Thursday, 29 October 2009

Ponyo: Movie Review

Ponyo: Movie Review

Rating: 8/10
Cast: Frankie Jonas, Tina Fey, Noah Cyrus, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
From the renowned animation stable of Studio Ghibli, comes Ponyo.
Or to give it its full title - Ponyo on a Cliff By The Sea.
A 5-year-old boy, Sosuke (voiced by Frankie Jonas) adopts a goldfish (the titular Ponyo played by Noah Cyrus)when she emerges from the sea one day having escaped from her father, the king of the ocean (voiced by Liam Neeson.)
However their friendship is torn apart as quickly as it's begun after the seas reclaim her.

But Ponyo works a way out to become human and return to her friend - yet, her desire could signal the end of the world.

Studio Ghibli animation is always a delight - and this latest offering from the stable of Hayao Miyazaki is no exception.

(This version is the American one which has been redone - with Miyazaki's permission by Walt Disney and released worldwide - the Japanese version is also out there if you look hard enough.)

It's a truly enchanting tale - based on the Little Mermaid clearly; but Ponyo is sweet and quite beautifully animated with traditional drawings as opposed to the computer animation so prevalent in today's cinematic world.

The backgrounds are pencilled and the characters are animated - in many ways Ponyo is simplistic and childish - in a good way - as it makes it accessible to all.

In fact the children in the audience were completely entranced by the vivid animation and beautiful orchestral score as they sat spellbound. It's a gorgeous world which has been created - one which shows man and nature at balance and in harmony.

Ponyo has a pure heart and joy about her - even when a tsunami threatens to engulf a town, the visual of Ponyo, in her human form, skipping over the waves brings a smile to your face.

A work of pure fantasy and one which shows there's plenty of life left in Studio Ghibli, Ponyo is a magical dizzying treat with gorgeously sumptuous visuals and sounds for all ages.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Food Inc: Movie Review

Food Inc: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Director: Robert Kenner
It's no surprise that at a time when sustainability and the grow your own ideals continue to permeate our society, we should get a doco about the truth about the foods Americans buy at their supermarkets.
In Food Inc, that's precisely what Robert Kenner does as he looks at what is consumed these days, how it's produced and what the personal cost is.
With input from Fast Food Nation's author Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan who wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma, the veil on the industry is lifted.
I imagine for most of us here in New Zealand the revelations contained within Food Inc won't shock a lot of people - it's no surprise that mega companies now control the majority of food production.
However, what is shown on screen doesn't lose any of its impact - amid graphics, we learn of the personal horrors being committed by the mega businesses as they try and stop the family farm from growing.
The cheap factory mentality manifests itself as you see how one farmer's being prosecuted for helping other farmers save seed - his actions and desire to prove his innocence have led to years of court cases, which he can't ever win - it's continuing proof that the odds are stacked against the Davids in this fight against Goliath.
One particular case, halfway through, is designed to emotionally stir you up - a young child who was diagnosed with haemorragic e-coli from meat and unfortunately died. While the doco makers could have used this as their trump card, it's a sensitive portrayal of the fight of the family to get the law changed and to make a difference as well as have some good come from tragedy.
Food Inc's broken down into three sections - first, it covers the industrial production of meat; secondly, it's about grains and vegetables and finally, about the pesticide industry.
All of the major companies talked about in this film obviously refuse to appear so it's fair to say while the doco isn't biased, it certainly doesn't have both sides of the argument represented.

That said, Food Inc presents a compelling case which you feel engrossed in throughout - it throws up several issues which, if you're not already aware of them, may shock you into wanting to do something to break the mega-corp influence. Hopefully this film may start to see some kind of change implemented - and is proof that if ever you thought people power can't start something, you're wrong.

