Thursday, 28 July 2011

NZFF Archive - 2011 Reviews

NZFF Archive - 2011 Reviews

Love Story:

Get an early peek at the next Kiwi film many will be raving about then you need to head to see Florian Habicht's latest Love Story. A love story made on the fly with the truly interactive feel of New York and those who live there, it's random, nuts, hilarious and touching as well. Florian the film maker plays Florian the film maker (or does he?) as he directs himself in this film which takes the path chosen by the New Yorkers he randomly meets in the streets. It's also got a brilliant turn by his dad - but again, you'll need to delve more into this wonderfully absurd and highly watchable film. It's rewarding, entertaining and will make you smile the biggest smile as you head out into the winter nights.

Taxi Driver -

Reviewer confession time - I've never seen this film - that's right, time to head my critical head in shame.It's mainly because I've wanted to see this searing performance from Robert De Niro in Scorsese's epic on the big screen, but also because there's been a degree of trepidation that it will never hold up to the reverence by which it's spoken of.De Niro is excellent as Travis Bickle, a NYC taxi driver whose flight into madness and paranoia is fuelled by his desire to just do something big.Cybill Sherpherd is luminous as his early love interest and Jodie Foster is astonishing in a debut role.If it doesn't quite hang together in some ways,it's because 21st century eyes look back on a 70s film but I can finally understand why so many adore this.Beautifully restored and a treat on the big screen, De Niro has rarely been better and Scorsese's sleazy NYC is the perfect antithesis to Florian Habicht's view of the Big Apple. Great to finally see it - and yes, I am talking to you.

Submarine -

Richard Ayoade aka Moss from the IT Crowd has a stunning directorial debut in this coming of age tale set in Wales.Craig Roberts is duffel coated 15 year old Oliver Tate,a teen who's in love with a schoolmate and whose obsession with the state of his parents' marriage may end up sending him to an early grave.Sally Hawkins is the mum,Noah Taylor the depressed dad-and Paddy Considine a mulleted mystic and ex flame who could cause the rift between his parents to grow.Moments of laugh out loud dry humour are interlaced with stylish and stylistic film making, freeze frames and jump cuts as Ayoade shows he's a serious talent to be reckoned with.Deft,delightful and deliciously dark at times,this is a sensational debut and one which showcases the very best of the international talent.Submarine is a joy and a delight which cries for you to love it-perhaps a little too hard at times, but it's difficult to resist its many charms.See it first at the fest and then dribble at what Ayoade may do next

Beginners -

Sad, sweet, melancholy and extremely moving,Beginners sees Ewan McGregor as Oliver,dealing with his father's death (played brilliantly by Christopher Plummer)from cancer.Just 5 years before his death,the dad came out and began a new lease of life at 75 with a younger man;and it's this which inspires Oliver to do the same as he starts a cautious courtship with Anna(Melanie Laurent).With flashbacks interspersed with some wry narrative tricks and snapshots of life then and now,Mike Mills has made a truly warm and affectionate picture which is subtle and astoundingly good;McGregor's barely been better and Laurent is the perfect romantic foil for him; the pair work really well together and the warmth of the narrative hits you in the heart when you least expect it.Swinging back and forth helps it all come together and the end could see you in tears.Plus throw in a cute dog as well who says it all in subtitles, and this is the first big winner of the festival.Highly recommended

The Tree Of Life -

So,the first potentially divisive film of the festival arrives;with some decrying a lack of real story and others proclaiming Terrence Malick's a masterpiece on a par with 2001 A Space Odyssey.Sean Penn is an eldest son,dealing with memories of his relationship with his strict religious father(Brad Pitt)and his easy going mother-but then,you throw in the birth of the universe,dinosaurs,disparate voices calling out to their God asking where were you,and shots of Penn stumbling around in an expensive suit across rocks and it's clear this film is like nothing you'll see this year at the festival.Confounding,epic in scale and hypnotically haunting,it's more cinema as experience than traditional cinema as the memories unspool and visions flaunt and haunt.It's bravura filmmaking in the extreme and it's great that cinema provokes such debate at the end-I promise you though, you will see nothing else like it this year and will really need to see it to understand what the debate is all about.

