Saturday, 27 August 2011


Now Showing

It's 2011 and race is still as contentious an issue as ever. How then to approach a film, based on book by a white woman (Kathryn Stockett) about a white woman writing about the 'black experience' during the United States' turbulent civil rights era? Indeed, your approach will most likely determine how much - or little - you enjoy The Help.

Upon graduating from the University of Mississippi, Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone, bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Lindsay Lohan) hopes to become a journalist or a novelist. Or both. But in the meantime, she lands a job writing the cleaning advice column for the local paper in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.

Writing, or work for that matter, is anathema to Skeeter's friends; Bridge-playing, Southern sisters led by Queen Bee, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who tolerate Skeeter's independence much as her mother (Alison Janney) does: as a passing phase which will be cured by the love of a good man. It's 1963, after all.

It's this time and place which makes Skeeter's idea - of writing a warts-and-all book about life from the point of view of 'the help' - so daring. It also makes the involvement of Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), a woman who has worn a maid's uniform since her early teens, raising umpteen white babies and keeping house for their parents, so brave.

With America's Civil Rights movement reaching fever pitch, Aibileen seems to have reached breaking point. Not in a "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it any more" kind of way, but in a quietly angry rebuke of the status quo. And Davis gives a commanding performance just as Aibileen's story commands our attention. Emma Stone may be the "star" of The Help, but it's very much Viola Davis's film.

Runner-up honours go to Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, the sassy-mouthed maid of Hilly and her mother (Sissy Spacek), who, after being fired for using the indoor bathroom, exacts a two-fold revenge: firstly by helping Skeeter and Aibileen with their literary project, and secondly by observing the adage that revenge is a dish best served cold - and in a pie.

Minny soon finds employment in the house of Celia Foote (a barely recognisable Jessica Chastain, channelling Marilyn Monroe), a woman shunned by Hilly's social circle and who doesn't subscribe to the traditional Southern employer-help paradigm.

Spencer's and Chastain's relationship provides much of the film's humour but one of the most heartbreaking scenes in The Help is when Minny, whilst between jobs, explains the do's and don'ts of being a maid to her eldest daughter, pulled from school and sent to work to help out with the family's finances.

Writer-director Tate Taylor does a solid job with his wonderful female ensemble and a heartfelt albeit borderline saccharine story. But at 136 minutes he could have easily lost 15 minutes (might I suggest Skeeter's romantic sub plot which goes nowhere?), and focussed more on Aibileen's and Minny's narratives.

But it's my understanding that the character of Aibileen has been fleshed out more so on the screen than the page; no doubt as a result of the prowess of Viola Davis. But I'd also suggest it's a deliberate attempt by Taylor to negate the inevitable criticism of The Help for being another of those films where a white person is responsible for empowering black people.

And in some ways Taylor's film inhabits that same 'feel good about being white' universe as The Blind Side, the 2009 film about a white woman giving hope to a young black man (and which won Sandra Bullock an undeserved Oscar). But The Help is better than that description implies and far better than that other, lesser film.

The Help may not be an important film but it's kind hearted and relatively smart, and worth seeing if for no other reason than Viola Davis.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Paramount Pictures
Now Showing

I've never been skiing and, what's more, have no desire to ever do so. That's probably because of my aversion to the cold. Don't get me wrong: if you want to invite me to the Austrian Alps for a winter weekend, please do. Just don't be disappointed when I take up residence by the chalet's open fire, indulging in hot chocolate and not once taking to the snowfields.

Kim (Felicity Jones) isn't one for the snow either; skateboarding has always been her thing with a trophy or two as a result. But when an opportunity arises to work a few months as a chalet girl (apparently a real job, although just a fancy term for maid) in the Austrian Alps, for a well-heeled family who visit only on weekends, she takes it.

This isn't so much to broaden her horizons but to help out her financially-strapped dad (Bill Bailey) who, following his wife's (and Kim's mum's) death, hasn't really been too concerned with everyday things like work and bills.

In Austria, Kim is teamed with veteran chalet girl, Georgie (Tamsin Egerton), who doesn't exactly take the newbie under her wing so much as attempt to keep her underfoot. But Kim's a do-it-my-way kinda girl, which might not impress Georgie but wins points with Jonny (Ed Westwick), the son of the family whose chalet it is.