Surrogates: Movie Review

Surrogates: Movie Review

Rating: 5/10
Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames, Rosamund Pike
Director: Jonathan Mostow
It's the year 2017 and the world's taken virtual reality to its logical extreme.
Humans live at home, plugged into machines while their robotic alter egos - The Surrogates of the title - wander the streets living their lives and serving as better looking versions of their owners.
Crime's gone down, everyone's good looking and happy - and those who don't like it, live in segregated robot free worlds.
Utopia's here - until one day, FBI Agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) is called to investigate a crime along with his partner (Radha Mitchell) - the murder of the surrogate of the son whose father Dr Canter (James Cromwell) invented the machines.
Greer's investigation leads him into a world which sees the Surrogates and their owners destroyed - and it reaches the point where he has to abandon his surrogate and head out into the real world to track the killers down.
However, as is the norm with these kinds of cases, nothing's as it seems and before long, there's a deeper conspiracy coming into play.
Surrogates, is to be honest, a little muddled and messy - which is a shame because it had very real potential. The idea of living your life via a robot day and night (their slogan - Your Life.. Only Better) is a good one - but unfortunately the premise finds itself mired in its own weightiness. It's not as if the film is a complete failure (there are some great visuals towards the end) but it's just a little neither here nor there - and feels like the kind of thing you'd see Walter Bishop from TV2's Fringe involved in.
A subplot involving Greer and his wife who've lost touch with each other after their son died tries to give both Willis and Pike some emotional grounding but it just fails to meet the mark. And when the pieces fall together at the end, you'd be hard pressed to not see them coming together.
The not too distant future itself looks good - it won't be a shock to learn the Surrogate versions of Radha Mitchell and Bruce Willis are pristine and like shop dummies- and it won't surprise you to learn they don't look anything like their surrogates (a natural play on the fact there are people online who choose to live as either members of their opposite sex or hang out in Second Life).

Mostow does an adequate job of bringing together the 2005-2006 comic book series, and there are a couple of decent action sequences - it's just that sadly, Surrogates is a little like its robot versions of the characters; there's something missing behind the eyes, a spark of emotion and it taints the film throughout.

Tyson: Movie Review

Tyson: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Mike Tyson
Director: James Toback
After the whole Cameron/ Tua showdown it's fair to say boxing is back in the media spotlight.
So it's with interest that I approached Tyson, a supposed "intimate no-holds barred portrait" of the man himself.
Using archive footage of fights, post-match interviews and a series of direct one-on-one encounters with Mr Tyson himself, the doco takes a look back at the man's life and seeks to go behind the myth.
It begins with his life growing up in Brooklyn and how he was always in the middle of some kind of trouble, before segueing into how he moved into boxing - and the giddying highs and dizzying lows his success brought with him.
Normally a one man interview over 90 minutes could stretch the attention span of most viewers - and particularly with Mike Tyson, there could have been some challenges.
But what Toback's done (albeit with a strange style) is to simply turn on the camera and let Mike talk Mike - while Tyson's not the most eloquent of speakers (at times, he appears to struggle to find the words to express himself), it's the way the film's been constructed which gives the portrait a more rounded feel.
However, it may take you a little while to get into the style - Toback's occasionally gone for a kind of 24/ Brady Bunch visual where Tyson's split over three levels as he extols nuggets of wisdom about preparing for fights and the fall out from them. It's an odd way to approach it - and while it initially takes a lot to adjust, you barely notice it as the film goes on.
That said, when it comes to Tyson revealing his most intimate thoughts, it's perhaps telling that he doesn't do it directly to camera - those scenes see a voiceover employed as he's seen walking along a beach; it's here I felt a little cheated from seeing Tyson himself - and it's an odd way of doing it.
There's humility and humour on show - as well as vitriol when describing Robin Givens and Don King - like his fighting in the ring, it's an unstoppable tirade which pours forth when he talks of those who've wronged him.
The fights footage is gripping stuff - and there's one moment where Mike describes how he psyched himself up for fights which truly opens a window into any challenger's mindset.
It'll be no surprise to many how Mike Tyson ended up as Mike Tyson - but one impression I couldn't shake is how frightened he's been through his life and how that fear shaped his reactions and outbursts. Granted, it's no major revelation that one of the most vicious fighters in the world lived in fear of losing his title, but what was more personal was how that fear conquered him when he hit rock bottom.
It's fair to say Tyson is an interesting film - given the subject matter. I can't in all honesty say that I ended up warming to Iron Mike but I did have more of an insight into his character, his reasoning for the infamous ear biting incident when he took on Evander Holyfield and his attitudes post life in the ring.

