Saturday, June 20, 2015

Inside Out (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Pete Docter and Ronaldo De Carmen
Writers: Ronaldo De Carmen (story), Pete Docter (story and screenplay) Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley (screenplay)
Cast: (voices) Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Richard Kind

Inside Out will open in Australian cinemas on June 18 and is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Opening in the United States on June 19 and United Kingdom on July 24.

Disney Pixar's latest creation, Inside Out is a truly incredible piece of work that is as deep and emotional as it is hilarious and enjoyable. Since Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) was born, she has never been alone. She has always been accompanied by Joy (Amy Poehler), a micro-being who lives inside her mind and gives her the gift of seeing the happiness in situations. Over the years, Joy has been joined by Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) who all make up the voices in Riley's head. Joy has always been the dominant voice in her mind, until the day that Riley's family move to San Francisco and everything changes. Suddenly both Joy and Sadness are propelled out of the control centre in her mind and have to find their way back before Riley makes a terrible decision.

Inside Out teaches children some harsh life lessons in the sweetest and most enjoyable of ways. A life is never made up of happiness alone and sadness must exist in order for true happiness to exist. Even though we as people are programmed to believe that all negative feelings are wrong and we must stop them taking hold of us, this film seeks to remind that these emotions must exist alongside happiness and to feel them is all part of life. Happiness and sadness are an non-negotiable pairing as one cannot be felt without the other. Sadness is unavoidable in life and is felt most in situations that are out of our control (such as Riley's family moving), while happiness is often a choice and is many a time an outcome of situations which are in our control. Yet, there are also times when we feel somewhere in between happy and sad, which tends to happen a great deal in the early teenage years as in seen in Inside Out. The film also seeks to remind us that we cannot be happy all the time, despite how hard we try and this is okay.

The idea of sadness and other negative emotions being inevitable no matter what in life is a rather harrowing notion, yet the imagination of directors, Pete Docter and Ronaldo De Carmen has found a way of making these facts of life seem not so daunting in an incredibly enjoyable fashion. Inside Out's screenplay is brilliant as it is extremely original and creative. A visual representation of the psychological aspects of the mind and what makes us who we are in the form of five mini-humans living working a switchboard in our minds and living in a world where our imagination is much like a theme park is so incredibly clever and executed in perfect fashion. The journey that Joy and Sadness take through Riley's mind is a great deal of fun and very funny as it includes the explanation of how dreams are created, the evolution of the dream boyfriend and how and why we get that annoying song stuck in our heads when we can't remember more important things. Yet, Inside Out is also very emotional, particularly towards the end and it is such an innocent sadness that is felt so strongly by adults as a result of such relatable characters in situations that you understand.

As a result of how deep Inside Out is, it's true meaning may be lost on younger members of the audience. Yet they will still appreciate and enjoy the film for it's bright and beautiful colours and interesting and well planned out scenery. Again, Riley's mind is much like a theme park with lots of fun to be had and crazy characters wandering around, such as her childhood imaginary friend, Bing Bong (voiced by Richard Kind).

Amy Poehler is vocally a fantastic leading lady in the form of Joy. She brings her comedic style which she is known and admired for to her character making Joy more than just a happy figure, but also one who has a great sense of humour and feeling that extends beyond her namedJonas  emotion. Phyllis Smith provides the perfect voice for Sadness, with a dry, blue tone which doesn't change throughout the film but this is without bother as it gives Sadness real character and she is rather comical without really meaning to be.

Inside Out is an extremely rare film that is not only wonderfully creative, but gives the rare gift of making the inevitable emotional turmoil of life seem not quite so scary. It's colourful characters and landscapes will be love by younger children, but it's deep themes will be felt and appreciated by older audience members.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Partisan (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 98 minutes
Director: Ariel Kleiman
Writers: Sarah Cyngler and Ariel Kleiman
Cast: Vincent Cassell, Jeremy Chabriel, Florence Mezzara

Partisan is now showing in limited release across Australia and is distributed by Madman Films

Partisan is a thought provoking and visually enthralling piece of cinema which makes one question who and what are the true influencers of children and while being protective is paternal instinct, when is being protective being too protective? Young Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel) is the eldest in his community which consists only of mothers, their children, and one father figure to them all, Grigori (Vincent Cassel). Now Alexander has reached an age where he is starting to question everything he has been taught by Grigori and wonders whether the outside world is really as terrible as he has been led to believe. By even contemplating these things, he is going against everything he has ever been taught be Grigori and that in itself could be dangerous.

