We saw this film at a cineplex which was full of people escaping the heat on Australia Day 2010.  The first comment to make is that I suspect that over half the audience would have been disappointed in this film as, contrary to most "romantic comedies" coming out of the studios in America, this one did not end happily ever after!

Jason Reitman has co written a very dark and topical screenplay from a novel of the same name and then proceeded to direct it with a great deal of surety.  This film is funny  - most often in the one liners rather than any slapstick manufactured situations - thought provoking and quite dark.

Not being a fan of modern chat rooms, social sites and second life scenarios, this film struck a real chord with me.  The concept, firstly of employing a "consultant" to sack workers  - a business that is booming in the current economic climate in the USA - and then to increase efficiency and reduce costs  by doing this via video camera, is an almost surreal expose of 21st century life and one that pulled me up short.  There were lots of lovely ironic touches, for example, Natalie (Anna Kendrick) is dumped by her man by SMS  when she has been employed by the company to develop and sell the concept of sacking workers online and later when she herself quits by sending an SMS to her boss who laments the lack of manners today!

The main protaganist, Ryan, George Clooney, who lives on airlines and in hotel rooms and, because of his many thousands of miles travelled and nights in the same hotel chain, is rewarded for his loyalty by special advantages such as express check in etc.  No such rewards are given to the employees he is hired to sack -no matter how loyal they have been to the company.  An interesting aside is the fact that all the employees that are sacked by Clooney, are not actors but real people who have lost their jobs - which gives a degree of authenticity to these scenes.

Ryan meets up with Alex (Vera Farmiga) who similarly spends a great deal of her time in airports and hotels - there is a lovely scene when they compare loyalty cards and discuss the relative merits of hire car companies - this is their "real" world.  They form a casual alliance - as she says to him - "Just think of me as yourself with a vagina" - and it appeared that all would end happily ever after but thank goodness the director resisted!

The plot is straightforward but the relationships and lifestyles are what makes this movie interesting.  The women are fantastic in their roles  - particularly Anna Kendrick - while George Clooney is George Clooney.  He is believable in the role but does not take it to any great heights. 

All in all a lovely thought provoking movie - a surprise really  - one that just stops short of being a total expose of our computerised world.  Dare I suggest that Jason Reitman probably toned it down in order to get funding to make the movie?

Score:  7/10


What is there to add? Pepe has said it all.  This movie makes a very telling comment on our modern society where many people fail to connect in any meaningful way - employers & employees, lovers, brothers & sisters, husbands & wives.  Is it any wonder that marriages collapse?  And yet these people are constantly in contact by some technological gadget!  And what sort of society do we live in when there is a niche market for a company which specialises in sacking other companies' employees for them?  I would like to think this is fiction but it is probably not!

Ryan (Clooney) is a specialist in 'letting people go", having developed a suave and soothing speil.  In between times he freelances as a motivational speaker who basically encourages people to let go of their 'baggage' - in other words, personal life.  He himself finds meaning in life by clocking up miles in the air and avoiding any kind of relationship; his goal is to achieve 10 millions miles club and receive a special gold card for his loyalty.  When this finally happens, he  has already discovered what a hollow goal it was.  His co-worker, the 23 yo college graduate, Natalie, played superbly by Anna Kendrick is full of contradictions - clinically efficient when divising a computer program to sack people by video, but unable to avoid becoming emotionally involved when faced with the reactions of the real people.

Clooney actually plays this role very well because it suits him perfectly! And Vera Farmiga as his part-time lover is also very good.  There were lots of laughs and ironic situations - such as the Clooney character giving advice to the groom with cold feet.

This movie sent you away reflecting on where this modern world is heading... and as an added bonus you get to see many wonderful aerial photos from all over America!

