FILM REVIEW: LONG STRANGE TRIP

Long Strange Trip is a documentary about the Grateful Dead that feels just like being at one of the band’s concerts. It is a sprawling, swirling psychedelic affair that lives up to its name as it celebrates a band that has notched up over 50 years in the music business as the reigning kings of the counter-culture movement. This documentary occasionally feels like a hagiography but it’s a fun and justified one because it’s ultimately a free-spirited love letter to one crazy, joyful psychedelic band.

This film was a labour of love that was around 15 years in the making for director and self-confessed Deadhead (the name rampant Grateful Dead fans wear as a badge of honour) Amir Bar-Lev. Martin Scorsese – who is no stranger to rock ‘n’ roll documentaries (see Shine A Light, The Last Waltz, etc.) – also serves as executive producer. The Long Strange Trip is broken down into a series of different acts in a loosely-based chronology to tell the story of the group and its fans while also giving some historic context.

A lot of time is naturally devoted to the band’s messianic front man, Jerry Garcia. It talks about his anti-authoritarian stance and his love of things like: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, drugs and beat poetry, especially Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. It also shows how the trappings of fame and stardom (something the group never actively courted as they are the most unlikely celebrities out there) were what contributed to Garcia’s premature death at the age of 53 in 1995.

The story of the Dead is traced back to the early days in the hippie movement and their natural habitat in Haight-Ashbury. It also covers the long recording sessions where the group were hyped up on nitrous oxide and the aborted film project, which was due to the group lacing the film crew’s cups with LSD. It also looks at their resurgence in the eighties and how they became like a travelling circus because when crazed Deadheads who “Needed a miracle” (to borrow from the band’s lyrics) as they had lucked out on tickets to Grateful Dead shows decided to simply set up street parties outside of the band’s concerts instead. Party time, excellent!

This film naturally includes a fabulous soundtrack that showcases the band’s music. These songs are complex ones where you can hear the influence of each member’s love of different musical genres like: bluegrass, folk, classical, avant-garde and the blues, as these styles permeate almost every note. This music attracted scores of different fans. There were deafheads, wharf rats, acid heads, coke fiends, spinners (people who spun around dancing ad nauseam), tapers (fans who rabidly bootlegged the band’s shows with the group’s blessing) as well as those who worshiped at the altar of Garcia.

The surviving members of the Grateful Dead are interviewed here while Garcia appears via old videos. Even the group’s elusive lyricist, Robert Hunter appears here though his contributions are as mysterious as his lyrics. Sam Cutler the former tour manager of The Rolling Stones and the Dead is also interviewed and he is a funny and fantastic talent who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. One distinct difference with this documentary is the absence of industry types that tend to be given too much airtime in music documentaries.

Long Strange Trip expertly threads together interviews plus rare archive footage including photographs and films. At around four hours it covers a lot of ground. But it’s also staggering to think that there were still topics that this documentary failed to address like: Woodstock, the individual band member’s solo projects and the individual band member’s childhoods (only Garcia’s is briefly touched on.)

Long Strange Trip is about the magic, myth and madness that was the Grateful Dead. This epic four hour rock documentary is a freewheeling journey through one experimental group’s bizarre world. The film is essential viewing for Deadheads and assorted other freaks who consider themselves Deadheads-in-the-making. This film ultimately proves that once you start loving this band of weirdoes there is a point of no return from this long, strange trip.

Originally published on 20 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/sxsw-film-review-long-strange-trip-usa-2017-celebrates-the-magic-myth-and-madness-that-is-the-grateful-dead/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: HOUSESITTER

Housesitter is a film that shares a few things in common with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Both star Steve Martin playing a character where he has to deceive some people and both are directed by Frank Oz. Housesitter was never a film that was going to win any awards but it is ultimately a fun and forgettable little lightweight comedy.

