Tag Archives: Australian

A Month of Sundays

Things are at a bit of a stand-still for real estate agent Frank Mollard (played by Anthony LaPaglia). He’s divorced, but still has constant contact with his ex-wife Wendy (by Justine Clark) and, of course, their son Frank Junior (by Indiana Crowther). His relationship with Frank Jr is a typically dysfunctional, arms-length, dad-teenage son type thing, that lumbers from failure to failure as Frank tries hard to connect with the young man. Professionally, he hasn’t sold a house in … who knows how long? … and his long-understanding boss, Phillip Lang (by John Clarke) is starting to get less entertained by Frank’s quirky nature and more impatient by his non-sales as the days go by. As he sits in his lonely, sparse, “bachelor” apartment one night, Frank gets a phone call from someone he’s sure is his mother – he chats with her for a while until she realises she has the wrong number and hangs up. Actually … Frank’s mother died last year – he just played along to have a conversation with someone who didn’t know all his baggage. Frank gets curious about the mystery caller and gets in touch with her again a few days later – she is Sarah (by Julia Blake), who has her own interesting life and issues. After his ex-wife Wendy’s constant commentary, Frank finds Sarah refreshingly non-judgemental and very easy to talk to. He discusses things about his life with her that he’s never been able to do with anyone before – so an unlikely friendship develops. Sarah has challenges with her own son, Stuart, so the friendship between them helps her too. Through this friendship they each find ways to repair broken relationships and achieve some balance and peace in their lives.

This is a very nice movie, but … you need to stick with it and not give up too soon.  At first, Frank seems bland and somewhat impenetrable, but this gets explained as he is revealed. Anthony LaPaglia portrays this very well – his deadpan expression and dull tone as he speaks with his clients are dead giveaways of his total disappointment with his life. His support stars, Justine Clarke, John Clarke and Indiana Crowther are perfect to unfold the story lines to reveal him. As Sarah, Julia Blake is excellent – she makes her character so authentic. The movie has a lot of points to make, some will resonate with you and others not – so it’s for you to take whatever you want from the film. It’s a subtle drama which will probably keep you thinking long after the credits roll. Well done.

Made in 2015. Directed by Matthew Saville.


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Posted by on July 4, 2016 in Movies


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Son of a Gun

In Perth, Australia, 19 year old JR (played by Brenton Thwaites) has just been convicted and sent behind bars for six months. In prison he tries to stay out of trouble, but trouble seems to find him – until Brendan Lynch (by Ewan McGregor) takes an interest in him and protects him. From the inside, Brendan arranges for JR to meet some of his contacts after his release so JR naively seeks out Sam (by Jacek Koman). Brendan and Sam have a plan and JR’s got a starring role. Sam’s been around and you don’t muck around with him – so JR is not quite sure what he’s getting into. JR stages a prison break to get Brendan out, then as a reward he’s invited to join in on the big heist. He meets Tasha (by Alicia Vikander) and they all travel to an outback Kalgoorlie gold refinery to put the plan into action. But there’s a few hiccups. JR gets caught up in the mess and things get deadly. Can he still trust Brendan? Will he come out of this alive?

This movie is reasonable, but not outstanding. To me, it’s just not convincing – although I’m a great fan of Ewan McGregor’s work, even he can’t save this one. The characters are not explored well and we don’t really learn anything about JR or what motivates him. The other characters are depicted as people you’d rather not get to know, so the whole thing is a little unco-ordinated really. As Tasha, Alicia Vikander is fine, but her character could have been far more interesting.  Even the twist in the plot is a bit pedestrian. It’s good to see a movie shot in Western Australia and that is done well. The action scenes are done well also, but the characters are flat. I wouldn’t really bother with this one.

Made in 2014. Directed by Julius Avery.

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Posted by on January 16, 2015 in Movies


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Adore (Adoration)

Ros and Lil are life-long best friends. They met as schoolgirls and have grown up on the coast of Australia. Now they are adults and their lives are still centred here on the stunning New South Wales coast. Lil (played by Naomi Watts) recently lost her husband and she is grieving deeply. Her teenage son, Ian (by Xavier Samuel) lives at the beach with her, so he is a welcome comfort. Ros (by Robin Wright) lives nearby and she’s married to Harold (by Ben Mendelsohn). Their son, Tom (by James Frecheville) is best mates with Ian and they’ve grown up here. Theirs is a very close extended family and they are all very happy in this idyllic location. Out of the blue, one day Harold decides to take his “job of a lifetime” in Sydney and the families prepare for their inevitable separation when Harold, Ros and Tom shortly relocate. Tom, now almost in his twenties, just can’t bring himself to leave the beachside lifestyle – Ros realises that she can’t either. In their shared desperation for a solution they each reach out to the other family – but in new ways. Ros finds a connection with young Ian, in a most passionate and emotional encounter. When Tom finds out by accident, in a childish pay-back he connects similarly with Lil. Trouble is … now they’ve started, none of them can stop. They all know it’s wrong, but their new bonds are passionate and deep. They must do what’s necessary and act to stop the relationships – but will the price be too high?

Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is the stunning Australian coast. The cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne is wonderful and the area is clearly a paradise. However, apart from this, my opinion of the movie is rather uncharitable. I found the rest of the piece quite tedious and irritating. It’s not really the morality of the situation that gets to me, although it’s not ideal – it’s more the underlying principles by which these characters choose to live and the terrible movie production overall. The performances are all dreadful – Naomi Watts and Ben Mendelsohn should know better – particularly Mendelsohn. His portrayal of Harold is totally wooden, superficial and adds little depth to the story. As Lil, Naomi Watts is okay – she actually won a “Best Actress” award for this role.  She and Robin Wright as Ros have some difficult issues to deal with, but in my opinion they don’t present well. The teenage boys are driven by hormones, as expected, so they can be excused for not thinking with the brain inside their heads. However, I can’t forgive the two women for this behaviour – disappointingly, they both come off as selfish, self-indulgent and driven by physical need. Gary Sweet’s character, Saul, is supposed to be a bit of a hopeless misfit – so he does that well, but even he can’t save this movie. Other reviewers have raved over the whole movie, but not me, sorry.

The story is adapted from “The Grandmothers”, a short story by Doris Lessing.

Made in 2013. Directed by Anne Fontaine.

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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Movies


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Ever since she can remember, Robyn Davidson (played by Mia Wasikowska) has been an outsider and a bit of an adventurer. As a girl, she avidly listened as her father (by Robert Coleby) told stories of his courageous journeys around the globe and she has grown up with a yearning to explore her world. In April 1977, she decides to take on an epic journey – to walk across Australia’s outback from Alice Springs to the West Australian coast. This 3,200 km trek will take months and all Robyn plans to take with her are some camels and her dog, Diggity. Some say this is brave, others say it’s plain stupid, but she’s doing it – regardless of the views of friends and family. She sets off, but needs money to fund her journey so she accepts an offer from National Geographic magazine to publish an article about her adventure. Although it goes against her want to be completely alone, the article means one of the magazine’s photographers, Rick Smolan (by Adam Driver) must regularly check in with her for updates and photos. She hates it and would much rather be with her thoughts, her animals and her environment. Her journey takes her through the rugged Outback, across sacred aboriginal grounds and much of the vast continent until somehow, the unlikely grouping finally sees the trek through to its end.

This is a great story, but for me it loses something in its telling. There’s no doubt about the bravery and utter determination that Robyn Davidson has shown to do this in the first place – and Australia is showcased wonderfully here, thanks to the marvellous cinematography. This is particularly so in the scenes where humans, animals and the enrivonment interact with great depth. A glimpse into Australia’s indigenous culture is also provided along the way. Mia Wasikowska is good – she is determined, stubborn and brave, as she needs to be for this. Her role was clearly taxing and the environment demanding. As photographer Rick, Adam Driver is appropriately nerdy and pathetic – which explains Robyn’s irritation every time he turns up. There is a great cameo performance from Rolley Mintuma as the Aboriginal elder, Eddy and one from John Flaus, who teaches Robyn how to relate to camels. But unfortunately, I found the movie too long and not terribly engaging – perhaps that’s just me.

Made in 2014. Directed by John Curran.

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Posted by on June 2, 2014 in Movies


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Last Dance

Ulah Lippmann (played by Julia Blake) lives in predominantly Jewish suburb of Melbourne in Australia. Since her husband died, she lives alone and pretty much to herself but her daughter, Sophie (by Danielle Carter) keeps an eye on her. Ulah is a strong woman, she’s seen a lot in her life – she’s a holocaust survivor and has maintained a very strong faith. She’s developed a steely resolve but an open heart. In these difficult political times, people hold strong views, often based on their faith. One day, a terrorist attack on the nearby Synagogue shakes the neighbourhood in more ways than one – a bomb kills many and the culprits are on the run. Ulah’s life is disrupted when one of the perpetrators, Sadiq (by Firass Dirani) takes refuge in her home and holds her hostage. Sadiq is a radical moslem and is horrified to find he is holed up in the home of a person of Jewish faith – his most hated enemy.

