Movie-review-2

Aloha A Heartfelt Triumph: Don’t Believe The Hype

Ignore those bad reviews: Aloha is well-worth both the cinema experience and your hard-earned money. So much so, it’s beyond me how anyone could despise this sweet, heartfelt, engaging and thoroughly entertaining film.

RELATED: Fifty Shades Of Grey: More Fizzle Than Sizzle

What’s more, the romantic drama has a kick-arse soundtrack, a top cast, a stunning backdrop in the form of Hawaii; and well-rounded, likeable and charismatic characters you can’t help but fall in love with – indeed, all the signature hallmarks of another great Cameron Crowe flick. The Academy Award-winning writer, director and co-producer on Aloha has also given us other great films to remember, such as the iconic Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous.

In Aloha, celebrated military contractor (Bradley Cooper) returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – the US Space program in Honolulu, Hawaii – and reconnects with a long-ago love (Rachel McAdams) while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to him. Aloha also stars Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, and Alec Baldwin.

What is NOT to love about this amazing cast?! Bill Murray’s hilarious, suave performance is reason enough to pay the admission fee for Aloha – what genius casting right there. Having said that, I also really loved stand-out actors such as Stone, Baldwin, Krasinski and the very easy-on-the-eyes Bradley Cooper, who actually surprised me with his versatility and likeability in this film.

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The movie is essentially a ménage a trois of sorts: a love triangle, if you will. But it’s also about second chances at life; the true meaning of family and friendships; and why staying true to yourself and your convictions always pays off.

I took my best friend of 20 years with me along to see this film at a premiere and both of us loved it from start-to-finish. I was on some serious antibiotics at the time, but I enjoyed a great, heartfelt banshee cry midway through the film, as did my friend – it’s touching and achingly sad in parts, while hilarious and thought-provoking in others.

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The movie has a very endearing bittersweet quality; I didn’t want it to end. And there’s one utterly hilarious and magical scene involving the male leads – which I won’t spoil here – which speaks volumes about both the actors’ talents and Crowe’s genius at conveying much in a small amount of time. Some brilliant actors can emote so much with their eyes; it’s nothing less than a God-given talent.

I must also express my love and appreciation for a film which gives strong, powerful, funny and complex female characters so much screen time – thank you, Cameron Crowe. Rachael McAdams also shines here, as one side of the love triangle.

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My only mild criticism of the film is, call me strange, I found the fact that Bradley Cooper’s character’s name is Brian Gilcrest somewhat off-putting. I kept envisioning plastic-fantastic American radio personality, television host, and producer Ryan Seacrest in my head – it’s just too similar-sounding – and it made me lose my concentration a few times, taking me away from Brad’s manly loveliness.

You could happily take either your man or your bestie along to see this film with you; don’t believe the hype – it’s truly great. Haters gonna hate; there’s a lot to love here. Aloha hits cinemas this week; do yourself a favour and go see it!

June 3, 2015

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Big On Effects, Short On Girlpower

If the world was ending tomorrow, we’d have to rely on a bunch of super-handsome and super-geeky superheroes – predominantly male – to save us; at least, according to the world of Disney’s and Marvel Studios’ red-hot, new movie release Avengers: Age of Ultron, that is.

RELATED: Date Night Movie: Furious 7 Is A Hell Of A Ride

This new blockbuster is both super entertaining and super long, but I also found it to be super lacking in women in powerful roles, it must be said (I’ll refrain from using any more “supers” now, I promise). My husband and I were fortunate enough to attend a media preview screening last week; our respective reviews are below for your reading pleasure.

SHESAID review:

The US superhero film, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers, stars a powerhouse of top male actors who make for both strong performances and pleasing eye candy: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson and more.

The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, new movie releases

But it was the film’s performances by the female avengers – Scarlett Johansson and Elizabeth Olsen (pictured below) – which I found most interesting, intriguing, pleasurable and fun. Here, Scarjo rocks a black leather catsuit like no one’s business and I relished seeing a female actor in such a strong, central role. Also, is she actually pregnant in this movie? Maths isn’t my strong point, but it would seem so.

And the same goes for the equally freakishly beautiful, fabulous and kick-arse Elizabeth Olsen, who’s actually a very strong, central character at the heart of the film and far more deadly and sinister than most of her male counterparts, too. Thank God for these two characters, otherwise the film would get lost in an endless sea of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ male fisticuffs, yawn.

So, where the hell are the other strong female characters? Are we really to believe only men can perform superhero duties? Puh-lease – we women are hard-wired for birth, after all. But I know there’s a script to stick to, sure – it’s the sequel to 2012’s The Avengers and the 11th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, new movie releases

And while the film’s many, many fight scenes are spectacular, I started to grow weary of them in the second half of the movie; writer/director Joss Whedon’s film is epic – no doubt about it – but it’s also bloody long and bloated. If you shaved half an hour or so off that film, plus packed additional interesting lead female roles, it’d be a damn right better film, in my opinion.

And my favourite male avenger by far? The super-manly and charismatic Jeremy Renner, who plays a tough guy with all the best one-liners, yet a committed family man to boot. Now, that’s hot. Incidentally, in real life the US actor is a doting dad of two daughters with another on the way.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is breaking box-office records with colossal earnings around the globe; go see it if you like your action adventures big, bold, long and male-dominated.

I give it a solid two out of five robots.

The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, new movie releases

HESAID review:

Short on story, big on effects, this 3D tale of good vs bad is a feast for the senses. The opening sequence alone is worth the admission price.

Massive fight scenes – which borrow a little from the X-men – are broken up with bite-size chunks of comedy and romance. Blink and you’ll miss the story line, but who cares! I’m having so much fun watching these superheroes interact and beat the hell out of the baddies that a complex plot might just get in the way.

