A Room With A View Review

A Room with a View is a 1985 British Drama film directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant, who together were Merchant Ivory Productions. Merchant and Ivory are mainly known for their English period piece films. The movie stars Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Rupert Graves.




We meet Miss Lucy Honeychurch (played by  Helena Bonham Carter) and her chaperone Charlotte Bartlett (played by Maggie Smith, )on holiday in Italy. Bemoaning the fact that they do not have a room with a view whilst having dinner in the hotel’s dining room, Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) and his son, George (played by Julian Sands), gladly offer theirs. With their forward thinking and unrestrained temperament, the men are a clash against the two restrained and very proper Victorian ladies.


During a picnic in a rural barley field however, George embraces and passionately kisses Lucy. Charlotte quickly puts a stop to such shenanigans, and the two ladies promptly return to England. However, this is all too little too late as George has lit a secret desire and romance in Lucy’s heart that cannot be extinguished with English normality’s, and soon wackiness ensues.......



During my school holidays as a young lad, I would spend many days in my father’s university in South Australia, getting up to no good in various art classes playing with clay, watching Perry Mason on a small black-and-white television under his desk or spending time in the library, reading comic-books and watching a lot of films.


Amongst my favourites were The Garbage Pale-Kids, a satire of the popular Cabbage-Patch kids at the time, the live action Masters of the Universe and The Last Star-Fighter. My sister’s favorite was A Room with a View. I watched it a few times and loved it for its brevity, its light-heartedness and beautiful visions of Italy. It would be many years afterwards that I would be actually in Rome, running around the Vatican taking photos and drinking in the sites, but before then,  this was the movie that provided that gateway.


It was also my first introduction to the beautiful Helen Bonham Carter before her image was changed to a  drugged-up goth thanks to the likes Tim Burton and David Fincher, and the excellent and passionate Julian Sands who went on to star in Warlock alongside Richard E Grant and was then lost in a slum of video-nasties. Obviously other actors of the movie went on to bigger and better things as the pedigree of Merchant and Ivory productions often tend to do.


I would say that I saw this film 3 or 4 times back then and I was amazed at how much I remembered of it. I think my repeated viewings of it prompted my dad to finally give me my first of many Elle Macpherson swimsuit calendars.  



Inoffensive and Jane Austin lite, I give this delightful room 4 views out of  5


Check out the film at IMDB.


Luke McWilliams October 2010



The Other Guys Review


The Other Guys is a 2010 action-comedy crime satire directed and co-written by Adam McKay. The movie is the fourth collaboration between Ferrell and McKay: Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers.


We are quickly introduced to Detectives Danson ( played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Highsmith ( played by Samuel L. Jackson) who are New York’s supercops that fight the good fight in the streets, leaving all the resulting paperwork for the ‘other guys’ at the office to fill out, such as forensic account Detective Allen Gamble ( played Will Ferrell) and his partner Detective Terry Hoitz ( played by Mark Wahlberg). Allen’s investigation into a scaffolding permit violation soon leads to bigger and better things, and when an opportunity arises for Hoitz to get back onto the streets, he drags his office-bound partner into action, where wackiness ensues.


The Other Guys lampoons the buddy-cop genre (much more successfully than the recent movie Cop Out), with references to mainly the Lethal Weapon series, which is of course the most influential of their kind.  

This movie was surprisingly funny! Unlike other Will Ferrell vehicles as mentioned above, this movie is much more accessible as it is grounded in a genre that we have grown up with since the early 80’s. The ridiculousness of the Buddy-Cop movie is shown through the exploits of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s jock-like super-cops, who introduce the movie with an incredible chase sequence with mass structural damage, letting ‘the other guys’ in the office sort out the paperwork. I remember studying Torts law and thinking what would happen if I applied the test of damages to the damage caused throughout the original Die Hard

The movie has a great cast of actors, who all play their absurdest comedic parts extremely straight. Mark Wahlberg is brilliant, showing his incredulous anger, frustration and impatience. Ferrell hits it again with his wide-eyed naivety, and sweet innocence.