The story goes as follows: Newton Davis (Martin) is an architect working away in a hum-drum job. He builds his dream house in his idyllic hometown and proposes to his childhood sweetheart, Becky (Dana Delany.) Things are looking pretty sweet until Becky rejects Newton’s proposal.

Three months later Newton is still reeling from the rejection. But he finds solace in the arms of a quick-thinking waitress named Gwen Phillips (an effervescent Goldie Hawn.) Gwen is a compulsive liar. She initially tells Newton that she’s Hungarian. But she’s just a free spirit who enjoys reinventing herself and living new lives. The pair have a one night stand but Newton leaves before the morning arrives.

This film requires a huge suspension of disbelief with respect to what happens next. Gwen has a napkin containing a drawing of Newton’s dream house and decides that this is enough to jack in her waitressing job and set up house in the vacant one that Newton built (when she doesn’t even know the exact address.) In Gwen’s first hour in town (after finding “the house”) she sets up accounts in Newton’s name and tells everyone (including his ex and his parents) that she is Newton’s wife. This is the first of a web of lies that become more and more convoluted and complicated.

When Newton learns about what happens he isn’t that mad because he views the situation as an opportunity to get back together with his ex-girlfriend. Newton’s ex becomes jealous of Gwen and Newton’s love and marriage even though their wedded bliss is a sham. Gwen may be a liar but she at least improves Newton’s life for the better- by reuniting him with his father, helping him win a promotion at work, etc. But is it love?

This film basically sees Steve Martin playing the same character he always plays- the over-the-top anxious/serious guy. He seems a tad too old for this role. Goldie Hawn is also the same age as Martin was at the time (46) but she is better-preserved and more believable in her role. Hawn is the real star here and she carries this film as the attractive and sensuous eye candy as well as playing a ditzy woman on the surface but quite a calculating and well-meaning liar as you dig a little deeper.

Housesitter is a zany little comedy caper that could do with a few more laughs. It has some pleasing moments and it’s an easy watch but it’s not an excellent movie by any stretch of the imagination. This outrageous and over-the-top comedy is an enjoyable little piece of escapism but don’t expect it to stay with you beyond the closing credits.

Originally published on 19 March 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/whole-truth-dvd-review/

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FILM REVIEW: MISSION CONTROL: THE UNSUNG HEROES OF APOLLO

 

Stop and take a moment to think about what you were doing at the age of 27 or what you will do if it’s yet to come. If you’re a musician it is likely that you are dead but if you were working at NASA during the Apollo era then you had a hand in putting man on the moon. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo is a documentary that takes a leaf out of Hidden Figures’ book because it puts the focus on the boffins that achieved great things by working at mission control and it is one truly fascinating story.

The film marks the directorial debut of David Fairhead who has worked as a film editor for several decades. Fairhead was also the editor of the previous SXSW documentary, The Last Man on the Moon. In Mission Control Fairhead is close to the subject matter as he wears the multiple hats of director and editor yet he manages to produce a compelling, if rather technical story.

This documentary includes and focuses on interviews with the men who worked at NASA during the Apollo era. This includes astronauts: Charlie Duke and the late Gene Cernan as well the founder of mission control, Dr Christopher Kraft. It also includes a huge roll call of men who worked as flight directors, in life support systems and other areas. There are also two female interviewees: Ginger Kerrick and Courtenay McMiller who currently work at NASA.

This is a story that focuses on the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s one that doesn’t gloss over the failures of Apollo 1, which resulted in the deaths of Gus Grissom, Edward H. White II and Roger B. Chaffee during testing. Instead the documentary talks about how this was a major turning point for the team. In the aftermath of this tragedy the group at mission control bandied together and adopted the mantra of “tough” and “competent”. It was one that would see these ordinary men of different social backgrounds (with an average age of 27) including many who were either fresh graduates or soldiers setting out to achieve something that most had figured was mission impossible.

