WARM-HEARTED FUN WITH THE CROODS
The Croods may be just the latest disfunctional family to hit the big screen but they have got more reason than most to hide in their cave. After all, as is pointed out in the opening scenes, they’ve only managed to survive thus far by being careful.
Set some time before history began, The Croods follows a well-trodden storyline – the family, headed by Grug (voiced by Nicholas Cage), is all about routine until Grugg’s adventurous daughter, Eep (Emma Stone), meets with stranger, Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who warns her the end of the world (da, da, dah!) is nigh.
Not that much warning is needed – by the time Eep has introduced Guy (and his rather clingy pet Belt) to the family, the world that they’ve known has already started crashing down around them.
DAVID ADAMS checks out The Croods... |
LES MISERABLES A MONUMENTAL FEAST
It's already snared a number of prizes including best actor for Hugh Jackman and best supporting actress for Anne Hathaway at the Golden Globes but it's certainly worth highlighting what is a powerful film version of the much acclaimed musical (and, further back, Victor Hugo's original novel).
Drawing on a stellar cast - which also includes Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Eddie Redmayne - director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) has done a stunning job in putting on film a musical version of Hugo's moving story.
While there are considerable differences to the original book - a heart-moving story about the possibility of redemption, love and the hardships faced by those in extreme poverty set amid the turmoil of the years following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in mid-19th century France (the book is a veritable tome but well worth taking the time to read) - the storyline, although substantially pared back and changed in some small ways, is essentially the same. And while the book remains deeply challenging for any Christian concerned with the state of the world (not just in mid-18th century France but today), the major themes are fairly faithfully played out in this big screen version.
DAVID ADAMS is impressed by the latest film version of Les Miserables... |
THE SAPPHIRES A LIGHT-HEARTED LOOK BACK AT A TROUBLED TIME
I used Gold Class tickets I had been given to see The Sapphires, and we ended up with a cinema to ourselves. This can be a drawback with some movies, but in this case we were so caught up in the story and the singing that we didn’t notice where we were - except, of course, when the usher delivered food and drink!
The Sapphires is based on a true story set in 1968, and begins on an aboriginal mission in remote Australia. Three sisters - Gail (played by Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) are discovered by Dave (Chris O'Dowd), a down-on-his-luck musician, who becomes their manager.
He changes their singing style from country and western to classic soul. As a result of this, they all end up in South Vietnam entertaining the American Marines on the Mekong Delta.
CAROLE ADAMS enjoys The Sapphires... |
BOURNE'S REBOOT LAUNCHES THE NEXT CHAPTER
In this, the latest instalment in the Bourne franchise, Jason Bourne is everywhere - and nowhere.
The Bourne Legacy kicks off part way through the action of the previous Bourne film (which makes for an inexplicable start if you haven't seen the prior films) and while Jason Bourne, played in the previous films by Matt Damon, is a peripheral and ghostly presence throughout the film, the action here centres on another Bourne-like identity, Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner).
Like Bourne, Cross is the result of secret program overseen by a number of sinister government and private figures, aimed at creating the perfect spy/assassin. And, as with the previous Bourne films, it's giving nothing away to say that much of the plot revolves around Cross' attempts to uncover his true identity and how he came to be involved in the program in the first place while the same time escaping from the clutches of those who created him and now want to see him dead.
DAVID ADAMS watches the latest in the Bourne franchise... |
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES ANOTHER EPIC BUT FALLS A LITTLE SHORT OF EXPECTATIONS
The much heralded and anticipated conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman films has arrived, and with the hype, comes a certain level of disappointment. As a fan of the comics, it’s obvious that Nolan and his co-writer (brother Jonathan) have mined the 70 plus years of history of the character. It must also be said that this is a film that must be seen on the big screen, with its widescreen cinematics, reliance on real sets and costumes rather than CGI, and an epic, sprawling narrative. However, it also has problems that should not have gone ignored, and a recycled plot.
Set eight years after the last film, Batman has retired, with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) a limping recluse, and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) the only other man who knows the truth about Harvey Dent’s death as portrayed in 2008’s The Dark Knight. In order to keep Dent’s reputation as a man of law and order, rather than the psycho Two Face he became, Batman has taken the blame for Dent’s actions, resulting in hope and a sense of peace throughout Gotham. Peace in Gotham never lasts long, however, and soon the hulking, masked Bane (Tom Hardy), and slinky cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) surface to cause trouble.
KRIS BATHER reviews The Dark Knight Rises... |
FOLLOWING A PILGRIM'S PROGRESS IN THE WAY
It's become something of a cliche to say that we're all on a journey but we shouldn't let that detract from the truth of the statement - for indeed, we are all on a unique journey through life as we struggle to cope with all that it throws at us.
The Way is about just such a journey. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez (Charlie Sheen's not-so-headline-grabbing brother), The Way follows the story of Tom (played by Estevez's real life father Martin Sheen), an American opthamologist whose somewhat cosy life is interrupted when he receives news that his adult son Daniel (played by Estevez) has died.
Daniel, it turns out, was killed in a sudden storm on the first day of a journey along the 1000-year-old European pilgrim route known as The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James).
Grab your backpack. DAVID ADAMS is inspired by The Way... |
THE LADY - THE STIRRING PERSONAL STORY OF ONE WOMAN'S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM
Aung San Suu Kyi has made headlines again recently for her National League for Democracy (NLD) Party in Burma winning seats in Parliament for the first time since they officially won the national elections in 1988 but were unjustly prevented from taking office.
This movie, directed by Luc Besson, is therefore timely, as well as being timeless, in its beautiful portrayal of this most elegant and courageous of women. Marketed as somewhat of a love story, my initial thoughts were that that would inevitably stain what is the story of a life of true inspiration. My fears were unfounded however, for this was not some mushy romantic interruption of the like that Hollywood would tend to produce. Instead, the unswerving commitment to each other of the one they call ‘Suu’ (played by Michelle Yeoh) and her English husband, Michael Aris (David Thewlis), is pretty much foundational to this story. It in fact gives Suu Kyi much of the courage to continue her struggle.
NILS VON KALM on why he's impressed by The Lady... |
BLOCKBUSTER THE AVENGERS EXCEEDS EVEN THIS FANBOY'S EXPECTATIONS
The Avengers is now the template for superhero films, and more specifically superhero team films. It embraces the wonder of world ending danger, cool costumes and memorable characters with unabashed fervour. Ah, to think how far we’ve come since the first X-Men film, with their black leather outfits.
I saw this at a midnight premiere and the place was packed, including audience members resembling a female Loki, Captain America, Thor, Wasp, Black Widow and an Iron Man with a cardboard helmet. The last time I experienced such united enthusiasm in a cinema was when I saw Star Wars Episode 1. At least The Avengers deserves it, and exceeds the hype.
Writer and director Joss Whedon was made for this 140 minute film, having written Marvel comics Astonishing X-Men, and Runaways over the years and as a unabashed fanboy, he knows what us comics readers are after (although The Avengers isn’t steeped in in-jokes to make it inaccessible to those who aren’t comics enthusiasts). But if you are curious about these characters, check out the first two awesome volumes of The Ultimates comics by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch.
Self-confessed 'fanboy' KRIS BATHER joins in the enthusiastic reception for The Avengers... |
THE LORAX DELIVERS A STRONG ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE CLOTHED IN IMAGINATIVE FUN
There have been some hits and misses with Dr Seuss on the big screen – Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat was a miss, for example, while Horton Hears a Who!, a hit.
The Lorax is in the latter company – a funny and entertaining film that yes, carries a message not dissimilar to that of Happy Feet but unlike that film, one which never takes itself too seriously.
The story, available in 3D, follows the life of Ted (voiced by Zac Efron), a 12-year-old boy, who lives in Thneed-Ville, a town where manufactured nature has replaced the real thing – the grass is concrete and even the trees are made of plastic (just pump it up with some air if it goes down). No-one in Thneed-Ville dares to question this nor their reliance on the nefarious entrepreneur Aloysius O’Hare (Rob Riggle), who has a monopoly on selling people bottled air.
DAVID ADAMS enjoys The Lorax... |
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND FORGIVENESS TAKE CENTRE STAGE IN THE VOW
I went to see The Vow without any expectations or preconceived ideas - I simply thought it would be an entertaining story line. This proved to be the case, and I was surprised to find that, as well as being a story that kept you interested until the end, some underlying issues presented themselves.
The story is about a young married couple who are injured in an accident. The wife, Paige (Rachel McAdams), suffers brain trauma and is unable to remember her immediate past including her marriage and husband Leo (Channing Tatum). She does, however, remember her estranged parents, sister and fiance who she hasn’t contacted for years. Of course this leads to all sorts of complications.
When I realised that this film had been based on the true story of a Christian couple, the issues of unconditional love and forgiveness made a lot more sense. However, there is nothing in the film's storyline about faith, God or anything which helped them to make it through this difficult time. The vow they made at their marriage was to always love, and to always make it back to one another no matter what, and it is implied that this is the reason they finally recommitted to one another.
CAROLE ADAMS looks at The Vow... |
FINDING WISDOM AMIDST SUFFERING IN THE DESCENDANTS
In this movie set in the beautiful islands of Hawaii, George Clooney brilliantly plays the role of Matt King, a father who could probably relate a bit to the suffering of Job. His wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) has just had a boating accident, is in a coma and about to die. He then finds out that she had been having an affair. And to top it off, the guy she was having an affair with is about to make a bucketload of cash on a property sale that King is working out with his family.
The Descendants portrays the dignified response of a man and his family who are experiencing immense suffering. Despite his impending loss and and recently exposed betrayal, King conducts himself with honour, confronting the man who was sleeping with his wife and allowing him to pay a last visit to her on her death bed. King could have punched his lights out, but he didn't.
And, regarding the property deal, in the end he allows virtue to triumph over cold hard cash by scuttling the deal through his refusal to sign the relevant documents for the sale. King chooses the right way over the more tempting and exciting profitable way. He chooses to keep the property in the family, as the family's descendants would likely have wanted, much to the chagrin of his cousins who are gobsmacked at his seemingly irrational decision.
NILS VON KALM recommends The Descendants... |
HUGO'S SEARCH FOR MEANING
Hugo is an adventure-drama for the family (in 3D), based on a 2007 novel written by Brian Selznick. The movie captivates the audience by its multifaceted themes and messages. The rich content and plot will not disappoint people who want to go beneath the surface of a story and explore the deeper meaning of life.
Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a 12-year-old orphan who has just lost his father. He has to live with his drunken uncle in the four walls of a train station in Paris in the 1930s. He continues to secretly run the clocks of the station after his uncle disappears. To survive he has to steal food and constantly hide from the station inspector.
Life is difficult, but all that Hugo cares about is fixing a broken automaton, a mechanical man who is supposed to write a message with a pen. Hugo believes that the message from this automaton is, in fact, a message from his father.
SIU FUNG WU enjoys Hugo... |
INSIDE THE MIND OF THATCHER
There is a sense of irony in the fact that this movie, told from the point of view of an ageing, frail, and dementia-suffering former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher, is called the 'Iron Lady'. Her frailty proves again that life catches up with everyone in the end.
Right from the beginning of her entrance into public life, Thatcher had to fight harder than the vast majority of budding politicians of her time simply because she was a woman. I wonder if this was at least part of the reason that many of her policies were so incredibly harsh.
Initiatives such as trying to introduce a flat tax – where everybody, rich and poor, pay the same amount, were rightly not tolerated, not just by the workers of Great Britain, but by many in her own Conservative Party itself. It was policies such as this, borne out of her own determination that people should work hard no matter their background, that ultimately led to her political demise after 11 turbulent years as prime minister.
NILS VON KALM on The Iron Lady... |
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE GOES TO THE NEXT LEVEL WITH GHOST PROTOCOL
Mission: Impossible is one of those rare film franchises that actually improve with each instalment. Similar to the Alien series, each film has benefitted from varied world class directors bringing their unique storytelling sensibilities to each outing. Brian De Palma and John Woo directed the first two films, while the last one (in 2006) was directed by JJ Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek), who here returns as a producer.
Based on the 1960s and 70s TV series, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is another entry that boasts visual flair and a heady mix of action and suspense. The team surpass James Bond in the gadgets arena, with a collection of impressive hi-tech gizmos including life saving suction gloves, and a wonderful optical illusion that makes for the best use of the iPad yet, while the frenetic fisticuffs rival the work of Jason Bourne.
Tom Cruise may not be everybody’s favourite screen star, but for a man pushing 50 who insists on his own death defying stunts, his courage and charisma are hard to miss. Here he returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, while bringing back English actor Simon Pegg as Benji (now promoted to a field agent) from the last film, as well as Ving Rhames in a frustratingly short cameo.
KRIS BATHER takes a look at Mission: Impossible's latest instalment... |
CONTAGION AN UNSETTLING TAKE ON MAN'S FRAGILITY
For a movie that can only have one of two outcomes – either everyone dies or, at some point, they find a cure to the disease that is ravaging mankind, Contagion manages to retain your interest and, at the same time, convey some sense of what people caught up in epidemics of disease have faced.
The film starts on Day Two – by this time the disease – which is spread through touch - has already claimed several lives. Much of the subsequent action involves trying to understand where the deadly virus came from.
We meet Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), a business executive flying home from a business trip to Hong Kong and carrying a disease which soon claims both her life and, following her return to the US, that of her young son. Her husband Mitch, (Matt Damon), however, seems to have some sort of immunity to the disease and struggles to come to terms with the death of his wife and child.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Contagion... |
THE MEN IN GREY - TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
It’s a grey movie about grey men and the grey, if not black, deeds they performed. And yet that’s exactly how Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is supposed to be.
Based on the John Le Carre book of the same name, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy tells the story of George Smiley (played with aplomb by Gary Oldman), a spy who finds himself forced into retirement following the death of his boss Control (John Hurt).
Control leaves Smiley a task, however, an unfinished investigation which suggests one of Smiley’s former colleagues - Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds) or Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) - is actually betraying their country. It’s a task Smiley takes to with a slow determination.