As the man himself says at the end: "What Mike Tyson did, is history. What Mike Tyson does next, is a mystery."

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Dr Who: The War Games: DVD Review

Dr Who: The War Games: DVD Review

Doctor Who - The War Games
Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Entertainment and the BBC

A seminal release in the Doctor Who back catalogue, The War Games represents a seismic shift in the early days of the show itself (but more on that later).
Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor, along with his companions Jamie (Hines) and wunderkind Zoe (Padbury) find themselves back in the middle of the trenches when the TARDIS delivers them into 1917.
Arrested, the trio find themselves tried as deserters and sentenced to death - however, the Doctor soon realizes that he is out of his depth and may have to commit an unthinkable act which will change him forever...
The War Games is an epic on many scales - the ten part black and white serial sits at mammoth four hours of Whoey goodness (and thankfully doesn't see any real lulls throughout) and sees stellar performances from the main trio who are about to exit and a myriad of supporting characters.
And as is befitting the story, this latest release is a three disc behemoth which is superlative and a real treasure trove for long term fans of the show - and contains enough for the casual viewer to understand why fans are so passionate.
The War Games signified an end to the black and white era of Doctor Who in 1969 - and also saw the first introduction of a back story and race (The Time Lords) for the errant time traveler; as well as the revelation of where he came from. In terms of the show's history itself, it's a gem and demonstrated how the show could endlessly reinvent itself (which has served it well as it enters its 47th year)
The depth of extras on this release has seen it gifted an entire disc with the beautifully remastered story split over 2 discs - some of the highlights include a look at the Second Doctor's comic strips, behind the scenes of the production, as well as some nice fan based extras (including a fan tribute to bridge the gap between Patrick Troughton leaving the show and Jon Pertwee taking over in 1970)
This is an essential release for any fan of the show and as they ready themselves to bid farewell to the latest incarnation in the form of David Tennant, it serves as a reminder of why the show really blazed its trail back in the times of a lack of special effects and budgetary confines.
Extras: A mammoth amount - War Zone - cast and crew recall the making of Patrick Troughton's epic swansong; Shades of Grey - just how did the technical and artistic constraints of monochrome television conspire to effect the unique look and feel of early productions? Now and Then - the ongoing series visits the locations of 'The War Games' forty years on; The Doctor's Composer - prolific composer Dudley Simpson looks back at his first five years of work on Doctor Who; Sylvia James - In Conversation - make-up designer Sylvia James talks about her work on Patrick Troughton's Doctor Who stories; Talking About Regeneration - the concept of regenerating a show's main character into an entirely new physical form proved to be both a lifesaver for the show and an increasingly important part of its mythos. This feature explores the ideas involved and takes a closer look at each of the Doctor's regenerations; Time Zones - historians discuss the reality behind the various time zones featured in 'The War Games'. With political historian Dr. Martin Farr, military historian Crispin Swayne, Newcastle University's Lindsay Allison-Jones and author Prof. Susan-Mary Grant; Stripped for Action - The Second Doctor - the continuing series of features focussing on the Doctor's comic strip adventures looks at the Second Doctor; On Target - Malcolm Hulke - the first in a series of features on the Target range of TV story novelizations looks at the work of writer Malcolm Hulke; Devious - for over a decade, a group of friends on England's south coast met on weekends to shoot an amateur Doctor Who film - 'Devious' - which takes place between the events of Patrick Troughton's swansong 'The War Games' and Jon Pertwee's introduction in 'Spearhead from Space', and features their own previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor. To segue back into 'Spearhead', the team decided to put up the money to employ Jon Pertwee for a day - in what was to become his last ever appearance as the Third Doctor.

