Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Paramount Pictures
Now Showing

If the Transformers films have taught us nothing else (and they haven't), it's that nothing makes for duller cinema than robots hammering on each other. Sadly, the producers of Iron Man have failed to heed that lesson and following on from the robot-on-robot finale of the first film (my only quibble with it), the sequel's finale is given over to a flurry of indistinguishable metal men. Apparently, more is more, and in this instance that means more iron, less man.

That man is Tony Stark, billionaire weapons manufacturer and playboy who dons the technologically advanced suit he created to become the titular hero. Robert Downey Jnr,'s portrayal was the main factor for the success of the first Iron Man, certainly the reason why I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

He's equally as good here but returning director, Jon Favreau (who also appears as Stark's bodyguard, Happy), and the screenwriters, have decided to focus more on the action than the man. That not only means less Downey Jnr but also Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark's super-efficient PA, Pepper Potts. These two have real chemistry and spark off each with their verbal repartee; somebody write them a screwball comedy stat.

Mickey Rourke, as Ivan Vanko, a Russian with an axe to grind, and Scarlett Johansson, as Natalie Rushman, a paralegal with a secret, aren't given an awful lot to do either. Rourke's Vanko is set-up as a major threat to Stark's Iron Man but is dispensed in the film's climax with relative ease. Natalie Rushman, on the otherhand, seems to have been written with one major character trait: to look good in a cat suit. And while Johansson certainly fits that bill nicely, she deserves better.

Only Sam Rockwell, as Stark's rival weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer, makes an impression and that's mostly because he seems to be channeling the dark side of Downey Jnr's Stark. I see your kooky and raise you some crazy-scary.

In its favour, Iron Man 2 is not being released in 3D, real or faux (it is releasing in an IMAX format, but why you'd bother I don't know). Is Iron Man 2 as good as the first? No, but that's to be expected. Is it a bad film? No. Admittedly I was disappointed but as far as popcorn and superhero movies go, you could do a lot worse – a lot worse.

And unlike the aforementioned Transformers, it doesn't bludgeon you into submission with its stupidity. Iron Man 2 isn't stupid, he's just less brilliant the second time around.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

If you're one of the few people who have yet to see James Cameron's sci-fi epic, than you really have no excuse with its release on DVD and Blu-ray*. And while Blu-ray may be the best format in which to view it (I'm yet to convert: while they keep making DVDs, I'll keep buying them!), I'd suggest that the visual impact of Avatar can be enjoyed regardless of format so long as you have a widescreen TV – the bigger the better.

For the power of Cameron's tale, of modern day environmental and military concerns on a future and distant moon, lies in its visuals: the creation of said moon, Pandora, its exotic flora and fauna, and its indigenous people, the Na'vi.

The story itself – a US Marine (Sam Worthington), enlisted by military and corporate concerns to use his Na'vi avatar to gain the natives' trust and move them on from the rich mineral deposit their village rests on, falls for their environmental ways and the chief's daughter, Natyri (Zoe Saldana), deciding he'd rather go native than sell them out – is not overly complex but is suitably involving with its dramatic, action and romantic elements. I was certainly no less impressed the second time around.

But it's the visuals that inspire awe and wonder, and even if not in 3D (that version will be released at a later date), Avatar is still a spectacle to behold.

*In its first four days of US release, Avatar sold a staggering 6.7 million copies, 2.7 million of which were Blu-ray, making it the highest selling movie in that format. Man, I wish I had shares in this film!


Roadshow Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

Neither a remake or sequel to Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (1992), starring Harvey Keitel, Werner Herzog's film seems to exist solely for one reason: the off-kilter, manic and ultimately fascinating performance by Nicolas Cage.

Cage plays Terence McDonagh, a cop with the New Orleans police department who is promoted to Lieutenant following an act of bravery during Hurricane Katrina. That act – diving into a flooded police cell to release a prisoner – resulted in a back injury which has, six months later, left him with a permanent semi hunch.

It has also left him with chronic pain which he sees fit to treat not just with prescribed painkillers but any form of illegal substance he can get his hands on. If that means busting suspects on the street, but without arrest, or raiding the police evidence lock-up then so be it.

There's also a homicide investigation, the execution-style murders of five Senegalese illegals, but that seems to be of minor consideration for Herzog who is more interested in focusing on McDonagh as he spirals out of control. And Cage certainly gives him something to focus on, chewing scenery with mad-eyed abandon, so much so that most of the other cast (including Eva Mendes and Val Kilmer) barely register.

Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, as I understand (I've not seen it), has become somewhat of a cult classic; I have a feeling that Herzog's film will find a similar following. It wasn't released in cinemas in Australia but word of mouth, and some positive reviews overseas (Ebert thought Cage's performance was worthy of Oscar consideration) will have it discovered gradually.

Monday, 26 April 2010


Vendetta Films
Available now on DVD

Not quite an Irish Rocky, Strength and Honour is a boxing film that, like all boxing films, has its protagonist come back from the bottom to achieve a shot at the championship. In this instance the pugilist is Sean Kelleher (Michael Madsen), who retired from the sport after accidentally killing a sparring partner. The illness of his young son is the reason for his once more returning to the ring.

The championship he enters is not an internationally recognised event but one held annually by the Traveller (gypsy) population of Ireland. It's also a bare-knuckle, no-holds barred event and usually only open to members of the Traveller community.

Sean is not a Traveller but finds himself living amongst their community when medical costs have him move out of his house and into a caravan. The Council of this community reluctantly allow him to fight as one of them, partly because of his dying son and also because the reigning champion, Smasher O'Driscoll (played by former soccer star, Vinnie Jones), is a boorish thug whom nobody much likes.

The events in writer-director Mark Mahon's film play out exactly as you'd expect but that didn't prevent it winning several festival awards, including Best Director and Feature at the 2008 New York International Film Festival. And while Madsen gives a solid low key performance the film never reaches any great dramatic (or boxing) heights. The lilting, Enya-esque music which plays over training montages, there to remind us that we are indeed in Ireland, is more annoying than evocative.


Icon Home Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

“I think I may be having a very quiet nervous breakdown,” Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) ponders to a friend, and she may very well be right. Having recently moved from the city to what appears to be a retirement village, for the health of her much older husband, Herb (Alan Arkin), Pippa's thoughts have begun to wander to the past.

She's haunted by thoughts of her medication-dependent mother (Maria Bello), whom she fears she may be slowly becoming. She's also recalling the experimental phase in her youth (Pippa Lee is played here by Blake Lively) where she first met Herb, then married to an heiress (Monica Bellucci).

Her present day life is further complicated by a daughter (Zoe Kazan) who seems to hate her, and Pippa Lee's anxieties manifesting themselves in bouts of sleepwalking. The attentions of a neighbour's son, Chris (Keanu Reeves), will either complicate or clarify matters for her.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is directed by Rebecca Miller, adapted from her own novel of the same name, and I think it perhaps may have worked better on the page. Pippa Lee spends a lot of time in her own mind which is much easily conveyed in a novel than it is in a film, despite the use of flashbacks (where Julianne Moore makes an amusing but all-too-brief appearance).

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Vendetta Films
Available now on DVD

You don't have to have seen the prequel to [REC]2 to enjoy (by which I mean have the bejeezus scared out of you) this Spanish horror film. Those with an aversion to shaky, handheld camera work (here's looking at you, David Stratton), may want to pop a motion sickness pill or avoid it altogether.

Something has occurred in an apartment building and the authorities have placed it in lockdown: no-one gets in or out. No-one that is except a team of Special Ops and a priest, the first sign that whatever has happened isn't your everyday occurence.

And sure enough the truth is soon revealed involving the Vatican, possession by demon, blood experiments - and all hell breaking loose, as the SWAT team are soon set upon by the now demonic residents of the building (and you thought your neighbours were bad!).

All of this action is caught on handy cam with the SWAT team members documenting everything that happens on film. There's also a trio of teenagers with their own camera, who snuck into the building once their curiosity was piqued by police activity outside. Half way through the film, we switch to their point of view to get a different take on the action; the two p.o.v's converging for the film's finale.

If you enjoyed Paranormal Activity than there's no reason [REC]2 won't satisfy your scare quota. There's certainly a lot more action (and blood) in this Spanish film than the American low budgeter. And at 85 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome. It also suggests that the evil at work in [REC]2 will live to see another night, so if you like this one, stay tuned.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


2Oth Century Fox
Now Showing

When a film bears a title such as Hot Tub Time Machine, it will either live up (or down) to expectations or defy them completely. Positive reviews from Roger Ebert and The New York Times had me expecting an above average boy's own comedy – a barrage of blue language and genitalia jokes from a group of men suspended in adolescence – and on that level, expectations were met.