Page One Inside The New York times -

A traditional doco looking at the New York Times, its reporters and the way it's still surviving post the recession,this is an interesting and captivating look at a handful of the reporters and their fight for relevance in the new media world. Iraq, Julian Assange,the Jayson Blair plaigarism scandal all rear their head in this very watchable piece.For those inside the media,there may be the feeling the doco fudged one of the biggest issues it faces currently-its survival in the world of FB and Tweeting,touching all too briefly on this and worryingly making you feel those in charge aren't quite sure the financial model is remotely in place.As an outsider looking in,it's a compelling piece -and even boasts an appearance from Rupert Murdoch as his media empire demons play out now.A little unfocussed,the doco goes from one to the next and simply ends,but it's the staff of the media desk whom the film follows that you end up caring about. A solid piece which will be a crowd pleaser

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Ono is clearly a wonder in Tokyo;an 85 year old restauranteur who was awarded three Michelin stars for his sushi in his restaurant and whose reputation and business casts a long eye over everyone who's involved in the industry.Only ten people can be seated at his restaurant in Tokyo and people book years in advance-this doco gets to the heart of why Jiro is so revered and treated as if he were a god of the sushi world.Well sort of. We watch Jiro prepare sushi and learn a little from him directly about his background, but most of the insights come from those who work for him or have done-and from his sons who are still waiting to take over the clientele.It's a fascinating microcosm of Japanese life which is decorated with food porn in extremis but despite making the stomach gurgle repeatedly with beautiful images, it never really engages the heart as much as it could.A nugget about who may have helped Jiro to the 3 star status is tantalisingly waved in front but not followed up.

The Kid With a Bike

Award winning French drama from the Dardenne brothers,this is the story of young Cyril (a stunning debut performance)who's without his dad who put him in a home and trying to find his pops after he skipped out on him.When the pair finally meet,Cyril learns his dad can't look after him and,unable to cope with that shock,he finds friendship and a foster mum in the form of Samantha,a hairdresser who lived nearby.But when Cyril starts to spend more time with her,she begins to realise he's got plenty of issues and can't love or trust easily.This is a good solid drama with a mightily impressive lead who espouses all the troubled emotions of a kid who just wants to be loved without overacting; Early heartbreaking scenes give way to a gripping grittiness which keep it watchable. Granted,some of the story strays into familiar territory but the acting keeps the film fresh and watchable - mainly thanks to the two leads who're never showy but are grounded in a reality which many will appreciate.

Take Shelter -

The best film of the festival so far,this suspenseful psychological thriller stars an incredible Michael Shannon as a mine supervisor who one day without warning is plagued by visions of a storm and threats to his own life.Worrying that he's going mad but determined to protect his family,he rebuilds a storm shelter at the back of his home-however,his decisions cause his family to fall apart and him to question his own state of mind.Riveting and moody,this atmospheric film offers no real answers early on and invites you along for the ride-an absolutely pitch perfect Shannon offers up the best performance of the festival(so far)with his subtle, pained and restrained turn which works well against his the support of his beautiful wife(Jessica Chastain).Intimate moments and great characters give this a real sense of foreboding and uncertainty and while the final scene is a tacked on disappointment,the rest of this 2 hours is simply unmissable.Do yourself a favour and see it right now.

The Innkeepers-

Take a hotel in the middle of America opening for its last weekend,two slackers working its front desk,two guests and a whole lot of spooky and you have the recipe for a very fine horror indeed.Ti West's latest is a taut and lean piece of manipulation which works from the get go thanks to the very real performances by Sara Paxton and Pat Healy as the front desk clerks.The duo spend their shifts looking for supernatural activity and when it comes calling for Sara's Claire,there's frights aplenty.West deserves plaudits for delivering a restrained film which doesn't go for obvious shocks but builds the atmosphere and heaps on the tension.By the time the final act unspools,you've become so engaged in the characters that you really start to feel unnerved.It's a devilishly simple premise and one which in these days of Paranormal Activity has been overplayed but this feels fresh, exciting and quite frankly terrifying.I was just relieved it was light outside after it had finished screening.

The Guard

Brendan Gleeson stars in this, from those who brought you In Bruges.Gleeson is a Garda,an Irish cop who loves the whoring and the drinking but is at heart,an old fashioned copper.So his day is somewhat ruined by the arrival of a corpse,an American FBI Agent( a brilliant turn by Don Cheadle) and an attempt to shut down a massive drug smuggling racket.Darkly ironic, sardonic and sarcastic, this film's essentially a buddy cop film with one major difference - Gleeson.His perfect timing and F bomb peppered delivery gives the film the tone it needs to set it apart from the rest of its genre and while the start of the filum (to quote the Irish vernacular)feels fresh and different,it does sag a little towards two thirds of the way through.That said, there's enough to give it the oomph it needs to race to the finish line with another great character turn from the ever dependable Mark Strong.Cheadle and Gleeson are a great pair and a sharp script brings out their very best.

