Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Age of Adaline (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 110 minutes
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz (story and screenplay)
Cast: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Crew

The Age of Adaline is now showing everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Entertainment One.

The concept of The Age of Adaline is so ridiculous that it has the power to more than once provoke an eye-roll, yet it still remains surprisingly enjoyable with it's gentleness and grace. Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) holds a great secret, she has been 29 for almost 80 years. Her eternal youth has forced her to live a solitary life and to not let anyone know about her burden, besides her only daughter, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) who in 2014 passes for her grandmother. Although she tries, she cannot resist the charms of Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) when he falls for Adaline under her pseudonym of Jenny. When she finally allows herself to admit her feelings for Ellis, she must also face her past in order to move forward.

The reasoning behind Adaline's inability to age is so unbelievable that it is rather ludicrous and it is the silliness of this backbone to The Age of Adaline that unfortunately cannot be forgotten throughout the film. However, within this story are some hidden gems which allow the film to not be written off as a result of this. Society is obsessed with the idea that we will somehow discover the fountain of youth and fulfil the desire to be forever young. However, The Age of Adaline seeks to confirm that the idea of staying youthful forever is not as perfect as it may seem, especially if it means watching those around you change and move on with their lives. Adaline is denied the privileges of growing older and in her situation, misses out on forming meaningful relationships in her life. In reality one doesn't stay young while others around them age, but there are those who depart our world prematurely and miss out on the wonderful things that come with aging such as a lifetime with the ones they love and watching their children grow up. There are of course the negatives that are associated with aging and there are the positives of youth, but The Age of Adaline subtly attempts to remove some of the stigma associated to aging and to remind one that there is grace and beauty in the passing of time.

Despite the often slow pace of the film, The Age of Adaline is a rather enjoyable experience with it's graceful, gentle storytelling and extremely pleasant production and costume design. The film has an overall comfortable and cosy atmosphere in which the viewer feels unchallenged. This is not to say that the film is entirely an unmoving experience, as there are some beautiful and romantic moments between Adaline and Ellis. The flashbacks are very nostalgic as a result of wonderful production design by Claude Pare and the exquisite costume design. Designed by Oscar winning designer, Angus Strathie, the past and present attire of Adaline are a fashion lover's dream and worn to perfection by Blake Lively.

Lively's performance as the un-aging Adaline is deceptively complex. On the surface she is indeed a beautiful and youthful lady, but her soul is much older which shows in the way she presents herself and way in which she speaks. She has the feminine grace and class that her generation was taught long ago and applies this to herself in modern times. The chemistry between Lively and Ellen Burstyn is very well done with the mother and daughter dynamic represented in an uncommon situation.

Michiel Huisman is perfectly cast in his role of Ellis Jones. He possesses every quality that makes him the quintessential leading man in such a romance film as this and it is so believable that Adaline would want to go against everything she has ever believed for this man. Huisman is incredibly likable in this film with his sincerity and quick wit. Anthony Ingruber has also been receiving plenty of praise for putting his convincing Harrison Ford impersonations to good use by playing the younger version of Ford's character, William.

With the flaw in it's overall reasoning, it is a delight to see that The Age of Adaline has many strong points that go a long way to it's redemption. It is a wonderfully romantic and fashionable film that is to be taken for what it is and enjoyed.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Speaking with those who have been In The Company of Legends, David Heeley and Joan Kramer

David Heeley, Joan Kramer, James and Gloria Stewart
(Photo Credit: Author's collection)

Only days after their wonderful book, "In The Company of Legends" has been released, documentarians and authors David Heeley and Joan Kramer talk to us about their first publication and a little about their experiences with some of Hollywood's greatest.

The multi-Emmy award winning documentary team of David Heeley and Joan Kramer have in the past worked with some of old Hollywood's biggest names including Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Henry and Jane Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Johnny Carson and many more. Their first book, "In The Company of Legends" (which we reviewed here) is an insight into what went on behind the camera in their productions and the friendships formed.

We are extremely thankful to David Heeley and Joan Kramer for their time in taking to us.

Firstly, I just wanted to say thankyou for your time and congratulations on the book!

DH: Well, thankyou!

How did the idea for the book come about?

