Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Upcoming Movies that might be worth watching...

One of the perks of my job was attending the NZ Movie Convention in Wellington a couple of weeks ago. There, we watched not only full length features, but a smorgasbord of trailers/demo reels/features/behind-the-scenes looks at upcoming movies for the next 12 months.

Although there were many obligatory mainstream movies represented that I have no desire whatsoever to watch (In any lifetime!), a vast majority of the others really really piqued my interest somewhat. One of the big reasons why I love movies so much is that, every year, without fail, there are so many talented people creating magical works of art that bring me (and hopefully you!) so much sheer entertainment and total enjoyment. Don't like what's currently on offer? No problemo - just wait a wee while for something that 'floats your boat' which will consequently, be appearing in a cinema near you sometime soon* (actually, you won't have many options other than to wait a very long time for a vast majority of my recommendations, but hey - at least you will have plenty to look forward to ;).

I'm organizing this list by upcoming months - seems like the easiest way to do it. Starting with this month, keep coming back as I add additional months (once I write 'em!).

MAY 2014


Key Personnel... Tom Cruise; Emily Blunt; Bill Paxton; Brendan Gleeson

In a Nutshell... Tom Cruise in an "Apocalyptic Groundhog Day"

It's worthy because... OK, I'm not a die hard Cruiser fan, but gee whizz, the dude ain't half bad in things like this ( Loved "Oblivion"), the trailer just looks bad-ass, and on the 'plus side' the cruiser gets killed more than a few times! What's not to like? I'm buying my tickets tomorrow to an IMAX 3D session. Yep, I have high expectations for this one, but am quietly confident that it will surpass those well enough. A timely review will be on it's way come this weekend!

Edge of Tomorrow Trailer



Key Personnel... Michael Bay; Mark Wahlberg; Titus Welliver; John Goodman; Stanley Tucci

In a Nutshell... Episode 4 sees them back from the 'dead' - so to speak.

Its worthy because... If you know my taste in film, I can quite easily swing between a mega-blockbuster like this - and the most obscure art-house/festival title that leaving you scratching your head! Art-house this is not! Definitely in the 'Shit goes BOOM!' category, c'mon off your highbrow leanings, sit back and enjoy a guilt-free ride on this actioner that will entertain you, assuming you get there in the first place!

Transformers-Age of Extinction Trailer



Key Personnel... Taika Waititi; Jemaine Clement; Jonathan Brugh; Rhys Darby

In a Nutshell... Mockumentary about a film crew following a group of vampires living in a Wellington (NZ) flat

It's worthy because... A) the advance hype is very credible, B) It's by the guy who did 'Boy' and the dudes from 'Flight of the Conchords' TV show. Taika spoke (as only he can can speak) at the conference, a key thing he mentioned was for his gut feeling that this will be regarded as a future cult classic. Pretty much on the mark there - from most of us who saw all the footage then! Crossover appeal? That's the hard question. Should do well, but we'll see in due course...

What We Do in the Shadows Trailer

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

In a Nutshell... This Wes Anderson film follows the fortunes of  the dapper concierge M. Gustave and his trusty side-kick Zero as they battle love, fame, fortunes, families, old foes, new foes, prison, sadistic bounty hunters, lecherous lusting old ladies to name just a few of the obstacles to surviving life at the Grand Budapest Hotel and beyond...

All the usual suspects... (In yer 'typical' Wes film)

This is, without doubt, Wes Anderson's best film yet. If he can top this, I would be both stunned - but pleased. And relieved I guess. Already with a perfectly formed back catalogue of movies that are now regarded as classics, Grand Budapest Hotel is his Everest. This is the top of the world Wes. You've knocked the bugger off. Hope ya shouted "Top of the world Ma!". For the descent down, go back and make small (but perfectly formed of course!) movies that don't require an ever-expanding roster of over-eager thesps who seemingly are gagging to make even the most minute micro-cameo (yep, you - gorgeous George), although would it be a sacrilege to omit that talismantic lucky charm, the crumpled old dog that is Bill Murray? Sometimes, to move forward...

As with any Wes Anderson film, there is always two key aspects that he fastidiously maintains with absolute consistency. Iconic, memorable characters (Even the secondary characters are just as fascinating to observe) and the stunning sets/production design that ground his characters in that specific locale - wherever it may be. Combine those things with a quirky storytelling angle, and you've got the raw ingredients to create a work of art which allows us as interested observers ease in identifying that, yet again, it is another Wes Anderson masterpiece I'm watching. 