DAVID ADAMS watches the latest screen adaption of John Le Carre's novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy... |
SMURFS HAVE SOME FUN BUT IT'S GARGAMEL WHO STEALS THE SHOW
I went along to the The Smurfs with my family not expecting to be awed by a movie of great intelligence or storyline. Perhaps because my expectations were low I walked out having enjoyed a good family movie, which faded from my memory pretty quickly.
Reminiscent of the surprise hit of recent, Enchanted, a small band of the Smurfs, and their nemesis Gargamel, find themselves in the real world. Here they help an unwitting nice couple through some of their own problems; like the fear of being a ‘papa’.
Clumsy is clumsy, Brainy a pain, and Grumpy gets in touch with his sensitive side. Katy Perry is the star of the moment who voices Smurfette, yet it was the role of Gargamel, and his ginger cat, that stole the show. I was so intrigued by the actor playing this role, and trying to work out who it was. I was in awe when I found out who it was as the credits rolled. (I’ll leave the reader to experience this as their own surprise.)
PAUL CLARK wonders why it is that so often the bad guy steals the show... |
GREEN LANTERN COMES WITH ACTION, DRAMA - AND A MESSAGE
In this long awaited big screen adaptation of the 1940 DC’s comic book superhero Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds measures up to the challenge of playing self-assured test pilot Hal Jordan. Working tirelessly for his life long friend and ex-flame, Carol Ferris’ (Blake Lively) family aviation company, Hal’s life is literally turned upside down when he is handed a green ring from another world. From this moment onwards, there isn’t a dull moment in the entire film.
Hal encounters a dying, alien Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) who passes on his power ring down to him, making the declaration that the ring has chosen him, a choice the amiable but smug Hal finds curious at first. Once putting on the ring and swearing on the oath, Hal becomes one with the Green Lantern Corps, a brotherhood of warriors sworn to keep intergalactic order. All seems fun and games at first and the ring becomes much like a novelty to the childish Hal, whose main aim is to keep the knowledge of the ring and the lantern away from his family and friends.
BIANCA TALEVSKA on the long-awaited Marvel adaptation, Green Lantern... |
CAPTAIN AMERICA A "THRILLING" WARM-UP ACT FOR WHAT'S TO COME
I must admit that I’ve always been more of a DC Comics guy rather than a Marvel reader. As a huge comic book fan for the last two decades, Superman, Batman and co. have always filled my collection more so than the likes of Spider-Man, X-Men, and so on.
That said, however, it’s pretty obvious that the last few years have seen Marvel hit paydirt with their characters on the silver screen, especially since 2008’s Iron Man, a successful release from their own studio. It was also the first film to build their so-called Cinematic Universe that has seen characters and plot elements shared between both Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and now, Captain America. Next year will see The Avengers, directed by Buffy and Firefly creator Joss Whedon in which those aforementioned heroes, and others, will join forces under the guidance of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
Captain America: The First Avenger, to give the film its full title, is certainly a thoroughly enjoyable “see you later” from Marvel, until The Avengers lands, and if you haven’t got the idea by now, yes, there is an extra scene here after the credits, in which we see The Avengers assembled. It’s short, but certainly worth sitting through the credits for.
KRIS BATHER finds Captain America another feather in the cap of Marvel... |
THE TRANSFORMERS SAVE THE WORLD (AGAIN)
The machine mountains are back for a third outing and, yes, the future of the world is once again at stake as they once again must battle the seemingly never properly defeated Decepticons.
Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is now unemployed and, despite his previous work with the Autobots, is unable to snare a government job.
But, thanks to his posh-accented girlfriend Carly (played somewhat woodenly by model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) and her involvement with the dubious businessman, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey) he’s soon involved in helping the good guys once again ensure the world is saved from destruction.
DAVID ADAMS reviews Transformers: Dark of the Moon... |
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN PLATES UP ANOTHER SERVE OF A FAMILIAR DISH
Capt’n Jack’s back and yes, with all the usual accroutrements that we’ve come to love the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for – fast-paced action, plenty of oddball characters and a storyline that stretches even the most wild of imaginations.
The action kicks off in London and there Captain Sparrow (Johnny Depp, although that hardly needs to be said) learns that an imposter claiming to be him is putting together a crew to go in search of the fabled fountain of youth.
Before he can set off in search of them, however, he finds himself dragged before King George II, who, anxious that the fountain doesn’t fall into the hands of the Spanish, wants him to sail on a privateer to find it. The catch? It’s captained by his old friend, Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), now sporting a new peg-leg.
DAVID ADAMS watches the latest in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides... |
TRUE GRIT'S QUIRKY CHARACTER STUDIES MAKE THE GRADE
An update on the John Wayne classic, True Grit is one of the new(ish) breed of Western where the good guys never ever wear white and are often hard to distinguish from the bad guys.
Still, there’s something to like about both the leading lawmen in this film – the mumbling, often-drunk US marshal, Rooster Cogburn (played with aplomb by Jeff Bridges) and his sometime companion, an obsessive Texas Ranger simply called LaBoeuf (played by Matt Damon in a welcome breakaway from his Bourne-esque roles).
But the real star here is 14-year-old Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfeld), who shows that she’s as tough and determined as either one of them (and reveals herself as an upcoming actor of note).
The premise is simple enough – Mattie’s father has been shot dead by one of his former associates, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), who’s since fled into Indian lands, and she’s determined that even here in the lawless West, he be brought to justice.
It may not have starred at the Academy Awards but DAVID ADAMS finds some interesting characters in True Grit... |
THE KING'S SPEECH DELIVERS AN INSPIRING TALE OF OVERCOMING ADVERSITY
I must admit, I initially resisted the idea of seeing this movie. I’d heard so much about it and knew the story – how an eccentric Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue helped King George VI to overcome a stutter so he could deliver the most important speech of his career at the outbreak of World War II – so what else was there?
Yet for what is a simple and relatively straight-forward tale, director Tom Hooper has made a remarkable film and, yes, one even worthy of all the accolades being thrust upon it.
It’s certainly aided by the stellar pantheon of stars assembled – Colin Firth puts in a talented performance as the Prince Albert (Bertie), the Duke of York, Helena Bonham Carter was the right choice for Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) and Guy Pearce was well suited for the other big name role – that of the abdicating King Edward VIII.
DAVID ADAMS says The King's Speech lives up to the accolades... |
ENJOY THE "DIGITAL JAZZ" OF TRON'S VISUALLY IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL
It’s 20 years since Kevin Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges) was last seen this side of a computer screen and his son, Sam (played by Garrett Hedlund) has had to grow up as an orphan, not knowing what fate his father suffered. As a result he’s turned into a bit of a spoiled delinquent – left a controlling share of his father’s company, his riches allow him to misbehave without any real consequences.
All that’s about to change, however. His father’s former righthand man, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), receives a mysterious text from Sam’s father’s old office and tells Sam that he thinks he should go to investigate. He does and ends up in the Grid, the computerised world that his father created.
Last time we were in the Grid, Flynn was teaming up with the heroic program Tron to defeat the Master Control Program and the evil Sark. Yet, despite a new level of CGI-enhanced effects, all is still not well here. The Grid is now ruled over by Clu (also played by Bridges, albeit a CGI-adapted one), a program created by Kevin to make the perfect system, and he governs with an iron fist. Sam, assumed to be a malfunctioning program, soon finds himself facing death in a series of gladiatorial games but before he’s killed, it’s realised he’s a ‘user’ – someone from outside the world of the Grid.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Tron: Legacy... |
THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER'S JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY
The third instalment of the Narnia series (and a movie that almost didn't get made), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, picks up some three years after Prince Caspian came to the throne. This time it’s just the younger two of the Pevensie’s who go to Narnia – Lucy (played by Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes).
But they’re not alone. With World War II raging about them and the rest of the family in the US thanks to their father’s work, the two children have been staying with their obnoxious cousin Eustace Scrubb (played with aplomb by Will Poulter), who loves nothing better than to ridicule their fascination with the ‘imaginary’ world of Narnia.
It’s a shock to him, therefore, when he is transported via a painting to Narnia along with Lucy and Edmund. There, they find themselves in the seam beneath the bow of a ship. Quickly brought aboard, they meet up with Caspian (Ben Barnes), now king, who tells them he is on a quest to find seven lords who fled when his evil uncle, Miraz, ruled Narnia.
DAVID ADAMS watches the latest in the Narnia series... |
A BLUNT INSTRUMENT IN MANY WAYS BUT AGORA ASKS SOME CHALLENGING QUESTIONS NONETHELESS
It’s meant as a movie for our times despite the more than 1,500 years which have passed since the events it supposedly depicts took place.
Agora tells the story of the historical figure of Hypatia, a female philosopher and atheist played by Rachel Weisz, and that of the lives of some of her students (including her slave Davus), set against the backdrop of religious turmoil which took place in Alexandria – and indeed, the Roman Empire – in the late fourth century.
Christianity is a rising force – in 313 AD the Roman Emperor Constantine had made toleration of Christianity law – and in Alexandria the tensions spill over into warfare between the Christians and the followers of the Greek hybrid God Serapis and again, years later, between the Christians and the Jews.
DAVID ADAMS watches Agora... |
RAMONA AND BEEZUS REMAINS TRUE TO THE ORIGINAL
The movie Ramona and Beezus could not have had much tougher critics than my family. We have read all the Beverly Cleary books about the title characters as a family twice, and my eldest has re-read them countless times. As a child, I used to believe that Cleary had been somehow spying on my mind because I identified so strongly with Ramona.
So you could say we had some fairly strong feelings that we were going to be disappointed by the movie, especially after watching the preview and seeing how different it seemed than the books. There is the rule that movies cannot ever be as good as the book, especially when it’s a book (or in this case, a series) that’s so dearly loved, and it didn’t seem possible for a film to capture all the tenderness, honesty, and humor of the seven books about these two young girls. But because we make it a point to support family-friendly movies on the rare occasions that Hollywood produces them, and also because we just had to know had terrible the movie would be in comparison to the books, we headed to the theatre.
Longtime fan of Beverly Cleary's books, JOY NICHOLAS is impressed with the film version... |
LESSONS RELEARNED ON WALL STREET
Gordon Gekko might be a reformed character but it appears that greed is still just as good as it was in the 1987 Wall Street.
Oliver Stone’s sequel to his Eighties hit brings home largely the same message the first movie did, albeit in a distinctly more modern way.
Setting the film against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, the days of corporate raiders like Gekko are gone. These days the greed is all about those who manipulate subprime mortgages and financial instruments that resemble a string of letters which, as Gekko points out, only a few people in the world truly understand.
The movie, which takes its name from a phrase of Gekko’s, opens with the man himself (played by Michael Douglas) being released after serving time in prison for various crimes and finding no-one at the gate to meet him. He heads off into the world to reinvent himself as a prophet of doom, correctly predicting the upcoming crash as he hocks a book.
DAVID ADAMS finds that greed is still good on Wall Street... |
A BLOKE'S NIGHT OUT WITH THE OTHER GUYS
I have to hand it to my husband. For the past 13 years, Matt, an omnivore, has been married to me, a vegetarian. He has consumed more than his fair share of legume-based main dishes, but every now and then, I know that he just craves fillet mignon or a burger topped with bacon. So provided we’re at a restaurant and I don’t have to touch the meat, I let him enjoy the experience without comment.
Similarly, he has sat through countless hours of my kind of movie. While I steer clear of the mindless rom-com fluff that many women adore, Matt has spent many a Friday or Saturday night “reading” the foreign films I’ve picked or muddling through a “think piece” or artsy independent film, all without complaint and even with a certain level of enjoyment. But every now and then, I let him have his burger – I mean, “guy movie.” You know, the kind with loud and fiery explosions, plenty of tough talk, beautiful women, ridiculous body counts, and the completely unrealistic ability of the movie’s heroes to survive shootouts unscathed.
And so it was that when the free baby-sitting (aka my parents) showed up, we headed to The Other Guys. Once the half-hour of previews had finished and our movie began, it didn’t take me long to realise that while this was a “guy” movie in the truest sense, it was also kind of fun, even for me.
JOY NICHOLAS is pleasantly surprised by The Other Guys... |
SCOTT PILGRIM'S CINEMA ADAPTION A LIGHT-HEARTED FROLIC WITH A SOFT CENTRE
Man, oh man, what a great film. I've been a fan of the great series of graphic novels by creator Bryan Lee O'Malley since I picked up Volume 1 last year. Since 2004 there have been six of the enchanting black and white digests, with the final volume, entitled, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, having just been released.
The books, from publisher Oni Press, centre on slacker Scott Pilgrim, who in his own words remarks,"I don't need fun to have a good time." Basically the story is like a manic soap opera that wears its much loved influences boldly on its sleeve. Those influences include pop culture, from comics to video games and classic TV series, and O'Malley manages to weave all that and more in his seemingly rambling, but not really, tale of Scott and his numerous friends as he must defeat the seven evil exes of the new love of his life, Romana Flowers.
KRIS BATHER enjoys the transformation of Scott Pilgrim from graphic novel protagonist to silver screen star... |
SHREK SIGNS OFF WITH A STRONG FINISH
I have to admit that it was with mixed feelings that I went to see the latest – and last – instalment of the Shrek franchise. Ever since Shrek, Fiona and Donkey first jumped onto a movie screen, Shrek has occupied a special place in our heart.
Yet, it has to be said that after the third instalment – certainly the weakest of the four – the lifespan of the franchise started to look a little strained. So it’s with some relief that the final chapter concludes the series almost as well as it began.
The story opens with Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) now plunged into the business of raising a family. But Shrek soons finds the monotony of it getting to him all and begins to look for a way out.
DAVID ADAMS has mixed feelings as he says goodbye to Shrek... |
INCEPTION KEEPS YOU GUESSING ON A VISUALLY IMPRESSIVE JOURNEY INTO THE MIND
Like The Matrix, it’s all about what is truth and what is not and how you can tell the difference between the two. Unlike The Matrix, the future of the entire world is not at stake (although your ability to keep up with what’s real and what’s not just may be).
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, an “extractor” who specialises in penetrating people’s dreams seeking information on behalf of his clients, major corporations not above dabbling in some industrial espionage.
