a moment of thanks
Today is Thanksgiving in the USA as I write this, and even though we Aussies don't have a thanksgiving day, I am always reminded this time of year that we take so much for granted.
I wish there was a world Thanksgiving day so we could all stop for a moment and take stock of our lives. Now some people may not have a lot to be grateful for, but many like my family, are fortunate and wealthy. Not in dollars but in enjoying a wonderful close family and living without fear.
My thoughts are with any human being who is displaced, not permitted to express their beliefs without fear, or who doesn't enjoy the basics of life like shelter, food, and clothing. We try and do our bit here but I'm reminded we should do more.
Thank you to my friends in the USA for reminding us on this day every year that we must give thanks. I am grateful for my life, my family and for so many wonderful people who support my writing career. I will never stop pinching myself and thanking my lucky stars and you.
Free Behind Dark Doors (one)
Join a bunch of us good people at my Facebook group The Mayhem Gang and enjoy a read-a-long of my short stories starting 1st December.
Even if you don't plan to join us feel free to read the thread or just follow the link below and grab the book. I just love the idea of new readers enjoying my work.
In December we can start on Behind Dark Doors (two). So stay tuned to this newsletter.
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The Founder ✪✪✪½ Opened November 24
In the nineties I read the book Behind the Arches by John F. Love, so I knew what to expect with this film. In fact, you might be surprised to know that, as much Ray Kroc comes off in the end as being driven and unrepentant in some of his questionable business moves, according to the book, in real life he was worse.
Michael Keaton is superbly cast and there has been some talk of awards' nominations. The season is upon us, so you will hear a lot of "This film nominated for ..." Doesn't always mean they are good, so be warned. I suspect Keaton has a good chance. He was pipped at the winning Oscar post, with his nomination in 2015 for Birdman, by Eddy Redmayne's extraordinary performance in The Theory of Everything. So the Academy does like to reward those who miss out due to accidental timing.
While this is an interesting and definitely enjoyable film because of Keaton and the very good supporting cast, the choices made by the screenwriter and director in what parts of the very large story to tell and a little repetition means that sometimes the pace feels labored. Engaging but definitely not as wonderful as director John Lee Hancock's previous award winners Saving Mr Banks and The Blindside
McDonalds has created an interesting legacy. They do much good but they were also one of the companies in the forefront of creating a bad health epidemic, which the world is still dealing with right now. Having built and run a franchising company in the nineties myself, I definitely can understand how some of his choices, toward the end of the film, appear villainous (and, look, they probably were), but business sometimes is business. This film will create debate in those that see on his and his company's behavior. You will also feel hungry, so eat first.
From director John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr Banks, The Blindside), based on an original screenplay by Robert Siegel (The Wrestler) comes the astonishing true story of how Ray Kroc, a salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s southern California. Academy Award nominee Michael Keaton stars as the maverick American entrepreneur Ray Kroc, who transformed McDonald’s from a San Bernardino hamburger stand into a global empire now with over 35,000 locations around the world.
Billy Lynn's Long Half-time Walk ✪✪✪ Opens November 24
Perhaps one of this film's greatest accomplishments will most likely be the cause of its downfall. Industry standard for cinema films is 24 frames per second. Peter Jackson doubled that in filming The Hobbit and divided audiences on the effect. Personally, I found some of the traveling scenes looked like home movies and this is where the complaints began as the affect was akin to soap opera visuals.
Therefore, veteran director Ang Lee took a risk and really pushed the boundaries in deciding to film Billy Lynn at 120 fps, the first film created with this technology. The effect is such that cinema goers would be immersed inside the story. Everything would become hyper real. In fact, your brain would be tricked, to a degree, into believing you are there.
Sounds amazing, right? Well, only one challenge. There are only two cinemas in the USA equipped to screen the film in the new format and I don't think there are any in Australia. After seeing the film last night the discussion among reviewers was that the characters speaking direct to camera was annoying and the cinematography had the feel of a theatrical production.
Only upon doing some research later did I discover this was the reason. The effect was meant to be that of experiencing theater but, of course, without watching it at the correct frame rate we are just left with a shadow of what Lee was hoping to deliver.
The storyline isn't fabulously exciting. There are some solid scenes and interesting, reasonably developed characters, if not a little cliche. The commentary on war is the same 'ol same 'ol but still relevant. You won't be bored but you won't feel uplifted like you do after Hacksaw Ridge. And certainly the action is not there despite being referred to constantly in the lead up to the final scenes.
This could have been a great film and an incredible experience. The story falters occasionally and doesn't have a sense of when to hit it's dramatic beats. However, I'm sure if we had experienced Billy Lynn the way Ang Lee intended I'd be writing a different review.
Three-time Academy Award® winner Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) brings his extraordinary vision to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the widely-acclaimed, bestselling novel. The film is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through flashbacks, culminating at the spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals what really happened to the squad – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s perceptions.
Billy Lynn is also a giant step forward in the art of cinema, made with a cinematographic process years ahead of its time. With a brilliant supporting cast, including Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, and Garrett Hedlund, with Vin Diesel and Steve Martin.
Bad Santa 2 ✪ Opened November 24 Yes, we remember enjoying the first Bad Santa thirteen years ago (Yes! that's thirteen years ago) but nobody I spoke to could remember why we liked the first or what it was really about. I remember Billy Bob Thornton's character was an anti-hero, the script had wit, and that was it.