Score:  7/10



Today we took our 2 older grandkids to see this delight of a movie.  They loved it and so did we.  I was not sure from the trailers that I would like it but it proved to be as "fantastic" as its hero.  Wes Anderson has done a lovely job of directing this adaptation of Roald Dahl's childrens' book, pitting good against evil as the animals outsmart the greedy farmers.  Much credit for the success of the film goes to the creators of the endearing puppets, their animators and their perfectly cast voice overs.  George Clooney brings to life the suave and crafty, fast-thinking Mr Fox while Meryl Streep portrays his wife with sexy charm and composure in the face of disaster;  Bill Murray is badger, the attorney, and Willem Dafoe the typical "doity rat" security guard for the farmer.  For me, it is wonderful how the animators can create such an amazing range of carefully nuanced emotions through the facial expressions of these puppets and to think the whole film is shot frame by frame ("stop-motion" animation) makes it much more impressive than other types of animation.

The story revolves around the themes of family and friendship, good vs evil, civilised vs wild.  Mr Fox, having given up his wild ways of stealing poultry (in favour of journalism!) as a promise to his pregnant wife, is later tempted by his innate wild longings to have one last great heist - against his greedy farmer-neighbours.  The result is an all-out war in which all his animal buddies become involved and learn to appreciate the diversity of talents among them.  The climax comes in a stake-out not unlike that memorable one in the Sundance Kid (but with a better outcome.)  There is also the sub-plot of his under-achiever son (hard to live up to a dad like that!) who starts out jealous of his talented cousin and ends up saving the day.  As the heros return home having rescued the hostaged cousin fox, a wild wolf appears on the scene, reminding them and us of our wild heritage so often lost among the trappings of "civilisation" - it brought tears to my eyes (but Pepe will say that doesn't count!)

All in all quite a delightful romp with lots of humour and style, wonderful colours and animation and superb characters.  Fantastic!

Score 8/10


It is always good to enjoy a movie with your grandchildren but when the movie is one that satisfies adult taste as well as children's, then the enjoyment is doubled.  It is the mark of a great child's movie that it has aspects that appeal to adults as well  - for me reminiscent of "Nemo" and "Chicken Run".

Mr Fox  - the typical upwardly mobile animal- has a perfectly happy life with his wife and son until once again the wild instinct takes over and he returns to chicken stealing.  I loved the fact that living in a den under the ground made Mr Fox feel poor so he bought and renovated a tree with a view.  Not unlike many of us "Mr Foxes" of the human world. 

The other animals were fantastic as well, with all of them well rounded characters and as Ma said, their facial expressions made them totally believable.
I also loved the instructions of how to play the game - a cross between baseball and cricket which were totally unintelligeble and confusing - not unlike the real games if you have ever tried to explain them to a foreigner!

This was a movie full of laughs, full of depth and even dared to touch on the existential meaning of life.

A great kids movie that stands on its own as a great piece of entertainment. 

Score:  8/10


Ma's View:

We saw this movie in the first week after New Year and, like Genova, it is a story of a dad coping with the death of his wife, this time with 2 sons and, you guessed it, the ghost of the wife keeps appearing to him.  I did not like this aspect of the film any more than in Genova!  Moving on... the film is directed by Scott Hicks and is based on the memoirs of Simon Carr who stepped into the role of sole parent when his second wife died.  For Joe (Clive Owen), as a busy sports journalist this is a shock, having been only a part-time parent up to that point in time.  To get to know his 6yo son, Artie, and help both of them cope with their grief, he sets off on a rather aimless and boring road trip - it is no wonder the boy throws the father of a tantrum.  Alarmingly, the only way Joe seems to be able to connect with the child is to allow him to do increasingly dare devil and dangerous things - a policy of saying "yes" whenever possible.  Into this situation comes his teenage son, Harry, from England and his first marriage and you have the basis for the title.  It is a tale of loss, of tenderness and of the fragility and complexity of human relationships; it reveals the different ways each "boy" deals with his emotional life and how each is unable to communicate their feelings fully; it shows how males bond through playing crazy, often hazardous games.

