Brothers Review


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Brothers   is a 2009 American-British drama-war-thriller film directed by Jim Sheridan. The film is a remake of 2004 Danish film Brødre directed by Susanne Bier. Both films take inspiration from Homer's epic poem The Odyssey.


The film follows Sam (played by Tobey Maguire), a Marine captain, and bad-boy Tommy Cahill (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who are brothers. We meet Tommy as he is released from jail for armed robbery, and we soon see Sam embarking on his fourth tour of duty to Afghanistan, leaving behind his high school sweetheart, Grace (Natalie Portman), and their two young daughters.

Tommy’s family soon receive news of Tommy’s death. In Tommy’s absence, his brother Sam supports Tommy’s wife and children in their collective grief. However, when Tommy unexpectedly returns home very much alive, whackiness ensues.


There are great performances all round in the movie, although admittedly it is a little odd to see such young looking actors in parent roles with young children.

The casting for Tobey and Jake is very good. The audience really does feel Tobey’s character’s  sense of mental trauma, and we expect him to lose control at any moment. We, like the family depicted, feel at ease with Jake’s character on screen and miss him when he is absent. As a reformed bad-boy trying to-make-good to the family that he has let down in the past, you can understand why the bad-boy is so attractive.

One could argue that Natalie’s emotional response to hearing prematurely of her husband’s death as being a tad too understated, however, this could just be the actor’s choice as the character would have undoubtedly have been prepared for receiving such inevitable news from past tours.

The only real letdown was the redundant narration at film’s end which annoyed an otherwise subtle and emotional revelation.

The director for the remake decided to make the film more about the brother’s relationship with each other then the emotional attraction to Tommy’s wife. This is a good move as it keeps a clear focus of the film’s intent.

One may argue that this was again an exercise whereby Hollywood again ‘ruined a fine movie’. I prefer the wording of the remake’s writer; that he and the director had  discovered the ‘bones’ of a great story. Certain characters have had their backgrounds more fleshed out, giving their entwining familial relationships more weight. A bigger budget has given the film a more cinematic style and attracted a beautiful score and, of course, a swath of young, good looking stars.


Brothers is a very satisfying film. Toby Maguire has done a fine job portraying a stable family man who suffers trauma as a result of his experiences in war. This was a much more satisfying study of the psychological effects of war on soldiers and their families than The Hurt Locker as previously discussed on the Movie Club.

I loved Jake Gyllenhall’s character and could completely understand the attraction that Tommy’s family had for him during such an emotionally vulnerable time.

The lead character’s intertwined past with their marine father is completely relate-able and understandable. The story served as a foreboding parallel of what happened during the brother’s early family years with a father who had returned from Vietnam.

Apart from the unnecessary short narration at film’s end, Brothers is a solid movie viewing experience.

4 brothers out of 5

Check out the film at IMDB, check out the trailer, and see what Margaret and David had to say about the original.


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Luke McWilliams August 2010

The Ghost Writer Review


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The Ghost Writer is a 2010 politica; thriller film. It is adapted from the novel, The Ghost by Robert Harris. Directed by Roman Polanski, the screenplay was written by him and Harris.


 After the death of a ghost writer who was writing the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (played by Peirce Brosnan), Ewan Magregor’s anonymous ghostwriter agrees to complete the manuscript.

The ghostwriter flies out to Lang’s beachfront mansion to work on the project behind high security in the middle of winter. Unfortunately, the day he arrives, Lang is accused of war crimes. Lang faces prosecution by the International Criminal Court, and all of his staff are subject to reporters and protesters swarming to the island mansion. Amongst all of this, the ghostwriter continues his work, uncovering along the way that perhaps his predecessor’s death was not as straight forward as he was thought to believe.


The movie has a great, classic thriller feel, like the recent The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, it also has unnecessary, old-fashioned sentiments.

The ambience is fantastic: a large office window shows a wintery ocean-front setting which depicts the natural and humanistic chaos outside the steely confines of a mansion. Such unsettling imagry and sound reminds of another great classic thriller Shutter Island.

