Movie Review – mother!

The tagline “You have no idea where this movie will take you” says it all – mother! more than earns its exclamation mark.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

A nameless woman (Jennifer Lawrence) lives a life of peace and tranquillity in an isolated country home with her similarly anonymous poet husband (Javier Bardem). Their days are leisurely passed with her painting and renovating the house while he works on his written masterpiece, until one day a stranger (Ed Harris) appears on their doorstep looking for a place to stay. The wife is unimpressed when her husband gladly accepts, and less so when the man’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) turns up to board with him. The stranger’s bizarrely rude and erratic behaviour, and its influence on her husband is just the beginning of her torment: there’s many, many more unwelcome guests to come as all hell breaks loose.

“What the fuck?!” is something you’ll no doubt be exclaiming, or at least thinking a number of times throughout Darren Aronofsky’s mother! That’s right, the master of stressfully intense character dramas is back, and well and truly on form again after the disappointment of Noah. His latest rivals even Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan as his most viscerally extreme, WTF force of nature.

Like those cinematic nightmares, mother! puts its central character through a metaphorical meat grinder, continuing Aronofsky’s recurring motif of naïve women suffering for their optimism and hopeful attitude. It’s slow building, with Aronofsky creating a sanctuary for his two lovers before infesting it with the unpredictable couple that infect their paradise. It’s then that the house becomes oppressive and claustrophobic, practically imprisoning… to say much more would spoil it, but it’s safe to say this is some of the most batshit crazy stuff to come out of a studio film.

It seems almost a shame that its director and star confirmed it as a Biblical allegory, since it really feels like there could be multiple ways to interpret this purposefully ambiguous thrill ride. Aronofsky destroys cinema conventions and genre while twisting them into and abominable horror and satire, while spiritually condemning human beings for their sins; namely their chief sin of existence.

Scaling back to another level though, it’s tempting to view this as a metaphor for the struggles of fame and how destructive and toxic it can be on its subjects. The swarms of people that invade the house have no sense of personal space, secrecy or morality, and are capable of doing awful things to the people they supposedly worship, coming off very much like crazed paparazzi and fans. It’s all too appropriate given that Jennifer Lawrence is at the centre of all this; having faced a similar invasion of privacy as her nudes were leaked a few years ago, it’s no doubt she’s channelled much of her own stress and horror into her performance.

Which brings us to J-Law herself. She’s spent most of her relatively short career in the tween-pleasing feminine heroes of The Hunger Games and X-Men, and roles in self-indulgent David O. Russell Oscar-bait. Finally, she seems to have grown out of the annoying “so-quirky-and-relatable” persona and matured into a real actress, delivering on the excellence she promised way back in Winter’s Bone. Here, she confidently handles the rollercoaster of emotions as hell is unleashed upon her. Lawrence famously cracked a rib while hyperventilating in the film’s climactic scenes; it’s not hard to see why.

Upsetting, shocking, brilliant, abhorrent… there’s thousands of words that could be used to describe Aronofsky’s technical masterpiece of mayhem, but simply, it’s unlike just about anything else out there. There’s no questioning that this is a love it or hate it experience, but regardless of opinion a stunned silence is no doubt guaranteed. That, and exclaiming “What the fuck?!”

mother! is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Blockbusters To Watch Out For This Winter

Josip Knezevic 

America has entered blockbuster season, and that means some of the year’s biggest budget films will soon be hitting our cinemas. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s likely you’ve heard something about these upcoming films. There’s some familiar franchises headed our way, as well as some fresh blood that may just upset the established order of things.

When you say “blockbuster” it’s hard not to immediately think of Transformers. Yes, for some reason, Michael Bay is continuing his nonsensical spout of robot violence… well, that reason is probably the $1 billion USD Transformers: Age of Extinction made at the box office, but I digress.

The latest entry, Transformers: The Last Knight, aims to shatter the franchise mythology established by its many predecessors. Humans and Transformers will be pitted against each other, with no Optimus Price around to act as a peacemaker. Fans of the series will no doubt flock to their local cinema to see this latest installment, and even I have to admit that there are some amazing special effects on display in the trailer. Here’s hoping the same can be said for the story… but it’s hard to even suggest that with a straight face.

