Movie review: Thor

(image courtesy IMP Awards)



My lord it’s been a mainstream movie fest this week!

Usually I avoid a lot of these big tentpole blockbusters, not because I am some sort of twisted movie snob preferring only movies about suffering Romanian peasants during the Depression – although that could be kind of gripping….or not – but generally because they leave you feeling so unfulfilled. I know that not every movie has to leave you imbued with a giddy feel good feeling or overflowing with hope for the future, or pondering deeply about mankind’s possibly imperilled future, but I at least like to leave feeling like I have been taken on a journey with a protagonist who learnt something anything, and who reaches a satisfactory end to their experiences, with some laughs, tears, or again anything on the way that adds some sense of substance to it all.

Those sort of blockbuster movies are rare indeed, and while Thor, starring the chest-a-licious Chris Hemsworth (he of the hot pecs!), and feisty Natalie Portman ( I hope you appreciate that I just completely objectified the man, and left the woman alone; not that it really makes me much of a feminist, just gay!), won’t win any Best Picture Oscars any time soon, it is a lot of fun, detailing the back story elegantly and with minimum expository stodginess, and sending the protagonist, the god of thunder himself, on a reasonably meaningful journey, that results in some lovely moments with the mortals he encounters, and some valuable lessons learnt.

 

It also looks amazing, from the soaring towers of Asgard, the realm from which Thor is banished, which manages to look medieval and futuristic all at once, to the good old environs of the town in New Mexico, where much of the earth-bound action takes place. It was a feast for the eyes, even when Chris Hemsworth didn’t have his shirt off (but one shirtless shot, people, really?! C’mon haven’t you seen Matthew McCannaughey in action lately!), and one of the few movies to use CGI well to set the scene and create a real sense of time and place.

The only criticism is a somewhat trite and rushed ending, but that is a minor quibble since Thor managed to get right what many of these superhero movies get quite wrong – it had a solid storyline, great characters, drama, ethical challenges, humour, and a wonderful journey for all the principal characters.

Well worth seeing.

    • Tuesday 26 April 2011 @ Event Cinemas, Sydney (with Steve x 2 and Fahmi)

 

Movie review: Scream 4

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

I am not a fan of slasher flicks generally.

It’s not the fear of what might happen next that truly bothers me, although I appreciate that is largely what draws most people to them. No, the reason I avoid them like a, um, serial killer, is that the thought of all those people losing their lives is horrific, and sad, and not something I want to spend two hours witnessing.

But eleven years after watching all three Scream movies with my then house mate, Andrew, and getting absolutely smashed on Sangria – it is not cordial, people, trust me – I went along to see the fourth instalment when my current house mate couldn’t find anyone, including his boyfriend, to go with him. Surprisingly I enjoyed it! I’d forgotten that the original movies, while maintaining a high body count, also contained a great deal of humour, and post modern posturing, and some fun, witty dialogue, and this movie, had all that and more.

Yes there was lots of blood and gore, but the script writers went to a lot of trouble to flash out the characters as best they could in what is, naturally, a fairly restrictive genre format, and fashion some sort of storyline, which was peppered with all sorts of wry observations of modern life, no more hilariously, and to deadly effect, that at the end, when the person who made everyone think they were innocent, ends up being anything but, is still being lauded as a hero even as the heros of the story dust themselves off after nearly dying. It is a clever dissection of the way modrn media doesn’t stop to check what is right and what isn’t, and simply runs with initial impressions or information to disasterous or ruinous effect.

Yep, this slasher flick, replete with many bon mots and witticisms, manage to actually say something even as rivers of blood flow through it. Well done!

 

      • Monday 25 April 2011 @ Broadway (with Steve x 2 and Fahmi)

     

Movie review: My Afternoons With Margueritte

(image courtesy IMP Awards)


I love French movies.

