March 10, 2008

MOVIES: Feb 05

“DOOR” BORES, SEX SELLS
Great acting belies the controversy over “Kinsey”, while Kim Basinger’s latest is just plain creepy.

jon.jpgDoor In The Floor
Released: February 3, 2005
Rated: M
2 stars

Sure, Door In The Floor is a sad story. A couple’s two boys are killed in an accident and their parents, children’s writer Ted Cole (Jeff Bridges) and wife Marion (Kim Basinger), are torn apart with grief. So much so they have another child to make up for the loss (as if that’s going to work). Next they decide to separate and sleep around (okay…). Then they invite a 16-year-old intern who looks like one of their dead sons to work for them.

Can anyone else see trouble brewing here?

One could understand this amount of destructive behavior had the accident occurred a month or a year ago, but we meet the characters a full five years after the fact. Somewhere along the five stages of grief these two got stuck on the step known as, “numbingly vacant yet destructive and willing to leave human carnage in their wake”.Yet for such an un-likeable story the cast is top notch.

As the adulterous artist and grieving father Ted, Jeff Bridges’ is superb – but his acting is wasted on such an obnoxious character. He’s supposed to be free and creative but he’s really just selfish and uncaring.

Kim Basinger plays Marion, the sexy yet emotionally numbed mother. And I have to admit, she can pull off a stone carving impression very well. But things get creepy when she decides to take a page out of
Mrs. Robinson’s playbook and pursue their teenage intern, Eddie (Jon Foster), who looks like one of her dead sons.

The director, Tod Williams, has adapted the movie from John Irving’s novel A Widow for One Year. It’s beautifully and artistically filmed – or, to put it another way, pretentious. Without a doubt, Williams wanted to make a “deep” film, and every lingering shot and every line screams not just “look at how deep this is”, but, “but wait this makes it deeper still!”

This film exaggerates the weight of grief without ever bothering to realistically confront the unavoidable process of healing. For me it was as entertaining as watching an open wound. If you want to watch two hours of a marriage falling apart, child neglect and pseudo-incest, be my guest, but Door In The Floor wasn’t my cup of tea.


kinsey_W189mm.jpgKinsey
Released: January 27, 2005
Rated: M
4 stars

For all the controversy surrounding it, Kinsey is not much more than a bio-pic of Alfred Kinsey who, in 1948, published the controversial book Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male. It sold like gangbusters, and shocked society with its detailed scientific evidence about our rude bits and what we do with them.

Originally a zoologist studying wasps, Kinsey was drawn to exploring sex when one of his biology students asked him, “If a husband gives his wife oral sex will that make her infertile?” and “Does masturbating make you lose a pint of blood? ” Kinsey decided to put a stop to this nonsense by finding out the facts, helped by a team of young researchers to help him carry out in-depth sex surveys. Lo and behold, it turned out Americans in the 1940s were having much more sex and in more ways than anyone ever imagined! Who woulda thunk it?

I’m putting my neck out early here but I think Liam Neeson has an Oscar smell about him. He has a captivating take on the nutty, sex-obsessed professor. Laura Linney plays Kinsey’s free-thinking wife with just the right amount of enthusiasm and fragility. Together they pull off one of the most uncomfortable sex scenes ever filmed as they portray two virgins fumbling on their wedding night with embarrassing realism. I was squirming in my seat. Neeson is well supported by Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard and Timothy Hutton as his research assistants. They quickly become cult followers of their awe-inspiring boss, shaking off Victorian sexual constraints and exploring everything from same-sex relationships to wife-swapping — all, of course, in the name of science. Such forward thinking wasn’t exactly welcomed in the ‘40s and by the time his book on women arrived in 1953, the sexual revolution was getting underway and Kinsey being blamed for the whole kinky mess.John Lithgow is impressive as Kinsey’s conservative father and Lynn Redgrave shows why she’s an Oscar nominee with her show-stealing and thought-provoking cameo as one of Kinsey’s patients.Writer/Director Bill Condon has created another champion script to follow up on his mesmerizing screenplay for Gods & Monsters, a gentle handling of the story of James Whale (most famous for
directing “Frankenstein”), which won him an Academy Award.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: Nov 05, AU Edition

MOB RULES
Skip the fairy tales this month – the best flicks on offer this summer are all about nitty-gritty reality

IDT.jpgInside Deep Throat
Released: Nov 10, 2005
Rated: R
5 stars

Deep Throat cost $25,000 to film and grossed over $600 million worldwide, making it the most profitable movie of all time. Inside Deep Throat is an amazing documentary about the impact the original porno film had on society then and now.

I’m not much of a porno girl so I’d never seen Deep Throat, but I must admit I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. And I was pleased I could watch it without having to don a trench coat or furtively avoid eye contact with my local video store employee.

The doco shows a small amount of the original skin flick – including the infamous scene from which the film takes its name. Sure I was shocked (Linda Lovelace obviously had no gag reflex), but what shocked me more was how the film became such a social and political football.
Released in America in 1972, it hit a social nerve. Sex, culture, morality and politics all collided – to explosive effect. This doco uses new and old interviews and newsreel footage to show the protests, arrests and general hoo-ha.

So I was keen to meet the main players and see what they made of all the fuss thirty years on. My favourite scene is when you see footage of the director, Gerard Damiano, as his younger self, a former hairdresser and sleazy swinger. Then it cuts to him now, a shuffling “Harry Highpants” retiree in Florida.

There is a sad side of this doco. Its star Linda Lovelace became an anti-porn crusader and died in a car accident in 2002, broke and bitter. Her co-star Harry Reems, who nearly went to jail on a trumped-up obscenity charge for taking part in the film, is now a recovering alcoholic and born-again Christian who sells real estate.

Why weren’t they all rolling in cash? Damiano made the film with mob money, so when it became a hit the mob threatened to break his legs if he didn’t sign over royalty rights. So basically no-one who worked on, or starred in, Deep Throat ever saw the rewards of the most successful movie in box office history.

Now that’s shocking.


C105-26.jpgKiss Kiss Bang Bang
Released: Nov 17, 2005
Rated: MA
5 stars

She opened the door with nothing on but the radio.’ I love that cool gumshoe detective speak. And Kiss Kiss Bang Bang oozes with it. From the opening titles you know this is going to be a sassy, pop-culture romp of a film. And it doesn’t disappoint. It stars Robert Downey Jr (who despite all his drug problems is a very talented actor) as Harry Lockhart, a crook who escapes the cops by pretending he’s an actor auditioning for a role of a detective. Stick with me, it’s worth it.

