Wednesday, November 30, 2016

#Top10...with Lisa Malouf

#Top10 is a brand new feature to Movie Critical. Each week we will be chatting to a film lover or a member of the film community about their #Top10 favourite films and discussing what makes these films so special to them. We all have different tastes in film and watch movies differently depending on who we are. The object of #Top10 is to share the love of film and hopefully you the reader can find some new favourites.

This week we talked to Sydney-based film lover Lisa Malouf. Lisa received degrees from the University of Sydney and NIDA before going on to work as a stage manager for plays and then in casting for commercial musicals. She now works as a childrens' TV scriptwriter, and also reviews a few new release films a week for The Limerick Review , as well as writing occasional articles about her favourite classic films for Graffiti with Punctuation's Five Star Films series.

Here's what Lisa had to say ...

I became obsessed with film as a very young child: before I started school, my grandmother introduced me to classic films via the Bill Collins Golden Years of Hollywood double bill, which would screen on TV on Saturday nights. There were also countless Sunday afternoon classic B-films. So over about a decade, up until my early teens, we probably watched about 1000 classic films. I learned so much from these films, and now I'm paying the knowledge forward: teaching my little nieces and nephews about film history/appreciation.

As hard as it's been to narrow down my favourite films to a reasonable-sized list, it's also been such a pleasure revisiting the ones that have meant so much to me. A handful of them are newer releases, but most of them are favourites that I've loved for decades.

#1 It's A Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra)

It's a Wonderful Life is my all-time favourite film. It's primarily known as a Christmas film, but it's so much more than that. While it's famous for its (....what's the statute of limitations on spoiler alerts? I trust 70 years has been long enough for the word to get out ...) uplifting ending, there's also a darkness to it with its exploration of issues of suicide, worthlessness and the cruelty inflicted by the powerful upon the powerless. And because it has these dark elements, the ultimate happy ending (and the road to it) is that much more joyous. 

A fun memory I have of this film is when I first saw it as a child and noticed that there were friends called Bert and an Ernie in the same scene. Years later, I heard that Jim Henson was quoted saying that these It's a Wonderful Life character names weren't the inspiration for the naming of the famous Sesame Street roomies - but at the time I found the assumed connection very exciting and wondered if someone called Oscar or Snuffaluffagus might also show up in Bedford Falls.

One of my favourite things about the work of Capra is his casting. This film is led by the beloved James Stewart and Donna Reed, who are just terrific. But unlike many other films where all non-principal casting seems to be an afterthought, every single actor is so beautifully cast - and not just the supporting actors (including Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell and 'serial Jimmy Stewart's mum' Beulah Bondi). There are none of those amorphous masses of generic townsfolk for Capra: every extra has a unique look. Scan a group scene in any Capra film and you'll know what I mean. They are faces of character, with character. 

Because of his recurring themes of family, loyalty, and the little guy (yes, it usually was a guy) up against the system, Capra's work is often dismissed by cynics as 'Capra-corn'. But if you can see beyond what's often superficially dubbed as 'aw shucks' cheesiness - at the heart of it there's an inherent celebration of humble decency. 

#2 Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)

Casablanca runs a very close second in my favourite films list. There's a magnificence about this film, on so many levels. Central to the film is a beautiful, complex love triangle for the ages (Humphrey Bogart's Rick, Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa and Paul Henreid's Victor). 

Then there's the gorgeous lighting design. I can't think of another black and white film where there are so many 'colours'. There's also a special luminosity to Ilsa: it's as though she's lit from within.

Central to my (and many other people's) love of Casablanca is the script. There are countless delicious, quotable lines. And these lines are now so familiar that they almost seem to have a life of their own: existing outside the film. Many people who haven't seen the film at least know of its hill of beans, gin joints, usual suspects and always having of Paris.

Over 25 years ago, I read an essay* by Umberto Eco about Casablanca, which examined, among other things, the concept of cult movies, archetypes, and clichés. I'll never forgot a particular observation Eco made in the essay. It's been ingrained in my brain all these years because it's just so perfect. And it's still my favourite observation I've ever read about any film:

 "Casablanca is a cult movie precisely because all the archetypes are there .... Casablanca became a cult movie because it is not one movie. It is 'movies' ... all the archetypes burst out shamelessly ... Two clichés make us laugh but a hundred clichés move is because we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion". 

*Eco, Umberto (1985) Casablanca: Cult Movies and Intertextual Collage

And here are the rest of my top 10 favourites (alphabetically) ... 

