*NEW* THE DRESSMAKER REVIEW *NEW*

dressmaker-poster

Winslet is dressed to impress in this quirky little drama.

A glamorous woman (Kate Winslet) returns to her small town in rural Australia. With her sewing machine and haute couture style, she transforms the women and exacts sweet revenge on those who did her wrong.

This one nearly slipped my radar. If not for a recommendation by a family member, I would have missed out on one of the better films of the year.

Winslet delivers a stellar performance as Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage. The shunned schoolgirl reformed and ready for revenge. As soon as she stepped onto the station platform, dressed like Mildred Pierce with her sewing machine in tow, you knew you were in for a treat.

I never expected to enjoy this at all BUT it was quirky, funny and engaging. Highly recommend. We join Tilly as she returns home to try and piece together the reasons why she was forced out of the small dust bowl in the first place.

The mystery behind her past helped break up the (surprisingly enjoyable) Desperate Housewives style melodrama in the community. BUT as well as having to deal with the locals, Tilly must also face her mother, Molly (Judy Davis).

Davis played the reclusive and volatile Molly superbly. She was a monster. Abusive and ignorant in one moment. Troubled, neglected and lost, the next. Davis and Winslet were a great pairing. Their fractious relationship certainly spiced things up as you soon realise that maybe Tilly wasn’t the only one traumatized by the incident. The more we delve in their troubled past, the more you feel for them.

Tilly’s dressmaking inevitably makes her the talk of the town as her dresses transform their owners. Changing how they are perceived. It made for interesting and comical viewing, most notably with Gertrude’s (Sarah Snook) transformation. It was unexpected but not surprising. The glamourous women strutting around the town was brilliant. Especially when the town looked like it had been plucked straight out of a Western.

I loved how colourful the characters were in the community. Hugo Weaving was superb as the flamboyant Sergeant Farrat. The man with a passion for fashion. The lecherous hunchback pharmacist Percival Almanac played repulsively by Barry Otto. I could go on.

Liam Hemsworth was very good as Tilly’s inevitable love interest Teddy McSwiney. It was good to see him NOT involved in a Hunger Games love triangle and have the chance to act. He had great chemistry with Winslet and they made a good pair.

I have to agree with Mark Kermode’s review that this film must have contained every genre bar science fiction. In fact, it almost came off like a Western. The little nods were fantastic. Especially when a rival dressmaker is brought into the mix to challenge the ‘gunslinger’.

However, the pace did drag and by the 90 minute marker things were starting to meander along. The unraveling was interesting enough BUT the big reveal was a little disappointing after all the lies and deceit. I expected something a little darker and more dramatic. I also expected Shane Bourne’s Evan Pettyman to be more of a villain. For all the talk from the town about the man, he didn’t live up to the hype. But then again, who does?

Despite being watchable, I did start to wonder where there was all going. BUT thankfully, the film took an unexpected change in direction. Delightfully dark, touching and macabre with everything coming to a head for a thrilling and satisfying finale.

I was pleasantly surprised. The Dressmaker was a breath of fresh air in the drudge of regurgitated rehashes and remakes filling up the film schedules.

It may not have been perfect BUT great characters, a fresh take on an old story, lots of humour and a whole load of quirkiness makes this one to put on the list.

3.5/5

Advertisements

*NEW* STEVE JOBS REVIEW *NEW*

240506

Steve Jobzzzz

Sorkin. Boyle. Fassbender. Winslet. Rogen. This had all the ingredients for a perfect biopic. BUT it failed to impress on so many levels.

Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicentre. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

From the director of Trainspotting and penned by the man who brought you The West Wing. Maybe I went with too high an expectation. The meandering opener with Arthur C. Clarke predicting the inevitable invasion of personal computers and their insertion into everyday lives didn’t really get things going for me. It was certainly haunting. Especially as I was writing notes on my iPhone while watching the thing.

Michael Fassbender was superb. He delivered a stellar performance BUT a fitting one? Well, that’s another story. We join the technical genius during the 1984 Mackintosh fair. It was typical Sorkin which, for the first 30 minutes, ticked all the boxes. Fast talking, quick witted, highly quotable (“The orchestra play their instruments and I play the orchestra”). And, of course, the hallway walking. Oh, the hallway walking.

We watch Jobs have a fit over the Mac’s interface as it crashes before the big moment. I understand that films always dramatize and exaggerate BUT Sorkin and Boyle really go out of their way to make Jobs appear to be such a ruthless and egotistical manipulator. I mean normally nine times out of ten, most of these “geniuses” or “historical figures” have a screw loose. BUT it’s convenient that the film was made after Job’s death.

It certainly changed perceptions BUT after his passing, you got a sense of the techno wizard. And then to see him torn to pieces and portrayed as a callous liar, it was a little tough to swallow. BUT at the same breath, it spiced up what was quite a dull affair.

