Sunday, September 29, 2013

Runner Runner (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Brad Furman
Writers: Brian Koppelman and David Levien
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie
Runner Runner is now showing in Australia and is distributed by Fox. Also now showing in the UK and opening in the USA on 4 October 2013.
Runner Runner is the perfect definition of cinema mediocrity.
Neither bad, nor good and can't seem to move from that line right down the middle between the two. There is nothing terrible about it, but nothing mind blowing either. There is the potential for it to progress to the good film part of the spectrum, but the screenplay and Brad Furman's direction doesn't permit this advancement to take place and just let's Runner Runner become a completely forgettable film and a film all involved would rather forget.
Princeton student, Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), who made the mistake of relying on his winnings from an online poker game to pay his college fees, travels to Costa Rica to meet with the man who's website he lost his money on. He believes there is someone on the site who is cheating people out of their winnings and wants to approach owner, the elusive Ivan Block (Ben Affleck) face to face to tell him. Block is impressed by what he learns about Richie and offers him the opportunity to work for him, which he immediately accepts. Richie has the time of his life in Costa Rica enjoying the high life and his new romance with Block's close confidant, Rebecca (Gemma Arterton), until he realises that he may have become involved in activities that are less than ethical and legal, and that he is also the one being played.
When you stand back and look at the breakdown of Runner Runner, you can see how much could have been done with this film. The combination of an uneventful screenplay and Furman not knowing what to do with the opportunities that are there makes this film not at all suspenseful and just bland. Sadly, the film seems to think that it is much more exciting than what it is. Everything points to the ending being some amazing breakthrough, except for the fact that there was no tension at all and nothing strong about the delivery. The dialogue is filled with metaphors rather than the characters just getting to the point and saying what they mean, which is both irritating and pretentious. It is as though the script is trying to make the film intelligent and clever, but just goes the opposite way.
Perhaps the only real saving grace which the film has is that it is quite attractive to watch. It makes Costa Rica seem like a perfect holiday destination and the high life which the characters are living does look visually attractive. Funnily enough, Runner Runner is a bit like a relaxing holiday itself. It is a little too laid back and it just coasts along through the 90 minutes. Qualities that are great for a holiday, but not so great for a film.The musical score isn't bad and reminds us that we are watching a thriller.

Justin Timberlake doesn't seem comfortable in this role. It doesn't feel as though he fits into the character at all and one feels that with another lead man Runner Runner may have been more of a success.. The first 15 minutes of the film are actually very reminiscent of his role in The Social Network, as it is his Sean Parker in college. He and Gemma Arterton have absolutely no on screen chemistry at all, and Arterton herself really doesn't have much to work with. Ben Affleck doesn't do badly in his role as Ivan Block, but there is so much more that could have been done with his role but he is just not given the opportunity. He has one scene where the mean streak in his character appears and it starts to get interesting, but at no time after that is he able to show that streak again. The film would have benefited so much more by the character going further and having an interesting villain, but Ivan Block isn't all that intriguing, even though you are waiting for him to be so.

One forgets that Runner Runner is supposed to be a thriller, in much the same way that people will forget that this film ever existed.


You may have also seen Justin Timberlake in....
The Social Network as Sean Parker

You may have also seen Ben Affleck in......
Argo as Tony Mendez

You may have also seen Gemma Arterton in.....
Song For Marion as Elizabeth

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rush (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 122 minutes
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara

Rush opens in Australian cinemas on 3rd October and is distributed by Hopscotch Films. Now showing in the UK and opening in the USA on 27th September 2013.

Rush is absolutely the ultimate film for Formula One fans. It is completely impossible to be a fan of F1 and not have an incredible two hours with this film.

This isn't to say that if you are not a fan of this mode of car racing that you will not also enjoy Rush. Ron Howard's latest film is incredibly suspenseful and immaculately made It is also a very good character study of two of the most intriguing figures in motor sport history and an extremely comprehensive retelling of the story of their rivalry.

In the early 1970's, two aspiring drivers meet for the first time in Formula Three racing and quickly become rivals, never letting the other out of their sight. Austrian, Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is extremely serious about his racing and life in general and always plays by the rules. Englishman, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is the complete opposite, as he enjoys the wild lifestyle of drinking and women and the only thing he takes seriously is winning. The 1976 Formula One season was legendary for these two for the fierce battle for the world championship and also for how close one of them came to death during the war.

Rush is not purely about the sport of Formula One racing and more about the lives and personalities of Niki Lauda and James Hunt, so it is not to say that if you are not a racing fan you won't enjoy it. Although it does help to have a love of the sport in order to get the most out of this film. The racing jargon and personalities are what F1 fans will be used to hearing and watching and are presented with great care. Rush is absolutely the best car racing movie which has been released in years.