I give it three out of five robots!

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Avengers: Age of Ultron is in all good cinemas now.

April 27, 2015

Date Night Movie: Furious 7 Is A Hell Of A Ride

Are you looking for a Friday night date-night movie this week which you and your partner can both enjoy? You could do a lot worse than Furious 7, aka Furious Seven and Fast & Furious 7.

RELATED: Disney Magic Casts An Enchanting Spell With Cinderella

My husband and I paid a babysitter to mind our two banshees, sorry toddlers, while we happily trotted off to the movies for a date night earlier this week. It was “his” turn to choose a movie and so Furious 7 it was. Our respective reviews are below.

SHESAID review

Judging by its box-office records, US action movie Furious 7 is delighting hardened action movie nuts the world over – and causing them to shed some serious manly (and womanly tears) in the process – since its early April release.

For the James Wan-directed film gives lovers of the franchise exactly what they have come to love and expect: high-octane drama, death-defying stunts, tits and arse aplenty and then there’s the cars – seriously swoon-worthy and very, very fast, luxury American, French, Japanese and Italian sports cars. I don’t even love cars, but even I wanted to ditch my sedate family car for something super shiny and fast, post-film.

movie review, Furious 7, Paul Walker

In addition, the film’s release is poignant and bittersweet as it marks the untimely demise of Fast & Furious star Paul Walker (pictured), who appears in it in one of his final roles after a 2013 car crash claimed his life at age 40. Indeed, Walker’s role was only finished via the wonders of digital technology and a series of stand-ins. And so the film acts as a kind of memorial to Walker, with the tribute to the late actor at the film’s end very touching.

I quite like action films at times, truth be told, but this was my first look at one of the Fast & Furious films. It was exactly as I expected: big and dumb, but highly enjoyable.

It’s the type of big action movie adventure during which you can happily turn your brain off on a Friday night and just enjoy the ride. At 137 minutes-long, I did find my mind wondering and erm, myself dozing off a few times during the somewhat repetitive action scenes towards the end.

Starring the one-dimensional man mountain Vin Diesel, who seemingly only has a grand total of two facial expressions in his acting repertoire and the slowest, weirdest turn of the head, which would easily score him a starring role in Neighbours, Furious 7 is essentially a revenge action film.

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To sum up, without giving too much away: homicidal London killer Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is plotting world domination and vengeance after Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew put his maniacal international terrorist brother into a coma.

Aside from a weird cameo by Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea; the film also stars action greats Kurt Russell (pictured below), and Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, and the best, bad-arse gal in town, Michelle Rodriguez (pictured).

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For me, Rodriguez is one of the best things about this film – aside from the crazy, sweaty-palms inducing stunts and very fine automobiles. She’s smart and sassy and kicks some serious arse like nobody’s business, all the while looking gorgeous, feminine and strong – this is no easy feat – and I can’t remember the last time I saw a female action character of her calibre on film.

All in all, I enjoyed Furious 7. I give it a solid three muscle cars out of five.

HESAID review

I really enjoyed the movie. There’s non-stop action and not a great deal of storyline to confuse anybody; it’s a great piece of escapism.

Exotic locations, extreme car chases and lots of fist fights are the order of the day. However, I couldn’t help but to compare it to the other films in the franchise in an effort to determine where it fits in.

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There’s very little character development and let’s face it, we’ve had five other films (not including the semi-spin off Tokyo Drift) to explore these one-dimensional heroes. However, unlike Tokyo Drift and others in the franchise, the emphasis in this film seemed to be less on the cars and more about action-fight sequences.

I almost felt as though I was watching a James Bond movie with far-away locations, pretty girls and action sequences, tied together with an almost non-existent plot. And that’s not a bad thing. Overall, four out of five muscle cars.

Images via www.cinemablend.com; xpressmag.com.au; geektyrant.com; screenrant.com;
ifastandfurious7.com and www.orlandoweekly.com.

April 11, 2015

Disney Magic Casts An Enchanting Spell With Cinderella

Do you believe in love at first sight? And are you an incurable romantic?

RELATED: Fifty Shades Of Grey More Fizzle Than Sizzle

If you answered yes to either of these questions you’ll adore Disney’s Cinderella, a live-action new film inspired by the classic animated fairytale, which opens in cinemas Thursday, March 26. I was fortunate enough to see the film at a media preview and I loved it.

I found it an utterly charming and enjoyable movie experience, not the least of which because of its sumptuous costuming and visually spectacular cinematography. There’s not much not to love about costume designer Sandy Powell’s amazing work here and Cinderella’s puff-ball, butterfly-motif dream dress and accompanying magical glass slippers are awe-inspiring – the stuff of a billion little girls’ (and big girls’) fantasies.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review

In addition, actor Lily James, who’s of period drama Downton Abbey fame, is the perfect modern embodiment of Cinderella; a new style muse to love who’s thrilled at every red carpet Cinderella premiere since it first opened in the US, smashing the box office with a $70 million opening weekend last week.

However, I must confess I wasn’t expecting to enjoy actor and director Kenneth Branagh’s re-imagining of Disney’s 1950 masterpiece quite so much – I’m no fan of the “princess myth” and abhor it when women describe themselves thus.

For, life ain’t no fairytale, as we all know, and all good love affairs require endless love, patience, forgiveness and understanding. In addition, let’s raise our daughters to be smart and skilful warriors in the driver’s seat of their lives, not merely pathetic, passive princesses expecting to be swept off their feet.