The techno babble did tragically go over my head. BUT I was able to gather that Jobs was streaming things that weren’t part of the package or technically didn’t even exist. He exploited and stole components from any one he could. Even his own friend Steve Wozniak.

It was good to see Seth Rogen do some semi-serious acting for a change. He didn’t do a bad turn as Wozniak. Loitering around the conferences like a bad smell. Merely wanting acknowledgment for Job’s plagiarism. Nothing more. Or was he?

Kate Winslet worked well with Fassbender and delivered a reasonable turn as Job’s long suffering assistant Joanna Hoffman. The pair zinged off each other and really made Sorkin’s lines snap. BUT my main issue was her accent. Hoffman was Polish American. It felt like halfway through the film, Winslet suddenly remembered this and tried to thicken the accent to Borat levels. Well, maybe not that bad but it was pretty noticeable.

As much as Boyle and Sorkin may have created a monster in Jobs, it was all rather mediocre and repetitive. They literally did the same thing in three different conferences with the same result. Jobs would bellow at techies, deny that he had a daughter, ignore Hoffman’s advice and then still be trusted with shed loads of money.

Jobs’ estranged relationship with his daughter Lisa certainly made things a little more interesting. He developed an algorithm to argue against the court ruling declaring him as the father. 94.1% was inconclusive, apparently. BUT what infuriated me was that it was brought in very early adding to the drama. Then nothing. Just more fast talking and walking. The subplot was only really brought back into the mix at the end. Shame.

I respected that Sorkin did eventually question the moral ambivalence of everyone. The intentions of Chrisann (Katherine Waterston – Inherent Vice), Jobs’ ex soon changed your loyalties. What appeared to be a genuine concern for her daughter’s welfare soon became a cash cow.

The flashbacks were a little disappointing. I expected  a little more depth into Jobs’ personal background (Apparently he doesn’t have one). Not a regurgitation of what we’ve already been told or gathered. Only a little more shouty. There was a clever use of juxtaposition that meshed two different arguments between John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) and Jobs. The wrong doer ironically having the role reversed.

I wasn’t aware how disappointing a campaign Mac had after developing one of the most iconic adverts in history. There were some interesting stats being thrown around. Apple’s control of the market hitting an all time low. Factories closing. Projected sales turnovers of a million computers only reaching 35,000!

Jobs was a mastermind. BUT not in the admirable way (Is there one?). During his exile from Apple, he established a new company that was flogging a product that had nothing new to justify the incredibly steep price. Nothing but an expensive game of chess between the Apple execs. He knew they were after the tech that he was developing and would have to buy it from him.

It was watchable BUT I feel I’m making it more interesting than it was (Or not?). It was far too talky and too serious. I’m not sure whether it was out of desperation BUT Sorkin threw in odd quirks that didn’t make any sense. A scene in which Jobs cleans his feet in a toilet bowl struck me as odd and irrelevant.

I feel Sorkin pushed this into The Newsroom territory. A show I never really enjoyed. The grandiose and sanctimonious speeches over such petty and uninteresting things. There just wasn’t enough drama for my liking. Not enough exploration into Jobs’ past. I mean if these were the best moments of Job’s life, then yikes!

A mixed bag for me. Quick witted and brilliantly acted. BUT repetitive, heavy handed and dull. Maybe some stories shouldn’t be told.

2.5/5

*NEW* INSURGENT REVIEW *NEW*

insurgent_movie_poster_3

Dull-vergent returns. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice . . . Well, shame on me again, I guess.

Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

Well, it killed the time. But would I watch it again? Would I recommend it? Ah, no.

I haven’t read the Divergent books (and I’m certainly not going to after this) BUT I actually liked the first feature film adaptation. It was racy, engaging if a little predictable. BUT as I said back then, if there was going to be a sequel, they would need to take it up a notch.

It was watchable enough but if anything, Insurgent took the wind out of Divergent’s sails. It was slow, overlong and cliched as hell. It only really got going in the last twenty minutes. Not good enough.

It doesn’t help that the silver screen has been flooded with endless teen bestseller adaptations since The Hunger Games. These films really need to hit the ground running or at least offer something different to make a memorable impression. The Maze Runner had messed up zombies and a MAZE! Hunger Games had . . . Jennifer Lawrence (What?!)

Insurgent offered the same old re-tread like its predecessor but with weaker results. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all bad.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James still have cracking chemistry and kept the spark going. I just could have done with a little less schmaltz. Woodley seems to be shaking off the squeaky clean image and with that severe haircut, she certainly proved she can play the strong lead well. Okay, her haircut wasn’t that bad. I just wondered why the hell she did it.

The running sequences didn’t really grab me as much as Divergent. A chase involving a train certainly kept me quiet for a few minutes and there were some decent set pieces. BUT the story line and characters really hampered this yarn a treat.

