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An Insane Historical Fantasy
"Nothing you see in this film is true..." okay! I have a lot more to say about this film than when the above quote meets the viewer's eyes in the opening.
Let's just get this fact of the matter out of the way that this film is pure and simple 'Fiction', despite the historical setting, context and characters, it by no means represents or even intentionally tries to tell a historically respectable, let alone accurate portrayal of Ned Kelly. That also goes to show I didn't have any expectations whatsoever, but I do like Justin Kurzel as a filmmaker and 'True History' fits alongside the likes of his efforts; 'Snowtown' and 'Macbeth.' Yet, despite my admiration for his film-making, especially for what's on display with this film's Gothic imagery, brooding tone and incredibly sharp gritty attitudes, I cannot and will not admire it for being a piece of historical fiction whose 'real facts' are not only iconic, they're well known by many Australians far and wide as a part of our culture and folk law. Yet what this film does is fictionalize the story and history... severely.
I understand I'm very split on this film, but let me at least give credit where credit is due. The acting all around is great, the cast is all fine in what they're given, stand outs include; Orlando Schwerdt as Young Ned, Russell Crowe as Harry Power (Ned's Mentor), Essie Davis as Ellen Kelly (Ned's Mother), Thomasin McKenzie as Mary Hearn (Ned's lover) and Nicolas Hoult as Constable Fitzpatrick. I've haven't got many complaints about the other performers, only that they weren't given much for me to be invested in despite the film's insistence I empathize with Ned (George Mackay). I believe anyone of a similar age to when the real Ned Kelly died (25) could play Ned, yet despite the material not being compelling enough to decide if Ned's actions be justified or vilified, it's not going to sway how anyone views the character (or historical figure) be it hero or righteous criminal but intensify it. Mackay is as fine as ever with what he does, yet his lack of a beard that's always characterized Ned Kelly fails me to even buy him as Ned (also due to said material). There was even a nice thoughtful edge given to the depth and dimensions to most characters too, as there were some great scenes where upon engaging with one another, their interests and intentions were just as clear and compelling as Kurzel's 'Snowtown.' However, it's no enough when you've A) seen and know this story before and are questioning it's further liberties, or B) understand that historical facts are what constitutes history and should not be subjected to fiction in such a way as this film does. Let me also add, it's explicit content of being largely violent and overt use of foul language might detract from viewers as never used to such a level I've seen or heard in a film about Ned Kelly. To say it isn't recommended to the 'faint of heart' would be an understatement.
Sad to say this film doesn't add anything new to what I already don't know about Ned Kelly. I understand the cast and crew's passion for bringing Peter Carey's 'novel of the same name' to the big screen in such a way that'll feel fresh for the public to witness. Yet, that doesn't do enough to constitute the story's historical basis and purely undermines that history in favor of glamorized/fictionalized entertainment. Thus the 'True' in the title implies subjectivity, something for this film's Ned to honestly explain in a way that will polarize anyone reading his story. Ultimately, it's greatest weakness is it's developmental nature for Ned as an outlaw, once Ned is outside the law he adopts an extremist resistance view to the law and state government. Ned wishes he could've lived an honest life for his supposed daughter (who never existed) yet his fall from honest life is fast and doesn't pick up much weight when his 'movement' builds compared to the way the scenes leading up to it do. There's a lot to admire about this film, yet I don't think it'll have a wide appeal, neither does it best represent Ned Kelly. I can see it being praised by some, yet ridiculed by others. I can best describe it as an Insane Historical Fantasy, suspend your disbelief as much as possible when watching this, don't take it as fact, yet try to realize there's more to the myths that're said about Ned and in my adult life I've come to value that a lot more than the fiction.
'A Panic Fable' lost in time for better or worse
It never would've occurred to me throughout the career of Alejandro Jodorowsky, he would make a film in which would fade as much as it's (supposed) reputation. Seeing as Jodorowsky put so much effort into making Dune, never did I think much like how David Lynch would eventually disown the Dune film he made, Jodorowsky disowned a film of his own, especially since his other efforts being El Topo, The Holy Mountain and later Santa Sangre set the bar very high in terms of visual flair and thoughtful subject matter. Tusk on the other hand would be a big stain on his film career, my guess for how something like this largely fell as it did would probably be Jodorowsky's eagerness to get back in the director's chair after his Dune film failed to get off grounds. Yet while that failure seemed legendary from a distance, I don't think this film would've prepared him sooner since some if not all director's have a 'dud' in their careers.
First off, I'm just stating the facts of what I knew about this film before I eventually saw it. It's rare you'll find something you didn't know existed let alone from a high profile creative talent of cult cinema. I'm not even sure if I expected much from this film when I finally saw it. It's largely an adaptation of a children's book about a girl and an elephant that have a psychic connection, unlike any animal-human relationships. This story eventually takes many deep unexpected twists and turns as the plot progresses.
Jodorowsky's films are largely known for encompassing hugely fascinating and thought provoking, yet touchy spiritual subject matters. Even for a film like this largely set in India there wouldn't be a short supply of anything Jodorowky-esque (especially with what El Topo and The Holy Mountain covered). I think it's the story and plot that's at faults here rather than the overall subject matter. I'll give the film credit for having strong characters who all have clear motivations conflicting with one another and does have great gradual development. The visual pallet is also nothing short of eye-catching cinematography that captures the best of rural Indian villages and culture life. Sadly the story itself isn't that inspiring, even when trying to develop the relationship between Elise and Tusk, both character's stand out well on screen, but we lose track of them when so many other characters and conflicts come into play and there isn't much thought given to these plot points except they're a little predictable when they play out. Not to mention, the pacing is largely meandering at times I had to re-wind to make sure I didn't miss or sleep through anything. That's not to say this film is unwatchable, I think it is, especially with what Jodorowsky was able to work with in India of all places around the world.
But was it worth it? I don't think so, which was why this film was so disastrous upon it's release. It doesn't qualify as being so poor in quality as one of the 'worst' films ever, that's all hugely subjective. I guess if Jodorowsky experienced failure as not getting projects off the ground with Dune, this was something he released as being done and dusted before he decided not to associate with it, and it's a great shame. While some films that're notorious for their poor reception, Tusk is for better or worse lost throughout time as a forgotten directorial effort from an avant garde master of cinematic surrealism.
Lastly, if this film was more widely available I would encourage people see it (or find it if you can) and make up you're own minds about it. I liked the music of the film largely for being a cultural sound-drop for the iconic setting and the overall scenario that could've been better, not to mention I had seen better from other films. While there's plenty of things to admire from a distance about this film, I don't think it payed off in the end which becomes apparent when I finally finished watching the film from beginning to end. I may have wanted to like it more than I perceived, but I didn't, nor could I largely recommend this film from a distance of unknowing (Don't say I didn't warn you!).
Mortal Engines (2018)
A Wild Dystopian Fantasy Epic of a Thrill Ride
I read Philip Reeve's novel; 'Mortal Engines' a year ago, mainly when I heard the news about Peter Jackson; the man behind the 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Hobbit' film franchises announced he and his team would produce a big budget film adaptation of the book. While the directorial reigns for the film were given to his long time colleague; Christian Rivers, who did most of the storyboard art for Jackson's films since 1992's 'Braindead' (or 'Dead Alive'), Rivers also has an Oscar to his name for 'Best Achievement in Visual Effects' for 2005's 'King Kong', some short film credits and worked as an Assistant Director on Jackson's 'Hobbit' films.
'Mortal Engines' is the first of a four book series which can described as being a post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy, largely aimed at Young Adult audiences. Personally speaking, what I loved about the book wasn't just the unique world it's set in, but also how within all the madness of this obscure society involving Traction Cities, Airships and a whole load of weird contraptions; could involve some great plotting and compelling characters in an action packed thrill ride of an adventure that also displayed a unique sense of authenticity and cultural backdrops that felt fresh for any sort of dystopian sci-fi or fantasy novel.
The opening sequence involves London one of biggest Predator Cities hunting upon the desolate former European continent chases down a smaller city for it's consumption. While, it's been common since the original 'Star Wars' film was released, grabbing the audience's attention for such a spectacle is an easy method of engagement, especially with big transports hunting smaller ones. The main characters include; Hester Shaw (Hera Himler) a mysterious girl with a scarf covering her face, whose intentions are just mysterious as she appears. Also, there's Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), a city boy who works as a historian's apprentice in the London Museum, keeping old relics and artefacts in shape from a civilization long gone. Then there's Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) the Head Archaeologist of London, whose high statue and demeanour commands great respect among the hierarchy of London's Elizabethan class system aboard the traction city.
Once the smaller town has been consumed by London, Tom goes down to salvage any relics or artefacts the consumed cities have been carrying, proving that one's trash might be another person's treasure. Meanwhile, the mysterious Hester goes in towards Valentine to exact her vengeance, while Tom stops her from committing the assassination not sure what's this is all about. After chasing her through the bellies and digestive clutter of mechanics of London's engines feeding off the consumed city, Tom then becomes aware of Hester's vengeance when her scarred face is revealed behind her scarf, before she jumps out of London's waste tunnel. While Valentine's wounds aren't fatal, he's glad to see the young man in good shape, yet in this small moment his ugly side is revealed proving Hester's words were right and in an effort to silence any other rumours about his more supposed secretive and devious intentions or any other ugly history, Valentine pushes Tom over the edge of the waste tunnel and out into the wasteland.
It's here, the city boy whose enjoyed the company of respectable civilization on a traction city, becomes a 'fish out of the water' being exposed to the madness of the wastelands/hunting grounds. But, more importantly must put his trust in Hester; a young woman he has no reason to, even if they both must stick together to survive the dangers of the wasteland or the world for that matter, together. Their adventure then unfolds as they traverse across the wastelands and in the air upon airships encountering many different quirky, dangerous and imposing characters.
