Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Man On A Ledge

WRITTEN BY: Pablo F. Fenjves
STARRING: Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris
RATING: 1 star

I can't even begin to explain how bad Man On A Ledge is. It started off with a promising concept, blending suspense drama with a heist. Unfortunately, the final half hour of the film became progressively more convoluted and ridiculous I found myself laughing and rolling my eyes at scenes that should have been keeping me on the edge of my seat with anticipation.

Policeman Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) is convicted and jailed for stealing a $40 million diamond from tycoon David Englander (Ed Harris). When Nick is allowed out of prison to attend his father's funeral, he escapes custody and becomes a fugitive, climbing onto the ledge of New York's Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue and threatening to jump. Nick says he will only negotiate with disgraced detective Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) but when she tries to talk him down, she realises there is more to Nick's story than the police first suspected. Meanwhile, Nick's brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend Angie (Genesis Rodriguez) are organising a heist across the road. The twist comes in how these two story lines converge.

The film is completely implausible and yet, for the first hour I was keenly interested to learn what was going to happen. I could forgive the lame dialogue and Worthington's wavering American accent. I could even forgive some key plot holes because I was so swept up in the suspense. Unfortunately, the more I thought about the film and the further the plot dribbled along, I became increasingly frustrated at the fact that so many things made little sense. Sure, it was good that Bell and Rodriguez's characters were amateurs in their heist attempt, but they were dealing with security so high-tech they really should have been even greater amateurs. By the time we near the end of the film when Nick jumps more than 20 storeys and lands without the slightest injury all I could do was laugh at how impossible the whole situation was. There were so many more stupid moments like this but I don't want to reveal too much of the plot.

As for the cast, Worthington has again disappointed me with his accent. He's a good actor and yet, he struggles with the American accent in every Hollywood film. He couldn't sound more like a man from Rockingham if he tried. Surely he could have had a dialect coach on hand to help him? Aside from that, his performance was good, though nothing remarkable. Banks plays one of the few characters with any depth and she pulls it off well. Edward Burns has a small role as another negotiator and there's something very likable about him. Kyra Sedgwick also has a minor role as an annoying reporter, and wow, was she annoying. I'm sorry, but in my years as a journalist, I've only ever come across journalists that annoying in Hollywood films. Meanwhile, Harris seemed like he only appeared in the film to make some money. Bell, who despite 12 years passing, will always be Billy Elliot to me, and his character in this film was just plain boring. As for Rodriguez, yes, we get it, you're a very attractive woman but you don't have to undress to prove it to us. Who thought it was necessary to make her conduct a heist in a revealing, lacy, pink push-up bra and later completely strip to her underwear? You know a film is offering you very little when it has to resort to that level of semi-nudity to keep audiences entertained.

The more I think about Man On A Ledge, the more nonsensical it seems. If you're a teenage boy, go see this film. But my advice to everyone else is don't waste your money.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The 2012 SAG Awards

I like the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards because it's all about the acting and powerful performances. Obviously, the awards are important to actors too. It isn't, however, a good indicator for the Academy Awards. Still, it's a bit more fun for the awards season.

The Help was the big winner of the night. Here is a quick run down of the winners:


Outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris
WINNER: The Help

I'm still impressed that Bridesmaids was even nominated. No disrespect to The Help, but I think Midnight In Paris should have won. They had an outstanding cast.

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
WINNER Viola Davis, The Help

I'm still hoping Williams wins the Oscar.

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role
George Clooney, The Descendants
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
WINNER: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Tough competition, but Dujardin is sublime. I'm glad he won and I hope he wins the Academy Award too.

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role
Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
WINNER: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Spencer is now a favourite for the Oscar. I would have liked to see Bejo win the SAG though.

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
WINNER: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Surely Plummer is now also the favourite to win the Oscar. Nolte is still the dark horse and Hill has an outside chance.

Outstanding performance by a stunt ensemble in a motion picture
The Adjustment Bureau
Cowboys & Aliens
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
X-Men: First Class
WINNER: Harry Potter and the Deahtly Hallows: Part II

My choice would have been X-Men: First Class.


Outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or miniseries
Diane Lane, Cinema Verite
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Emily Watson, Appropriate Adult
Betty White, The Lost Valentine
WINNER: Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Winslet has won about a million awards for this performance.