JK: We were often telling stories about the experiences we've had to family and friends and every time we did, the person we were talking to would always say "You have to write a book!" and I would say "Yeah...we're not going to write a book!" But then just along the way we tried writing the stories down so as the years go by we wouldn't forget them. Then we found a literary agent quite by accident....
DH: Let me just say that we couldn't do this while we were producing programs. There was just too much work, but after we stopped making the programs we started to think about writing the book and that's when we looked for a literary agent.
JK: And then he circulated the proposal and every major publisher turned it down. Finally, after about eight or nine months, he happened to be at a book launch party for another one of his books that was published by Beaufort Books, which is our publisher. At that party he mentioned our proposal and that was not one of the publishers which he had pitched to. They said "That sounds fascinating!" and within two days, he had a deal!

So how long ago was that?

JK: It wasn't last June, but the one before...
DH: So it's getting on to two years ago.
JK: And what happened was that after called us and told us we had a deal, he said "OK, now I have the bad have to write this book!" (laughs)

So was it two years worth of writing or was there a great deal of research involved?

DH: It really came in spurts, but of course as the clock started ticking, it really started to become sitting down at the computer and really writing it all out. Initially we were just trying to get all the ideas down and getting a form for the book and deciding how to deal with the fact that there was two of us trying to tell the story. You can see how that turned out, we did go with the idea of the two of us having two separate voices and then there were pieces where we were both talking together. Once we decided on that then it became a bit easier because what would happen was that I would write a bit and then Joan would write a bit and then we would go over what each of us had written. Collaborative writing is a pleasure as you are able to check and discuss everything first.
JK: And that means everything!
DH: What we discovered was that writing a book was very different to writing a script. In television you are always limited by how much time you have. You may have to get three facts into fifteen seconds and leading into a film clip at the same time, while with writing a book you are able to spend more time setting the scene and add more colour to the story.
JK: The other aspect was, for contrast, writing the stories was much harder than telling them. You no longer have your voice while you are telling the story. You just have to make it work with getting across humour without the luxury of using your voice to make it humorous or moving.

The stories that you tell in the book are so vivid. Were these stories still fresh in your mind or did it all come back to you as you wrote?

DH: A little bit of both I would say. The advantage we had of there being two of us what that we had two memories to call upon. Then on top of that we had our files to check on if we weren't sure of facts, we had the programs to check on to make sure we were telling the stories correctly and the biggest plus of all was that Joan kept scrapbooks.
JK: I have every calendar going back years in a file cabinet. I could go back and tell you what date Katharine Hepburn called us. There was no guess work here.

Unlike your documentaries, that would have made the research for your book so much easier...

DH: It did because we had already done the research for the show already. There was still quite a bit of time online making sure we got our facts straight. As almost happened with one of our stories, Joan almost quoted a dead person and then discovered it was somebody else. Your memory does play tricks with you.
JK: The other thing that was a headache but was fun at the same time was the scrapbooks that David mentioned. On one hand they gave us the knowledge of where to look for photos, but on the other hand I spent months putting each one together and they were all spread out in my living room so getting from my living room into another room was like jumping a hurdle! It looked like a hoarder had lived in this house!
DH: But here is the great thing, Joan had photographs in those scrapbooks that the photographers didn't have.
JK: It so happened that David and I walked around with a camera every moment that we were working and either I was shooting stills or David was shooting stills.

One of the great things about your book is that it is so respectful, even if the experience you had wasn't particularly wonderful. I'm talking in part about the day you were shown the door by Bette Davis. Is it impossible not to have respect for people like this no matter what the situation?

DH: Well, as you know it's not a "dishing the dirt" book in any way and we just wanted to tell the stories as truthfully as they happened because they didn't need any embellishing in any way. We felt that just what happened was fascinating in its own way and we didn't want to force anyone into feeling a certain way, this is what happened.

Another thing I noticed about the two of you is that you both have this "Never take no for an answer" attitude. How important has this been in your careers?

DH: Very! (laughs)
JK: (laughs) Probably crucial!
DH: Of course that happened in the very first chapter with Fred Astaire. We were lucky that through our ignorance we were persistent there. If we had known that he controlled his film clips so much we wouldn't have persisted. We would have just got up and gone away. If there hadn't been any Fred Astaire shows there wouldn't have been any subsequent shows.

When you were first starting out together and you heard the words "Mr Astaire is furious", did you feel it was all over before it had even started?