Needless to say he’s a hit with the film producers, gets the job and is whisked off to Hollywood. There the producers hook him up with private eye ‘Gay’ Perry (played by a fat and hilariously camp Val Kilmer) to tutor Harry in the ways of actual detective work. So Harry becomes a crook-playing-an-actor-impersonating-a-detective. Gay Perry sums it up: ‘This isn’t good cop, bad cop. This is New Yorker and fag.’

Add a sub-plot of an aspiring actress Harmony Faith Lane (played by the vixen-like Michelle Monaghan) who’s obsessed with pulp fiction detective novels and whose sister has been murdered. You know you’re in for a high action, schlocky, fun time.

Downey is suitably jaded as the film’s narrator and often speaks to camera with a snarky aside: ‘Look I’m not going to end this film 17 times… I saw Lord of the Rings.’ And rather than fight for screen time, Downey and Kilmer work perfectly together.

And with lines like this how can you lose? ‘She poured herself into a seamless dress. From the look of it she spilled some.’


bg1.jpgThe Brothers Grimm
Released: Nov 24, 2005
Rated: M
1 star

Once upon a time there was a movie about fairytales. It was really, really bad. The end. I wish that was all I had to write about this dog’s breakfast. You see, The Brothers Grimm is not actually about the Grimm fairytales but elements of the fairytales are in it. Confused? Wait it, gets worse.

In The Brothers Grimm, Will and Jake, (played equally appallingly by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) are travelling con artists. They journey from village to village in Germany, staging phony magic and claiming it is real. But then they come across a clichéd village where the woods are indeed magic; the cursed trees move and a sinister tower sits in the middle of it. Inside is the Mirror Queen (the breath-takingly beautiful but under-utilized Monica Bellucci). A hideous witch who needs to sacrifice twelve maidens to restore her beauty during an eclipse (a beauty routine I’m thinking of adopting!)
So even though they don’t believe in magic the brothers have to save the maidens and break the spell. Whatever! And to make things more confusing, there are fairytale references and characters, like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and even the Gingerbread Man. They all seem shoe-horned into an already dodgy script.

It was a mess. Very Grimm indeed.


Posted by InvestigateDesign at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: Dec 05, AU Edition

MORE LIKE PURGATORY
Reece Witherspoon’s latest fails to thrill, while Russian Dolls is more than just kid stuff

Xavier and Wendy in St Petersburg on boat_cmyk.jpgRussian Dolls
Release: December, 2005
Rated: M
French with English sub-titles
3 stars

Russian Dolls is a sequel to the very popular 2002 French flick, The Spanish Apartment. In The Spanish Apartment a group of 25-year-old students come to discover life isn’t all about meaningless sex and realize that they have to grow up. Set five years later, Russian Dolls has the group on the cusp of thirty discovering they really, really have to grow up.

The storyline is predominantly explained through voiceover from the lead character Xavier (played by a cute but slightly dull Romain Duris). He’s no longer working in finance and is now doing crappy freelance writing for romantic TV movies. So as he writes he fills in plot gaps: “I wrote a book called L’auberge Espanole five years ago, but haven’t been able to find a publisher.” It’s a clever way to bring you up to speed with the lives of his friends over the past five years.

Basically the gang all get back together for the wedding in St Petersburg of English stagehand William (played charmingly by Kevin Bishop) and Russian ballerina Natasha (Evguenya Obraztsova).
Two stand out roles are Xavier’s ex-girlfriend, Martine (played by the captivating Audrey Tautou), who has a young son by a never-seen father, still carries a semi-torch for Xavier and, like all the characters on display, is searching for true love. And current girlfriend Wendy (played by the magnetic Kelly Reilly) a gifted writer getting over an abusive relationship.

Enter Celia (played appropriately woodenly by Lucy Gordon), a top fashion model whose life story is being ghost-written by Xavier. She’s beautiful and dumb – making her the perfect woman in Xavier’s eyes.
My question is why do all these beautiful and smart women fall for a neurotic no-hoper wreck? Sure Xavier is handsome and French – but come on girls, we all know he’s a commitment-phobic disaster.
If you liked The Spanish Apartment you’ll like Russian Dolls. It’s nice to have films that grow up with you.


JL05_cmyk.jpgJust Like Heaven
Release: December, 2005
Rated: PG
3 stars

Look, I love Reece Witherspoon. And I think Mark Ruffalo is a big spunk. But the new movie they are starring in, Just Like Heaven, leans a bit too heavily on their sweetness to make up for its failings.
Basically Elizabeth is a type-A, work-obsessed woman who has no time for love – not much of a stretch for a Reece Witherspoon character. David is a depressed yet gentle man trying to get over the death of his wife – again, Mark Ruffalo could play this with his eyes shut.

The catch is Elizabeth is a spirit that no-one but David can see. Yup, it’s a pretty dumb plot alright. The scriptwriters obviously hope viewers will make the leap of faith before you run from the room screaming Ghost. Myself, I struggled with it.

Anyway, our two leads have to figure out why Elizabeth is a spirit and only David can see her so they can hopefully fix the problem. There are some funny bits. While Elizabeth is trying to convince David to help her, she seals the deal by arguing, “Look, you have two realities to choose from. The first is a woman has come into your life in a very unconventional way and she needs your assistance. The second is you are a crazy person talking to himself on a park bench.” Fair point.
Of course this is a romantic comedy so they fall in love – even though she’s not real so he can’t touch her and she can walk through walls and furniture. Hmmm.

If you’re looking for a dumb chick flick to distract you this summer Just Like Heaven is for you. But I prefer my spirits mixed with with orange juice.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: Apr 05, AU Edition

CHILI PALMER’S COOL
But two other offerings this month prove that heroin and histrionic overacting aren’t

photo_18.jpgBe Cool
Release: March 10, 2005
Rated: PG
4 stars

I hate sequels.” That’s John Travolta’s first line in this sequel to Get Shorty. So immediately Be Cool lets audiences know it’s not taking itself too seriously. I felt like I was in on the joke, and the joke is so good the sequel is better than the original.Ten years ago in Get Shorty, John Travolta’s character, Chili Palmer, was a hip gangster trying to make it in the movie industry. Now, in Be Cool, he’s trying to muscle his way into the music business. There’s a young starlet trying to get her big break, nasty music moguls and the Russian mob. You know – the usual. But in Be Cool the plot isn’t as important as the all-star ensemble cast.

