2015 / Director. Shawn Seet.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
PETER ALLEN: NOT THE BOY NEXT DOOR is one of those lump-in-your-throat movies (I swear, there's a lot of pollen in the air) and when I turned to my partner during the credit roll she was a blubbering mess. Yep, it tugs at the heart strings and does a number on its audience.
Of course it is the biopic detailing the life of Australian superstar Peter Allen. From his early and tragic childhood through to his marriage to Liza Minelli, all the way to his untimely death... it covers a lot of ground and does so in a compelling and emotionally charged way. Director Shawn Seet and the writers took Allen's well known story and adapted it into a melodrama that showcases some of his most celebrated music and pieces together his life in a respectful and engaging testimony. If you've seen the stage show THE BOY FROM OZ or are simply a fan of Allen's then you will know his story well. This made for television film does it justice and showcases some fantastic performances.
Each and every player captures the true essence of their real-life counterparts. Allen is portrayed by a relatively unknown actor by the name of Joel Jackson. He immerses himself in the role and, at times, is an uncanny reflection. His screen presence is dynamic and enchanting and viewers would be foolish not to fall head over heels for him (he deserves whatever local awards are afforded him). Rebecca Gibney plays his ever devoted mother who stuck by her boy through it all. Their relationship was one for the records and the dynamic between them on screen is stunning. Gibney continues to be one of Australia's most under-appreciated actresses (always present, rarely applauded). The support cast includes Sigrid Thornton as Judy Garland, Sara West as Liza Minelli and Rob Mills as Chris Bell. All are great and extra weight to the story. I should also mention that I was over the moon to see Henry Szeps on screen again, playing Allen's trustworthy manager Dee Anthony (some of you will recall Szeps as brother Robbie on MOTHER AND SON).
The production value is mostly good with the 1950's era being represented particularly well. Shot somewhere in rural New South Wales, the area they featured was perfectly chosen and with wonderful areal shots of the township, it looks to be a community trapped in time. There are a few sub-standard green screen location backdrops and a lazy inclusion of the Sydney opera house at a time before it was actually built... but these are irrelevant hiccups when the story is told with such bravado and passion.
Peter Allen was a one-of-a-kind performer whose stamp on his home country of Australia is unmistakable. He gave us an unofficial national anthem and wore his home-pride on his sleeve for the world to see.
2015 / Director. Jocelyn Moorhouse.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Ever since I saw PROOF in the late 90's I have had a keen interest in the work of Australian director Jocelyn Moorhouse. I followed her every more after she jumped the pond and made two relatively successful Hollywood films (HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT and A THOUSAND ACRES). But then there was very little... she slipped off the radar and only resurfaced occasionally in a writer/producer capacity alongside her husband PJ Hogan. For the last fifteen years I have kept returning to IMDb, looking her up in hopes that she would make an unexpected return. You can imagine my happiness last year when a brand new film was listed; THE DRESSMAKER!
Set in the 1950s in rural Victoria (Australia) the film tells the story of Myrtle Dunnage, a woman who returns to her small country hometown to recall forgotten memories and look after her ailing mother. Accused of murder as a ten year old, she was taken away to live in the city to attend boarding school. During her formative years she travelled the world and became an expert dressmaker in Europe. Her return home was much to the disgust of the local community and with her work cut out for her she attempts to clear her name and exact revenge on those who wronged her.
This is a stunning little film with a brilliant production design and a delightfully quirky nuance. Shot in the rural outskirts of Melbourne, Moorehouse build an entire town from scratch and instantly provided her film with an atypical aesthetic that embodies both the historical context of 1950's Australia as well as the endearing stereotypical “Aussie” twang that has evolved throughout the literature and art over the years. In a recent interview Moorhouse described the film as “Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven with a sewing machine” and to an extent, she's right. Beneath the quirkiness of THE DRESSMAKER is a dark and multilayered drama that has the film's genre teetering on a line. Part comedy, part tragedy and part thriller. It's a strange and wonderful amalgamation that refuses to be pinned down.