In 2017 people like talking about things like “digital disruption” and “working out loud” and yet it’s amazing to think that from the 1950s to the early 1970s when computers were dumber than today’s average mobile phone that people could achieve feats like those that were accomplished. Consider: Apollo 8 was the first mission to leave Earth’s orbit and to subsequently reach and orbit the moon before returning safely to earth as well as Apollo 11 where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the small step that turned out to be a giant leap for mankind when they walked on the moon. The story is jubilant at these successes and it’s interesting to hear the proud and passionate engineers and scientists talking about the nail-biting moments where things went wrong and how they overcame some setbacks with quick-thinking, teamwork and good decision-making.

Mission Control includes archive footage that has never been shown before as well as old newsreels and powerful animations simulating the journeys into space. These latter moments in particular help to cut through some of the drier, more technical parts.

Our fascination with space continues to this day with an enthusiasm that remains unfettered. It is also a spiritual experience to witness scenes like the lunar sunrise where the perfect accompaniment comes from some recitations from the bible’s book of Genesis. Even those who aren’t religious could enjoy this moment and perhaps think of David Bowie singing, “Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”

David Fairhead’s directorial debut is living proof that people can achieve big things by putting their heads together. To put man on the moon was a huge, staggering challenge that is still spoken about today (even if it’s just when comedians like Jerry Seinfeld joke about it). These scientists and technical specialists are an inspiration, as they had the vision, expertise, ability and quick-thinking to achieve one hell of a magnificent feat. This means that films like Mission Control should be mandatory viewing for anyone working in a team because it is like watching a love letter to NASA’s rocket men.

Originally published on 18 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/sxsw-film-review-mission-control-the-unsung-heroes-of-apollo-uk-2017-is-a-love-letter-to-nasas-rocket-men/

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FILM REVIEW: LOVING

 

Loving is a film that shares a few things in common with A United Kingdom. They are both based on true stories and at the centre of each film you have a married, interracial couple who just want to live together as husband wife and leave the politics out of the bedroom. Loving is a beautifully-shot and subtle drama about one inspiring romance.

The film is named after the real-life couple, Mildred and Richard Loving. Ruth Negga is really sensitive and expressive in her Oscar-nominated performance as Mildred and she shares a noticeable chemistry with our very own Joel Edgerton who plays Richard. These two actors should be commended for their respectful and convincing performances.

The Lovings were married in Washington in 1958. They married here because they feared they would encounter problems by getting married in their home-state of Virginia. The latter state still had a draconian law that was a relic from a bygone period (where slavery was the norm) that banned mixed-race couples from marrying. The couple were dobbed in to the authorities and eventually arrested.

Mildred and Richard Loving were released without having to serve prison terms because they agreed to leave their home-state and extended families in order to live elsewhere. The pair initially agreed to this proposal and lived in Washington. But they eventually returned to Virginia because they were homesick and they just wanted to live a quiet life and not bother anyone.

The couple that were the inspiration behind this film were also rather reluctant civil rights activists and stars. Richard Loving was a man of few words. Joel Edgerton dons a blonde buzz-cut and portrays him as a quiet and devoted construction worker who has a keen interest in drag-racing. When asked what he wants his lawyers to say in court in the couple’s defence he simply responds, “Tell the judge I love my wife.”

The Lovings were also rather reserved and dignified throughout the entire ordeal. Mildred would write to the then Attorney General, Robert Kennedy seeking an intervention and eventually the American Civil Liberties Union took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Director and writer Jeff Nichols’ (Mud) script does not take cheap shots and nor does it play up the melodrama, the courtroom tactics or other histrionics involved in this case. Instead, Nichols leaves the audience to witness the quiet moments of tender domesticity between these two lovebirds as their love grows and they build a house, family and life together while also tackling the U.S. bureaucracy.

Loving is not a film that is filled with beat-up drama or other unnecessary bells and whistles, instead it is quiet meditation on true love, courage and commitment. This story about racism and politics remains an important one today as the government continues to try and wield power over who can marry (to think that Australia still does not have gay marriage is utterly deplorable). Loving is ultimately a subtle and nuanced domestic drama that is a study in the true power of love.

