Movie review: Puzzle #SydFilmFest

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) is lost.

Not physically necessarily; in fact, as you watch her walk, automata-like, through her daily routine of housework, church meetings, religious observance, and even waking up where the sameness of waiting for the alarm to go off is a thing of exquisite drudgery in and of itself, everything seems as found as it can get, too found really.

But deep down where the soul resides, and the heart and mind keep their secrets safe, Agnes is as lost as you can get, lost in others, lost in expectations, lost in assumptions of what she should and shouldn’t do.

The great pleasure of Puzzle, directed by Marc Turtletaub to a screenplay by Oren Moverman, is watching Agnes find herself, often surprisingly, against her own resistance, shedding her ideas of what is proper and right and not always sure if she knows where she’s going or if she wants to head there.

This extraordinary timidity-rupturing journey is triggered by a jigsaw puzzle, an artefact of childhood, or so people like Agnes’ benignly-neglectful and oft-times outright selfish husband of at least 20 years, Louie (David Denman) says, that Agnes is given as a present by her Aunt Emily.

It almost goes unnoticed in the hurly-burly of Agnes’ birthday party, an event that she cleans for, prepares for, decorates and caters for, and yes, ultimately cleans up, a pattern for her life where Louis is a 1950s macho-relic bystander, expecting his every whim to be catered for even as he proclaims his undying love for his wife (it’s a love that real, no doubt, but it exists in words only with deeds noticeably absent of his supposed passion).

In the aftermath of an event she almost sleepwalks through, in common with the rest of her life, she picks up the puzzle and opens it up, exposing 1000 pieces that tumble onto the table, ripe with pictorial possibility, and as it turns out, impossible-to-imagine life changes.

 

(image (c)Sony Pictures Classics)

 

While it’s not immediately obvious in that moment of a physical and emotional solitude Agnes is all too accustomed to, opening that puzzle is like pushing into a whole new chapter of her life, as she discovers that not only does she love doing jigsaw puzzles but she’s damn good at them.

And most importantly for Robert (Irrfan Khan), she’s fast. Really, really fast.

Fast enough in fact that Robert, a wealthy divorced entrepreneur with time on his hands, and an emotional vacuum that needs filling, straight away asks her to be his puzzle partner for the national championships when Agnes, curious about this new world, comes to see exactly what it is he’s after.

She’s taken aback by the speed of his decision-making and his boundless enthusiasm and openness, but then hers is a world repressed, sealed down so tight that every move seems considered, every thought an agony, every steps outside the carefully-circumscribed parameters of her life almost a sin.

Sin, real or imagined and there is both in Puzzle, at least as devoutly-Catholic Agnes interprets it, is a constant theme in this beautifully-wrought and deeply-thoughtful film that asks whether challenging the established precepts of our life is ever a bad thing.

As Agnes opens up to the possibilities of a life on her own terms, one where she is able to make decisions – Louie rather cavalierly makes decisions left, right and centre, a dynamic Agnes has long acquiesced to but one which begins to rankle as she grapples with the seditious idea that she is allowed to make decisions too – and do her own thing, other long-hidden, or ignored, emotions bubble forth.

Soon Agnes, a listless mainstay of her conservative community, where missing a church meeting of all things is a scandalous act worthy of note, shocks Louie and her similarly-repressed eldest son Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) and self-obsessed younger son Gabe (Austin Abrams) with her new-found willingness to speak her mind.

It’s a glorious upsetting of the established apple cart, and Agnes is both enlivened and horrified by it, a conflict that grows still stronger when it becomes clear Robert sees her as more than just a puzzle partner and that she may feel the same way back.

 

(image (c)Sony Pictures Classics)

 

That’s quite a lot of change engineered by one jigsaw puzzle but as it unfolds in quiet, nuanced ways big and small, and Agnes expands her world, not just beyond her hometown but regularly into New York City itself (her great dream is to go to Montreal) where Robert lives and they train, but within herself, it becomes clear that that birthday present is the catalyst a for long-needed, far-too-delayed personal revolution.