Now I need to come clean about something: when I was a younger I wanted to marry John Travolta. He’s just so, well, cool. Granted, I had to forgive him for Michael and Battlefield Earth, but when he was in Grease and Pulp Fiction he made my knees weak. And he’s back to his coolest as Chili Palmer in Be Cool. He’s suave, he’s sexy, and he’s unflappable. Matter of fact, I still want to marry him.

Then there’s Vince Vaughn’s stand-out role as Raji, a white-bread music rep who wants to be a “playa”. It’s hysterical to see such a honky white character like Raji spouting hip-hop lines like, “that sh*t was tight, gangsta!” It’s so wrong it’s right.

Uma Thurman is the weak link in the movie. She plays Edie, the sexy CEO of a failing indie record label and Chili’s love interest. Uma is beautiful but, alas, she can’t act. She really should be used as a supporting actress rather than a lead.

On the other hand, one of the best castings is WWF’s The Rock as Raji’s gay bodyguard. He’s constantly taking the piss out of himself – even slagging off his signature wrestling glower (one raised
eyebrow). His comedic timing is spot on and my favourite scene involves him reciting a monologue from teen cheerleading movie Bring It On. The Rock rocks.

But wait: there’s more. Cedric the Entertainer plays Sin LaSalle, an upper-middle-class music producer who’s not afraid to use muscle to get his songs played. Andre Benjamin (who most people would know as Andre 3000 of Outkast) makes a fabulous acting debut as Dabu, a dim but trigger-happy gangster. Harvey Keitel is a music company executive with no rhythm. Danny DeVito has a cameo with Anna Nicole Smith that is cringe-worthy but funny. Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler plays himself and is a natural.
Think Pulp Fiction with less violence, more gags and an equally funky soundtrack. Cool.


photo_09.jpgBeing Julia
Released: March 17, 2005
Rated: M
2 stars

In Being Julia, all the world’s a stage and Annette Benning’s over-acting on it. Now don’t get me wrong: I loved Annette in American Beauty and The Grifters. I know she’s won a swag of awards for this film. But really… she’s trying so hard in Being Julia that she makes Jim Carey look subtle.

The problem is Annette’s character is so damn repellent. Julia Lambert is an ageing diva of the London stage in the 1930s. She’s at the peak of her career yet she’s bored. So she’s prone to histrionics. It’s hard to care for a woman who decides the spark she needs is to have an affair with a younger man but then is devastated when she finds out not only is her husband cheating on her but her lover is too. She’s either melodramatic, egocentric, overbearing or overwrought with nothing in between. Her manic laughter grates even more when hideous wailing follows it as the spotlight travels past her.

The support roles in the film are more refined. Jeremy Irons is restrained as her long-suffering husband and manager Michael Gosselyn. Miriam Margolyes is fabulous and funny as theatre owner Dolly, a frustrated lesbian desperate to bed her lead actress. And I had to side with Juliet Stevenson who plays Julia’s straight talking yet likeable dresser, Evie.

Basically everyone is more likeable than Julia.

I can understand comparisons between Being Julia and All About Eve. Both lead characters are egotistical actresses who blur their public and private lives. But the comparisons should only remind you why All About Eve is a classic and Being Julia will be a $2 weekly DVD in a flash of an eye.


MFOG.jpgMaria Full of Grace
Released: March 26, 2005
Rated: M
4 stars

Maria Full of Grace is a spinach film. That is, you know it’s good for you but you don’t really like it. The story revolves around a seventeen-year-old Colombian girl who thinks the only way to escape her miserable life is to become a drug mule. The film is a drama that feels more like a documentary. It’s shot with a sometimes-nauseating handheld camera style making the entire film feel grainy, dirty and real.

The lead role is played by astonishing newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno and, basically, she is Maria. I believed she’s desperate to escape her demeaning job of de-thorning roses at a flower farm where she earns about $2000 a year. I believed she’s feisty and intelligent. I believed her downtrodden family and friends stifle her. And I believed she’d swallow heroin for a round trip to New York and an easy five grand.

But it’s not easy. That’s the point. This film does nothing to glamorize drug smuggling. The drug dealers aren’t sexy, powerful ‘bling bling’ characters; they are slack-jawed mouth-breathers who are as bored with their jobs as Maria was with the roses.

The scene where Maria swallows the heroin pellets will test the strongest gag reflex. They are about the size of a thumb, coated in Vaseline and washed down with some clear soup. When Maria got down her first pellet, I gagged. By the time she had swallowed 62, I nearly passed out.

The film is shot in Spanish with English sub-titles but there is so little dialogue you could watch it with the sound down. The emotions and fears that cross Maria’s face speak volumes. It’s a basic story of survival.

First time director and writer Joshua Marston has captured the ugliness of drug smuggling with grace.

You’ll feel uncomfortable watching Maria Full of Heroin.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: June 05, AU Edition

SAME OLD SCHTICK
Woody Allen’s routine is growing old, but Samuel L. Jackson’s still got it

melinda.jpgMelinda and Melinda
Released: May 26, 2005
Rated: M
2 stars

I just don’t get the fuss over Woody Allen. I think the man’s films all suffer from dialogue diarrhea.

The characters just talk and talk and go on and on (and on). And they are always horribly highbrow Manhattanites discoursing over incredibly important topics and appreciating fine music. I can guarantee none of his characters has ever watched Desperate Housewives! If I was invited to a dinner party with people like that I’d probably end up plucking my eye out with a fork.

So keeping that in mind, here’s what I thought of Melinda and Melinda. The story starts across a restaurant table, as two writers debate whether life is essentially comic or tragic. To prove their respective sides they each take a tale about an uninvited guest and put their own spin on it. So for the rest of the film the audience is flipping between the comic version and the tragic version of Melinda’s life. The trouble is the comedy isn’t funny and the tragedy isn’t tragic so it’s easy to get lost. My hint is to follow Melinda’s hairstyle: straight=funny, curly=sad.

Although the script is weak a couple of the performances are strong. Rhada Mitchell is mesmerising as Melinda. She’s in nearly every scene and carries the film with ease. But no matter hard she works at her character it’s distracting when she’s sprouting lines like, ‘The subject of infidelity is completely out of the question. You were correct in your assumption.’ This sounds like Jane Austen, not present-day New York.

