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

Greenberg Review

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Greenberg is a 2010 American comedy-drama film staring Ben Stiller, co written by actor Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The film's soundtrack features the first film score by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records fame, which is amazing as you could have sworn it was a retro compilation mix.


Fresh out of a mental institution, Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller), a 40-year-old man, returns to L.A. to housesit for his brother. We learn that this is Greenberg’s home town, where he and his friends were on the cusp of signing a record deal 15 years beforehand. Greenberg quickly strikes up a relationship with his brothers 20 something assistant, Florence. Soon Greenberg is attempting to reconnect with his old friends and past life including his ex girlfriend, his bitter old band mates all the while struggling with his age amongst the twenty-something’s he finds him self surrounded by.


As Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebrowski, Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. and George Clooney in Up in the Air, Ben Stiller is Greenberg – a 40 something man constantly attempting to break into youth culture. This was acknowledged in his Tropic Thunder marketing skit for MTV, but is explored even further here.

Stiller does an amazing job playing such a character that is so unlikeable. This is probably due to fact that many aging males can relate to Greenberg or, at least, know of someone who is just like him.

The fantasy of the single bachelor is cast into an uncomfortable reality in Greenberg. Instead of being awesome and travelling the world, wearing a suit, having affairs and unfathomable adventures a la James Bond or Barney from How I Met Your Mother (“legen-I-hope-you’re-not-lactos-intolerent-dary”), Greenburg is surrounded by reminders of what he should be doing with his life and, when trying to break into the fantasy of bachelorhood, is reminded of the reality of his situation. An example being his 20 something crush not being able to offer him any ‘real’ drinks at her modest apartment apart from half a bottle of corona, and her owning a dinosaur hologram ruler. The humor and awkwardness of such situations are pleasantly and nauseatingly entwined.

The film is a great study of the micro-culture of youth in LA. As Greenberg himself admits, it was only a moment ago that he was 27, thus middle-age existentialism vs young adult existentialism. A drowning, grey haired skunk with a party full of laughing gen Y’s is a heavy but apt metaphor.

It wouldn’t matter to me if Greenberg had or hadn’t had a mental breakdown or become institutionalized. It is enough that this character has had a psycho-sexual fix on the events of 15 years prior: what if he had signed that contract? Is there still hope? Maybe if I get my friends back together I can repent with what I have done to their lives and fix everything! With such noble motives but flawed logic, Greenberg has to learn to let go, thus accepting his life and with that, the beginning of a new decade.


I enjoyed not knowing exactly where the film was taking me, a bit like Greenberg himself I guess. It unfolded at such a steady-pace that it could have been a television series a la What About Brian with a difference: I cared for the character and was interested in where he may or may not end up.

4 half drunken bottles of Corona out of 5


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

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Luke McWilliams August 2010

Rashomon review

Rashomon review by Liam Jennings

Before the Throne of Blood, Hidden fortress, Yojimbo & Seven Samurai
hit our shores, there was a film that opened up western eyes to the
incredible complexities of Japanese cinema.
Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival and an honorary
Academy award that caused the Academy to create the best foreign film
category. This film was Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Rashomon.

Based on the short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Rashomon tells the
complex tale of the rape of a young woman and the brutal murder of her
husband whilst travelling alone in the forrest.
Rashomon is translated to “In the woods” which tells you everything
about this film. Something happened in the woods, a very nasty thing,
but what exactly happened and who’s to blame? This is a question that
two men ask a priest who was present at the trail. The priest then
introduces you to the main suspects through his recollection of the
events that followed: the bandit Tajōmaru played by Toshiro Mifune,
the samurai's wife played by Machiko Kyo,the deceased Samurai and
finally the nameless woodcutter played by Takashi Shimura who would
later pop up in countless Kurosawa productions. The suspects are held
by Jury and asked to tell their side of the twisted story.

The interesting part of this film is that it gives off an ‘in cold
blood ‘ narrative, something that had been played with by the Noir
films in the west, but there was nothing that really devised a
screenplay around unreliable narrators. You never know who is telling
the truth, even when the most absurd things happen for example: a
Spirit medium conjuring up the ghost of the dead samurai to tell his
side of the story. You start to question the dead, and there lies the
most intriguing part of the film, the motives of the individual are
skewed & the age old saying “Dead men tell no tales” is thrown on its
This film is about pride and how you can literally deny things to the
grave so savour your public image.Even after the films climax you
think about the characters, about their pride, how they would rather
stain the reputation of another and hold their own head high than do
what’s right. This Includes the victim of this crime herself. Shimura
has a line in the film where he says “This time I may finally lose my
faith in the human soul” And just right he is.