A few other characters worth mentioning are Anna Fang (Jihae) an imposing aviator whose prowess and badass demeanour could give characters like Imperator Furiosa and Han Solo a run for their money. She quickly becomes Tom and Hester's ally abroad her brightly red airship; the 'Jenny Haniver', she's also the leader of a group called the Anti-Tractionists, who're purely against the use of traction cities. But the most menacing and intimidating of them all is Shrike (Stephen Lang) a Stalker, AKA a resurrected man whose mind is twisted into a menacing killing machine and whose organic organs have been replaced with that of ancient robotics making him and imposing cyborg almost akin to the 'Terminator.' His role is more of a side story that's largely connected to that of Hester's past and there's never a dull moment with Shrike, as Lang makes the character stand out as a piece of the horrific technology who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.
While Sheehan, Himler and Weaving keep the main plot in focus. It's Jihae and Lang who provide the story's catalysts pushing the plot into more maddening compelling territory full of danger and excitement. Other supporting acting roles serve the story adequately well too, in correspondence to the book's would take me a longer to analyse than what I think is more important. Other than the fact their brief appearances are clearly defined well enough to thank the film-making team to stand out.
One of the biggest comparisons I can draw from 'Mortal Engines' especially in how a post-apocalyptic scenario involving high stakes action displayed on such huge spectacle, is obviously going to be 'Mad Max: Fury Road.' It should come to no surprise that when spectacle is more of a forefront to a film, it comes more into focus than the characters involved in the plot. But much like 'Fury Road' the characters are compelling enough to make their motivations clear. However, if it weren't for the gifted performers bringing the characters up front within the film's plot it wouldn't be so much about their 'personal story' than what the world's premise would promise and there's so much life in the world, it's hard not to be invested.
Also, much like 'Fury Road' and Jackson's other films for that matter, including the other films he produced such as Neil Blomkamp's 'District 9' and Steven Spielberg's 'The Adventures of Tintin', the breath, dimension and vision they brought towards the world of 'Mortal Engines' stands out so well on the big screen, it's no wonder how much passion was shown for bringing to life such an unique world filled to the brim with authentic set-pieces and thrilling special effects that WETA Workshop are so capable of delivering.
I've comes to expect differences from adaptations of many kinds. So it wasn't surprising to me there were many liberties taken when comparing the book and film differences. I'm glad to say the film stood out incredibly well as being the same story Philip Reeve wrote in his book all those years ago and stands out incredibly well on screen thanks to the devotion and dedication the filmmakers have made to such a project. One not being too much like the other but stands out enough that if you've read the book or if you haven't, it's safe to recommend.
However, while this may easily be one of favourite films of 2018. It's not without its flaws, some of the exposition on certain objects and concepts in the film serves too much of a crash course to viewers as if we're going to expect some of that to play into the plot later, it unsurprisingly does. The third act climax also places a lot of certain McGuffins easily placed throughout the film find their place used adequately. There's even a number of flashback sequences focusing on Hester's past, although they're serviceable enough, they could have been lessened, which would have given the films mysteries more thought than experiments the viewers would pick up on later. Even with all its flaws, I accept the film for what it is. If audiences are going to find unusual parallels to other franchises? you can't deny the fact the film is hugely 'unique' and should be a focus for a new film franchise.
Overall, Think 'Mad Max: Fury Road' mixed with some of the best aspects of franchises such as 'Harry Potter', 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Star Wars' and that's 'Mortal Engines' in a nutshell. While Peter Jackson's other cinematic efforts may raise expectations, I highly implore viewers to make up their own minds, perhaps it'll get them to read the books. It's the story of a young man who despite coming from the comforts of city life, discovers his bravery and purpose in a world full of madness and chaos with having to trust a woman who despite the resentments of her past upbringing has to overcome her motivations by connecting to others who give her life more meaning. While that's the personal story of 'Mortal Engines' within it's heart, it's the exciting spectacle and unique world with the compelling characters that make the film a significant achievement for Christian Rivers and Peter Jackson. It's an incredibly 'Wild Dystopian Fantasy Epic of a Thrill Ride' that I had a great time watching and can't wait to see it again, along with the potential sequels of three more books to be adapted from the series.
Dot and the Bunny (1983)
Funny Bunny Comes Out to Play!!!
While my nostalgia for Yoram Gross's Dot films are as great as anyone else who watched these films as a child of the 80s or 90s. I'm now looking at these films a little more with a critical eye, especially to determine their qualities, not just in being the classic animated films they are, but also in continuity with one another. However, the latter seems to be bit of an issue with these films, I noticed this especially after watching the first two films "Dot and the Kangaroo" and "Dot Around the World."
One uncanny thing about this film is that it's initial plot was somewhat or already fulfilled in "Dot Around the World" (or "Dot and Santa Claus"). When Dot happened to have found the long lost joey of the kangaroo who nurtured her when she initially got lost in the Australian bush, by travelling around the world from various places Joey was taken.
Instead this film ignores the previous film in favor of a direct continuation of the original film; where Dot is largely inspired to go back into the Bush to look for the long lost baby joey of the mother Kangaroo. Dot however, is taken aback most of the time when she has frequent encounters with a long lost bunny, who becomes enamored to believe he is a baby kangaroo. It's due to this bunny's silly behavior and antics, Dot names him; 'Funny Bunny', while Funny Bunny continues to convince Dot otherwise to be a kangaroo to fit in with the bush's environment, the two of them eventually explore the vast bush-land areas and encounter many different animals along the way of Dot's quest to find the mother kangaroo's joey.
I've now come to a conclusion, the continuity between these films are very loose, especially when the Macguffin 'roots of understanding' played a key role in both the original Ethel C. Pedley book and Yoram Gross's original film; "Dot and the Kangaroo." While that doesn't bother me at all, what I liked about this film was it's message, as Dot and Funny Bunny explored the wider regions of the bush they began to discover and learn a lot about the bush's ecosystem and the importance of various wildlife's needs and environmental adaptation to their habitats. Even when Dot finds out about Funny Bunny's real circumstantial nature which is pretty horrible when considering the series' exploration on human's negative impact on nature, it's the film's ending that makes up for what the series' lack of consistent continuity has when being consistent with this single film's unique message.
Much like Gross's other films, his blending of real film footage and animation is wonderful to look at as ever. Although it hasn't aged well by modern standards, especially when real animals or figures from the live action footage become animated within various sequences and transitions, their characterizations are very charming to see. As is the humour that Gross utilizes to a great effect with some great song numbers. There are also some small instrumental callbacks of the first film's songs fitted within the soundtrack of this film to convey some scenes tones, although as unsubtle as it may be utilized, it works for the series as a whole, especially when none of the original lyrics are used or rewritten either, which is great to see Gross respects his creations.
Overall, 'Dot and the Bunny' is one of the more entertaining films in the Dot series, mostly thanks to the presence of Funny Bunny; whose crazy ideas and antics are funny, as his persona is empathetic and his development heartfelt. It's an acceptable film that explores the series' humorous side, while continuing to be heartwarming and persistent on educating children on human's negative impacts on nature, Funny Bunny's story being the main focus.
Around the World with Dot (1981)
A subtle Christmas Follow-up, but stumbles as it wanders
Yoram Gross's follow-up to his classic animated film; 'Dot and the Kangaroo' based on Ethel Pedley's children's book, continues the adventures of the young girl who was once lost in the Australian bush. After receiving a visit from an eccentric swag-man named; Danny, she recount's her experience with the Kangaroo and becomes determined to find her long lost baby joey. This time with Danny's enthusiasm and supposed magical 'ingenuity' he dons a Santa Claus outfit, makes a sleigh with two kangaroos and takes Dot around the world, tracking where Joey might have gone. While the original film had such an abrupt ending, this film opens up the possibilities for something more optimistic and uplifting, especially for a Christmas film that celebrates the world, many cultures, traditions and continues the series' exploration of human's negative effects on nature, educational as it's entertaining.
This was also the first film in the series to adopt a Jazz Swing recording of Banjo Patterson's 'Waltzing Matilda' as it's theme song that continued for a few more titles. It also takes a much more fantastical approach to what was previously seen in the original film. Mainly with just some tiny reference of 'The roots of understanding' playing a role in a piece of recycled footage from the first film to establish it's context, instead Dot is freely able to communicate with anything that may talk. While that didn't bother me, it was probably the plotting which mainly involved Dot and Santa with the two kangaroos leading the sleigh to many different places across the globe encountering many different animals and people for that matter, asking for the whereabouts of Joey wasn't all that exciting. But since it's more of an animated Christmas TV Special that's more suited for December and nostalgic to look back on, the film doesn't match up all that well in terms of quality.
Much of the animation uses a lot more live-action footage than even the original film largely utilized with putting animation on top of real footage. It definitely hasn't aged well, especially when there isn't enough to make the scenes flow more than they did. The animation stands out more when you've got scenes that largely rely purely on the animation almost as if to show the series' evolution. Instead the film resorts to little more fantastical, trippy and almost surrealistic sequences that also go along with it's (still) fantastic song numbers. While it may be inconsistent, it still doesn't shy away from the colourful nature of the locations and various character's they meet along the way which aren't really stereotypical of their setting, but offer a good backdrop, educational for kids to see what the world is like, especially kids recognizing kids around the world. However, Most of the visits to other countries feel more like encounters, while I praise Gross's efforts to make them stand out to have just as much social and cultural commentary on them, there really isn't anything you can take them apart from the information they casually talk about with the main characters for a little before moving on.
The series itself hasn't been very clear about the time period's it's set in, so I'm just going to assume the continuity is pretty lose, as it was clear Pedley's book was more clearly placed in it's period of publication (1890s), as much as these films were at the time of their release (1980s).
The film is at it's best when it doesn't linger around too much, but get's straight to the point of it's narrative, it's appeal largely plays in part of it's heart warming nature sprinkled as a treat that'll put a smile on both kids and adults. Adults would be more mindful of the cultural nature within the film, although its more of a subtle messaging than a deliberate play on stereotypes. While it isn't all classy as it's predecessor, it's a worthy follow-up that stumbles and it wanders through it's story.