But if you can quieten your inner-cynic, lady, while watching the film, as I did – it’s a fairytale after all – you may well love it too. What’s more, actor Lily James’s spirited Cinderella possesses a quiet strength, and admirable feistiness, kindness and tenacity, which makes her a highly watchable heroine.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review
She’s all blonde bombshell – she ain’t no fragile, hapless princess in a tower – it’s surprisingly moving and sad to watch this Cinderella summon all her courage to pick up the pieces after her beloved mother and father both die.

This soulful, loving and brave Cinderella must find joy in great darkness – such as when her wickedly cruel stepmother, played with great panache by “Queen” Cate Blanchett (pictured), and wile, evil and vacuous step-sisters treat her like little more than a servant – as the classic tale goes. Yet, despite the brutality and spitefulness inflicted upon her, Cinderella is determined to honour her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind,” which brings us to the movie’s central theme.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review

And as the mother of two toddler daughters, I see the power and appeal in these words and think it’s a highly commendable message for all – it’s still poignant and important today and so the ancient fairytale never loses its lustre. I’m certainly striving to teach my girls this and set them a good example by behaving the same. And, speaking of kindness, it was heartening to see all the cute daddy and daughters enjoying themselves at the movie preview.

But back to the film – the best actor in it is by far, in my opinion, the incomparable, Bafta-winning Helena Bonham Carter (pictured) who lends her own special brand of magic and kookiness to the role of Fairy Godmother. Bonham Carter’s performance is worth the admission price alone – she even managed to outshine our queen Cate.

Cinderella, Disney, movie review
And, interestingly, the scene in which her Fairy Godmother transforms Cinderella’s torn dress into her stunning ball gown is said to have been the late Walt Disney’s favourite sequence of animation. In addition, Cinderella is also believed to have been his favourite Disney film of all time. Yay, Walt – I’m inclined to agree with you on both points.

This scene was, by far, my favourite of the film too; you can’t help but be swept away by the romance of it all, thanks to the fabulous and clever special effects. Actor Richard Madden, of Game of Thrones infamy, does his best to play a dashing Prince Kit, who’s immediately impressed by the spirited and smart Cinderella.

Incidentally, when he and Cinderella meet in the woods, she’s doing a fine job of riding a horse bareback (pictured above) – now, as an avid horse rider, I know this is no easy feat. Again, Lily James’ Cinderella is a strong, young woman to admire, not pity, despite her bleak situation. Of course, true love, kindness and courage triumphs over evil and cruelty, as the story goes, and Disney’s most iconic princess learns the ultimate power and reward of staying true to yourself.

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Ah, who can resist a little sprinkling of Disney magic? Enjoy.

March 24, 2015

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Director – George ClooneyRated: MA

In Cinemas July 17

Television made him famous, but his biggest hits happened off screen.

“My name is Charles Hirsch Barris. I have written pop songs, I have been a television producer. I’m responsible for polluting the airwaves with mind-numbing puerile entertainment. In addition. I have murdered thirty-three human beings.”

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is the story of a legendary showman’s double life – television producer by day, CIA assassin by night.

Young, energetic, and focused on a top career in the increasingly popular genre of TV game shows, Chuck Barris finds himself being followed by a suspicious character who quickly lures him into a secretive and dangerous world: that of a CIA operative. While Barris gains notoriety as a dynamic television producer – creating such innovative and popular game shows as The Newly Wed’s Game and the self-hosted The Gong Show

his alter ego regularly executes assassinations for the United States government. As ratings rise, Barris even manages to incorporates his shows into his secret life. Winning couples on The Dating Game find themselves shipped off to such unlikely destinations as Helsinki or West Berlin for their dream dates. It isn’t Paris but it provides chaperone Barris with a cover for his covert missions.As Barris basks in the glamour of his two worlds – entertainment and espionage – his life begins to spiral out of control. He is torn between the woman who loves him and the mysterious woman of his fantasies. He receives mass criticism from the public who accuse him of contaminating the airwaves and he finds himself marked for death by a traitor operative.

Barris must regain control of his life. Both of them.

Sam Rockwell is absolutely brilliant playing the lead role of Chuck Barris. For those of you who are new to Sam he also appeared in Heist and Charlie’s Angels to name a few. He has appeared on TV with credits including NYPD Blue, Law and Order, and The Equalizer. Although you’ll just hate his slimy, cheating character you’ll end up rooting for him.

The script, written by Charlie Kaufman encompasses some pretty juicy themes, TV, the CIA and Sex and the story is given a touch of documentary via constant cutting back to the comments characters who lived and worked with Chuck Barris.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind will make you laugh, and squirm in your seat. Don’t miss it.

July 8, 2003

Movie Review: X-Men 2

Wolverine

Director – Brian Singer

Running Time: 2 hrsX-men 2 opens with Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) still running his school for Gifted Children, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) still tormented by his mysterious past, and Magneto (Ian McKellen) still locked away in a plastic cell. The Mutants continue their struggle against a society that fears and distrusts them. Their cause becomes even more desperate following an incredible attack by an as yet undetermind assailant possessing extraordinary abilities. The shocking attack renews the political and public outcry for

a Mutant Registration Act and an anti-mutant movement now led by William Stryker, a wealthy former army commander who is rumoured to have experimented on mutants.

Stryker’s mutant “work” is somehow tied to Logan’s mysterious and forgotten past. As Wolverine searches for clues to his origin, Stryker puts into motion his anti-mutant program – launching an attack on Xavier’s mansion. Magneto, newly escaped from his plastic prision, proposes a partnership with the X-Men to combat their common and formidable enemy: Stryker.

With the fates of Xavier, mankind and mutantkind in their hands, the X-Men face their most dangerous mission ever.

X-men 2 is longer than its predecessor and packed with non-stop action. Clearly the production team had more time and more money to play with on than they did on X-men.