The story of these two is an extraordinary one and it is astonishing the lengths they both went to in order to be victorious over the other. The screenplay by Peter Morgan, who has previously teamed up with Ron Howard when he wrote the screenplay for Frost/ Nixon , delves into the characters of Lauda and Hunt so we get to know the two of them in great detail before the film is finished. The only thing one might feel is perhaps even though so much is covered, some important aspects of the character's lives are just skimmed across and not given as much as we would like to see. As the film is for entertainment, there are certain aspects of the rivalry and the character's personalities that are enhanced, but for the large part Rush does remain true to life.

Howard's direction is wonderful. The film is very atmospheric as a result of the sounds, visuals and cinematography. The time period of the 1970's is very well recreated and you actually feel like you are right beside the track smelling the burnt rubber of the tyres and in the crowd of people enjoying life in that particular decade. The sound editing is particularly outstanding and the recreation of the racing scenes are superb. There is some really beautiful cinematography involved in these scenes. The slow motion shots of the cars in the rain and the photography around the track is wonderful. The soundtrack for the film is also perfect for the ambitious and competitive atmosphere of the film.

Both Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl do very well in their roles. Bruhl's Lauda is perhaps more interesting to watch as Hunt comes across as rather one dimensional in comparison, and thus Bruhl comes up with a slight edge and gives a better performance than Hemsworth. However, in saying this, Rush is quite possibly Hemsworth's best performance to date. Neither character is particularly likable for the large part of the film, but this is where the F1 personalities play a great part. In order to be as successful as these two men were at their chosen sport, there was a degree of selfishness and arrogance they both needed to have to succeed. In this way, Howard has got out of these two actors what is expected of them playing F1 drivers.

Rush is a wonderful character study of both Niki Lauda and James Hunt. F1 fans will be absolutely thrilled with what they see here and it is a must see for any sport movie fan.


You may have also seen Chris Hemsworth in.....
The Avengers and Thor as Thor
Snow White and The Huntsman as The Huntsman

Chatting with Captain of the Snapple Command himself, Karl Lentini

Writer, producer, director, composer and actor.

This is the superhuman effort of Karl Lentini in his latest feature film, Cleaver's Destiny which will be premiering at the Laemmle Playhouse in Pasadena, CA this Friday the of 27th September. Lentini's film is about to embark on it's one week run at the Playhouse and audiences will finally get to see this feature film which has been years in the making.

Cleaver's Destiny is the tale of a troubled eighteen year old girl, Amy (Jenny Leona di Gennaro) who wants to find her long lost father who she has just found out was a Gulf War veteran. When she does find her father, Bill (played by Lentini), she finds he is not only homeless, but also has dementia and does no memory of her at all. Amy makes it her duty to expose him to people and places he has been to in order to restore his memory.

When asked where the idea for Cleaver's Destiny came from, Lentini explained that it all started with a short comedy film which he had made around twenty years earlier about the antics of an eccentric homeless man. This film was the beginning of Bill Cleaver, otherwise known as Captain of the Snapple Command, as he spent his days collecting Snapple bottles which people had thrown out.

 "Over time I was thinking more and more about this character and maybe he had a daughter who he had lost contact with, and maybe he was in the military" Lentini said. "I decided to make it into the movie and that it should be the daughter looking for him"

In preparation for the role of Bill, Lentini dressed up as though he was homeless himself and went out into the streets of Los Angeles, where he lives and where the film is also set, to get a glimpse into the life of those like Bill. He also said that "just being in L.A. means you get to observe the homeless in a big way".

Cleaver's Destiny was shot over a 14 day period in 2008. As Lentini was the writer, producer, composer, director and actor in the film, he admitted that the biggest challenge he had to deal with was the exhaustion. "The biggest challenge was being mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted because I was putting out so much" he said.

However, he is now able to see the more rewarding side of his hard work. Cleaver's Destiny has received rave reviews leading up to it's premiere on Friday night. Lentini is also quick to praise his leading actress, Jenny Leona di Gennaro, who is not only receiving critical acclaim for her role in the film, but has also since graduated from The Julliard School in New York.

Lentini, who is originally from New York, studied at Boston University's film school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career in 1991. It was when he first saw Star Wars when he was a child that inspired him to work in film, a film which is still one of his favourites. He admits that he is not following the rumours circulating about the seventh Star Wars film as he would much rather be surprised and enjoy the film for what it is when it is released.

"I would love to someday make a sci-fi film" Lentini said. "But with a real emphasis of character like in this film".

Cleaver's Destiny will be screening at the Laemmle Playhouse Pasadena, CA from the 27th September-3rd October 2013. Karl Lentini will be participating in Q & A sessions at the 7:50pm screenings on the 27th and 28th of September.  Please see here for more information on times and tickets.

