Friday, November 28, 2014

Nightcrawler (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 117 minutes
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed

Nightcrawler is now showing in Australian cinemas and is distributed by Madman Films. Now showing in the United States and United Kingdom.

Intriguing and incredibly unique, Nightcrawler is a brilliant portrait of the modern world of crime journalism and of a memorable but disturbing character by the name of Lou Bloom. With its highly intelligent and well written screenplay, Dan Gilroy's film is incredibly unpredictable and suspenseful and captures the atmosphere of the crime climate of Los Angeles, but still manages to do so in a tasteful and captivating fashion. Jake Gyllenhaal gives an absolutely superb performance of one of the unsettling characters you find creeping around Los Angeles in the night. Nightcrawler is clearly one of the best, if not the best psychological thriller of the year.

 In his own words, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a hard worker, sets goals high and is persistent. He is all these things, but he is also a mysterious and unnerving individual who has the power to make those around him believe and do whatever he wants. While seeking a new job for himself, he stumbles onto the world of crime journalism quite by accident and sets his sights on making sure he becomes the first on the scene of crimes across the city of Los Angeles. He teams up with Nina (Rene Russo), a TV news worker who embraces Lou's exclusive video footage as it gives her channel an advantage over rival news stations. It isn't long until Lou starts to realise that in order to get to the top, he needs to have some control over the world he is reporting on.

Nightcrawler is a brilliantly written and unique piece of work. It is extremely modern in it's concept as it paints an intriguing, but bleak and disturbing picture of the nature and changing face of news journalism. While the sly Lou Bloom convinces those around him that he is freelance, his lucky break comes at the hands of the relatively new concept of citizen journalism. In this age of technology where virtually everyone has access to the tools traditionally used by trained individuals to distribute news, anyone can report as the professionals do. Citizen journalism extends to individuals capturing events as they happen on their mobile phones and that footage being broadcast due to it's exclusiveness and speed. This is where Lou's adventure in crime journalism begins and with his skills of persuasiveness allows people in powerful positions to believe that he is in fact a professional rather than someone who has only decided to take up this business as a result of being out of a job and looking to make a quick dollar. He purchases a camera and mimics what he sees other crime journalists do, but also constructs the elements to make things go his way. Although Nina and her co-workers are unaware of who Lou actually is and that he is only freelance in speech to begin with, this presents one of the complexities of citizen journalism which is that its accuracy can sometimes be questioned as it is not completed by a professional.

The question of ethics in news journalism certainly also comes into play during Nightcrawler. The way the news team in the film approach the video footage which they broadcast is purely to do with how much they can show without getting sued. Their aim is to do whatever they can to beat out their rival news programs and empathy for those who are in or directly affected by the footage is non existent. Their boundaries are defined by what they are legally bound by and they relish finding loopholes in these formalities, while humanity plays very little part when working to win ratings.

Nightcrawler brings to light the ugly side of crime journalism, a concept which is traditionally not a pretty one to begin with. The film itself is driven by the startling high crime rate of present day Los Angeles, which is a feature of the city that Lou and crime journalists strive in as it is good for business. Even though the story focuses on this unattractive part of the City of Angels, the way it is depicted visually is rather exquisite. The opening sequence of the film features some of Los Angeles landmarks which are not usually associated with pop culture, but are familiar to those living in the city and are beautifully shot. For a film which is shot more at night than during the daytime, the use of colour is entrancing. The cinematography is really something special as the film calls for so much variety in the way it is shot due to it's changing pace and constant intrigue.

Jake Gyllenhaal is nightcrawler Lou Bloom in every way. Lou Bloom is an extremely complex and wildly intriguing character with psychopathic tendencies and Gyllenhaal portrays him with perfection. The film doesn't give away much about his past, but it doesn't need to as there is a strange comfort to knowing who he is only in the present. He isn't a particularly likable character, yet the audience forms a connection with him based on his intrigue and unpredictability. Gyllenhaal is truly magnificent in this role and completely embodies the creepy and manipulative Lou Bloom.