In the lead role, Clive Owen does a good job and he is certainly easy on the eyes, but his facial expression can be a bit wooden at times.  Again, acting honours go to the young boys, especially to Nicholas McAnulty as Artie while George Mackay as his teenage step-brother is totally convincing.  Grandma Barbara is played to perfection by Julia Blake.

An interesting and involving film if a tad long.  Or did it just drag a bit.  I think I expected more.

Score:  6/10

Pepe's View:

Perhaps because I am male and often (always) in trouble for letting my grandchildren doing "outlandish" things, I quite enjoyed the Dad's motto in this film - "Just say Yes".  Clive Owen as Joe has a theory that it is harder to say yes to everything a child wants to do than say no or more correctly give the normal adult response - no because...

As a result I quite enjoyed this film.  I did not enjoy the "ghost" appearing - it seemed just a little trite and convenient as a direction tool - but I did enjoy Clive Owen's performance - I agree, Ma, that he sometimes can be wooden but in this case the woodenness was kept to a minimum.  Julia Blake was once again great as the Grandma but the final reconciliation with her son in law and his lifestyle was a little too sudden and so became unbelievable.

The boys were wonderful - how do casting directors keep finding such wonderful child actors - and in fact held the film together and prevented it wallowing in self pity and silliness.  I particularly enjoyed the performance of George Mackay - the older son from Joe's first marriage - which caught the ambivalence of  a teenager meeting a younger half brother for the first time and being thrown into the chaos that was the lifestyle of Joe and Artie.  And all the time wanting desperately to actually connect with his Dad whom he had not had much to do with ever in his life.

All in all a satisfying film but it is no world beater - there have been much better Australian films produced  in 2009 and even though the scenery of South Australia was at times stunning, I felt much more could have been made of the setting in the Australian bush.

Score:  7/10



We saw this movie on Boxing Day 2009 as soon as it was released as we were looking forward to it immensely.
Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, this movie did not live up to expectations.  According to many, the events portrayed are not even accurate  although I have no way of knowing if this is in fact true.  The first disappointment was the lack of songs from the Beatle's.  This was my immediate reaction but on reflection, I realised that the film only covers John Lennon's life up to his teenage years - just to the point where his "group" was beginning to make a mark.
The acting was generally good with John played by Aaron Johnson  being driven against all odds to form a "group".  His birth mother (Ann- Marie Duff) was suitably doting and flirtatious but I am not sure of the authenticity of the suggestion she was Bi Polar.  Aunt Mimi who raised John and tried her best to keep him safe and straight, was played by Kristen Scott Thomas and it was this character that resonated with me as the performance by Scott Thomas subtly showed her concern and love for John even when she felt she had to be tough on him.

The cinematography was pedestrian as was the direction.  It is a film that is not exciting nor riveting but is a quite enjoyable illumination of John Lennon's early life.  The entrance of Paul McCartney into his life was one of the high points of the movie and I was waiting for this aspect of his life to be explored further.

Score:  7/10


This long-awaited bio of John Lennon was an interesting expose of the upbringing that formed him and endowed him with the talent and drive to achieve so much in his relatively short life.  In the title role, Aaron Johnson is quite a gorgeous mix of arrogance and vulnerability.  As a teenager, Lennon's apparently stable life to date is turned upsidedown when his "dad" dies and he discovers that his devoted but undemonstrative "mother" (Kristen Scott-Thomas) is actually his aunt.  His own mother (Anne-Marie Duff) turns out to be vivacious, flirtatious - and musical, but not very stable.  The young Lennon, clearly seeking a sense of self, tries out life with this alternate mother and there follows much conflict as the two women fight it out for his affection.  Coinciding with this emotional roller-coaster, Lennon is trying to establish his own band and master the guitar.  We get a clear picture of the extent of Lennon's drive and ambition in the development of the group but it is really interesting to note the depth of musical talent that is added when Paul McCartney joins.