Dot and the Kangaroo (1977)
Hippity Hoppity Hippity Hop, Dot in the Pouch of a Red Kangaroo
It never occurred to me until now, that the late and great Yoram Gross who was responsible for a lot of great animated films and television shows here in Australia. One of the biggest series of films he produced which played a large part of my 90s chilhood upbringing came from the Dot films. Which all started in this 1977 Classic based on Ethel C. Pedley's children's book of the same name.
The plot basically follows a 5-year-old girl named Dot, who becomes lost in the bush after promising her family not to go far to grab some grass then falls over a ditch chasing a small animal and helplessly wanders around the wilderness full of wildlife. The only animal to then come to her aid is a Kangaroo whose lost her own Joey and immediately connects to Dot due to her sadness, she then make it her duty to help the poor human as the journey further into the bush encountering many kinds of animals and threats along the way.
Both the book and film make the feasible use of Dot eating a special root which in turn makes her then understand what the animals are saying rather than just leaning on your standard anthropomorphic talking animal tropes mostly seen in Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book.' While this doesn't come into play a lot during the film, it eventually becomes important during the end when Dot walks away from the wildlife. Much of the film's plotting is aided by many catchy song numbers composed by various musicians, which all feel like Disney musical numbers, still very much enjoyable today and doesn't pad the film out too much or drastically changes the tone, but it does help the scenes flow. The animation is largely made up of animated characters on live-action shot camera footage, which from a distance doesn't look all too magnificent due to the footage quality and aspect ratio, however it all blends really well thanks to Gross's smooth direction at blending the live-action and animation together.
Upon looking back at this film as an adult, I can honestly say it's aged quite well. The relationship between the title characters is as charming as ever as are the nostalgic song numbers and colourful animation blended really well with the somewhat 'dated' but slick live-action camera footage. It's the type of film that the parents of today should really show their kids as something that's old school and heart-warming, learning about the impacts of man's negative interference with nature. While I haven't seen all the Dot films to date, they all have a place within my nostalgia for what I used to rent from my local library as something I'd truly enjoy as well as deeply learn from it's ethical messages in regards to nature and good deeds.
I Am Heath Ledger (2017)
An Endearing Portrait of a Modern Australian Legend
Well, if you're like me and you grew up in the noughties/2000s, you knew his name and you knew the various roles he played in various films. It's also easy to say, Heath Ledger is nothing short of being a modern Australian legend who lived a wonderfully fulfilling and colourful life, but sadly left this world all too soon.
This documentary sheds light on the late actor's life, produced and interviewed by some of his closest friends and family members. I was fascinated to hear how much of an energy driven person he was, so full of life and passion putting smiles on all those who knew him. Despite having the passion for acting for which he was an outstanding performer, I was also fascinated by his artistic lifestyle for painting, photography and filmmaking for which he excelled at brilliantly. I also thought It's imperative he would've gone on to do even more greater things that he was only just getting started on before his passing.
However, despite all the money and fame he earned from the tremendous efforts in his life, I was deeply concerned how someone like him would eventually sense his own mortality. I may have been only a teenager upon being shocked by the news of his passing, although it never occurred to me due to his nature to take the extra mile and give all his challenges everything he had, that he would eventually be worn out to a point of almost physically and mentally collapsing. Everyone may have a dark side, but now that I'm older and almost close to the age of his passing, I'm still trying to figure out my life and how those like Ledger were able to accomplish so much before passing away too soon.
Nonetheless, this film has such great vibes to really capture the spirit of Ledger's gizzard, even including various pieces of stock footage that Ledger himself filmed throughout his life. Peering into this window of his life was endearing as it was peculiarly curious to a point of showing how despite having been a decade since the late actor's death, this film goes to show his legacy still endures; being one of the brightest and inspiring figures of his generation.
Overall this documentary is the definitive portrait of Ledger which both old and new generations can learn from, it was an insightful feel good facts trip into the life and times of Ledger as well as an endearing one to really get some intimacy on parts of his life the world didn't know. This film is the definitive portrait of Ledger for both old and new generations to experience for themselves, cause watching his movies aren't enough.
Wake in Fright (2017)
A Largely Impressive Re-Imagining of a Classic Cautionary Tale
Whenever someone thinks about 'Wake in Fright', they can't go past the classic 1971 film adaptation of Kenneth Cook's debut novel, which is also acknowledged as a classic of modern Australian Literature. Although, one thing I heard from an interview with the late Kenneth Cook; was that he thought the film was a "very successful translation of the book" for which I couldn't agree more. However, he personally thought Gary Bond who played the lead role of John Grant was "far too old and not nearly so sensitive and young as he should have been to be the hero of the book", because to his mind the validity of the hero's situation will only be there when he's a "young, soft, sensitive man" also touching on the fact Gary Bond looked too old and competent and could've got out of it too quickly. Looking back at the film now, I can't say the casting of Gary Bond bothered me especially in comparing the film to the book. The film itself has become timeless due to the suspenseful nature of what a man pushed to his limits would do to desperately get out of a situation that involved resorting going back to primal instincts of animals. Due to its confronting subject matter and wry sense it has since resonated into Australian Culture and Cinematic history incredibly well.
An often common and outspoken criticism I've heard countless (and tiring) number of times about various rehashes and remakes (however people may perceive them) is that re-doing something that has already been done or seen won't add anything new to the vastness of what's been put out there. Even in that vague statement rarely is it a case of improving upon what's been done, but more re-imagining what was done with a more modern skills and/or techniques in mind.
I don't dare say that this miniseries re-adapting Kenneth Cook's harrowing tale into a more modern time setting or context will deter whatever was done with the classic 1971 film (or book from when it was written). However, keeping Cook's own criticism in mind as well as what could be experimented with adapting Cook's timeless novel into a more modernized context, I would say there is necessity to what the makers of this new 'Wake in Fright' could do in terms of experiencing this story along different avenues.
First and foremost, the casting of Sean Keenan in the role of John Grant almost parallels Cook's criticism of the original film adaptation. Where we could see what a 'young, soft and sensitive man' would do when trapped in a remote town in the middle of the Australian Outback would do when he's then exposed to the rough and tumble nature of its locals and getting involved in their almost inhumane behaviour no one like a city-raised local like himself would experience. Thus, his descent into this madness is almost just as shocking and affecting as it was the first time around.
Secondly, this adaptation takes plenty of liberties from both the book and original film, it shares plenty of its major plot points, however in the modernization of all things there's a compelling edge added to the drama and conflicting nature of the characters, that it's within the modernized setting's nature to serve the narrative well rather than lessen the effect of the original film, which most certainly sets it apart. There's some excellent cinematography that capture the dangerous and unsettling beauty of the Australian outback, as is a compelling edge to the characters within the instilling dramatic conflicts revealed within the nature of the plotting.
Overall, it's the character development of this adaptation that really make it stand out, in opposed to the competent casting decisions, but confident enough to carry it due to the change of time setting from the 60s-70s to present day. The depth and dimension of these characters is what makes the miniseries a compelling locally produced drama here in Australia, able to show how our film/television industry can tell edgy stories, especially involving the unique subject matter of the source material. While it might not be so testosterone fueled as the original film, but it's still able to capture Kenneth Cook's cautionary nature about the foreboding dangers of the Australian outback.
Either You Love Star Wars or, You're Wrong!!! And this film is Amazing!
After 40 years of capturing the hearts and minds of people from every corner of the world, it's amazing just to think how far Star Wars has come as a franchise. Even beyond the involvement of George Lucas, it's fair to say 'Star Wars' is still alive and kicking hard at an unprecedented rate, the franchise couldn't be at a better place in time than now.
If I read anything about this film before seeing it for myself with such ludicrous claims it 'destroys everything you thought you knew about the franchise' from a hugely loud and annoying niche of people/users, I would absolutely laugh out loud in the most ridiculous fashion possible. The fact of the matter is that these claims are all purely 'subjective', not to mention I most sincerely Hate!!! without a shadow of a doubt how 'entitled' some 'so-called-fans' be at that, for it is Not!!! one's judgement to be more important than any others for a particular film, especially if there are people who can think more critically than emotionally (as all pathetic consumer to Hollywood films are, myself included). Also, one rational saying I took from a dreaded fan-documentary; 'The People vs. George Lucas' is Neil Gaiman saying; 'Fans don't have the right to bitch at a creator for what they created. Fans are entitled to dislike what they want, but these creations come purely from their creator's heads, and they aren't entitled to ask them to change anything.' As much as it was for George Lucas to be free to make films the way he wanted, so to goes for the filmmakers of the franchise today, even with a story-group keeping everything in the franchise consistent with what is considered; 'Canon' in this day and age.
I went into this film with an open mind, I've always loved Star Wars ever since I was a young boy growing up in the 90s watching it on VHS before any film re-releases and before being optimal enough to enjoy the prequel trilogy when they were being released. Sure, I may be critical about 'all' Star Wars films released to date; as the saying goes "Nobody's Perfect", but when you have a film that's part of a huge multi-million-dollar franchise that's survived this long, the one question you should ask; 'Does it stack up?'
I say 'Yes!' now let me justify what I think about the film.
This film is surprisingly a direct continuation from the story that Episode VII: The Force Awakens started. On top of that, we hold the 'Original Trilogy' in too much of such high regard, it's not only daunting but also exciting to think what would happen to the characters we all know and love from the OT, if their stories were continued down the line in further films. While, it's always great to see new beginnings and continuations which Episode 'VII' has done exceptionally well, as they've also done introducing new characters and plot threads. As of now Lucasfilm could not have made anything better, when it comes to follow-ups of such hugely celebrated films of pop-culture. Even when you have such great characters involved in a whole new set of conflicts, while the original cast of characters are headlining these new films; it's not only paying homage to a by-gone-era, but also bringing the franchise into an all new era for fans and audiences of both young and old to really enjoy.