Rating: (For Dr Who fans) 10/10 - for non scarf waving members of Earth, 8/10

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Final Destination: Movie Review

The Final Destination: Movie Review

Rating: 5/10
Cast: Bobby Campo, Shantel, Van Santen, Nick Zano, Haley Webb, Mykelti Williamson, Krista Allen
Director: David R Ellis

When Nick O'Bannon gets premonitions at the local speedway of a whole heap of deaths thanks to a speeding flaming car hitting the grandstand, he manages to get himself, his friends and a few bystanders out of the park before it's too late.
Just seconds after they've vacated the track, catastrophe strikes and over 50 lose their lives as the envisaged accident takes place.
The gang leave feeling they've had a lucky escape.
However, when one of the bystanders is killed within hours of the race track carnage, and thanks to a little help from the worldwide web, it soon becomes clear to Nick and his friends that their cards are marked and death is going to find them one way or another.
What do you say about The Final Destination?
It's a film franchise and a series of gory bloody deaths - it's not Shakespeare - and nor does it aspire to be.
But this latest entrant into the franchise, which began in 2000, has very little new to offer the cinematic world - other than the use of 3D.
And while the use of this new digital technology sees some very impressive Bond style opening credits which mesh all the previous deaths from prior films, it soon resorts to having you duck and squirm in your seat as various deathly implements head towards you in the cinema. However, half the problem of this film lies with its characters.
Obviously underdeveloped and with little back story or attitudes which make you like them, it makes it difficult to care about any of those the Grim Reaper has his eye on. Even one of the main leads, an airhead jock, is so unlikeable that you don't really care when he meets his maker.
But, as I say, you don't head to Final Destination for its thrilling in depth character analysis, witty dialogue and Oscar nominated acting - it's about the dispatching of the leads and the fact these characters don't stand a chance from the unrelenting march of Death.
Granted there are scenes which stretch out what you expect will happen to our leads and some of the surprises may confound your expectations. Myeklti Williamson gets a reasonable back story as an alcoholic guard who's lost his family - but his end (while swiped from the first film) is so callous that you are left unsure of who to root for. All you will be thinking is that OSH would have a field day.
I don't doubt there'll be a certain portion of the audience who'll enjoy this - and thanks to its short running time, it doesn't outstay its welcome.

It's just that The Final Destination doesn't reach the highs of the previous films - and may leave you hoping that the use of the definite article in front of this latest title means there won't be any more.

Friday, 9 October 2009

An Education: Movie Review

An Education: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson.
Director: Lone Scherfig
Based on Lyn Barber's memoir, An Education explores the relationship between a 16-year-old school girl, Jenny (Carey Mulligan), and her thirty-ish suitor, David (Peter Sarsgaard).
Still several years off the "swinging sixties" movement which defined the decade, early 1960s London was drab, conservative and much to Jenny's chagrin, boring.
Jenny is a talented and popular student on track to securing her father's dream of going to Oxford. Beyond university she dreams of living in Paris - a far cry from her monotonous existence in suburban London.
When David offers Jenny a lift home, she quickly responds to his flair for adventure. David and his friends are cultured, witty and rich and live life with a firm emphasis on having fun.
David deftly charms his way into Jenny's home, and simultaneously impresses and alienates Jenny's parents by whisking her off on adventures they would never consider.
Having completed his seduction, David's carefully managed façade inevitably begins to unravel, leaving Jenny to reconsider her own dreams and goals.
As Jenny, Carey Mulligan is flawless. It is her performance alone which elevates An Education above traditional Sunday evening telly fare. Mulligan steers clear of traditional teen angst and instead plays Jenny as a conflicted character, unsure yet argumentative, smitten yet wary.
Nick Hornby (About a Boy, High Fidelity) adapted Barber's 12-page memoir into a film script. The supporting actors do their best with the at times cringe-worthy material (particularly Peter Saarsgard, who is required to initiate a sex scene with a banana).