Thankyou to Karl Lentini for his time and having a chat to us about his film and we wish him the very best of luck with Cleaver's Destiny. Thankyou also to Amy Prenner of The Prenner Group and Monica Busby of Quantum Leap Entertainment.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cleaver's Destiny (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Karl Lentini
Writer: Karl Lentini
Cast: Jenny Leona di Gennaro, Karl Lentini, Alexis Corey, Rob Roy Cesar, Luke Sabis, Samantha Lester
Cleaver's Destiny will be screening at the Laemmle Playhouse at Pasadena, CA from the 27th of September to the 3rd October 2013. For more information on times and tickets, please see here
Cleaver's Destiny is an incredible piece of work on so many levels.
There is so much to be marvelled at in this beautiful film which is directed, produced, written and stars Karl Lentini. Cleaver's Destiny is the type of film which big budget films could learn from in the areas of character development and emotional depth. However, one of the best things about this film is that it addresses so many community and personal issues without making you feel as if you are being bombarded with information and are struggling to take it all in. It is very clean cut and absolutely delightful.
Troubled teenager, Amy Cleaver (Jenny Leona di Gennaro) has always thought that he father was dead. However, on her eighteenth birthday she receives a box of his belongings from her grandmother and when discovering that he was a soldier in the Gulf War, decides to find his grave. She soon finds out that he does not have a grave and that can only mean that he is still alive. Her search for him leads her to find that he is homeless and suffering from dementia, which means that he doesn't remember Amy. She sets out on a mission to help him remember more about his life and help him remember her.
There are many elements in Cleaver's Destiny that people will be able to relate to. The film gives us a closer look at the homeless and their lives on the street, particularly in Los Angeles where this is extremely widespread. We are given the opportunity to understand more the mentality of many of the people on the street and also the journey they took as to how they came to be that way. It also of course looks at the lives of veterans after they return from their service and how they continue to live their lives. Such is with the examples of Bill Cleaver and Pratt, the war changed their perception on the world and they were unable to carry on with life in the same way they did before.
The character development in this film is brilliant. We learn everything we need to know about each of the main character within their first few minutes on screen, especially Amy. We learn not only how troubled she is and how she is headed down a self destructive path by her meal of cereal and alcohol, but also how she is wanting to be loved and taken care of. She is an extremely complex human being who is made easier to understand by a wonderful beginning of a film. Not only is the character development brilliant, but so is the relationship study throughout the film. Cleaver's Destiny looks at the relationships between mother and daughter, father and daughter, friends, lovers and those strangers you meet by chance who play a big part in your life.
It is a superhuman effort by Karl Lentini to direct, produce, write and star in his own film. He has created an incredible film with a wonderfully witty screenplay, and has absolutely no problem in directing himself. It's wonderful how his character changes throughout the film and Lentini has something amazing scenes which are so emotionally powerful. Jenny Leona di Gennaro is the perfect choice for Amy. She really is an amazing talent as she is completely convincing in every scene and makes Amy into a likable character which you connect with and care for. Alexis Corey is also great with her perfect comedic timing as Amy's mother, Norma.
Cleaver's Destiny has something for everyone and is the perfect example of how you can still have so much happening, yet not make your audience feel as though they have to fight to keep up. All you need to do in Cleaver's Destiny is sit back and enjoy Amy and Bill's journey.

Cleaver's Destiny will open at Laemmle Playhouse on the 27th of September. Karl Lentini will be attending both the 7:50pm screenings on the 27th and the 28th and be participating in a Q&A session following them both.
Military discount: $6 for veterans, retired and active military with appropriate ID.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 106 minutes
Director: Thor Freudenhal
Writers: Rick Riordan (book), Marc Guggenheim (screenplay)
Cast: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, Jake Abel, Leven Rambin, Stanley Tucci, Douglas Smith

While Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters feels and looks what would happen if Harry Potter and Greek mythology collided, there is no denying that it is fulfilling the void of adventure films that are absent in our cinemas at the present time.

Percy Jackson is the perfect example of how a film can be original without being completely original. It borrows from various past films in a big way, but throwing in Greek mythology makes the film interesting, a lot of fun and even a tad informative . Percy Jackson fans will love it and those who have never encountered Percy before will still have a good time with this film.