It’s a dangerous business and he and his right-hand man, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), soon find themselves engaged by ruthless businessman, Saito (Ken Watanabe), for a job that will stretch their abilities to the limit. Instead of extracting information from the mind of a rival’s heir, Robert Fischer Jr (played by Cillian Murphy), he wants them to plant an idea in his head.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Inception... |
TWENTY YEARS ON, THE A-TEAM REMAINS FAITHFUL TO THE ORIGINAL
The A-Team, simply put, is awesome. Director Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces) stated that he set out to make an unabashed action film, and that’s exactly what he achieved, a wildly entertaining and refreshing boy’s own adventure.
This big screen action film is based on the fondly remembered (at least by myself and fellow male Gen Xers) TV series that ran from 1982 to 1987. The plot for the 98 episodes throughout its run was pretty much identical. Filled with explosions, cigar smoking, token female characters and violence (with little after effects), it was perhaps the last unashamedly fun TV series that was still considered to be family friendly.
Mr.T, the famous black van, and catchphrases like, “I ain’t getting on no plane,” made sure the show has stayed in pop culture’s radar for the last 20 years.
KRIS BATHER relives some Eighties memories... |
TOY STORY 3 - FAMILIAR FACES RETURN BUT FAIL TO DELIVER ANYTHING NEW
There are a few once-a-year events that my family looks forward to with great anticipation: Christmas and Easter (of course), birthdays (naturally), and...the arrival of Pixar’s latest movie. Our DVD collection is filled with Pixar hits from years past, and they are all favourites that we watch over and over. When the first previews of the next Pixar production come out, we watch with wide eyes and then discuss over dinner whether or not we’ll be the first in line to see it.
When we found out that this year’s Pixar movie was yet another installment of Toy Story, there were mixed feelings around the dinner table. My older daughters were excited – they loved the first two – while my husband, who was hoping for something more original along the lines of Ratatouille, Up or Wall-e, was a bit disappointed. I was the neutral party, just happy to go see a family-friendly movie that we would all, at least to some degree, enjoy.
JOY NICHOLAS on the latest instalment in the Toy Story franchise... |
ROBIN HOOD GOES MISSING IN RIDLEY SCOTT'S 'REVISIONIST' MEDIEVAL ROMP
With an increasingly outlandish storyline that bears as much resemblance to Lord Of The Rings as it does to that of the story of Robin Hood, the latest film of that name fails to live up to expectation. Visually lush, it's a rollicking adventure - the only problem is that somewhere along the way during the making of this revisionist epic, Robin Hood went missing.
With a nod to recent films like Batman Begins, the plot is set before the usual events in the Robin Hood story take place. Robin Longstride (played by Russell Crowe) is a yeoman archer who has been serving in the army of King Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) while in the Holy Land on crusade. Ten years after the ill-fated crusade begins, the army is returning via France and it’s there that King Richard is killed while besieging a castle.
Fed up with war, the amazingly bold Longstride - who doesn't hold back when speaking to kings and lords despite his own humble origins - decides to make the most of the opportunity the king's death presents and decides to leave the army and return home. Joined by his band of loyal and comical followers – Will Scarlett (Scott Grimes), Allan A' Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Little John (Kevin Durand) – he heads for England but along the way comes across the dying Sir Robert Loxley, a close friend of King Richard, who had been charged with taking the king’s crown to his brother, John (Oscar Isaac).
DAVID ADAMS looks at Robin Hood... |
ALICE IN WONDERLAND A "VISUAL FEAST"
I wasn’t sure what I’d make of Tim Burton’s latest extravaganza, Alice in Wonderland. But I have to admit I was impressed. Yes, it is a visual feast (be sure to see it in 3D), but it also manages to successfully capture the strange essence of the original story while at the same time bringing a fresh approach to it.
All grown up and forced to face a decision about her future that she’s rather not, the now 19-year-old Alice (played by Australian Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland via the same way she did the first time – by following the White Rabbit down a hole.
Once in back Wonderland – a place she initially only recalls from a recurring dream, Alice soon encounters the odd menagerie of people who inhabit it as they work to keep her safe from the evil Red Queen (played with aplomb by Helena Bonham-Carter) and fulfil a prophesy in which she must defeat a great evil and bring peace to the land.
DAVID ADAMS is impressed with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland... |
GREEN ZONE DOESN'T HOLD BACK IN MAKING A POLITICAL POINT
A taut political thriller set in war torn Iraq, Green Zone is the latest vehicle for Matt Damon , this time playing a role which ain’t a giant leap from that of Jason Bourne – except this time its all in a bid to make a statement about why the Iraq war should never have been fought.
Damon plays US Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, who heads up a small team of men charged with finding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (those ever elusive WMD’s) in Baghdad in the immediate aftermath of the war in 2003.
Miller suspects not all is at it appears as time after time his team arrive at sites to find nothing. Following a lead from an Iraqi national called Freddie, he soon finds himself teaming up with a CIA boss, Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), as they attempt to outwit the slimey Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), a Pentagon official who seems intent on doing everything he can to justify the invasion.
DAVID ADAMS watches Green Zone... |
UP IN THE AIR A TALE OF "LIFE, LOVE, RELATIONSHIPS AND MEANING"
Billed as one of George Clooney’s finest cinematic performances, this movie portrays the life of the ultimate corporate jetsetter.
Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, whose job it is to travel around the country firing people. His company is hired by other corporations to do their dirty work of informing staff that they no longer have a position in the company they have been working for, sometimes for many years. As Bingham explains it, “we get people at their most vulnerable and then set them adrift”.
Bingham’s life is one in which he finds himself contented – without the responsibilities of marriage and other relationships, yet also without a home. For Bingham, home is in the first class seats and VIP lounges of 747s and major airports across America.
NILS VON KALM is impressed by Up In The Air... |
SHERLOCK HOLMES "REINVENTED" IN GUY RITCHIE'S FAST-PACED HOMAGE
I must admit I was somewhat worried about where Guy Ritchie’s take on Sherlock Holmes was going when, after a dark opening sequence, we find Holmes engaged in a Fight Club-style bare fist fight somewhere in London’s dingy underbelly.
After all this is Sherlock Holmes, a much-loved icon on British literature and someone of whom many of us have a very fixed impression of who he should be…and who he shouldn’t.
That said, however, I persevered and found – almost in spite of myself – that I was ended up very much enjoying this intriguing reinvention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creations.
The Holmes and Watson that we meet in this film – which, in typical Ritchie-style, runs at a breakneck speed and is full of bloody brawls and colourful characters - are younger and more active than we may typically picture them (hence the fist-fighting)
DAVID ADAMS finds himself drawn into Sherlock Holmes... |
AVATAR RECYCLES A FAMILIAR STORYLINE
Normally, I would say I’m a huge fan of recycling. I pride myself in putting as much as possible into the recycling bin, I buy recycled office paper and other recycled goods. But recycling story lines for films? There I draw the line. Especially when the said film is being touted far and wide as “new” and “breath-taking”…like Avatar.
The film is about a paraplegic ex-Marine named Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) who, through the death of his twin brother, is recruited to use an avatar to conduct research on the Na’vi tribe on the planet of Pandora. It is hoped that he will be able to build trust among them and convince them to leave their sacred, giant tree which contains a wealth of unobtainium, a newly discovered element that will save Earth and its inhabitants from an impending energy crisis.
Despite the hype, JOY NICHOLAS finds Avatar visually impressive but lacking in storyline... |
SIMPLICITY REIGNS IN PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
This is the little film that could. Made for only $11,000 and filmed in the director’s own house, this has become the The Blair Witch Project success of the decade. However, that is where the similarities end. Blair Witch was unleashed in the days when the internet was a footpath rather than the information super highway it is now, and driven by word of mouth “is it real?” fervour it quickly latched on to the pop culture consciousness.
Paranormal Activity is less ambitious than Blair Witch (being set all in one location) and primarily uses only two actors. It also shows its superior entertainment value by making those actors believable and sympathetic and doesn’t allow the hand held camera direction to become a shaky annoyance. Made in 2007 by writer/director Oren Peli it became a grass roots success thanks to its debut at that year’s Screamfest Horror Film Festival. It was then snapped up by Paramount Pictures, who wanted to immediately re-make it, which seems the default desire of every studio who finds a gem outside of the studio system.
KRIS BATHER watches Paranormal Activity... |
SPECIAL EFFECTS WIN THE DAY IN 2012
A father has custody of his two children for a camping weekend. He heads into an old favourite spot only to find it fenced off and the army are keeping people out.
That doesn't stop them and they go looking for an old favourite spot - a particular lake. When they get there, it is dried out and steaming hot. The army picks them up, warns them about obeying signs, and lets them go.
On the way out they meet a "disaster freak" who reckons it is the beginning of the end of the world...
And then it begins...the 'freak' was right.
JIM REIHER enjoys the thrils and spills of 2012... |
JULIE & JULIA LIKE A "SATISFYING MEAL"
I can’t say that I went to the theatre expecting much from Julie & Julia. I’d read some critics’ reviews that were lukewarm, at best, and I was pretty sure I was venturing far enough into “chick flick” territory that my husband would be snoring within the hour, or sighing audibly while performing “subtle” checks of his watch. But I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the film – all of its two hours – and so did my husband. Here’s why.
It goes without saying that Meryl Streep perfectly nailed her performance as Julia Child. But Amy Adams as bloggist-cum-author Julie Powell was charming and engaging, even with her tragic haircut. It was easy to identify with her character’s frustrations with her life and to consequently cheer for her as she pursued her goal of cooking her way through Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.
JOY NICHOLAS watches Julie & Julia... |
PIXAR FLIES HIGH - AGAIN - WITH UP
It’s an age-old storyline device - pair up a grumpy old person with a child and watch as the child softens away the hard edges and a friendship blossoms through which the elderly person finds a new lease on life. It’s that relationship - in this case between an eight-year-old boy, Russell, and the elderly Carl Fredricksen - which is at the heart of Up and despite the fact we’ve all seen it before, it works a treat to draw us in to what is a clever, funny and heart-warming tale.
Russell (voiced by Jordan Nagai) is an eight-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer on the make - he’s looking to help someone in order to achieve his final badge, assisting the elderly. Carl Fredricksen, a curmudgeonly old man who’s in a fight against building developers to keep his house, is that someone. Their relationship gets off to a somewhat rocky start when Mr Fredricksen slams the door in Russell’s face but this is not a boy to be deterred and he’s soon off looking for an imaginary bird known as a ‘snipe’ on Mr Fredricksen’s request.
DAVID ADAMS watches Up... |
DEPP DELIVERS IN PUBLIC ENEMIES
“He who lives by the sword dies by the sword”. When it comes to the life of John Dillinger - the notorious US bank robber of the era of the Great Depression - sadly there never was a truer statement.
This Michael Mann-directed film kicks off with Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) and his partners escaping out of the Indiana State Prison in 1933 and follows him through to his eventual death the following year while dipping in and out of the remainder of Dillinger’s life throughout.
A visually interesting - and, at times, bleak - movie, Public Enemies walks the fine-line of capturing the life of the man so many in the States at the time thought of as a kind of modern-day Robin Hood without softening the harsh realities of his life.
DAVID ADAMS is impressed by Johnny Depp's take on John Dillinger in Public Enemies... |
ICE AGE, TAKE THREE, A RETURN TO FORM
The stars might be all back - Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Diego the sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) as well as Manny’s new wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) - but it’s newcomer, Buck the weasel (Simon Pegg), who gets the big laughs this time.
The gang - introduced to us in the first Ice Age - meet Buck when they decide to head into an subterranean dinosaur world to find Sid who, after adopting a group of baby dinosaurs as his own, is abducted by their mother and carried back home to their underground domain.
DAVID ADAMS watches Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs... |
HOLLYWOOD ACTION BLOCKBUSTER OR "SPARSE" AUSTRALIAN STORY? TERMINATOR SALVATION AND SAMSON & DELILAH DELIVER IN VERY DIFFERENT WAYS
If you have half a day and a few spare dollars, go and watch Terminater Salvation (aka T4) and Samson & Delilah back-to-back. One could not find a more contrasting set of movies.
Why? T4 fills every second of the flick with movement and sound. Oh, so much sound! It is like a maddening symphony orchestra of spaceships and machines that pounds you into a migraine. Boom, boom, chow! Switch off the brain, sit back and take the ride. Clichéd dialogue, action smorgasboard, special effects heaven. Everyones favourite Governator also makes an appearance...or does he?
Samson & Delilah, on the other hand, is sparse and full of space. The viewer is left to fill the gaps with their own thoughts, perceptions and emotions. First-time director Warwick Thornton is brilliant in his use of sounds intrinsic to the environment to create the feeling of the moment for the characters.
ADAM KELSALL takes a comparative look at recent releases Terminator Salvation and Samson & Delilah... |
SAME PREMISE, DIFFERENT VENUE FOR NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2
It’s been a couple of years since Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) worked as a night guard at the Museum of Natural History in New York and discovered its amazing secret - that an ancient Egyptian tablet brought the exhibits in the museum to life between dusk and dawn every night.
But, despite having foiled an attempt to plunder the museum of its treasures - including the life-extending tablet - by its former guards, he’s moved on and is now chief executive of his own company, whose primary task is to market his inventions including the glow-in-the-dark flashlight.
When Larry drops in to see his old friends however, he is shocked to discover the museum is undergoing a makeover and many of the old exhibits - including his little friends, the cowboy Jedediah (played by Owen Wilson) and the Roman general Octavius (played by Steve Coogan) - are being sent away to be stored under the Smithsonian in Washington.
Ben Stiller is back as Larry Daley in Night At The Museum 2. DAVID ADAMS takes a look... |
STAR TREK BOLDLY GOES WHERE NO STAR TREK FILM HAS GONE BEFORE
It’s Star Trek, but not as we know it.
Star Trek, the new movie, is actually a prequel which starts before Captain James T. Kirk ever set foot aboard the USS Enterprise to boldly go where no-one has gone before.
We meet Kirk as he’s born during a dramatic escape from a starship which finds itself under attack from a mystery ship emerging from a black hole. The movie then fast forwards to show Kirk as a joy-riding wild boy and then to Kirk (played by Chris Pine), as a young man - something of a James Dean-style “rebel without a cause”.