DH: Well, when you pick up the phone and hear those words your heart sinks and you try to figure out where to go next. Then you go and talk to your executive producer and he said "I'm not surprised, but he is a public figure so go ahead and do it". So you press on and, as Katharine Hepburn would always say, you pull yourself together! You go ahead and you do what you have to do. But yes, it's rough when you get those sort of call because it does feel as though the world is collapsing. As you stated earlier, one of the things you learn is that you have to persevere. You have to keep pushing gently. You have to be aggressive but in a nice way so as to not turn them off, whoever you want to reach. There's a nice way to persuade somebody and a bad way to persuade them and I think we have always found the balance. So in the end almost everyone we wanted we landed.
JK: I think so. How do you know how far to push without it being obnoxious? How do you not turn people off? I don't know the answer.
DH: Let me just say that Joan doesn't know the answer, but she was born with that gene. She is the best person I have ever known of reaching a total stranger on the phone and keeping them on the phone for a long time and by the end of the call, they are the best of friends. The classic example in the book is the case of Errol Flynn's widow, Pat Wymore. Basically she had said no to everybody who had called her and had wanted to talk about Errol Flynn and when Joan finally got her on the phone, the conversation ended with "Why don't you come down and visit me at my home in Jamaica?"

It's a wonderful gift to have!

DH: Yes, she's very good at it!
JK: I guess, but I can't explain it!
DH: If you explain it, you will probably never be able to do it again!

(Photo credit: Author's collection)

One of the people you had worked with who you were closest to and we have briefly talked about is Katharine Hepburn. She was notorious for not doing interviews and very rarely appearing on television. What do you think made her trust you both so much that she really wanted to work with you? More than once as well?

JK: Well, first of all we made a program that aired in 1981 called Starring Katharine Hepburn. It cannot be seen because it is out of production and frankly we are not sorry because she is not on it. David had called her...
DH: Well, again the conversation is described in the book in great detail, but it is very vivid in my mind. George Cukor approached her on our behalf and when he said "She said no, but I think you could persuade her", I had to call her. Of course, hearing that voice on the phone is just intimidating to say the least, but in the end I was able to get her to say yes to let us do the show. That was just with the case of Fred Astaire. It was a crucial step because even though she didn't want to be on it as she said she was too busy, it was probably a combination of that and not wanting to be on it at the same time. When she said yes, it was her approval which allowed us to do the show (Starring Katharine Hepburn). She said she hadn't seen it, but our spies told us she had. She called us when she returned home from being on tour and said that her friends had seen the show and asked if we would like to come over for tea. What happened there was we had succeeded in jumping the hurdle or leaping over the obstacle course, whatever you want to call it. She had appreciated what we had done enough to let us come over to her house and that was a big deal.

Classic film buffs will love the chapter in the book when the two of you went to what was MGM Studios with Kate. What was that like?

JK: Oh...well...first of all people were standing on the rooftops and leaning out the windows. She hadn't been back on the MGM lot for many, many years and news crews were showing up to cover her return to MGM. She then took myself a few other people on a tour. She said she wanted to see L.B. Mayer's office and she just barged into the then chair Frank Rosenfelt's office and said "I want to see L.B. Mayer's desk"! She was just fascinated to be back there! Everybody around at MGM who were used to seeing stars were just undone by the fact that it was her.
DH: It's a cliché to say she was like a force of nature, but when she was around you were aware that she was around and she had a magnificent personality and the ability to get things done. She knew that a phone call from Katharine Hepburn would get things done and she would often do that when she could see that we were having problems to get film clips or she would get people to appear who wouldn't have done otherwise. Going back to MGM, that was just the way it was when she was around. That doesn't mean that she was obnoxious, she was just somebody who carried that with her. It was a wonderful personality to be around. It could be intimidating, but once we learned how to work with each other it was a dream. When she sad "I have a suggestion", you knew you better listen because you knew it was going to be a damn good suggestion.
JK: And she was very canny, she knew exactly what she was doing. She knew what worked for her, she knew what the audience would find entertaining, funny, moving....and she knew how to deliver that message in whatever she had to say or do. She was really quite extraordinary.

You also spent time on the Universal Studios back lot with James Stewart when you were working with him. What was that like?