Specific highlights? Ralph Fiennes. After "In Bruges" and this, you really want to see him in more of these humorous roles. Fiennes plays these characters straight (as such), but also with the merest trace of a smirk, reminding us the viewer, that he too, knows how much fun the character is to watch. Willem Dafoe! Bugger all lines, but he really doesn't need any. He is a hoot as the stone faced Jopling, the dogged family enforcer brutally dispatching the various human's (And cat! Ker-splat! Best on-screen cat death this year so far) that are in the way of his progress towards securing 'justice' for the deceased's family he is employed for. The stunning set/production design. Oh. My. God. Stunning - and then some. The best filmmakers are inherently aware of the power of indelible images that can be recalled with consummate ease years from now. The Grand Budapest Hotel is going to be one of those. Mention this film to a friend in 20 years from now, and they will instantly have a picture in their mind of this masterpiece.

If you haven't already gleaned the essence of my review, then this is the only thing I need to say now.

Go see it. On the big screen. It is worth whatever price you have to pay for the nearest cinema to you.

One of my favourite movies this year - so far anyway!

Jamie's rating?

J for Jewel! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Boss. In my hometown...

It Ain't no Sin to be Glad you're Alive...

Is there a better live performer on this planet today than Bruce Springsteen? On the 'evidence' presented on Saturday 1st of March 2014, In Auckland, New Zealand, you'd have to say a big emphatic NO!

From the very start of his career as a musical performer, Bruce has been determined to give the hard working fan who has paid good hard-earned money to see him in the flesh, an intense experience that will create a bond which might just possibly last a lifetime between them. His commanding stage presence, relentless energy, committed rapport with any audience is something to behold in a live context. Viewing him at home is one thing, experiencing him in concert is transformative. Even from our position way back, thankfully with the massive projected screens, Bruce was super-sized to larger than life proportions. Which is absolutely befitting of a entertainer of his stature. His love for both what he provides - and the connections he makes in those few precious hours, add up to a potent combination that few others can match. Combine his supreme skills with the best backing band in the world, the legendary E-Street Band, and pretty much, if they are 'on-song', then there are only one or two other acts capable of similar feats such as they do. Night after night by all accounts from all over the world. Don't believe my hype? Google 'bad Springsteen Concert' and see how many people didn't feel the sames as millions of others do. Springsteen is clearly loved by his fans - and he loves them back. That is something you can't fake.

Enough of the hyperbole, what actually happened on this precious night to make me write so passionately about the 3 hours and fifteen minutes I spent under his glorious spell?

Well, if you open your concert acknowledging where in the world you are via a cover of a local artists song, then that will ensure you start off on the right foot, so to speak. Armed with just an acoustic guitar, once he started singing, the crowd went crazy. "Royals". Lorde. That is serious respect. We got that. He got that we got that, and from that point onwards, Springsteen had our complete and undivided attention. We were very willingly, putty in his formidable hands.

I'll spare you the full report of each and every song. It is more than tempting, but for sake of losing your interest, here's my personal highlights from this magical night.

"Born in the USA" The complete album, as per the original running order! All songs performed with embellishments and extended running times, this was a massive pleasure to hear. The songs may be over familiar, but hot damn, they all sounded so vital, so fresh, so enjoyable, even if they've been played to death a zillion times prior! The concert-goers on Sunday got the full "Born To Run" album. Lucky bastards! Loved to have heard "She's the One", "Backstreets" and "Jungleland" in particular, but what we got was more than good anyways. They didn't get the vast majority of we got. "Badlands". Gutsy, powerful, intense. Loved Bruce's guitar solo on this number. A rollicking, Irish-influenced "Death to my Hometown". A rousing raucous song that is something else live. A majestic, stately "The River". My song of the night though was an unexpected pleasure. I purposely avoided reading previous concert set-lists - and wasn't sure who was in the touring band. So, when I realised that Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave) was actually playing, my hopes were raised for hearing a song that he has guested on previously, the title track from Bruce's' 1995 album "The Ghost of Tom Joad". Seeing it on youtube is one thing. Watching this explosive track given a major revision via Morello's inventive 'rap-scratch' style guitaring was gob-smacking! Even the other half who normally gets turned off by fret-board wankery could fully appreciate the sheer artistry involved in this powerful rendition. (I'd 'primed' her up by taking her to the Neil Young + Crazy Horse gig last year. Of that, she was, shall we say, a little less than enthusiastic about the loud guitars. I was in heaven meanwhile...).

