Archive | July, 2010

MIFF 2010 Review: Enter the Void

31 Jul

Greater Union’s expansive Cinema 5 was sold out on Friday night and, with several cheers and whoops during the rapid fire opening credits, it seemed many in the crowd were expecting big things from Gaspar Noe’s visual spectacular “Enter the Void.”

What followed was the most painful and embarrassing couple of hours I have ever spent in the cinema.  I have never seen a film in which a large cinema audience actually groaned together in disbelief as we were submitted to scene after pointless scene of trite adolescent hippy vomit- “People say you fly when you die” is just one line that particularly irked me even though that was before they started having pseudo intellectual discussions about The Tibetan Book of the Dead and DMT.

I didn’t think there was such a thing as Bad Nostalgia but Enter the Void felt like being stuck on a bus with a group of 14 year olds, who a year after throwing away their dungeons and dragons sets and Michael Jordan posters, only want to talk about smoking drugs and Jim Morrison and then start showing you their magic eye books. Most of the scenes are as convincingly written and acted as a playstation video game except you never get a turn.

No Stars.

MIFF 2010 Review: The Trotsky

31 Jul

Jay Baruchel plays a 17 year old Canadian high schooler named Leon Bronstein who believes he is the reincarnation of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

It is a novel and humorous concept and Baruchel plays the part well. The main theme of the film is ‘boredom vs apathy’ as Leon attempts to inspire his fellow high school students into a revolution by starting a student union.  The romantic sub-plot is a little cheesy, but well played out and the resolution could’ve been worse. (is that good, I’m not sure? – GM)

This tongue-in-cheek take on middle-class Marxism should be familiar to many and the overall the result is an enjoyable and funny film that, political views aside, should appeal to a wide audience. ***


MIFF 2010 review: Space Tourists

30 Jul
The desert landscape of Kazakhstan makes a compelling setting for this documentary that explores the personal aspect of Russia’s legacy to the Space Age program.  Anoushen Hansari fulfils her childhood dream to travel into space and becomes the first female space tourist. She  forked out a staggering $20 million to do so, and while  this fact alone may make her slightly unlikable, she is in fact a smart business woman and engineer whose family went on to fund the Ansari X Prize. There is something remarkable about seeing this woman live out a childhood fantasy that so many of us share at some point of our lives.
From cold and silent space she looks down on earth and sees a world without borders, where there’s no trouble –  only peace.
Back on planet earth,  narrator Jonas Bendriksen is busy snapping photos of the eerie Kazakhstan desert with his fancy camera. When he’s not doing that he’s shrouding the screen with his handsome face in on – screen interviews. A Magnum photographer, he has spent years documenting the rusted legacy of the Russian Space program in evocative pictures.
Along the way there’s salt of the earth workers who do overnight campout missions when rockets are launched, on the chase to find the next burning rocket part that’s falling from the sky. They’re quite valuable, being made of high class metals, and are sold on to China for a good amount of money. So, as Bendriksen says, “in a global world you might be wrapping your sandwich in al foil made from a space rocket!”
We meet Charles Simonyi, the architect of Word and Excel, and witness his training and preparation at Star City to become the world’s fifth private space tourist. There’s a great scene where he’s in this tiny little kitchen at the Space school, surrounded by prospective tins of food being handed to him by the doting women who prepare all the food that’s consumed on board. He sits, alternately nodding and grimacing, giving each dish a careful score out of 10. Goulash? Jellied Perch? Caviar? “I’ll give that an 8”.
And we meet the local farmers, villagers, and workers at the International Space Station,  for whom the Space Program is a portal to the stars they will never  be able to afford to travel through.
Accompanied by a sonorous sexy sax soundtrack by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek (Steve Reich also appears on the music credits), Space Tourists has much to offer. It will appeal to a broad audience and is certainly not just for those who have bookmarked on their computer.
Space Tourists’ final screening at MIFF is 12.15pm Saturday July 31.

MIFF 2010 Review: The Oath

30 Jul

A slow but steady burner of a documentary that gently hooks you in and keeps you captivated for it’s 90-odd minute running time. A rare insight into the operations of one of the most secretive and but discussed organisations in the world, al Qaeda.

The central subject of the  doco is Abu Jandal, a body guard for Osama bin Laden for 3 years who has partly turned his back on the group, the result of which is that he is a complex and conflicted man. To many, Jandal has betrayed his oath to the organisation. He lives perilous life as an outcast, struggling to support his son by driving taxis in Yemen, while mentoring a group of young men.

An interconnected line of inquiry follows the plight of his brother, imprisoned in guantanamo for 7 years and at the centre of the historical Hamdan v Rumsfeld case. Director and producer Laura Poitras has achieved a remarkable feat with an illuminating documentary which blows some of the clouds away from a very murky subject.

Beautifully shot and full of complex ambiguity, The Oath is highly worth a viewing and an interesting companion peice to Four Lionsalso showing this year.