The delicious joy of this remarkable film, which almost never puts a foot wrong, is that all these great seismic shifts take place in the quietest of ways.

Puzzle is not a film that shouts its narrative shifts, intentions or existential twists-and-turns loudly from the rooftops; in fact, many of the great shifts that take place from Agnes embracing mobile phone technology to travelling regularly on the train to her ever-closer relationship with Robert and enmeshing in the world of competitive puzzle-making, are done in enervating bubble of timidity and hesitation that is Agnes life, a place so withdrawn into itself and others that this amazingly intelligent woman, long suppressed, seems all-too-often afraid of her own shadow.

At no point does Agnes dash forth into the fray, torch held high, voice aloud, awash with the thrill and excitement of the new and the just-discovered; much of the time she is afraid through thrilled of what she is finding out about herself, and Puzzle comes into its own as Agnes finally leaves the fear behind and comes to embrace, in her own restrained way, what it means find yourself after many years lost in everyone else.

Anchored by stellar performances by Macdonald who is superb as woman both thrilled about and fearful of the future, and Khan as a man who’s wants to re-discover his love of leaping into the welcoming abyss, Puzzle is a gem, a deliciously-wrought layered film full of insight, raw emotion and understandable restraint that never once pretends that life is easy to navigate or to make decisions about – in fact it’s welcomingly free of easily-delineated road to Damascus moments, mirroring the half-realised nature of much of life – but offers up the idea that it can surprise you, and that when it does, like Agnes, you may have a whole new world to discover, and perhaps, embrace.

 

Movie review: A Season in France (Une saison en France) #SydFilmFest

(image via Allocine)

 

One look at the poster for A Season in France (Une saison en France) might lead you to believe that this film, written and directed with great insight and empathy by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, is a feel-good triumph against considerable odds.

It is anything but of course, with the understated nuanced narrative rarely veering from the bleak reality of life for many refugees who flee their home countries in search of a life free from political violence, societal unrest and active discrimination only to find their hoped-for sanctuary no more welcoming in many cases than the broken reality they have left behind them.

Part of a wider narrative which sees over 66 million people forcibly displaced around the world, and almost 23 million people classified as refugees, A Season in France beautifully and heartbreakingly tells the story of Abbas Mahadjir (Eriq Ebouaney) who flees with his family from the Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui when violence makes it impossible for the well-educated French teacher to keep his family safe.

With his wife Madeleine (Sandra Nkake) killed by militia during their escape, which sees them having to abandon everything that defined their former lives, Abbas and his two children, son Yacine (Ibrahim Burama Darboe) and daughter Asma (Aalayna Lys), arrive in France broken and dispirited but nonetheless hopeful that life can only get better from here.

In certain important ways that promise holds true.

Yacine and Asma are happily enrolled in school, Abbas has found new love, 19 months later, with fellow market stallholder Carole Blaszak (Sandrine Bonnaire), and they occupy a modern apartment which provides comfort, and more importantly, a place of physical belonging for the children who are finding the change in their circumstances increasingly difficult to handle.

 

(image via YouTube)

 

Appearances can be deceiving however.

It turns out the apartment is on loan from a friend or benefactor who is due back shortly, and while the kids are happy at school, they miss having their own rooms, and the life they once led in Bangui which it is intimated was comfortably middle class by CAR standards.

Abbas’ relationship with Carol, though warm and intimate, is stricken by the former’s inability to move on from the grief of losing his beloved Madeleine, with the normal sense of grievous loss that affects anyone in that situation by the trauma in which the death took place and the ongoing stress caused by not knowing if France will approve their claim for asylum.

Sadly, as it turns out, Abbas has his claim turned down, as does Uncle Etienne (Bibi Tanga), who is a close family member or friend – it’s never formerly established but is almost immaterial with the two men as close as family can be – plunging men already on the precipice into further despair and a growing, grinding sense of futility and loss of self-worth.