Gotta mention that the E-Street band played magnificently, Steve Van Zant had a permanent smile on his face the whole time. Jake Clemons, nephew of the iconic Big Man - Clarence Clemons -was clearly enjoying his opportunities when he was afforded them. Talent runs deep in the Clemons family. The 'Professor' Roy Bittan tinkled the ivories as only he can, showing why he is so popular in the industry (He's done hundreds of guest appearances on many many albums). The mighty Max Weinberg, on solid, booming drums, his backbeat providing the foundations for the others to weave their magic through. Nils Lofgren, displaying his undeniable chops with his guitar, only wish he got more solo's. He's too good not to be given more time to show off! Check out clips on youtube for proof. The other musicians were all talented too, but the aforementioned members are the ones that stood out for me on the night.
Bruce Springsteen. What else can you say? He's not God, he's not the messiah. But hell, if there ever was a church I'd wanna join, then the 'Church of The Boss' would fit pretty damn well. I suspect I wouldn't be alone in feeling this way either!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


In a nutshell: Compiled from over 300 hours of homemade fan footage, this heartfelt love letter to 'The Boss' (Bruce Springsteen) examines the powerful bond an artist can make with his fans. From all over the planet, the selected few get their 15 minutes of fame to explain to us, why Bruce matters so much to them...

If you were the producer of this very specific type of movie, clearly the key element to making a 'fan footage' documentary work well is in picking the most iconic artist who best exemplifies the many reasons why millions hold that person in such high regard. With that in mind, it was, as i repeatedly say, a 'no-brainer'. C'mon on, who else has such devoted fans? Who else who clearly has such a massive worldwide following as big as the guy they choose? The one, the only, Mr Bruce Springsteen!

Director Baillie Walsh got the mix almost near perfect (Hey, a couple of them were less than compelling, but that's a minor niggle in the scheme of things). However, the people they did get right though, they were all very entertaining - for many varied reasons. My favorites were the hyper-stressed mother with her kid who clearly did not stick to HER SCRIPT! (Poor bugger probably got a right ear-bashing afterwards!) and the long-suffering husband 'dragged along' to endure hours, and hours, and hours of BRUCE, when he quite pointedly states that he is NOT A FAN! Then there's the guy as Elvis, the guy driving in his car, all adding their own unique thoughts on what BRUCE means to them - and more. Much more.

Once Springsteen gave this project his blessing, he rather generously allowed access to never-seen-before clips from his long career. Some of them are a revelation - to say the least. For a Bruce fan, this is a goldmine of unfamiliar footage that reassuringly reminds you, even very early on, this dude had an attitude that would not only endear himself to many, but also highlights an astonishing work ethic that puts many others in his field to shame. 4 hour shows? With consummate ease. Time after time. Even today, at 63 years of age, he displays a remarkable capacity to "give 'em more of what they want - more of me!". It's never clear who will wave the white flag first - Bruce - or his fans.

Springsteen & I has been expertly put together, the chosen segments are carefully edited to craft a story that is a significant reminder of how damn great Bruce is at what he does. Perhaps more crucially though, he never relinquishes the deep bond with the people that ultimately decide your greatness (or not), the loyal fans who love his artist contributions with heartfelt abundance.

Tramps like him? Baby, he was born to run. And then some...

J for... Jewel!

2013 Film Festival review: Part 2

Next installment of my Film Festival reviews! Reviews of films 7-13

7) ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE: Filmed by Kiwi Anthony Powell over a decade, this is, at once, both a stunning and heartfelt personal tribute to both the people he works alongside - and a brilliant reminder of the stupendous, awe-inspiring, yet undeniably brutal landscape of the southernmost continent on our precious planet. This entertaining doco is more than good. For me, it's not just one of the best Kiwi doco's, but one of the very best doco's I've ever seen. Period. It almost makes you want to go and live there. Even through the darkest harshest winter known to mankind! I did say almost. As a stop-gap though, you could do no worse than watch this very human masterpiece. If you can't see it on a cinema screen, then watch on the biggest TV you can. Did I mention it's very funny too? Our Kiwi humour shines through without a trace of self consciousness!

8) WE STEAL SECRETS-THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS: The timeliness & relevance of this engaging doco is revealed at the very end with a coda about the latest update on NSA agent Edward Snowden's current situation in Russia. Unsurprisingly, things have since moved on rapidly after the completion of this doco, of which, does a fantastic job at illustrating vividly, the extreme ease in which information is dispersed in the connected world of 2013. How WikiLeaks came from seemingly nowhere to being a major player could not have happened without someone like Julian Assange. Possibly, its too early to seen how he will be treated by history, but WE STEAL SECRETS does reveal Assange's complex background, and lays bare the undeniably very complicated psyche behind the public face. Clearly, paranoia was, in retrospect, inevitable? Given the highly sensitive nature of what he was attempting to do, Julian made that self-made hole he dug much bigger by alienating nearly every single person close to him. And, if you fancy a welcome diversion from an attentive groupie, don't forget that these extracurricular  dalliances usually have consequences! Sometimes, ya gotta keep it zipped up...