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a television movie or miniseries
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Greg Kinnear, The Kennedys
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce
James Woods, Too Big to Fail
WINNER: Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail

A surprising choice. It's a shame Pearce didn’t win it.

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series
Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
WINNER: Betty White, Hot In Cleveland

Who doesn't love Betty White? I wonder though if it's really her performance or just people's love for her that got her this award?

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a comedy series
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Steve Carell, The Office
Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
WINNER Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock

Not really a surprise.

Outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series
30 Rock
The Big Bang Theory
The Office
WINNER: Modern Family

Modern Family is great. I also love the cast of The Big Bang Theory though.

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series
Kathy Bates, Harry’s Law
Glenn Close, Damages
Julianna Margules, The Good Wife
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
WINNER: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story

I haven't seen American Horror Story so I can't fairly judge this one. I plan to watch it though. Have you seen it?

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series
Patrick J. Adams, Suits
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
WINNER: Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire

Tough competition. I have a soft spot for Hall and Cranston is fantastic too, but Buscemi is a terrific actor.

Outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series
Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
WINNER: Boardwalk Empire

Another tough one. Obviously the SAG voters are big fans of Boardwalk Empire.

Outstanding performance by a stunt ensemble in a television series
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena
True Blood
WINNER: Game of Thrones

All stunt teams work so hard. This award could have gone to anyone.

My vote for the best dressed person: Kaley Cuoco – an almost over the top dress, but she makes it work.

My vote for the worst dressed person: Meryl Streep – she hardly ever gets it right, unfortunately.

Most daring fashion choice: Rose Byrne's, erm, jumpsuit? I'm not sure it's a success, but it is unique. It's had a mixed reaction from fashion gurus.

What did you think of the SAG Awards?

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene

WRITTEN BY: Sean Durkin
DIRECTED BY: Sean Durkin
STARRING: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy
RATING: 3.5 stars

People seem to have a strange fascination in the lifestyle of cults. I suppose it's because it seems like such a bizarre and foreign concept to most of us that we want to understand it better. How and why does someone choose to join a cult? How do you escape an oppressive lifestyle like that once you've been immersed in it for so long? It might seem like a very intense topic to discuss, but what Martha Marcy May Marlene does so well is take audiences on a psychologically thrilling ride of paranoia, anxiety and desperation.

The title of the film is a little odd, so let me explain it. Martha is the protagonist, Marcy May is the name given to her when she lives with her cult family and Marlene is the name all the females in the family use when they answer the phone. The film tells the story of a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) who has been living in a cult for two years. One night, she questions her lifestyle choice and decides to run away. Martha contacts her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) who takes her to the holiday home she shares with her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). The couple try to learn about what Martha has been doing for the past two years, but Martha becomes more withdrawn and paranoid that the cult is going to come looking for her. Soon, Lucy realises her sister might need professional help.

It turns out there is some acting talent in the Olsen gene pool, but instead of sharing it around between twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, and Elizabeth, it looks like it all went to the younger sister. Ok, maybe that's a little harsh. After all, the twins have focused more on fashion than acting since the 80's and 90's. But certainly, Elizabeth Olsen is a young actress to keep an eye on. She's very talented and convincing as a young woman in desperate need of a family and a sense of belonging as she struggles with her paranoia.

John Hawkes is also brilliant as Patrick, the sleazy and scary cult leader, father figure and essentially a trickster rapist. He's basically a modern-day Charles Manson. Paulson is also good, though perhaps too old for the role as the older sister. Her character's guilt over not being there for her younger sister is immense and Paulson carries the weight of that stress with conviction. Dancy is also good as the unsympathetic brother-in-law. He wants to be good to Martha but she's so crazy, he doesn't know what to do with her. He just sees her as a free-loader. It's a different type of role for Dancy than we've seen him in recently.

The great thing about Martha Marcy May Marlene is that it is a psychological drama that isn't boxed into its genre, nor does it allow itself to fall victim to typical Hollywood trappings. It is also an example of just about perfect editing and is something film students should study. In his first major feature film, writer and director Sean Durkin has done a great job of telling a terrifying story without blatantly telling the audience anything. He juxtaposes scenes from the past and present in a seamless, well-timed way. For example, a present-day scene of Martha swimming is then flashed back to a past scene of her swimming with her cult family. It's a smooth transition that works well to tell the story. It's also written so well that we don't actually know if Martha is delusional or if she has every right to live in fear that the cult will come after her.