But this is the story of a friendship and so, just as we’re shown Kirk’s roots, the film quickly turns to the origins of the Spock (played by Zachary Quinto) - a boy born of a human mother and a Vulcan father - and his troubled upbringing among the Vulcans where he is ever the outsider.
DAVID ADAMS take a look at the Star Trek prequel... |
DEFIANCE A GRIPPING STORY OF SURVIVAL
Appearing amid a rash of World War II and Holocaust-related films, Defiance - which is based on a true story - tells the amazing tale of Jewish brothers who become reluctant heroes when the Germans invade their homeland of Belorussia in 1941.
Directed by Edward Zwick of Glory and Blood Diamond fame, Defiance follows the story of the Bielski brothers who, soon after the German invasion, find themselves hiding out in the forest while the rest of the Jewish community is murdered or forced into ghettos.
James Bond star Daniel Craig plays the eldest brother Tuvia (a role for which he is infinitely more suited than that of Bond) while, in a role not completely dissimilar to that he plays in Wolverine, Liev Schreiber plays his fiery younger brother Zus.
DAVID ADAMS is amazed by the story of the Bielski brothers... |
WE MAY KNOW THE FUTURE BUT WOLVERINE'S PAST MAKES FOR A GOOD STORY
It’s a movie for answering all those questions which have plagued you ever since Wolverine (played by a very unAustralia-like Hugh Jackman) appeared in the first X-Men movie.
Prequels present a particular challenge for directors and scriptwriters - how to keep the audience’s attention even though they already know where the movie is ultimately headed - but X-Men Origins: Wolverine succeeds in doing just that.
The movie opens in the 1850s when Wolverine - then just known as Jimmy Logan - is a boy and discovers, to his horror, that he is a mutant. Joining with his brother, Victor Creed (played by a very menacing Liev Schreiber), they flee their homes.
DAVID ADAMS has his questions answered in X-Men Origins: Wolverine ... |
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS A WRENCHING LOOK AT THE HOLOCAUST THROUGH THE EYES OF A BOY
It’s another film about the Holocaust but what sets this film apart from countless others on the subject is that this is a small scale story told almost completely through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy.
Bruno (played by Asa Butterfield) is the son of a high-ranking Nazi (played by David Thewlis) who lives in Berlin and like any boy of his age, goes about his life largely oblivious to the momentous events taking place around him.
But his life is irrevocably changed when his father, on party orders, takes his family - including his wife (played by Vera Farmiga), 13-year-old Gretel (played by Amber Beattie) and Bruno - to the country where he is made the commandant of a concentration camp.
DAVID ADAMS finds The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas a deeply moving film on the Holocaust... |
WATCHMEN A FAITHFUL, IF CONFRONTING, ADAPTION OF COMIC FANS' MOST BELOVED
Hollywood has been trying to make Watchmen ever since the lauded 12 issue series from DC Comics was released 20 years ago. With a variety of writers and directors attached, the adaptation kept going nowhere. However, as it was announced that director Zack Snyder was attached, after his faithful 300 film stuck close to Frank Miller's comic, fans became cautiously optimistic. Snyder is a brave man though. Watchmen is revered, and rightly so. You're not a fanboy unless you've read it. Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons' masterpiece is to the medium of sequential art what War and Peace is to literature, or Citizen Kane is to cinema. Yep, that's how big a deal it is.
On the surface, Watchmen is about a group of retired superheroes set in 1985 who loosely reform when one of their own is brutally murdered, and it looks like every other superhero is a target. Gruff-voiced vigilante Rorschach (named for his moving ink blot-like mask), played by Jackie Earle Haley, discovers the death of The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from TV's Grey's Anatomy and Supernatural) in the film's brutal opener by a mysterious man.
KRIS BATHER reviews Watchmen... |
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE A TROUBLING BUT BEAUTIFUL TAKE ON LIFE AMONG INDIA'S POOREST
Amidst the tumult of the slums of Mumbai, the heat, the smells, the caste system, the religious violence, and the exploitation of the weak by the strong, is the universal story of boy meets girl...boy loses girl...boy goes on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?.
We meet Jamal, an 18-year-old office worker at a local police station being “questioned” about his correct answers on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. The assumption that he has been cheating and the demand for answers from the local police chief give Jamal the opportunity to tell the story of his life and ultimately his reason for applying to be on Millionaire.
The rollercoaster ride that follows is an at times humorous, often violent, and heart-wrenching story of two young brothers, Salim and Jamal, who along with their friend Latika are forced from their homes after a brutal attack on their Muslim community.
RENEE RUTHERFURD takes a look at the controversial Slumdog Millionaire... |
THE INTERNATIONAL A GRIPPING RIDE
A thriller in the vain of Jason Bourne, The International is an action-packed adventure filled with plenty of twists and turns and, given it centres on efforts to hunt down some nefarious bankers, is bound to find resonance given the international financial crisis the world is experiencing.
Clive Owen plays dishevelled Interpol agent Louis Salinger, a man driven by his desire to bring a Luxembourg-based banking firm IBBC to account for their actions helping to fund the small arms trade in Africa
He’s helped out by New York DA Eleanor Whitman (played by Naomi Watts) and after one of their colleagues meets with misfortune at the film’s start, the two of them embark on a mission to bring those responsible to justice which takes them to some stellar locations across the globe.
DAVID ADAMS reviews The International... |
FIREPROOF A PREDICTABLE, BUT REDEEMING, STORY OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
I admit that at first I was sceptical about Fireproof. The thought of watching another unrealistic story of a rocky romance come good was excruciating. The undeniable truth however, is that the movie hinges more on a message of true love than romance, and you too may find yourself caught off guard by the amusing scenes and solid values that plait through a very believable plot and an unexpected sense of encouragement. This, despite the unshakeable B-movie feel to the reel - a factor which, by the way, no longer becomes an issue when you realise that all 1,200 of the cast were church volunteers.
OK, so I found it a little humorous, if not a tad trite, that fireman Caleb Holt - played by Kirk Cameron - is a strong capable leader to his motley crew of four, yet behind the walls of his own home he is unable to prevent his marriage from burning to the ground. I guess that is the whole point of the story though - that it is possible to be a hero to everyone except your wife. Still, I am not a fan of predictable story lines. Bar this, the amateurish acting is another inescapable chink, as are the very Christian analogies to marriage that are...well...very Christian - look out for Michael's salt and pepper anecdote just before he glues the two shakers together.
CHOE BRERETON says that despite the B movie feel, Fireproof offers a strong message for marriages... |
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL A REMAKE WITH A PROPHETIC MESSAGE
This remake of the 1951 classic of the same name reminds you of Abraham pleading with God to save the city of Sodom in Genesis 18. Just as in that dark episode of humanity's history, this movie encapsulates a pleading with the powers that be for mercy on the people of the earth.
When a human by the name of Klaatu (played by Keanu Reeves) who had been taken by aliens 80 years beforehand reappears to warn humanity of our impending destruction for the way we have been living, it is up to Dr Helen Benson (played by Jennifer Connelly) to plead with him to save us. Originally misunderstood as being here to 'save the earth' it becomes evident that he is here for just that - to save the earth from humanity. The only way to do this is by extinguishing the cause of the earth's destruction - humanity itself.
NILS VON KALM finds The Day The Earth Stood Still carries a timely message... |
AUSTRALIA NOT A CLASSIC BUT WORTH A 'CAPTAIN COOK'
Let me say up front - as black as Vegemite on rye bread, as clear as recycled water in a crystal mug; what you get in Australia is a big screen, big budget, big vista, Baz Luhrmann eclectic tale.
And let’s face the facts, the drought between big screen historical Aussie flicks stretches back to Gallipoli.
Australia has scenery to raise a glass of chardy to in the offices of Australia tourism.
Australia has an old world grand love story set in tumultuous times.
Australia has a politically correct revisionist view of our history especially in relation to the bombing of Darwin and the stolen generation but at the same time doesn’t set out to be historically accurate.
Australia has a cute kid, Brandon Walters, in a central role, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greg Rowe in Storm Boy.
It is worth a Captain Cook.
Streuth, cobber! LLOYD HARKNESS takes a look at the much-hyped Baz Luhrmann epic, Australia... |
ACTION APLENTY BUT QUANTUM OF SOLACE TAKES BOND IN A BLEAKER DIRECTION
OK, I’ll confess it. I miss the old, more fun loving James Bond. Sure, Bond was always a spy but part of the point of the Bond movies was that they weren’t a serious take on the world of espionage. This new Bond did seem to make the crossover work in Casino Royale but his latest outing, Quantum of Solace, lacks...something.
Sure, Quantum of Solace is stylishly shot, hard-edged and full of action but where’s the humour? Bond himself (played again by Daniel Craig) barely cracks a smile as he blasts his way across the screen taking down a host of bad guys in a storyline that seems driven by a need to complicate everything as much as possible while filling the screen with relentless action.
DAVID ADAMS on the latest film in the Bond franchise, Quantum of Solace... |
ACTION-PACKED BODY OF LIES LOOKS AT THE DARK SIDE OF ESPIONAGE
A gritty thriller showing the dark side of international espionage, Body of Lies centres CIA operative Roger Ferris (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his relationship with his handler, Ed Hoffman (played by a chunked-up Russell Crowe) as they work - apparently together - to try and put an end to a series of bombings in Europe.
Directed by Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down), the film finds Ferris originally in Iraq where he is trying to track down information on the bombings, a move which leads to a serious injury. He flies on to Jordan where he allies with local intelligence chief Hani Salaam (Mark Strong) in his bid to track down the terrorists responsible for the bombings.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Ridley Scott's Body of Lies... |
FUTURISTIC WALL•E TUGS AT THE HEART WHILE TAKING AIM AT OUR CONSUMERIST CULTURE
It’s a love story but by no means conventional. Centred on an eccentric robot named WALL•E, the Disney/Pixar film of the same name is a beautifully structured film which rates among their best, bringing to life a wonderful story about love and hope as well as packing a punch at our consumerist culture.
WALL•E is a robot left to help clean up the world after it became so filled with trash that humans decided to leave for five years while robots like WALL•E (which stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) were left behind to do their dirty work.
But that was 700 years ago and WALL•E is now the last of his kind, left alone on earth to continue his endless task. He’s developed a personality in that time and it’s hard not to be charmed by this robot with an insatiable curiosity and odd behaviour, including his habit of collecting items that catch his eye along with his friendship with a cockroach and his penchant for watching the film Hello Dolly at the end of each day. Not to mention his seemingly incurable loneliness.
DAVID ADAMS watches Pixar's latest triumph... |
IT'S A CASE OF 'WAIT FOR THE SMALL SCREEN' WITH STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS
The Star Wars universe is a vast one. The six live-action films would be all that most people would know of George Lucas’ most famous creation, but they are a drop in the ocean, compared with the complexities of the ever expanding saga. The dozens of books and comics plus numerous video games have broadened the scope beyond Luke, Leia, Han and co. to millennia either side of their cinematic adventures.
Along with next month’s awesome The Force Unleashed console game, Clone Wars is the latest to add details to the events between the two film trilogies. Directed by Dave Filoni (episodes of TV toon, Avatar) and written by three virtual newcomers, the film certainly has Lucas’ imprint in it, namely family-friendly action and light-hearted humour.
KRIS BATHER says the latest Star Wars film - The Clone Wars - isn't up to the usual standard... |
THE DARK KNIGHT LIVES UP TO EXPECTATION
After 2005’s Batman Begins many had high hopes for the sequel. Usually in superhero films, the follow-up is better. After all that nasty exposition and the obligatory origin story is dealt with, the film-makers can then move on to expanding the cast of characters and ramping up the action. That is certainly what happens here. The Dark Knight sets the tone well early on. Don’t expect any information to bring you up to speed however. If you haven’t seen Begins, then do so before seeing this. It will help.
Batman (Christian Bale) has been fighting crime for some time now with aid from his English butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and daring new District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). As always his only love, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is also in the wings, though she is fond of the more stable Dent than playboy Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting ways.
KRIS BATHER enjoys the latest film in the Batman tradition... |
GET SMART - MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH!
First, a confession: I am an avid fan of the original Get Smart series. So, that said, you can understand that I approached the new Get Smart film with some trepidation - after all, it does come in the wake of some disastrous remakes like latest Pink Panther incarnation starring Steve Martin.
The trepidation was somewhat justified. Sure, the latest Get Smart does provide some laughs - there’s a cone of silence scene and a scene involving an aircraft and a crossbow that rivals the original series, but overall it doesn’t really come close to replicating the wit of the original.
To his credit, Steve Carell does a fair job of bringing Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, back to the screen and Anne Hathaway makes a reasonable effort at portraying his sidekick, 99, although her persona is a dramatic shift on that played by Barbara Feldon. Other cast choices aren’t so good - Alan Arkin isn’t terribly convincing as The Chief, David Koechner’s Larabee is just a mindless thug and Terrance Stamp was not a good choice for Max’s nemesis - Siegfried, the leader of KAOS.
DAVID ADAMS says the latest Get Smart movie doesn't hold a candle to the original... |
THE DISPOSABLE ONES A CONFRONTING LOOK AT LIFE AMONG COLOMBIA'S POOREST
Australian rugby league professional Jason Stevens steps a little out of his comfort zone in this Compassion Australia-funded Karbon International production of The Disposable Ones. The documentary is about children; more precisely those in Colombia who are branded the detritus of society in a culture stunted by poverty, frustrated by drug related civil war, and prone to family breakdown.
Predictably, the reel casts off in Australia where, around a dinner table, Jason discusses with family his reasons for wanting to experience a short spell in Colombia. It’s the children that primarily draw him there; those abused and thrown away by society, appropriately nicknamed ‘ninos gamines’ or 'the disposable ones'. His desire is to see how poverty affects them, what their lives are really like and ultimately, to come to a conclusion about how he can help.
CHOE BRERETON takes a look at one of the films in the Faith on Film Festival - the Jason Stevens' documentary, The Disposable Ones... |
FAITH ON FILM: NEW FESTIVAL TO SHOWCASE CHRISTIAN MOVIES... |
"EYES OPENED": FORMER RUGBY LEAGUE STAR JASON STEVENS COMES FACE-TO-FACE WITH THE PLIGHT OF CHILDREN IN COLOMBIA... |
THE INCREDIBLE HULK MISSES THE MARK YET AGAIN
Well, it was better than the first Hulk film in 2003, but that’s not saying much. Director Louis Leterrier’s re-boot is certainly closer to the comics version of the Green Goliath, but it is still lacking in key areas.
