Ma's View:

Last night we had free tickets to go see this movie and it was well worth the effort of driving 40 minutes to Portside!  First time director, Tom Ford, has taken time out from his fashion designer career, to co-write, produce and direct this movie with great success.  It is based on the novel by the same name written by Christopher Isherwood.

My mother used to say "the eyes are the windows of the soul" - well, Colin Firth gives us a glimpse into the suffering soul of a bereaved man who has lost his soulmate.  This is a consummate performance by this much under-rated actor, who has been type cast far too often into light-weight romantic leads.  It is no surprise that he has won "best actor" for this role at Bafta's recent awards.

Set in wholesome and conservative 1962 USA, the story-line follows a day in the life of a gay man who is mourning the death of his partner of 16 years.  It is a grief he cannot disclose in such a society and he faces it alone and un-supported.  In fact, he intends this to be his last day on earth, having had enough of going through the motions of living, just floating through the unreality of his world which now holds no meaning for him.  It is almost black comedy as George (Firth) prepares methodically for his death but we always feel engaged by the intensity of his feelings and the sharpness of his awareness of every detail around him.  Through flashbacks, we come to understand the depth of his relationship with Jim (played beautifully by Matthew Goode) - so much so that, when it is described as a "substitute" for a "real" relationship by friend and one-time lover Charley, we are almost as outraged as George himself.  Ironically, Charley (Julianne Moore is excellent!) illustrates the hollowness of these so-called "real" relationships, being herself a divorcee with 2 grown up children (who never call), and dependant on gin to get her through the day (and night).

The movie is very stylishly filmed with exquisite attention to perfection in costume and set design.  I didn't notice, but there should have been a credit for the architect of the house.  The music is compelling (sometimes overly so) and the cinematography very good.

Score:  8/10

Pepe's View:

This movie could only have been so beautifully directed by someone who has the ability to see life through a sensitive almost ephemeral lens.  Tom Ford has crafted an extemely sensitive and sensual cinematic experience.  The framing of each shot is beautiful and the house in which much of the action takes place is stunning.  It is also ironic that it is a "glass" house with seemingly acres of glass walls to the outside world when in fact the life that was lived within the walls was anything but open to public scrutiny.  My favourite scene is one of flashback when George (played beatifully by Colin Firth) receives the phone call to tell him that Jim (Matthew Goode) has been kiled in an automobile accident.  The intensity and slow disintegration of Jim is consumate acting.  Almost all of the shots are in extreme close up - it is almost seeing the world through George's eyes which can only see the details and he lacks the ability to step back and see the complete tapestry of life.  AS the film progresses, this close up effect is used less often until by the conclusion of the film it is not used at all.

Julieanne Moore is again excellent as "Charley" the woman "next"door that is a long term friend (and once a lover) of George.  She manages to evoke sympathy even though her total screen time is probably less than 15 min.  She resisted the temptation to play a "gin whore" and in so doing managed to in a sense become the voice of  "everyman" who tolerated gay relationships but really felt that the men would come to their senses eventually and settle down with a woman and enter the real world.  The scene towards the end of the movie when George goes to Charley's for dinner is a triumph of acting and directing.

This movie is tender, understated,  revealing, cinematically beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable.  One of the most satisfying 90 odd minutes I have ever spent in the cinema.

Score:  8.5/10


Pepe's View:

We saw this film at a World Cinema Club preview on Wed 17 Feb.  Directed by Katheryn Bigelow using lots of hand held camera shots, this movie, set in Iraq (Baghdad) one year after the initial invasion, is cleverly constructed and beautifully shot bringing out all the suspense, danger and futility that is war.  As the screen informs us at the beginning "War is a Drug" which could stand as the film's title since no other opening credits are shown.  Bigelow carefully and relentlessly shows us that this statement is true for the next 103 minutes.  Written by Mark Boal who was a journalist embedded with the troops in Iraq, the film shines with authenticity.

When the opening scene shows the leader of a bomb disposal squad attempting unsuccessfully to dispose of a bomb hidden amongst rubbish on the street, the scene is set for an emotional ride for the next 90 minutes.  His place is taken by a seemingly reckless cowboy (Jeremy Renner) who proceeds to put his own and his team mates lives at risk as they count down their days until their tour of duty ends.  As the film progresses however, we come to partially understand this new bomb squad leader and our opinion changes along with the opinions of his team mates.  The scene at the end of the film when he is shown shopping in a supermarket back home in USA trying to choose cereal from the huge display which stretches in both directions most poignantly indicates both the difficulty of a soldier returning to "real" life and helps us understand the drug that is war.