The problem is the film ends abruptly and left me wondering what was going on. Is Martha safe but delusional? Is the cult coming after her? There are unanswered questions, but in a film like this, you can get away with it. The more I think about the film, the more I like it.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Artist

DIRECTED BY: Michael Hazanavicius
WRITTEN BY: Michael Hazanavicius
STARRING: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
RATING: 4.5 stars

There's a lot of hype surrounding The Artist. It's arguably the favourite to win the best picture Oscar and critics have showered the film with praise. You know why? Because it deserves it. The film is certainly not an obvious blockbuster and the fact that it's been shot in black and white and is mostly silent (except for one spoken line) probably doesn't sound very appealing to the masses, but I implore you to see this film. Not since Singin' In The Rain has a film so cleverly and sincerely depicted the revolutionary era of filmmaking during the transition from silent cinema to talking pictures.

Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist is a French film set in Hollywood in 1927. It tells the story of silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and his struggles with the transition to the "talkies". George finds that as his popularity diminishes, the star power of a young actress named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), who has always admired him, is suddenly on the rise. George realises no one wants to watch silent films or an ageing actor any more. When the Great Depression hits, George's personal depressions intensifies. What does a man do when the one thing he is good at is taken away from him?

Jean Dujardin is fantastic as George. He's charming, emotive and funny. His character seems to be a blend of Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino. Dujardin is absolutely deserving of the Oscar buzz surrounding his performance. Bejo is also very good at emulating the style of the silent film era in the way she uses her face. She has one particularly funny and memorable scene in which she gets a little “personal” with George's coat on a hanger. The cast is well rounded with John Goodman as a film producer, James Cromwell as George's loyal driver and Penelope Ann Miller as George's bored wife.

It's interesting that this year's major Oscar contenders - The Artist and Hugo - both deal with the history of film in a unique way. The Artist blends themes from A Star is Born and Singin' in the Rain, and yet, is entirely original. Film students will study it while the general film viewer will also gain an appreciation of how much cinema has lost, grown and changed.

It's a shame that in today's fast-paced world where we're all trying to multi-task, the general film viewer is probably not going to see The Artist because who wants to sit through 100 minutes of a film without any dialogue? But those people won’t know what they are missing out on because this film beautifully depicts a time so many have forgotten, when film brought people together for escapism. What The Artist does is take viewers back to that romantic time, much like another Oscar contender, Midnight In Paris.

Aside from the technical aspects, The Artist also has a lot of heart in the way it depicts the silent film era. Even though there are some ridiculous moments of humour, it's done with respect and is a homage, not a spoof, of silent films. The film pays tribute to the era by using it's style of film-making to tell the story of its demise and show how film has changed and developed over the years. The fact is, there were a lot of silent film stars who failed to make the transition to talking pictures and George is based on some of those stars.

Sure, The Artist probably could have been cut down 15 or 20 minutes to be more appealing to the masses. Nonetheless, it is a great film that everyone should see. If you love film history, you will love The Artist. I hope it wins the best picture Oscar.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


DIRECTED BY: Martin Scorsese
WRITTEN BY: John Logan
STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ben Kinglsey, Sacha Baron Cohen
RATING: 4.5 stars

Martin Scorsese has never made a 3D film before, and yet, he's done it better than anyone else, including James Cameron. Hugo is one film you have to see in 3D. It is far and away the best use of 3D I've seen. Why? Because it adds to the visual experience rather than act as a gimmick.

Based on the novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, the film is set in 1930s Paris. Orphaned Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives secretly inside the walls of the tower clock of a busy train station. His only connection to his late father (Jude Law) is a broken automaton they were trying to fix together. When Hugo meets a young girl named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), the duo begin an “adventure” together. Meanwhile, Hugo must dodge trouble with Isabelle's seemingly grumpy guardian, Georges (Benk Kingsley), and the station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) who sends orphans to the orphanage. But it's when Hugo fixes the old automaton, and learns what it is capable of doing, that his real adventure begins.