Elite Squad - The Enemy Within

Brazilian thriller which took their box office by storm,this blazing scorching flick sees its protagonist Nascimento taking on the corrupt system which is serving the police, the criminals and the slum gang lords rather than the innocent.However,he takes on all those who're intent on serving themselves rather than the Rio populace.It starts with a high energy police siege within jail and ends with Nascimento being apparently shot to pieces in a car. Throw in scenes of helicopters flying up over kids playing footy and it's like the A Team on steroids. The macho posturing and blasting soundtrack makes this an action film which will appeal to many; Wagner Moura's steely determination is a great foil against the corrupt regional cops and the tension keeps it all blazing - as well as the guns too. The energy levels are pacy and with a pounding soundtrack,this is a high octane thrill which will keep you entertained.There's hints of this sequel spawning another film but we'll have to see..

Snowtown -

Dark,bleak,unrelenting and tense,Snowtown is an Aussie flick about John Bunting,their worst serial killer who targeted alleged paedophiles and gays back in the 90s.Daniel Henshall is utterly mesmerising and supremely chilling as the chubby faced charmer Bunting,as he swings from foster father to killer behind closed doors.The film's strength is it doesn't show the violence or killings - bar one occasion- and because of that, this is extraodinary filmmaking which doesn't skimp on the atmosphere or the fear;unsettling it may be to watch for 2 hours but it's yet another sign the Aussie industry is in rude health.While there's some who feel that there's hardly anyone to back in this grimy, gritty film(a young teen who the film initially focusses on soon becomes Bunting's accomplice),there's no denial it's a tough watch but it's rewarding and haunting in the extreme.There's an air of menace running throughout and thanks to some great imagery,Snowtown remains with you long after it's done

Footnote

An Israeli comedy about duelling professor sons sounds like it would be fun - and any other time, probably it would have been.Essentially,the father son feud has been going for years and the dad's spent 30 years tolling over ancient Talmudic scripts to the general disdain of the academic community;his son,Uriel,at the opposite end of the spectrum has been published and is accepted into the echelons over his father; inevitable tensions seethe under the skin and blow out onto the screen; and matters are made worse when the father's accidentally awarded a major prize when it should have been his son. It's supposed to be a study of human behaviour under stress but the film's not sure which path it wants to tread.It's stylistically quite impressive as details of each other's past are rolled out like microfiches but the rest of the film is a little hard to get through as the humour's not too forthcoming.

Arietty -

Another Studio Ghibli outing,Arrietty is essentially an animated version of the classic tale The Borrowers.This time around Arietty is one of the small creatures living at the end of the garden of sickly child Sho.Arietty is desperate to be part of the borrowing crowd and so one night,she goes out with her dad to"borrow" a few things.However,Sho sees Arietty and while welcoming,this meeting sets in motion a chain of events which causes all of them to inadvertently suffer.Arrietty is another fine example of the quality of product emerging from Studio Ghibli, and while this is a very slight tale,it's charming and sweet and with a high quality of animation.The interplay between the characters is wonderful and there's something timelessly magical about the nature of the story;its animation is charming too but it's all pretty and family friendly.Whilst it's not as wonderful as say Ponyo, there' plenty here for everyone to enjoy and drift away to for a good 90 minutes at the cinema

Project Nim

In 1970s Manhattan, a newborn chimp was taken from its mother and deposited in a family home as part of an experiment to see if said chimp can pick up sign language and construct sentences. Nim was the chimp - and the effects of what happened forms the basis of this engrossing and horrifying documentary from the team who made Man On Wire. Don't worry,it's not a precursor to Planet of the Apes, more a look at how far we can go sometimes as humans and it's terrifying in many ways.The doco uses home movie footage and pictures and modern day interviews to construct a well told tale and a journey which will occasionally leave you agog as to what was achieved,what was abandoned and what the cost was to our humanity and those whose lives Nim was part of.This doco is utterly mesmerizing,heartbreaking and also wondrous in its narrative style-disappointingly,some questions are left unanswered but what emerges is a tale of betrayal,mistrust,anger and a chimp who changed lives. Remarkably good.