The performances are unfortunately uneven; Kim Cattral is a wispy female, not unlike Mia Farrow’s performance in Rosemary’s Baby, and has an air of film Noir about her, such as Evelyn in Chinatown. Dressed in white, she is contrasted ( although her prowess is subverted) with the dark hued, femme fatal Ruth Lang (played by Olivia Williams), the backbone of her husband, the Prime Minister. Olivia delivers a surprisingly unconvincing performance in a scene of supposed vulnerability. Perhaps Roman has a perception of women in film that resonates.

There are also some choice camera angles throughout the movie, and the lens lingers too long, almost making sure that the viewer captures every little nuance the actor is giving, which is completely unnecessary, and patronises the actor’s performance. From research in comparison with the book, it is surprising that Polanski chose to actually downplay some scenes that would have played very cinematically.

The score is almost darkly comic. I would have preferred a much more intimidating, straight thriller score, given the context, in the mold of other recent films Shutter Island and Inception which both used amazing, menacing, bombastic scores which had as much presence and personality as any other actor on screen.

As mentioned above, it is surprising how the film bears away from use of technology. When The Ghost Writer tries to use a computer with a USB key, all hell breaks lose. Instead, The Ghost Writer must engage in the practical, textural feel of the original manuscript. Characters labor over it, feel it with their fingers and almost enjoy the physical pleasure of touching it. Such use of manuscript-texture reminds me of The Ninth Gate and the supernatural powers that are within the pages of a book.

As The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo demonstrated, research through means of computer can be just as textile, whilst also conveying the sense of a ghostly observer, someone who is dabbling with people’s lives from another sphere of existence. Also, the use of computer data can just be just as hard to trace and hold as a ghost. Cinematic research montages can be delivered with both mediums, but layers of a computer screen imposed over the researcher is far more cinematic than following text on a manuscript. In this sense it may be unfair to call this film old fashioned, but it is warranted here.

There are great allegories of ghosts here; Ewan’s unnamed character is haunted by his predecessor, finding his spirit within the pages of his manuscript, his clothes and the furniture in his room. Ewan prefers spirits rather than wine, and, whilst being an anonymous ghostwriter, holds a certain amount of power over the very public figures. The theme of the Ghost within the Machine could have given another metaphor if technology was not presented in such a phobic way.

The film has a strange dark comic humour; delivered in Ewan’s performance, the score, filing of scenes and some script choices. Ewan’s performance aside, I would have preferred a much more straight approach given the success of the recent, and superior above-mentioned thrillers.


The Ghost Writer is unfortunately, disappointingly and irritatingly flawed in the sense that it is a good movie, a great visual experience but it could have been so much more. There are many editing and acting choices that take away from the film, in both logic and quality. Like the superior The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, however, this movie has compelled me to read the novel and think of what may have been.

3 pages out of 5 

Check out the film at IMDB check out the trailer, and see what Margaret and David (and Ewan) have to say.

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Luke McWilliams August 2010

Podcast - 3 September 2010 - The Ghost Writer, Brothers, Ichi the killer plus an interview with Canberra Short Film Festival winner Britt Arthur

Join Luke McWilliams, Liam Jennings, Steven Robert and Felix Barbalet as they review

  • The Ghost Writer
  • Brothers
  • Ichi the killer

 plus an interview with Britt Arthur, writer and director of 'My Uncle Bluey' which won the 'Best National Film' category at the 2009 Canberra Short Film Festival

Youth in Revolt




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 Youth in Revolt is a 2010 American film adaptation of C.D. Payne's epistolary novel of the same name starring Michael Cera. The novel was written in 1993 epistolary novel, and is part three of a six-part series.