He might be about to propose to his long term girlfriend (Sophia Bush), and mostly to fulfil the expectations of his mother (Brooke Shields; Bill Nighy plays the cool cat dad), but Jonny can't resist the down to earth charms of the help.

This Kim-Jonny relationship provoked a quiet niggle at the back of my mind throughout Chalet Girl, not so much because of the employer romantically fraternising with the employee scenario, but because of the age difference. Jonny must be at least 25, while Kim comes across as a teenager barely out of high school, if at all. And while there are no actual sex scenes, there is the definite suggestion of sex, which begs the question: just who is this PG rated film aimed at?

More pressing for Kim than her romantic entanglement, however, is overcoming her fear of heights (and her memory of her mother's car crash death) so she can compete in and win the annual ski jump tournament which boasts a $25,000 first prize.

Employing her skateboarding skills to the slopes, Kim (eventually) takes to her new sport like a polar bear to ice but will she overcome her fears? Will she qualify for the tournament's final round and, in doing so, take out first prize? Will she also win the heart of her rich (older) lover?

Snowflakes may be the predominant backdrop to Chalet Girl, but nothing about this British comedy, directed by Phil Traill and scripted by Tom Williams, is that unique. Except, perhaps, Felicity Jones. The pint-sized Jones has the same confident swagger as Ellen Page in 2007's Juno but unfortunately for her, doesn't have the sassy-mouthed writing of Diablo Cody to back her up.

As engaging as Jones may be (and word of mouth suggests she's even more so in the forthcoming Like Crazy), the humour of Chalet Girl falls as flat as Kim's early attempts at snowboarding.

Monday, 22 August 2011


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

The premise of One Day - two friends meeting, or not, on the same day every year over a 20 year period - is such an intriguing one that it's unfortunate that its execution on film, adapted from David Nicholls' novel, is not. And doubly disappointing given the involvement of Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, and director Lone Sherfig.

On the night of their university graduation, July 15 1988, Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter (Sturgess), by default rather than design, spend the night together. But by the time they make it to bed, the alcohol has warn off and the moment has passed, and the two decide they'll just be friends.

One Day then proceeds in its episodic nature of dropping in on the lives of Emma and Dexter on the same date every year: sometimes they are together, sometimes not. Dexter, who comes from money, is often on holiday in foreign locales, and later enjoying the spoils of his career as a TV celebrity. Emma, on the other hand, spends her first few years out of college working in a taco restaurant and dating a wannabe comedian, before commencing a teaching career, all the while transforming from geeky duckling to beautiful swan.

Hathaway and Sturgess are both appealing actors, but one of the major problems with the film is that Dexter is, for the most part, thoroughly unlikeable which makes Emma's devotion to him, which borders on doormat, both odd and unsympathetic.

And quibble though it may be, Hathaway's English accent is a distraction: which part of England is she from? Indeed we never learn anything of Emma's background, or meet any of her family, though we do meet Dexter's parents (played by Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott), who are less than impressed with their son's directionless life.

Lone Scherfig's previous film was the wonderful An Education, a film readers of this blog will know I absolutely adore. Based on a memoir by Lynn Barber, An Education was adapted for the screen by novelist Nick Hornby who had the advantage of objectivity and no compunction about what to keep and what to cut.

One Day was adapted by Nicholls from his own novel, which I haven't read, but I'd suggest in his role as screenwriter he didn't have the necessary objectivity; less inclined to make major changes to his text and committing that fatal mistake of thinking everything that works on the page will work on screen.

It doesn't, and fans of the book, a New York Times bestseller, may not be as enamoured with One Day in its cinematic incarnation, making for a not-so memorable date (film).

Saturday, 20 August 2011


Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Available now to rent or own on DVD and Blu-ray

Much like the titular horse at the centre of this story - the 'Big Red' stallion who famously came from behind in his races to win more often than not and, most importantly [Spoiler Alert] the Triple Crown in 1973 - Secretariat takes a while to get going.

It's almost 25 minutes into the film before the horse is even born. That's in a stable of course, but that's not where the Messianic allusions end. A Biblical poem opens the film and 'O Happy Day' is recited more than once on the soundtrack, to drive home the idea that, while not exactly the Second Coming, Secretariat was a horse like no other, before or since.

Thankfully, director Randall Wallace's film is not as heavy going as a wet track and, for the most part, is a fully enganging story even though the ending is never in doubt (unless you've never heard of Secretariat, in which case I'd suggest you not read on).