The cast is also incredible. Kate Winslett takes the lead and she has managed to nail the Aussie accent perfectly. Having her headline such a film continues the long tradition of having foreign A-list names appearing in our local films and helping to push the projects beyond our borders. She is a welcome presence in this film and she lights up the screen. But lets not ignore the rest of the cast, which is comprised of one of the most impressive and unexpected ensembles I've seen in an Aussie film to date. The players include; Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Kerry Fox, Shane Jacobson, Rebecca Gibney, Saran Snook, Gyton Grantley, Barry Otto, Alison Whyte, Caronline Goodall, Shane Bourne, Julia Blake and Genevieve Lemon amongst others (wow). And it's also great to see forgotten faces such as Tracey Harvey and Margot Knight.
Judy Davis offers an outstanding turn as the haggish and drunken mother who lives her life like a hermit. Her performance is hilarious and her character of Molly Dunnage is one the best of her career. With such a strong and witty script to work off of, she provides the film with much of its heart and it's difficult to imagine any other actress in the role. The rapport between her and Winslett is strong and together they solidify what could have easily become a wish-washy, overly sentimental film.
Running at 118 minutes the film overstays its welcome by about 10 minutes, but fortunately those unnecessary minutes lie within the middle act and bare no detriment to the overall story, which concludes on a sensational note. It's wonderful to have Jocelyn Moorhouse back on the scene and I can only hope that THE DRESSMAKER is a sign of more to come. My fingers are crossed that she's found her groove and has caught the bug for filmmaking again.
2015 / Director. Guillermo Del Toro.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Fans of Guillermo Del Toro and fellow horror enthusiasts alike have been eagerly anticipating CRIMSON PEAK. It marks Del Toro's return to horror and with previous entries such as THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, CRONOS and PAN'S LABYRINTH as reference points, all signs pointed to a highly stylised and original haunted house film.
I am disappointed to report that CRIMSON PEAK is one hell of a boring, contrived and lacklustre film. Sure, it boasts an amazing lighting design which compliments an impressive overall production design, but the film lacks in almost every other area... most notably its story. Set in 1887 the plot follows a young American woman (Mia Waskikowska) who marries a mysterious Englishman and moves into his decrepit mansion that sits on top of a red clay mine in a remote area of England. Having been forewarned of “Crimson Peak” as a child by the ghost of her mother, the young woman finds herself amongst ghastly spectres and malevolent forces.
By all accounts CRIMSON PEAK is a classic ghost story. In fact it presents itself as a romantic gothic horror film and plays for the drama more than the horror. Sadly it's all so uninspiring and offers very little. The performances are okay, though not great, and the narrative is drawn-out and tedious. Good ghost stories rely on clever and salacious back stories and cash in on unexpected revelations... CRIMSON PEAK doesn't do that. Instead it's an insipid demonstration of style over substance and highlights Del Toro's fallibilities. He's a stunning film maker and so he's entitled this misfire, but fans wanting something special will be sorely disappointed.
Further insult to injury is the unfortunate use of CGI. For a film that featured so little actual paranormal activity they could have (should have) easily taken a practical approach to the ghosts and presented the audience with some truly shocking imagery. Instead we are tossed a few lame-looking digital spirits and some poorly aligned jump scares (you probably wont' jump) that are so deflating to witness.
Suffice to say there is nothing special about CRIMSON PEAK. The build up and anticipation was a whole lot of hoopla with an epic fail in its delivery. If you're the forgiving type then you might be able to find reward in the delicious colour schemes and impressive set designs... but that's really all it has to offer.
Of course THE MARTIAN is director Ridley Scott's latest film and sees him return to the genre he's probably best at (in my opinion). It's a survival story interlaced with the complimentary rescue story. Matt Damon plays an American astronaut who is presumed dead and left behind on the surface of Mars. With limited supplies and resources he puts his scientific brain to the test and sets out to cultivate food and modify equipment to keep himself alive for several years until NASA can rescue him.