All About Eve (1950, Joseph Mankiewicz)

This Best Picture Oscar winner is truly sublime. Bette Davis is transcendent as the longtime Broadway star Margo Channing, and Anne Baxter shines as the (at first) seemingly innocent young performer Eve Harrington. The film is set in the New York theatre world, and I love its fabulous mix of intriguing backstage machinations, bitchiness and drama. 

Most of the other Broadway-set films that I love from this era are musical comedies (à la
 'let's put on a show' and the like), so it's the high drama that sets All About Eve apart from them. One of my favourite contributors to this drama is George Sanders, who plays the Machiavellian Addison De Witt, a theatre critic and master manipulator. His scenes with a young (pre-mega-fame) Marilyn Monroe are just terrific. 

Being a lover of beautiful costume design, the exquisite wardrobe in All About Eve is another reason this film is so special to me. The gowns in the famous '... It's going to be a bumpy night’ party scene are particularly gorgeous.

Fun facts: Only one film (Titanic, 1997) has matched All About Eve's record 14 Oscar nominations. And Mankiewicz is the only director in history to direct four women to acting Oscar nominations in the same film.

Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder)

Oh how I adore this film. Every frame's a winner in this perfect film noir thriller. Barbara Stanwyck shines as complex and manipulative Phyllis, who orchestrates (spoiler ahead ...) the 'removal' of her husband by Fred MacMurray's Walter. The initial chemistry between Walter and Phyllis is quite electric, and amazingly their sexually-charged, innuendo-laden banter passed the censors.

My favourite scenes in this film include: the first time Phyllis and Walter meet, the famous Jerry's Market scene where they surreptitiously exchange information, and just about every time Edward G. Robinson's Barton Keyes shows up. He was a masterful character actor, with such an impressive range.

His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks)

This film is such a delight. Its stars, Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant, are in absolute top form, shouting out rapid-fire dialogue at a super-human rate. Their characters, Hildy and Walter, were once married, and both work in the newspaper business (he as editor, she as his top reporter). It's a joy watching them spar.

I love the scenes where Walter undermines Hildy's fiancé Bruce (Ralph Bellamy). Poor hapless Bruce doesn't know what he's up against. Walter's behaviour is quite terrible, but he's so charming that the audience is rooting for him. We want Hildy to be in a (re-)relationship with Walter, who is smart and feisty like she is, rather than boring, wet blanket Bruce. It's clear that intellectually (and assumed, sexually), this pair of exes are a better match than the betrothed odd couple.

Howard Hawks' direction is masterful. The pacing is exhausting, in the best possible way. And though the lead actors are the clear focus, the whole ensemble and extras cast work together so beautifully. 

Interestingly, in the source material (a play called The Front Page), Hildy's role was male. I'm so glad that that the change was made. Without it, we wouldn't have the pleasure of experiencing Russell in what I believe is one of her two best roles (the other being her star turn in Auntie Mame 18 years later).

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, Joel & Ethan Coen)

I love this film so much that I can hardly write about it without crying. It's just so special to me. I find it profoundly moving. Firstly, we have the magnificent script and direction by the Coen brothers. It's full of symbolism, which is executed so beautifully that it doesn't hit you over the head. Its messages are so meaningful, but also so subtle that they just float along and into your soul.

Oscar Isaac's performance is outstanding, and I believe it hasn't received the recognition it deserves. His Llewyn faces complex issues regarding his art and his life (which are inexorably connected). We see the dogged strength he has with regard to sticking to his art in the face of challenges. Then there's the whole 'own worst enemy' thing. It's a heart-breaking portrayal that's so multi-layered that I get more out of it with each viewing. And Isaac doesn't just shine in the spoken scenes. His delivery of the songs is sublime. There's palpable melancholy. Credit also to the music department, headed by T Bone Burnett.

The Maltese Falcon (1941, John Huston)

The Maltese Falcon is another one of those across-the-board winners, where every element is perfect: script, direction, casting, production design, etc - and amazingly, it was John Huston's directorial debut. Not for one frame does this film feel like it came from a novice director. Huston's work here is outstanding. There's wonderful claustrophobic tension, action, mystery,  crime elements, a dark romance, and one of the most iconic props in film history. 