The lighting in this film is a marvel in its self, being deep in a
Forrest, Kurosawa famously hung mirrors throughout the trees, these
would catch the light and send obscure patches of glimmering light
through the scenes. I feel that this distinction between light and
darkness is an allegory for the good and bad in the world, how even
the deepest parts of the woods bare many evils and you never know when
you are going to step into a patch of darkness. The acting is again
something special, with another jaw dropping performance by Toshiro
Mifune and everyone involved. Previously Kurosawa had worked with
Toshiro on The Drunken Angel, Quiet Duel & Stray Dog, but this film
put Mifune in a place where he shines brightest, the Edo Samurai

I recently read a passage by Kurosawa in his Autobiography “Mifune had
a kind of talent I had never encountered before in the Japanese film
world. It was, above all, the speed with which he expressed himself
that was astounding. The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet
of film to get across an impression; Mifune needed only three. The
speed of his movements was such that he said in a single action what
took ordinary actors three separate movements to express. He put forth
everything directly and boldly, and his sense of timing was the
keenest I had ever seen in a Japanese actor. And yet with all his
quickness, he also had surprisingly fine sensibilities.”
Kurosawa has the ability to get the most from his actors but what he
achieved with Mifune is outstanding and is an utterly mesmerising to

If you wanted to get your hands on this film I would highly recommend
the Criterion edition from the states with the new high-definition
transfer, with restored image and sound. Time was not good on the
original print and all editions I have found locally look like they
were ripped from a VHS.

I read a quote by Mifune in regards to his work with Kurosawa long ago
where he said "I am proud of nothing I have done other than with him"
And the work between the two is nothing short of breathtaking. Mifune
and Kurosawa fit like a glove and this film is a perfect stepping
stone into the work of two of the greatest characters in cinema.
I adored this film, it was well paced, the picture was beautiful and
the eloquence of the actors was amazing. For a film to be sixty years
old and to still make an impact to its audience today is something of
a marvel in itself. If you haven’t seen Rashomon, grab a glass of wine
this winter, warm up the lounge room, turn off the lights and enjoy.

5/5 - Liam
5/5 - Luke

Edge of Darkness Review

Edge of Darkness is a  2010 film adaptation of the 1985 BBC television series of the same name which were both directed by Martin Campbell of The Mask of Zorro, Golden Eye, Casino Royale and the soon-to-be-released Green Lantern fame. If you want to reintroduce a product into a new generation of fans…………ahem………..Mel Gibson…ahem…Martin Campbell is the man to call.


The film opens with Boston Detective, Thomas Craven (played by Mel Gibson) picking up his daughter Emma, from the airport who has returned home for a bit of a reprieve from her job. We soon learn that Emma is quite sick. In preparing to take his daughter to the hospital, Emma is about to tell her father something but is cut short as she becomes a victim of a violent drive-by shooting.

Craven and his police colleagues naturally assume that he was the target. Craven’s suspicions are aroused however once he finds a pistol in her late daughter’s nightstand. Craven is soon using his detective skills to unravel the mystery that surrounds his daughter’s death, leading to wackiness that does ensue.


Mel Gibson’s last starring role was in 2002’s Signs. Director M. Night Shyamalan apparently pulled Mel up on a lot of his acting ‘habits’. Mel took heed and time off between films to further concentrate on this advice while also continuing his directing career and, you know, his life.

A more demure Gibson is back in Edge of Darkness. Gone are the Riggs (and Hamlet I guess)‘crazy’ twitches and emotive characteristics, Gibson gives a grounded performance to a character that enjoys quite a subtle arc; from cautious, doting loving father to investigative detective and finally a full fledged locomotive of revenge and final judgment.

The story is a refreshingly simple conspiracy film (oxymoron perhaps), and is more about the procedural unraveling of a mystery rather than a straight-out-and-out revenge film, a la Payback.

For me however, Mel’s private life dominates the character he plays in this film. He does his best with a Boston twang, however this seems forced and is also distracting. Perhaps this may be a technically sound accent (although I think the brothers Affleck and Mat Damon do a damn better one) but one that may have been served with an American actor and not one trying to prove that he does in fact have the tools of the trade after resting on his acting laurels for so long. Director Martin Campbell chose to base the film in Boston, Massachusetts, America, unlike the television series which was based in England. Campbell has stated that "the idea was to transfer the story to a different time and place rather than just repeat what we did in England,". He goes on to state however that "Boston seemed like the perfect location because it does have a whole English, Irish signature on it." This begs the question, why relocate the film at all?

The strong Boston accent is not the best marketing strategy either, with neutral American being the norm. Unlike films that have stories grounded deep in their environments like Gone Baby Gone and The Departed, I don’t see why this story was restricted to one particular location over the other.