Nick Twisp (played by Michael Cera) is a 16 year old virgin who has, by the standards of his peers, a peculiar taste in media culture; the music of Frank Sinatra and the films of Federico Fellini. Nick lives with his mother and her awful boyfriend, Jerry, who soon finds himself owing a group of angry sailors money due to a sour car sale. Instead of righting this wrong, Jerry decides to lay low for a while and takes Nick and his mother on vacation to a Christian trailer park. This is where Nick meets the beautiful but dangerous Sheeni Saunders (played by Portia Doubleday). The two strike up a relationship however it is soon thwarted as Nick inevitably has to return home. The shy, awkward and naïve Nick is however encouraged by Sheeni to become "very, very bad" so he may be kicked out of home and be free to live with his father, George (played by Steve Buscemi), and they can be together. Nick soon develops an evil, French alter-ego to help him along with his quest to become evil, afterwhich whackiness ensues. 



The epistolary nature of the novel is referenced in the film by use of plastacine stop-motion characateurs of the characters, references to letters and diary entries. This lends to the quirkiness of the film that a Michael Cera movie seems to ask for.


The film is not quite a drama, not quite a comedy. This makes it fall into the safe niche of young adult quirky dramedy, a la Juno; i.e. if you don’t find it funny, you weren’t supposed to, as it was a drama. Laughed at it? You were supposed to; it was a comedy. 


I loved Michael Crea in Arrested Development as he played the shy and socially awkward George Michael brilliantly; a minor character in a pretty much all-star show. I am not yet sold with the idea that he can carry an entire movie, especially with the same ‘hipster’ type of role. He has played this type of character in most of his film roles, but it is at least pleasing to see him stretch himself in this role if only by just a bit; as an evil-French alter-ego.


Obviously Michael Crea fans and fans of this type of quirky comedy in general may like this movie.  


It is curious that Michael’s films are based on material that was created in the early 90’s (such as Scott Pilgrim vs The World)but are reimagined as movies to apply to ‘hipster’ contemporary youth culture. I am not part of, nor a fan of, ‘hipster’ culture and therefore, again, I cannot empathise with the main character and the choices he makes.


2 revolting youths out of 5 


Check out the film at IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and check out the  trailer.  ~                                                                                ~ 


Luke McWilliams August 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs The World Review







Scott Pilgrim VS The World    is a 2010 American action comedy film directed by Edgar Wright of (Spaced, Shuan of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame) based on the comic book series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Interestingly, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was planned as a film after the first issue of the comic was released! 



 The film follows the precious little life of Scott Pilgrim (played by Michael Cera). Scott is a bass guitarist for the band "Sex Bob-omb," who dates a Chinese catholic high-school girl Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and lives (and sleeps) with his gay housemate Wallace (Kieran Culkin). Scott eventually literally meets the girl of his dreams, a mysterious American called Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). To date her however, Scott must defeat the League of Evil Exes, 7 of Ramona's Evil Ex boyfriends who are hell bent on destroying all that is Scott Pilgrim. Whackiness does indeed ensue.  


 As a director, Edgar Wright makes all of the right decisions in regards to this film: Edgar hired Mr Brad Allan, the wushu expert who has worked with Jacki Chan in countless movies, and Bill Pope, the cinematographer of the Matrix trilogy was brought on board. The soundtrack includes music from Beck, Canadian bands Metric and Broken Social Scene, Nigel Godrich (who is a producing collaborator of Radioheand and Beck), and two members of Supergrass who recorded a Legend of Zelda theme. Several sound effects were sampled from retro 8-bit titles like Sonic and the Legend of Zelda to give it the most authentic flavour possible and techniques such as switching aspect ratio’s were used to mimic the look of in-game cut-scenes. 


As with Shuan of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this script is well constructed; the first part serves the audience metaphors of what is to follow in Scott’s subjective ‘reality’. For example, there is a great scene where we see Scott and Knives at an amusement centre. Without giving too much away, a lot of information in regards to Scott’s subjective outlook on his own life is weaved into this scene both visually and through the dialogue, setting up more surreal / hallucinatory sequences for later. 