Like Pepe, I was hoping for more of the Beatle's music but guess this was not appropriate to the context of a faithful bio.  Interestingly, the strongest character, Mimi, remained a constant in Lennon's life for the rest of his life - a good casting choice here with the usual powerful performance from Kristen Scott-Thomas.  Interesting and enjoyable up to a point.

Score:  7/10



We finally caught up with this movie over the Christmas period mainly to satisfy Ma's obsession with Colin Firth!   Unfortunately, Mr Firth, while always giving a satisfying performance, is a little old to effectively carry off the sorrowful smouldering widow.  He is also in danger of being type cast in the role of the sexy, lonely, confused male who just needs a woman to make his life complete although he doesn't always know it!  Luckily, the theatre was full of 50 something females who were almost audibly muttering "pick me"!

The beginning of this film directed by Michael Winterbottom is by far the bestpart.  The scenes of the mother and daughters driving along happily on the icy roads is full of tension and apprehension.  It establishes the relationships so essential to  what is to follow and establishes wy the girls miss their Mum so much.  Of course the inevitable happens and the daughters are left motherless and in the care of their Dad - you guessed it - Colin Firth.

Then we follow the lives of these grieving children and father to Italy where Dad is contracted to work at a University.  However, true to so many films of late - the mother ( Hope Davis) appears to the youngest child (Mary) who seems to be suffering the most.  The older daughter Kelly, ( Willa Holland) is more preoccupied discovering her sexuality with the local boys leaving the younger daughter even more lonely and confused. 
The older daughter blames Mary for her Mum's death - they were playing games in the car which distracted Mum - and can not bring herself to share it with anyone, she just has an over supply of teenage attitude.  Add to this the fact that their mother was an accomplished musician and Dad has the girls enrolled in music lessons from a private tutor in Italy which gives plenty of opportunities for Kelly to sneak off with her boyfriend and for Mum to appear watching over her girls as they play the piano.
It all ends happily after a moment of manufactured tension as Mary (Perla Haney-Jardin) runs through Italian traffic to see her Mum on the other side of the road.  A very irresponsible ghost in my opinion! All the family - Dad, Mary and Kelly - are safely reunited and live happily ever after realising that they need to stick together to make it through.

As you might have gleaned from the tone of this Blog, this movie is most forgettable.  The direction is pedestrian, the cinematography nothing more than is needed to tell the corny story and the acting is satisfactory without being sensational.

Score:   5/10


A bit harsh, Pepe, but I think I am over Colin Firth you will be glad to know - though it's not really his fault that they keep type-casting him in the role he does best!  For me, the two girls take the acting honours in this movie which depicts their grieving process in the very atmospheric streets of Genova - dark, brooding and labarynthine - rather like the emotional journey the girls are making.  Willa Holland as the older sister, Kelly, is the typical 16 year old, focussed on her peer group and intent on exploring her sexuality but there is more to her than this;  underlying is her anger with life and with her younger sister whom she blames for ruining it by causing their mother's death.  As the younger Mary, Perla Haney-Jardine is superb - a little lost girl, suffering from night-mares and bed-wetting, seeing images of her mother whom she believes has come to forgive her and rejected and blamed by her adored older sibling.  Our hearts go out to her as she trails after her sister through the sinister streets of Genova.

We do see something of the beaches and the port but for the most part, the movie does not give this beautiful Italian town much of a wrap - it certainly isn't the changed location that effects the healing process.  Instead, it is supposedly the "ghost" who leads the child into danger TWICE thereby making the family realise that they have to support each other through this.  I'm afraid that I just got irritated and wished they would just sit down and talk the whole thing through - instead of the interminable shots of wandering through the less attractive streets of the city.  And "ghosts" just stretch the willing suspension of disbelief to breaking point.

All in all somewhat disappointing...

Score:  6/10



It's quite a while since we saw this movie but I've resolved to get our blogs up to date before we're allowed to see another movie!

