve is the film to see if you want a psychological movie that plays with your mind. It's a film to watch for the story, not for the production.


Photo taken by Nicki Newton-Plater on red carpet at the Australian premiere of Nerve on the 12th of June at the Sydney Film Festival.

The 60th Sydney Film Festival will run from the 5th-16th June 2013. For more information please see the official website.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sydney Film Festival: Blancanieves (2012)

Year: 2012
Country: Spain
Director: Pablo Berger
Cast: Maribel Verdu, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Macarena Garcia, Angela Molina
Blancanieves will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 11th and 14th of June 2013. For more information on times, venues and tickets please see here

For how many retellings of the fairy tale "Snow White" there have been since Disney's masterpiece in 1937, Blancanieves has presented the story with so much beauty and originality in it's presentation that makes it one of the best adaptations on the big screen ever.

The best word to describe Blancanieves is beautiful. There is beauty in the story as there always has been, but also beauty in the translation of the fairy tale in a completely different setting and time. There is beautiful cinematography, musical score, set design and costumes. And of course, the acting is just exquisite.

Set in 1920's Seville, Carmen (Sofia Oria/ Macarena Garcia) is the beautiful daughter of the late Spanish dancer, Carmen de Triana (Inma Cuesta) and the famous bullfighter, Antonio Villalta (Daniel Gimenez Cacho). Her father is left disabled after a horrible accident and she is sent to live happily with her grandmother, but when she passes away, Carmen is sent to live with her father and horrible stepmother, Encarna (Maribel Verdu). After another horrible turn of events, Carmen comes across seven little friends who change her life and give her the family she has always wanted, as well as a career in bullfighting.

The way the timeless classic has been recreated is wonderful. It is not made to seem like a fairy tale, but rather the tragedy of this poor girl with some quirky twists and turns. It is as though director and writer, Pablo Berger has just taken the skeleton of "Snow White" and formed a 1920's Spanish body around it. There are a few tiny things, if being picky, you can see in the film, particularly in the concluding scenes which are a bit too far fetched and don't make a whole lot of sense, but that is where the fairy tale basis comes into play.

The film, made last year, is filmed in black and white and is silent with English subtitles. You feel as though you are watching a film made in the time period in which the film is set, but with all the film making tricks of the trade we have learnt since. In this way it is like the 2011 film, The Artist, but this is where the similarities end. By way of gorgeous images and Spanish guitar music, you feel completely submerged in the world in which Blancanieves is set. You feel as though you are transported back to the beginning of the 20th century in Spain and it is a wonderful place to be.

The opening of the film with the landscape of Seville and the crowds of people running towards the bullfighting arena sets the scene perfectly. You immediately feel the atmosphere of the town in that time period and hear everything these people could hear and see all the bright colours of the bull fighting ring and the flamenco dancers, even though you cannot see these things on screen. The costume design of the bullfighters and all the women in particular is exquisite, and, as just noted, you don't need to see them in colour to see the beauty in them.

There are some amazing performances in this film. Macarena Garcia who plays the older Carmen is wonderful. She is so likable and expresses her emotions perfectly for a silent film. Sofia Oria plays the younger Carmen and is also wonderful. She is adorable, you has so much fight in her. Daniel Gimenez Cacho gives a very convincing performance as well. Maribel Verdu is the star of the performers. She is so good as the stepmother because she has the ability to look so elegant and beautiful, yet when she turns on the evil, she is downright horrid.

Blancanieves is wonderfully entertaining and a visually stunning film. It is so original in it's execution and is unlike anything you have seen in a long, long time.


The 60th Sydney Film Festival will be running from the 5th-16th June 2013. For more information, please see the official website

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sydney Film Festival: For Those In Peril (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Paul Wright
Cast: George Mackay, Kate Dickie, Michael Smiley, Nichola Burley
For Those In Peril will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 10th and 12th of June 2013. For times, tickets and venues please see here

For Those In Peril is one of the strong frontrunners of the Official Competition at this year's Sydney Film Festival.

Paul Wright's debut feature length film is truly one of a kind. For Those In Peril is a very rare type of film for so many reasons. The unpredictability and feeling of satisfaction with the ending is a wonderful thing and you end up feeling one way when you are so positive you were going to feel another. The true nature of the film is revealed with the ending and you take home a completely different attitude towards it than you thought you would. What a beautiful thing.