JK: Johnny Carson, who rarely did anything outside "The Tonight Show" besides the Oscars, agreed to host this program and we took both of them to the Universal back lot where Jimmy had made so many movies. They were like a mutual admiration society! Jimmy would come up to me and say "Isn't it wonderful John giving up his time to do this" and then he would tell that to Johnny. Then Johnny would come up to me and say "If he tells me one more time how wonderful it is that I am doing this I am going to strangle him! Doesn't he know how special this is for me?" I said "Johnny, he believes that you are the only star on this lot today"
DH: It was a very special day and of course as so often happens when you are working you don't realise that as you are just thinking that I have to get this shot. It's only after it's over that you realise what an amazing experience you just had. They were both enjoying it as well. Jimmy was enjoying being in the back lot and it was a new experience for Johnny to be working in this way. Jimmy was very supportive of Johnny at that time, you could see him encouraging him. They had a great time and we had a great time. What we got out of that was magic.
JK: The other thing was that relationship was not put on. They really cared for each other and the warmth that came across from them on camera was real.
DH: I think you will get that from their final story in the book when Johnny called Jimmy just before he died to talk about Destry Rides Again. Johnny had kept calling him even when Jimmy wouldn't come to the phone and to me that is the most moving part of our book the way those two interacted and the fact that Jimmy did come onto the phone those few days before he died to have that final conversation with Johnny. To me that is still very touching.

With all the Hollywood legends who you worked with, who was the most like the public reputation that they had?

DH: Audrey was like that, Joan....
JK: Yes, Audrey Hepburn was wonderful and I expected her to be wonderful. What I didn't expect was she was funny and she was very funny when she heard David's English accent and said "Why don't I do this whole show in cockney like I did in My Fair Lady?"
Others surprised us, and weren't the people they were reputed to be and one or two were. One or two were unfavourably exactly like their reputation.
DH: We are talking about Lauren Bacall here as we had heard that she was a tough person to work with and what was really remarkable about Bacall was that under that tough surface...which I believe was a protection for herself....was a genuinely nice woman. There was something really quite remarkable about Bacall. We kind of got to see that after we got through the rough parts with her and we ended up friends. With the exception of Bette Davis who we met very briefly, anybody else we had a hard time with we got over it. They got over it and we became great friends with these people.

(Photo credit: Author's collection)

That really is a great testament to the two of you as they obviously all held so much trust in you!

DH: Well, they had to trust us and they did.
JK: What's interesting to me is that these legends, if you don't mind me using the title of the book, worked with many directors over their careers, David and I are in a very small of nucleus that did things with them that were so personal to them. When they performed on screen as a character, they were playing a character. They did not play a character in our show.

Did developing relationships with these people change the way you watched films with them in them?

JK: I mean, I have the ability and I guess David does too, I have the ability to take of my producers hat very fast. I could enjoy a film and not think "Oh that is my friend!"
DH: Actually it is a very good question and it is something I have dealt with in the past. Sometimes when you have developed a relationship with somebody and you know that person and you see them on the stage, you can't disassociate that person. It's like your friend trying to be someone else. The great performers you don't think that this is someone you have tea with, they are that character. We have been lucky that we have been friends with some great performers. Joanne Woodward knocked my socks off! I mean, Joan and I know Joanne extremely well, but I will sometimes see her in a performance and I will think "Who the hell is that?! That is nobody I know!" That is the sign of a great performer, a great actor. Most people in the audience don't have this problem of disassociation. It's a unique experience for us to see them on the screen and ask if they are the person we have just been chatting with or are they the character?

What advice would you give to people who aspire to be biographers or documentary makers?

DH: Do a lot of research! Number one, you just have to know your subject inside and out. Assuming the subject has agreed or you are going to do it whether they like it or not, you have to get it right. You have an obligation to get it right because yours may be the only version of this story. People tend to believe what they read and they tend to believe what they see on television. We have a tremendous weight on our shoulders, we writers, directors and producers. We have a tremendous responsibility and we need to live up to that responsibility and get it right.
JK: The other thing is David and I have never done a show that is unauthorised. We either work with the subjects and if the subjects were no longer alive such as Humphrey Bogart, we work with their friends and families. We never did an unauthorised biography ever.
DH: The problem then becomes are you going to do something that is going to please your subject or not. It is a very delicate balance. I don't think we ever pulled back on something because we thought it would upset somebody, but occasionally we would pull up something and we would think "Woah! We don't know how they are going to feel about this..." One case was Pat Wymore with Errol Flynn, who was a great Australian, but he was no saint. To pretend he was would have been a huge disservice to him and his life. But by this time we had become very good friends with Pat and we said to her that we were going to say something. She said "Go ahead! That's who he was, tell his story and tell the truth because people will appreciate that and so would Errol".