Riz Ahmed, who plays Lou's reluctant sidekick Rick, is also fantastic and connects with the audience on a more sympathetic level than Lou. Rick is a man who has made the wrong choices in life, but is trying to set things right only to find that it is not as easy as he thought, especially with a boss like Lou. He is a great deal more likable than Lou and there is a longing for him to be the hero of the story. Ahmed is believable and again, capable of evoking a great deal of sympathy. Rene Russo also does well as Nina, who is clearly struggling to maintain her strength in order to get where she wants to be.

Nightcrawler is as unsettling as it's name suggests, but in the best possible way. An exciting and suspenseful journey which makes you ponder how far people will really go for what they want.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Boyhood:Twelve Years on Film" book review

Photographer: Matt Lankes
Contributions: Richard Linklater, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Matt Lankes
Pages: 200
Publisher: University of Texas Press

To purchase Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film, please visit University of Texas Press.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood was released earlier this year to universal praise for it's ground-breaking mode of production and ability to capture the true essence of growing up. "Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film" could be seen as an essential companion for all those who were deeply moved by the film, but it is so much more than that. The book is a true work of art within itself which captures in photography what Boyhood captures on film, which is the cast as their characters growing up in front of the camera and a story being told through Matt Lankes exquisite photography.

Boyhood was shot over a period of twelve years chronicling the life of young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from when he was five years old till he turned eighteen and left home to attend college. The cast and crew shot the film for a period of two weeks in each of these twelve years and Texan photographer, Matt Lankes was on hand to capture stills from the film and behind the scenes, as well as take portraits of Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Richard Linklater and the rest of the cast and crew.

"Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film" captures the process of growing up in a series of photographs taken over the period of twelve years, as well as providing visual documentation of the making of Linklater's film. The black and white photographs taken by Lankes are not only beautiful, but also quite haunting in the way they capture the character as they were in that moment. The cover photo of Mason as he appeared at the beginning of the film is filled with the innocence, while the final photo on the back cover shows a more worldly Mason at the age of eighteen. The series of portraits of each of the main characters show the process of how each evolved into who they become at the end of the film and tell a story about who they were at that exact moment in each portrait. It is true artistry for a portrait to be able to capture so much and also a testament to each of the cast for being able to portray their character so well in just one shot. The colour stills from behind the scenes are also intriguing, fun and well shot.

The photographs are accompanied by written contributions from Coltrane, Hawke, Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Richard Linklater, producer Cathleen Sutherland and Lankes himself. Each writes a few words on their experience making the film and their understanding of their character. Unlike a typical film companion where a film's cast and crew give a step by step recount of their experience on set, the words the cast and crew have taken to describe their experiences are incredibly deep and heartfelt. Patricia Arquette in particular contributes a lengthy, but wonderful account of what her character and other characters in the film meant to her. Lorelei Linklater's contribution is rather short, but expresses how much the experience meant and for that reason she struggles to put it into words because of it's importance.

"Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film" is by no means the traditional film companion, but even if one was to expect this there would be only pleasant surprise. It is a celebration of life in art and an exquisite keepsake for Boyhood admirers.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writers: Suzanne Collins (based on the novel by), Peter Craig and Danny Strong (screenplay)
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Natalie Dormer, Jena Malone

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 will be released in Australian cinemas on November 20 and is distributed by Roadshow Films. To be released in the United States on November 21 and the United Kingdom November 20.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 takes place in the days following the dramatic finale of The Hunger Games in which Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) was rescued and taken to the once thought destroyed, District 13. While Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) expect Katniss to be grateful for her rescue, all she can think of is how Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is now in The Capitol as a hostage and must be rescued. They inform her that they wish to make her the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion against the Capitol to free the people of Panem. Katniss is hesitant at first, until she sees the destruction of her home, District 12 and agrees to become the Mockingjay with the condition that the victors being held hostage are brought to District 13.

Unlike the first two films in The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay- Part 1 has lacked the excitement and feeling of importance in the lead up that one feels it should possess to maintain the enthusiasm for the phenomenon. Making the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins into two separate films was always going to be problematic from a narrative and excitement point of view as it is only the half telling of the explosive final book. As the third but not final film in the series, the release of Mockingjay- Part 1 isn't as anticipated as the first and second films and without a doubt as the final film to be released late 2015 will be. The initial The Hunger Games film was highly anticipated as the popular and much loved novel was being introduced to the screen, as was Catching Fire because of the pressure to maintain the high standards set by the first film and the finale is always awaited for the obvious reasons.