That all said, the film had a surprisingly grounded performance from Mel Gibson. I admit that Mel does make us feel extremely empathetic for Craven, thus elevating his character above the actor (well done Mel). The story was refreshingly straight forward; a grim conspiracy film in an age where twists and turns amongst camera shakes and over the top special effects are to be expected.

A strong 3 gun-metal bullets out of 5.

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


                                                                                                                                                                                                            Luke McWilliams, August 2010

Crazy Heart Review


Crazy Heart is a 2009 American musical-drama film, written and directed by Scott Cooper and based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb.


Other supporting roles are preformed by Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall who do all of their own singing in the film.




Crazy Heart follows "Bad" Blake (Jeff Bridges who won an Oscar for his performance) who is a country and Western singer songwriter musician, who once was a big star. As a 57-year-old alcoholic, Bad now goes from one small South West American town to another playing gigs to very modest crowds. We experience his lonely existence travelling on the road in his old car, having one night stands and living in cheap motels, regularly in a drunken haze.


We become privy to his past through his brief interviews with Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhall ) – we learn that Bad has had several marriages, and is without a family.

It is at this point then that Bad takes stock of his life and decides to make some changes for the sake of a burgeoning relationship with this young journalist and her son, and wackiness ensues.


Crazy Heart is a pedestrian story, written and directed for television, although it did get a cinematic distribution. The theme of an aging faded star, has been explored before recently in the The Wrestler.

Like The Wrestler, Bad Blake is at his best when he is doing what he loves, in this case playing Country and Western music. However, unlike The Wrestler, the movie itself holds such segments as its main strength. I grant that such scenes may hold more significance to a fan of the Country and Western genre.

Like Monster’s Ball, the central figure methodically soul-searches, takes stock of his like and goes out to get his groove back. Unfortunately, I hate Monster’s Ball.

The story does not have any real depth. An example of this is when Bad decides to get sober. The scenes of this are too quick and easy. We are not made privy to the amount of pain, suffering and insight that the character undoubtedly went through to achieve sobriety. This may have added much more weight to the protagonist’s perceived feelings for Maggie Gyllenhal’s character, as she is the main catalyst of his chosen transformation. That being said, this may have been deliberate choice on the director’s part to highlight Bad’s friends’ perceptions of him which are fractured due to Bad’s various comings and goings.

Jeff Bridges’ did win an Oscar for his performance. It may have been the stand-out asset of this film, but this should not be a seen as a good thing as one element of a film should not overshadow another to its detriment. What we have here is a fine actor in a sub-par film.

However, like Sandra Bullock’s Oscar award winning film The Blind Side,this film concentrates on a very American theme – Country and Western music, its fans and its stars. Perhaps the significance of these themes are lost or distilled for overseas markets, or just myself.

Its interesting to note that other recent Oscar worthy performances focus on the on-screen representations of the actors who play them, such as George Clooney  in Up in the Air, Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler and Ben Stiller in Greenberg (I think it is Oscar worthy anyway). If this is the case, then Jeff Bridges performance in The Big Lebrowski is the one to watch. When asked where the wardrobe department sourced his costume for the dude in The Big Lebrowski by a reporter, Jeff replied simply, “They were mine!”


Crazy Heart has made me want to watch Walk the Line, a movie that won Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar, based on the life’s story of Country and Western star Johnny Cash.

2 out of 5 glasses of whiskey

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


Luke McWilliams August 2010

Inception Review

Inception is a 2010 American science fiction-action film written, produced, and directed (phew!) by Christopher Nolan.


The film follows Dom Cobb (played by DiCaprio) who is an "extractor", someone who enters the dreams of others to obtain otherwise inaccessible information. After an extraction attempt is thwarted, Cobb finds that he has been unknowingly auditioned for a new job. Instead of an ‘extraction’ however, Cobb must find a way to plant an idea into a target’s mind, an ‘inception’. Motivated by his need to end his self-imposed exile from his home country and be reunited with his children, Cobb recruits a team of dreamscape experts that will assist him in performing a successful inception in a dreamscape populated with dangerously obtrusive memories of his late wife and defence mechanisms projected as heavily armed military or get trapped in limbo trying.


$100 million went into the marketing of this film, so it comes as no surprise that more people knew the film’s title Inception rather then what it was actually about. This is a mean feat when you think about internet leaks and the such. Nolan’s films to this point have enjoyed amazing marketing while also being shrouded in mystery; from the ‘viral’ strategies used in promoting The Dark Knight, to the way all and sundry seem to have Inception ‘incepted’ into their minds eye without really knowing how it got there in the first place.