There is no sugarcoating how existentially and physically imperiling this is for everyone concerned and A Season in France, which allows the events to unfold without melodramatic fanfare or gilded polemic, doesn’t attempt to hide how devastating this is for people already worn by having their futures perpetually hanging in the balance every last minute of every day.

With only 30 days to go until he must leave France, Abbas, along with Etienne, is confronted by the nightmarishness of having nowhere to go – they can’t return to CAR, fewer and fewer countries are accepting refugees – only 189,300 refugees were resettled in 2016, a drop in the bucket given the total number cited above – and no real workable options.

Carole tries her best to be supportive, even allowing the family to move in with her when Abbas, who loses his job in the emotional aftermath of losing his battle to remain in France, has nowhere else to go.

But despite her great love for Abbas and the children and her willingness to perjure herself to police to protect him, she cannot compete with circumstances which seem to be conspiring in a political storm of political indifference, heartlessness and outright violence – Etienne shack on a discarded block of land is burnt to the ground taking his precious philosophy books and tenuous sense of place with it – and ultimately loses out to a sequence of events which cannot be averted and which do not produce anything even remotely approaching a happy ending.

 

(image via YouTube)

 

For many people such as Abbas, there is no happy ending.

While he works hard to create a happy family idyll for the children – there are moments of real joy and contentment, largely due to Abbas’ grim determination to conjure them out of nothing and protect his kids where he can – and life holds promise with Carole, he and Etienne are all too aware that there is no way, despite their initial hopes, to fulfill the promise that carried them from their much-missed home country to their hoped-for new life in France.

It is sobering to watch Abbas struggle to maintain hope when even stoic, philosophical Etienne is throwing in the towel and yet he does precisely that because he has no other choice with his children hanging onto the thin dream that life may yet return to normal.

It is an invidious soul-destroying position to be in and A Season In France presents the horror of losing your sense of place, self-worth, belonging and a host of other things that may us who we are, in all its catastrophic enormity.

That it does so without histrionic overplaying is testament to the subtlety and power of Haroun’s script and an understanding, sadly lacking in many of the callously-violent opponents of refugee resettlement and heightened immigrant intakes, of how dehumanising being in the position that Abbas occupies can be for a person.

A Season in France succeeds in helping those with ears to hear and hearts to feel, and hopefully those may be opposed but open, to put themselves in the position of refugees like Abbas as family, hopefully reminding us that there but the grace of whatever god you believe in there go I, and urging us with its quietly-insistent voice to understand that all these people want is what we have – the ability to live in peace and be safe, look after themselves and their loved ones and pursue the things that matter to them, a fundamental right that is surely the preserve of everyone and not just those fortunate to be in countries free from strife.

 

“We’re all family here. No matter how small.” Dumbo live action teaser trailer

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

I am not usually a fan of unnecessary movie remakes. (Of course Hollywood movie studios would argue every remake they undertake is necessary but I think our definitions of that word in this context may differ greatly.)

But Disney live action reboots of films like The Jungle Book and Beauty & the Beast have been far more imaginative and emotionally-resonant that I would have ever expected, and it appears that Dumbo, due next year and helmed by the incomparably quirky and creatively adventurous Tim Burton, is well on track to join their ranks.

The just-released trailer, though short, is bursting with a thousand different affecting emotions and your heart goes out to poor sweet Dumbo and his rude awakening to both the sadness and joy to be found in the world.

 

 

As Gamespot notes, it is but the latest in a planned long list by Disney of animation adaptations:

“In terms of other Disney adaptations, new versions of Mulan, The Lion King, and Aladdin are all in various stages of development. Mulan recently added a number of high-profile Asian actors to the cast, including Gong Li (Miami Vice) and martial arts legends Donnie Yen (Rogue One) and Jet Li (The Expendables), and arrives in 2020. The Lion King will be directed by The Jungle Book’s Jon Favreau and is set for July 2019, while Aladdin comes from Snatch and Sherlock Holmes director Guy Richie, and arrives in May of next year.”