When we this time meet Poseidon's half-blood son, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), he is suffering from a lapse in self confidence as he is unsure whether it was just luck in saving Olympus or not. When the barriers of the camp for the children of the gods are broken and Percy is reunited with his nemesis, Luke (Jake Abel), he and his friends, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) and his half brother, Tyson (Douglas Smith) set off on a quest to find the Golden Fleece to save the camp's barrier tree. While on this quest, they also try to stop Luke and his followers from bringing an ancient evil back to the world.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters looks so much like a redoing of Harry Potter that it is crazy. The first Percy Jackson film had similarities to the Harry Potter films such as a boy who doesn't know that he has these incredible powers as a result of having extraordinary parents, is sent to a school for those such as him and is part of a trio of best friends. The similarities grow in the second film with the revelations that Percy may or may not be part of a prophecy, there is a "magical" cab driven by three freaky women (seems very much like the Night Bus in HP) and a world within a world that ordinary people cannot see. There is also a scene reminiscent of Pincocchio in a grand way.

The great news is that the second film based on Rick Rordan's book series come at the perfect time for cinema goers. While there is certainly no lack of teenage supernatural romance films at the present time, there is a lack of adventure films, especially those aimed towards the younger audience. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters fills this gap in the release schedule and gives audiences of any age a bit of fun and a thrill. Given it's similarities with Harry Potter, it is also released at a time long enough after the mentioned to avoid direct comparisons by all.

As the series of books are for children/ young adults, there is nothing confronting or harsh about the film. It is just plain and fluffy fun with a simple and a tad silly story. Although there are some very touching moments throughout the film and they come as a complete surprise. For those who do not know much about Greek mythology, there is quite the lesson with the Percy Jackson film, as long as you remember that it is just the back story based on mythology.

The opening scene of the film, which takes place at the camp's tournament is a great start to the film. It is an action packed start which reminds you of a school sports carnival, except a bit more original than your typical athletics. The soundtrack is also perfect. It truly is a great start to the film as it captures for the audience an atmosphere of fun  that is going to continue throughout the film. The CGI is also impressive, especially the great scene where Percy surfs the wave he has created.

Logan Lerman is wonderful once again as Percy Jackson. The great thing about Lerman's performance in this film is that he gives so much without going over the top. In the scenes where the opportunity arises for his character to be overly emotional and one would normally expect the actor to do so in such a film, he is so subtle but in doing so is far more effective. Some of his later scenes with Douglas Smith and Alexandra Daddario are really quite beautiful because of Lerman's powerful subtlety. Daddario also does well, again not over acting, but being natural and achieving so much more by doing so.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters is the perfect example of how a film can be original without being completely original and be a success while doing so.


You may have also seen Logan Lerman in......
The Three Musketeers as D'Artagnan
The Perks of Being A Wallflower as Charlie

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

One Direction: This Is Us (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Cast: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson

One Direction: This Is Us opens in Australia on the 19th of September and is distributed by Sony Pictures. Now showing in cinemas across the UK and USA.

As the lights dim in the cinema and the faces of five of the most popular young men in the world appear on the screen, you swear you can hear those screaming girls in the distance. No, you were wrong. There are actually girls screaming in the cinema.

As British boy band, One Direction continues on their path to world domination, This Is Us gives their fans an absolute treat. The documentary is a lot of fun and something different to what we normally see in 3D, but this really is one for the fans and will mean a lot more to you if you are one of the millions who enjoy their catchy pop tunes. It is not a great vehicle for recruiting One Direction fans, nor is it something that you will come away from saying how you have seen the greatest music documentary ever made. There is definitely a designated target audience for This Is Us, which is funnily enough the same as that of the band itself.

One Direction is made up of Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, the five young men who auditioned for the UK's "The X-Factor" as solo artists, but were joined together to compete as a group in the television show. This Is Us documents their incredible rise to global fame after they were awarded second place in the competition and life on the road during the first half of their worldwide 2013 Take Me Home Tour.

This is the ultimate for One Direction fans. The advantage of the 3D here will make lovers of the British lads feel like they are right next to them and closer to the stage at their concerts than they perhaps ever be. For those who missed out on tickets to their shows, this may well be the closest thing to the actual experience. Live versions of the band's biggest hits including "What Makes You Beautiful" and "Kiss You" should please all the fans who missed out and tide over those until they have the chance to see them in the flesh. The personalities of Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis also shine through in the film, as does their boyish sense of humour.

 The only complaint that fans may have is that the documentary is not quite as comprehensive as what it could be. It would be wrong to say that there is not much about where the boys come from in the film, but these details are skimmed across during the 92 minutes and more of the time is donated to the boys antics and their live performances.

The key word so far here has been "fans". However, the big question remains will you will enjoy This Is Us if you are not a One Direction fan? Not as much. Although This Is Us will still be a bit of fun for people who are not admirers, it will not make you become a fan of theirs. The footage of the boys clowning around is great for giggle, but there is nothing to save you from being bored or wanting to switch the station over like you do when you hear them on the radio. If you didn't know anything about the band beforehand then it does provide you with some information about them, but as the five members of the boy band remind us various times during the film, this is for their fans to say thankyou and remind them how much they mean to them. So it cannot be reiterated enough that this is a film purely for the fans, and not for the enjoyment of those who are outside that target audience.

