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Favourite directors: Hitchcock, Kubrick, Fellini, Spielberg, Tim Burton, Almodovar, Billy Wilder, Bu�uel.
Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchett, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Barbara Stanwyck.
Swinging Safari (2018)
Ambitious Aussie comedy, amusing but not as funny as it wants to be
Firstly the positives - it looks great and the cast is fun. Set in an idyllic beach suburb street, with colourful 70's designs, and a big cast (everyone's good in this, both parents and kids), most Australians of a certain age will find something to like about this. But it's humorous without being hilarious or much of a good time. The script and editing have made it a bit of a muddle. The two main kids are very sweet, but their storyline has no climax - do they actually go to Melbourne? The behaviour of he parents is a mystery - for a while they're all friends and up for kinky fun, then after a key party they're all enemies for no apparent reason. The gross humour of the final whale scene is a spectacular but emotionally empty note to end on. And one 70's aspect that is completely wrong is the language - it's crude and un-PC (which is accurate for 70's Australia but gets annoying after a while), but leaves out the brilliant Aussie slang of the time. See Puberty Blues for an example of it done right. That language is truly funny and endearing and would have lightened the film.
The Childhood of a Leader (2015)
What happens when a soundtrack and script work against each other.
Firstly I have to give credit to the visual design and acting in this film. Despite some too- modern dialogue, and a dull overuse of static shots of people standing talking to each other, the characters look convincingly like they inhabit a darkened between-world-wars Europe lit by dim lights through heavy curtains. It feels like a realistic period piece without the Downton Abbey gloss. And the story itself should have been gripping, but - and I must add a SPOILER warning - unfortunately, due to the strident music telegraphing that this kid is bad news right from the start, the ending loses most of it's power. I'm sure some people will love the music, but a score should serve the story, not detract from it. Maybe the music was pumped up to stop people losing interest during the early parts of the film, which is quite slow and features way too many repetitive scenes of a grouchy child being reprimanded. But there are other ways to keep audiences awake, like working on the dialogue, camera angles, editing etc, rather than loud ominous music that tells the audience more than they should know about where the film is going. The exact nature of the ending still manages to be surprising, but it doesn't have much power, and instead of being frightening it was just a relief to not have to watch more scenes of the cranky kid. The music at the opening of the film will put you on edge more than anything else in the film!
Director's Cut review - an originally disappointing film reborn into something worthwhile
The studio executives who ruined the first release version of this film in 1998 have a lot to answer for, but the director has had the last word and proved he was right all along, with the new Director's Cut (which I saw at the Sydney Film Festival tonight), which is an ENTIRELY different and improved experience. From now on, I don't think there should be any reason for anyone to watch the original release version again, the improvement is that dramatic. The one aspect that may irritate some viewers is that a few of the 'new' scenes have slightly lower image & sound quality than the rest of the film, as they obviously weren't able to find perfect quality footage for every restored scene, and the editing between some scenes doesn't always feel entirely smooth. And some weaknesses in the film still remain - such as Ryan Philippe, who is a bit limp despite being more than pretty enough for the role. But in so many other ways this is a far far better film, taking a film I'd only have rated maybe a 4 in the past, to at least a 7 now. About 40% of the film feels entirely changed, all for the better. There's a lot more life to the nights at the club, now that they've been able to put back the sex & drugs the studio removed (no movie about 1980-era disco makes any sense once you remove them). The parties are wild and bisexual and very disco. And the whole direction of the drama has been altered, now that the dull studio-imposed romance with Neve Campbell has been removed. Neve is still there in a small role, but the film now focuses on Ryan's love triangle with Salma Hayek & Breckin Meyer instead, which is far more interesting. Everyone who worked on the film should be happy with the Director's Cut, which proves they were making something pretty decent (until the studio stuffed it up).