Audiences have enjoyed a trend of quasi-realistic science fiction dramas over the past few years with GRAVITY and INTERSTELLAR leading the pack. THE MARTIAN is the latest offering and sits comfortably between those two. Where it lacks the technical originality and mastery of GRAVITY it offers a more straight forward and comprehensible adventure than INTERSELLAR. With Ridley Scott having a comfortable reign over the production the film hits the ground running. Within moments of the opening frame the story excels into overdrive. There's no pussyfooting and we're presented with a disaster and predicament that sets rapid pacing and rarely relents.
With an outstanding lead performance by Matt Damon and a fantastic production design, the lengthy 140 minute running time seems irrelevant. Despite being a story about isolation, the film is structured to avoid repetition and fallibility and with the focus switching between survival and rescue there is never a dull moment. The support of ensemble players is strong with the likes of Chiewetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain and Sean Bean delivering credible and engaging performances.
Ridley Scott has a knack for sci-fi and his entries into the genre are easily identifiable. He presents his futuristic worlds in a unique way that places as much emphasis on the environment as it does the humanity. They're always highly stylised but also cemented with strong characters. These days I find him to be a, somewhat, inconsistent filmmaker but he demonstrates his proficiency with THE MARTIAN, and with PROMETHEUS also helping to sharpen his sci-fi precision, all signs leading to ALIEN: PARADISE LOST look very good indeed.
2015 / Director. Nancy Meyers.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
THE INTERN, as a title, leaves a lot to be desired. It conjures expectations of a typical run-of-the-mill formula comedy and does little to inspire interest. If it weren't for a well constructed trailer I would have had very little interest in the film at all. The saving grace is Nancy Meyers. She's a competent filmmaker whose previous work includes WHAT WOMEN WANT, THE HOLIDAY and SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE. She has picked up where Nora Ephron left off and I am happy to venture into anything she makes.
And so THE INTERN, with it's less than rousing title, stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway and tells the story of a 70 year old man who applies for a new senior internship program at a trendy new e-commerce fashion company. With an open mind and willingness to learn, he finds himself thrown head-deep into a youthful environment that he can barely comprehend and is assigned as the personal intern to the company's young and tenacious CEO. What begins as a fish-out-of-water story quickly develops into a personal story of generational influence, experience and respect.
Of course it is all very formulaic and viewers get exactly what they expect. Where the film works most is in the rapport between DeNiro and Hathaway. The film went through various casting stages where Michael Caine was cast along with Tina Fey, before Reese Witherspoon took over the role. It's hard to imagine any of them headlining the film (particularly Fey and Witherspoon) and so in retrospect it is a relief to have DeNiro and Hathaway ended up at the reigns. They play off each other really well and the age gap feels right.
DeNiro offers a soft and endearing performance as the widower who wants more out of life. He taps into a subtler style of comedy that his previous comical roles have lacked in recent years. At times he overdoes the whimsical facial expressions, however, his character is entirely likeable and he is such a joy to watch. In turn Hathaway flexes her propensity for this brand of comedy and proves that she's one of the best when it comes to this sort of material. Her performance is not far removed from her roles in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and BRIDE WARS and she has been given a lot more dramatic depth to work with.
The biggest surprise of THE INTERN is, indeed, its dramatic tone. With the facade of a light comedy it proves to be a genuinely dramatic and sincere story that is well layered and explored. Pitting the two protagonists within their own personal predicaments amongst a lighter environment gives the movie an edge that other comedies of this type lack, and while there is no new ground trodden there is certainly a huge amount of appeal to please most viewers. The generational gags are well written and the dynamics between the young hipsters and DeNiro's aged character are both amusing and sweet. Mutual respect is given to both generations with equal ridicule from both sides.
THE INTERN holds up well and promises an uplifting and touching two hours of entertainment. Nancy Meyers continues to cement her position as a go-to “chick flick” queen (although I hate that term) and has delivered a worthy and consummate film that is sure to please most audiences.
2014 / Director. Jack Heller.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
DARK WAS THE NIGHT is one of those bump-in-the-night films that relies on texture. It's a horror film shrouded in shadows and light and is driven by the power of suggestion. Set in the small town of Maiden Woods it tells the story of a malevolent force within the forest. When livestock start disappearing the local sherif and his deputy investigate the occurrences and soon find themselves pitted against a creature that were thought to have only existed in local lore.
