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Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

I almost didn’t rent this movie because it’s got Seth Rogen in it. No offense to him, it’s just that his type of movies aren’t usually my type of movies. When I saw him on the cover, despite the glorious presence of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I worried it might be one of those druggie/party movies that every seems to love (but me)

50/50 is about Adam, a radio writer whose girlfriend Rachel stays with him most nights. He also likes hanging out with his best friend Kyle who often gives him a ride to work since Adam can’t drive. I like Adam ‘cos he’s quite quiet and chilled out and like me he doesn’t smoke, drink or drive.

One day he goes to the doctor about a recurring backache and the doctor tells him he’s got schwannoma neurofibrosarcoma. Adam’s reaction is just what you’d expect “So sorry… I don’t know what that is”. The doctor tells him it’s cancer, and after that Adam doesn’t hear anything else he says.

That doesn’t make any sense, though. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. …I recycle…

The impersonal, impassionate way the doctor delivers the news is so abrupt. He’s really uncomfortable when he thinks he detects Adam’s emotional reaction and quickly tells him about the hospital’s counselling services, which Adam eventually makes use of in the form of cute young psychiatry student,
Katherine. The rest of the film follows his live in the aftermath of his “50/50” diagnosis.

This film does a great job of showing how cancer affects not only the patient but also the other people in his or her life and the unexpected star of the show – yup, I’m gunna say it: Seth Rogen. Joseph totally deserved his Oscar nomination for this – he was crazy-awesome – but watching someone as they’re
diagnosed with a serious form of cancer and undergo treatment is really intense and kind of exhausting. Kyle’s irreverent humour is the perfect foil for the dark hopelessness of what Adam’s experiencing. He’s a really good friend. He drives Adam to his hospital appointments but he also persuades him to use his cancer to pick up chicks. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there aren’t enough positive male  relationships in movies, but I think this is one.

This film is definitely one of my top two cancer movies of all time. That’s right, it’s right up there with Wit.

The back of the DVD case (which I didn’t read ’til after the movie, thank goodness) calls the film a “laugh-out-loud comedy” and both its Oscar nominations (best movie and best actor) were in the ‘Comedy or Musical’ category. That’s messed up. I mean, sure, I LOLed. But I don’t think that makes it a comedy. I also cried. I think it’s more of a “drama”, myself. But what do I know? I haven’t had cancer.

If you think this sounds like your kinda movie, I highly recommend getting it on your next trip to the DVD rental store. But I do not recommend reading the back of the DVD case, it totally gives away the ending.

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick

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This documentary is hosted by UK actress Joanna Lumley in which she shares a very personal journey to learn about the culture of the Northern Lights and finally see them for herself.

Joanna’s voice is deep and breathy, with a very proper English accent. Her narration gives the film a dreamy, romantic quality and her eloquence, style of speech together with her warm personality make her an altogether charming guide. She openly shares her own fascinating experiences – living with her family in Malaysia (which she pronounces “Malay-zee-ya”) as a child she dreamed of cold and of the mystical North and especially of seeing the Northern Lights. In this film she travels through Norway, into the Arctic Circle and moves ever northward, meeting and staying with local people along the way.

The thing which struck me most about Joanna as a presenter, as herself (rather than an actor), was her humbleness, her amazing rapport with those she meets. She has a wonderful openness, an obvious great affection and generosity of feeling towards everyone else. She is very genuine in her appreciation of people, not at all condescending. When speaking to someone who doesn’t speak much English she listens patiently, earnestly, to what they’re saying. She in really involved, tries to understand everything she sees, and is happy to be corrected. She always tries the local language. She is open in her enthusiasm.

Joanna shows her glee at being able to finally experience the journey she’s dreamed of, and is ready to laugh at herself in ridiculous situations, like being taught how to right a snow mobile by a 4-year-old. One of my favourite scenes is when she is in the quaint fishing village of Å (“Or”) in a rorbu, a fishing cottage. Sitting at a table with her pastels and drawing book, Joanna creates a lovely picture of the scene from the window. I think it’s so brave of her to expose herself like that, to show the world such a private part of her life.

