Thursday, January 22, 2015

Film Reviews: 22nd January 2015

    Here’s last week’s and this week’s releases. Blame school holidays and the editing of my next novel, Messengers, for the delay in last week’s. Can I mention also that there are some excellent films in these releases, but if you are in Australia, please try and catch Paper Planes first if you enjoy great family films. If you are an Australian, support quality Australian films first this year (that’s my mantra). Here’s the full review of Paper Planes: CLICK HERE
    I will be back on air with my weekly film radio spot on Perth Radio Station Curtin FM 100.1 every Friday at 12:40 West Australia time. If you live outside of Perth, then you can tune in on the home page digitally.
    If you would like a break from movies, why not grab an e-copy of BACK AGAIN my time travel novel. It’s been making some best of lists recently, so I know you would enjoy. Click here to check it out.

(The Best of the Bunch)
Birdman  ✪✪✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               15th January 2015
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth:                                   Luna Palace Cinemas

    This film is brilliant. What a concept. It’s 119 minutes of what appears to be one single tracking shot to give the feeling of a play, but is actually very, very clever editing. The plot is centred around a the few preview nights and days leading up to opening night of a Broadway play. Michael Keaton will win the Oscar for best actor. There you go, I said it. This is Keaton acting out of his head.  And Emma Stone is just incredible. Every one of the supporting actors brings it home. I loved this film so much that I saw it again.
    A little warning though, it may not be for everyone. Here’s a guide: If you loved Black Swan with Natalie Portman, then I think you will love this. If you didn’t understand what all the hype was about for Black Swan, then it may not be for you. It is avant-garde, and at the end, you may think, what the? But for most cinephiles and lovers of something a touch different, it will be a joy to watch.
    A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

American Sniper    ✪✪✪✪½
Opens in Australia:               22nd January 2015
Other Countries:                   Release Information

    Fans of Zero Dark Thirty, Black Hawk Down, and the Hurt Locker will have Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper on their list of must-see war films. However, if that isn’t you, put it on your list anyway. Bradley Cooper has been nominated for best actor at the Academy Awards, as has the film in Best Picture category. Even though I don’t think they’ll win — it’s a very strong year in those categories —it’s already winning at the box office with an unexpected $89.5m U.S. opening weekend.
    Based on the 2012 bestselling autobiography, American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal who served four tours in Iraq and was proclaimed the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history with 160 confirmed kills. He was nicknamed by the insurgents Shaitan Ar-Ramadi, the Devil of Ramadi, and a hefty bounty was placed on his head.
    What makes this film so edge-of-your-seat engrossing for much of the 132 minutes is not just the finely tuned action sequences but, also, the portrayal by Bradley Cooper of Kyle as a more rounded character than most war depictions allow. This film isn’t only about an incredible hero and amazing marksman it’s about the toll war takes on a family as well as the soldier, as the story takes us between Kyle’s tours during his furlows at home.
    Eastwood displays a keen eye for action and the film is beautifully paced. Bradley Cooper, who also co-produced the film, has beefed up physically to the point, where you wonder, initially, if it’s really him. Sienna Miller, as his wife Taya, also plays a great role, as a woman who is left to raise her family alone while the man she loves seems increasingly alienated from her. The other supporting actors are real and sympathetic.
    Like most war films the depiction of the action is bloody and horrific, and we are again reminded that it is high price our soldiers pay when they go to war. It is truly an incredible story of bravery and of the frightening life of a soldier. You will come away grateful that there are people like Chris Kyle willing to do what he had to do, and sad that we still live in a world that requires that of anyone.

Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle's pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind

Unbroken   ✪✪✪ ½
Opens in Australia:               15th January 2015
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth:                                   Luna Palace Cinemas

    Based on the book of a true story, this is a fairly grim experience. It’s received a great deal of publicity as it’s Angeline Jolie’s first major directional debut. She does a good job of telling this story, and I think she has another great career future as a director.  However, the film feels a little unevenly paced, and it’s similar to Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and last year’s Railway Man with a Life of Pi, lost at sea, interlude. If you enjoy war films, you will be satisfied though.
    Takamasa Ishihara, as the cruel prison of war camp Captain, Watanabe, in his first big screen role (he’s a big pop star in Japan) is chillingly sadistic and hateable.
    Although, can I recommend first checking out The Water Diviner starring Russell Crowe.       That one has a more interesting and heart wrenching story and it’s an Australian film. And this year is my year of promoting Australian films that are worthy of your dollars. Mind you, Unbroken was filmed in Australia, so that makes it pretty Aussie. Aren’t we developing quite the Australian film industry with films of this calibre with this star power of Angeline Jolie being made here?
After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp

The Wedding Ringer ✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               22nd January 2015
Other Countries:                 Release Information

    It was a lot better than I expected, and I had a few guests at the preview (if you live in Australia and are on my mailing list you will hear about the giveaways first told me they really enjoyed this. It’s the usual American comedy fare, but Josh Gadd and Kevin Hart have a nice chemistry. I get the feeling that they’re grooming Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Grudge Match) to be the next Will Smith comedy/romantic lead. He gets my vote. I like him.