9) BIG STAR-NOTHING CAN HURT ME: Some bands are destined for a long career in Rock 'N Roll. For select others though, fate, circumstance, bad luck, misfortune, can be ever present. Perhaps denying or even totally preventing them the expected rewards they work so very hard to seek. Money, Success, Respect, Global recognition are, but a few of the oft-stated goals of many others. BIG STAR were one such band seeking their share. Maybe it was the way too obvious name - Irony not fully appreciated back then? Maybe it was the clash of personalities? Maybe the lack of record company support at the time? Maybe, it was just the way it was meant to be? Fittingly, history now rightfully accords them their belated due with this engrossing documentary that delves into the intense personalities and the bands initially unforeseen demise to the now respected & influential place BIG STAR rightly hold in the music business. Take it from me, the music stands up brilliantly today, which reinforces the widely held belief of the time when they first emerged (Mid 1970's) - that these guys were GREAT. They deserved major success at the time, but alas, it was not meant to be. This doco is fantastic, but I implore you  - do check out the MUSIC as well. You won't regret it...

10) MUD: I have a real attraction to any movie set in the American South, and this third effort from talented director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter/Shotgun Stories - both fantastic! Check 'em out!) is an excellent reminder of how the stories from this vibrant region never fail to excite and entertain on most levels. Starring the charismatic Matthew McConaughey, who really shines as the roguish 'Mud', playing him as a misguided hero who has clear lines of morality and righteousness. His best role in eons. (Matt, hey buddy. No more generic 'Rom-Coms', OK?) When two young friends (Neckbone & Ellis - both superbly acted with abundant natural ease by their respective two young actors) find this escaped con holed up, somewhat mysteriously on an island at the head of a river, little do they realise by assisting him with his reason for being there in the first place (To reunite with his sweetheart - White trash goddess Juniper - a very welcome and convincing Reese Witherspoon), the grave danger they place themselves in with the arrival of a bunch of very determined bad men who are planning to prevent the reunion from ever happening. Funny, dramatic, tense, heartbreaking, and absolutely compelling, this is a movie that will be on my 'best of' list at the end of the year. Unmissable...

11) TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY: Everyone can relate to this commonly struck obstacle: You know when those pesky T&C's come up on a website you're joining - and you furiously find the quickest way to say YES, so you can get on to the important stuff behind their front gate? Possibly, it might just pay to actually have a quick squizz at exactly what it is that you're agreeing to - before you say YES. The irony though is that the 'masses' will never watch this thought-provoking, entertaining, and revealing doco that lays bare the reasons why any legal contract is formatted in a very exact fashion. Make no mistake, the legal & business communities work together to ensure that most of us will never bother to read the fine print - and read between the intentionally micro-sized legalese that is expressly engineered that way. To persuade you that you do not need to read those boring bits of documentation. Trust us. We have your best interests at heart. Er, no. I'm not so sure now, after watching this penetrating look behind the curtains of control. Once viewed, this doco will leave a mark. You'll think twice before signing your 'life away' in future dealings of this nature...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

2013 Film Festival review

All done. Another year at film fest under my belt... (This is my 14th year of 'full attendance')

All told, I viewed 26 movies in total at this years festival! Not even close to my personal best from about 3 years ago (50 movies - in the two week time frame), but still, a fairly 'respectable' number to have seen this time around. Didn't feel rushed or worn out with a full-on schedule like I did with that 50 film extravaganza did at times. Worst was part of that not insignificant effort was 11 movies in two days! Yikes -what was I thinking beforehand? Ahem, clearly 'thinking' did not come into the equation when I was ordering tickets so, lesson learnt from then, when it came to making that all crucial decision about the maximum total of films to watch in this years festival, I cast my memory back, and realised that a more measured approach would be a hell of a lot more beneficial (in every sense), and a damn sight cheaper to boot! At ,on average, about $15.00 each, these tickets add up. Factor in the obligatory additional costs such as: buses, car parking, cold drinks, lunches, dinners, takeaways - and not forgetting the odd trip squeezed into a record shop (or two? Probably way more! Don't tell the other half - She will kill me if she knew exactly how much I spent on CD/DVD/BLU discs in those two weeks!), and, all of a sudden, a truckload of money has been siphoned out of your account faster than some lowlife sucking petrol out of your car!

The best part of the fest? Only 1 dud! (Terence Malick's critic dividing "To the Wonder" - which I have reviewed in full on this site below) Its not bad I guess, that only 1 out of 26 that didn't provide some form of pleasure. Pretty good ratio if you ask me...

What follows is a brief rundown on all of the movies I attended. I will spare you all the eye-glazing wall of lengthy spiels about how wonderful they all were - and keep it short and sweet. Promise I will self-censor myself if I start to get way too verbose!

In order of films viewed, here we go then...

1) GOBLIN PLAY "SUSPIRIA" (LIVE IN CONCERT: The original band (1970's Italian prog-rockers GOBLIN) provided the live soundtrack to this mid 70's horror from Dario Argento. Film has clearly dated in terms of the acting style, but the stunning visuals were dramatically reinforced by the demonically appropriate music. An event that was worth the price of admission. Glad I went!