Obviously every filmmaker’s aim is to take their one thread of consciousness and plant that into an audience members mind. In an interview with Roger Ebert in 1969, Alfred Hitchcock stated that once a script is made, it is perfect. Once shooting commences however, when one has to compromise with studios, cast and crew, one loses up to 40 per cent of their original conception and therefore, the audience receives even less of the original idea.


It is safe to say that that is not the case here. The movie is written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. Christopher Nolan is a director who gets better with every film; not overreaching by any means, but definitely learning and adapting as he grows. From humble beginnings with nourish turns with Memento and Insomnia, to steadily learning the ropes of a bigger budget movie in Batman Begins, Nolan has earned the right and learned the way to make an intelligent, dense and visually epic film, especially from the searing success of The Dark Knight.

This of course was a deliberate move on Nolan’s part as he had worked on the script for ten years, having been told by Warner Brothers that he did not have the requisite experience to make such a film that demanded a great budget. Nolan accepted this and started heavy research into ‘lucid’ dreaming, and started to build the architecture of a dreamscape based on very real theoretical principles while learning the ropes of bigger budgeted films, taking on the Batman series. Rather then ‘selling out’, Nolan brought his talents to an otherwise dead franchise and…well, we all know what happened with The Dark Knight don’t we?. I don’t believe other Hollywood directors would have such honest insight into their own skill, M. Night Shyamalan’s self deluded turns with Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender is a glaring example.

Inception was not by any means the slick heist film I was expecting it to be. Nolan is a fan of James Bond and this style of film has now become part of his visual palette. Again, everyone wears beautiful suits and a hell of a lot of bryl-cream, and, one may argue, there is a hint of film noir, especially when Cobb is sharing the screen with his femme fatal wife. However, the manner in which Cobb and his team ‘extract’ or ‘incept’ information is brutal and destructive: buildings explode, people get shot and all hell breaks loose should the dreamer, the one who is host to all of these cops-n-robbers, should start to wake up.

The script is extremely dense. Too much is going on at one time. Unlike The Matrix, where the audience is trained up along with the main character Neo, the audience is then allowed to follow the story once a level of required contextual and constructional knowledge is attained to appreciate the relevant rules of the narrative. Inception never lets up with its rule-book exposition and further improvised adaptation of those rules.

In a sense I would have liked to have been introduced to the film by seeing what Cobb does best, a successful, slick extraction. We are told by Cobb himself that he is the best at what he does but, within the construct of the movie, we are only privy to his failures.

On my first viewing also, I felt that the attempt to lend emotional depth to Cobb’s character adds another plot thread to an already suitably dense script; i.e. isn’t the whole point of this film the inception of an idea into an already identified target?

All of these perceived failings are, of course, deliberate. The dense script shows great respect for the audience, being an event that an audience member thinks about after the movie, chews on it, discusses it and then gets hits between the eyes with it. Such structural skills also introduces another layer to the film itself: we have seen the idea of unreliable narrator/s (Rashomon, Hero, The Usual Suspects) but now, in the tradition of Hitchcock, we have master unreliable director ( as he has done with Memento, The Prestige). Meta films / dreams come into play, and, in places, all at once.

This is a genius tightly woven script. With respect to audience member’s interpretations of the film (the internet is alive with them) I believe that the film is not ambiguous at all: Nolan so far has demonstrated that he is an extremely literal writer and director. His dreamscape is not surreal by any means: everything you need to know to come to a conclusion of his films (The Prestige, The Dark Knight) are evidenced in the film itself. Inception is dense with logic based rules that, once understood, reveal the true meaning and nature of the film.

Watch this on the big screen to fully experience the visual representation of a world constructed on tight principles (represented by dense, straightforward architecture like The Matrix, Dark City and The Dark Knight) which looks absolutely amazing; Photorealistic computer graphic cityscapes which find the laws of physics to be amazingly relative accompanied by the bombastic score of Hans Zimmer. A fantastic cinema experience.


4 skyscrapers out of 5, only because I know Nolan is going to come out with a more accomplished film every time he makes one. So far, my favorite director this side of Hitchcock (script over character forgiven for both).

For those who have seen Inception and need a rough guide as to the rules of the land, check out this expert manual courtesy of Liam.

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


Luke McWilliams, August 2010

6 August 2010 - Inception, The Edge of Darkness and Gummo plus interviews with Canberra documentary producers Lara Van Raay and Brendan Walsh

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

  • Inception
  • The Edge of Darkness
  • Gummo

Plus interviews with Canberra producers Lara van Raay on her documentary titled "Palestine, Beer and Oktoberfest: Under Occupation" and Brendan Walsh on his documentary titled "Moresby Modern"