Originally published on 12 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/sxsw-film-review-through-the-repellent-fence-usa-2017-uses-art-to-make-an-important-political-statement/

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FILM REVIEW: THROUGH THE REPELLENT FENCE: A LAND ART FILM

 

As Donald Trump continues promoting his idea of building a wall between the US and Mexico it’s heartening to see that there are some people taking a different approach. Through The Repellent Fence: A Land Art Film is a documentary about a land art installation that attempted to reinforce the notion that borders are an arbitrary idea and that some fences cannot divide people. This is ultimately an insightful and hopeful tale about an important and relevant issue in politics.

This film is directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas who made the 2016 SXSW Audience Award winning documentary, Honky Tonk Heaven. In Through The Repellent Fence, Douglas follows an inter-disciplinary artist/activist collective named Post-Commodity. The group is made up of three Native Americans: Cristóbal Martínez (Chicano), Kade L. Twist (Cherokee) and Raven Chacon (Navajo) as they go through the process with the help of some volunteers of assembling the land art installation, The Repellent Fence.

This artwork was a 2m long installation that ran perpendicular to the US/Mexico border for four days in 2015. It consisted of 28 large, helium-filled balloons. Half of these spanned communities in the US and the other half spanned communities in Mexico. It was designed as a way of reflecting on why some people attempt to create artificial barriers. It also tried to suture together all of the different communities that it touched.

The balloons in this installation were a play on the ones that are sold and used by people to keep birds out of their gardens. These balloons feature a symbol called the “open eye” and they don’t always work at keeping these creatures away. In the context of the artwork, the balloons are symbolic of the previous acts that were taken out in order to marginalise, repel and destroy the culture of the indigenous people living within and beyond the different country’s borders in the Americas. In using the image of the “open eye” these indigenous artists were seeking to reclaim their own iconography and make this a piece of land art that was very much rooted in a tribal context.

This documentary also includes some information about land art in general and gives a brief history of this art movement that really only began in the 1950s and 1960s. There are scenes showing Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels. There are also interviews with art writer Lucy Lippard and Matt Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation. We also follow Chris Taylor from Texas Tech University as he – like the other participants – gives context, history and other information about these incredible land art installations.

The Repellent Fence is a film with an important message and one that seems to become more urgent through these fearful times. It observes how we should all collaborate and work together with the land and not attempt to control people, nature and other things. This film is ultimately a warm, inspiring and feel-good documentary about what can happen when individuals come and work together to restore power to the people.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Originally published on 12 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/sxsw-film-review-through-the-repellent-fence-usa-2017-uses-art-to-make-an-important-political-statement/

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BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE WHOLE TRUTH

 

The Whole Truth is a courtroom drama and thriller that spends its entire runtime getting to the truth of a matter. The film is one that – for the most part – keeps the audience guessing in much the same way as Doubt did. This ultimately makes for a story that is not a bad one to watch, even if there are areas needing improvement and the ending is a tad predictable.

Keanu Reeves stars as a hard-drinking, defence lawyer named Richard Ramsey. He also narrates the story but his delivery is so detached and flat and the content adds so little to the film that for the most part it seems like these are obtrusive elements are like a fly that you’d love to swat away. Reeves’ performance is also rather uneven and unconvincing as he attempts to play a guy trying to defend an open-and-shut case on behalf of a family friend.

A wealthy personal injury lawyer named Boone Lassiter (Jim Belushi in a rare dramatic role) is found dead. He was stabbed and has a knife protruding from his chest. His son Mike (a poker-faced, Gabriel Basso) kneels above his estranged, old man’s body and mutters, “Should have done this a long time ago.” The police take this as a confession and it is Ramsey’s job to try to defend the boy and possibly get him acquitted of murder.