The presence of John Cusack also inspired confidence. He lends credibility to any situation (see last year's 2012 where he outruns an earthquake in a stretch limo), a valuable asset in a film which is about exactly what it's called.

Cusack plays Adam, one of three estranged friends approaching midlife and more than a little disillusioned with their lots in life. Adam's girlfriend has just left him; Nick (Craig Robinson) is married, has taken his wife's surname and works in a dog grooming parlour; and Lou, also known as Violater (Rob Corddry), is an alcoholic who may or may not have just attempted suicide – and not for the first time.

This event reunites the trio and inspires a weekend trip to the mountain ski resort where they experienced some of the best times of their youth. Adam also brings along his geeky nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), who is living in his uncle's basement due to a falling out with his mother.

But the ski lodge is not in the party state they remember but a truckload of alcohol and a dip in the titular spa soon drowns any sorrows. Of course, when they waken from their drunken revelry, their lives are just as miserable. They're also in 1986.

Cue a cavalcade of mid '80s pop culture references, and some pointed shots at the present day, as the guys deduce that they have to do exactly as they did on this night the first time round so as not to effect the time-space continuum, causing a butterfly effect that would result in the internet not being invented or Hitler becoming president!

The humour is fairly blue (and possibly misogynistic and homophobic if you're highly sensitive), with most of it emanating from the motormouth of Corddry who steals every scene. It's not in the same league as The Hangover (2009), last year's breakout hit also about a drunken weekend with a group of manchilds, but there's fun to be had if you embrace this high concept film on the level intended.

Monday, 19 April 2010


Thanks to the good people at Icon Film Distribution, I am pleased to announce
The LennoX Files' first competition!

Up for grabs: 5 in-season double passes to the Icon Films release HARRY BROWN
(in cinemas May 20).

Harry Brown follows one man’s journey through a chaotic world where drugs are the currency of the day and guns run the streets. A modest law-abiding citizen, Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is a retired Marine and a widower who lives alone on a depressed housing estate. His only company is his best friend Leonard (David Bradley). When Leonard is murdered by a gang of thugs, Harry feels compelled to act and is forced to dispense his own brand of justice. As he bids to clean up the run-down estate where he lives, his actions bring him into conflict with the police, led by investigating officer DCI Frampton (Emily Mortimer).

Only at the movies May 20.

To go into the draw for a chance of winning one of the 5 passes, simply email (Subject: Harry Brown Tix) with your name and mailing details.
Entries close May 12. Winners will be notified by email and published on The LennoX Files.

Note: Unfortunately, this competition applies only to the Australian theatrical release of the film. Overseas readers are ineligible to enter.

Friday, 16 April 2010


This is an article I wrote which will run in the April issue of Cafe Society magazine. Thanks to Paramount Pictures for organising the interviews with two of the actors from Beneath Hill 60, Brendan Cowell and Steve Le Marquand.

The Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney is a far cry from the muddy trenches of Belgium, circa 1916, or even Townsville, QLD for that matter. That’s where, under the direction of Jeremy Hartley Sims, leading man Brendan Cowell spent some eight weeks in 2009, wet and caked in mud, shooting the war drama, Beneath Hill 60. 

Mud-free and his hair grown out from the buzz cut he sports in the film as Captain Oliver Woodward, Cowell, out of uniform and in suit jacket and skinny jeans, recalls from the comfort of a suite at the Intercontinental, those days on set. “The make-up artist said, ‘we can put the mud on you or you guys can just go jump around in the mud; wrestle each other for 10 minutes’, so we just did that.”

Mud is a key feature of Beneath Hill 60, the true story of a group of Australian miners who, in World War I Europe, tunnelled under the German frontline in Belgium to plant explosives which would produce the largest explosion in history, one felt as far away as Dublin and not eclipsed until Hiroshima.

For whatever reason, this tale of daring-do has gone largely unrecognised in Australia, something the film aims to redress. “This is a very complex, fascinating story; a cat-and-mouse game underneath the ground. The fact that they were miners, normal Australian blokes thrown into the most horrific endeavour – it’s mind blowing,” Cowell says. “Hopefully we learn something [from them]. True stories are something Australian audiences are really into and hopefully this [film] will resonate on that level.”