Woody Allen didn’t cast himself in this film (be thankful for small mercies) but he did make a strange decision for who would play his usual neurotic lovelorn character: Will Ferrell. And weirdly, the comic actor pulls the role off fabulously. I have always thought Will is amusing but not romantic lead material, but in this film the romantic lead is wracked with insecurities, guilt and jealousy, so it works.

Others were more disappointing: Chloe Sevigny and Amanda Peet simply play themselves again and again.
Yawn.

If you’re a Woody Allen fan ignore me and check it out. If not, I’ll pass you a fork.


CCarter.jpgCoach Carter
Released: May 26, 2005
Rated: M
4 stars

Coach Carter is a clichéd sports flick. But it’s a great clichéd sports flick that is based on a true story. Coach Carter (Samuel L Jackson) inherits a bunch of trash-talking, selfish high school basketballers who end every sentence with ‘dawg’. He makes them sign contracts to maintain their grades and respect each other, then whips them into shape with a kabillion pushups and enforced teamwork. Soon no-one can beat them and the state championships are well within their grasp.

That is, until the teachers reveal half the team is actually failing. So Coach Carter puts a lock on the gym and benches the entire team. The players, school and parents are furious. But Coach won’t budge; he points out young black men are 80 per cent more likely to go to prison than go to college.

Cue inspirational speech and swell motivational music. I know it’s formulaic but I couldn’t help it, I was sitting there grinning and urging them to study so they could make something of themselves…oh and win basketball scholarships…and sort out their off-court relationships…and still win the championship.

Samuel L. Jackson smolders with intensity. He carries the film on his capable shoulders. He’s commanding, powerful and likeable. A strong cast of young actors portrays the players in sad but believable situations.

It’s a true story that rings true. Hooray for clichés.


woodsman.jpgThe Woodsman
Released: May 05, 2005
Rated: M
2 stars

Sometimes I love seeing a movie I’ve heard nothing about. I walk in with no expectations and no idea of plot and let it wash over me. This was not one of those times. The Woodsman is a story of a pedophile. I think with a subject like this I would have liked some warning.

Kevin Bacon plays the lead role of Walter. Even before it’s revealed he’s a child molester Bacon shows his character is uncomfortable in his own skin. He’s withdrawn and living with the stigma of being just released from jail. Imagine how much worse it is when people find out what he did to get twelve years in the slammer. The editing of the movie splices unrelated scenes together making you feel disjointed and uncomfortable. It makes you see things from Walter’s point of view.
The Woodsman follows Walter and watches what happens when he tries to re-enter society. He honestly says he wants to be a “normal” person but at the same time is driven with a deep compulsion.

He gets a job at a timber yard with a bunch of rednecks and as an ex-con the only apartment he can rent is a rundown shoebox that happens to be across the road from a school. Demons follow his every thought.

Although there are other actors in the movie you almost don’t need them. It’s all about Walter and the battle of his will. Bacon is superbly restrained and subtle and acts with all his might in the many silences.

Will he lapse?

Not recommended as a first date movie.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: July 05, AU Edition

MOB RULES
Also: DreamWorks’ latest fails to excite, and don’t expect
a rush of copycat oyster farming flicks any time soon

layer-cake-4.jpgLayer Cake
Released: July 14, 2005
Rated: MA
4 stars

Boy, is the cast of Layer Cake ugly! But that’s the joy of British gangster films – forget Hollywood glamour, in these flicks the mobsters aren’t pretty or even all that smart. Instead they all have bad teeth and wear horrible parachute-cloth tracksuits.
Layer Cake is a great name for the film because the viewer is taken through several character stories in rapid succession. Don’t go to this movie tired or you’ll never keep up.

Daniel Craig plays the lead role as the most attractive gangster (which is not saying much; he is still horribly pock-marked). He’s so successful as a top-level drug dealer that no-one knows his name – and neither does the audience. He’s planning to pull off one last deal before early retirement. No surprise when it all goes terribly pear-shaped.

To offload a shipment of ecstasy, our main man has to deal with crooks further up the drug food chain than he’s used to. Enter Jimmy Price, played by Kenneth Cranham, an unattractive dealer in every sense of the word. Of course, that leads to dealing with an even more unattractive mobster even further up the food chain, Eddie Temple, played by Michael Gambon (it’s hard to believe he played the loveable Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter). Oddly enough, they don’t want one of their best dealers simply retiring. Go figure.

(There is one notable exception on the ugly front, the gorgeous Sienna Miller – who’s more famous for being engaged to Jude Law than for her acting – has a small part as the hero’s love interest. Her role is tiny but then so is her lingerie. One for the fellas.)

Add to that a drug deal gone wrong in Holland and a pissed-off Slavic hitman and the viewer is left with a lot of action that turns out to be smart, funny and ugly.

Just the way it should be.



madag.jpgMadagascar
Released: June 16, 2005
Rated: PG
3 stars

Whenever I hear DreamWorks has a new animated movie, I hope for a Shrek. I always forget that DreamWorks also made the disappointing A Shark’s Tale. Madagascar falls into the second category. It’s not a multi-leveled family film that adults can get a kick out of too. This one is for the kiddies.

The animation is reliably impressive and the story has a lesson, so as a film for ankle-biters it’s fine. It’s the tale of a group of animals from the New York Zoo. Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) is living it large on steak and adoration from his fans. His friends include Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) who wants to break free, Melman the hypochondriac Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the streetwise Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith).

Marty leads a break-out of the zoo in search of adventure and they all get caught and sent to Africa. But on the way they get shipwrecked in Madagascar. They have no idea how to act in the wild. It’s like Survivor for accountants. They stumble across a colony of lemurs ruled by the amusing King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his right-paw-man Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer). Insert musical number here.

Trouble is brewing (or should that be stomachs are grumbling?) because Alex the Lion misses his daily steak fix. He’s a meat-eater. He starts seeing Marty the Zebra as food. Alex even tries to take a bite out of Marty’s butt. I can only assume forcing the kiddies to confront the dynamics of the food chain is the reason for the
PG rating.