Dumbo opens in theatres on 19 March, 2019.

Movie review: Ocean’s Eight

(image via IMP Awards)

 

In an age where TV is enjoying a streaming-assisted new golden age, and the accessibility of arthouse, indie and foreign films is but a mouse click away, it can be tempting to demand that every movie possess a complex, emotionally-involved narrative.

Those are rewarding films to watch but the reality is that there are many times when all you want is some good, expertly-made escapist entertainment that doesn’t come equipped with Michael Bay’s levels of explosive inanity.

Ocean’s 8, or Ocean’s Eight, depending on whether you’re heeding the promotional material or the opening credits of the film respectively, is then just what the get-away-from-it-all doctor ordered – a bright, fun, heist film that has just enough plot to keep the wheels turning and some standout performances from a dream cast to keep it humming along nicely.

It’s not a complicated film but then none of the films in the Ocean’s franchise, are; instead, we have a bright-and-breezy film that is happy to exist in a stripped back narrative that essentially comes down to zesty, lighthearted set-up, tense but successful execution and justice-for-all final act.

For those looking for some deep agenda, none will be found; what will come up in the viewing wash though is a film that understands that seeing people triumph against the odds, even people who are technically on the wrong side of the law, is a wholly satisfying way to spend some time in a world palpably bereft of the kind of pure justice many of us long for.

From the get-go, the characters that will propel this wholly-satisfying excursion into a world where risks are rewarded handsomely, justice pays no heed to the rich, the powerful or the downright sleazy – I’m talking about you Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) after you did your partner wrong – and the impossible magically materialises into the scintillatingly possible, are a delight.

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), newly-released from prison after an Oscar-worthy performance at her parole hearing that gets an admiring review from the prison officer checking her out of her home of five years, is sassy, confident and determined to successfully prosecute the theft of a lavish Cartier diamond necklace known as the Toussaint from the Met Gala.

Her planning, aided by time in solitary and a mind partly-focused on revenge against Becker, is meticulous and her enthusiasm so profound that she convinces old partner-in-crime Lou (Cate Blanchett), a club owner more dedicated to watering down vodka in the club she owns than committing jail-worthy crimes, to come along for the ride.

The repartee between these two characters is witty, fast and feels wholly like the kind of conversation that would take place between two people who know each other well, have each other’s backs and are more like sisters than close friends.

Their friendship, which is instrumental in convincing five other women to join their crew – the rationale for an all-women crew? Men get noticed, women don’t, a meta piece of gender-commentary that is delivered without polemic solemnity but rather a knowing look and snappy delivery – is a delight from start to finish, the bedrock for the entire undertaking and the template for the larger team once it’s assembled.

And what a team it is!

In quick succession, they bring on almost has-been designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham in all her post-punk idiosyncratic glory) jewelry designer Amita (Mindy Kaling), suburban mum/stolen goods fencer Tammy (Sarah Paulson), genius hacker Nine Ball aka Leslie (Rihanna) and street thief Constance (Awkwafina), all of whom come with fully-formed personalities, undeniable skills and the ability to pull off a job so complicated and daring that it could go seriously wrong at any time.

It’s the relationship between these seven women, and Daphne Kluger (Anna Hathaway in a movie-stealing performance as a self-involved movie star that is hilariously on-point) who is the face of the Met Gala and who unwittingly ends up central to the heist’s success, that powers the breezy escapism of Ocean’s Eight.

Passing the Bechdel Test with flying colours, the film is testament to the fact that a film almost wholly populated by female characters can, of course, carry itself onto box office success; any long-time cinemagoer with an open heart and mind,  will know this to be true but it seems, sadly, that Hollywood is often slow to pay the same attention to what should be, by any estimation, entirely self-evident.