I think there always comes a time in anything you do, like drawing or painting, or indeed acting, when you think “will I ever be good enough to please – well, myself, let alone anybody else? Will it ever be good enough? Will I ever come up to scratch?” Or worse still, people lean over your shoulder and go “…don’t you think his eye is a little more like that?” and you just go “yes, I know, I know, I’m dealing with the eye later. Just, leave me-“. So you know I can’t bear being judged on the things like this because they’re really only for fun and if it pleases you – which it might not, but I mean try to make it please you – try to do things which please you, that’s all. And therefore if it’s not good enough – get better.

And after all this isn’t going to be exhibited anywhere.
…Except on television(!)

I think it’s great how her documentary is at once entertaining and informative, and you get to see a Norwegian journey you couldn’t see with anyone else. Joanna explains how since a young age she’s longed to see the Northern Lights after reading a children’s book called ‘Ponny the Penguin’ by Veronica Basser, in particular an illustration by Edwina Bell of Ponny standing under the Southern Lights and looking up. I think it’s great that when Joanna finally gets to see the Aurora Borealis there’s a shot of her in the film where she looks just like Ponny the Penguin!

I also love her dry sense of humour and I can’t wait to see more of her documentaries in the future. May there be many!

I highly recommend this DVD and if you’d like a taster, it’s also on YouTube.

Director: Archie Baron
Producer: Helena Braun
Starring: Joanna Lumley

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This is one of those films that you’ve been walking past at the DVD store for about a year, and every time you almost get it out, but you always end up finding something else instead.

Well I finally got it out, and I’m going to tell you about it. However, I should point out that this woman wrote a really good, fancy review of it that is really smart, so you should probably just read hers instead.

So straight away this film had two things going for it: rad cover art and John Krasinski. John Krasinski (aka “that cute guy from the Office) has a great smile – I mean a great smile – and has the advantage of playing lovely guys. Advantageous in that he does it well, and it makes him lovable. He’s so lovable. Also his last name isn’t as tricky to spell as you think – just sound it out: kra-sin-ski. Neat. 

Maya Rudolph is also pretty stunning, but previously I’ve only seen her as the bride in Bridesmaids (2011)

The film has a pretty rad opening scene. I say “rad” – it could so easily have not been. It opens with a sexual scene which shocked my conservative self (I know, I know – that’s not hard), however the fact that I’d completely fallen in love with the couple anyway after the first minute just shows what great writing and acting this film has.

So our two heroes Verona and Burt are a young couple very much in love, who find out that they’re having a baby. Six months later their world is altered when Burt’s parents, their only family nearby, move away. They realise that they’re alone at a critical juncture in their lives and are free to do whatever and go wherever they want. Only they don’t know what they want. They’re at that stage of self-doubt that we’ve all felt before (and will again) and question who they are and what they’re doing with their lives.

Verona: Burt, are we fuck-ups?
Burt: No! What do you mean?
V: I mean, we’re 34-
B: 33
V: -and we don’t even have this basic stuff figured out.
B: Basic, like how?
V: Basic, like how to live.
B: We’re not fuck-ups.
V: We have a cardboard window.
B: We’re not fuck-ups.
V: …I think we might be fuck-ups.
B: We’re not fuck-ups.

So they decide to take a trip and visit various family and friends in different cities – Phoenix, Tucson, Montreal, Miami – and then decide where they’d like to settle. So they set out and in each place visit different families with varying degrees of eccentricity. In each place bar one they visit friend/s with children and they experience different ideas of what constitutes “family” – and what constitutes “parenting”!

Maggie Gyllenhaal does hilariously well as an old friend with two kids who is a “new age-y” mum who believes in parenting without “the three S’s”: Separation, Sugar and Strollers (“why would I want to push my baby away from me?!”)

Each place they visit – heralded in the film by bold titles, e.g. “AWAY TO PHOENIX” – is like a separate vignette and while the scenes with Gyllenhaal are almost farcical, many do deal with real challenges relating to life, relationships and parenting.

Personally I really enjoyed the way the film dealt with the journey (not just geographical) of Verona and Burt in a way that showed real emotions that were sometimes softened by and sometimes sharpened by humour. Humour which was at times sombre, silly, wry, sweet, dark, and just snort-out-loud funny (yes, I ‘lol’ed. Or ‘sol’ed?)