The Australian release of This Is Us is timed perfectly for the upcoming concerts and is a must see for any fanatic beforehand. For everyone else it is a hit and miss.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

R.I.P.D. (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 96 minutes
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writers: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak

R.I.P.D. is now showing in cinemas everywhere.

R.I.P.D. isn't the stuff that classics are made of, but that doesn't stop it from being an entertaining 96 minutes in the cinema.

Based on the comics of the same name, the concept behind R.I.P.D. is an enjoyable one. Although at first glance it may seem as though this a mash up of several past films, it's translation to the screen is seemingly original. The movie itself is not faultless by any means, but is action packed and amusing, helped along by Jeff Bridges' charismatic performance.

Boston police officer, Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is clearly not having a good day. What else can you call the day when he is called out to a job, only to find that his partner of five years, Hayes (Kevin Bacon) is actually one of the bad guys and shoots him dead? On his way up to be judged, he finds himself in the interrogation room at the R.I.P.D, the office of the law enforcement officers who have passed on but still return to Earth in order to protect them from the destructive souls who do not wish to pass on. Nick and his new partner, Roy (Jeff Bridges) set off back to Earth in pursuit of Hayes to stop his evil plan of bringing all these souls back to the world and unleash mayhem.

R.I.P.D. is entertaining, but not entertaining enough to be over-whelmed. The story is interesting enough to be intrigued and left in suspense as to what is going to happen. Let's face it, the actual outcome of the film is not unpredictable, but how they reach that outcome is. If you look too closely into the story, it does start to reveal the holes in the concept. This is especially true with the idea of the avatars and who can see what. .

At times, the cinematography can be amazing and the action sequences riveting. It truly takes advantage of 3D and scenes that involve the path between Heaven and Earth are amazing to behold. However, there are scenes where the CGI is extremely dodgy and unrealistic. Funnily enough these scenes almost every time involve Ryan Reynolds character looking a cross between a computer generated video game character and a doll. The use of music can sometimes be a bit over the top rather than having a positive effect on the film.

Ryan Reynolds performance is mediocre at best. He is pretty much void of emotion throughout most of the film and his character just a little too boring for the lead character and expected hero. However, it is Jeff Bridges who steals the show. His character is charismatic and full of life. Bridges has the luxury of being the one who delivers the best lines and most comedy relief in the film. Mary-Louise Parker is also amusing as Proctor and Kevin Bacon once again becomes a convincing villain.

R.I.P.D. is definitely more original than many other action films gracing our cinema screens presently and therefore makes it entertaining and a bit of fun. Cracks develop if you think about it too much so the trick is to just accept it for what it is and enjoy what you see.


You may have also seen Jeff Bridges in.....
Crazy Heart as Bad Blake
True Grit as Rooster Cogburn

You may have also seen Mary-Louise Parker in....
Red 2 as Sarah

You may have also seen Kevin Bacon in.....
X Men: First Class as Sebastian Shaw

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Canyons (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Paul Schrader
Writer: Bret Easton Ellis
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston, Gus Van Sant

The Canyons was the closing night film for this year's Sydney Underground Film Festival

Where do you start when discussing The Canyons?

How about this, The Canyons has the ability to become a cult classic. Being a cult classic in itself isn't bad news. It means your film has staying power because there is something about it which causes people to remember it. That's got to mean that The Canyons must be a good film then, right?

Wrong. To be completely and utterly honest, The Canyons is a terrible film. It's low budget cannot be used as an excuse for it's empty story, ridiculous dialogue and mediocre acting. What makes it resemble some of the films which have been tagged as cult classics is that it is so bad that it is actually hilarious. While it is very unlikely that this is what the filmmakers had in mind when creating this movie, it is at least entertaining and therefore watchable for it's comedic relief.

Christian Reid (James Deen) is a trust fund twenty-something living in Los Angeles and dabbling in the movie business. His girlfriend, Tara (Lindsay Lohan) is secretly having an affair with Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk), who is Christian's assistant, Gina's (Amanda Brooks) boyfriend. When Christian finds out, he becomes obsessed with making Ryan's life hell. Ryan retaliates and when he does, Christian shows how dangerous he really can be.