Writer/Director; Rian Johnson, has crafted an incredibly intense and cathartic Space Opera epic, even if this is the longest Star Wars film ever made, then don't be alarmed by the pacing as Johnson has kept everything intact. By this point, it's clear this franchise isn't just about large-scale space battles, lasers, light and dark, but that this film is an intelligent blockbuster with high stakes drama able to carry the weight of its ever-encompassing plot and the substantial nature of its characters from the very beginning to the very end. Even while the film tends to focus so much on varying plot threads, it is most certainly worth every minute as this film takes so many bold moves within the story, it's heart-pounding to not get caught up in the moments of extreme intensity, being either incredibly scary or deeply moving.
Overall, what started out as being an innovative space opera set action-adventure, has and always will be a global phenomenon with an incredibly authentic and emotional sense of cinematic escapism. It's intense conflict between good and evil, with deep philosophical understandings of it's world and lore, has been key to delivering on the goods of how big a film can be in both scale and substance. 'The Last Jedi' shows no sign of the franchise letting down anytime soon
I hate to say this, but either you love Star Wars as it is or "you're wrong" living in denial what's being done creatively isn't being taken with care from both the past and present. So sorry haters, but I don't think I'll ever understand your disdain for a film for which I absolutely loved and actually is worthy of being up among the best the franchise has ever produced.
Death Note (2017)
An Underwhelming and Poor Americanized Adaptation of a Brilliant Manga Series
9 years ago, I read the 'Death Note' manga, which then turned into an obsession I've maintained over that year alone. Even today I look back at it with such enthusiasm and nostalgia, as I don't think there's been a better manga series that's captivated me that much. Sure enough, the more recognized anime adaptation was good in an adaptation sense of the manga, though despite its few flaws I admired it mostly for its visual and audible queues. Add to that, I even heavily enjoyed the live action 'Death Note' films, which were all very respectable to the source material, I felt it didn't even have to use it as a crutch for the most part, except be 'its own thing' as an adaptation should be.
Now We have an Americanized adaptation, my expectations for this film adaptation were incredibly low to say the very least. Director Adam Wingard shows he has a clear vision for his film adaptation, though for the most part it feels incredibly underwhelming, especially at how complex and investing the original Death Note manga and anime were. It's eventually reduced to being subjugated by plenty of petty little American tropes, campy cringe-worthy horror clichés and an annoying romantic subplot followed by plenty of over- dramatic moments and terrible soundtrack choices that doesn't compensate to the original source material.
Performances from the actors were sub-par to say the very least, nothing too special or even broadly appealing to fans and non-fans alike. Wilhelm Dafoe however, is excellent unsurprisingly as Ryuk the Shinigami; it's another one of those rare cases where you have a small element in the film worth seeing even with what little he had to work with.
Other than that, the film just wasn't that good at all, I'll give credit to the cinematography looking sleek and stylish, though in this film's Americanization it's losing the compelling and complex edge that made the source material amazing in the first place. It's all too easy to say it's overall; an underwhelming adaptation as it's an underwhelming film, I wasn't too surprised given the odd approach and the questionable choices to the various changes this film made in terms to the source material. Sadly, it doesn't stack up at all except upon scratching the surface and not digging deep enough.
Dance Academy: The Movie (2017)
Award Winning TV show transitions well to the big screen and doesn't disappoint
I for one found popularity of Australian teenage drama 'Dance Academy' unprecedented. It's easy to say now, due to the show's success has earned itself two local Logie Wins and Two Emmy Nominations overseas. Though due to the show's overall impact and worldwide cult following, I guess it was only a matter of time for the series creators, as well as the cast to eventually have some form of a reunion or continuation. The show itself boasted a vibrant Sydney setting involving colourful characters with depth and dimension and was able to take their youths seriously, especially when covering themes not often thought out well enough in other teen dramas.
For Tara Webster (Xenia Goodwin) dancing was everything to her, until she had a suffered a spinal fracture in her final company audition. Despite making a full recovery she now passes her time working as a waitress at the Sydney Opera House. Although she fears she'll never dance again, the company's creative director Madeline Moncur (Miranda Otto) attempts to convince her to re-audtion. Now Tara is on quest to regain her strengths and talents taking us from Australia to America to see whether or not she has it in for dancing in the real world, reuniting with plenty of familiar faces along the way.
I initially had a fear this film wouldn't work as well as it would. However, the gifted performers that have spent so much time as these characters in the series really made it work so incredibly well. It's a lot like reuniting with old school friends and thinking no time has ever passed by. While the series as a whole was about young dancers 'willing to prove their worth to the world'. This cinematic continuation which takes place 18 months after the characters have graduated from the Academy focuses on themes; 'whether or not the dreams of our youth are really relevant to us when we're older'. Looking at these characters now, Abigail Armstrong (Dena Kaplan) is a company principle dancer, Christian Reed (Jordan Rodriguez) teaches dance at a memorial hall named after the gang's deceased friend, Kat Karamakov (Alicia Banit) is a children's show host in New York, Ben 'Benster' Tickle (Thomas Lacey) is in the Austin Ballet and Ollie Lloyd (Keiynan Lonsdale) has traveled the world as a performer. The many paths these characters have taken just go to show how much of a difference they've gone their separate ways since their school days. It's only by some sense of their reluctance they're all able to eventually reunite.
For Tara her determination is as great as ever, even when dealing with the difficulties of her relationships to possibly endangering her chances of rekindling her dream she worked so hard at. It's only when she realizes something different about circumstantial nature she must try to take up a different path in order to look ahead without any worry, not only about herself but for her friends who she deeply loves and cares for so much.
Jeffery Walker, whose contributed to the TV series directed this film with such vibrancy it deliberately drops the soapy tone of the TV series in favour of a more kinky and glamorous feel that translates well to the big screen. The cinematography really gives a great and bigger sense to the production's upgrade being able to stand out more cinematically than it's Television predecessor. The film's choice of music even fits well to the lighthearted tone and endearing drama. Although if you have a montage sequence that doesn't involve dance it can pad the moment out a little too far than what's needed. Even when the film tries to break into Tara's subconsciousness portraying her fear that can also be a shift of the film's tonal aspect. I don't think the film is great, though in many ways it's very good and one of the better dance themed films to come out recently. It sometimes falters through some of the drama's more mundane clichés than expected, though it quality is maintained thanks to Joanna Werner and Samantha Strauss's screenplay.
Overall, I was deeply satisfied with this film. I had a smile on my face upon leaving the cinema knowing full well It's a film that's entertaining as it's endearing and incredibly worthy as a continuation to the TV Series that offers quality drama and entertainment to fans and non-fans alike. I don't think it'll be the type of award winning material for Australian films this year though it's safe to recommend it to the family crowed as one of this year's more entertaining Australian films.
Dance Academy (2010)
An Excellent Local Kids Show full of Superb Drama and Dance Choreography
I'm a late bloomer to this show though I don't think it's never too late than 'never' to start. Neither was I particularly familiar to with this show's quality or award winning acclaim that's pushed it to being a modern favorite among both kids and adults. I also can't say for the very least 'I' was the target audience for this show, though I actually ended up really enjoying it as the drama and the writing started to really grow on me as the character's developed throughout the show's three season run.
I am glad for one as a show that's produced right here in Australia has made such a reputation to be well known overseas, Yeah I know it happens quite a lot though this is a kids/teenage show that would've been usually broadcasted around 5 pm after school. For one, the quality of this series really does show, all the characters in the show have tremendous depth and dimension that make them so incredibly unique. I can't say for certain they're like people I would've known when I was in high school, mainly cause this is set in a Dance school where the student's work an talent is put on display throughout the entire series up close and personal, they push their limits and encounter many trials and tribulations along the way, and it isn't just in the drama. The show does a great job balancing such great dance choreography and superb drama to flesh out the lives of these teenagers.
The show isn't overly glamorous nor does it resort to the obvious 'teen' or 'coming of age' clichés a lot of the time (struggles with that within the first season). While there're plenty of trashy TV shows that can't take teenagers or young people seriously, Dance Academy is a show that does actually take teenagers seriously touching upon notions such as finding out more about themselves, defining their identity and what they're thinking of seriously doing when they're older. There were also plenty of times this show wasn't afraid to take risks when concerning the plotting and overall story of each character arc within each season. At times there were characters I didn't like or were mostly annoyed by though I eventually grew to like them as the series progressed. My personal favorite is Christian Reed, his backstory touched me the most and I grew to like his development until the very end. Least favorite was Grace, she was annoying, manipulative and such a show off acting like she was already a professional, great dancer though was a poor human being. I also commend each and every one of the performers on the show for their work on this show as they've made it work.
The main theme song 'My Chance', perfectly illustrates the metaphorical meaning for this show. It shows the young courageous minds of teenagers willing to show their potential to the rest of the world to see what they're made of. Lastly, you're only ever young once in your life, you may as well enjoy it while you can cause 'everyone' grows up so incredibly fast.
Be sure to catch this on Stan, Netflix or whatever other streaming service this show is available on. The cinematic 'film' continuation is coming this year and it's bound to be a big surprise given this show's reputation.
The People vs. George Lucas (2010)
An Amateur Display of Pretentious Commentary and Online Skits
Oh... God!!! Where do I even begin?
As much as it will fascinate me until the day I die how a film from 1977 called 'Star Wars' came out-of-nowhere but the mind of a man named George Lucas, literally became the biggest thing in the world. It also fascinates me how much my curiosity gets the better of me sometimes, if not most times.
Now I love Star Wars just as much as the next person. However, unlike more than two thirds of the interviewees in this (albeit outdated) documentary I don't feel the need to put George Lucas on a pedestal as if he is the one thing everyone should worship. No! that's absurd, George Lucas is an ordinary human being who did what he did out of passion and his love for telling stories the way he wanted to, not to mention he has never put himself on a high standard and considered himself to be a "Great" filmmaker. The fact of the matter is that these interviewees are part of a generation who experienced what they experienced, are literally 'outspoken'. Although from my 'objective' observation they don't represent most of the fan base, I also hate the fact when someone admits they 'like' something that someone else prominent in this documentary 'doesn't like' they'll say; "You're Wrong". Thus, this so-called-documentary comes off as a biased attack at things associated with Star Wars we've all heard and seen especially here on the internet.