Almost everything about this film works. It is an accomplished low budget horror film that sets itself above the rest thanks to a very sharp script, impeccable performances and stunning cinematography. Director Jack Heller employed a strict “less is more” attitude to tell his story and put as much energy into character development as he did the horror. With a constantly augmented colour scheme of washed-out blue hues and saturated bright reds the result is a nightmarish and kinetic fantasy thriller with a strong emotional arch.
Kevin Durand leads the film as the grief stricken sherif living with the torment of guilt, following the tragic death of his son. To the extent of my knowledge this is the first leading role for Durand (although his is no stranger to audiences) and he delivers his performance with perfection. I honestly cannot imagine another actor in the role now that I've seen him offer such a strong and layered character. He is an actor full of expression, with a skilled subtlety to his style, and DARK WAS THE NIGHT seems to be the perfect vehicle for him to showcase his aptitude. The supporting cast also deserve their own kudos with Lucas Haas and Bianca Kajlich lending the film additional conviction and creditability.
There is something classic about this unsuspecting creature-feature. The colour design recalls some of Mario Bava's later work while the cinematography harks back to the 1970s with nods to films like DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW and some of Dario Argento's more eclectic contributions. Throw in some SLEEPY HOLLOW and you will begin to understand the type of visual treat that DARK WAS THE NIGHT has to offer.
The only genuine indiscretion for me was in a few, albeit minor, gratuities within the final act. There are fleeting moments where some of the insert shots of the town seem out of place and the creature reveal peels back a few too many layers than it probably should have. Having said that, these things hardly effect the power of the film and it still remains a thrilling and hypnotic experience. I only wish I had seen it on the big screen. This is a direct-to-video release that genre fans do not want to miss.
2015 / Director. Brian Helgeland.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
The Kray twins, Ron and Reggie, are in a matter of speaking, British Underworld Royalty. A duo that were the scourge of London's East End through the 1960s, they were as famous for rubbing shoulders with celebrities as they were for their ruthlessness. Their time ruling the streets was all pubs, clubs and Chelsea Smiles so it's surprising they haven't been the subject of more films (let's face it, less deserving criminals have been over-saturated in movie takes, even the Essex Range Rover murders now have half a dozen filmic outings thus far).
British director Peter Medak once tackled their rise to power in his film, THE KRAYS in 1990 starring the Kemp twins, Gary and Ross, and to his credit Medak's film has aged surprisingly well. A handsomely mounted, gritty take on the brothers life that focussed on the overbearing matriarchal influence they had in their life.
So now, 25yrs after Medak's outing The Krays are on the silver screen once again, this time curiously brought to life by an American, helmer Brian (LA Confidential) Helgeland. Replacing Spandu Ballet's Kemp twins is Tom Hardy as the suave and sharp Reggie Kray and Tom Hardy as the unhinged and unpredictable Ronnie Kray. To say Tom Hardy is perhaps the most talented and exciting actor to rise in the last 10yrs has almost become passé. Project after project he has proven to have more talent in his broken right pinky that other thesps could wish to have in a thousand lifetimes.
Even when the film falls by the wayside he rises to become the lynchpin that saves it from complete disaster so, then, chalk up his turn in Legend as a knock-em-dead gift from the acting gods. His portrayal of both twins is something to be marveled, even if it lacks much nuance or subtlety. There's a clear line where Ronnie stops and Reggie starts and, at times, when he's arguing with himself its easy to forget we're being duped by special effects. It is not, however, a performance for the ages, merely one for a Saturday night. His Ronnie is borderline comical at times, but Hardy is savvy enough to know where the line is and toes it without ever really taking a leap.