Norwegian Wood

A Japanese film of such aching and yearning,you'll remember what it's like to be a teen and in love all over again.Watanabe and Naoko have been friends for years -and despite the death of their third friend and Naoko's lover,the pair are reunited when Watanabe is at uni.But he can't count on this relationship progressing as Naoko is dealing with serious mental health issues; throw in the fact Watanabe has attracted the flirtations of tenacious girl Midori and a triangle's set in motion. Sumptuously shot,this well known Japanese book is a smart adaptation with an impressive score, good cast and fantastic cinematography.Beautiful it may be,and it's simmering with erotic feeling throughout as the story progresses;there's a lot of bleak countryside to match the occasionally bleak mood and equally there's plenty of joy on show too; it's a studied and studious masterpiece which engrosses you for a couple of hours and certainly gives a taste of something different.

Miss Representation

A peek once again into the scarred psyche of the Americans,this doco takes a look at images of women,their place in society and places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the media who portray them in sleazy, titillating and salacious ways.The reason we're given for this investigation is a filmmaker who's about to have a daughter and who wants to ensure her world which she'll inherit is a better place and one which is a more level playing field.Condoleezza Rice is one of the talking heads rolled out and Geena Davis implores the state of Hollywood and TV; sure,it's an easy claim to make and there's plenty of evidence to back the filmmaker's case up but with a slightly patronising voiceover and somewhat simplistic approach to the subject,you can't help but feel that we're a bit more progressive in NZ where we've had women in major roles-however, as an indictment of a nation which is still behind in many ways,this nicely put together piece is likely to strike a chord with many viewers.

The First Grader -

Kenya, 2003 this is the tale of one man, Maruge and his quest to get an education at the age of 84 years old - despite the powers that be trying to hold him down at every point. There's a reason he wants to learn to read and as it plays out, flashbacks reveal what kind of life Maruge has had and what he wants to make a change. Humorous and with an occasionally heavy heart, the First Grader is one of those tales which needs to be told. Full review to follow at a later date.

The Trip

Simply brilliant,this two handed comedy road trip piece stars the denizens of UK comedy Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as accentuated versions of themselves;Coogan enlists Brydon to come along and be his partner while he reviews some of the UK's finest restuarants in the North of the country.But with Coogan's fragile ego and his desperate attempt to claw into the major leagues of Hollywood,he soon finds that Brydon's incessant (and spot on impressions) bring out his insecurities and self loathing,causing him to clash at his long term friend.Very few words can do this film justice-it's sparkingly funny,subtly played and stunningly shot by Michael Winterbottom; there's laugh out loud moments and while Brydon and Coogan are spot on in their insouciant squabbling,it's clear the audience are the winners in this film because I guarantee you won't be more entertained in the 2 hours that plays out in front of your eyes.See this film and then seek out the series on which it's based.Marvellous work

Senna

You wouldn't expect a film about Ayrton Senna to be so moving unless you were a formula one fan.You would be wrong.This biopic,simply made using archive footage of races, interviews and home movie footage is one of the most rewarding films of the festival.It tells the story of his life-mainly on the track to be honest- and his rivalry with fellow driver Alain Prost,the Frenchman with whom discord became all out war.But what emerges is an intimate portrait of a focussed and driven man who's knocked around by the system because all he wants is success and isn't willing to play the game.Scenes of racing,some of which come from cockpit cameras are scintillating and the whole film is a truly emotional journey as it becomes a fascinating battle of wills, tactics and rivalry as the feud between Senna and Prost heats up.And the final section of the film which deals with Senna's death in Imola in 94 is heartbreaking and leaves you a wreck after the preceeding joyous celebration of the legend.

Brother Number One

Annie Goldson's doco follows former Olympian Rob Hamill as he heads to Cambodia to get justice for his brother Kerry killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1978.It's an emotionally wrenching and heartbreakingly honest piece as Rob opens up every step of the way in the process and you can't help but feel appalled at what some have gone through at the hands of Pol Pot's regime."I want to forgive but the more I hear,the harder I find it" Rob says at one point-and the audience will agree;it's a difficult journey in the face of such openness but Rob is inspirational even if his journey is repugnant and one you wouldn't wish on anyone-even your worst enemy.The story simply tells itself and this haunting,humbling piece is simply the best NZ entrant in this year's festival;historical footage adds much emotional weight to the tale and it can be difficult to flinch in the face of such horrors;but ultimately,a message of hope emerges and you'd be hard pressed not to be riveted by this thrillingly good doco

The Woman

It's the film which saw one man screaming for it to be banned as sick filth on the festival circuit abroad and quite frankly I am not sure why this low budget horror's got his panties in a twist.Sure,it's not the nicest of tales - control freak lawyer man living in mid America decides to abduct a woman living wild in the countryside nearby and decides to "civilise" her by trussing her up in his cellar - while involving the rest of the family in the "education" but it's a little too low budget to be taken seriously to be honest; granted morally it's questionable and directionally, some of the acting's a bit ropey but as low budget horrors go,it's by no means one of the worst.I'm not 100% sure about the whole experience as it's quite dark visually as well as tonally and granted,there's probably a level of misogyny which some will object to.But it's about what I'd expect from Incredibly Strange - bit low budget,bit horror and bit questionable -but to call it for to be banned - pointless

