MINI-REVIEW: August: Osage County (MA15+)

3 stars. 

The acting in it is fantastic, especially from Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, but August: Osage County is a tired old concept of family dysfunction explored with no real new perspective or bold vision. It’s wildly entertaining, and utterly fascinating, but at the end of the day it is nothing more than the same story told with different, albeit great, performers.

Like the disconnected family reunited in August: Osage County, we the audience come to visit amidst a wealth of backstory drama and we stay until we’re too uncomfortable to do so longer. Then, we depart, with nothing fixed and nothing changed.

REVIEWER: David Williams.

WEEK IN REVIEW

RED 2 (M) - 1 ½ stars

This sequel exists because MONEY. Aside from Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins bringing their A-game to a terrible screenplay, everything about this film is phoned in. The story is haphazardly told, and seems to get lost in trying to be complex. Even the action sequences are uninspired and bland, and the comedy is JUST. NOT. FUNNY.

JOBS (M) - 3 stars

The ironic thing about Jobs is that the film seems to have all the ambition of it’s title character, but always remains just under the surface of greatness. Rather than constantly bringing out its best , Jobs simply does the bare minimum and leaves it at that. What results is an enjoyable film that plays more like an above average extended episode of an okay TV drama, rather than the brilliant biographical film it should be.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (M) - ½ star

There’s really nothing decent to say about this film. For an empty teenage fantasy love story, the cast could even stand to be more attractive. Without the eye-candy, it’s just hollow and unappealing. Not to mention the script seems to have no idea what story it even wants to tell, erratically shifting between irritating teen romance, unconvincing family drama and a pedestrian supernatural tale that borrows from every other fantasy story but fails to do something innovative or interesting with it.

Reviewer: David Williams

FILM REVIEW: White House Down

White House Down (M)

2 ½ stars

If you’re thinking that you’ve seen this movie once already this year you’d be forgiven. Roland Emmerich’s White House Down bears a premise that is a carbon copy of Olympus Has Fallen, a film released earlier this year. However, director Emmerich along with stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, offer up a far more thoroughly entertaining film than Olympus – even if it is a bit long in the tooth by the time the end credits roll.

White House Down is about U.S. Capitol Police officer John Cale (Tatum) who, after bombing out on an interview for a position with Secret Service, decides to hang around the White House and take his daughter on the tour. Big mistake. Not long after, the White House comes under attack by heavily armed spoilers. Cale is separated from his daughter before the attack, and thus must go find her. President Sawyer (Foxx) is also MIA, so Cale takes it upon himself to find him too. From there, the two main missions of the film are set up alongside actually figuring out who is behind the attack, what the endgame is and the reasoning behind it – but all of that is nowhere near as fun as watching Tatum and Foxx navigate through an under siege White House and defend themselves when need be.

The chemistry between the leads is what keeps this film from falling apart, and also what elevates it above the abhorrently bland Olympus Has Fallen. Tatum and Foxx make their characters likeable and relatable – which is a big green tick for the film. While the script is sub-par, and has an almost grating infatuation with cheesy one-liners, Tatum and Foxx make it work with their delivery. Olympus Has Fallen was a film that took itself far too seriously; White House Down has a strong sense of identity and embraces all of the camp value that comes with it. At times it even felt like a rollicking fun homage to the 80s action era.

White House Down does suffer under the weight of its own bravado by simply doing a little too much. Some of action sequences run slightly too long and end up becoming chaotic and abrasive, but for the few that don’t they balance great stylish action.

At 137 minutes, the film also runs far too long, spending unnecessarily extended amounts of time on first act exposition scenes and later sequences while the White House is under siege. At about 20 minutes to half an hour shorter, White House Down would’ve been a far more punchier and accessible film.

The drawn out duration does nothing to heighten the film’s levels of tension, which remain frustratingly low despite what is taking place on screen. Any plot twist can be spotted a mile off, and any apparent high stakes moment is thwarted by the fact that there’s just no way that the filmmakers will go there.

White House Down is an average action-thriller, but 2013 has been an average year for the genre so it’ll hold up well by the end of the year. Plus, it makes Olympus Has Fallen look even more inferior than it did before. See White House Down for its one sole merit – it’s a lot of fun.

Reviewer: David Williams

FILM REVIEW: The Best Offer

The Best Offer  (M)

5 stars.