The action has been ramped up, with lots of running, and some light humour, in the first few scenes. We find Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) working in a Brazilian bottling factory, trying to stay off the military’s radar as General Ross (William Hurt) becomes increasingly desperate in his attempts to reclaim the Hulk as a U.S weapon. Bruce can’t contain his inner beast for too long though, despite his love for Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) and his various breathing exercises. When the military first strike, Banner loses control and the Hulk makes his fearsome presence known. Throwing around people and machinery with reckless abandonment it becomes clear that Banner’s alter ego is a monster uncaged. This introduction is repeated throughout the film, becoming blander each time it does. We see Banner attempting a new cure, we see the military find him, we see a chase, we see a fight between them, we see Banner find solace in Betty’s arms. And on it goes.
KRIS BATHER finds the latest Hulk film disappointing but says it does have some redeemable qualities... |
HOLD ONTO YOUR SEATS - SPEED RACER'S AN INTENSE EXPERIENCE!
Go, Speed Racer, go! And go he does. So fast, in fact, is this film - such a blur of psychedelic color and sound - that it takes a while for your mind and eyes to adjust to its frantic pace. And to come down after it ends.
The film is based on a television cartoon series which, in turn, was based on a Japanese anime series created by Tatsuo Yoshida. Directed by the Wachowski brothers, it brings to life the colorful alternate reality in which Speed Racer, second son of the straight-shooting Racer family, rises against all odds to become a car racing champion.
Racing is all Speed (played by Emile Hirsch) cares about from a young age and he is devastated, along with the rest of the family, when his older brother Rex, is supposedly killed in a race.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Speed Racer... |
U2's PASSION LIVE LIKE NEVER BEFORE
I’ve never been on stage with U2 before, but watching this movie with some strange glasses on for the 3D effects, it was just like I was right out there with the lads, with tens of thousands screaming fans all around us. Maybe that’s just my ego but that’s how it felt. At the very least, sitting there in the cinema with the surround-sound made it feel as if you were really there. I’m still not sure if the screaming of the fans was just from the concert or if it was also from the people in the cinema. I’m thinking it was the former but you were never really sure while sitting through this amazing experience.
U2 have come a long way from the days of Red Rocks and Sunday Bloody Sunday. Twenty-five years later they’ve still got ‘it’. Red Rocks was the concert that made U2 legendary as live performers. I would be surprised if there has ever been any band in history who has had the energy and the electricity of U2 playing live. I remember thinking when I first heard them as a teenager that they were the only band I knew who were better live than in the studio.
NILS VON KALM gets up close and personal with U2... |
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA - PRINCE CASPIAN AN IMPRESSIVE SEQUEL
There are some movies that are better left as books - the images on the big screen never quite live up to what you’ve created in your mind when reading the pages. Then, there are some books that when brought life on the big screen make you think the makers have stepped into your mind.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is one of the latter. Like the first of this series of cinematic depictions of CS Lewis’ books - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian remains true to the essence of the book with a visually impressive depiction of the story within.
The story starts with the sudden return of the four Pevensie children - Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) - to Narnia. But the land that they once ruled has changed, and not for the better. While only a year has passed in England since they were last in Narnia, it’s been 1,300 years there.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the latest film in The Chronicles of Narnia series, Prince Caspian... |
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL SERVES UP ANOTHER HELPING OF THE ADVENTURES WE KNOW SO WELL
Indy’s back and, while it’s an overstatement to say he’s bigger and better than ever, fans will nonetheless enjoy his return.
The fourth film in the adventures of the whip-wielding archaeologist, Dr Henry “Indiana" Jones Jr, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull picks up some 19 years after the last movie - The Last Crusade - left off.
It’s the Fifties and, with the Nazi’s gone, the film opens with a much older Indy (played now by a 65-year-old Harrison Ford) thrown into action with his new "old buddy" 'Mac' McHale (Ray Winstone) against a new nemesis - the thickly accented KGB agent Irina Spalko (played by Cate Blanchett) - against the background of the nuclear arms race and McCarthyism.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the return of Indiana Jones to the big screen... |
PICTURE PERFECT, THE PAINTED VEIL HAS A DETACHED DOWNSIDE
The Painted Veil is a very well made period piece set during a politically tumultuous time in Chinese history.
Set during the 1920s, the film stars Naomi Watts as Kitty, a spoilt and snobby socialite from a well-off family who marries bacteriologist and civil servant Dr Walter Fey (Edward Norton) in order to please her parents. They both move to Shanghai where Edward has been stationed at a Government lab, and Kitty embarks on an affair with British diplomat and womanizer Charles Townsend (Liev Schreiber).
When Edward finds out about Kitty’s infidelity, he punishes her by volunteering himself as a town doctor in a cholera infested village in mainland China. Yet only when they found themselves in a strange land during a devastating time do Kitty and Edward finally begin to understand and love each other.
MATTHEW PEJKOVIC is impressed by the visuals of The Painted Veil but finds it emotionally wanting... |
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS CARRIED BY THE POWER OF THE STORY
It’s a story many of us know - and know well - but it’s a story which never fails to stir a sense of the power and love of God.
And despite the quality of its animation (oh, Pixar, how you’ve spoiled us!), the latest animated version of The Ten Commandments still manages to convey a sense of this.
Narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley, the film - which is the first in what is projected to be a 12 part series of great Bible stories - features the voices of Christian Slater as Moses, Alfred Molina as Ramses, the Egyptian Pharoah, and Elliot Gould as God.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at a new animated take on a familiar story... |
GONE BABY GONE "A DARK MORALITY TALE"
“When I was young, I asked my priest, ‘How you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world?’ He told me what God said to His children. ‘You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves’."
This is one of the first lines of dialogue spoken in Gone Baby Gone, a haunting film based on the novel by Mystic River scribe Dennis Lehane, and adapted to the silver screen by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockhard. Affleck also handles directorial duties in his debut behind the camera, and (to the surprise of all) has crafted an exceptional well paced urban crime mystery, capping off a successful career turn around which began with his award winning turn as George Reeves in Hollywoodland.
MATTHEW PEJKOVIC watches Ben Affleck's directorial debut... |
HORTON HEARS A WHO! JUST RIGHT
It’s Dr Seuss on the big screen as it should be.
Horton the elephant (voiced by Jim Carrey), lives a happy-go-lucky life in the Jungle of Nool until one day he hears a voice coming from a speck and discovers that it belongs to the Mayor of Whoville (Steve Carell), the leader of an entire nation which is resident on the spot.
The meeting leads to troubles for both Horton and the Mayor (who, having 96 daughters and one son, you might already expect to have a few!). Horton finds himself facing the wrath of the conservative Kangaroo (Carol Burnett) whose catchcry is that if you can’t see it, hear it or feel it, it doesn’t exist and whose greatest fear is that Horton will lead others in the jungle astray with his wild claims of a tiny nation living upon a speck.
DAVID ADAMS on the cinematic adaption of a Dr Seuss classic... |
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL IMPRESSES
With the past year featuring a plethora of films which displays Christians as mindless zealots prone to discrimination and violence, it was a refreshing surprise to find a positive portrayal of the Christian community in the most unlikely of films.
Lars and the Real Girl stars up-and-coming thespian Ryan Gosling as Lars, a terminally shy young man who in an attempt to subside his crippling loneliness purchases a blow up doll which he names Bianca and parades around town as his girlfriend. Urged by town psychiatrist Dr Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) to go along with Lars’ delusion, it does not take long for the Christian community to embrace Bianca as one of their own.
MATTHEW PEJKOVIC takes a look at the comedy Lars and the Real Girl... |
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE "A RICH CHARACTER PIECE"
Things We Lost in the Fire is a film that focuses on how different people deal with the grief of losing a loved one. Halle Berry stars as Audrey, a widow and mother-of-two to her murdered husband Brian (David Duchovny). After the funeral, Audrey invites her husband’s long time friend and heroin addict Jerry (Benicio Del Toro) to live with her family while he recovers from his addiction, mending their rocky relationship in the process.
The film contains a back and forth structure, and in flashbacks the viewer is shown Brian’s goodwill towards his family and friends, a nature with would ultimately cost him his life after his attempt at helping a woman involved in a domestic dispute ends with his death at the hands of the victim's husband.
MATTHEW PEJKOVIC is impressed by performances in Things We Lost In The Fire... |
VANTAGE POINT'S GOOD IDEA FAILS AT THE FINAL TEST
It starts with a simple enough storyline. Television news producer Rex Brooks (played by Sigourney Weaver) and her team are covering an event in Spain at which the President of the United States is about to give a landmark speech in the war against terror when he is shot and, moments later, the city is rocked by two massive explosions.
So far sounds like a typical thriller but what sets this film apart is that it then retraces its steps and replays the same events from the angles of seven other people involved with the events of the day; with each eyewitness bringing more information to eventually build a comprehensive picture of what happened on the day before culminating in an all encompassing conclusion.
DAVID ADAMS reviews Vantage Point... |
RUN FAT BOY RUN BARELY CROSSES THE FINISH LINE
Run, Fat Boy, Run is a film that barely crosses the finish line despite a talented cast and intriguing premise.
Simon Pegg stars as Dennis, an immature, irresponsible, and out of shape single father who has been trying to make amends for leaving his pregnant bride to be Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar five years ago. When Libby begins dating a well off American financial consultant named Whit (Hank Azaria), Dennis intends to show him up and win Libby’s heart by completing the famous Nike River Run marathon under the guidance of his best friend Gordon (Dylan Moran).
No doubt an attempt to branch out after playing the same role for so many years, Friends star David Schwimmer takes on directorial duties, and while his direction is adequate, Schwimmer’s inability to take risks with the material handed to him leaves the film languishing in clichéd sports movie schmaltz.
MATTHEW PEJKOVIC finds only a few laughs in Run, Fat Boy, Run... |
HAVEN'T WE MET BEFORE? JUMPER A NOT SO INNOVATIVE TAKE ON A FAMILIAR THEME
A group of extraordinary humans with the ability to teleport - or “jump”- anywhere on earth who are relentlessly hunted down by a secret group of ‘holy’ warriors known as the 'paladins' who resent their ability (“Only God should have this power", is the refrain of their leader as he zaps another 'jumper'). All of which happens under the nose of the oblivious general public.
Such is the premise of fantasy flick, Jumper, and if it’s a premise that sounds vaguely familiar, then you’re probably recalling one of the growing number of recent films which have adopted a similar theme - extraordinary humans being persecuted for their ability. The Matrix trilogy is perhaps the most obvious - and certainly the classiest - example but there are plenty of others including the X-Men trilogy
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Jumper... |
THERE WILL BE BLOOD LEAVES A SOUR AFTERTASTE
There is no doubt Daniel Day-Lewis is a great actor and his role the oil epic There Will Be Blood confirms it (he was duly awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor on Monday). But for all the great acting in it, There Will Be Blood is a hard film to swallow; a relentless movie about one man’s drive for wealth in America’s early oil years and the high price he pays to get it which leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth.
Spanning a period from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, the Paul Thomas Anderson directed film, which is based on the Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, follows the rise of Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis) as he moves from being a small-time silver prospector seeking his fortune to big time oil tycoon anxious to hold on to all he’s got yet who is, at the end, left with nothing but his wealth.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the film that won Daniel Day-Lewis an Academy Award... |
LIFE, LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP SHINE IN BELLA
In every life there are moments, often unexpected, that change our path forever.
Bella is about some of those moments in the lives of two people - a would-be professional soccer star turrned chef called Jose (played by Eduardi Verastegui) whose life is irreversibly changed after an event in his past and his friend Nina (Tammy Blanchard), a struggling waitress who discovers she is pregnant.
The pair, who at the start of the film work at a Mexican restaurant run by Jose’s brother Manny (Miguel Perez), soon find their lives intertwining as Nina is fired and Jose decides to help her.
DAVID ADAMS is impressed by Bella... |
FOOL'S GOLD MARRED BY PREDICTABILITY
It’s all about a quest for sunken Spanish treasure but unlike that other recent treasure hunt film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets , Fool’s Gold is more firmly grounded in reality. Or so one might expect.
While, for some, the story may be a little easier to come at than the fantasy presented in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, this romantic comedy come action adventure remake is ultimately marred by the fact the leading characters never break from the mould of the caricatures they are designated.
Matthew McConaughey plays treasure hunter Ben ‘Finn’ Finnegan who has a nose for gold but otherwise seems to spend his time being beaten up but always seems to end up without his shirt on.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Fool's Gold... |
I AM LEGEND A TALE OF REDEMPTION
I didn’t think I would get so much out of this movie before I saw it. I had heard different opinions about it. Some people had said it was well worth seeing, while one person just looked at me when I asked if I should see it. Anyhow, see it I did, and my first reflection afterwards was surprise at the many parallels with the Christian message that are highlighted in this human drama.
This movie is about one man’s search for redemption and salvation following a deadly virus that has destroyed most, if not all, of humanity. Scientist Robert Neville (played by Will Smith) believes he is the only survivor of the virus. Somehow, in his contribution to creating it, he has developed an immunity and out of his immense guilt feels a moral obligation to stay at Ground Zero in Manhattan and develop a vaccine.
NILS VON KALM is surprised by I Am Legend... |
NO EASY ANSWERS IN RENDITION
"It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination...there are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply."
Not a recent quote, those lines are from a CIA report to President Truman in the early years of the Cold War. Perhaps little has changed.
Directed by Gavin Hood and written by Kelly Sane, Rendition asks a big question in a very personal way. World War, Cold War, Global War on Terror – can the end justify the means?
PHIL SMITH is confronted by tough questions in Rendition ... |
THE WATER HORSE A WARM-HEARTED TALE OF UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIP
Amid the usual hype of the summer blockbusters, it’s refreshing to come across a simple, heartwarming story about a boy and his friend; a friend who just happens to be a mythical beast called a water horse.