Two weeks shy of his wedding, a socially awkward guy enters into a charade by hiring the owner of a company that provides best men for grooms in need.

Wild  ✪✪✪½
Opens in Australia:               22nd January 2015
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth:                                  Luna Palace Cinemas

    It’s an interesting enough film based on the book Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found and Reese Witherspoon portrays the real life Cheryl Strayed, who for some bizarre reason decides that trekking solo for 1100 miles will somehow help her overcome her grief, does a fine job.  What should be emotional and fascinating doesn’t quite hit it.
Director Jean-Marc VallĂ©e, who also directed the Dallas Buyers Club, which scored Matthew McConaughey his Best Actor Oscar last year, has created a distant feel to the film, so I didn’t feel as vested in Witherspoon’s character.
    If it appeals to you, go see. Otherwise, I found 2014 Tracks, the Australian film starring Mia Wasikowska, of a woman who walks from the middle of Australia to the coast of Western Australia probably more engaging.
A chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.

Mr Turner  ✪✪✪
Opens in Australia:               22nd January  2015
Other Countries:                   Release Information
Perth:                                     Luna Palace Cinemas

    A strange film about a strange man. Timothy Spall, as well as the other actors, is superb. This is not your standard three-act film, though. It feels more like a reality TV show following Turner around in the last 25 years of his life. It’s very authentic, though, showing the great divide between the wealthy and the poor and you will leave the cinema scratching and grateful we can take a shower these days. This one is being bandied around as an Oscar consideration, so if you are a cinephile or an art lover you might like to take a look.
An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner's life.

If you’ve enjoyed these reviews, please share with your friends and followers on social media and I will be very grateful. I love new readers who love film.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Time and Time Again by Ben Elton

Rating: ✪✪✪✪✪  out of 5 Stars

Release Date:                       November 2014
Author’s Website:                Ben Elton's website
Publisher's Website:                Random House

My thoughts:

   Having read a couple of Ben Elton’s previous books, I knew I would enjoy Time and Time Again. What I didn’t realize was just how much. Elton has really honed his story-telling skills, and based on his latest novel, he is now arguably one of the most readable and entertaining authors writing popular fiction today.
    Time travel and alternate reality are complex plots to tackle, but Elton masterfully steers his book, from the first page to the end, without any dragging or info-dumping on us like so many other authors find necessary when dealing with the time travel meme.
    Hugh Stanton, an ex-soldier, recently bereaved of his wife and children is summoned to his old professor of Cambridge’s chambers where he is told a fanciful story of a secret portal that will open shortly, and once only, between the present and 1914. The members of an elite society who have guarded this secret for hundreds of years, ever since Isaac Newton first predicted the portal, suggest Stanton has the perfect skills and lack of attachment to return to 1914 and prevent WW1 — the worst event they've decided, of the previous 110 years — by assassinating figures that Stanton had only previously studied in history.
    Of course, when he does return, Stanton discovers it is not so easy to carry out his mission when every interaction and move he makes has the potential to alter the immediate and distant future. At the same time, he struggles with the concept that his children might never be born and that, if he fails, millions will die.
    Elton really takes the reader on a wonderful and unique ride. This is not the same old time travel trope; there are unpredictable twists and turns right up until the last page. Time and Time Again is absolutely one of the best time travel books of its genre.

I received a copy of this book from for an honest review. Thank you, wonderful people there.  More about this book at: Time and Time Again

    It's the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.
  Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.
   Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century?
    And, if so, could another single bullet save it?
About the author:
    Ben Elton is one of Britain's most provocative and entertaining writers. From celebrity to climate change, from the First World War to the end of the world, his books give his unique perspective on some of the most controversial topics of our time.
    He has written fourteen major bestsellers, including Stark, Popcorn, Inconceivable, Dead Famous, High Society, The First Casualty and Two Brothers. He has also written some of television's most popular and incisive comedy, including The Young Ones and Blackadder.

    He is married with three children and lives in Western Australia.