This week we’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sail into cinemas. Filmed off the coast of Australia, we revisit our favourite “worst pirate”, Captain Jack Sparrow, now under threat from old nemesis (yes, another one) Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Captain Jack’s only hope lies in finding the Trident of Poseidon, which grants its possessor total control of the seas. Could this be the revival the series needs after the questionable On Stranger Tides? Perhaps if Jason Momoa was thrown in as a fill in for Poseidon we might be getting somewhere…

Speaking of Aquaman and comic book films, we have origin films Wonder Woman and Spider-man: Homecoming coming very soon. After getting a taste of these characters in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War respectively, it’s hard to anticipate which film will be more successful. Interest in both films has grown exponentially on the back of each trailer. Personally, I’m less concerned with yet another re-boot of the Spider-Man series, so I hope Wonder Woman takes the win at the box office, but we shall see.

And finally, we’ve got the return of The Mummy, only this time, our beloved Brendan Fraser isn’t here to reprise his role. Instead, we’ve got Tom Cruise. Perhaps I’m blinded by my affection for Fraser, but Cruise seems to be a questionable choice. Nevertheless, The Mummy promises to once again tackle an ancient spirit who has accidentally risen from the dead to wreak havoc.

So, there you have it. If these films don’t get your heart pumping, fear not! As we draw nearer to Christmas time, another influx of blockbusters will be hitting our screens. Films like Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Dark Tower, Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok and Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be coming to a screen near you!

 

Image courtesy of Roadshoew Films 

Movie Review – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The fifth instalment to the Pirates of the Caribbean series is at once familiar and comfortable, even if it’s all been done before.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies have long since crossed over into James Bond territory; they’re no longer about their heroes. What’s more important are the villains – who are usually dead, undead, or about to die – and the central MacGuffins. This time the villain is played by Javier Bardem and the MacGuffin is the legendary trident of Poseidon, and it’s a real doozy because unlike all the other MacGuffins, this one promises to undo the curses of the seven seas and restore life to normality, which, we are hoping, also includes scraping the barnacles off poor Orlando Bloom’s face.

As you may or may not recall, Will Turner (Bloom) suffered the dreaded barnacle curse at the hands of Davy Jones more than ten years ago, and as Dead Men Tell No Tales opens, his son Henry (Brenton Thwaites) vows to relieve him of it. To do that, of course, he will need the trident, which also means, by tradition of a Pirates of the Caribbean plot, he will have to team up with Jack Sparrow.

Sparrow is once again played by Johnny Depp and is once again a figure most intrusive. Depp plays him with so much flavour that the less we see of him, the better. But in Dead Men Sparrow is everywhere, usually severely unfunny and always in danger of derailing the film’s joys, of which there are surprisingly plenty.

This is a proper swashbuckling action adventure, with the kind of scale to make David Lean proud and the sort of thunderous, full-blooded musical score that elevated Star Wars (1977) to an art form. Sparrow and Depp aside, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg have crafted here a movie about the seas that plays like a chapter from a children’s novel pumped full of adrenaline. Yes, the plot is essentially a beeline to the MacGuffin, the film borrows almost every joke and narrative element from its predecessors, and the bad guys are once again shot in front of a green screen and digitally animated to look like half-eaten zombies, but I was relieved to discover a story behind all the action; an honest attempt to make us care for the characters for once.

Henry wants to return his dad to his former self, which brings out all the awws from the audience. Hector Barbossa (Rush) is back and despairs of ever finding true meaning in his life. Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), another new addition, dreams of finding the trident because it’s the quest her dad started and never got to finish, and Scodelario has some fun running about in her corseted dress as she makes all the men look like fools.

Dead Men is more entertaining than a fifth movie in an insufferable series has any right to be. There are visually splendid moments, such as when a mysterious island lights up with crystals to reflect the night sky. And there is a majesty about the film’s climactic showdown in which the ocean waters part like the Red Sea and the Black Pearl teeters precariously on the edge above.