A highly talented, charismatic cast really make this film with especially brilliant performances by Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin (Rogue) and Halle Berry (Storm). The first-rate special effects really place you into the world of the mutants.

A word of advice, if you haven’t already, see X-men before you treat yourself to X-men 2. Understanding each character’s origin as well as the pain and torture surrounding Wolverine’s past is critical to enjoying the story in X2. To take it one step further, if you really want to be a total X-men geek, get your hands on the original Marvel comics.

May 7, 2003

Movie Review : How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, is a sweet, romantic and hilarious slice of escapism. Not a movie for the serious-minded, it?s sure to delight all those incurable romantics out there – we still do exist in this cynical world don?t we? Andie Anderson (Hudson) is an up-and-coming young columnist for Composure magazine (think Cosmo or Cleo) who?s been assigned to write an article on how to lose a guy in 10 days. Her mission is to alienate Benjamin Barry, (McConaughey) which she does by perpetrating every dating atrocity known to womankind. He?s an ad exec aspiring to move on from marketing beer and nurf balls to sports-jocks in favor of a girl?s best friend ? diamonds! And the only way he’s going to get there is to win a bet with his boss by making a girl fall in love with him before the big pitch to the client, a diamond consortium, in 10 days.This romantic comedy succeeds because it makes it easy for us to see ourselves in the roles of the leading characters. How many women have sent a potential Mr. Right running for his manly life by calling too often, too soon? Come on admit it! Haven?t you kicked yourself afterwards for just being that bit too keen, too early on? And what guy wouldn’t want to identify with McConaughey (who, in case you were wondering, obligingly takes his shirt off for his the benefit of his adoring female audience, at least twice in the movie!).

The brilliant chemistry between Hudson and McConaughey really makes this film! McConaughey oozes Southern charm, and Hudson is adorable as the struggling journo working for the ?world?s fastest growing chick?s magazine?.

While the ending is very predictable (and somewhat marred by way too much soft focus in the final scenes), it?s hilarious to watch Hudson, as Andie Anderson, do everything we swear we will never do in relationships – yet somehow always ending up doing (and will probably do again!).

SheSaid advice: Take your best girlfriend to see this movie and be prepared to laugh out loud! Cheesy but brilliant fun. This year?s best romantic comedy by far.

Have you seen How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days ? Tell us what you think feedback@shesaid.com

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April 22, 2003

Movie Review: I Am Sam

If Sean Penn was an actor who cared for such accolades you’d think his role in I Am Sam was chosen for kudos alone but knowing this notoriously prickly player, you can bet it was for the challenge. Penn is quite incredible as the retarded father of a bright eight year old. Unfortunately he has the mental age of a seven year old. Regardless he’s taken great care of the child and would surpass most fathers with far greater faculties.

Penn not only perfectly takes on the characteristics of the mentally challenged, he bares the soul of the man as well. He’s matched by one of the most extraordinary child actors for some time with Dakota Fanning. She illuminates the screen every time she passes by. Michelle Pfieffer has never been better as the hot and bothered lawyer who takes on the case when little Lucy is removed from her father’s care. And Dianne Wiest is particularly effective as the acrophobic neighbour who plays surrogate mother to this strange family.

I Am Sam can be a bit schmaltzy at times but the honest acting of the cast keeps it real. It also enjoys a sunny soundtrack of Beatles covers played to great effect by contemporary artists.Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $35.95, click here.

The Roadshow I Am Sam Competition!

Thanks to Roadshow Home Entertainment, She Said and Total DVD have three copies of I Am Sam to give away. If you want your chance to win, click click here.

Bend It Like Beckham

Bend It Like Beckham kicked a goal this year by becoming the feelgood sleeper hit of the year. Timed to coincide with the 2002 World Cup, this charmer told the unusual story of a British Indian girl who wanted be a soccer player.

The British film industry seems now almost purpose built to produce little charmers like this. There must be some feelgood factory in London somewhere pumping out quirky comedies looking at the lighter side of the British class system. Whether it’s Full Monty or Billy Elliot, these films depict working class strugglers fighting against all odds to make their mark on the world.

Here we have a lower middle class teenager who dreams of kicking a ball around the field like her hero, Posh’s dress-up partner, David Beckham. Unfortunately she’s a girl and an Indian one at that who is expected to learn how to cook not learn how to curve a ball. She joins an all-girl soccer team unbeknownst to her family when she should be preparing for her sister’s wedding.

Writer/director Gurinder Chadha knows the world well and it’s her intimate knowledge that shines from the screen. Her actors seem privy to their characters as well and newcomer Parminder Nagra is a real find. She is so perfectly petulant in this role you want to clip her over the ear hole as much as you want to cheer her on. Her family is played by a delightful group of Asian actors who are hysterical in their attempts to keep their wayward child in line.

Bend It Like Beckham is a a great film made with much love and humour, a feelgood flick that will definitely give you a kick.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $33.95, click here.

December 10, 2002

Movie Review : A Beautiful Mind

It’s a rare thing when you see all the principal participants in a film do their career-best work. But that’s what happens in A Beautiful Mind. And when you consider the careers of those impressive thing and that’s why it was so honoured at this year’s Oscar ceremony.Ron Howard made the transition from actor to director effortlessly and he has brought an assured sensibility to many movies across many genres, and has been one of the most reliable commercial directors of the last few decades.

His direction here exudes confidence and feels like a work of great distilation and refinement. Russell Crowe has moved through Hollywood in recent years like a supernova with his off-set antics almost eclipsing his acting career if he wasn’t such an extraordinary player himself. Here Crowe truly gets under the skin of his character and helps us identify with this complicated man. And then there’s Jennifer Connelly who has been a star in the making since she was a teenager in Labyrinth. She simple radiates off the screen and easily equals Crowe in what should have been a fairly standard role.