Plot clichés and unconvincing central relationship let down otherwise promising remote Australian drama
I caught this at the Australian premiere during the Sydney Film Festival, with no pre-conceived expectations. Initially it all looks promising - it's handsomely produced, filmed in a spectacularly remote small town, with excellent supporting roles, from Hugo Weaving to the young kids. The dust storm is handled nicely, and the locals are an interesting bunch without being given the 'quirky' treatment. The plot gives us a nice young family whose kids wander off one day, leaving us with a 'missing children' police procedural, combined with how this trauma affects the parents. The problem is that this doesn't work well as mystery, since the writing is uninterested in original clues or twists, just dead ends, and neither can it develop any interest in the parents, as they never appear as a believable couple. As the film starts they're already sleeping in separate beds, but Kidman & Fiennes have absolutely no chemistry, so it's hard to imagine how they might have ever been any different. So they go through the motions - they blame themselves then blame each other, one of them will scream in the darkness, Mum will get drunk and make moves on a neighbour, Dad will get the wrong idea about another neighbour and bash them up, and none of it convinces. Fiennes' outbursts of rage have as much force as a badly pulled punch, and this couple is so un-real that they don't appear to have a single relative or friend who they contact, despite losing TWO children to the outback. Plot twists are the kind you get in films like Prisoners & Gone Girl, but without the surprise or suspense. Which would be fine if the two central characters were solid enough that we could take some interest in watching them fall apart. But with Kidman & Fiennes being so distant from each other from the start, there's no drama in watching the cracks appear. To make us appreciate the un-Hollywood direction it takes towards the end, the film needed central characters that were more believable than those you get in cheesy thrillers, not less. I was left remembering Kidman's excellent performance in Rabbit Hole, where she plays one half of a couple dealing with the death of a child - that was a pain you could feel, something Strangerland is completely missing.
Holy Motors (2012)
Life as performance - a surreal Parisian trip
Holy Motors is like a more out-there version of the films of Charlie Kaufman. You should expect surreal surprises, and my advice would be to not read too much about it before watching it, so you can just let the film happen to you, like an art experience. Don't expect this story of a man (a fully committed Denis Lavant) taking on 9 different personas in a day in Paris to make any neat logical sense, this is a film of dreams and ideas - music, madness, death, sex, despair and comedy. It seems to be about questions around acting - what does it mean to be an actor? aren't we all playing the part of our own lives? what does performing a role cost us? how does a performance manage to move us so intensely? I saw this at the Sydney Film Festival with a large audience, and it was interesting listening to people's laughter. Sometimes that was in response to a comic scene, but at other times it seemed more that a startling idea or image left some people not knowing how else to respond (eg a very odd short scene near the end, as Denis ends his workday, caused some people to laugh, while I found it terribly moving). The delight is in the individual scenes, though some of the scenarios have a real sadness to them: the motion capture scene, where human movement proves spellbinding in a way that CGI can never be; the sad tale of the daughter returning home after a party; the wonderfully crazed and uncomfortable Eva Mendes segment (make sure you check out the writing on the gravestones); and the surprisingly dramatic scene featuring pop icon Kylie Minogue (whose other film appearances were never anything like this). The tone and quality isn't consistent the whole way through, which can feel like a flaw, but it also keeps you on your toes. You might find parts of it pretentious or difficult to interpret, but the next moment you may be moved and not know why. It will definitely make most of the films you've watched recently seem very very dull.