What this has meant for the film is that it was going to have to be something truly special to prove that just because it is only half of the finale, it deserves as much love as every other film in the franchise. The verdict is that Mockingjay-Part 1 is a fine film, but still has the resonating feeling that it is a bridge rather than an island. It merely feels as though it is connecting Catching Fire and Mockingjay- Part 2 rather than it being a film that could stand alone if it wanted to. This was an inevitable problem of the final book being split into two and one that was always going to be an enormous challenge to overcome. However, it is easily recognised that Mockingjay would have either been incredibly rushed or at a running time of close to four hours had it been one film so the idea of having a two film finale cannot quickly be dismissed as a negative. Writers, Peter Craig and Danny Strong have done a fine job of fleshing out the right aspects of the book for the film and have left the story hanging promptly for the final film.

Mockingjay- Part 1 has a rather different feel to it than the first two films as Mockingjay is more about the aftermath of The Hunger Games rather than the games themselves.  The film gives an accurate depiction of the hardships inflicted on civilians by warfare and of the creation of hope in such times. The visuals of the destroyed District 8 and 12 are incredibly moving, but they are also a spectacular CGI creation. The action that ensues is brief, but well constructed and suspenseful. The film also does a wonderful job at demonstrating how hope is built in such a time, which includes an interesting insight into the creation of propaganda. The process can almost seem comical at times, but the end result is one of the utmost sincerity. The scene in which Katniss sings "The Hanging Tree" is a beautiful, peaceful moment in the film and the musical score throughout the whole film is quite beautiful.

In Jennifer Lawrence's third outing as Katniss Everdeen, she proves that she has not lost momentum with the character and that she is growing with her. From the opening moments of Mockingjay-Part 1, Lawrence once again gives a wonderful performance as a character who has trouble relating to most people as a result of the hardships she has been through and has incredibly complex internal battles taking place. It is a rather solemn and cheerless performance, which is exactly what the film calls for.

Mockingjay-Part 1 has an incredible cast and the majority do a wonderful job. Josh Hutcherson is on screen for a very short amount of time in comparison to his co-stars, but makes a great impact with the time he has. Liam Hemsworth, on the other hand, doesn't give much in his performance, which is surprising as he has a great deal to do in the film.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket gives a performance quite unlike that of the past Hunger Games films. As times have changed, Effie doesn't seem to be the same woman she was as she has been deprived of her luxurious clothes and make-up. However, Banks proves that it is not the clothes that make the character as she is still the complete embodiment of the eccentric Effie in manner and posture even when wearing the plainest of outfits. Natalie Dormer as Cressida becomes a character quite unlike those she has been known to play and proves her versatility as an actor.Donald Sutherland is the perfect brand of evil as President Snow and one looks forward to seeing a great deal more of him in Mockingjay-Part 2.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 is placed in an interesting situation in relation to the other films in it's series. It's anticipation isn't as great as it's place and existence ensures that it will not be the strongest nor most entertaining film of the franchise, which is proven to be true. However, the subject material is fleshed out as much as it can be and what the film does well, it does very well.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Hot Bath an' a Stiff Drink (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 93 minutes
Director: Matthew Gratzner
Writer: Matthew Gratzner, Terry Luce, Dustin Rikert and William Shockley
Cast: Jeffery Patterson, Timothy V. Murphy, Mirelly Taylor, William Shockley, Grainger Hines

Hot Bath an' a Stiff Drink opened the 2014 International Family Film Festival on November 7 in Los Angeles.

