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Fury

furyWorld War Two movies really should be sold by the dozen. I mean how many times can we just keep rehashing this? With the 70th anniversary of the end of the war less than a year away, principally between Hollywood and Europe, it seems, from a cursory search of IMDB, that the rate of production regularly exceeds 40 feature films per year, with no sign of abatement. And despite the severity of the Asia-Pacific Theatre, we are predominantly focused on Europe.

So I didn’t really go to see this film because I thought it would be something remarkable or special or even noteworthy. There’s a new WWII movie for just about every week of the year. I just felt like going to the cinema, and this one was on at the right time.

And really, that’s about how this one should be valued. It’s not a bad film by any means. It has a strong plot, interesting characters, great explosions, confronting gore and just the right amount of novelty (I’ve never seen a tank battle portrayed quite like this before). It has some profound  little lines like “Ideals are peaceful, history is violent”, which are included subtly enough for my taste, and in some way justify the bordering-on-extreme degree of violence depicted here.

And that’s really all there is to it. There is no attempt to glean any new insight into humanity from the species’ darkest days. No spark of genius or flash of brilliance. There’s some valour, perhaps, but really, when we’re churning out so many films on this theme, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about this film.

So I don’t know why I’ve made any remarks at all…

Except to comment that maybe, just maybe, it would be good to start issuing licences for people who want to make films about WWII, or some kind of system that gives us an indication of whether this is just regurgitation or whether there’s something new to be said. I certainly think that there is more to be learned from this period in human history, and I’m very keen to see Angelina Jolie’s upcoming foray, but still… filmmakers, please; can we just explore the humanity of war a little more?

 
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Posted by on Monday, 1 December 2014 in American Film, Columbia Pictures, Film

 

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Five years of Foyer Talk

It surprised me to learn that I’ve now been blogging for five years. What started as a little spark from a conversation about the tendency of Canberra critics to make every effort to discourage artists has become a nice little part of my life.
Since I started Foyer Talk, The Canberra Critic has come and (it seems) gone, and the anonymous Guy Who Watches Canberra Theatre has started writing very encouragingly about his experiences. The venerable clique, Canberra Critics Circle, have started their own blog, which is a vastly more comprehensive dossier of theatre productions in Canberra than my own. And both the Crimes and WIN News have curtailed their involvement with theatre criticism.
And for me, Foyer Talk has become a most enjoyable journey. I have explored what really makes me respond in theatre and cinema auditoria, and I think this has improved my writing. I’ve done this well beyond our energetic little theatre community here in Canberra as well. People often respond positively, occasionally negatively, and in the last twelve months in particular I’ve engaged in some great discussions following my posts.
And the highlights of the last five years? There have been many, but the best definitely include:

  • Floating, with its amazing, engaging playfulness and remarkable story.
  • Ngapartji Ngapartji, which really draws us towards a truly national theatre
  • Another contribution to our national story, Faces in the Street, which really grounded some of the less palatable aspects of the Australian identity.
  • An exploration of my own identity and the influences upon my cultural adherences, in the brilliant The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • One I have not stopped raving about, Animal Farm
  • A Korean version of Hamlet
  • Rep’s wonderful production of I Hate Hamlet (a statement I could never make!)
  • And of course The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, the one that kicked off this little blog five years ago today.
  • So I hope there are a few of you out there who enjoy reading my abuses rants posts as much as I enjoy being at the theatre and writing about it. I certainly intend to do it for another five years. I just hope blogging stays as popular as it is now!

     
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    Posted by on Saturday, 13 July 2013 in blog

     

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    Django Unchained

    Django UnchainedI’ve never been a big fan of Quentin Tarantino‘s films. Most offend on my most cherished traditions of storytelling — character and plot — so I pay them less heed than I might otherwise do, but Django Unchained is a true exception. Sure, I liked True Romance, and Pulp Fiction isn’t without its charms. Inglorious Basterds is a fine piece of cinema too, but Django Unchained is a refined, glorious masterpiece. A film worthy of the attention Tarantino usually gets for the more flimsy of his work. I will give three reasons why I think this film alone is worthy of all the praise that has been lavished on Tarantino for all of his lesser films put together.

    First, it has a plot. And not just an “I need an excuse to shoot so many scenes of blood and gore” kind of plot. It has a narrative. As in its central characters have a context in which to be, and not a flimsy one, but a solid, relatable, engaging one. A slave — Django — is bought in Texas by an anti-slavery German bounty hunter for the knowledge he has of the bounty hunter’s target. In exchange for Django’s help, he agrees to free him and share his earnings. The two become friends and colleagues and the German learns the story of Django’s wife, and they set out to free her from slavery also.

    Second, it has characters that speak like real people. Not all of them, mind you, but a whopping majority, which is more than can be said for most of Tarantino’s characters (it’s also more than can be said for half of the movies made in the United States in the last 50 years). Most of them tend instead to opt for trite one-liners or metaphors or abbreviations of concepts that are supposed to make us think they’re really cool, but these characters are so damn cool they don’t need the pretence and can speak in full sentences like human beings. I like that. It gives them depth and develops relationships and shows me people I can relate to.