 

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Not that Ocean’s Eight sets itself up as any kind of #metoo cinematic volley over the misogynistic bows of the cinema industry’s slow-to-turn ships.

Rather the witty and accomplished script by Olivia Milch and Gary Ross (Who also directs with nimble sprightliness) eschews any kind of gender point scoring, focusing instead of simply showing how a bunch of likable, talented, accomplished go about committing the same kind of crime that made the earlier male-centric Ocean‘s instalments such a joy to watch.

Which is entirely as it should be.

And granted, you may not think that committing a grand felony is the best to show the undeniable equality between the sexes – although in one of the film’s more witty moments, Debbie Ocean does suggest their pulling off this heist as an inspiration to all eight-year-old girls out there who dream of a criminal career – but it works in its own indirect way, proving, and again it’s indictment on society at large that this has to be proved at all, that the imagined disparity between the sexes is entirely a figment of the addled minds of misogynists and patriarchal dinosaurs.

Still Ocean’s Eight is a show, don’t tell exercise, and at heart a fun heist film that turns clever, witty thievery into a wholly-pleasing, gorgeously-diverting equal opportunity piece of entertainment, one where men are only tangential to the proceedings (though amusingly so with James Corden’s insurance investigator John Frazier a worthy, if under-developed foil for Debbie Ocean) and where the accent is on light-and-frothy diversionary fun with serious intent.

 

How It Should Have Ended: The Five Stages of Watching a Star Wars Movie

(image via YouTube (c) Leigh Lahav/HISHE)

 

Leigh Lahav is a fan’s fan.

She is as much a fan of a slew of franchises as the rest of us, and yet also has a rare, deeply-talented ability to poke fun at them in a way which is respectful but also hilariously insightful.

Take her latest effort, The Five Stages of Watching a Star Wars Movie, which any fan, and I have been one since I saw A New Hope in 1977 … in a cinema … when it wasn’t even called A New Hope (yes, I am that old, thank you) … will be entirely able to relate to and laugh it.

It beautifully details the highs and lows, the obsession and the detachment, the excitement and the exhaustion that comes from any fandom.

Laughing at yourself is healthy, and trust me, much laughter will be had … and yes, much inside knowledge shared.

May the parodying force be with you.

 

Squared Away: Clever short film pays affectionate homage to the cartoons of The Far Side

(image via Laughing Squid (c) Bruton Stroube Studios)

 

SNAPSHOT
Director Tim Wilson is a huge fan of The Far Side and wanted to bring a couple of the comics to life. So he assembled the team at Bruton Stroube and after many hours of reading through old Far Side books they landed on their two favorite comics. The idea in the videos is to show the moments that lead up to the punchline. (via Laughing Squid)

Like many people, including Tim Wilson, the director of the brilliantly imaginative short film, Squared Away, my love of Gary Larson‘s The Far Side runs far and deep.

Incredibly clever cartoons that skewered the many absurdities and oddities of life with insight, robust humour and a beguiling sense of the silly, The Far Side is essentially a series of witty, highly memorable punchlines.

 

 

So well-written are they that the lead up really isn’t needed but I am so very happy that Wilson and the team at St. Louis creative house Bruton Stroube Studios decided to imagine what the steps leading up to the punchline of two of Larson’s most well-loved cartoons (see below) might be.

They have nailed it and with the same economy of style and wit that have made The Far Side an enduring favourite.

(cartoon courtesy Universal Press Syndicate)

 

(cartoon courtesy Universal Press Syndicate)

Mass of movie trailers: Lego Movie 2, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Occupation, Bumblebee, Mortal Engines

 

There are so many movies on the schedule right now.

True, that could be said of any year but 2018 seems to be delivering up a bumper collection of films such as that my self-care limit of one movie a week – I want going to the movies to be fun, not work – is regularly being breached.