The main problem is that Mike won’t talk, not even to his lawyer. So Ramsey adopts a strategy of making it look like the prosecution is winning the case until some extra, crucial pieces of information are revealed. But are some of these red herrings that have been planted or are they the actual truth?

Boone is painted as a philanderer and a tyrant who assaulted his wife (a troubled, Renée Zellweger). The information is revealed via a series of flashbacks with director, Courtney Hunt (Frozen River) attempting to keep the audience on their toes until the very end.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion) also appears in this film. She plays Janelle and is brought in as a young, eager-to-prove herself co-counsel to assist Ramsey. Mbatha-Raw’s role is a largely thankless one. Janelle attempts to suss out the truth and discovers that there could be more to this story than meets the eye. The only thing that seems certain here is that there are many shades of grey and at least a few people are telling secrets and lies.

The Whole Truth is a drab-looking film. It’s shot mostly in-doors in the grey courtroom and is rather dull in depicting the events leading up to it so it’s really an unnecessary one to view on Blu-ray. It also tries to weave together a bunch of different subplots while forcing the audience to question just who Boone’s killer was and what was their motive. For a straight-to-video film it certainly has its movements but you also get the sense that with a few adjustments it could have been so much better.

Originally published on 8 March 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/whole-truth-dvd-review/

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FILM REVIEW: ALONE IN BERLIN

 

Alone in Berlin is a story from the Second World War and the recent film adaptation means it is likely to be condemned to the history books. The film is based on the international best-selling novel, Every Man Dies Alone, a book about real-life Berliners Otto and Elise Hampel. The film is a slow and plodding affair that is grossly under-realised and lacking in nuance.

 

The film is directed by Vincent Perez and features actors speaking in English but reading and writing in German. The wonderful, Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson star as a married couple who lose their only son after the youngster is killed fighting on the frontline (in real-life this was Elise’s brother.) The pair put in emotional and convincing-enough performances although it is bizarre to hear them speaking in German-accented English.

 

After their son’s death in 1940 these two working class parents pour their grief, anger and devastation into some small acts of civil disobedience. They write out postcards with anti-Nazi, anti-Hitler and anti-war sentiments. They would pen almost 300 of these and distribute them to various locations across Berlin. They were careful to take precautions, not leaving their fingerprints or distributing the materials to the same places. The Gestapo were unnerved and furious by these acts, as they viewed these individuals as traitors (Daniel Brühl leads the investigation here.)

 

By distributing these postcards this couple were engaging in a very dangerous act and they understood that they were risking their lives in order to do this. But they continue to carry out this operation because it’s a coping mechanism for them and it’s a protest against the things that they were witnessing in a country that was ruled by a tyrannous dictator. There is one scene with an elderly Jewish neighbour that is especially heart-breaking to watch.

 

The film itself is pleasant enough on the eye, if a little bland. The mood is a sombre one and an orchestral, Hollywood soundtrack attempts to ramp up the tension and emotion in the story, but this is ever enough. This is a true story of courage and subversion but it feels like a candle where the light has been snuffed out.

 

Alone in Berlin is a look at two stoic individuals who protested against the Nazi regime in their own unique way. It’s also a fascinating story that could have been realised and made into a much better movie. This film is ultimately too slow and subtle in capturing the amazing feats performed by two hurt, determined and fearless parents.

 

***Please note: a free pass to this film was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://entertainment.beautyandlace.net/user-reviews-movie-alone-in-berlin

FILM REVIEW: KALINKA (AU NOM DE MA FILLE)

kalinka

 

Kalinka (Au nom de ma fille) is a French film that is based on the real-life events surrounding the Kalinka Bamberski case. It’s a dark and suspenseful thriller about one man’s dogged determination for justice. It’s a fight that spans multiple decades and traverses a couple of different country’s borders with the pure aim of seeing that justice will eventually prevail.