Thankyou once again to David and Joan and we wish them all the best of luck with the rest of their adventure with "In The Company of Legends"!

If you wish to buy "In The Company of Legends", please visit the official Amazon page.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

x+y (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 111 minutes
Director: Morgan Matthews
Writer: James Graham
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Sally Hawkins, Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang

x + y opens in Australian cinemas on April 9 and is distributed by Pinnacle Films.

x+y is a film that has been needed for a long time with the increasing acknowledgement of social disorders in society, especially among younger people. It is an incredibly moving film as a result of the realistic examination of emotions involved in the relationships, especially that of mother and child. After a terrible accident claims the life of her husband, Julie (Sally Hawkins) is left by herself to raise her son, Nathan (Asa Butterfield). As Nathan struggles with severe social anxiety and the only thing he really understands is the language of mathematics, his mother finds it particularly hard to communicate with her son the way her husband used to and to get him to understand and feel the love for her that she does for him. When Nathan is accepted for the British team at the International Mathematics Olympiad, he travels to Taipei and learns lessons about others and himself that help him to see and understand the world in a way that helps him grow and become more comfortable in the world he lives in.

x+y is an incredibly important film for parents of children who demonstrate the same sort of qualities as Nathan. What sets x+y apart from other films which feature social problems in children and teenagers, is that this film looks at the way relationships are affected as a result of the problem rather than the difficulties of the mentality as a whole. There will be a great number of people out there who will find x+y an incredibly emotional experience as they will find the relationships in it so relatable, particularly that of Nathan and his mother. The struggles that Julie goes through trying to communicate with her son and show how much she loves him are both relatable and heartbreaking for any parent. Yet Nathan's evident inner struggle to try and understand a world that does not understand him is also heartbreaking and there will no doubt be those out there who will be able to relate to his character as well. x+y does not exaggerate Nathan's social awkwardness, nor does it exaggerate the strained relationship between he and his mother and this is what many will appreciate.

Yet it is the ending of the film that will throw many people and to be truthful really isn't highly realistic. However, the last ten minutes of  x+y is more of a representation of coming to an understanding between mother and child and moving forward. Never will one revelation in such a complex situation fix everything and make everything the perceived way it ought be, but a revolution such as the one we see here can bring about change. What takes place at the end of the film between Nathan and his mother is what many in a similar situation will identify with which is finding a middle ground where they both understand each other and communicate in a way which they both feel comfortable with. Whether one is troubled by the unrealistic finale or not, there is no denying that it is a finish that is indeed emotional and moving.

x+y has moments of exquisite cinematography, particularly during Nathan's time in Taipei. The film captures the atmosphere of the bustling Asian city in a way which allows the viewer to immerse themselves in the moment in a big way. The contrast between England and Taipei is wonderfully constructed with sounds and visuals bringing out the best in both worlds.

Asa Butterfield continues to impress as the troubled soul that is Nathan. His performance is completely natural with no exaggeration in a role which could so easily have been over-performed. It is the subtlety of his portrayal that is so powerful. Sally Hawkins also does exceptionally well as mother, Julie. As has been previously pointed out, her character is so incredibly relatable. Her struggle to remain calm as to not upset her son while he is unintentionally upsetting her is so devastatingly real and will move any mother. Butterfield and Hawkins work so well together in the pivotal relationship of the film and in such a unique way as it is the struggle in their bond that makes it so captivating. Rafe Spall is also very good and shows tremendous strength and versatility in his role as Nathan's teacher and mentor, Martin Humpheries.