Partisan is certainly an intriguing watch. It's suspense is not what has become the norm in todays cinema culture, but relies on it's psychological edge. This may not sit well with some members of the audience who may want something that is a bit more fast moving and less drawn out to keep their interest, but there is a lot being said under the surface of this film. What is a striking theme in Partisan is one that many parents will be able to relate to and that is over protection of your children. The community which Alexander belongs to can seem beautifully idyllic and the innocence the children hold onto is glorious. However, when does being protective of your children turn into being unhealthy? Alexander has problems socializing with those outside his community which is an inevitable side effect of not being exposed to the world, but as is also expected he finds that there is beauty in the outside world which he is missing out on. So while the children certainly seem happy in their surroundings, they progressively miss out on more the older they get which is something that Grigori did not realise when creating his paradise.

Yet, while Grigori is being over-protective of his acquired children, he is also using them as revenge tools against those in the outside world who have done him wrong. Grigori is an extreme case, but it does make one wonder whether in certain situations is there more danger at home than outside. In the younger and more susceptible years, the parent is the greatest influencer in a child's life until they reach the teenage years where they show that they are capable of thinking for themselves. This is not to say that outside influences play no part in a child's development, but it is more harmful for a child to be around harmful behaviour from a parent in these younger years.

Visually Partisan is absolutely stunning and thoroughly intriguing. The production design of the garden in which Grigori's community live is so interesting and atmospheric. It has an overall atmosphere which changes over the course of the film and feels calm towards the beginning and sinister as it concludes. The children's world in their classrooms and parties are also so much fun with their face-painting and karaoke.

Jeremy Chabriel makes a stunning film debut as Alexander. He is the perfect representation of a boy who is making the progression into a young man and as teenage boys do, is starting to question everything he see's and hears in his journey to becoming his own person. It is inevitably something all the children around he will go through, but something Grigori has a problem with as he believed his methods would keep his world the same. Vincent Cassel's Grigori is really a fascinating character He is a man that demands fear as one is never quite sure what he is capable of. There are many questions that till remain about Grigori at the end of the film which can be unsettling as he is a character one truly wants to learn more about.

Partisan is a subtle and unique film which makes one question the boundaries we place on children and the traits they inherit from their parents. It sends a message to be careful what we teach our children and how we prepare them for the world.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sydney Film Festival: Listen to Me Marlon (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 95 minutes
Director: Stevan Riley
Writers: Stevan Riley and Peter Ettedgui

Listen to Me Marlon screened at the 2015 Sydney Film Festival on June 6 and 8.

Although he was larger than life on the screen and hailed by many as the greatest film actor of all time, Marlon Brando was an extremely private figure in life and an enigma even to those who knew him. With the finding of several of Brando's personal audio recordings, his true character has finally been realised as these recordings are the basis for Stevan Riley's Listen to Me Marlon. Brando narrates his own life story with a great deal of honesty and unrestrained emotion, something which was uncharacteristic of the man in his lifetime. His audio recordings cover his early life in Nebraska to his days under the guidance of Stella Adler to his days in Hollywood. While archival news footage tells the story of his most painful ordeal, which was having his eldest son, Christian shoot his younger beloved daughter, Cheyenne's boyfriend dead in his own home.

Although there have been several "tell all" biographies and documentaries made about the legendary actor in the past, Listen to Me Marlon provides it's viewers with an absolute understanding of Marlon Brando. Although he is widely regarded as one of the greatest film actors of all time, Brando's reputation of being difficult to work with and cynical towards Hollywood and it's culture was also very well known. Listen to Me Marlon is ultimately Brando telling his own story thanks to the recently found audio recordings and is a greater insight into his mind and world than his autobiography, "Songs My Mother Taught Me", which was published in 1995. Throughout the film, one comes to understand that the actor was not disruptive and argumentative because it fit his reputation of being a rebel or that he was a troubled soul that felt the need to lash out at unsuspecting victims. Brando was a troubled soul for his own reasons, but this wasn't the reason for his behaviour. It was his belief in the realism of acting through his Method training and desire to grasp the most real moments in life that led to him not being at peace with the Hollywood system he as in and it's sense of distorted reality. Even nearly eleven years after his death, Listen to Me Marlon provides revelations of Brando's personality and private life and the beautiful thing is that this isn't given second hand, it is delivered by Brando himself as though he had risen from the grave.