With the passing of her mother, Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) returns to her family horse ranch to put things in order for her ailing father (Scott Glenn). The farm has racked up a mountain of debt but despite her husband (a lost Dylan Walsh) and brother's insistence to cut their losses and sell, Penny just can't let go of her childhood memories, nor the possibility that something great may yet still come of this place.

And it does. Big Red is born and soon becomes the horse on which Penny, her father's secretary Miss Ham (Margo Martindale), stablehand Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis), and her newly intsalled trainer, the cantekerous, semi-retired French-Canadian, Lucien Lauren (John Malkovich), place their hopes and dreams. Like Penny, Lucien sees something special in the horse whose appetite for oats is matched only by his speed and desire to win.

Dean Semler's cinematography puts us right there on the horse's back as Secretariat and his jockey, Ronnie Turcotte (Otto Thorwarth), storm round the track, always coming from behind to not only pip their rivals at the post but often to humiliate them. And never more so than in the final race which sees Secretariat secure the Triple Crown, over a distance he had not raced before and was believed by all experts (but not his team) to be incapable of surmounting.

Apparently there is YouTube footage (and why wouldn't there be?) of Secretariat's races: proof positive that the stallion's speed was as claimed and not some Hollywood, feel good concoction. Not that that's not what Secretariat is. For all intents and purposes it is a sports movie, travailing the ups and downs of the team, overcoming insurmountable odds and proving the doubters wrong.

Lane is solid as the housewife who, in the role of racehorse owner, regains a passion for life she thought gone once she married and had children; and Malkovich is, as always, good value though his run of odd ball characters of late is beginning to wear thin.

While the ending is never in doubt, whether you know the ending or not, Secretariat is a more than enjoyable ride.


Hopscotch Films
Now Showing

One of my favourite scenes in Mike Mills' semi-autobiographical film, Beginners, sees an elderly man phoning his son in the early hours of the morning to ask the name of the music they play in the gay clubs he now frequents. "House music," the son suggests, and his dad writes it down.

After the death of his wife, Hal (Christopher Plummer), announced to his son, Oliver (Ewan McGregor), he was gay and dove head first into that lifestyle; social groups, gay bars and political activism not to mention taking a younger lover, Andy (Goran Visnjic), roughly the same age as his son.

In contrast to his father's bold assault on love and life, Oliver has always been the cautious type. But with the passing of Hal (not a spoiler: the film opens with the news and proceeds to flash back and forth in Oliver's memory, even to childhood), Oliver thinks it may be time he took a chance on love. And that chance may be with Anna (Melanie Laurent).

Anna is an actress who divides her time between LA (where Oliver lives) and New York, and is experiencing a bout of laryngitus when they meet at a costume party, where, dressed as Freud, Oliver psychoanalyses her via her handwritten notes.

Whimsical touches like that (and the subtitled dog which Oliver inherits from Hal) may not appeal to the more cynical amongst us, but I found Mills' take on love and grief both amusing and heartfelt. Mills, incidentally, is married to fellow filmmaker and mixed media artist, Miranda July, another director whose films (2005's Me, You And Everyone We Know and the forthcoming The Future) take a bollocking for being "twee".

But I say bollocks to that. Yes there's a lot of heart in Mills' film (his second), but it's not all sunshine; the new lovers' relationship struggles outside of the bubble they create for themselves in Anna's hotel room. And both are struggling with the ghost of their fathers: one dead, one living.

McGregor and Laurent have a wonderful chemistry as the lovers, as do Plummer and McGregor as father and son. Plummer has the more animated role as the elderly man discovering a new lease on life, even as he is faced with his own mortality (diagnosed with cancer not long after coming out). It's the type of role which earns a veteran actor awards attention, so don't be surprised if the Canadian scores an Oscar nod (just his second) early in 2012.

And Beginners is worthy of your attention, too. Check your cynicism at the door and follow Hal's lead, opening yourself up to the possibilities.


Warner Bros. Pictures
Now Showing

Imitation is a form of flattery, but not only does the new guys-gone-crazy comedy, Horrible Bosses, bear more than a passing resemblance to the 2009 hit, The Hangover, it apparently owes its life to that film as well. According to one of its stars, Jason Bateman, the screenplay for Horrible Bosses had been doing the rounds for some time, only given the greenlight when the Vegas-set film hit the jackpot.