They are brought together by one of the most elegantly insightful screenplays in recent years from Akiva Goldsman. It tells the true life story of John Nash, a mathematician whose mind lends itself as easily to sanity as to genius. He is in pursuit of a breakthrough, the one unique idea that will make his name and change history.

While at Princeton, he hits upon a principle that has revolutionised mathematics and economics, the Nobel Prize-winning mathematical game theory. These principles are beautifully described in the film, as are the elements of his madness that almost cripple his heart and mind.

A Beautiful Mind is the best bio-pic in many years, with rare intellect, considerable taste and unusual warmth. A beautiful film indeed.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $38.95, click here.

The Universal A Beautiful Mind Competition!

Thanks to Universal Home Entertainment, She Said and Total DVD have five copies of A Beautiful Mind to give away. If you want your chance to own this Oscar winning film, click click here.

Baz Lurhmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy Australian director Baz Lurhmann is if nothing else truly a man of vision. And now we have a chance to see his vision as it has extended across his first three groundbreaking films with the DVD box set of his so-called Red Curtain Trilogy.

Although it has become commonplace in Australian film today, the quirky comedic touch that Lurhmann refined with his first film Simply Ballroom was so effervescent and exhilarating when it premiered in Cannes that it had people dancing in the aisles. It drew on the balletic skills of Paul Mercurio and the acting abilities of a cast of Australian royalty.

Best of all it introduced a peculiar flavour of film, a quality that was uniquely Australian that blended both the ocker and the camp. His next film far exceeded Simply Ballroom in every department and dared take on the most famous work by the most revered writer of all time and give it a dazzling pop cultural spin.

Romeo + Juliet was awesomely adventurous, taking risks at every turn and turning on a young audience to one of the great works of literature with its breathless take on the Bard. It furthered the superstar status of Leonardo DiCaprio and thrived on its music video sensibility by meshing a rollicking soundtrack with Shakespeare.

It laid the path for his most triumphant film yet, the incendiary Moulin Rouge. Moulin Rouge dared revive the most reviled of all movie genres, the musical, and bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. It demanded much of its audience but delivered an astonishing sensual experience that owed more to Bollywood than the Hollywood.

And it finally made Nicole Kidman a superstar.

It’s easy to forget that director Baz Lurhmann has had such a short career, such is his status as one of the greatest directors alive. Open the curtain on this incredible collection and you’ll start to see why.

Available from Total DVD for only $92.95, click here.

October 30, 2002

Movie Review: Panic Room


Panic Room was a peculiarly well-timed thriller, given how our sense of security has been somewhat shaken by the events of 9/11. No-one feels as safe any more and this could almost been seen as a metaphor of the American condition since the events of that fateful day.

In Panic Room, Jodie Foster plays a recently separated wife of a rich man who moves into a rambling New York brownstone mansion. Its principal attraction is a “panic room” a safe-like chamber intended to protect the residents from attack or home invasion.

It proves a useful feature when three bandits raid the house thinking it empty in search of a fortune that has been left there. The terrorised mother and daughter take sanctuary in the steel lined room until they realise that the loot is actually hidden in the panic room itself.

David Fincher directs this lean and intense thriller with the same flair that he brought to Fight Club and Se7en. He is a master of suspense and works well within this incredibly confined setting, creating a palpable sense of claustrophobia and cloying threat. Jodie Foster is one actress who doesn’t shrink from exposing her vulnerability and you can sense real fear from her. As her daughter Kristen Stewart is perfectly cast and she has that casual swagger that one remembers from Foster herself as a child. As the lead bandit, Forest Whittaker brings humanity and a strong sense of empathy to his role while Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam are suitably oily as the desperate villains.

Panic Room is perhaps one of the best thrillers in years. When you watch it on DVD, you might want to check your locks later.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $36.95, click here.

The Panic Room Merchandise Competition!

Thanks to Roadshow Home Entertainment, She Said and Total DVD have three merchandising packs of Panic Room to give away. Each pack consists of a stylish beanie and windcheater. If you want your chance to own these fashionable accessories, click click here.

Madonna Collection Box Set

Madonna’s movie career has been a shaky one with more misses than hits. However a new boxed set from Fox has collected her best films that show

the material girl working with her best material ever. Desperately Seeking Susan saw a spectacular start to her career in a sexy comedy romp that virtually defined the zeitgeist in the MTV inspired early ’80s. In it Madonna plays a bad girl who meets her beloved through personal ads in the paper. Her movements soon become monitored by a bored house-wife who follows her mysterious idol and becomes the focus of a mystery herself.

In Bed With Madonna was the revealing documentary that followed the singer on tour. As you might suspect, she was exposed as something of a

domineering diva. Certainly we’d expect nothing less. The fly on the wall perspective is truly fascinating and if nothing else, added to the

legend of Madonna and somehow the intimate look managed to make her seem even more larger than life.

Body of Evidence had Madonna in her element as a mysterious femme fatale with possibly lethal skills of lovemaking. She had an unexpected chemistry with Willem Dafoe who played the attorney trying to save her from conviction after she was charged with killing a lover during sex.

Steamy and stylish, it will keep you guessing until the final moments. Handsomely packaged, the Madonna Collection Box Set should thrill fans

but packs enough quality to impress even the most hardened Madonna critics.

Thanks to Fox Home Entertainment, She Said and Total DVD have three copies of the Madonna Box Set to give away. If you want your chance to own this great prize, click click here.

October 9, 2002

Movie Review – “About a Boy”


About a Boy

(Based on the book by Nick Hornby)

Directed by Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz.

Comedy and a beautiful soundtrack.