In spite of the cast's best efforts, An Education remains an inoffensive, somewhat uninspired coming-of-age drama.

Couples Retreat: Movie Review

Couples Retreat: Movie Review

Rating: 5/10
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman, Kristen Bell, Jean Reno, Peter Serafinowicz, Temuera Morrison
Director: Peter Billingsley
We all know life sometimes gets in the way of relationships - whether it's work, kids or commitments, we're all a bit guilty of maybe neglecting (to a degree) the one we love.
Couples Retreat (starring a group of the Frat Pack) is the tale of 4 couples who head to an island resort at the insistence of one of their own who are on the verge of divorce - and see the getaway as a last make-or-break chance.
The quartet of couples all have their issues - there's Jon Favreau's Joey and Kristin Davis' Lucy who are at the stage of their marriage where they can't stand the sight of each other; Jason Bateman's suffocating Jason and Kristen Bell's Cynthia who (as mentioned) are on the verge of divorce; Faizon Love's divorced Shane and his 20-year-old girlfriend and Vince Vaughn's Dave and Malin Akerman's Ronnie - who to be fair are the strongest of the couples and whose only real problem is getting time together.
Once on the Paradise Island, the gang soon realise what they'd expected to be a vacation is more about therapy, building and strengthening relationships and talking - than partying and enjoying it.
The cracks begin to form in all four of the couples as they realise what's demanded of them&
Written by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn (a reteaming of the Swingers gang), you'd expect Couples Retreat to be a riotous laugh a minute look at relationships during a retreat on a paradise island.
And that's what the trailer hinted at...
But yet Couples Retreat is not exactly comedy - it's probably more truthful to say it's a drama with a few deadpan good one liners thrown in - as well as some solid performances - including Jason Bateman who continues to shine on screen.
For the first time on screen, I've actually warmed to a character played by Vince Vaughn; usually boorish, his Dave is probably his most reality grounded and mature role ever which sees you sympathising with his plight as he and Ronnie begin to realise everything's not perfect in their lives.
Most of the laughs from Couples Retreat come from the side characters; from Peter Serafinowicz's contemptuous, sneering, deadpan island host Stanley to Carlos Ponce's terrifyingly creepy yoga instructor (trust me you'll never look at a yoga instructor the same way again) the supporting characters are the ones which are on screen caricatures. Sadly Temuera Morrison is there simply as an island style sidekick to Jean Reno's pompous Monsieur Marcel.
There are some great one liners and moments in Couples Retreat - but if you're expecting more than that, you will leave sorely disappointed. Granted, it's a more mature film, it just could have done with being a little funnier in places given the wealth of talent involved.

If, however, you're looking for a film which takes couples whose lives have been battered by the day to day pressures of modern life and forces them to re-evaluate, then a word of caution - Couples Retreat may find you leaving the cinema, thinking your relationship could do with a spruce up and makeover.