Admittedly not as fresh or anarchic as The Hangover, Horrible Bosses manages to be a lot more fun than that other film's Thailand-set sequel.

Three mates - Nick (Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) - are experiencing unpleasant working environments due to their respective bosses. Nick has been passed over for a well-earned promotion by the tyrannical Harken (Kevin Spacey); Kurt, who had a wonderful father-like boss (Donald Sutherland) until he died, now has to deal with the cocaine-addled whims of the boss's son, Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell); and newly engaged dental assistant, Dale, is the target of sexually aggressive advances by Dr Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston).

During an alcohol-fuelled 'what if' conversation, the guys hit on the idea of killing their bosses. In the cold, and sober, light of day they decide it's still a good idea and go in search of a hit man, which eventually leads them to Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx). But Jones is more of a "murder consultant", advising them to each murder the other's boss so as to avoid suspicion, like in Hitchcock's Strangers On A Train (you know, the one starring Danny De Vito?).

So ensues a series of comic set pieces as the guys stakeout their intended targets in the hopes of gathering intel to aid in their demise. And while Bateman, Day (star of the little-seen in Australia, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia) and Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live alumni) have an undeniable comic chemistry, it's Spacey, Farrell and Aniston who steal the show. Each plays a grotesque and each revels in it.

Spacey is no stranger to playing the bad guy but he also gets to exercise his comic muscles here, while Aniston gives her best performance in years playing against her good girl typecasting (she also gets my favourite line in the film). Sadly, there's not enough of Farrell's more-paunch-than-raunch Bobby, but he's hilariously 180 degrees away from his usual sexy persona (which we'll see in the forthcoming Fright Night remake).

Directed by Seth Gordon, best known for his work in television comedies such as Modern Family, Community and The Office, Horrible Bosses doesn't explore the darker themes of its humour but successfully continues the 2011 trend of crude comedy. And going by box office figures alone (the film has taken $100 million+ at the US box office), there's an audience for it. Either that, or people embrace the idea of killing their employers.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


Paramount Pictures
Now Showing

Despite the title, Cowboys & Aliens wasn't given the greenlight because of the fun possibilities seemingly inherent in the western-sci-fi mash-up. By all accounts, the film was based solely on the cover of a graphic novel which bore that title, which by Hollywood standards doesn't come as surprise. After all, if you can create a billion dollar film franchise from a theme park ride (ie POTC1-4), you should be able to rake in a lazy 100 mill with a blockbuster wherein cowpoke take on extraterrestrial folk.

And with Iron Man director Jon Favreau at the helm, and Steven Spielberg as one of the producers, one could reasonably expect a slick and entertaining adventure, right? Well, sort of. Cowboys & Aliens has definitely been slickly produced but what it lacks is a sense of fun. Any playfulness ends with the title, as Favreau has his A-list cast play it straight and the nine - count 'em, nine! - screenwriters fail to muster much excitement.

When Daniel Craig's Jake Lonergan wakes in the Arizona desert, 1873, with no memory of how he got there or even his name, and with a metallic bracelet strapped to his wrist, he goes in search of answers. What he finds is a dust bowl town unofficially ruled by army colonel cum cattle baron, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), and terrorized by his son, Percy (Paul Dano).

It's here Jake learns that he is actually a wanted man but before the town's sheriff can send him on to the city to stand trial, aliens swoop into town, randomly scooping up the townsfolk. The remainders, led by Jake and Dolarhyde, form a posse to track down their loved ones and kick some alien ass.

That posse includes a boy, a dog, and Olivia Wilde. She's the mysterious Ella who seems to be there to provide exposition and possibly allay any fears that the film will take a turn off the wagon trail and head for Brokeback Mountain. Spoiler alert: she does get naked.

The publican, Doc (Sam Rockwell), is also along for the ride in the hopes of saving his wife. Rockwell is credited as one of the writer's which I originally assumed meant he ad libbed some of his scenes, although I don't remember him saying or doing anything of note which in itself is some sort of achievement: a forgettable Sam Rockwell performance? WTF?