 The jokes are quickly established, and each ‘bit’ plays out repetitively throughout the movie, a bit like an episode of an English skit show such as Little Britain, where you wait for the punch-line / catch-phrase; For example Ferrell’s character attracts ridiculously good looking women throughout, and Michael Keaton’s captain unknowingly references song titles from TLC

The movie is at its best when it is lampooning the buddy-cop genre, pointing out their loop-halls and ridiculousness, all the time referencing them as well: there are plenty of introspective scenes shared by the two complete with saxophone wailing in the background, and even an extravagant, CG assisted binge-drinking-bonding scene . It however becomes surprisingly boring when the movie blossoms into it’s action scenes in the third act, as we have seen it so many times before. A montage of dry, police procedural paperwork would have been more fitting. 

The movie’s main plot involves white-collar corporate embezzlement (specifically the white collar crime known as the Ponzi Scheme), and it is amazing to see the credit sequence at film’s end which shows the break-down of Ceo’s wages compared to their employees, and government bail-outs of large companies. It is shocking to see the statistics, but also surprising that the theme was obviously taken so seriously by the film makers delivering such a ridiculously fun comedy. This is a community-conscience sure-fire way of getting the masses to think more about societies’ more unpleasant goings-on.


The Other Guys is much more accessible than McKay’s previous efforts. A surprisingly funny and ridiculous movie which shows how well comedy works with good actors who are not necessarily known for their comedic skills. I was pleasantly surprised to see the older crowd around me with glasses of champagne laughing along with the ridiculous going-ons..

3.5 wooden guns OUT OF 5

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

Luke McWilliams October 2010

Podcast - 15 October 2010 - The Kids Are Alright, New York I Love You and A Room with a View - plus an interview with Josie Baynes

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

  • The Kids Are Alright
  • New York I Love You
  • A Room With A View

Plus an interview with ACT film maker and winner of the Canberra Short Film Festival's National Schools Category Josie Baynes on her winning entry 'The House'

Podcast - 1 October 2010 - The Girl [with the dragon tattoo, who played with fire] and Palindromes, plus an interview with ACT filmmaker Christian Doran

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

  • The girl with the dragon tattoo
  • The girl who played with fire
  • Palindromes

Plus an interview with ACT film maker Christian Doran


44 Inch Chest Review

44 Inch Chest 2010 British film written by Louis Mellis and David Scinto, who wrote  the British gangster movie Sexy Beast. It is the debut feature from British commercial director and photographer Malcolm Venville.


We follow the anguish experienced by Colin Diamond (played by Ray Winstone), who discovers his wife is having an affair with a young handsome French waiter. To deal with the issue, Colin turns to his motley crew of friends who convince him to kidnap his wife's lover, with the expectation of torturing and finally killing him. Once the men are assorted into a run-down dirty hotel room with the lover locked in a 44 inch chest, we are witness to the various options explored by Colin and his friends who argue about what to do to their kidnapped victim. Amongst Colin’s unfolding mental breakdown and the unrelenting verbal and emotional abuse directed at all involved, wackiness ensues.


The movie is a good depiction of a mental breakdown as a result of a broken heart dressed up to be a British gangster movie. We understand Colin’s infatuation with his wife and the agony of resolving his mental and emotional state.

We see different aspects of the life and perspective of the aged bachelor through an assortment of characters, from the grumpy old homophobic sexist male, to the suave rich gay male. These characters could all serve as different aspects of Colin’s psyche as he chews over what to do about his situation within the confines of a filthy, decrepit run-down hotel room. The movie is absolutely at its best when we see only the room full of men yelling and verbally abusing each other, expressing their opinion with extremely harsh language, all with the best of intentions to help their hurting friend in need. The cast of Glengarry Glen Ross referred to their film as Death of a F-in’ Salesman, due to the similar themes and amount of profanity used. 44 Inch Chest could similarly be referred to as The Usual F-’n Suspects.

The movie closely derails in the flash-backs and real-world scenes however, where the great build-up of tension and flow of the hotel-room scenes are halted, only to be started up again from scratch when we return to the fantastic set up inside that room. The movie would have therefore been stronger if the location was limited to the single room location, with surrealist/absurdist dream-sequences being the only view outside of it. The cast of pedigree actors, including Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Ian McShane, and the richness of their characters would have been able to have maintained our attention. Such a scenario can work wonders: some great examples of the one-room set-up is the fantastic Australian movie The Interview and Identity. The original Saw movie also took place in one room, and that spawned up to 6 movies! As it is, the script would have made a great stage-play if one hasn’t been produced already.