There is so much fun to be had with the title of this film in terms of reviewing it because Italian director Guiseppe Tornatore’s English-language debut The Best Offer is indeed one of the best cinema offerings for 2013. It features an exceptional performance from Geoffrey Rush, the production design is simple yet immensely elegant and beautiful and the score and cinematography both evoke intrigue and awe. The supporting cast of Sylvia Hoeks, Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland hold their own amidst Rush’s marvellous talents and help create incredibly organic chemistry amidst all the characters.

The Best Offer is about an eccentric art auctioneer/collector, Virgil Oldman, who develops an obsession with an heiress whom has just contacted him personally about an estate she has inherited filled with bygone era items, including furniture and artwork. From the moment he accepts the offer to do a valuation, the story becomes all the more mystifying, and it is a story that will grab you instantly, sway you about and stay with you long after the credits roll.

Virgil is a man of solitude, distancing himself from human contact and austerely avoiding experiencing normal human emotions. He only ever seems comfortable around two distinct characters – a young artificer, and a close friend and partner-in-crime when it comes to collecting valuable artwork. He begins to unravel when he meets the heiress under rather atypical circumstances.

The film parallels art with life and offers two intertwining ideas – that everything can be faked, and that every forgery of something contains a hint of authenticity to it. Both artwork and human emotion can be forged, and every forgery will contain the genuine mark of its own creator (accidental or deliberate) and not the creator being imitated – no matter how small or discreet the mark is.

The further The Best Offer dives into its core mystery, the more apparent this parallel of concepts becomes, and the greater the curiosity becomes as to what it all means for the characters.

The score, unsurprisingly, is composed by none other than the supreme Ennio Morricone. One of the most noticeable and memorable things about The Best Offer is it’s hauntingly mesmerising score which compliments the darkly aesthetic qualities of the imagery upon the screen and both the mysterious burgeoning connection between Virgil and the heiress and the disentangling of Virgil’s tightly wound personality.

The Best Offer is one of the best films of the year because there is nothing to fault it on. It’s one of the most pleasurable experiences at the cinemas of the year, even if the film is not necessarily tonally vibrant and happy. It is visually striking, it is a master class of acting, and the story is beautifully constructed. It’s a crime many will miss out on this film in favour of other more box-office friendly films.

Reviewer: David Williams.

FILM REVIEW: You’re Next

You’re Next (MA15+)

1 and a half stars. 

Let it be known from the outset: You’re Next is completely incompetent in its ability to scare or even thrill.

You’re Next is receiving a lot of praise around the block for reasons that, after actually seeing the film, completely escape me. Sure it’s delectably violent, revelling in OTT gore, and the pitch black humour it offers briefly on the side works to the film’s favour. However, the truth of the matter is, aside from the intermittent scenes that embrace the aforementioned qualities there’s nothing overly enjoyable about this film.

Survival horror film You’re Next comes from indie director Adam Wingard and stars Australia’s own Sharni Vinson whose natural accent, as one character puts it, is indeed quite jarring. Simon Barrett penned the script, and when it’s not agonisingly mundane it’s completely laughable (except for the above-mentioned transitory virtues.) Characters generally have to make moronic choices in horror films; otherwise fans wouldn’t actually get the horror film they seek. But new horror films, at the very least, should break away from being overtly conventional, derivative and uninspired with the way they handle this trope. At least recent films like Scream 4, The Cabin In The Woods and Evil Dead all depicted the classic clichés with a degree of intelligence and wit either by mocking them or embracing them to the campiest extremes. You’re Next doesn’t do either.

The premise is simple, which generally means it’s the kind of idea that can become an instant classic or total flunk based solely on execution. It’s not the story’s fault; it’s the way they told it. You’re Next is about a home invasion during a family reunion of sorts up at a large, antiquated property far removed from civilisation (save for one set of distant neighbours). After meeting far too many characters that are all either completely boring or horrendously irritating, and spending a terribly extended portion of the film failing to showcase any character development, the fun looks set to start when uninvited ‘guests’ wearing farm animal masks arrive. But the potential for a fun ride quickly dissipates into a nauseating experience thanks to horribly unconvincing performances and a script that begs desperately for just a modicum of coherency, intelligence and inspiration.

There is some gold to be found in these murky rivers with some truly glorious and at times creative gore, mostly accompanied by a whiff of severely dark comical sensibility. For the most part though, You’re Next is dull, insipid and oh so very grating.

Reviewer: David Williams