Colossal

Pisshead Gloria’s life in New York is a mess.  An unemployed writer, Gloria’s mainstays in life are partying, sleeping all day, and borrowing money from Nice Boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). The do hits the fan when N.B.T. dumps her, kicks her out of his flat, and Gloria moves back to Mainhead, her childhood home town, where she is forced to face her demons, one of whom is not the drink.

Convinced that her emotional state is controlling literally monstrous events in far off South Korea, anti-hero Gloria’s unwilling journey to save herself becomes a mission to save the world before the world becomes complacent.  At times brutal, this comedy is more monster film than action film.  It evokes the quirky storytelling of writer Derek Connolly’s 2012 romantic comedy, Safety Not Guaranteed, and director Dan Trachtenburg’s 2016 seat-clencher 10 Cloverfield Lane.  A decent performance from Anne Hathaway as Gloria, who buries herself in a world of men, but is more King Kong than fey Fay Wray.  An increasingly plotty storyline resolves itself in a very clear-cut way, and over all, a satisfying film to watch.

Watch the Colossal preview here:

c. Kylie Lawrence 2017

Far From Men

Algeria. 1954.  Lone middle-aged schoolteacher Duru, played with increasingly unquiet soul by Viggo Mortensen (‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy), lives a peaceful, spartan life, in an isolated valley.  Forced to escort a young alleged murderer to court in a distant town, the reluctant Duru comes face-to-face with his own past, in an increasingly dangerous journey through the shale and rebel-filled mountains, to redemption.   But whose redemption?

Cowed villain Mohamed, played beautifully by Reda Kateb, is arguably the more fascinating character of the two, his story peeling away to reveal a tragic core.

Far From Men is a character-driven, action-packed western leavened with heart, moments of levity, and a stillness befitting the extraordinary Algerian landscape.  From Albert Camus’ short story L’Hote, and directed by David Olhoeffen who also collaborated  on the screenplay adaptation with writer Antoine Lacomblez, Far From Men draws one in with decent performances, stunning cinematography, and a genuinely heart and gut-gripping climax.

Unfortunately I forgot to post this film review back in August when I saw it at the cinema and concluded that: “Far From Men is the best drama I have seen recently, and I would hasten thee to a cinema on the pronto.”

Now it’s November, I’d say saddle yer steed and hasten thee to a DVD or VOD!

c. Kylie Lawrence 2015.

The Great Gatsby

I finally went and saw The Great Gatsby at the pictures last night and I am glad that I did.

First up, was it spectacular cinema?  What Baz Lurhmann film isn’t?

Look at it this way, when you have more special effects crew than cast, and enough to populate a small town, with Baz Lurhmann and the fabulous Catherine Martin at the helm, how can it be anything else?

But what of the story?

If I was irritated by Gatsby’s repetitive fondness for the phrase “old sport,”  bandied about like Kevin Rudd trying out Australianisms to suck up to voters at a barbeque, then at least Buchanan took him to task over his right to its utterance.  Fair suck of the sav, we get that it’s an idiologism of the 1920s, we see that it’s the 1920s, what more do you want?

As Nick Caraway says of Daisy and Tom Buchanan at the end, “They were careless people.”  Did I care about these characters?

Daisy had a heart, for sure, and Nick too.  It took me a while to warm to Jay Gatsby, and it wasn’t really until he revealed his love for lost love Daisy, and thus began unravelling in his pursuit of her, that I cared indeed for Gatsby himself.  By the end, who did I care most for?  Nick, and Gatsby himself.  I’m interested in anybody who chases and does all he or she can for love.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343092/

 

Will I watch The Great Gatsby again?  Thinking about it.

Does seeing this latest cinematic reinterpretation make me want to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel?

Definitely.

 

 

 

The Loneliest Planet

What is the loneliest planet? 

This is a question which played by chance after watching writer/director Julia Loktev’s latest feature film, visually stunning The Loneliest Planet.

Adapted from a short story by journalist and travel writer, Tom Bissell, Loktev draws out the tale almost in real-time of Nica and Alex, a young couple passionately in love with each other and on the brink of marriage.  Too soon, but not soon enough for the audience, they find themselves on the brink of betrayal, wrought by a single shocking event, which shatters everything they think they know about each other, and about themselves.

Nica, played by Hani Furstenberg a talented Israeli-American actor who could give Jessica Chastain a run for her money – partly ’cause she’s a ranga – and Alex, played by Gabriel Garcia Bernal, (The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and Babel (2006)) are fit, seasoned backpackers, seeking experiences off the beaten track in rural Georgia, Russia.  I say seasoned, unlike their clothes, which never seem to get dirty or torn, no matter how many rocks they clamber over or grassy mountains they roll down.  But hey, John Wayne’s shining new trousers and red shirt at the start of The Searchers (1956) never truly belied the adventures of a U.S. Confederate soldier who has ridden rough for three years before arriving home to his family out in the Texas desert.

Alex and Nica’s Georgian local mountaineering guide, played by Bidzina Gujabidze, is at first a subtly shy though friendly older character, in counterpoint to the garrulous Nica, but as Nica discovers, behind the scarred exterior Dato is a thoughtful man hiding a tenderly complex story of loneliness which proves an elixir in the resolution.  Gujabidize, an accomplished mountaineer, rather than actor, offers an authentic, nuanced performance in his feature film début.