It was only with a small percentage of the 'actual qualified' intellectuals being interviewed, I personally found had more justified and valid statements, in so relieved there were 'some' people speaking sense. Sad to say those points of rationality are far and few in between as this film deeply failed at trying to balance out the structure of what's good? what's bad? what even justifiable? (I'll Tell You... Nothing!!! it's only their opinions taken to a level of "I'm right about all of this, You're Wrong!"). Most of the interviewees were incessantly pretentious and literally took everything seriously, not to mention coming off as 'Whiny Ass Big Babies' who really got on my nerve. I was also annoyed I had to see it was intercut with amateur online skits made as casual parodies. Now, these skits reflected more of their over exaggerated arguments not even 'I' could take seriously. Sure they may be fun to watch on their own, but I'm not even impressed with what this film is trying to say to even justify anything when there's no scholarly debates even-handedly handled to provide any insight into these arguments.
Worst of all I couldn't stand the film not trying to imply any prejudicial claims against George Lucas. Sadly, at the 40-minute mark I found myself getting angrier and angrier at the shallow vitriol being tossed into my face without any justification. Sure, I have my criticisms for George Lucas especially when it came to his creative decisions and at times he for any lack of better words 'overstepped the line'. Though really, I was cringing at these antagonisms and had to pause the film to gather my strengths to watch the rest of it. I personally think this behaviour and these beliefs are outdated, exhausted, boring and out-of-touch with reality. I also find it to be an inexcusable and inhumane misinterpretation on Lucas' part who I believe deserves a lot more respect than the most vocal minority of Star Wars fans who continue to make ridiculous claims like "raped my childhood" which I scoff at every time I hear. Even if one person had to admit to me they were being too harsh on Lucas, I would slap them in the face upon congratulating them for finally being honest and more importantly that George Lucas never directly antagonized his fan base or 'you' for that matter. I personally have never had a reason to hate George Lucas and on top of that I certainly don't see any need to have one. I also heavily despise anyone who still does hate him and literally cannot stand the constant antagonism he's endured over the years from these 'whiny-out-of-touch-so-called-long-time-fans' coming off as nothing more than Heartless Scumbags!!! and on top it off, 'they' don't even know the man personally. George Lucas has done what he could and he's inspired generations upon generations of people with his creations. In all honesty 'We' owe him 'Everything', 'He' owes us 'Nothing!'
All in all this film is terribly "Outdated", by now George Lucas has already retired, never having bluffed from those claims and with his production company now in new hands a new era of Star Wars is already here. With Episode VII having been released and some more films to come, there's never a more exciting time to be a Star Wars fan. The biggest thing I learned from this film is; like every internet forum in existence, if you don't like something, then don't go dumping your own vitriol on someone that does, we're all adults here are we? There are bigger generations that have grown up with either the prequel trilogy, Clone Wars TV series and now the Disney era of distribution. Seriously! Don't Be a Dick! to one another, this film is most definitely Not! worth anyone's time and patience especially if you're like me and you love the whole package of 'Star Wars.' I'd rather have something on why there are generations that 'like what they like', not focused on an absurdly loud vocal minority full of narcissistic views and opinions that think they're the centre of the world more than the person they're talking about. Overall, this film reflects itself; an outdated amateur display of pretentious commentary and online skits, devoid of credibility, insight or actual debate. If there're people who identify with those being focused on or interviewed in this film they might get some enjoyment out of it more than me. However, it makes fan culture look bad and hardly celebrates it enough to even recommend. Just Skip It!
The Legend of Ben Hall (2017)
The Finest 'Bush Western' in Years and the Definitive Ben Hall Film
In 2014 the prospects of a film based on the life and historical accounts of Australian Bushranger, Ben Hall only existed on a Kickstarter Fundraising campaign from writer/director Matthew Holmes. Little did I think what was originally pitched to be a 40- minute short would eventually expand to a full-fledged feature length Australian Epic.
My first viewing of the film at its premiere in Forbes, NSW was nothing short of 'surreal'. Never did I think I'd see a film that had so many years of development, be incredibly authentic, insightful and entertaining for an Australian Bushranger themed film. It was such a superb effort that paid off big time! even two years after I contributed to the film's crowed funding campaign, I'd finally see a film I think has the great potential to be a modern Australian Classic.
Firstly, Ben Hall is one of the most prolific Bushrangers to roam NSW, even in the overall history of Bushranging his name is overshadowed by Ned Kelly's reputation. Yet, no one can deny Hall's exploits and rich history that make him a legend of colonial Australia that's still celebrated today, though not as internationally well recognized as Ned Kelly. About a decade ago, I first heard of Ben Hall in a historical textbook back when I was in year 9 just learning about the bigger picture of Colonial History, unlike most of my classmates at the time I loved it and have since maintained a healthy passion for it.
The film's plot is centered on the last 9 months of Ben Hall's life, Ben (Jack Martin) has been living it quietly for a while, though the authorities are still after him and his reputation of being an outlaw still proceeds him. Eventually upon the return of his mate Johnny Gilbert (Jamie Coffa) and following them; John Dunn (William Lee), they decide to ride for one last time to gather enough money to leave Australia and head to California. The film follows their exploits and daring deeds to accomplish such a task, though they're thwart with hardships and moral conflicts especially when it comes to the life of Bushrangers.
The history behind these events are for one fascinating, the film maintains this fascination by giving each of the characters on screen enough depth and dimension to be invested in as well as understanding their conflicts when it came to endangering their family and friends who lived more comfortable lives than being outlaws on the run. Seeing these characters and events play out on screen that I only merely read about in various history books was both insightful and thrilling. The entire cast are excellent I commend all them for their roles, as do I for the production team behind the costumes, make up, sets, props and cinematography that really make the period stand out, I can't remember the last time I saw an incredibly authentic looking film set in Colonial Australia. Ronnie Minder's score also captures the awe-inspiring beauty of the Australian Bush and the thrill of the action when it plays out on screen.
When it comes to 'Bush Westerns' or what I like to call 'films centered on Bushranging made here in Australia', are something of a rare breed nowadays. They were very active from the early days of Australian Cinema from 1906 to 1920, even active in the 70s and 80s particularly on Australian Television. This film particularly shies away from being in any sense fictitious as Holmes has maintained a great sense of being both historically accurate to the period and events on screen as well as just being an entertaining film for that matter, shedding light on history that people may not be all too familiar with, making this the 'Definitive Ben Hall Film'. The action is also some the best I've seen from a Bush Western in years, really capturing the thrill and excitement of what adventure in Colonial Australia would be.
I absolutely love this film, it may as well be the finest Bush Western I've seen to date. People may talk about other Bush Westerns whether it'd be 'Ned Kelly', 'The Proposition', 'Robbery Under Arms', 'Mad Dog Morgan' or 'The Outlaw Michael Howe', 'The Legend of Ben Hall' however is my top pick for the genre. Even upon hearing the prospects of a trilogy where two other films centered on Frank Gardiner and John Vane who were connected to Ben Hall are to be made, make me evermore excited to see that Bush Westerns are coming back.
I highly recommend this gem of a film as it's an Australian story that needed to be told and is executed on screen with such rigorous passion and with such incredible talent. It's a film that's entertaining as it is insightful, based a true story etched into Australia's history and should really be seen to be believed.
The Shannara Chronicles (2016)
An Entertaining Fantasy but it's not 'The Elfstones of Shannara'
Terry Brooks' "Shannara" book series is what really got me into reading some of the best-selling and popular fantasy series today. I heard as far back as 2008 they would be adapted by Warner Brothers, it wasn't until 2012 the passed to MTV of all networks to produce a TV series based on the second book in the original Shannara trilogy; 'The Elfstones of Shannara'. Not a bad choice to start, since the continuity between each entry in the original trilogy is very loose. The books themselves have held up really well, being able appeal to any sort of demographics whether it'd be young or old.
The show's overall look and cinematography is for one 'astounding', the production design is also fantastic, very much a distinctive unique type of fantasy architecture as do the costumes and make up. The special effects also really bring out some big location set pieces as is bringing some of the fantastical demonic creatures and the 'use of magic' to life.
Acting wise, there are three 'Middle Earth' performers that stand out. Jed Brophy as the villainous Dagda Mor, John-Rhys Davies as King Eventine, while remembered as everyone's favorite dwarf in 'Lord of the Rings', here he plays a wise old Elven king. Lastly there's Manu Bennett as Allanon, at first I couldn't buy him as being Allanon from the books, though when I saw Bennett's performance he became my favorite. These three performers primarily show the most diversity, keeping to their own, owning their dialogue, not trying to sound like anyone else.
I found it unusual that 'almost' every other cast member speaks with a strange (Yankee) American accent, when these actors are all from international regions. I didn't mind Wil Ohmsford spoke and characters like the Rovers; Nomadic thieves and countrymen, represented by Eretria (pronounced Eh-reh-Tree-Ah, NOT Eh-reh-Tray- ah as the show does, Yes! I am a purist and think the latter pronunciation has no elegance) and her adoptive father/chief; Cephelo. I found Poppy Drayton's performance as Amberle fine, though she stumbles on mixing her own British accent with an American accent. I would have preferred if some of these international cast members brought some diversity to the way they used their dialogue, sadly it only happens with some minor roles. The supporting cast members are to an extent impressive playing their characters. Although there were some characters I wanted to know more about who were either killed off too soon, didn't care for even if completely removed or suffered due to the show's writing.
I also wasn't surprised by the many liberties the writers of the show made, whether it was a minor change to a location, character, creature or circumstances of the character. When I feel, this show took something from its source material way too far it surprised me with something unexpected and quite entertaining.
While this series is set some millennia where our civilization is long dead and buried, any sort of relics or ruins that were left behind should be mere fossils. I think it should have just been summed up with what Eretria says to Wil; wondering what the old world would have been like, 'Look, they're dead, we're not. End of story'. But when episode 8 came, we were introduced to a village that just so happen to conveniently find very well preserved pieces of technology, it seemed to break the entire tone the show had. It was out of place, even if this is set some millennia to centuries after the collapse of our civilization, how can any of these old relics still work and function perfectly? I hated how it seemed MTV was overstepping the line including a teen friendly wild party out of nowhere.