There is a wonderful twist to this tale, and a lot of film reviewers have ruined it, but I'm not going to - just trust me when I say this is a smart family film, made more for adults than very young children. The greatest aspect of Hugo is the way in which all the layers of the film are tied together. It has multiple orphan tales and war stories and the value of time is emphasised on various levels. It's the kind of film that has every detail carefully constructed. That is largely due to the wonderful writing of John Logan, the man behind films like Gladiator, The Aviator and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Scorsese is better known for films like Goodfellas and The Departed, so many were surprised when he took on a family film, but at the heart of Hugo is a reflection on cinema and what we have gained and lost from the art. So really, as a man who fights so passionately for the preservation of film, it actually makes perfect sense that Scorsese would want to take the reins on Hugo. An example of this is how Scorsese pays homage to early cinema including the famous Lumieres' Arrival of a Train at the Station.

The cast is also very good. Butterfield, known for his role in The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, is a great young actor who takes on the role of Hugo, an inquisitive boy desperate to belong somewhere. His desperation to cling to his father's work and memory is moving and there are a few powerful scenes in which he tears up. Moretz is also sweet in her role and is building an impressive resume with films like 500 Days of Summer and Kick-Ass. Cohen is fantastic as the villainous station inspector carrying a war wound who also provides most of the laughs, especially with his creepy smile. He provides just the right amount of tasteful comedy to balance the seriousness of the rest of the film. Kingsley is also effective as the grumpy old man with heartbreaking secret.

While Hugo is slightly long and slow to start, it's all so relevant and all the mysteries we are presented with tie in perfectly at the end. Those with a passion for early cinema will especially enjoy it.

Top 10 Geoffrey Rush films

Congratulations to Geoffrey Rush on being named Australian of the Year. Of course, he's done amazing work for the arts in Australia and has won an Oscar, Tony and Emmy award. He has also won three AFI awards, three BAFTAs, two Golden Globes and four SAGs. In honour of his achievements, I thought it might be an opportune moment to reflect on some of his best work as an actor.

1) Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Blacksmith Will Turner and eccentric pirate Captain Jack Sparrow team up to save the governor's daughter from Jack's former crewmen who are now undead. Johnny Depp may be the star, but I think Rush stole the film with his performance.

2) The King's Speech
King George VI of Britain seeks the help of a speech therapist to help him overcome his impediment. Colin Firth won the Academy Award, but Rush was an amazing support and was also nominated for an Oscar.

3) Shine
Based on a true story of Australian pianist, David Helfgott, it tells the story of how a music lover overcomes a breakdown to find his passion again. This is the film that made Rush known internationally. He won an Oscar for best actor.

4) Quills
An infamous writer winds up in an insane asylum and befriends two impressionable people. Powerful performance from Rush, which earned him an Oscar nomiantion.

5) Bran Nue Dae
A young man in Broome begins a journey of self-discovery while struggling with life in a mission. Rush's character was so entertaining.

6) Lantana
The mystery surrounding the death of a psychiatrist as multiple storylines coverage. A great Australian film. Rush was terrific in it.

7) Elizabeth
Tells the story of the early years of Elizabeth I's reign in England. Rush has a pivotal role.

8) Finding Nemo
A shy clown-fish tries to find his son who has gone missing in the Great Barrier Reef. Rush puts his unique voice to good use in this film.

9) Shakespeare In Love
I didn't really like this film, but Rush was brilliant in it and earned another Academy Award nomination.

10) Ned Kelly
The legendary story of Australia's most iconic outlaw. A great role for Rush.

Notable mentions:
Frida, Candy, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.

What are your favourite Geoffrey Rush films/performances?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Major 2012 Academy Award nominations and predictions

Hugo got 11 nominations, which is great. But, there were a lot of snubs, most notably Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Fassbender, Drive, Ryan Gosling and Melancholia.

Here's a quick rundown of the main categories...

Best Picture
The Artist, Thomas Langmann, Producer
The Descendants, Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Scott Rudin, Producer
The Help, Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
Hugo, Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
Midnight in Paris, Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
Moneyball, Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
The Tree of Life, nominees to be determined
War Horse, Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

It will come down to The Artist and The Descendants but I'd love to see Tree of Life or Midnight In Paris win.

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Alexander Payne
Hugo, Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

I am torn between Scorsese and Allen for this one, but I think Scorsese might get it. This is by far the most competitive category because they are all such amazing and daring film-makers. It's actually probably anyone's Oscar.