Cowboys & Aliens may not be entirely forgettable but it's bound to disappoint a great many who go in expecting a sense of fun which that title implies; certainly the showdown with the aliens (distant cousins of the prawn-like creatures from District 9) when it comes is anti-climactic. Daniel Craig, however, is solid (and hot in chaps) as the high plains drifter but Harrison Ford, continuing his grizzly schtick form Morning Glory, isn't funny. Trust me, Harrison, I was, for the most part, as bored as you looked.


Sony Pictures
Now Showing

I wonder how much time Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis spent spent chatting about future projects between takes on Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan?

Perhaps the two made a pact to make lightweight and sexy rom-coms following the no doubt emotionally intense experience of filming the psycho-sexual ballet freak out, for whether by coincidence or design, both actresses' next projects were to be films based on the concept of the fuck buddy. For Portman it was the earlier 2011 release, No Strings Attached, and for Kunis it was Friends With Benefits.

Kunsi plays Jamie, a New York headhunter who, having lured LA art director Dylan (Justin Timberlake) to NYC for a cushy job with GQ magazine, decides that the emotionally distant young man may be the perfect answer to her own relationship shortcomings. The two agree to become the titular friends with benefits aka fuck buddies; sex on demand without the emotional complications.

Of course that can never work, and certainly not in a mainstream Hollywood movie where consenting adults enjoying mutually beneficial sex without mention of the L-word is a no-no. His and hers orgasms can only go so far before the powers-that-be and rom-com conventions insist that love rears its ugly head ie sex without love is just not right!

But until that sad inevitability (one which also afflicted the less raunchy by comparison No Strings Attached), Friends With Benefits is an enjoyable enough romp. The first half of the film, directed by Will Gluck who made last year's comic delight, Easy A, has a cracking pace, beginning with our leads being dumped by their respective partners; Easy A star Emma Stone stealing the film in her all-too brief appearance, as does Patricia Clarkson later on as Kunis's atypical mother (much like she also did in Easy A).

As for Kunis and Timberlake, they make for an engaging pair although I'm yet to be convinced of Timberlake as an actor (The Social Network excepted). Then again, if he's going to be taking his shirt off as often as he does here, I could be persuaded otherwise (just don't speak!).

Saturday, 13 August 2011


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

For those with an aversion to motor sports, Asif Kapadia's documentary Senna, about the career and untimely death of Brazilian Formula 1 racing champion Ayrton Senna, might seem like a film to avoid. And I completely understand those reservations. I, too, have no interest in car racing (or cars generally); I mean, is Formula 1 even a sport? Sure it requires technical skills but, as far as I can tell, not much athleticism.

But like the best documentaries, Senna rises above its subject matter, drawing us into its world and the life story of this young man of privilege who had a need for speed and, what's more, a genuine ability to race; starting out in go-kart racing before graduating to Formula 1 where he very quickly rose to the top of the sport.

That rise, however meteoric or because of it, wasn't without its speed bumps including several run-ins with the governing body of the sport (the Europeans weren't so impressed with the South American upstart) and, quite literally, with the sport's then number one racer, Frenchman Alain Prost.

Rivals from the beginning, and even more so when they became teammates, Senna and Prost were, to reference a sport I'm more familiar with, the Federer-Nadal of Formula 1 in the mid-80s to mid-90s, though unlike the friendly Swiss and Spaniard tennis players, Senna and Prost genuinely hated each other.

It's this focus on the rivalry which drew me in to Senna, a film I had feared, despite great reviews and word of mouth by friends who had seen it at this year's Sydney Film Festival, I would not be able to engage with because of said disinterest in all things automotive (I don't even like Cars and that's Pixar!).

But about 20 minutes in when the rivalry heats up, my defenses came down. And it does so despite consisting almost entirely of racing footage - from both a spectator's point of view as well as the cockpit of Senna's own car - balanced out with home video footage of the Brazilian, from childhood until his on-track death in 1994. Kapadia avoids the use of talking head interviews but many of Senna's colleagues in the racing industry, as well as his sister, provide commentary.

But not Alain Prost. A film needs a good villain and Prost, unwittingly, fills that role perfectly in Senna, which may be unfortunate for the Frenchman given his heavy involvement with the charity set-up by Ayrton Senna's family in the driver's name following his death.

Kapadia could also be accused of producing a hagiography given the almost saintly light in which the Brazilian is viewed. But biased or not, Senna remains a captivating sports documentary and like the best of that genre, can be enjoyed by those with little or no interest in the "sport" in question.