Will (Hugh Grant) is a lonely selfish loser who learns some important lessons from an unavoidable relationship with young geeky-boy named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult.)

Will’s day is made up of units. Filling in units of time with leisure activities. Watching countdown, buying CDs, playing pool, shopping for designer clothes and conjuring up ways to meet women. Will doesn’t work and he’s never had to either. His father’s success as the writer of a Christmas song keeps the royalties flowing in and keeps Will at home and on the couch.

Will develops a single mother predator strategy when he hits on the idea that single mother’s make brilliant no-strings attached flings. With this in mind he seeks out the local support group SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together) armed with the a single father sob story a fictitious 2 year old son called Ned.

It’s here Will meets his first target of prey, single mum Suzie (Victoria Smurfit) and scores his first date, a SPAT picnic in the park. Their first date brings with it, along with Suzie’s own baby, a tag-along kid, Marcus, the son of Suzie’s friend Fiona (Toni Collete.) This is the beginning of the unusual bond that develops throughout the film between Will and Marcus.

Will plays a reluctant default-type guardian as Marcus pushes his way into Will’s life seeking comfort, security and shelter from the bullies at school and his mother’s suicidal depression at home. As this is happening , much to his surprise, Will finds himself taking an interest in Marcus’s well being. His first adrenaline hit of caring outside his own miserable life rushes through his heart when he takes Marcus to buy a “cool” pair of trainers to help him blend in at school and escape the vicious bullies.

That’s when Will meets Rachel, the most desirable single mum yet and he finds himself falling in love for the first time. “Oh what a tangled web we weave” the situation is complicated by the fact that Rachel is under the impression that Will is Marcus’s father. Will’s heart is struck when Rachel angrily pushes him away pointing out the shallowness of his deceitful behaviour. Will crawls back home, finds his place on the couch, and reverts back filling in units of time.

Will’s solitude brings him to the realisation of how much he cares about Rachel, Marcus and Fiona – a realisation that sees the normally self-obsessed Will put himself on the line to help Fiona and Marcus. The care and support he uses to save his friends actually pulls him out of his own self-centred hole and he end up saving himself at the same time.

The Soundtrack is from “Badly Drawn Boy” and it’s brilliant and definitely one of the best elements in the film. Lots of full lush guitar sounds and simple effective basslines. It’s beautifully complementary to the film.

7/10

Caroline Kinny-Lewis

August 7, 2002

Movie Review: The Princess Bride

The term “cult classic” could have been invented for this gem. With little fanfare this humble fantasy flick has ingratiated itself to film buffs and romantics ever since.

What makes the film so surprisingly successful is that it can reach a number of different viewers and affect them in different ways. The gals may enjoy the romance while guys might enjoy the adventure while kid of all ages will appreciate the fantasy. It would be a mistake to label it a family film as that would make it sound sanitised when in fact it has cheeky sense of humour and an almost surreal grasp of the genre that elevates it far above films of its kind.

The Princess Bride is basically a story within a story. A young boy is bed-ridden when his grandfather reads him a story about Buttercup and the band of heroes that defend her. Fred Savage and Peter Falk are perfectly cast here and they provide the backbone for this beautiful tale about the healing and redemptive powers of the imagination.

The story itself is a jolly fable which grandad promises has “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Bad men. Best men. Monsters of all shapes and sizes. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles.” It also has cracking cast with Cary Elwes as the dashing hero and a remarkable collection of character actors including Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Guest and cameos from the likes of Billy Crystal.

The Princess Bride is a treasure and a treat and one of the finest fantasy film ever made, a film with its tongue in its cheek and with its heart in the right place.Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $32.95, click here.

The Princess Bride DVD Competition!

Thanks to Magna Pacific, She Said and Total DVD have three copies of The Princess Bride to give away. If you want your chance to own this fabulous fantasy film, click click here.

Lantana

In many ways Lantana may prove a watershed in Australian filmmaking. It signals a new sophistication with a story that is as complex as the emotional worlds it opens up.

Stated simply, Lantana follows the romantic entanglements of a small group of people who are brought together inexplicably and inextricably by the disappearance of a psychiatrist. Although the framework is a murder mystery, this film is more interested in the mysteries of the heart, the convoluted path of passion that leads us to act in ways we would never have imagined.

The film was directed by Ray Lawrence, a giant in the advertising industry who rarely makes films but has turned out classics on each occasion. In fact his only other film was made 15 years earlier. That just happened to be Bliss, another benchmark of quality local film. It was definitely worth the wait as he assembles an extraordinarily strong cast including Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Vince Colosimo, Peter Phelps and Glenn Robbins are all equally remarkable.

The lantana of the title appears to be a metaphor for the tangled web of circumstances and coincidence in the film but it could also represent the messy web of emotions that make up the heart.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $33.95, click here.

Bedazzled

Bedazzled was originally a devastatingly dry British film from the classic comedic pairing of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Directed, astonishingly, by Hollywood giant Stanley Donen, this tale of a hapless man bewitched, bedazzled and bedevilled by the Prince of Darkness who offers him a hand of his fair maiden in exchange for his soul has been a favourite since the ’60s.

This contemporary update may not be quite the classic of the original but director and writer Harold Ramis has a strong sense of style and timing so this remake is surprisingly strong. This is largely due to the casting of the hunk with a heart Brendan Fraser who is one of the few actors these days with matinee idol looks and a goofball persona that allows him to send himself up silly. He’s given plenty of opportunity to satirise his beefcake image in a series of vignettes that have him as a Columbia drug lord, a guitar strumming hippy snag and a poorly hung sports star.

What really enriches the mix is sensational turn from Elizabeth Hurley as the devil. She has delicious way around a one-liner and invests the film with a much-needed sense of sex and sin.