Hobo With A Shotgun

"Hobo quits begging; demands change" is just one moment of utterly insane brilliance in this piece of B grade trash which sees Rutger Hauer,a hobo, take to extreme measures to save the day -hint-he uses a shotgun.Hauer's Hobo finds himself in a town run by trash and decides to clean up using erm, a shotgun to do so.This is joyously lunatic and full of blood and gore as well as laugh out loud lines (You're going to ride shotgun! he decries at one point) but there's no serious social commentary here about how the homeless are mistreated,purely a flick which is exploitation and silly fun. Hauer is good value as the sneering bum with a cause and to be honest, there's little sense on show here in this film which is bathed in blues and cheesy purples. Best enjoyed with a brain checked at the door, you really don't need to over analyse in this;merely sit back and bathe in the cinematic bloodbath unfurling in front of you - and just be grateful,you're not on the list for justice - hobo style

Circumstance

Sex,drugs,underground clubs, love,lust and... Iran.An interesting mix and a stunningly good film,this is the tale of Shireen and Atafeh who defy everything around them and indulge in the slightly more hedonistic lifestyle than you'd expect of Iranian surroundings.But when Atafeh's brother Mehran,a former drug addict returns home,she finds life a little more intolerable as suddently the female duo ends up being arrested,questioned and urged to conform.Throw into that mix the fact they fall in love and you have more than enough for this film to be explosive in its homeland.Wonderfully acted,stunningly sensual and grippingly good,Circumstance is the surprise of the festival.With two leads who radiate charm and affability,this tale won't let you down as the girls try to break out of a world aimed at keeping them down,oppressed and unable to beat the odds.Special mention also must go to the actor playing Mehran who oozes creepiness and gives the film an uneasy and unsettling edge.

Kill List

Devilishly fresh and dazzlingly good,Kill List is about two hitmen;one of whom hasn't take on a job since an unexplained incident in Kiev 8 months ago - and whose domestic life is teetering on the brink as the financial crises begin to bite.The pair are offered one more job and take it-it should in theory be simple-3 names to be killed on a list given to them.But what should be simple turns deliciously difficult and creepy as this superlative and creepy horror begins to play out.Feeling a little lofi and verite,it's a brilliant ride(although some may question the end)which feels decidedly real as it explores relationships,morality,guilt and ultimately something very evil.This is the kind of film which knocks you off your feet and causes you to remember why you love film-it's also one which screams at you to see it again after the end to piece it all together.If you miss this slice of Incredibly Strange,you are really missing something wonderful and new-a rare thing in this game

Martha Marcy May Marlene

When we first meet Martha,she's making a run through a series of trees to an outside world; we don't know why but we presume the worst and as this wily drama plays out there's a real slow burning sense of brilliance about it.Elizabeth Olsen produces a stunning turn on a par with some of Oscar's finest winners to play Martha,who takes up again with her sister Lucy (American Gothic's Sarah Paulson) after two years missing.But her arrival unannounced and unexpected causes tension for Lucy and her new husband.Flashbacks interwoven into the narrative show Martha was part of a cult and escaped for reasons unexplained into late in the piece;but there's a real sense of dread as this tale unfolds and a real sense we're seeing something sensationally good about Olsen's acting as the onion layers peel back in a shockingly emotional way.There's ominous tones to this drama and the abrupt end is likely to fuel a lot of welcome debate.Don't miss this- it's truly the start of something great for Olsen

Shut Up Little Man

Subtitled an Audio Misadventure,this doco casts its an eye on the phenomenon of the viral audio tapes of the late 80s/90s when two students moved into a crappy apartment block in San Francisco.They found themselves living next door to Peter and Ray who were prone to explosive abusive arguments late at night.Initially recording information to make a complaint,the duo put snippets of their conversations on audio tapes sent to friends and that's how they went viral in a time pre the internet and youtube.The doco looks at what happened but while the initial bursts of dialogue from the quarreling duo are hilariously funny and real,it begins to grate as you start to feel this is all the doco has-a later section on infringement of privacy and copyright as well as the legal hassles to make a film is more interesting but this piece is way too stretched out to defeat the lull that kicks in after about 50 mins.Sadly none of the main duo is still alive and it means the real insight is lacking.

POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Fresh from supersizing and looking for bin Laden,Morgan Spurlock returns with this doco looking at product placement within the media world and decides to make a doco which will be entirely funded by product placement as well as exposing the industry for what it's worth.Yet another playful piece with a semi serious message as Spurlock takes on the corporate world and wrestles with the argument of whether he's selling out or cashing in.Clearly,he is doing a little of both but you can't help but question at what level he's being compromised as a doco maker for the foreseeable future.Full of energy, humour and the continual shock factor of whatever it takes to get the film made,Spurlock's clearly revelling in it and so is the audience.Quick cuts,laugh out loud moments and a reasonably interesting insight give this the feel for what it needs but it's as superficial as the industry itself and a good 90 minutes out.A polished film which is riotously good fun,this film is a surefire fest hit

Melancholia

Astounding,this piece from Cannes is the latest in Lars von Trier's attempts to liven up the cinema and it's a sumptuous piece where to be frank,very little happens but everything is affected.Centring on Kirsten Dunst's Justine's wedding day,the film sees her starting the day in a good mood and sliding into a depression as the night goes on-despite being wed to True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard.Throw in the fact a planet called Melancholia is passing by the earth with some fearing it'll hit,and you've got cosmic fears on a very personal level as the level of doom rises on an ultimate scale.From the opening sequences which are gorgeous eye candy and set a mood of uncertainty,Melancholia is a sumptuous experience(which some may find hollow) which is mesmerising and blessed with a soaring soundtrack.Dunst seriously impresses as does Charlotte Gainsbourg as her sister who's helpless to save her.As it leads to a downbeat ending which blows you out of your seat,this is a mindblowing film

A Cat In Paris

One cat+ two lives =lots of laughs and loveliness in this sublimely hand drawn animation from France.Dino is the perfect pet by the day delivering lizards to her master Zoe but by night,she's aide to a cat burglar who runs atop the roofs of Paris.However,Zoe's bereft of a father figure after he was murdered by local gangster Costa and her mother,the chief of police is determined to track him down and tie up the local art thefts which have been going on - but the two things are connected by one feline...Beautifully presented with heart,warmth and humour,A Cat in Paris is an universal treat to partake in during the festival.There's some original animation on show,more than on a par with anything CGI can achieve and the inventiveness sings from the screen as the story unfolds.With an eye on fun and an adventurous story,this tale is one for all the family and can be enjoyed by all ages-it's not very often one says that about film these days and it's great to do so about Cat In Paris.

Hot Coffee

It sounds like the start of a joke-a little old lady spills hot coffee on herself and sues the company involved,but this doco shows what followed for the American legal system is no joke as it explores, expounds and presents what the implications were for personal law suits.Not confined only to the McDonald's suing this doco shows what the effects were on three other families whose cases and reasons to sue fell foul of the fall out of that multi million dollar coffee c%!k up.Legal eagles will lap up this film and the rest of us will simply be appalled that a system exists which doesn't benefit those it's supposed to serve (do I sound naive there? If so, apologies).Hot Coffee is a concise and occasionally dry look at tort reforms, but its nature to shock simply through the facts it presents is evident from the beginning.

Incendies

A full review will follow after the festival due to the embargoed nature of the film, but simply put, this intricately woven tale of a pair of twins' quest to find their brother and father in a Middle eastern destination is one which will shock and awe you into submission - in both good and bad ways. Expertly acted, tautly told and with moments that will have your heart in your mouth, Incendies is well worth 2 hours of your time - despite the occasionally horrific drama which plays out in front of you. Full review coming when the film gets a general release in August but see it if you want to know why it was rightly nominated for an Oscar.

Guilty Pleasures

You'd expect a doco about Mills and Boon to offer some insight into the reasons and psyche of why so many copies of these trashy novels fly off the shelves worldwide. Instead this disappointing doco treads familiar territory as it follows readers/ writers and a cover model of the franchise and offers little insight into their worlds.Sure, it may surprise some that a writer of the novels is a balding Englishman who holds writing classes and seminar getaways;it may also surprise that the cover model can't find love despite his looks and quest-but it feels an uninspired look through a microscope for these.Perhaps more successful is the inspection of a Japanese woman, Delhi woman and English lady who've been reading the books for escapism and whose lives are the real reason they choose this form of relief.It's here the doco brings a bit more wisdom and the domestic mundanity is paired with the appeal a fantasy life led vicariously through reading.Overall, this is perhaps a little lacking