In regards to the movie’s acting, Ray Winstone’s character switches moods too quickly on occasion to convince us of his sincerity, although this may be intentional given the mental duress he is experiencing. Some of the dialogue delivered by Ray and the actors playing Colin’s friends is plodding and can at times be surprisingly stilted, like you are watching a play where the actors are looking for silence to queue their line. 


This is a fantastic looking movie, with great cinematography by Daniel Landin and a smooth, richly detailed and lovely colour-graded picture. John Hurt is amazing as a foul mouthed homophobic (but hypocritically quite bi-curious) sexist misogynistic frugal older man, and the other characters are extremely enjoyable to watch once they are tearing into each other with extremely harsh language; one scene of note is the casino recount delivered by Ian McShane’s character.

There is a great movie here, but it seems to lack a clear focus of what it wants to communicate, jamming in unnecessary ‘real-world’ scenes when all that is really needed is to concentrate on the analytical processes of its main character.

Debut features can be amazing movies as evidenced by A Single Man. This movie is good, although it could have been much better, so with a heavy heart (if I had one) I give this first draft 2.5 *bleeps* out of 5

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


Luke McWilliams September 2010

Tomorrow, When the War Began Review

Tomorrow, When the War Began is a 2010 Australian action drama film based on the novel of the same name by John Marsden.


We are quickly introduced to a 17 year-old Australian girl named Ellie (played by NeighboursCaitlin Stasey), who tells her story of how Australia was invaded by an unidentified foreign country. We follow Ellie as she and her friends go off on a camping trip to an extremely remote area lovingly labeled as ‘Hell’.

At night, Ellie wakes and witness dozens of jets flying overhead. The group are quick to dismiss this occurrence as a routine Air Force exercise, however, once the group returns home to an empty town with faulty communication systems, they soon realise that all is not right, and wackiness ensues.


I am quite surprised that so many of my friends in Canberra were such fans of the Tomorrow When the War Began series of novels. Whether it be due to it being on the local schools’ English curriculum, or just a teenager fad of the early 90’s, a lot of Canberrans in their late 20’s have been waiting with baited breath for the movie. Back in my school hey-day’s, circa ten years old up, I collected all of the classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, the complete works of both Edgar Allan Poe and HG Wells. The only ‘teen / young adult book that I really read along with my peers were the Space Demons series which, I guess if they made those into films, I would watch simply for nostalgic purposes.

So all of that being said, I wasn’t particularly inspired to the movie. I knew it starred a young lady from Neighbours and that its trailer looked terrible; complete with ‘iffy’ computer graphic explosion. The movie posters, and even the chosen font of the title, look as if it is trying too hard to make it look like it was an action film that was worthy to verse off against its bigger, American counterparts. So when I did go to see it with dangerously low expectations accompanied with Felix who is a big fan of the novels to boot, I was actually pleasantly surprised by this movie.

We are quickly introduced to the character of Ellie, played by the beautiful Caitlin Stasey. In under a minute, we see Ellie working on her farm, being an old hand at a tractor, chain-saw and finally on a motor-bike. Like Ripley from Aliens, we can quickly see that this young lady is perfectly able to look after not only herself, but also the group of friends that she is destined to lead.

There is good use of tension, great cinematography, and excellent action sequences, of particular note a car chase which includes a garbage truck versing off against 2 army dune buggies. Although the film does have its share of action scenes in it, it could have been marketed as a tight little coming-of age thriller, as the scenes of the necessary and essential guerrilla tactics and stealth activities practiced by our inexperienced young cast of would-be soldiers build up a great amount of tension and fear for their safety.

The characters are a good multi-cultural cast, doing their best to ground what are otherwise stereotypes; i.e. – the Aussie bloke, the strict Christian etc....Of note is actor Chris Pang, who brings an old-wise-soul to his character. The characters dance the line of adolescence and its dramas along with their growing responsibilities and requisite fears, as demonstrated in a darkly comedic monologue from a hermit-like stoner: amusingly telling his story of survival with extremely grim undertones.

There is however unnecessary narration throughout the film which dangerously verges on exposition. The whole movie is served as a flashback, a recorded recount setting up the series and bringing us up to scratch with what is facing our young heroes. However, there is also needless exposition of character’s feelings throughout the film which is completely unnecessary, as the young actors are well equipped to ‘show’ us these emotions. There is also some extremely clunky dialogue that is delivered at no fault by the actors who do their best to deliver it in a believable way.