Cast mate Steve Le Marquand concurs. “It’s all there: a good war story, a good romantic back story – all the bells and whistles – and it holds together nicely.” Le Marquand, who plays Lieutenant Fraser, an older, cynical member of the team of miners, is also in awe of what those men endured.

“We did a two-day boot camp a week before we started shooting; we lived in the trenches, ate bully beef, the crackers and all the rubbish those guys had to eat for five years while they were there [in Belgium],” he explains. “It was nice knowing that you were going to go home the next morning and have a nice warm shower and good feed. You can just imagine what it was like for those blokes who had no end in sight.”

Le Marquand is similarly in praise of his director with whom he has collaborated previously. “Jeremy comes from an acting background – he’s a terrific actor – so he knows how to communicate what he wants. There are a lot of directors who are good directors but don’t necessarily know how to communicate with the actors. Jeremy will come up, have a word in your ear, and bingo, ‘I know exactly what you want’.”

Beneath Hill 60 is screening nationally now.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Sony Pictures
Now Showing

It's sad that it sometimes takes an inferior film to make you appreciate just how good another is. That good film would be John Hillcoat's The Road, the post-apocalyptic father-son film where my only misgiving was that it failed to move me emotionally. The inferior film is The Book of Eli, which is also set in a post-apocalyptic America but the comparisons mostly end there.

Eli (Denzel Washington) has been walking cross country for some 30 years, since the war which brought about the world's current state. While not elaborated on, it is suggested that war may have been religious in nature given that all copies of the Holy Bible (and presumably all other religious texts) were destroyed in the aftermath.

But Eli has a copy in his possession and wanders into a small township where the self-appointed leader, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), wants desperately to get his hands on the good book. It's a weapon, as he sees it, one he can use to rule. The Hughes brothers' (Allen and Albert) new film plays somewhat like a western: a wandering stranger drifts into a town governed by an evil sheriff; the wanderer's not looking for trouble but he's unable to avoid it.

And in this instance, he's also impervious to it. Eli has the reflexes of a psychic ninja, able to lop off limbs with his machete without breaking a sweat and somehow a natural deflector of bullets. The implication being that Eli has God on his side and is therefore invincible.

And if you don't find that idea irksome (even repugnant) than you may not have too much of a problem with the rest of The Book of Eli, where Washington's character firmly believes that the world's redemption lies within the pages of the Old Testament.

As propaganda for Christianity, The Book of Eli is some kind of success, but as a western or post-apocalypse film - or even entertainment, for that matter - it failed to convert me.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Paramount Pictures/Transmission
Now Showing

It is almost ingrained in the Australian psyche to champion the underdog. Success is for tall poppies and what we Aussies do to them is also well and truly ingrained. Everyone knows of Gallipoli, that tragic and failed military campaign, and our nation's coming of age of sorts. But few, certainly not me, have heard the story of Hill 60.

In Belgium during World War I, a group of Australian miners helped change the course of the war, tunneling under the German frontline and planting explosives which would produce the largest explosion in human history, one not surpassed until Hiroshima in 1945. Coming so soon in the wake of Gallipoli, the feat of these ordinary Australians (for they were not soldiers) was perhaps too soon to be celebrated. But to be all but forgotten seems unjust.

Perhaps that's why writer, David Roach, and director, Jeremy Hartley Sims, felt the need to tell this story. That and the inherent drama that comes with any film set during war, especially the more tangible environs of the trenches of Europe. And while there's a lot of mud and rain in Beneath Hill 60 (and the occasional 'over the bags' action), as the title implies, most of the story unfolds underground.

Oliver Woodward (Brendan Cowell) was an engineer prior to the war but didn't sign-up until the call went out for his particular skills set. With only a couple of weeks training, he finds himself in Belgium and in command of a platoon of Australian miners. They resent the arrival of the newcomer but there's no time for grudges; nothing can produce closer bonds faster than sharing a dug-out in the mud with your fellow Aussie.

These scenes in the tunnels are by turns dramatic, tense and even humourous. You need some levity when your enemy is digging less than a metre from you and could burst through the wall at any given moment. Or those same walls could simply collapse, burying you alive. It is in these scenes that Sims' film excels.

What didn't work for me were the flashbacks; glimpses into Woodward's life prior to the war with the family of a fallen friend and his much younger sweetheart, Marjorie Waddell (Bella Heathcoate). These sequences felt stage-y to me and Heathcoate I found grating. Whenever she spoke, I had the same reaction I would to fingernails on a blackboard.