Set against the backdrop of World War II amid the spectacular scenery of Scotland, The Water Horse is the story of Angus MacMorrow (played by Alex Etel), a solitary, serious boy who deeply misses his father after he went off to fight in the war.
Angus, who has a fear of water, finds a mysterious egg while playing amid rock pools. He takes the egg home to the stately home where his mother Anne (Emily Watson) is housekeeper and there hides the egg in his father’s old workroom.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at The Water Horse... |
THE GOLDEN COMPASS FAILS TO SATISFY IN ITS 'QUEST' FOR TRUTH
I’m sure they didn’t, but if the makers of The Golden Compass had chosen a text from which to preach it would have been John 8: 32 - “...and the truth will set you free.”
After a film that featured lavish, seamless effects, mostly good acting, excellent scenery and strong (if predictable) plot, what remained after the credits rolled was a sense of irony.
Yes, The Golden Compass is the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. No, it doesn’t mention the Christian Church at all. However, as Devin Gordon wrote in The Bulletin magazine: “It hasn’t been scrubbed of religion. No one over four feet tall could mistake the Magisterium for anything but an oppressive theocracy.”
PHIL SMITH reviews The Golden Compass... |
ELIZABETH FINDS LIFE YET IN A GOLDEN AGE
Being a queen in sixteenth century England was no easy job. Having kept your head and survived childhood, the fact you needed an heir, not to mention the subject of your fertility was likely to be a constant cause for chatter. And that’s before you find yourself facing a vast invasion fleet sent by the King of Spain. Doom looms at every turn.
So it was for Elizabeth I, in part two of the story that began with the movie of the same name. Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a splendidly rendered, yet intimate, depiction of life in the Elizabethan court.
This movie is painted with small strokes - while it’s action takes place against the broader backdrop of the infamous Babington plot against the Queen and the subsequent trial and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the New World discoveries of Sir Walter Raleigh and the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada, director Shekhar Kapur rarely moves the camera far from Elizabeth herself and those who most closely surround her.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the sequel to Elizabeth... |
A BIG CROC'S ENCOUNTER WITH A GROUP OF TOURISTS MAKES FOR AN INTENSE RIDE
If, like me, you prefer your leading characters to be large, scaly with an adjoining mouth of razors, then Rogue is the must see movie to sink your teeth into this summer. Set in Australia’s Northern Territory, Rogue depicts chilling home-grown scenes of the horrors a single and, admittedly large, crocodile can inflict. You never see people get torn apart or savaged, they simply just disappear. With minimal gore and blood this movie is not so much about grossing you out as it is about making you wonder what in heavens you would do in such a situation.
The writer, producer and director Greg Mclean, famous for his debut film Wolf Creek, achieved a long-standing dream with the recent release of Rogue as it rolled out earlier this month on silver screens worldwide. But unlike Wolf Creek, Rogue is very much on a par with Jaws or Jurassic Park and carries no sinister undertones or scenes that are blatantly designed to disturb.
CHOE BRERETON hangs on to her seat... |
EVOKING PAST EPICS - THE STORY OF ESTHER COMES TO LIFE ON THE BIG SCREEN
Evoking the tradition of the great film epics of the past (think The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur), One Night With The King retells the remarkable Old Testament story of Esther, the Jewish woman who rose to become a Persian Queen and ended up saving her people from annihilation.
Esther (also known by the Jewish name of Hadassah, she is played by the relatively unknown Tiffany Dupont), was a Jew who lived with her cousin Mordecai (John Rhys-Davies - think of Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark), an official in the court of the Persian ruler Xerxes I, in the Persian city of Susa.
When Xerxes’ wife Vashti fell out of favor, the king (played by the muscular Luke Goss) orders all eligible women to be rounded up and ends up choosing Esther as his Queen. Urged to do so by Mordecai, she keeps her Jewish identity secret. But the King’s chief advisor, Haman the Agagite (played with aplomb by James Callis, Gaius Baltar of TV series Battlestar Galactica), is on a mission to wipe the Jewish people from the earth and Esther finds herself facing a choice between protecting herself and saving her people.
DAVID ADAMS finds One Night With The King a beautiful film but one which ultimately falls short of being a great movie ... |
EVAN ALMIGHTY ONLY JUST MANAGES TO STAY AFLOAT
It’s a somewhat ludicrous modern-day take on the Noah’s Ark story, but provided you can put aside it’s somewhat pushy environmental agenda and at times very dubious theology, Evan Almighty just manages to keep its head above water.
The sequel to Bruce Almighty, Evan Almighty follows the story of former TV anchorman and now newly elected congressman, Evan Baxter (played by Steve Carell of the US version of The Office fame).
Elected on a platform of ‘changing the world’ Baxter is just settling into his new job - and his family into a new house - when God (Morgan Freeman) calls them out on a prayer they’ve prayed asking to become a closer family. He wants Baxter to become a modern-day Noah and build an ark.
DAVID ADAMS says Evan Almighty only just manages to stay afloat... |
A RAT'S TALE WITH A TASTY HEART
It’s a warm-hearted tale, ala Finding Nemo, about being able to follow your dreams. Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) was a born a rat - which is unfortunate because unlike other rats Remy has well-developed palate and doesn’t like to eat the garbage others, like his brother Skinner (Ian Holm), so willingly do.
His sense of taste leads to trouble and the rats soon find themselves fleeing from their home. Remy finds himself separated from the rest of his family during their flight and ends up along in the streets of Paris. But as luck would have it, he finds himself in the restaurant once owned by his culinary hero, Chef Gusteau (voiced by Brad Garrett of Everyone Loves Raymond) - a big-hearted man with the democratic catchphrase ‘Anyone can cook’ who died some years ago but pops up repeatedly in the film as a figment of Remy’s imagination.
DAVID ADAMS finds Ratatouille a delicious treat... |
QUEST FOR ANSWERS CONTINUES IN THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
In The Bourne Ultimatum the cat and mouse game continues for Jason Bourne, the ever alert killing machine, who wants answers to how the man became a machine.
And answers are what he, and those of us who devoured the first two Bourne films, get.
What is Treadstone? What is Treadstone's function? Who is Treadstone answerable to? Why and how did Bourne become who he is? These questions all dovetail together and a further pressing one emerges in this film; What is Blackbriars?
These questions go to the core of the frenetic pace the film sets. Where will the corruption within the CIA take Jason Bourne? Will he be able to trust anyone in his pursuit of answers? Do you even have time to trust when one hard nosed assassin after another is put on your trail?
LLOYD HARKNESS on the third chapter in the Jason Bourne saga... |
THE SIMPSONS HIT THE BIG SCREEN BUT WHERE'S THE HEART?
If one expects nothing more than the Simpsons TV show gone large, you won’t be disappointed. Sure, there’s some funny parts (and, as it is with the Simpsons), there’s also some parts you wish weren’t there but on the whole the Simpsons movie doesn’t little to break new ground.
The usual cast is all there - Homer (voiced, as ever, by Dan Castellaneta), Marge (Julie Kavner), Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith), and Maggie (no voice required) as well as the other inhabitants of Springfield that we’ve come to know so well - Ned Flanders, Police Chief Wiggum, publican Moe and Principal Seymour Skinner among them - but maybe it’s the fact that we do know them so well that we’re expecting something special in the movie which never eventuates.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the SImpson's first foray onto the big screen... |
AMAZING GRACE AN INSPIRATION
Context is probably everything when watching a film like Amazing Grace. While some have derided the biopic of abolitionist 18th century William Wilberforce as lacking in spark, for those open to it, this is a movie which serves to underline the way in which God can work through the life of one person to change the world.
Released to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the passing in the British Parliament of the act to abolish the slave trade, Amazing Grace is an inspiring look at Wilberforce’s life and his drive to bring about an end to the injustice of slavery and it shows clearly the cost of his call both to himself and to those around him.
Beautifully detailed, the Michael Apted-directed film successfully brings to life the story of Wilberforce’s life and his personal struggles and is able to mesh this well with the broader social issues of the time.
DAVID ADAMS finds Amazing Grace an inspiring take on the life of William Wilberforce... |
TAKE THREE - OCEAN'S THIRTEEN REPRISES A FAMILIAR STORY
Did we not live in age where gambling has attracted such cache, it’s doubtful whether Ocean's Thirteen would have found an audience.
While Hollywood has always been somewhat fascinated with gambling and its interplay with the underworld - Casino, Bugsy and much of the Bond franchise - it’s only in an age where TV shows such as Celebrity Joker Poker attract audiences and the World Poker Championships attract countless newspaper column lines that the Ocean's Eleven idea could extend as far as three films.
That said, while there is nothing particularly new nor any surprises in Ocean's Thirteen, if you enjoyed Ocean's Eleven you’ll probably find the latest instalment mildly enjoyable.
DAVID ADAMS finds Ocean's Thirteen lacking spark... |
CRUDE AWAKENING A SOBERING EXPERIENCE
is the excrement of the devil”. So began the documentary
that looks at the world’s dwindling oil supplies, the
nature of modern warfare, the future for a world that has
an insatiable appetite for more and more oil, and a declining
supply of the same.
As the documentary opened, there were no fancy graphics
or music, no slick (excuse the pun) cinematography - it just
got straight into discussing the current situation of the
world’s oil supplies. And it was a sobering experience.
It was not overly emotional. It was not particularly
sensational. At moments, I thought it could have gone further
in its discussion (especially when looking at alternatives
like wind and solar). But, at least, no one can say it is
a piece of polemic or propaganda, (as were labelled Michael
Moore’s films of a few years ago).
JIM REIHER find himself personally
challenged by a documentary about the world's oil... |
THE THIRD NOT QUITE UP TO SHREK THE FIRST
haven’t already heard (and how could you not have, given
the massive publicity effort), Shrek, his wife Fiona and their
companions Donkey and Puss in Boots are back, for yet another
chapter in their story.
There’s nothing particularly new or innovative
about Shrek The Third - like most film franchises,
sequels can never quite live up to the thrill that the first
in a series provided. That said, the third Shrek film still
stands as an enjoyable movie in its own right and unlike Pirates
of the Caribbean - which had certainly run its race by the
end of the third movie, further Shrek films would be welcomed
with open arms (luckily, because more are apparently on the
Shrek the Third opens with the sad news that
the Kingdom of Far Far Away’s old king-turned-frog (voiced
by John Cleese) is dying (albeit taking a while to do so).
As son-in-law, Shrek (Mike Myers) is apparently named as the
next king (no Queen sovereigns here apparently) but quickly
finds himself unsuited to the role.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Shrek the Third... |
ODDBALL PIRATES RETURN FOR A FINAL BOW
since Captain Jack Sparrow rode the mast of his boat to shore
near the start of the first in the Pirates of the Caribbean
trilogy, the Pirates movies have been getting progressively
more bizarre and, to be sure, number three lives up to expectation
in that regard.
For those who can suspend reality for a couple of hours,
however, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
will provide a couple of hours of rollicking entertainment
with the return of a cast of now familiar characters led by
the ever oddball Captain Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp).
Pirates’ third instalment picks up some time
after the second instalment ended. We find Captain Barbossa
(Geoffrey Rush), (for those who didn't stay until after the
credits of the second movie, yes, he's back!), joined by Elizabeth
Swann (Keira Knightley) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) along
with the crew of the Black Pearl - now all in Singapore where
they are meeting with the dreaded Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat).
DAVID ADAMS on the final Pirates
of the Caribbean... |
FACES HIS INNER DEMONS
not your average superhero and that’s what makes Spider-Man
such an interesting character.
His ongoing internal
struggle - the battle every Christian faces between giving
in to temptation and doing what is right - is one of the central
themes of the latest movie to takeup his story, Spider-Man
While it’s as action
packed as one would expect of a blockbuster of this magnitude,
director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 spends as
much of its time unravelling the story of Peter Parker's inner
turmoil as it does his efforts to save the world from evil.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the
latest instalment in the Spider-Man saga... |
THE ROBINSONS A QUIRKY TALE WITH A WARM HEART
is certainly not your average animated tale. While it starts
off in a familiar pattern - orphaned boy trying to find his
way in the world and answer questions about his past, Meet
the Robinsons quickly takes some strange turns. And while
this may leave the viewer momentarily wondering where on earth
the film is going, perseverance is ultimately rewarded.
Disney’s Meet the Robinsons is a curiosity
of a film, filled with strange characters which nonetheless
bring a vague sense of something familiar to the screen (maybe
it’s that Disney influence).
Set largely in a futuristic world, this fast-paced
film follows the story of Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and
Jordan Fry), a 12-year-old boy genius who invents a memory-scanner
that he hopes will help him to find his mother.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at Disney's
oddball animated feature... |
AN EVOCATIVE TAKE ON A TURBULENT ERA
“Since Dr King died, no one left but Bobby”.
This line from this emotionally
inspiring and tragic movie probably best sums up the feeling
that Robert Kennedy evoked in the heart of a nation torn by
the evils of racism and the quagmire of Vietnam. In the summer
of 1968, Kennedy was seen by many as the hope of America.
This movie, set on 4th June,
1968 - the day that Kennedy was gunned down at the Ambassador
Hotel in Los Angeles, powerfully portrays the prevailing mood
of the day, interspersing clips of the horror of Vietnam with
the spectre of the race conflict that Dr King worked so hard
to confront. Kennedy was seen particularly by the African-American
community as being of the same ilk as King - a prophet reminding
his nation and the world that violence only begets violence
and hate breeds hate.
NILS VON KALM says Bobby
is a hopeful, yet ultimately tragic, tale... |
OF A MADMAN - THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
you first see the title of this movie, the last thing you
would be thinking is that it is a movie about the brutality
of the Idi Amin regime in Uganda in the 1970s. Amin (played
here by Forest Whitaker) referred to himself as the "last
King of Scotland" because he proclaimed that his country
had conquered the British and now people from Scotland were
asking him if he could help them do the same!
