THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS **1/2
Holocaust fable sits uneasily between young-teens and adult-oriented fare. Great implausibilities don’t help well-meaning but misguided tale.
CLOSED FOR WINTER **1/2
Natalie Imbruglia returns to the screen in a slow and unrelentingly grim Aussie drama.
Beautiful May-December romance with Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. Based on the Phillip Roth novel The Dying Animal, this simple, quiet film depicts real human emotions, flaws and tragedies in an intimate and unflinchingly honest way. We all know Kingsley’s good – and he is here, very very good indeed – but Cruz again shows herself to be an actress of remarkable depth and integrity. A major showcase in a minor key.
STAR TREK ****
JJ Abrams takes the full prequel route: this film not only happens before the events of the 1968-9 Star Trek series, the actors playing Jim, Spock, Bones, Scotty etc. all do impersonations of the actors who played them in that seminal series – with great success. Enormously fun from start to finish, the film is broadly based in style on the original Star Wars as crossed with Starship Troopers. It will be a sci-fi classic no doubt, and sequels are assured.
THE BOAT THAT ROCKED **
Richard Curtis’ new attempt at a mass-market crowd-pleaser has a great concept, a great cast, terrific design… and a lousy script. A real missed opportunity, with a plot so loose it feels almost (and badly) improvised. A true historical representation of the pirate radio stations in the North Sea in the 1960s would have been a lot more interesting than this “Carry On In The North Sea”. The central plot point: a young man is sent to one of the pirate radio ships to lose his virginity. We care?
Subversive and completely unique post-modern satire sees Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a washed-up, disenchanted, B-movie action star… himself. Also his first ever film in French, and in black and white!
MARY AND MAX ****
Adam Eliot’s feature debut, following his Oscar for Best Animated Short for Harvey Krumpet in 2004, is as enigmatic, strange and wonderful as that earlier triumph. Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives an amazing vocal performance as Max, an aging, overweight New Yorker with Asberger’s syndrome who sporadically maintains a twenty-year pen-pal relationship with a girl from a rural Australian town named Mary (based on Eliot himself). A unique work of art.
BOTTLE SHOCK ****
One hell of a wonderful movie. Like Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways and Slumdog Millionaire, this is neither a comedy or a drama – just a wonderful, feel-good film, well-written, performed and directed. A total gem, with a terrific comic performance from the great Alan Rickman at its centre, as a Francophilic English wine snob out of water in the Californian vineyards of the mid-1970s. A feel-good triumph.
WENDY AND LUCY ****
A tiny film, but with a huge emotional impact. Only playing at one cinema in each of the nation’s capitals, this is worth seeking out. Michelle Williams proves her mettle again as a young woman with five hundred and forty dollars and a dog to her name – until she loses her dog.
Alex Proyas’s latest – shot on RED cameras in Melbourne, utilizing a nearly entirely Australian cast (except for Nicholas Cage), yet seeming for all the world like it was shot in Boston and New York City (where it is set) is an apocalypse movie (which seems to be the vogue at the moment. It starts well enough – indeed, is very spooky at the beginning – but unfortunately it descends into a ludicrous affair, with some truly (unintentionally) laughable moments. Cage does not seem up to pretending to believe in the material, and the whole thing seems a bit exploitative – burning bodies as spectacle.
Extremely confronting and original twist on the apocalyptic / “what-if” trope sees a major, unnamed city catching the passable disease / virus of blindness. An attack on Bush’s prisons as much as a sci-fi vision, this is an uncompromising vision, and not for the faint-hearted.
Excellent, faithful, exciting adaptation of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel will please fans no end, but probably bewilder those who have not read the source material. Violent, strange, enigmatic and loads of fun.
THE COMBINATION ***
David Field’s film about young and youngish Lebanese men in Western Sydney is already mired in controversy, with Greater Union pulling the film from its screens nationally after a fight broke out at a Parramatta screening. The film alternates between highly effective scenes of high-school youth in conflict, and an extremely stilted and conventional love story that is very unconvincing.
W. (pronounced “Dubya”) ***1/2
Oliver Stone’s film documenting the life of George W. Bush from his college days through his first term as President of the United States is very well made and features a brilliant performance from Josh Brolin as the title character… yet is also extremely, and sadly, tame. Surely the worst President the United States has ever had deserved a more subjective portrait?