Be ready to be bedazzled by this film and given the rarity of a remake holding its own against the original classic, one might wonder if all concerned may have signed a pact with the devil.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $24.95, click here.

July 30, 2002

DVD Reviews : Legally Blonde & Calamity Jane

Legally Blonde

This is a story of a different kind of blonde ambition. Indeed the path that Reese Witherspoon takes in Legally Blonde from baffled bimbette to legal eagle is not too dissimilar from the one taken by its Australian director Robert Luketic.Luketic was a local film school graduate who had gone against the grain by producing sunny light entertainment while his classmates made deep and meaningful art. His classmates must be kicking themselves these days as Luketic’s broad sensibilities led him to make Titsiana Booberini, a short film starring Tanya Lacey as a dowdy check-out chick with dreams beyond her station. When the film was exhibited at Sundance it was a sensation and the director was mobbed as he left the cinema. In true Hollywood style, he gained an agent and representation in less time that it took to screen the film.

Their faith seems well rewarded as Legally Blonde, his first feature film, went to number one in its first week out in America. It’s not hard to see why. The film sparkles with good-natured exuberance yet still manages to make a meaningful statement of its own: don’t judge a book by its cover and beauty should never be an impediment to brains.

Reese Witherspoon plays a valley girl type who follows her boyfriend to Harvard in the hope that transforming herself into a more serious young woman might win him back. Witherspoon is, as always, stunning. She recalls the best blondes that came before her like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Holliday who like Witherspoon had the intelligence and timing to play dumb brilliantly. You sense that Witherspoon has depths that we haven’t yet explored. Indeed she deserves to inherit the mantle worn by other aging America’s sweethearts like Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, except you sense her range might be even greater than anyone has imagined, just like her character in Legally Blonde.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $34.95, click here.

Calamity Jane

If you thought Doris Day was a prim and proper epitome of ’50s virginity, think again. Here Day plays a boisterous uber-tomboy, the fiery hellcat of the Old West in this musical comedy cum romantic western that lost none of its charm over the years (although it has gained some interesting new interpretations).

In Calamity Jane, Doris Day dons buckskins, boots and a scout cap to play the legendary forntierswoman who tries to save the local saloon from ruin by bringing back to her backwood town Adelaide Adams, a star from Chicago. Unfortunately she mistakes her maid Katie for the artist herself. After a disastrous debut, Katie settles in town and sets up home with Calam until it looks like she’s moving in on the man Calamity loves but will never have. After much soul seaching and stirring singing, the paths of true love converge and Calamity gets her man (although not the one she was initially hoping to lasoo).

Calamity Jane crackles with good humour and excellent songs, the most memeorable being ‘Secret Love’. The song went on to win the Academy Award as best song of the year and the recording sold over a million. As Wild Bill Hickock, Howard Keel was in a class of his own when it came to playing robust roles in musical comedies and here he shines most brightly especially during his rendition of “Higher Than a Hawk”. Other highlights include ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’, ‘I’ve Got a Heart Full of Honey’, ‘Keep It Under Your Hat’ and ‘I Can Do Without You!’, not to mention ‘A Woman’s Touch’, in which Katie and Calam set up house together, that has contemporary audiences howling for its camp undertones.

Calamity Jane is such a sunny and endearing entertainment one wonders why no-one has bothered to bring it to the stage in recent years. No calamity there, cause you can own a copy of it yourself of DVD.

May 21, 2002

DVD Review – Truly Madly Deeply

The acclaimed tele-movie that launched director Anthony Minghella’s distinguished big screen feature career, Truly Madly Deeply is a tour de force romantic comedy, rich with insight, sensitivity and real heartfelt emotion. A more than welcome addition to the zone 4 DVD catalogue, this delightful classic wins through with dazzling performances from the lead and supporting ensemble cast, not to mention Minghella’s daring willingness to subvert the usual romantic comedy paradigms, favouring a full satisfying melancholic piquancy over cliched saccharine fairytale wish fulfillment.

Opening with a searing exploration of grief and loss heart-rendingly portrayed by the magnificent Juliet Stevenson, Truly Madly Deeply immediately sets itself apart with its unshrinking focus on the tortured widowhood of Nina. A sweet, warm-hearted language expert with a good job, loving friends and a ramshackle apartment, we see that Nina is nevertheless brave facing her way through the depth of despair – she simply cannot come to terms with the sudden loss of her beloved husband, Jamie (Alan Rickman), a year before.

Not exactly hysterical subject matter. But it’s the film’s initial embracing of Nina’s pain, which allows the audience to go on the fantasy journey that follows, as a ghostly Jamie comes back from the dead to comfort and ease Nina on her way to a new life without him. Indeed, it is because we feel exactly how much she loved him, that it becomes easier to believe Nina’s longing could have brought Jamie back. Or, later, to understand that the ghostly Jamie’s real purpose in returning is to help set Nina free from her undying attachment.

So while you may sob in the first half hour, this will only heighten your sense of joy at the return of love lost. Similarly, you will have real empathy as Nina gradually begins to realise that living with the ghosts of the past is no substitute for embracing life and moving forward to new pastures. One of the truly great date flicks, Truly Madly Deeply also boasts a stirring classical meets contemporary score, stretching effectively from Bach to the pub sing-a-long strains of ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’. A must-to-own triumph for any DVD collection.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $27.95

<TRULY MADLY DEEPLY DVD COMPETITION!

She said, in conjunction with Total DVD, has five copies of Truly Madly Deeply on DVD to giveaway, thanks to the generosity of Fox Home Entertainment. To win this wonderful prize, all you have to do is , answer a simple question and enter the draw.