This movie, based on actual events, follows
the life of young Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan (played
by James McAvoy), as he flies to Uganda having just completed
his studies, to see how he can help the poor. He arrives headlong
into the coup that brought Amin to power, with soldiers patrolling
the streets and the people celebrating the ousting of the
NILS VON KALM finds The Last
King of Scotland an eye-opening take on the rule of an
African tyrant... |
PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS SHOWS SOME GRIT
the TV ads which make this film appear to be a feel good tale
of one man, with a good sense of humour, overcoming poverty
to achieve corporate success. The Pursuit of Happyness
is far more gritty in its portrayal of American big city poverty
than jocular lines like "he must have been wearing a
very good pair of pants" might suggest.
For Chris Gardner and his son Christopher, played by
Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden, the battle to make
a go of life is no flippant affair. Poverty's trough only
becomes deeper for Chris when he tries to establish himself
as a trainee stockbroker. Sleeping in beds for the homeless
and a night in a pretend cave is just part of the troubles
which grind away at hope and persistence.
LLOYD HARKNESS takes
a look behind the advertising humour... |
VIOLENT TAKE ON ONE MAN'S STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE
Yes, it is brutal in the vein of Braveheart and even
of the Passion of the Christ, and yes, as director
Mel Gibson himself has said, it’s not for the faint
While it’s set against the decline of the ancient
Mayan Empire in Central and South America around 500 years
ago, this is not a sweeping epic. Apocalypto is a
movie on a micro-scale, essentially the action-based story
of one man, Jaguar Paw (played by Rudy Youngblood), and his
fight to keep his family - and the life he knows - alive.
A hunter living in a jungle
tribe, Jaguar Paw is captured by raiders from the Mayan Empire
- led by the horrid Zero Wolf (played by Raoul Trujillo) and
taken to their city where his fate is to be sacrificed to
the empire’s insatiable appetite for blood. Yet there
is a ‘miraculous’ intervention and Jaguar Paw
escapes death and, pursued by the warriors of the empire,
races home to save his wife and son.
DAVID ADAMS on Mel Gibson's
WEB FILLED WITH RUSTIC CHARM
is a movie about celebrating the ordinary. A true-to-the-original
treatment of EB White’s famous book of the same name,
Charlotte’s Web is an inspirational film and
brings to life the characters of the famous story in a way
that’s never been done before.
The plot of Charlotte’s Web is
simple enough - it’s the story of a young girl, Fern,
who reprieves a runty pig she names Wilbur from the axeman’s
blade with the pig only to discover that he remains destined
for the chopping block when he’s grown to size. The
pig strikes up an unlikely friendship with a spider called
Charlotte who soon hatches a plan to save him which involves
writing a series of words in her web to describe him.
DAVID ADAMS finds
Charlotte's Web a breath of fresh air amid the summer
movie hype... |
BOND (BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW ME)
It’s a reinvented blonde Bond for the harder-hitting
Noughties. Casino Royale, the 21st Bond film, brings
a tougher, gritter and more openly flawed Bond to the screen.
Yes, he’s still Bond - he does always win the day -
but the trademark humour of previous Bond films is gone (sure,
he was still a philandering killer but he did it with a few
jokes thrown in).
The film is apparently based reasonably closely on
Ian Fleming’s book but It’s certainly a far cry
from the original movie, a bizarre and camp comedy along the
line of an Austin Powers flick, starring David Niven and Peter
Sellers. The new version, in contrast, shows a Bond who has
to subvert himself - his conscience and his desire for a quiet
life - to perform the grisly tasks the British Government
and M (who is again played by Dame Judi Dench) require of
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at
the latest Bond film, Casino Royale... |
FEET'S TAPPIN' TAKE ON ANTARCTICA
An animated film with Emperor penguins that sing and one by
the name of Mumble that tap-dances? How’s that going
to keep you interested for almost two hours?
They’re legitimate questions, but
20 minutes into Happy Feet, you’ll have forgotten
all about them as you find yourself drawn into this delightful
rites-of-passage tale of how the aforementioned Mumble (voiced
by “hobbit” Elijah Wood) deals with his differences
(unlike the other penguins he doesn’t have a heart song,
but, oh, he can dance) and eventually, after suffering the
ignominy of exile, finds his place in Antarctic society.
There’s plenty of laughter: Mumble's
adventures lead him to range of oddball characters - including
the Latino-sounding Adelie penguin gang leader Ramon (voiced
by Robin Williams) and the Rockhopper penguin mystic Lovelace
(also voiced by Robin Williams) as well as a predators including
the nasty boss of the Skua bird gang (voiced by Anthony LaPaglia),
a hungry Russian leopard seal intent on a meal and some ‘playful’
killer whales - and some spectacular race scenes through the
frigid Antarctic environment.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at
the latest animated ice-film, Happy Feet... |
all know the story. A young woman, in today’s terms
probably a teenager, living in a poor rural village is engaged
to be married but before the wedding occurs is visited by
an angel and told she will bear a child conceived by the Holy
Spirit who will be the Son of the Most High.
Her husband to be, a carpenter called Joseph,
decides to quietly divorce her but then he too is visited
by an angel confirming Mary’s experience. The two of
them set off on a long journey to Bethlehem to take part in
the Roman census. There, in a stable, Jesus Christ - God incarnate
- is born and worshipped by visitors including shepherds and
Magi from the East.
Yes, the story of the nativity of Jesus
Christ is a familiar one - we’ve all read it a million
times (in the Bible and other "versions"), seen
it acted out in countless nativity plays and looked on as
it's symbolised in the many nativity scenes that appear at
churches, carol services and even shopping centres at this
time of year.
DAVID ADAMS finds a fresh
revelation of the wonder surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ
in The Nativity Story... |
OF OUR FATHERS
ok. I know it’s very late in its run, but I managed
to catch it before it disappeared from the screens of our
local cinema multiplex, so maybe you will too. It’s
certainly worth trying. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Flags
Of Our Fathers is the story behind of one of the images
that defined World War II - a Pulitzer Prize winning image
of five marines and a navy corpsman raising a flag on top
of Mt Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima during a battle
for the island that began on 16th February, 1945. At a time
when the war in the Pacific was ever so slowly edging towards
its endgame, the image taken at Iwo Jima was seized upon by
officials in the US administration as one means of bolstering
support for the ongoing war effort - in particular for raising
much needed cash to keep the US war machine afloat.
DAVID ADAMS says Flags
Of Our Fathers is a tough but worthwhile experience...
a fairytale mystery story - the sort where Goldilocks could
easily end up doing a stint in prison for breaking and entering
the Three Bear’s place. Based very loosely around the
story of Little Red Riding Hood, Hoodwinked starts
with our four suspects - Red herself (voiced by Anne Hathaway),
the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), the Woodsman (Jim Belushi) and
dear old Granny Puckett (Glenn Close) arrested on a variety
of charges after a being found disturbing the peace in Granny’s
forest house. There’s definitely more than a hint of
Shrek in this tale as the audience’s notions
of what really went on in Granny’s house - and indeed
our perceptions of the characters themselves - are challenged
as froggy sleuth Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers, aka Charles
Winchester from MASH) leads an investigation into
what happened at the house.
It's Little Red Riding Hood
but not as you know it. DAVID ADAMS finds Hoodwinked
provides a humorous twist on the traditional tale... |
OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST
is not a serious take on the life of pirates so if that’s
what you’re expecting, it’s bound to be a disappointment.
Rather, like the first in what will be a trilogy, Pirates
of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a fantasy-filled
frolic which only bears the faintest resemblance to the reality
of piracy in the 16th century. Johnny Depp, via his swaggering
alter ego Captain Jack Sparrow, once again steals the show,
ably supported by Keira Knightley (who plays Elizabeth Swann)
and Orlando Bloom (Will Turner). Once again they find themselves
at odds with some strange nasties - in the first movie it
was the cursed crew of the Black Pearl led by Captain Barbossa
(Australia’s Geoffrey Rush), this time it’s Davy
Jones (Bill Nighy) and his stomach-churning band of companions.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the second
instalment of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean...
the Hedge is one of those movies that comes close yet
doesn’t quite achieve what it sets out to do. The story’s
a little too basic and the characterisations a little too
shallow to allow one to warm to them as we did to, say, Lightning
McQueen and friends from the recent Pixar hit Cars
or even, although to a lesser extent, the stars of DreamWorks’
previous film Shark Tale. Penned as a satire of the
consumer culture in America, the movie hammers the message
home (and, rest assured, the US ain’t the only country
where wastefulness is an issue), but does little else. The
story centres on a group of woodland animals who, having just
emerged from hibernation, are living a peaceful, rustic existence
in communion with nature (as woodland animals should) until
they are led astray by RJ, a racoon voiced by Bruce Willis
who has a very big and bearlike reason for collecting as much
food as possible as quickly as he can.
DAVID ADAMS finds Over the Hedge a
don’t need another hero," sang Tina Turner in the
1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. That may or
may not be true, but we certainly need some recycled ones
- or so Hollywood believes. Following in the wake of Spiderman
and Batman, Superman is the latest superhero to get a makeover
- not since Christopher Reeves starred in Superman IV:
The Quest for Peace in 1987 has the man in the blue tights
and red cape graced the silver screen. But now, in the aptly
titled Superman Returns, the Man of Steel is back
in a more modern rendering of his adventures. And with more
than a few nods to the 1978 film Superman: The Movie,
his comeback is one that should evoke feelings of nostalgia
in fans of the old movies while at the same time introduce
him afresh to a whole new audience. Superman Returns
opens with Superman (played by Brandon Routh)...well...returning
after an absence of five years.
DAVID ADAMS on Superman's comeback...
nothing particularly new about cars playing a central role
in a movie or TV show: one needs go no further than Herbie
or Knight Rider’s crime-fighting car Kit. But Pixar’s
latest animated release Cars takes the whole idea
to a new level. They’ve not only created a world in
which cars can talk, but a world wholly populated only by
cars - a rev-head’s paradise. As a movie, Cars
can stand tall among its animated peers - this is a well-scripted
and beautifully detailed film which will capture the attention
of kids from the first crash and hold it right to the end.
ADAMS goes for a ride with Pixar's seventh animated release,
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND
The first thing one senses about X-Men 3 is that
it won’t be the last stand - already there are talks
of Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) having his own movie
and there’s plenty of scope for the X-Men idea to continue
beyond a trilogy. X-Men 3, or X3 as it's
being promoted, once again brings to life much of the comic
book cast fans have come to love - Wolverine, of course, as
well as Storm (played by Halle Berry), Rogue (played by Anna
Paquin), Iceman (played by Shawn Ashmore) and Professor Charles
Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart) as well as some new characters,
like Dr Hank McCoy, a hairy, blue mutant who heads up the
newly created Department of Mutant Affairs and, when not a
doctor, is known as Beast (played by Kelsey Grammar of Frasier
fame). Like those before it, X-Men 3 once again sees
mutants pitted against humans with the scientists this time
having developed a “cure” which can reverse mutant
ADAMS watches the third in the X-Men trilogy...
CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
something about C.S. Lewis’ series of Narnia books that
arrested my imagination as a child and it’s a testament
to the quality of the Andrew Adamson-directed film that I
had the same feeling of excitement while watching it.
The visually stunning film adaptation of the best-selling
book, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and
the Wardrobe is a masterpiece with Peter, Susan, Edmund
and Lucy travelling into a land that looks as if it just leapt
out of Lewis’ imagination.
Sure there are drawbacks. One of the strongest memories
I have of the book is the smell of fish frying when the children
visit Mr and Mrs Beaver’s house. Smell is not something
that travels easily onto the screen. But, those sort of limitations
aside, this is a film which fans will be thankful closely
resembles the book in all its aspects.
DAVID ADAMS rediscovers Narnia, just as he imagined
AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN
was always a hard ask, following up on an animated mega-hit
like 2002’s Ice Age which worked so well on
so many levels. And while the shadow of the previous film
overhangs the second instalment, after a little bit of a jolty
start as the audience adjusts, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
flows well. The story begins once again with Sid the sloth,
Manny the mammoth and Diego the sabre-tooth tiger (as voiced
by John Leguizamo, Ray Romano and Denis Leary) and follows
their adventures as they attempt to escape the flooding that
results from global warming melting their ice-bound habitat
(one of several references to environmental themes). Along
the way they have to overcome their fears - think of big cats
and water or mammoths and extinction - and meet some interesting
new friends, a mammoth called Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah)
who thinks she’s a possum and two hilarious possums
- Crash and Eddie (voiced by Seann William Scott and Josh
Peck) - who think she’s their sister.
ADAMS takes a look at Manny, Diego and Sid the Sloth's return
to the screen...
& GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT
Oy up chuck! Their faces have become familiar to millions
around the world as they’ve tangled with sinister sheep
rustlers, flown to the moon in search of cheese and got the
better of master criminal Feathers McGraw. Now, for the first
time, Nick Park’s claymation creations, the cheese connoisseur
Wallace and his long-suffering dog Gromit are starring in
their own full feature film - Wallace & Gromit: The
Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Wallace and Gromit seem to
have temporarily abandoned their window cleaning business
and are now running a pest control company, Anti-Pesto. Their
main aim is to protect the town’s vegetables against
marauding rabbits in the lead-up to the giant vegetable competition
using their wits and, as one would expect of Wallace and Gromit,
some amazing contraptions.
DAVID ADAMS has a laugh with Wallace and Gromit...
impressive and lavish look at the life of one of history's
greats, DAVID ADAMS finds Luther an inspiration...
ADAMS on Herbie's comeback attempt...
may not have the brilliance of Shrek or Finding
Nemo, but DAVID ADAMS finds Madagascar an entertaining
BOX takes a look at the final instalment in the Star Wars
ADAMS on Ridley Scott's latest epic, Kingdom of Heaven...
HARKNESS on The Interpreter... |
ADAMS finds Robots packs a strong message about acceptance
between the laughs... |
ADAMS on The Aviator... |
TOWNSEND sees more than an action film in Ladder 49...
ADAMS is wowed by The Incredibles... |
HARKNESS finds Hero a "visual acrobatic treat"...
ADAMS on The Manchurian Candidate... |
ADAMS checks out DreamWorks' latest computer animated offering,
Shark Tale... |
takes a look at the latest adventures
of Shrek and his favorite annoying sidekick, Donkey... |
TOWNSEND checks out Mike Moore's latest film, Fahrenheit
ADAMS takes a look at Troy... |
ADAMS reviews The Passion of the Christ...