Just saw this last night, and have to say, loved it. I can understand teen boys being offended by the lack of action. And I think a lot of people seeing this film might start with preconceptions about what a 'monster' movie should be, which won't do this film any favours. It's a road movie, a slow building drama, a mystery. I actually liked that the two leads were attractive and likable company, without acting in predictable Hollywood ways (you know, where they are unsure about each other, then have a huge fight and yell that they hate each other, then immediately jump into great sex – I am pretty sure in real life only couples who've been together for a while have good angry sex, surely?, I could be wrong, anyway
). But it was the mystery of the intriguing monsters that got me, and the absolutely perfect resolution. Unlike the current 3D CGI megafilms, where everything is boringly and loudly in your face, this film required the audience to join in and use some of it's own imagination, a bit like Alien you could say (without the blood & guts). And, that last scene was so great – easily one of the most perfectly orchestrated scenes I've seen in any film in the last year or two, and to a large degree because it had the sense to not knock the message over your head. And despite it's lack of gigantic special effects, I really think this is a film to see in a cinema, not on TV – to get in the mood, to wonder what's over the next hill, to peer into the darkness to see, wait, is that a tentacle? Like the main characters, the audience needs to be paying attention. Okay, so not a perfect masterpiece from beginning to end, but right now I can't think of many monster movie monsters I've loved in the last decade as much as these octo-spidey-monster thingies. Beautiful! (and I'm pretty p*ssed that a piece of shoddy Hollywood crap like Skyline is showing in 160+ cinemas here in Australia, while this little beauty is only on at a few)
The Adonis Factor (2010)
Watchable and slick, but light and superficial
This doco manages to be slick and watchable, but feels like something you'd see on a gay TV cable channel as a bit of light entertainment, rather than a documentary that's going to dig deep or tell you anything new. Many guys are interviewed, with lots of them showing off their bodies, but almost none of them have anything interesting to say. And I'm not blaming them, as it doesn't sound like the filmmakers cared to ask interesting questions to start with. Maybe the film's main aim was just to get as many 'adonis'-like men on screen as possible. Maybe they should have stuck to showing buff bods and kept it all light & humorous without pretending to go into the deeper questions. The main point of the film seems to be that some gay men put a lot of emphasis on how they look, which isn't exactly news. And all the potentially interesting topics are only touched on and then abandoned after a single soundbite. It would have been great for the filmmakers to go into the bigger questions rather than ignoring them - why does there seem to be a racial divide when it comes to what guys go to certain circuit parties? what kinds of trouble do guys get into when overdoing steroids or plastic surgery (just having an overly-plastic plastic surgeon admitting some guys go too far isn't really enough)? how do masculinity issues come into play when gay guys want to bulk up? what psychological or social issues lead some gay men to go to dangerous extremes? why can't some gay men be happy with themselves the way they are? what influence do the buff images in gay p*rn have? what about gay men outside the cities? There are so many questions that this film doesn't bother going into! It's one thing to be fit and healthy, but some of these men seem dangerously obsessed, but they aren't asked terribly probing questions, so we don't learn much about why they are that way. And some gay men who are less obsessed with their looks are included, but there's no real investigation into how they got that way either. So we end up with a brief tour of the subject, without understanding any of it any better. Like interviewing a beautiful woman and asking 'what's it feel like to be pretty'? So it's not a terrible documentary, and technically it's been well put together, but it's a fairly pointless one, and as a gay guy myself, I felt pretty alienated from most of the people in it.
An insult to your IQ AND your emotional intelligence - why I walked out
Yes, I walked out on this movie, 20 minutes before the ending. I've seen lots of films that were crapper, but this one was so damn aggravating. And unfortunately I went to see it by myself, so I couldn't relieve the tension by turning to a friend to say 'I HATE this film and want these characters TO DIE'.
To start with the okay things first - some of the disaster sequences were hugely excessive and brilliantly creative in their way (9 or 10 out of 10), it's ambitious in size, and the cast was mostly good. I enjoyed the comic Russians, even though they were clichéd. I've enjoyed slightly silly disaster films in the past, like Knowing and The Day After Tomorrow, so I try not to take a snob attitude towards them.