x+y is a film that has been needed for a long time as it explores the struggle with emotion and communication between a misunderstood child and his parents. It is a film that is extremely moving and those in a similar situation will be so thankful for due to it's understanding of it's characters and their relationships.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 76 minutes
Director: Steve Loter
Writers: Steve Loter (story), Tom Rogers (story and screenplay), Robert Schooley, Mark McCorkle and Kate Kondell (screenplay)
Cast: (voices) Ginnifer Goodwin, Mae Whitman, Rosario Dawson, Lucy Liu, Raven-Symone, Pamela Adlon, Anjelica Huston

Disney's Tinker Bell movies are traditionally aimed at the younger female audience and Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is no exception to this rule. With as much simplicity as can be, the beloved fairy and her group of friends return for a film which will delight youngers and at the same time, confuse older audiences for an unforseen reason. In Pixie Hollow, things are as they have always been, which means that animal fairy, Fawn (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is up to mischief by transporting animals to and from where they shouldn't be. After promising to behave, Fawn meets the fabled Neverbeast which she affectionately names Gruff and finds that her heart can't listen to her head. She soon finds out that the Neverbeast is part of a prophecy that will result in the destruction of her and her friends home, but Fawn cannot bring herself to believe that her new friend is the evil everyone is making him out to be.

The first thing adults will notice about Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is that it's title is really quite deceiving. Tinker Bell is not the main character in the film, but it is her name which is included in the title and not Fawn's, who is undoubtedly the lead. However, one can understand why Disney have chosen not to name the film in honour of the lead character as Tinker Bell is still the main drawcard and nobody except people who had seen other Tinker Bell films would know what type of film it was had it been named Fawn and the Legend of the Neverbeast. Yet it is still an interesting decision for the storytellers to make, a Tinker Bell film that isn't about Tinker Bell. It is rather a Tinker Bell film about Tinker Bell's friend.

Yet, it is still a film that little girls will love, especially those who have seen and enjoyed the five previous Tinker Bell films. Tinker Bell (voiced by Mae Whitman) and all her fairy friends return and they are accompanied by cute and fluffy animal friends. The story is extremely simplistic, but does come with special messages for it's targeted audience which are not to judge a book by it's cover and always follow your heart. They aren't hard messages to decipher which is perfect for young children. While Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast serves as an easy film to take children to in the school holidays, it does feel as though it has a better place as a DVD than a cinematic release. It does not have the spectacle of a Disney feature film classic, but one feels that it would be more at home on the small screen than big.

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast is little more than a holiday movie for children, but it certainly serves it's purpose. It is a sweet film with good morals, but little more than that.


Friday, April 10, 2015

"In The Company of Legends" by Joan Kramer & David Heeley book review

Author: Joan Kramer and David Heeley (Foreword by Richard Dreyfuss)
Publication Year: 2015
Pages: 384
Publisher: Beaufort Books

"In The Company of Legends" will be published on April 16 2015. If you wish to purchase "In The Company of Legends", please order through Amazon.

"In The Company of Legends" by Joan Kramer and David Heeley has the ability to provoke envy amongst all classic film lovers in the best possible way. Filled with professional and personal stories from behind the scenes of their critically acclaimed documentaries, Kramer and Heeley's book contains intimate details of their encounters and relationships with some of the biggest stars from Hollywood's Golden Age. "In The Company of Legends" is a completely riveting read that is respectful, thoughtful and honest.

Long time film making partners, Joan Kramer and David Heeley seemed destined to become the pioneers of classic Hollywood documentaries that they established themselves as. Their work has paid tribute to some of the great stars including Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and Henry Fonda, as well as Columbia Pictures and Universal Studios. Through these projects they also encountered some of the other great names including Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Olivia De Havilland, Lauren Bacall, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Ginger Rogers and Bette Davis. "In The Company of Legends" is their chance to tell others of their experiences and bring readers closer to the realm of the Hollywood legends, who are both still with us and have left us.

David Heeley, Audrey Hepburn and Joan Kramer
Credit: Author's collection

Written in conversational style which switches between both Kramer and Heeley, "In The Company of Legends" is a wonderful tribute to an age that has passed us by. Kramer and Heeley's book is unlike other old Hollywood memoirs as it draws upon the memories of the stars not from their golden years, but at a time when they too are looking back on their lives and careers. What results is something very unique which feels awfully personal and intimate. The book gives extremely vivid descriptions of how these legends lived in their later years and describes the personalities of them so well that one feels a personal connection to each one. It is also quite an emotional experience with the realisation that the large majority of the people spoken about are no longer with us, especially with the emotional connection Kramer and Heeley themselves had to the personality that is shared with the reader.