Something which bugged me about the film was also partly my favourite thing: Burt is just so damn great. He’s like the perfect guy. I mean, he’s got annoying habits, but that just highlights how perfect he is the rest of the time. Perfect for Verona. He loves her and genuinely wants to please here. He doesn’t say the right thing all the time, but he gets a lot closer than any other guy I’ve met! As Katrina Onstad notes, “Much of the film consists of Burt and Verona side by side, reacting to the absurdity around them.” Burt seems perfect because he’s perfect for Verona. Just like she is for him. They’re a real unit in this film.

Her name isn’t the only awesome thing about Verona, either. She’s really well-rounded (no pun intended) and you see her insecure side as well as her fun one. I like that she’s so comfortable and familiar with Burt that she doesn’t fall for his charms, she still gets mad at him and grumpy about stuff. She’s not self-conscious because she knows he loves her. That sounds cheesy ay? I can’t explain it very well. As a character she does being pregnant really well, in that we see her living her life like real pregnant people do, not just sitting around “being pregnant”. She’s still herself and she’s still living her life and making decisions. Like John Krasinski said in an interview,

…the coolest part about the movie is that it’s not a pregnancy movie. Us getting pregnant is just the catalyst to us, basically, taking another look at our lives and being like: Oh, wait, are we ready? Are we good people? Have we done all of the things we want to do?

Isn’t that sexy? “Us getting pregnant”. I think that’s awesome. Because that’s what it’s like in the film, as a couple they’re having a baby, so it’s a very “us” feeling. In that way it’s a very self-involved film. But isn’t that how life is? Onstad wrote

Rudolph’s stern demeanour suggests a woman adept at keeping her emotional life in check. Krasinski is her warmer foil, and the two are believably familiar together. They also look sort of normal; not artfully normal, but normal, which feels radical somehow in an American love story.

I think that’s it – they really do feel totally familiar and normal. The acting is superb and I think the styling is the icing on the cake in terms of creating great, real characters. They’re that cool couple that you wanna be friends with. They’re funny and stable and normal. But you’re also kind of envious of them, because their closeness and stability is kind of rare, too.

I think this film portrays my ideal relationship, one which is self-reliant and self-sustaining. I’m not really a social person, I just need that one person and I’m set. That’s the plan, anyway.

So I guess the moral of the story is: if you’re worried you’re screwing your life up, don’t be – everyone else is way worse! Or something like that…

I think this is the kind of movie you’ll either love or hate. If you’re cynical it’s probably soppy hipster drivel, or just plain boring. I thought it was inspired. If there’s a DVD-shaped parcel under my tree this year, I won’t mind if it’s this one.

(And if you’re walking past this DVD at the shop, too – stop, and take it home!)

Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Maya Rudolph, John Krasinski

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 Time travel! It’s the stuff of movies! One of those movies is Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga.

To be honest, I’m not much one for science-y, nerdy time machine movies. However Source Code isn’t a nerdy time machine movie. It’s less about time travel and more about people and relationships and identity. I don’t always like “thinking” movies at the end of a long day, and although any film with time travel in the plot is going to require you to pay a certain level of attention, Source Code drew me in and got me thinking about the story and the people involved, not just the mechanics and plausibility of the thing.

Another film with close parallels to Source Code is Deja Vu, the 2006 movie starring Denzel Washington. I enjoyed them both, and think they do well as two films from the same genre which are both interesting and worth watching in their own right. (Minor spoilers ahead!)

‘Source Code’ (above) and ‘Deja Vu’ (below)

In both films the ability to see or travel through time is developed and accessed through computers, and the nature of the time travel is quite interesting. In contrast to the traditional idea of a time machine that can just travel freely through time without limitations, in each of these films the window of time that can be accessed has very specific restrictions.

In Deja Vu a “time-folding” computer program called ‘Snow White’ allows a small group of computer scientists to see the past, but only a very specific point in the past, about 4 days before the present. Supposedly one can’t “travel” to that time, but you can view it like a movie, and you can move around in space, within that point in time.

In Source Code a soldier is sent back in time using a “time loop” computer program called ‘Source Code’ to also live through a very specific time: the 8 minutes preceding the bombing of a commuter train. However unlike in Deja Vu the soldier can be sent back to relive the same 8 minutes over and over ad infinitum, despite dying each time the train explodes.

Colter Stevens in ‘Source Code’, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (above) and Doug Carlin in ‘Deja Vu’, played by Denzel Washington (below)

Although technology is used in each film to facilitate the time travel, in each case it is an amateur outsider who has to navigate the journey through time. This is a great cinematic device because it means that the protagonist is figuring out everything at pretty much the same time as the audience.

