August Short Reviews of everything except books, plus bonus rant about Taken

September Blog Header

Yes, there is a new blog header. If you’re trying to work out the cryptic meaning, you should know it is a bit of scratchboard I was practising on. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a cryptic meaning (if you really want there to be). On to the main event:

Faithful Writer Conference: The second Faithful Writer conference, held at New College in Sydney, emphasised the “writing” more than the “faithful” this year – based on what I attended, it was a writing conference attended mostly by Christians, rather than a conference about Christian writing, which provided a contrast to last year and I hope they continue to mix it up in future. Mark Treddinick, the keynote speaker, was not a Christian but is a well-known writer, which created an interesting tension between his expertise and the audience’s lack of it, and vice versa. As a literary author, his emphasis was on the writing over the content: “the sentence is the thing”. Coming from a genre background, I am not used to this emphasis on writing over story – quite the opposite! Many of the guidelines, however, are the same. After lunch we broke into workshops. I went to Tony Payne’s “The Art of the Essay”. When he asked why we were there, I said I had spent too long in uni and was there to have my faith in essays as a worthwhile form restored, which he did. Also, we got to read Chesterton and Orwell, and that usually makes a good day even better. And I got to make new friends and catch up with old and eat doughnuts and drink strange drinks at dinner, so I am looking forward to next year. Karen and Rebecca did an excellent job of organising it and Karen very kindly put me up and fed me and took me to book-buying locations.

The Dark Knight: I reviewed this last month. And while I enjoyed it a second time (and parts of it held up *better*), I enjoyed the ‘Half-Pipe’ cinema at Mt Druitt even more. Big soft beanbags, very late at night after the conference, very hard to keep my eyes open.

Hellboy II: I had preview tickets to this and after some frantic calling around (I hate to see good tickets go to waste) Karissa came along. I enjoyed it much more than the first. Partly, I am certain, because of the big screen, but mostly because of del Toro. I’ve been muttering about how del Toro should make Neverwhere, but after seeing the Goblin Market in Hellboy II, I think he already has. So see it just for del Toro’s weirdly beautiful fantasies. And, you know, the rest of it wasn’t bad.

Persepolis: I saw this at the Brisbane Internation Film Festival with Kashelle and Aimee. I loved the book, and this was an excellent adaptation. Still episodic, but with changes as necessary, new scenes, missing scenes (I wish they could have put the footnotes in!). The art and animation were effortlessly true to the style and feeling of the book. See it if you can find it!

Ekka: No takers for my spare ticket! That is always a sad thing, and it feels a little odd to go to the Ekka alone. But it was a pleasant day, not too cold or too warm, and there were many things to eat (strawberries and cream, dagwood dogs, a neenish tart from the CWA stand) and stare at (wigs and cattle and utes and dogs and the very… forthright views of the judges of the contemporary art category) and draw (speed chainsaw contestants don’t hold poses very long) and buy (exotic chutney for my parents and a show bag for Deb).

Taken: The nice review is that it was a pretty good standard action movie, not too choppy in the filming or gory in the action. I will put the scathing review of the characterisation below, as it is quite long.

Bank Job: There are many movies I wish didn’t have sex scenes for my sake. This movie would have actually been improved by taking them out. Once it got them out of its system, it was a good, relentless, twisted, Brit/caper/crime story with a low-budget feel (I kept expecting Australian accents), one or two excellent performances, incompetent criminals you want to succeed mostly because everyone else out to get them is worse, and the bonus of being based on (inspired by) real events, which always makes slightly unbelievable storylines more enjoyable. I’m not looking at the characterisation in this one, because it didn’t creep me out quite as much as Taken.

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June and July Short Movie Reviews

Obligatory Vanuatu reference: We did go to a series of increasingly bad movies at Namawan Cafe’s free moonlight cinema, but I did not review those here (everyone agreed Total Recall was better the first time). Still, for being away for three weeks, I still managed to see a fair few shows. And if you do have any questions about Vanuatu, or things you want me to talk about, feel free to let me know!

The Painted Veil: Should have been called “Love in the time of Cholera”, and did a very good job of making me lose all sympathy for Norton’s character over the course of the movie. Good acting, nice touching on some issues of colonialism, gorgeous opening credits.

Sex and the City: Actually a very good movie-of-a-show. But I dislike the show.

Turner to Monet – exhibition at the National Gallery: Landscape art exhibition. I did not know Monet painted snowscapes. Forget the waterlillies – the snowscapes are where it’s happening!

Prince Caspian: Way better than TLtW&tW, and though not perfect, I really liked that they didn’t need to resort to flashbacks and that they showed the children having some difficulties with having been grown up and powerful and now being children again, and especially the effect on Susan. Caspian was great, although I kept wanting him to say “You killed my father, prepare to die”, but I think Edmund was the best character.

Hulk: Better than the last rendition, in that the Hulk fit a bit better into his world. Still problematic, especially the end (but the showdown scene in Superhero movies usually is) but I think those problems are in the nature of the story, and Norton does damaged well. I loved the beginning – science from scratch, first principles, making do, what I probably erroneously think of as a steampunk aesthetic (or at least what attracts me to steampunk, do-it-yourself, Antarctic exploration and self-sufficiency handbooks).

Meet Dave: Ow. Um – not the worst Eddie Murphy has made?

Red Tree – Australian Chamber Orchestra: The first half was Shostakovich’s “String Quartet No. 15” with images from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, the second Yezerski and Tognetti’s “Red Tree” with Gondwana Voices and images from The Red Tree. The first half was alright. I wasn’t particularly stirred by the music and the images chosen were disjointed and statically presented. The second half, however, was brilliant – soaring voices, incredible close-ups of paint strokes and images so that I felt like falling into paintings and going home to read The Red Tree with a magnifying glass.

Dark Knight: I feel I was expected to like this more than I did. It was very good, and I can’t fault too many things (those I picked up on the first time bore out the second). Ledger and Oldman were both brilliant and I admired how the story kept rolling relentlessly forward. But the ethical dilemmas and mature philosophical questions occasionally tilted a little too far into angst for my taste. I’m more a fan of Commissioner Gordon (the true hero of Gotham) and of other characters who just get the job done.

Hancock: First half: brilliant riff on superhero genre. Second half: okay superhero movie.

Mamma Mia: My parents and Aimee and I saw this (my dad’s choice) and it was just fun. No, the story isn’t blindingly brilliant, no the singing isn’t mindboggling. But it’s all about roaming over Greek islands singing “Dancing Queen” and having a good and carefree time, and we did. My dad sang along. My mother and I cried. I found Shapely Prose’s review very lively and entertaining and it points out many of the reasons the movie does work (but I must include a language warning).

Scheherezade: A Middle Eastern cultural day as part of the festival of Brisbane. Small but colourful and with good food and Balkan dancing, and I sketched and Aimee danced and I sat on a carpet which was wet from the grass beneath and spent the rest of the day wearing my jacket around my waist instead of my arms which were cold.

X-Files – I want to believe: that this could have been a good movie. But it was a very B movie and unrelieved by almost everything that endeared me to the series, and even Skinner’s appearance didn’t help (much). Pretending it bears no relation to the show, it was an alright B movie, if you like groaning every time your predictions are correct.