Ugh, this one needs to simply remove the Santa from the title and the title can be it's own review. Bad 2. This is about as low as you can go. Certainly, it wins the award for the most irrelevant F-bombs in a film. I do make exceptions to crass films if they are funny (Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer, a case in point). However, this isn't funny but more simply embarrassing for all those involved. This should never have gotten a cinema release.
Just because it has Santa in the title don't even think about taking your kids. This is strictly for adults and especially for those who like to check their brains at the door. I'm happy to check my brain before entering some films (I'm one of the few reviewers who usually enjoys Adam Sandler films) but in this case you'll also need to check your funny bone or you will be disappointed. Kathy Bates and Billy Bob Thornton what the heck were you thinking?
BAD SANTA 2 returns Academy Award (R)-winner BILLY BOB THORNTON to the screen as America's favorite anti-hero, Willie Soke. Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus (TONY COX), to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is 'the kid' - chubby and cheery Thurman Merman (BRETT KELLY), a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie's sliver of humanity. Mommy issues arise when the pair are joined by Academy Award (R), Golden Globe and Emmy-winner KATHY BATES, as Willie's horror story of a mother, Sunny Soke.
The Fencer ✪✪✪✪ Opened November 24
Estonian and Russian with English subtitles Finnish director Klaus Härö's films have won more than 60 prizes at festivals all over the world including The Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and the prestigious Ingmar Bergman prize, the winner of which was chosen by Ingmar Bergman himself. I'm not surprised. He has a magnificent eye for cinematography. This film is like watching poetry on screen. That's not to say it is some kind of literary production that's all good looks and no grunt. The Fencer is a drama with everything. Cute kids, a touch of romance, a possibly dark hero, and a challenge for the under dogs to overcome. This film first appeared in the Perth Scandinavian film festival, which is interesting in itself as the film is the story of an Estonian true life saga. Not sure where the Finnish connection comes in, but it's another story of the consequences of the war on ordinary people who surprise themselves how their morals can be swayed. If you are a lover of Eastern European foreign language films or an admirer of fine cinema, you will enjoy this film. Not to mention, the fencing is quite fascinating.
2016 Golden Globe nominee – Best Foreign Language Film
2016 Academy Awards – Best Foreign Language Film (SHORTLIST) 2016 Finnish Academy Awards – Best Film, Best Cinematography 2016 Palm Springs International Film Festival – Best Film
It’s 1953, and Endel (Märt Avandi) is on the run. With his war-time affiliations catching up with him, he eludes the secret police in Leningrad and flees to a remote Estonian village. There he tries to keep a low profile by taking a menial job in the sports department at the local school, but his efforts to give the students a proper physical education are quickly frustrated by a lack of resources.
But once Endel – a skilled fencer – locates a few foils in the gym, he starts an after-school club for the kids, who for their part are eager to learn. Yet the strong rapport he builds with his young students only raises the ire of the party-loyalist school principal, who’s already suspicious of his past. Soon it’s impossible for Endel to avoid attention.
Little Men ✪✪✪½ Opens Lottery West Film Festival
Monday November 28-Sun 4 UWA Somerville
Tuesday December 6-Sun 11 ECU Joondalup Pines
When they say this is a sweet slice of New York life this is the absolute truth. Expect not a big film and on the shortish side at 85 minutes but enough is said in that time to make you think.
A layered film with many messages that seep into you hours after the film is done. I took a lot from this film that I already understood about life. No matter how dramatic, events do fade and we all move on with our lives. Everyone's perspective on right and wrong comes from their own interests. A wonderful story with sharp dialogue and fabulous performances from the young actors. Perfect beginning to the Lottery West Film Festival. Bring on summer and outdoor cinema.
A sweet slice of New York life in which two teenage friends try to be the best ‘little men’ they can be. When his family moves from Manhattan to Brooklyn, thoughtful art student Jake is happy to meet funny, outgoing new neighbour Tony. But Jake’s family has just become landlord to Tony’s mother, who is struggling to pay the bills. Jake and Tony just want to be friends, but their parents sure are making that hard. Another beautifully bittersweet drama by Ira Sachs (Love is Strange, 2015 PIAF).
The Teacher ✪✪✪✪ Lottery West Film Festival
Slovak with English subtitles
Tuesday November 29-Sun 4 ECU Joondalup Pines
Monday December 5-Sun 11 UWA Somerville
From the opening sequence and the wonderful music the scene is set and you know this is a caper, of sorts, and you are in for a treat. This is a crazy true story that will have you wondering what the heck is going on and then when you begin to understand, you begin to sympathize with both sides. Truly a wonderful, charming, fun film that, unfortunately, is true. Fabulous lead actress Zuzana Maurery is fabulous. I wonder if this might get a nod at the Oscars for foreign language. Something different that can be enjoyed by everyone.
A stern teacher oversteps the mark.
This audience favourite casts a wickedly humorous eye over the recent European past. It’s 1983, the era of Communist control in central Europe. In a Bratislava classroom stern new teacher Mrs Drazdechova asks what each of the students’ parents does for a living. As those wary adults soon realise, this teacher likes to call in favours from them in exchange for good grades for their kids. The parents convene – should they deal with her corruption? Featuring an enthralling performance from Zuzana Mauréry as the imposing instructor, this is wry, prize-winning entertainment from the Oscar-nominated director of Divided we Fall(2002 PIAF).
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