She Monkeys

It starts within the woods as a dog is trained and ends with a friend turning on another;She Monkeys is a drama from Sweden where some of the logic and emotion displayed by the characters is as cold as the snow which hits the land in winter.Set in the world of competitive equestrian vaulting,it's about a burgeoning friendship and ultimate rivalry between quiet Emma and self assured Cassandra-from manipulation to seduction,there's plenty on show in this oddly uncomfortable piece which is blessed by two searing leads.With lines like:"Never show your feelings you'll only get hurt" it's easy to see how detached Emma has become and how she falls prone to Cassandra's whims and desires.An unsettling subplot about an eight year old trying to seduce the babysitter only adds to the curio and intrigue factor of She Monkeys but there's something oddly different and engaging about this piece-and you may feel when it's over like you've seen something tautly performed which is completely original

Windfall

What effects do wind turbines have on a small American rural community set outside New York?Granted, it's a no brainer that they cause division,but you'd be unwise to dismiss this doco because of that as the spotlight's firmly on a saga of regret,greed,NIMBY attitudes as well as global concerns.In the small settlement of Meredith,we meet the townsfolk who're divided by the companies pursuing the possibility of wind farms within their own backyards.It's a straight forward non preachy look at the clean green image and the devastation it actually wreaks on those who're in the shadow of the turbines.Director Laura Israel is adept at letting the evidence speak for itself as we listen to the whirring of the blades and see the visual havoc they wreak;there's bitterness as well as hindsight on all sides as the conflict ensues;and there's eye opening as it's revealed how limited these turbines can be and how devastating their long term impact is.Concise and incisive,it's food for thought

 A Matter of Taste - Serving up Paul Liebrandt

Kiwi directed doco from Sally Rowe,this looks at the rise, fall and resurrection of English chef Paul Liebrandt,the youngest chef to ever get a 3 star NYTimes rating.Over the course of a decade,we follow Paul as he espouses and lives his philosophy that "A chef who doesn't cook is a very miserable chef" and works in brasseries and joints which are clearly holding his career back.Level headed(only one Ramsay style explosion is shown), Liebrandt is an affable doco choice with his determined nature the one thing which shines through from start to finish.Beautifully shot and vibrant with shots of food which will make you salivate,this doco is a testament to dreams, creativity and culinary drive.There's also an elusive hunt for a critic's visit but you are 100% behind this chef from the get go as we chart the highs and lows of a fickle trade.Fascinating insight into what makes a chef tick and an excellently crafted film which is non intrusive and ultimately revealing and highly rewarding

The Forgiveness of Blood

Blood feud may not be something many of us know too much about,but in some countries it's a way of life.Joshua Marton directs this story about honour and how 2 teens from the same family are caught up in one such feud after their father and friend kill a neighbour over a land access issue.However, the eldest boy Nik doesn't realise his leaving the house after the feud is invoked could result in his death.Angry at the confines of the past ruining his life,he tries to find a way out-and it's one which could see him forced to leave his life behind.Sensationally performed by two unknown young actors,this drama is slow burning and powerful from beginning to end;with a fascinating story sensitively handled by an excellent director,it's truly stand out stuff which sees innocence shattered by choices, cultures and obligations imposed on family bonds by those who're no longer around. Highly recommended and one of the best dramas on show this year - well, so far anyway.

Bobby Fischer Against the World

One of the best docos at this year's festival, this one takes a look at chess prodigy and genius Bobby Fischer in the build up to his crucial world chess championship game against Boris Spassky.With a backdrop of cold war relations forming a major mental part of this doco, it's a fascinating, rewarding and richly put together look at what fuels a genius, what troubles them and what kind of mind games they can play - both on and off the board. It's the classic tale of inner demons, family issues, psychological warfare and a teen whose talent thrusts him further than he'd ever expected.But it's also a chilling insight into Fischer's life after the match which saw him head into obscurity and recluse territory as he was never sure where to go next-as one talking head says"The only person who knows what Bobby Fischer is going to do next,is Bobby Fischer hiself"Packed with twists and turns, this is by far one of the most rewarding films on show this year and leaves you with more questions.