I cannot recommend you see this film for the plot or the jokes, but I suspect you will have a good time feeling its cheerful energy. I, for one, walked out humming the theme music with a smile. That’s gotta count for something.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is available in Australian cinemas from May 25 

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Top 5 Bond Villains 

As we come to the end of our Bond series in the lead up to the release of Spectre, it seems only fitting to go out with a bang by shining a radioactive light on the most dangerously diabolical, and magnificently malevolent Bond villains.

**WARNING: spoilers ahead**

Corey’s Pick: Auric Goldfinger, Goldfinger (1964)

“He’s the man with the Midas Touch… a spider’s touch!” so crooned Shirley Bassey of the first truly memorable Bond nemesis; Auric Goldfinger, a  prosperous businessman with a penchant for golf and, of course, a psychotic obsession with gold. Played by the late German actor Gert Fröbe (though dubbed by the British Michael Collins due to Fröbe’s poor English), Goldfinger remains a truly iconic adversary for his sadistic, yet undeniably imaginative methods of murder- such as suffocating his rogue seductress Jill Masterson by covering her in gold paint. With almost equally unprecedented henchmen – Pussy Galore and Oddjob – and an extraordinarily diabolical scheme involving chemical and nuclear warfare, Goldfinger shall forever be one of Bond’s – and cinema’s – greatest villains.

“No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoQwKe0lggw


Rhys’ Pick: Raoul Silva, Skyfall (2012)

Batman and the Joker, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader; the best villains have the capacity to mirror an aspect of the hero, and for James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Skyfall, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) represents his complicated relationship with, and his potentially misplaced trust in M (Judi Dench).

Silva, a past MI6 operative himself, is a victim of M’s uncompromising, take-no-prisoners attitude; the very same attitude which sees Bond shot through the chest, and left for dead at the very start of the film. Whilst Bond was able to put M’s questionable decision behind him, Silva was left disfigured and determinately disgruntled with his former handler. Driven by this personal vendetta, Silva’s plan involves disgracing MI6, dispatching Bond and, finally, exacting his revenge by assassinating M.

“Look upon your work, mother”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMOYiV7hUR0


Zachary’s Pick: Le Chiffre, Casino Royale (2005)

Among a great many surprises, Casino Royale treats us to one of James Bond’s most human villains; a man who makes some poor financial choices, and compensates by putting up a stoic front to try and redeem himself.

Le Chiffre is suave, deadly, deceitful, and a master of high-stakes poker, but weakness is ever-ready to gnaw away at his resolve. He’s not above sacrificing his girlfriend’s arm to African warlords, yet when deadlines close in, and debts have to be paid, he is impatient. Afraid, even. And Mads Mikkelsen hides a steely peril behind his cold, bleeding eyes. You know at once that this isn’t a man to be trifled with.

Le Chiffre’s not a larger-than-life organisation like SPECTRE, neither is he a megalomaniacal tech fiend like Max Zorin. He is very flawed. Very real. Very human. Not to mention he pummels Bond’s dangly bits with unabashed glee.

Le Chiffre wins – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IQb_ewSih4


Tom’s Pick: Dr. No, Dr. No (1962)

1962’s Dr. No successfully kicked off the ever-lasting 007 franchise with a hearty concoction of Sean Connery, gorgeous settings, and that white bikini. However, unlike most Bond villains, its titular antagonist is a dangerous, well-defined character. Dr. Julius No (Joseph Wiseman), part of super-villain super-group SPECTRE, fits the mad scientist trope. His thirst for radioactive materials, costing him his hands, drives his thirst for mass destruction and power. No’s plan, disrupting multiple rocket launches in superpowers including the USA and Soviet Union, resonates effectively. Sporting bionic metal paws and an elaborate island lair, the character, physically and psychologically, resembles the archetypal Bond foe. Bond, lured to No’s abode in Jamaica, is threatened by multiple attacks on No’s behalf. Capturing Bond and Honey Rider, No’s confronting persona and mercilessness make for a worthwhile obstacle throughout the climax. As the lair self-destructs, however, No is foiled by his physical deformities. Unable to grasp onto anything, he falls to his destructive demise into boiling coolant.

SPECTRE revealed – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsT1bLR2sfM


Rhys’ 2nd Pick: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, From Russia With Love (1963), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), For Your Eyes Only (1981).