2) VILLAGE AT THE END OF THE WORLD: Just how tough life really is in a very small village in the Northwest coast of Greenland in 2012. An insightful look at how a community can be brought together even closer when faced with the ever creeping threat of employment in the only place (A neglected fishing factory) becoming non-existent in Niaqornot due to the current unpredictable economic climate. Market forces are a powerful entity to try to overcome, but the Inuit people are conditioned to survive in a very harsh environment, so they do the only thing they can. Run the factory as a co-operative. A very inspiring story with a few colourful local identities making themselves heard through this film.

3) MY SWEET PEPPER LAND: When retired Kurdish resistance fighter Baran takes on a police posting in a remote village in northern Kurdistan, little does he realise the impact his presence will have on the villagers lives. He immediately incurs the wrath of the hometown local warlord whose twitchy lieutenants who are eager to show this infidel who is in charge. Complicating matters further, Govend, a pretty female teacher rides into town, on the run from over eager family who are keen to escort her back to be married off - much to her disgust. A very blackly comical look at the harshness of life in a region that probably hasn't seen much in the way of peace for many long periods. Factor in the imposing physical landscape that only reinforces the bleak situation the protagonists find themselves in, and you've got a very watchable movie indeed.

4) PERSISTENCE OF VISION: Put yourself in the mind of Richard Williams, a master animator who had a significant career in animation, winning awards by the truckloads over the decades. Which all meant nothing compared to his dream he dared to entertain. The dream to create an animated film that would be nothing short of revolutionary, dazzling, life changing, influential. It had the potential to be a landmark in this industry. An iconic work that would transcend time. Next, entertain this ominous thought. What if, say, you've toiled away for the best part of four decades - and the work still is nowhere near finished? Now, due to various legal contracts you've signed, you no longer have any rights to that work. Forever! How the hell would you feel then? Unsurprisingly, Williams declined to appear on film, but many of his colleagues, associates, friends did, recounting his tragic, possibly self inflicted tale of woe. A tale of dogged determination against pretty much anything and everything! Art above commerce indeed...

5) PARADISE: LOVE: This sordid little tale of how we act so differently when away on holiday ("What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" type of attitudes typical of many a tourist) is bleakly displayed by a lonely middle-aged, flabby solo mum looking for love in all the wrong places. Moral is, yup, money doesn't not buy you happiness. It only reinforces how pathetic you can be when you put your vulnerability on the line - and the vultures start heading in for the kill. A scarily believable fable in this day and age.

6) LESSON OF THE EVIL: Nobody does psycho like Japan's enfant terrible - Takashi Miike does, and in this gleefully violent film, he presents the latest exhibit to remind us of his supreme ability to create enduring nutters who revel in their handiwork with aplomb. School teacher Mr Hasumi is popular with all the students, his natural empathy creating a special bond with his students. But, as always the case, another teacher is distrusting, and starts digging into his seemingly fact-free prior employments. Cue to Hasumi finding out about this investigation which, naturally does not make him happy. Far from it in fact. Once we've got halfway through the film, Hasumi starts to display those qualities that aren't so endearing, unleashing slowly, but surely, his true intentions. Being a latent psycho, later rather than sooner, all around him start to see a different side to his character they've not seen before... Then, all bloody hell breaks loose. With absolute sadistic pleasure, he methodically teaches the students and staff who he really is. A very evil lesson indeed... albeit, with several lashings of perverse humour!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Field in England

Synopsis: In a remote field in England during the civil war, a rag-tag group of men fleeing the carnage meet other refugees who may have, quite possibly, very murky intentions. What follows next is a journey into the realms of the weird and the really 'out-there' as they all try to make sense of the encroaching madness that threatens to eventually overwhelm them all...

"Ere mate, this is the weirdest thing I've seen a long while! Not sayin it's a bad thing, but.."

Oh, Hell YES! This film ROCKS! It is a masterclass in how to make a movie that has a iconic look and feel which then, categorically identifies itself as a work of art from a undeniably gifted director. In this case it's festival favorite Ben Wheatley, with his latest effort, the 4th such cinematic offering he has brought to fruition.

This bold and intoxicating film grabs you from the very first scene - and holds you firmly in its grasp until the credits start rolling. What a ride inbetween! Making the brave decision to film it in luminous black and white is, absolutely an artistic masterstroke. Colour would not have given the same organic feel as B/W. It would still be quite the experience, but a lesser one in my mind. Aside from that artistic choice, there are many other significant factors which contribute greatly to the success of this project, chief amongst them are the superb casting (All the gentlemen onscreen are equal to the task at hand, it's unfair to single any one person out), the strobing, psychedelic, feverish, frantic fantasy sequences; the staccato editing; the ominous creeping soundtrack; the imaginative storyline that was completely fresh, unique, and very compelling. All these elements blended together seamlessly, to keep you totally focused on the events unfolding before you. Much like the protagonists, desperately trying to make sense of it all!