This film is by director, Vincent Garenq who is no stranger to making films in this genre. Garenq also doubles as a co-writer along with Julien Rappeneau. The film stars Daniel Auteuil as André Bamberski and really carries this film. He plays a family man who loses his only daughter.

Bamberski’s first wife Cecile (Christelle Cornil) would divorce him in the early seventies and take a new lover in the form of the suave and charismatic Dr Dieter Krombach (Sebastian Koch) but this had painful ramifications. In July 1982 Bamberski’s 14 year old daughter, Kalinka and young son Pierre travelled from France to Germany in order to holiday with their mother and new step-father. On July 10 Kalinka was found dead. There were disturbing circumstances surrounding her passing but in Bamberski’s eyes these were not addressed during the investigation that occurred in the aftermath of his daughter’s death.

Bamberski had Kalinka’s autopsy report translated and was horrified to learn that Dr Krombach had injected his daughter with various substances (the step-father claimed that this was in an attempt to revive the teenager). Krombach was also present at the autopsy. Bamberski found it strange that the coroner had failed to properly investigate whether a rape had taken place (later when Kalinka’s body was exhumed and re-examined it would be revealed that her genitals had actually been removed). Needless to say there were a lot of questions thrown up by the investigation or lack thereof.

Bamberski presumed that Krombach was responsible for Kalinka’s death. Bamberski embarked on a relentless fight against French and German officials and their respective legal systems in order to see Krombach brought accountable for this crime. Along the way other allegations against Krombach were brought forward by other young women. All of this evidence would help Bamberski in fighting the legal obstacles thrown in his way and to eventually break the conspiracy of silence that had enveloped Kalinka’s death.

Kalinka is ultimately a rather clinical and procedural look at the events that took place with respect to the Kalinka Bamberski case. Her father André never gave up and had to fight the denial of doctors, legal professionals and his family (including his ex-wife) in order to convince them of what he believed in his gut was the truth. The story itself is a rather hopeful one that has a few things in common with In The Name Of My Daughter as it again shows a parent fighting against incompetent practices in criminal investigations. Kalinka is ultimately a dramatic and tense look at the sacrifices a David-character must endure in order to fight against some bureaucratic Goliaths in order to pursue justice, truth and accountability.

 

Originally published on 6 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-kalinka-france-2016-is-a-shocking-and-suspenseful-true-crime-thriller/

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FILM REVIEW: DAVID STRATTON: A CINEMATIC LIFE

stratton

 

David Stratton is the doyen of Australian cinema. He is a respected film critic who has watched in excess of 25,000 films, peed on Fellini and entertained Australians for decades through his movie reviews with sparring partner Margaret Pomeranz. David Stratton: A Cinematic Life is a documentary about his life and brilliant career and is not unlike the Roger Ebert documentary, Life Itself in that they’re both personal and engaging looks at two influential men with an infectious passion for the silver screen.

This documentary is directed by Sally Aitken (Getting Frank Gehry, Streets of Your Town) and is a companion piece to a longer mini-series about Australian cinema, which will air on television later this year. Perhaps as a result of this, A Cinematic Life proves to be an ambitious undertaking, as it attempts to tell a number of different stories. It’s about Australia’s best known film critic as well as a brief history of Australian cinema and both of these stories are enough to fill several films or books.

A Cinematic Life focuses on some key facets of Stratton’s history and personality. There was his childhood spent in Britain where he wrote his first review as a boy (he has these and the ones he penned for Variety and The Australian on file in a card system that is reminiscent of libraries prior to the advent of computers.) He cultivated a love for cinema and immigrated to Australia in 1963. Stratton is candid in talking about his estrangement from his father and the feeling that he was the black sheep in his family (he likens this feeling to Muriel Heslop’s character in Muriel’s Wedding). Stratton’s brother, Roger appears here and says he’d die happy if he never watched another film and their father was furious when David failed to return to England to help head the grocery business, which had been in the family for generations.