Ansel Elgort’s Caleb grated against me. His constant indecisiveness was infuriating. Standing around aimlessly while watching his little sister being throttled and hung out of a train. Laughable. And when he finally strikes, he hit a semi-conscious Factionless with a lead pipe. Tut tut tut.

Naomi Watts was wasted in her role. There was potential in exploring Four’s background but it didn’t really surmount to much. If not for a revelation in the film (Don’t worry – no spoilers here), I would have deemed Watts’ character unnecessary. Obviously she will have a more prominent role in the next installment, but here’s the thing Insurgent didn’t really make want to see the next one.

Miles Teller played the wise cracking Peter well. BUT that BACKSTABBER label was stamped so hard on his head that it wasn’t a surprise when he inevitably picked his moment of betrayal. As much as I didn’t mind seeing more of Teller, it was at the expense of Zoe Kravitz and Maggie Q who were virtually absent.

Jai Courtney provided a perfect rival to Four and brought some much needed tension. Kate Winslet played a hard ass as well as she could but there was only so much pouting you can do while looking angry and holding an iPad.

I was baffled with where this film was going. I thought during the closing minutes of Divergent that Bea was already running to the gates or outskirts of the compound (or whatever it was) and escaping. Yet in Insurgent, the gang are hiding and then going back. For what?

Some mumbo jumbo about a cryptic box that can only be opened by a (Surprise, surprise!) Divergent. A box that did absolutely nothing and supposedly contained a message from ‘The Others’. A message that was not worth the two hour wait.

The Matrix style piping with Trish’s Inception style dream sequences went on far too long and didn’t really do anything. I was disappointed after all the promise that Divergent suggested. It seemed to take a darker turn half way through which did pique my interest but then chickened out.

This really felt like a case of filler before the final Part 1 and Part 2 sequels. The cast do their best with the material and the special effects and set pieces did enough to pick up the lumbering pace BUT I would really have to think twice about venturing to the cinema to see the next part.

2.5/5

A LITTLE CHAOS REVIEW

Little Chaos Movie

Sorry, Mr Rickman. Your debut needed a little more chaos. A stellar cast fails to hide what is a dreadfully slow and meandering affair.

10 points from Slytherin!

Two talented landscape artists become romantically entangled while building a garden in King Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles.

I really wanted to like this but I was left wanting more by the time the credits rolled.

Period pieces are not my strong suit. But that’s not to say, I don’t enjoy them. I didn’t mind Downton Abbey (when it first came out). Remains of the Day and Sense and Sensibility (featuring Ms Winslet and Mr Rickman) were simply brilliant.

It made sense that Rickman would invest his directorial debut in a periodic love story. It’s just a shame that beneath its beautifully shot surface, there wasn’t much going on.

The rather bizarre opening didn’t really get things going or set the tone properly. It felt like something out of Blackadder. Louis’ youngest son announcing that he had soiled himself. A mistress ready to tear off her clothes to please her king in front of the children. No joke. This happened.

It took a little while to get to the point. The point being Louis’s eccentric behaviour. He cues his own family members for applause after every little soliloquy. His speech about finding Heaven in a garden was well done if a little pretentious. His defense being that the Garden of Eden was where it all began for humanity.

I can remember from my old History lessons on the extravagance and financial ruin that Louis XIV went through to achieve this perfection. I expected to see this issue looked at or maybe even confronted. BUT tragically not. All we have is a couple of stiff upper lipped lords simply quibble that the King is spending beyond his means. That’s it.

Kate Winslet was very good and certainly carried the film. A strong leading woman if ever there was one.

A self-made woman renowned for her unique gardening designs and passion for chaos. We are fed little tidbits of her past. Figures running in the background, children laughing. Flickering images in dreams that soon get really annoying as the film continues to meander along. The supernatural element had my interest piqued.

Matthias Schoenaerts keeps popping up in films lately. With Far From The Madding Crowd due at your local cinema shortly, I’m getting fed up of seeing him but with performances like this, I can see why he keeps stealing all the parts.

Charismatic yet moody with a mysterious demeanour. He even has a little sing song!

His character, Andre Le Notre is a meticulous and stubborn garden designer renowned across France. It’s not long before he clashes with Winslet’s strong willed madame. His order and perfection disrupted by her random chaotic selection. Inevitably sparks fly.

The pair have good chemistry and certainly played the parts well. BUT in between the inevitable romance plot, there isn’t much else on offer. Merely moments.

Helen McCrory has been a favourite of mine for some time. Her turn in Peaky Blinders being a particular highlight. She played the manipulative house wife to perfection. Scowling and nasty one moment. Sleeping around with any man she can to bait a reaction from Notre’s frustrated gardener. Vulnerable and regretful the next.

I wanted a little more stoke thrown into the fire between her and Schoenaerts. Their fractious relationship had potential. The marriage merely a business arrangement.