The story you may ask? What's it all about then? People, people. Words are, quite simply, not going to be enough. All I can tell you is this. It's set during the English Civil War. It involves no more than 5 characters. They're all strangers. Some of the men get friendly, others are less inclined. Some might be looking for treasure. There's the prospect of a hearty refreshing ale at an alehouse. Some might get injured, possibly some will meet a more severe fate. They might ingest some hallucinogenic mushrooms. Then things really get very weird after that...

Gotta confess that I actually haven't seen the other three films that Wheatley has made yet (2009's "Down Terrace", 2011's "Kill List", 2012's "Sightseers") but having viewed this latest title to his name, I'll have to make amends. Sooner, rather than later I should add, this film being so damn good. I'm very curious now to immerse myself in all the films that I've mentioned above. It's kinda like when you arrive really late to an event, you miss out on so much at the beginning that you kick yourself for being tardy. Inevitably, it's always very beneficial to know how any story starts. Thus, you then have the 'complete picture' which, of course, gives you a deeper understanding of the whole thing. That's always a better place to make an informed judgement on matters such as these.

The biggest task any filmmaker has, when starting a new film, is to realise his vision properly. To execute it the way he has visualized it countless times before in his excited cranium. Once the project is completed to his exacting standard, it readies itself for an audience to discover and (most crucially), for them to fall in love with it is the desired wish. If a director has a strong self belief that he can manufacture something extraordinary, then the chances are he can produce a work of major significance. A work that will resonate with an audience, and will stand the biggest test of them all. The passage of time.

With "A Field in England", Ben Wheatley has created a fantastic movie which has the requisite 'X-Factor' in spades. This should (If it hasn't already) be enough to propel him to the forefront of leading edge filmmakers who have a unique voice via this wonderful medium we so cherish.

Long may he reign supreme!

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Jewel!

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Band Called Death

Synopsis: The power of family is the cornerstone of this uplifting documentary that explores what happens when the Rock 'N Roll dream three talented brothers had didn't pan out the way they envisioned it originally, back in 1974. Nearly 40 years later, they find the musical landscape has changed - for their better... 

We are FAMILY, I Got all my Brothers and me....

The Musical environment in Detroit in 1974 was dominated by two major types of music - Rock as exemplified by Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad & Bob Seger. On the other side, was R&B & Soul, from the incomparable Motown record label. Still a force, but no longer as completely dominant as they once were in the 1960s. So, if you were a budding musician, then these two options were pretty much the established genres of music that you should be looking to play and record, if you wanted a long term career.

What though, if these two types of music weren't the types of sounds in your head, that you wanted to play to people? What if, you were cut from a different cloth? And had the upmost conviction that your new type of music had something else to offer? And, backed with this self belief, you also had the integrity to stay true to yourself - no matter what others may say about your brand of Rock 'N Roll?

Siblings David, Dannis & Bobby Hackney had the love of music instilled in them from the earliest age they can recall, their parents always having music in the house, and when the opportunity arose, the chance was grabbed to purchase instruments that would set them on a path none could foresee at that point of time. The future was a very distant thing. After wreaking havoc on the local neighbourhood with their growing prowess on their chosen kit, it became apparent to all concerned that these boys had talent to burn. While attending a concert by The Who, eldest brother David had an epiphany: "That's the type of music WE SHOULD BE PLAYING!" Won over by his insistence, the other two quickly agreed that Rock music offered the right outlet for their growing social awareness about where society was at in 1974. David had only one requirement that he would stipulate strenuously, in fact, he decreed that it was non-negotiable term and condition if they were to pursue this new found direction.  


Their new band was going to be called DEATH. Nowadays, its very easy to visualize the impact this one detail would present at that time in history. Back in 1974, three black brothers playing a 'fuzzed-up' raw, in-your-face sound that did not - in any shape or form - even remotely reassemble what else was happening in Detroit at that moment. It didn't even come close. And, they were called DEATH.

Initially Dannis & Bobby did not think that this name was going to help them climb the ladder to stardom - and beyond. David though, was able to argue a very coherent logic as to the reasoning that made him determine this was the right name. The catalyst being the loss of their beloved father through a tragic traffic accident (Killed by a drunk driver whilst he was rushing an injured workmate to hospital). This travesty affected them all, none more so than David, who began questioning his place on this earth. Once he saw the light, that the name would be 'perfect' for them - and reflective of their current reality - he was never ever going to consider anything else. With a couple of weeks to reflect on this radical proposal, the younger two swung in behind David, lending him their full commitment to this venture into the unknown, to boldly go, where no band had gone before.