In recent times, the traditional western has seemed to become a thing of the past with so many film makers choosing to these films with other genres. Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink is the start of the film trilogy which will fulfil those who have been missing the true western. Incredibly atmospheric and wildly intriguing, the first film in this trilogy captures the heart of the wild west and is thoroughly enjoyable and delightfully unpredictable. Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink is the perfect old-fashioned western.
Arizona 1863: A happy family gathering turns into a terrifying bloody massacre when a group of outlaws storm this occasion, leaving none alive but the children alive. 10 year old twins, Vance and Tom Dillinger are separated when the outlaws kidnap Tom and leave Vance at the scene. Thirty years later, Vance (Jeffery Patterson) is a U.S. marshal, while Tom, now known as Lucky (also played by Patterson) is a wanted man. However different their lives may be, Vance and Tom are still the spitting image of each other and this leads to a case of mistaken identity where a witness believes Vance was the one responsible for a coach hold up. When the brothers meet face to face, they have a chance that they can finally have their revenge on the man responsible for their family’s deaths.
The first instalment of Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink gives the impression of exciting things to come for the trilogy. While it will be an obvious delight to any westerns fan, it appeals to a greater audience with its themes and is original, explosive and entertaining. At the heart of the film lies the theme of family and the idea that blood runs thicker than water. A lifetime may have passed between Vance and Tom, but they are still brothers and their loyalties lie with each other, despite not having known whether the other was alive until moments before. It is a revenge story for Tom driven by the love he had for his family. Vance experiences the same love, but the differences in his upbringing have allowed him to cope with his grief without resorting to revenge.
From the very first scene, Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink is action-packed and pleasingly tense. The film begins with a bang and demands its audience’s attention straight away with its intensity. It is in this very first scene that it also becomes evident just how reminiscent of the classic westerns directed by the likes of John Ford that this film is really going to be. Set in the 1800’s in Arizona, the film visually creates the feeling of actually being there with the characters and experiencing everything that they are from a sensory aspect. It is a thrill to see in the film the old saloon and other things typically found in a western film such as gun fights, stagecoaches and trusted horses. While moving and suspenseful, it does not lose its enjoyment and element of fun.
Jeffery Patterson has the wonderful, but challenging duty of playing the two main characters of the film and does an outstanding job. He gives both Vance and Tom completely different attributes both physical and emotionally. In what must be quite a complicated task to achieve, Patterson does extremely well and the audience in completely intrigued by both Vance and Tom Dillinger. Another great things about Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink, is that despite having a fairly male orientated cast, there is not an absence of a strong female character. Mirelly Taylor plays Sence Soto, who is one of Tom’s band out outlaws and she is a great character who can match any of the men with her sharp shooting and courage. She is a modern character in a traditional piece, but a welcomed one.
Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink is an incredible start to what promises to be an enjoyable trilogy. It is a reminder that family is always family, no matter who you turn out to be and that is where your loyalty will always lie.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Hard Day's Night (1964) film review

Year: 1964
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Richard Lester
Writer: Alun Owen
Cast: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Wilfrid Brambell

A Hard Day's Night will be screening at the 2014 Emirates British Film Festival as one of the Six from the 60's films. For more information on times, dates and tickets, please visit the official website.
To purchase A Hard Day's Night , please see link at end of review.

A Hard Day's Night is undoubtedly one of the best music films of all time. Whether a fan of The Beatles or not, it is impossible not to appreciate the snapshot of history which the film captures. While A Hard Day's Night features some of the band's greatest hits and is tremendous fun, it is treasured for the rare glimpse it gives into a day in the life of the Fab Four that explores the personalities of the band members with hilarious results.

In 1964, The Beatles were the biggest band of the world. Their days consisted of travelling from one town to another to perform live shows and always with a crowd of screaming and crying teenage girls in tow. However, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were just four young lads from Liverpool out to do what they love, but at the same time have a bit of fun. On this particular day, they are accompanied by Paul's grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell) who turns out to be the biggest troublemaker of the group and encourages Ringo to take a stand against his fellow band members as a result of their constant teasing. The drummer abandons his band with only hours to go till their highly anticipated live television performance, which throws everything into turmoil.

A Hard Day's Night is something very special. What makes it so entertaining and enjoyable is that the film truly feels as though a group of boys just got together and decided to make a film of themselves being completely random and hilarious. In this case, the boys just happen to be The Beatles. The naturalness of these famous boys being boys is a complete credit to screenwriter, Alun Owen. Owen followed The Beatles around for a time before they left for America (which they discuss briefly in the film) and came to understand the personalities of each of the band members, which allowed him to accurately craft the screenplay around a day in the life of the foursome. It was no coincidence that it was Ringo abandoning the band as he was tagged as the sad one who was always at the back as he was the drummer, so therefore automatically the odd one out. Each band member's personality shines through in the film and it is such a wonderfully personal thing to have this film which shows the four just being boys and doing what boys do, with the added extras of fame and music.