This film was also the debut of then 62-year-old actor Sydney Greenstreet. He'd been a stage actor in Britain since his early 20s, but had never been on film prior to The Maltese Falcon. It's a fantastic performance. There's a terrific negotiation scene between his Kasper Gutman and Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade. It's a masterclass in quality acting.  

I first came across this film as a teenager on TV, and later on VHS - and watched it countless times. Then a few years ago I got to see it on the big screen for the first time. It was such a pleasure to experience it in a cinema with a full house of classic film lovers. 

Spellbound (1945, Alfred Hitchcock)

There are at least a dozen Hitchcock films that I'd rate amongst the greatest films of all time. I don't believe that Spellbound is the very best of Hitchcock's films, but it's my favourite of his. (Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying it's a bad film at all. To me, it's wonderful: it's just that I recognise that there are other greater Hitchcock films .... and because Hitchcock's body of work is so outstanding, even a second-tier film of his will compare favourably against the work of most other directors)

Spellbound is the first Hitchcock film I remember seeing, so it has special significance for me. It's also the film that introduced me to my first (and lifelong) on-screen crush and favourite actor, Gregory Peck. Beautiful Peck and beautiful Ingrid Bergman glow in this film. They are great together, and are backed by an excellent supporting cast.

The story is compelling, and its themes include the workings of the brain, which I find fascinating. Then there's the bonus of a fantastic dream sequence, designed by Salvador Dali.

When Harry Met Sally (1989, Rob Reiner)

I absolutely adore When Harry Met Sally, and never tire of it - no matter many times I see it. There's lots to love here: The cast is excellent, with lead performances by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, supported by Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby. There's pitch-perfect direction from Rob Reiner, and gorgeous cinematography from Barry Sonnenfeld - including stunning exteriors of New York through the seasons (autumn looks particularly delicious). 

... But the real star of When Harry Met Sally is Nora Ephron's script. It's clever and witty, and perceptive and warm and funny. There are so many memorable lines. I've been known to be sitting there doing something completely unrelated to the watching of this film, and suddenly think of  '... Surrey with a Fringe on Top in front of Ira!' and burst out laughing.

The Women (1939, George Cukor)

This is a really special film, and a unique one. The complete cast (of over 100 speaking-role humans, and various animals) is female. This was certainly unique for a 1939 release, when a significant number of films would be let by a pair of actors (one female and one male).

The stellar cast included Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine Paulette Goddard and Margorie Main, along with an extensive supporting cast. Even gossip columnist Hedda Hopper makes an appearance. 

The script is excellent, with a great mix of drama, humour, bitchiness (particularly from Crawford's Crystal Allen), and moments of high camp: including a six-minute Technicolor fashion parade in the middle of this black-and-white film.

The Women is a magnificent film, and it comes from (many will say arguably, but I say definitely) cinema's greatest year.


And because there are some more filmic wonders that I just can't bear to leave out: here are
the titles (alphabetically) of my next ten favourite films, to round out my list of twenty all-time favourites ....

The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder)

Cameraperson (2016, Kirsten Johnson)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986, John Hughes)

Life Is Beautiful (1997, Roberto Benigni)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, Frank Capra)

North By Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock)

The Philadelphia Story (1940, George Cukor)

Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)

Singin' in the Rain (1952, Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen)

The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Trolls (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 92 minutes
Directors: Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell
Writers: Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (screenplay), Erica Rivinoja (story) and Thomas Dam (based on the Good Luck Trolls created by)
Cast: (voices) Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Russell Brand, Christine Baranski, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden

Trolls is now showing in the United States and is to be released in Australian on December 1. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Like it's protagonist, Trolls is a crazily colourful explosion of sparkling optimism that is a whole lot of toe-tapping fun for the whole family.

Based on the dolls that were at their height of popularity in the 1990's, the trolls are a community of happy little creatures with crazy hair who live in the safe haven of Troll Village away from the hideous and troll-eating Bergens. When one of their parties becomes a little too loud, their cover is blown and several trolls are taken away to fulfil the wishes of King Gristle (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The brightest and happiest of all the trolls, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) decides to venture behind enemy lines to rescue her friends and she decides to take her polar opposite, the pessimistic Branch (Justin Timberlake) with her. The two unlikely partners in crime take a journey which results in the two learning more about life and the real world off each other than they ever thought possible.

Trolls is definitely not a film for the extreme pessimists of the world with it's over-the-top, but pleasant mantra of happiness. It is a particularly simple film that doesn't say anything more than what is being said out loud, which is that happiness is always inside you. Of course this works well for the younger members of the audience, but the film is also enjoyable enough for adults not to crave anything deeper. Yet, again, some adults may find the film a little too overly optimistic for their liking and this is something that will vary according to the individual.