    Third and best of all, Django Unchained has that wonderful quirk of Tarantino’s; the ability to draw us into the violence as if it is the realisation of our deepest, darkest instincts. It’s the karma we westerners of the 21st century wish we could exact upon the evil of the past. The wish that we could punish slave-owners for their sins, or take revenge on Hitler or upon that bully who just wouldn’t let up. I think this is what has sold so many of Tarantino’s films (that and truly beautiful cinematography that doesn’t just glorify, but truly beautifies, violence), and why I’ve often been willing to forgive the lack of plot or the superficiality of the characters or the ridiculous illogicality of the combat. Someone who deserves to suffer the full force of their victim’s fury is getting even more than the full force of it. Payback’s not just a bitch, she’s a tsunami of violence, desolating everything in her path.

    And while this has always been the element I’ve liked in Tarantino’s films, in this instance, he doesn’t sacrifice character and plot to deliver it. And that is why Django Unchained is the film that redeems his ouvre.

     
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    Posted by on Friday, 1 February 2013 in American Film, Columbia Pictures, Film, Weinstein Company

     

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    The Way

    There seems to have been a slew of films about journeys or pilgrimages from American film makers lately. Either that or I’ve just started noticing them. At any rate, I haven’t seen any as good as The Way.

    The film, written by Emilio Estevez (who I had no idea could actually write), is the story of a man who finds himself walking El Camino de Santiago following the death of his son on the pilgrimage, and whereas most of these pilgrimage films I’ve been seeing are either a little light on character or a little too heavy, The Way has just the right balance, and drives forward beautifully, even surviving some very obvious product placement.

    It could be a tearjerker if you’re that way inclined, but unlike others that could fit that bill, it doesn’t go out of its way to try to generate a deeper pathos than is necessary, and this is so very refreshing, especially from the Americans. This is the kind of story I want to be able to write.

    Of course, the problem with pilgrimage films is that they give me itchy feet, but I always seem to be wanting to go somewhere, so I don’t suppose that matters much. Anyone want to join me in Spain in a decade or two?

     
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    Posted by on Friday, 3 August 2012 in American Film, Film, Filmax Entertainment, Icon Entertainment

     

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    The Adventures of Tintin

    Late though I might have been, I finally managed to take the kids along to see The Adventures of Tintin. They weren’t that interested at first, and I can understand why, since the marketing is targeted at a higher age group and is certainly intended to attract adults. And by the time we went, it was no longer showing at Limelight, and we had to settle for Hoyts.

    I don’t know why I particularly wanted to see this movie, as I never read the comics or had any experience of it before, but the trailer had me enthralled, and I was really keen. Obviously, the usual problem with films that you’re really eager to see is that they fail to live up to expectations. Not the case with Tintin.

    The characters are really engaging, especially the bumbling detectives who are simply the most hilarious of characters. Tintin himself is endearing in a very personable way, since he is admired by all the characters for his prowess, but is nonetheless genuinely concerned with other people’s welfare. He is, at the same time, subject to frustrations and these shine through with pristine dialogue and amazing animation.

    I’m not normally a fan of animation that looks too realistic, I’d usually prefer cartoons to look like cartoons, but in this context it just works.

    The Adventures of Tintin is barely a children’s movie; there is a fairly long-running theme of violence, but it is handled well, and though my daughters (age 10 and 7) tensed up a lot, I never felt uncomfortable with the level of violence they were seeing.

    This is a great film, especially for its characters, but also for its excellent animation.

     
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    Posted by on Saturday, 28 January 2012 in American Film, Film, New Zealand Film

     

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    127 Hours

    SPOILER ALERT: this post contains references to the ending of the film.

    A true story about a chap who literally gets stuck between a rock and a hard place for 127 hours sounds like a pretty boring premise for a film, doesn’t it? But, perhaps because the film was directed by one of the UK’s best directors, and perhaps because the survivor of this ordeal was far more practical and down-to-earth than your average American, this is a brilliant story.

    Its protagonist, Aron Ralston, could well have been turned into a sickly sweet caricature, but Boyle’s deft use of his hallucinations, memory, premonitions, or whatever you want to call them, are handled in a way that firmly grounds him in the reality of his circumstance. The film doesn’t try to pretend that Aron never gave up hope, and it is his constant prevarications between hopelessness and persistence at the only option available to him that makes him both real and truly inspirational.
    There have been some ridiculous stories about people finding the blood and gore too much. My suspicion is that these folk must have been completely shielded from any exposure to blood in their entire existence to be so extremely squeamish. There is nothing particularly extreme about the depiction of the removal of Aron’s forearm, you might just need a strong armrest to grab hold of at a few critical moments. Limelight Cinemas’ hardware held up fine!
     
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    Posted by on Monday, 14 February 2011 in American Film, Film

     

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    Hancock

    Had a great trip to Canberra’s fantastic Dendy again last night, to see Hancock. Cheap Tuesday, and it was busy with hundreds of baby boomers lining up to see Mama Mia! and I ended up in the wrong line, feeling like a complete idiot when I realised that there was no one within cooee of my age in the queue. It was a relief, however, to find that we could walk right into the appropriate cinema and not have to jockey for decent seats.

    Hancock is a good piece of cinema, but very light. It’s one of those films with a great premise that kind of falls down when the story should be getting interesting. You could see that spot at the end of the exposition and the conflict where the writers—Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan—suddenly realised that they don’t know where they’re going with this story. It’s good, but the best bits are in the trailer. Wait for the DVD.

    I’d like to give them ten points for trying, but this is one of those unfortunate films that has fallen victim to the Hollywood movie machine. The idea was fresh and new, which is more than you can say for most American films this century, but the execution just didn’t cut it.

    I just wish we had opted for Ten Empty instead. Oh well.

     
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    Posted by on Wednesday, 16 July 2008 in American Film, Film

     

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