Then there's the very glamorous MTV love triangle, Wil Ohmsford is too much of a lucky character in the show. While, it's cute to see the romance, MTV's sexual undertones, targeting this show to young audiences felt like they were taking away the book's compelling nature of the relationships as to who would end up with whom. Then there's the terribly disappointing finale, Its focus set way too much on the romance than the epic battle, a real 'big kick in the guts' as a fan of the book(s). The rest of the episode is a teaser for what's to come, in which case MTV had high hopes it would succeed.
Overall, I feel this show is a very mixed bag, it's got a great spectacle, it's exciting, yet as an adaptation its underwhelming even to stand on its own. However, I still wonder how after two whole months after it finished airing, MTV decided to renew it for a second season, in which they won't be adapting the books as they were but, they'll focus on the current characters and use some more borrowed elements from other books to further develop the series. That, I'm open to even if I revisit the show, on the eve of a second season premiering and look at it more as a TV series and not 'just' an adaptation of 'The Elfstones of Shannara'. The writers had better improve the series to make it stand on its own, not just focus on hoping it'll last, long term, attempting to adapt various other story and plot elements from the books for the show. 'Mediocre' and 'Quite Impressive' are the only other words I can use to describe its overall quality. Though this adaptation is not 'Elfstones of Shannara'.
I recommend it to those not familiar to the books, watch it for yourselves and then read the book to see what's different. I also don't believe Terry Brooks is a sell-out, since he's an executive producer, he stated he didn't have complete control over 'all' the changes made. Right now, I keep my fingers crossed hoping MTV will improve the series.
A Once in a Lifetime Friendship
It never once occurred to me that this film was based on a Manga. I happen to pick it out of many choices to see during Melbourne's 'Japanese Film Festival', certainly the type of film that wasn't over glamorized or overtly serious. The plot is centered on the lives of two high school boys who often hang out on a riverbank step after school. Seto is brash, charismatic, self-centered and quite daring though his sensitivities are visible as he has issues with his family and his cat. Utsumi is mature, hardworking and all-too- polite student who doesn't have much of anything to do before attending cram school, thus what actually brings them together. Their unlikely friendship is both endearing and hilarious as their conversations cover the many relatable topics of 17-year old's nearing their last years of High school and coming-of-age stages in life they'll have to take seriously. It's presented in a series of segments or chapters that acts as their own short films put together in a feature chronicling the boy's circumstances as well as the many other people they may encounter dealing with their ups and downs in life. All this revolving around the notion that their friendship is a 'Once in a Lifetime Friendship', knowing further on in life they'll be going on their separate ways.
American filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater have explored the urban lifestyle of everyday lives. Celebrating the mundane existences of ordinary lives have become their signatory subject matter. 'Setoutsumi' is in a similar style and tradition as Jarmusch and Linklater, especially when you have two characters confined to one location, their conversations build upon their backstories, personalities, characteristics and overall development in the story. Despite the plot being very minimal, I really enjoyed the film, much of the drama surrounding the boys played a very minimal part in the development of their characters though when other character came into play, they were vital in seeing how these boys were able to connect and understand others especially in being part of the world around them. Most of the time their conversations and actions were both heartfelt and hilarious especially when it came to either one of them observing each other's behavior in response to their separate lives and concerns even beyond the point where they are now.
The film doesn't aim to be anymore larger than what it is, a small scale quirky, deadpan humorous take on the lives of ordinary high school boys personally questioning their place in the world as well as their obnoxious circumstantial nature. The film's ability to take an everyday occurrence and giving it a humorous twist especially in it's unique Japanese style and cultural context is it's biggest strength. Kudos as well to the two performers Masaki Suda and Sosuke Ikematsu who play the title characters, their performances are incredibly robust and natural its hard for me to think they're actually acting. Other stand outs include Ayami Nakajo, who plays Ichigo Kashimura; a school girl locked into a strange love triangle with the boys, though this subplot is play very minimally, the character and performer herself was a stand out even as a minor the last segment purely focuses on. Other minors are also memorable and give just as much intellectual though to the narrative as our two leads.
Overall, It's a fine film that celebrates the relatable, mundane existence of two high school students experiencing their unlikely once in a lifetime friendship. The humorous twist on the film's essential subject matter is both hugely entertaining as it's insightful. Japanese high school dramas can be either hugely glamorized or overtly serious, this one just happens to put a bit of a satire on the real world scenario at play here. Adult viewers might even see themselves in this story as almost a means to relive their past memories of years long gone. I recommend it as essential piece of Japanese Cinema that has hugely impressed this year, the film you could relax to and be comfortably entertained by.
The Blockbuster Buster (2010)
The Ultimate Fanboy, 'Voicing the Rage of Fanboys Everywhere, One Movie at a time'
Unlike most internet personalities Eric Rodriguez (shortened to 'Erod'), The Blockbuster Buster is a passionate fanboy who knows his knowledge of various Pop-culture properties, and like most internet reviewers tends to keep an open mind when watching a certain movie. He is called 'The Blockbuster Buster' for he specializes in reviewing movies that were designed to be 'blockbusters', movies intended to make a lot of money within the Hollywood studio system, mostly adaptations, occasional remakes, reboots, etc. Thus his tag-line 'Voicing the Rage of Fanboys Everywhere, One Movie at a time' pretty much fits the picture as to what he does.
Looking back at most of his earlier videos from 2010 it's pretty clear to me he gained a lot more confidence as both a writer and a reviewer as the show progressed over time (first appearing on YouTube then Blip TV and now Daily Motion). His reviewing style as the character; 'The Blockbuster Buster' is both arrogant and hilarious at times which makes up for one very entertaining low budget reviewing show. Although I'm more impressed by his insight and knowledge on various pop-cultural bits and pieces, even when he'll talk about a film that he thinks is not worth 'busting' he'll do a 'Top 10' or a 'Pros and Cons' treatment just to weigh some of the good and bad elements against each other. I've probably gained more insight on his own research and knowledge than I would by just watching the films he reviews (which even include films I wouldn't care to watch personally, unless I decide to before seeing him tear it apart). Another impressive segment he does each year in between seasons of 'The Blockbuster Buster' from December to February, is his 'Honest Reviews' insightful, honest and very well scripted videos of various films, TV shows and cartoons.
It doesn't necessarily matter where viewers should start with The Blockbuster Buster, as I think he talks a lot more confidently and insightful now than when he first started back in 2010. The reviews are low budget and have the production to that of guerrilla film making, but I guess internet users are so into that nowadays it's hard to even argue since so many other personalities like The Nostalgia Critic do the same thing. I might also add I kind of get annoyed when Erod tries to incorporate a sense of story-line into his review series. It doesn't necessarily add anything special to the videos or anything to get excited about. Just having a quick skit or set of supporting characters played by other actors or Rodriguez himself seems like enough of an entertainment value to me especially on this internet platform.
Lastly I don't always agree with everything Erod may say about certain things, but I really like the guy's reviewing style mixing arrogant comedic charms, clever special effects gags, skits and insightful pop-cultural knowledge he brings to his reviews. He really is the 'Ultimate Fanboy', so if there's any sort of Blockbuster; Hollywood has produced you weren't necessarily satisfied with, trust Erod The Blockbuster Buster and his trusty hammer; Lucille to fix up the problem when he reviews the movie(s) himself.
A New Beginning to a New Arc 'A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away...'
Let me get one thing straight as I am writing this review for all online users to read. I don't "like" Star Wars, I... fricken... "Love!" Star Wars. Star Wars has played a huge part in my upbringing, being born in 1990 I was exposed to the original films on VHS at a very young age and since then couldn't look back as I simply jumped a almost everything Star Wars. Also to some of you reading this may think, yes I was very young at the time and was easily fallen victim to enjoying what came next, 'The Special Editions' and the 'Prequels'. Now, I might not hold the most popular opinion to say the least 'I couldn't necessarily care less about the various changes George Lucas made to his films', even if that was the most complete version(s) of the films he made. Even with the Prequel Trilogy I definitely enjoyed them when I was growing up in the noughties. Looking back on them now (as an adult) I fully acknowledge they're certainly not the best films ever made, neither are they the worst (and can certainly understand why a certain generation was disappointed by them). So really..This franchise has always been my greatest source of sci- fi/fantasy escapism, I've lost count how many times I've seen all films. There was even a time between then and now I was obsessed with a load of the expanded universe material such as various novels, comics and video games, etc I may have collected.
Even whilst addressing the controversial issue about divided fan base on what people like and don't like, I particularly find the constant negative attitudes incredibly unattractive and boring, especially in this day and age. If I can like the whole package, I hope others can respect that and in turn I'll respect them. I'm also very subjective on which films in the series I personally like; for me my favourite is a hard choice between, 'Return of the Jedi', 'The Phantom Menace' and 'Revenge of the Sith'. While I also acknowledge the cinematic heights both 'A New Hope' and 'The Empire Strikes Back' have achieved, I also find them incredibly and vastly overrated. I'm not even sure if I'm doing a favour for liking some of the most underrated films of the series. Then again that's just me.
Now onto the actual film, "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens", is both officially the seventh theatrically and chronologically released Star Wars film to date. Even as a continuation from where "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" has been left off from the original trilogy, anticipation has been high, but that begs the question: "Does it pay off?". For one I say "Yes!" for the most part regardless of whether or not you have seen or are familiar with any of the previously released Star Wars films, there's no doubting the fact that viewers of all demographics will in fact "Love" this film.
J.J. Abrams has indeed revived a classic franchise in incredibly well executed and ground breaking genre re-defining innovation, tactics and technicalities that have truly stuck to it's roots and traditions. Abrams sleek direction helps the film move at an incredibly fast pace, packed full with action, mystery, humour adventure and suspense, Abrams' work keeps acknowledging 'why I love movies' in general. Add to that you've got such a dedicated and talented cast from old and new eras of the franchise very much trying to bring in the new conjunction and focus for what's in store for the franchise for now, and in the very near future.