Those quibbles aside, Beneath Hill 60 boasts an impressive ensemble of Australian actors, known and unknown (young Harrison Gilbertson, who also stars in next week's Accidents Happen, is a star on the rise), and is beautifully shot; the $9 million budget is on display and lends itself to the big screen. It's also a good story well told, one which will resonate more so this time of year.

Monday, 12 April 2010


Madman Entertainment
Now Showing

Jan Kounen's film opens in Paris, 1913 as the cultured masses gather at the Theatre Des-Champs Elysee for the premier performance of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. But those gathered are not amused, some displaying their displeasure by booing, others by simply leaving.

And if I'd have known what I was in for over the next two hours, and not bound by a sense of professional courtesy, I might have done one, or both, myself.

Also in the Elysee audience that night is budding fashion designer, Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel (Anna Magloulis). Despite the crowd's reaction, she seems to appreciate a fellow boundary pushing artist. The pair aren't introduced until 1920 but that fateful meeting sets the wheels in motion for an affair; carried out in Chanel's stately home, where she has invited Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) to come and compose, and under the nose of the Russian's wife (and their four children), who has also come along, convalescing from an undisclosed illness.

Despite the affair, and a couple of explicit sex scenes, there's very little heat or passion generated between Magloulis and Mikkelsen (better known to Australian audiences as the bleeding-eyed villain from 2005's Casino Royale). Nor does the unusual situation the characters find themselves in, or Chanel's creation of her signature perfume, No.5, at the same time, create any great intrigue.

Kounen, working from a screenplay based on a novel by Chris Greenhalgh, has managed to get the period details right, particularly the very distinct style of Coco Chanel, but forgotten to invest his characters with any human warmth. As such, the film moves at such a torpor so as to make any of Merchant-Ivory's oeuvre seem positively hyperactive.

The film ends when the affair does, with Stravinsky making a triumphant return to the Theatre Des Champs-Elysee and receiving a standing ovation. Me, I'm sticking with the reaction of that first audience at the beginning of the film.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Available now on Blu-ray and DVD

When it comes to Twilight, specifically the film versions of the bestselling series of books, I'm beginning to suspect that the world divides into two camps. No, not Team Edward and Team Jacob but rather those who get it (and get it passionately) and those who don't.

I am of the latter persuasion for try as I might, all I can muster for this anemic series of vampire romance films is a big fat yawn.

New Moon is the second in the Twilight saga (their word not mine), and finds the romance between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) going strong. That is until a paper cut at her birthday party, hosted by Edward's vamp family, almost has Bella served up as cake. The Cullens decide its time to leave town, and Edward abandons the love of his afterlife as callously as any 100-year-old teen boy would.

Bella goes into a funk, her only solace being good friend, Jacob (Tyler Lautner), who begins the film sporting a horrible long black wig which soon makes way for a spiky do and a great set of abs. For Jacob has his own supernatural secret: he, like several of his Native American cousins, happens to be a werewolf. That's ironic given that these teen wolves, who parade around shirtless, have all been waxed to within an inch of their lives, as though in preparation for Mardi Gras.

Vampires and werewolves are, of course, sworn enemies which adds extra spice to the love triangle between Bella, Edward and Jacob – in theory. Chris Weitz has taken over directing honours from Catherine Hardwicke, who made the first Twilight film, but he's just as unsuccessful in providing a pulse let alone a beating heart for this teen romance. Not even a detour to Italy towards the end, where Michael Sheen gets to camp it up as a vampire elder, can do much to help.

Bring on Season 3 of True Blood, is what I say.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

Why hasn't anyone tried to become a superhero? After all, Batman has no superpowers, he's just a rich guy with a lot of hi-tech gadgets. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, totally unrecognisable as the young John Lennon from last year's Nowhere Boy) thinks he, too, can be a hero and, after ordering a scuba suit online, dons said apparel and takes to the streets to right some wrongs.

But the high schooler has his ass well and truly kicked, not to mention a knife wound to the stomach. A stint in hospital does nothing to quench Dave's desire to dispense some vigilante justice and when a much more successful run-in with a group of bad guys is captured on a cell phone and uploaded to YouTube, Dave, or rather, Kick-Ass, his superhero non de plume, becomes a sensation.