When Stratton arrived in Australia in the sixties the local film industry was virtually non-existent but people like Stratton helped to build it up. He served as the director of the Sydney Film Festival for 17 years, championed local films and was vocal in his opposition against draconian film censorship rules. This outspokenness did not go unnoticed; during the Cold War, Stratton was under surveillance by ASIO when all he was doing was obtaining visas to attend the Moscow International Film Festival.

This documentary weaves together scenes from important Australian films (from the 1906 The Story of the Kelly Gang to recent hit, The Dressmaker and many in between) and it also has Stratton visit some important settings like Hanging Rock and the site of the house from The Castle. A veritable who’s who of Australian entertainment are interviewed, including actors: Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush, Eric Bana, Sam Neill, Judy Davis, Jacki Weaver, Russell Crowe and Hugo Weaving as well as directors: Gillian Armstrong, George Miller, Peter Weir and Bruce Beresford, among others.

David Stratton: A Cinematic Life can be a little disjointed as it crams in as much as possible into its 110 minute runtime. But it remains a personal and fascinating documentary and a celebration of both Stratton’s legacy and Australian cinema as a whole. For people like David, cinema isn’t just celluloid it’s a way of life and it’s something that should be part of your day-to-day (Stratton tries to see at least one film every day.) A Cinematic Life is quite simply a love letter to our home-grown talent and one that will make you want to sit down and watch all of the films included here plus so many more. And with Stratton as the narrator and guide, we know that we are in for one hell of a time at the movies.

Originally published on 3 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-david-stratton-a-cinematic-life-australia-2017-is-a-love-letter-to-the-doyen-of-australian-cinema-our-illustrious-film-industry/

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FILM REVIEW: MISS SLOANE

M3 Jessica Chastain stars in EuropaCorp's "Miss. Sloane". Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes © 2016 EuropaCorp Ð France 2 Cinema

Miss Sloane could be renamed, “Ms Stone.” The film is about an ambitious and icy woman who acts as a lobbyist for a firm that is advocating on behalf of a gun control bill in the States. It’s a tense, political drama with as many power-plays, twists, turns and slights of hand as The Ides of March.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) stars as the titular character and really carries this film. She is the ruthless Elizabeth Sloane, a woman who survives on a diet of amphetamines, power, the company of male escorts and cheap Chinese food. Sloane is not a likeable character by any stretch but Chastain gives such an absorbing performance that it is hard for us to turn away.

We meet Miss Sloane as she prepares to plead the Fifth Amendment at a senate ethics hearing. The film then tells her story through a series of flashbacks. It shows how she earned a reputation as a formidable, world-class lobbyist and how she defected from a large agency who won a contract from the gun lobby in order to work at a small boutique firm who were advocating for a gun control bill.

Sloane is a complicated character. She enjoys 3am phone calls to her underlings and the public humiliation of people. She also has no qualms spying on her colleagues and competitors, selling out rats and milking the bleeding heart vote by exposing a colleague (Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion)) as the former victim of a high school-shooting. Yet when Sloane defects from her pro-gun agency to the one supporting gun control, there are at least some questions regarding her motives and whether she is taking a moral stance. Another big question is whether Sloane’s over-confidence and cockiness will mean she misses some important fact or find herself exposed to a blind spot or two.

This film is written by first-time screenwriter, Jonathan Perera and directed by John Madden (this is a serious departure in tone from his previous films, Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.) The supporting cast features Jack Lacy, Mark Strong and John Lithgow who put in rather able performances but are eclipsed by the dynamo work from Chastain. Miss Sloane is quite an eye-opening and detailed political tragicomedy and an exposé of a corrupt system and its steely-eyed and determined participants. This film is ultimately a wild ride with the big boys and one strong woman and a game you can’t help but find yourself getting lost in for the most part.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

 

Originally published on 01 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-miss-sloane-usa-2016-proves-a-strong-woman-can-play-with-the-big-boys/

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