Now for some of why I HATED this - *SPOILERS* * Other people have commented on the 'heroes' (ie the dysfunctional white family) escaping every disaster at the last moment, more unbelievably than Indiana Jones ever did. While everyone else screams & falls down, continents literally move across the globe for this family's convenience! This is amusing once or twice, but then just gets silly. The emotional problem with this is that you can then only take this as being enjoyable action-comedy. But at the same time BILLIONS OF PEOPLE ARE BEING KILLED (there's no gore, but it's clear everyone on the planet is violently killed), and then even more amazingly you are meant to care whether this dull dysfunctional family gets back together. No, I wanted them DEAD! * This family is AWFUL. Despite the world going to hell, they care for nobody but themselves. They even take their escapes for granted, and all they can give the dying people around them are blank stares and then go back to talking about their personal issues. At least their young girl has the decency to sob once or twice (okay, I take back wanting her dead, but not the others). At a point later in the film, where the mother begs someone to save her kids, I wanted them to ask her what she'd ever done for anyone else's? What a cow. Drown em. * There's nothing wrong with depicting world disaster through the eyes of an ordinary family, but the story isn't actually told through their eyes only, so their importance is never explained. Why am I meant to care? * Did every African-American have to be so bloody noble? EVERY SINGLE ONE? * Having all the non-Americans get the secondary roles left a nasty taste. Because the rule in disaster films is that most of those secondary characters are just there to be killed off. The WORLD is ending, not just the US. But everyone takes orders from the US President, everyone is happy to talk English, and if you're a character from outside the US in this movie, say your prayers. Or rather, don't even bother. * What was the point of filling ships with billionaires? Their money would help build the things, but once everyone else on the planet dies, crusty old billionaires are not only not the best people to hang around with (they're generally not known for their manual labour or scientific skills), but after the world is destroyed so will 99% of their wealth! Their assets will be wiped out. There is no bloody point! A possible plot-line would have involved SOME billionaires bribing their way on board. But boatfuls of them? I have a low opinion of billionaires, but am certain most would be way too smart to think that was a good idea. * This film is kind of insulting to other nations. Even though plenty of US Presidents have been creeps, not all of them have been, and I can accept a heroic US President in a film. BUT, it's insulting to have other world leaders follow him blindly, and have him behave so nobly, going down with his country, while then portraying the Queen of England as one of the loathsome billionaires buying her way out - considering that the Queen Mum made a point of staying in London during the blitz, it's an insult. There's another uncomfortable point where a character expresses exasperation at the type of people they're saving - just as the camera catches sight of a smug middle-eastern billionaire. It comes across as an insult, whether intentional or not, but this film doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Oh, and killing everyone in the Vatican, weird. This kind of mild nastiness could have been fun if the whole film had've been more wicked and bitter, maybe making John Cusack a lovable sleazeball, but no, it has to attempt to pull on our heart-strings too. We are simply meant to love the dull white American family, and want to see them get back together, because Hollywood films take that for granted, and to accept that all African-Americans are amazingly noble, because that's Hollywood being PC.
Where I walked out - started to get the urge when the mother begged the Chinese guard to save her children. Would have loved the Chinese guard (oh look, he speaks English) to explain to her why her family didn't deserve his help in the slightest. Where I did walk out - when one of the noble African-Americans made a god-awful speech about why they should try to save more of those horrid billionaires, that those people deserved a chance to live etc. No, I was not going to let these characters try to regain my sympathy so easily after hours of callous behaviour. And I just knew it would be a matter of minutes before John Cusack's character would attempt something similar, through some heroic action (and the plot synopsis on Wikipedia tells me I was right!).
The Tracker (2002)
Okay film, with one great performance from Gulpilil
Interesting story, with one great performance by Gulpilil, let down a bit by Gary Sweet's character. He's such a thorough bastard, that ordinary racism can't explain it - why is he such a monster, is he racist or simply a psychopath, and how did a fellow like that end up in the position of heading this little troupe in the first place? The movie doesn't seem to care about these issues in the slightest, and I think that's a pretty big failing for a film dealing with the big issues it seems to be wanting to grapple. Or maybe the problem is that Sweet appears to be play-acting at being evil, rather than really embodying it. And the dialogue & accents aren't always convincing if this is meant to be 1922. Not sure whether to blame the script, the direction, or the actors (excluding Gulpilil). But I liked where the story went in the end, and David Gulpilil, as usual, was wonderful - he makes everyone else look like amateurs. Worth seeing for his character alone. He's the centre of the film, complex and completely compelling and believable. So the film works as a portrait of his experience, and for that alone I'd recommend seeing it. It's just a pity that the white characters, who are secondary but none the less are there throughout the whole film, don't come across as equally believable people.