A lot of trouble has gone to marketing the film to both Gen Y ‘hipsters and Gen X gamers. It is interesting to note that Scott does not use a mobile phone, plays coin-operated arcade games in arcade stations and is pretty much computer illiterate. The technology on show is either the use of a pay phone, an old beige computer and several old Nintendo consoles littered around his sorry; Wallace’s) apartment. However, one can’t help but feel that the film is a very expensive marketing exercise that ultimately targets a very specific audience: males currently in their early 20’s. 


The film tries to hard to be hip and cool, or perhaps this is what the current hipster culture is all about, it certainly was with Gen X…or like, whatever. 


Thankfully, in regards to this, the film has a lot of self-referential observations of how ridiculous it all is, from bystanders of Scott’s ‘world’, i.e. – Scott’s friends namely his older sister and his roommate Wallace, played brilliantly by Kieran Culkin.


The special effects are amazing and cannot be flawed. It is such a shame to see Brandon Routh play a superhero role which is shot in a way that you wished his performance in Superman Returns was. 


It is interesting to note that this movie has bob-ombed at the box office. This may not be all that surprising as the film is a dangerously niche, quirky comedy. It will be interesting to see if it dates quickly. It is a tremendous indulgence and it is amazing that such a film was made on such a budget in the first place. It seems that lessons were not learned from Speed Racer; a film which audience’s did not know what to make of amongst the tremendous amount of CG which created a digital divide between the audience and film: ie - is it a cartoon? Is it supposed to be taken seriously? Or perhaps falut can be found simply in the marketing strategy of the film: if you think you are walking into a hip-cool counter-culture movie a la Empire Records, Dazed and Confused or Clerks you might be disappointed. You will definitely be surprised! 


Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a surreal, hallucinogenic kung-fu rock-musical peppered with retro-video game and other pop-culture that Scott has been raised in. All of this serves Scott’s perspective of his world and his role in it. As Randel in Clerks, and Holden in Chasing Amy, Scott must confront his feelings of inadequacy in relation to his current crushe’s romantic past, all the while facing the end of his adolescent reality as he knows it. In fact, this film would have been Kevin Smith’s opus if hehad been, like, bothered to make it…..pfft…… 


This type of money, expertise and the serious nature in which the film has been constructed makes one think of all the missed opportunities in regard to other comic-book-titles (The Batman film series, Superman Returns and a possible Ultimate Spiderman). 


For all Gen X grouchiness aside for a minute, one can empathise with this world viewed from the self-interested mind’s eye of its protagonist: when one is young, everything is played for high-stakes and you are the immortal rock-star of your own life (such a metaphor was used successfully in The Lost Boys). 


Special effects aside, Scott Pilgrim VS The World is a study of growing up: waking up to the world around you, coming to terms with a serious relationship, confronting sexual jealously and planning on leaving all childish things behind to venture off vulnerably into the great unknown, strengthened by the one that you love.



Ultimately, I was not the audience for this, so I felt like I was babysitting for 2 hours and was slightly angry that I could not join in on the fun (a bit like watching The Goonies again. Trust me; the experience has changed). 10 – 15 years ago I would have loved it. It would have been perfect if it was made in 1985 and starred Michael J Fox! 


That being said, if you are already a fan of Scott Pilgrim, coin-op or console video-games (now labeled as, sigh, ‘retro), romance Manga comic-books, kung-fu, rock’n’roll and Michael Cera, you will undoubtedly love this little-big film. 


3.5 evil Ex-Boyfriends out of 5 


Check out the film at IMDB, and check out the trailer..

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Luke McWilliams August 2010 








Podcast - 27 August 2010 - Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Youth in Revolt and Nosferatu plus an interview with Travis Cragg from the ANU Film Group

Join Luke McWilliams, Liam Jennings, Steven Robert and Felix Barbalet as they review

  • Scott Pilgrim vs The World
  • Youth in Revolt
  • Nosferatu

 plus an interview with Travis Cragg from the ANU Film Group


A Single Man Review

A Single Man is a 2009 film based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood and is the feature debut of fashion designer Tom Ford


Firth has received career best reviews for his performance and was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 66th Venice International Film Festival in 2009, and also the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. He was also nominated for the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BFCA.