The intention of The Canyons is to present the increasing emptiness of today's society and chooses the Hollywood region of Los Angeles to be the representation of this. The film, directed by Paul Schrader and written by Bret Easton Ellis, wants us to acknowledge how we do not place as much importance on things as what we used to, whether it be material things or relationships and feelings such as happiness. The opening consists of shots of abandoned cinema complexes as a representation of how we are no longer placing importance on the things that we used to. However, what the film is ultimately trying to say is not that easy to unravel. The story itself doesn't make us believe that there is some symbolism going on there and as the story isn't a strong nor original one to begin with, the whole film just feels empty. It feels like you are just watching these people on screen deceive each other with no other reason besides they are just pathetic creatures. While the film is supposed to be symbolising emptiness, it doesn't reach as high as symbolism and just becomes empty itself.

The script is absolutely atrocious. It is such a shame as one would expect author Bret Easton Ellis' transition from writing novels to screenplays a lot more successful. As said before, the story is not particularly interesting in itself and the dialogue is terrible. Some of the lines delivered by the actors are just laughable as they are either just ridiculous and make no sense at all. For how many laughs some of Christian's deliveries receive, Schrader should have just bit the bullet and made The Canyons into a thriller/comedy.

Schrader's direction is also a great disappointment. He even has problems directing Lindsay Lohan pretending to drop a bottle of water. His choice of closing shot is not supposed to be a laughing matter, but is probably one of the most comical of the film. Admittedly, the first scene in which the four main characters are having dinner together is quite well directed and not much can fault that scene, but not every scene is like that scene. There is the matter of not being able to have as many takes as you would with a higher budget film, but Schrader obviously had this all in his head to begin with and was visualising it all wrong.

The cinematography is also not up to standard. Some of the hand held camera work is extremely unstable and adds nothing to the scene. The editing and choices of shots are just a mess and again, do nothing for the film. What's a random shot of a man's pelvic area anyway in the grand scheme of things? The soundtrack accompanying the film is at least interesting and does add to the feeling of the scene and the personality of the characters.

There are no spectacular performances in sight here. As The Canyons is being labelled by many as Lindsay Lohan's comeback film, many eyes are on her, and the ones that aren't are watching how James Deen makes the transition from porn to actual acting. Lohan does try in this film, you can tell she didn't take this project lightly. She does have some very good moments, particularly towards the end of the film, but in those scenes where she is crying and they have opted for the close-up, it problem wasn't a great idea when she can't bring the tears. James Deen isn't terrible, but is more at ease being physical (yes, that does mean exactly what it sounds like) than delivering those awful lines. Nolan Gerard Funk's performance is just weak. Watching him is like watching someone in their first acting class who is just starting to learn how to make the audience believe what they are saying, and we are talking about their first ever experience of reading a script. Amanda Brooks is probably the actor with the most likable character, as she doesn't have a deceptive nature, but doesn't put up with anybody else's.

However, even though all the above may put you off going to a screening if you have the chance. Don't let it. The best way to do it is to grab a couple of friends, make a night of it and be prepared to unintentionally have a great laugh together!


Monday, September 9, 2013

Sydney Underground Film Festival: Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012)

Year: 2012
Running Time: 77 minutes
Director: Sophie Huber
Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Sam Shepard, Kris Kristofferson, Wim Wenders, Debbie Harry
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction screened at the Sydney Underground Film Festival on the 6th and 8th September.

Harry Dean Stanton Partly Fiction is a biographical documentary like no other.

This is only fitting as there is no film star like the enigmatic character actor Harry Dean Stanton. At 87 years of age, he has over 180 acting credits to his name, but only one lead role in the 1984 film Paris, Texas. Although a man of few words, you listen with expectation when he speaks as what he says means something and is often very witty and funny. This documentary gives us an insight into the man that is Harry Dean Stanton and does it in an unconventional but in a wonderfully enthralling and entertaining way.

Beautifully filmed partly in both colour and black and white, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction allows us to get to know Stanton in a way we, as outsiders, would have never thought possible. As well as director Sophie Huber's direct interviews with Stanton, she also brings in the people who know Stanton best to film them and he on a one-on-one basis. These people include directors David Lynch and Wim Wenders, actor Kris Kristifferson, writer Sam Shepherd and singer Debbie Harry, and also those who know him best at the bar he has been frequenting for the past 45 years.

Harry Dean Stanton is really a very intriguing and complex man. At the beginning of the film, this man of few words doesn't give Huber much. She asks him questions about his childhood and his parents, but the only way he opens up is with his facial expressions. He audibly says no, but his face tells you all you need to know. It is a beautiful thing to capture on camera. He opens up more as the film goes on about his amazing life and the people he has loved. It is particularly a treat to hear him talk about his well known friends such as Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. When speaking of Brando, another beautiful moment is captured when he talks of his friend who has passed away and you see the raw pain he still feels over his death. What is particularly entertaining is watching Stanton interact with his friends. It is here where we start to see the real Stanton come through. There are many laughs when David Lynch comes for coffee and Stanton's witty sense of humour really starts to come through.