Actor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir in A Better Life
George Clooney in The Descendants
Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Clooney will probably win it, but I'd like to see Dujardin take it home. Pitt is the dark horse.

Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis in The Help
Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams should and probably will win it. Streep is her biggest threat.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh in My Week with Marilyn
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Nick Nolte in Warrior
Christopher Plummer in Beginners
Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Plummer is the likely winner, but it would be great to see Hill win it. Nolte is the dark horse.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo in The Artist
Jessica Chastain in The Help
Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer in The Help

Spencer is probably the favourite, but I'd like Bejo to win. McCarthy is the dark horse.

The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo, Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

It will probably be Hugo's night, but The Tree of Life was amazing. The Artist is a slight chance.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Descendants, screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Hugo, screenplay by John Logan
The Ides of March, screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Moneyball, screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

The Descendants will win, but I want Moneyball to take this one home. Hugo is a possibility.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
The Artist, written by Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids, written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
Margin Call, written by J.C. Chandor
Midnight in Paris, written by Woody Allen
A Separation, written by Asghar Farhadi

Midnight In Paris should and probably will win. The Artist is its biggest rival.

Who do you think will win an Oscar? Who should win an Oscar?

Other comments:
There's a lot of ongoing debate about the validity of the Oscars and its scope. Comedies in particular are often shunted, which is why McCarthy's nomination is such a big deal, but I don't think we need to introduce new categories into the Academy Awards. I think comedic actors and actors who perform with CGI, as in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, should be considered in the existing acting categories.

What do you think? Are there other categories they should add to the Academy Awards?

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Darkest Hour

DIRECTED BY: Chris Gorak
WRITTEN BY: Jon Spaihts
STARRING: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor, Max Minghella
RATING: 2 stars

I don't think I've ever seen a film that made less sense than The Darkest Hour. I have to say though, I enjoyed this film a lot, not because it's good – because it is in fact quite terrible – but because it had so many unintentional laughs. It felt, at times, like I was watching a spoof “aliens take over the world” film. If only that were the case...

The Darkest Hour tells the story of entrepreneurs Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella) who visit Moscow to sell their new website but are cheated out of the deal by Swedish businessman Skylar (Joel Kinnaman). Sean and Ben go to a nightclub, where they bump into Skylar, as well as tourists Natalie (Olivia Thirlby) and Anne (Rachael Taylor). Suddenly, invisible aliens invade the city, turning any humans that come into contact with them into dust. After hiding in a storeroom for days, the group decides to make their way to the American embassy and try to survive long enough to be rescued by authorities.

There were two reasons why I wanted to see this film. The first is that it's set in Moscow and I really, really love Russia. It's an amazing country and a Hollywood film that was going to depict Russia in a non-Cold War way was surely going to be a nice change, right? Unfortunately not. Russians are still insultingly depicted as caricature knuckleheads with big guns. The second reason I wanted to see this film is because Hirsch is a great young actor. Unfortunately, not even he could deliver the lame lines with conviction. The rest of the cast were also less than average and the 3D effects were not as good as they should have been. As for director Chris Gorak, better known as an art director in films like Fight Club, I know he had a small budget, but he really failed on just about every level with this film.

If the bad plot isn't enough to put you off this film, the dialogue will. With lines like “They came here with a plan” and “What's the dress code for the end of the world?” it's no wonder half the cinema full of people were groaning during the screening. Quite simply, the script was very badly written, and without a half decent script, a film has no chance at success. It makes me wonder how so many people could have read this screenplay and not thought it needed some tweaking. You have a lot to answer for, Jon Spaihts. I'm very worried now about what he might have done with Prometheus, which comes out later this year.