James Bond has faced dozens of foes over the years, but none have been quite as fearsome and iconic as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head honcho of international terrorist group SPECTRE. The villain against which all others are measured, Blofeld has recurred more times than any other antagonist, and in many ways has transcended the series to influence cinema as a whole.

Concerned with only one thing – total world domination – Blofeld has orchestrated potential nuclear war between Russia and the United States, threatened to sterilise the world’s food supply and, perhaps most tragically, assisted in killing Tracy Bond (Diana Rigg) mere minutes after her wedding to James.

Although numerous actors have played him, perhaps his most iconic appearance was in You Only Live Twice when Donald Pleasance was cast in the role. With a pale and scarred visage, and gently stroking a white cat on his lap, Blofeld is also a villain who has been parodied a thousands times over, from Mike Myers’ hilarious Dr Evil in the Austin Powers series to the outlandish volcanic lair used by Hank Scorpio in my personal favourite Simpsons episode of all time.

“Allow me to introduce myself”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUQbmDMySpw


Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Theme Songs

Swirling graphics. Crisp silhouettes. A screen drenched in blood… every 007 romp opens the same way: an intricate opening credit sequence backed by a killer song that boasts a powerful voice. From all-time legends (Paul McCartney), to eighties icons (Duran Duran) through to today’s megastars (Sam Smith), only the best of the best are fit to carry Bond’s theme songs, and below you will find our top 5 picks for the greatest of the great.


Zachary’s Pick: Tina Turner – Goldeneye (1995)

A Bond song has to sound like a Bond song. What’s the name of his game? Seduction. Espionage. Violence. Cheek. There have been a fair few theme songs over the years to wittingly capture the essence of 007, notably classics sung by Garbage, Adele, and perennially, Shirley Bassey (you can wipe all the love ballads of the ‘70s and ‘80s from your memory). While Bassey’s Goldfinger will forever remain the cornerstone of the Bond musical canon, none encapsulates all that the franchise is more succinctly and proudly than Tina Turner’s Goldeneye.

From the second it begins, Goldeneye hints at something clandestine, almost taboo; dark secrets not yet revealed. Then Turner sweeps in, singing as if she too is concealing deadly secrets, and is happy about it. The song has a masterful ebb and flow of power and restraint, much like Bond himself. Apart from Goldfinger, no other song in the Bond universe tells you everything you need to know about this character and the dangerous world he inhabits.

Tina Turner sings Goldeneye – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hGQ97tCTOs


Tom’s Pick: Adele – Skyfall (2012)

Like Skyfall itself, the titular song eclipses everything that has come before it. Building upon the already immense success of British pop singer/songwriter Adele, this theme song elevated her career into Golden Globe and Oscar glory.

Hitting its stride immediately, the song’s orchestral riffs and straight-edged tone establish the film’s dark, gritty aura. Like the accompanying credits sequence, Adele’s sombre, hushed style firmly emphasises the film’s refreshing rebirth angle.

The singer’s graceful harmonies pay tribute to the Shirley Bassey era whilst ushering in the new-and-improved Bond universe. From the piano-key lead-in to the ear-shattering crescendo, Skyfall delivers an array of memorable, heart-pounding touches. Eclipsing recent entries including You Know My Name and Another Way to Die, the track is one of very few themes to successfully accompany, and elevate, the film and franchise.

Adele’s Skyfall music videohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HKoqNJtMTQ


Rhys’ Pick: Paul McCartney & Wings – Live and Let Die (1973)

Despite racking up the most appearances as the iconic super spy, Roger Moore’s era is lumbered with a divisive reputation; however, you can’t deny that the titular track on 1973’s Live and Let Die didn’t get things off to a rip-roaring start.

Written by Paul and Linda McCartney, and performed by Paul’s band WingsLive and Let Die was a departure from the series norm of grandiose horns and operatic themes. It’s a much stranger beast as McCartney kicks things off with a gentle piano intro before diving into racy guitar snarls, hammering drums and some spacey, fever dream weirdness in the middle.