If you enjoy cooking, are a lover of France, or a fan of Meryl Streep (Julia), you will love this movie - if you are all three at the same time, like me, you will simply delight in it.  Meryl Streep is in her element playing this large, loud, exuberant American woman who is determined to master the art of Cordon Bleu cooking.   That is not to detract from Amy Adams who plays Julie with endearing concentration as she tries to emulate the culinary expertise of the legendary Julia Child.  Both women are supported by wonderful and often long-suffering husbands played with aplomb by Stanley Tucci (Julia's husband) and with patient humour by Chris Messina (Julie's husband).

The movie is based on the true stories of two very good cooks from two different generations - stories that become intertwined when Julie decides to cook her way through Julia Child's famous cookbook published in 1961 "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and write a blog about it.  Director, Nora Ephron has cleverly meshed these two memoirs into a very satisfying and seamless whole and the resulting film is a tribute to these two women who set themselves challenges and work singlemindedly towards them.  And it's funny as well!

Score:  8/10


Yes, we have seen lots of movies since Julie and Julia and we are determined to get this Blog up to date.  Unfortunately we lack the self discipline shown by Julie in this movie, and indeed in real life, to keep a daily Blog of her cooking exploits.   One of the most endearing aspects of this film for me was the knowledge that these two people really existed and really did the things portrayed so beautifully and lovingly in the movie.  Oh, all right - there was poetic licence involved but in essence the two women did actually find fulfillment in cooking.  Another endearing aspect of this film was the links between the women.  Julie started her Blog and her cooking challenge because she felt her life was going nowhere and her hero Julia Child started cooking in France for similar reasons of boredom and a feeling of worthlessness. 
The film was beautifully and tenderley directed and for me managed to avoid falling into sentimentality and good old American schmalz.  I was curious to see if Amy Adams could match it with the master Merryl Streep and I was pleasantly surprised as I was often waiting impatiently for the movie to return to scenes involving Amy Adams. 
This is a first class film.  A film that is a worthwhile addition to your DVD collection to watch whenever you feel like a laugh, a cry and incentive to go on with your project.

Score:  9/10



We saw this lovely Japanese film quite a while ago but the theme still resonates for us because it situates the viewer firmly and lovingly in his/her place in the universal scheme of things.  It immediately became our favourite film for 2009 and we were not surprised that it had won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

The storyline deals with a young man, Daigo, who loses his job as a celloist in Tokyo and, unable to make a living in the city, returns with his young wife to his childhood home in a small village.  There, he answers a job advertisement entitled "Departures".  This turns out to be not the travel agency he expected but a mortician - a very specilised mortician who practises the age-old ritual of cleansing and preparing the body for burial - in Japan performed with formal respect and sensitivity in front of the grieving family.   Social taboos and embarrassment prevent Daigo from revealing to his wife the nature of his job and there are moments of pure humour as he deals with awkward situations.  We the audience share his discomfort, horror and growing understanding and appreciation of where death fits into the big scheme of things.  Birth, death, parent-child relationships, the changing of the seasons, the ebb and flow of life itself are woven into this beautifully filmed movie where the landscape and the music play roles as important as the actors.  And yes, the ending is somewhat predictable and all the loose ends are neatly tied up leaving the audience feeling good - about death!  Nothing to be feared or shunned, just a natural and inevitable part of being alive.

Masahiro Motoki plays Daigo with strength and intensity, winning first our sympathy in his early struggles to stick with this well-paid but demanding job and later our respect as he comes to take pride and satisfaction in it.  His wife (played by Ryoko Hirosue) is perhaps overly devoted and cutesy but his mentor and employer is powerfully portrayed by Tsutomu Yamazaki.

This is a very satisfying movie which sent me away at peace with my place in this world.  It convinced me more that ever that when the time comes, I just want to be wrapped in some natural fibres and have a tree planted over me.