This isn't a typical documentary. Firstly it doesn't tell Stanton's life events in chronological order, but this works. We find out more about the man as he opens up and this way of the film progressing as he opens up tells us more about the private person he is and how he opens up over time. What many people will not know about Stanton is that he has a great passion for folk music and has an incredibly haunting, but beautiful singing voice. His singing provides the soundtrack for the film, but it is not dubbed in, he actually sings for the camera. Again, this technique tells us more about the man as it shares his talent and we are able to see what each song means to him by the accompanying visuals. While he is singing, there are also montages of his personal treasures around his house. Every little  piece of this film tells the story of Harry Dean Stanton and helps us understand exactly who the man is.

As Harry Dean Stanton's filmography consists of well over one hundred titles, it is more than likely that you have seen one or more of his films. However, you would have never seen him like this before. Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction gives us an incredible opportunity to be let into his world and find out who he really is. A beautifully made film which admirably ignores the conventional way of making a documentary.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blue Jasmine (2013)


Year: 2013
Running Time: 98 minutes
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Alden Ehrenreich

Blue Jasmine will be released in Australia on the 12th September and distributed by Hopscotch Films. Now showing in the United States and opening on the 27th of September in the United Kingdom.

Woody Allen is fast approaching his fifth decade of film making and Blue Jasmine is the perfect example of how the genius film maker has still got plenty more in store for us.

The combination of Allen and Cate Blanchett is one of the most exciting director and actor pairings of the year. What is more exciting is that Blue Jasmine is an instant classic thanks to the brilliant screenplay and direction by Allen and an amazing performance by Blanchett. There is so much life in this film and although it is darker and more confronting than the typical Woody Allen film, it is still very funny for the most part and Blanchett's Jasmine is a character you feel you should hate, but you just love.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is used to living the high life on Park Avenue with her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin). When everything falls apart for her after Hal's illegal business operations are found out, she moves to San Francisco to stay with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and recover from her nervous breakdown. Ginger lives the opposite lifestyle to what Jasmine is used to and must make the right changes in her life to move forward. That is, if she wanted to move forward.
Blue Jasmine is a much darker film than we are used to seeing from Allen. It is nastier, harshly intimate in a psychological way and more confronting. However, this does not mean that the type of humour always present in his films is a thing of the past. There are some very funny moments throughout the film and the characters have some very colourful and hilarious dialogue, particularly Jasmine herself and Ginger's boyfriend, Chilli (Bobby Cannavale). The conclusion of Blue Jasmine is many things. Many people won't like it and will feel uneasy with it, but for the most part it is unpredictable and extremely fitting for Jasmine.

There is something so interesting about a protagonist like Jasmine. She is selfish, blunt, materialistic and emotionally unstable. All the qualities one should dislike in a character, but you love her. If you met someone like Jasmine on the street you would probably dislike her and want reality to hit her hard. Yet in Blue Jasmine, you cheer for her and want everything to be okay with as little pain as possible. Yes you want her to wake up to herself and realise that life isn't all Park Avenue, but you feel so much emotional attachment to Jasmine that you want to reach out and really be there for her as it seems like no one, except her sister has ever been. She is a wonderfully written character who is brought to life in an extraordinary performance by Blanchett.

Blanchett completely personifies Jasmine in every way. The way she carries herself when we first meet her is that of a confident high society woman and as she unravels throughout the film, her whole physical and emotional performance changes in a scary way. Blanchett has the uncanny ability to be able to draw in the audience and allow them to feel how she is feeling. As unsettling and emotional as this performance can be, you could watch Blanchett forever as Jasmine. Brilliant.

Sally Hawkins is very good as Jasmine's sister, Ginger. Ginger is also a very interesting character in herself and a complete joy to watch as she is a wonderful contrast to Jasmine. Bobby Cannavale is fantastic as Chilli. He has everything in his performance. He is powerful and intense in some emotional scenes, but can also be soft and hilarious. Alec Baldwin is also a treat. The chemistry between him and Blanchett is perfect.

And is the case with Woody Allen films, the city plays it's own role in the film. Allen has a wonderful way of pouring love into the way he encompasses the location of his films, as we have seen so many times in the past with New York and more recently with European cities such as Barcelona, Paris and Rome. In Blue Jasmine, he brings so much charm to San Francisco. He shows the bohemian side of the city in perfect light, as well as showing the upper class side. Neither falters under his direction and each location in the city used is perfect for the scene in which it appears and acts as a character in it's own right.

There are whispers in the air that Blue Jasmine could bring about Cate Blanchett's sixth Academy Award nomination. These whispers could be right on the money as Blanchett is divine and Blue Jasmine is wonderful.