As well as being blessed with Brando's himself telling his story as though he was with us once again, his voice is accompanied by a computer generated image of his face. Brando will tell you in the film that this was achieved by being photographed with every expression and facial angle possible while he was alive. The result is somewhat spooky, but also utterly mesmerising. One cannot tear their eyes away from the distorted, but still recognisable images of Brando as though he was once again in life. Although directed and written by Stevan Riley,  Listen to Me Marlon is completely Brando's film. It contains no direct interviews with those who knew him or experts of his work, only his voice and his images as well as archival footage of interviews and film footage. The extensive variety of photographs from Brando's life and many of them before unseen is extraordinary.

Listen to Me Marlon shows the great actor in a light which has never been seen before and gives a much greater understanding to a man who was so private in life. In death he opens up with an incredible amount of honesty and creates a greater admiration by showing what a sensitive and honest man he was who just wanted to live a true and free life. Listen to Me Marlon is a wonderful piece of cinema and an absolute privilege.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sydney Film Festival: The Price of Fame (2014) film review

Year: 2014
Running Time: 110 minutes
Director: Xavier Beavouis
Writers: Xavier Beauvois and Etienne Comar
Cast: Benoit Poelvoorde, Roschdy Zem, Seli Gmach, Nadine Labaki, Chiara Mastroianni

The Price of Fame is currently showing as part of the 2015 Sydney Film Festival and will be screening on June 4 and 14. For more information on times, locations and tickets, please see the Sydney Film Festival website.

Based on real life events, The Price of Fame takes an occurrence that was perhaps not so humorous at the time, but dresses it up to so that once can empathize with the bad guys and laugh at their misfortunes. When Eddy (Benoit Poelvoorde) is released from prison in Switzerland, he is taken in by his long time friend who is greatly indebted to him, Osmen (Roschdy Zem) and his daughter, Samira (Seli Gmach). Osmen has fallen on hard times himself with his wife, Noor (Nadine Labaki) in hospital and he is unable to afford a major operation which she greatly needs. Eddy comes up with an idea that will solve all of his and Osmen's financial problems, which is that they should steal the freshly buried corpse of the great comedian Charlie Chaplin and hold it for ransom. However, the Chaplin's are not so easy to cooperate with criminals and their scheme does not go to plan at all.

The Price of Fame has taken the 1978 event of Charlie Chaplin's corpse being stolen from the cemetery in Vevey and tweaked the details so that it is able to call itself a comedy. The film humanizes the two men who masterminded the theft and attempts to rationalize their decisions and create empathy as a result. It is almost a look behind the scenes that can be adapted to any theft and allows people to understand their actions as despicable as they may seem from the outside. Although it does dub itself a comedy and there are indeed laughs to be had throughout the film, they are not greatly original laughs nor are they big, hearty, memorable laughs. The Price of Fame has a rather light and flimsy atmosphere, but has moments when one can tell it is trying to be much more with the help of loud instrumental, uplifting music. However, one cannot help but marvel at the beauty of Vevey which is captured beautifully on film.

Despite it's attempts to remain respectful to the great man, Chaplin fans will still feel rather conflicted by The Price of Fame. Grave robberies may well have comical elements when searched for and the grave robbery of a great comical figure such as Charlie Chaplin may make this combination sound appealing for a film maker. However, Chaplin still remains a much loved figure to many around the world and watching the force that Eddy and Osman use to move the coffin when you can hear body moving around inside will be rather upsetting for fans of Chaplin, despite knowing that this is just a re-enactment. Many will argue with his point that when someone has passed away, a body is just a body and that worrying about his physical body shouldn't be an issue. Yet can one ever see the body of one they love as just a body? However, The Price of Fame does truly attempt to honour Chaplin in the best possible way by showing clips of some of his best work and speak of him in a loving way by acknowledging his tremendous success and talking bout his work with the underprivileged. His son, Eugene Chaplin and granddaughter, Dolores Chaplin are also featured in the film and there are references to Chaplin and his life that are slipped in such as Eddy finding his work in a job not unlike where Chaplin begun.