There are some wonderfully entertaining stories about each personality spoken about which makes the book an obsessive read. Kramer and Heeley share the joking nature of Paul Newman and the warmth Katharine Hepburn shared with those she trusted, as well as the grace Audrey Hepburn had become so well known for and the gentlemanly ways of James Stewart. However, what Kramer and Heely can be commended for is how respectful they are towards each and every personality they speak about as well as being honest. Not every one of their experiences with these Hollywood legends was a pleasant one, but even in these cases there is no air of spite or distaste. As Richard Dreyfuss writes in his Foreword, the two documentarians are extremely respectful and trustworthy which is why they formed lasting friendships with such personalities as Katharine Hepburn and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Why people gravitated towards Kramer and Heeley is extremely evident in the way in which they have written this book.

"In The Company of Legends" is a must for any classic film fan. Joan Kramer and David Heeley's stories are absolutely riveting and as these are their personal experiences, completely different to any work previously told about the Hollywood legends they have worked with. "In The Company of Legends" is a reminder how important it is to immortalise past Hollywood stars and to make the most of them while they are still here.


David Heeley, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Kramer
Photo credit: Author's collection

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Paul Tibbitt
Writers: Paul Tibbett and Stephen Hillenburg (story), Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel (screenplay)
Cast: Antonio Banderas, (voices) Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is now showing in Australian cinemas and is distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Don't be too quick to reject The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water if you haven't seen the incredibly successful television series, "SpongeBob Squarepants" that it is based on. The movie is in a rare category that considers those who haven't seen the television show and ensures that these members of the audience not only have an understanding of the characters and story, but also enjoy themselves and have more than a single chuckle. The beloved sponge who lives under the sea, SpongeBob Squarepants (voiced by Tom Kenny) is caught up in a battle involving Bikini Bottom's fast food rivals Mr Krabs (Clancy Brown) and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence). Things come to a head when Plankton steals the secret to the famous Krabby Patty and when SpongeBob teams up with Plankton in a shock partnership, they try to go back in time via time machine to stop the theft and make some incredible discoveries, the biggest which involves narrator, the pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas).

The SpongeBob Movie has to first and foremost be commended for not neglecting those who have never watched the "SpongeBob Squarepants" television series which first aired in 1999. The inclusion of narration in the film by Burger Beard is not just for the benefit of the seagulls he has befriended, but is a clever way of ensuring that everybody in the audience has the same knowledge of the characters and the oceanic world in which they exist whether they were SpongeBob fans prior to seeing the film or not. This is a rare quality in television to film adaptations and one that many will appreciate.

However, whether you have seen SpongeBob previously or not does not take away from the fact that both the television show and the film are an acquired taste. This does not mean that the film is offensive in any way, but rather that it is quirky in its own unique way. It's quirkiness can be interpreted as stupidity for some, but other's will find the citizens of Bikini Bottom hilarious. For these people there will be a great deal of laughs to be had over the course of the film and the strangeness of the situations SpongeBob finds himself in will be a lot of fun. The story itself requires acceptance in the bizarre as there really is nothing normal about some of the situations they find themselves in and there are many scenes in the film that can only be described as random in their content as they have nothing to do with anything else (such as the dolphin time wizard who keeps watch over the planets in the solar system).

The SpongeBob Movie is 3/4 animation and 1/4 live action. As a result of this uneven balance between the two, the film feels like a lengthy episode of "SpongeBob Squarepants" with a live action segment tucked in at the end. This is more of an observation rather than a problem, but will be a problem for those who enjoy the live action segment so much that they would have preferred to have seen more of this and for those who had walked into the film expecting a great deal more live action as a result of the advertising featuring more live action than animation. Either way the live action is a real treat. We know what to expect from The SpongeBob Movie as far as it's animation is concerned and from this aspect the film brings nothing new, but the live action does bring something new to the SpongeBob spectrum and sets it apart from other straight animated family films. It provides a 16 year old character with something original and fresh that makes this film well worth watching.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is a bit of fun not only for children, but also for adults that appreciate it's sense of humour. It is a film that will definitely delight long time SpongeBob fans and may even create some new SpongeBob fans in the process.