You may have also seen Woody Allen's film making in.....
Midnight In Paris

You may have also seen Cate Blanchett in......
Robin Hood as Marian
Hanna as Marissa

You may have also seen Alec Baldwin in.....
It's Complicated as Jake
Rock Of Ages as Dennis Dupree

If you are in the Sydney metro area and would like to see Blue Jasmine and hear the experts talk about it, Dendy Newton is hosting a screening and media panel on the 12th of September. Blake Howard (That Movie Show 2UE and Graffiti with Punctuation), Andrew Buckle (Graffiti with Punctuation), Lisa Malouf (The Limerick Review) and Maria Lewis (The Daily Telegraph) will be talking all things Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett and answering all your questions on each of these.

Please see here for more details and to buy tickets.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (2013)

Year: 2013
Running Time: 130 minutes
Director: Harald Zwart
Writers: Cassandra Clare (novel), Jessica Postigo (screenplay)
Cast: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Jemima West, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones is now showing in cinemas everywhere.

Well, what a disappointment.

Anybody who would have read The Mortal Instruments books by Cassandra Clare will be able to confirm with you that this film is not a good representation of the first novel in the series which it is based on, City Of Bones. Not only are there so many things which are changed for the film which clearly don't work, but the screenplay is atrocious. All the potential in the world hasn't been able to save The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones from being little more than a less than impressive and not very clean cut mash up of every young adult fantasy/romance book to screen we have seen in recent times.

Clary Fray (Lily Collins) is a seemingly ordinary New York teenager, but it soon becomes obvious that there is nothing ordinary about her when she starts to see things that her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan) can't see, draws strange symbols subconsciously and her mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey) goes missing in mysterious circumstances. She meets shadowhunter, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) who is the first to inform her that she also has shadowhunter blood and he and his friends, Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West) agree to help her find her mother. Clary and Simon enter into a world they never knew existed and neither of them will ever see anything in the same way again.

For how much potential there is here, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones is just ordinary no matter how hard it tries to be something special. And try it does. Director, Harald Zwart is fond of trying to give scenes importance when they really don't feel as though they are by means of slow motion and the aid of a wind machine for the character's hair to create dramatic effect. The film has no feeling of importance for the large majority of it and lacks suspense tremendously.

The only thing really saving the film is the fact that Cassandra Clare's story is interesting enough and this does make the film succeed in some way as you feel as though you simply must watch the next film to find out all the answers...even if you barely tolerated the first film. While Cassandra Clare's story provides a solid basis for the film, the adapted screenplay by Jessica Postigo is it's undoing. The changes made for screen just do not work at all and the dialogue spoken by the main characters is weak and bland. Even the lines which are obviously supposed to have comedic value are just a little too predictable and just not funny at all. Zwart's direction and Postigo's writing are individually the wrong choices for the film and the mixture of the two is the reason for the film's failure. It is not strong enough a film to break through the mould and be seen as just another teen supernatural flick.

Visually, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones is not a complete failure. Some of the CGI does not seem completely realistic, such as when Isabelle pulls down the chandelier in the vampire attack scene, but for the most part it is convincing. As previously stated, it does try to enhance the atmosphere and emotion of it's scenes using particular filming techniques and musical scores. Perhaps the scene that does benefit from this the most is again the vampire attack when because of it's editing and entertaining battle choreography. However, for the most part, many of these scenes just feel overdone with the aid of it's cinematography. Yet, sometimes it does pose as a reminder that the scene MAY be important, but more often than not still doesn't achieve this and the scene still doesn't feel special.

The Mortal Instruments has assembled a fine cast for the beginning of it's series of films (if it does make it past the second film, as only the second film has been announced). It is just a shame that they really have not been given much for them to exhibit their talents. Lily Collins' Clary Fray is very different from the one in the books, who is quite a strong female character. The way she has been written for the film is not that. Collins' does well enough with the role that is given to her and she is likable, but hasn't got enough character to make her relatable. Jamie Campbell Bower is indeed charismatic and very well suited to the role, but it is a role that doesn't have a great deal of emotional range. Collins and Bower do have on screen chemistry, which is a saving grace for the film.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers does not have much screen time and his character isn't written very well, but his performance is still quite chilling and he does evil very well. Lena Headey also doesn't have a great deal of screen time, but does do well with what is given to her.

It is such a shame to see a film with so much potential fall dramatically short of what it could really be. The scariest thing about this supernatural film, is that no matter how unfortunate the film is, you are still interested to see the next one to find out exactly what happens to Clary and Jace.


You may have also seen Lily Collins in....
The Blind Side as Collins

You may have also seen Jamie Campbell Bower in.....
Anonymous as Young Edward De Vere/ Earl of Oxford