Whatever the demands, self-imposed or otherwise on my time, I can guarantee I will be seeing these three films, each of which are quite different from each other, but all of which promise some original storytelling, a rare commodity in today’s sequels and remark heavy cinematic schedule.

So buckle in, watch the trailers and dream of the popcorn consumption to come.

 

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

 

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part reunites the heroes of Bricksburg in an all new action-packed adventure to save their beloved city. It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild. The battle to defeat them and restore harmony to the LEGO universe will take Emmet, Lucy, Batman and their friends to faraway, unexplored worlds, including a strange galaxy where everything is a musical. It will test their courage, creativity and Master Building skills, and reveal just how special they really are. (synopsis via Collider)

Can you ever really recover the dark events of Taco Tuesday?

Hard to see at this point but suffice that Emmet (Chris Pratt), who still thinks everything is awesome, even in a Mad Max-ian apocalypse, is going to give it a red-hot go.

Lego Movie 2: The Second Part opens 8 February 2019 in USA and UK and 28 March in Australia.

 

 

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME

 

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
The film tells the story of Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon), thirty-year-old best friends from Los Angeles, who are unexpectedly thrust into an international conspiracy when Audrey’s ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux) shows up at her apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail. Much to their own surprise, the duo jump into action, and find themselves on the run in Europe from the assassins and a suspiciously charming British agent (Sam Heughan), as they hatch a plan to save the world. (synopsis via Flickering Myth)

Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon are comedic gems and they’re both in the same riotously funny film!

Am I happy? Yes I am, very, very much.

The Spy Who Dumped Me opens 3 August in USA and 9 August in Australia.

 

 

OCCUPATION

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Written and directed by Luke Sparke, Occupation follows a group of strangers forced to band together to save the world after aliens who’ve been scouting the Earth for centuries finally decide to invade. (synopsis via io9)

Yes folks, the aliens are invading our beloved blue ball of a planet AGAIN.

But as io9 notes, it’d going to be an entertaining mix of everything they’ve done before – an invasionary greatest hits if you like – with a pleasingly Australian edge (yes, Sydney, this time you’re in the firing line):

“What happens you blend Independence Day, War of the Worlds, Signs, Cloverfield, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and District 9, along with a dash of first-person shooters and a sprinkle of Jango Fett?”

Occupation opens on 12 July in Australia and 20 July in USA.

 

 

BUMBLEBEE

 

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

I was dubious about this film since the Michael Bay Transformers films have been noisy explosive style over substances signifying less than nothing.

But Bumblebee looks massively different and I think it comes to all the things that Nerdist has rather sagely identified:

“If this new trailer is any indication, the latest Transformers film, and possibly the last in the current continuity, might be what some fans have been asking for all along. Let’s go down the checklist: Bumblebee as an actual Volkswagen. A robot mode that’s relatively simple and clearly looks like the vehicle it’s going to become. Less frenetic editing. A 1980s setting. And an evil Decepticon plane that actually looks recognizably like the old toys.”

Every bit as importantly, the film looks to have a heart and a soul, something conspicuously lacking in earlier movies in the franchise.

Bumblebee opens 20 December in Australia and 21 December in USA.

 

 

MORTAL ENGINES

 

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Thousands of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, humankind has adapted and a new way of living has evolved. Gigantic moving cities now roam the Earth, ruthlessly preying upon smaller traction towns. Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan)—who hails from a Lower Tier of the great traction city of London—finds himself fighting for his own survival after he encounters the dangerous fugitive Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). Two opposites, whose paths should never have crossed, forge an unlikely alliance that is destined to change the course of the future. The film is based on Philip Reeve’s fantasy novels. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

In my near-endless reading of fantasy and sci-fi novels, I somehow managed to miss the series by Philip Reeve which by all accounts are birlliantly-realised, well-told tales.

While I doubt I have time to catch-up now – if you could see the size of my TBR pile, you would fully understand why – at least I have the upcoming film by Peter Jackson to introduce me to Reeve’s amazing world.

