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Animal Kingdom-Movie Review *** 06/25/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Action/Thriller, Australian, Australian Film Institute, Australian Writers Guild, Chlotrudis Awards, Golden Globes, Movies, Satellite Awards, Sundance Film Festival, Suspense.
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ANIMAL KINGDOM (Australian) 2010 ***

Written and directed by David Michôd
Starring Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Ben Mendelsohn, and Sullivan Stapleton

Among many other wins and nominations (too many to list; here are just the wins from one):
WINNER, Samsung Mobile AFI Award for Best Film (Liz Watts); Best Direction (Michôd); Best Lead Actor (Mendelsohn); Best Lead Actress (Weaver); Best Supporting Actor (Edgerton); Best Editing (Luke Doolan); Best Original Music Score (Antony Partos, Sam Petty); Macquarie AFI Award for Best Original Screenplay (Michôd), AFI Members Choice Award (Liz Watts); Readers’ Choice Award (Liz Watts), Australian Film Institute

When teenager Josh “J” Cody’s (Frecheville) mother dies from a heroin overdose, he gets reacquainted with the rest of her family. And what a family it is. Grandmother Janine (Weaver), who is affectionately referred to as Smurf, is the matriarch. She has three sons, each of whom is in his own way a hardened criminal. Janine herself will stop at nothing to keep her family together.

A very suspenseful thriller from start to finish. Jacki Weaver, who might be familiar from her role as a very different mother, Dolores in Silver Linings Playbook, gives a chilling performance as a mother who is overly involved in her sons’ lives. Director Michôd has a more recent film, The Rover, which has received excellent reviews from viewers.

Highly recommended for a good action thriller.

113 min. Rated R.

Disgrace-Movie Review 06/03/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Australian, Australian Cinematographers Society, Australian Writers Guild, Based on a novel, Emotional Drama, Film Critics Circle of Australia, Taipei Film Festival, Thriller, Toronto International Film Festival.
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DISGRACE (Australian/South African) 2008
Based on the novel by J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Directed by Steve Jacobs
Starring John Malkovich, Jessica Haines, Eriq Ebouaney, and Fiona Press

WINNER, Award of Distinction-Feature Film (Arnold), Australian Cinematographers Society
WINNER, Awgie Award, Feature Film-Adaptation (Anna Maria Monticelli-screenwriter), Australian Writers Guild
NOMINATED, FCCA Award, Best Screenplay (Monticelli), Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards
WINNER, International New Talent Competition – Grand Prize (Jacobs), Taipei Film Festival
WINNER, International Critics’ Award (FIPRESCI), Toronto International Film Festival

In Capetown, South Africa, middle-aged Professor David Lurie (Malkovich) is accustomed to taking advantage of his female students. When he gets caught having a relationship with one, he chooses to leave in disgrace rather than defending his actions as expected. He visits his daughter Lucy (Haines), who lives alone on a remote farm. Despite the obvious dangers in her surroundings, he cannot convince her to leave.

I read Coetzee’s novel, which won the 1999 Booker Prize, recently and was interested to see how it fared as a film adaptation. It is a story with some very grim aspects; director Jacobs treats them fairly, with the same measured tone as the novel, and without sensationalizing them. John Malkovich’s reserved manner suits the role of the self-centered professor, who knows he has done wrong but doesn’t seem able to feel sorry about it.

119 min. Rated R.


District 9-Movie Review 06/05/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Australian, Movies, Science Fiction, South African language film, Thriller.

District 9 (South African/Australian) 2009

Among numerous other awards and nominations:
Nominated, Best Picture; Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects; Best Editing, 2010 Academy Awards
Nominated, Best Screenplay, Golden Globes

Directed by Neill Blomkamp
Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
Produced by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Carolynne Cunningham

From the very first moments of this sci-fi film, filmed on location in South Africa, I was taken in by it. Presented as a mix of documentary and storytelling, the premise is that a spaceship full of about one million ailing aliens hovers above the city of Johannesburg. Humans take them off the ship and extend humanitarian aid – for a time. More than 20 years later, with the alien population nearly doubled, the authorities decide they must be moved away from the city. Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), intent on doing his new job at Multinational United (MNU), is in charge. He gets a lot more involved than he planned.

A chilling and, for the most part, subtle commentary on human nature. Film 2 is mentioned in the special features, and I’m looking forward to it.

Caution: Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language (although the violence is abstract enough that I didn’t find it disturbing)

112 min.

For more information about the film:

Noise-Movie Review 05/24/2010

Posted by Films to consider in Australian, Movies, Thriller.
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Noise (Australian) 2007

Among other awards and nominations:
Winner, Best Film; Best Director; Best Actor; Best Cinematography; Best Editing, Australian Film Critics Circle
Nominated, Best Film; Best Director; Best Actor; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography Best Editing, Australian Film Institute (Australian Oscars)
Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival; Newport Beach Film Festival; Seattle International Film Festival

From Film Movement

Directed by Matthew Saville
Starring Brendan Cowell, Nicholas Bell, Luke Elliot, and Maia Thomas

The film opens with a horrific scene on a subway, where a mass killing has  taken place. The only witness is a young woman, Lavinia (Thomas), known to the killer by name but left unharmed as he escapes. As police try to find him, another killing takes place, this time of a young woman, in her own neighborhood.

Detective Graham McGahan (Cowell), who is afflicted with worsening tinnitus, is given overnight desk duty consisting of manning a van in the woman’s neighborhood where neighbors can drop in with any information they think would be helpful. When the detective’s disability causes him to neglect his duty, the stage is set for the killer to make himself known.

The detective’s plight almost becomes more intriguing than the search for a killer. I found the cinematography an important and effective element in the building of suspense; some scenes were downright spooky. Lavinia, trying to live a normal life knowing that the killer knows who she is, bravely confronts the driver of a car following her down a dark and deserted street.

The dialogue was occasionally too fast for me to catch (sorry, Aussies), so I resorted to closed captions (there are no subtitles). I did learn some new cusswords (thanks, Aussies!).

Brendan Cowell does a great job as Detective McGahan. I also thought Maia Thomas was especially impressive as Lavinia.

109 min. Unrated. Bloody violence.