Christina Warren in ‘Source Code’, played by Michelle Monaghan (above) & Claire Kuchever in ‘Deja Vu’, played by Paula Patton (below)

Despite all their similiarities, however, the films are both different, and leave you with very different feelings. Deja Vu is all action-y and Doug has to race through time and space to save the beautiful stranger, Claire. There are lots of chases and explosions and shooting and crocodiles and stuff. While Source Code does have some of each of the above (except the crocodiles), it is a much more introspective film. I think this reflects the closed loop of time that Colter Stevens finds himself trapped in.

With echoes of Avatar, Colter Stevens, a marine fighting in Afghanistan, finds himself sitting on a Chicago train in someone else’s body. After dying in the explosion he wakes back in his own body, but trapped in a metal pod with no way of getting out. An airforce captain appears on a video monitor and tells him he must find the bomber on the train, and sends him back in time with another 8 minutes to do so. In both places/times, Colter struggles to find and stop the train bomber, and also to figure out why he’s trapped in the pod and how he can escape.

Source Code is a much more psychological film which causes the viewer to be more concerned with Colter, his experiences, and his increasingly desperate search for an escape. Time travel isn’t a gimic that the film is based around, but a device which facilitates the telling of an unnerving human story.

Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga

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So we we’ve been watching the original Star Wars films over the last few weeks. And I love them, they’re the films I grew up watching and they’re so fun to come back to. But watching the films again recently has made me notice something I never appreciated as a kid: Han solo is a total babe.

He’s got the looks, the outfit, the cheek, the  hot ride and the mystery. The scariest part of the trilogy for me as a kid was always when Han gets frozen in carbonite. Hearing a grown man scream was terrifying, and the concept that you could be aware that you’re about to die/be tortured and no one could do anything to stop it really affected me. I think Harrison Ford’s a great actor. And vulnerability is sexy.

Star Wars is a lot like Lord of the Rings in terms of the women who are represented (in that in the LotR books and the original SW trilogy there aren’t any), however I think you gotta give points for positive male relationships and Chewie and Han are two of the coolest guys you’ll meet. They do BFF really well. And in a movie full of white people, I think their interspecies friendship has multicultural overtones. Multiculturalism is really sexy.

cool kids

Something else I noticed this time round was the simplicity of the plot, particularly in regard to relationships (accidental sibling incest aside). There aren’t really any tortured souls, star-crossed lovers or “other women”. It’s much more simple, and I think more realistic than that. Plus it’s not all bed-hopping and sweaty writhing, which I for one find refreshing.

I read on Digital Spy that Harrison Ford found Han to be the type of character who doesn’t “outlive the movie”. In the 2008 article he said

Han Solo isn’t interesting to me. It’s a very narrow sort of utility in the story and it was great for my career and it was fun to play at the time but I wouldn’t go back there again. Those pants!

I know what he means about Han being a narrow character in and of himself, but I think it’s cool how the Star Wars universe has expanded so much in the years since the first films that it’s allowed each character to take on so much more potential.

I’m not sorry Harrison doesn’t want to reprise the role, he did a such a great job the first time anyway.

And those pants… !

 😀

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The Mummy films are those movies that are seem to always be randomly on free-to-air TV from time to time. Doesn’t really matter which one. Tonight they’re playing The Mummy Returns, without playing the prequel first. Doesn’t really matter, we’ve all seen them before anyway.

Maybe that’s why I like them so much. For me they’re the perfect mix of action, pretend history hokey, and lovable characters. Yes, lovable. Also, I have a low scare threshold, so I like action and resurrected mummies and whatnot without having to sleep with the light on for a few days after. And the hott mamas.

Intrepid librarian, mother, ancient Egypt expert, wife, and eyeline queen number one, Evie is one cool chick. Some may be bothered by the nuclear family aspect of this film, but for me I like to see healthy wife/husband and parents/child relationships in a film for once.

Besides, which kid didn’t wish their parents were swashbuckling adventurers and hunters of ancient artifacts in Egypt?

Played by the ever-ravashing Rachel Weisz, I can’t help but love her. Go the foxy librarian!