This drama has its good moments – there are some points where the story takes a surprising turn – and these are welcome. It’s a bit disappointing as I expected a bit more from this movie. On the whole it’s rather ho-hum and would be better suited as a television drama. It’s a seriously slow-burn too. The screenplay seems very cliché to me – on the parts of both the key players and their associates. The performances by Julia Blake and Firass Dirani are fine, but the story is a little implausible. No matter how broad-minded or gentle-hearted she might be, an elderly woman scared out of her wits by an unknown, injured, desperate man is not going to suddenly have a change of heart and care for him in her home, believing him to be a basically good person – sorry, not very likely. The police part is too twee … firstly too superficial and then too extreme … it just doesn’t quite hold together somehow.  Thankfuly, it’s not too long and drawn out – a mere 90 minutes, if that.

Made in 2012. Directed by David Pulbrook

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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Movies


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Tom White

Tom White (played by Colin Friels) always wanted to be an architect – but he never made it, so he’s a draftsman at a Melbourne building design company. He’s married to Helen (by Rachel Blake) and he adores his two young children. His life is pretty normal really, he lives in suburbia, every day he sees his children off to school, dresses in his suit and goes to work himself, much like most other working fathers. One day, he starts work as usual … but then his day takes a completely different turn. Suddenly things turn upside down and he doesn’t recognize himself or his life any more – he checks out of everything and takes himself to a different place – physically and emotionally. He rejects his work, completely disappears from his family, ends up in other places to live and generally loses himself totally. His world becomes a life on the streets and he doesn’t want to find his way back – for Tom there’s no back, only here and now. Tom interacts with a series of people, each adding to the evolving Tom White. Matt (by Dan Spielman), a young male prostitute shares Tom’s wish to “live for the moment”, but when this dissipates Tom is drawn to Christine (by Loene Carmen), breaking-free of a bad situation involving drugs and violence. Then the curious old Malcolm (by Bill Hunter) who adopts Tom for a while – and Tom then finds himself a father figure to Jet (by Jarryd Jinks) whose own father is not so reliable. What will become of Tom? Will he come to his senses and find his way back to his family and his life? …

This is a nicely told story of one man’s journey to somewhere … he doesn’t know where, he’s just moving along and taking in what happens. The underside of Melbourne is the backdrop for this, which means much of the production is dark and a little depressing – but that reflects this world. Colin Friels’ shines in this role – it’s one of those exquisite performances that looks so natural it’s like no effort whatsoever, but it is really marvellous – you totally believe Tom’s life, predicaments and experiences. Colin Friels manages to keep a strong connection with his audience all through this story, while other characters come and go and we don’t really develop a strong relationship with any others. Rachel Blake is good – she always is and the best character performance, apart from Colin Friels’ of course, is Bill Hunter as Matt – that’s really great. He’s just excellent – no surprise there. David Fields plays a marvellous, “menacing” role as Phil and both Loene Carmen and Dan Spielman are very good. As Jet, Jarryd Jinks shows he has a great future ahead of him. Well done everyone – it’s a great Aussie drama.

Made in 2004. Directed by Alkinos Tsilimidos

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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Movies


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Jack Charles (played by Jack Charles) is an indigenous actor who has worked “on and off” for decades. His work is celebrated – he is credited with founding the first Aboriginal theatre company, Nindethana (‘place for a corroboree’) in 1971 – and has collaborated over the years with several Australian actors and filmmakers. He has also been a heroin addict for over thirty years and most often makes his home wherever he can doss down around the Melbourne streets. We meet Jack as he makes his way back to his current lodgings, mixes himself a fix, injects himself as we watch, and explains … “I thought of clearing all this stuff away so you wouldn’t see my drugs, but then it wouldn’t have been truthful – you wouldn’t have seen who I really am.” This is the tenor of the entire piece. Jack is obviously a born performer – he is candid about his upbringing, the lack of affection in his early years as a “stolen child” growing up the sole indigenous resident of an urban boys home. He is also refreshingly direct about his difficulty with relationships and his acceptance of his “lot” today.

This is a documentary. The director, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, followed Charles for seven years, through thick and thin, to make this fascinating piece. As we go with him, Jack has his ups and downs – he is quite explicit about his criminal activities, does stretches in gaol, achieves his first physical home via government housing and goes clean, well as clean as methadone anyway. Jack has several interractions with “the Jacks” and is alarmingly open about they way he steals from people, even those he knows. He is articulate and there is something compelling and endearing about him, his sense of humour is real and he is obviously well regarded by those around him. The feature includes archival material of Jack as the actor and newspaper headlines which document his various highs and lows. I found it curiously compelling, I didn’t feel sympathetic towards Jack, but I was fascinated with this piece.

Made in 2009. Directed by Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Note: Jack Charles worked predominantly in theatre, but his films include Blackfellas (1993) and Fred Schepisi’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)

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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Movies


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