NOT A FAN QUESTIONS WHAT WE REALLY BELIEVE
A challenging look at the life God is calling us to live, Not A Fan questions what it really means to follow Jesus.
Presented by Kyle Idleman - the teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky - the story follows the life of Eric Nelson, a man whose relationship with Jesus took second place after his job and wealth.
Eric, who is ostensibly a member of Kyle's congregation, has a significant health scare and it's enough to make him take a radical look at who Jesus is to him - merely an acquaintance, someone whom he admires or someone who comes first in his life?
Eric's realisation about the path he is on leads to a decision which changes the life of himself and his family in significant ways and, while that road is not always easy, it's one he's committed to taking regardless of the cost.
DAVID ADAMS finds Not A Fan demands an answer about what we really believe... |
THE TOTAL TRUTH SERIES TELLS IT LIKE IT IS
Aimed at a youth market, The Total Truth Series presents the Gospel in a manner relevant to Gen Y and is perfect for use as discussion starters in a group-type setting.
Consisting of four, five minute episodes, the series – which is presented by Youth Dimension’s executive director Rob Coyle - starts with a look at our need for love and introduces the concept of unconditional love before moving on to look at what it means to live life our way, guilt and forgiveness and the chance to have a new start with Jesus Christ. Each of the episodes is illustrated with a strong, visually appealing, story.
Produced in Australia by Bulls+Arrows – an initiative of Christian ministry Youth Dimension, this is a slickly produced affair which presents a straight-forward look at what a relationship with Jesus offers.
DAVID ADAMS looks at a new youth-oriented series of short films, The Total Truth Series... |
MACHINE GUN PREACHER'S CONFRONTING MISSION
From the opening scenes – which shows a raid on a village in southern Sudan - Machine Gun Preacher (even the specially edited version we saw) is not an easy film to watch.
Following the story of real life Sam Childers, a drug-addicted bikie turned pastor, it shows how he came to be working in southern Sudan and northern Uganda where even now he remains involved in protecting and rescuing children from the predatory Lord’s Resistance Army, a group known for its recruitment of child soldiers, use of witchcraft and horrendous night raids on villages.
Gerard Butler plays the role of Sam with some grit, supported by Michelle Monaghan as Sam’s long-suffering wife Lynn. It’s Lynn who first becomes a Christian and, who, after a violent encounter forces Sam to rethink his life, encourages him to accompany her and Sam’s mother Daisy (played by Kathy Baker) to their local church where he is baptised.
DAVID ADAMS looks at Machine Gun Preacher... |
LIVE TO FORGIVE THE INSPIRATIONAL STORY OF ONE MAN'S JOURNEY WITH GOD
US pastor Dean Eric Smith has been on an amazing journey of forgiveness. Live to Forgive, a documentary about that journey, explains why.
The story starts with the murder of Smith's mother, beaten to death with a baseball bat by her then husband and Smith's step-father, Bob, when Smith was just aged 12.
Following her death, Smith tells how he tried to deal with what happened, burying himself for a time in 'partying' with drugs and alcohol before realising that only through God-inspired forgiveness will he find the freedom he seeks.
Now living in Enumclaw, Washington (where he runs Live to Forgive Ministries), Smith was challenged by God to meet with Bob and the documentary crew are present when in 2008, he travels to Tennessee and there meets his step-dad, the man who killed his mother, for the first time since the murder.
DAVID ADAMS is challenged by Live to Forgive... |
A COLORFUL RETELLING OF THE MAKING OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE
A powerful and, at times moving, documentary about the creation of the King James Bible, KJB – The Book That Changed The World provides an in-depth and well-researched look at what it was that led to the making of the King James Bible and the turbulent times in which it was made.
Adding much color to the tale, the documentary features numerous dramatic recreations and the narration of John Rhys-Davies (remember him as Gimli the dwarf in Lord of the Rings movies or as Salah in Indiana Jones?) is filled with a passion for the subject at hand.
The documentary starts with the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 and much of the ensuring first half of the film is taken up with a detailed look at who King James I (James VI of Scotland) was and how he came to the throne. This is important to the story of the King James Bible – for only in understanding a little of who James was- and his passion for unity - can we come to a better understanding of why the Bible was created in the first place.
DAVID ADAMS finds a great primer to the circumstances surrounding the creation of the King James Bible... |
IMAGINING A DIFFERENT LIFE IN WHAT IF...
Ben Walker is a man who thinks he has it all – a high-paying, exciting job as an investment banker, the trappings of wealth including a beautiful new car, and a fiancée who believes, just as he does, that money and what it can buy, can truly bring happiness.
But that all changes when God intervenes and, through the agency of a tough-talking angel, presents Ben with the chance to see how different his life would have been had he not turned his back on God and the life He had set before him – one which included marrying his then girlfriend Wendy and fulfilling his calling as a pastor - 15 years before.
What If puts a new spin on the familiar movie mechanism of getting a second chance, aka Sliding Doors or, better still, The Family Man, except in this one it’s the choice between following God or not that Ben gets the chance to redeem.
DAVID ADAMS is impressed by the quality of What If... |
THE BOARD PUTS A DIFFERENT TWIST ON THE STORY OF ONE MAN'S REDEMPTION
It’s the story of one man’s walk to redemption but with a twist: the entire movie is set within the soul a single person.
The Board, which was made by Bethesda Baptist Church in the US (producers of Fireproof and Facing the Giants) and inspired by a sermon, opens with a group of men sitting around a boardroom table and about to start a meeting.
But we quickly learn that this is a board with a difference – the men, who bear names like Mind, Memory, Will, Conscience, Emotion and Heart are all as pects of a single person, “power-brokers of the soul”.
There’s an important matter to discuss – a work colleague of the characters’ host, has been witnessing to the host about his need for a relationship with Jesus Christ and it’s causing some concern among various members of the board.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the DVD release, The Board... |
SCHMALTZY, YES, BUT A CHRISTMAS SNOW STILL DELIVERS STRONG MESSAGES ABOUT LIFE AND LOVE
It’s Christmas but for curmudgeonly restauranteur Kathleen (played by Catherine Mary Stewart), Christmas only has bad memories. She's determined to avoid any sense of Christmas cheer, so much so that a local describes her as the ‘gourmet grinch’.
Kathleen’s life, however, is about to get turned upside down. Her widower boyfriend Andrew (Anthony Tyler Quinn) is in town and with him is his very unfriendly 10-year-old daughter Lucy (Cameron ten Napel).
The three share a meal at Kathleen’s restaurant and the night quickly turns to disaster as Kathleen and Lucy spectacularly fail to hit it off.
Things apparently go from bad to worse for Kathleen when Andrew has sitter trouble and ends up leaving his daughter with her for a night. Unwisely Kathleen decides to leave Lucy alone while she runs an errand, almost running down an elderly man crossing the road.
DAVID ADAMS takes a look at the DVD-release, A Christmas Snow... |
THE SECRETS OF JONATHAN SPERRY A" QUIET ACHIEVER"
It’s a simple tale which carries a straightforward message. There’s no beating about the bush here. And that is both its strength and its weakness.
The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry tells the story of a 12-year-old boy, Dustin (played by Jansen Panettiere, growing up in a small US town in the 1970s with his two best friends Albert (Frankie Ryan Manriquez) and Mark (Allen Isaacson). Like many boys of their age, their main concerns seem to revolve around asking out girls and about how to avoid the local bully Nick (Taylor Boggan).
Dustin, who mows lawns for pocket money, soon meets Mr Jonathan Sperry (played by the Love Boat’s Gavin MacLeod), a neighbour he knows from church. Mr Sperry asks him to mow his lawn and a friendship quickly develops between them which leads to Mr Sperry telling Dustin about his faith in Jesus and, eventually, to the 85-year-old leading a Bible study. It grows to include not only Dustin and his two best friends, but many of the local kids.
DAVID ADAMS looks at The Secrets of Jonathan's Sperry... |
AN EDUCATION ASKS MORE QUESTIONS THAN IT ANSWERS
Have you wondered why you need an education? What kind of education you want your children to have? As a Christian, have you ever thought about whether our government has the right education policy for us?
An Education is a movie that makes you think about these questions. Back in the 1960s in London, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) was working hard towards an education in Oxford University. She was 16, and very bright. Her parents believed that a degree from Oxford would give her the best future she could have. But were they right?
Then David (Peter Sarsgaard) came into Jenny’s life. He’s in his 30’s, and was seemingly rich. He took her to the opera and expensive meals. He even took her to Paris for an incredible holiday. Not only that he won Jenny’s heart, he also managed to convince her parents that he was the type of man Jenny needed.
SIU FUNG WU finds food for thought in An Education... |
LORD, SAVE US FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS A CHALLENGING LOOK AT THE CHURCH
Here is a DVD worth watching as the Australian federal election draws near this year. Despite its rather provocative title, Lord, Save Us From Your Followers does not seem to attack certain types of Christians. It is, rather, a constructive critique of aspects of contemporary Christianity in America - and, at least to some degrees, Christianity in Australia. It is, therefore, one of those movies that everyone who is serious about their Christian faith should watch.
Lord, Save Us From Your Followers is a documentary directed by Dan Merchant. The film was made in 2008, just before the presidential election in the US. It tries to show how the church in America is perceived by non-Christians. It demonstrates how the opposing religious voices in the public arena polarise rather than unite people. It talks about a ‘culture war’ going on as faith and culture meet each other.
SIU FUNG WU takes a look at Lord, Save Us From Your Followers... |
THE GATES OF SPLENDOR - A POWERFUL NEW LOOK AT A STORY
ABOUT THE REDEMPTION OF AN ENTIRE PEOPLE
a story that many of us are familiar with - how five US missionaries
were killed back in the mid-1950s when they attempted to reach
out to an ultra violent tribe in Ecuador.
Yet no matter what you already know of it, Beyond
the Gates of Splendor - a documentary which recounts
their story and its aftermath - will move you. This is a powerful
Released as End of the Spear, a dramatisation
of the missionaries’ story, hits cinema screens, Beyond
the Gates of Splendor follows the lives of the five missionaries
- Peter Fleming, 27, Jim Elliot, 28, Ed McCully, 28, Roger
Youderian, 31, and Nate Saint, 32 - and their families as
they prepared to go and serve on the mission field in Ecuador.
DAVID ADAMS finds Beyond the
Gates of Splendor an impressive retelling of the amazing
events which followed the deaths of five missionaries at the
hands of a violent tribe in Ecuador... |
Andrew Douglas' Stepping Up features a list of bodyboarders
as long as a Nullabor crossing on the Eyre Highway. With a
mellow start, it soon amps up to some munching Cronulla and
Hawaiian North Shore breaks. The waves in Stepping Up
range from fun sessions to charging and include a number of
competition events. Margaret River, Shark Island, Teahupo'o
and Costa Rica are some of your destinations on this 'surfari'.
In between some polished bodyboarding camera work are four
short testimonies which have a real home video feel. This
amateur look and sound add a down-to-earth circumspection
to what Jacob Reeve, Phil Harnsberger, Kyle Maligro and Alistair
Taylor have to say.
LLOYD HARKNESS steps up to watch a DVD tailor-made
Refined is a mixture of the bizarre, the stupid and
the boundary pushers across a range of sports. The book ends
of this DVD are two guys who think they have all time in the
world to continue doing whatever they feel like, especially
riding big waves. This isn't some well-scripted tale though
and it shows in the fairly clumsy way the ending is handled.
But this DVD is about action. Anyway that you can push boundaries
on earth, water, air or man-made structures is featured. At
the heart of the production are a range of professionals in
surfing, wake boarding, snowboarding, windsurfing, skateboarding
and kite boarding who talk about how Jesus is central to their
LLOYD HARKNESS looks through Refined's oddities
to find a message with meaning underneath...
If you want good surfing, slam this one in the DVD. If you
want good wipe-outs and a cyclone swell, slam this one in
the DVD. If you want a true story of how Jesus changed the
lives of some local boys and professional surfers, slam this
one in the DVD. It might be an American story but it is universal
to surfing. It might be Noah Snyder's story but it's bigger
then Noah. This production from the Walking on Water team
melds the "lure" and "magic" of surfing
with the deeper yearnings of the heart. Noah was an east coast
U.S.A. boy who hung with a bunch of friends who challenged
each other to charge whatever wave came their way. Making
it to the World Championship circuit, Noah, in his own words,
became the "local kid who grew up and started living
his dream". Yet, while his career was budding, Noah felt
empty as though something was dying within him. He had always
believed there was a God but he had no relationship with God
nor even an understanding of what that was.
LLOYD HARKNESS finds Noah's Arc an awe inspiring
LEGEND OF THE SKY KINGDOM (DVD)
way is not easy, Blockhead, but it is simple.” Yes,
it could be God speaking to any number of us Christians, but
in this case, the quote (or words to that effect) comes from
the Zimbabwean-made feature The Legend of the Sky Kingdom.
The story surrounds a group of three runaway orphans - Blockhead,
Squidge and Lucky - as they escape enslavement in the horrible
underground city of Ziboim and make their way to the Sky Kingdom.
Adapted from Phil Cunningham’s book, Roger Hawkins and
his team have created a children’s feature with a difference:
this is not claymation nor animation in the cartoon sense,
rather it’s been described as the world’s first
“junkmation” with the characters and scenes all
constructed out of, well, junk.
DAVID ADAMS finds The Legend of the Sky Kingdom
a unique experience...
Every single person wonders 'Why am I here?'." So begins
the tale of a group of guys who surf and/or work in the surf
industry and who have "wondered" and found themselves
drawn to Jesus Christ. With a great mix of surf locations
from Australia to Mexico to Ireland to Hawaii, this DVD delivers
on some ripping surf and an eclectic sound track. Rap, Gospel,
heavy grunge and acoustic music help weave the action in the
surf zone into a tale. Paul (Sarge) Sergeant, Glyndon Ringrose,
Joel Fitzgerald, Jesse Hines, Matt Beacham, C.J. Hobgood,
Britt Merrick and others give us small bites of their spiritual
LLOYD HARKNESS finds a surfing movie that's got a