Spinning his tale through the 60s, Helgeland's Legend used Ronnie's blossoming relationship with local girl Frances Shae (Emily Browning) as a framework for the brothers rise and demise. As Ronnie and Frances' lives become more entwined, so too does the brothers criminal escapades. The drama comes in the form of toppled bosses (the smarmy Paul Bettany) emerging allegiances from across the pond (reliable mafioso Chazz Palminteri) the police (upright Christopher Eccleston), an honest accountant (moustached David Thewlis) and the twins own fracturing relationship.
Browning does alright as the innocent that is gradually exposed to the life of a hard-core criminal's spouse. Her frayed patience and jangled nerves reaching crisis in the rain is impressive, particularly since it's two Tom Hardy's she's up against. This is not, however, the gangster film some may think it sets itself up to be. A hard-core, balls-to-the-wall recount of THE KRAYS would have been fun, but instead Helgeland gives us the Krays by way of Guy Richie-lite. His take is a glistening, gleaming immaculate reconstruction of swinging 60s London full of jaunty banter, black humour and plenty of tongues planted firmly in cheeks. The streets are always clean, the suits are always pressed, cars are brand new and everything looks like it was bought yesterday. That may not sit well with some, but this is, after all, the Legend of The Krays, not the facts and Helgeland doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.
2015 / Director. Steven Spielberg.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I am reluctant to review Steven Spielberg films. The man is my cinematic hero and my bias is transparent. Each film is makes is a movie-going event for me and I enter into them with a giddy enthusiasm that no other director can extract from me. And so let that be a disclaimer before I discuss his latest film BRIDGE OF SPIES.
Spielberg and Tom Hanks have enjoyed a strong working relationship for over thirty years, dating back to titles like THE MONEY PIT and JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. As actor & director BRIDGE OF SPIES marks their fourth collaboration, not to mention their numerous projects as co-producers. It's a working relationship built upon mutual respect and as proven to be a winning partnership.
BRIDGE OF SPIES is the true story of James B Donovan, a respected lawyer who was employed by the US government to represent a suspected Russian spy and facilitate a prisoner exchange with the Russians during the height of the cold war. Taking on such a monumental task came with great personal sacrifice and saw Donovan become one of the most hated men in the country. His loyalty to the constitution and sense of honest legal justice put his family in grave danger against public outrage as he profusely adhered to the law, despite pressure from his colleagues and superiors to do otherwise.
The story in itself is fascinating and has been adapted previously in the film FRANCIS GARY POWERS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE U-2 SPY INCIDENT (1976) and what Spielberg brings to his adaptation is an unfaltering recreation of the period and an impeccable production design. From its incredible opening scene right to the closing frame, BRIDGE OF SPIES boasts one of the most visually compelling aesthetics that Spielberg has ever achieved with his dramatical work. The set design is rich in texture and the dark brooding colour schemes lend the film an almost noir-like quality that recalls early espionage films of Hitchcock and resembles the likes of THE THIRD MAN.
The cast is exceptional and Tom Hank's performance speaks for itself. He is clearly in charge of his character and he commands the screen as he does best. Watching him is a pleasure and some of his monologues and expressions are insanely good. The stand-out, however, is Mark Rylance as the suspected Russian spy. He might be a new face to many average movie-goers but he is no stranger to the screen with an impressive catalogue of films, television and theatre to his name. My God, he is a stunning in BRIDGE OF SPIES. As captivating a performance as I can recall ever seeing. There's a chilling calmness to his character's persona and Rylance delivers his performance with a confident restrain that elevates the film beyond it's Spielberg status.
The film's pacing is on-point and where it ever-so-slightly lags in the middle, it recovers with a compelling and thrilling final act. Spielberg's ability to pin-ball between fantasy and drama is unparalleled and BRIDGE OF SPIES rests comfortably amongst his previous war themed dramatic films. Perhaps my bias is too evident, but I will have no reservations listing this film amongst my top ten for the year... top five even. It's stunning.
2015 / Director. Scott Mann.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Out of desperation to save his gravely ill daughter a good guy robs his boss and finds himself at the centre of a botched up crime that pits him in a high speed police chase on a bus full of passengers. The concept is simple and presents an action-thriller that exploits the genre well and echoes films like SPEED and THE TOWN.
