August 4, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: The Trip to Spain (Michael Winterbottom)

Opens August 3 Genre Comedy/road movie Duration 120 minutes Despite an erratic track record, the director Michael Winterbottom has deservedly earned the respect of most observers of the British film scene. Over two decades he’s established himself as the UK’s most prolific filmmaker, making his films quickly and efficiently on relatively low budgets that make it easier to get the freedom to take creative risks. That said, to mention Winterbottom as a leading European auteur in the same breath as, say, his compatriots Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, is hard, since the themes, stories and genres he tackles follow no obvious patterns while his directorial style changes wildly from project to project according to the needs of the material. No wonder, then, that the results also vary, from the artistic successes like 24 Hour Party People, Wonderland and Genova to failed experiments such as 9 Songs and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, the latter a bold but largely unsuccessful attempt at adapting Laurence Sterne’s unfilmable novel. That film’s chief legacy remains the first screen pairing of its stars, Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden, as a thrusting and parrying comedy double act. Their obvious chemistry went on to find…

June 22, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Una (Benedict Andrews)

Opens: June 22 Genre: Drama Duration: 94 minutes Fifteen years after an adult man initiates an illegal three-month sexual relationship with an underage teenage girl, the victim finally confronts the man responsible in this gripping film set in suburban England, adapted by Scottish dramatist David Harrower from his own acclaimed stage play, Blackbird. What might have been a simple revenge melodrama becomes a far more subtle and a far more nuanced – and therefore more powerful and haunting – affair in the hands of Harrower and his director, Benedict Andrews, the internationally successful Australian theatre director here making an excitingly accomplished cinema debut. While the play – which I haven’t seen – was confined to the meeting between the two adults, the film flickers back and forth between the present and the past, the former unfolding during a single day. Rooney Mara’s Una turns up to the light industrial warehouse where Ben Mendelsohn’s Ray now works. After serving a four-year sentence as a result of his abuse, Ray has moved to a different area, changed his name to Pete and married. Interspersed throughout the film are flashbacks showing Una as a 13-year-old (terrific newcomer Ruby Stokes), flattered by the attention from…

June 8, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Churchill (Jonathan Teplitzky)

Opens: June 8 Genre:  Biographical drama Duration: 110 minutes The life of Winston Churchill was crammed with enough adventure and intrigue to fill several movies. Given the early years were covered by Richard Attenborough in 1972’s Young Winston, it makes sense for later filmmakers to focus on the WW2 years. This new film starring Brian Cox narrows its focus even further to the few weeks leading up to the allied D-Day invasion of Nazi-Occupied France, with no footage of the actual assault.  The British leader was largely sidelined by the Americans at this stage of the war and is depicted here chafing in frustration, though his earlier preference for invasion via Greece and Italy is unmentioned. Scripted by historian and author Alex von Tunzelmann and directed by Australian Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man), this film aims to paint a realistic portrait of the wartime leader. It goes beyond the iconic British bulldog cliché to give us a multifaceted individual; one skeptical and nervous of the coming invasion, frustrated at being pushed aside by the Americans in the planning, fearful of the potential for disaster (influenced by guilt over his pivotal former role as the WWI leader responsible for the Gallipoli campaign), and dogged by the…

May 15, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Whiteley (James Bogle)

Opens: May 11 Genre: Art documentary Duration: 94 minutes Even those not well-acquainted with the art of the late Brett Whiteley are likely to know the legend – that of a comet that burned brightly through the art world, unleashing a self-destructive tailwind that caught up not only himself but his loved ones. This already potent story, both inspiring and sad, was refracted to most ordinary citizens through the distorting lens of the Australian media, where prurience and moralising were free to do their dirty work. Among the minimum requirements for a documentary on Whiteley is the need to present a vivid and truthful account of the artist’s life bolstered by honest reminiscence and insightful commentary from those close to him, such as his long-time partner Wendy Whiteley and his sister Frannie Hopkirk, as well as the key art world professionals who recognised his talent. To avoid hagiography, you’d want the film to be honest about his failings as well as his personal strengths and artistic powers, to be upfront about his alcohol and heroin abuse and their effect on himself and those around him – but crucially without falling into the twin perils of either sensationalism or myth-making. Of course, it…

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