My Score:  9/10


Somehow I have to stop Ma writing her thoughts first - she says all I want to say ( and much as it hurts me to say it), much more eloquently!
This film is a standout.  The acting - beautifully underplayed but sincere, the cinematography - beautifully capturing the ebb and flow of the interconnectedness of life and the screenplay - not plot driven but funny, quirky and treating a difficult topic with such sensitivity.
At first I thought the seemingly overlong shots of the fish in the river, the birds migrating, the seasonal changes were an intrusion, but, on reflection and after watching the entire screenplay, realised the vital importance of these scenes in capturing the cycles in nature in which we humans are so inextricably woven.
Yes, the ending stoops into almost corniness and over sentimentality but this is easily forgiven when the entire pastiche is revealed.
I enjoyed the ritual of laying out the body - normally Oriental rituals amuse and bore me - to the point that I sat mesmerised by the love, care and reverence shown to the human body after death - almost as if all the deceased's physical life and actions are being revered, honoured and remembered.

This movie reminds us that death is an inevitable part of living and the final scenes when Daigo performs the ceremony on his own father with his wife and unborn son the only witnesses, encourage us to forgive the mistakes made by others (and ourselves) in this life as each of our lives are simply  too short to spend valuable time dwelling on the negative when we could be celebrating the positive.  Daigo has learnt from his father's mistakes and makes a conscious choice not to repeat these with his own family.
A fantastic film - a difficult subject handled with great skill, and sensitivity.  I defy anyone to watch this film without being moved.

Score - 9/10

BROKEN EMBRACES - dir. by Pedro Almodovar

Ma's View

Christmas and New Year have intervened since we saw "Broken Embraces" directed by Pedro Almodovar and starring Penelope Cruz.  This movie is a melodrama in the old-fashioned sense but the characters, although larger than life, manage to escape being stereotypical and the actors do a superb job.  As for the plot, there is the wicked aging rich guy who is takes advantage of the beautiful vulnerable heroine whose father is dying of cancer; there is the hero who is blinded in the tragic accident which takes the life of his beloved and who subsequently suppresses that identity, preferring to live and write under his "nom de plume"; there is the disaffected son and the jilted lover, both seeking revenge, and then there is the secret of the parentage of one character.  So complex and involved does it become that you might be tempted (as I was) to say "That's just silly!"   Certainly this movie does not live up to the passion and tragedy of "All about my Mother", one of Aldovar's earlier films.

Nevertheless Penelope Cruz performs her role very well indeed - both as the central character of this tragic story and as  the aspiring young actress who is every bit as alluring and coquettish as Audrey Hepburn for whom she was clearly groomed to look alike.  The supporting cast is very strong all round, particularly Lluis Homa as the blinded film director and Blanca Portilla as his agent.

The really interesting aspect of the film for me was what is revealed about how film-making and acting have changed; this is achieved through the device of the 'film within the film' and the shots from older films that the characters watch.  The style of acting and the structure seem very contrived and transparent compared to the studied naturalness of some of today's movies.

Score:  6/10

Pepe's View

Pedro Almodovar's latest film is really a disappointment - I was looking forward to watching  "Broken Embraces"  with fond memories of "All About My Mother" still in mind.  Broken Embraces is melodramatic, verging on ridiculous at times with stand out performances from, as usual, Penelope Cruz and Lluis Homa as the blind love struck lover who pines after his lost love (Cruz).  Through a series of flashbacks we see the story unfold of the hero's life before the accident that took his sight and come to understand the sense of loss he felt for the love of his life.

Some of the camera work is quite beautiful without being outstanding and the screenplay again displays some glimpses of brilliance but mostly wallows in melodrama.  The obvious references to old films of a similar genre in the way some of the shots are framed and in some of the dialogue shows a touch of class but would be lost on an audience (like me for the most part) who could see or remember similar scenes from old movies without knowing exactly which ones.

Broken Embraces is a pleasant enough 2 hrs in the air conditioned theatre ( and this summer we need all the excuses to sit in air con we can get) without challenging or provoking much thought.  That we did not spend our usual time discussing all the aspects of this film on the way home is an indication of its impact.  One to disappear from our memories without trace.

Score:  6/10