Given Jackson’s gift for remaining faithful to his source material while injecting his own imaginative elements, I have high hopes for Mortal Engines which could make for some deeply-immersive engaging Christmas holiday viewing.

Mortal Engines opens 14 December USA and 26 December Australia.

 

Movie review: Aurore (I Got Life!)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Time is not particularly good to anyone.

Oh, it bestows some blessings, if you would like to call them that, such as wisdom, emotional maturity and insight, and even material gain if that’s what rocks your existentially long-in-the-tooth boat.

But we all make do, grabbing those precious moments of love, family, forgiveness and rare second chances as lose to us as possible, hoping they will be enough to forestall or make up for any losses we might suffer.

Aurore Tabort, née Plou (Agnès Jaoui), the eponymous protagonist of Blandine Lenoir’s Aurore aka I Got Life! knows all too well how cruel and bounteous in unequal measure life can be.

The beautiful fifty-something of two young women, one of who Marina (Sarah Suco) is pregnant at a younger-than-usual-these-days age to Mattheiu (Pierre Giafferi) while the other Lucie (Lou Roy-Lecollinet) is studying and wildly in love with would-be DJ Tim (Théo Cholbi) whom she is convinced the man she is meant to be with for all time.

A few maternal mishaps aside – distracted at work in the restaurant where she reluctantly still works after the previous owner sold it to the slimily enthusiastic Seb (Nicolas Chupin), she regrettably tells Marina, seconds after the gushing news that she’s pregnant, “Why do you want to repeat my mistakes?” – Aurore is reaping the benefits of all the hard-won parenting of her youth.

The belle of the high school she once attended where she is linked forever with the impossibly-handsome Christophe Tochard aka Totoche (Thibault de Montalembert) as the couple du jour, Aurore has a great many things in her favour.

They may low-key next to classmates who have moved to America or become doctors but they are important achievements nonetheless, crowned by her close though not perfect relationships with her daughters, her friendship with the riotously effervescent Mano (Pascale Arbillot) who is family to her children, and even the friendship of soon-to-be ex-husband Nanar (Philippe Rebbot).

 

(image via HeyUGuys)

 

Granted not groundbreaking in the eyes of high-flying go-getters but they matter and Aurore, in many small and touching ways, is clearly blessed by their presence.

The one thing that isn’t a positive, and kudos to Lenoir to telling it like it is when cinema is more apt to romanticise than be honest about the stages of a woman’s life, is menopause which is making Aurore’s life hell, with hot flashes causing havoc at the most unwelcome and unexpected of times.

In the midst of the ups-and-downs of navigating Marina through her pregnancy and birth, Lucie through the highs-and-lows of young romance and Mano through the selling of her houses – Aurore is the plant meant to talk up interest in the properties for sale – she has to endure a little talked-about subject – what happens when youth departs you and leaves hormonal chaos in its wake?

Her doctors isn’t much help and not, she admits ruefully, are home remedy soybeans, but the willingness of the film to talk about menopause without crass jokes or flippant commentary is a milestone in film where the realistic ageing of men is given due reverence but that of women all too frequently glossed-over.

Menopause isn’t played for laughs for the most part – though one scene where she’s a job placement person of similar gender and age is pricelessly funny if also knowably serious – but rather as an all-too-visible sign of the passing of time that looks at one stage to be robbing Aurore of far more than it is bestowing.

In short order she falls out, albeit briefly with both daughters, loses her job and finds out that Totoche, while clearly still attracted to her, is still deeply hurt by the way Aurore ended their relationship way back when they were both 18, and none too keen on re-stoking the fires of romance.

It’s not a devastating blow in a film that finds its rhythm and joy in the small important moments of life – it’s always more content to make an observation such as the fact that white people only encounter discrimination in old age while other people discover it much earlier  and then move on – and which recognises that for all the attention the big, flashy peaks of life attract, that we exist, more often than not, in the quieter, day-to-day passing of time.