Happy Happy

Norwegian comedy drama about two couples in a snowy backwater, this offbeat piece sees a perky schoolteacher Kaja and her hubbie Eirik welcoming in a family Sigve and Elisabeth into a neighbouring property and forming a friendship with them. Their sons become friends too -but in the weirdest way possible and the most un PC way it has to be said.Soon cracks form on all sides and sexual liasisons prove to be the order of the day as dysfunction in the snow becomes the norm. Offbeat and different, it benefits from the lead playing Kaja whose endless perkiness demands to be broken as the drama unfolds and the tensions boil over;Happy, Happy won't be to everyone's tastes - particualrly as some of it plays out - and may leave some wondering why that area of the world produces such twisted cinema at times, but it's an intriuging piece of cinema which offers something a little different and occasionally challenging - not always a bad thing at an international film festival

A Tree Falls

A doco about the Earth Liberation Front, this takes a look at middle class activist Daniel McGowan's trial following his involvement in a series of arsons committed by the environmental groups' foray into activism.The level headed film frequently shows how activism and idealism clash and yet never loses sight of the fact there's a human face to this trial, preferring to put that front and centre in a unbiased retelling of events which led up to McGowan's ultimate capture. Public enemy number one he is hardly, but to some he's classed as a terrorist by logging companies who view the activisits as "wackos,hippies and arsonists".Ultimately as the final reel plays out,you end up feeling angered at his treatement when other more agressive members of the cell don't end up facing charges for thier actions.Questions of how to make change are raised but there's never an bias on show and the intelligently made doco is all the more stronger for that.Sensitive and smart,this needs to be seen.

Fire in Babylon

As the song says I don't like cricket, I love it.Well,not strictly true but after this doco on the West Indian team in the 70s and 80s,I'm more inclined to give the sport of gentlemen a chance.Once the joke team of the sport,this doco traces their rise and how one man called Clive Lloyd gave them the dignity and prowess to become sporting icons.With game footage,a reggae OST,photos and coments from supporters,Fire in Babylon is a blistering insight into how heroes are born and how many flashpoint confrontations played a part in the team's history.There's plenty of charm from interviewee subjects as we follow cricket through the 1970s and witness the birth of legends such as Viv Richards.Nicely paced and packed with charisma Fire In Babylon reminds you of the psychological games of cricketers, the ferocity of the bowlers and how the most powerful of phoenixes can rise from the ashes (pun intended).This is a colourful and vibrant doco for fans and non fans alike.Howzat for entertainment?

Boxing Gym

An unobtrusive fly on the wall doco about life in a Boxing Gym in Austin Texas, this won't appeal to all. To the uneducated, it looks like someone's simply placed a camera in the gym, watching people train and and capturing conversations; to the finely tuned eye, this piece is a moving snapshot of those who come and go in a place like this- trainers discuss boxers to be strategies, a wife plans a 40th birthday gift for her husband;all walks of life are here on show and while there are occasionally shots of boxers doing what they do best, this is no Rocky bigging up the power of the fighter, it's one which shows the camaraderies, the relationships and the dedication of those who come through the doors. With a hypnotic feel at times, the rhythms and motions capture the casual viewer and educate the uninitiated. Boxing Gym is an interesting film but I'm not sure its appeal won me 100% over- as a portrait of life,it's impressive but the after effects are fleeting.

Meek's Cutoff

Slow cinema,this drama from Kelly Reichardt sees three families braving their way through 19th Century pioneer life as they traipse through the Oregon plains with no clue of where they're going and placing their only hope in the shaggy bearded leader Meek. starts with two trucks going through water and ends with no real resolution but it's a fascinating peek into a life from yonder,where the journey was wracked with uncertainty and worry.When these would be settlers capture an Indian,tensions increase as rations dwindle,tempers fray and suspicion abounds.Beautifully shot with cinematography which will leave you breathless,this is superior film from Reichardt which benefits immensely from Bruce Greenwood and Michelle Williams' superior involvement;their interaction fuels much of the film.We learn little about either the men or the women but the film compellingly draws you into their plight.Sure to provoke debate at the end,this is one to be seen and appreciated on its cinematic merits

Being Elmo

Unknown to many outside the industry,this is the tale of Kevin Clash who may be an anonymous name to those outside puppeteering;but if you say the word Elmo, you'll know instantly who I am talking about. Simpy shot, using archive footage of Clash's early days,this joyous film will leave you smiling from the moment it begins until it ends; there's an innocence to the tale as you see the inspiration from the man who dreamed of Muppets in his hometown of Baltimore and went on to create the most beloved character of so many -and believe it or not, just by chance!However, there's the irony of Clash losing time with his daughter growing up because of his on the road commitments to the red furry loveable character.Director Constance Marks has fashioned a simply marvellous tale which is undoubtedly the feelgood film of the fest;this film will be an inspiration to some and just plain enjoyable to all.Recommended without a doubt and guaranteed to give you a fuzzy glow afterwards which lasts days


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