While the majority of the film was scripted, the four all improvised at certain times throughout and the results are hilarious. The random brand of humour employed in the film paves way for numerous hilarious and now famous quotes which are witty and delivered with perfect timing. Director Richard Lester reiterated the fact that he was not trying to get any award winning performances out of the band, but wanted each of them to perform as naturally as possible which is clearly evident in the film. John, Paul, George and Ringo all look completely at ease on screen and with each other during the film and it is refreshing to see that none of them are trying to be something they are not.

The soundtrack of the film is, of course, perfection for any Beatles fan as it contains many of the band's greatest hits including "Can't Buy Me Love", ""And I Love Her" and "A Hard Day's Night". "Can't Buy Me Love" is a particularly well crafted piece in the film as it acts as the song for the band's escape from the craziness that ensues them. The four take off in a large field where they are able to run free and do whatever they please. There are some fantastic aerial shots during this song and the editing superb, as it is throughout the whole film. Visually the film is also a historical snapshot of the early 1960's where all the women had high, teased hair and go-go danced at parties.

A Hard Day's Night is incredibly enjoyable and toe-tapping fun with it's timeless soundtrack. It is the film that delights anybody who admires The Beatles and has the ability to convert others into fans.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Maps To The Stars (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 111 minutes
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Bruce Wagner
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Dawn Greenhalgh

Maps To The Stars was the Opening Night film at the 2014 Canberra Film Festival and also screened on November 1. Will be released in Australia on November 20 and distributed by Entertainment One.

Maps To The Stars isn't the leisurely stroll down Hollywood Boulevard that many may be expecting, but it is completely compelling with its intensity, valiance and dark satirical nature. David Cronenberg's latest is a brilliant and in depth study of Hollywood as a culture and the personalities often found in it's midst. The enticing, but incredibly evil screenplay is supported by superb performances by it's cast, particularly Julianne Moore and Evan Bird. There is nothing nice about Maps To The Stars, but that is what makes it brilliant.

As a young woman, Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) alights the bus in Los Angeles and gets into a limo driven by aspiring actor, Jerome (Robert Pattinson), she appears to be just another hopeful that has come to Hollywood with stars in her eyes. However, Agatha is the estranged daughter of the high profile Weiss family who brought disgrace on the family many years earlier and was sent far away from her younger brother, Benjie (Evan Bird) who is a troubled teenager star not as concerned with his sister's return as his mother, Christina (Olivia Williams) and father, Stafford (John Cusack). Stafford finds out about his daughter's return to Los Angeles from one of his clients, actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) who Agatha has started working for. Havana suffers with classic Hollywood problems of her own, fuelled by the spectre of her actress mother, Clarice Taggart (Sarah Gadon) who died in a fire when Havana was young.

Maps To The Stars paints an incredibly dark portrait of modern day Hollywood that doesn't shy away from the ugly side of the industry that the power people work so hard to cover up. Despite having a confronting and evil personality which many will find too much to forgive, the film is awfully sure of itself and committed to it's purpose and what it is representing. Maps To The Stars has been likened to films such as Sunset Blvd which are technically making fun of the industry that they are made in, but this modern day Hollywood tale doesn't have a problem showing it's audience the uncensored and often shocking world of debauchery the stars live in. Bruce Wagner's screenplay is brutal and twisted, but brave and brilliant in the way that it doesn't give the audience the satisfaction of knowing exactly where it is going.

Although it is a satire and exaggerated for entertainment value, there are elements of the film which are intriguing case studies of the industry's culture and certain Hollywood stereotypes. There are the little idiosyncrasies in the characters that those who are familiar with Hollywood types will recognise and other relatable cultural aspects of the town such as the minimal degrees of separation between everyone and the paranoia (and often truth) that everyone is only out for themselves. Maps To The Stars also shows how the world of excess that comes with fame and fortune can seem idyllic on the surface, but it is this excess that leads to the evil doings that are read about in the media and seen in the film. The more people have, the more they have to get in trouble with. The film seeks to answer the question that many ask after reading about celebrities in tabloids who go rogue, how do they go off the rails when they live such a charmed life? They have access to far more that they need and as a result, have far more that they can lose.

