The Emperor’s New Clothes
Russell Brand, one of the richest men in Great Britain, is pointing the finger at those responsible for the Global Financial Crisis, but is he the good guy or the hypocrite?
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Tom Munday
The Emperor’s New Clothes, the latest project driven head-on by ultra-popular comedian-actor-author-prophet Russell Brand, pits the 99% and 1% into a violent, anger-fuelled scrum. Beginning with a reiteration of Hans Christian Andersen’s socially-viable fable, Brand and Michael Winterbottom’s (24 Hour Party People, 9 Songs) documentary splits Michael Moore’s duties down the middle between director and narrator/unstoppable activist. Their targets, British Banks and CEOs escaping the Global Financial Crisis scot-free, face the wrath of Brand, outraged analysts, and the public.
Winterbottom and Brand attack corporate plutocracy and governmental dishonesty with the force of a thousand bankruptcies. This thrilling, thought-provoking documentary opens the floodgates, hitting us with more facts, figures, and rage-inducing revelations than expected. Brand and Winterbottom, covering all bases, delve into the worlds of everyone from lower-class townspeople struggling to pay rent, to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. They, unlike similar fare, intrinsically acknowledge and stand against the cruelty of tax avoidance, severe pay gaps between CEO and customer, and the decreasing of pay and living standards.
Winterbottom’s style, showcased by clever camera angles and bright, animated titles, never takes focus off Brand’s scruffy veneer. Brand, known above all else for his bizarre off-screen persona, has no problem making fun of his pseudo-Jack Sparrow flamboyancy. Comparing the economic status of his childhood under Margaret Thatcher to now, Brand brandishes his fury for a grand cause. His celebrity status does however cloud the movie’s judgment. His notoriety, illuminated by selfies and hugs from fans, distracts from the point.
The Emperor’s New Clothes, though occasionally distorted by its likeable leading figure, is a convincing and fiery doco prone to putting its foot down.
Walking The Camino
The world famous St. James’s Way, otherwise known as Spain’s Camino de Santiago, is exposed, as six strangers from around the world tackle a daunting and enlightening journey of physical and meditative growth in this uplifting doco.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan
As I found my seat in the theatre, and the curtains lifted, I breathed a deep, relaxing sigh as I settled in for a simmering change of pace. Lydia B. Smith directs the calming documentary Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, set on the historical pilgrimage route running across France and Spain to the Santiago de Compostela that thousands of tourists traverse each year. Famously the subject of 2010 Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen father/son project The Way, this slice of life follows six different travellers of varying ages, nationalities and religious backgrounds who have each arrived on the Camino seeking something unique. Be it spiritual enlightenment, honouring the dead, overcoming depression, physical challenge, facing competitiveness or strengthening a relationship, it seems this month-long walk exists to satisfy any need carried to its exquisite landscape.
Amazingly, Smith manages to draw a satisfying arc from each of the six real people along their journey, and at the same time make an 800 kilometre walk through an agrestic terrain and rustic villages seem incredibly appealing. These pilgrims face nasty weather, blistered feet, uncomfortable sleeping conditions, and a sense of hopelessness as the seemingly endless and exhausting road winds on, and yet emerge changed people, encompassments of spiritual growth. Obviously lacking in conflict, exciting set pieces and drama, this may not hold much appeal for the average cinema-goer, but for fans of The Way, anyone interested in travel and seeking inspiration to take the testing trek, or simply after deeply relaxing, feel-good viewing, this is a benevolent and soulful experience.
Ever get the feeling you are being watched? Our greatest fears become reality in the documenting of one of the most controversial and revelatory events in American history, unfolding in real-time.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan
It certainly says something about the state of Hollywood that a documentary consisting almost entirely of long conversations about national security can be more terrifying than most horror films released in the last few years. Awarded the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature earlier this year, Citizenfour reveals the chilling story behind the 2013 National Security Agency spying scandal, exposed by the notorious whistleblower Edward Snowden. The third in director Laura Poitras’ trilogy concerning America post-9/11 following My Country, My Country and The Oath, this suspenseful doco does not present much in the way of new information, but instead offers us a first-hand look at the events as they unfold in a cinéma vérité fashion. You will certainly never see your phone or email in the same light again.
The bulk of the film is made up of Poitras’ secret liaison with Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room. Snowden, a former NSA contractor, seeks Poitras’ help as he discloses thousands of global surveillance files and reveals to trustworthy journalists that following 9/11, the NSA has been spying on every American citizen – telecommunications, email, text messages, Google searches, bank records and Amazon orders have all been intercepted. The film grows unbearably tense as the news goes public and Snowden realises he is a fugitive, his house surrounded by surveillance vans, and his family at risk; paranoia tightens its grip when the filmmakers discover they are being followed. Citizenfour begs an endless discussion, but doing so here would only ruin the experience. You need know only one thing – it is simply unmissable.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is available in Australian cinemas as of Thursday June 11th
Walking The Camino is available in Australian cinemas as of Thursday June 11th
Citizenfour is available in Australia on DVD as of Wednesday June 24th
Images courtesy of StudioCanal, Umbrella Entertainment & Madman Entertainment