Of particular note, the novel series and therefore the film, shares the same set-up as the 1984 movie Red Dawn, which is an intense, emotional and violent American movie starring the late Patrick Swaze and Charlie Sheen. The movie depicts around about 2 years of the lives of a group of American teenagers as they perform guerilla type resistance from their surrounding mountain environment against invading forces. Obviously Tomorrow is marketed to the young-adult audiences and concentrate's on its characters' emotions,intertwining relationships and romances as opposed to all-out carnage and more mature themes, but comparisons will be made between the two just from their remarkably similar set-up

It is a very common marketing strategy for movie studios to rush out a smaller film on the big-budget marketing wave of a similar, yet bigger budget film. Examples of this strategy include Robin Hood which was released before Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (both in 1991), Ants, which was released before Disney’s A Bug’s Life (both in 1998), and Deep Impact which was released before Armageddon (both in 1998).

The Red Dawn remake was to be released later this year. The remake was going to be given a 2010 release date however troubled MGM studios has halted all release dates of their films which  includes the next James Bond film. This might have affected Tomorrow’s  marketing strategy some-what and may have had an impact on the movie’s success.

Interestingly, Red Dawn’s cast includes Australian actors from the television series Home and Away. It will be interesting what fans of the Tomorrow  movie and novel(s) will think of this more adult-orientated film. Will they be loyal to the book that they grew up with and the movie that they dreamed would be made, or is the theme of an oncoming invasion that triggers an apocalyptic WWIII the main draw-card? Hopefully is the former, as the movie’s 2 sequels are being filmed back-to-back to be released in 2012 and 2013, with the rest of the series, along with the second series of novels, The Ellie Chronicles, being planned to be produced as a television series.


I have not read the novels, so I was watched the film with fresh eyes unencumbered from the novels, with no preconceptions of how the characters should look and act. The movie is a solid, tense action movie let down by exposition and clunky dialogue.

3.5 miffed teenagers out of 5

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


Luke McWilliams September 2010

Boy Review

Boy is a 2010 comedy-drama film which is the highest grossing New Zealand film of all time! 


In 1984, Waihau Bay, New Zealand, we meet Boy (played by James Rolleston). Boy is an 11-year-old fan of Michael Jackson who lives on a rural property with his gran, a goat, his younger brother, and many young cousins. Gran soon leaves Boy alone for a week, where he must look after his family whilst juggling school. However, soon Boy’s jail-bird father Alameinn (played by Taika Waititi ) appears with some of his friends in tow who stay at the house whilst they search for long buried treasure, where whackiness ensues.


Even as a cynic, I could not help but smile even before the title of the movie appears.


The environment of Waihau Bay and its inhabitants are wonderful. A beautiful environment and community on the other side of the world that still cannot hide from the influence of 80’s America pop culture.


Even though Boy’s background and situation is quite grim, it is amazing how the movie handles this subject matter in such a tasteful and sweetly comedic way. The balance between comedy and grim reality is balanced perfectly, so that the audience is aware of Boy’s situation, while at the same time are protected from it through the characters’ innocence and naive perspectives of their own lives.


The young cast are brilliant in that they embody their characters completely. This may be due to the fact that they are not-well-known actors, however, Rocky truly conveys a sensitive soul, Boy’s friends are honestly comedic and Boy himself does a fantastic job in successfully treading a fine line between innocent naivety and arrogant adolescence.


The use of cartoon imagery and surreal dream sequences convey the tool of dream escapism, from both the point of view of Boy and Rocky. Such dreams, though childish, run parallel with Boy’s father and friends who ‘play’ as a gang, give each other nick-names and have dreams of grandeur of their own.


Boy’s father Alameinn is played by the movie’s writer and director, Taika Waititi, who gives a wonderful performance. Extremely sweetly comedic, he is as childish and naive if not more so, then Boy and his young friends and family. A man caught in a state of arrested development, Waititi plays an odious character that is very easy to emphasise and laugh at; this is no mean fete. It is refreshing that Waititi does not abuse his role as the film’s writer and director and plays a character who does not overshadow the young lead but instead, balances and assists him, serving as the comedy side-kick or straight man when the scene demands it. With such strong support, it is Boy who is undoubtedly the star of the show and Rolleston holds it on his young shoulders extremely well.