The film is set in LA, a month after the Cuban missile crisis. We follow George Falconer (played by Colin Firth) who is a gay middle-aged English college professor who is still mourning the death of his long term partner.


As a result of his inconsolable grief, George decides that at day’s end, he will take his own life. We witness George’s day and are privy to past experiences, his views on his future, and the emotions he experiences when he farewells items that hold sentimental value and people that he knows. As George methodically prepares for his suicide, a few of life’s unexpected surprises come his way, which may disrupt his plans after all.



Known for his role as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (and I guess in Bridget Jones’ Diary), Colin Firth here is extraordinary in his understated performance as George Falconer. There is also a surprising but welcome performance by Julian Moore, who plays George’s long-term friend.


The strong, deep but effortless performance of Colin Firth, like Ben Stiller in Greenberg, was the back-bone of this character study, and he is convincing.


The Cuban Missile Crises serves as a very apt allegory which captures the feelings George experiences in relation to his own expectation of his life: an over-hanging sense of unavoidable, apocalyptic doom.


The script is very tight but allows for a loose, dream-like ambience which is due also to the beautiful cinematography and score. The film’s narration and structure when combined with smooth editing, especially in its flashback and slightly surreal sequences, results in creating a poetic flavour.




This is the type of film that I love: a perfect example of the power of film to deliver a narrative using all available techniques to manipulate the senses.


5 out of 5 martinis.


Check out the film at IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say, and watch the trailer.

Luke McWilliams August 2010 


The Waiting City Review



The Waiting City plays host to an apparently happily married Australian couple, Fiona (played by Radha Mithcel) who is a corporate lawyer and her husband Ben (played by Joel Edgerton) who is a struggling musician. They make the journey to Kolkata to collect their adopted baby. However, they soon experience many bureaucratic delays and are forced to ‘wait in the city’ (see what they did there?). Soon the two reflect on their strained relationship and their motives for adopting a baby all the while being subject to the magical, spiritual and mystical powers of the Indian city which affects them both.




I could see where the film wanted to go; the moral and spiritual reawakening of a flawed couple in a foreign land but it did fail. This is either due to the performances of the actors or their direction (perhaps both).


The audience is not given the chance to like or, at least, empathise with the protagonists. We therefore have no stake in their plight. We are introduced to a couple who, by most accounts, are odious ‘ugly’ tourists. There is too much for the audience to assume: i.e. – a high-power lawyer is married to an unemployed musician = why? What served as the attraction in the first place? We don’t see any attraction or sense of love between the two, therefore there is no real stake to whether or not their relationship remains intact in this quite stressful time.


Their characters don’t follow the script’s planned emotional and spiritual arc for the main characters. Even amongst the couple’s spiritual awakening, they seem to only turn to superficial actions of religious practice out of selfish reasons; i.e. – another means to reach their own end.


The film seems to serve as a flawed morality tale; teaching a woman the importance of life and the emotional impact experienced as a consequence of abortion.


The Waiting City seemed like a purgatory for the main couple who had to learn the errors of their ways before leaving and living a more substantial married life once back in Australia. It showed India to be a self-service one-stop-shop for religious refill and spiritual enlightenment.


That being said, the shots of India are wonderful. It seemed like the second-unit director was filming a great looking documentary to be viewed on an Imax screen. The shots are very tight, however this serves the viewpoint of the constricted view a tourist has of a new, unfamiliar foreign land.




It is not a good sign when you are watching a movie not only for the scenic shots, but also due to the examination of the quality of a RED camera.


1 out of 5 arms of Lord Shiva.


Check out the film on IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say and check out the trailer. 



                                                                                                                      Luke McWilliams August 2010