Less impressed is organised crime boss, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), who believes Kick-Ass is responsible for the recent disruptions to his business. He wants to put a stop to this upstart and his eager-to-impress son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, McLovin' of Superbad (2007) fame), thinks he can lure Kick-Ass in by himself becoming a superhero, Red Mist.

But D'Amico's woes are actually down to another vigilante, Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage). Big Daddy, whose costume resembles a Batman fallen on hard times, as though even Bruce Wayne were not immune to the global financial crisis, is a disgraced former cop. Seeking revenge for the death of his wife, he's raised his daughter, Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), who goes by the moniker Hit-Girl, to use firearms, wield a samurai sword and, unlike Dave, seriously kick ass.

It is this element of the film, where 11-year-old Hit-Girl maims, dismembers and dispatches the bad guys with an arsenal of weapons and a potty mouth, that has angered some. They believe that the presence of an 11-year-old, and the film's comic book roots, misleadingly suggests the film is for kids. Bullshit. The MA15+ rating strongly implies it is not.

Whether the result of a lazy media trying to beat-up a non-existent controversy, or lazy parents who would rather shift the responsibility of parenting onto some other entity (perhaps a combination of the two), Kick-Ass and its creators, including director Matthew Vaughan, do not disguise the film's violent elements. Anyone who has seen the film's trailer (or the rating!) would be well aware this film is not suitable for anyone 12 and under.

Teenagers may be desperate to see it but they'll have to be accompanied by an adult and that adult has no right to complain, on behalf of the adolescent's innocence, should they not like what they see.

What you'll see if you go along to Kick-Ass, and I highly recommend that you do, is a smart, funny and, yes, bloody violent film. One of the best of the year so far.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Since installing a counter two weeks ago, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I have a much bigger readership than I could have hoped for.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you and welcome to everyone who has been visiting my site, whether on a recommendation by friends or by pure chance, and an even bigger thank you to those who continue to come back.

I'd also like to say thank you to my Followers: the four I have had almost since day one of The LennoX Files - jrod, BoswellDesigns, danjmox, Michelle Flanagan - and the four who have joined in the last two weeks: Anja, Bosh, Damask&Dentelle, and, just today, SMF.

I would have liked to have sent you each an individual message to say 'thank you' but for some reason that function is not working at my end. But thank you for making the effort to become a Follower and, please, leave comments on any of my reviews, whether you agree with me or not. I'd love to hear about what you've been watching and what you think. That goes for everyone!

Knowing that I have a readership makes me feel compelled to post more regularly and I do try. My Kick-Ass review will be up in the next day or so, and I have four reviews for next week, including for the DVD release of New Moon.

I also hope, in the not-too-distant future, to be able to provide prizes for my readers, movie tix, DVDs etc So stay tuned and tell your friends.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


20th Century Fox Films
Now Showing

In the late 2009 release, Did You Hear About The Morgans?, Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker played an estranged New York couple who, having witnessed a crime, were placed into witness protection and sent to hide out in Montana. In their haste to leave NYC, the Morgans forgot to pack their sense of humour and as such the film was a chore.

Not so Date Night, with the filmmakers getting off on the right foot by casting two funny leads, Steve Carell and Tina Fey. They play the Fosters, Phil and Claire, who are not so much estranged from each other as they are from of a life that does not revolve around work and kids. They're in a marital rut and it is on one of their weekly scheduled date nights that they decide to shake things up.

The New Jersey residents head into the city for dinner at Claw, an exclusive new seafood restaurant which is, of course, one of those establishments where a reservation is required a month in advance. But not to be perturbed, the Fosters pretend to be the Tripplehorns, reservation no-shows, and that's where their troubles begin.

Mistaken for a couple of blackmailers who had arranged a meet at the restaurant, the Fosters find themselves running from bad guys and dodging bullets, scrambling through New York and committing a litany of crimes as they evade capture and try to get to the bottom of their predicament.

This includes frequent detours to the apartment of security expert, Holbrooke (Mark Wahlberg), a former client of Claire's whom she no doubt remembers for his penchant for going shirtless. There's also a run-in with the real Tripplehorns, played by James Franco and Mila Kunis, a couple of low-rent crims who go by the pseudonyms of Taste and Whippit. The two sets of couples trading insults is hilarious.

I'm no fan of Steve Carell, I can take him or leave him. He's on my list of funny men I just don't find funny but not as near the top as Ben Stiller or Owen Wilson. But Carrell and Tina Fey work well together. Fey, smart and funny, is the writer, executive producer and star of TV's 30 Rock (a good show which Channel 7 sees fit to bury in a ridiculous time slot) and is perhaps best known for her impersonation of that political aberration, Sarah Palin.

