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"


Tetsuo: The Ironman Review

A photo of the "Ironman" in his true form

Tetsuo: The Ironman review by Liam Jennings
‘There are two types of human being, those who are successful and those who fail. You are a failure and you shouldn’t make this film. These were the words spoken by Kazuo Tsukamoto before his son, Shinya was about to embark of the film that would define his career.

In 1989 the world was introduced twenty-nine year old filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto, and with that came his film Tetsuo The Ironman. This film was a revolutionary independent film, made with only a single 16mm camera and a shoestring budget.
Tetsuo has since become the definitive example of Japanese Cyberpunk which by definition means: films that are characterized by extreme sensory assaults that serve to remove the boundaries generally placed on the human condition. 
First off, to understand this film, you must understand the person behind it . Shinya was being forced into being a businessman by his father and working a shallow 9-5 job as a voice over for commercials. His inability to budge from his fantasies caused tremendous strain on his home life and in turn his relationship with his parents who would then kick him out onto the street.
It was then he founded a small theatre troupe named The Kaiju Theatre in which he worked on countless productions. But It wasn’t until the closing night of his play ‘Denchu Kozo no boken’ or translated as the adventures of electric rod boy, That Tsukamoto felt it a waste to dispose of all the sets and props that they has spent months working on.
Then came Tetsuo the Ironman, a short and incredibly stark 16mm black and white film. Shinya implemented use of Jarring and schizophrenic camera usage, this film is designed to jolt the viewer and make them feel like they are one with the film.
The film centres on the characters: Man, woman, woman with glasses, The Tramp, the doctor and The Metal Fetishist. Do not by any means judge this film on that alone, the people are secondary to the visuals, the dialogue is bare and between the sounds of screaming and general anguish the only spoken words are kept to bare minimum.
The film opens on The Metal fetishist sitting alone in a small room filled with various machinery moving and breathing around him. After making a small incision in his leg, he inserts a long metal rod into his thigh. On a spur of energy he runs through Tokyo in joy before getting run down by a passing car. After this deadly encounter the businessman starts to grow small pieces of scrap metal on his body, first appearing through a little thorn out his cheek. Tetsuo the Ironman is an absolute Marvel of independent filmmaking and it is not for everyone, as the movie evolves with the character, the film becomes more erratic. Tsukamoto started to remove handfuls of frames from the picture to make it more off putting to the audience. 
The film is violent, sexual, chaos fuelled into celluloid, and you will not feel comfortable watching this. 
The special FX in this film are outstanding, in all areas. Shinya would roam around old factories and junkyards and collect small electrical appliances and scrap. Actor Taguchi who played the businessman, had to gradually sprout scrap metal throughout the film so that by the end, he would be, not only completely covered in metal but able to still run around and move freely. Shinya has spoken freely about his inspiration for the ironman being a hybrid of David Cronenbergs final Fusion in the Fly and H.R Gigers designs of the Alien. This proved harder and more impossible as the desired look of the ironman became more extreme. Sometimes they would apply effects all day and by the end, they wouldn’t have time to shoot anything so they would need to rip off the suit and go to bed.
This was all until they then made a full body suit which would slip on and off to make it a little easier for Taguchi. Filming for Tetsuo was chaotic at best and a film that started off with a crew of over thirty wilted away in the 18 months of production to leave Tsukamoto with the sole responsibility to get his dream finished.
Upon release the film created a frenzy, the energy was something unheard of since the Midnight movies on the 1970’s.
It was both hailed and slammed by critics. Spawning countless imitators like Rubbers Lover and Pinocchio 964 and most recently Meatball machine. Tetsuo is a film that is perfect in itself. Most recently Filmmakers such as The Watchowski Brothers or, siblings now, were inspired with Shinyas use of technology and humans becoming one that they used his cold mechanical designs for the Matrix trilogy.
I have read that this film is an allegory for ‘ the destruction of nature by man’ about his love and hate relationship with Tokyo, But I feel it’s something more personal than this, as I said in the opening to understand the film, you must understand the man behind it. As shinya was being forced into the bustle of Tokyo his hatred for the lifestyle is what got to him, Tetsuo is an allegory for his hated of the Machine, the day to day grind that was not within him. There is an idea within this film that if all you do is work you will become it, Become a machine. Every scene in Tetsuo is a subtle stab at everything his father stood for. It’s not until the final fusion of the Businessman and the Fetishist, driving around in a huge phallic tank that the message is plain to see.