The Secret of Moonacre: Movie Review

The Secret of Moonacre: Movie Review

Rating: 5/10
Cast: Dakota Blue Richards , Juliet Stevenson, Natascha McElhone , Ioan Gruffudd, Tim Curry Coeur De Noir/Sir William De Noir
Director: Gabor Csupo
The latest adaptation of a novel (this time, it's The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge) appears on our screens in time for the school hols.
It's the story of 13-year-old Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards, last seen in The Golden Compass) who starts the film becoming an orphan after her father dies.
As her sole inheritance, she's left a book - but that book is the story of a centuries old dispute between the Merryweather and De Noir dynasties - over a necklace of magic Pearls bestowed on them by the Moon Princess (Natascha McElhone.)
Despatched to live with her uncle Sir Benjamin Merryweather (Ioan Gruffudd) at the isolated Moonacre estate, Maria begins to discover there may be more truth to the book and the feud than fiction&
The Secret of Moonacre is not a bad fantasy story - it's just bogged down by some, at times, pantomine performances by supporting members of the main cast. The worst offender of this is Juliet Stevenson's Miss Heliotrope, who appears to think she's in a Carry On film. Her overacting distracts from the more restrained subtle performance of Dakota Blue Richards' Maria Merryweather - even Tim Curry's Coeur De Noir/Sir William De Noir is over the top.
It's a shame because the true beauty of this film comes from its sumptuously gorgeous sets and costumes.
The department involved with making the Moonacre world a reality needs an Oscar - they're so wonderfully visualised and made real that it's just sad the story doesn't follow suit.
The Secret of Moonacre may keep the kids quiet for a little while - but an older audience may find it slightly lacking - there's a real lack of development in the interaction between the main characters - and where alliances are forged and friendships made, the brevity doesn't help make it more plausible.

Overall despite attempts to give the classic period movie a more fantastical twist, The Secret of Moonacre falls a little flat and may leave some of the kids in the audience (old or young) fidgeting in their seats.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

(500) Days Of Summer: Movie Review

(500) Days Of Summer: Movie Review

Rating: 8/10
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler.
Director: Marc Webb
Okay right from the off, I am going to issue you a warning.
Much like the start of the movie, which emphasises that the following film is not a love story, (500) Days of Summer will divide people's opinions.
To some the quirky factor of 11 may be too much to handle or the main protagonist will either come across as doleful and sympathetic or whiny and irritating. Seriously I saw this with three friends and we were divided straight down the line - two loved it and two hated it. As you can see from the rating above, we are heading into safe waters with this review.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (GI Joe, Third Rock From The Sun and half the indie movies of the last five years) stars as Tom, a bored greeting card writer and frustrated architect, who is going nowhere fast.
Tom has settled with what he's been given in life, but that all changes when Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is hired as a new secretary in his firm. It's love at first sight.
Backed up by his suitably quirky mates (aren't they always in movies?), Tom finally talks to Summer over their love of those happy British rockers, The Smiths.
And so the picture begins as both fall in and out of love, all told from the point of view of the lovelorn Gordon-Levitt.
First-time director Marc Webb is certainly given the freedom to play with the typical romantic comedy structure. The film plays with time, going from the first feelings of love to the bitter taste of a broken relationship, then back to the awkward initial moments of intimacy, then back again.
Webb also plays with animated sequences and in a bizarre moment, a full scale Busby Berkeley-style dance number in a park. But the great thing is it all works. Yes it's quirky, yes it wants to be different but it doesn't feel completely forced.
Gordon-Levitt has developed from geeky child actor, through geeky teen, to geeky adult but his fine comedic chops stand him well in the more humorous moments. After years of honing his skills in independent movies, (500) Days of Summer, along with his appearance in GI Joe this year, mean he has well and truly arrived in the megaplexes.
Zooey Deschanel plays pretty much the same doe-eyed-ingénue-with-an-edge role as usual and isn't really asked an awful lot to do, but she is a perfect foil to Gordon-Levitt.
There are other minor quibbles, including the slightly overbearing soundtrack, which clearly is hoping that it's mix of trendy, 80s Britpop and French ballads would send it top of the CD charts, just like the soundtrack to that other indie darling Juno.
But overall this is a gem of a movie.