Well, now I do. Hated them at high school when the only ones I saw were weird, odd, or badly put together. But modern French movies have struck a chord with me, and from the delights of Amelie, to the darker story of The Hedgehog, I love the sense of whimsy, fun, or oddness that imbues many of these movies, with a sentimentality that in an American movie would be thick as treacle in it’s corniness, but in these movies carries with it a real sense of what it means to be human, with real people leading real lives.



Yes it is quaint and cute, and the ending lifted straight from a modern fairytale, but it is also grounded in the darker realities of life where people are treated cruelly by those who should love them – Gerard Depardieu’s Germain’s mother is played with neglectful menace by Claire Maurier – aren’t given the chances in life they should have been given, and are dealt unfair blows by the simple process of ageing (the delightful Gisele Casadesus imbues Margueritte, who in many ways saves Germain, with a sweet intelligence, coloured by a sad recognition that life is taking much of what she values from her). The relationship that forms between Germain, and Margueritte is real, and affectionate, and ends up giving each of them as much as they give away to establish and grow it. It could have been saccharine overload but it isn’t because these two fine French actors, ground their characters in lives that make sense and could happen.

Oh and about the happy ending? By the time you reach it, it seems perfectly fine to end the way it does, so powerfully have the two actors brought their journey together to life.

  • Friday 22 April 2011 @ Dendy Opera Quays, Sydney City (Steve Waz, Fahmi)

 

IMOGEN HEAP in concert at the State Theatre – Thursday 21 April 2011

I was introduced to this supremely talented, gloriously idiosyncratic English’s artists music by the indie movie, Garden State, which starred Scrubs’s Zach Braff and loved her from the word go. Of course on that soundtrack she was working with Guy Sigsworth (with whom she had earlier made music while he was in his band Acacia) in the guise of their shortlived collaborative group, Frou Frou, which produced the divinely lovely song, Let Go.



Then, thanks to my dear friend Monica, then girlfriend and now wife of my wonderful friend and old house mate, Andrew, introduced me to her album Speak For Yourself, which includes the tracks Hide and Sick, Just For now (which Imogen used as a wonderful crowd singalong during the concert) and Clear the Area, released in 2005, and followed four years later by Ellipse, which was every bit as melodic and poetic.


I have for years adored her love of intricate achingly emotional melodies, layered sonic templates, and a voice that conveyed so much pain, sadness, introspection and wistfulness that you could only wonder what sort of person was in possession of it.

Well, last night, after buying the tickets the moments I saw she was touring, I found out. Imogen Heap is a brilliantly talented, delightfully offbeat, woman who’s hilariously funny between songs, sings with passion and who has grapples with the big questions of life with as much humour as she does pain and wondering. In between the songs, 12 of which were chosen in an online poll on her website prior to the event, she delighted everyone with her witty observations, offbeat takes on events, honesty and easy humour to the point where I didn’t want the concert to end. 


It was like spending the night with the best friend you always wanted, who is funny, talented, clever, intelligent, amazingly technologically proficient, who samples sounds and throws them into the rich, sonic washes of sounds she produces on a stage that resembled an eerie yet comforting section of English woodland (albeit populated by all manner of instruments), who forgets to sing the intro to one song and laughs it off, and who has so little ego she asks other supremely talented artists, in this case, Lula Bliss (reminded me of Bernadette on Big Bang Theory) and Cafe of the Gates of Salvation, to join her and collaborate on stage. She even dispensed with the walk off between the end of the main set and the encore, admitting quite honestly that ‘you all know I am coming back when I walk off so why walk off in the first place?’ I have always wanted an artist to do that and Imogen granted me my wish!


In short, she was amazing, and delightful, and a joy to spend time with me, so much so that I want to spend the rest of my life following her from concert to concert. OK that’s technically stalking I guess, but what a glorious way to get arrested. She’d be worth it! (Imogen if in some freak accident of web surfing you read this, I have no actual plans to stalk you, but cannot wait to see you in concert again!)