College Boys Live (2009)
More complex, funny and dramatic than you might expect from the title
Saw this at a small film festival showing (in Sydney) recently, and it really surprised me. The title and subject matter made me think it'd be on the cheap and salacious side. But in fact there's not much here in the way of gratuitous sex or nudity. Instead, it's a frank picture of a group of young gay men running a site showing constant streaming pics from the many cameras in their home - and then really delving into their lives. I think the folks who directed & edited this film did a great job, bringing the human stories out. The doco was shot over an extended period of time, and what it ends up showing is a very clear picture of why the various guys chose to agree to be a part of the unusual set-up, and then following what comes next. Bickering about money, or boyfriends - drunken fights and love spats and problems with the neighbours - stories from these kid's past, some of whom have had a rough time of it. Like any good reality show, you'll end up sympathising with or getting annoyed at certain personalities, the wild ones the quiet ones and the odd ones, wondering what will happen next with each kid. And the interesting side of it is - is that watching a doco like this, or watching Big Brother or The Real World, or watching 'reality porn' - all have a related voyeuristic appeal. People are attracted to watching other people's lives, and sometimes to being watched (though the financial incentive may be the main factor for most of the guys here), and it can be quite liberating for people who would otherwise feel isolated (the way a gay kid in a small town might feel), but we all have different limits about when things have gone too far. At times it's funny and dramatic and sad, and it's fairly unusual to see a film depicting a bunch of young gay guys so genuinely, letting them speak for themselves. They allow themselves to be filmed (for their website, and for this doco) in a way most of us would hate, but the rest of their lives are full of human drama the same as any of us. Recommended!
Mary and Max (2009)
Mary & Max - wonderfully unique and personal animation
There's a constant stream of animated films these days, but mostly they're either glossy Hollywood product (Pixar/Dreamworks), or Japanese anime. For adults wanting something different we have to wait for the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Waltz With Bashir, Persepolis, or Aardman's films to turn up. Mary & Max is one of these films that comes as a complete departure from all the others, both in visual and storytelling style, and sticks in the mind because of it. I won't repeat the plot here, so I'll just mention a few pros and cons. The cons are obvious. Some people will be put off by the almost constant narration (which took me a while to get used to), the rather numerous calamities (a lot more than you'd expect if you thought this was just a kids film), and the sadness within some of these people's stories. It's actually a little surprising that the film got made without the people financing it demanding a script that was more tailored to appeal to a wider audience. What we get is something that feels a whole lot more personal than the higher profile animated films. It feels personal, and therefore real, and the explanation is that it was written from life by a director who has a real feeling and sympathy for people who don't quite fit into the world, and feel alienated or are misunderstood by others. Mary was partly inspired by the director's own childhood (and there's a little bit of Toni Collette's Muriel Heslop thrown in I suspect), and Max is also based on a real person he's been pen friends with (but so far has never met in person). The way the film handles his Asperger's Syndrome just feels different to how you'd normally see such an issue handled on screen. There's a constant stream of humour (ironic, black, childish), and I really enjoyed the small perfect touches on growing up in an Australian suburb in the 70's and 80's, and the depiction of grey New York, as it appears to the easily frightened Max. The animation is constantly a joy to watch, and I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen where it can be properly appreciated in all it's hand-made glory.