Directors Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell do not take the happiness theme lightly. Trolls is designed to have whole families leave the cinema with big smiles on their faces. Visually, the large majority of the film resembles a rainbow that has exploded, which is not a bad thing as Trolls really is beautiful to look at with it's amazing use of colour and all things pretty such a glitter bombs, cupcakes and long multi-coloured hair.

Then there is the uplifting musical score by Christophe Beck and executive music producer Justin Timberlake. Anyone who has heard the catchy Timberlake song "Can't Stop The Feeling" would have guessed the tone of the film without having to see it nor hear the rest of the soundtrack. The cast, which includes Timberlake, Anna Kendrick and Zooey Deschanel, have remarkable vocal talents which are on show with wonderful renditions of songs such as "True Colors", "The Sound of Silence" and "Hello".

There is no doubt that Trolls is definitely the most colourful and excitable film of the year. While some may find the film absolutely adorable, others who don't like feeling as though happiness is forced onto them will find it cringe-worthy.


Monday, November 21, 2016

The Connected Universe (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 98 minutes
Director: Malcom Carter
Cast: Patrick Stewart (narrator), Nassim Haramein

The Connected Universe is the first film to be distributed by Vimeo. Now available here.

Malcom Carter's The Connected Universe is an incredibly beautiful ode to the theory of the interconnection between all things that is both scientifically spellbinding and heart-warmingly inspirational.

Scientists and philosophers have pondered the idea of interconnection between everything in the universe for centuries. The Connected Universe explores this idea using physicist, Nassim Haramein's theory of quantum theory being connected on a cosmological scale and at the same time explores how we are connected with the universe by both science and humanity. As narrated by Patrick Stewart, the film takes us on a visually rich journey that makes one realise that interconnection is achieved not just in existence, but also in human experience.

The Connected Universe is unlike any other documentary that has come before it exploring our existence. Every aspect of the film shows how there is more than a scientific connection between everything in the universe and this is what people truly do feel delight in discovering. We as humans want to believe that we are more than just a walking pile of atoms and The Connected Universe makes us believe that we all matter and should be inspired to make a difference in the world.

This idea is resonated all through the film. Nassim Haramein's theory regarding interconnection is intriguing and brilliant within itself and often surprisingly humbling, but it is the way the film works around this theory that makes it a splendid marriage between science, humanity and art. The stories of Harramein's self discovery journey that led to him to forming his theory show a more emotional and human side to what is otherwise a strictly scientific idea and this itself shows how we are connected to the universe in more ways than one.

The timing of The Connected Universe's release could not be more perfect. At a point in history where we are currently being forced by the media and certain world leaders to see, be afraid of and question each others differences, Malcolm Carter's film reminds us how alike we really are. Our differences are so minute compared to our similarities, but the film also reminds us that sometimes we have to disconnect in order to reconnect.

Visually, the film is undeniably spectacular. The cinematography by Carter and Seppi Dabringer is absolutely superb and makes The Connected Universe an all encompassing experience, which, again, sets it apart from other documentaries it could be likened to. Filmed in a vast array of locations all around the world featuring the faces of many different people, the film makes us feel at peace and inspired by the world around us.

The Connected Universe is a ground-breaking piece of documentary filmmaking which speaks to us on a personal level as well as scientific. It's deeply human side inspires us and encourages us to look at the universe in a different way.


The Connected Universe Official Trailer from THE CONNECTED UNIVERSE on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 133 minutes
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Warner Bros Pictures and Roadshow Films in Australia.

J.K. Rowling's new story that exists within her Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will undoubtedly delight fans of the wizarding world with it's originality and whimsical nature. However, despite it's lovely magical undertones, it is a much more mature film than the Harry Potter series and with that comes a new sense of intrigue and wonder.

1926, New York City. A young British wizard, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) enters the city with a briefcase that looks deceptively normal to Muggles, but is filled with wondrous creatures that exist only to the knowledge the wizarding world. Some of the more mischievous creatures escape, which leads to Newt having chance encounters with No-Maj (the American word for non-magic folk), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger) and ex-Auror, Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), who has been on his trail attempting to bring him to the Magical Council of the United States. However, there are more sinister things currently happening in New York as an invisible force is preying on No-Majs. The council believes Newt's creatures are behind this, so it is up to Newt, Jacob, Tina and her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol) to find out what is really behind these deaths so to clear his name, save innocent people and keep New Yorkers unaware of the wizarding world. .