The depth of character in Maps To The Stars is extraordinary. While the film is first and foremost a case study of Hollywood and it's inhabitants, the characters also exhibit characteristics which are not mutually exclusive to that group of people. Havana Segrand, played flawlessly by Julianne Moore is an incredibly well crafted character who's characteristics represent those not only of such a Hollywood star, but also of a damaged person as such. Havana represents the child of Hollywood who has grown up in the shadow of her beautiful and talented mother. Now facing the reality of becoming a Hollywood "has been" and actively trying to avoid self-destructive behaviour (which doesn't always work), she feels her mother's ghost even more so. She see's in the mysterious Agatha a chance to redeem herself in her mother's eyes, due to the similarities between the girl and Clarice. Havana is an example of one who did not have the relationship with her parent that she would have and is continuously looking for a way to feel atoned. Moore is spectacular and makes the character of Havana one who is intriguing and, like many celebrities who are on the path the disaster, the audience cannot wait to see what she does next.

The Weiss family are an extremely troubled with many secrets which they try to keep hidden from the world as well as from themselves. Whether in the public eye or not, it is not uncommon for children to repeat their parents mistakes as they learn from them just by watching as they grow up. This is the case with Agatha and Benjie, but in particular Agatha who understands to an extent what is happening while Benjie is too young. Evan Bird is wonderful as Benjie Weiss. He is incredibly hard to like as he represents the spoiled and arrogant child star, but at the same time is fantastic to watch. He is the representation of the young star who truly misses out on being a child due in part to being introduced to alcohol and drugs at such a young age. Even though he is a character one loves to hate, he is sympathized with at certain moments in the film where he is on the verge of feeling real emotion, but stops himself in order to protect his persona even only in front of himself.

Mia Wasikowska shows her superb acting range in Maps To The Stars as Agatha is many things. Although eighteen, she is still very much the little girl that her parents neglected. Her father says "I don't know who she is anymore", and Agatha feels much the same way about herself. Her identity is lost somewhere in her parents and brother's identities, but she also looks to Clarice Taggart for clarification. She also tells herself and Jerome lies that make her feel better about herself and forget where she comes from. Agatha is an extremely twisted character who seems dangerous and psychotic, but also just very confused about who she really is.

Maps To The Stars is a rare film that delves deep into the world it exists in and tells an intriguing narrative at the same time. It's confronting look at the world of excess that exists in Hollywood in the twenty-first century will not be to the liking of many, but will entertain those who appreciate the reasoning behind the madness.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Finding Harmony (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Dagen Merrill
Writers: Judy Norton
Cast: Anna Margaret, Alison Eastwood, Billy Zane, Ed Bruce, Jeffery Patterson, Max Lloyd-Jones

Finding Harmony will open the 2014 International Family Film Festival in Los Angeles on November 7. For more information and for ticket purchase, please see the  festival's official website.

Finding Harmony is a charming film which proves that no matter how much you try to run from where you are from, you never truly leave home. It is a film which will delight those with country music in their veins, but also one which many will be able to relate to for its portrait of generation dynamics within families. With some truly beautiful and wonderfully likable performances from its talented cast, Finding Harmony is a true home comfort.

Harmony Colter (Anna Margaret)  may be only sixteen-years-old, but she knows exactly what she wants in life and that is to follow in her father, Casey Colter’s (Billy Zane) footsteps and be a country music singer. However, her mother, Sam (Alison Eastwood) will do anything to keep her away from the world that both her ex-husband and estranged father, JT Grayson (Ed Bruce) built their lives around. When Harmony runs away from the home her mother has made from her, she finds herself with her father heading to meet her grandfather for the first time at the Fame Ranch, a place which acts as a camp for juvenile young boys. Sam finds herself having to travel to back to the place where she comes from and confront her past and her demons.