Initially, they got great support from Ardent Recording Studio in Detroit, making the first demo tapes to start hawking around to radio stations and record companies. Most were impressed with this new aggressive sound, and might have been keen to give it the requisite promotional activity to make it well known, bar one minor detail. Yep, that name. Change it - and major success beckoned. It's only a name, right? Ah, no, that wasn't going to fly. At all. Not ever. Not as far as David was concerned. The name DEATH was an emphatic statement about these three talented musicians, and if David said no, they all said NO. Even though the other two knew that it would make a difference, but the core family value that their father imparted was this: Always look after your brothers. Always support them - no matter what.

On the very brink of getting a major recording deal with the influential Clive Davis (Head supremo of Columbia Records), they had negotiated all terms bar one. The name change. The band wouldn't budge. Neither would the record company. With that door shut, many others soon began to shut as well. What seemed like a great vision of a powerful new type of music to spread to the world, soon faded to a tarnished reality that uncannily started to mimic the gradual decline that was seeping into daily life in Detroit. Beat, broken-down, battered, Death gigged as much as they could, but without a recording to let people take home, they eventually got to a point where they had to change. There wasn't many other avenues open to them at that stage. David, having created the complete concept, naturally took it the demise of the band the hardest. David being the true 'artiste', who having decided that DEATH was going to be his vehicle for delivering his message to the people, quickly made up his mind that it was DEATH - or nothing. In his mind, there wasn't a plan b. The plan was for DEATH to succeed. That was that.

This heartfelt documentary provides another fascinating look into a band that should have been better known, but were fated to be cast on a different path than the one they assumed would lead them to rock 'n roll glory.  Yes, this doco may seem cynical to some, that it's another resurrection story to revise an overlooked band from complete obscurity, but credit where credits due. Thank god then, they made this lovingly crafted movie that pays full tribute to pioneers who just weren't made for those times. These guys need to be heard!

DEATH were of their time - and way ahead of their time. It is a shame that David didn't live to see the rewards that has belatedly recognized his iconic musical vision in 1974.The best way to repay him for his outstanding contribution to Rock 'N Roll is to watch "A Band Called Death" and spread the word to as many as you can. Most definitely, one of the best music documentary's this year...

Jamie's rating?

J for... Jewel!

To the Wonder

Synopsis: It's Terence Malick's latest film. Story? Hmmm... Read the review below. Then you'll understand why I cant write a more detailed synopsis...

We're on the road to nowhere.. (Metaphorically speaking of course)

This film is exactly the type of film that film festivals were made for. It 'ticks' many boxes, both good, and bad. Very very bad as well!

The 'Story' (A loose term if ever there was one!) goes something like this:

Ben meets Olga (who has a kid - about 12-ish) in Paris. They fall in love, they go to the coast, they mooch around. They kiss, they touch. They argue. They decide to move to the States. In a small town with pretty fields. They meet some neighbours. They argue. They make up. They make love. They quarrel again. Daughter gets homesick. They send her back to France. Olga gets lonely. They both go to church. She can't get a job. He gets fixated with contaminated earth in his hood. He gets rest of hood all worked about that. She meets troubled priest Javier. Ben decides to leave. He needs space. She goes to France 'cause she can't get a green card. He finds old flame lawyer Rachel who is helping with the soiled earth business. They go to her daddy's farm. She likes horses. They start horsing around together. Olga comes back. Olga finds out. Olga not happy. Ben leaves Rach, gets Olga back. Olga gets a homemade musical instrument from some dude. They hook up in a seedy motel. He does the deed, and buggers off. She feels used. She tells Ben. Ben throws a hissy-fit! Ben makes her walk home. Javier walks around the neigbourhood. Moping. Avoids crazy ex-junkie lady. Maybe there is a 'dream sequence'. Maybe not. There were 'other things' as well.

They all mumble. All the bloody time! 

Without doubt, this is unquestionably, Malick's most esoteric, European influenced, avant-garde project he has completed to date. It is also, quite categorically, his most frustrating, irritating, boring, incomprehensible, and ultimately, his most worst film at the same time. If ever any critic needed ammunition to add to their argument that he has 'lost the plot', then To the Wonder is a key element in the case against him being self indulgent. Which is OK, if the movie has a certain charm about it. This film is totally devoid of charm. To the Wonder is going to be very hard to recommend to anyone who isn't a devoted fan. Thinking about that point further, I would say this: Even the most devoted Malick fan will find themselves questioning very seriously about the relative merits (if any?) of this film. For the record, I think that Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World are bona fide masterworks, they are some of my all time favorite films. I could happily watch those movies again, and again. To the Wonder I'll probably never watch again in my lifetime. I'll qualify this by saying I don't hate it per se, I'm just not ever going to find the 'spare' time to watch it again. I know my opinion won't ever change. I got nothing out of viewing it whatsoever. It will not improve with additional viewings. It is what it is. A statement by the director that is of no interest to me now, and forever.