Her jealousy of his brewing relationship with Winslet’s Sabine could have been so much more. It soon builds up to a tense sabotage attempt. However, the post-confrontation was well done but a little anti-climactic. Schoenaerts merely shares some harsh truths and walks away. Alas.

Stanley Tucci was superb as the scene stealing Duc D’Orleans. He instantly made an impression and injected a much needed frenetic energy to the incredibly serious leads. Overtly camp and funny. Not enough of his character. He made more of an impact in five minutes than most of his counterparts.

It was understandable that Rickman would take a step back on the acting front by taking a smaller role but when he did appear, he was brilliant.

I really wanted to see more of the King and Sabine’s relationship.  A humourous introduction between Sabine and the King as she mistook him for a normal gardener was just what the doctor ordered. Winslet and Rickman were fantastic together and it made for engaging viewing.

Rupert Penry Jones made an memorable cameo poncing about and educating Winslet’s befuddled madame of the inner workings of the French society rings. However, once he disappears, you suddenly realise how unnecessary his character actually was. So much so that IMDb have decided not to give him an acting credit. Bizarre. A silly role for a talented actor.

The pace didn’t justify the means. It tested me at times. We finally discover why Sabine lives alone and is working in France in a dramatic five minute reveal BUT it just wasn’t enough.

There were good moments and the cast certainly delivered with their performances. Ellen Kuras’ cinematography was superb. The closing panning shot of the Versailles garden landscape was a feast for the eyes alone.

But with so many films out there, this felt like nothing more than a periodic love story of Ground Force. I feel this one will soon fade into the back of people’s memories quicker than it entered.

Shame.

2/5

DIVERGENT REVIEW

divergent_poster_hq

Watchable enough. Even if the film was Di-Verging on Being a Hunger Games Rip off.

In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris (Shailene Woodley) learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four (Theo James) must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

We’ve seen it all before. BUT with a well acted cast and likeable characters, I was happy to enjoy the ride.

I haven’t read the book. And after watching this, I don’t think I will any time soon. For those who also haven’t; the film is set in a post apocalyptic future Chicago. In order to maintain peace, the city has been split into five factions and shielded with a giant wall (Ironic). From what? Nobody knows. No, seriously. Nobody knows.

The factions are; Arudite, Candor, Dauntless (the irritating and OTT Dauntless), Amity and Abnegation. For those who haven’t swallowed a dictionary, Abnegation helps the homeless or “Factionless”, in this case. Introduce the lovely (and my new crush) Shailene Woodley as isolated teen Tris who is struggling to fit into said faction.

The pace chugged along as Tris was torn between fulfilling her obligations to her parents and finding her true calling, her identity (Zzzzz). Lucky for her there was a big test in which she can change factions. BUT everything is NOT what it seems.

Woodley is a very likeable lead and there were a couple of moments I didn’t expect to happen, which made a nice surprise from my teen blockbuster check list that I’ve accumulated over the years. Theo James played the brooding and mysterious (BUT NOT really that mysterious) Four well.

He has come a long way from sniffing p** in The Inbetweeners Movie (Yep, that guy). He even mastered a flawless American accent.

There was good chemistry between him and Woodley as inevitably sparks flew. The fighting through the ranks of the factions was very Hunger Games. The dinner halls were something out of Harry Potter, only more macho and messier.

The action sequences were entertaining enough; the Inception-esque dream sequences were interesting (if a little repetitive). The big twist reveals were predictable but the ending still kept me from twiddling my thumbs with a racy finish.

Kate Winslet played the icy bitch Jeanine with aplomb. She wasn’t in it enough. For someone of her gravitas, the role seemed minute. BUT of course, if there are more movies (Ha ha!) in the pipeline than I can wait.

The ending was racy, action packed and picked up a meandering pace that was putting me into a mini-coma. Two and a half hours? Really? Is there a Hollywood rule that decrees that these all best selling teen novel adaptations must be said length? Must be for the die hard book fans after the mistakes HP made.

In all fairness, there wasn’t a bad supporting cast attached to this. Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad) played the nasty Eric to perfection. Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd were good BUT anyone could have played them.

Miles Teller (Whiplash) was pretty much played the same old spiel as the cocky fast talker. Zoe Kravitz, the only person to come out unscathed from After Earth (and rightly so), gave her all. BUT Mekhi Phifer was terrible and, with Courtney being all the domineering presence, unnecessary but again if more is to follow then his part might be justified.

And if there will be more, I hope we will explore Four’s past. We got a measly taster and it was one of the more interesting subplots. My main grumble was that if this was supposed to be the opening movie for an ongoing franchise, it needed to come out guns blazing.

This didn’t BUT it had just enough to pique my interest.

Watchable. We’ve had the build up. Now surprise me with the next one.

3/5!