It goes without saying (as the masses of Harry Potter fans will already know) that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is thankfully not a prequel or a sequel, but rather an extension of  the world in which Harry Potter years later exists. For this reason, the film will be instantly enjoyable for fans of the latter with its references to Hogwarts and the well known spells Harry, Hermione and Ron perform. However, even though these references will go over the heads of the few who haven't seen the Harry Potter films, there are not enough of them to deter people from seeing the film because they think they may not understand it.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is very much it's own film with an original screenplay by J.K. Rowling that takes small inspiration from her books, but ultimately could truly exist as a standalone film. However, it has just been announced that this film will be followed by another four films,  but this is not of any annoyance at all due to the fun, intriguing and nostalgic nature of what is now the first film in the new series. The four main characters, as touchingly portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Folger and Alison Sudol, all have a great deal of uniqueness and character development, which makes the idea of more films involving the four of them rather exciting.

The only major fault of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them lies in the explanation of the newly introduced features of the wizarding world, such as the strange, but often very cute CGI creatures. Much of the information regarding their extraordinary features is held back until later in the scene where they are introduced and put on show, so that one is more confused than entertained about what is happening while it is happening. This feeling of confusion clouds over what should be being enjoyed.

Visually, the film is just stunning in every way. The production design of 1920's New York City teamed with the magic of the wizarding universe in which Newt's sanctuary for fantastic creatures exists makes for a world of tremendous beauty that is incredibly engaging on screen. At a time when so many filmmakers are tempted to prepare their films for 3D, this film proves how you can still have an experience of wonder in a high budget film without the need for 3D glasses. Colleen Atwood once again stuns with her amazing costume design and the musical score prepared by James Newton Howard is reminiscent of the previous David Yates/J.K. Rowling collaborations.

Again, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a more mature film than the Harry Potter's so calls for a more grown-up sense of magic and set of emotions. The last few scenes are particularly heartfelt and rather unexpectedly so with the way the characters engage with one another. Redmayne, Waterston, Folger and Sudol all give wonderful performances and are relatable and likable. With this more mature context, the film is not so much for younger audience members as for older audiences and is rather dark and menacing at times.

It is welcomed news that there is more to come for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Here is a marvellous start to a new film franchise and while there isn't much that is left unanswered, there is just enough questions remaining to make us look forward to the second film.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Oasis: Supersonic (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 122 minutes
Director: Mat Whitecross
Cast: Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher, Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan, Tony McCarroll, Mark Coyle

Oasis: Supersonic was reviewed as part of the 2016 BBC First British Film Festival.

Before I start, I have a confession to make which I know will effect the following review. I am a diehard Oasis fan. Normally when writing a review I try to avoid being bias at all costs because  I know I am not fooling anyone if I let my personal opinions about those involved in the film get in the way of writing a convincing review.

However, I'm willing to be honest about how much Oasis means to me for this review of Mat Whitecross' Oasis: Supersonic, because it is important for anyone who sees this film to understand how much it means to the Oasis faithful. Yet, the film is not just for fans of the Gallagher brothers. Supersonic explains the musical phenomenon that took place in the early 1990's and gives an honest and unapologetic view of the explosive feuds that often publicly occurred between the siblings and other members of the band.

Oasis: Supersonic looks specifically at the years between 1993-1996 when Oasis released their two biggest albums, "Definitely Maybe" and "(What's The Story) Morning Glory?", which led to them fast becoming one of the biggest British bands in history. Liam and Noel Gallagher, the boys from Manchester, quickly became household names not just because of their music, but also for their bad boy antics and intense sibling rivalry. The two brothers, along with others close to the phenomenon including their mother Peggy, narrate their way through the years with an insight into their music and personal lives that has never been heard before accompanied by unseen archival footage of the band before they reached the big time.

I first heard of Oasis and the infamous Gallagher brothers all the way back in 1995 when I had only just started high school, a daunting time for any young teenager. "Definitely Maybe" never took off the way it did in the United Kingdom in Australia, so the first song of theirs I heard was "Whatever". The song instantly made an impression on me as I listened to Liam sing about being yourself and not apologising for it, but it was when I heard "Morning Glory", "Wonderwall" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" all in a short space of time that I became a true fan. Of course, then I discovered "Definitely Maybe" and the song that still remains my favourite song to this day, "Live Forever".