Set in a Scottish seaside fishing village, outcast Aaron (George Mackay) is the only survivor of a strange fishing accident. Aaron's brother, Michael (Jordan Young) was also involved and is suspected dead, although no bodies have turned up. Aaron is ostracised from the town he lives in as everyone believes he is just a little too different and suspect that he has something to do with the accident. Meanwhile, Aaron will not stop believing that his brother and best friend is still alive and just waiting to be found.

It is just extraordinary for a debut film director to get it this right on their first attempt. In the Q & A session at the end of the film at the Sydney Film Festival, Paul Wright explained that he did all he possibly could with everything that he had available to him, and this is completely evident.

Wright uses a number of filming techniques to bring this tale of hope and loss to life. The film begins with news reel clips of the accident and the townspeople being interviewed, which are extremely realistic and at first make you wonder if you are watching a documentary. There are also several scenes were a handheld camera is used in order to create the impression that we are watching home videos which help us understand the characters and their lives before the accident better. The underwater shots are also exquisite.

It's in the very first few scenes that you really start to feel as though you are in this little seaside Scottish village with the characters. You can feel the chilly seaside air and smell the sea salt and fish. Whenever you see Aaron run into the ocean you get the chills thinking how cold it must be in that water.

The story, also written by Wright is wonderful. It captures the way people deal with loss brilliantly and how somebody in Aaron's situation is perceived. Even though you would believe people would look at it as a blessing that someone survived, but people blame him for their grief. Throughout the film, there are several endings you think may happen, but it still doesn't prepare you for the actual outcome. The outcome is one of complete closure for the audience and it really is amazing.

For Those In Peril makes stars out of George Mackay and Kate Dickie. Mackay is so believable as the awkward Aaron. You can feel his pain, but also his extreme belief that he won't stop looking for his brother. You feel for him when things go wrong and it's an absolute triumph in the most subtle sense when things go right. His whole performance is so subtle, but extremely effective.

Kate Dickie plays Aaron and Michael's mother, Cathy. She is wonderful and personifies everything that a mother would be in such a situation. She has lost one son and is trying to deal with her other surviving son being tormented and ridiculed by the town. There is one particular heart-wrenching scene when she shows that a mother has the same nurturing spirit in her no matter what age her son is and mothers will completely relate to this scene.

This is an incredible debut film for Paul Wright, but is an incredible and beautiful story regardless. It is a joy to behold.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sydney Film Festival: Before Midnight (2013)

Year: 2013
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Before Midnight will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 8the June 2013.
Now showing in cinemas across the USA
Opening on the 21st of June 2013 in the UK
Opening on the 18th July 2013 in Australia

So the wait is over and the trilogy finally complete. We now finally know the fate of Celeste and Jesse.

Richard Linklater's trilogy of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight has been labelled (incorrectly) as the "lowest grossing trilogy of all time" for the fact that it is not your typical trilogy. The films have a tremendous following based on their atypical method and value with the backdrop of a different beautiful European city each time. The latest instalment does not disappoint as it sticks to the same method, but is different enough not to stale or unoriginal.

Before Midnight is set nearly a decade after we last saw Celeste (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) in Paris when they met up for the second time after their romantic first meeting in Vienna nearly 10 years earlier. They find themselves this time in Greece and even though much has changed, they still find in themselves the people they were 20 years earlier on that chance encounter on a train on their way to Vienna.

This last film in Linklater's series is completely different to the first two films. Celeste and Jesse are in a completely different stage of their life compared to the other two times we have met them and therefore the lengthy conversations which they have are not the way they used to be. Being older and at a different stage in their life, they have new responsibilities and challenges and this means different things need to be discussed. Therefore, Celeste and Jesse are a lot more argumentative and this leads to the film being more emotional than they ever have been before.

At times the arguing can become really unsettling and almost reminiscent of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, though still nowhere near as dark. What people will find from this film is that what the two are arguing about and the problems they face are very relatable to all people in that position. If you are like Celeste or Jesse, you almost feel like you are watching yourself and it gives a new perspective on the way you see things. This is a wonderful thing for a film to do because not only is it entertaining, but it is also informing and hopefully even bringing about a change with this information.