Fey may be more TV than film star, but she's good fun here and a better sport than your run-of-the-mill actresses in so-called comedies. Fey doesn't do vanity or cute; she can be as blue as the boys can (stick around for the closing credit outtakes for proof of that). Here's hoping she hosts the Oscars sooner rather than later.

Date Night is directed by Shawn Levy, who made last year's sequel to Night at the Museum, and if I'd known that beforehand, I may have been prepared for the worst. But the film succeeds by being funny. Silly, yes, but funny none the less, and that can't be underestimated. If you've seen the aforementioned Morgans or The Bounty Hunter, you'll know what I mean.


Madman Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

A medical procedure that not only allows you to have your soul extracted but to have someone else's implanted sounds like the stuff of sci-fi. But Sophie Barthes' Cold Souls is a comedy, albeit a rather philosophical one; a meditation on the nature of the soul and just how integral it is to who we are.

With a nod to screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann, most notably the ideas contained in 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey has the memories of a lost love erased, and 1999's Being John Malkovich. In that film, a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich was discovered and exploited. Malkovich was a good sport by playing himself, or rather a version of himself, in Spike Jonze's film.

Similarly, in Cold Souls we have Paul Giamatti playing an actor named Paul Giamatti. He's struggling to connect with his character in a stage production of Uncle Vanya and so decides to have his soul placed in storage while he tries out the soul of a more poetic person. At first he feels re-energized but then Giamatti begins to feel he is losing his sense of self. When he returns to have his soul restored, it is found to be missing.

It has, in fact, been shipped to Russia in an illegal soul trafficking trade carried out by mule, Nina (Dina Korzun). Nina, too, is feeling a loss of self, burdened as she is by the traces of the many souls she has been ferrying between the US and Russia for her mobster employees. The pairs' paths will eventually cross.

It's an surreal premise and played for laughs but also for real. Sophie Barthes' film, the idea of which came to her when she dreamed of meeting Woody Allen in the waiting room of a soul extraction surgery, ponders questions of the soul and identity without being heavy-handed in its philosophising. She's helped greatly by Giamatti, a fabulous actor and great sport here, poking fun at his fidgety, disagreeable screen persona.

In my film review (posted Nov 10, 2009), I wrote that Cold Souls was not afraid to massage the mind while tickling the funny bone. Why not give all three, your soul included, a good work-out?


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

Released in cinemas last year in a 3D version, Meatballs should prove no less enjoyable in one's lounge room in a 2D format. No doubt the film's hero, Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), would be able to invent some elaborate device to allow for the conversion; there'd be no annoying glasses for this geek.

Flint's had a love of inventing since childhood but as an adult, he's developed into a borderline crazy scientist. His latest invention: a device used to create food from water. It is when the device is accidentally launched into space and proceeds to rain food down on his home town of Swallow Falls, that Flint becomes the local hero, impressing everyone but his dad.

Of course, the device soon gets out of control, as does the town's mayor (Bruce Campbell) who wants to use it to make the town a tourist mecca. Throw in a love interest, Sam Sparks (Anna Faris, voicing the TV intern who dumbs herself down to get ahead in life as a weather girl!) and Steve, a talking monkey of sorts, both on hand to help Flint try and stop his creation as well as win his father's approval.

While the torrents of food stuffs raining down may not be as impressive without 3D, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs is still fun enough, with the humour and heart certainly coming through. And with a paucity of quality kids films in cinemas these school holidays, you could do a lot worse for your viewing diet than adding a serve of Meatballs to your DVD menu.

Monday, 5 April 2010


Vendetta Films
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray

It can be a defining moment of childhood for some when they learn that their parents are indeed human, fallible and prone to error and weakness. Such is the case for 11-year-old Jamie (Arron Fuller), whose wake-up call is far more precarious than catching dad putting Christmas presents under the tree.

Jamie's dad, Charlie (Robert Carlyle), is a secret agent though he never much elaborates on who exactly he works for or what precisely is the mission that he says will earn him $2 million and allow he and Jamie to retire to much warmer climes than dreary late 1980s Wales, where the story takes place.