 

Eyeline queen number two is Anck Su Namun, played by Patricia Velasquez. The mistress of a Pharoh, Anck Su Namun is one hott villainness. Her love story with evil/misunderstood villain number one, high priest Imhotep, is actually kind of romantic. I mean, killing yourselves and suffering 3000 years of torture so that one day you can resurrect eachother and take over the world with your undead armies is kinda sweet…. right??

Of course, in the film Evie discovers she is the reincarnation of the cuckhold Pharoh’s daughter, and Anck Su Namun’s sworn enemy. (Naturally). She has visions of when they lived together in ancient Egypt. Mostly just hanging out, doing regular ancient Egyptian stuff like dressing in masks and sexy outfits and fighting eachother with what look like Sai.

As you do.
I mean, me and my friends do that every Tuesday night.

Yeah, they’re a bit skinny on it, but they’ve got the wigs and the eyeliner and the masks, so we can’t ask for too much.

So, yup. That’s it. I’m watching The Mummy Returns again – go the ancient Egyptian gorgeousness!

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This is remarkable film documents the first contact between the Desert People, the last group of the Aboriginal Martu who were still living in the desert in the middle of the twentieth century, and white European Australians. The story is told, using both archival footage and current interviews, by Yuwali, a 62 year-old woman who was 17 in 1964 when the “contact” occured.

At that time Yuwali lived in a group of about twenty with her mother, aunts, nana and many children of various ages. There were no men. Hundreds of kilometres away scientists were preparing to launch a test rocket which would crash back to earth within a huge “dump site”. Two (white) men were sent to check that there were no inhabitants in the area, expecting to find nothing. Yuwali’s account of what actually happened is riveting, terrifying, haunting.

Alone near the camp with the other children Yuwali saw the giant rock they used to play on rolling around their camp. Then two men appeared, two “white devils with plates on their heads”. They were too scared to move and waited for nightfall to run away, following Yuwali’s mother’s tracks out into the desert. Eventually finding her mother, the whole group flees through the desert, terrified being caught and eaten by the cannibals who were persuing them.

Just one of the striking things about this film is hearing Yuwali talk about her life, describing normal, everyday activities which to us are so new and foreign. Also their response to and reasoning the new things that happened to them was so different, so that hearing Yuwali speak was like a light going on in a dark part of your mind. When they were finally taken away in cars she described the experience, “we saw the trees and bushes start running. We were scared we’d be thrown out.”

Being able to see glimpses of their desert lives in the archival footage was really amazing. Walking naked through the desert they just seemed to belong – it made me think of how ridiculous it’d be if my pasty white self was there. It just wouldn’t work. But Yuwali and her family really belonged there. They could survive with almost nothing. The physical beauty of their home is also represented in the film, so that you envy them for their belonging there, and you appreciate just what they lost. Their spiritual attachment to the area is also represented in the film and it makes their abduction from their even more savage.

The documentary also features interviews with one of the whitefellas who was also there at the first contact. It’s interesting to hear his view, particularly on incidents which are also described by Yuwali and her cousin (or half sister?) Thelma, often with a conflicting account. It’s so fascinating how they explain past events and have the experience now to compare their different ways of life, before and after they were taken. The wearing of clothes, for example. The have no use for clothes in the desert and when the whitefellas clothe them the garments seem slightly superfluous, ill-fitting and absurd.

Their language (Martu), too, is really nice to listen to. In New Zealand we officially acknowledge that Te Reo Maori is a taonga, Maori language is a treasure, but even so many of us feel we don’t use it, respect it enough. Although Australia is our close neighbour, I feel like we know nothing of their indigenous culture at all. It’s invisible. Even when you go there, Australia looks like a white country which celebrates its immigrants but denies its original inhabitants.

This documentary is poignant, powerful, beautiful, painful, shocking… but most of all I think I just feel lucky to have seen it. Grateful that Yuwali shared her story. Many of us have wondered what it would’ve been like for an indigenous population when they were thrust into the outside world for the first time. Or what it would’ve been like to be that person from the outside, knowing that you were the first they’d ever seen of a different race, culture, way of life, the first contact. So this film is really extraordinary.

Directors: Bentley Dean and Martin Butler
Starring: Yuwali, Thelma Judson

Before came a book,  Cleared Out: First Contact in the Western Desert by Sue Davenport, Peter Johnson and Yuwali

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