There’s a great running-gag involving a pack of plotting penguins that act like elite special forces soldiers and a funny re-enactment of an American Beauty scene. But that’s it for the grown ups. So if you are a non-breeder who has to take someone else’s bin-lids to the movies, Madagascar is non-offensive and slightly amusing. But that’s it.
They can’t all be Shrek.


july05moviesart.jpgOyster Farmer
Released: June 30, 2005
Rated: M
3 stars

From the very first shot you can tell Oyster Farmer is using the scenery as another character in the film. It shows the Hawkesbury River as a stunning yet isolated place to live. And the people who live and work on her banks have to cope with its ebbs and flows.

Oyster Farmer is a gentle movie about a young guy (played by Alex O’Lachlan) who escapes a pain-filled life by working with an eccentric community of, you guessed it, oyster farmers. His love interest (played by Diana Glenn) is a local who grew up in the area but longs for the trappings of city life – like fabulous shoes.

Both have secrets. And yet both are drawn together. There’s stealing, lying and jumping to conclusions. O’Lachlan is handsome in a typically Aussie way and brings the right amount of depth to his character Jack to show just how uncomfortable he is in his own skin. Glenn captures a naivety you’d expect from someone brought up in those conditions. Both play true Aussies without falling into parody.

The standout role is Brownie (played by David Field). He’s a weather-beaten farmer battling a temperamental crop of oysters. Field is best known for his performance as Bob Hawke in A Night We Called It A Day, but I think this is some of his finest acting yet. His estranged wife (played by Kerry Armstrong) is sexy and strong but ultimately under-utilised.

The trouble with the film is that the story line meanders along like the Hawkesbury River. There isn’t enough drama. Too much is left unsaid; each sub-plot needs more guts. Yes, Oyster Farmer feels like a film about real people, but as we all know, real life can be a tad boring.

I wouldn’t recommend rushing to the cinema to see it, but if you’re looking for a rainy night DVD selection it would be a comfortable choice. Perhaps with a half-dozen Sydney Rocks on the side.


Posted by InvestigateDesign at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: Sep 05, AU Edition

KUNG FU FIGHTING
There’s nothing frightening about a bizarre new martial arts flick. Plus: professional skaters and other kids with too much money

MOVIES_kungfu.jpgKung Fu Hustle
Release: July 2, 2005
Rated: R
5 stars

I had no idea how I was going to review Kung Fu Hustle. I wasn’t sure if it was the best movie I’ve ever seen or the worst. So I tried explaining it to my friends and found each time I talked about it I was smiling and laughing with amazement. So five stars it is.

I have never seen anything like it. Imagine Enter The Dragon, crossed with The Matrix, crossed with Reservoir Dogs, crossed with a Road Runner cartoon. Yeah, it messes with your mind.

I’ll try to explain the plot but I was so wide-eyed during the screening I hardly took any notes. I didn’t want to miss a second of the sub-titles in case it suddenly made sense.

Set in pre-revolutionary China, Kung Fu Hustle tells the tale of a petty crook called Sing, (played humorously by Stephen Chow) who wants to join the notorious Axe Gang. The Axe Gang is running the city and killing people with axes (obviously) while dancing in tails and top hats (betcha didn’t see that coming).

Sing pretends he’s part of the Axe Gang to extort money for the poor folk living in a slum called Pig Sty Alley. But all is not what it seems. Pig Sty Alley is home to some kick-butt Kung Fu masters, including the local gay tailor who uses curtain rings to fend off assailants and swoons after a fight, sighing, “Is it a crime to be good at Kung Fu?”

So along with the screaming landlady and her husband who also happen to be Kung Fu superfreaks this team plans to battle the Axe Gang. Then it all gets a bit Looney Tunes with the use of CGI and an honest-to-God Road Runner homage.

Finally Sing is revealed as a super-SUPER-powered Kung Fu master and he takes on a Kung Fu killer just released from a lunatic asylum who can harness his own powers and turn himself into a fighting bullfrog. The climatic fight scene is an insane building-smashing, CGI-bending, martial arts masterpiece.

Stephen Chow not only plays the lead role, he also wrote, produced, and directed the movie. Whatever he’s on, I’ll have what he’s having.


main.jpgMillions
Release: August 11, 2005
Rated: PG
5 stars

Breath taking, magical, delightful! A family film that is inspiring yet not sickly sweet. Disney you ask? DreamWorks perhaps? Nope. Millions is a Danny Boyle film. Yes, the same Danny Boyle who brought us the drug-fest Trainspotting and zombie flick 28 Days Later has produced one of the most enchanting films of the year. And without an animated animal in sight.

Millions is set in Northern England in the week running up to Britain changing from it’s currency from pounds sterling to euros. Two young boys find a sports bag stuffed with more than £250,000 in cash and, with just seven days before it becomes worthless, have some quick decisions to make.

Anthony (the charming Lewis McGibbon), is nine years old and a bourgeoning capitalist. He plans to buy property and wants to avoid paying tax (“Do you know how much 40 per cent is?” he asks, “Nearly all of it”). His seven year old brother Damian (captivating newcomer Alex Etel), is a more troubled soul who has memorised the names and dates of every saint in the Christian calendar and wants to use the money to help the poor. While his unimpressed older brother tells him there aren’t any poor where they live as the house prices keep them out, Damian’s struggle to do the right thing make him the star of this modern day fable.

This imaginative and incredibly funny film follows the trial and tribulations of the two boys as they deal with their windfall while escaping the crooks who want their stolen loot back. They have to rely on each other as their Mum is dead and their Dad (the adorable James Nesbitt) is lonely and unaware of their money dilemma.

This sophisticated family film uses exceptional camerawork and floating music to show you the world through a child’s eyes. The ending is a little sappy but in a morality tale it’s expected the characters have to choose between right and wrong. And so much of this film is very right.


060605lordsofdogtown.jpgLords of Dogtown
Release: August 18, 2005
Rated: M
3 stars

Lords of Dogtown is a movie based on Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary based on the real lives of the Z-Boys, the famous Cali-fornian skateboard legends of the 70s. But as with any copy, it gets weaker with every reproduction.

It’s the story of the Z-Boys, a group of grommets who muck around with skateboards when the surf is flat. One day the local skate/surf shop owner, Skip Engblom (brilliantly played by Heath Ledger – who I think was channelling Val Kilmer), comes up with a key breakthrough, polyurethane wheels. The trick is they grip. So with the additional traction, the Z-Boys try skating the sides of the big, open drainage canal that runs through the area. Then when locals were forced to empty their pools due to water restrictions the Z-Boys saw those curved pools as cement dreams.