 

(image via Perth Festival)

 

While Aurore ends more predictably than most French films – trust me you won’t begrudge a moment of it with Aurore one of those real, grounded characters who deserves even the most cliched of life moments – it spends it narrative unobtrusively and wisely, granting us rare and nuanced insight into the life of a middle-aged woman whose life is far from a trainwreck but not the hoped-for nirvana of her youth either.

Much of the joy of Aurore comes from watching the way each small moment builds to the next, how, unlike Hollywood and its penchant for meet-cutes and happily ever afters, life is full of dead-ends, abortive emotional escapades and unrealised dreams.

But equally how in the absence of the big neon-lit moments, which may or may not amount to something (the reality is they don’t as much as they do), there is happiness to be found, even if it is all-too-quickly followed by the hot flush of menopause if you’re Aurore, by less-than-ideal punctuations in the passage of time.

At its heart, Aurore is a celebration of things both are they are, and as they might be, finding contentment, though imperfectly-realised, in the small beauties of coffee with friends or dancing, even in your imagination, with your daughters, and in the possibilities that can still be found even at an age when popular opinion and society have consigned you to the has-been pile.

Aurore may not be a rich heir or a doctor or onto her second family, and there’s much, including the menopause that she would change, but she has much to her credit she comes to realise, and even some things that might still be coming down the pike – her job as an attendant to five women who pool their pensions and live together proves instructive in that regard – and which could, in time, come to redefine her life in ways she had thought long gone.

If nothing else, you leave this charming and profoundly substantial film, which manages to be both insightfully considered and comically light, with a new appreciation for the many ways in which life defines us and how, even with more than few spanners in the works late in the game, that surprises still, quite pleasingly, await us.

 

The short and the short it: Flies, love and the adorableness of Darrel

(poster via Laughing Squid (c) Marc Briones and Alan Carabantes)

 

SNAPSHOT
Exchange of glances in the subway. How many opportunities have you let slip? Darrel will do everything possible to not let this one escape. (synopsis via Laughing Squid)

Is it possible to win the heart of an attractive lady chameleon by flies alone?

Darrel, the adorably awkward star of his own eponymously-titled short film  by Marc Briones and Alan  Carabantes thinks so and he’ll do anything to make sure he has the flies for the job.

Alas, even though his heart is most definitely in the right place, his execution leaves a lot to be desired with the ending resoundingly hilarious confirmation of this.

Whoever said love isn’t easy had obviously spent some time with dear sweet earnest Darrel …

 

10 years of Deadpool … and minor X-Men, poor career decisions by Ryan Reynolds and oh yeah, 2 movies

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Oh lordy but isn’t the marketing for Deadpool 2 almost, and I stress almost because let’s be honest, the movie is AMAAA-ZIIING (yes that is my vowel allotment for this post almost exhausted but I care not), as good as the film itself?

Deadpool on the covers of 16 iconic films. Posters innumerable that play merry with the idea of the film itself … and now this, a tongue-in-cheek, mockumentary of just 1 1/2 minutes that skewers, parodies and has its own satirical, self-deprecatory way with the usually very serious and introspective featurettes that accompany film releases these days like an over-eager entourage looking for validation through proximity.

This gem of a parodic featurette takes us through on a completely superficial, made-up, and downright hilarious 10th anniversary journey through the long journey from the idea of Deadpool as a feature film superhero, a few missteps – no, no to Green Lantern Ryan! Ah, too late – a hearty “HELL NO!” or possibly a few more, and the final release of Deadpool in 2016 which went on to establish a cinematic universe of two, count ’em, TWO, Deadpool movies.

Eat your heart our MCU! (Who may be marking their own ten-year anniversary but really who can tell?)

What’s next in phase 2? So, SO much but mainly more high-profile X-Men …

(source: io9 Gizmodo)