The script, as is the case with the first two films, is fantastic. Written by Linklater and the fil's two stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, the dialogue is fantastic. There are some very funny lines during the film and so interesting to listen to that you hang off the character's every word.

Then there is the gorgeous backdrop of the southern Peloponnese in Greece. It is absolutely exquisite to behold and so much beauty is captured as Celeste and Jesse explore the area. The little chapel they come across is an amazing location.

Delpy and Hawke are both wonderful in this. There is no lack of chemistry between the two, just as there never has been. They bounce off each other so well and their dialogue is spoken so naturally and with so much ease. Both capture every emotion which they are supposed to be feeling and impose it on the viewer as they experience it on screen.

It is sad to see the trilogy finally over, but Before Midnight is the perfect finale. Celeste and Jesse are completely relatable, likable and, as always, thoroughly entertaining.


The 60th Sydney Film Festival will be running from the 5th-16th June 2013. Please see official website for details.

Sydney Film Festival: The Iceman (2012)

Year: 2012
Director: Ariel Vromen
Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans. David Schwimmer, James Franco, Stephen Dorff
The Iceman will be screening at the Sydney Film Festival on the 8th and 10th of June 2013.

It is hard to be a gangster film. There are so many amazing films in it's class that so much is expected of you and you have to live up to moviegoers expectations.

The Iceman isn't a bad film, but it is certainly not one of the best gangster films. Truth be told, this isn't your typical gangster film, but definitely falls into that category. It is an interesting enough watch with some good performances, but the state of the film due to bad editing choices makes it all just confusing and a bit of a mess.

The Iceman is based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon), the notorious American contract killer who is said to have killed up to 100 people. The film begins when Kuklinski meets his future wife, Deborah (Winona Ryder), who remains oblivious throughout the whole film as to what Kuklinski actually does for a living and the crimes he has committed. The film spans over the period of 22 years from the time that he first comes attracts the attention of mafia boss, Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) to his final arrest in 1986.

Although this film is based on real events, there are many inaccuracies in the movie. This may have been done to protect the family or to liven the film up and is really not that big an issue, but it is important to remember if you are using The Iceman as a history lesson that it is only based on true events and is not actually a re-enactment of true events. The film is interesting enough and the great thing is that it does provide some suspense as to the safety of his family and of how he is going to be caught.

There is not much to be said about the cinematography and editing of this film. It's not particularly impressive visually nor is anything done to enhance the audience's senses outside the character's actions and dialogue. Director Ariel Vromen has made some bad decisions in regards to how the screenplay will be played out on screen. There are several times during the film that one scene cuts to another in a future time period and there is no indication how long has elapsed or even that any time has elapsed. This makes it very confusing for the viewer.

The other problem with the editing is that there are some scenes which don't seem exactly relevant. The scene between Kuklinski and his brother, Joey (Stephen Dorff) has some relevance to the conclusion of the film, but it feels very out of place where it is and like it has just been thrown in to any part of the film so that Vromen can say something about Joey right at the end.
The Iceman

Michael Shannon is very good as Richard Kuklinski. His ability to portray the sociopathic tendencies of the character is scary, but his ability to break lose and show intense emotion at the right times is brilliant. The chemistry between Shannon and Winona Ryder is very good, as is Ryder's performance. Ryder plays the mother and wife role well and is extremely likable, although you do wonder how she can't tell that she is married to a killer.

Besides Shannon and Ryder, the only other actor who creates a real impact when on screen in Chris Evans. He is extremely unrecognisable in his screen time and gives a performance like no other you have seen from him. He is actually so interesting to watch that he is almost likable, even though the acts he commits are unforgivable.

Ray Liotta is good, but it seems as though this is starting to become a semi-typical role for him so his performance is clearly not a stretch at all for him.David Schwimmer is actually quite good with the smallish role that he has and James Franco, although having little screen time as one of Kuklinski's victims, is also quite good.

It would seem that The Iceman has a lot of good, but not great performances. It also has a lot of bad decisions made in the post-production stage that have clearly impacted on the overall quality of the film and made this into a so-so event.


The 60th Sydney Film Festival will be running from the 5th-16th of June 2013. For more information, please see the official website

You may have also seen Winona Ryder in.....
Black Swan as Beth Mcintyre

You may have also seen Chris Evans in.....
The Avengers and  Captain America: The First Avenger as Captain America/ Steve Rogers