Their freestyling techniques cause such a stir they introduce their own sub-culture to skateboarding. With that the big sponsorship bucks (and the groupies) followed. Of course the money corrupts their friendship and they all go their separate ways, reminiscing of those lazy summers.

The Z-Boys are: Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) and Stacy Peralta (John Robinson). They all do an OK job but none of them can do the amazing stunts that are in the documentary so it seems like the fuss is all about nothing.

As always, you can’t beat the original.


little-fish-4.jpgLittle Fish
Release: September 8, 2005
Rated: MA
4 stars

We have some amazing acting talent in Australia. Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Sam Neill, Martin Henderson even Noni Hazelhurst all shine in Little Fish. Too bad the story sucks. All right, maybe it doesn’t suck but man is it dark! Cate Blanchett is exceptional as Tracy, an ex-junkie working in a video store in a slum-like working class suburb of Sydney nicknamed ‘Little Saigon’.

She’s trying to stay on the straight and narrow and wants to open a business but naturally no bank will give a reformed drug addict a loan. Her stepfather, breathtakingly played by an almost unrecognizable Hugo Weaving, is a gay ex-footy star and a heroin addict. Her brother, played impressively by Martin Henderson, is disabled and looking to make a quick buck by dealing drugs. Her ex-boyfriend, played by Dustin Nguyen, says he’s not in the drug business anymore but is a liar. And her mum, played by the fabulously craggy Noni Hazelhurst, is desperately trying to keep her family’s head above water.

You know it’s going to end in tears. Little Fish is well acted, well told and, well, bleak.


Posted by InvestigateDesign at 01:21 AM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: Mar 05, AU Edition

“FAMILY DOCTOR” NO CURE
Taxpayer dollars are wasted on another dud Aussie flick,but Aviator soars and Daggers slices

illustrated-family-doctor-5.jpgThe Illustrated Family Doctor
Released: March 03, 2005
Rated: MA
1 star

The Australian film industry continues to drown the continent in a pool of unfulfilling, poorly scripted, pointless excuses for movies. The Illustrated Family Doctor doesn’t just continue this trend, it makes The Crop look like Casablanca.

Personally, I refuse to lower my standards simply on the basis of Aussie pride. This film contains nothing to be proud of.
Gary Kelp (Samuel Johnson) works for a company that condenses long books into manageable digests. His father recently died and Gary is stunned to find out his mother signed dad up to be an organ donor. Then, as if to compound his unease, he is assigned to do a cut-and-paste job on The Illustrated Family Doctor – a medical guidebook filled with lurid pictures of skin diseases and tumours. As Gary’s life falls apart, these diseases seem to jump from the screen and invade his body.

Now Samuel Johnson always looks like he needs a good scrub at the best of times. But add to that actual eye infections and skin rashes and I was reaching for the sick-bag. I was just hoping one of the diseases would be fatal.

In the meantime, his boss (the uninspiring and disappointing Colin Friels) has troubles of his own dealing with his daughter’s abusive husband. There’s even a strange and tacked-on gangster sub-plot. It’s all a sticky mess.

One of my favourite actors, Sacha Horler, has a small role as Gary’s sister, but even her talents couldn’t avert this train wreck.
It is painfully obvious that this is director Kriv Stenders’ first film. His cumbersome direction drags out scenes that should have been tight. Whatever laughter there is comes from pity rather than genuine enjoyment.

How on Earth did this film get funding? Film Finance Corporation Australia should hang its head in shame. Prognosis: terminal.


09.jpgHouse of Flying Daggers
Released: February 17, 2005
Rated: MA
4 stars

Every scene in House of Flying Daggers is a work of art. Strongly contrasting landscapes and rich colours make the characters seem like they are living in oil paintings.

Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, this Chinese film easily crosses the East-West divide. It falls in what is known as the wuxia genre, which means the story is all about swordplay and chivalry; viewers can expect plenty of stylised martial arts fights with dramatic camera angles and mind-exploding choreography. Gravity is not a concept director Zhang Yimou chooses to accept.

But it’s not all style and no substance. Set in ninth-century China during the Tang dynasty, House of Flying Daggers is driven by a classic love triangle. The players are two Tang officers –the handsome young Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and the older Leo (Andy Lau)
– who try to trick blind dancer Mei (Zhang Ziyi) into leading them to a rebel group known as the Flying Daggers.

Takeshi Kaneshiro – Asia’s answer to Brad Pitt – breathes steamy sex appeal into his role. Andy Lau, who’s more your Harrison Ford type, struggles to escape Takeshi’s shadow. But it’s Zhang Ziyi who steals the show. She looks like a delicate princess, but a flick of her wrist would smash your nose into a million pieces. Imagine a fragile Winona Ryder who could kick Jennifer Garner’s butt.

It’s inspiring to see such strong lead roles for women. Female roles in Western films just can’t compare. In House of Flying Daggers the women are fierce warriors who can fight dozens of men at a time without also having to look like they could arm-wrestle Arnie.
The film does have a couple of flaws. For one thing, the plot wraps up a bit too quickly in the end with its twists, revelations and double-crossings. And the sex scenes are very clumsy – obviously the lead characters are fighters, not lovers.

House of Flying Daggers’ Chinese title is Shi Main Mai Fu, which literally translated means “Ambushed From Ten Directions”. I prefer this title because it better captures the eye-popping special effects and head-spinning action that had me rushing out of the cinema to practice my karate chops on my younger brother.


leonardo and cate.jpgThe Aviator
Released: February 10, 2005
Rated: MA
5 stars

The Aviator has already garnered more stars than the American flag and I just gave it five more. This Martin Scorcese – directed film is a masterpiece. Viewers are swept along by the excesses of Howard Hughes’ life and wrapped up in the glamour of a seductive, groundbreaking era. Hughes lived an amazing life, and the world is a better place for hitching a ride in his slipstream. The Aviator uses a great story to showcase Hollywood’s finest actors of the moment. Now I don’t know anyone over twelve years old who actually likes Leonardo DiCaprio, but credit where credit is due: he’s captivating in this film. He doesn’t look like Howard Hughes, yet he has captured the essence of his drive, ambition and cuckoo-crazy episodes – to say nothing of the billionaire’s need for perfection, big-picture brain and desire for busty women. DiCaprio shows how a man could burst under all that pressure and wind up naked and locked in a room surrounded by bottles of his own urine.