Shinya Tsukamoto has since become one of Japans most beloved filmmakers and actors, starring as vamp in Metal Gear solid 4, Masuoka in Takashi shimizu’s haunting Marebito and also his infamous performance as Jiji in Takashi Miikes brilliant, Ichi the Killer.
The sequel Tetsuo Bodyhammer was released three years later and served as a remake rather than a sequel. The only problem is that even though Shinya wrote and produced this film himself and most of the actors reprised their roles. There was something missing, the energy with that first film was something unique and indescribable in fury. Bodyhammer comes off as the last performance of a yearlong show. The actors are stale and over rehearsed, the shots are composed and rarely stray from the basic rule of three and worst of all Shinya looks tired and bored. Needless to say, this film didn’t go so well on release and to the producers dismay it ended up ironically being melted down and used for paving blocks within Shinjuku, which is Tokyo’s premiere business district. 
In 2009 Shinya made a surprise visit to the San Diego Comicon and announced the film Tetsuo: The Bulletman will be unleashed onto the world this year, which will serve as Shinyas first English speaking production.

Tetsuo is nothing like you have ever seen and, sadly, unlike anything that will ever be made again.



OLDBoy review

OLDBOY REVIEW by Liam Jennings

Part 2 in the Vengeance trilogy, Oldboy was an outstanding achievement across the board. Receiving Grand Prix Award at the 2004 Cannes film festival, and currently ranked 112 on IMBD’s top 250 of all time, Director Park Chan-wook proved that he was one to keep an eye on.
Based on the Japanese Manga by Nobuaki Minegishi, the main distinction is that the adaptation swaps the bustle of Tokyo to the streets of Seoul South Korea.
On the day of his daughters birthday, Oldboy tells the story of Oh Dae-su a fourty something drunk who we find being bailed out from over night lock up by his old friend Joo-Hwan, who treats it like a regular occurance. After a short intoxicated talk with his daughter over the phone, he is quickly snatched up for reasons that are unknown to him. 
Oh Dae-su awakes to find himself in a small room where he will remain for 15 years.
Within this time OH Dae-su has nothing but time on his hands. Being unsure of any reasons for why he would be locked up. He decides to write a journal of everybody he has ever hurt in his life in order to track down whoever has done this to him and find out why. With only a television to keep track of world events he discovers that a lot can happen in fifteen years.
One morning De-su awakes to find himself free with only his diaries at his side, here he meets a man ready to throw himself off a building who asks the question “even if I am no better than a beast, don’t I have the right to live”? From here on Dae-su walks a savagely orchestrated path set by villain Woo-jin who quickly identifies himself at the beginning of the film. To find the truth behind his incarceration and get his revenge on the man who stole his life, Oh Dae-su must infiltrate the darkest seediest corners of the underworld.
Oldboy is about Oh Dae-su’s place in the world, from a man who once spent his life drinking it away, he muse clear his mind and uncover what the reasons were. 
Oldboy isn’t a success because of the story alone, this is a big call, but I find Oldboy is a perfect film, the cinematography, the acting, the haunting score by Jo Yeong-Wook, the pacing, the make-up & FX, everything about this film screams for praise. There is also an unforgettable scene involving a live octopus. The orchestral score builds the film as an opera and it is directed as such, the romance and intrigue blended with smart plot twists and hidden meanings are scattered throughout. This is a film you will read into no end.
This film is the second part in Chan-wooks Vengeance trilogy, first being Sympathy for mr. Vengeance and finally Lady Vengeance. These films are not a direct series, they are only connected by that one theme, Vengeance, and the different ways one can act out on this. Oldboys tale is sleek and beautiful ,as it is brutal and sickening. This is a second viewing film, one that you will pound your head into your table throughout those once heartfelt and beautiful scenes. Also within this film is in my opinion the finest fight scene ever filmed which took three days to perfect and is utterly breathtaking.
This is a film that hounds the viewer, one that sits in the corner with all its teeth bared and just bites you every time you think you have figured it out. Oh dae-su’s progression is a strange one, an escheresque path which twists the viewer through his eyes. As he draws to a conclusion those words “even if you are no better than a beast, do you still deserve the right to live” are at their most remarkable.
Oldboy has spawned countless imitators, a Bollywood film named Zinda and an American Remake is in the works by Steven Spielberg and Will Smith is set to star, which would surely be atrocious.
Park Chan-wook has certainly achieved the unbelievable with this picture, he reinvented the Noir film, put South Korea on the filmmaking scene and set a new bar to where a film can take a viewer. A must watch modern classic.

5/5 - Liam
4/5 - Luke