Thank God It's Friday (1978)
Thank God for Summer
This film was hugely disappointing, with only a few redeeming features (which I'll mention last). I usually enjoy silly disco-era films, and was hoping this would at least be amusing in a Can't Stop The Music way, but this was hopeless. At least Can't Stop The Music let you enjoy the music. In TGIF, snippets of dozens of disco tracks are heard in the background while various characters chatter away in one unfunny scene after another, like a particularly lame and crowded episode of The Love Boat. Though this is set in a disco, the film seems uninterested in any of the dancing, even during the dancing competition finale everyone's been talking about during the rest of the film. The one exception would be the awkward and not very disco dancing-on-the-tops-of-cars scene. It's hard to think of many ways the production or direction of this film could have been worse.
HOWEVER, this has some nostalgia value for being set almost entirely in a 70's disco. AND, when Donna Summer sings Last Dance the film finally has a few minutes of glitzy fun. For the one and only time, the music gets all the attention. It's a great song, and Donna looks and sounds like what you'd expect from a disco diva - love the big hair.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
A highly enjoyable ensemble road movie - funny stuff
I saw Little Miss Sunshine a week ago at the Sydney Film Festival, and the audience I saw it with loved it. There was a lot of laughter going on - especially at the hilarious ending. And amidst the jokes it deals smartly with it's theme of the value of chasing your dreams and being one of life's 'winners' versus valuing what you already have. Or put another way, it celebrates the joys of losing in a culture obsessed with winning.
I'm not going to go into detail about the plot, as the film hasn't been widely released yet. There are no huge plots twists, but I think you'll have more fun with this film if you don't know exactly where it's going.
As the film started I wasn't so sure about it. All the characters (apart from Toni Colette's perhaps) seemed to be written as being amusingly quirky in a predictable indie-comedy way. But as the movie went on it became easier to warm to them. I think it helped that the actors appeared to be having genuine fun together. These guys don't feel like much of a family at first, and I wondered a couple of times why these people would bother sticking together, but as things progress the strengths of this particular family unit become obvious. And just as all comedies should, it gets funnier as it goes on. I was pleased to see the script stayed true to it's messages all the way to the end, and didn't turn preachy or maudlin. The whole cast work excellently together, and I hope this film has all the success it deserves once it's released.
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Big & Loud. Dumb & Dumberer.
This is a big loud action film with a script that would have fitted a b-grade action flick back in the late 80's, or maybe an old Jackie Chan movie, but is a joke for a 2006 film costing $150million. The only fun I had was laughing at parts of it with my partner (something I haven't done since seeing Swimfan a few years ago). Apart from the at times annoying action sequences (all noise and jerky cameras), the script was a constant stream of unbelievable and frustrating action-movie clichés. This might have still been okay if it hadn't been delivered so humourlessly. The old Roger Moore James Bond films were pretty silly - but at least they were fun!
SPOILER ALERT!!!>>>> Why was Tom's wife so willing to rush into marriage with him knowing he has major secrets - is she really that dumb (or are we expected to not question why any woman would jump into marriage with Mr Cruise because plenty of actresses do so in real life)? Why would Tom be happy to marry someone while lying about the job he goes to each day and NOT appear to feel even slightly guilty about it (because he's a jerk perhaps?)? Why are America's top agents willing to hand over to the bad guy something which for all they know may become the world's ultimate terrorist weapon for the sake of one hostage, relying on the hope that they can get it back later (if Ethan Hunt is that susceptible to pressure maybe he shouldn't be an agent - and maybe he really should have given the marriage thing a bit more thought in the first place)? Was it really necessary for his wife to end up looking EXACTLY like an 80's action-flick-chick at the climax, wearing the obligatory sweaty tight top and gaining unbeatable gun skills after 5 seconds (literally) of instruction? And considering hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake, and that a small army was employed to organise the attack on the bridge, you'd think Philip Seymour Hoffman could have afforded better security to stop Tom escaping and saving his wife at the end (more than two men to guard her would have been a good start). And personally I found all the 'I'm going to kill you in front of your wife' 'no, I'm going to kill your wife in front of you' 'no, I think I'm going to change my mind again...' an obnoxiously cheap attempt at getting us to care about their fate, when nothing else in the picture made us warm to their relationship anyway. Frankly by the end I could have done with Ethan out of the picture completely. The old Mission Impossible used to be about a team, not a singular agent. If Ethan could be killed off, we could get back to that!