Finding Harmony is an incredibly sweet film for families about family. It looks at the dynamics between generations and how they change over time, such as the dynamics in the relationship between parent and child and between grandparent and grandchild. Many people will find these dynamics relatable, but they will also find is that the family themes represented are also close to their heart, such as that of returning home to face your past. While Finding Harmony is one family’s personal story, it never feels too personal to the point that the viewer feels uncomfortable watching. What the film makers have done so brilliantly is draw the audience in so much that they feel like they are part of the family so that they are invested in the film on an emotional level and do not feel as though they are detached from the action.
As a whole, the film is very atmospheric as a result of several features all coming together. From the moment Harmony gets on stage with her guitar, the film is a country music lovers treat. The soundtrack is a great deal of fun with a variation of songs which give extra emotional emphasis to the scenes they are in. Set mostly in country Alabama, the music adds to the rural setting and gives it a peace and serenity. There are some truly beautiful shots on the ranch and gorgeous use of silhouettes, particularly of Harmony on the horse.

Anna Margaret is wonderful in the lead role as Harmony. Though she has a rebellious streak, she is instantly likable and her sincerity is infectious. Margaret does an exceptional job and has real star power with her acting and singing ability. Billy Zane is incredibly charismatic as Casey Colter and also very easy to take to as a character. Alison Eastwood also does well as Sam, a mother who is obviously proud of her daughter, but is resisting the urge to show it for the fear of her making the same mistakes she did. Jeffery Patterson (who is also an executive producer on the film) plays Tyson Caldwell and creates an impact with his sympathetic and warm character whenever on screen.

Finding Harmony is such a charming film of family and returning home. It treats you as part of the family and makes you feel as welcomed and comfortable as possible.


"As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes book review

Author: Cary Elwes with Joe Layden
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 259
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

It was the film that was deemed unable to ever be made and even when finally made and released in 1987, The Princess Bride was not a runaway hit at the box office. However, 27 years later the film is embraced as a classic and loved by millions all around the world who have grown up with the film and are now showing it to their families. Rob Reiner's film has only gained in popularity over the years due to its timeless nature, comedic screenplay and universally appreciated story of adventure and romance. However, The Princess Bride can never be spoken of without the mention of one of it's many memorable quotes such as "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die", "Inconceivable!" and, of course, 'As you wish".
Based on William Goldman's beloved classic, The Princess Bride opens with a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) the tale of Buttercup (Robin Wright) and the farm boy she fell in love with, Westley (Cary Elwes). When Westley is captured and never heard from again, Buttercup is chosen by Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) to be his wife before she herself is kidnapped by Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), Spaniard Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant). One would expect the Prince to come to Buttercup's rescue, but it is instead the Dread Pirate Roberts who is her saviour.
"As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride" is Cary Elwes' gift to all fans of The Princess Bride, and even for those who do not yet know that they are fans of the film. In his memoirs of the film that made him a star, Elwes states that when asked what The Princess Bride means to him and what are his favourite moments of the film, he cannot explain in just a few words. "As You Wish" is his way of helping people understand how much the film means to him by way of his memories and stories from the set, as well as the role it has played in his life and career since. While the book it penned by Elwes, it contains interviews with Rob Reiner, William Goldman and cast members Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn and Christopher Guest. Also included are never before seen photos from on the set from Reiner's personal collection.

"As You Wish" is the perfect companion to The Princess Bride. Like the film, the book is an uplifting piece of work which has a great deal of laughs and beautiful memories. It is obvious that Elwes and his cast members look back on their time on set with pride, happiness and love and all this is infectious. The inclusion of the memories from other cast and crew is valuable as the book doesn't feel bias in the slightest, but it also makes the book feel like a team effort like the film was. The detail in which Elwes recalls events on the set is particularly admirable, especially considering it is now nearly thirty years after they have taken place. Yet, this reinforces how much he enjoyed and treasured his time playing Westley. Elwes writes in a conversational style which absolutely makes reading a more personal experience and his enthusiasm and sense of humour adds to the readers enjoyment of the book.
Unlike many other "making of" film books, "As You Wish" does bring new information to light. Readers find out how terrified Wallace Shawn was of partaking in the film and struggled with insecurity over his acting ability, as well as how much preparation really went into the epic sword fight between Westley and Inigo.The reader feels like they immediately have to revisit the film with the new information which they are given and try to see if they can spot the people in the Rodents of Unusual Size, recognise Elwes' pain as he works with a broken toe or pick up on signs that Elwes as a "mostly dead" Westley is actually trying his hardest not to laugh as Billy Crystal improvises as Miracle Max. Even for those who didn't quite understand the appeal of the film, they feel encouraged to revisit the film with a new appreciation. Those who haven't seen The Princess Bride will not feel at a loss at not having done so, as Elwes attempts not to discriminate against those who haven't seen the film and explains the film and it's contents with clarity and in detail.
"As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride" is an absolute must for any fan of The Princess Bride.