One interesting aspect of the film is that when the bomb disposal squad come across a squad of British soldiers in the desert, (the commander of which is played by Ralph Fiennes who is on screen for approx. 4 minutes), the emotional toll on the soldiers, when called upon to actually fire a gun to kill another human, being is very effectively although subtly shown.

I came away from this film with a new understanding of what it must really be like to be a soldier in a war without watching the usual gun battles, random explosions and heroics that accompany so many "war films".  This film is not about Iraq, although it is set in Iraq, it is about war in all its theatres and both the writer and director have resisted in taking sides or politicising the present conflict.  I could understand the suspicion that the soldiers felt towards all Iraqi citizens as they had no way of knowing which face in the crowd was potentially their friend or the next suicide bomber.

I enjoyed this film as I was able to watch it dispassionately on an intellectual level enjoying the suspense and the situation without becoming too involved with the characters - exactly what the director and writer intended I suspect.

Score:  7.5/10

Ma's View:

Absolutely agree with everything Pepe said but unfortunately, unlike him, I am unable to detach myself emotionally and can't help getting tense and overly involved with the characters!  Consequently, I did not enjoy the film at all even though I admit it was a good one, giving a depressingly accurate picture of the current situation in Iraq - one which will forever make the news reports of bombs more poignant and dramatic for me.

The other interesting aspect is the way the film reveals the different psychological states of the individual soldiers - the (at first) coolly efficient Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and James, his new daredevil group leader (Jeremy Renner) whom he struggles to keep safe but learns to respect and the young raw recruit who is scared "s..tless" and just doing his best to stay alive.  For James, the danger is addictive and he only feels really alive and turned on when he is leaning over a bomb trying to defuse it.  At home, he can't find meaning in the cosy domestic life with his wife and baby son and so inevitably signs up for yet another tour of duty.

A good movie, bring vividly to life an appalling situation and an incredible dangerous job performed by amazingly brave guys - but not a movie to be enjoyed by a big sook like me!

My score:  8/10 - for those who can take its (for me, 5/10)


Ma's View:

Yesterday ( 09/02/10) was "cheap Tuesday" so we took time out to go see Invictus.  For us it was already a "must see", being about Nelson Mandela and with Morgan Freeman in the lead.  Throw in that it was directed by Clint Eastward and how can you go wrong?   We were not disappointed.  Even Matt Damon excelled himself in a custom made role of the rugged Rugby captain, Francois Pienaar, but Freeman inhabits his role with masterly ease, capturing the gentle strength, wisdom and simple unpretentiousness of the (then) new President.  And the sound track was very good as well!

The movie does not pretend to be a full 'bio' of Mandela; instead, as the title suggests, it seeks to portray the essence of the man - the mysterious strength that allowed him to emerge from 27 years in prison with forgiveness in his heart.    It was this strength which enabled him to face and solve the problems of South Africa in post-apartheid years and build a unified nation out of chaos.  One of the tools he used to do this was Rugby, for he recognised that sport breaks down cultural and class barriers and he immediately perceived the importance of retaining the Springboks name and colours (even though traditionally hated by the blacks as a "white-boys team") and promoting the team as a symbol of the reconciliation of his "rainbow" nation.  The movie follows Mandela's collaboration with the captain, Pienaar, to inspire the team to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup where they came from the under-dog position to defeat the mighty All Blacks.

Eastwood tells the story in a straightforward and compelling fashion, building surely to the climax of the match (a little over-long even if you are a Rugby fan) and the achievement of Nelson's goal of reconciliation through the support the team receives from black and white alike.  We learn, as does Pienaar, the words of William Earnest Henley's poem which inspired Mandela to remain unbowed after so long in prison - "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul".  Consummate story teller as he is, Eastwood does not allow the monumental nature of his task to obscure the humanity of the story and so all the minor characters are fully fleshed out and their issues illuminated - from the mixed-race security team to the black housekeeper of the Pienaar family and Mandela's own uneasy relationship with his daughter and ex-wife, all are woven into the tapestry.

A wonderfully inspiring story about a great man!

My score:  8/10

Pepe's View:

I am always suspicious of movies showing at Cineplexes as inevitably they do not live up to their hype.  "Invictus" however is a movie that restores my faith in at least some of the blockbuster movies showing in these popcorn palaces.  Clint Eastwood should run classes on how to tell a story without sex, without too much sentimentality and without becoming corny for all the new wave of "gun" directors.  His mastery of the story telling process without forgetting the importance of the characters makes Invictus one of the great movies that is at once inspiring, entertaining, informative and moving.