And as always it’s all about Cate Blanchett. She of the impossible cheekbones personifies Katharine Hepburn and everything we loved about her. Blanchett nails her mannerisms, voice and headstrong behaviour. But it’s not a crass mimicry – it’s an homage. I look forward to the day a movie is made about Cate Blanchett to see who will be brave enough to portray one of Australia’s finest actors.

Kate Beckinsale stacked on ten kilos to play Ava Gardner, and the curves suit her well – as does the sassy and strong role. Alec Baldwin is at his charming and suave best as Hughes’ arch-rival, Juan Trippe. John C. Reilly is downtrodden as always as Hughes’ accountant. Alan Alda should be given more roles as he is horribly accurate as a corrupt senator. The only two who don’t shine are Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow and Jude Law as Errol Flynn. But director Martin Scorsese had the sense to keep those parts brief.

The special effects are astounding (one particular plane crash is so graphic I shielded my eyes from flying debris), the energetic music had me bopping in my seat and the cinematography is rich and luscious.The world needs more eccentric geniuses like Howard Hughes and Martin Scorsese.


Posted by InvestigateDesign at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: Mar 05, AU Edition

“FAMILY DOCTOR” NO CURE
Taxpayer dollars are wasted on another dud Aussie flick,but Aviator soars and Daggers slices

illustrated-family-doctor-5.jpgThe Illustrated Family Doctor
Released: March 03, 2005
Rated: MA
1 star

The Australian film industry continues to drown the continent in a pool of unfulfilling, poorly scripted, pointless excuses for movies. The Illustrated Family Doctor doesn’t just continue this trend, it makes The Crop look like Casablanca.

Personally, I refuse to lower my standards simply on the basis of Aussie pride. This film contains nothing to be proud of.
Gary Kelp (Samuel Johnson) works for a company that condenses long books into manageable digests. His father recently died and Gary is stunned to find out his mother signed dad up to be an organ donor. Then, as if to compound his unease, he is assigned to do a cut-and-paste job on The Illustrated Family Doctor – a medical guidebook filled with lurid pictures of skin diseases and tumours. As Gary’s life falls apart, these diseases seem to jump from the screen and invade his body.

Now Samuel Johnson always looks like he needs a good scrub at the best of times. But add to that actual eye infections and skin rashes and I was reaching for the sick-bag. I was just hoping one of the diseases would be fatal.

In the meantime, his boss (the uninspiring and disappointing Colin Friels) has troubles of his own dealing with his daughter’s abusive husband. There’s even a strange and tacked-on gangster sub-plot. It’s all a sticky mess.

One of my favourite actors, Sacha Horler, has a small role as Gary’s sister, but even her talents couldn’t avert this train wreck.
It is painfully obvious that this is director Kriv Stenders’ first film. His cumbersome direction drags out scenes that should have been tight. Whatever laughter there is comes from pity rather than genuine enjoyment.

How on Earth did this film get funding? Film Finance Corporation Australia should hang its head in shame. Prognosis: terminal.


09.jpgHouse of Flying Daggers
Released: February 17, 2005
Rated: MA
4 stars

Every scene in House of Flying Daggers is a work of art. Strongly contrasting landscapes and rich colours make the characters seem like they are living in oil paintings.

Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, this Chinese film easily crosses the East-West divide. It falls in what is known as the wuxia genre, which means the story is all about swordplay and chivalry; viewers can expect plenty of stylised martial arts fights with dramatic camera angles and mind-exploding choreography. Gravity is not a concept director Zhang Yimou chooses to accept.

But it’s not all style and no substance. Set in ninth-century China during the Tang dynasty, House of Flying Daggers is driven by a classic love triangle. The players are two Tang officers –the handsome young Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and the older Leo (Andy Lau)
– who try to trick blind dancer Mei (Zhang Ziyi) into leading them to a rebel group known as the Flying Daggers.

Takeshi Kaneshiro – Asia’s answer to Brad Pitt – breathes steamy sex appeal into his role. Andy Lau, who’s more your Harrison Ford type, struggles to escape Takeshi’s shadow. But it’s Zhang Ziyi who steals the show. She looks like a delicate princess, but a flick of her wrist would smash your nose into a million pieces. Imagine a fragile Winona Ryder who could kick Jennifer Garner’s butt.

It’s inspiring to see such strong lead roles for women. Female roles in Western films just can’t compare. In House of Flying Daggers the women are fierce warriors who can fight dozens of men at a time without also having to look like they could arm-wrestle Arnie.
The film does have a couple of flaws. For one thing, the plot wraps up a bit too quickly in the end with its twists, revelations and double-crossings. And the sex scenes are very clumsy – obviously the lead characters are fighters, not lovers.

House of Flying Daggers’ Chinese title is Shi Main Mai Fu, which literally translated means “Ambushed From Ten Directions”. I prefer this title because it better captures the eye-popping special effects and head-spinning action that had me rushing out of the cinema to practice my karate chops on my younger brother.


leonardo and cate.jpgThe Aviator
Released: February 10, 2005
Rated: MA
5 stars

The Aviator has already garnered more stars than the American flag and I just gave it five more. This Martin Scorcese – directed film is a masterpiece. Viewers are swept along by the excesses of Howard Hughes’ life and wrapped up in the glamour of a seductive, groundbreaking era. Hughes lived an amazing life, and the world is a better place for hitching a ride in his slipstream. The Aviator uses a great story to showcase Hollywood’s finest actors of the moment. Now I don’t know anyone over twelve years old who actually likes Leonardo DiCaprio, but credit where credit is due: he’s captivating in this film. He doesn’t look like Howard Hughes, yet he has captured the essence of his drive, ambition and cuckoo-crazy episodes – to say nothing of the billionaire’s need for perfection, big-picture brain and desire for busty women. DiCaprio shows how a man could burst under all that pressure and wind up naked and locked in a room surrounded by bottles of his own urine.

And as always it’s all about Cate Blanchett. She of the impossible cheekbones personifies Katharine Hepburn and everything we loved about her. Blanchett nails her mannerisms, voice and headstrong behaviour. But it’s not a crass mimicry – it’s an homage. I look forward to the day a movie is made about Cate Blanchett to see who will be brave enough to portray one of Australia’s finest actors.