Maybe the next one will be more 'watchable'? The bonus these days is that we no longer have to wait an eternity for a new Terence Malick movie. The unknown is whether or not the damn thing will be worth the wait.

We can only hope (and pray! Lord, we need to pray for him... ) that this has all been a bad dream. We'll all wake up soon, and he'll be saying "Gotcha! Had ya fooled - didn't I! Wait for my next one. It will be something!".

Yeah, Right.

That 'something' better be damn good Malick...

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Joke!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2 days = 1 movie? Wha' happen??? But the movie I did see...

Bugger... Never experienced this before? 3 days in - and the body said NO! In emphatic fashion. Had a raging... headache!!! So, on Sunday, after struggling through the first scheduled movie, I wandered up to Albert Park, to clear my throbbing cranium, to no avail sadly. Got Wendy to pick me up, and toddled off home to relax. Sometimes, things just don't pan out the way you envisaged them prior. Still, the one I skipped (Doco "The Act of Killing"), I will definitely make an effort to catch later in the fest. It will be a memorable viewing, that much I'm sure of.

However, the movie I did see yesterday, Kiwi Anthony Powell's heartfelt paean to the majestic continent that he has called home for over a decade, the utterly enthralling "ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE".

You just know they're not kidding with that statement...

I can quite easily say this much, as of this point in time. Without hesitation, "ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE" is one of finest documentaries I've ever seen. I would wholeheartedly recommend this to all and sundry. It is put together with two key things that elevate any film into another category, Passion & Love. Both of these factors are hugely evident in this stunningly filmed look at how it is to live in of the most unique places on this planet. In fact, I would quite happily venture this thought. It will be, a definitive document of both how and why, people from all over the world choose (of their own volition) to head to Antarctica to live - and to return to - time, and time again.

Powell's love for the continent infects you with relative ease, so much so that by the end of the film, I was seriously starting to wonder to myself... Antarctica... Hmmm... Could I cope with living there? Could I be a masochist and try working through a Winter as well? (Many don't even attempt that! The entire population reduces from 700 to around 50 during the winter months). There's no flights in (or out) whatsoever in that period, due to the obvious reason. There is no sun. At all. No pilot worth his salt would be foolhardy enough to attempt it. And considering the only flight down is courtesy of the US Air Force, then your chances of being rescued in that season (Should a medical emergency arise), will be nigh on impossible.

David Attenborough may have looked at the wildlife there, Werner Herzog may have looked at how 'weird' some people are there, but for my money, Anthony Powell, being a 'native' of the land, 'gets it' like no-one else has. He totally understands the type of personality drawn to this foreboding environment - and what impact it has on them because he speaks the same language. He has pretty much had the same experiences as well.  Actually, you can make a case that 'Antarctican's' (No idea if that's how they describe themselves, but it 'fits' I guess?)  have, through living in this seemingly inhospitable place, developed their own unique 'culture'. Certainly, the idiosyncrasies they all invariably tend to display lends weight to this idea.
Powell conveys that although some of these people could be construed as socially awkward, they all embody the best of humanity for one simple reason. In Antarctica, no-one can hear you scream, whine, moan, sulk, and generally be a miserable bugger, due to the significant fact that you don't have any choice but to get on with all others as best you can. What are you going to do if it all gets too much? Dial a taxi? Bugger off somewhere else? Maybe its a 'category 3' weather event outside - minus 80! 200 kph winds! Er, no. You are going to do all you can to get on as best you can with person who may be 'bugging you' - there is no other feasible option available.

In creating such a fascinating story, Powell hasn't forgotten the key thing people want to see - Antarctica itself. The quite frankly stupendous visuals on-screen are gobsmacking, to say the very least. I've never seen Antarctica look the way it does - before viewing this documentary. Powell is an exceptionally skilled photographer, getting shot after shot of these vast but absolutely majestic landscapes that are a complete joy to see on a cinema screen.

If (and when) it comes back for another run at the cinema, then my friends, you owe it to yourselves to take a chance and view this brilliant movie on a big screen. It demands the biggest canvas possible. Failing that, it should not - under any circumstances, ever be viewed on a TV less than 50 inches in size. It would be a travesty to diminish this masterpiece to anything less than these recommended options!

There is one more screening tomorrow night in Auckland (6.15pm - at The Civic Theatre) I'd be pleasantly surprised if it sold out (It, by all rights should be the sort of movie to sell out, but then, the Civic is a big theatre). If you can, then take my recommendation seriously - and go and see it!

You will not be disappointed!

If you are, I'll slap you one! Until you 'come around'! :)

Jamie's Rating?

J for... Jewel!