It’s a fitting companion to the film also; Live and Let Die concerns itself with drug trafficking in New Orleans, Blaxploitation and voodoo rather than maniacal supervillains in Alpine bases or volcanic lairs, and marks the first time that 007 cosies up with an African-American character (Rosie Carver played by Gloria Hendry). Simply put, it’s a vastly different song for a vastly different Bond.

Live and Let Die opening titles sequence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn8alMYSu44


Corey’s Pick: A-ha –The Living Daylights (1987)

The two Timothy Dalton-starring Bond films – The Living Daylights and License to Kill – seem to divide 007 aficionados; some welcoming a darker, more realistic side to their favourite spy, others criticising Dalton’s sombre, humourless hero. Their theme songs, on the other hand, were decidedly upbeat; particularly the former. Performed by Norwegian synthpop rock band A-ha (yes, the guys who did Take On Me) The Living Daylights is among the catchiest of the many Bond theme songs, despite not ranking among the most well-recognised. After the commercial success of Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill, the producers sought after another popular band, first asking Pet Shop Boys (who declined) before opting for A-ha. A clash with the film’s composer John Barry led to the existence of two versions of the song; Barry’s string arrangement that wound up in the credits, and A-ha’s synth-heavy reworking for their own album – though both are deliciously 80’s and perfectly capture the essence of Bond’s style with cryptic lyrics. An underrated gem.

The Living Daylights opening titles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo9uXd48HME


Kit’s Pick: Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger (1964)

Performed by the mightily lunged Shirley Bassey, the opening theme to 1964’s Goldfinger is not only not only synonymous with James Bond; it’s also one of the most recognisable theme songs in film history. The searing vocals, catchy lyrics and bold brass section marry together to create something truly special.

The song set a high bar and generated a long-standing influence that can be seen in later themes that copied its formula. Bassey would return to record two more efforts for the franchise for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever and 1979’s Moonraker, making her the only artist to record multiple Bond themes. The song, along with an iconic opening title sequence (featuring sexy female silhouettes painted gold) capture the film’s tone perfectly.

Goldfinger title sequence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy_PJODH3p0


Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Top 5 Bond Gadgets

Go-go-gadget: where would our suave spy be without his modest collection of exploding devices, souped-up cars and various deadly weapons disguised as innocuous objects? Like Tony Stark with his Iron Man suit, or Bruce Wayne and his Batmobile, Bond often relies heavily on innovative – or at least, imaginative – technology to see him through each near-death situation he faces. From the early sixties’ instalments, through to the contraption-shunning Daniel Craig era, we have scoured the Bond canon to bring you our top picks for the most ingenious 007 gadgets.

Rhys’ Pick: Watch Laser, Goldeneye (1995)

Have you ever been stuck in a bomb-rigged train carriage, with all the doors and windows locked, and wondered how you’re going to get out? Well, James Bond has, and luckily, he had his cool laser watch on hand (well, wrist) to help him out. With just the press of a button, this otherwise unassuming timepiece emits a high-powered laser that can cut through metal in an instant – and you thought it was just for telling the time (pah!)

Featured in Pierce Brosnan’s 007 debut Goldeneye, this gadget doesn’t just help James and current squeeze Natalia (Izabella Scorupco) out of the aforementioned tight spot, it also looks really swish – with the Omega logo emblazoned on the face, it’s an example of movie product placement at its finest! After that scene, you know you want one. I mean, c’mon – who doesn’t want to look stylish whilst simultaneously saving the world?

90’s Omega Watch Commercial – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhpvIO9Sj2s


Zachary’s Pick: Lotus Esprit, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

The gadgets assigned to the various incarnations of James Bond have always tinkered with the parameters of fantasy, reality and science-fiction. In The Spy Who Loved Me, the world of Bond electronics finally plunged headfirst into the realm of science-fiction, producing the Lotus Esprit; a car that could also transform into an operational submarine. The transformation was so sublime the entire vehicle served as one massive gadget, whisking Bond ( and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) away from danger in the most absurd fashion.

The car was such an oddity, such a marvel in the Bond canon, that BBC show Top Gear recreated it, and literally dunked it into a lake with critic Richard Hammond at the wheel. Of course, the replica didn’t survive nearly as gracefully as its original, but the science was there. The Lotus Esprit, while not small enough to fit in Bond’s grip, certainly propelled the world of 007 into the future.