It turns the traditional romantic comedy on its head and will leave you smiling as you leave the cinema. Or of course you could hate the movie like my friends -up to you to decide

Fame: Movie Review

Fame: Movie Review

Rating: 4/10
Cast: Asher Book, Paul McGill, Naturi Naughton, Paul Iacono, Debbie Allen, Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton, Kay Panabaker, Walter Perez, Megan Mullally, Anna Maria Perez de Taglé
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Fame costs - and right here, is apparently where you start paying.
When asking around the office about Fame memories, there were common themes - whether it's the legwarmers or Leroy, everyone's got an opinion on this iconic film and TV series.
So you'd have to wonder how massive a challenge it would be to rewrite the film and update it for a more savvy audience in 2009.
The latest version features a cast of relative unknowns as the wannabes who are put up against the acting talents that are Charles S Dutton, Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth and Megan Mullally (who all play teachers in this.)
The film begins with a smattering of auditions as the Performing Arts school gets ready for a new year - and a new batch of would be famous people.
Thereafter, it's broken up into the four years (from freshman year, sophomore, junior and senior year) the cast are at the school for - and their various trials and tribulations in the run up to graduation.
Let's lay this on the line here - as you can tell from the summary, there are no main or major characters - and it's difficult to describe Fame as an ensemble cast.
Concentrating on the positive for a moment - the whole film is brilliantly choreographed and has a tremendous energy during the scenes of dancing and singing - every one of those involved in those respective scenes gives 110%.
But therein lies the major problem for Fame - it's too unfocussed.
There are around 10 "leads" whose lives are followed over a four year period during the film's 100 minute duration - as any basic mathematician will tell you that doesn't leave much time for either character development, consistent plot or time to get to love those who faces the obstacles.
And here's another problem - the obstacles that these kids face are unfortunately so predictable and stereotyped you can see them coming a mile off.
Every talent cliche is there - the classical pianist who's a genius but who just wants to cut loose and sing - against the wishes of her father; the naïve young actress who doesn't believe the sleazeball will hit on her; the jealous boyfriend; the rapper who's father left; the actress who can't trust her instincts and cut loose because of self doubt&
It's just so disappointing to see as it the predictability of the situations can be seen a mile off - and I know films are supposed to be escapism and not set in any kind of reality, but how can you put characters into these situations when everyone has seen these kind of dilemmas before?
The young cast give it their all in each heavily choreographed set piece after set piece - but when it comes to dialogue, unfortunately they're acted off the screen by the old guard of Grammer, Neuwirth, Mullally and Dutton.

You can't fault the energy of Fame - it's just a shame none of the major songs are as memorable as Irene Cara's original theme and the whole production doesn't fly.

In The Loop: Movie Review

In The Loop: Movie Review

Rating: 7/10
Cast: Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini, Tom Hollander, Anna Chlumsky, Chris Addison
Director: Armando Iannucci

A riotous hit at the New Zealand Film Festival, In The Loop finally arrives on the wider circuit.
A spin off from the critically acclaimed The Thick Of It, it's a tale of politics, foul mouths and hilarious misunderstandings with global consequences.
With the British Prime Minister and US president looking to go to war, there are the inevitable political splits - and the situation is made much worse by Secretary of State for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander)
His comment that war is "unforeseeable" during an interview is picked up - and suddenly the entire world appears to be going to hell in a handcart.
Only to make matters worse, the UK's chief spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (a stunning bilious performance from Peter Capaldi whose anger seems to push him close to a stroke) latches onto Foster as he tries to limit the damage control.
In The Loop is a dizzying, hedonistic trip through the corridors of power.
It's about British politics and the satire - and takes in Washington politics as well.
It's fast paced, intelligent, frenetic and full of endlessly quotable F word moments - Iannucci shows why he's the king of UK satire as he lampoons the reality of life behind the political curtain.
With a top notch ensemble cast, In The Loop is full of quality performances - but one simply towers above the rest.
It's quite simply Peter Capaldi's film - his turn as spin doctor Malcolm Tucker defies description - from the first moments when he tells Foster's new intern to go away in no uncertain terms, it's clear he's not a man who minces his words.
But if it's Tucker's tirades which are the lasting memory of the film, you soon realize that the plot (such as it is) feels little more than a long drawn out episode of The Thick Of It (which if you've not seen when it was on TV ONE then I suggest you seek out the DVDs immediately)
That's not necessarily a bad thing but Iannucci almost paints himself into a corner with his story and there are lulls throughout.
However, thanks to the juxtaposition of an impending global war and the absurdity of constituency politics, he's able to weave a tableaux which is fun, frantic and requires a certain level of intelligence to follow.
In The Loop is a vicious satire and a very funny expression of politics as well as the levels it's played on - from the very top to the very bottom with quibbling interns.