Now Personally while I wouldn't necessarily call this film a "masterpiece", overall "The Force Awakens" is a new beginning, this is Star Wars revived for new and old fans to embrace and with so much rich detail to the events placed in front of us for the entire run-time whether it be involving characters, world, conflicts, plot, etc there's so much more ahead of us for the franchise to come. It's like saying the film has a bit of an odd mix between nostalgia and new innovation, added towards the franchise. Even as a lifelong Star Wars fan all I can say is "I cannot wait!!!" for what's to come and would most certainly say this film must be experienced on the big screen.
Ned Kelly (2003)
The Most Entertaining Ned Kelly Film
Ned Kelly to Australia is, what Robin Hood or King Arthur is to Britain, what Jesse James is to America, and what Musashi Miyamoto is to Japan. A cultural historical icon that has defined this country to a great extent they're characters/figures that really transcended their original 'story' or 'myth' for any lack of a better word.
Now out of all the film's that have been inspired by the 'legend' that Ned Kelly has become, having been the inspiration for a massive amount of Australian books, folk songs, plays, films, etc. It comes to no surprise or mistake to me that this particular 2003 interpretation of Australia's most famous Bushranger (or "Wild Colonial Boy", an Outlaw of Colonial Australia) is the most entertaining screen version of the Bushranger's life and exploits that have made him such an icon to Australia alone, it is hard to ignore how much of a greater interest this 'figure' has had to many artists, storytellers and historians alike throughout the ages and generations alike.
Why is it Entertaining? If not for any lack, historically respectable. Well, while it's indisputable to dismiss Ned Kelly as 'fascinating', it's also not indisputable for this figure whose exploits have been popularized in history, fiction and films to be controversial. Thus, I acknowledge the diversity of what people purely think about Ned Kelly or for that matter, or all Bushrangers in that matter. To some people Ned Kelly was a murderous outlaw, to others he was a folk hero who fought for his own cause against the law, even fighting for those whose tyranny he felt connected to and in some way became their beacon of hope. I also find it controversial; Was it really his intention to challenge to law to the point he was revolutionary for Victoria? I really don't know, but would let others be the judge of that and do their own research if they're that curious.
Back to the film, I humbly admire every bit of the effort everyone involved put into this film; to bring the story of Ned Kelly to the big screen. I must say the cinematography, production design, costumes and make up are every bit as exceptional as what any other previous Colonial Australia films have portrayed in the past. It really does look like you're stepping back in time. Heath Ledger for one is one of the finest actors to have ever played the role of Ned Kelly, he was also closest to the actual age Ned Kelly was at the time (more so than Mick Jagger). Add to that you've got several more internationally known actors such as Naomi Watts, Geoffrey Rush and Orlando Bloom in very significant memorable roles, not to mention there are some minor roles from now very well known Australian actors such as Joel Edgerton and Emily Browning. Klaus Bedelt's score even gives the film a great sense of poetic Colonial life and gives us just as much of a primary storytelling essence as the actual film itself.
'Our Sunshine' the book in which this film's screenplay is based on is an incredibly poetic and immersive look at the mindset of Ned and what went on in his albeit 'short' life, adopting more of a linear story to the play of drama and the conflicts Ned faced within his own time. Even with enough great fascination to the character, the film does not portray him as a glorious villain or valiant hero, but really with such a script along with Ledger's performance, this gives us an insight as to what Ned did and why he did what he did. One of the most significant (or best) scenes in the film is when he's writing his famous Jerilderie letter, expressing his own conflict and concerns to the Victorian Government. But as you may guess his exploits never stopped him from being a criminal nor did he give into his motivation to challenge the law up to a point he was considered a folk hero. Ned Kelly was no different to the many Aussie Battlers fighting and then dying for cause he believed in and not even coming close to achieving what he believed was just. His exploits and motivation however have never stopped him from becoming the icon he became as many writers, historians and film makers were willing to tell this legend's story the way it should be told.
I might also mention this film is by no means one hundred per cent historically accurate, if you want that the 1980 mini-series 'The Last Outlaw' is very much worth checking out. However the craftsmanship and character study essence is what really makes this film 'The Most Entertaining Ned Kelly Film', and it's easy enough to come to this film with very little to 'no' knowledge about who Ned Kelly is. But in defining everything about the man or legend Ned Kelly has since become (and will remain), then look no further than to seek out this very underrated and magnificently made film purely for your own historical or entertainment fascination.
The Outlaw Michael Howe (2013)
The Defining Portrait of the 'Governor of the Ranges'
What's there to say about Michael Howe? He was a Bushranger, an Outlaw if Colonial Australia, in Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) actually. Back in the late 1700s and early 1800s it was brutal colony where the most notorious of convicts were sent and served out their time, however the landscape was dominated by vast forests making it almost impossible to navigate easily. Howe was one of the many Bushranges in this region and era who fledged his own civil war against the colonial authorities along with a large gang of Bushrangers or Bolters (escaped convicts). Like many other Bushrangers across Australia, Howe fought for his own right for freedom in a land where every man's opportunity was one he could make and due to his unruly exploits challenged the then unapologetic and unrealized Law of Van Dieman's Land.
This TV-movie directed well known Australian writer/actor and director; Brendan Cowell is beautifully photographed, well acted, visually astonishing and incredibly authentic in it's appearance. While Michael Howe was a big Bushranger name in Tasmania it certainly fills in the gaps to which Bushrangers in Australia's history haven't been brought to film. It's fascinating in it's subject matter, where an isolated colony at the bottom of the world is at war with a man who became clever devious and almost legendary in his exploits against British rule. Settlers are desperate to either catch him themselves or be toppled by this outlaw who the press named the 'Governor of the Ranges'.
What viewers understand about Howe's character is there's a big complexity to why he did what he did. He was at odds with his friends and enemies, including his wife 'Black' Mary an Aboriginal woman who believed in him and who he supposedly had a child with (not too sure if that's historically accurate).
It's certainly one of the best looking, and well performed colonial drama I have seen on the Australian screen in a long time. I can't think of anything else to compare it too, since it's one of the very few films to be made on Michael Howe and a definitive version at that. If you love films or TV shows about Bushranging, this is one of the very best and unique of the genre, and is highly recommended as an essential piece of Colonial Australia as seen on screen.
Good Historical Drama, although devoid of controversial subjectivity
I have to be lucky I was exposed to Australian history at quite a young age even for it to be taught in a fascinating manner. I have since maintained a healthy passion for Australia's Colonial History in particular, mainly between the first fleet of 1788 and pre-1901 federation anything before then was Indigenous culture and outsiders Exploration.
'Banished' is particularly inspired by historical events after the landing of the first fleet, and really examines the life and times of the convicts and naval authority of the Penal Colony that would become known as Sydney.
I can honestly say the overall quality of the series was really impressive. There's enough compelling drama and insight into the lives of the convicts and settlers, mostly fighting for survival and civil rights and disobedience challenging the authority. I also loved the genuine sense of historical authenticity reflected in the series' production design, costumes and aesthetics along with some fantastic performances from a talented ensemble cast I admire.
Although the series merely mentions the presence of 'Natives'. It absolutely doesn't show it, which is questionable due to the local Aboriginal tribes feeling the political upheaval of the British Colonists settling on their land. Aborigines now more refer to the First Fleet's colonization as an 'invasion'. I do have enough respect for screenwriter Jimmy McGovern who created this show, along with many other respectable screen writing credits. Even after developing 'Redfern Now' which focused on the lives of Aborigines in Modern Australia he would've had some sense to delve deeper into pressure of the colonist's conflicts with the Aborigines faced at the time.
However, I did really enjoy the series for what it is. If you enjoyed this I recommend 'The Timeless Land', 'The Term of His Natural Life' (1983), 'Against the Wind', 'The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant' and the more recently critically acclaimed miniseries 'The Secret River'.
La Danza de la Realidad (2013)
Unlike Anything I've Ever Seen
I could pretty much say that for every other film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. Lucky enough I was able to familiarize myself with his previous films; 'El Topo' and 'The Holy Mountain' a month ago, before hearing his latest 'The Dance of Reality' will play at the Melbourne Internation Film Festival; direct from its Cannes premiere.
I can't really recommend this to you if you aren't very familiar with Jodorowsky's other films. He always if not Often plays on Allegories; El Topo appears as an allegorical Western playing on a very mystic and strange backdrop full of religious ideals and encounters, while also exploring how much of this comes from human deeds on a spiritual journey to enlightenment. I'd gladly revisit that film again and consider it his "Masterpiece". 'The Holy Mountain' on the other hand has just as much of a cult following as 'El Topo' does, Instead That film focuses on spiritual conflict and pilgrimage to attain a spiritual level greater than man above the solar system's landscape. Both films have even been noted to be part of the ever wondrous hippie generation. Jodorowsky truly is an icon for what he achieved expressing within his films; very Avent-Garde spiritual understanding within our mind's visions giving greater tones to such surrealist imagery of psychedelia. Sure enough his films aren't for everyone and must be approached with a curious and Adult mind to fully understand.
'The Dance of Reality' marks Jodorowsky's first film in almost 23 years. Its an autobiographical film based upon the Jodorowsky's memoir of he name. The Film focuses on his upbringing in Chile, Young Alejandro (Jeremías Herskovits) is a curious boy trying to understand the values of life and childhood. His Father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky) is very strict, arrogant and abusive due to his obsession with communism and Stalin, he teaches the young Alejandro the meaning of manhood growing up and the lessons in life. His Mother; Sara (Pamela Flores, all her dialogue is sung) is more gracious and loving towards both Alejandro and Jaime.
The plot seems to focus on both father and son character development. Alajandro is growing up to becoming a fine young lad with good moral values taught by both his parents. Jaime on the Other hand thinks he can do anything within his power and might but eventually ends losing is all not learning his lesson from such reckless deeds, eventually trying get out the hard way. The 84 year old 'Jodorowsky' himself, serves as the film's narrator or spiritual guidance to his younger self.