Can You Swim? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeBqf6bYZak


Corey’s Pick: The Dagger Shoe, From Russia With Love (1963)

Not actually an MI6 invention used by 007, but instead a lethal weapon concealed by agents of SPECTRE in From Russia with Love; the dagger shoe – a boot with a retractable, poison-tipped blade hidden within its cap – is among the franchise’s most ingenious gadgets, manufactured to cause death within seven seconds of stabbing. This fatal footwear is sported by Morenzy – head of SPECTRE’s training grounds, and Rosa Klebb – the No. 3 ranking operative of the ominous organisation; the latter attempting to spike Bond whilst disguised as a maid. Though the films do not specify the toxin utilised, Ian Fleming’s original Dr. No novel notes that it is tertodotoxin, known to cause paralysis of the diaphragm, preventing breathing. These loafers proved so iconic that they were paid tribute in the “greatest hits” Bond outing Die Another Day, and have become something of a clichéd weapon in cinema, appearing in The Dark Knight, Wild Wild West, The Punisher, Salt, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Kingsmen: The Secret Service and many more.

Death of Kronsteen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7cEnaXU8Ec


Tom’s Pick: Radio Transmitter, Skyfall (2012)

Released in 2012, Skyfall reinvigorated the once-ailing Bond franchise thanks to Sam Mendes’ efficient direction, and Roger Deakins’ exquisite cinematography. The film capped off Bond’s 50th year in style – honouring 007’s past, present, and future. Among many titbits and gags, the film acknowledged the lack of gadgets in the Daniel Craig-led instalments. Q (Ben Whishaw) gives him one particular device – a radio transmitter. Though clunky, the device was needed in the right place at the right time. Bond, cornering cyber-terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem), uses the device to send back-up and imprison him. However, Silva, manipulating Bond and M (Judi Dench) into revealing MI6’s new location, uses the device to entrap 007 in London’s subway network. The device, effective on both occasions, illustrates Bond and Silva’s two-sides-of-the-same-coin dynamic. Though unaware of each other’s moves, both characters use similar strategies to outwit their opponents. The old-school device proved exploding pens and invisible cars aren’t necessary in today’s surveillance-driven world.

It’s Called Radio – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R3o8S4km8c


Kit’s Pick: Palm-Print Reader Gun, Skyfall (2012)

As Tom has mentioned, Skyfall was mostly void of high-tech gadgetry; however, Daniel Craig‘s 007 was armed with a Walther semi-automatic pistol with a difference in this most recent entry. Wishaw’s Q equips our favourite spy with this new weapon, which is encrypted with an in-built palm reader, guaranteeing that only Bond can fire the gun. In a tense scene, a thuggish bodyguard grapples Bond in a Komodo dragon pit, and attempts to shoot him with his own weapon to no avail. Walther firearms have been a long-standing fixture in the franchise, featuring in the original literary series, and debuting in the film series’ first entry.

Komodo Dragon Fight Scenehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmeXgpBQNnk


Images courtesy of United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution & Sony Pictures

Quick Picks – The Age of Adaline, The Room & The Gunman

Movie Review – The Age of Adaline

Less Benjamin Button and more Nicholas Sparks; The Age of Adaline fails to deliver on its high concept, but is successful enough as an oestrogen fuelled, wish fulfilment romance.

⭐ ⭐ ½
Review by Corey Hogan

Michiel Huisman and Blake Lively in The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline’s premise is an intriguing one, ripe with potential; a young woman (Blake Lively) becomes immune to the power of age in the early 20th century, and continues to live with the appearance of a 29 year old to this day. It is a shame then, that such an interesting concept is wasted on a fairly daft love story. Minutes into the film, director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever) asks a large suspension of disbelief from his audience, as narration explains the agelessness, a result of Adaline being struck by lightning in a car accident. Setting quite a ridiculous tone for the events to come, we fast forward to present day, where Adaline is seduced by rugged Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman, tip-toeing the line between hopeless romantic and borderline stalker) and finally considers settling down after decades of identity change in fear of becoming a science experiment.