As the Oasis machine gained momentum and the Gallagher brothers appeared more and more in the media because of their wild and seemingly untameable ways, I often had my friends and family express their distaste for my favourite band. Anyone who knows me will know that that just fuelled my passion for their music and made me like them even more. They even cancelled their 1996 tour to Australia which I had tickets for and I still remained an avid fan. After watching Supersonic, I am surprised they lasted until 2009...but I was absolutely distraught when I woke up that August morning to find out that they were no longer together. I had seen them live in concert three times as a band, with the final time being in Los Angeles in December 2008. However, I hated the idea of never seeing them live together ever again.

So why am I such a loyal Oasis fan?

I can pinpoint two reasons. On a personal level, I feel like Noel Gallagher has written the soundtrack to my life. Each album came out at a time where I could identify with the songs in relation to what was happening in my life at the time. Even now that new music has stopped being released, I can still listen back to their albums and find songs that somehow mean more to me now because it feels like the song was especially written for the situation I have found myself in ("Stop Crying Your Heart Out" is that song right now). It's such a special thing to be able to find some sort of peace and make life just a little bit easier in a song, particularly a song from your favourite band. That's what Oasis' music was about. When you look through their catalogue, one thing you notice is that there aren't any songs about life being depressing and things seeming hopeless. Noel Gallagher wrote songs about living life to the fullest and enjoying every moment of it. People responded to that and you can still see that even today with the way crowds will still sing "Don't Look Back in Anger" like the song has just saved their life.

I know I am only one of the many, many people out there who still loves Oasis for the reasons above. Since their split in 2009, there have been countless rumours about a reunion, but none that have any truth behind them. What Supersonic gives fans like me is the gift of hope. It's not only the fact that both the Gallagher brothers were executive producers on the film, but hearing Noel's final words in the film saying that he would go back and do it all again fills you with optimism that we may still see both brothers on stage together again. Of course, after watching Supersonic and seeing footage of their greatest concert at Knebworth, you are almost desperate for a sign that they could still come back, but the hope is really there. I can't speak for all Oasis fans around the world, but that was something I really didn't have much of before seeing Supersonic.

Supersonic is a lot of fun and very funny in parts, provided you understand Noel's dark, sarcastic sense of humour. One of the great things about the film is that even though both Liam and Noel were involved in the making of it, it doesn't sugar coat anything they did or said, nor do they try to defend themselves or make excuses. It is an extremely honest and well-made film about a band who had everything happen just a little too quickly, but lasted a lot longer than anybody ever thought they would in the circumstances.

Mat Whitecross has truly given Oasis fans something to believe in once again with Supersonic. Not only for Oasis fans, it is a wonderful study of the British music scene in the early 1990's, a time before the internet and other technological advances took over.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 138 minutes
Director: Mel Gibson
Writers: Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Luke Pegler

Hackshaw Ridge is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Icon Film Distribution.

Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge is frightfully graphic, violent and confronting, but ultimately life-changing in the most beautiful of ways and an absolute triumph in filmmaking.

Hacksaw Ridge is the story of the unlikely American World War II hero, medic Desmond Doss (brilliantly poratrayed by Andrew Garfield). Doss was a man, who because of his strong religious beliefs, refused to carry firearms during the war much to the disgrace of his superiors and fellow soldiers. However, despite being unarmed he was able to single-handedly save 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa and become the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Medal of Honour.

The story of Desmond Doss is truly incredible in itself, but the screenplay written by Robert Schenkken and Andrew Knight along with Andrew Garfield's inspired performance give greater depth, understanding and respect to the character and his heroics. Doss was not a traditional war hero by any means in that he would not go into war with any type of weapon because as a Seventh Day Adventist he believed that thou shalt not kill. It is a beautiful thing how strong in his faith Doss was and how his faith was what gave him the strength to carry all the men he saved to safety on his own. The understanding of his character and his beliefs are strengthened for us in the way the film shows us his past and the events leading up to his enlistment. The superb character development allows one to feel close to and empathize with Doss and whether you agree with his beliefs or not, you still understand and respect them which is a thought that is more than relevant in everyday life.

Andrew Garfield completely shines as Doss and is so far the role of his career. He gives a performance which is wonderfully restrained in the right parts and is incredibly moving and intense when it also should be. He completely embodies the role of Doss and makes him likable, relatable and into the hero who always has the audience on his side wanting to cheer for him.