You have to wonder how close to reality and truth this actually it is - and if it is, we're all in serious trouble.

The Limits of Control: Movie Review

The Limits of Control: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Isaach De Bankolé, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Gael García Bernal, Hiam Abbass, Paz de la Huerta, Alex Descas, John Hurt
Director: Jim Jarmusch
A Lone Man (Isaach De Bankolé) is a criminal hitman, hired to do a job in Spain.
Through a series of encounters with pivotal contacts, he begins to edge closer to his target - but the nearer he gets to the hit, the more tangled the web becomes - who can he trust?
The Limits of Control is not your average film- with hardly any dialogue throughout and only the minimal soundtrack, it's not going to appeal to everyone.
Even the sparse dialogue is repeated throughout the film at various junctures and every precious word which is spoken, is pivotal, looped and recycled.
The idiosyncracies and actions of the Lone Man are also looped - each day begins with him doing his tai chi before demanding two espressos in separate cups at cafes in each locale where he finds himself.
Each meeting starts the same way with a contact asking him "You don't speak Spanish, right?" before passing him a matchbox with a piece of paper inside.

As he pieces together the puzzles of where he's meant to go, we learn at the same time he does.
However, it's not really about the plot - this is a Jim Jarmusch exercise in cool and minimalism - as well as cameos - the best being Bill Murray (but to reveal much about that would spoil the film.)
John Hurt and Tilda Swinton appear in scenes, espouse some philosophy with our hitman before disappearing into the distance.
But if The Limits of Control is about the characters, much of the surroundings help to frame some kind of narrative and context - Spain has never looked quite so beautiful as it does on the big screen here.
Those looking for a coherent plot with a solid explanation of what's going on will be sorely disappointed - but once you settle into the groove and the journey of the story, you are soon sucked in. The looped and repetitive nature of some of the scenes lulls you into a false sense of security as you wait for the jigsaw pieces to fall into place.

The Limits of Control is a diverse piece of film-making - and may just be the perfect solution to the full-on blockbusters currently in the multiplexes.

Samson and Delilah: Movie Review

Samson and Delilah: Movie Review

Rating: 8/10
Cast: Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson
Director: Warwick Thornton
This is the film which set all of Australia talking.
An incredibly powerful piece, it's the tale of Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah (Marissa Gibson) both Aborigine who live on a reservation.
Life for them in the reservation is hard - a series of repetitive monotonies (as signified by Samson's brother's band which bashes out the same tune daily) and which offers no real hope.
One day Delilah's nan dies and after she's set upon by locals who claim she didn't look after her nan properly, Samson takes matters into his own hands, steals a car and the two head away from the reservation for what they believe is a better life.
However, they end up on the streets, struggling to get by and much worse off than they were - will they survive?
What an incredibly powerful and moving film this is.

Director Warwick Thornton's taken examples of his life in Alice Springs and put it up on the big screen for everyone to see.

It's mesmerising, horrific, humorous and will leave you wondering how anyone could live in a place such as this.

Both the first time leads are stunning - their performances compel you to watch them - even if it is with a sense of heartbreak. They spend most of the film hardly talking and as their non-verbal tender relationship grows, I guarantee you will be left feeling sick to your stomach at the moments when the real shocks hit.

Samson and Delilah is at times bleak and painful to watch - but you are glued to the screen and left fully aware that for some, this is the daily reality of their life.

There's light at the end - but even without that ray of hope glistening, the entire film is still compelling - and sickening - in equal measures.