The only reason this film didn't get one star from me is because I laughed so much I actually enjoyed myself. Unlike some awful films where I have been bored or frustrated by the lack of plot, I was giggling so much during this film. It ends in a way that its set up for a sequel, as if audiences might actually engage with this ridiculous film. But you know what? Part of me hopes there is an equally awful sequel. I haven't laughed that much during a film in a while.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Golden Globes 2012

Winners of the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards:

- Picture, Drama: The Descendants
- Picture, Musical or Comedy: The Artist
- Actor, Drama: George Clooney, The Descendants
- Actress, Drama: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
- Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
- Actor, Musical or Comedy: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
- Actress, Musical or Comedy: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
- Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
- Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
- Foreign Language: A Separation
- Animated Film: The Adventures of Tintin
- Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
- Original Score: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
- Original Song: Masterpiece (music and lyrics by Madonna, Julie Frost, Jimmy Harry), WE

- Series, Drama: Homeland, Showtime
- Series, Musical or Comedy: Modern Family, ABC
- Actor, Drama: Kelsey Grammer, Boss
- Actress, Drama: Claire Danes, Homeland
- Actress, Musical or Comedy: Laura Dern, Enlightened
- Actor, Musical or Comedy: Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
- Miniseries or Movie: Downton Abbey (Masterpiece), PBS
- Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce
- Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Idris Elba, Luther
- Supporting Actress, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
- Supporting Actor, Series, Miniseries or Movie: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Morgan Freeman

Ricky Gervais was a good host. Not as controversial as last year, but unlike many people, I wasn't at all offended by his hosting last year anyway.

Morgan Freeman was a worthy recipient of the lifetime achievement award. He's had an amazing career thus far and continues to give great performances.

The Descendants is a fantastic film, there's no doubt about that. Did it deserve to win best picture drama? I'm not entirely convinced. Moneyball was also very good, and perhaps was a more deserving choice. Does it really matter though when the best picture musical/comedy went to The Artist? I'm seeing it next week and it seems to me that it's going to be the favourite to win best picture at the Academy Awards.

I don't want to seem like I'm bashing The Descendants and laying praise on Moneyball, because I'm not and I think you should all see both films, but I don't think George Clooney deserved to win the best actor category. Brad Pitt was very good in Moneyball and maybe just out-did his buddy. I still think it's anyone's Oscar though.

Meryl Streep has a good chance at the Oscar after her victory, but I still think Michelle Williams will win for My Week With Marilyn.

I haven't seen Beginners, but it's nice to see Christopher Plummer finally being recognised for his many decades of amazing work.

Martin Scorsese was a surprise winner for best director, but I could never find fault in anything he does, so I'm more than happy for these types of award shows to shower him with praise and accolades. I am equally as happy for Woody Allen. I can't encourage you enough to see Midnight In Paris. It really is a beautiful script.

1) Helen Mirren - She knows how to age gracefully and dress tastefully. Beautiful gown.
2) Sofia Vergara - A woman with real curves who flaunts her assets in a classy way. This dress looked fabulous on her.
3) Nicole Kidman - Looking very thin, but she wore this dress well.
4) Lea Michele - A controversial choice, but I think she pulls the look off well.
5) Angelina Jolie - Nice to see her in something other than black. She was radiant.
6) Claire Danes - Sophisticated, elegant and stylish.
7) Emma Stone - Sexy, but not trashy.
8) Jessica Alba - A chic look from the mother of two.
9) Stacy Keibler - Everyone loves a cute red dress.
10) Sarah Michelle Gellar - Probably another controversial choice, but she somehow managed to look great.

Rob Lowe, Colin Firth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clive Owen, Ryan Kwanten, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Josh Brolin, Mark Wahlberg and Guy Pearce. Two thumbs up for these 10 well-dressed men.

1) Jessica Biel - She looked like a grandmother, a nice grandmother, but still a grandmother.
2) Matt Le Blanc - His suit was not working. Brad Pitt couldn't even get away with it.
3) Reece Witherspoon - Not a flattering dress for her petite frame.
4) Amanda Peet - It looked like she was wearing a curtain.
5) Julianna Margulies - Just plain ugly.

I would love to know what you thought of the award winners and even the fashion choices.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Descendants

DIRECTED BY: Alexander Payne
WRITTEN BY: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
STARRING: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller
RATING: 4 stars

What would you do if you found out the person you loved had been having an affair? What would you do if that person you loved was dying? For a film that is essentially about telling a group of people that someone they care about is never going to wake up from a coma, this sad film is actually quite humorous and entertaining. It's all about infidelity and mortality, and yet, it is somehow actually quite uplifting in the end.