This is a far more successful movie than Waititi’s earlier effort, Eagle vs Shark, which aimed to deliver similar quaint, off-beat humour whilst covering similarly grim circumstances with the same cross media techniques. However, Eagle vs Shark’s characters, especially Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Concords fame, whilst playing similarly immature and selfish characters, were not likeable in the slightest and therefore did not gain empathy from their audience. It seems that Waititi has learned a lesson or two from this experience and has made noticeable and pleasing improvements with Boy . Perhaps such characteristics are more easily digestible when represented from young characters, especially ones who pull their adult counterparts into line. 



In some places it seems that the jokes and visual gags try a little too hard, and the ending is quite abrupt. These are very minor criticisms though. A sweet movie that covers some very grim situations, this movie will have you smiling throughout. Now if I can just find an 80’s Tron tank-top like Boy wears in the movie and my life will be complete.


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

Luke McWilliams September 2010

Wall Street Review

Wall Street  is a 1987 American drama film, directed and co-written by Oliver Stone.

Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Gordon Gecko, and the film has come to be seen as the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess, actually inspiring people to work on Wall Street!

The movie’s sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is to be released this month.


We follow junior stockbroker Bud fox (played by Charlie Sheen) who, in order to get ahead of the game, is desperate to work with his hero, Wall Street legend Gordon Gecko (played by Michael Douglas). Bud has an interview with Gekko, where, in order to impress, Bud leaks some inside information about the company his honest, blue-collar unionist father works for (played by Martin Sheen). Soon Bud has Gecko as a client. In order to keep and impress him however, Bud soon finds himself under Gecko’s unscrupulous wing, where 80’s excess effortlessly flows to him (including Daryl Hannah), as well of plenty of wackiness.


This movie is a perfect example of Hollywood in the 80’s: it is a high-concept cautionary morality play, with good and evil patriarchal figures tugging on Bud Fox’s soul, similar to Charlie Sheen’s role in Platoon.


The technical aspects and acting are all spot on. Director Oliver Stone wanted to shoot the trading floor as if he was swimming with sharks, incorporating a claustrophobic feel of fevered action. Tremendous work went into the authenticity of the stock-broking world, in terms of physical trading. Actual traders were brought in to coach actors on the set on how to hold phones, write out tickets, and talk to clients. Actor Charlie Sheen participated in a six-week course to study a cross section of young Wall Street business people, and Michael Douglas was given breathing lessons so that he may deliver his lines faster with ‘repressed anger’.


The movie has all of the hall-marks of a Tom Cruise vehicle; a young talented hot-head who has a crisis of confidence, resolves it, and saves the day; i.e. – an air force pilot / cocktail waiter/rally-car driver/lawyer/soldier/spy loses his confidence, gets it back and saves the day.  Not surprisingly, Cruise was in fact Oliver Stone’s first choice for the role of Bud Fox, however Charlie Sheen was already confirmed to star as the character.


The DVD transfer is fine however it is the iconic 80’s suits, style and music that represent the excess off the 80’s while also making the lifestyle all the more attractive. It is very easy to understand why the Gordan-‘Greed-is-Good’- Gekko character is now a pin-up boy of capitalist America – a charming villain whose moral corruption is excused due to his financial success, a bit like Donald Trump in The Apprentice. Michael Douglas and the movie’s director Oliver Stone are still stopped in the street and thanked by traders for ‘inspiring’ them into getting them into the game!


Apparently the film’s bookend Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has the Gecko character side-lined again with a young up-and-comer (played Shia LaBeouf ) which may be a shame, considering that audiences just want to see more of him. I would love to see a movie that fully explores the character, instead of having him as a one dimensional evil plotter, with it being simply titled Gecko, a la Rocky Balboa, Rambo and Hannibal. In a way, the excellent American Psycho did do this, exploring the yuppie 80’s male psyche albeit in a surreal, extremely darkly comedic way.


As much as I enjoy Wall Street , I still cannot excuse the extremely corny, “Who am I?” line delivered by Charlie Sheen while looking over the balcony after the essential 80’s montage that shows his rapidly growing wealth


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


Luke McWilliams September 2010