Benoit Poelvoorde and Roschdy Zem both do well in their roles and give very different performances to each other. Poelvoorde is the more comedic one of the two while Zem is the more dramatic. However the stand out performance wise is Seli Gmach, who plays Osman's daughter, Samira. She plays the role of a girl who has been forced to grow up quickly under the circumstances and be the woman of the house, but is still a little girl who needs both her mother and father around very much. She has the strong ability to be both heartbreaking and extremely witty at the same time.

The Price of Fame is fine, but doesn't do anything which is astonishing or brilliant. It will be a hard watch at times for Chaplin fans, but if his family can feel that it is respectful enough for them to take part then his fans should attempt to feel the same.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Aloha (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director/ Writer: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, Jaeden Lieberher, Danielle Rose Russell, Bill Camp
Director Cameron Crowe made his latest film Aloha as a love letter to Hawaii and it is just that. A love letter to a beautiful part of the world which silently tells his audience that he was just desperate to make a film there and it didn't matter what sort of film. Aloha is a fine example of how trying too hard and not enough is possible in one film. Military man, Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to Hawaii after more than a decade away and reconnect almost immediately with his now married ex-girlfriend, Tracy (Rachel McAdams) who he stood up in a most cold way. He is teamed up with Hawaiian born, Allison Ng (Emma Stone) who opens up Brian to a world he had neglected and helps him find happiness. He finds that old ghosts catch up with him quickly here and old acquaintances are not easy to forget.

Aloha is a wonderful travel advertisement for Hawaii. Cameron Crowe's love for the 50th state comes across loud and clear in this film so much that it feels as though everything else besides the visual representation is done at a mediocre level. The story is incredibly predictable and although there are some elements of originality in there, there is too much going on to pay attention and appreciate the creativity of one storyline when several unoriginal ones are also taking place at the same time. Likewise, it is hard to feel any connection and emotion in any of the film's sub-plots as they are all happening simultaneously and with little time and effort put into each one. This isn't helped by the characters being badly written so that no one can sympathize with them as they never truly feel as if they know them.
Everything in Aloha points to the explanation that Crowe was just desperate to make a film in Hawaii and that means any film. It feels as though he was so set on writing a film that is set in Hawaii that he only half developed everything else, including the depth of the characters and screenplay. Visually the film is very pretty, which is a feature that many will find attractive and be drawn to the film because of. It is rather atmospheric, but only in relation to the way white people are living there. The way the natives live on Oahu is not represented in a favourable light when it is seen in the film, which is seldom and although Crowe tries to work them into the film it does not seem like nearly enough.
Bradley Cooper has had a stellar run of film roles in recent years thanks to the wonderful scripts that have come his way. It will come as no surprise that Brian Gilcrest in Aloha is not one of these roles. Cooper does all he can, but Brian is such a badly written character who at the end of the day really has no idea who is so how is the audience expected to understand him or connect with him? He swings from being arrogant and obnoxious to being goofy and playful with no warning and although his background he should indicate a significant amount of depth, it is hard to take him seriously. Yet, the final scene is such a fine piece of work by Cooper and is his redemption.
Perhaps the biggest talking point of Aloha is the casting of Emma Stone as Allison Ng, the quarter Hawaiian and quarter Chinese love interest of Brian. Stone is a fine actress and has the quirky, but relatable personality which is highly marketable and cherished in Hollywood at this point in time. One cannot blame a film maker for wanting her to be in their film, but was Crowe craving her so much that he had to place her in a role that clearly wasn't meant for her? Performance-wise Stone does cross the line into the territory of over-exaggeration in an attempt to maintain her quirky comedic style so many have come to love. However, even if she was spot on it is incredibly hard to take her seriously when she talks of her heritage and her passion for the land and their customs because of her physical appearance.
The stand out among the performances is that of John Krasinski who plays Tracy's husband, Woody. The surprising thing is that Krasinski says only a handful of words throughout the whole film, but he is truly hilarious and proves that actions speak louder than words.
It is hard to decipher whether Aloha has the potential to be a better film than what it is. Cameron Crowe certainly has the ability to be a better film maker and the impressive cast have given much better performances in the past. Overall it is a mere disappointment, but the last ten minutes is a gem. It is just a shame you have to wait so long for it.