The pair keep mostly to themselves, hidden away in their small apartment, with Charlie suspicious of everyone. The recent acquisition of a gun does nothing to quell Jamie's growing fears that all may not be right with his dad. And it is hard to go any further into the details of the plot without revealing too much, needless to say that everything that Jamie's father has told him about his line of work and their current situation may not be entirely true.

Playing crazy is nothing new for Carlyle, he's been doing it on and off since he came to attention as resident pyscho, Begbie, in Trainspotting (1996). He and Fuller work well at conveying a loving father-son relationship that is slowly falling apart. But that, combined with the knowledge that these events closely resemble those of writer-director Justin Kerrigan's own childhood, failed to have me either intrigued or moved.

Friday, 2 April 2010


Hopscotch Films
Now Showing

The films of French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet have a very distinct look and feel, from the colour scheme to the characters and the world they inhabit. It’s a style which you could describe as hyper-real as well as whimsical, and one that you either embrace or don't.

Jeunet’s previous efforts, A Very Long Engagement (2004) and the much-loved Amelie (2001), both starring Audrey Tatou, were very much in this vein and I adored both of those films. But Micmacs, a caper comedy about a group of misfits who take on two armaments companies by inflaming the pre-existing rivalry between their owners, I did not.

Bazil (Dany Boon), galvanized into action by the land mine death of his father and the recent lodging of a stray bullet in his own cranium (some 30 years of character history condensed into a brilliant five minute opener), utilizes his new found family of oddballs, who reside beneath a Parisian scrapyard, in the downfall of the two weapons manufacturers.

Jeunet's depiction of his heroes as pure of heart and the arms dealers as pure evil was one of my main problems with the film. While I am no armaments sympathiser (or Fox News subscriber), the simplistic typecasting of good and evil was too trite for me, even within the realms of a fable which Jeunet's film is so obviously pitched.

There are, of course, some amusing and inventive moments, played out with a nod to silent era comedies, Buster Keaton meets Ocean's 11 if you will. But for me, the fun was not infectious.

If you are a fan of Jeunet or just have a soft spot for Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, you may want to give Micmacs the benefit of the doubt. But if you found those films too whimsical or twee, than I'd suggest you treat Micmacs like a land mine and give it a wide berth.

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Roadshow Films
Now Showing

The 1981 film version of Clash of the Titans used stop motion animation to depict the creatures – among them Pegasus the flying horse, sea monster the Kraken, and a mechanical owl (don't ask me!) – of Greek mythology. In 2010, CGI and 3D replace the stop motion and while the mechanical owl makes a brief appearance, he's quickly put away as is any sense of fun, for Louis Leterrier's (he directed 2008's The Incredible Hulk) version of the trials of Perseus is a rather po-faced affair.

Perseus (Sam Worthington, not even attempting to hide his Aussie accent), the recently orphaned son of a fisherman, learns that he is in fact a demi-god; the result of a tryst between a human woman and the god of all the heavens, Zeus (Liam Neeson, donning a suit of armour fashioned from the ancient Greek equivalent of mirror balls).

Zeus and his fellow gods are not happy. The humans have forsaken them for which Hades, black sheep brother of Zeus and ruler of the Underworld, thinks the humans should be taught a lesson. Hades (Ralph Fiennes, all ham and hiss, no doubt polishing his Voldermort act for the final installments of the Harry Potter saga) threatens the city of Argos with destruction by the Kraken, unless the people of Argos sacrifice their princess.

Perseus and a group of soldiers of Argos (Argonauts?), including Mads Mikkelson (the Danish actor barely recognisable here) and Nicholas Hoult (butching-up after his role in A Single Man), and Io (Gemma Arterton), a woman who has watched over Perseus all his life, having been cursed with agelessness (a condition that apparently comes with a speech impediment given the auto cue delivery that Arterton employs), make their way cross country in search of Medusa; her ability to turn flesh to stone the only weapon able to stop the Kraken.

There are allusions to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with sweeping shots of mountainscapes as the Perseus-led “fellowship” makes its journey but this Clash of the Titans is no epic. Indeed, its surprisingly short running time (105 minutes) could well be one of its few saving graces.

Perhaps I'm being a tad harsh; as escapist popcorn fare, you could do worse on a cheap Tuesday. But trust me, there is absolutely no reason to see Titans in its 3D version for there is nothing visually spectacular about it. Not even Sam Worthington in a leather skirt – and the possibility of him unleashing his own Kraken – can justify the extra expense.