Last screening:

8097 THE OATH (97 min) Wed 4 Aug 7:00 PM Kino Cinemas

MIFF 2010 review: The Killer Inside Moi

29 Jul

The cuddle inside me. Gone.

Do not see this film juiced up on caffiene. Winterbottom has direct a fantastically tense and enveloping small town horror with The killer inside me and, after long machiatto and a coffee, I was on edge. Performances are fantastic (except Bill Pullman) with Casey Affleck onece again portraying a man messed up with precision and utter conviction. Continue reading

MIFF review 2010: Pianomania

29 Jul

Dull. So incredibly dull. Endless piano tinkering. I expected this, but I thought it would be one of those documentaries about a niche subject (piano tuning) that, through its wisdom and truths in its particularity, resonated out to elucidate the nature of the world or sone essential element of existence. It failed to do this.

Confusingly, everyone else in the audience was laughing a lot and enjoying it while I sat in stony silence. my girlfriend fell asleep and started drooling sweetly on my shoulder. It’s an amiable documentary, and everything is well put together but largely uncompelling.

I left sleepy. Avoid.


MIFF 2010 review: Spine Tingler!: The William Castle Story

29 Jul

A definitive, if slightly by the numbers, account of the king of gimmicks, the master of schlock and all-round Hollywood nice guy, William Castle. Well paced, featuring great clips and guests ((John Waters etc) and making excellent use of the 3d photo thing (which we first saw in ‘the kid stays in the picture) this is a constantly entertaining doco that is well worth viewing by film buffs and those who have missed out on his kooky films.

It was surprising to hear about the close relationship Castle had with some of the hard hitters from the serious side of film making. He worked closely and in parallel with a diverse range of figures: Orson Welles, Hitchcock, Polanski (he owned the rights to “Rosemary’s baby”, a film he was originally slated to direct). He was never as respected as these people, and, much to his chagrin, only ever rised to the top of the b-grade talent pool.

However, he did b-grade like no one else, with gimmicks and screwy technologies (emergo, percepto) that were so fun it didn’t matter if the movies were any good. Electric seats, death by fright insurance, ghost vision glasses, audience poll deciding ending etc. This is a warm and generous account of a much loved showman.


MIFF 2010 Review: Picture me: A Model’s Diary

28 Jul

Picture Me is a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the fashion industry that fails to offer any surprises and only scratches the surface of some of the more disturbing aspects of modeling.

While it’s comforting to realise that models suffer from the same doubts and insecurities that many in their 20s face, any chance at sympathy is lost given that many of the girls have been able to afford luxury Manhattan apartments with their earnings even if they did have to work pretty damn hard and be treated like pink fleshy attractive robots to do so.  Potentially sinister stories are hinted at but never properly explored and after reluctantly clapping during the films credits I felt as if I could have learnt as much had i watched the fashion channel for a couple of hours.  If you’ve ever been interested in fashion and modeling you might find this interesting but i was bored. **


MIFF review 2010: Four Lions

28 Jul

An odd film about a touchy subject given the comedic treatment by master satirist, Chris Morris. It’s a fun piece of work that leaves you slightly agape and unsure about where it’s taking things. This is a film after all that has at its centre four Muslims from northern England comically planning the death of innocent civilians.

The overly clowning approach in Four Lions doesn’t always work however, the reduction of faith bound terrorists to goofy dads army nincompoops seems like a cheap shot for easy laughs. The characters work well together, but sometimes fail to create a cohesive or believable alternative universe. Even so, Morris takes an innovative approach and has a lot of fun with playing with stereotypes and taking the fear out of the bogeyman of jihad believers.

There are a lot of laughs to be had, but you wont see in full flight the satirical brilliance the director showed in his groundbreaking TV work here. ***1/2

MIFF 2010 Review: The Illusionist

28 Jul
This delightful yet melancholic foray into the music hall world asks the poignant question – does magic really exist?

A quirky, emotionally crafted animation based on an un-produced script by pioneering comedy legend Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Monsieur Hulot’s holiday), L’illusionniste whimsically invites us to explore the eccentric personalities of backstage Paris, the kilt-flying Scottish countryside and finally Edinburgh, the capital of all things arty.

mmmm arty

Along the way veteran magician Msr Tatischeff (Tati’s real Russian surname) takes pity on young Alice and magically presents her a new pair of pretty red shoes. She stows away in adoration while the magician trudges wearily from one audience-absented-auditorium to another to keep up his struggled pretence.

He’s aging, his stubborn rabbit won’t cooperate and the new young rock stars get all the glory. It’s the story of disillusionment – as the child grows up into a woman she lets go of all things childish; the magician realises he can’t maintain his illusion of money and success. He’s even pushed to get a secret midnight job at the car wash. This beautiful, disappointed fairytale speaks louder than words as we shift into a new era, leaving us in wonder of the bygone days of red velvet theatre, magical men and naughty white rabbits.
Beverley Callow