Based on a 2009 novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants is set in Hawaii and tells the story of Matt King (George Clooney), a lawyer with an adventurous wife named Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) and two daughters, 17-year-old Alexandre (Shailene Woodley) and 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller). Matt is a workaholic and views himself as the “backup parent, the understudy” but everything changes when Elizabeth is critically injured in a boat accident and placed in a coma from which she may never wake up. Matt then learns that Elizabeth had been cheating on him and so, after telling his friends and family to say goodbye to Elizabeth, he takes Scottie, Alexandre and her boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) on a road trip of sorts to inform his wife's lover, Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), that she is dying. Meanwhile, Matt is also dealing with a property deal that could provide millions of dollars for him and his cousins if they sell land their family have owned for many years to make way for property development on the island.

How a film about the sad ending of someone's life could be so funny and engaging, is largely due to director and co-writer Alexander Payne. The man that brought us Sideways and About Schmidt knows how to strike the perfect balance between drama and comedy. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am a huge fan of character development. I don't care what's happening in the plot if I don't care about the characters. The great thing about this film is that we learn a lot about Matt and we do care about him and what is going to happen to him as he deals with his grief and finding a way to raise his daughters alone.

Clooney carries the film and gives a great performance as a man hurt, lost and confused. It's a great departure for him from his usual suave persona. But it is Woodley and Miller (in her first role) who threaten to steal the show. These young actresses add comedy and sweetness to the film. Woodley in particular is a starlet to keep an eye on. Krause is also funny and endearing as Sid. There are also pivotal small roles for Lillard (in an unusually serious role), Judy Greer as his devastated wife, and Beau Bridges who rounds out the impressive cast.

The Descendants provides a sympathetic exploration of the human psyche and how one man deals with life when he faces a drastic crossroad. The film works well because it avoids the over the top melodrama one would expect from a story about mortality, and instead, surprises us with realistic moments of comedy and heartfelt family moments. This film is definitely worth seeing. It's no wonder The Descendants is getting Oscar buzz, particularly for the script and Clooney's performance.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2012

Here is a list of films I'm looking forward to seeing this year:

1) Prometheus - I love the Alien film franchise, so just the thought of this prequel is exciting. It's in good hands with director Ridley Scott, so I'm expecting a great film.

2) Les Miserables - One of my favourite musicals based on Victor Hugo's classic novel set in 19th-century France. Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe together should be great. The supporting cast, which includes Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, is also looking promising.

3) J. Edgar - So much hype about this film coming from the US. Edgar was a complex man, so this film should provide an interesting insight. I love everything Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood do, so surely this will be a success.

4) The Dark Knight Rises - Can it top its predecessor? It's looking good, based on the trailer. Very excited to see this final instalment in the Christopher Nolan trilogy.

5) The Avengers - This film includes the characters Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America. I'm hoping this culmination of some great comic book action heroes does the story justice.

6) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - My inner-child danced with glee when I saw the trailer for this film. Can't wait!

7) My Week With Marilyn - Portraying an icon like Marilyn Monroe is no easy feat, but it looks like Michelle Williams has done a great job. I love a good biopic.

8) The Artist - I love so-called "old" films and The Artist pays homage to the silent film era. It's getting a lot of award attention so I'm expecting good things from this film.

9) The Great Gatsby - Baz Luhrmann is back and re-teaming with Leonardo DiCaprio. There's been so much hype surrounding this film because they shot it in Australia. I love the novel, so hopefully the film will be a winner.

10) The Gangster Squad - Set in the 40's and 50's, The Gangster Squad looks like a great Mafia film. The cast includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Josh Brolin.

Notable mentions:

The Vow - Yes, I like soppy films that make me cry, ok? Based on a true story, The Vow looks like it could also have been a Nicholas Sparks novel. Don't forget to bring some tissues.

The Lucky One - This film is actually adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel. Zac Efron is all grown up and plays a war hero. I expect more tissues will be needed for this tear-jerker.

Other highly anticipated films, which may not be released in Australia until 2013:

Cogan's Trade - I will watch anything with Brad Pitt in it. He just gets better with age.

World War Z - Brad Pitt again. Zombies too. What's not to love?

Django Unchained - This film has been written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The impressive cast includes Jamie Foxx playing Django, a slave turned bounty hunter, as well as Leonardo DiCaprio as a villain, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell, Sarah Baron Coen, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony LaPaglia.

What are you looking forward to seeing in 2012?