In MI1, Tom's fellow agents were mostly bumped off in the first 15 minutes, giving the film a reasonable excuse to focus on the old Cruiser for the rest of the running time. Here in MI3 Tom has 3 spunky fellow agents who could have been fun to watch operating together as a team of equals. Instead they seem to spend most of their time driving Tom from one of his stunt scenes to the next! How many Tom close-ups do we really need? This on screen self-love is especially irksome considering the star's egocentricities off screen these days. Give it a rest.
I won't give it 1 star - I'll give it 3 for some splashy visuals, which might keep you happy if you don't expect any more than that from your action flicks and are happy to have your intelligence insulted. And at least it wasn't as bad as the Matrix sequels (which also starred Laurence Fishbourne, hmmmmm.....).
War of the Worlds (2005)
A rare piece of classic sci-fi.
There are two main types of sci-fi out there. 1) The straight-forward tales of adventure, from Star Wars to Independence Day. Hollywood loves these. Heros to get behind, big action, and happy endings. Fun, fun, fun. 2) Then there are the old fashioned kind about ideas, getting us to ponder 'what if?' and jolting us out of our complacency about how we see our world and the universe - the stories of John Wyndham & H G Wells, 2001: A Space Odyssey & the original Planet of the Apes. Huge thanks to those behind the script and direction of War of the Worlds for not dumbing this one down. I'd agree with one frequent complaint about this film - the ending feels unsatisfying and could have easily been modified a little, to more adequately explain the death of the aliens, and tone down the cheesiness of the family reunion. Other than that, it's great, and a near-perfect updating of the novel, especially in the outstanding first half of the film. The alien tripods are completely convincing and were very frightening on the big screen. The script sticks to the book and accurately shows that people DON'T necessarily act like saints when their world is blown apart and they've got no hope of going back. The book was never about getting behind the main character, so we don't have to love or admire him (or his kids) - it was about watching him trying to survive and making sense of what's going on, seeing it through his eyes. Thank god they didn't add any ridiculous Tom Cruise Saves The World heroics along the lines of the laughable second half of Independence Day (fun film, but Will Smith and President Bill Pullman saving the world from aliens - yeah, right!). There's one change to the novel which I thought was a little disappointing. In the book, the man in the cellar who's lost the plot can do nothing but go on with mindless religious ramblings. There was nothing of this in Tim Robbins' performance. Maybe the film producers were worried this would be too disturbing for their audience (considering Tom Cruise's ultimate actions towards him)? There are nice touches in the script relating the chaos and the general lack of comprehension of what's going on to the immediate aftermath of terrorist events in recent years. It's very unusual for a current Hollywood film to be this brave, and reflect this reality. Post 9/11, Hollywood started showing American civilians sticking together more than in the past (Spiderman intentionally featured New Yorkers on their best behaviour). But all battles can't be won, whether we like it or not. As the book repeatedly points out, the animals on our planet are used to coming last. We destroy their homes, eradicate those we consider pests, and put others on our dinner plates without a second thought. Would we have more sympathy for them if we could relate? We even lose sympathy for victims of war in other countries, as long as their wars are far away and don't feature too much on our TV news. Also, I give this film credit to sticking with the dark conclusion of the book, where the only salvation available to humanity is something beyond our control. This film wants to make us face our fears, rather than reassure us. Yes, there's a happy ending, but only just. There are some things even Tom Cruise can't save us from.
