Menu lock

Film reviews

Feb 7, 2013


Don't rushSteven Spielberg’s critically venerated biopic of America’s beloved top hat wearing president, which arrives gift-wrapped in a thick padding of ‘for your consideration’ packaging, says more about the veteran director’s approach from what it doesn’t depict.

I kept waiting for a single moment that never arrived, that distinctively Spielbergian scene of full dairy flair that comes every time he makes a historical and or/ political film, of which Lincoln — set during the American Civil War, when Honest Abe set about freeing the slaves — is both.

There were the obscenely parochial bookend sequences in Saving Private Ryan (1998). The wreath-laying epilogue in Schindler’s List (1993). The way the horse cranes its head, against a crimson sunset in War Horse (2011). The glazed image of Djimon Hounsou in front of a sapphire-tinted starry sky in Amistad (1997). Spielberg’s record of historical recreations is well documented — which is to say, expect a dollop of cheese.

The closest we get in Lincoln is a warm fuzzy fade from the golden light of a candle to the impeccably well dressed man of the hour, but cheesy isn’t the right word. It’s a handsome transition that fits the tone and atmosphere of the film hand in glove. There’s also an opening scene in which four soldiers recite to Abe the Gettysburg address, and it plays a little too stagey, a little too contrived. But that distinctively Spielbergian moment never arrives. Continue reading “Lincoln movie review: four snore and seven years ago”

News & commentary

Nov 27, 2012


One memorably awkward scene in writer/director Ben Lewin’s acclaimed Oscar-ready drama The Sessions depicts a full-body-naked Helen Hunt, who plays a “sex therapist”, perched with her genital area positioned directly above the mouth of John Hawkes, who plays a paralytic polio-afflicted poet incapable of moving his arms or legs or spending more than four hours away from a gigantic metal box that helps him breathe.

Muffled sounds emerge from Hawkes’ mouth. Hunt, who was once paid a million dollars per episode of Mad About You and is now clearly under the sheets of an “artistic” film with a “vision,” asks “are you OK down there?”

“You’re choking me,” he responds, and with that line whatever vague traces of romance the scene had disappear faster than Hawke’s character climaxes, which is about the same time it takes to snap your fingers.

Despite its heart-on-sleeve sentimentality The Sessions handles its subject with restraint and a lightness of touch, but this is nevertheless an indisputably strange sequence, a rare moment of kooky Hollywood kink. Particularly for a film so widely associated with “Oscar bait.”

It’s not the only time this year American movies got freaky in the bedroom; not by a long shot. Representations of carnal encounters are a dime in a dozen in an industry populated by people who have long understood the holy significance of the mantra “sex sells” but 2012 has been different. Memorable. A special splotch on the bedsheets of American filmmaking. Continue reading “Lights, camera, smut: the year Hollywood got its rocks off”

To inject some energy into a franchise that ran out of gas a decade ago, dribbling whatever it had left onto the asphalt of asinine ancillary-reaping mega fare in the woebegone Men in Black 2 (2002), Men in Black 3 — the sequel nobody asked for, wanted or expected — arrives as an unofficial Back to the Future hybrid.

Sadly, Marty and the DeLorean are not featured prominently in this zany third tilt from director Barry Sonnenfeld, nor indeed featured at all. The tantalising vision of Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Martin manically clutching MIB’s phallic memory removal gadget with “great Scott!” glee was presumably too much for audiences to handle, or too obvious a conjoiner, or required too much paperwork and too many Chinese take-away dinners to munch on with the lawyers… Continue reading “Men in Black 3 movie review: black to the future”

Comparisons between Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (2009) and writer/director John Wells’ The Company Men are inevitable. Both revolve around the dark side of corporate life, where desperate people lose their jobs and their livelihood, but take starkly different approaches: the former a droll dramedy following a man who fires people for a living and the latter a serious consideration of what happens when these people go home, get up the next morning and continue on with their lives.

Based in American in 2010, The Company Men is a GFC set drama about three men who face the boot at work. Chris Cooper is Phil Woodward, the oldest and most desperate. Tommy Lee Jones is Gene McClary, who takes moral objections to where his company is heading (downsizing, chased by downsizing). Both provide strong supporting performances. Continue reading “The Company Men movie review: more than does the job”