March 13, 2002

DVD Review – Bedazzled: Special Edition

A re-working of the minor Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke ’60s comedy classic that infamously featured Racquel Welch as the seven deadly sin ‘Lust’, the basic story line of Bedazzled is itself merely a variation on the age old Faustian theme – a person who sells their soul to the devil for love, riches, immortality? (insert suitable enticement here).In the original Bedazzled, this perennial morality tale was warped and re-fashioned to delightfully ridiculous if lightweight comic effect, with the devious, wily, British foppishness of Cook effectively pitted against the dimwitted Two Ronnies buffoonery of Moore. Relocated to America and given a devilish boob job three decades later, the new <Bedazzled perhaps lacks some of the original’s frothy comedic oomph – after all, it was a pretty stale concept even way back then, not withstanding the cheeky decision to upgrade Satan to the role of mischievous seductress with flawless supermodel beauty.

However, the remake is saved by two key factors. Firstly, Brendan Fraser is a delectable hunk with a genuine comic flair, who is always eminently watchable, even when his films aren’t. Secondly, Liz Hurley has great fun with the role of Satan, giving the film a sparky, nudge-nudge Benny Hill meets Not The 9 O’Colck News playfulness. Add to that a solid Special Edition package, complete with behind-the-scenes featurette, entertaining interactive menus, deleted scenes and two engaging audio commentaries, and you have a sturdy little DVD performer that’s just perfect for an undemanding Saturday night at home on the couch.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au for only $27.95

March 13, 2002

DVD Review – “The Mexican”

Somewhat of a box office and critical disappointment on release last year, even despite the presence of two of Hollywood’s most bankable and acclaimed stars in Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, nevertheless The Mexican is still a much better film than many have given it credit for. Definitely worth picking up on DVD, this meandering but engaging comedy thriller is an unexpected, quirky delight that should please more than just the usual posse of Pitt and Roberts fans.

Cheekily blending smart snappy dialogue, a convoluted plot, tangential storytelling and a healthy disrespect for the marquee pulling power of its five star headline cast, The Mexican was poo-poo-ed on release for giving the audience too few (and too short) scenes featuring both key stars on screen together at the same time. Ironically, however, this is also arguably one of the film’s great strengths.

By not subjugating story and style to the box-office-centric demands of star power, The Mexican manages to rise above the usual problems associated with modern Hollywood star vehicles, delivering a distinctive film with a real sense of character, place and an engagingly unpredictable story. The film has also been given a smashing Collector’s Edition package, replete with commentary, deleted scenes and behind the scenes footage. Like Molly says, do yourself a favour.

Available from www.totaldvd.com.au

March 13, 2002

Movie Review – The Royal Tenenbaums

Movie Review – The Royal TenenbaumsClassified – MA

Running Time – 108 Minutes

Cast

Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Gover, Bill Murray

Director – Wes Anderson

Producers – Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin

Screenplay – Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson

Cinematography – Robert D. Yeoman

Music – Mark Mothersbaugh

Comedy for thinkers

The Royal Tenenbaums…

“family is not a word, it’s a sentence.”

If you’ve ever had any niggling thoughts that your family could be dysfunctional, for your therapy, I recommend Wes Anderson’s new flick, the Royal Tenenbaums. Quite frankly, next to this “movie family,” your family is boring.

Royal Tennenbaum (Genne Hackman) and his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston ) had three children – Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson) and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) – and then they separated. The children are extraordinarily gifted, and raised by their mother, Etheline, who ensures that each child is pushed to the peak of success. Chas a home-owner from his early teens, possessed an almost supernatural understanding of international finance. Margot, a playwright, received a Braverman Grant for fifty thousand dollars in the ninth grade. Richie was a junior tennis player and won the US Nationals three years consecutively.

The film starts off with a family of geniuses, seemingly with everything going for it, ending up in disaster. The children are deeply troubled, burnt – out and unable to cope with the problems in life that most people are able to handle. Chas is a neurotic widower and father of two young boys, Margot married an older man (Bill Murry) and can’t face him, and Richie suffered a psychological blow-out on the tennis court as a result of his feelings of love for his adopted sister. All this was generally considered to be their father’s fault. The story is about how lives change and relationships unfold as theTenenbaums are forced into a sudden, unexpected reunion.

The cast is bloated with extraordinary talent and charisma. Their personalities so strong from the outset, it’s almost as if the characters delivered the plot before the film had a chance to get going. The film carries a specific tone, and a dark, skewed humor that will have some people splitting their sides. You’ll find yourself laughing at people’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. Wes Anderson’s style is so dry, he manages to make people laugh in situations where we really ought to be crying.

Gene Hackman play’s the very complicated “Royal,” who is selfish and wild and yet genuinely trying to make amends with his family so he can feel some love. His bumbling and deceitful attempts to win the trust and affection of his family are hilarious. A favourite quote is one he delivers to his two young grandson’s when visiting the family cemetery – “Sorry to hear about your mother, she was a very attractive woman.”

Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance is incredible, she takes on her role like a duck to water. Margot’s character is very precious and the fact that Gwyneth comes from a sophisticated New York background really shows through in her manner. Margot is twelve going on eighteen. Ben Stiller, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson also manage to deliver brilliant performances.

The visual style, the film titles and the soundtrack are just as brilliant as the story. If you’re committed to listening to cool tunes and your taste runs is the opposite direction, as fast as it can from mainstream, you’ll love this soundtrack. You’ll hear sounds from Elliot Smith, Nico, Mark Mothersbaugh, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles (although these tracks are omitted from the published CD) Nick Drake, Emitt Rhodes and the Clash and more.

If you’re in need of a thinking man’s comedy, hang around for this one. This flick is just the one for you.

Caroline Kinny-Lewis

 

February 15, 2002