Known as HEIST in North America and BUS 657 in other territories (including Australia) the film is a real sleeper. Perhaps I was out of the loop but it escaped my radar entirely until it landed in my lap unexpectedly. The casting on this one is quite good and I was surprised to see Robert DeNiro headlining the film. He plays the ruthless casino owner who sets about retrieving the three million dollars that was stolen from him. Such a role is hardly a stretch for DeNiro, however his delivery is a real throwback to some of the characters he gave us in films like CASINO, GOODFELLAS and HEAT. It's been a while since he's turned out a performance like this and it's a welcome return to the gangster goodness that we love from him.
The rest of the cast is good too with Jeffrey Dean Morgan leading the film effortlessly. His on-screen persona is captivating and he boasts a truly beguiling presence that provides the overall cohesion to the otherwise contrived plot. Other players include MORRIS CHESTNUT, DAVE BAUTISTA, KATE BOSWORTH and MARK-PAUL GOSSELAAR and they are all good.
Where the film falters is within the action itself. The sequences are well conceived and the stunt work is impressive, but the cinematography is mishandled. The complexities of the chases, explosions and human interactions are lost when they're presented in a seemingly safe and sedated fashion. Tighter close ups and less wide angles would have propelled the action further and given the film a much edgier pace. As I said, all of the action scenes were well staged, and at times original... it's a shame that they're just not captured as well as they could have been. The film HARD DRIVE suffered the same shortcomings.
Nevertheless HEIST is an unexpected and well written movie with solid performances. Its lack of polish awards it a gritty ambience and as a direct-to-video release it punches well above its weight.
1989 / Director. Francis Schaeffer.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
In my quest to find some of cinema's most truly awful offerings I came across RISING STORM. It was in one of those budget multipacks where you get ten action movies for $5 (yeah, I collect 'em) and it was a title that had never crossed my radar. Hoping to find a focus film for my micro-podcast (WTF Was That?) I whacked the DVD in the player and pressed play.
Holy shit? Where has this movie been my whole life? I had expected a low-grade, cheap n nasty home-video release but found myself watching a quirky genre film with amazing production values. It's a satirical post-apocalyptic sci-fi set in the year 2099 and depicts a decrepit American society that is ruled by dictatorship. The leader is an extreme religious fundamentalist (of a pseudo faith) who believes that guns rule a nation. The citizens are kept under strict control as armed troopers patrol the streets. Two brothers who find themselves caught up in a dangerous resistance movement as a band of rebels fight to expose the nation's leader as a fraud.
Watching RISING STORM conjured thoughts of Albert Pyun's early work. In fact this film plays out like a weird blending of RADIOACTIVE DREAMS and ALIEN FROM LA... and if you throw in some MAD MAX and HELL COMES TO FROG TOWN in for good measure, then you will have a good idea of what this one is like. The production value is what caught my attention. The futuristic wasteland has been depicted in a very satirical way, that allows the story to progress but also reassures the audience that nothing should be taken seriously.
If you're a fan of the aforementioned films then you will definitely want to track this one down. It's a real treat and boasts a great b-grade cast including Zack Galligan, Wayne Crawford, John Rhys-Davis and Deep Roy. The film's title and the promotional poster art does the film a HUGE disservice and my own viewing experience benefited from approaching it blindly. So much fun.
1996 / Director. Roger Christian.
Review by Shaun Crawford.
Larry Bishop, son of Rat-Packer Joey Bishop, has been an actor since the 60s, making appearances in everything from sit-coma to exploitation biker films. In the mid-90s, however, in the midst of the new-wave indie explosion, he added writer-director to his CV and gave us the deliriously undefinable TRIGGER HAPPY, starring a who's-who of the scene and on the side he gave director Roger Christian his script to UNDERWORLD, a bonkers black-comedy laced with ultra-violence and timing so sharp you could shave with it.