In some way 'Dance of Reality' explores Jodorowsky's allegory of life and childhood as well as his old man's mistakes. You could say most of these themes have already been explored when looking back at 'El Topo', Although that film was more a metaphor for Jodorowsky's upbringing.
'Dance of Reality' directly takes Jodorowsky's native Chile setting and brings it up close examining his childhood and early spiritual understanding as well as what type of person his father was.
This film mainly has many of the similar motifs and symbolism found within Jodorowsky's other films (e.g. limbless or missing limbed humans and visible genitalia, Why? Cause he can!). Psychedelia and surreal imagery play a significant parts within the films substance. The narrative is easy to understand from a direct perspective rather than an exercise on the weird and wonderful. The film for one is fascinating, very engaging and self centered. The character development of Alajandro and Jaime is so drawn in; its hard to distinguish the line of fantasy and reality. Supporting and minor characters also play memorable roles in this film. I guess it was worth the wait for Jodorowsky's first release in years.
I can see this film being praised and divided by critics and audiences alike. Jodorowsky shows things within his films that even the most repentant or squeamish mind may find uncomfortable to watch. If given the right audience were to view this film they won't be disappointed. This film is Unlike anything I've ever seen; it has left me Awe Struck, amazed disturbed at the same time. One Thing for certain is Alejandro Jodorowsky is like no other film maker thats ever lived
In a Hole in the Ground There lived a Hobbit
It was all those many years ago when Peter Jackson's Epic "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy hit big in the early Noughties. Although originally conceived to be unfilmable, by that time the world was immersed in Tolkien's Middle Earth Made possible on screen by Jackson and his incredible team. By the end of it it was a triumph and remembered as pure classic. I saw all three films on the big screen back then in all three years they were released. After then I remember an old friend saying to me a year later ; "You know whats bad about this year?" "No Lord of the Rings movie".
Then there was talk about 'The Hobbit' getting the big screen adaptation. The process was long but it managed to get itself back on its feet. I would partly agree that one film based on one book would have been enough, but Jackson and his team had the idea to expand the universe of Middle Earth for 'The Hobbit', so Two films were commissioned. But now we have another Middle Earth Trilogy to look forward to in the shape of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit'.
An Unexpected Journey is the first part of this story. It begins with Sir Ian Holm as the older Bilbo Baggins as what appears to be telling young Frodo (Elijah Wood) his story and what he knows.
We get an flashback to how the Dwarfs became mighty in their kingdom under the mountain known as Erebor. King Thrain rules humbly but has an obsession of treasure, The Dwarfs were then thrown from Erebor after being attacked by the retched dragon Smaug, The Elves depart the Dwarfs help, so they're left to scatter throughout the land.
The opening drama in Bag End basically takes place before the events of 'The Fellowship of the Ring'. Then starts the real story with the younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) 60 years earlier, He's a Hobbit who lives a comfortable life in the Shire until Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellen, who never seems to age) invites Bilbo on an adventure. Bilbo declines until the 13 Dwarfs arrive for dinner, Gandalf reveals he wants Bilbo to be a Burglar to steal into The Lonely Mountain's treasure chamber. Bilbo is still unsure until he finally packs up and goes on this adventure in the company of the Dwarfs to The Lonely Mountain.
I won't need to summarize the plot if you've read the book. I'm almost grateful that Jackson is expanding the story and universe for his film(s) to make it unique from what other Tolkien adaptation were like.
Much of the same production team that was used of LOTR return for the Hobbit. The Grand Scale look and production design and special effects are top notch and could be bettered. New Zealand's landscape once again makes it possible for Middle Earth to become live again. We can once again lose ourselves in this incredible and vast world.
The tone of the film clearly matches the feel of the book. The Hobbit is a more light hearted and more a fairy tale compared to the dark, scary and mature themes presented in 'Lord of the Rings'. I could also say the the film does have a lot of humour for it light hearted tones.
The many other plot points and characters in the expanding of the story play a great part in the film. It would have also been hard for previous film makers adapting the Hobbit to give clear definitions for each of the Dwarfs. Jackson has done that perfectly making sure that we care a lot for the company on their journey. Thorin is the Dwarf with the most depth being a Dwarven prince who wants his birth right as heir to Erebor and meeting his old enemy, Azog; who was thought to be dead. Radagast the Brown is also a new subploted character who discovers a dark power in Dol Guldur. Other reprising roles include Gollum (in his iconic scene), The Elves Elrond and Galadriel, and lastly the wizard Saruman the White, play their small parts in the story.
The Casting is flawless, Jackson made sure every actor played their role to fit into the story and universe. Martin Freeman is fantastic as Bilbo; brings the right amount of humour and unlikely hero sense. Richard Armatage is a Revelation as Thorin as I saw this character play I could almost see what his future death would be like. Former Doctor Who; Sylvester McCoy is also fantastic as Radagast the Brown being the nature caring wizard with a big heart and powerful magic. Barry Humphies plays The Goblin King, big bulky very ruthless. Benedict Cumberbatch (Freeman's Sherlock co-star) plays two roles in the film(s); one as the voice and motion capture of Smaug the dragon (we didn't see much) and the necromancer an evil creature awakening from the dead.
I couldn't agree more that the 3D effects and HFR really give viewers an immersive experience almost as if they're in the film. Its a proved effect that really works within the spectacle and scale of the film's competency. Viewers may see the film in the usual 24fps format, but I tell you now. Your mind won't be blown seeing it in HFR and 3D that's the real way to go with this.
Overall The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fantastic film, well welcome return to Middle Earth, thrilling, charming, with dazzling effect, and even more excitement to look froward to in further installments. It may be too much or too slow for some viewers but, clearly in my eyes the film is excellent with so much effort thanks to one great director, and such an entertaining adventure flick.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
"America's Not a country is a Business"
Bad economic times call for desperate measures in Andrew Dominik's third film. The Australian director best known for "Chopper" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"; has crafted a serious crime film with a serious message adapted from George V. Higgins pulp novel "Cogan's Trade".
The story starts with a robbery of a mob protected poker game by two thugs, its now up to hired enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) to investigate into the incident and restore order to the gangland while hope is lost with empty election promises broadcasted across America.
This is a very masculine film strongly played out by the cast, also includes Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy and Sam Shepard (although there are only two or three minor female cast members).
Dominik stays true to Higgins' snappy dialogue in his script, what also works is the film's cinematic expression, poetically shot and character study. Its surprisingly entertaining when looking at the substantial elements played out in the film a country gone mad not improving even though trying to make it out on top is simply not easy, even when presidential elections show no new solutions to improve unbalanced lifestyles. This film may not be everyones cup of tea but I highly recommend it, Andrew Dominik is incredible to bring this picture to life. We'll see what the actual Americans think now their election is over.
Fire and Brimstone Streak at this Slightly Different Take on the Gangster Genre
I've anticipated this film since its competition at Cannes. I heavily enjoyed Australian director John Hillcoat and screenwriter/musician Nick Cave's previous collaboration; "The Proposition". Its Adapted from Matt Bondurant's novel "The Wettest County in the World", based on his great great grand parents records taking us back to 1930s Prohibition America.
The Story follows the life and exploits of the thee bootlegging Bondurant Brothers, Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia laBeouf). Distributing moonshiners across each regions of the county and dealing with trouble when needed; although they don't take to this too lightly. Their activities have made them somewhat immortal according to the towns folk, Although when Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce) arrives in town, things start to get out of hand for the worst, as Rakes is much more decisive and corrupt than the common folks assume. It is now up to Jack to prove his worth in the business and defend his family and friends.
Other characters include Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman) well known gangster wanted in three states but manages to strike a deal with Jack while Forrest is injured, Criket Pate (Dane Dehaan) Jack's friend and fellow moonshiner producer for the business, Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain) former urban singer/dancer who works at the Bondurant's restaurant and develops a relationship Forrest, and Bertha Mannix (Mia Wasikowska - Pronouced Vah-shee-Koff-ska) the preacher's daughter and Jack's love interest.
Its got a fantastic cast as you see, powerfully acted in every way, you could almost call this a benchmark for each of their careers. Shia laBeouf does a really job as wannabe tough nut Jack, he shows he's got a lot to prove to shake off that mainstream image of the Transformers franchise. A lot of critics also pointed out Tom Hardy's attempt at an American accent here sounded more like incoherent mumbling at times (I definitely understood what he said), He serves as a guidance for Jack and most active of the brothers. Guy Pierce is possibly the main highlight here, he plays a brilliant hard bastard as Rakes; cunningly violent and devious, he made sure with both Hillcoat and Cave this villain had to be memorable. Even though this feels very much like a man's world, its thanks to the supporting female cast members that give some more character understanding and sentimentality away from all the violence.
Other supporting cast member make memorable appearances throughout the film. Many say Gary Oldman was underused and could've been integrated into the plot more.
The Cinematography and Production design are fantastic and really does bring you back to this fascinating time. Beautifully shot, the film capture the beauty of Franklin County, Virginia. Prohibition really was the rise of organised crime, while HBO's Boardwalk Empire explores a lot of the Urban gangster activities, its Lawless that shows more of the rural side of the era. In some way Hillcoat wanted to explore the end of the western-sort-of era and the beginning of the gangster era. It also has a great soundtrack that Cave composed alongside is close friend Warren Ellis, combines Prohibition Blues with due to this Cave has joined the ranks as one of my favourite film score composers.
On a down side, even though though film is beautifully shot and powerfully acted, there's not enough substance in the film to reach that high standing point the film so wants to be. Thats whats missing that probably most casual viewers can't seem to find. So it still means "The Proposition" is superior on its own ground compared to this.
As for me I loved it! ;) It is violent, thrilling and really keeps viewers drawn in.
I could include this as one film that really sums up what I find fascinating about outlaws especially during this time period. This film however is incredibly watchable for one's fascination and definitely one of my favourites as of this year. I'm now curious to read the book its based on.