Menschen am Sonntag (1930)
Beautiful print shown at Sydney Film Festival
I was lucky enough to see a beautifully restored print of this film shown at this year's Sydney Film Festival, with Ensemble Offspring performing a score by Elena Kats-Chernin. The previous comment on IMDb already explains the main charms of this film. It's a small and lovely film, but it's also easy to feel a little sad while watching it. It'd be nice to think that these Berliners went on year after year having simple sundays like the one portrayed in the film, but that wasn't to be. It's quite easy to feel for these people. As the actors were amateurs, and the plot so simple and unintrusive, it does end up feeling quite close to real life. It's not hard to picture them having a life that extends beyond the end of the film. I particularly liked the scene of an arguing couple, which ends up with them taking their fury out on postcards of each other's favourite movie stars (I noticed Greta Garbo and possibly Harold Llyod amongst them). I also enjoyed the scenes by the water, which are particularly sweet and simple, the scene involving people having their photos taken, and the girl who just wants to stay in bed. This mightn't be one of the great silent classics, but it's an enjoyable experience and very interesting historically. We're very lucky not to have lost it.
The first film I've ever walked out on.
This film was shown at this year's Sydney Film Festival as 'Half-Price'. I'm afraid I can't give a complete and proper review because I walked out on it after watching just over half of it. And I wasn't alone, as I noticed twenty or so other people leaving at the same time. I swear I heard the phrases "rats leaving a sinking ship" and "women and children first" in the foyer as people left. This is in fact the first time I've ever walked out on a movie, so that tells you something. I have no idea whether the film finds a way to justify itself in the end, but it had already used up all of my patience. I presume the director was trying to show us something about the lives of children when they're alone together by filming them up close, letting them do their own thing, and not including anything else that would intrude (such as a plot or dialogue). But from what I sat through, no matter what the pretentious intentions or justifications behind the film are, all that you're left with is the kind of boredom you'd get from watching someone else's particularly dull home movies of their kids. We're told very little about their lives, so we're left to watch their behaviour without any useful context. They listen to music, laugh, and go to the toilet. So what! Apart from the fact that the kids play together, we don't even get a feel for the bonds between them. This is really only bearable for a short while. By the 30-minute mark I was bored out of my skull. And when you're that bored, you start to question the point of watching scenes of kids sitting on the toilet, or hanging around the house naked while playing music. It's a lot like having someone show you pictures of their kids. If there are a couple of embarrassing photos in there - their kid naked in the bath or something - that's fine. But if it turns out that a whole heap of the photos are of their kids naked in the bath, then it can become plain weird and uncomfortable, and you start wondering why the person showing them to you doesn't realise it. It seems that I'm the first person to review this movie on IMDb. Hopefully someone who's sat through the whole thing will come along and write the second one, which might be more helpful than mine. But in the meantime, my advice would be to give this one a miss.
Over-acting at it's finest.
This film is such a cack. The music, the editing, the dialogue, the hair, the pot-boilingly melodramatic plot, the complete lack of any decent sense of decency! Where do you start? This is definitely a film which is so unique that it needs to be seen rather than read about. Most so-bad-they're-good films have about 30mins of fun stuff padded by a whole heap of crud, but this film is non-stop! Yes, he was a paraplegic - but he got better! The DVD version of this film was released a year ago in Australia, and it is a huge improvement over the terrible old VHS version. Firstly, the VHS version had a small number of cuts, which were ridiculous and unnecessary, since anyone who's easily offended wouldn't be watching this film in the first place. And it was difficult to watch, since the pan & scan job done on it to make it full-screen was completely dodgy. The film has some odd and very fast editing, and lots of close-ups, and the whole thing becomes a mess if not seen in widescreen. So watch it on DVD or on the big screen if you can. And of course, I highly recommend this film for anyone with a warped sense of humour and looking for something 'different'. This movie is a blast. In fact, this is my equal fave 'bad' fun movie (along with Glen or Glenda). The Sydney Film Festival recently showed it, and I can't remember the last time I heard an audience laugh so much. They even kept going along with the spirit of it through the most awkward part of the movie - the killing spree near the end (this is the one part of the movie that's most likely to turn people off the film). If you can forgive the film it's few minutes of schlocky early 70's style violence, and get in the mood for a laugh, you should have a great time with it. The world would be a duller place without this movie.