Comedian Denis Leary, only a couple of years outside of his world-wide break-out No Cure For Cancer Tour, takes the lead as Johnny Crown, freshly released from the joint (where he received his Bachelors Degree in Psychology, making him the only working psychopathic psychotherapist in all of psychopathology) on Fathers Day and on a mission to find the guys who murdered his Dad while he was on the inside. He enlists the help of a begrudging Frank Gavalin (a wickedly sarcastic Joe Mantegna) to point the way to those responsible, but also choses to help Gavalin get in touch with his feelings and hands him over to therapist Dr Leah for a session in the midst of his night-long rampage of revenge. Over the course of just one night, he chips away at his 'to-do' list and massacres anybody who looked at his father sideways.
There's nothing particularly original in UNDERWORLD. It's undeniably a product of the post-Tarantino spate of crime films. It does, however, have one of the more stylish scripts to emerge from the time. Bishop (who also has a bit-part as hitman Ned Lynch) has an ear for cadence. The three scripts he has had produced all share a common love of the hyper-vernacular. There's nobody in real life that talks the way his characters do; alliteration, repetition and clipped dialogue are his trademarks and it's clear he takes great joy is letting his creations speak. Whether they are talking psychobabble, waxing philosophical or debating Roger & Hammerstein musicals, there's a sharpness to his wit that keeps the violence from becoming over-bearing and his leads from being unlikable.
Roger Christian, a couple of years before BATTLEFIELD EARTH doesn't inject his visuals with the OTT stylings a of his famously horrendous sci-fi catastrophe, instead, he uses the lens as a tool, often framing in shadowy two-shots so as to watch the banter unfold or wides angles to give everyone some space. There's nothing hyperkinetic about this R18+ rated action film, it's languid and slow and handsome, particularly for its budget.
Upon its release, UNDERWORLD was met with a lot of static. Reviewers weren't particularly kind to it. Understandable, given the over-saturation of films of the ilk at the time, but the intervening 19 years since its release has been kind to it and it's worth a revisit, or if you haven't seen it, definitely worth tracking down.
2014 / Director. Sara Colangelo.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
Set in the aftermath of a coal mining disaster, which took the lives of ten workers, the possibilities for LITTLE ACCIDENTS to explore stories was limitless. The scene was set for a compelling industrial relations story (ala MATEWAN) or perhaps an examination of the emotional toll the event has had on the families (ala THE SWEET HEREAFTER). There are even moments when the film's atmosphere and tones reflect NORTH COUNTRY... instead the film uses the disaster as a backdrop while it turns its attention to an unrelated tragedy.
While the town is still dealing with its grief and industrial action is looming the son of a mining executive goes missing and the answers to his whereabouts lie with another boy, whose own father died in the recent mine collapse. As emotions run high and loyalties are tested, the characters lives intertwine in a story that cautiously builds up pressure, threatening to explode..... but never does.
This is a lacklustre film that ought to have soared, but languishes in a state of insecurity. All of the ingredients SHOULD have made it a compelling and provocative drama piece, but they fail to elevate the misguided and unsubstantial choice of storyline. The performances include Elizabeth Banks, Josh Lucas and Boyd Holbrook, Chloe Sevigny and young Jacob Lofland... all really damn good. The cinematography is also brilliant with the cold, wintery West Virginian landscape captured perfectly and the industrial aspect also represented well.
And so where did it all go wrong for LITTLE ACCIDENTS? Why did I come away from it feeling so underwhelmed? The answer may lie in its adaptation. The film is based on a short, which director Sara Colangelo made a few years prior, and I couldn't help but feel that this particular story would have been best left in short format. There is absolutely no question about Colangelo's technical abilities, because the film is accomplished in all other aspects... but LITTLE ACCIDENTS runs at 105 minutes and feels like two films mashed into one. Were it a simple story about a missing boy, then I would have responded well to it. And the same goes, had it been a single story about the mining disaster. But with its focus constantly competing with two storylines, none of the character-arches received the attention or respect that they deserve. Perhaps more accomplished director may have pulled it off.
With that said, Sara Colangelo is a filmmaker with massive potential, and the obvious talent to do amazing things. And despite my criticisms towards LITTLE ACCIDENTS, it remains an impressive debut feature-length film nonetheless.