While it is loving towards the character of Desmond Doss, Hacksaw Ridge is still an astonishingly brutal, but realistic piece of war cinema. The Battle of Okinawa is terrifying in every sense of the word as it is accompanied by a sense of dread and suspense formed by the horrifyingly graphic visuals and the implication of sudden and random bloody death. It requires a great amount of will power not to look away at all throughout the final third of the film as it is so incredibly confronting and graphic. It is hard to call any of these visuals anything pleasant, but the cinematography by Simon Duggan is truly exquisite. From the opening scene, the film is beautifully shot and entrancing with it's slow motion shots and spectacular war-torn landscapes.

Despite it's hard edge, Hacksaw Ridge is also rather romantic thanks to the beautiful chemistry between Garfield and Teresa Palmer, who plays Doss' wife, Dorothea. The two resonate whenever they are on screen together and it is the type of old-fashioned love many people only dream about now. Hacksaw Ridge is also a career high for Palmer, as it is to date the best performance of her career. Just like Garfield, she is likable and incredibly sweet and sensitive. Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths, who play Tom and Bertha Doss also give tremendous performances.

Hacksaw Ridge is the best war film to have been released in years. It is gritty, unforgiving and relentless, but at the same time inspirational, moving and entrancing.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Accountant (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 128 minutes
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Writer: Bill Dubuque
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor

The Accountant opens in Australian cinemas on November 3 and is distributed by Roadshow Films.

There will be those who look at Gavin O'Connor's The Accountant purely as an action film and to look at the film from this perspective will mean missing what is truly special about it. Although at times the screenplay tries to be a little too clever, The Accountant has a great deal of heart accompanied by impressive action and fine performances by the cast.

Maths savante, Christian Woolf (played by Ben Affleck) may seem like a quiet, suburban financial accountant, but he really leads a double life uncooking books for some of the most dangerous people on the planet and Christian himself is no stranger to violence. His latest job finds him working for a robotics company trying to discover where there is a discrepancy of a great deal of money, but when he does discover what he was hired to find there are deadly repercussions and he and co-worker, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) must move as quickly as they can so they do not become part of the rising body count.

From the outside, The Accountant looks like your typical action film with its suspense driven narrative and high paced combat scenes. If you judge the film primarily by defining it within the boundaries of this genre, it perhaps doesn't meet the expectations placed on it. However, The Accountant  is about a great deal more than just a financial accountant who leads a double life. The protagonist Christian Woolf has a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the film is therefore a champion for those who live with or are affected by ASD. It is refreshing to see in cinema a film which shows that autism is not always as noticeable in people as it is widely perceived as being. The film doesn't dwell on the more predictable theme of different being special, but does show how people with the disorder who are high functioning can still live a normal life (or relatively normal in this case).

One of the common and often more noticeable features of autism is that those who are living with the disorder tend to struggle with social interaction, but what The Accountant shows is that this doesn't mean that they don't long for a relationship with someone whether it be platonic or romantic. While some may see this film as being an action film with a character who just happens to be autistic, The Accountant is essentially a film about a man with autism who, like many others in the film, is reacting to the need to keep those that he connects with safe by any means possible. It is evident that Christian still suffers from and is deeply affected by the losses of those close to him and the reason he takes to Dana Cummings so easily is because she is not deterred by his social awkwardness which many others find unsettling.

This idea of us as human beings looking for a connection and trying to understand one another resonates through the screenplay. The Accountant basically has two storylines that do not intersect with each other on screen at any one time. While Christian and Dana are running for their lives, the Treasury Department is also trying desperately to find out who The Accountant really is. This part of the screenplay involving Ray King (J.K Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) almost seems worthless at times and the dialogue between the two can often become a lot more complicated than it has to be, but towards the end of the film one realises that they were also there to support the ideology of everybody needing to make a connection.

Ben Affleck completely disappears into the complex character of Christian Woolf. He not only masters the features of a high functioning autistic man (including lack of eye contact and certain mannerisms) with grace and subtlety, but also is able to show the inner torment and pain his character is feeling in as little words as possible. Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings is adorably likable and the perfect casting to play opposite Affleck's Christian and she brings a beneficial light-hearted quality to the film.

The Accountant is less about number crunching and more about human behaviour and heart. Although it does have moments where it seems a little cluttered dialogue-wise, it does wonderful things for the people in the community represented in the film.