We are easily drawn into the minutiae of life on a trek in a foreign country:  a tourist’s eye-view of magnificent, rugged countryside, which both invigorates and blisters the traveller’s spirit and feet, from shattering rock-strewn hillside, to washing in flat waterways, and laughing over cheeky language games.  There are some unsettling moments for Nica and Alex: perhaps this land is not so friendly, but Dato ushers them through with care.  These hints of danger tease the viewer into thinking that they are watching a thriller.  The rising tedium  – I wanted to yank a chunk out of the story – leading to the crisis moment in Alex and Nica’s journey, contrasts with the slow-moving but rising tension in the climax scene, during which an inevitable careless betrayal elicits the aforementioned elixir.   Delaying the drama is an intriguing choice, but as a measure of character development, it works well.

After watching this film, I find the loneliest planet is not the isolated wilds of remote Georgia‘s Caucasus Mountains, but the human heart.

No bull:   If you love backpacking, or storytelling that gives you time to smell the roses, then it is worth a look. 

Newly released in Australian cinemas, The Loneliest Planet is clever, simple character-based storytelling.   Slow in parts, it is ultimately evocative, and provocative.

To watch The Loneliest Planet preview:

c. Kylie Lawrence 2013.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED… But Laughs Are

It’s a quirky title, but the storytelling team behind this endearing off-beat comedy,  Safety Not Guaranteed, take us on a ride into imaginative territory.

Determined to get the story behind a crazy time-traveller-companion-wanted advertisement, the misfit trio of sleazy Gen X magazine journalist, Jeff (Jake Johnson of A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)) and young interns, the depressed Darius (comedian Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation (TV) fame) and geeky innocent Arnaud (Karan Soni, Are You There, Chelsea? (2012), set out on an increasingly bizarre  trip into the perilous world of time traveller Kenneth.

Character-driven comedy with a twist I won’t spoil, the stand-out performance for me is Mark Duplass’s child-man Kenneth, a man for whom moving on is just too hard, and revisiting the past seems the only way to make sense of the present:  a theme that true romantics will appreciate.  Time travel is dangerous stuff, as Kenneth’s self-made action hero explains to Darius, but it can change your life.

A touch of over-plotting in the latter part of the second act slows the pace slightly, but overall I cannot fault writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow’s hilarious, heart-warming comedy for engaging storytelling.

No Bull:  Get your backside on a cinema seat now.

The only person laughing more than me was a mysterious stranger in the front row.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED preview (I refuse to say trailer):


c.  A Room of Heroine 2012

Welcome to No Bull Film Reviews

G’Day Possums,

I am officially going to pull my finger out and start sharing some no bull film reviews with you, especially as I’ve seen some great films lately, take generally inconsequential interest in film reviews. 

This will include films I truly like, and others I want to pick a bone with.  If they help you decide whether or not you would like to watch the films at the pictures, or on DVD, just remember that I will probably not be as rude online about the ones I’m annoyed with as I would be if we were chatting face to face, and utterly effusive about the ones I really like:  either of which may be of generally inconsequential interest to you as a film audience member.

But deep down, I enjoy going to the pictures, and hope that you do too.

x

When European Cinema Doesn’t Shine

I love going to the pictures. 

The only time I haven’t enjoyed the cinematic experience is the time a few years ago I convinced a couple of friends to see this Italian family draaaaaama where the characters did nothing but bitch, and fuck, and argue for the film’s duration. 

It was exhausting to listen to, exhausting to watch, and no amount of cute Italian hand gestures could make up for the fact that this film was exhausting to listen to and exhausting to watch.

For the first time in my personal cinema-going history, there was no choc top from heaven that could have stopped me from walking out.  And I never walk out of a film.  So I sat there, and hoped my friends wouldn’t say anything awful to me afterward.  Of course, when we walked out into the sunshine of Oxford St, I apologised for inviting them to see it.  This is something which I would never dream of doing.  Other people whinge and whine about films, but I love going to the pictures.

As for building the drama, the story up on screen couldn’t flatline any further in terms of dramatic dynamics.  In fact, if it had flatlined, I would not have noticed it.  It was a constant parade of four seasons in one emotional day.  And so much anger (the characters’, not mine).

One of the things screenwriter Billy Marshall Stoneking has to say about drama (and he has plenty to say) is that drama has to build and go somewhere.  It has to do something. I hope he doesn’t mind my quoting his writing on Dramatic Grammar:

A story’s power is proportional to its effectiveness in building and releasing energy in ways that are fresh, unexpected and thoroughly credible

When a story stops building energy, or is unable to effectively release it, the energy dissipates, which is another way of saying the story becomes undramatic.

You can join Billy on his hunt for truly dramatic storytelling at http://www.wheresthedrama.com.

Highly recommended if I do speak from experience.

Should I tell you the name of this film that altered my perception of cinema-going for all eternity?  No.  I have forgotten the name, and to be honest, I feel a bit mean slagging off the work of other artists.

But it was a growing experience.  I did learn something of storytelling value that afternoon.  It was naive of me to expect that a European film might, by sheer virtue of its being a European film, automatically provide a glowing cinematic experience.   It doesn’t mean diddly squat.

That’s the same as assuming that Australian films are broadly quirky, undramatic, or filled with horror.

Anyway, enjoy your choc tops, possums.

 

c. A Room of Heroine 2011.