Things improve a great deal once Harrison Ford enters as Ellis’ father, who recognises Adaline as a former lover from the 60’s. This twist comes far too late in the film though, and is gold not mined nearly as much as it needs to be; Ford winding up submerged as the focus shifts back to the dull romantic leads. Perhaps I am simply the wrong audience for such a film – surrounding me were women of all ages gasping and sighing, clearly immersed in this wish-fulfilment fantasy. Undeniably classy, this at least boasts some fine performances from Lively, Ford and Ellen Burstyn (as another daughter reaching old age before her parent after Interstellar), but is too vanilla to earn the status of romantic epic.

The Age of Adaline is in Australian cinemas as of Thursday April 16th
Images courtesy of EntertainmentOne

 


 

Movie Review – The Room

It’s difficult to believe a film can be so intrinsically terrible, on so many levels, that it can bury itself (one plastic spoon-full at a time) into the world’s collective consciousness. Alas, The Room exists.

½
Review by Stephanie McGann

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in The Room

For the past twelve years The Room has been consistently selling out screenings, captivating hoards of cult film buffs, and unsuspecting punters alike. Perhaps you have that one friend who keeps banging on about how you really need to see it; meanwhile, your frustrated eye-rolling grows more and more exaggerated. Well, I’m channeling that friend right now, because it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re into; you need to see this train wreck at least once. And bring along a barrage of plastic spoons. They’re necessary – trust me.

Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is a successful banker who lives in San Francisco with his fiancé Lisa (Juliette Danielle). The two are quite happily together; as evidenced by their rampant and decidedly un-sexy love making, until, for no apparent reason, Lisa seduces Johnny’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). Incomplete subplots involving the main characters’ family and friends flail about aimlessly, and serve no other purpose than to throw the audience off the true crux of the movie; that a group of guys wearing tuxedos can toss a football about if they like.

You really are doing yourself a disservice if you see The Room anywhere other than the cinema. It is made bearable for the audience through a deep sense of camaraderie, as punters are encouraged to call out, jeer, and throw spoons at the screen. You don’t need to be a film aficionado to appreciate the extent to which cinematography, scriptwriting, plot consistency are treated as mere trivialities by Wiseau, who also wrote, directed, and produced the film. The Room is so obliviously bad, it’s good. And as such, I rate it with a triumphant half star.

The Room screened at Luna Cinemas this past weekend, and will most likely be featured again in a few month’s time
Images courtesy of Wiseau-Films

 


 

Movie Review – The Gunman

Three strikes and you’re out; Sean Penn spreads himself far too thin as producer, cowriter and leading man in this predictable action film.

Sean Penn in The Gunman

⭐ ⭐
Review by Cherie Wheeler

Eight years on from participating in a covert operation to assassinate the Minister for Mining in the Congo, mercenary turned humanitarian Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) finds himself at the top of a hit list that aims to eradicate every man who was involved in the mission.

Although Penn delivers a rock solid performance as the aging, ex-soldier who struggles with a form of early onset Alzheimers, his on-screen work pales into insignificance alongside the convoluted, and at times, utterly preposterous script. Its most glaring weakness lies in the construction of the character of Felix (Javier Bardem) whose unhealthy obsession with Terrier’s lover (Jasmine Trinca) sets the main conflict of the film in motion. Whilst Bardem strives to engage his inner psychopath for yet another villainous role, his efforts are completely wasted on this sham of a character whose actions and motivations are completely lacking in credibility.

As Terrier’s friend and mentor, the foul-mouthed Stanley, Ray Winstone nails it (as always), managing to turn even the most woefully written dialogue into gold, and Trinca is also satisfying as the feisty love interest. Thankfully, there are some well-shot, tightly choreographed action sequences that offer respite from the Hollywood clichés and paper thin plot.

In the end, if you imagine The Bourne Identity (2002), crossed with a less comedic version of Red (2010), you essentially have The Gunman; a film that treads over what is now well-worn territory, and will only please those loyal to the genre.

The Gunman is in Australian cinemas as of Thursday April 16th
Images courtesy of Studiocanal