There are a number of beautiful small touches in the movie - the dark skinned boy who sits beside a "white" police car outside the stadium during the final of the world cup so he can listen to the match on the police radio and slowly throughout the course of the match gets closer and closer to the car until he is sitting on the bonnet and eventually celebrating with the policemen.  This tiny cameo  captured in real terms what Nelson Mandela was tring to do through Rugby - break down the barrier of race.  Similarly, the  black and white bodyguards for the president slowly came to respect and  understand each other through the process of guarding the president during the world cup. 

The poem at the basis of the film "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley was quoted in part in the film but I would have liked to have been able to read it myself even if only during the end credits.  This is a minor flaw though as  the acting is superb (especially Morgan Freeman), the direction is first class (loved the seamless interspersing of real footage from the time), the story telling is entertaining and I came away inspired once again by that extraordinary man Nelson Mandela.

A must see movie.

Score:   9/10



Went to see this movie yesterday ( 2 Feb 2010 ) when yard work was suspended due to rain and came away feeling uplifted and entertained.  The movie is an excellent adaptation by director Rachel Perkins ("The First Australians" - TV) of the light-hearted stage musical by Jimmy Chi.  Set in Western Australia in 1969 during the "hippie" era, it touches on many indigenous issues in a humorous and tongue in cheek way that never ever verges on a guilt trip or complaint.  The plot follows the fortunes of Willie, a young boy from Broome who is sent away by his mum to become a priest, although he has his heart set on a local girl, Rosie.  Of course he runs away and there follows a road trip home during which he meets many interesting characters and has lots of adventures, meanwhile growing in understanding of himself and his culture.  It is a pure romp, full of fun and sending up the musical/western genre ever so subtly while maintaining an underlying theme that heaven can be found on earth if you are true to yourself and your culture. 

The music is good, although a little derivative but there are a few memorable songs - "There's nothing I would rather be than be an Aborigine" and Ernie Dingo's song when they are in jail (not sure of title but to do with a new day dawning) brings a lump to your throat.  The choreography by Bangara Dance Theatre's Stephen Page is also excellent as is the cinematography featuring wonderful shots of the outback and that interminable road to Broome that we know from personal experience!

Perkins has assembled a stellar cast: - Geoffrey Rush is comicly absurd as the German priest; Jessica Mauboy (Aussie Idol) is charming as Rosie; Missy Higgins delightful as Annie the hippie; Deb Mailman is delicious as Roxanne the floosy; Magda Z. voluptuous as the over-sexed roadhouse attendant; Tom Budge is very funny as the German tourist/hippie in search of his father (no prizes for guessing who that turns out to be!) and Ernie Dingo steals the show as "Uncle" Tadpole (love the name!).  Among all of these, Rocky McKenzie, the young unknown in the lead role of Willie, holds his own with just the right amount of tentative shyness.

All in all, a very enjoyable experience that finishes in a celebration of indigenous origins with all parties finding "there is nothing they would rather be than an Aborigine".

My Score:  8/10


This was indeed a wonderfully uplifting experience  -  a movie full of fun and nonsense but a celebration of being Australian and in particular in being an Aborigine.  Although the music is not at all memorable - except for the two songs that Ma already mentioned - it does drive the action and obviously the cast and crew enjoyed playing the big dance numbers for all they were worth.  The finale is totally absurd but delightful.  I particularly enjoyed the not so slight "tongue in cheek" treatment of  "The Big Musical". It reminded me of Gilbert and Sullivan in some ways as all the loose ends were tied up no matter how absurdly and everyone lived happily ever after.

This deserves to be a "classic" Australian movie sitting alongside "The Castle", "Muriel's Wedding" and "Priscilla" but I somehow doubt that it will draw the audiences that would be needed.  The cinematography is very simple and sometimes corny ( on two occasions a car crossed screen from left to  right along a barren dirt road ) but seems to fit the tone of the piece perfectly. The scenery of the country around Broome is a stand out in the movie and the idyllic lifestlye lived by the inhabitants of this remote NW part of Australia is enough to make everyone sell up and move there!  Of course being a musical romp this also is a romanticised view of life in the outback.

The acting is generally very good - Geoffrey Rush especially as the over the top priest,  Magda S a delightfully over sexed and frustrated road house owner, Deb Mailman as the floosy, and especially Ernie Dingo as Uncle Tadpole who almost steals the show.  Jessica Mauboy as Rosie - the hero's love interest - is delightful as is Tom Budge the hippie German tourist searching for his father.  Perhaps the only disappointment was Missy Higgins as the female hippie who I felt did not quite convince.

This is a great Australian movie - one to make you laugh and feel proud to be Australian.

Score:  8/10