Warner Bros. Pictures
Now Showing

Given the critical drubbing the film received in the US, I went into Green Lantern expecting the worst film of the year - and it's not. I mean, it's still not very good and compared to the other superhero movies which have graced our screens this year, it's the least of them. But it's not the steaming pile of emerald-coloured excrement I had braced myself for.

Granted, the first half of the film (directed by Martin Campbell, no doubt chosen for his successful rebooting of the James bond franchise with Casino Royale in 2006) is a mess. There's an overlong history lesson about the Green Lantern Corps (narrated by Geoffrey Rush), protecting the universe via the power of Will which is channelled through their power rings; a brief introduction to the evil flipside of such power with the energy entity Parallax who feeds off fear; before we are finally introduced to Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), cocky test pilot and, much to his surprise and that of the Green Lantern Corps, led by Sinestro (Mark Strong), it's newest recruit.

Hal is chosen when the Corp member defending Earth's section of the galaxy is fatally injured by Parallax; crash landing on Earth and sending his power ring out to find a worthy successor. This sees Hal transported to the Corps' home planet of Oa for training, while back on Earth Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), scientist and one-time friend of Hal, conducts the autopsy on the fallen alien, becoming infected as a result (side effects include a gradual transformation into Eric Stoltz in Mask) and a conduit-of-sorts for Parallax.

Like I said, it's a mess. But Green Lantern settles down in its second half, when Hal has to overcome his own fears and personal doubts to embrace the hero he was destined to be and defeat both Hector, who has the hots for Hal's girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and then Parallax, who touches down on Earth in the third act to tear some shit up.

Green Lantern has neither the light touch of Marvel's Iron Man, Captain America or Thor, though it does resemble that latter film with its division of action between Earth and Oa; the CGI-heavy scenery perhaps the only reason for the film being unnecessarily in 3D. Nor does it have the serious mindedness of The Dark Knight; Batman being a DC Comics stable mate of Green Lantern.

And writers Michael Green and Greg Berlanti (Green-Berlanti?) seem unsure just how much assumed knowledge of this world their audience will and will not have; the Green Lantern Corp exposition seemingly for beginners, while the Hal-Carol-Hector relationship is taken for granted and never properly explained.

Like Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Chris Evans's Captain America, Ryan Reynolds makes for a charismatic, easy on the eyes hero; buffed up but keeping his smart-arsery in check. Peter Sarsgaard makes the most of an underwritten and over-prostheticized villain, while Blake Lively does what she can with the token love interest role though she's not as lost as Angela Bassett, as a government scientist, and Tim Robbins, as Hector's disapproving, politico father.

As far as superhero/comic book movies go, Green Lantern pales in comparison to its 2011 cousins with Thor, Captain America and X-Men: First Class all providing far more impressive origin stories and all-round entertainment generally.

But a critical drubbing can't keep a superhero down, and there's already talk of a sequel (Note: stay through the film's end credits for a sneak peek at the likely, and unsurprising, villain). With $100 million+ at the US box office, a different kind of green exerts a power all its own in Hollywood.

Monday, 1 August 2011


Roadshow Films
Now Showing

I've been a tad remiss with my reviewing duties of late so apologies for this tardy, and all too brief review of Red Dog. The Australian film opened last week and, after this weekend, should achieve the title of highest grossing Oz film of 2011. That's not surprising given the film, directed by Kriv Stenders, is a family-friendly piece of Australiana guaranteed to bring a smile to the face and a tear to the eye of almost all who see it.

Adapted from Louis de Bernieres's book, Red Dog is inspired by a local legend in north-west Western Australia involving the eponymous pooch who had no master but claimed the mining community of Dampier as his own in the 1970s. But with the arrival of American bus driver John (Josh Lucas), Red Dog found a master, and with the arrival of secretary Nancy (Rachael Taylor), the similarly peripatetic John found a reason to put down roots. That is until tragedy struck.

The story of Red Dog, John and Nancy is told in flashback by the Dampier locals (including publican Noah Taylor) to truck driver Thomas (Luke Ford), who arrives in town the night that Red Dog (as a result of poison) looks set to bid a permanent farewell to its residents .

What follows is an engaging, humourous and surprisingly moving tale of friendship and community, where the pleasant yet generic humans are upstaged by a dog (Koko) and the West Australian scenery, beautifully shot by Geoffrey Hall.