If you wish to buy As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride , please follow the below Amazon link.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Love, Rosie (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Christian Ditter
Writers: Cecelia Ahern (based on the novel "Where Rainbows End" by), Juliette Towhidi (screenplay)
Cast: Lily Collins, Sam Clafiln, Suki Waterhouse, Tamsin Egerton, Art Parkinson, Christian Cooke

Love, Rosie will open in Australian cinemas on November 6 and is distributed by Studiocanal. Now showing in the United Kingdom and due for release in the United States early 2015 (tentative).

Based on the bestselling novel "Where Rainbows End"( AKA Love, Rosie) by Cecelia Ahern, Love, Rosie is an incredibly simple watch but does not lack in enjoyment. As the quintessential chick flick, the film is wildly predictable but makes up for this by being rather charming, fun and comical, along with a beautiful lead performance by Lily Collins. Love, Rosie is a rushed coming of age film blended with hints of romance which is extremely light, but pleasantly so.

Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) have been best friends since they were five years old. As their high school years are coming to an end, the two are seeing other people yet have grand plans to move to Boston together where Alex will study at Harvard and Rosie will study hotel management at Boston College. However, life has other plans for them and a twist of fate on prom night pulls the two apart from their joint destiny. Anyone can see that the two are meant for each, but destiny doesn't seem to be able to put them both in the right place at the right time to stop missing each other. Maybe they are just meant to be best friends who just love each other a tad more than they are supposed to.

Love, Rosie is, like the novel it is adapted from, by all means a film tailored for a female audience. It is incredibly easy to watch due to it's simplicity and predictable story which can be quite generic at times, but is very sweet and pleasant. Of course one feels they know where the film is going, but the journey is nevertheless enjoyable. The film covers twelve years in the characters lives in just under an hour and forty minutes so it cannot be regarded as a truly in depth coming of age story as it is obviously rather rushed, but it does give enough for the audience to connect with Rosie and Alex and very much care for the two of them over this period of time. It also addresses issues relevant to young people in modern times such as the pressure to get out there and do something with your life and the feeling of how you must settle for what seems right in the fear that there may not be another chance, which is not always right. Love, Rosie isn't completely unrealistic and is a story about taking the long way around to reach your destiny which many will find relatable.

The film doesn't rely on the power of its situations to make it a success, but rather its well written screenplay adapted by Juliette Towhidi which is quite funny and loving. The emotion of the film is rather sporadic with a great deal felt in some moments (such as the funeral), and not enough at others (eg. the impact of divorce). As is a staple in chick flicks, there are some awfully pretty images such as sparkly wedding and party scenes, ice cream and fashionable clothes. The soundtrack is also a lot of fun with songs relevant to the time period in which they are featured, such as "Crazy in Love" by BeyoncĂ© and "F**k You" by Lily Allen.

Lily Collins is wonderful as Rosie Dunne. She carries the film with her strength in character and the ability to grow with her as she plays eighteen year old Rosie as well as she does thirty year old Rosie. She is extremely likeable and relatable as when she makes questionable decisions, the audience understands why she has made this decision and sympathizes with her. Collins provides the film with it's most emotional moments and is truly beautiful at these times.

Sam Claflin does well as Alex and although his performance isn't quite as strong and emotional as Collins, he is charismatic and likable. Collins and Claflin have great on screen chemistry where the love is felt between the two of them and the friendly manner in which they behave with each other is completely believable. Suki Waterhouse makes only her second film appearance in Love, Rosie and unfortunately isn't completely convincing as Alex's high school flame, Bethany who reappears during the film. On the other hand, Tamsin Egerton, who plays another girlfriend of Alex's, Sally, is completely convincing and does very well in her role.

Love, Rosie may be predictable and stereotypical as far as it being a chick flick, but it is a great deal of fun and offers those little differences that allow it to work and make it memorable.