Wednesday, 9 August 2017
In 2006, former US Vice President Al Gore won an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth; his alarming documentary wake up call to the world about the devastating effects of climate change. A decade later, and Gore is still campaigning. But is anyone listening?
Yes they are but with this doco, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power, Al Gore is very much preaching to the converted. In 2017, you either believe in the real threat of climate change or you're an idiot.
And sadly, one of the biggest idiots is in the White House: US President Trump announcing earlier this year that the US would be backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement; signed at the 2015 Paris climate summit where the world's leaders agreed to tackle climate change through greenhouse emissions reductions.
Much of Bonnie Cohen and Jon Shenk's documentary concerns itself with the behind-the-scenes wheelings and dealings in Paris, as Gore, and others, try to convince nations like India to sign-up to the emissions cutting agreement.
And An Inconvenient Sequel would have been much more fascinating had it focused solely on these proceedings. For while An Inconvenient Sequel does not deliver its message as powerfully as its predecessor, it is arguably more cinematic (An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim, was essentially a filmed presentation). The politic-ing, the to-ing and fro-ing, and the way Gore engages with all sides is persuasive rather than didactic.
While he no longer holds a public office, Al Gore very much remains a statesman, and we get to see just what America, and the world, missed out on when he lost the US presidential race to George W. Bush in 2000. Intelligent, articulate and impassioned, Gore is everything that Bush wasn't (and what Trump will never be).
Then again, perhaps it is because he is not in Washington that Gore gets to advocate so openly and freely for his pet cause; doing much more good unshackled by the limitations of bureaucracy. But is Gore -- and the planet -- fighting a losing battle?
When Australia's own government is trying to sell us on the idea of "clean coal" (yeah, I don't know either), change is going to have to come from a grassroots level and not from the top down. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power is a necessary rallying cry that may well convert climate change believers into climate change activists.
Wednesday, 2 August 2017
Based on the ground-breaking comic book series, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element and Lucy.
In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Under assignment, the two embark on a mission to the breathtaking city of Alpha – an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and culture. But a dark force threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets. Valerian and Laureline must race against time to identify this threat and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
Thanks to eOne Films, we have 5 double passes to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to be won. For your chance to win, simply tell us the name of your favourite space adventure film. Include your Twitter handle (and follow @TheLennoXFiles if you don't already) so you can be contacted via DM. Note: Passes are valid in Australia only and thus entries are open to Australian residents only.
Thursday, 27 July 2017
20th Century Fox Films
What is it about ape films and Vietnam? Earlier this year we had Kong: Skull Island, where the titular giant gorilla combatively stomped his way through a south-east Asian jungle pursued by US military helicopters to a pop-rock soundtrack from the '60s and '70s. And now we have War for the Planet of the Apes, Matt Reeves' closing of the Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy, which borrows heavily from Vietnam war film iconography to depict man's last stand against those damn dirty apes.
In this analogy mankind is obviously the US, suffering an embarrassing loss at the paws of their underdog foes. Yet in this trilogy the apes have always been in the ascendancy, ever since a vaccine designed to help reverse the effects of Alzheimer's (and tested on primate subjects) escaped the lab; simultaneously increasing ape intellect whilst wiping out human kind.
Caesar was the first ape to benefit from the vaccine's IQ-boosting properties, and over the course of these three films (Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014) he has been the protag leading the primate charge, both in battle and for a home of their own.
Andy Serkis's portrayal of Caesar has been one of the great performances of the 21st century, and not just because of the state-of-the-art motion capture technology that allows him (and his fellow cast mates; Karin Konoval as the series' MVP, orangutan Maurice, and Steve Zahn who joins the trilogy in War, as the sad clown Bad Ape) to convincingly transform into an ape. Like he did with Gollum in the Lord of The Rings films, Serkis breathes life, but most importantly heart, into Caesar. He is a fully-rounded, emotionally complex creation.
The same, however, can't be said for the humans who have suffered from thin characterization throughout this series. And so it is again in War, where Woody Harrelson plays The Colonel, the leader of a surviving band of humans, who are armed to the teeth and intent on taking out the ape threat before they -- or, more correctly, a mutation of that original virus which is now rendering humans 'primitive' -- destroy them.
No doubt inspired by Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, Harrelson doesn't go completely 'troppo' but he fails to make The Colonel sympathetic; identifiable only in as much as most humans in this trilogy have proven unworthy of saving.
War For The Planet of the Apes may drag a little when Caesar and his tribe are held prisoner by The Colonel as he awaits an assault from a rival human faction, but there's still much to admire in Reeves' film which, if not the best of the trilogy, is equal to both its predecessors. Ending on a hopeful note, well, for the apes at least, War manages to successfully and satisfyingly close the trilogy.
Of course, the circle of life (and film history) dictates that several decades from this ending, the events of the very first Planet of the Apes film (1968) take place. The battle begins anew, proving much like Vietnam, man -- and ape -- have learnt nothing from war.
Tuesday, 25 July 2017
In his fourth feature, writer-director David Lowery tells a story of grief; one uniquely told (as the title suggests) from the point of view of the deceased. 'Not so unique,' you say. 'Jerry Zucker's 1990 film Ghost did just that.' Well, yes. Kind of.
But Lowery's film is no supernatural drama where a dead man is helped pass over to the 'other side' by a streetwise, sassy-mouthed psychic. For one, it's near dialogue-free.
When Casey Affleck's character dies in an automobile accident, he returns to the weatherboard house he shared with his wife (Rooney Mara), watching over her as she mourns his death, eats pie, and goes about her life. Did I mention that he does so not as the visage of Affleck but as a man draped in a heavy white sheet, with black spots where his eyes should be?
Depending on your disposition, A Ghost Story will appear as either a silly and tedious exercise, or a profound and moving experience (or perhaps somewhere in between); Lowery's languid though only 90-minute film told from the perspective of the ghost, whose experience of time is both fleeting and eternal. The cinematography (by Andrew Droz Palermo) and score (Daniel Hart) add to the elegiac nature of Lowery's film, which is somewhat Terrence Malick-esque though without possessing the whispering voice-overs or (thankfully) twirling femmes (and Hart's score is more synthesizers than swelling symphonies).
As the days and the seasons pass, his wife eventually moves on and out; selling their home and leaving him behind. Another family moves in, then others. Years pass. The house is demolished and futuristic skyscrapers are built, but the ghost persists. Or he does until his loneliness becomes unbearable and he takes a flying leap off the building.
Can ghosts commit suicide? Perhaps not, since he materializes in pioneer days as a settler family pegs out where their homestead will stand. Time passes and before long we're right back where we started, witnessing events we've already seen through Casey and Rooney's eyes, but this time from the p.o.v of the ghost (as they say on Doctor Who, time is a great big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey).
A meditation on time, A Ghost Story asks whether, like great art, does love – or grief – endure? Is that our legacy as humans? Or, ultimately, does nothing matter? Again, your world outlook may determine your answer but there's no denying the uniquely beautiful way in which the questions have been framed.