Kate Beckinsale stacked on ten kilos to play Ava Gardner, and the curves suit her well – as does the sassy and strong role. Alec Baldwin is at his charming and suave best as Hughes’ arch-rival, Juan Trippe. John C. Reilly is downtrodden as always as Hughes’ accountant. Alan Alda should be given more roles as he is horribly accurate as a corrupt senator. The only two who don’t shine are Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow and Jude Law as Errol Flynn. But director Martin Scorsese had the sense to keep those parts brief.

The special effects are astounding (one particular plane crash is so graphic I shielded my eyes from flying debris), the energetic music had me bopping in my seat and the cinematography is rich and luscious.The world needs more eccentric geniuses like Howard Hughes and Martin Scorsese.


Posted by InvestigateDesign at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

MOVIES: May 05, AU Edition

CRASH IS NO TRAINWRECK
Also: Nicole Kidman’s latest is not what you think it’s about, and Australia (finally!) produces a decent movie

crash.jpgCrash
Released: April 28, 2005
Rated: PG
4 ½ stars

I’m not racist, but…’: That’s the sentiment which best sums up this gripping emotional drama about just how horribly people can treat each other. It also shows a side of Los Angeles that’s not in any tourist brochure.

In Crash there are a number of stories that intertwine (think Magnolia), each one more spiteful than the next. First there’s the carjacking: Larenz Tate and rapper Ludacris are totally believable as carjackers who think they are modern-day Robin Hoods because they only steal from rich white folks. Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock are pitch-perfect as the white-bread middle-class carjacking victims. Don Cheadle and Jennifer Esposito are exceptional as the police officers investigating the crime.

Next, you love to hate Matt Dillon as a racist cop who molests a black woman (Thandie Newton), putting rookie cop Ryan Phillippe in an emotional and ethical dilemma.

But for me the most powerful storyline concerns a Persian immigrant (Shaun Toub) who is trying to run a small shop and Michael Pena, who plays an unlucky locksmith who finds himself the target of years of repressed anger, frustration and despair. This pairing leads to one of the most powerful scenes I’ve seen on a movie screen in a long time.
Written and directed by Paul Haggis (who adapted Million Dollar Baby), Crash could have been an unwieldy mess. But he’s a maestro who crams tension into each scene and brilliantly juxtaposes and links the stories until they build into the kind of crescendo that leaves you struggling for breath.

Crash is emotional and thought provoking. I left the cinema promising to be a nicer person.


may05movieart.jpgThe Extra
Released: April 14, 2005
Rated: PG
3 ½ stars

Yaaaay! Finally, an Australian film that had me laughing more than cringing! The Extra is a funny romantic romp with the loveable Jimeoin starring as…well, he doesn’t have a name in the film. Extras never do.

The premise is simple. Normal dude wants to be a movie star. Movie stars are rich, get all the chicks and go to great parties.

Unfortunately, because of an outstanding lack of talent, all he can manage is a few roles as an extra. Viewers travel along with Jimeoin in all of his wide-eyed innocence as he meets jaded child stars, pompous lead actors and money sharks in pursuit of his dream.

It’s the same old crew Jimeoin always surrounds himself with, but when you’ve got a great cast, why mess with it? Jimeoin has the simple bloke routine down pat. His sunny optimism makes him a loser one cares about.

But it’s not just about the star: there’s also a great supporting cast to back up The Extra. Rhys Muldoon nearly steals the show as Curtis Thai-Buckworth, a former child star who’s now a ‘writer-slash-director’: his desperation is palpable. Katherine Slattery is luminous as Jimeoin’s love interest. Forget Julia Roberts – Katherine has the best smile in the biz. Bob Franklin is up to his usual standard as the underworld gangster with a brain. Kristy Hinze is beautiful but vacant. And Shaun Micallef is at his arrogant best as Detective Ridley, a cop with his own TV show who wants to be an actor.

Seriously, just to see the flare with which he his flicks open his police badge is almost worth the price of admission alone.

The Extra is fun, it is well made, and it shows there’s still a faint pulse in the Australian film industry yet.


birth.jpgBirth
Released: April 28, 2005
Rated: M
3 ½ stars

Forget what you may have heard. Anyone who claims Birth promotes incest or paedophilia has missed the whole point.

Nicole Kidman’s latest film is a powerful story about loss, love and grief. There has been so much hype surrounding Birth that the actual story has been lost in the furor. Nicole Kidman was booed at the Cannes Film Festival because in the film her character has a bath with 10-year-old boy who says he’s a reincarnation of her dead husband. Later she kisses him. And I’m not talking a motherly peck. I know - ewww! But somehow it works.

Let me explain why. Birth is all about reincarnation. Anna (Nicole Kidman) lost her husband, Sean, to a heart attack a decade ago.

Imagine the shock when ten-year-old Sean (Cameron Bright) waltzes into her life and claims to be a reincarnation of her dead love. Anna’s family, headed up by matriarch Eleanor (Lauren Bacall), treats the boy and the idea of reincarnation with the right amount of contempt and jaded realism you’d expect rational folk to display. But here’s the creepy thing: young Sean knows all sorts of facts that only the husband Sean could have known.

There’s a stand-out scene where Anna is at the opera and the camera stays on her face for a full three minutes – a long, long time in movieland. As the music soars, emotions play across her face, and we realise at the same moment she does: she actually believes him.

Now I’m certainly not a card-carrying member of the “Our Nicole” fan club. I think she’s generally over-rated and definitely too skinny. And I certainly don’t think she deserved an Oscar for donning a fake nose in The Hours. That said, this is one of her finest performances yet. In Birth, she isn’t trying to be a movie star, she is doing what she does best – character acting. Kidman throws herself headlong into Anna’s mind, which is one faulty unit. Watching her you yearn for the intense all-consuming love Anna felt for her husband. I think it helped that she lost her signature red locks and, with a nod to Rosemary’s Baby, goes for a dark Mia Farrow-esque pixie cut.

Cameron Bright is actually ten years old. His performance as Sean is measured and wise beyond his years. He plays an adult in a child’s body so well you start thinking…well…maybe…he is a reincarnation.
Lauren Bacall is powerful as always. The music is superb. The cinematography is classy.

Did I like the film? No. It gave me the willies. I rushed home from the cinema to scrub myself under a hot shower. But the story sticks in your head for weeks and not many films do that these days.

Posted by InvestigateDesign at 12:48 AM | Comments (0)